Monday, March 15, 2010

Common Ground - The Generation Gap

Illustration by Kahil Gibran

This post goes with the earlier one on research, and speaks to trying to find common ground with an audience with whom you aren't that familiar.

I have a fourteen-year-old niece. She is bright and attractive and comes across as older than her years. Her class is going on a trip to Greece later this spring, and in an email exchange, I told her to beware of Greeks bearing gifts.

It didn't mean anything to her.

She hasn't come across the mythological epic about the Trojan War, and thus doesn't have the reference.

My seven-year-old grandson knows everything there is to know about Guitar Hero™. Levels, songs, how to rock the solo for looks as well as working the controls.

What I know about Guitar Hero™ is that it doesn't make you a guitar player. Digital is not analog.

But if I want to try and reach an audience of teens, preteens, or tweens, I have to do the research to be able to lay it down. More, I have to have a clue where to start looking.

It's actually easier to go older. I've read enough history and listened to enough music to know something about Big Bands, WWII, gas rationing, and the Japanese Internment on the west coast. About the Great Depression, the dust bowl, and things that happened before I was born.
But younger, even though I am still here, is harder. I haven't kept up. The leading edge blew past me decades ago, and is way off in the distance.

I see this every time I read an article on post-modern art. Somehow, a turd in a bottle of oil sitting on a heating pad just makes me shake me head when somebody points at it and calls it "art."

When my children were teens, I would watch MTV, to see what music the young 'uns were into. Does MTV even play music vids any more? I can tell you all the members of the Beatles or the Stones, but not of the eighties hair- or glam-bands. Dude looks like a Lady -- sure. Anything by Poison? Not my cup of tea.

My grandchildren can text, watch videos, talk on the phone and listen to iPods all at the same time. I can't, and moreover, don't want to, and don't see how spending 100% of your free time locked into a computer is a good thing. I keep seeing the people on the starship in Wall-E.

I don't understand. And I can't, not really.

From Gibran's The Prophet, "On Children:"

"And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said, "Speak to us of Children."
And he said:
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable."

Man had a way with words, and a good eye.


Scott said...

"She hasn't come across the mythological epic about the Trojan War, and thus doesn't have the reference."

She probably saw Troy; the wood horse sneak attack probably didn't leave as much of an impression as Brad Pitt's abs.

Bobbe Edmonds said...

MTV is so far and lost on the horizon, I cant believe they call it "Music" television anymore. I remember when it first came out, and the format was terribly primitive compared to today's standards, but they were doing something new at the time - they were pioneers. They practically won Bill Clinton's first election for him, and you could turn it on anytime day or night, there was always something cool on.

In the mid 90's when all this "reality television" started...I wasn't impressed. But that's what sells, and now it's fucking everywhere.

I remember when VH1 was the channel you DIDN'T watch, because all they played were "old people's videos". Guh.

Nataraj Hauser said...

MTV has officially dropped "Music" from it's name. However, their website still points heavily at music. I watched MTV a lot when it was new, but lost interest when it began moving away from music. Haven't watched it in a decade or more. I spend a lot of time at iTunes, and every now and again I cruise the "100 Top" categories to see what's new. Apparently Autotune is new, and omnipresent.

Speaking of cultural references, most of the folks I worked with would have been pretty clueless about the Trojan Horse, etc., unless there was a movie about it. But they could always tell me who was the points leader in NASCAR.

Steve Perry said...

I don't get out much but I read enough odd stuff that I know who Vampire Weekend are, and would recognize Esperanza Spalding if I passed her in a hallway.

Spalding I find interesting. She's doing jazz with a bunch of over and undertones of rock, blues, funk, South American in it.

Vampire Weeked? Bunch of fratboys playing tunes that worry about what kind of beer to buy or which party to attending? Not so much. Anything they have to say is to a stretch of the parade behind me.

Where I grew up, going to the drag races "Sunday! SUNDAY!" was in vogue. Them NASCAR guys were too slow and boring to watch.

Dan Moran said...

Boy, that's great, Steve. I'm going to send that to my kids to share.