politics, x marks the pod

Episode 11: Is everything our fault? No. No, it’s not.

Did we ruin everything? 

For a couple of decades now, we’ve been blaming the Boomers. And there’s good reason for it. Their narcissism followed up Woodstock with a bunch of STDs, the persistent treatment of women as sex objects (Love the One You’re With, indeed) and then self-centered approaches to business and politics. They say people grow more conservative as they grow older, but I think the Boomers have been remarkably consistent. They matter, and you don’t.

But what about us? Do we Gen Xers deserve any of the blame for a world in which democracy and reasoned capitalism, the values that the pre-Boomers fought to instill in the modern world, are in decline? 

Let’s talk about it. This is X Marks the Pod. (This one is also available on Spreaker and should go out to Apple and Google.)

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sports, x marks the pod

Episode 10: Sports, ceremonies and stories

On Sunday morning, for the second time in seven months, I took apart my makeshift Olympic viewing station, which consisted of a second computer monitor perched on a TV table next to the sofa from which I could see the big-screen TV. I didn’t do quite as much work for Beijing as I did for Tokyo. I was just working for The Guardian, not NBC.

But there’s a certain melancholy to the end of the Olympics. When I covered the Salt Lake Olympics, they must have had something scheduled for the next day in the convention center that served as the media headquarters, because temporary walls were falling like the end of the Cold War. I was afraid to leave my table for fear that I’d come back with no place to sit.

Closing ceremonies are cool, of course, and you don’t always get to see it all on TV. In Salt Lake, we saw the international feed and NBC feed side by side. Viewers around the world saw a bunch of people painting a circle of ice in real time. NBC saw some commercials and then a circle that had been painted.

But the Olympic flame is extinguished, and we’re jolted back to reality. These days in particular, the reality isn’t particularly pleasant. Thanks, Putin.

Even without global political crises or an irrationally enthusiastic convention center demolition crew, the end of the Olympics can prey on my sentimentality. During the last event of the Games, the men’s ice hockey final, I handed off to someone in Australia. This was an event in China that I covered from my basement in the United States and handed off to Australia for a British newspaper. There’s something beautiful about that.

When I’ve been to the Olympics, I can sense from the staff and volunteers that they’ve come to the abrupt end of something they had been anticipating and doing for months or even years, In 2010, I left the beautiful, happy village of Whistler, wondering if I’d ever get back to someplace so beautiful — and knowing that I would soon be leaving USA TODAY after 10 years.

The best closing ceremony story I have is from Beijing. I was in a bus heading back to the media village while the fireworks were going off. We were going on a freeway offramp, and I could see, just sitting to the side, someplace you’d never be allowed to be in the United States, there was a young mother holding up a young child who must have two, maybe three. The mother was beaming, and the child was just looking on in awe as the fireworks exploded a couple of miles away. We weren’t really that close to the stadium. This child just got a glimpse of the Olympics from afar. I’m guessing this family didn’t have VIP status to go to all the venues. 

I hope that child grew up and volunteered for Beijing 2022 and got to see some of it. I hope that made an impression on him that there’s a much bigger world than the Chinese government is going to otherwise give him. 

Of course, my sentimentality and my optimism were killed the next morning when our flight was canceled and we wound up in a hotel next to the Hard Rock in Beijing, which is why I have a Hard Rock Beijing T-shirt. 

But it’s impossible to see something like that family by the side of the road and not think about the power of sports and the ceremonies around them. They can be absolutely over the top — unless you’re Torino, and the opening ceremony is as half-assed as everything else you did in hosting the Games. (And Italy is getting another chance? Weird.)

These ceremonies mean something. They help bring inspirational stories to life. And there were a lot of inspirational stories. These ceremonies just helped them resonate.

And that brings us back to something else that happened in the past couple of weeks. The Super Bowl. For the first time since X Marks the Pod launched, we have an actual generational brouhaha. So I’m going to talk about that for a bit and then tell some Olympic stories.

This is X Marks the Pod.

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music, politics, x marks the pod

X Pod Episode 9: Fishbone and the reality-based community

The myth of the reasonable, reality-based Republican died Jan. 15, 2022, in Richmond, Va. 

That’s when Glenn Youngkin took office as Virginia’s governor. The Republican businessman won in a tremendous upset in a state that has been comfortably blue in recent elections. Biden won by 10 points, and even in this election, exit polls showed more people identifying as Democrat than Republican. Youngkin, who trailed in the polls until the last few days, won in part due to the usual failure of young people to show up and in part by keeping Donald Trump at arm’s length. He was the reasonable Republican, running alongside a Black woman for lieutenant governor and a Latino for attorney general. 

And they’re off to a flying start.

Jason Miyares, the incoming attorney general, made some staff changes, which is typical. Less typical is to give virtually no notice before dismissing people who are holding the line on civil rights like the dudes on the Night’s Watch in Game of Thrones. (Is that the right analogy? I didn’t watch much of that show.)

The Richmond Times-Dispatch especially noted that he fired someone with 20 pending court cases on housing discrimination. Lest you think Miyares is just interested in trampling on civil rights, he also terminated someone who has focused on scams targeting older people — someone who voted for Miyares

(We’re going to get to Fishbone, I promise.)

(Also available on Apple, Google and Spreaker.)
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music, x marks the pod

X Pod Episode 8: The terrific Thompson Twins

Hello, Gen Xers and Gen X sympathizers! Quick note on show notes today — I’m going to start doing these episodes as both a podcast AND a blog post, so you can check them out on the medium of your choice. Here on the site, you can scan through the transcript and see more links and videos, but I recommend listening to the podcast. Especially if you’re driving.

Here we go …

One mistake a lot of people make in looking at 80s music is dismissing pop musicians because they have nice hair or funny videos or whatever. Critics wrote off Duran Duran as pretty boys, only later realizing that John Taylor is a fantastic funk bass player and Nick Rhodes is a keyboard pioneer. 

And when you think of the Thompson Twins, the first thing you think of is probably hair. 

That’s not fair. 

You might also think they were a band that had a superfluous member or two — the classic “What did Andrew Ridgeley contribute to Wham?” question. After all, bands of that era sometimes recruited people specifically for their looks. That was taken to an extreme when the band ABC added a blonde bombshell (who happened to be an irreverent music journalist) and a very short, bald Japanese man, neither of whom played any instruments. 

In Thompson Twins, Tom Bailey was the lead singer, the guitarist, the keyboardist, the bassist and the co-producer. Alannah Currie, in addition to having the most eye-catching hair this side of A Flock of Seagulls, sang backup and played percussion. Joe Leeway was pictured with a bass on occasion and played a bit of keyboards live, but he was hired as a conga player and backup singer who came to the band as a roadie after a brief career in theater. 

Thompson Twins were a trio (yes, we know, they’re neither Thompsons nor twins — it’s apparently a literary allusion of some kind) after they got rid of all the members of a traditional rock band — two guitarists, a bassist and a drummer.

But just as you can’t write off image-conscious bands, you can’t write off image-conscious members. Watch Thompson Twins videos and live clips, and you’ll see that Currie can play. And if you track their career, you’ll see that they tailed off after Leeway left, which may or may not be coincidental.

Before that happened, they had one of those careers in which they were only big for 3-4 years, but they packed a lot into those years. A LOT.

Let’s take a look. This is X Marks the Pod.

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politics, x marks the pod

X Pod Episode 7: No, seriously, let’s dismantle the two-party system

Gridlock. Attack ads. Constant fundraising solicitation. Maybe a civil war. Yes, the two major political parties are doing just what our Founding Fathers said they’d do. They’re ruining this country. 

Yes, it’s intentionally timed to coincide with Jan. 6, where partisan politics boiled over into violence.

Also in this week’s episode, a funny story about attending a John Birch Society meeting and the debut of Gen X News. 

Next week: More music, less politics.

Links: 

Today’s intro music: Gloria Gaynor – Anybody Wanna Party? (Polydor Records 1978)

Featured photo is from Pexels.com

A slightly abridged version (no Spotify music) of this episode is also on its way to Apple, Google and Spreaker/iHeart as soon as a technical issue can be worked out.