Mandan News

Brian L. Gray: A case of mistaken identity

I don’t know where I stand.

I’m suffering from a bout of not knowing for certain where I belong. I was born at the end of Generation X, just as Generation Y was beginning. I literally landed in the middle. This fact normally wouldn’t mean anything to me, but I think as a person ages he or she must begin making big decisions, and I’m starting by choosing which generation I belong to.

Trapped in the chasm between the X and Y Generations, I think I have the best of both worlds – I’ve got the Gen-Y’s technological savvy combined with the angst and disillusionment of the Gen-Xers. There’s really no difference between these two groups, which only makes things trickier for me. The only essential difference, I think, between the two is that the Gen-Xers didn’t comb their hair or bathe as often the Gen-Yers did. And as the Gen-Yers did less self-loathing than their predecessors, they in turn were more productive, which allowed them to create the monolithic dot.com industry.

Now we’re in the Z Generation, which creeps me out a bit, with its apocalyptic undertone. Where the Gen-Yers helped build an electronic world of communication, the Gen-Zers have become the victim of that creation. They expect constant results, have little patience or attention span, their social skills are sub par and, as a result, have been given the nickname “digital natives.”

That’s why I’ve decided that I’m Gen-X. I want no part in that blame. Besides, I was way too busy being self-absorbed by playing power chords on a guitar and reading Nietzsche in coffeeshops while running my hands through my greasy hair to help create a booming industry.

What’s next, I wonder. The E Generation? The age of email, electronics, Ebay, E-Harmony, enormous electric bills? Or maybe the I Generation – the age of self-absorption, of self-service. We have Iphones, Ipods, Ipads, the I-nternet. It’s an age supposedly bringing us closer to one another, but is still keeping us self-contained inside a world of ourselves, an inclusive, isolated, introverted “I” world.

I always think back to this comic I saw when the Internet was first exploding in the late ’90s, and the humor in it read, to me, as a sort of ominous warning. A man is in front of his computer, declaring how fun it is to be connected to everyone in the world, how he can play chess with someone in India, or shop for groceries without ever having to leave his home. Then the last frame shows him in despair, leaning forward on his desk, confessing to himself, “I’m so lonely.”

As with anything that gets slapped with a label, I wonder who decides these names. Is there a committee of demographers out there that gets together and determines what letter of the alphabet best encapsulates who we are as a people in the time we live?

If there is such a committee, I wish they’d implement the same mode of separation in popular music.

If you listen to oldies stations, you might be hearing something that is sending shivers up your spine, and I’m not talking about the music of Linda Rodstadt.

For a song to be considered a Golden Oldie, all it requires is one thing – that it must be at least 25 years old.

Now that it’s 2010, anything from the year 1985 or earlier can be considered a Golden Oldie. As you read this, you could turn on your radio to an oldies station and end up listening to Madonna, Prince, Lionel Richie or even, as scary as it is to say, Phil Collins.

Not only that, but we’re a mere year or two away from hearing songs from Poison, Def Leppard, Motley Crue, Bon Jovi and various other bands more concerned with their hair than their music, as their songs will be declared Golden Oldies.

In five years we’ll be able to hear the Chi-Lites “Have You Seen Her,” play immediately next to MC Hammer’s remixed version. We’ll hear the band Chicago in both rock form and elevator music form. Bob Dylan’s “Knocking on Heaven’s Door” could follow the rock rendition by Guns N’ Roses. Maybe we’ll even get Neil Diamond’s “Cherry Cherry” playing alongside Warrant’s “Cherry Pie.”

Is it just me, or is there something terribly wrong with that?

Imagine what this would do to the musicians. They may suffer from the same identity crisis I dealt with, with an uncertainty of who they are. Besides, who’s got the courage to stand in front of the band Motley Crue and tell them that they’re old?

Well, they are, but that’s beside the point. They’re old, but not golden. We had our Golden Era of music, and it ended well before Lionel Richie first said “Hello.” Let’s remember that. A new order is in need.

But if you’re worried that this trend will continue on unchanged, just remember what Bobby McFerrin once proclaimed in a song that, in three years, will be considered a Golden Oldie – “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.”

Now that’s good advice for people of any generation.

I should confess that this ranting of mine could use a disclaimer – on a personal level, I must admit that I have ridiculous ideals and standards that will never be met, so in response to this I live my life angry and apathetic, and manage to find faults with everything.

Because that’s what we Gen-Xers do.

And I’d love to complain some more, but you’ll have to excuse me. I have some power chords to play.