August 30, 2002
Kids have started going back to school. Although I don’t have any children of my own, I was lucky enough the other day to walk past a back-to-school celebration where a marching band was playing…Louie Louie. A few of you may remember a time when Louie Louie was controversial, and some of us are lucky enough to remember a time when it was the "ultimate party song" (meaning, of course, that it had to be played at least once in the background for a regular gathering to be considered a "par-tay"). Now it’s suffered the ultimate humiliation of being the song adults make kids play as part of officially sanctioned celebrations. I know what’s probably going on in the mind of at least some of the adults, especially the ones who don’t have children and have been hopelessly out of touch with the world for three decades (a group known as "school band leaders"). They’re thinking, Hey, I’m making these kids play this controversial rock ‘n’ roll song, and we’re having fun! I’M COOL! I think it happened some time in the Eighties, when nostalgia became a national pasttime: adults craved being cool. The Eighties were a time of such powerful nostalgia that even I and many of my friends went around saying, "Weren’t the Sixties great?", conveniently ignoring the fact that most of us weren’t even born. We spent so much of the Eighties looking backward that when I remember myself as a teenager, I can only see the back of my head. I guess it says something that early in the Eighties "Puttin’ on the Ritz" was a hit song…just like it had been in the fifty years before. The only differences were that most of the record buyers who made it a hit song had no clue who Gary Cooper was, and, in a sign of what was wrong with the Eighties, the singer who resurrected the song was called Taco – but I digress.
The powerful wave of adults who tried to revive their youth and be cool produced a sort of cultural freeze which made it impossible for the rising generation to produce anything of lasting value. We all sat around so much talking about how great the Beatles were that we forgot to write songs of our own. As a result most of us who were teenagers accepted that the generation before us – the "Don’t trust anybody over thirty" generation – was cool, and since most of them were still alive and doing reunion tours, everybody became cool. It was hip to be square, mainly because none of us had any clue what "hip" or "square" meant, outside of anatomy and geometry. It was also hip to be, well, hip. Suddenly there was nothing to rebel against, and the spirit of rebellion that gave the previous generation the music and fashion that my generation loved was obliterated. And the older generation, as a way of affirming its coolness, united with the younger generation. Thirty years ago a collaboration between, say, Aerosmith and Tony Bennett would have been unthinkable, but fifteen years ago it might have happened, and I’m surprised it still hasn’t.
We can’t change the past, but it occurred to me as I watched bright-eyed students really getting into Louie, Louie (yeah, they actually seemed to be enjoying themselves, which could lead to such dangerous side effects as thinking their teacher’s bow tie is cool) that people of my generation, by not letting go of our desire to be cool, are endangering the children of the future. By taking everything they do and saying, "Hey, that’s cool, we did something like that twenty years ago" we should do what our grandparents did and say, "We did something like that twenty years ago but now we think it’s idiotic." Otherwise we risk draining away any reason they might have to do things of their own. I’m not saying you have to be Ward Cleaver, I’m just suggesting that you cut down the number of rave parties you attend and, if you have children, stop borrowing their CDs. Speaking from my own experience, gracefully giving up the fading coolness of my teenage years would have made it a lot easier the first time I was called "sir".
Enjoy this week’s offerings.
What do you get when you cross Death and a pager?
The Grim Beeper!
How do undertakers prepare for a funeral?
TEACHER: George, go to the map and find North America.
GEORGE: Here it is!
TEACHER: Correct. Now, class, who discovered America?
How do you make holy water?
You boil the hell out of it!
I always wanted to be somebody, but I should have been more specific.
Psychiatrists say that one out of four people are mentally ill. Check three friends. If they’re OK, you’re it.
On the other hand, you have different fingers.
Atheism is a non-prophet organization.
I just got lost in thought. It was unfamiliar territory.
Everyone has a photographic memory. Some don’t have film.
A day without sunshine is like, you know, night.
George and Murphy are walking down the street when George suddenly falls down a hole.
Murphy says, "Is it dark down there?"
George says, "Dunno, I cant see."
"Doctor, I have a terrible ringing in my ears and it just won’t stop. How do I get rid of it?"
"Get an unlisted head!"
A guy walks into a bar with jumper cables around his neck.
The bartender says, "All right, I’ll let ya stay. But don’t start nuttin!"
A skeleton walks into a bar and says,"Gimme’ a beer and a mop!"
Why isn’t there mouse-flavored cat food?
When you open a bag of cotton balls, is the top one meant to be thrown away?
If a man speaks in the forest and there is no woman to hear him, is he still wrong?
If a turtle loses his shell, is it naked or homeless?
If the cops arrest a mime, do they tell him he has the right to remain silent?