Kids These Days
And a song that ushered in an era turns 30.
A couple weeks ago, actor Russell Crowe responded to a guy on Twitter who was trolling one of his movies:
I felt a personal connection to Crowe’s comments on a couple of levels:
First, I’m an enormous fan of “kids these days” and “get off my lawn” type themes. I’m serious. I absolutely love them. There’s just something wildly entertaining to me about a cranky old guy going off on an adolescent little twerp who just poked the bear.
For example, one of my all-time favorite YouTube videos is of the kid who haphazardly lit up a glow-stick using his microwave oven, only to have it painfully blow up in his face afterwards. The explosion and pain parts aren’t what’s funny to me. The funny part his how thoroughly irritated his father gets at him. While trying to help his son through a potentially serious burn, the father repeatedly berates and lectures his boy for never listening to his parental advice.
I can’t really do the video justice by describing it, so here it is below. If you have an extra four minutes, and have never seen this gem, please take a quick break and check it out.
The “beautiful shirt” line always kills me.
Anyway, back to Russell Crowe. I’m a big fan of his. I think he’s a great actor, and I’ve enjoyed his solid work in a number of remarkable films. In fact, it might surprise you to learn that when I was first developing the Sean Coleman character (in my manuscript for From a Dead Sleep), I patterned Sean’s physical appearance, in part, after Crowe’s in L.A. Confidential.
In regard to what Crowe said in the tweet, he’s absolutely right. 2003’s Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World is a fantastic film, and for exactly the reasons he describes. The only thing he left out was “strong acting,” of which he was an important part.
If you haven’t seen the film, you definitely should.
Crowe’s also right that kids today — a term I’ll be italicizing in its various forms for the remainder of this newsletter (to further celebrate the awesomeness of “cranky old guy” stuff) — lack focus when it comes to movies.
As I see with my teenagers, and hear from many other parents, kids today aren’t all that passionate about cinema. They just don’t have the same love affair with movies that earlier generations — including mine — did (and to an extent still do).
Today’s kids don’t have a ready answer when you ask them what’s their favorite movie, or who’s their favorite actor. They don’t have a personal affection for memorable scenes and iconic lines the way us older folks do. They don’t appreciate the careful development of stories and characters.
Sure, I may be generalizing a bit (as us cranky old guys like to do), but I don’t think a whole lot. I’d even suggest that the most successful movie franchises among kids these days, like Marvel and Star Wars, are actually more popular and beloved among adults.
None of this is to say that being disinterested in cinema is a terrible thing. I mean, it’s not like sitting around watching movies is the healthiest activity in the world. Too much of it could make you look how Russell Crowe looks these days.
But what kids today are drawn to instead doesn’t strike me as being a step in the right direction. They’re addicted to online video vignettes — short content that gets right to the point, and doesn’t waste much time on things like details and development. They watch that stuff on their phones and other devices for hours and hours. I even catch my kids doing it while we’re trying to watch a movie as a family.
Though there are certainly exceptions, online videos usually aren’t art, and Internet stars can be virtually anyone. They could be the kid who bags your groceries. They could be pets. They could be some dude who likes to jump off high things, or a famous person’s son or daughter who whines about the difficulties of life from a bedroom in a mansion. A lot of times, an Internet star is just an individual telling a joke, or pulling a prank, or setting up some contraption in their backyard.
Immediate action. Immediate drama. Immediate comedy. Immediate satisfaction.
Now, don’t get me wrong. The online video culture is nothing knew. This stuff has been popular for a long time, and some of it (perhaps even a lot of it) is indeed very entertaining. I shared one of my favorite such videos above, and I can’t tell you how many times I watched Star Wars Kid back in the day.
But they’re no substitution for the art of substantive storytelling — for taking someone on a complex emotional journey. Yet, that seems to be exactly what they’ve become for kids these days: a substitution.
Sure, part of it hits close to home for me. As a novelist, I’m a storyteller. Preferring short, silly videos over cinematic features feels similar, in my world, to drawing deeper value from tweets than from well-crafted books. And believe me, a ton of people are more into Twitter than they are books.
Of course, after reviewing what I’ve written above, it’s hard to miss the irony that it was a tweet, and not a book or movie, that inspired today’s newsletter topic. And if I hadn’t been wasting time on Twitter when I saw that tweet, maybe I would have gotten more book writing done that day. Maybe… cranky old guys like me are actually part of the problem.
Best to turn to Principal Skinner for the answer:
Yep, I’m sticking with blaming kids today.
Kudos to Mr. Crowe for dressing down that whipper-snapper.
By the way, do you have a “cranky old guy” story or gripe? If so, let me hear about it. (Like I said, I’m a fan of the genre.)
Distant memories are buried in the past, forever…
Last week marked the 30th anniversary of a song I’ve loved for just as long: Wind of Change, by Scorpions.
It’s no secret to readers of the ‘Daly Grind’ that I’m a big fan of Scorpions. I’ve followed them since I was a kid, and their sound — unlike a lot of music from the metal genre — doesn’t strike me as dated or old. Even the unreasonable amount of leather they still wear on stage continues to look fresh.
The band has had lots of big hits over the years, but Wind of Change stood out (and still stands out) for its historical significance. It was written by front-man Klaus Meine about his observations on the changing culture in the U.S.S.R (where the band had toured numerous times) as the Cold War was coming to an end.
Having been released just two months after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the song became an anthem of sorts for the amazing global shift the world was witnessing. I was a teenager at the time, and probably didn’t appreciate what was happening quite as well as I should have, but I do think — especially looking back — that the band managed to capture the right spirit of the moment.
Even after 30 years, the tune still sometimes manages to bring me goosebumps (along with a desire to become a better whistler).
Obligatory Dog Shot
Truth be told, I used to find Canned Heat’s music to be kind of… funny. This was mainly because I thought lead singer Alan Wilson’s voice sounded like a goose’s. The accompanying flute playing didn’t help.
Perhaps the band’s sound is an acquired taste, or maybe I’ve taken more of a liking to the blues genre over the years, but I’ve come to really enjoy some of Canned Heat’s stuff. Their biggest successes, “On the Road Again” and “Going up the Country,” are great travel songs, and their greatest hits album (“The Best of Canned Heat”) absolutely brings the soul.
That’s all for now. Thanks for reading today’s Daly Grind.
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Take care. And I’ll talk to you soon!