Thursday, February 9, 2012

Sun Media serves baby boom bunkum

My local paper, The London Free Press, is not so local anymore. It carries a lot of bunkum from the QMI Agency run by Quebecor and fed into the paper from the Sun Media chain. One big bit of wasted paper was a recent article by Thane Burnett.

The moment I read the headline, I knew I should move on. Nothing to see here, as they say. The red flag on the story was the phrase "baby boomers." Burnett tells us that he is a baby boomer.

"We've come up with some great advances," he tells us: non-dairy creamer, computer games, soft contact lenses, the ATM, Hacky Sack and even liposuction. I thought non-dairy creamer was created in the '50s by Robert Rich of Coffee Rich fame. Rich died in his 90s a few years ago. He was not a baby boomer.

I checked and my memory is better than Mr. Burnett's. The New York Times agrees with me. I decided to check the rest of the great advances the Sun Media reporter claims for baby boomers.

William Higinbotham
Computer games: one of the first was Tennis for Two developed by William Higinbotham and introduced on October 18, 1958, at one of the Brookhaven National Laboratory's annual visitors’ days. Two people played the electronic tennis game with separate controllers that connected to an analog computer and used an oscilloscope for a screen. Higinbotham was not a baby boomer.

Soft contact lenses: According to All About Vision, Czech chemists Otto Wichterle and Drahoslav Lím are credited with creating the first soft contact lens material in 1959. Their discovery led to the 1971 launch in the U.S. of Bausch & Lomb's "SofLens" contacts. Neither Wichterle nor Lim were boomers.

ATMs: Don Wetzel, an executive at Docutel of Dallas company, is credited with conceiving the modern ATM. A Chemical Bank advertisement in 1969 announced the first ATM in everyday: “On Sept. 2, our bank will open at 9:00 and never close again!” Don was not a baby boomer.

Liposuction: This is a tough one. A french model in the '20s had her legs reshaped. It resulted in her death. Not an auspicious start for a rather invasive medical procedure. Decades later an Italian father and son team are credited with preforming the first successful liposuction. But it is Dr. Yves-Gérard Illouz of France many call the father of today's technique. Illouz was born in 1939. Not a baby boomer.

Which brings us to Hacky Sack: Finally, a baby boomer creation. Hacky Sack was created by two young Americans, John Stalberger and Mike Marshall. Sadly, Marshall died of a heart attack in 1975 at the age of 28.

I'm one of those who believe that treating an entire group of people born over a period of about two decades as one monolithic block is foolish. Life is a continuum. Even those who grew up in the '50s were not all influenced by the same music. Those born in 1946, spent the better part of their first decade without Rock 'n' Roll.

I know boomers whose first memories of pop music is stuff like Rosemary Clooney's  Come On-a My House, David Whitfield's Cara Mia, Mario Lanza's Be My Love, Lee Lawrence's Crying In The Chapel . . . Boomers born just five years later were influenced by Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard. If five years can make such a big difference, just think of the difference  twenty years can make.

Look at anything deeply and you will find that just a few years can make a big difference in what influences folk. Take education. Think math. If you are an early boomer you missed New Math. If you were a late boomer you got nailed.

Exactly what can boomers accept credit for? Boomers listened to early rock but they didn't write it. Nor did they perform it. Mick Jagger was born in 1943, Paul McCartney in 1942, and Jimmy Page in 1944. Not a boomer among them.

You want some real boomer music? Think bubble gum. I've posted some music written and performed by boomers. Co-writer was Joey Levine, born in 1947 in New York City. He also fronted the Ohio Express famous, or infamous, for Levine's Yummy Yummy Yummy, I've Got Love in My Tummy. Yes, we've come up with some great advances, Thane Burnett.

Of course, this post is somewhat tongue in cheek. Folks born during the baby boom years have been responsible for a lot more than just bad music. There were lot's of incredible people born in the period from 1946 to 1965, and many of these folk have achieved a great deal.

That said, the only thing all boomers share is the bulge they represent on population charts. And now, approaching their senior years, they will most certainly be responsible for a big deflection. As Jim Morrison warned: "Nobody gets out of here alive."

Oh, and Jim Morrison of the Doors wasn't a baby boomer.

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