Monday, July 15, 2019

Gladwell kicks off nonfiction project

Welcome to the nonfiction project!

Perhaps it's only fitting that this project kicks off with Malcolm Gladwell, who has been a nonfiction superstar for at least a decade and was recognized on this blog as a superstar in 2010. Years later, the great thing about Gladwell is that his work stands the test of time.

So Gladwell is the first of 100 nonfiction writers to be recommended by the Snooze Button Generation. Why?

I would argue that he is to books as what the Real World was to reality TV. However, we're talking books and TV, and there is a real world of difference between the two mediums.

In reality TV, it turns out that it is 100 percent scripted. "Reality TV" actually is a misnomer. It should be called "reality-style TV."

With nonfiction writing, yes, indeed, fiction-type of conventions have been used since Truman Capote's In Cold Blood, the New Journalism and some memoirs and essays from back in the day. But I credit Gladwell with pushing a new type of thoughtful, research-based, counterintuitive nonfiction into the mainstream.

I've read Gladwell's entire collection, and bully for us, his sixth book will be out in September called Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don't Know. He hasn't had a book out since 2013, so look out world, the market is ready for this. Talking to Strangers will be ginormous.

If you haven't read any of Gladwell's stuff, I say go straight to Outliers (2008), a tour de force. In it, we look at a boatload of counterintuitive concepts that ring true, including what it takes to be an expert and how in reality, circumstance trumps many cliche man vs. world notions of success.

Gladwell has been killing it for two decades. I also recommend Tipping Point (2000) and Blink (2005) and really all of his work. Heck, I loved Outliers so much as did the reading public that I brought it into my AP Lang class for a year or two.

Because he talks about the Beatles in Outliers and because he's so significant, I got to compare him to the Beatles. In fact, it is safe to say that Malcolm Gladwell is the Beatles of modern-day nonfiction.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Polish writing path leads to nonfiction

Jak sie masz?


Uh, well, those are four of the 50 words or so that I know in Polish. Despite my sketchy lingual knowledge, I am 100 percent of Polish decent. All four of my grandparents spoke Polish, and they grew up in Slavic Village, the Polish part of Cleveland.

Then, their children didn't speak Polish, went to college, and we call them "Baby Boomers." I'm a Gen Xer, or what I call the Snooze Button Generation, and I am a writer in Los Angeles embarking on a project called 100 Nonfiction Books I Recommend that kicks off on Monday.

I'm doing this project because the nonfiction genre has blossomed in the past decade, and I read about 50 books per year. That does not count the 30 or so that I seriously consider reading but don't make the cut.

It's funny. Many friends and readers I run across tell me they don't like nonfiction, and that boggles my mind. I believe they have preconceived notions of what nonfiction is. They might think it's boring or historical or something of what it was back in the 1970s.

In the 21st century, nonfiction has exploded to become my favorite art form. Nonfiction books, more than any other medium, search hard for truth and for hard truths. Many other mediums look to entertain first or sell tickets first or have other agendas other than truth.

But here's the thing. Even while searching for this so-called "truth," they also can entertain, tantalize and thrill, and the 100 books that I will recommend in this project do that.

In the announcing of this project, I explained the 10 categories to be explored. They are:

1) Big time and deserving
2) Parenting/relationships
3) Personal growth
4) Comedy
5) Education
6) Social conscience
7) Hard to categorize
8) Sports
9) Leadership
10) Readers recommend. I will read recommendations during the project and come up with 10 favorites new to me. Feel free to contact me through a comment or email with your recommendations.
The categories themselves hint at my sensibilities. But there is more to it than that. For the most part, I want the books I read to help me in some way, to help me see the world in a new way, to explore ideas that need exploration. I don't often read to escape, but more to understand. I could see how the comedy and sports categories may appear escapist, but I like to think they're more than that.

The fact that I'm doing this 100 Nonfiction Books I Recommend project is a function of me being a writer. Reading is an integral part of writing, and these books have affected me. I have a draft finished of my first full-length book with the working title Advice to My Future Son-in-Law: Understanding Men and Relationships in the 21st Century and feel compelled to share about books I love. Let me take some time to explain how in the world I got to this point.

I have defined myself as a writer since high school, and I am now a 45-year-old sophisticated gentleman with 14 and 12-year-old daughters and a wife, who is my soulmate and best friend. I remain basically unknown, which is fine with me, although a few people I've met claim they know me from my journalism days.

In 1995, I graduated from Ohio State, wrote a couple stories in the Cleveland Plain Dealer and moved to New York City. I was 21 when I moved. The "logical" reason that got me there was to get a master's in creative writing. As soon as I got there, I met Kurt Vonnegut and was hired as a homework helper for his daughter.
Something about being in a creative writing program did not work for me. I did not define myself as "an artist." I was a writer. I needed to slug out the craft and get in the trenches somewhere to develop my writing. A poem or short story a week? No, that wasn't enough.

So, I transferred to NYU's graduate journalism program. Right off the bat, I knew I had some ferocity inside of me and that I actually wanted to write. I discovered that Newsday was the only internship through NYU's graduate school where the students actually wrote stories. I did everything I could to get that internship and did.

My first assignment at Newsday: Cover the funeral of a deceased sophomore in high school who was shot in a case of mistaken identity. I sheepishly walked to the parents after the funeral and said, "I'm Joe Stevens from Newsday. I'm doing a story about Darian. Do you have a quote or comment for the paper?"

The mother glared at me and said, "Would you have a quote? My son is dead. Put that in your paper. My son is dead."

Verbatim. That is the first quote that I ever put in any news story I covered.

Quickly, I realized that I preferred soft news. I spent two years as a staff writer at Newsday and then got a position covering the minor-league Long Beach Ice Dogs for the Long Beach Press-Telegarm.

That was a pretty cool first beat because hockey players are hard-working, easy-to-deal with Canadians (OK, they're not all Canadian, but it feels that way). The year I moved to L.A. was 1998, and I enjoyed the ride. I was covering pro sports, doing some other killer stories like this one on Charles Bukowski, but quickly, it was obvious that the print news industry was shrinking.

When we talk about putting in 10,000 hours of practice to be an expert, I have figured out that I am indeed an expert when it comes to writing. So, mission accomplished for my goal from 1995! However, I have lived a full life with the writing in the background, or maybe I lived a full life because writing was in the background.

My main beat at the Long Beach Press-Telegram became the Los Angeles Clippers, who I covered for seven seasons. One of my favorite parts of those seven seasons was writing a weekly NBA column, which I made feature-y and sometimes offbeat.

Here's one of those columns after a one-on-one sit-down with LeBron James during his fourth year with the Cavs. It turned out that later that season, the Cavs made it to the NBA Finals for the only time during his first seven seasons in Cleveland. What I find most interesting is his comments on not being a Cleveland sports fan, which evolved during his career.

I spent 10 years at the Press-Telegram, and that is way more than the guy who hired me predicted. He said, "I expect you to stay here two to three years and move on to something bigger."
That didn't happen, but it partly didn't happen because of my inflexibility to go to a smaller market. Why would I do that? I was in New York and L.A. Why would I go to a smaller market?

Eventually, I taught journalism part-time at USC and enjoyed that. I then moved to teaching high school shortly after my daughters arrived, mainly because it was the best profession I could think of for raising kids. I think I'm right. To me, education is all about growth as is parenting. I've taught for 11 years now as my daughters have thrived. I love this life. I read what I love and have managed my time well enough to be working on full-length books.

So the Snooze Button Generation came out in 2009, and I've been blogging ever since. It feels right to take this blog to the next level this summer with 100 Nonfiction Books I Recommend. I say to enjoy the ride of this blog. I know this Polack will.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Ambitious nonfiction project announced

I find it refreshing to talk about books. Sometimes, people react differently to them as me, and those perspectives give me a further understanding of what I read.

The only problem is that I don't often encounter people who've read the books I have. That's kind of a bummer.

It turns out that reading is one of the most worthwhile and humane acts that a human being can do. Y'know, "a reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads only lives one."

So, today, the Snooze Button Generation is announcing an ambitious project to celebrate the 10 years that this blog has lived called 100 Nonfiction Books I Recommend. Starting on Monday, July 15, we will do one post per day for 100 days and recommend 100 nonfiction books.

But, wait, there's more.

We will only recommend an author once, and this project is no b.s. There will be no recommending of books because "we feel like we need to." No, no, these will be 100 nonfiction books that I have read and vouch for. Honestly, all of them I absolutely, positively love. I recommend them all without reservations.

A disclaimer: Please don't be outraged if there are big-time, mega-important nonfiction books that don't make the list. I know that there are many books of significance that aren't on the list. It is no slight to them; I probably like them, too.

The 100 nonfiction books to be recommended are broken down into these 10 categories:

1) Big time and deserving
2) Parenting/relationships
3) Personal growth
4) Comedy
5) Education
6) Social conscience
7) Hard to categorize
8) Sports
9) Leadership
10) Readers recommend. I will read during the 100 days, and I will take on suggestions from readers. Recommend away by emailing me or posting a comment. How cool!
By the way, if you happen to know the famous authors in these black-and-white photos, please respond in a comment below.

I read about 50 books each year, and to be a book I read is a feat in itself because I do everything in my power not to waste my time on junk or even borderline reads. I seriously consider another 30 books per year to read and am picky of what makes the cut. I love idea-driven nonfiction. But the prose itself and storytelling has to keep me engaged, or it just doesn't work.

I've heard that good fiction is an "honest lie." Would good nonfiction be an honest truth?

Let me know what you recommend. If you have a nonfiction book you recommend, please post it as a comment or email me, and I will consider it.

Typically, I read my books based on them being mentioned in books I love or I find them on Goodreads or the New York Times Book Review. But just like restaurants, music and anything, isn't word of mouth the best recommendation?

During the final 10 posts of this project, I will give a shout-out to whomever suggested that book on the list, and it would be awesome to find lesser-known books from up-and-coming authors that deserve attention. However, I won't turn my back on big-time stuff I need to read.

Let me know what you got! See you on July 15.

Friday, June 7, 2019

Blog aims at positivity and timelessness

I am unsure if I have a pair of aces, a pair of eights or a 7 and 4 (eleven). Whatever the case, I am doubling down!

On Aug. 2, this blog will be celebrating its 10th year of existence. That has got to be some sort of feat because I hardly know any blogs that have been around that long. Do you?

To commemorate the 10 years of blogging and "double down," I am going to write 100 daily posts starting in mid-July. Cliffhanger: On July 1, we will release the theme of those posts.

Just like me, this blog has evolved and progressed and is getting better every day. First of all, if you don't understand the premise of the Snooze Button Generation, click here.

But it actually makes no difference if you understand what the Snooze Button Generation means to enjoy this. This blog is a free, humanistic endeavor, and that's all there is to it. It refuses to accept advertising money for views, and it is all about connecting readers and like-minded folk, all while displaying the evolution of my life and writing.

Within the life of the blog, it has gotten 1.1 million views. Statistically, it's more than 3,600 per post. While I enjoy having an audience, it's more about having a healthy, positive, timeless blog in a world with so much being chewed up, mean and forgotten within 24 hours. By the way, here is the analytics of the blog from yesterday:
I recently read a book about social media and how we owe it to our online world to promote helpful, positive efforts and ignore negativity and trolls and anything out solely to make money. The book used Humans of New York as something that fits the bill. And I do agree that HONY is wonderful, but after that, no other examples were given.

Do you know any websites that are positive, humanistic and timeless? Please leave links as comments below to sites that are enriching and don't just drain time. 

For me, I consider Brain Pickings and TEDx Talks as humanistic online endeavors that aren't just out for commerce and to be forgotten. Beyond those sites, I would love to be exposed to more sites through word of mouth as opposed to what Google tells me I'd like.

I am hoping that this blog fits the list of "enriching" category, and I vow to make it that way this summer. With it moving into its 10th year of existence, it's time for that.

If you're new to the blog, the premise of the Snooze Button Generation was to look back nostalgically at the pop culture of Gen Xers. Within the first two years that it focused hard on this idea, I found it peculiar that key figures in this pop-culture pantheon passed away. That included John Hughes, Ken Ober from "Remote Control," Corey Haim and more.

During that span, I also hit up funny stuff, like when I lived off the grid,  had a cassette tape stuck in my Buick Century or when Bono finally found what he was looking for. Two years into the blog, my father unexpectedly passed away, and that caused an enormous shift in the blog to more personal entries. Then I mixed and matched my life with pop culture.

This summer will be a return to a more cohesive theme and 100 posts in 100 days. I'm excited! Stay tuned.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

What are your roles?

We are all chameleons.

We switch our colors depending on the situation and are so used to it that we don't even notice. On a typical morning, I transform from groomer to breakfast chef to diner to husband to father then driver and teacher.

Our roles constantly shift throughout the day. At times, I'm a teacher. Other times, I'm a friend or son or shopper or consumer or writer.

When I introspect, I realize that it took me a loooong time to even understand this concept. Then, once I did, it helped me prioritize and ponder what roles are most important to me.

It turns out that the most important commodities are time and money. In order to maximize those, and maximize our lives, prioritizing our roles is critical. How can we properly spend our time or money, if we don't know who we are and what is truly important to us?

Now, this sounds pretty darn simple. But then why do so many people waste time and money on things that aren't priorities?

For me, the roles I prioritize are: 1) husband, 2) father and 3) teacher (or writer, in the summer).

I am wondering what three roles are most important to you. I'm curious Please put your three roles as a comment below.

If you happen to be a student, I wonder if student is No. 1 on your list, or if son or daughter or brother or sister or athlete or Christian or anything else is actually ranked higher than student. If this is difficult, do a chart like this one:

The problem I see around me is that many adults view their roles as 1) work, 2) work and 3) work. I base that on where they spent their time and their conversations.

This work mentality develops in school when many students are either bombarded with work or are so focused on "being successful" or "getting into a good college" that they put their childhoods, family and friends far on the back burner. Is this what we really want from our children?

Well, I am not promoting neglecting schoolwork or our professions. Quite the contrary. I'm just questioning if our time is being spent where we want it.

I won't go on my typical rant on how the kids today are too much on their phones and often not aware of their screen time. I already did that here.

I could also go on a rant on how adults spend too much time with work, and I'm sure they would undoubtedly say work is important because they have to make ends meet. Agreed. But what is the point about making ends meet if that's all we have in our lives?

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

The Night Before Christmas

Editor's Note: This entry originally ran on Christmas Eve 2012. A close reader recently asked for the video at the end of the blog. Here it is!

From 1974 until 1988, my extended Stevens family had a tradition of reading "The Night Before Christmas" on every Christmas Eve. After we participated in what could best be described as a constant ripping and opening "gift orgy," we capped the night with the classic Christmas tale.

A total of 15 Stevens family members attended Christmas Eve during the stretch from '74 and '88, and each one read the book, starting with the oldest.

So my Grandpa Stevens read first when I was only 15 months old. I am the youngest of those 15 Stevens, so I read last in 1988 when I was a sophomore in high school.

I am not sure everyone feels this way. But for me, looking back, I had such comfort, excitement and good feelings during the holidays and on Christmas and Christmas Eve.

After we had Christmas Eve at my parents' house at 9911 Garfield Drive, Garfield Heights, Ohio, we opened presents on Christmas morning. We then had Christmas day at my maternal grandparents in Slavic Village, then Christmas evening at my paternal grandparents on Edgepark Drive in Garfield.
All of my grandparents have passed away with my Grandma Stevens the most recent to pass away in October 2010. Shortly, after that, my Stevens family turned topsy-turvy with pain and death as my dad, the XMan, unexpectedly passed away in February 2011. Then my Aunt Nancy Stevens was diagnosed with a brain tumor in August 2011 and passed away this March.

Only 11 of the original Stevens 15 remain, and despite conventional wisdom, the Stevens family is mortal. I am flooded with good memories from the great times the 15 of us shared during the holidays and engaged in our gift orgies.

I venture to say that all of us 11 - Uncle Ed, Sally, Ed Jr., Jen, Uncle Bob, Aunt Lynda, Rob, Melissa, my mom, Fred Jr. and me - share similar memories. We are adapting to our new lives, and if I ever truly need to hear "The Night Before Christmas," I will click on the video below.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Creativity replaces mindless consumption

One of my favorite scenes of all movies comes at the end of "The Candidate" (1972) with Robert Redford. Spoiler alert: After an entire movie about a seemingly unwinnable election, Redford's character wins the race.

With a throng of reporters approaching after the victory, Redford turns to his campaign manager and asks, "What do we do now?"

No answer. Bang. End of movie.

This type of moment pops up in life every so often for me. Now, I am experiencing that "what do we do now?" feeling because I have completed a full-length book and am figuring out the next step.

Today, I'm not going to talk too much about the book itself. Rather, I will explore the writing process itself and how I turned stories and ideas into a 60,000-word book.

First off, I feel a sense of accomplishment to have written a book that is needed, honest, useful and hopefully entertaining. Secondly, the creative process of committing to such a project enhanced my day-to-day life. Who knew that the collateral damage of writing so much would help other aspects of my life, too?

Some friends have asked, "How did you find the time?"

It turns out that time actually does exist to follow one's passion. For me, my writing passion trumps Netflix, social media, my phone and a lot of daily time killers that don't spark joy for me.

A major lesson is how creativity in my life is much more valuable than consumption. Man, we consume a lot, especially in the United States. I realized that I would often find myself in time-jacking Internet searches or YouTube warps or just watching whatever looked interesting on Netflix. Way too much time was wasted on that stuff.

My public service to readers today is to wonder if you experience mindless consumption like me and if it's possible to turn that into mindful consumption. I am wondering this: Are you OK with your usage of your phone, technology and your consumption, or do you feel you waste your free time too much on certain things? Please comment, and let me know where you are.
For me, writing the book brought out my waste-of-time demons. The main devils were social media, Words With Friends and texting. I deleted social media from my phone and stopped the Words game. I realized that checking texts morning, noon and night (that's three times per day) suffices.

It is wild what happens to the mind, and life, when personal time shifts. I experienced this awesome reboot type of feeling to not be tethered to my phone. It was freeing! But without social media, no phone games, less Netflix and texts, what was I to do?

I read even more (I already was reading about 40 books a year), spent more engaged time with my family and wrote the book, which I had never done. Somehow, other aspects of my life aligned, too. I work out consistently (twice a week, that's enough for me), and I feel more connected to family and friends. I've even experienced the power of deep breathing and Pandora Meditation Radio. What in the world is going on here?

I never committed to a full-length book previously because I over-thought the audience and publishing world and always found excuses to not do it. This time around, the book had to get out. In away, it wrote itself.

I fear that many of us just consume and don't create. We offer the fake excuse that "we don't have time." That way of thinking undoubtedly will lead to frustration, unfulfillment and emptiness. To create is to be human.

As a teacher, I often roll my eyes because creativity isn't explored as much as it should. Isn't understanding and cultivating creativity a crucial component of education? In her Nobel Prize acceptance speech, Pearl S. Buck talked about how creativity makes one's senses more alert and life more profound. It produces a "heightened activity of every cell of his being, which sweeps not only himself, but all human life about him."

Nowadays, many low-level capitalists devalue creativity because they don't see it as profitable or marketable. Plus, in the era of Amazon, Netflix and the "smart" phone, there is so much out there to consume that it is easy to forget about creativity and just consume, consume and consume.

So even though I'm wondering "what do we do know?" with a finished book, I know the answer. I'm moving on to book two. OK, sure, I'll write a book proposal and get the first one into print. I just know that the journey of creating something out of nothing is magic, and I believe magic bounces all around us. As I write this, I am hearing it in the form of my daughter singing and composing a song on the piano in the background.

Heck, it doesn't have to be writing a book or composing music. But my advice to anyone is to add a creative endeavor to your life and see what happens.

Monday, April 1, 2019

What is your mask?

The Joker Mask. The Aggressor Mask. The Athlete Mask. The Know-It-All Mask.

These are four of the nine masks that Lewis Howes describes in his important book The Mask of Masculinity. I recommend the book to all, especially males, and I recommend the documentary The Mask You Live In by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, the wife of California Governor Gavin Newsom.

Masculinity is an under-discussed, under-examined topic in the United States, and twisted masculinity norms are the root of numerous societal problems. I ask our readers today to be open-minded as we briefly contemplate masculinity in 2019.

First off, examinations of masculinity often are confined to college campuses in gender studies courses. I would vote for gender studies and discussions of masculinity as early as elementary school.

Other reasons why I believe masculinity isn't pondered is that 1) masculinity is so fragile, that any discussion threatens males, and 2) women's issues garner more attention because of the covert and overt sexism in our systemically troubled nation. However, upon further examination, men's and women's issues are inextricably linked.

Now, I am no particular expert of gender studies. But I have written a book with the working title Advice to My Future Son-in-Law: Understanding Men and Relationships in the 21st Century. I quickly realized that an examination of masculinity was critical to the book's focus on marriage.

The "man box" is an important concept that I see as a first step with understanding modern masculinity. The man box shows the limitations of what a man is supposed to be and what he believes. In the man box, men "are supposed to be powerful and dominating, fearless and in control, strong and emotionless and successful in the boardroom, bedroom and on the ball field," as is explained by the organization A Call to Men.

In the film The Mask You Live In, we see that boys put on a masculine mask, which is not what any human being can or should be. The masks enable violence and the dehumanization of women and the self. As the boy wears a particular mask, he contorts his true self to fit the mask.
In the introduction in his 2017 book, Howes gives credit to The Mask You Live In (2015) to spurring his own study on masculinity. What I respond to most in Howes' book is his distinctions of different masks. One mask does not fit all. I see men who obviously wear the Stoic Mask or Invincible Mask. But I see others who wear the Material Mask, or finding one's self-worth through money and work.

Once the truths of masculinity are accepted in males, I see the next step as "reclaiming emotions." This is not easy for many reasons. Many guys are used to stifling emotions or replacing all emotions with what they see as socially acceptable emotions for a man, such as anger.

Another reason "reclaiming emotions" is difficult is that many men flat-out don't know how they feel. They have gone years and years without looking at their actual feelings. It takes a lot of honest introspection to understand one's emotions. Once emotions are reclaimed, or at least understood better, then life improves for the individual and those around him.

My sincere hope is that the topic of masculinity becomes more in the mainstream, and we look back at Siebel Newsom and Howes as trailblazers with giving this topic the crucial attention it deserves.

One celebration through my journey will be the eventual publication of Advice to Your Man. This is the first full length book I have written, and it will be a part of a series, or "franchise" if you will. I have allowed a couple friends to look at my current draft and will be developing a platform in the next year before agents eventually find me.

I must say that I learned a lot during the writing of the book. Not only marriage stuff and topics linked to it, but I learned a lot about myself, how I write, how I work and how I love. It turns out that love is an action, not a mere idea.

Writing a book is one more wrinkle in my life, and I do not consider it an individual accomplishment. I feel it is a testament to those who have nurtured me on my way — my mom, my family, friends and mentors. Especially, it is a testament to my wife, Dina, and my girls, who share a loving household with me. I sincerely hope ladies and their guys read Advice to My Future Son-in-Law.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Humanity shines through Holocaust survivor

Right before Gerda Seifer left Cerritos High School, she offered me imported candy from Germany. I obliged and tried the orange Woogie fine drop and felt the humanity of the moment.

Here was a 91-year-old Holocaust survivor who just addressed high-school students in two sessions for two hours. She was giving me candy. What a woman!

As I try to wrap my head around Gerda's experience and super student Caroline Mendoza's Genocide Project, I conclude that examinations of the Holocaust and genocide couldn't come at a better time. Our world is missing something crucial right now, and that's called humanity.

I wonder this. Is my thesis wrong? Do you have an example of humanity that you can share? Please do so in a comment below. If not, please explain why you agree that humanity is often lost nowadays.

First, let me explain what's happening with Gerda and the Genocide Project. High school junior Caroline Mendoza walked into my classroom one day and wondered if I would teach a lesson about genocide that she created. She was on the path of obtaining her Gold Award as a Girl Scout, and this was part of her ambitious project.

I listened to her plan and passion and could relate to her main point: Genocides are grossly unexamined in schools, and it's our responsibility to make sure students are aware of them. 

I jumped on board of her plan, but tweaked it with her. Why wouldn't she teach the class?

So I gave her some basic teaching tips, and she taught my classes about genocide. She then explained how the project must be sustainable, and we enlisted five sophomores to team-teach five classes about genocide. The manner in which Caroline did this with our team of five — Josh, Kayla, Maanav, Samantha and Vivian — was professional and in depth. Wow!

The students covered the Armenian Genocide (1.5 million dead), Holocaust (6 million dead), Cambodian Genocide (1.7 million dead), Rwandan Genocide (750,000 dead) and the Guatemalan Genocide (at least 40,000 dead).

After that, they took their presentations to the next level when they explained that there are current genocides happening in Burma, Darfur, Iraq and Syria. As human beings, how are we not outraged about this? How are we doing nothing about this?

Then, Caroline coordinated having Gerda Seifer, a Holocaust survivor, speak at our school to two sessions of approximately 300 students each. Here is Gerda with Caroline:
Gerda lost her parents in the Holocaust. Her mother was killed in an extermination camp, and she is unaware of what happened to her father. She is from Poland, and she survived by living in a darkened basement for six weeks when she was 14 years old.

Her story has been told in various outlets, including the Press-Telegram, Orange County Register, the Holocaust Museum and more. (Please check out those publications for more information.)

But let me return to my main insight, spurred by Gerda. Humanity is more important now than ever. The world I see nowadays has less face-to-face interactions than when I was young. Google Chromebooks are in classrooms at first grade, so students have more screen time and less face-to-face time not only at home but also in the classroom.

I wholeheartedly believe that Chromebooks and technology can be major learning tools. They're great for writing, but terrible for reading and attention spans.

Certain human traits, such as empathy and sympathy, can only be learned through actual face-to-face communication and feeling. In an unintended consequence of technology, actual humanity is being lost. But yesterday, to see, and interact, with a Holocaust survivor in the flesh in 2019 was a bit of a miracle.

At least, that's where my thoughts went with Gerda. At the end of the day, she offered me candy. I find it rare that anyone offers me anything out of sheer goodness and kindness. Why is this?

Friday, March 8, 2019

Spies move blog to self-improvement

Pain, neglect, anger, loneliness, fear — I see it all as an educator.

Most of the kids — and adults — I encounter replace dealing with difficult emotions with escapism. They have deceitful self-talk, or they pacify with their phones or Netflix. Some mistakenly believe "achievement" will be the answer for their existence.

Sadly, they're on the wrong path, and they need to embrace SPIES.

We're not talking espionage here. We're talking about the five key elements of being human that can be neglected. We're talking social, emotional, intellectual, physical and spiritual health.

This post officially takes the Snooze Button Generation blog in a new direction of self-care and self-improvement. We will be posting about ideas and tips on how to identify gaps between our actions and goals and what we can do about that.

Today, we simply ask readers to consider looking at the self through the lens of SPIES. Think about yourself with five parts — social, physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual — then ask yourself: Where do I need most growth? Please post at least a one-word answer of social, physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual as a comment below.

If you post a little more info, I will recommend a possible book for you, depending on where you are. As an avid reader and huge proponent of self-care and self-improvement, I likely can recommend a book on any component or offshoot of SPIES.

For me, I am looking most to improve my spiritual side. Emotional is close second, but I have been working on a daily action plan emotionally. I check-in with myself at least three times per day and ponder how I actually feel. By doing that, I have often recognized stress and have cut down on it. When I'm stressed, I breathe deep, clear my mind and focus on positive thoughts of love, Dina, Sophie, Chloe and calm nature scenes. "Love is the way" is my calming thought.

In schools, we typically over-stress intellectual growth and reward that by giving tests, where kids can get an "A." A lot of kids and parents care about grades, but aren't the social, physical, emotional and spiritual health of a child way more important than a GPA?

One of my favorite quotes is from Mark Twain. "It ain't what you don't know that gets you in trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so."

It turns out that education for only intellectual growth isn't much of an education. As kids get older, I fear that their social, emotional and spiritual growth will be stunted unless they deliberately focus on these elements.

As for me, my spiritual action plan is connected to this blog. I believe that if I put out healthy ideas into the world that good karma will come back to me. Maybe that's called "Polish karma." I'm going with that.

Friday, March 1, 2019

What is your cause?

This blog will celebrate its 10-year anniversary in August. A decade!

I want to thank everybody who has stuck with me and the blog. I have evolved a lot, and I bet you have, too. Imagine what you were doing 10 years ago.

Today marks the next step in the Snooze Button Generation blog's evolution. I will be taking our readers for a ride and in a new direction, but that direction won't be revealed until the next post. Ooh, it's a cliffhanger!

The new direction will focus on an important cause — one that is universal, bipartisan and will actually help individuals and the world. The cause is about empowering others, creating leaders (not followers) and helping people's actual lives. While it's true that a lot of the tone in this blog has been offbeat and humorous, let me say that the new direction is no joke. But we'll have fun with it, homie.

I am curious about you, reading this now. If you prioritized what truly matters to you in a few words, or just one cause, what would it be? What is your cause?

In the age of quick, chewable thoughts, I imagine that many would joke and say things like "liquid soap" or "Big Chungus." Or maybe the thoughts would go to "dump Trump," "get rich" or "Channing Tatum." But truly, deeply, seriously, what is your cause?

Sadly, I fear most don't really have a cause. It might be "my job" or "school." If that's the case, feel free to think in the hypothetical. If you had a cause, what would it be? I plan on taking action with my cause, and I urge you to do the same, if you have not already.

Please share your cause as a comment. I will be an ally — assuming I do indeed support your cause (our cause). I ask that you become an ally for my cause (our cause), too — assuming you support it when it's revealed.
For those who don't know me, I started this blog when I was going through a divorce and after a 12-year career in print journalism. I was starting a new career as a high-school teacher, and the premise of the Snooze Button Generation was a homage to '80s and early '90s pop culture. It was tailored to nostalgic Gen Xers, who I dubbed the Snooze Button Generation.

For the first three years of the blog, we did an average of two posts per week. We talked about Atari, Lloyd Dobler, the Apple IIc, Drakkar Noir, the Humpty Dance, Jake from "Sixteen Candles" and much more.

I enjoyed writing about that stuff and got a lot of laughs, but on Feb. 16, 2011, my world flipped upside down when my dad, the XMan, unexpectedly passed away. I somehow pieced together a post on that traumatic day.

When I thawed out slightly from my dad's death, I took the blog to a more personal place. I stayed with old-school pop culture, but evolved to include more personal posts and some that were flat-out intimate. That format has lasted for the past few years.

The new focus will be more humanistic and genuinely connect us. Real connection is worth more now than ever — in the world of social media and fake cyber connection. Now, you might say, "Wait a second. Isn't this fake too?"

I don't think so. I am sincere about connecting us, and others, through our causes. Heck, there are 10 years worth of blogs to check out and see the evolution of how we got here. I have realized that we can't really accomplish anything if we go at it alone. We need to connect, and we need each other's support.

What's your cause?

Friday, February 1, 2019

Uncle Ed is better than Federer

Eddie. Lynda. Freddie.

That is the trio pictured. My dad, Fred, is on the left with the mustache.

This is taken in Chippewa Lake, Ohio, with the Stevens cottage — 42 Bungalow Bay — in the background. The photo is likely in the middle of a tennis match. Tennis courts are directly to my dad's right.

Spending many summer days in Chippewa, this trio engaged in many grueling tennis matches. They were great players, and my Uncle Ed and Aunt Lynda continue to be quality players to this day.

It will likely sound like hyperbole, but Uncle Ed is better than Roger Federer.

Now, you might say that is a stupid claim because Federer has 20 Grand Slam titles and was No. 1 in the world for six years. But, come on, he is BORING. As a casual pro tennis fan, I have avoided watching Federer for years. Too robotic. Yawn.

Uncle Ed, on the other hand, has Federer beat with longevity, style and charm. He's logged in more years on the court than the Swiss mister and was not afraid to play shirtless in humid Ohio summers in the 1980s. One commonality he shares with Federer is that I am not sure I beat either in an actual match.

But, really, my serious point must be asked: What is more important to our youth — to be No. 1 in the world or to play tennis for your entire lifetime? Honestly, Uncle Ed is a healthier role model than Federer because sports should be about health and development and love of the game.

I truly question the state of youth sports. We have travel teams, club teams, extra fees, hardcore competition, stress and coaches shaming kids. Why? What happened to the good ol' days when kids just played together outside for the love of the game?

Earlier this year, Uncle Ed and my cousin Jen told me they were playing mixed doubles in a tournament, and they had absolutely glee in their eyes when talking about it. What does Federer think about that?
When I was a teenager, I remember Uncle Ed being extremely active on the court, an animal at the net. My Aunt Lynda had a different style. She was a baseline player and was just ridiculously consistent. We did not keep statistics, nor did we have Cyclops, but I believe it was common for her to have ZERO unforced errors in a match.

I cannot say that Aunt Lynda is better than Serena Williams, but she rivals her. The problem my aunt faces on the women's circuit is that it is full of personalities. Serena oozes personality, and the women's game has so much more chutzpah than the men's game.

I argue that tennis is the only sport in which the women's spectator version is better than the men's. This might sound sexist, and I understand that. But it's what I believe. With all other sports, I'd rather watch the men's version. But I prefer women's tennis to men's — and that hurts Aunt Lynda in the pantheon of sports greatness.

Women's tennis has longer rallies, and I also like its three-set format. For god's sakes, why do the men have to play best of five? And where are the personalities? I totally miss the days of McEnroe, Andre Agassi, Boris Becker, Andy Kellar and Richie Tenenbaum.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Examining the back story

Back in 1987, I was in a body cast.

For whatever reason, I don't often talk about that episode. I had reconstructive back surgery, was in the Cleveland Clinic for 21 days and was wheeled away with a cast and rods in my back.

The truth is that at the time I did not think the surgery had any deep meaning. I needed surgery. I got it. I could not play sports for a full year after it.

But, upon further review, this event is out of the ordinary for the average teenager. Maybe there is a cliche in there somewhere. Maybe I learned how to overcome obstacles. Maybe I showed persistence or something like that.

Today is New Year's Day, and I think I am writing about my back surgery because there is a fresh start feel in the air. Many things are colliding today because of me exploring this topic and me realizing that there is no cliche, or conveniently wrapped, ending to my back surgery story. I also realize that many people withhold telling important stories, turning points, for fear of judgement.

So why has it taken me 32 years to write about my back surgery? The main reason why is that I am not defined by it and did not want to be defined about it.

As a former journalist, I know that my colleagues and I would often do stories of firsts:

"You are the first African-American to be an astronaut. What is that like?"

"You are the first woman to be nominated for best director. What is that like?"

In my pop-culture loving American world, the thoughts behind many so-called "stories" are myopic, stereotypical and completely not real. As it relates to me, well, I never wanted to be the "kid in the body cast" or "the kid with the bad back."

No, no, there was way more to me than that, so because those sentiments were common, I pushed the conversation away from that. And, yeah, I did that when I was 13 years old.
About my back, the surgery in June 1987 was my second back surgery, after one in May '86. As a seventh grader in '86, I felt some pain in my lower back toward the end of basketball season in February. As the months progressed, the pain became unbearable, and I eventually could no longer run.

With a trip to the Cleveland Clinic, I did various tests, including an MRI, and was diagnosed with an arachnoid cyst in my back the "size of a sausage." By the time that diagnosis occurred, I was eager to have surgery. I was in major pain, and this had to stop.

The pictures above, without the body cast, are from the '86 surgery. Recovery from that was not easy but bearable. I was not ready to play football that started in August, but I was go to go with basketball, which started in October.

I felt fine and was on an eighth grade CYO basketball team that was in the Final Four for the city of Cleveland, thank you very much. Around this time, I did some follow-ups at the Cleveland Clinic, and it was determined that if I did not have reconstructive back surgery, then I would develop a permanent curvature in my spine.

The second surgery was no joke. Afterward, I wore the body cast for six months, then had a brace for three more months. With the cast, it meant sponge baths for six months, and at a certain point, I yearned to have the darn thing off.

Then, the brace was kind of a bummer because it was more obvious that I was wearing it. The cast was smooth and actually less noticeable.

When people ask me how the back surgeries affected me, I sometimes say that it got me to read for the first time. That is partially true because I was laid up for so long that reading was part of my routine. Maybe that put me on the path to be a writer.

I could say things like, "Y'know, what doesn't kill us makes us stronger," or "It taught me how to deal with adversity at a young age."

However, looking back, I'm not so sure I had those thoughts. Looking back, it was really about identity and my fear of being labeled or judged or misunderstood. If I have to make some sort of big statement, it is another reminder of how fragile life is and how good health is a gift and deserving of genuine gratitude.
This topic brings us to my brother Fred, who was gliding along healthy as an ox until about a week before Christmas. He got a nasty case of the flu, so much so that it landed him with a hospital trip. Then, after taking Tamiflu, he was practically paralyzed.

Fred went back to the emergency room and was quickly diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome. He then was admitted to the hospital for five days, and over Christmas, to receive treatment. He has the most positive attitude I've run across in a while and is doing so well that he's thinking he won't even have to do outpatient physical therapy. In the hospital, he could not use his hands nor walk.

Through Fred's episode and my own back story in the '80s, my mom was at her boys' side in the hospital every day, so she deserves a shoutout. But, yeah, health remains such an important part of living that I say it's a foolish when we partake in unhealthy activities.

So Happy New Year! Maybe this is the year to make a commitment to exercise, healthier diets, no more junk food and drinking. Life indeed is fragile.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Cable loss, net gain

I cancelled cable about two months ago, and I have been watching more TV than ever. What the heck?

Apparently, I have been extremely slow to the party when it comes to streaming. I have been buffering, buffering, buffering ...

I've had Netflix for several years, but who knew I even had an Amazon Prime account? And, my God, if you string together trials of Hulu, Sling and whatever free apps are out there, there's hardly a reason to pay for cable.

The main reason I did this is that we put a new roof on our home, and we had DirecTV. We preferred to not have a hole on the roof where our dish was. So we took down the dish and then tried the "no cable" as an experiment. I believe it has worked, and we don't want the cable.

Here's the problem: I had hoped to recuperate and bring back brain cells. Instead, Dina and I have been binge watching a zillion shows and have bags under our eyes.

As a member of the Snooze Button Generation (tm), television has had a major effect on me. From time to time, I write about TV and did so five years ago when the SBG staff came up with its top 10 TV shows of all time.

Now, that type of list is arbitrary and open for debate. In the world of streaming and binge watching, it seems amazing that there were entertaining shows with the format of network TV. In fact, only three shows on the list from five years ago — The Sopranos, Curb Your Enthusiasm and Top Chef — were from non-major networks.

It may not be fair to compare Netflix offerings with the shows on the older list, but in many ways, the newer shows are better produced, have more artistry and depth. In a public service to our readers, here is a holiday streaming guide. This is a list of 10 shows, or movies, recommended for when we're cooped up for the holidays:

1. The Keepers (Netflix, 2017)

Who killed Sister Cathy? This is the documentary version of "Spotlight," the Academy Award winning film from 2015. Instead of taking place in Boston, this is in Baltimore. The horrific things that occur in "The Keepers" had me outraged, and I couldn't keep my eyes off it.

2. Red Oaks (Amazon Prime, 2015-17)

Character-driven, artistic, real and funny, Red Oaks did what Amazon Prime probably hoped. It got me to watch the service. The performance by Paul Reiser is incredible, and heavyweights Hal Hartley, Amy Heckerling and David Gordon Green direct it. By the way, I recommend Hal Hartley's films, too. I loved those in the '80s and '90s.
3. Martin McDonagh's films

When I saw "Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri" (2017), I was blown away. Why aren't there more movies like this — character-driven, intelligent writing and unique? "Three Billboards" got my to see "Seven Psychopaths" (2012) and "In Bruges" (2008). Those two films bring out comparisons to Quentin Tarantino, and, heck, that's a good thing.

4. Barry (HBO, 2018-present) 

I'm hoping that the second season is as good as the first. I'm also hoping that the show resists the urge to worry about plot. They got some killer characters (pun slightly intended), and Henry Winkler is truly incredible in it.

5. Evil Genius: The True Story of America's Most Diabolical Bank Heist (Netflix, 2018)

I had never heard of this bank heist in Erie, Pa., from 2003 often called the "bomb collar" or "pizza bomber" case. It was pure madness and impossible for me not to watch.

6. Greta Gerwig's films

She's different than McDonagh in many ways, and with me, she is different because I knew her before "Lady Bird" came out around the same time as "Three Billboards." I knew her from "Frances Ha" (2012) and "Mistress America" (2015), and I loved those.

7.  Norm MacDonald Has a Show (Netflix, 2018)

I love Norm so much that this probably should be higher on this list. But I've always known Norm is hilarious and my favorite comedian. His own show on YouTube also is awesome.

8. Man in the High Castle (Amazon Prime, 2015-present)

The premise and characters are what I love most from this series based on the 1962 novel by Philip K. Dick. I especially love the first season and will watch all seasons, although I must admit that I'm normally not a fan of Dick.

9. Master of None (Netflix, 2015-17)

Apparently, a third season could happen, as long as Aziz Ansari wants to do it. As I mention this show, I realize that there needs to be more like it. It's official: "Funny, intelligent and character driven" is what I like most in the world of streaming.

10. Wild Wild Country (Netflix, 2018)

In the vein of "The Keepers" and "Evil Genius," it's another one of those "I can't believe it" documentaries. I hadn't known what happened with this cult in Oregon in the '80s, and the way the episodes are handled pull the viewer in various directions.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

We are all 50 now

We're all 50 now.

I find a bit of freedom with turning 50. I can finally be an adult. Make no mistake about it. I am a seasoned vet and feel free to come to me if you're looking for wisdom.

An unexpected byproduct of October 2018 is that I have vicariously turned 50. Now, I know my birth certificate says I was born in 1973, but I don't care. I'm 50!

Cue former Saturday Night Liver Molly Shannon, who happens to be from Cleveland and whom I bumped into once outside a Rite Aid in Larchmont Village with her daughter. I'm 50!

It happened so fast. Youth, where have you gone?

Earlier in the month, I realized a coworker was turning 50, and to me, that's a cause for celebration — or at least something. We did a cake and sang, even though we're avant garde English teachers and normally don't do that type of thing. We are too cool for this as we await the cultural revolution and a nationwide return to poetry. Presumably, that would happen at Wal-Mart.

A week after, I realized my long-time Press-Telegram comrade Don Jergler was turning 50. I went to Don's wedding nine years ago and his baby's shower, and I've had many cocktails with him over the years. But the only thought I had was, "Oh, wow, Don's fifty?!?"

Then, in my world, the biggest 50 of them all came on Oct. 25, when my brother officially turned it. Wonderful, and incredible, Judi threw a surprise party for him previous week, and I flew into Cleveland to surprise him, somehow wrestle the microphone from him and give him several male embraces. Holy, moly, we're all 50.

If that weren't enough, on the next day, my wife's cousin's wife (got that?) turned 50, and we like her quite I bit. We went to her wedding a few years ago in Minnesota and her to ours. How much more evidence do we need? We're all 50!
Due to society's conventions, I am not allowed to discuss a woman's age and/or weight, and I will not do that with my beloved Dina. However, if I'm 50, she's 50. We're all 50 now.

I feel a sense of freedom to turn this age. I'm still working, but, honestly, retirement isn't too far off. In 15 years, I'll have Medicare. Yes! Also, I may just stay stuck at 50 for the next 10 years and then jump to 60. Why be so picky with all of these other years?

People say things like, "Age is a state of mind" or "You're only as old as you feel." I guess, but why is it so wrong to be a little bit older and be 50? Why do I have to hide this?

During the first year of this blog, back on New Year's Eve 2009, I felt old when Replacements frontman Paul Westerberg turned 50. I was surprised he was hitting that age and was living a bit of a suburban life at the time. I used to think "We are the sons of no one, bastards of young!" Well, that would make us young, too, then. Right?

There certainly is a double standard with being a 50-year-old sophisticated gentleman as opposed to a 50-year-old woman. That's absolutely unfortunate, but I do know that I am excited to enter my fifth decade. I hope to keep aging with grace.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Memento mori

Back in 2010, the Snooze Button Generation (tm) staff determined that this blog and all of its subsidiaries would not do posts about the birthdays of CEO and founder Joe Stevens.

Today, we assure you that this is not a typical post about birthdays that says: "Mr. Stevens turned 45. Yay!!"

No, no, this is a bit different. This is a post about life, death, morality and humanity in which the phrase "memento mori" will be mentioned.

Mr. Stevens has some maudlin tendencies and sometimes looks at death as a "negative" part of life. Back in 2010, he said, "Believing in an afterlife is self-deceit. So each year, there's a bittersweet feeling about getting closer to chest-bumping the grim reaper? But y'know what? If you know what you're doing, each year gets better, and a birthday is a cause for celebration."

The Snooze Button Generation staff concludes that Mr. Stevens sometimes goes to the dark side, kind of like Paul Giamatti's character in the movie "Sideways." In fact, he was slightly depressed on his birthday and said things like, "Well, it's one more reminder of my inevitable doom. Another candle on the cake — might as well be another nail in the coffin."

Based on our years of working with Mr. Stevens, we have discovered that this death talk is part of his motif. He's like the goth girl in high school who would wear all black and say, "I wear black on the outside because that's how I feel on the inside." Just like the goth chick, Mr. Stevens does a lot of his morbid stuff for show.

Well, the SBG staff says, "Memento mori!"
Remember, that you die, you have to die. It is perfectly fine and human. To err is human. To be human means to be mortal. Humanity is beautiful as is mortality.

We say to take it and relish it, Mr. Stevens. You have helped make our days more than worthwhile by being on your staff and have offered many insights and peeks into your life that we have enjoyed.

An extremely relevant point he made on how fast life goes is when he concluded that age should be a fraction because of our perception of time. An 8-year-old is really only 1/8th, while a 45-year-old is a 1/45th because that's what he experiences that year.

Another catch phrase Mr. Stevens has been saying of late has been "30,000 days." It's a reference to the rough estimate for a human being's life expectancy, and it keeps with his death motif. We calculated that on his birthday he was at 16,425 days and told him that.

When he heard that, he said, "Oh geez. Figures. I'm telling you it's the Catholic stuff. They make up this heaven thing, tell it to 7-year-olds, and it undermines life and humanity. It's taken me years to understand that human life is actually better than any magical after-life with unicorns and rainbows. Thank God I gave up on that heaven madness. Oh, and thanks for the happy birthday."

The SBG staff debated on whether he went to the dark side with that statement, and, ultimately, we say he did not. Perhaps it was his way of saying: memento mori.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Goodbye, baggage

The bag has been retired.

For approximately 10 years, this red, white and blue bag has been going back and forth between two co-parents’ homes. With Chloe entering middle school this year, the bag will no longer do that.

Until fifth grade, the girls did brief after-school care at a place called Kids' Club at their elementary school. Kids' Club was cool with having the bag hanging out there, and now, there is no more after-school care. The bag is retired!

The end of this baggage is a symbolic end of the idea of "baggage." Emotional baggage is something that people can bring into relationships from past relationships. I get that.

The worst part about the idea of "baggage" is to assume that a divorce or children are automatic baggage. That absolutely is not the case, and I'm offended by that type of thinking.

When people ask me when I got divorced, I say “2008.” I believe that’s the best year to say because that’s when I permanently moved out. The divorce wasn’t legally finalized until after that, I think it’s OK to say “it's been 10 years since being divorced.”

A lot of growth has occurred in these 10 years for me, and especially for my daughters, who are in eighth and sixth grade. Divorce is such a loaded term, but so is marriage. I argue that divorces and marriages come in many different shapes and sizes, and it is a disservice to make assumptions of what they are.

I used to see “divorce” as some sort of scarlet letter, something to be ashamed of, a failure. As life has progressed, I laugh at that simplistic view of divorce because it was based on unfounded assumptions.

I have met countless well-balanced, loving children who come from divorces, and I have met similar children who come from married parents. The critical factor in parenting, to me, is if the parents emotionally support their children through the child’s development. It’s irrelevant if that support comes from two houses or one house; I might even argue that two houses of love are better than one.
Being 10 years removed from divorce and being remarried in a loving, supportive relationship, I certainly see divorce differently. When I was 15, I thought I knew it all. When I was 25, I thought I knew it all. I finally figured out around age 38 that I didn’t know it all and never will. Perhaps that’s called maturity.

The one thing about being divorced that is awful is others’ misconceptions of what that means. I wrote about how divorced dads are misunderstood about two years ago, and that remains true.

The main point today is that being from a divorced family does not mean the child is “tainted.” I fully expect my daughters to having loving and healthy relationships as they grow, and no doubt, they will. I predict they will look back on their childhood and realize how they were loved from all angles — mom, dad, stepmom, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends. I hope they look as fondly at their childhood as I do at mine.

However, I must be brutally honest and say there has been at least one downside to being divorced. It's that damn bag!

I tried to negotiate that bag out of existence a long time ago with Chloe and reluctantly agreed to “middle school” as the end point. I just didn’t have the heart to make a stand on the bag because the main things she was lugging back “Old Pink” and “New Pink” were two security blankets. But then with those blankets in there, it opened the door to other stuff.
Finally, the bag is retired. Chloe is keeping “New Pink” and Cheshie, her Cheshire Cat, at my house and “Old Pink” at mom’s house. I’m not so sure she really needs these things, but then again, do I really need my 97 Chewbaccas?

Sophie is in eighth grade now and doesn’t really have security items like this. Heck, she hasn’t been really lugging things back and forth for a few years now. Both of the girls are thriving, and both have two houses. In their case, two is indeed better than one.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Starbucks siren named 'greatest logo of all-time'

I drank Starbucks more than ever this past year, and I am pondering: "Why was I doing this?"

Of course, we could attribute it most likely to caffeine addiction or a boatload of gift cards. But as I truly analyze it, I just think I like the cup.

Yeah, in my mind, Starbucks has "The Greatest Logo of All-Time."

This is quite a statement because there are many logos that are much more iconic. Let the debate begin! The golden arches of McDonald's come to mind, as does Coca-Cola lettering and the Nike swoosh.

But even with all the established, mega-companies and logos out there, I got to give it up to the siren from Starbucks because when anybody goes into a Starbucks, the customer typically walks away with one item and the logo. I know of no other store where there is so much logo buying with so little in return.

Coca-Cola, Pepsi and all other preceding drink logos definitely deserve credit for being the precursor to the Starbucks siren. But Starbucks itself deserves credit for going with this logo, and it certainly has the world's market cornered on coffee logos.

There are 27,339 Starbucks in the world and 13,000 in the United States. This store's main thing is selling coffee and coffee drinks and not much more. Try having all of those stores without the mesmerizing logo. Good luck!
Earlier this year, my daughters and I paid a lot of attention to logos while we were driving, and we noticed a lot of red, white and blue in them. Some of them we take for granted, perhaps, like the logos at gas stations and fast-food places.

In the smart phone, Internet, Wi-Fi age, I would argue that we are bombarded with more advertising and logos than ever. I, like everybody, am accustomed to five-second ads on YouTube before I click like a monkey.

I do not purport to be a graphic designer whatsoever, so others might argue for different logos as the so-called "greatest" and probably have good reasons why. But in my mind and with my criteria, the Starbucks siren outdoes FedEx, Apple and anything else that comes to mind.

I also must give it up to the logos of luxury items, such as Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Ralph Lauren, for commanding such high prices for their products — because of their logos. Solely. (Or not. I have heard that Louis Vuitton leather comes from the hand of God.)

But the real products that boggle my mind are Sharpies, Kleenex, Band-Aids, Chapstick, Xerox and more. Those are eponyms, and they often replace the actual words of black markers, tissues, bandages, lip balm on a stick and photocopying.

While Xerox machines have only been around since 1959, coffee has been in existence since 1671. So I don't think the actual word "Starbucks" will ever replace coffee, but after this blog, maybe we should go get a Starbucks.