Monday, March 12, 2018

A Once-In-A-Lifetime, Cookie-Cutter Experience

Last month, my wife and I had the opportunity to cruise for a week in the Galapagos.  By any measure, even those of the jaded world traveler, it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

On Thursday of our cruise week, we were anchored in the harbor of Santa Cruz, one of five populated islands in the chain.  After chasing Darwin finches and hanging out with giant tortoises during the day, we were entertained onboard ship that evening by a local Galapagon band and native Ecuadorian dancers, a special treat.  After about an hour of singing and dancing, it was time for dinner, and I found myself the first one downstairs in the dining room.  Steve, our friendly, spic-and-span steward, stood patiently behind the serving line, waiting for my fellow guests to arrive.

“We’re going to be a little late tonight, Steve,” I said.  “Some of us are still upstairs dancing.”

Steve looked at me, smiled, and came as close to rolling his eyes as a professional steward on board a cruise ship ever dares.  “I know,” he said.  “It happens every Thursday night.”

That’s when it struck me: One person’s once-in-a-lifetime experience is another person’s cookie-cutter Thursday night.  In fact, our entire cruise to the Galapagos was actually the practiced craft of a team of trained professionals offering a series of carefully tested, cookie-cutter processes that insured guests were safe, sound, and on schedule as their once-in-a-lifetime experiences unfolded. 

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Historical Postcards Redux

The most popular post I've ever written dates back to 2008.  It's called "Historical Postcards and the Battle of New Orleans."  It's not my favorite post, or my best written, and I can't explain its popularity.  But it gets at something that still really fascinates me, the question of national memory.  Why do we remember certain events and people (the Civil War, Joe DiMaggio) while others slip away (the Korean War, Stan Musial)?  And what become the indelible images, the "postcards," that are stamped in the memory of a generation?

In the 2008 post, I took a stab at naming the five events that had the greatest impact on my generation (mid-to-younger Boomers): 9/11, the Challenger disaster, the moon landing, the assassination of Martin Luther King, and the assassination of JFK.

It's now a decade from that 2008 post, and the Pew Research Center has asked roughly the same question, expanded to include a "series of related events."  As you can see, 9/11 ranks first, followed by the election of our first black President and the tech revolution.

This list, which includes events over some sixty years, can be broken down by generation.  Pew has done that: