Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Prost Bavarian Beer House & Summer in Summit County

Each summer as the days begin to heat up, and the encroaching school supply sales begin to hint at the end of summer, we head to Summit County, CO, for a week or so of mountain living. The respite from the heat (it's a pleasant 78-82 degrees here when it's mid-90s on the Front Range) is only one part of the sheer joy of life at 9,000 feet. It's a day after day of outdoor living with a healthy and steady regimen of hiking, biking, swiming, fishing, reading, relaxing, eating and drinking. Our preferred home base is the lovely Keystone Lodge & Resort, nestled along the Snake River in the Keystone Valley, and we have our regular rides and favorite locales. But each summer there is something new to discover, and this year has given us a true Bavarian treat in a Frisco ale house called Prost Fine Beers and Sausages. We visited last night for some local music, sausages, pretzels and beverages.

Our "discovery" of Prost was a bit fortuitous, for it began in our desire to hear some great local music, most notably that of Summit County favorite Beau Thomas. Thomas is a singer and guitarist who appeared on "The Voice," and we have enjoyed his shows at Bighorn Lodge in the Resort over the past few years. Just a man with a great voice, an engaging personality, a guitar, and a broad repertoire, Beau has played the Happy Hour at the Bighorn for a few years, and it had been a tradition to see him at least once when we visited. He can sing practically anything and takes requests, but he also puts a great bluesy-folksy spin on it that is distinctly his style. Beau also hosts the Open Mic every Tuesday at Prost, and we made the trip over to Frisco for some great food and music. Prost is a pretty quaint place with beer house tables and a patio, and we had noticed it ove the years, but probably wouldn't have checked it out without the draw of Beau and the open mic. Beau serves as the host for the evening, and he was joined by a local drummer and bass player for an eclectic opening set that included a cover of Curtis Mayfield's People Get Ready and a funky-cool mashup of Dr.Dre(No Diggety)/EdSheeran(Shape of You)/Mackelmore&RyanLewis(Thrift Shop). Beau Thomas & Co was a real treat, and we also enjoyed a couple other talented local singers.

The beer and food did not disappoint. My wife is not really a beer drinker, but she loved the refreshingly light pilsner-style lager called Stiegel, and I enjoyed a dark, malty Hofbrau Dunkel. The pretzels are a big hit as well, and we tried four sausages on their sampler platter - traditional veal, a beer brat, the elk-jalapeno cheddar, and a boar sausage with apricot and cranberry. All in all a great evening and definitely worth stopping by if you're in Summit County. Don't miss out on great beer and German food, and by all means make it a point to see Beau Thomas.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Teaching and My Identity

So, a former student is interested in education as a career, though not necessarily teaching. He's thinking about education policy and the economics of education. He could certainly teach and be excellent, though I'd see him more at the collegiate than the high school level. Anyway, as he ponders his future and decisions in college and post-graduate life, he sent me an email and asked if I'd consider answering a few questions about my decision to pursue teaching. It was actually a fun reflective moment for me, and I thought I'd share my feelings.

Why do you teach? 
a.     I love knowledge and learning and, of course, sharing this info with “a captive audience.” There is definitely a social justice component to what I do – I have an inherent need to “educate,” and my goal for my class is always to (in the words of Henry James) create “people on whom nothing is lost.” Teaching is simply something I can do well, and that’s significant because not everyone can engage the teenage mind with information and skills they aren’t instinctively interested in. I’ve always been able to write well, and as I learned to hone my craft, I developed a real passion for teaching people how to write – to do that well, they must also be able to read and think. And I have the ability to help kids develop those skills.

2.     When and why did you decide to go into education?
a.     Like many teachers, I had several who inspired me in class, and I quickly decided I wanted to do what they do. From the time I was a junior in high school, I wanted to teach, though I did begin as history/social studies major, and I always assumed I would get a Ph.D. and eventually become a professor. Even as an English teacher now, I still have it in the back of my mind that I will someday publish literary criticism and teach at the university level. While teaching in Taiwan, I became quite skilled at grammar and composition, and those areas have remained one of my areas of expertise. I am more of a Rhetoric and Composition guy than I am a Lit person. I also always swore I would never go into administration, yet here I am, and I love that role, too. I was pretty much goaded into that by my old department coordinator, as well as a few other administrators, and I can’t thank them enough for opening that world to me. Being able to still teach, but also do administrative work and coordinate groups like my school's Youth Advisory Board and events like Ethnic Fest makes me feel like I am making even more of a positive impact.

3.     What did you want to do before becoming a teacher?
a.     Writer – I always thought, quite sincerely, that I would teach until I finished the “Great American Novel,” which I would then turn into an Oscar-nominated screenplay. After three worthless and failed novels and screenplays, I’ve now concluded that I am actually a skilled non-fiction writer, which is why I blog and I write articles for the Denver Post and others. At one time I thought I wanted to go into politics and run for office, and I was quite involved in that at various times. While I am still politically active, I know I am more effective as a consultant and writer than I am at actually legislating, or worse campaigning.

4.     What would you do if you didn't go into education?
a.     I would be David Brooks of the New York Times.

b.     After I retire, I’m seriously considering moving to the Caribbean and opening a bed and breakfast with my wife. I would still publish and hopefully be able to do public speaking on occasion.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Practice a little "Intellectual Humility"

How do you "know" what you know?

One of my more entertaining bits that I like to do in my AP Lang & Comp class is to pose to my students this simple question: How do you know France really exists? How do you know France is a real place and the French language and culture are real things? It seems so silly, but I ask them to consider why they accept at face value something which has been asserted by people they don't even know. And then consider how you might set about "proving" it to yourself. You may go online and buy a ticket to "France," but you buy it from a website operated by people you don't know. You go to the airport and wait at a door that says "France" is the destination. You are directed by people you don't know down a windowless hallway, and then you find a seat in a long tubular room which you trust is an "airplane" - a 400-ton piece of machinery that you believe can "fly" at up to 600 miles per hour. Eventually the room starts rumbling and shaking, and you supposedly fly to France. When you land in this place you've never been, you encounter a bunch of people you don't know, who are speaking a language that you have been led to believe is "French."

But how do you really know?

I thought of this ridiculous exercise when I was at the TEDxMileHigh conference this weekend, and I listened to an "idea worth sharing" from Phil Fernbach, a cognitive scientist at CU-Boulder. Dr. Fernbach is the author of a book called The Knowledge Illusion: Why We Never Think Alone. Fernbach's presentation was about that importance of collaboration, and even compromise, in our pursuit of knowledge and understanding. He began his engaging lecture by recounting last year's amusing, though rather disheartening, tweet from the rapper B.o.B in which the singer asserted his belief that "the earth is flat." The tweet caught the attention of eminent scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson, and they began a sort of debate. This little exchange fascinated the internet for about a week, and the educated world looked on with amusement.

Fernbach used this story and some similar anecdotal material to point out how we like to look with contempt, disdain, and ridicule at stories like these that we find, well, absurd for good reason. But then he pressed us to ask ourselves just how well we truly understand and "know" the physics and the science of a round Earth to conclude that what we believe is correct. With the round earth issue, it seems easy and obvious, but with other issues the idea of factual understanding and irrefutable truth becomes a bit more nebulous. In reality, on a personal level we don't really know very much at all ... especially in the Google era when we can always just "look it up," right? And that dependence on others for our understanding was a valuable bit of insight. Our understanding and knowledge of so much depends on collaboration with others. There is very little we can and actually do know on our own.

So, as Fernbach progressed in his talk, he mentioned a valuable little nugget of wisdom that he phrased as the need to, or at least benefit to, practice a little "intellectual humility." I'd never heard it put that way before, but it resonated with me. At this time in our history, the benefit of the doubt and the respect for opposing views, along with the insatiable quest for fully understanding all sides to an issue or concept seems so important. With that in mind, I think I'm going to delve a little further into the issue by reading Fernbach's The Knowledge Illusion. And, I am definitely going to get to the bottom of this France thing. ☺

So, consider practicing a little Intellectual Humility. I know I could stand to do this.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Things to Do in Denver

A couple months ago, a friend from the Midwest messaged me and asked for some tips about visiting Denver this summer. I'd typed up a quick response and then copied it into a draft for A Teacher's View, but never posted it. But I figured why not. So here it is, slightly edited for a larger audience:

If you’re staying downtown, I’d consider the Crawford Hotel at Union Station, if only for a night. It’s in the heart of Lo-Do (the best restaurants and places to hang), and you’d be walking distance to Coors Field which is a great place to see a ball game. 

Down there for restaurants I’d say: 9th Door, The Mercantile, Vesta, Osteria Marco, Bistro Vendome. Or you could walk/cab over to the Highlands and go to Linger –one of Denver’s best restaurants. Root Down and Little Man Ice Cream are also there. In Denver, it’s also cool to stay at the historic Brown Palace Hotel – or at least go for drinks. Larimer Square and The 16th Street Mall are good walking/shopping destinations. And the Art Hotel is a new cool place to stay. And downtown there are simply so many great breweries, it’s impossible to list them. I’d suggest going to Denver Beer Company.

If you’re willing to head out of the city, it’s a quick ride out to Red Rocks to do some hiking and check out the amphitheater. If you go a little further, there are plenty of great hikes in the foothills around Golden or even Evergreen.  If you’re heading out, I love hiking the 3 Sisters Trail in Evergreen and then going to CreeksideWinery. Boulder is just 30 minutes away and definitely worth the trip. Hike the Flatirons above the University and visit Chattaqua and the Pearl Street Mall.

Of course, if you’re coming to Denver, you should head into the mountains. We prefer Summit County, and Breckenridge is definitely our mountain town. Breck is the perfect mountain town, and just two hours from Denver. We go every 4th of July for a few days – it’s got a great parade. We also spend a week or so in Keystone at the Keystone Resort and Lodge at the end of July. It is our happy place, right along the Snake River. It’s pure bliss.

Of course, there are countless books and websites about Things to Do in Denver, but it's always nice to add a personal touch. Regardless, the Mile High City is a wonderful place to visit .... just please don't move here!


Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Masterclass.com - "Can Steve Martin Teach You to be Funny"

Online learning - is it really a thing?

When I think about the potential for learning in the Internet Age, I am truly overwhelmed with the possiblities at the same time that I am quite skeptical of the reality. Because I am currently trying to learn to play piano (in my quest to live more artfully and be more artful), I have hope that there is nothing that is not learnable through the YouTube model. I've watched several videos to learn the basics of songs I wanted to play, and I realized that the model is quite transferable. In waiting for one video to play, I was sucked in to an ad for Masterclass.com, an online tutorial site featuring numerous celebrities. It was the Steve Martin video that hooked me:


Now, I haven't actually signed up for any classes, but I am tempted by the idea, and I thought I'd at least look it over and post about it. There is a fair amount of hype and some credible people behind the idea of Masterclass.com, and it seems like an opportunity that is at least worth the first $90. I don't know if Steve Martin can teach me to be funny, or whether Herbie Hancock can actually help me feel the magic of jazz music, but I would imagine that the experience would be one of the more entertaining classes in my educational career even if I learned nothing.

What do you think? Does anyone have any specific experience with MasterClass?

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

"America" - through American Literature


I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear, 
Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong, 
The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam, 
The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work, 
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck, ...
      - Walt Whitman

On this celebration of Independence Day, I enjoyed a reflection from LitHub.com on the heart and soul of America as seen by international writers and editors through their picks for the quintessential American fiction. That got me thinking as a writer and teacher what my picks are for the best and truest representations of the American ethos - its voice, its spirit, its identity. Some I have pulled from LitHub's list, and others are my own reflection. Here are A Teacher's View of the "quintessential America" through its literature:


Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Walden by Henry David Thoreau


Leaves of Grass - Walt Whitman
  • See opening quote. Is there anyone who more aptly called to attention that uniquely American character through the language we use

  • Growing up on the banks of the Mississippi River, I have a fondness for this book that Hemingway once said is the beginning of American literature. The spirit of America and the hope of the redeeming power of literature is so poetically summed up in Huck's parting words: “I reckon I got to light out for the Territory ahead of the rest, because Aunt Sally she's going to adopt me and sivilize me, and I can't stand it. I been there before.”
The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald

Winesburg, Ohio - Sherwood Anderson

Their Eyes Were Watching God - Zora Neale Hurston

Light in August - William Faulkner


The Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger

To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee

  • The bible of the Beat and Hippie generation, this rambling, explosive yet reflective meditation on travel, jazz, booze, woman, and freedom is an iconic American voice. I mean, really. Just listen to this: "The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars."
A Separate Peace - John Knowles

White Noise - Don DeLillo



Generation X - Douglas Coupland (technically a Canadian author)

Monday, July 3, 2017

Aruba - One Happy Island

Until last week, I had been to four islands for vacation - Hilton Head, Paros - Greece, Bali - Indonesia, and Penghu - Taiwan. Every one of them was a wonderful experience, albeit in different ways and at different times in my life. The common thread of course is the unique qualities of island life, the most noteworthy being "island time." Having never been to the Caribbean, and having watched way to much "Caribbean Life" and "Island Living" on HGTV, it was a dream to spend some time in Gulf, and my most recent trip to Aruba did not disappoint. The motto and theme of this wonderful little semi-arid beach oasis is "One Happy Island," and at least from the tourist standpoint the experience fulfills the promise of the premise.

The key to the magic of the island is, in a word, its charm - Aruba is a quaint, welcoming, easy-going, safe, accessible, and simply adorable bit of land on the southern end of the Gulf of Mexico. Located roughly twenty miles off the coast of Venezuela in the territory known as the Dutch Caribbean, Aruba is a Dutch-controlled island, and it evokes a symbiotic blend of both Aruban and European culture. Maintaining one of the highest standards of living and average incomes for native people among the Gulf islands, Aruba seems to have nicely balanced its colonial past with its tourism-oriented present. We traveled smoothly between the port city of Oranjestaad and the resort-heavy Palm Beach, using both taxis and the local busses. In fact, I would highly recommend taking the bus for at least some of your trips, for it was a cultural experience all its own.

Our time was spent around the pool at the Marriott Aruba Surf Club, and I'd highly recommend it. We easily drifted between the Surf Club, the Ocean Club, the Mariott Hotel, and even made our way up and down the beach to other hotels like the Ritz-Carlton and the Hilton. All the beaches in Aruba are public, so access up and down is easy and not restricted to hotel guests. One nice quality was the ability to visit the other hotels for their restaurants, shops, and or course casinos. In making our way between the resorts and into the shopping/dining area of Aruba, I always felt as safe as I do in my own hometown. The staff in and around the resorts are literally everywhere with quick assistance and a smile. Visiting a place like Aruba immediately leads me to an inkling to "retire in the Caribbean," and while I will do some additional research over the next decade or so, I will definitely take another trip to island gem that is Aruba.

In the meantime, I'm planning my next vacation and research trip for the US Virgin Islands:




Wednesday, June 21, 2017

2017's Song of the Summer: "Feel It Still" - Portugal. The Man

Well, it's official. This year's song of the summer can be none other than the funky, groovy, hip sounds of "Feel It Still" by long-time indie band, Portugal. The Man



To quote a DJ on KTCL (93.3 Denver) this morning: "Just who do these guys think they are?" I mean, it's only June, and this song and album are so damn good that there's nothing left to look forward to in 2017. And, where did this band come from (they've been around for nearly 15 years), and what exactly are we to make of the name "Portugal. The Man"? What does the name mean, and what's the significance of period in the middle? Oh, well. Who cares.

This song has a groove that could land comfortably in so many decades that I'm not quite sure how to describe it. For some strange reason, the vibe reminds of Tarantino's film Pulp Fiction, and I think it's because that film could have been set in the 50s, 60s, 70s, or 90s, and there was no defining era except for a distinct feel of cool. This song is the same thing. Wide appeal with hipster credibility. The twangy little bass beat just oozes funkadelic, and if you're head isn't just bobbing to the sound, there is definitely something dead inside of you.

Check it out, and celebrate the solstice by getting your groove on.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Breaking Bad's Walter White was never any "good"

I'm a huge fan of pop culture criticism - in fact, at times I feel like I enjoy the criticism as much or more than the actual pop culture itself. The work of Gen X writer Chuck Klosterman is a perfect example of this feeling. Klosterman, who has written for Grantland, Esquire, GQ, and other publications, produces a large volume of sports and entertainment commentary that is at times a work of art unto itself. His most recent collection of essays - Chuck Klosterman X: a Highly Specific, Defiantly Incomplete History of the 21st Century - has been engaging me recently, and I rarely find issues on which I disagree with Chuck. However, his views of the iconic TV show Breaking Bad are one area where we part ways, and it's his praise not only of the show but his interpretation of the character of Walter White that are so off. As I've noted before, the entire BB fan base as well as an endless run of critics are wrong about Walter White, and I am mystified by the miss. Walter White is not an anti-hero, and the show was not about a man who "breaks bad." Walter White was always evil, or at least pretty "bad," and unlike characters such as Michael Corleone or Tony Soprano, there is no redeeming quality of White.

Klosterman crafts a compelling view of contemporary crime drama with an assertion about the cultural significance and groundbreaking impact of four shows - The Sopranos, The Wire, Mad Men, and Breaking Bad. These are undoubtedly some of the best television of the last two decades. Klosterman analyzes the shows as he argues that Breaking Bad elevates above the rest because of the unique transformation of the character of Walter White. The true magic of the show, and the significance of WW, is that "At some point, he decided to become bad, and that's what matters." Klosterman believes White is set apart because his evil and his actions were guided by his choice to "break bad," an act that his reluctant partner Jesse told him he could never do. You can't just "break bad," or decide to become a different person. You can't choose to become evil. And this is where Jesse is in some ways right, and Klosterman (as well as the show's fans and other critics) is simply wrong.

Walter White is not an anti-hero, and he is not a good (or even simply average) man who chooses to "break bad" as a result of adversity (in this case, his diagnosis of cancer and desire to protect and provide for his family). From the beginning, Walter White is simply not a very good person. He comes across as a rather mediocre, if not downright inadequate, teacher. Obviously, later seasons reveal his contempt and seething regret over his decision to leave the science/businesss world and enter education. Yet, it seems like his partners don't regret his decision to withdraw from the business. I don't think they ever really liked him or even respected him as a person, and the reason is he was ... well, a bit of a tool. Walter White was always a pretty amoral sort of a dick, and the reason he didn't "break bad" or become "evil" earlier is simply because the opportunity never presented itself. People don't just become sociopaths, which is a fair description of his character by the middle seasons. He was always that way, and the cancer diagnosis and chance encounter with Jesse simply offered the opportunity for more socially destructive actions.

Characters like Tony Soprano and Don Draper are compelling and interesting because aspects of the individuals are appealing. We develop some degree of understanding and empathy for these men because of their circumstances, but the reason we do that is carefully crafted by the writers and directors. The characters always have in some way done something to "save the cat," an act which endears us or at least softens our suspicion and mistrust of them. We ironically root for Tony Soprano to get away with crime because we like him. We justify that he is only hurting other bad guys, or we care about the integrity of the close relationships he has - even if they are with other thugs. Yet, none of this is, or should be, true with Walter White. My sympathy was always with Jesse, a true anti-hero. But I never wanted WW to get away with anything. I wasn't hoping to prolong the show - I wanted him busted and the whole thing over. Because Walter White is no good, and he was never worth a damn.

Friday, June 16, 2017

"1979" & growing up Gen X


Generation X, while not inclined to be defined by anything or anyone, was certainly crafted by coming of age in the late 70s and early 80s. There was a frivolous apathy and detached bemusement associated with life in years like 1979. And this ironic spirit is captured oh so poetically in one of my favorite Smashing Pumpkins songs, "1979" from the album Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. The song's distinct and innovative sound with its funky 70s bass lines and trippy reverb refrains and rhythms just oozes with the 70's suburban ennui that is captured so beautifully in the video. Corgan is reflecting the feel of 1979 when he was just twelve years old and coming into consciousness.

Justine never knew the rules
Hung down with the freaks and the ghouls
No apologies ever need be made
I know you better than you fake it, to see
And I don't even care to shake these zipper blues
And we don't know just where our bones will rest
To dust I guess
Forgotten and absorbed into the earth below
The street heats the urgency of sound
As you can see there's no one around



Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Are TED Talks Helping Anyone?

If you've been a student or attended any sort of professional conference or training (or even spent any time on Facebook) in the past decade or so, you have watched a TED Talk. TED Talks are the brainchild of a man named Richard Wurman, but they really came into prominence as a cultural media phenomenon through the hard work and vision of online curator and media entrepreneur Chris Anderson. Anderson turned TED into a huge foundation of idea promotion, and now the ubiquitous nature of TED Talks are an accepted part of media and learning. I can't tell you the number of times I've experienced or heard about someone else experience a "fantastic presentation" that clarifies an issue or poses an interesting question or solution. Inevitably, speakers and teachers will introduce an idea for pondering and then deftly shift to someone else's work by saying "Watch this TED talk, and then let's talk about what you think."

If you are an ideas-oriented person, then you love TED Talks. In fact, you probably have dreams of giving one yourself someday. And maybe you should. You probably share them regularly on social media, and you can easily get lost on the website for hours - or even days - clicking on one presentation after another. It's easy to get wrapped up in the neatly synthesized wisdom of a TED Talk. The answers just seem so obvious and clear and easy. The world would be a much better place if everyone just listened to TED. But I'm wondering if that is true. Is the TED phenomenon actually helping us, or is the distilled wisdom of a 20-minute presentation just pacifying us and distracting us from the real work to be done. Are the soundbites and slogans of TED Talks actually oversimplifying the issues. And, here's a question:  Why do so many teachers and presenters rely on TED Talks as a key component of their content and instruction?  Shouldn't the class or conference itself be a TED Talk? Or, is the TED Talk just another form of content like a book or poem or piece of data that teachers and speakers have always used.

There is even a cottage publishing industry of books on how to be more like TED. The prime example of this is a book that promises to help you Talk Like TED.

What do you think? Do you like TED Talks? Is TED helping anyone?

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

For Gen Xers, Reality Bites was a terrible film

As Generation X settles casually into middle age, I need to share an observation:  Reality Bites was a terrible movie.

When this movie came out in 1994, I was a few years out of college and living in Southeast Asia. The economy was still somewhat sucky for people in their twenties, and by that point the term Generation X had actually become a thing, having been established by Douglas Coupland's seminal novel and capitalized upon by marketing agencies seeking to identify, explain, market to, and manipulate the Twentysomethings previously known as the Slacker Generation. The movie Reality Bites did not help the perception of our demographic. Let's face it, the movie spotlights and caricatures a rather whiny group of losers .... or, as writer Lindy West pointed out a few years ago, a bunch of "shitheads."  The movie wasn't really made for actual members of Generation X, a group of somewhat disaffected young adults who were critical of and suspicious toward most of the traditional institutions in society that had long grounded adulthood in contemporary American - marriage, careers, education, politics, consumerism. It was simply made to capitalize on a moment in time and a marketing term.

None of the people I knew in the early and mid-nineties looked at the world with an entitled sense of desire for the lives of the Baby Boomers or the Silent Generation in front of us. Having grown up in the waning days of the Cold War with a casual acceptance of divorce and disappointing job markets, Generation X simply went about its life, aloof to the self-absorbed yearnings and ponderings of characters like Lelaina and Troy Dyer. Let's face it, the character of Troy was simply a dick, and not in any interesting or noble way. While the backstory of his father is supposed to generate some understanding and empathy for his cold, keep-love-at-a-distance-to-protect-myself demeanor, it is not remotely endearing or appealing. He's just a tool. And Lelaina's interest in him is alternately not at all believable and truly pathetic. The two of them just exemplify terrible decision-making, and they reveal a serious disdain from the filmmakers for the very audience many believed they were portraying honestly. This movie was a big studio release meant to appeal to the masses - but Generation X has never been about "the masses."

Granted, there are some interesting aspects of the movie that were certainly an appropriate sui generis view into the lives and challenges of Gen X. Issues like divorce, drug use, and the dangers of casual sex were addressed in a reasonably honest way. Looking back after decades, the portrayals of "Vickie's AIDS test and Sammy's coming out to his mother" were handled with a candid approach that matched the times and revealed the necessary societal progress that has been a hallmark of Generation X's maturity. And the natural infusion of consumer and popular culture into every conversation was actually an authentic portrayal of the first generation to be acutely aware of the hype with an ability to discount it and embrace it at the same time. Yet, far too often it became as cliche as the jingoistic bromides that Troy regularly tries to pass off as cool, hipster wisdom. The gas station convenience store dance to "My Sharona" was a treat for the creators of movie trailers, and it lives on as a nauseating reminder of why Gen X hates marketing.

There is a fair amount of thoughtful art that actually captures the identity and ethos of Generation X, not the least of which is the novel that named it. In fact, a much better Gen X movie preceded Reality Bites, coming out at roughly the same time as Coupland's novel. Set in the early days of emerging Seattle sound, Cameron Crowe's ensemble piece Singles is the true portrayal of Generation X's rise into adulthood in the early 90s. If I want my generation to be remembered through a film, it's no question that Singles is Generation X's film. Amidst all the sappy commercialized portrayals of Gen X, it's scenes like this one that exemplify who we were ... and are.