Politics & Policy

Talkin’ Bout My Generation; a Message to Our Readers

Why you say "dial" a phone number.

An old roommate of mine had a 9 year-old daughter who had no idea why you say “dial” a phone number. Why should she? She had never seen a dial phone. I think about that all the time, because it shows how the English language grows right around us. But it also shows how fast things are moving but we don’t realize it.

Apropos of that, Beloit College puts together a list of observations every year that explains to the faculty where these kids today are coming from. Because I’m in New York on a business trip and because I am lazy and this is more interesting than the column I was writing about China, I am stealing from it (But please see the special announcement below).

The people starting college this Fall were born in 1981. That means:

They have no real recognition of Reagan or the Reagan Era and probably have no idea he was shot. Popcorn has always been a microwaveable food and there has always been MTV. They were prepubescent during the Gulf War and they’ve never known another Pope. They were 11 when the Soviet Union went kaput and they never feared nuclear war or that Jaws would get them when they went for a swim. They don’t remember the Challenger disaster, hard contact lenses, 8 track tapes, or the styrofoam containers at McDonalds. All of their lives they have been aware of AIDS but they’ve never experienced bottle caps other than the plastic screw off kind. The Compact disc was introduced when they were one year old. They’ve never played Pac Man, never heard of Pong and Atari means nothing to them. They’ve never seen Larry Bird play. A remote control is the only thing they’ve ever really used to change the channel. Not only don’t they know who Mork was, they’ve never heard of Ork. They’re in the dark about American hostages in Iran and a typewriter is an exotic device. “De plane! De plane” sounds like and insensitive way of saying “the plane! The plane!” rather than a Fantasy Island joke. If forced to guess, they’d think “Where’s the Beef?” is a line from the Starr Report.

A Message To Our ReadersDear Readers,

The good news is that NR Online is doing better and better. We have several exciting announcements coming up in the weeks and months ahead. The bad news is that we have stumbled on the end of an era. I have tried in the last few months to maintain my daily quota of screeds, asides, and rants. Unfortunately, the demands of the site have made maintaining that pace impossible. National Review Online is growing and I need to dedicate more time and energy to it. We now have over 10,000 web-only new words a week. We have several daily and near-daily features. We are going to be redesigning the site — again — and we have some other things coming down the pike as well. Also, I would like to write more “Magazine Arguments” and “On the Couch” pieces for the site but I cannot do that and write five days a week. Also, to be honest I have more personal non-NR obligations than I used to (more about that later).

So, as of today, the Goldberg File will be a three-times-a-week column. Monday, Wednesday, and that other day that begins with F. That doesn’t necessarily mean I won’t be writing five times a week, it just means you’ll have to troll around the site to find out where I am writing. I cannot begin to express how much fun and how rewarding an experience it was to write five time a week for more than a year. As a writer, nothing helps you find your voice more than an unremitting demand for copy. Also, I hereby promise never to use the word “voice” that way again.

I am hoping that many of you will use this extra time to explore the rest of the site. We have lots of new stuff every day (not even including links to breaking news and the rest). From our new “HillaryWatch” feature [Link defunct] to Larry Kudlow’s regular updates on economics and politics. For example, just today, my colleague Ramesh writes an excellent “Magazine Arguments” piece on David Brock’s stunningly bad hit piece on Michael Kelly [Link defunct].

Anyway, I’m not trying to use this solemn occasion as an opportunity to make a sales pitch — that would seem so out of character for someone named Goldberg. Thanks very much to those of you whose interest sustained the daily Goldberg File. I hope you will stick around for the thrice-weekly deal.