Bringing Up Baby

The True Tales of Generation layZee

Let’s face it. Americans are breeding their humans stupider, lazier, and more ill-equipped to cope with life. This has been a slow but definite decline since the Greatest Generation, who somehow produced the hedonistic and slothful Baby Boomers, who grew up to do a 180-degree shift into S&L scandals, accounting frauds, and corporate takeovers.

The Baby Boomers managed to be the poorest parents thus far in the history of America. Their “if it feels good, do it” credo resulted in the highest spike in divorce rates the country had ever seen, with divorce rates tripling between 1960 and 1980. To make matters worse, their desire to be friends rather than parents to their children (or ignore them completely) produced a generation of kids that were, at best, slow to adapt to adulthood--Generation X.

The younger Baby Boomers and the older Gen X’ers produced the latest debacle in human history...a generation I will refer to as “Generation layZee.” If Generation layZee has a posterboy, it is Casey Serin, whose incompetence, delusion and sociopathic tendencies should reignite a serious push toward eugenics.

Fuelled by a steady diet of late-night infomercials, shoddy public schooling, and a complete absence of a work ethic, Generation layZee strives to get ahead in life by some sort of social lottery system. This generation was never taught the importance of hard work, of resiliency. They have been simply coddled. And those responsible for this have done them no favors.

Last week’s massacre at Virginia Tech is another example of Generation layZee at its worst. Like Casey Serin, Cho Seung Hui was unable to take personal responsibility for his actions or his life, saying that others “forced” him to do what he did. In the bizarre rants left behind, the shooter angrily whines about rich kids, people being mean to him, and life not being fair.

Well boo fucking hoo. Here’s a reality check...if we look back to those Greatest Generation folks, we see that, after some of them had their names forcibly changed on Ellis Island, their new world greeted them with signs in shop windows that said “No Dogs or Irish.”

Or how about the Tuskegee Airmen? Every last one risked their lives in service to a nation that treated them as second-class citizens. Some were killed, others were held as prisoners of war. Six decades later, the remaining few were formally honored. Talk about delayed gratification.

But not Generation layZee. They want it, and they want it NOW. No one has taught them how to work toward a goal. Just the opposite, in fact--seemingly everyone in their tiny universes seemed focused on preventing even the slightest harm from ever befalling them, from scraped knees to hurt feelings.

Generation layZee is continually focused on what they do NOT have. We’ll rarely, if ever, see them thankful for a simple meal or place to sleep. They seem unable to comprehend the statistical odds that they most likely will not become the next Michael Jordan, Paul Allen or Sergey Brin. Their mommies and daddies told them they were special, dammit, and the world had better reflect that.

As they try to become the “next big thing,” Generation layZee fails in the earliest stages. They have no concept of the amount of tireless work it takes to become that, and even if they did, lack the fortitude to get there. Few, if any, ponder how many parties Michael Jordan missed in order to spend solitary hours shooting free throws. They think it “just happens.”

So they go off into the world woefully unprepared. The Casey Serins of the world want to jump in with both feet and play with the big boys. Because they’re ‘special,’ they blissfully ignore their own lack of training and experience, and seem unable to even put a value on such nebulous ideas.

When things go awry, as they always do in this world, we have the Columbine kids or the Virginia Tech shooter. I’ve been saying for years that this generation, Generation layZee, would be a generation of suicides. I did not predict that their pampering would lead to taking out as many people as they could while they go down in flames.

But whether it’s Casey Serin negatively impacting his neighbors’ finances or Cho Seung Hui depriving others of their very lives, Generation layZee only looks at how they themselves are impacted.

I wish this weren’t the case, but it’s only going to get worse. Everywhere we go, we are allowed glimpses into the future. The latest round of pseudo-parents allow their children to run wild in public, scream at the top of their lungs, and make no attempt to discipline or socialize them.

Each self-absorbed generation has managed to produce a subsequent generation that is shockingly more egocentric and spoiled than the one that came before it. If you’re a parent, you need to seriously rethink your role in creating productive members of society. If you’re thinking about becoming a parent, consider your motives for doing so.

Are you really up to the task of parenting? Or are you content to spend 18 years with a living accessory that will one day create a burden to and a drain upon society?

And to Generation layZee, I say this: Slow down and take a more thoughtful approach to your lives. Before you leap into something, can you answer the question, with absolute certainty, “How will this end?” And maybe, just maybe, after you realize that your parents and schools have failed to train you (as many generations ahead of you have done), you will take it upon yourselves to defy the odds, through actual hard work.

And if you think the world has been cruel to you up to this point, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Time to grow some callouses and thicken up the skin, kids, because life itself is a long and rocky road.

ADDITION: Aantares/Eve Community readers, please see this post.

Whackaloonery or Wave of the Future?

On any given day, there are perhaps two dozen daily and weekly papers that cross my desk. What this ultimately serves to do is reinforce my worldview that people are strange.

The area where this is typically most evident is in different technological developments. Of course, this comes from the fact that, in creating new technologies, shooting the moon can result in either public ridicule or serious jumbo juice.

One such article leaped to the forefront of my consciousness as the nuttiest idea of the week--the result of what two guys can create when they ponder the age-old question, "How to combine scuba diving with death?"

The two had previously developed a new artificial reef technology. By designing cast-concrete structures that would be sunk to the ocean bed, they found that sea life would inhabit the artificial reefs within months.

Great idea. Terrific technology. But here's where it gets weird. The two started mixing the cremated remains of humans into their concrete structures before sinking them into the sea, thereby creating a company they call "Eternal Reefs".

CEO George Frankel says that this resolves the conflict between the deceased who want their ashes spread at sea, versus families who don't want to dump the loved one into the drink. He says they create a "particular place where thier family can visit." Particular, indeed.

Today, there are about 700 people who have been sunk to the ocean floor to become a playground for the fishies. Should you or a loved one like to be number 701, here's how it works:

The company will send you a map of locations for its reef ball placement and you pick a site. They then take the cremated remains and mix them with marine-grade concrete. If you like, friends and family can impress handprints into the concrete as it cures.

Brass rubbings can be attached to the reef ball if you like. Then, the ball is available for a memorial viewing. Next step is out to the boat, where CEO Frankel reads JFK's speech "To the Sea" as the reef ball is dropped into the ocean.

The interesting technology involved is that the reef is designed to last for over 500 years, and withstand pressure up to 10,000 pounds per square inch. I'm not entirely sure why that's important, particularly after someone has been cremated, but it's a nifty stat, nonetheless.

Prices for Eternal Reefs range from $995 to the deluxe package at $6,495. Services range from the casting itself to transporting it to the site, bronze plaque(s) and inscription(s), final placement and dedication, a GPS survey that records the exact latitude and longitude of the reef, and two memorial certificates.

Right now, Eternal Reefs is only licensed to imbed reefs on the east coast of the United States, and they report that the most frequently requested final resting places are off the coasts of Sarasota, Fort Lauderdale and Miami, Florida. If all progresses according to plans, they will expand to the west coast in the future.

Just to cover every possible scenario, the duo reports that they offer military honors, as well as pet burials. If you like, they will withhold a bit of your ashes (if you die first) to later mix with your partner's ashes in their reef ball.

I don't know...it all sounds pretty wacky to me. But I imagine that this is precisely what appeals to folks who want to do something like this. As you can see, Eternal Reefs customers seem to have a sense of humor.


The World's Most Dangerous Travel Destinations

To travelers, hearing the names of various nations often resonates in the same way as great poetry. Some of us consume travel guides the way that gourmets absorb cookbooks, letting the national monikers fill our minds with the possibility of exploration and adventure. As we pore over lists of nations such as Cape Verde, Tonga, or Vanuatu the dulcet tones resonate in our brains, hinting at the exotic and exciting.

There are other places, though, that even the most hardened traveler won't even consider. And it's these places that Forbes recently named in its list of Most Dangerous Destinations. After interviewing security and risk management firms who specialize in corporate globalization, Forbes has produced an extensive list of places the average traveler won't be heading anytime soon.

I have found that advice to American travelers is often far more cautious than security announcements for, say, Aussies or Brits. So I cross-referenced Forbes' list with Lonely Planet and the Australian government's smart travel site. With few exceptions, the Forbes list does indeed appear to consolidate some of the globe's most dangerous nations.

The Forbes article points out that "'The risks are changing. Civilians and business travelers are more in the firing line.' For one thing, we go to more places we didn’t used to, thanks to globalization, easier and cheaper travel and, according to Smither, some very specific market forces."

So unless you are a professional mercenary, here is a list of nations you should avoid, and why:

Democratic Republic of Congo
As news stories about the Congo's bloody civil war have grown in frequency, this area tops most nation's list of deadliest places. Lonely Planet notes that "Instability Rules", stating that the Ituri district is especially dangerous and that absolutely no attempts should be made to cross the border from Uganda or Rwanda.

Government travel alerts state that the capital city of Kinshasa is the only part of the Congo considered even remotely safe. In the same breath, these advisories urge extreme caution and all but prohibit travel after dark. As recently as last month, heavy fighting broke out in the streets of Kinshasa.

Forbes notes that more international firms want to do business in the mineral-rich lands of the Congo. Because of this, western professionals are sometimes required to travel to the Congo for business. (Personally, I would quit, effectively immediately.) What these people find upon landing in the Congo is a contingent of U.N. troops. But their role is that of "observer forces," meaning that they are unable to prevent or intervene in any pillaging, carjacking, rape, kidnapping, or murder.

Again, this one comes as no surprise. Lonely Planet refers to Iraq as "Not a place for a holiday." Even if you did want to travel in the midst of an active war zone, LP notes that commercial flights are few and far between, and visas are currently only given to journalists, business people, and aid workers.

The Australian government is very specific in its warnings: risk of westerners being kidnapped is high; avoid all unnecessary movement and remain indoors; risk of avian influenza; and my personal favorite, "Due to the risk of surface-to-air attacks against aircraft, we advise you not to travel over Iraq on aircraft without self-protection capabilities"

Sharing a border with a highly unstable country will take its toll, and this is certainly the case with Burundi. As one of the Congo's neighbors, Burundi has experienced cross-border attacks and banditry. As if that weren't bad enough, Burundi has maintained a dozen years of its own civil unrest.

At the moment, the capital city of Bujumbura is incredibly volatile, where senior officials linked to an alleged coup plot are being detained. Within the capital, curfews are enforced, but sporadic fighting between the government and rebel forces continues.

The Forbes article cites Pakistan as one of the world's deadliest travel destinations. But the rest of the world doesn't necessarily agree. Certainly, the border region near India has been extremely dangerous for over a decade, with residents and visitors alike avoiding the region in both countries.

Lonely Planet includes a number of warnings, but does not specifically advise travelers against traveling to Pakistan. Specific threats include a series of suicide bombs in Karachi, sectarian violence and the massive 7.6 earthquake in 2005.

The Australians are a bit more specific, with numerous citings of suicide bombings in Quetta, Islamabad, and Peshawar. The circular also urges travelers to avoid Baluchistan, the federally-administered tribal areas, and all Pakistani borders.

Lonely Planet minces no words when it comes to Somalia, calling it "one of the world's most dangerous destinations." As Forbes points out, the federal government recently wrested control of the country away from the Union of Islamic Courts, but fighting between clans remains the norm.

Government warnings point out that travel by land and sea are equally dangerous. Piracy is common around the coastal areas, while kidnapping and terrorist attacks are frequent on land. In the most chillingly poetic warning I've ever seen on Lonely Planet, the guide warns that "A traveller to Somalia is spoilt for choice in the number of things that can go wrong."

Yet another destination that most Americans aren't considering traveling to anytime soon. LP says that Afghanistan was once a place of unparalleled hospitality, fantastic food, great hiking but has devolved into a land where kidnapping, assault and murder are common, particularly in Kabul.

What you might not know about Afghanistan is that it is one of the most heavily land-mined areas on the planet, providing an extra element of danger to an already unstable environment.

Commonly called the Ivory Coast, the northen part of the nation is being held under the control of armed rebels. Forbes warns that the capital city of Abidjan is the site of repeated violent conflicts after a years of civil unrest, despite the presence of U.N. troops in the southern part of the nation.

Sharing a border with Liberia certainly doesn't help Cote d'Ivoire's situation, nor has the presence of toxic waste, which was dumped in the capital in September of 2006. Several surrounding neighborhoods are affected, and even more have experienced toxic fumes traveling through the air.

The country had experienced a resurgence in tourism, after decades of being known as
one of the worst human rights violators on the planet. But a breakdown in the ceasefire between the government and the separatist group the Tamil Tigers has made the nation unstable. Government warnings report that intense fighting can break out at any time, and Lonely Planet notes that parts of the north and east are rich with landmines.

This African nation is experiencing a spillover from the conflict in neighboring Darfur in Sudan. To add to its troubles, Chad has its own ethnic fighting in the east and civil unrest between the government and rebel factions. All travel outside the capital city of N'Djamena requires a permit from the Ministry of Interior.

But at the same time, Lonely Planet says that "A state of emergency has been declared in the capital N'Djamena." According to LP, Chad is a nation built on conflict. Its remote location, lack of natural resources and infrastructure, combined with its weak economy make an ideal climate for political upheaval.

With the world's increased demand for oil, more companies are tryng to do business in Nigeria. In 2006, this resulted in 120 foreign oil workers being kidnapped. The nation's 250 different peoples, languages and religions create an already volitile backdrop. Government warnings point to potential terrorist attacks or mass civil unrest around April 21, 2007 (tomorrow) when the country holds Presidential elections.

There are currently 8,000 peacekeeping forces in Haiti, according to Forbes. This is in response to the fact that Haiti has no effective police force. Lonely Planet says that this has created an opportunity for kidnappers and heavily-armed street gangs to run the capital city of Port-au-Prince with impugnity.

The country exists mostly in poverty, is overpopulated and has a long history of civil unrest. In recent years, this has culminated in a proliferation of firearms as well as corrupt police officials and judges.

When most Americans hear the word "Beirut," we imagine fighting in the streets. This is not entirely untrue, as there have been clashes between rival factions in the capital city. Throughout the country, car bombs, grenade attacks and bus bombings occur. In July of last year, the country was bombed by Israeli warplanes, in response to the presence of Hezbollah.

When Lebanon is not one of the world's most dangerous travel destinations, it has a reputation of being an incredibly interesting place to visit. Beirut claims to be the nightlife capital of the middle east, while the rest of the country boasts ski resorts, amazing food and architecture.

There are currently 15,000 U.N. peacekeepers in Liberia, following the ousting and exile of former President Charles Taylor. After fourteen years of civil war, the nation hopes to rise from the ashes, but is left with very little infrastructure.

Lingering political unrest and social tensions have resulted in mass crime throughout the country, including theft, rape, and murder. In the capital city of Monrovia, governmnet warnings discourage traveling anywhere after dark.

The active warzone in Darfur has captured public attention throughout the world. Militia attacks in this area have killed and displaced tens of thousands of residents. As government-backed militias, local insurgents and government troops engage in active combat with one another, kidnapping, sexual assault and murder are common.

The capital city of Khartoum is also extremely dangerous, with civil unrest breaking out suddenly and curfews being imposed with little or no warning. Threats of terrorist attacks are common, particularly against Westerners, many of whom are unfortunately aid workers. In outlying areas of the country, unexploded landmines are buried in rural areas.

While it is highly unlikely that the average traveler will be headed to these hot zones, it is difficult to not think of the citizens who are caught in the cross-fire of these greusome conflicts.

I'll spare the pontificating here, other than to say that many of us have really won some sort of geographic lottery, thanks to the region of the world that we were lucky enough to be born in.


A Million Stories

I've been joking that as soon as tax season was over, I would spend the ensuing week in a drunken stupor. Turns out, that's a more difficult goal than I'd originally thought.

In lieu of becoming an out and out drunk, I have spent a great deal of time socializing this week. Without the added burden of endless hours of paperwork to file and cross-check with my accountant, I feel like I've just lost a second full-time job.

The outings this week have been an absolutely glorious reward for the hours logged on taxes, and a great diversion from the significant portion of income that is being diverted to the government slush funds.

Last night, a group of us were enjoying an unbelieveable meal at a local restaurant, and conversation shifted to dating. We traded stories about our worst-ever dates, and I was happily surprised that most of the stories were relatively mild.

When my turn came around, I remembered my worst date as a guy who I had immediately clocked as a schmuck. It was my mother's birthday, and I had taken her for a spa day, followed by a concert, then out for drinks. The day was all about her, and I was happy to do it.

So I thought it was really poor form when a strange man kept approaching us, asking me to dance/chat/whatever. I explained that it was my mom's birthday, and I would be spending my time with her, thank you very much. It seemed more polite than the other options running through my head.

He shifted his game plan, focusing on dear old mum. He asked her to dance instead, fawning over her and making a bit of a scene. Mom was charmed. I was apalled. I thought it too tacky for words that he was using my mother to get to me.

After a few songs on the dance floor, his lobbying and my mother's glass of wine had kicked in. Mom was on the guy's bandwagon. "Quit being such a snob! He's a very nice young man, dear. He just wants to get to know you!"

Yes, my mother had given the guy my phone number. He smugly watched from across the bar as she informed me of this, and seemed amused by the laser beams of hate that I shot in his direction. Hell, he was an attorney...what else would I expect?

She had apparantly quizzed him on his vitals as they danced. She knew where he grew up, where he went to school, what his parents did for a living, what his life goals were. Turns out the real gift to my mother was the chance to play out some 19th century courting ritual.

When he called the next day to ask me to dinner, I was cornered. My mother had already threatened me to within an inch of my life to accept. To refuse would have been a greater hassle, a thought that was confirmed when my mother later called to ensure I had accepted the date.

While the two of us ate seared ahi overlooking the Pacific, he proved to be the cocksure guy of my first impression. But there was one moment that I still remember as being truly extraordinary.

It seems that before blowing out a significant joint/tendon/muscle, he had played professional baseball. He told me about the years spent toiling in Triple-A, then finally getting 'called up.' It happened quickly, he said, and within a couple of days, he was playing in his first major league stadium.

More than that, he actually got an at-bat. I guess it's typical for the rookie to choke in such a situation, so when he actually connected with the ball and scored a base hit, he was gobsmacked.

In the interminable period where the next batter knocks the dirt off his cleats and prepares to bat, the guy stood at his base and pondered the scene around him. Next thing he knew, the Hall of Fame baseman for the opposing team sauntered over. The rookie couldn't believe who he was looking at.

The Hall of Famer gave him a wide smile, tapped him on the ass with his glove, and said "Welcome to the majors, kid."

But for this story, the date was a dreadfully dull two hours where each second painfully ticked by at a geologic pace. I guess it's true that there are a million stories in the naked city. Scratch just beneath the surface and you find, not an asshole attorney, but a wide-eyed kid who played major league ball.

It would be a short baseball career, and an even shorter date. We never spoke again (he lived up the coast, thankfully) and mom's reaction was a surprising "Well I never expected you to marry him!"

Every once in a while, like last night, I'll remember that story and think that life is indeed more than tax season and obligations. I'm not at all sure what the 'more' is, but I'm inclined to believe that these kind of moments provide a clue.


Oh, Casey

First, I'd like to congratulate Alex at The Real Estate Forum for making an appearance on the Casey Serin Nightline segment. The website was shown with the headline "Why Lenders Need to Know the Name Casey Serin" as a part of the background story. Congratulations on making an appearance on national news! What a very cool nod to have under your belt!

I feel a certain vicarious thrill from this, as Alex and I traded segments on the Casey Serin story for a few days. Strangely, that site received quite a number of hateful and threatening comments when that story was posted. I know from our emails that it was way beyond anything I've seen over here.

I didn't see any such 'backlash' on my site, and felt pretty bad for involving another blogger in a sort of meme that brought that kind of lunacy. So I really have to say that the screenshot on Nightline restored a balance of sorts. Congratulations, again!

It seems that Friday's revelation about Casey Serin's dirty little paper trail has tongues around the country wagging. R-boy has unearthed some old Serin family court cases, and it doesn't look like they're related to Lady Liberty opening her arms and accepting this shady clan to join the nation.

I'm glad I could give some junior detectives something fun to unearth over the weekend. It will be interesting to see what the blogosphere discovers from this point. It's interesting to think about what people can find in public records....versus what one can find with a subpoena.