Saturday, April 05, 2008


This one is all from Mrs. G.

Did you see Chris Matthews ask Barack Obama what’s going to happen after the primaries are over? And Obama saying then “the poobahs will have to decide?” I hooted.

Of course, since it’s a word I learned in family conversation, I hadn’t ever looked it up, and Trilby and Endub wanted more information. Thus:

Grand Poobah is a term derived from the name of the haughty character Pooh-Bah in Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado. In this comic opera, Pooh-Bah holds numerous exalted offices, including Lord Chief Justice, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Master of the Buckhounds, Lord High Auditor, Groom of the Back Stairs, and Lord High Everything Else. The name has come to be used as a mocking title for someone self-important or high-ranking and who either exhibits an inflated self-regard, who acts in several capacities at once, or who has limited authority while taking impressive titles.

The expression "The Grand PooBah" was first introduced on the television show "The Flintstones." Fred Flintstone and his friend Barney Rubble were members of the Loyal Order of Water Buffaloes Lodge No. 26. A high ranking elected position within this organization is Grand Poobah or Grand Imperial Poobah.

The character Howard Cunningham on the TV series "Happy Days" was a Grand Poobah of Leopard Lodge No. 462 in Milwaukee.

In the "Darkwing Duck" episode "The Secret Origins of Darkwing Duck", the title character's nefarious uncle attempts to blackmail his planet into making him "Grand Poo-bah of the World" with a giant laser.

Mokey, a primary character in the Jim Henson TV series "Fraggle Rock," wishes to join "The Secret Society of Poobahs" in an episode of the same title.

Any time you’re linking superdelegates to Gilbert and Sullivan, Fred Flintstone, Howard Cunningham, Darkwing Duck’s nefarious uncle, and Mokey the Muppet, you may not have thrown a punch, but you’ve thrown one hell of a pie.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Homeland Generation

The generations discussion by Richard Delano of that I reported on yesterday was mostly about the Millennial generation, born 1982 to 2002. He did let on, though, that they were trying on a nickname for the generation born after that: the Homeland Generation. Conceived after 9/11 and born in 2003 or later, their experience is likely to be different from that of the Millennials before them. And if the Lifecourse four-generation pattern holds, the Homeland generation should be like the Silent generation.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Millennials' Favorite Jobs

I just attended a very interesting lecture on the Millennial generation, today's young people, given by Rick Delano of Lifecourse. This is the firm founded by Bill Howe and Neil Strauss, whose work on generations I have written about before.

The Millennial generation, born 1982 - 2002, are an upbeat, standards-seeking, group-oriented, parent-following generation. They are so unlike the Gen Xers at the same age. One of Delano's interesting findings: the Millennials, now voting in their first few elections, are twice as likely to vote as the Xers were at the same age.

One finding really struck me. When the 2006 high school seniors -- the eldest Gruntled child's class -- were asked which employers they would most like to end up with, their choices were, in order:

1. Walt Disney
2. Google
3. U.S. Department of State
4. Federal Bureau of Investigation
5. Central Intelligence Agency.

(Aging Boomers, remember to retrieve your jaws from the floor.)

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Eat Less Junk Internet

Another insight from the Posse Plus Retreat.

Students spend hours browsing the internet. Facebook, YouTube, TV shows, jokes, and occasionally a bit of news. They have extended their late night hours from midnight to 2. This is bad enough. They are more tired than students have always been, and avoid morning classes even when they need the subject.

The worst part of a steady diet of junk internet is that it fills your brain with trivia and drives out more important stuff. It is not simply the time that we -- students and non-students -- spend on this stuff, but the lost opportunity for better content. An hour on news and political blogs, or art sites, science speculation, religious devotions, even just social rants and grievances, is a richer diet than a steady stream of the mental equivalent of Cheesy Poofs.

I like humorous videos as much as the next person, and check I Can Haz Cheezburger? daily. Nonetheless, junk internet should be taken in moderation, just like every other kind of junk food.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Social Responsibility is the Work of Collective Actors

This weekend we had the retreat of the Posse Scholars and their guests. The theme was "social responsibility." The group was a wonderful collection of energetic young people who want to do good. The general thrust of our discussions was to find practical ways to be socially responsible right now.

As I was reflecting on this conversation, I was struck by an idea that I had not fully articulated before: social responsibility is carried out by collective actors. Individuals change the world by creating collective actors and working together. Students offered several examples of individuals who have made a difference in the world. In each case, though, a few moments' reflection made clear that they did not act alone.

Wanting to change the world yourself is a good start. But actually doing it requires that you also develop the skill of working with others. Collective actors can be responsible for re-ordering the world responsibly.