Posts tagged ‘pop-culture’

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Having recently viewed the popular highly regarded film, The Social Network, it got me thinking about my use of computer technology and how much I personally depend on social networking to stay in touch with friends and family.  I remember when the Internet was still referred to as the Information Superhighway and dial-up modems were the only way to travel there.  Technology has zipped along since then, but the manner in which the majority of Baby Boomers use the Internet remains pretty much the same.  Boomers go online to use e-mail, shop, and do research. An AARP survey shows that 40% of those 50 years old or older consider themselves either extremely or very comfortable using the Internet.

Despite the growing number of Boomers online, only 27% use social networking sites.  Social networking is the next iteration of the Internet.  Instead of static webpages, websites are interactive so users can comment in real-time with each other, putting the “social” in social networking.

It’s true that the number of Baby Boomers using social networks is increasing. CBS News recently ran a story on the growing number of Baby Boomers now using social media.  According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, social networking on sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn is up 88% among those aged 50-64.  Use of Twitter alone is up 120% in the same age group.

If you haven’t joined the social networking bandwagon yet, here’s a quick low-down on the most well-known social media sites and what their focus is:

Myspace (130 million users): The first social networking site to take off in a big way.  Since losing the social networking crown to Facebook, they have revamped the site to focus on music and target younger users.

Facebook (500 million users): The current top of the heap in social networking. Most people use it to keep in touch with friends and family.

LinkedIn (80 million users): Popular for professionals, it’s more about resumes and networking than reuniting with your prom date from high school.

Twitter (175 million users): Say what you want in 140 characters or less. Users follow people (from celebrities to politicians to your grandkids) with short updates known as “tweets.”

Looking to connect more with other Boomers?  There are a couple of social networking sites geared directly to you.  Eons (listed in our Blogroll and LINKS section to the right) is a social networking site that launched in 2005 by the man who created the job hunting website  You can join different communities based on personal interests such as gardening or travel, play games, and share photos.  AARP also features social networking on its website for the 50+ crowd with its AARP Online Community.

If you want to read further about how to get the most out of social networking, the Torrance Public Library has books to get you started :

Do you use social networking sites?  Have strong feelings about their positive and negative aspects?  Still not ready to jump in yet?  Leave us a comment and tell us what you think!


January 25, 2011 at 11:46 pm 7 comments

Film Festivals Part Deux – AFI Fest

It hardly seems possible that it’s been a full year since we posted about the pleasures of attending film festivals.   One of the biggest and best, the AFI Fest, is about to begin this coming week. AFI Fest is Los Angeles’ longest running international film festival and the 2010 event will be held in Hollywood, California, November 4-11.  AFI (the American Film Institute) is a national institute providing leadership in screen education and the recognition and celebration of excellence in the art of film, television, and digital media.

The week-long event offers film lovers a full schedule of screenings and exposure to the very best of world film. Check out the schedule and ticket policies – you may get lucky and snag some free tickets.

Also, if you’re a true film buff and would like to attend other film events in the LA area, here’s a link to a list of festivals through May 2011.

Can’t make it to the festival this year?  Don’t forget to check out audiovisual holdings at any Torrance Public Library location. You can obtain lists of notable films from the AFI website and consult the Library’s catalog or browse the shelves to pick up a classic or two.  DVDs circulate for one week and there is no fee – all you need is a Torrance Public Library Card!

October 30, 2010 at 7:45 am 4 comments

Boomers Got a Bum Rap?

The October issue of Atlantic Magazine features a provocative cover story focusing on the Baby Boomer generation and their responsibility for and contributions to the country’s present situation. Whether you agree or disagree, Michael Kinsley has written an essay that will make you think. The issue also includes response commentaries from “experts.”

Personally, I appreciate Mr. Kinsley’s willingness to voice a different spin to the “self-absorbed and self-indulged” view of Boomers, for example, “the Boomers not the Greats … forced the nation to address Civil rights…the Greats were the ones who got us into Vietnam and the Boomers were ones who got us out…”

Atlantic Magazine is available at the Katy Geissert Civic Center Library. Links to specific articles may also be accessed through the Library’s EBSCO full text magazine database.

Share your feelings about the Boomer generation by leaving a post below. We welcome your comments.

October 22, 2010 at 7:46 pm 1 comment

ACK! and the Single Girl

Cathy Guisewite has penned the final panel of that forever dieting, forever shoe-shopping, forever everywoman, Cathy. For more than 30 years, Cathy was the picture of the stressed-out career woman trying to juggle love, work, body issues, mother-daughter relationships, and whatever else modern society threw at her. Cathy ran in 900 newspapers, won an Emmy for an animated special, and had even been parodied on Saturday Night Live. And now she’s gone to that great “four panel” in the sky!

But Cathy was also a product of the Boomer generation. Guisewite was born in 1950 and came of age during the rise of feminism. “You’ve come a long way, baby,” may have become the slogan of Virginia Slims in the late 1960’s, but the growing feminist response was “No, we haven’t, and don’t call me baby.” By the time Cathy was first published by the Universal Press Syndicate in 1976, it was during the push to get the Equal Rights Amendment ratified by enough states before the 1982 deadline.

Cathy was not seen as a feminist role model. Even though there were very few female cartoonists at the time, the strip was considered anti-feminist. As Guisewite related in a recent New York Times article, “A big problem at that time was you had to be in one camp or the other. There wasn’t a camp for ambivalence. You were a liberated woman or you were or a traditionalist. To even voice vulnerability if you were a feminist was wrong and to voice interest in liberation if you were a more traditional woman was wrong.”

Guisewite was willing to voice that ambivalence and found an audience of other Boomer women who struggled with the same things Cathy did. Cathy was that girlfriend you could laugh with about insecurities, guilt, and doubts that modern women weren’t supposed to have. At its height in the 1990’s, Cathy ran in more than 1400 newspapers. Obviously, she spoke to other generations, too.

Cathy evolved from a single gal to married with dogs. And although the strip has ended, her life will continue with even more adventures. You can read the last strip here.

If you need to reduce the stress of dressing rooms, an overflowing “to-do” box, and men who don’t understand the need for fifteen different pairs of black shoes, the Library carries a couple of Cathy collections:

Another Saturday Night of Wild and Reckless Abandon

Wake Me Up When I’m a Size 5

The library also has comic strip collections by other great Boomer cartoonists:

Were you a Cathy devotee?  Do you have a favorite among the cartoonists listed above?  Post a comment and share with our readers.


October 18, 2010 at 8:16 am 4 comments

Mega Stores and the Hawthorne Curse

Mayor Isen, Jonny Weissmuller, Ricardo Montalban, and Soupy Sales entertained thousands at its opening. Its iconic façade was hailed as a mod masterpiece. Its 130,000 square feet, 1,500 parking spaces and 45 departments selling everything from electric fans, fashions and flashlights, right in the center of Torrance was seen as a plum city asset. It even had a grocery store and a place to redeem Blue Chip stamps. It was hoped that it would attract shoppers and their money, from as far as Inglewood and Palos Verdes. It was not dogged by anti-development or NIMBY protesters. It was the White Front and it was 1963.

I remember Mom taking me to the White Front (or “white elephant” as we called it while it sat empty) to cash in her Blue Chip stamps. It was a great place for a kid, large enough to run around in and made of material that echoed well when young lungs needed testing. I remember it only in its decline. When it opened in 1963, it was the leader in large scale “bargain” retailing. In short, it was the Wal-mart Superstore of its time.

Torrance Herald, 1963

But it didn’t last. White Front was only in business from 1963 to 1974. The famous façade came down in the early 80’s while the Marriott Hotel went up in the late 80’s. The bankruptcy of the parent company, not the indifference of Torrance shoppers, was cited as the reason the store closed.

It was the largest store Torrance had ever seen. It was 180,000 square feet (a Wal-mart Superstore is about 185,000 square feet and Costco is only 147,000 square feet). It boasted 350 employees and had inadequate parking. It also had an unique silhouette with the tag line of everything “Under the squiggly roof.” When it closed, it had room for three large “big box” stores to move into the space. It sat on one of the busiest corners in the city, just blocks from the White Front. It was the Treasury and it was 1970. The Treasury, like White Front, would also last little over a decade.

Ground breaking at the Torrance Treasury, Los Angeles Times - 8/31/69

Skip forward a few years.  It was one of the first “membership discount department stores.” It anchored one of the most ambitious and successful redevelopment schemes in the city (Meadow Park). It cost over two million dollars to develop and at 102,000 square feet was one of the larger retailers in the city. Like its competitor a few miles north on Hawthorne, it sat on one of the busiest intersections of the city. It was Gemco and it was 1973.

I loved Gemco. We always tried to sneak in without Mom’s card. Usually walking in behind another family worked. The snack bar and toy section were first rate. (Of course the best greasy spoon around was any of the three Newberry lunch counters! But that’s another story). Opened just one year before the final collapse of White Front and eight years before they shuttered the Treasury, Gemco closed its doors in 1986.

From ad in the 10/23/73 Los Angeles Times

Mega stores have not done very well in Torrance.  With an average life expectancy of a decade, one wonders if the owners of Costco (1998), Sam’s Club, or Home Depot (early 90’s) are worried. Of course, judging by the traffic in the Costco parking lot located near the intersection of Lomita and Crenshaw, it looks like these stores will be with us for a long while. Maybe only mega stores located on Hawthorne Boulevard should worry.

Do you have any memories of the early mega stores? Shopping in Torrance before the Del Amo Fashion Center? Trying to find parking by Sam Levy’s store? Please feel free to share your memories.

– mg

August 12, 2010 at 10:47 pm 2 comments

Anticipation and Old Friends

Seeing the trailers for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part One) conjured up (ha ha) bittersweet feelings. Although the seventh novel of the Harry Potter series was published back in July 21, 2007, the release of each movie has been something I have looked forward to over the years. I could relive the wonder, the excitement, and the sorrow of each book again. These movie adaptations, hugely successful in their own right, will be coming to an end. J. K. Rowling began with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in 1997 and, at this time, the final film is due out July 15, 2011.

With nostalgia, I’ve thought back to my own childhood, and to those series I couldn’t wait to read as each volume came out. Remember the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew books? Mind you, I did not read them when they were originally published in the 1930’s. However, I could not get enough of the adventures of Frank, Joe, Chet, Nancy, Bess, and George and the sweet anticipation of knowing I would be spending time with these old friends still brings cherished memories. I kept a dog-eared sheet of paper where I dutifully wrote down the volume number of each book I read. Later, I discovered that librarians had a hard time with my list. I couldn’t ask them for the titles that I wanted to read, because I didn’t know the titles – I only knew the numbers! This problem was easily remedied, as I just browsed the shelves looking for those numbers to fill the gaps on my list.

Many years later I was astounded to observe the staying power of these childhood favorites of mine. My son’s elementary school was having a book swap. Students were encouraged to bring in gently used books for their reading level, and could exchange them for books donated by other students. The volunteers mentioned that the younger grades, K through 3, always have lots of donations, but the higher grades have far fewer items donated at their reading level. I happened to strike up a conversation with the School Librarian and she also reinforced how parents or organizations donate children’s picture books however, for some reason, titles for older kids don’t have the same appeal.

Luckily, the Friends of the Torrance Library maintain an ongoing display of books for sale and I was able to buy some Harry Potters, Lemony Snickets, and other series titles for extremely reasonable prices and donate them. One of the other volunteers pointed out they had a number of nice Nancy Drew books, as well. When I gave these books to the school librarian, I was surprised to hear that 5th and 6th graders love Nancy Drew books. I had to ask, “regular, old school Nancy Drew”? Yes, Nancy Drew, to my amazement, still captures the imagination of kids today. Needless to say, I went back and donated a huge stack of Nancy Drew books. There happened to be a 5th grader in the school library when I dropped off the books. A big smile on her face, she wanted to know when they would be ready to check out. Old friends have found yet another generation.

July 19, 2010 at 7:14 am 2 comments

Dancing With the Stars

The dance shows Dancing With the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance are immensely popular, perhaps expressing many of our secret desires to be great dancers and showcase our talents to the world. If you haven’t seen DWTS, the premise is that celebrities and professional dancers are paired up for ten weeks. Every week, the professional dancer teaches the celebrity a different ballroom dance. The couples are judged by a team of judges as well as audience polling. Winners leave with a cash prize, as well as the increased fame from being a show contestant.

The 2009 champion of Dancing With the Stars was Donny Osmond – a true Boomer born in 1957 (featured in the picture above).  Other famous Boomer dancers are Gregory Hines (1946), Mikhail Baryshnikov (1948) , Paula Abdul (1962), Michael Jackson (1958), Madonna (1958), and Liza Minelli (1946).

Several Boomers played important parts in dance movies that left a huge cultural impact on multiple generations.  Patrick Swayze (1952) played the role of suave dance instructor, Johnny Castle, to Jennifer Grey in the sleeper 80’s hit Dirty Dancing. John Travolta (1954) made his name in Saturday Night Fever, kicking off the disco dancing trend. And finally, Kevin Bacon (1958) played the role of Ren McCormack, a teenager who moves to a town where dancing and rock music are banned (!) in Footloose.

Far from being an activity for the very young and infinitely limber, dancing can be taken up at any age. While watching TV the other night, I was inspired by a woman well into her 60’s who was so taken with tango dancing, she purchased an apartment in Buenos Aires, Argentina to practice and be in the heart of the local tango community.

Below, I’ve listed some local venues to either learn or practice dancing. I haven’t tried any of them myself, so feel free to share your thoughts and reviews in the comments!

Torrance Recreation Center (Torrance): Affordable and great variety of classes offered through the city – ballroom, belly dancing, flamenco, line dancing, plus cardio dance classes. Check the recreation centers of other South Bay cities for more offerings.

You Can Dance (Hermosa Beach): Primarily focusing on typical ballroom dances – rumba, foxtrot, tango, waltz, cha-cha-cha, and swing.

Hype Studios (Torrance): Highly-rated dance studio offering a wide variety of classes – hip-hop, Afro-Cuban, salsa, zumba, tap, aerial arts, ballet, and more!

Soul Tree Center (Manhattan Beach) : Not your traditional dance studio. Offers a core mind-body vertical pole workout for women. Also offers pilates and yoga.

Alpine Village (Torrance): Live music and dancing – check out their events calendar for the schedule of bands and/or style of dance (e.g. Tuesday night features salsa dancing and free lessons, Thursdays are swing nights).

The popularity of DWTS has led to the creation of dance DVDs and a book for fans interested in dancing at home for fitness. We offer these titles at the library:

In addition, we have other dance/fitness DVDs as well as materials focusing on technique for all amateur ballroom dancers out there:

Do let us know where you like to kick up your heels and follow the advice of the Bee Gees…You Should Be Dancing!

– rs

May 11, 2010 at 8:01 am 3 comments

Making Sense of Nonsense

I’ve recently been watching episodes of the television series Fringe and while sometimes the characters may annoy or intrigue my Boomer brain with their idiosyncratic or enigmatic behavior, the plot line puzzle always gets my attention.  For those not familiar with the series, the first several minutes of the show most often begin with a mysterious and horrific incident that is seemingly nonsensical, but that a special FBI team (organized to study paranormal behaviors and activities) investigates in the hopes of solving who or what did it and why…and most importantly is there a pattern to the seemingly random events portrayed?

I believe the reasons for my increasing tolerance for the bizarre story lines and plot twists can be attributed to an article I read in the New York Times dated October 6, 2009, “How Nonsense Sharpens the Intellect,” authored by Benedict Carey. The article cites a study that suggests that when encountering something that seems to go against logic and expectation, our brains try to sense patterns that might otherwise be missed – in mathematical equations, language, and life in general. According to the article, coming across something absurd or uncanny can be disorienting and/or creepy and our brains grope for something, anything that makes sense. Travis Proulx, a researcher at the University of California, Santa Barbara, is quoted, “We’re so motivated to get rid of that feeling that we look for meaning and coherence elsewhere.”

An assistant professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, Michael Inzlicht, relates that brain-imaging studies of people evaluating paradoxes or working out unsettling dilemmas showed an increased level of activity in an area of the brain called the anterior cingulate cortex and that the more stimulation of this area, the greater the motivation or ability to seek and correct errors in the real world. On the other hand, some studies have found that people in the grip of the uncanny tend to see patterns where none exist, and thus might become more prone to conspiracy theories. The urge to make sense may be overly compelling no matter the evidence at hand. If you do watch Fringe, Dr. Walter Bishop and his friends certainly would seem to be under the sway of pattern recognition.

While scientific evidence is still being collected, the latest research appears to be encouraging to those of us who love puzzles and spine tinglers – for at least some of the time, disorientation leads to highly creative thinking and the ability to make complex connections and piece things together in an entirely new way. So the next time your friends make fun of you for watching any of the seemingly silly entertainments such as Fringe, Lost, Bones, Heroes, etc., just tell them you’re exercising your brain and you’ll get back to them when you’ve solved the mysteries of the universe!

January 30, 2010 at 5:24 am Leave a comment

How Not To Act Old

HowNotActOldBookThe best part of working in a library is being able to see all the new books that come in. Occasionally when examining a new book, staff will find something so amusing, they have to share a few tidbits with fellow workers. The most recent title to have my Boomer co-workers and I laughing is Pamela Redmond Satran’s How Not to Act Old. Satran, creator of a popular website with the same name,, has provided an irreverent guide with advice for how old folks like me can avoid embarassing their kids or themselves by eliminating behaviors and viewpoints that are clearly passe.

The book features at least two-thirds all new material that’s never appeared on the website and while Ms. Satran clearly has her tongue in cheek, much of what she includes is funny because it is so spot on.  For example, tip #1 is Stop Using E-mail.  As the author says, “Leave it to the evil young to get all of us old people addicted to e-mail, and then to abandon the form in favor of texting and Facebook.” I know this to be true because my 23- year-old daughter tells me the only way to reach her is by text – it’s a good thing I have a smart phone!

With each tip the author provides context and explanation. For example for tip #33 Don’t Advise People to Carry an Umbrella, she explains you don’t need to be the world’s mom and with all the energy you’ll save once you stop “nannying the entire world,” you can do something really productive like find a way to reverse the aging process!  She also provides 16 other things you need never say to another adult, such as “Bring some money along if you’re going out” or “Don’t stay out too late.”  I’ve certainly been guilty of repeating all of her list of annoying parental warnings at one time or another.

As Satran says in tip #163 Hold the Moo Goo Gai Pan…”when we first tasted ethnic food, what counted as exotic and exciting was some stew made of indefinable ingredients…but in this era of McDonald’s sushi… and Indian frozen dinners, it’s time to update your palate.”   Her chart of old food/young food is a hoot.  Don’t order or eat pork chops – try pork belly.  Chicken teriyaki – no! Go for chicken lollipops.  Shrimp cocktail is so old school when you can have Kumamoto oysters.  While listening to today’s edition of KCRW’s excellent food program, Good Food, I smiled knowingly, basking in my new found knowledge of old food/young food.  Guest Ruth Reichl, author and editor of the recently defunct Gourmet magazine, spoke about all of the great foodstuffs available to us now and when she mentioned pork belly* I was ready for it!

So when you’re looking for information on how to be cool, when you’re afraid you’ve forgotten how, don’t forget to check out the Library – it’s always got what’s new and hot!

* click here for a recipe for pork belly

November 1, 2009 at 7:13 am Leave a comment

Got Lunch?

j0175437If you are like many Boomers thinking about saving a little money right now, one of the easiest ways to do so is to give up going out to lunch during your work day. From $12.00 and up per meal at a restaurant to $5.00 or less for a nice home packed lunch, that saved money adds up, and more and more people are finding uses for the lunch box!

The Los Angeles Times ran an article on the “grown up” packed lunch, “Grown Up Lunches that Pack a Punch,” featuring French, Italian, and Middle Eastern options that pack and keep well. Back-to-school lunchbox ideas (for kids and adults), an accompanying photo gallery from the Times, displays lunch box treats that look good enough to make anyone hungry. Parents need to remember that a healthy lunch is as important for them as it is for their children, and the vending machine just won’t do. This list from the Mayo Clinic includes many useful ideas for packing lunch, such as pre-heating insulated containers before putting soup into them, or packing frozen food that will thaw by lunchtime, such as the drink, to help cool the rest of the lunch.

Find a container for your lunch, from an insulated carrying case to a retro tin lunchbox from childhood. Laptop lunches makes boxes based on the “Bento Box” and also provides tips on packing healthy and imaginative lunches for all ages. Vintage and antique stores are full of lunchboxes, and what a conversation you can start with colleagues with a collectible Star Trek or Marvel Comics character lunchbox (as long as it isn’t valuable enough to get stolen from the communal fridge). Label your lunch and include all your silverware and condiments such as salad dressing and salt. Plenty of napkins and a wet wipe will have you going back to work neat and clean, even if you had to lunch on your lap.

Once you have made your lunch, find a lovely place to eat – the City of Torrance has many parks with picnic tables under trees, not to mention ponds, treehouses, and walking paths if you want to pair a little fitness with your soup or sandwich. I personally love the Pine Wind Garden which is just a hop across the parking lot from the Katy Geissert Civic Center Library. Keep a big hat in your car or at your desk to take advantage of nice weather, get out of the corporate lunchroom at least to the patio, and feel the fresh air fill your lungs as your fresh food fills your stomach.

If you eat alone, bring along some lunchtime crosswords or Sudoku puzzles, or a good paperback book you can hold with one hand leaving the other free for your food. The Chicken Soup for the Soul books are packed with brief passages that can be read even if you only have twenty minutes to eat before work calls you back to your desk. The Library also has magazines that check out at all branch libraries, books of poetry, essays, and short stories that are perfect for lunch hour reading. Or keep reading that fabulous novel you started…just don’t get so absorbed in the story you forget to go back to work!

If you pack a lunch for someone else, don’t forget to include some fun. A “lunchtime limerick” from Stephen Krensky’s There Once Was a Very Odd School, or a riddle or inspirational quote is easy to write on a napkin and packs more punch than a fortune cookie if it comes from someone you love. You can cut a sandwich into fun shapes with cookie cutters, or use food coloring to generate a harmless and fun surprise at lunchtime. In the middle of a bad day at the office or at school, a little pick-me-up from someone who cares can make all the difference.

So what was your favorite childhood lunchbox? Have any great lunch sandwich or soup recipes to share with us? Add a comment below. Take a look at this fun history and start thinking about delicious things to put in your next home packed lunch!

– ht

September 28, 2009 at 4:49 am 1 comment

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    It hardly seems possible that it’s been a full year since we posted about the pleasures of attending film festivals.   One of the biggest and best, the AFI Fest, is about to begin this coming week. AFI Fest is Los Angeles’ longest running international film festival and the 2010 event will be held in Hollywood, California, November […]
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    Cathy Guisewite has penned the final panel of that forever dieting, forever shoe-shopping, forever everywoman, Cathy. For more than 30 years, Cathy was the picture of the stressed-out career woman trying to juggle love, work, body issues, mother-daughter relationships, and whatever else modern society threw at her. Cathy ran in 900 newspapers, won an Emmy [… […]

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