Cat Flag’s Guide to Understanding Millennials, Part One

Millennials image from CSU Long Beach

Did you know that Millennials, the generation born between roughly 1980 and 2000, are the biggest generation in the United States ever? We even outnumber the Baby Boomers! There are 79 million of us, and by 2020 we will make up 40% of American voters. This means that, for better or worse, my generation (also called Generation Y) is going to be reshaping the way our nation acts, thinks, votes, shops, works, and is entertained in the coming years. Thus, it is really important for non-Millennials to at least have some understanding of who we are, where we’re coming from, what we value and believe, and what we want out of life.

Some Cat Flaggers that I know in person have been asking me to make a guide, of sorts, for understanding my generation. What I have come to realize, though, is that such a guide could never be a single article; there is just too much to cover! Instead, I have decided to turn this into a miniseries on Cat Flag – in the next few months, I will be putting out a series of articles covering Millennial-related topics. Among other things, I will talk about some basic characteristics of my generation, particular individuals and events that have helped to shape us into who we are today, and companies that have tried to market to us and whether they have succeeded or failed.

As a Millennial myself, I will be talking partially from my personal experiences. However, I will also be using statistics and information gathered by outside sources to either back up what I say or present material that is not based on my experiences, and I will include links to those original sources. Also, naturally, remember that pretty much anything I say is going to be a broad generalization – obviously, not every Millennial will fit these descriptions.

For this first part of the series, it feels appropriate to begin with some basic characteristics of my generation; a sort of introductory primer, if you will. So, I guess the most obvious place to start is…

We are a generation raised on technology

Smartphone lineup image from The Verge

It is nearly impossible to overstate just how important technology is to us. We were born into a world that was being reshaped by computers and the information superhighway. We spent our spare time playing video games at least as often as playing outside… sometimes more often! We were the first generation that had a PC (or, in my case, usually a Mac) in every classroom, and could go to the Internet instead of the library to find research for our homework papers. The rate at which computers, video game consoles, and other high-tech devices became obsolete seemed “normal” and “natural” to us, as we had nothing else to compare it to. In high school, we replaced our Sony Walkmans with iPods, and e-mail and texting became far more common than sending a letter in the mail. In college, smartphones became the main means by which we communicate with each other.

According to research done by the Pew Research Center, 94% of us use the internet, 94% of us have a cell phone, 74% have broadband at home, 69% have an iPod or some other MP3 player, 63% have a video game console, and 51% have a smartphone. We are more likely to own a laptop than a desktop computer, which is a clue to an important part of how we interact with technology. We are “always on” – we don’t just use technology at home, we use it on-the-go pretty much every day. A laptop’s portability makes it a much more convenient tool to use than a big, hulking desktop machine. We can write up a college term paper while sitting at the park. Many of my classmates take notes on their laptop computers instead of by hand with pencil and paper.

Yet even the laptop isn’t as convenient as our smartphones for many everyday activities. In the mornings, my smartphone’s alarm wakes me up. I check e-mail on it first thing and at several other times throughout the day. I use it to listen to my music while driving, writing, or working on homework. I get my news from my BBC News app. I watch videos or play games on it to pass the time. When I find something I’m curious about, I can look it up online at any time. My relationship with my smartphone is pretty typical of my peers; many people I know will take pictures or videos on their smartphone and then immediately put it on Facebook or Instagram.

Here’s some more numbers that show just how big smartphones are in our lives: 43% say that texting conversations can have just as much meaning as a conversation over the phone, 41% have made a purchase with a smartphone, and the median number of brands that we have “liked” on Facebook is ten (Oh, and only 17% of us have been prompted to buy something because of a TV ad).

Resistance is futile.

Resistance is futile.

All of this shows an unprecedented level of constantly being interconnected. Which leads me to…

We are collectivists

Strength in Numbers

That same Pew Research study found that Millennials tend to favor strong government, and this study by the Center for American Progress shows that we tend to have politically liberal leanings. Of course, this might just be our youth speaking – younger voters always tend to lean left. However, there are other trends that go beyond what our politics may be.

We are very consensus-oriented in our thinking. We prefer working in teams and being part of a group. We are always sharing things on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, from our deep thoughts to what we had for breakfast. Being constantly connected online through our smartphones and other digital devices has given us a sort of collectivist mentality: we all share everything and work together.

We are aware that we are stronger as a unit than as individuals; we know this because we have been able to use the power of numbers to do things like naming a piece of equipment on the International Space Station and a bridge in Hungary after Stephen Colbert, helping President Barack Obama win election as our nation’s leader, twice, and helped defeat a bill in Congress regarding internet piracy that we felt would strangle creativity. Technology makes it so much easier for people to communicate ideas and problems and to organize people behind a common cause.

We also believe, very deeply, in social responsibility. We were the generation that watched Captain Planet and participated in Thanksgiving canned food drives in school. We were taught to think about the greater good, and by the time I was in high school, I could tell that this was the “fix-it” generation, the one that wanted to make the world better. When I was in high school, most of the students walked out of class one day and marched around the school in protest of the War in Iraq. Today, even in these tough economic times when only 47% of us are employed, we still find time and money to donate to charity. As in, 75% of us donated money and 63% of us volunteered in 2011 alone.

We all want to do what we can to make the world better, even a tiny bit. After all, we want the world we leave our children to be just as perfect as the one we grew up in. Of course, we all know the world we grew up in was far from perfect; I’m just making a joke to point out that…

We are HUGE on nostalgia

There's a metaphor in here, somewhere...

There’s a metaphor in here, somewhere…

It must seem to older generations like we Millennials can’t seem to give up our childhood. Once, an adult that collected comic books and toys would have been seen as a creepy, sad weirdo. Today, it’s pretty much normal, as this link from Men’s Health magazine can attest. Indeed, Hollywood has a recent obsession with making movies ostensibly for adults based on names once mainly associated with children’s entertainment, from Batman to The Avengers to Superman to Spider-Man to G.I. Joe to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Why? Because tickets to those movies sell!

It’s not like we don’t accept adulthood – we do – it’s just that we still have a fondness for the things we used to like as kids. Being adults who can make decisions for ourselves, we have decided not to give some of these things up.

Video games are a perfect example. When I was a child, video games were still very much considered a “toy”, something meant to entertain the children so they stayed out of their parents’ hair. Yet just this week I was one of millions of full-grown adults who bought Bioshock:Infinite, a video game whose website children can’t even visit, because the game is a violent action-shooter. Video games have been transformed into a mainstream entertainment medium equal to film or theater, that has even come to be seen as a legitimate art form.

Of course, as adults looking back on the kids shows we used to like, there are many times where we realize just how dumb that cartoon really was. It doesn’t stop us from loving it, though…

We make fun of EVERYTHING. Especially the things we love.

Avengers Meme from We Know Memes

To us, making fun of something isn’t necessarily an insult. In fact, it can even be a compliment. We are the generation that watched The Simpsons as children, South Park as teenagers, and Family Guy as adults. The first sign that something has become popular is just how many parodies spring up around it.

For example, when Downton Abbey became a runaway hit, somebody made this video:

Then there are videos like this:

Or memes like this:

Bane Meme from Tumblr

To us, these sorts of jokes are a tribute to the things we like. It’s not being mean, it’s just one of the ways we share a laugh. You could even say we are the parody generation – poking fun is our way of expressing ourselves.

I’ve barely scratched the surface of what it means to be a Millennial, but I hope this mini-primer will help as we continue our look at the newest generation to come of age in America. Stay tuned for more!

Do you think my descriptions are accurate, or do you think I missed the mark by a mile? What are your impressions of the Millennial generation? Let me know in comments!

One Boston Marathon bombing suspect captured, the other killed

The image from the Boston Marathon used by the FBI to identify suspects Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, age 19 (at left, in white) and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, age 26 (at right, in black). Image from

The image from the Boston Marathon used by the FBI to identify suspects Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, age 19 (at left, in white) and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, age 26 (at right, in black). Image from

It seemed to this reporter like something out of a Hollywood action movie – a carjacking, shootouts with the police involving improvised explosives, one suspect killed while a massive manhunt searches for the other, wounded suspect. Yet unbelievable as it may seem, this was exactly what went down in Boston over a tense 22 hours and 25 minutes on Thursday and Friday.

The events began with two suspects identified and wanted by the FBI in connection with the Boston Marathon bombing Monday. Those bombings killed three people – Krystle Campbell, a 29-year-old who lived with her grandmother; Martin Richard, an eight-year-old boy; and Lingzi Lu, a 23-year-old Chinese citizen and Boston University graduate student. The blasts also wounded more than 170 people.

The suspects were two brothers, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, age 19, and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, age 26. The two brothers were originally from Chechnya, a region of Russia that went through two major civil wars after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Their family moved out of Chechnya, and after a few years, eventually immigrated to America. Tamerlan was something of an up-and-coming boxing prodigy; Dzhokar also took up martial arts, wrestling being his sport.

At 10:20 p.m. Thursday, a police officer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology was shot and killed, allegedly by the two suspects. The officer was later identified as 26-year-old Sean Collier. Police say that after the shooting, the suspects carjacked a Mercedes SUV, holding the driver captive for about a half hour before dropping him off and speeding away. At 11:20 p.m., police warned the public to stay indoors, as they gave chase to the carjacked vehicle. During the chase, five pipe bombs and a grenade were thrown at pursuing officers, wounding one of them. Eventually, the chase made its way to the suburb of Watertown, where at 2:20 a.m. Friday police engaged in a shootout. According to police reports, the older brother, Tamerlan, was critically hit and taken to a nearby hospital, where he died of his wounds. Early reports said that Tamerlan was wearing an explosive vest when he died.

Meanwhile, a manhunt began searching for younger brother Dzhokhar, and the entire city of Boston was placed on lockdown. The hunt continued throughout the day, and at 7 p.m. Friday fresh gunfire was heard in Watertown. According to police, local had found a trail of blood leading into the boat in his backyard, and called 9-1-1 to alert the authorities. A thermal imaging camera mounted on a helicopter confirmed that someone was hiding in the boat, and at 8:45 p.m. police announced that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was captured alive. He was said to be “in serious condition” and taken to a hospital for treatment. The hospital where he was taken is also treating 11 of the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev being put on an ambulance under heavy police guard. Image taken by Douglas Healey.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev being put on an ambulance under heavy police guard. Image taken by Douglas Healey.

The dramatic events of the day inevitably lead people to ask, “Why?” Already, the media is filled with speculation surrounding the suspects. According those who know the suspects, Tamerlan Tsarnaev had aspirations of joining the U.S. Olympic boxing team, and had gradually grown more deeply religious, describing himself as a Muslim on Facebook and giving up alcohol and tobacco. He also convinced his girlfriend (whom he later married) to convert to Islam, but lamented to one reporter making a photographic profile of him in 2009, “I don’t have a single American friend, I don’t understand them.” He was investigated by the FBI in 2011 for alleged links to extremist groups, but was cleared. According to travel records, Tamerlan spent six months in Russia in 2012, but there is yet to be any explanation of what he did there, why he left, or if the trip had any connection to the bombings at all. Tamerlan also had a YouTube page that, among videos of family ski vacations and rap music videos, contained links to videos of extremist Islamic speakers and groups.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, meanwhile, appears to have been both less religious and more outgoing than his brother, and was a successful student and wrestler who earned a scholarship to study at the University of Massachusetts. He had aspirations of being a brain surgeon, according to his family.

The families of the suspects were shocked by the events. The brothers’ father claims that his children are innocent, and that they are being framed. Their uncle, on the other hand, told the press that he not only believed the accusations, but was angered by them. “You put a shame on our entire family — the Tsarnaev family — and you put a shame on the entire Chechen ethnicity,” he told reporters. When asked about the suspects’ motives, the uncle said, “Being losers, hatred to those who were able to settle themselves — these are the only reasons I can imagine. Anything else, anything else to do with religion, with Islam, is a fraud, is a fake.”

News of the capture led to spontaneous celebrations in the streets of Boston and across the nation. President Obama also made a brief statement thanking the police officers who helped capture the suspect and declaring that their actions “closed an important chapter in this tragedy.”

Although the surviving suspect has been placed under arrest, investigations continue. Three people have been taken in for questioning by police as witnesses in connection with the bombings; according to police, they are not under arrest. It is still not known what charges will be brought against Tsarnaev, though an official at the Department of Justice told CNN that he could be tried at both the federal level (for terrorism) and state level (for murder).

The Justice Department has also not read Tsarnaev his Miranda rights, and are claiming that his arrest is subject to the “public safety exception”. The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution, which grants a number of rights to people accused of a crime, specifically says it does not apply “In cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger.” In 1984 the Supreme Court ruling in New York v. Quarles expanded on this text to argue that police can interrogate a suspect without first reading their rights in cases where people’s safety is at risk. The decision to apply this exception to Tsarnaev has been controversial. Groups that tend to advocate strong civil liberties argue that this decision is a violation of the intent of the Constitution and sets a bad precedent that could allow for the police to abuse this power in the future. On the other hand, some voices in Congress, including Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), want to see Tsarnaev tried not as a criminal but as an “enemy combatant”, which would mean he would have almost no rights and could be detained indefinitely or tried in military court.

Ultimately, such discussions could prove to come to naught if Tsarnaev dies. At press time, he was “clinging to life” according to ABC News. This report from CBS News states that he had been bleeding from the neck and leg for some time when found. No further word on his condition was available at press time.

Information from MSNBC, Fox News, CNN, BBC News, and others.

Breaking News: Twin Explosions at Boston Marathon Kill at Least 2, Injure Many

This image was taken by Twitter user boston_to_a_T and shows the moment of the explosion from a distance.

This image was taken by Twitter user Boston_to_a_T and shows the moment of the explosion from a distance.

At 2:50 p.m. today, the cheering crowds at the finish line for the world-famous Boston Marathon were hit by twin explosions that killed at least two people and have injured an unknown number of others. As of press time, counts of the injured range as low as 23 and as high as 100.

The explosions have been labelled a terrorist attack by the FBI and President Obama has issued a statement declaring “We still do not know who did this or why. But make no mistake, we will get to the bottom of this, and we will find out who did this, we’ll find out why they did this. Any responsible individuals, any responsible groups will feel the full weight of justice.”

The official Boston police statement said the explosions were 50-100 yards apart, that the victims have all been sent to area hospitals for treatment, and that a third explosion that occurred at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library was also being investigated in case it was related. (In a later update, police said the incident at the library was a fire, not an explosion, and didn’t appear to be directly related to the explosions.) The statement also warned Boston residents to stay indoors for their safety.

The Boston mayor’s office has set up a hotline for friends and relatives to find out if their loved ones have been affected by the attacks: (617) 635-4500.

The Boston area has been temporarily declared a no-fly zone, and bomb squads with bomb-sniffing dogs are searching for any additional unexploded bombs in the area. At the time of the explosion, there were already National Guard deployed along the route to help local police with security along the famous marathon route.

Josh Cox, one of the runners, described the scene for BBC News: “There were bodies, people laying on the ground. Some runners who had just finished who had just gotten by it were crying, understandably. It’s tragic, absolutely tragic. It was a massive boom. When the first explosion went, the whole ground shook. I didn’t think bomb, you think there was a transformer, or generator – I took a picture. Right as I took the picture, the next one went off. Once the second one came, everyone was freaking out. Everyone was clearing the area.”

The attack has sent British police looking into their own security for the upcoming London Marathon. The event in London will not be cancelled, but the security arrangements are currently under review.

Information from BBC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, The Washington Post, and The Guardian.

Cat Flag: Branson, Missouri Edition!

Hey, Cat Flaggers! I’m back! Did you miss me?

Don't lie. You know you did.

Don’t lie. You know you did.

I’m back from my family reunion in Branson, Missouri. Today, I thought I’d share with you what I saw and learned while I was there.

Like the fact that the person who stayed in the room before us had a sense of humor.

Like the fact that the person who stayed in the room before us had a sense of humor.

First, I learned that Branson has only a very tiny population – only about 10,000 people, the same as my home town of Morro Bay. Yet somehow this tiny population is able to support a major tourist destination, filled with live shows…

Such as this one...

...or this one


The Hollywood Wax Museum

The World War II Museum

The Titanic Museum

Yes, that’s a museum built to look like the Titanic.

…and a theme park!

Silver Dollar City image from Visit Missouri

The theme park is named Silver Dollar City, and I went there. It had a very country theme – there were blacksmiths, glassblowers, and candy makers showing how they do their craft, and there was also an old-fashioned train that circled the park.

Indeed, most of Branson has a very country theme. While some of the performances include Yakov Smirnoff, the Acrobats of China, and the Twelve Irish Tenors, most of the shows have a very country flavor, like the Baldknobbers that I went to see.

My Baldknobbers ticket

The Baldknobbers were the first live show in Branson, first performing in 1959 and setting the stage for the city’s growth into the theater center they have become. Their performance is a combination of country concert and stand-up comedy, featuring a pair of goofy-looking comics who are the stars of the show.

Didn't your mama tell you not to judge people by their appearance?

Didn’t your mama tell you not to judge people by their appearance?

If all of this is making Branson sound really appealing to you, there are a few things you should know. First, while I did have a good time, I found that I was getting really tired of the country-and-western theme after the second day, and by the time I left I was grateful to be back in sunny, surfing California. I have nothing against country, I really do like it, but when it is non-stop and overwhelming for several days straight, it starts to wear me out.

Second, the roads in Branson are a mess. We got lost almost every time we got in the car while we were there. The roads are just too narrow and windy, and clogged with traffic at almost all hours of the day.

Branson also left me asking a number of questions, like “How is such a small population able to keep this place up and running?”, “Why is every church around here the size of a Wal-Mart?”, and “What is with that giant rooster?”

Seriously, what is that all about?

Seriously, what is that all about? You can see him for miles!

Overall, though, I had a great time. It’s a very nice area, with lots of amazing stuff to see. It’s a great place to bring your kids, or to just enjoy some amazing shows and awesome country-themed fun.

On a Personal Note 6

My cat Winkin


Hey, Cat Flaggers. Just a quick update on what’s happening. This week, I’m going on a trip to Branson, Missouri for a family reunion to celebrate my grandmother’s 80th birthday. That means I won’t be able to post for a while. Don’t worry, I’ll be back soon with all the news, movie reviews, and articles you’ve come to expect from Cat Flag. I just wanted you to know so you didn’t worry and be like, “Where is Cat Flag? Why hasn’t he posted in a week? Has he forgotten about us?” No, I haven’t forgotten. Just hang tight, there will be plenty more coming soon!

I just wanted to thank you all for helping make Cat Flag such a great place. We’ve got a nice little community here, and I really appreciate it. Have a quesadilla, you’ve earned it.

No, no, no. I mean a REAL quesadilla.

No, no, no. I mean a REAL quesadilla.