Mitch Albom Is Offended By… Well… Everything

Sam Wilkinson

According to a faithful reader, I'm Ordinary Times's "least thoughtful writer." So I've got that going for me, which is nice.

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83 Responses

  1. CJColucci says:

    Millenials do, in fact, suck. So did we.Report

  2. Mike Dwyer says:

    “One of the more amusing genres of current media involves blaming millennials for everything. For example, millennials are currently killing bars of soap, the diamond industry, and wine corks. The monstrousness of these young people knows no bounds.”

    It doesn’t appear anyone is actually blaming them, as though Millennials made a group decision to kill bars of soap. It’s simply a change in habits that have led to certain products seeing their sales decline. So…I’m not sure if your outrage is equally sarcastic, or if you actually think Millennials are being blamed in the way you imply? If the latter, you might want to re-read assuming less terribleness on the part of the author.Report

    • 1. Mitch Albom is awful.
      2. I would not like to read more of his writing, thank you.
      3. The “Millennial Are Killing…” genre is fairly well established at this point, and although it is simply documenting changes in personal behavior, it is presented as accusatory and critical, as if Millennials owe patronage to existing business models.Report

      • Oscar Gordon in reply to Samuel Wilkinson says:

        #3 Ding! Ding! Ding!

        Back in my day, we used to go beat the crap out of gay people* and it was just A-OK! Damn millenials, killing such time honored fun as that!

        *No, we didn’t, because I grew up in rural WI, if a person I knew was gay, they kept it very quiet. Actually, given how many people from back home I’ve reconnected with on FB who are gay, I did know a lot of gay people, but they wisely kept it very quiet, and got far away from home, because we did have enough ‘Good ‘ol Boys’ running around that they would have gotten beat and no one would have so much as blinked…

        There are reasons I don’t go home much.Report

    • Maribou in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

      @mike-dwyer The article about the bar of soap literally has a headline that says “Blame millennials for the vanishing bar of soap.” It’s fairly reasonable to read it as blame rather than as remarking on a difference.Report

      • Maribou in reply to Maribou says:

        Not that it’s a big deal either way. I actually buy my bars of soap from a millennial with a home business – and the article doesn’t talk *at all* about whether people are just wandering off from big companies and getting their soap bars elsewhere, I notice – so I find it particularly absurd that people are out there saying Blame Millennials!!! As it is absurd about so many other things.

        that said I’m sure the supply demand stuff applies just as much to me clicking on things so I can roll my eyes at them as it does to people clicking on them to be soothed …. less viral though.Report

      • Mike Dwyer in reply to Maribou says:


        I think it’s ‘blame’ in the sense of attribution, not finger-pointing. Unless you suspect CBS of having some generational axe to grind?Report

        • Maribou in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

          I suspect CBS of knowing their market and knowing articles like that one sell, as Sam details above. I don’t think they personally have a generational axe to grind but I suspect they believe their readers do. They could be mistaken of course, but it seems unlikely.

          And I’m literally not familiar with a common definition of blame (which it would have to be common, to keep recurring like this) that is only attribution without any finger pointing. Checked Google in case it was just me and my weird Canadian background, and it seems to agree that that is an uncommon version of the word (as in not even suggested as a definition – they all include “fault or wrong”).

          Though it’s absolutely possible that the meaning of the word is shifting because clickbait headlines are wearing out all the words. I’ve been wondering about that for a while now.Report

          • Mike Dwyer in reply to Maribou says:

            I can’t believe I’m quoting the dictionary but… from American Heritage:

            transitive v. To hold responsible.
            transitive v. To place responsibility for (something)Report

            • Maribou in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

              @mike-dwyer Fair enough. Must in fact be one of those things where I think how I grew up hearing a word is the main way people use a word then.Report

            • dragonfrog in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

              “What is this on my desk? A thoughtful birthday card, and a box of (gasp!) my very favourite chocolates! (sniff) I’m touched. So very kind.

              I demand to know, who is to blame for all this?!”Report

            • Richard Hershberger in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

              Dictionaries are great for denotation, but not for connotation. Examples of use can help with this. Here is Merriam Webster:

              : to find fault with : censure – the right to praise or blame a literary work
              a : to hold responsible – they blame me for everything
              b : to place responsibility for – blames it on me

              “They blame me for everything” would be an odd sentence if “blame” were a neutral attribution of responsibility.Report

            • Sam Wilkinson in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

              @mike-dwyer If you really don’t think that these articles are intended to be cultural critiques written in service of generational bias, I don’t know what to tell you.Report

              • It’s in a Money Matters section of their site, so it could just be a note on how generational preferences effect product sales. But also, I just don’t get offended that easy and I’m a bit of a Pollyanna these days so…maybe I’m wrong.Report

          • gregiank in reply to Maribou says:

            CBS had the reputation of being the old persons network for years. Their prime time tv line up was geared towards older peeps.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to Maribou says:

        At our house we blamed millennials for the vanishing bar of soap because they were the ones who left it on the wet shower floor.Report

      • joke in reply to Maribou says:

        bars of soap are more ecological. and much cheaper per weight of soap. i am not old. yet.Report

        • Maribou in reply to joke says:

          @joke Oh, I quite agree. As a Gen Xer that sometimes get shifted into Millennial by someone with a weird bar for generations, I keep bar soap in 3 different places in my house. It’s a combination of being fortunate enough to buy the nice stuff (from a Millennial, as mentioned) and unfortunate enough to be allergic to 99 percent of the mass-produced stuff. (I’m only allergic to about 75 percent of the non-mass-produced stuff! So much more selection! :D) I don’t quite buy non-bar soap as an artisan good yet, but it’s pretty close. For example, I mix one of my non-bar cleaners at a 25 percent solution from a veterinary preparation, which is both cheap, more ecological (bigger containers, reusing the one I actually measure it from), AND avoids making me break out in hives and other inflammations the way the human prep does at any useful dilution (different fragrances, no mass-produced glycerin).

          I just think only measuring “what big companies are selling” is not a good quantitative claim, particularly when it comes to people like Millennials who are on average more apt at finding other ways to buy things.Report

  3. Jaybird says:

    It’s always funny when one encounters someone who begins with something like “I’m offended by this phenomenon!” and thinks that that implies anything even close to “AND THIS PUTS AN OBLIGATION ON YOU!”

    Get two of them in the same room when they don’t agree on what is offensive? Even better.

    Get two of them in the same room when they do agree on what is offensive? Wait five minutes.Report

  4. James K says:

    tuition, with room and board, was $70,000 a year.

    Hey, here’s something to actually get angry about.Report

  5. This article is awesome! Loved it!

    I’m a middle aged guy, and I now spend a lot of time around young people (Not that, you pervert! my second career is as a college instructor). I love my life.

    Then again, I never expected to become a privileged moral authority when I got older, so I haven’t really lost anything.Report

  6. Kazzy says:

    Leaving aside the rest of the article (which is great in an “I agree!” kinda way), this quote stands our in a “genuine writing/comedic brilliance” kinda way: “This mindset – which has existed since the first old person managed to live long enough to be properly described as an old person…”Report

  7. Damon says:

    Yawn. How much does this guy get paid? Because I could write a better rant and I’ll probably be cheaper.

    Soap: yeah well so what. I noticed this because I LIKE ivory soap bars. Nowadays is that damn liquid and a plastic sponge. Nope. And frankly, I don’t care about sharing bacteria as I live alone.

    Diamonds: Not getting a diamond or thinking about not getting one, has been a “thing” for quite a while now.25 years ago I was thinking about sapphires and tanzanites as main stones. I’ve seen beautiful emeralds as engagement rings too. Diamonds are kinda boring.

    Wine: Corks have been a point of discussion for decades. None of this is new.

    I will stipulate that “millennials suck” however, because the younger generation has it better than I had it and easier. Everyone feel better now?Report

    • Kimmi in reply to Damon says:

      I use Dr. Bronners. It leaves significantly less soap scale, so less little critters growing in my bathroom, which means less scrubbing!
      (and I just use a washcloth. That way application of soap comes with the scrubbing that gets the soap into my pores).Report

    • Nevermoor in reply to Damon says:


      More to the point, corks are objectively worse than screw tops in every possible way. They preserve wine less well, they’re an ecological mess, they’re harder to use, etc.

      I wonder if there was the same outrage (i.e. old people furiously shaking their heads) when beer cans switched to pop-tops.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Nevermoor says:

        Screwtops make me feel like a hobo.Report

        • Nevermoor in reply to Jaybird says:

          Oh I get it. There’s something nice about the waiter with the towel on his arm and the two stage corkscrew.

          But it sure is a shitty way to store and serve wine from any non-theater perspective. Not only are screw tops better, boxes/cans are better yet.Report

          • Troublesome Frog in reply to Nevermoor says:

            I remember reading years ago that winemakers were considering starting the screw tops only with their top-end wine offerings to get people used to the idea that screw tops are a luxury thing and not a hobo thing. They all wanted to abandon crap packaging as soon as they could.

            Pushes to go from bottles to cans in the craft beer industry aren’t going as fast as expected either, even though cans are a better way to do it by just about every metric.Report

            • J_A in reply to Troublesome Frog says:

              It might be just psychosomatic, but I get a different taste from a bottle than from can containersReport

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to J_A says:

                It’s not, it’s chemistry. The aluminum in the can can react just a bit with the drink and alter the flavor a touch, and your saliva will react with the metal and adulterate the flavor a bit.

                Glass doesn’t react to the drink or saliva.

                Depending on how sensitive your palette is, you may notice a difference.Report

              • Almost all aluminum cans are lined with a spray-on plastic epoxy. The exact resin used is tailored for the contents. Some contemporary energy drinks are sufficiently corrosive that they can’t be canned: they eat any of the available resins, and then the aluminum.

                Most of the resins include BPA — remember when you were supposed to give up your flexible plastic water bottles? — and many types of content will leach small amounts of it. For a while Coors had a ceramic lining (CoorsTek, one of the subsidiaries, does lots of exotic ceramic stuff) that didn’t leach anything into the contents, but it was too expensive to compete when the epoxies were developed.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Michael Cain says:

                If a can is treated, only the inside is, not the outside of the top, and an acidic drink can react quite quickly when it comes into contact with the metal. This is why you will see some people drink from cans with a straw, or insist on a glass, as it minimizes the flavor change.

                And those epoxy layers are incredibly thin. Manufacturing defects can make a beverage taste off. Nothing worse than expecting a cool, refreshing Orange Crush, and getting a disgusting Orange Chemical Factory.Report

              • I live in aluminum can R&D central. The HQ for Ball — who makes umpteen billions of these per year — is seven or so miles up the road from me. The Coors remnant that invented the damned things is a similar distance in a different direction. Ball’s research includes not just aluminum cans, but Ball Aerospace’s satellites. CoorsTek does exotics with quality control to die for. If they tell me they’ve got the flavor transfer whipped, I’ll take their word over a boatload of subjective test subjects.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Michael Cain says:

                Sorry, the soda can industry is not going to be utilizing the level of QC that aerospace coatings does, the cost would be prohibitive and nearly impossible to enforce across the multitude of bottling plants. I’ve done enough production line QC (on laser etched ceramic circuit boards, for instance), plus talked to enough industrial engineers, to know that there will be bad batches, and they aren’t going to spray a coating (epoxy or ceramic) on to surfaces that won’t be suffering long term exposure to the drink (especially surfaces that will just get scuffed during transit).

                Aluminum is reactive as all get out, the exposed metal on the outside of the can will quite happily react to the contents as you drink, as will your saliva (react with the metal).

                Most people won’t notice the difference, but some will, and they will prefer glass or plastic over cans.Report

              • Turgid Jacobian in reply to Michael Cain says:

                I’m reading “Rust: the Longest War,” by Jonathan Waldman–there’s a great section about “Can School” at Ball. Also a tremendous section overall about the amount of engineering that has gone into food and beverage cans.Report

              • Troublesome Frog in reply to J_A says:

                Having the aluminum can under your nose and on your lip while you drink will definitely have an effect.

                But drinking good beer directly out of a can or bottle is a barbaric waste anyway.Report

      • Damon in reply to Nevermoor says:

        “I wonder if there was the same outrage (i.e. old people furiously shaking their heads) when beer cans switched to pop-tops.”

        I’d expect so. “What OUR way isn’t good enough for you young whippersnappers?!! Real men don’t use pop tops!”. Fucking hippies.

        Yeah, I could see it.Report

        • Nevermoor in reply to Damon says:

          Anyone old enough to remember? It seems very similar, if in a less refined social setting.Report

          • Richard Hershberger in reply to Nevermoor says:

            I remember the transition from pull tabs to pop tops, but I don’t recall any outrage. I do remember, however, complaints about the transition from steel to aluminum cans.

            When I was a kid we made tennis ball cannons out of empty steel cans. You would cut the top and bottom off three or four of them, plus one with the top off but the bottom left alone. Duct tape them together to form a tube. Punch a hole in the side about a half inch from the bottom, and poke four smaller holes an inch or so above that. Push two straightened paper clips through the small holes to form a crosswise support for the tennis ball, which you drop through the muzzle. Squirt lighter fluid through the lower hole, letting it puddle in the bottom. The lower hole then serves as a touch hole for a lit match. Aim and fire. Good times. For a particularly good time, soak the tennis ball in lighter fluid first, and do this at night.

            Did I mention this was in arid Southern California? We also made hydrogen balloons in the garage: a glass soda bottle, water, lye, and crumpled up balls of aluminum foil. The balloon fit nicely over the mouth of the bottle as it inflated. Tie the balloon off, tie a string to the bottom, take it outside, light the string, and release.

            In any case, you can’t do this sort of thing with aluminum cans or plastic bottles. I am still bitter.

            Also, there was an episode of The Rockford Files where the ex-con just released from prison tries to show Jim Rockford what a tough guy he is by crushing a soda can. Rockford is unimpressed, and explains that everyone can do that now.Report

        • fillyjonk in reply to Damon says:

          I was a kid when the switch from the pull-tabs to the pop-tops was made. The biggest thing I remember was “less chance of cutting your foot when going barefoot.”

          Once in a while, when doing fieldwork, I find an old pull-tab type can or even the tab, and I feel like I’ve found this bit of secret archaeology that most of my students (born in the 1990s) have never seen.Report

    • Mike Schilling in reply to Damon says:

      You have written better rants here, and for free. You should consider going pro.Report

      • Damon in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        Nah, the ex wife told me my transitions suck when I write. I’m sure that’s still the case. But I do have one thing going for me vs the rest of the “professional” media. I don’t pretend to hide my biases 🙂Report

  8. aaron david says:

    Yeah… Bar soap vs. Pump soap has been a disagreement around my house for the entirety of my marriage. And we are in our 40’s. If millenials have killed the bar, it is the fault of gen-xers for buying into that silliness in the first place (or was it our parents who bought it to us? The road goes ever on…)

    No, the real silliness is the danged smart phone replacing every bit of interaction between right thinking adults.

    “Doorbells are just so sudden. It’s terrifying,” says Tiffany Zhong, 20, the founder of Zebra Intelligence, which helps companies conduct custom research and gather insights on people born in the past two decades.
    There’s no published research about doorbell phobia, but it’s a real thing. In a poll by a Twitter user earlier this month that got more than 11,000 votes, 54% of respondents said “doorbells are scary weird.”
    Some millennials and Gen Zers say they won’t even consider answering a ring at the door until they’ve checked the security camera.
    The doorbell freak-out reflects the ascendance of mediated communication, which means people interacting through technological devices rather than directly. It’s not so much about screen time versus face time as it is a merger of the two.

    Ask Not for Whom the Doorbell Tolls. They Won’t Answer It.

    (Still, as much as I dislike smartphones, they do come in handy at times. But that article is just silly.)Report

    • Kimmi in reply to aaron david says:

      We need trigger warnings on that fucking door noise (for television).
      (Seriously, if something causes alarming flashbacks, is it so hard to put a trigger warning on it?)
      Also, the people putting that noise in are dicks. They’ve been told how alarming it is, and they put it in anyway. (Also, there’s little artistry if sound engineers insist that doors must be EXTREMELY LOUD).Report

      • fillyjonk in reply to Kimmi says:

        there’s a commercial my ISP runs that has a phone ringing in it (to advertise that they also offer phone service). It is EXACTLY the ring of my (landline) phone. I have more than once leapt up ready to answer the phone when that dumb ad came on.Report

    • Oscar Gordon in reply to aaron david says:

      My dog disagrees with you, he goes totally apeshit whenever the doorbell ringsReport

    • Toad in reply to aaron david says:

      Totally silly! Although “absence of mediated communication”, seriously? How about, especially if you don’t have kids yet and aren’t throwing a party that’s about to start, the only person ringing your doorbell is likely to be someone trying to sell you something.

      I’m over fifty, can do without my cell phone for days at a time, but live alone most of the time and find the doorbell ring alarming. And am unlikely to answer it without seeing who it is first — because it’s almost always someone trying to sell me something — magazines, salvation, whatever.Report

      • aaron david in reply to Toad says:

        I used to “lose” my cell for days at a time, but now I run my business through mine so I answer pretty quickly. That said, if it isn’t someone I personally know, or a business thing, its going to voicemail and probably deleted. And I don’t text. Silliest form of communication ever invented.Report

        • Morat20 in reply to aaron david says:

          The latest update to Android has started flagging calls “SCAM LIKELY”.

          Given the ridiculous numbers of “IRS RED ALERT” and “WARRANTY DEPARTMENT” and “CREDIT DEPARTMENT” scam calls I get….

          Honestly, I’m thinking of doing something like this: Reverse Spam.Report

          • Troublesome Frog in reply to Morat20 says:

            This is good for both average cell phone users and scammers. The scammers mostly don’t want to waste time on the types of people who screen their calls and use fancy smart phones. They’d much rather talk to the types of people who can’t use a computer and couldn’t imagine not answering the telephone or doorbell. The types of people who write checks for everything and don’t remember what all of their subscriptions are and will pay anything that looks like a bill as soon as it arrives.

            I’m curious about what will replace those scams once that generation dies off. Will we all be falling for Nigerian email scams on a weekly basis once we start getting too old to keep track of our money?Report

            • Morat20 in reply to Troublesome Frog says:

              I honestly think they’re scamming off the do no call list. My cell will ring, I’ll ignore it, and it’ll go to my landline the next second. The call order is “my cell, my house phone, my wife’s cell”,Report

              • Troublesome Frog in reply to Morat20 says:

                I’m fortunate in that I got my cell phone in an area code where nobody I know lives. Most scammers spoof my area code, so I immediately know it’s bullshit. I have no idea where they got my number or if they’re just war dialing.Report

    • fillyjonk in reply to aaron david says:

      A phone ringing is scary and sudden.

      I like e-mail.Report

      • James K in reply to fillyjonk says:

        There’s something distressingly immediate about a phone call. Unlike an e-mail, which you can respond to at your leisure, a phone call demands you stop what you are doing immediately, breaking your concentration.

        It doesn’t help that I am rarely called, either at home or at work, unless something important and/or distressing is going on.Report

        • fillyjonk in reply to James K says:

          I am a cheap wench, but I finally broke down and paid for Caller ID after a late-evening call (which I didn’t know who it was from, so “had” to answer – I have parents in their 80s and other relatives in precarious health) and wound up being talked at for an HOUR by a member of a group I’m in who had a Grievance about the group in general and I felt I could neither graciously hang up nor tell them to stuff it because I wanted to go to bed.

          Now when I see that person’s number come up I can decide if I have the energy to take the call. (Most of the time I let it cycle to voicemail, though then there’s the problem of having to call them back.)Report

          • Michael Cain in reply to fillyjonk says:

            A friend advises me to simply hang up in the middle of a sentence while I’m talking. The other party will assume that the network dropped the call because: (a) no one hangs up while they’re talking and (b) dropped calls are much more a part of people’s lives than they were 40 years ago because mobile network reliability is crappy compared to the landline networks then.Report

            • fillyjonk in reply to Michael Cain says:

              yeah, and then a determined person will immediately call back to finish their call. (And this was on a landline, anyway – I keep a landline because cell service inside my house is spotty at best, and I don’t like having to step out onto the porch every time I call someone.)Report

    • Burt Likko in reply to aaron david says:

      My ex wanted both bar soap and liquid soap, to be used for different things. I think she used the bar soap to shave her legs.

      I really didn’t care and still don’t. I guess liquid soap from the little pump is more convenient most of the time.Report

  9. Rufus F. says:

    I guess I’m not exactly old yet, but it doesn’t suck being older. Comparing my teens and twenties to my middle age years, I play better music, have more sex, care a lot less about other people’s opinions, know what I’m doing more often, value my friends more, and get loans easier. Admittedly, I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about kids today, which might age someone.Report

    • Maribou in reply to Rufus F. says:


      This is pretty true for me too, point for point, and I (by the nature of my job) *do* think about kids today a lot…. though maybe in rather different terms than you are envisioning.


  10. pillsy says:

    There were many things about that article that were embarrassingly bad, but to my mind this one was the worst:

    “Our young liege checked his iPhone to pick his classes. A student protest to eliminate dead poets from the curriculum means he won’t have to study Shakespeare, and since history was found to be an offensive word (“His” and “story,” so sexist!) he doesn’t have to worry about that anymore. The fact is, his curriculum is totally up to him — to inspire and challenge his natural talents — but he did say he planned to study a foreign language. I think he said, ‘Fortran.’ ”

    My father used FORTRAN to fill a foreign language requirement. This was in 1972 or so.

    This Albom guy really has his finger on the pulse of contemporary college life.Report