March 22, 2015

'70s snapshot: Booze and drugs at a middle school hangout site

You ever wonder what the characters from Fast Times at Ridgemont High were like in middle school? Was little Jeff Spicoli already stoned out of his mind in seventh grade? It looks like he was.

The middle school age group isn't as exciting to study as high school, so there tends to be very little record left in the public imagination, only personal memories. But suburban archaeologists can still re-visit the original scene of the crime and see if there are any traces left of what the kids were up to way back when.

I always keep my eyes peeled when strolling around trails for signs of the good ol' days, especially when they're near schools, where young people would have been hanging out. The good weather this afternoon brought me to a wooded area behind a middle school and adjacent to residential housing.

I've seen plenty of relics from the wild times when wondering around near high schools, but they could have been near the age of majority. Middle schoolers should have had a lot more difficulty getting their hands on beer, pot, and the like. Then again, times were different back then.

As it turned out, there were at least half a dozen beer cans lying around the middle-school hangout. Every time there's a brewery so old I've never even heard of it -- this time it was Ballantine ("premium lager beer"). It was a can with the old pull tab, so it must have been from the '70s, and this label from 1977 looks like the one it had:


There was a Budweiser can still in colorful condition nearby, also with the old pull tab. There were a few push-in type cans by Coors, Milwaukee's Best, and Red Bull, though they all had the narrow mouth opening and anti-litter warnings on the top like you would have seen in the later '70s and '80s. If you find ones with the narrow mouth but no anti-litter warnings, those are from the '80s and '90s. You may never have paid any mind to these details of beer can design, but when you're trying to date a hangout site, they can give you a very close estimate.

Atypically, there were no collections of cans of the same type, as though they had all come from the same six-pack. It's not uncommon to find the remnants of an entire six-pack behind a high school or off of a trail where older teenagers and young adults would have gone. Near the middle school, I didn't find two cans by the same maker. My hunch is that each of the kids lifted a single beer from their home's fridge, or shoplifted a single can, or found a sympathetic older person to get them "just one" can of beer. That would keep the pre-high-school drinkers under the radar and account for the mismatched assortment of cans.

As usual, there were tree carvings with initials, dates, etc. "PARTYED HERE," read one of them, with the misspelling being an honest sign of the barely maturing, and barely literate make-up of the site's habitual occupants. A large graphic carving showed a bong with a stylized plume of smoke wafting up.

Unusually for what I've seen around high schools, most of the dates were from a narrow range -- the mid-to-late '70s, whereas those near a high school would have gone into the '80s and early-mid '90s. One kid left his full name and the three academic years he was at the school. (I'm not sure just how academic those years were for him, given the big-ass pot leaf engraving that he also left.) He was there from, I think, '74 to '77.

Few or no dates from the '80s -- that really struck me. The middle school opened in 1965 and is still packed with students. There were signs that students still walk through and around the area -- a recent wide-mouth lemonade can, bags from Lays chips (chip bags degrade quickly and must be recent), a notice from the principal to parents dated December 2014, and so on.

This recent stuff looked like trash that somebody chucked to the side while walking straight through, though, not collections of cans or bottles that would have been left over from students hanging out for a little while before moving on.

The period when the middle schoolers actually made the site their own hangout area, drank beer, and occasionally got high, was a small blip in the 50-year history of the school. Who were those students? They would have been born mostly in the first half of the '60s -- the late Boomers who would go on to a Fast Times kind of high school.

Their wild upbringing shows up just about anywhere you look, and it has had lifelong effects: they have always been over-represented among the homeless, for example, whether it's at the beginning of the homelessness phenomenon in the '80s or today. Anecdotal reports from early Gen X-ers suggest that the late Boomers were way more heavily into drugs during college, when the two may have shared a fraternity.

And it's reflected in the pop cultural record, where teen movies of the mid-'80s portray high schoolers who are noticeably more introspective and wary of just doing whatever feels good, man, in contrast to the uninhibited teenagers of Fast Times earlier in the decade.*

Now it looks like that lack of inhibition began earlier than their high school years, at least by the start of adolescence. I wonder how their wild attitude showed up in elementary school, when they were still too young to score beer.

* This may be one pathway from the outgoing to the cocooning mindset. The first generation that's born and raised entirely within outgoing / rising-crime times is going to turn out a little too wild, so that the next cohort after them, when looking up to what the older kids are like, are going to decide that maybe that's too far, and we should dial it down just a bit ourselves. And to not take being cool as the be-all end-all of youth, if that pursuit could lead to disaster. Make fun of trying to act cool.

This more self-aware and ironic mindset and behavioral style is already evident by the late '80s in the quintessential mock-ethnography of Generation X, Heathers, whose characters would have felt out of place at Ridgemont High.

27 comments:

  1. My middle school years were early 90's. Behind the middle school there was a fence on the other side of the fence was a strip mall. The hangout was behind the strip mall where some kids smoked cigarettes. Never saw any beer or pot there, but I wasn't there very often as I was bused from about 6-7 miles away.

    I would suspect such hangouts would have completely vanished when busing and parental drop off took over.

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  2. [Homo Arka, don't bother trying to jizz up the comments anymore. Banned.]

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  3. "I would suspect such hangouts would have completely vanished when busing and parental drop off took over."

    Perhaps, but the site I was at is clearly still being visited by the students despite the trend of busing / dropping off. Either there are still enough students walking home from school, or they're passing through on the weekend. They just aren't treating it as a place to hang out, let alone drink a beer at.

    It's not only during the after-school hours of the afternoon that you don't see middle schoolers loitering around a strip mall. You don't see that in the evenings or on the weekends either, which wouldn't be affected by changes in how they get to and from school.

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  4. If there's such difference between early and later 60's types, what gives with the idea (embraced by Strauss/Howe and the media in the 90's) that Gen X-ers were first born around 1961?

    Late Boomers didn't have the same opportunity (and perhaps, inclination) to agitate against the squares like early Boomers. But late Boomers don't have the real Gen X tendency to have their guard up. Really, all of the Boomers just go for the throat without pausing to consider the effects of unbridled pursuit of whatever makes YOU tick.

    Like you say, those born in the later 60's were too exposed to the underbelly of the Me Generation to fully embrace the same sort of values and self concept.

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  5. Its interesting that it was only in the mid-to-late 70s that you saw any names. Culturally, the mid-to-late 70s may be distinct from either the 60s or the 80s. This was after the crime wave slowed down, but before the status-striving trend began. The media made at the time is very optimistic - Star Wars, Rocky, Grease, and disco culture.

    Not sure what was different about this time that wasn't present in the 60s.

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  6. You are a little younger and hipper then I am but I would look at video games. It seems like any place(basement) you can gather and play video games is going to get more traffic then the hangouts that existed in the 80's. More time indoors and less time outside. With certain parents being indoors does not preclude alcohol.

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  7. "And it's reflected in the pop cultural record, where teen movies of the mid-'80s portray high schoolers who are noticeably more introspective and wary of just doing whatever feels good, man, in contrast to the uninhibited teenagers of Fast Times earlier in the decade.*"

    The heyday of teen slashers/teen sex comedies (basically teen whatever) was definitely the late 70's/early 80's. Maybe the increased focused on "sophistication" (in some cases, pretension) in late 80's pop culture was because studios/marketers/artists realized that analytical Gen X-er teens were a tougher sell than sanguine late Boomers.

    Alas, the unpretentiously straight forward movies made from about 1976-1984 are generally more effective than the higher concept stuff made later on.

    On the other hand, I tend to find a lot of 70's music to be a bit too low key (not counting disco which I don't really care for) in comparison to the urgent 80's stuff I grew up with. Given how stable and modest people are in low(er) striving periods, I wonder if a big part of the fiery, energetic mood of 80's music was fueled by the undertow of bigger and bigger striving waves.

    The crime rate of the 70's was nearly as bad as the 80's crime rate, so maybe the more modest (frankly, boring) sound of 70's music can be put down to people being more comfortable with their lot in life. There's definitely a competitive element to 80's music which, in the context of the amiable outgoing mood of the time, led to a lot of good songs. I've heard bands from the 80's Bay Area metal scene say that they were driven to get bigger and bigger reactions from the crowds.

    Or the guitar shredder god sweepstakes, which probably doesn't really have any analogue in the genteel 20's-60's. Note that in the high striving/low outgoingess of the 90's, we went from the war of the shredders (the 80's) to the war of the whiners.

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  8. I really like Boston's debut album (from 1976). Interestingly, it's got a lot of highly advanced production work, musicianship, and energy. It got a lot of flak at the time for being the epitome of "soulless" and "corporate" rock (ironically it was written by a real band and recorded mostly in the guitarist's home made studio). Seems to me that Boston was scratching an itch that few other rock bands were in the mid 70's. Maybe the effort put into blowing away the competition (indeed it's one of the greatest selling records ever) is why a lot of people in the laid back 70's found the album vulgar. Of course, there's always jealousy.

    The lyrics on the album also mostly avoided social/political issues and they also didn't dwell on anything too negative.Go figure that the song Peace of Mind criticizes striving. But even that song is so damn fun that critics didn't seem to notice what the song's message is.

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  9. "You are a little younger and hipper then I am but I would look at video games. It seems like any place(basement) you can gather and play video games is going to get more traffic then the hangouts that existed in the 80's. More time indoors and less time outside."

    Search for arcade on this blog and you'll find that video game culture in the 70's/80's/even the early 90's reflected the fact that young people spent way more time hanging out in public. Before about 1995, video game cabinets could be find in countless places. Gas stations, restaurants, bowling alleys, roller rinks, etc. People started anxiously scurrying away from having fun or even just taking it easy in public places ("umm, awkward") in the 90's, so video gaming by about 2000 had become almost an exclusively indoors aka asocial thing.

    People born from the late 60's-mid 80's have a lot of memories of playing games in public. Hey, it was expensive, but at least that kept you from being on the machine all day. Nowadays, people whine about anything that shortens a video game.

    Before the mid 90's, you didn't hear bitching about "re-play value". People just wanted a video game to be fun and colorful. Also, before Street Fighter 2/Doom in the early 90's there were almost no games where you played against another person. Instead you teamed up with another person, in the arcades sometimes a total stranger who would pitch in their money to play along with you. Hell, sometimes you would actually give them your own coins. Such was the convivial mood before we all became surly hermits.

    Can you imagine later Millennial kids (those born since about 1989) giving money to strangers for wholesome, team-work oriented fun?

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  10. The Night Porter3/23/15, 4:08 PM

    The basic divide you repeatedly write about between early 1960s and late sixties to mid-seventies is perfectly highlighted in my family. My oldest sister was born 1962 and could have been a character in Fast Times. She and her social circle were way cool - but truly, they went too far with drugs. I was born 1973 (older parents) the height of Gen X, and both sisters were excellent social mentors. I was kissing 21 year old girls when I was 15 (innocently), and was socialized around people who basically considered shyness a form of rudeness. What you call the Fast Times crowd we referred to as "The Disco Sucks Generation," because back then you were either into Disco or into roach clips and Indian metal band boots. My sister were one of each, the urban coke head and the mellow stoner. I was an athlete but I was inoculated against cocooning at such a young age that I was able to sidestep the worst aspects of the 1990s. Good bless the Disco Sucks Crowd. They may not have been the "best and brightest," but socially they created a much more civil vibe than any cohort since.

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  11. I'm an older Generation X member, one of the first, and remember hearing stories about how wild the boomers were, though my parents were the cocooning type because the children of so many of their friends had drug problems. We also moved several times during my childhood. There was a documentary called "Dusted," about Angel Dust which was popular during the mid and late 70's, but quickly went out of style. Have you heard of that documentary?. I didn't do any partying as a teen, but did some in my early 20's, though nothing on the scale of so many who were 5-to-15 years older than me.

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  12. Reading a comment thread on Sailer, I coincidentally ran across this:

    "I find movies from before around 1980 a bit hard to watch, something about my modern, BPA-damaged, ADD brain and the their slow pacing. A few exceptions I liked are The Graduate, Dr. Strangelove, and Bonnie & Clyde. Also history movies like Lawrence and Patton.

    Yesterday I watched Blowup, based on some strong reviews and that Train Kept a Rollin’ is one of my favorite songs and the Yardbirds perform it. Same problem, the languid pacing was too much for me and I repeatedly fast-forwarded it 20 seconds.

    I don’t know what happened around ’80, but I think something did. I noticed when Leslie Neilson died, most critical reviews put Airplane above The Naked Gun, but I think the latter and its sequels are far better."

    It seems like people of all kinds are (sometimes self consciously) plagued with busy being busy itis. Obviously younger people even more so.

    Maybe it's a matter of aesthetics, but I find the slower pace and simplicity of 70's/early 80's movies to be refreshing. This approach might seem superficially dull of mood and mind, but really, it actually respects the intelligence and patience of mature viewers who are capable of being attentive. Stories were told via skilled acting, classy music, subtle editing, and carefully composed photography. I think I once heard Stallone say that a mark of a great movie was being able to understand the story without hearing the actors.

    Today's lame audience needs to be bludgeoned with bombast in order to wake them up. To the public's credit, many people do realize how crappy things are so relatively few people bother going to movies these days when you take into account actual tickets sold.

    On the other hand, I don't see much of a point in languid music. A monotonous, undynamic, uniformly slow pace suggests a lack of healthy vigor and excitement. You just wanna turn it off, wondering why the hell it was even recorded to begin with. The vast majority of post 1994 music might as well be called the "why did they even bother" era.

    To make matters worse, we've been entrenched in high inequality so there's even an absence of basic technical competence and good taste in art. The movies and music of the 40's-early 60's are not very resonant or fun, but at least they were filmed reasonably well and were not an affront to one's dignity (the movies) and music didn't have shrieking freakshows back then the way we it does now. Agnostic once did a post on how vocal harmonies are done in relation to equality. Harmonies of any kind have been disappearing since the mid 90's right along with any semblance of social cohesion.

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  13. I don't remember if I posted / linked about it, but people have measured the average shot length for all sorts of movies, and plotted it over time. IIRC, movies started speeding up their pace already during the '70s or no later than the '80s. They may have fluctuated somewhat before then, but no steady downturn until the '70s or early '80s.

    That fits with the trend toward competitiveness and the pace of life picking up in general. It's more manic than restrained. And it's more grabbing for attention, in a climate where everybody is trying to out-do the other for attention and status.

    I could never figure out what film nerds were talking about with the "death of New Hollywood" and the advent of the Jaws / Star Wars age, that supposedly continued up through today. Yeah right, Hollywood wished their movies today looked and felt like Jaws or Star Wars. And both of those movies are in a whole 'nother league compared to ham-fisted and dull "classics" like The Graduate.

    However, if they're talking about faster editing, more attention to special effects, and consciously trying to one-up all the other movies coming out, then there was a clear break during the '70s. It was the Me Generation coming to Hollywood. But some of those competitive and attention-grabbing movies are awesome, and those of the past 20-odd years stink.

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  14. "On the other hand, I tend to find a lot of 70's music to be a bit too low key (not counting disco which I don't really care for) in comparison to the urgent 80's stuff I grew up with."

    There appears to be a pop culture cycle between low-key and dialed-up, with peaks repeating roughly every 20 years. It's not a general atmosphere, since the '70s were definitely not a low-key time and place. Specifically pop culture -- energy level in pop songs, temperature contrast in color schemes, prominence of make-up on women.

    Dialed-up periods: '20s, '40s, '60s, '80s, 2000s.

    Low-key periods: '30s, '50s, '70s, '90s, 2010s.

    These are more like "relative to the longer-term trend in the outgoing vs. cocooning cycle," not so much low-key or dialed-up on an absolute scale. The pop culture of the '70s was not low-key as it was in the '50s, nor as it would get in the '90s. But compared to the Swingin' Sixties and the Go-Go Eighties, it was definitely a more mellow time.

    Pop songs were not packed with an intense energy nor try to elicit a raving response from the audience. Colors were away from the extremes of hot and cold (reds and blues), and more toward the middle -- green, orange, and yellow. High-contrast black-and-white was replaced with brown and beige / tan. The popular look for women was a natural face and hairstyle, unlike the high visibility of make-up and hairstyles from the '60s or '80s.

    The mellow '70s style returned in the '90s, although it may have been affected by the shift to a cocooning rather than outgoing background.

    And we seem to be returning to it again, although with an even crappier background. We're only part way through the decade, though, so we'll have to see where it goes.

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  15. I received the 50 years of bond set for Christmas. It might as well be a documentary on the stylistic changes of Hollywood action film. Its hard to believe Dr. No (1962) and Skyfall (2012) are related.

    I was going to theorize that larger family sizes vs. smaller housing pushed boomers outside and into public spaces. When you are sharing a bedroom and there is only 1 living room, then your chance for escape will be outside. But if everybody has their own bedroom and there is a living room, family room, rec room etc, coupled with a lot more indoor entertainment, there isn't a lot of pressure then to leave.

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  16. That wouldn't have pushed the X-ers outside, though. They were the baby bust. And yet there we were: every suburban street had kids walking, running, riding bikes, etc., on any given day. Unsupervised of course.

    As for house size, most folks these days still live in an old house rather than a McMansion. And there are plenty of Postwar neighborhoods where 99% of the housing is identical to what it was in 1950 (rows of Cape Cods or ranch houses), back when the children were cocooners, and the same as in 1980, when they were outside and unattended all day long.

    What keeps kids indoors all day, every day is helicopter parents.

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  17. By the time they're out of the house, they've internalized the cocooning mindset. It's bizarre how devoid of people the main green spaces are on college campuses, now that the students are Millennials.

    Dorm rooms are still small, you still have to live with a roommate you probably don't care much for, not to mention the others on your floor who you may or may not want to hang out with. That should push them outdoors, but it doesn't.

    At most, they will leave their dorm room for the safest of hives -- the library computer cluster, or other large open study space. Still not outdoors, still not interacting with others. Just not around the same ol' students from their floor back in the dorm.

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  18. "I could never figure out what film nerds were talking about with the "death of New Hollywood" and the advent of the Jaws / Star Wars age, that supposedly continued up through today. Yeah right, Hollywood wished their movies today looked and felt like Jaws or Star Wars."

    I would compare generational creativity to a "streaky" basketball player. Without warning, it seems like almost every shot, no matter how reckless, seems to go in. But just as suddenly, that player can go ice cold. Even seemingly sure and safe shots clank off the rim.

    One thing that stands out for Jaws and Star Wars is what you hear. A lot of pain staking care went into the music, the sound effects, the dialogue recording, and the mixing of those elements. Since artists were on a hot streak and audiences appreciated detail and dynamics, those audio alone is well crafted and memorable.

    With the Star Wars prequels, much of the same personnel handled the audio but decades after the magical late 70's/early 80's, things just weren't "happening" anymore. Essentially you've got a frustrated director rehashing the one sure brand he's got in a creatively bankrupt period. He probably knows it, the cast and crew knows it. Either they mail it in, or they vainly try to match (or perhaps top) the previous movie(s). Inevitably, in such a creative ice age mere technical competence and experience will not thaw the soil for inspiration and judicious use of skill to grow.

    I get the impression that overdone, overbudgeted films aren't just a sign of high inequality. These kinds of movies were also self consciously "epic" in the later 40's-early 60's. Seems like studios vainly spend vast amounts of time, money, and energy on movies because they sense a basic lack of exciting imagination and they think that mere effort and resources will lend the product a veneer of class. While the studios probably get it, I think that a lot of directors (not to mention delusional fan boys) are too conceited about the "value" and "necessity" of their work to admit that we'd be largely better off sticking to the classics (or overlooked gems) of a better era.

    I don't think anyone wants to be told that their full of crap and basically worthless due to the surrounding environment. This sort of thing isn't going to affect, say, a farmer or accountant, but it does hold true for artists. There's only a small handful of artists who have the talent, the will, and the taste to not fully succumb to the lousy lack of inspiration and grace in a certain period.

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  19. "And yet there we were: every suburban street had kids walking, running, riding bikes, etc., on any given day. Unsupervised of course."

    That's how it was for me (born in April '85), my brother, and a lot of our friends. My friend 'round the same age as me was basically kicked out of the house on nice summer days. I think I was about 6 (my brother a year and a half older) when we went trick or treating alone for the first time.

    My Mom was a workaholic realtor (unpredictable hours) and my dad left when I was about 8. We spent a lot of time left to our own devices or teenage (sometimes male) "baby sitters" who were scarcely more responsible than we were.

    "Colors were away from the extremes of hot and cold (reds and blues),"

    Why do you suppose so many countries and sports teams use some combination of red or blue? Green and orange are significantly less popular. Purple is, I believe, not used by any country. I've heard that among males, blue, green, and black are the most popular and opinions don't seem to change much from one era to another. Women are much bigger fans of yellow, purple, and turquoise. Orange and yellow tend to provoke annoyance, especially to older people.

    I remember some author doing his own experiment in the 70's, the 80's, and the 90's in which he wore different outfits and asked for subway change. The Dark blue suit with maroon tie and white shirt worked the best for convincing people.

    Seems like white represents purity, blue represents security (the color of good weather), while red represents courage (the color of blood).

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  20. In terms of, say, the Graduate being overrated, let's not forget that the 60's won't be over 'till the last early Boomer draws their last breath. The early Boomers will never accept that the 60's/early 70's are overrated. Everything they did back then was so noble and innovative, remember? No wonder James Hetfield hated hippies.

    Still, at least the dialogue in that era was intelligible. Many movies made since about 2000 sound like they were mixed by Helen Keller. Grating, overdone sound effects and music will come and go without good reason. Actually understanding dialogue can become a chore, what with all the mumbling and poor diction further hampered by wildly inconsistent sound levels.

    On the Halloween blu ray, one of the production crew members (who later directed some movies) said that in the pre Stereo era, movies were limited in the nature of the soundtrack. But the lack of distracting audio tricks did mean that competently executed movies would have a "pure" soundtrack which was easier to execute competently and tastefully because the mixer would not get caught up in "well, should I pan X from channel Y to Channel Z?"

    He specifically said that he remembered seeing Star Wars and thinking, "this is like a rock concert where you get slammed by so many sound elements/tricks that there's a danger of losing a sense of the whole product." He could've picked a more poorly executed movie to make his point, but I do think he's onto something.

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  21. "Why do you suppose so many countries and sports teams use some combination of red or blue?"

    Higher contrast between hot and cold makes them stand out more.

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  22. unrelated, but might be interesting: a scholar argues that humans didn't conceptualize the color blue until modern times; evidence is that blue isn't mentioned in any ancient texts, such as the works of Homer or the Bible, nor is there a word for blue in many ancient languages:

    http://www.businessinsider.com/what-is-blue-and-how-do-we-see-color-2015-2

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  23. There's been a lot of work done in that area for awhile. I read a good edited volume on it, The Anthropology of Color, that has a section on history / evolution.

    From what we can tell, pre-historic people did not have color terms, but did have terms for bright and dark. Those got adopted to mean white-ish and black-ish when color terms first began, then usually red was first to come after that, etc etc.

    This fits in with Julian Jaynes idea that before 1000-500 BC, people did not have introspective consciousness. They did not have terms for emotional mental states (which were instead more about the state of the body when experiencing a certain emotion). And now it looks like they didn't have terms for what colors they were perceiving.

    Only when you have to convey your internal mental states to others do you need color terms, since color is a bit more subjective and one of those "how do you know that my red is their red" kind of things.

    Brightness vs. darkness is more objective and not likely to confuse others. Everyone agrees when it's light or dark out, getting lighter or getting darker. It's also less about our internal mental state -- more about the state of the environment that we are all perceiving.

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  24. "Why do you suppose so many countries and sports teams use some combination of red or blue?"

    "Higher contrast between hot and cold makes them stand out more."

    I know that. What I was getting at is the fact that red, blue, white (and sometimes yellow) seem most associated with class, honor, and heroism. Regardless of the era. Check out the Marine dress uniform. Let's face it, who wants to be decked out in orange, green, and purple? Besides comic book villains.

    By the way, red and green actually contrast more than red and blue (as does blue and yellow). Yet red and green turn many people off while no one dislikes red and blue. Wes Craven gave Freddy Krueger a red and green sweater after reading that it was the color combo that the human eye found most provocative.

    Perhaps people in the 70's and 90's weren't as keen on striking contrasts but red and blue have never been unpopular. Interestingly, in the 90's and early 2000's many teams that formerly wore blue and bright yellow either dulled that combo (the St Louis Rams,) or changed to different colors totally (the Seattle Mariners, The Milwaukee Brewers, The San Fran Warriors, The Buffalo Sabres). Yet the many teams that wore blue and red (1/3 of MLB teams alone) generally didn't change.

    I'll never get the 90's trend of new teams sporting purple and/or teal either. I guess it was one of those obnoxious "we're tougher and cooler now than we were in the 80's, time to ditch the bright primaries" type of 90's thing. Of course their also was a trend of teams wearing black, which certainly fits in with both low outgoingness as well as elitism (and wannabe elitism).

    I do think that the popularity of black clothes is also correlated to status striving. Didn't the goth thing really take off in the 80's? I know people weren't very outgoing in the 40's/50's, but did you see as much black clothes (esp. in terms of casual clothes) back then as you did in the post 1980 era?

    From my own viewing of 50's/60's/70's images, it seems like their was less pretension in fashion, esp. in the late 60's/70's. By the 80's people were getting very conscious of the their status, their image. So you saw more black (and gray as well) clothes worn as if to send a message saying "Outta my way, I'm ready to lay the gauntlet down and challenge the world".

    Of course, the 80's were still amiable enough that lot's of color and patterns were still common. I've noticed in a lot of artist's videos/stage performances since about the late 90's up 'til the present day that many performers dress consistently in black. Perhaps the high inequality era is gripping us so tightly that elites/wannabe elites want to rub their status in everyone's face, including their "beloved" fan base.

    We associate the 90's with bland fashion, but as this website shows (http://www.voxeu.org/article/car-thieves-not-too-bright-please) status conscious people have gravitated towards monochrome to greater and greater levels since the mid 90's. While everyday people and elites alike want bland houses and cars which they associate with "class" (e.g. "I want money and power"), I think that many elite/would be elite people are also flaunting monochrome clothes.

    That website's chart does show that, like you said, green was more popular in the 90's than the 80's or 2000's.

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  25. "I don't remember if I posted / linked about it, but people have measured the average shot length for all sorts of movies, and plotted it over time."

    Yeah, I remember a post about that. Maybe they've studied the Coen Brothers? Just saw some of the Big Lebowski and I noticed how sedate the editing was. No Country For Old Men continued this trend years later if memory serves, so it's not like T.B.L. was an aberration.

    No Country For Old Men has to be one the most stylistically restrained (but not boring!) movies released in the 2000's. Also have to love the lack of "expert" protagonists. How many years will it be before people get tired of literal Superheroes?

    Put the Coen Brothers in the very small class of artists who can overcome lame ass contemporary trends in order to put out stuff worth seeing. Wonder how often they've heard producers (and even editors) spazzing out about how they need to pick up the pace.

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  26. Sorry to serial post, but it just dawned on me that the super hero trend has intensified right along with rising levels of inequality. Seems like people in high inequality eras want to see god-like protagonists because we're all aspiring to elite status.

    Comic book type heroes were usually considered laughable B movie material in the 30's-early 70's. One need only look at the athletic but still human physiques of Bronson, Eastwood, and John Wayne compared to Stallone and Schwarzenegger. I saw Raw Deal (1986) for the first time the other day and Schwarzenegger looked even more hypertrophic than usual for that era. To the point of distraction given that he was the hero. That look works better for the villian, so it works better in the Terminator.

    Note also that the trend of "special" protagonists actually started in the late 70's (Superman was huge in 1978) and really began to take off in the late 80's/90's. Notice all of the pretentious cop shows with cops who basically have magical powers.

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  27. I think that conservative clothing (black dresses, navy suits) is individually flattering, but collectively boring to be around. Dressing colorfully is dressing for the group - dressing conservatively is dressing for yourself.

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