Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘1973

The Lost Half-Century

leave a comment »

It’s not even the fact that median household income—the income of the American household in the middle of the income distribution—is now back to the level it was at in 1996: about $49,500 in inflation-adjusted dollars. To be sure, that is a very alarming fact. But I think most people have already cottoned on to the idea that we have been through a “lost decade.” To get the picture, you just have to look at the stock market or your last paycheck.

To me, what is really, really alarming is this: a typical American male who works full time and still has a job is earning almost exactly the same now as his counterpart was back in 1972, when Richard Nixon was in the White House, O. J. Simpson rushed a thousand yards for the Buffalo Bills, and Don McLean topped the charts with “American Pie.”

The figures, which appear in Table A-5 at the back of the Census Bureau’s report (pdf), are these. Median earnings for full-time, year-round male workers: 2010—$47,715; 1972—$47,550. That not a typo. In thirty-eight years, the annual earnings of the typical male worker, adjusted to 2010 dollars, have risen by $165, or $3.17 a week.

If you do the comparison with 1973 it is even worse. The figure for median earnings of full-time male workers in that year (when O. J. rushed two thousand yards and Tony Orlando had a chart-topper with “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree”) was $49,065. Between now and then, Archie Bunker and Willie Loman have suffered a pay cut of more than twenty-five dollars a week.

Written by gerrycanavan

September 15, 2011 at 2:02 pm

Sunday Morning Post-Rapture Links

with one comment

* Pharyngula, buzzkill, makes the whole “Rapture” craze this weekend seem a lot less funny. At least we’ll always have alternative_eschatology.jpg.

* The headline reads: “Utah law makes acting sexy illegal.” Just don’t tell the atheists.

* How a third-party Palin run might benefit the GOP.

* How the Big Bird puppet works. I don’t know that I ever really thought enough about this to have a “theory” on how Big Bird works, but I definitely thought Big Bird was more of a suit than a puppet—which I realize in retrospect is about as close to “I always thought Big Bird was real” as an adult can comfortably get.

* Mitch Daniels won’t run. This is very good news for Pawlenty, who looks increasingly unbeatable—though a number of my right-wing relatives who used to think experience was the most important qualification for the presidency seem quite enraptured with pizza magnate Herman Cain. The rest of my Republican relatives appear, unbelievably, to be waiting for Jeb.

* Mark Schmitt on intergenerational warfare from Paul Ryan and the GOP. Via Matt Yglesias, who highlights once again the centrality of 1973/1974 as the key turning point in U.S. economic and political history.

* More intergenerational warfare from the GOP: Newt wants poll tests for “young people.”

* And a single, striking thought: what if all the objections to Marx’s thought are mistaken?

Good News for culturemonkeys (All about the 1950s)

leave a comment »

Never say Hollywood can’t learn from its mistakes. The producers have figured out how to please everyone: maintain earnestness regardless of the inherent absurdity of the genre, be ‘topical’ by way of empty allegory, be spectacularly violent, never stop moralizing. Meet these requirements, and a great deal of variety is possible: one has free reign to be jokey or serious, bright or gloomy, undisguisedly sexist, racist, homophobic, or none of the above, ‘critical,’ or ‘wish fulfillment.’ Or all of the above. These labels are simply not the creator’s responsibility. Restore the superhero’s propaganda function, in short, and in so doing prove Sontag’s thesis that “pure camp” is always so for the future and not the present.** The comic book-loving nerds of my generation are now faced with the dubious realization of our pubescent dreams: the nerds have taken over Hollywood, and the responsibility thus falls to the Figure of the Superhero to ‘teach us’ something about the “human condition.”

Good news for culturemonkeys: Ryan has a great post on superhero cinema over there. (And here too.) It’s more or less the definitive post on Dark Knight. But a few quick thoughts. First, I think Acephalous’s attempt to rehabilitate the film from attempts to understand it solely as a “balls-out obvious apolog[y] for the authoritarian, repressive ‘excesses’ of global capitalism” is instructive, and definitely worth reading.

Second, Ryan writes that we are currently experiencing the”repetition-as-farce of the ’50s”—but this doesn’t strike me as a new phenomenon. Isn’t it more the case that postwar American culture is perpetually returning to the ’50s as a site of degrading, doomed unity?

This is to say that Jameson’s claim that WWII is the moment of highest American nostalgia par excellence is, I think, fundamentally correct, with the revision that it’s more the period from Dec. 1941 to August 29, 1949, the day the Russians exploded their first atomic bomb. The ’50s are the memory of “the good ’40s” combined with and juxtaposed against the reality of 8/29/49—they are the dawning but perpetually unfinished recognition of how it all will go / is going / has already gone wrong. In other words, the ’50s themselves were a repetition-as-farce the first time around of the ideologically unacceptable, apocalyptic shock at the end of the previous decade—and we find ourselves going back to the ’50s for answers whenever we get shocked again.

That’s why, when 1973 is the year of disaster for American capitalism, Happy Days premieres in January 1974.

Yes, You Finally Made a Monkey

leave a comment »

Two new culturemonkey posts, each one sillier and more perverting of the site’s original mission statement than the last. Real culturemonkey posts to resume once we get these end-of-the-semester papers off our backs.

Written by gerrycanavan

December 4, 2007 at 3:03 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , , , ,

carpe diem credit-card capitalism

leave a comment »

I’ve put up another depressing culturemonkey post that functions as a kind of follow-up to last week’s, thinking about the way 1973 can be seen as the high-water mark for production-oriented capitalism. That year exposed the physical limits to production that our society will someday confront, perhaps best symbolized by the closing of the frontier with the last manned mission to the moon in Dec. 1972. The growth and technological magic of the last thirty years has been fueled by debt as much as by innovation, with the evacuation of futurity and long-term planning replaced by the endless now of the credit card. This is what consumer society is—and like anything else, it can’t last forever.