What Happened with the 80s?

I was thinking about the incredible boom happening in the craft liquor and spirits and beer industries. Gin producers are now foraging the herbs and roots that flavor their products.  The hippening of unique brandy flavors is on the horizon. The “high-end premium” market is propelling overall growth. The once standard clear glass bottle is now transformed into sizes and shapes rivaling what used to be seen only at the apothecary. Producers are seeking creative ways to heighten “consumer engagement and leveraging it to fortify authenticity.” Holy smokes!

To distill the trend (oh yeah, I said it) you could summarize by focusing on two words: small batch. People want custom, uber-meaningful, top notch experiences. And that’s just when they are looking for a buzz! I wonder what we are demanding for dessert?

It made me think, unfortunately, of the 1980’s, when a bar had three beer taps: Bud, Coors, and the cheap beer (Schlitz, The Beast aka Milwaukee’s Best, or maybe a Busch). There was also the abomination in bottles that was light beer versions of local pilsners. IC Light was our regional brew.

There was nothing hoppy, nothing dark and chocolatey, nothing with strawberry or grapefruit. Nothing curated, nothing charred oak-inspired, infused, nitro cured, or osmosis blended. Nothing with hints of coffee or cupcake or honey. It was just pilsner and light pilsner. And Guiness, if you were at a fancy metropolitan sort of place. And wine: red or white. And they had vodka, rum, gin, scotch, and whiskey. They tasted like vodka, rum, gin, scotch, and whiskey, and whatever Galliono or blue curacao or fake corporate sours the part-time house painter behind the bar poured into them.

How, in some thirty-odd years, did consumers become so sophisticated? And is it OK that, while people in some of America’s finest cities struggle to get lead-free drinking water, we have the bandwidth to honestly care about the back story of the fiercely dedicated artisan barkeep who picked the berries that made the brew that became my $16, 3.5oz gin cocktail?

What was going on in the 80’s when bars were much simpler places, and corporate beers and spirits seemed to make a lot of sense, and inspire brand allegiance? When “I’ll have a whiskey” meant grab that one brand of whiskey you have there and pour it in a shot glass, not as a pretext for “Which of our thirty varieties, and would you like it neat, on the rocks, or blended with water?”

Barman flaring behind bar counter. Restaurant shelves with alcoholic drinks bottles on background
Barman flaring behind bar counter. Restaurant shelves with alcoholic drinks bottles on background

I am all for choice, and I do rejoice in the current bounty of selections. I just wonder how it all came about, so fully, so relatively quickly, and with such precision and skill. Imagine if we got this good this quickly at sewing or dog walking or Frisbee. It could be a whole different society we’d be living in.

Channeling Anger

“You can’t organize a group of victims. If people only see themselves that way, there’s no sense of agency, no sense of power. But when you tell them that we’re fighting an injustice or an offense to their dignity, they become angry and involved.”


As Americans, we really feel righteous in anger. We’ve been played by the entertainment industry into thinking that being enraged is equivalent to being informed, and we’ve become too comfortable with laughing at snipes over hearing what is going on around us.

We also have being hypersensitive to slights against us. I am not sure where all our thick-skinned ruggedness went, but it is gone. The perception of disrespect, intentional or not, means the actors go right to the endgame. No middle ground. Full assault.

It is social media that has enabled this in us, given us license to be so snarky, so concerned with thumbing out our own blaring klaxons instead of being thoughtful in reading and listening to the voices who would differ from our own. That psuedo anonymity of the web, or the digital screen separating us from those who have wronged us, it liberates the inner bumptiousness that we all harbor.

Maybe late night “news” comedy shows are a little to blame, as well. They make it so easy to pick apart politicians or celebrity foibles with confident laughs. They tell us how to feel, what to think. Who is good and who is not. Are they correct in their character assisinations? Sure why not. Do we need a late night laugh? Yes, laughter does our souls good. But the delivery, the one liners, the zingers, they propagate that culture of snarkiness that feeds our inner righteousness, momentarily soothes our anger at the helplessness we feel before such incompetence from our leadership. It’s the delivery system, the routine of it becoming familiar and informing our own way of communicating and thinking. See injustice? Something making you angry? Disagree with someone? A one liner that makes other people laugh will shut them up, break them down, and reinforce your righteous way of seeing the world.

Where are our masses being shown dialogue between differing parties? Where are we seeing two parties negotiate complicated issues civilly? Who is displaying an alternate method to the hyper prolific “win-lose” culture that is flooding our shores?

We would all do well to slow down our lives and breathe. Work to be better listeners and respectful of opinions that differ from ours. That means working to understand why others are different, what their context is, how they arrived at their conclusions. Respecting that. And understanding that truly winning means building things together, not breaking things apart. Not belittling or dehumanizing or glibly judging from our armchairs.

Get Sleep

“In the spring, when we lose one hour of sleep, there is a 24% increase in heart attacks the following day. In the autumn, we gain an hour of sleep opportunity, and there is a 21% reduction in heart attacks. “


It can be a challenge to try to get a solid eight hours of sleep on a regular basis. There are many things calling for our attention: kids, work, email, house chores, school work, pets, hobbies, fitness routines … by the end of the day, it is easy to feel justified in zoning out in front of the TV. Who hasn’t thought to themselves, I just need some downtime? There is nothing wrong with this but, for me, it can be a factor in staying up too late to really get that full eight hours of sleep. First step for me, then, is to make an effort to not turn on the TV on weekdays.

I feel lame for wanting to go to bed right after I put my kids to bed. Because I’m not in elementary school, I’m a grown up, right? I am not sure why I feel that, almost a shame, for going to be when the rest of my family does. I wake up two hours before them, what’s so bad about going to bed right when they do?

I found it helpful to agree to do two things at night:

  1. Agree to unplug from my cell phone after ten PM. Just try not to look at it after then. This is part of me recognizing that grabbing my cell ends with me mindlessly scrolling through news headlines or emails or text streams or articles. I’m tired, my brain zones out, and I’m just a click delivery system for some algorithm by nightfall. So I try to just leave it on the charger downstairs. That’s right – not even in the bedroom.
  2. I agree to allow myself to read a book at night. Not a textbook for school or an article on my laptop for work, but a regular old book for fun. There are many benefits. Making progress through the chapters over a week or so makes me feel a sense of accomplishment. Reading stories is a nice distraction from rigors of our duties as well as an informative pursuit to my curiosities. Reading books relaxes my mind and calms my body in preparation for sleep. I’m upstairs with my family all nearby with cozy thoughts, the house below all shut down for the night.

It is OK to sleep. It isn’t lazy or slothful. It’s being responsible to our body and its biological requirements. All nighters are over-rated. Prepare yourself for the new day. Don’t cram, crunch, and crash. To be refreshed and destressed, just sleep.

Hope for the Spring

Now that we’ve broken through the historic cold snap that hit most of the US last week, I feel like spring is already here. I know it is unreasonable to start looking for flowers and birds – it is still early February. But when I go outside, I hear birds and see daffodil flower tips popping up! So I obsessively monitor the long term forecast and predictions for variability in historic trends for local weather patterns. I know February is usually the dreaded month – that time in school when there are no breaks to look forward to, no community celebrations or bright spots, and for worker drones February is the time of year when you leave the house in the dark and come home in the dark with wet, slush-covered shoes. But it’s a short month, and the days are getting longer minute by minute. My pond ice is melting and in the morning, I feel like I am fighting to get my walk finished before the rising sun beats me home. All good signs we are heading to an early spring.

The Play Deficit

Some more reading on modern children and changes in their upbringing.

The golden rule of social play is not ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’ Rather, it’s something much more difficult: ‘Do unto others as they would have you do unto them.’ To do that, you have to get into other people’s minds and see from their points of view. Children practise that all the time in social play. The equality of play is not the equality of sameness. Rather, it is the equality that comes from respecting individual differences and treating each person’s needs and wishes as equally important. That’s also, I think, the best interpretation of Thomas Jefferson’s line that all men are created equal. We’re not all equally strong, equally quick-witted, equally healthy; but we are all equally worthy of respect and of having our needs met.

Anthropologists report an almost complete lack of bullying or domineering behaviour in hunter-gatherer bands.

There is evidence that the young of other species also learn to regulate their anger and aggressiveness through social play.

To the degree that we take away play, we deprive children of the ability to practise adulthood, and we create people who will go through life with a sense of dependence and victimisation, a sense that there is some authority out there who is supposed to tell them what to do and solve their problems. That is not a healthy way to live.