Gen X was never supposed to get older. But a pair of recent essays by Tim Carmody and Choire Sicha show that the
second third Greatest Generation is not immune to pivoting one's emotional startup when midlife approaches. In The Iceman List, Carmody reevaluates 80s movie heroes and finds the more traditionally Reagan-esque characters might have had a point.
But today, in the 2010s, Top Gun is a treat. It's as clean and shiny as a new dime. The cliches that later action films overloaded with world-building and backstory here present themselves unadorned, in all their purity. Cruise is just so charming, brimming with so much energy, it doesn't matter that he doesn't really know how to act yet. A bunch of Navy aviators singing Righteous Brothers in the bar looks like fun. Now that pilots, airmen, and aviators can serve in the US military openly without anyone asking who they sleep with, it's super that Iceman and Slider might be gay. And guess what?
Maverick is kind of a jerk. Iceman is totally right about him. In fact, Iceman is right about almost everything. We didn't notice this in the 1980s because everything about how the film is constructed tells us to sympathize with Maverick and hate Iceman's guts.
My God, we've become Ed Rooney. We are eating it. (Well, Ferris was a dick.) Sicha started smoking as a teenager in the 80s but after quitting recently, desires to "make a senior citizen's arrest" of his younger smoldering self, the Iceman to the Tom Cruise of his youth.
It's like KonMari, except easy, because the only things you throw out are your cigarettes and your entire sense of self.
My friend Emily said she was happy for me, but wistful, too. The last smoker quitting seemed like another kind of gentrification. Now I'm gone, too, along with the gas stations and all the stores that aren't 7-Eleven. But the emotional rent was just too high.
Quitting smoking is the khakis of existence. Quitting smoking is the Chipotle on St. Marks Place. I am totally not cool. I may as well be someone's stupid Brooklyn dad. My hair is its natural color. Most days I'm just wearing whatever. I do yoga endlessly. What am I now?
I can feel this gentrification of the self coming in my life. As someone who watched TV and used the internet 23 hours out of every day for the past 30 years, I'm wary of how much screen time my kids get. All that TV in my youth probably wasn't a good idea and the internet these days isn't what it used to be, right? In a talk at XOXO last year, Hank Green said:
You have no obligation to your former self. He is dumber than you and doesn't exist.
Ok! Pivot I will. Get off my lawn, younger self!
Over the past century, adult per capita cigarette consumption in the US rose from nearly nothing in 1900 to a peak of more than 4000 cigarettes per year in the early 60s and then fell to the current rate of around 1000/yr. Currently, smoking in the US correlates highly with level of education and poverty.
Smoking, as it happens, also appears to be highly correlated with both poverty and education levels in the United States: 27.9 percent of American adults living below the poverty line are smokers, while just 17 percent of those living above it are, according to the CDC; 24.7 percent of American adults without a high school diploma are smokers, while 23.1 percent of those with one are. Only 9.1 percent of those with an undergraduate degree, and 5.9 percent of those with a graduate degree are smokers.
According to Wikipedia, the US is 51st among nations in annual smoking rates. Eastern Europe and Russia hold all the top spots, but their per capita rates (~2800/yr) are all lower than the rate in the US in the 60s. But that's nothing compared to Scotland...their rate was once 7000 cigarettes per year. (via @dens)
I'm currently reading The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer (which is excellent) and I'm up to the chapters on prevention, specifically the prevention of lung cancer through reduction of cigarette smoking. I had no idea cigarette smoking was so uncommon in the US as recently as 1870...but we caught up quickly.
In 1870, the per capita consumption in America was less than one cigarette per year. A mere thirty years later, Americans were consuming 3.5 billion cigarettes and 6 billion cigars every year. By 1953, the average annual consumption of cigarettes had reached thirty-five hundred per person. On average, an adult American smoked ten cigarettes every day, an average Englishman twelve, and a Scotsman nearly twenty.
For some context on that 3500/yr per person number (and the unbelievable 7000/yr Scottish rate), the current rate in the US is around 1000/yr and the highest current rate in the world is in Serbia at almost 2900/yr per person.
The latest from the Made By Hand video series is about Martinez Cigars on West 29th St in NYC. The cigars they sell are hand-rolled right in the shop.
Taking in the scene at Cannes:
Defying France's strict new antismoking laws, Sean Penn, right, president of the jury at the 61st Cannes Film Festival, lighted a cigarette at a news conference yesterday, Agence France-Presse reported. After a couple of puffs in defiance of rules that banned smoking in enclosed spaces since January, he put the cigarette aside and returned to answering reporters' questions. But a jury member, the Iranian writer and director Marjane Satrapi, prompting laughter, then asked if anyone minded if she smoked "for medical reasons." She lighted a cigarette; Mr. Penn and the French actress Jeanne Balibar joined her.
Philip Morris is releasing some new products for smokers, especially those in emerging markets, e.g. markets with more smokers and less regulation than the US or Europe.
The Heatbar - a hand-held electronic smoking device that emits 90% less smoke than a regular cigarette, hence less second hand smoke. Only $118 for 1 year of service (2 cartons of cigarettes included)
Update: Altria has indeed spun off Philip Morris International, freeing PMI to pursue their fortune in the wider world. (thx, mau)
Update: Here's a more extensive story from the WSJ, the likely source of the above summary.