Between violent crime and stagflation, the 1970s were kind of a mess

Two youths in Uptown, Chicago, 1974 / Danny Lyon (National Archives)

Hating on boomers is a cottage industry online. Some of it is the usual generational foofaraw; some of it is conveniently viral clowning. But it’s all ultimately grounded in a perception that their generation got cheap college and houses, locked down the balance in pensions and stocks, and pulled up the ladder behind them by pivoting from the idealism of their youth to reactionary austerity.

There’s some truth to this: college, health care, and other core costs of living were a lot more affordable several decades back. But boomers were pretty young when the postwar promise they were born into…

Read everything from Whet Moser — and more.

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A small group of young analysts at Goldman Sachs are making noise about their working conditions. It’s tempting not to care, but it’s their world and we’re living in it.

Paul Strand, Wall Street, 1916 / Library of Congress

A couple weeks ago, a group of first-year analysts at Goldman Sachs dropped a “Working Conditions Survey” outlining their hundred-hour weeks, “consistent 9am-5am’s,” five hours of sleep, and self-reported 2/10 firm and work satisfaction. Responses fell along predictable lines. Some said these expectations were clear and the money is great, which is true, and others said whatever, they still shouldn’t be working that much anyway, which is arguably true. Anonymous investment bankers said the same thing.

So should we worried about the young Goldman Sachs bankers? …


Where Are They Now

In between the minivan’s decline and the SUV’s surge, one of the century’s most beloved — and despised—cars experienced a brief moment of fame

A black and white photo of a PT Cruiser photoshopped onto a thought bubble.
A black and white photo of a PT Cruiser photoshopped onto a thought bubble.
Photo Illustration: Save As/Medium; Source: Getty Images

Do you remember the PT Cruiser? Yeah, you do: Chrysler’s po-mo hot rod with the funny name and the Dick Tracy-esque curves? It’s in the first shot of the new CW series Superman and Lois, because it’s the closest thing on the road to the car on the cover of Action Comics #1, the 1938 comic book in which Superman makes his debut. It’s just right — like the current comic-book universes, the PT Cruiser was designed to be contemporary, entertaining, and a very loud echo of the past.

It was also supposed to be as ubiquitous as the DC…


Like many good children’s books, Cloudy With Meatballs tackles adult anxieties

Photo: Getty Images

Reading to my children, sometimes, turns into an excavation of adult anxieties. Sometimes this is intentional on the part of the author, and it’s thrilling to go back and see how I came to adopt the anxieties.

I loved Virginia Lee Burton’s quaintly illustrated but melancholy The Little House, which follows a little worker’s cottage as the concrete jungle surrounds, overshadows, and wears it down, like a child’s introduction to concentric zone theory. Burton’s Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel is a clever retelling of the John Henry fable (Ezra Jack Keats’s more faithful retelling is a masterpiece as well)…


Edgar Sydenstricker dug into the pandemic of 1918 and found income level was a key factor in who lived and who died

The St Louis Red Cross Motor Corps on duty during the Influenza epidemic, 1918. Photo: Underwood Archives/Getty Images

Edgar Sydenstricker, the preeminent epidemiologist of his generation, showed how the 1918 flu pandemic was hardest on the poor, as were so many of the health conditions he studied. He had a plan to fix it. Today, we’re finding, and debating, the same things.

As the flu pandemic of 1918 circled the United States in wave after wave or two years, the poor died in droves. It was a predictable outcome. …


WHERE ARE THEY NOW

An investigation two decades later

Photo illustration, source: Erik Freeland/Getty Images

Where Are They Now is a column that revisits once-popular companies and brands that have seemingly disappeared.

The shorthand for the bubbliest startup of the dot-com bubble has long been Kozmo, the turn-of-the-century startup that intended to solve the ultimate logistical problem: What if someone would just bring me that thing I want, now? Imagine Amazon Prime at the speed of pizza delivery but for free. At the time, many people asked “How is that a feasible business model?” — including the founders of Kozmo, though not soon enough to save their IPO in 2000.

And yet today, the world…


Where Are They Now

The untold story of the Velcro binder that taught an entire generation how to organize

A photo illustration of 2 vintage Trapper Keeper binders with a car image, placed within a thought bubble.
A photo illustration of 2 vintage Trapper Keeper binders with a car image, placed within a thought bubble.
Photo illustration, source: Bethany Nixon/Flickr (with permission)

Where Are They Now is a column that revisits once-popular companies and brands that have seemingly disappeared.

Before the bullet journal, the pricey Japanese planner Hobonichi Techo, and the pocket-sized, collector-friendly Field Notes, many of today’s self-defined superorganizers had a Trapper Keeper.

You might remember the three-ring, color-coded, Velcroed school binder, whose ubiquity in the 1980s and ’90s makes it a byword for nostalgia. For a whole generation, it was our first information organization system, a child’s garden of productivity.

The Trapper Keeper was itself well planned, the work of market research by a Harvard MBA working at the paper…


An obit for the icon of Swedish domesticity

4 Ikea printed catalogues stacked on top of each other against the Ikea FRAKTA blue shopping bag.
4 Ikea printed catalogues stacked on top of each other against the Ikea FRAKTA blue shopping bag.
Photo: Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto/Getty Images

Ikea means many things to many people, but for most, it’s something more durable than the veneered particleboard in a Billy bookshelf. For some, it’s a gateway to adulthood — the peak age of the Ikea buyer is 24 — before graduating to a more refined Crate & Barrel or West Elm. For others, it’s a totem of another life stage — parenthood or divorce or even empty-nesting — representing aspiration or failure or somewhere in between. …


Where Are They Now

Last month, Reebok reportedly went up for sale. What even happened to the iconic sneaker brand of the ‘80s?

Several pairs of the Reebok Pump shoe hanging in a display.
Several pairs of the Reebok Pump shoe hanging in a display.
Photo illustration, source: Neilson Barnard/Reebok/Getty Images

Where Are They Now is a column that revisits once-popular companies and brands that have seemingly disappeared.

I can still remember trying on the Reebok Pump. Emphasis on “trying on”: It was 1989, and I was under no illusions my mother would buy me a $170 shoe (the equivalent of $365 today). But I had to try it, and I had to pump it up. My favorite basketball player, Dominique Wilkins — Michael Jordan’s flashy dunk-contest rival — endorsed them. They inflated to fit your foot! They were the coolest shoes in the world.

Depending on your age, you might…


Where Are They Now

The company may once again be a 24/7 tether to work, but this time it’s invisible

A hand holding a Blackberry phone
A hand holding a Blackberry phone
Photo illustration, source: Sajjad Hussain/AFP/Getty Images

Where Are They Now is a column that revisits once-popular companies and brands that have seemingly disappeared.

On January 22, 2009, big news from the White House broke: incoming President Barack Obama could keep his BlackBerry. At the time, the manufacturer was slightly more popular than the new president, with 55% of the U.S. mobile phone market, compared to Obama’s 53% of the 2008 vote.

Three years later, to the day, BlackBerry’s co-CEOs resigned. The company had fallen from 20% to 5% of the global cellphone market, with its shipments down 41% year over year.

But its precipitous decline wasn’t…

Whet Moser

Freelance writer/editor in Chicago. Words in Marker, The Atlantic, COVID Tracking Project, elsewhere. Author of ‘Chicago: From Vision to Metropolis.’

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