Sunday, March 12, 2017


"It'll never happen to me," I used to say when I was younger. "I'll never let myself go."

But then I was laid off in August last year and guess what? I did kind of start to let myself go, at least on some days. And let me tell you, it can be a dangerous slippery slope.

Getting up later then usual and lounging in my PJs on my laptop until 10:30 AM on most mornings became the norm.

I went quite a few days without wearing makeup, especially if I wasn't planning on leaving the house that day (who was going to see me? Before you answer "the UPS man" I can assure you we don't order much online and there really have not been many through the years that I would consider attractive.)

I normally wash my hair every other day, but sometimes I let that go an extra day because I was simply too lazy to deal with detangling and drying it. I took to throwing on an old rag of a top and jeans. With no employer to go to and nowhere I needed to be, there seemed no point in making myself look presentable.

Worst of all, I slacked off with my exercising routine...and ended up gaining 12 pounds.

And the saddest part is, I had no real excuse for it. I'm not a mom and I'm not holding down a job outside of the house. I'm also not depressed, so I have no explanation for it other than sheer laziness.

Why bother getting all dolled up if no one's going to see me? Well, the thing is...I see me. Every day.  And after too many days of doing this, I realized that Billy Crystal as Fernando Lamas was right: "Darling, it's more important to look good than to feel good." Or as I like to say, when you look good, the feeling good part follows.

When I look at candid photos of folks over 40 that were taken back in the day, or even family snapshots of grandparents and other older relatives, it seems that in general most people from earlier generations did a better job at not letting themselves go compared to today. Some of them even looked downright glamorous right into their septuagenarian years. That doesn't necessarily mean that they aged better, but they definitely made a greater effort to look presentable, especially when going out in public: neat clothes, groomed hair, and a little bit of makeup were the norm.

I realize this isn't exactly a "retro" post but something I've thinking about lately, especially as I'm now in my 40s -- the decade when a lot of folks seem to let themselves go, due to changing metabolism, hormones, age, etc. (Although, to be fair, there are people in their thirties and younger that let themselves go, too.) Now that I'm back on track and have broken some habits, here's what I would advise to help prevent others from sliding down that slippery mid-life slope into Slobville...

Keep Your Weight Down

Easier said than done, especially during the winter months, and I've learned the hard way that my metabolism isn't the super fast one I had in my twenties. There's no way for me to put this delicately, so I'll just say it: I think people in general look AWFUL once they start gaining weight, and when you're older and you gain weight, it really makes you look like crap.

Something I always did no matter where I worked was I would take a walk during my lunch break if the weather was good, so when my part of the country went through a warm snap recently I laced up my Reeboks and did an hour-long walk around the neighborhood. (I also started to get back into running before our region turned sharply colder.) After the blizzard hits that they're predicting for Tuesday, I plan on going cross country skiing again. Lastly I've been making the effort to do a regular workout (mix of aerobics and weights) a few times a week.


Do physical activities that you enjoy doing, such as bicycling, swimming, dancing, hiking, or rollerblading/rollerskating. The older I get, the more I realize the importance of rediscovering or keeping up with activities I loved doing as a kid. For me, it's a lot of bicycle riding and I'm also planning on taking a paddle boarding lesson this summer.

I've also blogged about this before, but I've really cut my sugar consumption in recent years. I'm convinced more than ever that sugar is as addictive as drugs; it lights up our brains in the same way and once people get used to gulping down extra large sugary drinks all day long or putting away a box of cookies in a day it gets more difficult to stop. I put a teaspoon in my morning coffee and drink mostly water at every meal (except for a half glass of soda or bottled iced tea a couple of times a week) and I save a small dessert for after dinner. (I recently got hooked on Yasso frozen yogurt bars; those things taste like dense ice cream and average between 90-100 calories a pop!) Occasionally I'll have a piece of dark chocolate in the afternoon as a pick-me-up, or some gummy bears. And that's it. I never eat anything sweet for breakfast, unless it's a small spoonful of maple syrup on pancakes or French toast.

Keep in mind that the American food industry has packed a ton of its products with hidden sugar, like most yogurt brands (as in regular flavored yogurt.) I tend to buy the plain unsweetened yogurt and then mix in a little honey and whatever I like so I don't end up eating something with 18 grams of sugar in it.

Keep To A Regular Morning Schedule If You Can, Even On the Weekends

Instead of schlepping around in a bathrobe until it's nearly lunchtime, I've made the effort to wash up and get dressed by 9 AM most mornings. I try not to do too much on the laptop until I'm "ready to work" so to speak because I know I'll just sit there and answer emails and start doing work.

Keep Up the Grooming Habits

I put makeup on most days, even if it's not my usual "full face" because it makes me feel good. Sometimes a little foundation, mascara and nude colored lipstick or gloss is all you need to feel pulled together. I also keep my fingernails trimmed and filed, and massage hand cream into them every day.

Wash and style your hair (and get it trimmed or try out a new hairstyle.) I also think it's a good idea to upkeep the grooming of areas most people won't see during the winter (get your mind out of the gutter! I'm talking about shaving your legs and pits, if you're a woman, and making sure your feet and toenails look presentable. But hey, it doesn't hurt to upkeep the private areas that get grooming, wink wink.) Sure, if you're single, no one will know but you -- but it will make you feel great.

Another thing -- I make sure the roots of my hair don't grow in too much before I color them.

Save The Old and Baggy Clothing for Dirty Household Jobs

Personally, I don't feel like myself if I'm wearing clothes that aren't flattering on me. So last year I splurged on a few pairs of dark new jeans that fit me well, and several stretchy and form fitting long tees from Eddie Bauer that are great for layering, and I've pretty much stuck with these staples throughout the winter.

Also, don't underestimate the power of simple jewelry or a nice scarf to pull an outfit together.

Ultimately, I think keeping yourself pulled together is a choice. You can either choose to let yourself go, or you can choose to make a little time to keep up the self care and keep yourself looking fabulous into your forties and beyond.

Sunday, March 05, 2017


Side note: here we go again; the blog template put the entire post on the homepage (grrrrr.) To leave a comment, here's the actual link to the post to do so (which also includes the title): http://www.goretro.com/2017/03/elle-macpherson-kicked-my-butt-my.html

When I was younger, I went through a brief period where I wanted to look like Elle Macpherson. And if I couldn't have Elle's face and body, I would have at least settled for her impossibly long legs. Eventually I decided that I was beautiful in my own unique way, but when Elle released a workout VHS in 1994 -- called Elle Macpherson: Your Personal Best -- I jumped at the chance to emulate The Body's body through exercise.

It quickly became my favorite workout tape -- much more so than Cindy Crawford's Shape Your Body (which came under criticism because some of the warm-up moves could injure your neck and back.) But when DVDs came on the scene and my VCR eventually died, I had to give the workout up other than the moves that had been committed to memory.

Flash forward to 2017 and I discover, with delight, that some incredibly awesome person actually uploaded Your Personal Best to YouTube! Earlier today I finally pulled on my Athleta workout gear, ignoring the fact that the 12-14 pounds I have gained during the past year are making me look like I'm in the first trimester of pregnancy. This is going to be a piece of cake and a blast, I'm thinking to myself; after all, I did this workout 2-3 times a week back in the day.

I couldn't do even half of the last aerobics section. Sigh...I really am getting (ahem) older (and getting sidelined with a nasty virus for a while after Christmas didn't exactly help me stay in shape.) I was sweaty, hot, and tired -- not unlike having the flu (and I'm sure the achy part will come tomorrow.) Elle Macpherson -- and her trainer on this video, Karen Voight -- kicked my butt. But of course after hopping in the shower I felt great, and I'll be making this workout a regular part of my exercise routine a few times a week.

There's a few reasons why I love Your Personal Best. For starters, even though it was released over 20 years ago it has aged tremendously well, with just some opening graphics and the soundtrack (INXS, Power Station, Sting, etc.) giving the era away. It was also filmed in Hawaii, including one location that was featured in the first Jurassic Park movie. But most importantly, it delivers a really awesome workout in an hour that incorporates sculpting and lifting weights with burning some calories via low impact moves. And of course, Macpherson is her beautiful, personable self in it. I remember a few months after I first started doing it in the '90s, a fitness instructor complimented me on my toned upper body when I took a class with a couple of friends at their gym. So I know it works!

Elle Macpherson made an earlier workout video, in 1989, called Elle Macpherson Stretch and Strengthen, but Your Personal Best definitely beats that one. Karen Voight, by the way, has trained Hollywood stars and has produced over 25 workout videos.

YouTube is now teeming with a lot of uploaded "vintage" workouts (even though Your Personal Best doesn't feel so vintage.) Sometimes it's fun to try these out, if even for the nostalgic value of watching women hop around in colorful spandex. If you're curious to try it out for yourself, here's the entire Your Personal Best workout:

Thursday, March 02, 2017


The last time I went to a movie theater was in January to see the Ben Affleck film Live By Night. Before that, it was a good year earlier, to see The Peanuts Movie in December 2015 and Spectre the previous month.

And the last before that was Big Eyes, in December 2014.

As you can see, there's a pattern here. I'm only going to the movies, on average, once or twice a year. And as it turns out, I'm in good company. Recently I came across the following chart showing the results of a survey taken just last month polling Americans about their moviegoing habits. (You have to subscribe to the site to get access to all of the source details, but you get the idea....however, I would be curious to know how many people they actually polled.)

Source: Statista
Hollywood should be alarmed by these stats; according to this, a combined 45% of those surveyed--nearly half!--stated that they never or almost never go to the movies. Of course, I believe there's a few obvious reasons for this: it's cheaper to rent and watch a flick on on-demand or from your local library  or stream it vs. paying a high ticket fee to see it on the big screen.

But for me personally, the reasons go a little deeper. Going to the movies isn't quite the joyful experience anymore that it was for me in the '70s, '80s, and '90s. Here are three ways how moviegoing has changed from earlier decades--and hence, three reasons why I'm hardly going to a movie theater anymore (hopefully these won't make me sound too curmudgeonly.)

1. Less Movies Being Made That I Actually Want To See

I didn't watch any of the award shows this year, or last year for that matter. Part of the disinterest is because I've grown tired of listening to actors use the awards stage as a soapbox for their political beliefs. But mainly, most of the movies being nominated lately just don't appeal to me and even just the films being made in general feel very underwhelming.

When my friend and I went to see Live By Night, we had to sit through about eight previews and I can honestly say not a single one appealed to either one of us. It was one dark looking, shoot 'em down, action-oriented, CGI riddled hot mess after another...the new Vin Diesel movie, another with Keanu Reeves (John Wick: Chapter 2...was there even a chapter 1?), Kong: Skull Island, a dumb-looking comedy, and some horror flick that takes place in a Swiss mental asylum.

Where were the previews for the intelligently written dramas; something that looked like it might have a compelling story behind it and is capable of pulling some heartstrings? It doesn't seem like there's much that fits that definition in the pipeline for 2017.

Speaking of which, it seems lately that when Hollywood does produce a drama, it's a depressing one with no point or redemption to the story. For example, one of the winners at the Academy Awards the other night was Manchester by the Sea. I had no interest in seeing it and since recently learning the entire plot, will definitely pass. This movie (warning: spoilers ahead) is about a young man who lost his three children in a fire (that he set while drunk) and spends much of the film depressed and wallowing in his self misery. Although it was deemed an accident, his wife blames him for the fire, divorced him, gets remarried and has a kid which makes him even more depressed. He gets a chance to better himself when he is named the guardian of his teenage nephew after his brother passes away, but apparently botches that up too, and at the end of the movie he's no more happier than he was at the beginning of the film. The end.

I know someone out there right now is saying, "But Pam, that was a movie about what life is really like; sometimes there's no happy ending."

To which I say as an optimist, I would rather my money be awarded with knowing that the possibility for a happy ending can still exist in this world.

I'm not saying that Tinseltown should be giving us nothing but technicolor lollipops and sunshine, but if you're going to make a sad fictional film, at least give moviegoers a silver lining to it.

At least Manchester by the Sea isn't a remake, or the latest of a long list of sequels (do we REALLY need another Pirates of the Caribbean installment?)

I could dwell on this all day, but bottom line -- there just hasn't been much coming out lately that I want to see, and that includes renting it on on-demand.

There's been very few films during the past decade that have dazzled me with a combination of a compelling plot, juicy dialogue, authentic looking costumes, sets, cinematography, etc. and that includes Best Picture Oscar winners in recent years, like Spotlight and Birdman. Snooze. Lately I find myself skipping over the latest releases for on-demand, and curling up with a book instead.


2. The Rising Cost of Going to the Movies

I know that nothing is really exempt from inflation, but it's crazy to fantom that a family of four can easily drop around $75 or more on an afternoon at the movies today if they get regular priced tickets plus some snacks. It seems every time I've gone to the movie theater, the price of popcorn has gone up yet again; you'd be better off saving the money for an actual meal before or after the show (except the smell of that popcorn is so damn addicting.) I realize that theaters have added a lot of perks such as reclining seats, bars, and reserved seating to the modern moviegoing experience, but personally I'd rather have the "luxury" of paying only $8 a ticket, be allowed to bring in my own food and drink from home if I wish, and watch the film in a standard stadium seating theater.

Some movie chains do offer memberships where you can see a movie for free or receive money off the cost of a ticket after you've seen so many films, but I can't help but feel this is a marketing ploy to help offset the cost of lost business in recent years.

3. Putting Up With Other People

Thankfully this really hasn't happened all that often, but right in the middle of Live By Night, a couple came in with a young child--perhaps no more than 5 years old--who then proceeded to talk and make a fuss until one of the parents took him to the concession stand to get a snack. But...WTF? The movie was rated R. I realize the kid was with his parents, and believe it or not, he did quiet down once he had food, but I do have to question why anyone would bring a child that young into a movie that contained violence and profanity. It seems that a lot of parents these days do not want to be bothered with hiring a babysitter, so their solution is to push the limits and take their kid anywhere, even if it's typically a venue for adults only.

As my friend and I were leaving the theater, a couple behind us was actually complaining about what happened as well, and we ended up chatting with them a bit about how one parent should have taken the boy to see a kid's movie while the other parent watched the Ben Affleck film.

Then there's the whole mobile phone thing...it's sad that movie theater chains must remind us before the coming attractions that mobile devices should be turned off, and ringtones set to vibrate. However, as we all know, it doesn't always happen.

OK, I've griped enough. If you're not really going to the movies all that much, either, let me know your reasons why in the comments!

Saturday, February 25, 2017


A lot of people think that A Charlie Brown Christmas, which originally aired in 1965, was the first time that Charles Schulz's beloved Peanuts characters appeared in animated form on the small screen. But it was actually in the late '50s and early '60s that the American public got to see Charlie Brown and the gang brought to life for the first time, when they were commissioned to promote the new Ford Falcon. 

I'm currently half-way through reading the David Michaelis biography of Schulz, called Schulz and Peanuts, that was published in 2007--a couple of years after Schulz's death--and this advertising campaign was a revelation to even me, a lifelong Peanuts fan since I was about three years old. So let's take a look back at this cute and charming campaign that was released during the Mad Men golden age of advertising.


The comic strip had been around for a decade by this time--first as Li'l Folks in 1947, which evolved into Peanuts by 1950. By the late '50s, the income that Schulz was making from the success of his strip was booming--not just from drawing it, but because he was now getting licensing deals from companies. A manufacturing company called Hungerford Plastics Corporation had started producing the very first figures of Peanuts characters--made of polyvinyl--in 1958 (needless to say, an unopened figure in mint condition is worth a small fortune today.) Hallmark began their relationship with Schulz in 1960, introducing Peanuts greeting cards and paper goods. 

But the biggest deal offered to Schulz at this time was when the Ford Division of Ford Motor Company approached the cartoonist for the exclusive rights to have the Peanuts characters promote their new compact car, the Falcon, across all advertising channels including television, print ads, and billboards. Schulz worked closely with Ford's advertising agency, J. Walter Thompson, even consulting on the script, and had the final approval on the children selected to voice the on-screen characters.


The partnership also introduced Schulz to former Disney animator Bill Melendez, who would go on to produce all of the Peanuts animated television specials (and also provided the voices for Snoopy and Woodstock.)

The Falcon, which was touted as a compact car with a lot of space and great gas mileage, was a huge success for Ford, no doubt due to the Peanuts partnering. And no matter how many other deals Schulz was offered through the years, he regarded the Ford licensing as a huge milestone.


Here's all of the Ford Falcon/Peanuts commercials that I could locate on YouTube, including a few clips where characters introduced The Tennessee Ernie Ford Show in the early '60s. The one huge difference I notice between these commercials and the Peanuts TV specials is how Linus is portrayed; instead of the mature and worldly-wise philosopher we came to know and love, he actually comes across in the Ford commercials as very innocent and child-like. Lucy isn't quite the crabby boss lady yet, either. And Charlie Brown isn't being called a blockhead or having footballs yanked away from him!

Also, if they wanted to go for true Peanuts authenticity, the announcer would be speaking in that infamous "wah wah" sound.













Charlie Brown channels Bob Dylan here...






Monday, February 13, 2017


Valentine's Day is upon us, and its a safe bet that after the holiday tens of thousands of Americans will be newly engaged. And it's a sure bet that an awful lot of these brides and grooms-to-be will end up spending an exorbitant amount of money on the ceremony and reception. Weddings in America have turned into lavish, showy (and show-offish) affairs, especially when compared to weddings of past decades.

A couple of weeks ago I clicked on an article on MSN called "7 Things That Americans Waste Their Money On." Not surprisingly, item number seven was weddings. The average cost of a wedding today in the States is $26,645. Let's let that figure sink in a moment and do some comparison shopping. The Vince Lombardi trophy, made annually by Tiffany and Co., is worth $25,000. When I looked at gently used Audi A4s the other night online (just for kicks), most of the ones listed that were a few years old with modest mileage were priced around $25K.

$26,645 is also enough to put a down payment on a mortgage and buy yourself a decent living room set, or at least a nice sofa. In fact, in that article I cited, one of the comments left was by a man that attended a wedding of two 20-somethings. The bride revealed that she and her new husband had very little saved for a home, but she was hoping her retired dad (who paid for the wedding) would help her out with that, too. 

Sigh. Millennials. 

OK, with all fairness the rise of the bridezilla started taking place a good twenty years ago, if not more...so it's not just Millennials that have expected a royal wedding-type affair but people from my generation as well. The question is, why? Why waste all of that money on an over-the-top day that few people are going to ultimately remember, except for the couple getting hitched?


The photo above is of my parents on their wedding day -- February 1, 1946. As you can see, my mother didn't wear a bridal gown; she wore her best dress and a fur jacket. My father never gave her an engagement ring. She decided she really didn't want one, when she knew the money would be best served in a savings account to pay for a place to live (decades later, she got a tiny diamond on one of their anniversaries.) Speaking of which, my parents actually lived in a converted chicken coop for a short while on my grandparents' farm while my father went to work and saved money.

That was how it was for a lot of these past generations; they had more common sense when it came to saving and spending. They also weren't so selfish; they were grateful for what they had. 

It used to be that couples would have their receptions in the church basement, or at a local restaurant or the VFW.  Even celebrities kept their nuptials low-key back in the day. When Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward exchanged vows in 1958, it was at a wedding chapel in Vegas. Paul McCartney married Linda Eastman at Marylebone Register Office in 1969, and the bride wore a belted yellow coat. One of the reasons for these underwhelming settings were to thwart the media and fans and keep the event more private (not that it worked judging by the throngs of weepy female fans that showed up that day, upset that they were not the one Paul chosen.) 

When Celine Dion married René Angélil in 1994, however, the wedding was as melodramatic as one of Dion's power love ballads: it featured a massive wedding "cake" comprised of over 2,600 French profiterole (or cream puffs), a seven pound headpiece made of Austrian crystals, real white doves, and artificial snowflakes.

A lot of other celebrity couples seemed to have over-the-top weddings in the '90s. I'm not sure if that's what started to drive the expensive wedding phenomenon, but personally I do think it's possible to spend way too much on an article of clothing that you're only going to wear one day out of your life and never again. Thus came the rise of wedding planners an numerous wedding magazines and websites, all revolved around making your special day as perfect as possible.

Don't get me wrong--I have nothing against people spending and enjoying money, particularly if they actually have it. However, it seems to me that too many young couples are spending a fortune on their weddings when they don't have it. A lot of people would be better off if they tried to curb the expenses and socked that cash away for a downpayment on a starter home instead.

I guess the question is, why? Is it because they're selfish, spoiled, and/or have low self esteem issues where they feel some need to show off a bit? Sadly, some couples also expect guests and members of their wedding party to spend a fortune because of their selfishness, whether they can afford it or not. Thus, we've seen the rise of the destination wedding in recent decades, where couples get married on a tropical beach or another exotic locale. Not only is this expensive for the wedding party, but a bit of an inconvenience as well -- they're being forced to take a vacation whether it works with their schedule or not.


Another thing I've noticed...the numerous amount of bridesmaids. It used to be a bride would have a maid of honor or maybe a couple of bridesmaids; now she usually has a throng of her besties wearing an ensemble that will most likely never see the outside of their closet again. 

The irony is that the most memorable weddings I have been to were the ones where it was obvious the couple did not spend a ton of money on the reception. Thus, these celebrations had their own unique touches whereas the ones I've been to (and one where I was part of the wedding party) that were thrown at local country clubs and involved expensive bridal gowns all kind of blur together for me as nearly one collective memory. 

When a neighbor's daughter was married about ten years ago, the reception was held in the sun-drenched rotunda room attached to their parish. It was simple, yet beautiful -- they had also hired a guitarist to perform during the ceremony. The last wedding I went to was a high school friend's; she wore a gorgeous bargain dress that she found at Filene's Basement in Boston, when they used to have their infamous wedding dress sale and her ceremony took place in a new modern chapel at her alma mater. The reception was held at a notable restaurant in Chinatown; it was a ten course meal, so that probably didn't come cheap, but overall it was a beautiful celebration that didn't go over the top (unless you count her cousin that impersonated Elvis and serenaded the couple on the dance floor.)

I'm not saying that people should hire a justice of the peace, order some pizza, and call it a day, either. I believe in a happy medium, and maybe looking for ways to save money on certain areas (such as the dress or the reception venue) instead of blowing a fortune on what's only one day out of your entire lives.

Just don't lose sight of the real reason you're getting married in the first place.
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