Saturday, August 28, 2010

Bring Back the Blue Laws

If you're under a certain age, then you don't remember a time when stores were closed on Sundays. Imagine running out of milk. Sorry, you're out of luck. You'd have to borrow it from a neighbor until the grocery store reopened on Monday. There was no such thing as department stores advertising early openings and special Sunday sales in the morning paper - they simply weren't open for business. The practice of keeping businesses closed on Sundays was known here in the States as the "blue laws." Although I am unsure about the color choice, sources say the rule goes back to Puritan times, when a day of rest was mandated on Sundays so that people would be able to attend religious services. Because of their close association with religion, they were slowly considered more and more unconstitutional towards the end of the 20th century, and today pretty much every state in America no longer enforces them.

I'm all for bringing them back. I realize this may inconvenience a lot of people, but hear me out. I believe the benefits of reinstating "closed on Sundays" would be beneficial to us all. I know of at least one person who would agree with me - Rabbi Shmuley Boteach. He wrote a book called The Blessing of Enough where he discusses how obsessed our current society has become with acquiring material wealth, while we're missing out on what really matters in life. In a related blog post that he wrote for The Huffington Post, the good rabbi remembers when all stores were closed on Sundays - not only to provide a day off for retail workers, but to give people time to reconnect with their family and friends. Today, he says, even on the most glorious of days, most people it seems would rather spend time filling their eyeballs with the flourescent lights of the mall or the local Home Depot on a Sunday, instead of doing something that matters. He also believes having such unlimited access to being able to shop and spend at any time has definitely contributed to our materialism and economic state, and it has created a nation of dull people who no longer have any hobbies.

The way the rabbi and I see it, here's what the benefits of reinstating the blue laws would be:

1. Reduced Sunday Traffic
How peaceful it would be if stores were closed on Sunday again. No one hitting the roads early for those early morning specials. There might also be less obnoxious advertising in the Sunday papers.

2. More Time to Spend With, Not Spend On
Before the repeal of the blue laws, people would attend religious services, then share a meal with family and/or friends. Without a place to go to needlessly spend their money, people might actually rekindle more productive activities and get a life towards the end of the weekend.

3. A Break for Service People
Take it from someone who worked in the hotel industry for over five years - anyone working a service job deserves a guaranteed day off each week. OK, hotels are open 24/7 but retail workers should get a break like the rest of us. Even most banks are now open on Sundays - which proves just how little anything is sacred anymore.

A New Jersey mayor tried to argue with Boteach that keeping stores closed for even one day hurts the economy. Boteach explained that when 9/11 happened, Bush instructed the American people to "go to Disney World" and essentially spend their money. We know how well that advice turned out. Our enormous spending has not only put us in tremendous debt but has led to a spiritual deficit as well. Americans don't seem to have many hobbies these days or appreciate how it feels to spend time with other humans. 

Of course the downside to bringing back the blue laws is that the stores and roads will suddenly be flooded with even more people during the work week and on Saturdays. But in my opinion, that's a small price to pay for one day of mandatory sanity every seven days. 

Friday, August 27, 2010

Two Forgotten Friday Favorites: Basia

I'm not sure who else remembers or who is a fan of this lady from the 80s, but I've been meaning to post about Basia for months now. I've been a fan for years and finally saw her in concert earlier this summer - she still sounds and looks as splendid as ever, and is currently touring to promote her latest album, It's That Girl Again. Basia is a Polish singer with a romantic, jazzy style (she's sort of like the Polish Sade) who has enjoyed more success in Europe and Japan than she did in the States, but she does have a lot of American fans, and I have always loved her music for its optimistic message. Her new album is pretty good, but my favorites will always be her first two from the 80s, Time and Tide and London, Warsaw, New York. 

Basia's early group was a UK band called Matt Bianco (one of the other members, Danny White, said the name was meant to sound like a 60s spy character.) The other members were Kito Poncioni, and Mark Reilly. Basia and White split from the group to pursue her solo career and White is still in her current band. 

Needless to say it's so hard for me to choose just two songs, but here's Baby You're Mine and Drunk on Love (the latter is actually from her 1994 album, The Sweetest Illusion.) Just really sweet sounding music - and I love her dress and hat in the Baby You're Mine video. 

Have a wonderful weekend, everybody!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Three Ads Too Good Not To Share #6

More retro fun from 1971...

1. Hate to say it, lady, but if you're at the point where you're seeing talking cigarettes, then you're smoking something stronger than nicotine. I love that her husband is so nerdy looking and shorter than her; it looks like Artie Johnson and Goldie Hawn got married on Laugh-In.

2. The least convincing ad I've ever seen for birth control. Isn't the whole point of using it NOT to have a baby? "Needs no douche"...except for the one you're planning on having sex with. And what is with the douching obsession of the 70s? I'm saving a whole slew of ads for feminine odor products that I found in just two vintage magazines for a future post. 

3. Coffee and Kent...and dragon breath. A most delightful combination to smell anytime when kissing someone. This guy must have women banging down his door for dates, huh?

Deep Thoughts With Mr. Spock

Most people are familiar with William Shatner's musical dabblings, but I wonder how many people knew that Leonard Nimoy published poetry? (Actually, Nimoy is quite the arteest: he photographs and also recorded five albums of his own.) I came across this cover on Awful Library Books (totally worth a visit if you need some laughs) and I have to say the featured poem is quite poignant for modern times. Nimoy's just an old fashioned spaceman:

Here's some more great stuff. A little warning, though: it may just blow your mind.

You Fill Me With Your Love 
You fill me
With your love
You fill me

With your caring
You fill me
With your thoughts

You fill me
With your sharing

Thank You For A World Of Kindness
 Thank you
For a world
Of kindness

Thank you
For your
Endless patience

Thank you
For your
Sensitive understanding

Thank you
For Your

I have known despair
I value hope

I have tasted frustration
I value fulfillment

I have been lonely
I value love

Thanks to The Retroist for printing those poems. Don't you now feel complete? OK, that's not fair - some of his other stuff isn't all that bad. However...

I much prefer the music of Nimoy. I actually think he's a better crooner than Shatner (who mostly spoke interpretations of songs.) Feast your eyes and ears on this groovefest known as the The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins. It certainly takes music to where it has never boldly gone before.

It's weird - the video is only one minute and 36 seconds long, but feels much longer.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The TV Dinner Gourmet Makeover

Note to the editors of Family Circle, circa 1971: adding embellishments to TV dinners does not make them ready for Bon Appetit magazine! This wacky article from back in the day shows how you can "glamorize" (their word, not mine) ordinary frozen meals. Some of the pepper-uppers are no-brainers and/or quite odd: rolled up salami cones for macaroni and cheese, and halfed cherry tomatoes mixed with corn. Pine nuts in your fruit compote and pimentos in peas say instant mmmmmmm. Something called onion bits were sprinkled onto the mashed potatoes, and "fish-shaped nibbles" float in the tomato soup. Um, you mean goldfish crackers?

Actually, they don't look all that bad. I admit that I used to love TV dinners when I was a kid - never mind that they were full of salty, processed excuses for meat. My favorite dessert was the chocolate cake/brownie.

Before and after pictures below...quite the inspiration for the aspiring retro chef:

Monday, August 23, 2010

No Way Macrame

This weekend I went to an open market in South Boston and much to my delight, was excited to see the huge vintage flea market component to it - a treat for any retrophile. In addition to snatching up a 1960s tea/coffee set made in Germany for only $50, I also brought home a couple of groovy Family Circle mags from 1971. Chock-full of lots of good, bad, and ugly retro stuff, I plan on scanning them piecemeal. First up is this feature on macrame!

Of all of the vintage crafts and fads that were invented during the 20th century, I probably get macrame the least. Who possibly thought it would make a good craft, who actually made macrame and most importantly, why? Doing some quick Googling reveals that it actually goes back thousands of years and was popular in Victorian times, but its heyday was clearly the 70s. At first I thought it was an easy alternative to those who couldn't or didn't want to knit and crochet, until I read the actual directions that accompanies these images. Some of the projects look quite complicated - and you also need to dye the sisal and twine to achieve the colors you want. 

But more than that, and no offense to anyone who does/did the craft, but I just don't think anything aesthetically appealing was ever created using macrame. It will always be the epitome of awful 70s fashion/fads, I'm afraid. See for yourself with this scanned article. Martha Stewart would never touch this stuff. Who the heck wants to wear or hang up things made out of rope? 

Of course - a shag purse to match your shag rug!
Kind of a risque picture for Family Circle! It doesn't distract from how hideous those "barefoot sandals" are, though (but then again, I'm not a guy.) The magazine calls the thing around her neck a dog collar - I call it animal cruelty.
Not sure what the point of the armband is, but then again if there is a point to any of this, will someone let me know?

Friday, August 20, 2010

Medical Advances of the Future!

"Hey! We're headed for the future." Neil Diamond sang those words in the 80s, and they seem to echo the obsession society had at the time with technological advances the future would bring. I think because of so many new products - such as VCRs, Sony Walkmans, home computers and video games - we thought technology was about to revolutionize everything in our lives, including medical care. A 1982 children's book called World of Tomorrow - Health and Medicine was full of predictions about medical care in the future. I won't go into detail about them all - you can read on each page for yourself - but overall, it's pretty interesting how accurate some of the perceptions were (body scanners, robotic surgery, etc.) So let's take a trip back to the 80s, kids, at see the medical future back in 1982...

And, oh, must note that I heard about this book from Gilligan over at Retrospace, and the book can be found in its entirety on The Pointless Musuem. Clicking on each image will open it up in a larger size. 

I guess the Foreword was trying to show that the elderly would be living long, healthy lives - even participating in football games! Yes, I know he's holding a soccer ball but the book was published in the UK, after all. 

These next two pages talk about genetics and parental planning...this young couple is at the doctor's finding out how good their genes are before proceeding to get pregnant. Is that a good idea for these two to be procreating? They sure are a funny looking couple, aren't they? Hope they don't have a funny looking baby...

This looks like one scary ob/gyn appointment...and why do they have a pregnant woman lying on her stomach? That can't be comfy!

In the future, they've finally figured out how to get men to see the dentist every six months - she wears a skimpy mid-drift top that exposes her breasts:
This scene is right out of a science fiction horror film:

Check out the eyeballs on her table! Creeeeepy!

You get the can find the entire book, and more fun ones, on the Pointless Musuem's link above.

Two Forgotten Friday Favorites: The Everly Brothers

The Beatles loved The Everly Brothers - Paul McCartney paid tribute to "Phil and Don" in his 1976 hit "Let 'em In." I consider them to be the biggest and most successful musical duo ever (even though Hall & Oates had slightly more songs in the Top 40.) So today I'm highlighting them for Two Forgotten Friday Favorites. Shame that technically for these posts I can only choose two songs - I love all of their hits, but here are two I haven't heard on the radio in forever. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Three Ads Too Good Not to Share #5: The Childhood Commercial Edition

Today's post highlights three epic TV commercial fails that you may remember from your childhood...

First up: You, Your Kids...and Your Johnson
Yep, you read that correctly. This is the poster boy example of why advertisers should always stay on top of current pop culture. As the site so beautifully explains it, "Johnson was an outboard motor company that apparently paid zero attention to slang, which meant their 1980s-era ad about all the fun times to be had with "you and your Johnson" was destined to become a classic. The line about 'you, your kids, and your Johnson' is really where the wheels come off."


#2: The Slim Suit
Here's one for my Retro Product Fail series--the Slim Suit, a weight loss product marketed during the 80s. Holy smokes! This is a revolutionary concept, so pay attention, folks: if you wear this hideous space suit while exercising, you'll LOSE weight!

#3: Get Ayds, Lose Weight
Another example of poor timing with the times, Ayds was a weight loss candy that had the misfortune of being introduced in the mid-80s. No need to mention why this was a Retro Product Fail:

Who Dumbed Down Lois Lane?

The recent success of the latest annual Comic-Con conference got me thinking about an article that I wrote a few years ago, after Superman Returns was released. If you've ever admired the Lois Lane character (as I do) in the original Christopher Reeve movies, TV series, and comic strips it may interest you. I tried unsuccessfully to get it published in Bitch magazine and a few online pop culture sources, so I'm posting it here (it also resides on where it earns pennies in an incorrect category as a movie review. It's really a pop culture observation piece.)

It's long, but if you can get through it, let me know what you think - what the hell did Lois Lane ever do to deserve being turned into a brainless twat?

Superman Returns was this summer's quintessential American blockbuster movie. It had faster-then-a-speeding-bullet action, eye popping digital effects and sets, appeal for both adult moviegoers and their children, and highly appropriate actors for the two male leads: the chiseled Brandon Routh as the Man of Steel, and my favorite actor, Kevin Spacey, portraying a very suave and badass Lex Luthor. Not surprisingly, the film was a mid-season success, pulling in over $100 million during its first week in release.

But something is mysteriously awry in Metropolis, folks, and this time it has nothing to do with Lex Luthor. In this latest chapter of the Superman legacy, someone has stolen Lois Lane's brain! Not being a Superman fan, I hadn't even noticed the embarrassing metamorphosis until I caught clips of the original Christopher Reeve movies on an entertainment show. The Lois from that era, as portrayed famously by Margot Kidder, was a seasoned reporter, energetic and sharp as a whip, and she's no fool to the fact that Clark Kent is Superman, even daring to put herself into dangerous predicaments (such as casually falling off the railing above a rushing river) to prove the existence of Kent's double identity. Several websites are devoted to the Lois Lane mystique, and while different actresses have interpreted her onscreen in varying degrees, she has always remained a famous fictional icon of intelligence, persistence, and professionalism. A blog entry on dissecting the character's pop culture status states: "Lois Lane's fame springs more from her notoriously hazardous investigative approach and street smarts." The site also points out that during the 1950s, she was the only female character on TV that got into brawls with men. When you hear the name Lois Lane, you don't automatically think, "bimbo."
Could she have smiled? Even once during the movie???
Which begs the question, who dumbed down Lois Lane for Superman Returns? For starters, the choice of Kate Bosworth for the role was an extremely incompetent decision, for one obvious reason: she's way too young. Bosworth was appropriately cast as a barely post-pubescent Sandra Dee in Beyond the Sea (playing opposite Spacey, coincidentally), but her makeup, brown suited wardrobe, and cigarette dragging in Superman Returns doesn't conceal the fact that she was only 22 years old when the movie was filmed. We're also supposed to be convinced that this girl wonder is the mother of a five year-old boy and has a Pulitzer Prize under her belt. When her boyfriend suggests that Clark Kent has the same height and build as Superman, she squints at Brandon Routh in dimwitted bewilderment and says, "You think?" and not exactly in a sarcastic tone. Where Margot Kidder's Lois had a comic edge to her, this one is painfully one-dimensional, her face paralyzed in the same somber expression, even when Superman takes her for a soaring ride in his arms. She aimlessly wanders onto Lex Luthor's yacht with her young son in tow, crying out "Hello?" in every new empty room that she ventures into (now, how many times have we seen this scene in a horror movie and wanted to pelt the idiotic offending character with our Raisenettes?) until she spots the horizon moving outside the window and encounters Luthor in his bathrobe. This is a move that Lois would never make, according to a website devoted to the Cartoon Network's The New Batman/Superman Adventures, which confirms: "Though she takes big (some might even say outrageous) risks while getting a story, they're always calculated. She does not blunder stupidly into dangerous situations; she's well aware of the hazards before she goes in." I found myself increasingly annoyed with her as the movie wore on and then later, with director Bryan Singer when I was reminded of the maturity and wit that Kidder brought to the role. Even Parker Posey's character, Luthor's girlfriend Kitty Kozlowski, demonstrated more brains during the film's 154 minutes of running time, and she delivered some of the movie's best lines.
You put you and your child into this position, dumbass!
It doesn't make any sense. Why mess with Lois Lane? She's the only character in the Superman family who's been a fixture of the comic strip from its very inception, even before Lex Luthor, nearly seventy years ago. Why take a successful comic strip and movie franchise, and preserve everything soundtrack, opening graphics, male lead characters to resurrect the same feel as the original movies, but not the lead female character? Singer told Newsweek that his version of Superman is a "chick flick", because of its focus on Lois and her unresolved feelings for Superman. However, intelligent female audiences would much prefer seeing like-minded female characters who can demonstrate both romance and cunning, not someone who acts like she misplaced her Daisy Dukes. It seems more likely a tactic to capture the attention of young, male, adult moviegoers to avoid boring them with a strong female lead. And was placing a 30 year-old actress in the part considered cinematic suicide? It seems inconceivable that the critics didn't appear to notice - or care about - this huge oversight, and I can't help but wonder if it was because the comic strip Lois represents a smart, career-oriented woman. If the normally fierce Catwoman turned out to be...well, a Batman Returns, filmgoers everywhere might have screamed holy gyp. But cut a female cartoon character's intelligence - her most recognizable and prominent personality trait, no less - down to size, and no one bats an eye, not even the copyright drones at DC Comics.

I blame Singer, the scriptwriters, and even Spacey (who recommended Bosworth for the role)6 for failing to keep Lois' character intact. I truly have nothing against Bosworth, but it seems to me that this was a ploy for Hollywood to push a young actress, even if it meant placing her in an unsuitable role and altering her character's personality, all in the name of box office revenue. Lois Lane is paying the price for that decision, her celluloid reputation now in question. 

Singer has an opportunity to rectify the misstep, since he recently announced at Comic-Con International that he plans to have a sequel to Superman Returns released by 2009. Let's hope that by then, the cinematic Lois has retired her training bra and dislodged the piece of Kryptonite from between her ears.

Update: There never was a sequel, which is probably a good thing.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Own A Piece of Mad Men History

Now that the mad boys and gals of Mad Men are situated into groovy new office digs, AMC pondered what to do with the old 60s style Sterling Cooper furniture. Good news for maddicts: it's being auctioned off on eBay! Always wanted to sit on the same piece of furniture as Roger Sterling or pour yourself into one of Joan Holloway's famously curvy frocks? Now's your chance. The auction benefits the cancer charity called City of Hope (10% goes toward the charity) and runs through August 22. 

Dozens of chairs, tables, sofas and even drapes are included in the auction. Surprisingly, very little is offered in each description - it's unclear to me if the furniture is really 60s vintage or was found new for the show. It's also disappointing that only three clothing items are up for grabs: dresses worn by Betty, Joan, and Bobbie Barrett. Clearly the best item up for auction is a walk-on role on the show during season five. You'll have to have a lot of moolah to win that one: the current bid is over $15,000. Good luck, my peeps! 

More about the auction here.
All items can be viewed here.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Whatever Happened To...Getting Dressed Up? (Even Just A Little)

We truly have become a nation of slobs. 

I thought about that this morning after reading a little opinion piece in my local paper about the loss of manners. Written by an older woman of a certain generation, she lamented about the way some people dress today when they go to church or out to eat. I then noticed it first-hand when I attended mass this morning. Many of my fellow parishioners look like they should have been going to the beach. Of course, this has been nothing new for many years now, but today I decided to notice how many people could make my inner fashion cop cringe. My mother remembers a time when every woman would wear gloves and a dress to Sunday mass. Needless to say, we both feel that nobody should have to go to that extreme today, but how about kicking it up a notch just a bit? 

I saw a few teenage girls wearing jeans accompanied by skimpy fitting tank tops that exposed their bra straps. I actually could give people a pass on wearing denim if it's not ripped or hanging precariously off your hips and rear end, but c'mon on the tanks! My mother never would have let my sisters or me leave the door looking that way to go to church. I also always see lots of flip-flops, crocs (ugh!) and shorts. I've seen children skate down the aisle in those sneakers with retractable wheels that convert into roller skates.

When I was younger I used to enjoy getting a bit dressed up to go to church or if my dad took us out to eat at our favorite restaurant, which was called the Kernwood. The Kernwood was a pretty nice place, certainly not an Olive Garden (no offense to anyone who likes to eat at Olive Garden), and so tees and shorts wouldn't have flown there. In fact I think they had a dress code sign in the lobby that stated men had to wear a jacket, and they might have kept spares up front for the diner who "forgot" his. Remember when this was a normal requirement? No one batted an eye. Today some jerk would probably complain and leave in a huff and threaten to sue for discrimination. 

I didn't have to wear a skirt when going to certain places with my parents - but I was not allowed to wear jeans to church, and had to wear something better than a t-shirt for a top. 

I hate to sound so horty torty, and I realize it's just become a socially accepted way of life now, but it's disappointing sometimes how casual dress we've all become. There should be places where dressing professionally still remains a requirement. As a matter of fact, HR at my company has to send out a reminder about the dress code out to the company at the start of each summer season, lest some people think we've installed a swimming pool inside one of the conference rooms. Shorts and skirts that end above the knees are not allowed, as is any top that exposes cleavage. Hooded sweatshirts are also banned year-round. Quite often we have clients, partners and board members visiting our office, so I totally thinks it makes sense to look professional.

It's no surprise that one of the reasons why people love Mad Men so much is because of the way people used to dress back in the sixties. Men in suits and ties, and ladies in dresses. Even when Don Draper is at home on the weekends (pre-divorce, anyway) he manages to look good in a polo shirt and shorts. Well, I guess Jon Hamm would look good in just about anything or nothing at all, so maybe he's an unfair example. I love seeing a man in a suit and tie, but a (nice) casual sportscoat over an open shirt works wonders, too. Ladies love it when guys dress up - if you don't believe me, check out the comments on the blog Coolness is Timeless sometime!

I have nothing against shorts, tees, and tank tops, by the way. I just don't think they belong in a place of worship or a fancy restaurant. I wish more folks would put a little bit more into their appearances when it comes to certain events and places. At least when I attended a friend's wedding last weekend, every guest was dressed nicely. I certainly hope the casual dress trend never infiltrates a wedding.

The one good thing about so many people dressing so casually in certain places is it helps the people who do make an effort to look nice (me!) stand out. As Coco Chanel famously said, "Dress shabbily, they notice the dress. Dress impeccably, they notice the woman." I'll extend that saying to include men and teens as well.

Friday, August 13, 2010

A Few Words About Blogging Etiquette

I'm interrupting the normal retro theme of my posts to air a minor gripe about blogging etiquette. It's about reposting images from other blogs, including this one.

Technically, unless I took a photo myself, I don't own the copyrights to any vintage image that I post here - whether it's an advertisment, scan, stock photo, or otherwise. However, if I do see an image on another blog that I follow that I absolutely have to have to accompany my own original commentary, I do two things: 1. I ask the blogger for permission to repost it on Go Retro and 2. when I post it here, I give credit to the blog that "lent" it to me, and I include a link back to their site. To me that's just being nice and practicing good blogger etiquette, and I'm giving their blog an extra shout out on mine, as I would want them to do for me.

I'm bringing this up because in recent months I've seen ads that I've posted on Go Retro get reposted on blogs whose owners follow me and/or list me in their blog roll. Not everyone, of course....but I've discovered it a few times. Yeah, maybe it was just a coincidence, but I don't think's pretty obvious if you follow me and comment on something and then repost it on your own blog a couple of days later, that you grabbed it from here. I can't twist anyone's arm and make them do something, but it would be nice if you just mentioned you got it from here and link back to this site. Do onto other bloggers as you'd like them to do onto you!

Thanks. Sorry for the public service announcement, but I had to get that off my chest. Retro posting to resume ASAP...

Two Forgotten Friday Favorites: Perry Como

In honor of the Perseid meteor showers this week, I really wanted to highlight two star related songs. Fortunately, we have the smooth Perry Como singing us into the weekend with Catch A Falling Star and Don't Let the Stars Get In Your Eyes. The skies have been kind of cloudy for me to try to see the showers in my part of the world, but hopefully some of you out there will get to view them. And if you catch a falling star, save one for me!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Retro Places to Visit: Frank Lloyd Wright's Zimmerman House

It isn't that often that I post about cool retro places to visit, so to remedy that I'm finally posting pictures of a house that I visited a little over a year but never got around to writing about. Last summer a friend and I visited the Zimmerman house in Manchester, NH. The Zimmerman house was built by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1950 for a doctor and his wife, Isadore J. and Lucille Zimmerman. I've visited Wright's studio home in Oak Park, Chicago but have never been inside one of his client homes. I fell in love with this place immediately. Unfortunately, as the house is owned by the Currier Museum of Art, you are not allowed to take photos of the interior, so the few inside photos I've included are courtesy of the Currier (all of the exterior shots were taken by yours truly.)

Copyright J. David Bohl for the Currier Museum
The house is Usonian style, a long, rather compact (for its time - it's around 1,700 square feet) swath of brick, stone, and wood set at a diagonal on 3/4 of an acre of land in a neighborhood surrounded by larger, more classical style homes. Rumor has it when the house was being constructed the Zimmerman's neighbors routinely made fun of it, viewing the home as more of a sore thumb than an architectural wonder.  

I loved the roof -- the underside may be mahogany -- and it hung down a good 2 feet away from the perimeter of the house to allow water to drain off. The carport was large enough for two vehicles to fit comfortably underneath it, and upon pulling in the driver would immediately see a view of the backyard and garden.  

Most of the furniture inside the house was designed by Wright as well. Although I don't have a photograph, the tables in the living room were octagonal shaped, allowing the Zimmermans to put them together in several ways to accommodate a large number of guests. Even the custom built piano had eight sides. 

Much of the pottery and statues displayed throughout the home were carefully chosen by the Zimmermans to compliment the brick and wood interior: lots of warm tones in simple, organic shapes.

Copyright J. David Bohl for the Currier Museum
The basement-less house has radiant heating in the floors - said to be one of the warmest ways to keep cozy in the winter, but not very practical if something goes wrong (as repairing requires jackhammer work.) Wright often sacrificed practicality in place of style, and I've read that many of his earlier homes later required his expertise when they started to leak or sprout other problems. However, he may have perfected his technique by the time the Zimmerman house was built. 

There isn't a photo of the Zimmerman's bedroom online, but it had the most awesome closet I've ever seen (storage compartments galore) and looked out onto the lush backyard. Their bathroom had a skylight. 

One downfall to the house is that, other then bedroom closets, there really wasn't a lot of storage space available. The museum said Wright did that on purpose, as he felt anyone living in one of his houses should keep it clutter-free! Today's average American home would probably drive him nuts. (The Zimmermans also didn't have any children, which no doubt helped keep possessions in the house to a minimum.)

Here's a bunch of photos of the exterior of the home and the grounds. 

You can see the "window" behind the carport, allowing for a view of the yard.

This is going to sound weird and/or corny, but I have to say I got the best vibes from the property, whether I was sitting shoeless on the floor of the living room, listening to the tour guide, or whether strolling across the backyard. I could just feel that it was a happy, warm place for the Zimmermans - who never missed an opportunity to write and tell Frank Lloyd Wright how much they appreciated and loved their home. The couple were philanthropists who helped send a poor Polish student to school in the U.S., and they donated their wonderful house to the Currier in the late '80s after Mrs. Zimmerman passed away. I definitely want to make another visit some day. 

If you want more information on visiting the home and booking a tour, you can do so at the Currier Museum's site.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Retro Product Fail #4: Sea Monkeys

Hey, hey, we're the sea-monkeys,
Go Retro says our ads monkey around
That's because we're really just brine shrimp
Letting all the little kids down...

If there ever was a mother of all retro product fails, sea-monkeys would have to be it. I never personally sent away for any as a kid, but I must admit was always curious about them. After all, those ads like the one above always made them look and sound so cool!  "Own a BOWLFULL of HAPPINESS"..."MILLIONS THRILLED BEYOND WORDS"..."IN YOUR HOME - A LIVE SEA CIRCUS!" And would look at the freaky photos of them. Wowie kazowie! The company that ran these cheesy ads has been distributing sea-monkeys since 1960 in both the U.S. and U.K. I wonder how many kids were deflated once they followed the instructions and discovered that sea-monkeys were really just Artemia, which is the scientific name for brine shrimp. Needless to say, nothing like monkeys...more like sea-bugs. I think this second advertisement is hilarious because it includes a drawing of the little guys..."based on actual photos" (note it's also for "Super" if they perfected on the scam product.)

Well of course I never expected these to be real monkeys, but maybe something a little more exciting than shrimp! Artemia has the ability to suspend its own life for up to 50 years, until ideal conditions occur, which is why they were able to ship them practically freeze dried and would "come to life" once the proper amounts of salt and water were added. Although, I'd be curious to know the success rate of this "toy." I received a small vial of brine shrimp eggs in a chemistry kit when I was young. I carefully added the right proportions of water and salt, and waited. And waited. Nothing ever happened. 

There's an official site for sea-monkeys. Yep, they're still being marketed and sold, but at least now there's no hiding what they actually are. Still, I'm pretty happy that my water pets growing up were limited to goldfish. 

What say the rest of you? Did any of you ever send away for sea monkeys? Did you ever get these critters to hatch?

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