Monday, February 28, 2011

Whatever Happened to...Made in America?

ABC News is running a week-long series right now that I think everyone should watch: Made in America. Tonight they visited the home of a middle class American family and removed every possession in it that was not made in the U.S.A. Tomorrow night they'll attempt to fill it back up with only furniture and other items that are made in this country. 

It will be a daunting experiment. According to ABC, during the 1960s about 9 out of 10 household items that the average American purchased was made here. Today, it's down to about 5 out of 10 items, although I wouldn't be surprised if most of us couldn't accomplish that 50% mark on any given retail store trip if we tried. My mother recently found a frying pan made by a company called Tramontina, and was delighted to see "Made in USA" engraved on the underside. She was so overjoyed she plans on writing a letter of gratitude to the company, which has been in business for 100 years now. 

It makes me absolutely ill to think that it's nearly impossible to find American-made goods anymore. Yes, I know that big items just as Boeing jets and Mack trucks are still made here, but we should be able to buy ordinary household goods that were crafted by American hands. Just going through my inventory of clothes tonight, I can find only one article of clothing - a beloved graphic top that's about 10 years old - that says made in America with American fabric. When I tried to buy my first guitar last year, I couldn't find a basic model that wasn't made overseas, unless I was willing to shell out thousands of dollars on a high end Gibson. I was flabberghasted to learn tonight that American Girls dolls are made in - you guessed it - China. Even my bras are made there. 

This issue is near and dear to my heart, because I'm from one of the last generations that remembers growing up with American-made goods. We used to be such a proud and prosperous country: my father always purchased an American made car, and every appliance in the house was made here. This country was built by the hands belonging to millions of hard working, blue collar Americans who were employed in the manufacturing industry. 

Back in the 80s I remember seeing a television advertising campaign that supported American manufacturing. This "Made in the U.S.A" series of spots featured several celebrities repeating the commercial's tagline, "It matters to me." Unfortunately, this attempt from 25 years ago to preserve American made products is now just a memory. So what the hell happened? According to the Alliance for American Manufacturing, since China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001, approximately 2.4 million American jobs have been lost or displaced thanks to the trade deficit with the Chinese. We also owe them an obscene amount of money. It was recently reported that China's holdings of U.S. bonds totaled $1.16 TRILLION dollars at the end of December 2010. How will we ever dig ourselves out of that mess? The AAM also says that China is involved in currency manipulation and is imposing tariffs on their exported goods.

Not only that, but some of what they ship to us is dangerous crap - I'm thinking about the tainted pet food that killed hundreds of American cats and dogs a few years ago, the Walmart flip flops that were giving people grotesque foot rashes, and the children's toys that were coated with high levels of lead paint which were recalled, including many items sold by Mattel.

But it's not just China; it's the fact that so many companies are greedy, cheap and care only about the bottom line when they send jobs overseas. They don't care about American workers and their families. Government just turns a blind eye to this enormous elephant in the room.

Here's the conundrum: according to ABC, if everyone spent a small amount of money on American goods on any given day, which goes back into our economy, we'd be creating 200,000 American jobs. The problem is so many of these items are often priced higher than their overseas-made counterparts. But if it means preserving what we have left that's manufactured here, isn't it worth it?

I encourage everyone to check out the ABC link at the beginning of my post; there's an interactive map highlighting American companies that are still producing American goods. I honestly think I'm going to splurge on something and pump a little money back into this country's economy. The AAM also gives some tips on what we can all do to help preserve American manufacturing.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Hooray for Horrible Oscars Outfits

It's Oscars night, and while the show has sometimes been unpredictable, one thing you can always count on is at least one or two kooks showing up in a God-awful outfit. The Academy Awards has seen their share of them, so let's take a trip down memory lane, shall we?

Betty Davis, early 60s - at the risk of getting into trouble with Getty Images, I simply had to chance posting this curious looking dress worn by Ms. Davis in the early 60s, which looks like something she borrowed from the Wicked Witch of the West's closet. By contrast, Grace Kelly looks classic and lovely. I will say this: the angled shoulders look like something we'd see on the red carpet today; pretty progressive by 60s standards.

Barbra Streisand, 1969 - Well hello, Dolly, and hello backside. The front of this ruffled pantsuit with the sailor collar and clown outfit cuffs was bad enough, but the rear is truly jaw dropping to me.

Tatum O'Neal, 1974 - There's a difference between tomboy and just plain boy. I don't know if this outfit was Tatum's idea or her parents', but I would've preferred she came to the ceremony looking like a girl.

Diane Keaton, 1977 - And the Unsexiest Oscar Outfit goes to Diane Keaton, who celebrated her Best Actress win for Annie Hall by dressing like...well, Annie Hall, or your 1970s CCD teacher. I still can't tell if she's wearing a hat or if that's her hair piled up on top of her head.

Helena Bonham Carter, 1987 - HBC is a great actress but alas, not always a good dresser. I'm going to cut her a break here, though - it *was* the 80s, after all. Who didn't have something similar to this hanging in their closet in 1987?

Cher, 1987 - I've always liked Cher as an actress and I love Bob Mackie's dresses, but this was one instance where the combination didn't quite work for me. I think we all got it that Cher had a great body at the time, but surely she and Mackie could've imagined a much better way of showing it off?

Jon Bon Jovi, 1991 - Bon Jovi broke the golden rule of couple dressing on the red carpet: never, ever, ever outshine your wife. Pretty hard to do when she's wearing head-to-toe sequins but his purple haze suit accomplished that. 

Whoopi Goldberg, 1993 - Speaking of "the color purple," she should have stuck with just the one shade, not the garish lime green combo. 

Celine Dion, 1999 - This ass backwards outfit will go one of the worst in Oscar history. 

I'm stopping here because venturing into the 2000s wouldn't quite be retro. Going to get the popcorn ready tonight and enjoy the show!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

I Just Wasn't Made For These Times, Sign #1

Sign #1 that I just wasn't made for these times: I'm noticing lately that I'm getting more and more behind on the latest technology. Furthermore, I just don't care. 

Case in point: earlier this week I was told some people in my company would be receiving new business cards. We're in the middle of a large rebranding effort so this was also a chance to freshen up the card's design a bit. And that's when a few people in my department mentioned that we should include a "QR code" on the business cards. 

I had NO idea what a QR code was. Never saw a mention of them in the news or in a magazine. If I'd seen one before, I wouldn't have known it. I also had no intentions of admitting this to the group. "Sure, I'll look into putting a QR code on the cards," I told them - then immediately went to my old friend, Google, for assistance. 

It turns everyone who owns a smartphone probably knows (which would include the entire planet except for me and that newly discovered ancient tribe in South America) a QR code is a barcode that can be linked to something...a website, landing page, offer, etc. When you scan it with your smartphone it takes you to the link. 

I think it looks like a graphic from an Atari 2600 game. What do you think? 
Then I was told that some people in the company would be receiving different QR codes because they sell specifically for different divisions. This means our printer would have to print special shells for these two folks because of the different codes required on their cards. So now it's just creating extra work, and it takes up space on the cards.

I also learned this week that these QR codes are practically the wave of the future - they're popping up everywhere, especially on business cards. 

It's enough to make my mind swirl. I just find the whole concept exhausting and unnecessary. Since when does every damn piece of personal real estate space become extra advertising? I've had to ask myself that if I had a smartphone, would I really bother to scan every QR code in site? Perhaps I would...I've been avoiding upgrading my phone until I really have to. For me personally, I just don't see the point in having a communications gadget turned on 24/7, but maybe once I get one I'll feel differently. Who knows. Speaking of smartphones, if you were to ask me what the hottest model/trends are I'd have no clue. I keep hearing about the Android, but I can't tell you what makes it so cool compared to say, the iPhone. We are beyond the saturation point if you ask me.

It was fun and exciting when during the 80s we saw some cool technology advances, such as VCRs and the Sony Walkman. However, I think we've reached a point where technology has invaded every moment of our lives. Everyone is expected to keep that Blackberry on, even after work hours and at night.

My work requires that I keep on top of the latest technology to an extent, but frankly it's hard for me to get excited because I feel like there are more important things in life that matter. I saw this presentation the other day on SlideShare that predicted the top 100 hottest things and trends for 2011, and one of them was actually rehab for technology addicts. I could see that happening...and I'm grateful that my chances of entering one by this point are rather slim.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Be My Love Bug

When I was about 6 years old, there was one thing I wanted desperately more than anything else in the world, even more than Shaun Cassidy: a Volkswagen Beetle. Or more specifically, I wanted Herbie the Love Bug. I was absolutely infatuated with, it.

I really can't explain why I loved Herbie so much except to say in my first grade mind, he rocked: he could easily burn rubber and pop wheelies on the twisty San Francisco streets, squirt motor oil out his automotive butthole at bad guys and unruly drivers, and understand spoken commands. Plus the unmistakable rounded shape screamed "cute!" and appealed to my child senses. I must have watched The Love Bug at some point on TV, but since my fascination with Beetles began in the mid-70s before movies were available for rent on VHS, the closest I could get to Herbie was gazing at the 3D images of him inside my Viewmaster. Everything from the Disney movie stills looked so incredibly real, I thought I could actually step inside the slides to go for a ride in my dream car. I also had a couple of Matchbox Volkswagens. Mildly satisfying, but needless to say not even close to the real thing.

Now of course I realize that Herbie starred in Disney movies that are terribly uncool by today's adult standards despite co-starring Michelle Lee, Don Knotts and Stephanie Powers (some of the sequels to The Love Bug, such as Herbie Goes Bananas were pretty craptacular...and don't even get me started on the Lindsay Lohan tainted Herbie Fully Loaded) but at six years old, I was hardly a movie critic. When I was out riding with my mother and we saw a Volkswagen, especially a white one, I'd get excited and wave. I thought maybe the real Herbie was in disguise via a new paint job, and would toot his horn back at me. Being a faithful Catholic girl who regularly attended church, there was even a solid week where I prayed - and vehemently believed - that Jesus was going to deliver Herbie or a child sized version that I could actually drive - in my living room by Friday morning. I prayed every night but alas, Friday morning arrived and Herbie never manifested next to the sofa. I was disappointed. 

It didn't matter, because in 1998 I finally did get my own Herbie when Volkswagen resurrected its famous Bug, now being promoted as the New Beetle. I loved that car. I waited about four months after placing my order with the dealer for a red automatic with black seats to arrive. Everywhere I went the first year I owned it, we attracted attention - some bad (as in the case of a bunch of immature teen boys who yelled at me that my car sucked) but mostly good, and there were almost always questions about where the engine was located (the front, as opposed to the original Beetle where the engine was in the back.) I joined an email mailing list for other New Beetle owners and fans, and even attended a dinner with other fan club members.

I've always loved the interior and will never forget the new car smell. The high rounded roof provided plenty of headroom and made for a very spacious front seat. I felt like I was in a spaceship due to the rounded corners and bright blue and orange lights.

The only reason I gave the Beetle up was because it simply proved too slow, especially on the highway when trying to go up inclines. It was with a really heavy heart that I traded it in for a sensible yet sporty Honda Accord coupe - a vehicle which I really do love, by the way, but in a different way. I was actually a bit sad the night before I traded the Beetle in and even had second thoughts. I'd be lying if I said I that sometimes I still miss the car, and I often think that someday I'll end up with another one - this time a light blue convertible. Or maybe white with a 53 and stripes on the side - just like Herbie. 

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone! 

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Real Men Wear Belted Sweaters

Well, that must have been the case in 1971. How else to explain the hot blond hanging off this man's arm? Oh, how I wish I had known about these scans when I was putting together my Sexy Advertising Studs of the 70s posts a while back!

Apparently it took the knitting pattern company Columbia Minerva hundreds of years to finally catch on to what Robin Hood already knew: the men + a crocheted/knitted sweater + a crocheted/knitted belt = hotness. 
As if it couldn't get worse, some of these guys were forced to also wear hats. I think they should have issued a carpenter's know, a knitted belt with pockets for carpentry tools. If I were a carpenter and you were a lady...

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Go Retro's Retro Hottie of the Month: Jeff Bridges

The nonstop wintry weather must have finally turned my brain to mush because last month I totally forgot to name a Retro Hottie of the Month! I promise not to let you gals (and some of you guys) down again. My choice this month is easy - all around nice guy Jeff Bridges is currently being profiled on PBS' American Masters series and he's also nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for True Grit. Watching the episode, I learned quite a few interesting things about The Dude, such as that he's a bit of a weirdo (well, he is) but in a rather endearing way. Born into Hollywood royalty, Bridges has never really lost his laid back, surfer boy persona of his early years. I'm most impressed by the fact that he's been married to his wife for over 30 years. Whenever they make an appearance at an award show, they are without a doubt the cutest couple there. 

And let's face it, he's hot. One of the more memorable Bridges movies for me is one that actually wasn't a big box office splash back in 1984: Against All Odds (featuring the hit Phil Collins title song and a great performance by Kid Creole and the Coconuts.) In the American Masters special, I was surprised to hear director Taylor Hackford recall how Bridges was kind of pudgy entering the role, and was told to whip himself into shape since he was playing an ex-football player. Were his efforts worth it? Hell yeah. Truth be told I don't remember much of the plot, but I do remember the steamy love scene that took place with Bridges and costar Rachel Ward inside the Mexican Mayan ruins!

Anyways, enough's the Big Lebowski through the years, in all his splendor....


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