Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Meet My Nifty Mid-Century Modern Stacking Tables and Ceramic Cat Sculptures

If you're a long-time reader of this blog you may have wondered why I never seem to share anything vintage that I actually buy. The answer is I really haven't bought all that much, to tell you the truth. I'm really picky, and don't spend my money on just any old artifact. But earlier this summer, on a whim, I went on eBay and for some reason did a search for mid-century modern furniture.

And that's when I had an out-of-body experience, after spotting these stacking tables on the first page of search results. Have you ever seen something and knew immediately that you just had to buy it? Have you literally heard an inanimate object calling your name? "Paaaaamela. Paaaaamela....I belong to yooooooooou. Buy me, baby!"

Well, that's exactly what happened. I hadn't even planned on purchasing anything -- just wanted to browse the site after having a regular paycheck again -- but when I saw them online nothing was going to stop me from having them. When they arrived and I carefully unwrapped the packaging from around each leg, I knew that had I made the right decision. Had I seen these in person in a shop, I absolutely would have snatched them up.

Yes, they're definitely a half century old and show their age as well as signs of usage -- the pale yellow paint around the edges is chipped and there's some water stains and scratches on the larger table (by the way, if anyone reading this knows how to remove either from a Formica surface, please let me know.) However, that just tells me that the previous owner(s) loved them as much as I do.

I don't know who the manufacturer was; there's no info anywhere on these vintage beauties, but they're very well made and I'm guessing it was a Danish furniture maker. I got them from an antiques store in Hudson-on-Croton, NY for a few dollars less than what the seller had listed them for (thanks to the "make an offer" option on eBay. I think I got a great deal on them.) I fell in love with their modern triangular shape and that they can be configured in a number of ways.

Shortly after receiving them and putting them in my bedroom I realized they needed some sort of mid-century modern sculpture to keep them company. I wasn't too crazy about what was currently on eBay, so I turned to Etsy and that's when I came across an online shop called Making Clay Memories, operated by a ceramics designer named Dana Flemming. If you dig mid-century modern ceramic sculptures, then you'll go crazy over her merchandise just like I did. Dana owns several vintage clay molds from the 1950s and '60s including ones of cats, owls, songbirds, horses, and even quails (so if you want a set that looks like The Partridge Family birds from the opening credits, even in the same colors, she's got you covered!) Did I mention the color selection? Everything she makes can be customized from dozens of available colors, including golden yellow, chartreuse, retro pink, jade, and more.

Being a cat lover as well as a fan of the abstract shapes of these particular molds, I went with a pair of her Atomic Modern Minimalist cats in tangerine orange and aqua blue. Keep in mind that if you do order an item from Making Clay Memories that these sculptures take a couple of months to create. They have to be molded, dried, glazed, etc. and Dana also does a strict quality control on every item she produces, and if there's a flaw she's been known to start the process all over again to get it right. A lot of people use her sculptures as wedding cake toppers, so I would suggest if you need a pair for that purpose to get your order in super early and months in advance from the date you plan to tie the knot.

I've reached out to Dana about the possibility of her doing a giveaway with Go Retro, so stay tuned!

I love my "new" tables and new (for real) cat sculptures. I plan on collecting more mid-century modern pieces and touches for my own home someday.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Not How It Sounds...Five Songs Whose Singers Fooled Me

Have you ever listened to a song for a while or even years and because you've never seen the music video or a recorded performance of it, falsely assumed the singer was a particular gender or race because of how they sound? I've been surprised more than once to learn a singer's race or gender and I'm sure it's happened to lots of other listeners that just weren't privy yet to the performer's background. Wayne Newton's performance of "Danke Schoen" quickly comes to mind; a lot of people when hearing it for the first time thinks it was recorded by a woman. Here are five songs I heard countless times that fooled me until YouTube or Sirius set me straight...

Nick Gilder, "Hot Child In the City" (1978)

Who I Thought Sang It: Some woman with a Farrah Fawcett hairstyle
Who Really Sang It: A guy

For years I assumed that "Hot Child In the City" was a one-hit wonder for some little known female singer during the '70s, until I noticed the artist's name on Sirius just a few months ago. Nick Gilder...Nick as in Nicholas. Yep, fooled. He sure sings like a girl to me. And although the song is a catchy one, it would easily be included on a "Music for Pedophiles" compilation album, as it's about child prostitution that Gilder saw first-hand on the Hollywood streets. I hear that some of Gilder's follow-up recordings kind of mirror the same theme; needless to say I haven't bothered looking them up. Gilder started his career in a glam rock band called Sweeney Todd. Fun fact: after Gilder left the group to pursue a solo career, he was replaced by another Canadian-born singer, Bryan Adams.

The O'Kaysions, "Girl Watcher" (1968)

Who I Thought Sang It: A black man
Who Really Sang It: White boy

Not much to say here, really -- this is blue eyed soul at its best. Close your eyes and you'd never guess lead singer Donnie Weaver wasn't African American. The band is still performing today, with a different line-up.

The Pointer Sisters, "Automatic" (1984)

Who I Thought Sang It: A dude from the group's back-up band
Who Really Sang It: Ruth Pointer

Of course, I knew who The Pointer Sisters were when this song was released in 1984 but with apologies to Ruth Pointer who sings lead on it, for many years I thought it was a man from their back-up band doing the honors. Her voice is just so deep here that even when watching performances of it today, it's still a little hard for me to believe it's really her singing...but it is. Ruth told the song's producers that she would happily sing "the low part" and well, it worked.

Jane Child, "Don't Wanna Fall in Love" (1990)

Who I Thought Sang It: A black woman
Who Really Sang It: A white Canadian singer/songwriter with a crazy eccentric hairstyle and piercings

It wasn't long ago when this song popped into my head for some reason -- maybe because it's been a couple of decades now since I last heard it -- and when I saw the music video for the first time after all of these years, I was floored.

Was Jane Child an inspiration for Lady Gaga? I don't ever remember seeing her on TV when her one and only huge hit, "Don't Wanna Fall in Love", was released in 1990. I surely would have recalled that dreadlocked, punk version of a Crystal Gayle hairstyle and nose ring. Perhaps she didn't really achieve a higher level of fame because she refused to sing her hit on Top of the Pops, claiming the program was a "sellout."

Child has a website that says it was being 2007 (it looks like it was created in 1999.) A mysterious musical figure, for sure.

The Newbeats, "Bread and Butter" (1964)

Who I Thought Sang It: Initially a black woman; later a young black guy with an over-the-top falsetto
Who Really Sang It: A white blonde guy that kind of resembled Bill Clinton

I saved this one for last because a. it was my most recent discovery and b. it surprised me the most. The thing about this song is I consider it to be one of the most obnoxious musical works ever released; I mean, even the lyrics are silly and dumb. What self-respecting woman would only feed her loving man bread, butter, toast, and jam? She's a really lousy cook; the song informs us that she doesn't make mashed potatoes or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches! It's hard to believe that this song was a monster hit both in the U.S. and the UK in August 1964 -- keep in mind the Beatles had already conquered both continents months earlier, so WTF? Add in the fact that this band goes into dork mode overload during their live performance by pointing fingers at their lead singer while singing the verses. And why are there two saxophone players on the stage when the song doesn't even feature a sax? It's almost painful to watch.

The Newbeats were comprised of two brothers, Dean and Mark Mathis, and its lead singer, Larry Henley. Henley eventually left the brothers to pursue a solo career (um...I know without a doubt that I could not stomach an entire album filled with this guy's voice, but different strokes for different folks, I guess) and later co-wrote the Bette Midler ballad, "Wind Beneath My Wings."

"Bread and Butter" was later used in an advertising jingle for Schmidt's Blue Ribbon Bread..."I like bread and butter, I like toast and jam, I like Schmidt's Blue Ribbon Bread, it's my favorite brand." Also, Devo covered the song for the soundtrack to the steamy Mickey Rourke flick "9 1/2 Weeks." Wikipedia is trying to tell us that the song wasn't used in the film but they're wrong -- I distinctly remember watching it on television of all places and it was used during a scene where Rourke's character is feeding various foods to Kim Bassinger while she's blindfolded.

A strange, kinky legacy for a strange (but not so kinky) song.

OK, Go Retro readers, am I the only one that has made similar errors upon first hearing songs? Please tell me I'm not alone.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

It's Great To Be Alive! An Unintentionally Funny Safety Pamphlet From the 1950s

Going through the scanned images of It's Great To Be Alive!, two things quickly become obvious: a. kids from the 1950s were terrible bicycle riders and b. kids also did a lot of stupid, dangerous things.

I could find out little information about the history of It's Great To Be Alive! other than the fact that it was distributed by local police, but clearly someone at the time thought it would be a great idea to shock children into being safe by painting morbid scenarios of what could happen if you didn't exercise caution and common sense. This little booklet didn't mince words: there's maiming, crippling, and death sprinkled throughout its sometimes disturbing and unintentionally funny illustrations. So let's have a look...

They're right, you know. It really sucks to be dead...on the other hand, you can probably have lunch with John Lennon on the other side, and that's pretty cool.

Poor Mary. But she's lucky to get off with just a cast. Here are some kids that were not so fortunate...

Another. That means this happened on a regular basis in the 1950s.

Always respect your elders.

Forget Ralphie and his Red Ryder BB gun...who knew that falling off a bike is a sure-fire way to lose an eye? I just want to know which one is Bill and which is Joe in the illustration? I HAVE to know!

Tommy? More like Don Draper's silhouette once he hit the ground at the end of the opening credits for Mad Men.

See? I told you guys some crazy kid was going to lose his life playing Pokemon Go.

It's funny to see a depiction of kids (I think those are supposed to be kids) waving fake guns around on the street. Today, that would be deadlier to them than running out in front of oncoming traffic.

OK...why would you be hiding in a pile of leaves...on the street???

Of course, it depends on what the treat is. This is made even creepier by the fact that one of the pervert's hands is much larger than the other.

Oh, well. It could be worse -- at least he didn't drink the stuff.

This kid is stoned, right? That would explain the dazed look and why he's not screaming as his back is engulfed by flames.

The yuks stop here -- my sister's friend was actually pushed into an ice box by some of the neighborhood girls that were bullies back in the day. She had nightmares from the experience.

Stay safe, kids!

Monday, August 08, 2016

New Day. New Ideas. A New You (Er, Me)

So here's the scoop, kids. On Friday I was informed that my position at work was being eliminated. Yep, this is the same job that I thought I had successfully manifested using the law of attraction and that I posted about on here earlier this year because I was so happy and excited about it. But the universe had other ideas. And to be honest, with each passing week it was becoming more apparent that the place was not the right vibrational match for me, after all. I was only there for just over five months.

This is the fifth time I've been laid off. While I was blindsided and of course, a little angry at first, it didn't take me long to realize as the weekend went on that this is a blessing in numerous ways. And here is the epiphany I've come to realize that only took getting hit over the head five times over 44 years...

I'm going to pursue some kind of writing career. I want to be a writer.

It is time to stop denying this dream to myself for fear of not succeeding or thinking I'll never have enough money doing it. I am not a brand strategist, or a web designer, or a SEO specialist, or a paid search specialist. I don't like researching and ordering branded swag items. I don't like organizing trade shows and then standing behind a booth all day. I am also not a "yes"woman and wasn't meant to wipe someone's butt for them. (I do, however, believe I have decent graphic design and social media skills.) I can keep going down the same path of trying to make my round peg fit into a square hole which just ultimately leads to the same results. Or I can finally listen to where my inner being is calling me.

I love to write, and I love the more journalistic style of writing and easy marketing copywriting.

I am going to see if I can attract a fun, easy, paid, work from home writing job as a start. I had one last year and earlier this year before starting the full time job, and the articles with my name attached to them are all over real estate websites across the country. It was a fun gig and a great start. I'm also going to look into taking an online course or two through MediaBistro, which offers classes for all kinds of writers.

Maybe I'll end up working for a local magazine, or taking some kind of part-time related job. No, it probably won't be anywhere near what I was making at previous jobs. This is starting all over, at the bottom. But I know I'll be a lot more fulfilled and happy. of my dreams has always been to launch my own magazine; a nostalgia-related one, of course. Wouldn't it be cool to see Go Retro in print?

I also want to take a pottery class and learn how to make ceramics!

This morning, I am happy. Really blessed and happy. I still have my long-standing freelance social media/writing/marketing gig with another company (whose president has told me multiple times what an awesome job I do and that he would never lay me off) so I have that income. I have my health. I have my mother's house and rent-free living.

It's time to follow where my heart has always been taking me.

Saturday, August 06, 2016

Pokemon No Go: Why the Pokemon Game Craze Is Stupid

You knew this blog post was coming, didn't ya? I'm sure I'll catch some heat for saying this, but Pokemon Go is a stupid game. Go ahead: call me old, outdated, antiquated, ignorant, whatever. The fact remains that when you need a mobile video game to entice people to actually go outside and get some exercise, something is kind of off with the world.

In case you're wondering what Pokemon Go is, it's a "location-based augmented reality game" (thanks, Wikipedia) designed by Niantic for mobile devices. As of July 11, the game had been downloaded 7.5 million times. A user's phone coordinates its GPS system with the game to place Pokemon characters in indoor and outdoor settings for players to "catch." They look for Pokemon characters to collect by viewing the world through their mobile phone or tablet, and in the process end up falling off of cliffs, walking onto highways, crashing into police cruisers, or violating historical settings.

If you thought I was kidding about that last sentence, all of those incidents actually occurred within a week or two of the game's release last month. You can look them up.

Yes, Pokemon Go is one way to get the blood flowing, Unfortunately, it was also a can of worms waiting to open and seems to be making the news nearly every day -- not for something good, mind you, unless you count the dead body that a teenage girl found in a Wyoming lake.

Look, I was a video game addict when the Atari 2600 (yes, I'm showing my age here) was released. Suddenly I left the world of Barbies and Easy Bake ovens behind and entered the cubism world of Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, and Q-Bert, among others. I also played with my friend's Intellivision at her house and we made trips to the local arcade. I still remember getting callouses on my left palm where the corner of the joystick box rested. My nieces and nephews grew up with Nintendo and Super Mario Bros.

But thankfully, time away from video games was still time interacting with the real world back then. My parents made sure I turned off the console and went outside. I can see where defenders of Pokemon Go would argue that the game's structure gets people to go outside and physically move their bodies. The problem is, they're not truly paying attention to the world through their tiny screens. They're walking around practically blind and not paying attention to the street, oncoming traffic, or anyone else. In mid July, two young men tumbled 50 feet down a San Diego area cliff while playing the game. Geez. I could see if one guy came close to the edge and his friend stopped him in time, but two people were so consumed with chasing after fictional characters that they both fell off? Just let that sink in for a minute.

In the Boston area, there's a new Meetup group devoted to getting together to play the game. So now socializing and human bonding can't happen for some of these folks unless they're tethered to their smartphones. There are 256 members so far, and many of them look like rejected extras from The Big Bang Theory.

Another problem with Pokemon Go is that it's enticing many users to play the game in areas where frankly, it's disrespectful and inappropriate. The Holocaust Museum, Auschwitz, and Arlington National Cemetery asked Niantic to remove their locations from the game's software. Said Andrew Hollinger, The Holocaust Museum's communications director, "Technology can be an important learning tool, but this game falls far outside our educational and memorial mission."

How sad is it that these kids didn't already know that it might not be a good idea to go Picachu hunting in the gas chambers? Nintendo and Niantic are also being sued by a New Jersey man that claims a number of Pokemon Go players have trespassed his property in an effort to "catch them all." (He gives new meaning to the phrase, "Get off my lawn!")

Even sadder, I feel that Pokemon Go is just the beginning of mobile apps and games that are designed to take humans farther and father away from reality and interacting with others. How far down the rabbit hole -- or a cliff -- will people allow themselves to be led?

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