Monday, November 28, 2016

Special Announcement: Go Retro's New YouTube Channel!

Well guys, I finally did it...Go Retro now has a YouTube channel. After nearly a decade of writing this blog I've finally been motivated to jump on the video bandwagon after seeing some fun, professional videos from a couple of other vintage bloggers that I've been following lately and also, the blog had a very good year this year, with readership and page views increasing.

For my male readership, rest assured that this does not mean Go Retro is going to turn into a girly vintage fashion blog. As I explain in my first video, I still plan on writing plenty of content here that appeals to men, women, and both. Having said that, I HAVE been thinking lately that it might be fun to have a YouTube channel to cover vintage makeup and hair tutorials, recipes, stuff I've purchased, or anything else I feel like jabbering about. Truth is, I'm winging it a bit. As you can see from my first video below, I'm not using a fancy video recording camera like those really professional bloggers are using. But I'm sure these will get more polished, especially after I learn some video editing skills. (Looks like my posture needs some polishing in spots, too!)

My first video is below (please be kind!) I do have an idea for another video in the coming weeks, so you'll be "seeing" me again soon! I look forward to having some fun with this in 2017!

Friday, November 25, 2016

The Go Retro Holiday Gift Guide 2016

Now that Thanksgiving is done and dusted, and most of us are recovering from our turkey comas, it's time to start thinking about Christmas, Hanukkah, and any other gift-giving holidays. This year I've finally made the commitment to posting something I've been wanting to do for the past few years during the holiday shopping season: a retro gift guide! Throughout the past few years I've come across so many nifty new products with a retro slant that I thought I'd list them here in case you have a retro-loving loved one on your list to buy for this year. Now, I'm not going to tell you that "there's something here to please everybody" but I've tried my best to create a list that has items that appeal to men, and products that appeal to ladies. Anyways, here's ten gift ideas for the person that would like to bring a little bit of the retro into their modern life. Please note that prices stated were the prices available at the time I wrote this post; pricing and availability is, of course, subject to change. (And in case it's not obvious, the name of each product is also linked to where you can buy it online.)

1. Moon Beam Alarm Clock by L.L. Bean, $49.95

L.L. Bean has been selling this charming 1950s' style clock manufactured by Big Ben/Westclox for quite a few years now, and I own one and love it! You have the option of being awakened by the loud alarm ring, or the soft LED light (this second option, however, has failed to wake me up and if your head is turned away from the clock it's even less effective. Results may vary by sleeper.) It can be set so that just the light or alarm wakes you up, or both -- and the face has a soft backlight that can be switched on in case you need to check the time in the middle of the night. Of course, it is also has a snooze function, and runs on both electricity or two AA batteries so if you should lose power the little clock keeps on ticking. L.L. Bean currently has it available in an aqua blue or pale green; the model I have is a pastel yellow.

No radio, but need one with a USB port to charge your mobile device? L.L. Bean sells a version with that option.

2. Corelle's Vintage Charm Collection, Various Prices

I saw these dishes and bowls when I visited the Corningware (Corelle's parent company) outlet in Kittery, Maine a couple of months ago and if I didn't already have enough home goods previously purchased and in storage for my own house someday, I would have snatched some of these up, too. These were inspired by previous designs by Pyrex and Corelle during the 1970s, so if you want to bring a bit of that sunshiny '70s goodness into your home, check them out. My favorites are the Golden Days and Tickled Pink mixing bowls. Right now they're on sale on Corelle's website -- so as Bob Barker would say, the price is right!

3. Crosley Rochester 5-In-1 Entertainment Center, $88.00

Despite the changes in the music industry in the past few decades, the enthusiasm for vinyl remains high. I looked at several turntables this week on Target but this one caught my attention because of the fact that it can play cassettes as well as CDs, and the reviews said the sound was remarkably nice for the price. Plus I love its old timey, 1920s radio-style look. Target sells a ton of turntables by Crosley and Victrola in similar styles with various options, so if this one doesn't do it for you check out the others while the sale prices are in effect.

4. Qwerkywriter -- The Retro Bluetooth Mechanical Keyboard, $339.99

Missing the clackity clack typing sensation of your high school or college typewriter? Well, the Qwerkywriter turns any mobile device or desktop computer into a vintage typewriter, without the need for whiteout or an ink ribbon. It pairs with any Bluetooth-enabled device. A little pricey, but such is the price we pay for nostalgia.

5. Ladies' '70s-Inspired Flower Power Long-Sleeved Crewneck Tee and Blouse From Talbots, $34.99 and $59.99

I have the machine washable woven cotton top on the left; the colors are fabulous, the fit is close to the body, and will add some pop to your winter doldrums. The blouse on the right is made of rayon and probably not as cozy for this time of year, but brings back that 1970s fun nonetheless and both look great with jeans. Talbots has been having online sales on various items nearly every day, and these as tops have been on sale quite a bit, I'd suggest snatching them up before they eventually sell out.

6. AMC Retro 3.5mm Telephone Handset Receiver for iPhone, $14.99

If you've gotten rid of your land line and you miss the familiar feeling of a handset, then just plug the AMC retro telephone handset receiver into your iPhone, and you'll soon be untangling the spiral cord just like the old school days. A benefit to this product according to the company is that it eliminates radiation absorption by up to 99% and reduces noise, resulting in a clearer call. I've shown the model in classic black, but it also comes in a few fun colors just like the princess phones of the '50s and '60s.

7. Libbey Tiki Glasses, Assorted Styles and Prices

Libbey, perhaps the world's largest manufacturer of glasses, introduced several tiki designs this year of various sizes and colors. You'll have to search for them on the Libbey site, but they're also being sold through Wayfair and several other online retailers. The sets are reasonably priced and sure to turn any gathering or BBQ into an early '60s tropical lounge!

8. Peanuts 65th Anniversary Edition Colorforms, $19.95

The Vermont Country Store has oodles of retro goodies and a selection of Peanuts merchandise including PJs and flannel sheets, but it was the classic Colorforms set that caught my eye; pure nostalgia from my childhood. For some reason I just loved these place on/peel off character sets as a kid. If you want to introduce your own children to something simple to play with that just requires imagination or you want to play around with them yourself, check the Vermont Country Store out; otherwise, you'll have to find a used Colorforms on eBay.

9. Fuijifilm Instax Mini 8 Instant Photo Camera, $56.20

There was something about those Polaroid pictures, right? Yeah, the color was usually horrendous and often took on a softly focused, sepia-like quality, but when the company folded some of us missed them just the same. Fujifilm introduced its line of instant photo cameras a few years ago, and I actually own an Instax Mini 8. The picture size is much smaller than Polaroids; 2.5" high by 2" wide -- but that's what makes them fun. And the color? It's improved slightly from the 1970s Polaroid version and the pictures don't fade over time. The built-in flash always fires and you can play around with a brightness adjustment dial. This is also a great little camera for kids as well, as it gives them instant gratification without having to wait for mom or dad to print out digital snaps. (Yes, you do have to pay for the instant film but it's reasonably priced and found easily on Amazon.)

10. Nostalgia Electronics '50s Style 3-In-1 Breakfast Station, $68.59

I recently discovered Nostalgia Electronics and fell so much in love with everything they make that I was hard pressed to pick just one item for this gift guide, but I think this 3-in-1 breakfast station is a knock out. Make toast, brew up to 4 cups of coffee, and grill up some pancakes or eggs at the same time for the fam with this nifty looking gadget. The grill plate and oven rack remove for easy cleaning, and the whole thing is just so plain cool to look at.

Here's the part of the post where I wish I could be like Ellen or Oprah and say I'm doing a giveaway of all ten items to one lucky reader but alas, I'm not that big of a blogger (yet.) Next year, kids. In the meantime, maybe this has helped with some ideas on Santa's list.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Why It's OK To Want To Be A Housewife Today

I have a confession to make. If I meet the right man within the next few years, get married, and he's in a position where I can stay at home and earn income on my blogs and freelance writing either full-time or in conjunction with a part-time job outside of the home, I'd be thrilled. I'm also perfectly happy cleaning the house and making dinner for him while he works full-time.

In other words, there's a part of me that fantasizes about being a housewife, albeit a modern (and hopefully not desperate) one.

Is that shocking? A sexist view? Do I sound lazy? Way too old school? (Well, this is a retro blog, after all.) Am I setting my sisterhood of my fellow gender back about a century with that revelation?

I don't think so. In recent years I've come across blog posts...and entire blogs...written by modern housewives. Young ones, too; younger than me in most cases. And they're happy, and they love it. Some of these women don't even have children and they love the arrangement. And they assure their readers that it isn't a case of being controlled by their husband; this was a choice (albeit one they made after confirming that it was financially feasible for their household.)

I think that's the key word: choice. A lot of feminists may not be thrilled by the idea of women devoting most of their time to minding the children and keeping the kitchen floor shiny (without any yellow waxy build-up, the very thing that plagued Mary Hartman.) But if there's one thing feminism accomplished in the 20th century, it's that it gave women choices. That includes a choice of going to work outside of the household, or staying at home.

I realize that not everyone can do it. The cost of living in America has skyrocketed--especially in particular states--compared to when my parents were married and raising my siblings and me. I consider myself very lucky that I always had my mother waiting at home to greet me when I came home from school. By the 1980s, many of the kids in my school were living with a divorced parent and often coming home to an empty house while their mom or dad was still at the office.

And it isn't that my mother didn't want to work. Before I was born, she once got a job at a florist and the store manager was going to train her in floral arranging, and my father made her quit. What the reason was, we don't know exactly, but I believe he was self-conscious and didn't like relinquishing part of the financial power to her. To this day, she still resents it, and says she would have had a nice nest egg saved up as a result. (Later, when I was a teenager and in my 20s, she did do sewing work at home for a woman that ran her own children's clothing business.)

My dad was a control freak, and that makes me a bit resentful, too. The WWII generation was a different animal compared to the guys of today. Great in some ways, but behind the times compared to today in others. My dad never changed a single diaper in his life; today, I don't think I've met a single father that's never helped out in that department.

But back to the joys of housewifery...I have a friend that I met through my Meetup group that is married and stays at home, by choice. She has a degree in hydraulic engineering and did have a full-time job a few years ago, but says she was so bored she was falling asleep at her desk. She and her husband have no children; when they met in college, she told him she didn't want them and he was OK with that. They own a big, beautiful home and travel about 3-4 times a year, and that includes at least one international excursion. She cooks. They entertain. And...they're happy. Really, really happy for a couple that's been married over 20 years. They're huge on fostering dogs and she's very active with a local dog rescue group. If she's not fostering a new dog in her home, she's transporting it to another foster or their forever home.

She probably wouldn't think of herself as a housewife or homemaker; after all, her passion that takes up most of her free time is helping the dogs. But I think she is, just a modern one that again, was lucky enough to have that choice.

I would imagine that for couples where one spouse/partner stays at home, that things have to be relatively less stressful then households where both partners work full-time. Maybe not so if you have babies and/or toddlers or a special needs child, but when the kids are in school I would imagine, in general, that there's more time for a stay-at-home mom to be able to exercise, take a nap, or meet a friend for lunch. I don't have children and yet there were many work weeks where I felt frazzled and like there were too many responsibilities at home that needed to be tended to before the weekend came. I would think to myself how easy I had it compared to a mother that needs to take care of her children's needs on top of working 40 hours a week or more.

And let's not forget that there are a lot of househusbands out there today as well. I saw an article earlier this year about the unfair judgement these men often receive from their female counterparts at the playground and bus stop. These guys have said that they are frowned upon, and often viewed with less respect than stay-at-home moms. Many have lost their jobs and are taking care of the kids while their wife works and supports the household. In my opinion, there's absolutely nothing wrong with this arrangement; they should be commended for stepping up to the plate and raising the kids. It's not like their masculinity has taken a hit because they're home with their children full-time.

There was a time when I thought I'd be bored out of my mind if I didn't have a full-time job. But now, after more than 20 years of bouncing from company to company and trying to prove myself, sometimes to really overly egotistical people, only to find myself downsized...well, the archaic housewife dream doesn't seem all that bad. Maybe it sounds like I'm setting women back, but I don't think there's anything so bad about wanting to keep a house decent looking and providing a hot meal for a husband when he gets home (provided he chips in on the weekends with cooking and household/yard chores.)

And if I do get bored and want to return to a full-time job? I would still want to have that choice.

Well, this is just my opinion, anyway. I have a lot of respect for housewives, both past and present. And if there are any happy housewives (or husbands) that read my blog and feel like chipping in with their two cents and how it's working for them, I'd love to hear it!

Friday, November 18, 2016

Dear Eighties, You Look Ridiculous

I know, it's not earth shattering news to declare on a blog that the '80s looked so awful. I love the '80s; I really do. I came of age, so to speak, in the decade and I loved the music and seeing "technology" (aka Walkmans and VCRs) sprout at a rapid pace before our eyes. But believe it or not, it's only recently that I could appreciate just how flipping terrible our clothing and hair looked during this decade of decadence. Don't get me wrong or call me clueless -- I've known for a good 20 years now how bad we all looked back then. But what I'm trying to say is that at the time I was living through the era I was blissfully unaware of it all. I thought I looked GOOD.

I thought THIS looked good:

I thought THIS was cool:

I thought THIS was cute:

What were we all thinking at the time? Eighties fashion is now so laughable and regrettable that they now make Halloween costumes of it. And if you wore one to a party, there's no doubt everyone would know what moment in history you're from.

To be fair, the start of the decade wasn't so awful looking at all. Take a look at, for example, (and I know this is a really oddball choice) a movie like Caddyshack. OK, with all fairness it was filmed in 1979 and released in 1980, but for the first few years of the '80s, clothing was still pretty normal looking in my opinion. Yeah, it was filmed on a golf course, but the tees and shirts were still pretty mainstream. We had no inkling of the outlandish shoulder pads and bulky sweaters that were to come.

I remember that most of my clothing for the first two or three years of the '80s was pretty much the same as the '70s. I remember my now-former sister-in-law at the time giving me some of her three-quarter sleeved angora sweaters. I wore them to school with my Levis and felt sexy (even though I still really had no clue what the word meant) for the first time in my life.

We also had the preppy look which started early and continued into the decade. Seeing the "Bermuda bag" in this diagram was truly a flashback for me; I had one as well as both of my sisters.

I'd say it was about around 1984 when everything kind of fell apart...or exploded, depending upon your perspective. I'm no fashion historian or expert, so I don't know what was going on in Paris and New York that was driving some of these mid-80s looks. I can only guess that it was a reflection of the MTV craze and pop culture at the time, even though (ironically) we went through a phase in the '80s where the '50s look was big.

The following magazine cover below is from the Australian version of Vogue, circa 1985. Kinda says it all, really -- although I will admit I like the scarf (just not being worn on the head like that) and the funky earrings.

And speaking of neon lipstick, I had a bright hot pink sweatshirt that matched the lipstick above. Just like the sun, no one could risk looking directly into. I had the miles of thin rubber bracelets, the leg warmers, the parachute pants, a pair of hightop Reeboks, the jelly shoes, and several leggings covered with funky patterns that matched my ESPRIT sweaters. (I still think there's nothing wrong with wearing leggings today, as long as they're a solid, neutral color.

At least we can't say there wasn't any color in clothing during this time.

I had baggy sweaters with shoulder pads (cringe.) My mother and I recently got rid of several Vogue Knitting issues we'd been holding onto from the '80s. They weren't even worth scanning and poking fun at on this blog. Mostly sweaters that looked like Bill Cosby's, but for women. It's amazing -- you can find lots about '60s designs that you could wear today, and even some trends from the '70s if modified for the modern age. But the '80s knitting pattern books had to GO.

One of my favorite '80s staples that I did like were jumpsuits. Mine were actually pretty sleek and slim looking, not the baggy ones you often see in old catalog or pattern scans. I had a navy blue one from the Spiegel catalog made out of comfortable woven cotton jersey, and it had a drawstring and pockets. To this day I wish I still had it.

One small consolation to me is that the men didn't have it so easy, either.

And don't even get me started on the hair and makeup during this time. "Maybe she's born with it"? No, more like she speckled it on...

I'm just glad that the chances are good that we won't be seeing these fashion trends for a good long time; possibly never again, although some designers have tried unsuccessfully to bring back large shoulders and other details in recent years. Fortunately I don't think anyone is gullible enough to put up with this again. I guess the one good thing I can say about '80s fashion is that it was as unforgettable as it was regrettable.

Saturday, November 05, 2016

10 Underrated Hall and Oates Songs

I love Daryl Hall and John Oates. Gosh, it feels refreshingly easy for me to say that today.

Believe it or not, it wasn't easy being a teen fan of Hall and Oates in the '80s. Yes, it should have been a piece of cake during their heyday, with so many catchy, easily charting hits such as "Private Eyes", "Kiss On My List", "Say It Isn't So", "Did It In A Minute", "I Can't Go For That", "Maneater", "Out of Touch", and countless others.

Yes, it should have been. Except I was 12 years old when my infatuation started, and I went to a junior high where it was all about how "cool" you were by the brand names of clothing that you wore, and the music that you listened to.

And for some reason, Daryl Hall and John Oates weren't cool in my peers' eyes...and even by family members, for that matter.

My classmates teased me, my sisters said that they were gay, and even my friends at the time (who were into Duran Duran and Tears for Fears) thought they were lame by comparison. Recently I stumbled upon a Rolling Stone interview with them at the time Big Bam Boom was released, and the reporter opens the piece by describing the unintentionally amusing questions that viewers called in for them during a MTV program. Every single one sounded like it came directly from one of my nitwit peers back in the day:

"Are you guys fags?"
"Why are you dressing like you're into punk these days?"
"How did you make the drums (in the "Out of Touch" video) so big?"

Needless to say, I believe that Hall and Oates never got the proper respect in some circles that they deserved back in the day. Part of that may have been because their music wasn't so easy to categorize. Were they pop artists? Rock? Soul? Easy listening? All of the above, in my opinion.

And also freaking awesome!

It's now been more than 40 years since I fell in love with Daryl Hall and his "blue eyed soul" voice, face, and musical talent...and John Oates' humorous sidekick camera hamming (and his musical talent as well.) And I think I still love them and their music just as much as ever before. As I binged my way recently through every music video that I remembered (and some I had never seen) I swear I could feel my vibration rise...those feel-good endorphins kicking in. Suddenly I'm a young teen again, and I'm waving my H&O freak flag proudly.

(By the way, my crush ended when Daryl grew out his hair into an overgrown, badly permed mullet by 1985. When he came out on stage at the 1985 Liberty concert sporting the 'do as well as tight pants, I felt that he was trying to emulate David Lee Roth or somebody. I much preferred the Daryl from the early '80s with the blazers, sideburns, and shorter pompadour hairstyle. My, but he was dreamy back in those days. Whenever I heard "Kiss On My List" I pretended he was singing about me.)

Where was I? Oh, right -- respect. How can anyone diss a band where G.E. Smith is the lead guitarist??? Or that has the coolest sax player that is STILL with the band? (Something I learned during my trip down memory lane: Charles "Mr. Casual" Dechant doesn't appear in a single H&O music video without wearing sunglasses.) My favorite line-up of this group is always going to be these guys, plus the late Tom "T-Bone" Wolk on bass and Michael Curry on drums.

I also want to set one thing straight, because it's been bothering me for all of these years: Daryl Hall and John Oates are NOT gay. Sure, Daryl had that androgynous look for a while during the '70s (he even appears wearing a dress and high heeled sandals in the promotional video for "She's Gone" -- look up this odd gem of a video sometime.) And yes, the guys allowed themselves to be made up in make-up for their fourth studio album simply titled "Daryl Hall and John Oates." (Hall later said he resembled the type of woman he wanted to date.)

I hate to burst the naysayers' bubbles, but Hall has been married twice -- and was in a long-term relationship with Sara Allen (yep, the woman that "Sara Smile" was written for--and who also co-wrote many of the band's hits) for nearly 30 years. (He also cheated on her which resulted in him becoming a father, which I'll get to in a minute.) Oates is still married to his second wife. Whenever the gay question came up in interviews, Hall would respond that Oates just wasn't his type--too short and dark.

Speaking of Oates, it was a shock to see him sans mustache eventually in his career. (Not to worry; his facial hair lived on in a cartoon dedicated to his trademark, called "J-Stache.")

I could go on and on about my love for H&O, but this blog post is about ten songs of theirs that I would consider underrated...songs of theirs that should have charted higher or simply have never received any radio play...and there are many, stretching back to Whole Oats, their debut album. (Joke time...what did these guys do before they were famous? They were truck drivers...hauling oats! Ba da bump!)

Las Vegas Turnaround (1973)

"Sara Smile" wasn't the first song H&O wrote about Sara Allen; she also appeared in "Las Vegas Turnaround", a breezy little tune about her adventures at the time as an airline stewardess.

"Back Together Again" (1976)

A groovy lost tune from the disco era and the Bigger Than Both Of Us album, this one reached #28 on the U.S. music charts. I love the juxtaposition of Hall's falsetto with Oates' vocals (Oates also takes full credit on the writing honors for this one.) To the best of my knowledge I have NEVER heard this one on the radio which defies logic.

"It's a Laugh" (1979)

We've all been here.

"Intravino" (1979)

Other than the depressing "Red Red Wine", how many pop songs do you know that sing the virtues of the grape-derived alcohol? Given how prevalent wine tours and drinking has become over the past 15 years or so, this song seems ahead of its time -- and has a great, fast pulsed New Wave sound to it.

"Every Time You Go Away" (1980)

Better than Paul Young's cover, in my opinion, with a gospel-like sound to it. This appeared on Voices.

"Your Imagination" (1981)

Remember when Daryl Hall and John Oates showed up at your work's office building to film a music video? Me neither, but this overlooked gem that appeared on the highly successful Private Eyes album failed to go high on the charts for some reason.

I'm guessing that Hall wrote this, again, about Sara Allen. He admitted to having flings to People magazine, stating that he often had to deal with his girlfriend's "traumas." Allen's suspicions were well-founded: in 1983, Hall had a one-night stand with an 18 year-old fan after a concert which resulted in her getting pregnant. Now in his 30s, Hall's son says his father, sadly, won't have much to do with him despite being proven his biological parent with a DNA test. The mother says the band's crew would regularly pull good looking girls from the audience at shows to meet the guys backstage--she compared the room she waited in as the cattle call area.

I was kind of disappointed to learn that Hall and Oates resorted to this kind of behavior...but such is the life of a rock star, especially once they make it big, I guess.

"Family Man" (1982)

Yes, this song WAS a hit--albeit a bit of a lost one in my opinion--and I've always felt the guitar licks by G.E. Smith and Oates in this one were under appreciated.

"Possession Obsession" (1984)

I love this track from the Big Bam Boom album. The message is still relevant today, and it's always nice to hear Oates take the reins and sing lead. If I remember correctly, it deserved more radio time and a higher place on the charts.

"Bank On Your Love" (1984)

Also from Big Bam Boom, this sexy rocker with just the right amount of country twang is probably one of the duo's least known songs and really shows their versatility. I can think of a multitude of other artists that could have covered it but to the best of my knowledge, no one's ever touched it, although Billy Gibbons did a nice version of it with Hall on Live From Daryl's House.

"Do It For Love" (2003)

As some people may remember, Hall and Oates split up in 1985 to pursue solo projects. They reconciled and recorded a new album in 1988, but I've always felt a bit of the gold they struck with their '70s and '80s' hits was lost. "Do It For Love", though, which was released in 2003, seemed to retain some of that magic but updated for the new millennium.

I'm going to remain a Daryl Hall and John Oates fan 'til the day I die. What underrated or favorite tracks would you add to my list?

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