Friday, December 23, 2016

Merry/Happy [your holiday goes here]

Well, it’s that time of year again when we shake our fists at the dark, and decide that rather than bitching and moaning about the cold and gloom, find something to celebrate. In my house, it’s Front Door 2016Christmas – especially Christmas Eve. Make that secular Christmas and secular Christmas Eve. It’s been quite a while since I did anything to keep Christ in Christmas. (Sorry, Ma!) For me, it’s family and friends, and this year a bit more volunteering than usual. And, of course, the general PITA that comes with the season.

While there’s plenty associated with the holiday that falls into the PITA category, I do like seeing red and green around. And as far as I’m concerned, they can keep the colored lights up on Boston Common until spring. Quite pretty and cheerful. The wreath on my front door will be there until January 8th – just in time for the Christmas tree pickup on January 9th.

TreeI got my Christmas tree up early this year, thanks to the help of my sister Trish. And thanks to the fact that last year, I read up on how not to have an allergic reaction to your tree: you hose it down. No more stuffed up nose! My tree looks pretty much the same every year. Imperfect, but that’s perfectly in keeping… This year I’ll try to get it down for the first Christmas tree pickup on January 2nd – mostly because enough is enough, but also because – given the drought and the fact that my tree this year went up so early – this sucker is shedding like mad. I’d like to get it down and out before it goes Charlie Brown or turns orange.

As for Santa, I remember the exact moment that I stopped believing. It was when our lanky neighbor, Jack McGinn, swung by on Christmas Eve and, little seven year old shrewdy that I was, I cannily figured out it was Mr. McGinn. Santa, ptui! Somewhere around here, I have a picture taken of me and Santa/Mr. McGinn on Christmas Eve 1956, the second before I entered disbelief mode. Until this year, that was the last picture I had taken with Santa.


But there I was, at Monday Mania, the wrap up event for Christmas in the City, when nearly 10,000 toys were distributed to needy families. I wasn’t going to have my picture taken – bah humbug to that – but this Santa was pretty insistent, and all the other volunteers were being agreeable, so here you have it.

Anyway, as we wrap up this year and look forward to the next with mixed emotions (emotions that include fear and loathing, I’m afraid), Pink Slip would like to wish you and yours a Merry Christmas (secular or religious), and/or a Happy Holidays for whichever you observe.

In keeping with tradition, Pink Slip now settles in for a long winter’s nap – or at least one that lasts until the New Year, when we shall return.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Funny money

I’m not 100% there yet – I’ll still call a Boston Cab on occasion – but I’ve gotten myself increasingly hooked on Uber. It’s cheap, it’s convenient, and I haven’t had any drivers who were psycho. On the contrary, most have been pretty interesting to talk to. Sure, I’ve goofed up a couple of times and ordered UberBlack, which costs more than a cab. But live and learn.

Anyway, for now I’m an Uber-ite. I’m not sure how I’ll feel in a few years when the fleet is fully autonomous and there’s no interesting driver to talk to. (I will definitely refuse to interact with something robotic.) Bottom line: I’m not Uber Über Alles, but I do like the service.

Speaking of bottom line, as an Uber user, I was interested to see that, so far this year, the company has lost an estimated $2.2 billion, and is staring down a full-year loss of $2.8 billion It would have been worse if Uber hadn’t failed in its attempt to Uber-ize China, which earned a windfall when they sold out to a Chinese competitor. (Am I the only one who remembers when $1 billion was a ton of revenue, and unthinkable as a loss?)

At the same time, the company's revenue has continued to grow even after leaving the world's most populous country. Uber generated about $3.76 billion in net revenue [revenue after payments to its drivers] in the first nine months of 2016 and is on track to exceed $5.5 billion this year, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the information is private. (Source: Bloomberg)

But income and losses ain’t nothing when compared to Uber’s valuation, which stands at $69 billion. Closely held, so not market cap. And paltry when compared to the market caps of the big players. (In case you’re interested, the Top Ten are Apple at $624.2 billion, Google, Microsoft, Berkshire Hathaway, Exxon Mobil, Amazon, Facebook, Johnson & Johnson, JP Morgan/Chase, and GE bringing up the bottom of the Top Ten with a market cap of $284.2 billion. (Remember when the Dow Jones Industrial Average was actually – get this – industrial?)

I believe that these guys are all profit makers – even Amazon – but I continue to be amazed at how much companies, like Uber, that lose money can be so highly valued. It’s all in the promise, I guess. Think how profitable Uber can be when it owns a fleet of autonomous vehicles and doesn’t have to pay squat to its drivers.

Still, whatever the promise, $69 billion is a lot of money. So here’s my question: how funny will the money be if and when Uber goes public?


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Geezers keep on chugging along

I just did a quick mental inventory of my same-age friends (mid late-sixties), and I find that most of them are retired. A number that just increased by one when a friend whose career was in high-end retail decided to start cashing in the kabillion frequent flyer miles she acquired jetting off to NY-Paris-Milan fashion weeks all these years. Those still working are generally, like me, working part-time: a retired judge is working at her husband’s law firm; a retired medical social worker is now teaching college. The two friends who come to mind that I know are still full-time full-time are a partner in a big Boston law firm, and someone who is in business with her husband.

Most of my geezer buddies are just chillaxing: volunteering, traveling, playing with the grandkids, reading, writing, coloring, hanging loose…

I go back and forth on when to really and truly retire. It will probably be when people stop asking me to do projects for them. I’ve never marketed myself or my services, and I’m not about to start now, thank you. If they keep asking, I’m sure I’ll keep saying ‘yes.’ It gives me something to do, and keeps my hands out of the 401K cookie jar. (Maybe if I’d been shrewd enough to ever work any place that had a pension, I might feel differently…) Mostly, though, my work is interesting and entertaining, and I have wonderful clients. So why not keep working? (Of course, if and when I stop working, I guess I’ll have to start getting serious about what I’m going to with my life, something I’ve been successfully dodging for 60+ years.)

Turns out that, when it comes to working, there are plenty of us out there. And – get this – some companies are actually instituting plans to keep near-retirees working part time as they transition to retirement. At Steelcase out in Michigan, an electrician named David Warsen, who – when he hits 65 in February, will be among 10,000 fellow-boomers to do so that day -  has eased out of six-day-a-week work schedule and into 30 hours over four days.

“It’s a win-win because he has vast experience and skills we’re short on and need to teach younger workers, and he doesn’t have to go cold turkey into retirement,” says Steve Kempker, manager of skilled trades at the plant, where a quarter of the 800 workers will be eligible to retire over the next three to five years. “This gives me an opportunity to slow down from a very intense work schedule,” says Warsen, who’s spending more time golfing and biking, “so I can get used to my next chapter.” (Source: Bloomberg)

Steelcase is just one of the fourteen percent of US companies offering some sort of phased retirement program.

Part of it is the fact that the boomers do have some expertise and experience:

“There’s a need for more companies to do this if they want to preserve their best practices, innovations, and customer relations,” says Paul Irving, chairman of the Milken Institute Center for the Future of Aging. “And there’s receptivity among older workers, a majority of whom want to stay engaged and keep working, but in new ways.”

Glad to see that some people and companies – oh, I forgot: companies are people, too – still appreciate us geezers. Most of what I read w.r.t. my generation is vituperative nonsense spewed out in troll-ish online comments. You know, the comments in which we’re blamed for ruining the world, selfishly hogging all the resources, brutally sucking out all the oxygen out of every room we enter, ruining the world, etc. (Unfortunately, when I look at the three boomer presidents – Bill Clinton, George W, and Voldemort – we really don’t have a ton to point to with pride now, do we? And what little we have had will shrivel up completely once the Narcissist in Chief takes over come January. I really don’t mind that Bill and W are part of my generation – them I both get – but I really do wish The Coming had been born in 1945…)

Anyway, this geezer is happy to just keep chugging along – at least for the time being. I know that I’m fortunate. I do have some friends who would like to be working, but haven’t been able to find work. (High tech marketing isn’t exactly a garden of earthly delights for those who hope to be productively and gracefully aging.)

But when it comes to keeping on keeping on, it looks like I’ll have plenty of company, thanks to the enlightened – if that’s the right word – practices at some US companies who recognize a good thing when they see it.

Now this geezer has to chug off to work: couple of things due today and tomorrow…

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Today, Gwyneth guides us to gifts for The Thinker

Still not done with your holiday shopping. Tsk, tsk.

What’s no doubt dragging your shopping down is figuring out what to get for the thinkers in your life. Fortunately, Gwyneth’s Goop has a guide aimed specifically at the thinker (a.k.a., “the creatives and philosophers”). As something of a minor-league creative and philosopher myself, I think I’m in a reasonably strong position to review the gifts on the gift guide.

For your creative philosopher, or your philosophical creative, a CP/PC who plays acoustic guitar, there’s a completely reasonable $8 guitar pick. And for the creative philosopher, or philosophical creative, a CP/PC who’s actually willing to look into the crystal ball – something I’m not yet able to do; metaphorically speaking, I’m still in bed with the covers over my head and may not come out for another four years - there’s a glass orb with brass base for just $39.

I think I have a confession to make. In addition to not yet having been able to plow my way through Finnegan’s Wake (I swear, it is on my bucket list, even if it kills me), I haven’t been able to get more than 100 pages into Remembrance of Things Past/In Search of Lost Time. But it seems there’s a quicker way to get your Proust on, and that’s with The Proust Questionnaire ($50).

Marcel Proust's questionnaire is legendary and popular to this day…full of brilliant questions that ingeniously reveal the true personality of any subject. This gorgeous edition features Marcel Proust's own handwritten replies to the questionnaire, along with answers from a list of iconic cultural figures, from Brigitte Bardot to Marisa Berenson to Richard Meier. Bonus: Blank versions of the questionnaire are included at the end, which makes this an especially fabulous, interactive gift.

The questionnaire, which I am too much of a Philistine to have ever heard of this legendary and popular personality quiz, asks questions like what you idea of happiness is, what your idea of misery is, your favorite fictional character, etc. Not that I give a hoot what Proust had to say about any of this, but it sounds like fun. Inquiring minds do like to think about themselves.

Oh, there are all sorts of other wondrous things in the Thinker Gift Guide, including a collection of the works of James Joyce that does NOT include Finnegan’s. (Talk about tsk-een, tsk-een.)

But the item that I coveted the most was a one week writers retreat in Iceland this April. Only $2,583…

Hmmmm. (Note to Santa: how about it? I’ll take back every mean thing I ever thought about Gwyneth Paltrow.)

Monday, December 19, 2016

Ridiculous but awesome? Yes to ridiculous–awesomely so.

Well, this is the week when everyone in the world who’s found some tradition or other to glom onto wakes up to the grim realization that they have not yet done enough shopping. And since there are only a few brief days to complete that shopping, I’m here to channel Gwyneth Paltrow and help you out, by pointing you in the direction of her Ridiculous But Awesome Gift Guide, which you can browse over on Goop, a “lifestyle” (and consumption) site that Ms. Paltrow awesomely curates.

Who wouldn’t want a $1,000 Dyson robot cleaner? Or a custom pet pendant ($6,850)? But the first item on the list tLeather Bikehat really caught my consumer eye was the $2,995 leather bicycle. I’m not a bicyclist, but I’m guessing that neither the tires nor the frame are made out of leather. But it sure is leather clad – including the kickstand. I don’t think this would be all that practical in an area that got a lot of rain. Wouldn’t the kickstand get sort of mucked up? And I really can’t see a serious cyclist – i.e., someone who would spend $3K on a bicycle – going for a leather bike. But I can, in fact, see Gwyneth the Fair pedaling around the English or the Long Island countryside on one, can’t you?

There’s more, of course. Good thing I didn’t have my heart set on that vintage banana Limoges box, because that sucker is sold out. But no fear. If you’ve got $395 to spend on a Limoges box that looks like a banana, honey, there is no dearth of Limoges boxes out there. If you can think of it, the Limoges have likely figured out how to turn it into a porcelain box. There is, of course, nothing quite as awesomely ridiculous as a banana – that’s the banana’s big appeal – but there are plenty of other fruits and veggies out there, all Limoged up for you.

I can’t go through the entire list here, but I do want to Yurtgive a shout-out to the $120 tube of toothpaste, and the $8,300 decorator yurt. (I can actually envision Gwyneth the Lovable pedaling her leather bicycle to this yurt, can’t you?) By the way it’s an “authentic Mongolian yurts adapted to North American conditions.” Which is more than you can say for that leather bicycle, I’m afraid.

But if you’re going for ridiculously awesome, you can’t do much better than Dennis Hoper’s Personal Record Collection, “a music lover’s dream come true.” Hey, I’m a music lover, and there are plenty of days when I wish I still had my Easy Rider LP. “Born to Be Wild”, baby.  You don’t get to see all the titles on the Hopper list, but I’m hoping that Easy Rider’s in there. We do know that Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan and Pete Seeger at The Village Gate are part of the collection. As is an album compilation of Great Motion Picture Themes. (“Exodus,” “The Apartment,” “The Magnificent Seven”…) Wouldn’t want anyone to bogart that joint.

…this collection provides an incredible view into the world of one of America's most culture-defining men. Along with handwritten notes to the actor from various artists and several unreleased records, this is a very personal biography of Dennis Hopper's musical journey.

Oh. Wow. (Were my sibs and I the only people who called stoner-hippie types “Oh Wowers”?)

The Hopper collection includes 110 albums. If most of those albums were acquired in the 1960’s, then Mr. Hopper paid an average of $3 for each of them. That was 50 years ago, but it does seem that an investment that cost $330 in 1966 and grabs $150,000 – the price of this gift -  50 years on is still a pretty good one. We’re talking each of those albums being “worth” well over $1K. I know Dennis Hopper is famous and everything, but I bet I could get Great Motion Picture Themes for a lot less on eBay.

I was thinking that maybe the price included Dennis Hopper himself, coming over to toke up and do some easy listening with you. Then I remembered that Dennis Hopper is dead. It’s his daughter who’s trying to cash in.

Hasn’t happened yet. I clicked on the Add To My Bag button, and, unlike the banana Limoges box, it appears to be available.

Thanks for curating, Ms. Paltrow.

Oh. Wow.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Baby, it’s cold outside

Yesterday, I was at a holiday function run by one of my clients, and as the event began to wind down, a Worcester-dwelling colleague checked his phone to see whether there was going to be school on Friday in Worcester. Indeed, school called on account of COLD.

Friday’s wind chill in Boston is supposed to keep the real-feel temp below zero until early afternoon, when it pumps up to single digits. If that’s what’s happening in Boston, I can just imagine what it must be like in Worcester. Other than the top of Mt. Washington and Presque Isle, Maine, I don’t think there are any places in New England with weather that’s worse than that experienced in The Heart of the Commonwealth.

I have to believe that there were plenty of times when it was this cold or colder when I was a kid, but we never had a COLD DAY when they actually called school off. Perhaps this was because the wind chill factor – which enforces the notion that we’re even colder than we actually are – was not yet a “thing”. We just went by the thermometer, and as long as the snot in your nose wasn’t completely frozen, it was okay to be outside. (I, of course, grew up in the era when you got home from school, changed into play clothes, and were booted out the door, which was promptly triple-locked and bolted behind you.)

Back then, hypothermia was unheard of. Not that it didn’t exist. We just never heard of it. And the biggest lessons that winter imparted were don’t fall through the ice, and don’t stick your tongue on an aluminum light pole.

No one worried all that much about freezing to death, even though we did hear from our mothers that we would catch our death of cold. And occasionally warned that we would freeze to death. As if!

We all knew that the only one who’d ever frozen to death was The Little Match Girl.

School called on account of cold was pretty much unimaginable. Even school called on account of snow was pretty rare. In Worcester, there had to be at least a foot of snow on the ground, and more predicted, before we could hear that wonderful radio announcement: NO SCHOOL, ALL SCHOOLS, WORCESTER PUBLIC AND PAROCHIAL.

There was one time in high school when school was called on account of cold, but it was indoor cold, not outdoor cold.

It was early April – still chilly enough to keep the heat on – and the boiler was on the fritz. After we sat there shivering for an hour or two, Sister Superior came on the PA and announced that we had permission to put a sweater on. (Can you imagine needing permission to put a sweater on? If I recall correctly, that sweater could only be put on if it were white or hunter green, the color of our uniform jumpers.)

After another hour of sitting in class flapping our arms and blowing on our hands to stay warm, Sister Superior came on with another announcement: we had permission to put our coats on.

For yet another hour or so, we trudged from class to class, wearing our loden coats and seeing our breath.

Finally, we could hear the buses – diesel engines revving – pulling up in the parking lot. School’s out! A couple of hours early! What a treat.

My, how times have changed.

My Worcester colleague said that one of the reasons Worcester called school was because there were a lot of poor kids whose mothers would send them out to wait for their bus wearing nothing more than a sweatshirt. Which is why there are coat drives…

My husband grew up in a poor town in Vermont, and he had a classmate who came in from a farm just outside Bellows Falls. On the bitter cold days, Theresa M. came to school with a baked potato in each pocket of her coat to keep her warm. She ate those praties for lunch, then walked back home cold, I guess. (This was the 1950’s, by the way, not the 1850’s…)

Wish I didn’t have to go out today, but I have an appointment at the bank next door, and then I’m working on some volunteer stuff for Christmas in the City that will take me out. Fortunately, I don’t have to worry about catching my death. I have an LL Bean down parka that still has plenty of loft in it, and some wonderful bunny-fur lined mittens that my cousin Barbara – who lives just outside of bone-chilling, no-schooling Worcester  - gave me for Christmas a few years back.

It’s supposed to be in the 50’s on Sunday, which is New England weather and/or climate change for you.

But as for today, baby, it’s cold outside. 


Thursday, December 15, 2016

Neiman Marcus Fantasy Gifts, Part II

Just in case you haven’t run out and blown your Christmas budget on one of the N-M fantasy gifts I wrote about yesterday, here’s what else was in this year’s catalog.

Are you a shower warbler who fantasizes being coached by Miley Cyrus or Blake Shelton on The Voice? Someone who misses the Glee Club experience? A star gazer? Or “just” a plain old music lover?Why not the EXCLUSIVE GRAMMY AWARDS EXPERIENCE, $500,000. It’s the trip of a lifetime for you and the person you most want to sing a duet with: airfare, ground transpo, a stay at the Peninsula in Beverly Hills, a walk on the red carpet, a backstage tour, a pre-show gala, tickets to the event, hair, makeup and a gift-card each to shop at N-M for your ensemble. (How far will those $1K gift cards go there???)  Oh, and an autographed Grammy Awards poster, and a one-of-a-kind reissue of the gold Gibson Les Paul ‘59. With a display case, just in case you don’t know how to or wouldn’t dare strum a gold Les Paul.

Frankly, I’m a bit disappointed. For half-a-million, I was kind of hoping that you got to sing one of the nominated songs. Shower in the Peninsula only, I’m afraid.

If you don’t want to fly commercial out to LA for the Grammies, you could make your way there in a COBALT VALKYRIE-X PRIVATE PLANE IN ROSE GOLD, $1,500,000. I was going to say jet your way there, but the Colbalt is a piston aircraft, so it maxes out at 230 mph. And with a range of a bit more than 1,000 ground miles, you’d have to take a hop-skip-and-a-jump trip from the East Coast to the West. But I’m thinking that a rose gold aircraft might appeal to someone who’ll be r_FantasyBook_Head1c_091616commuting from NYC to Washington, DC – conveniently, just 230 miles apart, so a doable flight in one hour. The design was “inspired by classic fighter jets.” And just as that certain someone always wanted a Purple Heart, I’m betting that he always wanted a classic fighter jet, too. And I’m sure the tab would be no problem for He Who Must Not Be Named. I’m sure he could find some way to get his campaign, or his foundation, to pay for it. Or he could just order it an stiff them. And, naturally, he would negotiate down the purchase price. After all, $200K goes to charity. $200K to charity? What a sucker play!  (Sad…)

Another item in this year’s fantasy gift catalog is a SLUMBER PARTY AT THE NEIMAN MARCUS FLAGSHIP IN DOWNTOWN DALLAS, $120,000 – “plump twin beds”, custom cocktails, and splosh dinner and breakfast, for you and 11 of your besties. The copy calls it a girls’ night in, but I’m sure it could be co-ed, if you could find a man who wanted to sleep in the N-M flagship store wearing monogrammed N-M PJs, hang out in the Precious Jewels Salon, get a mani, a pedi, a facial, a shampoo, and a blow out,  and watch “fashion flicks.” You’d think they’d be screening The Devil Wears Prada, but the one “fashion flick” they mention is Frederick Wiseman’s 1983 documentary The Store. I’m not familiar with this one of his works, but if it’s anything like Titicut Follies, these PJ-clad besties better be prepared to fasten their seatbelts…

Finally, there’s HIS & HERS NEIMAN MARCUS ISLAND CARS FEATURING LILLY PULITZER, $65,000 EACH “They were carried aboard the yachts of princesses, movie stars, and moguls to use as onshore transport to resorts, restaurants, and adventure..” Here’s the link to a video that will tell you everything you need to know about this one. 

No further comment…

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

N-M Fantasyworld, 2016. (Whose fantasy world is this anyway?)

Forget The Nutcracker. Forget nibbling gorging on Christmas cookies. Forget being annoyed by those Lexus-with-a-big-red-bow-on-it ads. (Seriously, who gives someone a Lexus for Christmas?) One of my most anticipated events of the holiday season is perusing the annual Neiman Marcus Fantasy Gifts catalog. (Which not only gives joy to the consuming world but also pretty much answers the question “Who gives someone a Lexus for Christmas?”)

The first gift on offer this year is a WALK-ON ROLE IN THE SMASH BROADWAY MUSICAL WAITRESS, $30,000. It would be difficult for me to come up with a musical that I would be better suited to appear in. Sure, I’m an orphan, so I could do an Annie revival. I once worked in a shoe factory, so I could easily handle a walk on in Pajama Game, even though that’s about garment workers looking for a 7 1/2 cent an hour raise. So that one’s unlikely to see the light of a new day anytime soon. But since I logged so many hours as a waitress back in the day – Durgin-Park, Big Boy’s, Union Oyster House and a few others – I’m a natural for any part that requires white shoes and an apron. But $30K… That’s more than I even made in my entire tip-life combined.

As a reader – and appreciator of children’s books – I could be happy with a CURATED COLLECTION OF 36 CALDECOTT MEDAL—WINNING CHILDREN'S BOOKS, $100,000. There are some wonderful books on this list – Make Way for Ducklings, Where the Wild Things Are – and they are first editions (or “early printings), but $100K is a lot to pay for 36 books. And one of the books is The Man Who Walked Between the Towers, about Philippe Petit who memorably – and nightmare-ably – tightrope walked between the World Trade Center Towers 40 or so years ago. I’d pay $100K to have the image of Petit on his tightrope expunged from my brain.

There there’s A WEEK OF LUXE LIVING AT THREE ENGLISH ESTATES, $700,000. When you consider that this is a trip for eight, I guess it’s not all that pricey. I mean, it’s less than $100K per capita, so one could swap out those high end Lexuses (Lexi?) with the red bows and create a memory of helicoptering, Range Rovering, and pigeon shooting at estates that include Churchill’s Blenheim. There’s no mention of whether the package comes with Wellies, Burberry jackets, or Hermes scarves like the ones the Queen ties under her chin. Bet you could raid a closet or two and come up with something. To the very hounds!

But if you don’t have $700K or seven friends you want to swan around England with for a week – and if you’re something of a jock-sniffing football buff – how about A ONE-DAY PRIVATE QUARTERBACK CAMP WITH JOE MONTANA, $65,000. It’s not just you, by the way. It’s for you and three “cronies” (their word, not mine). And unlike the Brit trip, which has couples written all over it, for this one you get to leave the wives at home. The copy pushes this gift toward actual kid quarterbacks from Pop Warner to high school, but does give a nod to flag-football leaguer “dads”. I suspect the Joe Montana name has more cachet with the dad (and granddad) set. Gift includes a picture with Joe Cool and a personalized football. Plus advice on getting to the next level in your football career and “skills [which] could help you win the game of life, too.” Take two, they’re small.

INFINITI Q60 NEIMAN MARCUS LIMITED EDITION, $63,000 I’m not quite sure what differences there are between a Lexus with a big red bow on it and a “head-turner” Infiniti from N-M, but I suspect car people know. And the car

“…boasts only-through-us upgrades. (Prepare yourself.) Exclusive carbon fiber fender vents, fog-light finishers, mirror caps, and rear spoiler. Gleaming red brake calipers. Glorious white, leather-appointed, and deeply bolstered sport seats and interior. A matching white leather weekender bag, complete with the car's VIN number on a unique plaque in a special compartment inside, made expressly for you. A satin-smooth indoor car cover with a cashmere-soft lining, tastefully marked with the Neiman Marcus logo…

Honestly, I did try to prepare myself for that list of upgrades, but what a let down. I was hoping for a box of Girl Scout Thin Mints in the glove compartment, and instead I got a weekender bag with the car’s VIN number on it. Maybe it’s just me…

And then there’s a gift that’s probably more suited for just me. FOR THE PESSIMIST: A MATTRESS WITH BUILT-IN LOCKBOX, $25,000r_FantasyBook_Head3_091616 This would be a must-have, if it weren’t for the fact that the mattress is king-sized, while my bed is queen. And I have a perfectly good safe-deposit in the bank that’s a minute’s walk from here. No, I don’t have access 24/7, but if the world has gone to such hell in a hand basket – even if it’s a hand-crafted N-M hand basket – that I need my valuables, it probably won’t matter whether my valuables are accessible under my mattress. Besides, the only valuables I have are myself and my friends and family, and we all won’t fit stuffed under my bed. (How would everyone breathe? What if someone had to get up in the night and use the bathroom? Do I have to think of everything for N-M?)

It’s cheaper to look on the sunny side of life. FOR THE OPTIMIST: A BRACELET THAT BRIGHTENS THE FUTURE, $25. Well, I’m more the pessimist type, but even us pessimists like the idea of brightening the future, now more than ever with the dark and menacing clouds on the horizon. The bracelet comes from Akola, a non-profit “that empowers marginalized women to become agents of transformation in their families and communities around the globe.” The bracelet “features hand-rolled paper beads in confident black or cheery white, a recycled-glass bead, and two accent discs plated in 18-karat gold.” All the N-M fantasy gifts come with a donation to some charity or other, but this one gives you real bang for your spending buck: the full price goes to the Akola project. (Jeez, am I actually talking myself into ordering something from the N-M Fantasy Gift Catalog????)

Only halfway through, and I’m already out of breath. We’ll get to the second half tomorrow.

On Neiman, on Marcus, on Prancer, on Vixen…

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Well, it’s good to know that sometimes the fake news can be funny

Just in time for the holiday season, some wag came up with concept of a Fisher Price bar for toddlers to belly up to. If ever there were a toy company that represented sweetness and light, that would be Fisher Price. No weaponized toys promoting violence. No “sexy” dolls with pouty lips and suggestive poses. Lots of toys that are old school: non-electronic, non-digital. Just toys that leave it all up to the kids, their manual dexterity, their curiosity, their imagination, their problem solving. (Hey, if you’re only seven months old, it may not be all that obvious which colored ring goes on the bottom of the stack. And, come to think of it, let’s hear it for the infants who come up with their own peculiar ordering…)

Anyway, it’s Fisher Price’s primary-colored reputation for goodness, age appropriateness, and let-kids-be-kids that mFisher Priceakes the fake Fisher Price bar such a preposterous and funny an idea – so far off the mark that no one could possibly believe it’s the real deal. (Unlike Saturday’s SNL fake ad for toys for sensitive boys, which included a wishing well, which actually could have been something that was more or less real – even if there is about zero likelihood that anything would ever be marketed as a toy for sensitive boys. Or for girls who like to roughhouse. It’s up to the parents (and the kids) to figure out – and accept -  what will work for their kids.)

Anyway, despite the obvious fakery of the Fisher-Price bar, there were some adults out there in dear old girl and boy land who took the picture – which took off as an Instagram meme – pretty seriously.

The picture prompted some Twitter complaints to Fisher-Price. The toymaker’s account responded that the product wasn’t ‘‘endorsed, produced or approved by Fisher-Price.’’

Fisher-Price says it appreciates ‘‘the suggestions as obvious love of the brand.’’ (Source: Boston Globe)

This mini-brouhaha, quite naturally, brought to mind (actually, to my sister Trish’s mind) an earlier, recurring Saturday Night Live sketch:

In each appearance of this sketch, the moderator of the show would interrogate toy maker Irwin Mainway, played by Dan Aykroyd, while he defended his company's extremely dangerous products aimed at children. Toys included "Bag O' Glass", "Bag O' Vipers", "Bag O' Sulfuric Acid", "Mr. Skin Grafter", "Pretty Peggy's Ear Piercing Kit", "Doggy Dentist", "General Tranh's Secret Police Confession Kit", "Johnny Switchblade Adventure Punk", and "Teddy Chainsaw Bear". Halloween costumes included: a military outfit that included an actual working rifle ("very popular in Texas and Detroit!"); an entirely black and non-reflective uniform called "Invisible Pedestrian" (which had a warning on the package that read "NOT FOR BLIND KIDS"); an airtight plastic bag that was to be affixed over the head with a rubber band called "Johnny Space Commander Mask"; and an oil-soaked costume called "Johnny Human Torch", which came complete with an oversized lighter. (Source: Wikipedia)

Those sketches started 40 years ago, back before memes existed, and, apparently, more people a) recognized fakery when they saw it; and b) knew enough to Google/Snopes something if they had any doubts.

Hey, wait, 40 years ago we didn’t have the Internet to search.

So how did we figure out how to take a joke?

Monday, December 12, 2016

Tartan plaid cookware? Was Ridonculous one of Santa’s reindeer?

One of my cousins has a close friend who is a gourmet cook. When this friend retired, she began working part time at a Williams Sonoma store so that she could get the discount on their goods. Boy, did she get her money’s worth. She not only bought all possible cookware and accoutrement – from pizzelle  maker on up – she also stockpiled all sorts of William Sonoma products to give as shower, wedding, birthday, and anniversary gifts. When you went into this women’s basement, it was literally like going into a warehouse: boxes upon William Sonoma boxes, stacked to the ceiling. There was a walkway to the washer and dryer, but other than that every square inch – make that every cubic inch of space – was taken up. Think extreme hoarding, minus the mess and the cockroaches.

I actually like a lot of what William Sonoma sells. But a little of it goes a fairly long way, in my book, errrr, catalog.

Anyway, somewhere along the line, my sister Trish stumbled across a very funny piece by Deadspin’s Drew Magary, “The 2016 Hater’s Guide to the William Sonoma Catalog.” One of my favorite bits was his take on the $400 fondue set.

Copy: “Family fondue party! Gather the gang for a festive fondue party… just melt, dip, and enjoy!”

Drew says: Oh, you think it’s that easy, do you? You listen to me, you shameless fonduemongers: There’s a reason no fondue pot on Earth has been used since 1988. Fondue is a complete pain in the ass. I have three small children. You really think it’s a good idea for me to hand them very sharp forks and then put a fucking CAULDRON of boiling hot cheese on the table, within their reach? Are you fucking insane? I still have scars on my arm from The Great Beef Fondue Incident Of ’85 at my parents’ house.

Well, that about says it all. Yet I do have a certain fondness for the notion of fondue, which was all the rage as a shower and wedding present when I was getting out of college and going to showers and weddings. My last fondue purchase was c. 1971, and I think that I spent $19.95 for a fondue set at Jordan Marsh as a shower gift for a friend. I may have gone in on it with someone else.

And I also did attend some enjoyable fondue parties – especially those that bagged the cheese and meat stuff and went with melted chocolate and fruit. Yet I get what Magary says about the sharp forks, and the CAULDRON of boiling hot cheese. That’s why we used to give them as wedding shower and wedding gifts. In those days, people getting married didn’t have toddlers.

My favorite item from the Hater’s Guide, however, was the $380 Le Creuset tartan plaid Dutch oven. They also offer a tartan plaid covered baking dish, tartan plaid table settings, and a tartan plaid knife.

Now, I happen to have a Le Creuset Dutch oven, a gift from my sister Kath, which I love. (And whom I love, of course.) Le Creuset is heavy, so I wouldn’t want all of my cookware to be Le Creuset. Yet it’s both beautiful – the colors it comes in are gorgeous – and it’s really good for cooking the sort of stuff even a non-cook might make in a Dutch oven. Like pasta dishes.

And I like tartan plaid as well as the next guy.

In fact, at this very minute, my dining room table is covered with a red and green tartan plaid table cloth, courtesy of my sister Kath who no longer needed or wanted it, and gave it to me this past Thanksgiving.

I’m delighted to have it.

While the red and green of Christmas don’t exactly go with my blue, orange, and cream decor, they are, well, Christmas-y colors. And red and green tartan and Christmas go together like Prancer and Vixen, like Rudolph and Rednose.

Yet the thought of a tartan plaid Dutch oven pretty much turns me into a William Sonoma hater, too.

Too much of a good thing. Too much of a perfect home, perfect furniture, perfect decorations, perfect husband, perfect kids. Everything that’s not from William Sonoma comes from Pottery Barn. Martha Stewart helps decorate the cookies. And because tartan is so tied to Christmas, you’re rich enough to swap out your cookware seasonally. Sheesh.

Kind of makes me want to take that tartan plaid knife and stab a W-S catalog…

Friday, December 09, 2016

Miscellany. (Godspeed John Glenn)

I was going to post about the impact on a business when they’re the victim of fake news “reports”: think Comet Ping Pong, which used to be just a pizza parlor before some fringe nut jobs decided that it was a front for a pedophile ring run by the Clintons and John Podesta’s brother. Or something. (And I thought the one about Obama stockpiling thousands of guillotines in Atlanta, for the purpose of beheading Christians, was about as nut-jobby as things were going to get.)

But what is there to say?

Other than what I will say: about time to start suing the bastards, like Alex Jones – or even Mike Flynn, if he keeps up with his idiocy - who traffic in this nonsense. Sure, they’ll all howl ‘free speech’, but here’s the thing: ‘free speech’ doesn’t mean there are no consequences to free speech. Might be just the right antidote if some of these a-holes end up with kabillion dollar legal judgments against them, maybe even some jail time if their vicious, unhinged nonsense causes some unhinged goon completely lacking in analytical reasoning to go off the deep end with his AK 47. Then maybe the purveyors would stop purveying the horrific untruths that are tearing the country apart.

But once I got past Comet Ping Pong, I thought about how I’m self-soothing these days.

I should be doing more walking to see if I can unstiffen my left knee, now that arthritis seems to have settled down there and in my left ankle for a long winter’s nap. Make that a long winter’s fitful, toss and turn nap.

Instead, I’m reading more. Let me tell you, not watching MSNBC for 4.5 hours a night sure frees up some serious time! Oh, I have switched back to a bit more HGTV. (Have to keep up with the Property Brothers, after all.) But I’m also reading more. Nothing too heavy-lifting. I started Colson Whitehead’s Underground Railroad, which is brilliant. But harrowing. And there’s quite enough harrowing on in the here and now. I will pick it up again in a few weeks. A brilliant and important read.

In the meantime, I’m digging in to a pile of Donna Leon Inspector Brunetti crime stories, lent to me by my friend Peter. The books are set in Venice, and Peter thought I’d get a kick out of them, given my recent trip there. And I am getting a kick out of them. Very enjoyable, given that I know what they’re talking about when it’s Dursoduro or acqua alta. I’m sure they’d be fun reads even if you haven’t been to Venice, but having been there is the icing on the cake. Nice little bit of escapism.

I’m also taking my mind off of things by doing a bit of volunteering for Christmas in the City. Each year, CITC runs a BIG PARTY for thousands of kids (and families) from the Boston area who are living in shelters, motels, or some other non-permanent housing situation. The next day, CITC distributes thousands more presents for needy families. Great, all-volunteer organization. If you’re looking for an end-of-year donation to make, this is a good one. Money always welcome, but it’s not to late to order a toy online and get it to CITC by next Friday.

(Of course, another wonderful and wonderfully worthy organization is St. Francis House, which helps Boston’s poor and homeless rebuild their lives.)

Music is helping soothe things out, too. A bit of Christmas-y “stuff” when I put my tree up – mostly (I’m not embarrassed to admit) Bing Crosby. (Or am I embarrassed to admit it???) But mostly Mary Black, Stan Rogers, and Tim McGraw. (If you’re inclined to buy a country CD, you could do a lot worse than Damn Country Music. Which ends with “Humble and Kind.” Would that they’d play that at the inaugural festivities. Unfortunately, it’ll probably be all Ted Nugent and “Cat Scratch Fever.” Ugh doesn’t begin to capture how I feel here…

Finally, while I’m not watching news, I am scanning it – Boston Globe, WaPo, NY TImes…So I know that John Glenn died yesterday. Even non-science-y boomers were caught up in the early days of the space program. What a thrill when John Glenn made his turns around the earth.

And what a good and decent man he was. Hard not to do a compare and contrast with a lot of what passes for “leadership” these days.

So how can I not end this miscellany with “Godspeed, John Glenn”?

Thursday, December 08, 2016


05newport1-master768My friends Joyce and Tom live in Dallas. In a very modern house in Dallas. In a very upscale neighborhood in Dallas, where upscale neighborhoods tend toward chateaux, Taras, and the types of haciendas where Zorro lived.

When they were planning their very modern house, my friends had to work around a ton of opposition from the neighbors, who considered the house that Joyce and Tom were building an atrocity.

I, on the other hand, love their house – it’s just stunning - and consider most of the stately mansions in their ‘hood ridiculous eyesores.

Come on? What’s a chateau doing in Dallas?

On the other hand, why not?

If you’ve got it – money, “taste” (à chacun son goût, as we used to say in Chateau Rogers when I was a a girl) –  why not flaunt it?

That’s what the Vanderbilts, the Astors and their ritzy pals were doing when they put up “cottages” in Newport like The Breakers and The Elms.

But what might have seemed like colossal, out of proportion and out of place piles in the late 1800’s are now tourist attractions. And the locals have gotten used to having them around. They rather like them.

What they don’t like is the modern house going up not far from historic, mansion-lined Bellevue Avenue and Ocean Drive.

“This looks like a 30-foot-tall Martian spaceship landing on the Newport skyline,” said John Peixinho, a former chairman of the Historic District Commission.

Ross Cann, an architect whose apartment in a grand house overlooks the new home, said, “We’re just baffled by why somebody would want to inflict themselves on Newport in such a way as this.”(Source: NY Times)

Sorry, Ross, that ‘inflict themselves’ sounds just plain peevish.

If more houses like this are built, Cann said, Newport will start to look like the Hamptons — or even California.

The Hamptons? “Even” California? I so hate when that happens!

…“As humans we need to have sympathy for them [owners Gina and James McCaffrey]” said Ruthie Sommers, an interior designer who lives nearby. But, she said, “I’m so upset that my children will look at this spaceship forever.”

Maybe, maybe not. Children have been known to become adults and – get this – move away from the town they grew up in.

“It sets a precedent,” Peixinho said, “for further bad design and overscale development in the community.”

At least from the picture, I’m not wild about the architecture of the McCaffrey house, either. But ‘bad design  - or, if not ‘bad’, then something out of place and derivative - and overscale development’ seem to have been what put Newport on the map, no?

I’m actually more in sympathy with the ‘scale’ argument than the design one. The Spaceship is going up in a neighborhood that used to have the ‘cottage’ carriage houses in it. Having lived in a carriage house – although a modest scale Boston one – I recognize that The Spaceship is no carriage house. But the Newport arguments – sniff, sniff – seem to be leaning more towards design.

“We need people to continue — as they had in the past — to be cognizant of the neighborhood they’re moving into,” said Pandy McDonough, who owns the home directly in front of the new mansion. “If they don’t, take your life’s dream of a house someplace else.”

Hey, if I lived across from The Spaceship, I’d probably be NIMBY-ing – or, in the case of Pandy McDonough, NIMFY-ing – up a storm. (In the spirit of the holiday season, I will not be making fun of someone just because her name is ‘Pandy’.) But if Ross sounded peevish, Pandy seems just a couple of syllables short of telling the McCaffreys to take their house an shove it. Tsk, tsk.

Overll, I find it ridiculous for Newport to complain about the size and shape of a modern home going up, given what’s in Newport to begin with.

Anyway, the McCaffreys probably didn’t build this far without having permits in hand. So the NIMBY PIMBY crowd should just get over it. And who knows, maybe it will look better when it’s covered with cedar shakes and those shakes get weathered in a bit. Another couple of years or so, I bet this new pile will fit right in with the old ones

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Seventh day of each December, we’ll remember, we’ll remember

Today is the 75th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, an event that triggered the US full force engagement in World War II. December 7, 1941. As President Franklin Roosevelt said at the time, it was “a date that will live in infamy.” But it’s also a date that has lived in acclaim, as well, as it got the US into the war, with all our industrial might, and that sure helped vanquish our foes.

It’s also the date that, at least indirectly, brought about the Rogers family.

Five years ago, I blogged about it here. IMHO, a post worth re-reading.

So on the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, a salute to those who lost their lives there, and to the millions of men like my father – and the women, too, like my mother’s great friend, and WWII WAVE, Ethel McGinn – who served in the military during the war. With a special shout out to dwindling number of survivors of the attack. The estimate is that there are 2,000 or so of them left. Just boys when the attack occurred. Old men now…

Shipmates, stand together
Don't give up the ship
Fair or stormy weather
We won't give up, we won't give up the ship

Friend and pals forever
It's a long, long trip
Come the 7th of December, we’ll remember, we’ll remember
Don’t give up the ship

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Copy editor wonted? Or is it kneaded?

I don’t exactly know the difference between a copy editor and a proofreader, but I just googled “copy editor” and something called tells me that there are 54 copy editor positions available in Boston. LinkedIn has a far more conservative number: 5. But glassdoor says there are 316 of them out there.

Maybe there’s no one to fill these jobs. Or maybe they don’t really exist. All I know is that I seem to be finding a lot more errors in books, mags, and newspapers these days.

Given that Pink Slip is riddled with typos and spellos, you may be thinking ‘she’s a good one to talk.’ But here’s my excuse: This is a blog. It’s a daily blog. It’s my hobby. It’s not monetized, and ain’t no one paying to read it.

On the other hand, when I pay for a book, I expect that some copy editor or proofreader would have caught some pretty obvious mistakes.

Take Bruce Springsteen’s Born To Run. I bought it at my local indie bookstore, and I think I paid about thirty bucks for it. It was beyond my expectations good. Sure, some of the fine points about musicianship gave made my eyes glaze over. (I was going to write “brought on MEGO, but I didn’t want to use all caps, given what I planned to write in the next sentence.) And there were a few too many places where he USED ALL CAPS TO MAKE HIS POINT!!! And a lot of exclamation points!!!!

But the boy can write, and the book is fascinating – even to someone like me who, while a fan, is not a FAN!!!!

For thirty bucks, I would think that someone at Simon and Schuster might have picked up on “marshall music”. Is that marshall music as in Marshall Dillon? Or does he really mean “martial music”? I’m not blaming the author here. I think he wrote in long hand, and then had this words transcribed (and, presumably, edited at some point). He may well have written “marshall music”. I understand perfectly, as when I write or type, I often goof up on homonyms. Thus I “no something” when I mean I “know something.” I “whale” instead of “wail.” It happens. But a copy editor should find that type of error, no? (Know?)

I also found a more subtle mistake. In recounting a trip made to East Berlin before The Wall fell, Springsteen talks about the Stasis. Only what’s on the page is “stasis.” Yes, there was bad stasis in East Berlin, but the real problem in Berlin was bad Stasis. (The Stasi were the Cold War version of the Gestapo, and a goodly portion of the East German population were informers for them.)

Then I was reading Wicked Pissed, by Ted Reinstein, a fun book about local stuff of local interest written by a local TV guy and published by a regional press. So I wouldn’t expect it to have gotten the editorial scrutiny that, say, the best seller of a music god (or demi-god), brought out by a major publisher (Simon and Schuster), would have gotten.

Still, when I read that Pierre Salinger was among the literary icons who had made their homes in New England, I did a spit take.

I guess you could call Pierre Salinger – JFK’s cigar chomping press secretary – an author, as he did write a number of books (memoir, JFK recollections, political works), but I wouldn’t exactly categorize him as a literary icon. And, despite the JFK connection, I don’t believe he ever made New England his home.

So I do believe that the person Reinstein meant to add to his list was J.D. Salinger, a literary icon indeed, and one who spent a goodly part of his life as a recluse in New Hampshire.

Anyway, this is the kind of stuff that tends to drive me nuts. And ewe you?

With best regards, Ginger Rogers

Monday, December 05, 2016

Revisionist history or nothing but the truth?

For my recent birthday, my cousin Barbara gave me a fun read: Wicked Pissed: New England’s Most Famous Feuds, by Ted Reinstein. Some of those feuds I was quite familiar with:

  • The Demoulas Market Basket squabble extraordinaire between cousins Artie S. (hiss, boo) vs. Artie T. (hip, hip, hurrah!).
  • The Boston Red Sox vs. the New York Yankees, which is really a proxy fight stemming from Boston’s inferiority complex. We’re smarter, we’re better educated, so – sputter, sputter – why isn’t the Hub of the Universe the Big Apple?
  • Whether or not the Battle of Bunker Hill should really be called the Battle of Breed’s Hill.
  • Whether the shot heard round the world was fired in Lexington or Concord. (Can’t take Ralph Waldo Emerson’s word for it.)

But others I was not aware of.

Most notably, I did not know that my hometown of Worcester may actually have been the site of the first battle of the Revolutionary War.

On September 6, 1774 – a full eight months before the fateful events in Concord and Lexington – by far the largest, most significant, full-scale rebellion against the British took place on Worcester’s Main Street. On that day, 4,662 militiamen from all over central Massachusetts converged on Worcester’s courthouse.

“This it the largest protest up until this time,” says James Moran of the American Antiquarian Society. “It’s most of the adult male population of Worcester County…convinced that their government, the Royal Parliament in London is trying to enslave them, and they aren’t going to take it anymore.”

The colonists surrounded the courthouse, forcibly turned out the stunned British magistrates inside, then barred the doors and shut the building down. In addition, the magistrates were forced to walk a gauntlet while publicly recanting their allegiance to their king.

Unfortunately (from the making history perspective) or fortunately (from the redcoat perspective), the colonists came in peace, unarmed, determined that their protest would be non-violent. Darn the luck. If someone’s blood had actually been spilled, Worcester would have been the Cradle of the American Revolution. We would have had the annual re-enactment. We would have had all the souvenir shops selling tri-corn hats and chocolate bars shaped like muskets.

But, nope, we had to be Midwest Massachusetts nice. And look where it got us. According to Reinstein’s book, Worcester’s role used to get a lot of play in 19th century histories of the Revolution. Lexington, Concord, and Paul Revere’s descendants – they were just a lot pushier than us nice-guy Worcester-ites.

Thus, I never heard of this bloodless battle.

Maybe the pubs (kids who went to public schools) knew about it. But we parochial schoolers were too busy studying the role of Catholics in American history – lots of attention given to Pere Marquette and Junipero Serra, who were really more important than George Washington. (Oddly, the gorgeous stained glass windows in the parish church I grew up in depicted Catholic involvement in US history. Rather than saints, we had John Barry, an Irish native, who was the Father of the U.S. Navy. Barry is the only person I can remember from those windows. Oh, Junipero Serra was probably there – he was, after all, a Catholic. Which was a good thing. Just not quite at the same level as being an Irish Catholic.)

Anyway, I never, ever, ever heard about Worcester’s almost key role in the American Revolution. Sheesh…

The other feud I had never heard of was Connecticut vs. North Carolina.

Why would these two disparate states be a-fussin’ and a feudin’?

Seems that it’s over that First in Flight motto on the North Carolina license plate.

As it turns out, there’s pretty strong evidence that Bridgeport, Connecticut, was actually first in flight. That was thanks to Gustave Whitehead (born Gustav Weisskopf, in Germany), who made “the world’s first manned, motorized, controlled, and sustained flight in a heavier-than-air machine.” This was on August 14, 1901, two years before Orville and Wilbur slipped the surly bonds of earth in Kitty Hawk, NC. (A hundred years later, on August 14, 2001, my mother died. She certainly would have gotten a kick out of knowing that a landsmann was the world’s first fly-boy.)

The Wright Bros. had a lot going for them that Gustave did not. For one thing, they weren’t immigrants, so there was a lot of interest in their being the first, and not some tired, poor, huddle mass-er yearning to breathe free and show up our native sons. Plus the Wright Bros. had a PR machine behind them, and knew enough to invite a lot of press out to Kitty Hawk. And their descendants were apparently savvy enough to attach a provision to their donation of the Wright Flyer to the Smithsonian. If the Smithsonian ever admitted that someone else beat the boys, the Wrights could take the plane back.

The things you learn when you pick up a book…


Friday, December 02, 2016

Christmas shopping

Yes, I’m one of those $#%()+&%_!! who actually get their Christmas shopping done early. Other than getting gifts for some Christmas in the City kiddos, I’m done. Not everything is as yet in my possession, but done is done. And I’m hoping for a nice snowy night in the next few weeks, and I’ll get the wrapping done, too.

My shopping is a mix of in-store and online, with the bias this year toward online.

In that respect, I’m like most other Americans. When it comes to holiday shopping, we’re fleeing the brick and mortars for the world of the virtual.

That said, there are many reasons that I actually prefer being in a store store. Sometimes you just can’t get the right feel or right fit when shopping on line. I’m a tweener with respect to foot size. Having outgrown what I had once thought was my macropod size of 10, I’m now somewhere between a 10.5 and an 11, which means I end up ordering two sizes and returning one. How much better to be able to try something on for size in the store! Of course, now that I think about, shoes are an odd one for me to go all physical store on.

In addition to having a long foot, I have a thin foot. It’s fattened up a bit, but that still means it’s an AA or AAA as opposed to an AAAA. Ultra-narrow size 10’s have never been in plentiful supply, and even before the Internet, I was ordering most of my shoes from catalogues. But now that I’m dealing with the in-between sizes issue, it would be easier and less painful to actually be able to buy shoes in a store. It’s just that no one would stock my size anyway.

If we can’t tell whether the shoe fits online, we can’t tell what something feels like, either. Last summer I ordered some Eileen Fisher pants, thinking they were going to be a replacement for a pair of ancient khakis that were my summer go-to. Alas, what I thought was a replacement turned out to be pants made with some scratchy, piquet-like fabric. Which was precisely why they were on sale. If I’d been able to see that fabric up close and personal, I never would have made the buy.

And while I do buy some books via Amazon, there is nothing like a trip to a bookstore. (In my case, Trident Books, which also lets me get a nice walk in.)

Sometimes being in a “real” store is just plain better.

But there’s something to be said – convenience, choice – for going online. And this year, I did the bulk of my Christmas shopping online.

To celebrate the completion of my shopping, this weekend I’ll be doing some stress-free shopping for myself, in small stores in Cambridge.

But big name retailers, now that the holiday shopping balance is tilting towards online, are trying to woo physical shoppers back in through their doors.

Retailers such as Macy’s Inc. and J.C. Penney Co. are preparing for the holidays by offering more exclusive products, store-in-store showrooms and -- in some cases -- cash rewards….

“The problem is there’s no silver bullet,” said Ed Yruma, a retail analyst at Keybanc Capital Markets Inc. “What we’re increasingly seeing is a consumer for a holiday season that’s shopping off a list, and there’s no better way to shop off a list than on your computer.” (Source: Bloomberg)

Actually, shopping off a list is better in a physical store, too. Although one of the physical store pleasures is, of course, browsing and coming across a surprise item you didn’t even know existed, let alone that you needed it.

Anyway, what the stores are looking to do is offer items in the stores that you can’t get online, and to  “create more of an experience for shoppers.”

Much as I like shopping, I could really do without turning it into any more of an experience than it already is.

But if stores are going to go there, for Macy’s, I would suggest that a good experience might be being able to find someplace to pay for your merchandise without having to walk a quarter of a mile. Come to think of it, maybe that’s part of the experience they’re looking to provide: orienteering, exercise…

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Yesterday it was the best of toys, today’s it’s the worst of toys

It looks like, toy-wise, Pink Slip really fell down on the job last year. Not only did we miss the announcement of the inductees into the Toy Hall of Fame, but we also failed to report on the W.A.T.C.H. list of the year’s “10 Worst Toys.” But we’re making up for it in 2016. Yesterday we covered to Hall of Famers. All hail the humble swing! And today we’ll fill you in on the W.A.T.C.H. list.

W.A.T.C.H. is World Against Toys Causing Harm, a Boston non-profit dedicated “to educating the public about dangerous children’s products and protecting children from harm.” Which is certainly a good thing, given that:

From 1990 to 2011, there was a 40% increase in toy-related injuries. In 2014, there were over 251,000 toy-related injuries and 61 children died in toy-related incidents between 2010 and 2014. (Source: W.A.T.C.H.)

Despite these numbers, I’m pretty sure that toys in general are a lot safer than they were back when I was a kid. (Among the hazardous toys I recall were a plug in iron that actually heated up (my safety-conscious mother replaced the plug with a suction cup); a toy poodle with easily removable eyes that were fastened using a weapon-like cork screw; and Creeple Peeple, whichcame with a mold for making weird plastic pencil toppers – a mold that heated up to about a million degrees.) But there are a lot more toys now, and they’re made in a lot more places than they used to be.

When I look through the list, it’s amazing that some of the toys exist to begin with. Shouldn’t there be enough good parental judgment to keep something like the Slimeball Slinger from finding a place for itself Slimeball-Slingerunder the Christmas tree? I realize that there are plenty of kids – especially those of the boy variety – who would give their eye teeth (or even an eye) for one of these. But do we really need a consumer watch dog to tell parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles not to weaponize their kids by buying this for a six year old? And if someone completely lacking in judgment bought it, I’d like to think that someone in the household might disappear this “toy” quick.

Same goes for the Warcraft Doomhammer.

6-year-old children are encouraged to “[f]eel the power of the horde!” with the “legendary Doomhammer,” DoomHammerbased on weaponry in the “Warcraft” movie. The manufacturer offers no warnings regarding potential impact injuries associated with foreseeable use of the heavy, rigid plastic battle hammer.

Yep. There should be a warning, but I’m guessing that someone who would believe that it’s a good thing to let a kid “feel the power of the horde” isn’t going to read, let alone heed, the fine print.

Let’s face it, kids are perfectly capable of making a weapon out of anything. Letting them do so at least encourages creativity and inventiveness. Look ma, I’m repurposing! The Doomhammer, on the other hand, seems a matter of permission granted to knock another kid on the noggin.

I never would have been inclined to gift some kiddo with a Slimeball Slinger or Warcraft Doomhammer. But I Elephant-Pillowsure would have considered buying something that looks like the Elephant Pillow. It comes with no warnings, and you have to read the product description to learn that:

“When this elephant pillow [is] for use with infant, it should be under adult supervision”

Nothing like to toy that that requires adult supervision when it’s one that a lot of people would put in the crib with their child without thinking twice. Especially when it’s “marketed with an image on the retailer’s website depicting an infant snuggling alone with the plush animal.” As it turns out, infant pillows and the like are banned by the Federal Hazardous Substances Act, i.e., they can’t be promoted for children under the age of one because of the possibility of suffocation. So just say ‘no’ to the elephant pillow for your infant.

What else is on this year’s bad toy list?

Peppa Pig’s Muddy Puddles Family – choking hazard and mixed signals on the age warning. Too bad, because they’re sort of cute.

Banzai Bump N’ Bounce Body Bumpers – This product comes with a warning about how “to avoid risk of serious injury or death” by equipping your 4-12 year old with “protective equipment for head, elbows, knees, hands, etc.”My take: best to avoid any toy with the word “Banzai” in it.

Nerf Rival Apollo XV-700 Blaster – For those of your list who are 14+, this is a plastic gun that shoots Nerf ammo that looks like yellow ping pong balls that one could knock the enemy’s eye out with. “Images on the box depict children wearing masks covering their face and eyes, however the face mask is “not included” and must be purchased separately.” Nuf said.

The Good Dinosaur: Galloping Butch. I’ll take their word that Butch is a good dinosaur, but his rigid tail has the potential to cause “significant puncture wound injuries.” Sounds kind of bad dinosaur-ish to me.

Peppy Pups is a pull toy that comes with a cord that’s toy long for comfort. Think Isadora Duncan. Or not.

Flying Heroes Superman Launcher. Look, up in the sky! That could be a plastic fantastic Superman, launched by a 4 year old encouraged to “grip it and rip it”, while also being warned “never to aim at eyes or face.” Sure. Four year olds are well known for their excellent ability to follow instructions – especially ones they’re supposed to have read.

Baby Magic Feed and Play Baby. Your toddler feeds Baby Magic with an “interactive spoon”. Whatever “interactive spoon” means, this one is under 3” long and, given how two year olds interact with objects like spoons, this one could “be mouthed and occlude a child’s airway.”

All I can say is caveat toy emptor – and thanks to the watchers at W.A.T.C.H.

Missed last year, but I was on my game in 2014.