Category Archives: shopping

Procter & Gamble and the Man in the Moon

The original Procter & Gamble logo.

Once upon a time two men, William Procter and James Gamble, formed a business. It’s genesis began in 1837 with the sale of candles and soap. The US was in a financial crisis and was rumored to be broke but the men persevered with what would have been essentials at that time. Electricity was still in the future.

Dock hands, handling shipments of the candles, would mark the boxes with a crude star to differentiate them from other merchandise. It seems this mark bloomed into the Star Candles brand and eventually the stars appeared in a semi-official capacity as the company grew (or maybe they marked the Star Candles boxes with a crude star). By 1859 the company was making a million dollars, a quite substantial amount for those days.

As Procter & Gamble grew the stars on the candle boxes solidified and a logo was born in 1851, with thirteen stars and a man in the moon with luxuriant curling beard. If you know anything of the art styles of the period, you will understand that this logo, shown above, was as precursor to the stylized, swooping swirls of the Art Nouveau period. Part of the Romantic period in art, the design is not unusual for the time in style. My guess (as it’s hard to find out what the founders originally intended) is that the stars played significantly in the company’s brand evolution. From those stars, they became stylized and it’s said that there are 13 to represent the 13 original colonies of the United States.

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The new P&G logo.

Considering that Procter & Gamble supplied soap and candles to the Union army during the Civil War, it seems likely that they had some form of patriotism and pride for their roots in the United States. Shortly after this, they began making Ivory soap, among many other products. The logo was a longstanding icon for Procter & Gamble, and if you have ever used Crest, Crisco, Downy, Bounce, Charmin, Duracell, Gillette, Olay, Pampers, Tide or a host of other products, then chances are you might have noticed the little man in the moon with the stars on the back of the packaging. In fact, today Procter & Gambler (more commonly called P&G now as we’ve reached the age of abbreviation and acronyms) is the 6th most profitable corporation in the world and 5th in the US with only a few like Exxon, Microsoft, Apple and Walmart ahead of it.

Consider that this logo existed from the 1850s to to the 1980s before some latent ruckus arose. And what was it in the era that spawned supposed Satanic messages in rock n roll records played backwards that got people up in arms over Procter & Gamble? The stars numbered 13. Good lord! It’s the devil’s number and if you reverse the beard you see 666 and if you get drunk and draw lines from one star to the next you see more sixes. It’s more bizarre that the US dollar bills have an eye in a pyramid (Masonic ties and there’s a secret society there) than the man in the moon and the 13 stars.

But rumors spread and Procter & Gamble battled defamation and slander suits for many years. Interestingly, most of these rumors of the Satanic relationship stemmed from Amway distributors, who in fact have been accused of having cultlike activities, running pyramid schemes and being tied closely with the very conservative far Christian right. Now who seems more likely to have suspicious dealings?

Personally I find this logo has personality as opposed to modern and very sterile logos, including the new P&G logo. Branding is a powerful thing. Procter & Gamble had been in business far too long with their logo to bow to a bunch of superstitious nut jobs wanting to tarnish their image. Probably Amway’s true reason was to knock down P&G’s position in the corporate hierarchy. It might have made a dint but not that much and Amway, though powerful, has had to ride more waves of trouble than P&G. Unlike Starbucks who seemed to bow to public pressure (of a few) and kept changing their logo, P&G did not, until they hit an era of modernization. Did the logo changes or stasis affect these companies? Probably not much because they both have very strong products that hold up against the people with too much time on their hands.

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The Disposable Society

Imagine a time when you either wove your own fabric from skeins of wool or cotton, maybe even carding and spinning the wool. Or perhaps you bought the bolt of cloth and made your own garments by hand, or were lucky enough to have a foot treadle sewing machine. If you could you might have bought one fine dress and it was your Sunday dress or suit, worn for years until it wore out. Any garment you had would be recycled as it fell apart, the usable pieces cut out and either made into something else or used to patch a new garment. Nothing was wasted. You wore your shoes until they fell off of you, probably having been repaired and patched as many times as possible.

If you bought (or even if you butchered yourself) part of a cow, you would use every scrap possibly, make soup from bones. Even slight old vegetables or meat that was still good would be cooked or preserved in some way as soup, stews or pickled. Dish water might be reused several times or people would bathe in the same water. Everything was used until it could not be used anymore. Baskets or carts were taken to market laden with goods, and brought back again with different items.

Just think, only one hundred years ago, this was the norm for the average person. Before the age of industrialization it was very much the way and life consisted of one of existence and keeping a roof over your head and feeding you and your loved ones. Communities worked together and spare time was time to socialize because it was rare but everyone needed some fun and leisure.

Once industrialization began, machines could make things faster and cheaper, cutting down on labor (which caused its own problems in labor of course) and soon most people did not need to know how to sew or mend, could own a couple of pairs of shoes and could buy various items easily. As we progressed past the war years, we started to enter the disposable society. Imagine the rationing of World War II when everything from food to rubber was rationed so that the front lines had enough and that equipment could be made towards the war. This would never happen today because there are numerous supply lines from various countries and shipping through various forms of transportation.

You would have an outhouse and if lucky, perhaps a newspaper or magazine, that once read from cover to cover, would be used as toilet paper. If no newspaper, you probably had buckets of leaves. Water was gathered from a pump or a well and heated on a wood stove, the wood which you chopped yourself. You would probably grow many of your own vegetables, raise a few chickens for eggs and if on a farm, you’d be butchering your own meat. Bread was made from scratch as was everything else. What surplus you had was sold for items such as plows, hoes, shoes, ribbons, fabric, treats or other food that you didn’t have, candles, lamp oil, axes, horses, cows, chickens, maybe a book if you were learned and could afford a bit extra.

If you look at your life in contrast to someone’s of a hundred years ago you will have numerous clothes, good and casual, several pairs of shoes or more, and coats for several seasons. You live in a place with many books (if you’re into books) or magazines or newspapers. You have a TV, a computer, a land or cell phone (or both) and a host of other electronic devices that make eating, sleeping, working and leisure time easier. You don’t have to make all your food from scratch or even have a garden. Vegetables and fruit are available year-long, plus exotic foods that only the elite once ate. We throw out clothes when they go out of fashion or get a bit worn. We can buy new clothes for as little as a few bucks.

Most of us don’t even need to take our basket or cart to market, though more and more people are using cloth bags. And this in itself has generated an industry of plastics so cheap that you get a bag with every purchase. The bags are disposable, like the clothes, the slightly worn shoes, a computer three years old, a car that is five years old, a book, jewellery or food in such abundance that we let it go bad. But is it truly disposable? We throw or give these things away and once out of sight, out of mind. But many of these items end up in landfills or garbage heaps or somewhere where they will take a thousand years or more to decompose.

Imagine, in a thousand years we went from the Byzantine Empire to today. Religions were born, societies fell, cultures changed. And now, we constantly waste, all of us. There are countries in the world that are too poor to waste anything, but anyone in western culture, Europe or North America wastes, no matter how good we are at recycling. So that means we all have room to improve. And if we really want to take a look at the popular carbon footprint, then it does not just mean taking the bus instead of driving, or not flying. It means buying foods that are made locally, or grown yourself. These aspects we know, but where do our clothes and our shoes, our computers and iPods come from? How much carbon is used in the manufacture of these items and the shipping of them?

I believe every person could try harder to be less wasteful, which would preserve our resources longer, and really think about that carbon footprint. Money and resources flow through us as if the sluice gates were wide open.  The carbon footprint is everywhere, not just in food or transportation. It’s not an easy solution, nor a fast one and will take years of us looking differently at everything, but maybe we can change our society from being one of disposable and consumeristic to being one of conserving and re-using.

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Really Dumb Olympic Trinkets

I wasn’t sure what I would write about today but then I received, with my bank statement, a little blurb about winning some Olympic art, sort of. My bank is VanCity, a local, good reputation bank. But in the statement was this double-sided pamphlet from Citizens Bank. It says, “You could win 1 of 12 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games edition Visa prepaid card collector sets.” Phew.

Okay, so first Citizens Bank in my VanCity statement? It makes me wonder what my bank is getting out of it. Then I thought, okay, so I enter to win and then get 12 Visa cards with a prepaid amount, maybe $100 on each. That would be a nice prize, $1200 maybe to spend on the Olympics.

But no, as I read, it turns out that these are prepaid Visa cards, as in you don’t have to buy them. Okay, when have I ever had to buy a Visa card except off of the shady guy on the street corner in Paraguay when I was on the run from the black ops CIA? Never. It turns out that there isn’t a prepaid amount, nor can you put funds on them, but this super duper Olympic art is prepaid, as in you don’t have to pay for it. If you go out to buy them it will cost you $25, $50 or $100. WTF? So what I’m getting is 12 little pieces of plastic that say Visa and have (for the most part) paintings of headless athletes.

These are such great pieces of art that the pamphlet doesn’t bother to mention the artist’s name. And really, if it’s not original the best it can be is a limited edition and there is no comment on how many pieces of plastic have been printed. So whoopdeedoo, if I go to citizensbank website so that they can start spamming me with Visa applications, and I enter to win this “‘prize” I get 12 Visa cards that can’t be used with pictures of headless and generic athletes on them. Wow. That’s impressive collector’s hoopla for the Olympics. Don’t forget this said it was also Paralympics. I can’t see one image that looks like it shows an athlete who would fit in the Paralympic category. No crutch, no wheelchair, no amputee. Okay, there might be one on there but it’s unclear from the pamphlet.

But yes, if I want any piece of so-called Olympic art sanctioned by the official committee then I will indeed rush out and buy these pieces of worthless plastic. I’ll mount them in a frame worth more than they are and put the “collection” next to Bubba’s beer cap collection and the plastic beads from Mardi Gras in New Orleans. People may want a souvenir or a piece to remember the Olympics by but a mass merchandised shirt or stuff mascot is probably going to be more useful than the supposed collectors edition of Visa cards that are in fact as mass produced as these other items. Why not just mass produced fake paintings? Because then Visa couldn’t plaster their branding everywhere. Personally I’d rather take pictures but these days that could you get you arrested.

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Booty and Buying Jeans

I’m one of those gals with booty, as they like to call it. Or a bigger ass than is the norm. However, I must really wonder what the norm is. We often think we’re the only ones with an issue or a problem, but mention it and it turns out it’s common for a lot of people.

Like booty. My hips and waist have quite a difference in ratio. First I must get them over my hyper developed calves, (not the ones mooing in the fields), then over the larger than average thighs and hips to the smaller than average waist. Should I get them all the way up, I usually have enough room in the waistline to cart a baby around. Suffice to say it’s extremely hard to find any pants and I revert to skirts more often than not. Yoga pants are fine because they stretch.

You would think that pants that fit below the waistline would make it easier because there is less disparity between upper hip and lower hip. But oh no, this is not so. Often when I try those pants on they give me plumber’s crack and that ain’t attractive on anyone. Now it’s easy to think that I am some misshapen creation but when I’ve talked with other female friends who I wouldn’t consider overweight at all and some even very skinny it turns out most of them have the same problem.

They say they can’t get them over their thighs or if they get them over their hips, they gap in the back. These slim women, like me, cannot find pants to fit. Interestingly, tall women can’t ever find pants or shirts long enough. Now if you are of genetic Asian heritage your waist to hip ratio on average will be less than those of European or African heritage. You’ll have to ask an anthropologist for the difference in people’s physiologies because there are books written about the subject.

But suffice to say, for the average North American woman (that’s you and me and not all the anorexic models) we come in a variety of sizes. I remember being at a new year’s party once and we got talking about clothes and the whole booty problem. When I looked around the room, all these beautiful women had what many would call a slightly bigger than average butt. The media goes on about J-Lo’s booty and I can’t see anything wrong with it except that it looks like a nice curvy butt.

Media and fashion, the bane of every normally sized person. And just who is it that the fashion industry makes all those clothes for anyway? Sure there are “average” size people, according to those sizes but many of us are curvier. I went shopping last week for a new pair of jeans. I hate shopping for pants because it’s trying on size after size, often with no luck in getting anything even up to the hips, and by the end you feel fat. My jeans are always pretty near to skin-tight because if I go for a larger size, it’s far far too large for my waist. So I’m always wedging myself in.

Last week’s excursion saw me in about seven different stores; Sears, Bootlegger, Stitches, Le Chateau, Suzy Shier, American Eagle, Zellers even. In some there were not enough jeans to try on, as in the legs were too skinny or the sizes too small to even start the laborious process of struggling into fabric and getting overheated. Stitches seemed to have nothing but 00, 1 and 3 sizes. Zero isn’t a size and it certainly wasn’t even ten years ago, but hello, anorexia. However, this told me that Stitches was catering mostly to the tweens, the young kids before hormones wop them and give them breasts and leg hair and shape.

After negating several stores just for sheer similarity in jean sizes and one place that had $98 pairs (I won’t pay over $50 for just jeans), I tried on about 40 pairs of jeans. I developed a system for measuring the narrowest part, the knee, and if it wasn’t as wide as my hand I didn’t even take the pair in to try. Of those 40 a few only got as far as myknees. Most of the others I pulled all the way on, a few with jumping about, and did them up. But between plumber’s crack and gapitis none worked. I think there was one pair but they didn’t look good. There”s no point buying something that fits if it doesn’t look good on you and you end up not wearing it.

Tired and hot, I gave up and headed out of the mall. But I happened to pass Mark’s Work Wearhouse. I think of them as work clothes, overalls, muckin’ huge boots, that sort of thing. But what the heck, I went in. Not only did I find pants that fit I found that they had four styles: contemporary, classic, modern and curvy. Contemporary fits slightly below the natural waistline; classic fits at the waistline, modern fits below and curvy fits below but designed not to gap.  They didn’t have a lot of the curvy style in but they fit me and they didn’t gap. I ended up finding the only one left of another style with a modern waistline, and they were on sale. Thank the gods for curvy and recognizing that there are those of us who have hips.

Many of my friends, when I posted my yippee on Facebook, wanted to know where I found them. Stores that decide to cater to more than boy-hipped girls would probably find their sales going up as many girls with booty would worship there.

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Holiday Fever: How To Tame It

Every year, and it seems, earlier every year, merchandisers and stores whip the public up into a fine shopping froth. Maybe calling that day after Thanksgiving in the US “Black Friday” is a good way to put it. When I hear of Black Friday (or any day for that matter) I think of a massacre or some other dire happening. And it seems to be the beginning of when people take leave of their senses and massacre their pocketbooks.

Christmas (or pick your other seasonal holiday that involves gift giving) used to be around Dec. 25th (the actual celebration) and involved a gift given to represent the gifts that the wise men brought at Jesus’s birth. But even for those of minimal or no Christian belief, there was Santa Claus who brought gifts to girls and boys. And there are many festivals of light (for that is really what Christmas and Jesus represent) that involve food and celebratory gifts.

But in North America this got distorted along the way. Now retailers see it as a way to make more more more and holiday decorations

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go up sometimes before Hallowe’en, which is good for buying food and costumes but not for buying stuff. Thanksgiving in Canada happens before Hallowe’en and in the US it happens after, being the last big holiday (good for buying food) before the mega merchandise shopapalooza blowout greedfest.

I guess you can tell how I feel about having decorations shoved down my throat for two months and holiday carols ringing out from every store speaker from Dec. 1st or earlier. When I was a kid it was tradition to get into the holiday spirit some time around Dec. 12, two weeks before the big event. For some people whose culture involves Epiphany, New Year’s or Twelfth Night, it would start later and go to January 6th.

Now I have friends going gaga over Christmas by Dec. 1 at least. They think I’m a Scrooge but really I just get grumpy with hearing the same songs over and over for weeks on end and I’m sick of them by the time I should be enjoying them. The long, drawn out state of such great festive fun ends up making it like every day and just losing any aspects of being special and magical. There are also those people who have their tree down by Dec. 26th which seems just odd to me.

But since I do like the holidays (Kwanzaa, Christmas, Solstice, Yule, you name it) as a time of getting together with people and enjoying company, here are a few things to remember and a few to forget. First, forget that gifts matter. It’s how people treat you and that they care for you that matters most. It shouldn’t be shown in material objects and is a cheap facsimile for truly caring. I used to exchange Christmas stockings with a few friends. We would buy cheap, little dollar store items that weren’t much of anything but just fun, and wrap them individually. It was one of the best parts of Christmas when I was a kid. My friends and I would exchange these and unwrap the tiny gifts and enjoy each other’s company. If you have little money, this still encompasses the spirit without getting into a huge cost that bankrupts people for a year.

Don’t go elaborate on wrapping because it’s on the gift for only a short time and is a waste of trees. I started making cloth sacks that could be reused. I also save old calendars and use them to wrap gifts throughout the year. Or you can make the wrapping actually part of the gift. Reusing containers like baskets and tins is also a great way to wrap.

Make things. Whether it’s nuts, cookies, jams, liqueurs, jewelery, potholders, mitts or potted plants; these may take a bit more time but can save money. I’m one person who is quite happy to receive food or tiny little home-made items and appreciate the work that went into them. And as many of us grow older we have a ton of “stuff.” Also if you give something, give it with the caveat that if the person doesn’t like it they can either re-gift it or let you know and trade for something else. Some people feel uncomfortable doing this but I would rather a person enjoy their gift than hide it on a back shelf.

And don’t buy into having to buy buy buy. If you can’t afford it, you can’t afford it and many people can’t even though the government (in Canada) likes to say the recession is over. In Canada, Boxing Day happens on Dec. 26th but I have already seen signs for those “Boxing Day” sales for this last weekend. Sales all the time, really means the items are just regularly priced and not on sale.

The biggest thing to remember is that the holidays are about community: that means spending time enjoying being with someone, not fighting over all the things that bubble up in families. And it means charity, giving if you can and remembering that others have it worse. It’s funny how at this time people get stressed and get nastier (especially when shopping) than they do at other times. So, even though I won’t have a tree for a week or two yet, I hope I can remain stress free and hope to be making some gifts this year.

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Orycon

I will be on my way to Orycon in Portland, Oregon in just a few hours so there is no true post today. I was hoping to have the review of In Sleeping Beauty’s Bed done but it’s turning into a bit of a mini-essay and I’m not finished researching a few things. I’m extremely tired so this might not even make sense.

Addendum to the Sears attitude issue: When I bought my coat it was on sale plus an extra $10 was taken off if you applied for a Sears card. I received the card in the mail but it’s a Sears MasterCard. Surprise to me. There was also a “buy now, don’t pay to January” sign when I bought the coat. In the process of all the paperwork to get the sale, I asked, does this apply to the coat (because it was for purchases over $100 and I was told yes. However when I got the statement it showed that I had to pay this month.

I called the number on the statement but they couldn’t help me as it’s really just the MasterCard office. They told me to call the store. That took about four tries to get through and not disconnected. Eventually I was told that I had to come in with the statement to get the payment deferred. They couldn’t do it over the phone because I didn’t have the credit card and hadn’t activated it.

So I went into a store on my way home and I was told any Sears would do. First there was no store directory so I had to ask for the accounts department. It seems they don’t have one but they sent me down to catalogue shopping, tucked behind the fridges.

The girl there was new and didn’t know what I was talking about and said her manager had gone home. I said I was told I could go to any store before it closed. Eventually she found some sort of manager. He came and showed her what to do and left and then she couldn’t get it to work and called someone. Then I had to talk to the woman on the phone and then give it back to the girl behind the counter. The the manager came back, (about a half hour has passed by now) and he starts to do it and asks for the expiry date of my card. I say I don’t have it on me and I haven’t activated it. He says he can’t do it without this and gives me a phone number to call back once I get home and get the card. (I could have been told this the first time I called).

Eventually I get home and get the card and call Sears. The number to that department is busy so the switchboard tells me it’s still busy. It’s about 8:25 and the store closes at 9. I leave in the morning for Portland and the bill is due at the same time. I have to do this now or get interest charged.

Then the switchboard accidentally disconnects me and I call back. They say the line is still busy and I say I will not call back but I will hold. They ask me for my credit card number to pass on and I say no. Then I get through and the girl has a customer so I wait. I give her the number, she takes my phone number and calls me back ten minutes later to say it’s done. Whew! Very exhausting.

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Buy at Sears, But Only If You Want Attitude

The first time I had problems with Sears, I eventually let it go even though I didn’t shop in the store for a year. In this day when there are so many stores, really it’s quality and service that make the difference. And so it is that I am not waiting for the three strikes you’re out. Two is enough.

The first time, I was shopping in Sears (in Vancouver) and picking up a few skirts to try on. This woman comes up to me and snatches the skirts from my hand, saying “You’re dragging them on the floor and they’re getting all dirty.” I looked at her flabbergasted and walked out. I was also looking for a winter coat but didn’t bother at that point.

These skirts may have been touching the floor but surely the store is kept relatively clean. The better thing to do would have been to ask me if she could start a fitting room or hang the clothes up in the fitting room. After all, that is not only service but protecting the merchandise. This woman said nothing about even putting them in a room for me and snatched them out of my hand. And yes, she was a worker there. I didn’t appreciate being treated like a child.

I tried after that to find an address to send a letter of complaint. Do you think I could find a corporate address or even a local address with the name of any manager attached? Not a one. Sears made it pretty much impossible to do anything farther than complain verbally and we know how far that goes. Well, it threw me off shopping there again.

Now I don’t shop a lot at Sears anyways. The fashions are often not that interesting and it’s only a rare occasion where I will. This year I needed to buy a new winter coat and after much searching, found one I liked at, of all places, Sears. It was on sale too, making it just right.

Unfortunately, I was in a parkade three weeks after buying the coat and chlorine or bleach fell on the collar and took out some of the color. The company responsible for the parkade is willing to pay for repairs. However, no one dies polyester (I thought the coat was wool…oops) so the company will have to replace the coat.

I bought it on sale but it may not be on sale anymore. So I call Sears. First on their customer service line the person keeps saying, You want to order a coat. No, no I want a quote on the cost of the coat. You want to place an order? No, I want to know how much it would cost to get the coat replaced. It’s a coat. Yes a coat. So it’s a jacket. Well, no it’s a coat, just above the knees. You want us to pay for the coat? No. You want to order a coat?  No. I’ll pass you on to our customer service, (I HAD dialled customer service) who then of course passed me on to retail customer service.

So I begin a third time to say, I was in a parkade and the coat was damaged. I need a quote on the replacement cost of the coat so the company can replace it. You were in our parkade? No, just a parkade, not Sears. I just need a quote on replacing the coat for what it sells for retail. You bought it damaged? No, Sears isn’t at fault. I bought it and then it was damaged after. But you bought it on sale. Yes but if it’s not on sale, they will have to replace it at the higher cost. It was damaged by chlorine in a parkade. How did you get chlorine on it? (Not that it’s any of their business.) It dripped on the coat. I’m not asking Sears to replace it. The company will do that. Well you have your receipt. But the receipt has the sale price. Is the coat still on sale? I don’t know (of course not, she hasn’t even asked me what the coat it is…we’re still haggling).

You have your receipt. Yes, but if the coat isn’t on sale then I need to give the company the replacement cost to replace this coat. You’ll have to buy a different one at a higher price. No, I want to get this coat so can’t you send the cost of what the coat is retail? No. Why not? Because that’s not what you bought it for. It’s not what you paid. (I’m now getting mad because she’s saying I’m trying to cheat.) It doesn’t matter what I bought it for. I’m not trying to cheat here. I need to give them the replacement cost. But you didn’t buy it for that. No I didn’t. Why can’t you say, I bought it for this amount but the regular retail is this amount? Because that’s not what you paid.

I don’t think you understand how replacement cost works. Yes I do. No. Replacement cost means the cost it would be to replace the coat, not what it was when I bought. If it’s not still on sale then it would need to be replaced at the regular price. But that’s not what you paid. You’re right it’s not. Is the coat going to be on sale three weeks later? I doubt it so how is the company going to replace it if it’s regular price? You’ll have to pay more. (It’s not up to Sears to decide who pays or not but getting them to give the full rate replacement is just not happening.)

I’m afraid after this I said, You know I’ve had problems with Sears before and this just seals it. This isn’t good customer service and I won’t be shopping there again. She said something else and I called her a bitch. I was boiling by now because she decided I was swindling someone. Obviously this woman has never had insurance with replacement cost included. I found it interesting from the moment I called and mentioned damage all she could hear was damage on Sears property or damage by Sears even though I said they weren’t at fault.

I’d write a letter to Sears corporate office but that would mean trying to find an address and the name of someone to send it to. Not likely, so I’ll vote with my bucks and go elsewhere. And it looks like there are enough other people disgruntled with Sears. I’m just glad I didn’t but a large appliance.

http://www0.epinions.com/content_215301262980/show_~allcom

http://www.my3cents.com/search.cgi?criteria=SEARS

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Rationing During the World War

I wasn’t around during either World War so can only use my imagination, history texts and those oh-so-accurate Hollywood movies for my impressions of it. My parents both had been in the tail-end of WWII. I can also take memories as my mother has told me a few stories about those times.

Velorution_vintage_poster_pin_up_giWhen I was a child my mother had this drawer in the china cabinet (a pretty old and shoddy one) that was full of stuff. It had playing cards, some with girly pinups (of my father’s), ashtrays, rumoli chips, cribbage boards, coasters and whatnot. It also had a small stack of postcards. Where they came from I’m not sure. Some were joke or funny postcards but all were illustrated as opposed to photographs. A few of these had those classic pictures of a woman, pin-up style of course, showing stockings and peeks of underwear.

One particular card I remember had a woman holding her hand over her mouth as her underwear puddled around her feet while she watched a man change her tire. I recall other cards with the dropping underwear thing and just never got it. It wasn’t until my mother told me that rubber was rationed in the war that I started to understand.

When the Japanese and Germans cut off supply lines for various items, the UK, Canada and US (along with needing various items to feed the troops) brought in war rationing as well as other countries affected by the war. Rationing lasted from 1942-47 in Canada, from 1942-46 in the US and from 1939-1954 in the UK. Obviously European countries were harder hit as they were directly in the line of fire and did not have the range of resources that N. America had.

Rubber was needed for tires and other items so it was rationed on civilian cars, but it also affected fashion. There were no elastic waistbands in underwear, nor straps on bras. And no wonder women cherished the silk stocking from France. Clothing in general, especially in Europe was rationed as well and people were only allowed to buy so much in a year and had to use ration coupons for everything. Of course rationing affected all types of food as well.

My mother told me about the problems of wearing the button underwear of yesteryear. The buttonholes were given to stretching, which often caused a malfunction of the underwear. She said she saw this well-dressed woman walking along the street one day and slowly this pink fabric began to creep below her coat. The woman stopped, stepped out of her underwear and kept walking, leaving the pink offender behind. Women often put safety pins into their underwear to secure it better. Imagine our world now, if we had nothing that stretched. That would eliminate almost all underwear out there including yoga and exercise wear, bumpers, steering wheels, tires, boots, shoes, electronics from phones to kettles, you name it.

We don’t realize how much we have and in a world of the world wars, people were cut off from various supplies. My mother also commented on chocolate and while she was stationed in England a friend was sent several squares of chocolate. Not even a whole bar. Her friend shared with my mother and they would take one small bite of chocolate. She’d stare in windows at pastries she couldn’t afford with her rations.

We live in the have and have not world now. A third world country has people who won’t read this. They’re not thinking of internets or blogs or social networking. They’re thinking of how to get another meal and finding enough shelter. In North America, for almost all countries, the poorest people have TVs and phones and several sets of clothes. They may be of poor quality and made of stretchy material that was so hard to get so long ago, but they have the essentials.  We toss out clothing that is out of fashion by a few months. We get rid of clothes that are too tight or too big.

During the war, people would have made do, or would have taken up needle and threadmake-do-and-mend to adapt. In some ways it wouldn’t be a bad thing to bring back some rationing. Too many countries are using resources at a phenomenal rate, depleting trees, water, minerals beyond our ancestors’ wildest nightmares. We waste millions of tons of stuff a year that gets sent to landfills, and yet, we want more. If our society continues to live in the more is better attitude and that a person’s success is judged by how much they accrue, well then, we certainly won’t have more in fifty years.

Everyone needs to take a history lesson, thank their lucky stars and consider how we could use those mindsets that were done for war but could be done for economy today. I’m sure I would moan with everyone else if rationing came in (where backyard gardens also flourished) but I would make do and be no worse for wear.

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A Brief History of the Shoe

Footwear has had a complex and rich development throughout history. I imagine it came about first to protect from searing sands in the desert and frozen snows in the tundra. As people moved from the state of primitive humans who lead nomadic existences tromping through bush and forest, to homo erectus and started building societies and homes, they started to differentiate and specialize themselves.

Feet probably got a little softer, and hard packed ground or stones started to be felt more, now that the homo habilis callouses were gone. Cold, rain, heat, rocks, mud: all these became reasons to start sheathing the feet. And what’s supple enough to fit around the odd shape of a foot, or a human body for that matter? Skin. Leather.

So shoes began and continue to this day. In some cases cloth was used for shoes but almost ghilliesexclusively for indoor or court occasions as the material couldn’t stand up to the rigors of hard travel. The simplest and earliest shoes were scraps of leather.  Then they were leather, which was cut, punched and tied around the feet. The Irish/Scottish gillies were a piece of leather cut in such a way that it drew up around your foot. A more styled version is used to this day in Highland dancing. In fact certain runners/tennis shoes also follow this style and shape.

These ghillies were not waterproof, having slits all the way around but they fit the foot. The Romano-Greco countries used sandals a lot because of the hot climate. The Romans also made a hobnailed shoe and boot that lasted longer for those centurions travelling to invade other lands. As both skill levels and techniques grew more complex, so did the style of the shoe. The Mongols and Huns were the first to use a shoe with a heel, developed to sit in the stirrup and stop the foot from sliding.

These shoes were all made for practical reasons. Intricate patterning and stitching came along, making better fitted shoes and boots. Cobblers learned to put thicker leather or wood on for soles, creating a longer lasting shoe that also repelled invasive elements. These methods, along with curing leather in different ways or oiling it, started the sophistication of the shoe.

And of course shoes were made for fashion. Fashion was dictated by different elements. A clubfooted king gave rise to a round toed shoe. A new dye color or pattern became popular because it was different. The pointy toed shoe of the 14th century reached such extremes of pointyness (up to two feet) that the point had to be gartered to the calf.

Pattens, a wooden clog that the shoe was slipped into, were widely used in the 15th century on muddy streets. However, nobles and those of richer means took them to ridiculous heights to show their status. The platform shoe of the 70s and later decades truly had nothing on these pattens of long ago. The most bizarre shoes were those tiny, distorted shapes of silk and wood used to bind women’s feet into diminutive monstrosities in China. A shoe for decoration only as these elite women could barely walk at all.

Mongols and other Asian races made shoes and boots of felted wool. These were very warm and very waterproof. Likewise the Inuit were using sealskin, still a leather but with the fur left on for added warmth. In most cases boots and shoes might have the fur on the inside for warmth (sheepskin) but could have it on the outside for water-repellent features or for decoration.

Shoes were slipped on, tied, buckled, buttoned and laced. There were as many ways to put them on as human minds could come up with. Though fashions of a long ago era ran narrower lines due to cost and production being done by hand, still there grew to be a great variety that continued to our cornucopia of the modern day.

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The Fashion Industry: A New Type of Monster

fashion, plus size models, anorexia, Mark Fast

Mark Fast's fashion design modeled on normal sized women. sustainable-fashion.com

About a week ago, Canadian fashion designer Mark Fast supposedly set the fashion world all atwitter by using “plus size” models in his show of knitwear dresses. The clothing is lovely, weaves and provocative openings and fringes that gives a sinuous sway to the skirts.

But the fashion industry is awash with human sticks, and there is not much shape to a knit dress on a 0 size, anorexic model. Mark Fast chose to show that normal women with curves could wear his dresses and though he was very diplomatic and did not say he was against the human hangers that the fashion industry normally hangs its clothing on (for runways designs anyways…you’ll find normal sizes in a clothing catalogue). He just said he wanted to show that women with more curves could wear his outfits too.

Also known as heroin chic, the skinny models of these days look emaciated because they are. A short google search will show stories of women surviving on lettuce, removing walnuts from their salads as being too high-calorie, and stories of size 8 women not being accepted by agencies because they’re too fat. When I had my eating disorder and attended meetings, it was about 90% scrawny models and almost all of them had known of a model who died from starving themselves. That does not speak of a good precedent. Today, Marilyn Monroe would be considered a fatty.

It’s astounding too that the press reported on this extravagant disregard for the traditions of skeletal models by calling the other models “plus size.” Size 12 and 14 (and these models may not even be of that size) are not plus sizes. They are normal for women who are tall and if you look at the pictures of these models, they don’t look fat; they look fit. Plus size really begins past size 14 when a person is carry more than an average body weight according to health guides not the fashion industry’s idea of thin. These bigger than zero size models in Fast’s runway show have a curve to their calves, and sinuous lines that indicate they are healthy women. Not one of them is fat or overweight.

The ribcage-evident, knobby knee models who have to have breast implants because there isn’t

Marilyn Monroe, fashion, normal size, plus size, anorexia

Still considered sexy by today's standards, Marilyn would have been a plus size. Photo: Claudio Andres

enough fat to support a breast anymore are the norm with the fashionista agencies telling them that they need to lose more weight if they’re a size 5 or 7. I am not blaming models but the industry itself and the media for perpetuating the image that a woman who is size 10 is fat. (We can throw the TV/movie industry into this mix of perpetuating anorexia as well.)

Supposedly attitudes in the fashion industry are changing and moving back to a more realistic norm, but if this is the case, then there wouldn’t be such  titter about two models with meat on their bones. It’s a sad statement when we ostracize hungry people and say that Auschwitz health is the norm. So, good for Mark Fast using normal models alongside the twigs. May the industry be forever set on its rear end and realize that health should matter more than clothes and that not all of us fit one size.

As for the aspect of runway modelling and that it is in fact more an art style than functional clothing, I’d say people who slavishly stick to the medium of the anorexic model are not really being true artists and are limiting themselves to the accepted attitudes. That’s not what art is about. Art is about pushing the envelope, exploring the unknown and taking chances. Congratulations to Mark Fast for taking his medium farther.

Plus-size or normal models

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