CLOSE
Original image

What the Financial Crisis Means for Spam, Psychics, Hosiery & More

Original image

It's hard to find something not impacted by our current financial crisis. Here are 12 examples of what the recession means for specific things, from Spam to sex addiction.

1. Spam

It looks like meat, it tastes like meat, but it's a far cheaper substitute for meat. It's Spam! And it's booming. Though Hormel's share price has fallen with the overall market, Spam sales are soaring as the economic crisis leaves consumers strapped for cash. Interestingly enough, Spam, the "crazy tasty" mix of ham, pork, sugar, salt, potato starch and a sodium nitrite, was invented during the Great Depression and became a staple for Allied troops overseas in the 1940s.

2. Marriage and Divorce

Breaking up is hard to do, especially in this economy. While it may be too early to know the impact of the crisis on divorce rates, it appears divorces may have slowed down since the financial crisis began. That's because despite most arguments being over financial issues, it may just be too expensive to pay the legal fees of a divorce and support two households. In fact, during the Great Depression, divorce rates dropped sharply, though they picked back up immediately thereafter.

3. Recycling

The plunge in commodity prices has taken a toll on recyclers. In fact, the whole movement may come to a halt as oil and metal prices fall. Used newspaper, used cardboard, and scrap metal prices have also seen a drop, partially due to dwindling home construction and slower automobile production. Some recyclers are closing their doors, and in the UK entire city councils are abandoning their recycling efforts, as they are no longer economically feasible.

4. Psychics

"There is no rhyme or reason to the way the market is trading," says a personal trader. "When conditions are this volatile, consulting a psychic can be as good a strategy as any other." Psychics, astrologers, palm readers and "professional advice-givers" say business is booming as clients come to them seeking financial guidance. Clients will typically pay $75 to $1000 for an hour's worth of insight!

5. Holiday Parties

Just as you suspected, companies are cutting back on their holiday galas. ABC News announced the cancellation of its annual celebration. American Express did the same and then some "“ announcing the cancellation of 2009's celebration as well.

But what about the caterers? 56% of party planners say that their corporate holiday party numbers will be off more than 10% this year compared to last. They're scrambling to come up with innovative, more somber types of gatherings like luncheons, pot-lucks, and receptions rather than galas, caviar, and glam.

6. Used Car Sales

The used car business is flourishing! Specifically, used car companies that offer buy-here/pay-here financing for lower credit individuals who have been locked out of traditional lending.

But if used isn't your thing, it may still be a decent time to buy new. That's because even steady growth car makers like Honda and Toyota have seen 24% and 32% declines, respectively. Car dealers are desperate to get rid of inventory and are offering invoice and below invoice prices. Look for dealers that have a lot of inventory, because they'll likely offer the best deals.

7. Iceland Tourism

iceland-1.jpg

Looking for a good holiday or spring trip? Look to Iceland!

Once an economic success story, this small country is now, well, bankrupt. If you were attune to Fannie and Freddie and the big Wall Street break-up, you may have missed Iceland's fall. Its three largest banks were oversized and highly leveraged, and seemed ready for collapse in early October. Iceland's currency, the krona, is essentially valueless, and foreign trade has come to a halt. Luckily, the IMF and its Nordic neighbors have stepped in, lending $2.1 billion and $2.5 billion respectively to help the country recover.

But tourism appears to be on the rise. Airfare search engines report a 400% increase in Iceland flight searches. A recent search of round-trip flights from New York found tickets at a record low of $471.

8. College Endowments

Ivy League schools aren't immune to the financial crisis. Since many college endowments are invested in alternative asset classes, which have lost value, they're seeing unprecedented losses. Many college and university endowments are projected to have decreased by 30% this fiscal year. For Harvard, that may mean an $11 billion drop.

That may mean a decrease in financial aid "“ especially because lenders can no longer sell their securitized loans in the secondary market to get new money to offer new student loans. Despite Congress' Ensuring Continued Access to Student Loans Act of 2008, which authorizes the Education Department to buy federal student loans from education lenders for the 2008-09 and 2009-10 school years, there's a chance financial aid may fall short.

9. Lipstick & Hosiery Sales

The Lipstick Indicator is an economic theory proposed by Leonard Lauder, the chairman of Estée Lauder Companies. The theory states that a direct relation exists between rising sales in tubes of lipstick and a falling financial market "“ the worse the economy, the more women indulge in small purchases, like $10 tubes of lipstick. There are conflicting reports as to whether Lauder's theory is holding up this downturn. Perhaps hosiery sales will supplant lipstick as the indicator of choice. Overall hosiery sales rose 2.3% this year, with Spanx seeing a 77% increase in sales compared to last year.

10. NASCAR

Very few sports have been hit harder by the economic crisis than NASCAR. From ticket sales to souvenir sales to team sponsorship from large companies, racing is reeling. That's because an average NASCAR team relies on corporate sponsors for 80% of its budget. That's four times the percentage of an NFL franchise's budget. And many of those corporate sponsors, including the Big Three "“ GM spent $578M in sports advertising in 2007, including NASCAR "“ are facing high-profile hard times of their own. As a result, some NASCAR teams, including Chip Ganassi Racing and Dale Earnhardt Inc., have merged in an attempt to attract corporate sponsors.

11. Personal Maintenance

According to the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association, gym memberships have been on the decline since 2007. There's no sign that these former gymrats are instead opting for cosmetic surgery "“ 53% of plastic surgeons of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery say business has slowed.

12. Sex & Sex Addiction

Will the financial crisis spark a baby boom? It just might. According to the Telegraph, sales of sex toys, pregnancy tests, maternity clothes, and baby equipment are soaring. But that's not the only place sex may have increased. Jonathan Alpert, a Manhattan psychotherapist, has seen a big jump in the number of Wall Street workers who seek help for the sex addictions. Apparently, the economic crisis has sparked "maladaptive coping mechanisms" among bankers, according to Jodi Conway, a sex addiction therapist in New Jersey.

Read more of what Diana learned today here.

Original image
Gramercy Pictures
arrow
entertainment
20 Facts About Your Favorite Coen Brothers’ Movies
Original image
Gramercy Pictures

Ethan Coen turns 60 years old today, if you can believe it. Since bursting onto the scene in 1984 with the cult classic Blood Simple, the younger half of (arguably) the most dynamic moviemaking sibling duo in Hollywood has helped create some of the most memorable and quirky films in cinematic history, from Raising Arizona to Fargo and The Big Lebowski to No Country For Old Men. To celebrate the monumental birthday of one of the great writer-directors of our time (though he’s mostly uncredited as a director), here are some facts about your favorite Coen brothers’s movies.

1. THE COENS THINK BLOOD SIMPLE IS “PRETTY DAMN BAD.”

Fifteen years after Blood Simple’s release, the Coens reflected upon their first feature in the 2000 book My First Movie. “It’s crude, there’s no getting around it,” Ethan said. “On the other hand, it’s all confused with the actual process of making the movie and finishing the movie which, by and large, was a positive experience,” Joel said. “You never get entirely divorced from it that way. So, I don’t know. It’s a movie that I have a certain affection for. But I think it’s pretty damn bad!”

2. KEVIN COSTNER AND RICHARD JENKINS AUDITIONED FOR RAISING ARIZONA.

Kevin Costner auditioned three times to play H.I., only to see Nicolas Cage snag the role. Richard Jenkins had his first of many auditions for the Coens for Raising Arizona. He also (unsuccessfully) auditioned for Miller's Crossing (1990) and Fargo (1996) before calling it quits with the Coens. In 2001, Joel and Ethan cast Jenkins in The Man Who Wasn't There, even though he had never auditioned for it.

3. THE BROTHERS TURNED DOWN BATMAN TO MAKE MILLER’S CROSSING.

After Raising Arizona’s success established them as more than one-hit indie film wonders, the Coens had some options with regard to what project they could tackle next. Reportedly, their success meant that they were among the filmmakers being considered to make Batman for Warner Bros. Of course, the Coens ultimately decided to go the less commercial route, and Tim Burton ended up telling the story of The Dark Knight on the big screen.

4. BARTON FINK AND W.P. MAYHEW WERE LOOSELY BASED ON CLIFFORD ODETS AND WILLIAM FAULKNER.

The Coens acknowledge that Fink and Odets had similar backgrounds, but they had different personalities: Odets was extroverted, for one thing. Turturro, not his directors, read Odets’ 1940 journal. The Coens acknowledged that John Mahoney (Mayhew) looks a lot like the The Sound and the Fury author.

5. THE COENS'S WEB OF DECEPTION IN FARGO GOES EVEN FURTHER THAN THE OPENING CREDITS. 

While the tag on the beginning of the movie reads “This is a true story. The events depicted in this film took place in Minnesota in 1987,” Fargo is, by no stretch of the imagination, a true story. During the film's press tour, the Coens admitted that while not pinpoint accurate, the story was indeed inspired by a similar crime that occurred in Minnesota, with Joel stating “In its general structure, the film is based on a real event, but the details of the story and the characters are fictional.”

However, any and all efforts to uncover anything resembling such a crime ever occurring in Minnesota come up empty, and in an introduction to the published script, Ethan pretty much admitted as much, writing that Fargo “aims to be both homey and exotic, and pretends to be true." 

6. THEY WANTED MARLON BRANDO TO PLAY JEFFREY LEBOWSKI.

According to Alex Belth, who wrote the e-book The Dudes Abide on his time spent working as an assistant to the Coens, casting the role of Jeffrey Lebowski was one of the last decisions made before filming. Names tossed around for the role included Robert Duvall (who passed because he wasn’t fond of the script), Anthony Hopkins (who passed since he had no interest in playing an American), and Gene Hackman (who was taking a break at the time). A second “wish list” included an oddball “who’s who," including Norman Mailer, George C. Scott, Jerry Falwell, Gore Vidal, Andy Griffith, William F. Buckley, and Ernest Borgnine.

The Coens’ ultimate Big Lebowski, however, was the enigmatic Marlon Brando, who by that time was reaching the end of his career (and life). Apparently, the Coens amused themselves by quoting some of their favorite Jeffrey Lebowski lines (“Strong men also cry”) in a Brando accent. The role would eventually go to the not-particularly-famous—albeit pitch-perfect—veteran character actor David Huddleston. In true Dude fashion, it all worked out in the end.

7. JOEL COEN WOOED FRANCES MCDORMAND ON THE SET OF BLOOD SIMPLE.

Coen and McDormand fell in love while making Blood Simple and got married a couple of years later, after production wrapped. McDormand told The Daily Beast about the moment when she roped him in. “I’d only brought one book to read to Austin, Texas, where we were filming, and I asked him if there was anything he’d recommend,” she said. “He brought me a box of James M. Cain and Raymond Chandler paperbacks, and I said, ‘Which one should I start with?’ And he said, ‘The Postman Always Rings Twice.’ I read it, and it was one of the sexiest f*ckin’ books I’ve ever read. A couple of nights later, I said, ‘Would you like to come over and discuss the book?’ That did it. He seduced me with literature. And then we discussed books and drank hot chocolate for several evenings. It was f*ckin’ hot. Keep it across the room for as long as you can—that’s a very important element.”

8. O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU? WAS ORIGINALLY INSPIRED BY THE WIZARD OF OZ.

Joel Coen revealed as much at the 15th anniversary reunion. “It started as a 'three saps on the run' kind of movie, and then at a certain point we looked at each other and said, 'You know, they're trying to get home—let's just say this is The Odyssey. We were thinking of it more as The Wizard of Oz. We wanted the tag on the movie to be: 'There's No Place Like Home.’”

9. THE ACTORS IN FARGO WENT THROUGH EXTENSIVE TRAINING TO GET THEIR ACCENTS RIGHT.

Having grown up in Minnesota, the Coens were more than familiar with the idiosyncrasies of the “Minnesota nice” accent, but much of the cast—including Frances McDormand and William H. Macy—needed coaching to get the intricacies right. Actors were even given copies of the scripts with extensive pronunciation notes. According to dialect coach Larissa Kokernot, who also appeared as one of the prostitutes Gaear and Carl rendezvous with in Brainerd, the “musicality” of the Minnesota nice accent comes from a place of “wanting people to agree with each other and get along.” This homey sensibility, contrasted with the ugly crimes committed throughout the movie, is, of course, one of the major reasons why the dark comedy is such an enduring classic.

10. NICOLAS CAGE'S HAIR REACTED TO H.I.'S STRESS LEVEL IN RAISING ARIZONA.

Ethan claimed that Cage was "crazy about his Woody Woodpecker haircut. The more difficulties his character got in, the bigger the wave in his hair got. There was a strange connection between the character and his hair."

11. A PROP FROM THE HUDSUCKER PROXY INSPIRED THE MAN WHO WASN’T THERE.

A bit of set dressing from 1994’s The Hudsucker Proxy eventually led to 2001’s The Man Who Wasn’t There. In a barbershop scene, there’s a poster hanging in the background that featured a range of men’s hairstyles from the 1940s. The brothers liked the prop and kept it, and it’s what eventually served as the inspiration for The Man Who Wasn’t There.

12. GEORGE CLOONEY SIGNED ON TO O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU? BEFORE EVEN READING THE SCRIPT.

The brothers visited George Clooney in Phoenix while he was making Three Kings (1999), wanting to work with him after seeing his performance in Out of Sight (1998). Moments after they put their script on Clooney’s hotel room table, the actor said “Great, I’m in.”

13. A SNAG IN THE MILLER’S CROSSING SCRIPT ULTIMATELY LED TO BARTON FINK.

Miller’s Crossing is a complicated beast, full of characters double-crossing each other and scheming for mob supremacy. In fact, it’s so complicated that at one point during the writing process the Coens had to take a break. It turned out to be a productive one: While Miller’s Crossing was on pause, the brothers wrote the screenplay for Barton Fink, the story of a writer who can’t finish a script.

14. INTOLERABLE CRUELTY IS THE FIRST COEN MOVIE THAT WASN’T THE BROTHERS’ ORIGINAL IDEA.

In 1995, the Coens rewrote a script originally penned by other screenwriters, Robert Ramsey, Matthew Stone, and John Romano. They didn’t decide to direct the movie, which became Intolerable Cruelty, until 2003.

15. THE LADYKILLERS WAS WRITTEN FOR BARRY SONNENFELD TO DIRECT.

The Coens effortlessly jump from crime thriller to comedy without missing a beat. So when they were commissioned to write a remake of the British black comedy The Ladykillers for director Barry Sonnenfeld, it seemed to fall in line with their cinematic sensibilities. When Sonnenfeld dropped out of the project, the Coens were hired to direct the film.

16. BURN AFTER READING MARKED THE FIRST TIME SINCE MILLER’S CROSSING THAT THE COENS DIDN’T WORK WITH THEIR USUAL CINEMATOGRAPHER, ROGER DEAKINS.

Instead, eventual Academy Award-winner Emmanuel Lubezki acted as the director of photography. The Coens would work with Deakins again on every one of their films until 2013’s Inside Llewyn Davis.

17. IT TOOK SOME CONVINCING TO GET JAVIER BARDEM TO SAY “YES” TO NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN

Though it’s hard to imagine No Country for Old Men without Javier Bardem’s menacing—and Oscar-winning—performance as antagonist Anton Chigurh, he almost passed on the role. “It’s not something I especially like, killing people—even in movies,” Bardem said of his disdain for violence. “When the Coens called, I said, ‘Listen, I’m the wrong actor. I don’t drive, I speak bad English, and I hate violence.’ They laughed and said, ‘Maybe that’s why we called you.”’

18. PATTON OSWALT AUDITIONED FOR A SERIOUS MAN.

Patton Oswalt auditioned for the role of the obnoxious Arthur Gopnik in A Serious Man, a part that ultimately went to Richard Kind. Oswalt talked about his audition while appearing on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast, in which it was also revealed that Maron was being considered for the lead role of Larry Gopnik (the role that earned Michael Stuhlbarg his first, and so far only, Golden Globe nomination). 

19. THE CAT IN INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS WAS “A NIGHTMARE.”

Ulysses, the orange cat who practically stole Inside Llewyn Davis away from Oscar Isaac, was reportedly a bit of a diva. "The cat was a nightmare,” Ethan Coen said on the DVD commentary. “The trainer warned us and she was right. She said, uh, "Dogs like to please you. The cat only likes to please itself.’ A cat basically is impossible to train. We have a lot of footage of cats doing things we don't want them to do, if anyone's interested; I don't know if there's a market for that."

20. THE COEN BROTHERS PROBABLY DON’T LOVE THE BIG LEBOWSKI AS MUCH AS YOU DO. 

We’re assuming the Coen Brothers are plenty fond of The Dude: after all, he doesn’t end up facing imminent death or tragedy, which is more than most of their protagonists have going for them. But in a rare Coen Brothers interview in 2009, Joel Coen flatly stated, “That movie has more of an enduring fascination for other people than it does for us.”

Original image
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
arrow
Art
‘American Gothic’ Became Famous Because Many People Saw It as a Joke
Original image
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

In 1930, Iowan artist Grant Wood painted a simple portrait of a farmer and his wife (really his dentist and sister) standing solemnly in front of an all-American farmhouse. American Gothic has since inspired endless parodies and is regarded as one of the country’s most iconic works of art. But when it first came out, few people would have guessed it would become the classic it is today. Vox explains the painting’s unexpected path to fame in the latest installment of the new video series Overrated.

According to host Phil Edwards, American Gothic made a muted splash when it first hit the art scene. The work was awarded a third-place bronze medal in a contest at the Chicago Art Institute. When Wood sold the painting to the museum later on, he received just $300 for it. But the piece’s momentum didn’t stop there. It turned out that American Gothic’s debut at a time when urban and rural ideals were clashing helped it become the defining image of the era. The painting had something for everyone: Metropolitans like Gertrude Stein saw it as a satire of simple farm life in Middle America. Actual farmers and their families, on the other hand, welcomed it as celebration of their lifestyle and work ethic at a time when the Great Depression made it hard to take pride in anything.

Wood didn’t do much to clear up the work’s true meaning. He stated, "There is satire in it, but only as there is satire in any realistic statement. These are types of people I have known all my life. I tried to characterize them truthfully—to make them more like themselves than they were in actual life."

Rather than suffering from its ambiguity, American Gothic has been immortalized by it. The country has changed a lot in the past century, but the painting’s dual roles as a straight masterpiece and a format for skewering American culture still endure today.

Get the full story from Vox below.

[h/t Vox]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios