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Tag: trends

Ephemera is here to stay

It was a windy day, with patches of rain that came and went as I drove from Bangor, through western Maine, New Hampshire and into Vermont on Highway 2 – a rolling ribbon of smooth (mostly) blacktop, dotted with flea markets, farms, campgrounds and more than a few antique stores.

It’s the same road John Steinbeck took 50 years ago with his poodle Charley on the trip that would lead to the book “Travels With Charley” – a book whose place is firmly cemented as a timeless American  classic.

The high winds were blowing leaves, at the peak of their color, off the trees, and sending them swirling across the highway like swarms of bees – signaling that nature’s most beautiful and all-too-transitory season would soon be coming to an end.

As I whizzed along through the drizzle, one particular antique store caught my eye — though not in time to stop — because, among the other things its sign advertised, was: “Ephemera.”

As the antique barn disappeared in my rearview mirror, I kept repeating the word aloud, which I tend to do when I confront an unusual word while driving alone with Ace. He responds with head tilts and funny looks, and he did so especially with “ephemera,” probably because it sounds, to him, vaguely like “dinner.”

I had a fair notion what ephemera was — just as I have a fair notion of what curios, trinkets, knick-knacks and bric-a-brac are. I knew ephemera was not a perfume, though it sounds like one; or a prescription drug, though it sounds like one; or a skin condition, though it sounds like one.

What, I fantasized, if I had stopped at the shop? The door, I’m sure, would have had a bell on it that jingled when I entered, and a friendly proprietor would have approached, who would have reminded me of one of the characters on the Bob Newhart Show (the one where he had an inn).

“Can I help you with anything today?”

“Yes,” I’d say. “I understand you have ephemera.”

“Indeed we do,” the proprietor would say, rubbing his dry, chapped hands together. “What particular type of ephemera are you interested in – what genre?”

“Oh,” I’d say, “I guess some basic ephemera, run of the mill ephemera.”

“What is it you collect?”  he’d say.

“It varies,” I’d answer. “Unemployment. Plastic bags to pick up dog poop. Dust. Dog hair. Fast food coupons. My thoughts.”

“I see, but what exactly are you looking for today, ephemera-wise?”

“Well, I’m pretty open,” I’d say. “But I want some good, sturdy ephemera — something that lasts.”

At that point, he’d look puzzled and begin pointing out items on his dusty shelves – defunct board games, old movie posters, paper dolls, airsickness bags, cigar boxes, bookplates, old fashioned Coca-Cola bottles, baseball cards, lunch pails, seed company advertisements, old maps and calendars from years past.

“And there’s this,” he’d say, picking up a Life magazine with Marilyn Monroe on the cover. “This is classic ephemera.”

“Do you have any more modern-day ephemera?” I’d question.

“Only this Justin Bieber CD, this Kentucky Fried Chicken sandwich that uses slabs of chicken in lieu of bread, and these Kindles – but we’re not totally sure yet they will be ephemeral.”

“I guess we can only hope.”

He would smile only slighty, and it would quickly fade from his face. “Ephemera is tricky stuff,” he’d say.

“But if people are preserving it, is it really ephemeral?” I’d ask. “By collecting it, or selling at high prices, as you do, these things that no longer have much use, does not that run counter to their very ephemerality – taking something intended to be transitory and short term and preserving it for eternity?  Isn’t ‘classic ephemera’ a contradiction in terms?”

“Yes and no,” he’d say.

With that, I would take my leave, more confused than I was when I entered. I’d turn on my wipers to shoo the fallen leaves off my windshield. I’d check my gas tank – gas, now there’s something that’s truly ephemeral – give Ace a pat on the head and keep heading west.

Wild: The latest grooming craze in China

In what’s being described as the latest pet craze in China, dogs are being groomed and dyed to resemble other animals.

You can probably guess what we — being proponents of letting dogs be dogs –think of this. As if humanizing weren’t bad enough, now we’re subjecting them to tiger-izing and panda-izing?

Visitors recently gathered at a local pet market in Central China’s Zhengzhou city to view and photograph dogs who’d been trimmed and painted to resemble pandas and Siberian tigers, according to a report in the Montreal Gazette.

True, both those species are endangered in China, but that’s no reason to dress dogs up to fill the void.

China has also been big on dyeing dogs unnatural colors. Both fads are believed to have started off in the good old USA.

Spotting trends in the AKC’s breed count

lg_havanese10In the process of tallying the numbers of purebred dogs in America — or at least those that are registered — the American Kennel Club detected some interesting trends, such as how the nation’s most popular dog, the Labrador retriever, is losing ground in some towns.

The fastest climbing breed, meanwhile, in terms of popularity, is the Havanese.

According to the AKC figures, more U.S. cities featured a breed other than the Labrador Retriever in the top spot this year than in 2008.

The German shepherd took over as No. 1 in Columbus, Detroit, Honolulu, Memphis, Miami, Providence and West Palm Beach.

The Yorkshire terrier bumped the Lab in Oakland, Tampa, New York City and Philadelphia.

And the bulldog became top dog in Los Angeles (despite other surveys that say Chihuahuas are the most predominant breed there). The AKC says celebrity bulldog owners — Adam Sandler, Kelly Osborne and John Legend among them — might be a reason behind the bulldog’s rise.

In what strikes me as a particularly odd tidbit, the bull terrier — 57th nationally — is the most popular breed in Newark, N.J. (Please feel free to explain that to me if you know the story behind it.)

To find out where your dog ranks nationally (keeping in mind the nation’s most popular dog isn’t a breed at all, but the mutt), click here.

There was only one city in America where the Labrador retriever didn’t factor into the Top 5 – Providence, R.I. In 2008, the Lab was No. 2 in Providence.

Over the past 10 years, the AKC says, the fastest growing breed nationally is the Havanese, having risen from 92nd to 32nd. Also rising quickly in national popularity have been the bulldog (from 21st to 7th); the French bulldog (from 73rd to 24th); and the Cavalier King Charles spaniel (from 58th to 25th).

Working K-9 breeds favored by law enforcement and the military have shown modest gains as pets over the same period, with the Belgian Malinois seeing its popularity rise from 95th to 81st, the border collie going from 71st to 52nd, the bloodhound rising from 51st to 43rd, and the Doberman pinscher climbing 23rd to 15th.

The AKC suspects easy-to-groom breeds are becoming more popular, as evidenced by the mastiff climbing from 39th to 27th and the Rhodesian ridgeback going from 56th to 48th. Higher maintenance breeds, meanwhile, such as the  Komondor, the Puli, the Irish terrier and the Sealyham terrier, have all seen their AKC popularity ranking drop in the past 10 years.

Even pre-Bo, the AKC, the Portuguese water dog was on the rise in popularity. The breed chosen by the First Family ranked 80th a decade ago and climbed to 60th in 2009.

(Photo: The Havanese, America’s fastest growing breed/Courtesy of AKC)

American dog population rises to 77.5 million

Americans are increasingly making provisions for their pets in their will, placing their pet’s medical needs over their own, and planning vacations around their pet — all signs that pets, more than ever, are considered part of the family, according to the American Pet Products Association (APPA).

The APPA has released its 2009-2010 National Pet Owners Survey, and it shows pet ownership at its highest level ever, with 71.4 million households in the U.S. owning at least one pet — 62 percent of all households.

Furthermore, during the past decade the current number of pet-owning households increased by 12 percent, up from 61.2 million pet-owning households in 1998.

According to the survey, there are 77.5 million dogs, 93.6 million cats, 171.7 million freshwater fish, 11.2 million saltwater fish, 15 million birds, 15.9 million small animals, 13.63 million reptiles and 13.3 million horses owned in the U.S.

“The findings in the survey clearly demonstrate the importance of the role our pets are playing in our every day lives. Two decades of trended data show that now more than ever people consider pets an important part of the family and are still providing for their faithful companions even in these trying times,” said Bob Vetere, president of APPA.

“As pet ownership continues to rise, so has the demand for quality products and services. This has led to an amazing evolution of innovative products and services that truly enhance the experience of owning a pet,” he added.

Since the inception of the APPA National Pet Owners Survey in 1988, dogs and cats have accounted for more than two-thirds of all households that own a pet. The actual number of pet owning households is significantly higher than it was twenty years ago, as is the overall number of U.S. households.

The survey showed 17 percent of dog owners have an electronic tracking device implanted in their dog, with the Western region having significantly more tracking devices than dogs in other regions.

The survey found dog visits to the veterinarian are up, averaging 2.8 visits a year. Thirteen percent of dogs and 21 percent of cats are considered obese or overweight by their veterinarian. When asked to indicate their priority if there was a choice between a large medical expense for themselves or their pet, 15 percent of dog owners would attend to their dog’s need before their own.

Seven percent  of dog, cat, bird and horse owners indicated they had made financial provisions for their pet in their will. One-third of dog, cat and bird owners and almost half of equine owners have named a caretaker or guardian for their pet in their will.

More than 20 percent of vacationing dog owners take their pet with them in the car when they travel. These owners take their dog on an average of five car trips per year. Three percent of dog owners take their dog to work at least more than once a month.

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