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Brand-aid

Original article found here.

Global marketing execs agree — America’s image is in the toilet. The cure? One presidential candidate has what it takes, they say, to save Brand USA.

By Jeff Yang.

There’s no way to put this delicately, so I won’t: America’s global image is in the crapper. Last year, the BBC World Service conducted a poll of over 26,000 individuals in the world’s 25 largest countries and found that more than 52 percent thought the U.S. had a “mostly negative” influence on the world. Fifty-three percent of respondents to a survey by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs felt America could “not be trusted.”

Which means that, on top of everything else it represents, the current presidential election is something like an ad agency review — a chance to put a set of potential stewards for “Brand America” through their paces, to see the creative and strategic directions in which they’d take our product.

What’s at stake is more than just popularity. As Keith Reinhard, chairman emeritus of the globe’s second-largest ad agency, DDB Worldwide, notes, “How we’re perceived in the world has profound implications. We rely on human intelligence to alert us to threats: We need friends willing to whisper in our ear that someone’s planning to blow up jetliners … Economically, the Commerce Department estimated that we’ve lost over $100 billion in tourism revenues since 2001. For every share point we lose in that sector, you’re talking about $12.3 billion and 150,000 jobs, gone! The bottom line is that we need a world that likes America.”

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Given the beating our image has taken during the last eight years, getting back to “like” is an uphill climb — but not an impossible one. Over the past six months, I’ve seen this process firsthand, as part of a team of researchers exploring the tarnishing of America’s “brand” in the global marketplace. The word from our network of immersed observers in 14 countries: Even as American politics and policies have become a lightning rod for global anger, America’s core underlying values retain their appeal. The problem is that, in the eyes of millions of people around the world, we’ve simply stopped living up to them.

“The virulent strain of anti-Americanism we’re seeing now can be ascribed directly to the fact that we’ve reneged on our promise to the world,” says Dick Martin, former executive vice president of public relations for AT&T, and author of the book “Rebuilding Brand America.” “That’s why it’s ultimately a branding problem. At its root, a brand is a promise. KFC is a brand that promises finger-lickin’-good chicken; America is a brand that promises life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But unlike KFC, we’re not delivering.”

“Brand America needs a relaunch,” says Reinhard. “And this year, this election, is the best opportunity we’re going to get.”

Convention holds that presidents need at least 100 days to find their footing, establish their policies, and shift the nation out of the previous administration’s inertia. But observers point out that because this cycle’s presidential contenders are the most cleanly packaged and clearly differentiated since Kennedy and Nixon, America’s makeover will begin even before inauguration. As soon as a winner is announced on Nov. 4, 2008, he or she will, for all intents and purposes, be Brand America.

So which of the candidates has a brand that best addresses the perceived deficits in our country brand?

Is it Brand Clinton, the name you can trust; familiar, experienced and rich with the mmm-mmm-good aroma of America’s last big boom? Or Brand Huckabee, whose folks ‘n’ faith message promises down-to-earth values combined with hands-to-heaven purity? Is it Brand McCain, tough enough to get it done, an off-road vehicle unafraid of both traffic and muck. Or, perhaps, Brand Obama — the think-different, just-do-it candidate who combines all-in-one packaging with big, streamlined ideas?

“Let’s look at what the world appreciates about us: Our youthful enthusiasm, our optimism, our diversity,” says DDB’s Reinhard. “And then, our negatives, which are very consistent across the world: No. 1, the perception that we are exploitative — we take what we want, and don’t give back in fair measure. Two, that we’re corrupt — we promote values that are not in concert with the social mores or religions of others. And three, that we’re arrogant: We’re self-absorbed, we’re loud, we’re rude.” To fix our nation brand, Reinhard suggests we need to steal a page from Johnny Mercer: “Accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative.”

Although his campaign has largely been written off as quixotic, Brand Huckabee has some unexpected merits, notably a certain self-deprecating humility that’s missing from the other candidates’ personas. “I was in Frankfurt a few weeks ago, at a panel about the U.S. elections hosted by the American Chamber of Commerce, and that day, the International Herald Tribune had run an article about Huckabee’s sense of humor, and about how it’s become such a part of his brand,” says Reinhard. “And even the Germans were acknowledging, when it comes to personal style, you have to give him full marks.”

Branding consultant Patricia Martin, author of “Renaissance Generation: The Rise of the Cultural Consumer,” agrees: “Huckabee is what I’d call a ‘compassion brand,'” she says. “He’s a man of the people. He laughs, and people laugh along. He makes people feel comfortable.” (On the other hand, notes Dick Martin, “Huckabee’s religious demeanor gives the world pause; it’s hard to underestimate the degree to which people outside of the U.S. are confused by our approach to religion. It bewilders people that more people believe in the Virgin Birth in the U.S. than in the theory of evolution.”)

The ability to soften the die-cast lines of pre-scripted identity, to engage with humor and spontaneity rather than reason and rhetoric, have only belatedly become a part of Brand Clinton — and, note commentators, perhaps too late and too halfheartedly to save her campaign. “Hillary built herself into an ‘anxiety brand,’ a brand that depends on uncertainty or fear to succeed; the whole appeal of familiarity and experience is rooted in this notion that the unknown is frightening,” says Patricia Martin. “And when it was clear that that wasn’t working, she was able to get some traction by exposing her emotions — by laying out a little compassion. But her brand was out there so early and already established so solidly that it hasn’t been enough to right the ship.”

And while Clinton’s aura of competence and professionalism (not to mention the global popularity of her husband) would smooth out some of the rough, clumsy edges of America’s current global image, her brand would inevitably feel more like a retread than the reinvention the world is hoping for. “Even the fact that Hillary is a woman isn’t going to be seen as a significant breakthrough,” says Harvard Business School professor John Quelch, author of “Greater Good: How Good Marketing Makes for Better Democracy. “Many countries have already elected and been led by women, so this is simply America playing catch-up rather than a statement of change in the cultural mind-set. There’s also that lurking suspicion overseas that, had she not married as she had, she wouldn’t have gotten as far as she has.”

Brand McCain is even more squarely planted in the “anxiety brand” space than Clinton: His straight-talking, muscular-contrarian persona (not to mention his shoot-from-the-lip rhetoric about a “hundred-year occupation” of Iraq) are designed to make him look strong, firm and unyielding in the face of challenge. The problem is that from abroad, “unyielding” looks a whole lot like “arrogant,” while “maverick” translates into “unilateralist,” both of which are fundamental sore points in the way America has presented itself to the world over the past eight years.

Being anointed Brand Bush’s heir via endorsements from both H.W. and W. only exacerbates global fears that McCain is the same-old, same-old candidate — accent on the “old.” “For McCain, age is a brand attribute he can’t control,” says Mark Newsome, senior vice president and CMO of marketing agency Chernoff Newman. “He’s in his 70s, and as much as that’s an asset as far as experience and wisdom is concerned, he can’t help being seen as the kind of status-quo patriarch that just isn’t going to play in 2008 like it did eight or 10 years ago — especially if he’s up against a 46-year-old opponent.”

Which brings us to the candidate that marketers universally agreed has the secret sauce that Brand America needs to regain its appeal.

“From Day One, Obama was talking about how we have to think outside of the Beltway box — how we need to enact positive change in a fresh way,” says Siegel + Gale’s Alan Siegel. “His brand is about uplift, it’s about humanity; he uses the pronoun ‘we’ so naturally. People knock him for style over substance, but the truth is that he just has a tremendous ability to cut through the noise. He’s distilled his brand proposition into a single theme, ‘authentic change,’ and it has resonated with people both here and abroad.”

While change — the notion of a break with the past — is central to Obama’s brand essence, the other values he incorporates are no less important. “Obama represents a lot of what America stands for, at its best: Diversity, opportunity, community,” says Dick Martin. “I don’t think it’s a coincidence that when asked about his qualifications, he talks about being a community organizer; he’s emphasizing that his experience is in bringing people together. I think, strictly from the point of view of changing attitudes towards America around the world, electing him is the most powerful thing we could do. He’s the embodiment of the American dream. Having him as president would say to the rest of the world that America has renewed its promise.”

There’s another factor that Obama has in his favor, which no other candidate this cycle — or, for that matter, in American history — can lay claim to, and it might be summed up as “trade dress.” His name, his appearance, his parentage: All of these are factors that have an immediate, visceral impact, even to those who know nothing else about him. Pundit Andrew Sullivan, guesting on “The Colbert Report,” summed it up as follows: “Just show the face of Barack Obama on television to some teenager in Lahore, Pakistan, who has a vision of America that’s been determined by the Bush-Cheney years, and suddenly, more than any words, his opinion and views of this country will change.”

For Obama, this advantage is almost unassailable. Short of announcing Tiger Woods as a running mate, none of his rivals has a way to force a recalibration of America’s image through peripheral attributes alone. It’s a big reason why he’s captivated global attention, to an extent that Americans might not even be aware. Indeed, the very things that snipers from the right have used to cast doubt on Obama’s red-white-and-blue propers — his schoolboy years in Indonesia, his refusal to engage in acts of symbolic patriotism, his stated willingness to sit down and engage with enemy world leaders, even the Drudge-distributed image of Obama in native Somali garb — these are the things that have the world trembling with anticipation over an Obama victory in November.

“I was just in Doha, Qatar, for the Brookings Institution’s annual U.S.- Islamic World Forum, and one of the moderators asked the non-Americans in the audience, ‘If you could vote for one of the U.S. presidential candidates, who would you vote for?'” says Keith Reinhard. “The number of hands that shot up for Barack Obama far outnumbered those for anyone else. So in that part of the world, at least, there’s no question at all.”

And in other parts of the world as well. “In Germany, they’re fascinated with him, they call him ‘Der schwarze Kennedy,’ the ‘black Kennedy,'” says Dick Martin. “They feel he has the same aura about him.” In fact, just a few weeks ago, Germany’s leading newsmagazine Der Spiegel ran a cover feature on Obama, illustrated by a paired set of images — Barack on the left, JFK on the right — and asking whether America will “finally have the chance to be loved again.” The issue’s cover line raised the stakes to a new level: It read, simply, “The Messiah Factor.”

That’s because, in Europe, and in Asia, Latin America and Africa as well, the perception is that an Obama presidency represents the potential for catharsis after nearly a decade of frustration with the U.S. “Our brand has been hammered recently, but beneath the anger, there’s this underlying hope among people around the world that we can do better,” says Patricia Martin. “And we can. We reinvent ourselves. It’s what we’re known for: We’ve had more comebacks than Frank Sinatra. I think that’s why you have people in every country eating up every little turn in this election’s story. This election, the whole world is watching.”

Larry Carroll made an interesting ranking of what seems to be TV’s All Time Best Finale…

here is how they go:

Cheers/NBC

Cheers“. After 11 breezy, brilliantly written seasons and 111 (!) Emmy nominations, everybody’s favorite neighborhood bar finally rang the bell for last call. Prodigal daughter Shelley Long returned one last time to play prissy Diane Chambers, who just might be the love of Sam Malone’s (Ted Danson) life after all. Still one of the highest-rated series finales of all time, “One for the Road” had Kirstie Alley’s Rebecca agreeing to pose as Sam’s wife, Woody (Woody Harrelson) ascending to the Boston City Council, Norm (George Wendt) getting a new job and Cliff (John Ratzenberger) earning a promotion; Frasier (Kelsey Grammer) … well … you already know what happened to him. Balancing the comedy and heartfelt emotion of the series one final time, Sam said goodbye to the regulars and then spied a shadowed man at the front door while trying to lock up. “Sorry, we’re closed,” Sam shouted out, then straightened a picture on the wall and headed into the back room forever. To paraphrase Hank Williams, it was enough to drop a tear in your beer.

Six Feet Under/HBO

Six Feet Under. If this one didn’t make you cry, then you were as dead as the multitude of characters offed at the end of the show. Keeping in line with the dark themes of the HBO series about a family of undertakers, “Everyone’s Waiting” concluded with a glimpse at the future deaths of all the main characters, set to a powerful musical sequence as Claire (Lauren Ambrose) drove away from them all. Much like life, it was meant to be as beautiful as it was tragic: The final episode also broke with the series tradition of starting each episode with a death, instead using a birth to invoke circle-of-life-like thoughts about the unavoidable beauty of it all.

M*A*S*H/CBS

M*A*S*H“. An astounding 77 percent of all TV viewers on Feb. 28, 1983, had the set tuned to “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen,” the final episode of one of TV’s most beloved shows. The two-and-a-half hour finale did more tying up than a cowboy at a calf-roping competition, beginning with Hawkeye’s (Alan Alda) trip to the mental hospital and going up through the bombing of the camp and Klinger’s decision to stay in Korea. The final moment, with B.J. (Mike Farrell) and Hawkeye’s final words and the “Goodbye” spelled out in stones, is still regarded as one of the most powerful moments in television drama. It was the greatest final impression one could make — until that flavor of friendship was quickly replaced by the bitter aftertaste of “After M*A*S*H.”

The Fugitive/ABC

The Fugitive. The series finale that invented the modern-day series finale, this 1967 wrap-up to the classic series set a ratings record that lasted decades, despite the objections of a studio head who thought a conclusion might kill syndication opportunities. After four years of running, Dr. Richard Kimble (David Janssen) finally caught up to the one-armed man, allowing audiences the rare opportunity to despise a handicapped person. Several generations later, Harrison Ford would renew America’s hatred of the crippled, while everything from “NYPD Blue” to “Sex and the City” would similarly continue their love affair with the concept of the “big goodbye” series finale

Arrested Development/FOX

Arrested Development“. The writers had three long seasons of imminent cancellation to ponder endings to the dozens of story lines that this critically acclaimed ratings dud juggled every week, and they didn’t disappoint. For sheer manic lunacy, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more hilarious, head-spinning 120 minutes of entertainment than the goodbye of the Bluth family. Appropriately enough, the series finale was actually four episodes that Fox wanted to purge itself of, scheduled opposite the opening ceremonies of the Olympics, no less. Still, the tiny audience that tuned in saw George Sr. cleared of criminal charges, Gob and teenager Ann’s secret relationship, several different relatives trying to hook up with each other, the origin of the Frozen Banana stand and Buster’s final battle with the killer loose seal. After a family appearance on “Mock Trial with Judge Reinhold” featuring the house band “William Hung and His Hung Jury,” Michael (Jason Bateman) delivered a touching, tear-filled speech upon the realization that he was going to be stuck with his crazy family for a long, long time. If only we were all so lucky.

Moonlighting/ABC

Moonlighting. Some great series finales come from a proper goodbye, and others arise out of last-minute necessity — as was the case with this late ’80s classic. Approximately two years after the writers stopped caring, audiences stopped watching and Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd stopped talking to each other, ABC abruptly cancelled the irreverent detective show. For one final time, the magic and creativity of the series returned: After a typical series setup offering a mystery to be solved, Maddie and David returned to the Blue Moon office to discover that all the furniture and props were being taken away. After a network executive informed them that the show had been cancelled, the disbelieving characters scampered frantically around the studio lot, confronting their no-longer-in-character co-stars and additional execs, who chastised them for losing the sexual chemistry that once made the show a success.

Roseanne/ABC

Roseanne. Any discussion of the gutsiest TV stars of all time has to include Roseanne Barr, a controversial and largely forgotten superstar who regularly gambled her enormous ratings on episodes about birth control, gay and lesbian relationships and other groundbreaking sitcom topics. Sure enough, Roseanne went out with a bang in 1997 for the two-parter “Into That Good Night,” which ended with a 15-minute monologue that had the star revealing that the last several seasons were actually a fictional story written by her character on the show. Explained away as the denial mechanism of the “real” Roseanne Conner, Barr told the audience that Dan had indeed died from his obesity-induced heart attack and that several other characters had also lived out very different “real” endings. Not exactly a hilarious conclusion to one of history’s greatest sitcoms, but you’ve gotta give a gal points for thinking outside the box.

Twin Peaks/Republic Pictures

Twin Peaks. It might be the only time David Lynch’s bizarre universe is compared with “Moonlighting,” but once again a show past its prime returned to brilliance under the duress of cancellation. Angry and jaded by Hollywood’s rejection of the drama it once embraced, Lynch returned to direct an insanely bleak second-half to the two episodes that were hurriedly combined for a finale “movie.” Fearlessly killing off a main character in practically every scene, Lynch seemed like a child determined to take his ball and go home if they wouldn’t play by his rules. Finally, the series creator took the character closest to audiences’ hearts (Kyle MacLachlan as Special Agent Cooper), cryptically split him into an evil doppelganger and then trapped him in hell (aka The Black Lodge) indefinitely. The last image Lynch gave his audience was a bloodied, babbling Cooper looking into a mirror, laughing maniacally while realizing his cruel final sentence. The episode was viewed by a tiny audience, yet remains one of the most fiercely noncommercial (and hard to find) TV episodes in the history of the medium

Newhart/Retna

Newhart. America made a national game out of guessing the conclusion to comedy mastermind Bob Newhart’s top-rated sitcom — and still, nobody guessed it. After eight years of life with the wacky residents of the Stratford Inn, Dick and Joanna watched helplessly while Japanese investors turned the town’s residents into millionaires. After the rural area was transformed into a golf resort and Larry’s cousins Darryl and Darryl screamed the only line they’d ever deliver, aimed at their new wives (“Quiet!”), a furious Dick opened the door to the inn and was struck in the head with a golf ball. When things went dark, the audience feared the worst — but that fear was quickly replaced by a comedic masterstroke. When a light turned on in a vaguely familiar bedroom, Newhart awakened to tell his wife that he had just had the weirdest dream. The wife was revealed to be Suzanne Pleshette from “The Bob Newhart Show,” lying next to him in the tacky ’70s bedroom from that hit show. It was all just a dream, she insisted, telling the characteristically flustered Newhart to go back to sleep.

The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson/Retna

The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. OK, it’s cheating a little bit, but it’s impossible to discuss TV’s greatest send-offs without including the final days of history’s greatest talk show. Technically, “The Tonight Show” is still on the air, but millions of Jay Leno refugees will tell you that the magic left with Johnny Carson after he spent his final days on-air getting serenaded, smooched and sainted by everyone from Bette Midler to Robin Williams. After the enormous hype surrounding his retirement, Carson revealed that he had considered putting on a re-run as one last joke for his final night but that NBC had squashed the idea. So instead, he sat in front of what he called his “shabby” little set one final time and had a very personal, very quiet evening with the world. “The greatest accolade I think I received: G.E. named me ‘Employee of the Month,'” Carson revealed with a trademark twinkle in his eye. “God knows, that was a dream come true.” Carson fully retreated from the public eye after that evening, making our memories all the more powerful. Johnny was one of a kind, but his finale should serve as the template for future goodbyes to our most beloved entertainers.

Michael Joseph Jackson (born August 29, 1958), often referred to as MJ and The King of Pop, is an American musician and entertainer. The seventh child of the Jackson family, Michael Jackson debuted on the professional music scene at the age of ten as a member of the Jackson 5, and went on to become a pop icon as a solo artist. His successful career and controversial, enigmatic personal life have been a part of pop culture for almost four decades. Jackson has dominated pop music since the late 1970s becoming the first black entertainer to amass a strong cross-over following on MTV with his revolutionary transformation of the music video as an art form and as a promotional tool. The popularity of videos aired on MTV such as “Beat It” and “Billie Jean” created a tremendous synergy that helped to put the relatively young channel “on the map” and Jackson continued to be a dominant figure on MTV with videos such as “Black or White” and “Scream”. Jackson also popularized physically-complicated dance techniques, such as the robot and the moonwalk, that have redefined mainstream dance and entertainment. His distinctive style, dance moves, and vocals have influenced a whole generation of hip hop, pop, and R&B artists. He has been cited as the “Most Successful Entertainer of All Time” by Guinness World Records, and holds the record for the best-selling album ever, Thriller.

 

received thirteen Grammy Awards (eight on a single night in 1984) and two of his solo albums have been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. Jackson has charted thirteen #1 singles in the United States, more than any other male artist in the Hot 100 era. In November 2006, the World Music Awards announced that Jackson had sold over 750 million units worldwide and given $300 million to charity, making Jackson one of the best-selling music artists and one of the most philanthropic performers of the 20th and 21st century. However, Jackson’s controversial appearance and actions have damaged his reputation in the eyes of some of the public and album sales have been in decline since the mid 1990s.

From 1988 to 2005, Jackson lived on his Neverland Ranch property, where he built an amusement park and private zoo that was frequently attended by disadvantaged and terminally ill children. Rumors of sleepover parties received both negative media coverage and public attention after it was revealed that children had slept in his bed or bedroom. This first came to light when he was accused of child sexual abuse in 1993. Michael Jackson’s relationship with children was brought into the spotlight again in 2003 when the TV documentary Living with Michael Jackson was broadcast. This resulted in Jackson being tried, and later acquitted, of more child molestation allegations and several other charges in 2005. After this, Jackson went on hiatus, traveling to countries such as Bahrain, before starting work on new material in Ireland. He released an album on February 11, 2008 called Thriller 25 (a special edition of the “Thriller” album), which was a commercial success selling over 1,200,000 copies worldwide in five weeks.

 

Baywatch

Baywatch is an American television series about the Los Angeles County Lifeguards who patrol the crowded beaches of Los Angeles County, California. The show ran from 1989 to 2001. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Baywatch is the most watched TV show in the world of all time, with over 1.1 billion viewers.

Gregory J. Bonann worked as a Los Angeles County lifeguard, and started up a motion picture project about lifeguards that eventually becameBaywatchBaywatch premiered on NBC in 1989, but was cancelled after only one season because of the high cost of producing it and low ratings. Feeling the series still had potential, David Hasselhoff revived it for the first-run syndication market in 1991, investing his own money and additionally functioning as executive producer. The show was hugely successful, especially internationally. The show led to a spin-off:Baywatch Nights and a reunion movie, Baywatch: Hawaiian Wedding.

In 1999, an Australian version was planned and cast members travelled to Sydney for filming. The idea was to have the established stars appear in the pilot, interacting with a local life saving organisation, and thus help launch “Baywatch Downunder”. A pilot was filmed but the series was stopped when residents of Avalon put forth strong objections, including potential damage to a fragile ecosystem. Avalon council permanently barred all future filming, and the pilot remained unbroadcast for over a year, only to be panned by critics and viewers.

In Season 10, the location of the show was changed to Hawaii and the show’s name was changed to Baywatch Hawaii.

baywatchphoto3.jpg

The show starred David Hasselhoff, of Knight Rider fame, as Mitch Buchannon, who was the only mainstay on the show, besides Michael Newman, for 10 of the 11 seasons. Baywatch was centered around the work of a team of lifeguards and their interpersonal relationships, with plots usually centering on dangers related to beach and other activities pertinent to the California (later Hawaii) beach lifestyle. Everything from earthquakes to shark attacks to serial killers, and even nuclear bombs, served as plot conflicts on the show. Saving people from drowning tended to be one of the most typical situations used in the shows. Thus a trademark of the show was slow motion shots of the attractive lifeguards running, most notably done by Pamela Anderson, Yasmine Bleeth, Alexandra Paul, and David Charvet along with Hasselhoff during the height of the show.

After the 1997-1998 season, many cast members decided to leave as the writing staff for Baywatch began to recycle storylines used in earlier seasons.

Many different actors and actresses were featured on the show over its long run with most appearing for only a few seasons. Some of the other stars who became famous were Pamela Anderson, Carmen Electra, Traci Bingham, Donna D’Errico, Nicole Eggert, David Chokachi,Gena Lee Nolin, Jaason Simmons, and Kelly Slater, a pro surfer, among many others. Erin Gray, former star of Silver Spoons and Buck Rogers, was among the cast.

The eleven seasons of the series dealt with a crew of tanned, muscular male and mostly large-breasted female lifeguards. It was one of the first network TV shows that featured frequent close-up shots of the large breasts.

 

Baywatch was most notable—some might say ‘notorious’—for most of its female cast members dropping their lifeguard swimsuits forPlayboy. Most of the female stars appeared in Playboy at the height of their fame on Baywatch, while Pamela Anderson and Carmen Electra had already appeared before joining the show. Yasmine Bleeth, who played lifeguard Caroline Holden, was at least one Baywatch actress who was offered $750,000.00 in 1998 to pose nude, but refused, vowing that she never would. 

 

 

VW Golf MK1 GTi

 

Very few cars can lay claim to spawning an entire market sector, but the Volkswagen Golf GTi is one of them. Before we even started referring to cars of its ilk as hot hatches they were simply called GTis. For a while in the early eighties it seemed that almost every mainstream manufacturer had a hatch badged GTi on their books, riding on the coat tails of the Golfs phenomenal success. As with any such iconic car, a cult following has grown up around the Volkswagen Golf GTi and whilst todays versions are supremely well built and laden with luxury and safety features the two versions we examine here, the Mk1 and Mk2 cars are what most purists would refer to as real Golf GTis. The early Mk1 cars are the collectors items but the 16v version of the Mk2 is still the car most enthusiasts would point to as the car that marked the greatest GTi moment.

Peugeot 205 Rallye

From 1988 to 1992 Peugeot produced another variant of the 205, the 205 Rallye, which was engineered and produced by Peugeot-Talbot sport. This edition of the 205 was positioned as a cost effective alternative to the 205 GTI, retaining its sporty character, but being less expensive to buy or maintain. To achieve this, Peugeot used a derivative of the TU-series engine used in the post-1987 205s, which was designated TU24. The engine is essentially the same engine as was in the 1.1-litre 205 with the cylinders bored out to a total engine displacement of 1294 cc, a sports camshaft and twin Weber carburetors. While only a 1.3-litre engine, it still produced 103 bhp (77 kW) DIN (76 kW) at no less than 6800 rpm. The car got the 1.9 GTI front suspension with ventilated brake discs, and the 1.6 GTI rear axle with drum brakes. The 205 Rallye was completely stripped of almost all soundproofing, electrical systems or other luxury items, bringing down the weight to no more than 794 kg (1750 lb). Its minimalistic equipment, together with the high revs needed to unleash all of the engine’s horsepower gives the 205 Rallye a very spartan character and makes it a difficult but rewarding car to drive hard, which is one of the reasons it is now very popular among 205 GTI enthusiasts. Around 30,000 Rallyes were produced, and they were only sold in some countries on the European mainland (at least in France, Belgium, Spain and The Netherlands). This, together with the fact that a lot of these cars have been wrecked because it is a difficult (and for some drivers even dangerous) car to drive makes the 205 Rallye a very rare car nowadays. It is almost impossible to buy one in good shape anymore because Rallye owners now tend to hold on to their cars, knowing it will be a classic in the not-too-distant future.

 

BMW 2002 turbo

In 1973 up and coming German manufacturer, BMW, took the world by storm with the announcement of its new model, the 2002 Turbo. This pocket-rocket version of the already successful 2002 series became the first European production car to feature a turbocharger. Using the standard 2002 tii two door body shell the 2002 Turbo featured a racing style front spoiler, wider wheel arches and a boot lid spoiler. Underneath the 2002 Turbo bonnet sat a tuned 1990cc four cylinder which produced a staggering 170bhp. The new car certainly enjoyed a great deal of publicity in its one year of production, all 1672 examples were built in left hand drive form.


I Like to Watch

Original article appears in salon.com, by Heather Havrilesky

Productivity is overrated. When I think of the vast sea of to-do lists I’ve written over the past 20 years, thousands of little slips of paper with items crossed off and added and circled and rewritten on new lists, I’m struck by the utter futility of this incessant compulsion to accomplish stuff.

Surely the gods find such a relentless pursuit of trivial goals utterly pathetic! As they gaze down at us from their leisurely perches in the clouds, they must laugh heartily, to see how we scamper to and fro, telling ourselves that we’re almost done. But we’re never done! There’s always more laundry, more dishes, more deadlines, more errands, more phone calls, more e-mails, more projects, more, more, more!

Why awake each morning with a to-do list? When we’re old and gray, will we measure our lives in laundry, errands and e-mails? It’s time we finally emancipated ourselves from the oppressive, ever-looming burden of productivity. Life is too short to waste time inventing even more supposedly important, time-sensitive tasks. Let’s float free of goal-oriented living and drift aimlessly through the world like idle aristocrats or retirees or stray dogs! Let’s spend our time wandering and sniffing around and relaxing in the sunshine and sipping coffee and reading the paper and musing on the meaning of it all!

But then, how will you escape the tidal wave of idiotic, pointless tasks that’s sure to drag you under after just a few idle days? If only you were going through some kind of a midlife crisis or struggling with some sort of substance abuse problem, you’d have a solid excuse for dropping out completely …

Idle/wild
It’s no wonder the inhabitants of “Big Brother” (9 p.m. EDT Tuesdays, 8 p.m. EDT Wednesdays and Sundays on CBS) always seem like such a fragile lot. Unable to conjure the proper degree of enthusiasm for drinking or drugs or a nervous breakdown, they opted for an equally tumultuous and undignified exit from their everyday lives: the reality show. But what better excuse for avoiding your responsibilities in life than by literally being imprisoned in a well-lit romper room with other aimless, soul-searching drifters?

“Big Brother” offers a rare opportunity to observe human beings in a completely idle state. But do the inhabitants seem relaxed and happy, like retirees or stray dogs? Sadly, no — they’re more like depressed zoo animals. But unlike captive polar bears, which pace the same steps over and over, quietly going insane over the years, captive human beings display their deteriorating mental health in much more colorful and entertaining ways. Say what you will about “Big Brother” in general, but this season has featured, hands down, the most demented, manic, talkative, paranoid, melodramatic crop of prisoners in the history of the show.

Splitting the group into teams of two and telling them they’d been paired with their soul mates was a stroke of genius. Partners Chelsia and James fell in lust and made out around the clock. Natalie grew infatuated with her partner, Matt, and became convinced that he adored her, too — he just happened to show it by avoiding her and insulting her constantly. And partners Sheila and Adam hated each other more than they would’ve otherwise, considering each other far too ugly and inferior to constitute a proper match. But whether bonded by love or mutual hatred, the couples became close out of necessity, coming up with joint strategies, working together during challenges, sleeping in the same beds, and insulting the other houseguests ruthlessly in the privacy of the Head of Household room.

Of course, the second everyone got comfortable, it was time to tear the couples asunder, forcing each player to compete individually. The house went from being a bustling beehive of strategizing, alliance forming and shit talking to an asylum filled with desperate, chattering lunatics. While in past seasons, the captives of the “Big Brother” house would sit around talking about nothing, and once every three or four days someone would trip on something or get into a bickering match and that footage would make it onto the show, this season, I pity the editors who have to decide what footage to include.

If you’ve checked in with the live footage of the house featured on “Big Brother After Dark” (12 a.m.-3 a.m. EDT on Showtime 2), you’ll see that every single night, the captives stay up late, strategizing and talking shit. Joshua calls Allison sad and pathetic. Matt makes a move on Sharon. Matt and Sharon confide in other players that they only kissed each other for strategic reasons. Natalie follows Matt around. James and Chelsia make out. James suggests Chelsia for eviction … The insanity goes on and on and on, with brand-new alliances and enemies forming every few milliseconds. This season, the Big Brotherians are willing to strategize with anyone, at any time, whether that person is on their side or not.

Take last week: Josh and James resolve to persuade Ryan to vote out his buddy, Matt. Natalie, who’s ostensibly in agreement, turns around and tells her darling Matt. Matt tells Ryan. Ryan agrees not to put Matt up, but tells Josh, James and the others that he’ll put Matt up anyway. Ryan makes a secret deal with Josh. Ryan changes his mind, and puts James up. James is voted out 5-1, but then, when the housemates have to decide between bringing back James or another unknown houseguest who’s already been voted out, they bring back James. James wins Head of Household and then goes on the warpath, since he feels betrayed by everyone but his lusty former partner, Chelsia, and proclaims the rest of the house total idiots for voting him back in. James promises Natalie he won’t put Matt on the block, so he puts Ryan and Sheila up for eviction, then wins the power of veto (so he can take someone off the block), changes his mind, takes Sheila off and puts Matt on the block after all. Matt’s voted out, leaving Natalie heartbroken and hungry for vengeance.

In the old days, there’d be three or four big power shifts per season. This season, the power in the house shifts constantly — it never stops shifting. You can tune in for an episode and see one thing, then switch over to “After Dark” and see a completely different plan emerging. No one has a concrete plan. Everyone is all over the map, and nothing you hear anyone say matters one damn, because they’ll turn around and say the exact opposite thing a few hours later.

Which makes this show even more of a colossal waste of time than it usually is — which is exactly why we list-makers love it with a burning passion. Three nights a week, we sit and waste a full hour on this circular, gossipy, pointless chatter. It’s the least productive, emptiest, most foolish thing we could possibly spend our time doing, and as such it constitutes one small taste of emancipation from the burden of productivity.

Pup is up
For those looking for something similarly relaxing to watch, but who can’t quite stomach the meatheads and acrid tartlets of reality television, might I recommend another group of very idle beings, albeit ones with far more personality and flair than the “Big Brother” houseguests?

Welcome to the Sleeping Dog Channel, an online video site by the geniuses at World of Wonder productions. The site shows nothing but dogs sleeping, which makes it a little less interesting than, say, “Dancing With the Stars” and a little more interesting than “CSI: Miami.”

What is it about watching dogs sleep that’s so relaxing? Whether it’s the heavy-lidded blinking of Chloe or the worried brow and paw licking of Stella, the Sleeping Dog Channel offers so many hours of commercial-free enjoyment that it’s sure to make its creators rich, I tell you, rich as kings!

Now if only they could recast “Paradise Hotel 2” with rescue dogs, the show would be much improved: “Residents of Paradise, there’s a twist! Instead of bringing a new man to Paradise this week, we’re bringing a male collie mix, a female Great Dane-lab mix and a litter of Jack Russells! Will you continue to get drunk and make out with your current roommate, or would you rather drink to excess, then frolic with a room full of high-energy puppies, and send your current roommate packing?”

The harried leisure class
The irony, of course, is that truly idle human beings are, like caged animals, more neurotic and anxious than the rest of us. Look no further than “The Real Housewives of New York City” (11 p.m. Tuesdays on Bravo) for proof. Despite a lot of big talk about their careers, these high-strung New Yorkers don’t appear to have a lot to occupy their time, outside of beauty treatments, shopping and socializing. Oh, but don’t think for a second that you can’t create a world of stress and pressure from these seemingly relaxing pursuits! These desperate housewives make play look like serious work.

Of course, the real draw of this show is to marvel at the hopeless tackiness of people who claim to be elite. The most objectionable of the lot may be Alex, who loves to brag about how perfect her life is and how superior her taste is. She doesn’t go to the Hamptons in August like so many wealthy New Yorkers; she goes to St. Barth instead. Why? “For a vacation, I want to relax. I don’t want to be looking over my shoulder to see if there’s somebody I need to impress sitting at the next table.” My, how down to earth of you!

Naturally the only “Real Housewife” who isn’t seriously cheesy, LuAnn, is a major snob. She’s married to a man whose actual name is Count Alexandre, and her daughter Victoria, who’s 12, shows horses and has been riding since she was 5. When loudmouthed fellow “Real Housewife” Ramona shows up at the Hampton Classic horse show where Victoria is riding, LuAnn sniffs at how out of place Ramona looks in her big hat and her dress, saying, “I think she thought it was like the big tent day, where you get all dolled up and it’s all about the hat and the dress? This day was all about the show, and the jumping.” Oh yes, it’s so very easy to break some crucial rule in the hallowed, horsey Hamptons!

Meanwhile, poor Ramona nervously grips her photocopied schedule of the day’s events and fires questions at LuAnn like she’s the new girl at school, while LuAnn snipes to a friend, “She keeps asking me all these questions about the show and I’m going, I don’t know, I’m watching.”

But the pettiness has only just begun! Later “Real Housewife” Jill feels hurt that Ramona didn’t invite her to a cooking party, and seeks revenge — how else? — by challenging her to a doubles match at tennis. LuAnn, who’s tall and athletic, is Jill’s partner (and they’re actually friends). After her husband, Mario, shouts several instructions from the sidelines, Ramona loses her cool and tells him to keep quiet. For WASP-y LuAnn, the whole display is lamentable.

LuAnn: I was in shock! She told him to shut up. She told him to leave! I was like, oh my God, if I ever spoke to the Count like that he would be out of town, permanently!

Yes, this woman, who refers to her husband as the Count, feels comfortable casting judgment on others. Now I can’t get that counting vampire from “Sesame Street” out of my head. One absurdly snotty remark! Two absurdly snotty remarks! Muhaha!

But LuAnn and her equally judgmental fellow “Real Housewife” Bethenny give the NYC version of this show what the Orange County version so sorely lacked: a voice of reason, however nasty and condescending that voice happens to be. Those bad, cheesy women in Orange County would parade around in ass pants with their fake jugs on display, throwing back margaritas and flirting with men 20 years younger than they were, and while you had to admire their pluck and sass, some small part of your brain couldn’t help screaming, “Why doesn’t someone tell these women to keep their voices down?”

Unlike the Orange County “Real Housewives” who looked like they’d been surgically transformed into creepy old Barbie dolls, LuAnn and Bethenny wear the life of leisure rather well, like they spend most of their time playing tennis and brushing stray dust off the bed linens. They’re fit, they’re smart, they have good taste. In a teaser for next week’s show, Bethenny even observes that Alex “overcompensates for insecurity by being pretentious.”

Needless to say, this is totally unacceptable. We aren’t supposed to respect or envy the idle rich; we’re supposed to pity them! Luckily, though, next week Bethenny’s boyfriend gets commitment-phobic and the Countess’s children get lice. Yes, the good Lord (or at least the executive producer) is on our side after all!

Drawing conclusions
The lives of the idle force us to ask ourselves a difficult question: If we freed ourselves from the puerile persistence of productivity, would we find happiness? Or would living without lists make us listless? Would we find ourselves quick to temper without little tasks to ground us? Would idleness only make us more aggressive, or tackier, or snobbier? Maybe we should feel grateful to those endless to-do lists, for keeping us safe from the neurotic tics and existential crises of the leisure class!