It’s that time of the week again, so let’s dive right in with a look at some events of the past five days that had people talking:
— One of the factors that influenced the decline of the car industry in America over the last few decades was the perception from consumers that American automotive products were inferior in quality to their foreign counterparts. But there’s a chance that we might see some change in that thinking in the wake of the current issues facing Toyota, which announced a safety recall of 2.1 million vehicles back on January 21 due to the possibility of sticking accelerator pedal mechanisms. This recall came on the heels of another one back in September of last year, in which 3.8 million vehicles were involved.
For the moment, Toyota has halted both the production and sale of eight of its popular models, and its public image with consumers has been taking a beating. Not helping has been a slow response by the car manufacturer to the safety issues with its products, and the accusations being levied that Toyota attempted to cover up the problem, rather than address it.
Car manufacturers in the United States are silently hoping that this will be an opportunity for them to turn the tide and get American car buyers back in the habit of purchasing American-made cars. In addition, both Ford and GM, hoping to take advantage of Toyota’s bungling, have begun offering additional money to car buyers who wish to trade in their Toyota models and purchase something else. This January saw what U.S. car makers hope to be the beginning of a trend: sales of Ford and GM posted double-digits sales increases, while Toyota’s sales dropped 16 percent, ending up with its lowest numbers in more than a decade.
It’s been a long time since anyone could feel good about the direction of the car industry in this country — this issue may have given American companies a window to better compete with their foreign counterparts. Time will see if they take full advantage of it.
— A week ago, I wrote about the ridiculous rumblings coming from the family of deceased actress Brittany Murphy, in which her husband and mother were preparing for possibly suing Warner Brothers studio, who they were publicly claiming were responsible for the actress’ death.
Here’s to hoping the lawyers they were planning to hire haven’t already cashed their retainer checks, as yesterday the Los Angeles coroner announced the results of Murphy’s autopsy — officially, the actress died accidentally from a combination of pneumonia and prescription drugs. While more details are expected to be announced sometime in the next two weeks, it’s pretty clear that the family’s hopes of cashing in on a loved one’s tragic death concerns that Warner Brothers drove Murphy to her death were completely baseless.
If you take a visit to the entire article I linked to just above, you’ll see at its beginning a picture of Murphy that makes you wonder why someone in her family hadn’t gotten her to seek medical attention sooner for something. In the photo (the time at which was taken at isn’t stated, but I would imagine it was in the past year of her life), the actress looks pale, gaunt, and certainly unhealthy (in contrast to the photo here above). Murphy’s family denied that she had any sort of eating disorder, but seeing her in that photo makes you pause to wonder.
— The most classic of all board games is arguably Monopoly, and it was announced at this year’s Toy Fair that, in recognition of the game’s 75th anniversary, Hasbro is launching a new version of the game with some radical changes for those of us who’ve played it countless times over the years. Unfortunately, none of those changes appear to be any good.
What’s not to like about this edition? Where to begin? Paper money (and the idea of banker) — gone (replaced be — what else in this day and age — a credit card. Maybe in the spirit of staying relevant to the times, the game can raise the interest rate to 29.9% with no warning when you’re in the middle of a turn). The familiar metal tokens — gone (replaced by cheap-looking clear plastic stand-ups with pictures on them). The houses and hotel — shrunken down to a “there’s no way you won’t lose them” size. And the game board is smaller and round — it looks like a poorly-baked pie, with slices that represent the properties — instead of the familiar square board that represents streets laid out around a city block. And on top of all of that, it looks like the properties have been changed as well — so bye-bye to Boardwalk and Park Place.
There have been a number of hybrid Monopolies released over the years — in addition to a collector’s edition classic version, I actually own the “Here and Now”, “Spider-Man” and “Looney Tunes” versions of the game as well — so this isn’t anything new, and I can’t fathom that Hasbro would replace the time-tested version of the game, especially since modern updates (with higher rents and bigger denominations of money) like the aforementioned Here and Now haven’t proven to be nearly as popular with the game-playing public. If Hasbro does plan on this being a standard Monopoly game of the future, however, it might prove to be as wise a decision as Coca-Cola made in introducing New Coke — and about as ill-advised.
— And finally, with the Super Bowl just days away, I’ll have a special column up this weekend with a football-themed Ro-Sham-Bo winner — and no, it has absolutely nothing to do with either the Colts or the Saints! So check back sometime tomorrow for that, and everyone enjoy the Big Game on Sunday — hopefully, it lives up to its promise.