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Friday, January 30, 2015

What To Do In Case Of An Emergency...

Is it just my neck of the woods, or has January 2015 been one of the snowiest Januaries that I have ever seen?



I wouldn't classify it as being THE snowiest January ever.  If I recall, the winter of 1997/1998 was horrible as well.  And I'm sure that those of you who were alive during the giant blizzard of 1977 probably have some stories to tell from that period as well.  But as I type this message out (just after midnight), the sky is a sickly shade of lavender, and the snow is coming down and blanketing the earth into a brighter shade of white than ever before.

If only we had this weather around Christmas.  To me, snow is only magical in the month of December.  In January, it's a nuisance and it needs to melt.  Like now.

Of course, here in Canada, snow is something that is for the most part expected between the months of November and April.  We just look up, shrug our shoulders, grab the shovels, and scrape the ice off of our vehicles.

Because we're Canadians, and we can handle it.

That being said, I sure hope that my pals in the Maritime provinces and the Northeastern United States are surviving the massive storms that hit the area just a couple of days ago.  I imagine that some are still trying to find a way to dig out, and I would imagine that some areas are still without power at this time.  Stay safe everyone.  Believe me, I was a survivor of the great ice storm of 1998 which knocked out power and major services for several weeks in some places.  It was a very scary and frustrating time to go through, and I certainly wouldn't want to wish that sort of thing on anyone.

I think that it is important to be prepared for any sort of disaster, especially one that happens to be out of our control. 

Granted, in my neck of the woods, the only things that we really have to be aware of are ice storms, blizzards, and the occasional tornado.  Not that I have seen a tornado up close and personal, but Ontario, Canada has been known to have a few pop up.  But other places also have to deal with hurricanes, floods, wildfires, earthquakes, and even mudslides.

Do you have a survival kit to prepare yourself for such disasters?

Truth is that when it comes to natural disasters, nobody can really predict when or where a disaster will strike, nor can they tell how severe a storm system or an earthquake will be until it actually happens.  That's why it is essential to have some sort of plan in the works in case something happens and you have to make do with the bare necessities.

So, I'm here to give you some suggestions for what to include in an emergency kit, and places where you would want to store them.

I figure that this topic will be a good one to discuss around this time of year.  And besides, it's not like I have any better topic to discuss today. 

Okay, so what should you have in a survival kit?  Quite a few things.



1.  Batteries:  This should really be a no-brainer here.  When the power lines come crashing down, your home will be left in the dark and you will have no electricity.  You really should have a huge supply of batteries available on hand at all times in case this happens.  Try to get a huge supply of both AA and AAA batteries.  Those are the ones you will likely use the most of.  Oh, and keep a few C batteries on hand too.  Some flashlights and portable radios require them to work. 

Speaking of which...



2.  Flashlights - at least one per member of the household.  Again, this should be a no-brainer.  Especially in the first few hours of the crisis.  You will need to have some sort of light source to move around the house or place of business.  You will also need a flashlight to be able to light the next item safely.



3.  Candles:  Candles can be a really useful item in a power outage.  They will be your main source of light through the ordeal, no matter how long it lasts.  Just be careful with them.  Make sure that you light them in areas that are not flammable.  And keep them away from drapes, flowing furniture, clothing items, or anything else that can catch on fire.



4.  Non-Perishable Food Items:  Canned foods are a must have here.  Or dried foods like beef jerky or dried fruit.  Really, anything that will not go bad or expire within the next two years will work.  And make sure that you check your emergency kit every six months or so to toss any food that goes bad.



5.  Bottled Water:  You never know when a disaster could knock out your water supply, so it's best to have a supply of it on hand in case you need it.



6.  Board Games and Puzzle Books:  I know this sounds like a silly thing to include, but you need to have something to pass the time with!

Can you think of anything else to include in an emergency kit?

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Expanding Your Horizons One Department At A Time

They say that change is a good thing.  And well, I did plan on making 2015 the year in which change becomes a major part of my life.

I just never really expected a change quite like this.

So, as of now, I will be going to my fourth different department in two years at the place that I have worked at for the last decade.  This will also be the tenth position that I have held overall.

At least, I THINK that it'll be ten.  Let's see...

Second Shift In-Stock - 12/2004 - 12/2004 (I lasted three days)
Store Standards - 12/2004 - 01/2006
Garden Centre - 04/2005 - 06/2005 ; 04/2013 - 07/2013
Dry Grocery - 01/2006 - 08/2007
Frozen Foods - 08/2007 - 02/2008
Dairy - 02/2008 - 04/2013
Produce - Off and on between 2011 and 2013
Meats - Off and on between 2011 and 2013
Electronics - 07/2013 - 02/2015
Hardware - 02/2015 - ????

Yeah, I should mention that I had two separate stints in garden centre, and that I picked up shifts in produce and meats while I was working in grocery.  That all adds up.



But yes.  I will be moving to the hardware department effective February 7, 2015.  Yowza, that's only a few days from now!

And you know what?  I say bring it on!

As it stands right now, I'll be moving to a department that is well laid out anyway.  All I would really have to do is wander the area for a couple of days and I would feel confident enough to direct people to the right area.



If anything, I would think that the one thing that would give me trepidations would be the idea of knowing how to mix paint.  I scoped out the paint mixing machine, and I think it looks simple enough to use.  Of course, the signs that say "Please wear safety glasses when using" and "Do not put flammable things inside of this machine or it will explode" sort of freak me out a little.

But I'm not too worried.  Everyone I have talked to have said that mixing paint is easier than it looks, and that it's not too stressful to do.  So, I'm taking their word for it.

I think in the long run, I will probably be okay in my new area of the store.  After all, I am located next to the garden centre now, which is an area that I have previous experience in.  I may also have to cover sporting goods as well, which isn't so bad. 

I guess I will find out February 7 to know for sure what will happen.  But I guess when it comes to the idea of leaping into a new department, I'm more prepared to do so than I have ever been in the past.  I can't always say that I have been like this.

Part of the reason why I stayed in the grocery department for so long (seven years total) was because I didn't think I was good enough to do anything else.  But after being bounced around the store from area to area, I realize that this is not the case.  I was completely out of my element when I was in the garden centre, but somehow I made it work, and I thrived there.  Electronics caused me quite a lot of stress, but somehow I got through it.  And I'm sure that I will get through this latest challenge.

I also think that going to other areas of the store will strengthen my wealth of knowledge in a lot of ways.  Before I moved to electronics, I could consider myself to be someone who was one degree away from being Amish, but now I am quite skilled in technology to be able to understand it better than ever before.  I'm not perfect, mind you, but I am definitely a lot better.

I trust that hardware will be the same exact way.  I can't say that I know how to build anything, but maybe being around tools and screws and nuts and bolts will help me absorb knowledge through osmosis.  Maybe I'll be able to tell the difference between different brands of adhesives and fasteners.  Heck, maybe I could mix my own perfect shades of purple and blue house paint for when I finally find that perfect place to live.

(That, of course, is still ongoing.)

The point is, why try to hide from change?  Sometimes it can be a good thing.  And in each and every instance in which I moved departments, I questioned whether or not I could handle it.  And when I found that I could, it made me feel more confident about myself.

And being confident means being comfortable.  Believe me.  It's a good feeling.


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Game of the Name

Now, here's a nutty story coming out of the country known as France.  And believe me, I use the adjective "nutty" quite literally in this case.

Recently, a couple in Valenciennes, France became parents to a baby girl and both decided to give her a name that was rather unique to say the least.

The name chosen?  Nutella.



I am almost positive that billions of us all over the planet know what Nutella is.  It's a hazelnut spread that has a hint of chocolate flavour mixed with it, and it has become a breakfast staple for quite a few families.  Nutella can go on bagels, toast, crepes, pancakes...who knows, maybe there's Nutella ice cream out there somewhere.

I'll admit it.  I like Nutella.  But only sparingly.

The point is this.  As a consumable, many people love it.  As a baby name?  France hated it.  They hated it so much that they actually banned the couple from giving the child the name of Nutella.

According to French government, the reason why the parents could not name their child Nutella is because they felt that naming a child after a trademarked breakfast spread would lead to "teasing or disparaging thoughts".  So, as a result, the child's name was shortened to "Ella".  No word on whether the parents will plan on calling her Nutella as a nickname yet.

So, what do you think?  Are you on the side of the parents or the side of the French courts?

Honestly, I can see both sides of the argument.

Sure, naming a child after a chocolate-hazelnut spread is probably not something that everyone does, but there are worse things that the parents could have named her.  It's not like they named her "Skippy", "Smuckers", or "Cheez Whiz".  If I didn't know that Nutella was a food item, it would make a rather unusual, but beautiful name.  Mind you, kids could call her "Nutty" as a cruel nickname, but Nutella as a name isn't the most terrible one I've heard.

Gwyneth Paltrow named her child "Apple", for heaven's sake.

On the other hand, some parents should be banned from even naming their children in the first place.  Take a case that came out of New Zealand for example.  I don't know exactly what this set of parents were thinking when they named their child, but a few years back, a nine-year-old girl had her name legally changed from her given birth name.

That name?  Talula Does The Hula From Hawaii. 

Yeah, isn't that considered child abuse in some nations?  I mean, If they had just stopped with Talula, that would have been perfectly fine and still would have been a relatively unique, but normal name.  Why they added those additional five names onto it, who knows?  Maybe they got high off of some Cheez Whiz, I don't know.

Interestingly enough, other names banned from New Zealand include "Yeah Detroit" and "Sex Fruit".  But surprisingly enough, "Number 16 Bus Shelter" made it through.

Remind me never to allow a New Zealander to name my child if I ever have one.

DISCLAIMER:  I am sure that not everyone in New Zealand gives their children awful names.

I'm not totally against having the freedom to name a child a non-traditional name.  Some parents when left to their own devices can come up with some fantastic names that may or may not be found in baby name books.  I mean, I don't think that a potential name should be banned because it happens to be the name for something else.



I mean, what if the world started banning names that contained a colour?  Would that mean that Rose McGowan, Scarlett Johansson, Blu Cantrell, and Violet Affleck would have to change their names?  I mean, Scarlett and Violet are beautiful names.  On the other hand, I wouldn't go crazy with the Crayola colour scheme and name a child "Periwinkle" or "Macaroni and Cheese".



Numbers, on the other hand, should NEVER be considered for names.  Yes, it was cute to see "Six" on "Blossom".  But "Six" was a fictional character.  In the real world, you would have to 86 the "Six".  No kid would also appreciate being named "Zero".  And don't even get me started on the number sixty-nine being appropriate for a child's name...



And then there's the whole idea of a non-traditional name gaining in popularity.  Prior to 1990, you would be hard pressed to find anyone with the name of "Nevaeh" (Heaven spelled backwards).  Would you believe that Nevaeh was the 25th most popular name for girls in the year 2010?!?  Now, I remember being frustrated with being one of six Matthews in my second grade classroom circa 1988.  Now in 2015, there might be more than one Nevaeh in a classroom?  Unbelievable.

I just hope this doesn't kick off a trend.  Maybe we'll now see names like "Yoj", "Wobniar", "Htrae", "Noom", and "Thgilrats".

God help us all if that ever happened...though admittedly, Wobniar isn't the most horrible name out there...

Oh, who am I kidding? 

I guess that when it comes to names, you really should use your best judgment.  Ask yourself the following questions before you proceed.

1.  Can you say the prospective name without laughing?
2.  Does the name sound like a cleaning product?
3.  Does the name sound like something you would use a cleaning product on?
4.  Is the name one of the seven words that the late George Carlin used to say?
5.  Does the name sound like the solution to an algebraic equation?
6.  Is the name found on the Periodic Table of Elements?
7.  Is the name the same as a mobile phone, laptop computer, or video game console?

If you answered no to all of these questions, you're good to go.  Unless of course you want children named "Bobo", "Javex", "Soap Scum", "@#$%", "Square Root", "Hydrogen", or "XBOX".

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

January 27, 1984

Hello, everyone.

First things first, I want to thank those of you who were there for me and comforted me and my family in the wake of my grandmother's passing.  The support really means the world to me.  With all four of my grandparents now deceased, I think it finally hit me just how much I miss all of them.  It also explains why I chose to post things that I wrote several years ago in this blog over the last three days.  I needed to take the time to grieve, and I just wasn't in the mood to sit down at a computer and type out what I was feeling.  I needed to take the time to rest and reflect.

I am back with the weekly Tuesday Timeline entry however.  And believe me when I say that the subject could be considered a very "hot" topic.  You'll see what I mean in just a few minutes from now.

In the meantime, it is January 27, and we have some historical events and celebrity birthdays to get through first.

1606 - The trial of Guy Fawkes and other conspirators in the "Gunpowder Plot" commences

1785 - The first public university in the United States - The University of Georgia - is established

1880 - Thomas Jefferson receives the patent on the incandescent lamp

1888 - The National Geographic Society is founded in Washington D.C.

1908 - Journalist and publisher William Randolph Hearst, Jr. (d. 1993) is born

1919 - "Alvin and the Chipmunks" creator Ross Bagdasarian (d. 1972) is born in Fresno, California

1921 - Actress Donna Reed (d. 1986) is born in Denison, Iowa

1931 - Author (and creator of Jacob Two-Two) Mordecai Richler (d. 2001) is born in Montreal, Quebec, Canada

1944 - The 900-day siege of Leningrad is lifted

1945 - The Red Army liberates the inmates still inside the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp

1967 - Astronauts Gus Grissom, Roger Chaffee, and Edward White are killed in a fire during a test of the Apollo 1 spacecraft

1973 - The Vietnam War officially ends with the Paris Peace Accords

1980 - Six American diplomats secretly escape Iran in what would come to be known as the "Canadian Caper"

1996 - Germany's first observance of International Holocaust Remembrance Day takes place

2003 - The first selections for the National Recording Registry are announced by the Library of Congress

2010 - "The Catcher in the Rye" author J.D. Salinger dies of natural causes at the age of 91

2013 - In Santa Maria, Brazil, 242 people die in a fire at Kiss Nightclub

And the following famous faces will be frosting cakes today;  James Cromwell, John Witherspoon, Nick Mason, Nedra Talley, Brian Downey, Seth Justman, Tam O'Shaughnessy, Peter Laird, Mimi Rogers, Susanna Thompson, Keith Olbermann, Narciso Rodriguez, Margo Timmins, Mark Moraghan, Bridget Fonda, Alan Cumming, Tricky, Mike Patton, Patton Oswalt, Mark Owen, Josh Randall, Lucy Porter, Jake Pavelka, Rosamund Pike, Davetta Sherwood, and Daisy Lowe.

And now, on with today's date.  I will be the first to admit that I don't really remember this day well at all (I was nearly two and three-quarters when it took place), but it was a date that set the stage for the problems that one entertainer would have until his dying day.



That date is January 27, 1984.

Again, I have very vague memories of the year 1984.  It was the year that I turned three, and admittedly everything before 1986 is one gigantic blur.  But one thing that I do seem to remember was that 1984 seemed to be the year of the soft drink commercials.

Yes, thirty-one years ago, back when people didn't really know about the harmful effects of soda pop on the human body, people all over the world were guzzling down the carbonated beverages that were guaranteed to make you belch at least a couple of times after consumption. 



And certainly, no two companies battled for soda supremacy quite like Pepsi and Coca-Cola.  Sorry Royal Crown, Shasta, and Tab.

During the 1980s, it almost seemed like Coke and Pepsi did everything in their power to try and get consumers to buy their products.  But I think that when it comes to advertising purposes, Pepsi was clearly the winner of the two.   After all, they became known for their "Pepsi Challenge", their commercials appealed to a "new generation", and their commercials featured everyone from Ray Charles and Madonna to the Spice Girls and Britney Spears.  Just have a look at some of the more memorable commercials below.



I suppose looking back on it, Pepsi did seem to be the victor of the "Cola Wars" - at least in the 1980s, anyway.  I don't think consumers really appreciated the "New Coke" scandal of 1985 anyway.

(Just one note:  Pepsi is now third in sales overall behind Coke Classic and Diet Coke.  And, who knew that Diet Coke was considered a separate entity from Coke Classic?  You know, never mind.  I don't even want to try and make sense of it.)



Anyway, back in the 1980s, Pepsi certainly seemed to be the choice of the next generation.  And nobody seemed to deliver that message any clearer than the "King of Pop" himself, Michael Jackson!

Michael Jackson filmed several commercials for the soft drink manufacturer, and Pepsi became a major sponsor of Jackson's world tours until the early 1990s.  And as far back as I can remember, people always loved seeing Michael Jackson in the Pepsi ads.  Even though the commercials were ninety seconds at the longest (can you imagine a television commercial lasting a minute and a half these days), the work that went into them was astounding, and the cost of the commercials to film almost amounted to what a music video would cost.  Just have a look at this ad from 1984 featuring a then 12-year-old Alfonso Ribeiro!



And yes, in 1984, Michael Jackson did film quite a few commercials for Pepsi.  But it was on this date thirty-one years ago that something happened on the set of one of Michael's Pepsi commercials that some say changed the course of his life forever.

On January 27, 1984, Michael Jackson reunited with his brothers (who as all of you know made up the 1970s pop group, The Jackson Five) for a series of Pepsi commercials that would air throughout 1984.  With the first commercial already filmed, a second one was scheduled to film at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles.  The set-up was that The Jackson Five would perform on the stage in front of three thousand extras and the song that they would be singing would be a reworking of the song "Billie Jean" - a hit single for Jackson in 1982 - to reflect Pepsi being the choice of the new generation.  It sounds simple enough, right?

As part of the commercial, one of the key scenes was the one where Michael Jackson breaks into the chorus of the commercial jingle.  As he sings, he descended down a flight of stairs while an explosion of pyrotechnics detonated behind him.  This was the end result.



However, there is a sad tale to tell regarding the behind the scenes action of the filming of this commercial.  

On the sixth take of the day, Jackson was doing his dance moves on the stage and was about to descend down the stairs as he did the previous five takes when the pyrotechnics explosion was detonated just a few seconds earlier than the other five.  And Jackson was standing dangerously close to the explosion when it went off. 

So close that his hair actually ignited and was on fire for at least four or five seconds before the fire was put out by crew members.

By the time the fire was put out, Michael Jackson was in absolute pain.  He suffered second and third degree burns on his scalp and face.  His hair had been completely burned off right down to the scalp and according to Jackson's longtime make-up artist Karen Faye, he had to endure painful migraine headaches while he was recovering from the burns.  Because Jackson's face had also been badly burned, Jackson had to undergo some plastic surgery to fix the damage, which included a rhinoplasty surgery.

Pepsi settled out of court, and Jackson was awarded a $1.5 million settlement for his injuries which he donated to the burn unit of the hospital where Jackson was treated.



However, many people argue that the accident during the Pepsi commercial left scars (both physical and psychological) that simply did not heal.  At the time that Jackson filmed the Pepsi commercial, his album "Thriller" was the #1 album for nearly two years straight.  Remember that iconic album cover?

Well, due to his injuries, Jackson had to wait until 1987 to release his next album, "Bad".  Note the difference in Jackson's appearance between 1982 and 1987.



Some would say that the injuries that Jackson endured from that fire helped fuel his addiction to plastic surgery in later years, and certainly from the "Bad" album cover, I can see what they are saying.

And anyone who has sustained severe burns on their body knows first hand how painful the recovery process can be.  While none of us can imagine how much physical pain Jackson went through, some speculate that this accident helped kick off Jackson's well documented addiction to painkillers - which ultimately lead to his death in June 2009 at the age of 50.

It's hard to say exactly what factors lead up to the ultimate passing of "The King of Pop".  But I would say that the Pepsi commercial accident could very well be one major part of where Jackson's problems began.   And it's a real shame.  

Monday, January 26, 2015

Fumblethumbs

Originally written by myself on June 19, 2010.




I've never been that interested in sports. 

There's lots of people who are incredibly gung-ho about sporting events. The Stanley Cup finals. The World Series. Recently, everyone seems to be crazy about the World Cup of Soccer (or football if you happen to live outside of North America). 

I don't like to use stereotypes to describe a particular scenario, but as a person who was born male, it almost seems as though it's "expected" that I automatically like every single sport out there. Baseball, NASCAR, Synchronized Swimming. If it involves sports of any kind on ESPN, TSN, or even SPIKE-TV, I should be interested. 

But, again. I'm not. 

Even as far back as I can remember, I never showed much of an interest in physical activity (which could explain why I was the huskiest one of all in school). I would never read the Sports page of a newspaper, I was bored to tears by Sports Illustrated magazine, and I only bought high school football tickets as a way to get out of class early. To me, sports were just one of those interests that never really applied to me. 

That's not to say that I avoided sports like the plague. In elementary school, I did play in a few lunch hour games, but mostly they were in sports that I could do, like floor hockey, or volleyball. I studied karate as a pre-teen. And, I used to be a pretty good bowler back in the day. I even took part in the 2009 Bowling for Miracles tournament through work. So, I'm not overall anti-sports. 

But, I think that was the key to it all. The only sports that I liked were the sports that I could do without a whole lot of effort. I was pretty good at spiking a volleyball, and my husky size as a kid meant that I was the perfect goalie for floor hockey. 

Unfortunately, that's where my sports skills end. 

I can't dribble to save my life in a game of basketball, though I could spell horse faster than any other kid. When I wasn't missing the ball in baseball, it was making contact with my face. And don't even get me started on track and field. Can't shot put. Can't hurdle. Can't triple jump. Heck, even a double jump is a stretch. 

I guess my lack of athletic talent kind of rubbed off on my ability to care about sports. If I couldn't do them, why should I care about athletes who could? I mean, sure, athletes could make a lot of money playing the game. Michael Jordan took it one step further and endorsed hot dogs, sneakers and tighty-whities for serious cash. But, again, Michael Jordan also had years of training and and success. Me...well, I eat hot dogs and wear underwear and sneakers...yay me. 

I guess I can also see how athletes are glorified because they do put a lot of effort and passion into the game. Lots of kids want to be professional basketball players or pitchers for the MLB. I just wasn't one of them. 

I was the worst athlete in my class. I very well could have been the worst athlete in my school. It used to bother me in high school, seeing the jocks of the school getting all these perks. Athletic banquets. Football scholarships, the whole nine yards. But, now that I look back on it, I'm not bothered by the slightest. Those jocks found something that they were skilled at and used it to their advantage. Nothing wrong with that at all. 

Just like in my case, I happen to be skilled in writing down my thoughts and coming up with occasional zingers. I'm sure that if I work hard enough, I could be a success as an author, have a career in motivational speaking or advertising...maybe even become the next Jeff Dunham or George Lopez. 

To think that there were a couple of people in my life who told me that it wasn't 'macho' to not care about sports. To me, being macho is finding something you're good at and making a success out of it. Sports just aren't my thing. But, luckily, I've found something that is. 

And, if you wanna call me fumblethumbs, go right ahead. I wear it like a badge of honour. 

Or, at least a bronze at the Olympic ceremonies.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Every Shade of Blue...and Purple...and Orange...and Black...

Originally written by myself on September 16, 2010...

I have always been fascinated by colours.

More importantly, I've always been fascinated by the meanings of colours.  Why colours are used.  What makes people decide to use the colours they do, or wear the colours they wear.

I thought I would look at it through a variety of different meanings and old wives tales by using my three favourite colours...but don't worry.  I'll post all the colours of the rainbow up here, just so all of you can look up your favourite colours and see exactly what they mean to you!

Why don't we start by looking at a grid of nine random colours and what they mean?



Okay...so you can basically see what the meanings of the colours are in this grid.  But, here's the ones for my three favourite colours.

PURPLE:  royalty, luxury, dignity, wisdom, spirituality, passion, vision, magic
BLUE:  peace, stability, calmness, confidence, tranquility, sincerity, affection, integrity
GREEN:  life, growth, environment, healing, money, safety, relaxation, freshness

Now, looking at this list...I'm not definitively any one of these colours solely.  Take purple for example.  I see myself as a person who could be considered wise, and possible have some sort of vision.  But, my idea of luxury is buying the more expensive kind of ice cream. 

With blue...I am very affectionate and filled with integrity...but I don't see myself as being the calmest of people, and let's face it...I have confidence issues.

And, with green...I have done a lot of growing this past year, and do practice safety and take care of the environment...but money...I don't have a lot of...LOL.

But, I suppose if you blended these three colours together, that would be me.

Here's some other meanings...



Purple can also represent creativity, enlightenment, and on the flip side, arrogance and mourning.  Once a colour that only the rich nobles could afford, it's now seen as a colour worn by creative types.



Blue is known to be the safest global colour, and its meaning usually has to do with spirituality, calmness, and security...but can also be a colour that represents depression and technology.



Green usually represents life, vigor, growth, and good luck...but in some countries, it can be a bad colour.  In China and France, green is a colour that you don't normally see on packaging.  In fact, in China, it is said that a green hat is a sign that a woman is cheating on her husband!!!



Red is a bold colour that can be considered bi-polar.  On one hand, it represents love, strength, and speed.  On the other hand, it can represent danger, violence, and warning.  Unlike the colour green, red is a colour of good luck, with people getting red envelopes filled with cash for the Chinese New Year.  It's also the colour of purity in India.



Orange, while not as bold as red is a warm colour.  Meanings include balance, warmth, enthusiasm, vibrance, flamboyance, and attention-seeking.



Yellow represents joy, happiness, sunshine, and optimism.  On the flip side, it can also symbolise dishonesty, illness, cowardice, and betrayal.

So, as you can see...different colours have different meanings.

And, we can tell a lot about certain pieces of artwork based on the colours that artists choose to illustrate artwork, magazine covers, and comic books.

Speaking of comic books, let's analyze a cover.

Let's take a look at a cover from 2009...Archie's Double Digest #202.



Well, we can make out some things...the title of the opening story is Archie: Goodbye Forever.  So, we already know that the story is likely not going to be a happy one.  In fact, Archie and Betty are on the cover crying in the middle of a thunderstorm (where they appear to be struck by lightning).

Notice that the dominant colours on this cover are black and blue.  We know that black means mystery and death...and we know blue can symbolize depression and peace.  Given these colours are dominant, the colour choices work because it looks like Archie and Betty are breaking up because he has to move.  The death of a relationship, so to speak.  And, to the reader, unless you read the first two parts, there is a bit of mystery, as you don't know why Archie is leaving.  And, take a look at what Archie is wearing.  He's decked out in blue and white.  Now, the blue could represent Archie's depression...but blue could also represent sincerity, and peace.  Like maybe Archie has made peace with the situation despite his being unhappy about it.  The white in Archie's shirt could show goodness, light, and hope.  Archie's always been squeaky-clean, so the goodness and light is simple enough...but maybe there's hope that maybe he doesn't have to leave.  And, take a look at Betty's blouse.  It's pink.  Pink represents love, sensitivity, romance, compassion...all qualities that if you read Archie comics, you would know that they best describe Betty Cooper.

In this cover, I'd say whoever coloured this cover made all the right choices.  It wouldn't look right if the cover was predominantly yellow (a happy colour).  And, the contrasting colours only serves to add a more detailed explanation to understanding the colour.

Yeah, you can tell that I've been studying this a bit too long.

But, this excites me.  I'm fascinated by colour.

Just take a look at the examples I've provided, and see if your favourite colour suits you!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Fine Feathered Foes - A Short Story

Because of so many things going on at once (mostly my grandmother's funeral which is taking place this upcoming Monday), I've decided that for the next three days, I would post some pieces that I worked on over the years and share them with you here.

I guess you could consider this to be my writings prior to the blog beginning.

Though that isn't entirely true.  This piece was written in February 2012.  I composed this piece for the Canada Writes Short Story Contest three years ago.  Although I didn't win that competition, I enjoyed writing it.



And now I want to share this story with all of you.  It's got a pop culture twist to it which I will reveal to you at the end.  Can you figure it out before you get there?

The story is called - FINE FEATHERED FOES

If there was one hobby that Mr. O'Toole loved doing more than anything else, it was bird watching.

Every morning he visited the park, carrying a set of binoculars and a well-worn notebook to record everything he had seen. He would sit on his favourite bench to watch all the birds that flew past. He enjoyed seeing the many different types of birds which called the park home during the summer months. The last week of September was one of his final opportunities that the man would have to watch as many species of his feathered friends as possible before the harsh brutality of the cold winter winds moved in, and he wanted to take full advantage of it.

It was a lovely day for bird watching. There was a chill in the air, which was normal for early autumn. The leaves on the trees turned brighter shades of orange each day, and the gentle breeze rustled through the tree tops.

The park didn't have a lot of people around. It made sense, given that it was only half-past seven. There were a few joggers taking advantage of the early morning sunshine. Otherwise, it was fairly quiet. Mr. O'Toole was in his element. Peace and quiet made for the perfect bird watching conditions as far as he was concerned.

He sat down on his bench, overlooking the river that flowed alongside the park's bicycle path. He took out his binoculars and watched the riverbank, hoping to spot a rare breed of bird that he had not yet seen. There were pigeons and seagulls flying around the park, but Mr. O'Toole wasn't interested in those. He really wanted to spot a Northern Mockingbird, but knew that the odds of locating one, were slim, especially around this time of year. While it would have made his day complete to spot one, for now, he was quite content sitting in the park on a gorgeous September day.

His gaze happened to fixate on a couple of boys who were strolling through the park. They couldn't have been much more than fifteen. Mr. O'Toole eyed the two young men curiously. He could see that both of them were carrying backpacks, a clear indication that they were on their way to school. He also noticed that both boys were staring at the screens of their mobile phones.

He shook his head with a mixture of disbelief and disgust.

He didn't need to have the electronic devices that many people felt they needed to make their lives easier. He was quite happy going on long walks, taking in the beauty that nature had to offer. When he was a young lad, he enjoyed riding his bike through the park, taking a dip in the lake, and of course, bird watching. He didn't even want to understand the need to be tied to a mobile phone device all hours of the day. Not when there was so much beauty out there in the world.

Yet there they were doing exactly that.

He couldn't quite figure it out. How these boys could stare at a tiny screen, pushing dozens of buttons every few seconds.

“If only those boys could turn off those devices for five minutes...” Mr. O'Toole thought to himself. “...then maybe they could appreciate this beautiful day as much as I do.”

It almost frustrated Mr. O'Toole to see both of these young men have such disregard of their surroundings because their mobile phones took up their entire attention span. One of the boys was so drawn to his mobile phone that he caused a cyclist to swerve out of the way to avoid hitting him. The other boy almost walked directly into an outdoor garbage can, as he was too busy typing something to notice it. This prompted the other boy to point and laugh at his misfortune. Mr. O'Toole couldn't understand what the boys were saying to each other as he was too far away to overhear them. At this point, he didn't really seem to care, as he thought they had caused enough trouble. He was not impressed with either young man.

“With attitudes like that, no wonder the birds are staying away.” Mr. O'Toole said to himself.

The two boys composed themselves seconds later and went right back to typing away on their mobile phones. Mr. O'Toole could not believe his eyes. He would have thought that the boys would have learned their lesson just moments earlier, but it seemed as though they would have to learn that lesson the hard way.

The boys had now arrived at the section of the park where Mr. O'Toole was sitting. He could now get a good look at them both. One of them had messy red curls on top of his head, and was clad in a lime green hooded sweatshirt. The other one had short, dark hair, wearing a black, long-sleeved sweater with what appeared to be a logo of a giant green pig stitched on the front. But Mr. O'Toole wasn't interested in fashion critique. Instead, he wanted the boys to leave the park as soon as possible so he could go back to bird watching in peace.

Mr. O'Toole's focus soon shifted towards a small bush with tiny red berries growing on it. He knew that those berries could feed dozens of birds at once. He had gotten some of his best sightings around that bush. The last thing he wanted was for the boys to cause any damage to it.

Like clockwork, the boy cloaked in green was so focused on his phone that he failed to notice a deep crack inside the concrete of the path they were walking down. He stumbled over the crack, his phone flying out of his hands at that moment, and fell head first right into the bush. His phone smashed into several pieces beside him.

The other boy ran to the bush to check on his friend. “Are you okay, man?”

“My phone!” the other boy moaned. “I just bought it yesterday!”

Mr. O' Toole continued to watch as the boy in the black shirt attempted to pull the other boy out of the bush. The boy's attention was so focused on helping his friend that he didn't quite hear the loud chirping noise in the background.

But Mr. O'Toole heard the noise, and immediately stood up. He recognized it immediately.“That sound...it sounds like birds chirping. It couldn't be...could it?”

Sure enough, Mr. O'Toole's suspicions were correct when a pair of the very birds that he had hoped to see flew past him towards the direction of the two boys. Without warning, the two Northern Mockingbirds swooped down towards the boy wearing the black sweater, scaring him. “Hey!” the boy screamed. “Get lost, you stupid birds!!!”

Mr. O'Toole could only watch as the two birds attacked the boy in black. Because he owned every book ever printed on the subject of ornithology, he knew that if the habitat of the Northern Mockingbird was threatened in any way, they would attack the enemy to defend it.

In this case, the habitat was that bush. And the enemy was the boy with the pig on his shirt.

The boy swatted the birds away in desperation, but the birds were relentless in their attack. The boy started to run away from the birds, hoping to outrun them, but in the scuffle, his shoelace had become untied. Tripping over the lace, the boy stumbled in the direction of the river flowing through the park and before he knew what had happened, he fell head first into the water with a gigantic splash.

Mr. O'Toole could not contain his laughter as the two boys made their way out of the bush and the river respectively. “Serves those boys right.” he thought to himself.

“Those stupid birds! I'm soaked, and so is my phone!” the boy in the black cried out. “I'm gonna have to go home and change! We'll really be late for school now!”

“Come on!” the boy in green said. “Let's get out of here before those birds come back!”



And from a distance, Mr. O'Toole chuckled to himself. It had been a day that he would never forget. Not only had he gotten the chance to see the elusive Northern Mockingbird, but he also had the satisfaction of seeing two distracted boys being taught a valuable lesson by a couple of angry birds.