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Friday, November 21, 2014

Canadian PSA's That Were...Strange

I'll be the first one to admit it.  Having my formative years falling in the late 1980s and early 1990s was definitely an interesting experience.

For the most part, it was a good time (well, the time outside of school, that is).  The music was great, there was a great emphasis on environmental protection (something I wish the world would do more of), and the movies at the cinema were some of the best.  Seriously, if you were to take every film released between 1988 and 1996, I probably would like a good 75% of them.

But not all parts of pop culture were celebrated during that time period.  In particular when it comes to Canadian television.

Specifically public service announcements.

Now, I am sure that most of you know what a public service announcement is.  They are 30 second to one minute advertisements that usually air during blocks of children's or family programming that deal with a particular subject.  Subjects like drug use, alcohol use, safety precautions, cause awareness, and environmental awareness.  Here's an example of one of these PSA's that aired in both Canada and the United States, I believe.

Of course, not all of these PSA's were as cute as the one starring Tweety up above.  Some of them were strange, weird, or just plain scary.  Canadian ones in particular were all kinds of weirdness.  I think some of them might have been filmed by a director who was under the influence of the very things that they were trying to warn children and young adults about!

Anyway, we're going to take a look at some of these PSA's in a moment, but before we go ahead, I really want to give a shout out to one of the people who read this blog and gave me the idea to do this topic.

Viki A. from Pincourt, Quebec, this one's for you!

And, to begin, let's take a look at one of the very first PSA's that I remember from my early childhood years.  One that used to scare me when I was really young.

Okay, so as you probably have seen, this is a public service announcements for War Amps, an organization that helps people who have had amputated limbs cope, as well as providing financial services for children to receive artificial limbs.  It's a really great organization, and my family has used the War Amps key tag service for decades. 

It's just a shame that this commercial was so scary.  Here's a small child robot named Astar, who very well could be the love child between C-3PO and Big Brother's Zingbot, having fun the best way that robot children know how - swinging on moving gears, chains, and sawblades.  Of course, Astar ends up playing foolishly and accidentally severs his whole arm off in a sea of bright yellow sparks and ear-splitting noise.  Don't worry though, he can snap his arm back on in seconds.  But if a real child were to do what Astar did - well, frankly he'd probably be dead within the first ten seconds.  But at best, he would likely lose the same arm, and unlike Astar, there's no way of putting that arm back on.

It was meant to scare kids into not playing with dangerous toys, or doing dangerous things that could make you lose an eye, arm, or leg.  But really, all it did with me was make me want to avoid that creepy commercial at all costs.

Which wasn't easy, given that the commercial ran for FIFTEEN YEARS!!!

You know, let's go ahead with an ad campaign for smoking.  You know how nowadays, ad makers try to use grotesque imagery and sad stories to keep people from smoking, or to encourage smokers to quit?  Well, this was Canada's answer to anti-smoking ads circa '87.

Okay, so the lady singing is Canadian entertainer Luba, known for the singles "Let It Go", "How Many", and the uplifting single "Every Time I See Your Picture, I Cry".  And Luba's message is for all people to break free from the habit of cigarette smoking.

And by doing this, they have a whole bunch of teenagers dancing around dressed like extras from Degrassi Junior High.  If people want to join the party, they need to break free from the cigarette ads that pepper the alleyways, and change from black and white to their colourful 1980s bad selves.  Not exactly the most effective video to promote anti-smoking, but hey, it was the 1980s.  Most commercials didn't make sense then.

And speaking of commercials with loud, garish colours.

Hey, that's Gert!  And that's her brother Bert!  And these wascally wabbits are dressed like Screech from Saved By The Bell so that they can help YOU stay alert, stay safe, and look good doing it!

All right, so the ads themselves were a good idea, and provided a lot of great information for kids.  But, I don't know...using animated bunnies to promote personal safety...could there possibly be anything worse than that?

Well, okay, I forgot about the two fuzzy blue monsters who warn you not to "put it in your mouth, though it might look good to eat, like a muffin or a beet".  Yeah, my sister and I used to make fun of this commercial all the bloody time it came on, which back in 1993 or whatever year this came out was at least five times a day.  Before my voice changed, I could mimic the voices of the blue monsters quite well.  Now I look at this ad and I cringe at how horrible it is.  And they think that ads like this were supposed to help us AVOID drugs.  I wouldn't be surprised if this ad made some kids believe that they were already under the influence!

And, speaking of anti-drug ads, I can't even explain this one.

This one just has every single bad 1990s stereotype attached to it.  Ugly fonts, kids dancing, grown-ups acting like fools, and that one guy in particular looks like a "Movember" participant!

That's about all that I have to say about really weird PSA's from Canada when I was a child.  Do you have any from your own countries that you'd like to share?  Are there some that I left off this list.  Please leave all comments here.

In the meantime, I suppose you want to know what PSA's look like now.  Well, these aren't recent (I'd say they came out in at least 2006), but they certainly do make a good point about workplace safety.

As well as this ad that is really creative...but not what you might expect.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Hotel Signs That Don't Quite Work

I think that for today, I will be lightening things up.  It has been a while since I have done a post with funny images, so I decided to make today FUNNY THURSDAY.

It's just a part of a complete YOU NEVER NOVEMBER WHAT YOU'RE GONNA GET month!

And for today, I thought I would take a look at the funny signs that can be found around hotel lobbies, hotel rooms, and even in the hotel rooms themselves!

We're heading towards December at full speed, and this is definitely the time of year in which people start planning their getaways to escape the frosty days of winter.  Whether you are going home for the holidays, or whether you are planning on taking an extended sabbatical from all things winter, it's almost a guarantee that unless you're staying with friends or family members, you'll be checking into a place of lodging.

Whether that place of lodging is the Plaza Hotel or the Motel 6 down the highway, you know that hotels all over the place have signs posted in restaurants, lobbies, and even bathrooms in hopes of making your stay a little more pleasant.

But what happens when those very signs get lost in translation, post useless advice, or are just plain offensive? 

Well, let's find out, shall we?

As always, I wish to offer credit to Pinterest,,,,,,, and for the images presented today.

1.  Someone should probably let this hotel know the real definition of free.

2.  OH MY GOD!  JACKEE IS HERE!  I loved her in 227, and Sister Sister, and all those other shows she was on too!  I hope I get her autograph and...

...oh, wait.  That's Jacky, not Jackee.  My bad.

3.  Let's go to the hotel that is floating up above our heads!  I always wanted to stay at the Sky Palace!

4.  So does that mean you'll pull the alarm, spray me in the face with a fire extinguisher and chop off my head with a fire axe?  Now that's service!

5.  For $49.95, that poo better damn well be refreshing! 

6.  Yes, this hotel's staff can speak English quite well.  Writing it, on the other hand...and, what is up with the pictures underneath?  You're allowed to go down the stairs on a wheelchair?

7.  Okay, if you can make heads or tales out of this message, do feel free to use the comments section of this blog and let me know.  Because after staring at this image for more than five minutes, I don't know what else to say.

8.  This hotel must be owned by the people that run that Ashley Madison cheat dating site.  Or, perhaps Hugh Grant bought it.  Who can say, really?

9.  Intoxicated people take note.  If you fall over this balcony, you will never have to worry about nursing a hangover ever again.

10.  An interesting perspective for sure...but honestly I would probably be more offended by the cockroaches crawling around than the cigarette butts.

11.  Well, one thing you can say about this hotel and casino's name.  They appreciate honesty.

12.  Baltic Bitch Hotel?  Oh dear.  Can you think of a hotel with a more offensive name than this one?

13.  Y'know, I stand corrected.  Well played Dick.  Well played.

14.  The Old Weak Ill Disability and Pregnant Lounge.  Well, if Betty White breaks her hip, gets sick with the flu, and happens to get pregnant, she'd fit right in.

15.  The toilet is not a foot massager.  Not that you should ever really try this.  I actually want to know the circumstances behind why this sign was even put here in the first place!

16.  This sign = awesomeness!  But, seriously, if you're in a burning building, don't take a selfie.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Betty's Diary

Today's blog entry is all about two of my favourite things in the whole wide world.

Writing and Archie Comics.

For those of you who have been following along with this blog over the last three years, I am sure that you know that I love writing.  It has always been a hobby of mine for as long as I can remember, and I certainly can call it more than just a hobby.  I mean, I've done this blog every day since 2011.  That takes dedication!

And, for those of you who have been with this blog a while, you know that I have a soft spot for Archie comics.  I have a huge collection of them at home, and I credit Archie comics to keeping me sane during a rather tumultuous childhood.  I have been reading them since I was five years old, and I don't see myself giving them up some twenty-eight years later.

Well, I thought that for today's blog, I would take my love of writing and my love of Archie comics and combine them into one subject.  Sounds impossible, right?

Well, not really.  You see, there is one character in the Archie comics world that would write all about their days in Riverdale, their struggles in school, and of course, obsessing over a certain red-haired teenager.  But this person also recorded her biggest fears, her wildest dreams, her anxiety about growing older, and the beauty that life could bring.  She definitely could be considered a whimsical, thoughtful, intelligent, and emotional young lady and no matter what was going through her mind, she would always tell her stories so eloquently and passionately.  She very well could have had her own book series.

Oh, wait.  She already did.

Today we're going to be looking at the Archie comics serial "Betty's Diary".  And this is a serial that really should have lasted a lot longer than it did.  I will get to more on that a little bit later.

Now, truth be told, Betty Cooper has always been seen as the girl-next-door type.  A bouncing blonde who always does nice things for her neighbours, who always gets straight A's in class, and who almost always has a really kind word to say about everybody.

(Well, unless you're Veronica Lodge or Cheryl Blossom, or anyone else who happens to come between her and Archie Andrews, that is.)

And one character trait that Betty always seemed to have was the fact that she loved to write.  Heck, on this cover of Archie from the 1950s, she is writing in her diary!

This trend would continue over the next thirty years or so, and usually whenever we saw Betty writing in her diary, it would often be used as a gag in which Betty embellished the truth.  Like, for instance, if she was blowing up balloons for Archie's birthday party, she would write about Archie making her feel breathless.  You know, stuff like that.

It really wasn't until the 1980s that Betty's diary entries became more...shall we say, personal.

The Betty's Diary series began in the summer of 1985, initially as a one-off title that was a part of the "Archie Giant Series" title.  It was issue #555, to be exact.

In the title, it featured four stories from Betty's point of view as she wrote about her daily happenings in her diary.  And unlike the one-page gag entries that we were used to, these were full page stories that really dug into the depths of Betty's personality.  She shared stories about how she had feelings for Archie mixed in with teenage angst and worry about friendships, school, and life in general.

And the book was a huge hit with readers.  So much so that the "Betty's Diary" one-off became an entire Archie series.  The first issue came out in 1986.  Have a look at the cover below.

(And, yes, I do own the first issue.  Actually, I have about half of them.  I am missing a few, but I could probably find them online if I wanted them that badly.)

But the "Betty's Diary" series of books was absolutely unlike any other Archie comic series out there.  It was so radically different, it was refreshing.  I mean, yes, titles like "Archie", "Jughead", "Betty & Veronica", and "Pep" were comic series that were designed to make you laugh.  And yes, there were some light hearted moments in the "Betty's Diary" series that made you chuckle and smile.

But "Betty's Diary" also had a lot of warmth and joy, as well as a lot of sadness and angst.  You see, the majority of the stories in "Betty's Diary" were written from the perspective of a seventeen year old girl.  And anyone who has been, or has known a seventeen year old girl knows just how stressful of a year it is.

And certainly, Betty wrote a lot about some of those things.

There was one story in which she questioned whether working hard was really worth it.  It was a tale that brought Betty's older sister Polly to town, and Polly told Betty that she and her friends studied hard while the head cheerleader goofed off and slacked on her studies.  Interestingly enough, that cheerleader ended up making the sandwiches that Betty and Polly ate during their lunch meeting!  So, Betty wrote about how she learned the lesson that working to meet a goal was good after all.

Another one had Betty examining the relationship she had with her own mother, and how she wore many hats - fashion consultant, barterer, sewer, friend, confidant...and most importantly, the best mother a girl could have.

You see, they were sweet stories that often had wonderful resolutions that made you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

And yes, she did write about her dates with Archie.  A lot.

But, perhaps one of my all-time favourite arcs that was ever featured in the "Betty's Diary" series was the one in which she befriended a kindly elderly lady named Lydia Wyndham, whom she discovered after buying a copy of "Wuthering Heights" from a used book sale and discovering that it belonged to Lydia when she was a little girl.  She tracked her down, and discovered that Lydia was already an established author, having penned several novels under the name of Elyse Smith. 

And Lydia became her personal mentor of sorts. 

In the first few issues of the series, Betty would ask Lydia for advice on how to deal with people, and how to handle certain situations.  And, of course, Lydia would always have the right words of wisdom for Betty - which makes sense because Lydia had lived a good six decades longer than Betty had and was more experienced in the world.  Lydia even showed Veronica a thing or two when she won a Snow Queen competition!  I don't know what issue that story was in, but if you can read it, it is wonderful!

And, one other thing that Lydia shared with Betty?  She was madly in love with an American soldier named Declan McManus, and the two were engaged to be married before Declan went off to fight in combat in World War I (remember, this series began in the late 1980s).  According to letters that Lydia received, Declan died in combat, and Lydia never fell in love again.

This relationship between Betty and Lydia lasted until issue #18.  That was the issue in which Lydia passed away, and Betty had to deal with the loss of her friend and mentor.  Shockingly enough, Declan McManus showed up unexpectedly after Lydia's death, revealing that he wasn't really dead which was kind of weird, but that was another issue altogether.  What made this arc really shine was the gift that Lydia left Betty in her will. 

You see, like Betty, Lydia also kept a journal.  In fact, she had fifty years of journals stashed away in her attic.  And Lydia made sure that Betty received every single diary. 

It was a priceless treasure for Betty, and after Lydia's passing, Betty often wrote diary entries imagining what life was like in the early twentieth century, and even using one of Lydia's poems to inspire her in a songwriting assignment.  It just went to show that the impact that Lydia had on Betty was strong.  I think that's why I really appreciated that story arc because of the mentor relationship between two different generations.  It really was an interesting read.

The "Betty's Diary" series ran for forty issues, with the final one being printed in early 1991.  And, I honestly was sad to hear that the series only lasted five years.  I mean, I know that 1991/1992 was an experimental year in Archie comics history, with the company making bold moves to stay relevant, but they should have kept the "Betty's Diary" title going.  It was one of the more mature comics that Archie Comics has released, and I think it should have gone on longer.

But for what it was worth, "Betty's Diary" stories would occasionally appear in the "Betty" and "Betty & Veronica" titles well into the 2000s.

There was also a graphic novel published a few years ago that compiled the greatest hits from "Betty's Diary" into one volume.  If you can find it, do so.  It's a nice collection of stories.

And, recently, the Archie Comics team decided to release a rebooted version of Betty's Diary by releasing the diaries that a then 14-year-old Betty might have written as a high school freshman in a novel format as well.  The cover is up above, if you want to check it out.

Now, the reason why I really wanted to do a blog on "Betty's Diary" was to show everyone the main reason why I write a blog in the first place.  Now, granted, Betty certainly packs a lot of emotion into her diary, and probably reveals some of her deepest, darkest secrets about everything going on in her life.  And honestly, that's what a diary is for.  You use it to write down everything you want out of life, and all the fears you have in life, and all the worries that you have.  It can be a real cathartic experience and it can make even the worst days seem better.  Certainly I can see why Betty is deemed one of the most well-rounded characters in Archie Comics.  She is probably in touch with her feelings more than anyone else in the entire community of Riverdale, U.S.A.

And that is why I do my blog too.  Granted, I don't reveal as much as Betty does in hers (I have to keep some secrets myself).  However, what I do reveal makes me stop and think, and if I am feeling bad, it helps me get things in perspective, and I feel better for venting it out.  I certainly don't intend to make people feel like they are a psychologist listening to a patient of theirs (as one thoughtless, now former Facebook friend accused me of doing).  Though I won't apologize for anything that I write in this space because it is my own space, and I can choose to write about how I am feeling or what may be going through my mind.  I know that not everyone will agree with my stances, and that's okay.  But there's a way to disagree without coming across as a jerk, and if you feel a need to make a negative comment against someone just to get a rise out of them, do yourself a favour, and don't read it.

(Besides, in Betty's case, she openly admits to having three diaries.  And the third diary contains her deepest feelings, so it must always stay hidden.  So she lucks out that way - especially when protecting her thoughts from Veronica or Archie!)

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

November 18, 1928

You know, I'm finding that abandoning the theme days in this blog has been one of the best decisions that I have made in the three and a half years that I have been writing here.  I'm finding that I am challenging myself more than I used to, I am having more fun bringing more personality into this space, and I think that I have gotten a well-deserved second wind!

You know, I don't know what it is about today, but I am in a wonderful mood!  I think that this month has been an awesome one.  It's really given me some clarity over what I need to do from this moment on, and it has really shaped my perspective on people. 

But you know, that'll be a tale for another time.

For now, there is one day that I plan on keeping the same.  I think the Tuesday Timeline will be staying for the foreseeable future because I enjoy writing them the most.  It's amazing all of the things that you can learn.  If ever I become a contestant on Jeopardy, these entries will be a godsend one day!

Like, for instance, if there was a category on Jeopardy called "Things That Happened on November 18th", the answers might look something like this...

1307 - The date in which William Tell shot an arrow through an apple placed on top of his son's head

1493 - The date in which Christopher Columbus discovers an island nation that would later be named Puerto Rico

1865 - The date that "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" written by Mark Twain is published in the New York Saturday Press.

1883 - The date that railroads in Canada and the United States adopt the five continental time zones - still in use today

1908 - The date that actress Imogene Coca (d. 2001) was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

1924 - The date that actor Les Lye (d. 2009) is born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

1926 - The date that George Bernard Shaw refuses to accept the money for his Nobel Prize

1940 - The date that Adolf Hitler and Galeazzo Ciano meet to discuss Benito Mussolini's disasterous invasion of Greece during World War II

1947 - The date that a devastating fire takes place at Ballantyne's Department Store in Christchurch, New Zealand, killing 41

1961 - The date that President Kennedy sends 18,000 military advisors to South Vietnam

1963 - The date that the world is first introduced to the push button telephone

1978 - The date of the Jonestown, Guyana massacre in which Jim Jones leads his followers in a mass murder-suicide - Over 900 people took their own lives, with almost three hundred of them being children

1986 - The date that model Gia Carangi dies of AIDS-related complications at just 26 years of age

1987 - The date that thirty-one people are killed in a fire at London's King's Cross St Pancras underground station

1988 - The date that Ronald Reagan signs a bill that would allow the death penalty for drug traffickers

1991 - The date that hostages Thomas Sutherland and Terry Waite are released from the clutches of Shiite Muslim kidnappers in Lebanon

1993 - The date that the North American Free Trade Agreement is approved by the U.S. House of Representatives

1994 - The date that jazz leader Cab Calloway passes away at the age of 86

2012 - The date that the Nintendo Wii U goes on sale in North America

2013 - The date that NASA launches the MAVEN probe to Mars

And, did you know that November 18 just happens to be the day that the following people were born?  Happy birthday to Sheila Jordan, Margaret Atwood, Brenda Vaccaro, Linda Evans, Susan Sullivan, Chris Rainbow, Jameson Parker, Dennis Haskins, Eric Pierpoint, Kevin Nealon, John Parr, Shari Shattuck, Kim Wilde, George Kotsiopoulos, Owen Wilson, Duncan Sheik, Elizabeth Anne Allen, Mike Epps, Megyn Kelly, Peta Wilson, Jessi Alexander, Chloe Sevigny, Lucy Akhurst, Anthony McPartlin, Pastor Troy, Fabolous, Christina Vidal, Jake Abel, and Nathan Kress.

Boy, I had no idea that the eighteenth of November was such a busy day!  Wowzers.

And I am not even finished with the celebrity birthdays yet!  I have one more to share with you.  In fact, this birthday boy is the subject for today's blog.

And he was "born" on November 18, 1928.

Okay, maybe born isn't the right word to use.  Maybe I should be using the phrase "drawn".  You see, our subject happens to be a cartoon character.  Perhaps one of the most famous of the bunch.  He is the de facto mascot of one of the largest animation companies in the world, and November 18 is the date in which his very first cartoon was released.

Interestingly enough, that cartoon was called "Steamboat Willie".  Interesting, because this character is not named Willie at all.  In fact, he kind of looks more like a Mickey to me.

No, not that Mickey.  I mean THIS one.

Yes, it was on this date eighty-six years ago that Mickey Mouse made his unofficial debut with Disney, and therefore it is considered to be the date of Mickey Mouse's birth.  Wow, that's one rodent that looks awesome for his age!

The reason why I say "unofficial" is because technically, he and his girlfriend Minnie Mouse appeared in a test screening of a cartoon called "Plane Crazy".  "Steamboat Willie" was the first cartoon that a worldwide audience was exposed to.

But the cartoon does boast a legitimate first.  It is the very first cartoon to be aired with synchronized sound.  And of course, the creator of the cartoon, Walt Disney, provided all the voices heard within the cartoon.

The story behind the creation of "Steamboat Willie" began in 1927, when according to Walt Disney's brother Roy, Walt was inspired to make a cartoon after watching the 1927 film "The Jazz Singer". 

Disney was also in the process of changing up their lead characters.  Die hard Disney fans may recall that Disney had began his animation career by making a series of cartoons starring the character known as Oswald, the Lucky Rabbit.  However, when Disney ended up losing the rights to the character to Charles Mintz, Disney was forced to create a new character.

Disney had come up with the character of Mickey Mouse, and had inserted him in a couple of silent animated shorts, but these test screenings were received well by audiences.  Walt Disney was initially discouraged, but he was not ready to give up.  In his mind, the problem wasn't with the character, but with the silence.  In order to make "Steamboat Willie" pop, he had to add sound.

Production began for "Steamboat Willie" in the summer of 1928, and cost a then whopping $4,986 to produce.  And the first "unofficial" screening took place in July 1928 - in a room that was next to Walt Disney's office.  Walt's brother Roy set up the projector outside, and the movie was shown on a bedsheet, provided by Ub Iwerks - the main animator on the "Steamboat Willie" project.

Now, because the movie was nowhere near finished, a partial copy was shown instead.  The music was provided by Wilfred Jackson - courtesy of a mouth organ.  Ub Iwerks banged on pots and pans to simulate percussion instruments.  And Johnny Cannon was the foley artist for this screening.

(A foley artist is a fancy way of saying "sound effects guy".)

Needless to say, the screening was a huge hit, and it gave Walt the confidence to finish the project.  He worked with Pat Powers to bring the soundtrack to the film using his Cinephone system - which in itself was an updated version of Lee De Forest's Phonofilm system.  As for the music, it was provided by the Green Brothers Novelty Band, and needless to say, it took a couple of tries to get the synchronization absolutely perfect.  The desire to get a perfect product was so important to Disney that he actually sold his car to keep the project going!

But, as you can see from the end result, it's worth it.  And as a special treat, I have the entire cartoon "Steamboat Willie" posted at the end of this blog for you to watch!  As you can see, it turned out awesome!

And to think that when it officially debuted on November 18, 1928, Disney was only paid $500 a week for the two weeks that it played in theatres!  Oh, who am I kidding?  $500 a week in 1928 was fantastic money! 

As for Mickey Mouse?  Well, he grew up to become the most famous mouse in the world!  His image is found everywhere!  On cakes, clothing, balloons, and even little hats with Mickey ears on them!  And he is probably one of the most recognizable symbols in the entire world.  That is definitely something to marvel at.

Happy birthday, Mickey!  

Monday, November 17, 2014

Reformed December 23 Shoppers UNITE!

You know...I think I am starting to like this new outlook on this blog.  It started off with YOU NEVER NOVEMBER WHAT YOU'RE GONNA GET month, and now I am thinking of making it a permanent thing.  I am beginning to feel like I am refreshed, and ready to take on the world now.

Well, at least as far as writing goes, anyway.

And with my new focus set in place, it now allows me to put my focus on other things in life.

Like Christmas shopping!

So, admit it.  With only 37 days left until Christmas, who has their shopping finished already?  Who has part of it completed?  Who hasn't even started it yet?

Well, I can personally say that as of November 17, 2014, my Christmas list is one hundred per cent completed!  I believe that this is the earliest I have ever completed holiday shopping, and I am so glad that I got my act together this year!

Of course, it wasn't always this way.  Truth be told, I used to be one of those "December 23" shoppers.  And, looking back on it, I really don't know what I was thinking!

Now, granted, a lot of the reason why I had to wait until just a couple of days before Christmas to do my shopping was because of a lack of money.  I usually had to wait until I got paid from a job, or when I was really young, I had to wait until my parents got paid before I was given my holiday allowance for gifts.  Oh, sure, I could have made gifts if I didn't have the money for them, but at the age of eight, I just didn't have as much creativity as I have now.

(Truth be told, I am very jealous of you artisans who can knit sweaters, paint pictures, and create all sorts of crafty things.  I wish I could do that!)

Anyway, another reason why I waited to do my Christmas shopping until December 23 was because of the fact that I really didn't like doing the whole shopping thing when I was younger.  In fact, I would have rather spent my free time playing video games, watching television, or heaven forbid even doing homework than spend any time at the mall.

I absolutely hated stores and malls and other places that sold things when I was a little kid.  I didn't like the fact that my mom and sisters seemed to take FOREVER inside of stores.  And I certainly felt frustrated being in stores where you wanted to buy everything in the toy department, but had no money to do so. 

What can I say?  I was a kid. 

So, I decided to shop closer to Christmas to put off going to the mall until I absolutely had to, thinking that it was the best method to get ready for the holidays.

And it was, for about the first fifteen or so years that I began buying my own gifts (which would be from about age 8-23).

You see, at age 23, I began my current job.  And as many of you know, I work in a retail setting. 

This is going to be my eleventh holiday season in retail (I began my job just before Christmas 2004), and in that amount of time, I have quickly shifted my opinion in terms of holiday shopping.

My new motto is "get it done as soon as possible"!

It did take a couple of years for me to break out of my December 23 haze.  I did initially do my shopping the last week before Christmas when I was new to retail.  But it didn't take me long to realize that waiting until the last minute to do Christmas shopping just didn't make sense to me.

For one, it becomes harder to check things off your list when store shelves are completely empty.  And chances are if you have ever tried to do all your shopping on Christmas Eve, there is a good chance that all of the hottest gifts were already bought some weeks earlier.  And after hearing so many people accuse me of destroying their Christmas because we ran out of a certain item, I decided that I would do all my shopping before December, so that I could be guaranteed to have everything on my list.

Another thing I have noticed about doing holiday shopping a month before Christmas is the fact that malls and stores aren't nearly as crowded.  You can go to practically any store in the world and not wait in line.  And, even can avoid the claustrophobic feeling that a lot of people feel when they try to navigate their way through clogged aisles.  Believe me, it is much easier to shop a store when you can breathe!

All in all, shopping for Christmas in November just makes more sense to me.  Because getting all of my shopping finished before Black Friday gives me my own personal satisfaction that I achieved something.  And it also eliminates all the stress that comes out of gift-giving because I can now sit back and enjoy the holidays instead of being a gigantic ball of tinsel covered stress two days before the twenty-fifth.  Believe me, that is an early Christmas gift to myself.  Who doesn't want a stress free holiday?

Regardless of what your shopping plans are, I hope they are best for you.

In the meantime, I have some wrapping to do.  I'll see you tomorrow for the weekly Tuesday Timeline!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Why People Should Not "Spot" or "Be Spotted" on Facebook

It seems hard to believe, but Facebook is ten years old this year.  The social media giant celebrated that milestone earlier in the year, and over the course of ten years, it is a juggernaut that has connected people with their old friends, introduced an entire generation to millions of puzzle games, and made Mark Zuckerberg one rich man. 

Oh, sure, the social network has endured its fair share of criticism.  It is hard to keep up with the layout changes that take place every ten months or so.  I am also not a fan of having to refuse game requests from eager gamers who want me to send them lives on Candy Crush. 

But despite those minor issues, I am quite happy with using Facebook.  I also use Google+ and Twitter semi-frequently, but as far as mechanics go, I am most used to Facebook.  I do like the fact that I can use the messenger service to chat to people, I like the fact that I can comment on several different things at once, and I have to say that Facebook seems to be the best place to present this blog.

(Note that I said present, and not promote.  I am NOT giving Facebook fifty bucks to create an ad.)

But one thing that people need to learn about Facebook (and other social media sites for that matter) is that they are only as fun as you make them to be. 

For instance, if you're constantly spamming people's newsfeeds with every single article ever written, that isn't much fun.  When every single status is attacking somebody else, that isn't much fun.

And when people hide behind screennames to openly bully people, or slander a person's reputation online, that is most definitely not fun.

I mean, let's face it.  Facebook has nearly one billion accounts in its system.  But that doesn't necessarily mean that all one billion accounts belong to one billion people.  After all, Facebook is banned in some countries (North Korea for example).  In all likelihood, some people out there have more than one account.  Some I know use two accounts to get more freebies on Facebook games, but some use a secondary account to cause mischief on Facebook groups and people's personal pages.

And then there is the issue of Facebook groups that allow people to make anonymous comments about anyone they want without revealing their identities.  To me, groups like that raise an immediate red flag, and it allows people to say basically whatever they want without any sort of repercussions whatsoever.

There is a particular group that has originated in my hometown of all places that is exactly like that.

Perhaps your town might have one of these kinds of sites.  I have seen several for other communities as well that basically work the same way as the one based out of my town.

They usually go by the name "Insert Hometown Name Here" Spotted.  It is a group that people can post on anonymously (under the name of the group) about any kind of topic they want.  But beware.  People who comment don't get that same anonymity.  Their names are in full view for everyone who is a part of the Spotted groups to see.

You can just imagine the powder keg that could explode in a scenario like that one.  It would be easy for someone to post a comment calling someone out in a disgusting manner, and not worry because their post doesn't reveal who they are.  I often wonder if some even do it just to sit back and watch the fireworks fly between other people who get into arguments based on said anonymous posts.  I wouldn't be surprised, let's put it that way.

As far as these "Hometown Spotted" groups go, I will say that in some cases, the sites can be a great source of info - if used correctly.  If you're trying to sell an item, posting ads for apartments, asking locals for assistance in finding the best restaurants, or are searching for a lost pet, then I don't see much of an issue with that.  And for all I know, that very well could have been the intention that the creators of the Spotted groups had - a forum run for people of the community by people of the community.

So, why do the initial comments have to be shrouded in secrecy?

Well, some people like to stir the pot.  They like to call people out on bad behaviour, call people derogatory names, and make fun of people who they feel are different from them. 

They're basically your everyday, run of the mill, yellow-bellied cowards.

I didn't even know that there were sites like this until someone pointed out to me that someone had used the site to verbally attack myself and my other co-workers in the department of the store that I work at.  And the comments that this person left on the Spotted site were not constructive at all.  They were downright mean.

What was worse, the people who commented underneath the post were not only making nasty jabs to the original poster, but they were attacking each other in the comments section.  Some of my co-workers tried to step in and diffuse the situation, but some people just went and turned on them.  I read the whole thread (which seemed to take forever given just how many people were responding), and I could not believe how one comment caused an entire group of people to turn on each other.  I had to turn away in disgust because I did not like what I was seeing.  If I had the ability, I'd have blocked the group entirely.

You see, the Spotted groups to me only exist for one purpose and one purpose only.  It is a group designed for a certain group of people who are bored or frustrated with life to post controversial questions and statements which only serve to divide the community and get people angry with each other for no reason.

I know that I cannot stop these sites from popping up.  But I do have the choice not to use them.