Tag Archives: Media

I’m Infamous Today (And it Feels Good)

Inequality InfographicWhen I started this blog in January, I promised myself that I would make a serious effort to try and get my opinions published in a major Canadian newspaper at least once this year. It would be an important benchmark for my writing skills if I could actually achieve this goal. It’s not easy to get published in a major newspaper. They receive a lot of content, and have very tough editorial standards. So far, my opinions have appeared in The Globe & Mail four times this year, thanks to being selected as a participant on the 2013 BC Election panel. It certainly boosted my self-confidence when I saw my words appear in print. Like many writers, I sometimes wondered if anyone was really interested in what I had to say.

On Saturday, September 14th, Vancouver Sun columnist Stephen Hume wrote a major one page feature entitled ‘Income Inequality Threatens Society‘. He interviewed Professor Robert Reich, Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, and former US secretary of Labour during the Clinton adminstration. Dr. Reich will be speaking at a Public Square event sponsored by Simon Fraser University on October 3 at the Orpheum Theatre here in Vancouver. As I read the column, I identified very much with what Dr. Reich was saying. I decided to write a letter to the editor and express my thoughts about Stephen Hume’s column. It’s always a bit of a crap shoot when you write a letter to the editor; you have absolutely no way of knowing if they’ll decide to publish it. I crafted my words carefully, hoping that perhaps I’d get their attention. On Sunday evening, September 15th, I crossed my fingers and sent the letter by e-mail.

This morning I picked up the Friday edition of the Vancouver Sun on the way to my favourite coffee shop. When I sat down and opened the editorial pages, I was in for a very pleasant surprise:

Widening economic disparity sows social discontent

Re: Income inequality threatens our society, Column, Sept. 14

Stephen Hume’s column on income inequality rings true when it comes to my own life’s circumstances.

I’m the stereotypical white 53-yearold male with a master’s degree in education.

In my working life I never even came close to earning the $91,000 a year that is average for my demographic according to a Statistics Canada report. I can only dream of how awesome it would be to have a salary like that.

My median income for the last five years is way below Statscan’s reported overall white male Canadian average of $49,351.

I went bankrupt in 2009 because I couldn’t find regular employment in the province. It certainly wasn’t for lack of trying. I applied for more than 230 positions. When you think about it, that’s an insane number of jobs to apply for.

For all my education and experience, I ended up selling retail consumer electronics in a shopping mall at an appallingly low wage that barely kept me going.

Four years later, I’m unemployed again and struggling to survive in this province where I was born.

I feel very resentful toward those who appear to have it all while I have gone without.

Anthony Gurr

Vancouver

Seeing my letter in the editorial section of today’s newspaper was another important validation of my writing skills. People really are interested in what I have to say.

The Grumpy Ferret (Extra! Extra! Read all about it!)

Stop Calling me a Baby Boomer!

Copyright DryBonesBlog.com

Copyright DryBonesBlog.com

Dear academics, corporate types, hipsters, marketers, media, politicians, sociologists, thought leaders, and other so-called latter day cultural experts:

Stop calling me a ‘Baby Boomer’.

Really, just cut it out. You’re starting to annoy me. What can I say? I’m entitled to be a curmudgeon. It goes with the territory of getting older. That, and being allowed to consider myself a tad eccentric 🙂

You know what I like about being 53 and not 23? Or 33? I actually feel that I’ve gained some wisdom about life, the universe, and everything. I feel comfortable in my own skin. I don’t need to prove anything to anyone, or earn other people’s approval. Life is not a competition where you’re supposed to beat others to the finish line. There’s nothing wrong about being a ‘middle-aged’ man. I haven’t lost my love for life, the passion, or the vitality. I still have all my wits intact. I enjoy the simple things like a cold beer, a good meal, a thoughtful conversation, and a good looking hat 🙂

Wow – that’s such the antithesis of the stereotypical Baby Boomer. They’re the over-achieving, overly competitive, self-centred, vain, status-conscious folks, or so we’re supposed to believe. Even though they’re older now, it’s still supposed to be all about them. I know a few older Baby Boomers who seem to fit that stereotype, but I don’t necessarily believe they’re all like that.

You’re not doing me any favours by lumping me into a demographic group that was born approximately between 1946 and 1964. In fact, it’s really kind of ridiculous when you think about it. My parents were born in 1933 and 1936.  They lived through the Second World War in Britain. (Marketing people – you know there was something called World War Two, right?) They were nine and twelve years old on VE Day in 1945. They survived the air raids, the V1 and V2 rocket attacks. Heck, my father managed to accidentally end up in the middle of a D-Day training exercise on the coast of Dorset when he was eight years old in early 1944. A red-faced sergeant-major ‘frog marched’ my father back to my grandmother’s cottage and threatened her with forcible evacuation!

When you think about it, the generation of children born to parents who were children themselves at the time of the Second World War should have their own special marketing label – we should be called ‘Baby Blitzers!‘ Or ‘V-Kids‘.  Or perhaps we should have been called ‘Generation W‘.

You see how plain silly this labelling and segmenting gets? I think it’s entirely artificial with very little real substance. I was born in 1960; I can recall many historical events that happened during my childhood in the 1960’s and early 1970’s. At age two, I remember watching John Glenn’s cancelled launch on a black and white television. I saw the Beatles as TV cartoon characters at age five.  I watched the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite when I was seven, and how he talked about some place called Vietnam and this mysterious line called the DMZ. I’ll never forget how my father shooed me out of the living room on the day they played the infamous footage of the captured Vietcong spy whose brains were blown out with a gun.  I saw the announcement of Martin Luther King being shot on TV when I was eight. I remember the election of Pierre Trudeau in 1968. My family rented a colour TV to watch the Apollo 11 lunar landing in 1969. I remember being woken up late at night to see Neil Armstrong walk on the moon. I also remember the horror of the Apollo 13 mission in 1970, wondering if the astronauts would make it home alive. I remember the huge protest over the underground five megaton hydrogen bomb test on Amchitka Island in the Aleutian Islands off Alaska in 1972. I watched the Watergate trials in 1973.

I never heard of Woodstock when I was a child in the 1960’s. I knew nothing of the anti-war movement, nuclear disarmament, or the Rolling Stones. All the major events that signified the cultural values of the ‘Baby Boomers’ were beyond me as a child. The closest I came to knowing about hippies were my babysitters who wore wide floppy hats and sang folksong lullabies with their guitars. I knew the music of Joan Baez and Peter, Paul and Mary. I watched the Ed Sullivan Show, Flip Wilson, and Laugh-In on TV. I was just a small boy in the 1960’s who liked playing with metal Dinky and Matchbox cars, bike riding, building model NASA spaceships, chocolate chip ice cream, reading, and swimming. The ‘Age of Aquarius‘ was something my parents played on a record from some musical called ‘Hair‘. I think my first real cultural awakening was in 1973, when my parents attended Jesus Christ Superstar in Vancouver and brought back a record of the original Broadway recording. That fanned my interest in musicals and caused me to start thinking about the true nature of religion.

I don’t own a home. I don’t own an expensive car. I don’t take expensive trips. I own a few sticks of wood furniture. I don’t have any significant financial assets. I’m more liberal than conservative. I’m sick of North America’s obsession with conspicuous consumption and materialism. I’m an environmentalist. I hate the whole idea of working out in a gym. I swim two kilometres instead.

Stop calling me a Baby Boomer!

The Grumpy Ferret (Let the sun shine, let the sun shine in!)

I Don’t Own a SmartPhone – And I Feel Fine!

I don’t own a smartphone. Yes, you read that sentence correctly. I have never owned one. I am free range and untethered 🙂 You would think that someone so technologically savvy would obviously be a proud owner of one of these little wireless digital darlings. After working 3 1/2 years at an Apple Store, I’m pretty darned familiar with iPhones and helping people to troubleshoot them (Your internet service isn’t working, you say? Were you using Airplane mode? What’s Airplane mode? Did you check your General Settings? You don’t know how to use General settings? Oh dear…). I mean, it just seems glaringly obvious that an Apple expert would own an iPhone!

I don’t own a smartphone. I don’t need a smartphone.

And do you know what? I’m perfectly fine without it.

I love not being plagued by e-mail, phone calls, or text messages. I like being consciously aware of my environment and what’s going on around me. I like listening to the wind, hearing birds sing, and watching the world go by. I like being able to take the time to think about things without being distracted by technology. Every time I read another report about how most North Americans own a smartphone, I consider it a personal badge of honour NOT to be one of the iLemmings!

I’m definitely not a communications hermit. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Exhibit A – this blog. I check my personal e-mail once in the morning, at noon, and late in the afternoon. I have voice mail on my LAND LINE phone. There’s the biggest lie perpetuated by the pompous little techie geeks and telecom snake oil salesmen. LAND LINES ARE NOT DYING. If you think for one moment that I’m going to give up my land line for wireless technologies that are easily disrupted by power outages, fluctuations in Earth’s magnetic fields, or from solar radiation, forget it. Here on the west coast, when the electricity goes out in a major storm, your land line still has power, so you can call for help.

I think too many people are overly reliant on smartphones. They’re becoming isolated from other people and the world around them. Wait a moment, I hear you protest. E-mail is communicating with other people. Texting is communicating with other people. Phone calls are communicating with other people. These statements are all true. But in all three instances, you’re communicating from a distance. You’re controlling the terms of the communication. You’re keeping the other person at arm’s length. You don’t see their emotional or physical reactions to you what you’re saying. I think that electronic text displayed on a small screen is devoid of context and sterilized of meaning. The very convenience of electronic communication makes direct physical presence seem unnecessary. But don’t take my word for it. Go online and you’ll see articles posted by angst-ridden 20 somethings who talk about the terror they feel of actually talking to someone FACE to FACE! I don’t know whether to laugh hysterically, or despair at what’s happening.

One of the biggest challenges I face as a writer is how to communicate the meaning of my words to you – the reader – over an electronic screen. Not only do I think about what I’m going to say, I also consider how I’m going to say it. The sad truth of the matter is most people don’t do this when sending e-mail or texting on their smartphones. I feel pretty safe saying that 99% of the time, people just stream words wirelessly without thinking about what they’re saying, or how the meaning will be interpreted by the person reading it.

A line has been crossed in this world when we spend more time communicating in isolation than actually being together. We’re social creatures that depend on each other for survival. What’s happening now in 21st century industrialized societies is that we’re increasingly isolating ourselves from each other because  information technology makes it terribly convenient. As I often point out to people, a smartphone is NOT a telephone. It’s a very powerful computer that also lets you make telephone calls. For a smartphone, phone calls are dead easy; they require very little technical power. It’s an extraordinarily powerful mobile computer that can perform all kinds of activities.

In my darker, satirical moments, sometimes I think it’s a pity that there are no 21st century predators prowling about to chow down on distracted human beings who plug up their ears and glue their eyes to the screen constantly. We could use a good culling.

 The Grumpy Ferret (There’s a dinosaur in our backyard)

Invasion of the Baby Pandas From Outer Space!

Sunday was the annual All American fantasmagorical entertainment spectacle known as The Super Bowl. And everyone knows what that means – ADVERTISING WARS! Who cares about the football teams? Bring on the commercials! I can only imagine what the creative agencies and their clients were feeling in the craw of their stomachs when they put their best talent forward and tried to score a touchdown in the court of public opinion as one of the best remembered ads from the show.  It’s all about grabbing viewer attention. As the old saying goes, ‘you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression’.

Here’s my fourth place favourite which should act as a timely warning about the dangers of adopting cute little animals:

My third place favourite is a clever take on the eternal theme of temptation by the Prince of Darkness, diabolically portrayed by Willem Dafoe. I also really liked the choice of ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ by the Rolling Stones as the soundtrack. Check out the fingernails!

For second place, I chose the Best Buy ad featuring comedian Amy Poehler riffing on the kinds of questions sales staff are asked endlessly that drive them nuts. I howled at how she flirted with the sales specialist. She’s not far off the mark when it comes to that sort of thing!

My favourite ad from this year’s Superbowl obviously took a leaf from last year’s famous Volkswagon ‘Star Wars’ commercial that used an original story about a young ‘mini Vader’ trying to use the Force in his home to no avail (darn real life!). In the end, he succeeds because of Dad using a little of ‘The Dark Side’ with his new Volkswagon 🙂

The winner, in my opinion, is Kia’s ‘Where Do Babies Come From’ commercial. It’s a very imaginative take on the age old question that still flummoxes parents when it innocently and unexpectedly comes up in a conversation. Dad’s story about a far flung ‘Planet of the Babies’ where infants travel across the vastness of space to reach their parents is hilarious. The biology of birth is translated into an exciting sci-fi adventure. Like the Volkswagon ad, Kia only comes up at the end. The graphics are gorgeous and all the babies are just too cute for words. I really liked the baby panda!

So much of today’s online and television advertising is puerile, unimaginative, and insults people’s intelligence. For all the commercialism of the Superbowl, at least the North American viewing audience gets the chance once a year to see some real originality. People like a good commercial that respects their intelligence, tells a good story, and appeals to their emotions.

Is that really so hard to accomplish?

The Grumpy Ferret (Are we in the cloud now?)