Saturday, November 26, 2011

Black (and Blue) Friday is not worth Green to me.

Ahhh..Black Friday…..what a wonderful image of America (insert sarcasm…duh!).  I have never been a part of it nor ever intend to because I don’t understand it. Well, yes, I understand why it is done and has been so dubbed by the retail industry, but it is the psychology of the participants which has me vexed. Why are “we” (referring to the GP) so easily manipulated?

Limited numbers of items are offered during a limited time at a special “price” that will be offered again later in the month….just in case one has never noticed that. Add a “special” discount onto that “special price” and chances are the item will be cheaper yet.  Coupons and “bonus points” and so forth will be added until the stuff is gone from the store’s inventory which is the whole point of merchandizing.

Exactly “why” do we need a television so big that the pores on the face of an actor are visible? Perhaps I don’t see the attraction in explosions (Bond movies exempted), make out scenes and rock concerts. Give me the intrigue of an Agatha Christie mystery shot in black and white with nary an explosion in site.  The actors were not hired for beauty, but for brains and the ability to actually “act” not run in heels and wear tank tops in the rain. Exactly how does a four and a half foot screen make something better? (Don’t bother answering because I don’t really care.) Gregory Peck and Captain Ahab can’t get any better by getting bigger….

All those crowds wrapped around buildings and waiting in tents leads me to the questions of 1) what do you do with the tent, chairs and coolers once the doors open? Are those items left and lost? Do you tag team them to a nearby car and risk getting jumped by people who don’t know you are working in shifts? 2) bathrooms……enough said  3)crime…..what a gold mine of opportunity for those less honest than others.  How many people are publicizing that they are going out and then with only a few simple moments of searching on the internet, others can find out your address and relive your premises’ of last year’s bargains?

Germs…..okay I am not a germophobe or anything close to it (having eaten granola out of the dirt and lived with no showers for 12 days….omg, I could go occupy wall street!) but a mass of people in close quarters (some have probably eaten garlic) is a breeding ground of colds and infections. If a survey were taken, I would bet that at least a quarter of those midnight marauders are sick within a week. Spread those bugs to little kids at home and holiday cheer becomes holiday ah-choo real fast with grumpy cranky kidders to entertain.

Back to crime….your car is loaded with stuff and you go place to place or back and forth to drop off stuff. Your license plate number or other simple info can let the unscrupulous know where to look later!  On the news this morning are stories of people getting pepper sprayed, trampled, beaten, and otherwise injured in Americas’ version of running with the bulls all to score a few dollars off on some item most likely made in a foreign country.  Too bad those dollars saved will have to go towards pain meds, doctor bills or other incidentals as a result of participation in the “fun” of bargain shopping.

I read that for some this activity is a family tradition! Could I suggest another option if a family tradition is needed? Visiting a nursing home and ask the residents for a list of items they would like to purchase for their families but are unable to do so? Or perhaps drop in on your own elderly relations and offer to decorate, bake or shop on their behalf.  Descend like a hoard of bees on one of those giving /wish trees and fulfill every ticket for every child in need. If it is the crowds, togetherness and battle conditions that one finds to be so much fun, then participate with a purpose other than your own. Perhaps then I won’t feel so embarrassed for us all.

Here is a suggestion for the stores….. let’s say a TV is going to be offered at a super special ultra bonus low price one time only (BS) price for a short period of time. If a person wants one, they can go to the store during a set time of several days and sign up, pre-pay, and leave contact info. Then, the store knows exactly how many they will need to have on hand. When the item comes in, the purchaser can go pick it up at their leisure. Psychology and human nature being what it is… most of those people will buy other items while in the store, passing displays of “cool stuff” while picking up their pre-orders in the various departments. Psychologically, the person has “saved money” and therefore has some extra to spend. Jack up the prices on the “cool stuff’” which is really on “sale” and the money will be made by the retailer.  No teenagers working behind the counters at 3am, no extra security guards needed overnight at triple time pay, no blood and boiling temperaments…maybe not as much “fun” but I would bet the “cheer” factor would go up.

Me…I’d rather sit here in my pajamas and order online, or go down to the local stores during regular business hours and leisurely search for meaningful gifts for each person. Yes, I do go to the malls but only with my mom on set days in Oct and Nov which include lunch and quality time to seek out those items which may be a bit more pricey at the moment, but the “gift” of time cannot be measured by dollars because time can ever be purchased at a later date, when it is gone, it is gone, no restocking, no discounts, no back orders or rain checks.  I can buy a TV any day of the week, but I can’t buy memories. Did you add a memory to your life on Black Friday? I did.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Just passing this one on..... if you wish to "occupy" a few moments of your time.

Below is not something I wrote, but could have and would have. Included are as many credits as I could find to its original author and source. Since this one has been passed around electronically, I figured it was okay to do so once more. Good advice if you have teenagers..... or young adults for that matter. God Bless America, a place from which you are still free to leave if you don't like it here. 195 other countries are out there to be exact, plus 61 colonies and 6 territories some of which could really use a few more occupants.

Some Belated Parental Advice to Protesters
By Marybeth Hicks
October 20, 2011

Call it an occupational hazard, but I can’t look at the Occupy Wall Street protesters without thinking, “Who parented these people?”

As a culture columnist, I’ve commented on the social and political ramifications of the “movement” - now known as “OWS” - whose fairyland agenda can be summarized by one of their placards: “Everything for everybody.”

Thanks to their pipe-dream platform, it’s clear there are people with serious designs on “transformational” change in America who are using the protesters like bedsprings in a brothel.

Yet it’s not my role as a commentator that prompts my parenting question, but rather the fact that I’m the mother of four teens and young adults.

There are some crucial life lessons that the protesters’ moms clearly have not passed along.

Here, then, are five things the OWS protesters’ mothers should have taught their children but obviously didn’t, so I will:

• Life isn’t fair. The concept of justice - that everyone should be treated fairly - is a worthy and worthwhile moral imperative on which our nation was founded. But justice and economic equality are not the same. Or, as Mick Jagger said, “You can’t always get what you want.”

No matter how you try to “level the playing field,” some people have better luck, skills, talents or connections that land them in better places. Some seem to have all the advantages in life but squander them, others play the modest hand they’re dealt and make up the difference in hard work and perseverance, and some find jobs on Wall Street and eventually buy houses in the Hamptons . Is it fair? Stupid question.

• Nothing is “free.” Protesting with signs that seek “free” college degrees  and “free” health care make you look like idiots, because colleges and hospitals don’t operate on rainbows and sunshine. There is no magic money machine to tap for your meandering educational careers and “slow paths” to adulthood, and the 53 percent of taxpaying Americans owe you neither a degree nor an annual physical.

While I’m pointing out this obvious fact, here are a few other things that are not free: overtime for police officers and municipal workers, trash hauling, repairs to fixtures and property, condoms, Band-Aids and the food that inexplicably appears on the tables in your makeshift protest kitchens. Real people with real dollars are underwriting your civic temper tantrum.

• Your word is your bond. When you demonstrate to eliminate  student loan  debt, you are advocating precisely the lack of integrity you decry in others. Loans are made based on solemn promises to repay them. No one forces you to borrow money; you are free to choose educational pursuits that don’t require loans, or to seek technical or vocational training that allows you to support yourself and your ongoing educational goals. Also, for the record, being a college student is not a state of victimization. It’s a privilege that billions of young people around the globe would die for - literally.

• A protest is not a party. On Saturday in New York , while making a mad dash from my cab to the door of my hotel to avoid you, I saw what isn’t evident in the newsreel footage of your demonstrations: Most of you are doing this only for attention and fun. Serious people in a sober pursuit of social and political change don’t dance jigs down Sixth Avenue like attendees of a Renaissance festival. You look foolish, you smell gross, you are clearly high and you don’t seem to realize that all around you are people who deem you irrelevant.

• There are reasons you haven’t found jobs. The truth? Your tattooed necks, gouged ears, facial piercings and dirty dreadlocks are off-putting. Nonconformity for the sake of nonconformity isn’t a virtue. Occupy reality: Only 4 percent of college graduates are out of work. If you are among that 4 percent, find a mirror and face the problem. It’s not them. It’s you.

Marybeth Hicks
Marybeth Hicks is the author of Don't Let the Kids Drink the Kool-Aid: Confronting the Left's Assault on Our Families, Faith, and Freedom
(Regnery Publishers, 2011).

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Giving credit...

In danger of sounding a bit too “Andy Rooney” (rest in peace you Sultan of Snark…) I have to vent about this trend of giving out little plastic key chain cards to earn me points. Points my butt, those little buggers are issued to keep track of my shopping habits. 

The local home improvement store gave me one a few days ago. I was supposed to register it so that my preferences and such could be recorded (for whose benefit?) How often do we go to the home improvement store for the same item? Is my light bulb size of that much importance or could I perhaps be too stupid to remember what wattage I need?  Well I did not record their little card and went ahead and put it on my overflowing keychain…. Ha! So yesterday, I went to the same store and forked over my jumbled junk and low and behold…it was already mysteriously registered. Hmmmmm …. do I have purse fairies who take care of such things while I sleep,  a sort of registration Rumpelstiltskin?   I think the next time I go to this establishment, I will stop by customer service and ask them to look up my wattage records and maybe the size of a recent bath matt purchase just because I can.

One of the little cards has its own plastic cover...guess it needs to practice safe swiping since it came with its own card condom. Another one lost its laminate cover today so I probably ought to keep it on a separate key ring lest some unaccounted for cards show up by “accident”.

Oddly enough, I never seem to clear out the old ones from stores no longer in business as it is too much of a hassle to solve the puzzle of finding the split in the mental ring and working the card out of order.  It is much easier to just keep adding more and more to the point that I am losing my keys inside the pile.  A store I rarely go to has given me three or four (or is it five?) of their cards because I can’t remember to register the previous ones. The counter girl just swipes a new one and gives me the “credit” which does not translate to a discount or much of anything else in most cases.  I am not sure what I am getting credit for, but getting credit has always been a good thing as far as most things are concerned (well…unless it is getting the credit for really screwing something up….) but all in all, I can claim a good key chain credit score.

Used to be we carried bonus cards and frequent shopper cards in a little mini purse inside our larger purse.  That works for women in most cases, but men probably did not want a bulging wallet so they were perhaps reluctant to carry them. Hence the birth of the mini card perhaps?  Just imagine that business meeting roundtable strategy discussion …..”so guys…smaller is better right? All in favor….”  

Overall however, this bonus point idea is getting a bit out of hand if you ask me. Why do I pay full price if I don’t have my full set of keys but sometimes I can get a discount (rare) if I happen to flash the right inch of plastic? Can’t I just get a discount for being nice enough to come to your store and buy something? Often the clerk will offer to “look me up in the system” but I have to give my zip code, phone number, name, or any combination thereof  and if I did not register their little stinker in the first place, I still get my  discount because now I am in the system whether I wanted to be or not.  

There are a few good ones out there however, like the buy 6 ice cream sundaes and get a 7th free.  I sure don’t want to waste my bonus on that deal so one must do what one must do…..  Another store sends me bonus points for my birthday for a few bucks off of a full priced item (which happens to be shoes). Somehow I think I still end paying them more than I am earning in extra credit but birthday bonus points are exempt from common sense. 

I do like the automated check-out systems at the grocery, but one store has a machine that asks me if I have scanned my frequent shopper card yet.  Ring an item and the automated lady asks, over and over until I scan the stupid thing. Nothing like getting nagged while things are getting bagged.  I wish it would have some type of program where she gets more and more irritated the longer one waits to scan the little key chain card. What a hoot to see if one could get the system to short circuit in irritation. It could get louder and louder so other shoppers would turn and stare or hiss out to “swipe it already will ya lady?” 

If I don’t have a key card for a business, I am asked if I am a member. A member of what?  I am much too polite to say out loud what goes through my head, but how I so wish to ask them that question and then if their members have regular meetings. Hello, my name is Judi and I am a member of Office Mx.  “So glad we could all be here together to share our stories….so how about that sale on staplers? I hold out for file folders myself but yes, I do hoard office supplies and need to get my addiction to adorable thumbtacks under control.“  Maybe I don’t want to be a card carrying member of their club.

I am not totally anti the informational grid. If a store wants to give me a legitimate savings on gas or food because I have their card, that is okay. Such a practice does keep one brand loyal.  On the flip side of that, it is very embarrassing to be in line at an alien store (because it is closer) and get the evil eye from everyone else in line because I don’t’ have “their card”.  It is a wonder that warning bells don’t go off when it is revealed to the entire world that I am not of their kind.  So yes, I take the application thing with its attached ornamentation awaiting official registration and drop it into the abyss of my purse in hopes that Rumpelstiltskin will work his magic once again, because goodness knows I won’t.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Snark…it is for real.

Su Nimon found the following for me, a real editor’s punctuation mark, which is why I titled this essay as I did.
Also called the Percontation Point and the Irony Mark, this one's used to indicate that there's another layer of meaning in a sentence. Usually a sarcastic or ironic one.

We are approaching the 2 year anniversary of Snarky Art…the blog site (as opposed to the 1.5 years of Snarky Art…the Studio) which has passed in Scary Fast Time (as opposed to those other two clock shifters).  Memory lane is more like a highway under construction than a simple meandering path for most of us is it not? Sometimes we can speed right along recalling all sorts of details and other times we sit in traffic trying to remember something that “just happened” only to figure out that it was four years ago.   So once again, I must reflect on whether to continue with this Blog (note the all important capital letter to help my self esteem) or add it to the cyber junk drawer of this computer.  This site allows me to check the viewing stats of each and every blog by the hour, day, week, month and all time…(really? What geek sat around and worked all that out? ) I have a really big viewing audience in Russia which is weird….and also an automated searching device according to my son so nobody over there really cares a hoot about what I say. Best I avoid that exit ramp and stay on track with my original intent of reminiscing….which is a word that truly needs spell check.

Last night I attended the Canton Symphony concert for the first time in a long time. We have had season tickets for ages but the dates always fall on “call nights” for my husband or some other conflicting event involving the family. Family before fiddles I always say.  My first blog…no don’t bother going back to read it because it was never published…. was about the Symphony. I had the smarts to contact the pro-blogger Tom Wachunas to ask his advice on whether I should publish it (along with several other questions about this Blogosphere thing) and his answer was along the lines of “well, I wouldn’t” and went on to explain why.  Basically a woman can say things about women that men cannot not and sometimes even a woman should keep her mouth shut. Lets suffice to say that I was commenting on the fashions (or lack thereof) worn by the ladies on stage. Why is this funny now? Because Artwach “tells it like it is” as he should and more power to him to be honest and insightful as an independent observer of the arts…(translation: critic). A recent perusal of his postings (exit ramp approaching) and associated comments about the postings has been very entertaining.  To criticize a critic for being too critical must be the ultimate in irony. I shall reenter the highway now or I could go on and on about how it is okay to criticize music, movies, books, fashion and even beer, but not art….? If I continue with this, I may explore this topic further at a later date.

Snarky Art has had it highlights for sure. My number one most read posting, which continues to get daily traffic (Russia must be really bored) is my review of the 2010 Jackson HS AP portfolio show.  A few have only been read by two people which makes me wonder if you 32 followers out there are for real.

The post which shocked many was about my late friend Gary. I wrote about him needing prayers and support as he battled his last days with cancer. That same day, within in hours of my posting, a long ago friend of his was randomly searching for him on a whim. One can follow the rest of the story in the archives as it was truly one of those moments that came directly from powers beyond our own mortal ones. 

The posting about Brennis and his hours and days of need received the most commentary for which I was grateful because it encouraged me to continue writing. If a few words online can inspire others, then I will gladly put words out there.

You all are a group divided however. Some only like the reviews of shows, some only like the slice of life stuff and a few mention that these are too long but you read them anyway. Some have asked that I review their show and others hint that I should wear Kevlar if coming by anytime soon.  There have been many shows which I have seen but not written about which should not be taken personally by those who wonder why no words appeared. Sometimes I just can’t write in time to beat the closing date or Artwach did a fine job and why should I waste text when all I need to say is…”yeah, what he said”.

Over this span of time I have also learned to Facebook (note the grammatical use of the word and its placement with the sentence structure…) which has been an interesting road as well. I do have to agree with Betty White who called it a “big waste of time” on Saturday Night Live but it does have its advantages a far as instant contact with others is concerned.  The irony of its danger is still lost to some however (exit ramp which I must avoid again lest I rant). 

My stat chart on my dashboard (someone should design a virtual hula girl to go on it) shows that this will be by 181st posting to Snarky Art.  I will admit that thanks to my editor who reads 95% of these before I publish them, the Snark factor is not as sharp as it could be, which is a good thing.  My original intent statement/post vows to keep my words positive, humorous and hopefully entertaining (shout out to my friends in Russia!)  I don’t want to be too personal (who really wants to read about my issues and news anyway) nor do I want to be all show commentary all the time because I just don’t have time to see that many events because of all my issues and news…family before font folks….. so as I close this 181st missive of musings, I hope that this site has lived up to my original intent. I do find this process therapeutic at times (being an empty nester, my cats are tired of hearing me talk out loud and the radio just blathers on with no chance of getting a word in edgewise…)  but now  I am over my word limit so Happy Anniversary to me! (not the posted one, the one when tested the waters without a baited hook just in case….)