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Bye, bye, Penny…

March 30th, 2012 1 comment
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Yesterday it was announced that the Canadian government will stop producing the one-cent coin. Personally, I think this make economic cents sense.  It’s long overdue.  Let’s face it, when it costs more to produce a currency than its actual value then it’s clearly not a financially sound practice.

Some have decried the move as one that will hurt only the neediest of our society because businesses will start rounding up the price, ultimately increasing the cost of goods and services.  Further, there’s speculation that charity boxes will suffer as people have less change (pennies) to drop into the box.   On these points, only time will tell.

Personally, I prefer to take a more optimistic view.  The government is going to save roughly eleven million dollars a year by phasing out production of the penny.  That’s eleven million dollars that could be spent on propping up some of our social and health programs.  That’s eleven million dollars a year less of taxpayer money that is being needlessly wasted.

Further, as the government starts collecting the billions of pennies assuredly sitting in old piggy banks across the nation – there may be an opportunity to make some extra money from the precious copper constituents of older pennies.  Seems like a win-win situation to me.

The penny is a currency of a bygone era.  There’s practically nothing left that can be purchased with the one-cent coin  (I think fondly of the penny candies that we so often purchased at the corner store in my youth).  So, let’s embrace this change.  I know change is hard, but ultimately this change is long overdue.

Photos: Canadian Penny 1858-2012 Source: The Montreal Gazette

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KONY 2012

March 8th, 2012 3 comments
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If you’ve yet to view the 30 minute video called KONY 2012, then you’re perhaps one of the few.  In just 72 hours, this video by the charity group Invisible Children has gone viral and introduced to millions of people the name Joseph Kony.  The film is riveting and eye-opening.  It also speaks to the power of technology and social media in particular.

I for one, intend to support the cause – because I believe that we are part of a global community and that in order to make this world a better place we have to care about what happens not just in our backyards, but in the backyards of our fellow human beings on the other side of the planet too.

This campaign is innovative, bold and may just prove to millions of people that when we work together we can make the world a better place.

Interested in learning more about Invisible Children and KONY 2012?  Visit the Web site.

And watch the video:

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The Common (and not-so-common) Sense Etiquette of Public Transit

November 9th, 2011 2 comments
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A few months ago I became a regular public transit user. As is the case in many big cities, our buses are overcrowded and, at times, woefully behind schedule. In my few short months as a transit user, I’ve quickly adapted to the often uncomfortable conditions and I’ve learned a few things about public transit culture and etiquette.

Recently, there have been several videos surfacing showing some deplorable behaviour by the drivers employed to chauffeur the commuter masses in our nation’s capital. Commuter videos have captured cellphone use while driving, paperwork being completed while driving, and the most recent incident involving an expletive verbal assault on an autistic passenger. Clearly, these are some serious infractions that need to be investigated; however some of the public has been quick to vilify all bus drivers, and frankly I think this is just plain wrong.

Public transit drivers have a difficult job when they have to deal with hundreds, if not thousands of people on the move. It would behoove those who are quick to lash out at all drivers to remember that some passengers make their job even more difficult. While I don’t condone the aforementioned infractions, I think we all need to take a step back and look at what we as individuals can do to make public transit a more pleasant experience for everyone.

I’d like to suggest some common sense (and maybe some not-so-common sense) etiquette for passengers of public transit.

  1. Unless you’ve paid for two fares, you get only one seat. Sure, if the bus is empty feel free to put your bags on the seat next to you; however, be prepared to remove those bags as the seats fill up.
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  3. Courtesy/Priority seating is meant for passengers that may have difficulties standing for long periods of time. If you’re occupying a seat near the front of the bus and someone gets on the bus that requires the use of the seat – MOVE! Nothing ruffles my feathers more than seeing a young, able-bodied passenger completely ignore this common courtesy.
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  5. Be aware that odours you emit affect those around you. Whether it’s the lack of personal hygiene or the overabundance of perfumes and colognes, how you smell impacts other passengers. Maybe it results in mild discomfort due to your noxious odour, but for some it has far greater implications such as allergic reactions. Overcrowded transit results in crossing the boundaries of personal space, so be kind to those around you and tone down the perfume (and remember to brush those pearly whites before leaving the homestead).
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  7. The buses and trains are not a garbage can. Question: Would you toss food on your floor at home? By the end of the day, most public transit vehicles look like the morning after a frat party. Seriously, folks – use a garbage can. Can’t find one? Then take the garbage off the bus with you and find a proper receptacle to put it in. Think it’s a harmless act? Not only do rolling juice bottles create a safety hazard on an over-capacity bus, but our taxes pay people to clean up after your mess.
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  9. Don’t block the exits. Yes, it’s pretty difficult not to block an exit on an overcrowded bus, so have some common sense to move when the bus stops so that departing passengers can exit quickly. This is not only courteous; it helps to keep transit on schedule.
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  11. Turn down the volume. I’m less concerned about that fact that your hearing is going to be completely shot by the time you are forty, than I am by the fact that I’m subjected to the siren calls of Celine Dion at 7:30 in the morning. Enough said.
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  13. Tone down the language and your voice. It’s completely unnecessary for me to be able to hear every word of the conversation at the front of the bus, when I’m sitting at the back of the bus. Furthermore, the use of colourful language isn’t necessary to get your point across. If you wouldn’t want your grandmother to hear you say those words, then don’t say them on the bus. Chances are someone else’s grandmother is on that bus, so extend the same courtesy you would to your own matriarch.
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  15. Be respectful to other passengers and your driver. Think of all the behaviours you wouldn’t want perpetrated on you and then do the opposite. Don’t like the grumpy looks of most commuters? Try getting on the bus in a pleasant mood and smile when someone makes eye contact. Be polite. It goes a long way to establishing a pleasant commute.
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  17. Don’t distract the driver. This means stay behind the designated line so as not to obstruct the driver’s view and try to avoid unnecessary conversation with the operator of the 12 tonne metal box on wheels you’re riding in. Transit operators are professional drivers, but a distraction at the wrong time can have fatal consequences.
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  19. Thank your driver. Sure there are a few bad apples in the bunch, but the majority of drivers are professional, conscientious, and polite. Transit operators are providing a service that is invaluable to your city. Sure, it might not have been the most pleasant ride, but drivers have a lot of distractions to deal with, including those both inside and outside their vehicles. Distractions that they often don’t have control over. While you are in their vehicle, your life is in their hands. So, take a moment and thank them for getting you safely to your destination.
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I’m sure there will be dissenters out there who will insist I must be in cahoots with some transit union (or married to a bus operator). Fact is – I’m not. I’m just a gal who commutes, and who has observed some very unbecoming behaviour of passengers – and, yes, some drivers. Given the recent onslaught of media coverage concerning drivers’ behaviours, and the subsequent backlash from the public – I’d like to encourage every transit user to take a moment and evaluate their own behaviour before they start pointing fingers to the operator behind the wheel. If we learn to be better passengers, we’re bound to encourage better drivers.

M. xo

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Canadian Thanksgiving, eh?

October 8th, 2011 No comments
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It’s the start of the Thanksgiving long weekend here in Canada.  What makes Canada’s Thanksgiving holiday differ from the American holiday of the same name?  Aside from falling on different dates, the historical underpinnings of this celebrated occasion is markedly different too. Here’s a primer for you on the origins and rites of a Canadian Thanksgiving.  My fellow Canucks, enjoy your holiday weekend.  May it be filled with laughter, great food and warm company.  Cheers, eh! M. xo

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Is Capital Punishment Ever Justified?

September 22nd, 2011 No comments
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Two news stories caught my attention this morning.  One about the execution of convicted cop killer, Troy Davis and the other regarding the execution of white supremacist, Lawrence Russell Brewer.  Two men, two executions — yet, the discussions concerning both are very different.

Many claim (including Davis himself), that Davis was an innocent man being put to death.  There were international protests, sparking celebrities to use their star power to support a stay of execution.  In the end, Davis died at the hands of the Georgia judicial system.  Meanwhile, Brewer’s execution was met with little pleas for leniency – other than from the victim’s family who wanted Brewer’s sentence to be commuted to life in prison.  Despite the wishes of the victim’s family, Brewer met a similar fate as Davis.

In my opinion, neither of these executions should have gone forth.  Davis’ case is wrought with doubt, which clearly (to me, at least) should have led to a stay of execution.  Brewer’s case is a bit different.  His guilt is less questioned; however, the victim’s family steadfastly opposed the execution.  In this instance, I believe the wishes of the family should have been considered.

In broader terms, is capital punishment ever justified?  My belief is that in a civilized society, it isn’t.  Killing is not ‘civilized’.  Furthermore, the irony of this discussion is that justice systems in ‘civilized’ societies have a mandate to protect the rights of their prisoners.  In many cases this means suitable living conditions, access to adequate nutrition, medical care, the pursuit of higher learning, the right to vote, access to various forms of entertainment, etc.  In ‘civilized’ societies, where the death penalty exists, these rights may be granted to death row inmates.  Yet, the right to life is not.  It’s seems like a tragic irony that these institutions spend untold amounts of money keeping prisoners healthy and well that they are eventually going to kill.

Personally, I think the solution is to abolish the death penalty and simultaneously start clawing back some of the ‘perks’ enjoyed by the most hardened criminals.  I don’t believe ‘civilized’ societies should be in the business of killing.  Neither do I believe that the worst of criminals should enjoy what average, law-abiding citizens work hard to obtain (such as a university or college education or access to cable television).  Sure we must treat all people with some level of dignity, but should murderers be treated better than law-abiding citizens?  Hell, no!

For me, killing is not the best option we have in a civilized society.  Nor do we have to grant heinous criminals the good things in life that many citizens struggle to obtain.  The monsters among society should be locked up with the absolute basic necessities to ensure a long and miserable life behind bars.  No access to the internet, television, or education.  They lost those pursuits when they barbarically took another life.

Somehow, I doubt we’ve heard the last of the Davis case.  Was he innocent?  I don’t know.  The facts of the case certainly support doubt of his guilt.  That, for me, is enough to take a long hard look at capital punishment.  I also doubt that this is the first case of a potentially innocent man being put to death.  For me, that equates to murder.  In these cases, how will justice be found for the potentially innocent citizens killed by the societies meant to protect them?

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Social media and your final send off…

August 14th, 2011 No comments
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Social media is here to stay and as such it’s little wonder that sites are cropping up with inventive new angles to this trend.  A site I’ve been pecking through lately is an interesting and dark twist on the social media craze.  Mysendoff.com is a “social media site that will help you create and document your own final wishes for your own personal funeral sendoff”.  That’s right, now you can digitally document your final wishes and send them to six of your chosen family or friends so that when the time comes they’ll have all the details of your last hurrah.

Additionally, the site offers intriguing – albeit dark and a bit morbid – posts of stories and photos of the funerary variety.  There’s the post about the mourning photography museum , which offers visitors a visual pictorial of mourning and funeral rites of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.  Another post discusses the Scottish legend about a dog who sat loyally beside his master’s grave for over a decade.  The site also offers more practical information, such as funeral terminology and funeral products.

If you’ve got questions about the business of death, wish to document your final wishes using the latest trend, or are just darkly curious – then perch yourself on over at mysendoff.com .

 

 

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Marriage Equality

June 26th, 2011 No comments
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New York state recently passed a marriage equality bill giving way for same-sex couples to legally tie the knot.  So, how could this affect the tens of thousands practicing polygamy which is currently illegal?  Plural marriage has been coming out of the proverbial closet with recent news headlines, television shows and reality programming putting it in the mainstream sphere of discussion.  There are compelling arguments on both sides; however, a closer examination suggests that some of those arguments aren’t mutually exclusive to this discussion.

Many opponents to plural marriage point to the exploitation of women and children as just cause to continue outlawing the practice.  High profile cases such as the Warren Jeffs case have made sensational headlines claiming arranged under-aged marriages and various other abuses perpetrated on young girls.  Clearly, any proven abuses should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, especially in cases where children are involved.  These sensational headlines fail to discuss the fact that abuses against women and children are not mutually exclusive to polygamy.  There are plenty of documented cases of monogamous relationships in which children and women are abused.  There are also many documented cases of polygamous spouses and children who live productive, happy and healthy lives in their plural families.  Why then are prosecutors focusing on the abuses occurring within some plural relationships as inherently part of the lifestyle?  Regardless of the lifestyle, the focus should be on the abuses perpetrated.  Let’s be clear, not all polygamists commit these acts – just like not all teenagers who dress in black trench coats and listen to Marilyn Manson are going to plot to shoot their classmates.

There are also arguments that suggest that polygamy is amoral and that legislation is required to provide a social and moral compass to citizens.  Again, I question that line of thinking.  Sure, it may be immoral from a certain religious standpoint – however, there are plenty of religions that believe plural marriage is mandated by a higher authority.  Since I live in a society that was founded on Christian values I get why so many may find the idea of plural marriage a bit distasteful – but let’s also remember that we live in a secular society in which our religious ideology is supposed to be separated from the law.  And it would serve many Christians well to recall that there are numerous instances in the Bible in which various characters take more than one wife.  So, again I think this argument falls flat.  Let’s leave religion out of it – and that includes the arguments from some Fundamental Mormons that it falls under the realm of religious freedom.  Arguments that are founded on religious ideology invariably lead to a slippery slope.

Let’s look at this from a logical standpoint.  What’s inherently wrong with polygamy?  If two or more consenting adults want to commit a lifetime to one another – why not?  How can more love be a bad thing – especially where children are concerned?  I agree that the children of plural marriages aren’t given a choice in the matter, but the same is true of children who are born into a broken marriage, a single-parent home, a fundamental religious home, an impoverished home, etc.  We can’t start legislating who gets to have a family based on these ideas.  For all the abuses uncovered in these marginalized or unconventional families there are many more success stories.

Personally I think we are doing the spouses and children of plural marriages a huge disservice by not making it legal.  The non-legal spouses and children of these marriages have no recourse in cases of separation, death of one of their spouses or reporting abuse to the authorities.  I suggest the last point because I’m willing to bet that a spouse of an abusive polygamous relationship may be unwilling to go to the authorities for fear of being prosecuted themselves, simply because of their lifestyle.

There’s something clearly wrong when it’s illegal for more than two consenting adults to enter into a relationship committed to family,  love and honour – yet, a spouse of a monogamous relationship can legally step outside their commitment without fear of prosecution.  Sure, some hefty divorce bills might follow, but the cheating monogamous spouse still is afforded rights, such as still having access to their children.  The same isn’t true for plural families who face the prospect of being separated from their spouses and children or being imprisoned simply because their love extended beyond the traditional notion of family.

I think it’s time that polygamy in the Western world was brought out of hiding.  It’s the only way that society will be able to really understand it and provide adequate protections for those who choose to practice it.  By keeping it hidden, society is driving it further underground, where those who prey on the unprotected and marginalized will exploit the lifestyle for their own gain.  Let’s start having an intelligent and informed dialogue about the subject.  One that doesn’t revolve around religious ideology and sensationalized media headlines.

I believe that the foundation for any intimate relationship is based on love, mutual respect and trust.  These should be the measurements of a marriage – regardless of how many spouses you have.

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So, you’re thinking about going back to school?

April 16th, 2011 No comments
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It’s been awhile since I perched here to chirp, but now that school is done and I’m finding myself with some free time, I’m sure I’ll be fluttering by these parts more frequently.

Speaking of school, I’ve heard of a few folks I know talking about returning to the academic world. I thought I’d write a bit about my experiences with returning to school. A bit of background could probably set the stage here.

Immediately after high school I entered college and pursued an Advertising and Public Relations degree. My thoughts, at the time, were that I wanted to make lots of money and I figured that something creative in the business world would allow me to fulfill my desire to make money, while pursuing something that didn’t bore me to death. I’m sure it was amusing for my then classmates to see me enter those business classes all decked out in my goth gear (yes, I was one of those). To make a long (and rather tumultuous) story short – I quickly realized that I wasn’t meant for the business world and left that two year program (after two years) by flunking out in my last semester (aside from the A I pulled off in Video Broadcasting – apparently I had a knack for film… go figure). So, there I was with two years of post-secondary education and absolutely nothing to show for it. It was what I dubbed, my “almost” diploma – sans four credits.

After several months of floating from retail job to retail job, I eventually landed in Toronto where an event registration company hired me. I quickly became immersed in the event marketing world and there I remained for almost 15 years. I spent numerous years working as a freelance event marketer and when the jobs started drying up, I started to think about going back to school. My biggest reason was because I honestly wasn’t happy “working for the man”. I felt stifled, bored and like I wasn’t doing something that was meaningful to me.

I started researching going back to school and I can say without a doubt that it was one of the most daunting experiences. It’s a lot of information to wade through and finding the answer to a simple question can be a frustrating endeavour. I eventually learned that it was much easier to find one or two key contacts in administration and just email them directly, instead of trying to decipher institutional lingo in pages and pages of documentation.

It was a long process, but after filling in all the application documents, contacting every school I had ever attended for transcripts and writing an essay about why I hadn’t successfully completed my Advertising & Public Relations program, I submitted my application and then waited.

The rest is history, as they say. I’ve been studying part-time, primarily through distance education (DE) for about seven years now. I completed my three year general psychology BA in 2010. I studied year round, one to four courses a semester, and managed to finish in a respectable amount of time.

So, how does DE work? First, most of your courses are available online, where you watch lectures, submit assignments, interact with other students, and take tests. Midterms and final exams are usually done at a school in your hometown on a given date or through a proctor you hire to supervise your examination.

It’s not a mode of learning for everyone. You have to have a lot of discipline to make yourself stick to a routine of studying and completing assignments. It’s pretty easy to get sidetracked. There’s also a huge social component that is missing. You don’t get the face-to-face interaction with professors and other students. Instead this is supplanted with online communication that can sometimes be hard to interpret. Group work is also a bit awkward because you essentially are working with other students who are on their own study schedules as well. So you are often waiting for days for a reply to a question that could be answered in 30 seconds in face-to-face meetings. Finally, the breadth of courses just isn’t the same for DE. You just don’t have the same variety. So, while registering you may see this really cool course that you want to take – but you won’t be able too because it isn’t offered via DE.

There are a number of benefits to DE. You get to study on your own schedule. So that means you can fit studying around work, family, and your social life – you just have to fit it in some time. For me, I’m a morning person so I spent every morning studying and then I had the afternoons to catch up on other things. I’ve known other students who are night owls and they study after putting their kids to bed. You also have the advantage of being able to pause, rewind, and re-watch lectures. When I first started I had no idea how to take notes during a lecture, and I often found myself pausing the lectures to frantically write down every word the lecturer spoke. Finally, you can study from just about anywhere. I can remember taking my school on the road numerous times. As long as I had an Internet connection I could get my studies done.

Oh, and for those of you wondering, a degree/diploma through DE is no different than one obtained from on-campus studies. In some ways, it’s more difficult to complete a program via DE because you are responsible for structuring your class time and study time. It’s an added component that many students don’t have to deal with when studying on campus, but it certainly allows you more control over your academic career.

I am a big advocate of continuing education. I also believe that it’s never too late. Here I am, a thirty-something chick who is still in school and I’m not sure when I’ll be done. I returned last fall to pursue a combined honours in psychology and religion and the plan is that I’ll make my way into a Masters program in religion. I still study online, but I also have to go on campus now because most schools have residency requirements for upper-level degrees. So, I’m combining the two, until they won’t let me any longer.

If you’re thinking about going back to school, I say go for it! It’s an amazing experience! It opens new worlds and changes the way your perceive the world around you. Happy Studying! Cheers! M. xo

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IFCO – Celluloid Junkies 2011 – Revisited

March 26th, 2011 1 comment
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One of my main reasons for starting to blog – other than it gives me a forum to hen-peck and squawk about things that ruffle my feathers  – was to open some dialogue and learn from the masses that might just perch here for a bit.  I really enjoy engaging in conversation with others.  I’ve been honoured in my short time blogging with some great feedback from reader Doug Smith (check out some of Mr. Smith’s comments).  Most recently a friend of mine, Patrice, sent me an email regarding some of my comments concerning independent film.  With her permission, I’d like to share her comments because they are insightful, educational and provide some counter-commentary to my musings.

I’d like to make the following observations of my own for clarification as well, which if you approve; I’d like to post on your blog.

  • Super 8/16mm/35mm are ORIGINAL filmmaking technologies, they’re not just “traditional film-making technologies”, because a significant amount, actually most movies nowadays that make it to mainstream cinema screens, most dramatic content, commercials, music videos on television, are still predominantly shot on FILM; Super 16 and 35mm to be exact.  Most reality television, daytime soaps, talk shows and news serials continue to be digitally shot.  Also, there are ONLY but a few dramas on television that are shot on digital, case and point; the new season of HOUSE;
  • Also digital filmmaking does not really exist.  digital is a technology, just as film is its own technology; they’re both completely separate mediums as such.  So I’d venture to say that there’s digital cinema/digital production, but there is no film that is made from digital and vice versa.  digital is either tape or memory cards; film is celluloid based; a very intricately constructed material with endless stock options and possibilities;
  • Digital media is consuming the mainstream consumer markets, which means that the technology is more readily available to the average consumer, and there are a lot of festivals and online options for digital producers to exhibit their works; although I would warn against this, if artists are focused on developing a more professional portfolio, and also if they’re hoping to be compensated for their work.  Digital media has made significant headway in certain commercial industries as well; but I’d caution for viewers to pay close attention to the fact that again the overwhelming technology used in the Oscar and Genie Award nominated and winning films, is still film Super 16mm or predominantly 35mm;
  • Digital projection is steadily being phased into mainstream cinema chains, but still today ONLY about 5%-6% of the world’s screens actually have digital projectors installed; so that also means that most of the screens on the planet, are still using 35mm projectors.

In closing, I would say that IFCO’s filmmakers are actually cognizant of just how extremely viable FILM as medium is in contemporary society.  IFCO’s filmmakers are using FILM because they’re excited by the medium and its possibilities, and not so much because they’re “protecting a threatened art form from slipping into obscurity”.  Audiences need to be more active viewers and not such passive viewers; they need to be better informed as to the creative processes involved in bringing a piece of art to the screen, be it digitally produced/film based imagery.  Yes, digital technologies have attempted to sell the possibility to the average consumer that digital camera in hand, immediately gives them credibility as a filmmaker.   We really as a society however, have to be cautious about prescribing social pressures on art and artists to jump on bandwagons so to speak.  Just because the technology is cheaper, and more accessible, doesn’t make it any more or less relevant than existing technologies.  Filmmakers should also be happy to know that through a centre like IFCO; they can produce mostly short films at really affordable rates, in an extremely supportive environment.

“The medium is the message.” – Marshall McLuhan”

Thanks to Patrice and all my readers who comment via email, Facebook and in the comments section of this site.  I truly appreciate the dialogue and hope we can have many more virtual conversations in the future!

Cheers, M. xo

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When pets live better than you do…

March 22nd, 2011 No comments
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I’ve always said that if I had to be reincarnated as an animal that I’d want to come back as one of my cats.  Why?  Mostly because I think my cats rock, but also because they are spoiled rotten (which I’m sure has something to do with the fact that we don’t have children and they’ve been relegated to our “fur babies”).

People love their pets and businesses know how to tap into that adoration.  Recently, while spending some time in the pet aisle at our grocery store (because I do spend a lot of time and money in that aisle) I stumbled across this tantalizing tidbit for my felines:

Needless to say I was quite amused, and immediately had to buy the treat for our kitties.  Seems despite having a background in marketing and psychology that I, too, succumb to the messages that my pet deserves the absolute best.

While I agree that we may spoil our kitties, we haven’t gotten to the point of investing in cat spas that boast chauffeur service, private verandas and bird watching or cat cottage retreats offering private suites, adjoining suites for multiple cat families, “extreme bird watching”, and organic catnip.  Maybe our cats do live a bit more of a humble existence than some with wealthier “pet parents”.  Certainly, they live more humbly than those cats and dogs who have the title of being Pet Millionaires.

Pets have steadily become a windfall for businesses capitalizing on our love for our furry family members.  It’s little wonder that in our consumer-driven society that even our pets are keeping up with the the furry Joneses next door.

I’d love to hear what the most extravagant gift was that you ever bought your pet.  Incidentally, ours was a 9 foot cat perch made from bamboo and rattan.  Quite impressive, and quite loved by our three kitties.

A kitty by any other name is still just as cute… cheers to our kitty families!


Osiris aka “Wusser-Si” aka “The Cat from Hell”


Buddy aka “Monkey Boy” aka “Boo Boy” RIP


Bijoux aka “Fluffernut”


Kalifornia aka “Kali” aka “Monkey-Bits”


KatStevens aka “Brat Cat”


Yums aka “Yum Yums” aka “Yummies” RIP


Miss Missy aka “The Real Miss Missy”


Valentine aka “Val” – honourary cat, and because she’s a jealous doggie…

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