Stress-free Holidays?

I can’t sleep. I’m mentally exhausted, but my brain keeps going and I can’t sleep. I haven’t posted in a while. Partly because I’ve been busy making Christmas presents, partly because I’ve been busy learning to be a drone in society. That’s all school really is, you know? This post started out as a horribly pessimistic post, but then just writing was already making me feel better, so I’m going to talk about something else.

My mother, God bless her, is doing a loose no-spend December plan. It started out that she wasn’t going to buy anything at all. She was going to have all her Christmas shopping done, all her food stocked, everything she needed to enjoy the holiday without being bogged down by commercialism. She wanted these holidays to be fun, not stressful. Sounds good, right? Then she realized stressing out about not being able to buy anything wasn’t fun, so she decided to buy from locally-owned stores or as locally as possible. This means supporting our local restaurants, local hair and nail salons (which we seem to have a ton of and luckily our trusty hair dresser just so happens to be apart of a local place) local stores, which we don’t have a ton of, but that’s why she got her shopping done early. Her gift ideas are also noteworthy, but I can’t say until after Christmas.

We’re not a huge town, so we don’t have too many options. Most people go to a bigger city that is about an hour from here, which hurts the local economy even more. Companies decide to locate in cities based on how companies like them are being supported in that particular city. Because people always go to another city to buy stuff, our mall, (yeah, we actually had a real mall. It didn’t have very much stuff, but still, it’s something) is about to close. It’s kind of official according to my inside source. And that sucks. But anyway. Limited gas and perishable items are all she’s buying. And I gotta say, I’m proud of her. When I first started all this recycle more, waste less, consume less nonsense, she just jumped on board. No questions asked. And the way she raised me got me to the place where I could have the…I guess I would say the mental ability to comprehend such a life that doesn’t revolve around stuff. I’m a pretty lucky gal.

I am following in my mother’s footsteps with her no spend December plan. I did the last of my Christmas shopping on Monday (from a used book store, which should count even though it’s not my home economy), but it was for my angel tree people, which are a couple of senior citizens who are spending their Christmas in nursing home. I thought I could make the exception. Usually, I go way overboard because the thought of these people, who just ask for something so small and simple like socks or a book of crosswords or something, not getting anything breaks my heart. This year I curbed back and I guess I’m happy with that. So far, everyone else’s gifts are made, which I’m extremely happy about. I can’t give you the DIYs just yet because then they would know what it is and that would ruin the surprise. We’re having a small Christmas, not a lot of gifts, not a lot of waste, but we’ll be with family and that’s what matters.

I hope you all are having a stress-free holiday. Feel free to give your ideas for a waste-free holiday!

Black Friday

Here it comes. The worst day of the year. Black Friday.

I wasn’t always anti- capitalism, corporations, money, greed, commercialism type. I was to some extent, but it was more because I was compassionate and wanted to help others and I could see that when I was focused on getting more stuff, I wasn’t as focused on giving as I wanted to be. But then I started working at K-mart. That’s not even the worst part. The worst part is that I had two training days when nobody, I repeat nobody, was even there, so I really didn’t learn much or get that much experience, but then my first official day was…Black Friday. It was horrendous. And I thought I was going to die. I obviously made it, but not without learning a valuable life lesson. People yelled at me all day long. Was it my fault that the stuff wasn’t ringing up the price it was supposed to? I didn’t think so, but I suppose that it was my fault for not going fast enough. I cried that day. I had not a foggy clue what I was doing, but I kept going.

On that Black Friday I saw a darkness of people’s souls that I had never seen and am crushed to see year after year. And not just because they yelled at me, but it just brought out the worst in people. And I don’t even know why. I’m all for saving money, but what do they need so bad that they need to pepper spray people and even kill people? The list of injuries and deaths go on and on and most of the stories say the people just kept going even though people were getting trampled on.

And here’s something rich, when a Wal-Mart employee died from asphyxiation, OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) fined them $7,000 for inadequate crowd management. That’s it. SEVEN THOUSAND DOLLARS for WAL-MART and they didn’t even want to pay it. Wal-Mart, a multi-billion dollar company wouldn’t even pay a few measly dollars when its ridiculous sale got someone killed.

Instead, it set up a fund for the victims and paid some money to non-profits and agreed to do better on crowd management. Ridiculous.

And it’s getting worse. Stores are starting their sales on Thanksgiving. The one time of the year that people will think about what they are thankful for instead of what they ‘need’ is being ruined by greed. People are being pulled away from their families for this reason. It has been ruining the Christmas spirit for years. It just isn’t right.

Christmas is about the greatest gift of all, when God sent his son to Earth, so that he could grow up and give his life, so that we could be forgiven for our sins. It’s not about that any more. It’s great that people want to go out and get their friends, families, whoever, the best present, but if I were one the people I keep hearing about were worried so much about then I would say, ‘please, don’t even bother. I will be fine.’ Some people may be shopping for themselves. And that’s even worse.

I don’t even want to think about the damage this holiday ritual does to the Earth with the extra gas used to get in and out of the parking lot to everything that is thrown away that doesn’t need to be.

So let us protest this great movement of selfishness by:

  1. Hand-making a gift- I’m doing this and I couldn’t be more excited about it. I’m taking things out of the trash instead of putting them in. I’m putting a lot more effort into these gifts than I would have if I had just went to the store and bought it. I’ll end up buying a few things a few things. The internet is your oyster when it comes to upcycling and you can find practically anything in the trash. If you find a run of the mill craft think of different materials that you can find in the trash or from what you already have.
  2. Gift a service you can do yourself- car wash, babysitting, yard work or a massage. What better way to show someone you care than to give up some of your time to do something that you hate or don’t like to do for someone else.
  3. Gift services at locally-owned business- car tune-up, house cleaning, salon visit
  4. Gift a class together- If you have someone is your life that you need to spend more time with, why not give them a class membership to an art class, exercise class, cooking class or some other type of thing that the person or both of you like to do.
  5. Gift a membership- local nonprofit, gym, charity group
  6. Donate in someone’s name- charities, fundraisers, causes
  7. Gift a meal at a locally-owned restaurant
  8. Buy gifts from a locally-owned business- If you’re going to buy something, why not spend keep the money local. Out of every $100 spent at local businesses, $45 stays in the local economy. Out of every $100 spent at chain stores, everything but $14 leaves the local economy. They usually say to shop at small businesses on Saturday, but why not just take a look around a small shop and see what kind of deals they’re having?
  9. Buy used from thrift shops or used music and book stores- I found my favorite book at a used book store and it was pretty much the best day ever. It didn’t have any marks on it or anything and I got for half the price. Paperbackswap.com is a book trading site. As you trade your books you get credits and then you use the credits to get a different book. The person shipping the book has to pay shipping, but otherwise it’s free. The site also has a place to swap CDs and DVDs. Amazon also has a selection of used merchandise, but I would suggest looking at your local thrift stores before resorting to that. You can find some real treasures there.
  10. Use cash, not credit to avoid contributing to bank profits.
  11. Boycott stores with striking workers and support picketers- Wal-mart workers are finally starting to get tired working for no respect from their bosses or from consumers. As mindful consumers, we should give them our respect and help if we can.

Let’s make Black Friday the new Green Friday by working together to consume less junk.

Hidden Advertisment

I took a class this semester called media in a diverse society. It started out kind of boring with the history of radio and TV and all that. Around magazines and books it started to pick up, but maybe that’s because I find those to be more interesting. It pointed out some stuff that I already knew like for each industry there are about four or five major players that own 80 percent of the whole industry, but it still kind of drilled that a little more. Then we got to advertising, which was by far the most interesting thing that we’ve talked about and that I’ve learned about this semester.

I don’t really want it to seem like consumers get to have this victim mentality or like companies are all to blame, but when you don’t even know the rules, it makes it a little harder to play the game. These companies play dirty and we don’t even have a clue. We think we have the freedom of choice, but at every turn the person with the most money is digging into every crevice in our mind and putting their logo, the want for that product, the craving there. And as consumers, we’re totally defenseless because we don’t even know that it’s there.  It’s called subliminal advertising and supposedly it was declared illegal in 1958, but its 2012 and I’m learning about it. When I first read about this in my book it might seem like it wasn’t that big of a deal. It said: it refers to hidden or disguised print and visual messages that allegedly register in the subconscious and fool people into buying products. I was like yeah, okay, sure. It’s kind of like a coca-cola can on the desk. You’re not really paying attention to it, but it’s there and it might kind of make you subconsciously hungry for a coke. Got it. But no. That’s not it. Not entirely, anyway.

I used this video because it had the most examples of what I mean when people say subconscious advertising, when it’s hidden, not just when they put it off to the side. I tried to find a video with more variety of subjects, but it seems the most common subject is sex because it sells. You associate these products with sex, so when you think about it then you also think about the product, too. You don’t have to watch the whole thing, but as long as you get the gist.

This is one of the videos they played for us in class. It an experiment with two people in the ad agency and how they fall prey to subliminal advertising.  I thought it was interesting, but it’s worth noting that the guy who made who did the experiment is Derren Brown and he’s a famous hypnotist, mentalist, etc.

I used this video last because it’s interesting, but it’s just a different version of the first video, except it talks only about McDonalds.

Holidays

I wrote something similar to this for my other blog, but I feel writing another one again because it’s just still on my mind.

Yesterday was Father’s Day. Hopefully, I’m not the first to tell you this and I hope you had a good one. I have a good dad. A unique one, a respectable one, one to be admired. I don’t mind buying him a gift to celebrate the fact that he is my dad, in fact I like it. I like to buy people things when I know it will make them happy because it’s something they’ve been really wanting or I know they would really like it. I like people to be happy, but this Father’s Day brought some rather negative thoughts this year.

Really it all started a couple of Christmases ago. There was this sickening sight of greed and the smell of just pure ridiculousness in the air. It was sickening, all of the commercials, all of the comments that were being heard down the store aisles. Black Friday is the worst part. Seriously people, if you ever buy me a present, please don’t go through that kind of trouble or cause those kinds of problem for it. It’s just not worth it.  Christmas is supposed to be about how God sent his son to Earth so that he could later die for our sins. It was the ultimate gift. That’s the religious version of it anyway. Even if you don’t believe in that,  it is still supposed to be about giving. Ironically, it still is. It’s not like we’re carrying on like that just for our own selves those presents, but it’s just unreasonably avaricious which I think makes it even worse.

I don’t remember being particularly disturbed by the rest of the holidays the next year, but every day life, seeing everyone always off to do whatever they could to be first or hoard the most is extremely hard for me to stand. And the worst part to stomach is that some people don’t see anything wrong with what they’re doing. I don’t know how people can fix that.

The next Christmas, this last Christmas, was about ten times worse. The commercials, the news, the crowds, all of it. I’m surprised I could even make it out of bed, it was so depressing. It’s not so much the idea of Black Friday that bothers me, although thinking about it from the corporation’s point of view makes it a little more bothersome, but it’s just the way they act. Uncivilized, uncompassionate, rude. Those same people are the same people who do other ridiculous things and I think I’ve made a habit of not associating myself with them, so I’m constantly wondering what in the heck is going through their minds to make them act like a bunch of two-year olds. I also wonder if I could understand people like that would it make the situation any less sickening.

I think it’s a combination of experiences that lead me to this kind of disgust. Just by studying how much we waste and the effects it has on the environment has opened my eyes about a lot of different things. But even before I knew that kind of stuff, I always thought that it was sad that the world has lost so much compassion. I’m not the nicest person in the world. Far from it. Often my opinions are hypercritical, judgmental, a little harsh, I take my anger out on others who don’t deserve it, and people as a general rule make me kind of cranky, but I have always tried to stay compassionate. I still care about people and I want to help them because it’s not the individual people I dislike, it’s their attitudes. And if I wasn’t compassionate then I would be part of the problem and I would have to hate myself that much more.

New Year’s wasn’t that wasn’t so bad. Just the usual partying commercials. Valentine’s Day though was a little hard to stomach. I think the commercials I’ve been listening to on the radio are the difference. The one I listen to has new ones and some of them are just awful about objectifying women. And it’s not even for a strip club or something, it’s only men’s hair cutting place. Anyway, all the commercials were like: “Come and buy your girl this super expensive ring and you can probably buy her right along with it”. This isn’t exactly what they said and they may not mean to say it like that, but that’s what they’re implying. That particular jewelry store still has commercials and every few months it just gets a little worse. But I even remember seeing a more subtle version on TV. I was repulsed.

Next was Easter which had the usual candy selling extravaganza. Maybe it bothers me so much because the kid’s are getting more and more bratty. I can see the future effects of it and it’s not a pretty picture. Remember those kids are going to be taking care of us in nursing homes. Is that really what you want. People there now aren’t even being taken care of, how do you expect we’ll be treated?

Then there was Mother’s Day which seemed much more reasonable, but maybe that’s because I was still in shock by Valentine’s Day and Easter. It was more like: “Hey, give some appreciation for the woman who raised you with this nice day at the spa.” Maybe it’s because mother’s are just more reasonable and the marketing people know they won’t be swayed by the ridiculousness.

Father’s Day sure was a nice jerk back to reality though. Someone was telling me an article about how Father’s day gifts are becoming more personal. Instead of the gender oriented gifts like a tie, coffee mug or tool kit they’re getting gifts that are more tailored to the father’s personality. I was thinking that it was more along the lines that marketing campaigns are getting more aggressive and better at trying to sell us stuff. I thought this because of the radio commercials I had been hearing the day before about how I had to buy my dad I brand new $20,000 dollar car in order to tell him that I love him and I’m glad that he’s my dad. Or the thousands of other commercials I’ve heard over the last year about how  if I loved someone I would get them this or that.  The same as every other holiday.

Businesses have gotten better at convincing us that we need STUFF and telling us what STUFF we need or our loved ones NEED. I think it’s also been getting better at pinpointing our guilt. We feel guilty about the lack of time we spend with the kids so we buy them lots of toys. We feel guilty about not spending time with our wife so we buy her an expensive ring. That kind of thing. They seem to have convinced us that the more money we spend the more money we spend and it’s simply not true. I hope it gets better, but I fear it will not.

 

 

Waste not, want not

Grist

Consider the extraordinary efforts we undertake to secure a barrel of oil. Lives lost from wars. Oil-rig blowouts. Cancer clusters downwind of refineries. 100,000 premature deaths each year in America alone when we combust the stuff in our engines. Consider the 28 million tons of plastic waste we send to landfills each year, essentially re-burying the oil in the earth, but this time in places that make it virtually impossible to recover. Then we repeat the process over and over again.

What if we could mitigate at least some of this madness by putting those waste plastics to productive uses? What about the other 140 million tons of other types of waste that we send to landfills each year? Bottom line — is a zero-waste society plausible and profitable, or just a pipe dream?

In 1989, California passed a law that mandated diversion of 50 percent of solid waste away…

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The High Price of Materialism

Can’t say this (or draw for that matter) better myself.

thebigpicturereport ™

What a un-American concept! More stuff doesn’r always mean more happiness; consumerism is not good for the environment; materialism does not promote social values. Where will this kind of radical philosophy lead us? Dare we even think about it?

Video produced by The Center For a New American Dream, which works to raise awareness of the negative impact of our hyper-consumer culture. 

You may also wish to check out my March 5 post “Advertising’s High Cost to Society! Read This Now! You’ll Like It!”

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99% vs. 1%

The restaurant that held a supposed battle between economic classes has confirmed that the receipt was altered and they have no record of there having been a receipt of that value with that particular information.

Warning: The next part is a bit of a rant.

After I read this, I thought my head was going to explode. I was just so mad at consumers for letting it get this far, letting them take control like that. Despite the supposed fact is that the receipt was altered to add the writing and all that, that is not the end. Partly because there seems to be something else wrong. The article does not say that the whole receipt was fabricated. It says “altered and exaggerated”, but how much and in what way? According to the link below, the original receipt was totaled at 33.54 and the tip was 1.33.  The customer may have not been a wealthy banker, but an average person trying to get us worked up, but who cares.

http://www.thesmokinggun.com/buster/photoshop/restaurant-receipt-photoshop-hoax-869032

Besides that, I’m sure that this is not the only time where the a wealthier customer has stiffed a waitress or a server of any kind. The receipt being declared “altered and exaggerated” does not change anything. What was written on that receipt is true to the extent that that 1% thinks that we are beneath them, it just took a photocopied receipt to make some people realize it. They believe that they worked hard enough to get to their status so they earn the right to be rude and to own us.

They forget who paid the taxes for their bailout, who buys the products that pay to line their toilet bowl with gold, who pays for their own wages. They forget without the working class they would have nothing. No fancy anything and they would have to do all these ‘services’ like getting their own food, shining their own shoes, and whatever ridiculous things they pay for because they probably can’t even do it themselves and that’s not even scratching the surface of pointing out all the things they need us for.

We have become so dependent on these companies that we let them get by these kinds of actions. When I heard that they were starting Black Friday on Thanksgiving I thought, “Surely with the Occupy stuff going on people won’t support this.” I knew it was wishful thinking, but I had some inkling of hope. After that I had no hope. Last year it was worse than ever. American’s are so concerned about getting the latest gadget or whatever that they’ve lost all of their principles. They won’t even spend time with their family or let others spend time with their family because they have buy all of their crap. We’re pathetic.

The bottom line, which I’ll probably say a million more times during the course of this blog,  is they don’t own us, we own them. We just have to take control what is ours. It is certainly harder and takes a lot more effort, especially with other people who just say ‘what’s the point. So what?’. Stop taking the easy way out, support local business, start your own garden, dumpster dive, buy something used, do SOMETHING, ANYTHING to prove it.

I haven’t even scratched the surface of the argument, but the main point is that they don’t own us and I want people to consider that the next time they think they ‘need’ something.