Monday, 24 March 2014

“The menu is not the meal.” ― Alan Wilson Watts

There is something visceral about  language because it is one of the ways in which we communicate the things that we are thinking.  Language and words  connect us to our past, present, and future, and are one of the ways that we try to make sense of our consciousness.    I've compiled a collection of my favorite words and phrases and then done some research regarding their origin:

1.  "Hoisted by my own petard"
What does it mean to be hoisted by ones own petard?  First of all, what is a petard?  The word itself is of French origin.  A petard is a sixteenth century explosive device used to destroy doors or walls, so as to grant the user entrance to a given fortification.   The petard was attached to a wall or door and then set off,  meant to blow a hole in the fortification so that troops could enter.   The device was dangerous and unpredictable such that occasionally, one could be injured or blown back by the explosion, hence, being 'hoisted by ones own petard'.    Therefore, the phrase refers to the irony of being hurt or mistreated by your own attempt to hurt or mistreat someone else.
2.  Chairman of the Board
A Chairman of a Board is the head of a meeting or committee, or someone who presides over a board of directors.  What is the historic origin of the title?  It goes back to Medieval England, when land owners employed a whole team of people to work their land and take care of their other endeavors.  Land owners would build a large, communal house for all of their employees, where everyone would eat communally  in a great hall regardless of status.  People were very aware of hierarchy at that time in history, so the head of the entire household  would sit at the largest table in the great hall, at the focal point of the room.  In the 16th century, a table was called a board (Latin Tabula, or board).  The most important man would sit at the head at the best table  and he was the only one who sat at a chair instead of a stool.  Hence, he was called the 'chair-man of the board'. 

Historian Dr. Lucy Worsley explains this in the History of the Home documentary:

3.  Gobsmacked:  A  British slang, and an adjective meaning 'very shocked or surprised'.   The word dates back to the 1980's and refers to the shock of suddenly being punched in ones mouth, or the act of covering ones mouth  in response to a sudden surprise.  A 'gob' is is the Gaelic Scottish word for 'mouth'.  

Oh look they made a nail polish colour called Gobsmacked....

Other sources:  Wikipedia, oxford dictionaries, Butter London

Monday, 15 July 2013

Things that I think are fabulous...Youtube edition!

How to Tie a Tie.    Always useful.
How to Make a Peauntbutter and Honey Sandwich In Space with Canadian Astronaut  Chris Hadfield!  This guy is completely awesome and has inspired kids everywhere during his time in space.  He has also announced that he will be writing  a book, which will come out next year!  I will be reading that!

How to Survive on a Farm in Rural Britain During World War Two.  I love the BBC because they do great documentaries.  In this nine  part series, archaeologists and historians actually live and work on a farm that simulates what  it was like during the war.  It's very accurate and interesting.  Actually, farmers were hugely important to the war effort because they were growing food.    Now I want to research what it was like for Canadian farmers during the Second World War as well!  I really like learning about what history was like for the average person, and not just for the 'important' people. 

How Not to Hide a Body.  Another one from the BBC.  Agatha Cristie's Miss Marple books have been made into a TV series!  This is my favourite one because it's particularly well done.   Miss Marple's friend witnesses a murder on a train, and they enlist a savvy housekeeper to help them find the body.  Miss Marple is so smart and clever!

How to Wear Eye Liner with Lisa Eldridge.  Lisa Eldridge is a very talented professional makeup artist who does spreads in fancy magazines!  She has her own Youtube channel and does makeup tutorials all the time. 

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

"Get the confidence of the public and you will have no difficulty in getting their patronage." - Henry Selfridge

An innovator is someone who changes reality as we know it.  Henry Selfridge was one of those people.  He was an innovator who's goal was to make shopping thrilling, and he succeeded by revolutionizing the way department stores are presented to the public.  I learned about Selfridge when I watched the latest episode of Mr. Selfridge, a ten part series currently airing on PBS that surveys the man's life at the height of his career.  Seeing that London could benefit from the changes that he helped create in North American and European department stores, the entrepreneur opened the first Selfridges department store in 1909.  To this day, Selfridges is still one of the most recognizable department stores in the world, due to the provocative and creative way in which it is presented, even today.   Henry Selfridge  set a standard for the industry and is responsible, in some ways, for the way that we shop in the present day.

How did he accomplish his goal of making shopping a thrilling experience?  He used paid advertisements and fanciful window displays to draw customers into his department store, where they would buy things they didn't even know they needed or even wanted.   Henry Selfridge was one of the first business man to market goods to people in such a way.  This was even before Edward Bernays, the nephew of Sigmund Freud, invented the field of public relations and basically created the consumer culture in which most first world countries reside. Selfridge was one of a handful of people who changed the way that we consume by using techniques in  human psychology to manufacture consent

Major department stores still use some of Selfridge's sales techniques, even today.  For example, he made his department stores feel luxurious and exclusive by creating a coat depository for his customers,  instructing his sales professionals to be more personable with guests, and telling them to always side with the customer.  Restaurants were installed so that shopping ladies could have an all day shopping experience.  There were also post offices, hair salons, and quiet rooms for rest.  Selfridge also decided to design the interior of  his department store in a new and provocative fashion.  Perfumes were moved to the first floor in the entry way where they were placed on glass counters and fitted with expensive price tags.  Common items were grouped together usefully; something that set Selfridges apart from other department stores.  In other stores, all of the items belonging to  one brand name were usually displayed together, even if the products  were not directly related to one another beyond their brand name.   To create a bit of controversy and spectacle, Selfridges  sold cosmetics; an item that was taboo  at the time.  The store layout, as well as the entire shopping experience, was geared toward female consumers, since they were usually the primary shoppers in most households.

To attract attention and create buzz, Henry Selfridge hosted speakers and events at his department store.  For example, there were flower arranging and design classes or seminars.  Prominent people were invited to give speeches or create spectacles.   The plane used to make the first flight across the English Chanel was displayed in one of Selfridges display windows to attract attention.   The man was obviously ahead of his time!

Looking at Selfridges today, it is still a spectacular department store.  The window displays are still colorful and provocative, and their advertising campaign is still impeccable.   Selfridges website is great; it`s easy to navigate, the branding is good, and every opportunity is used to offer suggestions.  Other department stores, such as The Bay, should be looking to Selfridges for inspiration if they want to stay relevant.   Actually, non-department stores can be inspired by Sellfridges as well.  For example, lets look at Chapters Indigo, the book retailer.  What could they be doing to sell more books in a time when book sales are down?  They could connect customers with the outside community by offering seminars or speakers that tie in with products being sold, just like Mr. Selfridge did.  Mr. Selfridge was a smart man.  The average person can witness iterations of his marketing ideas just  by going to their local mall. 

Disclaimer:  It's always good to consume responsibly, whenever you can.  This test will tell you if your consumable goods are sourced from companies that do not abuse human labour. Even if you do not choose to change your consuming habits, it's good to be aware of where your stuff comes from. 

Monday, 23 July 2012

"How embarassing it is to be human" - Kurt Vonnegut

Humans are strange, stupid creatures.  Generally speaking, most of us suck.  I can probably make a pretty long list of people I want to punch in the face right now without thinking too hard.  We are all looking for a life of happiness, fulfillment, meaning, glory, and yet few of us ever figure it out.  This is all very tragic, and yet, the universe remains unaffected and unconcerned about the subject in general. Regardless, I hope to figure out whatever 'it' is before my time on this earth is over, and I have a working theory:

All glory comes from daring to begin. All good things come from being vulnerable: love, happiness innovation, creativity.  This is my theory, anyway.  If you want to be creative, you cannot be afraid of failure; you have to be willing to be wrong a lot if you want to stumble upon something awesome at some point.  Earnest Hemmingway himself said to write drunk; edit sober.   Once you let go of your inhibitions, good things generally happen, or at least memorable ones.   After all, there is a certain beauty in the breakdown, isn't there? 

To succeed at this, you must be courageous because you have to be willing to be silly or stupid or wrong.  Of course this is uncomfortable, which is probably why Hemingway suggests inebriation. Don't we all go through life trying to numb the galling truth of it all?   Still, it's worth it because after you're done being courageous, then you can edit the crappy ideas.  All the greats do this.   The brilliant Bob Dylan used to just write down random sentences on a piece of paper as they came to mind.   Then he would pick the good ones later and create a song.  The smart ones have figured out that you aren't going to fart unicorns and sparkles right away, so you might as well stop trying.  No one just pulls fabulous, perfect ideas right out of their ass.  It's more of a journey full of trial an error, and mistakes will be made.  There is no room for perfectionists in this journey and it isn't for cowards either. 

So, it follows that as far as creativity goes,  there is no point in guarding your thoughts or ideas because no thought or idea is original since we do not live in a vacuum.  Every thought we have has been inspired by something else because our consciousness is based on our reactions to what we perceive as reality.  Every idea is a descendant of another idea.  Everything is a remix.  Everything.  So share, because this will breed more innovation as everything will come full circle.  Forget about competition and just share.  And check out this documentary I found on the subject.  It's creator is Kirby Ferguson, who is a film maker from New York.

Monday, 12 March 2012

On the Importance of Research

Adequate research is very important for any public relations campaign.  Doing your research makes your final product far more credible.  I am not a PR professional yet, or an expert, but I feel as if research should be a huge part of your job if you work in PR.  Also, research ensures that your work is complete and relevant.  For example, if you are doing a PR campaign for an animal shelter, you must do a huge amount of research before even starting anything else, so that you  can do your job well.  You would have to immerse yourself in the environment of the organisation to begin with.  You could talk to employees, customers, volunteers, and the public.  You would also have to research the organisation's past attempts at PR so that you can see how improvements can be made.  Researching what other similar organisations do about their own PR campaigns can also be useful. 

Luckily for me, I really enjoy doing research, and I am good at it.  For me, it's like solving an exciting mystery.  I have lots of experience with doing research because I majored in modern history when I did my Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Manitoba.   I feel like I have a good handle on how to do good research, but I am also excited to improve on my skills.  When I wrote history essays for my bachelors degree, I spent more time researching the subject than actually writing the essay itself.  I think that I would employ a similar strategy if I were doing a PR campaign. 

Doing this writing piece reminded me of a conversation that I had with one of my history professors when I was a student at the U of M.  Most of us know about the difference between primary and secondary sources.  A primary source is an original document or artifact.  A secondary source is anything, such as a piece of writing, that builds upon the primary source.  Actually, one could argue that there is no such thing as a primary source!   My professor was saying that it's important to be wary of secondary sources, even those created by other professionals that you know and respect.  This is because one person will interpret a primary source differently than another person.  

Monday, 20 February 2012

Do set designers have inside jokes or is my lamp just a coincidence?

I have a random thought.  I noticed that a lamp in my house frequently turns up in crime dramas!  Weird.  It's usually on someones office desk, and used for soft, dramatic lighting.  I have seen it in the Mentalist, Criminal Minds, CSI New York, and so fourth.   I know it's the same model of lamp because it's a fairly distinctive lamp made of chrome with holes on the shade.  Maybe the set designers have some sort of inside joke going. Or perhaps it's normal to re-use set props and I just haven't noticed.   You know what detectives always say: "there's no such thing as a coincidence.".  My lamp is a glamorous movie star!! Ok so it isn't that exciting. 

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Today I learned how to apply lipstick that stays on for a long time...and that it might cause cancer

Did you know that five percent of lipstick (or whatever else you apply to your lips) ends up in your stomach?  Good thing there aren't any harmful chemicals in  it such as lead, D4 and D5 siloxanes, Methylparabens, and other ingredients that have been known to cause health problems and even Cancer.  Oh wait, those ingredients ARE in lipstick and other cosmetics!!   Scientists and cosmetic companies are still debating whether or not the chemicals in cosmetics are in high enough amounts to cause harm.  Apparently we're making progress though; in the middle ages, people used to slather a paste rich in lead on their skin to cover blemishes.  Others slowly poisoned themselves with the high levels of Mercury compound in their lip stains, or blinded themselves by using Belladonna extract to dilate their pupils. 

In this day and age, lipstick is far too much trouble for people to bother with it on a regular basis.  Even so, it's fun to wear every once in a while or on special occasions, particularly a bright and saturated shade.  Ladies (and gentlemen), I have found the secret of long lasting lipstick (from the lady at the cosmetics counter)!  Here is what you will need: 

1. A tube of red lipstick.  I used the very popular Russian Red by MAC.  It's a good colour because it is flattering on many different skin tones and is a true red.
2.  A red lip liner.  I used Brick by MAC.
3. A lipstick brush
4.  Baby powder
5. Kleenex for blotting
6. Petroleum jelly, which is one of the best moisturisers, or your favourite lip balm

The process, goes thusly:  First you need to properly exfoliate your lips.  There are many different ways to do this.  For example you could simply rub your lips with a damp toothbrush.  After that, apply the lip balm so that your lips are very moisturised.  Wait until it sinks into your lips, but don't wait until your lips are dry all over again!  The goal here is to have moisturised lips that aren't slippery with lip balm.  The lip colour must stick to your lip.  Begin by filling in your ENTIRE lip using the sharpened lip pencil.  This prevents bleeding and helps the lipstick adhere to your lip for a longer period of time.  It also defines the edges of your lip.  Refrain from trying to make your lips appear fuller by colouring outside the lines; it will look obvious. 

The next step is to use the lipstick brush to apply your red lipstick of choice.  The key is to use the brush to really press the lipstick onto your lip.  After that, blot with the Kleenex, and then re-apply the lipstick straight from the tube rather than using the lip brush.  Blot again lightly.  This should keep your lipstick on for a long time!!  If you want your lipstick to stay on for an even longer period of time, you should also apply some baby powder onto your lips before adding the final coat of lipstick.  Warning: only apply a TINY bit of baby powder, or it will eliminate any of the moisture on your lips.  If that happens, your lipstick will look terrible, and your lips will feel dry and uncomfortable.

The end result should look something like the following:

If you're still worried about the ingredients in your cosmetics, mosey on over to the following cosmetic database.  It lists all the ingredients for thousands of cosmetics and other toiletries.  Unfortunately Canada doesn't have very good laws regarding ingredient lists or contents for cosmetics, and it's hard to know if the harmful ingredients in them are actually harmful because they are present in small amounts.  Here is the link: .  I just found out that Baby Powder (talcum powder) is a known carcinogen.  Does one ingest enough of it in a lifetime to get cancer from it?  Scientists are still debating it so we don't know yet.