Retro

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Pac-ManAck!

When I first saw the headline, I thought to myself, “Can this be true? Could one of my childhood heroes be guilty of such a thing?”

But then I clicked the link and saw that it was just some thug football player in a strip club. Phew…

And I wonder how he got the nickname “Pacman”. He looks *nothing* like the real thing…

2 1830

Interac LogoGrant from the Corner Office Blog recently posed a question on my posting about picking up a nickel that someone had dropped — and that no one else had any interest in.

What are your thoughts on removing the penny (and nickel for that matter) from our financial circulation? There are some that argue we don’t need tangible currency at all, and can rely on bank cards entirely.

Everytime this comes up, while it’s a move in the opposite direction, it makes me think back to me time in Canada. I was already living in the States when the $1 bill was phased out in favor of the $1 coin — the loonie. Thinking back, I think that was around 1987.

Later, while I was actually back living there in the mid-90’s, they phased out the $2 bill, as well, in favor of another coin.

At the time, the idea seemed kinda neat. The coin was cool looking — two-tone!

But quickly you realized how terrible it really was. Vending machines suddenly raised their prices for the new $1 dollar (or even $2 dollar) coins. This, of course, was before you could slide paper money into vending machines.

But the biggest downside was that you ended up with heavy pockets. Let’s say you went out and broke a $20 on some pizza or something. More often than not, you’d end up with nearly $8 in change. That’s not chump change. After a week’s time, you’d be broke. But sitting on top of your dresser was $40 worth of coins.

Prior to the coins, loose change was always less than a dollar. By the mid-90’s, it was big money — but you still treated it like spare change. It added up quick — or more accurately, disappeared to the top of the dresser quickly.

A slight tangent — around the same time, a new banking feature was being test marketed on our campus by a company called Interac. The idea was just what Grant mentioned, you’d have an Interac card attached to your bank account that you could run through the Interac machines recently installed at all of the local establishments to make purchases. No need to carry any cash at all. Really, it was just a debit card. Before debit cards existed.

That experiment was obviously successful, though I never took part, with all of the debit card machines in every grocery store, and even fast food restuarants, these days. Back then, it was weird, and cutting edge.

But back to cutting out the penny, and maybe even the nickel, entirely. I happen to like the idea. It would definitely save the government a mint. But it would also likely cost the consumer more money too. Retailers, which would still accept cash, would need to “fix” their pricing so as to come out in 10 cent increments — and I can’t imagine many establishments would choose to round the number down. State sales tax would make it even a little trickier.

Another challenge is that while the actual physical currency would be eliminated, the value on paper would still exist — but there would be no way to, well, grasp it.

Being that we’re the type to bend over to pick up such small sums, I’d hate to see it considered as negligible.

I guess it’s an all-or-nothing type of situation. To me, you can’t eliminate the smallest value currencies unless you’re prepared to eliminate them all and fly with the bank card idea.

Of course, I’m totally in favor of that now.

(What I was thinking turning up my nose at it in 1994, I’ll never know…)

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Slim GoodbodyFrom an article in Forbes last week by Steve McGookin:

With the changing nature of today’s workplace–and workforce–it’s a fair bet that there are plenty of questions you ask every day that maybe your parents didn’t.

One of them might be: “Is my tattoo holding me back as I climb the corporate ladder”?

And perhaps unsurprisingly, the answer is: It depends where you work.

My answer? Well, it certainly won’t help you climb the ladder.

With surveys indicating that anywhere between a quarter and a third of all Americans under 40 now have some form of body art–what the Pew Research Center calls the “Look At Me” generation–the adornments that traditionally marked a rite of passage have increasingly become part of society’s mainstream. A 2003 Harris poll also showed that roughly the same percentage of men and women were being tattooed.

But is body art still frowned upon in the workplace? And does it work against you from a career perspective?

Obviously company policies will vary, as will office dress and appearance codes. According to a study a few years ago by CareerBuilder and Vault.com for Salary.com, 42% of managers interviewed said that their opinion of someone “would be lowered by that person’s visible body art.”

Yet about the same number of managers, 44%, said they themselves had tattoos or other body art that was not “visible.”

I love the double standard of the “Look at Me” generation. I’m a professional by day, wannabe tramp/ex-con by night. It’s almost laughable.

Attitudes will depend on your industry and on your company. The popularity of television shows like Miami Ink and its subsequent spin-off, L.A. Ink, as well as the prominence of body art among sports figures, singers and other entertainers have meant a wider ubiquity and acceptance for adornments.

So fields that encourage individuality and creativity, clearly, will be more open to personal expression. But in an environment where conformity is frequently the norm, especially in many client-focused workplaces with a high level of interaction with the public, you’d expect corporate policies to be somewhat more restrictive.

Companies have to decide what image they want to present, both externally and internally. Where they draw a line is often what they consider “offensive.” So as well as the industry and employer, acceptance can also depend largely on the art itself.

The key word seems to be “appropriate”–but it seems more true than ever that there is a tolerance in the modern workplace for personal expression through discreet body art, particularly, according to the American Society for Dermatological Surgery, where no one sees it if you don’t want them to.

“A good tip is to place it in an area that can be covered by clothing traditionally worn in the workplace. For example, a belly button piercing can easily be covered but shown off if you wish, whereas an eyebrow piercing can not.”

What if, for whatever reason–career-related or not–you experience “tattoo regret”? According to the American Academy of Dermatology, it’s not unusual for a removal process to take several sessions and cost anything up to 10 times what you paid for the original artwork. Surveys seem to suggest that in many cases removals or amendments are because of someone’s name.

Businesses like Dr Tattoff or Rethink Your Ink offer increasingly sophisticated removal techniques.

And with the growing numbers of outlets–there are now more than 20,000 parlors in the U.S.–tattooing itself is an expanding career area. You can find some tips on getting into the field and improving your skills at ExpertVillage, which–since like any other art form it’s obviously better to see than be told–features a series of videos by Arizona-based artist Rick Wycoff.

So if you’re thinking of becoming one of the many Americans every year who get a new tattoo, how your boss will react–if he or she ever sees it–is just one more thing you’ll have to think about. But, of course, the chances are if you have a tattoo already, it’s unlikely you’re going to feel any differently about it by being told it might hamper your prospects.

I dunno. Even in my 30+ year lifetime, the amount that society has spiralled downward is a little frightening. Earrings on men, make-up on men, plastic surgery for everyone, coloured hair, mohawks, facial piercings, facial tattoos, botox, cross dressing, sex changes, etc…

Really, if you think about it, guys like Boy George and Mr. T were way ahead of their time. They’d be accepted now as “normal” everyday folks. That’s downright hilarious.

In some ways though, I do look forward to the day I have to take my children to swimming lessons so I can see the regret on the faces of all of the aging parents with huge angel wings on their backs… All I’ll have to be embarrassed about is a farmer tan and maybe a little extra weight.

On the brightside, maybe the next Slim Goodbody won’t need to wear a spandex body suit! Wouldn’t that be a sight!

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Jordan KnightAs September rolls around, the “Agricultural Fair” season begins in New England. It’s a good inexpensive way to spend a day, that is, as long as you’re not into going on lots of carnival rides at $3 per ride.

Yesterday, we spent the day at the Woodstock Fair. It cost us $5 to park and $10 each to get in. Not exactly a cheap day, but it’s all about the quality entertainment. And did I mention the entertainment is second to none? That’s right. Second to none.

We saw Jordan Knight — of New Kids on the Block fame. Don’t laugh. I mean, in some ways it’s sad that his career has declined to the point that he’s doing county fairs and things, with the smell of cow poop and swine in the air, but I found him pretty entertaining.

He opened the performance with an upbeat song I’d never heard — probably something new — and then a couple of the slow NKOTB songs. Not exactly my favorite. I mean, being a guy, I didn’t exactly have a NKOTB sleeping bag in the late 80’s so…let’s just say it wasn’t my thing. I knew their hits though, but just because of their overexposure at the time.

The audience, well, there was a crop of late 20’s aged women singing right along and swooning through out but when he got up to the “Right Stuff” and did a snippet of the “New Kid” dance, well, he had the crowd. And only then could you tell he really was a pro and not just some crappy low budget entertainment.

The best part was that he even made fun of himself, saying things like, “This was a big hit with the honeys back in…”, then he’d pause and sheepishly say, “1988.” The women up front would scream like they would have back in 1988.

We sat a bit farther back and had some of the teenage “Paris Hilton” wannabes standing near us. You know, just kinda standing there with their mouths open in that “this is so lame, but I’m so hot” pose.

HUGE sunglasses are so NOT hot.They obviously didn’t get it, understandably because of their age, but to not be able to foresee that this was just Justin Timberlake up on stage in 10 years — you know, that sort of thing just went over their heads. At that age, I would have figured that out, but then again, at that age, I wasn’t wearing blinders, err, sunglasses that covered my entire head.

And you know what? Going back to their overexposure in the late 80’s, I wasn’t really a fan, but the New Kids were bigger than the Spice Girls, Backstreet Boys, and ‘nSync ever were, even all three combined. For a few years there, you couldn’t go to any department store without a full section dedicated to them. Towels, sheets, curtains, sleeping bags, underpants, toothbrushes, action figures. They even had their own shampoo. Everywhere you went, at all times, at least one pre-teen girl within a 10 foot radius had a NKOTB t-shirt on. Always. I can’t say I’ve ever seen a t-shirt, or a sleeping bag, with, oh, say Lance Bass on it? Have you?

He ended his show with “Hangin’ Tough”, which he called a headbanger from back in the day. Then he corrected himself and said, “Well, maybe it wasn’t a headbanger…” Either way, just listening to this version, if some band had the nards to cover a NKOTB song, I dunno, maybe a band like the Darkness, that one would work with a heavier sound I think.

During the last song, I think he did some of the old school dancing again, as some of the women in the crowd were doing it along with him. He got the crowd to do the “Hangin’ Tough” arm swing thing — my wife stopped me from doing it, almost immediately — but when it was all over, I was glad I’d sat and watched.

Storage UnitThis past weekend we spent a few hours over at the storage unit we’re renting for around $140/month.

Earlier this month, I vowed to clear it out this month so as to stop paying for it. It’s really the only sizable monthly expense left that hasn’t been cut.

Well, it became apparent that, this late in the month, it’s not going to happen before the September rent is due. Even an amount like $140 in the wrong direction hurts when you’re trying to pay down the credit card debt like crazy. Grrrr…

We did, however, make *some* progress. Three full contractor bags worth of stuff went to the dump. The storage space is still filled to the ceiling, but that was still quite a step for me.

One of the stranger things I threw out was a box with piles and piles of Columbia House and BMG catalogs from the late eighties and early nineties. Vanilla Ice on the cover of one, Shanice on the cover of another. They were all stacked neatly — like I treasured them. Seriously, why did I hang on to stuff like that? Ridiculous.

Also thrown away were tons of computer programs on the old 5.25inch floppies. Sure, I’d like to go back and play the original Space Quest again, but in the 20 years since I last played it, it hasn’t been enough of a draw to actually do it. And so, into the garbage it went.

One suggestion my wife had, for things that should really be thrown out but still brought back memories, was to bring a camera and take pictures of the items before tossing them into the garbage bag.

I’m not quite there yet — maybe when I go through the boxes a second time to lighten the load even more before bringing it all back home.

Looks like we’ll be paying for another month. Sigh.

5 4109

Yesterday our local mall, which has been vacant for nearly a decade, had a liquidation auction as it’s scheduled for demolition later this year if everything goes as planned.

I saw it as not only an opportunity to see the inside of the old “crappy” mall one last time, but also as a chance to experience a live auction firsthand and maybe, just maybe, pick up something nice at a real low price.

Most of the items that were up for bid were from the insides of a Chinese Buffet restaurant. It was funny, there were three Asian groups there bidding on everything — once the restaurant was cleared, they all left. Some good deals were out there, though it kinda made me think twice about ever eating Chinese again.  The second hand equipment was not clean.  Not clean at all.  Really, my shoes still feel greasy.

Once out into the actual mall, I got more and more anxious as the auctioneer moved closer and closer to the item I had my eye on.

I had one rival bidding against me on the item. I raised my hand like an idiot a couple of times as we went back and forth, but quickly took on the role of a seasoned pro with a slight head nod to indicate my willingness to go higher. (Chalk it up to the years of eBay experience… no, this was a lot more thrilling.)

Sold to bidder number 40! My heart was racing. The item, as well as a quick high-five with my wife upon being proclaimed winner, generated a few smiles in the crowd. I’d won what I considered the pick of the lot.

Anyway, the item we bid on and won is pictured below.

My Little Cessna — the most recent impulse buy!

Yes, a coin-operated kiddie ride.

I barely fit into it.

My wife sorta fits into it.

So why’d I bid on and win it?

Well, even if I can’t get it to work (we haven’t plugged it in to test it yet. In fact, it’s still at the Mall as it was too heavy for us to lift), I still think it was a great value for something I’m positive that our future children will enjoy climbing all over and just plain sitting in.

If not, I know I’ll enjoy it. Though I’m not an airplane buff, I never rode this particular ride, and I’m not sure I ever even noticed it the few times I went inside this particular mall, I do remember when rides like this were outside of every grocery store, Ames, Zellers, and really any other department store that Walmart put out of business.

And what I remember most is that my parents rarely said “Yes” and supplied a quarter to make the ride do it’s thing, so in a way, this is like the Speak-and-Spell I asked Santa Claus for and ended up purchasing myself 25 years later.

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A Swatch clone with a CREDIT CARD!?Remember those? For me, it was somewhere around 4th grade — the Cabbage Patch Kid craze had finally started to tail off and the new item to have was the Swatch Watch.

The goal was to get the craziest wristband colour combinations and then top it off with that little rubber band contraption to protect the face of your overpriced $60 watch made of plastic.

Then the goal was to wear more than one at a time.

At the time, I think I probably wanted one. I may have even asked for one for Christmas, I’m not really sure.  Eitherway, I never owned one.

Most things that I’d asked for in my youth that I never received (Speak-and-Spell, for instance), I’ve ended up buying recently on eBay to basically catch up on what I’d originally missed out on 20 years ago.

For the record, the Speak-and-Spell totally lived up to expectations. Even at the age of 30.

Anyway, yesterday I was reminded of the Swatch watch of the 80’s in a press release I read announcing that MasterCard Worldwide had announced the launch of the first watch equipped with MasterCard® PayPass. (I wonder if it comes with one of those little rubber band things to protect it? Maybe you can just auto-bill it to the watch?)

Consumers can simply tap their new watches on the PayPass reader to make the equivalent of a credit card purchase at more than 600 merchant locations in Turkey, including major names such as Burger King, Starbucks, Cinebonus, TAV (İstanbul Atatürk Airport Otopark), and the İstanbul Ferry Corporation. The PayPass watch allows users to make purchases under 15 euros, with no signature or PIN required. Larger purchases will still require a signature.

Like the original Swatch watch, it’s a European thing to start – if the bright colours and soccer balls weren’t enough of a clue.

I’m sure it’ll cross the pond by Christmas though. And guess what?

I’m not asking for one. I mean, I understand the desire for convenience, but this is a little bit ridiculous. I’m not about to “wear” my credit card.

The sight of all of the people wearing their cell phones these days is silly enough — now you can wear your credit card too.

Accessorizing has gone too far.

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With all of the budget numbers floating around in my head 24/7, every now and then a “number” from the past just comes to mind. This morning, it was the number 546 77 77 that awoke me.

You have to say it like that. Five four six, pause, seventy seven, seventy seven. While in the shower I kept repeating it in different silly voices. The “angry” version seemed the most familiar. What the hell was it?

By the time I ran out of hot water, I’d come to the conclusion that it was a phone number. I’ve actually lived in two places where the local exchange was 546, but I know I’ve never been fortunate enough to have such an easy to remember phone number. Pizza place maybe? Hmmmm…

Most things that wake me in the middle of the night date back to my years in University so I tried to isolate it to something somewhere in the mid-1990’s. Was it some constant represented by a greek letter used in chemistry? Physics? Damn.

No, it had to be a phone number. Five four six, pause, seventy seven, seventy seven.

Driving to work, I listen to AM radio (yeah, yeah, I know people think I’m too young to listen to talk radio), and they have some of the worst “local” commercials and that’s when the, now compact flourescent, lightbulb went on.
Jim Shapiro
“I’m JIM SHAPIRO, the TOUGH, SMART lawyer. 1-800-546-7777. Jim ‘THE HAMMER’ Shapiro. Call 1-800-546-7777.”

It was from the funniest ever daytime (or sometimes very latenight) commercial. This guy used to get so angry in his commericals, I swear, it was like his head was about to explode. He was INSANE. I mean, there is no way I’d call this guy to represent me. No way.

Apparently, now that I’ve googled him, he practiced out of Syracuse which would explain why we could see his commercials north of the border in Canada. What I’m not sure of is why THE HAMMER would have paid for advertising on the local CBC station?

Being poor students, we didn’t have cable and the one CBC station (CKWS in Kingston, Ontario) we could pull in with rabbit ears had Hockey Night in Canada, so we weren’t really looking for anything else. The only place we could have seen the commercials was on a Canadian station. Perhaps it’s because Watertown, New York could likely pull in the signal. Eitherway, that’s still not really very close to Syracuse.

I can’t tell you how hard we’d laugh each time THE HAMMER came on. And being that we were generally watching Baywatch, Star Trek, and Fresh Prince repeats, well, lets just say he was good for atleast one 30 second spot every single commercial break. Six times an hour, baby. We’d recite his whole ad — in public. It never got old. “I SUE DRUNKS!”

It’s kinda sad that this is the only type of knowledge that’s stuck from my days in university.

Here’s some video:



Honorable mention for best mid-1990’s greater-Kingston local commercial goes to Bob Clute Pontiac — the dealer with the handshake.

Seriously, someone out there has to be able to sing their old jingle with me. In one commercial, I think they had the entire Belleville Bulls hockey team singing it. It was truly a hit song in the region.

No, really.

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