The Report Card: Retiring an act

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By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor

Formerly published in The Other Press. Jan. 21, 2014

Celebrities often go through transformations. Usually these changes happen on-screen or stage when they’re portraying scripted characters, but sometimes these metamorphoses happen in real life; their daily actions become the performance, and you don’t need to buy a ticket to watch. Sometimes it’s comical, sometimes it’s tragic, and sometimes it’s absolutely cringe-worthy, but it’s always entertaining.

Pass: Joaquin Phoenix

Faking retirement is often a good PR strategy to gain more fanfare. It’s akin to faking a death and seeing how much people miss you… or the idea of you. After gaining recognition as one of Hollywood’s top leading men, Phoenix stumbled into rehab and a car crash in 2006. A couple of years after the accident, Phoenix announced his retirement from acting—he was intending to pursue a career as a rapper.

It turns out that the retirement was a hoax, all a performance for a Casey Affleck mockumentary film entitled I’m Still Here. Some people claimed they knew it all along, while others shook their heads in disapproval of such a blatant ploy to attract media attention to a less than mediocre movie.

Still, Phoenix rose from the clichéd ashes and won back his audience. Not always an easy feat in an industry where the public will be more than happy to label you as a lunatic. Phoenix went on to work with legitimate filmmakers and star in highly acclaimed movies including The Master and Her. If he ever truly went away, this would have been quite a comeback. He played the role and he took chances. Sure, some said he embarrassed himself, but he did it for the sake of art. And that is worth some respect.

Fail: Shia LaBeouf   

As a fan (the word “fan” being used loosely) of Even Stevens, it’s sad to see LaBeouf’s current downward spiral in public media. Recent accusations of plagiarism for his short film Howard Cantour.com along with mockery from his peers have made the 27-year-old announce his “retirement from all public life”—whatever that means.

LaBeouf was bred to be a star. He could have been a respectable comedian, an adored action hero, or even just a modest dramatic actor. Instead, he wasted his Disney springboard to fame by getting himself into numerous legal issues including assault, trespassing, and driving under the influence. Yes, plagiarism seems minor compared to those other acts, but as an actor, all of this is suicide.

His last-ditch attempt to gain back his audience before going into social media reclusion was by writing his apology to Daniel Clowes (whose work he had plagiarized) in skywriting. Why he decided to choose that extravagant form of communication to express what should have been an embarrassing but private scenario, I’m not sure. What I do know is that LaBeouf is a performer and that he must get some pleasure from attention.

I have not met him, but I believe that his arrogance has gotten him into trouble more than once and such behaviour is a sign of immaturity. The same way a stubborn teenager would slam their door to their parents’ scolding, LaBeouf is slamming the door on us through Twitter. Sooner or later he’ll emerge, he’ll be all cried out, and he’ll be seeking our approval again. We’ll accept him, because we love entertainment. And we love to tease celebrities, so we’ll joke about his shortcomings again. It’s upon his reaction then that we’ll decide whether Shia LaBeouf has grown up or not.

4 Reasons Why Car Colour Does Matter When Buying a New Car

Ghostwritten by Elliot Chan. Formerly published by Unhaggle.com

20110422115851ENPRNPRN1-FORD-COLOR-CHOICES-1y-1303473531MRThere is nothing more enticing than a shiny new car in your favourite colour. Try to resist, because if you do base your next vehicle purchase on colour alone you will be left with buyer’s remorse. And not many Canadian car dealers will respect you if all you care about in a car is the colour. Good luck negotiating a discount if that is your intention.If beauty is something you value, then there is little I can do to convince you not to buy that snazzy red convertible. If you want to hear the downsides to aesthetic exquisiteness, pay attention to the four key reasons to put colour in the backseat during your car buying process.

Seeing Red in Resale Value

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It’s always on the back of your mind, even when you’ve just bought the new ride. Sooner or later, you’ll have to sell it. Yes, driving off into the sunset with a guitar solo blasting on the radio doesn’t last forever. On average, Canadians only keep a vehicle for 6.4 years and approximately 116,797 km. That means it’s important to think two steps ahead and consider the value your car has in resale, and surprise, colour is a large factor.

New research conducted by the valuation expert CAP showed that regardless of a car’s make or model, colour is consistently an aspect that deems whether the vehicle is worthy of a new owner or not.

Not so long ago, white vehicles were undervalued in the resale market, because there was this idea that white gets dirty fast; that could cost owners to lose anywhere to a $1000 just because of the colour. Now, white is the hue that holds its value best, mainly because of fashion—white is classic and it’s worth 5% more than other colours. White is innocuous and it keeps drivers cool in the summer, in addition to being easier and environmentally friendlier to repair should any mishaps occur. The reason is because white parts are more common and white paint is made from less-damaging substances.

The car colours that lose the most value over time are blue, gold, green, turquoise and maroon. These colours are neither popular nor sporty, unlike indigo, purple or pink, which rank high in resale value. Sport car fanatics won’t mind choosing a fancy car colour for their fancy car. But there just aren’t many car owners who want a used-green sedan. That being said, those seeking deals and don’t care much about looks may be able to find a nice turquoise car for a bargain.

(Bird) Dropping in Value

 

Accidents happen and so do bird droppings. You might think those flying defecators are tracking you around town and targeting your sleek new red car, but the fact is, it might actually be your car’s fault. The colour red causes birds to instinctually panic or gain alertness; kind of the same way matadors use a red cape to rile the bull. Unfortunately this colour shock causes the birds to loosen their bowels. Red is the colour of vehicles most commonly pooped on, attracting 18%, followed by blue with 14% and black with 11%.

Bird droppings might seem like a minor ordeal, not worth trading a car just because you don’t want to wipe a stain off once in awhile, but it can be rather damaging to your vehicle, tarnishing its resale value. After you’ve received an unwanted gift from above, clean it up as soon as possible, especially during the summer. Bird droppings contain graininess, and if a car is sitting in the sun, the paint’s lacquer expands. When it cools down it’ll contract around the graininess of the dropping. The result is a duller reflection.

Insuring the Best Deal

Let’s say you’re a safe driver without any infractions or accidents and that you want a red car over a white car; you’d ask whether that choice would affect the price of your insurance. According toRateCity.com, it sure does—and it’s a significant difference. Although each driver and each car will yield different quotes from different insurance companies, the results can be staggering, often costing owners over a $100 more simply for the colour. Red and other flashy colours should be avoided if finance is important to you. Instead, choose neutral colours, such as gray, black and blue.

Although there are no legitimate proof that flashier cars cause more accidents, a study conducted byMonash University suggests that there is a trend.

Insurance companies don’t judge solely on the colour. In fact, they say it’s one of the last aspects they look at when offering premiums of any kind. The make and model and the driver’s history are far more important than the vehicle’s paint job.

Appeal to the Whole Spectrum of Dealerships and Drivers

Appearance is important. The same way you dress yourself in the morning in your own style and fashion to express who you are, same goes for your vehicle. People make snap decisions and first impressions are important. Believe it or not, your car can tell people a lot about you. You don’t want others to get the wrong impression just because you pulled up in a rainbow hot rod. So choose wisely—a car will be an extension of who you are.

Odds are, you are a just decent person looking to get from point A to point B in the most efficient way possible, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get there in style. Fashion is always evolving and so are you, so why not try new things? Like I’ve mentioned, Canadians swap rides every 6.4 years, so if you are like 21% of drivers who chose white in 2013, why not try something different this year or next?

Vaccination may be a whole other can of worms

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By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor

Formerly published by The Other Press. Jan. 14, 2014

If you have been vaccinated, you’re probably feeling pretty good about yourself. If modern medicine has taught us anything, it’s that it works 100 per cent of the time, right?

Nope. I know I’m being a bit cheeky about an important subject, but realistically, there isn’t much we can do. Sure, health is important, but can vaccines replace good habits? Nope again. Let’s not become so dependent on medicine that we forget the primary method of mitigating sickness: wash your hands, cover your mouth, and stay at home when you’re sick—everything your mom taught you.

Fine, if it makes you feel better to be vaccinated, go right ahead and get the shots, but don’t just dive headfirst, allowing someone to inject a magical elixir into your body. Understand yourself; recognize your own habits and health. If your job demands it, get the shot—be responsible, but there’s a reason shots aren’t mandatory. Health is subjective, because only you know how you feel. I’m not a doctor, but I can think for myself, and I know that while some people might need a shot to avoid the flu, others don’t.

Although the risk of flu outweighs the risk of vaccine allergies, I must still ask: what is going to protect you from the next disease? And the disease after that?

No doctor can guarantee 100 per cent that you won’t feel side effects from a “safe” vaccination. Headaches, fatigue, fever, and aching muscles are just some of the light symptoms vaccinations can cause. Yes, I know, that all seems rather minor compared to death from influenza. The 2009 pandemic was a scare, and the 2013-2014 situation is still calling a lot of attention to our health. Be aware, but don’t panic, and don’t cause other people to panic. Negativity is a poison in its own regards.

I’m not advocating that people should avoid vaccination. Medicine is good, but health is a balancing act, both physically and mentally. The more you anticipate sickness the easier it is to be subjected to the placebo effect, good or bad. So, does the vaccine even work or is it just insurance? You might think that the doctors have all the answers, but for a healthy person, they don’t have much to work with. Healthy thinking and living, to me, far outweigh the importance of getting shots. I get it, we are all busy and we need to make money, shots are the easy way to ensure healthiness. But invest in yourself longterm. Don’t allow an epidemic to force you to live better—just live better.

Shots or not, it’s always up to you. I repeat: I’m not a doctor, and I’m not you either. All I know is that health is a tricky thing and sometimes covering your ass may backfire. So relax. Just as car accidents happen every single day, so do illnesses.

Soldiering on

 

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Canadian army should not be mocked for civil service

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor

The city of Toronto has been the butt of jokes for far too long now (though some might say not long enough): their uproarious mayor, Charlie Sheen; the Maple Leafs double-dribbling to the playoffs; and, of course, the freeze storm. Yes, it has been an ice age of comedy for the centre of the universe, but I will not poke fun at Toronto for sending in the army to battle Mother Nature, that cold-hearted bitch.

While we’re living in Vancouver, where anything below 10-degrees Celsius is considered cold, people in Toronto have been pouring cups of hot water outside and watching it turn to ice before their eyes. The sight gave me chills (remember the 1997 movie, Batman & Robin, where Arnold Schwarzenegger a.k.a Mr. Freeze kept making cold puns? I do). I know people in the Prairies are laughing at Toronto for their dramatic call to arms, but let’s be honest, if they weren’t laughing at Toronto, they would probably be shivering. Toronto is a big city that can only function when people are able to leave their households. As someone who has all-season tires on my car for, well, all seasons, I know what it’s like to be stuck at home. So I’m a little surprised that calling in the troops for reinforcement isn’t more common—after all, why shouldn’t we use our resources?

Weather is one of the most devastating forces in the world, and having the military around to back up normal people is a morale boost a country like Canada should have. We are a peaceful nation and we should lead by example. For many in the United States, the idea of sending in the troops for anything but war is still a highly debated proposition. Citizens just don’t want to see the army cruising down the streets—that is not encouraging for a healthy morale. Recent hurricanes have since changed the minds of many, but others are still convinced that a country should not rely on their army for domestic reasons. But as the world continues to face the fury of Mama Nature, it seems that the army lending a hand may become a common trend.

A little deep freeze is far from a humanitarian emergency, but it would be comforting to know that the military would be able to help when disaster strikes. A soldier assisting shouldn’t be something we laugh at; it should be something we expect and respect.

Taking a look closer to home, we wonder what might cause Vancouver to send in the army. How about an earthquake? What they call the inevitable “Big One” could literally happen at any moment. I sure hope and expect someone to help me deal with that crisis, especially if I get stuck on Granville Street when the city shakes.

We can mitigate disaster, but we can never really avoid it. So, let’s use all we have when things get bad and build upon that for when things get worse.

Some movies bomb, while others F-bomb

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The Wolf of Wall Street’ breaks record with most fucks said in film

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor

Formerly published in The Other Press. Jan 14,2014

How did it happen that we now live in a world where the movie with the highest number of F-bombs dropped is not in a gangster movie, serial killer flick, or even a buddy comedy, but rather a film about stockbrokers?

There is no argument around Martin Scorsese’s prowess as a filmmaker, and that any key choices made in the film were well-calculated and thought-out. I’m certain he knew he was going to break some record. After all, he has shown affection for characters with dirty mouths in his other movies with high “fuck” counts: Casino with 422, Goodfellas with 300, and The Departed with 237.

When profanity is used appropriately in film, it has the same effect as a nicely timed edit or a tension-building film score. You don’t even notice it, because you’re so enthralled by the film itself. Odds are, while sitting through The Wolf of Wall Street, you weren’t tallying the number of “fucks”—instead, the fast-paced movie probably kept your attention for most of the three hours. But hey, I’m not writing a review; I’m just wondering what 506 fucks in 180 minutes would do to me. Turns out, nothing, because I’m used to it.

Swear words are so common these days that it feels a little ridiculous to even call attention to them. You hear them at sporting events and on the streets, you read them on the Internet and social media, and of course, they fill the airwaves every time the television is turned on. Shit happens and apparently, so does fuck.

I hope there will soon be actors mimicking Matthew McConaughey’s beautiful yet brutish monologue, or Leonardo DiCaprio’s fuck-filled narration—it really is a shame that The Wolf of Wall Street, pending Academy Awards, will be remembered for another fuckin’ accolade.

It’s not a contest or anything and a movie’s objective is not to reach arbitrary milestones such as the one The Wolf of Wall Street has achieved. A movie is entertainment, and the only way to entertain is to get the audience engaged in the story. How do you keep an audience engaged? The writer must be honest when writing the script, creating truth in the situations and the characters; and the filmmaker must have courage to follow through. Would the movie be any less if it only had 435 fucks like in Spike Lee’s 1999 New York serial killer movie, Summer of Sam? Probably not—not any significant difference at least—but I know a censored version of both those movies would be unwatchable.

Which leads me to the next question: how long will it be until we get to see the next cuss-filled movie to overtake The Wolf of Wall Street? It’s hard to say, there is no particular trend. Since the early ‘90s, filmmakers have been taking more chances by incorporating risky language, while being governed by the motion picture rating system that limits their audience. Because swearing is such a common part of modern life, I can’t imagine it taking too long.

Nice guys finish last—but they get second chances

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Passion versus reputation

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor

Formerly published in The Other Press. Jan. 7, 2014

All through our upbringing, people have told us to behave nicely to each other, but there was always this voice in the back reminding us that perhaps we’re getting pushed around and being taken advantage of. We try to puff out our chests and keep our heads up high, but it always seems that when the time comes to make a complicated decision or to say no, we turn soft. For those of us who want to be successful, being nice might just be the one quality to hold us back—but I believe that opportunities are bountiful for those who are kind.

As Eminem sang, “You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow, this opportunity comes once in a lifetime, yo!” There is a general consensus that opportunities do not come around that often, so when one does arise, it’s important to seize it. It’s good to have goals and pursue them with a passion, but ambition can become a pretty ugly trait when you start pushing people over to achieve your academic, professional, or personal objectives.

Compassion may not be in the same category as work ethic or drive, but it’s a soft skill that will help you gain friends and supporters, rather than rivals and competitors. We always talk about getting a slice of the pie, but let’s be honest: if there is a pie, we aren’t getting a slice of it. We’re scurrying around under the table and we’re waiting for crumbs. It sounds pathetic, but that is how we live. Work together with those who may threaten your ability to move up, not against them. To quote Chinese general, Sun Tzu, and The Godfather: Part II, “keep your friends close and your enemies closer.”

Regardless of who succeeds in the end, having a tight network of friends is more valuable than having a one-track mind. Being a self-made man or woman is great, but it’s an illusion. Society is built upon a strong foundation, and that is constructed through kindness and shared opportunities—not through backstabbing and selfish acts.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that on average, people change jobs approximately 11 times throughout the course of their lives. Meanwhile, research from Penn State University shows that 80 per cent of American students are uncertain about their majors, and over 50 per cent change their major at least once. That means what you want now might not actually be what you want later. So don’t fret, make friends, and learn more about yourself as you go before you act self-righteous, damage your reputation, and harm others.

It doesn’t matter if you end up being a leader of a small technology start-up company or the mayor of Toronto, it’s always important to have sympathy and kindness towards others. Life is not one destination, it’s a journey—if you waste all your energy reaching a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, you’ll realize that you have wasted all you second chances on the petty little things.

You Wouldn’t Believe How Cars Were Bought a Decade Ago

Posted by  | December 09, 2013 | 

Ghostwritten by Elliot Chan. Formerly published by Unhaggle.com 
ad_1In retrospect, car buying hasn’t changed all that much; you still select the car you want, create a budget and negotiate the deal with the car dealers—what has changed is the market and the innovations assisting consumers in the car buying process. And it’s not something to simply overlook.

Crisis to Innovations

Since the recession in 2007, the auto industry has been trying to avoid another bust, while consumers were trying to avoid taking the bus. Like I mentioned, the attitude toward car purchasing hasn’t changed, we all still want the best deal, but the innovations in which we can get the best deals have. Car buyers are no longer blind when they negotiate with dealers. Potential car buyers can now easily use online resources such as Unhaggle.com to uncover invoice prices, a negotiating strategy that wasn’t available with ease a decade ago.

To some the automotive industry’s financial crisis was a horrible scenario; many lost their jobs. The race to the bottom, a term often used in labour, has affected the auto industry’s business. Cutting wages and workforce, the industry is just resurfacing and returning to the norm—and it is now the consumers that have the advantage over the market. The teetering game of boom and bust is a scary one to play for the manufacturers and dealers. This new system of marketing, revealing the hands to the car buyers right off the bat to promote their brand, has indeed changed the market. Dealers are no longer competing with the car buyers, rather other car dealers. It all comes down to the fairest price for the consumer.

Social Media, E-contracting and Technology’s Effect on the Market

Take their word on it. That was what consumers had to do before social network or the Internet. Car manufacturers and dealerships’ promotions would be advertised and consumers would just have to take their word on it. It wasn’t always easy to get an honest opinion—I mean, you can go to your supermarket parking lot and find someone who has a car you have considered buying and ask for his or her thoughts, but that’s intrusive.

Social media changed the way we consume information and communicate with a global audience,especially when it comes to big purchases. Sure, we can go to the brand’s website and walk in to speak with the dealers, but how unbiased is the conversation. Social media provides a forum for every-day people to voice his or her opinions. Was it a good buy? Is it worth the price? Was that dealership honest, reliable and helpful? These are all questions that were not fully accessible to everyday people a decade ago.

With smartphones and other mobile devices, customers can send and retrieve data instantly. Brands and dealerships now have to combat bad publicity on a daily bases, which is a great thing, that enforces the honour system in an industry not always known for it. This has ultimately changed the way business is handled.

For dealers, speaking with potential buyers in the showroom has changed significantly. Corresponding with the customers can now be done through emailing or other forms of online messaging. This will leave message history, ensuring honesty and limiting the chance for dealers’ to bring the customers in to only pull the bait and switch tactic. Customers today are utilizing the Internet fully to get the upper hand and the best deal possible. Although it may still sometime seem like a gamble, the odds are in their favour.

The innovation of e-contracting has added another positive element to the car buying experience. This paperless method of completing a deal is decreasing the sometime frustrating process of buying a car. E-contracting has been around for sometime now, but customers at last have found the confidence to use it. A decade ago, there was a cynical attitude towards such security-sensitive platforms like online banking and shopping. Coupled with the efficiency and the recession, in 2013 this method of filling out a contract is the norm.

Accepting the customers’ demand, dealerships have transitioned to the e-contracting method. It has reduced errors and sped up fund transactions and there is no signs that it will disappear, in fact, businesses have grown ever more dependent on it.

The Lease of Our Worries

What was once considered an awful investment strategy is now gaining popularity. In 2013, 18% of cars driven by Canadian are leased, an increase of 3% from the year before. For budgetary reasons, fewer Canadians can happily fit in the invoice price of a vehicle into their budget let alone the MSRP. Balancing all the other bills and payments, car buyers are choosing to be leasers, which will cause a dramatic shift in the market.

Leasing doesn’t always produce the greatest profit and dealerships often shun it as an option. Without any finance reserves or warranties, dealers aren’t able to get the premium for a lease car. But that doesn’t mean the dealers can’t continue business with the customer. After all, leasing allows the customer to have new car every few years, thus creating loyalty.

As the market continues to shift and car buyers continue to balance budget and research prices, two things will happen: car buyers will begin receiving discounts or leases will be promoted more earnestly.

Yes, from the days where people bartered to now, customers have been seeking the best deals. Never had it been easier to do so. Although car dealerships aren’t exactly giving their products away, customers are in more control than ever. They are now able to research with unhaggle.com and effectively negotiate in their own manner to get the car of their choice with more options.

The Report Card: Vacations

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By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor

Formerly published in The Other Press. Jan. 7, 2014

Welcome back from your little holiday break. I hope you got a chance to rest and spend some valuable time with your friends and family—or I hope you got an opportunity to get out of the city, away from the hustle and bustle of the holidaze, and do a bit of travelling. When it comes to travelling, there isn’t an incorrect way of seeing the world, but with limited chances, it’s important to do it right.

Pass: Backpacking

Contrary to popular belief, backpacking across a city, country, or continent is no more dangerous than any other form of travelling. Just because you aren’t staying at a five-star hotel doesn’t mean you won’t have a good time. There is a freedom to backpacking that other forms of travelling can’t replicate. You move at your own pace and decide where and what you want to eat, sleep, and do. You push yourself to get to rural destinations and see the breathtaking National Geographic sights.

Moreover, backpacking allows you to constantly meet new and interesting people, the kind you won’t meet at a resort. It also enables you to be fully engulfed in the cultural experience—especially if you don’t have a translator. Suddenly body language and patience become so important. All the skills and ethics your parents tried to instil in you from a young age are applied while backpacking. It’s a very human feeling of completeness, not in the way buying a new car or a computer makes you feel complete.

Not many North Americans are born nomads, but there is a beauty in trying new things. Limited to a backpack full of essentials, backpackers can just pick up and go. In a way, backpackers are really the only type of legitimate travellers—others are just passengers.

Fail: Tours

Is there anything worse than being told what to do? In normal life, you are always obeying your teachers, bosses, or parents—why should you be so obedient on your vacation as well? Tours are traps for travellers; it’s a way for big companies to make money. Often, tours will usher you to a popular destination and allow locals to leech off of you, selling you knick-knacks and other novelty foreign garbage that you can bring home and show to all your domesticated friends.

Of course, tours are sometimes the only method of seeing certain attractions. But more often than not, the most attractive places are ruined by the sensation that comes with being on a tour. In 2012, I was fortunate enough to visit the Galápagos Islands. As a fan of science and Charles Darwin, the archipelago off of Ecuador was a place I longed to see; sadly the only safe and legal way of exploring the island was to go on a tour with a naturalist. Let’s just say that it’s hard to have an adventure when a law-abiding environmentalist is practically holding your hand the whole way. Sure, the trip was worth it and I got to see all I wanted to see, but the experience was tarnished by the fact that it was a tour.

Perhaps at a certain age, tours will be an acceptable means of seeing the world, but not in your 20‘s. Take this opportunity to see the world without a leash holding you back.

Respectful shrines or highway distractions?

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More roadside memorials may equal fewer accidents

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor

Formerly published in the Other Press. Jan. 7, 2014

We often see them at intersections and long stretches of highway: roadside memorials set up in remembrance of those lost as a result of traffic accidents and collisions. These shrines commonly take the form of a cross, some flowers, some candles, perhaps a picture of the departed. They give no details of the crash, no signs of the carnage, and there’s rarely even any damage to the roadside. Regardless of the cause, roadside memorials offer people a chance to mourn the loss of a loved one, in addition to cautioning other drivers and reminding them about the dangers of the road.

According to Canadian Motor Vehicle Traffic Collision Statistics, an estimated 2,227 fatalities occurred on the roads in 2010. These numbers seem meaningless to us as we rush through traffic, disregarding the speed limit signs. Associating numbers with people is not an easy thing to do. People just don’t personify numbers that way, so it’s hard to sympathize with a number. Like Joseph Stalin once said, “The death of one is a tragedy, the death of a million is a statistic.”

Some consider roadside memorials to be a distraction; drivers shouldn’t have to feel wary when they navigate through a hazardous stretch of road, they should be focussed on what they need to do, instead of worrying about those who have died. But what better way to remind drivers to stay focussed, than to show the consequences of negligent driving? We often get so concentrated on the things we need to do and the places we need to be that we forget about our morality. After all, the most important thing about being alive is living.

Roadside memorials shouldn’t only be sites for mourning the dead; they should be visual reminders alerting us that we are still alive, and that the safety of us, our passengers, and other people on the road is alive as well. Don’t let the deaths of others be in vain—we should always learn something from the mistakes of others. That way, the story of our lives won’t result in tragedy and our memories won’t wind up in a statistic.

On the highways around Quito, Ecuador, drivers and passengers can often see blue hearts painted onto the road. In Spanish, those blue hearts are referred to as “Corazones Azules,” and each one symbolizes a death upon the road. This campaign was initiated after a school bus crashed in 2007, with very few survivors, to remind drivers to drive safely in all conditions. More than 40 blue hearts now mark the roads of the accident-prone country built upon the lip of the Andes Mountains. Canadians should take inspiration from that idea; small, unobtrusive markings may do more than mere speed limit signs and police radar.

Fines, warnings, and criminal recorders may take those who violate the rules off the streets—but it’s more important to put the humanity back into the drivers. We all have places to go, but for now, let’s avoid the hospital, the morgue, and the cemetery.

I’ll save it for someone special

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Keep the receipt; you have the right to return the gifts you don’t want

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor

Formerly published in the Other Press. Jan. 7, 2014

There are many circumstances to gift exchanges, including traditions, hospitality, and romances. Although these gestures are often associated with goodwill and thoughtfulness, gifts can also become temptations, garbage, and good ol’ white elephants. Despite the occasional awkwardness that comes with gift giving, nothing compares to the gross attitude of returning gifts.

It often stuns me to see the line-up at department stores, set up specifically for returns. After the holiday season, consumers will find a day to gather all the unopened gifts they’ve received from Aunt Jane or Uncle Paul and return them for store credits—or if they’re lucky, money back. Maybe sometimes Aunt June and Uncle Paul will give their approval for returning their gifts, but who really has the gall to ask?

There is a stigma that comes with returning gifts, and rightly so. Purchasing presents can often be a stressful chore. Shopping malls become a battlefield, so much so that gift receivers should feel grateful that they got anything at all. But no! The onus should be on the giver to find the perfect gift and not simply settle once their feet are tired from doing the third lap around Metrotown. If you are going to buy someone something, make sure it is something they want, need, or will at least have a chuckle at.

Giving a gift with no thought behind it can be more insulting than not giving a gift at all. Sometimes people say, “It’s the thought that counts.” Well, was there really any thought at all? Sure you might’ve thought about them, but you didn’t consider their personality, their wants and desires, or even if they wanted you to give them a gift at all—because, hey, maybe they didn’t think about you. Not all your acquaintances will consider you gift-worthy, and they might simply omit you from their list for shopping-sanity reasons. So if you can’t confirm that the person enjoys chocolate, save the Ferrero Rocher for someone else; if you can’t confirm that the person enjoys reading, don’t buy a book (a.k.a. homework); and if you can’t confirm that the person wants a tacky antique figurine in their home, well I want it, I love tacky stuff.

Gift giving is an art form; skilled gift givers can read someone, assess their relationship with that person, and offer something of value. But after the gift is exchanged, it no longer belongs to the gift giver; it belongs to the receiver, and it’s theirs to do with as they please. Should they choose to return it, re-gift it, or allow it to sit on the shelf until your next visit—to show you how much they care—that is up to them.

Never condemn someone for returning your gifts, because giving a gift is all about making someone happy. Burdening them with your lack of thought is not what you intended, so suck up your pride—it was never really about you.