A whiny Christmas to all!

Image via Thinkstock

The spirit of complaining about nothing

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in the Other Press. November 18, 2015

It’s that special time of year between Halloween and New Year’s where people start making a fuss about decorations and salutations. This year it’s no different. We are still over a month away from Christmas and already we have two notable controversies to discuss. And the funny thing is, science and religions are not even involved.

The one that received the most attention is the Starbucks “red cup” controversy. When it was first brought to my attention that Starbucks had released their annual festively decorated trash—I mean, disposable cups—I, like most people, didn’t care. Each year, the coffee retailer goes out of their way to design holiday themed cups, but this year all that was present was a simple coat of red. It was minimalistic, and highly offensive to some, apparently.

Starbucks, with an effort to stay politically correct and secular, decided that a simple red would be a modest choice for the brand. I agree. It is nice to drink from a cup that isn’t cluttered with clichéd designs. Honestly, I barely ever look at the cup anyways. Why would I? It would just remind me that once again they thought my name was “Alex.”

I hope that next year Starbucks uses the same stupid red cup. Or better yet, they should just stick with the white cups that they use the rest of the year. After all, white is a Christmas hue.

The second controversy is even more absurd. It involves one of the largest payment processors in the world, PayPal. PayPal is known to frustrate a lot of people, but not usually in such a ridiculous fashion as their new commercial did. In the UK PayPal ad, a couple of children are left saddened, anxious, and concerned when their parents aren’t bringing any gifts home as the holiday approaches. Snotty little kids worried about their gifts, how touching right? The twist in the commercial is that the parents weren’t carrying any gifts home, because they made online purchases and they were delivered without the children knowing—much like some Father Christmas guy.

Well, apparently PayPal broke the illusion for some British children. There is no Santa Claus! What I find interesting is that children are watching a PayPal commercial at all. Moreover, if your children are able to conceptualize the idea of digital payments, they are probably too old to believe in Santa. Although, the idea of invisible money does sound as fictional as a man who lives in the North Pole with a bunch of elves and reindeers.

What corporations need to understand is that they can’t please everyone this time of year. If you put up too many decorations and play too much Michael Bublé, people are going to be angry. Then again, if you don’t make an effort, you get chewed out all the same. I didn’t grow up with Christmas being a big deal, it just happened around me. I’m not religious, and as an only child I never really had a problem with presents. Christmas to me is a chance to get some rest and enjoy myself. The only thing I have to complain about during Christmas is that most stores and restaurants are closed. That’s the real bullshit!

The Report Card: Holiday ins and outs

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By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. Jan. 28, 2014

Holidays are significant. We look forward to them for various reasons. Perhaps they bring family and friends together, perhaps they ignite a sense of tradition, or maybe we just enjoy dressing up and getting drunk. Whatever your reasons are for celebrating a holiday, remember that beneath the rambunctious fun, there is a greater purpose than merely closing shop and getting trashed.

Pass: Unofficial holidays

Unofficial holidays are quickly becoming a trend in North American culture. There is a novelty to it unlike Christmas, New Year’s Eve, or Thanksgiving. Unofficial holidays break the monotony of the year and give us something unique to look forward to. With the help of technology and social networks, holiday implementers can come up with a reason to celebrate and execute it. With little to no effort, they can sent out invitations, spread the news, and host a holiday that hasn’t existed before.

January 21 is National Hug Day, January 25 is Opposite Day, March 14 is Pi Day, April 20 is Cannabis Day, September 5 is International Bacon Day, and September 19 is International Talk like a Pirate Day. There are many more and I’m not exactly sure what they all entail, but we have the opportunity to create new traditions and be inventive with how we spend our time.

So often days, weeks, months, and even years blend together into a blurry life, but with unofficial holidays making eventful marks and breaking us out of our daily routines, we can create new memories—ones that have us covered in make-up for the annual Zombie Walk or taking our dog to work on June 20 for Take Your Dog to Work Day. Now, those are memories, unlike getting wasted at a random bar.

Fail: Drinking holidays

It’s a bit of a shame seeing some respectable holidays turn into an excuse to get drunk. St. Patrick’s Day, a day to celebrate the independence of the Irish people, is now a day where bars serve green beer. Cinco de Mayo, a day that commemorates the freedom and democracy after the American Civil War is just another alcohol-filled fiesta. Finally there is my old favourite, Halloween: it used to be a chance to dress up and get candy, but now it’s just an opportunity for bars and clubs to jack up their cover charges or to make it impossible to get in because the lineup wraps around the block, and Lord knows I’m not waiting in the cold dressed in my Miley Cyrus/wrecking ball costume.

It has become customary to stock up on booze for New Year’s Eve and other statutory holidays because the provincial liquor stores will be closed the next day and getting wasted is, well, important and expected. So, what does it really say about our society that the days we consider significant are also the days that we make regrettable choices?

I think having fun is important, but anticipating a day just to binge drink doesn’t foster a healthy life. Let’s not forget what holidays are really about. It’s rest, not indulgence.

Five Holiday Tech Purchases to Avoid This Boxing Day

Formerly published by Techvibes. 

Holidays and bargains go hand-in-hand these days. Shopping has become a tradition, but that shouldn’t mean aimlessly picking up every discounted item in the store.

With technology, we must recognize the good deals from the products that will inevitably be obsolete in a couple of years—maybe less. Here are some notable technologies that might not even be worth re-gifting this year.

1. DVD Players: Your DVD collection, the white elephant in the room. You have found yourself packaging these ancient entertainment relics along with other gift for friends and family this year—you know, as a joke. Yes, we remember the Great War between Blu-rays and HD DVD. Now the war is over and there is peace this holiday season—DVD is dead.

But that doesn’t mean your complete collection of The Sopranos is garbage: you can still play DVDs on your computer and gaming consoles. Be wary about buying Blu-ray as well; physical entertainment is at a crossroad. Many are choosing the path of downloading and streaming. But perhaps DVDs will make a come back like vinyl—though don’t hold your breath.

2. Low-level Digital Camera and Camcorders: I’m going to take a wild guess and assume you have a smartphone. And through that skillful detective work, I am also guessing you are capable of filming and taking pictures with that said smartphone.

The popular Samsung Galaxy S4 has a 13-megapixel camera and the iPhone 5S has an 8-megapixel camera. By this time next year, don’t be surprised to see all standard smartphones with fully capable cameras to take selfies with. The Nokia Lumina 1020 has set the standard for consumer camera/phone with their 41-megapixel camera.

There is no reason to buy a point-and-shoot camera or camcorder anymore, unless you want to entertain a child—even then, they might have caught on already too.

3. GPS: If you are buying a GPS, you’re obviously already lost. There was a time when we were paranoid about the government knowing our whereabouts—now it’s a little alarming if we can’t Google Map our way out of a suburban cul-de-sac.

Smartphones have built in GPS that are as reliable as any store-bought portable GPS and newer vehicles are equipped with built in navigation systems as well.

4. Fitness Trackers: Love it or hate it, fitness trackers are now officially a thing. This popular trend has taken our health-conscious culture by storm—but where exactly is this storm? Fitness technology often operates with an initial burst of motivation. New Year’s resolution: you’ll get back in shape. But odds are by March the fitness tracker you bought is hidden in your sock drawer where it can’t shame you.

Before you commit to this purchase ask around, I bet you already have a friend who has an abandoned fitness tracker they will happily “lend” to you. Give that a test drive. Moreover, the iPhone 5S’s M7 motion co-processor functions as an effective fitness tracker all on its own.

5. MP3 Player: For too long MP3 players have lived in the shadows of iPods. Few can compare itself to the iPod Classic and its 160 GB of hard drive or the functionality of the iPod touch. Any MP3 player purchased at a discount price will have a limited hard drive—you might as well stick with the music playing function on your smartphone.

Consumers are beginning to seek out all-in-one options with their technology. We want our devices to behave like a Swiss Army knife. Saving room is the theme of this holiday season and especially when it comes to our wallets. There are a lot of fantastic new stuff this year, so don’t get caught up in the bargain basket. Have a happy holiday.