I feel a rant coming on…

Recently, a co-worker asked me if I’d heard about this giant Cineplex Entertainment popcorn bag in a field near Windsor, Ontario. Having no idea what she was talking about, she showed me this picture:

Cineplex

Cineplex built “the world’s largest popcorn bag“, filled it with kernels, installed a lightening rod, and placed it in a field near Windsor which is considered to be the most lightening struck town in Canada. The whole purpose is to see whether or not, if lightening strikes, the kernels will pop. There’s even a live feed on their site where you can watch 24/7. Voting on whether you think it will pop or not enters you in a chance to win free popcorn. (edit from Sept. 3 – looks like the contest is closed and the live feed is gone)

I mean…this is just a marketing gimmick, right? It’s not a scientific experiment or anything. It’s just a creative, albeit really weird, way of advertising Cineplex so that more people see movies, buy popcorn and they earn more money.

Here’s the thing – how much do you think it cost to build the world’s largest popcorn bag and attach a giant lightening rod and fill the bag with kernels? Here’s my next question – do you care how much it cost? Will anyone see this and decide that they will never, ever see another movie at Cineplex because too much of their hard earned money that they freely choose to spend at one of their theatres is wasted on gimmicks like this? Will anyone be angry that Cineplex isn’t using 100% of the money they spent on their ticket directly to maintain the projectors and screens and the delivery of movies to viewers?

I didn’t think so. And, I won’t either. Because that doesn’t make any sense. We all know that marketing is necessary for businesses to remain successful. Even if it cost a million dollars to run this weird and totally unnecessary advertising campaign, it might result in more in profit, which is good for our economy as it keeps people employed and it makes us feel good to watch movies. And if it loses money? Oh well, nothing ventured, nothing gained!

Why is it then that charitable organizations are held to an insane standard when it comes to dollars spent on things like advertising and salaries? A colleague who used to work in management at a for-profit corporation before moving to non-profit told me that if he reached the end of his year with a 30% profit, he was a huge success. That means 70% went to expenses. In the charitable world, we’re expected to operate spending no more than 20% on the expenses necessary to stay in business, and even at 20% you’re going to get people saying it’s too much. Any time there’s even a whisper of a charity looking to invest in its own infrastructure in order to build capacity to further the mission, it’s met with opposition from boards and donors alike.

In 2015, Cineplex spent about 48% on what it classifies as “other expenses”. Things like rent, salaries, marketing, professional fees, etc. So, nearly 50% of gross revenue went to costs that are not directly related to you sitting down and watching the movie. But, all those things are necessary, right? How could you possibly watch a movie if there was no theatre? No staff people to pop your popcorn and run the projector? No electricity being pumped in to the building? No super cool technology that allows you to buy a ticket at a machine, or hear the movie in digital surround “destroy your eardrums” sound?

A charity that spent 50% of its gross revenue on costs other than its declared mission would be shut down. Period. And charities aren’t showing movies. We’re trying to make the world a better place.

People often criticize salaries for top executives at charities. They will say that we chose to go in to this field, so we shouldn’t expect a high salary. Spoiler alert: I don’t get a break on my rent, hydro, groceries or car payments just because I work at a non-profit. And why should someone with the skills, talent and experience that’s necessary to run a large, complex charity be expected to accept significantly less than what they would earn in the corporate world? They choose to spend their career in a role that allows them to make a real difference, and society punishes them for it. In 2014, the CEO of Cineplex’s annual salary was $3,942,389. In 2010, the CEO of Sick Kids Foundation earned $500,000 with bonuses, according to a Globe and Mail article about charity CEOs earning six figures.

I can’t improve on Dan Pallotta’s awesome TED Talk “The way we think about charity is dead wrong“. As Mr. Pallotta says, “Our generation does not want its epitaph to read: ‘We kept charity overhead low.'”

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O Canada

Flag_of_Canada.svg

As the world gets swept up in Olympic fever, I’ve been toying with the idea of writing a blog about how much I don’t like the Olympics. I think it brings out the worst in a lot of people, and I think it puts an enormous amount of pressure on athletes who feel personally responsible for making their home country proud. We’ve seen athletes go to extreme lengths to be the best, and at times those extreme lengths have been state-sanctioned.

While I admit that I got caught up in the fun of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics being held in my home country (especially during the Opening Ceremonies and especially during kd lang’s rendition of Hallelujah), by and large I don’t feel a real sense of patriotism or home-country pride or whatever it is I’m supposed to feel whenever the games roll around.

So, for the last few days I’ve been trying to think of how best to express this.

Then yesterday, a terrorist plot was thwarted in a small town about 20 minutes away from my hometown. As details unfolded, it was noted that pretty much immediately before being killed in an incident with police, he got in to a cab with intentions to come to my city.

NOW, I’m feeling a tremendous amount of Canadian pride. And gratitude. A lot of people acted very quickly to find a needle in a haystack – which they found and, in doing so, probably saved a lot of lives.

I’m grateful for the RCMP. I’m grateful for CSIS. I’m grateful for my country’s counter-terrorism officials. I’m grateful for the OPP. I’m grateful for London Police and Strathroy-Caradoc Police. I’m grateful for the FBI who alerted Canadian officials.

I’m grateful for the fact that Canada shares a border with the US – a country with which we have an incredible partnership and friendship. We look out for each other.

I’m so grateful that I live in a place where this kind of thing is unusual. I want it to always be unusual.

This is what makes me proud to be Canadian – more than any gold, silver and bronze medals ever will.

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The Canadian fascination with the American election

A couple of weeks ago, I was watching CBC National News and all of a sudden a full-screen “America Votes” graphic came up with its own theme music. I know that the US is in full election mode and that it’s a rather nutty one. And I’ve spent a fair amount of time discussing the oddity of it with friends, family and colleagues.

But I was shocked to see that Canada’s public broadcaster had seen it necessary to create a cool graphic for another country’s election. I don’t think they did that for Brexit or any other important exercise in democracy outside our borders.

The reality of life in Canada is that you grow up immersed in American culture and politics. It also becomes clear from an early age that Canadians know way more about the US than Americans know about Canada. I can guarantee you there was not one American news station that created a “Canada Votes” graphic last year during our federal election.

I’m sure it’s because Americans don’t give a crap about Canadian politics, yet we are obsessed with American politics. And it’s not just us – much of the world watches when Americans go to the polls.

I get irked when I hear the President of the United States described as “The Leader of the Free World”. Most of the world is free – why is POTUS the self-proclaimed leader of all of it? Believe me, I do understand the power held by the United States and how what happens there affects much of the world. I just wish the graphics department at CBC used their budget for something more home-grown.

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My name is Megan and I’m a sleep-walker

Like 1%-5% of the adult population, I’m a sleep-walker. A lot of times when it comes up in conversation, it gets giggles from the person I’m talking to. Which I totally understand – I think talking about sleepwalking makes a person think about it like it’s a scene from Step Brothers. You know the one.

step-brothers-sleepwakling-o

I admit, I laugh hysterically every time I see that. Partly because I imagine that it’s maybe what I look like when I sleep-walk. But, I know that it’s not. My sleep-walking is far less entertaining.

Sleep-walking is more of a childhood issue, and that’s definitely when mine started. My mom would have to stop me before heading down the stairs in the middle of the night and lead me back to bed. I would wake up in the morning to find my stuffed teddy bear downstairs in the dining room – the one that had been under my arm when I went to sleep the night before. My aunt told me once that, while sleeping over at her house, a few hours after I’d gone to bed I came back out in to the living room, looked at her very surprised, and said “Oh, I didn’t think you were still here!” Then I turned around and went back to bed.

Here’s the downside though: in my early 20’s, I started waking up while sleepwalking. The first incident I can remember was when I was in my second year of college and living on my own. I was having a dream about staring up at a traffic light that was green, when I suddenly came to and realized I was standing in my bedroom staring at a power bar that had a green light on it. I was so confused and immediately overcome with an intense nausea. I got back in bed and almost immediately fell asleep.

Every once in a while, I’ll wake up sleepwalking – or sometimes, it’s what I call “near sleepwalking”. That’s when I’m not literally walking, but I wake up to find myself sitting up in bed, or one time I woke up rifling through a dresser drawer that I could reach from my bed. Not sure what I was trying to find…

It causes a strange sensation that I can’t really describe, except to say that it feels awful. It’s an intense physical discomfort. That’s why I get angry when I see stupid articles or blog posts about how “funny” it is to wake up a sleepwalker because of the reaction they’ll have. It’s true that the old idea of it being dangerous to wake a sleepwalker is probably not true. I don’t know that you’re likely to do any harm. But, as someone who sometimes wakes myself up while sleepwalking, don’t do it on purpose to someone. It’s a horrible experience and if you’re doing it only to make yourself laugh, please find another hobby. If you see someone sleepwalking, just gently lead them back to bed.

Full disclosure: I remember coming across an article that actually prompted me to write this. But now I can’t find it…because I started writing it in October 2015, and it’s now August 2016 and I just realized this was still in my drafts folder. I suck at blogging.

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This “viral” culture is really starting to worry me

Originally published September 9, 2015 on my old website http://www.meganzinn.com

I think the first YouTube creator I became aware of (I’m defining “creator” as a person on YouTube creating viral content, who was not already famous through another medium) was CGP Grey. How exactly I found him, I can’t remember. But I do remember coming across a video that I thought was smart, funny, insightful and very informative. CGP Grey’s videos are all educational, and usually topical. It’s a long time between uploads, and the wait is so worth it.

In due course, I discovered The VlogBrothers – again, a channel dedicated to bringing insightful, intelligent and often witty commentary to a wide range of topics. I’m particularly a fan of John Green’s contributions to this channel, and felt like a bit of an idiot when The Fault in our Stars was becoming a movie based on a book by an author named John Green, and I was like, omg is that the guy? That’s the same dude? What??

The difference with VlogBrothers is that they upload new videos twice a week – once a week each for brothers John and Hank. So, more new content than, say, CGP Grey for sure. But John and Hank both seem to always have something insightful to say. I think it’s safe to say that a goal of theirs is to inform their viewers, perhaps especially the younger ones. Although I doubt I can legitimately consider myself one of their “younger” audience members, I know that I often have a hard time understanding certain issues in the world, and watching a video (like the one John uploaded today about the refugee crisis in Syria which was informative and quite touching) that speaks to me as an averagely-intelligent but eager-to-know-more person is so valuable to me.

I am absolutely addicted to Bad Lip Reading. That one is just pure entertainment – I watch it knowing I’m going to laugh until I can’t breathe. Good fun! Again – a long time between uploads, but I get so excited every time I get an email letting me know that a new video has been posted.

Like a LOT of people, I learned about a YouTube couple through their mega-viral video of the husband announcing to his wife on camera that she was pregnant. I watched the video, which was showing as trending on Facebook, and thought “aww that’s cute!”. Then a few days later, I saw on Facebook that the couple had posted a video announcing that they’d had a miscarriage. I watched that video and thought “awww, that’s sad”. I didn’t give it much more thought than that. All of a sudden, I started seeing a LOT of backlash toward the couple. I was curious, so I checked out their channel to watch some of their other videos. they seemed to post almost daily, especially since their pregnancy test video went viral. I watched some of the other videos and had to admit that I was a bit turned off by their frequent use of their children in their videos, and the fact that they (well, the husband really) were quoted as saying that their goal was to be famous. He even quit his job to become a full-time YouTube content creator. But the thing that was possibly most perplexing to me was that their videos didn’t seem to be ABOUT anything. They were pretty mundane. I didn’t find them funny or thought provoking, or any of the other qualities that I found so appealing about CGP Grey, VlogBrothers and Bad Lip Reading. I also noticed that all of their videos were titled with ALL CAPS and with intentionally click-bait-type titles (like “I MIGHT HAVE MENINGITIS” or “THIS DOESN’T END WELL!”). Then…well it turns out that YouTube fame isn’t all its cracked up to be and most of us know what happened next (spoiler alert): a dramatic and public fall from grace.

With the video that went viral this weekend of a certain “comedian” (a term I’m using loosely as this is how she describes herself) ranting against people who are overweight, shouting at them in their face and imploring them to “make better choices!!!!”, my heightened noticing of our new viral culture turned to full-blown concern.

There seems to be an obsession with “going viral”. And people will do it at all costs.

I understand that this is largely connected to money. YouTube creators can earn a LOT of money by monetizing their videos – allowing Google to place ads on them and earning a portion per click (or video view…I’m not exactly sure). So, there are huge incentives for YouTubers to have a video go viral. For some, like the father I mentioned earlier, they are relying on YouTube to be their main source of income.

But…what are the larger ramifications here? In my example about the family, I feel a pang of concern for the couple’s children. Now granted, it’s not my responsibility to make sure their children are safe, happy, healthy, and being brought up with just the right balance of ego and self-doubt. But, as a human, I’m worried about these other humans. I worry that parents who are so desperate for views will record and publish intimate details of their children’s lives and they are now of permanent public record.

In the example of the “comedian”…I worry for society as a whole. I worry about the fragile person who watched her video and felt they were being personally berated. The creator looks in the camera, shouts at the viewer, even holds an imaginary gun toward the viewer and fires. Body image issues are a thing. Body dismorphic disorder is a thing. And yes, fat-shaming IS A THING.

People have access to so much information. It’s so easy to start surfing around YouTube and see videos by a variety of different people talking about a variety of different topics. And, virtually anyone with access to a camera and the Internet can theoretically become a star and spout whatever information they choose to their legions of subscribers. There are no qualifications to be an advocate for anything, even health, on YouTube. You don’t have to have a degree in science, medicine, nutrition, psychology, or anything in order to declare yourself an “expert” and decide you can save the world from everything that ails it (I’m looking at you, Food Babe).

We need to stop the glorification of fame. We need to stop the ego trip that is building ourselves up by putting others down.

I would like to personally ask every single YouTuber to think before you post your next video, and realize that just because you have a camera in front of you instead of a person, doesn’t mean that there isn’t a real, live human being on the receiving end of your words. Would you find it easy to stand in front of an actual person and say these things? To look in their eyes? To watch them cry? If the answer is no, then please…stop. And if the answer is yes…oh my god, you have to stop.

If you want to be a viral YouTube star, go for it. And best of luck. But, as a viewer, I ask you to aim higher. Be a viral star like VlogBrothers and CGP Grey. Get famous by educating and enlightening people. Not by putting them down.

Please.

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No more “Afterthoughts”

I used to title my blog “Afterthoughts”. I had that title for years and I thought I was being so clever. The reason I called my blog Afterthoughts is because, as I put it in my tagline, I’ve always had an uncanny ability to think of the exact right thing to say when it was too late.

Over the past few years, I’ve learned a lot about myself, including the fact that I’m very much an introvert. And, that my “uncanny ability to think of the exact right thing to say when it was too late” was actually a trademark introvert quality. It’s not that I’m slow to think. It’s that I’m quite thoughtful and I don’t react in the moment. It’s a quality I’ve learned to embrace about myself.

While I do enjoy being somewhat self-effacing, I do also believe that I have thoughts worth sharing, whether they come at the exact right moment or not. Thanks to some new experiences I’ve had in the last couple of years, I’ve become more tuned in to politics. I’ve also become more tuned in to pop culture and its effects on our culture at large. As someone close to the beginning of the millenial generation (born in ’84), I feel that I have a unique perspective on the digital revolution. I’m old enough that I remember when my family first got the Internet, but I’m young enough to be the person everyone comes to when they’re having a problem with their iPhone.

I would love to use this blog as a forum to simply share my thoughts and opinions on topics that interest me. If anyone stumbles upon it and wants to join in the conversation, that would be great!

And, go.

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There’s never a dull moment in Jimmy Rankin’s “Forget About the World”: A Fan’s Review

ImageThis is a post I’ve been meaning to write for a while – a fan’s review of Jimmy Rankin’s latest album “Forget About the World”.

Similar to the review I did of Carolyn Dawn Johnson’s album, I’ll emphasize the fact that I’m a FAN – this is not objective or unbiased…it’s more a celebration of another brilliant piece by one of Canada’s very best.

Like many, I first came to know of Jimmy Rankin through the group The Rankins. My mom picked up on the fact that I was drawn to music with many harmonies all blending together. Interestingly, I was introduced to The Rankins and The Mamas and The Papas around the same time, and instantly fell in love with both.

The Rankins’ music is very folk and celtic based, and when I listened to it, it awakened a part of my soul that I didn’t really know was there. To this day, their music has this affect on me.

When Jimmy Rankin released his first solo record “Song Dog”, I was surprised by the music because it is so different from the music of The Rankins. And I was floored by the music because it is truly some of the best I’ve ever heard. Bring in Handmade and Edge of Day – two extraordinary albums, each featuring Jimmy’s very raw, authentic style.

Okay, now on to Forget About the World. I noticed a bit of a different flavour with this one. His previous three records were a bit darker. There were many songs about sadness or a sense of loss. This album seemed much lighter right off the bat. There may not actually be a higher number of “lighter” songs on this album, but that was my reaction to the overall tone. It was a surprise only because it was different…what wasn’t surprising was the quality – each song is beautifully crafted by Rankin, his co-writers and musicians and, although perhaps a bit different from his previous work, still captures his unique, authentic style.

Here’s a track-by-track of my favourites from the album:

“Here in my Heart” – I love this song so much, and I think this was the first single as well. It illustrates the complicated-ness of love and life, and how the heart sees and feels it all. “Giving it up, letting it go, holding it back, risking it all. Falling in love, falling apart…there’s never a dull moment here in my heart.” Yep…that’s what inspired the title of this post 🙂 And this song features background vocals by the awesome Patricia Conroy, who also co-wrote the track.

“Walk That Way” – This one is quite possibly my absolute favourite song on this album. It’s a duet with Serena Ryder, who if you’d asked me who I thought Jimmy should record with, her name wouldn’t have come to my mind. But, when I heard it, it was so obvious. It’s an extremely touching song and almost plays in my mind like a movie. It’s a true love song – walking together hand in hand.

“Maybe Nothing” – My first thought when I heard this song was that it’s classic Jimmy Rankin. The prominent instrument is an acoustic guitar, which I always love. This song comes across as a letter to long-lost love…perhaps a highschool sweetheart. “Like an arrow in the dark, this may be nothing. Swear to God and cross my heart”

“Forget About the World” – The title track is a very sweet song – enticing your partner to put all your troubles aside and enjoy some time together to reconnect. A great reminder to indulge in simple pleasures from time to time … put the bad times on hold and have some fun. Makes the bad times easier to face.

“The Hurtin’ Part” – Again, classic Jimmy Rankin. It’s a song about heartbreak … a long night faced alone, spent analyzing mistakes made and the emptiness to come. “She took half my heart – left me with the hurtin’ part”.

“Colorado Dave” – This track is stripped-down, no fancy stuff – just a guitar and a voice. I’m sure there are more instruments, but those are the two my ears hear. Jimmy Rankin must have a connection or a soft spot for Colorado – it’s not his first song about the state. I’m not going to lie – I have no idea what this song is about – but I love listening to it. And for me, that’s more than enough 🙂

Those are my picks from a truly amazing album. Jimmy Rankin is such a talented, unique, incredible performer and songwriter. I’m always inspired and never disappointed. And it always leaves me waiting eagerly for what’s coming next…

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