Archive for the ‘culture’ Category

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Obligatory Black Friday Stampede Death Post

December 2, 2008

I know I’m more than a few days late on this.  I apologize, but I’ve been a little busy with other stuff.  But hey, better late than never:

Having worked in retail for over a decade, and witnessing my share of craziness on Black Friday (years ago, I remember telling myself that I had lost hope in humanity the day I saw one sweet old lady shove another over a free clock radio), I figured that I better comment on this.  

I was getting my daily dose of talk radio the day after it happened, and as usual, there were quite a few opinions about who was to blame and questions about what would drive such madness, but there was something that I didn’t hear anyone point out.  That is, the notion that this wasn’t “stuff” that people were jockeying for.  This was money

Here’s the thing.  Assume for a second that you’re predisposed to buy a 50″ plasma TV.  You’re going to buy one.   Assume again that the regular cost is $1600.  So, if a local retailer is advertising that they can get this same TV for $800 if you’re one of the first people through the doors at 5 AM, you’re not racing for the TV.  You’re racing for the other $800. 

So, for the sake of making a point, imagine that your local bank put out an advertisement that said that they’re giving away stacks of cash, and you’ll get it if you’re one of the first people through the door.  Does anyone have any illusions about what kind of mob scene they’d have on their hands?  I don’t think so.  I would think that any rational person might even suggest that the bank make sure that they have police donning riot gear on hand.  Now, if the bank had no preparation, and in the chaos someone got trampled to death.  Does one blame the mob, or the stupid people at the bank? 

At what point does a “door buster” sale become as dangerous as yelling “FIRE” in a crowded theater? 

Now, I know that the “stacks of cash” may be an exaggeration of an example, and I’m sure that there are a certain number of shoppers out there that are more motivated by some bragging rights than pure greed, but the point is that there are certain precautions that these retailers need to take in the way of crowd control if they’re going to do this sort of thing.  There’s certainly no excuse for being taken by surprise, since I  watched it get a little worse year after year (at least from where I was sitting).

I know what you’re thinking.  Like “OK genius, what would YOU do to control the mob?”  And I’d naturally segue into what we did at our store, which actually worked quite well.  You see, instead of handling the customers in a chaotic reaction to a metaphorical dam-breaking (like obviously happened at this WalMart), we’d catch the customers as they came in the parking lot.  We’d have greeters out there early, meeting people as they came in.  We’d talk to them, ask what items they intended on purchasing, and gave them a voucher for those items.  And since we only had as many vouchers for each item as we had items, there was no risk of people fighting over them.  No voucher, no item.  Customers could take off, have breakfast, and come back and pick up their thing.  Does it ruin the “thrill” of chaotic holiday shopping?  Probably.  But, heck, no one died at least.

Anyway, one really has to wonder what the hell these employees at the WalMart must have been thinking to themselves as they saw the mob of a couple thousand people gather outside.  I’m guessing that, at some point, the management realized that they had gotten a little over their heads. But what did they do?  Because they obviously didn’t adequately prepare for what came barging down their doors, I’m inclined to blame WalMart for the tragedy (unlike the hosts of my local FM talk show).

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Filed Under “What The….?”

April 20, 2008

I can’t believe people get paid (a lot more than me, I would guess) to do this stuff:

I’ll just never understand.

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Top 5 Karaoke Songs If You’re A Guy Who Can’t Sing

January 15, 2008

Have you ever been out for drinks with friends or co-workers on karaoke night?  Chances are, you have.  It never fails:  The drinks start flowing, the music is playing, and eventually someone in the group gets dared to go up on stage and risk the potential embarrassment of revealing that they can’t carry a tune to save their life.  In those situations, one is faced with the tough no-win decision to either be the party pooper or endure the nerve-wracking experience. 

Having faced this situation several times myself, I felt compelled to search for “safe” songs, i.e. songs that virtually anyone can sing, while being something the audience will enjoy and possibly even sing along with.   This can be a real lifesaver, as it gives you the opportunity to not only avoid humiliation,  but rather to bring the proverbial house down. When you’re done, you’ll confidently thumb your nose at the Julio Iglesias wannabe sitting across the bar while high fiving your friends.    So without further ado, here are my top 5:

1. Warren ZevonWerewolves of London  The lyrics are more spoken than they are sung, so all you have to do is make sure you have a decent “a-ooo!”, and you’re set.  And while you probably won’t be able to dance around with a cue stick ala Tom Cruise in The Color of Money, you might want to find a good-looking female to direct your attention to when the “his hair was perfect” line comes up, for added style points (assuming you aren’t wearing a hat, or bald). 

2. ZZ TopSharp Dressed Man  This song is especially fun if you just got off work and you’re still in your suit and/or tie, so if you got it, flaunt it.    You’re responsible for a grand total of about 2 notes, so even the most tone-deaf of us out there should be able to hack through this song without a problem.  Feel free to do the ZZ “point” during the guitar solo.

3. George Thorogood & the DestroyersBad To The Bone  No matter how b-b-b-b-b-bad your singing skills might be, you’ll probably be able to handle this one.  Instant bar cred, too.   If you’re feeling less “bad” and more, um, “drunk”, try to avoid I Drink Alone …Wouldn’t be prudent, after all.

4. Dire StraitsSultans of Swing  Unlike Money For Nothing, this cut doesn’t have a long intro, so you can avoid standing uncomfortably in front of everyone while you wait for your part to begin.   Even better, it’s probably easier to sing anyway.  Beware of the urge to play air guitar on the outro, however. 

5.  Boz SkaggsLido Shuffle  If you ever saw Boz perform live (check the link), you’d see that the guy ain’t that great of a singer himself, so it is perfectly acceptable to sound like a drunken sailor during this classic.   Also, there’s a good chance that the rest of the bar will help you out during the chorus, so you probably won’t have to worry about hitting all the notes (if you aren’t confident of your ability, go ahead skip a few of them; Boz does).  Depending on where you are, and what time it is, the “one more for the road” line could really go over well too.  

I hope this helps.  Just keep these selections in mind before the buzz gets the better of you, and you decide to do something stupid and bite off more than you can chew with a selection like Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin’.  Trust me, I’ve made that mistake.

Also see: Shortcuts: How to sing karaoke

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Please…No More OJ

September 19, 2007

I just turned on Fox and CNN* to discover the press conference with Simpson’s attorney taking place (LIVE!).  Other than the fact that I was a little curious who the toothless moron with the “OJ 07” shirt standing next to him was, I’m dismayed that this is getting so much attention.  Not surprised, just dismayed.  I’m afraid that this will be our national distraction for the next year or so.

And as further evidence of our screwed up priorities, check out this headline:  Most Voters Say Election 2008 is Annoying and a Waste of Time

Oh well…

*So far it looks like Fox is a little more obsessed with this than CNN, for what it’s worth.

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RIP Luciano Pavarotti

September 6, 2007

As you might have seen in the news, one of the famous “3 Tenors”, Luciano Pavarotti, has passed away.  Now, I’m not going to sit here and say that I’m a huge opera fan, but I’ll never forget the amazing final act performance he delivered at the Olympic Opening Ceremony in Torino last year.  It actually brought a tear to my eye (no kidding).

Following the performance, host Bob Costas described Pavarotti’s finale by saying he “brought the house down”.

Indeed.

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ChenZhen’s Fantasy Football Roster

September 4, 2007

Since I didn’t really feel like blogging about Larry Craig again, I decided that tonight’s entry will be a little more on the lighter side.  I’ve been in this fantasy football league for years.  It started out as a league formed by a group of coworkers.  We’ve been at it long enough that none of us are actually coworkers anymore, so it serves as a way to keep in touch with some old pals too.  It’s a partial “keeper” league (we keep our best 4 and draft the rest).  Here’s the breakdown:

Read the rest of this entry ?

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Mystery Solved: Stolen Buddha Statue

September 2, 2007

It isn’t often that I include local news here on the blog, but I was a little intrigued by this story:
Elk River woman arrested in theft of Thai Buddha statue

The high demand and soaring prices for scrap metal appeared to be the reason a 7-foot statue of Buddha, covered in copper-laden bronze, was stolen from an outdoor temple shrine at the Thai Buddhist Center of Minnesota, police said.

Police Chief Jeff Beahen said a 45-year-old Elk River woman was arrested Friday night, and a male family member was being looked at as another suspect in the theft.

The statue, valued at $10,000, was stolen Wednesday night, and a detective issued a statewide alert to police and scrap dealers Thursday with a photo of the stolen statue.

Early Friday afternoon, a recycling company in Monticello called the detective, saying they had taken in two pieces of scrap they believed to be from the statue.

I had no idea that there is a black market for scrap metal.  I’m also wondering exactly how someone would steal it.  I mean, the thing must have weighed hundreds of pounds.