Category Archives: Economics

Adventures in the Homewares Department

I was queuing up at my local Spotlight homewares, Arts & Crafts depot, waiting to buy some binder rings for an art project. There were 2 kids and their mother behind me, and the little boy wandered over to a shelf by the side and picked up a circular turquoise-coloured something. His mother told him to “Put that back!” right sharpish, and so he did. But not before I noticed that said circular turquoise-coloured something was made of silicone and had a beehive pattern on both sides, and could possibly make a wonderful texture stamp for my Gelli Plate printing.

So, as soon as the boy dropped the object back on the shelf, I picked it up. It was labelled a “hot mat”, but essentially it’s a potholder or trivet for putting hot pots/pans on, to save your kitchen countertop.

It was beautiful.

Having bought my newest texture-making toy, I started searching the kitchen and homewares aisles of my local KMart and Target stores. And of other, independent stores. I believed I could find some pretty amazing things that I could use for my Gelli Plate printing, at a fraction of the cost. My turquoise trivet had set me back $6.50.

My mission came up trumps. Here are some photos of my new stash of (cheap as chips) goodies:

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The 3 in the top photo are silicone heat trivets, or hot mats, if you will. The others are placemats made of compressed felt. The last one, the red, however, I believe is made from extruded rubber or plastic.

Now to go create some Gelli Art with my new finds! I’ll be sure to share the results with you in my next post.

Social Observations: The New Religion

I was just scrolling through my Facebook feed, having read another shared post about the latest Apple vs Android debacle, followed by another one about some pastor who’s asking his congregation for a few million dollars so he can buy his own private jet…and suddenly my mind just made a connection between the two hitherto unrelated posts.

Apple fans have long been against Android fans, even more so against Samsung users, as Samsung is Apple’s main competitor. To say they hate each other is perhaps putting it mildly. I’ve owned both Apple iPhones and Android mobiles, so I can appreciate both sides of the coin. But I’ve lost friends on Facebook because I dared compare the long, snaking queues to buy the Apple iPhone 6, back in September 2014, to the bread queues of the Recession. Yes, really…one of those so-called “friends” on Facebook called me a hypocrite for using an iPhone and liking tech devices and gadgets, while at the same time “slagging off” Apple for pandering to consumers’ greed and egos.

It’s widely accepted that diehard zealots of Apple are members of the “Cult of Apple”, and that they will defend Apple’s products with their lives. Even when shown hard bare facts that some of Apple’s products are not as good as their competitors’ products, or not worth the bang for their buck. Even when shown how Apple devices are made using what’s tantamount to slave labour, in Chinese factories where workers never see the light of day and where suicides are a common occurrence. These Apple Cultists will gratefully swallow whatever expensive, non-essential new piece of bling Apple spews out.

I went to see what the big fuss was about, when the Apple Watch came out recently. (I wonder why it isn’t called the iWatch, with the “i” prefix, like all Apple’s other products?). The Apple rep at the store was waxing lyrical about this and that, even though I pointed out that 1) it doesn’t take or make calls 2) it doesn’t take photos 3) you can read your emails, sure, but you can’t reply unless it’s with a short previously prepared message 4) it’s going to pose a real driving hazard because drivers who get pinged while driving will be taking their eyes off the road to look at their wrists 5) why the obsession with counting heartbeats and steps? If you’ve been running, or if you’re excited, of course your pulse will be racing. So what? 6) Apple claims there’s a watch for everyone. Wow, like Joe Bloggs the hardworking blue-collar worker with a wife, 2 kids and another one on the way, can afford to fork out $500 for something that a $50 watch can do better? And, in this day and age, who can afford to splash out on a $24000 gold Apple Watch? When the same $24000 can feed Joe Bloggs’ entire family for a whole year?

But, as with iDiots, there will always be some rich people with no care for their community, environment, family, but only for themselves, who will buy that $24000 Apple Watch.

Just because they can. And just because it has the Apple logo on it, that they can show off. The world can go burn in hell, for all they care. It’s their money, they can buy what they like with it. What global warming? What climate change? What rainforest? What drought? What hunger? What poverty? What homelessness?

So…

Back to where I first started. If we were to compare Apple and Android to religion, then you could say that Apple is Catholicism, and Android is Protestantism. (Meaning no disrespect to Catholics and Protestants here, just using the religions as analogies).

Apple considers itself The Best, The Most Righteous, Catholic God, while Android fans are Protestants because there are so many different brands out there, all with their own good and bad points, but they just can’t agree amongst themselves so the schisms keep happening.

My two cents’ worth? Don’t follow the blind leading the blind. Find your own way, make your own path, follow principles that sit true with you and you alone. Buy products or follow brands that are ethical, guilt-free, GM free, organic, sustainable. Don’t just follow the Emperor, for the Emperor has no clothes.

And you know what else? If you really sit down and think about it, you don’t even really need a mobile phone. Not even the most basic model. People were perfectly fine before mobile phones came along. Now look at us. Tied to technology, not for any useful purpose, though, just to distract us from facing reality. Stuff you can and should do at the office at work, has now come home to us. As adults, we now have Homework again. Why not leave work at work, and go home and enjoy quality time with your family and children instead? Don’t be a slave to Technology, just like we are slaves to Money.

Me? I love my gadgets, to be sure…but nowadays I’d rather be in my studio making Art.

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Social Observations: Bronies

Today’s post, and tomorrow’s is a hodgepodge of different observations on modern society. Not so much Urban Legends like crocodiles in the sewer, or Bloody Mary etc. Just some things I’ve found out recently, or stuff which fell into my head suddenly in a “Eureka!” moment.

Let’s talk Bronies. The Kid is a self-confessed Brony. He just came out one day and told me he liked My Little Pony (hereafter referred to as MLP). I remembered those sweet little cartoon ponies from the days when I used to watch Care Bears and He-Man and the Masters Of The Universe, and She-Ra. Yup, THAT long ago. So what if MLP was originally aimed at an audience of little girls aged 6.

No biggie. The Kid told me that males who liked MLP are called Bronies (or Brony in the singular), a portmanteau word combining “Bro(ther)” and “(Po)ny”. Female fans are Pegasisters after Pegasus (all MLP ponies have wings). Very young fans are called “Colts”. I guess being a Brony’s Mum that makes me a Pegasister by default.

Being a Brony is just like being a Doctor Who fan (did you know there’s even a Doctor Who Pony called Doctor Whooves? Yes, really, and I’m going to get it for myself). Bronies stand up there with the likes of other cosplay convention nerds (yours truly, minus the cosplay). It doesn’t matter one jot if you’re a heterosexual male, or gay, or bisexual etc. Bronies transcend gender stereotyping, they are simply male fans of MLP who refuse to accept that MLP is for girls only. Cool with me!

Here’s an excellent primer on the subject of Bronies:
http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/subcultures/bronies

And here’s a poster that I just ordered on eBay for The Kid. It’s an amazing 43×24 inch one showing the character Rainbow Dash with a sword between its teeth, against a dark background sprinkled with stars. I think it’s totally rad!

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Happy Lunar New Year 2015

You don’t have to be Chinese or even Oriental, to ring in the Year of the Goat 2015, which falls this year on February 19th. Goat, ram, sheep …it doesn’t matter, as the Chinese word “yang” covers all ovine animals. (I’m reminded of that famous scene in the movie “Babe”, where our ubiquitous porcine hero has to recite the Ovine Oath of “Baaaa ram ewe” to a flock of sheep he’s herding at the championship trials).

The UK’s Telegraph has written an interesting segment on various aspects of the Year of the Goat. Read it here.

For those curious about what Chinese Astrology has to say about people born in the year of the Goat, and what this New Year holds for them, here is a very interesting article covering many aspects of it:
http://www.chinahighlights.com/travelguide/chinese-zodiac/goat.asp

Some famous Goat people: Bill Gates, Nicole Kidman, Zhang ZiYi, Bruce Willis, Mel Gibson, Leonard Nimoy, Clint Eastwood, Coco Chanel, Marc Chagall, Camille Saint-Saens, Mark Twain, Franz Liszt, Vangelis.

This festive season also marks the world’s biggest annual mass migration of people, as they head back to their ancestral homes (the homes of their parents, grandparents or great-grandparents) where the Family Reunion Dinner will be held on the first day of the Lunar New Year. That’s when the entire clan will meet and sit down for a sumptuous banquet, gifts of mandarin oranges are exchanged and married people give children red money packets (hong bao).

And then there are the long strands of Chinese firecrackers snap-crackle-and-popping all over the place, creating carpets of scarlet confetti, and lots of fireworks in the sky. Don’t forget the Lion dances, real feats of acrobatics, as shopkeepers dangle heads of lettuce from poles out of 2nd storey windows or balconies, for the Lion to catch in its mouth. There’s a red packet tied to the lettuce, it holds money for the entire troupe. The Lion will then ritually “eat” the lettuce, then throw shreds of it all around.

(Image source: Google)

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It truly is a case of Eat, Drink and Be Merry.

Here is a Chinese Baidu heatmap of the Mass Migration in China during the festive season, where more than 1 billion people will make the journey Home. Imagine the traffic chaos and the crowds on trains.

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Last year was the year of the Horse, and I created a digital Chinese New Year card that I shared online as a Freebie to anyone and everyone.

This time, it’s my Year of the Goat offering. Feel free to copy and share my Goat card (it rather reminds me of a “hong bao” money packet) with your family, friends and social circles.

GONG XI FA CAI!
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My Brush with Fame (or rather, Infamy)!

Every kid and kidult loves Lego, right? Me too. Until I discovered just how litigious they are as a company.

Nearly 5 years ago, when I first started out in my mobile photography art career, I put up my images for sale on Print On Demand sites such as Zazzle, RedBubble, Fine Art America, Society 6 and deviantArt. Over the years, many of those sites fell by the wayside, and today I’m only active on Society 6, and even that has slowed to a trickle as I explore other areas to showcase my creative output.

With RedBubble, I had not posted up anything new for over 3 years now. Imagine my surprise today when out of the blue, I received this email from them:

We have removed the following content from Redbubble as a result of having received a complaint from Lego System A/S, the claimed owner or licensee of related intellectual property, and in accordance with Redbubble’s IP/Publicity Rights Policy:

Lego the Octopus: http://www.redbubble.com/people/alyzen/works/7484841-lego-the-octopus
As you will be aware from our IP/Publicity Rights Policy, Redbubble requires a certain amount of information before it acts on such a complaint, including that:

the relevant content is specifically named;

the complaint came from the owner of the respective rights (or someone authorized to act on their behalf); and

they have a good faith belief that the use of the relevant content is not authorized by the content owner, its agent or the law.

If you believe that removal of the above content is the result of a mistake (for example, that you have authorization to use the relevant content from the content owner) or misidentification, you can send us a counter notice. Such counter notice must provide the following information:

an electronic or physical signature of the person authorized to act on behalf of the owner of the relevant matter;

a description of the content which we have removed, including the URL on which the content was located on the Redbubble site;

your address, telephone number, and email address;

a statement by you that you consent to the jurisdiction of the Federal District Court, San Francisco County, California, United States and that you will accept service of process from the person who provided notification described above or an agent of such person;

a statement by you that, under penalty of perjury, you have a good faith belief that the material was removed or disabled as a result of mistake or misidentification of the material to be removed or disabled;

If you would like to send a counter notice please email the required information above to dmca@redbubble.com.

Please note that in some circumstances, if the work does not comply with our User Agreement and/or IP/Publicity Rights Policy, we may not be able to send your counter notice on to the complainant, rather we may inform you at the time of receipt that we cannot reinstate the work. We may also request further information from you in order to determine whether the work can be reinstated.

However, you should be aware that in most circumstances we will inform the complainant that you have provided a counter notice, as well as provide the complainant with a copy of your counter notice, which will include your personal contact information. The complainant will have 14 days to bring legal action against you in the United States. After 14 days, if they do not bring legal action and you would like your content restored to the Redbubble site, you may contact us to request that we reinstate your work. Redbubble may restore the content at that time if it otherwise complies with our User Agreement and IP/Publicity Rights Policy.

Further information regarding Redbubble’s IP/Publicity Rights Policy and User Agreement can be found here:

https://help.redbubble.com/hc/en-us/articles/201579195

http://www.redbubble.com/agreement

Regards,

Redbubble Content Team

Because the image “Lego the Octopus” had been posted to RedBubble such a long while ago, at first I scratched my head trying to figure out WHY indeed I had named my artwork “Lego the Octopus”. I certainly would not have called it that to mislead anyone, or to gain any pecuniary advantage. I couldn’t just click on the link RedBubble had sent, as they had already removed the image from their site.

Then I remembered a family outing to Bunbury Dolphin Centre in 2011, and I also remembered their aquarium displays of fish, seahorses, starfish. And their fortune-telling octopus. WHO WAS NAMED “LEGO”. The Centre claimed that their Lego The Octopus could predict sports and talent competition outcomes as accurately as the famous Paul The Octopus with FIFA matches.

So, here is my response to RedBubble by email.

Dear Sir/Madam,

I refer to your email informing me that my image “Lego the Octopus” has been removed from RedBubble as a consequence of Lego the Company making a complaint.

Excerpt follows, for your own ease of reference:

“We have removed the following content from Redbubble as a result of having received a complaint from Lego System A/S, the claimed owner or licensee of related intellectual property, and in accordance with Redbubble’s IP/Publicity Rights Policy:

Lego the Octopus: http://www.redbubble.com/people/alyzen/works/7484841-lego-the-octopus

My response:

While I fully understand Lego the Company’s rights and desire to defend the use of its name, in my own defense, the image is of an octopus actually named “Lego”, and said octopus resides in Bunbury Dolphin Discovery Centre, Western Australia.

So, if Lego the Company wish to take this further, they should really be speaking to the good folks at Bunbury Dolphin Discovery Centre. As all I did was photograph their octopus that they had named “Lego”, and call it exactly what it is, “Lego the Octopus”. There was no malice or ill intent on my part, or any attempt to deceive or gain monetary benefit from it.

Here’s a link to where you and Lego the Company can find the real life “Lego the Octopus”. (I don’t know if that octopus is still alive and predicting soccer results, it’s been 4 years since I was at Bunbury).

https://www.radioinfo.com.au/news/lego-octopus-predict-australia%E2%80%99s-got-talent-winner-radio-west

I anticipate your response in due course.

Sincerely,

AlyZen Moonshadow
Mobile Photography Artist

Then I sat back and waited for a response. I received a standard acknowledgement from RedBubble within 15 minutes of sending my email.

An hour later, I received this email response from RedBubble:

Redbubble Content Team (Redbubble)
Jan 19, 16:51

Thank-you for contacting Redbubble.

As you have been made aware, Redbubble has moderated the content that was reported in accordance with our [IP/Publicity Rights Policy[(https://help.redbubble.com/hc/en-us/articles/201579195-Redbubble-IP-Publicity-Rights-Policy), as it was specifically named in a valid Notice and Takedown report received from Lego System A/S.

We have not explicitly said that the work does or does not infringe intellectual property or publicity rights, but we have a legal obligation to act on reports filed in accordance with our IP/Publicity Rights Policy where the content is specifically named.

Unfortunately, we are not always privy to the reasons that complainants’ submit notice and takedown reports or the specific reasons that they find each of the specified works a violation of their rights, nor can we presume to speak on their behalf. Please understand that Redbubble is not making any judgement on the work and as we are sure you are aware, this is why the counter notice provision exists in our IP/Publicity Rights Policy. Filing a counter notice is the most effective way to contact a complainant regarding their notice and takedown report.

You can do so by following the instructions in our initial email to you, or in our IP/Publicity Rights Policy.

Regards,
Redbubble Content Team

I’ve fired my shot. I’ve told them where I got the inspiration for the title “Lego the Octopus” from. And you know what?

I don’t care if the image has been removed from RedBubble permanently. I’m not wasting my time or energy going up against a multi-billion dollar company, for the sake of getting one image put back on a site that I don’t even frequent anymore. I won’t be filing that Counter Notice RedBubble so helpfully keeps suggesting to me. Life’s too short, and I could be spending my time better making more Art, so I will.

Some battles are won by simply not engaging in them.

Here is my last email to RedBubble:

Dear Sir/Madam,

Thank you for your standard reply. I shall not be filing a Counter Notice, because I have better things to do with my time than waste it going up against the brutal might of a multi-billion dollar corporation, only to win back the right to have an image of mine on your site. Especially when I no longer frequent your site as I used to 3-4 years ago.

That is not to say that RedBubble is not a good Print On Demand site, or to question the integrity of your policies. I simply mean that I have found other sites that better suit the requirements of my creative output, and that is where I am concentrating my efforts on. Should RedBubble offer items that are not found on competing sites, I will of course use your services again.

Yours sincerely,
AlyZen Moonshadow

Meanwhile, here are 2 more images of my (in)famous “Lego The Octopus”, that I managed to find online. These are from Fine Art America, another site that I don’t use anymore. Notice the artwork isn’t even entitled “Lego the Octopus”, but if I remember correctly, the tags would’ve contained those words. I wonder how long it will be before the mighty LEGO Corporation come after those images too…

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Free eBook : How To Change The World

No, I did not write this book, but I sure wish I did. I’m sharing it here with you now because it is a book that everyone in the process of waking up needs to read and then share with their circles. Spread the truth about how our world REALLY works, who REALLY controls us and tells us how to think, what to read, what the wear, what to eat, how to behave in society etc. Read for yourself the facts about how we are being manipulated, day in day out, to conform to what “Society” tells us is “normal”. How we must all live a life of consumerism and capitalism, because, as the saying goes, “Money makes the world go round”.

Then do what it takes to change the world. We’ve lost our way in the past, now this eBook will help guide us back to the true purpose of our lives (no, it’s not so we can pay bills and then die), and if we ALL paused to see the truth of what’s happening around us today, we CAN and WILL make a change for the better. We all need to BE the Change we want to see.

Here’s the link to the Facebook page, where you can find more information and download the free eBook:

https://m.facebook.com/HTCTW.book

Here’s what the author, Elina St.Onge says about her book: (excerpt taken from the link above)

When we take an observer perspective, we do not look at the world and think to ourselves “that’s just the way it is.” We instead ask, “why is it this way?” This is the approach taken throughout this book. It depicts in an easy-to-read, clear and simple way, the most basic concepts that make up our human society all while examining whether or not we can do things differently. In the final chapters, dots are connected between mind-bending scientific discoveries which altogether shed light on our true nature and purpose on this planet. If you want to understand why our human society is the way it is, if you want to know what other possibilities exist outside of our current system and if you often wonder about who we are and what we are here for – yet are not satisfied with conventional belief systems – you will enjoy the perspectives shared in this book. Its aim is to assist humanity in seeing the world with a fresh pair of eyes, which will greatly help open our minds enough to create meaningful change in our world.

Elina also has a web presence, via this link. You can also download her eBook there, and why not make a donation too, she’s done such a pretty darn good job collecting her facts and presenting them to you.

Namasté.
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You Had One Job (Or, Why I Could Never Work In Retail)

The Kid taught me something today. And I taught him something too. He taught me that there was an entire world of fun to be found online, that was devoted to what I’d have simply called Spelling Blunders or Grammatical Mistakes. It’s called “You Had One Job”.

“You Had One Job” relates to blunders by people that ultimately lead to FAIL signs on website images. Sometimes it’s known by its longer title, “You had One Job, ONE JOB!”, to be read in a stern and escalating tone of voice.

So that was what The Kid showed me today. And for my part, I showed him the “Secret Door” to Pinterest. The poor guy had been taking Pinterest at face value, simply looking at images and pinning them to his own boards. When I showed him how, by simply clicking on a Pinterest image, he could be swept away into the vortex of another website containing more images and information, you could hear the cogwheels in his brain go KA-CHUNK!! Mind Blown. Welcome to the real world of Pinterest, Kiddo!

For today’s post, I’ve put together a few of my favourites, from the retail world. This is one of the reasons I could never work in Retail. I’d be either dying from laughter, or else I’d take it upon myself to be the Grammar Police, and waste all my time running around correcting these blunders.

(All images here were found on Pinterest).

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I must be (Dough)nuts

Krispy Kreme aka KK has been an American institution for many, many years. I remember it being featured on an episode of The Simpsons, way back when. I even remember having a KK doughnut and coffee at Heathrow airport in the UK.

In Australia, there are dozens of KK outlets in the Eastern States. KK doughnuts can be purchased at petrol stations and at 7-Eleven convenience stores, where the doughnuts are delivered there fresh every day. It’s part of a normal way of life over there.

It’s a different story here in Western Australia. But before I go into details, here’s a potted history of KK in Australia.

The first Australian KK opened up in Penrith near Sydney in the early noughties, followed swiftly by a staggering 53 other outlets on the eastern seaboard (and NONE in Western Australia). However, the company may have misjudged its niche as it became a matter of too much, too soon. In 2010 KK Australia went into voluntary administration and pared its number of outlets right down. Luckily for us sugar addicts, KK managed to return triumphantly from the brink. Most Australians are used to buying 1 or 2 doughnuts at a time, not by the dozen…and that fact may have needed time to digest, literally.

Here is an interesting blog about why KK Australia failed in 2010.
http://startupblog.wordpress.com/2010/11/03/why-krispy-kreme-failed-in-australia/

Western Australia, often regarded as the “poor brother” of the Eastern States, has until very recently relied on an informal and quirky system to get its supplies of KK. Many families in WA have FIFO (Fly-In-Fly-Out) workers in the burgeoning mining services industry. These men and women often use airports in the Eastern States that have KK outlets, Brisbane airport being one example. Yours truly has a husband that used to FIFO to and from Brisbane airport, and that is how I was getting my sugar fix until recently. For years it has been a very common sight to see workers in their yellow/orange high visibility jackets emerging from Perth’s domestic terminal lugging boxes of KK doughnuts along with their luggage.

In my last place of employment in Perth we could place special orders for KK doughnuts twice a year. Yes, really. Someone in Melbourne would place the order at the airport’s KK outlet, then make sure all the boxes were loaded onto the right flight, and then someone else at our side would drive over to Perth airport with a van, to collect the doughnuts. No, as silly as this may sound, this was actually a way of life here.

For years West Australians had been clamouring for KK to go west. But for some reason (I haven’t been able to find out what) KK outlets have never made it to these shores. Until 26th November 2014, when Perth got its very first KK outlet at Whitford City shopping centre.

I heard there were queues forming outside the store already days before it opened its doors. The store operates a 24/7 drive-thru, with a limit of 2 dozen doughnuts per vehicle. During the first few days the drive-thru often had queues of up to 100 cars at any time. There were so many people queuing up outside that the KK management had to employ crowd control people and set up a separate marquee to contain the outside queues. Once inside, there was yet another queue that snaked around to where you could watch the doughnuts being made, as entertainment while you waited.

Yesterday the Kid and I decided to go and see what all this fuss was all about. And so here are some photos of our “WA KK Experience:

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The queue in the marquee before the queue in the KK store.

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First step into Perth KK.

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Look at that conveyor belt with all those doughnuts!

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Trays of goodies mmmmm!

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The Loop. The queue takes you to a big glass window through which you can watch doughnuts in production.

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Cleaning the equipment, getting ready to switch to making a different doughnut. These had glazed doughnuts before, so the worker is washing off any traces of sugar glazing.

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Busy hands behind the counter. All hands on deck!

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So we got 2 dozen doughnuts (a dozen glazed and a dozen assorted). And a choc milkshake + 2 doughnuts each, as our “lunch”. I know, I know, I’m a terrible mother! ;)

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The reason our doughnuts were packed in 4 boxes of 6 instead of 2 boxes of 12 – so they could fit in my bike’s basket!

So, why did I queue up for 45 minutes just for some doughnuts? I can see parallels between this queue and the one I saw for the iPhone 6 just a few months ago. Yes, it’s all completely bonkers and utterly unneccessary. I could never justify blowing $1000 on 1 iGadget. But $50 for 2 dozen doughnuts, 2 yummy chocolate milkshakes and 4 extra doughnuts, a sit-down in the KK store, plus a good friendly natter with some total strangers in the queue, and the look of bliss on my kid’s face as he nibbled his choc doughnut? And also giving away 2 glazed doughnuts to a friendly pregnant woman and her boyfriend that we chatted with at the bus stop? Priceless.

Was it worth a 7 hour round trip, and a bike ride + train + bus, and the same for the return journey? Hell yeah, and I’m (dough)nuts. 😆

Materialism & I

Not too long ago, I blogged about my observations on the release of Apple’s iPhone 6 in Perth, Western Australia. The queue to purchase the iPhone 6 snaked round the block starting outside the Perth Apple store. I reported that I was rather embarrassed by what I saw; it wasn’t so much the fact that there were so many in the queue, but the fact that 95% of those in the queue were Orientals.

For those of you who don’t know already, AlyZen Moonshadow is a pseudonym and my professional artist name. It is also the name I use in order to protect myself and my son from my abusive ex-partner in England.

The other thing you may not already know about me us that I was born in Malaysia, and my ancestry is predominantly Chinese (with a bit of stray Caucasian thrown in. There is a branch of my ancestral family tree with redheads and freckles).

So when I say I felt embarrassed at the sight of all my “fellow Orientals” desperately queuing up to buy that shiny new must-have gadget, the iPhone 6, I meant it. I felt ashamed to bear a physical resemblance to those in the queue. Because I know exactly the type of blood that runs in the veins of those people, from first hand experience. It’s type M. Meaning “Materialism“.

In Malaysia and Singapore, where I spent my formative years, we were brought up to aspire for professions that paid the most. Doctors, dentists, engineers, scientists, IT specialists, programmers – these were the jobs to aim for. Anything lower than that was looked down upon. God forbid if you ended up a supermarket checkout girl! Or even worse, behind the counter at McDonald’s. Honest, hard work was frowned upon. Instead, the emphasis was on prestige, name and buying power.

The first 3 things a typical Malaysian or Singaporean will ask you when first introduced, are these:

1) Where are you from?
2) What’s your occupation?
3) How much do you earn in a year?

No, I’m not kidding, unfortunately.

The 3 “C”s of South East Asia are not Colour, Cut and Clarity, but rather Car, Cash and Condominium. It was back then, and it is even more so now.

I’m a real maverick alright. I fly in the face of tradition. Needless to say, I’m the black sheep of my family. Even my own cousins from my generation think less of me because I don’t have a swanky job like them. Or, perhaps they feel uneasy that I should be happy the way I am, rather than swimming with the other fishes.

In all my years living abroad, and having struck rock bottom before, my life philosophy has changed. It does not resonate with that of my “fellow Orientals” anymore than Kermit is a toad. In this world where Materialism can easily equate to Self-Worth, I am a non-player.

And that is why my dear old Dad likes to remind me that I am a “Constant disappointment” to him. (That is also why I like to keep communication with him few and far between). Unlike my older brother, who fit nicely into the mold my Dad created for him, and became a doctor, I’m the one who “Never amounted to much”, the one whose artistic skills get laughed and booed at because “You’re not making money out of it, so it doesn’t count”. I’m told time and again to “Get a real job, one that pays well”.

Maybe I should. But then again, I’ve seen both sides of the coin. I’ve been that hardnosed, ambitious, materialistic bitch. I’ve played the part of single mother stranded with an infant in a foreign country with no way to pay a mortgage. I’ve worked in places where bullying is rife and favouritism the word of the day, and I left because of that and the bureaucracy behind corporate doors. Now I’m a stay-at-home Mum who creates digital art and tries to find niches to sell them online, and I’m reliant on my husband who thankfully earns enough to support the family. We’ve bills to pay, and some weeks are tougher than others, but we have enough.

And I’m happy. No matter what my family may say, well-meant or not, about my lack of “class” or “style”, the fact that I’d rather use a bicycle and public transport than a car to get around, no matter how much they try to convince me that “Our only concern is how much money we’re going to make from this venture”, the bottom line is this:

Materialism and I parted company a while ago, and I’m in no hurry for us to get back together.

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Black Friday – Don’t Do It!

For years I laboured under the assumption that the retail shopping frenzy the day after Thanksgiving was an American thing. Thanksgiving is an American thing after all. The very thought of competitive shopping, with the added bonus of getting hurt or even killed, chilled me to my bone marrow.

Now I’ve found out that this piece of consumerism tosh has not just become ever more popular than ever, it’s spread to other countries across the globe. Countries that don’t even celebrate Thanksgiving! Black Friday never had much to do with being thankful, anyway, it was just the timing of it, to usher in the Christmas shopping season.

But even that is becoming a moot point. No one shops for Christmas presents in December anymore. Our local supermarket here in Australia lays out its Christmas offerings as early as September. Christmas items are on the shelves even before Halloween stuff.

There’s talk of extending retail hours in the run-up to Christmas, the excuse being given as “providing shopping opportunities for the time-poor who work and otherwise would not have the time to shop for their loved ones”. Well, I’m going to be scathing and say this: Bollocks. These “time-poor” folks have had all year to buy their Christmas presents. Extending the hours is just a ploy to get more people into the shops to buy more stuff that they don’t need. Shopping has become the newest pastime for workers who don’t know what to do with themselves when they’re not at work.

Black Friday is like The Hunger Games. The winner kills, maims or otherwise incapacitates his/her opponents, and in return gets a microwave oven. Sometimes, that same microwave oven is the weapon of choice. Yes, you may laugh, but unfortunately that is Exactly what happens.

Read this interesting article by Michael Roose, which explains very clearly how Black Friday and similar blow-out sales are a behavioural economist’s nightmare.

There is NO good reason for anyone in their right minds to indulge in Black Friday activities. It’s meant to be Thanksgiving, so how about being thankful for what you already have? Stay home with your family, make it an extended weekend, or go away camping somewhere far from the maddening crowd.

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And guess what comes after the weekend? Cyber Monday, that’s what. Yet another consumerist ploy. Because this is geared towards online shopping, it’s a safer bet than Black Friday. You definitely won’t get trampled to death shopping on Cyber Monday.

But do you Really need more stuff?

Just don’t do it!