Saturday, November 28, 2015

It's That Crazy Christmas Time of Year

Well, it's that time of year again; Thanksgiving has passed and it's the Christmas season, officially.

I say "officially", because we all know that the Christmas "season" comes around earlier and earlier every year; usually once Halloween is over. This year though, not only did the Christmas season start at the beginning of November, so did all the controversy over the holiday.

By now, I doubt there are many people who haven't heard about the 2015  red Starbuck's cups.
Every year during the Christmas season, Starbucks serves their hot beverages in special holiday cups.  In the past, the cups have featured ornaments, snowmen, etc. for the holidays.

This year however, the company decided to go with a plain red cup.  The next thing you know, there's a media frenzy about how Starbucks is against Christmas, and Jesus, you name it.

What a lot of people don't know is, this probably wouldn't have been such a big deal, had it not been for one man,  Josh, Feurstein. Feurstein is a self proclaimed disciple of Jesus, and he's the person who declared that Starbucks was anti-Christmas.

Funny thing is, when I saw the red cup, *my* first thought was, "ah, more corporate greed; less printing on the cups saves money for Starbucks, and makes them more profits".

Back to what was happening in the public eye though.  People everywhere were buying into the idea that Starbucks was anti-Christmas. There were those who boycotted the franchise because of the cups, as well as those who thought it was okay that the company took a somewhat "neutral" approach to the season.

In between all the yays and nays were those, (myself included), who just didn't care one way or the other about the color and design, or the lack of one.  It's a cup, you use it, it gets thrown away.
To me, that was the bigger concern. Even with recycling and all, it's still a cup that gets tossed after one use.  And though some are recycled, most just get thrown into trash cans at home or work, or on a street corner, to be added to landfills.

 Others took a humorous approach to the cup controversy.  Weird Al posted a pic of a Starbucks cup in a sleeve with a sticker added, suggesting the paganism of Starbucks.

 To me, it was funny, because, though Christmas is to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, it *is* attached to a pagan holiday.  That's a whole other story though, so we'll skip that for now.

 One of the DJ's, Chunky, from "Chunky Mckinzie & Jake" on The Bull in Portland, Oregon made a great point about the Starbucks cup situation.

Chunky is Jewish, and posed the question of why doesn't Starbucks have blue cups for Hanukkah?  He was being lighthearted about the whole thing of course, but again, in my opinion, he did make a great point about how people aren't getting all up in arms about not having Hanukkah cups and other items in honor of their holiday; why are Christians making such a big deal over a cup?

By now you're probably wondering why I've brought all this up again, since it seems to have finally calmed down and gone away.  Truth is, I wouldn't have brought it up at all, except it kind of helps set things up for why I'm writing this post now.

It seems now that there's no longer a huge issue about Starbucks red cups, the focus has turned to Reese's Peanut Butter Cups; specifically their tree shaped offering for the holidays.

Yes, you read that last paragraph correctly.  People are all bent out of shape because it seems this year's Reese's peanut butter trees are more blobs than trees.

Okay, I get it, people buy these specifically because they're tree shaped, for the holidays.  But really, is someone's entire holiday going to be ruined because a piece of candy isn't tree shaped?

My warped sense of humor kicked in when I saw this latest uproar in the media.  I looked at the pic of the tree blob and thought, "hmmm...Reese's Easter Egg candy must not have sold well, they're repackaging them for Christmas".  It makes sense to me anyway:  Christmas is to celebrate the birth of Christ, and Easter is to celebrate his rising; the two holidays are connected in that way at least.

As with the Starbucks cups though, I really don't care about this latest issue with Reese's Peanut Butter Trees.  It's a peanut butter cup that's been shaped into a tree.  The two items taste the same, the candy company just makes an extra profit by charging more for the special shape.

 It's going to be fun to sit back and watch though, to see if this latest controversy will have the longevity the Starbucks one had. 

Thursday, November 26, 2015

It's Been Awhile


I had no idea until just a couple days ago that it's been a YEAR since I've posted anything to this blog!  Not cool!  I've decided it's time to fire up the keyboard and start posting again, hopefully on a more regular basis, like in the past.

With that said, I'll start right now with where I left off last year, wishing everyone and their family and friends a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Sale Away on Gray Thursday

I'll be the first to admit, I love a great sale as much as the next person. Who doesn't love getting something they want, or need, at a lower price than what they'd normally pay?

Granted, stores are still making a profit, even at sale prices, but hey, *I'm* paying less than retail, so it's a good feeling knowing that.

No matter the type of store, or where it's located, all of them have sales on a regular basis, whether it's daily, weekly, or monthly; there's always someone offering something for less than retail price.

Then there are the special sales, in addition to the regular ones.  The special ones usually revolve around holidays, or special events.  President's Day, Memorial Day, the Super Bowl, etc.; all are cause for retailers to have blowout prices on items consumers are wanting, or needing.

One of the biggest special sale days is the Friday after Thanksgiving, otherwise known as "Black Friday".

Ah yes, "Black Friday", the day people are up before the sun, and out standing in endless lines for a chance at getting that great bargain.  When did all this craziness become the norm?

Actually, upon research, "Black Friday" was a term used in Philadelphia in the early sixties to describe the throngs of people out and about the day after Thanksgiving.  By 1975, the term had been adopted across the country, and adapted to describe shoppers.

For nearly three decades stores catered to shoppers on this infamous Friday, opening their stores as early as 6:00 am, allowing those early birds an opportunity at big savings.  Then after a few years, the times got earlier.  Some stores began opening at 5 am, in hopes of garnering more customers eager to start their holiday shopping.

The beginning of a new century though, brought a new tradition: stores not opening early on Friday morning, but instead, late on Thanksgiving evening.  At first stores, like Wal-Mart, and Best Buy, advertised they'd be opening at 10 pm Thanksgiving for "Black Friday" savings.

At the time, I didn't see a problem with this.  Yes, there were employees that probably weren't happy about having to work on a holiday, I understand that.  For the most part though, the "traditions" of Thanksgiving usually wrap up in the early evening.  Friends and family have spent time together, then gone their separate ways, so why not go stand in a line for a store to open at 10 pm, especially if there's something you want, at a great price?

More recently however, things have been getting out of hand.  No longer are shoppers getting in the "holiday spirit".  Instead, they're trying to one up other shoppers to get what they want.  Every year there are stories from across the nation of fights, shootings, stabbings, you name it, all because people just have to have something others want also.  This makes one wonder if it really is worth standing in line for any kind of a deal.  After all, is it really worth the possibility of getting hurt, or possibly even killed, just for a bargain?

One would also think that retailers would be concerned about these incidences, and want to curtail them if possible.  Yet, every year, the retailers seem to start their sales just that much earlier than the year before.  Anymore, it's really not a "Black Friday" sale, as much as it's become a "Gray Thursday" sale.

This year, there are stores that are actually opening early on Thanksgiving morning, then again Thanksgiving evening. Instead of opening at 5 am on Friday, some stores will be opening at 5pm Thursday evening, to get a jump on the holiday rush.

As I stated earlier, I understand that there are those who don't celebrate the holidays, so for them, it's nice to have stores open, especially if they're offering exceptional savings.  Really though, are retailers actually gaining that much more by opening so early?  If they're so concerned about sales, why don't they just stay open their normal hours, and still offer the great savings?

Several stores have bypassed the actual Black Friday sale completely, opting instead to offer sales for a week, or more, before Thanksgiving. I've heard commercials describing "Blue Friday", "White Wednesday", and other names, that are really just different ways to get around having a sale for only one day.

You've probably noticed that I'm not a big fan of all these crazy hours and days that are being set for after, (and nowadays before), Thanksgiving sales; it's true.  While the bargains may be good, the whole idea of Black Friday has become so diluted, and so competitive, for me at least, it just isn't fun anymore. What I like even less however are the policies some stores have adopted in conjunction with their Black Friday sales.

We've all seen signs at stores stating, "no loitering", "no parking", etc.; as an attempt to keep people from just hanging out at the store and not buying anything.  Yet, there are retailers, most notably Best Buy, who, despite not allowing this behavior normally, have no problem with letting people camp out in front of their stores, sometimes as early as before Halloween, just for their Black Friday sale.  Why?!

Not only does that seem very extreme, it questions whether these people actually have lives. One man in Florida, his wife, and a friend are currently camped out at a Best Buy, and have been for at least a couple weeks now.  They work, so they've been taking turns camping out at the Best Buy, so they can go to their jobs.

I think what bothers me the most about this however, is the double standard tone this sets.  Obviously if someone is just hanging around a store, or if someone is homeless, and tries to camp out even in the parking lot, they're told it's not allowed, and there's signs posted to prove it.  But someone does the same thing, because they want to spend money at the store, it's okay for them to camp out for days and days.  In other words, spend money, you can stay, don't, you can't be there.

Yes, as much as I like great sales and bargains, I have my limits. It seems weird to say that commercialism is getting even more commercialized, but it's true.  Black Friday is a great example of this.  What started as a one day event, has been blown into something that's dragged out for days on end, before and after Thanksgiving.  In some cases it seems Black Friday has become more of an anticipated "holiday" than Thanksgiving itself.

Just my opinion, but it would be nice to just get back to the basics of Black Friday.  It happens on the Friday after Thanksgiving, and only that day.  If retailers want to get crazy with their sales, why not open your doors from midnight that Friday, to 11:59 pm that same day?  And with today's technology, these same retailers can do the same thing on the internet, for those who can't, or don't want to actually go to a store.  Seems logical to me, shoppers still get great deals, and retailers are still making huge revenues.

Again, just my take on this subject.  I'll end this post with a wish for a Happy Thanksgiving to all; as well as safety for all those braving the "Gray Thursday", "Black Friday", mayhem that's sure to happen somewhere.

Friday, October 31, 2014

People Loving Prizefighters

While country has been a staple of the music industry for eons, the 90's saw the genre take a breath of fresh air with the emergence of Garth Brooks.

Brooks swept on to the scene with his raucously infectious brand of country that had listeners on their feet from the first note of each song.

For a decade, it seemed Brooks could do no wrong, (well, except for his venture into pop as "Chris Gaines"), releasing hit after hit; selling out shows everywhere, and smashing all sorts of records as he went.

Even many who previously had a dislike of country music liked what Garth Brooks was offering to listeners.

Then, in 2000, Brooks announced he was retiring; at least until his youngest daughter was 18. On a side note, it was also the year his 14 year marriage to his wife, Sandy, ended.

Though he'd retired, in 2005 Brooks released a new song, "Good Ride Cowboy".  He wrote the song in honor of one of his idols, bareback rider/singer Chris Ledoux, who had died that year.

A few years later, Garth came out of retirement again, to play a series of intimate, acoustic concerts in Las Vegas, and also released music, (old and new), exclusively through Wal-Mart stores. Regardless of the ventures during this time, Garth's fans proved they hadn't left the singer behind; they were there, waiting for anything new Brooks had to offer.  Even in "retirement", Brooks was still exceeding sales and concert attendance records everywhere.

Now, in 2014, Brooks has officially announced he's coming out of retirement.  He's released a list of tour dates, as well as a new single, "People Loving People".

During Brooks' retirement/divorce period, he got together with long time friend and fellow country singer, Trisha Yearwood.

The two had been friends for many years during their time in Nashville, but had never been an actual couple until after each had been previously married.  Yearwood's first marriage had been to Robert Reynolds, a member of the Mavericks.

During the 90's Yearwood racked up an impressive string of hits of her own, including, "Walk Away Joe", "XX's & OO's", and "She's in Love With the Boy", as well as other tunes.

By the time Trisha and Garth became a couple, Yearwood's musical career had slowed some, and the singer
began branching out in new directions.

She co-wrote a cookbook of down home recipes and had her her own cooking show on the Food Network, "Trisha's Southern Kitchen".

Like Garth, it seemed, Yearwood had "retired" her singing career for one sharing home cooked food with fans.

This year though, like Garth Brooks, Trisha has released new music to country radio.

Yearwood's latest offering, "Prizefighter", features Kelly Clarkson, and proves that, though Yearwood may not have been putting out new music, she hasn't lost any of the talent or energy she was known for with previous hits.

Though it's been quite awhile since either Garth or Trisha has had new music on the radio, it seems that each has hit the jackpot again with their new tunes. Now it's just a matter of who reaches the highest peak on the country radio charts.  Either way, listeners will definitely be the winners.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Country Legend Glen Campbell

Anyone who's listened to music, especially country music, has probably heard of Glen Campbell.  At the very least, they've heard a Glen Campbell song, whether by Glen himself, or a cover by another artist.  

This post is to shine some light on Campbell's career, as well as acknowledge artists who have done cover versions of Campbell's hits.

For myself, it's also a post honoring one of my mom's favorite singers of all-time.  A singer who, unfortunately, she has something in common with, Alzheimer's.

Rather than just run through Campbell's career achievements however, as stated earlier, I'm choosing to also highlight other artist's versions of Glen's hits, as well as more recent news about Campbell's life.

Before having hits as a solo artist, Glen Campbell had been a session musician, recording with some of the biggest names in music, including, Bobby Darin, Ricky Nelson, Dean Martin, Nat King Cole, The Monkees, Nancy Sinatra, Merle Haggard, Jan & Dean, Elvis Presley, and Frank Sinatra.  Campbell was also a session musician on The Beach Boys' "Pet Sounds", as well as doing a stint touring with the band, playing bass guitar and providing background harmonies.

As a solo artist, Campbell racked up several hits on the country charts, as well as crossover hits on pop radio.  Even those who don't know Campbell's classics like, "Gentle On My Mind", "Galveston", or "Wichita Lineman", usually have heard the iconic "Rhinestone Cowboy".

Personally, of all Campbell's hits, my favorite has always been one that wasn't as big as Glen's other songs, "Dreams of the Everyday Housewife".

 To this day, I don't know why I love this song so much; I was just a little girl when it was on the radio.  I just know that it's still one of my favorite Glen Campbell songs.

In addition to recording and touring extensively, Campbell also found time for acting, (playing opposite John Wayne in "True Grit"), and hosting his own TV show.  "The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour" aired from 1969 to 1972, featuring guest stars, music and skits.

While Campbell's career was going smoothly, his personal life began to unravel.  One of the most prominent displays of this was Campbell's tumultuous relationship with Tanya Tucker.

Eventually Campbell seemed to get things together, and while not having hits on the radio, still toured extensively over the years, sounding as great as he always had.

2011 brought news that Campbell was suffering from Alzheimer's, but would continue to tour as long as he was able.  And that's exactly what he's been doing until now.  Yes, there were good days and bad days; regardless though, Campbell pressed on giving his fans all he had.

Earlier this year however, Campbell was forced to quit touring; the disease that was robbing his memory was taking it's toll on the legendary singer.

Though he's stopped touring, Campbell has released one last recording, his farewell to fans, friends and family, with the song, "I'm Not Gonna Miss You".  It's a bittersweet tale of how the singer won't miss anyone, not because he doesn't care, but because he's not going to remember them.  The song is even more haunting in the fact that the singer never actually says he won't remember anyone; just how he won't miss them.

While I knew of Glen Campbell's battle with Alzheimer's, and that he'd recorded "I'm Not Gonna Miss You", what got me writing this post was The Band Perry.  Early one morning I was listening to 98.7 The Bull's overnight show, and heard Kimberly Perry's distinctive voice singing a very familiar song, "Gentle On My Mind".

It's the band's current single, and is featured in the movie, "Glen Campbell, I'll Be Me", which is the story of Campbell's life.  Though it's hard for anyone to do a remake of anything that was hugely popular; The Band Perry do an excellent job with "Gentle on My Mind".

The Band Perry's single also had me remembering when 90's country singer, Wade Hayes did a cover of "Wichita Lineman".

I've always felt that Hayes wasn't given his due on this song.  He did a great job of covering the tune, yet, it didn't do very well at radio.

While researching videos for this post, I ran across some information that was new to me.  It seems Collin Raye, another popular country artist from the 90's, has released an entire tribute CD in honor of Glen Campbell.  He's also released his first single from this CD, "Galveston".

It's sad to think that someone who's had such an illustrious career in music, like Glen Campbell, isn't going to be able to remember any of it.  He won't remember how much his songs have contributed to country music, and to the lives of his fans around the world.

For me I guess, it's also sad, because I have some understanding of what's happening to Glen.  Though my mom's Alzheimer's isn't as advanced as Campbell's, I can still identify with what the country music legend is going through, and it makes me sad; not just for him, but for what lies ahead for my mom as well.

So, while Glen Campbell may not remember what he's contributed to the world of music, it's nice to know that other artists who have followed in his footsteps do remember; and are helping to keep Campbell's legacy alive and in everyone's memory.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Paul Revere is (Dough) Nuts!

If you're from the Pacific Northwest and/or a fan of Paul Revere & the Raiders, by now you've heard that band leader, Paul Revere, passed away October 4, 2014.  Since then the internet has been abuzz with news, stories, memories and the like from the media and fans all over the world.

 One of the latest stories related to Revere's death is courtesy of Voodoo Doughnut in Portland, Oregon.  They announced that in honor of Paul they'd be making a special, limited time doughnut.

At the time of the original announcement, no definite decisions had been made as to what the doughnut would look like, what flavor, etc.

As of October 14, 2014 though, the shop revealed what they'd come up with in tribute to the leader of Paul Revere & the Raiders.

A tricorn hat shaped doughnut, (representing the hat Paul sported on stage for 50 years), frosted in chocolate, and covered in red, white and blue sprinkles.  If that weren't enough, the doughnut is filled with butter cream.

The doughnut will be available in all four Voodoo Doughnut locations, (three in Oregon, and one in Colorado), from October 15, 2014, to December 15, 2014.

In addition, a portion of each sale of a Paul Revere doughnut will be donated to the Oregon Music Hall of Fame.

The donations will help the foundationIn raise funds to further music education.

If you live in the area, or plan on visiting between now and December 15th, be sure to make a stop by Voodoo Doughnut, and get yourself a Paul Revere doughnut.  Not only will you be paying your respects to a rock & roll icon, you'll be helping future rock & roll legends as well.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Review--Jason Aldean--"Old Boots New Dirt"

For his sixth studio album, Jason Aldean claims he's branching out a bit from his previous releases.  "Burnin' It Down", the first single from "Old Boots New Dirt", does seem to be a somewhat different approach for Aldean, but not a real stretch.

"Bunin' It Down" is a cross between a ballad and somewhat uptempo tune, telling the story of the love and passion the singer has for his love interest.  Different for Aldean, yes, a bit.  A hit on radio, definitely.

The rest of "Old Boots New Dirt", is pretty much standard Aldean, delivered the same way Jason has always done with his style of vocals.  Yet, while Aldean's latest album may not be too different than his last five, it still seems fresh, rather than the same old thing rehashed the same way a hundred times.

One theme that seems consistent on "Old Boots New Dirt", is of love lost.  Listening to the lyrics of say, "Miss That Girl", or "Don't Change Gone", it makes one wonder if the songs were chosen due to the upheaval Aldean's personal life was going through at the time.  These two songs, and the title track all have the common thread of lamenting love lost; with each song different enough from the others to not become mundane.

A definite stand out on "Old Boots New Dirt" is the song, "If My Truck Could Talk".  The lyrics tell how the truck has been good to the singer, but it knows too much about what he's done.  If the truck could talk, he'd have to pull out all the wires, set it on fire, roll it down a hill, anything to shut it up. 

While, as stated previously, Aldean's latest contribution isn't that much of a departure from his previous releases, Jason still manages to keep things from getting stale.  With fifteen tracks, (eighteen on the Target Exclusive CD), most of which are good songs, "Old Boots New Dirt" is worth buying, or at least giving a listen to.