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Ovation: Robin Williams (1951-2014)

Robin WilliamsI told myself that I wasn’t going to write about the death of Robin Williams.  It’s terribly sad when someone so gifted becomes lost in a cloud of darkness from which he can see no way out.  But then I remembered these few seconds of his performance in 1996’s The Birdcage and the dozens of times that this little bit  of joy has made me smile and I thought maybe someone else could use one of those smiles today.

Sadly, sometimes the worst thing you can do is “keep it all inside”.  You don’t have to.

To honor Robin Williams, please share the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number:

1-800-273-8255

Your call is free and confidential, and will be answered by a trained counselor at a local crisis center.

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Diatribe: Whatever Happened To “Thank You”.

untitledMy nieces are wonderful letter-writers.  From a very young age, their mother would insist that they send a hand-written Thank You note every time they received a gift.  Regardless of whether they’ve received a check or a toy, they always wrote a personalized note of gratitude acknowledging that the gift had been received and warmly appreciated.  I’ve kept some of their notes in my box of precious memories and they always bring a smile to my heart when I receive one.  I’m sure that writing those notes was a complete chore for them as youngsters … I imagine that quite a bit of supervision was required to get them completed … but writing those short notes and addressing those envelopes taught my nieces important lessons that far too many folks have apparently never learned.

An enormous pet peeve in my household stems from the fact that we rarely, if ever, receive an acknowledgement when we give a gift.  While we certainly don’t expect a hand-written note on embossed stationery every time we send a birthday gift to one of the children on our list, it would be nice to know that they child actually received our present.  A parent’s quick telephone call, email, text message or mention on social media would be sufficient to let us know that the package had arrived safely.

When I was younger, at graduation time, seniors would make Xerox copies of the checks that they received from well-wishers so that they would have accurate names and addresses for use in sending thank you notes.

Last summer, we sent what we thought were generous gifts to two lovely young couples whose out-of-town weddings we were unable to attend.  We know the gifts were received, as our cancelled checks quickly posted to our bank account, but almost fourteen months have passed without an acknowledgement.

Is rude to ask “Did you get the gift that we sent you?”

Or should follow-up be the giver’s responsibility?

I understand that traditions change and evolve over time and that proper etiquette itself has morphed to fit our modern, global community … some children today have never seen a postage stamp … but when did we stop saying “please” and “thank you”?  Are we really too busy to be grateful?

I’ll never have to ask my nieces if they received a gift.  And I’m confident that they will teach their children the same gracious habits that they’ve learned from their parents.  And they might get better gifts as a result.  After all, it’s more fun to give a gift to someone who appreciates it … right?

Do you think Thank You notes are a thing of the past?  Should givers simply assume that gifts arrive and are appreciated?

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Ovation: BOOMF.

BOOMFI can’t keep a secret.  Long ago I determined that the concepts of deceitfulness and lying required far too much energy.  Since it’s all I can do to remember the truth it’s simply not possible for me to keep up with a sequence of fibs necessary to maintain plausibility once a single lie is first told.

I once tried to host a surprise party.  It was a surprise right up until the moment that I asked the guest of honor who they would like to be invited to the party.  (Yes … I’m that bad at it.)  I was, however, able to keep one secret … the cake at the party was pretty cool.  Everyone was surprised and delighted to see that a portrait of the guest of honor, the same portrait that appeared on the party invitations, was printed in frosting on the top of the cake.  At the time, cutting-edge technology had just begun to allow bakeries to “print” photos on sheet cakes.

Last December, Boomf was a born.  A spin-out from London’s Mint Digital, Boomf’s ambition is to leverage similar technology to let customers create personalized gifts that are fun to give or receive and delicious to boot.  Known initially as “instagram marshmallows”, Boomf makes sharing even sweeter.  In its first six months the company has sold more than two tons of marshmallows, all in individually personalized 15g squares.

Confectionery for the digital age.  Ever wish the internet was more … lickable, pokeable, sniffable?  Boomf transform your photos into multi-sensory delicacies.  Tiny pillows of fluffy, gooey, vanilla-scented yumminess.” – via www.boomf.com

With success in Great Britain well under way, James Middleton, brother-in-law to Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, who owns forty-five percent of the company, is anxious to bring the sweets to the United States.

“We’re looking at anything from biscuits to fairy cakes, to macaroons and chocolate.  But I think marshmallows are … the most fun.  It’s a collaboration of technology and food … We wanted to experiment with how we could combine the two.  We’re taking confectionery into the modern era.” – James Middleton.

Middleton

James Middleton

It’s quite easy to send the personalized treats by simply uploading photos from Instagram, Facebook or a desktop.  The company offers free worldwide shipping, with a box of nine marshmallows costing about US$26 (£15).

Apparently, the company gets its name from the sound of marshmallows landing on a doormat.

I can see where it might be fun to send edible selfies or pictures of your cat to friends just for fun.  Shots of your kids might be fun Christmas gifts.  I can also see this as a great corporate gift-giving idea for companies that want to send a treat featuring their logo.

Of course, if I were to order from BOOMF, I’d probably tell my friends to expect the package … because I really can’t keep a secret.

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Diatribe: Judge Sutton, Time Is Of The Essence When It Comes To Equality.

6th circuitYesterday, oral arguments took place in the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit where marriage equality cases from Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee were heard by two judges appointed by President George W. Bush and one by President Bill Clinton.  Each of these cases had been appealed to the Circuit Court when lower courts ruled in favor of marriage equality and, essentially against each state’s ban on same-sex marriage.

Throughout the three hours of back-and-forth questioning, Judge Jeffrey S. Sutton, one of the Bush appointees and a likely swing vote among the three, repeatedly asked why advocates of marriage equality wanted to use the courts to rush to an outcome that they were gradually winning through elections and referendums as voters’ attitudes changed.

“I’d have thought the best way to get respect and dignity is through the democratic process.” – Judge Jeffrey S. Sutton

As I listened to the arguments I was surprised that attorneys for the plaintiffs didn’t focus more on the fact that time is of the essence when it come to equality.

Every day children of same-sex parents are dropped off at schools by parents who are legal strangers.  Both these children and these parents worry, every day, that a misinformed or judgmental school administrator might somehow attempt to keep that same parent from picking his or her child up from school at the end of the day.

Every day, loving and committed married couples live in fear that, should there be an accident requiring hospitalization, a healthcare worker might keep them apart as one takes their last breath.  The laws of these four states, after all, define the partners as no more than friends and hardly next of kin.

Every day, couples with valid marriages from other states live with the confusion of something as simple as their legal name being in a constant state of limbo.  Drivers Licenses that don’t match married names on credit cards, passports or children’s school records cause confusion at every turn.  Different state identities and federal identities are a ridiculous burden to carry.

Judge Jeffrey S. Sutton

Judge Jeffrey Sutton

Time is of the essence, Judge Sutton, and it’s absurd to think that anyone should wait for attitudes to change before equality becomes the law.  Did Americans wait for the democratic process to end slavery?  To allow women to vote?  Of course not.  And the rights of civil marriage should be available to all couples.

State bans on same-sex marriages never should have been put to a public vote in the first place.  Lower courts are finding them unconstitutional and the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals should, too.  Time is of the essence, Judge Sutton.

The idea that same-sex couples and their families simply “wait it out” is ludicrous.  Judge Sutton’s swing vote against the plaintiffs in these four cases could actually be good news for equality as it will surely escalate the issue to the U.S. Supreme Court where a state’s right to define/deny marriage to same-sex couples will be settled once and for all.

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Ovation: Radio Shack’s Back-To-School “Protection Plan” Commercials.

RadioShackNowadays, I don’t watch many commercials on television.  As long as the batteries in my remote control are relatively fresh, I can usually zoom past all the advertisements in a program that I’ve recorded and I’m learning to ignore them when I’m watching something “real time” or, as we call it at our house, “live”.  The only commercials that regularly catch my attention are the ones that use off-colored and unexpected humor.  That’s why, despite the outcry from the likes of groups like “One Million” Moms, I get a kick out of the recent Radio Shack Protection Plan commercials.

In one example, a dad enters the room with a laundry basket and says to his son, “Mom just finished laundry. Anything you want to tell us?” which prompts the boy to confess what could be interpreted as a personal and sexual story.  The dad responds with an uncomfortably surprised look on his face, almost speechless, but saying “Uh, you left your phone in your jeans and it went through the wash.”

In a second commercial, a dad approaches his son and says, “I think it’s time we had a little talk about ‘protection.’

Humor is a powerful tool and Radio Shack has cleverly harnessed the notion of “protection” to garner tongue-in-cheek attention for their product.  The notion of “shock value” has existed in advertising for decades but this shouldn’t even qualify.  Frankly, I find it shocking that anyone finds these commercials to be indecent or “sex-laden advertisements”.  I’d call them effective.

I’m more shocked to learn that Radio Shack is still around.

I’ll keep fast-forwarding through all the commercial that I can but, if a commercial wants to catch my attention, it needs to be beautiful to look at or clever enough for me to ask “What did they just say?!” … like these Radio Shack commercials do.

What do you think?

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Diatribe: What Kind Of Person Kicks A Squirrel Into The Grand Canyon?

Squirrel KickersI like squirrels.  I think they’re cute.  I realize they can be incredibly destructive and are a nuisance to many people in various ways but I still get a kick out of them.  This summer, we’ve had an unusually large amount of squirrel visitors in our neighborhood and several have found their way to our bird feeder.  While many of our neighbors work diligently to keep the squirrels from eating all of the bird seed that they set out, I enjoy watching the squirrels just as much as the backyard birds that visit so I just buy more seed.  We even add some peanuts in the shell as an extra treat.

YouTube user Jonathan Hildebrand recently uploaded a video that shows two laughing men luring a squirrel to the edge of the Grand Canyon and then kicking the small animal to almost certain death below.  The footage shows the men, who Hildebrand believes to be French, arranging a trail of breadcrumbs to lead the unsuspecting squirrel to the edge of a cliff.  As the small animal approaches the edge, one of the men puts on a shoe and proceeds to kick the rodent into the canyon as the other man takes photos.  [Some may be offended by the following video.]

[UPDATE: YouTube removed the video but a portion of it can still be seen HERE if you're still  interested.]

Hildebrand filmed the cruel act but had no idea what the men were up to.  Apparently, he thought he was filming a cute squirrel-feeding like I frequently see in my back yard.  Or perhaps he found his fellow tourists’ peculiar wardrobe choice of only underwear and cowboy hats to be amusing.  His video was quickly taken down and then republished by other users.

“I did not realize what was happening until it was too late.  I do not know who they are.  All I know is that they were French.” – Jonathan Hildebrand.

At its deepest point, the rim of the Grand Canyon is approximately six thousand feet high.  Reaction to the video, as evidenced by YouTube comments, is mixed.  Some are disgusted by the cruel act while others appear to take an “it’s only a squirrel” point of view.  I know they can be a nuisance, and I don’t cry when I see a dead one on the road, but I’ve watched enough episodes of Criminal Minds to suspect that luring squirrels to edge of a cliff with bread crumbs so you can kicking them to their death while your friend takes pictures is not something that a normal person should do.

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Copyright © 2014 www.DiatribesAndOvations.com

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