Is Spring Cleaning Still a Thing?

Spring cleaning is an important part of some cultures and religions. In the Iranian culture the vernal equinox marks the beginning of a 2-week festival celebrating Nowruz or the New Year. Each year before it begins, Iranians thoroughly clean their houses to get rid of the old year’s dirt and to welcome the new year in as good condition as possible. In the Jewish culture, Passover, in March or April, marks the departure of the Jewish people from Egypt. It is important that no leavened product, not even a crumb, be in the home during that celebration, and so houses are rigorously cleaned from top to bottom.

Linex Floor Wax adFor others, spring cleaning has a much more practical history. In the past, houses were kept shut tight throughout the winter to keep in what little heat they had. Coal and wood fires spread soot and dust throughout the house. Curtains and bedding could be beaten or washed and dried outside in the spring sun, while furniture could be taken outside, dusted or disposed of and replaced. Of course, through much of history, the state of the house was considered the responsibility of a woman, and she heard loud and clear that her worth as a woman was judged in large part by the cleanliness of her house. Continue reading “Is Spring Cleaning Still a Thing?”

Overblown advertising cheapens the Olympic experience

Like thousands of others in New West, I made my way to Queen’s Park for the Torch Relay festivities on Tuesday. Lukewarm to the Olympics thus far, I thought that I might catch the spirit once in the presence of the Flame and thousands of others cheering for Canada and the Games. I was proud of the turnout in New West, but I came away somewhat more turned off the Olympics after having seen the flame go past.

The Torch handoff aboard the Paddlewheeler. Photo: Graham Ballantyne
The good: Torch handoff aboard the Paddlewheeler. The bad: tacky sloganeering by Olympic sponsors. Photo: Graham Ballantyne

Before the flame came truck after truck of logo-emblazoned vehicles and legions of paid street teams chanting advertising slogans and handing out branded trash. It cheapened the Olympics for me, and I wish I hadn’t come out to see it.

I am not against corporate sponsorship of the Olympic Games. I understand that it is necessary to offset the cost to taxpayers – and done right, could even enhance the experience. But too much focus on the sponsors is to the detriment of the sport.

I am a lover of parades and public festivals of all kinds. I love the feeling of being out in the fresh air, surrounded by your neighbours and together enjoying the creative expression of our community. The corporate sponsors’ participation is usually only a small part of the fun. This restraint is what keeps the event enjoyable. It’s not an intrinsic problem with the logos, but because advertising-driven participation is too often void of creativity and joy. Paying a bunch of twinkies to dance on a truck covered in your logo detracts from the hard work and passion that makes these kinds of events so wonderful.

I held off posting about my feelings about the event because I thought perhaps I was the lone Negative Nancy out there who was this disturbed by the overt sloganeering by sponsors like Coke and RBC. This morning, I read Chris Bryan’s editorial in the Newsleader, which expresses the same sentiment:

Arriving at this gorgeous park of ours for the event, I was prepared to feel that pride that comes out at so many of this city’s events—after all, we do “community” so well.

And then there I was, among this crowd of people, cheering “YES!” to answer a question of, not am I excited” or “proud.” Not even “honoured.”

Happy?

Then I realized Coke’s slogan is “Open Happiness.”

And then a video popped on the big screen with the bouncing Coke logo, imploring us to sing along: “The sun will come back tomorrow/There’s a message in the bottle…”

And later, we were treated to the “He shoots, he scores” ad from Coke that I confess actually gives me the shivers (in a good way). A little later, the MC said “Are you ready to create a better Canada?” which is apparently part of RBC’s program to encourage people to do something for a better country. Great idea. But then he went on to shout “Let’s do it with RBC! Put up those RBC tambourines and shake them around!”

And later: “RBC! That’s us!”

It felt to me that some of the big-name Olympic sponsors, Coke and RBC in particular, are looking at the Games sponsorship as just another ad opportunity, like buying space at the Superbowl. But to me, the Olympics ought to remain true to the ideal of humans striving to achieve their best in sport and in spirit. Corporations who see their sponsorship as a way of upholding those ideals are welcome. Advertising that distracts from the core experience is not.


Political Grinch

I need to be clear that I am speaking on behalf of Jen Arbo, here, and not Tenth to the Fraser. Tenth to the Fraser does not endorse any particular candidate.

Most Tenth to the Fraser readers will recognize that I generally write about things like gardening, lifestyles, spa treatments, local businesses, and people who don’t shovel their sidewalk. I usually leave the politic-y stuff to Will and Briana because, well, I am definitely no expert. But with election fever at an all time high and me having cast my ballot at the advance poll yesterday afternoon, coupled with the highly successful All Candidates Meeting that took place two nights ago, I’m actually paying attention to this election.

When I was a teenager not yet of an age where I could vote, my parents would agree to huge lawn signs  – and not just the little plastic ones – the enormous wooden kind that took two people and – gasp! – tools to install. I remember being incredibly mortified, like any proper self-respecting teenage girl, but I will be darned if I can remember what party those signs were for although I think it may have been the now-forgotten Socred Party. Funny how memory works. It wasn’t until years later when my parents started referring to me as “their tree-hugger daughter” that I even considered myself to be from a decidedly different political generation. 

I have always disliked politics and the grandstanding that tends to go with it. I have always felt that politicians aren’t speaking to or for me, and that they just get paid to sit around and tinker with the rules I live by and regardless of who is in power, all the tinkering in the world means very little because in the end, I’m still not rich and I’m still paying taxes. What I do know is that I see ads and find my face scrunching up involuntarily like the Grinch. “Eeeewwwww…. politics?” I say. I think money spent to grease the wheels of the political campaign machine is money better spent on charitable, environmental, or social projects. Less advertising, more money where the mouth is. Whenever there is an election, I generally only stay interested long enough to find out: where do I vote?

Once I have those figured out, I tune out. Because I can’t stand the “he said, she said” backstabbing,  name-calling that I see in mail outs, TV ads, newspaper ads, blah blah blah. I get sick of the machine. 

 STV is one of the few issues I haven’t bothered to tune out this election, primarly because I didn’t understand it when the machine started to roll. I’ve paid a fair amount of attention to both the yes and the no side of the issue, and I feel the yes side has done a much better job explaining it to me, illustrating the pros and cons to both options on the ballot. I also greatly appreciate the fact that the referendum has been appended to the election itself – thus reducing the cost (that ultimately I am bearing as a taxpayer) of staffing and running a referendum without an election to piggyback it on.

So, who gets my vote if I’m not paying attention? I vote Green in every election because I know that no matter what the agenda du jour is, or what the hot button issues are, there is at least some platform of the Green Party that I support.  I know that there is at least one commonality between my personal beliefs and that of the party I am voting for. Besides, I love rooting for the underdog. I vote Green not because I think there is a snowball’s chance in H-E-double hockey sticks that the Green Party might actually win anything, but because I know that to me, the Green Party is the least of all evils.  It might not be the best way to select a candidate – sort of like the ostrich in the sand technique –  but it works for me. I believe there is no such thing as a wasted vote, if you put the effort in to actually go and do it.

The democratic process is one I think we take for granted – especially those of us who lack personal first hand memories of losing loved ones while defending democracy in foreign countries. With apathy and consumer-driven materialism seemingly more common, and voter turn out sinking lower and lower (although I caught a tidbit on the news ticker this morning that says advance polls are showing huge turnout already – is that because of the upcoming long weekend or is that because people care more this year?), I’ve gotten into the habit of telling anyone who will listen that I am headed out to vote, as if by osmosis those who “don’t care” might just go and vote anyway. BC Elections’ current ad campaign, clearly designed to appeal to a hip and cool crowd, claims it’s a “5 minute process”.  For comparison’s sake, when I attended the advance poll yesterday, it took 7 minutes from the time I entered the building to the time my ballot was cast into the box. 

It’s often said (and joked) that if you don’t vote, you have no right to complain. And while amusing, there is a fairly sizable grain of truth to the adage. If you don’t participate in the process of electing, then you aren’t a part of a system that, by design, allows for complaining. I know I often feel helpless and I often feel like I don’t matter to various officials – whether municipal, provincial, or federal – but the fact is that I have the power to speak up. Yesterday I did. You should, too.

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