Monday, August 31, 2009

What I'm watching...

People always ask me what TV shows I watch so I thought I would write a bit about a few of them here.

True Blood: At first I thought this was a "Twilight" rip-off, but it's not even close. True Blood is set in modern day Louisiana and vampires (and more) actually exist and interact with humans. The True Blood vampire isn't exactly like the vampire you might know (if they drink your blood, you don't become one and vice versa). It is on HBO, Sunday at 9pm.

Hung: Takes place in modern day Detroit, which means that everything is falling apart, and is the story of a guy who becomes a male prostitute because he is down on his luck. I think that you will be disappointed if you think this show is about prostitution because I think it is really about relationships. The relationships between family, friends, co-workers, a city and its people, a country and its economy and most of all, the relationship will all have (or don't have) with money. HBO, Sunday at 10pm.

Nitro Circus: Is what would happen if the guys from Jackass actually knew what they were doing. Travis Pastrana and his friends do insane stunts like backflipping a motorbike between two buildings and jumping out of planes without parachutes. Now on Season 2, you can watch episodes on Can-con: at least one of the cast is Canadian!

Rob Dyrdek's Fantasy Factory: Imagine that you are a super rich pro-skateboarding who just finished three seasons of a hit show called Rob and Big. What do you do next? Build an office, skatepark, foam pit and more inside a huge warehouse in L.A. and film yourself doing whatever you want. Season 2 just started and you can watch episodes at

Mad Men: Probably the best show on TV. Blogged about it a bunch of times... 1960's advertising agency in Manhattan. Sunday nights, AMC. 10pm and 11pm (repeat).

Entourage: just tweeted about how this show is fading fast....

The Aftershow: Anyone who really knows me will attest to the fact that I am pop culture fanatic because I find it strangely fascinating. Like watching a car accident. I also think Dan Levy and Jessi Cruikshank have great chemistry and are hilarious in that they often see the same lameness in celebrities that I see. Airs Monday to Thursday on MTV but like all their shows, you can watch at

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Marketing at Movie Theaters

Going to see a movie is quite the experience. If you're going to a Silvercity type set up, as I did last night to see Disctrict 9 (great movie) then you're in for a real treat. Lights and sounds everywhere.

You are also surrounded by marketing. Posters, advertisements, magazines... on one hand you would think that you are there to see a movie but I actually believe you are there to be marketed to.

In order to get to your seat, you have to find your theater. On the way there, you walk past elaborate "set ups" promoting up coming features. Now I have to admit that these are often very clever. For example, the Woodstock movie had a black light poster.

Once in your seat, you are subjected to a rolling series of ads and "advertainment" type screens that pretend to ask questions about celebreties. "Which star of the upcoming movie about George's Hamilton's life grew up in Texas? Answer: Renee Zellweger who stars in ____ out this month!".

For the first time ever, somebody actually got up in front of the audience to "pitch" us something. It was somebody from St. Lawrence College talking about finding jobs... I was so shocked that I couldn't really catch what she was saying, but I have to hand it to them... pretty clever but not sure how many people would have been receptive.

Then, the "movie" finally starts but first you have to get past a number of "real" ads like you'd see on TV. However I have noticed in every movie I have seen recently that Coke seems to play that ad with the eyeball and toungues at least twice in a row. Do they have any idea that this is annoying??

I work in marketing so I get it. And I know that advertising prior to movies does get attention... but I just wonder why I have to pay for the movie and then have to suffer through all of the advertisements.

I am starting to think that there might be a niche market developing for a movie experience that is advertisement free....

Monday, August 24, 2009

Employment Insurance (If you can get it)

For those of you that don't know, my last company closed my office in June. This means that I am eligible for Employment Insurance benefits. I figure that because I am eligible and because I have paid the premiums for years, I might as well collect.

I won't go through all of the conditions but I will tell you that in order to collect you need complete an application - which you can do online through the Services Canada website - and receive a completed Record of Employment from your previous employer. The completing of the application is really not that difficult. In my case, it was even easier because I have a ePass account that I use to submit and track my taxes with the Canada Revenue Agency.

Of course, the system isn't exactly the greatest, but it does work. The problem that I have had is that getting a record of employment (ROE) has been an absolute nightmare.

Technically (I would say legally but I suppose that does not mean anything) I was supposed to get an ROE within 5 days of finishing work.. and I finished work on June 30th.

The problem is that my former employer is based in the US and has dealt with two payroll processing companies during the time that I worked. Neither company could issue a single ROE for the time that I worked so I have had to get two ROEs. The first one was submitted electronically - good enough - but the second one (physical version) I received just last Friday.

Unfortunately for me, the ROE that was submitted electronically and automatically attached my application (which is good because technically the ROE should be complete and correct). In my case the electronic ROE had too few hours to qualify me and I was rejected. I have had the file reopened and escalated but I have to wait another week to get the case reviewed.

So I'm rounding the corner on two months out of work and I'm still not getting any EI!!!!

Gotta love it. So what is my advice for those that find themselves in this situation:

1) Although leaving a company is hectic, always ask for an ROE before you leave so they can get the ball rolling. Get a physical version if it is easier so you can verify it but ideally they should file it electronically.

2) Complete your application ASAP. You don't need to wait to get an ROE to fill out the application. If you don't have an ROE, the application will just sit there until the ROE is attached and then it will be automatically submitted. Apparently, you can lose benefits if you don't file.

3) Use the Services Canada Website

4) Complete your reports every two weeks, even if your application has not been approved. When you collect EI, you need to tell the government every two weeks that you are looking for work and you are willing to work... this is a condition of EI... so you need to complete reports to that effect. You can do them on the phone or maybe in person but trust me - the web version is easy.

5) Keep records. I can't stress this one enough.. keep copies and notes on everything you do and when you do it. Comes in handy when things get messy.

Monday, August 17, 2009

BMW and Mad Men

I have blogged about Mad Men before... great show on AMC about a 1960's Madison Avenue Advertising firm. The show is not only a portrait of 60's culture, but also an interesting lens into the world of advertising.

Oddly enough, I was also reading the recent issue of Vanity Fair with Farah Fawcett on the cover. It has a pretty extensive article about the show and a photo shoot with John Hamm (Don Draper) and January Jones (Betty Draper).

But what really hit me was the huge fold out advertisment for BMW that is promoting the North American debute of their new diesel engine. You can see the ad and read a bit more about the deal between the companies here. You can see one of the ads here.

Is this a good call or a bad call for BMW?

I suppose that would depend on how much they paid for the rights to sponsor the show... but my guess is that this really isn't going to be a game changer for BMW.

My guess is that people purchase BMW's because they are exactly what they have marketed themselves as for the last decade or so: "The Ultimate Driving Machine".

People don't buy BMW's because they are the "Ultimate Green Driving Machine".

And for this reason, I think they might have missed the boat this one. Plus, I also think that while Mad Men may appear to be a "slick" show about sophisticated men... it's not.

Mad Men is as much about women, and their place in the changing society of the 1960's as it is the men. And the men.. well they are all starting to flounder at what I can only imagine is the beginning of the end for the male dominated society of the day. Roger Sterling, the silver haired head of Sterling Cooper is reeling from a divorce, Don Draper is cracking trying to pull himself together after cracking at the seams in Season 2 and Pete Campbell is going to have to learn to play nice or he's out.

Watch the show and let me know what you think. Comments are always welcome.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Mama, I'm coming home!

It's official! I have settled into my life in Ottawa.

I arrived on Monday night, spent Tuesday painting my sister's basement with my brother in law and then had an interview today. I also picked up my stuff from Greyhound this afternoon.

In case you didn't know - Greyhound Express Courier is a great alternative to movers if you don't have too much stuff.

I shipped about 9 bags/boxes from Vancouver and it was only 75 cents a pound. When I used movers last time (I had more stuff) it was about 600 for 500 pounds and then a dollar per pound on top. There are restrictions on the size of items you can ship and the weight, my boxes got trashed but all in all, I think everything made it here in one week, in one piece.

I am going to spend some time in the next few days updating the design of my site... I suppose that I'll need to swap out anything that screams Vancouver (but I don't want to lose my masthead image).

Monday, August 10, 2009

Last words

I'm at the airport, waiting to board my flight to Ottawa.

Despite the fact that it's been an amazing summer, it's raining today. Fitting.

Even worse, the forecast is for thundershowers when I get into Ottawa. Great.

So long Vancouver!

Monday, August 3, 2009

So Long Vancouver

This will probably be my last post from Vancouver. I am in the process of packing up, selling and giving away as much of my stuff as I can, so that I can get back to Ottaway on August 12th.

Vancouver has been a great city to work in but the reality is that there are more opportunities in Ottawa, Toronto and Montreal than there are in Vancouver.

Selling my stuff on online has been interesting. It's like looking for a job and my goods are no different than myself. I create an online ad for the item (like a profile on LinkedIn), somebody calls that is interested (like setting up an interview), the come over to see the item (interview) and then decided if they want it or not (ie: make an offer). Sometimes they are not interested, sometimes they don't call back and sometimes they buy.

And much like the job market, I think the market for second hand good is suffering from over-supply right now. Talent, much like jobs, can be a real bargain in these days. I think that most hiring firms understand this and so they aren't too quick to make offers. Others are more careful with their money, as it too is hard to come by these days. Still more are in no rush to do anything at all.

Smart firms, like smart people, are taking this time to stock up on good deals. When things pick back up in a year or two, I think the economy is really going to start buzzing again.

So, what can I say to sum up my time in Vancouver? It was a real roller coaster ride.

I arrived in August 2007, had to deal with find a place to live, moving in and getting set up. I started school at the end of August and Orientation was a blast. The Core was intense and lasted through early December. Then it was time to find internships and I ended up with a full time job. Last summer was great, the fall was also pretty good but then once the economy got really bad everything started to fall apart. Doing school part time was demanding, work was even more so and the next thing I know, I am graduating from school and my office being closed.

However, finishing school and moving from Vancouver marks the end of what I would refer to as the second phase of my life. The first was until the end of university, the second will be until August 12th when I move back and the third... well... that is waiting for me.

I am going to be an uncle for the third time in 2010. I am going to be able to ski more and enjoy my free time more. I want to get more serious about biking so I'll get an awesome road bike. I am going to start painting more again as well. And I am going to get a great job that really kick starts the next phase of my career.

Will I miss Vancouver? Of course.

Vancouver is an amazing city. The weather is not even nearly as bad as people think... in fact this summer has been unbelievable. There are great restaurants, bars, beaches and parks. British Columbia is by far one of the most beautiful and diverse provinces I have visited and I am really glad I got a chance to live here for a few years.

It's been great Vancouver. Good luck with the Olympics!