Discovering Iceland: Eye Opening Facts About Icelandic History

Church in the northern town of Holmavik.

Church in the northern town of Holmavik.

In part two of my three part series on my recent travels to Iceland, I’ll be focusing on interesting and fun facts about Icelandic history, including how Iceland is historically connected to Canada.

It was a definite eye opener traversing through the Icelandic Museum of Witchcraft and Sorcery in the quaint northern town of Holmavik, appropriately enough, on Halloween and then the Viking World Museum in the airport town of Keflavik.

It was fun, enlightening and definitely worth the visit. So without further ado, here are some really cool facts that I learned about Icelandic history. If you’re curious about business in Iceland, check out part one of Discovering Iceland for an overview of Iceland’s tech industry.

Delving into Iceland’s Sordid Witchcraft Past

Icelandic Museum of Witchcraft and Sorcery

Icelandic Museum of Witchcraft and Sorcery

The Icelandic Museum of Witchcraft and Sorcery might be on the small side, but it was chalk full of eye opening bits of history and artifacts.

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One of the coolest things we came across was an actual stone bowl that held the only evidence that the Vikings held conducted ritual blood sacrifices. There was still dried blood in the bowl.

Letter from the Journalist

Letter from the Journalist

Beyond that, there was a creepy true story in the form of a letter from a journalist who visited the museum, who had purchased a talisman in the form of a necklace, hoping that it’d cure him of a recent toothache. Instead of a cure, everything went wrong. Once he sent it back, however, everything went back to normal.

The handy guidebooks we were given also had a plethora of different spells and incantations using different grimores and symbols. There were spells for invisibility, catching a thief, healing minor wounds and protecting livestock.

However, there was an entirely darker and more sinister side to the spells as well. People had been accused of harming livestock, causing ships to crash along the shores and making their neighbors to fall ill.

List of those executed for witchcraft.

List of those executed for witchcraft.

One of the most eye opening facts that stuck with me out of the entire excursion to the Icelandic Museum of Witchcraft and Sorcery is that Icelandic witchcraft history is almost EXACTLY the inverse of the Salem Witch Trials across the border in the US. Of those 21 people accused and executed, only ONE of them was a woman. That’s right, witchcraft in Iceland, historically, was practiced by men. In fact, based on the museum exhibits, there was only one spell really, that women were commonly known to have conjured and it involved creating their own monstrous ‘pets’ that grew out of their thighs and that needed to be fed human milk. I couldn’t see the use of that particular spell during the 1660s so I moved on pretty quick after reading that.

Re-enactment of raising the dead.

Re-enactment of raising the dead.

The first man to be accused of witchcraft and burned at the stake in 1652, Jón Rõgnvaldsson, had been accused of raising the dead. Clearly, even though that word wasn’t in use at the time, Icelanders feared the idea of zombies. Just seeing the creepy re-enactment on the floor of the museum was enough for your skin to crawl. It was by far, the most unique case of witchcraft I came across. Others had been accused of controlling predatory animals such as foxes to kill livestock, causing their neighbors to fall ill or stealing money and valuables.

Not surprisingly, many of those doing the accusing held positions of political power, something Iceland’s witchcraft past shares with Salem. You had mayors and magistrates doing the accusing or their family members leveraging said relationships to get people they hated into court. Of course, these judges and mayors also found themselves accused from time to time and while their influence was usually kept them from execution, they weren’t always so lucky.

The Sorcerer's Cottage

The Sorcerer’s Cottage

We traveled to the Sorcerer’s Cottage, about half an hour away from the Icelandic Museum of Witchcraft and Sorcery to see the flip side of how the people who often got accused, used to live. Indeed, most of the people who were accused of witchcraft were poor fishermen and their families who lived in one-room cottages and who barely scraped by when it came to food and hunting enough animals to create warm clothing for the winter. They built their homes from discarded driftwood and really didn’t have the means or the resources to often defend themselves from accusations of witchcraft. The prevailing belief was that they turned to the supernatural to try and raise their stations in life, even if that belief turned out to be false.

How the Vikings Have a Connection to Canada

Statue outside the Viking World Museum

Statue outside the Viking World Museum

On our second to last day in Iceland, we stopped in at the Viking World Museum in the airport town of Keflavik as my husband had been wanting to take in some Viking history on this trip.

Boats used for Viking funerals

Boats used for Viking funerals

Notable exhibits included a replica of the ships that were used for Viking funerals, filled with objects that meant something to the deceased in life and that would carry them on the journey to Valhalla. The boats were then lit on fire and pushed out into the water on their journey. I also enjoyed taking a look at the exhibit featuring the quern stone which indicated that early settlers to Iceland had tried-and failed-in their attempts to grind local lyme grass into flour.

The Yggardsil World Tree

The Yggdrasil World Tree

There was even an interesting exhibition on Norse mythology known as Fate of the Gods with all the pieces put together by contemporary Icelandic artists and featuring the World Tree, otherwise known as Yggdrasil. Marvel Cinematic nerds like me will recognize that name as the tree that connects all the worlds together, meaning Asgard to Midgard (Earth), Helheim and more.

The replica Íslendingur Viking ship

The replica Íslendingur Viking ship

However, the most eye opening part of the Viking World Museum was definitely how the Vikings were connected and continue to be connected to Canada. By now, I’m sure many people have heard about how ruins of a Viking settlement had been found in Newfoundland and Labrador and that Leifur Eirikkson had made the journey to Canada approximately around 870 AD. In fact, artifacts known as Tupliaks, carved by Canada’s Inuit population have been found in Iceland, indicating that they’d come in contact with Eirikkson’s Vikings and conducted trade.

Commemorative gifts from the Íslendingur's voyage to Newfoundland

Commemorative gifts from the Íslendingur’s voyage to Newfoundland

The talented shipwright, Gunnar Eggertsson, re-created a replica of Eirikkson’s ship known as Íslendingur, which he sailed to North America in 2000 to commemorate Leifur Eirikkson’s journey to the New World 1000 years before. The ship arrived in Newfoundland in July 2000 and the Special Celebrations Corporation of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, hosted a magor celebration on July 28, when the Íslendingur arrived in L’anse aux Meadows, the only authenticated Viking site in North America. They received several gifts from the mayor and the delegation to commemorate the anniversary, including a commemorative plaque, Tupliaks, a commemorative plate and even a soapstone carving. Íslendingur was suspended on ropes and we could walk onto the deck of it and remarkably, considering the ship was built in 1995 and it endured such a long journey, it was in great shape. It was definitely humbling to walk on the deck of something that had been built by hand and re-created one of the greatest historical journeys connecting Iceland to Canada.

Stay tuned for part three of my blog series on Discovering Iceland, this time focusing on aspects of the Icelandic lifestyle. In the meantime, check out my insights on the Icelandic tech industry in Discovering Iceland Part 1.

 

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Essential tips for traveling with kids

family-camping-food-menu

It’s been many a month since I last posted on this blog. Projects for clients and other companies took precedence, but I’ve learned a lot along the way that I hope to share with you soon. Here’s hoping for more bigger and better marketing, social media and business posts filled with insightful advice-due to arrive ASAP!

In the meantime, here’s a reblog of the post that I wrote for MEC on traveling with kids. For parents looking to make family trips a little easier, enjoy!

Whether you’re planning a long road trip, a fall camping vacation or a first-time visit to a different city, travelling with kids is a great opportunity to build some family memories. But as any parent knows, things can get a little crazy when you add little travellers to the mix. Use this list of tips to keep everyone (adults included) happy and your trip running smoothly.

Choose lightweight luggage

When you’re travelling with kids, it’s important to make sure that you have enough lightweight compact storage to keep their clothes, toys and snacks in order. Look for bags that can pack away when you’re not using them to save space, like the Travel Light Duffle. It has plenty of room and can fold into its own pocket to stash during or away after your trip.

Even the littlest explorer wants a bit of independence from mom and dad. Equip your kids with their own small daysack that has room for a toy, snack and water bottle, so that they can stay hydrated, happy and feeling grown up (and you have one less thing to carry). The Littlelife Animal Daysack comes in neat shapes for kids that like nature. Find out what other features to look for when you’re choosing a kids’ backpack.

Pack portable fun

board-game

When you’re traveling for hours – whether it’s a long drive to your campsite or an international flight to see new cities – keep the kids entertained with a portable game that won’t drain any batteries or need a power outlet. They’ll be too busy having fun to ask the dreaded, “Are we there yet?”

Layer up

It’s good to be prepared for anything the weather might bring – and this is where layering comes in handy. Layer a fleece jacket under your kid’s water-resistant outer shell to keep them warm and dry if it starts to drizzle, or just use the fleece jacket for cool nights. Some ideas? The Yeti Hooded Jacket or the Cocoon Reversible Jacket.

Don’t forget about yourself either – it’s important for you to be comfortable when you’re wrangling the family from point A to B. The waterproof-breathable Alpine Ally Jacket has deep pockets that gives parents quick access to essential items like bug spray. It’s also super lightweight, which allows for easy movement when you’re chasing after kids or tucking them into their sleeping bags.

Let the Kids Be the Chefs

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Build a mobile pantry with all the fixings for trail mix in separate food containers, so that everyone can create their own combinations. You can also let the kids create a fun dessert like s’mores – they’ll like camping that much more when they have a say into what’s on the menu.

Pack cutlery and bowls that don’t have sharp edges, are small enough to be held by little hands and can easily flatten to save room, so that you can call on help from the whole family to make clean up that much quicker.

Give Them the Chance to Explore

explorer-kid

One of the best reasons to bring kids on a road trip is so they can explore nature in new places, which means mud, dirt, leaves and puddles. Look for waterproof boots made with parents in mind, like these Stonz Rain Bootz – they’re easy to pull on and off as the weather changes. That means you can let your little ones wander (within reason!) through the woods, without worrying about wet feet.

Prep for naptime

When you’re on a hike and the kids get tired, give your arms a break and strap them into a comfortable carrier. They’ll be off their feet and shielded from the rain, giving them an opportunity to rest up for the next fun activity.

Bring the first aid kit

Scrapes and bruises are bound to happen when you’re travelling with kids. Keep the first aid kit on hand to help bandage any minor bumps quickly so you can get back to enjoying your vacation as soon as possible.

These simple tips will help you keep everyone happy on your next family vacation. By prepping ahead of time, you’ll have a memorable trip with the kids that’ll have you planning your next vacation as soon as you get home.

Original Blog Post

Cinematic Pleasure and a Little Glamour: The 2012 Victoria Film Festival Opening Gala

Part I: The Film

Buffet Table @ 2012 Victoria Film Festival Opening Gala

As this was my third consecutive year attending the Victoria Film Fest’s opening gala, I had a general idea of what to expect. I knew they were going to be showing a pre-selected film for the first time at the gala and there was going to be an event afterwards where there would be music, as well as great food and wine.

What I didn’t know was how I would feel about the film. Sure, I’d read the synopsis for the French film “House of Pleasures” otherwise known as “House of Tolerance” or “L’Apollonide (Souvenirs de la maison close)” and I was intrigued, but I didn’t really know what to expect. At this point, my record for films at the opening gala was 1-1, I loved last year’s Japanese Film “Chef of the South Polar”, but I couldn’t stand the French film I saw my first year, “Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky”. As a result, walking into the Empire Theatre, I was cautiously optimistic but also a little excited.

The other unknown was how they would open the film. The year before, they opened with a crowd of volunteers as a flash mob, with cupcakes for everyone in the audience. This year, there were a few more surprises. Because it was first year that Swiss films were getting its own showcase at the film fest, the Consulate General of Switzerland was flown in and he gave a speech on how proud he was that Swiss films at a presence at the film fest. There was also a goodbye given to the film projector. For those of you who are more educated in the cinematic arts and use equipment in the industry on a regular basis, perhaps you knew that theatres no longer used projectors and had fully transitioned over to using digital; but it was news to me.

It was a little sad to see technology that had been strong and fully ingrained in film culture for over a hundred years finally be put to rest; though the hilarious slideshow with horrible photo editing that accompanied the mock funeral lightened the mood.

As I said before, my previous experience with French films wasn’t the greatest, but I wanted to give it another go. After all, I’d grown up watching Chinese films, both in my native Cantonese and in Mandarin and God knows, not every single one of them was a hit to me either.

For people who haven’t seen the film and who are waiting to see it either at Sips ‘N Cinema or the regular film showing on Sunday or waiting to rent it, I’ll do my best not to spoil too much of the film for you, but be warned, there are spoilers ahead.

To me, the film was essentially trying to portray the other side of life in a brothel in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The film wanted to show that the women who worked in the brothel were not just sexual objects who were paid to satisfy the urges of rich aristocrats who were bored, but that they were human too, with real issues and emotions that deserved empathy and understanding from the outside world.

I think that the director, Bertrand Bonello, succeeded in accomplishing this goal. If nothing else, I did sympathize with the women who lived and worked in the brothel and understand that they often chose to stay and do what they did because there was no alternative. The film even took it one step further and made the madam of the brothel, Marie-France, sympathetic. You hear stories of madams who own brothels as greedy, selfish women who exploit the women who work for them, who don’t care about their pain or any abuse they may have suffered; all they care about is making a profit.

With Marie-France, you get the real sense that she is struggling to keep the brothel open and it really has nothing to do with turning a profit. She is a single mother in the film, working to raise a young son and daughter and she too has a history with the brothel, L’Apollonide. Like the women she employed, she also once worked for the brothel herself but she was able to earn enough money and rise above poverty to buy the brothel herself. It’s a real success story, if you ask me, one that was rare for women of that time period. You also get the sense that although she is strict about the women paying their debts, she really does care for them. She spends time with them on outings and later on the film, she also keeps and find a place for two of her girls who are permanently injured and sick. Maybe I’m painting Marie-France out to be more a sympathetic character than she truly is, but she IS the most empathetic madam I’d ever seen on screen.

As for the girls, the film opens with one of the main characters, Madeleine, being attacked by one of her regular customers and given what’s known as a “Glasgow Smile” (if you don’t know what that is, I’d suggest looking up the historical significance on Wikipedia and/or watching the film “The Dark Knight”. On a side note, when my partner leaned over and whispered to me “Why so serious”, I nearly jumped out of my skin.) The Glasgow smile permanently scars Madeleine’s face and as a result, she hides away from interacting with clients most of the time and instead helps out in the kitchen and with the rest of the housework. Her scarring is an event that the film returns to over and over, each time more graphic than the last, perhaps because Madeleine herself keeps thinking about the event herself.

The other girls also have their own set of problems. Clotilde, who reminded me of Maggie Gyllenhaal with sharper, more angular features; is one of the oldest girls at 28, having been there for 12 years. She makes no secret of the fact that she is tired and depressed with her lot in life and wants desperately to leave the brothel. She even goes as far as to say that if her regular client, Micheux, pays off her debts, she’ll marry him. Eventually, Micheux tires of her, wanting someone who can be happy spending time with him and Clotilde turns to drugs (presumably opium) to ease her pain.

For Julie (nicknamed Caca), Samira, & Lea, their struggles primarily seem to deal with their lack of control over the needs of regular clients (though not abusive, can be repetitive and boring) and while they don’t love their regular clients, it feels good to have a patron take care of them. For Julie, that desire to stay a man’s primary mistress grows into a genuine need to be loved as the film goes on.

And finally, onto Pauline, the newest and youngest member of the brothel at 15. She is the only one in the film that you see join the brothel out of her own free will, borne out of the desire to make her money and see the world for herself. Though she is awkward at first, you never get the sense that she is bitter or depressed about her situation. It seems like she’s trying out an experiment of sorts by working at the brothel and in spite of what the other girls tell her about owing debt, she always firmly believes that she can leave on her own accord.

It was the personal stories of the girls and a few funny moments, such as Pauline quipping after her first job that it wasn’t easy to have sex in a bathtub filled with champagne, but she did it anyway; that made the film more enjoyable to me than it otherwise would have been. About halfway through, the film starts to lag and all the stories become convoluted. It may be because I don’t understand the French editing style of cinematography, but I found that the film jumping from scene to scene and character to character detrimental to the movie and completely unnecessary. It made the characters’ stories hard to follow and some scenes even had music cutting in and out at varying volumes, which only served as an annoyance.

I’ve heard several theories regarding the film’s ending and I’m not sure what to make of any of them or the ending itself. I will say that in spite of the drawbacks, this film was better than the last French film I’d seen, as I did care for the characters. I hope that you’ll see the film for yourselves and come to your own conclusions. If nothing else, it’s a film that causes you to sympathize and empathize with women in a profession that you may have never given a thought to.

Part 2: The Gala

Smoked Salmon Crostini with Lapsang Souchang infused Creme Fraiche

After the film was over, we walked across the street to the Atrium where the gala was being held. The Atrium is the perfect venue for the gala because of the wide open space and the acoustics, thanks to the architecture of the ceiling. We walked in with the red, or rather, pink carpet treatment with pretend cardboard cut-outs of photographers snapping photos of us.

We walked into the main concourse, already filling up with people. We managed to make it through the crowd to the buffet table and enjoy some of the food laid out by volunteers. It was one of the best tables of hors oeuvres I’d ever seen. Put on by Spinnakers Gastro Brew Pub, there was everything there from Gulf Island shrimp & spinach local free range egg roulade and Cortes Island oysters raw on the half shell with pink peppercorn mignonette to roasted beet carpaccio and Victoria gin cured wild sockeye salmon. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to try everything on the menu, given how many people were at the table.

Out of all of the food I tried though, the smoked salmon was my favorite and it paired really well with the tart tang of the grapefruit martini I was sipping. As we walked around, mingling with the crowds and enjoying our drinks, we snapped our own photos of the décor, the food and the crowds milling about on the concourse.

As the music from two local DJs pulsed through the room, we spotted a robot that someone had built, sitting on a chair. It was really neat because it responded to people’s movements and dialogue by moving its head and having the lights that were on its body flicker on and off. There was also a display that paid a fitting tribute to the film projector that we snapped a photo of.

It was a great night, all in all and I loved having the opportunity to be there and to experience an interesting film and a great gala, once again in an amazing venue. It’s one of my favourite events of the year and I definitely look forward to it every year. If you haven’t been, I highly suggest that you try it out next year it’s definitely worth the admission price. J I do plan to see at least a few more films this weekend, so you’ll see a few more reviews in the coming days.

-Lilian

P.S. Photos to come, editing them is taking a little longer than I thought.

P.P.S And they’re done!

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Is The Album Cover-Art a Dying Art Form? (via Leading Us Absurd)

Great post I just read recently, it raises some very interesting points on the evolution or de-evolution if you will, of album art today.

I personally think that there is definitely a lack of creativity with album art and certainly, in many cases it may not reflect the thoughts or feelings of the artist(s) themselves.

Is The Album Cover-Art a Dying Art Form?   I recently read an article in the New York Times that discussed the shrinking of album artwork. The piece argued that elaborate cover art seems to be out of fashion, and its in place artists are opting for simple designs that can be fully seen on computers and iPods. The close-up of Lady Gaga's face for Born This Way, and the Red Hot Chili Pepper's fly on a pill for I'm With You were cited as examples. While cover-art certainly isn't indic … Read More

via Leading Us Absurd

The Revitalization of In Retrospect

Years ago, I created this blog primarily as an extension of my portfolio, a platform in which I could freely discuss everyday topics in relation to the advertising industry and at times; how current events (ie. the Presidential race of 2008) impacted, informed and shaped how the general public received and engaged in everyday communication. Moreover, In Retrospect as a blog was also about the connections we make with each other are often thought to be of simple necessity, with little or no regard paid to the actual implications & perceptions of how we communicate.  

For example, how much time do any of us really spend thinking about why and how certain forms of communications work in a given situation? What about the artistic value that’s hidden within different forms of communication?  An example from my past comes to mind, where a customer who spoke heavily accented English became incredibly frustrated and angry when I had trouble understanding his words and claimed I had wasted his time. And yet, less than two minutes later, a gentleman who was deaf managed to let me know what he was looking for within 5 minutes and ten minutes later, left satisfied and happy.  In such a scenario, how much time do we spend, if any at all, thinking about how someone who has the ability of speech could communicate so poorly and yet someone who has not the ability to speak nor hear can still get his point across? Why is it that one form of communication worked in that scenario and yet another didn’t?

With In Retrospect, I also questioned how much society pays attention to the innate artistic value within communication. Years ago, I was riding public transit on the way home and spotted two young male teens, friends who were on their respective cell phones, texting back and forth. To my surprise, in spite of the cell phones, both of the young men corresponded together on the train via sign language; they were both deaf. One may question why two deaf individuals needed a phone, but my perception of the entire scene had me wondering about the value of communication, how so many of us disregard and disrespect how much of a key role it plays in our day to day lives. And yet, here were two individuals from a demographic that traditionally is known for disrespecting each other verbally and otherwise and not recognizing the repercussions of negative forms of communication and they were able to successfully communicate and forge a connection through a form of communication other than speech, artistically beautiful in its intricacy.

Eventually, I felt that certain topics and the inspiration behind In Retrospect had faded for me; indeed, several events after the last entry deeply affected my ability to write and create topics and discussions of interest surrounding advertising and the importance of communication. In the years since the last entry, numerous attempts to revitalize the blog have encountered a writer’s block; an inability to discover a topic so compelling, so unique, that it spurred my creative muse again.

Today, as I compose my first blog post for In Retrospect in nearly two years, I can confidently say that the muse has returned home. A much-anticipated move coupled with connections established within a new network as well as growth in new personal interests, has given me new inspiration and indeed, new hope towards writing about topics and interests that I would have never believed I would write about years ago.

As I continue to re-vitalize and re-energize In Retrospect into more than what it used to be, I hope that you will continue to read, enjoy and express your opinions in regards to the topics in question. As In Retrospect has become more than the extension of my portfolio, it is now the arena in which I express my views and stretch the limitations of my creative muse. So, experience, enjoy and give your valuable comments freely as you will.

Selling Health: Advertising Drugs as the Solution

Within the last ten to twelve years, I’ve noticed an influx of commercials advertising different drugs, everything from erectile dysfunction to depression. Recently, I discovered that this practice is illegal in Canada, and yet we’re able to see such commercials because we have many American channels on satellite or digital cable. At first I found these commercials to be humorous but also pointless as the laundry list of side effects would be enough to convince me not to take the drug. However, recently I’ve also come to understand how marketing comes into play with such medication, because the underlying perception in our society is still that prescription drugs are somehow are effective than those we can simply purchase on our own in the drugstore.

With that being said, there are also other techniques used by such companies that convince people to talk to their doctors about medication such as Celebrex or Viagra. They use images of healthy, happy people who have become that way because the drugs have cured their depression or their allergies. Every day conditions such as allergies and the common cold have been re-branded into being sold as diseases and as such the underlying message is that medication must be purchased in order to heal people from such afflictions.

Moreover, I personally admit that companies such as Pfizer have ingenious marketing departments. Pfizer’s recent campaign featuring the ‘What Can We Do’ and “Graffiti’ commercials focuses on the human element to better health, becoming more brave, loving your families and enjoying the little things in life. Pfizer is bold enough to proclaim that sometimes ‘it takes more than medication’ in an attempt to market themselves as believing in alternative ways to better health, in spite being one of the two largest pharmaceutical companies in the world. Keep in mind, however, alternative in this sense does not mean alternative medicine. Although society is increasingly accepting of methods such as herbal medicine, acupuncture and naturopathy, these methods are in direct competition with pharmaceutical companies and in traditional mediums, such as television; pharmaceutical companies rule. Western medicine is still trying to convince its audience that the answers to their problems are found at the bottom of a pill bottle.

As I mentioned previously, the companies often do not create new medication for new diseases, rather they re-brand old diseases with new names and everyday conditions into diseases that previously thought of as being normal, such as acid reflux, which is now called gastro-esophageal reflux disease, which sounds much more serious and in much more need of medication to deal with it. I’ve recently learned that this is called the commodification of health and the medicalization of the human experience.

With this so called new influx of drugs and diseases, so brings in more fear in society about our health. The relationship with our doctors simply becomes a delivery system for these drugs, which doctors are pressured into pushing because of free incentives they receive from pharmaceutical companies. It is a world where increasingly, we cannot trust the information internet websites on the most effective medication, nor what we hear on the news.

In essence, all we are able to do as patients and consumers is tread carefully into the world of medication and learn as much as we can from patient advocacy groups and literature written by proven medical scientists and professionals. Without this knowledge, we are doing nothing but walking into a field of land mines.

Marketing Disillusions: The Purpose of a Higher Education

As I approach the end of my post secondary career, at least for all intents and purpose thus far; I find myself increasing disillusioned with the purpose of my degree.

Many people I have spoken to have said that the light is at the end of the tunnel and that for better or for worse, I will have completed my higher education with more knowledge than I entered in with. But for what purpose? Increasingly, I have found myself thinking that the purpose of a degree is to convince potential employers (and clients, in my case) that I have the qualifications to successfully compete for and do the job that I set out to do. However, is experience not just as vital if not more so than qualifications?

I suppose the question is how one defines the term ‘qualifications’. In my all-too-brief stints in the working world, which increasingly informs my experience in marketing and advertising, I believe that it is the tasks I complete that give me the qualifications; not my education. Why do I say this, you may ask? As I attend a traditional university, much if not all of what we are taught is theoretical. We are not given opportunities to apply such so-called knowledge outside of the confines of projects contained within the lecture hall. This is an enormous difference from that of more applied post secondary institutions, of which the one I worked at the latter half of last year fits into.

In my institution, nearly any and all applied experience we must go out and seek ourselves, much of it through our co-operative education program, of which I am a huge supporter of and participant in myself. In the applied institutions, however, your practical experience is integrated into the very fabric of your education.

For example, at the institution where I was a staff member for all too brief of a time, their MBA students were given projects, not from the professor or instructor, but from actual businesses looking for help at no cost. This help is in the form of business or marketing plans as well as other projects. These students also have the option of creating their own plans for their own start-up businesses. Throughout the process, the students’ plans are judged by three different independent panels of potential investors; therefore giving them the opportunity to see whether or not their businesses will succeed. This is an element that I find myself wishing frequently was available in more traditional educational institutions. As one struggling with a part-time freelance writing business in the marketing and advertising field myself, I believe there would have been many pointers and opportunities for advice that I could have received.

It is not as though I rely strictly on school to assist me with my business or searches for work experience however. I have attended networking events and have a student membership in the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) in an attempt to grow my network, obtain advice and gain work. But, it would have assisted me greatly had I had such applied opportunities integrated into my degree.

There are those who will disagree with me on the purpose of a degree. But the fact remains that my education will not teach me how to craft a brochure for a graphic designer, or a website for a photographer. Each client’s needs are distinct and separate from another, as are their target audiences. These are skills learned through trial and error, to which I have no teacher other than my own two hands and communication with my client. In my institution, my writing abilities extend strictly to academic forms of writing, which assist me little in my business or work experience as I do not intend to move to higher forms of post secondary education.

There is a debate then, between the importance of theoretical and practical knowledge. As I have said before, I find myself increasingly disillusioned as much of the courses I am forced to endure to complete my degree have little or nothing to do with my career path. Those that I do take an interest in, I somehow think that the option is still available to me to obtain books, articles and alike on such subject matter without having to pay tuition in order to gain such knowledge. The argument of course, can be made that the chances of my being willing to go out and search for such material is slim to none; nevertheless the opportunity is available to me.

I suppose the second debate would be on the definition of qualifications. All the jobs in my field, communications, that I have discovered, all explicitly state experience as their first preference, with the degree as a secondary point.  One could then venture a guess that experience is the most important qualification when seeking employment. The degree then, is simply there to convince the individuals/company that you are marketing your skills to, that you have the training to excel at the position in question. Again, as I have said before, however, my theoretical knowledge obtained in completing my degree has done little or nothing to assist me in creating a solid, attractive and creative advertising piece for a client.

So is there anything that remains to be done in this circumstance? The fact of the matter remains that I will not get farther in my career path without my degree, whatever the true reasons for having one. And thus, with a year and half to go, I suppose my only recourse is to continually seek employment and freelance opportunities and to bite the bullet and complete the last of my academic experience.

Sensationalistic Paranormality: The Presence of the Unknown in Everyday Life

This is an article that I write as a long time fan and believer in all things paranormal.  In today’s society, there is an influx of media and entertainment focused on the supernatural and paranormal activity.

 

The question is: why? And what is it about such a phenomenon that appeals to North American society?

 

I can’t speak for society, but I do know what has continually fascinated me about the paranormal, and that is its mystique, the fact that by and large, the origins of it all are unknown. In general, humanity fears what they cannot understand, and while I would have to agree on this, as there are elements of the paranormal I fear, thanks in no part to popular entertainment throughout the years; the mystery intrigues rather than frightens me.

 

Among all things paranormal, however, I do have my favourites: chief among them, vampires and witches. The aura of darkness both of them hold as well as the sex appeal and culture that has developed from both myth and reality is what appeals to me most. With vampires, such as with poltergeists and other supernatural phenomenon, there is no concrete proof that they exist, however, in my view, that doesn’t mean that don’t exist.

 

What draws me to the world of the vampires among the dark sex appeal and possibilities of immortality is the fact that these beings who exist when night falls, used to be human.  As such, in spite of their seemingly endless thirst for blood, they experience the same emotions they did before they were ‘turned’: love, hate, fear, anger. Yet, within vampiric culture, it is viewed as weakness and all these beings do their best to ignore or suppress such feelings.

 

It’s that very concept that drew me to books such as The Vampire Chronicles by one of my favourite authors, Anne Rice, and shows such as Angel.  In Angel, the title character is a 250 year old vampire, cursed with a soul for killing a Romanian gypsy years before. 

 

 

Throughout the entire series run, and beforehand on its predecessor, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel struggles to atone for his past sins and the denial of he truly wants in this world: his true love, Buffy. It is a premise that those of us, as humans, can relate to, as we all have from time and again, wanted to atone for past mistakes, even those we deem unforgivable in our eyes, and in whatever Higher Power we believe in.

 

In popular culture, vampires have been typecast as creatures without an ounce of humanity and use their powers or sex appeal to lure unsuspecting victims. Buffy and Angel are two programs that I believe have changed such a perception. The notion of vampires once being human, and being able to feel emotion and remorse is a different concept for many, and one I believe, as vampires such as Lestat, one of the primary players in Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles, would not be as selfish, manipulative, or afraid, had he truly been devoid of emotions.

 

In regards to witches, they do exist, though not in the stereotype of brooms, cauldrons and black cats, made famous in the holiday of Halloween. Modern witchcraft, which interests me, consists of pagan rituals and items such as crystals as a wish for good health. There is a dark magic component to certain rituals, which include voodoo and other rituals, but it is not the stereotype perpetuated in society.  Modern witchcraft, such as the religion Wicca is about having a connection with nature and becoming one with the environment, whereas the darker component centers on spells done for your own gain, or as I’ve heard in stories and see myself, to connect with the spirit realm for our own reasons.

 

The darker component does intrigue me, as I wonder what lies beyond this plane of existence, and whether it can truly be reached through a spell, the Ouija board, or a psychic. And if it’s able to be reached, therein lies the question of whether or not we would be letting evil spirits roam our reality, instead of coming in contact with the ones we wish to contact.  The fear of that lies with me, though it also intrigues me as is with everything else that is unknown, there is no concrete proof of it succeeding or failing.

 

Above all, I am one who believes that North American society would be naïve to believe that we are the only beings that exist within this plane of existence. As humans, our knowledge of the world and technological ability only extends so far, and I believe that there are beings who are different from our reality, and thus there is much we have yet to learn about their abilities.

 

Aliens, for example, are an excellent example of something other than what we know existing out there in the universe. As in the show Roswell, there could be the possibility of one or more of them living amongst us without out immediate knowledge, though there could be those in power who believe that ignorance is bliss in dealing with the general public.

 

And perhaps, they may be right. After all, fear causes massive panic and anger as the masses can’t deal with what’s unfamiliar.

 

I, for one, believe in their existence, and it is with an embrace that I face such possibility, not fear.