Monthly Archives: July 2011

Social Media Matters: Local blogger’s battle with cancer inspires many

Social Media MattersSocial Media Matters
By Brian Cormier
Moncton Times & Transcript
Friday, July 29, 2011
Metro section

Local blogger’s battle with cancer inspires many

Susan Ehrhardt of Moncton received the shock of her life in late June when she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma – cancer – at the young age of 23.

She had to leave the job she’d just started and faced an uncertain future. The odds of beating her type of cancer are excellent, but that doesn’t stop a person from wondering, “What if?” She’s remained incredibly positive and has been writing about her cancer openly and honestly on her excellent blog called The Great Balancing Act.

Friends and readers have rallied behind her in support. In fact, a recent auction on her blog raised $23,210 for her cancer treatment medications. Another $3,222 in cash donations were also raised, bringing the grand total to $26,432, nearly covering the entire cost of her chemotherapy drugs.

I love bloggers who open up like she has. It’s what blogging is all about!

Amy Winehouse’s death brings out the worst

If you were anywhere near the Internet last Saturday when the death of Grammy-winning British singer Amy Winehouse’s death was announced, you saw one of two things: shock and sadness from her fans – or vicious comments from those who thought she deserved what she got after years of alcohol and drug abuse.

Some also took great offence to those sending thoughts and prayers to Winehouse and her family during the same time a huge tragedy was occurring in Norway – the Oslo bombing and the mass murder of dozens of young people at a summer camp.

Microsoft had to apologize for a tweet it sent out shortly after Winehouse’s death. A public relations account for its Xbox device urged fans to purchase copy of one of her songs to “remember” her. The tweet read, “Remember Amy Winehouse by downloading the ground-breaking ‘Back to Black’ over at Zune…” Many thought that urging people to purchase one of her songs from Microsoft’s Zune service was a tasteless way to cash in on her untimely passing.

According to an article by Sarah Kessler posted to Mashable.com, Apple also posted a photo of Winehouse on iTunes urging fans to buy her music. They received a better response than Microsoft, however, and her Back to Black album quickly became the top-selling album in the iTune store.

The View co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck found herself an unwitting part of Twitter controversy surrounding Winehouse’s passing when someone with a similar Twitter handle as her name began posting vicious comments about Winehouse. Hasselbeck begged those posing as her to stop posting the comments and assured viewers she had nothing to do with them.

It almost seems unnecessary for Hasselbeck to need to tell people she wasn’t the one posting the comments, but the accounts were being mistaken for her despite the fact that anyone could clearly see it wasn’t really her simply by paying close attention to the handle. Unfortunately, many inexperienced Twitter users didn’t know any better and gave Hasselbeck undeserved grief over the issue.

Woman sues over failed Facebook romance

The breakup of Cheryl Gray and Wylie Iwan was no run-of-the-mill breakup. In fact, she was so upset that she ended up suing him after he called it off.

The two met while playing the online Facebook game Mafia Wars. After corresponding for a time, they decided to meet in person and Gray made travel arrangements from her home state of Michigan to Seattle. When Iwan backed out of the meeting, Gray decided to sue him for more than $8,000 for emotional distress, defamation of character and other charges, including her travel to Seattle and gifts she supposedly purchased for him during their online courtship.

Should be interesting to see how this pans out!

This week’s featured YouTube channels

Each week, I feature three YouTube channels that you may want to check out.

Amy Winehouse (number of subscribers not listed): If you’re a fan of the late singer, you’ll love this collection of videos of her greatest hits. While not all are available for viewing in Canada, many are. If you’re not familiar with Winehouse, this is a good place to get acquainted.

The Ed Sullivan Show (6,800 subscribers): Why this channel doesn’t have more subscribers, I’ll never know. Here, you’ll find many great performances by some of the entertainment world’s most popular stars. The quality of the videos is great, too – none of this grainy stuff you find on my channels! It’s just too bad that most of the clips are very short and only snippets of the full performances.

SuperPAC (2,000 subscribers): Are you a fan of the beloved and irreverent 1970s game show Match Game? If so, this is the place for you! Branded as a tribute channel to Match Game, you’ll find more than 200 clips from the show for you to enjoy.

Hump Day: Amy Winehouse death: compassion doesn’t know any bounds

Hump DayHump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Moncton Times & Transcript
Editorial section

Last Saturday, popular-but-troubled British singer Amy Winehouse was found dead in her London apartment. To anyone who followed her life and career, her death likely came as no surprise.

Her drug and alcohol abuse were common knowledge. While she made a number of attempts at rehab, none of them stuck. When she was at her best, her voice and musical acumen were amazing. One look at the beehive hairdo and the tattoos and you recognized her immediately.

Clips from her last concert in Serbia on June 18 have been posted all over the Internet. The cheers from 20,000 fans (yes – 20,000!) soon turned to jeers as she stumbled from one end of the stage to the other and forgot her lyrics. Clearly, she was deeply under the influence of something – either drugs or alcohol, or both. The video is difficult to watch and wince-inducing.

She was obviously out of control. Why her handlers let her take the stage in that condition, I’ll never know. The spectacle caused her to cancel her European tour. Clearly, she needed help – and needed it right away. Being out of your mind on drugs and alcohol on your own time is one thing, but taking the stage in such a state of blotto-ness was a new level in her addiction.

When news of her death broke on Saturday, fans were devastated but not surprised. Her long spiral into addiction didn’t seem to have a logical end to it other than an early death at the young age of 27 – the same age many other musical prodigies were when they died, including Kurt Cobain, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix.

Add to that, though, the vitriol from many online commentators that came out when her death announced. While fans offered compassion to Ms. Winehouse and her family, others spewed nothing but contempt, hatred and a judgment.

Many believed that when compared to the tragedy in Norway that pretty much happened at the same time – dozens of young innocent people shot by a madman or killed by his bomb – Amy Winehouse wasn’t worth more than the saliva mustered up to spit on her grave.

I never understood attitudes like that.

Are we not supposed to have compassion for people who are addicted to drugs or alcohol and who die as a result?

It’s true that they contributed to their own demise, but are we not allowed to say that we’re sad and sorry that they left us way too early just because a tragedy happened elsewhere?

Some of us can be compassionate about many things at once. Feeling bad about a certain singer’s early demise doesn’t mean the lives of those who died in Norway are worth less. In a perfect world, neither of the events would have happened.

What about people who smoke? When they die of lung cancer, should we snicker with glee while reading their obituary?

What about children old enough to know better and who run across the street without looking and get hit by a car? Should we go up to their parents and tell them that their child deserved it?

I felt very sorry for Amy Winehouse, her family and friends when I heard she passed away. I enjoyed her music and thought her premature death (at least by age standards) was a sad ending to a promising life and career.

I was also horrified to hear of the bombing in Oslo, Norway, and the mass shooting of all those young people trapped on that island. A complete and utter waste of lives at the hands of a mass murderer who – in his warped logic – believed he was doing the world a favour.

I’m certainly not going to apologize to anyone for feeling bad about the death of Amy Winehouse. If you don’t like it, that’s your problem. She wasn’t a mass murderer. Her music made people happy and she was awarded handsomely for her efforts, including several Grammys and millions of album sales. And what a voice!

But just because I feel bad for her and her family doesn’t mean I can’t also feel completely sick to my stomach about the peaceful people of Norway and the unfair, unfathomable, unimaginable terror they must have felt during last week’s attacks. It is humanely possible to feel bad for both.

What bothers me so much is that some people saw it as an “either-or” scenario. If you felt bad about Ms. Winehouse, then you were a monster because they automatically assumed you didn’t feel bad about Norway. Huh? I don’t know about you, but I’m able to feel bad about both.

Maybe I’m weird, but I don’t see the logic in not feeling compassion for one scenario because another one is of a (real or perceived) greater magnitude.

I found the amount of online viciousness aimed at Ms. Winehouse to be disturbing, to say the least. Just because she had an addiction problem was no reason to dance in the streets upon hearing of her death. I imagine that there were those who also lacked compassion when the other members of the “27 Club” died, many of whom who also had well publicized troubles with drugs and alcohol. Today, they’re revered.

There’s enough compassion to go around for everyone. People who die from their addictions are just as worthy of compassion as anyone else.

No one is perfect. No one!

Social Media Matters: Sales of 3G-enabled tablets in the toilet

Social Media MattersSocial Media Matters
By Brian Cormier
Moncton Times & Transcript
Friday, July 22, 2011
Metro section

Sales of 3G-enabled tablets in the toilet

If you’ve purchased a new iPad or other brand of tablet device recently, chances are you bought the Wi-Fi version without investing in a 3G version that would allow you to surf the Internet from anywhere. This, of course, would also mean you would incur extra charges from your telecom provider since data-sharing plans with cell phones are pretty much non-existent.

If so, you’re not alone. Apparently, there are warehouses full of 3G-enabled tablets that no one wants to buy for that very reason: they don’t want to pay for another data plan. If they want to surf the Internet on their tablet, they’ll do so from home or elsewhere where there’s a Wi-Fi connection. In a July 11th article by Matt Hamblen posted to ComputerWorld (www.computeroworld.com), analyst Bob O’Donnell of IDG suggests that U.S. carriers will end up having to change their data plans so that various devices can share one plan, i.e. a smartphone and a tablet.

Personally, I find no reason for carriers to do this. Why should they? It will only allow customers to max out plans that aren’t already at their limit, something that will only cost carriers money. Also, carriers will likely have many angry customers on their hands because some of them won’t change their data plans at first, only to receive monumental bills in the mail before having a chance to change their data plan.

In these days of social media and extreme levels of competition between carriers, this could actually turn into a public relations disaster for carriers. Besides, what’s it to Bell Aliant or Rogers if Apple, Samsung or Blackberry have warehouses full of unsold 3G-enabled tablets? Consumers don’t want them and aren’t willing to pay for another data plan. Isn’t that the manufacturers’ problem?

It’s clear that consumers have spoken. They want to use tablets like laptops. They’ll access the Internet where there’s Wi-Fi – either at home or in a coffee shop – but they aren’t willing to dish out another $30 (or however how much) just so their tablet can access the Internet when the smartphone they have with them can do the same thing on a plan for which they’re already paying.

This problem is clearly with the manufacturers, not the carriers.

Bass players upset

I’m hearing rumblings that bass players are upset that a favourite resource website is no more. It appears that Bassmasta (www.bassmasta.net) has been taken over by Songsterr (www.songsterr.com).

Bass guitar players used Bassmasta as their niche online resource for researching tabs for them to use for playing various songs. (Tabs are basically the notes they need to play to accompany a certain song.) While there are various sites and resources for guitar players, the niche market for bass guitar players was being pretty much being served by only one website – Bassmasta – and now that’s gone.

If you were a fan of Bassmasta and want to mourn with your fellow bass guitar players, there’s a Facebook group you can join to share your grief called R.I.P. Bassmasta.

Facebook group honours Pete King

Local music fans were left shocked and saddened recently by the untimely death of popular bass guitarist Pete King in a tragic motorcycle-moose collision.

A Facebook group has been set up to honour King called “RIP Pete King of Neon Highway.” So far the group has more than 400 members. That will likely only grow over time. If you were a fan of Rik Reese and Neon Highway – the country band for which King played bass – or are just a lover of music in general, be sure to visit the group to read some of the heartwarming messages left by King’s friends and fans.

This week’s featured YouTube channels

Each week, I feature three YouTube channels that you may want to check out.

1) Sesame Street (128,000 subscribers): Whether you grew up with Sesame Street or saw snippets of the show while your children or grandchildren were enthralled with the antics of Bert and Ernie, Elmo and Big Bird, you’ll love the recent and retro clips found on this fun and family-friendly channel.

2) AbbaVEVO (unknown number of subscribers): If you’re a fan of Swedish music superstars Abba and want to see some of their old videos, this is the channel for you! For some reason, the channel’s creators have hidden the number of subscribers, which is odd. With that said, however, several of the videos have millions of views each, with Dancing Queen having more than 10 million.

3) Bank of Canada (300 subscribers): There aren’t many government organizations with YouTube accounts, so it’s nice to see that the Bank of Canada has opted to spread the word about our money via video. Particularly enthralling is a video with nearly 325,000 views describing the new $100 bill made out of polymer. Fascinating!

On Google+?

Let me know how you like it. I’m still not biting.

Hump Day: It’s no great fun being reminded how fast time flies by in life

Hump DayHump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Moncton Times & Transcript
Editorial section

A good friend of mine was excited the other night when I dropped by for a visit. I sometimes drop by when out walking my dog. Not only do I get to spend some time with good friends, my dog also gets a snack by eating crumbs left by three growing teenagers who sometimes drop more on the floor than they put in their mouths.

It’s a win-win situation for everyone. No wonder my dog makes a bee-line for their door every time we walk by. It’s snack time for her!

My friend asked me to guess what she’d just received for her 20th wedding anniversary. After that, everything went blurry. My life started flashing before my tear-filled eyes. My heart started to palpitate. As she happily showed me her gift (a family ring) and proudly showed me every birthstone, I feigned happiness for her. Inside, I was crying like a little girl.

“Whaddya mean 20 years?” I thought to myself. “Has it already been 20 years since you got married? I remember that wedding! In fact, I’m pretty sure I’m still hungover from the reception.”

I could not believe that an event I so clearly remember happened 20 years ago. When I was a kid and would hear of couples (friends of my parents or relatives) having their 20th or 25th anniversary, the first thing that came to mind was, “Wow . . . they are old. And I mean old – like they-had-an-actual-pet-dinosaur-when-they-were-kids old.”

I guess that, in retrospect, I should not have been surprised, but this one snuck up on me. I still can’t believe it’s been 20 years, but since two-thirds of her children are shaving and the other third will likely be there in the next year or two, I guess I just lost track of time.

Two other friends will be celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary in 2013 and I’ve decided that the only fair thing to do for my sanity is to try and break them up before then. I’m sure they’d understand, don’t you think? It’s either that or having to listen to me whine about it for the next two years. I’m pretty sure they’ll agree to go splitsville. Much less painful.

Man, this getting old thing is for the birds sometimes. I guess it’s because I look back on how I felt about people reaching these milestones when I was a kid and how warped my perspective was. It’s understandable, of course. Back then, people were indeed much older than me, so it goes without saying that I thought they were ancient.

But now that I’m getting “ancient”, too (at least by my old standards), and I’ve come to realize how young these people actually were way back when. I clearly remember my parents talking about attending the 25th wedding anniversary of an aunt and uncle and thinking they must be two of the oldest human beings in the world. In fact, I would have probably suggested that paramedics be on standby in case someone croaked from old age at the anniversary party. Twenty-five years! Unfathomable!

Ah, how my perspective has changed! I still feel like a spring chicken (at least on most days) and am always looking for new projects and opportunities. My relatives back then must have been the same way. It would be silly to think otherwise considering they would have been about the same age as I am today.

I wonder if I’ll feel the same way when friends start nearing their 50th wedding anniversaries. That seems highly likely, and I’ll look back on today like we were just kids. So far, none of my close friends who are around my age are grandparents, although I do have cousins my age who are grandparents. (I have disowned them and refuse to talk to them at family events. It’s either that or smother them with one of their grandchildren’s disposable diapers.)

The time will come one day, though, when a close friend announces that one of their kids is going to be a parent. I’m not looking forward to it.

I’ll wonder where the years went. I’ll wonder when that little baby I once held in my arms grew up!

And then I’ll go out and buy a gallon of mouthwash and get drunk on it. If I’m going to be a sad old pitiful sot, the least I can do is have good breath.

The next time a friend happily tells me that they’re celebrating a milestone anniversary of 20 years or more, I’m going to have to work on pretending that I’m happy about it. I’m not so sure I was good at hiding my feelings this time. What was left of my hair turned grey. Body parts automatically started sagging more than they already are. And I’m pretty sure that a few brain cells committed suicide.

With that said, there is certainly evidence that I’m becoming the grouchy old man that I’m destined to be. I regularly admonish children in the park for using the dog poop bags the city provides as water balloons. I spend much of the time when I’m out walking the dog picking garbage off the streets left by what are surely cigarette-smokin’ rock-and-roll-listenin’ hooligans who are all hopped up on high-fructose corn syrup. When all is said and done, I’m just feeling a bit old these days, I guess.

Friends are hitting milestone anniversaries. Little kids I used to hold in my arms are shaving. I should start practising hitting them with my cane.

Something to look forward to!