People of the Yard Sale

I found myself at a charity yard sale this weekend with time to spare.

10612538_10154521237690018_8068816020085399440_n[1]Usually I don’t pay too much attention to weekend sales in yards and driveways. They’ve never held much interest for me although I do know, for many people, they’re a weekend highlight. I can breeze through a yard sale in under 3 minutes usually. I I just don’t need to spend money on other people’s giveaways.

I take a quick overview walk around, similar to how I browse an antique store.  It can be fun to rekindle vintage home memories, but I rarely find anything to spend a dollar or 50 cents on. I like new stuff.

For a different reason today however, I stayed. I sat on the concrete stairs outside a home in a sub division miles from my home, and watched the people who come and go.  A huge variety of amusement, as each new eager treasure hunter arrived with the excitement of the search.  Each showing me a story, and occasionally I get to overhear just enough to fill in the blanks. A good yard sale truly is a cross section of assorted weirdness, both on the ground, and in the patrons.

I had a fun time watching and listening, as people struggle with tough purchase decisions, and bicker over whether to spend 50 cents for that plastic catsup bottle or not.

“Uncle Jack would like this”, and “oh look mom, a Golfer mug! Daddy would love this!”

10646999_10154521245060018_6691004129598573179_n[1]It occurs to me that even fans of the yard sale are shopping for somebody else half the time. I understand that the joy is in the search, rather than the find. People are not here looking for anything specific, they’re looking to find anything they like, or can gift, and pay only $3… or talk them down to $1. Kids especially seem to love digging looking for lost wonders, especially when anything could be cool. You never know. Like treasure hunting without knowing what is in the vault.

I discover from conversations with the yard owners, that early on the yard is filled with a different type of shopper. Before 8am we see mostly the professional yard scavengers.  The shop owners and Ebayers. They’re here when it opens to rummage through everything and find the good deals.  Anything that could sell in a store or online for a price, is worth buying for $1.  Occasionally they may even find things worth hundreds or thousands.  Inside our head, we all think; just maybe we’ll find something wonderful that nobody noticed.

Another distinct group of yard sale fan, coming at any time of day, often passing from one yard sale to another through the whole neighbourhood. I call them the Questers. These experienced yard salers are looking for more specific things. It may be the last piece to a doll collection or perhaps they need that last missing fork.  I’ve witnessed them arrive in small family packs, with a determination to find that game piece they’re missing, or the a Robin Hood mug. It clear they know what they need, and have been to many sales. They wisk through the whole yard faster than anybody else, overturning boxes and sifting through trunks. They come and go almost as quickly as I used to.

10676331_10154519631980018_8360461054883322463_n[1]“I FOUND ANOTHER PIG” shouts one child across the driveway. It’s clear they’re looking for pigs like a pig looks for truffles.  I know a lot of people who have animal collections and I can imagine that their friends and family would always be on the lookout for a pig ornament, or an owl statue, or whatever the specialty.  When I go to a sale like this, I’ll be on the look out for any My Little Ponies, because a friend of mine has instructed me to do so. I’ve never found one yet, but I always look. For such a specific find however, I suspect the EBayers bought it at 8:14am.

I’m learning it’s a fun family adventure, much like hunting for Easter eggs, except these finds are all just laying there on the lawn. The hardest hiding spot is under the flap of an open box.  The real challenge is to search and find what you need or perhaps, need what you find. You may have a lot of possible wins at a good yard sale. A coffee mug with a sports team Daddy likes, anything pink for Sarah, a cow for Jennifer.

Jennifer likes cows. She is a school teacher friend of mine who one day somehow let her Grade 2 students know that she liked cows. From that moment on, Jennifer received something cow related on every holiday for the next several years.  Her house was literally overflowing with cow related trinkets, curtains, pictures and dolls. 

It is clear however, that the most popular exclamation I hear by far is; “oh wow, we used to have one of these!”

 10703773_10154521241465018_8852326529936009810_n[1]The recognition of a product or article from our your youth. Yard sales are filled more with memories than any other item. People come to them and have fun. They get excited over refreshed memories, opportunities to relive the past, and buy cool stuff for less than a dollar. It’s a culture I never really knew about.  I’d been entertained watching young kids get super excited in a Dollar Store when their parent would say they could have any three items from the whole store. The kids go crazy… but discounts are only part of the enjoyment. It’s the whole thing. Even people watching is part of the fun. I almost laughed out loud when people ask questions about one dollar items. 

When one lady asked; “Do you know if this cordless phone works?”, the answer she received was very polite. I would have said; “Lady… it’s a Dollar”.

The funniest thing I watched, was a woman get so excited to have found an only slightly dusty empty wedding guestbook. I had to wonder to myself, how sad it was that somebody threw a wedding, and nobody signed the book.  Or perhaps a wedding in this family was planned and paid for, but didn’t go though. An empty wedding book at a yard sale is a sad thing.

The lady cheered;  Woo Woo. This’ll save me $40.

10687103_10154521246050018_6709268384177127951_n[1]I think to myself, someboidy will object to using a wedding book that looks used, she’ll agree, and it’ll find it’s way into somebody elses’s yard sale. If this has happened before, that wedding book could be 200 years old. The Ebayers missed it.

You can find all kinds at the yard sale. 


P.S. I bought two scrabble sets for a friend that makes crafts and a rainbow plastic slinky, which I’ve never owned. I saw the slinky in a photo of the yard sale posted to Facebook and rushed to get it. I paid $3.

Photo Credit by Elisa Applebaum… Charity: Urban Cat Relief.

 http://www.ucrcats.com/

 

Robot Chicken Social School

Sometimes, educational TV takes a different approach. It teaches us important life lessons, and helps us socialize.

There is a TV show on every night that I strongly recommend everyone watches. Each episode is only 15 minutes, but the lessons it delivers is essential to a person’s pop culture education.

Robot Chicken is an amazing tool. It is a crash course in current and retro pop culture, ideal for learning just enough about anime, kids shows and toys to appear competent in any social gathering, or fan convention like Comic Con.

I am a 50 year old man. My young years were in the 60’s and 70s, so I missed a lot of childhood programming from the 80s and 90s. My Saturday morning cartoons were from the years where they were really crap. I remember bad shows like the original really horrible Spiderman cartoon, Rocket Robinhood, Friendly Giant, Rocketship 7 and Davey and Goliath. I looked up to Mr. Dressup and Mr Greenjeans.

Kids today know all about different shows, as every generation has their own version of Saturday morning. I know nothing about Anime and Naruto and Power Rangers and Transformers. I missed them all.

Robot Chicken is a unique show. It’s not live action and it’s not a cartoon. Robot chicken is primarily a sketch show that parodies all ages and all forms of children’s television and classic TV shows. Animated dolls replay scenes from our youth, and all the youth shows we missed. We laugh at the jokes we know, like Davey being possessed by his devil dog Goliath, and we laugh at the jabs at shows we don’t know too. It’s a funny show.

The secret is – we’re learning the basics of the shows we don’t know. We’re getting educated on the pop culture we were not a part of. We’re seeing HE MAN and SKELATOR and RAINBOW BRIGHT… all characters I knew absolutely nothing about before episodes of Robot Chicken mocked them.

One of my weekend hobbies is going to fan conventions and comic cons. In the Toronto area we have over 70 of them a year. A number that might actually be a record for North America. Because of Robot Chicken, I am able to listen and even participate in discussions about MY LITTLE PONY or GI-JOE. These are shows I’ve never seen, but I know all about Cobra Commander because of the parodies I’ve seen on Robot Chicken.

I want to get a whole line of T-SHIRTS:

ALL I KNOW ABOUT ANIME I LEARNED FROM ROBOT CHICKEN

Blogging

I’ve always liked my writing style. It’s sort of like the way I talk. It is something I do that I’m proud of, and there are not so many things in my life like that. However, I also don’t seem to be able to do anything serious with it. I made a pledge to write a blog post every day, and failed. I missed multiple days, and even skipped a few of my GIVEIT100.com videos.

I wake up each morning and start a fairly regular routine. I surf a series of web sites every day, and then start to work through my new emails and my daily TO-DO list. Writing a blog a day is a new task, and I have not actually added it to the TO-DO list, so I forget about it. I’m not always motivated to write first thing inn the morning, but then as the day progresses, I am even less likely to return and type.

I tried writing on my phone or tablet outside during the day, but often that doesn’t happen either.

It’s hard.

Then I write, out of obligation rather than because I want to, and the topics are forced or timed when I’m not really in a creative mood. I write short blogs, or notes like this one instead – and I don’t feel the same pride. Then I lose my excitement for writing.

I have a new respect for creative writers who do it for their profession. There must be a point where it gets easier. Like a runner second strength… When you do it for 20 days straight, maybe it becomes a part of your routine. A habit. I’m not there yet.

I have a list of topics to write about, but my mind doesn’t always work that way. I can’t re-force a good idea and write about it.

sigh.

I’ll keep trying. Every so often I’ll post an entry about the progress, instead of a topic.

 

 

Bully Laughs

Sometimes, I feel guilty over laughing at comedy. A lot of it is mean.

The mean stuff often makes me laugh, despite the understanding that a real person is the butt of the joke. Comedy often attacks real people. I believe there is a law that lets them rip apart politicians with comedy, and celebrities have always been fair game it seems. Late night talk shows just crack jokes freely at other people’s expense.

I was watching an episode of Chelsea Lately just now, and the panel was all ripping Whitney Houston’s daughter apart, comparing her to a back woods Southern hillbilly, and then made 3 mean jokes about the gap in her teeth.

Now all I know about Whitney Houston’s daughter now, is that she has a gap in her teeth.

It seems much of the comedy on late night television is all about attacking somebody. In order to stay topical and appeal to a mass audience, they pick on people we all know. Sometimes it’s somebody famous like a politician, but thanks to the Internet and YouTube, often it’s a regular person who appears in a photo or video clip that has gone viral. Regular people are becoming the nightly punch line for millions of strangers to laugh at.

TV often gets its biggest laughs by putting somebody else down. By being a bully. A mean bully.

If we saw this sort of thing in a schoolyard, we’d protest. You’re not supposed to make fun of the weird kid, or the accidental banana peel slip, but on stage it seems fine. In front of friends it’s bad to point and laugh – but in front of strangers, we’re allowed to applaud at you falling into a fountain, or down a hole while checking your phone.

All the late night shows do it. They pick clips from the media of the day and present them with a punch line. Some innocent people have become famous overnight while we all giggle at them. We don’t think about how it may have changed their life. Imagine going to work the next day and Jimmy Kimmel has just made you a laughing stalk. Suddenly everyone knows you’re an idiot.

I confess I often laugh. I like to laugh and somebody slipping off stage or running into a tree can be funny. America’s Funniest Videos has been on the TV for years letting us laugh at mistakes. I’m talking more about the mean jokes that punctuate these videos. Personal comments and jokes that cut deeper needlessly. These days I often divert my thoughts to the victim. A visual image if how they might feel hearing this and possibly experience related behaviour change from everyone.

One joke can literally be life changing.

Bullying is bullying.

Friends I haven’t met yet.

In general, strangers don’t talk to each other.  Few ever strike up a random conversation with me. It almost never happens, so I am never sure how they react when I start one with them.  It’s funny, because in my life, I have trouble starting conversations with people. I am seldom the ice breaker at a party. I’m much happier when you start the conversation, and then we can proceed. I’m afraid of intruding or interrupting or otherwise being a bother.

However, I can oddly start conversations with total strangers in some situations. I’ll frequently make opening statements in elevators, or bus stops or waiting rooms when there is a silence between two or more strangers. Most frequently I’ll open with a joke. I wonder if this spontaneous conversation is a source of smiles, or is it scary?  I don’t seem to care as much when it’s a stranger than when it’s somebody I know or care about.

It’s usually casual. I just make a punchline of the situation and get a smile or a laugh. I break the silence of our shared experience.

This happened today at the all-you-can eat buffet. I was standing in line for some serving, with a full plate of various meat in front of me. To this, I added one single broccoli leaf.  It struck me as a little funny, and so I leaned towards the stranger next to me, and commented; mother would be proud, as I pointed to the lone vegetable on my plate.

It wasn’t a great joke, and although a friend who knew me may have smiled or chuckled, the stranger offered no reaction at all.  He must have thought it odd. Why was I talking to him? He didn’t know me. He didn’t know my mother. I continued; I can’t have desert until I eat my veggies. Still no reaction. I was clearly an unwelcome irritation.

I often try. Even if I don’t bring a smile instantly, it may generate a story for him when he reaches his table and discusses how an odd fellow tried to strike up a conversation at the food buffet. I know I got a story out of it.

This is it.

 

Good at Everything Guys

You go first.
No, YOU go first.

I think one of the greatest rules of success, is to be second.

Smart people let somebody else go first.
Leaders must be followers first.

This week, Apple made their newsworthy announcement for the new Apple iPhones, finally giving in to the public demand, and releasing a bigger version of the iPhone. Immediately, people started posting jabs at them welcoming them to 2012 and other attacks that they’re not quite cutting edge, coming late to the big “phablet” craze.

Sometimes Apple does lead, but more often, they follow, and then make it better.  At least Apple’s version of better, which true Apple fans crave and love and drool over. It occurred to me, that a great leader stays alive because they don’t always go first. They send somebody else into the cave, or over the hill first. They learn from the early adopters spending their money, and then innovate with improvements.

It is much easier to improve on a product than it is to invent one.

Some people – or companies lead with invention, and are first. Sometimes they are a success and they take the market by storm, making competitors scrambling far behind. Whenever possible, I like to support the people I believe were first to market, rather than the imitations. Sometimes it’s hard to tell. We use brand names of some products as if they were the product itself. At least in my country, we call use words like Kleenex, Rollerblades and Coke as if they are the item names, not product brands. I’m not sure these guys were first, but they certainly are the famous leader. You may be surprised to learn that windbreaker, escalator and elevator are also brand names.

Many people try and fail, even with great ideas because they’re not ready for business. I personally was part of an Internet startup company that could have been huge. I might have been one of those millionaires you read about if luck and management had gone differently, but instead – I failed, and somebody else made a fortune off my ideas.

Only lucky bustard are a success the first try.

Some people are no doubt are great success all through life, at everything they try. I hate those guys. I knew a few in high school. People who were good at every sport they tried, even first try. They were magical creatures, actually fascinating to observe. The good at everything guys.

We’ve all known a few
None I knew are prime minister yet. Maybe that magic fades after high school.

 

 

+1 Pleasure Points

A new idea is exciting. It actually feels good. +1 Pleasure points.

As I was thinking new thoughts the other day, I was able to actually feel the good feeling and sensation that comes with a new idea. Learning something new – at any age is good, and figuring it out on your own is even better. I can actually feel it.

When I learn a new fact, I am pleased. It happened this weekend, and I was with somebody. I actually said; Pleasure +1

That made me smile even more, and I felt the joy of a new idea. A new slogan.

This little slogan has two meanings I can think of. The idea of “+1″ is a gaming term meaning a point, or add to your health or some other accomplishment of some sort. In games, we also refer to points of battle or skills. +1 Armour makes us better equipped in the game. +1 Experience makes us wider. I assume +1 Pleasure makes us very happy.

When reversed, as I said it originally, “Pleasure +1″ can also mean more pleasure – up to 11. Maximum plus a bit… infinity +1.

A lot of pleasure. We’re adding to it.

We’re not always able to detect the feeling of pleasure when we succeed, but sometimes we do. An actual feeling of well being and happiness floods over our brains and we smile. Getting praise, doing well at something, winning are all things we can feel good about and actually FEEL pleasure.

Or at least I do. I may even sigh a little bit. A happy sigh. MmMmMmmm

I am even more pleased when I see happiness and pleasure in others. The pleasure I experience when I have made another smile – or laugh is the best. It almost warms me up. When I see happiness in others, I feel it so much, I unconsciously mimic it.

I only noticed I do this recently. When you smile, my lips mimic a smile. When you laugh, I laugh. This may be true of you as well, and you didn’t think about this way. Smiles and laughter are often shared and spread contagiously. I noticed the mimicry factor perhaps unique to me, when I detected I also seem to mimic kisses. I pucker my lips when I see others kiss, every single time. It’s an instinct reaction. Whatever you do with your face to show joy, I mimic, and feel joy too.

+1 Pleasure point.

I can’t help but smile when you do. My face just does it, and I feel it.

Justin Beaber had it right when he sang; “You smile, I smile”.

Profound lyrics from the Canadian son.*

* The above is to be italicized or written in the Sarcastic font when it is finally invented.

Punch Line Warfare

The other day on Facebook, I was reading a thread on the news feed of one of my American friends from youth. We’ve known each other since our teens, but I’ve never been super close. He posts a fair number of political messages, and I am never whether he is posting in full seriousness, or in jest. I don’t know many people in my life who are far on the other side of the spectrum from me. Some of his posts seem absurdly conservative, almost like Stephen Colbert mockery. I try my best to continue to have respect for him, but his Facebook posts paste him as a conservative straight line believer. He loves his guns and less government, and hates Obama… or I’m just not getting the joke, and he’s toying with us.

I have always had a hard time taking conservatives seriously. I somehow feel they’re all mocking themselves. I feel better if I believe nobody can really believe the shit they come up with. It must be a joke. Maybe they feel the same way about me.

This particular post is just like so many of his messages. It quickly gathers a lot of comments from both sites of the story, re-hashing the exact same arguments they did in the last 6 posts. One side says blah blah blah, and the other side says LA LA LA I can’t hear you. They’re just talking at each other, unwilling to listen – or believe. Neither can believe the other side can actually believe what they’re saying. It seems absurd.

The media seems to be the same. It shows us that the United States has two sides. Red vs Blue or right vs left. We are lead to believe it’s almost binary. The country is either one or the other. Crazy on one side and crazy on the other. The extremes are what they show us. My friend seems to be one of them, at least in Facebook world.

I’ll admit it. I like to play. I don’t mock so much, as throw in some humour. I am punch line guy.

I enter my reply: I don’t trust any white people.

A non sequitur punch line I throw into the mix without setup or follow up. A blanket statement added between a reply about how we’re all evil gun stealing regulation happy, and they’re all hicks with pickups or nutcases who have become addicted to the feeling of guns.

Oddly, I wasn’t expecting it, but the punch line ended the debate. People stopped. It was a thread killer. Nobody replied after that. They didn’t even rebut my remark with more ramble. It just stopped. Perhaps everyone realized they were being silly, and calmed down, retreating to their oposite corners awaiting the next fishing lure post by the same guy next time.

Sometimes a punch line can stop a war.

Adult Nap Time

For many of you, the last time you took a daytime nap may have been in kindergarten, when nap time was enforced. That’s too bad.

Once we hit grade 1, we are encouraged to make it through the day in one continuous state of awake. In fact, napping at school is not acceptable behaviour at all, for students or teachers. You can actually be fired for napping at work especially if you drive for a living, or operate heavy machinery.

One of the greatest ticks in the PRO column about self employment, is that I get to schedule nap time as frequently as I want. I have no rules to follow,  and no boss to catch me.  I often wake up before 6am and start working instead of going back to sleep for another hour like many people would.  I’ll rise and shine till 10am or so, being very productive in the hours before many people start their jobs, and then go back to sleep for a short nap.  Right around the time some of my office job buddies are mentally fading and needing a caffeine pick me up,  I get to take a lay me down.  It’s glorious.

If I miss my 10am “second sleep”, I may have one after lunch, or mid afternoon. Unlike kindergarten, my naps are not on a set schedule. Sometimes I’ll have two in one day, or three – even as late as 630pm.

The Spanish had it right. Nothing refreshes a body and mind like a middle of the day Siesta. If you’ve read my blog before, you may know how much I like fresh starts. Monday is my favourite weekday, and the first day of the month is like a mini January 12 times a year. Any excuse to start over is welcome, and a nap can do that for me. A new day resolution to do it right this time.

My brain often drains it’s excitement quickly, and when you live and work alone, lost motivation can be a problem. I won’t say I need a nap and an excuse to return to work, but I won’t deny that often, it works wonders. I lay down, and 35 minutes later,  I re-emerge with a new outlook and clear mind.

I’m lucky enough to be able to nap well. No matter what stresses or depressions or concerns may be on my mind, they fall away quite easily in my rest. I fall asleep faster for a nap than I do in the evening. Insomnia doesn’t really effect napping for some reason.

For a few years, I was amazed at how often my naps ended up being exactly the same length. Like magic I was consistently taking 39 minute naps with no alarm except my internal clock. These days, it’s not as regular, but each nap is usually between 30 and 50 minutes. Rarely do I sleep for longer, unless the nap is from exhaustion.

I can nap with the light on, with the TV on, or even with people in the room talking, although it may take me longer to fall. Music or silence is preferred. It’s like a special power I have. The power to sleep.

I recently got a wrist band that can detect my sleep patterns and figured out a nap is one sleep cycle, which for me, during the day, is less than an hour. At night, when I fall asleep, I really am just performing 3 to 5 consecutive naps.  I fall asleep and wake up all night, but because my brain knows it’s not yet morning, they happen back to back, and eventually some of the sleep cycles last 90 minutes or so, but seldom much longer. My wristband records it on a nice little chart. Nap, wake, nap, wake.

I’ve never really had a problem with sleep. I enjoy it, and really enjoy my dreams, many of which I remember and journalize when I wake. Remembering dreams is a skill you can learn with practice. Nap dreams and night dreams seem different, at least for me, and weather and food influence them greatly. Nap dreams are my favourite.

NAPS RULE, and don’t let anybody tell you different.

It’s one of the luxuries I get that I use to gauge myself as a success.

Post-A-Day

When I first started my Giveit100.com project in January of 2014, it was a great motivator of creativity and energy at a time in my life when I needed it. Through the process of making 100 consecutive 10 second videis everyday, with follow up YouTube videos, I found a purpose, and a new community if fruends/fans.

SShortly after that, I created a second instructional project and created 100 10 second videos of Microsoft Windows tips and tricks. It was a lot of fun. When those two projects re theur course, I took a break, and in the month or two that followed, I felt listless without a goal. I had no project to commit to, and my daily obligation took a lower priority until I just stopped one day.

In the first 100 days of this year, I went through a lot. I changed my way if working with a new structure and a daily to do list, which I shared with others, thus turning it into more of a responsibility rather than just a list I could ignore. It helped. In addition to that, I got a new doctor, and  new social worker councillor to guide me through some needed life change. Most important of all changes, I also started on a new medication that was to really help me with my over obcessive thoughts and calm the negative low self esteem thoughts a bit.

All in all, it was a year of some significant change.  I turned 50, and made the move to make this decade a better one than my last.

Eight days ago, I decided it was time to start again, and give myself a new project. Instead of video blogging to my YouTube channel, I’d take the step to let my creative juices flow in a literary context, and blog a post a day.  I have been writing occasionally for as far back as I can remember, but I have never committed to a routine of doing it every day. Setting aside some time to write is harder than just pointing a camera at my face and talking.

TThe main problem I find isn’t content or topics. I have a list that grows each day as I walk around and live my life.  So much of this universe is awesome and profound and journal worthy. The problem I have is keeping the energy and excitement I feel at the start of my writing, through the middle to the end. At some point,  my brain just feels like giving up. In conversations, I’d change the topic and move on, but in writing, you need to have an end. That seems to be the hardest part for me.

Starting is easy. I can pick up a  pencil or a tablet and start typing quickly without hesitation. It’s the later parts, after I’ve said my concept and lost my mood, I lose interest and excutem0and at that instant, the process becomes a chore. It’s the way an A. D. D. Brain works I think. It starts looking for the next big thing, and abandons the lesser thoughts mid sentence. In writing, there is nowhere to run.

As part of this 100 day project, I hope to improve on that. I intend to mix up my blog posts and offer some variety from personal history updates, to philosophical viewpoints, to TV show reviews and lunch time observations. I may even try my hand (or finger) at creative fictional writing. I am strongly considering taking a class and learning more. Writing may have a smaller audience in the blog work than video, but it’s a good challenge for personal growth.

Ideally it could lead to a new book, or even a new career.

Thank you for joining me on this journey.