December 2005 Archives

Vienna in the SnowFor some reason, whenever I visit Vienna during the winter, I bring Syracuse weather with me. It has been snowing like crazy the past few days, just like it did when I was here two years ago during this time. It's all kind of strange, because when I went to high school here, it hardly snowed at all.

Anyways, I had a set of good flights from Binghamton to Vienna, nothing really to complain about. I met up at Merry Monk with Oliver and Thorsten the first night, later replacing them with Daniel Rhodes at Lukas, where just about anybody who used to or still goes to AIS Vienna, and was in Vienna, was at. After several hours of that, I went home and still stayed up awhile longer, perhaps aided by my jetlag.

Except taking one trip to the bank, I stayed in all of Thursday during the day, but was quite ready to go out that night. I met up with Thorsten and Martin at Köö and played some pool. Subsequently we went to Merry Monk, after which I convinced a reluctant Thorsten to join me for the rest of the night.

Thorsten's reluctancy changed quickly after we entered Lukas and he found out Peaches and Emily from our class were in town. Their respective sisters escorted us to Chill Out, a bar down the street. We spent over an hour there, which seemed to fly by pretty quickly. I then explained the nightbus system to Peaches and Emily, just in time to see my own nightbus, the N60, pull up, which I quickly jumped on.

I've really missed Vienna. I could go on for hours about that, but I think those first four words sum it up pretty good. Now it's time for dinner and another great night.

8 Miles, 9 Trips

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Three years and a month ago, during my freshman year of college, I took my first trip back to Vienna since graduating from high school. I called it “Vienna Trip I,” and I’ve counted up since then. The night before Vienna Trip I, I watched 8 Mile at Carousel Cinemas. Tomorrow I’m embarking on Vienna Trip IX, and 8 Mile is on TV. Strange how that happens…

Anyway, as usual, I’m behind in packing. But the good news is most of my packing just involves transferring my already packed things from Syracuse to a suitcase. That’s in addition to the fact that my flight doesn’t leave from here until 6:46 tomorrow afternoon.

My number in Vienna will be +43 660 214 215 3. I just tested the voicemail, so it should work fine.

I've been too busy with studying for my final exams and subsequently working at Target the last few weeks to check on holiday news lately, but I did some catching up lately.

Apparently this year, more than ever, a very hot item of debate is "Merry Christmas vs. Happy Holidays." Before I even discuss this issue, let's reflect on what Christmas in retailing has become... Insanity. What does fighting your way through toy aisles looking to grab the last model of a toy that some celebrity on TV made "a hot item" even have to do with Christmas? Take a look in the bible. You won't find "Black Friday", the "Doodle Monster", or "Apples to Apples."

Around Thanksgiving this year, a rumor began to spread that my employer, Target, was banning their team members from saying "Merry Christmas," a rumor that is completely false. Once again, is this most likely an example of the exaggeration of one experience at one Target store. This has happened before, often sparking mass chain letters, such as the Dick Forrey Letter. After the "Merry Christmas Ban Rumor" came out, conservative blogger Debbie Schlussel apparently questioned some team members in the Detroit area and claims that they said they'd be fired if they were caught saying "Merry Christmas."

Even if there were a couple Target managers who were misinformed about Target policy is, it's ridiculous to hold the entire 1400-store chain accountable. As soon as this rumor came out, a notice was posted at my Target explaining that it was false.

Let's take a look at the issue as a whole now. I exclusively used "Happy Holidays" over the past few weeks for one major reason: I have no clue what religion a complete stranger is! If I really wanted to, I suppose I could do some profiling of every guest I talked to. Maybe I could check to see if they were wearing a religious symbol, or what items they had in their cart. But why? Why does retailing have to be so religious?

If a guest said "Merry Christmas" to me, I would respond with "Merry Christmas" as well. I did this several dozen times. There's no reason to force "Happy Holidays" then. But just as I don't assume that every female shopper with a belly is expecting, and thus don't automatically congratulate for fear of offending, I don't assume every guest is Christian.

Apparently some Christians are offended by not being offered a "Merry Christmas" when shopping their local discount store. I just don't understand this. As a little kid, before I had a real understanding about religions other than my own, I thought people said "Happy Holidays" because there are multiple holidays in Christianity that people celebrate this time of year. There's Christmas, New Year's, and for some more traditional Christians there is Epiphany of the Lord or Three Kings Day on January 6. To my conservative friends, may I suggest you look at it this way?

This is not to say that there isn't the other extreme of political correctness. Boston, among other cities, began calling its main Christmas tree "Holiday Tree" this year. Let's face it... It is a symbol of a certain religion, and it's probably more offensive than tolerant to force it as a symbol of all the holidays this time of year. The same goes for "holiday stockings" as well as "holiday wrap" and "holiday ornaments" with Christmas themes on it.

I don't feel retailers shouldn't make reference to Christmas in their flyers or in their obvious Christmas sections in their stores. I'm definitely not an extremist in this regard. But I don't think retail stores (with the obvious exception of Christmas stores) should promote greeting customers they don't know with a greeting that doesn't apply to one out of five Americans. Tonight is Christmas Eve, and if you're Christian, now is the right time to practice your beliefs with your own family and friends. But if I don't know you, you'll still get a friendly "Happy Holidays" from me if I see you out in public... Or on this weblog...

Happy Holidays!

A Night of Packing

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After a wonderful week of literally being the only person living on my entire block, I am finally making preparations of going home to Vestal and subsequently to Vienna!

I have an insane amount to pack, thanks to my vast collection of important cables, without which vital instruments such as my cell phone, camera, or video camera, would be useless. I am about to make a huge checklist that lists all my electronic devices and what I need for them.

Tomorrow I have my last shift at Target before the holidays. It's from 3:30 to midnight, after which I'll drive home, arriving sometime around 1:30. I can't wait to be back in Vestal, and I can't wait to be back in Vienna, my second home, a couple days later.

Having a great couple of weeks to look forward to has really brightened my outlook. After weeks of having only exams and essays to "look forward to," this is heaven!

Well, I'm wasting valuable time! Off to packing!

The Squid and the Whale

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Vision Entertainment Services. © 1995-2005Tonight I went to go see The Squid and the Whale at the Westcott Cinema, in Syracuse's Westcott neighborhood, right around the corner from where I live. While the Westcott Cinema could desperately use some of the renovation the Palace Theatre in Eastwood has gotten, it isn't in too bad of a shape. I definetly want to see more movies there in the future, seeing that it's right around the corner and it generally plays good movies. A couple of weeks ago it screened Wal-Mart:_The High Cost of Low Price, which I unfortunately missed.

Movie PosterAnyway, I liked The Squid and the Whale. It had that kind-of "real feel" to it, probably aided by the use of 16mm cameras, and the movie is kind of a tragicomedy, a genre I like very much.

The movie has a ton of anachronisms, some of which I noticed while watching the movie. The film was supposed to be set in 1986. Two of the ones I noticed were the U.S. flag on subway cars (didn't appear until after 9/11), and a Purell hand disinfectant dispenser (didn't appear until a few years ago). Unlike some people, anachronisms don't usually anger me, with the exception of that really stupid one involving a video camera in The War of the Worlds, which I mentioned in my hate-rant about that movie this past summer.

Good Night and Good Luck.

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Tuesday night I saw Good Night and Good Luck. at the Palace Theatre in the Eastwood Neighborhood of Syracuse, in what would be the first of a two-night tour of old-school Syracusan theaters. The Palace reopened this year after a half-million dollar renovation. It's a pretty cool place... It even has a café. About 25 people were there. I estimated that the theater holds about 600.

Movie PosterAnyways, the movie was pretty good. McCarthyism is a pretty relevant topic again today. With Bush authorizing wire tapping and people randomly being labeled as terrorists simply because they look Islamic. It is quite ridiculous that Senator McCarthy got away with what he did for several years. A great moment in the movie was the rebuttal segment, where his arguments started falling apart.

The whole fifties flair was great too, including the TV cigarette ads, and somebody lighting a cigarette virtually every five seconds.

Remember last week I wrote about that store, Steve and Barry's, that was selling everything in its store, including winter coats, jeans, and polo shirts, for $9.95 or less (see entry)?

Well, Friday I returned to the Carousel Center. It turns out that instead of ending the sale and raising prices to somewhat "normal" levels, they decided to put the entire store on clearance and sell everything at $7.95 or less. Now I feel ripped off for spending $8 more than I would have later in the week!

I emailed my complaint to retail columnist Bob Niedt of the Syracuse Post-Standard, and he mentioned my complaint in his daily retail notebook (see entry):

From ex-Vestalian now current Syracusan Kai Brinker:

"I feel like Steve & Barry's let me down! They opened with a 'Grand Opening Special' of everything priced at $9.95 or less, which I abused, and now, what, like two weeks later, when you'd expect the sale to end, they reduce everything to $7.95 or less because of a 'Clearance Sale!' Seriously, who lowers their prices, let alone clearances-out their items after a 'Grand Opening Sale!?' This playing with my wallet cost me a whole eight dollars! Unbelievable!"

Yow! OK, Kai, you're tapped out. Forget buying me anything. Pressure off? Steve & Barry's is generating some mad business with this crazy pricing. Landing the SU license before opening in Syracuse was a smart move, whatever they paid.

Saturday I got my first haircut since... July!? I don't even remember! Anyway, those loyal readers of my weblog over the past five years know how awkward getting a haircut is for me! I never know what to tell the hairstylist when he or she (it has always been 'she') asks what I'd like done with my hair. On Friday, once again, I just responded that I'd like it "significantly shorter." Then I was asked whether I'd like it cut or clipped. I suggested both, upon which the technical hairstylist talk started, involving the numbers of clippers. The hairstylist suggested a 'number four' to which I consented but then quickly asked if there was something larger. Apparently there's a 'number six,' but I was warned that my hair would still be left pretty short. Since I don't really care what happens to my hair as long as there's some of it left by the end of the session, I said that that would be fine.

Then there's that awkward fifteen minutes or so while my haircut is being undertaken. I just sit there staring at the mirror. This time the hairstylist didn't even try to start some random conversation with me on what I do for a living and didn't even tell me to angle my head differently. I even considered using the weather as an icebreaker. Finally, as my haircut was almost complete, another stylist came by and stared in disbelief as the inches of red hair on the ground and commented on it. I made some random reference to sheering the wool off a sheep or something.

After the haircut, I wandered around the mall aimlessly, trying to find something to do on my first full day of freedom. I thought I'd go watch a movie, so I went to the cinema level and stared at the over a dozen movie titles that would begin within the next 30 minutes. I wasn't interested in any of the ones I recognized, so I went down to the Carousel Newsstand and bought a newspaper so I could read about the others. None of those sounded interesting either, so I gave up and drove home.

Then I wrote this entry (more or less), but lost it due the malfunction of some new plugin I had installed. Since it was already way to late and I had to be at work in the morning, I postponed rewriting again until tonight. I worked a total of 18.5 hours Saturday and Sunday, which was quite exhausting because it was of the busiest weekends of the year.