My big phat Indian wedding…

My sister-in-law got married this past weekend. It was a pretty lavish affair with close to 500 people coming out to celebrate her marriage.

Prior to the big day however, there was tons of things going on in preparation for her nuptials. For the past week, my wife and I have helped setup and attend numerous traditional and religious ceremonies called pujas, celebratory dinners or get-togethers and various other events with family and friends. All in all, we’re pretty exhausted.

Most Indian weddings are like this. For my own wedding, the events began a week before our marriage with my wife having to go it alone at most of the religious and traditional ceremonies (I was still in Alberta until about 3 days before my wedding day.)

Then on the day of our wedding, I was up at the crack of dawn to start getting ready. My wife, on the other hand, had been up since 3:00 a.m. She had had to get her hair and makeup done and then get dressed in her traditional Indian wedding outfit, called a langa.

Our marriage alone took over 1.5 hours, with about 300 people packing our church to see us get married. Right after that we were whisked away to perform a few more traditional ceremonies (one called a doli which symbolizes my wife leaving her parents house for mine) before finally hitting our hotel.

Then my wife had her hair and makeup lady arrive at about 4:00 p.m. to get her ready for the reception. This also included changing into another langa, different from the morning one. From the hotel we went to take pictures and then arrived at the hall at about 7:30p.m. where close to 600 people had come out to help us celebrate.

But our day didn’t end there. We had booked our honeymoon flight for 6:00 a.m. the next morning, so we had to leave our reception, check out of our hotel and then hit the airport where we took a 14 hour flight to Aruba.

Altogether it was over 24 hours before we finally managed to get some sleep.

Though this likely wasn’t the same schedule my sister-in-law went through, I have no doubt that the various events, ceremonies and get-togethers that made it such an exhausting week for us, probably tired them out even more.

But it was all worth it. The wedding went off without a hitch, my sister-in-law looked beautiful and we partied hard enough to justify all the time, expense and exhaustion the wedding cost us. If any of you have any Indian friends who are getting married and you get an invite, I encourage you to attend. You won’t be disappointed.

Now I am going to go take another nap.

To Wii or not to Wii…

About two weeks ago, my wife and I bought a Nintendo Wii. Since then we’ve wavered back and forth on whether we should keep it or return it.

For me, I’m not much of a Nintendo fan. I haven’t been for a long time. Their policy of consistently introducing brand new console systems that were completely incompatible with older systems turned me off of them.

For example, I bought the NES–with my own money, I might add–when I was about 13. Five years later, I was again spending my hard earned dollars buying the SNES and its games when they suddenly introduced the N64.

As a teenager who didn’t have a lot of money, it angered me that each time I had finally earned enough to buy one system and some of its overpriced games, Nintendo introduced another system which rendered the one I had just bought obsolete. So, I haven’t put any more dollars into Nintendo since the SNES.

For my wife, though, she’s just not much of a video game person.

She first played the Wii at her sister’s place and loved it. She liked the exercise aspect of the system (Play a round of Wii boxing with her and you’ll know what I mean.)

But she’s also happy just playing the game which comes with the Wii and not buying another one … ever. That means I either go crazy playing just Wii Sports, or I buy some new games and forget about playing them with her (which kind of renders my reasons for buying the Wii–spending time with her–useless.)

The other major issue I have with the Wii is that it just doesn’t stack up to the other console systems on the market when it comes to game quality or performance. I have played games like Medal of Honor and quite honestly, the control scheme and graphics suck.

At the same time though, the Wii does offer a pretty wide group appeal to almost everyone who plays it, which is something that most console systems can’t replicate.

So, now I’m trying to figure out, metaphorically speaking, if I should Wii or not Wii. Should I keep the system … or send it back. What do you guys think?  Give me your thoughts. (Rick, I totally expect to hear from you on this.)

(Update – I know I just posted this blog today, but it’s amazing what kind of information can come up through wordpress related to the topic you just wrote on. This article, Nintendo Gamers Were Bored Before Wii, is a perfect example of when a console maker gets a little to big for its britches.

For those of you not interested in reading the article, the gist is that Nintendo basically believes their Wii revitalized the gaming industry and helped gamers shed their “boredom” with standard consoles. Now here is what I have to say to Nintendo:

First, absolutely, sales of the Wii did very well compared to Microsoft’s XBOX and completely shattered the PS3, but at the end of the day, that was due more to the innovative gameplay and unique Wiimote controls. Once the interest in those die down–and trust me, they will–then what?

Second, its pretty common knowledge that no matter who you are and no matter what system you buy, you will eventually get bored of it. People in general have short attention spans, and gaming is no different than anything else in keeping us entertained for a short time.

Third, Nintendo needs to take a good hard look at the harsh realities of its system. Yes, the system is unique for its game style and control method, but

1. the games suck for the most part. The majority of them are dedicated to family style gaming and not to real gamers;

2. the graphics suck completely, no matter what game you play. I’m sorry, but pixellated, cartoony graphics died out with Dragon’s Lair.With the quality of the games coming out nowadays, Nintendo’s “Wii-eak” console power just doesn’t compare;

3. the controls suck if you are trying to play any game that works better with a gamepad or mouse and keyboard (the aforementioned Medal of Honor comes to mind); and finally

4. Consoles like the XBOX and PS3 may offer up standard fare for gamers, but they add to their value by providing add-ons like DVD players, Blue Ray, WIFI, etc. Nintendo’s console gives gamers no additional bang for their buck, so when the novelty of the Wii wears off then what?

I know I’m not a fan of Nintendo, so my criticism likely comes off biased, but in the end, Nintendo shouldn’t fool themselves into thinking their system is the Holy Grail for gamers. Rather, its just one more toy to play with until the next best thing comes out. At least with the PS3 and XBOX, they give gamers other features to keep them coming back, even if its not to play a game. Anyways, thanks Nintendo, you helped me make up my mind. I’m going to go get my $400 back.)

No spam please!

Wow, three posts in about a week. Definitely a first for me. Well, this post is more of an update for my readers. A while back I changed the settings on my blog because I was getting weird comments posted to it from even weirder emails/people/sources.

Turns out I was being spammed up the wazoo; and even worse than that, the spam was linking my name to material on the internet that I really don’t want to be linked to. (Think pornography)

Anyways, to get rid of it, I changed the settings to force people who wanted to leave a comment to log in. Not the best way to encourage readers to respond. Anyways, just wanted to let everyone know that’s changed and that I will continue to monitor my blog, and comments, to ensure I don’t get anymore spam.

Oh, and if you do happen to see my name linked to something inappropriate, please give me the benefit of the doubt before casting me off into pervertsville. Thanks!

Quality over qualifications…

I’ve never been a big fan of job hunting.

The stress of having to write cover letter after cover letter, update your resume to include every single relevant credential and then edit the whole affair to ensure you have no potential mistakes that could leave your application in the trash bin gives me a headache.

But the other frustration I have with job hunting comes from being considered either not qualified enough for a position, or even more surprisingly, too qualified for it.

Now don’t get me wrong. In a way, its a bit flattering having someone tell me that I exceed the qualifications of the position they’re hiring for, especially considering my limited experience in PR. But, at the same time, if I applied for the job, doesn’t that mean I want it and, even more importantly, consider myself qualified for it?

Now I understand the position of the organization. They want to hire someone who will fit nicely into the role, not become easily bored with it, or use it as a stepping stone to move higher in the company leaving them with the task of finding another candidate a year down the road.

But, at the same time, I still feel that if I applied for the job, it’s because I felt I was qualified for it and wanted it.

Furthermore, chances are that I would likely stay in that position for at least a year or two so that I could learn more about the company and how it operates. Then when I finally did make the jump up in my career, all of that carefully cultivated experience and knowledge could be used for the company’s benefit (since I would probably stay with them out of loyalty for hiring me.)

In addition to this, isn’t the expectation of moving up in a company something that any job candidate would consider? After all, who goes into a job wanting to stay at the same position and pay rate for their entire career? Pretty much no one.

So what do you guys think? Is the perception that a potential job candidate is too qualified for a position a fair assessment to make? And if so, isn’t it worth retaining the skills and experience that person could bring the position and the company? If there are any HR people out there who may read this blog, what are your thoughts?

A new look and a new ‘tude…

As many of you may have noticed–that is if I still have any readers left–I’ve been away for a long time. There are plenty of reasons for my absence; none of them really substantial, but I’ll tell you about them in a little bit. The reason for my return, however, is thanks to my colleague, Megan Ramsay.

I was visiting her blog and noticed her new look … and then I proceeded to read about her new look. That got me thinking that perhaps I should begin writing on my blog again, rather than have it drop off as just another completed school project.

So here I am. And with my return comes a new look (like Megan’s) which I hope is a little cleaner, a little more classy and a lot more mature. I am sure that in due time, you readers who still are around will let me know what you think.

So that said, here are some of the main reasons why I haven’t spent much time posting the goings on in my life on this forum.

1. My son. I am sorry but its true. At the end of a hard day, I would much rather cuddle my five month old son than sit here writing about him. If you saw how cute he was, you would understand.

2. The job hunt. I just recently completed my contract at the Town of Newmarket. My internship with the Town became a temporary contract and that is now over. So, for the past few months–during my internship and the extension–I have spent tons of time trying to find a job. Let’s face it … this blog isn’t going to put food in the mouth of my family (or it might, if my writing happens to catch the eye of some PR agency bigwig … hint hint.)

3. The writing process. I tend to be a bit of a perfectionist, so I usually write my blogs in MS Word, edit them, re-edit them again and then edit them one final time before pasting them into wordpress. After that comes the formatting process, trying to get them to look the way I want in wordpress. It’s a long process and one that quite honestly was beginning to turn me off of blogging. Now, I am just going to write and let the grammatical errors fall where they may.

4. The writing process #2. I tend to be a big verbose, or in other words, I don’t know when to shut up. My last few blogs could all have been contenders for university papers and that much writing can get irritating (not just to read, but to write as well.) So, from now on, I plan to try and write less and get to the point faster. Short and sweet (this blog notwithstanding.)

5. GENERAL LAZINESS. That’s right. I am lazy when it comes blogging. The fact is, I see a ton of different stories and issues that I would love to write about, but it always seems to slip my mind when I get home, thanks to the many other activities that present themselves. I mean, let’s face it, would you rather sit at a computer writing about PR, or sit in front of the couch watching So You Think You Can Dance and secretly hoping that the hot brunette and blond don’t get voted off in today’s show. Ah, I see you share my values. Excellent!

(Update – 6. I forgot this reason, but its just as important. Writing about non-PR related stuff. Lets face it, my life doesn’t completely revolve around PR, so having a blog that focuses just on that limits my creative freedom. With my new look, I plan on writing about more than just PR. Hopefully, it will lead to some more interesting discussions and definitely some more interesting posts!)

Well, that’s it. Those are my reasons for not writing on War of the Words. But, like my new look, I hope my new ‘tude towards my blog won’t wane and that I can start making up for some lost time. So for those of you who have left me, COME BACK! COME BACK! And for those of you who just met me, DON’T GO! DON’T GO! Otherwise … enjoy, leave me your comments, and don’t be a hater! Peace!

P.S. Corporate Communications Class of 2007/2008 … I miss you guys!

Pouring water on the Flame

The 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics have become a joke. Despite the attempts of China and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to minimize the impact of the protests following the torch relay—or point to parallels with the 1980 and 1984 boycotts—the reality is that there has never been this much opposition to a particular country hosting the Olympic Games as there is with China.

The Olympic torch is extinguished during its travels through Paris. (Photo courtesy of the National Post)

So is it fair or not? Is it true, like China keeps asserting, that the Olympics is purely a sporting event and that politics should be kept out of it; or do the protesters have it right? Should China be subjected to widespread criticism and protest because of their horrid human rights record?

Personally, I believe the latter argument.

The fact is that ever since the 1989 Tianamen Square massacre, China has been on the losing end of a major public relations crisis. And for the most part, they have never cared. That’s because they have never needed to. With countries like Canada and the U.S. bending over backward just to keep the Asian giant a favored trading partner, China has held all the aces against its North American counterparts—despite the rhetoric we seem to constantly hear from Canadian and U.S. officials about having a “positive dialogue on human rights” with Chinese officials.

And that’s the problem. It’s been complete rhetoric from the start. The reality is that politics has always been a part of the Olympics. How else did Beijing—one of the world’s most polluted cities—win the coveted sporting event? There were other cities who wanted the Games and had never hosted them before. Those cities were also willing to build the needed infrastructure to win the Olympics; and like China, believed that hosting the Games would have a positive impact on form them and their residents.

It was only by playing the political card and promising the IOC that hosting the Olympics would be “a catalyst for social change” that China beat out its competitors. And we are beginning to see what a boldly successful lie that was.

Because now, as IOC president Jacques Rogge, politely encourages Chinese leaders to “fulfill their moral pledges”, he is being equally as kindly told to “mind his own business.” Ouch! Guess that must smart!

So, it’s pretty fair to say that the IOC has only itself to blame. Their carefully calculated decision to award China the Olympic Games (over more worthy recipients) and potentially spur some sort of social revolution has been ground into the dust; along with the support and goodwill the Games normally enjoy.

And though one should feel bad that the athletes who have trained for years to attend these Games must now compete under the glare from human rights protesters; similarly China should learn a strong lesson from this; that invariably they are not immune to world criticism and despite the carefully crafted message they force feed their populace, this 2008 Beijing Olympics will never represent what the real Olympic Games and spirit is truly about.

Of course, if none of that makes any difference to them, then perhaps this should–what are their future chances of scoring another world sporting event? Well, if the dramatically shortened and disastrous torch relay; the possible call to boycott the Games by world leaders, athletes and coaches; and the scorn and criticism from millions of people around the world is any indication; no international sporting body—in its right mind—will likely ever choose China as the host for another event.

So, enjoy the 2008 Summer Olympics while you can, China. I think you’ve done a marvelous job in taking one of the world’s most prestigious sporting events and making it into the biggest joke ever.

But then again it doesn’t seem like anyone is laughing.

(Photo courtesy of The National Post)

The politics of blogging…

It’s internship time for us students here in Centennial College’s Corporate Communications & Public Relations program. Most of my colleagues have managed to secure a placement with an organization, agency, or not-for-profit, and the few remaining students who haven’t are in the process of tying up loose ends.

For myself, I have the privilege of working with the Town of Newmarket’s communications department. In fact, I have already begun writing up some materials for them, even though I technically don’t start my internship until March 25. (Even that’s early. Internships are supposed to start March 31, but I am a bit of a PR keener! 😉 )

Anyways, I’m pretty excited to be working with the Town of Newmarket. It’s a growing community with about 80,000 residents, close proximity to Toronto, and a reputation as an environmentally progressive municipality. So, I am sure there is going to be plenty for me to do as I wet my feet working in public relations.

In fact, one aspect I have already started to consider is the introduction of social media as part of Newmarket’s communications policy. It was one of the issues that I talked about in my interview. At that time, the communications team was interested in getting involved in social media, but a little concerned over the two-way aspect of online communications (having audiences be able to respond back on blogs and social networking sites.)

But I think social media is an excellent tool for local governments to use to get closer to their constituents. Blogs give municipalities a way to communicate policies, programs and initiatives to residents and get information and public response back in a timely manner. Furthermore, blogs are the great equalizer, giving residents who normally feel disenfranchised an opportunity to make their voices heard.

In fact, some minority political parties in other countries are already making use of social media. Greensblog is a blog created by the Australian Green Senators. It gives them an opportunity to discuss government issues in a forum where their voices are not quashed by government and opposition parties who outnumber them in parliamentary debates.

Closer to home, even Democratic presidential candidate, Barack Obama is making his views, and the view from his campaign trail, known through blogging. Rival Hillary Clinton also seems to have a blog in her name, though its credibility seems suspect.

But the fact that blogging is now a form of public relations for these candidates—or at least Obama—and for governments at large, is a huge indication that social media is a much more important element nowadays in public communication and interaction.

It’s a lesson it seems Canadian governments still need to learn. A recent post on Simon Dickson’s blog, I’m Simon Dickson, talks about the UK Foreign Office making a major jump into Web 2.0 with the launch of not one, but SIX blogs spanning all levels of the organization.

Over here, however, the only blog I found after several minutes of searching was by Canada’s Office of the Privacy Commissioner. Well at least someone gets the idea of Web 2.0. But it’s a definite fact that social media should be taken more seriously by governments in Canada as a way to communicate with their audiences.

In fact, two Australian researchers, Barry Saunders and Jason Wilson, recently wrote in their online article, Consulting Bloggers as Citizens, about the importance of blogging for local governments.

“Blogging and other forms of participatory social media (such as wikis) are well suited to consultative policy development. They allow comments and feedback, and thus open up discussion to a range of voices. This in turn allows political debate to move beyond left-right political point-scoring to a more complex, nuanced, interactive process.”

Furthermore, governments, especially municipal ones who have a closer representative relationship with their constituents, can actually use blogs and social media to get accurate feedback and information when developing policies which affect their constituents.

“Blogging is about arguments and discussion – a robust conversation about healthcare reform might be informative, and would certainly gauge the depth of community feeling around the issue. Such an unfettered discussion might help defuse the electorate’s most common complaint about major party politics: “they just aren’t listening.”

Social media is now a tool governments can use to show they are not only listening to their constituents; but that they’re also involved in the discussion. And until governments here decide to get involved, they just don’t hear what we’re saying.