14 September 2011

Streets Apart!

If you have read some of my other posts you will know that I am fairly new to Canada and in particular to the city of Winnipeg. I believe this gives me opportunity to observe and comment on subjects that some residents of Winnipeg may not see the same way or even notice the way I do. In this particular post I am going to talk about 'street people' here in Winnipeg compared to my experience's back in England.

Firstly I should point out that I understand this is a problem for many cities worldwide and that it is getting worse. I also understand that a lot of street people do not choose the street as a way of life, in fact many of them have mental issues, drugs related problems, suffer abuse both physical and mental and the list goes on. This post is not about the 'why' people are living on the streets or how they get there, nor is this post intended to be political argument although I am sure people will have strong views on this subject and by all means leave a comment.

So what is this post about? Let me give an you an example!

I am outside my workplace having a smoke and along comes this middle aged man picking cigarette butts up off the floor, and it took me a few seconds to realize that this was a street person. So why have I used the word realize here? I tell you because it took me a moment to process in my head the demeanour, appearance and character of this person. This person was wearing what looked to be a fairly new pair of jeans that appeared to be clean, a decent enough top on, clean in appearance, shaven etc. My sudden realization that this was a street person jolted my English instinct to suddenly kick in. I mentally prepare myself for the inevitable question, 'Can I have a cigarette?' or some other variant of this line of enquiry. However it did not come, instead the guy picks a suitable enough cigarette butt off the floor nearby, approaches me and asks, 'do you have a light?'. There was no 'have you got a spare cigarette?', 'have you got any spare change for a bus or cup of tea' (yes tea! I am English). I pulled out my cigarette packet because that day is where I was storing my lighter and again my Englishness kicked in, I am thinking, 'now when this guy see's that I have cigarette's in my packet THEN he will ask me for one', but no! He uses my lighter on his cigarette butt, thanks me and carries on looking for more butts.

You see, in England dealing with street people is a different experience as a generalization. Street people are more forthcoming with their requirements from general public. It is almost like street people in England expect to be given change, given a cigarette and so on to the point where I have gotten quite a vocabulary of stock answers that I use when confronted with street people in England. Generally street people in the cities of England are different in appearance and demeanour compared to the city of Winnipeg. The street people of England seem harder, rougher, more dishrevelled and have a harder nose when it comes to asking the public for money or cigarettes.

This is not the only experience I have had with street people here in Winnipeg, I am now becoming more aware of these people. But if these same people were taken out of the Winnipeg city environment and placed in an English city environment I would not blink twice if I saw these people in my local pub. Maybe this says more about pubs in England than anything else but my point being there is a difference in street people here in Winnipeg compared to what I am used to in England.

So, I had a little look into this subject and the usual reasons for street people are the same, rich get richer, investment in higher property prices within city dwellings, condo's, apartments, drugs, mental health issues, the list goes on. Also because of the many variable's as to why people become street people it difficult to find a specific number of street people within a city for a direct comparison between Winnipeg and other UK cities. But what I did find was this old article. No need to read it all but what I found of interest that MAY have some rational as to why street people here in Winnipeg do not approach the public in the same way as they do in England. This is a snippet from the document:
'Winnipeg was the first city to turn hardening attitudes into tougher legislation and in 1995 passed a by-law restricting public begging. Those who violated the by-law could be fined up to $1,000 or spend up to six months in jail. Winnipeg’s by-law became the general model and variations of it were enacted in major Canadian cities throughout the rest of the 1990s with local police forces rigorously enforcing it.'
I was not aware of this until I looked into it, so perhaps this is why there is such a difference with street people here in Winnipeg or Canada generally compared to England and the UK. I am not really aware of such enforcement towards begging acted upon in England and I wonder if this includes busking or some other street performance? However, is this legislation here in Winnipeg the reason I have a different experience with street people compared to UK? Can it be just this? Sure if street people are caught begging they get a fine, and so what? No home address to send the fine to. Maybe they get thrown in jail? Yeah a warm cell for the night!

I have no conclusion to this subject other than what I write now, but there has to be some reason(s) why my experiences with street people here are different than in the UK. If anyone has any information or thoughts on this or perhaps as a Canadian visiting the UK and having experience with UK street people then I would be really interested to hear your thoughts and opinions.

23 August 2011

The Decision To Immigrate To Canada 2

A quick recap from my previous post regarding The Decision To Emigrate To Canada. I landed in April of 2011 which is the terminology used for a person who has successfully entered Canada as a permanent resident. I have been here four months now and I have found work, it is part time work but I am happy with what I have been offered. It is an excellent opportunity and has the potential to become more permanent in the future I think. I am thankful for this opportunity, I really am! However this is not strictly why I am writing this post.

The main reason for this post is that I believe here in Canada there are some companies that are uneducated with regards to what the permanent resident status actually means. For employers who maybe looking to hire a person who has permanent resident status and is reading this, may I direct you to the following link: About being a permanent resident of Canada. Further more a permanent resident has the option to become a Canadian citizen if the person in question has been living in Canada for at least 3 years.

Some people maybe thinking 'hang on Liam you have been in Canada for only four months and you have been employed.' Yes I know and again I stress that I am grateful for the opportunity. But I have evidence that maybe coincidental to support my thoughts on this.

In the months that I have been applying for various positions here in Canada I have changed the wording on my website and resume to slowly remove most references that suggest that I am originally from the UK. My cover letters for job openings changed from stating that I am originally from the UK to practically no reference that I am from the UK. Was it stupid of me to think companies may actually find that a person from a different country with different cultures, different approaches to design, art, creativity may actually be of interest? Perhaps even an interview or a meeting to talk and chat about possibilities? Was it really that stupid of me to think so positively about what I can offer a company with my experience in a different culture and country? Or is there something else going on here that is embroiled within some political issue? I am referring to illegal immigration!

Take a look at this article I found this doing a quick search on the web regarding Canadian immigration  which was written less than two weeks ago as of the time I post this. To be honest I actually see this situation getting worse for new people granted permanent residence in Canada. Since my initial application I have seen the immigration application process change, as of right now today if I were to apply I would probably be rejected.

But let me just bring this back to my own personal experience thus far regarding finding work here as a new permanent resident. I believe that companies receive lots of resume's and applications for employment opportunities in my field such as web design, graphic design, creative roles etc. Maybe one look at an opening line from a cover letter that states, 'I have recently moved from the UK to Canada on a permanent resident status' just smells of hassle and trouble. And maybe there is a mentality in certain cases that a person asks themselves 'why should we give an opportunity to a foreigner when we have locals here looking for work too?' I can understand this feeling and outlook because coming from the UK there are similar feelings towards Eastern European's coming to the UK looking for work. This is a whole other area that I could talk about but it has no bearing on what this blog is about. The main difference between the UK situation and the Canadian situation regarding immigration is that countries that are part of the European Union (EU) are allowed by European law to live and work anywhere within the EU.

Before anyone reads this and says that I am missing all other UK immigration issues in the UK, I know, I am just making a point.

I have also spoke to Canadian citizens on this topic and generally they are not aware that there is such a problem, but why would they? They are not in my situation. They are not the one's who have been slowly taking any reference to the fact that I am from the UK out of any professional correspondence regarding employment opportunities. Generally when I ask Canadian's about getting work here they all seem to encourage me and wish me well. So maybe it is just a case of educating employers with what a permanent resident can and can't do here in Canada.

To wrap this up for now my advice to anyone who is a NEW permanent resident here in Canada like myself and looking for employment would be to take as much reference out of your correspondence regarding your country of origins. I read this back and it kind of sickens me that I am suggesting this, but I have had more luck since taking this action myself.

To potential employers, I would consider diversity in the workplace and perhaps not shoot applications down so quick without first understanding the legality of what a Permanent Resident status means. Of course this does not apply to every company in Canada, in fact certain government jobs actually have a quota they have to take on. Call me pessimistic here but doesn't it seem convinient that government agencies have a quota for taking on minorities and immigrants and it is the government that sets immigration targets? I don't believe there is such an innitiative in the private sector, perhaps there should be.

This blog actually got longer than anticipated and I certainly don't want to suggest that I have experienced any negativity with regards to my UK origins here in Canada. For myself I would just like to bring awareness as to what a Permanent Resident status actually means here in Canada mainly to companies that may not have actually looked into it.

Visit my professional website at http://iamliamroberts.com

3 August 2011

Subliminal Cultural Advertising by McDonalds

OK, I have been meaning to post this for a while now but I couldn't find the appropriate sources in order to make my point! Now that I have found the sources it appears I am not the only one who has noticed what I am suggesting here. Lets start with this and take a listen to the new McDonalds television advert to promote their Mango Pineapple product. Not sure if this ad is just for Canada or if it is in any other countries but I would be interested to know if this is shown anywhere else in the world right now so please leave a comment. Now lets have a listen to this advert:-

The imagery is not that important for my point to be made here, but the question I have is does the soundtrack sound familiar to you at all? Perhaps not! If it doesn't not to worry, this means that generally McDonalds were not trying to target you in this particular marketing campaign. Now lets have a listen to this song:-

This song is by Martin Solveig & Dragonette entitled 'Hello' releases early to mid 2011 depending on where in the world you are. It is interesting to note here that the vocals used are from the electro pop band Dragonette who are from Canada. Again, leave a comment if this advert is seen in other countries please because if this is targeted just for the Canadian market then the use of a Canadian band vocals is even more cunning on behalf of McDonalds.

At first I thought I was going mad and maybe my djing ears were making a jump here, but at 01.00mins into the song, just after the lyric 'hello' is used, is it me or does the McDonalds advert and the Solveig tune have some very apparent similarities? I ask the question if when you first heard the McDonalds advert above and didn't notice any similarities, can you hear them now? The reason you may not have recognized any similarities first time round was because McDonalds aren't trying to target you in this advert, instead they are trying to target in my opinion a teenager perhaps 13 or 14 years old all the way up to someone around the age of late 30's maybe early 40's depending on the persons lifestyle and interests. These people probably listen to the major radio stations to and from work in their car that utilizes a mixture of general chat and popular music. Maybe a majority of these people also like to go out of a weekend to dance clubs drinking cocktails, tall fruity mixers, bottled beer and coolers! [Read my post on bottled beer here] This target audience probably is a Tim Hortons drinker rather than a Starbucks drinker, have an understanding of global environmental issues and probably for that reason doesn't drive a truck but opts for a smaller saloon car, occasionally may use public transport. These are generalizations of course and it doesn't mean that you will fit into all of these catagories.

This is what I would consider subliminal cultural advertising, it is also no mistake that the McDonalds advert uses the words 'say hello' as the first spoken words in this advert that directly invokes a cultural response to the Solveig tune again.

When you ask a person does advertising work? The usual response is no, when asked a little further as to why they think advertising doesn't work the usual reply is because when they see an advert on television it doesn't make them immediately go out and buy that product or service etc. But alas, not all advertising is telling you to go out and buy a product, some do of course but in the case of the larger corporate companies, coca cola, pepsi, budweiser or McDonalds in this case tend to use a different approach. These companies use association methods and the example I give here with the Solveig song is just one. If you like that song, what it stands for, perhaps it recalls a fond memory out in a club somewhere, patriotism, love whatever it is McDonalds want you to see their product in the same way. Of course this can also work in a negative way, but the choice of song is a careful consideration these companies make. After all this song was hardly out of the top 20 most sold list in many countries across the world. Take a look at what Wikipedia says about it here.

Advertising works on many levels and it is naive of us to say it doesn't work just because we don't go out and buy the product, association is one of the biggest weapons advertising use on us, if we associate their products with something that naturally doesn't exist with that product then it has succeeded. There are many examples of this and maybe I may post a few more blogs about this in the future, but for now I ask the simple question again. Do these songs sound strangely similar?

Visit my professional website at http://iamliamroberts.com

23 July 2011

I command you!

I just saw this on TV over here tonight! I thought it funny especially with the new film coming out! An example of how curse words change in the English Language. This was a comic that started in 1940 in the US! I think I can use the word gay now and think I am being perceived as happy!

Visit my professional website at http://iamliamroberts.com

12 July 2011

Taste the Difference in Cans v Bottles?

What is it? I am in Canada and I am drinking beer from a bottle! Back in the UK I leave that to the young ones generally speaking. I drink draught pints when in the UK and I mean the 568ml UK pints not the 473ml American pint.

Anyway, I go to my local beer vendor here in Canada (For the UK readers, stores like Safeway, Asda aren't allowed to sell alcohol, although there is talk of that changing) to get my beer. I have the choice of the same product for example Labatt's either in cans or bottles. I have mostly been buying cans, but yesterday I decided to go for the bottles, why? Well because I wanted to know if there was something I was missing out on. First and formost I must point out that I am missing out on 14ml if I drink from a bottle. Secondly, I have to use a secondary implement to open the bottle usually in the form of a bottle opener, although I have seen variants on this. Thirdly, the bottles don't fit into my fridge as well as cans! So I guess the important thing here is how does it taste? Some people swear that the drink tastes better in a bottle, I am unconvinced. I believe there is a common myth at play that has been driven by the media for years. Look at his image and ask yourself which one tastes better?

Probably most people will lean towards the glass bottle, this is where I believe the myth originated! It is engrained in our culture, based in our social upbringing and empowered by media. Simple fact is that the product is exactly the same no matter what package it comes in. I would probably have difficulty accepting this opinion however I had a realization here in Canada with the innocent product milk.

When I was young back in the UK we used to get milk delivered in glass bottles, in school at break time we used to get a little drink of milk usually in glass bottles. As I got older the local delivery milkman basically disappeared as they were in direct competition with superstores selling milk in larger quantities and larger plastic bottles. I was convinced that the milk didn't taste the same and when I would see milk in a small local shop somewhere that had milk in a glass bottle I would buy it and drink it thinking it tasted better than what was being sold in the supermarket.

However, here in Canada I go to the store and buy milk in large six pint plastic bottles, and you know what? It tastes great, it tastes like what I remember milk to taste like in the UK in the glass bottles. Which suggests to me something changed in the manufacturing process back in the UK. So it wasn't the container that changed the taste of the milk it was something that changed in the bulk manufacture of the milk in the UK.

On a side note to this can v bottle blog, some people may suggest an environmental opinion as to why people should use cans or bottles. I have looked into this and this argument is dependant on a number of variables such as recycling options in your area, transportation of raw materials and transportation of the product itself.

If anyone has any comments on this subject then please leave a comment as I would like to hear other peoples opinions.

Visit my professional website at http://iamliamroberts.com

29 June 2011

Blogging Lesson 1

OK, so with my eagerness to start a blog I overlooked a simple process that any written work should go through. Proofreading! Now I am not saying that I have made many spelling mistakes if at all any in my previous blogs. However it is not just about spelling mistakes, it can also be about the structuring of your words, perhaps what you intend to communicate as a writer may not actually be the message that a reader receives. I learned this from my previous post that my girlfriend picked up on, no need to go into details, however she had a point and that is why I am writing this post.

Basically this is a fundamental process any creative should go through, I mentioned proofreading in this case but double checking your work should apply to all forms of publishing in whatever medium that may be, digital, paper, graffiti, correspondence to your bank manager etc. It is something I naturally do in my professional life, perhaps the fact that I am publishing on the web via a blog  made me lazy for a moment? And this is an important question! Do people get lazy and careless when blogging, emailing, sending a text message, basically sending any digital message because they feel perhaps they are not talking directly to another human because the interface has changed? The interaction between human and human has has become more and more through the interface of a screen. Is there a danger here? The reality is we are all responsible for our actions as individuals, groups, communities, organizations etc as much on the web as we are in real life human interactions. There is a very serious issue that could be tied into this topic which is not exactly what I am talking about, however it is an extreme illustration of what we put on the web can affect real life too, I am referring to cyber bullying.

I don't want to go off topic here, all I wish to say is that we have responsibilities in the messages we create in whatever medium or forum we choose. For me it was a simple lesson that I overlooked but was a reminder for me that even on this very simple level what I write here in my blog may actually have an affect on someone in a way that was not intended. And on a larger canvas these small details that we may overlook could have consequences that we did not intend or foresee in the future.

Visit my professional website at http://iamliamroberts.com

27 June 2011

The Decision To Immigrate To Canada

So, picture this if you will! You have been on holiday/vacation to somewhere nice, you have enjoyed the culture, the people, the sights and sounds, the lifestyle, you feel energized and now you are packing your suitcase back up, gathering your memories of your trip soon to be heading to an airport. Soon you are up in the air for a period of time with nothing much to do but contemplate the time you have just had on holiday and that voice creeps in your head saying, 'Why am I going back?'.

Well, the second time I left Canada after seeing my girlfriend who lives here in Canada I had that voice in my head and right there mid way over the Atlantic ocean I decided to apply for immigration to Canada. I know what some of you are thinking, 'It is a different thing visiting a place to living in a place'. I know this, but you can live your life with 'what if's', but the only 'what if' that I would regret is what if I didn't try this?

The fact that my girlfriend was in Canada simply was my decision to apply for immigration. It was an easier decision for myself, single, mid 30's, no major commitments in the UK such as property, loans etc, compared to maybe uprooting a family, sell a home, pay loans, find a school for kids etc. There are many factors that some people would need to consider, however there are plenty of families that have done this not just to Canada but to other places, and likewise some people have done this to move to the UK. For me it was a fairly easy decision, but for others it maybe not so straight forward. But if you do make that decision, be ready for a long drawn out process, nothing difficult, but a lengthy one.

There are many ways to immigrate to Canada, but I can only speak of my approach which was to apply for a skilled worker visa. Your first port of call must be the Citizenship and Immigration Canada website. Perhaps more important as a starting point would be to check online if you have the appropriate general points that will indicate if you are eligible to apply. You can check this using the self assessment test for skilled workers, remember this is the process I went through, there are many other ways to apply for visa's in Canada.

The CIC website gets updates on a regular basis as the government changes their policies regarding immigration and so you should check the website on a regular basis. I know that in 2010 that they were limiting the number of applications that they were processing, this was due to the backlog of applications they were dealing with and the goal was to reduce processing times. It is worth pointing out here that if I had left my application for another year I probably wouldn't have been successful, also my National Occupation Code (NOC) was no longer on the list of trades that was needed in Canada. I am not sure how long the government will keep this cap in place but details can be found here.

The one thing I will say about the process of immigration to Canada under the skilled worker visa is that it is not difficult, nor is it too costly compared to other countries. There are plenty of agencies out there that will do all the paper work for you, but seriously the paperwork is not difficult and these agencies will cost a fortune for what I have done myself, which is not a lot just a lot of waiting! Just over two years for myself from initial application to actually landing in Canada.

I guess my point is this with regarding to emigrating to anywhere is that if you find yourself on that plane hearing that voice asking, 'Why am I going back?' then maybe you should act upon that voice. Stop putting it off for another year as in my experience that could have been a year too late!

Visit my professional website at http://iamliamroberts.com

24 June 2011

Initial Thoughts of Apple Final Cut Pro X

I know I said in me previous post that I would talk about my experience with immigration to Canada, but I have been sidetracked with some new software I have been having a play around with. This software I mention is Apple's new Final Cut Pro X, the software that has the film editing professionals talking, but are they talking about this software in good favour or something else?

I have spoken to a number of professional film people about this development and they all seem to be in hot debate with it. As loyal users of previous incarnations of Final Cut Pro the outstanding point that keeps coming out is that this new version is a bloated version of iMovie! But what does this mean? Well dig a little deeper and arguments that have substance are that FCP X has reduced features for editing than previous versions, doesn't support industry standards, isn't industry standard, has less hidden details that the film professional is accustomed to in the modern industry. Do a search on Google about this topic and you will find many stories and horrified professionals condemning this move that Apple has made.

But what about MY experience with it? I am not a professional film editor, I have played around with old versions of FCP, Adobe Premiere, iMovie, Moviemaker etc, but I would never consider myself a professional in this field. So what would I consider myself in order to give this review a benchmark? OK I am not new to computers at all, as I have said I have opened and played around with other video editing software's, I am a designer by profession and I have taught many software's to groups especially in the Web Design area, so the Adobe software's are not a stranger to me, I like film and photography, I have an interest in design, I own a Mac. That probably sums up my background and knowledge base to quantify this review. But remember I am not a professional film editor, this is where the line is drawn and the arguments start regarding this new software. On a side note however, recent comments have suggested that Apple will be releasing updates to this new Final Cut Pro, that MAY include some of the features that the film professional is apparently missing in this version. This is to be seen of course, but I digress from the purpose of this review.

I have included a link to a video I created in a few hours which included processing, rendering, colour adjustments, cutting, shifting, slicing, adding sound, editing sound all at 1080p resolution on a MacBook Pro 4gb Ram i7 processor. Don't judge me on the design or planning of this video, it was for experimental reasons only. Oh and please excuse the transitions, I will come back to them in a moment. Click here to view the video.

So overall performance was pretty good, a few glitches here and there but remember working at 1080  resolution and it did crash I think twice. The interface is fairly intuitive again bearing in mind I have looked at other film editing software, it has features above and beyond the capabilities of iMovie etc. One thing I did notice was that the colour corrections I made in the preview window did not match the final exported movie, not sure why that was, I did fiddle with it to see if I could find something in the preferences but I could not as yet find a solution to that problem. There are lots of built in effects and transitions including the one I used in this movie, however in order to edit these transitions you would need to purchase Apple's Motion software, which I have yet not done. Export options are limited to the new Share menu which allows quick sharing to the likes of Facebook, Podcasts, DVD, Blu-Ray, Vimeo, or export at current project settings. This is all well and good for the social media person, or people producing quick online news feeds etc, but in order to have more control in this area you will need to also purchase Apple's Compressor software. This is something previous versions and users of FCP will find irritating. I would have embedded the video directly inside this blog however the export options didn't really allow me to do this.

Overall I enjoyed using the software, again I am not a professional film producer but it suited my needs giving me more options and capabilities than say iMovie, but keeping the accessibility and ease of use of iMovie. For professionals maybe this is not for them, but again maybe Apple will introduce the features these professionals are used to in time, but as it stands, probably not the option. Of course these users can continue using older versions of FCP, but eventually Apple will stop support for this software and maybe we can consider this software a skeleton on which Apple will build in more professional options.

For me this software is in a way ideal! And if you are interested in film producing, for family, for yourself, as a semi professional, as a wedding video producer etc then this is great, for the professional, perhaps not, or should I say, perhaps not YET! Of course there is always a knee jerk response from the industry towards the new, and yes it does have an effect including a economic effect when converting to a new standard. Professionals have suggested that Apple have shunned the 'industry standard' approach to this software and may move towards Adobe Premier or Avid, which is ironic as before Apple FCP came they were the standard, maybe it was the elitist approach of users that made them move to Apples FCP in the first place. With this software Apple have opened a fairly technical area of film production to the masses, allowing new people, hobbyist, people like me with creative interest in film access to some intuitive and visually impressive film production techniques and application.

On a personal note as a creative and someone who has delivered instruction on many creative softwares, this reaction from the industry is something I would have done myself a while ago. I would have had the elitist opinion on these softwares saying things like these creative softwares are only for the professional etc. But the more I look at the industry who develop these softwares and allow more accessibility and usability to the masses a saying springs to mind:
"You can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink"
Basically what I am saying is that you can teach someone the tools of any software, in particular creative software, but what a person does with that software is what sets a person outside of the masses! Creativity is the way forward and its very difficult to teach that with a manual, or with software training, it is something that is absorbed and nurtured through experience. So the knee jerk reaction from the professional film persons in this case is something they should not fear.  Final Cut Pro X does not mean you are out of a job just yet!

Visit my professional website at http://iamliamroberts.com

22 June 2011

My First Post

Hello and welcome to my Blog! I have been putting this bogging off for some time now, however I have given in to the idea now and here I write my first post!

I currently have emigrated to Canada Manitoba from the UK where I used to teach media in its many guises. I have a website which shows examples of work that I have been involved in over the years that can be found here.

I DJ as a hobby, it kind of helps me relax, I play Progressive, Trance and Techno and a link to my podcast can be found here. However since moving to Canada and not having all my equipment here as yet there is limited updates on there.

I was talking to my girlfriend last night about starting a blog but I was wondering what should I blog about? She suggested to me, 'Why don't you talk about your experience of applying for permanent residence here in Canada?'. That is not a bad idea, so I guess that is where my blog will start after this post!

First of all I have to get this blog kind of looking how I want it!

Visit my professional website at http://iamliamroberts.com