Holiday Hits Playlist

It’s the holiday season and what better way to spread the cheer then with the essential holiday hits playlist.  I know, there is so much good holiday music that you could find 96 hours worth of good tunes to include, but that isn’t what a playlist is about is it? Nope, not at all.

I mulled through hours and hours of music for you to bring a taste of great modern songs mixed with the classics.  There were some tough choices to make and several hits, including some of my favorites were cut.  Songs like: “Do They Know It’s Christmas Time,” “Winter Wonderland,” “Run, Run, Rudolph,” and “We’re a Couple of Misfits” are classics just didn’t quite make the list.  My very favorite song did make the list.  Bonus points (and possibly a free cd of the playlist) if you can guess it.

So whether your a baby boomer, helicopter parent, teen or tween and whether you like country, rock or rap this playlist will be the perfect mix to entertain all types of guests for your holiday festivities.  The length of this essential holiday hits playlist is just right for at home or at play. If you want a longer version, well then just go buy the Time/Life Box Set of Christmas Classics.

And to really kick-start the holiday season, the first three readers (or “nuts” as I like to say) who send an email to SquirrelsHateMe@hotmail.com will receive their very own copy of the playlist.  Winners will be notified via email a day or so later.

Play in the listed order for a truly spirited listen. Enjoy.

Little Drummer Boy – Bing Crosby & David Bowie
Christmas Lights – Coldplay
Christmas Time is Here – Vince Guaraldi Trio
Last Christmas – Taylor Swift
Christmas Song – Dave Matthews
The Christmas Song – Nat King Cole
Baby, It’s Cold Outside – Lady Antebellum
Sleigh Ride – Johnny Mathis
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen – Barenaked Ladies & Sarah McLachlan
It Snowed – Meaghan Smith
Christmas Tree – Bryan Adams
Christmas Vacation – Mavis Staples
Wish List – Neon Trees
Christmas Wrapping – Waitresses
Merry Christmas Baby – Bruce Springsteen
Christmas in Hollis – Run DMC
Christmas Eve / Sarajevo – Trans-Siberian Orchestra
It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year – Andy Williams
Holly Jolly Christmas – Burl Ives

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Many new MILB logos introduced

Over the course of the past month there has been several new minor league baseball team logos introduced.  We have reviewed two of these changes in full detail; the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Railriders and the Reading Fightin Phils.  However, besides these two local teams there has been many more changes that came about.

Without going into great detail let’s take a look at the changes.

Buffalo Bisons
AAA affiliate of Toronto Blue Jays
International League
Revised Logo Grade: C
Review: Bisons are switching affiliations from Mets to Blue Jays and needed to move away from any New York Mets identity. The logo is a play on one designed many years ago, however it seems much to simple of a design.

Hudson Valley Renegades
A affiliate of Tampa Bay Rays
New York – Penn League
Revised Logo Grade: B
Review: Very muted colors, but I think that was the look the Renegades were going for, trying to add an element of spookiness.

Eugene Emeralds
A affiliate of San Diego Padres
Northwest League
Revised Logo Grade: B+
Review: Move from sophisticated and bland to more of a character / icon. Teams are trying to identify more with their local market and featuring the Sasquatch surely does this. Too much “emerald” green distracts from the overall quality.

Aberdeen Ironbirds
A affiliate of Baltimore Orioles
New York – Penn League
Revised Logo Grade: B+
Review: Great update. Replacing cartoonish plane with a more fierce and intimidating version.

Some intriguing updates to minor league logos.  I am looking forward to seeing further revisions before the kick-off to the 2013 season.

Powerball Winning: a dollar, a dream … a reality?

They say the odds are against me.  They say the odds of winning tonight’s $500 million Powerball jackpot is 1 in 175,223,510.  I say never tell me the odds (thanks for the sound bite Han Solo).

Just like children wishing for Santa or the Easter Bunny, we adults need some sort of miracle to believe in, no matter how far stretched it would be. Now I am not saying play your weekly paycheck in the hopes of striking it rich. No, what I am saying play the lottery with a few dollars when the jackpot is extremely high as the excitement of winning and the dreams of possibilities are endless and make for a little fun with your money.

CNN.com reported a few unlikely scenarios that are more likely than hitting it big:

  • Dying from a bee sting: 1 in 6.1 million.
  • Dying from being struck by lightning: 1 in 3 million.
  • Being struck by lightning over an 80-year lifetime: 1 in 10,000.
  • Being attacked by a shark: 1 in 11.5 million

Again, I say never tell me the odds; it’s my dollar and my dream.  So just what would I do if I won the $500 million? Well, after receiving the lump sum amount of $327 million and then after taxes the amount will probably be about $180 million. I guess that’s enough to get by.

Of course the celebratory dinner, estate planning, donating to charity, help remodel the local high school, paying college tuition for all family members and paying off family member’s mortgages and the likes are all part of what I will do with the winnings but it’s no fun to discuss on this post.  So what would I do?  Well …

Winnings Wish List

  • Fly to San Diego for a fish taco
  • Build a basement for the house
  • Finally hold that pig roast I have been talking about and hiring Jimmy Buffett as the entertainment
  • Rent out the Plaza in Ocean City, MD for a week for friends and family to vacation, of course I would then have to rent out Fish Tales for some evening festivities
  • Get my wife some nice jewelry
  • Host Christmas in July every year, I will dress as Hermey and hand out presents. Two Xmas’s a year are surely better than one.

Wow that’s a short list. Oh wait one more, buy myself a new hoody.  That’s it.  Kind of boring I know, but I guess its par for the course.

So what would you do?

A Cereal Box Prize Surprise

Remember the great feeling you had to be the first to open a brand new cereal box and dig deep into its contents looking for some promotional prize?  Sometimes the treasure hunting would take several frustrating minutes until you found the novelty.  Was the prize on top or on the bottom, did you need to shake the box or look between the box and the plastic liner? Or the dreaded dump the cereal into a big bowl to find it.

Marketers sure knew what they were doing.  Those prizes were a great way to entice mothers to purchase their product.  When I would shop with my mom cereal sections were solely based on prizes and when I wasn’t with her my mother knew she would not be allowed in our house without a box of Sugar Pops with a prize inside.
For the most part I had the reigns to these promotional items. However there were times when it was simply war between my sister and I, fighting over who got to keep the disappearing ink pen.  On one occasion my mother and all her frustration decided she had enough of the bickering over plastic toys and therefore implemented the shared prize box.  Lame.  I would just steal the prizes when no one was looking.  Go figure.

Prizes came in many forms: race cars, action figures and all sorts of great novelty items. I still remember my first cereal box prize, a Fruity Pebbles coin purse that I then used to purchase milk at the Kindergarten cafeteria (though it was difficult to get the coins out).

Here are some cool items:

  • License Plates from Honeycomb
  • Mini Pez dispensers from General Mills
  • Baking soda powered Diving Frogman
  • 3-D baseball cards from Kellogg’s (everyone loved to scratch them and make cool sounds)

It’s amazing what a little plastic toy could do, but it did positively impact our moods.  At least for the next 30 minutes.  Yes, it was a wonderful time; but it has been years since cereal manufacturers have placed prizes in their boxes.

Sure, on occasion you will get a code to enter into a website to play some ridiculous game and just recently Kellogg’s launched its www.kelloggsfamilyrewards.com  where you can earn a variety of rewards including Kellogg’s products, books and gift card.  But unfortunately the plastic treasures are no more.  And sometimes you may have a form to mail for some crummy DVD.

So what happened?  Some say that kids today are just more boring. Some say manufacturers are cheap.  And others say that the toys were choking hazards and contained lead.  I say just like video killed the radio star, the internet killed the cereal toy (In my mind and in my car, we can’t rewind we’ve gone too far).  Manufacturers most likely looking to save some costs, but also noticing the trends and behaviors of children simply adjusted their promotional strategy according.  Good marketing? You can decide.

Monday Morning Burn

1. I think Cliff’s pumpkin ice cream pie was a good as advertised. Order now for next Thanksgiving.

2. I think it was nice spending some Thanksgiving time in Pennsylvania this year. First time in 15 years.

3. I think it’s just my luck that the oven died one day before cooking the Thanksgiving meal. Great job by my wife to improvise.

4. I think I am still confused on how the marshmallow made it to the Thanksgiving table. Not sure the Pilgrims and Indians shared a feast of marshmallows. Turkey, corn and cranberries I get but marshmallows?

5. I think I may post my Holiday Playlist this Friday. Perhaps a lucky few will win the playlist on a cd.

6. I think Penn State impressed many a people this football season. It was nice to see that running back Zack Zwinak gained 1,000 yards compared to Silas Redd’s 817 who transferred to USC. How’d that transfer work out for you Silas?

7. I think that the Dolphins may not suck as bad as I thought. They still stink though. I am looking forward to their revised logo set to be released in early 2013. Just after the holiday shopping season.

8. I think we are all excited to try Christmas Crunch cereal this year. Can’t wait to see what the Cap’n has in store. It should be much better than Chocolate Lucky Charms. Thanks for letting us down Lucky the Leprechaun.

9. I think I liked the movie Moneyball. Finally saw it after a year and a half on free Starz weekend. Good movie, not great. The book is much better.

10. I think it’s exciting that the annual Holiday TV shows have kicked off. Started watching early this year with Frosty the Snowman on CBS Saturday evening.

Tale of the Tape: Best Friend Edition

Since we are at the start of the holiday season and giving thanks for our friends, what better way than pitting two classic TV best friends against each other: Millhouse Van Houten from The Simpsons versus Larry Mondello from Leave it To Beaver.  These socially awkward kids may not have been popular but they were great best friends.

A smack down for the ages. Call it old versus new, modern versus retro, color versus black & white.  It doesn’t matter.

Let’s go to the tape!

Surviving Black Friday

Black Friday Survival Tips

Mother of Farrell aka Crissy P., has been referred to as a Queen of Black Friday and has 12+ years worth of tips and techniques.  She has been known to camp out three days in advance of a store opening.

I hope you find her advice useful in your own day of reckoning.

Why do you shop on Black Friday?
I shop for the bargains! Give me a pair of $6 jeans (regularly $11) for my 10 year old son any day of the week!

What has been your best Black Friday purchases?
About 8-10 years ago when my kids were little and Black Friday wasn’t the craziness it is now, at Toys R Us I was able to get some great deals on preschool-age toys. The sales were phenomenal on Fisher-Price items, Rescue Heros and simple board games. One year, I’m guessing 2003, I bought Hi Ho Cherry-O, Trouble and Chutes and Ladders for $1.50 each!

Have you witnessed any incidents?
I have seen people getting loud with one another in the Target electronics department. Everyone being very grabby and even taking things from carts while the cart-owner wasn’t looking. I’ve also witnessed van-fulls of people being dropped off at the doorway about 30 seconds beforehand and shoving their way into the doors with screaming and causing general chaos so the throngs of people who’ve been on line since 11:30 pm the night before are distracted and scared like deers in the headlights. That was about 5 years ago. Since then, I’ve noticed there are numerous police officers on foot by the door as well as patrol cars parked in the fire zone shoo’ing away any sort of vehicles in the area.

How much pre-planning do you do?
Lots! I subscribe to an online Black Friday internet site which posts flyers and sales weeks before the big day. In the past, it was actually more fun to search out these deals as not as many retailers participated or tried to out-do one another. Honestly, Black Friday isn’t as fun anymore because the thrill of the hunt is gone. Again, in my early days of Toys R Us, I would get a boot-leg copy of the flyer of the Toys R Us flyer in early-October (don’t ask how I got it!) I would scour the flyer, compare it to regular prices at various stores and then go to the TRU store and map out my route to get in and out quick. These were the days when TRU opened at 6 am and I’d only need to pull into the lot at 5:57 am and walk into the store – no major lines or waiting! Then I’d go through the store on my prepared route, pay and be out of there in 30 minutes. I’d be home with everything hidden before my babies were awake and my husband had to go to work (yes, he had to work Black Friday since he worked in corporate retail)

What are your planning sources? Circulars, email alerts?
In the past – boot-leg flyers as early as possible but currently, online.

What is your typical witching hour to hit the stores on Black Friday? Will you go out on Thanksgiving?
I have gone out on Thanksgiving for specific items but the deal has to be good. Also, we always celebrate Thanksgiving locally and are home long before I need to go out. On Black Friday I try to get to the store and stake my place in line approximately 2.5-3 hours prior to opening, depending on how popular the items are I want to snag. Electronics – get there super early. Toys – get there early. Clothes get there 15 minutes after it opens so you don’t have to wait on line at all!

Do you prefer to go solo or group shop?
Solo. I don’t like to shop on a normal day. I’m not a browser and on Black Friday I have a plan. Get out of my way and don’t hold me back! However, two years ago my husband did tag along with me. He complained in the dark line for 2 hours prior, he irritated me with telling me he was tired and he had to be given specific tasks on what to find in the store. It was like shopping with a kindergardener. Never again!

Any plans this year?
No Black Friday plans for 2012! We booked a Caribbean cruise and will be in the Bahamas that day. I haven’t even looked at the sales flyers yet (and today is the Saturday before) because I don’t want to be irritated that I’m missing out. My girlfriend told me she’d try to get whatever I wanted if its a store she’s at or she’ll order it online for me. I think I’ll give it all a look tonight after I finish packing for my cruise, make a small list and give her my credit card number!!

What are your recommend stores to avoid?
Electronics stores. I don’t care if the 87″ tv at Best Buy will be $42, normally priced at $3500 and the ad claims every shopper will get one. I’m not going to Best Buy at all between Black Friday and Christmas Eve!! I also will not go to WalMart or anywhere near one until after lunchtime on Black Friday. After lunchtime the crazy sales are over, products are gone and I can go in and get $3 flannel pj’s for my kids (and will pick up the socks that have a 70% mark-up because I need them and hey, I’m already going to be standing on line. Well played WalMart. Well played.)

Do you have any celebration traditions once finished for the day?
My kids are pre-teens now and they know precisely what I’m doing. The last few years I’ve taken my stash directly to my parents’ house and hidden it there so it doesn’t have to come home with me. Once they’re back in school the next week I go back there to retrieve it, bring it home, wrap it and hide it in my own house.

Any other tips for those shoppers daring the madness this year?
If you show up at the Target line about an hour before opening, scarfing down three donuts and openly talk about how you can’t wait to get in there and snag the $140 DSLR camera and it will be so easy to do because a) there are plenty in the store; b) you know a secret and easy route to the Electronics Dept.; or, c) there are 4 in your group all going in at once so you have a better chance of getting at least one (but believe you’ll get four), DO NOT GET OFFENDED OR GIVE ME ATTITUDE WHEN I FEEL COMPELLED TO LAUGH AT YOU, SNAP YOUR PICTURE ON MY PHONE AND SEND IT DIRECTLY TO FACEBOOK WITH THE CAPTION – “HELLO DARWIN? YOUR DEFINITION OF ‘FITTEST’ IS FLAWED!”!

Awesome insight!

Surviving Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a great time of year.  You can enjoy the holiday with the 3 F’s: family, friends and football.  However there are annoyances that can ruin your holiday and stressing over the crowds on Black Friday can just put you over the edge.

So I wanted to provide you with a little treat to make the next few days more relaxing and to help prepare you for any shopping that you may have. Today’s Surviving Thanksgiving features the essential Do’s & Don’ts and tomorrow’s Surviving Black Friday provides tips and techniques from my sister-in-law, the Mother of Farrell.

Thanksgiving Do’s & Don’ts

Do: be thankful for your family
Don’t: refer to yourself as a master baster
Do: enjoy a few cocktails
Don’t: hit on your in-laws
Do: wear pajama jeans to help your expanding waist
Don’t: place the turkey on your head and dance around like Joey Tribbani (watch the classic clip)
Do: serve a traditional turkey meal with all the trimmings
Don’t: serve anything with marshmallow baked in (marshmallows in deserts are acceptable)
Do: watch the Macy’s Parade
Don’t: stick balloons in your pants and walk around your neighborhood acting like an inflated Charlie Brown
Do: enjoy a good time with your friends and family
Don’t: overstay your welcome, unless a spot on the master bedroom floor opens up
Do: root for the Patriots
Don’t: root for the Jets
Do: use your smart phone at the table if the person you’re sitting next is a bore
Don’t: use your smart phone as an utensil, unless of course you are using it to eat Jell-o
Do: bring your Christmas wish list to hand out at the Thanksgiving table, this will help foster lot’s of discussion
Don’t: accept someone else’s list
Do: help clean the dishes
Don’t: steal any of the hosts china or utensils, soap is acceptable

A stretch for Reading Fightin Phils

The Reading Fightin Phils will be taking the field in 2013.

Sorry for the delay in writing this post as the new name and logo for Reading’s Double A minor league baseball team was formally introduced as the Reading Fightin Phils on Saturday. (a minor league affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies).  I originally planned to write my review on Sunday; however I felt that I owed more than my knee-jerk reaction which was mostly negative.  Time has passed and my opinion on the matter did slightly change.

My initial impression was that the changes did little to elevate Reading’s brand.  I may not be a fan of all the changes, I do favor some, but after future consideration I think the new identity set did meet the objectives of the rebranding efforts. As a marketer I always like to hold judgment of any advertisement, logo or concept until a see the creative brief, because initial reactions don’t matter, meeting objectives do.  The objectives were: keeping a tie into Phillies brand while creating a new image that is fun, speaks to children and is based on local traditions.

According to the Fightin Phils press release “The new name of Fightin Phils pays homage to the team’s 46-year affiliation with the Philadelphia Phillies and references the big-league club’s nickname during the Whiz Kids era of the 1950s. The Fightins’ new name is highlighted by an ostrich logo that symbolizes the feisty bird that is now indigenous to Reading because of the Crazy Hot Dog Vendor.”

So outside of the Reading market the ostrich most likely does not have any symbolic value.  But then again rarely does other popular minor league monikers. Names like IronPigs, Biscuits, Blue Rocks and the newly introduced Hops do somehow find a way to work both locally and nationally.

As a side note the identity was developed by the same agency, Brandiose, that created the new logo of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders and previous work includes Lehigh Valley IronPigs and Richmond Flying Squirrels.

Let’s break it down.

Name

Push.  I am extremely neutral on the change from Phillies to Fightin Phils.  To me the Fightin Phils is just a tag line or nickname that they adopted.  No real change here.

A recent poll conducted by the local newspaper, the Reading Eagle, indicated that 87% of the fans do not like the new name.   This is quite significant, but I say it’s mostly the respondent’s gut reaction at play.

I do think the new name is not going to help propel Reading’s merchandise sales and that can be impactful to the team’s bottom line.

Logos

Upgrade. The Fightin Phils found a greater identity than what they had with the Phillies, whom Reading has been affiliated with for over 40 years.  They have been struggling with their logo in recent years modifying several times and introducing several alternate logos along the way.  Most recently the team and logo referred to themselves as R-Phils and had logos that featured the Reading pagoda and a steam train.

The ostrich is unique and comes from the team’s  Crazy Hot Dog Vendor, who enters the field riding a costume ostrich named Rodrigo.  As the title of this post indicates I do think the ostrich logo is “ah-stretch” for the team.

The team’s new official colors are Phillies Red, Nighttime Navy, Feather Gray and Ostrich Flesh.  I am not sure why teams must insist on naming a color.  Feather Gray? Ostrich

Flesh?  How about just gray or PMS 15-1305?


Note: Reading also introduced the name Baseballtown, an unofficial nickname they bestowed upon themselves and a logo with a hot dog.  This alternate logo will be used often by the Fightin Phils.

Hats

Fightin Phils Home CapFightin Phils Alt. R CapFightin Phils Alt. Ostrich Cap

Not sure where to start since there are seven of them.  Three of them will be primary used.  The above three caps are decent and I would expect to see them in full force at Reading games.

The feathered “R” hat is sharp as is the F-fist hat.  The ostrich logo hat would seem more appropriate on for Farmer Bill’s ostrich farm.

Misc. Merchandise

Fightins Navy Hood

There are some cool items that should make a few Christmas lists. The navy hoody is the best among them.  Click here to view their full selection.

Overall

Slight upgrade.  My expectation for minor league ball clubs is to create a completely new identity with a logo, color scheme an mascot that is unrivaled.  The ostrich does create a unique icon in sports and is a more fun approach then before (a stated objective) and it just may catch on since it is so out there.    Significantly better than the new SWB RailRiders.  Reading tried to do too much and as such hurt itself.  I think you will see a logo enhancement or new logo within three years. Grade B-.

Chris Creamer of www.sportslogos.net stated “The team doesn’t have an identity with this set, unless their identity is that they have so many identities.  I mean c’mon… Are they the ostriches?  Are they the hot dogs?  Are they Baseballtown?  Are they the Fightins?  Are they the Fightin Phils?”

I don’t think he’s far off.  Reading went too far with the Basebaselltown theme.  They should have simply stuck Fightin Phils.