Archive for December, 2004

BLOG BLOG BO BOG BANANAFANA FO FLOG

Monday, December 27th, 2004

I don’t update this site that often. Truth be told, I actually delete about one in four posts I write. I strongly believe that this is good practice. (If you think the recent posts have been horrible, you should see the tedious crap that didn’t make the cut!)

It’s like my blog is saying: Hey, slow down everyone! I don’t expect you to visit every day! Just relax and take some quality time to yourself, you deserve it.

If I ever felt guilty about my minimal productivity, I would just wander over and visit Campzine, and that would make me feel better. It’s about quality not quanitity, I’d remind myself, before returning to my busy schedule of not posting.

The way I figure it, a lower volume of posts at least gives the illusion of them each being of higher quality. Each post is compared not to other posts, but to the sad empty feeling of seeing a blog with no new updates, just like how gambling is more addictive when the payoff is sporadic. Eventually, you begin to hate whatever the most recently posted topic was, and the feeling of relief at not seeing it at the top of the page makes the infrequent blog that much more engaging and rewarding.

But now Bob has gone and promised to update every single business day for a month, with callous disregard for everyone’s valuable free time, the principles of behavioural conditioning, or making other blogs look bad. Nice one, jerk!

Oh well, there’s always good old reliable Heather. She never updates! It’s great!

SATURNALIA

Tuesday, December 21st, 2004

Happy solstice everone!

AND THE AWARD FOR BEST NAME FOR A WEBSITE GOES TO

Friday, December 17th, 2004

Rocklopedia Fakebandica.

I can see that website being really useful whenever I want to look up information about a band that doesn’t exist.

Maybe you’re trying to remember the name of that band from Heathers, that has the hit single “Teenage Suicide: Don’t Do It!”. You look under H for Heathers, but everything is alphebatized by the name of the band, which is convenient if you’re looking up a fake band whose name you already know, but you don’t know which movie or tv show they’re from. And the search box is broken, so no cheating!

HIGHLIGHT FOR SPOILERS!!! : The name of the band is Big Fun, but you already knew that because you are secretly still totally crushing on Wynona Ryder and/or Christian Slater, even though as adults they are creepy and spent. “Teenage Suicide: Don’t Do It!” was written by Don Dixon and can be found on his 1993 album, (If) I’m a Ham, Well You’re A Sausage, which is also a pretty great name.

TALES FROM THE WORLD OF REALITY

Thursday, December 16th, 2004

There’s a kid who shines shoes outside the store where I work. Let’s call him “Shoeshine Kid.” He looks in his early twenties, and he has two Husky dogs. He’s very friendly and professional. Although his donation jar is in plain view, and his vagrancy is apparent, he’s not pan-handling. He performs a valuable service, and takes pride in his work.

He asked me whether anyone complained about him in the store. I said no, not that I’d heard. I can’t imagine anyone complaining about him. He’s courteous and respectful at all times. He doesn’t evoke pity or horror like the shambling addicts who pan-handle from the Starbucks patrons next door. He’s by far the most agreeable and businesslike of all the street characters, none of whom posess the same respect for the principles of good customer service.

Take “Decrepit Wheelchair Man”, for example. DWM pan-handles outside the mall across the street, and his legs work perfectly ok. The wheelchair is just a gimmick, an embellishment of the sense of misfortune and disability that attracts donations . The Shoeshine Kid and I agree that this is dishonest.

The two of them had an altercation today. It began with Shoeshine Kid loudly informing passers-by of the fictional nature of DWM’s schtick. Enraged, DWM calls him a junkie and a crackhead and meth-head. This hit a sore spot with the Shoeshine Kid, who does not do drugs and knows that everyone suspects that he’s a junkie, just because he’s homeless in Vancouver. No, people, he’s just poor.

He responds to this slander by jumping up, taking his shirt off and yelling, “point to a fucking track mark!” Meanwhile folks doing their Christmas shopping walk faster and keep their eyes down. He repeats this challenge a few times to emphasise the fact that no such track marks exist. Defeated and unwilling to stick around to suffer humiliations from the semi-naked Shoeshine Kid, DWM rolled off, trailing a string of slurred curses.

Then we both went back to work.

HEAR WE ARE

Thursday, December 9th, 2004

J. David Velleman, philosopher, wonders into the blogosphere: “How can we better express our values? Can we learn from conservative critiques of those values?” The ensuing “conservative critique” is fantastic. And by fantastic I mean a completely predictable train-wreck.

Some gems:

“Mona”: I was astonished that none of the women’s studies courses I took even MENTIONED Ayn Rand, much less had us examine her works and philosphy. [I will never stop laughing at this.]

“R”: As a bush-supporting agnostic pro-choice gay marriage-supporting hybrid car driving non-white immigrant college student on a very liberal campus in a very blue state, i find this site very amusing.

Dr. David Layman, full-time part-time college teacher: I am willing to read what you have to say, but I want to warn you: it will be very difficult to get to get me to believe that you really want to hear me. I have spent years being insulted, denigrated, and alienated. I have listened to (and read and, best I honestly could, taught) liberal “arguments,” astonished that presumably sophisticated people really expect people to follow their “logic.”
[For best results, read this passage in your whiniest, suckiest dork voice. Be sure to physically emphasize the words “arguments” and “logic” with air-quotes. Really get your shoulders into it!]

“Former Democrat”: The ultimate point of the work you have committed yourselves to do is to learn how to win elections so that you can implement your ideas and policies. May I offer some simple pointers? Join a bowling league and golf league.

J. David Velleman, philosopher: The blog is not about how the Left can win more votes away from the Right: it’s not about political strategy. Nor is the blog intended to contain arguments by the Left addressed to the Right: it isn’t a Blue vs. Red debate, nor even the Blue half of that debate. It is meant to be a discussion about how liberal ideas and values — understood in the broadest, most inclusive sense of the word “liberal” — might be re-considered and re-expressed so as to facilitate real communication and dialog across political divisions.

“MarineWife”: So David, what you’re saying is, regardless of the stated intentions of the website, you don’t intent to listen or contemplate conservative ideas as compared to liberal ones. You say you want to communicate liberal ideas better. For what reason? To get more votes and win control of making policy. … You asked to talk to the right, and hear we are.

At which point J. David Velleman’s monocle popped out and landed in his brandy snifter.

PEOPLE DO IT TO THEMSELVES (THAT’S WHAT REALLY HURTS)

Monday, December 6th, 2004

The success of an advertising campaign is predicated on cynically exploiting psychological loopholes through cheap behaviorist trickery, and also on trust. This paradox, comparable to the mystery of the holy trinity or a zen story, (a sublime truth packaged as a blatant contradiction or absurdity), inspires a great deal of meditation and transcendental reflection on the extra-logical character our big dumb universe.

The currently fashionable response to this contemporary mondo is to simply ride piggy-back on communications which are trusted inherently. Agencies are now developing schemes to break into the economy of trust that now exists only in casual conversation between acquaintances. This long-ass New York Times article offers a grim vision of the present, in which this awful project of commodifying conversation bears fruit.

The ad industry has always been devoted to setting up lifestyle models for imitation, and is now agressively targeting the twin impulse: desire to be imitated. Perhaps people wear Brand X not only because of the instinct to imitate others, but because when they see others with the same brand, they feel they themselves are being imitated. Branding as multi-level marketing scheme.

We suggest that the mechanisms involved in infant imitation provide the foundation for understanding that others are ‘like me’ and underlie the development of theory of mind and empathy for others.

BzzAgent is just a systematic way of convincing people of their high position on the cultural downline. The free sausages they receive from Santa Fe Sausages for being double-agents are not just juicy and delicious, they are also tokens of the consumer’s value as a prototype to be emulated. Their meaty payola marks them as cutting-edge early adopters, innovators, original sources of imitation and cultural value. This is the psychological payoff.

In exchange, the product receives their complete trust. In social situations, it’s pretty easy to tell when someone is honestly communicating or if they’re making a sales pitch. Honest enthusiasm is hard to fake and is exhausting, thankless work. Ad agencies have cut the Gordian knot by getting a small number of people to trust the product for reasons, (and this is the important part), that have no tangible connection the actual comparative quality or usefulness of the product. Everyone else hears the message from a trusted source, or at least a source more trusted than paid advertisement. The psychological manipulation is effectively hidden from view.

I wonder where this behavior would fall under the usual classifications of imitation: no problem was being solved, no goal was being copied, and no reward was procured. Manifestly fascinated by the infant’s predicament, the juveniles’ imitation seemed emotionally charged.

In order to get along with our fellow humans and successfully communicate with them, we simply have no choice but to assume that other people are mostly truthful. A language in which most statements are lies is not a language at all; this is a truism whose ramifications were thoughtfully explored by David Lewis, among others.

Now, I don’t really think the situation is as desperate as all that. We won’t end up all lying down on the sidewalk like in that Radiohead video just because people endorse products for ill-considered reasons. It’s just yet another inexplicable source of baffling idiot-static, like the New Age section at the bookstore: mostly harmless yet disproportionately obnoxious, for reasons that are difficult to articulate but seem to circulate around a vague feeling that stupid or naive people are being manipulated for cash, and that I would like some cash too even though I think angels and lovemarks are dumb.

None of this is to imply that I’m somehow above this banal imitation-game so popular among the hoi polloi. Certainly not! It’s merely the systematization that I object to. If you glance to the right, you will see my current choice of music and reading material. The implication, of course, is that you should read and listen to these things too. Trust me.

(Thanks to William Gibson for the link.)

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Thursday, December 2nd, 2004

CHOKING ON ASCII BONES

Thursday, December 2nd, 2004

o v o
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o v o
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) ~

o v o
L
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o v o
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) ~

o v o
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o = o
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) ~ (

( )

O V o
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x = x
L

FIN. :(