Getting a Little Conceited, Aren’t We?

Recently the subject of my blogging came up while talking with a friend and his wife.  She asked what my “research” was, and I said I’m mostly an armchair philosopher and observer of social discourse.  I have long since realized that the Truth of any given issue only matters to the extent people believe and act upon it; what people think and say is often far more important than what happens to be true.

Or, as my friend helpfully summed up: I do my research in my living room.

Anyway, after the Super Bowl outcome became a forgone conclusion early on, I continued working my way through Moldbug’s works.

My friend’s wife asked, “Are you reading for your blog?”

I heard: “Are you reading your blog?”

I’m not sure exactly how I responded, but I’m sure I sounded ridiculous, because I was trying to downplay the Donald Glover bit that flashed before my eyes:

I’ve been doing stuff with music…and I just put out an EP.  And I was listening it to my car, I picked up…I was like, I want to see how it sounds in the car.  And I picked up a friend of mine, and she got in.  She was like, “Is this you?”  And I was like, “Yeah.”  And she goes, “You listen to your own music?”  I was like, “Yeah, yeah, I listen to my own music!”

Being an entertainer is the only job where you can’t enjoy your own stuff.  Did you know that?  It’s the only job where you can’t enjoy your own shit.  Like, if I made sandwiches for a living…like if I worked at Subway, and I made sandwiches for a living, and then I go home, and make myself a sandwich, nobody’s gonna be like, “Getting a little conceited, aren’t we!?”  Donald Glover, Weirdo (6:30-8:10)

I know they didn’t get to share my own amusement at the confusion and Donald Glover’s bit, so now here it is, for them and everyone else to share!

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Top Shelf Words

It’s difficult to be a moderate.  It’s also difficult to be reasonable and measured in one’s speech.

Friends give me flack from time to time about the way I describe things.  The word that seems to get the most reaction from friends is “mediocre.”  I figure this is mostly tied to the similar word “mediocrity,” which is almost always used in the business world as a shorthand for stagnation and failure to innovate and improve, as opposed to “excellence” and “progress” and other such desirable things.

Yet I stand by “mediocre” and other mid-range words.  Not everything in life is amazing, but not everything has to be.  A perfectly made sandwich is still just a sandwich.  I would be concerned if I wasn’t capable such a simple act as spreading the peanut butter across the bread evenly, but on the flipside, achieving an even spread is nothing to write home about (or post to social media) either.  The bulk of everyday things and activities are the same; things so routine, mundane, and easily achievable that their performances cannot earn nearly as much regard as their failures.

Exaggeration, hyperbole, and outright lies have become the dominant mode of conversation as the result of a media-fueled arms-race of words.  The bulk of the adjectives we use now forms an inverse bell curve on the continuum of our language.  As Louis CK says, “we just go straight for the top shelf with our words now:”

Louis CK: Hilarious (44:00-45:35 and beyond)

And yet, the human brain, demonstrating its ability to adapt and compensate for distorted sensory inputs, is not really fooled.  We innately understand that an “amazing” basket of chicken wings and an “amazing” work of art are not truly on the same level.  Sensing the void in the center of the inverse bell curve, our brains snip out the center and bring the two extremes closer together in order to reconcile the extreme language with mundane reality.  This is how “sucks” and “great” have come to mean essentially the same thing; they are right next to each other on this figurative adjusted continuum of adjectives!

Jerry Seinfeld: Sucks & Great, the Exact Same Thing

This cultural-linguistic problem is one more facet that affects nearly every aspect of our lives and the ways we communicate with one another.  It is well-worth paying attention to and considering as a factor in understanding current events

Research gone horribly wrong

Today a friend told me about an old article in The Atlantic I might enjoy reading.  Earnest efforts to find it turned up nothing, but instead led me to these videos.  Obviously there will be no article from me on the article I couldn’t find, but I thought I should share what I found.  I laughed until I cried.

NSFW.

Real Lesbians React to Lesbian Porn

What Lesbians Think About Penises

What Gay Guys Think About Vaginas

Edit: This video relates to my LGBT vs feminists post, and also makes me laugh.

Humor in the Hygiene Aisle

My last few posts have been pretty heavy.  Today it’s time for some levity and insight into the spontaneous thoughts I can’t control.  To friends who’ve said they would pay to see what went on in my head; remember, you asked for this, and I’m writing it out for free!

There is a joke everywhere.  Because of this, I’m often smiling more than is normal in everyday places.  However, not all of those jokes fit into everyday conversation, which makes it hard to explain just what is so funny.

Marketing is a fascinating and funny topic to me because it is applied social psychology.  Commercials and packages represent the things that highly paid experts and researchers believe will get us to buy their products.  Stepping into a store is a lot like the gorillas getting a chance to read Jane Goodall’s field notes…these packages show what professional people-watchers believe makes us tick.

While grocery shopping this week I passed through the personal hygiene aisle.  First I passed by the toothpaste, which takes up the most linear feet of shelf space of any one product in the aisle, because American consumers apparently demand a near infinite combination of whitening, cleaning, cleansing, freshening, refreshing, and refreshening ingredients in their oral hygiene products.  Store managers ignore this demand for variety at their peril.

Toothpaste-Aisle-300x225

Then I passed by the feminine hygiene products, which take up the second most linear feet of shelf space per product-category.  It is full of pastel-colored packaging that, to someone unfamiliar with mass marketing conventions, might appear to contain flowers or some type of sporting equipment:

kotex 4 playtex 1

 

 

 

Then, finally, I walked by the foot care section.  Those who don’t pay close attention to the active ingredients in their OTC medications may be unaware that the anti-fungal medications (particularly clotrimazole) used in foot creams are repackaged and repurposed for other fungal infections, such as jock itch.  And so in this section I noticed this package:

Lotrimin

In stark contrast to the feminine hygiene products which are coy and vague about their intended purpose, this is about as direct and male-centered as packaging gets.  It consists of a wire diagram (always high-tech looking!) of a man with the region of intended use highlighted in yellow.  To further emphasize the point that this product is meant to be used in one’s crotch, there are four concentric circles centered on the highlighted region, as well as four arrows pointing at it.  It couldn’t be more direct if it tried.  The sudden contrast from bashful to blazon marketing really struck me as funny and kept me smiling for no obvious reason clear through the checkout counter to my car.

EXTRA!  Tidbits that I couldn’t let go to waste!

In the course of looking up the images used above I came across an old (2009) marketing campaign I was completely unaware of, this time by Lamisil:

Lamisil 3 Lamisil 2 Lamisil 1

Which I will contrast with this commercial that I recall running for quite a while:

va

The contrast in imagery is instructive of marketer’s differing perceptions of male and female consumers.

Now I will point out that recently Kotex launched a brand deliberately breaking from traditional styles.  It is an attempt to make an inherently female-centric product less extremely feminine in its packaging.

u-by-kotex

The product line has been around for a few years now, so I have to assume it’s been profitable and hasn’t been a New Coke-style flop.  It seems to have led the way in a trend towards addressing one of the few remaining social taboo subjects (and a second clip for good measure); a bold and controversial commercial on the subject met with generally positive reviews on BuzzFeed, Huffington Post, HuffPo again, and The Guardian.

So, this is why a simple trip to the grocery store can keep my mind busy for quite a while about things that have nothing to do with my shopping list and why I usually don’t make it home with everything.  There really are no topics that won’t spin me off into seven or eight other related thoughts.

The Revolution: Racists Among Feminists

Recently a dispute has broken out revolving around a performance of modern feminist canon: The Vagina Monologues:

White Vaginas banned for Ivy League Production of Vagina Monologues

The producers of Brown University’s upcoming performance decided to ban white women from performing.  They cite two specific reasons:

  1. The Vagina Monologues has historically overlooked the empowerment of women of  color, queer women, and trans* folk, among others—often replicating and  perpetuating the same systems of power and privilege that prompted the  playwright, Eve Ensler, to write The Vagina Monologues in the first place,” the  Facebook page explains
  2. The page goes on to excoriate “mainstream Western feminism” for “the  marginalization and erasure of these groups” and the “failure to consider the  effects of power structures outside gender within the feminist community.”

So The Revolution is beginning to affect academic/political feminism, just as expected.  Through the movement’s history, various splinter groups have hewn together in the face of shared enemies.  However, as feminists achieve their goals and the threat posed by their political opponents diminishes, the pressure of their incompatible ideologies will begin to drive them apart.

The ideological fault line in play here is that of race within the feminist movement.  The divide has roots in history.  Modern American feminism began as the pursuit of relatively wealthy white women who wanted more esoteric things such as voting rights and the dismantling of gender roles (although the Flappers wouldn’t likely have used such terms, the first foray to dismantling a social norm is to bend it.)  Non-white women at the time had more tangible concerns such as racial discrimination which led to violence and unemployment for both men and women of color.  To contrast the two: white feminists were fighting for the privilege to choose to work as a second bread-winner while non-white women were supporting their families’ attempts to maintain at least one bread-winner.

This divide continues to simmer.  White feminists are, in essence, accused of being out-of-touch with the reality of discrimination by their non-white counterparts.  Helpfully for this discussion, prominent white feminist Hanna Rosin had an ill-thought-out point to make this week as well:

Men dither while women lead in the world

Her point boils down to contrasting American gridlock and America’s predominantly male federal government with German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s popularity and success and then concluding the problem with American government is that it has too many men in it.  Her flaw in reasoning is clear and two-facetted.  First, she gives women as a whole credit for the recent achievements of a few women.  Second, she holds all men accountable for the recent failures of several large systems that most men aren’t even participating in.  The article’s reasoning could just as well point to Sarah Palin as a reason why all women should be kept out of politics, and point to the 2012 Super Bowl victory by the Giants as evidence that a team full of men can be champions while disregarding the fact that the Patriots also were an all-male team.  Near the end, she states:

Perhaps this will be remembered as the week when everything shifted, when we realized that leaving groups of men in charge of global decisions and of facing down terrorists is not a good idea, and we’d better calmly hand the reins over to the women.  Don’t laugh. It happened in Iceland.

And this is where Rosin demonstrates the mindset that is dividing feminists among racial lines.  White feminists are fixated on obtaining legally mandated equality-of-condition in society, especially in the workplace.  They are willing to resort to quotas and affirmative action to get their way.  Their thinking is continually derailed by the apex fallacy, wherein they attempt to attain equal representation among the top 1% of society yet ignore the numerically much more significant imbalances that exist among the 99%.  To their non-white counterparts, they sound like a person in a cancer ward complaining of a cold; they are so wrapped in their own state-of-mind that they don’t appreciate or respect the magnitude of difference between their situation and the situation of others.

In this particular instance, the white feminists have been cast out from the rest who believe they have more important and visceral issues to attend to.  I predict the divide will continue to simmer and escalate.

For another take on the race divide among feminism, check out this article on Return of Kings.

Comedy: Part 4. Debt, Deficits, and Self-Limiting Mistakes

I intended to give Katt a break for a while, but the government shutdown made this too relevant to pass up.

It’s not money won’t make your life better, cuz it will.  It’s just that money can’t solve what’s fucked up about you.  That’s the fucking difference.  Like if you’re an alcoholic, and you ain’t got but $20, you gonna get as fucked up at you can ’til you get to 20.  Soon as you get to 20, last call!  That’s it!  -Katt Williams [Money Makes it Better]

Yesterday I talked about how, as a result of constantly having to confront real, physical limitation and real, physical consequences, CrossFit communities tend to acquire a political culture that is very pragmatic and results-oriented.  Mistakes are self-identifying and unavoidable; you unrack a weight you can’t handle, you *will* end up dropping it.  Loudly.

I generally disapprove of deficit spending, and bailouts.  The reason behind this is that these tools often mask underlying problems.  Futhermore, these tools allow us to make these mistakes longer and lead to a much worse problem to deal with down the road.  Take a hypothetical situation:

Debt is separate from deficit spending, and a regular part of life.  The proper use of debt is to finance a purchase you are better off making today than tomorrow.  For instance, if my car breaks down and I need to buy a new one, I might not have the cash on hand to buy a new one outright.  But I can’t wait 5 years to save up that cash and buy the car then, so instead I take out a loan and buy the car now and pay it off over five years, plus a fee for the convenience of having that money up front, known as interest.  As I pay off that debt over time, my balance of savings vs debts moves in a positive direction; I am becoming better off.  In short, I have paid extra to make a future purchase in the present.

Contrast this with deficit spending.  This is where I am already in debt, having bought the car, and not adjusted my budget to account for that monthly payment.  Each month I continue to buy things I need less than I need the car, say $5 Starbucks coffee or $10 batches of cupcakes.  (Seriously, “upscale cupcakeries” are bizarre and will get their own Parable of the Cupcakery one day.)  Once my savings are depleted, credit extended in the form of credit cards allows me to go into debt to continue making this purchases I can’t afford.  These coffees and cupcakes weren’t future purchases that I needed to make now due to circumstance.  They weren’t things I was going to save up for.  They are part of a standard of living I now can’t afford, and each month I make these spending choices, I become worse off.

In this instance, the credit cards allowed me to avoid the consequence (going broke) of my actions, and furthermore allowed me to continue making my situation worse.

Unfortunately our situation as a nation is that of deficit spending while in debt.  We have financial obligations (debts) in the forms of bonds and entitlements, and we continue to spend more than we make (deficit).  The biggest problem is that we are so accustomed to $5 coffees and $10 cupcakes that we can’t fathom giving them up.  At this point, three entire generations have grown up in a national lifestyle financed by deficit spending.  We are like a person with three maxed-out credit cards who doesn’t understand why he can’t get a fourth and is about to turn to a loanshark to continue his downward spiral.  Although instead of having to drop $5 coffees, we are now looking at having to cut programs that entire populations, infrastructures, and communities have grown up around, and I don’t just mean favorite conservative targets like welfare-type programs.  Military base closures and cancelled defense acquisitions can decimate communities, corporations, and even smaller vendors all throughout the supply chain.  In short, it will be painful.  (More on this in the upcoming Parable of the Cupcakery.)

So, like Katt says, it’s not good to have too much money.  The alcoholic with $20 is going to sober up shortly after he spends $20.  But an average person can drink himself to death, and millionaires can hire personal doctors to drug them to death.  As a sovereign nation we have been able to dig an even larger hole, and soon we’re going to fall in it.

Don’t raise the debt ceiling.  It *will* lead to more debt.  Balance the budget.  Get accustomed to living in our means as a nation.  Don’t blame reality on the political party that makes the tough calls to balance the budget either.  Reality has been here all along, just waiting to jerk back on our necks once we ran out of rope.