A couple of weeks ago, my razor “broke.” It has some sort of engine in it that causes it to vibrate while I shave. The engine no longer causes the razor to vibrate. I immediately said, “Dammit! Now I have to buy a new one.” Then I thought about it for a second. I’m an old fart, so I remember the old days when new features were added to razors. The Gillette Atra introduced the pivoting head. The Schick … I don’t know; let’s just say the “Penis 300″ squirted moisturizing goo on your face so that you’d have less irritation from shaving. Then there was the Acme Triple Thing (memory issues; old fart, remember?) that introduced three blades instead of two and started the “more blades” war. I’m guessing no razor had all of these things because these features were patented. Today, however, those patents have expired, so razors can have all of these things. My razor not only has five blades and a pivoting head, but it vibrates, which I’ve been brainwashed to believe makes my face feel better after shaving. (I’m convinced is psychological.)
So think about what this means. Even without the vibration, this is the best razor I’ve ever had. Yet because something is “broken,” I’m complaining that it’s not good enough simply because I’ve been to the promised land (shaving-wise) and can’t accept ever going back, not even partway.
I’m spoiled … and so are all of you. Admit it. There’s nothing wrong with progress, but maybe we should learn to be happy with what we already have and see the new stuff as bonus points, not necessities. Unfortunately, this quirk has a darker side.
Whether on this blog, another blog, or in personal conversations, I always ridicule my fellow Americans as thinking they’re “entitled.” “Entitled to what?” you might ask. Everything. Whatever they want, they think they’re entitled to it. With social and political issues, these supposed champions of democracy show little respect for the interests (and votes) of others by pretending that the Constitution demands what they want so that they don’t have to be bothered by that annoying voting process that should be deciding most of our issues. They also ignore what’s plainly in there despite the fact that a supermajority had to go to a great deal of trouble to insert it into the document though … you guessed it: A democratic process. This lack of respect for democracy and others’ opinions stems from our lack of concern for the “because” of an issue, which itself is caused by wanting what we want so badly that we feel we’re entitled to it because we’re somehow more important than anyone else. Try to listen to each other. Maybe you’ll learn something and your views will evolve.
I bought a new razor anyway. I’m a dope.
Follow me on Twitter @RobertEBodine
Follow me on Twitter @RobertEBodine unless you can’t take a joke.
Word is spreading through the internet about the Sony patent for interactive advertising. Figure 9 of the application involves a person being prompted to shout “McDonalds!” in order to end the television commercial and get back to his violent TV programming. The picture in question is here:
I haven’t read the patent, so maybe this is explained, but I’m unsure why the guy in the picture has to stand up and throw his hands in the air. Maybe there are motion detectors involved, but if so, it’s probably just to play a joke on the public, making them look like idiots while they yell at their TVs. If I were using this technology, I’d be scanning it for hidden micro-cameras designed to record me acting like a fool for your YouTube viewing pleasure.
This gave me an idea, though. Whenever someone is rambling, instead of politely excusing yourself or trying to get them to change the subject, just stand up, throw your hands in the air, and shout, “McDonalds!” Feel free to use the same technique in movie theaters while they’re playing the commercials and trailers for bad movies.
After you’re done, tweet that you did it, and cite me as your inspiration. Please. I need this.
Based on the lengths of my posts, I’m sure this will be used against me soon.
Watch this commercial. It’s only 31 seconds.
A couple of social media friends pointed out that this is a bit offensive because Ragu is essentially stating that it’s okay to use eating as a coping mechanism for children. The fact that the kid is pudgy reinforces this point. This is a good point, but my initial reaction wasn’t to make such a grandiose social statement. Even if Ragu, Inc. (i.e., Unilever United States, Inc.) didn’t think that far ahead (clearly, they didn’t), it still baffles me that they’d associate bodily fluids with their sauce.
I get that they’re trying to make something funny (it is a little funny) and memorable (success!), but I just don’t see the connection between spaghetti sauce and psychotherapy (other than the inappropriate one stated above). If at a young age I had accidentally walked in on my parents having sex, I wouldn’t be say, “Quick! Get me some spaghetti!” If anything, the fact that they’re selling a sauce makes me less likely to eat it because of the strong association with bodily fluids made by this commercial. I’m personally not that weak-willed, but at the very least, I’m going to start referring to it as, “Ragoo,” now, and I might not be alone in that.
I’m no marketing expert, but I would have gone in a different direction.
Note: Another Facebook friend (one I’ve actually met ) pointed out that he hasn’t seen the commercial since. I wouldn’t be surprised if the commercial has been removed from the airways by Ragoo due to some backlash they’ve encountered.
Will McAvoy, a fictional character from HBO’s new show, the Newsroom, had a great rant telling us where America falls short. Here’s the clip.
All this proves is that we’re not perfect.
Willi Wonka has a different take.
So, in stark contrast to what I implied yesterday, I now say yeah, we’re still #1. Will McAvoy can suck it!
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This was an interesting Sunday night/Monday morning we had today. We learned that on Sunday at about 10:30 am CT, 7 people died in a shooting at a place of worship in Wisconsin, showing not only how little some of us think of the right to religious worship, but also how little some of us think of human life. Later that night on HBO’s new show, the Newsroom, those that watched relived how we felt when the President announced the death of Osama bin Laden. Monday morning, the Curiosity landed on Mars.
Do you think we’re going to make it?
Follow me on Twitter @ RobertEBodine
As I’ve pointed out in a prior post, I don’t discuss the right to keep and bear arms publicly. I’ve been published on the subject (76 CHI-KENT L. REV. 2 (2000)), and while my views have become even more complex, if you want to know where I stand, that will have to do. Nevertheless, the Aurora tragedy has the political talking heads making an argument that’s always bothered me: “Because [some country] has had success with [some policy], we would too.”
Nonsense. Whether any policy is going to work is complicated because both our society, and the issues it faces, are complex. Assuming that the best policy can be determined by superficial evidence shows a lack of respect for that complexity, as well as a lack of respect for the work of every sociologist and psychologist that uses actual science to analyze such phenomenon. However, it isn’t just that the issues a complicated, or that society has a lot of factions. There are deep-rooted cultural differences between people of different cultures, some of which actually affect the way we think. As much as we view ourselves in America as divided, at its deepest levels, our political philosophies are much closer in thinking to one another than to many of these other countries whose policies we want to adopt.
This last point on cultural differences is my focus in this article.
German Landlords Are Crazy
My older brother’s second assignment in the U.S. Army was in West Germany. (For the kiddies, Germany was actually two countries between World War 2 and my time as an undergraduate student.) Only one of the stories he brought back resonated with me. He rented a room in a single family home in what appeared to be a typical American suburban community, though it was an authentic German community (as opposed to some American enclave in Germany). Every Wednesday morning, his landlord would pop his head out the front door, look up the street, look down the street, and then come back inside. Though he found this strange, my brother didn’t find it strange enough to ask why. During his last week in Germany, he went into work late enough to find out, finally, what was happening.
The landlord was checking to see if everyone else on the street had put out their garbage. After checking several times, everyone got in sync. Within (an estimated) two minutes of the first person putting out their garbage, everyone on the block had put out their garbage. This was done about an hour or so before the garbage truck came to collect the garbage. Moreover, looking up and down the block, as well as across the street, the garbage cans were lined up precisely with one another.
Neither the timing nor the precision of placement were required by German law. Their laws weren’t much different than ours in this regard. You couldn’t put out your garbage before sunset the night before, and you had to have your garbage cans within 6 to 18 inches (or so) from the street to avoid blocking the street. Putting the garbage out simultaneously and with such order was a condition imposed on the people by themselves, and they didn’t get together and have a meeting to decide it. It’s what they did because it’s how they think, so it just happened organically.
A recent study provides further proof of a cultural phenomenon that’s been considered dogmatic in the field of psychology for some time now: “Western culture emphasizes the individual and focuses on the forefront, and that East Asian culture de-emphasizes the self and is more cognizant of context.” The study compared Facebook profile photos of people from western and eastern cultures and found that western profile photos (like mine, actually) were often head shots, but in most cases emphasized the person over the background. Moreover, there was a greater tendency for the person to be smiling (again, like mine) or making a goofy face. The opposite was true for profile pictures of people from eastern cultures, where the person was often no more important to the scene than a chair that was just as much in the background.
This is measuring individuality vs. collectivism, and I remind you that this study did nothing more than confirm that the widely-accepted theory applied to online identity. It’s well-known that these differences clearly exist.
But What About England?
England is a western society, aren’t they? They’re democratic, and they have a decent sense of individuality, right? Can we model ourselves after them?
They have a queen, and under the Firearms Act of 1968, their cops usually aren’t granted permits to carry firearms. How would that last one work in Detroit?
Americans Don’t Think Like That
Can you imagine people arranging their garbage cans so precisely and within 120 seconds of one another? I couldn’t care less what you did with your garbage, but if hell froze over and I actually bothered to care for a second, I’d probably go out of my way to keep my garbage cans unaligned and bring them out at a different time. It’s typical for Americans to prize our individuality so highly as to affect even the smallest of life’s experiences. Technically, Germany, Japan, and the other countries cited are democracies, but you wouldn’t know it by watching them work and listening to them speak. To us, they look like insect colonies, seemingly doing things for the sake of just doing them, as if they’re all aware of secret laws and just haven’t told us.
Please note that this isn’t a value-judgment on my part. It’s merely an observation, and it’s tough to make. I have a high-and-mighty view of how important the American ideal for individuality is, but what this demonstrates is that democracy and totalitarianism don’t necessarily depend on individuality. That’s a tough pill to swallow at times, but I make no apologies for the fact that I feel so strongly about my individuality. It can make things hard, but it’s become a necessary aspect of my life because of the 44 years of experiences I’ve had that have made me the person I am.
Where Does That Leave Us?
. . . and therefore, I’ll be damned if you’re going to take that away from me without a fight . . . at the ballot box. I’m not threatening anyone.
Dammit, people! Just compare Texas to Connecticut and tell me that we aren’t extremely individualistic in this country. If policies in Texas don’t work in Connecticut (and vice versa), don’t you think that going to the other side of the world to see what they do is a bit reckless?
I submit to you that because all of us, consciously or subconsciously, think this way (granted, to varying degrees), we wouldn’t necessarily enjoy the same benefits of policies that might work wonderfully overseas. A change might not make things better (i.e., “crooks will always find a way to do [something horrible]”), and might actually make things worse by frustrating the hell out of us. To make a prediction one way or the other requires a professional analysis that most of us can’t perform. Stop trying.
Remember a common theme I have for my writing: It’s not enough to be right for the wrong reasons. You have to be right for the right reasons. If you want to do the job of a sociologist, spend a few years to become one. Otherwise, let them do their job. Hopefully the politicians will place science over politics, which brings me to another common theme of mine:
(Though that’s only because we reward politicians for playing politics. Our fate is still technically in our own hands.)
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This isn’t so much “controversial” as it is annoying. This has been a pet peeve of mine for quite some time, and it does speak to my theme of speaking ignorantly that runs through this blog. If you don’t know what Occam’s Razor is, even in the internet age where such information is free to acquire, that’s fine. I don’t care if you’re stupid, lazy, busy, or just don’t care; you have no obligation to know anything about a subject . . . unless you speak on it.
In doing some reading on the recent setback in legalizing mixed martial arts in New York, once again I find another person citing Occam’s Razor without understanding it. This despite linking right to the Wikipedia article on it that expressly states, “The principle is often inaccurately summarized as ‘the simplest explanation is most likely the correct one.’”
Let me clear up exactly what Occam’s Razor is. It refers to a methodology of problem solving. In any given problem, the simplest answer is no more likely to be true than the most complex answer; it’s simply the best place to start. For example, which describes planetary orbits correctly, the simplistic and easily observable “Sun revolves around the Earth” theory, or complex general relativity (care of Albert Einstein)? At the very least, you need to apply calculus to use Newtonian physics to explain planetary orbits, and even that’s incomplete because it isn’t complex enough. Thus, truth is independent of the level of complexity, though as both our knowledge of science and the sophistication of society (and its problems) grow, truth seems to tend more towards complex answers.
In short, Occam’s Razor says, in as simple language as possible, “You’ll get your answer as quickly as possible by disproving the simple theories first, then moving on to the more complex ones until you find your answer.” In other words, if the simplest solution turns out to be correct, you’ve got your answer in 5 seconds. Hooray! If, on the other hand, it’s incorrect, bummer, but “Good news, everyone!” You’ve wasted only 5 seconds on the dead end, and you can quickly move on to other theories. Of course, to an extent, I’m oversimplifying, but if my oversimplification is, figuratively speaking, one inch from the complete definition, the definition many of you have been using is 1,000 miles away.
Stop trying to sound smart by relying on a movie as your source.
Okay, that’s enough intellectual elitism for today.
Follow me on Twitter @RobertEBodine . . . if you dare.