Saturday, October 15, 2011

Television Has Replaced Going Outside

When you want to know what the weather is going to be like tomorrow, you turn on the tele, or tune online to your favorite weather site or app. You know what we used to do before television and radio?

Before meteorology was a widespread science? People would actually spend time outside. By spending time outside people would indeliberately build catalogs in their head of the feel of a certain weather condition, and what it meant later.

Of course, you would have to spend more time outside than just thirty seconds walking to the car, or ten minutes waiting for the bus stop like we do now. People would harvest, shepherd, play, and create in outside spaces. By spending this much time outside, we were closer to the weather patterns. And with the fabled reputation of the weatherman, it seems to me we were better off predicting the weather with our bodies.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Reinventing Time

While reading a recent article on NPR's 13.7 blog, one particular statement stood out to me:

Beginning three decades ago, we were promised a new age of freedom through devices that would let us work more efficiently and at our convenience. Instead, this new world was only half-born and digital technologies now have us working everywhere, all the time. Rather than giving us a new time, our Facebooked, GPS-mapped, mobile-connected lives appear to be lashed ever more tightly to the rigid industrial time-logic of our grandparents world.

Striking. We work now more than ever. Where ever we go, our smart-phone has got our business there with us. Our bosses and coworkers can call us, our friends can send us lolcat messages, we can browse the web and check our email on vacation as religiously as we do while at our desk. We have no real time off any longer.

That's an interesting concept. It cleanly shows the juxtaposition of our work lives and our relaxation lives: It's now quite ordinary to interrupt out relaxation time with our work time, but you can't just walk out of the workplace in the middle of the day to grab some ice cream before heading home to relax on the porch, shoes off, feet up.

It occurs to me that in hallways there are sometimes hangings on the wall. But a hallway is a place that you use to get from one destination to the other, like a car, or an elevator. Why, then, are there no paintings hung in elevators? And if a painting is meant to be looked at, why would it be hung in a place you're not going to be hanging around?

Maybe we really are meant to stop and smell the flowers.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Great Dam of Reality Came Crashing Down

This post is a response to Extra Credits' "Game Addiction" two-parter: Part 1, Part 2.

It seems to me that when most people shake video games, it’s because there’s something that pulls them out. There’s something they care about in the real world, or some concept that they find so compelling it breaks them from their video game compulsion. One fascination to the next.

But what if you don’t have those real-world Great Dams to burst? Nothing compelling to drag you out? I would assume that most people who get compelled into video games are normal people who desire normal things and the video game just seems like a more fun alternative. They block the outside world so that you don’t see how sour things are going in the world around you and they provide greater indulgences and stimulation. The stimulation is likely the reason high-schoolers are often compelled to play video games: there’s no positive reinforcement for them in high school social scene, so kids go online where they’re told that they’re cool, or can at least convince themselves or others that they’re cool by doing shiny things. But a person who is asocial or antisocial and doesn’t respond well or at all to peer support is likely to get sucked into games and then not have any outside influence to pull them back out.

A person can be coerced (by therapist or family/friend) to give the real world a shot, but that person must WANT that real life in order to keep it. A person who suffers any mental illness, even an unnamed one where they simply don’t want their life (or is that called depression?) can’t be convinced to try to come back. Also, person who don’t have any TRUST in those around them (especially not some unknown therapist who clearly has a personal agenda). If someone really doesn’t want to come back, they’ll deliberately sabotage what appears to be honest attempts to get back on track.

A person who REALLY wants to kill his or herself, doesn’t go around telling everyone they’re going to do it (unless they are actually, definitively stupid). Telling people increases the chance of intervention and failure of suicide. That kind of person just wants the ATTENTION that a suicide threat brings, to be treated in that special way (or any way at all, for the very socially deprived), or to be pulled back, to be ‘cured.’ That person who really wants his or herself dead also doesn’t try to do it in a silly, unlikely way (though again, it’s hard to know which ways of killing oneself have the highest success rate, and it’s subject to personal tolerance for pain and suffering, and the factor of what happens to be convenient to do it with). It’s said that there are more successful male suicides than females. Girls tend to choose less lethal methods. It’s been speculated that this is because girls more often don’t actually want to die, they just want the attention, the kind of conversation that they hear when people talk about suicide victims. (“Hey, did you hear about Cindy? Wow, I feel really bad for her. I didn’t know she would go and do that.” And then the tip-toeing of the family and the nice gestures until she’s out of the ‘danger zone.’)

I, personally, don’t see any real solutions to help the people who honestly say that they don’t want to live outside of video games.

End notes: When you are comparing RL vs. online, you shouldn’t be comparing the worst RL experience with the best online experience and instantly judge that video games are setting the bar of personal joy too high. It’s also not as simple as comparing the best vs. the best. Comparing has to be done with detailed economics. Factors like the cost of joy, the amount of joy when it comes, frequency of joy, gap of time between completion of an activity and the joy of completion.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

"Advertising? In My TV Show?"

There’s a new concern, and an article on NPR (with a listening segment) about TV shows with advertisements in them (Project Runway, Top Chef), or shows that are just blatant advertisements themselves (My Yard Goes Disney), and shows which are heavily linked to their purchasable action figures (My Little Pony, Beast Wars).

I have trouble seeing how this shift in advertising is news worthy. I guess it figures that NPR is reporting on it. In-show advertising (“product placement”) is nothing new. I even remember an old superman movie with a Marlboro cigarettes truck, which was supposed to be subliminal advertising.

Super inconspicuous.

The move to more direct advertising isn’t really so bad. NPR questions how we got here, but most of us already know: it’s just the next step from the older, Superman II-esque subliminal advertising, combined with our desire not to watch commercials. Ads are more skippable now, NPR says, given DVR capabilities and the ability to block ads on the internet (Firefox/Chrome + Adblock) but to be honest I’ve never had a problem avoiding watching them, even on TV. I remember when watching Lost with my family that commercials were a time to restock a dinner plate with more pasta and garlic bread or to make a quick bathroom dash. I can even clearly recall that the commercial break time on my favorite show, Beast Wars, was exactly two minutes. I would count the seconds away while getting ready for school each morning, making breakfast or getting my backpack together. Twenty-two minutes of show, eight minutes of commercials. Ask me now what the commercials were about and I couldn’t tell you; I could only guess action figures, since it was a children’s TV show.

There is one thing that hasn’t changed, which still makes any sort of advertisement ineffective: I have no reason to buy the product over comparable products, except in the case where there is no comparable product, such as My Little Pony or Beast Wars actions figures. If I see a Tide commercial and it reminds me to buy laundry detergent, I probably won’t end up buying Tide itself since it’s typically not the cheapest (or most effective) detergent available. (I understand that there are some people who blindly take a product off the shelf without looking at the price or competing products. I wonder if it’s this population, or just the very wealthy, which keep main brands successful.) A product such as a Swiffer cleaner, which actually has something unique about it, is worthy to be advertised during a show, and can take advantage of the attention of the viewers to display its uniqueness. But I would never buy an ordinary broom who’s brand was named during a show, when I have a no-name brand that works just as well.

And I certainly confess that there is a type of person out there who’ll watch a show like Top Chef and say to themselves, “I want to be like those people!” and will thus go out and buy all of the products used on it. This is likely who the companies are trying to sell to. But these dreamers lack the common sense to notice that any egg beater will beat the eggs, and perseverance and dedication above all else make a successful person. These are what we call morons and slackers.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Looking at Scholastic Debt

I guess it shouldn’t surprise me that my family’s primary concern regarding me is how I’m going to earn money. That’s the typical thing to think: money drives the world. If you don’t have money, you don’t have life. My father refers to our family as upper middle class, but at this point, the only thing I can say to that is, “what family?” We’re all old enough to make our own money and rent our own homes and take out our own monumental student loans that we’ll be paying off for the next 40 years.

I wonder, why don’t they take debt into account when deciding what class you are? I’m talking social class, not school class. If you “own” your house and car but have only paid off a month on each, then you really aren’t so rich after all, since most of those belongings would go to the bank if you sat in stasis.

Students would be the lowest of the low, which isn’t too different from what we have now. A $40,000 in-debt student would be lower than a homeless guy who’s simply flat broke.

Many students don’t take into account the ‘tie-down’ factor when they start school; once they acquire the first year of debt, they have to see schooling all the way through. Not just through the school year, though, through the job that’ll pay off the school. And once they’re into that domesticated kind of life, where work is reliable and steady, a pattern of living that’s classified typically as the “middle class suburb worker,” they’ll need certain amenities, such as a car, and spending money (so you don’t go crazy at your lame job with the idiot boss and slacker coworkers). Then, you meet someone and before you know it you’re locked down into something else!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not blaming “the system” for this. While I don’t entirely believe in Tabula Rasa, I firmly believe in the U.S. Constitution’s implication that each person decides for themselves what their actions are (even if some actions are decided subconsciously), and can thus be held responsible for them. I’m also not saying that a middle class life is undesirable. If that is what a person aspires for, then they are welcome to it. I am a little dubious, however, that a person can possibly know that’s the life they want so early on. It seems more likely to me that they consider a more fanciful lifestyle unrealistic due to their debt.

The flaw lies in that you can’t make decisions off of things you don’t know. Debt is typically separated from the “good stuff” of college. When you pick your major, there’s no sheet given to you that says you’ll spend twenty years paying off your debt at the average salary of your major. The result is the current scenario: modern day students don’t even consider how they’re locking themselves into their future by taking on this burden.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Best Apology

The best apology for any action is to cease that action. If you say you are sorry for throwing your wife down the stairs, and then you do it again the next night, clearly you are not sorry. If you say you are sorry for drinking a roommate's beer and then you continue to finish off the 6-pack, clearly you are not sorry.

To avoid being a liar, do not ever say you are sorry unless you have a clear course of action to take to stop whatever it is you are sorry for. Otherwise, you are saying you are sorry without truly meaning it. But again, if you are hurting people without stopping, being a liar is the least of your problems.