The Negative Ad Fallacy

You can tell a lot about a person or company just based on what they choose to showcase in their ads. The superior one is usually the one who highlights their strong points instead of pointing out the weaknesses of their competitors.

This can be seen in ads for both products and politicians. For instance, if you’ve ever seen an Optimum Online commercial, all you hear is negative things about Verizon’s FiOS service. Some smug guy is telling you about how FiOS customers keep switching back to Optimum and trying to scare you into thinking that the fact that FiOS is superior is a myth.

Their other commercial features a FiOS salesman going door-to-door while his mother reveals the “ugly truth” that her son is keeping from the unsuspecting Optimum customers.

The idea here is that is Optimum is selling an inferior product, the only way they can keep their customers is to scare them into thinking that Optimum cares about them like their moms do and FiOS is the guy in the van full of puppies trying to kidnap your children.

FiOS, on the other hand simply spits out statistics about their superior picture quality and internet speed and call it a day.

As mentioned above, the other place you see this constantly is in politics. Whenever one politician has a better platform because they are more closely aligned with the people, the inferior competitor comes along with a negative ad campaign that highlights obscure, out-of-context anecdotes from the superior politician’s life.

The lesson here is to not be fooled in scare-tactics. If you can sense that someone is trying to scare you into trusting them, they’re entirely full of shit and should immediately lose you as either a customer or voter. Consider it a decision-making shortcut.

UNRATED, UNCENSORED, UNFUNNY!

A clear sign of a mediocre comedy movie is when it comes out on DVD and they stop advertising the comedy part and instead brag about the fact that it’s the UNRATED edition.

“Mediocre Comedy Movie: UNRATED… there might be boobs in it, who knows?”

Look at the cover above, it’s four confused guys who just drank a bunch of beer and a giant girl with cleavage. If I didn’t know any better, I would think this was either a porno or a Girls Gone Wild video.

Beware of these movies, they usually either flopped in the theater or went straight to DVD. By the way, was the girl in the “O” really necessary? Do we not get the point that naked women might be in the movie yet?

It’s The Future, You Know What That Means… 3D?

Back in the 1950’s, 3D movies became a fun, futuristic trend. It was so futuristic and fun, especially for that time. Over there years, though, this has grown to be less and less popular and the most common place to see a room full of people in 3D glasses is an amusement park.

However, this seems to be changing suddenly. With the film Avatar being such a huge hit in 3D, everyone seems to be jumping on the 3D bandwagon. This past weekend was the Consumer Electronics Show for 2010 and the common denominator amongst TV companies has been the introduction of 3D HDTV and 3D blu-ray players. Along with this, some 3D channels are also in the process of going on the air in 2010, such as ESPN 3D.

So what does this mean? It means our current HDTV’s and blu-ray players are becoming obsolete and we will soon need to invest in 3D technology. But more importantly than this, it means these companies expect everyone to wear 3D glasses. Yep, still with the 3D glasses.

So far, I’ve heard one company mention that these glasses might be in the range of $100. Is all of this investing really worth it to the average person to see their TV in 3D? I really don’t think it is. The one thing these companies are forgetting is the power of convenience.

Let’s take a realistic situation:

A group of eight people decide after going out to come back to someone’s house and watch a movie. Either the host needs to own eight pairs of 3D glasses (a lovely $800 investment), or this group will need to stop at each person’s house to pick up their own glasses. This isn’t exactly an ideal situation.

I just can’t see this craze catching on, and I’m very surprised that so many companies are investing in the technology. Besides the money aspect, does anyone really want to sit around watching TV with goofy-looking glasses on? This whole idea just screams inconvenience. I was all for HDTV, and I’m looking forward to Ultra HD, but this 3D HDTV business just feels gimmicky.

I’m a Y2K Survivor!

As we begin the year 2010, I would just like to take a moment to reflect on the once dreaded Y2K.

Back in 1999, millions of people panicked as they believed that once the year 2000 came, the world was going to end. Why would they think that? Because somehow, they were convinced that no one foresaw the year 2000 coming and so the computers attached to nuclear weapons were all going to malfunction and launch atomic missiles all over the world. This type of mass hysteria seems silly to us now ten years later, but people were genuinely scared back in 1999.

Does any of this sound familiar? These “end of the world” scares seem to never go away, and people always manage to find a new year to point to in fear. It is now 2010 and I am certain that for the next two years we will have to deal with hearing countless ignorant babbling over the year 2012 being the end of the world.

The fact that a movie has already been created to cash in on this new fear-year is only a precursor to what silliness is to come. Somehow, the Mayan civilization was able to foresee the end of the world with the accuracy and precision of pinpointing an exact year, but they could not foresee the Spanish conquerers coming to end their own civilization. Let’s get real here.

Just as the year 2000 was not the end of the world, nor will 2012 be. If someone tries to start a speculative conversation about it, just change the subject in an effort to stop wasting your precious time.

Men Love Each Other Sometimes

Men tend to fear showing any sort of affection for other men. It’s not that they don’t feel anything for each other, but there is some precedent set in society that prevents them from displaying it. Usually, the only time you’ll see this taking place is when they are drunk. That, of course, is because people are much more honest when they’re drunk.

That, however, doesn’t mean that men haven’t come up with a few tricks to get around this, though. Somehow, men have created ways to show affection for each other in a manly way so that society will still view them as strong, heterosexual men.

First up, is the “man hug”:

Men can’t put their arms around each other and hold each other warmly like they can do with a woman, or even like a woman can do with another woman. Instead, they shake hands, pull each other close and “pat” each other on the back. Kind of saying to each other “I love you, but I’m hitting you, so now you know I don’t mean this in a gay way.” But really, who are they kidding? You can easily care about another human being, or even love them, without it being sexual.

The other thing men tend to do to preserve their manhood while showing affection for each other is add the word “man” to the end of any sentence that is remotely sensitive.

The movie “I Love You, Man” captured this concept perfectly. Somehow, men believe that adding the word “man” to the end of a sentence counters the sensitivity of the statement. The addition of the word “man” is the equivalent to the addition of the pat on the back during the hug.

A guy can never say something like “Thanks, that means a lot to me” to another man. They need to say “Thanks, that means a lot, man.” But what does this do exactly? What about these “manisms” makes men feel more comfortable with each other?

I don’t think there’s a logical explanation for this phenomenon besides the simple precedents of social norms. This is what is expected from men, and as long as men follow these manisms, they will not be looked at strangely by the man they are communicating with or the people around them. Even though a hug and a “man hug” are coming from the same emotion, they send different messages.

A “man hug” sends the message “I care about you, man”, while a regular hug simply says “I care about you” which doesn’t specify in what way they mean that. This open-ended gesture leaves too many possibilities in the mind of the man being hugged and that makes him feel uncomfortable. At the same time, it makes the man question the other man’s motives, which is an extremely homophobic line of thinking (but very common).

So rather than taking the risk of their gesture being misinterpreted, men follow the norms and retain their image. I do believe it is very possible for a society to move past these silly insecure manisms, but in our homophobic culture, this is simply the way it is.

Our Colorful, Interesting World

As a child, it was very natural to see the world in black & white. Every situation seemed to have a right answer and a wrong answer. Usually what your parents think is right and everyone else is wrong. As you get older though, the world starts to become more and more grey. Things don’t seem so concrete anymore, and decisions become much more complicated. This can be very disillusioning, and at this point, how you respond to this new grey world determines a lot about how your life will be.

You can look at your life and think “well there’s no clear answers, so it doesn’t matter what I do”, which, of course, will get you absolutely nowhere. Or, you can take a completely different view of it:

While a black and white world would be simple, easy, and reassure every decision, it would also be a very bland and boring world.

Yin Yang

With no chance for variation, life becomes formulaic. Although there is a high level of certainty, there is also no uncertainty. While this means there are no unexpected problems, there are also no pleasant surprises.

In a grey world, there are nuances that make life more meaningful.

As humans, we need a certain level of uncertainty. It’s what allows us to appreciate life. You would never know you were on top of a hill if you had never looked up at it from a valley. Just as you would never know life was going well unless you had a means of comparison. We need the bad times to appreciate the good. Adding the infinite amount of points between black and white makes a huge difference for the better.

Now, I’ve compared the false impression of the world (the black and white) and the actual way the world works (grey), but I’m going to add one more dimension: The way to appreciate the real world.

While, as an adult, it’s easy to see that the world is not cut and dry, it is not easy to see the beauty in it. The world is not black and white, but neither is a rainbow. Once you can see life as colorful and interesting, you can really appreciate every moment. But for every bit of good you allow into your life, you allow its shadow as well. Just as Dorothy found the colorful world full of songs and munchkins, she also found  the wicked witch. What you’re left with is two ways of seeing things:

1. Don’t allow anything into your life for fear of its shadow (for example, not allowing yourself to fall in love out of fear of getting hurt.)

2. Keeping your door open, and enjoying the good with the knowledge that all things must end, and everything casts a shadow.

I prefer the latter. There’s no lesson here, just an exploration of thought. A glance at ways to view the world. No right, no wrong, just color.

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Barney Rubble Has No Eyes

When I was little, I remember watching The Flintstones and thinking it was really strange that Barney had no eyes. When I say that, I don’t mean that he had black dots for eyes, I mean he had rings where his eyes should be and then skin inside. Why am I explaining this, just take a look if you’ve never noticed:

That is one creepy image, which the makers of the show realized and eventually fixed when they filled the eyes in.

So now they gave Barney black holes in his face, but at least (by cartoon standards) he looks normal now. The strange thing is that Fred and Betty had completely normal eyes, and only Barney and Wilma had black, filled-in circles.

Was it simply just the artists way of giving variety to the people of Bedrock? That would be my guess, but that’s no fun. Maybe Wilma was really Barney’s sister, and Betty was Fred’s sister, so they swapped. Fred invited Barney over one day after work, and introduced him to his sister, Betty. Then, once Betty took one look into his hollow rings of skin above his nose, it was love at first sight.

Oh, one more thing. Ever notice that The Flintstones is really just the cartoon version of The Honeymooners set in a pre-historic era? The characters have the same exact roles, personalities, and even the same types of voices. Oh, except Ed Norton had eyes.


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Video Games and Immortality

I’ve touched on this subject before, but I believe this analogy is worth having its own post. The idea of immortality, although intriguing, would actually be a terrible thing to have. Humans naturally love the idea of living forever because evolution has given us a survival instinct, but actually having it isn’t all its cracked up to be.

How do I know? Video games. If you’ve ever had a tough time playing a game, chances are, at some point, you’ve resorted to using an invincibility code (not to be confused with “infinite lives”). When you become invincible in a game, you simply can’t lose (unless you can’t solve some sort of puzzle, but you get the idea). With infinite lives, you can lose and just keep repeating the level until you beat it.

When you can’t lose in a video game, it becomes completely boring real quick. At this point, you’re just going through the motions until the game is over. What’s the fun in that? If I wanted to follow instructions, I’d build something.

I noticed this when I downloaded The Simpsons arcade game on my computer. In the arcade it was fun because you only had a few quarters and beating it was practically impossible. When downloaded, all you have to do is hit a key to “insert a quarter’” and you keep playing endlessly. At first this seemed amazing because I could finally play the whole game and see the later levels, but I got really bored, quickly, with just pressing the same couple of buttons over and over as I walked to the right side of the screen.

I thought to myself “Maybe the game was just more fun when I was a kid.” But that’s not the case at all. It was fun when I could lose, when I could die. Life has no meaning without death. The only thing that gives life its value, is its time limit. If you had forever to do everything, you would feel like you were going through the motions just like in the video game.

The expression “time is money” is completely true. Time is very valuable to us because we have a finite amount of it. How we spend that time is very important to us because we can’t get that time back. That’s why everyone gets paid based on time, it’s a trade. If you make your time infinite, your time loses all value and so does your life. The same applies to money because if you had an endless amount of money (different from just a lot of money), you wouldn’t enjoy anything you spent it on because it all loses its value.

As always, agree or disagree, that’s my take on the matter.

The 80’s Were The Future

In the 1980’s, everyone suddenly got confused and thought it was the future. That might sound like it doesn’t make any sense, but let me first define what I mean by “the future”.

Throughout the twentieth century, people had this idea of the future world having flying cars, computers everywhere, humanoid robots, and for some reason bright flashing lights and colors. This was really the idea everyone had for what the 21st century would be like. So when I say “the future”, I’m referring to this idea.

The very beginnings of this concept started coming out in the 1980’s. We had computers, video games, synthesizers; new technology. I guess everyone got ahead of themselves and lost their patience, because suddenly the 80’s became a really cheesy version of the future. The problem was that none of this new technology was really developed yet. That didn’t stop the excitement that shaped the culture though.

I use music as a way of really getting an idea of what pop culture is like in a given era. In the 80’s every song had a synthesizer in it, a dance called “the robot” was invented, Michael Jackson did “the moonwalk”, and everyone dressed in bright big clothes with teased up hair. Also, almost every song was ridiculously happy as if to celebrate how awesome it was to be living in the future.

Then the 90’s came along and everyone kind of realized that it hadn’t been the future for the past ten years and life was pretty much the same the whole time. The result was the grunge era, where everyone was kind of depressing. Nirvana, Calvin Klein commercials, flannel shirts – these are the images that come to mind.

When I think back to the 80’s, it just seems like everyone lost their minds. It’s also funny how one of the most popular movies in the 80’s was called Back to the Future – how symbolic.

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Barack Obama Used To Be White

Everybody knows that Barack Obama is half white and half black, so really his skin color could have gone either way. The truth is, he was born a light-skinned boy who went by the name of Brock O’bama. After community organizing for years, he decided to get into politcs. He lost several elections for small local positions and knew he needed to make a change.

His advisers recommended that he invest in surgery to change his skin color so he could appeal to the black minority. Although this would make him less popular with the white voters, his advisors told him he would need to become an icon. He knew he could get away with this since his father was black, but he still needed to change his name to sound more ethnic.

Brock O’bama legally changed his name to Barack Obama and, after a successful surgery, started to become quite popular in Illinois. His team made sure to destroy all evidence that there ever was a Brock O’bama, but the above photo is the only one they didn’t get their hands on.

Also, April Fools.

I would love to give credit to whoever photoshopped that picture of President Obama, but I could not find a source.

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