Archive for the ‘irritation’ Category

why are we all wearing suits?

June 30th, 2007

The suit is, with astonishing regularity and unbridled universality, the mode of attire for "significant" social occasions. Sorry, for males. Dare I ask what merit has granted this style of clothing the unquestioned acceptance and unique adoption? Is it the aesthetic quality? Is it the economic feasibility of acquisition compared to richer local traditions which value craft and ornamentation? Is it some kind of great compromise where disputes over our regional values have produced a lowest common denominator?

brad_pitt_suit.jpgSignificantly, Hollywood has given the suit an image outside weddings and funerals that represents top class fashion and coolness. More so than anything, it suggests to us that given the choice, Hollywood characters would choose to wear a suit. Why would suave characters whose plot does not dictate unto them a dress code choose to wear a suit, a style of clothing associated with private family occasions and tedious business meetings? Exactly, it doesn't fit. And I think Hollywood, not necessarily by itself, but certainly as a medium, has helped create that image of the suit as desirable clothing. It's mythological. Most people don't look anything like Brad Pitt in a suit.

Why do we wear a suit? It's not the least bit comfortable. It's not cheap. It doesn't make you feel liberated in any way (despite James Bond running around roof tops in it). It's a huge hassle to clean, because you can't just wash it. And it's the world's least customizable bit of clothing: every suit looks exactly the same. It leaves zero room for individuality. And we don't even look good in it. Unless you have a tailored suit, most people look rather awkward in a suit, and far removed from their normal style of clothing and their natural unrestrained motion. Like these guys...


What about women? They are doing much better. They don't have this narrow mindset of one outfit that must be worn. Ask yourself this, in any formal social context, who is more interesting to look at, with respect to dress, the men? Who all look the same? Or the women?

resisting standards

June 24th, 2007

There is a time to embrace individuality, and there's a time not to. If a hardware manufacturer decided he would only produce screwdrivers for screws 3*pi/7 cm in diameter, because that's the "ideal size", noone would buy them, because there aren't any screws that size. If an airline pilot decided to land in a non standard location, because the airport is "too far away from the city", he wouldn't be applauded.

It important not to be a robot, but there are times when doing things in a standard way is important. Especially when *not* doing things to standard is based on whim (sometimes known as "historical reasons"). We all think the Yanks extremely silly for not using the metric system, as one of three countries worldwide (of course, the scientific community *obviously* does use the metric system, and able to communicate smoothly with the rest of the world, it's just the rest of the population that is apparently incapable of understanding a far simpler system). Similarly, the Brits still drive on the left. This insistence is actually even more stupid, because unlike a system of measurement, it is only one single rule to be changed. In this they are admittedly not alone, but only because of those, yes, historical reasons going back to the old Empire that is no more.

But in both cases it is fighting a long lost battle. It is a lot like France trying to pretend that English is just any other foreign language by suppressing English content and culture. Well, guess what, English is the cultural language of the world. France and Britain both tried their luck at the whole colonize-the-world and Britain won. Just accept it already. France with their highly rated school system would be much wiser to shoot for bilingualism rather than censor English language movies from their cinemas. If French people were just as fluent in English as the Brits (or the Dutch, to give a practical example), don't you think that would be a huge advantage?

I know it's hard to believe, but it is in fact fully possible to preserve the valuable parts of your culture while changing the system of measurement (Britain), or which side of the road to drive on (Canada, Spain), or adopting a second language (Netherlands, tons of other countries).

That reminds me. Germany, German is *not* the "language of science/business/whatever crap". Get on the ball already and stop pretending you're unable to master English, everyone else in the world can do it just fine.

is drinking just outright pathetic?

June 6th, 2007

The things we do in life can be split into different categories. Some are noble (not too many of those), some are a pursuit of excellence, some are intellectual escapades, some are efforts toward physical improvement. Generally these are things we don't mind people knowing about us. Then there's a different class of things. Things we do out of discipline or duty (mundane things like clean and work), things done out of temptation, things done out of greed or jealousy, things done out of want for physical gratification. These things are more sketchy, some of them don't make us look so good.

Among those definitely in the latter class of things is alcohol consumption. Now, I didn't say responsible consumption of alcohol or cultural enrichment, or anything like that. I call it by its most colloquial, universally understood name: drinking.

Most kids think that alcohol is very exciting, because they can't have any. Once they're in their teens, they actively participate. Not only do they drink, but in the course of testing their newfound freedom, they do a lot of really dumb things. Driving under the influence, vandalism, violence, drugs etc. Now, there is an unwritten rule saying that this is okay. "It's part of growing up." You're authorized to act downright infantile in the assumption that in a few years you'll be an adult and you'll have this behind you." But there is an important point to this, that of freedom. Going from a kid to an adult is a steady increase in the number of freedoms you have. This is very tingly. You go from being able to do certain things in a restricted way to being able to do just anything and everything. When you're a kid, you're likely to want the things you can't have. But when you're an adult and you can have anything, what are you supposed to want?

I definitely have this instinctive conviction that life is supposed to be an evolution. You're supposed to develop in some way, to improve yourself. That doesn't mean a hopeless quest for perfection, this isn't some holistic belief system. And you won't be the perfect person at the end of it. It's just a conviction that you should be trying to develop in some way or another, at any given moment. Life is long and you have the time to try anything you want to try. For every new thing you learn, book you read, country you visit, hobby you acquire, you go from who you were to someone.. slightly different.

On the other hand, there are some things that don't change. Physiological needs don't change much, emotional needs don't change much, the need for intellectual fulfillment changes in form, but not in principle.

One thing I find completely pathetic, that doesn't change, is the craving for alcohol. Think about it, think back to the first time you were really excited about drinking. Maybe you were 18 then. And what is it that people do when they're "enjoying themselves"? They drink themselves under the table. It's true for teenagers, it's true for students, it's true for working people, for senior working people, for seniors, it never stops. Now tell me, how many of the things you really loved doing when you were 18 do you still do a lot? How many of the interests you had then do you still maintain? And wherever you are in life, extrapolate to all the different stages of life. We don't stand still in life, we're moving somewhere.

But drunkenness just doesn't stop. Teenagers revel in it, students worship it, working people yearn for office parties, Christmas parties. It is that escape, that excuse for entering the other class of behavior. It's an excuse to do things and not remember, or do things and regret them.

But let's ask the question, how pathetic is this? How sad is it that people who have become 20 years older still crave the same primitive fulfillment they did two decades ago? And it's not just that they crave it. It's that they still observe it with the same sense of worship that they did in the past. Alcohol is still the escape, it's still the fulfillment. Nothing has changed. Where is the sense of development? You've lived 20 years and you haven't made any progress towards more ambitious goals. How sad. If you had wanted to play with the same toys at 35 that you did at 5, most people would think there's something wrong with you. Or if you were reading Harry Potter at 15 and still at 45, a valid question would be "where is your intellectual development, why haven't you moved on to more challenging books?".

Now, there is a distinction to be made about alcohol. If you consider it as a cultural artifact, then it is a lot more like food and drink we consume. If you have a glass of wine with dinner, because that's cultured, you're not really taking an excuse to do things you couldn't otherwise have done. Alcohol as an "enhancement" isn't really a problem. If you "get a buzz going" and feel a little more comfortable with the people around you, that's okay. But enhancement means just that. If you try a new brand of fuel and get a 20% better mileage, that's an enhancement. A 50% is an enhancement, perhaps even even 100%. But if you get totally fucked up, not knowing where you are, what you did or what your name is, that's not an enhancement, that's total transformation.

Does that mean drugs that totally alter your consciousness should be outright dismissed? That sounds a bit hasty. Perhaps there is merit to it. But they aren't universally worshipped like alcohol either.

But, here's the problem. So often alcohol isn't an enhancement, it's the goal itself. When people look forward to that weekend party, "having a good time" is defined explicitly by drinking itself. It is the goal. If you told people let's have a party without alcohol, they would protest. You wouldn't be removing just some addition, you would be removing the very thing that makes people excited. There's nothing more obvious to prove that drinking is the goal in itself.

It is this worship of drinking that's depressing. In many circles it's almost religiously observed, and this has nothing to do with peer pressure or "you don't have to participate if you don't want to", it has to do with how incredibly sad and lame the actual pursuit is. So when people do actually get together "in good company", what they actually want, their interests, their level of ambition, what they value, it's pathetic. And it's just as primitive at age 25 as it was at 15. People who are otherwise intelligent, successful, admirable, they turn into individuals whose one thought is "let's get drunk."

You've lived 60 years and the one thing in life that you think about in terms of feeling good is drinking. You're so pathetic.

on pet ownership

May 21st, 2007

I get the feeling that pet owners just don't get enough of human stupidity. They crave more. So what better than to own an animal that's dumber than any human that ever lived.

Personally I feel humans are stupid enough. Don't get me wrong, we have the capacity to act intelligently, but all too often we have bad judgment or we just decide to be stupid. Granted, that's a little sad. But I find that human stupidity, my own included, is already filling my need for unintelligent behavior. I don't need an animal to supply me with a constant source of dumbness.

Pet owners seem to have a different view on this. In fact, they seem altogether thrilled with any kind of accomplishment an animal can aspire to, however simple. Omg I threw the stick and you brought it back to me. And we only rehearsed this 47 times. I mean how long would it take you to train your kid to do this? Try it once and your job is done. And what's so amazing about fetching thrown objects? Is this some kind of useful skill that society is in desperate need of? Or the whole dog training program. Teach it to sit up, to roll around, to fetch, to behave. Wooow, your dog is soo smart. What kind of low threshold for achievement do you have to be impressed by these things? Parents send their kids to school to be engineers, accountants, lawyers, advertisers, realtors etc. But when the dog claws on the door when you get home it's omg my dog is sooo clever, it missed me. Of course it did, you *feed* it. Oh my cat it so smart, all it does is sit there all day.

And what's so great about being around pets anyway? They're dirty, smelly, noisy, unruly, unpredictable (in spite of those top shelf training videos) and just plain ugly too, much of the time. And not a shred of intelligence. You know a park is a place where you want to take your kids and just let them play, it's one of the few safe places for them to be if you live in a city, a place with no traffic. A park is a place where you're supposed to be able to run around, play football with dad, roll around in the grass and do whatever you want to do, with impunity. But then dog owners think it's a great idea to take the dog for a walk in the park, and suddenly it's transformed into a minefield. Now you have to watch your every step. Great way to ruin it for everyone. In Holland they even make it explicit, with signs that mark this area is a dog toilet.

I think pet owners actually wish they lived on a farm, but since they don't they want pets. It's like a bad compromise, a pet in the city instead of animals on a farm.

Animals are nice as mascots, as characters in children's shows, as teddy bears, as illustrations in books. Cuddly, cute, compassionate, thoughtful, clean, and loving. We all like good fiction.

If you want a living thing to love, to talk to, to take care of, get a plant. Or take that plunge and get a human. I hear kids are great.

sealed plastic packaging

May 19th, 2007

The patient sustained multiple severe stab wounds to the upper chest and abdomen. The consumer didn't stop until he was able to retrieve the product.

They basically use this packaging for anything they can get away with. In some stores half the products are packaged this way, in what has to be the most consumer hostile packaging known to man. There are three big problems with it:

  1. It's a huge pain to open, unless you have a mechanical lab on hand.
  2. Sometimes it's almost impossible to open without damaging the product.
  3. There is no semblance of putting it back together the way it was, you open it you bought it

I would take the cheapest, ugliest brown carton box with the technical specifications printed on the side over this plastic. And it would be cheaper. No pictures either, just open the box and see what it looks like. And if you don't want the customer to open the box for some reason, just seal it with duck tape. And leave one box open so they can check out the merchandise.