Svanr's Many Minds

On the other hand...

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Faking Interest

I found an advertisement this morning for a novel titled “Faking 19” by Alyson Noël.

“Two Girls, Two Fake I.D.’s, One Little White Lie.

Alex and M. are so over senior year. Orange County is a bore, and they’re sick of everyone at their school. So, armed with fake I.D.’s, the 17-year-old girls check out L.A.’s nightlife. At first, Alex is having the time of her life – who wouldn’t want to party at Hollywood mansions and ultra-cool clubs?

But, as the fun begins to wear off, Alex starts to realize that it may take more than a fake I.D. to really grow up…”

I have never had the opportunity to hang around with many teen girls, but if most of them are anything like what that blurb describes, I don’t have any regrets. More seriously, I wonder about the potential audience for this book and the intended effect that the moral is supposed to have. It seems like a bait and switch.

There is an obvious attempt at glamorizing the main characters and the fake I.D. plot. The picture on the ad is of two darkly tanned teen girls, both talking on cell phones next to and in a fancy new car and I would venture a guess that it would take more than a fake I.D. to get into a Hollywood mansion (assuming, of course, that we aren’t talking about the Playboy mansion, which not only requires an I.D. but also a willingness to get implants and make out with Hugh Hefner). There is a hint that there will be a moral at the end but you will notice that the fake I.D. and wild partying is not portrayed as anything but a great idea, it just doesn’t help you grow up any faster. It is most likely a clever ploy at attracting the teen girl that reads the line that says “Now available wherever books are sold” and thinks to herself “Whatever, like, how am I supposed to know where to get a book?” long enough to deliver the message at the end.

I wonder how well this would really work. Thinking back to when I was a young chap, it would be like watching an episode of the G.I. Joe cartoon full of red and blue lasers flying between the ranks of Joe and Cobra troops only to be treated at the end to Wetsuit telling the audience that hurting other people is wrong and concluding with a resounding “Go Joe!” Maybe it would work better if they showed violence being wrong from the beginning of the show rather than just a pathetic attempt at the last 2 minutes.

This isn’t to say that having a main character that changes through the course of the book is bad but I think that if you are trying to change someone else’s mind, it may not be the best approach. Using the violence angle again, if I read a book that had a gung ho military commander that eventually comes to see that war is a bad thing, I might very well enjoy it. Not surprising given that I already agree with the final message. On the other hand, if I read a book about an avowed pacifist that eventually sees the good in death and becomes a sniper I would be less inclined to sing its praises. It certainly wouldn’t change my mind. A better tactic, in my view, would be to show the actions of the people that “need to be killed” in a very despicable way. Graphic depictions of the exploits of serial rapists and puppy killers would do more to convince me that some people should be shot than some fictional character’s epiphany ever would. The author needs to create a catalyst to change me, not someone in the land of make-believe.

On the other hand, how would the marketers ever get me to read this book? I can’t imagine it would be an easy task. This leads me to question why the author wants to change my mind to begin with. There must be an agenda. A thought that if more people thought about the subject matter in the same way then the world would be a better place. Implicitly, the author does not think like me. Would such a person have much of an ability to deliver an effective life-changing event to someone they don’t really understand? Even worse, every person that reads to book is going to be different. Targeting an argument to one person is one thing, but trying to create one that affects the minds of a great many people is something completely different.

That’s it. I am so over trying to change people’s minds.

Born and Bread

The funny thing about fresh baked bread is that half of the loaf is consumed within the first half hour after it is removed from the oven and the second half takes a week or two to disappear.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

A Quick Thought

When I was a wee lad I recall having a conversation with a friend of mine about the relative viability of various superpowers, as comic book obsessed boys often do. I recall suggesting that super speed was the best power while my companion felt being able to read the minds of others would be the power he would most like to have, the rational being that he wanted to know what people thought about him.

I suppose everyone would like to know what people think of them at some point. I have to admit that I occasionally wonder what people see on first appearances. How do I fit into social stereotypes? Is the way that I feel I portray myself different from how others see me? This curiosity is rather impersonal, however. The desire is for a filtered mirror that removes the fixed perspective we as individuals find ourselves trapped in. I don’t think this is what my childhood chum had in mind, however. I think he wanted to see what disparity, if any, there was in behavior and inner thought.

It is interesting to think about the implications of this. If someone dislikes you and you know about it then there is no reason to probe the recesses of the brain in order to find out. It is obvious. I suppose there might be people that would dislike you on the surface but, in actuality, think you are a swell person, but how often would this happen, really? No, I think the main use for this would be to determine whether or nor people that are friendly to you really wish you would leave them alone. It is, in essence, a demonstration of insecurity.

I don’t think this insecurity is entirely unfounded. I am sure we have all heard the stereotype of the catty cliques that teenage girls are rumored to have, full of two faced backstabbing and I don’t doubt there is always some asshole out there ready to take advantage of an unsuspecting “friend.” I would suggest, however, that this might be a situation where ignorance is truly bliss.

Consider the possibilities:

1. You discover the person doesn’t like you and you drop them as a friend.
2. You don’t discover the person doesn’t like you and go about things never suspecting anything is wrong.

You will notice that there is no downside to the second possibility. Sure, we can say that it would be a sham when we are divorced from the situation and we know that the other person is thinking but for the person that is living it, the person that hates them might as well be there best pal and the psychological benefits are the same. While it could be argued that you are simply giving the bastards an opportunity to screw you over later on down the line, it really is a question of time. Do you take the guaranteed hit now or do you take the possibility of a hit later on?

Perhaps you disagree, but I think I would choose to remain happy and clueless. Yep, give me super speed, any day.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Clueless Thoughts at the Bar

“Well, the band is on a break. Time to take out the ol’ hearing protection. Huh, who is this? She looks like a younger, chubbier, drunk Meryl Streep. Hey, if she wants to talk I guess I can play along.”

“Why is it that whenever someone mentions the fact that I wear earplugs they always say that it is a smart thing to do yet never wear them? If she wonders why she isn’t deaf after all the concerts she has been to, she obviously can see the benefits.”

“Why the hell is she talking about her dentil habits? Does she really think I care about how many times a day she flosses? Quick, I need to think of something to say so she thinks I am paying attention! Phew, an inquiry about tongue scrapers saves the day, as it has so many times in the past.”

“Oh no, how was I supposed to know she was a nurse? I really didn’t need specific details about how she scrapes the tongue belonging to one of her patients. You start waaaay in the back, you say? Gotta change the subject before she starts talking about bedpans or sponge baths!”

“I knew that trivial pursuit question about the number of flavors the tongue can taste would come in handy someday. Ugh, I wonder if anyone else is watching her pull her tongue out and stick her fingers down her throat as she describes her taste buds to me. At least she is not puffing on that cigarette while she is doing that. What is it with nurses and doctors that smoke? They, of all people, should know it is terrible for you. Not to mention she keeps blowing into my face.”

“How in the world did she manage to get on the subject of eating raw oysters? That teaches me to space off. This is the first person I have ever met that actually believes in natural aphrodisiacs. Why exactly would anyone want to ingest aphrodisiacs all the time, as she claims to do, assuming they actually work? You would think that could get distracting. More to the point, why is she telling me any of this?”

“Good thing all that booze she has been drinking goes right to the bladder. I had better get out of here before she gets back from the bathroom!”

Friday, March 11, 2005

The self-righteousness of bachelorhood

Today my boss entrusted me to a task of vital importance. It seems his young son is taking part in some sort of model car racing event. From what I was able to glean, the lad and his dear ol’ pa must carve a small vehicle out of a piece of wood and race it down a ramp.

I was presented with just such a vehicle, this particular model resembling a boxy Yugo more than a speedy sports car. It was my job to construct a series of decals that would be placed on the car to indicate our company’s “sponsorship.” I was a bit incredulous at this request initially and I asked him if he would rather have me first finish the important document I was working on. Little did I realize that not working on the decals immediately would result in the crushed heart of a 10 year old little boy that missed his father so much because he was at the office 90 hours a week.

In my mind I said “Doesn’t that defeat the whole point? Even if you lie to your son and tell him that you are solely responsible for the nifty logos adorning the car, you still haven’t spent time with your him let alone made any real effort to help.”

Outwardly I said “How high, sir?”

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

A melting pot and a melting mouth.

Every once in a while I get an inexplicable craving for the “Vegetable Delight” (with or without “Been Curd”) at the Chinese takeout across the street from my office. It isn’t exactly the most appealing stuff when examined in the abstract. Mostly broccoli with small amounts of watercress, mushrooms, bamboo, peanuts, cabbage, and tofu (if you pay extra for the “Bean Curd”) mixed in. To top it off, it is bathed in a strange, salty brown liquid that quickly separates into dual layered oil and sludge. The veggies sit half way in and half way out of the mystery broth and the side exposed to air becomes cold while the bottom side is hot enough to warrant skin grafts for any mouth that is unlucky enough to touch them.

The owners are a husband and wife whose native tongue is very obviously not English. The man always recognizes me and knows what I am going to order. It is kind of a problem because I can’t understand a thing he says. He always makes a comment to me when I arrive and all I can do is smile and try to pretend I am responding without actually having to say anything.

They supply a variety of magazines for their customers to read when waiting for their food to cook. The wife appears to be a fan of “Seventeen,” despite being in her 30s by my guess, while the husband (I think his name is Bi Xi… something… if I remember the subscription label correctly) reads “Mercedes” magazine and a publication written in Chinese about the Americanized Chinese takeout restaurant biz.

If this rag is anything to judge by, the Asian countries must be thriving markets for the sale of breast enlargement pills.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Take me out to the ball game

I was reading something the other day that included the phrase “she was out of my league” in reference to dating.

The phrase, apparently, continues the grand tradition of comparing sex with baseball. After all, before you can reach one of the bases (or hit a home run!), you need to be part of the same sports organization. The metaphor raises an interesting issue, though. In baseball it is easy to know what league you are in. There are corporate contracts and detailed stats that provide a paper trail all the way from the pathetic seat warmer to the MVP all-star with the megabucks athletic shoe contract. Furthermore, leagues are distinctly separated. There is no confusing ones eligibility to enter tee ball verses the pros.

I think it is safe to say that the dating organizations are laid out based on visual first contact. Person A sees Person B and thinks, “I have no chance, that person is way out of my league.” These leagues are built completely within the mind. No input is taken from the object of desire. In other words, an internal comparison is made between the perceived values of both the ego and the other person. The question still remains. How are these values determined? There seems to be an implicit suggestion of a universalized rubric. If it is possible to know how others will judge your value then it is, logically, possible to tell what the values of these other people are. These conditions can only be met if a standard measure of value is, at the very least assumed to be, present.

I find this discussion interesting because I honestly have very little conception of what my dating “value” is. I wouldn’t be able to tell you if a woman would be likely to accept my advances even if my love life depended on it. By extension, I am unable to give much of an opinion on how attractive I look. I just don’t know. I am not even convinced that it is possible to know.

I suppose there might be a certain amount of security in knowing your value. While you might never approach people who are “out of your league,” and thus miss out on some opportunities, you also don’t waste your time with people who probably won’t give you the time of day. This all hinges on the reliability of your value assessment, of course.

I wonder if there may be some more subtle negative effects of this behavior. The idea of a standard value scale seems pretty ludicrous to me. Removing this concept would require league judgments to be made purely on the assumptions of what the ego feels other people make judgments about. In other words, part of the ego is being projected upon the other person. Ultimately the result is self-inflicted.

Gives new meaning to the term “social suicide.”

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Echo... echo.. echo...

I have recently finished modifying the code for my blog in order to accommodate a variety of counters and tracking devices. I have found myself refreshing the page every once in a while and looking at that little number of the side bar telling the world how many people have been fortunate to open my page.

Why do we do this? Is it some narcissistic impulse we have to see ourselves from outside our own bodies? To reread and marvel at the words that come out of our heads through our hands and into the keyboard? Are we hoping that maybe, just maybe, someone that we have never met before might find us interesting and worthy of attention? Is it just a matter of having things to say but no one we feel comfortable saying them to?

I am not sure I will ever be able to answer this question that I ask myself, but I do know that I can’t stop looking at that counter.