Monday, October 17, 2011 piece by Lemony Snicket and hosted by Neil Gaiman

Thirteen Observations made by Lemony Snicket while watching Occupy Wall Street from a Discreet Distance

1. If you work hard, and become successful, it does not necessarily mean you are successful because you worked hard, just as if you are tall with long hair it doesn’t mean you would be a midget if you were bald.

2. “Fortune” is a word for having a lot of money and for having a lot of luck, but that does not mean the word has two definitions.

3. Money is like a child—rarely unaccompanied. When it disappears, look to those who were supposed to be keeping an eye on it while you were at the grocery store. You might also look for someone who has a lot of extra children sitting around, with long, suspicious explanations for how they got there.

4. People who say money doesn’t matter are like people who say cake doesn’t matter—it’s probably because they’ve already had a few slices.

5. There may not be a reason to share your cake. It is, after all, yours. You probably baked it yourself, in an oven of your own construction with ingredients you harvested yourself. It may be possible to keep your entire cake while explaining to any nearby hungry people just how reasonable you are.

6. Nobody wants to fall into a safety net, because it means the structure in which they’ve been living is in a state of collapse and they have no choice but to tumble downwards. However, it beats the alternative.

7. Someone feeling wronged is like someone feeling thirsty. Don’t tell them they aren’t. Sit with them and have a drink.

8. Don’t ask yourself if something is fair. Ask someone else—a stranger in the street, for example.

9. People gathering in the streets feeling wronged tend to be loud, as it is difficult to make oneself heard on the other side of an impressive edifice.

10. It is not always the job of people shouting outside impressive buildings to solve problems. It is often the job of the people inside, who have paper, pens, desks, and an impressive view.

11. Historically, a story about people inside impressive buildings ignoring or even taunting people standing outside shouting at them turns out to be a story with an unhappy ending.

12. If you have a large crowd shouting outside your building, there might not be room for a safety net if you’re the one tumbling down when it collapses.

13. 99 percent is a very large percentage. For instance, easily 99 percent of people want a roof over their heads, food on their tables, and the occasional slice of cake for dessert. Surely an arrangement can be made with that niggling 1 percent who disagree.

Neil Gaiman's mirror

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Propagating Stereotypes

The Consumerist's Worst Ad in America 2011 is accepting votes through the weekend, and their category  "Trend That Needs To Stop Being A Trend" inspires this topic of discussion.

"Asian Accents Are 'Hilarious'" and "Men Barely Tolerating Their Wives & Girlfriends" are two of the nominees in this category, and I wish they could both win.

Stereotyping and prejudicial thinking may not be legal crimes, but they certainly can be moral crimes, social crimes, and legal crimes.  And our economic system depends upon stereotyping and prejudicial thinking.

In Alan Cooper's well-received The Inmates are Running the Asylum, he discusses his strategy for developing personas to design products for, "Stereotypical personas are more effective if the stereotyping lends more credence to the persona. My goal here is not to be politically correct, but to get everyone to believe that my personas are real."
 Cooper goes on to discuss some unnecessary stereotypes.  In a critical reflection of this book's "Chapter 9: Designing for Pleasure," I insisted that "when [Cooper] asserts, 'Stereotypical personas are more effective if the stereotyping lends more credence to the persona,' he seems to be ignoring the equally true inverse: that the persona lends more credence to the stereotype. I don’t think that 'a statuesque, 5-foot-11 inch beauty who went to Beverly Hills High . . . [and] is a computer technician' or a male who is a nurse would 'confuse everyone,' but I do think that systematically rejecting these non-stereotypical personas will reinforce the stereotypes themselves."

Regardless of my documented stance against using stereotypes in marketing and development personas, stereotypes tend to be how these personas are designed.  Even in the event that research is done to create an amalgamated entity, stereotypes tend to seep in; people naturally think in stereotypes.  Since marketing research is costly in terms of both time and money, however, I suspect many personas are developed using stereotypes alone.  These personas are then used by companies to create our wants and needs, our problems and solutions.  This is in free-market capitalism.

Communists don't seem to have a better solution.  I don't even have an inkling of how to start fixing this problem.  The problem is so innate that we'll have a hard time of socially outgrowing the issue, but I'm optimistic that we will.

In the meantime, I'll keep supporting boys who paint their toenails pink and commercials for female-specific hygiene that are as raunchy as commercials for male-specific hygiene.  What else can we do?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

I'm the kind of cat who wears ironic teeshirts non-ironically. Also, I apparently refer to myself as a cat.

A while ago, we published an article about a need for slavery. Today, I'm issuing a challenge. I would like someone to prove me wrong. I want someone to outline an economic system that does not rely on unpaid or underpaid labor.

I suspect that crime may be an unavoidable component of any economic system. For bonus points, outline an economic system that can work without relying on crime of any sort.