Sunday, October 28, 2012

What is useful knowledge?

From the strictest sense, the only real useful knowledge is that which can prolong my life and protect my family. In the 21st century, that includes:
  • Job skills (for economic reasons, and the ability to provide food,  shelter and gummi bears)
  • Budgeting skills (to safeguard the items above)
  • Healthy lifestyle (avoiding drugs, smoking, too many KFC Double Downs)
  • Safety (locking doors, not letting a chimp drive my car, not hanging out in DC's NE side after 8 p.m.)
  • Emotional well-being (to maintain my relationship and my own happiness, which maintains all of the above)
From a less black-and-white perspective, what is useful is more difficult to decide. As a news junkie, former journalist and obsessive reader, my take on knowledge can be summed up as this: more is better. The more you know, the more you can make informed decisions, talk to people about things that matter to them, and understand the world around you. But there's another side to knowledge - whether it has a practical application or not.
I've been following the 2012 election with great interest, and through multiple news sources, throughout every day. I want to know the polls, the newest development, how weather will affect early voting, etc. But what is that knowledge really getting me? I already know who I am voting for, and since I'm not campaigning or trying to influence anyone, the knowledge is basically useless. It helps me talk to others about it, but all it generally does is increase anxiety, uncertainty about the outcome, and puts me on a roller coaster with no payoff. After election day, the results in my life would be the same whether I had spent all those hours following the news or not.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

In the future, the only ads will be viral

I think we are becoming resistant to advertising. Certainly web-based ads, but also TV, print (remember that?) and just about anything else. So gone are the ads touting the quality of your product, or connecting it to a positive experience like people running through fields or drinking on the beach. No, the only ads that matter will be ones that are controversial (like the Big Bird nonsense), that are emotional (like the Romney ad where he destroys daughters) or just uniquely clever and memorable, like this below.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Monday, October 15, 2012

Get bent: Why small insults hurt more

There are few more volatile people on TV right now than the outrageously angry Real Housewives of New Jersey (or #RHONJ on the Twitters). This extended family has been slowly imploding for months / years, and now it's at the point where they just yell all the time and resolve nothing.

There's lots of lessons you can learn from this crabby bunch, but one that's interesting is the verbiage they use to lay into each other.

"You Momo!" Translation: You're an idiot.
"Go Scratch!" Translation: Get outta here.

While it may seem weak and ineffectual to toss around silly-sounding phrases plucked from the 1950's, I think it's actually a great tactic when trying to piss someone off.

I was never on the debate team, but I think it works like this: These people absolutely hate each other, and yet they are on live TV and need to appear civilized (at least at first). So the best thing you can do is make your opponent embarrass themselves, or blow their top. You accomplish this by baiting them, and stringing them out over time - a "death by a thousand cuts" sort of thing. That's because if you go straight to the four-letter words, you've basically maxed yourself out, and all you can do is just get louder. But by tossing around silly, disrespectful barbs, the Housewives/bands manage to wound and provoke, and yet leave lots of room for escalation.

Don't believe me? Make like a tree and get outta here.