Saturday, February 27, 2010

I'm Aware, Alright! I'm Aware!

What, praytell, does this video have to do with anything? Oh, right. Silly me. Breast cancer awareness. Of course it does. It's taking something that's predominantly male, involving boobies, and wrapping it up in breast cancer awareness.

Fuck you. It has nothing to do with that. It's an excuse for men to stare at boobs and pretend like it's something noble. And FUCK YOU about breast cancer awareness.

We're all aware! We ARE AWARE. Trust me. We all know how bad it is. You want to help? Stop spending money on awareness and start donating to research clinics. America, stop buying little pink stickers down at the fucking Piggly Wiggly and acting like you've done something.

The plague of stickers showing our support for Breast Cancer research or "our troops," is driving me up a wall. You know what having one of those stickers tells me? It tells me that you're an asshole. You're an asshole who acts self-righteous about things instead of doing something.

You know what you should support? Breast cancer research awareness. Support awareness that cancer research in this country is a mess of slapdash clinics working in secret, ignoring each other, and failing to communicate and collaborate. Support that shit. Support systems whereby groups and companies work together and draw from a centralized pool of donations. I don't know, have a fucking March of Dimes, just cure that shit.

If you have a pink sticker on your car, or have EVER said "breast cancer awareness" seriously and in context, I fucking hate you.

Continued Stratification

I wrote a review of Chipotle for my Watery Gourmet blog where I referred to the restaurant as the new fast food. As America's palate grew, be it caused by just greater interconnectedness or the Food Network, traditional fast food would fade and be supplanted to a degree by higher-quality food.

This is definitely happening. Burger King, Arby's, and Wendy's are all facing difficult times. McDonald's has managed growth, but is that at the expense of Chipotle or other fast food joints? I suspect it's the latter.

I also suspect that McDonald's has been aware of this market shift for a long time, going all the way back into the early 1990's when they created the Arch Deluxe. We're seeing it to an increasing degree, with McDonald's selling lattes, Dunkin' Donuts selling panini sandwiches and deli meat, and Subway overhauling their entire menu a number of years back.

Again, if you watch documentaries like Food Inc. or Super Size Me, you'll hear all of the arguments against fast food and the government subsidized cheapness of it. Cows are treated poorly, meat is of low quality, and as long as the food won't kill you, they'll sell it.

Ok, I exaggerate a bit on that last one, but it's obvious that the price point is of greatest interest to the fast food companies. The introduction of the dollar menu by Wendy's has pushed the entire industry to, effectively, a race to the bottom. The primary goal is to lower prices, but that will inevitably mean lower-quality foods. And, what with McDonald's and Dunkin' pushing out higher quality stuff, that none of them want to be part of that race.

For evidence of this, just look to the recent lawsuits between Burger King franchisees and BK corporate. The $1 double cheeseburger was actually losing money in an attempt to grab customers from the other dirt-cheap competitors. A race to the bottom means a race to zero profits.

But in much the same way as there is growing stratification in the economic and educational worlds, will we actually see increased delineation between classes in the world of food? Where the only people going to the cheap places are those to whom price is the primary determinant? Because there's certainly a market segment for whom price is more important than quality. How far will that market separate from the market where they'll pay for extra quality like Chipotle or Panera Bread? Will we get to a point where people go to McDonald's to have slop shoveled into their mouths while anyone who can afford to do so goes elsewhere, thus perpetuating a fat, ignorant, and poor lower class?

That just sounds horrible. That's Time Machine/Soilent Green level shit. But is it also inevitable? Is the necessary end result of classic capitalism social stratification perpetuated by the levels themselves because of economic forces? The lower class wants cheap food, for obvious reasons, but that only serves to send them ever-lower on the SES ladder.

That's the classic conservative model, where those that deserve a good life rise to the top. The classic liberal model would be free, good food to all. Obviously, the classic liberal model is too expensive and pie-in-the-sky to work, but is the conservative model, while feasible, what we want? Do we want to live in a world where the lower class are all but fated to stay fat, dumb, and poor?

I know that I don't. I'm a free-market capitalist like the day is long, but if that world is the end result of capitalist forces, I don't want it. I want stops and measures in place to stop that slide. We got out of that shit in the 1800's and I don't want to go back.

I'm not making a moral statement about that, mind you. I don't think that it is amoral for poor people to die in the streets. Nor is it amoral for other people to not care. But that's a nasty world in which I wouldn't want to live.

I remain hopeful. I love capitalism and democracy because both systems have pressure release valves, as I call them, built into the nature of the system. Democracy can get unbelievably broken, like it is now, but once the pressure gets bad enough, we throw all the bums out... Unlike old political systems which generally required violent revolution. Capitalism is based on the money. If the social system underlying the economics gets so out of whack that huge chunks of the populace can barely live, it collapses and we start again. At what point the system is broken enough for that to happen is a matter for the academics, but that is the backstop for the entire mess.

Friday, February 26, 2010


The Apple App store has had something of a controversy. Long story short, Apple expunged most of the sexual apps from the marketplace. This included pretty much anything involving boobs except for apps from major developers.

There have been countless words spilt on the subject, but one element that hasn't been discussed is the nature of the two genders vis-à-vis the iPhone and the programs for it.

One of the biggest problems for gender science is that, even if differences can be experimentally discovered between men and women, it's very difficult to determine whether those differences are the result of anything evolutionary or biological or from social and societal mechanisms. One of the biggest issues with this potential confounding variable is that society is still male-dominated.

We've certainly made progress, but there's still a huge gap in which sex drives the societal dialog. Movies are all written by men. TV is dominated by men. Men dominate advertising firms. Men decide how society presents certain subjects. For example, what is sexy? Sexy is heavily affected by pop culture and male advertisers determine what pop culture is. Again, this is changing but is still a strong influence.

Aside from the usual attacks on the good ol' boys that keep women out of the power structure, is there something else? I think there is, and the app store provides me a little evidence in support of this. Namely, sex sells, as we all know, and is the male sex drive (I'm grouping all aspects of sexual behavior in the term) so strong that it simply drowns out other things?

Look at the app store. iPhone users are roughly equal, with a slight skew towards male, but in less than two years, the app store became dominated by male-oriented sexualized apps. Weather... with boobs. Calendar... with boobs. In very short order, the entire app store had sexual apps dominating the top ten of multiple app categories.

I won't bother discussing the manifold reasons why this could be the case, just suffice it to say that it is the case. Where the hell do we go from there? Apple had to make a public-image decision to shut down that aspect of the app store because it didn't want every new user of an iPhone, be it straight or gay, male or female, to have their first experience with apps be soft-core porn aimed at straight men.

Is sexual culture dominated by the male perspective not because of sexism, but because classic economics dictates that is what will happen? The app store was a new market. Its genesis was in as liberated as a time as any in history. A new platform, a new product, and a company that appealed to both sexes. Less than two years later, it was nothing but fart-noise apps and boobies. If Apple wasn't the overlord of the market, and the market was allowed to operate entirely on free-market principles, there would have been nothing to stop it from becoming dominated by the male perspective.

So I ask again, where the hell do we go from here? Is any free market economic system doomed to be dominated by the male perspective? Or is this simply a symptom of women not being completely free, or not feeling that way, to express themselves in these systems? Perhaps because systems like this have been so classically male that the women don't even bother trying to make their voices heard.

It's an annoying prospect. The app store issue was consternating because it painted a very negative portrait of men, at least to me. One of the greatest technical innovations in history... used to dispense soft-core smut. My, how we've advanced. It's all so infuriating for someone like me, who is very interested in how and about what other people think. If my perceptions are colored by a world designed for and by men, what do I learn? Nothing! I learn nothing about other people who happen to be women. And worse still, it hurts those women's (Firefox spell check wants me to change that to "womenfolk's") quest for self knowledge, since their cognitions are colored by a society that objectifies them (nothing against objectification) and only looks at sex and male-female interactions from a male perspective.

That's damaging! Self knowledge is perhaps the most important type of knowledge there is, and the male society does damage to women by preventing them from having a level emotional ground from which to embark on self analysis. And how can you blame them for having a skewed perception of themselves when all they see of the world is breasts and farts?

A Really Good Chair

Blu Dot Real Good Experiment from Real Good Chair on Vimeo.

I'm a design fanatic. I'm also a psychologist (sort of). This was an incredibly cute combination of both.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Video Game Cover Designs

Kotaku has an incredibly interesting interview with a graphic artist discussing how crappy box art for video games are in the United States.

He laments how cover art for movies and books can be much more interpretive and abstract than the default "Hero + Logo = Box art" formula. And I agree with him; video game covers are pretty bad.

But I disagree with his assertion that movie covers are any better. The VAST majority of DVD covers and movie posters are the exact same thing. I didn't use his fomula, but I referred to them as facecovers. Pick up any DVD at Wal-Mart, or go to Amazon, go to the movie section and bring up a big-ass list of DVD's. It's all a bunch of faces. Hell, some are nothing but a giant face.

The only movies that break the mold are the special editions. The ones designed to look a little special. Take, for example, the recent release of Inglorious Basterds...

It's a well-designed cover, but it's just an exercise in wedging as many faces into it as possible. They did a good job of it, but, man. So, now, take the movie's two-disc special edition.

It's amazing! It's as though the box designers are totally aware that the default design looks like the default design, and they exploit that to make the special edition cover look better.

I suppose then, if that's the case, they're brilliant. Do something for so long it looks like shit, then sell the ones that don't look like shit for more money because people want it. I like this explanation better than the interviewee's, where they simply recognize that hard-core fans are more forgiving of odd images. I think that they're just more critical of crappy covers.

Judging The Covers Of Games, And How To Make Them Better (

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Ladmags, Cosmo, and Magazines for Me.

I used to get subscriptions to both Playboy and Rolling Stone. In both cases, I just got tired of the magazine's voice. I really did read Playboy for the articles. Frankly, I think most people who read it do so for the articles at this point. It's barely porn, and just having naked women posing there is terrible masturbation material. But those articles were the same damned thing over and over.

I think Playboy became something of an anachronism, and this is evident it its formulation of what it means to be male. In the Playboy world, "male" is a state of being where one is confident to the point of being weird, dressed in expensive clothing, smokes cigars, fucks or could fuck every woman he comes across, and drives a Ferrari.

Rolling Stone didn't have a specific formulation of masculinity, but instead is just very male-oriented. One only needs look as far as the "Greatest Albums of All Time" list. Almost universally male and white. The magazine spends most of its time ranting about republicans and discussing rock & roll, which is mostly male, and rap, which is mostly male. Females usually show up in the celebrity photos section, frequently on the beach.

Just look at the covers. I went through Rolling Stone's cover archives and counted all the covers with men, women, and then non-sexy-symbol women.

Like this. She's attractive, but she's not on the cover simply to look hot. She looks rock & roll.

This one is blatantly used for sex purposes. So now you understand my criteria. I also ignored political covers, covers with an ensemble multi-sex cast, and anything about current events.

Total count? From 2000 to 2009, One hundred and fifty-five covers with men, sixty with women. And of those women, twenty-seven were there just get hard over. Further, of the women, eight were either Madonna or Britney Spears. According to RS, 58% of their readership is male, so I guess it's not surprising that they cater to male readers to a degree. But I just don't understand how an active thinker wouldn't get bored with this.

Or take the newest issue of DETAILS, which fashions itself as the younger, puerile, slightly retarded brother of Esquire, discussing the remasculation of the American male. Remasculation?! Ok. Fuck you. That's all I can say to that. To even assume that we need to somehow be given our masculinity back, and to have the audacity to advertise that you know shit-about-shit to write about it, or tell us what it is, that just blows my mind.

What the fuck is going on in pop-culture, today? Are white men the world over utterly threatened by women? Like those entirely insane Super Bowl ads that had this simmering misogyny underlying every situation. How vapid and shallow must a man be to find this nonsense entertaining and appealing? How could any man find the voice of Playboy, DETAILS, or Esquire stimulating for a long period of time? How does he not get bored?!

Fuck writing for men! Fuck writing for this trite, pigeon-holed concept of masculinity that demands every story be framed in such a way as to discuss the subject of kinky sex and Lamborghinis. Write for people, not men.

This is coming from a male perspective, obviously. I'm sure there are legions of women out there who feel similarly to Cosmo or Redbook. But at least those magazines rarely wrap themselves up in fake, pseudo-intellectual, classy, wannabe haute-couture pretenses. There's nothing classy about them. Cigars are nasty, most people think Ferrari drivers are assholes, and discussing Plato in public makes you look like a dick. Reading GQ doesn't make you intellectual or classy. It makes you look like that fourteen-year-old, dripping with Axe, wearing a Gucci belt he bought on eBay that was too big so he had to drill extra holes. No one wants to fuck you, and any woman who does will give you the clap.

I want stuff written for me as me, not for me as a MAN. I'm not a man. I'm me. I am who I am, and that is a person with certain interests. Write about those things. Write it with a certain personality that makes you unique, and I'll lap it up. The alternative is where we're at now. I'm bored, I don't read your shitty magazines, and an increasingly large number of people don't either.

No. Instead they're reading, which is, somehow, even worse. Ugh. Men suck.