Image Is Everything

We’ve ceased to care about substance anymore.  All we care about, or at least all we talk about, is what something looks like.  Perhaps because it’s easier to digest an emotional meal than an intellectual one.

This was brought to a head for me by the relentless coverage given to BP CEO Tony Hayworth’s recent yachting excursion.  Even the White House took a jab at him, despite the reality that Obama was out golfing at about the same time.  And the Republicans are ranting about Obama being out of the office as well.  The premise seems to be that there is a crisis on, and these guys shouldn’t be out of the office until it’s over.

Okay, on the one hand I get that from a public relations standpoint it’s risky to be seen having fun while others are suffering.  It’s perhaps emotionally tone deaf.  But practically, it’s irrelevant.  The CEO, whether of a company or a country, is not playing an active minute-by-minute role in resolving a crisis like the oil spill in the Gulf.  Even having them in the area for moral support is logistically intrusive.  Their role is limited to making strategic decisions that others actually implement.  This happens on a time scale of days or weeks and can occur from anywhere.

While I certainly don’t have anything close to the scope of responsibility of a CEO (nor the paycheck or the support staff), my boss knows how to find me pretty much 24×7.  If something requires my attention, you can be sure I’ll be hunted down with little effort.  Are we to believe that these executives are completely out of pocket while on the links or the high seas?  Not a chance.  This is just about how it looks.

And it doesn’t really stop there.  Whether it’s the latest sex scandal or who said what into a live mic, there is a relentless coverage of minutiae that has some emotional resonance to it.  Is this because it’s what people want?  I think the answer is no, but it is delivered in the package people want.

As a nation, we have become the embodiment of the short attention span.  If you can’t express it in a sound bite or a Tweet, we don’t have time for it. Yet this by itself isn’t so bad.  Absorbing a lot of bits can be just as informative as digesting a comprehensive analysis.  Perhaps even more enlightening in that you are getting more diverse points of view.  But the bits by themselves don’t naturally coalesce. And most people don’t spend the effort to ever sit and reflect on the plethora of info bursts they are getting to try to distill any larger coherence out of it.  So the reality is they are just left with the individual bits.  And therein lies the rub.

If you need to communicate something quickly, you don’t appeal to the intellect, you appeal to the emotion.  You can spend all evening explaining the dangers of touching a hot stove to a young child.  But if you’ve only got two minutes to teach him, you can take him over and stick his finger briefly on the burner.   Lesson done.

Now politics isn’t so black and white as touching stoves.  (It’s hard to find pundits willing to stand on the side of scorching hands.)  It’s not strictly good vs. bad.  Both sides of an issue get boiled down to emotionally charged tidbits.  And without additional data or the time and motivation to seek the data on your own, you’re making judgments not on the issues, but on the emotional resonance of the sound bite, or perhaps the perceived trustworthiness of the speaker or source.

But wait a minute… isn’t that just marketing?  The “Mad Men” of the 50’s and 60’s created modern marketing.  Ignore the head, play to the heart.  Will Geico really save you $500 in 15 minutes?  Do you really not believe it’s not butter?  Will Axe body spray really cause hot girls to throw themselves at you?  A wise consumer is more than a little skeptical.  In recent decades we’ve come to somewhat distrust ads by default.  We assume everyone is overplaying their hand.

But now news and politics are being marketed using the same techniques.  Yet we’re still in that naive phase where we largely assume what they are telling us is true.  Yet maybe this gives us some hope after all.  We learned to distrust product ads and do our own research.  Maybe we’ll mature to that point in the realm of news and politics as well.

Refresh of an Old Joke

This is stolen blatantly from a comment left by BaScOmBe on, but I doubt that’s its original source either.  Still, I thought it was pretty funny and wanted to share.


A woman in a hot air balloon realized she was lost. She lowered her altitude and spotted a man in a boat below. She shouted to him, “Excuse me, can you help me? I promised a friend I would meet him an hour ago, but I don’t know where I am.”

The man consulted his portable GPS and replied, “You’re in a hot air balloon, approximately 30 feet above ground elevation of 2,346 feet above sea level. You are at 31 degrees, 14.97 minutes north latitude and 100 degrees, 49.09 minutes west longitude.

“She rolled her eyes and said, “You must be an Obama Democrat.”

“I am,” replied the man. “How did you know?”

“Well,” answered the balloonist, “everything you told me is technically correct. But I have no idea what to do with your information, and I’m still lost. Frankly, you’ve not been much help to me.”

The man smiled and responded, “You must be a Republican.”

“I am,” replied the balloonist. “How did you know?”

“Well,” said the man, “you don’t know where you are or where you are going. You’ve risen to where you are due to a large quantity of hot air. You made a promise you have no idea how to keep, and you expect me to solve your problem. You’re in exactly the same position you were in before we met, but somehow, now it’s my fault.”

Father & Son Projects

It’s Father’s Day, so happy day to all you dads out there.  And nothing says Father’s Day like time spent with your son.  And some father & son teams do it a little better than others.  Take for example this guy, who worked with his dad to build a Stargate in his backyard.


Granted, it’s all plywood and paint and a little Photoshop effect to get the puddle, but the inner ring really turns and the symbols are all hand carved.  Give this team a little Naqahdah and we’ll be traveling the galaxy by Tuesday.

My dad never helped me build an inter-dimensional transport device.  Okay sure, he helped me pretty much build a car when I was a teen, and he taught me all kinds of trade skills and stuff, but I never got a Stargate.  Wah!

Thanks Dad. No, seriously… thank you.

Movin’ & Shakin’

Sony MoveSony recently introduced its new gaming accessory called the Move.  It’s a motion controller for the PS/3 intended to give the Nintendo Wii a run for its money.

The gaming world is super competitive, and I don’t mean just the players.  The big three companies (Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo) are constantly fighting to one-up each other.  And with Microsoft’s new Kinect system due this fall (demo video here), it’s gonna be a whole new ball game for everybody. Kinect needs no controller at all, it just tracks your movements from the sensor bar directly.

VibratorSony’s also making noises about Kinect like motion tracking in its future, but in the meantime, it’s going to have to be content with eating Nintendo’s lunch.  Or maybe they have a different market in mind.  After all, the Move’s shape does seem reminiscent of a different household appliance. No?

Heel Girl

High HeelsDoes your daughter have everything she needs to prepare for her impending womanhood?  Chyna Whyne doesn’t think so.

In just six weeks, she’ll teach your teen to walk in high heels.  Only six weeks!  Although it seems to me it should be 10, one week for each toe.

I admit there must be some skill required to navigate the world  in heels.  I always get a kick out of the girls at my sons’ high school awards ceremony walking on their toes as they shuffle across the stage.  But does this really deserve a course?

As if the premise wasn’t goofy enough to start with, the course also offers to teach girls how to shop for shoes.  I think that’s conclusive proof this is a scam.  Like any girl needs to be taught to shop for shoes.