My Writing

ALL NEW FOR 2016! Politics Edition


The current election, and the bizarre fervor boiling in it, got me to thinking.

It is absurd to expect that each new politician will have all new policies.

Yet we demand that each candidate have new, unique solutions for healthcare, immigration, unemployment, education, and all threats real and imagined.

“What is your policy on…” we ask all our candidates. And the answer had better be something different than what the incumbent is doing. Imagine if it wasn’t. There goes that candidate’s chances.

But the truth is that jumping from idea to idea, jumping from solution to solution, and changing your mind abruptly are not what we should want from those in power. If a leader did that on their own, we would think they were grossly unfit to lead. But they do it. We demand of them. And we continue this strange game each election with the utmost sincerity and fervor.

It is a silly, disastrous way to run a life, company, or nation. Certainly no shareholder would allow a company to be ran that way.

We do not need an ALL NEW FOR 2016! approach to the work that is necessary to keep a nation improving. We should not want an ALL NEW! approach. It is foolishness.

The way to success has always been iterative. Drip by drip. Steady improvement.

If the ideas of the each previous leadership need to be abandoned and replaced, well, we should all be embarrassed that we insisted on such change and expected that it would have an enduring, positive effect.

I call it “shopping for lightning”: looking and expecting to find that one, elusive magical solution that will finally fix the problem of education, unemployment, terrorism, healthcare, etc. Such thinking is nonsense.

>We act as though one person shapes the country, don’t we? As though one person has all the ideas and power. As though we have but one savior. Or devil. This thinking is so silly it is strange that it is universal.

Why would we think that the nation has but one savior or devil? Why would we demand that each new candidate have new ideas—the magic lightning that will surely, finally solve the problems that mankind has not yet been able to solve since our beginning?

SAY GOODBYE TO (insert problem)!

It sounds harsh to use the word “stupid”, but that feels like the most accurate word for the stupid game we play.


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Cars are Getting Crazy

Remember when the fastest, most expensive exotic cars in the world made 200-400 hp?

  • Ferrari 328: 270 hp  and 231 lb·ft
  • Ferrari Testarossa: 380 hp, 361 lb-ft
  • Porsche 993 Turbo: 395 hp
  • Ferrari F40:  471 hp,
  • Lamborghini Countach: 414 hp
  • Porsche 959: 444 hp

Things are getting a little crazy these days:

  • 2015 “regular” Mustang:
  • Dodge Charger R/T: 375 HP, 410 lb-ft
  • 2015 Chevy Corvette Stingray: 455 hp, 460 lb-ft.
  • 2009-present Ferrari 458: 562 hp, 398 lb·ft
  • SRT Charger: 470 hp, 470 lb ft
  • Porsche Cheyenne: 493 hp. It’s an SUV!
  • 2011-present Nissan GT-R: 530 bhp, 451 lb-ft
  • Porsche 997 Turbo S: 530 hp,
  • Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG: 583 hp, 479 lb-ft
  • 2011- present BMW M5/M6: 560 hp, 502 lb-ft
  • Mercedes-Benz McLaren SLR: 617 hp, 580 lb·ft
  • AMG S63: 563 bhp, 664 lb-ft
  • 2008-2014 Corvette ZR1 makes 638 bhp, 604 lb·ft.
  • 2012-2014 Mustang Shelby: 662 hp, 631 lb-ft.
  • 2015 Z06 Corvette… We don’t know yet, but more than the new Stingray
  • AMG S65: 630 hp, 737 lb-ft
  • Lamborghini Reventon 650 hp
  • Lamborghini Aventador: 690 bhp, 510 lb-ft
  • Viper SRT: 640 hp, 600 lb-ft
  • Maclaren P1: 727 bhp, 531 lb-ft
  • Ferrari LaFerrai: 789 bhp, 516 lb-ft
  • Pagani Huayra: 720 hp, 740 lb ft
  • Porsche 918: 887 hp,
  • Bugatti Veyron: 987 hp, 922 lb-ft. What?!
  • Koenigsegg Agera R: 1140 hp, 885 lb-ft
  • Bugatti Super Sport: 1,200 bhp, 1,100 lbf·ft. Now you’re just being silly.
  • Hennessey Venom GT: 1,244 bhp, 1,155 lb-ft

Where is this going? When do we reach critical mass?

What Miley Did, Part II: What TV Did To Us

The very first post I ever posted here, in 2005, was about celebrity.

I have written about fame/celebrity several times since:

Last month, I wrote “What Miley Did”.

Miley should give her publicist a raise. She is still The Hot Topic. Their strategy of inappropriate behavior at inappropriate times has worked. Of course, the New York Times foresaw this three years ago in the  article, “‘Glee’ Photo Flap is Latest in Image Spin Cycle”. They noted that:

“If a young female performer with a relatively straight-laced image wants to take full charge of her brightest future, she apparently has to do some time on the pole.”

“And neither [Glee star who posed provocatively] is overcoming a background as candy-coated as those of Miss Cyrus”

“But it’s worth recalling the superficially apologetic, supposedly abashed aftermath of the 2008 Vanity Fair picture in which Miss Cyrus, then 15, was topless, though the angle didn’t actually expose anything. She claimed that she’d more or less been duped; the photographer, Annie Leibovitz, dutifully said she was sorry.

And a year later, Miss Cyrus was pole-dancing — literally, and by all appearances volitionally — in boots and hot pants at the Teen Choice Awards.”

“…flesh is the fastest and most attention-getting route.”

70 years before that, C.S. Lewis saw it coming. In 1942, in his satirical novel, Screwtape Letters, he noted (as a senior demon writing to a junior tempter):

‘All is summed up in the prayer which a young female human is said to have uttered recently: “O God, make me a normal twentieth-century girl!” Thanks to our labors, this will mean increasingly: “Make me a minx, a moron, and a parasite.”’

(In 1942, “minx” meant: A promiscuous woman.)

So… Miley’s behavior is not new, is strategic, and is a bit sad (certainly not deserving of idolization, or adoration, or celebration).

Does anyone want to make bets on what Miley will do next time her popularity fades?

Because it will, and she will have to make headlines again. Fortunately(?), she won’t be the first down this path. Miley can look to any of the hundreds who went before her. (Revisit the NY Times article. See also my article: “The Future of Entertainment”.)

  • Will she go the tried-and-true route of: engagement, and celebrity wedding?
  • Will she go the tried-and-true route of: songs and actions that are even more sexual?
  • Will she go the tried-and-true route of: outlandish behavior and rehab announcement?
  • Will she have to use all three?

We can be sure of this: her celebrity will fade, and she will do something to get some of it back. Whatever she does, we will have see it (too many) times before.

What we haven’t seen before:

Over the past 12 years, television companies have promoted fame as the most important value so that they can sell you not only the TV show, but also an endless pile of merchandise with the “famous” person on it. Researchers at UCLA have been studying this.

“Fame is the No. 1 value emphasized by television shows popular with 9- to 11-year-olds, a dramatic change over the past 10 years, UCLA psychologists report in a new study.”

“On a list of 16 values, fame jumped from the 15th spot, where it was in both 1987 and 1997, to the first spot in 2007. From 1997 to 2007, benevolence (being kind and helping others) fell from second to 13th, and tradition dropped from fourth to 15th.”

“Popular television shows are part of the environment that causes the increased narcissism,

“The rise of fame in preteen television may be one influence in the documented rise of narcissism in our culture,”

For the first time ever, “kids want fame more than anything“. And there is no getting around the fact that the primary force behind this is TV. And that it is intentional.

TV has contributed to the dramatic rise in narcissism and the “dribbling off of empathy”.

Children are necessarily impressionable (how else would they learn how to walk, talk, eat?), and people in media have shamefully, dangerously exploited that. All studies, in and out of the media, show that media is one of the most powerful influences. Advertising, subtle or direct, works.

This means that at least some, if not all, of Miley’s fans were manipulated into worshiping her. Conned. Brainwashed. Conditioned like Pavlov’s dogs.

The same is true for everyone who was raised on TV and idolizes celebrity.

And it is worse than we realized.

In 2007, journalist Jake Halpern did a survey of 650 teens from New York for his recent book, Fame Junkies. His careful survey found this out about the teens:

  1. I’d rather be Famous than Smart…
  2. I’d rather meet Jennifer Lopez than Jesus… or Einstein…
  3. Forget being President of Harvard – Make me a Celebrity Personal Assistant… It’s worth noting: Research psychologists, like Robert Cialdini at Arizona State University, have long suspected that people with low-self esteem are the ones most likely to “bask in the reflected glory” of others. This appears to be true here. For example, among girls who indicated that they received bad grades in school (i.e., C’s or below), the percentage who opted to become assistants rose to 67%. What’s more, among both boys and girls who got bad grades – and who described themselves as being unpopular at school – the percentage who opted to become assistants rose further to 80%.
  4. Black Kids Are More Desperate for Fame…
  5. Teens who watch TV and read “glam mags” want and expect fame the most…
  6. Heavy TV-watchers are especially likely to believe that fame will improve their lives…
  7. Lonely and depressed kids hope that fame will solve their problems…
  8. Lonely kids are also more likely to follow the lives of celebrities…
  9. Lonely kids preferred 50 Cent and Paris Hilton to Jesus…
  10. Kids Believe that Celebrities Deserve their fame…

Read the details of the conclusions, and of the survey here. (Click “A survey on fame among teens”.)

Not convinced? Last year, I shared a video in which a man pretends to be a celebrity to see what would happen. (Spoiler alert: people worshipped him even though they had never heard of him.)

The reality is, of course, that you cannot become a celebrity. This is actually good news. You can forget about fame (or money) and live your life.

My conclusion: I am angry. How dare TV studios destroy the beliefs and perspectives of children to get more money out of them. For those who claim that it is the parent’s fault for not monitoring what their children watch, you make a good point. Parents must be vigilant. Ideally, parents will model purposeful, joyful living.

But remember: it has been repeatedly proven that media is a more powerful influence on children and teens than their parents.

Piss off, TV. Piss off, Celebrity.