Tuesday, April 1, 2014
Saturday, March 22, 2014
Tuesday, February 4, 2014
Isn't technology great? In this second of a series of posts looking at how humor today echoes Secret Peace themes, we'll look at some technology jokes. Technology is one of the easiest ways to see progress happening, and in the past few decades, "technology" has often been synonymous with computers. An easily tracked sign of progress is Moore's Law: that transistor capability doubles every two years. So I found this online:
That post is just sort of a "wow" or feel-good post, but a funnier theme is to post about how amazed people were with computers in the past, even though from our perspective, they were awful.
Or how about this post, meant as a quick gag and "apple" pun, but really a profound comparison of life today with less than a century ago:
Or how about the advances in access to information? My generation was the last to make it through school without Google. (I graduated college in 1999.) My daughter will grow up never experiencing the simple burden of not knowing something - even topics in which final knowledge still eludes us have easy access to speculation and what we know so far.
Of course, we often forget that technology doesn't just refer to computers. Look at the all of the advances in health, such as prosthetic limbs.
Or look at this GIF comparing car safety from 1959 with 2009:
Of course, with all new technology comes fear of change, some wise and some unfounded. This XKCD cartoon helps keep it in perspective:
Monday, January 6, 2014
I could just present them by themselves, since they are meant to be interpreted on their own, and some of them are pretty funny. But as you read them, I think there's a larger point to keep in mind, one that makes me happy. I think that popular humor reflects our culture, and since online humor often reflects younger people than the culture at large (and many of these memes are from 9gag, which is populated by a lot of younger users), it is a good signifier of where the culture is going. I've been seeing more of these types of jokes recently, and I'll take that as a good sign that not only are the few people creating them in line with Secret Peace themes, but so is the larger audience, since the ones I've found are the ones getting passed around social media or voted up on the humor sites.
The theme of today's jokes is making fun of the past. Let's start with an opposite joke, to prove a point. This is the only joke I've come across that I've seen as directly in opposition to The Secret Peace - and thus, from my point of view, terribly incorrect.
Here's a better cartoon, by New Yorker artist Alex Gregory, that kicks holes in the logic of that previous item.
And here are some more. Some are quick gags, or interesting factoids, and others are more thought-provoking. They all make the basic point of: "Hey, don't romanticize the past. Compared to back then, today's not that bad."
Monday, November 25, 2013
I know I'm not the target audience, but I am now the father of a young girl, and I was immediately turned off by these ads. At the same time, I was disappointed in my harsh reaction, since it was obvious that the many people behind these ads clearly had their heart in the right place. So I'm going to try to not be too mean here. But there are some problems.
1) Let's start with a nitpick. There's a pretty well-rounded list of adjectives in the ad, but it includes "sporty". Well, turns out there's already a word for "sporty", and it's called "athletic." Sporty is just a girlier word for athletic. We don't need dumbed-down female versions of words - I would think that's just the sort of thing this ad campaign should be fighting against. It might as well say, "I'm sporty, posh, ginger, baby, and scary." Granted, that would convey girl power, but I'd rather just change it to athletic:
2) Here's another small issue. That same sentence says "I'm creative, a leader, athletic, friendly, bold, honest, playful and unique." That's a tall order, a lot of pressure. It almost sounds like a girl HAS to be ALL those things. Instead, the message should be that she can be anything she likes. She doesn't HAVE to be athletic, and not everyone is a leader. She can be some of those things, or even none. She has the capability to be anything she wants. How about:
3) Here's a much more important issue, indeed the first one that jumped out at me: the use of the word "beautiful". As the final adjective, it's implying that it's the most important one. And if there's one thing we really want to convey to girls, it's that BEAUTY IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING. Why in the world did they go in this direction? You could argue that they are using the word "beautiful" not in the exterior "looks" sense but in the "inner beauty" sense. But there are better words for that: "I'm proud of the way I am", "I'm awesome the way I am", "I'm great the way I am", etc. "Inner beauty" is a subtle connotation that is not the first thing you think of when you see the word "beautiful". (If it was, we wouldn't ever need the prefix-word "inner".) They should have avoided it altogether:
4) Lastly, let's look at the rest of that closing sentence. "I'm beautiful the way I am." What a let-down. Maybe it's just me, but here's what that sounds like: "I'm ok even though I'm not a boy." or "Hey, I was born a girl, but I'm dealing with it." or "I may not have a penis, but I'm almost as good." WTF? It seems so meek and defeatist. Why not go with a more uplifting ending? How about just:
Straightforward and to the point. It should be inspiring. I would be proud for my daughter to see this ad now.
You may argue that I'm nitpicking and wordsmithing this too much. But that's the whole point of feminist critique: that there are subtle biases even in our language that convey that women are not equal to men. I'm really surprised that nobody who helped with this ad thought this way; it's the whole reason for the ad, after all. I've worked at several ad agencies, and trust me, all ads are edited this much. You only have a few words to work with (they used 20), and a few seconds of the audience's time, so you have to make each word count.
Which brings me to my final edit ... something to really make the ad "pop" and grab people's attention. I realized, hey, this ad is for NEW YORK CITY. What says not just "I'm an awesome girl" but "I'm an awesome New Yorker"? How about:
PS. For a better example of empowerment, check out this awesome GoldieBlox ad.
Monday, November 18, 2013
I've got a chart in the Secret Peace book reflecting the trend of acceptance of interracial relationships:
Huffington Post, mentions current trends - allowing us to update the chart for real:
Can you imagine this trend ever reversing? I can't. Nearly everyone approves of interracial marriage, something that would have been inconceivable to folks a few generations ago. Though they're going at different speeds, all other trends of tolerance are moving in the same inevitable direction as well.
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
I found this great page all about skydiving safety statistics. (I am on the Internet a LOT.) Did you know how many fatal skydiving accidents there were in the U.S. in 2012? Only 19. If that still seems like a lot, consider the total number of jumps: 3.1 million. That's a .0006% fatality rate. (And there were only 915 non-fatal injuries, as well: roughly 3 injuries per 10,000 jumps.) That's a lot safer than I think I expected.
But that's not the cool part. We have no real way of knowing if that number is good or bad. We need context: is this more or less safe than in the past?
Turns out it's much more safe. That fatality rate has been cut in half just in the past decade. Before that, we don't have all the same data available here, but if we judge by U.S. Parachute Association membership as a proxy for jumps, we see the rate of fatalities per thousand members go from 3.65 in the 1960s steadily and consistently down to 0.64 today.
These trends mirror lots of declining death and injury rates from all sorts of accidents. I had known about other stats, but it was fascinating to see the same trend even in such a seemingly dangerous arena as skydiving.
Page is here: USPA: Skydiving Safety