lovehate: The Real Reasons

When the Superbowl arrives every year, those of us who are even casual football fans, and many who never watch football at any other time, prepare for parties that rival Caligula's hedonism. While this is nothing new, and the tradition is certainly well-established, it has prompted a question about connections between two seemingly completely unrelated things.

I realize for some that the idea of Sunday football has become less about football and more about food, drink and friends. This is the relationship that I find so interesting. Essentially, the real reason for many people to watch the Superbowl (which is traditionally a mediocre game) is to give people an excuse to socialize with friends. With this connection in mind, some of the other real reasons we do things may start to unfold.

I thus present a lovehatethings list, based on no scientific research, and in no specific order, that I shall call...

The Real Reasons

The real reasons people read self-help books are to help moderate their insecurities. After all, if only 25% of the things in the book apply to you, there are people out there in 75% worse shape than you are.

The real reason people line up for things is to appease their demographic.

The real reason people ice fish is to drink.

The real reason people go to bars is to not be lonely.

The real reason women go clubbing is to have fun with friends.

The real reason men go clubbing is to get laid. This is also the irreducable primary for 90% of the things men do, but to save time, you'll just have to trust me.

The real reason people buy Monster Cables is because they believe cost equals quality.

The real reason we still go to McDonald's is because we were brainwashed as children to choose brand over exploring.

The real reason people drink alcohol is to forget.

The real reason that people blog is steeped in vanity.

The real reason that people podcast, in addition to vanity, is to out do bloggers.

The real reason people yell is because they feel insignificant.

The real reason people go to church is the same reason people use online social networking is the same reason people spend hours in a coffee shop is the same reason people watch Oprah.

The real reason we steal music by illegal downloading is because someone doesn't want us to.

The real reason we spend money on things we don't need is because concretizing our wealth is comforting to our sensiblities.

The real reason people go hunting is because they lack the serenity to go walking.

The real reason we buy the thing that's "new" and "improved" is more about wish fulfillment and possibility than actually belief.

The real reason the economy is so messed up is because we're lazy.

The real reason we're lazy is because action can lead to failure.

The real reason failure scares us has little to do with fear of our inabilities and more to do with our fear of others.

The real reason people laughed at that kid getting his head shot off in the back seat of the car by John Travolta in Pulp Fiction is because we're too scared to cry is the reason therapists thrive.

The real reason we advance technology is because the whenever we ask the existential questions that lead to the nature of real reason for everything, we realize we can't answer, but we hope technology will one day allow us to.

The real reason for every war of the modern era isn't borders or religion or resources, but the low self-esteem of the decision-makers.

The real reason borders still exist is to preserve a way of life that has been manufactured, packaged, imported and sold to you.

The real reason you "buy-in" is because it's too much work to "buy-out".

The real reasons that motivate our actions bely our need to avoid reality.


thinglets: The Car of the Future Ready in October

I never thought that I'd fear the idea of zipping around like so many characters from 60s sci-fi movies, but does this car look safe to anyone. Don't get me wrong, it's looks ultracool, but will this last five minutes on roads with ice, snow, or in temperatures of -20? Doesn't it look like one could just kick the axles right off this thing?

I certainly admire that the "all-electric three-wheeled two-seater" will apparently be ready in October '09 for a relatively decent price point of $25000-$45000 and "get the equivalent of 200 mpg and go 100 miles on a charge."

I really do admire the effort, but unless I'm driving this thing on the Salt Flats I'm not feeling too confident.

car of the future

lovehate: Web 2.0... whither 2.1?

Now that Web 2.0 has become a redundant term (after all, don't we expect the web to be interactive, feeding, streaming and end-user tweakable these days) when will the terminology move to the next step up the version hierarchy.
I have to apologize in advance, because while this lovehate will incorporate many open-ended questions that I invite people to answer for me, the majority of the discussion will not revolve around the real object of my derision: version-branding everything... but I digress 3.5.
When the Web 2.0 moniker became de rigeur around aught four, more people clamped onto the fashion of the version upgradability of the name as opposed to knowing what it was all about.
Remember the first time you could easily manage your RSS feeds, or the first time you got to move widgets around a page on the fly to create a custom portal experience? Remember the first time you Dugg something by clicking a simple button that updated on the fly, or giving a thumbs-up or down to a comment? Remember seeing your first REALLY cool freaky-styley Flash interface and then getting annoyed by them like so many animated gifs and beveled buttons of the past? Remember finding websites by designers that learned how to use flash for substance instead of style? Remember when social networks opened our eyes from a history of forums and newsgroups or even listservs?
Most of us remember all of this as the nascent signs that would be the explosion of Web 2.0 and yet, to me anyway, and I'm guessing many others, that seemed so long ago. Surely we've hit the version change or the upgrade somewhere along the way. We must be at Web 2.4.6 or Web 2.0 SP-1 by now. If we're going to buy into the branding of the Web as a version number, shouldn't we be willing to run with the entire procedure?
And here's a BTW 4.6: what ever happened to the Internet? Now, I could be wrong, but didn't the web used to be part of the internet? Wasn't "Internet" the global catchphrase dropped by politicians who wanted to seem too cool for their own good. Has Web 2.0 not only usurped "Web" but also "Internet" as well? Has the term "internet" become nothing more than a series of tubes? Have the words become interchangeable due to the Web's popularity?
And just by way of a WTF? 5.1, if Web 3.0 is supposed to be the advancement of server models that are not just storage and retrieval, but of execution as found in already existing web productivity applications like those promoted by Apple, Microsoft and, most prominently, Google, haven't we breached the outer vestiges of Web 3.0 already? Haven't we started to float through the Cloud? Surely we're starting to reach some of the potential if not benchmarks that would constitute a version shift, yet no one is ready to say we're officially at the Web 3.0 stage yet, but how about 2.5, 2.3, 2.1... hell, I'd even take 2.0.1 alpha at this point because it seems no version advancement moves so slow as that which evolves before our eyes.
And so if constant evolution is actually preventing a clean division between 2.0 and 3.0, who will ultimately be the voice responsible for leading us from the arbitrary muck and mire to the magic number? Will it be something as simple as a prompt from the social networker with the most followers? A well-placed tweet that gets re-tweeted ad infinitum until, by no fault, wish, cause, or ability of our own, we live in a Web 3.0 world and the first bloggers and eager tech column writers start heralding the advancements that are bound to be present in Web 4.0.
Maybe by then it will be called iWeb or MSWeb or GoogleWeb or The People's Web Republic of the United Provinces of China or Skynet.

Web 2.0 Table

lovehate: Fan to Store to Con to Web

Did you ever notice that, when you've eaten enough of your Cheerios to have the remaining lingerers left bobbing on the ripple surface of the milk like so many little beige inner tubes, they tend to clump together? Their round shapes allow each unit to hug each other in a tenuous fashion until others come to shore up the group in flowery patterns around the central group leader. And with each bite comes decay, disruption, and even the occasional disassembly of one group that prompts scattered, bobbing floating to a new group. Such are the life patterns of the Cheerios who were far too busy with other things to join the masses of their of lemming-like siblings into the orifice of doom.

There used to be a time where the concept of an in-person social network involved a pub, a movie, a dance, a concert, or some other event where like-minded people would gather for the sake of a shared experience. You see, today there's really not that much need to go to a film when we've got screen that fill walls and surround sound that rumbles the seats. Yet we still go out in record numbers to big films, not because we're afraid we're going to miss them, but because of the shared experience. We need the cluster. Even by two we tend to roll off each other.

I used to find the activity of flipping through record or CD bins a couple of times a week very therapeutic. I would flip absent-mindedly, knowing there was little to no chance I would find anything to buy, but there used to be a culture to a record store that was unparalleled for someone in their teens and twenties. There was a certain level of comfort in being able to rhyme off the names of 1000 bands and song titles that most other people hadn't heard of. Sure, maybe we were music snobs, but snobs cherish a certain aloof status that can often breach the realm of xenophobic. We were not such animals. We could not live without the culture. I knew at least a dozen people by look alone that would rifle through over 60 covers a minute and just wait for the opportunity to share an ounce of precious knowledge with the assembled masses. 

Woe be the neophyte that walked in and asked a clerk to identify a song by a broken, dyslexic boopboopbeep melody line that could have been a hundred songs. We craved the ineptitude of the clerk. We wanted to possess that grail of knowledge that could pluck the arcane track from the depths of oceans of discographies. We loved Pete Frame. We floated, avoiding spoons, in this bowl for years. We were comfortable. We were not alone.

And then, just as now, there were "shows". Comic book shows, record shows, trade shows, and collectors would gather from far and wide to barter on limited run indie comics or bootleg concert vinyl or video tape. Again, most of the stuff we saw there wasn't anything that we couldn't have had our local dealer order in, but the mass experience of dozens, if not hundreds, of people sharing a common interest, gathering to pursue acquisition dreams was just too good to pass up. Our clusters got larger. Soon we would fill the top of the bowl and leave nowhere to run should the utensils try to pick us off again. Because while we contained our quiet elitism in our home group, while the cluster ocean was exciting, our elitism was lost - we had become "normal" to this environment. This was not acceptable. We needed a sense of elitism yet again while not being robbed of the ocean's lure.

The face of the gatherings, or the "shows" has changed. Shows still exist at the local level, but the growing ability to communicate their existence has promoted the knowledge of the conventions to a wider audience.  Conventions which only used to draw dealers, now reached for a select group of consumers. We had found our Panacea. We could live out the fantasies of the sprawling ocean of knowledge where we could abandon our elitism and forsake the gravitas we held back in our home clusters. We were no longer afraid to look occasionally uninformed because WE HAD TRAVELED TO THE CONVENTION!

By, like so many snowbirds going south on the I-75, traveling to the ocean, there would always be a locale to return to where we could be the expert. Some people considered us crazy: 

"You're paying how much money to go and see a bunch of comic books?" 

"You're going to Las Vegas for four days and you're going to look at TVs and DVD players?" 

"You're taking time off work so that you can watch a guy in a black turtleneck get on stage and do a commercial for an hour about a computer named after a fruit!?!"

But for everyone of the unwashed masses that would bat an eye back home, we were the envies of those in the clusters and the stores and the shows. We finally found a place where we could indulge our obsessive knowledge and wander with admitted awe and reverence. We could share our joy with sometimes thousands of people who shared our predilection of medium or genre. We could share, relax, ingest, experience and enjoy. For when we returned home we would certainly be deities amongst our cluster. We were sure all the other Cheerios would rise on edge out of the bowl and cry, "He has returned! He has returned! Please share your invaluable knowledge with us!"

We were sure of all this until we remembered every one of our friends had watched a streaming video of the entire convention and subsequently read every blog, blogged themselves, tweeted and retweeted a thousand tidbits of information. You discovered that you wouldn't be revered, that your knowledge was maybe even less about the events you attended live than your friends. And your oncoming disappointment turned to surprise when your friends still gathered 'round, still in sufficient awe, still with excitement to ask, "What was it like?" Because no matter how much knowledge you have about something, no matter how many links you click, or followers you have, or blog postings you read or write, there's nothing that will replace a visceral experience of being among a thousand, ten thousand, or a hundred thousand people with whom you share something.

It's why, forsaking the store and local cluster, we flock to the web, because short of being at a convention, or a concert, or a movie every day, we can at least participate in the illusion of the full bowl of Cheerios all standing as one in defiance of the spoon - and when the visceral is unavailable or unattainable, maybe the illusion is the next best thing.