Friday, October 31, 2008

The Concept "Consumer"

I have been watching CNBC recently because (a) our personal holdings have declined significantly as have most other people's and I want to know what's up with our declining economy, (b) they have beautiful women anchors and reporters and I am now, as always, a dirty old man, and (c) it is one place where you get intelligent discussion of the issues. 

I was troubled yesterday -- why did it take so long, I wonder -- at the references to you and me as "consumers."  Damn but if that is not a very demeaning term to use for us.  I was struck by the resemblance of that concept to that of "johns," the people that prostitutes service.  We are needy people and our role in the economy is to buy all manner of crap.  We, however, have smartened up and are acting to bring down our personal debt rather than buying more crap. Wall Street is very unhappy about that. Since I am someone who has finally cut the cord on my fanatical desire to own the more toys by the time I die than anyone else in my economic weight class and am focusing relentlessly on cutting debt, I took offense.

One of the things that made it hard for American businesses to get products into Japan during the time the Japanese were dumping everything they made into the US besides the incredibly many obstructions businesses had to get past was that the Japanese consumer wasn't consuming as much as us.  He and she were saving.  That was once, in fact, a virtue we extolled -- "A penny saved is a penny earned," as Benjamin Franklin is reputed to have said  That needs to be revised to "A penny saved is 0.67% of a penny earned," if it was saved in the form of purchasing into the stock market."

The thing that pisses me off about this reference to us as consumers is that we are also workers or as in the case of my wife and me, former workers.  That is of interest to market people only if busineses are increasing or decreasing the number of us they employ.  In this case we are viewed as little more than pawns in the great economic chess game Wall Street is playing by way of selling stakes in, real and contrived (check out the concept of a "derivative") financial instruments.

Can it be any wonder that the Bush Administration, ever the tool of the rich and powerful, treat us with so little respect -- tax cuts for rich investors (the people that control the chess board) being more important than tax cuts for us (pawns).  Anyone who votes for McCain is saying, "I love being a pawn."  Right now, the Bush Administration is working on all manner of ways to deregulate industry by way of favoring the rich and powerful.  We are, after all, nothing more than tools.  Oddly, so are the rich folks but they are so mentally screwed up that they can't quite recognize that they actually drink out of the dirty lake we drink from.

Tweet This!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Take the good with the bad

I hear athletes somewhat frequently saying during interviews that they would need to "take the good with the bad."  This is an inversion of how the expression once was and for most of us (I believe) still is, namely "take the bad with the good."  The obvious idea of the latter is that what we want are the good parts of something, but inevitably, taking the good parts will have undesired negative consequences.  I want a piece of cake. That's the good stuff. Unfortunately, eating it is likely to have several undesirable health  consequences.

I struggle to understand what "take the good with the bad" is trying to suggest. Interestingly, the second Google offering for this phrase was to The Free Dictionary wherein it was transformed into "take the bad with the good."  So, it seems, Google gags on the phrase "take the good with the bad." However, I googled "young people take the good with the bad" and the fourth entry (but the first relevant one) referred me to a New York Times article.  I was not suprised that page referred to was in the sports section. The title of the story was
Mets Take the Good With the Bad (Again)
This title, as it turns out, is strange given the fact that seems to have initiated the story. The first two paragraphs read:
Even when the Mets have good news to report, they still cannot shake the dark clouds.

Such was the case yesterday when the club eagerly announced signing Lance Johnson to a two-year contract extension, but then revealed that pitcher Paul Wilson may need arthroscopic surgery on his right throwing shoulder.
The problem here is that this takes the misuse of the original "take the bad with the good" to another level. The original phrase has it that one must take the bad aspects of some single thing along with the good things one wants. I presume that the same holds for the inverted phrase "take the good with the bad." However this New York Times story involves two quite unrelated things, the signing of one player and the need for surgery for another. It wouldn't be the first time a sports journalist, even with a highly regarded (by some) newspaper, used language in a way prescriptivists wouldn't like.

I have a confession to make. As I typed this blog, I found myself writing "take the good with the bad" instead of "take the bad with the good." This is a bit puzzling because I don't commonly do that sort of thing. Why would I do that? As I play with the two expressions in my head, I find that "take the good with the bad" flows more tripplingly off the tounge and sounds better to the ear (if not the brain). Am I nuts? Well, of course I am nuts. But do you share my experience?

Labels: , , ,

Tweet This!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

How can we make PETA illegal?

Usually when people hope to brainwash us they don't announce what their plans are exactly.  PETA, however, has decided to go after sports and commercial fishing and the keeping of an aquarium or any other non-natural aquatic environment in which we imprison water creatures by causing us to think of fish as "sea kittens." They are apparently in no hurry, as perusal of their web site Save the Sea Kittens makes clear. Only a very young child, or someone dim-witted enough to buy into the advertising of McCain and Palin, are vulnerable to this sort of site.

The problem is that these people seem to be serious.  Don't they have something better to do in their spare time?  Or is it that Peta's national organization is going broke thanks to the Wall Street crash which has surely dried up contributions in recent weeks and need a new shtick. Since they have got all of the land and air animals covered already, the only source of new revenue is to drum up contributions for their sea kittens campaign.

I have blogged already on the Orwellian notion that language can determine thought and so am not too worried about about the term "sea kitten" causing children to see fish as warm (not so much), fuzzy (not so much), cuddly (not so much) animals.  Moreover, when children get old enough to see that kittens grow up to be not so cuddly cats, as so many do, they will surely begin to wonder what sea kittens grow up to be.  

We already have the term "catfish" but the presence of the morpheme "cat" doesn't seem to inspire people to want to save them from being fished or cultivated on catfish farms or eaten. Their protection, such as it is, consists of nasty projections coming out of their heads ("cat whiskers"?) that can inflict grievous bodily harm as I have myself discovered.  So, I don't hold out much hope for the fate of "sea cats" as helping PETA brainwash our children and our vulnerable adults.  So our sea kittens will have to stay forever young. 

The thing is that for PETA to gain traction with children they ought to encourage them to have aquariums so that they can learn to love fish but PETA has ruled aquariums out.  Indeed my keeping a number of aquariums once did reduce my lust for catching water creatures.  They weren't pets, but they were very alive.  I took notice. 

Home aquarium fish will be small normally so that will perhaps cause them to be seen as lovable little things.  I found a web site kids can go to find sample pet fish names.  And, as an added attraction, with careful training you can get some home raised fish to accept being hand fed but I don't know how to do that exactly.  However if you try to take an aquarium fish out of the water to pet them then something bad is likely to happen.

We have had "bad people -- good water mammal" movies but they haven't inspired anything more than demands that people who hunt whales stop doing so and that people who fish in ocean waters make sure they don't trap dolphins.  I haven't seen or heard of any "good fish -- bad people" movies but there might be some.  Of course, we have also had "bad fish -- good people movies" such as Jaws.   That won't do much for PETA's ambitions.  I suppose PETA will take a pro-shark position and simply demand that we quit getting into the oceans and seas they inhabit on the grounds that we are "trespassing" in their waters.  So we will have to restrict ourselves to playing on the beach.

I think that the answer to this blog's question is that we can't make PETA illegal.  However, if their new campaign to save the sea kittens is any indication, they have pretty much run their course as a viable organization.  At least I hope so.

Labels: , ,

Tweet This!