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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Advisory Bored & the Nth Degree of How

Books written in English two hundred years ago often need to be translated somewhat for the benefit of English readers for the sake of comprehension, since much of the lexicon over time becomes outmoded. Which then causes one to ponder regarding two hundred years from now a) how successful that enterprise will be for what we're writing now, and more importantly, b) if they'll even bother.

After scanning the internets for a time, the evidentiary how-to articles swarm over one like a horde of albatross looking for a suitable place to land while jostling for shoulder room, banging into one another, spilling feathers in your pathway and otherwise causing chaotic dissonance, which is one of the worst kinds. It’s very messy in an aviary sort of way, which goes without saying — but I said it anyway.

So why all the how-to’s and mind piercing? Turns out nobody knows how to do anything, and yet at the same time everybody knows how to tell them to do it. Talk about a wildly fortuitous case of supply and demand coming together. I would call it serendipitous, but that would cause me to type more characters.

One can scarcely go to a website anymore without being given counsel on ways you should do things better than you’re already doing them. The underlying message is that they presume a priori that you’re incompetent, and to add insult to injury, they think they’re less incompetent than you are, thereby putting them in a place to dole out instruction in droves. It’s almost as if the internets considers itself to be your parental figure. This entity operates under the premise that you are in need of help and require having someone lead you around so you can properly function. Remember: breathe in, and then breathe out, not the other way around.

Cyberspace took the “Life For Dummies” concept and turned it into a mini-series. The mouse cradled in your digits, to them, looks like a cane that you’re limping with. Let us assist you through this portal into the web zone, because you’re clearly incapable of traversing it without training wheels.

Are we truly that destitute of our own resources and wherewithal? Somebody probably has the answer to that, and if there’s any disagreement, we can take a poll and declare the winner. Maybe even more fundamental a question is whether we’re easily willing to believe that we’re helpless and therefore subservient to their wares, which come at such a reasonable price. Money, time, effort… they ask so little, and you have so much. While simultaneously being helpless.

Needless to say, I’m rather dubious on the subject, although I still said it. Sure, there is probably a segment of the surfdom that is in more dependent mode, but that’s not the whole issue. The issue is whether it’s apropos to cater so much to that demographic that you assume your next reader is going to be the proverbial needy in a haystack.

In a personal aspect, I find this type of discrimination all the time with the weight losers of the world. Nobody seems to talk about those of us who might be trying to increase their weight. I want yogurt with more fat in it, dang it. We need our own companion show called The Biggest Gainer. But I wouldn’t go on it, because I haven’t gained more than ten pounds in my life. From birth. Or maybe I should say more than ten pounds in any given year. I still weigh within 15 pounds of what I was in high school. I’m metabolistically overachieving. I could eat for two people and still gain for only one. But the marketers and media machine don’t account for me. As if I don’t count unless I share the same circumstances as the masses.

Who’s feeding us these empty calories of all this propped up ganda? The authoritative hierarchy on the internets at press time consists of: 1) Google; 2) Wikipedia; 3) Microsoft; 4) AOL; 5) Snopes; 6) Reuters; 7) Ariana Huffington; 8) Oprah; 9); 10) iTunes; 11) Yahoo (I refuse to use an exclamation point out of sentence form, by the way. Punctuation is for statements. This falls right in line with my predilection for actual chocolate but not chocolate flavored things.); 12) Facebook; 13) CompuServe; 14) J.D. Power & Associates; and 15) Underwriters Lab. Everyone else will get eaten up in a merger anyway. These are the ones who think of you as their underlings. Browse and then be amazed, that’s their message to you.

Want some tips? We’re topsy-turvy in tips. We’ve got tips, secrets, pointers, 5 quick ways to improve your life in your sleep, a simple trick to keep rodentia out of your glove compartment, and uncanny methods to reverse the aging process. You too can look like a three-year-old if you use this time-tested method known only to the indigenous people of inner New Guinea.

You ever get the impression the internets is one gigantic magazine on the magazine rack of cyberspace? Click here to accomplish anything to your heart’s content. (I know, it was a lowdown dirty trick. Because you thought it really would help you accomplish anything you wanted to. Because the internets told you it would. But clicking is still fun anyway, so it’s not a total loss.)

No cyberstone is left unturned in the arena of methodology. 21st century mankind will be better informed than any of its predecessors at accomplishing the most inane of tasks, and we’ll be known as the people who veritably knew how — in the face of all adversity and video games competing for our attention — to “get ‘er done.” It’s a distinction we can take pride in for a few minutes until it wears off.

What this all means is that the omniscient internets looks down on you and makes you feel less of yourself, in order for them to then swoop on down and build you up. Crisis created, crisis averted. Voila! For a nominal fee, no less. Nominal is that soft, delicate term that connotes “ah, don’t worry about it…” In other words, their assertion is that anyone who would dare to have doubts about nominal needs to have their head examined by a proctologist. What? You’re gonna raise a fuss over nominal? And thus they generate their wiggle room.

With that understanding that you don’t know what’s best for you and they do, we can now proceed with the beatdown. Gentlemen, start your If you’ll just follow me, I’ll provide you with all the information you’ll need to get by. That tube connected to your belly button is just an accoutrement, so not to worry. Now, come right this way…

Speaking of unimaginative idea pushers, notice in their non-descript acronyms how the major news sources are devoid of any originality… ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, MSNBC, PBS, ESPN, TBS, TNT. Well, that’s certainly memorable and meaningless. Pay no attention to what’s behind the news curtain. Just keep doing whatever it is you’re doing, and leave the information bots to them. It’s no wonder we can’t tell the difference between any of them, because they all blend together like an alphabet soup mix. Among the big ones, only Fox has the temerity to enlist a mascot. At least somebody is venturing away from the standard. I decided to write a poem about this, called Fox in Socks, Fox Outside the Box, Fox on Rocks and Tricks and Locks. All I have is the title so far. Anyway, you get the basic imagery, and that’s the important thing. But I think about digressing and yet change my mind.

To give you an idea of how we associate strength and power to certain types of animals, and then carry it over to something solid like a broadcasting entity, there’s no way you’d ever see a Goat Network, because it wouldn’t have any credibility. Goats aren’t respected by people to the same extent that foxes are. A fox is a robust hunter-gatherer, much like our ancient ancestors that traversed the savannahs in fox pelts. Tough. Wily. Clever. Resolute. Sly, even. A goat, meanwhile, is more of a herder-muncher type, and that just doesn’t recall any visions of grandeur. We look at goats as being those animals that aren’t willing to go out and make an honest living infiltrating henhouses and chasing down limping rabbits. You can say sly like a fox, but not sly like a goat. It would be more like nonchalant like a goat. It inspires the rest of us to take a nap. I give you… the legend of the mighty goat. Hear it na-ay.

What about a Centipede Network, though? You see, they couldn’t do that because insects are too cumbersome a subject to make a concrete representation of something. The Ant Network might bring to mind industriousness, but it still has the stigma of being a miniscule critter that carries out its existence down near to the ground. They associate with the terra firma, which can sometimes get dirty. The connection is just too weak. And ants don’t have a memorable sound to back them up. We have to invent a sound for them, like a little silent ant squeal. And how does that work, you ask. You’re known only for a contrived muted sound that we have to pretend we can hear. (help, help, bloop, bloop) One would never run into that predicament with gorillas, because gorillas let you know where they stand. They even come with their own woofers for amplified sound*. Ants… not so sure. (*-while the gorilla contingent is still holding out for tradition, the pro-Dolby lobby is gaining steam)
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Mid-term report card...
    Cohesiveness – needs improvement
    Variety – meets expectations
    Unpredictability – meets expectations
    Diction – meets expectations
    Pungency – needs improvement
    Meeting expectations – needs improvement
    Needing improvement – meets expectations

    Summary – It’s a joy to have Rusty in class. He shows real promise as a blogger.

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This former notion of a best practice for any particular thing is only as good as the practitioner, causing a redefinition to best preferences, which is to suggest that most ideas are less subjective than they are. Which is also like saying the way strawberries hit my taste buds is superior to yours or anyone else’s. Best practice smacks of “we know what’s best for you.” Sure, they’ve found what works best. In their little world with all their biases and limited perceptions firmly intact and ready-made official process to be filled out neatly on a form, because they’ve figured it all out. Just wait till the next updated best practices come around to supplant the previous practices which once were best but are now no more worthy than receiving the silver medal of practices. This will be known as the new improved best practices 2.0, not to be confused with any earlier inferior pretentious versions that are no better than the scum on a lily pad.

Note that Columbus likely didn’t bother to read the best practices memo about how to travel securely from continent to continent, or how to safely stay back on shore. All the best practices people were firmly ensconced in their respective habitats, blissfully taking each other’s advice in a pathetic exercise of gratuitous back scratching. Meanwhile, Columbus was out sailing with his dreams. We know this because he succeeded. We likely wouldn’t be talking about him if he had failed. Who wants to talk about failed explorers? Anybody can ‘not’ find a new world. And that’s why we’re not talking about them. They were too caught up in staying in lockstep with best practices. But alas, anywhere the masses coalesce, there are no distinguishing elements. In order to get even better practices, one must step outside of best practices. Innovation isn’t about best practices, but is about transcending them.

For all we know, there was probably some guy in the Old World named Rico who commandeered a large, sturdy vessel to navigate the globe, and halfway across his journey he negotiated a tempestuous storm and got redirected up toward the fjords of Norway, which might make him quite famous with the Norwegian faithful, but as fate would have it they tend to keep their lore to themselves. None of us Big World aficionados (you know who you are) care about who ended up in Scandinavian territory when they were attempting to make the grand leap. We want to hear about the conquerors, the makeshift James Camerons who find themselves on top of the world whether they have to spend hundreds of million dollars to purchase their spot or not.

One researcher estimates there were in the neighborhood of 15 unsuccessful explorations by others set out to discover the West prior to Columbus beginning around 1340, based on the pattern of steep ascent of successful explorations that followed. So there was Rico, and then a host of other guys. There could have been women explorers too, except that, as we know, that goes against their whole asking-for-directions mantra. Anyway, possibly a Pablo in there too. And a Louie, a Zacharias, a Guido, a Terrence, a Rex, a Jean Luc no doubt, a Gerard, and then an Eddie. Those are my offhand guesses, based on conjecture, hunches, and unmitigated subjectivity.

Prescriptions are just that, a prescribed methodology, but with the caveat that your kilometerage may likely vary. Don’t forget that caveat, or you will surely emptor. As good as any elixir is, it won’t necessarily have the same effect on every person. If I take your recommendation, you won’t be able to guarantee it will be free of side effects. For most things in life, each individual person will have his or her own best practices, which end at the door. Consequently, advice can’t be one size fits all. Alas, it seems the only good that any advice has is for the one giving it.

Rules then follow advice, because we figure what’s good for the goose needs a proper gander as well. Plus we’re fond of legislating any good idea, whereby everybody else can enjoy the spoils and subsequent penalties of our prescient judgment.

To progress as a society and thereby survive, it will be incumbent upon us to use our imaginations better instead of blindly following suit. Today’s best practices are tomorrow’s worst. So we need to be able to visualize. We need to develop a well-honed comprehension for the unexamined. For instance, can you picture synchronized swimmers consuming baklava during an earthquake? Make that visualization part of your psyche for the next few seconds. If this is beyond our vision, it could spell doom for future possibilities. Would the synchronous swimming stay in formation through the entire ordeal? Would the baklava get soggy? These are onerous, nagging items that would tend to get stuck in one’s craw. Overall, such a spectacle could admittedly be a few standard deviations from expected outcomes, though it continues to be fascinating to think about. And we shouldn’t ever stop.

More to chew on… We’re spinning along with the Earth at 1000 miles per hour, meanwhile we’re orbiting around the sun at 67,000 miles per hour, and then our solar system is traveling through the Milky Way galaxy at 480,000 miles per hour, and the Milky Way galaxy is traveling at a speed of 1.2 million miles per hour, not to mention the universe is independently without the permission of the United Nations expanding at a rate upwards of 71 kilometers per second per megaparsec from the center — and all of these processes in different directions, mind you. OK, just try to visualize that for a moment. I’ll wait. All right, if you want a little hint, a megaparsec is a distance of about 3.2 million light years. Didn’t help, I know. But it made it more fun. Do you feel a little pulled in different directions? Never mind which way is up. Up is completely up for grabs. We’re torn asunder like a rudderless vessel on the rampaging sea, is what we are. But we can still try to think about it. Advisors from the Best Practices Institute recommend that our velocity is uni-directional and otherwise linear, in order to fit nicely on a grid. That linear image is very pleasant to cogitate over, but that’s its only real utility.

Now try to wrap your brain around people in line at the movie theater checking each other’s pulses while being attached by jumper cables. This one could happen under the right conditions, though it’s still a stretch since movie goers as a general rule aren’t health conscious, according to published studies from an independent research firm conducting studies on agriculture in the migrating bush warbler. Yet we can still stretch our neurological paths on the subject, if nothing else to develop good posture.

Consider next, if you will, a person blindfolded underwater directing traffic. Could it be so? We need to picture things like this in order to rid ourselves of those earthly finite shackles which so easily beset us. And while there’s not traditionally a lot of traffic in aquatic settings — which would seem to lend this scenario quite an unlikely set of circumstances — if there were a construction zone where a last-minute detour was needed, they might want to consider going subterranean. What’s the transit system like in Atlantis?

How about wax figures having a parade on a treadmill? OK, how exactly do they get on the treadmill? That’s the question that endlessly perplexes. And what business do they have with a parade? They have nothing really to celebrate, much less want to parade it in front of throngs of a few. But the whole point is… we can picture it. And keep that snapshot in our virtual memories.

Could you bring yourself to foreseeing lemurs drag racing on a bowling alley? Such a scene would be rather improbable because lemurs, like all other members of the animal kingdom, are notoriously poor bowlers, so they wouldn’t tend to visit bowling alleys unless it were for the peanuts and ale. But, as always… it could happen. That point should never abandon your thought processes.

A banshee calmly contemplating nirvana while getting a facial... Mostly an oxymoron waiting to not happen, banshees are wont to eschew the occasional facial in favor of a simple dab of war paint, rendering this spectacle a failure from the get-go. Still, in the hypothetical world, it thrives and finds a lofty perch like it should. It's the hypothetical planets aligning elegantly for you, so don't begrudge them.

What of Lipanzier stallions rolling dice in a mosh pit… A renegade thought if there ever was one, you say. These horses are way too disciplined to get caught up in such chicanery. The prospect of such a exhibition causes one to grimace in implausibility. Tsk, and furthermore, tsk. However, in the face of it you still soldier on. Because you can, and your mind will accommodate you.

How did you do? If you scored 7 or above, you need professional help. If you got less than 3 right, there’s still hope for you. If you got exactly 5, though, it means you probably hallucinate a lot and need to lower the dosage of something.

Hopefully this has served as an adequate template for how we can better envision possible scenarios ahead by properly utilizing our imaginations, the things that put us a few notches above the beasts. If we are to extend ourselves like antennae or weekend sales events, it behooves us to more creatively use the noggin beyond a paperweight for our pillow. For such hypotheticals, if you want to get on the fast track, love them and learn them, or just learn them and tolerate them somewhat, but at least learn them. My advice on how to get primed for what’s ahead, for what it isn’t worth.


Alison said...

I'm going to jump right to chapter 28.

Rusty Southwick said...

OK, but don't tell me how it ends.

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