Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Lincoln - Not Just a Republican President

You secretly want this

In 2014 the Lincoln car company released some TV advertisements featuring Matthew McConaughey.
They were given a lot of attention, supposedly because they were so odd. The adverts featured Matthew driving around, doing nothing, and trying to sound ‘deep’.

The adverts struck a cord with pop culture. Parody is arguably the highest form of flattery. Many people claimed they didn’t ‘get’ the ads, and therefore the bizarreness of the adverts was ripe for parody, including a memorable 3-parter by Jim Carrey on SNL (which he pitched himself according to interviews)

And this piece by Ellen.

On the off chance you’ve never seen the original Matthew adverts - here is one.

Lincoln just released two more adverts. So, now is a great time to talk about the series of adverts overall, and who they are targeting.

A basic truth of advertising is that advertising knows you better than you know yourself. Advertising teaches you not what to want, but HOW to want.
The Lincoln adverts are for a very specific type of person. Who is that person?

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Black Mirror Review: Episode S1E3 “The Entire History of You”

In the future we’re all unlikeable Wankers

Black Mirror S1E3 is boring and not worth watching. Here is how it could have been better. 

Here is a basic soap opera/lifetime plot that is reassuring in its predictability.

1)      Husband suspects wife is cheating on him. He suspects this because he comes home early from a business trip, arrives late to a dinner party his wife is at, and his wife is surprised and embarrassed because she was talking to another man, who she clearly finds much more interesting than her husband.
a.       (This is, hilariously, similar to the start of the Will Ferrell movie Old School)

2)      Husband becomes further suspicious when wife laughs at other-man’s jokes that aren’t funny.
3)      Husband becomes annoyingly passive aggressive in his accusations of wife being interested in other-man.
4)      As suspected, wife and other-man did indeed used to make the sex together, before she met husband. Wife admits it.
5)      As further suspected, wife admits she’s actually slept with other-man recently, despite being married to annoying passive-aggressive husband.
6)      And, by the way, that daughter that wife and passive-aggressive husband have? Yeah…… it’s other-man’s kid.
7)      Passive Aggressive husband and wife break-up. Husband is sad.
8)      Fin.

You’ve likely seen this story before, and it’s not any more interesting this time either. It is in fact woefully boring.

What’s disappointing is that the above scenario actually is the exact synopsis of the 3rd episode of the much buzzed about, much talked about UK Sci-Fi Horror Series – Black Mirror.

The buzz, save for this episode, is well deserved. Like all good Sci-Fi, Black Mirror takes a future setting and uses it to comment on the Now. Black Mirror is the best (arguably only) Sci-Fi fiction to really take the world of the internet, social media, and the death of old-media, and break it open to see what it’s guts look like.

Now available on Netflix in the US, the Yanquee’s are finally able to catch up on the best Sci-Fi series since the Twilight Zone.

·         The first episode of Black Mirror is a somewhat puerile (but worth watching) meditation on out-of-touch journalism, the wisdom of crowds, narcissism, shame, and participatory art.
·         The second episode is a combination of facebook, Wii Mii’s, American Idol, reality TV, prison, maintaining authority, subjugating the masses, freemium gaming, and love, all rolled into one of the most depressingly tragic visions of the future ever created.
·         The third episode is a soap opera in which every character is unlikeable and nothing interesting happens.

“How exactly is the above plot supposed to be Sci-Fi Horror?” you ask?

It’s not. Black Mirror S1E3 “The Entire History of You” is not Sci-Fi, it’s not Horror, and it’s not interesting. It’s standard soap opera drama. Its derivative and you should not waste your time watching it.

But – it’s clear that the writers/producers of Episode-3 think (incorrectly) that it is Sci-Fi because of a Sci-Fi tech feature in the world of the episode called a ‘Grain’.

Basically, nearly everyone in the show has a ‘Grain’ installed in their heads, a little piece of tech that allows them to replay the audio and video of every moment in their life (or maybe just since the grain was installed, it’s not explicitly clear). They can play back for solo watching in their own eyeballs, or they can seamlessly project the Grain video onto a TV for others to view as well.

This has some interesting implications that are sadly only touched on briefly in the epsidoe; for example to get through Security at the airport, you let security peek through the last 6 weeks of life, so they can confirm you weren’t building bombs or mingling with terrorists. The Grain is also a great nanny-cam, as you can play back the baby’s audio/video to ensure the babysitter cared for the baby properly. (Dealing with parents monitoring teenager’s activities via this process, without the teens consent, would have been interesting)

Instead, in Black Mirror S1E3, the Grain tech is merely used to confirm (not advance) the development of the plot. Rather than having passive-aggressive husband obsesses on his lonesome over whether wife laughed too much at the joke that wasn’t funny, he literally plays it back on the TV for himself, and other people.  
Rather than argue inconclusively (he-said/she-said) about whether wife had mentioned having a brief one-week fling with other-guy or a 6-month relationship, husband plays back the memory of their pillow talk after their first time, where wife lists her past relationships, and she really did downplay the other-guy incident to be only one-week. Yes. The husband is really that bad at pillow talk. “That was great. So now tell me about other times that were better!”
(Pro-Tip: guys – you should never ask about your girl’s past. If you ask, that just lets her know that you’re a weak insignificant tool who lacks confidence)

For additional terrible effect, the Grain is used to confirm that wife and other-guy did indeed sleep together recently….. and without a rubber (the Grain records all the close-up intimate details!) proving that daughter does not belong to passive-aggressive husband, but to other guy.

All of those plot events would have happened without the Grain. Wife was clearly unhappy with passive-aggressive husband, and their divorce was coming, Grain or no. And, for clarity, the episode makes it clear the cause of the initial rift in their relationship is not an over-reliance on tech, or living in the past via-Grain obsession, but just on the husband being a passive-aggressive unlikeable sad-sack loser.

And, because the paint-by-numbers plot could exist functionally without the inclusion of the Grain, the episode fails as Sci-Fi, and lacks any poignant social commentary bite. There is no commentary on the dangers of tech, or analysis of the dangers of replaying memories rather than experiencing them as they are happening. It’s just a story about unlikeable people in which the tech is incidental.

Here is how it could have been better.

How to Cure a Narcissist

No, the answer is not a bullet to the head.
A few primers before starting:
1) This cure is not guaranteed to work.
2) In this cure a narcissist is defined as someone who thinks they are the main character in their own movie. All other people are supporting character or extras. This is important as to a narcissist everything relates to them, and all other people lack agency of their own. Therefore a narcissist has no compassion, empathy, guilt, etc.
  • This is a different understanding of narcissism than the more classic view of people who are overly obsessed with their outward appearance (like a Jersey Shore cast member.) This style of narcissist can be ugly and/or fat, the key is that they think they are the only character in the movie.
  • To provide examples of this kind of narcissist. One example of this is a parent who uses children as a prop to communicate their own narcissistic identity to others. In this example, the child does not have agency, obviously as everything relates to the narcissist, a child is only an extension of the parent.http://thelastpsychiatrist.com/2012/01/couple_reveals_childs_gender_f.html
  • In this other example the narcissist literally says that their life is a movie with themselves as the main character, in case it wasn’t clear. Read it.http://thelastpsychiatrist.com/2010/07/why_parents_hate_parenting.html

In all likelihood a Narcissist is not aware that they are narcissists, and/or will vehemently deny being one when it’s pointed out to them. If this cure is attempted it’s vital that the cure not be presented to the narcissist as a cure for narcissism. The narcissist must be ‘tricked’ into performing the cure.

How to do this?

It’s a fair bet that the narcissist often does not get everything they want, in particular from other people. The narcissist does not understand why the cashier at Subway is rude to them and won’t give them a free cookie. The narcissist does not understand why their child hates them and will not do what they’re told. The narcissist does not understand why everyone at work avoids them. The narcissist likely cannot get people to do what the narcissist wants, which may baffle the narcissist, as after all aren’t they the main character in the movie? Why isn’t the supporting cast and the extras helping to advance the plot?!

Approach the narcissist. Say you want to help the narcissist. They’ll like that; it’s about them after all.  Ask the narcissist if they sometimes have trouble getting people to do what they want. Ask the narcissist if they have trouble getting people to like them. If the narcissist says yes to either of those things, then ask the narcissist if they’d like to fix that. Would they like it if they could get people do what they want, and get people to like them?

Ideally the narcissist will say yes.  At this point the cure can be suggested.

Suggest to the narcissist that they read the classic self-help book by Dale Carnegie –How to Win Friends and Influence People.