Well, since our dear leaders have decided that interest rates (that are exceeding low), and "crowding out", and Very Serious Invisible Bond Traders, which all allegedly come from federal deficits, as opposed to say, the unemployment rate that's up around 9%, it's very hard to find a job. So that's led to thinking about ideas on what kind of job I can make. Now, while I'd much prefer a job saving the world, and doing the stuff I spent years going back to school for, that's not worked so far.

Well, what about starting an engineering company? Well, there's issues there with getting a license, which requires working with already licensed engineers for a length of time, plus getting contacts for jobs, and starting something without a reputation or experience. So for the moment, that's not really looking practical.

Computers? Well, I know them, but I'm not a hardware guy, and I haven't kept up at all with programming languages, network stuff, or anything like that. So I could learn it, but I don't have any of the credentials or experience there.

Working for somebody else in retail sucks, especially in a crappy economy, which is where I'm currently stuck.

So, what kind of retail could I do? Well, the most obvious is a nerd shop, probably comics and games. I worked at a game store for five years, I've been friends with people who ran comic shops, I know both those markets pretty well anyway. And it'd give the possibility of creating a place for people to come and meet and have fun and interact, and that'd be good.

Comic/Game shops are hard, though. They're operating in a relatively small market, comics are non-returnable for little guys, and costs four bucks and up each. That aside, there's also a lot of stereotypes about comic and game shops, like they're essentially some dude's basement. And there really are ones like that. Or just look at The Ferrett's column about his FLGS. There is a comic shop chain here in Savannah, but as their webpage shows, they have a bit of hoarder in them too. Plus there's nothing else to that site besides that page. But the pictures, with the T-Shirts hanging from the ceiling and the confusion, that's not so appealing. The hobby shop I worked in had some of that too. We kept it mostly clean, but it was piled with stuff, especially trains, almost to the ceiling on a lot of shelves. So, obviously, I wouldn't want to do something like that. Running somewhere clean, safe, and welcoming to everybody would be the goal. There's no point in turning away customers by having the store look bad.

The problem there, even in a city like Savannah, with SCAD having its art college with a sequential art series, the market for comics isn't always that big. and the comics don't always help with that. And that's a little scary when looking at opening a shop. Comic stores are always shoestring businesses, which is part of the reason so many end up messy. There's lots of other things out there, and there's lots of TPBs and the like that provide more value for the money, but I'm not sure how easy it would be to try and change all of that. Or if I'd make any money doing it, and not just end up owing even more money when it failed.

Maverick!

Mar. 1st, 2008 12:17 pm
The media loves John McCain. He's the "Maverick" riding the "Straight Talk Express" to the Republican nomination. He's the rebel Republican who's stood up to the White House on tax cuts, global warming, and torture.

Hogwash. McCain has given up all of his "maverick" integrity over the last few years. He was one of the least bad of the Republican candidates, but look at his competition! He would make a very bad president. Probably not as bad as the criminals in charge now, but in no way a good president.

Why? Well, I'll start by looking at three of the issues that I'm most concerned about. There's plenty more, so this may turn into a semi-ongoing series of posts.

First though, I'll get the cheapest shot out of the way. Here's how distant McCain is from Bush, even after Bush and Karl Rove attacked his adopted daughter by claiming she was the child of an affair.

Can you hear the romantic music?

Okay, now on to the issues. First, let's start with the invasion and occupation of Iraq. McCain's never been anything but a cheerleader for the war. He supported it when it started, even while we were being lied to about Saddam. He supported every step of the way, every disaster and fiasco. Never voted to force Bush to have any accountability. Pushed for the "surge" and kept hailing its success, even when it wasn't. Never pushed for any new plan, or a defined strategy, nothing.

And from his campaigning, his plan for the future is pretty much "More of the same, but harder!" Even though the same hasn't worked at all and got us into this mess and is making us lose Afghanistan, where we had the best chance.

Oh, and his policy for dealing with Iran? "Bomb bomb bomb Iran. He's later claimed it was a joke, but if it was, it was a really bad one.

So given that he's one of the people who helped get us into this mess, and helped drive us further into this disaster, why on Earth should we trust him to be competent to get us out of it, and make things any better?

Answer: We shouldn't.

Okay, second issue. Torture. The Bush administration has been holding people without charges, "disappearing" "suspected terrorists", and torturing people. Routinely. In violation of US law and the Geneva Conventions, as well as in violation of decency, morals, and our reputation around the world. It's not just terrorists, since we haven't bothered with little things like trial or evidence to see if the people we've caught are actual terrorists or know anything useful. (Not that torture is good at getting useful information. If you hurt somebody enough, they'll tell you whatever they think you want to hear that will make you stop. That's why dictators use it for forced confessions.) McCain's gotten a lot of credit in the press for opposing Bush on it.

I call bullshit. He hasn't done a damn thing to stop Bush from authorizing torture. Every time a bill's come up in Congress, he's voted against it. Here's some more He hasn't lead any bold investigations into the criminal underbelly of the Bush administration. He has, once again, enabled Bush and his cronies every step of the way. Even though he should know all this, from being held captive by the Viet Cong. He's just spoken up enough to get credit from credulous media, not actually DONE anything to really oppose the Bush administration or reign in torture.

And third, the environment. Environmental issues are going to be having a lot more impact over the next many years, between peak oil, climate chaos, plastic islands, and all of the rest. Especially with places like China and India industrializing rapidly. McCain has a reputation as one of the more environmentally friendly Republicans (low as that bar is). So how'd he do last year? Well... according to the League of Conservation Voters, McCain missed every important environmental vote last year. Every one.

Here's his issues page. It doesn't say a thing, it's just a bunch of vague platitudes. Also, look at this. McCain was asked at one of the debates if he favors mandatory carbon caps. He says no, his plan is cap-and-trade. Um. Senator McCain. You see that part in your plan, where it says "CAP-and-trade"? The entire way a cap and trade program works is it sets mandatory limits on how much CO2 can be produced, and then sells or gives away credits for that much pollution. Either McCain doesn't have the slightest idea what he's talking about, or he's flat out lying. In either case, that's hardly a "Straight Talk Express".

There's plenty more too, including his self-professed lack of knowledge of anything to do with economics, his about face to the fantasy that cutting taxes increases revenue, his embrace of scary hatemongers, and many others. Which I may or may not get into.

The saddest part is, even with all this, he's one of the better candidates the Republicans ran this year. I just hope the media gets over their love affair with him and their "Maverick straight-talker" storyline and actually tells people some of this.
"Well hey, if they're dumb enough to fall for it, that's hardly my fault, is it?"

Con men are fun and glamorous in stories. Because in the story, we're in on the con. We get to feel smarter than the victims, because we know everything that's going on. We get the same high the con men do. And we got to feel superior, because we're too smart to fall for that kind of setup.http://drmcninja.com/page.php?pageNum=18&issue=10
http://drmcninja.com/page.php?pageNum=18&issue=10

Except, con men have a saying. The easiest people to con are smart people, because they think they can't be conned. For starters, nobody has time to be smart about everything. That's why we have specialization and experts. And we pay somebody else to be smart on our behalf about stuff we don't know. Especially technobabble, that sounds important and meaningful, but is actually gibberish. Nobody wants to be the one who's not good and smart enough to see the emperor's new clothes.

And then of course the con man can salve his conscience with his ill-gotten gains and the fact we gave them to him of :our own free will" 'cause we should have known better. It's all the victim's fault, for not being smart enough, or not paying enough attention, nevermind the fact the conmen were deliberately trying to keep you from paying enough attention, or bringing your intelligence to bear.

Just look at the subprime mortgage mess. Many of the people who should have known better, even Alan Greenspan, chairman of the Federal Reserve, got behind these. The banks got behind them because they made more profit than a regular mortgage. And the banks, the investment companies, and the independent loan people all pushed them on all of us, even people who could have qualified for regular loans. Nobody listened to the naysayers, because for years, housing prices kept going up, and going up, and every year they did, it "proved" people were wrong when they said this couldn't last forever. And now here we are, and the stock market is shocked, SHOCKED that loans made to people who couldn't afford more than the interest aren't being repaid.

When the experts, who are hired to be smart and supposed to know these things are either conned, or in cahoots with the con men, or just pushing things because it makes them more money, what are regular people supposed to do?

Which is why I'm not convinced by conservatives' refrains of "Personal responsibility". Yes, we really do need to provide people with better financial education. But saying that's all we need, and people should know better and read the contracts and so on only goes so far. It ignores the willful deception on the part of the lenders, who pushed these kinds of things as far as they could, and got rich off it. And now they've left a lot of other people holding the bag. Trying to make it into a matter of "personal responsibility" becomes blaming the victim.

Anybody can get taken by a con man. It doesn't do any good to blame the victim, the fault lies with the con man, who ran the actual con.
The POINT of using hemp fibers in clothing is that hemp is easy to grow, sturdy, and cheap.

So why, pray tell, is all the hemp stuff priced higher than regular stuff and marketed as luxury? Supply and demand may explain part of it, but I can't help but think it's because people decided to market it as something that's a luxury, and a way to show you care more about the environment than the teeming masses, instead of marketing it as a competitor for the regular stuff, and try and show the benefits to the teeming masses.

The same can be said of many of the other "luxury" "eco-friendly" things on the market now. Most of them can be produced for close to the same prices as regular mass-marketed junk, but they get a "luxury" markup, which defeats the point. It keeps it from wider adoption, and marks it with class signals, which can make the "teeming masses" resent it, instead of use it and gain the benefits of it.

Which is flat out stupid.
...is to write a self-help book and fleece a bunch of people who need help out of their money.

Okay, context. I've started reading The Secret, this book that's been on Oprah at least twice and a couple of the other daytime talk shows and we've been selling a zillion copies of it, the DVD, the audiobook, and the CD soundtrack. I'm only about 30 pages in, because I can't keep reading it that long, because it's crap. Seriously. It fills almost every cliche of crappy new-agey self-help books. But as far as I can tell, "the Secret" is "What you think is what you get". Which is crap. And now as I read this, I feel worse and worse about all the people we sell it to. But let me get back to "the Secret" they're talking about, and why it's crap.

Basically, it takes the power of positive thinking and dresses it up in a lot of pseudo-mystical and pseudo-scientific gobbledygook without caring about the accuracy of either. They talk about the "law of attraction" which means what you think about is what you draw to you, and try and couch it in terms of "frequencies" or "magnetism" or even more fun, quantum physics. And so by this theory, everybody who's ever died in a natural disaster or through something like say, war, violence, heart disease, or having a piano dropped on them is responsible for their own deaths. What a crock of shit. Not just because it shares the same flaw as the whole idea of karma, which is to blame the victim, but because it denies the existence of any sort of objective reality. Yes, I know the arguments that our entire world we see is created by our brain interpreting the messages from our senses, so we can't REALLY know, etc, blah blah blah. And that's stupid too. Not something you can disprove with formal logic (or even by smacking the True Believer sometimes), but it's absolutely no help. If the rest of the world's an illusion, how do you know you're not too? Or it's not all just a giant simulation using you as a battery (or co-processor, in a slightly more scientifically plausible version of The Matrix). You can't. But since pretty much all of our observations match up to the idea of their being a real objective world outside of ourselves that we can touch and influence but don't have complete control over, that sure seems like the best bet. Or at least the best bet to act like.

So with objective reality as a working hypothesis, that nullifies the whole "Secret" right there. Yeah, positive thinking is good to an extent, especially for people who continually undermine themselves with their own actions because they expect to fail (not that I'd know anything about that, personally, of course), but just thinking doesn't do anything. Thoughts are just patterns in your brain until and unless you act on them. So they only have any effect in how they get you to act. By their deeds they shall be judged.

So, I might force myself to finish reading the rest of The Secret and see if there's anything at all useful in there, but I'm not expecting much. And it's sad, it's not even entertaining crackpottery, or anything new and interesting that can make me think "Man, that's not true, but it'd be kinda cool if it was." Everything The Secret tries to do has already been done better, like by Mage: The Ascension.
I imagine everybody's heard about the Aqua Teen Hunger Force ads in Boston that the cops overreacted to. There's not much to say about it that hasn't already been said. But there's other things to it, like the relationship between street art and ads. Which Posterchild goes into here (Posterchild being a guy who does street art stencils and came up with the Mario Blocks. His main concern is about the impact it has as ads try more and more to be like street art, so people start to assume any street art's advertising, and ignore it the way we do ads.

And that, I can totally empathize with. Co-option is the most powerful weapon marketers of culture have. They have the money, and a lot of desperate art students who are pretty smart on their own. Which is not a real slag against art students who work for marketing, 'cause people gotta pay for living somehow, but still. It's like Microsoft, if something cool and new comes up they don't control, they can either buy them out or just set people to making something close enough to it they can give away, and drive the original out of business, so to speak. If DC comics starts doing "street ads", for example, how would you know if somebody's stencil of Superman was a fan thing, or a paid ad by DC? If it becomes common enough, people would assume it's an ad, and tune it out.

That's one of the problems with the insatiable marketing culture/entertainment industry. I'm not sure there's really anything that can be done about it, except what artists have been doing for years, which is just moving in once the ADD marketing moves on to a new fad and making something new out of it, until that too becomes a fad and snake of the entertainment industry eats its own tail once again.

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