Monday, January 18, 2010

The Little Generalization

Whenever a short man does anything someone else dislikes, he is accused of having a Napoleon complex. Stubby landlord wants you to pay on time? It's because he's not 6' 1". Diminutive brother-in-law looks out for his sister? Clearly a French History major. And if either guy denies having a Napoleon complex, it's a textbook case of the Napoleon complex.

Let's clear this up: Napoléon Bonaparte was 5' 6.5", which was average for his time. So the alleged relationship between NP's actions and stature is undersized at best.

More importantly, why is Napoléon the only historical figure with a pop-psychology term named after him? Tubby drunks aren't told they have Yeltsin Disorder. Asians who don't brush aren't diagnosed with Mao Syndrome (boozed up, non-brushing fatsos have yet to produce an icon).

For the record, those whose actions actually resemble Napoléon's are typically tall. The average American CEO is 6' 0". American politicians too tend to be above average in height. Yet no one says, "Due to a lifetime of standing above their peers, these men develop a bullying nature that continues into adulthood."

No, they're just thought of as pricks.

But just imagine if Danny DeVito laid off 4,000 people: "AWWWW, AWWWW, he's just mad 'cause God downsized HIM!!!!! Know what I'm sayin'!? [High fives en masse.]

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Hipster Challenge

Do you get "nostalgic" about Cyndi Lauper tunes, even though you’re not nearly old enough to remember when she was on the charts?

Do you salivate over the latest iPhone while pining for the “golden days” of crappy gadgets like Atari?

Do you frequently take breaks on the 4th floor of your 6th floor walkup to remind yourself you’re “living the dream?”

Have you been contemplating going vegan for 12 of the past 12 years?

Do you know everything about chai and nothing about India?

Are the shirts in your closet divided into “slogan” and “non-slogan” sections?

Do less than 12% of those shirts actually fit?

Is the real reason you wear skinny jeans to make sure people notice the paperback in your back pocket?

Have you ever skipped a temp gig to start a petition demanding the government create jobs?

If you answered yes to more than 3 of these questions, I have some bad news for you...

Monday, January 11, 2010

Goldbug Exterminators

Gotta love the uncloaked disdain financial TV pundits have for gold. Not only are they incapable of talking the yellow metal without constant digs at “goldbugs,” but recently I’ve seen them mocking the “Hock Your Gold!” commercials that air on their own networks.

Yeah, "SELL YOUR HEIRLOOM!" ads are putrid spectacles (and gold permabulls can be pretty hopeless). But so are many of the technical analysis/STOCK ‘TIL YOU DROP commercials these channels run with nary a smirk. Never have I seen a pundit finger the hokey ads for shaman stock pickers as signs of an equity bubble.

Silly or not, "HOCK YOUR GOLD!" sponsors are still sponsors. It says a lot about the mainstream’s dismissal of gold that in an era of withering ad revenue not even gold oriented sponsors are safe from their barbs. If you're a TV finance hack who wants to crack wise about your advertisers to make it seem like no hype escapes your probing, seen-it-all eye, then jokes about technical analysis gurus should be head-and-shoulders above the rest (see how easy that was?).

Thursday, January 7, 2010


Among the many things I hate about news broadcasts are their clumsy attempts to switch from one topic to the next. This is especially painful when they try to toss it to the weatherman.

Anchor: "But for now, the Manhattan Rapist remains at large. And speaking of rape, I understand a cold front will be forcing itself upon us this weekend, right Chet?"

Weatherman Chet: "That's right, John! This weekend Jack Frost will be climbing through our windows at night and grabbing us when we least expect it."

When did weathermen become the center fielders of the newscast? Why does the entire show revolve around Ricky Raindrop? Weathermen all get their data from the same sources anyway. It's not like Channel 5 is going to predict partly cloudy while Channel 2 is forecasting The Rapture. All you should care about is which newscast has the hottest weather girl.

And how come no one riots when weather teams use dramatic, theatrical tones to report non-events? What does a 35% chance of rain actually mean? It means a 65% chance of no rain. Do we really need Avatar-caliber graphics for something with less than a 50% probability of occurring?

Worst of all, viewers are held hostage by these dubious data. Imagine you were off to a Yankee game, and before heading out, you heard a sports reporter say:

Reporter: “Tonight there’s a 35% chance Derek Jeter hits a homer.

You wouldn’t go, “Damn, better bring my glove!”

Of course, you can’t justify a spooky sounding S-T-O-R-M D-E-S-K if you telegraph that what you’re covering is a lack of something.

Why not just devote the whole newscast to wacky figures? Example: In 2008, there were 516 recorded homicides in NYC. Instead of a real crime beat, why not just set up a homicide “prediction” desk? Hire a hot chick, call her the Action 5 Homicide Honey, put her behind the SENSELESS VIOLENCE DESK and teach her to say, “Today we’re looking at 1.4 murders around town. The record high: 8 murders back in 1990. The record low, set all the way back in 1891, 0 murders.”

Anchor: “Hmm, not much murder back in 1891. Simpler times. Okay, speaking of bloodshed, we’ve got Rachel reporting from the Gaza Strip.”