Howard, Akie and I took on Kim Kardashian’s nuptials for this week’s Perpetual Post. Because we looooove her soooo much!
MOLLY SCHOEMANN: As Tolstoy liked to say, “All happy families are alike, but unhappy families are much better for ratings.” Following this principle, I can’t imagine the Kardashian Klan ever reaching a point of tranquility, since they appear to favor publicity more than anything else. There’s constant drama and heartbreak and confusion—all very conveniently made public. If questionable levels of quasi-fame is what this family is after (and it apparently is), they’re handling things the right way! After all– a loving, stable household is extremely boring to everyone outside it. Not only that, but the public doesn’t want to hear about how happy celebrities are and how well their marriages and lives are going. For one thing, it gives the rest of us one more way in which we don’t measure up to them. Also, we like gossip! And finally, why should celebrities get to have everything? They already have money, fame and endless adulation from every corner. The least they can do is show us how miserable and divisive their personal lives are! It’s the price they pay for fame, right?
This is why I have a bad feeling about the inexplicably sudden marriage of Kim Kardashian to whats-his-head. (Even though I don’t really want to waste feelings on it). The whole situation smacks of a really kind of disgusting, self-aggrandizing, and shallow publicity stunt. And really, I’m a little confused as to why the marriage of woman of mediocre talents who is famous for being famous should mean anything to anyone. After all, now Kim Kardashian is married. Does this change anything for anyone? Have the tectonic plates shifted? Do we now know what love is?
No, no, and no—and that’s going to be a problem. Kim’s played her ace with this over the top wedding stunt. The only way the Kardashians are going to stay in the spotlight is if they continue to manufacture drama, and Kim Kardashian the dull, happily married woman is not going to hold our interest for very long. There’s a reason Shakespeare’s plays tended to end with the big joyous weddings—nobody much cared what happened after that. The wedding is over—now for the irreconcilable differences.
This week Dave Tomar, Matthew David Brozik and myself took on Netflix’s recent price hike in the Perpetual Post. My side is below. You can read the full piece here. Trust me, the fur flies!
MOLLY SCHOEMANN: Hey Netflix, don’t stream on my shoes and tell me it’s raining. Your new, higher, “a la carte” pricing for previously combined, low-cost services is just bad business.
You could have at least given your customers the courtesy of pretending as though you aren’t trying to wring every last cent out of them, the way cable and internet providers have been doing forever: Simply let your monthly pricing creep up gradually, month by month, year by year, so that I don’t even realize how much I’m actually spending until I’m taking out a second mortgage to pay for cable. It’s like giving me a soothing backrub as you steal my wallet. At least it shows you care enough to hide what you’re doing to me from me, instead of just hiking your prices right in my face and expecting me to smile wanly and fork over the extra cash.
And I don’t buy the argument that this new pricing is fair because the original price for these services was so cheap that we should just appreciate how great that was. You’re damn right, the original price was cheap, and I liked it that way! I like things that are cheap! And I don’t need a price hike to make me realize how cheap something formerly was. You know what really makes me appreciate the cheapness of something? Keeping it cheap! As an analogy, right at this moment, I also appreciate the fact that my big toe is not throbbing in terrible pain. Should I hit it with a hammer, then, so that I can remember even more clearly how great it felt before I did that?
Nor do I understand the logic that since the price hike is only $6-7 bucks a month for the average household, it’s not such a big deal. Sure, that’s not a large amount. But when I consider the fact my monthly bill of $9.99 is going to increase by about 60%, to $15.98, and for the exact same services I’ve been getting for $9.99, I feel very indignant. No, the extra $6 is not all that stands between me and starvation. I can afford it. But is that a valid defense? That most of your customers can afford the price hike? Most of my friends can afford to give me $5 a month for the exact same level of friendship I have been providing them for years for free. But is fair for me to ask for it?
And if this price hike is because the cost of streaming is higher than Netflix originally forecast, well maybe they should have done their homework on that when they were originally designing their pricing model. That’s part of their job; to price services in a way that is both profitable for the company, and reasonable for the customer. Now I’m supposed to pay an extra $70+ bucks a year because someone in accounting forgot to carry the one?
All over the internet, Netflix customers are muttering angrily that thanks to this price hike, they have canceled their accounts, or are strongly considering canceling them. And perhaps Netflix was even counting on this. Perhaps they did the cold hard math and realized that if 40% of their customers desert them over this astronomical price hike, they’ll still be making more money than they ever were before, thanks to the revenue brought in by said price hike. But the problem is, it’s not just about the money, and you would think Netflix would know this. A big part of staying in business relies on customer loyalty. For whatever reason, Netflix customers have long tended to be extremely loyal. Perhaps it’s Netflix’s legendary customer service or their keen ability to understand the utter depths of our laziness. Everything about using Netflix IS ridiculously laid-back and easy. And those little red envelopes are so cheerful. But there is only so far these things can go, in the face of such cruel pricing practices. And customer loyalty, so gradually attained, is extremely hard to win back after a gaffe like this.
Those customers who don’t desert Netflix in droves; the ones who hang on and swallow their pride and pay the increased pricing—they won’t have the same love in their hearts for Netflix anymore. They’ll stay, but they’ll be watching the horizon for the dawn of the Next Big Lazy Movie-Watcher Service Provider. And they probably won’t have to wait long. It feels like every time you turn around, there’s a new, even easier way to rent or stream TV shows and movies.
I’m convinced that this is going to be your ‘Let them eat cake’ moment, Netflix. You should have continued to offer cheaper cake.
Akie, Jeff, Dave & I discussed Google’s penchant for stealing user’s data while taking Street View photographs in Thursday’s Perpetual Post.
Right now a debate rages as to whether Google grossly overstepped its bounds by collecting and saving the data of users on wireless unencrypted networks for around 3 years. Frankly, I don’t see how there is any way that Google’s actions are defensible. Even if, as the company’s management claims, higher-ups were actually unaware that this data was being gathered, then the issue is still concerning, because it means that Google has some huge issues as far as supervising its employees or even being aware of what they are doing.
And ultimately, I find their sing-song “we didn’t know it was going on,” defense to be pretty unbelievable. Really, Google? For 3 years, mountains of private citizens’ data was being recorded and stored by your company, and none of the employees who were recording it ever said, ‘Hey, is this thing on? ’ In 3 years? Nobody ever came across the saved files and said, ‘Huh, what is this information and why are we collecting and storing it?’ I suppose this is why Google’s company motto isn’t “Don’t Be Willfully Ignorant”. If the company’s claims are true, and they really had no idea that this data collection was happening, then at the very least it would mean that Google operates pretty much like any other bumbling, corporate bureaucracy. It’s kind of like finding out that there’s no Santa, or that his elves, with or without his knowledge, save and store the records of which children have been naughty or nice for some unknown purpose.
In fact, Google’s famous ‘Don’t Be Evil’ company motto is receiving further scrutiny these days. Upon first blush it seems very hip and fun, the way Google itself seems, with its primary-colored logo and its funny name. ‘We’re like you, except in a billion dollar company!’ it seems to say. ‘Who likes evil? Not us!’ Still, when you think about it, evil is not always easy to define. There are a lot of grey areas, and what’s evil to me might be considered normal and necessary to, perhaps, a huge oil company or, say, a West Virginia coal mine.
It is also unclear at whom the phrase is actually being directed. Now that I think about it, the motto very well could be Google’s way of telling consumers not to be evil, and by ‘evil’ they mean, ‘concerned with their own privacy’ or maybe ‘questioning of Google’s motives’. Man. We should probably stop being so evil.
I am disturbed by the arguments of those who defend Google’s actions by stating that people who use unencrypted wireless networks are essentially asking for their data and information to be recorded by others. Perhaps their surfing habits are not password protected, but does this make them public knowledge? The last time I checked, the data of the kind Google was accused of collecting is not exactly left lying around on a park bench somewhere. Picking it up is not as easy as picking up someone’s dropped shopping list or reading their open diary. And even if it were, would that make it right? Just because my data is not locked up, does that mean it is no longer mine? Is it up for grabs? Is it morally right for someone else to snatch it up without my permission or knowledge? If I leave my diary out, and you read it, sure it’s partly my fault. But it’s your fault too!
The Supreme Court’s recent momentous (or monstrous, depending on your definition of ‘evil’) verdict declaring that corporations have the same rights as people as far as making donations to political candidates has raised an interesting issue as far as Google’s current quandary is concerned. If a corporation is to be treated like a person, then shouldn’t it be held to the same moral standards as a person? Especially when it’s a corporate person who preaches to us about evilness.
For the last few years, Google has built up a reputation as the Fun internet company. It’s young, it’s hip; everyone wants to be seen hanging out with it. But just because we’ve all been out with having a few beers and a few laughs with Google doesn’t mean we shouldn’t say anything when it rifles through our belongings while we’re in the can. You might be our friend, Google, but if you cross the line, we’ll still call you out on it and cut you down to size. We have to make sure you know what our boundaries are and that they need to be respected—otherwise, you might grow bolder, and who knows what you might do next.
A whole lot of us over at the Perpetual Post have been discussing what it means to make art, art and commerce, selling out, making a living as an artist, and other interesting topics. It’s up this week, to be found here.
Like everyone else, we at the Perpetual Post mused about the infamous ‘Tim Tebow Super Bowl Ad’ before it aired. It’s since been revealed to be pretty anticlimactic, but our musings were interesting anyway. Read Jeff Morrow’s side here.
MOLLY SCHOEMANN: The already-infamous ‘Tim Tebow Anti-Abortion’ Superbowl ad hasn’t even aired yet, but it’s already stirred up plenty of controversy.
The ad purportedly involves Tebow’s mother telling the story of how she became ill while she was pregnant with him and was urged by doctors to have an abortion for her own safety. As the legend goes, she chose not to listen to their recommendations, and gave birth to a baby who grew up to be named Florida’s Mr. Football, which is every mother’s dream.
The subtext of this ad demonstrates a relatively new approach for the anti-abortion set, and I have to say I’m impressed. Their normal tactics are usually about as subtle as a slap in the uterus. But the premise of this Mother Tebow ad appears to dig a little deeper, at least on the surface. Its view is a bit more nuanced; more thoughtful. It shows the consequences of an enormous and difficult life decision, and demonstrates one situation in which a woman’s choice to go through with a pregnancy results in a positive outcome. At least, if your definition of a positive outcome involves the existence of Tim Tebow. I’m on the fence there.
It should be noted that Tim Tebow’s mother ostensibly wanted to give birth so badly that she was willing to risk her life to carry her pregnancy to term. This places her apart from a majority of women who seek to terminate their pregnancies because they did not plan them and either can’t afford or do not want to have a child. It should also be noted that Mrs. Tebow already had four children when she was pregnant with Tim. It is unlikely that the ad focuses on the fact that she would have left four children motherless if she had died as a result of her commitment to bringing Tim Tebow into the world and thus into the Florida Gators.
No, the brilliant part of this ad is not what it glosses over, but that it targets with laser precision a dread that I have come to believe lurks in the reptilian brain of every anti-abortionist, and even some who are pro-choice: the irrational fear that if their mothers had had the option to choose not to give birth to them, they wouldn’t be alive today. Scary, right? Makes you think? Not really.
I personally am a very analytical person. I tend to over-think everything, from what I should do with my career to what I should have for lunch. But I do not now, nor have I ever, nor WILL I ever wonder what the world would have been like if my mother had aborted me. Because really, what’s the point? Obviously I was born. That’s that. Why pursue such vague and disturbing and ultimately useless what-ifs? Either you’re born, or you’re not, and if one happened, there’s no way to know what it would have been like if the other had happened instead, so why waste your time thinking about it?
Yet many do. The fact that their mothers held incredible power over their lives and could have made a choice not to bring them into this world haunts them. It keeps them up at night. They may not even realize it, but by picketing planned parenthood clinics and harassing young pregnant women and creating pro-life propaganda, they aren’t only fighting to save unborn babies they know nothing about; they’re fighting, in some strange way, to save themselves, and to take away the choice that every mother should have to carry a child to term or not, so that they can rest assured that their lives never hung in the balance, the way Tim Tebow’s could have (but ultimately didn’t).
The flip side of the coin of course is that for every Mrs. Tebow there was also a Mrs. Dahmer. It’s hard to argue that the world is a better place because Tim Tebow is in it, without also reflecting that the world would have also been a better place if Pol Pot’s mother had had second thoughts during her first trimester. This pointless line of thinking; this attribution of some greater design to past incidents which relied heavily on chance and circumstance, leads to murkiness, not clarity.
I’ll be curious to see reactions to this ad once it finally airs. Although I find every argument against allowing women the freedom to choose to be unconvincing, I’ve got to give this ad credit for tapping into an inexplicable and profound dread of the anti-abortionist movement. Tim Tebow, not only did you grace the September 2008 cover of Men’s Fitness magazine, but you’re also about to become the poster child of our deepest fears. Do your mama proud!
Just in time for Thanksgiving, the Perpetual Post plays host to a truly EPIC discussion of the ultimate battle between Pie and Cake. And we’ve got some strong opinions. Below is my pro-cake argument, but don’t miss the equally compelling arguments for pie, cheesecake, ice cream, and an amazing anti-cupcake rant you have to read to believe. Find it all here!
I bristle when someone says that I don’t appreciate pie just because I haven’t had a good pie. It’s the same feeling I get when I’m being told by a sleazy co-worker to ‘relax’, because that’s why I’m not enjoying the unwanted backrub he’s giving me. Don’t sneeze on my arm and tell me it’s raining. I know what good pie is, and I know what good cake is, and I know that good cake is better than good pie any damn day.
Look, I’m not going to say that I dislike pie. I enjoy pie! Pie is adequately delicious. I appreciate the fact that pie can be eaten when still warm from the oven, whereas cake generally needs to cool before it can be frosted and consumed. A piping hot piece of pie with a scoop of ice cream on the side is delightful, and if you put it in front of me, I will eat it. But if you put a piece of pie and a piece of cake in front of me, I will put the plate of cake on top of the plate of pie to get it ergonomically closer to my mouth while I eat it, and then wander off in search of more cake. Why? Because cake is a treat. You never know when you’re going to have cake, and you never know when your next cake might be around the corner! Cake is a celebration food, while pie is a signal that the meal is almost over, because hey, suddenly you’re eating pie, and don’t you wish it were cake?
I will reluctantly acknowledge that there is perhaps an unfair stigma attached to sub-par cake, as I think it is encountered much more often than lousy pie. This is because too many of us have been subjected to tasteless, uninspired store-bought cakes at gatherings. Office birthday parties, bake sales, baby showers—there are far too many types of events where people no longer take the time to bake a true Cake, and instead pick one up at the Food Lion on their way. With their garish colors, overly-sweet icing and chemical taste, these cakes are not worthy of the name; they should be called something else. Kakes, perhaps, or Fakes. Because store-bought pies are even more terrible than store-bought cakes, the pies you encounter are more likely to be to be homemade—or at least, bakery-made, which means that their quality of ingredients will be higher, and you can taste the love baked into their sufficient crusts.
But oh, should you be lucky enough to stumble across a real, home-baked cake that has been made from scratch, mark my words, you will join me on team cake.
There’s a lively debate going on over at the Perpetual Post on Public Transit: NYC vs. DC vs. London vs. Boston. I hope I accurately represented Beantown in my portion of the discourse, below. Check out the others over on the Perpetual Post.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Boston. It’s like my second, not-as-good home away from home. There’s great history there, and lots of character, and the letter “R” is pronounced “AH” by natives, who like nothing more than to glare at you from under their Red Sox caps. What’s not to like? Oh, right. The cold. And the high cost of living. And all those college students. And the godforsaken T.
Having lived in Boston for 5 years without a car, I think I can say with authority that in when it comes to public transportation, Boston is like Toon Town. First of all, the subway lines don’t have names, or even letters or numbers—they have COLORS. Could they possibly simplify that any further? Except then, to complicate it, some of the trains of one color line (the green line) branch off and go into vastly different directions. So, on the green line, you have the B line, the C line, the D line, and the E line. Could they have possibly picked four letters that didn’t sound exactly the same when announced in a noisy T station during rush hour? There are other letters in the alphabet that have different tones—like H! Or M! There are also other letters that don’t look very similar when they’re displayed on what looks like a defunct Lite-Brite on the front of a rapidly moving train. (And don’t get me started on Lite-Brites and Boston for that matter, thanks to a little show called Aqua Teen Hunger Force.) In any event, so you’re standing at Park Street (or PAHK Street) waiting for the E line, and here it comes along—but wait, is that an E or a B? And it’s on the C tracks?! And the doors on the side where you’re standing don’t seem to be opening! AND you paid $2 for this lousy T ride! What the hell!?
Still, you are given something of a sporting chance, particularly at Park Street, because the trains don’t move ALL that quickly. In fact, there was a recent incident in which a drunk girl fell onto the T tracks in Boston, right in the path of an oncoming train, and she was saved by heroic bystanders who waved at the oncoming train to get it to slow down and stop in time. And it did stop in time. So, we’re not talking about super fast transport here either.
Also, way the T system is set up, is like spokes radiating from a hub in the center (more or less) of the city. As a result, there are many situations in which you need to take the T all the way into that center hub in order to take it all the way out in another direction, to get not that far away from where you started from. So there are places that take 15 minutes to drive between, but they take an hour to take the T between. I lived in Somerville at one point, and my younger sister lived in Jamaica Plain, and it took us about an hour and a half to get to one another’s houses on the T. And Boston, don’t flatter yourself; you’re not that big.
There are also situations in which you could conceivably transfer between different 3 trains in order to go exactly two aboveground city blocks. Ridiculous!
And don’t forget the bus! Boston is also home to a fabulous bus network that has become more easily navigable in recent years, but at one point there was practically no way to find out where buses stopped without taking them. Bus schedules consisted of random-looking online .pdfs which were never shown in relation to actual streets. Since those early days, Boston wised up and began printing up actual bus schedules, and sometimes if you are lucky, you will actually find the schedule you are looking for in the display tree at your local T station. I don’t think they have ever managed to print them in a way that corresponds with demand—there were always nine thousand schedules available for the ubiquitous #1 bus, and I have NEVER seen a living schedule for the elusive #94.
So, the bus system in Boston has improved—but so has the price increased. When last I lived there a year ago, I regularly took an express bus that took me from outer Medford to Downtown Boston in about 20 minutes, and cost $3.50. That’s right, per ride. And no, this bus did not offer door-to-door service, free coffee, a complimentary newspaper or a lapdance. Sometimes it didn’t even offer a seat. And yet, $3.50?! I ask you. For three times that price, I could take a bus to NYC.
Lastly, let’s talk about hours of operation. Boston is a well-known college town with a fairly young demographic and a pretty active nightlife—and yet it’s stuck with a transportation system that keeps cranky old people hours. Trying to catch a T or a bus any time after midnight, you have about a 50% chance of being SOL and having to take a cab or walk. And in a city known for a negative wind chill factor in winter, walking is kind of risky sometimes. You could end up dead in a snowdrift between two parked cars.
Also, it is almost impossible to get a cab in many areas, because either a) there are NO cabs, b) no cabs will stop, or c) a drunken frat boy elbows you out of the way and takes your cab. And few things are more frustrating than stumbling out of the club after a night (well, half a night, since it’s only 1am) of dancing, wearing a miniskirt in fifteen degree weather, and stumbling to the curb to catch a quick taxi—only to be passed by dozens of empty cabs who refuse to even look at you because presumably they are off-duty. Why cabs choose to go off-duty late at night when they have become the only game in town, I will never know. In fact, I once hailed a cab and watched the cabbie stop his cab, light a cigarette, glance up at me, and then speed away. It was enough to make me weep and gnash my teeth with rage. And I’m no shrinking violet.
Boston, you’re a tough town. But I’ll always have a soft, angry place in my heart for you.
The following is from a 3-way discourse on the Susan Boyle Phenomenon over at the Perpetual Post:
Let’s face it: Pretty is the new pretty. And the old pretty. And next season’s pretty. Looks are about all we have the attention span for these days—words take too long to listen to; forget about ideas. Because we like pretty, we prefer to get much of our social and cultural stimulation from pretty faces, which is sometimes hard, because pretty mouths don’t always say pretty things. Or smart things, or things that make sense. This is not a tragedy, since at this point, nobody wants to know how you got your sharp wit or your theory of post-modern architecture—they want to know where you got your shoes.
Attractive celebrities, it is ever more commonly believed, are by virtue of their attractiveness able to excel at many different kinds of things. Models design clothing lines. Actors discuss globalization in tabloid interviews. Bono is an Op-Ed contributor for the New York Times. Jenny McCarthy speaks out against vaccinating your children. Tila Tequila wrote a book. Meanwhile, authors scowl, and schedule a professional photo shoot for their next dust jacket, because they have to do what they can to keep up appearances. Appearances are important, because they count, and they are what they seem. If you are attractive, you will likely receive the attention you deserve.
When these attractive people stumble or fail at something new that they’ve tried a hand at, we mock them, sure—but deep down, the very fact of their attractiveness tends to earn them our grudging respect. We are willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. Because they are attractive, they deserve to be treated as special.
In turn, these attractive celebrities do their best to remain attractive to us, their public. They get plastic surgery, they diet and exercise and attempt to make their bodies as appealing as possible. They get their hair and makeup done, they put extreme amounts of consideration into picking out their clothes.
Sure, ugly is still there, plodding around behind the scenes, rearing its turtle head into the spotlight occasionally, but we prefer not to think about it. We see enough ugly in our real lives; on the bus, at the gym, in the office. In the mirror. When we open a magazine or turn on the television, we’re ready to see some pretty, please.
When relatively unattractive people venture into these realms of television and magazines, therefore, they have the deck stacked against them from the beginning. This was demonstrated during Susan Boyle’s audition for Britain’s Got Talent. The audience took one look at this dowdy older woman and dismissed her. This is a common reaction to plainness. We lack patience for the unattractive; particularly the unattractive person who has the same hopes of achieving fame and fortune as attractive people do. Relatively unattractive people remind us that sometimes, we are vulnerable and human and unattractive ourselves. We too make mistakes, and we fear that no one will give us a chance either.
When Susan Boyle surprised everyone by being reasonably poised and talented, the most surprising thing about it was how much the audience disliked her before she gave her performance. When you don’t know someone, you can’t hate them—but you can hate the parts of them that remind you of what you hate about yourself. The loathing and disdain directed at Susan Boyle were not really meant for her.
Arts & Culture Editor Jillian Lovejoy Lowery and I squared off about employer googling for this week’s Perpetual Post. You can find it here.