Archive | August 2007

Conversation on Gmail

I’ve been lame about emails lately and this particular email was a conversation about about the last post.

Me: Thanks for forwarding this to me.

I’ll have to sit down and think about it some more. Man, im so useless on this replying thing lately – but it’s because i totally hit the jackpot concerning chinese hip hop stuff.

Friend: Some better the world by thinking great thoughts, others do it by listening to mp3s of Chinese hip hop, it’s all good either way.

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What of Beauty?

The first day of class our professor assigned us a semester long project. We’re supposed to look into the following prompt:

What does beauty mean in the world of Botox? What is it worth? Is anyone a natural beauty?

These are a couple of thoughts I have initially, like a brain dump. If you have any thoughts on the prompt, please leave a comment or send me an email. My teammates and I would appreciate it. Since I have trouble rolling big thoughts into one elegant chunk of verbiage, I’ll address each question separately.

The answer to the first question is that because of Botox (and other quick, minimally invasive procedures), beauty is more accessible to those in the middle to upper class. And as time goes by, it may be appropriate to consider that advances in techniques and materials will lead to lower prices. The industry, as I understand it, is a cash cow and because of that we can expect that there will be huge R&D investments going into it.

However, before these procedures, the occurrence of a beautiful woman (I’m assuming this relates to women, and I’ll explain later) was kind of like a lottery pick and it just happened. I think there is casual evidence supporting this when ancient writings attribute beauty of beautiful characteristics to saintliness or godliness. Beauty was celebrated and admired specifically because of its unattainable stature.

Now that everyone can hypothetically become beautiful at will, it doesn’t necessarily devalue to the idea. Beauty is related to biology because part of the criteria we use to choose our significant others is based on looks. Looks somehow give us biological signals that forecast how they will be as a partner and a caregiver. There was a study I referenced a year ago that mentioned how women prefer different types of men for different reasons that speaks to this point.

Botox and the rest of these procedures are minimally evasive and the affects seem subtle and natural, so it’s not as easy to tell to begin with. While there seems to be some stigma about have cosmetic surgery, it’s rapidly become mainstream. In fact, high school girls are getting boob jobs and collagen treatments for graduation gifts. Celebrities have publicly admitted having work done (Patricia Heaton, etc.) to no ill affects on their career. No man will turn down a beautiful woman – either real or natural. I don’t think we’re pretentious enough to start labeling women organic/non organic.

And is anyone a natural beauty? Of course. However, I think the idea of natural beauty will (or already is) starting to veer towards exoticism and ethnic fetishes from those of the 3rd world – African, Asian, Latina, central European and parts of the Middle East. They are natural because the places they come from can’t afford cosmetic surgery – it’s not practical. They are beautiful through the West’s fascination with “the Other”. Europe (and America) uses the idea of the Manifest Destiny to colonize other countries with armies and propaganda, but also with their dicks. This analysis also implies that natural also means “without culture” or that they are not acculturated through American or western norms and values.

Earlier I mentioned I’m looking at beauty from a woman’s perspective rather than a man’s. That’s because I think men set the standards for beauty based on how the socio-political ladder is arranged. I think it’s a very feminist argument, but it’s supported by concepts like the glass ceiling, unequal pay, sex crimes against women, women’s rights issues, the Suffrage movement and other historical struggles.

In the end, what the accessibility of beauty will mean is (if it’s not already happening) rampant homogenization- everyone will look similar, but everyone will be happy with it. It’s like seeing and an increase in the supply of attractive women for men. For women it’s their ability to reach their (or the) ideal of physical perfection.

Also, I think beauty may become a more obvious class issue. There are already studies showing that people in the lower income brackets tend to be more likely to be overweight – an affront to the typical standard of beauty. Also, because of their financial situation, they won’t be able to afford the procedures, so just like Digital Divide and the Income Gap, we can expect to see the Chasm of Hotness (or something more elegant).

I’ve thought of things like Ugly Betty, Suicide Girls and Dove’s Real Beauty campaign, but they feel more like anomalies to me. America’s Top Model and fashion mags are still featuring those types of women. But I want to think about this route because it could be richer territory to explore.

Any thoughts?

Updating an Old Argument

All your music sounds better when you play it really loud in your car. True story. During my short visit home, the stock speakers made Lupe Fiasco’s album kick just a little harder and I grew to really like “The Instrumental”:

He just sits, and listens to the people in the boxes
Everything he hears he absorbs and adopts it
Anything not coming out the box he blocks it
See he loves to box and hope they never stop it
Anything the box tell him to do, he does it
Anything it tell him to get, he shops and he cops it

This song takes on the academic argument about how advertising/media affects people, which is backed up by reams of research and ivy tower thinking. On the other hand, everyone in advertising is preaching “change” citing how TV and magazines are not as influential as they were before.

Have criticisms of advertising become outdated? Or have people woken up and are starting to see through BS of branding?

Admittedly, the second hypothesis is only half true (and half wishful thinking). While people still buy something because of the logo, people are starting to be really savvy about brands. There was an article in the NY times about streetwear companies that touched on this.

However, I think there is a very good case for the first one. Emerging medias have focused on narrowcasting and subsequently supporting the growth of smaller communities. In smaller communities, their size doesn’t warrant enough attention from the market, therefore they get to grow unaffected (or not as affected) by the status quo.

But, I think even the smaller communities have their own “boxes” and brands that they adore. For example, I’ve always raised an eyebrow at Giant Robot. It started off as a culture magazine, but now if you pick one up, you’ll see that it’s basically a catalogue with editorial content. And surprise, you can find all those things at the Giant Robot website or store in NYC.

So, are they just as evil as the big corporations or do we forgive them because they are serving a subculture? Because the original academic argument is dealing with control and the colonization of the mind and as far as I can tell, even in a subculture it still happens.

Analyzing the Operational Efficiencies of the Jerry Springer Show

I was watching Jerry Springer today (don’t judge me). The show was called “Hillbilly Fights”and there were two girl hillbillies (actually, just white folks with accents) fighting over a guy hillbilly. As usual, the audience gets into it and the hillbilly girls start fighting with the audience. There was an audience member that really got into it and traded blows with one of the girls. Then the audience member grabs the microphone and starts talking trash and starts riling up the audience. A drop of whisky would’ve turned that place into an all out battle royal.

The show lives off of this novelty factor built around outrageousness and it hasn’t gone stale when it should have two years after it got popular. Why?

I figure that there is a limit to how many variations of the love triangle and cheating spouse story. But the audience experience, it seems, is totally open ended. Back in the day, the audience got their word in at the end while goading the guests throughout the show. They can do whatever they want and I assume it’s the best part of being a studio audience member and the best part of watching the show. While I have no scientific proof, I think the audience is getting their word in earlier and earlier in the show and getting rowdier. In this episode, some audience member literally took control of the show – twice.

I think it’s by design. Years ago there were maybe two bodyguards, and now there’s an entire gang. It doesn’t take 12 burly men to hold off two skinny, albeit angry, guys from pounding each other. But if the show is conscientiously allowing the audience to participate earlier in the show, then it makes sense to have so many guys there in case everyone wants to get in on the action.

The show is moving into an interesting territory where the audience members are controlling their own experience. It’s kind of like choose your adventure and its fun to watch because sometimes the audience members are more interesting than the befuddled guests wondering why they didn’t go on Dr. Phil instead. But it also cedes ownership to the people who want it the most. And it frees up the show’s producers from producing the show to merely facilitating it – which is less time consuming and profitable.

Conversation from Gmail

My friend is finding out that work is not all it’s cracked out to be and is hating it:

Me: Aw…you don’t hate it. Admit it, it’s pretty baller to have “lawyer” underneath your name on the business card.

Friend: I guess. No time to spend money!

Me: Online shopping my friend, online shopping.