Sunday, October 16, 2011

Manipulating fantasy to suit reality

Assuming you're not new to the planet, Amish, or the child of a liberal who wasn't allowed to watch television as a child, you know who Cookie Monster is.  From day one, he was the breakout star of Sesame Street.  For all the jingles and songs that you can still sing today (OnethwthreeFOURFIVE, six seven eight NINE know the rest), you know that Cookie Monster loved cookies.  He is personally responsible for the internet meme NomNomNom.

He is the Cookie Monster. He eats cookies. It is his raison d'etre The word "Cookie" is part of his title.

But at some point, parents everywhere lost the ability to say "no" to their children.  When I Was A Kid, if a child grabbed a box of Oreos and attempted to wolf them down in a onomatopoeiatic fervor,  they were taken away, and the child was punished in some way that made the point, and very rarely resulted in a need for psychiatry.  The same occurred if the child attempted to purchase firearms, tried to make his own french fries (especially if there was no Crisco in the house and he tried to use olive oil instead) and in general, anything that would directly or indirectly cost the parents money.

But today's little darlings are such fragile works of art that the thought of denying them anything sends parents into paroxysms of guilt and fear.  And for those who venture the risk of suggesting that 18 snickerdoodles is not the best choice for breakfast, they are met with the ultimate argument, one that has apparently become indisputable in our modern age - "But I saw Cookie Monster do it on television".

Ah, well that's that then.  There is only one response to such an argument.  Tell the child that you don't care that Cookie Monster did it, he doesn't live in this house, so sit down and eat your turkey bacon and tangerine juice or I won't take you to Gymborama this afternoon.

No, of course I'm kidding, that kind of mouthing off will get Child Services on your ass faster than asking your kid to go to the next aisle in the grocery store and grab a box of tri-color rotini.  No, of course the actual response is to change Cookie Monster.

Cookie Monster now understands that cookies are a "sometimes food", and he cannot eat them all the time.  And as a result, cookie sales have plummeted across the nation, and Nabisco is in danger of being bought by the company that makes Toblerone.  Oh, wait, let me check my, I'm sorry, it hasn't done a damn thing to the cookie turnover rate.

So what did it accomplish?  It gave everyone the feeling that they had Done Something.  We don't actually need to solve problems anymore. we only need to Do Something About It.  The idea is that if, say, a train full of toys need to make it over a mountain to deliver its goods to a village of sick little children on the other side, we don't have to actually provide an easier way to get there, or beef up the little train's horsepower or add another engine to the load, we only need to hold a fundraiser to raise awareness of the issue of train/toy load ratios, and donate the funds to a charity that helps provide paint jobs for freight cars manufactured by the party's primary sponsor.  It's important to show that while we have no desire to help fix the train's problem, we support its efforts.

Allow me to offer an alternate solution.  Child Logic is hard to get around.  It cannot be reasoned against, it can only be fought with equally outrageous logic.

So, when your child opens with "But I saw Cookie Monster do it", counter with, "Cookie Monster is..."

A Monster - Monsters' digestive systems are wildly disparate from human ones.  Observation will notice that Cookie Monster has eaten, in times of great need, typewriters, furniture and an IBM computer. Surely the digestive system of a child cannot be held to that standard.

Fictional - Now, odds are, even at the tender age that your child is at, he's already worked out that what he sees on TV is not real.  But in case you don't want to jump right into the deep end of the pool, you can explain that when Cookie Monster is not performing, he eats a healthy diet, and the cookie binges are solely for your entertainment.

A Celebrity - Celebrities are held to a higher standard in this country.  They are allowed to do and say things that we normal people would never be allowed to, based solely on their ability to stand in front of a television camera and not dissolve into a puddle of chemicals.  So Cookie Monster's diet is a reward for the years of work he put in honing his craft; the endless years as a spear-carrier in summer-stock, the now-embarassing appearances in local haunted mazes and other low-budget Halloween productions, not to mention the half season he spent understudying Lassie.  So when YOU'RE a millionaire with your face on a million t-shirts and bibs, THEN you can eat all the cookies you want, and NOT before.

Hey, they make as much sense as what they actually did.

Friday, October 7, 2011

The subtle difference between predicted and desired results

Please peruse the following video clip, entitled "Bank of America refuses to let customers close accounts"

To make my standpoint clear - I'll be closing at least one of my Bank of America account shortly as well. I considering another 5 dollar fee for using a debit card to be excessive, and will either use a credit card, or cash, or go to a bank with lower fees. 

Many of the things the bank is doing are being done without a thought for the customer.  Yes, the bank "has a right to make a profit", it's the whole purpose of starting a company.  But when a company chooses to make a profit regardless of the needs of the customer, that can become an issue.  And if enough people choose to stop working with said company, they will either choose to amend their practices, or choose to pile MORE fees upon the remaining customers, which will only make the snowball bigger.


In fairness, from what I see, the bank was not preventing people from closing their accounts, as much as they were preventing angry bullhorn and sign-carrying protesters from entering the building.  There's no guarantees that tempers wouldn't flare in such a situation, and result in an incident.  That seems reasonable to me.

What's more I will lay odds that the people who organized this protest knew DAMN well that's what would happen.  They woudn't get as many views of a video titled "Bank of America ALLOWS customers to close accounts.  It's the implication that BoA won't give these people their money that they want to show.  These people were not here to close their accounts, they were there to make noise.  Yes, the  bank played into their hands by keeping them out, but I don't think they had THAT much choice.  Indeed, I'll bet they TOLD the bank they were coming, so they could be ready with the security they clearly had.

I am WHOLLY positive that if these people showed up in ones or twos, or even greater numbers, but not carrying bullhorns and provocative signs, they'd have been allowed in the bank.  I'm sure the bank folks would do anything they could to keep them from closing the account, be it discussion or maybe a free calendar, but they wouldn't be "prevented" from closing them.

Heck, you can, I believe, close your accounts online.  But that wasn't going to get them on the news.

(But fair warning, banks (not just BoA) often keep closed accounts open for a period of time after you ask it to be closed, to "ensure that any automatic transfers are responded to properly".  In other words, if you forget to switch an automatic debit, you'll get hit with another bounced check fee, even though the account was closed.  So keep an eye out.)

Now let's listen to rthe things people were saying (from prepared statements, you'll notice)...  "Bank of America has foreclosed on more homes than any other bank" - that may well be true, but that would be because Bank of America is one of, if not THE biggest housing lenders in the US.  So with all the homes defaulting, it makes sense that the bank with the most loans would have the most defaults.  But the implication the statement is supposed to give is they're somehow doing it on purpose, just taking homes from random people, as opposed to people who haven't been able to make the payments, for whatever reasons. 

I've no clue if the statement that BoA paid no taxes is true or not.  It certainly wouldn't surprise me, considering the tales you hear today, but my knee jerk reaction isn't "That ain't right!" but "Really? can you prove that? If so, It certainly doesn't seem proper and correct."  It's just too easy to throw those wildly provocative statements into the crowd and let them get chewed on like raw steak at a dog fight, but if they are proven incorrect, they only serve to undermine your cause.  So too does the yelling and screaming.

Make your points reasonably, use facts, and people will pay attention to you.  Sit in Wall Street and dress up like zombies, and you'll get a few seconds on the news. You'll get some eyeballs, but not too many ears.

Maybe the problem is I'm too damn old to get outraged over much of anything anymore.  Maybe I'm just too tired of standing in the rain and chanting and rhyming.  Perhaps I still have too much faith in people, and I actually believe that eventually companies will realize that people no longer have the free and ready cash that allow them to buy things willy-willy, or not pay attention to all the recurring fees their cards are racking up.  So when people start cancelling services, or notice that they haven't actually PLAYED Warcraft in months, or that they're not actually USING the DVD-rental part of their netflix Account and cancel that bit, the companies will think "Well, you know what, if THEY have to get by with less, maybe WE'LL have to get by with less, at least until things turn around a bit."

I keep hoping that companies will notice that the more things they choose to make overseas, the less people that can afford to BUY the things here, and make the connection that a child of four could.

In short, Like Anne Frank, I still believe that people are inherently good.  And considering what happened to her, it sounds just as naive coming out of my mouth...