Create a sick system

June 16, 2010

Here’s a really insightful article that’s tearing up LiveJournal right now: How to Create a Sick System. If you’ve ever been stuck in a crappy job or relationship, you should read this.

How do you pin [your lover or your employee] to your side, irrevocably, permanently, and perfectly legally?

You create a sick system.

A sick system has four basic rules…

Rule 4:
Reward intermittently. Intermittent gratification is the most addictive kind there is.

If you know the lever will always produce a pellet, you’ll push it only as often as you need a pellet.

If you know it never produces a pellet, you’ll stop pushing.

But if the lever sometimes produces a pellet and sometimes doesn’t, you’ll keep pushing forever, even if you have more than enough pellets (because what if there’s a dry run and you have no pellets at all?).

It’s the motivation behind gambling, collectible cards, most video games, the Internet itself, and relationships with crazy people.

Intermittent rewards, oh man. This really struck a chord with me. As an actor, my whole career is a string of small “tries” that produce intermittent rewards. Lots of auditions = lots of nothing + some callbacks + some small parts + very occasional amazing parts that I’m either really proud of or extremely well paid for (or both). So of course I keep pushing the lever; sometimes the pellet is that I get to be in a movie. Basically, being an actor is like making your living by sitting at a slot machine.

Great Teachers, according to Doug Lemov

March 9, 2010

Interesting NYTimes article about what makes a good teacher and a guy named Doug Lemov, who’s trying to find out. Lemov stresses classroom management as an important part of teaching.

All Lemov’s techniques depend on his close reading of the students’ point of view, which he is constantly imagining. In Boston, he declared himself on a personal quest to eliminate the saying of “shh” in classrooms, citing what he called “the fundamental ambiguity of ‘shh.’ Are you asking the kids not to talk, or are you asking kids to talk more quietly?” A teacher’s control, he said repeatedly, should be “an exercise in purpose, not in power.” So there is Warm/Strict, technique No. 45, in which a correction comes with a smile and an explanation for its cause — “Sweetheart, we don’t do that in this classroom because it keeps us from making the most of our learning time.”

The J-Factor, No. 46, is a list of ways to inject a classroom with joy, from giving students nicknames to handing out vocabulary words in sealed envelopes to build suspense. In Cold Call, No. 22, stolen from Harvard Business School, which Lemov attended, the students don’t raise their hands — the teacher picks the one who will answer the question. Lemov’s favorite variety has the teacher ask the question first, and then say the student’s name, forcing every single student to do the work of figuring out an answer.

Here are some short video clips of teachers Lemov admires, in action. I showed these to a teacher friend, who argues that this kind of classroom management is too behaviour-focussed, and while getting kids to sit quietly and listen does help them learn facts, the kids aren’t challenged to construct knowledge from their own observations and experience when learning this way. Which I thought was also good food for thought. This whole thing is very complicated. I wish someone would just teach me how to think.

Via MeFi.

How to sell a $35,000 watch

February 26, 2010

There are $35,000 watches?!
Wall Street Journal outlines some of the strategies salespeople use in order to sell these very practical timepieces.

Salespeople lay the client’s well-worn watch on a tray between two shiny new ones, creating a contrast that subtly suggests it’s time to upgrade.

More sales strategies include: flattery, talking not about “price” but rather about “value”, and placating annoyed wives by suggesting the husband also buy her a (less-expensive) watch.

Via MeFi.

Moff’s Law

January 9, 2010

On how critical thinking about art and pop culture is often stifled by idiots hollering “Caintchoo jus’ stop all this thinkin’ and jus’ ENJOY it??!!” (OMG U GUYZ REMEMBR WHEN DAT HAPPIND ON MAH BLOOG HEER? DAT SUKED SO HARD!!1!!!)

Well, here comes an excellent rant by an io9 contributor named Mott, responding to some turd who tried to shut down a pretty interesting critical conversation about Avatar. The rant is reproduced under the jump here. It’s the best. I’m excited that this has been written.

Via Racialicious.

Read the rest of this entry »

How to disagree on the Internet

January 2, 2010

Paul Graham has identified a hierarchy of disagreement styles, starting with the lowest form of “name-calling”, and moving up the ladder to “clear refutation of the writer’s central point”:

Most intellectual dishonesty is unintentional. Someone arguing against the tone of something he disagrees with may believe he’s really saying something. Zooming out and seeing his current position on the disagreement hierarchy may inspire him to try moving up to counterargument or refutation.

It’s a good read: online here.

Grocery Store Musical by Improv Everywhere

October 21, 2009

Improv Everywhere is well-known for the frozen Grand Central Station thing they did last year, and the spontaneous wedding reception they pulled off earlier this summer. Here’s their latest: a seemingly spontaneous musical number in the produce section of a large grocery store in Queens.

I bet they were hoping to get the patrons in the grocery store to squish their fruit together, too. I think the onlookers might have participated if the request made a little more intuitive sense- I don’t really get the fruit-squishing thing and I’m gonna assume that means the grandmas in the grape aisle must have been even more confused. Still, fun!
Here’s their interesting photo-essay about the process.

Thanks to Peneycad for the tip.

Diamonds: how a marketing company rewrote our definition of love

May 22, 2009

Interesting article about how De Beer$ monopolizes the diamond trade.

Think about this: pretty much every single jewellery-grade diamond that has ever been mined currently exists on a piece of jewellery somewhere, on someone’s hand or in their safety deposit box.

But new diamonds are still being mined every day.

If everyone tried to re-sell their own diamonds, the supply would outweigh demand, and the lucrative diamond market would collapse. De Beer$ is well aware of this, so they’ve deliberately campaigned for decades to make diamonds as sentimental as possible, so we’d all be disinclined to sell them. How to do that?

Well, first of all, establish a tradition whereby diamonds are a shorthand for “love”, so that selling a diamond feels like desecrating that love. That strategy worked well in North America. Japan was the next marketing target:

Until the mid-1960s, [Japanese marriages] were consummated… by the bride and groom drinking rice wine from the same wooden bowl. There was no tradition of romance, courtship, seduction, or prenuptial love in Japan; and none that required the gift of a diamond engagement ring.

[DeBeer$] began its campaign [with] a series of color advertisements in Japanese magazines showing beautiful women displaying their diamond rings. All the women had Western facial features and wore European clothes. Moreover, the women in most of the advertisements were involved in some activity — such as bicycling, camping, yachting, ocean swimming, or mountain climbing — that defied Japanese traditions. In the background, there usually stood a Japanese man, also attired in fashionable European clothes. In addition, almost all of the automobiles, sporting equipment, and other artifacts in the picture were conspicuous foreign imports. The message was clear: diamonds represent a sharp break with the Oriental past and a sign of entry into modern life.

The campaign was remarkably successful. Until 1959, the importation of diamonds had not even been permitted by the postwar Japanese government. When the campaign began, in 1967, not quite 5 percent of engaged Japanese women received a diamond engagement ring. By 1972, the proportion had risen to 27 percent. By 1978, half of all Japanese women who were married wore a diamond; by 1981, some 60 percent of Japanese brides wore diamonds. In a mere fourteen years, the 1,500-year Japanese tradition had been radically revised. Diamonds became a staple of the Japanese marriage. Japan became the second largest market, after the United States, for the sale of diamond engagement rings.

Wowsers, insidious, huh? Full article here. It’s from 1982 and it’s long, but it’s a good read. Via Metafilter.

More on diamonds: De Beer$ sponsored the recent diamond exhibit at the Royal Ontario Museum- you can read my review of that exhibit here.

Rules for negotiating

March 3, 2009

This is great- rules of thumb for negotiating your own deals. I have seriously made some dumb negotiating mistakes in my time. This one time I agreed to work in exchange for a pat on the head. And the hand that patted me was all the way across town and I hadda take the Queen Streetcar and I got leered at on the way, and at the end of it all they didn’t even reimburse my transit fare. And to top it all off, I think that patting hand had, like, some gum stuck on it, because later I found some gum stuck in my hair and the flavour was almost gone.

So, uh, these rules should really help me.

2. Never go to money

By this I mean you should try to get the person who you are pursuing with your script to come to your place of work. If they don’t ever come to you, you are essentially dealing with an onanist. The theory is that, if the person will not leave their yacht, penthouse or mansion to come to visit you, then they will never take you seriously.

More here, on the Raindance site, which is full of good articles and kicks in the pants for filmmakers.

Pelvic tucks: JUST STOP IT.

February 19, 2009

Scott and I watch a lot of infomercials. Recently he bought me a package of Sham-Wows, which was a Happy Valentine’s Day indeed, because if I ever spill 2 litres of Diet Coke into my carpet I want to be ready. And the Sham-Wow does the work for you. It’s like a chamois, a towel, and a sponge.

You know what else happens in a lot in infomercials? Exercising. Man, do they ever exercise. And for some reason they like to exercise by doing endless pelvic tucks.

What the hell is with the pelvic tucks? I don’t think there’s a single pose the human body can make that upsets me quite as much as a standing pelvic tuck.

Fig 1:  Shirtless pelvic tuck, male.  Rating:  NO.

Fig 1: Shirtless pelvic tuck, male. Rating: NO.

You ever go to a jazz club? There’s always a pelvic tuck man in a jazz club. Look for a middle-aged balding dude with a tiny ponytail and a sport jacket. Invariably he’ll be gyrating against a drunken female who’s either wearing way too much gold jewelry, or who’s 22. That dude always spreads his knees way far apart and tucks his pelvis under and then he kind of shimmies up and down. He sticks out his chin and squints into her eyes with a horrible little coy smile, one hand on her bum while his other waves along, sort of to the beat. That guy makes me queasy.

Message to everyone: NO MORE PELVIC TUCKS.

No, don't tuck it under... stop, please... NOOOOOH I HATE IT MAKE IT STOP.

No, don't tuck it under... stop, please... NOOOOOH I HATE IT MAKE IT STOP.

Can and Did

January 12, 2009

obama-campaign-poster-logo-designsNice set of images showing different logos & art from the Obama campaign.

These will be on display in NYC opening on Inauguration & running for a month. I think I’ma try to see these next time I’m in Manhatter.