Saturday, September 10, 2011

be happy

i was driving the other day when a billboard caught my eye. not sure what it was advertizing (looked like a clothing brand, but i couldn't tell), but the people in it were early- to mid-thirties, good looking, decked in the latest fashion, all seemed to be enjoying their lives. that and an article i read recently about people not being happy with kids, and it hit me: the source of our misery is advertisement and popular culture.

what we see in advertisements and commercials are snapshots. other than the ones that are deliberately outrageous, most portray everyday situations condensed within 30 seconds (tv) or a single page or picture (print, internet), yet they skew everything to unnatural happiness. a family is having lunch: they're all laughing and smiling. someone was at work and went home: he drove an expensive car, drove into a mansion and was greeted with a laughing beautiful wife and two lovely kids. meetings in an office: everyone happy and beaming. ordering fucking fried chicken? server smiling wide. having a smoke? look at this awesome party we're always taking part of. perfume? let me take my shirt off and jump off my yacht into the azure ocean.

how about poplar culture? sitcoms? shows? part-time waiters living a normal, rich life. everyone is either happy or laughing all the time. if not, they resolve all their problems in 48 minutes before jumping into the pool with their clothes on. movies teach you that whenever a male and female meet they end up fucking falling in love. they teach you that good guys win. they teach you that stupid guys can get the girl.

no wonder everyone is fucking miserable.

no one is happy all the time. no one is always cool and partying. happy endings are rare. in fact, it's unnatural for human beings to maintain a constant state of happiness. the normal state of human beings is misery (not to be pessimistic here, it's actually neutral). the article about people with kids talks about how older professionals expect things to be perfect, or at least fixable, but i think a part as important is this belief that life should somehow be easy.

nothing good ever comes out of easy. i think people aren't happy with kids (or anything else) is due to unrealistic expectations. 100 years ago not starving was a reasonable expectation. so what do you do all day? you work, toil, reap and sell. you survive. now it's all about me me me and my misery. well fuck, the truth of it is no amount of money or power will make you happy all the time. misery exists.

so yeah, be happy, just expect it to be temporary.

the apple legacy

steve jobs has stepped down. due to illness. it's to that end i will not say anything negative about the man. i will, however, raise my voice at the endless praise he has gotten these past few weeks. the most visionary ceo, the man with the products that impacted our lives most, the genius behind apple's strength (that last one is true).

no one can argue apple products' impact on the mobile world. they have literally transformed how we think about what a phone is or could be, about what to expect from that piece of metal and silicon in our pockets. what irks me to no end is his portrayal as someone who did something innovative (he did) that helped transform the world (he didn't). the iphone and its siblings didn't do anything to transform the world. jobs' success and apple's ridiculous profit margins are not a result of technical innovation but of shrewd marketing.

how so? what transformed the world isn't the ifamily of products; it's the innovation that was built around the family. it's the army of little developers who wanted to make a buck selling large volumes of products at very low costs. the apple legacy is the platform it created, not the "transformation" that was the result of it. i would argue that the platform democratized the world of software development.

history will judge this; take the following comparison (inspired by theonion). faxes are perceived as relics of ancient history. they are slow, clunky, require proprietary paper and/or ink and only do b&w at painfully low resolutions, yet they've survived the revolutions of the internet and mobile phones and all that by virtue of their simplicity and reliability. no one will ever claim that the fax machine was revolutionary. on the other hand, at one point in time, the hottest thing you can own was a walkman. sony transformed the music world (thankfully, it didn't claim that it changed everything again, again, whatever the fuck that means) with its personal boombox.but the cruel reality is, people will still say something like "fax me that document" and unless you work in a museum, people will never say "hey can i borrow your walkman real quick?"

my point is this: 10 years from now we'll all be walking around with devices that are not phones nor tablets nor computers, devices that let us communicate and find information and work. we don't know what these are (retina implants? thought reading gizmos? star trek style comms buttons? we can't imagine them any more than mr. graham bell coming up with the idea of a mobile phone). but we can deduce from history that what we won't be is tethered to a single product, and when apple is mentioned it will be with some nostalgia to something we all used when we were younger, sort of like that yahoo email that you still hold on to.