Archive for February, 2011

Ick Factor on Groupon

February 4th, 2011

In a first, Groupon’s offering creeped me out this morning. The offer from a plastic surgeon and the accompanying image seemed straight out of an SNL skit.

pointyThe deal was a choice of three body mods from Dr. Seckel in Concord, apparently DBA Boston Plastic Surgery Associates. So what will it be:

  • 50 units of Botox®, a $300 value for $175?
  • 3 laser hair zaps, an $800 value for $129?
  • 1 high-intensity pulsed light removal of broken veins and such, a $450 value for $129?

The model is disturbingly unnatural and in strong contrast to Brooke Seckel (below). She looks like she could easily poke a hole in a sugar maple with her chin. She is proof that you can be too thin and surely comes by her looks through surgery, extreme dieting and makeup.

In fairness, I see that Seckel got her pic from his Botox supplier.

roundIn contrast, the guy with the needles looks like the fellow ahead of you at the buffet. He clearly doesn’t go for Botox either.

The offer is billed as a “med-spa treatment,” which doesn’t even begin to describe it. The florid wording underneath gets it on, including:

Dr. Brooke Seckel…is a medical Ponce de Leon, immersed in a perpetual quest for age-defying noninvasive and nonsurgical therapies to keep his patients budding and boisterous…Patients can also punish their naughty shampoo-stealing pelts with three laser hair-removal treatments on either the lips, chin, sideburns, front of neck, back of neck, underarms, feet, hands, or ears…All prospective baby faces need to call ahead for an appointment.

Honestly, I’ve grown to enjoy Groupon deals. The ones I typically buy are for restaurants and travel. There’s no reason vanity treatments shouldn’t find their audience. We’re not among them.

There are those whose wrinkled glabellae upset them. How terrible it must seem to wear a furrow between your eyes that makes you look like a thinker. Others use the word “unsightly” for any stray hair. Here’s a deal for them.

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About The Daily…

February 3rd, 2011

I have seen Rupert Murdoch’s The Daily…and it is OK. The big brains melded with the 79-year-old’s for a long time may have done their best. Yawn.

Last night, I installed the iPad app for The Daily and loaded the first issue. I gave it a solid workout. I confess though it doesn’t take long (the point, eh?) and my index finger wasn’t even tired.

Fortunately for us all, lots of folk were doing the same. If you want substance, Salon runs a good set of links for the yeah, bleeh, and no-way crowds here. Knowing those are collected, I avoided them to keep my indifference simmering low.

The aged caliph of media, to his credit, tries to stay relevant and influential. He’s most famous for making most of his billions on tabloid and other lowest-common-denominator journalism. This go is similar, but with an effort to incorporate this century’s technologies. Clearly, he wants to be known as the guy who figured out how to make some money from online news.

Here I grabbed a page from their promo instead of the first issue. This does not get into the sometimes confusing navigation. Rather it is typical of The Daily I saw last evening and you can watch in the promo.

Let me be plain. This is a magazine. It has short, graphic heavy articles, none with anything you can’t find elsewhere. It is what we in the print biz call toilet reading for the low time and intellect demands.

That written, The Daily delivers this stuff pretty well, for an online magazine. You can amuse yourself quickly, but you sure won’t be the center of attention among your coworkers or friends discussing the surface-level info here.

The initial load of a day’s issue takes a couple of minutes on an iPad. You’d think they could have loaded the contents and such more or less instantaneously, keeping your interest. Instead, it begins loading automatically and then updates on occasion throughout the day.

You can swipe through an issue in typical iPad/iPhone style. Good. You can touch a category (like news, sports, gossip, and even games/puzzles) to go to that sub-content. Good. You can go to the ToC and touch a headline to go to the article. Good.

Yet swiping through a whole issue or section doesn’t let you settle a piece easily. Pages flash or drop you into an article with the least inattention. Instead, electronically flipping the pages gives you an accurate sense of how short and LITE the articles are.

There’s lots of little navigation tricks — touch this to go here, this to return to the front and so forth. They take a little accommodation but do use the iPad features.

The app is free through Apple. The first two weeks of issues are as well. Afterward, it costs 99¢ a week or $39.99 a year. Now there’s model to scare the pay-wall types, like the Boston Globe! Basically as low as 11¢ a day, readers can ask, is it worth a dime or so?

The counterpart surely is that the content may be free to Murdoch. That is, there aren’t going to be offices of supporting journalists gathering expensive news and images to support this. There is so little stuff here and nothing unique, his folk surely cannibalize all from material they already produce. The reformatting is pretty much just cutting material.

It appears as though The Daily intends to make a little from subscriptions and much more from its ads. Its overhead is likely low enough that a few tens of thousands of subs will cover all costs, keeping the profits coming and growing. It won’t a high percent of newspaper readers sick of the ever-increasing price hikes and ever-decreasing content (quality and quantity) to say $40 a year is a lot better than $250.

Those who switch will continue the dumbing down of readers. They likely will be no dumber in the end than anyone who turns to TV news as the primary or sole source.

The Daily is pretty easy to use, gives the illusion of content, and comes in affordable. It should make it.

It is not anyone’s manifestation of a breakthrough though. Its profound effect will come as the many laggard pay-wall types try to imitate or better this effort.

Cross-post note: This appears at Marry in Massachusetts


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Burdens for the Literal

February 2nd, 2011

The literal and inflexible mind is puzzling always and amusing on occasion. While we know many of our neighbors by name and many have come to our yard parties or invited us to theirs, the one I slithered out on the ice today to relieve of a box is not so neighborly.

Her mindset is familiar though. The two most recent contacts have been when FedEx mistakenly delivered a box for me to her house. She is deeply upset when this happens.

At our old house in a different Boston neighborhood and here, we could get mail or packages meant for others and conversely. Everyone would take it as a chance to do a minor good deed and maybe chat a bit. We’d deliver and receive the goods and all was well.

The neighbor across the street and a few houses up is not so flexible. We see that too in current politics. Looking at historic literature and commentary, there is nothing new here. Yet, it is good to be aware of these folk and the limits of communicating with them.

A scan of psychology literature will turn up numerous papers and texts with citations of how the inability to see in grays is typical of young children, the autistic and others. When people don’t grow out of literal interpretations and become befuddled adults, it can gum up the works.

I feel a twinge thinking of it because of my mother. From birth well into my adulthood, she was the most logical and flexible person I knew. Many friends said they wished their parents were like her. At work, she was a great manager, very efficient and well loved and respected.

That changed in a relative flash. She was diagnosed with breast and lymph cancer. Her employer company was sold out from under her and the entire sales force sent off with severance checks. Her doctor’s cancer treatment included immediately halting her strong regime of estrogen for her heavy menopause symptoms. She was forced by financial circumstances to migrate from Pennsylvania to the Southwest.

With all that, her sudden personality change was understandable — to all except her. My sister and I can only chuckle about how our mother told us throughout our lives to let her know if she ever started acting like her mother — hypercritical, short-tempered and literal. Well, she did, we did and to her death she denied it.

Corollaries (to those overly literal thinkers) include that these sorts are attracted to fundamental religions and arch-conservative politics. Of course, not all right-wingers are literal and inflexible as not all left-wingers are flexible and analytic. Yet, just from observation and experience, I’m pretty sure a large majority of the literal sorts espouse right-wing politics.

My own mother raised us to be open-minded, strong supporters of civil rights, and as it turns out, leaning toward liberal values. We were all amused to hear folk even back a half century ago saying communist college professors were perverting and poisoning the minds of students. What we saw was that the more history you know, the more analytical you are of current events, the most likely you’ll be left leaning. Knowing of centuries of base exploitation and brutality by kings and capitalists alike, puts the lie to promises that big shots will take care of workers or that giving the richest people and companies more tax relief and cash will trickle down to the larger public.

Unfortunately, my mother — following her sudden personality changes — became literal. She didn’t take up with fundamental evangelical Christians, rather with the even loonier talk-radio types. When I called or visited and she brought up an unsubstantiated and often provably wrong Beck or Limbaugh claim, I’d tend to dig into it, exposing the illogic and lies. She eventually told me that she could not deal with that, and instead, we should just stop talking politics and economics.

Telltale Markers

Consider a few warning phrases from the literal, such as:

  • It’s only common sense. Invariably, that means they have nothing, no logic or facts here. You are to take the claims on face value and consider them vetted.
  • Oh, you mean… The literal hear something, maybe from an elementary-school teacher or some radio talker. Not only does this become absolute, a literal truth, but they will insist you parrot back the exact way they have memorized the word, phrase or idea.

These literalists are always willing and often eager to set us others straight. The ambiguity and subtlety that are part of most of our lives can seem a moral and intellectual failure to them. When you disagree or don’t agree in the right phrasing, they can actually be insulted. When that happens, the typical response is to cut into a repetitive loop, as though making the same outrageous claim many times and often at increasing volume will convince everyone else.

Instead, doing that simply shows them to be repetitious and loud.

Alas, I have become convinced that his key bifurcation is not likely meld or heal. Those who have such strong emotional and intellectual needs to be right and righteous are not about to transform or mature. Likewise, the rest of the world, who sees and assesses shades of meaning and conflicting facts is as unlikely pretend the literalists have the base truth that we all must accept.

In the end, it is certainly not enough to feel superior to the literal types. They, after all, are occupied with feeling superior to the larger world.

It seems no matter how many times a literal sort learns that a theory, claim or statement is wrong, often very wrong, nothing changes at the root. There is always an excuse or differing interpretation on what the larger world believes and knows. Facts and evidence need not prevail over them.

Literal sorts can make for awkward and inconvenient moments and trends. They often are socially unskilled and oblivious to their behaviors, again like young children. This has regular ramifications in Congress as well as face-to-face.

Back to my neighbor, her attitude was iterative, as literalists often are. She went on over the phone as well as on her porch in the sleet about how she couldn’t believe the label could be wrong, by the last number of the street address. Even after I told her a few times that the company displayed the shipping address on the screen and it was correct, she insisted on hearing that again. I felt and feel that it was a wee blunder by a company that must happen many times daily.

Back in the old neighborhood and with any other neighbor in this one, taking a package to a nearby house or letting the recipient on the label know you have it was just part of life. It was and for others here is a small inconvenience, a little mistake by an absent employee somewhere, and even a chance for a short personal interaction with a neighbor. Indeed, such events remind me of the Russian for neighbor, which is droog po droog, friend of a friend.

Lackaday, consumed with the question of how such a thing could possibly happen, a literal type might be worse than not being able to see the forest for the trees. She might not even be able to recognize a tree for the leaves. That must be tough.

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