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Brands, lies and WiFi

2003-11-15 03:38:39.19546+00 by Dan Lyke 11 comments

Wednesday afternoon the rest of the team arrived and we rehearsed and made an Office Despot[Wiki] run and stopped for coffee at a place across the street from the hotel before regrouping to look over some Power Point[Wiki] stuff and noticed that the cutely bear themed mass-market pseudo deli in which we bought coffee right across the street from the motel advertised free internet access.

And of course Thursday morning we were pressed for time and rather than drive the extra miles out to Java Blü we went across the street.

Mistake. Not only was the coffee not as good, it wasn't really internet access. Celito feels it necessary to insert some sort of moralizing and b0rk3n proxy server in the process, one which blocked World Sex News Daily with an ominous "this violation of our terms of service has been logged" and broke a couple of my other daily reads (some of which have underscores in the domain names, others couldn't load their CSS). Of course I only discovered this later when the laptop was off-line and I flipped over to those tabs to read 'em, otherwise I'd have just turned on the encrypted proxy browsing to my colo box.

But I was reminded that I can't take shortcuts, that the crappy mall culture will seem just as good, but then will bite me in unexpected ways.

Which brings me to a difference in culture note. Years ago I'd mentioned to a visiting friend that Marin didn't have strip-malls. In the years since I've looked around, and seen strip malls, and wondered what I was talking about. This week in Cary I was reminded. Cary has some sort of local zoning look, and every store looks like some large corporate deal, the same beige color character-free architecture in every strip mall, the same style of illuminated signs and so forth. Wow, that monoculture is... frightening. Last night we went out for barbecue and I was reminded that finding a good barbecue joint is like finding good chinese food: If all the light bulbs in the sign are illuminated and the place looks like it would pass a health inspection, go elsewhere.

The problem is, with everything that squeaky clean and bland I'd have to try every place in town to find the ones that were any good.

So to tie this all together:

I was asked to wear a tie for my few minutes of exposure to potential customers thursday morning. Those of you who knew me in 1991 or so remember that at one point I used to dress up fairly regularly. There were a few months where I was doing tie and leather soled shoes every day.

Leading up to this morning I've been thinking about why I'm so resistant to that sort of dress-up now. It's not just that I don't like the way I'm treated when I'm dressed "up", although I've been reminded of this as I've been through airports and on flights with the wool pants, dress shoes and white oxford shirt, it's that a tie necessarily starts out a relationship on the wrong foot.

With a tie, you're meeting people while voluntarily wearing a noose. This can only have one of two meanings:

  1. You're automatically willing to be the subordinate in the ensuing relationship.
  2. You're not, but you're willing to look like you would be, so you're a damned liar.

Between the flights on Delta, with their Dasani ("Enhanced With Minerals For a Pure, Fresh Taste") co-branding and for-charge bags of chips and nickle and diming when you're used to the services and amenities of allegedly "cut rate" airlines like Southwest and JetBlue, and in-flight magazine "Sky" with its plebian pretensions that would make GQ blush; and the week in strip-mall monoculture, I've had a really strong lesson in just how cynical I've gotten.

I now look at attempts at cachet as an indication that you're a damned liar. In fact if I can't see flaws I assume you're being dishonest up-front. Is anyone else plagued with this? I wonder what opportunities I'm missing, what products that claim to be "new and different" might actually be, and whether this blind hatred of the glossy is holding me back.

Anyone found a good compromise?

[ related topics: Business Sociology Fashion Economics ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: Brands, lies and WiFi made: 2003-11-15 11:35:18.054137+00 by: meuon

It's not blind... I find that that attitude is learned from lots of repeated experiences, of which you have just had reinforced by another.

#Comment Re: Brands, lies and WiFi made: 2003-11-15 16:26:09.106416+00 by: susan

Another reason to not wear ties: they not only constrict your carotids, they can stimulate vagal nerve response. Your heart rate will bottom out and could lead to cardiac arrest. What a small, sad way to die.

#Comment Re: Brands, lies and WiFi made: 2003-11-17 03:55:23.926772+00 by: Shawn

I like to think I found a balance, but I couldn't tell you how I got here. I've known a fair amount of people who feel the same way. They've taken me to dives that they think are great. By the standards of food conniseurs, I guess it was good food, but I didn't particularly like it. I tend to find my preferences just outside the mainstream, rather than way outside it.

But as to how I got to this space? It wasn't a concious effort. All I can think to explain it is that my standard response to those on the far outside who derided the fact that I enjoyed Titanic (for example) was a standard "whatever". Just a thought, but is it possible you've simply traded one socially-dictated box for another?

#Comment Re: Brands, lies and WiFi made: 2003-11-17 04:40:45.542756+00 by: Jerry Kindall

It's normal not to be able to load Web sites with underscores in their domain names, since underscores are prohibited in DNS names (RFC 952).

#Comment Re: Brands, lies and WiFi made: 2003-11-17 04:47:38.056746+00 by: Dan Lyke

Jerry: Yep. Acknowledged that underscores are an issue, but if they hadn't had the stupid web proxy there it wouldn't have been a problem.

Shawn, my problem is in presentation. I now look at a lot of the crap my coworkers turn out and say "but that just makes us look sleazy". Nope, that's what customers demand, just like they want back-kissing baby-slapping sales-weasels wearing ties. So there's obviously something I'm not getting.

#Comment Re: Brands, lies and WiFi made: 2003-11-17 17:27:13.683295+00 by: other_todd

Dan, doesn't that depend on the customer?

I have some thoughts on this from an extremely odd tangent, having been to the National Design Triennial show at the Cooper-Hewitt in NYC this weekend. It'll take me a journal entry elsewhere to get them all out, but suffice to say: I don't believe that quality and glossiness are mutually exclusive, and they can sometimes even synchronize to improve each other ... but it's damned hard to do right, and not usually very inexpensive or very quick to execute. Design right now is working on making it pretty AND efficient AND fast AND cheap, but it remains to be seen whether they'll actually get to that Holy Grail.

Point is, while, like you, I tend to be suspicious of anything that's not the "warts and all" approach, I don't think that is mutually exclusive with wanting to make the good stuff in life that actually works right also be aesthetic.

#Comment Re: Brands, lies and WiFi made: 2003-11-17 17:52:07.585101+00 by: Jerry Kindall

No, you can't access domains with underscores in their names, with or without a proxy.

#Comment Re: Brands, lies and WiFi made: 2003-11-17 18:18:37.838266+00 by: Dan Lyke

Jerry, daily experience says otherwise. That Blogspot lets you set up domains like that is a bad thing, but the Celito access point was the only place (out of at least 5 different network connections) that http://marlene_manners.blogspot.com/ hasn't worked (and I read that one daily), and http://www.dear_raed.blogspot.com/ got extremely popular before the underscore became a problem.

If you want to tell me its a bad idea, that's great, but if the only reason its a bad idea is that it breaks some moralizing filtering software I'm not going to listen to you.

Todd, I think it does depend on the customer, and I'm not meaning to discount aesthetics, but I've yet to find that venue where people are consistently willing to choose aesthetics that reflect and amplify function rather than those that distort and obscure it.

#Comment Re: Brands, lies and WiFi made: 2003-11-18 15:27:08.219443+00 by: Mark A. Hershberger

http://dearraed.blogspot.com/ has the same content as http://dear_raed.blogspot.com/. My understading is that Blogger set up the "dearraed" sub-domain because of the underscore and the popularity of the domain.

I think there are a fair number of DNS resolvers that are set up to be especially anal about the RFCs and these are what cause the problem, not the proxy software.

#Comment Re: Brands, lies and WiFi made: 2003-11-19 14:09:30.600531+00 by: ebradway

You're asking those of us outside the fashion industry for suggestions?

The tie can be viewed two different ways. In a postive sense, it's the one area of expression that's allowed in the blue/grey suit world. This is why the Jerry Garcia ties were such a big hit. They really looked good but if you stared at them long enough, you'd realize you were looking at something that was pretty close to a tie-dye t-shirt. In the negative sense, ties are endemic of the blue/grey suit business world. In the Southeast, there is no other business world (except for good-ol-boy driven areas like the Dalton carpet industry - but there you can't dress up like one of them and expect to get away with anything). If I were you, I'd ask someone you know through work to take you shopping. Ask them to suggest a t-shirt style outfit that looks good on you. Personally, I have a nice silk t-shirt and silk pants that are in many ways more comfortable than jeans and a cotton t-shirt and can be worn with a jacket. No noose. And if possible, try to find an independent designer - something I'm trying to do for future clothes purchases...

Of course, the other option is to just drop out of the industry altogether. One of the appeals of academia is the relaxed dress code.

BTW, think there are any correlations between the fact you were expected to wear a tie and the stip-mall mono-culture?

#Comment Re: Brands, lies and WiFi made: 2003-11-20 05:06:17.662086+00 by: Shawn [edit history]

Nope, that's what customers demand

This phrase is echoed ad nauseum throughout American business culture. I think a far more accurate statement would be "that's what customers expect."

What's the difference? You can demand lower taxes, but what do you actually expect?

As you've noted, it's all part of the subtle stranglehold the mono-culture has on our society. (Maybe other societies too, I'm not as well travelled as most flutterbarians.) I wrote a short paper a couple of quarters ago about propaganda campaigns that have become so ingrained they have become self-sustaining. They no longer need active support - the collective cultural behavior and attitudes keep them afloat. I think we're seeing an example of that here.