Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Overrated / Underrated 2010

As a belated end-of-the-year post I wrote this paired list of things that I think are overrated and underrated. I meant it to be a mix of serious and funny, but it might have just come off as a snobby liberal rant. If so, sorry. Anyway...

Overrated: Ideals of Beauty. There's much more variety and flexibility to what people find attractive than you would think from looking at magazines where the models are uniformly tall and thin with angular faces and pouty lips. Yes, the model look is beautiful to most people, but there are lots of different face and body types that some people find just as good or better than the model look. So however YOU look, you are probably quite attractive to some people, and with luck you may find a mutual attraction.
Underrated: Nudity. There are many practical applications for nudity besides sex, including feeling the sun and the breeze, even-tanning, temperature control, simultaneous humbling and confidence building, and comedy.

Overrated: Gambling. It's so lame. I can't believe it's one of the top 3 vices. I wouldn't even put it in the top 100 vices.
Underrated: Windsurfing. An endless free ride, boundless territory to explore, thrilling speed and sensations, safe and accessible to kids and retirees alike. Yet only a few have tasted the glory.

Overrated: Bunches of people. I don't know exactly what the relationship is between the size of an urban area and the average happiness of the people in it, but I'm pretty sure there's a point where bigger is NOT better. Yeah, I know cities offer cultural stimulation and diversity, potentially. But shoulder to shoulder, bumper to bumper, wall to wall just doesn't strike me as a karmically- or ecologically-sound mode of living, especially when the urban area is so big and overlapped with other urban areas that it takes forever to get out of it and into a more rural or natural place. I think a decent rule of thumb is that any urban area that takes more than about 15 minutes to flee is too big for its own residents' good.
Underrated: Individual people. Notwithstanding a few real sociopaths, I think the majority of folks are nice when you get to know them, and are strong, intelligent and beautiful in their own ways. I reckon it's important not to let your preferences and prejudices regarding nationality, age, gender, politics, race, social status, etc. block your ability to see and value any individual person. Of course, it's hard to open your mind to the amazing wonderfulness of individuals when you encounter so many at one time, in such a stressfully impersonal setting, that they become "bunches of people," as above.

Overrated: Skinny Jeans on Men. Two words- pinched, testicles.
Properly Rated: Leggings on Women. By all accounts this fashionable type of lower-body covering is very comfortable and practical for women, and from the man's point of view, "Rrrraow!"
Underrated: Sweatpants. I'm wearing some right now. Damn, I'm cozy. Please, fashion gods, make these cool so I can wear them outside without people giggling.

Overrated: The Threat of Socialism in a Democracy. There's nothing bad about moderate socialism in a democracy, really. In fact, the USA has always been governed in a partially socialistic way, has it not? I think most Americans would like to keep free 911 emergency services, keep free parks, public restrooms and freeways, keep free education for poor kids, and keep old people taken care of, even though all those things are socialistic. Yes, some socialistic countries like the USSR have been awful, but some like Sweden have been awesome, so we ought to realize that socialism itself is not the threat, and start trying to figure out what REALLY makes the difference between an awesome or awful country.
Underrated: The Threat of Capitalism out of Control. The flipside of the "socialism is evil" thing seems to be the naive idea that capitalism is perfect as long as the government doesn't interfere, to which I say, "yeah, right". For capitalism to work, I think the government NEEDS to interfere sometimes, just like a referee needs to blow a whistle and call foul to keeps sports teams playing fair. If there's no referee, or if one of the teams buys off the referee, you go from a "best man wins" situation to a "dirtiest cheater wins" situation. You get Tonya Harding on the podium and Nancy Kerrigan stuffed in a dumpster, which is where I'm afraid the whole country is going if we keep letting corporations muck with government.

Overrated: Making the most money. I think we focus too exclusively on wealth as the measure of success, which I reckon makes people greedier and more narrow-minded in their pursuits.
Underrated: Being a good person. We ought to appreciate other measures of a person's success, like the quality of their work, the positivity of their relationships, and their contributions to making the world a better place.

Overrated: Commuting. Seriously, what an awful way to spend a large fraction of your time, money, and mental reserves of patience.
Underrated: Living near where you work and play, or vice versa. That's the way to do it, in my opinion. Walking is also extremely underrated as a way to get from point A to point B, get a little exercise, get some mental clarity, etc.

Overrated: Tech Toys. Does checking email on your phone really make you $50 a month happier?
Underrated: Science Itself. Like, as a way of understanding and appreciating the universe.

Overrated: Growth. Nothing can grow forever on a planet that isn't getting any bigger- not the economy or anything else. So why do we always make it our implicit or explicit goal to increase growth?
Underrated: Sustainability. Yep, sustainability is what we ought to shoot for. But not "sustainable growth", which is the oxymoron of the century.

Overrated: Booze. The better it makes you feel, the worse it makes you feel, and the older you get the trickier it is to break even.
Slightly Overrated: Caffeine. It doesn't get you very high, but you still get addicted. On the plus side, it's the only drug you can do as much as you want at work.
Slightly Underrated: Marijuana. It can set your thoughts and perceptions loose in a happy, dreamy way, and open your mind to the intricate and miraculous wonder of the universe. Or it can make you feel queasy, insecure, and lost in existential weirdness. But either way it's pretty safe, as long as you don't get caught.
Underrated: Endorphins and Adrenaline. It's amazing how positive, relaxed, and satisfied thrilling physical activities can make you feel. These are probably the closest thing there is to the perfect drug.

Overrated: Advertising. We have to pay for cable tv. So why does it still have stupid ads? I guess as long as we keep watching ads they'll keep showing ads.

Underrated: Education. Education is underrated in general, but also specifically as an aid to critical thinking and an antidote to the intense brainwashing kids get from advertising. I reckon all tykes should have to take a class at some point on how to recognize and resist marketing tricks and not just take for granted all the ads they see.

Overrated: Packaging and Containers. The amount of bags, boxes, wrappers, cups, bottles, etc. that we use one and then throw away is totally ridiculous.
Slightly Overrated: Recycling. Taking a perfectly good bottle, grinding it to bits, melting it down in a giant furnace, and making it into another identical bottle isn't much more earth friendly than just making a bottle from scratch.
Underrated: Reducing and Reusing. Reusing bags, bottles, and containers and not buying stuff with a lot of excess packaging is the smart way to go. As a corollary, tap water is extremely underrated and bottled water is extremely overrated.

Overrated: Faith. I should be specific about this, because I don't think all kinds of faith are overrated. Faith can mean being able to trust people and be optimistic and hopeful in the face of adversity, which I think is cool. But faith can also mean steadfastly believing something without evidence, and refusing to change your belief even if evidence arises that it is untrue. That's the overrated kind of faith; the kind that makes most religions certain that they're right and the others are wrong, even though they're all on equally shaky ground.
Slightly Overrated: Common Sense. Common sense is often ok, but there's a fine line between common sense and naive oversimplification, and some smug proponents of common sense are actually way over on the wrong side of the line. Ahem, *Palin*.
Underrated: Skeptical Inquiry. Have you ever seen something you were directly involved with get reported on the news, and been appalled at how inaccurately or misleadingly it was represented? Well, I have, and now I assume that everything I see or read is a little off the mark, either accidentally or as a result of deliberate bias, even if it's presented with a tone of authority. I think if you really want to know about something you have to dig a lot and think critically.

Overrated: Our Level of Control Over Nature. We can't make food and drinking water from nothing, we can't make our garbage, shit and pollution disappear, we can't change the day-to-day weather, we can't always get rid of invasive species and diseases, and we can't bring back critters that we've driven too close to extinction.
Underrated: Our Ability to Inadvertently Screw Up Nature. We have already massively transformed the surface of the earth, the contents of the oceans, the gas composition of the atmosphere, the course of our rivers, the supply of our groundwater, and the number of species alive. Every piece of the planet is traced with our tracks and wakes, bullet holes and bomb craters, sidewalks and sewage lines, and the roar of engines and factories is everywhere. To assume that none of those huge, man-made changes could ever have any harmful side-effects, i.e. global warming or ocean acidification, would be very stupid.

Alright, that's it.


Catapulting Aaron said...

Overrated: Self-Righteousness

Underrated: Zingers in your comment section

Good read, although 9/10 tea party members would disagree with each and every complete sentence.

Morley said...

Wow. I think I have 100% agreement with everything on your list!

James Douglass said...

Wow, you nailed me with the self-righteousness thing! I guess I'm just so smart and virtuous that I can't help taking that tone.

Serg said...

very cool post!
I'm not in agreement with all the items here but hey, that's OK! We're different and this is good.

Big hello from windsurfers from Ukraine (East Europe, Black Sea)!

I hope it's not too overrated to have faith that things will get better - although there are no reasons for that, right? ;) But I still have my hopes and faith....

James Douglass said...

Serghei- Thanks, man! I also have hope and faith that things will get better, as long as we keep working on them. :) The faith I was being critical of was more the "I know that my religion is right and your religion is wrong" kind of faith.

Serg said...

yes, I don't like religion too. It became a business machine. But I have faith.

quidquid katie said...

I agree on soooo many points, but one in particular rang so true for me:

But shoulder to shoulder, bumper to bumper, wall to wall just doesn't strike me as a karmically- or ecologically-sound mode of living, especially when the urban area is so big and overlapped with other urban areas that it takes forever to get out of it and into a more rural or natural place. I think a decent rule of thumb is that any urban area that takes more than about 15 minutes to flee is too big for its own residents' good.

lord it makes me so nervous to think of driving back south again, knowing that it takes fully 8 hours to get back to something that looks familiar! not into this megalopolis thing

Johnny Douglass said...

Where can I get me one of them Slap Chops? Actually I pretty much agree with everything. I particularly liked your ice skater on the podium analogy. Did you invent that or steal it?
You sure are right about the crowded urban areas. Asheville has only 78,000 people but at least one of everything and you can get anywhere in ten minutes. I've even heard two New Yorkers say they can pretty much find anything they want here. Oh, sorry, we aren't accepting any more new people.

COR said...

Dude, this is why I read your blog. You have the ability to extend your scope to things that aren't windsurf related (which is why I started reading it) and appealing to everyone, even negativley to tea party members. I have to say I usually agree with your line of thinking and this was no different. I know the self righteousness comment was a joke, but hey, if you know you're right you're entitled to tell whoever you want. I don't sense excessive confidence but instead an abundant will to share for the better. Keep it up! Thanks!