Monday, April 29, 2013

The Fine Art Of Bullshit

Bullshit. It's a nice straightforward word that that leaves no doubt as to its intended meaning. It's been around a long time , but I think that over the years its true meaning has been somewhat forgotten. Some people call bullshit when they sense that someone is lying to them, but that isn't necessarily so. When someone is intentionally lying to you, they are aware of the truth but are trying to intentionally deceive you.
" Where's that twenty bucks you owe me."
" My dog ate it."

Sometimes people will indulge in white lies just to spare someone's feelings. Brutally honest truth isn't always the best option and could have far-reaching repercussions.
" Do these pants make my ass look fat?'
" No, your ass makes your ass look fat. The pants are fine."

No. Bullshit is far more subtle and insidious. It is intended to obfuscate and mislead people, or worse still; to part them and their money. I think that most advertising falls into this category. Can you think of one TV commercial that isn't trying to bullshit you in some way? If you drink a certain crappy beer, you'll never be hammered and beautiful women with huge boobs will suddenly materialize out of thin air. Maybe you can fly first-class to New York city for $29 and stay in a four star hotel for $10 ( if you believe that, I know of a certain bridge in New York that is for sale and all you have to do is send me $100.)

Maybe you will asked to believe that Windows is an awesome operating system that features robots serving you breakfast in bed who then proceed to go to your office and do your job for you while you drink Sailor Jerry rum all day and act like a pirate. Maybe you actually believe that three foot M&M's are having a conversation in your living room ( unless you have taken some really powerful drugs) Speaking of drugs, one has to ponder the fact for a moment that drug dealers never, ever have to rely on advertising.

 The reason advertising exists in the first place is that it is human nature to want to believe bullshit and the people who devise these advertising strategies are very good at it. They excel at selling us stuff that we don't need or in some cases don't even want. They sell us shit that we didn't even know we wanted and even sell us a lot of stuff that is just plain detrimental to our health or even worse, tastes like crap. The few times that I somehow got roped into eating at Wendy's were not exactly gastronomical adventures of epic proportions. It was more liking eating prison slop in the main cafeteria of a mental hospital.

Big Box stores also employ this type of subterfuge which results in very large spaces filled with staggering amounts of bullshit. Stereos used to be sold in specialty shops staffed by gurus who had as much knowledge as your average engineer. These days, one has to go to places like Best Buy. These depressing places are staffed by under-paid kids who are hell-bent on selling you an extended warranty. I would sometimes amuse myself by playing dumb and asking the clerks what functions all the knobs had on those big-assed home theater amplifiers. The made-up-on-the-spot answers were always hilarious.

Other big box stores are filled to the brim with low quality goods manufactured off-shore. I can personally attest to the fact that a lot of that shit will break the first micro-second you try to use it. I still have a shard of metal embedded in my thumb that came from a cheap screwdriver that exploded as soon as I applied a little torque to it. Strangely enough Canadian Tire still sells cool pin-striping tape that is made in the USA and have done so for years, but everything is pretty crappy, hence the moniker "Crappy Tire". A few years ago, I was looking for a space heater ( for you folks down South, a space heater is an extra electric heater for warming up your room so that you don't, as we say in Canada, "freeze your bag off") I asked one the elusive clerks if they had any that weren't made in China. He stared at me for a few seconds dumbfounded; he had no idea what I was talking about and probably concluded that I was insane.

Another definition of bullshit is having to put up with nonsense ( often referred to as horseshit). Craigslist fits this definition perfectly. I am sure almost everyone reading this has at one point sold or bought something on Craigslist. We've all encountered some form of bullshit on craigslist. The outrageously inflated prices for worn-out crap are bullshit. The ads composed by obtuse people who seemingly dropped out of school in the sixth grade are bullshit. The medieval public market tactics of trying to lowball your advertised price are bullshit. Not to mention having all types of people of questionable mental stability show up at your door step.

Often the items on craigslist are misrepresented. Bicycles are a good example. Bikes are always advertised as only being ridden three times, a few minor scratches and maybe the bell needs a little tuning. Once you see the bike in person it usually turns out to be some rusted-out piece of shit that even a crackhead wouldn't steal. In all fairness, a lot of people have unnatural attachments to their stuff, even the crappy stuff, so they are deluded and actually believe the content of their ads. It is still a form of bullshit, however and it's annoying and wastes a lot of time. Other CL buyers want you to solve their engineering problems for them when they purchase a $15 dollar part. The real answer to all these annoying questions posed by these retards lacking even rudimentary mechanical ability is " No , it won't work and you will probably lose some fingers in the process" But 15 bucks doesn't buy the answer, just the part in question.

One of the most insidious forms of bullshit is bureaucracy. Having to navigate a quagmire of endless forms, arcane legal documents, incomprehensible procedures and bureaucrats who are paid to actually make things complicated can be tedious. It is bullshit in its purest and most undiluted form. Tax forms are a prime example, they are some of most convoluted words ever put to paper ( some of which are actually in a language spoken by humans)  and a very long-winded way of saying "just give us your money".

The fact that a car is taxed every time it changes hands is also bullshit and for some reason my butt hurts every time I buy a used car or renew my license. Cops are inextricably linked to this bureaucracy and have a level of bullshit all their own. They don't really give a damn if you were driving 100 miles an hour and squashed a few dogs, or that your pipes are too loud and you caused a few heart attacks at the old folks home or that the burn-out you just did in your buddy's El Camino just started a forest fire: They just want to give you a ticket so they can get your money. Forget about those hardened criminals, there goes a guy riding a bicycle without a helmet and they're gonna take him down.

Another form of bullshit is exaggeration and embellishment. It is not as insidious as other forms of bullshit, but it is, however just as tedious. It isn't flat out lying, but some people just seem to enjoy indulging in it. They will regale you with tales of their drinking prowess and other bullshitters will try to out-bullshit them. The boobs in these stories get bigger with each telling of the bullshit story. The amount of punches in the face will increase. The amount of horsepower will get to levels approaching that usually found in 300 ton mining trucks. These bull-meisters never seem to have ever been fired at any time in their lives, woken up next to anything but a super-model, never lost a fight, never did anything dumb while driving a car or never farted in an elevator. One has to be able to detect the fine  line between bullshit and just plain ole full o' shit.

Here's a random list of things that are bullshit.

 1. Suburban white kids that speak like inner-city rappers. Foshizzle. Whaa?

2. The breakfast combo at McDonalds is the same price it always is even when it includes a "free coffee". I have yet to have received a straight answer to that one.

3. Any cell phone plan. So, if I multiply the size of my phone with Pi, divide by the weight of my neighbor's chihuahua, include some Safeway coupons for chicken soup and get some Australian dollars at the foreign exchange I owe you ..... oh never mind just send me the damned bill in the mail.

4. Any airline ticket. Fuel tax, landing gear tax, pilot sobriety tax, make sure we don't run out of fuel tax, getting your suitcase that ended up in Bratislava tax.....

5.Warm Beer ( I'm talkin' to you LCB of British Columbia)

6. Psychics ( I once saw a for rent sign when Sonia the Psychic went out of business. Didn't see that one coming, huh Sonia)

7. $ 500 tickets to see some crappy pop singer that uses Auto-tune ( if your taste in music is that bad, maybe you deserve that one).

8. Systems for winning the lottery ( I'll buy 500 bottles of whiskey and 500 cartons of Kools when I win the lottery tomorrow.)

9. Motivational speakers. Repeat after me; I am wealthy, I'm all jacked up, I got the power; but give me a check first.

10. The Shopping Channel. Only $59.95 for a glitter-covered sandwich bag ?...hold on folks ..I'll be back in a sec.

11. 7-11 stores. Fifty six bucks for a pack of smokes, $29.99 for a 45 gallon (55 in the US) drum of Slurpee and interior fluorescent lighting visible from the international space station.

12. All those picker/ storage shows. Oh look, a Jedi light-saber once owned by Winston Churchill.

13. That hard plastic packaging that is impossible to open up. There is a special tool you can buy to open these packages, but it also comes in that hard plastic packaging.

14. Dollar stores. A great place to buy Cookies from Ecuador that expired in 1999, lead-based kids' toys, pencils that don't sharpen (otherwise known as a stick), reading glasses that will eventually make you blind, Curtis CD Walkmans and thousands of very shiny whatever-the-heck-that-is.

15. Christmas Music. Surely this is the soundtrack in hell. Designed to make you buy tons of crap and ugly sweaters.

Even though I'm a city slicker, years ago I lived on a farm for a while. I attended many wing-dings and barnyard parties and was always warned not to mess with the bull. There was always plenty of corn, beer and pick up trucks and the evenings usually ended in the same way. On the way to my truck I would invariably step in something big and squishy; a steaming pile of shit. Now that. folks , is truly bullshit. Watch where you walk, keep your eyes out for bullshit and don't mess with the bull.

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