Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “ramadan”

Shopping for the Holidays? Beware the Attack of the Fanboys! – Tom Rossi

People have come to depend somewhat heavily on online reviews of products to help them make shopping choices. Whether it’s a gift or something needed or wanted for ourselves, online reviews can help us to avoid products that are poorly designed or manufactured.

They can also help us to determine whether a product or type of product will do for us what we need it to do. Will this blender crush that dirty chunk of ice that forms under my cars fenders in the winter? Will this electric shaver work on my back? Can this hair dryer double as a hot glue gun? Can i use this vacuum cleaner to enlarge my… well, you get the idea.

Websites like Amazon.com have lots of ratings that customers have posted. Some of these are painstakingly detailed. Some people seem to have lots of free time and use it constructively, maybe in hopes that someone like me won’t buy a Yugo or something. And in addition to the long and detailed reviews, some are concise and to-the-point. These can be almost as informative.

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But then come the spoilers. These come in several forms. One is the fake review: “This is the perfect thing for young couples just starting out!” or, “This book was written by a liberal and I’m sure it has liberal ideas. Therefore I’m giving it one star out of five, even though I haven’t read the book myself.”

But the most dreaded, evil entity, lurking in the reviews, is the “fanboy.” Fanboy (not the cartoon character) is a pop-culture word, and there’s no reason not to suppose a fanboy might be female, but that’s the term. Fanboys cruise Amazon and other sites, looking for negative reviews of some product or brand they are in love with. Then they rate the review, itself, as “not helpful”. It seems these little gremlins probably have multiple accounts, so that they can rate a review as “not helpful” enough times as to make it kind of disappear, especially on sites that have the highest-rated reviews at the top of the list.

Fanboys also write inane, negative comments in response to reviews, ridiculing the original reviewer. They ridicule, write five-star reviews of things that aren’t that great, write negative reviews of competing products, and generally confound the process any way they can. Some fanboys might actually be employees of a company and trying to improve its image, but it probably doesn’t work.

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“Free market” freaks tell us that, without “interference” from government safety or quality regulations, the capitalist market would solve issues of poor quality because, if something isn’t good, people will stop buying it. How is that theory supposed to work with so much dishonesty out there? Fanboys engage in the sabotage of free speech. They use lies and tricks to get people to like (or seem to like) what they like or to buy their company’s products.

What motivates this behavior? In the case of the company employee, it’s pretty obvious. But when it’s a true fanboy, who is simply in love with his Dell laptop, or his Easy-Bake oven, something else is happening.

For some people, it’s very important that their tastes and choices are validated by others. I had a roommate once who recommended a movie for the three of us who shared an apartment in college. He thought this movie was just the best thing ever, and it was, in fact, very good. But just because we knew how easy it would be to irritate our friend, the other roommate and I just said, “Meh. It was OK.”

“Just OK?!?!?! What are you, crazy?!?!?” He practically tore his hair out because we, apparently, didn’t like the movie as much as he did. And I’ve had people try to talk me into changing my taste in food, women, cars, music, you name it, and all so that they can feel validated by my agreement. Likewise I’ve received many approving, sometimes even admiring looks from people I happened to share similar tastes with, in one area or another.

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These feelings are not abnormal, but I’ll say this to the fanboys out there: Grow up! The fact that I like Guinness and you like Coors Light doesn’t make one of us better than the other… Well… yes it does. Bad example. But you get the point. Taste is taste. Let people have their own, and let people communicate honestly about things, so that they can make informed choices for themselves.

-Tom Rossi

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Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.

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Holiday Escapes – Tom Rossi

Good escapes and bad ones.

Ahhhh. Christmas was yesterday and we are in the midst of what most can agree to call, “The Holiday Season,” which includes Chanukah, Kwanzaa, Ramadan (in some years), and maybe others I don’t even know about. The winter holidays afford us an escape from the rat race. While it’s true that, for many, the year-round rat race is just exchanged for the holiday rat race, it still represents a change from the monotony.

If you’re lucky, the holidays are a chance to reconnect with family and friends. Planning these rendezvous can be stressful in and of itself, but hopefully they are worth it. The chance to hug your mom for the first time in months, to watch your new nieces and nephews play with new toys, and to catch up with siblings, cousins, friends, and the guy who has stood on the corner every day for 17 years hitting himself in the head with a dead chicken can be priceless.

This time of year presents the opportunity to revel in all that is really important and good about this human existence. It isn’t required that you go all Norman Rockwell on us, just smile, talk, eat, sit next to a fireplace with loved (or liked) ones, and maybe even get out and hike or ski among the trees (if you can find some snow, somewhere). This is positive escapism.

Positive escapism isn’t an escape from reality – it’s a temporary escape from certain, tiring elements of reality – the commute, the office politics, the everyday drudgery.

In contrast, everyday escapism is one of the things that, in my opinion, contributes to the deterioration of our socio-economic structure. It’s great to watch a movie or a hockey game or maybe play a video game, but if all of your free time is dedicated to things like this, you can basically tune out real information or just never notice it in the first place.

I think this is one explanation for people saying things like: “It was cold at my house last night, so there’s obviously no global warming going on.” If you spend all your free time entertaining yourself and you stop learning, you can just keep thinking whatever you want, right or wrong.

So again, sorry for this brief interruption to your holiday. Please go on laughing at the same jokes your father has told 175 times. Drink an egg nog (with rum or without). Cherish the great gifts that you have. It took a trip to death’s door to wake me up to what a great family I have and what great friends. I’ll spare you the details, but I’ll just say again, Happy Holidays.

-Tom Rossi

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Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.

Tom also posts on thrustblog.blogspot.com

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