I’ve been collecting links for a while, since before the blog move, but kept putting off the post. But I said I would have links at the new blog, so here we go.
First up, the enduring appeal of feature phones. I mentioned in my last post that I’ve gone back to using my Nokia featurephone. It gives me phone, text, email, and a severely compressed browser that mostly allows me to read news sites. It has useful offline stuff too, like an alarm clock, timer, and ToDo list app. The battery lasts for days and the phone itself is tiny.
When I was in Japan a few years ago I was enraptured by the oversized flip phones that I saw people using. Apparently they’re still popular. Engadget has a story that suggests why:
The Japanese editor-in-chief of our sister site Autoblog JP was eventually browbeaten by coworkers (and this guy) into buying an iPhone, but his eyes light up when we ask him about the gara-kei thing. Why do you love these phones? “It’s light,” he says. “It’s small; it’s easy to type on, easy to talk into.” He then flips one open, adding, “It’s cool.” He flips it shut.
What has he gained from the upgrade to a smartphone? He’s silent: He doesn’t use the map app, and says the camera on his flip phone was good enough. I’m at a loss for words. Would he go back to a feature phone? “I just bought this thing,” he says as heaves the iPhone 6 up, “but maybe.”
I think it’s also the simplicity. If you can get the hang of typing on a 10-key pad, then you can communicate when necessary but for the most part your phone is just your phone, plus maybe a planner and a quick reference tool. It’s not a mini-computer and lifeline to the social media world.
Obviously we feature phone users are a dying breed. The same Engadget author wrote a second article about how difficult he found it to live with a feature phone even for a week:
… the AQUOS K can indeed download apps… it just can’t download many. There are roughly 20 to choose from, but I was hard-pressed to find many I actually wanted. I picked up a puzzle game as well as one to help me navigate Tokyo’s metro, but I was left aching for the apps I open weekly, if not daily: Instagram, Tinder (don’t judge), Kindle, Fitocracy, Spotify, WhatsApp, Line. Well, actually, Line messenger is here.
As the de facto messaging app for Japanese smartphone users, it’s a big deal to see the genuine app on a feature phone; it’s largely the same experience as my smartphone. Having said that, without a touchscreen (and the wizardry of SwiftKey), I’m stuck repetitively tapping through to the letters I want — and spending just as much time correcting myself.
If you love your apps, then no, a feature phone isn’t going to work for you. But the repetitive tapping is a choice, because the Japanese phones (and mine) have predictive text that works pretty well.
On to a less enjoyable topic: US election politics. It’s a mere 18 months before the presidential elections of 2016, so of course election journalism is in full swing. Hamilton Nolan at Gawker does an excellent job of breaking down why reading about politics is so unpleasant:
Politics is important. The politicians that we elect pass laws that meaningfully affect the lives of millions or billions of people. Political journalism is an important job. These journalists are responsible for telling the public what they need to know about the people they vote for. They are responsible for explaining and analyzing the critical issues that these politicians will be making choices about—many of which are quite literally life-and-death decisions. Will we go to war? Will we figure out how to adapt to climate change? Will we do something to stop the rampant economic inequality that is dividing our society? Getting to the heart of these questions is ultimately what political journalists should do.
That is not, of course, what most political journalists do. Most political journalists cover political campaigns in the same way that sports reporters cover sports. Team A has a new strategy! Team B made a mistake! Team C has a new manager! This style of “horse race journalism” has the effect of completely obscuring the issues underlying these political campaigns. So why do reporters do this? Because it is easy. It is easier to cover campaigns like this, and it requires less thought, and it leaves journalists less prone to being attacked by one side or another, and it is, in general, purely speculative rubbish which cannot be truly refuted. So it is what we get.
Horse race journalism about election campaigns and candidates isn’t just annoying and distracting, it’s insulting to voters. As Nolan points out, if you read books on the 2008 election you’d conclude that Hillary Clinton lost the nomination to Barack Obama because of campaign-staff infighting and screwups. Not because of latter’s grass-roots mobilizing, or their superior understanding of the benefits of concentrating on caucus states, or any of the other strategic choices political scientists can tell you about. Too many political journalists aren’t well versed on the current electoral politics literature, at a time when political scientists are better than ever at explaining and predicting political behavior. But what journalists do well is form relationships with political operatives. So those are the stories we hear.
At this point I avoid most stories about candidates. We’re going to hear a ton of inconsequential, gossipy stuff about them. Tune in again next winter, when the Iowa caucuses kick off the actual campaign. If you must read about electioneering in the meantime, follow a blog with real political scientists, like The Monkey Cage.
I can’t remember how I found this next article, but it resonated with me because I’ve been experimenting with a more minimal wardrobe. I have clothes for four seasons’ worth of work, which means teaching and conferences, and leisure, plus specific clothes for India, and I tend to buy well-made items that don’t wear out. My closet was way too full. So I got rid of about a third of my stuff and have been trying to wear fewer items more frequently. I like splashes of color so I can’t go full Cayce Pollard, but most of my wardrobe is neutral. I’ll say more in a longer post, but this gives you a sense of the approach:
The aesthetic choice to wear black that I made when my parents were still buying my clothes was cemented when I was an undergraduate and graduate student (almost all of my teens and twenties), because black clothes are an intensely practical choice when the phrase ‘disposable income’ is an oxymoron. I remember this Glenn O’Brien article in SPIN from 1985, in which (once you get past the casual homophobia and the implicit assumption that women are not reading it, and possibly not even sentient beings) he makes the case for that practicality—how black clothes don’t show dirt or damage much (useful when you can’t easily afford to replace something if you spill coffee on it), and how they’re appropriate for a wide range of social settings. And all shades of black match, which is more than you can say for other colours. But what wearing black mostly meant to me was that I could make decisions about purchasing clothes and accessories on just one axis—functionality—without worrying about colour. When I gave talks at research conferences or went off to interviews for a postdoctoral position, I had exactly one purse and one pair of good dress shoes and one briefcase and I could still be guaranteed that I had a coordinated outfit.
The roots of the ‘Grey Man’ lie in the Great Male Renunciation: the period around the end of the 17th century, in the middle of the Enlightenment, when society collectively decided that men’s clothing, previously as colourful and ornamented as women’s, was to be dark, sober and serious. What’s kind of astonishing is how we’ve never really gone back—a quick scroll through red-carpet photos makes that clear—and how we mostly just accept this sexual dimorphism as the norm. Just why men’s clothing has never returned to pre-GMR levels of finery is something I’ll leave to historians and sociologists, but it’s almost certainly related to the harsh enforcement of gender norms—while women can wear colours and clothing styles indistinguishable from men’s (as I write this, I’m wearing black jeans, a black t-shirt, and Camper high-tops), the slightest hint of femininity in men’s self-presentation elicits verbal abuse at best, and the worst is far worse.
I think the feature phone and clothing columns struck a nerve because I’ve been thinking about paradox of choice issues. I know the research is mixed, but I definitely believe that in some areas more options can be detrimental, or at least it works that way for me. Now Amazon has introduced a new “Dash” button that lets you reorder all kinds of items without thinking. This sounds great, right? But maybe not, as Ian Crouch in The New Yorker observes:
But what if there is actual value in running out of things? The sinking feeling that comes as you yank a garbage bag out of the box and meet no resistance from further reinforcements is also an opportunity to ask yourself all kinds of questions, from “Do I want to continue using this brand of bag?” to “Why in the hell am I producing so much trash?” The act of shopping—of leaving the house and going to a store, or, at the very least, of one-click ordering on the Amazon Web site—is a check against the inertia of consumption, not only in personal economic terms but in ethical ones as well. It is the chance to make a decision, a choice—even if that choice is simply to continue consuming. Look, we’re all going to keep using toothpaste, and the smarter consumer is the person who has a ten-pack of tubes from Costco in the closet. But shopping should make you feel bad, if only for a second. Pressing a little plastic button is too much fun.
Soon we won’t even have to hit a button. Amazon is also working with companies on devices that will be able to restock themselves. As the Wall Street Journal explained, “Whirlpool is working on a washer and dryer that anticipate when laundry supplies are running low so they can automatically order more detergent and dryer sheets.” Water purifiers could reorder their own filters; printers reorder their own ink. This is the dream of domestic life as a perfectly calibrated, largely automated system.
I agree that buying something should be a conscious decision. When it’s not, or when it becomes about fulfilling some other need via the act of purchasing, then we’re freighting indirect or unrelated behaviors on to that act, and before we know it our house is packed to the gills and our town is running out of landfill space.
It’s harder to remember to consume mindfully in a 24/7 news and consumption oriented world, but it’s more important than ever.
Reading about what other people wear and why is one of my favourite things, so I shall look forward to that post. Although I strongly disagree that all shades of black match. 😉
I agree! I have blacks that definitely don’t match.
I was thinking of you when I linked to the fashion post. You are so good at choosing and wearing bright colors and patterns. I can’t carry them off, even though I apparently have the right coloring for them. I just don’t have the nous. 😉
That’s what I was going to say! Not all blacks match – you’ve got your warm blacks and your cool blacks and it’s quite complicated. I still wear mismatching blacks, but at least I know they aren’t the same black.
Every once in a while I mismatch my blacks and it looks terrible! But for the most part I know which black goes with which other blacks. 😉
Huh. I just went on my three times a year shopping spree (I used to clothes shop every week-end) and bought all my clothes in black, white, grey, or combos of. I splurged and bought a red purse for a “splash of colour.” It makes deciding what and how to wear so easy, and yet I very much like the way it all looks.
I shop so much less than I used to, and I was never a huge shopper. But you can care about how you look without making it a full-time occupation, and that’s what I’m trying to do. When I was a young assistant professor I knew (from my evaluations and those of my women colleagues) that women professors’ clothing choices were scrutinized and commented on. I still think hard about rotating clothes on my teaching days.
But one of the great things about aging is that people really don’t notice what you look. However much they did or didn’t look before, they look much less now. And I’m just fine with that. 😉
I’m enjoying choosing my few but important pieces. I had one big shop this winter, but otherwise I’ve picked up a pair of jeans on sale (at Uniqlo, so they were *really* inexpensive) and a couple of t-shirts to replace ones that were too faded. That’s it.
Thank you for the links. The piece and your comments about political journalism really struck a chord for me today. We are heading into a federal election here in Canada within the next few months and I am already sick and tired of how “lazy” the journalism is. It seems that most of the major media outlets are just parroting the talking points du jour that the political parties are circulating with only minimal independent analysis. The CBC seems to be trying to do some analysis, but with the massive budget cuts they suffered, I’m not all the hopeful about their coverage either. This type of journalism does a massive disservice to the electorate and leads to a whole lot of cynicism about politicians and government. Our current political soap opera of the trial of the allegedly crooked senator (a former top political journalist) isn’t helping the credibility of political journalists much either.
It is so depressing, isn’t it? The combination of the endless political seasons and the dumbing down of the coverage means that it is difficult to find decent reporting. I can find plenty of snarking on the coverage (by other journalists, no less), but the good stuff? I have no idea. Even in UK and your elections, the US disease has seeped in sufficiently that your election season is expanding without any benefits in terms of greater depth or understanding in the reporting.
I was talking to my son yesterday on the way to school – we had the radio on and a sound grab about Rand Paul aired. I tried to explain what I understood of the US system and how various candidates nominate for the opportunity to run for President for their party and how long it takes and then the primaries where the candidates are facing off against each other in the same party and then the campaign proper when the actual presidential candidates are duking it out.
Then I contrasted it with out system.
Our attention span for political campaigns is exceedingly short. Four weeks is about our limit. Australians just tune out. I think that, constitutionally, we tend, as a country, to think of politicians as a mob of self-aggrandising windbags and we really don’t like listening to them all that much. Also, there is a country-wide apathy about politics here. If a campaign goes on any longer than a few weeks, whoever is talking (no matter what they’re saying) tends to suffer at the ballot because people just want them to shut the hell up.
That said, I think the current government are in for a rude shock when election time comes. I don’t think I’ve experience a more universally hated government in ever. It won’t matter what they say in a campaign – I think they’ve already done their dash. Which, when you consider that apathy I mentioned, says something pointed about just how crappy they are.
I really want a t-shirt that says
“Mob of self-aggrandizing windbags, Party the First: Vote Here [check the box]
Mob of self-aggrandizing windbags, Party the Second: Vote Here [check the box].”
I swear we could make a fortune selling those.
I so hope you are right on the election. Just when you think you’ve hit rock bottom, you discover there’s another basement level. As a student of Indian elections, I feel your pain.
LOL the problem is that we have a choice between the Secret Police and the Keystone Cops. The other major party isn’t that great but they’re marginally better than the current government. The truly unfortunate thing (and I see this a lot all over the world) is that there isn’t anybody with real vision and conviction and a plan – they’re just about getting elected next time and that’s it. It’s all popularity and sound bites.
Even though, in general terms the Opposition have better social justice policies, both major parties have appalling immigration/asylum seeker policies and until one of them wises up and starts pracitsing compassion (and good economics with it as well*) I plan to vote for a potato. I’m not even joking. None of the current crop of pollies deserve my vote.
*We are apparently in a “budget crisis”. But we spend 5 billion dollars a year on offshore detention for refugees who come to Australia by boat. They come by boat out of desperation because we don’t actually process people in Malaysia and Indonesia at anything faster than the rate of tar dripping. In the refugee camps they can’t work, they can’t educate their children and they struggle for medical care and food/shelter. A boat, risky and dangerous, becomes a better option. When they get here, they are herded to offshore detention camps where they are subject to abuse which crosses over the line into torture far too often. Women must ask for individual sanitary napkins, water is limited, children (CHILDREN!!) are in detention and there is rife sexual abuse against the detainees by those “guarding” them. It is awful and shameful but both major political parties support this. It’s all “stop the boats” and back slapping. They promote the myth that coming to Australia this way is illegal but it is not illegal to seek asylum. Well over 90% of the people who come are eventually (because it takes a long time) found to be genuine refugees. The terrorists aren’t coming this way. They’ll arrive by plane or we’ll grow them ourselves. There is ever increasing evidence of the abuses suffered by detainees and it makes me sick and ashamed. If we processed asylum seekers on shore, put them in communities (espcially rural communities which are losing population) even if they were on our welfare systems from the start, the cost would be $1 billion per year and we’d have people who would be grateful and happy to be in a country who welcomed them and would be more than willing to contribute to the economy of their new home. Providing services to/for these people would generate economic growth and create jobs. There you go budget crisis. I’ve saved you $4 billion dollars right there and it’s also compassionate and fair. /rant.
Feel free to rant away. I learned a lot from your tweets about immigration and refugee policy in Australia when I was on Twitter. I agree with you, it’s beyond shameful. I only wish we (or other advanced countries) were much better. In the US we are still not properly held to account for the 1970s/80s boat people who came from Vietnam/Cambodia, a situation that we did a lot to create.
Thank you 🙂
The thing which staggers me is that our State Governor was a Vietnamese refugee. He arrived, with his family, by boat in Darwin in 1971. Back then, Australia’s policy was to welcome “boat people” and those who came have made invaluable contributions to our society in myriad ways.
But Mr. Le wouldn’t be allowed in were he to come now. He would be detained on Nauru or Manus Island and tormented. And apparently, no-one in our major parties seems to feel there is any irony in this or any cause for shame.
The leaders of the major parties in the 70s made a private back room agreement – they knew they had to stand strong and present a united and accepting front to the Australian people. Labor (similar to your Democrats) didn’t say “they’re coming to steal our jobs! cheap labour! unemployment crisis ahead! woe!” They said: “this is great, we should welcome these people in!” . The Liberals (the leader of whom at the time was Malcolm Fraser*) didn’t bow to any of the xenophobic pressure from the far right. Both Whitlam (the Labor leader) and Fraser recognised we needed to boost immigration and they made it happen. They agreed it was necessary and right for the country and they agreed not to score political points from it. As a result, the vast majority of Australians welcomed the refugees who came from Vietnam and Cambodia.
*Malcolm Fraser died a couple of weeks ago. He was chair of Care Australia for a long time and a vocal and outspoken critic of both parties’ current immigration policies. His party, the Liberals (the party who are in government now, with their National Party coalition) made him ashamed by the end of his life. In fact, I believe he resigned from the party he had loved all his life over it.
We just don’t have anyone like a Whitlam or a Fraser now. (Not that they were perfect – of course, they were not. But they were true public servants in the best meaning of the words.)
The Australian political situation seems very similar to what’s going on in Canada. I’m not thrilled about either of the main opposition parties, but I will vote for the one that has the best chance of beating the Harper Conservatives. I wish that I could have the option to vote “for” a party as opposed to voting for the least worst option.
Sign me up for that T-shirt Sunita!
I really want to make that t-shirt now. If only had even a scintilla of design skills …
A friend of mine is a graphic artist…. 😀
My god I want this T shirt too and oh I want to go to Japan too and let’s see if I am going to be logged in and notified now :). Your new place looks awesome by the way.
LOL. We’ll hope for the best.
Japan is unlike any other place I’ve been. Endlessly fascinating. And thanks!
Agree completely about politics coverage. And it’s not just there that you see that style of journalism; I’ve basically stopped reading the British papers’ football coverage. There’s 0 tactical analysis; it’s all about “narrative” and about what makes a good “story”, and it pisses me off. The fan sites do better, so that’s where I tend to go for my football, but obviously, they’re not always exactly objective. But then again, neither are the papers!
I hadn’t thought about it, but you’re right. Apart from a couple of writers, the coverage is all narrative now. It’s been that way in American sports coverage for so long that I’ve given up reading it here. And when listening to a game, if you’re not looking at the TV screen you’ll often miss a bunch of action because the announcers are so busy talking about anything but the game that they don’t call what’s on the field.
This made me think about my wardrobe, or rather, my random collection of clothes. I have a handful of things I wear all the time, and they are all black or gray (skirt, pants, cardigan–with a colored top, usually). Everything else is too hard to figure out how to put together into an outfit. I need to learn to shop better, because I always want to have a wardrobe of the kind you’re talking about, like a repertoire of stand-by dishes in cooking, but I seem to come home with a disparate collection of things most of the time. And then wear that 10-year-old black skirt again.
I think you introduced me to the Monkey Cage a while ago, and I’ve really appreciated the breadth of their coverage; I enjoyed reading about the Nigerian election there, for instance.
One thing I’ve done with shopping for new clothes is to figure out what I want to shop for ahead of time and then go out and look for that. I don’t really like to shop, so I wind up buying things on the spur of the moment. It often works in the sense of the individual pieces are fine, but I’ll inevitably have too much of something and not enough of something else. So thinking before I shop helps.
Oh, I go with a list of things I want/need, can’t find them, get desperate, and determined to buy SOMETHING come home with things that I don’t really like that much OR that I like but don’t know quite how to wear/have the right thing to complete an outfit. I really need more reliable places to shop. I have good places for the fun pieces, but not so much the basics.
I get a lot of my basics from Eileen Fisher. A friend called them “Garanimals for Women” and I can’t entirely disagree, but they make terrific pieces to build on. And they last forever. I’ve given away far more pieces than I’ve had to throw away. And I still have 10+ year old pieces in my closet. For me the trick is to buy the basics that are clearly cut to last across years at the regular price if I have to, and buy the more trendy pieces (given it’s EF and they are not *that* trendy) on sale.
J Jill is a cut-rate Eileen Fisher, and I’ve bought a number of items from them, but the quality is correspondingly lower.
Re: clothes–I read a neat bit of advice today in the Washington Post–(paraphrasing here)-there should only be 3 types of clothes in our closets: clothes that fit, that we love/enjoy wearing and that bring us compliments when we wear them. It sure is easy enough to get rid of the ones that don’t fit/ too old or worn out. And I actually have some pieces that I love/enjoy wearing (and none of them are black!) I will admit to a love of color! (I’m wearing a hot pink knit top as I type this) and can’t imagine a wardrobe of nothing but neutrals for me (though such a wardrobe scheme obviously works for others). I am also glad that in my working life I never had to achieve ‘professional’ looks. Neat, clean and appropriate for the job were all I had to strive for.
Thank you Kaetrin, for the insight into current Aussie politics. I lived in Melbourne for 3 years, right when Bob Hawke became PM. We Yanks were sooo envious of the very short campaign period.
I want the T-shirt! ‘mob of self-aggrandizing windbags’–perfect!
When I first started purging my wardrobe a few years ago it was difficult. So many things had memories, or I hoped I would be able to wear them again somehow. But each time it becomes a little easier. And it helps that I give them to places where I’m pretty sure someone else will be able to find and enjoy them.
I’ve managed to whittle my ‘sentimental’ clothing down to under ten items (including my wedding dress). As someone whose weight goes up and down, I found it hardest to break the ‘but it might fit again’ mindset. I finally got around to cleaning out the ‘not wearing right now’ storage and sent another 30 or so pieces of good clothing off to find new homes. And i should probably pull the plug on another dozen shirts…The fun, it never ends. Sigh…
The hardest for me is the really high quality pieces that I can’t quite fit into. Like you, I’ve whittled them down, but I’m hanging on to the remainder.
Re: clothes/paradox of choice: While I’m not a clothing minimalist, I do limit my colors on certain garments. All my shoes are black. Most of my skirts are black; my slacks are either black (sadly in need of replacement), khaki, or blue jeans. This way, I can wear shirts of whatever color I like.
I also limit my choices: the clean or can-be-worn-again-before-laundering shirts go on the left side of the closet bar, and the shirt I wear today is the first one on the right side of the bar. That way, everything gets worn, and if I’m resisting wearing the shirt in the queue, that’s usually a sign that I should get rid of it.
Re: autorefill: I can see it being valuable for a medication that you don’t need to adjust the dosage on, but for groceries or household goods, yes, I value that moment of “huh, do I really need more of this?” It’s a lot harder to change your mind about that toilet paper/canned goods/produce box/website subscription when it’s renewed for you and you have to take an extra step to *stop* getting it. And it’s another hoop to jump through if you’ve been hit with some unexpected bills and need to cut back on your spending for a few months.
It so interesting how we allocate the neutral colors. I have learned to buy shoes in non-neutral colors on occasion, just for variety, and then I wear them with neutral clothes basics. I have a *lot* of scarves in bright colors, and a few tops.
I like your single v. multiple laundering system. I might have to try that. 😉 And very good point on the medications. As Crouch himself said, buying toothpaste in bulk only makes sense. I had a coworker years ago who had a closet full of tampons etc. It’s not as if she was going to suddenly stop using them, barring an unforeseen event.
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