Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Of Dunces, Fools, Drones and Heroes

Some time ago I posted three T-shirt designs, with no explanation as to why. “Here are some shirts,” I wrote, “reasonably priced, in all styles and colors, free shipping on orders over 100 USD, yadda-yadda.” Just as I expected, a few people got it, and a few of those ordered some shirts. The rest had no idea; some even confessed to that in the comments.

That was a test. It was a success. Now that all eight of the planned designs are available, I offer the full explanation and rationale behind this, my latest humanitarian intervention/fundraising effort.

Beyond attempting to mitigate against the erroneous notion, held by many of those who regularly read this blog, that high-quality web content grows on a magical content tree, and that therefore there is no need for them to pay for it, this new initiative is designed to solve a specific societal problem. Week after week hundreds of thousands of readers come to ClubOrlov and find out about some important aspect of reality, of which they would have remained unaware had they continued to just pay attention to mainstream media, to which some choose to refer as “presstitutes,” but I do not, out of respect for sex workers.

This leaves many of my readers feeling like they are stranded within a tiny minority of clueful people. That, unfortunately, is very much the case: most of the population remains clueless. Some of the readers would like to clue some people in, but where do they start? Broaching difficult subjects with family and friends often results in alienated family members and fewer friends. How do we determine whether any given person is worth trying to talk to?

Are people worth talking to at all? Some are. And you will need some of them as your allies. The lone individual is weak, but even a small group of dedicated individuals can often persevere against all odds. It is a bad idea to try to tackle the future alone. Family and friends might help—if you are lucky. And if you are not—better start looking! But you need to know how to look—for people you can not only talk to, but trust and respect. At this point in human history, you would be sneaking into a stable at night looking to steal a horse to ride bareback through enemy territory. It better not be lame, skittish or a rodeo horse.

In all my travels and conversations, I have proven to myself beyond all doubt that the decision on who to talk to should have nothing to do with race, age, class, gender, ethnicity, nationality, IQ, profession/trade, educational level, criminal record, party affiliation, gang/militia membership, religious persuasion, military training/rank, drinking/drug habits and whatever else you might try to use to categorize people. Categorizing people based on their public attributes just doesn’t work. So, in determining who is worth talking to, all we have to go on is gut feeling, first impressions and happy accidents. But is this, I ask you, in any way optimal? No, it is not!

That is why I decided to step in and help. The eight designs may have some artistic merit, but they are not exactly art; in fact, they should be regarded as precision mental calibration instruments. Each design features a simple nautical motif consisting of a circle and the 16 compass points. Around the circle is a tag line. Inside the circle is a fish. The tag line is a pun about the fish. Confused? Read on!

Each of the designs is a cognitive test. As you walk around wearing one of these shirts, looking for people worth talking to, you can apply specific methods, explained below, to interpret the way they react to your shirt. You can then make an objective determination as to whether a particular person is worth talking to. The determination is based on that staple of business consultants, Four-Quadrant Analysis. In this case, the two dimensions being mapped are:

x-axis: Did the person get it? (No | Yes)
y-axis: Did the person laugh? (No | Yes)

The only people worth talking to are the ones in the upper-right quadrant (Yes, Yes); the ones who both got it and laughed. For the sake of the Four-Quadrant Analysis, we shall call them “heroes.”

This technique will produce some number of false negatives: some people will fall into the “dunce” category simply because they aren’t paying attention, don’t want to talk to you, or both. Be that as it may; since you are looking for people who are paying attention and do want to talk to you, this source of systematic error is of little consequence. But keep in mind that “Hey, whaddaya thinkamah shirt?” is a perfectly acceptable gambit to try on those who look promising but aren’t paying attention no matter how intoxicated you are pretending to be. To avoid false positives, your tone of voice and body language should indicate that you are earnest and are posing a serious question. This is easiest done if you are in fact extremely drunk, but that is likely to generate false positives as well. It is a fine line.

The technique for determining to which of the upper two quadrants—“fool” or “hero”—a person should be assigned is somewhat involved. When a person laughs, the reason is not always clear. Some people laugh for the same reason that pigs oink: none at all. Luckily, these shirts are specifically designed to avoid this type of ambiguity. Each of the shirts contains not just any joke, but a pun (paranomasia) and not just any pun but a gratuitous one: a pun for pun’s sake. Gratuitous puns are a subtle form of audience abuse, and the chuckles they elicit are more often than not accompanied by groans, snorts and eye-rolls. These subtle cues allow you to distinguish a person who gets it—a “hero”—from just a plain old chucklehead—a “fool.”

There is also some amount of technique involved in determining why a person who “got it” didn’t laugh. Having a sense of humor is essential to preserving one’s sanity when being clued into things that may cause severe mental discomfort (which are legion) and so humorless people pose a danger both to themselves and to society, and are best avoided. If a person says something like “I see, a wrasse is that fish, and ‘your wrasse’ sounds like ‘your… ass’… on a plate… Oh, I get it now! Is that a veiled threat?” and then, instead of laughing, gazes upon you like a cow at a barn door, that would be a humorless person—a “drone.” Steer clear.

There is another, much rarer cause of failure to elicit a laugh. In this case, a person looks at you and simply says: “Yes, that’s quite funny,” sometimes following up with an even funnier joke or two, all without laughing or even cracking a smile. In this case, what you have before you is a professional comedian. Comedy is serious business, and you shouldn’t expect a comedian to laugh with you any more than you should expect your anesthesiologist to pass out when you do. You should always be nice to comedians, because otherwise they will make jokes about you. But it is up to you whether you should try to clue them in, since they are more likely than not to just go on making jokes, while what is happening to the world is no laughing matter.

Once you are convinced that you have before you a hero, there is an additional safety check for you to perform. You have to somehow determine whether this person is a know-it-all. Know-it-alls are dangerous, because they often have a certain character flaw that makes it difficult, or even impossible, for them to admit to ignorance. This flaw, under certain circumstances, can lead to dangerous, reckless behavior that is indistinguishable from Level III Stupidity, which is explained below. Here, some of the designs are more helpful than others: some of the fish shown on them are quite obscure. Few people aside from those who are ichthyologically trained know what a wrasse, a plaice, a bream or a dace is. Here, you can use a simple ploy: pretend that you got the t-shirt from a second-hand or as a hand-me-down, and never wondered what it means, then innocently ask, “What’s a dace anyway?” and gauge the answer. If it starts with “Well I guess…” then you have a winner. If it starts with “Well, obviously…” then you may have before you the dreaded know-it-all. Be sure to follow up with “Are you by any chance an ichthyologist?” to avoid false positives.

One last point. There is very limited use to be made of drones and chuckleheads. Intelligence without humor is just as bad as humor without intelligence. Dunces, however, are not necessarily altogether useless. Humans are useful in any number of capacities. For example, some of them make good pack animals. To wit: your typical US Army grunt can carry 40 kg—has to, in fact, since that’s the weight of their kit. Since we are headed into an age of scarce and expensive transportation fuels, such capabilities are not to be ignored. But only some dunces are actually useful. Roughly speaking, dunces can be teased apart into three categories of stupidity:

Level I Stupid: Potentially quite useful. Takes a long time for the penny to drop, but it does eventually, often after some embarrassingly large amount of time and effort. These dunces know that they are dunces and try to compensate for their meager mental abilities through honesty, hard work and physical endurance. As long as their heads are put to purposes other than thinking—such as holding up a bucket of water while walking uphill—their intellectual failings can remain inconsequential.

Level II Stupid: Possibly useful, though not quite as good. The penny never drops, but the dunce knows this and makes no pretense of even trying. This is potentially dangerous, since the ability to comprehend and accurately execute simple orders is sometimes important. If the standard reaction to a simple enough order is to stand there, feet planted, chew cud and low mournfully, then that’s not a positive.

Level III Stupid: Shouldn’t be used at all. These dunces are so stupid that they have no idea that they are stupid. They are often convinced that they alone are right, and will do the most absurd and counterproductive things, repeatedly, blaming their failure on anyone they can think of. What’s worse, because in these Level IIIs the negative feedback loop between stupid thoughts and the results of the ensuing stupid deeds happens to be broken, they can be extremely unpredictable and capable of stunning, fantastic acts of stupidity that endanger those around them.

Here, then, are the tag lines from all eight shirt designs, in alphabetical order. Please order whichever shirts you like best, put them on, go out into the world and find people who are worth talking to and cluing in. Also, please spread the word and share the links: the success of this project depends on you.

Click on the links below to order a specific shirt, or visit the online store to see all of them.

1. Best shirt gar none!
2. Please don’t be so koi!
3. Happy dace are here again!
4. I have a bream!
5. In cod we trust
6. I like to play the bass
7. Your plaice or mine?
8. Your wrasse on a plate


Yossi said...

I've heard that one before.

Keith Huddleston said...

Now I understand why I am a cheerful doomer. You have to be. The humor is what let's you hold the thoughts.

Wow, I am profoundly moved.

kem.erd said...

I don't consider myself as stupid, nor do I understand any of the jokes above. I suppose I am at level III on stupidity, too bad


Roberto said...

Is it OK to just tattoo the design on my chest? Eventually the shirt will wear out.

My donkey said...

Does they come in XXXXXXL or may I be aloud to bye all 10 and stich them tgether?

Jamie said...

My first reaction when I saw this a few weeks ago was to smile, roll my eyes, and wonder what you were doing in the shirt business!

I thought the koi, cod, bass, and gar were actually funny because I'm familiar with those fish. I can see how the others could be funny, but they don't quite hit home with me. I'm thinking puns don't work as well when one of the meanings isn't something the subject is familiar with (I assumed bream was a kind of fish in your original post, but it's just not as funny when I have to make an assumption for the pun to work). Maybe that means i have drone tendencies or maybe that's normal.
A better test might be to use more commonly known species but rather than writing he word in the pun, use only the image (e.g. "You can tune a guitar, but you can't . :)

de amateureconoom said...

Suppose I am in the level 3 stupid. English is not my mother language(maybe that's an excuse). Probably just stupid. I found your idea interesting as I am experiencing the same as other readers of your blog.I am not making a lot of friends if I start a conversation based on your very interesting topics. Suppose ignorance is a bliss.

Thomas Lowe said...

Clever and well considered, so I just ordered mine. The lone colleague here at the office who understands our predicament was discussing this very problem only the other day. I’ve forwarded him the link and we’ll see where it goes.

Unknown said...

While I found the post delightful, as an inland vegetarian I simply don't wish to paint a fish on my chest, however useful an assessment tool it may be. But I have pretty-much worn out my "Reinventing Collapse" T-Shirt. It has started over a dozen conversations and elicited slack-jawed stares that easily weed out the non-heroes. If you could continue to offer your original design I'm sure I'm not the only faithful reader and book-purchaser who would buy some as gifts.

Terry T said...

Kernels of truth from the great American antiheroes of the early 20th century.

Curly: "Quiet, Moe. I'm thinkin'"
Moe: "Every time you think you weaken the nation."

Eagerly awaiting "Shrinking the Technosphere."
The cover would be a nice shirt too.

subgenius said...

...and there I was trying to save for a self-driving carp...

Unknown said...

huh, what the hell was that all about? I don't get it!

davo said...

im floundering

Coilin MacLochlainn said...

I got it straight away but sorry, I just don't find the joke "I have a bream" funny. I don't find the other fish puns funny either. This must mean I'm a drone. But why should I laugh when these jokes are so lame? They are Level III stupid. If someone wearing one of these jokes approaches me with a pleading look in his eye, I might force a laugh just to keep him happy. I would be forced to become a hero, just for one day. Get it? (In case you don't, it's from "Heroes," by David Bowie. See, I'm even allowing that even you might not get it. That must make me some kind of hero, probably a Level III stupid one.)

Anonymous said...

I listened... but I'm hard of herring. I may order though, just for the halibut.

ffm said...

Your Heroes all march to the same tuna.

Rhisiart Gwilym said...

If you're one of the stupids, don't advertise the fact by posting comments actually saying that you don't get the jokes.

Setik said...

Well, I had no idea I actually know so much sea critters by name, but beside that... are you sure? Dear Dmitry, you must be bored to death behind that Big Blue.^^

Please, in the case you find your brilliant self having too much spare time in these times of need, could you please consider going on Stefan Molineux youtube show and talk some sense into the guy? Like about hard limits of technology, limits of liberalism given the ongoing depletition of resources (I consider your pieces on Tragedy of commons your best), or something..?

His format of media seems to be the new black and I think it would be good for whole bunch of people to find you.


WZ said...

This was the best sales pitch to buy some crappy T-shirts I ve ever read. LOL... Don't worry Dima I am your huge fan and I do support your blog as I have purchased a number of your books. And by the way when are you sailing to Russia...will you have room for one more passenger...keep rocking the boat...Poka

seraphim said...

Sounds like the "language of the birds", "langue des oiseaux", "langue verte", "dive bouteille" (Gargantua). Birdfish?

Anonymous said...

I ordered a hundred dollars worth so that I would get free shipping. Don't know what that makes me. Probably don't want to know.

toktomi said...

Whale, I am thinking that either I am completely clueless or you are suggesting that a simple fish pun can be used as a test of a sense of humor, an assertion that would suggest a seriously atrophied sense of humor.

But as always, I could be wrong.

Kristiina said...

Abot the hiccups post...I read it only now. And all of a sudden the false news frenzy starts to make sense. The funny bird called regime change - is she coming home to roost? Or is it something else? Reverse-engineering the baloney back to probable facts ìs getting quite hard.

Unknown said...

I've been dredging up a few 1st and 4th quadrants with these myself (joke works in Romanian).

mekyam said...

guess i'm a level 111 stupid, but i won't be carping about it. :)

isdisasystem said...

Mygawd ! This what the deadheads used to do

alex carter said...

Toktomi - You need to understand that at least in the US, a place Dmitry lives when he's not visiting Russia, humor is almost illegal. Yeah they're lukewarm puns, but in the present climate in the US, pretty daring stuff.

V. Arnold said...

Very clever punning; brought a smile to my face.
But then, I was a commercial fisherman in the North Pacific on a 40' salmon troller (line caught).
I like those T-Shirts very much but, couldn't afford the shipping costs to Asia.

Suwannee Dave said...

The problem with the Bream shirt; it's pronounced "brim", at least here in the South.

Cortes said...

Humour ought to be humorous. The wrasse is a winner, the others not so much.

Compound F said...

I just bought "women on the verge...," wondering about your insights. I guess I'll find out. It ships in a few days.

AlaBikeDr said...

Personally I found the "bream" funnier because of Dmitri's criticism of the randomness of English pronunciation. It also subtly slights Christians which it may or may not have been intended to do. I doubt T-shirt advertising is a very good method of finding allies BUT I can report that my method of bringing up collapse in polite company is a big downer. A person seems to need a lot of preparatory work before getting the joke that modern civilization has become.

seraphim said...

@ It also subtly slights Christians which it may or may not have been intended to do.

I am probably a dounce, but I failed to notice the slight. You think that's because Martin Luther King was a Baptist minister? Baptism means immersion in water, it is what fish do. Do I dream?

Cortes said...

A very fine wordplay cited in the Saker's review of the Rogozin book :

Needless to say, Rogozin is absolutely hated in the West, especially in NATO. And with good reason, Rogozin, who holds a Doctorate Doctorate in the Philosophy and Theory of Warfare, is extremely blunt and outspoken and he has never attempted to disguise his total contempt for the AngloZionist Empire and its infinite hypocrisy. Far from being diplomatic, Rogozin is known for some rather provocative actions and statements. For example, just before leaving the NATO HQ in Brussels he wanted to plant a poplar tree in the gardens of NATO, which sounds all very nice until you realize that the Russian road-mobile SS-25 ICMB is called a “Topol” which, in Russian, means “poplar”. When confronted, Rogozin admitted that he always wanted to stick a few “poplars” into the NATO HQ (for details about this story, see here). Yes, he actually said that: “Думаю, тополю в НАТО самое место” (meaning “NATO is the perfect location for a Topol”)! You can imagine the reaction in NATO