Tag Archives: economics

Why Most Complaints About Hollywood Are Empty

hollywood-sign-mulholland-highway

There are a many annoying trends in the media these days and I’m not just talking about “fake news” or “alternative facts.” Those are trends that only bring out the worst in people whenever they’re discussed. While still annoying, there’s at least some legitimate substance behind those discussions. The trends I’m referring to are as empty as the whining they inspire.

It involves a new online cottage industry. It utilizes criticism wrapped in an agenda that’s disguised as meaningful social justice. It usually takes the forms of articles with click-bait heavy titles that give the impression that this is an official statement on behalf of all those who consume media. In reality, it’s just empty rhetoric that hides more whining.

You’ve probably seen these articles before. They’re often made by sites like BuzzFeed or Cracked, a site I’ve been reading for years and even reference frequently. They usually contain heavy-handed titles like this.

5 Things Action Movies Need To Stop Doing

8 Things Hollywood Needs To Stop Doing With Female Characters

7 Recurring Gags That Movies Need To Stop Using

14 Things TV Shows Need To Stop Doing With Minority Characters

15 Ways Hollywood Is Still Racist

37 Ways Movies And TV Are Still Offensive To Women And Minorities

9 Common Hollywood Practices That Need To Stop

None of these titles are to real articles, but you don’t have to look far to find articles like them. If there’s a legitimate and/or petty way to complain about the way Hollywood does business, then chances are there’s an article about it. Some pretend to express real concern about real issues. Most just whine about it, though.

I get that Hollywood is easy to criticize. It is, after all, a very shallow and cut-throat world with a history of scandals and less-than-ethical business practices. However, discussing those issues and trying to reform them is hard. Just whining about some of the content Hollywood puts out is easier and allows certain people to virtue signal. It’s not that hard to understand why people do it.

Even so, it doesn’t change a few inescapable facts that render all these click-bait articles utterly devoid of substance. Most of those fact come back to the simple truth that Hollywood is, and always has been, a business. It does have an agenda, but that agenda begins and ends with making money. Everything else is an afterthought.

It’s not very glamorous or sexy, but you could say that about almost every business venture. The only difference with Hollywood and the media is that pursuing that goal requires them to present a fantasy that sometimes requires that the goal be less obvious. That’s how you can get movies that protest corporate greed, but are still produced by corporations driven by greed.

It’s that same desire to make money and turn a profit that often leads to the kinds of practices that these wannabe media critics complain about. In general, people want to see beautiful women and attractive men following the kind of tried-and-true that has entertained people for centuries, long before movies and TV even existed.

From a pure business perspective, it’s easy to understand why Hollywood and media companies use these tropes. Like it or not, they work. People still aren’t tired of seeing male action stars like Tom Cruise run from explosions. People still aren’t tired of seeing beautiful women like Jennifer Lawrence or Scarlet Johannsen run around in skin-tight outfits either.

If the masses want it, then those in Hollywood would be lousy business people if they didn’t try to give it to us. There’s a demand for something. They supply it. That’s economics at its most basic. What these articles are basically asking for, to some extent, is that Hollywood stop doing what has historically made them money and do something completely different that may not work at all.

Think about that for a moment and try to appreciate the implications. You’ve got a job. It’s a good job that pays well. It involves doing something you know how to do and have seen, time and again, how well it works. Then, some person comes along who has never done your job and yells at you for how you do it.

On top of that, they claim that doing your job the way you do it contributes to all the horrible things in the world. Somehow, your job is what fosters all the racism, sexism, and bigotry that makes the world such an awful place and it’s your obligation to change everything about your job, risking your own money and livelihood in the process.

How would you feel about that person? Would you be all that inclined to listen to them? Would you even take them seriously? Chances are you wouldn’t and it’s not that surprising that Hollywood rarely responds directly to these complaints. The only reason Hollywood ever changes its approach to entertainment in any capacity is to make more money. That’s all there is to it.

It’s the biggest flaw in complaints about things like whitewashing, the Bechdel Test, and every damsel in distress trope. People can complain all they want. As long as movies, TV shows, and video games keep turning a profit, they’ll keep getting made. Hollywood and the media would be irresponsible, as a business, not to do just that.

That’s not to say Hollywood is doomed to remain stagnant. Hollywood, like any business, tries to follow market trends. That’s how we get things like a half-dozen superhero movies in a year and a glut of “Die Hard” rip-offs. When you find a winning formula, you stick with it. Those that don’t usually don’t stay in business for very long. The fickle and unpredictable nature of markets sees to that.

However, those who complain about Hollywood are basically demanding that they adopt this inherently risky method for producing media. They’re demanding that they ignore market trends and go out of their way to produce content that’s new, unproven, and politically correct to cultural and social sensibilities. They demand all this, regardless of how much it costs or how much profit it turns.

In general, when people make such unreasonable demands, they doom themselves to disappointment. For the professional whiners of the world, that basically creates a self-reinforcing cycle. They demand the impossible or the impractical. Then, when it doesn’t happen, they get upset and blame those who didn’t go out of their way for them.

It’s petty and annoying, but it’s the nature of the current media landscape. Thanks to the internet and social media, every has a platform and a voice. They have a mechanism for making demands that their media cater to certain groups and agendas, despite having no understanding of the business or economic forces behind the things they consume.

On top of all this, the process of making movies is getting more expensive with each passing year. That means producers have less room for error. If they make a movie that bombs, the losses are a lot bigger. It also means that even if a movie does well, the amount of profit it generates isn’t quite as great. That’s why the most profitable movies tend to be low-budget films that are unexpectedly successful.

It’s that unexpected part, though, that’s so frustrating to Hollywood. Nobody truly knows if a movie will be a hit, even if it’s from an established franchise. Sure, we can question how George Lucas thought Jar Jar Binks was a good idea for a character, but most every competent movie maker creates their products with the expectation and hope that they’ll be successful.

Now, none of that is to say that some themes aren’t overplayed. In recent years, Hollywood has made a concerted effort to improve how women are depicted in film and TV. The recent success of “Black Panther” has shown that there is money to be made in crafting products with a more diverse appeal.

However, these efforts weren’t the results of people complaining about a lack of diversity. They were the results of a business following market trends. The world is getting more diverse and so its consumer base. Naturally, a business will want to appeal to the most people possible. A successful business doesn’t care about the gender, race, religion, or sexual orientation of the consumer. The money is just as valuable.

For some people, though, that’s not happening fast enough and it doesn’t make up for past transgressions. Never mind the fact that history can’t be changed and doesn’t give a damn about how people feel about it. The fact that something once existed or doesn’t exist yet still offends some people.

At the end of the day, whining about the prevalence tropes, jokes, or themes that pervade Hollywood is no different than whining about how too many people like something that you hate. It’s selfish, petty, and asinine on every level. If it keeps making money, then it’ll keep happening. Until capitalism and economics radically changes, then those who keep whining about these trends will just have to deal with it.

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Filed under Celebrities and Celebrity Culture, media issues, movies

Shifting Demographics: A Dangerous (And Unsexy) Trend To Worry About?

At what point does our willingness to have sex to make babies become a larger social problem? That’s not a rhetorical question, by the way. I’m not even the first person to ask that question. Ongoing changes in demographics are a real issue. Yes, the human population is still growing at a remarkable pace, historically speaking. However, the way it is growing is generating all sorts of problems.

I know talking about demographics isn’t all that sexy, but I think it should be. Demographics involve population. A population of any measure requires that people have sex. I’m in the business of telling sexy stories so changes in demographics will indirectly affect me to some extent.

To understand this issue, it’s necessary to sift through some annoying levels of fear-mongering. Not too long ago, there were some pretty dire predictions about the impact that our rapid population growth would incur on the environment. While these are still pressing issues, we’re not living in a “Mad Max” style hellscape for now.

More recently, much of the doom-saying has come from those anxious about the declining fertility rates of the industrialized world, some of which have dropped below replacement levels.

You don’t need to know much about the particulars of demographics or statistics to understand the implications. For any society to prosper, both economically and functionally, it needs a steadily growing population. Old people die off. Their children take their place. More children grow into productive adults that contribute to society and the economy. It is very much the life-blood of civilization.

That process got a massive boost in the mid to late 20th century thanks to improvements in medicine, technology, and economics. Around 1900, the world population was below two billion. By the end, it had tripled to six billion. As of this post, the global population stands at approximately 7.5 billion. It’s very possible that we may cross the 8 billion mark by the end of the decade.

However, that continued growth is starting to encounter some obstacles. The rates of growth, especially in the industrialized world, are starting to slow. Just this past year, the fertility rate in the United States dropped below replacement level for the first time in a century. That’s a major milestone with some major implications.

Some parts of the world are already dealing with those implications. In some areas, they’re slowing so much that it’s causing major concerns for the future of that society. Japan, especially, is dealing with some unprecedented issues with a society that has a booming elder population and a dwindling pool of youth.

I won’t get into the specifics of the apocalyptic visions associated with declining fertility rates. That kind of doom-saying is rarely productive and often flat out wrong. However, a declining population carries with it all sorts of issues.

A society with a declining population has very poor economic prospects and I’m not just talking about a smaller market for my sexy novels. A declining population means fewer workers, fewer customers, and fewer people to come up with sexy new ideas. For a community and a culture, it’s basically the social equivalent of rapid decay.

In some cases, this decline can be compensated through immigration, but that brings with it a whole host of hot-button issues that I don’t care to discuss on this site. After all the anti-immigration rhetoric that erupted from the 2016 presidential election, there’s little chance that anything productive will emerge from that issue.

What concerns me more about this ongoing trend are the more personal implications behind it. There has already been a noticeable decline in overall sexual activity among younger generations. That doesn’t mean people are less horny. That just means less people are actually getting together and doing it.

The reasons for this are hard to quantify, but I’ve mentioned some of the obstacles that millennials are dealing with, beyond their sex lives. There will likely be even more obstacles once Generation Z, their successors, take hold.

In essence, these coming generations are drowning in debt and lack the economic of their predecessors. It’s hard to find time to seek a lover, start a family, and raise multiple children when there aren’t as many well-paying jobs to go around and the cost of living just keeps going up. The stress alone in dealing with all these issues is enough to kill anyone’s libido.

Others will claim that trends like growing acceptance of abortion and contraception, two issues that I’ve discussed more than once, is a major factor here. I tend to disagree, at least in part. Historically speaking, economics tends to drive fertility, politics, and most other major trends. Money is just that powerful.

I don’t doubt that having a greater control over our fertility from a medical standpoint is an issue, but just having that control doesn’t necessarily undermine our inherent desire to procreate. It’s the resources, circumstances, and conditions that have a much bigger impact on peoples’ desire to have children.

I even see this among my friends, family, and peers. Most of the people who are my age or younger are not in a situation where they have the resources to have a family. Most are struggling to find steady, well-paying jobs. Some are struggling just to find affordable living space, an issue I only recently addressed. Even if they’re still horny, they are not in a position to exercise their fertility.

While that’s understandable from a pragmatic point of view, the long-term implications are still there. If a large enough chunk of society faces these same issues, then at some point, the shift in demographics becomes unavoidable. Fewer children being born, along with a higher cost of raising them, carries with it all sorts of uncertainties that promise to make a tense situation even worse.

It may still be too early to worry about this trend, even the context of an aspiring erotica/romance writer. Trends have a nasty way of changing erratically. The old investor adage of past performance not guaranteeing future results has held true on many occasions.

Paul R. Ehrlich‘s “The Population Bomb” found that out the hard way because it failed to anticipate how humanity would react and adapt. Given how notoriously hard it can be to predict the future, it’s not smart to make too many assumptions about what will happen with these trends in declining fertility rates.

That said, if I have to adapt my novels to cater to an aging population, I’m willing do to that. It just may mean that I’ll have to learn how to describe sagging boobs in a sexier way.

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Filed under Current Events, gender issues, sex in society

Sex Dolls, Porn Stars, And Preserving Sex Appeal

Picture, for a moment, a time when your spouse, lover, or favorite celebrity looked their absolute best. It might have happened years ago. It might have been last Tuesday. Just take a mental snapshot of that image, recounting every minute detail of that beauty everything that went into it. Take all the time you need.

Do you have that image? Good, then keep it in your head for a bit longer because now I want you to imagine being able to preserve it in a physical, tangible, and exceedingly sexy form. It doesn’t just have to be a vivid memory or a daydream, which is prone to fading easily. It can be something you can actually revisit when you’re feeling nostalgic, horny, or both.

Enter the world of RealDolls, the Apple/Google/Amazon of realistic sex dolls. These are not cheap blow-up dolls that a teenage boy hide under his bed. These are advanced, sophisticated replicas that capture the look, feel, and texture of real human flesh. They’re basically the closest we have to sex robots, albeit without the robot part.

I’ve mentioned RealDolls a couple of times on this blog in various articles, often when discussing sex robots. They are currently on the cutting edge of this field, but that edge has tried to sharpen itself in a whole new way recently.

Back in 2013, the company began doing something that was probably bound to happen at some point. It began making its trademark sex dolls using the bodies, figures, and curves of real-life porn stars. That means famous figures, in the literal sense of the word, like Jessica Drake, Asa Akira, and a whole bunch of other names that men pretend they don’t recognize can be the basis for their ideal sex doll.

In a sense, it’s an extension of the porn people already watch. Most viewers will never get the opportunity to have sex with these famous porn stars. These replicas will give them the next best thing without resorting to illegal cloning, which is far more trouble than it’s worth these days. As the technology and materials improve, that gap might eventually become negligible.

In terms of economics, everyone comes out a winner here, in some cases literally. The company, RealDolls, gets perfect models that don’t have to be customized with every purchase. The porn stars get a cut of the profits from each sale. The customers get to actually live out their sexy fantasy, to some extent.

Granted, the men who buy these dolls will be subject to stigma, just as the women who work in porn are subject to stigma. Sex and stigma go together almost as much as dirty bed sheets, candles, and lube. However, that stigma may be stretched more than most expect.

That’s because those same economics I mentioned earlier are changing. The sex industry is undergoing some pretty major shake-ups that most people aren’t aware of, if only to preserve their browser history. DVD sales, website subscriptions, and the live sex shows that once fueled the industry are declining in sales. Between piracy and the porn-centric tube sites that some probably have open in another tab, that’s understandable.

It’s a lot more challenging today to make a living in the sex industry. Whether you’re a big-breasted, big-dick star or a simple producer, you’re feeling the hit on the profit margins in an era where everything ends up online for free and few have the legal muscle to ally themselves with such a seedy industry.

The challenge is how will the porn stars of the future turn a profit from their sexy trade? Even beyond porn stars, what about other celebrities whose star has fallen and need to license their name behind something other than a clothing line? Well, RealDolls has set the precedent. That’s usually all anything takes to become a trend.

Legally speaking, the laws are already in place. RealDolls even says on their website that they cannot legally create a doll to look like a particular celebrity, alive or dead. That would be like Photoshopping someone’s face into unflattering photos. So anyone hoping for their own personal Jennifer Lawrence sex doll will be out of luck.

Then again, who’s to say that Jennifer Lawrence won’t need extra money at some point in the future? What if she, or some other celebrity like Channing Tatum or Taylor Swift, see licensing their appearance as just another revenue stream? Legally, they could do that and make a great deal of money in the process. The box office for “Magic Mike” alone proves there is market for a Channing Tatum sex doll.

It would be difficult now because today, even if you wanted to buy a sex doll that resembled a porn star who has licensed her appearance, it’s still obscenely expensive. These life-like sex dolls cost almost as much as a used car, mostly because of the materials involved and the labor that goes into them.

That process is going to need to improve before celebrity sex dolls become a viable business investment. RealDolls might be on the cutting edge of the industry, but that industry has not yet had its version of Henry Ford or Ray Kroc come along. That person is probably alive right now, but just doesn’t know it.

Once someone finds a way to bring the cost of these things down, then that’s when things get interesting and not just in the sexy sort of way. Again, I need everyone to think back to that mental image I described at the beginning of this post. I promise this is the last time, but it’s part of a larger point.

After the technology behind sex dolls improves, then chances are they won’t just be used for sex. Imagine someone who lost their spouse and refuses to let them go. A lifelike sex doll could provide comfort. Imagine someone develops a terminal disease and can’t easily be intimate with someone. A lifelike sex doll could provide at least some form of intimacy to improve their quality of life.

In the end, that’s the ultimate goal of these products, beyond the sex appeal. Before lifelike robots or Matrix-like virtual reality comes along, these realistic sex dolls may provide a stepping stone, of sorts, that bridge the gap between fantasy and reality. It will likely start with porn, as many technological advances do, but it certainly won’t end there.

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Filed under Jack Fisher's Insights, sex robots, Sexy Future

Why Evil Billionaires And Politicians Will Save The World

The world is fraught with so many problems. There’s climate change, poverty, economic turmoil, disease, and reality TV shows. At times, it seems so overwhelming. Even though I’ve argued the world is getting better by most measures, I don’t deny there are still a lot of problems in the world that need solving.

So who’s going to solve them? Who will save us from all these destructive forces and guide the human race forward? Movies, TV shows, comic books, religion, and Oprah have convinced us that it’s the selfless, loving heroes who live to dry the tears of sick orphans and shit rainbows who will save us. Hell, a part of us needs it to be true.

However, in the same way media that pretends us that sex involves a lot more rose petals and spanking than it really does, reality presents a colder, harsher truth. Like the making of a sausage or the outcome O.J. Simpson trial, the truth tends to shatter your preferred fantasy with a hammer and shotgun.

The hard truth, in this case, is that superheroes, saints, and legendary kings who pull swords out of stones won’t save us. Robert Downy Jr. is not going to put on a giant suit of armor and defeat terrorists. Christian Bale is not going to put on a costume and beat up all the criminals. In reality, it’s the evil billionaires and self-serving politicians that will save the world.

I’ll give everyone a moment for their eye to stop twitching. Take all the time you need. I have a feeling I’m going to get plenty of hate for this post. It wouldn’t be the first time either. I know this is not a popular sentiment, especially from someone who loves comic books and superhero movies as much as I do. It is, however, the cold hard truth.

Before you try to punch me through your computer screen, please hear me out. I’m not bringing this up to upset people. I’m talking about it because sometimes, a dose of harsh truth is necessary. In a world where too many people look for easy solutions to impossible problems, it helps to maintain some level of perspective.

In this case, it’s less about perspective and more about understanding how the world works and how people, in general, govern their affairs. Most people who aren’t billionaires or in high positions of power probably have some vague, albeit cynical understanding of how they operate. Whether you’ve seen every Michael Moore documentary or watched one too many Chuck Norris movies, the vision is similar.

You imagine a dark room in a highly secure, underground bunker. In that bunker, there’s a group of men in fancy suits. Sometimes they’re old white men. Sometimes they’re evil foreign dictators. Sometimes they’re scheming celebrities who fantasize about all the ways they’ll corrupt the world’s youth.

It’s a mental picture that plays out in every James Bond movie and every hippie fever dream. We all think that the politicians and billionaires of the world live only to destroy the environment, spit on poor people, and pleasure themselves while sick children suffer. It’s a simple, understandable sentiment that makes us feel like the underdogs in our own movie.

However, this isn’t a movie, nobody is an underdog, and that mental picture is complete bullshit. The reality is that evil billionaires and corrupt politicians are still human, like you and me. They still want similar things. Sure, they may want crazier things like a pool of orphan tears to swim in every now and then. At the end of the day, though, they still eat, sleep, and get horny like everyone else.

As such, they have a vested interest in making sure the world stays in one piece and people don’t die needlessly. They need a world that’s stable, prosperous, and not full of rotting corpses. They need it because their power, wealth, and everything in between depends on it.

It’s the harshest, but most refreshing truth, in a sense. Since we don’t live in a James Bond movie, the companies, governments, and religious groups have a lot of incentive to keep the world in one piece. Sure, they’ll still take stupid risks that end up causing a lot of destruction, but in the grand scheme of things, they want the world to keep turning. They can’t get money, power, and adherents if it doesn’t.

That’s why all the evil organizations and sinister dictators we see in fiction wouldn’t last a day in the real world. It doesn’t matter if they’re as smart as Lex Luthor or as devious as the Red Skull. If they enter this world, they have to go through Disney lawyers, criminal cartels, entrenched lobbying groups, corrupt bureaucrats, and governments with bloated military budgets. They really don’t stand a chance.

I can sense that some are still skeptical, though. I imagine the left-leaning crowd will scoff at the notion that big corporations will somehow save the planet. The crowd on the far right will scoff even harder at the idea that governments, dictators, and all things un-American will do any good whatsoever.

Well, while you’re scoffing, all those things you don’t think can happen are happening. Countries like China and Saudi Arabia, who have an abysmal human rights record, are investing heavily in green energy, biotechnology, and robotics. They are making a concerted effort to be the greenest, cleanest, most efficient society on the planet.

Now, they’re not doing it out of the goodness of their hearts. Don’t think for a nanosecond they are. Their goals are more pragmatic. They understand that relying on fossil fuels, polluting the air, and trashing the environment is not good for the stability of their country. Even if they’re evil to the core, they like they’re power and they want to hold onto it.

Like the Empire in “Star Wars” or Big Brother in “1984,” the biggest concern of any government, especially the repressive ones, is preserving power. They can’t do that if their society is dirty, inefficient, and disease-ridden. They also can’t do that if their people are sick, weak, or improvised. They need doctors, scientists, lawyers, and henchmen who don’t fall after a single judo chop.

That means these sinister rulers need to create a functioning economy that allows at least some of its citizens to prosper. If they don’t, they risk losing everything. They know as well as any high school history student that the Soviet Union, the Ottoman Empire, and the entire state of Venezuela collapsed for being a bit too evil and corrupt.

The same goes for evil billionaires running businesses that make the Lisa Simpsons of the world cry. Whether they’re cigarette companies, oil companies, or companies that sell lead-laced candy, they need a society that’s peaceful and prosperous. They need people to be alive and healthy enough to actually buy their shit.

That’s why companies that people love to hate will donate billions to charity, invest in new technology, and fund the kinds of social change that combats our tribal urge to slaughter one another for petty reasons. Money may very well be the root of all evil, but it doesn’t discriminate. Money from a minority is as good as money from Bill Gates.

Again, these big companies don’t do what they do out of the goodness of their greedy hearts. They do it to make more money. Sure, big pharmaceutical companies may charge obscene prices for life-saving drugs, but they’ll also work to create new drugs that save even more lives.

On top of that, some evil companies go so far as to compete with one another. If one company does something particularly evil, like make a drug that only treats the symptoms of a disease rather than cure it, another might try to give that company a big middle finger by creating a cure instead. Evil selfish people are petty like that. The fact their actions save millions of lives in the process is just an afterthought.

That’s the greatest irony. In order for all this peace and progress to be made, we need evil billionaires and corrupt governments to embrace some of that evil in order to make the progress we seek. We need them to be selfish, paranoid, and cunning.

That’s why it won’t be some selfless scientist, gentle nun, or peace-loving hippie who will fix the problems of this world. It will be some ruthless company or corrupt government looking to strike it rich, gain power, or selfishly fuel their ego. It’s callous, but the end result still benefits everybody.

For all we know, these devious people just want to do what they do to get laid. If that means running a country that funds education and green energy programs or creating a business that makes billions treating disease, then we should cheer them on. Sure, they’re still not heroes, but they’re going to save our asses and expect us to kiss theirs. If it means a better, safer world, then I’m ready to pucker up.

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Filed under Jack Fisher's Insights

Excuse Banking: What It Is, How It Effects Us, And Why It Matters

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If you thought I was done talking about reasons and excuses, I’m sad to report that you’re very wrong. If you thought there’s no other way to make funny, sexy, or relevant, then I’m not so sad to report that I’m eager to prove that wrong as well. Trust me. This is a huge topic, one with many implications for writing novels and so much more.

A big part of what inspired me to explore this topic is a new book I’m reading called “Think Like A Freak.” It’s a book by Stephen Levitt and Stephen Dubner, the two authors behind the best-selling “Freakanomics” books that I’ve enjoyed so much in the past.

There’s a lot to digest in this book and I’m still not done reading it yet, but the primary takeaway is fairly simple. It teaches you to step back from a situation, look at all the complex incentives and motivations surrounding it, and think in new, unorthodox ways to further your understanding. These posts on reasons and excuses are an exercise, of sorts, in understanding things from a new perspective.

I’ve already explored the basics of reasons and excuses. Now, I’d like to expand on those basics and create a new concept of sorts, one not unlike the idea of “caveman logic,” which I’ve cited so often on this blog. Please don’t mistake this for a real scientific concept. I’m as much a scientist as I am an astronaut ninja. This is just me, an aspiring erotica/romance writer, creating a term to encompass a larger concept.

With that said, ladies, gentlemen, and those of unspecified gender, I introduce to you the concept of “Excuse Banking.” It’s not in a dictionary. You won’t find it in any textbooks or erotica/romance stories yet, but it’s an idea that has affected us all to some extent.

Again, this is a term I’m inventing right now with no expertise and nothing but a blog to explore it. I understand that’s like a hobo walking into MIT and trying to build a star ship, but I want use this term to explore the more intimate aspect of reasons and excuses. As anyone who has read my books knows, I’m all for more intimacy.

First off, here’s a quick and dirty definition of what excuse banking is:

  • A form of rationalizing one’s actions by using one or more justifications that have been remembered, accepted, and understood as something of personal value;
  • A series of actions meant to mitigate or eliminate the emotional or mental stress of a decision or action that may occur in the future; and
  • The process of shaping ideas, beliefs, and morals in a manner that facilitates difficult ethical decisions.

In reading over these definitions, it should be easy to recall situations where excuse banking applies to you or someone you know on some level. Have you ever loaned someone money? Have you ever helped them with a chore? Have you ever done a favor and asked for nothing in return?

Well, in doing so, you’re effectively making deposits into the excuse bank that you can use as currency, so to speak. Sometimes those deposits gain interest over time. Sometimes they depreciate. In either case, we use this currency to either garner favors through reciprocity or mitigate stressful, demanding situations we may have at a later time.

Much like caveman logic, the idea of excuse banking reflects the understanding that our brains are wired a certain way. That wiring, unfortunately, is akin to an operating system that never gets upgraded. As far as our brain wiring is concerned, we’re still cavemen living in hunter/gatherer tribes in the African savanna.

That wiring, regardless of whether you believe it’s a product of nature or supernatural deities, is the guiding force behind everything from our social behavior to our sexual fantasies. For this particular topic, I’ll focus on the social behavior and save the sexual fantasies for my novels.

Like every other cognitive function, our social behavior does have a basis in neurobiology. That behavior helps guide what we do and why we do it. The behavior, and the wiring behind it, have two primary imperatives that take priority over pretty much everything else. Those priorities are, once again, survival and reproduction.

Nature may be blunt, imperfect, and messy at times, but you can never accuse it of misplacing priorities. When it comes to helping a species thrive, survival and reproduction have to be major priorities. Whether it involves surviving a bear attack or successfully making love to one hundred beautiful cavewomen, those priorities guide a significant part of our thoughts and actions.

It’s for that reason, as I stated in a previous post, that our process for making decisions is so different compared to what we believe. We like to think we’re rational creatures, assessing a situation logically like Spock or Dr. House, and then acting in accord with the utmost reason and morality. That’s the ideal and the basis of multiple superheroes, TV doctors, and scientists.

However, due to that pesky biological wiring that hasn’t been upgraded since the stone age, we do it ass-backwards. We first make a decision, often based on emotion and instinct, and then look for ways to justify it. It’s a good way to ensure we survive bear attacks long enough to get laid. It’s not a good way to promote rational decisions, much to the chagrin of Dr. House.

This is the domain in which excuse banking manifests. Regardless of whether or not we believe that this is how we make our decisions, excuse banking ensures we have a way to justify our actions and decisions, especially if they cause us physical or emotional distress.

We do this because there’s a 100-percent chance that at some point in our lives, we’re going to face a difficult decision. Maybe we have to decide whether to lie to a girl to get her attention. Maybe we have to decide whether or not we should trust the guy who claims to be a Nigerian prince wanting to help us collect an unclaimed lottery place. At some point, we will confront these decisions. It’s an inevitable fact of life.

Excuse banking is a way of hedging our bets, so to speak. It encompasses the actions, beliefs, and social connections we make prior to these decisions. We may have different reasons for seeking these connections, but they have the same secondary function. They help deposit excuses that we might be able to use in future situations.

The process of banking excuses is almost always secondary, in that sense. Nobody goes out of their way to do or believe something because they want an excuse to justify their actions. Nobody overtly think, “I’m going to work at this soup kitchen and provide medicine to sick orphans so I don’t feel as guilty when I strangle puppies with my bare hands.” Those that do are probably sociopaths or reality TV hosts.

Like real banking, sometimes the excuses we bank generate interest. This is especially true when actions involve forming a strong social network of people who support you, even when you screw up. They act as a safety net and over time, that net can become reinforced.

Also, like real banking, banked excuses require fees of sorts. You have to pay a price in order to bank a certain excuse. It can be the time and energy we put into crafting social networks. It can be the resources we expend to join a group, mold an identity, or sell our skills. Some fees are small. Some are much larger, but tend to be more flexible.

That’s where excuse banking starts to diverge from actual banking. Unlike hard currency, excuses can be malleable to a certain extent. You can turn past favors, past charity work, and all that money you gave to PETA into excuses you can use in multiple situations.

This is especially true of excuses built around beliefs. Since beliefs are intangible, unmeasurable, and unverifiable, they are extremely malleable. Take circumcision, a topic I’ve covered before, sometimes to an exceedingly personal degree. Absent a tangible medical condition, there’s no logical reason as to why we would cut off part of an infant’s penis.

However, if you inject a sincerely held belief that your particular religion has a tradition regarding circumcision, then that requires a hefty withdraw from the excuse bank. That excuse better be malleable and low cost as well. When it comes to beliefs, though, the cost is usually close to zero and it’s hard to beat that.

Now that’s not to disparage anyone’s sincerely held religious beliefs. I’m not saying that all religions exist as systematic forms of excuse banking. Human beings just aren’t that simple. If they were, then erotica/romance writers like me would have little to work with. Excuse banking is just one of those understated, unseen processes that emerges from our faulty brain wiring.

When put into a proper context, excuse banking can help make sense of an inherently irrational world populated by very crazy people, some of which have their own radio shows. At a time like this, when the concept of “alternative facts” is a thing, we need every tool we can get.

This is just one from an aspiring erotica/romance writer. I don’t know how useful it will be or if it’ll make anyone horny, but we can only hope.

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Reasons Vs. Excuses: Why The Difference Matters

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Has anyone ever asked you to do something you really don’t want to do? Actually, let me rephrase that. How many times does someone ask you to do something you don’t want to do in the past 24 hours? Let’s face it. Unless you’re a king, a dictator, or Taylor Swift, it’s happened at least once.

Whatever was asked of you, how did you try to get out of it? I know some people will just grit their teeth and do it. Those people deserve ten times the respect they get. Every now and then, if not most of the time, we try to do something to get out of doing what we don’t want to do. Whether you’re in New York City or the Gobi desert, you can’t escape these situations. They’re just part of life.

Whenever we’re in these situations, we usually try any number of things to get out of it. Whether it’s chores, homework, or ballet recitals, we all have our own set of tactics. Some are more elaborate than others.

I knew a kid in school who could throw up on demand. He didn’t even have to put his finger in his mouth. He could just concentrate, cough, and then spew the kind of chunky bile that would dissuade any teacher from giving him an exam. I lost count of how many times that skill got him out of trouble.

Most of us don’t have that talent though. We all still look for ways to get out of things we don’t want to do. I sure have. I don’t deny that. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing either. It’s a good skill to have, knowing how to avoid situations that make you miserable. However, it does reveal an important concept that I find myself noticing more and more as I get older, although sometimes I wish I didn’t.

It has to do with two simple words: reasons and excuses. They both have similar definitions. Most of the time, outside of a scientific context, we use these words interchangeably. For the most part, we understand the meaning behind them.

However, for the purpose of this discussion, as well as future discussions since this is a big topic, I’d like to focus on a particular context. Specifically, I’d like to focus on the situations and justifications we individually use to do or avoid doing something. Make no mistake. There is a difference between a reason and an excuse.

A reason is logical, narrow, and concise. It can be understood by anyone with a functioning brain and verified with simple tools. That’s not to say a reason has to be cold and callous like a Vulcan. It just has to be valid and clear.

I’ll offer a simple example. Growing up, there were a certain set of chores for which me and my siblings were responsible. If we didn’t do these chores, we didn’t get an allowance. It was that simple. The one chore I did most often was mowing the lawn. I didn’t enjoy doing it, but I still did it.

Then, one day, I got sick. I’m not talking about a headache either. I mean I got really sick, so much so that I ran a 102-degree fever. I know because my mother took my temperature twice. I was then bed-ridden for the next two days. Somebody else mowed the lawn, but I still got my allowance because I had a valid reason. My parents understood that. I understood that. There was no need for debate.

Using this same example in lawn care, I’ll highlight why an excuse is so different. If I wanted to use an excuse to get out of mowing the lawn, I sure as hell wouldn’t have chosen something that could be verified. Sure, I could’ve claimed to be sick, but that would’ve been pushing it because they could check. They could take your temperature and see if you’re running a fever.

On top of that, your parents may be really good at knowing when you’re lying. Mine certainly were. It might as well have been their mutant power. They knew when I was lying and if I ever tried, I’d just make an ass of myself.

Plus, lying to your parents isn’t just a dick move. It’s a bad long-term investment. If you lose your parents trust, especially over something as trivial as mowing the lawn, then you’ll give them way too many valid reasons not to trust you in the future, even when you have a good reason of your own.

So in order to make a more valid excuse, you need to come up with something more believable. It doesn’t have to be a lie. It doesn’t have to be completely true either. You could claim you’re depressed that your lover broke up with you. You could say there’s a movie you’d rather watch instead. You could say you just don’t feel like it. These aren’t lies. However, they are still excuses.

The primary trait of an excuse is that it doesn’t physically prevent you from doing whatever is asked of you. It defends and/or justifies your particular decisions, preferences, and what not. Being on vacation in Fiji ensures I can’t physically mow the lawn. That’s a reason. Being in a lousy mood and just wanting to sleep in does nothing to prevent me from operating the lawnmower. That’s an excuse.

With that in mind, let’s take the concept of reasons and excuses to a larger stage. Let’s assess how this applies to the overall process we use in rendering the various decisions and actions of our lives. What we do and why we do it is at the core of what it means to be a conscious human being.

For practical purposes, we like to think that we’re reasonable people. We like to think that we have valid reasons for what we do and why we do it. We break up with a lover because they’re not right for us. We buy organic food because it’s better for our health. We smoke pot because it makes us more fun to be around. Some of that may be true, but we still think of them as reasons and not excuses.

The problem with this is basically everything about it. Once again, caveman logic enters the picture and spits all over that rosy picture we have of ourselves and others. Based on our growing understanding of cognitive science and neurobiology, we have a better idea of how we make decisions and how we justify them.

When it comes to reasons and excuses, the two main factors are choice-supportive bias and cognitive dissonance. I know those sound like terms that Sheldon Cooper would use in a skit on “The Big Bang Theory” that somehow makes him sound like more of an asshole, but unlike 98 percent of what Sheldon says, these concepts are useful.

Choice-supportive bias is our tendency to ascribe positive attributes to the choices we make. It’s also a byproduct of cognitive dissonance, which is just a fancy way of saying our brain feels stressful and uncertain.

In essence, our brain is wired to avoid wrong decisions and for good reasons. Back in the caveman days, if we made a wrong decision, it usually meant we ended up as dinner for a hungry grizzly bear or ate poison berries that made us shit out our lower intestines. We’re alive because of this wiring so let’s not discount its use.

Unfortunately, nature is still a blunt instrument and our brains don’t know we only encounter bears in zoos that charge ten bucks for a soda. That aversion to making wrong decisions is still there, even when we decide something as simple as which breakfast cereal to buy.

With that in mind, we’ll do anything and everything to avoid wrong decisions and the brain stress they cause. Unfortunately, that often means making excuses to reduce the stress and justify our choice, even if it ends up being wrong.

If that weren’t bad enough, our brains don’t run our decisions through a logic filters first. Don’t worry though. That filter is still there in our brains. It’s just not at the front of the line like we all wish it were. If it were, then half the videos on YouTube wouldn’t exist.

Instead, according to current neuroscience, we make most of our decisions on snap judgments and emotions. Then, we’ll use reasons and excuses to justify those decisions after the fact. Unfortunately, since reasons are so rigid and stubborn, we’re more inclined to make excuses. Even if those excuses are mostly true, they’re still excuses.

There are so many other dynamics behind reasons and excuses. There’s no way I’ll be able to cover even half of them in a single blog post. However, there is a reason why I’m discussing this topic and it’s a good reason. It’s applies to both my novels, as well as other topics with very sexy implications.

That reason will become clearer in later posts. For now, consider this a trailer of sorts, minus the cheesy one-liners and explosions. If possible, take a moment to analyze how many excuses you make for your decisions compared to reasons. You may be shocked/appalled/disgusted by what you uncover. I promise you, though, it gets much crazier.

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A (Partially) Sexy Thought Experiment: Work Vs. Life

Here’s a question I’m sure everybody has asked themselves at some point in their lives, probably during a long day at work or during mid-terms at school. What if we didn’t have to work? What if our jobs was not critical to our survival?

That’s actually a question a lucky few don’t even have to answer because they live it. The trust fund babies of the rich elites, some of which go onto be the rich, arrogant shits on Instagram, already know that luxury. To them, it’s their perverse concept of normal. The idea of working to survive might as well be alien as having to cook their own meals. It just doesn’t resonate with them.

It’s because there are so few rich, arrogant fucks like that in this world that we can’t answer the question completely. Sure, we all fantasize about how we would live if we won the lottery. I sure have. That’s why I didn’t ask what you would do if you didn’t have to work. I asked what we would do so that means no elaborate fantasies about quitting your job.

By we, I mean us as a society. I mean us as a functioning, lawful, economically viable society and not some liberal utopia that exists only in Bernie Sanders’ dreams. I ask this question because I’ve been talking a lot about poverty recently. I’ve also talked about potential solutions, including the still-radical notion of a universal basic income. Now, I’d like to turn off the cold, harsh reality of politics and facts so we’re free to speculate.

I’m an erotica/romance writer so contemplating fantasies is easy for me. I kind of have to be good at it to write the stuff I write. That often means twisting and stretching my imagination in ways that even a team of Russian gymnast porn stars can’t match.

Every so often, I do try to think in extremes, like radical redesigns of the human body. Other times, I try to think of something a bit more feasible, like entirely eliminating all sexually transmitted diseases.

This experiment falls somewhere in the middle. It hasn’t been tried yet, but there are some places in the world that are conducting active experiments. The results of those experiments are a long ways off and it may be decades before a country has the balls to try it. Even so, like driverless cars and VR porn, it is conceivable that this will happen within my lifetime.

With that in mind, I want to create a scenario for people to imagine. It’s a scenario I think applies equally to men and women alike. The year is 2065. Society has progressed to a point where machines and AIs do pretty much all the work that humans used to do. This is an ongoing trend and one that will likely accelerate.

As a result, basic things like food, water, shelter, and utilities are pretty much free. No intensive labor is needed. To ensure that everyone has the means to live, every adult over the age of 18, although that age could be fluctuate depending on certain conditions, receives a regular basic income that’s today’s equivalent of $52,000 a year, which is the median income in 2013 for the United States.

Without getting into specifics about how the nuts and bolts of this system would operate, let’s just assume for the sake of the experiment that people receive this money the same way the elderly receive social security checks today. They can do with it what they please. They can still work. They can just sit home all day, smoke weed, and watch Netflix if they want. They have that freedom.

What would this do for our collective lives? What if working and surviving were no longer the same thing? This isn’t just a luxury for a bunch of rich fucks on instagram. This is an entire society where nobody has to worry about their next meal, their next rent check, or their utilities bill.

For some people, sitting at home all day, smoking weed and watching Netflix, is the first thing that comes to mind. However, not everybody is wired to do that and only that every day until they die.

People are diverse, eccentric, and erratic. They have all sorts of varying tastes, motivations, and aspirations. Many are stifled because they have to spend a good chunk of their time and energy working just to survive. How many more people would be inclined to pursue different passions if they didn’t have to work?

For someone like me, that passion involves writing erotica/romance. I know if I didn’t have to work, I would certainly spend more time writing more books. I may even find time to write about things I’ve never even contemplated. Not having to worry about money, food, or poor wi-fi would free me up to pursue entirely new ideas.

Beyond the lonely erotica/romance writers of the world, that extra time and energy could translate into more time focusing on family affairs. Parents could spend more time with their children. They would even have time to raise more children. As I’ve stated before, the birth-rate tends to decline when the economy tanks. Would a world like this lead to a never-ending baby boom?

How many families fall apart because the parents are too stressed to hold it together? How many children turn into assholes because their parents don’t have time to love them? How many families never even get started because the stress of work keeps them from having sex?

This is where the thought experiment takes on its sexier connotations. In this world, we don’t have to spend as much time worrying about work, money, or making the next rent payment. We actually have time to get out there, meet people, and form new social connections. Yes, some of these social connections would result in more sex.

Given the decline in sexual activity among millennials, who often enter a lousy job market with thousands of dollars in student debt, I can’t think of anything that would boost more libidos. When you’re less stressed and have more time, you can devote more energy into pursuing the relationships you want, sexual or otherwise.

Now for some uptight religious types, this is downright horrifying. There’s a reason why institutions like the Catholic Church and various protestant denominations revere the whole “protestant work ethic.” The impotent old men who run these institutions know that if young, sexy people are too busy working, they won’t be able to engage in large levels of fun and fornication. If they don’t know, it’s indirectly implied.

Maybe that ethic applied for an era where it took hundreds of people to farm land and hundreds more to protect that land from bandits, but in a future where technology and automation deliver our essentials, it’s kind of outdated. Like sacrificing a goat to ensure the rains come, it doesn’t need to be part of society anymore.

Being the optimist I am, I believe that a future like this will be a lot sexier than what we have now. I concede there will be those who use exploit this world and become fat, lazy slobs that would disgust Homer Simpson. However, I believe that the vast majority of people would use this world to forge new intimate connections.

Some of those connections will be simple fan clubs. Maybe more people will get together to share their fondness of baking dildo-shaped pottery. Who knows what gets certain people excited? Sure, some of those connections will lead to more sex, some of it of a kinky variety that will make every Catholic priest and mullah alive today faint in horror. I still think that, overall, it would be a net gain for the human race.

These are still the ramblings of an optimist who’s trying to make a living writing erotica/romance novels. This experiment may play out very differently in the minds of others, depending on how cynical they are about human nature or how many Nirvana songs they’ve listened to.

Whatever your outlook, I encourage you to do this experiment. I encourage you to contemplate a society where nobody has to work to meet their basic needs. What kind of society would it be? What kind of person would you be in that society? It’s an intriguing thought and, like so many of the others on this blog, one that has a lot of sex appeal.

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