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Tuned Out

January 13, 2014

Weight LossDiet Talk

Trigger warning: Brief discussion of New Year’s resolution weight loss commercials.

Now that we’re well into January, it hit me. Isn’t this the time of year for New Year’s resolution weight loss ads? I hadn’t heard many prior to Christmas, on New Year’s Eve, or in the New Year. Has the world gone sane? Definitely not. Catching up on episodes of The Independents and John Stossel, the commercials were out in force. Eat something, be skinny. Have a procedure, be skinny. Join a gym, be skinny. Join a program, be skinny. How had I missed all of this before?

One of the conservative groups I belong to was asking people to make up their ideal headline for 2014. There were three trends to the responses: 1) Prominent government figures were found guilty of treason and sent to prison, 2) Obama was found to be Kenyan; 3) People re-embrace the Constitution.

The first is way too idealistic. Issa will write stern letters, Congress will waste time with hearings where the politicians speak more than the witnesses, and nobody’s going to jail because charges will never be filed.

The second is ridiculous. In the interest of full disclosure, I went to see Orly Taitz speak. Some of what she relayed was interesting, but she lost me when she took a hard turn into Conspiracy Lane. I don’t think Obama is Kenyan, but he sure as heck is <a href=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gBrHkxqNT7s”>Keynesian</a&gt;.

The third has some plausibility, though. More and more people are distancing themselves from parties and seeing themselves as independents. The Liberty Movement is growing on college campuses.

While my ideal 2016 headline would include “President-Elect Rand Paul,” my ideal 2014 headline isn’t about politicians. It’s about people. I made up a quote from the Attorney General (assumed to be Eric Holder) about their inability to control emergent and rapidly-evolving technologies. We’re already seeing this in at least two areas: synthetic drugs and 3D printing.

Scheduling a controlled substance takes a very long time. By the time JWH-018 (synthetic cannabis) got scheduled, manufacturers had already brought analogues to market. Sure, that could be prosecuted under the analogue laws, but analogues of the original analogues were also on the market, and so on. Each successive generation makes prosecution that much more difficult and leave lawmakers and enforcers trying to catch up.

Cody Wilson is the current target for 3D printed weapons, but the government can’t control that either. Even if Wilson is incarcerated, his plans for the Liberator are widely distributed. When end users start modifying those plans, prosecutors will have the same problems they have with synthetic drugs.

“Information wants to be free” has been a slogan for decades, along with its converse that information is expensive. We might finally see these realized in 2014. First, the expensive information-wants-to-be-free-10544information.

Edward Snowden’s revelations of domestic spying has left a lot of Americans pissed off. 2014 will be the year they’ll use technology to fight back. What would you pay to stop a file from being assembled on you in the event you might do something later? I find this approach to be so insulting to investigative work because it makes the assumption that we’re incapable of finding bad guys through traditional methods, presenting evidence to a judge, and obtaining a warrant. Retroactive probable cause via general warrant is the reason we have the Fourth Amendment.

“But what does this have to do with being fat?” you might ask. “Tell me about the free stuff!” As Alexis Shapiro’s story demonstrates, we’re far less dependent on institutional gatekeepers than we used to be. Live television started its trip into obsolescence with the advent of DVR, its demise hastened with various on-demand models and internet offerings.

Have a musical talent? You don’t need to pass muster with a record company anymore. It’s easier than ever to self-produce, post on YouTube, and sell albums from your website. The barriers to entry are getting lower and lower. Can’t get venture capital for your invention? Conduct market research while you’re in the development phase with crowdfunding.

When’s the last time you listened to live terrestrial radio? How about streaming options like iHeartRadio and Pandora? Or maybe you skip all that because you don’t need to carry a zillion cassette tapes or CDs to bring your music collection with you anymore. When’s the last time you bought a cookbook? How about a book of craft ideas? I predict we’ll see intellectual property completely revolutionized within a decade because there is so much information that it is impossible to control it all. But what does this have to do with being fat?

The reason I haven’t been inundated with weight loss commercials is that I wasn’t tuned into the right venues. The talk radio station I stream only has one weight loss company as a sponsor and they’re running the same ads they’ve been running all year. Pandora seems to have a grudge against body hair because my ads are about laser hair removal and waxing. I already paid for Amazon’s streaming library, which means I can watch all the Star Trek I want ad-free. Opening a Simpsons episode, Hulu wanted me to do dinner for two at Red Lobster. My usual “live” TV-watching strategy is to DVR the show, wait 15-30 minutes into it, and fast forward through most of the commercials.

It’s hard to get pissed off at Lean Cuisine and Weight Watchers commercials when you’re only watching them at quadruple speed. Can’t DVR? The old fashioned strategy of walking out on commercials works just as well.

Gingeroid Sig

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