Saturday, August 12, 2006

It's all about the hype

The World Series of Poker (WSOP) winner got $12 million this year. Up from $7.5 million last year. They didn't have that many more entrants, so to make that number that big they had to actually cut the prize money of some of the lower in-the-money finishers (prize money is distributed among the final 10%).

Some of the finishers complained that this year they had to beat 3,000 more people than last year to finish in the money but they won less money this year than last year.

A really big number to the first place finisher is very valuable hype for the WSOP. Last year they juggled things around to make sure the last table gave everybody a million dollars. It's about the hype. Rationality, or consistency, has nothing to do with anything.

We elected a president because he was able to generate hype that convinced enough people that he could "protect us". Every piece of available evidence was that his war in Iraq didn't make the world, or us, safer at all. He was screwing things up over there so badly that it was actually fueling the growth of terrorism throughout the world. We weren't "fighting over there so we wouldn't have to fight here". We continued to reduce liberties here and to spend more and more money buying police officers GI Joe outfits so they could strut around airports "protecting us". We re-elected Bush based on the hype, not the substance.

The absurdity of it was just funny. Fox news talked about how much you could trust Bush to sit on the front porch with a shotgun to protect the family and the other guy (Kerry) didn't know how to do that. My Gawd, Kerry had actually taken a shotgun and killed bad guys when he was a young man. And we swallowed that hype that "Kerry doesn't know how to use a shotgun". (Our VP turned out to be a real champ with a shotgun).

That's more hype -- for the gun ownership nutcase lobby. Cheney is a "hunter". He doesn't hunt. He kills pets. In Pennsylvania he shot birds that were released on the spot by the paid provider of the "hunt". Skeet shooting with pigeons instead of clay pigeons. In Texas he hunted on a ranch that raised birds for exotic hunts and they had cowboys to take him right out to where the birds were raised and flush them out for him to shot. At least they weren't being released from a cage, but these were not wild birds that he "hunted". He didn't find them. They gave him a map and a guide to find the spot. They called him to the line when it was his turn to "shoot" according to ranch owner Armstrong, not to hunt. Hype. Just hype with a shotgun, no hunting.

There's a recent Business Week article about AT&T. This is a company that touts itself as an innovative technology company. But they spend more effort on blocking competitive innovation from other's than actually innovating themselves.

A senior engineering project manager is quoted in that article as saying "marketing dreams it up, and then I have to design it." Product or technology has nothing to do with anything -- they do consumer studies, not product development. If left up to AT&T we'd still not have cell phones.

The security at the airport is not protecting us. If the recent arrests in England, Italy, Pakistan have proven anything it should be that we need more and more cops out on the street blending with the people, being Officer Friendly, cultivating informants. That's how that case was broken. Instead we give them dogs, machine guns, and cool para-military uniforms to prance around airports throwing away lipstick and toothpaste. Hype. Image. Security is irrelevant.

The problems with the WSOP, and with America, has nothing to do with who is in charge, it has to do with the way the public responds to hype and simply ignores substance. We don't care. We just want platitudes and nonsense. It provides comfort.

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