TeX, Culture.

Sunday, March 7, 2010 :: Tagged under: pablolife culture. ⏰ 3 minutes.

Hey! Thanks for reading! Just a reminder that I wrote this some years ago, and may have much more complicated feelings about this topic than I did when I wrote it. Happy to elaborate, feel free to reach out to me! 😄

On the old (lost) blog I had a long post as to why I used LaTeX instead of Word, even for non- mathematical documents. I'll surely re-post it sometime (I have the source somewhere...), but in the meantime, this little comparison beautifully demonstrates the aesthetic advantages. It also links to this essay, which very articulately describes many of the other advantages.

On Hacker News someone linked to a very non-hacker article, namely, an author of the gaming site Kotaku is very displeased with many things Japan. It's a moderately epic rant, I only made it until about halfway down before I had to be somewhere else.

It's interesting in the way I find very crying babies interesting*.

A crying baby.

* = Crying babies, to me, are hilarious and very interesting. It's a display of emotion we 'grow out of' (read: learn to hide) and almost never see again. Do you see how hard babies cry? Heave in their chests, deliberately take in as much air as they can for the express purpose of yelling louder? And then they do it again! You never see grown-ups do anything like it.

I think the poor guy needs a) to come home for a few months (depressurize), and b) stay there for at least a few years, since he seems so far gone in his bitterness to give it a fair shake again. Many of his gripes arise from social issues regarding his differences (vegetarianism, his unfortunate allergy to alcohol), particularly in a professional social setting.

Bad news though: that's true most everywhere. In many corporate dinners in this country, being a vegetarian gets you all sorts of weird looks (going to a steakhouse and ordering a salad?). While his distinguishing features are obviously more acceptable here (tautological, since he's writing from a US perspective), I hesitate to believe our businesspeople are paragons of tolerance (just think of all the ways to blow a professional interview. Most have nothing to do with substance).

This isn't to say his article is completely baseless; I would likely agree with the part on smoking. At the very least, parts of it are entertaining, the segment on 'mistress bars' had me laughing out loud and got me wanting to get into theatre again (this kind of human-interaction 'market failure' is what makes life worth living).

But many of his points, namely the cultural artifacts (music, comedy) are so bad they merit further discussion. First off, when is it ever a good idea to criticize how 'smart' popular media is, and derive cultural judgment on it? Especially when you're from here?

Complaining about comedy being all about 'catch phrases' ignores too many lame catchphrases that got too trendy here. I've heard "I'm Rick James, bitch!" way too many times to ever find it funny.

Speaking more broadly, other cultures find other things funny (this is the basis of the Bumblebee Man character on The Simpsons). This shouldn't be surprising, since (by definition) other cultures live differently than you do. So complaining that a stand-up comic doesn't want to joke about masturbation (like they do here) tells us more about you (expecting to find things funny to you, somewhere else) than it does strengthen your argument.

Add this to the contradictions ("the stereotyping" is a gripe of his, after saying he hates people fitting an "everybody's uncle" stereotype, among others) and punitive tone (he digs a lot on an ex-girlfriend he had there) make this another Rick Santelli rant: entertaining, angry, and wrong. Like the Santelli rant, you only hope (but know otherwise) that people are smart enough to not believe it.

(usual disclaimer: I'm not arguing for moral relativism, or universal acceptance of all cultures. There are many legitimate issues that can and should be soberly addressed. The Kotaku author makes very few of them, and makes them poorly.)

Edit: The comments refer to the last five paragraphs ("Can Videogames Make Us Better People?") as the "real" article. I would recommend reading it. My commentary is the same: the rules he complains about exist here too, you just don't see them as starkly since you're from here.

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