The truth about chicken� and other things
I'm beginning to believe the reason for much of society's ills today is this: People are lazy. And selfish. But mostly lazy.
I've been Ranting off and on for a couple years now. Those of you who are keeping score at home may have noted that my recent diatribes seem a little counter to the end result:
- I suggested Monday that Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas should remain M-rated despite the presence of some hidden sex mini-games, and then the ESRB went and made it AO anyway.
- Likewise, a few months ago I predicted UMD movies would beat a quick path to the format graveyard and suggested a DVD peripheral would be a better place for Sony to devote its energies. Then they go and break 100,000 in sales on two UMD titles (House of the Flying Daggers and Resident Evil: Apocalypse) and get studio support from the likes of Buena Vista, Fox, Paramount and Universal and announce 200+ titles.
- I even suggested last year that the videogame series Game Over might be saved, only to see it die the following week with one episode yet to air. (In my favor, they did finally release the full six-episode series on DVD, and I know for a fact they sold at least one copy!)
Hey, at least Acclaim has managed to stay dead (even if someone has just bought their name).
So, yeah, it may seem that sometimes I'm wrong. Or am I?
Let's take a closer look at a scenario where it seemed I was in the minority but really there were other sinister forces at work. Namely, forces of laziness.
There's a grocery chain in Seattle called Larry's Market that sells this incredible buttermilk baked chicken. Ask anybody who's had it, they'll say they've never tasted anything quite like it. The buttermilk flavor and herbs are intense and permeate the meat. And since it's baked, it's better for you than fried chicken. Add some of their famous parmesan mashed potatoes and some Greek salad, and you've got an instant feast.
A month ago, the counter help at Larry's told me they'd stop selling it because "nobody bought it." I went to another store near my work and heard the same story. "No one buys it, so headquarters has decided to drop it from the menu."
"WHAT?!" I exclaimed. "You always seem to be sold out of it whenever we come by to buy it. We only find it on those rare occasions when we luck into a batch. Surely, you're mistaken!" No, I'm told - the Kalbi chicken outsells buttermilk two to one. Wow, how can you argue with those kinds of numbers? Answer: You can't. They're designed to shut down debate.
However, I'm not one to give up quite so easily, so I formulate a plan to assault Larry's headquarters with feedback suggesting that even if the buttermilk chicken isn't the most popular, it does have the power to make people like us drive 10-20 miles out of our way - and we always pick up a number of other items with it. Surely there's a marketing term for a product that doesn't sell insane quantities but influences consumers to, maybe once or twice a month, drive out of their way and fill their baskets with all kinds of overpriced side dishes. Let's call them Detour Inducing Splurge Magnets. Yeah, so the naming of marketing trends isn't my forte.
Naturally, every chance I got I would bend the ears of the counter help to remind them how much more I'd be spending on groceries at Larry's if they'd just bring back that yummy buttermilk chicken. Finally, one of them (no doubt ready to pass the buck) suggested I talk to a particular manager to find out if one of the more remote Larry's stores still stocked it.
The manager explained to me, more or less, what was really going on. The buttermilk chicken, because of its ingredients and method of preparation, has a very short shelf life. It can only sit under the heat lamps for about three hours before drying out and becoming inedible. If someone rescues the leftover chicken after a couple hours, wraps it up and puts it in the refrigerator case, it'll be good for several days. But more often than not, it gets tossed when someone finally notices it's been more than three hours and a new batch has to be made.
So it really comes down to the fact that the counter staff aren't on top of their game. They end up making several batches of buttermilk chicken each day and then throwing out most of it because there isn't a lot of call for it in the morning and mid-afternoon. Why they don't just put a countdown timer next to the chicken to remind them when to wrap it up, or only make one big batch of it around 5 p.m. each day, is beyond me.
The good news is that the manager agreed to order more of the buttermilk and herb coating and make me a batch of it anytime I want, with just 45 minutes warning. So there is a happy ending, in case you wondered.
The point of all this is that, well, people are lazy. They pick the path of least resistance.
- Canceling a TV show with low ratings is so much easier and cheaper than trying to figure out where it went wrong and try to fix it, which is why it so rarely happens.
- Burning movies from DVD onto a pricey memory stick for the PSP is a pain in the butt, so why not just buy an overpriced disc and watch it on the tiny, pixellated screen.
- Arguing against the current political climate of neo-conservatism (even among the Democrats, it seems!) in favor of a cheesy mini-game that was never meant to see the light of day is much more difficult than simply reversing your rating of a videogame - although it now means the ESRB will have to scour every block of game media in search of hidden naughty assets and artifacts. Fun work if you can get it.
What rules?! The ESRB (like the MPAA for movies) is designed to self-regulate the game industry so the government won't step in. Its game raters are tasked with trying to assign a score based on their interpretation of community values. The difference between M and AO is determined, at least in small part, by YOUR opinion.
There are no "rules," per se. Sure, individuals (like Hilary Clinton) can decide what they believe deserves an outcry and help focus the media attention on stuff that bothers them like the San Andreas mini-game. And that's fair, if you think about it, since it's the system's way of self-policing.
But if you don't have to go along with it. If you disagree with the way games are being rated or a particular outcry, let your voice be heard. Don't just throw up your hands and say, "Oh, those are the rules - we shouldn't have games with certain kinds of mature content because the people who set the rules say so." (Or, "I shouldn't have buttermilk chicken because some guy in an apron says no one is buying it.") Over time, if there's a clear shift in community standards (or chicken buying habits), that will be reflected in how games are rated (or chicken is prepared) and what gets an outcry from the politicians (managers) who still have to appease their constituents (keep customers coming back for more).
Basically, you, in a small way, help set the rules. Isn't that the idea that this country was founded on?