Friday, July 11, 2003

Self restraint vs. censorship

Meryl Yourish pointed us to an item from LT Smash, about how someone is tasked with blacking out a reference to pork on Heinz 57 Sauce bottles where he's stationed. Can't you just hear Satan gnashing his teeth?

Well, it's easy to be snarky about this. But I'm not from that culture - as far as I know this is offensive to the average member of their culture. So I see it as an interesting cultural observation, but nothing more.

Besides, our cultural preferences are already built into the products sold here. For instance, Crisco can be used for a number of things that don't appear on the label. Do you suppose the omission of these uses is an oversight by the manufacturer? Or do they perhaps choose not to be associated with certain activities?

In our own culture it can be difficult to gauge what the public will find acceptable, and sometimes distributors overdo it. The funny pages can give us some examples as mentioned here. Starting around the late 60's or so, Beetle Bailey had a regular character named Miss Buxley, a young very attractive secretary who managed to show up in bikinis regularly. Cartoonist Mort Walker would draw navels on Miss Buxley and his distributor scratched them out. He eventually rebelled by drawing a strip that showed a box of strategically oriented navel oranges. Shortly thereafter Miss Buxley got her navel.

Animated cartoons have had their moments too. My favorite was when 3 1/2 seconds were cut from a cartoon in which Mighty Mouse was accused of using cocaine.

The earlier link about the Miss Buxley thing mentioned a recurring character in Dilbert called Phil, the Prince of Insufficient Light. But in the beginning Phil was actually Satan, which turned out to be too much for the distributor.

Devil references even affect fishing lures. The inventor of the Dardevle wasn't willing to spell out "devil" when he named his most famous product, and so it has been named for the better part of a century.

You can attribute the above to superstition, cultural tone-deafness or whatever. But at least some people are still attempting to restrain their own speech. Perhaps they recognize that there always will be restraints on free speech, and we ward off censors only by showing that we don't need them.

Diana from Gotham is back the third site that I know of since I first linked her ages ago. Then you can find out what you get when you cross a Jew and a Hindu.

Thursday, July 10, 2003

Did you bring bottles?

I've been jacking around with a post for a few days now. There's no telling how long it will be a-birthin', so in the meantime I'll post some interesting links related to it.

I stumbled across this site about the history of grocery stores. I won't attempt to do it justice - just check it out for a lot of history of the stores across the US.

Are you one of those people who doesn't like WalMart? You might like this from PBS, and get a touch of schadenfreude from

Here is some history of department stores.

This has a bit of retail history.

Wednesday, July 09, 2003

Goodbye to Last Page and Media Minded

A couple of days ago I wandered over to Last Page, who was one of my first links here. Say what - she's quitting!? Life can never be the same.

And now it's Media Minded, a very highly respected blog worth a visit if only for his nice long collection of quotes about the media on the sidebar.

Good luck to both of you!

Tuesday, July 08, 2003

Who's lying?

Once I heard a puzzle that went like this - a missionary was in an area where he knew there were two tribes. One tribe always told the truth and the other always lied. The two tribes knew this of each other and were otherwise indistinguishable.

The missionary is traveling to Oogabooga when reaches a fork in the road and doesn't know which way to go. He sees a native coming by and wants to ask him which road to take to OogaBooga - it's fair to expect the natives to know the right answer. What question can he ask of the native to make sure he can know the right way to go?

While you're thinking about that, I'll note a recent study that suggests that perhaps women lie about sex more than men do:
"Women are sensitive to social expectations for their sexual behaviour and may be less than totally honest when asked about their behaviour in some survey conditions," said Fisher. "Women appear to feel pressure to adhere to sex role expectations that indicate women should be more relationship-oriented and should avoid being seen as promiscuous."

"Before the study, we thought men would generally over-report their sexual behaviour and women would under-report it under certain testing conditions. However, we found that women were more likely than men to have different answers depending on conditions when they were surveyed."
Maybe the trick is to ask them not what they do themselves, but what their friends do.

Pollsters grapple with bias in questions all the time. I recall one poll I heard of on the radio once that noted how much difference some phrasing made. In broad outline, when a question was phrased as "would you deny X welfare payments", people were more likely to vote against, but if it was phrased as "would you not give X welfare payments" people were less likely to oppose. I guess the distinction was essentially "I wouldn't deny them as long as I don't have to chip in myself". Anyway, I'm sure somebody like Jane Galt has better examples of polling perversities.

So have you figured out what question to ask the native? Here it comes: "if I asked someone from the other tribe which of these two roads went to OogaBooga, what way would he tell me to go?" Then take the other road. Proof is left as an exercise....

Fly by night health care

Judicious Asininity tells us it's cheaper and faster to send English heart patients to India than to work on them in the UK.

Via Venomous Kate's