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December 06, 2003

Life in a Nutshell

Dear Friedrich --

This is an image that was making the email rounds recently. Did you see it? Imagine going to all that trouble for the sake of a joke. But I'm glad someone did. You can click on the thumbnail to get a better look.



posted by Michael at December 6, 2003


It's visibly photoshopped.

Posted by: evariste on December 6, 2003 6:31 PM

Honestly, men are not that complicated.

Posted by: Alan Kellogg on December 6, 2003 10:36 PM

Awe jeez, not again.

Why does this picture make me feel like an oyster with a grain of sand in it? I'm mindlessly irritated by the stereotype this picture depicts.

Why why why can't I just chuckle like everyone else and move on? Why? I think it's because lately men seem to be wearing their knobless, buttonless, switchless demeanor far too boldly--- like a peacock strutting around with only one feather. What's to be SO proud of here? Really?

All right already, you've got one "on" switch. I GET IT. And to be honest, I really wish you had more. One is just too darn easy. I'd like a challenge please. Luckily, there are many men with more bells and whistles (no matter what metaphor you apply) then the ONE shown here.

I know, it's a joke. I just felt like letting a couple of my buttons and knobs buzz for a while.

Posted by: laurel on December 6, 2003 11:48 PM

Evariste -- I actually had a little theory in mind about how the image helps illustrate that we're moving from a word-centric to an image (or maybe graphics)-centric world. I mean, the usual thing to do wtih the theme in the past would have been to make a verbal joke about it. (I think I've made a few such myself.) But look at this: someone's gone to all this trouble to turn it into a visual joke. And it was going to segue into a small observation about how we're all getting used to small ideas getting overproduced. (An actual complaint I once heard a topflight ad guy make, and he shoudl know.) So the fact that it may be a Photoshop creation suits me fine -- thanks for pointing it out. Nicely done, don't you think?

Alan -- But how to visually represent that?

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on December 6, 2003 11:49 PM

Oops, I hit "post" at the same instant Laurel did.

Hey Laurel, I think it's really sweet that women see, or maybe just try to see, a lot more in men than is actually there. From a guy point of view, I'm glad -- keeps 'em interested, even when there's in reality nothing there to be interested by. Keeps 'em hoping, too, I guess: maybe somewhere out there is one guy who's sensitive, imaginative, deep, complicated, etc. I know one guy who acts as though that's true. I mean, I think he really believes he's deep, complicated, emotional, cat-like ... And many women have fallen for him. And every single one of them, after a certain stretch, has discovered that despite it all he's just like every other guy. Then they throw his suitcase out the window. Poor guy can't figure it out -- it's not like putting them on, he really believes his act. So he's concluded that they're all nuts, and that he's shown an amazing ability to fall for crazy women...

I tell women friends to remember that their men are about as complicated as golden retrievers. They tend to humor me for a minute or two by giving it a little thought. Then they go back to endlessly wondering and picking apart what he's up to (as though it's any great secret). I think women just like picking things apart myself ...

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on December 6, 2003 11:56 PM

Hmmm, sorry, I think men overdo the "gosh, we're just simple creatures" thing. I've worked in a mostly male environment for a long time, I've dated, I've got two brothers....and I think yer all full-'o-shit when you say "gee agendas here." I think it's a way of getting yourselves off the hook for your agendas, though.

Think of Yahmdallah's story from a few months back. He met a girl at a party, flirted with her, liked her, got her phone number...and never called her. Your men-are-as-simple-as-golden-retrievers theory would have told that girl that he was just a jerk: he was just bullshitting her at the party and wasn't really interested. Her feelings might actually have been hurt: after all, she did give him her number when he asked. She was interested. But his explanation is actually that she was too much for him---too pretty, too smart, too cool and he just felt so outclassed that he couldn't bring himself to pursue it. That's not so simple. And not obvious. And a golden retriever wouldn't do it. A golden retriever likes you day after day, or, growls and never acts like he likes you at all. A golden retriever wouldn't ask for your number and then not call. (And I'm not specifically picking on Yahmdallah here, by the way. There are numerous, numerous stories I could tell). Remember the guy in the Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas hearings who said he stopped every morning while jogging to chat with Anita, he asked her out to dinner, and then when he saw her at a reception a few months later and she said "You know, you shouldn't lead a girl on like that..." he said that was evidence she was "crazy" and "obsessive"? That's not a golden retriever. Joe Biden won a lot of points with me when he went after that guy: he said, you REALLY can't imagine how she ever got the impression that you were interested?? How does this series of events make her the crazy one? But this guy sure had an agenda, right?

Posted by: annette on December 7, 2003 8:11 AM

PS---I think this actually happened years ago in Yahmdallah's life, I mean he told the story a few months back.

Posted by: annette on December 7, 2003 8:13 AM

I don't think any guy would claim he had no agenda. But I think many of us are surprised to discover how complex women often make our agendas out to be. It's a pretty commonplace experience for guys to listen to gals talk about what a guy one of them interested in might or might not be up to, and to be amazed by how much in the way of depth, complexity, deviousness, sophistication and intention they attribute to him. We've got our dramas, obviously -- see "Master and Commander" -- but they aren't hard to understand and they don't have very many levels. And often when a guy appears to be complex and to be deep (like the friend about whom I wrote in the comment above), it's a kind of self-inflicted act, no matter how much the guy believes it. That particular friend has a silky, sympathtetic, artsy surface that cons women into thinking there's a lot to him. And he is bright and a lot of fun. You should see theier rage, though, when they discover that he's just a guy. They thought there was more to him! Another guy friend of mine appears to be "complex" and "difficult" and "tormented," which has appealed to some women -- but when you boil the elements of his torment down, it's classic ol' guy stuff. Which doesn't make him easy to deal with, believe me. But it doesn't make him deep either.

Like I say, I find it very sweet that y'all are so eager to see so much in us. I figure that if you didn't, you'd be bored and disgusted almost instantly. And we don't want to bore and disgust.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on December 7, 2003 10:07 AM

I know what you are saying. But as you've also said---there's a fair number of men out there who aren't all that easy to deal with, and who's agendas are more complicated than one "on/off" switch. (Especially since the "on/off" switch is often implied with a wink to just mean sex. And that is most assuredly not true). I'm different from Laurel---I actually wish men were that straightforward!

Posted by: annette on December 7, 2003 10:47 AM it worth pointing out the women contributing here have turned a visual 'gotcha' Photoshop joke into a multi-layered conversation, this time about agendas? Probably not...

I'll add that while it's completely possible that some men might have more than on-off, most strive for the simplicity of that one beautiful switch, while women are forever moving the tuner, swapping out the knobs, adding sliders, and deleting switches, and rearranging the layout on a highly irregular schedule.

[ducking and running like hell...]

Posted by: Scott Chaffin on December 7, 2003 11:06 AM

OK...I for one am laughing. Fair enough, sort of. BUT...this is a regular little trick of men---starting a conversation that is actually a lot more leaden with meaning that they admit and then not wanting to finish it, particularly if it starts to appear their point might not be holding up to scrutiny...

Posted by: annette on December 7, 2003 11:25 AM

annette -- I think you meant "laden with meaning". But I think "leaden with meaning" is a riot. How true it often is.

Posted by: Susan on December 7, 2003 12:20 PM

I don't know how to find that Yahmdallah article, whatever it is, but that doesn't sound like an uncommon thing for a guy to do. One conversation, in an unusual setting goes well; then we wonder what we would actually have in common if we saw each other without any context to draw on; and decide that it's probably unlikely that she's expecting us to call anyway.

It takes a pretty arrogant guy to actually pursue the most desirable woman in the room. The rest of us slot ourselves in accordingly, so as not to waste resources on futile competition.

Posted by: Cryptic Ned on December 7, 2003 6:59 PM

And you guys think women make it complicated?

Posted by: annette on December 7, 2003 7:12 PM

Well, if we don't do something, or do something annoying, it's ver unlikely that we're trying it as an experiment or trying to manipulate you into doing something. Almost always, the situation is A) We forgot, B) We thought it wasn't important, or C) both. Meanwhile I hear women (well, college girls) talking about how they decide not to be in their room when he's likely to call, to see what kind of message he leaves, and crap like that.

Posted by: Cryptic Ned on December 7, 2003 8:04 PM

considering how fascinated the males in my household are with playing with knobs and buttons, particularly on the TV remote, car radio dials and the stove when they are not cooking, it may be an evo-bio thing that women have developed all those knobs and buttons for the males to play with. If you buy into that sort of thing.

Posted by: Deb on December 7, 2003 8:40 PM

Well, like Annette, I have two older brothers ... and also a father who's been a lifelong friend. I still assert, with or without sweetness, that men are truly much more than simple creatures.

This all actually reminds me of avoidance, or denial, or something like that. Back in the 50's, women did it all the time. "Honey, you have such a good mind for numbers. Here's this old check book. I never seem to remember how to balance this silly thing. You keep showing me and I keep forgetting. Would you mind doing it every month? I just don't think I'm able to keep up with this by myself."

Seems like a lovely way to get out of doing something.

For decades life's chores, responsibilities or whatever you want to plug in here, were divided not by aptitude but by stereotypes. It's seems this photo is trying to continue that practice. I feel it's rather outdated.

I dunno, it just rubs me the wrong way.

Posted by: laurel on December 7, 2003 9:14 PM

Maybe we're hitting on something here. Maybe it's that men like stereotypes better than women do!

Hey, did y'all know that (generally speaking, of course) men like cartoons more than women do? 2D cartoons .... On/off switches ... Engines ... Binary computer code ...


Posted by: Michael Blowhard on December 7, 2003 9:48 PM


An "Out of Order" sign by the on/off switch on the man's panel should've been included. Simplifies matters greatly.:D

Posted by: Alan Kellogg on December 7, 2003 10:24 PM

Alan----at last, an honest man!

Posted by: annette on December 8, 2003 11:01 AM

Tee hee. My leaden prose are decidedly NOT laden with meaning. Not on purpose, anyway.

I think, if nothing else, we've proved that analysis is death to humor. I've got a headache now from reading about agendas, denial, and work avoidance. Can I still just strive to be a simpleton even if I do the dishes, the laundry and the checkbook (and the lawn and the pool)?

For more humor (that defies analysis), go find the video of the bear falling out of a tree onto a trampoline. Priceless modern-life Three Stooges...

Posted by: Scott Chaffin on December 8, 2003 11:04 AM

Some of the people who know me best consider me more like the bottom panel than the top one. (BTW, why is the guy always on top? I always thought the missionary position was kind of 1950s.)

I'm trying to simplify my own controls, going from God knows how many dials and whatchamajiggers to a few basic switches and knobs.

Posted by: Tim Hulsey on December 11, 2003 12:05 AM

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