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Reblogged:Ink, Cars, Movies, and Microwaves

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A Friday Hodgepodge

1. Anyone who regrets a tattoo might be glad to hear that tattoo removal has become easier and more effective in recent years.

The article purports to be more about "the culture of ink," and includes statistics and snapshots of trends that might also be of interest to anyone who -- like me -- never even considered jumping onto that bandwagon.

In any event, ease of removal is reducing the significance of this practice:
That said, laser tattoo removal is not magic. It requires multiple treatments, sometimes as many as 10 or 12, spaced weeks or months apart. It hurts, much more than getting a tattoo in the first place -- like sizzling oil on the skin. You can sometimes still see smudges and shadows after the removal process is done. But it works well enough that hundreds of businesses now offer the procedure to thousands of customers. (It is more lucrative to remove tattoos than to ink them.)

This is changing the practice and culture of tattooing itself. Perhaps the most tangible and immediate result, tattoo artists said, is that cover-ups -- turning an ex's name into a flower, or a flower into an all-black sleeve, for instance -- have become less common. Now people are much more likely to get a tattoo lasered off.
I will freely admit that I am not a fan of tattoos. Indeed, as soon as I see one, I usually wonder why on earth the bearer got it, given the pain involved in getting (and removing) them, coupled with the frequency of people regretting the often ill-considered decision to get one in the first place.

Yes, I usually wonder about the judgement of any new acquaintance I know to have a tattoo. (The ones designed to convey what second-handers take to be "toughness" don't help.)

(Obligatory disclaimer: Tattoos, like any other piece of information, exist within the context of everything else one knows about a person. There are people I repect who, nevertheless, sport tattoos. Okay, then. Back to ragging on tattoos...)

That said, these new treatment options pose a dilemma for fans and detractors of tattoos alike: The lack of permanence will cause tattoos to lose the ability to convey membership in a collective at the perceptual level, and so they will converge in significance to the water-transferable designs we all played with as kids.

Perhaps soon, anyone who wants random others to tell -- just by looking at them -- that they want to be considered tough -- might have to resort to actual branding.

In the meantime, inked skin will continue its slow decline in usefulness as a convenient warning sign that someone might have a screw loose somewhere.

2. I pass along a rant about the sad state of the modern automobile in the hopes that reading "My Rude-Ass Car" might prove somewhat cathartic to someone else out there.

His executive summary?
I knew car software was bad, but I only realized how bad it truly was once I got some first-hand experience.
Government "safety" and energy regulations, along with short-range pragmatism about costs on the part of too many businessmen have come together in the past couple of decades to suck the fun out of driving and make driving anything new low-level annoying at best without active countermeasures.

I feel for this guy, whose list is long despite his omission of that silly switch you have to push to keep your engine from cutting off at every stop.

Perhaps he was too distracted by everything else about stopping to notice.

3. A lengthy blog post by Ed Driscoll points to a Mark Judge recommendation of a couple of new movies that (gasp!) don't involve superheroes.
I recently went to the movies, where I was confronted on the screen by minor miracles: two well-crafted films that are smart, brave, and aimed at adults. And they have nothing to do with superheroes.

The films are The Holdovers and American Fiction. The Holdovers is about the relationship that develops between three people who are left stranded at an expensive private school for Christmas. The second film, American Fiction, didn't play, but the trailer did. That was enough to leave the jaws of those seated around me on the floor.

With what looks like brutal satire, American Fiction tackles the phenomenon of white elites in the media, academia, and publishing world who satisfy their own egos by making black authors sound more "street" and "authentic" at the expense of more gifted black writers. It's a savage takedown of the condescension liberalism holds toward black people. [links omitted]
I haven't bothered going out to see a new movie that wasn't for kids in years.

This was at Instapundit, whose recent decline into religious right/crackpot mediocrity resembles that of Hollywood into left-wing/remake hell, so I'll corroborate with other reviews first.

I don't expect cinematic excellence (video embedded below), but I am cautiously optimistic, though.

I am glad that today's blogging reminded me of this video, listing ten classic films Harry Binswwanger rates as among the greatest, along with his reasons why.

4. The title purports to answer a question I and many of my countrymen have doubtless asked themselves for at least a decade: "Why Every Microwave Sucks These Days."

I don't agree that Capitalism will destroy everything it touches is the answer, otherwise there wouldn't be so many very good products, new and old, we could all get.

On top of that, comments at Hacker News indicate that, if the analysis applies anywhere, it is probably just the United States market.

With those qualifications in mind, I think there is a germ of an explanation:
[A]s the 2000s rolled along, a problem occurred. You see, everyone had a microwave, and there was no way to make one that was actually better than their old one. This meant that nobody had a reason to buy a microwave anymore. If everyone suddenly no longer needs to buy your product, your company has a big problem. Of course, very few companies would sell only a microwave and nothing else. Most companies just focused on other hot new electronic gadgets. Still, having a microwave on offer was nice, so they just contracted out to someone else to make those microwaves, and slapped their name on the box at the end.

After a decade of this, there was only one company left making microwaves. This company, Midea, doesn't really sell microwaves under their own name, because all of them suck. They only slap their name onto actually good products, because they don't want to be tied to how absolutely dogshit their microwaves are. They work fine at first, but break after a year or so of normal usage, and are designed to be completely unrepairable to stop idiots from electrocuting themselves on the high voltage transformers inside.

Somewhere along the line of all this margin squeezing, someone had the idea to get rid of the moisture sensor from the cheap models. But instead of removing the now-useless popcorn and potato buttons, they just left the buttons on there, and made them kinda half work. Of course, they don't work very well. You can usually find if a microwave has a sensor because it will brag about it on the box. This is the only feature that defines the cheapest Midea microwaves from the slightly less cheap ones. but they're all cheap and they all suck. [edited for standard capitalization, footnote markers omitted]
Again, the cynical author is quick to blame capitalism for everything when ample evidence from other products in the U.S. and microwaves from other parts of the world points to some other cause.

But I do think he may be onto something in that there would appear to be low incentives or high barriers to entry in the U.S. market for someone to offer a better-enough product to make money here doing it.

Some candidates I can think of, off the top of my head? Some possibilities: Labor costs make manufacturing decent microwaves here prohibitive. Safety regulations make microwaves expensive enough already that truly better ones get priced out of the market. Safety testing regulations could make it harder or more expensive to bring a new product to market than anyone is willing to bear. Tariffs could keep otherwise compliant/viable competitors out of the American market. I am sure I am missing a few others.

-- CAV

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