Posts Tagged ‘need’

Too Big

29 June 2009

Dear J-

Car advertisements lately like to play up superlatives; it seems like every car leads its class in one way or another — most horsepower, fuel economy, interior room, towing capacity, payload, warranty, etc.  Call it the commoditization of America, where we evaluate food ad gasoline based on unit cost rather than quality or other criteria; so long as you feel full at the end of the day, whether wallet, stomach, or fuel tank, so much the better.  Consequently we’re faced with both overarching envy and more than we actually need.

Consider the Camry we grew up with — a 1984 LE hatchback, automatic; the only real fault was a lack of power on hills (climbing out of Spokane west on I-90, we almost had to use the hazard lights and rub elbows with the tractor-trailers), but aside from that, it was plenty big enough for four adults, five in a pinch, stingy on gas, reliable (aside from exceeding the recommended timing belt life).  While not exactly stylish, it was in keeping with the designs of the times, but two years later, there we were stuck driving the old model, smaller and slower.  My parents upgraded after eight years, and then again ten years after that — bigger and more powerful every time, even though we were both out of the house by then.

How do you reconcile it?  The ___ (let’s say car) you want is not the ___ you need; it’s the advertiser’s job to sell you on the utility of a pickup, even if you’d only drive it with the bed unloaded, or the need for your typical three hundred horsepower sports car (guilty here; the new Camaro seems so cheap for so much; advertising works).  Recognize and separate your needs and your wants; I’m not saying that you don’t need that burly V-8, but unless you plan on driving somewhere other than the realistically 80-85 MPH-limited freeways around here, you’re far better off investing in nicer seats and a stereo system to keep you sane in traffic than a burbling monster you keep in check with your right foot.  Be smarter than the ads, that’s all.



Photo Plan

8 November 2008

Dear J-

I could get used to this, wide-angle life. Right now I’m actually easing into the waters — the pool is cold when you first get in, no matter how warm the thermometer says it is — at the long end of the lens, with occasional, mostly unsuccessful excursions down to the wide end as needed. I go back to my photographic roots; at the end of my second year in college, I rode BART down to Gassers in San Francisco and plunked down my money on my obsolescent gateway into the Nikon system: Nikon’s first professional SLR, the F and a contemporaneous f=50mm lens. Later, armed with anecdotal reviews and what little cash I had left, I found myself getting f=85mm and then f=24mm lenses, a combination I ended up traveling with when I was going to Banff with my parents and relatives.


There’s a huge gap in the field of view of the so-called normal 50mm lens, and of a 24mm lens. I spent money filling that gap in with a f=35mm lens a few years later — when I held that one up my eye, it was a revelation — finally, here was something that matched the way I saw the world. If Olympus ever releases a fast f=17mm lens, it’ll be the second and possibly last lens for 4/3rds I’ll get — I’m still conflicted on whether or not I’ll go back to Nikon, switch to Leica R, or continue with 4/3rds indefinitely.

Like I said before, having a wider angle of view is like having the blinders taken off after having spent the last few years; I’m constantly surprised by how much picture is being taken in whenever I hold the viewfinder up to my eye. It’s the finder that tempts me; as nice as the E-1 has been, if I’m going to stick with manual glass, I need a bigger view. It’s the perpetual curse of not fully defining my needs; I can always justify something else, something new.


Retail Happiness

6 August 2008

Dear J-

I feel like today’s target; every single issue seemed to funnel through me at some point or another.  It’s not easy being the single point of failure for every thing that went wrong, but hey, everyone gets to be the lightning rod at some point.  Meanwhile I keep haunting eBay like some sort of sniping ghost buying crap other people don’t want.  Yesterday I picked up a tripod that will probably live in a closet with his tripod brothers not because I particularly needed a tripod, just because it was cheap.

It’s strange that a good deal forms sufficient basis for purchase in my mind; the thought goes that it’s such a good deal that if I don’t get it, someone else will.  And the point of bragging on it isn’t that you needed it (though it may be something you wanted), it’s explaining how little you paid for it later. Impulse control, I think they call it; impulse control and the thrill of the hunt calling eBay buyers like a siren song.

I also used to haunt craigslist, which is still good for some things, but lately seems to be filled with scammers looking to rip off the unwary.  One thing that drives me crazy is listing the new price of an item — unless you’re willing to stand by it with a warranty and money-back guarantees, I don’t believe that what you paid should have any relevance to what you hope to reap.

The last part of the acquisition is always taking possession of the item; I always look forward to the package arriving and the subsequent unwrapping, although figgy’s gotten more enjoyment out of the packing materials lately.  Retail therapy is an unfortunate aspect of my life, and I may need to recharge my batteries by draining my plastic after all this overtime.