There is a legend that states that when the annoying Europeans landed in far off lands in order to bring evil things like Christianity to a previously completely fine yet simple tribe, and to just steal and export any useful resources that might be on their land, the tribespeople would be given worthless yet very shiny beads and other trinkets. At this point the previously happy tribe would be infected with a need to irrationally pursue the ‘shiny-shiny’.
A ‘shiny-shiny’ is of course something that has no real value, but maybe looks good. Surrounding a shiny-shiny is a fever, a disease, an addiction, making the person who has succumbed to the shiny-shiny need, a fashion victim completely under the control of the person producing the shiny-shiny that’s hypnotised them.
Wanting or needing food, or water, or clothing to keep us warm, or somewhere to shelter from the weather or predators is of course not the pursuit of the shiny-shiny. Feeling the same wants, needs, and almost uncontrollable desires about shiny beads or a style of clothing or a handbag is the pursuit of the shiny-shiny.
As a teenager, I first truly discovered others pursuing the shiny-shiny when it came to hi-fi. For some reason, clothing and standard fashion victimary didn’t figure. Everybody I knew was a hippy, wearing cheap yet very functional clothing, although the ex-army great-coat and the Afghan-coat were essentials, yet not truly shiny-shiny.
|Shiny-shiny, yes, but was it ‘hi-fi’?|
So, as we got older and started looking for stuff to spend our money on, in the early 1970s, this was hi-fi. There were no gadgets other than hi-fi, so we weren’t able to whittle money away as easily as today on lots of different things, hi-fi is all there was.
My logical decision was to seek out and acquire the devices that would do the exact job I wanted them to do. I wanted something that would produce a near perfect sound, when selecting the amplifier part of what you used to have to buy in separates. I spent an absolute fortune on a top of the range amplifier and speakers which gave the ‘closest approach to the original sound’. I had achieved my goal, and assumed others would follow, maybe even paying out more for the company’s larger and louder versions.
However I soon realised that some of my peer group, instead of pursuing a system that would produce a perfect sound, were being distracted by shiny-shiny.
Now, it has to be said that the particular amplifier I’d chosen looked ugly. The manufacturers had concentrated all their effort on creating a device that produced a beautiful sound, and stuck the ‘pre-amplifier’ bit in an unattractive box with no extra things on it apart from three dials to alter volume or top and bottom of tonal ranges, and an anaemic backlight to say it was on. This then had an umbilical chord of wires down to the main ‘power amplifier’ bit that sat on the floor. None of my peer group said anything against that directly, yet when I went round to see their purchases, they would excitedly show me how they had purchased shiny-shiny.
I knew a lot of what they’d purchased was shiny-shiny because in comparison tests in the various ‘What hi-fi’ magazines of the day they performed badly, whilst always putting mine out as one of those on top by a clear mile. The company making the shiny-shiny hi-fi had spent time cutting back on the quality, and instead put ‘sexy’ looking shiny-shiny things into the equation. Amplifiers would come as a single box containing both the pre-amplifier and the power amplifier, and there would be needles flicking left to right in time with the music (as an aid for deaf people who couldn’t actually hear it?), and there was a soft blue back-light. Maybe a red l-e-d would indicate something, or a word ‘gram’ would light up to declare the source providing the sound. All of these were shiny-shiny distractions that the new owner would enthuse about rather than the quality of the audio coming out of the speakers. They were infected with the shiny-shiny, yet I’d always assumed they wanted a sound system that produced the most wonderful sound for the money they could afford. Some of these shiny-shiny hi-fis were costing more than mine, yet not performing as well.
Through the years and up to today, I have always pursued the items I want, whether these be in the kitchen, or ‘man toys’ in my pocket, based solely on their ability to do the job (or jobs) I want or need them to do. And, I have watched completely amazed as others have dedicated themselves to picking items that look good, look sexy, and maybe kinda do the job, just, but not as well as the items that don’t have the good looks.
Such polarisation exists in the world of the mobile phone (should it maybe be called some new name, as most people’s ‘mobile phone’ is used for anything but mobile telephony?). Out there, there are mobile phones that function brilliantly, providing new concepts of communication and value-added portable experiences, and are exciting and fun to use. And then there are iPhones.
I was passing the local Apple store in Liverpool at 3:30am the other day, and spied a line of 100 or so drones, or should that be iSheep, queuing waiting for the store to open so that they could buy the not very exciting iPhone 4S for £500ish on the first day it was made available to them. The only other time I’ve seen such queues have been on the eve of the ‘Next’ sale. The Apple queue was mainly male, Next queues are mainly female. In both cases they have that crazed hypnotised ‘born-again’ Christian look in their eyes, are attracted to part with their (not inconsiderable) money in pursuit of the shiny-shiny even though the products are inferior and less functional than others on the market.
Apple’s products do look sexy, there’s no denying that, and they are the ultimate in shiny-shiny for those that care more about the looks than the breadth of functionality. And the whole way they are packaged and released to the public by Apple, cleverly feeds the hunger inside the fashion victims that succumb to their shiny-shinyness.
Unkindly I shouted out a stick-poking, “Hey anybody want to get their hands on the iPone 5, 18 months ahead of its release?” Glazed iSheep stared back at me like I’d just announced to a bunch of Christians that Jesus had come back. I unkindly continued to mock the afflicted with, “Well, just go and buy one of today’s Androids”.
I strolled casually away. They weren’t able to run after me, of course. They’d have lost their place in the overnight queue for a phone that finally does everything that the cheaper non-shiny-shiny Android phones were doing 6 months ago.