Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Un-spun


I just finished Un-Spun by Brooks Jackson and Kathleen Hall Jamieson and it is excellent. When I first got it I was expecting a liberal tirade against the conservative right (which is a game I enjoy but it does get tiresome, Al Franken and Mike Moore notwithstanding) and was quite happy to find just how unbiased it is. The authors are willing to name names when discussing certain bits of information and while there are no footnotes (or endnotes) there is generally enough information in the chapters themselves that if you want to check out things for yourself you can (and I do). I have used Snopes and other urban legend sites for a while now and have added FactCheck.org to my (heh, hee) slowly growing list of fact checking sites.

If I had to complain about anything in the book it would be a little story they play out on pages 85 - 87 where they discuss something they have named "the Grey Goose Effect". Essentially this is about the belief that if something costs more it must automatically be worth more, or "better". Anybody who is actually paying attention will know that this is just plain wrong, but that's not what I'm complaining about, or whining about if you prefer. The example they use here is a French vodka called Grey Goose which was introduced to the United States in 1997 at a cost that was about three times what your average jug of vodka cost at the time. People were buying this stuff hand over fist and to some it resembled the Cabbage Patch doll frenzy of all those years ago.
Their comment was, "...it is hard to see how one vodka can be three times better than another on any objective basis." This comment was responded to by one of their editors who said that "Expensive vodkas are significantly smoother than cheap ones, which taste like rubbing alcohol." I assume that expensive ones just taste like smooth rubbing alcohol, but my point, such as it is, is this: I do not drink vodka and I wouldn't know the difference between Skyy, Grey Goose, Smirnoff, or Who-forgot-to-flush vodka and I suspect that neither would either of the authors. So shouldn't the word of a vodka drinker carry some weight?

That aside though, this book is well worth owning. And reading.

Anyway... Humouroceros

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