Thinking, fast and slow; or, Nancy Grace and Dan Abrams

fast and slow thinking


 

In his book “Thinking, Fast and Slow,” Daniel Kahneman posits that we humans, as mammals/primates, have two different decision-making systems in our brains. There’s a “fast” system, which does quick evaluations on the basis of likelihood and present evidence, and makes a quick decision. There is also a “slow” system, which takes time and evaluates more carefully.

 

 

 

The “fast” system is useful for emergencies. The “slow” system is useful for – well, just about everything except emergencies.

 

 

 

Sadly, most of us use the “fast” system for everything, which means that – for us – the obvious reason seems always to be the right reason. Even more sadly, we rationalize these “fast” decisions: we take our quickly-drawn conclusions and try to justify them mock-logically.

 

 

Sometimes it works. Sometimes it’s just silly.

 

 

 

Which brings me to Dan Abrams and Nancy Grace.

 

 

 

For whatever reason, ABC’s “Good Morning America” often uses these two as tandem commentators on court cases in the news. Dan is reasoned and careful and takes the law into account. Nancy, on the other hand, always knows immediately who’s to blame and mocks Dan for not following her lead.

 

 

 

See? Dan is slow-thinking. Nancy is fast-thinking.

 

 

 

It’s sickening to watch, sometimes. Dan is reasoning through a case, and Nancy will accuse him of “sitting in his ivory tower.” Obviously (for Nancy), the guiltiest-looking person in the room must be the perpetrator. Right?

 

 

 

No, Nancy. Not right. Lots of innocent people are in jail right now because of thinking like yours.

 

 

 

Nancy used to be a real court prosecutor. Now she’s just an imaginary prosecutor, allowed by ABC to pontificate on cases about which she (and the rest of us) know next to nothing. I’m glad she’s not in the real legal system. She’d do a lot of harm there. I’m sorry, however, that ABC gives her a platform on “Good Morning America” to hold forth on these “he looks guilty, so he must be guilty” views. I’m sure there are viewers who consider her an authority, and think: if Nancy Grace says/believes it, it must be true!

 

 

 

But it ain’t.

 

 

 

She’s a dimwit in love with her own opinions who has forgotten how the law works. She wants opinion to be law.

 

 

 

That’s a creepy thought.

 

 

 

“Good Morning America” really shouldn’t give her this kind of exposure. Except, I’m sure, that she’s good for ratings, because fast-thinking quick-judging viewers like to hear her expound on her ill-judged beliefs, which agree with their own.

 

 

 

(Sigh.)


 

 

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For Sunday: Wonder Woman spins, and spins, and spins

wonder woman spin


I think I speak for everyone who loved Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman when I say that we never got tired of watching her spin. She could turn even the most pedestrian outfit into something special.

Here are several dozen spins. Watch the outfits. It’s a whole education in late 1970s / early 1980s fashion.


For Halloween: The Great Pumpkin

great pumpkin


“It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” was one of the first televised Peanuts specials, and one of the best. Here are a few selected scenes dealing with Linus’s misguided belief in the Great Pumpkin (who will only rise from the most sincere pumpkin patch in the world), and Sally’s reaction when she realized that she’s wasted her whole Halloween evening.

“YOU OWE ME RESTITUTION!”


Raymond Burr

Raymond Burr


Raymond Burr was a handsome second-string actor who started his career in the late 1940s. He evolved into a movie villain (as in “Rear Window” ), and then a heroic TV actor (as in “Perry Mason,” and later “Ironside”). He was handsome and broad-shouldered, with a deep gruff voice. He gained weight in the 1950s and 1960s, but it gave him gravity.

Also, he was gay.

He met an actor named Robert Benvenides while working on the “Perry Mason” show. They fell in love, and spent the rest of their lives together. Hollywood couldn’t endure this, of course, so the studios created a fiction about marriages and children. (Raymond was married to a woman for a while, back in the 1940s, but it ended in divorce and no children.)

He was reputed to be very generous. IMDB reports the story that Errol Flynn told him that, if he died with ten dollars in his pocket, he wouldn’t have done his job. It inspired him to be philanthropic, and he always helped his friends.

He died in 1992, and Benvenides was his sole heir, but Raymond’s family contested this. They failed, thank goodness.

How times have changed! Look at George Takei! And Neil Patrick Harris! And Ellen de Generes!

Partner and I have talked about marriage. Sadly, we’d end up paying more income tax married than we would as two “single” people. But our mutual employer, Brown University, regards us as Domestic Partners, so we enjoy some advantages that way. Also, we have not found any local institutions that discriminate against us. Lately (with all my health-related adventures) I simply introduce Partner to my doctors and nurses as “my life partner,” and he’s welcomed immediately.

How easy we have it, and how difficult Raymond Burr and his partner Robert Benvenides had it, only twenty years ago.

The world is moving in the right direction.

Slowly.


For Sunday: A man argues with his own stomach

man arguing with stomach


I thought that, since getting a feeding tube implanted in my stomach, this might be appropriate. This is a very funny Alka-Seltzer commercial from 1967, featuring a man arguing with his own stomach (voiced by a young Gene Wilder), and drawn by the clever R. O. Blechman.

Listen to the rapid angry dialogue, if you can. It’s wonderful. “You always hated my mother!”


George Lois asks: Can you do better?

george lois can you do better


George Lois was a real Madison Avenue adman from the 1950s and 1960s, and after. He wrote a book some years ago called DAMN GOOD ADVICE, which is a combination memoir / self-accolade / idea book.

 

 

It’s a good read, and a funny one. I recommend it.

 

 

(Incidentally: if you watch “Mad Men,” you will be interested to know that George Lois is rumored to be the model for Don Draper, the main character in the series. George, in his book, hotly denies it. “And besides,” he says, “I was more attractive!”, and shows this picture:

 

 

george lois don draper

 

 

(So what do you think of someone who says: “That’s not me! And besides, I was more attractive than that!”? Hmm. I know what I think.)

 

 

Anyway: the book is full of good stories.

 

 

This one nags at me frequently:

 

 

A bigwig goes into a bar and says to the bartender, “Give me the best Manhattan you can make.”

 

 

Bartender does so, and gives it to Bigwig. Bigwig tastes it. “It’s good,” he says. “Can you do better?”

 

 

Bartender tries again. This goes on for several repetitions. Finally, after sampling Manhattan #5 or so, Bigwig says: “This is excellent!”, and then he glares at Bartender. “Why the fuck didn’t you make it like this the first time I asked?”

 

 

I have no answer to that.

 

 

What does “best” mean?

 

 

And why don’t we do it all the time?


 

For Sunday: “You Are My Friend,” sung by Mister Rogers

mister rogers


I think Mister Rogers was a modern saint. His television show – a gentle slowly-paced production, with puppets and people speaking quietly – was distinctly different from all the other children’s television shows of his time.

 

 

Fred Rogers wrote almost all of his own material. This song I still know by heart, and I will sing it at the drop of a hat.

 

 

But Mister Rogers sings it better:

 

 


 

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