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Sunday, July 23, 2017

Amazon kitsch is stalking me

Instead of us chasing products and services, now they chase us, thanks to the Internet.

L ast month I made the mistake of visiting Amazon again. Now I'm getting ads about something called a Sun Joe SPX-3000 2030 PSI 1.76, which has four stars and 1574 reviews, following me around like a lost puppy.

The Sun Joe is evidently some kind of power washer, but it looks more like Slurms MacKenzie* in sunglasses waving with one arm and carrying an electric spear gun in the other. And I think it's stalking me.

Instead of us chasing products and services, now they chase us, thanks to the Internet.

I'm also being stalked by books. One is At the Existentialist Cafe by Sarah Dakfwill or something like that, and the other is Seven Brief Lessons on Physics by Arl Vere. The images are too small to read them clearly, but both, amazingly, are 40% off, which makes them, by amazing coincidence, exactly the same price as Barnes & Noble!

Sun Joe
Whimmy wham wham wazzle.

The books I can understand. I vaguely remember clicking on a title similar to that. But why would their computer think I'd be interested in Smartypants Vitamins? “Kids complete gummies, the unconditional vitamin, good no matter what, for $17.95, with 1,767 reviews”? What is there left to say after the 1,766th review? And who programs their search engine? What is wrong with those guys?

Well, without warning the vitamins disappeared. In their place are two Sun Joes. They are multiplying. I finally understand what Elon Musk was warning us about.

This month I made an even worse mistake. I was curious about what the left is thinking about global warming, so I bought a used copy of Climate Change and Society: Sociological Perspectives. Now Amazon thinks I'm a left-wing moonbat: my recommendations are full of leftie books on global warming. What have I done?

I had no idea there were so many bad books out there. It's even worse than the time I ordered a battery—one!—and they decided that I lurrrve batteries and figured I'd be interested in a 40-pack. (I might add that as long as ads aren't animated, political, obtrusive, or disgusting, and the company doesn't censor books, I don't block them.)

Moral: be careful what you look for. They should add a box we can check that says “I'm only buying this item so I can make fun of it on the Internet.” There's no way I'm going to click on Quantum Physics For Babies by Chriss Ferrie. It would lead to some awkward conversations: Hey, why do you keep getting advertisements for diapers? Something I should know?

Some writers and bookstore owners complain bitterly about Amazon, but they've forgotten just how bad things used to be. Before the Internet, most bookstores were garbage. They'd only carry top sellers. I had to drive into the city to find decent books.

Those too far away had to rely on mail order. Some dealers would mail me a Xeroxed list of about 1000 titles, the author, and their prices. Nothing else. It was like a samizdat publication. Those with slick catalogs—remember those?—had only a hundred or so. The only thing we could be sure of was that they'd cash our check. I sympathize with the royalties problem, but without Amazon I never would have even heard of their books. Now they may not get rich, but at least they're able to get their message out.

I also would never have heard of books like Hgiyiyi (hgjhjh, hjhk) by jjjj, the 13,802,404th most popular book, sadly currently unavailable.

When I lived in Maryland, I had to go to all the way Georgetown University bookstore in Washington, DC to find a decent Japanese dictionary. It took hours. Finding scientific books was practically impossible. In Houston I would go to Rice University bookstore, but buying textbooks would be like robbing the cradle. It was tempting, but buying Textbook of Veterinary Diagnostic Radiology, 6th ed. or—here's a good one—Auditing and Assurance Services, 16th ed. would have caused some poor student to flunk the course.

Amazon is still a god for reviews, some of which contain useful household tips like the one for the Black and Decker Scum Buster, where the consensus seemed to be that it was too weak, so one reviewer went back to cleaning the dirt off his bathtub with an axle grinder. And I thought my bathtub was dirty.

Amazon has fake professional reviews, sure, but the Scum Buster one shows that the average person has a quite different set of problems, sometimes much worse ones, than the accomplished expert in the field.

Nowadays I happen to live in a good location. There are two strip joints within drunk-driving distance (judging from the number of accidents out front), a place that sells gravel—their crusher run is much nicer than that overpriced stuff on Amazon—and a chainsaw store just down the street. But for a while all I had was Sears. I enjoyed going there because it was never crowded.

I'd buy an appliance and two or three weeks later they'd send some guy out to tell me why he wasn't allowed to install it. An oven hood: not allowed to install because there's no vent hole in the wall. Refrigerator: not allowed to install because no valve on the water for the ice maker.

Well, I installed the damn valve myself. It took two and a half minutes. The problem with Sears was their website used to lie. It would say products were in stock, then you'd go to the store and . . . nothing. Nothing and nobody around.

So it was back to Amazon. At the moment it's recommending a five pack of sutures, for ‘veterinary’ use only. That's what I get for looking at that survivalist book.

This is what the world of AI will be like. Computers will become more and more obnoxious until we go mad and try to shoot them. Their revenge will be to have animated ads for handguns and different types of bullets following us around forever.

Lenin said capitalists will sell him the rope with which to hang them. Artificial intelligence will sell us the wire cutters we use to disconnect them. Then when we're in prison, they'll try to sell us hacksaw blades. In the future, before they execute us, an ad will show up—maybe on the wall, which by then will be a giant light panel—suggesting different brands for our last cigarette.

Or maybe one of those fancy leather blindfolds. And no, I'm not going to check the price.

* A cartoon character in Futurama who's forced to repeat stupid advertising slogans and to party continuously, which causes him to lose his will to live

created jul 23, 2017; last edited jul 24 2017, 9:06 pm

See also

Does alligator meat go with red wine or white wine?
On whining about Amazon's book reviews and lowbrow culture.

On the Internet, no one can tell whether you're a dolphin or a porpoise
Name and address
book reviews