Burger King Meets Sartre: To Be or To Have?


File this under “odd confluences of marketing and philosophy”…

BK Question

As both a fan of the BK Veggie (at least when starving and passing through a small town with only fast food restaurants and no Subway) and a philosophy professor, I found this news item almost as interesting as it is just plain weird: Burger King, in its infinite corporate wisdom, has decided to change its catch-phrase from “Have It Your Way” to “Be Your Way”. BurgerBusiness.com apparently got the scoop

Fernando Machado, SVP_Global Brand Management, told BurgerBusiness.com that the new tagline is the result of a company reexamination of its brand and its relationship with its customers. “Burger King is a look-you-in-the-eyes brand, a relaxed and a friendly brand. It is approachable and welcoming,” he said. “So we wanted the positioning to reflect that closeness. We elevated ‘Have It Your Way’ to ‘Be Your Way’ because it is a richer expression of the relationship between our brand and our customers. We’ll still make it your way, but the relationship is deeper than that.”

Sure, Be Your Way: be obese, be diabetic, be wasteful, be oblivious (except, of course, when you order the Veggie). We’ll take your money, however you are. Of course, “Have It Your Way” has its own share of unfortunate associations: have a heart attack, have a stroke, have gastric distress… But what seems to be moving the advertisers here is rather this: since being indicates a “deeper relationship” than having, and therefore since what you are is likely to be more important to you than merely what you have, emphasizing being over having should lead you to desire a Whopper more than you would were you still stumbling into one their establishments under the less efficacious spell of their traditional catch-phrase. However, the relationship between desiring, being, and having can be tricky, as Jean-Paul Sartre made abundantly clear in his epic Existentialist tome, Being and Nothingness. Here’s a quick summary of his view on this, courtesy of the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

For Sartre, the lover seeks to possess the loved one [or the loved burger – ed.] and thus integrate her into his being: this is the satisfaction of desire. He simultaneously wishes the loved one nevertheless remain beyond his being as the other he desires, i.e. he wishes to remain in the state of desiring. These are incompatible aspects of desire: the being of desire is therefore incompatible with its satisfaction.

So… do the advertisers really want to short-circuit the desiring process, and prematurely emphasize being over having? But wait… the plot thickens-

In the lengthier discussion on the topic “Being and Having,” Sartre differentiates between three relations to an object that can be projected in desiring. These are being, doing and having. Sartre argues that relations of desire aimed at doing are reducible to one of the other two types. His examination of these two types can be summarised as follows. Desiring expressed in terms of being is aimed at the self. And desiring expressed in terms of having is aimed at possession. But an object is possessed insofar as it is related to me by an internal ontological bond… Through that bond, the object is represented as my creation. The possessed object is represented both as part of me and as my creation. With respect to this object, I am therefore viewed both as an in-itself [an inert, untroubled thing – ed.] and as endowed with freedom. The object is thus a symbol of the subject’s being, which presents it in a way that conforms with the aims of the fundamental project [that is, the impossible project of being God, who alone can be conscious of something without being alienated from it – ed.]. Sartre can therefore subsume the case of desiring to have under that of desiring to be, and we are thus left with a single type of desire, that for being.

So, ultimately, if desiring to have is reducible to desiring to be, the advertisers might be wasting their time – much ado about nothing. Or is that much ado about nothingness?

New DUI Test For Washington And Colorado


Inform the suspect that he’s about to be given a DUI test, and that he must not laugh; then tell him a joke.

(This would also be a job-creation program, since out of work comedians could be hired to ride along with joke-delivery-challenged officers.)

Double Entendre?


Is it just me, or, given the recent news about General Patraeus’s resignation, does the title of Paula Broadwell’s glowing biography of the general – “All In: The Education of General David Petraeus” – take on a whole new meaning?

Yeah, I know: it’s just me.

Phallic Geology 101


In their recent article “10 Crazy College Classes That Cost Big Bucks“, The Fiscal Times argues that even expensive colleges are dumbing down many of their courses in order attract and retain more students. Here are a few of the courses they list as evidence-

  • Lady Gaga and the Sociology of Fame, University of South Carolina, Columbia; 3 credits; $1,200 in-state; $3,150 out-of-state
  • The Phallus, Occidental College; $5,370 (based on eight-course-per-year load. Enrollment: 15
  • Geology and Cinema, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities; 4 Credits; $1,506.80 in-state, $2,168.32 out of state.  Enrollment: 347

The Lady Gaga class actually sounds kinda interesting, and might even be worth the money. Normally I’d enroll in any course that allowed me to watch movies, but the idea of having to suffer through films like Tremors and Journey to the Center of the Earth would force me to think twice before enrolling in Geology and Cinema. Finally, I’m not particularly interested in The Phallus myself, but then appreciating such a topic might be an acquired taste. Perhaps the Gender Studies and Geology departments should get together and offer a 1-credit course called “Phallic Geology”, which would consist entirely of discussing the extraordinary phenomena captured in photos such as these-

Vertical stone at Arches National Park, Utah

Upstanding on the beach, Olympic Peninsula, WA

Caught in the act, Bryce National Park, UT

Deathmatch 2011: Prosser versus Walsh-Bradley


Yes, it appears to have come to this-

The poster could also be of a Rashomon parody, since none of the eye witnesses seem to remember the incident quite the same way. As AP reports via The Northwestern

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A liberal state Supreme Court justice told detectives a conservative colleague put his hands on her neck but never applied pressure, while he claims he was simply trying to ward her off as she charged him with a clenched fist, according to investigative reports released Friday.

Justice Ann Walsh Bradley has accused Justice David Prosser of putting her in a chokehold in front of four other justices during a June discussion about a lawsuit challenging Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s contentious law eliminating most of public workers’ union rights.

The incident exposed the depth of animosity that has been building between the court’s liberal and conservative blocs. The two groups have been feuding openly for years, but none of the justices laid hands on each other until this summer.

Sauk County District Attorney Patricia Barrett, who is acting as a special prosecutor in the case, announced Thursday she wouldn’t file criminal charges against either Walsh Bradley or Prosser, saying the accounts of what happened differed too greatly.

According to Walsh-Bradley:

Walsh Bradley said she remembered Prosser accusing the liberals of holding up the decision. She said he was “getting worked up again” and told Abrahamson he had no confidence in her leadership.

Walsh Bradley, 61, said she got up from her desk and walked toward Prosser, saying, “Buddy, don’t raise your voice again. I’m no longer willing to put up with this.” She said she got face-to-face with him, pointed at her door and said, “You get out of my office.”

Prosser, 68, then grabbed her by the neck in what she called a “chokehold,” but she told detectives she didn’t remember Prosser squeezing or applying any pressure. Justice Patience Roggensack separated the two.

Thank goodness there was an aptly named and competent referee in the ring – uh, I mean room.

Perhaps only a dedicated Freudian could adequately comprehend Prosser’s description of events-

Prosser, for his part, told detectives that Walsh Bradley doesn’t like him. After he told Abrahamson he no longer had faith in her, Walsh Bradley “exploded” out of her inner office and charged at him with her fist clenched. He described Walsh Bradley and Abrahamson as “soul mates” and said Walsh Bradley is very protective of Abrahamson.

He said when he leaned away from Walsh Bradley, his arms came up automatically and his hands touched her neck. His said his first thought was, “Oh my God, I’m touching her neck.”

He said his hands were open and he remembered how warm her neck felt, but he never applied any pressure. After the two were separated, he said he went “limp” and left the office as quickly as he could.

In any case, poor Justice Prosser was apparently taken aback by Walsh-Bradley’s boxing acumen, particularly her mean jab-

Conservative Justice Michael Gableman said Walsh Bradley came at Prosser with a clenced fist and even jabbed the air in front of his face three or four times. Prosser tried to push her away by placing his hands on her shoulders, near her neck, he said.

Thank the good lord above that those hands didn’t slip down to even more controversial body parts… But honestly, if you don’t find any of this funny at all, I understand. In certain moods, neither do I. But, then again, I’m not in one of those moods at the moment.

The Funny Side of Class Warfare


Thanks to Warren Buffett’s editorial in the New York Times last Sunday, entitled “Stop Coddling the Super-Rich”, there has been more publicity this week on the growing wealth inequality in the USA than I can remember in ages. Of course, Fox News regards any discussion of the issue as class warfare. And who better to bring out the funny side of class warfare than Jon Stewart-

And here is part II-

Jon Stewart’s Aristotelian Rally


As the “election season” (which started two years ago) finally comes to an end in a flurry of negative ads, robo-calls and junk mail, Jon Stewart and company supply the antidote. Like Aristotle, who proposed the Golden Mean – yes, yes, be fearful or angry, but only when being so is reasonable, and even then only to an appropriate degree – Stewart celebrates moderation. A couple of hundred thousand people are apparently willing to go out of their way to celebrate it with him, and that seems to me to be a cause for at least cautious – moderate, reasonable – optimism.

Here’s a clip of the start of the Rally To Restore Sanity (and/or Fear, but Colbert is clearly a supporting character here)-

Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear
Jon and Stephen – Stephen’s Fearful Entrance
Rally to Restore Sainty and/or Fear The Daily Show The Colbert Report

Okay, maybe it’s not as amusing as his show, but what do you want for free and no commercials?

Here’s a portion of his closing monologue; memorizing it should be a requirement of graduating from Pundit school-

This was not a rally to ridicule people of faith, or people of activism, or look down our noses at the heartland, or passionate argument, or to suggest that times are not difficult and that we have nothing to fear–they are, and we do.

But we live now in hard times, not end times. And we can have animus, and not be enemies. But unfortunately, one of our main tools in delineating the two broke.

The country’s 24-hour, political pundit perpetual panic conflictinator did not cause our problems, but its existence makes solving them that much harder. The press can hold its magnifying glass up to our problems, bringing them into focus, illuminating issues heretofore unseen. Or they can use that magnifying glass to light ants on fire, and then perhaps host a week of shows on the dangerous, unexpected flaming ants epidemic. If we amplify everything, we hear nothing.

There are terrorists, and racists, and Stalinists, and theocrats, but those are titles that must be earned! You must have the resume! Not being able to distinguish between real racists and Tea Party-ers, or real bigots and Juan Williams or Rick Sanchez is an insult–not only to those people, but to the racists themselves, who have put in the exhausting effort it takes to hate. Just as the inability to distinguish terrorists from Muslims makes us less safe, not more.

The press is our immune system. If it overreacts to everything, we actually get sicker–and, perhaps, eczema. And yet… I feel good. Strangely, calmly, good. Because the image of Americans that is reflected back to us by our political and media process is false. It is us, through a funhouse mirror–and not the good kind that makes you look slim in the waist, and maybe taller, but the kind where you have a giant forehead, and an ass shaped like a month-old pumpkin, and one eyeball.

So why would we work together? Why would you reach across the aisle, to a pumpkin-assed forehead eyeball monster? If the picture of us were true, of course our inability to solve problems would actually be quite sane and reasonable–why would you work with Marxists actively subverting our Constitution, and homophobes who see no one’s humanity but their own?

We hear every damned day about how fragile our country is, on the brink of catastrophe, torn by polarizing hate, and how it’s a shame that we can’t work together to get things done. The truth is, we do! We work together to get things done every damned day! The only place we don’t is here (in Washington) or on cable TV!

But Americans don’t live here, or on cable TV. Where we live, our values and principles form the foundation that sustains us while we get things done–not the barriers that prevent us from getting things done.

Most Americans don’t live their lives solely as Democrats, Republicans, liberals or conservatives. Americans live their lives more as people that are just a little bit late for something they have to do. Often something they do not want to do! But they do it. Impossible things, every day, that are only made possible through the little, reasonable compromises we all make.