Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Things don't HAVE to be so complicated

It is a common theme in many conversations and media reports that the world is getting too complicated and the sheer volume of discrete bits of information is so huge it is impossible to keep up. I agree, to an extent. The issue is a lot of this confusion and blitzkrieg of factoids could be simplified but we choose to make it more complex.

Just because there is information available doesn’t mean it is important. For example, I just spent five minutes of my life watching a portion of Lindsey Lohan’s probation hearing. I don’t know. I have also spent an amount of time I do not want to add up and state for the public record (the Lohan thing was embarrassing enough) reading and listening to people trying to guess where LeBron James is going to play basketball next season. The media can’t just report what has happened. It must also spend great amounts of time talking about what might happen. Maybe we should just have Paul the Prognosticating Cephalopod tell us if Mr. James will be a Cavalier, a Knick, a Bull or a Heat (I still think teams should have nicknames which can be parsed into individual units – maybe Miami should have called themselves the BTUs). Why do I know there is an octopus in Oberhausen, Germany who has predicted the winner of several soccer matches? I don’t know. I didn’t want or need to know. I just do. Now you do, too (sneaky of me, wasn’t it?).

Part of this self-inflicted over-complication of life was made obvious to me when I went to the grocery store one summer evening. I was simply going to run in and get some ice cream. I wanted something simple. I was going to get vanilla or maybe chocolate. I couldn’t find either one. Oh, there was Double Vanilla, Homemade Vanilla (but it was in a mass produced carton meaning the “truth in advertising” police should be notified), Vividly Vanilla, and Artisan Vanilla Bean. Chocolate was even more confusing. Classic Chocolate may have been what I wanted, but I remember the whole New Coke/Classic Coke fiasco so maybe that wasn’t the best choice. There was German Chocolate Cake ice cream. If I wanted cake I’d have gone to the bakery section. There was Chocolate Almond Indulgence but I wasn’t in that hedonistic of a mood. There was Double Chocolate Cookie Crumble which didn’t sound like it was actually ice cream. Also, the ultimate, and I mean ultimate in the sense of final, end of the line, all she wrote, the ultimate flavor – Death by Chocolate. What is the advertising catch line for that flavor? “The last thing you’ll ever taste, but soooo worth it.”

The myriad of ice cream flavors brought to mind the fact that paint is never just a color. The last couple of times my wife selected paint for rooms in our house she would tell me the name of the paint and I would still have to ask what color it was. So I went to the Sherwin-Williams website to investigate. Just call me Bob Woodward.

On the first page of color palettes I found “Nomadic Desert”, “Foothills”, “Summer Day”, and “Enigma”. Is there even an indication what your bedroom would look like if you painted it any of those colors? My personal favorites had to be “Knitting Needles” and “Wool Skein”. Truthfully, I do not remember what those two looked like, but they had to be complementary colors.

Okay, what is the most non-descript color out there? How about gray? On that same website there are 61 different hues with the word gray in their name. 61 different grays! 63 if you throw in the color squares labeled with the term Greige, which I am guessing is some unnatural hybrid of gray and beige, the ultimate in boring. I do not have enough space in this column to list all the different grays, but here are some of my favorites: “Agreeable Gray”, for the d├ęcor of union negotiation conference rooms, “Escape Gray” would be a truly mean color for prison cells, and “Dorian Gray” for painting portraits of ageless beauty.

There were 1,479 different colors represented on the Sherwin-Williams website and naming each and every one of them would be a gargantuan task, but “Stolen Kiss” and “Notable Hue”. Really? There was a color titled “Loren’s Surprise”. That had to be an incredibly cheap birthday present.

“Honey, I didn’t get you that diamond necklace you wanted, but I did get the fellows over in the nomenclature department to name a color after you.”

Christopher Pyle’s favorite color is red, just red, not “Showstopper” or “Heartthrob”, just red. You can contact him at