Monkeys vs. Humans

I’ve long believed that monkeys are smarter than humans, and now I can prove it. Over the weekend, I heard a report on Marketplace Money about Yale researchers who had trained a capuchin monkey named Nick Nack to use money in order to figure out how the world economy ended up in the toilet. Among other things, the report noted that the researchers had tried to teach the monkey about branding, with very limited success:

“They offered him two kinds of cereal, the same in every way except one came in a container with a picture of a clover on it and the other had a picture of a moon on it. The cereal was also the same price. And it turned out the branding didn’t matter much to Nick Nack. He went for each about the same number of times.” — Marketplace Money

In other words, Nick Nack, who is a monkey, didn’t care what the package looked like. As long as the cereal was the same, he was happy to fork over his hard-earned cash.

Meanwhile, in the world of humans, Coca Cola is facing criticism for changing the design of its holiday cans. According to the Wall Street Journal, the American public is in such an uproar over Coca Cola’s latest holiday can, which features silvery polar bears against a white backdrop, that the company is “switching back to its time-honored red” barely a month after making the change:

“While the company has frequently rung in the holiday with special can designs, this was the first time it put regular Coke in a white can. Some consumers complained that it looked confusingly similar to Diet Coke’s silver cans. Others felt that regular Coke tasted different in the white cans. Still others argued that messing with red bordered on sacrilege.” — Wall Street Journal

My main concern here is with the “others” who felt that regular Coke tasted different in the white cans. Needless to say, Nick Nack (who, again, is a monkey) would not have made the same mistake.

Of course, if Nick Nack had any taste whatsoever, he’d probably spit out the Coke after his first sip and save his money for a good Malbec, but given the details we have, two things are clear:

  • You can change the packaging of a product, and monkeys won’t care.
  • You can do the same thing to humans, and we’ll go apeshit.

Which makes me think I should probably hire a monkey to manage my money. But since I don’t actually have any money, I’ll just have to settle for waiting on the coming ape revolution* to end all of our financial woes…

*Side note: Some people believe in the coming zombie apocalypse. Personally, I’m more of an ape revolution kind of guy. I guess I’m just an old romantic at heart.

Small Press Books – The Perfect Gift for Readers

First, a quick word of thanks to the poet Will Nixon for making The Singular Exploits of Wonder Mom and Party Girl the center of his holiday wish for everyone to read local. Nixon (whose poetry collections My Late Mother as a Ruffed Grouse and Love in the City of Grudges are phenomenal) proposes that reading books from small presses is akin to supporting local businesses: ” ‘Buy Local’ yes. But why not ‘Read Local’ too? I wish that the enthusiasm so many people share for local businesses and independent enterprises could find its way to books.”

Along these lines, I have to say that small press books (and not just mine!) make great gifts for a couple of reasons. Since these books aren’t quite “mainstream,” there’s a good chance that your reader friends don’t know about them — so there’s no danger of buying a book that’s already on your book lover’s shelf. Additionally, introducing an avid reader to a new and interesting author demonstrates how hip and cutting-edge you are as a reader yourself. Finally, if it’s a local writer, there’s a better than average chance that you can pair the book with a promise to see the reader in person sometime.*

So if you’re struggling to find the perfect holiday gift for the reader in your life, take a look at what small presses have to offer.

*Preferably at a public event. Showing up at an author’s house uninvited might come off as a little creepy.

Best of the Book Blogs!

I’m very pleased to note that my review of Elizabeth Mosier’s The Playgroup has made it onto Shelf Unbound magazine’s “Best of the Book Blogs” page. If you follow the link below, the review is on page 44 of the magazine. And the review originally appeared on Small Press Reviews.