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Friday, May 31, 2013

Old vs. New, Good vs. Bad

Banacek, which starred George Peppard (before the A-Team) and ran from 1972 to 1974, was one of my favorite shows. Peppard played Banacek, a suave, intelligent, yet street-wise, freelance investigator, who recovered stolen property (e.g., paintings, sculptures) and collected 10% of the property's insured value from the companies that had insured it. His success allowed him to live well, really well in fact, and so he surrounded himself with the finer things in life, including a number of valuable antiques.

In addition to his investigative skills, Banacek was also known for his philosophizing, which typically took the form of oddly-phrased but insightful proverbs:
  • "If you're not sure that it's potato borscht, there could be orphans working in the mines."
  • "Though the hippopotamus has no sting, the wise man would prefer to be sat upon by the bee."
  • "A truly wise man never plays leapfrog with a unicorn."
  • "If a wolf is after your sleigh throw him a raisin cookie—but don't stop to bake him a cake."
  • "Just because the cat has her kittens in the oven doesn't make them biscuits."
  • "You can read all the books in the library, but the cheese will still stink."
  • "No matter how warm the smile on the face of the Sun, the cat still has her kittens under the porch."
However, in high school my favorite Banacek insight had to do with why people often seem to value "old" things more than they do new ones. In the pilot episode, one of his investigative rivals looked around at all his antiques and asked, "Don't you like anything new?" To which he responded: "It's not a question of old or new; it's a question of good or bad. We've got about maybe, 10 years of new and thousands of years of old, [meaning] that the odds are, there are more good old things than new ones."

In other words, the reason why phenomena such as "Classic" radio stations are so popular isn't because songs were better 30 and 40 years ago (although I'm sure there are some who would argue that -- just remember, our parents didn't like our songs either!). But when you have 30-40 years worth of old songs to choose from as compared to 5-10 years worth of new songs, odds are that there will be more "good" old songs than there will be "good" new ones.

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