@vgr: The Premium Mediocre Life of Maya Millennial. He claims that premium mediocrity is good. It may or may not be, but I don't want to be premium mediocre.
What is premium mediocrity?
Premium mediocre is the finest bottle of wine at Olive Garden. Premium mediocre is cupcakes and froyo. Premium mediocre is “truffle” oil on anything (no actual truffles are harmed in the making of “truffle” oil), and extra-leg-room seats in Economy. Premium mediocre is cruise ships, artisan pizza, Game of Thrones, and The Bellagio.
Premium mediocre is Starbucks’ Italian names for drink sizes, and its original pumpkin spice lattes featuring a staggering absence of pumpkin in the preparation. Actually all the coffee at Starbucks is premium mediocre. I like it anyway.
Premium mediocre is Cost Plus World Market, one of my favorite stores, purveyor of fine imported potato chips in weird flavors and interesting cheap candy from convenience stores around the world.
I qualify. I buy cheap expensive cheeses (like Tête de Moine). I like potato chips in weird flavors. I like pumpkin spice lattes. I listen to Genesis. I use Emacs (but only 5% of its features). I am a Haskeller. I feel good about all this. There's an "ooooh" that happens in my mind when I buy a fancy cheese, and I'm chasing it.
The thing is that currently I don't want to change anything. I like showing off, either to myself or to others. I want to feel like I have a good life, more than I actually want to have a good life.
In TLP's words, I go for the trappings of power. And I don't want enough things.
Sounds like a bad enough thing! I wonder what will happen if I didn't live like that. I want to do it — and observe the consequences.
I guess the real distinction is — are you doing it because you are fancy, or for the sake of being fancy? If the latter — you are premium mediocre.
Blogging to be considered a "thinker" (i.e. what I was doing) is premium mediocre. Every blog without a clear goal ("just things that interest me") is likely a premium mediocre blog. Reading SSC is fun, and also a premium mediocre activity.
Here is another example:
If [really good grilled-cheese sandwiches] are consumed instead of two cheaper, but more mediocre meals, they are premium mediocre. If they are a substitute for an average grilled cheese sandwich, a rare gouda-over-velveeta treat, then they are a kind of middle-class fancy.
For me it's a mix. Not going to talk about grilled-cheese sandwiches, but let's take cheeses as an example: sometimes I buy a fancy cheese because it's a treat. Sometimes I buy it because I want to show off. Both cases are middle class.
In both cases I'm not trying to change anything. I'm not trying to find a new interesting cheese, I'm not trying to learn my way around cheeses, I'm either buying a tasty cheese or showing off. Meh.
"Oh, but can you move out of mediocrity if you don't have the money?"
Well, it's tricky. You can definitely have a refined taste even if you don't have the money. Whether you can acquire it if you don't have the money is a different question. But I'm not even trying!
The process of acquiring a taste seems to be easy — just pay attention to everything. While eating a cheese, figure out what makes it good. If you try the same pasta at two different restaurants — what makes one better than the other? Etc.
If you simply have enough money to always buy good things, you won't escape the mediocrity — because you can't figure out what are the good things. You will eat embarrassing cheeses instead of expensive cheeses because you can't appreciate them.
A good exercise would be — buy several cheap, equally-priced [things]. Figure out which is better. Then buy several expensive, equally-priced [things]. Figure out which suck. Repeat.