Monday, July 30, 2012

Up, Up, and Away

I was at Target the other day, perusing their healthcare aisles for a personal reason that I won't go into, and I noticed they had an enema brand called Up & Up.  Not only did this sound like a horrible name for a product you insert in your butt ("Put it Up & Up your ass!"), but the logo of an arrow pointing upward didn't help. 

It was only after I saw a bunch more products with the Up & Up logo that I realized they had a whole line of products: ibuprofen, baby diapers, nail polish remover, dryer sheets, spray cleaner, baby formula, and even feminine hygiene products.

It was frequently the cheapest brand on Target's shelves, and when I considered all this, the name Up & Up took on a whole new meaning.  What exactly are they trying to convey with a name like that?  That their products are on the up and up?  They might just as well name their brand "Legitimate" or "Not-A-Skam" or "Really, This Is a Real Product." 

Yeah, I don't think I want to buy a product (meant to go in my or my loved one's hoo-ha) that has a brand name reminiscent of a guy selling stuff out of the back of his van down by the river.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Never Happened

I don't have a strong opinion about the sanctions handed down to Penn State by the NCAA as a result of the boy-raping scandal by one of their assistant coaches, which was apparently covered-up by university officials, including famous coach Joe Paterno, in what appeared to be a pretty good impression of the Catholic Church.

"After Jesus loved the little children, did he have to go to jail?"

Obviously, I'm against boy raping and any cover-up of boy raping. I'm against rape of any kind.  I'm not afraid to come out against it publicly.  

As The Onion makes clear, it's a pretty simple call when you see something like that happening: Nation's 10-Year-Old Boys: 'If You See Someone Raping Us, Please Call The Police'

"under no circumstances is it ever okay for an adult to rape a 10-year-old boy, so you really can't go wrong by calling the police when something like that happens."

As a result of the scandal, the NCAA levied  unprecedented penalties against Penn State. They have to pay $60 million, they can't compete in bowl games for four years, and they've lost a good portion of their football scholarships.  (Also, for good measure, a statue of Joe Paterno was removed from the campus. But PSU did that on their own.)    

I don't know whether these penalties are too harsh, not harsh enough, or just right.  Again: I'm against boy rape and think anyone who had anything to do with it should be punished severely.  Whether or not that includes the entire football program is up for debate.


Here's the thing that I found weird.  One of the penalties the NCAA enacted against Penn State was that the football team's wins over the past 14 seasons (the period of time the molestation occurred) have been "vacated."  That means that 111 wins don't count anymore.

I didn't know you could do that.  Just pretend that 111 games never existed?  I understand you want to punish the program, but can you retroactively take away things that already happened?  If someone is sentenced to the death penalty, can you kill them retroactively?  Like, say that they've been dead for the past 15 years?  Does that really make it so?  If a man is convicted of rape, can you "take away" all the consensual sex he's already had?  If a banker is convicted of embezzlement, can you punish him by saying, "Your bank account was zero for the past 13 years. From now on, you were poor then."

These are rhetorical questions.  Obviously, I think "vacating" 111 wins is silly, not to mention logically impossible. They won those games.  This is not like a doping scandal in bicycling, where someone is disqualified from a race afterward for having broken the rules.  Unless you want to argue that raping boys gives you an unfair advantage in winning football games, I don't see how you can just expunge 111 games like that.  It's a wholesale denial of reality.

Once again, I'd like to reiterate my opposition to rape, molestation, sexual assault, or sexual harassment of any kind.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Billboard Fail

Two local billboards have caught my attention recently as I drive around town.

This woman's huge blue-toenailed feet greet me every time I drove out of my neighborhood toward downtown.  Which I do a lot.

It's an ad for some sort of spa.  Obviously they're trying to convey a sense of relaxation and pampering.  Only one problem: Those are NOT relaxed feet.  They look about as tense as feet in blue water could be.  I can hear the photographer yelling at the foot model as she tries to hold her feet up for optimum angle to capture her blue toenails.  Those feet look about as relaxed as an African American at a Tea Party rally. (Or really, anyone at a Tea Party rally. Those people need to chill out.) 

I don't really get it, because pictures of relaxed feet are everywhere.  On Facebook alone I could find two dozen of them among my friends' pics-- anytime someone goes on vacation to a beach or a pool they feel the need to show how relaxed their feet are.  Feet in repose are not elusive mythical creatures. Hell, my public library even has one on their homepage!

When the public library's feet look more relaxed than your spa's, you're doing it wrong. 


The other billboard is one I've passed hundreds of times on my way to work.  For the longest time I'd pass it and think, "What the hell IS that?" 

It's not that I think it's weird or bizarre.  It's that I couldn't actually distinguish what was going on in the picture.  I knew the shapes meant something, but I couldn't make sense of them.  It's like my brain was unable to form any kind of pattern out of what my eyes were seeing, even though I knew one was there.

It's a small billboard, with tiny writing below it, and the writing was not big enough for me to read it as I drove by.  "What a horrible billboard," I thought.  "I have no idea what they are advertising."  Which is kinda the whole purpose of a billboard.

It was only after I stopped-- yes, I stopped on the side of the road-- to write down the words on the bottom, then googled them, that I figured out what it was about.  It turns out that they're not actually advertising anything.  It's a "Sky Gallery," some sort of community art project.  Oh.  It's art.

There are several other such billboards around town as part of the same series, although that was the only one that scrambled my brain.   I certainly appreciate community art in different places, and I don't mean to discourage local artists.  The picture on this billboard may very well be a good piece of art.

But it's a shitty billboard.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Customer Creep

On a recent flight my hackles were raised when, during the pre-flight training and announcements, the flight attendant referred to all the passengers on the plane as "customers."

I'd  never heard a plane-load of people referred to as such.  I might have been a customer when I purchased my ticket, but once I got on that plane, I was a passenger.  Just like at the doctor I'm a patient, at the ballpark I'm a fan, if I hire a lawyer I'm a client, and if I pay tuition I'm a student.  In none of those cases do I consider myself merely a "customer."

The reason this bugs me is that lots of libraries are starting to refer to the people who use their services as "customers," and as a librarian I find that misdirected.  Librarians have been having this debate for years.  We could call them patrons, users, members, students, the public, or assholes*, but please, let's not allow the odious title customers to enter libraries.

*courtesy of Parker Posey in Party Girl.

"That guy was being an asshole." "He's not an asshole, he's a patron!"

The argument goes like this: Businesses have customers and focus on customer service.  (The customer is always right!)  We should run libraries like that.  Therefore, we should treat our patrons as well as businesses treat the customer.

I don't want a bar that's that low.  I consider it an insult to call the people we serve customers.  Businesses exist to make money.  They're only interested in customers as far as they can get money from them.  This is a horrible model for libraries to base their service on.  Delivering information services to our patrons should be our ultimate goal, not making money.  To my ears, when I hear a librarian referring to the public as "customers," I think that they only see them as little dollar signs.  And I find that offensive.

Hi, where are your Stephen King books?

There's a lot libraries could learn from the business model.  It is good to treat our patrons at least as well as a (successful) business treats its customers.  But in general the business model is not appropriate for public service.  They have two different aims: in one case the aim is to maximize profit, in the other the aim is to provide the service itself.

I don't want teachers and police officers, for example, trying to maximize their profit.  When I see the term "customer" creeping into fields where it hadn't been, such as medicine and education and even airlines, it raises my hackles. It's a sign that more and more people are buying into the profit ethos: that running everything like a business is the best way.  I don't agree.