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Friday, February 7, 2003

For or Against?

I've noticed that Avon has lovely signs on the Metro advertising its "Walk for Breast Cancer." A cursory search reveals other such misnamed causes: a walk for hunger, action for AIDS, a walk for domestic violence.

Now, I'm pretty sure that Avon isn't actually "for" breast cancer, any more than Project Bread is for hunger, or Action for AIDS is actually in favor of AIDS. And it's not like this has become some sort of convention; after all, there are artists against AIDS, a group called Action Against Hunger, and even a walk against breast cancer. There's no word yet on whether they will run into the walk for breast cancer, and if so, who has the right-of-way.

I suspect all this "for" language is simply sloppy thinking codified in each organization's literature. You can see how that would happen: a group in HR (it's always HR) comes up with a plan to get employees involved in a good cause. The company's leaders get on board to show that they care for the community (because providing quality products at a decent price is no longer evidence of social benefit). Only negative people are against anything, and so "for" slips into the verbage. Slogans are drawn up, tentative artwork produced, events penciled in.

As the campaign makes its way along, it rigidifies. Sure, it has to win approval from upper management, but how many of those guys are literary giants? (Click here, for example, to learn how you can "optimize channels by making offers through the most cost-appropriate access based on the value of the customer." Unclear language only proliferates in organizations; it is rarely weeded out.

Perhaps eventually somebody added to the team (proving that you are not evil capitalists is labor-intensive work) has the temerity to note that the company is not actually for the horrible affliction that is the focus of its efforts. Wouldn't it be better to change all of the printed material to read "against?" This is a mistake, because at the heart of every Socialist is an iron-fisted dictator, and most people in HR are Socialists by training, if not disposition. They tend not to cotton to dissent. Hey Shakespeare, can you spell "severance agreement?"

And the campaign rolls forward, until one afternoon a smart-aleck with his own website notices how curious it is that a major corporation would wage a campaign for breast cancer. And, as you can see, that day has come.

posted by Woodlief | link | (10) comments

Dear grocery store,

What's up with putting tomato paste on a different aisle from chopped tomatoes? Do you think that squishing the tomato transforms it into an entirely different food genus? And those automatic sprinklers in Produce -- what the hell? If I get spots on one more starched shirt I'm sending you the drycleaning bill.

Here's a hint: take those little motion sensors you have over the doors -- the ones that assume I am a large turtle and therefore remain resolutely shut until the last second so that I have to stutter step to avoid smacking my face on the glass -- and put them on the sprinklers in Produce.

And another thing, now that the smack is on: you are really starting to cheese me with those little "Very Special Customer" barcode things you expect me to hang from my key chain. I understand the deal -- I give you intimate knowledge of my purchasing habits, and in return you occasionally let me buy a $9.99 gallon of orange juice for thirty-seven cents. The problem is this: sometimes I run in while my wife waits out in the car. If you had children, grocery store, you'd understand. It's like staging the Normandy Invasion out there, getting everybody out of the car, and for a pack of toilet paper it just isn't worth the effort. So sometimes I end up in line, all excited about getting a break on the Pop-Tarts, only to learn that the price I saw was the "special" price, for loners who don't have anyone to leave in their cars.

You think you are so smart, with your little discount cards. Well guess what -- every time I forget mine, I borrow one from somebody else in line. You think Gladys the 50 year-old lesbian with four cats really bought diapers and a box of Goldfish last week? Ha ha ha, grocery store. In your face.

posted by Woodlief | link | (14) comments

Thursday, February 6, 2003

Notes From The Train

There are two kinds of people who use their cell phones on the train: those who deserve to have their lungs torn out by my jagged fingernails, and those who should have their genitalia removed with a rusty tweezer.

At some stops not all the doors open. This is on purpose. I think it's a safety thing. Often when customers are inconvenienced these days, it is an offering to the Safety god. Before these stops when not all the doors will open, the conductor will announce that only the doors on, say, the third and second-to-last cars will open. Such an announcement would be helpful if it came as the train was going around a big bend, so that one could count to see which car one is on.

Otherwise, it's not so helpful. Fortunately, there's always one or two nerds who know exactly what car they are on, so the rest of us just follow them to the open doors. This, by the way, is a beauty of markets -- they work pretty well even with limited information.

I'm not sure I'm happy with the fact that I recognize this.

News Flash From My Train: Marge from Burke likes to keep some band-aids handy in her oversized bag.

I learned this because Ted from Manassas had a mysterious hand wound that prompted Marge to offer her remedy. As Ted applied his bandage he marveled at the brilliance -- and breathtaking convenience -- of carrying a supply of bandages in one's oversized bag that one crams against the leg of a fellow passenger who is just trying to write his novel so he can stop riding the godforsaken train. This perky conversation gave Sam from Burke an opening to remark on the fascinating title of the paperback Marge was clutching in the hand not overflowing with bandages, "The Earl Grey Killer." Well this just led to a rollicking good time, as Ted and Marge and Sam bantered back and forth about which teas they like best, how good it tastes with just a pinch of honey in it, and lots of other insights that I missed as I tried for ten minutes to type a single blessed sentence.

The point is, if you are just going to talk about tea, why bother? How can the energy required to open your mouth possibly merit the psychological gain from learning that Sam likes just a swig of milk in his? Perhaps we are just starved for human contact. Not me. I get more than enough on the freaking train.

posted by Woodlief | link | (11) comments

Monday, February 3, 2003

Viggo Redux

It appears that a cabal of Viggo fans decided to bomb the comments on my earlier post, in which I called Viggo Mortensen an idiot.

I'd like to share my reply, also posted in the comments section. I'm a shameless self-promoter that way:

Oh dear, it seems I've angered the Viggo Mortensen fan club. Your stinging retorts can be boiled down to two threads:

1) I agree with Viggo.

2) Instead of insulting him, why don't you refute his critique?

Let's address number two, which will illuminate the causes of number one. The point of my original post was that Viggo's assertions were ridiculous on their face. Imagine that I were to tell you that a secret cabal of Jews controlled 90% of the world's finances. Would you feel compelled to prove me wrong before concluding that I am an idiot?

I should hope not. Likewise for Viggo's claims that impending war against Iraq is really just a diversion so the U.S. can slaughter innocent Afghani civilians. Do you really think the world works like "Wag the Dog?" Do you really believe that the U.S. military delights in killing civilians, or does little to avoid it when engaging in military operations? Do you honestly believe that our entire foreign policy in the Middle East hinges on a grudge President Bush carries on behalf of his father?

If so, then you are hopelessly lost in an Oliver Stone movie.

Even worse was Viggo's equivocation of the United States with Saurumon's dark forces. Let's be clear -- we have more firepower than Europeans have cheese. We have more wealth than college students have complaints. If we wanted to take over the world, by golly, the Iranian mullahs would be sipping whiskey and watching Madonna videos right now (if they aren't already). So spare me this "Viggo's just speaking truth to power" crap. Viggo is expressing an uninformed but trendy opinion from the safe confines of a country protected by people whose shoelaces he doesn't deserve to tie.

Now, print this on your Sociology Department's copier, and be sure to explain it to those of your friends in the I Love Viggo Club who aren't so good with long words. And don't come back here until you've developed an argument.

posted by Woodlief | link | (164) comments