Rainbow-barf Monstrosity

I /love/ The Lorax. It was a favorite book of mine as a child (and an adult), and I’ve written about it here before in conjunction with Banned Books Week and Earth Day.

Unfortunately someone, somewhere took that book and decided it would be a good idea to turn it into a movie.

This is not a good idea.

The Lorax isn’t a good “movie” sort of book.  The ORIGINAL Grinch is a fabulous movie that stays true to Seuss’ ideas and ideals in writing the original book, but modern adaptations of it have failed spectacularly, falling into the traps of CGI and comedian actors instead of trying to tell a really good, if didactic, story.

The Lorax doesn’t have the happy ending that the Grinch has. The main character is a greedy asshole with little ability to look beyond his own want for more stuff, more money, and more fame. In fact, The Once-Ler doesn’t even show up in the book, he’s simply a faceless portrayal of power and greed. The Lorax is a sad story of destruction and downfall, with a faint glimmer of hope at the end for humanity’s ability to feel empathy for those not like itself.

The Lorax himself isn’t much of a fuzzy happy character either. His primary functions are observation and warning. He speaks for those who can’t speak, but he doesn’t get involved in the story itself.

As expected, the preview for the movie is a disgusting pile of rainbow-barf, to quote from David Roberts’ review on Grist.

If, to make a movie, you must take a book and totally change the story, the characters, and the setting, add humor by making non-humorous characters into physical comedy jokes*, and couch the entire thing in a “boy wants to get into pants of girl next door”, you might want to just not make the damn movie.

*including a joke in the trailer about how a fat woman doesn’t look womanly enough to recognize, a point rather antithetical to the point of the original story, which is to think about your actions in relationship to others. Gee wonderful. It seems to me that the Lorax, whose function is to speak for those who don’t have voices, probably wouldn’t be fond of demeaning jokes at the expense of others.

UNLESS

*crossposted from Seven Deadly Divas*

Forty-ish years ago, a senator by the name of Gaylord Nelson (Wisconsin) organized a nationwide environmental teach-in to help educate children and the population about environmental concerns. This was called Earth Day, and the first year saw about 20 million people participating.

Now, around 500 million people will “participate” in Earth Day (or Earth Week) around the globe.

It’s an interesting holiday, and one that has sparked a bit of back-and-forth within the environmental community, for a few reasons.

My own criticism of the holiday stems largely from the idea that we can learn about all kinds of things in one day, but UNLESS we actually make a change that matters, it won’t make any difference. Giving people a token action (say, giving money once to a local environmental charity) is not that useful if it is a one time token action. The money will be well spent, but one donation does not an environmentalist make.

Also, a lot of the things pushed for Earth Day are trivial.

Yes, choosing to use a reusable bag is a worthwhile investment, as it chooses to use a reusable thing rather than a disposable one… except that many reusable bags are made of plastic (more petroleum) or cotton (a crop that requires HUGE amounts of chemicals in most growing operations). And that paper bag comes from trees, and requires a lot of processing.

In short, most of the advice – like these stamps supposedly rolling out from the USPS this week – is insipid and silly in a culture that already KNOWS that there is shit going down with the environment. Maybe it’s because I had the luxury of being in grade school after the onset of Earth Day celebrations, but I’ve heard “turn off the water when you brush your teeth” since I was old enough to brush my teeth.

Most people have already chosen where they will or will not make changes. Right now, human wants are going to trump proposed “environmental changes”, especially when they’re inconvenient, or painted as inconvenient by industries that would be harmed by the change. And really, many “good” changes cost money – even so called “simple” ones like adding insulation to your house. Plus, some people think that anyone asking them to take care of the environment is just taking away their God Given Freedom To Do Whatever The Hell They Want as they throw still lit cigarette butts from their neon orange Humvees.

But then, if I look back at what I just wrote, there was a level of success there. Learning about the environment and taking care of it was just part of the April curriculum at school. It gave us a chance to plant trees and learn about sprouting beans in the classroom window.

If Earth Day can make little knowledge accessible to little kids, then I’m all for it. Much like Earth Hour, though, it’s only useful if we take it beyond one day. Knowing that you should do something is different than doing it.

Planting a tree is no use if all you do is plant it, and then leave the poor little sapling to shrivel up and die in the summer heat with no water. You did little for the environment UNLESS you kept up with caring for it.

Earth day works if Earth Day is a seed, not the full extent of the education.

As with any project, though, we have to start somewhere.

The used bookstore where I work spends a lot of time and resources on recycling and other small community education programs, as well as chain wide “competitions” (where stores work to use fewer bags for purchases, and then the Corporation donates a certain amount of money for each declined bag to a nation wide charity). Plus, a used bookstore is, at heart, a recycling operation. Our receipts for sold merchandise say “Thanks for giving a new life to your stuff.”

So today, as part of our store’s celebrations of Earth Day, I’ll be reading The Lorax aloud to whatever children I can find to listen. This will happen (in some form or another) in all the Half-Price Books stores in the country.

And I will emphasize to them the great UNLESS that Dr. Seuss poses to all of his readers. The challenge of UNLESS that is central to the message of The Lorax:

UNLESS someone like you
cares a whole awful lot,
nothing is going to get better.
It’s not.

-The Lorax, Dr Seuss

Storytime with Anna

As I was practicing for my performance of The Lorax at work, I recorded myself reading it. I figure if I post that on the internet, I’ll have a HUGE audience, and that’ll be a little less nervous than reading for my coworkers and customers.

So here you go: The Lorax, by Dr. Seuss

(And yes, it’s better with pictures)

The Customer Isn’t Your Butt

File under: things that irk me

I really dislike when salespeople think it’s funny to say something unexpected, as though it will make me laugh hysterically when they say “two thousand, four hundred…. dimes” when I’m having my water meter fixed. Or “alright, your car will be ready in 3 to 4 days”.

All you’re doing is making yourself look like an asshole. Money is tight. I need my car to get to work. I’m sure it’s HIGH-LARIOUS for you to say shit like that to unsuspecting customers – even customers who, like me, have caused no issue and have often paid good money for your service.

You know what, Tire Store Employee?

Waking up this morning with two flat tires didn’t exactly make me a happy camper. I did my level best to be a happy camper when I brought you my limping vehicle, the two flat tires having noticeably lost air since I filled them in my garage. I treated you nicely; I even smiled at your little tire-measuring joke, figuring that I didn’t need to inflict my bad mood on anyone else. I then ordered FOUR new 60K mile tires and paid for them, because I need my car, and because my old tires are nearly bald, are showing dry rot, and two of them are leaking. Paying for those tires did not make my morning any better.

It did not make my week or my month any better either, especially considering the current budget situation with regards to NASA – which, I remind you, foots the bill for the contract that pays my husband his salary.

And so, Tire Store Employee, telling me “Alright, you can pick it up in 3-4 days” after I’ve shelled out a large chunk of change that I’m going to have to worry about budgeting for the rest of the month to avoid issues with didn’t exactly make me feel like giggling at your joke. Especially since I couldn’t just say “oh nevermind” and take back my money.

Because sometimes car repairs really DO take 3-4 days.* Maybe those tires were sold out and on order or something? I didn’t know.

Responding to my “well, I guess I’ll have to figure out how I’m getting home” comment by saying “HA HA HA JUST KIDDING 45 minutes to an hour” made me want to scream at you.

You probably noticed that you got the Look Of Disapproval.

Had I not gotten great service from your company in the past, and known that I would have reliable tires that are under warranty, I would be inclined to take my business elsewhere the next time.

It’s a power thing for you, I’m sure. You like feeling like you can have that kind of power over someone. You probably think it’s quite funny to swap stories about the horrified looks on customer’s faces when you tell them blatantly false things that they have no reason not to believe, because you have the power in the interaction. They need their car, and you have the ability to fix that car for them.

As a customer? It’s not that funny.

Maybe because I work in a bookstore, and no matter how many silly interactions I’ve had with customers, I do my damn best to make sure they get what they want and don’t feel that I’m judging them for what they are selling or what they want to buy.

Maybe because I work in that kind of “power” situation as a buyer for my store, and know that if I can put the person selling the books at ease, they won’t feel defensive about my giving them a money offer for books that – to them – often have a lot of emotional value.

If a customer walked up to me to get an offer, and I said “we can give you two bucks” for a pile of signed first editions, and then said “oh no, just kidding!” and gave them the real offer? I’d get my ass in BIG trouble.

Making the customer the butt of some little bookseller joke says I don’t respect the customer, OR their stuff, enough to treat it like the business interaction that it is.

Now, does that mean I never laugh or joke with sellers? Of course not. We often find something little or trivial to laugh about, or I’ll let THEM make a joke about what they’re bringing in. But I try (and I am trained to try) extremely hard not to alienate them based on their stuff – or based on what books they buy.

Even if I think their books are stupid and will never sell or the book they want to buy is poorly written and a waste of paper, those books are my paycheck. And if the customers are happy, they will pay for whatever they choose and come back again next time when they need help. Besides, nobody made me the Goddess of Determining Literary Value.

So the next time I go back to The Tire Store Place, I’ll be expecting less of them and be preemptively defensive about being the butt of some employee’s little “funny joke”. Making jokes about my old tires needing Rogaine because they were looking bald? Totally appropriate (and funny). Joking about the actual SERVICE you were providing?

Hacked me off.

*And sometimes plumbing repairs – especially CITY plumbing repairs, really do cost more than two grand.

Dear Food: Please shut up.

I’m really tired of my food telling me why I’m eating it.

Take Cheerios. According to the box, the only reason you are eating Cheerios is a) to lower your cholesterol or b) to lose weight.

Remember that dipshit commercial about Multi Grain Cheerios where the (stereotypical idiot) husband is asking his (stereotypically thin, wearing a grey sweatshirt) wife if she’s eating Multi Grain Cheerios to lose weight? Because obviously the only reason she’d be eating that shit is to lose weight?

Doesn’t that actually do the product a DISSERVICE? I mean, diet food doesn’t exactly have a great history. Loudly proclaiming that the only reason someone must be eating your product is because they’re a slave to the scale doesn’t seem like a particularly positive endorsement.

But then, there it is on the box. Make Multi Grain Cheerios part of your WEIGHT LOSS PLAN. (Whatever this week’s plan is.)

And then? If you want to eat a banana with your Cheerios? THOSE CAN HELP YOU LOSE WEIGHT TOO. I bought bananas recently that had a “LOSE WEIGHT WITH BANANAS” sticker on them. It led to a website where you could, purportedly, input your weight loss plan that included eating lots of Brand Name Bananas (I didn’t get that far because the website required email verification). Never mind eating bananas because they’re delicious, or because they have lots of fiber and vitamins, or because they’re easy on your stomach when you have the food poisoning.

BANANAS FOR WEIGHT LOSS.

I have a bag of brown sugar that says “Gluten Free” on it, proudly, in big letters. I’ve bought strawberries that say “Trans-Fat Free!” on the label. Strawberries. Like, whole fresh berries with the leaves still on. Yeah, they’re trans-fat free!

It’s like TJ’s snicker’s bar – why is my food telling me why I’m eating it? I know, I know, it’s because food is an INDUSTRY now. It’s all about advertising and product placement. Eat THESE bananas and not THOSE bananas. See? OUR bananas make you lose weight. OUR cereal makes you skinny.

Doesn’t anyone eat food because it’s good anymore? Or because it has nutrients? Are we so afraid of being/getting/continuing to be “fat” (whatever fat is) that we can’t evaluate our food based on the actual food itself instead of what it’s supposedly going to do for us as a side effect?

Oh – and that’s another rant. Isn’t it a little scary that you can eat a bowl of cereal that has 100% of your day’s vitamins in it? As though you really don’t GET anything from eating all those vegetables. Who needs broccoli and carrots, just eat cereal for breakfast, get all your vitamins, and then eat candy bars and drink soda all day! Vitamins good!

The whole process is just so silly. No wonder so many people have such weird relationships with food, and that the newspaper can tell us that this week pasta is bad, but next week we can have an all pasta weight loss diet. Our food (or rather, the companies marketing it) assume that we’re too stupid to make our own choices about what we like and what’s good for us.

Which, of course, is confounded by the newspaper science thing. High fat, low carb. High carb, low fat. Low fat, whole grain. Cabbage Soup diet. Miracle Vinegar Cleanse. Nobody knows what’s really good for them (at least, nobody that’s actually reading the newspaper pseudo-science and believes it), and in turn, we go looking for the food companies to tell us whether or not we should eat something.

Of course, that’s what nutrition labels are supposed to be for, right? They tell us what’s in the food? Except that the ingredients list is full of (mostly corn and soy derived) chemicals and vitamins disguised by chemical names to the point where that list is basically useless.

How many of those items are just code names for sugar? How many are petroleum derived? What does “0 grams of trans fat” really actually mean? (answer: less than .5 grams. not none.)

I know that packaged food is a good thing. How many of us have been thankful for a can of Campbells soup when we’ve been sick? Packaged, shelf-stable food allows a lot of people to eat who couldn’t normally access that food easily, and that’s a Really Good Thing- especially since I live in a Hurricane prone area!

But really? All this hype? All the uber-marketing research strategies?

It’s well beyond ridiculous, and it gets on my nerves.

Dear Food:

Please shut up.

Love,
Me