Archive for the 'Impressions' Category


Graphics Novels, Politics, and Tropicana

I have an ongoing debate with a friend about the value of graphic novels (aka book-length comics). He lured me in initially with V for Vendetta and added to my collection with a gift of Watchmen and Y: The Last Man. I’ve read the first two, but haven’t gotten to the latter.

Perhaps I’m a snob, but there’s something that feels so adolescent about reading with pictures. Objectively, I know this issue is a personal one. Time has even gone so far as to place Watchmen on its list of All-Time 100 Novels. So, as an avid reader, why can’t I embrace graphic novels with the same abandon as the traditional book form (and why should you care)?

My graphic novel discomfort is an example of something plaguing many of us: when things we love take different forms, we aren’t always willing to share or to transfer that love equally. Translation: we’re missing opportunities.

Love Across Party Lines

Consider this application: in theory, as citizens of the United States, we love our country. However, every time a political party takes power we run the risk that our love will be compromised if said party’s ideology is the opposite of ours. For the last eight years, a growing number of people actively spoke out and campaigned against President Bush. Like all presidents before him, Obama now faces similar adversaries.

Of late, the media has been absorbed with the kerfluffle about who heads the Republican party and Rush Limbaugh saying he hopes President Obama fails. Much debate has ensued, with a large chunk focused on whether citizens who don’t agree with him should hope Obama fails and by default, don’t hope that our circumstances improve.

Whatever side you come down on, I think there’s a point being overlooked. We can still love something even as we’re critical and unsure of its different forms. For instance, I think people who say they hope Obama fails should take the time to provide an alternative. Love of something isn’t just about pleasure. It comes with responsibility

Squeeze’em Until It Hurts

We can take this attitude in multiple areas, not just politics. As companies morph into different things, or change their products, we either choose to adapt or push back (see Jackie Huba’s excellent write up on the Tropicana redesign drama). And simply because we can’t embrace the new form of our original love, doesn’t mean the new lacks value.

I will probably never choose a graphic novel over a traditional one, just as you may never choose to support a Republican over a Democrat or buy products in new packaging. However, the only person who looks foolish if I never consider the “new” honestly is me. Do you really want to be foolish?


Change in Flux

Attending the state fair today reminded me that some things are timeless while others are in an almost constant state of flux. For us who embrace technology as a way of life, this flux has become commonplace. We’d be perplexed if technology didn’t change over time. In other areas of our life, consistency is something we treasure. I like knowing that the car keys are where I last laid them to rest. I take comfort from knowing that my basic route to the grocery store doesn’t change on a daily basis. This takes me back to the state fair where change and consistency hit head on today.

I haven’t been to this particular fair in 11 years, but walking through the gates this morning I was struck by how much everything appeared the same. The same booths, the same smells, the same variety of people. I went to eat the food and wander the exhibition halls, again, the same as 11 years ago, until I came to this one booth that reminded me I’m very much at the mercy of change.

It was a Mary Kay booth of all places and the random call of a staffer to enter a drawing that caught, and then held, my attention. I knew the face, but I couldn’t give it a name. Our faces probably mirrored each other as we tried to place the other. For some reason, looking at one of my companions helped her make the connection. I was still grasping as she chatted with my friend, and I had to glance down at a business card before it made sense. Low and behold, here was the wife of an old friend who didn’t stay a friend after the marriage.

The situation became somewhat humorous when she mistook me for a younger sibling instead of myself. After exchanging random nonsense, we moved on, and I was surprised at how swiftly my thoughts turned to that change in my life, when my friend was no longer my friend. It was a perfect example of how rarely we have any control over the changes that happen in our lives, and why, perhaps, we cling that much harder to the things that change less often.

I’m a creature of habit in some ways, but not averse to change as a general rule. I, however, like my change to come with an explanation. Change rarely complies with my wishes, leaving me to wonder why things happen the way they do.

Today was a reminder that I’m not the same person I was 11 years ago. And while I’m grateful and happy to be who I am today, parts of me still feel some regret for certain changes that have flowed through my life during those years. I think when we ignore this regret we cheat ourselves out of opportunities to learn more about who we are really meant to be.

Our current society and culture embraces change as a sign of sophistication, even wisdom to some. I can only hope that as we pursue the latest iPhone and tweet our newest friend that we don’t allow change to change our inner selves to the point that we’re no longer recognizable.


The Greatest Product Ever Designed

On my run the other morning, I realized that the greatest product ever designed didn’t happen in a lab or come as a result of opinion polls. Consider some of the characteristics of this amazing product: instant recognition, multiple models, multiple locations, and predictable interactions. Another aspect of a good product is the ease of marketing said product. This particular product doesn’t require a large ad campaign and often relies on word of mouth to differentiate between the various models.

Drum roll please…I speak of none other than the human body. (Imaginary air going out of imaginary balloon). How, you may ask, does the human body count as a product? Let’s put it into context. The purpose of a product is to be attractive so someone takes it home with them or at least is willing to engage for a few hours with it. Few things are more attractive to us than other people. And with the variety of models available, few things are more customized or personal. However, there’s a certain level of predictability, and thus comfort to the human form.

For instance, most everyone has the same parts: heads, arms, legs, etc. While these parts vary in specifics from person to person, they are easily recognizable. The same goes for the differences between the sexes.

I came to my conclusion about the human body on my run as I noticed how, without fail, every single car that went by with a male in it couldn’t help but look, or even stare, as our paths intersected. Sometimes these individuals made eye contact. Now, in the cars where only women were present, I got nothing. No look, head turn, or even acknowledgement of my existence, a somewhat scary prospect when sharing the road.

I’m neither a model nor a troll, so I know there’s nothing particularly eye-catching about me. But it’s like guys couldn’t help themselves. By my very existence as a female, I registered on their radar. The same thing happens if I’m driving somewhere, too. My eyes are pulled to the males, frequently ignoring the females.

What company wouldn’t sell its soul to generate a consistent response to its product like human beings do to each other? I think that’s why I’m so impatient with people who only focus on the marketing aspect and pay little attention to the quality of the product itself. I’ve written before about quality and my frustration over its lack in our modern world. I think the human body makes the perfect case for what can be accomplished if proper thought and investment is put into the outcome.

Too much of what clutters our landscape is crap, created with the sole purpose of generating as much money as possible, as soon as possible, before people discover that’s it’s really just crap. Will we ever say, “Enough?”


The Starbucks’ Lesson—Valuing Your Customers

StarbucksToday, I had my faith restored a bit in corporations, and it wasn’t through any big announcement, but rather through an interaction at the local level. In general, I only visit Starbucks when traveling or if the mood strikes, because I’m not a coffee drinker. Instead, I’m awfully fond of the hot chocolate and it makes a nice treat on a cold morning (-3 degrees this morning).

Recently, a stand-alone store opened in my area and I have visited once before, so I would in no way be identified as a regular. However, today when I attempted to pay for my hot chocolate with a twenty, my perky barista informed me that they didn’t have change at the moment, so the drink was on them. (I better understood the long line in the drive thru, too.)

Momentarily stunned (what business willingly gives away the most expensive version of a particular product???), I offered to pay with smaller bills. Nope. Not necessary. Here’s a receipt with the information to do a survey. Now, I have no idea if this event was representative of a corporate Starbucks policy. Even if it was, I’m still impressed by it. And if not, I admire the initiative of the staff to address the issue without causing problems for their customers.

I learned a lesson this morning: if you find yourself in a pickle, and your customers might feel the impact, find a way to turn it around so you and not your customers bear the burden. Case in point, I’m writing about my great experience at Starbucks and the positive mention only cost them $3.07. Are you taking advantage of opportunities to create good impressions for relatively little in the long run?


(Image courtesy of miskin. Some rights reserved.)


Attention Versus Value

Of late, I’m doing more people watching than usual, and I’m particularly fascinated by those under 20 due to their clothing selections. Beau Brummell, THE male fashionista of Regency England, said that, “If people turn to look at you on the street, you are not well dressed.” Based on what I’ve seen of late, I think his words still apply and in more than one way.Muffin Top

In general, I’m not opposed to people dressing as their hearts desire. However, I’m perplexed by the seeming inability of teenagers (and adults) to gauge a situation and to dress accordingly. Beyond styles, I see more frequently than I’d care to someone either dressed in clothes that drown them or clothes that give them the dreaded muffin top (see right; I still can’t believe that Wikipedia has an entry this topic).

At this point, you may be scratching you head and wondering if I’ve lost my mind, but there’s a reason for my introduction of the muffin top to the discussion. From my perspective, the fashion trends of the young point to a bigger problem that extends outside clothing choices. When did we reach the turning point of believing that attention automatically equated to value or vice versa?

How many times during the last ten years did we see an Internet company make a splash, capture everyone’s attention for a short time, and then fade from memory? I propose that we’re seeing a shift to chasing attention over substance. I don’t claim this behavior happens in all instances, but you see it playing out among individuals, companies, and even countries.

Among individuals, it’s clothing , body art, and language. Among companies, you see it in poorly conceived products and services. Among countries, it’s threatening to wipe other countries off the map instead of repairing a crumbling infrastructure.

This behavior happens at all levels and for more reasons than I can catalog in one post. It’s intriguing though how accepting we’ve become, how rarely we call people on the attention seeking, if not the behavior itself, particularly in light of how some of the best things in life DON’T call any attention to themselves. Think about the best customer service at a hotel: it’s practically invisible, almost like the place in run by an army of ghosts who meet your every need.

Have we passed the point of no return? Will the extremes in society continue to garner attention and replace our pursuit of things with value that last longer than a season’s fashion?


(Image courtesy of Malingering. CC license: Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works. Some rights reserved.)


Worlds Collide—George Eliot, Buffy, and Super Glue

Buffy Series CollectionLast week, I fulfilled one of my fondest wishes and ordered the full Buffy the Vampire Slayer series from Amazon (it was a killer sale). I practically tackled the UPS delivery man when he showed up with the box. My first experience? The bottom of the DVD box fell off without me doing anything more than taking it out of the shipping box. My immediate thought? Weak Chinese glue. However, Super Glue saved the day.

Back to my immediate thought on weak Chinese glue, I’m a little surprised how quickly that thought popped into my head. For all I knew, the box was made somewhere in the U.S. or Europe, but when the box feel apart in my hands, my first thought was China. Whether we recognize it or not, we’re trained to respond to things in a certain way . Everything from our first impressions to the opinions of family and friends impacts our response. I have had several things with the “Made in China” stamp not hold up, ergo, when something falls apart easily, my first thought is China.

The same thing can happen in a good way. Take Super Glue—the other half of this conversation. I didn’t panic over the box bottom falling off because I had Super Glue. I knew it would fix the problem because my association with Super Glue tells me that it’s fixed my problems in the past.

We also do the same thing with people. How difficult is it to change your perception of another person, particularly if you had a bad encounter? And there’s a sticky problem with impressions and/or associations—they often back us into corners.

George Eliot, who’s always made me laugh, penned this pointed observation on impressions in Felix Holt, the Radical:

George Eliot’s Works By George Eliot

Impressions play a valuable role in helping us make our way through an increasing amount of noise. However, they are equally capable of stopping us from experiencing something truly remarkable. In short, don’t be Harold without distinct ideas. Look forward to the trouble of having to change your mind at least once in awhile.



Travel Jerks

I’d like to believe the best about the human race, but every single time I travel, I’m reminded what a bunch of savages we remain. I’m of two minds whether courtesy for others is a social construct or an evolved state of affairs to keep us from killing each other. Regardless of the rationale, I will never understand why common courtesy escapes the most intelligent of individuals.

I’ve written on this topic before when I traveled to Seattle for the Gnomedex conference. This time, my hopes were shot yet again during my travels to BlogWorld & New Media Expo in Las Vegas. The actual behavior of certain attendees/speakers has been covered by others (an interesting situation); however, my aggravation stems from the people I passed in my journey to the airport.

First, upon checking out of the hotel, I used my “nice words” to politely request a receipt for my stay. Apparently this request isn’t standard based on the clerk’s barely disguised unhappiness. Before printing my receipt, he did three other things, including initiating a phone call, then randomly shoving paper in my direction that proved to be my receipt, and continuing with his phone call. I didn’t realize a printing a receipt was so taxing.

The second, and probably most unexplainable one, wasn’t something that happened to me, but rather to the nice gentleman who drove the shuttle between the rental car drop off and the airport terminal. A guy standing behind me in line got on the bus with a suitcase and a golf bag case. After placing his bags on the rack, he stood at the front of the bus. As everyone else took a seat (plenty were available), the driver politely asked the guy to take a seat. His response of, “I prefer to stand,” tripped the driver up a bit, but he shrugged and continued loading luggage.

After everyone was loaded, and with several seats still available, the driver again asked this guy to take a seat. The passenger flat-out ignored him, even though he was standing directly in front him. With a final, “Please sir, take a seat,” from the driver, the guy cast a jaundiced eye towards the rest of us unwashed masses and ungraciously plopped down across from me without saying anything to the shuttle driver.

With the terminal in sight, the guy promptly stood up, crowded up towards the bags and dived for the door as soon as we pulled to the curb. He was also kind enough leave behind his trash on the seat. What a putz. Travel is difficult enough without other people making it harder on others. I appreciate that life happens, and we all get frustrated, but when you go out of your way to be difficult, especially with the people who are just trying to do their jobs, then that behavior becomes a choice.

Maybe I’m expecting too much. Maybe Honore de Balzac had it right. He said that, “Courtesy is only a thin veneer on the general selfishness.” (link) Perhaps our human makeup doesn’t automatically default to courtesy or consideration and we’re fighting our natural inclinations every time we say please and thank you. In spite of my cynicism about my fellow man, I want to believe that we’re more than that. The cost of saying “please” and “thank you” is nothing, but the potential return could be extraordinary.

Don’t confuse my desire for consideration with asking people to be wimps. I’d only suggest that basic manners aren’t old fashioned regardless of our modern, high-tech world. I guess that means I shouldn’t hope the airline lost the gentleman’s golf clubs either, though it might make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside of they did. Sigh. I guess I’m still human.


Update: The story I mentioned earlier about a BlogWorld has been responded to by the individuals involved, Mike Arrington and Om Malik. As I said, it’s an interesting story. I’ll be curious to see how it shakes out on all sides.

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July 2018
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