Monday, September 20, 2004

What's That Beauty For?

Artwork, Labels, and Libraries

Pass me those Cheerios. I think they're Cheerios—if you could see the whole word, it looks like it'd spell out Cheerios! I think. Let me get the magnifying glass and look at the bottom of the box—oh, yeah, it's Cheerios, all right!

From breakfast cereal boxes to magazine covers, covering up the cover art with price tags and bar codes and various promotional text is de rigueur these days. So much work spent on ornamenting the containers, then Whap, slap the cartoon-lettering of price tags and labels reading "New!" and "Special!" right over 'em! What's the reasoning there? Why pay the commercial artists, I wonder, if the art don't count for squat? I realize it's not Rembrandt, but what is even that beauty for if not to be seen?

Due Date Stickered

They do the same sort of thing at the library, though. These "price" stickers used nowadays to show the Due Dates are slapped over the book covers willy-nilly and books pushed in your direction like the butcher shoves you a paper-wrapped soup bone. Next! Lord, you almost forget where you are!

Library personnel are nowadays armed with ever-present sticker guns at the desk—they don't mind shooting labels right in the midst of some attractive picture or painting on the cover. That's the first irritation. But neither do they mind sticking Due Date labels right over the title or the name of the author. If they do that sort of thing at a bookstore, you can shrug and read the title and author names on the spine of the book. At a systematic library, however, all you may find on the spine is that the library notations and Dewey decimal system numbers have been taped across all the text information there and You Can't See It! WHO wrote the book and WHAT'S it called—fuck if I know, I can't see it!

If it's not a large enough book to bear the burden of it's stickers gracefully, sometimes you just have to pull it down from the shelf, open it and start reading until you find out what it's called. Perhaps it's part of the plan to break us of Browsing the shelves. But in that case, why haven't they issued me a personal scanner yet? If I had a good one, I guess I could look it up on the computer catalog, close my eyes, and search for the right book by Braille and Beep! Hell, it might work...

Schizoid Packaging And Sticker Madness

I could understand the product container situation in the commercial world if there were two schools of thought about the matter. But what there is amounts to a set of people at each company who believe BOTH in artful packaging AND in obscuring the image. We scrawl across anything, anywhere, any time in pursuit of a last minute chance to sell, Sell, SELL! Produce and obscure, dance and defile!

I can just imagine the scene in various corporate boardrooms. The art department brings in the beautiful paintings or photos of Coca-Cola or Campbell's Soup or Frosty's Cornflakes and the executives crow over them. Oh, lord, it's so beautiful, don't change a thing about it, it's gorgeous! Then it goes on down the line to the pricers and the packagers and the shippers and the last-minute salesmen in the grocery stores and it gets stickered to death. Nothing is sacred, nor was meant to be. SCREW BEAUTY, we're sellin' STUFF here!

Hell, I never asked 'em to decorate everything on the planet. I just felt like they were being inconsistent. Doesn't anybody want to be consistent any more?

Simple Simon Sez…

Then it dawned on me: those images aren't decorations at all, they're pictograms for people who can't read or who can't read the language of product origin! The illiterate, the dislocated, and the disoriented can recognize a commercial product anywhere on the planet! It was so simple; as usual, I was over-complicating everything. "They" don't care, because all they care about is The Sale. Duh...

Now, if only I could comprehend what those people at the public library are up to. I can see where it was easier to afford the stickers than the ray guns and scanner stuff it requires to read them on book spines from 30 paces, so that's my guess at present. Just don't write in and tell me the eventual plan is to insert microchips in our foreheads and make us the scanners. I faint easily.
"Exit, pursued by a bear."—William Shakespeare (Stage direction in "The Winter's Tale")

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