Okay, it's that time of year again, and I see everyone getting all into an uproar over "Black Friday".

And once again I want to hide in a burrow, away from the idiotic behavior of clueless people acting clueless all in the name of "giving".

A few points to remember:

1) Retail is pure democracy, and you vote with your dollars. Businesses (stores) can do nothing without the assent of willing consumers, rewarding them with dollars.

2) "Sales" are not "steals". Sale prices, bargains, deals, discounts, etc. are written into the profit margin of an item before the merchandise even leaves the factory. That means that if an item is marked at some "low low" cost for Black Friday, that is the price it was intended to be sold for. The "Suggested Retail" price and all those numbers that are crossed out before the one you think is a "bargain"? Those are there to make you think you're getting a deal, and to make you feel psychologically comfortable with the price you're paying, which is exactly the price the company wants you to pay. No less.

3) There is no objective business reason that a so-called bargain can or should be offered only at a specific time or date. Limiting the offer is a retailer's attempt to hype their business and get a quick estimate on a season's performance. If nobody shows up on Friday, they'll still have the merchandise on hand and the need to move it, they WILL create new "deals" and schemes to get it out of their stockroom by Dec. 24th.

4) Opening stores for "off" hours, the "Midnight Madness" sales, etc., only combines the false impression of a "discount" (in #2) with the hype of #3. It does not display your consumer savvy, it only demonstrates the sick effectiveness of cheap ploys. Worse, voting with your dollars at midnight the night after a holiday means voting FOR companies that require their lowest-paid employees (the cashiers and stockroom attendants) to work a middle-of-the-night shift. For consumers that buy into the cheap ploys.

So go stand in line at midnight to get your "bargains". But look at everyone working in that store, when you do. See them, at midnight or two a.m.? Those aren't automatons, they're people, and they have families (at home, sleeping, probably) and holiday gift shopping of their own to do. And unlike you, the shopper, they didn't have a choice to be there. Holiday shifts are mandatory for those retailers.

Here's the thing that people have a hard time grokking: If the stores threw a sale, and nobody showed up, they would still run those same discounts later on, during normal business hours. The merchandise has to move for the company to make a profit. An executive would look at the spreadsheets and say "Hmm, people like our widgets, even more than the competition, but the prime buying hours are between 8 and 10 am, and then again between 2 and 3. We're wasting money on all that staff, all night long." And next year, things would be a little different. Instead, each year they come up with even more and more extreme plays, and each year, more and more people, blindly following the advertising, fall for it, and each year it gets worse for everyone.

I have it easy: my shop is stable, and my workers well-cushioned. I can tell you right now how many visitors we'll have and much money we're going to make on Friday, and it's not going to be any chaos at all. But other people don't have it so lucky, and I cringe for them.

I cringe, too, for all the people telling me (like I should be happy for them, since I'm a shopkeeper) that they're looking forward to standing in a line at midnight. I only grimace. You're being played, sucker, and worse: you're hurting other people in the process.

Each dollar you spend is a vote for something. What kind of world are you voting for?
Okay, after a fair amount of interest in my "Improving Aphrodite" post from the other day, I made it public, and I'm happy to see so many people as piqued by the injustice to art and anatomy as I was.

If you're here linked from another site, welcome, and come right in.

I feel I need to say one more word, though, in defense of the company (and the individuals) making the models and reproductions. This is my industry, it's my profession, and I'd like to tell you a little bit about how it works, and in the process, what YOU can do to stop it when you see something like this that enrages you.

Basically, there is no conspiracy. These are NOT a deliberate and wanton desecration of the original artworks; the sculptors and model-makers are "innocent victims" of the system and not deliberately trying to persecute women or harm anyone's body-image. In reproducing art, we often have to alter it a bit to fit the medium, heightening and brightening a painting's colors to make it look better (and more salable) on a poster, for example. What happened here wasn't someone saying "let's make Venus stick-thin and bobble-headed, anorectic and childlike, and carve away the flesh of her tummy and the bones of her hips", they just made a little sculpture and thought, looking at it, that it didn't look "right". So they adjusted a bit. They adjusted using their best eye and their best judgment, in a world where their own eyes and judgment have been formed by a million other images that came before this one. For every Aphrodite this model-maker has seen, he/she has also seen a million Photoshopped movie posters, advertisements, and magazine covers. His/her kids probably play with "Bratz" and "Barbie" dolls. He/she probably has body issues of his/her own, as most people do in our culture today.

And when that individual went to produce a model, they didn't see that it was inaccurate and grotesque, they thought it looked like something their customers (potentially YOU) would want to buy in a store or catalogue. And this is retail, and as I always say, "retail is the purest form of democracy", and it's a democracy that works really well: we can't keep producing anything that you, the consumers, won't buy. Keep in mind that I took those photos from a wholesale, to-the-trade publication. I didn't order those items to put on the shelf for MY customers. You probably haven't seen those on the shelves where you shop. The democracy is working. If no-one orders it, if I and all the other buyers think the pieces are hideous, the model-makers are going to come up with something else to sell. That's how the system works.

So you can write letters to companies if you want to, and explain why you won't buy their products, but it's the "buying the product or not" that the company cares about most--the system has been shaped by consumer sales: Oprah on a magazine cover, thin, sells more issues than Oprah on a magazine cover, curvy. Movie posters that show a disproportionally stretched actress sell more tickets than movie posters that show the actress as she is. "Bratz" dolls sell better than "Happy to be me" dolls, no matter what lip-service is paid to body-love and self acceptance.

So I want you to see these images, so that you can become a more savvy consumer of images, and so that you can recognize the distortions when you see them on retail shelves and advertising yourself. But I'd also like to implore you, before you dash off an angry letter to a wholesale art reproduction company (especially if it's a business you have not previously supported with your dollars) to think about the businesses you do support and the ways that you can positively encourage them to change and improve their habits, and watch out for times you find yourself "voting" for unrealistically deformed bodies, yourself, by responding to advertising that builds on all the same values and misconceptions that formed the terrible shapes of the plastic goddesses, below.

That's all. Thank you, again, for reading.
Okay, so the election is over, and most of us took delight in doing our patriotic duty in filling out little circles (or punching chads, some places). The votes are tallied (well, mostly) and now we're waking up on the other side of the decision-making process.

You think.

This is the day where I feel obligated to get on my soapbox and rant a little...those of you who know me well have heard it a million times before, but some of you won't have heard it, so I'm saying it again: Your most important voice in this culture is NOT through the ballot box, once a year in November. It comes out through your wallet, in the way you spend money, and the issues, groups, businesses and individuals that you support every single day of the year. Every dollar you spend is a vote for something, so please, take a moment when you're doing that spending and think about what and who you're supporting.

Get it? You vote with your money. If you voted yesterday, for example, for a minimum wage increase in your state, but you've hired your housekeeper "off the books" and pay her less than minimum wage, yourself, the money you pay that housekeeper all throughout the year more than cancels out the little circle you filled in supporting fair wages. Or maybe, on the other hand, you wanted to donate money last year to a tsunami relief fund, but couldn't, but sometime during the year you tranferred an account to a company that was a big supporter of the same relief fund, you just transferred your support to that fund, as well, and changed the flow of your money. There's no better way to know who you are and what you believe in than looking through your checkbook at who you give money to.

Consumer voting, just like ballotbox voting, requires that you know the issues, and that you know a little about the candidates (or companies) that you support. It's a lot more complicated than just checking a box, because companies and products don't line up evenly in "red" and "blue" columns. Is a "vote" for Starbucks, for example, a vote for a) mediocre coffee at exorbitant prices, b) proliferation of one corporation's worldwide domination of an entire product market, or c) a company that pays its employees well and provides health benefits beyond their competitors? It's actually all three--so even in simple daily choices, like buying an espresso, you have to decide which issues are most important to you, and which ones you want to get behind.

Also, keep in mind that just like in yesterday's election, your voice is loudest on a local level. Your one vote yesterday was more important to candidates right in your own town than it was for the statewide propositions, where many people were voting. It's the same with consumer spending...you might not, yourself, make much of an influence with money spend with worldwide corporations, but every choice you make locally helps shape your local landscape and the community around you. If you choose to have your lunches at Joe's hamburger stand instead of McDonalds, for example, it won't mean much to the McDonalds corp., BUT, if enough people on your street make the same choice, it means Joe's hamburger stand gets to stay in business, and now you live in a neighborhood where you can still choose to eat at Joe's, instead of having McDonalds and Burger King being the only choices available to you. Maybe you're even lucky enough to live in a community that's fostored local business long enough so that the spinach in Joe's salad is even from a local farmer, which means you're not going to have to worry about the next e coli outbreak! At any rate, when you travel and find every other neighborhood around the world has McD's and BK, but no-one else has ever tasted Joe's special barbequed bacon burger, you're gonna be pretty happy to come back home. You've just spent money and voted to make your neighborhood the kind of place you want to actually live.

Even if you decide you don't give a damn about Joe and your local farmer, keep in mind that for every dollar spent locally, $.75 remains in the community, where only $.35 of each dollar spent at a national chain remains in the local economy (and that, usually through lower-paying service positions...national chain restaurants, for example, need waitstaff and dishwashers in each town where they open a restaurant, but the real jobs, the administration, accounting, development, hr, media/publicity, legal and other departments...all the money-making jobs are headquartered elsewhere).

So please, if nothing more, think about what you vote for when you pull out your wallet, and make that decision consciously rather than carelessly. If you like the flavor and character of your local community, or rely on it in any way for your own job or business, then please, shop locally and spend locally.
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