The new UC logo is all kinds of horrible

The University of California’s funding woes are well-known. Not a month goes by when there’s not a rumor of yet another tuition increase for undergraduates, and if you want to see an example of austerity in action, I’ll show you the bathrooms in the huge social science building at Berkeley which are cleaned maybe once a week. They are foul. But once a week is still better than what I get in the office I share with five other PhD students (which doesn’t have enough desks for all of us) – that room has never been cleaned since I moved into it over the summer.

Yet despite all the real problems, the UC system decided to throw away a good chunk of money on designing a new logo, needlessly rebranding what is arguably the best group of state universities in the world in an embarrassing attempt to look hip and down-with-the-kids.

You may be wondering what was wrong with the original logo. The answer is, nothing. It looked like the standard, formal logo of any United States university established earlier than the 20th Century. A book, a star, the motto “Let There Be Light,” the year of its establishment…perfectly good logo that immediately communicates that the schools which make up the UC system are serious places for learning and research:

Here’s the slightly more elaborate version (which appears on my business cards!):

Because there are multiple UC campuses across the state, sometimes the logo is altered slightly to give the name of the individual institution:


(FYI: While there are many campuses of the University of California, only one of them is abbreviated “Cal,” and that’s UC Berkeley.)

So, what do you do when you have a perfectly good logo that communicates everything it needs to communicate? You ruin it in the name of trying to look contemporary and cool. The new logo is really, truly horrible. “Let there be light?” Nah, let there be the symbol you get when your YouTube video is buffering:

I…I can’t even. It’s like the design team deliberately did its worst. It looks like a flushing toilet viewed from above – and in light of the continuing state funding fiasco, plenty of people would say that is a propos. This logo plays right into the hands of everybody saying that the UC system isn’t what it used to be.

Dumbed down. Style over substance. Unsophisticated. Vague. Commercial. That’s what I think when I see this logo. NOTHING about it says “university” or “California.” It could be a logo for anything – but the last thing I would expect it to be associated with is a prestigious university. It’s not fresh, it’s not exciting, and the gradient looks like it was made in a primitive computer paint program. Not a good look.

I’m not convinced this isn’t an elaborate prank. I mean, a team of designers didn’t think, “Hmmm, this looks a little bit like a flushing toilet, and somebody might connect that to the current problems with UC system funding”? Nobody realized that it looks vague and basic and doesn’t have any kind of symbolism that would tell people what it’s for? It seems like most of us viewing the new logo thought something along those lines after about five seconds. Reactions from students and alumni have been universally negative, often including comments like, “I can’t believe we paid money for this,” and, “If only you’d consulted us first, this would have been immediately scrapped.”

But wait! It gets hilariously better/worse! The designers created a video to introduce the new logo, and it (probably unintentionally) reinforces those negative messages. The video has the unfortunate symbolism of a book being shoved aside THREE TIMES in the first 46 seconds in favor of items like a tote bag and a mug, which isn’t exactly the best move for a university that needs to communicate, in the face of a funding crisis, that high academic standards are being maintained. Watch it here:

They…actually…thought…it was a good idea to show people pushing away books…in a branding exercise for a university.

Admittedly, it’s a nice video. I like the hand-crank/light switch parts. Those are quite cool. Too bad it’s advertising a horrible image. If this new logo is all about branding, then the video makes it look like serious academics are being pushed aside for the sake of slick marketing and commercialization. Professional designers (who are supposed to look for this kind of thing for a living) didn’t notice that and think it might not be the best message? I noticed this after viewing it ONCE! Plus, if you have to explain what a shape is meant to be – e.g. the top of the new logo is meant to look like a book, as outlined in the video – then that means the symbol can’t stand on its own and it fails at doing its job. You shouldn’t have to explain something as simple as a logo – the logo itself is supposed to communicate that kind of thing automatically. I understand that designing an image that pleases everybody is really difficult, and I don’t want this to be taken as a personal attack on the creators, because they have a tough job. I’m certainly not perfect – for example, in calling out some Internet Racists (TM) today, I accidentally wrote “Asian-American” instead of “Asian” and made myself look pretty dumb. That was embarrassing. Mistakes happen. But this is some serious public money and it should have gone through several layers of testing before it got approved. How do you possibly make something that communicates the total opposite of what it is meant to represent?

This appeared on MemeGenerator. Perfect.

I’ve never taken one marketing class in my life. I’ve never worked in advertising or brand identity. Neither have most of the people commenting on the logo. Yet nearly ALL OF US agree this is amateurish and ineffective for communicating the mission or the features of the University of California. Didn’t they hold a focus group or at least ask for comments? Test the logo on students or alumni before making it public? This is honestly the best that paid professionals could do? The problems with it are so, so obvious (Kind of like in the UC system! ZING!) that it is kind of embarrassing that this got the green light. It means that UC decision makers thought this logo was a good idea, and that students and alumni would like it. If none of us looking at the image are professional designers and we immediately see what’s wrong with this, I find it really hard to believe that the people being paid to make the logo and who presumably have experience designing this kind of thing didn’t anticipate that this *might* not go over well…

When you’re making a logo, you do need to imagine what your lay audience will think of it. You may be the pro designer, but you are trying to convince other people of something with your marketing technique, and if the audience hates it, then it doesn’t work.

Argh. UC paid good money for this. And my shared office still never gets cleaned, and we have to bring our own sugar for coffee and tea…

Oh well, at least some creative people at the Boston Review have already altered it to add in a reference to last year’s UC Davis pepper spray incident:

In other news, today is my 28th birthday. I can’t believe it, either. My oldest friend is getting married – I got the save-the-date card a few days ago – and I am still a student. Yes.

UPDATE: Over 43,000 people have signed a petition to ask the University of California to please not use the new logo. For once, I think the term “epic fail” is truly appropriate.

ANOTHER UPDATE: It has been suspended! After reaching 50,000+ signatures, UC decided to axe the new logo. SEE WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE WORK TOGETHER? *high-five*


For the love of all that is sensible, please vote NO on Proposition 37

Voting NO on Proposition 37 tomorrow and hoping it fails. The proposition is not simply a case of “Shouldn’t you have the right to know what’s in your food?” – it’s scaremongering and anti-science, and the proposition itself is full of exemptions that would make the labels ultimately meaningless, kind of like those Prop 65 warnings you see everywhere (because the trial lawyer behind those is the same one behind this proposition – I’m sure he’s doing this just because he cares about food, no ulterior motive at all!).

The labelling scheme WILL increase food prices, and this WILL have the hardest impact on poor Californians who already pay high food prices. No, Monsanto is not my friend, but neither are the quacks like naturopaths supporting the Yes-on-37 campaign. I’m siding with the seven Nobel Laureates in chemistry or physiology/medicine from California, and dozens of other academics in saying no to 37. I trust them a lot more than a quack like “Dr.” Mercola, the top donor to the yes-on-37 campaign – Mercola is an HIV denialist and anti-vaccine panic-monger, why on earth would anybody trust him when it comes to anything scientific? Trust a man who doesn’t think AIDS is caused by HIV to know what is healthy? No thanks. I’d rather chill with the biologists at UC Berkeley who also believe this proposition needs to fail.

Nor should we pretend that businesses like Whole Foods are in this because they believe in the greater good – they have a profit motive just like every other business. It’s ludicrous for them to point the finger at companies that have a financial stake in GM food when they themselves have a massive financial interest in promoting non-GM food. (As for health arguments, you have a huge risk of food poisoning from “natural” fad foods like raw milk.) Plus I’m disgusted that people are using the “Monsanto gave the world Agent Orange and they’re telling you GM foods are safe” argument. That’s irresponsible scare-mongering of the worst degree.

As for “Frankenfood” arguments – genetic engineering takes place in nature, and always has done. You’ve been eating genetically engineered foods your entire life. An engineer friend schooled me, and it’s really fascinating. Definitely read up on it. I’m disturbed by how many of my colleagues in social science are buying the pro-37 arguments – guys, we’re striving for credibility as scientists, so shouldn’t we be examining the evidence? Shouldn’t we be looking at how there are no studies in proper peer-reviewed journals that find evidence GMOs are harmful to your health?
More is at stake than just California’s reputation – which, believe me, is already firmly cemented in the head-in-the-clouds-hippie category. Science is already under siege from quacks who take advantage of poor science education in this country. I have no business interests in this whatsoever – I’m a PhD student in sociology who hates unnecessary panic, and who hates the idea of the pro-GM backers being viewed as saints just looking out for your health and safety when they’ve got dollar signs in their eyes like everybody else. I’m not bankrolled by any corporation – if I was, then trust me, I wouldn’t be living in the Tenderloin. I’m for facts, not taking advantage of fear – NO ON 37.

An open letter to the Supervisors who voted to reinstate Ross Mirkarimi as Sheriff

Dear Supervisors Avalos, Campos, Kim, and Olague,

I passed Alice B. Toklas Place on my way home from rehearsing with my dance company tonight. I’ve read that she was born one block away from there, on O’Farrell Street, a stone’s throw from where I live as a single woman in the Tenderloin. She had quite a life, didn’t she?

I am mentioning this because a lot has changed since she lived here. A San Francisco LGBT Democratic club bears her name, but I think she would be just as disgusted as I am with the fact that you didn’t have the nerve to definitively fire “Sheriff” Ross Mirkarimi, and that because of your actions and your actions alone, he remains in office.

Yes, Ross Mirkarimi is still sheriff.

Ross Mirkarimi, who beat his wife last December.

Ross Mirkarimi, who pled guilty to false imprisonment in relation to that event, is sheriff.

Ross Mirkarimi, who is ON PROBATION FOR A CRIME RELATED TO DOMESTIC ABUSE, remains in the highest-ranked LAW ENFORCEMENT position we have.

I hate to use such a hackneyed phrase, but this reeks of inmates running the asylum. And it reeks of your cowardice, because you would rather defend a fellow public office-holder of appallingly poor character than to support the women of San Francisco who have been victims of domestic violence.

Thanks for the spit in the eye.

But hey, after all, it’s not like this is one of many ways women are demeaned in America nowadays, is it? We’re not like those backward Republican states, are we? Oh, no no no. We’re more enlightened than that, aren’t we? We’re better than them. We would never share their ignorant ideas and scorn women like that.

Right, and my Muni bus is really the Batmobile.

John Avalos, we almost elected you mayor. You said that you wouldn’t sack Mirkarimi because it would set a “bad precedent.” I also understand you have a daughter. If you want to talk about precedents, of the moral rather than the legal kind, what kind of example do you think this sets for her? That a man can beat her up and terrify her and still hold on to power, so she might as well not even go through the hassle (and public slating) of reporting domestic violence? You have a son, too. How can you not see that this sends him the message that, as a man, he can act like a scumbag and not face consequences? I suppose you don’t care, because your vote shows you support exactly that.

David Campos, shame on you. You are an attorney. You went to Harvard Law, so you’re clearly not stupid. It should go without saying that you should know better. As an openly gay man and former undocumented immigrant, you are probably familiar with the fear that comes from people trying to make your life hell just because of who you are. You would probably agree with me that such behavior is completely unacceptable. Too bad your actions tonight demonstrated a total lack of empathy with other vulnerable people, like women who get beaten senseless by their partners. Why not? Aren’t they just as innocent as anybody else who is the victim of violence? Because by your actions, you seem to be endorsing the idea that domestic violence is no big deal. Hey, it was just a bruise Ross Mirkarimi gave to Eliana Lopez, right? Hey, she regretted it after the case turned into a media circus, so she must have not been that upset, right? It’s not like a man has never gone from inflicting small bruises to breaking bones, right? It’s not like this sends any kind of message to the public that you can be a wife-beating idiot and keep your job in law enforcement and lots of powerful people will rally to your side, right? Rhetorical questions, sir. Surely you’ve encountered these in your legal career.

Jane Kim, I’m most ashamed of you. You represent District 6, which includes the Tenderloin, SoMa, and Mid-Market areas. Ever wonder how some of the women on the streets around here became homeless? Ever wonder what the men in their lives did to them? Maybe you don’t care about them because few of them are registered to vote, but they are woman just like you. I would like to invite you to sit down with me for coffee somewhere on Market Street and explain to me why you sold out women like this, because I sure as hell can’t figure it out myself…and I’m getting a PhD from the state’s premier public university. Actually, no. Don’t waste your time on me. I’m doing fine. I am a lucky woman who thankfully doesn’t have to be afraid of any of the men in her life. Go look a battered woman in the eye and tell her why you did this. You too, Christina Olague. I really and truly hope you never have to deal with the pain and terror victims of domestic abuse have to confront. I would not wish it on my worst enemy. But I doubt you feel likewise, because you just handed Ross Mirkarimi back his power on a plate. Hey, if you can sleep at night, then don’t let me burden you with any guilt. I’m just one woman. I’m just one San Francisco voter who expected a higher standard from the Board of Supervisors. Silly, silly me.

All four of you don’t see what he did as sufficient enough to be called “official misconduct.” Then what the hell is it?

Oh, and shame on former mayor Art Agnos for his truly egregious statement that “Anyone who knows Eliana Lopez knows she is not a woman who could be or has been abused.” Excuse me? Whether a woman gets abused is a matter of HER character? Wow, stupid me. I thought it was a matter of whether a man beat her up. Are all the women who suffer domestic violence simply weak-willed? Are you saying that if they had been the right kind of person, it wouldn’t have happened to them? That Eliana Lopez is somehow different from all those Jane Does, and if they were more like her, they would have control over their men? Wow. Just, wow. Congratulations, Mr. Agnos. You’ve rendered me temporarily speechless. That is not an easy thing to do. Only temporarily, mind you. I might even say that anyone who knows Julia Kite knows she is not a woman who could be shut up for very long…but your utter stupidity comes close.

It is a matter of character. It is a matter of what kind of behavior we think is unacceptable for a city official. You may say that because it happened in between when he was elected and when he was sworn in, it doesn’t count. I think it counted to Eliana Lopez when she was documenting it, and I think it counts to every woman who has been beaten. A punch hurts just as much regardless of the title of the person delivering it. You may say that because the domestic violence charges were eventually dropped, it’s irrelevant. Sorry, you’re flat-out wrong. First of all, we all saw the bruises. Secondly, he pled guilty to false imprisonment in relation to the event, and he is currently on probation. I can’t believe I have to spell this out for elected officials, but YOU DON’T GIVE THE TITLE OF SHERIFF TO A MAN WHO IS ON PROBATION. Every five-year-old knows you don’t give a shoplifter the keys to your store. You don’t give an arsonist a pack of matches. YOU DON’T GIVE A MAN ON PROBATION FOR A DOMESTIC VIOLENCE-RELATED OFFENSE THE OFFICE OF SHERIFF. This is behavior I would expect from the most backward old boy’s club known to man, not from a city that prides itself on being liberal. I have lived in some corrupt places, but my god, this is by far the most disgusting act I’ve witnessed from any city council. Why should women have any faith in you to act in their best interests?

Guess what? It’s not just about Eliana Lopez anymore. It’s about every woman in this city, and our right that basic standards of behavior be required for someone holding an office like Sheriff. If Lopez and her husband want to pose for the cameras as a happy couple, then that’s their business and not mine. What IS my business, as a voter in San Francisco, is that Mirkarimi holds the highest law enforcement position in the city and county.  It became my business the minute he was elected. He has displayed character unbecoming of such an official. You have all displayed character unbecoming of people who are supposed to represent your constituents.

I never really cared much about this city’s politics, but now I will make sure I do everything in my power to convince voters you shouldn’t be reelected. They deserve better.

You had a chance to send a message that domestic violence will not be tolerated. You didn’t. And maybe you can live comfortably with that, but I’m raging and I’m not going to be quiet about it. You are all educated people – surely you’ve heard the old trope about how all evil needs to thrive is for good people to do nothing.

Forgive this PhD student, this uppity pissed-off woman, for occasionally being  ineloquent in my anger, but what you have done is reprehensible. You call yourselves liberal? I call you spineless. I call you cowards, and I’m quite happy to come out and say that, because I’m one of those women who doesn’t shut up. I am appalled by your actions, and so very ashamed to live in San Francisco.

And do you think I’m the only one? Go ask Alice.


Julia Kite

Get A Life Girl

It’s time for a new superheroine.

When a generally pleasant postgraduate student gets an electric shock re-loading her Clipper card at a BART station, she becomes…GET A LIFE GIRL!

GET A LIFE GIRL is devoted to travelling through the Bay Area, delivering slaps to those who need it most. And trust me, a LOT of people around here need a good slap.

A few days ago I was standing in the McDonald’s outside Montgomery Street station, waiting for my order – Filet-o-Fish and medium fries, if you must know. YUM. I will blog about my disdain for foodies and the Californian obsession with proving your moral superiority through your shopping basket another day. Anyway, I was patiently waiting, and nerdily thinking about Katherine Newman’s book No Shame in My Game and how fast food word is a lot more complex than people think, when a man angrily approached one of the cashiers. He was upset. What had gone wrong? I’ll tell you what had gone wrong:


He had requested that his double cheeseburger not have pickles, and the minimum-wage workers just trying to earn a living and dealing with dozens of customers at once had forgotten to omit them.

Now, if you’re like most rational people in this world, this is not a big deal. It is not even the slightest blip on the Richter Scale of Things About Which to Be Upset. You’re an adult. You lift up the bun, remove the three shreds of pickle (or six, if this is a double cheeseburger), and throw them away. Then you go back to, you know, thinking of the actual problems this world has. But not this guy. This is San Francisco, remember? The vast majority of people have nothing to worry about, but they still want to feel like special snowflakes, so they make up problems.

“I’m really tired of you guys ruining my lunch,” this man told the young woman working behind the counter.

RUINING his lunch.

Ruining his lunch…because…there was some pickle on his burger.

Now, excuse me if this comes across a bit judgmental, but: GET A LIFE, YOU LOUSY WASTE OF AIR.

The next day, I was on my way to Berkeley, running slightly late for my office hours. I had to administer an exam to a student who had been absent, and I was worried about her not having enough time. Then I got caught up in what I was reading, missed my stop, and ended up on the other side of the Oakland Hills. The next train wasn’t coming for 8 minutes, so I jumped into a taxi. Said taxi, like lots of things in the Bay Area, was stuck in the past, so it didn’t accept credit cards. I didn’t have enough cash, so I asked the driver to stop at a Wells Fargo that I knew was along the way. He pulled up in front of the ATM, in the bus lane. I jumped out, and I noticed that there was already one man at the ATM. He was finishing up – I saw him take his money, take his card, take his receipt. But he didn’t move. He just kept standing there, shuffling through his wallet, deciding this was the right place to start organizing it. I figured he hadn’t seen me waiting, so I said in my nicest, sweetest voice:

“Excuse me, sir, I’ve got a taxi waiting, may I please use the machine?”

He looked at me as if I’d suggested his mother was a five-dollar Tenderloin whore.

After standing in place for spite for a while, he moved the necessary two steps to the side, then proceded to holler at me while I got my money. “YOU MUST THINK YOU’RE SO MUCH BETTER THAN EVERYBODY ELSE!” Because…I asked him politely if I could use a cash machine because my taxi driver was waiting right there. Wow. I shudder to think what’s going to happen when the next (overdue) big earthquake hits the Bay Area, because if these special snowflakes are so very, very offended and permanently scarred and wounded to the core of their being because somebody asked them to take two steps, then how the hell are they going to deal with ACTUAL disaster? I will admit I’ve had a very easy life, but these people would not last a day in my shoes. They would have massive breakdowns almost immediately. I never realized I was A Bit Of A Tough Bitch until I moved to California and found out just how soft people are. If I may be so bold, this is especially true for the men – I could go on a huge rant about why I’m single at the moment, and it probably wouldn’t be terribly convincing, but a bit part of it is that I can’t find men roughly my age who aren’t dull and soft. Of course I’m not going for thugs, but I’d like someone who has been around the block at least once, somebody who’s not going to have a conniption because there’s no organic vodka at the bar. I’ve seen men here pester the minimum-wage shelf stackers at the grocery store over the difference in taste between two types of cucumber! Actually pester, not just ask. Pester to the point where this one man asked if he could speak to a manager about sampling said cucumbers. IT’S A BLOODY CUCUMBER. IT DOESN’T TASTE OF ANYTHING. GET A LIFE!!!


I’m about to go to the post office, and I’m reminded up the time I was waiting there and some gross man was doing his yoga stretches in line, rubbing his dirty sneakers all over hand railings. I asked him to stop because, you know, there are needles and dog poo (and human poo) all over the streets here, and people have to TOUCH THAT because IT’S A PUBLIC HAND RAILING and NOT A YOGA MAT. He went absolutely ballistic and threw a strop in front of everybody. Another rant for another day is the total lack of basic hygiene people have here, but anyway, GET A LIFE!


This would not happen in New York or London. People think New Yorkers are rude, but that’s not true. We are blunt, we are efficient. Not rude. Big difference. We have things to do and places to go and you’re not special so quit whining and get on with life. In London, people don’t talk to strangers, but we don’t have to because people Get It and Move Along in the first place. We have common sense. We know you don’t bother minimum-wage workers about stupid shit because you’re making their lives harder. We know you respond to simple requests without personal attacks. We know to not literally rub shit where you eat. For some reason, this evades people in Northern California, because the attitude here is that you are perfect just the way you are and nobody has the right to criticise you, no matter what.


It’s the same attitude which states that you can bring your wild yapping rat-dog into a supermarket or restaurant, and as long as you say, “It’s a service dog,” nobody can ask you to take it out, even if it’s obvious you’re lying.

It’s the same attitude which makes my fellow grad students threaten to go “on strike” even though we’re getting paid by the broke-ass state of California to GET THE WORD “DOCTOR” IN FRONT OF OUR NAMES in exchange for a little bit of teaching. Not only do we not pay fees, WE GET PAID TO DO THIS, but apparently we are the oppressed workers of the world and we need to fight blah blah blah. For the record: I am a Democrat. I believe in the power of unions to advocate for exploited workers’ rights. Over-privileged grad students doing something 99.9% of the population can never dream of doing at a time when the state has no money for education are NOT exploited workers.


It’s the same attitude which leads to Ross Mirkarimi still being in his position as SF sheriff ten months after everybody found out he’s a wife-beating idiot because he refuses to take responsibility, do the right thing, and step down. The city council has so far been too spineless to remove him, but that may change today. I wouldn’t get your hopes up, though. Not hurting Ross Mirkarimi’s feelings is more important than the fact that he hurt his wife. Strange priorities around here.


It’s called an absolutely massive entitlement complex.

It’s embarrassing.

It’s narcissism, and California is ground zero of an epidemic of it.

So stop it, or GET A LIFE GIRL may appear in your life.