Saturday, January 28, 2006

The New Yorker Reader Finis: More Ads: Oil Paintings of Dogs; Custom-made SUV Floor Mats.

We noticed a lot of lifestyle-type ads:

"The Retreat at Sheppard Pratt. A first class setting for world class care. Psychotherapeutic milieu."

We take Thorazine, they take Thorazine, but WE go to the Free Clinic to get it; THEY go to The Retreat at Sheppard Pratt.

We determined to change our milieu.

"The Vein Treatment Center."

We shoot heroin; they shoot heroin!

"Structure House, a renowned facility and community for weight loss, diabetes management, and lifestyle change."

Dr. Hersh, our Urologist at the Free Clinic and a New Yorker writer "on the side," had often talked to us about a lifestyle change and our need for more structure.

"Are you a Sybarite?"

Not since Dr. Hersh gave us shots of the penicillin.

We then began to see a pattern in the ads:

"World's BEST Beds."
"Upton Tea Imports, purveyor of the world's FINEST teas." Purveyor means seller, we looked it up.
"Terroir: only the freshest and FINEST coffees."
"Classic Legacy Perfumes. FINEST Quality Formulations."

"Best," "Finest:" Whatever the expense only the best will do. That is the quintessence of The New Yorker reader.

"Custom-Made Floor Mats. Perfectly tailored to fit your car, van, truck or SUV."

Even with FLOOR MATS only the best will do. We had a pickup truck that we could accessorize with one of these.

"Fine Dog Portraits in Oil."

We have a dog, Tilley. We have some Polaroid pictures of her but the difference between us and Them is that They paid for fine oil portraits of their dogs. This threw some needed light on the "Love your pet in style" ad that had flummoxed us earlier. We loved Tilley but to REALLY love Tilley we had to show it by spending whatever was required to love her "in style."

We then saw the Cold Fusion Yo-Yo ad for the first time since The Undersigned showed it to us at the Free Clinic. It cost $90. It was by Duncan, which is to yo-yos what The New Yorker is to magazines.
$90 for a yo-yo. We used to get a Duncan yo-yo for 99 cents when we were young.

Who would pay $90 for a yo-yo? New Yorker readers obviously, but why...why?

Because it was the BEST, that's why! And whether it's floor mats, boat shoes or yo-yos only the best is good enough for the best and the brightest (i.e. New Yorker readers).

It was all beginning to make sense.

Then...we saw the Rosanna Stone of our inquiry:

"Purveyor of the Unnecessary & the Irresistible."

New Yorker readers bought a lot of things from "purveyors." They seemed to be an integral part of The New Yorker reader "milieu."

We had another head click. Unnecessary and irresistible, unnecessary and irresistible...peut-etre as in cocaine and heroin, which we were familiar with? We see said the blind man!

We thought to ourselves that this Joanne Rossman must be to New Yorker readers what Playboy centerfolds are to women: the standard in style by which all others are measured.

It was all in the style. If you had business savvy and style you could purvey all manner of
unnecessary and irresistible things.

We resolved to suggest a business card to Tyrone the next time we saw him at the Free Clinic:

"Tyrone, Purveyor of the Unnecessary and Irresistible
The Finest Essence of Coca and the Best French Opiates
Located under the tree by the 7/11, corner of Washington and State
Open 2-6 a.m. nightly."

And after a while of purchasing Tyrone's purveyances one could check into The Vein Treatment Center or The Retreat at Shepphard Pratt.

It was closing time at the library and we felt that we had accomplished our objective.

We had tested ourselves, we had read The New Yorker, but we had not read The New Yorker as a magazine, we had read it as an anthropologist had read the Rosanna Stone, we had analyzed it as a cultural hermeneutic; we had "read" it maybe as New Yorker readers didn't even do.

It wasn't the articles that separated New Yorker readers from the riff-raff. They didn't read the articles. It wasn't even the cartoons. Lots of magazines have witty, erudite cartoons. It was Style, as exemplified in boat shoes with 18 karat gold eyelets, in oil paintings of dogs, in the unnecessary and irresistible. It was a certain, how to say, je ne sais quoi.

We thought of submitting our anthropological analysis to The New Yorker for publication, but then we thought that was stupid, no one would ever read it.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Democrats Should Oppose Alito

Democrats Should Oppose Alito

Judge Samuel Alito's elevation to the Supreme Court is all but inevitable. He is unquestionably qualified, the Senate Republican majority is so right-wing and the Democrats so impotent and rudderless that there is no serious threat to his confirmation, but this is (tired metaphor alert) one of those political watersheds, like the Gulf of Tonkin resolution.

Alito, nicknamed "Scalito" for his commonality with Justice Antonin Scalia, will almost surely replace Sandra Day O'Connor's vote upholding Roe v Wade with a vote to overrule it.

Political correctness dictates that a politician never say that (same metaphor alert) he/she has a "litmus test" for judicial nominees.

Abortion rights should be a litmus test. Any Democrat who votes to confirm Alito or even silently casts a no vote is betraying the principles of his/her party on the one domestic issue that has most clearly distinguished the parties for over a generation.

Sen. John Kerry called for a filibuster earlier this week to stop Alito's confirmation but he doesn't have the votes. The Democratic half of "The Gang of 14" has agreed not to filibuster President Bush's judicial nominees, the Republican half has agreed to oppose attempts to abolish the filibuster procedure altogether. Two of the seven Democrats have also announced that they will vote to confirm Alito.

This group of appeasors will regret their actions. As an earlier group of Democrats had to answer the question of how they voted on the Gulf of Tonkin resolution, this group will have to answer to their daughters and granddaughters on what they did when the right to abortion was to be upheld or wiped out.

-Benjamin Harris

Thursday, January 26, 2006

"Boswell felt that the act of writing regularly was beneficial in itself, both as a discipline which would encourage the habit of application and as a means of staving off the depression which often resulted from inactivity. Morever, he hoped that 'knowing that I am to record my transactions will make me more careful to do well.' "

Adam Sisman, Boswell's Presumpuous Task; The Making of the life of Dr. Johnson.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Could We Be a New Yorker Reader: Parte Tres

The New Yorker Horror
Parte Tres. "The Ads.
You're Looking at the

How could we recognize a New Yorker reader? More importantly how could we look like one our ownselves and subtly signal our status to our brethren and sistren?

Cleverly, we thought to ourselves, "Look at the Ads." Isn't that how this all started, with The Undersigned's mention of the cold fusion yo-yo ad at the Free Clinic?

Yes it was.

Suddenly we realized that right here, in this library, lurking in that aisle over there or seated at that desk here, might be a New Yorker reader, invisible to our untrained eye because she was not playing with her cold fusion yo-yo at the moment. But if we knew other things they bought, the kinds of clothes they wore, we might be able to spot them.

We saw an ad in the October 17, 2005 issue,

"Love your pet in style! Poochstyle."


In the November 7 issue there was,

"Self-Indulgence-You Deserve it. Treat yourself to the luxury of a silk smoking jacket for the holidays!"

Now we were cookin' with gas! A silk smoking jacket!

In the same issue,

"For the Sportsman who has everything. Except boat shoes with [18 karat] gold eyelets and deerskin linings."

We had never thought of something like this before BECAUSE WE WERE NOT NEW YORKER READERS BEFORE!

An ad for a "European Beret" was in the October 17 issue and one for a "Greek Fisherman's Cap" in the November 14 issue.

We began to See: Going back to Eustace, Hats--but only certain kinds--distinguished New Yorker readers from the unsophisticated and unintelligent.

Our instinct was confirmed by two other ads from 21 November, "The Cashmere Watch Cap," and "The Traditional Night Cap." There was even an article in the October 17 issue titled "Old Hat." (And they didn't think we'd get that hint :)

We saw "Beau Ties Ltd of Vermont. Handcrafted silk bow ties..."

Beau/bow: tres clever, neau?

Then, "Mr Happy Crack says...'A dry crack is a happy crack' T-shirts, boxers ballcaps, thongs, onesies"

We felt more like a typical New Yorker reader when we saw this ad from The Happy Crack Company, which we were familiar with.

We now had a plethora of headwear ideas, we knew what kind of shoes to look for, we had our silk smoking jacket, our beau ties, even our Happy Crack "onesies." We looked to complete our ensemble and on page 95 of the November 1 issue we saw,

"Finally, horizontal corduroy pants."

We thought for a moment that maybe New Yorker readers had been so difficult to spot before because they had been staying indoors until this invention but then we thought that was stupid.

We had to admit that a gent or gent-ette dressed in a Watch cap, smoking jacket, boat shoes with gold eyelets and deerskin linings and playing with a cold fusion yo-yo would stand out even more than Tyrone in his gangster suit, spats and black shirt.

We now felt adequately prepared to spot a New Yorker reader and thought a library as good a place as any to find one, probably several, so we got up from the periodicals circulation desk and walked around.

Not a pair of horizontal corduroys in sight. Or any Watch caps or Nightcaps.

Finally on the third floor we saw One. It was a she One, a beautiful she One, and she was wearing a European beret!

She was seated in one of those double carrels that enabled us to sit directly opposite her. Giddily we approached the carrel. We noticed that she was wearing a fashionably short skirt, which we thought the very image of New Yorker sophistication. We sat down opposite her.

After a few heady moments we realized that we couldn't see if she was wearing boat shoes with gold eyelets and deerskin linings so we bent way down and looked under our desk because she had uncrossed her legs and was resting her knees on her desk.

We promised the security guard that we would not do that again and were permitted to stay in the library. We went back to our magazines at the periodical desk.

-Benjamin Harris

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Could We Be a New Yorker Reader? Parte Deux

Could We Be A New Yorker Reader?
Parte Deux: Dr. Seymour M. Hersh
and the Inspiration of Tyrone.

Did we have the "right stuff" to be a New Yorker reader?

As we took our hands off our eyes and began reading the first article we were pleasantly surprised. One article was called "Letter from Pennsylvania, Darwin in the Dock, Intelligent design goes to school."

We already knew where Pennsylvania was and so we didn't feel the need to read that one.

"Corduroy rules," was the title of a USA Today-length article in a section called "The Talk of the Town" on December 5. As a guy living in Peoria, we have owned corduroy pants our whole lives.

In another issue we saw, "How the White Sox won." Besides the cartoons, The New Yorker had sports too. There was just more and more common ground between us and readers of The New Yorker.

Since we already got Sports Illustrated, The Sporting News, ESPN The Magazine, and USA Today we already knew that the (Chicago) White Sox won the (baseball) World Series so we didn't need to read that article either.

In reading another article we saw that the writer was Seymour M. Hersh, who is also our urologist at the County Free Health Clinic! We actually knew a writer for The New Yorker!

So having read a "critical mass" of the "allegedly" "daunting" "articles" in The New Yorker we now just leafed through some other issues, to soak up the "milieu" as a New Yorker reader would say.

As we went through more and more we noticed that apparently they had a mascot, "Eustace," we forget his last name, who was pictured on the index of every issue.

"Eustace" wore a top hat and looked down his nose at a butterfly through a pair of those old-fashioned glasses that you have to hold up to your eyes because they don't go behind your ears.

Then something clicked in our head again like it did when we saw the sign "This is not a library!" in Abdul's newsstand: How could we spot a New Yorker reader when we saw one?

We thought for a second that maybe they all dress like Eustace but then we thought that was stupid. Do the Philadelphia Phillies dress like the Phillie Phanatic?

Don't make us laugh.

What it was was that The New Yorker was a very old magazine. It went back to the Truman administration in the 1920s and more people back then must have dressed like Eustace. They just didn't update the mascot's look.

What clicked in our heads when we were thinking about all of this was that to be a New Yorker reader you had to LOOK like a New Yorker reader. We recalled something our friend Tyrone said one time at the Free Clinic when we asked him why he was dressed in a gangster-striped suit, spats, and a black shirt. Tyrone said, "If I'm going to be impo'tent, I'm going to look impo'tent."

We had always remembered that.

We needed to find out what modern New Yorker readers wore and what stuff they bought if we were to be able to recognize them, go to the places they went, hopefully meet some of them, do the things they do, and ultimately, BECOME one of them.

-Benjamin Harris

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Could We Be A New Yorker Reader? Parte Une

Could We Be A New Yorker Reader?
Do We Have The "Right Stuff?"
Parte Une: "The Cold Fusion Yo-Yo."

We were chatting with a friend the other day when he said something about a "Cold Fusion Yo-Yo" in "The New Yorker."

We had no idea what our friend, at whose request we will identify only as "The Undersigned," was talking about but not wanting to look stupid we copied his facial expressions and shook our heads in amazement whenever he did.

Cleverly, we asked The Undersigned to show us and in this way found out without having to ask and look stupid that it was an ad in a magazine. We read the ad but still didn't understand it. However we did not feel stupid because neither did The Undersigned.

We wondered to ourselves why someone who lives in Peoria, Illinois would read a magazine for people who live in New York City but cleverly decided to ask a slightly but significantly different question, "Why do you read that?"

In this way we could appear to be not unfamiliar with The New Yorker and at the same time find out what kind of magazine it was. The Undersigned said that he got The New Yorker because "intelligent, powerful and sophisticated people" read it and because it had been called "perhaps the best magazine that ever was."

That appealed to us because we like things that are the best, which is why we get The Sharper Image catalog.

So being intellectually curious and a "social climber" who associates only with "the best and the brightest" like The Undersigned, we were now intrigued by this The New Yorker and wanted to look at it for ourselves but The Undersigned threw it in the bio-hazardous wastebasket before we could.

After leaving the County Free Health Clinic we then got on the bus to go home but we had so many thoughts going through our head that we got off at the newsstand to buy a copy of The New Yorker.

We were familiar with the location of Maxim magazine on the magazine rack and cleverly figured that since Maxim starts with an "M" that The New Yorker should be right nearby. We did not see it however.

We looked behind some issues of Maxim to see if a copy of The New Yorker got misfiled there. We opened an issue of Maxim to see if one got stuffed between the pages.

We spent an hour doing this.

We asked Abdul, who owns the newsstand, if he carried The New Yorker. We were told no. We went to leave but Abdul motioned to a sign in the store that said, "This is not a library!" We paid for a copy of Maxim but the sign clicked something in our head and we asked Abdul if he knew where a library was.

He did not.

After inquiring of several other people we were told that the library was located in the Government Center near the County Free Health Clinic, which we were familiar with.

We took a bus back downtown and in short order found the library. We went up to the periodicals circulation desk and asked for The New Yorker. We were given a month's worth at a time.

We noted that every cover had a drawing on it, like a cartoon. We were impressed. We leafed through the issue and saw more cartoons. There were lots and lots of cartoons. We thought maybe this was their annual cartoon issue, like Nickelodeon used to have its JuneBuggs Buggs-Bunny marathon every year, which we greatly missed.

However we discovered that every issue of The New Yorker had tons of cartoons. We were thrilled that maybe the best magazine that ever was had cartoons in it, just like Playboy, which we were familiar with. And that just like the only reason we bought Playboy was for the cartoons, we learned that a lot of people only got The New Yorker for the cartoons.

We were beginning to see that we had a lot in common with the movers and shakers who read The New Yorker.

Even with our confidence soaring, we got butterflies in our stomach when we prepared to read the articles. We read USA Today when we have the time to devote to it but we inferred from the things that The Undersigned said that The New Yorker was even tougher.

Did we have "the right stuff" to be a New Yorker reader?

-Benjamin Harris