Jewish World Review April 22, 2004 / 1 Iyar, 5764
Planet of the Hats
Media Person is not big on shopping. Stores don't pull him--unless they sell
something he can read. He eBayed approximately once, when it first caught on,
and ever since, his user name has gone unused. His attitude toward flea
markets is roughly the same as his attitude toward fleas. And yet he is fascinated
by those little ads in the back of The New Yorker. Together, they seem to make
up some lost community of singular craftsmen dedicated to pleasing wealthy
eccentrics of exacting, if peculiar, taste.
Take, for instance, the ad for German hats. "Forget the Lederhosen," reads
the somewhat mysterious headline. Actually, Media Person has never had any
problem forgetting lederhosen since he rarely thinks of lederhosen in the first
place and when he does, the preposterous image usually departs his brain within
Below the headline is depicted "The Tyrolean," which looks exactly as you
would imagine. "Traditional Bavarian style," reads the copy. "Made of fur felt
with an authentic bristle brush and matching four layer rope band. Fully lined
in evergreen." The price is $200.
This raises many questions in Media Person's mind, chief among them being, 1)
Is there a significant market for expensive Teutonic headgear in post-modern
American society? 2) If so, who the hell are these people? and 3) Has there
been some recent Tyrolean-hat scandal involving inauthentic bristle brushes?
Well, you never know. Media Person doesn't get out much but he's heard there
are parts of the country where men routinely wear cowboy hats to work and
play. For all he knows, maybe there are also regions where everyone walks around
in alpine chapeaux and they're damned particular that the thing had better
sport precisely four layers of rope band, not three or five.
Perhaps there are also nieghborhoods with numerous chip addicts. That would
explain, MP supposes, the "Potato Chips to Die For!" ad. "Anchor's Chip of
the Month is the source for unique potato chips," it crows. "A gift-worthy,
incredible munchfest!" Though Media Person has never, to his knowledge, attended
a munchfest, at least not a formal one, he finds it hard to believe that there
exists a substantial bloc of eaters who demand potato chips of a quality
beyond that available at your average supermarket. How much better than a standard
potato chip could a gourmet potato chip really be? And even if it is
appreciably better, do you really need a different kind of potato chip every month?
Finally, Media Person is beginning to think, civilization may have reached the
point where there is such a thing as too much choice.
There is even a choice even among goofy political toys here in the back-pages
boutique. One ad hawks "The Talking George W. Bush Action Figure," though it
fails to reveal what it is he talks about. One can only hope for the
manufacturer's sake that the presidential homunculus has less trouble talking than its
progenitor. But on a different page resides an ad for "The Axis of Evil
finger puppet regime." Four evil ones are pictured, but very small, so that you may
have trouble identifying one or two from the photo. Perhaps, Media Person
mused, these two toys should be advertised together so that readers who are
ambivalent about terrorism could grasp the Bush action figure in one hand (the
right, no doubt) and the Axis of Evil quartet on the fingers of the other and let
them engage in mock battle. (This to be done at home, of course, preferably
under close medical supervision.)
Some items in the back are utterly inexplicable to Media Person. He cites an
ad for a clothing concern called "mrhappycrack.com." The headline reads, "Mr.
Happy Crack says…'A Dry Crack Is a Happy Crack.'" Pictured is a cartoon
character who is unmistakably the aforementioned Mr. Happy Crack, since he is
smiling and he is cracked. Now Media Person does not know what any of this means
and what's more, he doesn't want to know what it means. He's sorry he even
brought it up.
Animals are very big in the back. There is an ad offering works of art
created by elephants. "Help a 4-ton starving artist," it says. There are for sale a
hummingbird pin, a retriever pin, a cat pin, starfish earrings, a duckling
sculpture, a portrait of a dog remembering 9/11 (yes, of course they do), and an
ad exhorting us all to retire to "Fearrington Village" in Chapel Hill,
N.C., a place that's "full of bluebirds, hollyhocks, belted cows and fascinating
people of all ages."
Could it be, Media Person wondered, that these are the people who buy the
stuff in the back of The New Yorker? And if you go there, will you find them all
in Tyrolean hats, Mr. Happy Crack T-shirts, cow belts and Axis of Evil finger
Best not to find out.
JWR contributor Media Person -- a.k.a Lewis Grossberger -- is a columnist for Media Week. Comment by clicking here.
02/23/04: Oscar de la Rentals
02/05/04: Mr. Obnoxiousz
11/05/03: Tina "Ms. Buzz" Brown is Baaaack!
10/03/03: Cops & docs in love
09/05/03: How'd You Doodad?
08/13/03: Go West, Old Viewer
07/01/03: Nuts and Nutserer: Sometimes there's a fine line between heroism and lunacy
06/17/03: Buy, yes, but read?
06/11/03: Queasy Rider
05/28/03: How Hip Is Hop?
05/14/03: Will endorse for food
05/06/03: Kick this sick shtick
04/16/03: Important developments you may have missed because of all the war stuff clogging up the media
03/25/03: To go or not to go
03/12/03: How to talk war talk
03/04/03: Two master debaters
02/26/03: The Miracle Continues: Ask me no questions, I'll tell you no lies
02/19/03: Yanking the Franks
02/05/03: LET MY LETTERS GO!
01/28/03: Into the Pity Pit
01/15/03: Not My Cup of Joe
01/09/03: It was back in '03
12/17/02: Did you get taken?
12/05/02: Mathers of importance
© 2004, Lewis Grossberger