Stone--Navy Embroidery White--Navy Embroidery        It's More Than a Hat, It's a Message.

The Washington Post

Peter Carlson. The Washington Post. Washington, D.C.: Dec 16, 2003. pg. C.02

A Video for Your Cat? A Hat of Qiviut? They're in the Fine Print

Here we are, awash in the warning signs of Christmas -- Santas in malls, plastic Rudolphs on rooftops, carols in restaurant restrooms. And the back pages of the New Yorker are aglitter with those cute little ads for such holiday fare as reindeer bowties, flying pig pins and finger puppets of Freud and Nietzsche.

I love these ads. They're goofy little things, only an inch or two high, but they capture a lifestyle. A few appear all year long, but most arrive around Thanksgiving to tout the odd gifts that appeal to the educated, affluent sophisticates who read the New Yorker. These folks already have everything they need and pretty much everything they want, too. If you're shopping for them, you better find something hip, offbeat or just plain weird.

Like, for instance, a necklace with a gold lobster claw clutching a big diamond.

Or videos for cats -- "Kitty Safari" and "Kitty Safari 2" -- which show birds and squirrels and other beasts that cats love to kill. It is, the ad promises, "must-catch TV for cats."

Or the "Genealogical Chart of Greek Mythology," which is, the ad proclaims, "the perfect gift for mythology lovers!"

Or one of the "Sophisticated, Amusing, Dazzling Gifts" from, such as handmade ceramic French chickens, each bearing a suitably French name -- Georges, Emma, Jules, Amelie -- and advertised with a bilingual pun: Coq-A-Doodle-Doodle-Doo!"

These ads illuminate the quirks and foibles of the hip, urban upper middle class almost as well as such great New Yorker cartoonists as William Hamilton, Victoria Roberts and Roz Chast.

The folk these ads are after are arty but not solemn about art. They're the perfect customers for original artworks drawn by elephants, particularly when the artworks raise money for the Asian Elephant Art and Conservation Project.

And they might even shell out for the "Neo-Classical You," a painting by an unspecified "World-Renowned Artist" depicting "you astride your horse or you pictured in a Renoir, Degas, da Vinci or other artist of your choice."


These folks are connoisseurs. You can't just send them a fruitcake. You're better off sending the "World's Best Cheddar," advertised as the cheese that won the "22nd Biennial World Championship Cheese Contest."

And if you are going to give these folks smoked food, for Pete's sake, make sure it was smoked the right way. Send the Vermont ham that was smoked "over fragrant fires of corncobs and maple wood." Or, better yet, the salmon that was "smoked by the river Spey in Scotland with oak chips from Scotch whisky barrels."

Hats are popular with this crowd, but not just any hats. They've got to be special hats from a special place. Like the Hartford York Siberian hat, which is "made from genuine muskrat fur, just like the original." Or the "Qiviut Cap," which is "hand knitted in Alaska" using Qiviut, which is, as every schoolchild knows, "the under-fur of musk ox."

Those are hats for people who want to be warm.
There are also hats for people who want to be cool. These are hip ballcaps -- ironic, postmodern responses to those old-fashioned baseball caps that were decorated with the logos of baseball teams or, heaven forbid, tractor companies.
In the New Yorker, there are ballcaps decorated with a picture of a martini glass, complete with olive."Keep it dry," the ad says.
And there are ballcaps that say "I Still Want to Be a CEO" or "I Still Want to Be an Actor."

"It's more than a hat," reads the ad for these ballcaps of dashed dreams, "it's a message."

Perhaps the oddest little ad in the New Yorker is the one that proclaims: "Mr. Happy Crack says, 'A Dry Crack Is a Happy Crack!' "

Huh? Just what kind of crack are they talking about here?

Actually, the ad touts Mr. Happy Crack clothing, which was born as an advertisement for a company that mends cracks in your foundation and then just took off as a line of haute -- or maybe low -- couture.

Is this a great country or what?

Mr. Happy Crack may be gleeful these days, but apparently many New Yorker readers are getting the holiday blues. The latest issue features not one, not two, not three, but four ads for mental hospitals.

Naturally, they are the best mental hospitals, suitable for connoisseurs of such things. One advertises its "unparalleled psychiatric evaluation and treatment." Another touts its "first- class setting for world-class care." And a third has a friendly, chatty slogan: "Talk to us. We can help."

Attention, Karl Rove: President Bush may be in danger of losing the New Age vote.

Magical Blend -- a New Age magazine that usually focuses on such apolitical topics as aromatherapy, shamanism, metaphysics and something called "Goddess Tantra" -- has taken what its editor calls "a hard left turn" and started Bush-bashing.

"The Bush administration is evil," Michael Peter Langevin, Magical Blend's publisher and editor, writes in the December issue, which features a cover depicting a battered Uncle Sam getting a transfusion from an oil barrel.

No longer a mellow fellow, Langevin is all steamed up over "George W. Bush's kidnapping of the U.S. government, the Bill of Rights, the U.S. Treasury, the Supreme Court and our foreign policy."

Founded in 1979 and based in Chico, Calif., Magical Blend previously avoided politics, preferring to remain on an ethereal, spiritual plane. But in these grim times, Langevin writes, he felt compelled to speak out.

"The dark fear- and hate-based forces are getting stronger," he proclaims. "The light, trust, and love-based spiritual forces must do the same to save the entire world's future."

Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction or distribution is prohibited without permission.
Companies: New Yorker (NAICS: 511120 )
Article types: Commentary
Section: STYLE
ISSN/ISBN: 01908286
Text Word Count 939


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