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Pocketing while the pocketing is good

The current New Yorker, dated February 18 & 25, is a double issue, entitled "The Anniversary Issue." It comes with a "Cover Stories" supplement: The Arts. Written like a museum brochure, on thick glossy paper but with many pages of advertising, the supplement is a very odd thing, an interesting survey of worthwhile covers from the magazine (with fine art as their subjects) that's nevertheless undeniably annoying, so pervasive are the advertisements.

The magazine itself is not as bad, but is still far too thick for its own good. One wonders if they don't make more money on a single such issue than on two regular ones. There is the removable insert for the new iMac ("Here we go again," it starts; much as I like Apple, though, I don't think they really want to be repeating history); the thick fold-out for HBO's "Six Feet Under" ("The groundbreaking series returns"); and the six-page fashion statement/treatise on the glamour of the new Ford Thunderbird, a car that, apparently, inspired eight of "America's reigning fashion icons" to design new clothing and accessories just for it. Vrrrrrroom!!!

(The small ads are no better, of course, but they are amusing as always. "Be clever," reads one (scroll down to the "Accordian Topper"). "Buy this one in every color." I'll do the math for you — $280, for eight hats. How's that clever?)

Overall, I like the New Yorker. Good writing is hard to find in a periodical, and it delivers fairly well. And I don't blame them in the slightest for making the best business out of it as they can. But sometimes one would rather not have to suffer through all that gross materialism, you know?

Anyway, I don't mean to whine about it endlessly. No, the New Yorker offers some far more upsetting content in this edition than the tease of a lifestyle I'll never have (not that I want it, but I still don't particularly enjoy being reminded that I don't even have the option). In "Trumpery Below Canal", Nick Paumgarten reports on the American Red Cross and one of its more remarkable, post 9/11 good deeds: Giving handouts to the rich.

Apparently, residents of the Tribeca neighborhood in New York are being offered "the equivalent of three months' mortgage and maintenance payments (or rent), along with money for utilities, groceries, transportation, and medical expenses, if applicable." Which, for some upscale residents, amounts to "more than fifteen thousand dollars," apparently. (Those are the basic facts; for the full glory of it all you should read Paumgarten's rendition.)

I have no desire to slight the impact of the terrorist attacks on any New York City resident. But what has been most amazing and redeeming about America following those attacks has been its outpouring of support and rallying behind a common desire for safety, and for restoring, as best we can, what was lost. It seems that some of New York's richer residents, who would hardly benefit as much from such suport as many other victims, have lost this vision, and instead are pocketing while the pocketing is good.

That's just sad.

February 13, 2002 5:32 PM

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Copyright ©2001-2003 Matt Pfeffer

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