draft: final project

Profile: The Greeks 461 Elm St Kearny, NJ 07032
Specialty: “Food with Attitude”
Text: Kaitlin Astrella
Photos: Erin Beth Donnelly

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“If I knew you were taking it I would have sucked it in.”

“Taylor ham, egg, and cheese:” that’s my usual at The Greeks. Everyone has a usual at The Greeks, and most likely Heather, the lead waitress, knows it before you can even perch at the counter or slide into one of their newly upholstered booths. She’ll ask anyway, just to make sure it is definitely what you want on that particular day. By the time I strolled in at half past two, it was pretty quiet.

“You just missed it. Right before you got here, we were rocking and rolling. Good thing we got off tomorrow,” said John, the owner. They rock and roll everyday at the Greeks, open from 7-4 everyday except on holidays, like Thanksgiving tomorrow. And they’ve been rocking and rolling since 1968, when John’s father bought the space after it had already been a restaurant since the thirties. Since his father opened it, the place is known for its diner working class fare—quick, hearty food. There was a Du Pont factory on Elm and word got out about the place down the street. Since then, teachers from the Kearny school systems, trade workers, small business owners, and their families frequent the Greeks. John, the current owner, took over business from his father after receiving his bachelor’s in finance from Rutgers.

The place looked different than it did when I last saw it. There used to be red booths and dark wood paneling. I had a hard time picturing the old place when I first walked in, instantly impressed by the shiny subway tile and the sleek black leather and the sophisticated grey paint. This was the work of American Diner Revival, a show on the Food Network with Ty Pennington and Amanda Freitag that save failing mom and pop restaurants. But I couldn’t help feeling like the Greeks, rocking and rolling every single day at lunch, didn’t need saving.

“De-greasing the Greeks,” slotted to air December 5th, is the episode title on the Food Network Website. The accompanying description would suggest that the popular lunch spot is on the decline: “The Greeks diner has been feeding the hardworking men and women of Kearny, N.J. for almost 50 years, but now this mom and pop diner is in danger of closing its doors because of its overindulgent greasy spoon fare.” I sat down at the counter to find out.

“Do you mind if I walk around while we do this?” John asked. “If I’m walking around, I’m still listening.” I told him the place looked great, but I was surprised to hear about him being on the show. According to John, scouts from Food Network look all around for places that would be eligible for the show, and they found the Greeks and asked John if he would be interested. When he told them that his was a successful business, the people said not to worry, basically they needed a “bullshit story for TV.”

“Sure, I’m in for a bullshit story,” John said. “But I didn’t know the upside. I’m thinking what are they going to come in and redo the kitchen and drop some real money into the joint, and you come to realize that they don’t really drop that much money. But just the advertisement alone makes it well, well, well worth doing. You know, you can’t buy that.” The concept for the show was that he did so much for the community that they wanted to put it back into his place. Between sponsoring the little league team and music and soccer if he took back three or four grand that he spent, they were there to help with volunteers. “And it’s great. But it’s all bullshit,” John laughed. The contractor “the diner insider” who he knows gave him the behind the scenes perspective. When the guys were doing tile work, for example, and Ty comes in and puts a tile on, they say “cut” so that the real tile workers can take the tile off and replace it.

First day on the show is renovations with Ty, in this case: tile, paint, and upholstered booths. John put in a new stove himself because they had moved the counter for tiling and also took the opportunity to install a new fridge which he also bought himself. “They were actually anti-stove.” John explained, because Amanda Freitag was going to do her menu bit that same day, and if the stove wasn’t ready by that time, then her entire bit couldn’t happen. He helped to install the new stove on a day he wasn’t supposed to be at the restaurant before the unveiling. “I met my buddy down the block with the pick up truck and I had my plumber come and do it and it was fine but it was all on me.” Despite the difficulties, John was glad he took the opportunity to install the new equipment.

A customer came and sat down with his daughter and son. Heather knew their orders and their drinks—coke and chocolate milk, respectively. “That cat right there, Fred, was here everyday,” said John.

Fred waved from down the counter. “Thank you for the oven.”

“Why it was tough?”

Fred nodded gravely. They had some trouble running the gas line.

John clarified, “What happens is this is a real old building, built 125 years ago. The old stuff you kind of know from just being around here forever like where the fuse box is and that it has old time screw in parts for some of the plugs.”

On the second day, Amanda comes in to correct the menu. They dressed up John’s brisket and suggested Greek style meatballs but John hasn’t incorporated the new items yet although he might want to in the future. Amanda also instructed an apple pie (“which nobody liked”), delicious blueberry peach tart, and Greek style donuts with a honey glaze. But really, with one fryer devoted to fries and chicken fingers, the deserts were unrealistic unless he hired an extra staff member and got another fryer.

“I’m not gunna make a pie. I’ll be honest with you. At the end of the day if you can go to Costco or ShopRite and spend 8, 9, 10 bucks on a pie. And I’m gunna make it from scratch? It just doesn’t jive.” At a cost of 6 or 7 dollars for the product and an hour of Johhn’s time, he would rather be putting money into his homemade soups. A customer ordered a lobster bisque over my shoulder, and I saw a full cup go by. I said, “That looks legit.” And before I knew it, John had slipped me a dish of it on the sly. Creamy, spicy pepper undertones, and a chunk of succulent lobster meat.

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But The Greeks occasionally did put some desserts on the menu. Heather makes a pumpkin cheesecake at home “and a guy in the back makes a kickass brownie.” And homemade desserts, even if they are only on occasion, seems better, more true to the character of the place than offering a Greek zeppoli that a more high-end restaurant might put on their menu as casual gourmet. Instead, when Heather’s cheesecake goes on the menu, it feels like she made it as a surprise for her company.

I asked John, then, about the type of response he anticipates after the episode airs at his already well-greased diner machine. He figures there will initial wave and then maybe some foodies that hear about that place. It helps that he is on Yelp with really good reviews (a four and half star rating but scrolling through, I only saw five stars): “Five stars because I don’t know a better place for breakfast!”; “Portions are big, low prices, tasty food, casual atmosphere, friendly staff. I will be coming back!”; “what can I say, I walked out of there ‘FAT N HAPPY!’” Just as we were talking about Yelp, my photographer, Erin, walked in after teaching half a day at Kearny High School. She said, “I want something fattening and delicious.” So she ordered herself a Taylor ham, egg, and cheese, too.

John prepared homemade croutons in the fryer as he closed up while Erin snapped some pictures. She had just dropped her kids off at her sister in law’s next door and was feeling excited about her food but also very creative. She stood on a chair to get some shots. We ate leisurely and talked about the high school. John said goodbye to his customers but didn’t rush the ones still bent over plates of hot comfort.

He reminded a regular, “December Fourth I’ll be on the Food Network.

“You’re kidding.”

“No really. ’Member I told ya? Ty Pennington and shit. It airs December Fourth. 9pm. Check it out, baby. I’ll sign you an autograph after that.”

 

 

(revision) un-interest it: saying what you mean in college discussion

“I think it is interesting that…”

This prompt, this stutter in student brain-to-speech process, has obfuscated almost every college-level discussion I have had. Four years, eight semesters, five classes a semester—that’s a lot of discussions. I want to say: I hope. I genuinely hope what you are about to say is interesting, or else I would rather not hear it. Typically, the declaration of interesting is followed by something insightful but not necessarily related to the word interesting at all. Ready for the dictionary definition? I know; it pains me that we have come to this point, too. I’ll go to the OED, because I’m a Boston College student with full access, and I’ve heard rumors that Dictionary.com (the free dictionary!) hoards your information upon each click.

“Interesting: adapted to excite interest; having the qualities which rouse curiosity, engage attention, or appeal to the emotions; of interest.”

The definition is very vague. “Interesting” describes (I hope) the whole college experience. We gather to discuss things that should engage our curiosity, attention, and emotions. Great, I’m glad we are all glad to be here. And despite its superfluity, this phrase persists. No one mirrors my corner-of-the-mouth frown when they hear “interesting” recycled over and over, mouth-to-mouth, in an hour span. So why the constant profession of it?

Clearly, I have spent a long time stewing about this miraculous redundancy; I have a theory. It has three parts:

  1. We have trouble pinpointing the value in what we are saying.
  2. We are not listening to each other.
  3. We have been allowed to speak carelessly.

The first point. Before we raise our hand, we have not found the thesis in our thought. Everyone lets a thought go of the rails time to time (“Oh wow. I don’t know if that made sense”). This is not what I mean. Rather, I am talking about times when we are not sure what we are saying is important. So we (not me, I have been enlightened!) feel the need to qualify what we say. Instead, we could lead with the actual thought, the sparking thing exploding at our forehead—a thing we have just discovered and are sure no one else has discovered about this text, about history, about that painting.

“The women in Jekyll and Hyde are surrounded by light imagery. There aren’t that many women in the book, so the light makes them more noticeable when they do appear.”

Hey, someone in the class says, I never thought of that. That is so much better than: “I think it is interesting that women in Jekyll and Hyde appear with light imagery.”

To be frank, no one cares if you think it is interesting. They care if the thought is a good one. I’m actually not interested in Medieval Literature at all, but when I took a class on it, I did not say, “I don’t think it is interesting that Sir Gawain has this adventure. But the language used to describe his armor mean xyz.” But people do care if you can discover something valuable in the work.

The second: Not. Listening. I am shocked that after the first “I think it is interesting” no one decides to switch up their tactical game. I mean, in sixth grade we scurried to the thesaurus to deliver us from the sins of “awesome” and “great.” Why not “interesting”? Because we have tuned it out. And that makes it easier to tune more things out, which does not bode well for maintaining vital discussions; discussion and conversation is pointless if everyone is tuned out. Think of your class participation like the hook of a good story. You are legitimately gambling for your classmates’ attention if you raise your hand. Especially where face-hiding laptop screens are concerned. Make them listen.

Finally, we have been allowed to speak carelessly. Personally, though, I don’t think professors are much at fault here. Some of us are 21 years old, legally old enough to drink and serve in the military. You would think we could trim our sentences a little. Say a coherent thought. But I haven’t seen one Professor stop the madness. It is a habit; now, it is a habit everywhere. And I wish it would have been beaten out of us during freshman year, so that by the time we got to be supposedly articulate seniors, we could say what we mean.

That’s what it is really about, saying what you mean. Someone else might try to pitch you some inspirational fiction about job marketability: “Don’t say the word interesting, and you too shall be employed!” This is not my point. My point is: say what you mean. Say the thought in your brain, turn on someone else’s thought machine, and go somewhere outside the broken tape loop of interesting. You only get so many sentences. The opportunity to speak and get someone’s attention is a privilege—is the greatest privilege. Live up to the hype.

 

 

final proposal

Because of this class, I have developed a magazine-hoarding problem. My most recent purchase is the Fall 2015 issue of Good “A quarterly journal for the global citizen.” It has a wide variety of content packaged in neatly designed pages with a unified theme. This issue is the fashion issue, and includes artist profiles, a photoshoot on sustainable clothing, and fiction by Aimee Bender called “The Memory Store,” which also fits the clothing theme. I was so enchanted by the menagerie-style curation, the clean aesthetic, and the conscise but quirky writing styles presented that I felt inspired to base my final project off this publication. At this point, I am torn between producing an issue of Good called The Suburban Issue or creating my own publication called Suburbia (or perhaps Suburban Legend) using Good as a design inspiration.IMG_6449

I’m sure the Suburban theme might sound a little curious, but it is something I have wanted to try for a while because I am constantly in the world of a big city, the big glamorous city, when I read glossy magazines. So I thought it might be a little strange to see what it would look like if I applied a high quality magazine aesthetic to places that are a little shabby—to “hole in the wall” stories. Over Thanksgiving Break, I have three interviews set up to work off the multiple profile model Good employs: a former single mom who just quit her 9-5 job to open a traveling vintage boutique called Couture on Tour; a community-adored diner owner who recently received a TV makeover for his restaurant but decided to not uphold any of the menu changes; and a high school drop out who has recently found success in the electrical trade. Depending on how the interviews go, I might end up sticking with one, two, or all three profiles. I plan on using InDesign to input my text and images so that I can have a print magazine.

un-interest it: saying what you mean in college (or any) discussions

One sentence. One sentence, has obfuscated almost every college level discussion I have had. Four years, eight semesters, five classes a semester—that’s going to be forty classes, except I haven’t taken my last five yet (so maybe there is still time to fix this grave, grave misfortune). One sentence that everyone, at this point, is numb to. No one mirrors my tiny corner-of-the-mouth frown when they hear this same word recycled over and over again, mouth to mouth, in an hour span. I keep wanting to count the number of times I hear it, but I find (this is four years of this, remember) that I always forget to count until I have heard it at least five times—about the time acute annoyance sets in. And then I feel as though I have to wait until my next class so that I don’t botch the count, because I am fairly certain that the actual number would be staggering.

“I think it is interesting that…”

No matter what the student is about to say, this prompt, this stutter in their brain-to-speech process appears over and over again. I want to say: I hope. I hope what you are about to say is interesting. Genuinely, I do, or else I would rather not hear it. And usually, the declaration of interesting is followed by something insightful but not necessarily related to the word interesting at all. Ready for the dictionary definition? I know; it pains me that we have come to this point, too. I’ll go to the OED, because I’m a Boston College student with full access, and I have heard rumors about Dictionary.com (the free dictionary!) hoards your information upon each click.

“Interesting: adapted to excite interest; having the qualities which rouse curiosity, engage attention, or appeal to the emotions; of interest.”

This is very vague. This describes (I hope) the whole college experience. We gather together to discuss things that should rouse our curiosity, engage our attention, and make us emotional. Great, I’m glad we are all glad to be here. So why the constant profession of it?

Clearly, I have spent a long time stewing about this miraculous redundancy; I have a theory. It has three parts:

  1. We have trouble pinpointing the value in what we are saying.
  2. We are not listening to each other.
  3. We have been allowed to speak this way.

The first point. Before we raise our hand, we have not found the thesis in our thought. Everyone has a thought they say out loud that goes off the rails at some point (“Oh wow. I don’t know if that made sense”). This is not what I mean. Rather, I am talking about the fact that we are not sure what we are saying is important. So we (well I guess not me, I have been enlightened) feel the need to qualify what we say. Instead, we could lead with the actual thought, the sparking thing exploding at our forehead—a thing we have just discovered and are sure no one else has discovered about this text, about history, about that painting.

“The women in Jekyl and Hyde are surrounded by light imagery. There aren’t that many women in the book, but they appear significant.”

Hey, someone in the class says, I never thought of that. That is so much better than: “I think it is interesting that women in Jekyl and Hyde appear with light imagery.”

To be frank, no one cares if you think it is interesting. They care if the thought is a good one. I’m actually not interested in Medieval Literature at all, but when I took a class on it, I did not say “I don’t think it is interesting that Sir Gawain has this adventure. But the language used to describe his armor mean xyz.” But people do care if you can discover something valuable in the work.

The second: Not. Listening. I am shocked that after the first “I think it is interesting” no one decides to switch up their tactical game. I mean, in sixth grade we were all sent running to the thesaurus to deliver us from the sins of awesome and great. Why not interesting? Because we have tuned it out and that makes it easier to tune more things out. Think of the way you introduce your thought in class like a hook in a good story. You are legitimately gambling for your classmates’ attention spans if you raise your hand. Especially where face-hiding laptop screens are concerned. Make them listen.

Also, we have been allowed to speak this way. Personally, I don’t think the professors are so much at fault here. Some of us are 21 years old, legally old enough to drink and serve in the military. You would think we could trim our sentences a little. Say a coherent thought. But I haven’t seen one Professor stop the madness. It is a habit, now, it is a habit everywhere. And I wish it would have been beaten out of us freshman year so that by the time we got to be supposedly articulate seniors, we could say what we mean.

That’s what it is really abou, saying what you mean. Someone else might try to pitch you some inspirational fiction about job marketability. How much employers care about your vocabulary. Don’t say the word interesting, and you too shall be employed! This is not what I mean. What I mean is say what you mean. Say the thought in your brain, turn on someone else’s thought machine, and go somewhere outside the broken tape loop of interesting. You only get so many sentences. The opportunity to speak and get someone’s attention is a privilege—is the greatest privilege. Live up to the hype.

yak-ety trax, the ice talks back

When snow hits the ground and normal people reach for snow boots, you reach for running shoes. It is obviously ridiculous—to run through waist-high snow in a pair of mesh running shoes when the world, the actual rest of the world, is wearing water-proof, knee high winter boots. And yet you are running.

This is the antithesis of sense.

So about one third of the way through the epic 2014-15 Boston snowpocolypse (never forget), I needed a solution. Particularly for this one sidewalk: at the bottom of Heartbreak Hill, there was a point where the shoulder disappeared and the only options were to either turn around, or try and run through a shoddily patted down trail of snow that covered the sidewalk like thick icing. Trusting the bottoms of my Mizuno Wave Riders and my careful balance to work through the snow; I chose the latter. About three steps in, I ended up walking—angrily—until the shoulder reemerged. I ran as far as I could on the shoulder if only to buy some time before turning back into the fray. But I had no choice.

Thankfully, Heartbreak Hill Running Company, a beacon of shiny windows and showroom light, sits at the mouth of that treacherous sidewalk on the opposite side of Beacon. I prayed they would have some magic solution to save me from these elements.

Yaktrax. Everyone is using them.”

Skeptically, I looked down at the jumble of rubber and metal my shop floor savior brought out from behind the counter. He explained that they were coiled springs to increase traction—even on ice. He sat me down and fitted them around my slushy sneakers so that the rubber toe and heel pieces lined up with my shoes and two Xs of springs lined up flat with my sole. It felt like a little hug around my foot. I paid my $35 and hurled myself back into the snow, eager to find the iciest terrain to test these things out.

And they work.

They are so light that I feel like I am wearing nothing, but when my heel strikes the snow, it feels like I am running on pavement. It is an entirely different surface. The thin, criss-cross spring design is genius, and they come in size ranges to fit every foot. A Velcro strap tightens over the top of the running shoe so that they are adjustable and so that you couldn’t lose them if you tried. I used them over and over again in the salt and muck and sludge as the winter got worse. They only require a rinse and towel-off and storage indoors so that they don’t rust. And no running with them when there is no snow; that could ruin the springs or ruin your knees. A few times, when the snow was melted in some places but was still thick in others, I had to take them off and strap them around my hands, which (because they are so light) wasn’t even that annoying given how badly I needed them in the snowy stretches. Otherwise that $35 will carry your feet for years.

back from the never-dead: media gives book second life

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A favorite bookshop: Montclair Book Center

The first time I heard that books could die I was ten. It was 2004. I liked to carry big books around and had already read (but not necessarily understood) The Hobbit by that age and had a book protector that I put on all my hardcovers (there was a handle for portability). It was only a matter of time, I was told at some detestable family party, before all people did was watch TV and go see the movie version of every story that could have been a book. Probably, I fussed with my bookmark and mumbled something about how people would always love books because—just because they would.

Since then, I have read countless versions of the same article with different slipping statistics tolling the bell for the printed book, picking out the casket: death by television, computer, e-Book, smartphone. But recently, there has been a shift in the narrative. Just a month ago The New York Times ran an article online called “The Plot Twist: E-Book Sales Slip, and Print Is Far From Dead.” The article focuses on the 10% decline of e-Book sales in the first five months of this year, and announces the failure of Netflix-inspired subscription services to hook digital readers. But this phenomenon goes unexplained. I couldn’t exalt in the announcement that the book lived unless I could be told why.

My eight-year-old self was not so far off the mark. LitHub posted an article last week called “Why the Printed Book Will Last Another 500 Years” that actually mentions The New York Times article but does not shy away from the why. Books will survive, author Adam Sternbergh asserts, because they are different than the record, cassette, and CD in that you still get the same song just in a different package. But the experience of reading a book is part of the package, so that reading a print book and finishing it “with a satisfying thud” feels different than reading on a computer, where all text blurs together.

I worked in a bookstore called Mr. B’s Emporium of Reading Delights where the staff hand-picked one book a month for customers who had subscribed to their Reading Year service. I was responsible for wrapping the books in brown paper and string and sealing the package with red wax. Sending hundreds of these books out during my time there made me realize that the book was a luxury experience, much like Sternberg attests. Unwrapping a personal book in the mail with a handwritten notecard from a bookseller creates a memory that the digital age can’t download.

A Mr. B's Reading Year Book, wrapped by yours truly.
A Mr. B’s Reading Year Book, wrapped by yours truly.

And most people focus on the physical aspect of the book as experience without delving so much into the voice of books now. Another pre-mortem mourning ceremony is often held for the publishing industry as a whole, an inevitable casualty in the war on print. However, Johnny Temple, Managing Editor and Founder of Akashic Books, gave a talk to a circle of interns this summer about the publishing world. Of course he had to answer to the book’s imminent death. He disagreed with it entirely. People like to reminisce about the good old days of publishing; it is a popular past time. But really, who was being published then? A majority of white men. Today, there are a multitude of voices from all over the world that weren’t being published in the so called golden age of books. Publishing, Temple continued, is the most exciting and diverse it has ever been. Those voices are being published now. The book—pristine hardcover and well-worn paperback—is turning out a sequel because our printed, handheld hero still has a story to tell.

zines, zines good for their art

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The first time I heard the word “zine” about a year ago, it had to be explained to me. Had never heard of a zine, had never seen a zine, could not tell you why someone would want to make a zine. But when I did learn what a zine was (for all those in my former position, I will leave the definition here), I wanted to get my hands on one. But the problem was, I was nowhere near un-cool-cool enough. Think Bender in The Breakfast Club. Un-cool-cool. Suburbia (at least the suburbia I know, spliced open by crisscrossing highways) simply does not have zines. Urban punk art crazes do not occur in suburbia, not even the non-gated sort of sad commercial parking lot suburbia around me. You have to get into the guts of the city for that. Still, I was determined to figure this whole zine thing out.

Recently, I went on a quest to Boston Zine Fest in order to hang out with the uncool-cool kids. I wore an oversized denim jacket and stuffed the deep pockets with petty cash, because I figured even a credit card swipe machine would be too official for the laid back zine scene (which was all hype; lots of people took cards). And while I had to painfully introduce myself to multiple zinesters as “new at this” in order for them to explain to me what was happening in their scattered stacks of colorful booklets, I was living the dream. I was picking up zines and looking at them in a room full of people who probably read zines all the time. They were un-cool-cool enough to simply know where the zines lived in real life.

I think the best way to learn about something is to force yourself to write a paper about it. So there I was collecting zines to take home and examine for my paper. I gravitated most towards the grrrl and grrrl swirl zines because I am not particularly satisfied with Johnson’s coverage of “Women’s Magazines” or women’s magazines on the newsstand. I looked in the index and did not find the word zine, which struck me as odd. But I think things are beginning to look different. I know Ms. has been around since the 1970s, but Bust and Bitch arrived on the scene in the 90s just as zines were hitting the streets. Both of these magazines along with the zine scene (although less prominent now) have survived into the present day. I wonder what their relationship is, if there is a relationship at all? I am curious about their aesthetic relationship, because from just surface level observation I have noticed similar color schemes and image-collages that appear to be in a meaningful dialogue to different audiences looking for similar content. These are the sorts of questions I am looking to answer in my Midterm Paper (stay tuned). But I could very well also just write about zines for my 6-8 pages if there proves to be no correlation at all. Either way, I got some cool new art and even two buttons for a dollar. Maybe after writing this paper I will be ushered officially into the un-cool-cool world. Or just be a really knowledgeable outsider who fan-girls at zine fests.

readers and robots

I never imagined that I would be in the WIRED magazine office anytime soon. I never thought that I would be rolling around with an iPad for a head but this is just what I ended up doing as I read “My Life as a Robot.” I thought about Johnson’s pseudoworld mentality, that the magazine creates a whole new place separate from reality—except that this is reality. WIRED really does use a robot to connect far away employees to the office. But, prior to reading Emily Dreyfuss’s article, this world was certainly not real for me. Dreyfuss brought it to life, however, through her journal format. She, like the reader, is also new to being a robot so that getting her up-to-the-minute reactions make the reader feel as though we are seeing the world through her eyes—or webcam: “The figure leans down and puts a hand out to shake. Helpless, I move the EmBot from side to side using the arrow keys in what I hope translates as a gesture of excitement, rather than malfunction.” Additionally, Dreyfuss’s inclusion of Instagram pictures and videos that show her robot self in motion allow readers access to a previously unimaginable reality. In a world where people can have robot doubles, of course magazine readers would be given a video feed to accompany their reading. WIRED is WIRED for a reason.

So, while Dreyfuss’s article illustrates the real world, its introduction to a newer, shinier, more efficient (with its flaws, of course) version of that real world also reads as a culturally influential statement. Her initial video humorously reads as instruction, like a “how to act if your coworker is also a robot.” Maybe one day we might find ourselves in this situation. Much like magazines “help us choose our kitchen colors and Christmas trees, raise our children and our standards, save our marriages and our money,” (114) they also instruct us how to treat a robot kindly. I couldn’t find a perfect heading in Johnson to describe this type of instruction, like a social acceptability scale, but we all know that magazines teach us to aspire to levels of culture. Johnson does talk about aspirations in symbolic meaning, so maybe that applies. Seeing Dreyfuss’s life as a robot perhaps makes us wonder at the possibility in a “coming to a workspace near you” sort of way.

ad-itionally

The advertisement. The advert. The “ad.” The commercials embedded in magazines. The obstacles we must flip through in order to find our content. Abstractly, this is how I always thought of them. However, in practice, I must actually spend a good portion of my magazine reading time digesting ads and not hating them. Johnson, in “Why Advertisers Choose Magazines” cites a study done by Experian Simons which found that “consumers rated magazines as more trustworthy, inspirational, and life enhancing than television and the Internet, and they were more receptive to magazine ads than those in other media” (48). I know this must be true by the way I hover over YouTube advertisements, waiting for that blessed SKIP THIS AD button to save me. Oppositely, I tend to save magazine advertisements that I adore. There is this one ad in particular by Dolce and Gabbana I have saved on my bulletin board. I post it each year I come back to school. A woman dressed in all black, bag poised at the crook of her elbow, looks over a teeming herd of men, falling all over themselves for her attention. She is parting the crowd, as if to say, “I have somewhere to be and it is not with any of you.” Who wouldn’t want to be her? I didn’t cut out any of the content from that particular Vogue, but I still have this. Which makes me wonder if advertisements have become content as well.

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Johnson points out that advertisements were not always this way, and he takes us on a history field trip to show it. Some publishers wanted to “keep their magazines unsullied by advertising” (55). Harper’s, for example, turned down an $18,000 ad for the back of their magazine. This was at the turn of the 20th century. But how about the ’70s? This weekend, I was in an antique shop just outside of Portsmouth, Maine when I found a vintage magazine section. I came away with the 1976 Hundredth Anniversary Issue of The Harvard Lampoon. All white cover, practically perfect condition, five bucks. I had it set aside to look at its ads for this class, and I was surprised to not find many in the center of the magazine itself. I could not be sure if this is because it is a special edition or if it is because The Lampoon, being a literary-content based magazine, found ads to be tacky. The Harvard Lampoon has relegated their ads to the back of their magazine, much like Schribner’s did with their six ads in 1929 (55). Lampoon features only eight ads forty-seven years later.

Because Lampoon also fabricates farcical ads of their own (Bored of the Rings, one dollar at the Lampoon Castle), most of the advertisements assume a jocular tone. An advertisement for the Boston Colonade Hotel boasts: “Only the Atlantic separates us from the other grand hotels.” They then feature a profile about the spunky-looking maid pictured below: “If you think Priscilla’s approach to cleaning too teutonic, look at the gentler side of it. The way she turn down you bed in the evening and fluffs up the pillow.” The ad itself is very wordy but that suits the publication at hand, attempting to persuade the reader to see a real advertisement as content. The magazine’s present call to advertisements on the website maintains a comical attitude: “If you place an ad with us, we can promise that your advertisement will be examined by thousands upon thousands of the best-looking, most intelligent, and least stingy humans ever to have breathed on this planet.”

I thought The New Yorker might serve as a similar comparison to the vintage Lampoon, because it is also content heavy. It is no surprise that The New Yorker features ads in the middle of its current issues. For reference, I have the August 31, 2015 issue. Unlike Lampoon, however, The New Yorker offers an alternative brand of advertisement that exudes luxury. I chose an Eileen Fisher ad for comparison. It stands at odds with the content as well, not attempting to blend in like the Boston Colonade does. There are no words besides the brand name and the website in clean white against a black backdrop. A blond, unaccessorized woman clutches a beige cardigan close as if windswept. Minimalism. Rather than attempting to be part of the magazine, this ad pulls the reader away more like IMG_6253the commercial sensibility I had spoken to before. Yet, the sophistication and allure of The New Yorker does not render this ad out of place. Perhaps it becomes content in the way it supports the dream reader: intellectual, well dressed, utilitarian. That has its own appeal.