Newcastle — Half listening to National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition Saturday, hoping to hear something other than the usual dreary stories of carnage and malfeasance, I perked up at Scott Simon’s tale of SkyMall. You will recognize this as the title of the vendor magazine placed in your airline seat pocket along with the barf bag. It has been a long time since I’ve looked at SkyMall, but having listened to Mr. Simon, I am eagerly looking forward to my next flight a few days hence.
SkyMall, is blessed with a captive audience, at least in those periods when we must shut down our electronic, mind-numbing devices that might interfere with the plane’s navigation system leading to disappearance in the Indian Ocean. It is reported to have circulation of 19.5 million. That's nine times that of The New York Times. Who would not want to advertise herein?
The best feature of the magazine is the offering of objects so absurd that no one could ever want them (e.g., a $4499, 8-foot-tall silverback gorilla statue in fiberglass resin; a small, motorized, $59.99 gondola that moves around a pool while a 2-foot-tall gondolier named Luciano Pool-varotti sings; a $39 cross-body bag shaped like a giant eyeball that blinks.) But I am so naïve; people do want them! I visited the SkyMall website and found a yeti (perhaps related to the aforementioned gorilla) available in several sizes at a price of $99.95 - $2,250.00. Sixty-two people rated this a 4.5 star item. Not all purchasers were pleased. Bonbonbot wrote: “Husband was so thrilled with his yeti,,was the perfect 60th birthday gift ,,his favorite sy fy movie is Yeti,,but,,after having to fill it with sand,,and his feet not being flat,,and having to glue him to paver stones,,after less than a month,he has chips and spots where the paint is wearing off,,since he is a lawn ornament,,i wouldve assumed hed last longer than 3 weeks ,i suppose by winter he will look more like an abominable snowman,, was so dissapointed!” You can’t please all of the people all of the time, even those who can’t write.
Mr. Simon suggests that the magazine may be useful to future anthropologists musing about life in our times. “They'd find out that we hurt. There are pages of corrective braces, shiatsu leg massagers, reflexology foot massagers, all-day gel seats, while-you-sleep foot relief sleeves and back stretching aids.” I would offer that this is a slanted view, because the cagey advertisers know that if you didn’t have need of these items before you boarded the plane, you surely will, as you leave after a few hours of suffering in a seat with eight inches of legroom.
Aside: what is the shiatsu mania? I had never heard of it until a friend’s son married a practitioner. You, of course, know that it is one of those therapeutic, hermetic exercise health aids, in this case a “finger message”, imported from the Orient. Our country has gone crazy with this sort of thing, witness the explosion of Yoga studios. Shiatsu uses a variety of manual techniques, including pressure, kneading, soothing, tapping, and stretching to access the vital Qi of the body. Qi (pronounced "chee") is the vital energy in our body that underlies all functioning. OK, I’m not going there; I’m a Neanderthal. Exercise? How about a game of croquet?
Getting back to NPR, one of their sponsors (I know, I know, they don’t have sponsors; sure, yeah) is DreamWave chair.com. Since public radio has no advertising, they offer only the website without further elucidation. I moused the site, moved about a bit and provide here a picture of the Inada Sogno Dreamwave Massage Chair. This is available from Amazon (what isn’t?) for just $8,268.99, a savings of $730.01 over list and FREE shipping. But there are only 7 left in stock and if you want it by May 8 (in plenty of time for Mother’s Day) you will need to order within 47 hrs 33 min. (Hurry!) What I find especially enticing is that if you order one whose box has been opened, you can save an additional $800. Hmm, perhaps it is all in the packaging.
What we see here is real progress. I remember being appalled at the innovation of the Barcalounger recliner where, by means of a sidebar (no, not the lawyer thing), you can raise a footstool and lie back in total torpitude while you soak up the riveting entertainment offered by the Boob Tube. The Barcalounger exists still, but with today’s fitness fetish they are being phased out in favor of the more up-to-date recliner that offers a workout while you veg.
“When you sink into the sogno dreamwave and choose one of our carefully crafted massage sessions, you will feel hugged and cradled by this exceptional premium massage chair borne of many years of collaboration between masterful japanese engineers and shiatsu massage experts.” Shiatsu again; this is wonderful, wonderful! Now if we could just do something about the TV programming.