A professional friend stopped reading newspapers a few years ago. "I read them online," he protests when I castigate him.
"What! The editorial, letters to the editor, classifieds, etc, etc?" I mock, to which he bleats he could find all of that if he searched. But of course he doesn't, thus missing so many fascinating facets of contemporary life beyond the headlines and peculiar to newspapers. In his case I'm specially baffled as he has an appetite for the quirky, which newspapers regularly flush up.
Take a recent classified advert by an Auckland beauty salon advertising for a hairdresser, in Wellington for God's sake. That's extraordinary and says a great deal more about booming Auckland than any page of statistics.
Later that day a group of us discussed this. There was a consensus as to the advert's utter futility given the improbability of any hairdresser anytime, anywhere in human history, ever reading a newspaper. One among us suggested likelier success if advertising in the provincial papers where perhaps a hairdresser's parents might see it.
I disagreed for having discussed staffing with a hairdresser lessee, I know they prefer pretty girls which apparently pleases the clientele. And being a life-long student of such matters I'm aware there are no pretty girls in the provinces, for as fast as they come off the production line, they sensibly up sticks for the big smoke.
Indeed last year while in a provincial city with a mate, I made this observation and wagered $20 that he couldn't find one. After half an hour's research through the CBD, ducking into shops and offices, I let him off for a tenner, which showed God likes me. For immediately following payment we turned a corner and encountered a Chinese stunner at the front desk of a plainly new beauty clinic. But it's odds-on she's not home-grown, or alternatively is deranged.
These sociological observations testify to the exquisite symmetry of the market system or conversely, the market deploring a vacuum, there's a reverse flow from city to country by plain, husband-seeking fat girls, filling a rural void. The market always finds its own levels, thus these classical supply and demand female migrations, which incidentally, is the sort of practical case-study economics students should be undertaking instead of the rubbish they're taught.
That said, the market's invisible hand can sometimes surprise, such as, reflected by the "What's On" section in the Dominion Post. This advised that a David Gray would "play" the Town Hall. How does one do that I wondered? Was he a tennis player, proposing to use the Town Hall wall as a volley board? Inquiry elicited that he was a pop singer. I YouTubed him, revealing another ghastly microphone-gripping, anguished Nasal wailer.
To suffer this racket he sought punters paying opera ticket prices, specifically $142, this raising the puzzling improbability of any potential fan with such abysmal taste being able to afford $142. Perhaps Gray attracts the criminal classes and they steal it, he thereby leaving in his wake much police activity as he tours.*
The next offering in "What's On" made more sense. This advised that something called Pablos Art Studies was rendering a performance of "a creative interpretation of text, words, phrases and letters in textual healing". In market terms this was perfectly priced, being free, although not so another proffered "entertainment", namely something pretentiously called He Aha Te Utu, which apparently means Ladies in War. According to What's On this comprises a "theatrical performance at the National Library, honouring the unacknowledged roles of women in the First World War, as devised and performed by six Wellington women".
One suspects these ladies will not be of the category who would interest Berlusconi, nevertheless, to add to the excitement they're offering a post-performance question and answer session. Hitherto I thought white-feather issuing was the sole role of our First World War womenfolk, but perhaps these ladies are being "creative." Possibly in the Q and A session they will discuss knitting styles as on reflection, white-feather distributing aside, a fair amount of sock-production probably occurred for the blokes in the trenches.
All very Canadian Arts Council and on face-value, grossly over-priced with free entry, given payment to attendees would seem more logical to attract an audience. Still, for those with time to kill (the worst of murders to cite Pepys) who knows? Nevertheless, we can safely assume there will be no need for the riot control police.
These fascinating contemporary life nuances evidence the daily delights from one's newspaper, lost to non-readers. My professional friend doesn't know what he's missing.
*My supposition regarding Gray's audience proved remarkably prescient. A few days ago after I drafted this column, his performance occurred. It transpired he's incapable of wailing unless enveloped in smoke, this achieved by an apparatus accompanying him on stage, I imagine to avoid the distasteful sight of massed criminals. When he set this off the smoke triggered the fire alarm and the audience fled, as doubtless they're constantly doing from the sound of burglar alarms and police sirens. Unsighted and thus oblivious to this evacuation, Gray wailed on to an empty hall, all of this another gem from the daily newspaper.