Thomas Sutcliffe Column
For a brief moment the hole in your life takes the precise shape of a purchasable item
It seems that magazine publishers have now become alert to this free competition for their readers' time - at least in the male section of the market, which has always recognised the allure of expensive commodities. Two new magazines - T3 and the bluntly named Stuff - have dumped all those time-wasting interviews, fashion spreads, reviews and reports in favour of unabashed cargo culture; page after page of desirable knick-knacks and gadgets, a masturbatory feast of consumer arousal. Sears-Roebuck was once called the "Rosetta Stone of popular culture", the notion being you could decipher through its pages an entire lifestyle. And something similar would be true of most modern catalogues - even though most of them target their audience more narrowly than a Hunt Ball committee. It is also true of these magazines, which evoke their ideal reader with a Dickensian richness of detail.
The unacknowledged ancestor of both magazines (rather more embarrassing than the man-about-town of Esquire or GQ) is the Innovations catalogue, but there's no doubt that they have come up in the world. Look closely at the Innovations booklet and you sense an ideal reader hoping to rescue his world from imminent collapse, rather than someone fantasising about an enlarged life. Hobbling along in their orthopaedic stretch footwear, aching joints encased in Copper Comfort support bandages, they fret about unwanted nasal hair, leaking pipes and unsightly brown stains in their lavatory pan. Their wardrobes are damp (Coat rail dehumidifiers), their chairs scratched (Furniture retouching crayons) and they can't get even get the vacuum nozzle under the sideboard (Ten-piece nozzle extension kit) to clear the drifts of dog-hair. But buried in this dismal evocation of a life under repair there are hints of larger aspirations, something grander than preventing skin from forming on your gravy. Does the arthritic pensioner live a secret life after hours, clipping his walking stick to the handy table-top Cane Holder before disappearing into the dark with the night vision goggles and satellite navigation device?
Both those objects also feature prominently in T3, a technophiliac publication intended for the devoted acronym-spotter (the title itself is a compressed acronym for Tomorrow's Technology Today). Despite its defensive references to "geeks" and a certain convivial matiness in the small print captions, T3 is clearly aimed at the sort of man for whom a great day out would begin and end on Tottenham Court Road. When you turn this magazine sideways to scan a double-page spread you find yourself examining the sleek curves of a pounds 30,000 pair of speakers. And the objects here are not means to an end, whether it's peer-group respect or bodily sensation or sex. They are the end itself: "What terrible experience is traumatic enough to take away any man's love for his black boxes," the editors ask a reader who has written to complain about his relapse into technolust. Women feature only as things that might appear on a screen - in digitally enhanced definition (a porn video is used to test a new Toshiba VCR) or in 3D ("Impress your mates with girls leaping out of your telly," reads the caption, firmly establishing T3's gender priorities).
Stuff is altogether more practical about its desires - and considerably more fun. A sort of Which Behaving Badly, it incorporates many of the cutting edge gizmos included in T3 but adds consumer tests which imply that its readers might actually step outside now and then. A new "fumble- free" condom is given a bed-test and there is a jokey comparison table for top-shelf magazines, including a "Pay then Scarper" index to measure the embarrassment-quotient of each publication.
Both Stuff and T3, though, testify to the unique consolation of unfulfilled desire - the momentary delusion (which all catalogues permit) that the hole in your life isn't shapeless and shifting but bears the precise dimensions of some purchasable item - the world's smallest camcorder, say, or the world's most advanced mobile phone. This is, of course, a delusion that would never survive actual possession but in most cases, fortunately, that moment is unlikely ever to be reached. Browse through the catalogues or Stuff or T3 (if you don't get out much) and you can warm yourself on your wishes for ever
Life & Style blogs
Hayfever pills and sleeping aids can 'significantly increase' risk of Alzheimer’s, says US study
Hershey's angers US chocolate purists by forcing company to stop importing 'yummy' Cadbury bars
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
SAG Awards 2015: Best and worst gowns on the red carpet
Nike Back to the Future style self-lacing shoes 'will arrive in 2015'
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
Islamic history is full of free thinkers - but recent attempts to suppress critical thought are verging on the absurd
30,000 reasons why the rhetoric on immigrants claiming benefits can stop now
- 1 The BBC has just done more to eradicate ‘terrorism’ than all our wars since 9/11
- 2 Dog thinks owner is drowning in lake, dives in and tries to pull him out
- 3 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 4 Chilling drone footage captures Auschwitz ahead of 70th anniversary of liberation
- 5 Narendra Modi: Indian Prime Minister wears suit with pinstripes that spell his name to meet Barack Obama
£27300 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a leading...
£22000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading boiler ...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join an awa...
£38000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's best performing...