Sexy, decontextualized numbers

Today I found a subscription notice for Harper's in the mailbox, alongside a fresh copy of the magazine. I love tossing those babies out without even reading the sender's logo. But it's Harper's and I might renew, so I open it up.

Brilliant as their writers are, their marketers are just as good: they pull you in with a cut-and-dry: 'At the end of this letter we're going to ask you to renew with a gift subscription. But first, do you remember: How many x in the US. love y? The number of times Religious Americans Z'd X? The total # of G last December who say they Q? As you *know* (emphasis mine), just a reminder of how much you learn from a Harper's monthly Index.

The Index.
Everyone, but everyone, loves the Harper's Index. (shh, if you don't it means you're diputs!)

It's so concise and satisfying, all the factual goodness you need on one pre-researched-and-wrapped 8x11 glossy. It will stick in your brain, and days later, it will make excellent fodder for polite conversation or you'll find it effortless to bend into subtly-irrelated support for a thesis you arrived at on the fly in disucssionwith that twirp who insists on sitting beside you, when the rest of the bus is fully open, and chatting it up. The bastard, serves him right. (He won't be on my Harper's gift subscription list this December, that's for damn sure!)

The percentage of Americans who say Congress is 'out of touch'-- a smilar figure to the last time the electorate passed the Senate to the minority party: 74
The amount Congressmen have paid their spouses with tax-payer money since January first of last year, according to the findings of a citizen journalism team of volunteers: $637,424
The minimum length of time in seconds that is "very good" to last in this game, before being ejected: 40
The length of time in seconds, over which U.S. Air Force pilots have been known to play this game: 60
The number of individuals charged with killing two teenagers, after staking them via MySpace: 5
The percentage of nonbelieving students that state-funded religious schools will be forced to accept, as part of a British law currently being passed: 1/4
The number of recycled PCs that a Maker Faire project used to build a supercomputer: 31
The sum total processing power it produced, in GHz: 22.7
The amount of power it consumed, at peak performance, from its vegetable-powered generator, in A
: 30

At length, stand-alone, decontextualized, sexy numbers.

Sexy, particularly when someone else (statistics post-docs leashed to the basement floors of ivory towers, bearing out a vain hope of perchance meeting this month's installment of higher education tuition.) does
all the work.
Blast, those adjustable-rate loans! Drat-- why didn't I take the MBA, like mummy said?


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