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The Mystery Lady

Your assignment for this week is to find the Sept. 24 issue of The New Yorker and take a careful look at page 32.

While you're doing that, let me tell you something about myself: I love absurdity. It's pretty much my favorite thing.

Luis Bunuel is my favorite director. (Of course those people can't leave a house even though there's nothing stopping them. It's perfectly natural for guests to poop at the dinner table and eat alone in the bathroom.)

I'd happily live in a world of Monty Python sketches or in a spaceship with a talking cat, an android, a sentient hologram and steady supply of lager and chicken vindaloo. (If you get that last reference, you're my kind of person.)

This is why I love page 32 of the Sept. 24 New Yorker.

If you haven't found it, here's what's on the page: a picture of an older, blonde woman, her arms folded, her head slightly tilted, a wan, perhaps mildly amused, smile on her face. She's wearing a brown v-necked t-shirt with what looks like a cotton print unbuttoned shirt over it and a thin gold chain about her neck.

She looks prosperous, steady and healthy for her, perhaps, 60 or so years.

Either that or she's in her 20s and has taken a few drugs.

What is she doing there?


The photo is next to these words in big letters: "California Companies Should Help California Grow."

Below that are the words, "We Agree," in red above signatures from the CEOs of Cisco and Chevron.

They're agreeing with the unidentified old (or young druggie) lady? Are they trying to humor her?

Yes, there is some smaller print. It doesn't help. Part of it says that businesses are the backbone of California's economy.

It would be kind of hard to have an economy without any business, but for some reason whoever bought this ad seems to think we should know this.

Then it says that "when California succeeds, we all do."

All of humanity? The entire universe?

This is very baffling. Fortunately, according to the ad, there's a website where we can "learn more." It's at

Check it out.

Does the picture become clearer?

No! The old lady is nowhere to be found! What is going on here?

Instead we get a big button we can click if we "agree" that California companies should help California grow!

At this point I deeply want to disagree but there's no button for that. I get some consolation from noting (at least as of this writing) that, according to the web page, a grand total of 40 people have liked this page on Facebook.

Those must be the 40 people in California who will like anything.

OK, this could just be a big oil company patting itself on the back and trying to make us like it. Maybe the old lady is Mrs. Chevron.

Or maybe this is some sort of absurdist tribute to clichés.

Now click on the link that says "see what else we agree on." You'll be impressed.

It's the motherlode! Pictures of more random, fairly handsome people behind boxes of print with "I Agree" buttons below slogans like "Shale gas needs to be good for everyone" and "We need to start building again."

Did we stop building?

Are they adding vitamins to shale gas?

I'm not feeling agreeable but I am entertained.

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