Bursting uncouthly into the limelight last week was Scene, “Harvard
campus’ magazine on society, style & living”—the aggravating
creation of a handful of people of means who cannot, despite their
upbringing, capably author even softball feature pieces.
magazine was unveiled in an orgy of conspicuous consumption, the
editors-in-chief having secured several thousand dollars in pocket
money from their fathers so that they might rent out Umbria, a
nightclub in downtown Boston.
The whole to-do is an elaborate
tea party of sorts, where mother and father have provisioned the
youngsters with fancy dresses and lace, cucumber finger sandwiches
(crusts off, mais oui) and have steeped the tea for them. All the
aspirant sophisticates must do is pour.
But lacking the dexterity to handle the china, they have made a terrible mess of things.
the midst of poor writing, pixelated photography, and droves of
typographical errors, Scene can tell us something about playing
dress-up on daddy’s dime.
Take the feature on Baruch Shemtov
’09, a tie designer, who the magazine interviews in New York at “The
Carlyle...a swank upper-east side establishment.” Author Danielle
Sassoon ’08 is particularly impressed that “Baruch” (as he is
endearingly referred to on second reference) has an in with the maitre
d’—a term whose only accepted variant differs in its inclusion of a
cirumflex above the “i.” Except that in the article, it is spelled
Scene, as it happens, is rife with ironies like
these, which bubble to the surface at the most uncanny moments—almost
like its editors are making jokes.
Perhaps the inverted comma
was forgotten, that other “i” slipped mistakenly in—but that is no
excuse for an arrant virginity of art history. A suitably thrilling
one-page spread on the “living space” of one Nathan Gunawan ’07
features the fraudulent caption, “Nathan’s reading room: the Gothic
library.” But there is, unsurprisingly, nothing Gothic about it.
Unless, perhaps, we are being forewarned of the distressingly dim
Speaking of dimness, a particularly obnoxious
column by Adam Katz ’06 asserts, “Good-looking Harvard girls are feted
on”—perhaps he was thinking of “doted on” since “feted” exists, always,
without “on.” Ruminating on this cabal, he chides his fellow men for
worshiping them so: “Their names are the subject of intense debate and
dining hall ranking. Worse, we’re dumb enough to let them know how hot
they are.” Airy prose for the cultured: thank you, no.
jammed into Scene is a jejune 10-page spread sponsored by Brooks
Brothers—purveyor of fine off-the-rack clothing, est. post-Industrial
Revolution—featuring pearl accessories as desperately cultured—or
culturally desperate perhaps—as the presented models. But even these
failings suggest an aspiration for refinement, something that cannot be
said for the barnyard article on sexual lubricants. “KY Jelly is to sex
as grape jelly is to gourmet…Even cheep [sic] porn directors know that
the only thing grocery store lubricant is good for is use as fake tears
in dramatic scenes,” reports Alexandra Cecilia Palma ’08. What charm,
The most apparent conclusion that can be drawn
from Scene is that its writers and editors are still very much
schoolchildren in need of an education. If they need Harvard and its
manifold temptations for young socialites, however, is unclear—a better
choice might be a provincial boarding school away from the glamour of
city life where they might, under the watchful eye of an aged nun,
endure the slap of the ruler should they write so nonsensical a
statement as “Intelligence comes in many variations” (page 9).
fundamentally, there is a common intelligence—one of grammatical rules,
one of social demureness—which would seem to dictate that Scene would
not see the light of day and that if it did, it would at least be
checked and double-checked. Something with such great potential to
inflame should be, after all, an irreproachably well-written product.
that schooling begin here and now: high-caste persons are categorically
not supposed to be vapid or unintelligent. And if they are those
things, they keep them hidden. Scene makes a public spectacle of both
traits. Its supposed finesse, rather like its pixels, blurs upon close
Travis R. Kavulla ’06-’07 is a history
concentrator in Mather House. Sahil K. Mahtani ’08 is a history
concentrator in Winthrop House. They are both Crimson editorial editors.