William F. Buckley
Everybody sell! was the slogan of William I. Nichols years ago when he headed up This Week, the largest-selling Sunday supplement of the day. The genial and learned Harvard-trained publisher had been greatly impressed on learning that 66 percent of the gross national product is generated by sales.

If nobody bought, nobody would produce except for his own account, and there are only so many potatoes a consumer can eat, or skirts she can wear. So he must entice others, who themselves simultaneously entice other consumers. It is for this reason -- sales -- that inventive merchants devise not only skirts and potatoes, but all those things the socialists, notably Thorstein Veblen 100 years ago, condemn as merchandise that can only be classified as whetting the appetite for conspicuous consumption.

But Mr. Veblen had not been shown the wares of Brookstone Inc., whose catalog arrives in plenty of time to plan for Christmas giving. Consider, for instance -- before you go off on one of those socialistic complaints about conspicuous consumption -- the problem of grilling a steak. What are you expected to do while waiting for it to finish cooking? Just stand there? But that is an inefficient allocation of energy. Along comes the Grill Alert! It is a "talking, remote thermometer (that) lets you spend less time at the grill or oven, and more time enjoying the holidays."

The catalog explains how to do this: "(1) Insert the transmitter probe into entree. (2) Attach wireless receiver to your belt. (3) Relax while Grill Alert monitors the cooking."

Do you need to keep your eyes trained on the receiver to tell you how things are going with the steak? Not on your life! "A voice will prompt you announcing when the food is cooked to your liking." If he had had one of these, Veblen could have saved the time to write another book about the leisure class.

Of course, if you are cooking for more than just a few people, you will want to guard against the problem of misidentifying which is the seat of a particular guest. Things get so confused at parties, don't they? Well, now you can just look for the wine glass of, say, the guest who wants her steak medium-well. "Keeping track of your beverage has never been so simple or so much fun. Just attach this lighted charm to easily recognize your glass among all the others. The charms come in red, blue, white, yellow, purple and green, and operate with the press of a button. Magnetic clasp attaches charm securely to the stem of the glass. Expand the possibilities by using multiple sets at your social events, allowing some charms to flash, while others remain lighted." The industrial revolution never sleeps.

William F. Buckley

William F. Buckley, Jr. is editor-at-large of National Review, the prolific author of Miles Gone By: A Literary Autobiography.

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