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Bucks, which bills itself as The Art + Culture + Lifestyle Magazine, is an oversized, glossy, picture-book kind of publication that must be giving Philadelphia magazine apoplexy, since it's been getting better each time it appears. The May/June number, christened "The Decadence Issue," is fairly typical of what the magazine is trying to accomplish: living opulently "from Philadelphia to New York," which I imagine is now the new territorial definition of Bucks County.
This issue is also pretty much a Jewish affair from start to finish. Now, the words "decadence" and "Jews" when paired make a lot of tribe members instantly nervous, but the people at Bucks clearly don't want to be taken all that seriously. What seems to be on display - except for the ads, which mean to be taken on face value - is decadence as fun.
For example, there's the cover illustration, which is the work of famed artist Arnold Roth. Those of you with long memories may remember that he executed the cover for the Exponent's special 100th-anniversary edition. Roth is himself a Jewish Philadelphian, a product of the University of the Arts - and the Troc Theater, as he reminds readers in the brief contributor's biography.
The bio, which surely must be self-penned, goes on: "He has freelanced since 1951 though for quite some time he was the only one who knew that. … Working closely with his wife Caroline, they produced two musician sons … . [Roth] presently lives in New York City, which can't seem to get over it."
In this comic spirit, the artist has put together a typically outrageous portrait of a woman who's the essence of decadence from head to toe. She sports a tiara and enough gold piercings to satisfy any rebellious youth. She's encrustilated with jewelry and dripping with accoutrements - cell phones, PDAs, pills. She smokes, drinks and eyes a luscious triple-dipped ice-cream cone. She's just oozing with the kind of comic decadence that the editors at Bucks have in mind.
The most obvious example in the edition is an article titled "Indulge Your Inner Sinner," which adheres to the philosophy, recently espoused in a book of the same name, that everything that's bad for you is good.
The author of the Bucks piece, Amy Aronson, looks at alcohol, coffee, sex, gaining weight, lazing around the house, chocolate indulgences and instant gratification - and then comes to the conclusion that the conventional wisdom on these subjects is all wrong.
"Americans are reared on a cultural curriculum admonishing pleasure and prescribing self-denial and self-control. In all aspects of life, we're fed the freighted moral equation, 'moderation is good; decadence is bad.' Indulging in pleasures will only make us weak, empty, unhappy wrecks. Well, thank goodness for modern science, because now we know its OK to get in touch with your inner lush. In fact, the latest news is decadence, in moderation, is good for you."