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Friday, February 27, 2009

We Asked 'What the Hell Is a Harlequin Object?' You Answered.

Posted By on Fri, Feb 27, 2009 at 5:30 AM

click to enlarge According to you the readers, a 'harlequin object' would involve placing something on a motorcycle such as this
  • According to you the readers, a 'harlequin object' would involve placing something on a motorcycle such as this
You wouldn't think it'd be too difficult to urge the Board of Supervisors to adopt the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child -- producing children seems to be what San Francisco's government does best these days. But, in that extra push to spur legislative  action, Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier's resolution contained a clause noting that a child is not a "harlequin object."

Say what?

The language baffled my colleague Benjamin Wachs -- and the folks he spoke to in Alioto-Pier's office were baffled, too. So, in the meantime, we hatched our "Define 'Harlequin Object' Contest" -- and a number of you did just that.

Honorable mention goes to friend of The Snitch Melissa Griffin, who pointed out that while Alioto-Pier's resolution purports to quote the United Nations Convention regarding children not being "harlequin objects," the Convention does not use that phrase. Fascinating! (Can you tell she's a lawyer?)

Wachs and your humble narrator narrowed the entries to a pair of finalists: "Steve Krzysiak" and "Phil Rieff."

Krzysiak's definition of "harlequin object":
HARLEQUIN OBJECT (harley-quin ub Ject)(n.)
an object, that when placed on a Harley motorcycle, adds a mannequinistic effect.

A child can never be used as one because without a proper baby seat and restraints, a child should never be on a motorcycle.

Rieff's definition:
I believe this usage comes from the Arabic "Ar Al'Akim", the name of a mythical baby-juggler in medieval Islamic lore.

This tale began as a cautionary tale about the dangers of baby-juggling, but was soon modified by the mothers of colicky babies into a cautionary tale about the dangers of not shutting the hell up.

Although Alioto-Pier's usage is more in line with the classical interpretation, it should be added that it is not always bad to throw babies into the air. First of all, it's a cheap source of entertainment for adults (so valuable in today's economy). Secondly, it familiarizes children with a level of terror that will prepare them for those difficult teenage years.

Also, recent exegesis has suggested that this story might be a prophetic account of second coming of Michael Jackson.

Our jury deadlocked over the two entries -- which is an inherent weakness among two-judge panels. So, naturally, we decided to flip a coin. Only we didn't have a coin (tough time for journalists these days). So we flipped the business card of Rick Galbreath, Ross Mirkarimi's legislative assistant. Heads Krzysiak wins, tails and it's Rieff.

It was heads.

So, Mr. Krzysiak, since just about anything can impart a "mannequinistic effect" when placed upon a Harley Davidson motorcycle, we propose a prize of a beer or something we can pilfer out of SF Weekly's leftover swag room such as pens, energy drinks, flavored blunt wrappers or luminous yo-yos (don't tell anybody). Let us know how to get a hold of you.

Incidentally, Michela Alioto-Pier herself laughed when SF Weekly asked her to define what a harlequin object is, and admitted she did not know. A member of her staff told Wachs that the resolution came straight from the city's youth commission, and it was passed to the Board of Supervisors untouched.

Good thing they didn't ask the city to designate a Harlequin Object Day!

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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