Though both are wholly worthwhile, it would be hard to find two magazines of politics as far from each other as Foreign Policy and Adbusters.
The former is not stodgy, but with names such as Lawrence Summers (Harvard's president-designate), Helmut Sonnenfeldt, and former CIA chief John Deutch on its editorial board, it is rooted in the establishment.
The latter is published by a foundation that seeks nothing less than "to topple existing power structures" through advocacy advertising and other "culture jamming," which it considers to be "one of the most significant social movements of the next 20 years." The magazine itself is visually enticing but too often obtuse.
And yet they both can dine on McDonald's.
Foreign Policy takes the bigger bite with a cover interview of chief executive officer Jack Greenberg conducted by editor Moses Naim. It is a stalwart encounter in which Naim unflinchingly asks important questions about McDonald's - a pervasive purveyor of American culture outside America and a lightning rod for the antiglobalization protest movement - and Greenberg gives no ground in response.
French President Jacques Chirac may "detest" McDonald's, for example, but French entrepreneurs own the stores, French farmers stock the larder, and French people are happy with their meals, he says, and it's hard to argue, although Adbusters is unimpressed.
Greenberg, it says, made the same point to a world economic forum in January, but Adbusters merely regards it as a ploy aimed at protesters' heartstrings "since police batons are not working," a reference to disturbances that have followed gatherings of world- trade groups in Seattle, Prague, and most recently Quebec.
Greenberg, in turn, is unimpressed by the protesters: He says that during the four days that "from 100 to 2,000" protesters were besieging Seattle, 175 million people ate at McDonald's: "So which figure is more representative?" he asks triumphantly.
The "anti-globo" activists, as Adbusters calls them, wouldn't argue with his arithmetic; they would ask what they think is a more important question: Is this "viral form of McCulture" healthy for the world? Greenberg actually suggests to Foreign Policy that Japan is more Japanese, and Canada is more Canadian, under the influence of McDonald's.
Although it comes entirely outside the realm of McDonald's, a better answer to that question comes in The Atlantic Monthly's June issue (whose cover story hails the pending arrival of "air taxis" that will decongest air travel). Its story "New World Syndrome" reports from the South Pacific, where the inhabitants of Kosrae, an island in Micronesia, are dying young because of "fatty Western plenty."
Ellen Ruppel Shell reports that grocery shelves there are lined with Spam, and that turkey tails, "a fatty gristly hunk of the bird which is generally regarded as inedible in the United States," are a favored delicacy. The result is that nearly 85 percent of thosebetween 45 and 64 are obese, and 90 percent of the adults admitted for surgery suffer from the ravages of diabetes.
Obesity, of course, is the visible result of an eating disorder. Its flip side, anorexia, is harder to spot, although extensive coverage has made the signs - including an obsession with body - more noticeable. But the May GQ (still on newsstands but departing soon) makes a fascinating and credible parallel between anorexia's most common victims, young women, and big, musclebound men.
Exhibit A in John Sedgwick's report is Kim Miller, who belongs to four gyms, works out at least an hour every day, and obsesses about what he eats. He applies Nair so his muscles will stand out better, but he's like all those SUV owners who pay dearly to have the power but then never use it.
Feminists and health advocates have long decried how Barbie dolls present unattainable body standards to girls, but did you know that G.I. Joe does the same thing? Roberto Olivardia, coauthor of "The Adonis Complex," has calculated that if Joe were six feet tall, he would have a 56-inch chest and 27-inch biceps, grotesque proportions that have bulked up over time. To men, it seems, size matters more than ever.
Sedgwick cites a series of studies published in Psychology Today that say that 15 percent of men in a 1972 survey were dissatisfied with their bodies, but that 43 percent were in 1997, and more men were unhappy with the size of their chests than women were by theirs.
The numbers are startling, but they shouldn't be in a land where movie theaters serve tankards of soda and where supersizing is considered added value. Did somebody say McDonald's?
Five for Commonwealth
The spring issue of Commonwealth magazine celebrates its fifth anniversary and fives are wild: Five "moments of truth," five people who made a difference, etc. Its list of five people to watch crosses territory staked out by Boston magazine's May lead, which offers more and longer lists focused on the region's powerbrokers.
Three of Commonwealth's five make Boston's lists: Boston Herald publisher Patrick Purcell, ICA director Jill Medvedow, Partners HealthCare System CEO Samuel Thier. The other two are "civic tour guide" Hubie Jones, whose "City to City" program is building connections across a range of local readers, and state Senate majority leader Linda Melconian of Springfield, who declares that she will seek to be the chamber's first woman president if Thomas Birmingham runs for governor.
Another commonality of the lists is their glancing references to Acting Governor Jane Swift. "No one has to be told to keep their eye" on her, Commonwealth says. Boston, meanwhile, lists her last among 26 politicians, and implies it wanted to list only 25: "You can't leave a sitting governor off a list like this, but damned if we weren't tempted," the editors said, citing her "lack of gravitas."