Reviews

OUTSIDE EXPLORES THE INTERNAL LANDSCAPE

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Readers turn to Outside magazine for chronicles of adventurers who traipse the physical world in pursuit of the limits of human ability and strength. But the evidence in two engrossing stories in the November issue suggests that perhaps the magazine would be better called Inside, since the most profound limits reside within each of us.


SEPT. 11 STARTS SHOWING UP IN THE MONTHLIES

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I'm tiring of the truism that since Sept. 11, everything has changed, mostly because not everything has. Big things changed, but not everything did. You can see that on newsstands, as you can in a hundred mundane places.

Some magazines had no choice but to alter their coverage, while others went rapidly to resuming-normal-life-so-terrorism-won't-win mode. There are even a handful that started publishing in the aftermath, writing of nothing else but adding little of value.


ECONOMY SINKING, EDITORS LISTING, ASTRONAUTS SOARING

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A favorite wordsmith's adage contends that precedents cannot be set, they can only be followed. In the same way, it's all but impossible to know when the good old days are, only when they were.

According to an entirely credible set of arguments in the October Esquire, these are the good old days and they're about to end. If you recall, it was in mid-October 1987 that the Dow Jones took a 500-point dive, back when 500 points was real money. And, of course, the big one came in mid-October 1929.


THESE MAGS HAVE FOUND THEIR NICHE, AND THEN SOME

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The challenge of every special-interest magazine is illustrated in the May/June Organic Style: How can it reach a broad audience while serving the readers it would expect to get?

It is full of consumer and how-to articles: how to grow roses naturally, how to eat organically while you're on the road, how to enjoy backyard living without chemicals. Good stuff, but what if you don't care about any of that?


MOTHER JONES TAKES A PUZZLING POKE AT THE FCC

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Even when magazines are fulfilling their journalistic responsibility to educate and inform, they can still leave readers smacking themselves upside the head, trying to figure out just what the heck is going on.

Take, for example, Brendan I. Koerner's indictment of the Federal Communications Commission in the September/October issue of Mother Jones. It stacks so many pieces of absurd reality upon one another that soon enough, you'll have a headache from all that smacking.


SOUTHERN ACCENTS IN HARPER'S, ESQUIRE

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Harper's journeyed to South Carolina for its August issue and brought back the corollary of a famous truism: Money corrupts, and gambling money corrupts absolutely.

David Plotz reports that income generated by video poker has enveloped the state's political structure, while not even providing the broad economic spinoffs that, to some, counter gaming's negative aspects. Altogether, there seems to be absolutely nothing redeeming about the South Carolina model, except as a case study in how not to go about it:


DARWIN'S A NATURAL; COVER-GIRL PUFFERY

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All it takes is a little straight talk to notice again how much bald-faced balderdash we are served every day, usually in the service of increased sales. There's a bunch of it on magazine racks right now.

But first, the ounce of clarity, from David Weinberger in the new Darwin, the second edition of the Framingham-based business magazine. From his opening salvo ("Marketing is a hostile act"), he attacks the ugly patina that covers practically all consumer-corporation encounters.


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