Friday, October 14, 2011 3:36 PM
If you’re reading this, you’re probably familiar with the mission of Utne Reader: To promote the best of the alternative and independent press. Well, to that end, there are a couple of new magazines out there that have recently arrived in both our physical inbox and our digital one. They are both worthy of your attention, and we’ll be excited to showcase their work in the future.
The first comes to us from Los Angeles. It’s called Slake and it was started by former L.A. Weekly editors Joe Donnelly and Laurie Ochoa. They are three issues in, and flipping through the third issue—“War and Peace”—is quite the experience. The content is sprawling: from a black-and-white photo essay of a muay thai instructor (to “find the calm interiors that go with [muay thai fighters] warlike exteriors”) to poetry and fiction to long-form journalism to a graphic story. The editors want to create “a new template for the next generation of print publications—collectible, not disposable; destined for the bedside table instead of the recycling bin.” With their first three issues, they seem to be succeeding.
The other publication that’s recently come to our attention does not offer the same tangible experience as Slake, as it’s online only, but its goals are no less laudable. Sampsonia Way is the web magazine of City of Asylum/Pittsburgh, which hosts persecuted writers from around the world in houses along a street of the same name as its magazine. The history of the homes is fascinating, starting with the first exiled writer-in-residence, who covered his new temporary home in his poetry. As George Packer wrote for The New Yorker:
The first writer was a Chinese poet named Huang Xiang, who had spent twelve years in jail and labor camps for taking part in the Democracy Wall movement. The abuse he endured had been so bad that, when he came to Pittsburgh in 2004, he locked himself in the former crack house and wouldn’t go out. Soon, though, he was up on a ladder, writing his poems in beautiful calligraphy across the exterior walls: an act of self-liberation that turned his banned writing into a startling sight on a street that still looks like the set for an August Wilson play.
Sampsonia Way, the magazine, looks to provide the same shelter offered by the homes on its namesake. “Each defends free speech by protecting the people who actually do the writing and speaking. The homes provide shelter for writers; the magazine provides shelter for their work.”
We encourage you to check out both of these wonderful magazines. It will be worth it, I promise.
Source: Slake, Sampsonia Way
Image of Huang Xiang’s house on Sampsonia Way by ndanger, licensed under Creative Commons. All other images are of the two magazines written about in this post.
Wednesday, July 27, 2011 11:19 AM
From the front cover to the closing essay, putting together an issue of Utne Reader takes about two months. The editors at Longshot magazine assemble theirs in two days. The next issue of Longshot is about to go into production, and they need your help.
The magazine will announce the next issue’s theme at noon on Friday, July 29 (Pacific time) here. Writers, designers, photographers, and other contributors have exactly one day to submit work. According to Longshot’s website:
We need writers, photographers, illustrators, videographers, information designers, editors, proof readers, fact checkers, baristas, chefs, bartenders, and carpenters. (Especially bartenders). We want submissions ranging from 140 characters to 4,000 words. Please send us your strongly reported narratives, design fictions, interviews, data visualizations, cartoons, family portraits, how-to guides, maps, obscure histories, recipes, war reporting, photo-essays, blueprints, ships’ logs, scientific papers, charticles, wood cuts, curio boxes, product reviews, and box scores.
Longshot is not only crowd-sourced, but also crowd-funded via Kickstarter. As some extra incentive, Longshot will award $2,000 to the writer whose article is chosen as the cover feature.
As project leader and writer for TheAtlantic Sarah Rich says in the promotional video: “Writers from the New Yorker and Wired shared pages with people who had never been published before or even submitted to a magazine.” Good luck, and get ready to write!
Thursday, September 16, 2010 9:48 AM
It happens all the time—you’re just about to board a 747 to fly back across the Atlantic to resume life as usual and, all of a sudden, an Icelandic volcano erupts, stranding you in Europe for the next week. What to do with all that thumb-twiddling time trapped in airport purgatory? Inspired by the thousands of people just waiting to get home, Stranded is a new magazine for desperate souls delayed by blameless crises.
The one-shot, 88-page magazine was compiled and edited by Andrew Losowsky, who runs the magazine-industry blog Magtastic Blogspolosion. After Eyjafjallajökull blew its top this past April, the volcano’s ash plume grounded air traffic in Europe and indefinitely stranded Losowsky in Dublin. After sending out a creative call-to-arms, more than 50 contributors—also stranded by the eruption—pieced together a compelling, mixed-format primer on having someplace to go but no means of getting there. Losowsky writes:
It's filled with true stories and amazing visuals, including volcano cocktails from around the world, the thoughts of a famous vulcanologist, a horror story set inside the ash cloud, 54 journalists in a 16-hour race to catch a boat, a chance encounter with a cute Parisian waiter, a playlist for abandoned airports, and much more.
Caption: Scenes from airport terminals around Europe.
Caption: An excerpt of “Losing Altitude,” a short story set inside the volcanic ash cloud.
Caption: Pictures of temporary beds inhabited by grounded travelers.
Source: The Magtastic Blogsplosion
Images courtesy of Andrew Losowsky.
Thursday, May 13, 2010 11:34 AM
I just ordered Issue Zero of 48 HR Magazine, and now I'm all excited about what I'm calling "magazine gymnastics"—the art of maximum agility in magazine production.
If you missed the hurricane that was 48 HR Magazine last week, here's a recap: On May 7th the editors of 48 HR announced a theme for the debut issue: Hustle. Interested writers and artists had 24 hours to produce and submit work. The next 24 hours were for the editorial team to "snip, mash and gild" the best submissions until they had a magazine. At the end of that period, the magazine was avaialble for purchase at MagCloud. And it's beautiful.
Also this week I downloaded the iPhone app by British design magazine Creative Review. It's an interactive adaptation of their annual design showcase issue and it's an incredible piece of work (built by Russell Quinn, the fellow behind the also amazing McSweeney's iPhone app). Every time I open the app I'm gone from the world for at least 15 minutes. For every featured project there are photos, the occasional video, and text. When the big news magazines talk about releasing each issue as an app, I bristle—but special issues as apps? I'm a believer.
Finally there is a tiny magazine published in South Africa called Goodwill Fernandes. I want it bad. Real bad. Here's what Creative Review (yeah, those folks again) had to say about this 5x8 cm adventure in publishing: "The magazine comes in a tiny slipcase which can be removed to reveal the tiny, landscape format magazine. Inside there are short stories from both sides of the Atlantic and an interview by Pienaar with Francois van Coke—South Africa's most controversial rock star; a story on a group called Jesus Saves that cleans up Cape Town's graffiti by painting block shapes or stripes over the old graffiti; and a look at how Argentina's government uses the medium of graffiti (which is otherwise banned in the country) as its most effective medium for propaganda and campaigning. And a whole lot more including a selection of knock knock jokes..." How do I get my hands on this thing?
I'm hooked—and I am on the magazine gymnastics beat from this day forward. If you come across anything I ought to know about, find me at jguntzel [at] utne [dot] com. Onward!
Sources: 48 HR, Creative Review
Thursday, February 11, 2010 2:48 PM
The Dead Magazine Club is an Utne Reader project, hosted by Tumblr. For more than 25 years, Utne Reader has been reprinting the best of the independent press. Many wonderful magazines and journals have come and gone since we launched as a newsletter in 1984, and we have a special place in our library reserved for magazines that are no longer.
We thought there ought to be a place to remember these publications. It’s our hope that the people who made these magazines and the people who loved them will share their memories in the comments. The club has only one rule: no internet research. As far as we’re concerned, all we know about these publications is what we can glean from the one or two issues in our library. Everything else we want to hear first hand.
There is so much we want to know! How did the magazine start? Why did it end? Was it run out of an office or a basement? Best moments. Worst moments. You get the idea.
Join us at The Dead Magazine Club and help us gather the hidden histories of the independent press! Or just browse some amazing covers.
Thursday, December 31, 2009 11:43 AM
Our mission is to highlight the best of the alternative press. What we have collected here is the best of the best of the alternative press. These are the stories we can't shake. We're thinking and talking about them months after they were published. These are the stories we will inevitably measure the stories of 2010 against. Enjoy!
The Revolution Will Not Be Funded
: So many months later, the bold, powerful arguments made in this excerpt from the outstanding eponymous anthology (published by South End Press in 2007) make their way into my thoughts and discussions about activism, philanthropy, and the nonprofit system—or nonprofit-industrial complex, as the members of INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence prefer to call it. I’ll always be haunted by this line from Madonna Thunder Hawk: “Activism is tough; it is not for people interested in building a career.”—Danielle Maestretti
: What does one say about a story that begins with the discovery of “an alien nub on my left buttock, just inches from my exit hole on an isthmus of hair that juts into wallet territory”? John O’Connor’s uproarious Senegal-based tale of an abscess and a long-lost love is by turns tender and revolting; it surprises and delights throughout. We ran “The Boil” at five amazing (if at times pus- and blood-filled) pages in our March-April issue. I’ve never been more proud to work here.—Danielle Maestretti
Obscene Astronomy: Ah, Obscene Astronomy! This has to be one of the most cheerful and genuine pieces of writing we’ve published this year. Doug Reilly’s enthusiasm for astronomy—and sharing its curse-inspiring delights with passersby, through setting up his telescope on the street—is contagious, and the result is an essay that’s capable of reminding readers what awe and wonder feel like. Which, in my mind, makes it a perfect piece to revisit at the start of a new year. —Julie Hanus
The Lonely American: There’s been plenty written this year about loneliness, but little of it is as revealing as “The Lonely American.” In this excerpt from their book of the same name, Harvard psychiatry professors Jacqueline Olds and Richard Schwartz get right down to illuminating the social impulses that have pushed us apart, from deep cultural myths (such as the self-reliant American) to more basic narratives that have slipped into daily life (“It’s too bad that we’ve lost touch, but that’s just the way it is”). —Julie Hanus
On Our Watch: By the time 2009 began, the word Darfur had become synonymous with violence, torture, death, and ethnic cleansing. No genocide has ever been so thoroughly documented while it was taking place, Richard Just wrote for the January-February issue. A persistent question remains: Why, in spite of the massive amounts of historical, anthropological, and narrative detail about the genocide that is available to the public could the world not put an end to it? Rather than allowing the violence to slip into the recesses of history, Just calls on people to both question the history and take action against the continuing suffering in Darfur. —Bennett Gordon
The Tao of War Photography: War correspondents are compelled far too often to share their thoughts and experiences. Sometimes it seems like every reporter who has heard a gunshot has a publishing deal to write about it. Yet we never hear from the photographers. The people with the cameras get closer and risk more than the people with the notebooks. Photographer Bruce Haley’s autobiographical “Tao of War Photography” is essential reading. It's part training manual and part memoir. It's mostly tragic and it's a little bit hilarious. And it’s like nothing you’ve ever read. —Jeff Severns Guntzel
The Mountain that Eats Men: This year The Walrus brought us one of the most exciting pieces of travel narrative from Andrew Westoll and Jason Rothe. In “The Mountain that Eats Men,” the writer-photographer team relayed their harrowing descent into the belly of La Negra mine in Bolivia and illustrated the bleak and gritty realities of life as a miner with such artful depiction you’ll feel as if you’re tucked in their rucksacks (with a headlamp and face mask on, of course).—Elizabeth Ryan
The Life and Lonely Death of Noah Pierce: from The Virginia Quarterly Review will haunt you. Ashley Gilbertson chronicles small-town soldier Noah Pierce’s struggle to overcome the posttraumatic stress disorder he faced following his deployments to Iraq. It serves as both a call to action and a constant reminder that damaged soldiers like Noah are returning home every day, and we’ve failed to provide the tools they need—and deserve—to cope with the lasting trauma.—Elizabeth Ryan
Der Indianer: Not only is this one of my favorite Utne Reader stories of the year, it’s one of our website’s most-read articles as well, clocking in among the top ten. Apparently, folks just can’t ignore the riveting question posed by the subheadline: “Why do 40,000 Germans spend their weekends dressed as Native Americans?” The answer touches on art, spirituality, nature, and gnarly issues of cultural appropriation, but in the end the tale’s appeal is simple: It’s just one of those “who knew?” stories. —Keith Goetzman
In Search of Silence: Who could resist going on a hike to one of the quietest places in North America, deep in the mossy, majestic Hoh Rainforest in Washington’s Olympic National Park? I certainly couldn’t, so I was a sucker for this tale about the Gordon Hempton and his One Square Inch of Silence, which aims to reclaim the importance of silence in a din-filled world. A quixotic quest, to be sure, but I’m cheering Hempton on. Quietly. —Keith Goetzman
Thursday, December 31, 2009 11:08 AM
Yep, we’ve gone meta. Here’s our list of the best decade- and year-end lists (and just some plain-old-list lists) we’ve spotted in the alternative press. Enjoy!
Top Ten Astronomy Pictures of 2009
Phil Plait, who writes the Bad Astronomy blog for Discover, offers up his fourth annual round-up of breathtaking astronomy photos. Seriously: You have to go look at these. For a second helping of awesome, peruse the blog and then read one of our favorite essays of the year: “Obscene Astronomy,” which appeared in our Sept.-Oct. 2009 issue.
Top Ten Worst Christmas Gifts
Grist, which also has “The Top Green Stories of the ’00s,” recounts the second annual list of worst—as in “profligate, unnecessary,” and guilty of “tasteless energy use”—Christmas gifts, courtesy of the Jamaica Plain Green House, a rehab project chronicled on its website. Warning: There is a thong-clad butt at #9, but if you can scoot past it, a jaw-dropping cupcake car (#10) awaits you.
Greenest Colleges and Universities
OK, so this isn’t a year- or decade-end list, but Sierra’s third annual “Cool Schools” ranking, published in the magazine’s September-October 2009 issue, deserves a shout out for equipping prospective students with an environmental metric. Note the link to Sierra lifestyle editor Avital Binshtok discussing how and why they do the ranking.
50 Best Movies of the Decade and 50 Best Albums of the Decade
Cinephiles and music lovers, this couplet of comprehensive lists from Paste are just for you—complete with trailers and streaming songs. I dare you to click through them and not compulsively begin adding things to your personal “must see” and “must hear” lists.
Top 100 Singles of the Decade
More music fun than you can shake a stick at: “Lifelong pop culture junkie” Ryan McNutt lists his top 100 and top 10 singles of the decade for Maisonneuve online (also published on his blog McNutt Against the Music).
Books of the Year 2009
Canada’s Quill & Quire is celebrating the end of the year with a feast of reading lists, including overlooked books, covers of the year, and a nice twist on the best-of genre: “The 15 Books that Mattered,” subdivided into lists of fiction, nonfiction, and books for young people.
Top Ten Stories Not Reported by the Mainstream Press
A yearly classic: North Carolina’s Independent Weekly publishes a recap of Project Censored’s annual list of stories that the organization says failed to get the attention they deserved.
The Vegetarian Stories of the Decade
Considering making a dietary New Year’s resolution? VegNews chronicles the significant legislature, important books, and other milestones in a decade of significant progress for the vegetarian-vegan movement.
The Best of Columbia Journalism Review
The venerable Columbia Journalism Review’s hardworking editors and writers, including Clint Hendler, Megan Garber, and Dean Starkman, revisit their top stories of 2009.
Top Online Stories from Next American City
Next American City expanded its website this year, including adding city-specific homepages and regular columns, and to celebrate deputy editor Julia Ramey picks out some of the best urban-minded reports, interviews, slideshows. NAC online also flexes its network of urban thinkers with a three-part series “Predictions for 2010.”
Sources: Discover, Grist, Sierra, Paste, Maisonneuve, Quill & Quire, Independent Weekly, VegNews, Columbia Journalism Review, Next American City
Thursday, December 31, 2009 10:23 AM
As a magazine that represents the best of the alternative press, we knew we should cobble together a collection of the decade’s best and brightest as the “Aughts” come to a close. We considered locking ourselves in a room with stacks of magazines, piles of journals, lists of newsletters, and strong emotions, to create such a list from scratch... until we remembered that we do that already every year for the Utne Independent Press Awards. So, behold! A list of the best magazines of the decade, as determined by Utne Reader editors from 2000 to 2009.* Each of these magazines won the award for general excellence, and with the exception of one—The Ecologist, which now unfortunately publishes online only—all continue to do excellent work in print. And all would make excellent belated Christmas gifts for the mainstream media–fatigued in your life. Here are the winners, and what we had to say about them at the time:
2000: Mother Jones
"After raising hell with its investigative reporting for more than 30 years, San Francisco’s bimonthly Mother Jones remains a living—and lively—tribute to its rabble-rousing, union organizing namesake."
2001: The Ecologist **
"To anyone who breathes air, drinks water, eats food, and enjoys nature, the Ecologist is a reliable and long-standing British friend, covering environmental issues with dogged assurance. The 37-year-old magazine publishes gutsy activist journalism that takes on agrigiants like Monsanto; sharp and soundly argued commentaries; unvarnished green consumer advice; and revealing, deeply researched features."
2002: The Nation
"America’s oldest weekly magazine remains a vital voice in any discussion of politics or culture. Probing investigative reports, incisive international coverage, a stable of top-notch writers, and wide-ranging writing on many aspects of American society keep The Nation consistently in the forefront of the best of the alternative press."
2003: The American Prospect
"A bimonthly that lifts political writing out of the mire of Washington Gossip and scandal, The American Prospect offers a practical vision of public life and policy shaped by 'the liberal imagination.'”
"This gorgeous bimonthly journal of nature and political thought can be counted on to provide some of America’s most eloquent and impassioned essays in defense of the environment and social change."
"With the environment in grave peril, this magazine from the Natural Resources Defense Council is an invaluable antidote to despair. Casual readers will find the accessible issue briefs, strategy notes, and hard-hitting investigative reports visually compelling. Activists can turn to deeper pieces that define key battles and ground-breaking solutions."
2006: The Wilson Quarterly
"Very few magazines come close to providing the sort of surprises that routinely spice the Wilson Quarterly's pages. Smaller publications are too often catering to niche readers with a particular worldview. Larger media outlets are hesitant to feature truly bold, unorthodox thinking, lest it set off a segment of their mass audience."
"ColorLines bills itself as 'the national magazine on race and politics,' but its scope is vastly broader. From economics, education, and the environment to immigration, queer issues, fine arts, and pop culture, ColorLines examines the myriad ways race—and our ideas about race—intersect with every day. The 10-year-old publication entered 2007 with a fresh redesign and a new bimonthly format (formerly quarterly), and we couldn’t be happier to celebrate its success. Its editors and writers provide sharp critique and an essential perspective."
2009: Virginia Quarterly Review
"In 2008 every issue of the Virginia Quarterly Review found its way into our thoughts, our discussions, our issue-planning sessions, and, in the case of the salient, heartbreaking story of a soldier returning from Iraq, 'The Life and Lonely Death of Noah Pierce,' onto our pages. VQR’s stories are deeply reported, exquisitely written, and elegantly edited—the sort of articles that make readers want to become writers. The magazine’s graceful design and sumptuous photographs bring the stories and voices to life."
* Math types and hardcore indie-press nerds will note that there is no listing for 2008. It’s not that we skipped the 2008 awards, but we did shift our schedule so that what would have been the ’08 awards became the ’09 awards. In the unlikely event that you wish to hear more about this, contact Danielle Maestretti, the trusty Utne librarian, at dmaestretti [at] utne.com.
** No longer in print
Friday, November 27, 2009 10:47 AM
The good people at Paste magazine have posted their 20 Best Magazines of the Decade list, and they were kind enough to include Utne Reader. It's a fun list, and we're thrilled to be on it. Here's what Paste's Josh Jackson had to say:
This was the first magazine subscription I bought with my own money back in high school, and its ability to cull the most unexpected, interesting and engaging takes on any topics it chooses hasn't waned since.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009 3:22 PM
As retailers like WalMart are shrinking aisle space devoted to magazines, Minneapolis-based Target has launched a bold digital newsstand, a joint project with digital content provider Zinio, reports MinOnline. Consumers can buy single issues or discounted subscriptions, choosing from a largely mainstream selection of publications.
As a company, Zinio has an unlimited-access, “comprehensive device” philosophy: “As the consumer you should only need to buy the digital version of [a publication] one time and have the freedom to access it on every device on an ongoing basis,” Zinio chief marketing office Jeanniey Mullen told MinOnline. So you subscribe, log into your Zinio account from wherever, and the content is formatted for how you've chosen to access it.
“Call it the counterpart to the emerging ‘TV everywhere’ model in which cable and premium network subscribers have online and mobile access to all of their TV programming,” writes MinOnline. It’s a forward-thinking strategy: “The current e-ink technology driving the Amazon Kindle, Sony reader and its upcoming rivals simply are not capable of showing magazines off very well. And while the Amazon Kindle allows for direct subscription and wireless downloads of more than a score of titles, these magazines are formatted specifically for that device.”
Friday, October 09, 2009 6:12 PM
Simpsons fans, brace yourselves. The Huffington Post picked up an AP report that Marge Simpson will be on the cover of the November issue of Playboy, available on newsstands October 16, apparently in an attempt to attract 20-something readers into the audience—whose average age is 35.
I hate to ask a perhaps obvious question, but… shouldn’t die-hard Simpsons fans also skew that way? Not that the humor of the longest-running American sitcom doesn’t transcend the ages, but choosing a character from a show that debuted in 1989 and garnered its greatest praise in the 1990s seems a bit of a weird choice for nabbing the 20-something set.
But then there’s really nothing not weird about any of it. Kelsey Wallace over at Bitch catalogs the panoply of unanswered questions:
Honestly, I don't know what is weirdest about this. Is it:
- Playboy thinking that a cartoon character is remotely erotic/sexy to the average reader?
- The Simpsons thinking that putting their animated character on the cover of a nudie magazine is a good idea?
- That the rest of the cover is also laid out in a decidedly creepy “The Simpsons Does Porno” cartoon style? (Sorry Benecio! Bum luck getting in this issue!)
- That Playboy CEO Scott Flanders insists that the three-page spread of Marge inside the magazine contains only “implied nudity”? (Thank goodness, because the real worry here was that we might see a cartoon nip slip.)
- That this all might turn out to be a wild success, proving that I am unknowingly hooked on crazy pills?
Kelsey, you are not hooked on crazy pills. It is Marge, it is Playboy, and it is baffling.
Sources: Huffington Post, Bitch
Monday, August 24, 2009 2:42 PM
Madison-based magazine The Progressive, an energetic voice of dissent and activism for 100 years, has issued an urgent appeal for funds. Longtime editor Matthew Rothschild is very straightforward about the magazine’s plight, explaining how they got there, what cuts they’ve made, and how they will manage long-term survival after this big fundraising push.
“Let me put it to you straight,” he writes on the magazine’s website. “We desperately need to raise $90,000 in the next two weeks to keep going. We’ve got no money in the bank, and we have payroll to meet on August 31, and our printer to pay, and other creditors hounding us.”
Since he posted the appeal last week, they’ve already collected about $60,000—two-thirds of what they need—and you can add to the count by donating here.
Even in a lean economy, such an outpouring of financial support isn’t too surprising (though it is, of course, extremely heartening): The Progressive, which celebrated its centennial earlier this year, has a long, strong relationship with its radical readers. It’s a relationship that matters come fundraising time, as feminist magazine Bitch found out last September, when its readers forked over tens of thousands of dollars in a matter of days to keep the magazine going. Meanwhile, music-enthusiast readers of Paste have donated more than $250,000 this year as part of a longer-term fundraising drive.
Madison’s alt-weekly, Isthmus, has more on The Progressive’s crunch.
Sources: The Progressive, Isthmus
Friday, August 21, 2009 1:05 PM
Forget putting video in magazines, it's high time we start putting our magazines in videos! That's what the Walrus did with their dramatic animated trailer for the September 2009 issue. It's a novel idea, and it's also an effective one. I was reading Helen Humphreys on the Plains of Abraham mere seconds after the trailer had ended.
Never heard of the Walrus? They won the 2009 Utne Independent Press Award for Best Writing. It's a fabulous magazine. But why take our word for it when you can hear it from Margaret Atwood, Broken Social Scene, Atom Egoyan, and Geddy Lee? They're all together (at last?) in another little video called Why We Need the Walrus.
Wednesday, July 08, 2009 1:41 PM
The pilot issue of the literary journal The New Anonymous has hit newsstands with one very striking variation from its neighbors: the entire production of the magazine, including the articles printed, is anonymous. The nameless editors screen and edit submissions anonymously, simply, as the publication’s website notes, “celebrating the text.”
Writing for BOMB magazine Brian McMullen calls the journal “an inspiring, new embodiment of democracy at its best.” He also applauds the “15 good stories and poems,” while questioning if the “nine inexplicable pages of zany fake ads” help the journal.
You can order a copy of The New Anonymous on their website.
Sources: The New Anonymous, BOMB
Thursday, June 18, 2009 2:55 PM
Making fun of magazine covers is like netting fish in a barrel, but that doesn't mean it's not funny. In a stunt aimed at catering specifically to its core readership of cranky libertarians—who still inexplicably doubt the existence of climate change and, if they didn't like pot so much and God so little, would look a lot like, well...conservatives—Reason magazine went through a stack of Time magazines to showcase the Top 10 Most Absurd Covers of the Past 40 Years.
Highlights include a black-and-red line drawing of Satan ("The Occult Revival: Satan Returns"), a little boy sporting a crocodile tear ("Crack Kids: Their Mothers used drugs, and now it's the children who suffer"), and a ghostly, wide-eyed little boy who, sitting in front of a keyboard, seems to be possessed by demons ("Cyberporn: Can we protect our kids—and free speech?").
The write-ups following each cover image, packed with data and designed to take the air out of Time's perpetually hyperbolic balloon, are quick-witted and, not suprisingly I suppose, well-Reason-ed. That said, one can't help but notice that the same critics who are up-in-arms over this fear-mongering and tabloid imagery are the same people who champion wild west capitalism. And the strategies Time uses to sell these covers are not only timeless and textbook, they're proven to win. So, the item leaves me wondering what's more important: Responsible headlines and reasoned journalism or big sales.
Thursday, June 04, 2009 2:45 PM
Throughout the Bush years, the American Conservative was one of the few voices on the right that consistently stood up to the war-mongering neocon rule. Founded by Pat Buchanan, the magazine is consistently thought provoking (sometimes maddening), and garnered a nomination for best political coverage in the 2009 Utne Independent Press Awards.
Last month, the magazine nearly folded. Writing for Campus Progress, Daniel Strauss profiled the American Conservative and its efforts to stay independent from the right and the left. The magazine now operates as a nonprofit, and has recently published articles by both left wing blogger Matthew Yglesias and right-wing blogger Steve Sailer. I may not always agree with the magazine, but it’s good to know they’ll be around for a while.
Sources: The American Conservative, Campus Progress
Friday, December 12, 2008 10:40 AM
Searching for an appropriate cover for their recent China-themed issue, the editors of the German MaxPlanckForschung magazine agreed that a Chinese poem would set the right mood. Unfortunately, the Chinese script they chose didn’t quite mean what they thought it meant.
Here’s a translation of the magazine’s cover, according to Language Log:
With high salaries, we have cordially invited for an extended series of matinees
KK and Jiamei as directors, who will personally lead jade-like girls in the spring of youth,
Beauties from the north who have a distinguished air of elegance and allure,
Young housewives having figures that will turn you on;
Their enchanting and coquettish performance will begin within the next few days.
The magazine later apologized to its readers, claiming that a German sinologist had been consulted and had incorrectly signed off on the text before publication. Now the Chinese will have some fodder to fight the always funny Engrish blog, and other jokes about bad Chinese English.
(Thanks, FP Passport.)
Thursday, December 11, 2008 10:15 AM
A lot of intelligent women find themselves torn between dismantling the superficiality of “women's interest” magazines and buying into it. Wendy Felton is one of those women, and she uses her three-year-old Glossed Over blog to rant, rave, and dissect fashion spreads and stories from publications like Cosmopolitan and Glamour.
Felton doesn’t claim to be an expert (she’s a freelance writer and editor), but simply a fan of women’s magazines who is continually disappointed by their contradictory messages and incongruous advice. So why does she bother reading them? It’s a guilty pleasure “that lets me get juiced up on righteous outrage while simultaneously allowing me to ogle lip gloss and shoes.” The right mix of cynicism (one post is titled “Marie Claire editors were the girls I hated in high school”) and acknowledged shallowness makes her commentary, at once funny and incisive, relatable to a broad (if mostly female) audience.
Image courtesy of evans.photo, licensed under Creative Commons.
Thursday, October 30, 2008 11:13 AM
The field of institutions and public figures endorsing Barack Obama is getting really crowded, and it’s a motley assortment. Some fairly unlikely personalities are in the tank, including Christopher Buckley, Christopher Hitchens and Colin Powell, as well as conservative publications like the Record.
Spend a few minutes perusing the Wikipedia page listing Obama’s endorsements, and you might visualize a rowdy cocktail party whose guest list includes editors from nearly every major U.S. newspaper (including the Chicago Tribune, marking its first endorsement of a Democratic presidential candidate in its 161-year history); hundreds of current and former governors, mayors, and legislators; CEOs, actors, rock stars, and authors; and even the plumbers’ union (presumably Joe the Plumber was not consulted since, well, he’s not a plumber).
The New Yorker provided a characteristically thorough endorsement of Obama. The New York Times argues for the relevance of newspaper endorsements. And there’s a nifty map illustrating the distribution of this year’s newspaper endorsements and comparing it with 2004’s.
Several cast members of HBO's The Wire are stumping for Obama. (Gbenga Akinnagbe, if he’s half as terrifying as the drug lieutenant he played on the series, will make a very compelling canvasser). An absolutely fabulous coterie of fashion designers has pledged allegiance. And ostensibly apolitical publications have weighed in, most recently the science magazine Seed.
Leading the ironic-endorsement pack is onetime McCain campaign advisor Charles Fried, whose decision to back Obama is partially due to McCain’s “choice of Sarah Palin at a time of deep national crisis” (via Talking Points Memo).
All of which begs the question: Who’s in poor old John McCain’s corner? The list of newspapers endorsing him is considerably shorter than Obama’s. There’s Steve Forbes, of course. And then there’s the small faction of Hollywood conservatives (say it ain’t so, Gary Sinise!).
Image courtesy of Philip (Flip) Kromer, licensed under Creative Commons.
Friday, October 17, 2008 12:55 PM
Houghton Mifflin recently published its 2008 edition of The Best American Essays with Adam Gopnik serving as guest editor. The Best American series is always a good showcase of the year’s finest offerings in a genre, and a reliable gauge of each form’s contemporary direction.
While this collection is led, as usual, by standout pieces from the New Yorker and Harper’s, it also culls some brilliant offerings from smaller magazines and literary journals, providing a modest cross-section of the essay-writing talent in the independent press. Pieces from PMS (Poem Memoir Story), Transition, Pinch, Swink, and Open City have all made the cut.
Part of the fun of these collections for essay-geeks like me is to see which luminary they’ve invited to guest edit. David Foster Wallace presided over last year’s collection, and the essays he chose had an immediacy that previous editions lacked; several of them addressed pressing issues like war, class, and politics, contradicting the frequent charge that personal essays are too solipsistic.
Gopnik’s introduction is similar to previous editions’ in that it makes a compelling case for the importance of good nonfiction in today’s literary world, and continues to defend the form—especially the subgenre of memoir—against the too-frequent charge of self-indulgence. But Gopnik provides a solid argument about the universal urgency of even the most personal essay:
Certainly people attack the memoir, and the memoir essay, in exactly the way people once attacked the novel. . . as vulgar and above all self-indulgent. But “self-indulgent,” fairly offered, means that expression is in too great an ascendance over communication. . . .In truth, the impulse to argument that is part of the essay’s inheritance. . . makes the memoir essay, even of the mushiest sort, the least self-indulgent of forms, the one where the smallest display of self for self’s sake is practical. A novelist can muse motionlessly for pages on the ebb and flow of life, but if an essayist hasn’t arrived at the point by the top of page three. . . if the leap into a higher general case, from the specific “I” to the almost universal “you” doesn’t take place quickly, the essay won’t work. . . . Memoir essays move us not because they are self-indulgent, but because they are other-indulgent, and the other they indulge is us, with our own parallel inner stories of loss and confusion and mixed emotions.
Gopnik and the series editor, Robert Atwan, have chosen big names like David Sedaris, Lauren Slater, and Jonathan Lethem to sit alongside relatively obscure writers: Joe Wenderoth, Patricia Brieschke, and the British-Sudanese novelist Jamal Mahjoub.
I’m personally hoping John O’Connor’s “The Boil” makes it into next year’s collection—but I won’t hold my breath.
Thursday, October 16, 2008 10:51 AM
For 13 years and 75 issues, No Depression was a beloved chronicler of the alt-country music world. In February of this year, the magazine’s publishers sadly announced they were halting production, citing insufficient ad revenue, a music industry in transition, and the troubled economy.
“Barring the intercession of unknown angels, you hold in your hands the next-to-the-last edition of No Depression we will publish,” publishers Grant Alden, Peter Blackstock and Kyla Fairchild wrote in the magazine’s March-April issue.
Just eight months later, Alden and Blackstock provide this addendum: “As it turned out, the angels who interceded to preserve No Depression were mostly well-known to us. Some who responded were rank strangers; all were generous and kind.” So begins issue #76 of the resurrected magazine, in the form of a lavish, 145-page, ad-free paperback—or, in the words of its cover copy, “bookazine (whatever that is).”
Published by the University of Texas Press and hitting stands this week, the theme of Issue #76 is “The Next Generation,” its cover graced by Abigail Washburn and the Sparrow Quartet and its profiles mostly devoted to emerging artists like the Infamous Stringdusters, Bowerbirds, and Samantha Crain. Tucked in the back of the issue is a feature on Hanson—yes, that Hanson.
No Depression’s online organ—currently offline, but set to relaunch soon—will continue with news and reviews, along with a near-complete archive of back issues. The bookazine, published semiannually, will contain less time-sensitive content.
In a troubled publishing industry, No Depression’s unique reincarnation might provide a model for other endangered or extinct publications—the bookazine represents one altered, but not necessarily diminished, manifestation of the independent magazine in a changing media landscape.
Friday, September 19, 2008 1:25 PM
Philadelphia’s new double-covered two.one.five magazine is a hodgepodge of local events and issues that stretch much further than the borders of Pennsylvania. Paging through one side of volume 1.3 (not yet available online) you’ll find a daring swimsuit spread and tips on executing the perfect road trip. Flip it around and you’ll get lost in a captivating nine-part section of immigration narratives. Echoing with national relevance, the essays meander through the diverse experiences of new Americans' dreams and realities.
These are people who have waited years, sometimes decades, to call the United States their home. One now-permanent resident offers up a humorous account detailing the process of obtaining a work permit through the green card lottery. Though armed with a bachelor’s degree and a job offer from a magazine in New York, it still took “11 years, three lawyers, four instances of being fingerprinted, 23 interviews with immigration officers at 14 different U.S. ports of entry, one near deportation, almost $13,000 in legal fees and 38 two-by-two-inch recent, forward facing photographs in which I am not wearing sunglasses or headgear of any kind” for the Canadian-passport toting American-hopeful to obtain the right to live in the United States.
From an entirely different vantage point, Tara Nurin shares the view from her seat at a stadium packed with immigrant soccer players gathered for the weekly marathon of games. She writes:
This is their reward. This one communal gathering of the Imperial Azteca soccer league that counts 600 dedicated players—some of whom drive up to two hours each way in order to play—is almost as sacred as church. Inside the arena, these mostly Latino immigrants, hailing largely from Mexico, can leave behind their concerns over money and their low-paying, labor-intensive jobs to partake in their home country’s most glorious international athletic obsession, and to share a slap on the back, a handmade taco and a sense of community with their fellow countrymen. This comforting simulation of Mexico protects them from what can be a discomforting reality outside.
From feeling homesick to battling language barriers, these stories revolve around much more than what was left behind: They paint an extraordinary portrait of life after immigrating, in a country whose media largely represent immigrants in a negative light. Beautifully and candidly written by various new American residents, from Burmese to Russian to Iraqi, these diverse narratives share the experience of our growing country and highlight just what it means to be an American.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008 1:31 PM
That culturally ubiquitous slice of youth culture known as hipsters now finds itself under the microscope of the always provocative Adbusters. The magazine’s latest issue—and, to some extent, its overall editorial mission—is predicated on the alleged cultural malaise of the past 50 years, beginning with the rise of postwar consumer culture as an inevitable byproduct of Western ingenuity. “Practical cleverness beats the crap out of spiritual wisdom on the battlefield and in the marketplace, as the West has made clear over the last 500 years,” the preface declares. “But cleverness without wisdom sooner or later destroys life.”
Douglas Haddow’s lead essay, "Hipster: The Dead End of Western Civilization," takes it from there, positing hipsters as avatars of the narcissism and spiritual emptiness Adbusters laments, and as the probable harbingers of civilization’s decline. “We’ve reached a point in our civilization where counterculture has mutated into a self-obsessed aesthetic vacuum," Haddow writes. "So while hipsterdom is the end product of all prior countercultures, it’s been stripped of its subversion and originality, and is leaving a generation pointlessly obsessing over fashion, faux individuality, cultural capital and the commodities of style.”
As much as the cantankerous square in me wants to see hedonistic youngsters taken down a peg, I think this essay might be giving hipsters a bit too much credit, overestimating both their cultural impact and longevity while longing nostalgically for a chimeral sense of past “cool” whose own authenticity is itself suspect. “An amalgamation of its own history, the youth of the West are left with consuming cool rather than creating it,” Haddow claims. But is this sort of inversion really so unprecedented? Are hipsters the first generation to practice it? And isn’t it more accurate to say that all youth everywhere, not just hipsters, end up doing both the creating and the consuming of culture, with the advertising and entertainment industries serving as mediators?
Yes, the commodification of cool is obnoxious, but it’s not novel and it’s not an agent of the apocalypse. Casting oneself and one’s peers as the “last generation, a culmination of all previous things”—as Haddow does, in his essay’s dour conclusion—displays the same narcissism and myopia as the culture he’s skewering. Hipsters are really nothing more than the latest manifestation of the disaffected, nihilistic youth population that mutates into a new form with each generation. They’re an obnoxious but essentially innocuous pocket of youth culture whose era is already waning, especially now that hipsterdom has been thoroughly assimilated into mainstream culture, branded, and codified into a household word. The hipster fad is now so ubiquitous as to be almost meaningless: everyone and no one is a hipster.
Besides, I’m immediately suspicious of any author who posits the “end” of anything. Hipsters represent the end of Western civilization? Really? Alarmist generalizations are guaranteed to sell magazines and generate angry emails to the editor—in fact, the inevitable debate will probably be more interesting than the article that inspired it. But ultimately, I suspect hipsters are simply kids in a phase they’ll eventually grow out of, just like the Gen-Xers, punks, hippies, beatniks, and flappers before them.
Image by Joseph Mohan.
Monday, July 14, 2008 6:04 PM
The progressive blogosphere is a-ragin’ today about the rumor-mongering, naive, chaos-inspiring New Yorker cover of Michelle and Barack Obama terrorist-fist-jabbing in the Oval Office as a portrait of Osama bin Laden approvingly gazes on, alit by the flames of an American flag sizzling in the fireplace.
Progressives are pissed, and to prove it, they’ve dug out their lit-crit hats to scold illustrator Barry Blitt on the inner workings of satire and why he missed the boat and fell into no-no land. (I think the man who came up with this cover
probably has a thing or two to teach us all about good satire.)
When I mentioned the hubbub to Utne’s art director, Stephanie Glaros, she told me the illustrator blogs were equally enflamed, but in Blitt’s defense. Thank goodness some folks have thick enough skins to rally to his side. Let’s just hope that some of that sensibility migrates from the art world to the political commentariat sometime soon.
First off, progressives need to stop playing thought police to protect those weak-minded ninnies from Hicksville. Here’s a prime example from Rachel Sklar at HuffingtonPost: “Who knows if the people in Dubuque will get this?” Really? Must it be assumed that everyone who doesn’t live in New York, Chicago, or [insert shiny metropolis here] is both devoid of rational thought and a sense of humor?
In a more thoughtful assessment, Ta-Nehisi Coates argues that the image doesn’t go far enough to separate itself from the views it intends to harangue. “My point is that that this cover actually does reflect—not exaggerate, not satirize—the views of a sizeable portion of Americans,” he writes. He points out that some 13 percent of Americans actually think Obama’s a Muslim. It’s a horrifying stat. But consider a few more: Just last summer, 41 percent of Americans still thought Saddam Hussein helped plan 9/11. And while 62 percent of Americans believe in the devil, only 42 percent believe in evolution.
Here’s the thing about good humor: Not everyone’s going to get it. Comedy, satire, humor, whatever you want to call it, is absolutely essential to a vital culture of political criticism. If we muzzle our humorists—going so far as to inveigh against those who have the clear intent of lambasting ignorance—than we’re in for a very boring, very unreflective four to eight years if Obama moves into that toasty, Osama-adorned Oval Office.
UPDATE (7/15/2008): Rachel Sklar writes in to note that I missed the reference in her Dubuque line, which was readily available in the link she provided. Point taken: Looks like the gal in Minneapolis didn’t get it. But the connotation, wink or no, remains. Later in her post, Sklar writes, “Presumably the New Yorker readership is sophisticated enough to get the joke” on the magazine's cover, suggesting that most other folks probably aren’t worldly enough to join in on the chuckle. Sklar isn't the poster girl for perpetrating this meme—she’s certainly not alone in it—but it’s there.
Monday, October 15, 2007 5:33 PM
Good news for your weary eyes: A handful of hip indie mags are currently featuring photo-driven issues, which means more eye candy to gaze at and fewer words to pay attention to.
Slick urban arts mag Re:Up shows off its first-ever photography edition this month (issue #14), with thoughtfully presented images by Corey Arnold, Anthony Goicolea, Jean-Paul Goude (whose iconic portrait of Grace Jones dominates the cover), and other professional and amateur photographers.
Fellow Brooklynite Wax Poetics, a lively magazine devoted to hip-hop, jazz, funk, and soul music, just rolled out its first photo issue as well (October/November). True to the magazine's mission, its snappy photo essays are borne out of the music world, mostly (but not exclusively) from hip-hop scenes past and present.
British design magazine Creative Review publishes a king-sized photography annual every October. This year's works are showcased in a roomy 75-page advertising-free zone, with photographs that run the gamut from artsy to gutsy to out-there. I really dig my Creative Review's cover, which features one of Matthew Georgeson's mesmerizing cityscape photos (from his "Metropolis" series). Scope out the other cover possibilities—one of which is Nadav Kander’s nearly life-sized head shot of David Lynch—at an artsy newsstand near you. —Danielle Maestretti
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