(Inter)National Magazine Day

Little White Lies

You’ve got to hand it to him. My good friend Kevin Smokler is like a one-man cheering section for the publishing industry. Throughout all their travails over the past few years, Kevin has been in the midst of things, shouting encouragement and (often) exhortations. His day job (CEO of Booktour.com) involves helping authors and publishers find ways to connect with readers in real space, and now he’s doing the same thing for magazines. Sort of.


Kevin’s organizing the first annual “National Magazine Day,” to be held Saturday February 27, 2010. There will be an “official” event in San Francisco, held at an independent bookstore. Readers will congregate and read to their hearts’ content all day, followed by a lively panel discussion. But you don’t have to be in San Francisco, or even in the USA, to participate. Kevin’s encouraging all of us to “attack the stack” of unread magazines we have lying around, and I intend to take him up on the offer. I’ve always loved magazines, and subscribe to quite a few:

Iceland Review
The Big Takeover

I also have loads of issues of Film Comment, Cineaste and the latest Oxford American to get through. There’s no way I’ll get through all my unread stuff, but by encouraging us to set aside some time just for magazines, Kevin’s helping us reconnect to what made us fill our houses up with this stuff in the first place. With the advent of the iPad, who knows how many magazines will survive in printed form. Let’s show our magazines some love this weekend.

Oxford American

By the way, all this has me curious what magazines other people read. Jump into the comments and let me know what mags you’re reading these days on paper. And here’s an idea. If you’re coming to South by Southwest in a few weeks, as I am (for the 10th year!), bring along an issue of something unusual that you’re finished with and let’s have a swap. I’ve already promised Kevin a copy of Canadian magazine The Walrus, and am hoping he’ll bring me something unique as well. Let me know in the comments if you want to participate and I’ll try to find a few things you might not have seen before.

The Walrus


The Net, Premiere Issue, June 1995

During the excavations that took place this past week while Brooke and I moved, I found this ancient relic from the past. My “cyberspace companion” featured some helpful articles. My favourite was “Six Myths: Unmasking Cyber Lore”:

  • Myth 1: The Internet is a single network controlled by one organization.
    • Fact: The Internet is actually a patchwork of commercial, educational, government and public and private networks, all cooperating to achieve an open, interconnected communications system.
  • Myth 2: The Internet is free
    • Fact: Don’t believe it for a moment. All of the Internet’s conduits, computers, and information resources are paid for by someone. Often an organization provides free Internet access to its members as part of an affiliation. But, for people lacking Internet access through an organization, getting on the Internet carries a price tag.
  • Myth 3: The Internet will usher in a new age of democracy, a socio-political nirvana.
    • Fact: People created the Internet, people run the Internet, people drive what happens on the Internet — and people are human. No inherent technological properties of the Internet will bring democracy or a new age of global community.
  • Myth 4: Internet users are cyberpunks and content they create is cyberporn.
    • Fact: While some consider portions of the material on the Internet to be immoral, obscene, or useless, much of it is no more controversial than what’s found at a public library or in a bookstore.
  • Myth 5: The Internet is chaotic. There’s simply no way to find anything.
    • Fact: While no Internet information-collection or resource-searching tool is flawless, there are landmark collections and tools on the Internet that you can use to find what you want.
  • Myth 6: The Internet is hostile to newcomers — the hapless newbies.
    • Fact: While a newbie can get mercilessly flamed for ignoring or flouting the Internet’s social customs, there are plenty of ways a new user can get up to speed in a hurry.

In this pre-Google world, Myth 5 was especially amusing to read. Yahoo still resided at its Stanford URL (http://akebono.stanford.edu/yahoo). And I love how many times they use the prefix “cyber”! Can you remember your first experiences with the “Internet”?

Best. Correction. Ever.

The statement “In New York City, someone stole the penis of a chocolate Jesus” is not true; the source was a satire website that was mistakenly thought to be a genuine news source. Harper’s Weekly apologizes for the error.

Harper’s Weekly is an email with a bunch of odd news mixed in with more serious stuff. The fact that it’s usually pretty funny all on its own made this “retraction” even better.

By the way, Harper’s recently revealed an amazing new site with access to PDF scans of their entire 150 years of back issues, free for subscribers. After my complaints about the lack of a DVD archive, this is amazing news. No new, potentially obsolete hardware to buy, just a low rate of US$16.97 per year, and that gets me the printed magazine as well. Genius! Big ups to the brilliant Paul Ford, who’s behind the curtain.

Magazine Archives on DVD

Last Christmas, Brooke and I decided that The Complete New Yorker was the present we would buy for ourselves, and it will undoubtedly keep us occupied for the next thousand years or so. How happy I was, then, to discover that MAD magazine also has a complete archive available on DVD. I think this is a fabulous idea, and I can’t understand why more magazines haven’t done this yet. Where are you, Harper’s and The Atlantic? And although National Geographic came out on about a hundred CD-ROMs a few years ago, where’s the DVD update? In fact, here’s a list of magazines I’d love to have as DVD archives:

  • Harper’s
  • The Atlantic
  • National Geographic
  • Omni
  • Life
  • Macworld
  • Popular Science

Have you got any favourites I’ve missed?

Shock Tactics

I was reading an article by Alex Ross in this week’s New Yorker about German philosopher and music critic Theodor Adorno when I was stopped cold by the following paragraph:

Tragically, Adorno was himself a victim of the shock tactics of pop culture. In April, 1969, a group of female activists interrupted his lecture “An Introduction to Dialectical Thinking” by flashing their breasts in his face and taunting him with flowers. He died a few months later, on August 6, 1969. It was twenty-four years to the day after the atomic destruction of Hiroshima.

Was anyone else crumpled into laughter? Maybe you’d need to read the whole article to find this funny. Adorno was a very serious guy, and the serious way this “attack” was described just reduced me to giggles. That’s just me, I guess.