Popular Mechanics

Usually, I only read magazines whose content appeals directly to me: ones with glossy spreads of the top 50 newest lip glosses, advice columns on how to look hotter than and stop Googling your ex-boyfriend's new girlfriend, what flea market in Brooklyn has the best cheese -- chick mags, if you will.

To be fair, Popular Mechanics doesn't exactly go after my 20-something-single-girl-in-the-city-who-works-until-8-every-night-and-eats-crackers-alone-over-her-sink demographic. Instead, it appeals to the neighborhood guy with a family and propensity to brag about mysteriously attained esoteric knowledge on gadgets and things made in garages. So Popular Mechanics wasn't high on my must-read-every-month list. That is, until I saw the May 2011 issue wrapped in plastic with a supplement featuring what I thought were laptop accessories -- in other words, things to buy.

I tore the plastic wrap off, and quickly found that the supplement was about robotics, featuring high school kids and their erector sets. I let out a sigh, promptly threw it away and was left with the magazine itself. Since my Southern mother taught me to dance with the one that brung ya, I fought the urge to grab InStyle for this review and instead dived into geek land. Here's what I found:

I noticed the ads first. It's safe to say that nearly all of them feature a man and a car. Even the ad for the cholesterol medicine Lipitor featured a man standing in front of a truck!

There's a nice piece that opens with a great, sensual description of motorcycling, with the pitch that owning a motorcycle "makes financial sense." Then there's the safety pitch about getting the proper training and certification before one dons the leather and heads for the sunset. With that out of the way, and with the legal department satisfied, we get into the gear of riding. Finally, something to buy. So, I'm not really interested in the gloves or jackets, but there is a great photo spread of motorcycles with stats and price points. Now I'm having fantasies of racing a Hyosung GT250 through the streets of New York. For only $3,699, it seems like a steal.

The "DIY Underground" feature is right up my alley with a focus on creating handmade, craftsman products in small, unknown garages around the country. The piece profiles shops from Washington to Maine that sell everything from handmade wooden boats to custom daggers, and also focuses on the human element -- the people behind the crafts. I wasn't surprised that the first shop mentioned, Warehouse Woodworkers, is based out of my own hipster-'hood of Brooklyn.

As part of its recurring monthly departments, Popular Mechanics' last page is called "This is My Job," and it profiles someone with a remarkable job. This month, Carl Mehling, who catalogs fossils at the American Museum of Natural History, got the honors. There is a picture of Mehling standing among his fossils in the Big Bone Room (seriously, guys, his office is called the "Big Bone Room" -- that's fantastic!) with short write-ups on what are probably the most valuable or interesting ones. The Barosaurus bone displayed was used to make a cast of the museum's display skeleton. I had to read that many times because I actually thought that the skeletons on display in the museum were real. Nope. Casts. Apparently casts are easier to install than the real deal, and real fossils are easier to study if left uninstalled. Win-win, I suppose.

Oh, Popular Mechanics. I won't be buying you on the newsstands unless you start selling shoes and purses on your pages, but I won't turn my nose up at you anymore. And if there is a stray copy lying around the office, you can bet I'll thumb through the pages to catch up on my knowledge of all things with motors.

MAG STATS

Published By: Hearst Corporation
Frequency: Monthly
Web site: popularmechanics.com
 

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