Life & Style Weekly

After squaring up with my crack team of therapists, bookies and hair-removal consultants the other morn, I had little besides lint and a single quarter in my pocket when I ventured to the newsstand on the corner. As I examined the wares at hand, I realized that my choices were but two: a delectable strand of taffy or the marked-down May 29 issue of Life & Style Weekly.

This wasn't a decision to be taken lightly. The taffy would make me fatter; perusing Life & Style would make me dumber. Being as I'd inhaled my weight in chimichangas the evening prior, I went with the magazine. Alas, in purchasing decisions as in relationships and court-martials, my instincts don't always serve me well. (Insert patently obvious "you get what you pay for" zinger here.)

That a publication like Life & Style can even exist, much less thrive, shakes my confidence in mankind's intellectual ardor. It profoundly depresses me that there are people out there for whom a day without sketchily verified Jessica Simpson innuendo is like a day without sunshine. In my softer moments, I pity them. But this isn't about me, so let's just concentrate on the reasons why marketers would be better off investing in a company developing a genetically modified super-beet than in a regular Life & Style advertising schedule.

Anybody who picks up the mag likely has some idea what he or she's going to get: gossip, more gossip and copious volumes of exclamation points. On the photo front, the mag presents the same old shiny-cheeked starlets doing the same old shiny-cheeked-starlet things (cavorting and canoodling, though the magazine rarely uses such imposingly multi-syllabic terminology).

Where Life & Style falls off the map is in its utter inability to offer new twists on the patented celeb-mag formula. It cribs its half-scrawled photo captions from Us Weekly, its wit-free, hyper-earnest tone from TV Guide, and its handbag-happy product blurbs from Lucky. Its every headline and section name wallows in easy cliché or catchphrase ("Hot This Week," "Everyone's Talking About...," "Look Who's Talking!"); its every layout eschews creativity for familiarity (celeb shots stacked side by side, products aligned as if they'd just been dumped out of a large satchel).

Maybe this shouldn't surprise anyone, as working conditions in the Life & Style editorial hut are said to be atrocious. "The morale is terrible," says an eyewitness. Adds an insider, "They pay nothing, the cafeteria reeks of days-old yam, and the editors force their charges to participate in ritualistic Wiccan sacrifice and company softball alike."

Fine, I have no idea if any of that is true. But if Life & Style can predicate its entire existence on such reckless "news gathering," why can't I? Life & Style goes well beyond any other semi-glossy celeb weekly in its reliance on unidentified "pals" and other sketchy sources.

As for the content of the May 29 issue, it mostly traffics in such tripe: details of a supposed secret meeting between Britney and a divorce lawyer, the insider scoop on something or other involving Angelina's uterus, etc. Items on Lindsay and Katie rehash news previously reported by everyone from People to, while "Stars' Summer Diet Secrets" thrusts forth the cosmos-redefining revelation that tubbos should exercise more and eat less.

Come to think of it, maybe Life & Style should stick to being bland. The few instances where the title attempts to flash a bit of personality fall somewhere between misguided and catastrophically stupid. My favorite: the "Love Doctor" Q&A, where some dude drops many a ham-handed celeb allusion in his answers to readers' questions. "My husband gets upset with me because I'm so career-driven. Should I slow down or tell him to get over it?" asks one ambitious Amy. The response: "If your career is more exciting than your marriage, the answer isn't to hit the brakes at work--it's to rev up what's going on at home, like Madonna might need to do with Guy Ritchie." This absolutely slays me.

But really, the joke's on me here, as anybody who works himself into a this-heralds-the-continuing-decline-of-western-civilization lather over a grade-D celeb rag deserves whatever he gets. So I'll just go about my afternoon as I always do, tapping out my little stories and minding my own beeswax. Life & Style Weekly is a reprehensible piece of crap, but you already knew that.

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