Today, however, I am stumped. I have exactly nothing to say about the September issue of Sunset magazine. Zero. Nada.
I tried, I really did. I took the same copious and often profane notes that I always do when I peruse an issue. I basked in the dull sheen of the generic travel and food photography. I made note of well-intentioned wordsmithery like "fish so fresh, it's practically still snapping" and "I have, you could say, caught the Sonoma Coast fervor. Why does everything taste so good here?"
And yet my impulse was not to mock, praise or otherwise opine. Instead, it was to check my e-mail for the 47,000th time (and open a piece of spam with the subject header of "I have a hot tub"), trim my fingernails and intensify an electronic flame war with one of the guys in my fantasy football league. He accused me of being derelict in my commissioner duties; to divert attention away from the fact that he was probably right, I accused him of being derelict in his QB and RB draft picks.
Then I looked at my Sunset notes again and drew yet another blank. I received a copy of the mag's Southern California edition. Maybe I would have found more fodder for thought in, say, the Newark one?
Whoa -- the Thai prime minister just declared a state of emergency in Bangkok. That can't be good.
Sunset is perfectly pleasant, mind you. Just like every other regional-lifestyle title, it boasts sunny vistas and recipes for chipotle glaze and lots of pictures of white people fondling vegetables. It outlines a host of travel destinations and lists all sorts of crap to do once you get there. It hands out wine awards and, for the pivotal magazine demographic of people who enjoy staring at walls, passes along tips for creating a small office in a closet. It is utterly, preposterously inoffensive in every way.
And that's the problem. In the quest to create a comforting, welcoming environment for readers and advertisers -- not necessarily in that order -- publishers of lifestyle mags have drained their titles of personality. The probability of finding anything that passes for critical thought in a title like Sunset is about the same as finding USDA-approved ground beef in a Big Mac.
Only an idiot would suggest that Sunset go about its business otherwise. I dig the scorched-earth tone of Gawker as much as the next self-obsessed media dope, but most people want their magazines to be the print equivalent of a warm embrace. That's all fine and good, but I don't have to like it, nor legitimize it with my pronouns and misplaced modifiers. I like to think. Sunset, thusly, is not a magazine for me.
In conclusion, I have no point, even though I've taken precisely 611 words to make it. Hopefully this column is as close to an in-print existentialist crisis as I'll ever come. Sorry. If you publish or publicize a magazine that boasts a strong viewpoint and/or personality, today would be a good time to send it over to me.