My Family Doctor

Against all odds, my family returned from its celebrate-good-times-come-on vacation last week with most limbs intact. I don't know how this happened, frankly. Cooping up nine individuals in semi-tight physical quarters usually leads to the flinging of small appliances and an inevitable flurry of restraining orders.

I sought an explanation for our easy interaction on the racks of my favorite magazine store. Yet even in an industry that thrives on catering to nonexistent niches (Wobble, the magazine for dreidel enthusiasts and the chronically vertiginous) and answering questions nobody asked ("are your cuticles too thick?"), no publication exists for families whose members enjoy each other's company. Here's an idea for the next publisher who isn't merely content to burn his money at the end of his driveway: Functional Family, which could run features like "12 Ways to Tell Dad He's Swell!" Don't tell me that this concept is any dopier than Men's Vogue.

Given that I inhaled my body weight in pudding while away, I procured the one title that seemed likely to offer some useful information: the summer issue of My Family Doctor, which promised guidance on vacation eating. I should've realized I was in trouble when its cover tagline, "The Magazine That Makes Housecalls," sent me into tangent-town. Doesn't every magazine make house calls? Isn't that what is known in the common vernacular as a "subscription"?

Whatever. My Family Doctor may well be the dumbest title on newsstands today -- no small feat, given the competition offered by gambling and gossip mags. Its boast about being "published and written by health-care professionals" sheds some light on its almost comic incompetence. After all, nobody's visiting his friendly neighborhood journalist for a physical exam.

The health advice dispensed in My Family Doctor seems more or less sound, but it is conveyed in a manner so clumsy as to make one long for the sweet nothings about "weak streams" found in pharma ads. Too, the mag doesn't help itself with its design. Somebody really needs to drape an arm over the editor's shoulders and let him/her know that stock photography of people making wacky faces doesn't enhance one's journalistic credibility.

The summer issue's "Why Do We..." feature about common health conditions starts its funny-bone-pain entry with both wit and fanfare: "There's nothing funny about it; it really does hurt!" One "Updates" blurb suggests that maybe, just maybe, you should keep children away from lawnmowers. The primers on asthma and skin conditions offer hard, firm advice, such as "If [patients] know that when they eat a certain food it causes their acne to flare, then they certainly should avoid that food." Of the 20 true/false questions in the quiz on health rumors, eight are answered with "who knows?"

My Family Doctor poaches "stats to make you smile" from the December 2006 issue of JAMA (apparently a grin shall crease your face upon learning that "more than 300 drugs are in development to treat or prevent rare diseases"). In an item about how to eat while on vacation, the mag offers the following alternatives to eating: "audio books, iPods, CDs, travel bingo, word games and conversation." Who are tips like these written for? Morons? Kids? Meanwhile, anybody who waits a few months for a long-lead quarterly publication to tell them what to do about a health issue probably shouldn't be allowed to breed in the first place.

If your real-world family doctor is a generality-spouting ham, maybe the entertainment content in My Family Doctor will resonate with you. The "humorous" quiz about blood asks, "Which of the following is a bleeding disorder? A. Van Wilder. B. Von Willebrand. C. Vin Diesel." There's a crossword puzzle, rife with clues about "Jurassic Park" and Father Guido Sarducci. And the mag's super-cool editorial board members chime in with recollections of their favorite childhood summer activities. For the curious: They rode bikes and swam a lot.

Then I reached "The Problem of Poo... and why you really don't want it to stick around." In it, the magazine references extinct cartoon superhero The Tick, who leads us into a discussion of diverticulosis with conversational asides like "It's starting to smell a little like danger in here, or heavily fried food."

I stopped reading after this.


Since I don't feel like working on July 5, either, we'll be running a third edition of Uncle Larry's Magazine Rack Funtime Family Mailbag that day. Send questions to me at or post 'em to the Magazine Rack blog thing, assuming it still exists.

Published by: Hubbard Publishing LLC
Frequency: Quarterly
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