Uncle Larry's Funtime Family Mailbag

The rules for the third every-other-full-moon edition of Uncle Larry's Magazine Rack Funtime Family Mailbag: You send questions, either via email or the blog thing. I filter out the ones that hurt my feelings and respond to the best of the rest. Nobody learns anything. Okay? Onward and upward.


Mailbag columns are for lazy writers.

Yup. But come on. Something like nine people are working today. You get your money's worth here.

Do you ever worry about retaliation, that somebody who works on a magazine that you've written negative things about will try to screw you down the road?

You mean job-wise? Not really. This would be a pretty boring column if I did. Besides, there are three other factors that come into play here. One, nobody reads this column. Two, there's always a place for almost-smart people who work hard. Three, at least 70% of the magazines I've reviewed wouldn't want me any more than I'd want them.

Everybody else? Call me. I'm currently accepting bookings for the holidays.

I didn't realize that you've written a book. When will you do another one?

I didn't realize this either... because I haven't written one. You're confusing me with the other Larry Dobrow, a distinguished gent and the author of When Advertising Tried Harder: The Sixties: The Golden Age of Advertising. We haven't met in person, but I've taken to blaming him for everything irresponsible I do. Like that time last week when somebody "accidentally" unplugged the jukebox at a grungy watering hole and then put in $10 worth of patriotic marches? That was the other Larry Dobrow.

Do you read other media critics? If so, who are the best and worst?

Mostly I read about sports and music, but I always check in on Jon Fine's column. As opposed to a lot of reviewers and critics, present company included, he seems to think before he writes.

The worst? Whenever somebody sends me a warm, heartfelt missive about how much they dislike my writing, my response is generally "stop reading it, then." I don't get it -- if you know something is going to piss you off, why actively seek it out? I have to think that people like this, people who just can't help themselves, are at least partially responsible for the Fox News Channel's ratings.

Anyway, I violate my own rule whenever I check out Jon Friedman's screamingly obvious, uninformed, carelessly written MarketWatch pieces. They're the only media analyses that would be more at home on The Onion than on a business Web site. Does anybody take this guy seriously?

In your Wine Spectator review, you made a big deal about how every magazine is running stories about "being green." What are some other stories that you keep seeing?

Entertainment mags can't get enough of the "Amy Winehouse sure seems to enjoy the occasional drink! She's living the lyrics of that 'Rehab' song!" angle. I've read around 672 stories about how Gen-Yers "follow their hearts" when choosing a job and won't work for anybody who doesn't allow them to wear cargo shorts in the office. There have been a ton of hedge-fund primers that read like grammar-school book reports ("Hedge funds are investment funds that charge a performance fee and are open to a limited range of investors. They follow complex investment strategies. People who work for hedge funds hate poor people, except my friend Louis, who's a cool guy"). Up next: the inevitable raft of "the iPhone thinks it's all that, but it's totally not" stories inked by the 300 self-proclaimed tech gurus who didn't get to examine the Jesus Phone before it reached the unwashed masses.

Re: your Wine Spectator review -- the preferred word is "worthier" not "more worthy." Thanks.

No, thank you. You've saved Magazine Rack!

What are the strangest magazines you've been asked to review?

I make my own picks, but I've received a few interesting ones unsolicited. There's Weed World -- which, I'm happy to report, is everything its name suggests and then some. I was also sent a copy of Bodacious, which bills itself as "full figured entertainment." It arrived with a post-it note on the cover bearing the message "I dare you!" I have no idea what "BBW" stands for in a sexual context, and I'd appreciate it if nobody enlightened me.

This is a little off-topic, but an ad buried in the back of a May issue of PC Magazine also caught my eye. Next to the picture of a well-kept middle-aged guy who looks a bit like John O'Hurley, the text reads: "My Wife Becomes Ravenous When I Wear Athena 10X. I earned my PhD in physics and taught for 27 years. Anyway about the 10X. The interesting thing is that... I was called into the principal's office. She said, 'You are affecting the woman teachers'... [My wife] has sort of become ravenous. Normally, I am not attacked in trains and elevators, but she has been AT me." Equating women with rabid rhesus monkeys in a magazine read by smart computer people -- this placement just killed me.

Where is the "favorite magazine store" that you always talk about?

On the south side of 42nd St. in Manhattan, between 7th and 8th. Its name is Universal Café or Universal News or Universal Café of News or something. What I like about it: there are gobs of magazines and no chairs or other accommodations that encourage interlopers with lattes. Tell 'em Uncle Larry sent you. Apologies for the New-York-has-better-magazine-stores-than-wherever-it-is-that-you-live-and-also-more-readily-availabile-hummus thrust of this question/answer.

Please tell me how long it will be before the Internet kills magazines completely. The reason I'm asking is because I have about ten years left of my working life, and I want to know if I should switch careers now or if I'll be good to go at my magazine job until 2017?

Are you sure it's just ten? Aren't we all going to have to work into our 90s after Social Security bites it within the next decade or so? You could always dodge this by dying young, I suppose.

Magazines will always be around, because we need something to read in the airport terminal and on the toilet. And let's not fall in with conventional wisdom and portray the Internet as the publishing world's hobgoblin. Why, just yesterday I saw "Live Free Or Die Hard," which depicted an ever-realistic scenario where the Internet could be taken down with the snap of some baddie's fingers. Believe everything you see on the big screen, and viva la print.

I will venture to guess that you have never owned a magazine and worked to put out a print publication that spoke to it's [sic] readers in an informative way...I have published numerous magazines in this category, and to this one like you did is simply ridiculous and unfair. Even if it was an 'off' issue, to ridicule as you did is not only mean spirited, but unprofessional. A publication should be judged over time, not one issue. I mean, imagine if I were to judge MediaPost's editorial staff based on the fact that they actually give writers like you a forum to trash people's hard work?

You're totally right. If somebody worked hard on something, it's gotta be good, because hard work is what made this country what it is today. My bad. From now on, this column will be all about hugs and candy and moonbeams and sun-dappled palazzos. Oh -- and pandas, too. Pandas are cute and furry.

What do you look like? I have always wondered.

See the aforementioned panda description.


That marks the end of today's installment of self-indulgence theater. As always, thanks for playing.

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