So it wasn't surprising to learn last week that a former adjunct member of the crew had become the first to be waylaid by a heart attack. Happily, he's OK, though I can't begin to imagine the lifestyle changes he has ahead of him; he's 31 and shaped like a keg, packing around three benjamins onto a 5'5" frame. At a dinner of steak and lard-soaked taters on Sunday night, the rest of us commiserated with his plight...well, sort of. Mostly we just stuffed our faces and explored the usual weighty topics, like whether there's an afterlife and, if so, whether fantasy baseball is a part of it.
I left the restaurant sweating cocktail sauce, determined to ensure that none of my friends who matter would meet a similar fate. Moments later, I happened upon a newsstand. Coincidence? I think not. O magazine rack, font of knowledge and wisdomitude: How can I render thy raspberry-torte disciples hale and hearty, though not necessarily in that order?
I snared two magazines, neither of which merits individual consideration. LifeExtension Magazine is the propaganda arm of the Life Extension Foundation, a Florida-based operation that sells products like Mitochondrial Energy Optimizer and Super Absorbable Soy Isoflavones ( "now available in delicious strawberry-vanilla!"). Wellness Magazine, on the other hand, is an indie woman's title produced on the cheap, content to regurgitate stories that have been told innumerable times by better magazines.
LifeExtension at least boasts a tantalizing conspiratorial bent. Though it mostly cherry-picks from articles published in reputable medical journals, the September issue of the mag fires barbs at the FDA's drug-approval process and suggests proposed reforms. Equally diverting, in the same muckraking way, is the piece on The Abigail Alliance, an organization attempting to increase access to experimental cancer therapies. The problem? Both of these "investigations" present only a single perspective; they quote a raft of experts on one side of the argument but don't bother with anybody on the other.
I'm impressed by the precision with which LifeExtension makes its case in "Unknown Health Risks of Inhaled Insulin" and "Vitamin D's Crucial Role in Cardiovascular Protection." Similarly, the "Wellness Profile" of a doc who attacks sexual dysfunction from the noggin on down nicely balances the science and the psychology. I just couldn't get past the following blurb buried deep in the masthead: "All health claims contained in articles and advertisements in this publication are not approved by the FDA (except the claims that calcium helps prevent osteoporosis and folic acid may help prevent certain types of birth defects)." Not that the FDA is the be-all and end-all for health information, but by attempting to cover its ass legally LifeExtension unwittingly undercuts its own authority.
I lost interest in Wellness well before reaching the masthead -- somewhat of a problem, given that it runs on page eight of the mag's October issue. I don't pay enough attention in this space to the importance of the contents page, which can make or break a reader's first impression. Wellness flunks this test spectacularly, mixing poached photos and lame motivational phrases ( "Get Motivated") with alternately nonsensical and dopey titles ( "Color Me Baja," "Sensational Pumpkins. Not Just For Carvin'"). A verbatim entry from my notes: "I don't want to read anything here."
Alas, I kinda have to, so here's a one-paragraph report. The best of the stories -- "Obesity and the Young," the compilation of office exercises -- do a passable job of relaying information you already know. The worst vary between alarmist silliness (milk gives you diabetes! possibly!) and disorganized drivel (one of the 10 "Germ-Free Travel Tips" reads thusly: "Laugh and bring out a positive attitude. Meet someone knew [sic] and enjoy conversation quietly rather than stressing the people in the several rows around you"). I'm just going to throw an idea out there: Maybe, just maybe, magazines should be proofread before they're shipped off to the printer. I know, I know -- that's crazy talk.
And so it goes. My advice to would-be health publishing magnates: Stop. You're not likely to find a new twist on an established recipe, so just concede that the A-list health/fitness bibles -- that'd be the Rodale twins, Men's Health and Women's Health -- do a better job of compiling relevant information than you ever could. All these do-things-sliiiiightly-differently health publications have gotten incredibly tiresome. If you aren't 1,000% sure that you have something new to offer and a creative way to present it, don't waste your time and ours. Please.
Published by: Brawo Press, Inc.