Ode calls itself a magazine for "intelligent optimists." As a confirmed cynic, I would love to know what this means. Like Obama, I'm open to other points of view -- provided they don't conflict with my own. I'm a Gemini and ruled by the twins: Aggravation and Irritation. That's why I always carry Pepcid and Advil. As the Boy Scouts say: "be prepared."

 Apparently, Ode is ready. Launched in the Netherlands in 1995, it hit U.S. shores in 2004. In two years, it saw a 50% circ boost, and since 2008, 500% newsstand distribution growth. Of course, this was before the market and our dreams went into freefall. Does the magazine, named by its founder in the shower, live up to expectation? (In the shower, one is free to improvise. If I had to name a magazine in this climate, I'd pick Kill Your Broker.)

Jurriaan Kamp, editor in chief, is committed to finding stories of inspiration and promise. This issue, his goal is to promote those who seek solutions. It's precisely because "pessimism and despair have taken hold of the globe" that Kamp feels the salute is urgent. He says optimism isn't about denying reality (that's a job for alcohol and movie rentals), but creating a "better reality than you're facing." By that yardstick, the new administration has the country's blessing to roll up their sleeves and "better" us. Stat.

The cover showcases three people (of 25 profiled) who are creating a "better tomorrow today." I hope that means they're teaching Gershwin in elementary school, Wall Street gets an ethical makeover and somebody prosecutes Bush/Cheney for constitutional excesses. One of our optimists is wearing a T-shirt that reads: "No Panic, Go Organic." I would, but the greenmarket charges more for a head of organic broccoli than the local dealer does for cocaine.

However, our new prez believes in hope -- and it's a powerful message in troubled times. Which is why these pages are filled with biodiesel backers, integrative medical specialists, community organizers and art therapists who offer new ways to achieve harmony, happiness and a saner planet.

Still, I wish Obama would rethink the decision to hire Michael Smith to redecorate the White House. Can't the kids just put up posters of the Jonas Brothers? The recently ousted Merrill Lynch CEO John Thain also hired Smith to redo his office, for $1.2 million, while he was firing people and begging for handouts. Personally, I'd like to redo his face. Probably, so would Michelle Chan, a campaigner for Friends of the Earth.

Chan pushes companies like Citigroup, JPMorgan and Morgan Stanley to evaluate their investments based on social, ethical and ecological concerns. She's had some success; though today, many of these institutions have stock worth bupkis. "Sustainable finance" may be taken literally from here on in. When their CEOs are tried for gross negligence and trade in their Armanis for orange jumpsuits, we'll see ethics in action.

On the energy front, Martin Vosseler is a physician who founded the solar movement in Switzerland. Last year, he crossed the Atlantic on a catamaran propelled only by solar power. First, it looks like a floating porch. Second, this is taking Northern exposure to a whole new level.

I especially liked Shai Agassi. His start-up company Better Place wants to make Israel oil-independent. So he's developed a business model for electric cars and recharging locations, where drivers quickly swap low-powered batteries for fully charged ones. (His company already built a prototype for an electric car.) Agassi works with Renault-Nissan and the Israeli government. There, he'll utilize solar power to help charge the batteries. He's also collaborating with Denmark to harness wind power.

Ode, which is printed on recycled paper, is a beacon in a dark world. I wish these 25 do-gooders good luck. But the ad that grabbed my attention featured a photo of a grizzly bear that just ate my 401(k). The ad is for The tagline: "Keep an eye on your money and green your investments." I'm doing my part: I just fired my broker. I'm feeling better already.


Published by: Ode Magazine USA Inc.

Frequency: 10 times/year

Web site:

1 comment about "Ode".
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  1. Janis Mccabe from jmod35, January 28, 2009 at 4:34 p.m.

    Can't afford the mag (see broker). ;(( But your review of Ode and your take on some of the people and concepts you site are extremely funny. Thanks for the laughs in these scary (but hopeful?) days.

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