My first impression upon picking up the June issue of Ebony is that the publication seems frozen in time. The words "future" and "technology" can barely be found on its pages; despite a handful of shout-outs to the mag's Web site, you'd think that the Internet hadn't yet invaded our collective consciousness. Even its prim table-of-contents page headings ("features," "personalities," "departments") hearken back to a distant era, one before editors started to, like, try.
About a year ago, the publishers of Spa Finder ditched its hugs-all-around tone, amped up its flat design, and changed its moniker to Luxury SpaFinder. The reasoning: the spa-going audience knows promotional pablum when it sees it. So 12 months later, has Luxury SpaFinder successfully made the jump from shill to thrill, from marketing dross to luxe-living gloss? (Thanks to the folks at www.rhymezone.com for that last Pulitzer-worthy sentence.)
The press release heralding last month's debut of Inside TV soberly noted that the magazine would be "devoted exclusively to behind-the-scenes news about television" which, of course, is carny for "we'll be the first to let you know what Jennifer Garner just had tattooed on her lower back." While the publication isn't so one-dimensional as to deserve the lowly classification of gossip rag, it often veers into quick-dish territory. The New Yorker, for example, probably wouldn't go out of its way to trumpet Jessica Simpson's "longtime manicurist" as a legit news source.
Allow me to wax hyperbolic for a moment here: the spring issue of Heeb boasts the best cover image of any publication in recent memory. In it, a fetching gal's reflection peers askew from a mirror, upon which sits two razor blades and three lines... of Gold's Prepared Horse Radish. I don't have the slightest idea what it's meant to evoke or signify (if anything), but it grabs me nonetheless. If nothing else, it sets the stage for the content that follows, practically screaming "if you don't find this arresting, go spend your hard-earned magazine dollars on Family Circle."
I don't doubt that the folks at Dow Jones know a bit more about finance than I do. They publish The Wall Street Journal; I, on the other hand, invest in iPod accessories and chimichangas. And yet paging through the May issue of Smart Money, ostensibly one of the company's flagship tracts (co-published with Hearst), I still questioned whether it's actually, you know, smart.
Before stumbling on the publication's April/May issue, I'd never heard of Bust. What attracted me was a cover featuring one of the funniest and most interesting women on the planet, Amy Sedaris. Forking over a few bucks, I figured the worst-case scenario would be a few giggles amid the usual simplistic-advice and mainstream-fashion murk.
You'd think that a publication with an all-encompassing moniker like Health would attempt to appeal to a wide swath of the magazine-devouring public - to slender urban sophisticates, to geriatric hypochondriacs, to red-state knotheads balancing bowls of ice cream on their stomachs as they watch "Leno." But no, Health is just another chick-health title, replete with cover lines like "Cellulite Solutions That Really Work" and "How to Fall in Love With Your Workout."
I got so bored while perusing the May issue of Self that I departed my trusty pedestal behind the computer to try one of the "allover [sic] toners" on page 69. For the "calf isolator," I was told to "hook left toes around right ankle and rise onto ball of right foot. Lower." I didn't exactly feel the burn, so to speak, but at least the exercise returned the sensation to my mind and body that 60 minutes spent with Self had drained.
Despite clear weather at both departure and arrival destination, I spent most of Sunday stranded in a Florida airport before my flight was eventually canceled - the American Airlines fleet, it seems, ranks somewhere between solar power and Courtney Love on the reliability scale. Thus when choosing among sacrificial lambs for this week's Magazine Rack at a bookstore positively reeking of "The Da Vinci Code," I had a single search criteria: that my selection would not piss me off any worse than I already was.