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Topic #14
Zines, Zines the Musical Fruit…



I'll be the first person to admit it. I have magazine envy. Big time. Four or five times a month, Janet gets magazines delivered. Sure, most of them are just mass-published Women's Magazines… you know, the boring model-laden mindless tripe with great and scintillating articles like "How to Keep Your Man Happy" or "45 Sex Tricks That Will Make Your Lover Moan" and my personal favorite, "10 Things He Doesn't Want You To Know." So, Why the hell am I jealous of her magazines?
I guess the reason that I am so envious of her magazines is because a good Men's Magazine really doesn't exist. I'm looking for a magazine that you pick up on the way home from work, read it on the bus and  become so enthralled with it that you read it instead of watching the news when you get home. Then when you get ready in the morning, you make sure that you have it in your bag so you can read it on the bus ride to work… and maybe even sneak a read during lunch. I just haven't found a magazine which fits that criterion just yet. But believe me brother (or sister, depending on your gender identification&#41, I try. Desperately.
Every week, I buy two or three magazines, trying to find that magazine which I will love to the point that I actually (gasp&#41 buy a subscription to.
In the pursuit of finding the perfect magazine, I have read literally hundreds of magazines. Most of them fall into one of the following categories:

The Sports Magazine Every once in a while, I pick up a Sports Illustrated just to make sure that the testosterone is still flowing. Ooh… pages on top of pages of pictures of sweaty men and people writing about sweaty men. Sorry. Just can't get into it. I have purchased four issues of Sports Illustrated in my lifetime. One for the World Cup in 1994 and the rest were the swimsuit issues in my late teens.
Sometimes, I try to get into either a soccer or boxing magazine, but I haven't found one worth reading, let alone subscribing to. I mean, come on guys… use that spell checker!

The Music Magazine I admit it, I like Rolling Stone… sometimes. This is the perfect example of a good airplane magazine: it has a few good articles, and is entertaining, but it's only good for about 2 hours… the time it takes to get from Denver to San Francisco. The only problem with Rolling Stone on the plane is that it's just too damn big to fit in my carry-on bag.

The Women's Magazine Hey, Janet has a ton of them littering the house, and I usually end up picking it up for a laugh. I mean, come on… they're just so goddamned funny. However, there is no way I would ever bring a copy of Vogue in the office.

News Magazines Screw 'em. That's why I get a Reuters feed at the office and CNN at home. They're out of date before they hit the shelf.

Literary Fru-Fru Magazines I try to pick up a literary journal every once and a while. Usually, it's over-cerebral garbage that people take seriously because of its matte two-color cover. If I want literature, I'll read a book (and I usually go through one or two a month&#41.

San Francisco Magazines Ok. I live in San Francisco… so if I am ever tempted to buy a San Francisco magazine, it's usually because they're reviewing a play or a restaurant that I'm interested in… but usually I'll just wait for it to be reviewed in the Guardian or the Examiner (San Francisco's free weeklies&#41. The problem with both SOMA and San Francisco Magazine (or local magazines&#41 is that they are just plain boring, dry, high-society articles. Bleh.

Alternative Magazines There are a number of Alternative Magazines out there… but the problem is this: most of them are inconsistent with their writing levels. There are some magazines that I just love one month, but the next month, the writing just stinks. So, usually I go over to the Naked Eye or Stacey's and flip through them, and if it's a good issue, I buy it. If it sucks, I just put it back.

Fitness Magazines Men's Fitness and Men's Health. Poorly written, bland and boring. Muscle and Fitness, I read it for tips at the gym…. it uses small words and pretty pictures… what does that say about its readership?

Computer Magazines Love them… for about 10 minutes. I don't have the cash to buy any new computer hardware and I rarely buy new software, so they don't keep my attention for that long. I read the new technology reviews and then they sit in a pile next to the bathroom.

Zines Love 'em. Read 'em. Usually can't subscribe to 'em. When will the next issue come out? Whenever the writers get an extra 100 dollars to spring for copies at Kinko's.

Those OTHER Men's Magazines Erm… not exactly what I was talking about.

So, What sort of Magazines does Avery like enough to get a subscription to?

  1. Brill's Content: Content is a media watchdog magazine, and though it is a little dry, the stories make you sit back and think. I recommend that everybody in America reads this magazine before they pick up another newspaper or magazine.

  2. Q San Francisco: Billing itself as the "Alternative City Guide" Q is one the best city magazine in in San Francisco. The stories range from OK to Great… and who can pass up a magazine that lists all of the smoke friendly places in town.

  3. Playboy: The best Men's Magazine ever made, and I'm not afraid to let the whole world know that I read it. It has the best Men's fashion, the best fiction, and the best music and movie reviews out there. I have jokingly said a number of times that I wish that they made a version of Playboy without the nude women so I could bring it to work. Either that, or I wish that the American population would get its collective stick out of its ass and realise that a naked person is nothing to be shocked, embarrassed or ashamed of.

I know I have missed a number of the "great" men's magazines like Details and Esquire. Personally, I don't like them… they just are too pretentious. They are somewhere between cerebral and frat-boy… and as you know from this website… I am neither cerebral nor a frat boy.

So, maybe we should make Scowl the magazine… naah. I probably wouldn't buy a subscription to it… too bitter.

I have always been an avid magazine reader — more a magazine reader than a book reader, most definitely. Maybe it's attention deficit disorder or what have you, but I love the fact that no novel-sized commitment is needed to read the goings-on of the rich and famous of Us and People. Why, magazine articles are the dim sum of the periodical world!

In our apartment there are piles and piles of magazines, many of them of the typical women's variety, but they aren't exactly the Cosmo-type that Avery describes. I started subscribing to most of them while in my "upwardly-mobile" feminine phase years ago when I first started working in the financial district: Elle, Harper's Bazaar and Vogue. I also used to have subscriptions to Glamour, Mademoiselle and W, but let them expire when the first two started turning me into a paranoid hypochondriac what with all of their stories of young women dying of breast cancer and assorted other maladies, and the third when I realized that the extra-huge format and un-interesting content made for difficult reading. When I realized that the stuff I kept tripping over in the hallway was a pile of about six or so months worth of giant W's, I decided to just throw them all away.

The same thing is now happening with my current subscriptions. They seem to arrive in the mail so quickly that I barely finish one issue when another two have already begun to stack up in the hall. That, coupled with the fact that the last few issues of these magazines have been, like, 600 or 700 pages long (most of it advertisements&#41 is probably why they are resembling some kind of modern glossy paper sculpture occupying an honorary position on top of my old skateboard. I think that the major reason why, though, is that I just don't feel like reading any more stories about which color is the new black this season. And I don't particularly care whether or not my makeup should look natural or un-natural. Or how long the waiting list is for non-celebrities at Bliss Spa, or if my skirt is the right length for fall. And what's with that scary runway fashion that I don't think anybody wears to the office cocktail party in real life?

I had high hopes when Jane Magazine appeared on the newsstands. Jane Pratt, the editor of Jane, used to be the editor of Sassy way back when. Sassy stayed my favorite magazine all the way until it's last advertiser-pressured gasp. You would think that at least some of the unconventional-and-youthfully-rebellious tone of Sassy would have carried over to it's older sister Jane, but alas! No such luck. At first Jane seemed really hip and young and cool, but as of the latest issue, it's lost several cool points and is in danger of falling into the category Most Likely to Sit in a Pile In My Hallway.

It seems as if it is written and edited by a bunch of silver-wire-glasses-wearing twenty-somethings relaxing on New Age-y cushions in a plush New York office alternately sipping champagne and some kind of light beer, reassuring each other by peppering their "brainstorming" sessions with statements like "We're magazine people. We know famous people. We're cool. We go to parties. We can write whatever smarmy and condescending comments we want because who's gonna stop us? Huh? You, with your little Letters to the Editor? Ha! What a joke! That's the only place where we can let our true superiority shine through — while writing comments directed to you, our readers! Bwah ha ha ha!"

I gave them the benefit of the doubt with last month's Celebrity-Produced issue, but this month it just seems like Jane Pratt has her name-dropping phaser set to stun (she used to date Michael Stipe, you know.&#41 I mean, Courtney Cox giving advice on getting stains out of shirts? Chastity Bono writing the "It Happened to Me" feature? Christy Turlington showing us her "down-to-earth" side as a "regular" NYU college student? The Jane Makeunder being done on VH-1 VJ Jane Dorian? Can't they find any regular people for these things anymore? We get it! You guys are connected!

That's OK, though, because woman does not have to subsist on Jane alone. There is some worthwhile independent-type stuff out there, though the distribution is scarce and issues may not come out monthly or even on a regular schedule, but when they do, you'll be reading with interest instead of stopping every 5 pages to exclaim "this is such a waste of paper!" like I've been doing lately. The latest and coolest issue of Siren, for example, has Janeane Garofalo on the cover and a photo montage of bathroom graffiti from San Francisco women's restrooms.  But I digress.

In a nutshell, I used to pretend like mad that I could actually enjoy and/or use the information presented to me in a colorful, bold type. But lipstick doesn't stay on for more than an hour and I don't want to keep reapplying it or worrying if it's smudged or on my teeth or something. Clothes in sizes 1 through 6 don't fit me. Sweaters that cost $400 are wa-a-ay off the scale in terms of my budget, as are $65 salon blow-drying sessions. Fancy interior decorating involving any type of ancient renaissance ottomans is just plain boring.

I can't blame the publishers and advertisers for aiming at a demographic a little more, OK a lot more, mainstream than myself, but I wish there were more publications with articles like "How to Make Your Hair Dreadlock" or "Clunky Shoes Around the World." Am I being too hard on the mainstream magazines? Do they really have nothing at all to offer?

If you ever see me paying $65 to get my hair blow dried, then I guess you'll know the answer.


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Posted in Topics of the Week (1990s).

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