Melodrama I Saw On Television and the Internet

The cover of Reader’s Digest November 2022, which would have hit homes and checkout counter magazine racks right before the midterm elections:

Siege at the Capitol: A Drama In Real Life®

Wait, no, that’s not right. Let’s try again.

Siege at the Capitol

No, how about

Siege at the Capitol

I’m getting there, I suppose, but I’ll stop now.

Contrary to what partisan Congressional “committees” and partisan news media would have you believe, this was ultimately less life and death than it might have seemed at the time to members of the elite who might have felt they were at risk. But it was less of an insurrection and more of an unauthorized parading.

I don’t remember Reader’s Digest talking about long-lasting riots or no-go zones in 2020 or the Occupy movement a couple of years before as Dramas in Real Life®, but I guess they were longer-term events than singular incidents you usually see in this feature.

Or maybe used to see in this feature if you ignore the subscription renewal forms that start when you first subscribe and continue twice a month until after your subscription lapses to the ultimate conclusion.

Someday soon, my periodical intake will fall to the NRA magazine and a couple of Catholic theology monthlies. If the Catholic theology monthlies can stay for the most part out of politics.

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News I Missed Over the Holidays

Richard Marcinko, first commanding officer of SEAL Team 6, dies at 81

Fortunately, the National Review missed it, too, and only got to it in this week’s issue.

No, scratch that: Their This Week feature that appeared this week, the January 24 issue, apparently originally appeared on the Internet on January 6.

It should maybe be called Three Weeks Ago.

This generally wouldn’t bother me, as I tend to read the magazine months later. This week was an aberration, as I needed a magazine to read whilst waiting in the son’s school car line yesterday, and I grabbed it from the top of the stack.

And, yes, I did resubscribe. They did drop the subscription rate from $60 a year to $10, and I’ll get that much value out of it from the book reviews and columns at the end. The regular Kevin Williamson “Those Republicans in the interior states are stupid/crazy” features? Not so much.

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Brian J.’s Brief Audubon Society Membership

So I got a mailer a couple months back for the Audubon Society, and I signed up as a member. I have many, well, a couple memories of the Audubon Center near Milwaukee. My father took us there from time to time; I remember the ranger/caretaker’s name was Randy. He had a son a bit younger than us named Troy, I think, and I even remember attending a Christmas party at their home which was on-site. Well, I think I remember these things, anyway. Who knows what I remember and what I make up any more.

So I joined because I support conservation efforts. I’m often a member at the local national park (well, battlefield). I’ve been a member of Ducks Unlimited for many years. I’ve sent money to the Arbor Day Foundation off and on.

But then I got my first Audubon magazine.

The editor’s column has a picture of the US Capitol building behind it. It has an interview with Margaret Atwood. And just about every article in the magazine is about how climate change is destroying birds’ habitat.

So it’s morphed into more of an advocacy and lobbying organization judging by the magazine articles rather than a conservation organization, although if I went to more Audubon Centers, perhaps I would get a better sense of on-the-ground (and in-the-air) work they’re doing instead of beating the drum for climate change.

The Ducks Unlimited magazine, by contrast, does talk about conservation and getting the government more involved, but it overwhelmingly contains articles about duck hunting. Which is what it’s for: conserving wetlands so we’ll have ducks in the future. The Arbor Day Foundation newsletter has information about trees. But Audubon seems focused on climate change and action/compulsion necessary to prevent it.

So I’ll probably let my membership lapse in a year. And if I want pictures and articles of birds, I’ll resubscribe to Birds and Blooms

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Forbes Is Apparently Going Down That Road

I’m not too far behind on my Forbes magazines these days. I let my subscription lapse for a while, and when they offered me a regular magazine rate for it instead of the expensive magazine rate you get for titles like this one and National Review, I resubscribed.

Forbes has gone through an ownership change, and it looks like a lot of the old columnists are gone. Probably some of the old writers, too, with the new regime. It has a bunch of mattress ads, too, which is weird since one of the latter Forbes I read talked about the way the mattress industry manipulated the online mattress review sites.

But I have to wonder if it’s taken a pretty hard turn left. Here are a couple of snippets from the April 30 issue that make me fear for my future enjoyment of the magazine.

From Inside Beachbody’s Billion-Dollar Fat Burning Empire:

Now at the “15-star diamond” level, she’s Beachbody’s top coach, making over $2 million a year. Thanks to Beachbody she’s paid off the mortgage on her suburban Pittsburgh McMansion and takes dream vacations each year to places like Turks and Caicos and Bora-Bora. Her husband, Matt, quit his corporate gig at Heinz to work full-time for his wife. From her spacious home office, filled with flowers, photos and scented candles, Mitro, blonde and blue-eyed with Stepford-wife good looks, spends her days tending to her blog, her podcast (“Women Inspiring Women”) and other social media platforms in an effort to motivate her team. “Ninety-nine percent of my business is social media,” says Mitro, 35.

Sweet Christmas, dismissing the woman’s business (albeit MLM business) acumen and the things she’s bought (McMansion) and her looks (Stepford-wife good looks, which does not make sense in the context of the book which the young journalist might not have read but I have).

So, what, the suburbs sux? Seriously? This is just dropped into an article and not excised?

Then there’s a story called Inside Erik Prince’s Return To Power: Trump, Bolton And The Privatization Of War. The lede is:

Amid reports that special counsel Robert Mueller had taken an interest in his activities, Erik Prince decided to host a fundraiser. On March 18, more than 100 people flocked to Prince’s sprawling farm in Middleburg, Virginia, for an afternoon of pistol shooting in support of Putin’s favorite congressman, Dana Rohrabacher, who the FBI reportedly found had his own Kremlin code name. As the day progressed, the group headed to the barn, where, over sandwiches and Budweiser, they heard from Oliver North, the central figure in the 1980s Iran-Contra scandal, and Matt Gaetz, a member of the House who’s big on Deep State “cabal” conspiracy theories.

Wow, okay, you know how far I got into this “business article”? Yeah, that’s it right up there.

These are not people blogging on the Forbes Web site, which is (or was) apparently open to everyone. This is from the print magazine.

Which I might not renew my subscription to if it cannot tell its business stories in a neutral fashion.

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How Can We Miss It If It Hasn’t Gone Away?


MORE THAN 40 years ago this month, MAD Magazine founder William M. Gaines managed to outrage hundreds of his loyal readers, all by barely lifting a finger. For the April 1974 issue of his happily juvenile comedy rag—a mix of pop-culture parodies, political humor, and sound-effect-saturated comic strips—Gaines’ staff went with a cover illustration guaranteed to shock school teachers and parents around the country: A raised middle finger, accompanied by the declaration that MAD was the “Number One Ecch Magazine.” Gaines had casually approved the image, which he didn’t even find that funny. But when some of the magazine’s nearly 2 million readers began complaining, he wound up personally writing letters of apology. “We put it out, and the roof fell in,” Gaines later said of the issue.

It’s hard to imagine a similarly outraged reaction to the just-released MAD No. 1, the first issue since its publisher, DC Entertainment, announced a much-needed relaunch.

Wired makes it sound like Mad had gone away. But it had not. As a matter of fact, we bought a subscription for our oldest son for Christmas.

I wonder if the Wired writer knew that. Or it mattered.

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So I saw this ad:

And I thought, “It’s that one guy from Daft Punk.”

But no.

The ad is from the back of a 1986 comic book. Yamaha is trading on its reputation for motorcycles in advertisements for its musical keyboards.

Little did they know it would create THE look for DJs in the 21st century.

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On Ideals

Book coverThe title of the post makes it sound like I’m about to write an important philosophical treatise; however, I’m really going to talk about the magazine.

The magazine was published in Milwaukee, so when I was a kid in the 1970s, the world was awash in Ideals. As a matter of fact, I got a free copy for some reason when I was in elementary school. I want to say that it had a sailboat on it, but the 1952 Adventure Issue might be stuck in my brain because I bought it in my eBay sales days and have used the image for software testing in the last couple of years. I was kind of excited about the free copy of the magazine I got because I didn’t have many books in those housing project days, and anything free, especially a book, was a gift. But when little boy me tried to read it, I found it to be a collection of photos and poems. So although I carried that magazine forward a while, I’m pretty sure I never read it completely.

So, as I mentioned, I grew up in a world where you’d see the magazine in schools, in homes, and in shops. But somewhere that world ended. As late as the early 21st century, I saw them from time to time in book sales and garage sales, but even that diminished.

As a matter of fact, I didn’t even see this issue at a garage sale. I saw a box of vintage home magazines that I bought for my beautiful wife because she likes going through them for old recipes and whatnot. When she came to the Autumn 1962 Ideals in the stack, she gave it to me because I have a penchant for reading chapbooks of poetry and whatnot. So I read it.

This issue focuses on Autumn, harvest, and Thanksgiving themes, although some of the poems seem to remember harvest and Thanksgiving as coming together, but in most of the country the date was fixed to the end of November by the late 1870s (I looked it up). So maybe some of the memories in the poems were smeared, or perhaps they were variant dates.

Most of the memories of school starting were from one-room schoolhouse days. This wasn’t a conscious throwback–in Missouri, at least, the rural areas did not consolidate their schools into sprawling school districts until the late 1940s, so the writers of these poems would remember those days instead of the warehouses of children those of us from cities and reorganized districts would remember.

At any rate, I read the book in the evenings, on my glider overlooking the sunset and the rolling hills of Greene County, Missouri. I’m getting old enough that it’s easy to push my nostalgia buttons, even for a time where I didn’t live. So I enjoyed the publication more than the poems within it.

You know, the poems in it aren’t such that they’ll be studied in 400 years, but poems written 400 years ago aren’t studied today (the cranky old English major spat). These poems were written by amateur poets, graduates (sometimes) of those one room schoolhouses (but probably not high school) who went on to have families and then spend some idle time writing poetry. That rhymed. Using words that many adults of the (then) Future wouldn’t even know. This is what our great grandparents and grandparents often did instead of playing games on their smartphones.

Creative hobbies versus consumptive hobbies. It seemed like in the past people did a lot more creative things with their free time. Music. Woodworking. Working on cars. Writing little poems. Now, it’s television and video games. Maybe I’m just thinking along these lines because I’ve spent too much time recently (and when you say “recently” at my age, sonny, that can mean the last decade) just reading books and playing Civilization IV (because the new-fangled Civilizations are Not As Good as the old ones). But I don’t think it’s just me.

The borrowed nostalgia and the nostalgia for my youth where Ideals was available gave me the brief urge to start collecting the magazine or at least to pick it up when I see it in Ozark or Clever, but I’m fighting the urge, believe it or not. I have a lot of things already to read. But time, and the availability of the magazine, will ultimately guide how many of these find their way into the shelves at Nogglestead. It will probably be more than none, although it might take me a while to read them.

As I was reading the Autumn 1962 issue here, I was pleased to see some incarnation of the periodical is still in print. Sometimes I like to see the threads of memory from my youth carried forward into my middle age.

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Magazine Report: Image Magazine 1978

Image Magazine 1978 coverI bought a couple of these at a book fair in the St. Louis area; I reported on the first in March 2009, right after my mother died and before I moved to the Springfield area. Strange that it’s been so long, but not long at all. Sort of.

This one precedes the first one I read by 3 years. This one, from 1978, was published when I was 6 years old. It doesn’t have a volume or issue number in it, but given that the magazine from three years later was volume 9, one would assume that the magazine itself had been published since the year I was born. Weird.

At any rate, like the other one, this one includes work by Lyn Lifshin and a host of other poets of some caliber or another. Nothing that I’ll remember discretely, unfortunately, but I could say that about most poetry anthologies, too, including the greatest works of Shakespeare and probably most of Edna St. Vincent Millay’s books.

The magazine also has an essay about the history of literary magazines in the St. Louis area. Plucky little guys. Sixteen years later, I ran my own little literary magazine in St. Louis, the St. Louis Artesian. It didn’t last as long as Image, and we never published Lyn Lifshin. So there you go.

At any rate, it’s interesting to me, so I felt the need to tell you all about it.

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Wrap Your Mind Around That

From a ForbesLife profile of a wealthy dude:

ForbesLife caught up with him in his art-stuffed, highfloor pied-à-terre in Manhattan’s Time Warner Center, where the horizon-to-horizon views vie for attention not only with his collections but also with the 56-year-old’s own furniture designs, computer and light sculptures, and wildly pixilated, geometric floor painting, apparently of the cosmos disappearing down a black hole.

Pied-à-terre means, literally, foot on earth. So it would seem that a high-floor foot on earth is a bit of a paradox.

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Interviewer Underestimates American Can-Do Spirit

In the December 2010 St. Louis Magazine, Robert Meyerowitz talks to author Eric Jay Dolin about his latest book Fur, Fortune, and Empire: The Epic History of the Fur Trade in America.

Meyerowitz underestimates what the American people can put their mind to when they want to do something when he “asks” (it’s not a question, it’s a viewpoint the journalist wants the author to agree with):

And somehow the beaver survives this slaughter, albeit in lesser numbers—by some conservative estimates, from a high of more than 60 million when Europeans came to North America to around 10 million today. Despite our best efforts, we didn’t eradicate it, or the buffalo or the sea otter.

Despite our best efforts? Well, here are the two common flaws with the question:

  • Talking about historical residents of the continent as “we.” The better to charge contemporary residents of the United States with the alleged sins committed by the forefathers of some small portion of the population.
  • Confusing the result with the intent. Mankind, and Americans, have hunted species into extinction and into near extinction, but in most cases that was not the intent. Trappers wanted beaver skins for hats so the Europeans would look cool. They could make money from the skins. They had nothing against the beavers themselves. When Americans want something eradicated, it gets eradicated. See smallpox. Well, Americans used to, before less intelligent Americans formed People for the Preservation of Pathogens that Kill People and whatnot.

The author of the book responds with:

We came pretty darn close. When you only have 1,091 buffalo left and you had 30 million, that’s a close shave. With beaver we did virtually exterminate them as we swept east to west. Now they’re making a comeback. The beavers, of all the animals, are the ones that are actually doing the best as far reestablishing themselves.

Sure, and now governments kill them as a nuisance when they block up creeks and streams. You know, when they act human and alter the environment to suit their needs. Naughty little beavers.

You know what saved the beavers and let them come back? It wasn’t enlightened consciousness. It was a change in fashion.

The beaver saver

What was my point?

Oh, yes, the interviewer in this case really took the opportunity to pose a flawed, leading statement to a publicity-hungry author. That question was designed to put Man, especially Americans, in a bad light and to elevate the poor beaver and bison.

If we, and by we, I mean people who died centuries before I was born and fewer centuries before most of my ancestors arrived had wanted to spend their best efforts to kill all the beavers, they would all be dead a long time.

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Where Are The Vapors?

I received a sweepstakes packet from Readers Digest today:

A check from the treasurer's department!
Click for full size

What I want to know is where are the news outlets and lefty blogs on this one? The GOP sends out a fundraising mailer which really isn’t so much a survey as a fundraising vehicle with the word CENSUS on it, and everyone foams at the mouth about the mean Republicans trying to trick its previous contributors into contributing again or something, but here you have a stodgy old magazine trying to entice senior citizens to enter their contest by mimicking an IRS tax refund, and we get nothing.

So, gentle reader, I will leave it to you to gauge whether the people who shriek like a struck Porkins are entirely earnest in their concern for the gulls beneath them or if they simply don’t know anyone who subscribes to Readers Digest to see what the old people are reading (like they contribute or sign up for GOP communications to see what the ENEMIES are saying and doing).

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You Don’t Have To Share My Religion To Be A Heretic

In this Forbes piece about the busiest actors in Hollywood, Dirk Smillie utters heresy based, no doubt, in ingnorance, but heresy just the same:

Likewise, Christian Bale’s top six movies over the past five years brought in $1 billion, with some 70% of that box-office gold coming from his roles in the Batman series–Dark Knight and Batman Begins. Not every actor who’s played a Marvel character is as lucky, of course. [Emphasis added.]

That’s it, I’m looking for some kindling.

I would have expected the comments on an Internet post of such a mistake to erupt with righteous outrage. However, I might be the only comic book fan who reads Forbes. Certainly, I hold many “only … who reads Forbes” distinctions.

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Thanks, Wall Street Journal Magazine, For That Uncomfortable Conversation With My Preschooler

I was eating breakfast with a magazine spread before me. This time, it was the new slick that the Wall Street Journal bundles with its paper. I’m looking at this story, somehow involving a woman and an exercise bike. I forget anything beyond that.

Woman on bike

“What is she doing?” my three-year-old asks.

“She’s riding an exercise bike,” I reply.

“I think she’s in bed,” he says.

“Uh huh,” I respond in that recognition that he’s being imaginative and contrarian as three-year-olds are when they’re not sleeping and sometimes when they’re eating.

Then I glanced at the left hand page.

(UPDATE: John wants a NSFW label on this post. I initially didn’t put one on it because it was SFWSJ. However, in hope of getting more traffic, here it is: Potentially NSFW. That made you click the Read More link even faster, didn’t it?)

Continue reading “Thanks, Wall Street Journal Magazine, For That Uncomfortable Conversation With My Preschooler”

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Talk About Instant Savings

I received two Forbes subscription renewals in the mail the other day. The same day. With a $40 difference in a six month subscription rate.

First, a congratulations on my recent move and an offer to renew at $59.95 for 26 issues:

$60 for 26 issues.
Click for full size

In another envelope, an offer to renew at $19.95 for 26 issues:

$20 for 26 issues.
Click for full size

As you know, I take a larger number of magazines than I can read in a contemporary fashion. And you know one of the factors that makes me decide which ones to let expire?

How stupidly the circulation department treats you.

Forbes doesn’t rival Fortune and other Time-Warner magazines in trying to trick you. Yet.

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The Value Proposition of Magazines

Lileks finds a value proposition in printed magazines versus online versions:

Some of the happiest moments of my life consisted simply of sitting in an airplane reading the Economist, lost in the big thick glossy parade of news and stories from everywhere, assembled with skill, and presented without a slime trail of ignorant comments at the end.

Another, of course, is that they lack PointRoll-intruding, Trojan-sharing, and memory-leaking advertisements.

One wonders if printed magazines will enjoy a resurgence based on a backlash against those detriments. Probably not.

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The Emphasis Is On Magazines

You know what won’t sell me on a “business” magazine subscription?

These are magazines.  They are not pro-business.

Gushing about the man atop the administration that’s going to punish any free business that isn’t government business.

Some lean left, some lean right, we lean forward? You mean progressive aka “left,” don’t you, Businessweek?

The important thing to remember about these rags is that they’re magazines that cover business. That is, they have the normal media biases and the normal collection of journalists writing and editing them. And if something is good for The People, business be damned.

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A Moment of Strength, or Weakness

I was looking for an old car radio in the dimly lit basement storage room. Amid the archived esoteric computer peripherals and old gaming systems, I found a stack of magazines. It wasn’t a surprise, really, because I have binders filled with an assortment of old magazines, including: old computer magazines with programs you could type into your Commodore 64 to turn hours of hunting and pecking and troubleshooting typographic errors into minutes of fun with primitive games; decades’ old copies of Writers’ Digest that contain the endless loop of advice that magazine provides; several varieties of home handyman magazines to provide me with fantasy projects that I could handle but wouldn’t want and projects that I would want but couldn’t handle; and myriad single copies of magazines I picked up on newsstands while telling myself that they’re research for my writing career. No, instead of those semi-useful magazines, I found two years’ worth of Spin.

Sometime immediately after the turn of the century, I got an unsolicited invitation to subscribe to Spin for two years. As it was, I wasn’t hip to the latest music, and I’d just turned 30. So, with some lottery-ticket hope of recapturing some of my youth, I took the chance and sent the ten bucks, and the magazines started coming. Each issue showed some different group of unwashed kids revolutionizing everything about music. The White Strokes, the Activisions, Dashboard Light, and so on and so on and Scooby Dooby Dooby. Frankly, the magazine didn’t give me the urge to increase my budget for CDs based on the say-so of some music-industry spit-shiners, so I let my subscription lapse. Besides, my music-buying habits in my salad days centered upon buying two dollar cassettes from the racks at Walgreens or Camelot Music and sometimes finding something I really liked, albeit several years and a couple of albums beyond the group’s hits (a-ha and Cutting Crew, for example) and sometimes finding something I played once and then forgot (76% Uncertain et al). So Spin couldn’t help me recapture a youthful musical hipness I never had in the first place.

Still, I browsed the magazines and then threw them into a box. Did I intend to keep them in case I needed them for research in the future? Did I keep them in case they became collectibles some decades hence? I’m not even sure I needed that much excuse, as I’m somewhat of an accumulator of things (see also that list of electronic esoterica). However, when I rediscovered this particular stack of magazines, I decided that I would never actually use them for research. They probably wouldn’t be worth anything as a collectible as the next generations, to whom these would be collectibles, won’t actually collect things. And the bands covered within the magazine are probably just flashes in the pan whose names I obviously cannot get correct even now, three years removed from the musical revolution and whatever passes for hits in the iPod world.

So I stacked them in a box, but I didn’t throw them into the recycling bin. Perhaps I gave myself a cooling off period to ensure that I did not act rashly in my discarding the valuable-because-I-have-them clutterica. Perhaps my hands were too full (of nothing since I didn’t find the car radio). Whatever the reason, the magazines took up residence in the box on the floor instead of stacked atop binders of more valuable magazines.

A couple of days later, I returned to the storage room and found the box of magazines. Now, I could certainly carry the collection to the recycling bin. However, as I looked at the box, I thought perhaps I could list an eBay auction composed of the “collectibles,” but my eBay sense tingled danger, and I knew that I’d only lose my auction fees. Then, I thought about saving them for a yet-unplanned garage sale in the future or using them as a donation to a sale of some sort, but ultimately I’d mark them a dime each and no one would even paw through them. No one pawed through the collection of magazines at our last garage sale earlier this month. So that foolish dream or rationalization too died.

Anti-climactically, I carried them out to the recycling. Ultimately, it was that easy; simply lift with the legs and not the back, ascend the stairs, open the door, set down. Once I got the habitual mental hang-ups out of the way, I did it without fanfare. I got rid of something I had no use for but that was only taking up space in our store room. But, contrary to the hopes and dreams of my wife, that doesn’t mark the beginning of a trend in my behavior. These were just Spin magazines, after all, and not a sixth Commodore 64, a box of uncleaned and thoroughly played with G. I. Joes from the middle 1980s, or boxes of comic books that haven’t been out of their plastic bags for fifteen years. Those things have intrinsic and obvious because-I-have-them value.

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