I Just Cannot Read Harper’s Any More

Okay, I am done trying. I have had it at last with Harper’s magazine, and the remainder of my subscription is going straight from the mailbox to the recycle bin.

I tried so very hard to read the August 2003 issue while I was at the gym the other night, but I couldn’t get more than a few paragraphs into anything, and I didn’t try hard, frankly.

Here’s what I read:

  • In the “Letters” section, Iain Murray writes a letter to respond to a snarky piece in a previous Harper’s which I have never read and never will, now. Apparently, the author of the piece savaged the fact that the Competitive Enterprise Institute impugned the science of the National Assessment on Climate Change, using properly-crafted insinuations and ad homenims. Iain’s letter points out that the National Assessment is widely debunked by real scientists. Since the author of the piece gets a chance to get in the final snark, Bryant Urstadt responds to a scientific rebuttal with….Manhattan ad homenims and insinuations.
  • Lewis Lapham, in his monthly column “Notebook”, titles his rant “Yankee Doodle Dandy” and it begins:

    During the eight months prior to the invasion of Iraq, the American news media were content to believe the government’s fairy tale about its reasons for sending the tanks eastward into Eden. The Bush Administration’s buncombe artists could tell any story they pleased about Western civilization being held for ransom by Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction, and even when the plot lines were shown to depend upon suborned testimony and counterfeit intelligence, the media vouched for the wisdom of Oz. Why not? What was to be gained by casting doubts? The fairy tale sold newspapers, boosted television ratings, curried favor at the White House and the FCC, drummed up invitations from the Pentagon to attend the military costume party in the Persian Gulf.

    I am pretty sure he goes from there into the common missing trope about Bush lying, la la la. Whatever. Point of order, Mr. Editor. I am getting awfully tired of the misapplication of the term lie (or fairy tale) regarding the build up to war in Iraq.

    You want a lie? Here’s one, Lewey: “I did not have sex with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.” You see, the speaker is uttering something he absolutely knows is true because he has first, uh, hand knowledge of the reality. And he says the opposite. For his own benefit mind you, and thanks to shills around the world, he got benefits from the lie. I know you looked down upon the Arkansas governor, too, Lewey, because I could stomach your weary tone then. But others of your rarefied Manhattan ilk did.

    A little sex of which you have first gland hand knowledge is a little different from the decision to go to war. The decision, and the expression of that decision, is based on facts, assumptions, interpretations, intelligence, and guesses which might be true and gambles made on worst case scenarios. To say that George W. Bush lied, or made a myth or fairy tale, is to belittle the complicated nature of the decision and to say that George W. Bush had first hand knowledge that everything he said was absolutely, irreputably untrue. That’s a hard case to prove unless you’re omniscient. Oh, wait, some of these pinheads think they are.

    Also, Lapham, I hold you ultimately accountable for that condescension bomb called Nickel and Dimed: On Not Getting By in America. Cripes, I opened that thing and it blew its classist pitytoric all over, and I am still scraping Ehrenreich off the walls. Thank goodness I bought it in softcover, or the crapnel might have been the end of me.

  • Harper’s Index always contains a few gems that make a point out of a contextless statistic. For example:

    Percentage of South Carolinians prosecuted under the state’s “anti-lynching” law since 1998 who are black
    : 63

    Because, obviously, the law was intended to be marked Whites Only, and blacks cannot do whatever the law prohibits to whites or each other.

  • Finally, to the Readings section, a kind of Snobber’s Digest. First outtake, I mean piece, is entitled “The New Censorship” and it’s by Curtis White, an excerpt from his forthgoing book The Middle Mind : Why Americans Don’t Think for Themselves. I’m already inspired thrilled and that’s just the intro. First paragraph:

    Americans are not much in the habit of poking at the dominant realities of our lives. We’re delicate. We’re used to deferring, though we like to think of ourselves as rebels. What parents, teachers, presidents, and Dan Rather say is usually good enough for us. Even if it is demonstrably false, we submit out of habit and fright over what not submitting might require of us. We sacrifice our lives out of feeling that there is some sort of comfort in deferring.

    Charming. So we should believe instead what Harper’s and its select authors say instead. Bullocks. Good enough for those rebellous thinkers churned from our universities’ liberal arts programs to descend upon New York City and Washington D.C. to live like kings and courtiers in order to better the lot of the common man.

ENOUGH! That’s the first four things in the schnucking magazine. Even the GM ad in the front cover tried to make me feel guilty for driving a car, except that I drove a brand that would put an apologetic ad in an enlightened magazine.

I’ve been a Harper’s subscriber for more than ten years, regularly remitting a portion of my sub-sustenance wage salary to get a slick and remain educated, but no more. I have a couple months of the magazine piled up, and they’re all going out. I have other, more relevant magazines, like FHM to read.

I’ve got seven months left on the subscription I had paid up for three or four years in advance, and that’s it. I’m done until such time as Lapham’s gone and the magazine returns to a more even-handed set of viewpoints.

I’m sure Harper’s won’t miss me. Enough cosmo coastal sycophants will continue to buy the magazine to learn what to think, what vodkas to drink, and that Xandria and the Blowfish catalog both offer creative merchandise for consenting adults. A Midwestern conservative isn’t its target audience anyway, or else they would cover tractor pulls and corn futures more frequently, or whatever stereotypes they’ve developed for everyone west of New Jersey.

So be it. An amicable parting. Except for the screaming and the throwing of the dirty laundry on the front lawn.

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Whatever is She Talking About?

I have no idea what my lovely wife is talking about when she says:

Contrary to the 2600s (not Atari) lying about my house, I’m not part of the hacker culture, and I know little about it – my geekiness is pretty mainstream in the code perspective.

Subversive hacker magazines lying around here? I am shocked, shocked!

Dammit, woman! I paid for those magazines in cash and wore a hat to obscure my features for the hidden cameras to conceal those purchases. Now I shall have to develop a cover story to explain them, perhaps something about “researching a novel….”

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Experiment Success: The Magazine Rack at APIV

It has been postulated, or it will be in the next clause of this sentence, that geeks who gather (GwG) to celebrate arcane electronic amusement systems also share certain aesthetic preferences and interests. As most (but not all) of the GwG share the male gender, it has been postulated that certain seemingly-stereotypical male-centric P&I might be anticipated. That is, that the GwG would prefer, in information sources, those sources which offered:

  • Information regarding mating rituals from the male point of view, including technique modification and standardized communication approaches to use during social events.
  • Aesthetically-pleasing but not norm-challenging visual depictions of anatomy one might uncover during a mating ritual.
  • Deliberative investigations into the technological or plumage accoutrements to enhance one’s social standing and mating potential as well as increase revenue streams for the information sources’ advertisers.
  • Dietary instructions and recommendations for brewed wheat products.

To prove this hypothesis, an experiment was devised wherein a GwG collection would be exposed to a number of information sources; individual members of the GwG herd could then select and inspect information sources. This collection was meticulously contrived to include a broad selection of information sources and to expose them adequately so that the GwG group members could conceivably select from among them.

The magazine rack used within the experiment looked like this:

The Magazine Rack Used in the Experiment

The visible magazines include:

  • FHM, the experimental information source whose properties are outlined above.
  • Barron’s, a control information source. This information source contains information that a more mature and slightly older member of the GwG class might find interesting if his or her interests lie in increasing material holdings to provide for the product of successful, or inadequately protected, mating rituals.
  • Spin, a control information source that explores the aesthetics of contemporary aural art forms which some people call “music.”
  • Skeptic, a control information source that investigates and often debunks paranormal phenomena and junk science.
  • Java Developer’s Journal, a control information source that contains standard geek fare that feeds the 733t skillz that comprise the elaborate dance geeks do at the workplace to show dominance over coworkers.
  • Harper’s, a control information source that higher social order GwG, and other humans in general, or those who aspire to higher social position as alphas in the herd utilize to determine what alphas should think about the nuanced social structure of humanity, those poor bastards.

This magazine rack was presented to the subjects as part of a domestic environment, albeit a GwG-friendly domestic environment that contained three television/Atari 2600 sets as distractive stimuli. The magazine rack was carefully designed to be unobtrusive, but arrayed as noted above with several titles visible. Thus, although the subjects were not informed of the nature of the study, it was assumed by the research staff that the subjects would observe the magazine rack and would select information sources suited to the subjects’ natures.

The results of the experiment are as follows: as expected, during the course of the time period allotted for the experiment, a subject discovered the FHM information source and perused its contents and commented to other subjects. At this time, some the subjects passed the information source amongst themselves and reviewed it. In one exit interview, a subject claimed “the magazine was a hit!”

This experiment would seem to prove the hypothesis that GwG P&I, in a social environment, tend to information sources characterized popularly as “laddie magazines.”

This experiment has not delved into actual cause of the P&I, nor has this experiment explored what might be termed the “irony” construct, which might indicate that the most vocal of the GwG members who perused the magazine might have actually performed an “ironic” social ritual of displaying mockery or good-humored contempt of the information source to establish social rank within the GwG sample. Further, it is unclear to what extent the subjects would have sought out the magazine, or what portion of the magazine could have been obscured from view with the same result of the subject accessing the information source.

Further research will be required, including other experiments, to uncover the answers to these questions. In the future, the following experiments might be conducted:

  • Presenting the experiment information source in other incongruous locations, such as medical offices, church lobbies, and EEOC cubicles.
  • Obscuring the cover of the experiment information source more completely, to determine whether the title of the information source and its reputation yield the expected behavior, or if the aesthetically-pleasing but not norm-challenging visual depictions of anatomy drive the behavior.

Additionally, comprehensive study of information sources of this class is warranted, including comparisons of British versions to their American counterparts and, if possible, personal interviews with the owners of the anesthetically-pleasing anatomies.

A grant from the National Institute of Health, National Institute of Mental Health, or Center for Disease Control would help in any case. Please make that check out to StLBrianJ Laboratories, care of this Web site.

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Sitting Up With Mother Jones

My dear readers, I have hit for the monomyth cycle for you this time. I heard the call to adventure, that is, to read a left-leaning magazine to try to empathize with and understand the arguments of others. I crossed the first threshold when I bought such a magazine when I was in the belly of the whale at the bobomart where my beautiful wife buys her uberhealthy snacks and where I once bought an organic beer that tasted like barley soup. So I was initiated when I met with woman as the temptress, in this case Mother Jones (although I must admit I am not quite into the whole crone fetish). So I have returned, by the magickal flight of the magazine looping through the air as I tossed it in disgust, to bring knowledge, or at least a lot of words, about the experience.

* * * *

The cover story, “Goodbye, New World Order“, retells the story of how the unilateralist cowboys in the Bush administration have wrecked the great edifices of the New World Order. You know, of course, what I say. I sing, “Goodbye, Yellow Brick Road“. The New World Order can start picking through its own rubble for loose change to afford its bloated needs. Got enough to retire your population with full pay at age fifty and develop the third world (now promoted to the second world with the collapse of the original “Second World”) to a state of state largesse wherein the formerly-impoverished can also retire at fifty, too? No? Well, maybe you can find enough for a burrito instead.

* * * *

Then, we hear about the weepy circumstances in Tuvalu in a story called “All the Disappearing Islands“.

It seems that this idyllic paradise features no arable land, offers jobs in fishing and gathering coconuts, and has a per capita income of $1,100, is threatened by (one supposes) George W. Bush (remember, he determines the fate of every living being on the planet). There’s no crime in Tuvalu (apparently, there’s no market for hot coconuts), and the people live close to nature (that is, at about sustenance level). It’s paradise to certain political thinkers.

Of course, the piece is more of a dirge than a stirring reveille. The piece harps that global warming is gonna keep happening, regardless of what we do, and humanity’s going to die out from our own wretchedness. So I won’t opt for a subscription to Mother Jones in case that happens before the subscription would lapse.

* * * *

The photo essay “Too Beautiful For Death” describes Kashmir, the Indian province upon which Pakistan wants to get its mitts. The pictures are beautiful, of course, as the region must surely be. The text by Suketu Mehta wrings its hands suitably about how this area could lead to the single most devastating war to ever occur, and soon. It’s hard to miss the significance of the numbers of millions or hundreds of millions who could die in such an event. As if that’s not bad enough, the article’s final pièce de résistance:

But so violently vital is the idea of Kashmir to both nations that they have thrice gone to war over it. The next war could escalate into a nuclear confrontation. One nuclear bomb on Bombay or Karachi could kill more people than the entire population of Kashmir; and it would not stop at one bomb. Kashmir is an impossibly beautiful greenhouse for death, which could grow to engulf the peoples who have planted it and nurtured it with Kashmiri blood and tears, grow until the entire subcontinent is filled with the insane screaming of dying elephants. [Emphasis mine]

Dying elephants? What the schnuck? Never mind the people, but save the Indian elephants?

* * * *

In the story “Keeper of the Fire“, a writer wraps its forelimbs around the leg of an anti-capitalist crusader who’s out to raise labor costs required to manufacture the cheap goods we enjoy in this country without realizing that this successful crusade will drive investment from the underdeveloped regions benefitting, belatedly, from the Industrial Revolution and will make products we take for granted impossible to afford. After all, if a low-seniority union laborer who earns $20 an hour plus benefits spends two hours making your blue jeans, they’re not going to cost $20 at Kohl’s any more.

By the second paragraph, before anyone sensible could grab a break stick to pull the swooning writer from the profilee’s trousers, the writer gushed this about the dreamboat liberal:

Technically, he is a part of the National Labor Committee, a letterhead group of four or five in a small warren of rooms loaned by UNITE in New York City. But beneath this façade he is an independent, a man controlled by no backers, free of any union, immune to academic nuance.

All righty then. Dick Cheney once worked for Haliburton, and he’s forever damned as their puppy. George W. Bush once ran the Texas Rangers, and now he’s in Major League Baseball’s batting gloves’ pocket. But this guy is actively employed by the unions, and he’s a renegade, unbeholden to anyone? That’s when I fell for leader of the pack (vroom!).

* * * *

About this time, I am just flipping through to find the back cover. Hurrying past the reviews, and BAM! There it is! An ad for www.banpoundseizure.org. It says:

The betrayal must end.

(cute dog picture)

Some states still allow or require the release or sale of healthy, adoptable dogs and cats from shelters and pounds to research labs or schools where they likely will be killed.

Oh, please, it’s not as though the shelter gets on the horn the minute a golden retriever arrives and says, “Hey, Igor, I got that brain you wanted.” I would guess that research labs are the second to last resort for animals that have not been adopted and are going to be put down. And not all research labs kill all the animals that pass through.

Oh, I do understand that animal whack job organizations want every shelter to be a no kill shelter, which means public animal control become infinitely growing housing projects and welfood programs for the good of a sub-sentient species. However, it’s just not feasible. Don’t say it is. Don’t. You nutbar.

* * * *

And then I finally made it to the end of the magazine, not much dumber than when I started. Some of this stuff is so a priori wrong that I cannot understand it. To whom are they talking? People who don’t like Indian elephants or puppies dying or don’t want impoverished people earning money, I guess, and unfortunately this American nation has too many who hold those soundbite views without deeper understanding.

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Reader Survey Response for Speakeasy Magazine

As some of you know, I fancy myself a “Writer” who dabbles in fiction but also keeps his or her, sorry, Proper Writer Ettiquette sneaking in, MY eyes on more literary fiction, just in case I write a short story in which no crimes occur, no swords are swung, and nobody disappears into a quantum universe. Market research, don’t cha know?

So anyways, I picked up a copy of Speakeasy, a writers’ musing kind of magazine which contains a bunch of personal essays typically grouped around a theme by professorial writers. I liked it well enough to subscribe, so now I get this magazine delivered every week. Of course, since I was once voted by the Marquette University English Deparment staff as the Most Likely Not To Return To the University (I think I was the only one in the program, and certainly I seem to hold that distinction), I’m not a typical subscriber.

In fact, I work for a living. Well, I write software documentation, and it’s true you can put an analogy on the SAT that says Work:Technical Writing::Play: and make the correct answer b.) Napping. I spend 40 hours a week, 49 weeks a year, turning the great Corporate Millstone. Oh, and I vote Republican. So I’m not exactly a typical Speakeasy subscriber.

So I was ever so pleased to read my May/June 2003 “Speak Out! Voicing Dissent: A Special Section On Writing and Politics” issue. Not only does it amuse me to read the prognostications and pre-emptive outrage for the coming war with Iraq that these sorts of magazines provide (read any Harper’s from the winter and spring for fun), but it included the Speakeasy Reader Survey.

I have such a blast shattering stereotypes of typical readership that I had to respond:

How do you get Speakeasy?

 X I subscribe
 _ At the newstand or bookstore
 _ Borrow from a friend
 _ At the dentist’s or doctor’s office
 _ I’m a Loft member
How do you read Speakeasy?

 _ From cover to cover
 _ I’ll finish reasing most of the issue before the next arrives
 X I might read a few articles that catch my eye
What do you do with your copy of Speakeasy?

 _ So far, I have been saving them
 _ I pass it on to ____ (this # of) friends
 X It goes out with the recycling
Are you…..

 _ A writer
 _ A reader
 X A writer who reads
 _ A reader who writes
If you consider yourself a writer, what do you like to write?

Genre fiction, essays, user’s guides
Where do you write (in a café, at home, in the garage…)?

In a home office
Has your work been published?

 X Yes

 _ No
As a reader or writer, what do you value most in Speakeasy? Why do you read Speakeasy?

I enjoy the brief, lightweight musings.
Which of the following actions has Speakeasy inspired?
[I assumed they meant in me]

 _ I bought a book reviewed or advertised in the magazine
 _ I developed a colossal case of writer’s block
 _ I read more by a consulting author
 _ I brought a Speakeasy theme into my writing or discussion
What types of books do you like to read (poetry, mysteries, fiction, cookbooks…)?

Mysteries, science fiction, fantasy, nonfiction
Where do you typically get your books?

 _ Library
 _ Borrow from friends
 X Purchase
Where do you purchase most of your books?

 _ Chain Bookstores

 _ Independent, local bookstores
 _ The Internet
 _ Catalogs
 X Garage Sales
How many books (of all types) did you buy last year?

 _ Less than 5 [sic]
 _ 5 to 9
 _ 10 to 14
 _ 15 to 19
 X 20 or more
What else do you like to shop for?

 _ Clothes – I’m a fashion maven

 _ Music – I love (circle):
          Rock and roll
          Other: _______________
 _ Furniture, housewares – my home is my castle
 _ Anything, but only on the Internet
 _ The parking lots? The crowds? I’d rather read
 _ Other __________________
Where do you buy most of your food?

 X Supermarket

 _ Farmer’s market
 _ Co-op
 _ Health food or specialty store
 _ Other ____________________
What is the ideal beverage to accompany your reading or writing?

 _ Hot cocoa
 _ Orange juice
 X Beer
 _ Wine
 _ A good martini or two
 _ Coffee
 _ Other _____________
While writing or reading, do you like listening to music?

 X Yes

 _ No
What kind of music?

What other magazines do you read regularly?

 _ Poets & Writers
 _ Utne

 _ The Sun

 _ Outside

 _ The New Yorker

 _ Bon Appetit

 _ Rolling Stone

 X Other

    The Atlantic Monthly, Harper’s, Family Handyman, Handy, St. Louis Homes, Intercom, Technical
    Communicator, America’s 1st Freedom, Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Spin, Esquire, FHM,
    Writer’s Digest, The Writer

    [I had to include an attachment to list these, which represent only my current active
In the last year, how many times did you attend the following cultural events?

Live music? _1_
Live theater? _0_
Art gallery or museum? _1_
Movies? _10_
Publication reading? _0_
Spoken word event? _0_
Book group? _0_
Writers’ group? _0_
Environmental group? _0_
Political forum? _0_
Political demonstration? _0_
Other _0_
[Heck, I didn’t even go to that many hockey games this year.]
Have you ever written a letter to the editor of your favorite newspaper or magazine?

 _ Yes

 X No
[Of course, my current favorite magazine is The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.
You don’t write too many responsive letters of outrage to genre digest magazines. It has, however,
rejected my short fiction submissions.]

What kind of television do you watch?

 _ Only the news

 _ Cooking shows – as many as possible
 _ I indulge in the occasional sitcom or dram–a good story is a good story
 _ Sports
 X TV? I never touch the stuff, give me books!
[Apparently, this question refers to what type of television content you watch, not
what kind of television upon which you watch it. We use a 25″ Sharp.]

What is your favorite literary moment involving a car?

[Who can name any literary moment involving a car?]
What kind of car do you imagine yourself driving?

 _ Honda sedan

 _ BMW convertible
 _ SUV
 _ Hybrid vehicle
 X Vintage muscle car
 _ Why drive? I own a bicycle
[I doubt by “hybrid vehicle” they mean like a
DUKW, but that would be a cool vehicle to
have. Of course, by “Vintage Muscle Car, I mean a 1984 Ford Mustang GT with a 5.0 liter

What kind of car do you actually drive?

GMC Sonoma pick-up
What’s your favorite travel activity?

 _ Theme parks

 _ Cruises
 _ Hiking/biking
 _ Ecotourism
 _ Gambling
 X Activity? I prefer to lie on the beach [or sit in a coffeeshop] with a book
Where have you traveled in the past year?

 X The continental United States
 _ Canada
 _ Alaska, Hawaii, or the Caribbean
 _ Central or Latin America
 _ Europe
 _ Asia
 _ Africa
 _ Other ____
[Nobody tell Tim Blair that
Australia doesn’t get its own check box, the same as Antarctica.]

How do you make travel plans?

 _ I’ve had the same travel agent for years

 X Internet, Internet, Internet
 _ Plans? I point wes (east, south, north) and drive
[Better answer for me: Say “Okay” to
beautiful wife.]



 X M

 _ F

 X High school
 _ Technical school
 X Some college
 X Undergraduate degree
 _ Advanced degree
[An undergraduate degree in philosophy leads one to recognize that an undergraduate degree
or an advanced degree would require some college as a prerequisite.]


 _ Professional

 X Technical

 _ Business owner

 _ Educator or academic

 X Writer, artist, or other creative field

 _ Self-employed

[I wanted to check “academic,” too, since no one really reads the friendly manuals so my
job is largely academic, but I doubt that’s what they meant.]

Household Size

 _ 1 adult

 X 2+ adults _0_ Number of children

Annual household income

 _ Up to $30K

 _ $30K to $40K

 _ $40K to $50K
 _ $50K to $75K
 _ $75K to $100K
 _ $100K to $250K
 _ More than $250K
[It says check one, but what do you do if you make $30K a year? There are two check boxes!
Note that I have not filled this out for you, dear readers, because as my maternal grandfather, Grampa
Naperschevski, used to say, “Do not reveal sensitive financial information on the Internet.”]

City of residence

Maryland Heights
State of residence


All right, it’s not the Political Compass quiz, but it’s something, and I don’t doubt I fit into the minority of subscribers who voted for Bush for president and will do so again.

I’ve subscribed to slicks every since I was a lonely conservative voice in Writing Intensive English program at college, when I spent twenty bucks on Harper’s instead of, well, textbooks. I hope that my answers to surveys like these remind the editors that a variety of viewpoints consume their material, and to remember that pick-up driving people in the reddest part of the red states can be thoughtful, inquisitive, and appreciative of good prose.

But it’s too easy for me to think that if the magazines do notice the low numbers who responded atypically don’t matter, or were merely shining them on.

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Heather’s Innocence Exposed

So my beautiful wife Heather picked up a copy of The Healthy Planet: Your Source for Environmental, Health [sic] & Natural Living News as we were leaving her weekend hangout The Touring Cyclist. After a couple of minutes perusing its contents, my sweet light, unversed in the grim ways of politics and whack jobs, exclaims that the writers and editors of this publication are quite to the left of political center!

Isn’t she cute?

Of course, she then challenged me why I stereotyped people who eat healthy and care about the animals as left wing whack jobs and people who eat meat and potatoes, sometimes at all three meals, as right wing whack jobs. I didn’t really have a logical answer; most of my stereotyping relies on ancedotal evidence and statistical inference.

Aren’t I cute?

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Poor Form, Peter

Slate today featured a round-up of previous stories about Strom Thurmond, who died last night.

The link that led to this index page off of the Slate home page read Good Riddance to Strom:

Poor form, fellows. I would say “I hope the writers of your obituary show greater respect whether they agree with your principles and politics.” I would say that, but I am not that high-minded. I hope someone urinates on your grave, or worse, that no one notices you’re not around anymore.

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Plug for a Magazine

P.S., if you like the fantasy genre, I can’t recommend a magazine more highly than I do Realms of Fantasy. It’s got nonfiction about the genre, about threads in folklore, and about other subjects slightly fantasy-lovers might find interesting. It’s also got some speculative fantasy fiction in each issue. Don’t just browse the Web site, buy the magazine. It’s available at the Borders on Olive, fellow Creve Couer geeks, and you could always subscribe.

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Magazines Take a Page From eBay Sellers

Okay, who came out of publishing school (or maybe flunked out of law school) and decided that magazines could start charging shipping and handling separately from the subscription price?

I discovered this trick first in Reader’s Digest, which I attributed to the last thrashings of a dying magazine. Let’s face it, readers who digest it are the same diminishing audiences who listen to Paul Harvey, and so long as damn punk kids like me resist federally funding their Viagra and Allegra and Nexium, they cannot keep splurging on reading material. So, I assumed, Reader’s Digest was looking to squeeze every last dime from its readers before their retirements ended.

But I just spotted the same kind of offer on a GQ reply card. It’s not as though GQ is suffering; their ad-to-content ratio is suitably annoying, with dozens of pages of beautiful people almost or mostly wearing Armani, Hugo Boss, Hilfiger, and Rolex. For only $12 a year plus $3 shipping and handling, I could spend a year reviewing the affluent coastal lifestyle.

The cost of mailing represents a normal cost of business for a magazine. They might as well stick us for a couple of dollars for printing and a couple of dollars for office rental, and pretty soon the subscription invoice looks like the phone bill. Instead of printing the real price, which means the real total in big numbers, the subscription departments play marketing games. This little game doesn’t get my ire up as much as an unsolicited subscription offer designed to look like an invoice so the unwary inadvertently pays for something that he or she did not order, but it’s close.

Magazines used to at least give lip service to wanting to inform and to have a thoughtful readership, but the new paradigm seems to be the more ignorant, the better. Look at the colorful ads and give us your money. Thank you, that is all.

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