The extremely digestible

first quarter
second quarter - third quarter - fourth quarter
my fave = my fave

Skeptical Inquirer: March/April, 2000
The Skeptical Inquirer is published by the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal. While the X-Files they are not, you could  think of SI as the magazine that Scully would write for. SI is written by scientists who rigorously scrutinize research that claims to prove the paranormal and the plain loopy. For example, in this issue SI carefully examines two recent papers that claim that intercessory prayer (that's other people who pray for you) provides therapeutic benefit to the ill and find that one study was improperly designed and the other was "fallaciously analyzed". This dry reading is shored up by other neat works: a recent history of Messiahs, how some UFO buffs are expecting email from aliens, how the vividness of media affects our perceptions of risk, and why theoretical physics shouldn't be used to explain the paranormal. My fave piece was an investigation of "The Secret of Oak Island" which can be found in Nova Scotia's Mahone Bay. It's long been thought that there was treasure on the island, but the author surmises that the "pirate tunnels" were natural formations and that the story was influenced by the "Freemason's Secret Vault allegory". I think The Skeptical Inquirer should be in every public library, and perhaps every Academic Library as well.

The New Yorker: Mar. 13, 2000
I don't normally pick up the New Yorker but this issue had two things going for it: an essay on The Pill by non-fiction It Boy Malcom Gladwell and a profile on The Simpson's funniest writer, George Meyer. What I learned: the Pill of today works by fooling the body is pregant; a better drug may fool the body is in menopause and reduce cancer risks. What I also learned: Meyer was picked for the writing crew for The Simpsons from his work on a zine called Army Man. As well, The New Yorker's critics look at photographer Walker Evans, minimalist artist Sol LeWitt, three books on New Orleans, and the movies 'Boiler Room' and 'What Planet Are You From?'.

UTNE  Reader: Mar-Apr 2000
The theme of this issue is privacy and I like how they approach the topic from several angles. There's a piece on how government distrust is eroding the participation of the US census, the steps that one Quaker has taken to erase his official identity, and how today's companies have divided the western world into 14 common lifestyles. The rest of the "Best of the Alternative Media" is a hodgepodge of items on hemp, garbage, Gandhi, walking, Haiku Poet Richard Wright, and Ira Glass. I don't know - the intended poetic moments of it all were lost on me. 

Outpost: March / April 2000
Outpost is a lovely little magazine about traveling the big blue marble for those travellers not afraid of seeing both the beauty and the ugliness in lands far from home. In this issue there are articles on the other side of tourism in Saint Lucia, being kidnapped in Bangkok, miners in Potosi, Bolivia, travelling the world's warzones with Doctors Without Borders, traveling in Hanoi, Vietnam and spending New Year's alone in Northen Alberta. And there's a profile of Elvez to boot. Normally I don't like travellogues but I like Outpost. 

Saturday Night: March 2000
The title piece is called "15 Ways of Looking at Vince Carter". Will someone please tell me whether this device is purely a Canadian phenomenon?  I  have seen "32 Short Films About Glen Gould" and have read in Queen's Quarterly, "13 Ways of Looking at the Truman Show" (of course, it's not). Regardless, it's a great device.  For example, SatNite looks at Vince as local hero, as cultural invader, as superhero, as search topic, as download, as Torontonian, as a dancer, as armpit, as TV image, as fashion statement, as atlas, as salesman, and as African-American. There's also a profile (only one) on one of my personal heroes (because I'm a "foot person") Jane Jacobs, author of "The Death and Life of Great American Cities", a look at how high-tech is changing the face of Ottawa, and a sympathetic article on the graffiti artists who use trains as their canvases. I say 'sympathetic' because it would be easy to write off these kids as "territorial pissers" (as I am sorely tempted to do myself) but the author does a good job coveying the love of graffiti that these kids have as well as their need to connect. That's why I read Saturday Night. It connects.

broken pencil: Spring 2000
The last time I reviewed bp, I criticized them for being too negative in their zine reviews and not being descriptive enough. I'm happy to report that bp has improved on this front (although some reviews could stand to be more descriptive and critical). I bring forth further good news: there are a couple really well-written articles in this bp: 'a sociological analysis of motivation in youth avocational subculture' and an interview with Stephen Duncombe, author of the best treatise on zines that I've ever read, "Notes From Underground: Zines and the Politics of Alternative Culture". There is a definite theme in this "Are Zines Dead?" issue: just because zines are no longer new does not mean that zines are no longer relevant. This issue of broken pencil helped me to keep the faith.

Harper's Magazine: March 2000
It's a strange issue of Harper's this month. The cover article presents a short but strong argument that obesity should be made a larger concern in America especially as most of the country's obese are poor and unhealthy. What follows is a weird jazz-like riff on Lyndon Johnson and an "Outsider Artist" Ike Morgan. I initially skipped "Confessions of a Lapsed Oboist" because it sounded deadly boring, but when I started it I found that it was a great diatribe against who the author calls the "Music Is My Bag" people - or who I used to call "The Band People" when I was in school. Canada's own culture-slut, Mark Kingwell, contributes a review of Walter Benjamin's Arcade Project. Then, there is such an enthusiastic and glowing review of the work of Matthew Barney - a video artist who's art is a testimony to the testicle - that at first, I thought the author was being sarcastic. I haven't been mentioning the monthly map feature of Harper's, but I'm starting now: on the back page there is a map of the hate groups of America.

Toronto Life: March 2000
Not surprisingly, most of this issue is unabashedly about Toronto: a profile of Colin Vaughan by his son, an argument why the Toronto District School Board should be scrapped, a profile on the neighbourhood of Gloucester, and a write-up on the president of the Toronto Stock Exchange, Barbara Stymiest. But the cover story should be understandable to most Canadians: it is an argument that - drugs or no drugs - Ben Johnson should be considered the greatest Canadian athlete of the 20th century. Personally, I found the argument weak but the author does make a good case that perhaps we should be more sympathetic to the man. We now live in a  world that doesn't seem to mind Mark McGwire's performance enhancers and no longer holds the IOC as a credible bearer of ethics. Maybe now is the time to forgive Ben Johnson.

COLORS: February / March 2000
The theme of this issue of COLORS is monoculture - something that the cover doesn't really convey very well. But inside is good, standard COLORS fare.  What I learned: there are serious and deliberate efforts being taken to make the global palate uniform and blander. Another: chewing gum was banned in Singapore not because of litter but because political prisoners were using gum to block automatic doors on metro trains. How can this magazine, which is funded by a global clothing company (Benetton), find a safe irony-free place to criticize monoculture? Their answer is from a reprinted excerpt from their first issue: "While COLORS is being distributed globally, in five bilingual editions, we feel funny about being global. It makes us feel like we're McDonalds and we're not. We don't want to sell our culture to you. We want us to tell us about your culture." Regardless of whether you believe that, reading COLORS will add spice to your monoculture world.

Adbusters: Spring 2000
There's a loose theme of suburbia to this issue. There's a criticism of landscapers, of teenagers and suburbs ("telling quote: "In the aftermath of the Columbine High School tragedy... it seems to me that the finger of blame should be pointed back at us and where we live - the track housing developments") and an interview with Geography of Nowhere author, James H. Kunstler.  I have had a long standing interest in the relationship of suburbia and the culture it creates but I found the articles lacking: they were simply too short. They were more like vignettes than arguments. That's what's so weird about Adbusters these days - space that would have been dedicated to words are now used in expansive photospreads. It's as if the magazine is a testimony to the image rather than the word - which is a pretty weird impression of something called "Adbusters".

WIRED: March 2000
I'm simply just going to stop talking about not buying WIRED ever again because its obvious that I'm hopelessly addicted. Before all its content, WIRED has placed a special report on Microsoft and how even in the light of the upcoming favourable ruling for the DoJ, the CEOs of Silicon Valley are too afraid to testify against Bill. Other articles cover speculation of how bots will change e-commerce, Missyplicity : a project to clone a beloved dog, another start-up story : this one from some Harvard undergrad, the guys that are still faithful to their TRS-80s and their Commodore 64s, and how Rupert Murdoch is taking to the Net. There are also smaller bits on India's silicon valley, Bangalore, on the folks who create their own nations, and a photospread on high-tech bicycles, which thrilled Ghengis - so I'm assuming it's good.

This Magazine: January / February 2000
This issue of THIS wasn't nearly as fine as it's previous issue, but that would have been a pretty tall order. Surprisingly, there's not much on WTO but what's there is priceless. THIS found out that some days after WTO, Glamour Magazine had left a message with the  Toronto office of TAO Communications - a cooperative of cultural workers and activists - saying that they were looking for women (between the ages of 20-35) to profile. As a response, THIS has made a protester's style guide ("A made-at-home antidote to tear gas and pepper spray involves a quick and easy solution of baking soda and vinegar"). There are also snippets on futurist George Gilder, a guide to the Left in Canada, and a lefty Christian timeline. Articles include Sky Gilbert explaining the "End of Gay" movement and other explainers on Hacktivism, the BC Green Party and the BC NDP party (can't really say much about these: I don't think I can ever understand BC politics).

Shift Magazine: March 2000
As the cover attests, this is an issue of lighter fare. Smaller items include a top ten porn list, a profile on the creator of Fametracker and Hissyfit, a story of teaching Hassidic women the web, a simplistic piece on world population forecasting, the Annual Singles convention that was held in the Silicon Valley, and an introduction to Third Voice. The only item of length in this issue is a profile on Theresa Duncan who has created three CD-ROMs (including Chop Suey), a film called "The History of Glamour", and is now being paid to come up with ideas for new VH-1 TV shows. Why is this deemed worthy of a profile? Well, she's also "model-beautiful" and has a New York movin' and shakin' lifestyle. So there. Well, at least I can be comforted that she didn't get the cover photo: that was saved for a Bill Gates impersonator (who also gets his own profile). So while I have misgivings of this month's profile choice, I still liked Shift-lite. Everyone needs a good slack from time to time, especially the New Media.

Ms. Magazine: February 2000
Unlike other women's magazines, Ms. spends space on disadvantaged women from around the world - women who still don't have the right to vote or own property or marry and divorce independently (as a very nice touch, Ms. provides addresses like Amnesty International, so that one can write to the responsible governments in protest). In light of these gross injustices, Ms. can only address the serious issues that still affect North American women, such as those addressed in this issue: a lawyer who visits battered women in their homes, underpaid part-time faculty (who are mostly women), author Natalie Angier - author of "Women: An Intimate Geography", going underground to escape a dangerous ex-husband, and how the media handles motherhood. What I mean to say is, Ms. can never be as frivolous as Bust or as mindless as other women's magazines which makes Ms. less fun to read but all the more important. 

Saturday Night: February 2000
It's a thin issue of Saturday Night with only two substantial articles. The cover story is about covering the story of Paul Martin's non-leadership bid for head of the Liberal Party. Evidently, if Paul Martin even mentions that he has any ambition to be the next Prime Minister, it pisses off Cretien and causes him to take action against Paul. This is the context for the ensuing dance of words between Paul Martin and author, Guy Larson. The second piece profiles the men who defuse land mines around the world. From the "It Came From Canada" department: we gave the world the white line that separates the lanes on the road. 


Toronto Life: February 2000
Frank Magazine: January 12, 2000
It's Trophy Wife Night in Canada. TOLife profiles Canadian gold-digger Anne-Marie Sten in an oddly sympathetic and not unkind manner. Frank Magazine, which is always unkind, really doesn't have much to add about Anne-Marie and (Marlen) other than that they've recently joined a weight-loss ashram. TOLife also has some fine little pieces on such Toronto fixtures as the TheatreBooks bookstore, public radio station CJRT, Fifth Wheel truck stops, and Rochdale College. For more sorid reading, there's the story behind the Loomis heist and the 1999 Toronto Murder Map. In Frank, the best read is the gossip behind all the nation's major papers. The "Top 100 Wankers" is disappointing - there's not even 100 in the list, which says volumes about the present level of celebrity in Canada.

Harper's: February 2000
The bulk of this issue is taken up by two articles on George W. Bush. The first follows the money that follows "W" and it's a pretty damning account that the money-power relationship is more causation than correlation. The second article reviews the restoration of the Bush legacy from a historical standpoint and concludes that if it is to be like previous restorations, "W" is guaranteed to disappoint. There's a "letter" from Belarus and a story from Jack London from the archives. Ending the issue, New York: A Documentary Film (PBS) is reviewed and dissed as the city is "treated like a celebrity". I preferred the reviews of books dealing with marriage which subscribe to my notion that marriage is a separate matter from romance altogether.

WIRED: February 2000
I was just about to swear off WIRED, but as January was a dry month magazine-wise, I broke down and picked it up. I was surprised; this issue didn't disgust me. The cover article on "cybernetics pioneer Kevin Warwick" is breezy and speculative. The article that follows the New York Times Digital division bid for an IPO is a good one too. It asks what are the ramifications of digital reporters getting lots of cash and leaving the "traditional" journalists none the richer. There's a profile of TED conference holder, wunderbrat Richard Saul Wurman (canuck alert: watch out for ads for TEDCity) and of a new search engine called Autonomy. The only thing that really soured me was the piece on how dot.coms were using brassy commercials during the Superbowl (nothing can get me to watch football, certainly not commercials). Word watch: two WIRED articles make use of the phrase "skunk works" which Merriam-Webster tells me, originated from Al Capp. Hey, that makes two independent references to Li'L Abner! It's an official trend!

The Economist: January 21, 2000
It was years until I actually gave the Economist a fair chance. With a name like The Economist, I always had it figured as a business rag. But once I actually gave it a fair shake, I realized it was clearly the best news magazine out there. Time Magazine, USNews, and Newsweek can't hold a candle to the Economist's superior writing, analysis, and dry wit. I don't read the Economist regularly though. Actually, I couldn't if I wanted to: The Economist cranks out more than a hundred pages of small print fortnightly (it is British, you know) on politics and economics with no arts or entertainment filler. I'm still working through this issue.

The Wealthy Boomer: Volume 2, Issue 1
God, I loathe this magazine (let me count the ways). Sure, it's supposed to "In pursuit of wealth, wisdom, and well-being" but with like "Wealthy Boomer" you know that it's all about the loonies. Indeed, most pages deal with taxes. Trouble is, in order to shore up such a boring topic, most of the writers use metaphors that are ludicrous and almost to the point of being offensive. An example: in the article that complains about the poor selection by the provincial government-run liquor board the author states that "it's like having Joseph Stalin as your personal sommelier" (suffer the little boomers) The "well-being" articles are laughable. Out of shape? Hire a personal trainer. Stressed? Go to a spa. And did you know there is money in Beatles collectibles? This magazine is for those sad "Atlas Shrugged" admirers; those who think that as they are the "finest brains" they should not have to suffer "economic enslavement". Don't trust anyone over 40.

The Baffler: Number 13
The New Economy celebrates the goatee wearing dot.com IPO'd CEO. But it didn't always use to be this way. In fact, it wasn't so long ago when the hero of the right was the average joe, the self-made man that made up the "silent majority" of right-wing populism. This issue of The Baffler examines "the personalities and movements and ideas that made right-wing populism possible". Like the Legionnaires (who actively fought those not with '100 percent Americanism'), Reader's Digest (who worked with the CIA), Li'L Abner (a comic that was the people's own until Al Capp seemed to switch sides), Hilton Kramer (crotchety art critic), and the John Birch Society (an organization that went from anti-communist to anti-UN). The issue is a good history lesson and a good reminder that populism - both left and right - has been readily fading in the thirty years, and is almost gone from sight.

Whole Earth: Winter 1999
This issue's theme is fire, and that's fire in a physical sense, not a metaphorical sense. Articles cover fire in the watershed, burning through the ages, fire fighting, fire-loving species, how cells "combust" metabolic fuels, the Need Fire (a community fire jumping ritual), Burning Man, a story of arson, the Hindu myth of the marriage of Shiva and Uma, the hearth, a history of ignition, cooking with fire, the fire of hysteria in New York 1741, burning libraries and churches, restorative fires, and green chemistry. Yeah, it's a granola magazine, but it is in the truest sense of the word: it's a hearty mix of stuff that's good for you.

Harper's: January 2000
Harper's commemorates the year 2000 with "The Index of the Millennium" which means that there are three pages of odd facts as opposed to the regular one page. But the real commemoration is the feature article, "The Unfinished Twentieth Century" which argues that culturally the century will not end until we put away our nuclear weapons. Another fin de sicle piece is the discussion of privacy in the electronic age which covers some of the problems but fails to recommend any solutions other than learning to "hide in plain sight". My favourite bit of the magazine was from the "Readings" section: a reprint of some of the electoral statements from Britain's House of Lords. Those dudes are weirder than Monty Python.

COLORS: December 99 / January 00
Normally I would give default orders to pick up COLORS if you see it, but these are strange days: I suggest to give this issue a miss. This issue's theme is 'mother' and its really tempting to give a Freudian analysis of their treatment of the subject as all their coverage is dark and negative and there's really nothing positive at all... pages spent on infancide, but none on lullabies. There are 'shocking' images (used tampons, crotch shots, dead babies) but no 'enlightening' ones that surprise us. I think it's telling that COLORS treats kitchy objects with more bemused respect than moms. My sister said that this issue was a real downer and I couldn't agree more.

WIRED: 8.01 : January 2000
Ok, I vowed never to pick up WIRED again but then I saw this issue and said, hey! there's no loving profile on some venture capitalist... it's all dedicated to future speculation. So I gave WIRED another chance, largely because it featured an article by Bruce Sterling, who, in my eyes, does no wrong when writing magazine pieces. His vision of a viridian 21st century New York - filled with modular buildings made from bamboo - was no exception. Unfortunately, no other writer crafts a future in this issue as well. What's more, there are three articles that expounds space travel just because there's a market for taking millionares into space. WIRED's future? Same as it ever was.

shift: Jan/Feb 2000
Well, the year 2000 is almost upon us. And the question that everyone is asking is: "WHERE ARE THE FREAKING ROBOTS?" The cover article of this issue of shift looks into the future by looking into our past through previous World Fairs. Unfortunately, not much is gleaned other than that previous designers loved a streamlined look and the space program ended up being a lot more boring than expected. While the other feature articles are better, they cover territory that is not exactly new to the net-savvy: slashdot and McSweeney's. On a more positive note, the magazine looks beautiful and has some great items such as a photo spread of the Vintage Computer Festival and a synopsis of recent French music.

Canadian Geographic: 2000 Annual
If you are a Nuck (short for Canuck; 'nuck' is slang not found in the real world but in David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest; I want to introduce it into the wild) or if you love maps, then pick up this issue by gum! All the articles in this 134 page annual is related to mapping and in so, covers cognitive maps, mapping history, what happens when a city is taken off a map, talking maps for the blind, animal navigation, navigation by song, misadventures in mapping, Geographical Information Systems (GIS), the Nisga'a land claim, mapping space, mapping green-space, mapping lake bottoms, mapping the carbon sink, and even more. And, to boot, it includes a map of Canada which features our newest territory, Nunavut. Mine is on already on my wall.

Adbusters: Winter 2000
"The journal of the mental environment" uses works of fiction to bring about the paradigm shift that (they think) we so desperately need. One work tries to portrays the emptiness of a decadent road trip and the other recounts a before and after transformation of a soul-dead Australian businessman. With mixed results. One essay twists the 'you deserve it' message of advertising to ask 'how much do I deserve?'. The strongest article, IMHO, is by editor Kalle Lasn who laments the 1886 decision that entitled corporations the same rights as people. Also included is a photospread of notable revolutions (since the sixties) just to remind the reader that no one saw these revolutions coming. So do not despair if you think that the upcoming post-consumer revolution seems beyond reach. Adbusters assures that they could just be behind the next corner.

the rain barrel
extremely digestible maglog


the 1999 rain barrel
extremely digestible maglog archive