Anybody who knows me well enough can attest that I am a junkie; A magazine junkie. I know, you might be too. I've written about it in my magazine when we hit our 150th issue last year. And I typically spend up to $100 when I hit one of my favorite NY newsstands. Tonight, it was a post-dusk trip to my local Centerfold Newsstand (716 N Fairfax Ave).
I was in one of those media consumption moods, which meant I wasn't leaving before spending the price of a tank of gas. And I walked out of there with a diverse range of titles that says a lot about the state of print media and my love for it still.
Here's an overview of tonight's cop:
Us Weekly—This was an impulse buy, right as I was checking out. Totally. I swear. I actually have a very good reason for picking this up and it's not to see Jennifer Anniston's liposuction scars (I don't believe it!). I grab Jann Wenner's gossip machine so I can have at least a cursory understanding of the state of celebrity culture. I can't avoid MTV, not watch reality TV, and not read the tabloids. Something has to give and I refuse to spend my days on Perez Hilton (Even though URB was his first cover). And, hell, Us is the greatest bathroom reading ever.
Canteen (The State of Creation)—(Issue three) I have never seen this one before tonight but it was one of the first I picked up. I've been more curious about uncoated papers and unique trim sizes too, so it's nearly square shape was appealing. Canteen had physical attractiveness and a provocative anti-theme. A quick flip through the pages had me sold with its curious mix of art, writing, photography and culture. Plus, a cover with a bunch of 'Flying V' guitars on it—get outta here! Footnote: After going to their website, I see that Canteen sees itself as a "literary magazine." Glad that wasn't on the cover—it'd still be sitting at Centerfold.
Nylon Guys—I have mixed feelings about Marvin Scott Jarrett, the creative force behind Ray Gun, Bikini, Nylon and Nylon Guys. He's a real, wait for it, maverick in the publishing game. I pick up Nylon Mens mainly because Jarrett does such a good job of pulling in advertisers and I need to do what publishers do: Steal ads. But I also like the stripped down approach to editorial and content. Nylon Mens isn't some pretty boy shop fest like the now defunct Cargo was. It's more of an indie kid (read: white dudes) version of Marc Ecko's Complex. Nylon's cover statement is "Not for Girls." How perfect. I don't have to read the table of contents, since it never deviates much from its mission to be chock full of service editorial and hip couture. It's pretty much a buy-on-sight book, so props Mr. Jarrett.
New York—(Oct 13th issue) This is one of the best magazines on the newsstand, period. Regardless of what city you live in, I'd recommend New York. From its excellent art direction—at times, genius replacement governor David Paterson, who took over for disgraced Elliot —to its spot-on editorial. As the magazine that covers the broadest swath of life in the Big Apple, its appeal ranges from politics (this month's cover on NY'sSpitzer) to fashion, to gallery listings, to street culture. There doesn't seem to be a strata of the New York state of mind that is excluded from this bi-weekly tome. If you don't want to cop for the mag, the website is top notch too. Footnote: I stopped subscribing to the mag because they insist on highlighting fur in their editorial. Shame on you, New York.
Theme—(Issue 16) Theme bills itself as "Global Asian Culture" and that about sums it up. It's also one of my favorite indie stalwarts, produced by a lovely couple (John Lee and Jiae Kim) that calls the Lower East Side their home. Its production value is refined, which isn't a surprise given the great content. Most issues carry a, ahem, theme, and this month's is 'Girls Rock'. (Funny, I agree with them—but I digress.) Theme typically takes a look at an array of Asian-influenced culture, including retail, fashion and media. It's no news flash that Asian is the new black, but this book resists over-hyping the obvious or propping up clichés. The vast cultural implications of Theme's content stretch far beyond its mantra's gist.
Good—(Issue 13: The Election Issue) You've probably seen Good because of its unique mission in print—the benevolent guide. It also has deep pockets fueled by the inheritance of its millionaire 20-something co-founder Ben Goldhirsh. Goldhirsh would be easy to write off, but he's a sharp and well spoken dude so I quickly bought in when it launched. Between promotions like donating your subscription price to the charity of your choice, they dedicate entire issues to teaching you how to make a positive difference in the world. Or, at least, understand how not to do so much bad. And none of it comes across to me as too preachy. Physically, I love the feel of the book as well, with its matte paper and proletariat design.
W—(The Art Issue) W is Condé Nast and they're beasts (see my take on some of their recent controversy). They own Vogue, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, Wired and a slew of other newsstand killers. I rarely pick up a copy of W, but I'll tell you what I do like about the book. For starters, the size. It's so brash these days to have an over-sized magazine. It says I don't care about the environment, gas prices or blocking out the sun over the news rack. And for a big girl, W is hot—from its art direction to its cover. What made me buy this copy was that it was "The Art Issue" (plus Brad Pitt's photos of, yawn, Angelina). Condé Nast also doesn't skimp one presentation, so this baby is chuck full of beautiful spreads, sophisticated design and great supersized photography and artwork. I just wish—like New York—they'd ditch the fur too. Sigh.
No, seriously, I like to grab a British men's mag every once and a while and Arena is best of breed. They practically defined the genre which has busted at the seams over the past couple decades in the UK. The content is pure indulgence—from sex to cars to furniture. Forget converting that designer sofa price to dollars, you can't afford it anyway. It's all aspirational, bro, so just close your eyes. Footnote: This issue of Arena has a matte cover and some spot varnishing. Not sure if that's a temporary change but the last one I picked up was in their signature super glossy package. I like the dull coat, it's a fresh feel.
Step: Inside Design—(September/October 2008) Step is for designers (web, print, etc) and, like the name implies, gives you more of a behind-the-scenes examination of process from an industry vantage point. For designers and visual artists, the newsstand is a paper playground. The graphic arts section is immense and international (and expensive), but I can't allow myself to get too lost in there. Another of my favorite in the genre is Print. This issue of Step takes a look at the "Best of the Web 2008." Oddly, pure/ROKER wasn't listed.
Fader—(Issue 57) Yes, this is another URB competitor, but I don't hate. I elevate. Can't take much away from the Fader. It's carved out its own arena of downtown indie rock culture meets uptown swagger. It's got British aesthetic built into its DNA and the photography is top notch. This current issue features former URB cover stars TV on the Radio (BTW, get their album now). It's also their photo issue, which made me grab it even though I know there's one showing up in my mail any day now. Ahhh, can you smell that? That's instant gratification.
Q—(November 2008) Q is quite simply a music institution. Much like how the British came to define Rock with Zeppelin, the Stones, et al, Q magazine defines music rags. This issue appears to mark a major redesign. "All New Look" is splashed in metallic silver across the cover. Inside, it's hard to tell what's changed, besides some iconography and maybe font selection. Magazine redesigns are like when your girlfriend gets her hair cut: It's mostly for her ego, but she'd prefer you notice the few centimeters she cut off. From first glance, this is more of a refreshing, which is always tough for legacy titles like this to pull off. I typically get Q as more of a check up on what our across-the-pond cousins are into these days. To give you a taste, this issue has Barack Obama, John Oates (Um, yeah, of Hall & Oates), AC/DC, Santogold and a bunch of new British bands that are making noise.
So, I'm curious, how would you have spent your $77?
In 1990, I co-founded a magazine called URB (urb.com) in Los Angeles. URB captures an intimate view of progressive urban sounds and landscapes in print and online. Beyond my day job, I also explore the world of politics, race and culture, photography and media (new and old). pure/ROKER is designed to be a living and shared notebook of the most discussion worthy aspects. Enrichment is encouraged. Debate and disagreement unavoidable. And dissent welcomed. As always, please leave a comment if you're inspired, subscribe to my RSS or email me anytime at email@example.com.