Archive for November, 2008

Moss (Heart): New York Honch’s Limited Engagement

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My unofficial experiment with the Nov. 3 issue of New York involved lots of pain medication and 15 minutes earmarked for a flip through Adam Moss’ redux of this grotty Gotham bible.  The results?  Five minutes left over to cut the more direct transmissions from Planet Lortab and also plan my dream wedding to the new editor-in-chief.  Anyone who can make New York digestible in under 10 minutes is clearly worth keeping around.

 

0:00-0:15…02:15-02:50:  Barack Obama Cover and Story

New York banner is almost completely obliterated by the first portrait of Obama I’ve seen where he actually looks black.  Inside, this new “urbanization” of Obama reveals itself as “let’s just not light him.”

 

00:30-01:05:  Intelligencer Page

Where’s Kurt Andersen?  I actually read the Justin Ravitz item on Lindsay Lohan.  I’ll make up the time later.  Li.Lo’s no account father is slamming Li.Lo’s gal pal Samanthan Ronson, but at the end of the item dad retracts because he’s a “Christian.”  Shouldn’t he just stone them both and get it over with?  My favorite mention is the one about the father’s “noncelebrity son.”  Son’s name appears in bold anyway.

 

01:05-01:27:  Intelligencer Page Two

One of those cheap New York cutouts of either Sarah Palin or Tina Fey: really tired of trying to discern those two.

 

01:27-01:37:  Intelligencer Page Three (math+teachers=who cares?)

Weird, early Todd Haynes-styled art really slows me down.  I think the portrait of Mattel’s Ken and Barbie might portent one of the real reasons I read New York.  Maybe a cashed-crazed Hamptons wife offed her hubby?  Perhaps there’s some big deal art heist?  Maybe someone famous had plastic surgery?  Turns out to be about Lehman Bros.  Bummer.  If Li.Lo stays out of the rest of the issue, I’ll make up the time.

 

01:37-01:55:  Party Lines!

I’d light a cigarette if I smoked.  This page is a triumph.  Tab-collared Karl Lagerfeld looks like his head is now levitating two feet above his neck.  Patti LaBelle’s starting to look Asian.  Stay away from those red, silk kimonos, Patti and Karl, but more Party Lines!

 

02:50-03:40:  Second Feature in the Well

There are three Billy Elliots on Broadway.  This feature seems remarkably reminiscent of one that ran in Time Out London when there were three Billy Elliots on the West End the summer The Tube blew up.  Next!

 

03:40-04:10:  Third Feature in the Well (But I Think I’m Still in Thatcher’s UK)

Unwittingly stumble into New York Knicks feature, thinking, wow, one of the Billy Elliots is really hairy.

 

04:10-04:15:  British Airways ad Separating Features from Strategist.

Come on, I’m not the only reader who saw Billy Elliot in London.  Get on the stick, Adam.

 

04:15-04:30:  Best Bets

Really bad layout on hoodies.  Candy Pratts Price, where are you?

 

04:30-05:15:  Look Book

Hot boy in a McCain/Palin hat assuming the traditional Republican “do me” position.  I probably would.  Oh, this is that stupid fashion thing where they highlight what “real’ New Yorkers are wearing.  I’d settle for Corky Pollan at this point.

 

05:15-05:27:  Food

Restaurants I can’t afford unless I’m reviewing them.  Hey, I thought Gael Greene was dead?  Can’t wait to hear what Pauline Kael makes of High School Musical 3: Senior Year.

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05:49-06:22:  More Winter Travel

Shotgun shooting really close to Syracuse in Milford, Penn.  Cool.

 

06:30- 06:46:  Art

Since when did New York snatch up Jerry Saltz for their art page?  Not bad for a former truck driver.  He’s on about some art fair in London: those British Airways adverts don’t pay for themselves.

 

07:37:-08:00: Approval Matrix

Woo-whoo!  Liza on Broadway.

 

08:00-08:41: Agenda

How is just Billy Corrigan still Smashing Pumpkins?  Sarah Silverman, take a break.

 

08:41-08:47: Movies

Don’t tease a good movie (Rosemary’s Baby) with a better movie (The Bad Seed).  Pauline?

 

08:47-08:54: Still Movies

Zidane is starred.  Now here’s a listings ed. I can live with.  I mean, if Adam’s open to that type of arrangement.

 

–Tony Phillips

 

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Bipartisanship means being two-faced

 

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      For a brief moment, while looking at a magazine stand one mid-October day, I thought I had fallen into a wormhole that let me coexist in two parallel universes. 

     I saw Jimmy Kimmel urging me to vote Democrat – “so this damn thing can finally be over” – from the cover of GQ. He was grinning; smeared with lipstick marks, while a sultry Marilyn Monroesque model peeked over his shoulder. It must feel badass pretending to be John F. Kennedy.

     Then I saw (in a blink and a slight shift to the left of an eye) Jimmy Kimmel urging me to vote Republican – “so this damn thing can finally be over” – from the cover of GQ. His gelled hair was slicked back and his fingers were doing a V sign – that’s V for victory, Richard Nixon’s trademark “cool” move.

     The two separate November issues were GQ’s “unprecedented act of bipartisanship.” The cover photos were part of a series of Kimmel presidential impersonations that also included his rendition of Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, and Lyndon B. Johnson.

     To my disappointment, the feature, titled “Inaugurate This!,” had nothing to do with presidents or the election. At best, it was a bland behind-the-scenes look at the comedian’s personal and professional life. Why the misleading art then?

     It’s understandable that GQ – like most other glossies – got swept away by the election fever. Who didn’t? But instead of going for a multi-page endorsement like The New Yorker, Atlantic, and Rolling Stone, it pulled a Switzerland and decided to stay on middle ground.

     Which brings me to my main point: how “bipartisan” can GQ be if it chooses Nixon as the poster child of the Republican Party? All that the cover was missing was a  bubble coming out of Kimmel’s mouth with the words, “I’m not a crook!” 

     At the risk of playing devil’s advocate, shouldn’t they have chosen a more traditional Republican hero? Perhaps Ronald Reagan in a Stetson or Teddy Roosevelt with a big stick?

     In the letter from the editor, Jim Nelson urges everyone to cast his or her emotions aside and vote. He warns about blind fanaticism, offering as an example his grandmother’s blind crush on Nixon (what a strange coincidence). But he himself admits to feeling the same sentiment for Obama. 

     So, maybe GQ is not that bipartisan after all. But why the subtle hint? Had I been the editor, I would have gone all out; a Nixon with horns, flaming eyes, piercing fangs, and a pitchfork.

– Cristina Luiggi

The Daily Beast: A News Paradise

The problem with the news these days is that there’s too much of it.  When David Remnick, the Editor of The New Yorker, gave a talk at Syracuse University, he outlined his morning reading ritual, which consisted of reading through several news websites and print publications.  As much as we all aspire to match Remnick’s news habits, maybe they’re a bit unrealistic for most people.  Most of us wake up, gulp down a cup of coffee, glance at our e-mails, and check out one news website.  Maybe two, if we’re feeling ambitious.

Tina Brown, the former editor of The New Yorker, gets that most Americans simply don’t have the time, energy, or patience to thoroughly sift through all the news.  Her news website The Daily Beast launched on Oct. 16 and, like Arianna Huffington’s The Huffington Post, it serves to provide us with the big news of the day in one website.   The Daily Beast’s main function is to give readers a smart version of the news and, ultimately, save us time; indeed, The Daily Beast’s motto is “Read This Skip That.”

Unlike The Huffington Post, which is a jumble of dozens of stories, photos and ads, The Daily Beast is well organized, with three main colors (red, black, and white), and five manageable web pages.  Carefully placed buzz words, like “Cheat,” “Best,” “Magic,” and “Must,” entice the reader to check out new stories.

On Sunday Nov. 9, the homepage contained the top articles and videos from other sources and a surprisingly large collection of , seven, original stories. There was a story/blog by Tina Brown, called “Magic: How Obama Broke the Dark Spell,” and an article by Patricia Williams, a professor of law at Columbia University, called “Mutts Like Me,” which delves into the multiracial identity of 21st century Americans.

Tina Brown describes The Daily Beast “as a speedy, smart edit of the web from the merciless point of view of what interests the editors.”  That’s what I’m looking for.  I don’t want to waste time looking at dull lists of stories, psst… The Huffington Post; instead I want someone to ruthlessly select the interesting from the mundane and present it to me in a clear, engaging fashion.

Tina Brown’s decision to not use ads is genius.  Although Tina Brown says that she intends to build an audience first and then get advertisers, why not launch the first internet news website without ads instead?  Other similar news websites, like The New York Times, display over a dozen ads on every page, cluttering up the news content.  In contrast, The Daily Beast presents a clear, attractive news spread that’s easy to read.  It’s a news paradise.  In this fast paced world, isn’t that exactly what we need?

Now, I realize that without ads, there’s no revenue.  But what if an ad-free news website is the way to beat out the other competition?  If The Daily Beast can become the main source of online news, perhaps Tina Brown will find another way to make money.  Maybe, if The Daily Beast gets popular enough, it’ll be able to sell news stories for $0.99, just like iTunes does.

–Katie Photiadis

The Cover Story

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This November, the Atlantic got the eighth thorough redesign of its 151 years. By returning to an image-free cover, at least for this first issue, the magazine continues its historic search for balance between visuals and its intelligent words.

When the Atlantic made its debut in 1857, known as the Atlantic Monthly then, the first issue came into the readers’ hands with a simply black and white cover and a small centered image of John Winthrop, the founder of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, inside an antique floral border.

It was an era that words ruled absolutely. Billing itself as a “journal of literature, politics, science, and the arts,” the Atlantic proved it was good at that game with an illustrious roster of writers including Ralph Waldo Emerson, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and James Russell Lowell.

Images were ignored intentionally until November 1947 when the magazine’s 90th anniversary issue replaced the table of content they had used to put on the cover with a large illustration of Neptune and a unicorn. It was the first substantial redesign of the Atlantic, a sign of the magazine’s concession to images.

The Atlantic embraced the visual era, going on to win some 400 awards for illustration and design.

However, being a master in both fields also brought the editors new problems. During the seven redesigns, while the typefaces of the nameplate changed again and again, the trade-off between words and pictures on the covers continued throughout the years.

Now, the latest attempt of the magazine’s redesign, with a nameplate mimicking that of the 1930s and no picture but only bold yellow, black, and white words on a bright red background, seems to be an effort to recall the importance of its powerful words in a more modern way.

Frankly, I do not like the combination of the four colors. But the cover, very much like NewsMap, an experimental modern website that displays enormous amount of information in a “treemap” format, is a good balance between the old and new, bold and elegant.

As the most direct selling tool, covers sell magazines by tempting newsstand browsers to pick them up, and then open them, and then – we hope – buy.

Overwhelmed by tons of flamboyant cover images these days, I feel it more intriguing to pick up a magazine with a cover like this, which immediately arouses my curiosity of the stories inside.

As James Bennet, editor-in-chief, wrote in the November Editor’s Note, “The core of the Atlantic remains its wide-ranging feature stories. The redesign is intended to bring the rest of the magazine more in line with what the features have long been doing. ”

A magazine’s cover is more than simple decoration or packaging. It reflects the magazine’s very character. As for the Atlantic, I believe what the founders called “the American idea” exists in the power of words.

-Frances Wang

The Death of the Dollar in T+L

   

When the economy’s demise has people choosing between food, gas, or medication, spending on travel is almost unthinkable. So what should travel glossies do to keep from closing up shop? Travel + Leisure’s October issue is hopeful. Coverlines say it all: “25 Emerging Destinations Where the Dollar Still Goes Far.”

 T+L editors took a break from the usual $400 a night hotels and scoured the globe for cheaper retreats. The focus on Mexico, Asia, and—surprisingly—the Mediterranean, plays up the exotic, omits the humdrum, and even manages to squeeze Europe into the picture.  

A little troubling and almost too sneaky was the way the story was cut up. The destinations occupied 10 and a half pages in all, interrupted by huge features on Los Angeles and New Delhi (and a half-page ad on Shanghai). Now I don’t know if this was a cheap trick to make readers think L.A. and India wLLere part of the list, or if it was just poor pagination, but it was quite unsettling (or brilliant, for the advertising executive). Surely those pages could have been put somewhere—anywhere—else!

The feature opens with Mazatlan, Mexico, a not-so-forgotten town on the Pacific Coast “experiencing a renaissance.” Writer Jeff Spurrier plays diplomat and mentions two hotels at opposite ends of the spectrum; a traditional one that goes for $78 a night and a boutique hotel that costs $185. Not bad for a tourist-y spot. At least he gives you options. 

Among the more costly escapes on the list are Marquesas, Brazil, and Cyprus. The Hanakee Pearl Lodge in Marquesas—the only hotel in the island, they say—charges $267 a night. A night in Sao Miguel Dos Milagres, Brazil, can amount to $327 at Pousado de Toque. The Thalassa Boutique Hotel in Cyprus has doubles from $453. Apparently, my dollar doesn’t go too far in these places.

Still, the feature makes up for a few off-the-radar prices with more affordable stops in Europe and Africa. Gozo, Malta, has doubles from $44, while a night in a boutique hotel in Larache, Morocco, starts at $78.

 

Pranburi Coast, a three-hour drive south of Bangkok, is a nice break from the spotlighted beaches of Thailand. Forget Hua Hin or Phuket (the latter made famous and just a tad exploited by the Leonardo DiCaprio flick The Beach). Boutique hotels cost $117 – $135 for doubles but seaside meals (think stalls of yummy street food) can go as low as $5. Mind you, that’s lunch for two.

On a side note, what is up with all the boutique hotels in this piece? There are bound to be even c even heaper alternatives for lodging.

This doesn’t quite have me reaching for my passport, but it’s comforting to know the people at T+L are not totally oblivious to these trying times.

– Kris Alcantara

 

Elle Honors Women in Hollywood

I am a fan of Elle for the wide range of topics it covers. I love the fashion, advice columns, international stories, travel guides, and celebrity coverage. When Elle takes on a topic like film stars, it strikes a balance between brains and beauty that puts other sex-obsessed magazines to shame. Elle honors women for their career achievements- not just their physical appearance.

            This is Elle’s 15th annual Women in Hollywood issue, and seven women take the spotlight. In November’s issue, Elle spotlights seven women who have paved their own path.

            Each Hollywood icon is featured in identical spreads: black and white portrait by Gilles Bensimon, meaty mini –profile, Q &A sidebar, and five movie stills with related quotes. Cookie -cutter though the format may be, it packs a ton of information- and some revealing insights into each actress.  The interview focuses on their feelings about their career and their position in Hollywood.

            Halle Berry takes on more “emotionally raw” performances rather than capitalizing on her looks. Here’s a sampler with the money quote: “My process is trying to figure out how to funnel my own pain, my own rage, through a character.”

            Anne Hathaway has morphed into an in demand powerhouse A-lister through the variety of highly successful and difficult roles she has taken: “That was astonishing to be able to unequivocally say, I left my guts out there on that one, and I couldn’t have done any better.”

Sigourney Weaver, at 59, still gets leads in action and science fiction films, even though these are mostly male dominated roles: “Good stories have good women’s roles in them. You have to find them.”

            Salma Hayek maintains a successful acting career, as well as being a producer and director: “I realized I could step outside the business and do a lot less but a lot more effectively.”

            Isla Fisher tackles comedic roles and turns them into an art form: “Women can be as broad as men can and so many are wasted playing the eye roller or the love interest.”

            Jane Fonda has played strong female characters for her entire 40 year career: “On a scale of one to 10, 10 representing full and equal participation of women in Hollywood, I’d say we are about a six.”

Director Catherine Hardwicke makes films that tackle hard issues, like teen rebellion, and love: “You don’t want to be a badass and you don’t want to go in there and be hardcore, but if you don’t fight for it you won’t get it and it won’t be on the screen.”

             Women and their work are often overlooked. It’s uplifting to see women recognized for their professional achievements, and not just for their physical looks as “the hottest woman” or “sexiest star”. It’s a model for giving star treatment to creative professionals who also happen to be glamorous women.

            -Terri Rafferty

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Taiwan Travel, Without the Basics

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The October issue of the Condé Nast Traveler includes a series of features about Asian countries. One of them catches my eye immediately, because it covers my home country—Taiwan.

Surprise is my first reaction to this story. Since Taiwan is not a typical tourist spot, I rarely read articles about it in travel magazines, not to mention such a popular magazine as CNTraveler. I hope this article can successfully make readers plan a trip to Taiwan, but after reading the whole article, I feel it will not be a stimulus for tourists.

From the title “The Other China,” the story shows a clear angle in politics, which I think is not the most attractive point to tourists. Another confusing point is, the writer, Dorinda Elliott, almost omits all the tourist information, which makes the story impractical.

In the first paragraph, Elliott writes “Taiwan was once an affront to the mainland, a repository of everything that Mao wanted to wipe out.” She then describes lots of details about Taiwan’s political history, such as the civil war, early authoritarianism and the long-term relation with mainland China.

It is even too trivial for me, a Taiwanese who had learned a lot about the history of Taiwan. I can’t imagine it interesting a reader who barely knows these complicated events

What good is a travel article that doesn’t entice travelers to a destination based on its attractions? Elliott mentions a few – Dharma Drum Monastery, and the famous restaurant Dintaifung – but she skips Lungshan Temple, the most popular religious site in Taiwan, and ignores the delicious fares of Taipei Raohe Street Night Market.

CNTraveler’s principle is “Truth in Travel,” requiring writers to travel anonymously and pay their own way. The writers travel the way real people do, no matter good and bad. This kind of style might create original stories on countries that have been reported many times. But Taiwan does not suffer from over-exposure. Readers need basic information.

Unfortunately, Elliott’s story is more like an abstruse travel diary. It includes too many trifling observations and historical detours, and overlooks the key to attract visitors. The story succeeded at making me homesick, but it might never be a hook for Taiwan tourism. 

-Amy Su