Friday, March 10, 2006

reading material

A recent discussion with a friend left me questioning why I still bother to subscribe to Sports Illustrated, given its decline. The answer: My grandparents get it for me every Christmas, and it's simple for them to send in the renewal form.

Here's my rankings of the magazines I subscribe to:

1. OUTSIDE MAGAZINE

Likes: It's the king of magazines. Excellent adventure stories of inspiring feats. It's got some of the best writers on the planet. It's at the forefront of political battles over ANWR and land squabbles in the West. You don't need to be an outdoors junkie to like this magazine.

If you want a sample of its excellent features, read this article when you have about 40 minutes to give it your undivided attention. It might be the best magazine article I read in 2005.

Dislikes: Forced to come up with one, I'll tell you that I'm tired of its fawning over Bode Miller.

At first, I was a fan of this cat. I didn't necessarily endorse his drunken skiing, but it was nice to hear someone speak their mind with little care about which pompous, tired beauracrats they would offend. His 60 Minutes interview was solid.

But then this yahoo kept yammering through the entire Olympics about how he didn't care about winning, how he wanted to go away and be left alone. How he's anti-capitalism (but wears no less than eight corporations' logos in every possible photo shoot).

Thankfully, he's in his 14th minute.

2. THE NEW YORKER

Likes: Technically, this is Ericka's magazine subscription. Since I read it almost every week, however, it gets lumped into my rankings. It has a deep well of insight that no other magazine can match. Every week, there are meaty stories about the guy behind the guy in the Iraq War.

Dislikes: The New Yorker can get way too snooty.

3. MEN'S HEALTH

Likes: Every month, there's a couple adjustments to my workout that come courtesy of Men's Health. It keeps my routine fresh. It also has a lot of health/nutritional information that I read religiously every month.

Dislikes: A lot of it is geared toward corporate clowns. There are many a story advising Johnny Former Fratboy on how he can move up the food chain and grab that corner office. Also, its "Affordable Fashion" section is ludicrous, particularly when it displaying sweaters that cost $250 bones.

Also, the feature stories bland more times than not.

4. BUSINESS WEEK

Likes: It brings out my geekdom in full. I like reading about stocks and whatnot, along with perhaps planning for my retirement. Also, this will sound strange, but it spawns a lot of interesting sports stories.

Dislikes: The obligatory profile on some hotshot CEO. Yawn.

5. AIRPLANE OWNER AND PILOT

Likes: As soon as this arrives in the mail, I immediately flip to the "Never Again" section, which profiles a flight gone awry once a month. I'd much rather learn about danger in flying from other peoples' mistakes than my own. Most accidents aren't the result of one sudden clusterfuck. There's typically a chain of errors, so it's a great study aid to read about what these pilots were thinking each step along the way during their accident flights.

Dislikes: Each month, they spend a couple of pages profiling the specs of a new aircraft. Since I'm not in the market for a ride that costs $250K on the low end to $18 million on the high side, these are useless to me.

6. FOOD AND WINE

Likes: The sleeper of the group.

I received the subscription as a gift, but you might be surprised to know I was a fanatic when it came to watching Chef Tell on PM Magazine as a four-year-old. Then I graduated to watching Pasquale's Kitchen Express sometime around eighth grade. He was this old-school Italian cat who sang while he cooked and poured more wine in his mouth than in the food. You could watch him get drunk. It was hilarious.

These were hard-core cooks, who toiled in an era before Emeril made it fashionable to host a cooking show.

Anyway, back to my cooking, it's something I like to do. Also, the wine portion is nice, because it offers stuff that's in a price range that I find realistic. It's not all $200 bottles. There are some in the $9 vicinity that are good.

Dislikes: Some of the recipes involve things that take entire days or weekends to cook. I won't be using those.

7. SPORTS ILLUSTRATED

As a preface, I'm going to admit it's still a pretty good magazine. But my comments will probably be skewed decidedly toward the negative, if only because it used to be so much better.

Likes: Gary Smith's three bylines per year justify the subscription price. S.L. Price and Bill Nack are bonuses.

Dislikes: Where to begin?

First and foremost, Sports Illustrated has abandoned its quality in a poor attempt to compete with ESPN Magazine's clownish, booyah antics. The result is it loses substance, and also don't do ESPN as well as ESPN does. It's stuck in a magazine netherworld.

It has also cut the news hole. The mag feels thinner every week at the mailbox, because it IS thinner. And what they do with their now-limited space is a shame.

It starts with the 30-odd pages of fluff that now kick off the mag. I don't care who Derek Jeter is dating now, nor do I care about "SI People," which profiles what hip-hop artist Terrell Owens might be listening to right now. It's like they turned SI into People. That's all lost on me.

More often, the bigger features are book excerpts, not staff-written copy. The editors are sitting on a mountain of talented writers, but then fill the space with outside stuff. Doesn't make sense.

Last but not least, Rick Reilly is unreadable.

No exaggeration. Absolutely un-fucking-readable.

Once, he was a very good columnist and a hell of a feature writer. Now he's a washed-up, self-promoting, humorless douchebag. Almost every week, he interjects himself into his columns. It's like he can't help himself.

Sometimes he doesn't even bother to write a column. He'll instead do some sort of ridiculous referee sketch. It's embarrassing. Its worse than watching Michael Jordan play in his last season with the Wizards. He's that fucking bad.

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4 Comments:

At 4:11 PM, Blogger todd a said...

I must admit....I do occasionally chuckle at Reilly's column.

Then again, I thought Terry Shea was competent. What do I know?

You are way too cultured for me. No skin mags on your list? No Maxim? No Playboy? No pamphlets los mexicanos hand out on the Vegas Strip?

 
At 11:17 AM, Blogger Pete said...

Cat,

Maxim's act tired a while ago.

As for the others, I prefer Penthouse over Playboy.

(When I was compiling my list, I was focused on mags that automatically arrive in my mailbox, not the ones that arrive in a nondescript brown paper bag from the local Gas N Go. Sorry for the confusion).

 
At 8:57 AM, Blogger Dan said...

Maxim is garbage. It's yet another example of a magazine that caters to "readers" who don't have the attention span to read a story with more than 500 words.

 
At 10:22 PM, Blogger Pete said...

In other words, DA, just like Sports Illustrated.

 

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