Friday, January 27, 2012

Life on my own #17: Magazine subscriptions

I got my very first issue of The Atlantic in the mail this week! It was a pleasant surprise to find it in my quaint black mailbox when I got home from work. I wonder what the mailman thought about it?

Funny thing about magazines—you can get your first very own issue, complete with your name stamped on it like a monogram, while still having read the thing for years. Me, I grew up with Dad’s extraneous copies lying around, simply begging me to turn to Barbara Wallraff’s wordsmithing column just inside the back cover. That tells you how long ago I got hooked. She hasn’t written that dual column for, oh, six years at least? Very likely more. And even those copies of Dad’s were actually refugees from the library, some of them with “discard” marked on ‘em. My parents were (are) cheap like that.

Alas, my local library hadn’t the forethought to order a subscription when it found out I’d be moving to town. Thus I’ve been bereft of the fond pastime of reading the thing since I graduated from college. Jeffrey Goldberg’s dry advice column filled that irresistible back page after Wallraff’s column was discontinued, renewing my old habit of reading the thing back-to-front. But when I wasn’t at home, I was cut off from that lifeline of commentary and wit. The website, while excellent, is no replacement for the feel of slick magazine pages getting caked with the residue from my last peanut-butter supper. And the website isn’t monogrammed like my magazine is.

Of course, it wasn’t like I could read the actual magazine regularly while I was at college, either, so I suppose I shouldn’t be too hard on my poor, Atlantic-less library. But it’s the principle of the thing. An intelligent adult cannot breathe without at least biannual exposure to the thrilling political and provoking cultural analyses pierced by that magazine’s staples.

So my loving sister surprised me at Christmas with a gift subscription. And the fruits of that gift are just now dropping to the ground, ripe for devouring. (Not to say overripe.) After eight months in my little town, I’ve now been able to curl up on my Craigslist couch with an incongruously upper-class publication.

Although, it arrived Jan. 23, and it was the December issue. I’m holding my breath for the January’s imminent arrival.

I was determined to turn over a new leaf, not to say a new page, with this magazine. I resolutely opened to the table of contents, scanned what delicacies and meaty main courses were in store, then continued scanning page after page, periodically stopping for a bit to actually read something in its entirety. Kind of like browsing at the buffet bar, you know.

This one article about a sort of 3-D camera was first to catch my attention, I think. And it’s only going to cost roughly $500 for one of those cameras. Considering it claims to focus on everything at once, that’s a pretty cheap camera. DSLRs are at least that much, not even counting the lens.

Then there was this article by Daniel Klein. Here’s hoping I spelled his name right. Anyway, here he retracted with the utmost grace and humility a previous op-ed in the Washington Post, I think, that posited that liberals couldn’t think as clearly as conservatives about economic policy issues. He’s a libertarian, and it turns out that the study he highlighted (and for which, to his credit, he was also eagerly awaiting results from a clarifying follow-up study) was flawed because it included only, or mostly, questions confronting misguided liberal notions about the world. (Like the idea that today’s standard of living is no higher than it was 30 years ago. Or that minimum wages don’t actually increase unemployment.)

Anyhow, turns out that the follow-up study—which was basically the same thing, except that libertarian-minded questions were balanced with progressive-minded ones—showed that conservatives/libertarians might be smarter on the economic policy conundrums that proved their theories right, but they weren’t always on the ones that proved their opponents’ ones right. And that’s also why liberals didn’t fare so well in the first study. It’s called “myside” bias apparently, by those whose hyphen keys are missing from their keyboards.

No, really, it was an enlightening article—and provided fodder for an impromptu self-evaluation, since it basically listed the economic policy statements and which ones could be borne out by empirical research (otherwise known as numbers that aren’t the ones published by the Department of Job and Family Services).

There were bunches of other articles, too—like the one about Pakistan (we are just dumb for having them as an ally, but we’d prolly be dumber if we didn’t keep them); or the one about James Garner (who was as honest as Abe and way more handsome); or the one about China’s WalMarts (my gosh, when I was born Wal-Mart barely covered half the U.S., and didn’t even spread outside the country till afterward); or Mr. Goldberg’s wonderful back-page piece informing everyone of the hidden drug references in everything but “Stairway to Heaven” (which is, he says, about nothing at all).

The content is fantastic. Plus the whole thing makes me want to write flippantly, though it’s full of articles that are anything but. Well, except for Mr. Goldberg’s piece.

3 comments:

mafia said...

Atlantic is upper class?

Sarah said...

Yeah, it's generally considered so. Mostly because it's written for people with at least a college education and a vast (or at least varied) knowledge of the world. People who know where Bhutan is and care about advertisements that hawk diamonds or cars worth several thousands of dollars.

mafia said...

I suppose if I had thought about the ads I would have figured it out...