go slow: one spoonful at a rhyme

by Art Chantry (art@artchantry.com )

found this magazine in half price books for 50¢ (note: the price tag is still on it.) so, forgive the splooge stain in the middle. can’t be helped.

it seems to an italian magazine from april/june 2000, so it’s ten years old. the thing bills itself as “the magazine of the slow food movement.” i have NO IDEA what that is (is the ‘slow food movement’ even still around? is this magazine still in publication?) those guys on the cover are medieval re-enactors in home-made armor. they don’t seem to be mentioned anywhere inside this issue that i can spot. the cover is a woven uncoated textured paper with a full fold-over inside (no advertising on the inside of the fold-over, either. completely blank paper). look at that masthead! it’s totally uncluttered by splashy headlines and crappy blurbs selling the contents to you. it just beautifully floats up there all by itself like a colorful feather, simply announcing it’s presence in what must be a news stand sea of rubbish. this is one gorgeous magazine.

---the slow food movement is indeed real. it is a reaction to fast food and was started in the 80s inorder to protect italy's native food culture, which is under threat by corporate monoculture food purveyors (mcdonald's etc.). it's popularity has caused it to spread to other countries - france (josé bové sentenced to imprisonment for the wilful violent destruction of a mcdonald's franchise in millau, aveyron) the u.s. etc. ---wiki

the artciles actually don’t seem to have all that much to do with cooking or food. this magazine seems to be largely concerned with the CULTURE AROUND FOOD. that gives them to opportunity to explore every aspect of eating – good and bad. for instance, there is a truly wonderful little article in here by a noted archaeologist on eater island discussing all the crackpot extreme theories about those ‘moai’ statues – from flying saucers to earthquakes to magic levitation to imported stonework. not a single mention of food, except in a disclaimer that the article has nothing to do with food, except they just really liked the article. in other words, this is a really cool, great little magazine. why can’t american magazines be more like this thing? they used to be, ya know.

a old friend of mine named bob newman (from the rocket days) has become an A-list new york magazine art director after all these years. he’s in that very top percentile of the profession and he’s damn good. one of the things he does for fun is post magazine covers on his fb page ‘newmanology.’ he selects images that he finds interesting or historically notable or just plain cool. it’s worth checking out.

my problem with his postings is that – in all honesty – i really don’t like many of those really great contemporary magazine covers he actually posts. in fact, i react incredibly negatively to them. bob goes to the effort of pointing out WHY these covers are so good. but, they still make me want to run away and pull my hair out. yet, a stupid badly shot image of four dorks in home-made armor on the cover of an italian FOOD magazine (with a splooge, no less) really turns my crank. isn’t that odd?

my partner, maire, this morning pointed out to me the basic difference between an historian and an archaeologist. the historian enters the field with a theory and then finds information and artifacts to support that theory. the archaeologist enters the field with a search for information and artifacts to then analyze and build a theory FROM what he finds. two fundamental different approaches to seemingly the same task. the end result is an enhancement of our shared cultural experience. however, one approach strikes me as fundamentally much more honest than the other.

the problem i have with so many of these contemporary magazine cover that bob posts is that they have a fundamentally different approach that what i think a magazine should be. i think of magazines as documentation of material found – basically a crude popular form of information gathering akin to archaeology. magazines present information gathered by the editors and writers and presents it within a theory that is constructed in the READER’S mind by the artifacts presented in the magazine itself. at least that’s the way i ideally see a magazine’s function in our culture.

contrarily, the magazines that we widely see today (and bob posts the covers so often) are created by a t

y – and the information inside is all selected to support that theory. what is the theory? money. power. control.

modern magazines and all of their interior writing and editorial content has essentially become a beer can. what does a beer can do? trick the consumer into buying the beer inside. what happens to the beer can when the beer is consumed? it goes into the trash never to be seen again.

basically, bob might as well be showing us empty beer cans – used packaging. the content of these artifacts is not information, but carefully selected bits and pieces all blasted in our faces to support the sales of the beer can itself – as if the magazine package WERE the product and not the beer inside. it’s become so extreme that it’s as if the beer is all part of the package at this point (sorta like budweiser vs. a small home microbrewery.) so, what is the ‘beer’ inside the magazine package? advertising. lotsa money for the producers. and money is power in america. power is control.

which sort of brings it all back to what’s happening in american politics these days. do i really need to clarify what i’m trying to get at…?

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