Wired’s Muppets-friendly solutions

Leave it to Wired to successfully put a geeky spin, quirks and all, on an overdone topic.

I admit I was completely skeptical upon first glance at the cover. It seemed like a wannabe Cosmo issue with hed, dek, and teasers of the cover article: “Eureka! How Science Can Help You…”; “26 Secret Formulas To Smartify Your Life”; and “Find a Soul Mate and more!” I decided to give it a chance, because (1) it’s Wired, and (2) who says no to the Muppets. Pleasantly surprised would be an understatement.

The November cover story about “better living through science” uses a detailed list presented in its typical colorful text bars and robotic layout style. Scientific solutions for such trivial tasks as dunking a cookie in milk or swatting flies, mixed in with relationship and work advice are included among the various “secret formulas.” It isn’t the first magazine that comes to mind for how-to and self-help tips for everyday life, but it may be the first to use the Muppets as lab assistants.  This ties well with the cover story’s second part about the new Muppets movie starring Jason Segel.

Creative and appealing with hard facts backing its claims—sorry Cosmo, but Wired just solved the questions of finding a soul mate and rekindling a relationship in fewer words than you ever have.

—Erin Elzo

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Nicki Minaj in pure form

Cosmo did the damn thing with its latest inside look on Nicki Minaj, hip-hop’s most eclectic female rapper currently in the game. In Cosmo’s November issue, Nicki reveals her most vulnerable self as never before. Writer Shirley Halperin does an exquisite job of getting Nicki to open up in a way that gives insight into who she really is – no getups – by painting such a picture that a former hater like me converted to a fan…somewhat.

The story uncovered things that I never knew in a way that was personal and seemingly honest. I used to loathe Nicki for her sexualized lyrics that objectify women. Surprisingly, Halperin didn’t touch that subject yet I found myself understanding where she comes from: about her childhood and how she used rap as an escape from an impoverished neighborhood and to entertain her mother, a victim of domestic abuse. I may never get comfortable with the idea of her being a role model to young black females but now I have a better view of her – one that’s more understanding than judgmental.

– Shanice Maxwell

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More thrash, less trash

Thrasher is for skaters, not readers. But that’s no excuse to skimp on good writing.

I’m talking about the skater profiles. Issue after issue, they’re the same: pictures plus Q&A. No article. No capital W Writing. Granted, skaters don’t want to read lengthy profiles chock full of four-syllable words, written by some suit. They want to hear it straight from the subject’s mouth—chock full of dude crunchy stoked steezy fuck yeah. But there are other ways than Q&A to preserve voice. Maybe write an as-told-to using the skater’s most punchy quotes. Maybe do a list. Maybe try something, anything, new.

Perhaps the writers are kept on a short leash for fear they’ll make the mag sound stuffy. (Wordsmiths = laaaame.) Nonetheless, there’s the occasional nugget of deftness. Check out the skateparks feature on page 78. It’s punchy, it’s funny—it’s skate-writing to a T. (“Abortion of stoke” is my new favorite put-down.) Problem is, it’s only one paragraph. Let’s put the skateparks writer on profile duty. Let’s make the profiles as experimental and energetic as the skaters they depict. Let’s make writing rad again.

—Drew Roberts

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You’re in Luck!

For people obsessed with bargains, fashion, and all things shopping Lucky is the mag to turn to. As it says on its cover, it is a magazine, primarily for women, about shopping, and more shopping. “Servicy” in nature, it is one of my favorite magazines for a number of reasons.

In its October issue, Lucky printed 2 articles, which complemented each other perfectly. The first one was “Under $50 clothes you’ll wear forever,” which gave names of flea markets, steep bargain outlets for quality material. The second was “Rachel Weisz on how to put it all together,” which showed readers how to “style up” and what trends worked best together. So for the Thanksgiving dinner or lunch with the in-laws, Lucky will tell you where to go, what to buy and then how to wear it.

Whereas other magazines may throw out new fashion ideas, Lucky teaches you how to wear and pull off new style, so that you don’t look like an overdressed peacock unsure of how to carry the clothes on your back.

Things I love about Lucky:

– It offers something new every issue (this issue had a collection of style tips from bloggers, pg 107)

– Its suggestions are practical, useable, and it has something for EVERYBODY. Even if all you have is spare change jiggling around in your pocket, Lucky will have a bargain to offer you.

– Zoha Arshad


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Tim Tebow: Not a Savior

Tim Tebow is a devout Christian who has publicly acknowledged his desire to remain a virgin until marriage. Tebow is not a missionary or a religious activist. He is the quarterback for the Denver Broncos under a contract that has already added multiple zeroes to his bank account.

What does this jersey say about us? (larrybrownsports.com)

Tim Keown treats Tebow like a saint, not a quarterback, in his ESPN the Magazine article, Tebow 10:23.

Keown throws around words that should be reserved for people who are dedicating their lives to helping others-not to one who throws an oblong ball around a field once-a-week. Granted, Keown is not the only writer to do this but that doesn’t make him less at fault.

Keown calls Tebow “the perfect vessel” and describes Tebow’s on-field heroics by saying, “The people rejoiced, and their faith was rewarded.” In today’s culture when announcers call golf shots courageous in hushed tones, Keown’s descriptions are a dangerous way to treat a celebrity.

Like Kim Kardashian, Tim Tebow is a provider of entertainment, not a do-gooder. He’s not a savior by any stretch. Heck, he might not even be able to save the Broncos.

– Jon Krouner

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Gone for Gonzo

OK, fine. It’s true – I picked up Vanity Fair this month because Johnny Depp was on the cover. But I really couldn’t help myself from purchasing the issue when I saw that the article was connected to Hunter S. Thompson.

Depp may look cool, but apparently he wasn't cool about the photos, putting off having them taken because he felt "dumb" doing the shoot.

I’ll admit that I’ve been attracted to Johnny Depp since he made me think pirates were sexy in 2003, and I was a further confused 15-year-old when he portrayed a schizophrenic hobo in “Secret Window.” Sheesh.

And he’s reprising his role as Hunter S., who is probably the only guy even cooler than Depp.

Naturally, this subject matter lends itself to the most gonzo of journalism: writer Nick Tosches takes many liberties with a first-person narrative that is positively rock’n’roll. He is quick to shill his own prolific writing and expound the many awesome people he has hung out with – and tried to score dates with under the pretense of being a journalist.

While Tosches is busy relishing in the lifestyle this gaggle of guys lead, Depp is falling asleep on the toilet (yes, this actually takes place in Tosches’ narrative). This vivid tale, promised in display text to be about “the Hunter in Johnny” and “Johnny’s demons” is really just irresistibly self-indulgent on the part of the writer. Tosches reflects on his friendship with Depp and his past interactions with Thompson. There’s gambling, drinking, smoking and talk of LSD that only a proper gonzo journalist could nail.

Hell, it is a great story. But where is Johnny? And oh – what was the point again?

—Julie McMahon

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Perrin’s golden rules of…ahem… bargain hunting?

Traveling is more about the journey than the destination. However, in a world riddled with security procedures where dumping my shampoo before going through a body scanner only to get an “enhanced pat down” is not my idea of an adventure, regardless of the deal I got on the seat.

Every seasoned traveler has her own system of getting the biggest bang for their buck. In the November issue of Condé Nast’s Traveler Wendy Perrin published her 25 Golden Rules of Travel. Perrin’s list is long and lacks breadth.

She concentrates on getting the best airfare while only one or two items talk about hotel deals and destination attractions.  A third of the tips advertise books and websites, some of which require paid membership. It had me questioning if these tips were genuine or products of good PR and advertising. If I really wanted to know the best travel websites, I could have just Googled that.

What happens after I leave my window seat (that I bought six months in advance on air miles)? Only number 23, “Hire an English-speaking guide,” hints at a life after the email notifications, websites and phone calls. That is, a world outside the confines of TSA agents and hotel rooms. Where is the travel in that?

– Zoë Mintz


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Clean out your closet

Every two months, the online publication Lonny Magazine provides readers with dozens of tips on beautiful style and design for everything from your home to your wardrobe. In its September/October issue, the magazine and writer S.G. took things a step further by showing readers how to bring that style to a place many of us may have neglected: our closets.

In its how-to section, Lonny Magazine brings us holistic designer Melanie Fascitelli, who gives us a peak into her Manhattan apartment to check out her own elegantly designed closet. While I loved the premise of the article, I was ultimately left wanting more than a few somewhat obvious suggestions. Give me something surprising instead of the ever so groundbreaking idea of using hooks to hang belts and scarves.

That being said, the uncomplicated, easy-going vibe of the article made me want to turn the page.

But where the content lacked in creativity, the design more than made up for with vivid photographs of Fascitelli’s closet that seemed perfectly at ease with the typeface choices and color palate of robin egg blue.

A few more unexpected twists in the content would have given this how-to the extra punch it needed, but points should be given to the design team for making a story about closets give off a little sparkle.

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When appearance becomes everything

Women’s Health normally hits it out of the park with its good blend of current events in the health science realm, exercise-routine flash cards and guides to cooking nutritious, not just low-calorie, meals. However, the November cover story featuring Anna Kournikova, former tennis star known more for her looks than her skill, portrays exercise in a superficial light.

Since the article is introduced with a scantily clad Kournikova on the cover, what’s already difficult to take seriously becomes impossible with the opening line: “Grab my butt! Squeeze it! Squeeze it hard!”

The tidbits in the article about Kournikova’s struggles with a controlling mother and an unforgiving public attempt to make her seem serious, but I don’t buy it. Her “inspiring” life story disappears under phrases like: “if that’s what it takes to look like Anna…” and a sidebar titled “It’s OK to Look Cute at the Gym,” which promotes how to cover smell with spritz and sweat with makeup while exercising.

Does this mean the heart and soul of fitness and exercise boils down to how you appear to other people? I doubt that’s what readers who pick up a magazine about health want to read about. But maybe it is since this is the “Weight-Loss Special!” The only thing special about the cover story is that it was short.

—Michele Maciejewski

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Design flaw; Big problems, little solutions

Rage against the machine,” the lead story in the Oct. 22 Economist, suggests the proliferating global protests against higher taxes, tighter pensions, and excesses in finance underlie political and economic deficiencies endemic throughout Western democracies. Feeling betrayed by promises of elusive and now-unaffordable prosperity, voters  feel tricked a second time – forced to bail out an elite who rigged the system in the first place.

For an article that claims to get to the root of this problem, coming from a publication respected for its bold and concise opinions, its suggestions are timid and lacking.

It distinguishes legitimate attacks on bad economic policy from criticisms of capitalism and globalization more generally. But rather than solve these problems, the article recommends creating ever-freer markets, revising tax codes, and forcing banks to keep a lot more cash in the safe. Its boldest proposal—to better balance the budget by raising the retirement age—is as radical as it gets.

Democracy suffers when citizens demand instant gratification to deep seated issues. Rather than merely tweak policies and bureaucracy around the edges, we must fundamentally rethink the institution and create political incentives that reward long-term, pragmatic thinking—far beyond election cycles and our collective myopia.

—Alex Dowley

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