Jul. 12th, 2013


Jul. 12th, 2013 03:12 pm
lwe: (Default)
Well, it's finally happened. I got a renewal offer. Took longer than I expected.

About a year ago, I started getting stuff in the mail that I hadn't ordered. I'm not sure whether it was meant as a joke, or a birthday present, or what, but someone -- I don't know who -- had signed me up for a whole bunch of things. They started arriving, without explanation.

First there were the cosmetics on trial. I returned those. I was a bit concerned because the packing slip said they'd been paid for with an AmEx card, and I made sure it wasn't mine. Put a watch on my credit, just in case.

Then came the intro package from Book of the Month Club. I canceled my new membership immediately, explaining I hadn't actually signed up, someone else had, and I asked where I should return the books. They said not to bother, so I added them to my "to read" stack.

Next was the membership on the North American Hunting Club. That brought a knife, a game cookbook, and a magazine subscription; I returned the cookbook and canceled my membership, so I only got one or two issues of the magazine, but I kept the knife, as it was a "free gift." (Some gifts aren't free?) These folks were much less helpful and cooperative than BotMC or the cosmetics trial, but they eventually accepted that I wasn't interested, and I passed the magazines on to some guys serving in the military overseas. (The magazine wasn't bad if you're a hunter; I'm not.)

And after that, it was all magazines. New ones kept showing up through March 2013, too. I'm guessing my mysterious someone had a bunch of airline points to burn off before they expired. At any rate, I eventually found myself with subscriptions to Forbes, Yachting, ESPN: the Magazine, Men's Health, Men's Fitness, Entrepreneur, Fast Company, and Chevy High Performance. (I think that's all of them.)

Yachting was the first to show up, if I remember correctly. It's weirdly fascinating because there's the contrast between the rather down-to-earth attitude, with articles on maintenance, ports, etc., and the fact that it's about toys costing millions of dollars. I read the first one pretty thoroughly, but quickly got inured to it and now typically go through an issue in about three minutes, mostly looking at the pictures, before passing it on to friends who like boats.

Chevy High Performance -- if you own a Chevrolet muscle car from the '60s or '70s, you need this magazine. If you don't, it's absolutely useless and might as well be written in Etruscan. I don't. This is another one I pass on to guys in the military. But wow, if you want to know anything about restoring, maintaining, or hot-rodding an old Chevy, this is a gift from the gods.

I'd seen Men's Health and Men's Fitness on the racks at the supermarket, and assumed they were sister (or in this case, brother) magazines. Never had any interest in 'em. But once they started showing up, I read them, and discovered they aren't siblings, they're rivals, and Men's Health is the good one. It's more upscale, better written, better edited, and all around classier, so I still read it, though I'm not going to renew when my subscription runs out. It looks at lots of lifestyle stuff for guys in their twenties and thirties. Men's Fitness is much more concerned with, well, fitness -- exercise, diet, and not much else. Where Men's Health has a well-rounded feel and is clearly aimed at straight men, Men's Fitness is narrowly focused and has (at least for me) a faint homoerotic vibe. I found it really boring, and transferred my subscription to someone else who was interested. (I hadn't mentioned that homoerotic vibe to him, but then, it may just be my imagination in the first place.)

Then there are the three business magazines. I'd heard of Forbes, of course, and always assumed it was a business mag, but it isn't, really; it's money porn. It's not about business, it's about billionaires. It's rather badly written, self-congratulatory in tone, and mostly about how wonderful the very rich are, simply because they made piles of money. Add in the editorials by Steve Forbes and others that demonstrate an insane misunderstanding of real-world economics, and the real world in general, and you have a magazine that I've found steadily more and more repulsive. When I noticed from the label that I'd been given a two-year subscription I decided I had to get rid of it, and Julian had a friend who works in finance, so I've just signed that one away.

Entrepreneur, on the other hand, is kind of fascinating. It's not about business in general, but only about entrepreneurs. It's better-written than Forbes, and doesn't take a political position; it just looks at how these guys got to where they are now (and maybe you can too!). That was one of the late arrivals, so I may revise my opinion in time. I don't really have much use for it, and would hit the old change-of-address road if I knew of anyone who wanted it, but at least it doesn't embarrass me to have it in the house.

And Fast Company is cool. It's about the cutting edge of business -- innovation in every field, high-tech news, online developments, etc. It's tied to several websites that I haven't really looked at yet, but every time I read an issue I come away with scribbled notes about things I want to check out online. This one might be a keeper.

Which brings us to ESPN. Okay, I watch ESPN sometimes. I've read Sports Illustrated. I thought I knew what to expect. I was wrong.

ESPN is the best magazine we get, including the ones I subscribed to myself, rather than having dumped on me. I'm not a big sports fan, but there is some fine, fine writing here. It's got stats I never thought about, human interest stories I'd never have considered. A recent issue had a huge feature on racism in Italian soccer that did a better job of looking at race and history than anything I've read in more general publications. There are big chunks I skip in most issues, because I frankly don't give a damn about basketball or most of the NFL, but even there, I can see it's some fine writing and excellent research.

And today I got a renewal offer for ESPN -- another year for just a buck.

I wouldn't even be tempted by any of the others, but that one...

But no. I don't have the free time to read more magazines; I'm years behind on my fiction reading, and could always use more time writing. So I am reluctantly going to let it go.

But it did prompt me to finally write this blog post. I'd been meaning to do it for months, and this renewal offer was what finally pushed me to do it.

So there we are.


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