A tale of two magazine covers

Rolling Stone continues its investigation into the exciting, glamorous, dangerous world of this new music called “rock and roll” with their blistering expose of a band that broke up before most of their readers were born. As they did last September with their revealing “Led Zepplin Was A Good Band” story, RS pushes constantly forward through seas of journalistic valor, delivering us the news on the excessive lives of 70s rock stars.  To whom the story “Pink Floyd Did Not Get Along All The Time” is news is a mystery yet to be solved by this humble investigator.  Is there a new Pink Floyd album on the way?  An important new book?  Did Mikal Gilmore (who really should have better things to do) honestly want to write a report on how Pink Floyd broke up, or did orders come from above that this important, emerging story demanded the attention of Rolling Stone?  And the cover is, perhaps, the worst in the magazine’s history.  I know the guys in Pink Floyd were ugly, but is that really the best available photo of them?  It doesn’t even have a credit, only that it is from the Michael Ochs Archives and is owned by Getty Images.  The flames in the background, however, are credited, to one Michael Elins. 

Jann Wenner: Can you do something to jazz up this drab, ugly photo?  We really need it for the cover.  People have a driving need to know why this band broke up 25 years ago, and no one else will tell this story.  Can you help me?

Michael Elins: Is that Lynyrd Skynyrd?

JW: No, it’s Pink Floyd.

ME: Oh.  Damn.  ‘Cause, you know, if it was Lynyrd Skynyrd, I could put, like, flames or something in the background.

JW: I like it.  Flames, right.  Because it’s Pink Fl — wait.

ME: What?

JW: That doesn’t make any sense.  Pink Floyd, flames, it doesn’t — we need something else.

ME: Hm.  Well, flames is what I’ve got.  Hang on.  (ME, who has never heard of Pink Floyd before, checks their discography at CDNow)  I see one of their albums has a cartoon brick wall on the cover.  How about if they stand in front of a cartoon brick wall?

JW: No, no, I like the flames, I just — it needs something else.

ME: How about that prism thing?

JW: Prism?

ME: Um, okay, um, how about a floating pig?

JW: Perfect!   Where?

ME: I dunno, stick it on the logo or something.

JW: I love it.


I’m sympathetic to the plight of the American soldier, but this cover falls like a lead piano.  And it’s by Barry Blitt, who should know better.  Remnicked again!
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What the hell happened to The Onion?

I moved to Santa Monica six months ago and it just started showing up at my local record store.

First, I notice that it’s been re-designed.

Second, I notice that it’s now unfunny and stupid.

This is the Onion, the august, revered Onion, the paper a grateful nation once turned to each week to make sense of the world? 

Let’s look at the front page: “New Oliver Stone 9/11 Film Introduces ‘Single Plane Theory’ — Jesus, an Oliver Stone conspiracy joke?  Really?  Is that the best they came up with this week?

Below the fold: “Condoleeza Rice Holds Bathtime Talks With Undersea Representatives.”  The story goes on, about Rice having talks with the toys in her bathtub.  What?  Huh?  Skewering what burning public issue, exactly?

Other headlines: “Hasbro Concedes World Not Ready for Rubik’s Chicken” — again, huh?

“Millions Of Americans Buying Floyd Landis-Inspired Bracelets” — with a photo of said bracelet, yellow rubber (referring to the Lance Armstrong bracelet), which reads “Cheat to Win.”  On the nose, unfunny, landing with a thud.

“Twin Mysteries Of Missing Hamster, Clogged Sink Solved Simultaneously” — honestly, these are the kinds of headlines I would expect from a group of high-school students trying to imitate The Onion.

On Page 4, “Abusive Husband Has Sense of Humor About It” — I’ll admit, the headline got my attention, but the story is almost unbearably unfunny.  The “joke,” apparently, is that the abusive man, who is described as breaking his wife’s jaw, beating her with a wrench, giving her a bloody nose, and biting her on the head, is able to  laugh about his predicament.  There is no attempt to explain why “Abusive Husband” and “Laughing at Life” should go together in humorous juxtaposition, and as the article trudges on, it seems we’re just supposed to laugh at the way the wife is being beaten and humiliated.  Indeed, mere inches away is a new feature, “Unsung Heroes,” where a woman named Sheila Kessler is described as having “had her third abortion Wednesday, but didn’t bitch about it so much as she did the past two.”  I can’t think of a time of my life when I would have found that funny, but having it next to the piece that supposedly “pokes fun” at the abusive husband, it made my skin crawl.

There are many new comics in the new re-design.  They’re all unfunny, and some of them are so unfunny that I can’t tell if they’re supposed to be satires or or not.

Where there used to be the irreplaceable Jackie Harvey, there is now the eminently replaceable Amelie Gillette, who writes a completely straight-faced, ordinary, slightly-bitchy, Entertainment Weekly-style “Hollywood tidbit” column.

The only headline I laughed at was “Road Trip Ruined by Illinois.”

“American Voices” continues to hit the mark, however.  The subject is “Universal Health Care for San Fransisco” and Henry Gaven, Historian, opines “First they make a mockery of my bitter, loveless marriage, now they make a mockery of my restrictive, overpriced health care.  Is nothing sacred to these monsters?”
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Two magazines, two covers, one confused reader

Two stories about heavy topics that will blow your mind.

First, the new issue of Rolling Stone. Breaking news! Led Zeppelin was a good band!

I’m trying to imagine this pitch meeting. The great writer Mikal Gilmore bursts into Jan Wenner’s office, his fedora pitched back on his head and a butt dangling from his lower lip. Wenner is talking on the phone, Mikal presses the button to hang it up.

M. Stop the presses, boss! I’ve got a story’s gonna set this town on its ear!

J. This better be good. That was Billy Joel I was talking to.

M. Okay — what’s the biggest story in rock music today?

J. Lance Bass is Gay.

M. Bigger.

J. Jack White has formed a new group.

M. Bigger.

J. Sleater-Kinney has broken up.

M. No! Led Zeppelin was a good band!

J. (coffee sprays from his mouth) But that’s ridiculous! Can you prove it?

M. I got all the goods right here, chief.
(throws down a file folder.)
Testimonials, musical analysis, best of all, sales figures. CDs, DVDs, T-shirts, everything.

J. But this — this is extraordinary. How did you find all this out?

M. I’m a journalist, chief. I hear about a hot story and I chase it down. That’s what I do.

J. (looks through the data) But — if this is true — why, it would shake the industry to its very core. Do we dare print this?

M. Dare?! Is this the same Jan Wenner who got Elton John to say he was a fruit? Is this the same Jan Wenner who dared to suggest that George W. Bush is an incompetent president? Is this the same Jan Wenner who gave five stars to Mick Jagger’s Goddess in the Doorway?

J. You’re right, you’re right — by God, this is just the kind of incendiary, match-lighting story this magazine was built on!


And then there’s Newsweek. You can’t see the headline very well on their website, but it’s something like “OLIVER STONE’S 9/11: The Controversial Director Chooses Courage over Conspiracy for “World Trade Center”.

Okay. So Oliver Stone is a Controversial Director. True.

Oliver Stone is also a Conspiracy Nut. True, if one has not seen an Oliver Stone film in fifteen years.

Here’s the thing. By choosing this headline for their issue, they didn’t make me think “Good for Oliver! Way to go, choosing Courage over Conspiracy! That’s m’boy!” Instead, I saw the cover and thought “Wait, Newsweek is telling me there was a choice?” That is, Newsweek is saying that there was a conspiracy, and isn’t it nice that Oliver Stone decided not to focus on it?

Back in the day, it was only certain crazy friends of mine who used to talk about the “planned demolition” of the World Trade Center, and how the federal government plotted the whole thing out, using the Al Qaeda people (or someone) as decoys, how they conspired with Al Qaeda to have their guys fly the planes into the towers, after which they would destroy the buildings, and thus begin the process that we’re living through today, ie the institution of our current facist state, permanent control of the government by religious fanatics, etc, etc.

All of which I used to hear and think “Come on, guys, get a grip.” Are you telling me that the same guys who screwed up Afghanistan, screwed up Iraq, screwed up New Orleans, the same guys who haven’t succeeded in doing anything else in six years of unrestricted power (besides stealing two elections), are you telling me that these guys demolished the World Trade Center?

And now, looking at Newsweek, I have to ask: What do they know?
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