One of the first realizations that hit me when the World Wide Web was emerging was that magazines were doomed. Suddenly, all the color and photos and graphics and layout possibilities of magazines could go through a wire along with the text, without waiting for printing and binding and distribution. The Web is obviously much faster, much cheaper, and doesn’t leave you with heavy baskets of outdated glossy paper to get rid of.
Still, there’s something very enjoyable about having a brand new magazine show up in your mailbox, and about reclining in the living room or lying on the sofa or lounging in a lawn chair or sitting up in bed and turning its pages, following the jumps, and looking at the ads until it’s all assimilated. It’s a convenience and a pleasure you can’t get online, and while immediacy tends to create a thirst for even more immediacy, material of any satisfying depth takes a little time.
I enjoyed the Rolling Stone 40th anniversary issue so much that I decided to subscribe to The Atlantic (not quite “monthly” anymore). It’s a magazine that has long attracted me. James Fallows works for it. I have always liked his work, and it was his story in The Atlantic that turned me on to Tommy Mischke. As I understand it, David Letterman, an avid Atlantic reader, became a Mischke listener the same way.
So I subscribed in late April, and a few weeks later received the May issue, which was disappointing because it seemed already outdated. About a week after that, the July/August issue arrived, followed the next day by the June issue. Obviously, two of the ten issues paid for are not as fresh as one would hope. Perhaps when you’re doomed, you stop caring just a bit.
Anyway, I read the May issue, which included a profile of the smoldering Israeli politician Avigdor Lieberman. Then I turned to the June issue, and the cover story by David Samuels, a fascinating look at how Condoleezza Rice has been trying to grapple with the Israeli/Palestinian dilemma, which in turn is the lynchpin for the whole region — key, for example, to Saudi Arabia’s continued support in the U.S. struggle with Iran.
Now, even as I have been sitting here in mid-June, reading about Ms. Rice’s diplomatic travels back in February, Palestine has plunged into a week of total chaos. Like an out-of-sequence movie, I’m getting both the backstory and the latest reports of the crisis concurrently. Perhaps this makes the whole mess seem more important to me than it should, but there was a similar sense of foreboding as the Middle East bloodbath boiled over in August, 2001 while the president was vacationing in Texas.
Yesterday, the Hamas militia apparently finished off U.S.-backed Fatah. “‘The era of justice and Islamic rule has arrived,’ Hamas spokesman Islam Shahawan announced.” I thought maybe ABC News Nightline would be all over the story last night, but checking their Web site, it turned out that they were looking instead at why Sir Paul McCartney is “counting on the coffee craze to sell his new album.”
In his Atlantic cover story, Mr. Samuels descibes how Jim Wilkinson spent a million U.S. dollars to spruce up the Mukataa, the Palestinian presidential compound established by Yasser Arafat. Samuels writes that Wilkinson figured to advance Palestinian democracy by addressing “the visuals” around U.S.-backed Mahmoud Abbas. He brought Wi-Fi to the Mukataa, plus “a camera-ready blue backdrop, professional briefing podium, and powerful overhead television lights.” He brought in President Bush’s visuals guy Scott Sforza who, quoting Wilkinson, is “obviously the best in the world.”
This morning on the CBS World News Roundup, it was reported that triumphant Hamas militants completely looted the place, carrying out everything from refrigerators to satellite dishes.
So much for that hotspot.