A random walk through the newish—defined as current sometime in the last seven or eight weeks—issues of alumni magazines turned up some things worthy of notice. Open, the magazine of the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin, was clever with its letters page (click image to expand). Editor Cory Leahy ran two “letters” about an embarrassing typographical error in the previous issue; one of them reproduces exactly what the magazine received from a member of the Class of ’97, which was the offending page torn out and critiqued via a purple stickynote. Another reproduction tops the page, this one the image of a repurposed opt-out card—the correspondent altered the card so that instead of opting out of receiving the magazine he’s requesting two extra copies. Open also has a Tracy Mueller feature that takes 10 business “rules”—the customer is always right, you have to spend money to make money, etc.—and asks if they still obtain, or ever did. One of that story’s sections begins with what, so far, is my favorite sentence all day: “If a food truck doesn’t tweet, does it really exist?” This story also is part of a peculiar editorial harmonic convergence. More on that later.
LSA Magazine, from the University of Michigan College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, has a feature on copyright in the digital age, and I’ll stick my neck out by saying LSA is the first magazine in history to illustrate a copyright story with a photo titled “Zombie Bunny.” (If I read Mary Jean Babic’s story right, I could be sued for reproducing the opening spread here. Lara Zielin edits LSA, and I’m hoping she opts for a cease-and-desist letter first.)
College of Charleston Magazine‘s cover story “Rebel Without a Pause” was scribbled by editor Mark Berry, and it’s awfully good. The piece is a profile of writer Padgett Powell and opens with a well-wrought narrative recreation of Powell’s arrest in the parking lot of his high school for distributing an underground student news-paper titled Tough Shit, which ranks as one of the all-time great names for a newspaper, underground or otherwise. That episode set the tone for Powell’s academic and literary careers. The future novelist began as an English major at Charleston, until an English teacher gave him a D on a paper; Powell took one look at the graded paper and changed his major to chemistry. Clearly, Berry had a lot of good material with which to fashion a profile, and he brings it off with zest.
OK, so back to this harmonic convergence business. As already noted, Open from Texas has a feature that revisits, and questions the validity of, 10 business rules. The new issue of my own Johns Hopkins Magazine devotes part of its feature well to assistant editor Kristen Intlekofer’s round-up of 10 things that people do in the name of health that might actually be injurious to their health. Minor as coincidences go—10 business rules open for debate, 10 health practices open for debate—but wait, here’s where things get weird. Elsewhere in the Hopkins winter 2011 feature well is a long Mike Anft piece on contemporary neuroscience and memory, including help for people suffering from memory loss, plus a feature story on distraction in these digital days. Then I pick up the latest edition of Washington State Magazine and find in editor Tim Steury’s feature well a long piece by Steury about neuropsychologists helping people cope with memory loss, and a second feature, this one by Eric Sorensen, called “Attention!”, about the “poverty of attention” in these digital days.
After a long search for an explanation, I’ve settled on great minds think alike.