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The forthcoming issue of Johns Hopkins Magazine went to press Monday, which means The Dale is back in business as UMag Supreme Blogger. Some of what’s come in the last few weeks:

I usually have an allergic reaction to life-affirming stories about plucky individuals who overcome obstacles to do great things, because they are almost always badly written. So when I came to Jason Ryan’s story “Life’s Rich Pageant” in College of Charleston Magazine, I nearly paged right past it, and would have were it not for Diana Deaver’s striking photography. I mean, not only is the story life affirming, it’s about a beauty pageant winner, for God’s sake—to my amazement, Charleston has a “Miss College of Charleston” pageant. Anyway, I started the piece, and kept reading, and kept reading, and damn if I didn’t read the whole thing. Beauty queen Meagan Orton is, indeed, a beautiful young woman, but she’s also tough as a boot. She’s been a medical disaster ever since her premature birth, enduring injuries and illnesses and serious allergic reactions, the last of which, at the end of her sophomore year, left her deaf. Deaf but undaunted—her pageant performance was as a dancer. For the story, she gamely pulled her hair up so Deaver could photograph the hearing device implanted in her skull behind one ear. The story has some treacly bits, at least to my grumpy taste, but it held me to the end. Mark Berry edits the magazine, which is worthy of attention for its photography throughout.

Reach, from the University of Minnesota College of Liberal Arts, notes that Poets & Writers has ranked the school’s creative writing program 14th out of 140 nationwide. Poets & Writers ranks writing MFA programs? Apparently this ranking nonsense has been proliferating. Can’t wait for Saveur‘s ranking of dormitory cafeterias, Turkey World‘s list of the best ag school poultry programs, and from Turf the nation’s 100 top quadrangles. Remind me . . . what does this have to do with education? My favorite item was that the Minnesota program ranked “10th for placement of grads in highly regarded post-MFA programs.” That’s one more way of saying creative writers still can’t make any money as creative writers. Meanwhile, Reach scored Garrison Keillor for its cover and seven pages inside; Keillor conversed with six undergraduates about “academic happiness.” There’s not much Keillor here; he wrote the intro and a postscript, but the story is all quotes pulled from the student interviews. Must be said, though, the Lake Wobegon man is spiffy in red retro Adidas runners. Editor is Mary Pattock.

I’ve come to expect fine stories from David Brittan’s Tufts Magazine. The summer 2010 issue contains two. One is Hugh Howard’s discussion of slavery in Boston; Howard notes that Massachusetts was the first of the original U.S. colonies to legalize human bondage. The other, by Al Gore’s former speechwriter Robert A. Lehrman, is an informative and entertaining explication of what makes a good political speech. In a sidebar, I learned that not only did Patrick Henry not write his “Give me liberty or give me death” speech, he didn’t deliver it, either. Accept for that one notable line, the whole thing was made up 40 years after the fact by an inventive biographer.

The summer issue of Dartmouth Medicine has a great lead sentence: “My first case at Saint Francis Designated District Hospital in Ifakara, Tanzania, was to close a hippo bite.” That from a story by Meredith J. Sorenen. Dana Cook Grossman edits.

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Consistently one of the best-designed university periodicals, 2010 CASE gold medalist Drew Magazine, from Drew University in New Jersey, does well again with its spring issue. Art director Margaret M. Kiernan has mastered the ability to throw a slew of graphic elements onto a spread yet keep it clean, coherent, and attractive. Particularly nice (and clever) is “The Drewid’s Guide to How to Do Everything Better.” The idea of collecting snippets of expert advice from faculty and alumni is not new—Dartmouth Alumni Magazine did it in the January/February 2009 issue, as just one example—but the various how-to’s are fun and the layout, featuring Leigh Wells’ illustrations, is exemplary. (Try to grab a copy of the magazine; the web version does not do the graphics justice.) Renée Olson edits the magazine.

I am an inveterate reader of notes on contributors. The July 2010 UCLA Magazine has five, including, “Jan Sonnenmair, who hit the road to photograph our tour of Bruin wineries . . .” Man, there’s a job I want someday. Deeper in the magazine, where they keep the long stories, Alison Hewitt asks around campus if digital technology is ruining human minds. From the answers I learned that UCLA students fight over a certain corner of a lecture hall because it has the strongest WiFi signal, UCLA professors have come across undergraduates who have never hunted down a book on a library shelf, students these days seem unable to focus on a single topic, and computers appear to stunt frontal-lobe development. OK, that’s it, stop reading this and go read a book. That you found at the library. Wendy Soderburg is managing editor.

The latest edition of The Penn Stater (c’mon, guys, get a magazine website, it looks like this whole Internet thing might catch on) is most notable for its photography. For the cover story . . . cover spread, it’s not really a story . . . editor Tina Hay and undergraduate photographer  Andy Colwell ascended in a helicopter to snap some striking aerial photos of campus. I’m sure Hay, who is a shutterbug on the side, has a cogent editorial rationale, but she’s not fooling anybody. She just wanted to grab her Nikon and get airborne in a chopper. The second set of featured pictures are stunners from the recent eruption of Eyjafjallajökul in Iceland. (Yeah, I can pronounce it, I just don’t feel like it right now.) The writer of the accompanying text, Penn State alum Nancy Marie Brown, recounts riding in a jeep over a glacier to a spot west of the volcano’s crater for look at the initial, comparatively mild eruption. What Brown did not know was that her driver had parked directly over the underground lava pool. Ten days later, reports Brown, “the spot I’d been standing on was blasted 35,000 feet in the air.”

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This week’s edition of the inbox has three new issues:

Illustration by Justin Gabbard

The May/June edition of The Pennsylvania Gazette has an essay by Sara Shahriari, “Under the Hill of Riches,” that has the best deck I’ve read in a while: “Llama sacrifice, desperation, and tourism in Bolivia’s mines.” Go ahead, turn the page after coming across that. The Gazette also has full-page, four-color ads from BMW, Ford, Northern Ireland (!), Mercedes-Benz, Mass Mutual, and The Balvenie single malt, plus 18—18!!—letters to the editor. Not that we’re jealous or anything. John Prendergast is editor.

Columbia College Today for May/June weighs in at 80 pages, 12 of them devoted to the feature well, and 38 to class notes. To get 38 pages of class notes, Johns Hopkins Magazine would have to start buying them from other publications. Editor is Alex Sachare.

Last up, the Spring ’10 Arts & Sciences from Johns Hopkins, edited by Angela Paik Schaeffer. My favorite story in the feature well is Mike Field’s “Touching the Past,” a profile of Earle Havens, curator of early books and manuscripts at Hopkins’ Sheridan Libraries.

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Last week’s arrivals:

The spring 2010 Middlebury Magazine asks a serious, tough question: Does the increasing privatization of American power imperil national security? Writer Kevin Charles Redmon seeks an answer. The story’s second spread is devoted to a nifty infographic from Nigel Holmes, which will incite the envy of art directors everywhere who don’t have the funds to engage Mr. Holmes’ services.

The inaugural issue of Bell Tower from the University of Arkansas–Fort Smith has landed. I plan to discuss this one later in the week.

Illustration by Brian Ajhar

McKay Today Magazine, published by the David O. McKay School of Education at Brigham Young, devotes its spring issue to the theme “An Appropriate Education for Every Student.” Stories cover educating gifted children, special education, and home schooling. The feature “Exceptional Children: Trailing Clouds of Glory” (it’s an allusion to Wordsworth) opens with the nifty illustration seen at left, by Brian Ajhar.

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Four new titles showed up in the UMagazinology inbox last week:

Georgetown Law features a story by Ann W. Marks on the importance of interdisciplinary study in law school. It opens: “As Professor Robin West likes to tell students in the Law and Humanities seminar that she teaches in the fall, elite lawyers living in Thomas Jefferson’s time had to read a lot more than cases and statutes in order to be considered intellectually astute. To train in law then meant that you had to become a man of letters, someone who was completely familiar with the knowledge and wisdom that existed at the time.” A story by Anne Cassidy on bioethics and the law includes this quote from professor Patricia King: “Is it ethical to use parental genetic diagnoses to create a donor sibling? What would [Immanuel] Kant say?” (One imagines Kant saying, “You want to do what?”)

From Pasco-Hernando Community College in New Port Richey, Florida comes the Spring 2010 issue of PHCC Perspective with news of two new PHCC campuses opening soon. Apparently business is good.

The May/June Penn Stater has eight pages of remarkable photographs by alum Ted Anthony, remarkable because they were all shot with an iPhone. Further proof that the most important piece of camera gear is the photographer. And former staffer Mo Harmon, making good use of all that free time she has when she’s not being a mom and editing Denison, contributes a feature on dancer Barbara Weisberg, the founder of the Pennsylvania Ballet.

Finally, Harvard Magazine put libraries, as in the future of, on its cover. Feature stories include a piece by Jay Lorsch and Rakesh Khurana on a new paradigm for executive compensation (how ’bout we start with half what they make now?), Jonathan Shaw’s cover story “Gutenberg 2.0,” about Harvard’s library and disruptive technological change, and a story on the emerging science of networks by Elizabeth Gudrais.