Tagged: jason hollander

Redo at NYU


NYU Alumni Magazine has had some work done. For a start, it is no longer NYU; now it’s New York University Alumni Magazine. New creative director Nathaniel Kilcer led the redesign. Editor Robin Sayers says, “Nathaniel did new cover treatments, and in some he used NYU, and others New York University. We just kept gravitating toward the longer version for eye and ear reasons: We liked the look of it and liked the sound of it. Much here, naturally, is branded as NYU, and it’s obviously easier to say three letters as opposed to three words. I think we just liked that in a sea of stuff featuring the abbreviation, that the magazine would go to the trouble of spelling it out, and that a reader would sound it out in his or her head.”

Sayers reports that Kilcer did the entire redesign himself evenings and weekends. “He’s a morning person and a night owl and in fact I don’t think he sleeps,” she says.

In the briefest of editor’s notes—five lines!—there is this: “We lengthened our name and shortened most stories.” Says Sayers, “In general we all thought that most FOB and BOB pieces would be as good, or stronger, at a shorter length. What really sealed the deal though was our desire to highlight all of the university’s schools and institutes at least once in the front and once in the back. There are, depending on how you count, about 20 schools now. So in order to showcase each at least twice in the magazine, the pieces needed to come down in word count. This approach though can only succeed if the features are allowed to go on as long as necessary.” In the first of the new issues, the story “MCMXIV” (that’s “1914” for those who do not have the Roman Numeral iPhone app) subsumes the entire XIV-page feature well.

nyumapOkay, okay, but here’s the coolest move. Near and dear to the NYU campus is Washington Square Park. In addition to bad musicians and Allen Ginsburg lookalikes, the park is populated by an array of furry and feathered creatures. Sayers commissioned from Eric Chase Anderson a hand-drawn map of the park dominated by portraits of 14 of the wild and not-so-wild animal denizens, including the Norway rat, the rock dove (that’s a pigeon to you and me), the downy woodpecker, the cedar waxwing, the domestic dog (some kind of black terrier, I think—I’m a cat guy), and Homo sapiens. The latter a female of the species in black jeans, ankle boots, and fashionable scarf, clutching a soda can and looking harried. Or repelled by the rat. (Or the terrier.) The map has been folded in fourths and glued into the magazine just inside the cover, where it can be folded out or detached. (Click on the image to have a good look.)

Explains Sayers, “I’m a huge fan of Eric’s work, and for years I’ve been wanting to do a truly special project with him. The redesign seemed like the ideal opportunity, and because of his passion for mapmaking (he wrote and illustrated a book called Chuck Dugan Is AWOL: A Novel — with Maps and he created a map of the Rushmore Academy when Criterion released their special edition of the film Rushmore), that seemed like a good fit. A happy coincidence was that Nathaniel is friends with Eric. The three of us brainstormed our way to the final map, and thanks to Jason [Hollander, the magazine’s previous editor, now editorial director at NYU] we were able to pull the trigger money-wise. The entire endeavor started in April and didn’t end until early December.

“Next time, it’ll be much, much easier, but none of us had ever done something quite like that. Every time we’d figure one part out, another detail would come along to try to thwart our efforts. Every spec seemed to affect every other spec: paper quality, postal charges, glue weight. Our printer doesn’t do this sort of thing, so they had to work with an outside vendor, which added another wrinkle. So yes, it was a pain in the ass, but only because it was—as the Russians like to say—a ‘first pancake.’ If we did it again, it’d be a relative cakewalk. I only had one day where I said, “Screw it, we’re not doing it.” But Nathaniel convinced me that the idea needed more than a mere spread and that we’d figure everything out, and I’m glad he did because I’m very happy with the way it turned out. In a perfect world, the paper would be thicker and glossier, and the placement would have been opposite the feature-well opener. But the compromises we needed to make were insignificant in the end when compared to what I hope others find a fun, but truly beautiful and informative, keepsake.”

rubinThere’s one last great bit in the magazine. NYU alum Rick Rubin, the record producer, figures in the editorial content. Rubin has a distinctive visage, mostly due to grey hair and a beard that make him look like an aging veteran of Antietam. The inside back cover is given over to a hand-drawn portrait of Rubin by Elizabeth Carpenter—to see it bigger click Rick—and in the portrait Rubin’s hair and beard form a maze. Also embedded there is a hidden message (hint: it refers to Rubin’s class and graduation year). And…and…the musical notation that forms the portrait’s border is from the Rubin-produced Aerosmith-Run DMC version of “Walk This Way.”

Now, try to get that song out of your ear.

Eight questions for Jason Hollander

Blog posts will be sparse this week. My father died Saturday morning, and I will be in Ohio for his funeral. But we do have Jason Hollander, editor at NYU Alumni Magazine, stepping up to answer the UMagazinology Eight Questions.

How long have you been in your job?

I’ve been at NYU for eight years, and editor of the magazine for five.

What has proven to be the most significant thing you had to learn to do that job?

How to be genuinely open-minded and see all perspectives. It’s not always easy, but it’s essential for getting to the heart of each story, and for making the magazine look as good as it can.

What has been your best experience at the magazine?

Interviewing celebrity alums is definitely a cool perk, and we have our fair share at NYU. I’ve been lucky enough to spend time with Ang Lee, Spike Lee, Martin Scorsese, and Clive Davis, among others. But there’s a real reward that comes from working on complicated stories, where the narrative eludes us all for so long . . . until it suddenly becomes clear. That moment of piecing the puzzle together gives you a natural high, along with knowing you now have a story that will, hopefully, communicate something new and insightful to people.

What has proven to be your biggest frustration?

This is sort of a universal issue with alumni magazines, but it’s frustrating when people don’t take the publication seriously because they think we’re just some review of campus events, crammed with group photos and promotional fluff. Many don’t realize that these days, in this new media frontier, some of the most innovative, long-form storytelling now comes from alumni magazines.

What part of your magazine never quite satisfies you, despite everybody’s best effort?

This is tough to answer. I think I’m supposed to say I’m a perfectionist, but I’m not. In the moment, issue to issue, our team works really hard, and we try to make the magazine fun and stimulating for every sort of reader. Of course, we don’t always succeed. Some stories and photos prove disappointing, and we try to learn from them. As a rule, it’s good to strive for improvement, but I think it’s also important to find some real satisfaction within the process.

What story are you proudest to have published?

It’s perfect timing to answer this question because our latest issue (Fall 2011) just came out with a cover story—by Jill Hamburg Coplan—on Edith Windsor, a former IBM programmer who lost her partner, Thea Clara Spyer, in 2009, after more than 40 years together. She’s now suing the United States for the “widow’s tax” she was forced to pay because the federal government didn’t recognize their union. I’m extremely proud that we were able to tell a classic love story while illustrating the injustices that exist in denying certain individuals the right to marry.

If you could commission a story from any writer in the world, who would it be?

I’d love to have Woody Allen write a humor piece for us about the unsuccessful semester he spent at NYU. In his early standup, he famously mentions getting thrown out of college for cheating on his metaphysics final—by looking into the soul of the guy sitting next to him. Woody—if you’re reading this, please contact me. We pay a very competitive freelance rate.

If you weren’t an editor, what would your dream job be?

I’m still working on that great American screenplay.

UMag inbox

First, the Great Whiteout of Fall 2011 continues:

And while we’re talking covers, apparently Dartmouth Medicine and Iowa Alumni Magazine now share color palettes:

St. Thomas had the good sense to devote a feature story to alumnus John Kascht, a remarkable caricaturist who became an editorial cartoonist when he was 14 and wasted no time getting into trouble as a junior high school kid by drawing and passing around a “nun of the month” pinup calendar. Kascht has become so good at what he does, he has 22 pieces in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery in Washington. Writer Doug Hennes did a nice job with the story, but he had a thankless task, providing the text to wrap around six examples of Kascht’s wonderful art.

Dusk is approaching, and from the farmhouse you can see lights on in the second floor of an old chicken coop and horse stable. John Kascht hunches over a drawing table and stares at a blank sheet of paper, surrounded by photos of his subject matter. He deftly swipes a pencil across the paper and looks up to cock his head sideways and stroke his goatee before taking another swipe. He repeats the motion over and over, hardly touching the paper but, swipe by swipe, brings life to the face.

Brian C. Brown edits the magazine.

NYU Alumni Magazine (Jason Hollander, editor) weighs in with an outstanding cover story, Jill Hamburg Coplan’s “When a Woman Loves a Woman.” A case now in the judicial system, Windsor v. United States, may prove to be the landmark case for the civil rights of gay Americans. The “Windsor” is Edith Windsor, an NYU graduate who met her partner, Thea Clara Spyer, in 1963, married her in Toronto in 2007, and after she died in 2009 filed suit the next year to challenge the constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act that forbids exemption from estate taxes for gay marriages. When Windsor had to pay, out of her savings, $363,053 in estate taxes that a heterosexual would not have had to pay, she sued. Coplan does a great job of explicating the complex issues at stake, as well as telling Windsor’s story:

“We never dreamed it,” Edie reflects. “We didn’t expect marriage, even 10 years ago, and I never expected I’d be looking at a piece of paper that said ‘Windsor versus United States of America.’ Fighting is very hard—we spend our lives coming out, in different circumstances. We’re never all out, somehow. It takes a lot of guts to stand up and let people know—people you’ve lied to much of your life—that not only are you a lesbian, but you’re a lesbian fighting the United States of America.”

This last item is gratuitous, but I just have to say I love the name of the magazine from Warren Wilson College in North Carolina: Owl & Spade. Just set it right there on the coffee table next to Garden & Gun. I had to ask editor John Bowers how the magazine got its name, and he responded: “The first issue of Owl & Spade was published in October 1924 when Warren Wilson College was the Asheville Farm School. The masthead read, ‘The Owl and Spade: Dedicated to the Dignity of Manual Labor When Coupled with Brains.'” I love that.

UMag inbox . . . the back of the inbox

A check of the bottom of the stack of new magazines that has grown to dangerous proportions on my desk has brought to light some items worthy of attention.

Magazine renovators have been busy at Southern Cal. USC Trojan Family Magazine unveiled a new design with its summer edition. New, bolder, sans serif nameplate shifted from center to left. More assertive typography inside as black lowercase section heads replace serif white type reversed out of color blocks. The biggest apparent change in organization has been a reduction in front-of-the-book pages from 10 in the spring edition to only three in the new magazine. USC also debuted a new online magazine and in the summer print edition devoted a page to nudging readers to it. The web version looks good, though USC has run into the problem we all have with magazine websites—the Southern Cal site looks good in the same way that all of our newer magazine sites look good. The medium seems to have imposed a design template on us and we all pretty much look alike. One more argument for print. Don’t get me started. USC editor is Nicole Malec.

The spring issue—told you I was behind—of NYU Alumni Magazine (editor Jason Hollander) has a nicely done cover story by Jascha Hoffman. “Patient, Heal Thyself” opens with 30-year-old research that has long fascinated me: Ellen Langer’s study that asked a group of elderly men to spend a weekend together pretending the year was 1959 and they were about 20 years younger. After the weekend, Langer recorded an astonishing array of physical changes in the men. After their weekend retreat they had improved posture, strength, flexibility, vision, hearing, and intelligence. Versus a control group of men on the same retreat who were asked only to reminisce, not pretend, their physical improvements were significantly greater. Through a purely mental exercise, they had effected physical change for the better. Hoffman goes on to recount the history of placebos, report some of the skepticism about the placebo effect, and explore the current research into a possible biological basis for mind-induced physical improvement. He gracefully covers a lot of ground, including Jon Kabat-Zinn’s work with meditation, John Sarno’s studies of treating back pain by emotional therapy, and the knotty dilemma of placebos versus an obligation to tell patients the truth.

In the February 19, 2007 issue of The New Yorker, Susan Orlean wrote a fine piece titled “The Origami Lab” about a physicist-turned-origamist named Robert J. Lang. Lang used computers and his physicist’s way of approaching a problem to create folding patterns that allowed creation of fantastic paper sculptures, such as a life-size cuckoo clock folded from a single sheet of paper with no cuts and astonishing realism. Lang earned a master’s degree at Stanford in the 1980s, and Greta Lorge profiled him in the May/June issue of Stanford. We can all feel for Lorge—who wants to step on to ground already covered by Susan Orlean? But she does an admirable job, particularly in how she moves between the artistic aspect of Lang’s folding to the scientific and mathematical side. Kevin Cool edits Stanford.

Finally, behold the cover of Auburn Magazine. Does the summer issue, edited by Betsy Robertson, contain advice on hygiene of the most personal sort? The definitive feature on the Department of Human Waste Sciences? (I made that up, but I wouldn’t be surprised to come across one somewhere.) No, the cover image refers to Mike Tierney’s “Family Trees,” a feature on a set of trees beloved by Auburn students and alumni. The oaks at Toomer’s Corner on the Auburn campus are regarded as the heart of campus, which is why someone poisoned them after Auburn defeated the University of Alabama in a football game last year. (A retired Texas state trooper and ardent Alabama fan named Harvey Updyke has been arrested and charged with the crime.) Tierney writes about the ongoing effort to save the trees, an effort funded by donors from both Auburn and Alabama. Now I advocate writing for the broadest possible audience in a university magazine, reporting on subjects of interest far beyond the boundaries of our institutions and incorporating the perspectives of people outside our schools. But at the same time, I think we should always be alert for those stories aimed purely at the narrowest definition of our readership. Not many people outside the state of Alabama know or care about the Toomer’s oaks, but they are a big deal at Auburn, and a feature story like this does a lot to sustain Auburn Magazine‘s community. It’s silly stuff, but every one of our schools has some sort of silliness at the heart of the emotional bond we feel to alma mater.

And the toilet paper? Tradition dictates that after an Auburn victory, students drape the oaks with it. If you’re part of the War Eagle family, you know at a glance what the cover story is about.