Monday, January 21, 2008

Reading The Economist

or... How I decided to cancel the newspaper and find out what was going on in the world.

or... How to feel ignorant on 7 contents and all disputed territories.

It didn't start as a quest for better news. It started as a quest for less newspaper. I stopped watching television news years ago. I think Max Robinson might have still been on.

I read 2 magazines regularly. One is Vanity Fair (still the most in-depth war coverage in US publication, and if you are making fun of VF it is because you think it is Vogue). It's not. Just because Demi has been naked on the cover.... twice... is no reason to think it is not a serious magazine. And they throw one heck of an Oscar party.

The other is The Oxford American. And they don't mean the college in England.

I was a charter subscriber of Entertainment Weekly for over 10 years, but then Reality TV happened, I outgrew all the music, and I got tired of the puns. I will still allow myself a current issue on a plane ride, but otherwise I have let it go.

When I first moved out to Central Mass I got romantic about home newspaper delivery, and indulging in the kind of Wamsutta sheets fantasy that features the Sunday Times and pots of coffee. For a moment I considered subscribing to The Christian Science Monitor, though I couldn't find a carrier this far out. I thought I should get local information -- "livin' in my city," we used to say when the gang were all Bostonians. So I subscribed to 1 of the town papers (ooo, haaah? we're a 2 paper town...) because how else would I know Kim the can man had passed away or what time Clinton Day started? And the Worcester Telegram & Gazette (known locally as the T&G).

The T&G turns out to be all car crashes and house fires, 10 pages of classified ads, 1 page of local business, a terrible comics selection, and AP wire stories. One day I realized I didn't know who the Prime Minister of the UK was. Not like {snap...snap} what's that's guy, ohhh, you know... I did not know.

The Economist is an investment, so let me give you some tips from my early observations.

It's a $100 subscription so you'd better know if you are serious. Perhaps you want to try dating it first through your local library. Perhaps you want to split it with friends. I've been with VF so long it costs me about $20 a year, and Oxford American comes only quarterly. I admitted, though, that I was paying $100 a year for the T&G and I left most of it on the floor.

It's densely written. Like VF, the layout style is long stretches of text-heavy pages, with few advertising interruptions. Unlike VF, the Economist ad is likely to be for Secretary of the Interior for the Solomon Islands. And that can be interesting. It is layout that says, "This magazine is good for you. And pick up your bike."

It's organized by continent. Well, there is a cover story, and a few regular "departments," then you get The Americas, Europe, Africa, etc. Britain gets its own section because it's a British magazine, which means....

It's globalised spelling and phrases like "tastes nice" and "whilst in hospital." Miss Bender does love the Masterpiece feeling of a such an intellEXual magasine.

It's a weekly. That's where your hundred dollars goes. I thought that reading an entire issue on a Sunday morning (cue spotlight on sheets....cue coffee smell) could not take significantly longer than reading the newspaper had, and it wouldn't except... I already fell behind. Thanks to a snowfall yesterday I was able to read my first 2 issues without brain-squishy, but could not make it through the current one, which I will have to pick through slowly this week.

It's smarter than you. I should say, it is smarter than I, but only because I lost track of my world leaders playing cards. And it is essentially about economics.

Things I can now speak casually about:
Tata Motors... who the Europeans think we should elect... who we think the Londoners should elect...Kenyan elections...what the Chinese know about genetics...sovereign funds (ok, I didn't really understand that article) and falling satellites, which I intend to comment about in a more alarmist way at a later date.

I tell you all this partly to explain why I haven't written you. But when I do, it should be a higher class of greeting card.


  1. I dwarf at the magnitude of your brain swell from reading such a literary tome. Oh and the satellite from the sky thing? I loved the way my local news schmucks - Christa Delcamp and some other male schmoe I think? chuckled about "Haha there is a satellite falling towards the earth! What are the chances?! Haha!" Meanwhile, I am looking at the sky like What THE HOLY HELL?!

  2. I often say to friends, "I have this friend, and she's brilliant and funny and it's an amazing combination." The quote below is one such example of why I think this.

    "One day I realized I didn't know who the Prime Minister of the UK was. Not like {snap...snap} what's that's guy, ohhh, you know... I did not know."

    You are hilarious and I am not worthy intellectually of your friendship. :) hee hee. -karen

  3. Miss Bender, I am also a big fan of The Economist. The Globe has really gone downhill since the NYT bought lacks decent coverage and has become, in a word, boring. My challenge with The Economist is the weekly's hard to keep up with this planet of ours!

    BTW, Karen's right...youz wicked smahrt.


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