Tuesday, September 24, 2002

The October issue of Harper's Magazine is out. Most of the issue is taken up by a 16 page folio piece about the Triple Crown, which I must confess, I have not read. I've read most of the rest though but the only thing I really want to write about is the back page quiz.

The format of the magazine has become fairly standardized: a celebrity on the cover - ads- table of contents - ads - editor's comments - ads - short items - ads - feature article - ads - smaller articles - ads ads ads - back page.

But what to do with the back page of the magazine has not yet been fully resolved... too many weirdo readers (myself included) tend to read a magazine back to front to give up the space for more ads. At least, that's my theory.

Since June of 1999 (I checked) Harper's magazine has featured an annotated map on the back page. Before that there was a crossword puzzle. This year, since April 2002 (I checked) the back page is a quiz: 10 to 15 questions on history and geography. The questions are *hard* ("Why did Tadeusz Kosciuszko, whose engineering skills helped win the Battle of Saratoga, flee Poland in 1775?") and the prize is pitiful: a one year subscription to Harper's Magazine. Ah, but "all subscription winners are eligible to compete in a year-end quiz whose first prize is a complete set of the Oxford English Dictionary". Say no more!

This month's Quiz theme is drugs ("Long Strange Trip"). Due to the wealth of drug information on the web, I've been digging up most of the answers with relative ease although there are still a handful that may require some library resources. But it is this question that I has been giving me the most trouble:

What is the only culture that did not develop a tradition of using chemicals to alter consciousness?

I've done enough researching to know that it can be a pain in the butt to use research to prove a negative. My tentative answer is the Eskimo / Inuit. With so few things that grow up North, I figure its a safe bet but I have no confirmation from the literature.

Can I get some help from my studio audience?

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