Monday, October 20, 2003

At one time in my life, I had both the time and drive to maintain something called the Rain Barrel Extremely Digestible Maglog. At the time, I had about ten magazine subscriptions on the go and writing up each issue helped me justify my little magazine habit. But now only a few magazines really excite me now and the new last magazine subscription I picked up was the dry but dependable Cook's Illustrated.

The question now is, will I love a Walrus?

I signed up to receive the inaugual issue of Canada's Walrus Magazine but never received it and had to resort to buying the last available copy at the local Chapter's. I found it beside the New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, and Harper's Magazine - the very literary company the magazine wants to keep. It is going to try to claim this hallowed ground by paying its writers well. From an introduction to the mandate of the Walrus "Our intention is to give writeres the resources they need to dig beneath the surface of news-driven "stories" and to assemble and contribute real narratives to the public discourse."

In the same introduction, I was disappointed to read that while, The Walrus is a Canadian magazine, it is only so "by the accident of place and time" and they promise to never to raise the "hoary old question of 'the Canadian identity'.

Instead, they pledge that The Walrus' "interests are international and we hope to engage our readers as global citizens. In this issue, for example, Marci McDonald's analysis of Paul Martin's empire, while throughly Canadian, raises issues that are universal: Are the qualities of leadershop in business transferrable to the political realm".

Sadly, the twleve page history profile of Mr. Martin business dealings are mostly MEGO (journalistic slang for "My Eyes Glaze Over") and doesn't touch on the universal aspects nearly even through there is plenty of opportunity. For example, the writer could have compared to the derision generally given to George W.'s business career while Paul Martin Jr. is (incorrectly) credited with being a self-made shipping magnet.

Or the author could have made much hay from fact that the man who is all-but-ordained the next Prime Minister of Canada doesn't fly a Canadian flag on his international ships - something that the NDP point out with much greater effectiveness through a simple web-poll.

The internationalism of The Walrus seems cold and forced. Under the short item "Field Notes" section are pieces on the :

  • homeless children of Moscow
  • non-reaction of the British to the proposed EU constitution
  • attempts of political reform by King Hussein of Jordon
  • eruption of Serb-Croatian violence at a water-polo match
  • impossibiity of studying bonobo monkeys in war-torn Congo
  • changing poltical climate of California as evidenced by Arnold
  • buying a walrus penis as a souveneir in Cape Dorset

What are editors trying to say about Canada's place in the world? Politics are elsewhere? Canadians are quirky?

Its only been one issue so its too early to tell what The Walrus Magazine will become. So far, the magzine seems deadly serious. In order to build up a loyal following its going to have to win over hearts as well as minds.

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