Wednesday, October 27, 2004

From Sporting News to Sporting Nudes

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I like looking at beautiful women. I'm sure God implanted something in the male DNA that causes palms to moisten, Adams Apples to bob and eyes to pop out like a Chuck Jones cartoon, when a guy sees an especially fetching female. And if that female is attired in something particularly revealing, many guys exercise about as much self-control as Wile E. Coyote at an ACME close-out sale.

I also like looking at sports. Not coincidently, a lot of guys- myself included- tend to react with the same lack of resolve when their favorite team's receiver pulls down a "Hail Mary" pass in the end-zone amidst a clutch of defenders with time running out in a tie game. Perhaps it was this parallel of passions, these siblings of sensations, that inspired Sports Illustrated to introduce their swimsuit issues.


The editors and publishers at SI might struggle to validate their decision to enhance their highly regarded sports magazine with scantily clad, partially nude women to the public. But in private there is neither quibble nor debate. As the rappers say: it's all about the Benjamins.

I heard one SI executive quoted on TV as saying the sales for that single, annual issue alone exceeds the total yearly sales of many other magazines. This is the periodical that has idolized gamesmanship, published articles that questioned integrity in various sports and generally held itself up as a paragon of journalistic purety. Once a year it puts itself in a position to identify with the most avaricious and disloyal of athletes.

The wisdom of turning a popular sports magazine into a nudie mag once a year has been hotly debated since the first swimsuit issue appeared in January 1964. Parents, teachers, librarians and pure sports enthusiasts are among those who've written countless letters of protest to SI. Instead of having the desired effect of at least tempering some of the more lascivious photos, SI has gone in the opposite direction; more bare breasts and behinds, more suggestive poses.

I'm sure SIs publishers are losing no sleep over the public outcry. From their perspective, for every parent, teacher, libarian and sports enthusiast who cancels their subscription, a dozen lustful men in the desired 18-49 demographic signs on. And the "cha-chings" make for a sweet lullaby.

My fear is this: for a magazine that will do almost anything for sales, how long before the first Sports Illustrated Kiddie-Porn issue hits the stand?

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Superman vs Super-Ego

My wife subscribes to Oprah Winfrey's magazine, succinctly entitled "O". When she received her first issue, I noted, in passing, a nice picture of Oprah on the cover. Later, after she had received her second issue, I thought it rather peculiar that Oprah would grace the covers of back-to-back issues.

At this point let me pause to confess that I've never been regarded as the sharpest utensil in the drawer, so when it dawned on me that Oprah was on the cover of every one of the magazines, it was a slow, deliberate dawn, climbing laboriously over the distant horizon.

Help me out here, is this a text-book example of classic egocentricity? If Merriam-Webster were to convert to a strictly graphic interface, would the word 'Narcissism' be defined with a dozen pictures of Oprah happily smiling from the covers of her "O"?
Oprah Magazine Covers
To be fair, I tried to think if I had ever subscribed to any magazine which showed the same person on each cover. I was surprised to realize I had. It was "The Adventures of Superman".
That realization clearly elevated Oprah to new heights in my mind. It isn't so much that Oprah is conceited, I conceded; she's merely acknowledging that there's no one more dominant than her. "O" magazine is the "The Adventures of Superman" for the new millenium. Superman Covers

Think about it; where Superman has battled space aliens, criminal masterminds and various and sundry mutants, Oprah has taken on the Texas beef industry, cultural literacy and Phil Donahue. Where Superman was courted by the love-starved Lois Lane, Oprah's well-publicized paramour is Stedman Graham. The parallels fairly boggle the mind. And who is more open-armed and generous than Oprah? Superman, maybe, but certainly no one else.

So the next time you look up in the sky, if it's not a bird or a plane... well, you know who it probably is.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Are You Terrorized?

I was reading an article today about evidence obtained by the US government suggesting possible terrorist attacks at American schools and it caused me to recall how many other articles and news reports in recent months have warned us of imminent danger.

Who can forget the ruckus surrounding the discovery of detailed plans for an attack on several East Coast financial districts.

I certainly understand and advocate caution in these potentially perilous times, but consider these recent headlines from FoxNews Online:

FBI, DHS Offer Way to Protect U.S. Schools

FBI: Al Qaeda May Target VA Hospitals

Truck Bombs Favored in Terrorists' Arsenal

Feds: Copters, Limos May Be Terror Weapons

Sources: More Targets Cited by Al Qaeda

FBI, DHS Warn of Transport Threats

FBI: Al Qaeda May Recruit non-Arabs for U.S. Attacks

Coast Guard: Speedboat Attacks Possible

Feds: Al Qaeda Plans to 'Hit the U.S. Hard'

It seems to me if the goal of the terrorist is to terrorize, then how many of us are now terrified of speedboats, trucks, copters and limosines? How many of us are afraid to visit a VA Hospital or to send our children to school? Granted this is not a new argument but it does no harm to revisit it. The question is; at what point does the media saturation of every conceivable potential threat begin to serve no purpose save to increase our level of stress and fear?

And who, besides the terrorists, benefits from that?