"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 23 October 1997. Updated every WEEKDAY.
Hit & Run CV


[speaking of television, i'm pretty psyched for the VH1 Fashion Awards on Tuesday]

When is a pseudonym appropriate?

Perhaps when the content is

otherwise actionable. The story

goes that the title for Carla

Sinclair's newly released

new-media mystery, Signal to

Noise, was originally Looking

for Douglas Coupland; she was

maneuvered into changing it

because of legal concerns, libel

laws, blah, blah, blah. The rest

of the story goes that Coupland

was disappointed to find out

about the title change - one

assumes that for Coupland, as

for most people, the idea of

becoming fictionalized isn't

quite as attractive as becoming

immortalized. The actual content

of Sinclair's book will be cold

comfort for His Gen-Xellence:

Did he really want to be so

closely attached to Sinclair's

epithet "the head that defined a

generation"? That said, does a

cover as thin as "Darren Cooper"

give him much distance?

Sinclair's book, split neatly

into a Wired magazine (here

known as Signal) roman à clef

(Chapters 1-22) and Silk

Stalking-level "techno-thriller"

(the other 182 pages), is full

of such pyrrhic pen names. So,

the good news is that anyone who

hopes to gain insight into the

true nature of the Wired staff

and neighbors circa 1995 should

have a pretty easy time of it.

We'll even give you a head

start. The bad news: Who would

want to? Aside from a few

pathologically disgruntled

ex-employees and The Well's

Wired Conference, we can't

imagine the public at large

having much interest in what the

book accurately portrays: the

quotidian power games of the

Wired communal kitchen. And what

sex there is exists mostly in

the protagonists' imaginations.

(Score another for accuracy.)

That's not to say Sinclair is

incapable of writing fiction:

Toward the end, she describes

how "Signal" has "mushroomed

into a multimillion-dollar media

empire, expanding into

television, radio, and books and

fostering other start-up

magazines." Heh, that's almost

as good as Wired's own business



[it's such a wonderful opportunity to see those same faces and names that grace the covers of every entertainment, fashion, and lifestyle magazine over and over and over and over again actually move!]

In GQ, Michael Gross

wonders if Spin's new editor may

be "the next Jann Wenner"; if

so, should we worry about the

handsome young men working under

him? Perhaps only about their

morale. While a wholesale

relaunch is slated for the new

year, Michael Hirschorn's short

reign at Spin is off to an

exceedingly rocky start; for

every article like the

pleasingly retrograde October

feature on Oasis (which seethed

with a refreshing, convivial

cattiness), there's one, make

that 10, like the confused

sidebars in search of a story

that make up the November "Girl

Issue." (An annotation to a list

of 59 items that have "helped

define Girl Culture" introduces

its essential discs with the

caveat that "girls don't go in

for that whole Spin-rock-critic

list-making." Yeah, math is

hard.) Never a real model of

cohesiveness, Spin has slipped

into a state of editorial

schizophrenia characterized by

an overweening dependence on

irony in display lines and a

disappointing lack of it in body

copy. You've got to start

somewhere, true, and a

high-profile editor offering

critics such low-hanging fruit

should probably not be surprised

by their willingness to toss it

back at him (the pugnaciously

fickle New York Press has

already lobbed two pot shots);

this makes Gross rather

serious consideration of

Hirschorn's future all the more

remarkable. "Will people have to

pay attention to rock magazines

again?" the piece intones. Then

again, a close reading reveals

that though Spin may yet deserve

consideration, it's not

Spin, or even Hirschorn, that

Gross is taking seriously, it's

the magazine business itself.


[i mean wow, to hear someone like Claudia Schiffer actually speak - it is a rare, once a year opportunity to garner her words of wisdom and come away from the whole thing with a brand new wish list ...]

It's not just the list of

"magazine auteurs" (Esquire's

Harold Hayes, Time's Henry Luce, New

York's Clay Felker) that draws

attention to GQ's recitation of

creatively narcissistic

publishing folklore. There's the

strange confluence of lineages

that turns parentheticals into

conspicuously close-cropped

family trees ("now a GQ

writer-at-large," "previously an

editor at Esquire"), and there's

the ritual invocation of Harold

Ross. (In publishing circles,

Ross 1925 New Yorker

prospectus holds a talismanic

power rumored to keep

advertisers silent.) The bright

incestuousness depicted by Gross

is actually justifiable

optimism. Among all the

editorial misfires Gross glosses

over, the only man whose future

is in doubt is ex-Spin editor

Bob Guccione Jr. - and that's

because he kept trying to screw

the staff instead of the

readers. As the trajectory of

Spy's founders (who went on to Vanity Fair

and The New Yorker) suggests,

the key to failing upward in the

magazine biz is glorious

inscrutability: the willingness

to use your magazine to speak to

your colleagues, not your

subscribers. (Hi, Dave!) Taken

on its face, this lesson

suggests perpetuating inside

jokes as long they succeed in

getting you on the inside.

Because while speaking in the

arch-yet-geeky voice of

disaffected Web wunderkinds will

ensure you an audience well into

the hundreds, that's hardly the

right hundred.


[like new lipstick colors and favorite greasy foods that most models eat allll the time - and look how skinny and beautiful they are - they won an award for it.]

At its best, of course, the

calculus of inside jokes is not

a zero-sum game. The good inside

joke is a comedic Mobius strip,

inviting the reader in while

turning out the subculture it

derides. A bad inside joke is

akin to the courtiers whispering

among themselves about the

emperor's new clothes. Case in

point: Spy's recent exposé on

the goings-on at fictitious

Rogue magazine. Belabored,

detailed, and yet still somehow

incomprehensible, this is the

emperor's courtiers whispering

among themselves in Pig Latin.

As it turns out, the piece's

misdirections are needlessly

oblique - the thin punchline is

that Rogue is actually Esquire. Some

secret, eh? (An object lesson in

bad inside jokes, what thrill

for us there was in breaking the

Rogue/Esquire code stemmed from

our scant intimacy with the

characters, as when the raiding

of Might's masthead is played

out with Hmmm, a magazine

notable for having produced

"such memorable features as 'I'm

Only Typing This Headline

Because, You Know, It Would Be

Weird If an Article Didn't Have

a Headline.'") The article's

thesis is equally flaccid, not

to mention misguided: Money

can't buy you irony. (Speak for

yourself.) Is this the kind of

hard-hitting criticism one needs

a pseudonym to say?

Er, maybe.

courtesy of the Sucksters

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