July 14, 1997: MIGHT, MIGHT NOT: The future is grim. The header on the fax reads, "God to Might magazine: 'Raise $1.4 million, or I will call you home.' " We called our favorite New York-written, San Francisco-based magazine right away to find out just what the hell was going on.
Was Might magazine in serious trouble? (Well, obviously.) Was this some self-effacing publicity stunt by dubiously named publisher Lance Crapo? Or was God, after all, a soulless capitalist, and Might was about to expose His racketeering scam in all its "infinite wisdom"? We were hoping for the latter.
We've previously extolled the virtues of Might in these pages: the gloriously pointless features, the quirky record reviews by band members' parents, the titillating "Gaywatch" column...Might is a bastion of creative, intelligent journalism, critically acclaimed and, alas, feared by advertisers. So we were moved to, well, something, upon learning the three-year-old magazine--often described as "cute" and at least once referred to as "amusing"--was about to become a beautiful, albeit fading, memory...in their words, "kind of like what happened to that poor Adam Rich kid."
We called editor and Might founder David Eggers at his Bay Area home, in hope of gleaning some good news. He didn't feel much like talking. We tried to offer support, being a publication, much like theirs, that's been failing to pay its writers, artists, and creditors for like, four times as long as they have. "Is it really that bad?" we asked.
"Yes," he answered listlessly. "This might be the last issue."
Would we ever receive the subscription we ordered a couple of months ago? "Probably not," was the reply.
"Could we submit an article just for the hell of it, for free?"
"Don't bother," he said. That's when we knew it was time for the last rites.
We told him he sounded awfully depressed, for someone we'd never spoken to before. The only response he could muster was, "Oh, really?" When asked about God crashing the staff retreat in the Quebecois mountains, he seemed to brighten a little. But not much. We sensed the clouds about to part, but all he left us with was, "Yes, the Lord works in mysterious ways." Indeed.
Might and its talented staff have no future plans, no forwarding address, and, to hear Eggers tell it, nothing to look forward to. They do, however, have one much-anticipated, final issue now available on the newsstands, in which all the relevant and pressing last questions will be answered, starting with the cover story, "Are Black People Cooler Than White People?" Yeah, yeah, just read the article before you start crying foul, okay?
The rest of the July/August issue ($3.95) is chock full of glib, juvenile humor rife with references to leading philosophers and prime-time television. Go out and buy it, savor it, put it in a box to show your kids when they're older; or bury it in a time capsule in your backyard for future archaeologists. It's that good. And it's that sad and indicative of our spineless evolution, that the chasm between sincere, free-thinking periodicals and the corporations and individuals who (won't) buy ad space in them continues to grow.
Sure mags like Might are fun; but believe it or not, they also serve a purpose (outside the obvious, which is to employ creative people whose poor social skills impede them from securing gainful employment elsewhere). The kind of fearless publishing that deigns to offend advertisers and readers alike affords us a collective glimpse at ourselves, at the prevailing culture we take for granted, and the ungrounded assumptions that shape our lives. Sometimes, these topics are even handled by sensitive writers who put them into a context that invites debate and reflection. Duh.
As one reader put it, "The people who understand Might aren't the only ones who make me happy; it's also those who don't [who write in to voice their concerns]. Might isn't for everyone, and that's good."
We mourn the loss. Send all signed checks, fan mail, and thoughts on the climate for independent publishing in America to David Eggers, who's young, smart, and hasn't been paid in three years, c/o Might, 77 Federal Street, Second Floor, San Francisco, CA 94107.
SPY-1; ESQUIRE-0: It's small comfort, but the August issue of Spy magazine details how bad things also happen to bad people. Tucked away on page 52, there's a juicy, inside-job bashing Esquire magazine and its new editorial director, Randall Rothenberg, who likes to send lots of memos to the staff signed "R2," and likes to write on current trends about four years after the fact: Take his April 1997 cover story, "Cocktail Culture," which by Spy's account is full of poorly constructed sentences and boring Freudian allusions, like: "And what of the martini glass itself? A sensuous hermaphrodite, it is Atlas holding up the world, manly beyond all belief; yet with its wide base, narrow midriff, and flared top, it is the buxom broad of Hugh Hefner's fifties fantasies." Who wouldn't have the urge for a stiff one after reading that?
Those who remember the Esquire of the '60s--a crafty, unflinching publication with literary pretensions--this six-page spread detailing Esquire's economic and creative decline is a fine reminder that not even mediocrity goes unpunished. Under the anti-visionary leadership of Ed Kosner, Esquire's advertising pages have dropped 30 percent, and its newsstand sales by 16 percent. Given the split with fiction editor Will Blythe, who resigned in February after Kosner killed a short story featuring homosexual sex, the demoralized Esquire staff apparently feels things couldn't get much worse...even by airing their disgruntled views in print.
Spy has had its own brush with mediocrity in recent years, but it still has glimmers of greatness. Along with "Sentence of Death," the Esquire exposé by Damon Trent and Larry Platt, you'll find the ever-popular separated-at-birth celebrity photo spread, the Spice Girls street poll, an irreverent little stab at Pope John Paul II, and the feature spread "Spylab," a pulp science piece in which our own Biosphere II appears as a graphic in the background. Well, at least all that space-glass and steel proves good for something.
Spy is available monthly, at the newsstand price of $3. In format, it's a lot like Might, though less funny and more financially stable. Even on a bad month, it's a bigger bang for your buck than Esquire (the cover price of which has risen 20 percent during its decline).
STILL MORE BAD NEWS: Noticed a different tenor on your morning radio? Say au revoir to top-o'-the-morning KFMA radio guy Chad Daley, who gave notice due to, uh, creative differences on what was probably the worst Monday he's had in a long time.
Glad as we are to hear the super-cool and multi-talented Cathy Rivers is taking over, we're sorry to see Daley (a close runner-up for Best Radio Program and Best DJ in The Weekly's Tucson Area Music Awards Readers' Poll last April) hitting the dusty trail in the process. Rumor has it that Rivers was offered a job in enticing Sierra Vista, prompting the KFMA/KLPX management to make it worth her while to stick around. Daley, who's been with the station since its start-up three years ago, said thanks-but-no-thanks to swapping his prime-time morning slot for a part-time gig punching the buttons on the 10 p.m to 1 a.m. shift.
Asked if he had plans to swim in bigger waters, Daley said, "I do now." David Eggers, a young literary entrepreneur who also recently and only slightly unexpectedly became unemployed, suggested an old water-skiing adage that seemed appropriate at a time like this: Lean back, bend your knees, and the boat will pull you up. Maybe they can pitch in together and get a boat. (Eggers lives in San Francisco. We have his home phone number, and we're not above giving it out.)
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