Recommended Reading: It Wasn't Pretty, Folks, but Didn't We Have Fun?

Review-ish blog post: "It Wasn't Pretty, Folks, but Didn't We Have Fun?" by Carol Polsgrove

Surely, this is most intense history of a magazine I have ever read. It Wasn't Pretty, folks recounts the tragedy, gossip, drama, invention, experimentation, drinks, drugs, and sex that lay behind the scenes of Esquire in the 1960s. From 1963 to 1973, Esquire was run by editor Harold Hayes. Polsgrove's treatment of Hayes's reign is a testament to how much a magazine is the manifestation of an editor's vision.

In the September Issue, we saw how Anna Wintour defines Vogue; the New Yorker still bears traces of Tina Brown's influence, etc. etc.

But no editor so irrevocably changed the landscape of American magazine publishing and so lucidly defined a voice of a periodical than Hayes (and possibly another Harold--Ross, that is). There are almost 350 pages in this book, all of which speak to the magnificent achievement that were the 120 issues of Esquire published under Hayes's watch, which include some of the most indelible writing and imagery in the 20th-century, American pop culture consciousness.

We give a lot of credit to George Lois, the famous ad man who created the covers by which we remember Esquire today (an interview with Lois about the famous Esquire covers was published just this week on the New York mag website) but the magic of the book lay in the writing and the emergence of the "New Journalism" genre, which Hayes shaped, tweaked, and defined. He made artists and writers into icons: Diane Arbus, Gay Talese, John Sack, Raymond Carver, Tom Wolfe, and others. Hayes also gave the magazine a voice that was heard even in the advertising; a look into the archives of the New York Public Library showed me how an attitude can permeate every page of a magazine's issue, down to the small print on the shopping directory for the fashion pages.

I can only say so much about the magazine because I learned so much from Polsgrove's thoroughly compelling account, supported by virtuosic research. For any person seeking to learn how a magazine earns respect, veneration, admiration, and greatness, It Wasn't Pretty, Folks is absolutely essential.


New York: Day Three, Four, Five

So the New York Public Library tour was my favourite part of the trip so far. What an honourable, curious, and distinguished institution. Also, architecturally compelling.
They have so many treasures in there - like the 1st edition of Voltaire's Candide from Geneva.

I now am the proud owner of a NYPL library card. Four hours later, my feet feel like they are going to break and I haul ass up Fifth Ave to the MoMa. My very kind friend Claire-Elise lent me her membership card and I got to go in for free. And what a deal! Beautiful Irving Penn photographs in the lobby, new acquisitions -- Avedon photographs made me a bit teary, and the amazing Tim Burton. The exhibit included costumes for Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood, Batman Returns, and Sleepy Hollow. You wouldn't believe detail, and how big, stiff, and uncomfortable PVC body suits look.

We'll the exhibit is obviously a big commercial for the upcoming Alice in Wonderland but really, that doesn't take away from how wonderfullybizarre and fantastical the works are.

And plus, everyone should see this movie:

I've been off this blog (and very active on Twitter) since the conference started. I don't know how it happened but Katerina and I basically ended up spending time with a lot of Canadians and grads of the MPub program. It was an amazing experience, despite the number of stinker sessions there were. Just a lot of brilliant minds in the room, and a lot of comfort knowing that we know just about as much as everyone else. There were some good speakers and some exceptional ones as well. The ladies from Harlequin and the romance sector were absolute inspirations! Way to pave your own path. As well, Ramy Habeeb, McGill alumnus who talked about the potential to tap into and support the Arab book market, was especially refreshing. Also refreshing: free champagne!

The highlightiest of all the highlights of the conference was seeing the big panel of indie publishers. It was a pack of 6 or 7 young'uns talking about experimenting with social media on real terms. I talked with James Yeh of Gigantic. Like Sad, Gigantic is just a baby magazine focused on print, literature, art, and showing people a good time (in the business world, they call it "building community"). Though they have distribution around the world, we also share a business model based on the principle that "people are willing to pay for beer but not content." On that note, thank you Phillips Brewery, for your awesome support. And thanks to James for the beautiful magazine - cheers to a future indie mag, cross-continent partnership.

We had most of the afternoon off so K and I wandered around Herald Square and then stopped in Macy's. There was a fire in the 7th Ave side of the building so half the store was closed. The staff told us it was an electrical fire. Hopefully everyone was safe. In any case, it was a bit spooky to see that side of the building steeped in black.

At the end of the day, I walked through the East Village to forage for food (the search never ends). Serendipitously, I ended back at Veselka, one of my favourite New York restaurants: a 24-hour Ukranian deli with the best perogies I've ever had in my life.

It's time to pack up now. Tomorrow is my meeting with Esquire and then it's up to the airport and back to the land of reading and homework.

I had fun, New York (look, I'm personifying the city - I am a cliché). I'll be back soon.


New York: Day Twhreeo

It's 8AM and I'm going to push myself into rush hour to feel the crush on the subway. Makes you feel like a local... or maybe it's because I want to have a bagel downtown.

Going to have a love fest with New York culture today. First: the New York Public Library's main branch. I love those lions that flank the entrance.

Then the MoMa for a little taste of the macabre in the Tim Burton retrospective, and a look at the work of one of my artistic heroes, Irving Penn.

Lost personal items count (I always lose something on vacation):
1: gloves
2: coat button
3: money (last seen at Macy's)


New York: Day One

To recap: no sleep, all shopping. Lunch at Shack Shake (the buns!), dinner at Ippudo Ramen (pork faaaat), and party in Chinatown loft (don't leave your beer in the fridge, someone will take it), late night/early morning eats from Duane Reade (KD).

This city never disappoints.

Lost personal items count (I always lose something on vacation):
1: gloves

New York: Day Two

Hungover. Ughh.


New York: Day One

I've just 7 in the morning, pacific time, I've been up for almost 24 hours. There was a little sleep on the plane, but not much. I saw the man from across the aisle from me lose his shit because he just lost his iPhone. It was sad.

Later on in the flight, I saw him devour beef jerky and use the package as floss for all the beef bits stuck in his teeth. Deeelightful!

Now, on my way to try the legendary Shake Shack Burgers...


Inventory: A family affair, burlesque, hockey night in Canada, and the Big Apple

I can't believe the past week. We wrapped up the first half of our MPub second semester, the Olympics are here, and the lunar new year is here. This weekend, 30 family members descended on my grandma's house from all over the world to celebrate Chinese New Year. Some of them, I haven't seen for more than a decade. It's surreal to think that this might be the last time that we all get together in one room. Our families are getting bigger and we're also moving to different countries and continents. Before, you could contain us in Toronto and Vancouver.

We've been catching up, throwing down, and filling up. Last night, some of us went to see an Olympics women's hockey match between China and Finland. The Chinese goalie was incredible. She blocked all but 2 out of 48 shots on goal. And while the Chinese team only got 4 shots, they scored one shorthanded.

I'm now detoxing from five days spent eating greasy food, sugary treats, and far too much imbibing. But the party is winding down. My brother's already left and my uncles and cousins are leaving over the next few days.

On Friday, I'm heading to New York to meet my future colleagues at the O'Reilly Tools of Change conference. The wonderful Ms. Katerina Ortakova is going to be my partner in crime, as we learn about the ultimate in geekery: books and computers.

I'm also looking forward to going to the New York Public Library's main branch on Bryant Park and spending a dorky hour touring the building; it's going to be a bibliophilic orgasm. Also, a meeting is in the works to spend some time at the Esquire offices in the Hearst building.

No more posts until I'm back in Vancouver but follow me @megan_lau for the latest. I will blog a lot about what I'm eating, it is always one of the huge highlights of being in the city (suggestions, anyone?).

When I get back, I'll be working with Sad Mag to put together Issue 3, our black and white issue, featuring cover girl and burlesque superstar Crystal Precious. It's going to be sexy, beautiful, and revealing.


Vancouver events you can't miss:

February 19: Queerbash No. 4 at the Wise Hall. This is Vancouver's wildest dance party (it looks a little something like this). Queer Bash is a queer focused dance party and a non-profit with a emphasis on fun, art and community. This month's theme is Gamers vs. Flamers: "Techno Nerds. Torch-bearers. Flaming Queens. Video Junkies. Muscle Marys. Celebrate or Condemn those Games by being as queer as can be."

For more info, see the Queerbash blog

March 19: Sad Mag Party No. 3 at the Anza Club. Cheap beer, Vancouver's finest undiscovered performers, and creative folk come together for dancing, celebration, and free magazines.

More info to come in March.


I hope I get one on Sunday

"Flowers again?"

via Daily Dish

Going up!

Well, all my plans to work hard tonight went out the window and I had a laugh-filled, delicious evening with friends. All together, it's been a nice day.

This picture made my day go from good to great. Thanks, @dslang.


"The chef at the Four Host First Nations' Olympic food pavilion had to rewrite his menu to take out the word 'burger' after Mcdonald's—an Olympic sponsor—complained. The meal — a trio of bison burgers served on bannock—has been re-named 'sliders'"

-- Metro Vancouver
A Wake for Duthie Books



Ivory, Eggshell, Chalk, Cream

"The dinosaurs over at Vanity Fair must not watch very many movies other than Twilight, Dear John, and An Education. Shame!"


Social Media? Dream on (my first rant)

Sean Cranbury of mad bookselling and Books on the Radio fame came into to class today to talk to us about copyright. That lasted about fifteen minutes and then Sean talked to us about how book publishing has changed in general for the next two hours. Today's discussion was kind of illustrative about how talks in publishing just dissolve into general ruminations about where this thing might be going. We can't seem to think about change without talking about all the other changes that are happening across the industry. Today's discussion of copyright was inherently tangential. Case in point: we were talking about O.J. Simpson 10 minutes in.

There was a lot to think about, some of which I wanted to play with a bit. So here, I'm trying some ideas out on you, none of which form any kind of coherent argument. I'm really not attached to any of these thoughts so it would be really nice if someone would shoot me down. I love hearing from you and I have no problem with being proven wrong.

Oh, and I should warn you: I worry a lot. Dr. John Maxwell, our technology prof, argued that when some artists and publishing professionals think about the possibilities for sharing online, they immediately jump to conclusions of apocalyptic proportions, such as, "WHAT IF MY BOOK IS ON NAPSTER AND PEOPLE ARE STEALING IT?" I think this is silly, too. You're lucky if anyone reads the work that you do; I feel lucky that you are reading this. All the same, I am prone to being more pessimistic than your average bear. Let that be a preface for what I'm about to say.

From the speakers we've seen at school this semester, I'm getting the feeling that it's simply not cool to worry in publishing these days, or to simply think pragmatically about how we are going to take advantages of the opportunities ahead. The advice given generally goes, "Stop worrying about what's falling apart and take advantage of the opportunities"--usually those opportunities are in building brands. DB Scott of Canadian Magazines was in last week (we are a really lucky bunch) and offered us an impressively tidy take on the future of magazines. His solution to small magazine outfits was to band together to gain access to new technologies--the ones that would give them access to readers online and new audiences. By banding together, he suggested, these mags could maybe compete with other players who are already adept at using digital media and have the resources to launch a full fledged campaign (and have leeway to fail).

I don't buy this yet. A community-based model where cultural mags share the use of a distributor or circulation manager works but a successful digital media effort needs someone who is versed in the culture and language and community of a magazine. Can one person do this for five different mags? Can one person or small organization (which isn't going to charge an arm and a leg) manage the facebook pages, twitter, digital editions, flickr group, and blogs for so many mags at one and still convey an "authentic" voice? There have to be more realistic solutions for these little mags (which have just lost so much funding!)

I recognize that social media is a game changer but how it's changing the nature of the industry is really not that well defined. Call me a paranoid, pessimistic grouch but one of social media's main effects is to reinforce what is already there (rather than really, significantly evening the playing field). Though Random House, Penguin, and Harpercollins will need to change the way that they do business, the fact is that they have an advantage. Maybe they're shaken up because no names are edging in and taking a piece of their pie but at the end of the day, they can hire someone to sit at the computer and make YouTube videos for them ad nauseam. They can afford to hustle. Time is money and this stuff costs time. Tons of fucking time.

At the very scary end of things, the myth of social media is going to push aside some very important voices. Many, many, many people can say something to the world on blogger, twitter, or wordpress (just to name a few platforms) that they wouldn't have been able to before the Internet BUT there are also people who are just as time-impoverished as they are economically impoverished. And just because what they have to express is out there and worthy doesn't mean that people are reading it. Can we all just recognize this? We've given people access to making more noise... at this point (at this point) we haven't found ways to use the Internet and develop it into fulfilling its initial promise of facilitating a more democratic discourse.

And that's the way it's going to be for a while. All of us will hustle, think strategically, and hope for success and recognition. And social media will be an fundamental part of that success. Nothing is going to change that. I completely accept that. I'm freaked out because I don't even think this blog is being indexed by Google and I don't know how to find out if it is, or isn't... and if it isn't, I don't know how to fix that. I would say that I'm competent at using social media, but by no means a guru. So there, full disclosure: I'm threatened by the new environment.

But again, that's OK. I accept that it is the way that is it. I just don't want to pretend to this Internet thing has really rocked the world that we live in. There's still an older white man running the program I'm attending, which charges something in the area of $15K to be a part of. And I'm in an industry dominated by women. That would be exciting except we work in an industry where the most you can hope for is a living wage. (MPubbers, how many times do we have to hear that we won't get rich doing this thing we love?)

Anyway, Sean, thanks for coming in and sharing your passion, ideas, and enthusiasm. I agree with most everything that you said, I just wanted to add a little dimension to it. It certainly was a rich presentation that motivated me to write my longest blog post in a year.

Now, friends, I'm dying for your thoughts. Please, please, please share!