A LETTER FROM THE EDITOR: SIMPLIFY YOUR READING

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There is a popular booklet called Simplify Your Life by Elaine St. James. Hardly anything in it is particularly insightful. Get out of debt. Eat more fruit. Take frequent walks. Do the mambo in your underwear. (OK, I made that one up, but in case it improves your life: You heard it here first.) St. James turns a tad hysterical, however, when she urges her readers to switch off their TVs and cancel their newspaper and magazine subscriptions so that they can avoid the plague of advertising. Advertisers, she alleges, force us to buy things we don't want or need. They prey on defenseless consumers who would frolic about like Thoreau's perpetually blissful offspring were it not for the subliminal manipulation of Madison Avenue con men. It's deja vu all over again. I thought that kind of tired scapegoating had disappeared around the time the adjective 'groovy' mercifully went AWOL from our language.

Anti-advertising attitudes have perhaps survived most successfully in small pockets of academia. So I was excited when University of Florida English professor James Twitchell described advertising's role in our culture as vibrant and important. In Adcult USA (Columbia University Press, 1996), Twitchell views advertising as pop culture's motor and lingua franca. It is Jim's take on the ad business -- he is neither its clenched-teeth adversary nor its Pollyannish apologist -- that makes him an excellent columnist for Creativity. You'll be seeing his inspiring, erudite writing regularly in this section of the magazine.

Of course, you've already noticed our bold new look, courtesy of design firm Holstein Hereford Guernsey & Shapiro. (HHG&S' work is currently on exhibit until March 27 at the Art Director's Club in New York; see p. 30).

Other changes aplenty, from a comic strip about the travails of a junior art director to a new series about where creatives get their ideas. Like Ms. St. James, I suppose, we aim to 'simplify your life' -- by adding more directly useful features, and by making the magazine easier to read, with a better sense of what's where. But I'll let this issue be an Easter egg hunt, rather than pointing out every new treasure we've added to your favorite publication.

Happy hunting, and don't forget to tell us what you think. (RvB)

Did you happen to catch QVC last month when the Mir cosmonauts gave a live demonstration of the Fisher Space Pen, the only pen that writes in a gravity-free void? (Hey, you can sign Dan Quayle's head with it!) First the pen didn't work, then all the paper slipped out the airlock, then the clipboard that was holding the paper got vaporized in this weird chemical leak, but everything was OK after a replacement pen was delivered five days later by John Glenn in the space shuttle.

-- Q.C.

Press Release Headline of the Month: "Rock 'N Barf Musickal Instruments in the Snotlight at Toy Fair." It's about Yoe! Studio's new line of "weird and wacky" instruments, including this Horror-Monica. It's "a real harmonica that looks like a tooth-decaying, gingivitis-drenched, spit-drooling mouth." Bill Clinton had nothing to do with the creation of this product.

-- Q.c.

No pizza, no pizza: Hey, Little Caesar, what do you want on your tombstone?

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