Tag Archives: free magazine review

Free Magazine Review: Anniston/Gadsden Christian Family

Where did it come from? A loved one recently went on a work trip to Gadsden and brought this back as a souvenir. He knows I love a good free magazine. And because Gadsden just finished its star turn in the national media thanks to senatorial candidate/noted moralist/Tiger Beat enthusiast Roy Moore’s supposed lifetime ban from the Gadsden Mall, I wanted to know more about life up there.

Who publishes it? Anniston/Gadsden Christian Family is put out by Carlton Publishing, Inc. They are based in Gadsden and not to be confused with Carlton Publishing Group, which is a real thing. It’s a larger format publication that seems like it might come out every month. Unlike a lot of free magazines, this one has a mission statement. It says, in part, that the magazine “exists to provide Christians and the community at large with ways to grow and develop as part of Alabama’s Christian Family. The local publication is designed to promote positive living by sharing with readers the latest news on entertainment, healthy living, parenting and inspirational literature as well as what individuals and organizations are doing to try to address the needs of the family.” That’s a lot to get through in 35 pages.

Who’s on the cover? In July, it’s Miss Alabama Callie Walker, shown making a grateful pageant face while another woman places the winning tiara on Walker’s head. The cover story takes up the magazine’s two middle pages and is printed on a distracting color background of roses. The headline is “Taking the Stage with Faithful Confidence,” which made me curious about what unfaithful confidence might look like. The story itself is broken up into “Art Facts,” Faith Facts,” and “Trash Talk.” I did not know this about the job of being Miss Alabama, but evidently one part of it is having a “platform,” like a political candidate. Walker’s seems to be recycling, which the story’s author, Camille Smith Platt, describes as “sustainability.” Walker wants schools across Alabama to adopt recycling programs to preserve the earth, which she says was given to us by the Lord.

Recycling, as it happens, is a particularly touchy topic here in Montgomery, where we’ve recently been told that our local recycling plant – the one that shut down, leaving the city to pay the tab for a giant unused facility that did not expect that people would try to throw dirty diapers in the trash – will be reopened by a new contractor with a plan to use the plant to recycle while turning excess trash into fuel. Yes, that seems like it will totally work.

Meanwhile, the evidence is accumulating that consumer recycling is kind of a scam. China’s not accepting recyclable materials much any more, so there’s nowhere to put stuff, and it’s mostly going into the landfill. Read this article about it if you’ve got some doubts. But having kids recycle has some obvious appeal as a lasting solution to the many problems facing Alabama, so it’s pretty clear why this was a winning issue for Miss Alabama.

According to http://www.winningthroughpageantry.com. a good pageant platform offers a specific solution to a cause that you are particularly passionate about. The author includes a list of causes from recent Miss America pageants to give ideas. These include “Global Awareness” (presumably a rebuke to the Flat-Earthers) and “Internet/Social Media Safety” (Be Best, y’all). You can also pay the site’s administrator money to receive their advice for winning at pageants. As an aside, the pageant Internet is pretty intense – there’s a whole economy of pageant consultants lobbying for money from tiara-seekers. Everything I personally know about beauty pageants I learned from watching The Simpsons, so all of this was new to me.

What else is in the magazine? A number of what seem to be regular features (“Humor in Holy Places,” “An Encouraging Word,” “Kids Korner”) whose pictured authors all seem to be white women. Many of their biographies emphasize the writer’s availability for speaking engagements. My favorite column was “Legal Matters,” whose name makes it seem like you might be getting an update on the law somehow. This month, authors Myron Allenstein and Rose Allenstein, have chosen to cite scripture extensively (including several block quotes) to support their contention that freedom comes from God. They do not mention all of the slavery in the Old Testament. The column itself has a little bit of a Fourth of July theme, but it’s very unclear what this has to do with the law.

Several columns appear on the same page as an advertisement for the author’s local business. This is true for “Healthy Living,” written by the owners of Apple a Day Health World. This column, which offers extremely specific advice about the exact amounts of at least 15 vitamins and nutrients, features a footer that informs the reader that “These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.” Evidently the magazine’s commitment to “positive living” does not extend to “scientific living.”

The end of the magazine features a July calendar of events and homemade ads for works by local writers, including for a self-published thriller whose blurb promises that “the details of Pastor Jack Pate’s fall from his lofty pedestal to the depths of sin’s depravity mesmerize readers throughout this suspenseful novel.” Ripped from the headlines.

Who is reading this? Christian families, presumably. And people looking for a coupon for Stevi B’s Ultimate Pizza Buffet. By branding itself as “Your source for GOOD news!” it’s maybe for readers who find the Anniston Star or the Daily Mountain Eagle too gloomy, who want to peruse an endless series of full-color ads for local businesses punctuated by parfait recipes, tips for diabetic foot care, and tips for those with breathing problems. The core audience probably overlaps a lot with the people who enjoy receiving those coupons in their postal box (“It’s like getting money in the mail!”) and who clip and save advice columns to mail, in a passive aggressive fashion, to relatives that they secretly dislike.

Sometimes a free magazine teaches you a lot about a place, or at least about the editor’s vision of a place. Sometimes it gives you a few chuckles while you wait to get your oil changed. And then sometimes it just leaves you feeling a little closer to death, having spent time within its pages. Anniston/Gadsden Christian Family is closest to the latter. Mostly recommended for lining guinea pig confines and lining raised garden beds.


Rock You Like a High Energy Folk Rock Hurricane: Free Magazine Review, RSVP Mar/Apr 2017

As the soon-to-be-butchered Ghost in the Shell points out (1), human memory is particularly fickle and ephemeral. It may make us who we are; at the same time, its existence may mask a deeper epistemological conflict. We certainly don’t get to choose what sticks in our memory. As we get older, this becomes more and more frightening. We try and hold on to things like anniversary dates, first kisses, an especially significant bit of moonlight. Sometimes we find that there are things in our minds we’d rather dispense with: distasteful happenings, random detritus. And then there are the bits we love, the odds and ends that we haven’t memorized on purpose but that have stuck with you for decades, each time seeming fresh and new. Such a memory, for me, is Sideshow Bob’s remark about air shows.

What kind of country fried rube indeed? I spent my youth at air shows, the easily impressed daughter of a Navy pilot. I remember that the SR-71 Blackbird was one of my earliest ideals of beauty. I saw multi million dollar planes come close enough to touch, risking in-flight collisions with colluded grace. Their force and variety impressed me. Sometimes I even got to sit in the cabin.

Now that I’m an Alabamian (going on a decade, sans buzz cut) I ask myself what I once thought was so great about these dangerous displays of government might. I can see my childhood wonder, my love of a spectacle, the gee whiz-ness of it all. What I can’t see is appreciating them as an adult. They’re incredibly loud and extraordinarily wasteful. They’re basically in-person recruiting pitches that don’t mention the free college, citizenship and health benefits (2). That’s not even to talk about the ways that they’re basically sound bombs designed to quiesce the working class so they don’t think about troublesome things like military spending. No need to look at that 10% budget increase, people – over here these two planes that your taxes pay for doing this all the time are maybe going to crash into each other! And there will be colored smoke!

Which might as well be the cover of RSVP’s new edition – a whiff of colored smoke. That would be nicer to look at than the existing jet plane promotional picture (3). It would have the added benefit of accurate advertising for the inside matter – puffs of colored smoke, largely punctuated by the occasional brute force reminder of what counts for some people as “fun.” But it’s the 70th birthday of the U.S. Air Force, an institution created to wipe humanity off the planet with nuclear weapons, and the show’s themed “Heritage to Horizon: A Century of Airpower since WWI,” and it features both the Thunderbirds and some trick French outfit, and it’s at Maxwell next month, so that pretty much guarantees that local journalistic bastion RSVP is going to feature the event on their cover.

Once upon a time we used to write a lot of free magazine reviews (4). We’d recently moved to town and were curious about the representations made by these magazines. Who paid for their journey into our hands? Who advertised within? What stories did the advertorialists tell about Montgomery and its denizens? Over time, the endless arrays of glossies beat us into submission. There were always new profiles to read, fresh rankings of orthopedic surgeons, of the moment photo shoots of events by the Mystic Krewe of whatever having their Thing White People Like in a Renaissance conference room dressed up to look like Undersea Paradise or what have you. From the beginning, these stories did not match up with our lived experience of the place. As we stayed longer, our skepticism metastasized from giggles to eye-averting shame. There came a point where, as the kids say, we couldn’t even.

But all good things deserve to be rescued from memory’s fickle tar pits, so we’re going to give this another try. Welcome back, readers, to Lost in Montgomery’s Free Magazine Review.

What’s it called? Montgomery RSVP: The River Region Guide for All Things Social. Notice the “all” in there – a bold claim, a “look no further” attitude. If you click that link above, you’ll see that we have reviewed RSVP plenty of times, and said enough about them to ensure that we’ll never, ever make “The List.”

What is it? This is not our first rodeo (but March 16-18 could be yours, as the events calendar informs us that the 60th Annual Southeastern Livestock Exposition Rodeo is coming to town: “Grab your cowboy boots and hat”). Indeed. So we know that RSVP isn’t just a publishing house. It’s also (and largely) an event planning firm whose lady employees pose every two months for some kind of photo of them being fashion-forward. This photo is usually attached to the “from the GIRLS” column that introduces each issue. The editor’s name is Peyton Flowers, a name that somehow could not be more perfect if a thousand Iowa Writers’ Workshop graduates slaved away on the matter for a thousand years on a thousand MacBook Airs. Peyton is evidently about to give birth. If you did not know this from the column, it might make you wonder why her co-workers were each touching her belly, besides to point out its impeccable drape in a bold printed tunic.

Where’d we find it? Where do you not find RSVP? Have you ever played that game Plague, Inc.? The goal is to engineer a virus that will kill all of humanity before a cure can be found. One winning strategy is to infect as close to 100% of the population before you begin to manifest deadly symptoms. This works because you (the virus) get taken for granted, just another thing to put up with, no need to worry about a cure. And then one day you (again, the virus) evolve the ability to dissolve organs through aspiration and it’s all over. Puny humans. About all we can say for sure is that RSVP Magazine has not yet evolved the ability to transmit by air.

What’s the deal? Oh, Montgomery, you’re so much more sophisticated than you seem – at least according to the folks at RSVP. Their vendors have hashtags and muted colors. Their models have no pores, and you don’t need to either, because they’re offering a 15% discount on something horrifyingly called a “chemical peel.” Sometimes their ads have an illegible black font on dark purple background, but maybe they’re just sophisticated like that. Mostly, RSVP’s advertisers are betting that their readers have pets (check), wear makeup (nope) and are looking for a home – preferably of new construction (double nope). And yet, we read. Like a moth to the flame, we read.

What sections do they have? Mostly, if we’re honest, when we read RSVP we want to see who made The List. The List is RSVP’s bi-monthly curated compendium of the intentionally integrated, “young” and well-dressed. These folks may be artists, chefs, or account executives. They may be especially well-rounded nurse practitioners. What unites people in The List is their willingness to pose in affordable-to-reach clothing against some kind of reclaimed wood or slate background. In flattering light. This month, it’s slate. And we’ve got people who are passionate about their “fur babies,” CrossFit, and God, perhaps in that order, perhaps not. Some are pretty in pink, others have a kind of Vampirella thing going on. What’s important is not who they are, but what The List says about Montgomery. It says that we’re a place with dessert menus, a choice of gyms, modern couches and upbeat positivity-drenched consumerism civic pride. And air shows.

What’s interesting in this issue? The best part of this issue is the list of coming attractions (here titled “what? when? where?” as if by some kind of dementia victim). Beginning on page 74, the listing promises that we can “BE IN THE KNOW … AND IN THE NOW” if we follow these listings and sign up online to RSVP’s own newsletter, “full of weekly SPECIALS, PROMOTIONS, LIVE MUSIC and more!” Let us leave alone for a moment, because we are feeling especially generous, the matter of the erratic all-caps behavior (see also: Facebook conversations with screaming Libertarian/racist family members). This will allow us to focus on the substance of the matter – who and what will light up our local experience across the next two months? Among what manner of delights shall we choose? However shall we plan our busy social calendar?

A surprising number of upcoming events involve cruises on the Harriott II – a vessel whose dining room our MML correspondent Jesseca Cornelson once described as “straight out of The Shining.” Then there are the ASF and Cloverdale Playhouse productions. Some seem cool – we are definitely in for The Tempest and The Crucible, the latter of which we are certain will only be about Salem and will have no bearing at all on contemporary world events. Afterward, we’re left with a number of one offs whose collective impact is to make our poor city seem about like the air show lover that it is. There’s trivia at heavy RSVP advertiser Blackfinn Ameripub. Plus side: Winner gets a $50 gift card. Minus side: You have to go to Blackfinn. Not gifted with either a knowledge of the arcane or especially defined cheekbones? Doug’s 2 has you covered with Contouring 101 ($55, March 15 & 22). Maybe if you go the first night (and don’t wash), your face will still look super-narrow when you go see a culture warrior, “Tater Salad” Ron White, perform at the MPAC the following evening.

March 17 is St. Patrick’s Day, so newspapers everywhere are offering hot takes on corned beef, and bartenders everywhere are preparing for amateur night (unless they are, wisely, offering “Saint Practice’s Night” at other times). RSVP recommends that you go to “Dinner with Sugarcane Jane” at the Capitol City Club. It’s at 6:30: “Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with dinner and a show. You can expect an incredible performance with this high-energy husband-and-wife folk rock duo while enjoying a five-course meal…” The meal is $100 for non-members, $85 for members. Remember that value is not the only way to represent the worth of your soul.

If that isn’t dark enough for you, Blackfinn will reveal the winner of its “Best Leprechaun” contest at midnight. See, someday your prince will come.

But wait. There’s more. This is spring, the end of accursed Daylight Savings Time, the rebirth of Our Lord, the rolling back of the rock to expose … commodities values! That’s right, MPAC will host “The Price is Right! Stage Show” on March 24. We assume that either Drew Carey or his contractually obligated genetic clone will be there to help your peers guess the market price of a box of detergent. To attend this spectacle, you’ll pay $35 to $55. And then, of course, the piece de resistance – the arrival of the Easter Bunny. Leaving alone the weirdest of weird brand synergy between “I just died” Jesus and “I hid someone’s eggs” Bunny, can we all marvel for a minute that the rabbit’s arrival will be on ice? At the mall? With escorts from the Eastdale Mall “Teen Team?” If it seems like this is a setup for the next Friday the 13th movie, you can just put your pen away slowly – we’re wayyyy ahead of you (5).

Reader, the buffet stretches forth endlessly. You’ve got a Jamboree at Faulkner, a Troy Festival, a tennis tournament for the almost-dead … so much to look forward to, and that’s not even till the temperatures top 90. So for this and so much more, we salute RSVP. Without you, we’d never suspect exactly how banal active our beloved community could be.


(1) Save your time; the sequel isn’t really worth it, even though the animation is stunning. The characters spend a bunch of time saying quotations to each other on the order of “The ape wandering through the forest must step on many leaves.”

(2) Lest you say that we are in some way “anti-military,” consider that both of us have parents, grandparents and even great-grandparents who served in the military. Also maybe consider why being anti-air show might make someone anti-military, unless that makes your brain hurt too hard. In which case, probably go ahead and delete your comment.

(3) And for those who are going to pursue writing their comment anyway, I’ll just say that the Blue Angels are better than the Thunderbirds anyway. This is dogma. I was raised to believe this in the same way that some people are raised to believe that God made the world in seven days. Neither idea may be correct, but both are largely unfalsifiable as matters of belief.

(4) Okay, maybe “a lot” is a wild overestimation. We wrote some. That’s better than most people did.

(5) Easter Bunny no longer played by Sean Spicer.

Free Magazine Review – Sort Of, But Not Really

Many of you know all about the Free Magazine Reviews that we do on this site. They are among our most popular features, and we get piles of emails about them. Many hands have been wrung about how cruel we are to poke fun at the crappy wastes of paper that we have picked up around town.

It has come to our attention that there is a new-ish entry onto the crowded free magazine scene. Perhaps you have seen “The Pride of Montgomery.” No, it’s not a gay pride magazine, although that joke has already been made by everyone.

What it is, dear reader, is actually something even more interesting. This “Pride” is a glossy free monthly magazine that appears to be published by a Prattville dentist, yet features a column from Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange at the start of every issue.

The issue we got today is certainly funny enough to merit the full “Free Magazine Review” treatment. Anytime a magazine publisher uses his own magazine’s pages to write a column titled “Toothpaste 101,” you know you’ve got some serious humor potential. However, this isn’t the column where we make fun of Pride’s font selection (which is atrocious) or the laughable so-called articles (“New Tips for Glam!”)

Rather, this is simply an opportunity to examine the details of Mayor Strange’s column in Pride, which can be found on page 4. In a world where we rarely hear these kinds of big picture perspectives from elected officials, it’s worth taking a look at our mayor’s vision for Montgomery in 2014.

Headline: Continued Growth, Prosperity for Montgomery in 2014

Is this really a headline? Is this Strange’s goal? Is it a bold prediction or merely aspirational? If it’s aspirational, well, duh, yes, who is against prosperity? I guess the pro-chaos and blight candidate didn’t win the election. I’m glad the mayor is willing to exert the leadership needed to say that he wants the same things as us everyone else ever. But if Mayor Strange is going on the record predicting joy, why not fold that into a snappy headline like, “Mayor Forecasts Good Things, Doubts Prospects For Evil?”

Here’s the text of the mayor’s column (in bold) followed by some reactions:

“Many of us use the month of January to review the previous year and anticipate the 12 months ahead.”

So very wise. Go on …

“Both exercises reveal good news for Montgomery, the Capital of Dreams, and perhaps a challenge or two.”

So, 2013 was good. 2014 will also be good. Audacious stuff. And way to work in the Official Branding™. Much better than “Cradle of the Confederacy,” which remains emblazoned on countless public buildings and signs.

“We can be proud of the stabilization of the City’s finances accomplished in 2013. The retirement plan for City employees was revised to ensure new employees will have a fund that is solvent without burdening taxpayers or taking resources from other needs.”

Oh, so we “revised” the retirement plans for city workers? That means “cut,” right? Or “slashed?” Did we “decimate” them, or merely “reduce” them? Were city employees becoming big time fatcats with gold watches and cars made out of diamonds? Why did we have to “revise” their retirements? Do they not need as much money to live on when they retire? Do they plan to eat catfood when they get old? What flavors? It better not be Fancy Feast because if it is, we might need to “revise” those retirement plans some more.

How much did we make from this “revision” of city worker retirements? Enough to start a citywide curbside recycling program? Oh. I guess not. OK, go on …

“The City’s reserves, which were depleted during the Great Recession, are now up to $15 million. Ratings agencies view healthy reserves as an indicator of sound management. Standard and Poor’s awarded Montgomery with an “AA” rating.”

Let’s be clear, AA rating isn’t the highest, but it’s good. Government entities often get good ratings because they can, say, raise taxes and are often seen as likely to pay back their debts. Cities can issue bonds to pay for projects, so bragging about credit ratings is fine (“Hey, we’re not Jefferson County!”) but it isn’t the key measure of economic health. The City of Calera also has AA rated credit and nobody ever says, “Hey, let’s be more like Calera.”

How about the fact that the City of Montgomery is tied (with Birmingham) for the single highest sales taxes in the United States? We (and Birmingham) pay TEN PERCENT SALES TAX on pretty much everything we buy, including groceries. The next highest in the nation is a tie between Chicago, Glendale (Arizona), and Seattle. I’ve never been to Glendale, but I know we are not getting as much cool stuff for our astronomical sales taxes as the people that live in Chicago and Seattle. Look, I understand that nobody wants to raise property taxes, so we’re stuck relying on regressive sales taxes that punish poor people, but I’m embarrassed to admit that no city in American has higher sales taxes than mine. That says a lot more about our city’s economic health than the fact that S&P rated us AA.

“Montgomerians can also take pride in the many key projects that took place in 2013. The Wright Flyer replica and park salute our notable history in civilian aviation. Maxwell Boulevard has been upgraded and is primed for further development. The demolition of the State House Inn will lead to an improved Madison Avenue corridor. Genetta Park in West Montgomery is protecting our watershed and will soon be a spot for recreation and education. The former Steve and Barry’s store at the Montgomery Mall has been converted into a Public Safety center for Police and Fire & Rescue services.”

Wow, that’s quite a list. Slow down! That’s five things! Projects! Let’s take them one at a time.

1) Seriously. Who is into that Wright Brothers statue? Anyone? Anyone? The park is great, yes. But that was true when it was Overlook Park. Now that it is named Wright Brothers Park and has a metal plane in it? It’s about the same. Does anyone look at that hyper-literal model of a glider and feel pride? It’s OK, I guess. I might have opted for something a little more artistic and evocative of the transcendentally beautiful human aspiration for flight, something suggesting innovation and soaring. But if it’s a large metal THIS IS WHAT IT LOOKED LIKE replica that we get, I guess that’s OK too. I just don’t see showing that thing off to visitors or putting it on postcards. But yes, we should be proud of our history and stuff. For sure. Agreed.

2) Maxwell Boulevard has been upgraded. Wooo! Let’s get fired up for some medians! Wooo! New striping on roads! Ya’ll feeling that surge in civic pride?

3) State House Inn has been torn down. Good. It was a disgusting eyesore. But can we at least all agree that this happened because “Evil Big Government” interfered in the private free market and “rewarded failure” by purchasing private property and using PUBLIC MONEY to “bail out” a “failed investment” and turn it into something else? For all the talk about tea party this and capitalism that, for the “I’m just a businessman” mayor to tout these kinds of projects, it’s pretty mind boggling.

4) Genetta Park: Let’s be clear. This area has been called “Genetta Ditch” for years. That’s not the most appetizing branding, but it has always been a ditch and it still looks like a ditch. If they stick a park between McDonald’s and the Interstate, great. Parks are awesome. But this thing appears to be on a 10-year timeframe and it’s a bit too early to share the enthusiasm about whatever the heck this thing is going to become.

5) They’re sticking a police station and fire station in the bombed out abandoned husk of Montgomery Mall. OK. Cool. See above regarding Issue #3. They took a failed investment and a bad business plan from a businessman who allowed his giant building to fall into decay. He let his investment deteriorate and then sold it to the city. We like police stations and fire stations (unless those fatcat city employees are getting too much money in their retirement plans … see above). And we are glad something is being done about the depressing spectacle of Montgomery Mall. Certainly police and fire stations will be immune to the market forces that dragged an entire mall into oblivion and caused tax payers to purchase it with Socialism disguised as “we’re just free market loving businesspeople.”

“We will devote attention in 2014 to exploring other occupants at the former mall, encouraging the Board of Education as it reviews plans for the LAMP and MTEC programs, as well as the Central Office consolidation. Special attention will also focus on avoiding the inordinate increase in homicides we sustained in 2013.”

We’re blurring three issues into this paragraph. First is “we’re trying to find other tenants for the mall.” Good. Fine. See above about Uncle Strange’s Big Government Real Estate Bonanza seeking to make sweetheart deals with potential tenants. Book stores and video game arcades and shoe stores aren’t coming back to that side of town any time soon. Second, we have a glancing mention of the school system, which experienced a catastrophic grade changing scandal in 2013, resulting in the firing of the Superintendent and the quasi-takeover of the entire system by the State Board of Education. Funny how that didn’t rate a mention in the ol’ year end wrap-up. Third, the murders. Yes, we agree that we’d like to have fewer of the murders please.

Sidebar: How great is the mayor’s use of the word “inordinate?” As if having 25 murders instead of 50 would be a totally ordinate number.

Update: Since I wrote this, we have learned that the schools aren’t moving into the old mall. That is dumb. How could the city and the school system not get on the same page about this? I bet the mayor is mad.

“2014 will be marked with continued progress. The improvement to the Dexter Avenue streetscape is already underway. To meet the demand for living spaces downtown, developers have plans to build apartments on Maxwell Boulevard East and the Frank Leu site at Bibb and Commerce. Questplex, the home for the Children’s Museum of Alabama and the Library of the 21st Century will revitalize Court Square.”

Again, there’s a lot going on here. First, Dexter: Yes. Good. It’s horrible how merchants have fled downtown. A once-thriving retail scene is now a sorry collection of faded storefronts. Also, the Internet has murdered retail everywhere. We look forward to hearing what will be purchased on Dexter that can’t be ordered cheaper from Amazon. Also, see above about Municipal Socialism rewarding holdout building owners by using public funds to buy decrepit buildings at above-market cost. We support this, of course, but it’s good to be clear about what we’re talking about. Maybe the city should buy that stuff and just keep it and open some restaurants and bars. Bet the local economic developers would love that.

Second, downtown living: Good. Build nice lofts. Someone should do it. But it’s funny how this gets a single sentence and not a word about, say bicycles or a downtown grocery store. People don’t want to live where there is no commercial ecosystem. Downtowns with residential living all need drug stores and places to buy food and maybe a place to throw a frisbee.

Questplex? Sure. Do your thing. The city needed to buy more real estate from the market failure known as Colonial Bank. So put a museum there for kids or whatever.

“Like many agencies, the City will find a way to stabilize increasing health care costs. It’s the right thing to do for the health of our employees and as custodians of taxpayer dollars.”

Oh, for real Todd Strange? We can’t stop a citywide murder spike nor provide curbside recycling, but we’re going to as a mid-sized municipal government going to DRIVE DOWN THE COST OF HEALTH CARE? Even the federal government, undertaking one of the most ambitious social and regulatory projects ever attempted in American history cannot do that. How is the City of Montgomery going to make MRI scans cost less? Oh, sure, we can cut health plans for city employees. That would certainly drive down health care costs … at least the costs borne by the city. It’s not like those people would stop getting sick. It’s just that we’ll be picking up the tab for those people when they go into emergency rooms because their city health plan no longer covers preventative kidney treatments or whatever. And didn’t you just brag up above about “revising” the retirements of city employees? Is this a threat to gash their health plans as well? Next time some bored city worker treats a resident like crap, I hope everybody remembers the good people that could have taken that city job but declined because they instead took a job that wasn’t hacking away at their benefits all the time.

So two of the main fiscal things Mayor Strange tells us to be proud of are the cutting of city retirement plans and the upcoming cutting of city health plans. Take that, you fatcat city workers! Our fiscal conservatism with your benefit plans is what allows us to buy failing businesses around town and sell them to motivated developers who want to open theme pubs and lofts. #FreeMarket

“Indeed in 2014, we will continue to pursue our vision of “sustaining a safe, vibrant and growing Montgomery in its entirety, that we are all proud to call home.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

Free Magazine Review: Montgomery Monthly (August 2013)

It is time for another Free Magazine Review. Look upon our works, Ye mighty … and despair.

What’s it called? Montgomery Monthly

P1050151What is it? The subhead says, “The key to your community.” I was unclear that my community was locked, but I guess a lot of white people around here do try to live in gated communities if possible. But those white people are probably not the target audience for Montgomery Monthly, as you’ll see shortly.

Where’d we find it? They mailed it to us. No, seriously. We’ve talked before about how a nice-looking free magazine is expensive to produce. You want it to look classy so that people will keep it around and so you can charge a lot for ads. But if you’re adding media mailing to an entire city? I don’t see this thing sticking around for very long, even if their cover features a model every month.

What’s the deal? This thing appears to be owned by a British company called Hibu, and was mailed to us from King of Prussia, PA. So, it’s got that going for it. We can assume from the title that one will be produced each month (until they go out of business). The editor appears to be a 20-something lady named Jourdan Cole (we’ll have to assume that’s how her name is really spelled). She uses her “Message from the Editor” column to introduce herself as “the new editor,” but we’re unclear if she is taking over from a previous editor or if this is the first issue ever. We’ve never seen another issue and, as you can tell, we’re pretty into picking up free magazines when we see them around town. But if she’s fronting like she’s just the “new” editor and it’s really the inaugural issue, why not welcome everyone to the new magazine? What are you hiding Jourdan?!?

What sections do they have? A note from the editor; “Around town” (which you’d think was the calendar, but that’s another section); Gotta Go! (which is also like a calendar); “Snapshot” (“community residents share their photos with readers”) and something creatively called “And Another Thing…” On the table of contents page, they assure you that they are willing to publish things that you send them.

Who advertises? The back cover’s a 2/3 page ad for a plumbing and air conditioning repair place. They’ve got some full page ads, including one for a car dealer. The entire inside front cover and entire inside back cover are full pages house ads begging you to please contact the publishers and tell them what you think of their magazine. This doesn’t bode well for their ability to sell ads.

What’s interesting in this issue? Yeah, um, about that. Sigh. Not a lot. This thing is pretty bad. The first article is about the food bank. We’re fans of the food bank. We give them money. You should give them money too. Go do it now. We’ll wait.

The article offers a byline for Jaime Robards and describes her (or him) as a “community contributor.” But at the end, the article offers Jaime’s email address and it’s to an address at feedingamerica.org. OK, so this person what? Works at the food bank? What is Feeding America? Do I have to Google this to see who is writing about our food bank? Why can’t the magazine just say who is writing the articles? This isn’t a writer for Montgomery Monthly, so if you’re dealing in contributed stuff, just identify the authors. It’s not that hard.

The “community” section is really three items: There’s a new CEO at Baptist East (the white flight hospital), that same hospital won an award, and the Council on Aging is having a fund raiser. So, the “community” section is three press releases trimmed to fit around some gigantic ads.

Schools? Private school cheerleaders went to cheerleader camp. Private School #2 has graduation. Private School #2 also used Skype one day so that 7th graders could talk to some people in Norway. Amazing. Now you know what’s going on in, um, two private schools. They have cheerleaders and they graduate and they have the Internet. Totally worth the tuition, ya’ll.

The good looking guy on the cover is a model and the cover story (by Jourdan!) is about the Alabama Beauty Awards. Evidently, this is a thing. It is actually happening tonight. The article says they are expecting 500 people to attend their, um, gala, which is at the Embassy Suites downtown. All ten of the models shown to go with the story are black. Is this a black models thing? I mean, I’m not surprised that modeling is racially segregated (everything else is), but I’m not reading a story about models, no matter how lubed up they are. Sorry Montgomery Monthly, I’m skipping a few pages here.

All in all, the events calendar isn’t laughable, I guess. I wish more publications (free or otherwise) would write more about what is happening in the academic research at local universities. We’ve got a bunch of professors here in town. What do they do besides teach? Are they publishing things? Going to conferences? This elevates the intellectual life of a city. We should care about these things and they are also often interesting.

For example, did you know that Alabama State has a Center for NanoBiotechnology Research? I did not. Evidently Turkish scientists are coming here to do vaguely-described experiments about nanogenomics. And evidently the best photo the Montgomery Monthly could find to illustrate this cutting edge international scientific collaboration was clip art of a book with its pages being turned — in what appears to be a law library. The last paragraph is the most interesting: These people are coming here on the dime of the Turkish government. I wonder if they think they are getting their money’s worth.

All in all, we’ll keep leafing through this magazine about our city if the Brits keep mailing it to us from King of Prussia. Otherwise, not worth picking up if you see it in a stack somewhere. A weak effort that will probably be finished by next spring.

True(ly), Made(ly), Deeply

It is tired to even mention that we live in a culture that is materialistic. All human cultures have ever been so, and there’s not much of a point to arguing that ours is any more thing-oriented than the culture of our parents (they wanted cars, suburban homes, crystal decanters) or our grandparents (they wanted washing machines, televisions, record players). When everyone has pretty much what they need to survive and be comfortable, they must be sold adjectives rather than nouns. We don’t need soap, we need beauty. We don’t need shoes, we need cool. Where once we wanted things, now we want adjectives. This is all Marketing 101 and familiar to anyone regardless of whether they’ve watched Mad Men. Materialism reaches its apex in the culture of the adjective.

Montgomery, seeking to become something other than the mostly broken city it’s been for so long, has seized on adjectives with a surprising fierceness. The City of Dreams (noun) having largely failed to take hold, slogan-wise, thanks to a high-priced consultant’s advice, we’ve now turned to an adjective (Capitol Cool, which the city uses lavishly to describe basically all local activities, including many that are profoundly un-cool – we’re looking at you, Crusade for Christ).

In other cities, they read nouns (The Stranger, The Village Voice). Here we have been delivered an adjective, Made, which is also (and perhaps not coincidentally) a truism. We once dined at nouns (The Village Kitchen, Roux), but now we eat at an adjective (True – yes, we know it’s the chef’s last name, its vague space between proper noun and adjective does nothing to diminish the point here). Both signify a similar zone of authenticity, the liminal space of the real, a branding sweet spot that assures the consumer of the product’s point of origin and epistemological locale. The thing itself is not important. What is important are its adjectives: the thing is made, never mind by whom; it is true, never mind by what criteria. This is the trick of the claim of authenticity – it is non-falsifiable, a matter of perspective, the kind of floating signifier that happens to be flitting wherever you wish it to be. It both valorizes agency and strips it away in one elegant and perfectly Pantone-d typographical set.

To immerse ourselves in the City of Adjectives the other night, we read Made while dining at True. Other than the wine, which was quite good, and the blue cheese (holy hell, Asher Blue), it was a lesson in authenticity. Which is to say inauthenticity. Which is to say it was like nothing at all had transpired except suddenly we found ourselves presented with an improbably large bill.

We’ve been to all of the incarnations in the True space. We had a rave-worthy experience at the Village Kitchen the first time we ate there, then watched as it rattled downhill to its inevitable demise. The rumor was it was just a place-holder anyway, to fill the space and make sure the lofts stayed profitable in the wake of Nancy Paterson’s sudden exit. Then there was Roux, much-heralded but just not good. I got food poisoning there once, then another time I sent the food back¹ only to have the chef come out and argue with me about it.

We’ve now been to True three times. The first time, I was served one of the all-time worst things I’ve ever had in a restaurant – an oyster stew that seemed to be, basically, a bowl of warm half-and-half with a few sad oysters floating dimly beneath the surface. It was so amazingly bad that I found myself wanting to take other people there to experience it in one of those “I think this milk is spoiled – taste it” moments of sadism. Nobody took me up on my offer. I see they still have an oyster stew on the menu; I hope for the future of our fair city that this dish has improved on its early incarnation. The second time we went, we had a perfectly nice meal. This was when I was still eating fish.

In 1994, I stopped eating animals because I became convinced that it was unethical to do so. When I moved to Montgomery, I conjured up a series of rationalizations that ended up in eating the occasional fish. This was mostly because it is damn hard to find a decent meal in this town if you’re a vegetarian. Salad’s good, but it’s not a meal every time. Vegetarians like fruits, vegetables, fats and proteins just like every other human. Also we need them to survive. But recently we adopted some fish and I decided I was done with eating their extended family.

So the other night at True, seeing no vegetarian entree on the menu, I asked if it was possible to order one. Our server (and let me say here that the service at True has always been outstanding, the sign of a well-run restaurant) checked with the kitchen and said it was. In the meantime, we had the cheese plate (too much Boursin but damn good pecans) and deviled eggs (really, for $4.50 you maybe should get two whole eggs as opposed to 1.5). When my entree arrived, I was stunned. I’d simply never seen anything like it. It was an asparagus puree topped with fingerling potatoes topped with fruit. It was like the kind of meal you’d make out of little plastic foods from the kind of play kitchen I had as a child – the kind your mother would pretend to eat to humor you. Except that it was also covered with salt. More specifically, warm and salty cantaloupe.

photo 1

The bread was really delicious.

photo 2

The fruit surprise. They described this as a “veggie plate.”

photo 1

My companion had the seafood in parchment. He pronounced it good.

photo 3

The cheese plate and deviled eggs.

But it sure looked nice. So did Made, which has looked like a design class project since its first issue. Here in its third, the content is wearing a little thin but the patient attention to font and color persists. The July cover features a man wearing sunglasses and a sheepskin vest over a long-sleeved red plaid shirt riding a skateboard in an alley holding an American flag behind his back like a wee parachute. This same man, whose name is evidently Luke Lindgren, is posed with the flag-as-shawl on page 11’s “Montgomery Street Style” display with the confusing caption “Board and summer plaid set the local Superhero scene spotted in a Cloverdale alley.” In a July that has so far suffocated us with heat and humidity, it’s hard to imagine why anyone would wear a long-sleeved plaid shirt, much less with a sheepskin vest. Why is Superhero capitalized? Is this person a superhero? If so, is their secret power resistance to heat? Superhero or not, why are they hanging around in a Cloverdale alley?

20130713-204422.jpgThe July issue of Made begins with a but well-meaning attempt by one of the editors to acknowledge the publication for what it is – something for people of a particular socioeconomic group. Anything we say on this point will be obvious. The first issue featured the work of Natalie Chanin, founder of Alabama Chanin, whose clothing is lovely but unaffordable for all but the very wealthiest people in our city (e.g., the $155 “basics” T-shirt). The second issue’s discussion of our beloved Florida Panhandle advised visitors to 30-A to go to Seaside, Alys Beach or Rosemary Beach, all “made” communities far removed from the working-class wonders of Panama City Beach. This issue takes a more Chamber of Commerce type approach to the city, listing a variety of places one might go in Montgomery, with a layout so big and puzzlingly expansive that it makes those of us who’ve worked in newspapers feel like maybe they didn’t have a lot of content to work with this month. Still, there are some nice features. Some of them are even well written (though Made still needs to work on copy editing).

This issue’s call for writers whose voices might add diversity, while well-intentioned, seems a little bit like anticipatory self-defense. In other words, if other folks not as keen on ironic facial hair don’t chime in, then it will be their fault for not getting involved. Here we find the same logic of meritocracy that powers all kinds of systems that just happen to exclude poor people and people of color. Black people not in the University of Texas’ law school? Got to be their lack of trying. Poor people not voting? Guess they don’t care. After all, we asked them to vote and desegregated our schools.

In the end, we’re not interested in hating on Made in the same way that we have come to despise some of our city’s other free magazines (Montgomery Parent, we’re looking at you). There’s no doubt that they have good intentions and want to make a nice looking product that makes the city look better. They just have the slippery adjective feel, which when paired with the gross noun-ing of “creatives” (as in the weird and baldly narcissistic declaration that “we are creatives”) leaves the reader feeling like they’ve just eaten one of True’s deviled eggs: it’s like what you conjure of the real thing, slipping through memory like an oiled weasel through Astroturf, interesting not in itself but as compared to something else or, more likely, interesting because we have become the kind of person who consumes such things (artisanal deviled eggs, Made).

When the server asked how our entrees were, I tried to be circumspect. I said that if any other vegetarians wandered in on that Saturday night, the kitchen might want to reconsider its approach. Minutes later, an official kitchen presence appeared to discuss the dish. I explained that the plate, as presented, was both incoherent and not super-tasty. She responded by saying that perhaps it could use some work on the composition front. I wanted to say that the emphasis on composition was perhaps part of the problem but didn’t want to quite go down the Of Grammatology front, so settled for some vague comments to the effect of “it was salty,” also “these things don’t quite go together,” and finally “this is not actually a meal,” all of which seemed to result in vigorous nodding on her part and a comp on the bill for the offending (but, again, quite lovely) entree.

So for all of Made’s (really, Oxford American’s) well-founded criticism of “Southern Glossy,” we found the culprit just a few miles from our home: beautiful food, exquisitely presented, giving us the choice between a grimace and a thoughtful nod toward innovation. This took the form of warm, salty cantaloupe. Which of course brought to mind Adolf Loos. Not familiar? His 1908 lecture/essay “Ornament and Crime,” a polemic against Art Nouveau, points out that the emphasis on form (and in particular, continuous innovation in form) devalues the product of labor by pushing us into an accelerated production cycle:

“Changes in decoration account for the quick devaluation of the product of labour. The worker’s time and the material used are capital items that are being wasted. I have coined an aphorism: The form of an object should last (i.e., should be bearable) as long as the object lasts physically. […] A ball gown for a lady, only meant for one night, will change its form more speedily than a desk. But woe to the desk that has to be changed as quickly as a ball gown because its shape has become unbearable, for than the money spent on the desk will have been wasted.

This is well-known to the ornamentalists, and Austrian ornamentalists try to make the most of it. They say: ‘A consumer who has his furniture for ten years and then can’t stand it any more and has to re-furnish from scratch every ten years, is more popular with us than someone who only buys an item when the old one is worn out. Industry thrives on this. Millions are employed due to rapid changes.’ This seems to be the secret of the Austrian national economy; how often when a fire breaks out one hears the words: ‘Thank God, now there will be something for people to do again.’ I know a good remedy: burn down a town, burn down the country and everything will be swimming in wealth and well-being. Make furniture that you can use as firewood after three years and metal fittings that must be melted down after four years because even in the auction room you can’t realize a tenth of the outlay in work and materials, and we shall become richer and richer.”

– Adolf Loos, Ornament and Crime, 1908

Adolf himself had some issues – notably racism (against the tribes of New Guinea, at the very least) and a hefty dose of Social Darwinism, but still makes a good point: Economies come to depend on design, on presentation, on the adjective. This makes them money even as (and because) it devalues the labor of workers.

More recently, Hal Foster brought Loos into the present day, considering the difference between ornament and design. His writing helps us to understand True and Made; most especially my warm and salty fruit-vegetable medley:

“Design is all about desire, but strangely this desire seems almost subject-less today, or at least lack-less; that is, design seems to advance a new kind of narcissism, one that is all image and no interiority” – Hal Foster, Design and Crime

That’s my dish for you, and the rift Made teeters ever closer toward – all image and no interiority. Foster brings us back home, describing this design culture as “an apotheosis of the subject that is also its potential disappearance. Poor little rich man: he is ‘precluded from all future living and striving, developing and desiring’ in the neo-Art Nouveau world of total design and Internet plenitude.” Why are we precluded? Because design maps our boundaries as precisely as a kitten in the litterbox. How else can it make its point?

Full circle to the confused person at True. Should the dish be more composed? No, that is part of the problem. Can Made become something better? Almost certainly yes. Will there be any place beside El Rey that serves decent vegetarian food? Don’t hold your breath. This is the City of Adjectives, a sultry but struggling heat-sink that makes possible the cantaloupe-potato-asparagus puree combination ($19). We like our cow tender, our newspapers glib and our food salty.



(1) I should mention that I waited tables for many years and as a result try not to be a douche at restaurants. This means I don’t do things like order water with no ice and never, ever send back food. But when the fish has turned, it doesn’t take a culinary expert to taste it, and the appropriate response is to comp the meal and produce a new entree ASAP. Sure, some diners think they are all big time and need someone from the kitchen to come out for the ritual bowing and scraping. I am not one of those people. But I understand why someone from the kitchen does come out. You just don’t expect an argument. In any case, we stopped going to Roux.

Free Magazine Review: A Trifecta

Look, we get the emails. We have been following on Twitter. We know that you want more Free Magazine Reviews. It’s our most popular feature, especially since the cancellation of “Name That Racist.”

But it’s hard to keep up with the free magazines. They’re everywhere. They’re free. It’s easy to pick them up and aimlessly leaf through them while you’re waiting for a table at a restaurant. It’s easy to see them and slide one into your backpack and/or adult diaper. And then they pile up around the house, the airline magazine in our airport city, the dentist office debris in life’s waiting room.

Soon, you have piles of magazines with outdated event updates about events you never wanted to attend, grinning rictus faces of social elites in clubs you’re not allowed in, ads for things you’ll never desire. But when will you ever break them down? Get specific? What about the categories?

Today, we’re punting the categories — not because the gimmick is broken, but just because at some point you have to get these damn magazines out of your house. As long as there’s money to burn, people will keep making them. So we’re going to process three of these bastards as quickly as possible, giving you the high points so that hopefully next time, we can delve into a single issue in depth.


What are they? Today, we’re looking at two issues from January 2013 (River Region’s Journey and River Region Living) and one issue of Montgomery RSVP from May-June 2013. For convenience, we’re going to use nicknames for the rest of this review: RSVP, RRL and RRJ.

What’s the deal? Well, all three are obviously free magazines. Duh. They make their money from ad sales. And they’re all pretty much distributed in similar places. We can’t remember exactly where we grabbed these three, but you’ve probably seen them all somewhere (assuming you leave the house in between TV shows and game/video downloads).

Covers: Only RRL lacks a sub-head. RRJ claims to be “sharing hope and building community.” RSVP purports to be “The River Region Guide for All Things Social!” I mean, they don’t use the exclamation point, but it’s pretty much implied in everything they write. RRL and RRJ went with white people standing still for the cover, but RSVP takes home the Boring Cover Art award by taking a picture of five bottles of beer. In their defense, I’ve never consumed those beers, so they are certainly interesting to the kinds of folks that would pay $15 for a six pack. Sidebar: RRL continues to clarify that their magazine used to be called Montgomery Living. This is significant because they are not only trying to rope in readers from Millbrook and Prattville, this is also a racially-coded branding thing. Also, RRL continues to put a price tag on their covers, as if people were paying $3 to read it.

Level of Religion: RRJ is clearly the heavyweight in this category. It is clubbing you over the head with Jesus on pretty much every page. Their inside cover is an ad for Frazier, the Methodist MEGA-church. The lead feature appeals to those seeking finger-wagging before getting married. The subhead for the feature on page 34 is “What to Pray When You Don’t Know What to Pray.” The people who read RRJ are the kind of folks who like to be told what to do, if you know what I mean. Page 4 is “Pastor’s Perspective,” where Montgomery’s Rev. Graves strings together a bunch of cliches wrapped around an ad for a martial arts studio.

RRL does still remind you where you are. Page 8 is a full-pager for a religious private school and the cover-story is about the head of the YMCA and “God’s invitation to follow his real calling,” which was, as you might imagine, running the YMCA.

RSVP merely worships at the altar of money, and is for the most part pretty secular.

Whiteness: They’re all Utah-level white. For a city that is (at least) half African-American, these mags are Donny Osmond by way of Downton Abbey. RSVP might be the most diverse, but only because they did this weird (no, totally incomprehensible) photo layout on pages 26-28 that had 20 black folks in it. Other than an ad with a black lady in it, pretty much every other face is white, but that one story (about something called the “I Am More Than” campaign) gives them the most diversity. RRJ (the religious one) has photos of when they visited an orphanage in Kenya, so that doesn’t really count. Most of their ads are of white kids going to private school to be away from the black kids that are stuck in public schools, but one of those schools (Evangel Christian) has a non-white little girl in it. And RRL has a one-pager on the former Montgomery cop that the SPLC just hired. He’s African-American, along with maybe 2 percent of the other faces in the magazine. And remember, these magazines are using either clip art or pictures of people standing still, so we’re talking about a lot of smiling white people posing and facing the camera. RSVP’s list (“a who’s who of young leaders”) always has like one or two black people … again, in a city that is half black.

The Selling: They’re all about the same. As noted, the super-religious RRJ is mostly a vehicle for private school ads or ads for churches themselves (“Go Anglican!”) RRJ has an ad for potential advertisers touting their readers as having “lager household incomes,” which I assume means that their readers make money brewing beer. With editing like that, my biznez is shore to suckseed!

RSVP continues their shameless practice of writing “articles” about the people that buy ads from them. “Look! There’s a hot new gym in town! It just so happened to have purchased the full back cover as a color ad!” One feature about something potentially useful (a cobbler who repairs shoes) actually ends with the sentence, “I promise you will enjoy doing business there.” That’s some hot writing there, Stephanie Hoskins.

photoRRL is the usual collection of boutiques and stuff except for this hilarious ad on page 54 from a company that makes chemicals for women to put on their hair. Fronduti’s wants to be sure you know that their company (which makes “hair products” and is therefore a “product company”) is against domestic violence. Not only are they against it (and totally don’t support domestic violence of any kind, you guys), they want you to know that those other product companies HAVE NOT YET SPOKEN OUT AGAINST DOMESTIC VIOLENCE. Why haven’t they? What are they hiding? Do those other product companies think that it might maybe just sometimes be okay to smack around your domestic partner if they happen to get a little “lippy?” Would a percentage of my hard-earned hair product dollar be channeled Chik-Fil-A-style to one of the Big Domestic Violence Lobbies? Because I do NOT want that shit to happen. Thank you, Fronduti’s, for having the courage to take a stand in a hideously-designed full-page ad … and for warning me about your competitors’ neglect of (nay, embrace of) this Important Social Issue.

Pics of the Makers: RRL comes strong with ol’ Darlene (who goes by Darlene Hutchinson Biehl) sitting kind of sideways in a kitchen chair in a photography studio, open-collared with blazer. (She wished you a happy new year, btw). The ladies from RSVP are, as always, sitting together next to the masthead, all six happy to be out at Hampstead, two of them holding wine glasses (one of them is empty … Oopsie!) They remind us that “summer is almost here” and let us know that they have two new interns. RRJ presents us with Jason Watson, the publisher, who we must painfully suspect is probably related somehow to editor DeAnne Watson. Suddenly the magazine’s constant exhortations that I embrace marital counseling feels especially awkward.

Bottom lines: These magazines are funny, but not hilarious. We may have glanced at them while waiting for food at some local restaurant, but were never drunk enough to properly fall onto the floor laughing. After all, once you see that they gave a Barbara Streisand movie a rating of “extreme caution” for moral acceptability (talk about a “Guilt Trip!“), you can actually start to feel sorry for the people trapped in these sorts of mental prisons. And it’s not just the “Public school atheists are out to warp your children” crowd. It’s also the watch-buying, boutique-frequenting beer snobs that are genuinely worried about hosting the perfect wedding brunch. You will always grab RSVP and smirk at The List’s tortured definitions of “young leaders,” but eventually, these magazines will start to pile up in your house. And although our city no longer participates in curbside pickup for recycling materials, you will still find a way to ensure, at least for now, that this particular trio will avoid the landfill for just a little bit longer.

Free Magazine Review: Prime Montgomery (November 2010)

I’ve got to be perfectly honest here. Most of the time when we do Free Magazine Reviews here at Lost in Montgomery, it’s to make fun of the over-earnest attempts at journalism civic promotion money making by the publishers of these fascinating periodicals.

Yet, each time we crack the pages of one of these esteemed publications, we go into them with open minds, hopeful that we will be somehow informed and inspired by the contents within. And proof of this fact comes in the following review of Prime‘s November 2010 edition.

What’s it called? Montgomery Prime

What is it? The subhead says, “Celebrating Midlife and Beyond.” Unclear at what point you are at “midlife,” but evidently this is going to be a magazine about old people. That makes sense since the dude on the front (who has attended 62 Iron Bowls) looks pretty darn old.

Where’d we find it? We think it was at Cafe Louisa’s over in Cloverdale across from The Capri.

What’s the deal? This thing appears to be a monthly product of something called The Polizos/Corley Group, LLC. We assume it’s local since they have an address on Vaughn Road and the editor’s last name is Polizos, so it must be her company. The staff box says that the publication not only contains the seal denoting membership in Montgomery’s Chamber of Commerce, but there’s also some sort of seal from the North American Mature Publishers Association, a group that probably sounds a lot dirtier than it really is.

What sections do they have? Pretty standard stuff. There are three stories under “Features,” two under “Entertainment,” four under “Lifestyles,” and then sections titled “Financial,” “Medical,” and “Health/Nutrition.”

Who advertises? The back cover’s a full page ad for hearing aids. The inside front cover is a full page ad for hearing aids. There are half page ads for the performance of the Nutcracker at the Davis Theater, one for a travel agent (they still exist!), and a full page ad for a photographer. The Shakespeare Festival bought a page. Page 23? A full page ad for hearing aids. Inside back cover? Full page ad for hearing aids. Note to self: Invest in hearing aid manufacturing companies. Other note to self: Speak up around old folks.

What’s interesting in this issue? One of the best things about Prime Montgomery, compared to, say, some of the other free area publications, is that the ad content isn’t overwhelming. Not only are there not yuppie-chasing ads for cardio-yoga and infant prep schools, but the actual content of this magazine is relatively straightforward and interesting.

Prime Montgomery has actual articles. There are no phony info-blurbs about face creams you can buy, laced through with advertorial parentheticals. The cover story on the Iron Bowl is an actual piece of journalism, telling an interesting story about a man who has attended 62 consecutive Alabama-Auburn football games. It’s text heavy and interesting, well-written and organized and includes actual quotes and photographs.

The article on “soldiers’ stories” is based on a series of interviews with historically significant soldiers. Well, in the sense that their time of service was part of history. But it does capture the “Everyday Joe” aspect of military service in the 1940s, which offers insights to the readers on the labors of American veterans. And, most importantly, it’s not trying to sell you anything.

The columns are useful and well done. One is from someone who works at the State Archives (a wildly under-appreciated institution) and the other is from a gardener offering landscaping tips. Decent stuff!

Prime Montgomery is the best of the free periodicals we have encountered thus far. The information provided is useful to the readers and it manages to carry itself with a sense of integrity that is wholly missing from the other publications we’ve considered. And even though the target audience may skew slightly gray, we managed to find it (reasonably) interesting even though we’re in our 30s.

Free Magazine Review: Montgomery Living (June 2010)

As we wade through the massive towering stack of magazines and other pop culture flotsam and jetsam (mostly jetsam, for those interested in the difference), another installment for you, dear readers, of our Free Magazine Review feature.

What’s it called? Montgomery Living. We’ve reviewed it once before.

What is it? It’s a super-glossy advertising vehicle for what passes for the high end here in town. Also it has articles. But evidently it can’t afford much in the way of a copy editor. This issue abounds with a host of screaming grammar atrocities, in-sentence redundancies, various typos and a general overuse of the hyphen.

Where’d we find it? Although Montgomery Living has a cover price of $3.00, we have only seen it offered for sale at one place in town. We’re pretty sure we got this issue at the dentist’s office. It still counts as a free magazine as far as we’re concerned because the cover price is clearly a gimmick (possibly a bookkeeping trick) to make it seem like the magazine is substantially different from its free counterparts. Which difference, if it exists, is in degree rather than in kind.

What’s the deal? If RSVP is the Colossus standing astride Montgomery’s free magazine scene, Montgomery Living is the Ronex watch that adorns the Colossus. Consider:

a) Appearance. ML looks more like a real magazine than the other rumpled and vaguely sticky publications jammed into a basket in your OBGYN’s waiting room. Its articles look a little less like they are pulled straight from press releases, and the whole operation seems less home-made than, say, Montgomery Parent.

b) Aspiration. The “About Us” page on their website explains that ML is for the “affluent” among us here in the River Region. Like all good journalism, ML is in the business of “lifestyle-enhancement editorial.” In case you’re confused about what this all means, consider these items excerpted from their reader survey:

Do we even need to comment on these items? When the per capita income in Montgomery County isn’t even $36,000, there is no option for owning zero residences?

c) Function. The whole purpose of a fake Rolex watch is to make people think you are wearing a Rolex watch. Otherwise you would buy a watch that was engineered to keep the time rather than to make people believe you have $60k or so just sitting around to adorn your wrist in a gesture that becomes more useless every time someone looks at their cell phone to tell the time. Or maybe that kind of behavior is just too gauche for the luxe parties you attend at The Waters? Generally, fake Rolexes aren’t engineered to do much else than to look like Rolexes – that is, they don’t tell the time especially well. ML, alas, falls into the same trap. It leaves numbers in the middle of words like “be5lieve” for no apparent reason. It reviews Sal’s without describing how the food tastes. It uses two words (“Prior to”) when one word (“Before”) would do nicely. It runs ads for products that it “writes up” in subsequent issues.

In short, ML rattles a bit when you shake it. Looks like a Rolex, aspires to be a Rolex, probably functions the same way if you’re not worried about dropping seconds here and there.

What sections do they have? “10 Things,” listing fewer than 11 things – in this issue, 10 things you can purchase for Father’s Day. Also “Artbeat” (local artists), “Living Well” (seemingly dedicated to promoting some sort of unscientific quackery masquerading as health treatment every month), “Good Deeds” (people who do good things), “Interiors/Exteriors,” “Debutantes” (Krewes! Mystic Orders! White people!), “Socially Speaking” (Look: photos of rich people!), “In the Garden,” “Profiles & Perspectives” (other content is filed here), “Destinations & Diversions” (more alliteration and ampersands, please), “Cityscapes” (press releases), “Out & About” (weirdly abbreviated events calendar…guess RSVP has a monopoly on this stuff).

Who advertises? Private schools, realty services, various interior design and decor shops and restaurants. Weirdly, the general lack of copy editing seems to have contaminated their advertising – the Nancy Paterson’s ad features the restaurant’s signature (and unbelievably good) strawberry cake with a caption that says “Dive Devine.” Safe to say they meant “Divine?” I hope they didn’t mean “Devein.”

What’s interesting in this issue? The “Living Well” feature on craniosacral therapy caught my eye. It profiles local CT practitioner Foad Araiinejad while providing a helpful introduction to the practice. Writer Jodi Hatley (also the editor of ML) provides us with an entirely uncritical introduction to CT. She tells us that “within the human body there exists an essential rhythm, the craniosacral rhythm, the result from the increase and decrease in the volume of cerebrospinal fluid inside and around the caraniosacral system.” Foad, who Hatley says has the unique ability to help his clients with CT on account of his “Persian heritage” (no explanation of what being Persian might have to do with mastering a practice invented by an American osteopath in the 1930s), evidently figures out where the “natural flow is restricted” and facilitates a “release where the flow is then returned.”

Unfortunately, Hatley doesn’t see fit to provide her readers with any glimpse of the extensive and scientifically based criticism of CT. Which criticism is both extensive and damning. It turns out that CT is quackery on par with spectro-chrome therapy, radionics,  the “Rheostatic Dynamizer,” electropathy, or mechanotherapy – not to mention Reiki, chiropractics, or any of the other dozen things that Foad says he is certified to practice (including “cupping”). It turns out that there is no evidence that CT provides a therapeutic benefit, no evidence that there is cranial bone movement outside of the jaw bones, no evidence that there is a “cranial rhythm” (this turns out to be basically invented by “therapists” and unable to be replicated in double-blind studies) and no evidence that perceived “rhythm” is linked to disease or pain. Of course, it is possible that we here at Lost in Montgomery have a different standard for what counts as “evidence” than ML. In that we remain unconvinced that evidence is the plural of anecdote.

No such skepticism plagues Montgomery Living. They plunge blissfully into the world of fake medical treatments with all skull bones blazing (and, evidently, moving). If you were able to laugh off the earlier Lexus-and-Champagne fetishizing, this attempt to rebrand the placebo effect as medicine should at least give you pause. It is, frankly, shameful that ML doesn’t give any column space at all to the amply documented fact that CL is a MADE UP treatment.

But perhaps this is par for the course. We noticed that in the March issue, ML‘s “Living Well” article is titled: “Anti-Aging Waters: The Fountain of Youth?” The piece is about resveratrol-intensive waters (perhaps it is a coincidence that these same waters were advertised in a subsequent issue?). Resveratrol, in case you’re not glued to the Health section of the New York Times, is that chemical found in red wine said to impede the effects of aging. Speaking of the New York Times, they’ve got an article here that says we should be skeptical of products that claim to deliver the miracle chemical. That is no obstacle to ML, whose “article” simply says that the resveratol in these pricey waters may be more “bio-available” (whatever that means) and ends with a question.

They should rebrand. Montgomery Living: The River Region’s Best Source for Quackery.

Free Magazine Review: RSVP (Sept/Oct 2010)

It has indeed been a while. So many free magazines piled up around the house. Time to get to reviewing them again! It’s Lost in Montgomery’s only semi-regular feature, Free Magazine Review! Click here for past editions. Today, we just couldn’t pass up reviewing another issue of the local mag that is our go-to source for rich white people comedy.

What’s it called? Montgomery RSVP. As you may recall, RSVP is actually an acronym, standing for “Rental Space Vogue Parties.” They have a website.

Giant furries promote loyalty to higher education

What is it? Well, they claim in their subtitle to be “The River Region Guide for All Things Social,” but that obviously depends on your social scene. If you’re younger than 30, make less than $50,000 a year, or you don’t resemble Bob Costas or Martha Stewart, you may well decide that there are some “things social” that aren’t covered by the sweeping umbrella of RSVP’s claim.

Where’d we find it? Likely at one of the businesses featured in the many advertisements within the pages of the magazine. Our best guess after digging this issue out of one of our stacks of unread detritus is that this issue was grabbed at a local salon.

What’s the deal? We’ve reviewed RSVP twice before. First we looked at their March/April 2009 issue. Then we examined their July/August issue of the same year. Both were hilarious editions, but we took some time off to see if RSVP could get it together. But like awful adult contemporary singer Richard Marx sang, we just “keep coming back.”

RSVP is, after all, clearly the leading publication in the field of Montgomery’s vast and competitive free magazine landscape. You might say that it stands astride the world of free magazines like a Colossus towering over a giant pile of wasted paper.

RSVP appears to be plugging themselves into the municipal scene in a way that the somewhat-harder-to-find Montgomery Living is failing to do. Maybe it’s RSVP’s snazzy party planning business, or maybe they’ve simply got better connections. Maybe it’s because RSVP’s magazine is free, while Montgomery Living has a cover price (though we’ve never paid for one). RSVP is hooked into the young urban professional network in a way that has caused it to cross our paths several times over the past year.

What sections do they have? RSVP seems to have settled into a fairly regular set of features. They’ve got two stories under “Singled OUT,” which, we guess is about dating or something. There’s a feature story; the “socially SEEN” section; “Look, Listen, Lounge;” and the usual bunch. There’s no real reason why the sections are distinguishable. Music info could be under “Look, Listen, Lounge,” or maybe under “Now Hear This,” or as a “reason to gather” or “friends, trends, odds & ends,” or perhaps the catch-all category, “when? what? where?” Either way, the whole thing is advertising, so it’s not like there are firm editorial categories here.

Obviously, the most important section here is “the list,” which features several pages of photos and biographical information about “young leaders.” And trust us, if you have a job and are under 50, RSVP’s list considers you a “young leader.” One featured leader has been in the Air Force for 22 years.

Who advertises? The usual suspects. We’ve been through this in our previous two reviews of the mag. The first ad after the inside cover is for the Alley Bar, touting the fact that you can watch football there. Well, it says, “Game on!” and has a picture of an offensive line about to snap the ball. Wouldn’t that lead you to think you could watch Saturday morning college football games at the Alley Bar? Yet, do they show games there?

We went on a Saturday during October and they were closed. Do you think they’re open for the NFL on Sundays? Nope.

Game on!

In fact, if you’ll entertain a brief sidebar about the Alley Bar, we called their phone number on a Sunday morning and not only were they closed, they didn’t even have an outgoing voicemail explaining their hours. You get get a recorded message: “Memory full. Enter access code.”

Huh. OK. Maybe there’s info on their blog. Nope. Instead of info from the bar itself, you get posts from customers complaining about being overcharged on their credit cards.

Ah, downtown revitalization.

What’s interesting in this issue? Football! Like, totally, uh muh Gah!

Look, we love college football. More importantly, most people around here love college football. Thus, it’s a good cover choice and a defensible theme for a fall issue. There’s good fodder for a featured cover story and it’s likely to be a popular issue.

That said, it helps to have some idea of what you’re talking about before you pick something to be your cover story. Take the six ladies on the title page, for example. Usually, this is where you get a note from the editor. This month, we get six notes from various white ladies, each talking about autumn and football. Kim, the publisher, likes to “get [her] booty back in the gym.” Amanda watches Grey’s Anatomy and loves Auburn football. Amanda says, “since retiring my pom-poms years ago,” she is mostly “an avid fan of shopping.” Chandler enjoys picking out the perfect game day dress, while Mallory applies football terms to her dating life, talking about “steering clear of yellow flags” and not “jumping offsides” by texting or calling too much. Shopping and fashion and dating! Football!

Pages 12-15 are light on text, heavy on fashion, mostly trying to tell you brand name college-themed crap to buy to wear to football games. No faded lucky t-shirts for these ladies. We’re talking semi off-the-shoulder tops for “flirty fun looks.” And for the dudes? Shut up and drink your embroidered flask.

Also, while it’s nice that they threw Alabama State and Troy State (yes, we still call it that) into the mix with Bama and Auburn, there’s no mention in the fashion spread of other in-state teams like Samford, UAB, or LOCAL team Huntingdon.

The Hawks do make it into the “spirit of the game” section, which consists of “facts about these colleges that we downloaded off the Internet.” In the section about Alabama State (p. 28), the editors/writers manage to misspell both “Pittsburgh” and “Steelers.” Yay, football!

But what can we really expect from a publication that on the front end says several times that “every Southern girl” waits year-round for football season and then towards the back of the magazine alongside the printing of SEC football schedules includes this fine image:

Ladies like football ... unless it is boring torture that they endure because men force them.

Free Magazine Review: Montgomery Parents (January 2010)


Alternate Cover

What’s it called? Montgomery Parents. It’s got the subtitle “Prattville, Wetumpka & Millbrook.” Which is interesting because, um, those other places aren’t in Montgomery. They have a website. Evidently they have published five issues since their inception in November 2009.

What is it? It is “The River Region’s Foremost Parenting Source.” Their bold. Evidently trying to emphasize the non-Montgomery-ness of their Montgomery-branded periodical.

Where’d we find it? At the Montgomery Airport, lined up with all the city’s promotional propaganda.

What’s the deal? I’m not saying this is a magazine for white people. But it’s hard to think that their target audience is any darker than a spray-on tan, given a) the cover’s display of children who seem never to have seen the sun (and also possibly were extras in The Children of the Corn), and b) the issue’s focus on private schooling.

What sections do they have? There are regular columns – for example, “From Our Family to Yours,” “Living With Children,” “Character at Heart,” “Family Health,” and “Education Matters” – the latter by Montgomery Superintendent Barbara W. Thompson Ph.D. There are also longer features, such as “Do You Have a Reluctant Reader?” and “7 Ways to Boost Your Child’s Immunity.” Finally, there are Departments – various placed items like “Calendar/Support Groups” and the all-important directory of advertisers.

Who advertises? Like most of the free magazines we review, this is largely an advertising vehicle. It’s probably pretty expensive to produce given the liberal use of full-color pages. The advertising is parent-focused, as you might imagine (a drycleaning service urges you to pick up your child while they pick up your dry cleaning), and child-centered (enrichment centers, schools, and orthodontists) but it’s also predominantly woman-focused (plastic surgery, nail salons, “Attention Moms! Work from Home,” etc.). This being the private school issue, there are a million ads for private schools. Who knew that the River Region had so many private schools?

What’s interesting in this issue? You get the feeling that the only people interested in this issue would be some of the many people whose children are featured in the issue – the first fifty pages are newsy items ranging from the extremely important (an Auburn-attired pig raced an Alabama-attired pig at Evangel Christian Academy) to the culturally questionable (Eastwood Christian School students celebrated Plantation Day by dressing in period costumes … no word on who dressed as slaves) to the marginally significant (students participate in e-cycling drive; next drive is scheduled for X date) to the cute-absurd (pre-K students decorated digital Christmas tree in computer class). All of these items are formatted like society columns, boldface names and all.

After that, we get a bunch of content from Alabama-based writer Paige Gardner Smith. Never heard of her? Us neither, but she’s got a website and two nationally syndicated columns recommending toys and books for children. Well, at least the magazine is encouraging reading. Of audio books only, in this issue, evidently to encourage “reluctant readers.” I don’t want to get off on a whole rant here about the post-literate society and the rise of auditory information. Suffice it to say that the rationale presented here is, basically, that many students just aren’t going to read because they may be dyslexic (fine, but that’s a very small percentage, and doesn’t mean they can’t or don’t want to read) or because they had “negative reinforcement of reading during the ‘learn to read’ years”, so what we need to do is just to salvage what’s left – their “love of stories” – and move on. I thought this was supposed to be a magazine encouraging good parenting techniques? Instead it’s reading more and more like a primer for life skills triage. And we’re not even to the lifeboat ethics private school part of the program yet.

The big feature article for the month is a two-page spread by “contributing writer” Gina Roberts-Grey (awesome website!), who displays substantial mastery of passive voice and the comma splice. Elsewhere Montgomery Parents shows better copy editing than, say, Dixie Living, but articles like this don’t fool anyone into thinking this is anything like an actual magazine. I was marginally excited to write a review of this issue because I have some thoughts on how parents’ decisions to send their children to private schools  are abdications of the responsibility of democratic citizenship and the ideals of the common school. I was hoping to see a thoughtful discussion of the issues facing Montgomery’s troubled schools and a realistic assessment of the social implications of the idea that an outstanding education is not a birthright but instead a product to be purchased by those who can afford it.

Instead I learned that “faith based educators expend just as much energy nurturing a child’s spirit and conscious and they do expanding his knowledge.” This from an upstate New York writer who, if she knows it, mentions not a word about Montgomery’s troubled schools and the flight from the city (to the very cities named in Montgomery Parents‘ subtitle) and to private schools that continues to cripple MPS.

And then we get 26 pages of ads in their “Guide to Private Schools.”