Rook of the Month

Subscribers to Popular Mechanics receiving their copy of the January issue will not notice any significant changes unless they examine the small print on page 93 which contains information about the publishers, place of publication, and subscription rates. Beginning in 2013, PM, which has been published monthly since its inception in 1902, will issue just ten issues a year with combined issues in December/January and July/August.

The magazine thus joins Elle Décor, Country Living, Art & Antiques, Health, More, Outdoor Life, Discover, Natural History, Seventeen, Harper’s Bazaar, Men’s Health, Family Handyman, House Beautiful, and The Atlantic in this peculiar publishing schedule. (Only in its own small print does the last-named still insist on calling itself The Atlantic Monthly, as if the staff is a bit embarrassed by the misnomer.) With Smithsonian, Ladies’ Home Journal, Esquire, Field & Stream Men’s Journal, Town & Country, Money, and others dropping an issue in the summer or winter, the bona fide monthly may be as endangered as the weekly that truly hits the newsstands 52 times a year.

Three apparent reasons for the reduction in frequency of publication are to counteract the encroachment of the Internet, save on postage and printing costs while retaining the same subscription rates, and allow employees to enjoy longer summer and winter breaks. There may also be the assumption in editorial boardrooms that reader interest is lacking when people are distracted by the holiday season at the end of the year and the irresistible call of the beach in the summer. To fill the gap now being left by the Hearst crowd, I propose to issue a magazine just twice a year. Let the trend-seekers release their Food Issues and Fashion Issues and DIY Issues and Before and After Issues and Walpurgisnacht Issues. Every January my subscribers will receive the Shiver Issue and each August they will be sent the Swelter Issue.

My readers will start the new year with helpful hints such as how to adapt can openers received for Christmas presents into useful augers for breaking the ice at parties held right on a nearby lake. Nothing will keep the stalwart crew fuller inside than a Christmas goose ingested Gooey Gitche Gumee style or warmer outside than the feathers removed from the bird and then cramming downy ounces of cozy joy into a stuff-it-yourself parka. Many vendors proffer gloves with batteries inside; the Shiver issue will show readers how to prepare hot pastrami and insert it into mittens so the well-equipped walker can do a Joey Dee karaoke throughout the neighborhood and nibble a tasty treat at the same time. Instead of tempting gullible weaklings with one-week getaways to sunny tropical shores to escape the chills of winter, I will encourage the hearty faithful to join my staff on the Husk Varna tour in which we will brave wild seas to join Bulgarian farmers in their cornfields for the gala “Not Worth a Shuck” Festival. For those who prefer to stay at home but still want vigorous exercise, one feature article will be a step-by-guide to planting those seed catalogs that arrive in the mail ten weeks before the snow melts deep inside a crawlspace that can then be dubbed “The Tomb of Hygeia.”

During the dog days of summer the Swelter Issue will offer helpful articles from the archives such as “A Fan for All Seasons” by Sally Rand and the au naturel guide to preparing seaside condiments, “The Skinny on Dipping.” A cheery department filled with decorating ideas for staying cool indoors will be called “Paint It Black.” Dr. Wilt Orwilnot will provide help to the lovelorn in his column “Perspire Under the Elms” when he addresses such queries as “When I turn up the heat, why does my girl give me the air?” Handymen and handy ladies will find much satisfaction in building a sharpened pitchfork that emits a harmless but pointed sting into the backside of every unimaginative visitor who asks “Is it hot enough for you?” The cover story in the premier issue will be “Passing Through Green Acres” by mystic Siti Comi who will unveil his patented process of deep meditation through which subjects gazing into the heat waves rising from the parched brown leaves of grass in their back yards long enough no longer see a vast wasteland but instead entertain visions of Oliver Wendell Douglas exchanging inanities with Eb and Mr. Haney.

I cannot say when the first issue will be ready to mail, but orders are already being accepted at the very reasonable annual subscription rate of $19.95. Everyone will agree the name I have chosen is most appropriate for a magazine published twice a year: The Two-Timer.              




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