Signs of change are becoming a weekly occurrence at The New Yorker. In the Jan. 4 issue, the sign is Raymond Bonner's dispatch from Peru, which departs from time-honored practice by telling you in the first sentence what it is about and why it matters: "The quiet, backward city of Ayacucho, Peru, might seem to be a rather unlikely place for the birth of a revolution, but it was there that Sendero Luminoso, the Shining Path, which is one of the most ruthless and secretive movements in Latin-American history, came into being."

Bonner goes on to tell you what he found when he visited Peru last year -- the relative calm in the prosperous capital of Lima, the explosive insurgency a 40-minute plane ride away in Ayacucho. At the center is Alan Garcia, the country's young and charismatic president, who has managed to challenge and offend both the Reagan administration and Fidel Castro. Resisting the growth of the Senderistas has not been so simple.

Bonner, a seasoned chronicler of struggle in Central America and the Philippines, contends that while the situation in Peru is unique among revolutionary societies, Garcia seems to be responding with classic bad judgment. And speaking of change at The New Yorker, Bonner's absorbing report is the first and last of a one-part series.

Our Back Pages The sensation is of standing in a supermarket checkout line in the summer of 1958: "Heartbreaker!" says the headline staring at you from the impulse rack. "Eddie Leaves Debbie for Liz." This is Memories, subtitled "The Magazine of Then and Now," as though the editors of The National Star had taken over American Heritage.

Inside, arranged in anniversary sections (40 Years Ago, 30 Years Ago, etc.), are articles that recall the breakup of Ronald Reagan's marriage to Jane Wyman, our fondness for Uncle Miltie Berle, Elvis Presley's Army days in West Germany, and the day the students took over Columbia University. In some of the pieces, Then is side-by-side with Now, as in "Kinsey to Koop" (a quickie look at the evolution in sexual frankness and understanding) and "What'd You Do in the Movement, Mommy?" (all about feminism's halcyon days).

Notice anything missing from the list? Not to worry. There are two pieces on what might have happened had John F. Kennedy survived his trip to Dallas.

Memories has the feel of big intentions, of a package carefully and expensively designed. Some of the estimable bylines that sit atop these breezy pieces -- George V. Higgins, Gloria Emerson, Charles Higham, Ralph Abernathy, William V. Shannon, David Nyhan -- do not write for just anyone (or just anything, as the case may be).

The magazine's appeal to our hazy and highly susceptible remembrance is as transparent as it is irresistible.

The Cutting Edge Inc. has found the hottest entrepreneur in America. His name is John McCormack. An aimless pauper 15 years ago, he has made his fortune by revolutionizing ... hair salons. But bear with us.

Some facts and figures. In 1986, the average independent hair salon had revenues of $168,108; the chains averaged about $250,000 per salon. McCormack's Visible Changes outlets averaged $855,387 that year. The reason lies in another set of figures: the earnings of the Visible Changes hairdressers, which at $33,000 are three times the industry average.

McCormack built into his operation a complicated but compelling schedule of incentives that rewards employes whose services are requested by name. Those who sell hair-care products are also showered with prizes -- first, their health insurance, then cash, vacations, and the right to charge even steeper prices to their customers (who for some reason don't abandon them).

Visible Changes survived the recession five years ago, even though the Texas malls where they do business were deserted. Twenty-dollar haircuts: Who would have known? "What really drives me," McCormack told Inc.'s Bruce G. Posner and Bo Burlingham, "is the idea that haircutters will someday be taken seriously ... that they're not dingbats but people getting car loans and home mortgages. It gives me a tremendous kick to make productive citizens out of people the educational system wrote off."

The Boxer Rebellion There's reason to take notice of the Jan. 18 New Republic, and it isn't (just) the nearly naked man reclining in his underwear on the cover: It's the Andrew Sullivan essay that goes with it, a scathing analysis of the advertising ethic that produces the cover image and its ilk. Sullivan calls it "fascist."

"The homoeroticism is mild," Sullivan says of an image for Calvin Klein's Obsession perfume, "but the complete lack of emotion -- let alone passion -- is the real point." In such ads, the models are naked Aryan zombies; in others (like Ralph Lauren Polo scenes) they populate "an arch world of pre-Anschluss aristocracy." For Sullivan, this is "a relentless elitism of the flesh."

Sullivan regards all of this a little too seriously, but his take is intriguing. You will not find such provocative sentiments in publications whose livelihoods depend on the munificence of Klein and Lauren -- from whom, in due course, it will be interesting to hear.

Local and Esthetic Less than a year since its remake as a classy, informative guide to the world described by its title, Museum & Arts Washington is already hitting a nice stride. The January-February issue, with its striking cover design by Tom Wolff, offers a philosophical look by Sophy Burnham at the question of an artist's right to dictate the display and disposition of his art, a profile of Olga Hirshhorn, widow of the art collector and museum benefactor, and a gallery of promising local talent in the arts.