The folks at Time Inc. magazines, who are forever cooking up new publications to meet previously undetected needs, have been toying with the idea of reviving Life, a monthly since 1978, as the weekly magazine that made it famous. From 1936 to 1972, as a weekly, it was the home of the century's finest photojournalism, notably during this country's last three wars and in the talented hands of Margaret Bourke-White, Gene Smith, Carl Mydans, Alfred Eisenstaedt, Larry Burrows and others.
The Persian Gulf War has created the stimulus and occasion for such a weekly experiment: potentially dramatic subject matter, of course; public hunger for war-related information and pictures; and a chance to test the commercial viability of a weekly Life for a limited engagement, without the full-bore commitment of abandoning the monthly schedule.
The first thing to say about this first weekly edition ("In Time of War" is now part of the logo) is that it is a wee, wee thing. The old Life -- like its current monthly descendant, which will go on publishing alongside the weeklies -- was an oversized magazine, big enough to showcase big pictures. It stood out from the newsstand crowd, and opened to a spread a lap could scarcely contain. The new weekly Life is Time-size, tidy and compact. This alone makes it rather less special, and rather less Life-like, than it might be; compare its impact with Life's own all-war March monthly issue. The puniness is disconcerting. Honey, they shrunk the magazine!
Other than that, readers of the monthly Life will find the weekly's editorial sensibility familiar: a march of photographs, from the war zone to the home front, that stress the human side, the personal dimension, of the war. Editor at Large Roger Rosenblatt, in the lead essay for issue No. 1 (Feb. 25), edgily anticipates the ground war. Life photographer David Hume Kennerly follows Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney for a week's round trip to the gulf and back. Lisa Grunwald profiles the first woman missing in action in the gulf war, Melissa Rathbun Nealy. Edward Barnes and Tony O'Brien, a Life team in Saudi Arabia, actually encountered four Iraqi soldiers on a lonely highway and delivered them into U.S. military hands. And Life documents a Persian Gulf War love story -- the pen pals who met on paper thousands of miles apart and then met in the flesh and fell in love and got married; it's corny, but it's beeootiful.
Even with the immediacy of a weekly deadline, these pages don't (yet) have the journalistic urgency of the venerable Life ancestor. That field, unavoidably, is ceded to television. What these pages do have is a softer, warmer quality, like a photograph album, a keepsake.
Playtime for Plato
"It's buried so deep we'll have to use a heidegger." "I'm afraid I've committed an egregious foucault." "When my mistake was pointed out to me, I felt like a complete buber."
You may be getting the comic drift: heidegger, foucault, and buber are proposed additions to the English language, deriving from the names of people who inspired the words, like sandwich or macadam. The American Philosophical Association also has put forward: santayana, "a hot, exhausting wind originating in the desert areas of Spain." And chomsky, "said of a theory that draws extravagant metaphysical implications from scientifically established facts." And derrida, "from an old French nonsense refrain: 'Hey nonny derrida, nonny nonny derrida falala.' "
This clever sampler should inspire analogous games in every field of endeavor. It's brought to you in the February Lingua franca -- along with serious stuff, including a sobering account, with histrionics laid aside, of what it's like to teach in the violently ideological environment of Dartmouth College. The case under consideration in Andrew Bowers's clear-eyed account is that of a professor, Sally Sedgwick, whose plagiarism call against a student was turned willfully against her -- unfairly, one would have to say -- as an improper exercise in political correctness.
There's a bright new financial magazine afloat. Investment Vision has existed for several years as the slick house organ of the Fidelity Investments mutual fund operation. Now the company has turned it loose as a more independent bimonthly, cutting out the overt touting of Fidelity funds and embracing something closer to journalism, and making the magazine available not just to the parent company's investment customers but to anyone who cares to subscribe.
The first issue in that independent incarnation (February/March) is an impressive thing -- serious, sophisticated and witty. On this bland and humorless stretch of the newsstand, this is a thrilling development.
The attention getter is a "Hall of Shame" of '80s financial misdeeds and miscreants -- you know the roster -- which is a pretty good knockoff (there are many) of Esquire's Dubious Achievement Awards. But for fun, and evidence that Fidelity can cast a jaundiced eye even on its own business, don't overlook columnist John Rothchild's droll review of various imaginary mutual fund offerings: the Authoritarian Government family of funds, for instance; the Soon-to-be-Constructed-Turnpike Investment Trust; the Ghost Malls Superfund; the Fund for a Radioactive Prosperity; and the Sports Personalities Stupid Steak House Fund.
Don't miss, either, Donald R. Katz's thoughtful lament on the intolerance of complexity that characterized the United States in the 1980s, and our fin de sie`cle responsibility to retrieve some of the abandoned mystery and humility. Plus a special report on municipal bonds, a profile of Texas deal-maker Richard Rainwater and an essay about the "X factor" in financial risk-taking.
Newsstand sales won't begin in earnest until summer. For a one-year subscription, send $15 to Investment Vision, 82 Devonshire St., R25A, Boston, Mass. 02109.
The moral is don't monkey with Mother Nature. Thirty years ago, the Soviets undertook a massive irrigation project, diverting rivers floating into the vast inland Aral Sea to stimulate farming upstream. What's happened since is a story of unimaginable bad luck, or bad planning: The Aral Sea has dropped 40 feet in 30 years, stranding once-active fishing ports on dry land miles away from the water's edge; the water's now so salty it kills the fish anyway; the new expanse of dry salt bed has generated salt-storms that have blown back over the newly irrigated land and killed crops; and the irrigation itself has raised the water table, and thus the salinity, of the land and killed off the rest of the crops. It's a major environmental disaster with horrible social and political repercussions, and it's laid out by Lester Brown in the January/February WorldWatch.