Finally, the long wait is over. Our prayers have been answered, our hopes and dreams fulfilled. Finally, America has a punk golf magazine.
Punk golf? It sounds like a contradiction in terms. Surely it could join the ranks of the great oxymorons of our time, such self-contradictory phrases as "holy war" or "benevolent dictator" or "Great Britain" or "gentlemen of the press."
But now along comes Schwing!, a glossy magazine out of San Francisco that covers the whitest of white-bread sports with a distinctly punk sensibility. And somehow it makes sense. Sort of.
Like every other golf mag, Schwing! contains tips on how to improve your game and reviews of new golf books and golf products. Unlike every other golf mag, Schwing! also contains reviews of the new album "Serial Killer Compilation" and an interview with the punk band Lagwagon that is conducted while the band is playing golf, though not particularly well. "I've got about a 46 handicap, maybe 50," says lead singer Joey. "It's going up a little bit every day."
Schwing! (a word made popular in a radically different context in the movie "Wayne's World") is not exactly a magazine for punks who play golf, or even for golfers who like punk rock. It's really a magazine for people who love golfing but are hip enough to feel kind of goofy playing the quasi-official sport of country club Republicans in mint-green pants.
Schwing! is kind of ambivalent about golf--and downright hostile to golf carts. One article is entitled "Why Golf Carts Suck." The reason is aesthetic and philosophical: "The measured and steady pace of golf is a quiet and introspective journey, one totally unsuited to the frenetic scrambling about associated with golf carts."
Deborah Harry, the lead singer of Blondie, agrees: "I cannot stand golf carts," she says in an appropriately weird interview. "I will never use them. They're horrible; part of the game is walking and enjoying it, not racing through it."
Several of the golfing rockers interviewed in Schwing! display a revolutionary attitude toward the very purpose of the game: While more conventional hackers struggle to complete 18 holes in the fewest possible strokes, these guys do the opposite. "I like to take as many strokes as possible," says Jerry Casale, bassist for the band Devo. "I say prolong! Prolong!"
Casale also offers a convincing argument that golf is our last line of defense against suburban sprawl. "As hideous strip malls and suburban developments came in," he says, "I was hoping more rich people would claim land for golf courses. Pristine, beautiful hunks of land left undeveloped--trees, lakes, fairways, little sand traps. Architecturally, it is some of the most beautiful landscape you'll ever see. And it prevents more people from moving into suburban developments."
Schwing! also tackles a controversial question that the more timid golf mags have avoided: Which is the best golf movie ever, "Happy Gilmore" or "Caddyshack"? The verdict: " 'Happy Gilmore' is a very funny movie and worth checking out if you haven't already. It will always live in the shadow of 'Caddyshack,' but the truth is, it should be honored to be mentioned in the same sentence."
Schwing! is available on better (or weirder) newsstands for $3.95. A year's subscription, which gets you four issues, costs $7.95 and is available by calling 1-888-520-9099 Monday through Friday between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. .
Songs of the South
The Oxford American has done it again.
Every summer, the bimonthly that bills itself as "The Southern Magazine of Good Writing" publishes a special issue on Southern music, accompanied by a companion CD. Last year's edition won the National Magazine Award for best single issue. This year's edition is just as good, if not better.
Blues, bluegrass, jazz, gospel, country, zydeco and rock-and-roll--they were all born in the South, and the Oxford American's CD contains glorious examples of them all. There are 25 songs by 25 artists, including Leadbelly, Jelly Roll Morton, John Prine, June Carter Cash and Bob Dylan, who is not a Southern musician but who is singing (in "Oxford Town") about the bloody 1962 integration of Ole Miss. My favorite songs are Nina Simone's sultry "I Want a Little Sugar in My Bowl" and Jerry Lee Lewis's hauntingly sad version of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." Also, Billy Joe Shaver's steaming "Georgia on a Fast Train," which contains the immortal country line: "I got a good Christian raisin' and an eighth grade education . . ."
Each of the artists featured on the CD is profiled in the magazine, some in a few paragraphs, others at length. Among the best pieces are William Gay's article on John Prine's brilliant but eccentric oeuvre, Tom Piazza's piece on the wild doings at the annual New Orleans jazz festival and comedian-actor-writer Steve Martin's loving ode to the banjo.
This issue is a keeper. Unfortunately, it's hard to find on local newsstands. But it is available for $9 by calling the Oxford American at 601-236-1836.
Eyes Still Open
In the last Magazine Reader column--which featured a vicious comic attack on the magazines that hyped the movie "Eyes Wide Shut" by running semi-naked pictures of Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise--I made a error and an omission. Both should be corrected.
The error: I incorrectly lumped Time magazine in with Rolling Stone, Harper's Bazaar, Us and Good Housekeeping as magazines that were hyping the movie without having seen it. Actually, Time writer Richard Schickel did see the film before writing his cover story. I regret the error.
The omission: Two days after that review appeared, I received the August issue of Esquire, which featured a story on Kidman and a cover photo of the actress wearing nothing above the waist except what appears to be a brown bib. Esquire's story, which was written without seeing the movie, was just as dumb as all the others, and I regret not including it in my jeremiad.