Archive for the ‘magazines’ Category


King magazine (2001-2009), the illest men’s magazine ever. They will put out one more print issue, the June 2009 one, and that will be it. They had the best women of any of the men’s magazine. I only bought two magazines regularly and this was one of them (The Economist was the other and now the only).

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Playboy (1953- ) is an American magazine that calls itself “entertainment for men”. It has good articles and is a perfectly respectable magazine except for one thing, the thing that it is most known for: it has pictures of naked women.

Hugh Hefner started Playboy in December 1953 with Marilyn Monroe on the cover. More than 50 years later he was still the head of the magazine.

Some of the most famous writers and women have been in its pages. Nabokov, Atwood and Ian Fleming have written for Playboy. Naomi Campbell, Anna Nicole Smith and Kim Kardashian have modelled naked for it.

The pictures of naked women are tasteful and do not show as much as some other magazines. The women are also much prettier, sometimes even beautiful.

Each year Playboy picks one of its models as the Playmate of the Year (PMOY).

Playboy has affected American society in at least two ways:

  1. It has helped to loosen its morals.
  2. It has helped to make big breasts and yellow hair a part of white America’s idea of female beauty.

Hefner liked women with huge breasts and long yellow hair, something that is common now but which you did not see much of before Playboy. The magazine has changed men’s taste in women, at least white men in North America.

The women in Playboy have become thinner over the years. In the 1960s they had nice hourglass figures. No more. But that change seems to be driven more by Vogue than Playboy.

From the neck up the women in Playboy are always pretty but rarely beautiful. It seems to be the eyes: they do not look like women who are particularly deep or have much mystery about them.

Playboy conceives of beauty as looking perfect on the outside, like a work of art or a wood fence. It is not seen as something that comes from within.

When I was a boy, back in the days before Google, most of what I knew about a woman’s body came from the few copies of Playboy that secretly chanced my way.

Black women in Playboy:

  • 1965: Jennifer Jackson, the first black centrefold
  • 1990: Renee Tenison, the first black Playmate of the Year

Tenison is a token: Hefner thought it was time for a black Playmate of the Year. Apparently it will time again in 2020. This makes Playboy whiter than the state of Maine.

To be honest, the partly-clothed black women in King magazine are much better than the few naked ones in Playboy. The black women in Playboy are meant for the eyes of white men, not black men.

Overseas: You see Playboy in other countries, mainly Western ones. Each country comes out with its own Playboy, suiting the women to the country’s tastes and customs.

In Indonesia, for example, the women are fully clothed. Despite that some Muslims still wanted to shut the magazine down. Playboy fled the island of Java (Muslim) for Bali (Hindu).

– Abagond, 2008.

Update (2015): Playboy in the US will soon stop printing pictures of naked women. Internet porn has made that kind of pointless. There will still be pictures of sexy women. 

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Black Men magazine


Black Men magazine (1998- ) is a lifestyle magazine for black American men. Like King and Smooth it has pictures of half-naked women and articles on things like sex, cars, sports, fashion and famous people. It comes out once every two months.

It is put out by John Blassingame, who also puts out Today’s Black Woman and Hype Hair. Hype Hair is his best-selling magazine. His office is across the street from a Staples in Paramus, New Jersey.

Black Men is more well-rounded and serious than King or Smooth. You could take out the women and still have something of a magazine left. But in 2005 it was in last place: its women were not as good as those in Smooth and King.

Then one day Blassingame’s son Marcus was in Harlem getting his hair cut. As the women walked past the front of the shop it struck him that the men did not like the thin supermodel sort of women that appeared in the magazine. They liked women with much more of a figure – “fat asses and pretty faces,” as the barber put it.

So over the next two years Black Men tried different sorts of women to see what worked. By using models with more of a figure they were able to outsell Smooth. They say they now have a pretty good idea of which kind of women will work in all parts of the country and even in Jamaica and Haiti.

The magazine has women of all colours: white, yellow, black and brown. It prefers Latin and light-skinned black women. In 2006 Black Men named Vida Guerra, a near-white Latin woman, as the sexiest woman of the year. Each issue has only one or two dark-skinned models.

The women are heavily airbrushed and many have a soulless look in their eyes. They are still not as good as the women in King, which, in spite of its blacker idea of female beauty (or maybe because of it), still sells better.

Video vixens, those half-naked women you see in music videos, tend to speak well of Black Men: many got their start in its pages. One was Angel Lola Luv. She was discovered at one of their modelling contests – not on stage, but sitting in the audience!

Black Men seems to be based more on Today’s Black Woman than on Maxim. When Black Men first came out in 1998 there was no King and even Maxim was still new in America.

Unlike King and Maxim, Black Men does not have any mainstream advertisers, like Heineken or Absolut.

Sometimes Black Men puts out a swimsuit extra magazine called Black Men SSX. Some have only one woman, like Buffie the Body.

Blassingame learned the magazine distribution business by working first for Hearst in the New York region and then Metropolitan News. When he was passed over for a higher position at Metropolitan he started his own magazines. Thus Black Men.

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Smooth magazine

Smooth magazine (2002- ) is an American men’s magazine. Like King, it sees itself as a black Maxim. It has pictures of half-naked women and articles on things like cars, sports, electronics, video games and other things that men are interested in. It comes out six times a year.

The writing is better than King’s, but its women are not nearly as good. The pictures in Smooth are too airbrushed to be believable. It has far more Latin American models than King.

There seems to be a particular look the magazine wants in its women: long hair, big breasts and an even bigger behind, light skin, a face with white features and an empty look in the eyes. Smooth seems to think flesh is the main thing that makes a woman beautiful, not her eyes.

It is an idea of female beauty that is curiously halfway between the black beauties of King and the white ones of Maxim. But since Smooth is outsold by both Maxim and King, it might be a middle ground that few are satisfied with. Readers keep asking for more dark-skinned women. I agree!

But even if the look of the Smooth woman is, say, based on studies of what men like, it is too religiously applied. The women look too much alike. The make-up and the way the pictures are taken makes them look even more alike.

It is like McDonald’s: not all that great, but there is a certain level of quality that you can count on.

Sandra Vasceannie, the founder of Smooth (and also Jewel, a magazine for black women), admits that the models have been airbrushed to make their skin perfect, but she says their figures have not been airbrushed. Many of the models, however, have already been to the doctor to have their figures altered.

Sales have been flat for the past few years. It used to be second only to King in its field, but by 2007 it had fallen behind Black Men and Show to fourth place.

Back in 2001 Vasceannie approached XXL magazine about making a black Maxim. They met and talked about her ideas. XXL did not seem interested, so she went off to do Smooth by herself. But then even before Smooth came out, XXL came out with King!

To be fair, the idea of making a black Maxim had to already be on the minds of the great and good of XXL. Maxim came to America from Britain in 1997 and surprised everyone with its success. XXL was well placed to copy the idea for black readers. It would be surprising if it did not.

Nor is King just a cheap knock-off of Smooth – it is much better. And it is Smooth, not King, that is modelled more closely on Maxim. So it would be a stretch to say that XXL took her ideas and beat her to market. They clearly did more thinking about making a black Maxim than she did.

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Last night I was reading two magazine articles. What struck me is how much they sounded the same even though they were written 25 years apart by two different authors for two different magazines about two different subjects. I had to double check that it was not the same author.

The first article, “The New Ideal of Beauty”, appeared in the August 30th 1982 issue of Time magazine. In it Richard Corliss tells us how exercise has changed ideas about female beauty.

The second article, “Future Reading”, appeared this week in the November 5th 2007 issue of the New Yorker. In it Anthony Grafton tells us why Google will not succeed in its attempt to create a universal library on the Internet.

Both use an overblown style that seems to be one part professor and another part adman.

For example, Corliss tells us that because women now use the Pill and work outside the home, they act and even look more like men, putting an end to the hourglass figure of the 1950s. But instead of telling us that in 29 words he says it in 117, throwing in stuff like this:

  • the twin demands of feminism and a new imperial economy
  • domestic cage
  • technology
  • conservative morality
  • the biological imperative
  • an economic imperative
  • in the labour force
  • collaborate and compete

Grafton is better, but not much better. He teaches history at Princeton and writes well for someone in his position. Unlike most professors, his writing is not a dark sea of long, stiff words. Yet he uses the same overblown style as Corliss.

For example, to tell us that bishop Eusebius made 50 Bibles for the emperor and created a library that cross referenced books to the Bible, he throws in words and phrases like these:

  • coastal city
  • local library
  • enabled readers
  • hot links
  • deft impresario
  • mobilized
  • featuring his new study aid
  • placed an order with
  • the twin projects of
  • disseminating
  • key texts

He makes Eusebius seem like a businessman from St Louis! You feel like you are reading an ad. But Grafton seems too much like someone selling day-old fish, so you do not buy it and move on.

Notice they both use the word “twin”:

  • the twin demands of
  • the twin projects of

Where does that come from? Has the word “both” fallen out of fashion, like “whereon” and “hitherto”?

I think I smell an “economic imperative” here.

Magazines pay by the word. So you get four times more money for “the twin demands of” than you do for “both”. Sure, Corliss could have told us about working women in 29 words, but why do that when you can say the same thing in 117 words and make four times more?

This sort of writing not only makes your article four times longer, it also makes it sound four times more important.

Is that how you get paid, printed and read these days?

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Maxim magazine

Maxim (1995- ) is the best-selling men’s magazine in the world, even though in Britain, where it started, it is still far behind FHM. People tend to love it or look down on it.

Maxim appeared in America in 1997. It has done so well there that it has spread to countries in Latin America, Europe and East Asia.

Maxim is different from country to country. Not even the British and American ones are the same. The British Maxim, for example, shows bare breasts, the American one does not.

But wherever you go the cover will have a hot (or supposed-to-be-hot) picture of a singer or actress who is well-known in that country. Inside you can find more such pictures of her and those of a few other lesser-known women.

In between the pictures of women and the many advertisements are short, light-hearted articles on cars, women, film, music, food, sex and so on. Nothing heavy.

Maxim is, in effect, Cosmopolitan for men.

The industry calls it a lifestyle magazine. Women love them, but they did not catch on with men till the 1990s, starting in Britain. Some say it is because before then men did not have the self-doubt that such magazines feed on.

The American Maxim is aimed at white, single Anglo-American men in their 20s and 30s.

Its women are white, Anglo, thin and almost girl-like. Almost none of them are black. Maxim has a reputation for having large-breasted women, like the kind you see in beer ads, but in fact most are nothing like that. Most are so thin that they almost lack a clear, female figure. They are more Vogue than Budweiser.

It is not as good as it used to be: the women are fewer, the Photoshopping is shakier, the articles are less serious and more of the magazine is given over to advertising. It got noticeably worse in early 2006.

Wal-Mart stopped selling Maxim in 2003. In general the store does not sell anything that a mother would object to her ten-year-old looking at.

The older men’s magazines in America, like GQ and Esquire, are much more upscale and serious. When Maxim appeared on the scene they thought little of it. Maxim‘s success came as a shock to them.

Stuff and Blender are put out by the same company.

King is the black counterpart to Maxim. It is put out by a different (white) company. King‘s founders modelled it on Maxim, but say it is more street, that it lacks Maxim‘s white-boy sense of things. Even so, King and Maxim are running neck and neck among black readers.

The writing is in bits and pieces. It is rare to see a stretch of writing of more than 200 words. Common forms of writing:

  • Question and answers
  • Lists
  • Pictures with bits of writing

This cuts up the writing and makes it easy to read here and there, whatever you like.

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King magazine

King magazine (2001- ), “the illest men’s magazine ever”, is the hip hop world’s answer to white-boy Maxim, which has to make do as merely the best-selling men’s magazine ever.

King has three main parts:

  1. Advertisements for rims
  2. Pictures of beautiful, half-naked women
  3. Articles on things like cars, sports, music, computer games, fashion, liquor and, of course, women. And even serious issues, like race.

King grew out of the Eye Candy pages of the hip hop magazine XXL. It was created with Maxim as a model.

The writing is not strong and without the women there would not be much of a magazine left, but what women it has!

If you want to do some serious reading, get the New Yorker. If you want to look at beautiful women, get King.

King has the best-looking women of any magazine that I know of. Even its white women are better than the ones in Maxim.

What Mozart is to Muzak, King‘s women are to women in other magazines.

An example: For years I have seen pictures of the singer Mya. And I saw her again this morning in King, but that picture makes all the others seem like nothing, like water to wine. She is not perfect or pretty in the picture, but she looks like a woman, like a woman you have wanted for a long time, like a woman you would leave your wife and destroy your whole life for. That is how a woman should look.

King looks at women the way a man does. The other magazines, even magazines like Playboy, look at a woman as an object, something that is pleasing to look at but has nothing inside. Mannequins with flesh. No soul. They think beauty and being perfect looking are the same thing.

Another thing King gets right: they pick women who are truly beautiful, not women who are supposed to look beautiful because they satisfy some checklist of skin colour, hair length or size of certain body parts. They trust their judgement as men.

But King is not perfect. I do not like every woman they have. And with some women I can see that they took the easy way out and gave us bare, Photoshopped flesh rather than the woman’s true beauty. This was true for Gabrielle Union, Jill Marie Jones and Lizz Robbins. The bare flesh was nice, King, but these women are more beautiful than just that. Bring them back again and do them justice!

The two other magazines that are the most like King are Smooth and Black Men. The women in Smooth are not as good – they are too air-brushed to take seriously – but the writing is much better. Black Men is a more well-rounded magazine, but its women are soulless.

Compared to Maxim, King has better-looking women and more of them, but less to read. They also have more on fashion and liquor than Maxim.

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The Economist

The Economist cover from April 16th 2005.

The Economist cover from April 16th 2005.

The Economist (1843- ) is a White British news magazine well to the right that comes out of London on Friday. In 2013 it had 1.55 million readers. Only 14% live in Britain. Over half live in North America.

It was founded in 1843 by a Scottish hat maker to oppose the Corn Laws. It championed free trade then and it still does now.

I like its:

  1. Writing style, even if it requires a university reading level.
  2. Strong opinion that is counter to mine, making it easier to separate fact from opinion.
  3. Coverage of world news. It does not just cover the parts that directly affect US foreign policy.  
  4. Seriousness in trying to understand the world.

Website: In 2006, its free part was useless, but the paid part was one of the best news websites out there. Especially good was the way it tied news stories into backgrounders.


The Economist calls itself liberal – not in the American sense of Roosevelt, Kennedy and Clinton, but the British sense of Adam Smith and John Stuart Mill, what Americans would call neo-liberal or libertarian. It has been called Thatcherite, which is not way off.

It sees all men as born equal, each acting according to reason and self-interest. There is such a thing as human nature, of people acting out of love or honour, but nine times out of ten it comes down to self-interest, to money. While this makes it less racist than most English-language news outlets, it is still wilfully blind to racism and pushes stereotypes, like Broken Africa and black pathologies.

Since people are reasonable and can make their own decisions, government should allow people (and businesses) as much freedom as possible. It will be better for everyone in the end. Greed is good. Equality is inefficient. Government should only limit freedom for the sake of public order and safety.

The Economist has

  • Supported: free trade, free markets, capitalism, internationalism, decolonization, the US war in Vietnam, Harold Wilson, Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, gun control, gay marriage.
  • Opposed: Corn Laws, capital punishment, communism, Islamism, Hugo Chavez.

It is bigger on green issues than the US press. It is weak on international law, especially as applied to the US and Israel.

Eurocentrism: Although it seems to cover the world, it is largely by and for the 18% that live in North America and Europe. That is where 88% of its readers live and what 50% of its pages of political news are about. It has 29 staff reporters all over the world – yet 97% of them are White (in 2015).

The average reader is an upper-middle-class, middle-aged White man from North America.

To read The Economist in a somewhat demographically balanced way, read the following number of articles from each section (as of 2020):

  • 1 US
  • 1 Americas
  • 6 Asia (3 from India)
  • 3 China
  • 3 Middle East and Africa (2 from Africa)
  • 1 Europe / UK

Blind spots: It depends too much on governments, companies and think tanks for news.

Censorship: It has been banned or censored at times by India, Singapore, Iran and the Missouri Department of Corrections.

– Abagond, 2006, 2021.

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