Thursday, June 17, 2010

Wired For Fun

I feel like I've read every damned magazine on the stands. When I was in high school, it was Rolling Stone and Jane - which I miss terribly, because there's no magazine that brings the sass quite like Jane did - and Nylon, which I loved desperately. Nylon was super lush and glam, and has since morphed into something dead-eyed and soulless. No matter. I've read my mom's issues of Canadian House and Home. I used to sneak my dad's subscription of National Geographic, back when it was shipped in brown paper semi-envelope: I would ease it out of its weird little tube, gingerly leaf through it, and then slip it back, all before he got home from work. I have no idea why this was a clandestine operation; I guess I didn't want to spoil the thrill of A New Thing for him, and I could have just waited the four hours it would take for him to read it and leave it in the dining room.

I recently picked up a few issues of Wired from my local bibliotemple, and I'm kind of smitten. I've always dismissed Wired as dull, since it concerns itself with technology and the internet and that kind of boy-related stuff. Men's magazines at least run photos of breasts; Wired seemed to be more concerned with the pixel count on a new SLR than it was with anything, you know, fun.

I stand corrected. Wired is a total hoot. It's shiny, and extremely well-designed. While it does fawn over a lot of similar-looking gadgetry, it has some whiz-bang neat-o tricks up its glossy sleeve. For example, articles like the one about the "link" between autism and vaccines are only peripherally interested in the mechanics of vaccination, and instead focuses its energies on the human side of the debate. As in, it dispels the myth of Jenny McCarthy as a person with medical knowledge. Thanks for that, Wired.

It has an advice column, which handily dispatches queries for the modern world. My favourite question so far has been the man who wrote in to ask if and how he should advise his brother, the father of a blind son: should he encourage the reluctant father to teach his son Braille? The answer, which addressed the prevalence of techno solutions like text readers, also considered the old-school Braille to be a viable and noble pursuit. After all, Braille is useful for travelers, note-taking, and cognitive calisthenics. I adore that answer. Its elegance lies in the fact that technology is accepted as a given, but not as the only, or even best, option.

There are some supremely nerdy pages in Wired; a lot of copy is devoted to things like robot dinosaurs and the Kindle. But even when the subject matter is a little dorky, the writers keep it engaging. It's fun writing: smart, often witty, infused with wide-eyed wonder: Can you believe we actually get to write about robot dinosaurs? It's clear that, unlike, say, InStyle, the staff at Wired recognize the frivolity of Bugatti kettles. They take a winking approach that doesn't undermine the genuine interest they have in what they're writing about.

I like that. Tech magazines and fashion rags have a lot in common: they both deal with the next, the shiniest, the newest, the priciest. But Wired's tone diverges from the high-falutin' snobbery of most fashion magazines, and instead aims for a chuckle. Not that their information isn't useful and well-presented, and that the tone doesn't furrow an eyebrow when it has to (like the autism article), but Wired doesn't take itself ultra-seriously. It's good writing, great style, fun toys and interesting subject matter. If the geeks are going to inherit the earth, at least the reading material is going to be primo.

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