It may be argued that the past is a country from which we have all emigrated, that its loss is part of our common humanity.
—Salman Rushdie in Imaginary Homelands
When we leave the past behind, all that remains is memory and relics. This is true of times long gone, and equally true of last week and last year. Gabe Bullard visits the past through its artifacts in this issue in “Restoration Hardware.” He talks to repair people working on analog technology, like Polaroid cameras and phonographs, who range from a fellow new to such tinkering and another in the repair racket for decades.
Gabe notes the modest but measurable resurgence in interest in taking instant pictures, typewriting, and playing vinyl records, but points out that it’s not just something for faddish hipsters who have no real interest or appreciation beyond ownership or being seen with a fold-up camera. Rather, for him and clearly many others, there is a warmth to be found in the physical experience coupled with the aesthetics of unpredictability. No two instant photos, even of the same scene, are ever alike. Pecking out words on a manual typewriter is hard work, but you can see the direct impact on a piece of paper.
Nathan Meunier describes a different kind of resurrection of the past in “Full Scale.” His subject, Chris Lee, wants to re-create something that never existed: a model of the Millennium Falcon at 100% of its “real” size. The project is unofficial, enormous, and already underway. (There’s a nifty love story in the middle of Meunier’s article, too. Follow the link to YouTube in the feature, and you’ll believe in a “new hope.”)
In “Face It: It’s Over,” Chris Stokel-Walker tries to escape his past. A breakup with a girlfriend of three years is exacerbated by remaining “friends” on Facebook. He tries to untangle himself — she broke up with him, you see — and eventually fights technology with technology and some sage advice from a friend and a researcher.
Why does Portland, Oregon, cling to an outdated notion of water purity and fight one of the greatest public-health successes of the modern age, asks Portlandian Alison Hallett in “An Inconvenient Tooth.” The title’s pun comes from a Twitter-bot that an anti-fluoridation advocate uses: every time Alison mentions the topic, the bot tweets back that bad joke — and bad science.
Fluoridation occurs naturally in many water systems (not Portland’s), and has been well studied for many decades since its positive effects on enamel were first understood. Portland’s water comes from remarkably pure sources, but is also treated with many chemicals and catalysts to make it fully safe and potable, as are all municipal water supplies in developed nations. Alison digs beneath the Portland-is-too-hip jokes to find out why the ostensibly well-educated citizens of City of Roses keep rejecting something that apparently works so well.
Who can argue with a face like this? That’s a cartoon representation of John Moltz’s poodle, Grant (who has his own Twitter account, naturally). John reviews Dog 1.0 (a thinly veiled version of Grant) in “Staying Power.” Dog is soft and enthusiastic, but lacks the kind of rigorous testing John believes should be part of any product released to consumers. There is no return policy for Dog — and who would want to give a review unit back? Look at that face again!
The illustration for the article comes to us from Christa Mrgan, whose day job is as Rogue Amoeba’s illustrator and designer. Christa also wrote “Summit Cum Laude” for us in Issue #17. When she sent me the sketch of this illustration, my immediate reaction — after some belly laughs — was to think, “I want this on a T-shirt.”
So we’re trying an experiment. A slightly reworked version of the illustration is available in shirt form via Teespring, a site that lets designers set a minimum number of orders and a fixed number of days during which orders are taken (ours ends on Wednesday, June 12).
In addition to the routine fee we pay for illustration, Christa and The Magazine will split the T-shirt proceeds. We’ve tried from the start to pay contributors well so that we could attract great writers and visual artists. This may turn out to be another way that we can help make the economics work for our artists.
Speaking of “We”
Marco Arment had a busy April, May, and June. The founder of this fine publication, Marco was previously Tumblr’s first employee, and founded and ran Instapaper outside of work starting in 2008. He left Tumblr in 2010 to pursue Instapaper full-time.
In late April, he announced he had sold a majority interest in Instapaper to Betaworks, and gave them all operational responsibility. In May, Yahoo voted to acquire Tumblr for $1.1 billion. And on June 1, Marco and I completed a deal to sell The Magazine to me.
This publication wound up being more work than one person could handle nearly from the start, and he hired me as executive editor around Issue #2. Marco has been art director, business manager, and chief programmer, while I’ve worked with writers, copy editors, and other contributors. He’s ready for a new challenge, and I’m delighted to have worked out an arrangement with him.
The Magazine will continue much the same, with new projects coming later this summer: a print collection from our first 100 articles (we’ll hit that milestone in July); a podcast featuring interviews with authors and their subjects; and revisions to the app and Web site to add features like “mark as read” among other much-requested additions. There’s more detail at “Under Old Management.” (You’ll note the Web site has already changed to match the app more closely, including an easier way to share stories over Twitter and elsewhere.)
We’ve added an email list that will announce each new issue and occasional other bits of news. If you subscribe to The Magazine via our Web site, this is a great way to be notified when each issue is available. App subscribers get an iOS notification, but you can also subscribe to the list. (Subscriptions via the App Store work on our Web site, and vice-versa. See our FAQ for details on registering your account in each place.)
There’s also now a Facebook page, where we’ll post snippets and other information, and where you can post comments on stories. We love the letters feature we added a few months ago, and have received many thoughtful responses, and run many of them in subsequent issues. Facebook commenting can be fraught, but I’m used to moderating email lists and other forums, and I’ll make sure it remains civil there.
I’ve been enjoying editing The Magazine immensely, and it comes both from working with such terrific journalists, essayists, photographers, and visual artists — and from readers, who have provided so much interesting, challenging, complimentary, and critical feedback. Thank you so much for your support so far, and there’s so much more to come. Stay tuned.
Cover photo by Heather, used under Creative Commons license. Cover design by Louie Mantia of Pacific Helm.
Glenn Fleishman is the editor and publisher of The Magazine, and contributes reguarly to the Economist, Boing Boing, TidBITS, and Macworld. The father of two, Glenn won two episodes of Jeopardy! in 2012, and he won't let you forget it.