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Oddly Named Magazines Are Entitled to Their Kookiness

April 17, 2001|PETER CARLSON | WASHINGTON POST

Giant Robot?

Wrapped in Plastic?

Shuz?

These days, the names of magazines are becoming as weird as the names of punk bands. You peruse the newsstand perplexed, wondering, What the heck is SleazeNation? Or No Depression? Or Jockey Slut?

It wasn't always like this. The titles of most magazines give you some idea of what they're about. Newsweek is about the news of the week. Money is about money. Fortune is about a lot of money. Better Homes and Gardens is about homes and gardens that are better than yours. Sports Illustrated is an illustrated magazine about sports, except for one issue during late winter, when it becomes a magazine filled with pictures of lovely women in skimpy swimsuits.

But now many magazines have taken on weird or surreal or cutesy-pie names designed to confuse readers or prove their editors' coolness or something. These days, you can't tell your magazines without a scorecard. Here is the scorecard:

* Murder Dog: A magazine about pit bulls? An anti-vivisection mag? No, it's a magazine about hard-core rap music.

* No Depression: A magazine for Prozac users? No, actually this Seattle-based bimonthly is about country, folk and rock music.

* Dirty Linen: A trade mag for the laundry business? A tabloid revealing sordid secrets? No, it's a magazine about folk music around the world.

* Paper: A magazine for the wood pulp industry? No, it's a New York mag that reveals the latest hip trends in music, movies and fashion. If you're looking for a story titled "Designer as Rock Star Vs. Fashion's New Decentralization of the Ego," Paper is the mag for you.

* Wrapped in Plastic: A porno mag so hot it has to be kept under wraps? No, it's a fan magazine devoted to the defunct cult TV show "Twin Peaks" and its creator, David Lynch. The current issue, which is--believe it or not, the 50th--gives a blow-by-blow description of every event in every "Twin Peaks" episode in the second half of the show's first season. It also chronicles every mention of the show in books and every appearance by its actors on talk shows.

* Giant Robot: A sci-fi mag? A high-tech mag? Nope. It's an L.A.-based glossy magazine covering Asian and Asian American pop culture from a decidedly eccentric viewpoint. Giant Robot reviews Japanese animated movies and various Asian junk food products. Korean cuttlefish chips, for instance, are described like this: "If you're into squid, this is it. But your burp can stop a Tiananmen Square tank."

* SleazeNation: The official publication of the Jerry Springer Fan Club? Actually, you'll be happy to learn that the sleazy nation in question is Britain. It's another guide to what's allegedly hip in fashion, music and art. "At times like these you just want to shout and scream and cry and kick frustratedly at the sheer blandness of it all," reads one piece, which turns out to be an ode to the coolness of wearing Army boots.

* Jockey Slut: A magazine for equestrian nymphomaniacs? No, it's another imported British magazine for people who are way too hip for their own good. There are a lot of these, most with weird names--"Flaunt" and "Dazed and Confused" and "The Face"--and reading them made me want to thank George Washington and his fellow rebels for kicking the Brits out.

* Shuz: A magazine about shoes? Yup. Page after page of photos of women's shoes, some of them attached to women's feet but most of them just sitting there against the bright, white background of these glossy pages. This mag is the perfect gift for Imelda Marcos and the foot fetishists on your Christmas list.

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