- The Washington Times - Friday, November 12, 2004

Happily, not all the nation’s magazines greeted the news of “four more years,” a reference to the outcome of this year’s presidential race, with agony and despair.

Yet some did — and they didn’t mince words. Case in point: the New Yorker, which for the first time in its 80-year history endorsed a candidate, Democratic contender Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts.

Not surprisingly, with the defeat of the Kerry-Edwards ticket, the storied weekly did little to hide the dismay of its editors. “Here in the bluest borough of the bluest city in all our red, white, and blue American Union, it has not been a happy week. … We’ve got the blues, and we’ve got ‘em bad,” reads the opening of the New Yorker’s Comment feature.

It wasn’t alone.

The New Republic expressed its misery even more passionately. Its post-election cover featured a tear-streaked young blond woman, a large Kerry-Edwards sticker adorning one cheek, with the headline “Despair and Strategy.”

By contrast, the last page of the Weekly Standard (titled “Not a Parody”) reflects another view. Presented as “Our alternative cover prepared for this edition of The Weekly Standard for use in the event of a Kerry-Edwards victory on Nov. 2,” the mock cover depicts a photo of the famous shower scene from “Psycho” in which the late Janet Leigh is shown screaming as she’s being stabbed.

The Standard’s mock cover headline? “The Nightmare Begins.”

Given that moral values seemed to have been a key factor in determining the election results, the timing seems perfect for the debut of a new publication, In Character, subtitled “A Journal of Everyday Virtues.” The first issue of the handsome new quarterly, supported by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation, is devoted to thrift, as evidenced by a tag line on the cover. The theme follows through from page to page. There are no fall-out mailing cards to entice potential subscribers — and no hard-to-turn glossy pages. Instead, the paper is similar to what you’d find in a quality book.

The layout is also imaginative. You open the pages with a decided anticipation of likely pleasure.

The magazine’s opening editorial statement sets the tone: “In Character seeks to illuminate the nature and power of the everyday virtues — and how these virtues shape our vision of the good life. Each issue will examine a single virtue from different perspectives, bringing together scholars and journalists versed in public policy, the humanities, religion, and the sciences. In Character aims to foster a deeper appreciation of these virtues within our communities, our families and ourselves.”

Adds Editor in Chief Naomi Schafer Riley, in explaining the magazine’s title: “The title In Character is meant to reflect this idea of imitation. The theatrical pun represents an Aristotelian understanding of virtue — that we become morally good by habituation. The virtues that we will be covering, like thrift, purpose, creativity, and loyalty, are ideas we have to try on, like parts in a play. The longer you stay ‘in character’ the closer you come to being that virtuous person.”

Does this mean that In Character’s debut issue is sanctimonious and puffed up with its own importance? Quite the contrary. Articles range from an interview with Malcolm “Steve” Forbes to writer Damien Cave’s “More Than Polyester: The Discovery of the Thrift Shop” and Jean Bethke Elshtain on “‘You Kill It, You Eat It’ and Other Lessons From My Thrifty Childhood.” Other articles include Kay Hymowitz’s “Great Expectations: Life Among the Sushi Generation” and Deirdre McCloskey on “What Would Jesus Spend? Why Being a Good Christian Won’t Hurt the Economy.”

In Character retails at $9 per issue. For further details, e-mail [email protected] or visit www.incharacter.org.

Also debuting on newsstands this month is Plenty. Sporting the tag line “smart living for a complex world” on its cover, the new magazine (which will publish six times yearly) serves up a stew of lifestyle and environmental features in its first issue. Stories billboarded on its cover include “The End of Oil?” “Top 10 Eco-Ski Resorts,” “The Marriage Dilemma,” “Therapeutic Tea” and “Haute Cuisine for a Sustainable Planet.” To peruse some content, visit www.plentymag.com.

This month’s epic movie, Oliver Stone’s “Alexander” (opening Nov. 24), is getting generous advance coverage. GQ has given its cover to Colin Farrell, who stars in the title role. Likewise, the New Republic also features a lengthy article on the former monarch of Macedonia. “Alexander the Great’s Road to Hollywood,” by Peter Green, offers a review of books about the warrior king. Mr. Green also authored the comprehensive “Alexander of Macedon, 356-323 B.C.: A Historical Biography.”

Meanwhile, an article in Smithsonian magazine asks simply, “What Made Alexander Great?”

The creation of life is the focus in both National Geographic and U.S. News & World Report — two interestingly timed cover stories considering the storm that’s brewing over the teaching of the subject in some public schools. The stalwart National Geographic (enveloped in a somewhat glossy makeover) asks “Was Darwin Wrong?” while U.S. News & World Report (in one of its special editions) features Adam and Eve on its cover with the headline “Mysteries of the Bible.”

The latter story, however, tiptoes around the matter. Visually, the concept is quite stunning, with many reproductions of biblical images by the old masters. But the story of Adam and Eve never resurfaces beyond the cover.

In National Geographic, the answer comes down resoundingly on the opening page of David Quammen’s article: “No. The evidence for Evolution is overwhelming.” He goes on to describe evolution as “a beautiful concept.” The photographs are dazzling — and well worth a look.

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