- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 29, 2007

The temperature may be hovering in the 80s, but the calendar tells us we’re about to enter the 10th month of the year, a time when leaves start turning into autumnal blazes of glory and Halloween pumpkins are omnipresent in shop windows.

To quickly dispatch that end-of-the-month holiday for parents — those most likely to become involved with its attendant activities — let us refer you to the cover line of the October issue of Parenting that just about says it all: “Halloween costumes & treats; So simple, it’s spooky!”

Spooky, yes, maybe, but simple? A feature devoted to “cute costumes” tells the willing mother how to make her little darling suitably appealing for the night of the big pumpkin. All she will need is an oversized sweatshirt, hot glue or fabric glue, scissors, tape measure and an abundance of patience. Mind you, a kiddy done up as a giant pea pod or carrot does make for an engaging photo spread, but how many moms are going to have the time to achieve such a result?

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Moving along to something more in sync with the real world and touching on a potential scientific advance that would have an extraordinary impact, check out the October issue of Esquire. The editors thought they would liven up a feature on 100 “emerging ideas, trends, discoveries, products, and obscene gestures” that, as they put it, “you should know about before everyone else does.” Trend No. 003 on page 184, the “Medical Breakthrough of the Year,” is about regrowing body parts using “magic pixie dust” made from ground-up pig bladders. Although it may sound a tad weird, it seems that Dr. Stephen Badylak devotes his time and energies to making body parts in Pittsburgh. According to Michael Rosenwald’s article, the good doctor has regrown sizable portions of esophagi, tendons, ligaments, bladders, urethras, abdominal walls, blood vessels and hearts within animals and humans.

The process is described in considerable and plausible detail. Two photographs illustrate what the “magic pixie dust” accomplished in one case. In the first we see a close-up of about a half-inch that has been whacked off a man’s middle finger. (He inadvertently thrust it into a model airplane’s moving propeller.) The next photo shows a healed finger with the faintest trace of a scar, the flesh having grown back in a few days. Breathtaking, to say the least.

The same issue proudly displays another editorial initiative: running a short story by printing it a line at a time from the cover to the end (page 244) of the magazine. Alas for the poor author. You wonder whether anyone will have the patience to read an entire story literally line by line.

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In the Oct. 1 issue of the New Yorker, Editor in Chief David Remnick shows in a compelling article, “The Tsar’s Opponent; Garry Kasparov takes on Vladimir Putin,” that he has not lost any of the knowledge he acquired during his years as The Washington Post’s bureau chief in Moscow. Mr. Kasparov, described in the opening sentence of the Letter From Moscow as “the greatest player in the history of chess,” is just 44 and was world chess champion for 15 years until he retired two years ago.

Although Mr. Kasparov easily could enjoy all possible comforts and perks accrued during his prime years, he has volunteered for, as Mr. Remnick puts it, “grim and, very likely, futile duty.” He is in nominal charge of Drugaya Rossiya (the Other Russia), an umbrella group of liberals, neo-Bolsheviks and just about anyone in opposition to Russian President Vladimir Putin. You learn a considerable amount about a world not well-known to most Americans.

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For a look at another new world, turn to the September issue of Essence for its lead feature: “Work & Wealth: The Black Woman’s Wealth Test.” The article lays out a quiz designed to determine whether readers have the “wealth mind-set, the proper plans in place and the behaviors to change your financial future.” Actually, the quiz would be a useful guide for just about all women wondering if they can enjoy financial success.

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Conde Nast’s new monthly, Portfolio, is eminently worth following for its coverage of business intelligence that you’re not apt to find in other publications. The magazine features slightly offbeat stories, well-researched and engagingly written. Especially interesting is “The Banana War,” a piece about how Chiquita Brands paid a paramilitary death squad what appears to have been protection money.

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Given that most of us live with computer and electronic gadgets, you probably should check out the Oct. 16 issue of PC Magazine. Its cover asks: “Who Can You Trust? Our Readers Rate the Best (and Worst) Laptop, Desktop and Printer Companies.”

The Smithsonian always gives good value, and its October issue certainly maintains the publication’s excellent reputation. Buy it for its cover story if for no other reason. The editors did not exaggerate when below the cover line of “Denizens of the Deep” they ran this line: “New Views of the Weirdest Creatures You’ve Ever Seen.” Believe me, weird they truly are.

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