Friday, December 30, 2005

So a new year is about to begin. In magazines, this has resulted, as in most years past, in articles devoted to the “best of the year” and what to expect in the coming 12 months.

US News & World Report has chosen to take an optimistic turn, devoting a special double issue to “50 Ways to Improve Your Life in 2006.” Listed on its index page (under the publication’s title) is the following citation: “Rated the Nation’s Most Credible Print News Source,” an honor accorded by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press.

The 50 ways are divvied up under the categories Body, Mind, Pocketbook, Home, Spirit, Habits to Kick, and Travel. Under the Body category, the headline reads, “From Food to Floss: How to Stay in Good Shape in 2006 and Beyond, Have a Daily Dose of Omega-3.” Other suggestions are: “Be Tenacious About Soaking up Vitamin D” and the cautionary: “Don’t Swallow Everything.”

Spirit asks whether you need a tuneup, and if so, suggests you “Try Our Steps for Attitude Adjustment.” If you think this feature is concerned with your spiritual growth, think again. Its suggestions include reading “You Can Do It! The Merit Badge Handbook for Grownup Girls,” and it provides quick snippets of movie and book plots, “thus adding a day of free time to 2006” by saving you the time you would spend reading or watching the entire works.

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Entertainment Weekly devotes its special year-end double issue to two subjects: the entertainers of the year (the cast of “Lost”) and the 10 best movies, DVDS, TV shows, music and books. If you somehow have managed to overlook ABC’s “Lost” — awarded the Emmy this year as TV’s best drama — this will give you a notion of what you have been missing.

EW sums up the show as “not only a noodle-cooked mythology, but a polyglot of unique characters — damaged souls fumbling for enlightenment and redemption in the damnedest of places — played by the best ensemble cast on television.”

• • •

AARP, the magazine for those older than 50, offers a useful eight-page pull-out guide to the upcoming Medicare drug plan, which is certain to be of interest to all its readers. The guide tells you how to sign up, how the plan works and how to choose the right coverage — everything you need to know to make a critical decision.

The cover of the January-February edition features actor Michael J. Fox, who shares his experiences in the story “My Battle With Parkinson’s.” Meanwhile, other stories billboarded on the cover — “Guard Your Heart, 7 Step Plan” plus “A Nation’s Shame: Domestic Violence and Older Americans” and “Save Big on Your Heating Bill” — also are guaranteed to be of interest to seniors.

• • •

Rolling Stone, whose founder, publisher and editor, Jann Wenner, turns 60 Jan. 7, serves up a raging King Kong on his special year-end double issue, with a banner displayed across the beast’s mighty chest that reads: “Mavericks! Renegades! Troublemakers!” Included under that heading are Cindy Sheehan, George Clooney, Heath Ledger, Billie Joe Armstrong, Mick Jagger and System of a Down.

The banner’s parting words, in extra-large type: “The Wrath of Kong.”

Well, you get the general idea.

• • •

Outside, that most classy of adventure-travel magazines, rings in the new year with “50 Ways to Live Large,” a full-throttle, see-the-world list of 50 things to do before you die.

Mind you, some of the suggestions might bring about an early end unless you’re among the really physically fit. For example: No. 17 is to shark-dive in the Caribbean; No. 38 is to ride the Tour de France.

The issue includes a Fitness Extra with 15 essential tips promising to get you in the best shape ever. I rather fancy No. 33, ” Buy a one-way ticket to a country where you don’t speak the language — and stay until you learn it.”

Right. And what do you live on during that time?

Outside, the winner of three consecutive National Magazine Awards for General Excellence, also sparkles with a number of other enjoyable features in its first edition of 2006, including: “Es ist Mein Bruder!” (He is my brother) the story of the discovery of a German climber’s brother 35 years after his presumed death on Pakistan’s Nanga Parbat mountain, and a feature on Kelly Slater, described as “surfing’s coolest champ” on the art of making a comeback.

• • •

The New Yorker winds up the old year and begins the new one with its special double issue devoted to international fiction.

Possibly the best and certainly the most meaningful short story is by famed Albanian novelist Ismail Kadare, whose works are better known in Europe than here. The story, “The Albanian Writers’ Union As Mirrored by a Woman,” is a chilling tale of intellectual life in Albania in the 1960s, when that country was the last of the socialist states to live under a fierce Stalinist regime. It is a cruel, painful, bitter story that should be instructive to those in this country who still may harbor kind thoughts about what they imagine to have been the golden days of socialism.

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The National Geographic moves serenely on its own way, taking no heed of the change in years but remaining ever interested in what’s striking and new — as well as very old in the world.

The article “Our Grandest Canyon” presents some extraordinary views of our most majestic national wonder. Another feature, “Genocide Unearthed,” grimly presents the evidence being amassed by forensic investigators on the mass murders in Iraq during Sadam Hussein’s regime. Also, a remarkable 2,000-year-old mural in Guatemala opens a brand-new page in Mayan history. The whole issue is a visual treat.

Happy New Year to one and all.

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