I don't remember when I started reading them, or even most of what I read about in them, but I remember the shape and smell of them well. They would arrive, already creased and sometimes torn from the mailman's efforts to fit them through the slot in our rowhome door, every month. Once delivered, they would sit in great, messy piles beside my father's corduroy recliner and he would leaf through them as he napped between night shifts. They were larger than my mother's monthly issues of Redbook and Cosmo and contained no advice on how to be pretty or keep a
clean house. Instead, the stack beside my father's chair contained a wonderland of pop culture writing and political discourse. The writers in these magazines seemed unafraid to offer an opinion on a particular band or political issue and peppered their articles with foul language. When my mother was looking, they were off limits, but I always managed to get to them somehow. Every issue was like a long car ride with my dad, where we would turn the radio all the way up, race over hills, sing along, and discuss what I knew about what was going on in the world.
Later, in sixth grade, I would notice books by one of the writers for the magazine on my dad's bookshelf and get myself in a great deal of trouble for bringing a dog eared copy of Hell's Angels to school. Trouble or no, I once loved every issue of Rolling Stone like I have loved nothing else in this world. For as long as I can remember, I have always felt that the really important stuff in life is that which is too often characterized as trivial: music, movies, art and debate. These were the things that Rolling Stone also seemed to hold in high esteem and, within the newpapery pages, I found some sense of community and connection which I could not find in my own little world of pink tricycles and itchy dresses. These writers were not concerned with how well I could french braid my hair, or what kind of sneakers I was wearing. Instead, they seemed to recognize me for who I was: a skinny 8 year old with a turntable and a collection of Beatles records who knew that people were starving in her own country and was angry that no one else seemed to care. They also seemed to know the most important fact of the human condition. At the end of the day, when you look back on certain events, you nearly never remember what you were wearing or what you were cooking, but you always remember what was happening in politics and what song was in your head. I would go to bed every night and tell myself stories about what my career writing for them would be like. What bands would I interview? Where in the world would I go? Which subcultures would I infiltrate? How would I accept my Pulitzer Prize for investigative journalism? Which rock star would I marry?
Naturally, these are the sorts of questions that only a precocious child would ask herself and I have since grown slightly more realistic about my prospects for writing for Rolling Stone and for marrying a rock star. This realism, of course, has been helped along by the fact that the magazine is not what it once was. Gone is the record shaped format and drug fueled exuberance. Now the magazine offers articles on The Black Eyed Peas and pussy toned political writings which tap dance around critical thinking and seem to mostly pander to the social left,
while ignoring the political implications of either party. For me, the new, glossy version is as good as those Cosmos and Redbooks I skipped as a kid. It offers only advice and information on that which I am either wholly uninterested in, or already well aware of. Aside from that, I write this today in a world which I could never have imagined at 8, where no one buys records or magazines or even newspapers anymore and everything has become digitized. There are massive debates going on over the future of print media, and I tend to hold the belief, however depressing, that magazine and newspaper journalism has been forever changed and soon will be delivered only ia the internet and read on these spacey devices that feel like something from the Jetsons.
Still, even with the knowledge that Rolling Stone and other publications like it may be dying, I can not fully let go of that desire to write and debate about pop culture and politics. In fact, this desire seems to color nearly all of my decisions and conversations. Friends are chosen based on their ability to discuss such things, nothing is more important at the beginning of each day than what I will listen to, read and watch, and I am still frustrated by the lack of questioning that I see around me. While we no longer have Hunter S Thompson and Cameron Crowe now writes romantic comedy, I believe that there is still a need within us to explore, critique and question
everything and it is in that spirit that I am writing this now.
Although I am aware that world of web based writing is often one of blatant navel gazing or a great source of misinformation, I also believe that it can be, if utilized properly, a place where people can come together to discuss and debate freely. While my friends, who are something of conspiracy nuts, may be right and this may soon change, I want to take advantage of it fully while I still can, and invite others to do so as well. In that vein, my intention is to use this space as a place where we can write about all the things I saw in those magazines years ago. A place where we can come up with ways to make the world we have inherited as good as it possibly can be and define the future of our own culture. There's a lot of talk out there about how much we, as a generation, do not give a shit. Let's prove them wrong.