{ When in doubt, give magazine subscriptions }

December 20, 2014 § Leave a comment

Heyyyy it’s 5 days ’til Christmas, and if you’re like me on a typical holiday schedule, you’ve probably forgotten to buy gifts your best friend, or you haven’t found the right thing for your boss who you love, or you’re just a few bucks away from filling that Secret Santa box. You know what comes in handy in times like these?

Magazine subscriptions!

Forget shopping and wrapping. Just grab a card and say, “Hey, I got you this magazine subscription.” And then every time an issue comes in the mail, your special person will think of you. [ Insert obligatory comment about “the gift that keeps on giving” here ] If you really want to wrap something, you could go to Barnes & Noble and buy the latest issue.

Here’s a short list of high-quality magazines that I sure would love to give some people (and then promptly borrow). Most of them are actually not stocked at Barnes & Noble, and that’s what makes them special. They fill niches that generalist newsstand publications don’t, and limited distribution = really hip.


The Intentional Quarterly is a literary and culture magazine pretty much aimed right at Millennials. They publish stimulating art and articles about everything from the sex trade to navigating neighbors of deep backwoods Ozarks.

Subscribe for their Christmas special: $25 for 4 issues

And if you want to get super-niche about it, you might consider Intern magazine, meant to empower young interns in the creative industry through showcases and social dissection. They don’t seem to do print subscriptions, but you can get a digital one here.


The Outpost is a magazine of possibilities about the Middle East. It’s English-language, it’s intelligently designed, it’s engaging and well-reported, and the paper just feels great. If you can’t afford a trip to Beirut, I promise this will get you close.

Get a 2-issue subscription for $30


n+1 is a print and digital magazine of literature, culture, and politics published three times a year. Each 200-page issue contains essays, fiction, translation, and reviews “by the best American writers you’ve never heard of.”

Subscribe for their Christmas special: $30 for 3 issues and online digital access to 10 years of the publication

And then there’s the classic Harper’s, which is a great pick for a print subscription because they notoriously don’t publish their content online. Old-fashioned, perhaps, but that makes the physical book all the more valuable. Look for monthly political and cultural commentary, great longform journalism and fascinating ephemera.

Subscribe online now and pay $30 for 12 issues, or try finding the fly-in cards at your local bookshop. I got my subscription that way for just $18.


I say “science appreciator” because let’s face it, some scientists want only the facts. These are facts enhanced with culture and philosophy. The Nautilus Quarterly publishes online and in print, and the print copy (from what I’m told) is worth the hefty price. It contains some of the online magazine’s best content, brand new original contributions from the world’s best thinkers, and gorgeous full-color full-page art (like the current issue, from Ralph Steadman).

Subscribe: $49 for 4 issues


I received Orion as a gift from my cousin Kim for several years, and would subscribe it again if I weren’t still enjoying the back issues so much. Their tagline is Nature, Culture, Place,” and their pages are filled with some of the country’s greatest contemporary nature writers.

Gift subscriptions are just $19 for 6 issues.


The problem with rich relatives is that they don’t really need anything. That’s where a good magazine comes in. You can say, “hey, I get what you’re about.” I don’t even run a business, but I do appreciate creativity and innovation, and I love to see what’s going on in the entrepreneurial world. I subscribe to Fast Company, and I love it. Also, it’s real cheap!

Subscribe: 2-for-1 special is 2 subscriptions for $10, 12 issues


Slow lifestyle. Kinfolk has such features as “The Meaning of Light: interviews with a neuroscientist and an artist about the positive effects that sunlight can have on our well-being.” It seems like a heavier, yet airier Fast Company.

Subscribe: $60 for 4 issues and their “online pass”

Oh Comely “inspires people to be creative, talk to their neighbours and explore new things. There are adventures that capture the feeling of being free, stories from people with tales to tell, recipes to warm your heart, and crafty things to make. All these things, wrapped up in beautiful words, illustration and photography.” Admittedly, I’ve only seen covers online and read their blog, but it looks like Country Living and Spin made a magazine baby that turned out way smarter and lovelier than its parents.

Subscribe for their Christmas special: $39.07 + $31 shipping from the UK, 6 issues


Little White Lies is all about film. There’s also Sixteen by Nine, about television, but they don’t have subscription options yet because they’re brand new. They both have great art.

Subscribe to LWL for $45.32 and $20.18 shipping from the UK, 6 issues.

{ See Also }

This Little Mag Gift Guide from Stack Magazines.

We can also play a parlor game where you tell me your giftee’s interests and I’ll match them with a magazine. Yeah! Let’s do that. In the comments. Or you can tell me what YOU want for Christmas.


{ Making Impossible Things Possible }

December 7, 2014 § Leave a comment

In Harper’s “Readings” last month, there’s a clever excerpt from Ways of Curating, a new book by Hans Ulrich Obrist. He is the codirector of exhibitions and programs and of international projects at the Serpentine Galleries in London. I love what he said at face value, but it also struck me in regard to my own future projects:

“Boetti told me that if I wanted to curate, I should under no circumstances do what everybody else was doing—just giving artists a certain room and suggesting that they fill it. More important would be to talk to the artists and ask them which projects they could not realize under existing conditions. Ever since, this has been a central theme of my exhibitions. I don’t believe in the creativity of the curator. I don’t think that the exhibition-maker has brilliant ideas around which the ideas of the artists must fit. Instead, the process always starts with a conversation, in which I ask the artists what their unrealized projects are and then find the means to realize them. At our first meeting, Boetti said curating could be about making impossible things possible.”

As I meditate on running a platform for writers and artists, especially in a region where they aren’t very well cultivated, this kind of thought has come to mind: By providing a space for expression, it becomes your joy and responsibility to help artists realize their vision. (Obrist again: “I think of my work as that of a catalyst – and sparring partner.” And, “It’s worth thinking about the etymology of curating. It comes from the Latin word curare, meaning to take care.” And, “I think a good curator is like a good chef. They understand the city’s needs – and fulfil and challenge them.”)

I also think about this kind of think as a writer and an artist. I have so many ideas. Creative projects, collaborations, cultural dissections and juxtapositions, ecological solutions proposed in new and interesting ways. Now, I don’t usually pitch these ideas to established publications. What’s the point, right? I know the drill: front-of-book, feature well, back-of-book. There are prescribed formulas, and especially as a fairly unestablished writer, anything other than the standard format seems unattainable.

Of course, as I write this, I think, “Geezus, Casagrand, way to be defeatist.” The one time I did suggest something out of the ordinary, it was accepted and made into something. So . . . maybe writers should act bolder, too.

Either way, it feels right to establish something fresh on the foundation of “making impossible things possible.” I think that’s an alright start. « Read the rest of this entry »

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