Occasionally, the editors of this little rag, when they are not busy defiling the corpses of rotten trees, will stumble across another, more reputable print news outlet—perhaps they rifle through the magazine racks at their free clinic's waiting room during the yearly scrape-the-top-layer-of-sexually-transmitted-disease-from-my-crotch-please outing—and the inevitable panic will set in. "Why, Seattle magazine is illustrated with large photographs," you can almost hear Dan Savage exclaim, adding, "and the authors don't seem to know or even deal drugs to the people they're writing about!"
The result of this year's awful case of periodical envy is a collection of photos and essays about people who work and live in Seattle titled "What Are You Doing?" As much as my body defies my will to type the next sentence, I must, in all fairness, give the devil his due: This is not a bad idea for a feature. After all, anything that forces Stranger writers to focus on people other than themselves is a worthy achievement. Unfortunately, all that BRENDAN KILEY, CIENNA MADRID, ERICA GRANDY, and DOMINIC HOLDEN achieve in their attempt to mimic greater, glossier publications is a caricature of good magazine writing; their profiles are brief, inconsequential and dull. When one launches a new feature whose name is a question, one must hope that another question—who cares?—is not the first thing to leap from the lips of the reader in response.
In the face of such forgettableness, a reader can become confused and forget in which direction he was reading this issue of the fish wrapper. Should he flip backward or forward? If he flips backward, he comes across another attempt by The Stranger's newest illegal-immigrant helper, Cienna Madrid, to write a scandalous news story. It seems that the local governments are renting public park space to private citizens. Sadly, Miss Madrid's news tip proves to be not so muy caliente—why wouldn't a cash-strapped government seek alternate revenue streams? Was anyone—besides juvenile delinquents and the clinically insane—using the park beforehand? I doubt it, Miss Madrid. Combined with your feature mishap, that makes two strikes in this issue. Luckily, thanks to the death of print media, The Stranger is ridiculously small this week, and so you are saved from the opportunity to commit what "Babe" Ruth used to so colloquially refer to as "a strikeout," if just by technicality.
But if, while still reeling from the inconsequentiality of this week's feature, you were to flip forward into this black hole of effluvia, you would encounter MEGAN SELING's too-long interview with a troupe of cannibals; PAUL CONSTANT's feeble attempt to mimic Mr. Savage's sexual-hygiene advice column, only with books (too boring to even think about reading); LAUREL MILLER's desperate attempt to graft memoir onto an ethnic-restaurant review (pluck the "i" key from Miss Miller's typewriter and see what kind of unreadable dreck you get); and, of course, the always far-too-gay I Love Television™ by WM.™ STEVEN HUMPHREY. This question—forward into inanity or backward into ineptitude—is too much of a lady-or-the-tiger conundrum to consider. Best to just set the paper down and back away slowly.