As regular readers are well aware, once a year The Stranger professes to "do something good" for the community it "serves." That something is their annual "Strangercrombie Holiday Auction," wherein the editors and scribblers auction themselves off to the highest bidder, all for charity. On paper, the gambit is a selfless act, and it would be a lie to say that the amount of money raised wasn't substantial (some $60,000 this year), even impressive, for a paper this size. And as much as it pains me to admit this, the far superior Seattle Weekly does nothing similar; unlike The Stranger, the Seattle Weekly doesn't "give back," and that, to borrow a crude phrase now being bandied about in the pages of the Seattle Weekly (in an effort, no doubt, to appeal to The Stranger's low-browed readership), is the "MF truth."

The unavoidable byproduct of this paper's annual auction is the issue you are holding in your hands, which is made up of not just the usual weekly tripe, but a slew of bought-and-paid-for, blatantly advertorial content provided by, or demanded from, the auction's top bidders.In theory, this should make for an even more unreadable issue than usual (if that's imaginable), but here's the punch line: With content provided or assigned by others, The Stranger's writers are freed from the dictates of their editors, they are forced to check their knee-jerk negativity for a week, and see the community they "service" with fresh eyes. This means feature stories that are factual and interesting (and, in contrast to last week's atrocity by Brendan Kiley, nonactionable), and critiques that dare to be positive. In other words, the constraints of the annual Strangercrombie Make-Good issue actually improve The Stranger—for a single, lonely week, at least.All is not perfect, however, as not every inch of the paper was sold off. Within these pages you will find the ill-informed, factually dubious content upon which you have come to rely. The news section—suspect numero uno—is especially tiresome this issue, as the Pulitzer-punishing gaggle of Jonah Spangenthal-Lee (whose name is far more interesting than anything appearing under it), Erica C. Barnett (see "ill-informed, factually dubious," above), and Josh Feit (he of routine incomprehensibility and reckless cheerleading) are given a sizeable "news hole" to fill. (Stop your sniggering, Mr. Savage.)Turning to the arts sections, there's some actual news to report this week: Eric Grandy, whose "professional" moniker is the exceedingly tasteful "Fucking in the Streets," has now been promoted to the post of music editor. What this proves (beyond just how easy it is to rise up the masthead at The Stranger simply by embracing a nom de plume with a curse word in it) is that for all its heaving disdain for the Bush administration, the paper isn't above co-opting one of its most shameful tactics. Namely, rewarding incompetence. Congrats, Mr. Grandy (or would you prefer "Mr. Fuck"?). The title Stranger Music Editor may look good on a business card—and may carry some cache with your dealer—but your résumé, from this day forward, shall be as a millstone slung about your neck. I hope your new desk is cozy—you're going to be there for a long, long while. recommended