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i n  p r i n t

with Scott Ruddick

In Review: January's Offerings

(also New Launchings: Icon)

Scenes From An Execution
Christopher Hitchens
Vanity Fair, January 1998

Hitchens is a journalist who has long chronicled the death penalty debate raging through the States, yet has never witnessed an execution. Until now.

His column, 'Scenes From An Execution', is a first-hand account of the execution of Samuel MacDonald, an emotionally-damaged Vietnam War vet who gunned down an off-duty policeman and payed for it with his life fifteen years later. Hitchens uses the execution, with the almost obscene attempts at solemn decorum by the prison administration, as a backdrop to a discussion of capital punishment. Hitchens is fervent foe of the ultimate sanction and his writing makes this clear. Capital punishment, what Hitchens terms "the ultimate vengeance and the severest sanction", has become a salve for a public reeling from, if not a reality, then a perspective of runaway violent crime. Hitchens offers a unique perspective: he is one of the few citizens of the country who has witnessed firsthand what the majority of citizens are demanding the courts impose. Not to be missed.

Sins Of The Past
World Press Review
January 1998.

For the third time in two years, World Press Review has devoted their cover story to an examination of a nation facing up to the evils of it's past. Previous issues have covered the Rwandan massacres and the Bosnian ethnic cleansing. Now, World Press chronicles the media coverage of the trial of Maurice Papon, an accused Nazi collaborator on trial in France. World Review has compiled a package of the most compelling news accounts of the trial of the former Vichy Regime official. Now 87, Papon has become a symbol for what many French may very well wish to forget - the complicity of their country folk in the systematic roundup and slaughter of French Jews during the Nazi occupation of World War Two. Yet, as the accounts from The Independent, Liberation and Macleans tell us, many other citizens believe that only through the open and true prosecution of alleged war criminals may nations heal themselves of lingering wounds.

The Year In Music
January 1998

Spin is, usually, one of the better magazines covering new music on the market. Leaving perennial favorite Rolling Stone in it's wake, Spin has carved out a niche as the magazine for enthusiasts of alternative music. It offers interesting profiles, insider gossip, probing interviews and, above all, an introspective eye on the world of new music

Not this time. Spin has - for reasons that escape me - devoted a substantial portion of their first issue of the new year to a profile of deceased gangsta rapper `Notorious B.I.G.'. Notorious, you may recall, was a rapper with a fondness for obscenity-laced lyrics and a new CD entitled, eerily, Life After Death. Then - on the heels of the slaying of another rapper, Tupac Shakur - Notorious ( Christopher Wallace on his drivers license) had his life, but not his popularity, cut short by a half dozen bullets fired at close range. Sales of Life After soared: 6 million copies flew off music store shelves. Spin has named Notorious their artist of the year. For fans tiring of the violent and sexist lyrics so many rap stars embrace, however, Spin's accolades for the deceased hip-hop artist will ring hollow.

Cover Stories
Lee Lorenz
The New Yorker, December 15 1997

The venerable New Yorker has always been known for a number of things: an eclectic approach to journalism, unwavering attention to fact checking and detail - and using paintings and drawings as their cover art, rather then the more commonly used photography. This tendency has often been viewed as almost quaint, a refusal to change the magazine's values for modern trends and a belief in the power of pen and paint to convey messages.

Yet, like all art, New Yorker covers sometimes mirrored the worst of the society that spawned them. In the early part of this century, sexual and racial stereotypes were common elements of humour - and often found their way unto the cover art.

Lee Lorenz offers an interesting look back at this era with profiles of five covers - and the artists who created them - that appeared on the magazine's cover in the thirties. The covers, reproduced in full colour in the article, are caricatures drawing on racist stereotypes: the drunken black man being rousted by the Irish cop, an Oriental servant eyeing a piece of sculpture, two hawk-eyed Arabic con men preying on a tourist in a bazaar.

Lorenz's column is an interesting, if disturbing, perspective of a time when stereotypes and offensive humor often found there way into mainstream media.

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