Due to an unfortunate subscription renewal incident and a rift in the space-time continuum, I have been subscribed to WIRED magazine since three seconds after the universe was created. Though it has not been scientifically confirmed, I have long suspected that the stacks of back issues in my garage are the cause of Earth’s axial wobble.
My subscription expires in February of 2008, so I thought it was high time I passed on a few tips to help future generations of WIRED subscribers.
The first thing you will notice about WIRED magazine is that it is shipped to you in a condom. Initially, I suspected that this was mandated the U.S. Postal Service (or perhaps the World Health Organization) to prevent the transmission of disease, but the shipping condom—which appears to be a simple plastic bag but is actually a +3 Bag of Holding—has another, more sinister purpose: to temporarily shunt the bulk of the advertisements contained between the magazine’s covers into another dimension.
When removing the plastic wrapper, be sure to take the appropriate safety precautions: you may want to wear gloves and safety glasses, and for God’s sake don’t do it around children or small animals. If at all possible, place the magazine in a protective vault and use robotic manipulator arms to remove the shipping bag; this will reduce the risk of severe paper cuts as a portion of the three hundred reduced-rate business reply mail subscription inserts escape from betwixt the magazine’s glossy pages. These inserts should be burned immediately, lest anyone lacking sufficient willpower be tempted to renew your subscription at the low, low rate of just 17 cents per issue. This is the last thing you want, as your ultimate goal should be to reduce the number of issues of WIRED entering your home to zero.
Once the magazine has been removed from the plastic wrapper, grip it by the spine (bend at the knees), hold it over the nearest trash receptacle and give it a firm shake. ((A better approach may be to simply drop the magazine at this point and be done with it, but someone paid for this thing and you should read it on principle.)) This should dislodge most (but not all; never all) of the remaining subscription inserts.
Now look at the cover. It is very likely bright and colorful and holds the promise of a plethora of interesting, insightful and oh-so-geeky articles. The November 2007 issue, for example, sports a busty, pink-haired cartoon pseudo-schoolgirl and threatens that “Manga Conquers America”. Above the lass’ gravity-defying coiff is another headline: “Cannonball Run! Coast to Coast in 32 Hours!” Finally, off to the right: “Plus cloned meat, space hotels & the world’s best conspiracy theories”. Wow, that’s a lot of content!
Your first inclination might be to flip open the cover and consult the magazine’s table of contents, maybe to locate that story about the cloned meat. Don’t. It’s a trap.
Yes, WIRED has a TOC, but you’ve got to flip through eighteen pages of advertisements for vodka, cell phones, menswear, luxury cars and inkjet printers to find it. Even if you’re willing to do that, you’re quickly going to discover why consulting this ostensibly handy guide is pretty much useless: roughly eleven-fifteenths of the pages in WIRED magazine aren’t numbered. Those first eighteen pages of ads aren’t, nor is the six-page Zune ad. Oh, and that fold-out Porsche ad on page 60 counts as seven pages even though it’s only two pages when you’re flipping through the magazine. Trying to apply logic and reason to utilizing the Table of Contents is like attempting to push Jell-O uphill with a steamroller.
The trick to navigating WIRED is understanding that four-fifths of the articles you want to read are in the last third of the magazine. Of the five cover stories in the November 2007 issue, only one (“The Best Conspiracy Theories”) is found before page 190. So here’s what you do: use the inserts, Luke. You might think that you successfully removed all of those pesky advertising inserts, but those were just the loose ones; there are plenty of WIRED subscription cards, fold-out vodka ads and stiff, cardstock cigarette ads welded to the magazine’s spine, and these will guide you to the hidden treasure. Simply riffle through the magazine, back-to-front, until you find one of these inserts, then open the magazine to that page. ((Do not try to remove the insert at this time. At best, you’ll be able to tear about 80% of the blasted thing out and be left with a ragged piece of cardstock that will annoy the hell out of you. At worst, you’ll wind up ripping the ad out, along with part of the ten adjacent magazine pages on either side.))
Now begin paging through the magazine as normal. Remember this tip for finding what you want: if it looks like an article, it’s probably a “special advertising section”; if it looks like an ad, but you’re not quite sure what for, you’ve found actual content. Only the Holy Grail and the Ark of the Covenant are more elusive discoveries, so give yourself a pat on the back. Well done!
When you have finished reading the articles (and yes, some of them are worth reading), be sure to properly dispose of the magazine. The stacks of back issues in my garage are ultimately destined for recycling, ((Provided they don’t collapse in on themselves and form a singularity.)) but you may be tempted to pass the issue on to a friend or take it to work. While both options may seem charitable and generous, I would encourage you to reconsider. You simply do not want to be liable for the multitude of injuries or awkward situations that could result from passing the magazine on to a friend or co-worker. The risk of hernia or ruptured vertebrae alone is significant, but there are other, subtler things to consider; the scented cologne inserts, for example (the November 2007 issue is mercifully free of these) will have your office or cubicle smelling like Christian Dior’s prom night. No, it’s best to just dispose of the thing and be done with it.
This concludes my guide to reading WIRED magazine. Next time, I’ll cover a less painful topic: home dentistry.