Magazine review: 4) Smith Journal #12, Spring 2014.

I’ve seen Smith Journal around but never got interested enough to browse it. It looks like one of those titles that has an eye-pleasing cover but disappoints with the lack of thought-provoking content. And by its generic-sounding name, this could be a wishy-washy read. But in some cases, not all magazines can be judged by its cover. So is Smith Journal worth a look? Let’s have a flip.

Smith Journal #12, Spring 2014.

Smith Journal #12, Spring 2014.

Smith Journal is birthed by makers of Frankie, an unabashedly feminine Australian magazine well known for its pastel pennant-decorated, gingham-tableclothed, deer and sparrow doodle aesthetics.

Drinks advertisements.

Drinks advertisements.

Smith Journal is quite the opposite. Judging by the advertisements, the Smith Journal reader is a young male who appreciates little-known ales, lagers and beers, wears leather shoes and accessories and likes to cycle.

Table of contents.

Table of contents.

That shouldn’t put off those who don’t fit the description, because the writings have a universal appeal. Ever wondered what rubbish can be found in Antarctica? Where can one ride a horse to the pub? Why volcanologists let their true love eat them alive? If you have, this issue has the answers.

Murray hangs over Picadilly Circus in 1926, sourced from Jonathan Walters.

Murray hangs over Picadilly Circus in 1926, sourced from Jonathan Walters.

The CSIRAC on display at Melbourne Museum. Photographed by John O'Neill.

The CSIRAC on display at Melbourne Museum. Photographed by John O’Neill.

After a sporadic read, I find the term ‘slow journalism’ quite fitting for this title. I see articles on events that happened up to a century ago. They include a piece documenting a well-travelled illusionist from early 1900s called Murray and how digital music was first composed in Sydney in the 1950s.

Illustrations by Elenia Beretta.

Illustrations by Elenia Beretta.

While the longer articles span 5 pages, there is a good mix of short essays in between, with an accompanying illustration.

The 'at' / alias symbol.

The ‘at’ / alias symbol.

The history of the alias symbol is explained chronologically by Managing Editor Leta Keens.

The toothbrush.

The toothbrush.

Same writer as before, here she writes how the toothbrush evolved through the centuries. A trivia wonderland.

Caps.

Caps.

The object documentation game is strong in this title. Headgear is not spared. This piece highlights how caps can be a way to identify gang members.

A pencil sharpener.

A pencil sharpener.

Like how some group of people (I don’t want to use the ‘h’ word) treasure appliances from the pre-digital era such as film cameras and typewriters, Smith Journal delves into the world of a professional pencil sharpener (an actual human who charges USD40 to sharpen a pencil) and a knife maker (properly known as bladesmith).

Image courtesy of NASA Ames Research Center.

Image courtesy of NASA Ames Research Center.

I love magazines that come with free stuff. This issue includes a fold-out poster that accompanies an article on artistic impressions of outer space (illustrated by Don Davis in 1976), ready to be hung above a table of terrariums and fig-scented candles.

Smith Stuff.

Smith Stuff.

The back end is reserved for product promotions. Reading the write-up for each item has left me amused. More often it starts with a probable issue you might be facing, then suggests the product that could solve that issue, and ends with a witty statement.

Advertisements. One's of a call-to-subscription, another's a recruitment.

Advertisements. One’s of a call-to-subscription, another’s a recruitment.

What I’d like to recommend to Smith Journal is a decrease in size. A smaller dimension will live up to its identity as a journal, as well as being more portable (that leaves more space for hauling craft beers in the reader’s messenger bag). Currently it feels clunky; not something you’d want to hold up for prolonged periods.

Tactile cover.

Tactile cover.

But I appreciate the paper selection. The cover has an embossed weave texture while the pages are impeccably matte. They smell like a well-made children’s storybook.

A spread on volunteers.

A spread on volunteers.

After some research, I found out Smith Journal is labeled as a men’s magazine. This is misleading because the magazine does not target the male reader, but rather anyone who is interested in writings about men. In any case, I would shelve this under the ‘General Knowledge’ / ‘Lifestyle’ section.

Further reading: Frankie’s Men’s Spin-Off, Smith Journal, Hits The Stands

Title: Smith Journal
Issue: 12, Spring 2014
Pages: 146
Managing Editor: Leta Keens
Cover art: Chesley Bonestell
Origin: Melbourne, Australia
Publisher: Frankie Press
Cover price: AUD11.95

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