Have you taken a look at the magazine racks in your local bookstore or supermarket lately? They are crammed with more periodicals than ever, most of them bound in bright, dangerously slippery, lasciviously colorful covers, specializing in all fields of interest - sports, beauty, biography, business, entertainment, finance, politics, health, computers, you name it.
Of course, no sane person would think of buying them all, but even if you take out a bunch of subscriptions, chances are in this overloaded Information Age that you'll never find time to read them cover to cover.
The Internet offers a better way to find interesting magazine reading material without having to physically plow through so many competing publications. Two sites in particular seem to fill the bill: FindArticles.com and MagPortal.com
FindArticles is a compendium of more than 300 magazines and journals dating back to 1998. Assuming you have a general idea of what you're looking for, you can run searches by the name of publication or by subject matter, calling up full texts of the original articles.
MagPortal is less wide-ranging - 169 magazines at last count - but it still offers plenty of searchable articles from some of the country's most recognized magazines, searchable by name or category.
A random check of FindArticles produced an abundance of articles, some of them extensively researched and others little more than briefs.
For example, type Thomas Jefferson in the search box and you'll get 1,696 articles; the Beatles, 1,475; Britney Spears, 85; billiards, 501; football, 19,388; beauty, 25,235; Enron, 5,478; WorldCom, 12,341, and Russian music, an astounding 112,117.
The selection of magazines in FindArticles seems fairly eclectic. A casual search produced pieces from USA Today, Ebony, Bowling Digest, Architectural Review, Ladies Home Journal, Sporting News, New Statesman, and so on.
But there are also what appear to be a disproportionate number of articles from the Public Relations Newswire, which may be less objective than, say, Variety or Film Quarterly.
MagPortal offers a similar range of subject matter, from Pets and Animals to Science and Technology. The articles date back to 1999 and are searchable by publication, date, or category. And though there are fewer magazines, they seem to cover a wider range. Some examples are The Atlantic Monthly, American Family Physician, Car and Driver, Entertainment Today, Kiplinger's, Mother Jones, The New Republic, Nursing Practitioner, PC World, Outside, Premiere, Salon.com, Scientific American, Smithsonian, TV Guide, and Sports Illustrated.
Shades of pale
It's light years away from being the nuttiest site on the World Wide Web, but it's certainly different. AWSoP is dedicated solely to “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” a song recorded in the '60s by Procol Harum. It was their only hit, but a cult has grown up around the song as evidenced by the “Procoholics” who created and maintain this site, one of many on the Web singing the song's praises.
The song, for those who aren't familiar with it, is a dirge-like rock and roll hymn with a mournful melody and loopy lyrics: “We skipped the light fandango, Turned cartwheels 'cross the floor/I was feeling kind of seasick, But the crowd called out for more ...”
The creators say their sole motivation is their deep love of the song. Click onto the home page and you'll be able to download 203 different audio clips of it, recorded by as many different performers. There are also links to sites where you can buy the various versions, plus video clips of the song being performed around the world. As for Procol Harum, they're still active in show business, and a link will take you to their site.
If you have a Web site to recommend, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.