Ex-Pat Magazine Explosion

Some folks read for pleasure.  I’m one of them.  It started with Dr. Suess.

I read The Exorcist when I was six…which may explain a few things. 

I’ve read all the ingredients, recommended uses and warnings on just about every bathroom cleanser ever produced. 

I can tell you what percentage of the recommended daily intake of riboflavin you’re getting from a serving of breakfast cereal.

Finding good English reading material in Taiwan is always a challenge.  I’m not interested in Wuthering Heights or the latest Harry Potter novel, so bookstores tend to be a long, unproductive browse.  I reply on Cupri, who gave me Mordechai Richler’s last and, more recently, “Vernon God Little”, which won the Booker prize and deserved it.

The daily newspapers provide some reading relief at mealtime.  The Times has a decent crossword puzzle; the Post is always good for the predictable Pan-Blue editorial laugh-riot; the News is a pathetic rag…but it’s a pathetic English rag.  Beggars cannot be choosers.

Over the past year, however, the availability of reading material for the English speaking crowd has increased dramatically.

It used to be just Compass magazine – a map wrapped with…well, it has a map. 

Those days are gone.  The print medium in Taichung has exploded with new and incestuous content.

First, the goons at 24/7 ramped up their brand of sarcastic humour, which only slightly masked an editorial fecal obsession of mammoth proportions.  They’ve survived a year and counting (no small feat in itself), and the quality of the content – always a dicey matter – has shown steady improvement.

Then Lance, one of the founders of 24/7, filed for divorce and started another English magazine – Taichung Voice.  Slick layout.  Slightly more upscale.

Not to be outdone, the operators of 24/7 decided one magazine simply wasn’t enough, so they fired up Taichung365

24/7365…we can expect a weekly titled 52 any day now.  In any event, for those of you keeping track, that makes four English language magazines each month.  The jury is still out on the question of whether this influx amounts to anything worthwhile, but there it is.

So, from not being able to find anything to read, we now face a severely increased risk of dying in an avalanche of glossy paper. 

One wonders if it’s possible to find enough unique content to justify four magazines.  Food reviews, pub listings, current events…then what?  How long will it be before every English speaker in Taichung has been interviewed?

Not that it matters.  The ex-pat community is so starved for reading material that the magazines WILL BE read, cover-to-cover, over and over again.  Advertisers, you may rest easy. 

Would you read them in the rain?  Would you read them on a train?  Well, Sam-I-Am, it’s either that or….exactly my point.

The major problem facing these nascent publishers is not merely finding content – itself a daunting proposition – but finding the people to create the content.  There are some talented scribes among the ex-pat community, so there’s no good reason that a hack like me should be generating copy to fill space.  You…yes, YOU should be.

Everyone has a story to tell.  Everyone has an opinion.  I’ve heard you telling your stories, albeit in severely slurred words, just before last call.  I’ve heard you express opinions – even though most of it wasn’t original, much less considered or defensible…but don’t let that stop you, it’ll generate a nice Letters to the Editor section.

Some of you are poets.  Others are artists.  I’ve seen some kick-ass cartoons (‘Scrambled Egg’ still breaks me up).  Martin was single-handedly turning out ‘Youth in Asia’ for awhile.  I have no idea what happened there, but talent of that degree should not be wasted.

Carpe Diem, kids!  Vox populi!  There are four ponds to swim in.  Jump in.  Compass pays cash, the others will buy you an occassional pizza and beer, but remuneration is not the point.  Contributing is the point.  Find your voice, however you choose to express it, and shout.  It’s YOUR community.  Be heard.  Don’t wait for Lance, or Matt, or Rob, or (heaven help you) Courtney to corner you, drunk, and assail you with pleas and threats and offers they don’t really mean and will never fulfill.  And they WILL be drunk.  They’re always drunk.


2 Responses

  1. True enough. What a bright and insightful man this Mr. Bitch is.

  2. Insight don’t count for shit.
    Brains are just a neon target.
    I’d rather be cute.

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