IDEA #82. Go to a library or a newsstand or bookstore and pick out and read from cover to cover a magazine about a place that you might want to visit or live in some day. Examples are New York Magazine, Arizona Highways, Cape Cod Life, and Up Here (about far northern Canada). There is a magazine for practically every city and region in the United States as well as for nations and cities outside the United States. Get yourself interested enough to think about planning a visit there some day.
If one cannot always travel to a new place, it is fun to imagine what it might be like to be there. Some “place-based” publications—New York Magazine, for example—are primarily intended for those who already reside in and are familiar with their eponymous location, while others—like New Mexico Magazine—are “destination” publications, filled with enticing material designed to coax readers into visiting or moving.
Readers of these magazines should be looking carefully not only at the articles but also at details of content like advertisements, including even the smallest. What is the appeal of this place? How do those who live in and like the place present its “story”? What are some common graphic themes—colors, symbols–and images that readers are intended to associate with the place? What can be learned about the economic life of the place—real estate prices and the types of jobs or economic activities to be found there?
In the same vein, what can we learn about the cultural opportunities and activities in the place? Does the magazine focus any particular aspect of the fine arts or other cultural features in music, theater, or folk traditions? Is there anything about food that looks interesting or unique; are particular aspects of culinary heritage represented that may stem directly from the history of people who live there or who have immigrated there? What would make you want to visit the place on vacation or perhaps even move there? Does the place look as though it would be fun for children, or does the magazine focus only on adult-oriented subjects?
In the United States a fifth of the population moves every year; consequently learning to “read” a place and its culture is a valuable skill; a young reader can start mastering this skill by reading about a place. Specialized magazines focusing on a particular area have proliferated in recent years, and for the thinking child learning how to read cultures with skill and in detail is a skill well worth having.