Chris Simpson

Semper letteris mandate

Browns’ B Magazine: Promoting shoes and illiteracy

This is Jascha Heifetz -- in case you want to know later on.

This is Jascha Heifetz — in case you want to know later on.

We received a copy of B Magazine: Celebrity Edition.

Clever title: B Magazine. Very original.

So long as you don’t confuse it with the beauty journal B Magazine, the Bollywood B Magazine, the Boomer B Magazine, the bridal B Magazine, or Gibraltar’s B Magazine.

This particular B Magazine is published by Browns. It’s slick, glossy, superbly photographed, and its only purpose is to promote Browns’ shoes.

“Every season,” they boast in their mission statement, “B magazine showcases our new seasonal collections in a fun, high-spirited way.”

It may be “fun” and “high-spirited,” but does that preclude hiring an editor and writer who has a passing acquaintance with the English language?

We’re not talking about misplaced commas or occasional typos here. The copy in B Magazine is aggressively bad. It is offensively bad. It is so bad that satire is virtually impossible.

Beverly Thompson: human poster child

The publication consists of photo spreads featuring various Canadian “celebrities” wearing Brown’s shoes, accompanied by a paragraph or two of breathless and (generally incoherent) prose depicting each B-lister as the greatest asset to the media since Lawrence Olivier, Jascha Heifetz, and Walter Winchell.

But description alone cannot do justice to the shoddy, amateurish quality of the work. To truly understand its unrelenting awfulness, you have to actually experience it.

So prepare yourself to meet four Canadian icons through the eyes of B Magazine‘s writers.

Beverly Thompson

To meet Beverly Thompson (BT) is to be inspired by Beverly Thompson because, quite frankly, she is poster child for …

Wait, wait. “She is poster child”? Obviously a typo. Of course it should read, “she is a poster child.” Small mistake. Anyone could make it. Let’s carry on:

… she is poster child for outstanding human.

Now hold it. “She is [a] poster child for outstanding human”? Really? “Outstanding human”? This is beginning to sound uncomfortably close to the eulogy Dr. Graves gave himself in the “Schizoid Man” episode of Star Trek: Next Generation:

“I can safely say, that to know him, was to love him. And to love him, was to know him…Those who knew him, loved him, while those who did not know him, loved him from afar.”

Never mind. Let’s read on to find out what puts Ms. Thompson so far above the rest of humanity.

First off, she is professional extraordinaire, …

Another missing article? “She is a professional extraordinaire”? Still sounds wrong, but it works. Sort of.

Okay, so three missing articles in two sentences.

But there’s more to come:

…she is professional extraordinaire, revered broadcast journalist who currently graces the co-anchor desk of one of the country’s pre-eminent networks (yes BT on Canada AM is more addictive than your AM java!).

This is just…a mess. From the “revered” journalist who “graces” a co-anchor desk to the non-sequitor of the parenthetical comment, this is puerile slop.

Second, the 06 recipient of the Gemini Humanitarian Award is model humanitarian …

Again with the missing article? She is “a model humanitarian,” for crying out loud. Was the writer educated in the Chinese Menu School of Journalism? (“This dessert makes nice treat.”)

… model humanitarian who believes deeply in giving back to the community and is immensely supportive of numerous organizations including the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation,…

Well, at least this mistake is a bit more sophisticated than the grade school errors we’ve encountered so far. Do you see that comma after organizations?

Neither do I.

Plus, I’d put a comma after “giving back to the community,” but at least there’s some room for disagreement on that.

Now here’s a fun one:

Finally, beautiful Beverly (Clearly, she won the looks lotto too) is also a devoted mom.

Now why, in the name of the Holy Trinity (Strunk, White, and Fowler) is clearly capitalised? Since when does anyone put a capital on the first word in a parenthesis? Look back at a previous sentence:

…one of the country’s pre-eminent networks (yes BT on Canada AM is more addictive than your AM java!).

See that? There’s no capital in yes, so the capitalised clearly isn’t a “stylistic” decision on the part of the publication. It’s just a random act of literacy violence.

But as bad as the Beverly Thompson entry is, it’s not the worst.

Sophie Gregoire

In Sophie Gregoire’s blurb, for instance, every occasion of “so” is put in caps — presumably as some kind of play on the first two letters of her name:

Once upon a time, SO-stunning SO-talented SO-caring SO-phie Gregoire…

And no, I didn’t forget to put in commas between the SO-called attributes. Maybe the editor thought it looked cleaner that way. Whatever the reason for their absence, it has nothing to do with the rules of punctuation.

But wait, there’s more:

Career-wise, the trail has been SO-blime [God help us!] as Sophie transitioned from personal shopper Becky Bloomwoods would have been awed by to eTalk correspondent we’re all awed by.

SO-phie transitions like nobody’s business.

How many errors can you spot? Just off the top, there are two articles missing  (“from [a] personal shopper … to [the] eTalk correspondent”), and some questionable punctuation. And that’s not counting the indictable offence of using transitioning without supplying adequate protective gear to the reader.

There’s more. There’s SO much more that it’s pointless to continue enumerating them.

I don’t mean to denigrate any of the performers who appear in the magazine, but the childishly overblown glorification to which they are subjected is so indiscriminate and undiscerning as to be completely meaningless, if not outright insulting.

And sometimes, as in Stacey Farber’s write-up, it’s just plain confusing

Stacey Anne Farber

Now if only Stacey Anne Farber could get to auditions on time.

Now if only Stacey Anne Farber could get to auditions on time.

Stacey Anne Farber, we’re breathlessly told, “stood as one of the last 3 actresses to audition for the now ground-breaking self-titled role of Juno in Juno.”

For now let’s ignore the use of a numeral for a single digit number (this occurs throughout the magazine); we won’t even glance at the missing comma after ground-breaking; we’ll resist the urge to ponder how something can be “now ground-breaking” (how does something become more ground-breaking as time passes?); and we’ll even steel ourselves against trying to figure out what a “self-titled role” is.

Instead, let’s concentrate on the actual nature of the praise being heaped upon Stacey in that sentence.

She “stood as one of the last 3 actresses to audition for the now ground-breaking self-titled role of Juno in Juno.”

In other words, she auditioned for the plum role of Juno in one of Canada’s most prestigious movies.

She didn’t get it.

That’s it. That’s the praise.

She showed up. She didn’t get the role.

Ellen Page got the role. Ellen Page also got nominated for an Academy Award.

Stacey…didn’t.

I didn’t either, but then I didn’t audition, so at least I wasn’t rejected.

Maybe things would have been different if she hadn’t been “one of the last 3 actresses to audition.” It could be that by the time Stacey got there, the director was so sick of watching auditions he just wanted to go home.

Or…wait a minute.

Is it possible the writer meant that Stacey had been one of the three finalists?

That, of course, would be a different matter. In one instance, she’s just someone who showed up late for auditions and was rejected. In the other, she’s an actress who was seriously considered for a seminal role.

Still, whatever the faults in Stacey’s bio, at least the writer credits her with being mortal.

Not so for the next on our list.

Seamus O’Regan

Seamus O’Regan: Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive.

Seamus O’Regan: Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive.

Our next celebrity is so fabulous, magnificent, brilliant, and all-round stupendous that only a super introduction will suffice. “It’s a bird. It’s a plane,” the writer crows, before eventually coming to the conclusion that someone possessing such superlative attributes “can’t be mortal. JUST. NOT. POSSIBLE.”

Who is this strange visitor from another planet, who came to Earth with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men!?

It’s — Seamus O’Regan!

Uh.

Seamus.

Seamus O’Regan.

You know, a co-host on CTV’s Canada AM?

Yeah, well he’s never heard of you either, buddy.

I have nothing against Beverly, Sofphie, Stacey, Seamus or any of the rest of these poor, good-natured entertainers who agreed to be photographed for the magazine. They should be praised for their accomplishments. But rather than glorifying them, the exaggerated, overblown puffery to which they’ve been subjected only serves to unwittingly satirise them. I suspect their friends still phone them up, read out excerpts from the magazine, and then laugh like loons.

I know that’s what I’d be doing.

Browns prides itself on its philanthropy to various charities as a way of “giving back.” But there is no philanthropy in perpetuating a problem as serious as the growing incidence of functional illiteracy. The fact that a magazine with this kind of financial backing has such scant regard for the quality of its copy says much about the way they view those reading it. “Just put any old crap in there,” they seem to be saying. “Our readers are young, fashion-conscious morons with foot fetishes. We’re lucky if they can read the prices.”

Who knows? They could be right. It’s possible that not one in ten of their readers will ever realise the substandard product they hold in their hands.

At least, that’s the way Browns seems to view them.

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This entry was posted on January 16, 2014 by in Writing & Editing.

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