From the Lavatory to Lamborghinis

Civilization marches on. Magazines continue to carve out heretofore undreamed-of demographic niches. Starting Wednesday, newsstands across America will be blessed with a pair of toddling publications so dissimilar it's hard to believe they're aimed at the same species.

From Cleveland comes the premiere issue of Bathroom Journal, a humble TV Guide-size bimonthly of proletarian unpretentiousness that boasts that it's the first magazine specifically written for bathroom reading. From Beverly Hills comes Auto Gallery, a superglossified and sumptuously designed monthly whose oversize format allows room for gigantic and loving portraits of exotic motorcars that only a quasi-plutocrat can own.

The first issue of Bathroom Journal, which contains an offer for a free magazine wall-rack in seven colors, is virtually devoid of ads. (One is for a bathroom scale.) However, it's full of what it calls "bite-size information capsules" designed for quick reading on practical stuff like dieting, dental fitness, better parenting and finances. Most are synopses of previously published reports and articles, but contributing editor and gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson does file his report on the recent 18th annual Adult Film Assn. of America convention in Hollywood.

Amateur psychologists would have a field day commenting on the sexual connotations of the unabashed auto-eroticism in Auto Gallery, which puts its circulation at 78,000 after six months. Automobiles aren't just loved and worshiped, they're also elevated to the same cultural status as art, fashion, fine wine and Concorde-jetting.

Smiling capitalist Malcolm Forbes is featured on his lawn showing off his mostly money-green-colored fleet of motor toys--including a $139,000 Lamborghini Countach, a pristinely reconditioned 1932 Packard worth $210,000 and 11 motorcycles. There's also a reverently written and lovingly laid-out homage to the Mercedes-Benz 300SL Coupe (art director Michael Brock used to work for Playboy, and it shows), a report on the Grand Prix of Brazil, a road test of Saab's 900 Turbo convertible ($30,000) and a write-up on the hand-built Aston Martin Lagonda (only $170,000). It's all wretchedly excessive, of course, and shamelessly targeted at the moneyed class. But for $5 an issue, it's a cheap source of dreams for a Hyundai owner.

Zone of Darkness

Ethiopia was America's living-room famine. But the story that most Western media never really told, says Robert Kaplan in the July 6 New Republic, was the brutal, ideologically inspired resettlement and "villagization" schemes enforced by the regime of Mengistu Haile Mariam.

These policies, according to Kaplan and the relief organizations whose research he relies on, have uprooted more than 4 million people from their homes, created famine where there was none before and resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths.

"It is difficult to imagine the scale of suffering and brutality," Kaplan writes. "Since 1984, perhaps 50 times as many blacks have been starved (famine deaths aside), beaten and worked to death in Ethiopia as have died at the hands of South African security forces."

Kaplan's grim conclusion: "Ethiopia is now part of that zone of darkness where anything can happen away from the television cameras and few in America would know or care. No U.S. interests are jeopardized by the inhuman actions of the regime. Perhaps if the suffering were occurring at the hands of a colorful madman like Idi Amin or Muammar Kadafi, the story could be rescued from oblivion. But Mengistu is a methodical killer with no penchant for buffoonery, and his crimes have little mass market appeal. What is happening to millions of Ethiopians is simply too obscure for most Westerners to know about. Another failure of modern memory may be in progress."

Bits and Pieces

Vanity Fair's Sondra Gotlieb cornered "civilized curmudgeon" David Brinkley in Washington and elicited from "the moderate conservative" newsman a quote that might surprise some folks with its cynicism: "Americans have been poorly served by Congress. It's become an abominable automatic money machine that spends without a thought for the people it represents. Most congressmen are in there for life, so what do they care?". . . For those who just aren't getting enough mail, there's always the Letter Exchange (Box 6218, Albany, Calif. 94706). The tri-yearly magazine is full of ads from its 4,000-odd subscribers who seek pen pals on topics from literature to "Star Trek."

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