What I like most about magazines is their ability to open new worlds to me. Books — unless by Jane Jacobs — rarely do this. Music, TV, and movies almost never do this. Paintings and other visual arts never do this (to me). Magazines do this regularly. Entertainment Weekly — the best magazine with a dull name — tries to do this (and succeeds). I am now reading The Golden Compass because of EW. An issue of Colors made me visit Iceland. Spy made New York fascinating. (E.g., an NYC map of smells.) It’s the best kind of teaching: you open a door and make what’s inside seem so interesting and wonderful that the student voluntarily decides to enter and explore.
Which is why it isn’t completely surprising that Abu Ayyub Ibrahim, who writes Behind the Approval Matrix, is a teacher. New York magazine’s Approval Matrix has a wonderful way of introducing new things: with humor, poetry (if well-written short captions = poetry), a dash of outrage (calling stuff “despicable”), and an attractive layout. When it calls something Brilliant, I’m instantly curious — thus fulfilling the best function of magazines with remarkable ease. The problem for me, and I assume many others, is that the captions are often obscure. Behind the Approval Matrix — which might have been called The Annotated Approval Matrix — explains each item.
The creators of The Approval Matrix had a great idea and didn’t quite pull it off. It’s often too hard to figure out what they’re talking about. Ibrahim has supplied what is missing.
It’s a bit like my self-experimentation. Previous (conventional) research, for various reasons, couldn’t quite reach practical applications (e.g., omega-3 research couldn’t figure out the best dose); my self-experimentation, building on that research, was able to cover the final mile.