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With $8-per-issue price tag, quarterly Argonaut turns spotlight on 'crazies'

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Argonaut is a fat, paperback quarterly edited and published by Warren Hinckle, a hefty presence in left-wing publishing himself. A lover of H. L. Mencken, muckraking and literature, Mr. Hinckle has assembled lightning-rod luminaries such as Ishmael Reed, Studs Terkel and Hunter S. Thompson for his latest venture. Contributors to its third number include Sinn Fein's controversial spokesman Gerry Adams, poets Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso and a contingent of five Italian-American women; and nonfictionwriters who examine "crazies" -- the issue's theme -- in life and art.

In a trenchant overview, Louise Armstrong examines the "psy sector gulag," revealing how insurance industries benefit from for-profit institutions that encourage parents to send them their nominally wayward teen-agers. Lyn Duff provides a personal example in her harrowing account, "Incarcerated for Being Queer." There's also news of a serial-killer fanzine edited by a young man who has vowed to break the record of psychopath-slain people killed in a single day (21 at San Ysidro, Calif., in 1984). Visual relief comes in the form of "outsider art" (the folk art of "crazies") by "demonic" artist Joe Coleman and architecturally obsessed Achilles G. Rizzoli. His portrait of his mother as a cathedral alone is worth the $8 cover price.

Marketing ploy

The December Spy leads with an article employing its signature style of entrapment comedy: Writers Alex Gregory and Peter Huyck posed as marketing consultants offering companies an "unofficial" endorsement by President Clinton in return for stealthy payments, ostensibly to cover his legal debts. Targets included Red Man Chewing Tobacco, Snapple, Craftmatic Adjustable Beds and Weight Watchers; the results are amusing enough, but it's ridiculous to say the reporters "expose the greed, cynicism, and shocking stupidity within some of America's most respected businesses." Don't we expect greed and cynicism in marketing departments -- and who said we respected Snapple in the first place?

In the same issue, Vernon Jordan writes about the ever-sorrier state of affairs in Cuba, where Fidel Castro has embraced capitalism (well, Benetton), prostitution and gambling. But a reader with Cuban connections noted two inaccuracies: The dictator is called "el caballo" -- the horse -- not because he's a stud with the ladies (although he may well be), but because in the island's mystical tradition, the gods mount those they choose as messengers. And while food shortages are real, cooked grapefruit rind is a traditional recipe, not a recently invented substitute for steak.

Mostly male sports

Normally I don't read Sports Illustrated, but a colleague passed on its Nov. 14 issue, featuring 40 photo highlights from 1954 to 1994. There are only three photos of women athletes -- '50s skater Tenley Albright, Seoul star Jackie Joyner-Kersee and that crybaby Mary Decker -- unless you count a smaller, unlabeled, blurry photo of what looks like Florence Griffith Joyner from behind.

The overwhelmingly male-to-female ratio continues in the editorial sections, mitigated by Sally Jenkins' article on 14-year-old tennis pro Venus Williams and her manager father, who has given off mixed messages. Is the man who says that "fathers are bad for tennis" protecting or exploiting his daughter? Ms. Jenkins writes that "her fans will be monitoring him" in the future; let's hope SI will be too.

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