A penny saved is good, but donating it is fine, too Finances: American Benefactor reports on a couple of failures, and New Age Journal discusses living within modest means.


If journalism were real estate, where location is everything, the American Benefactor, the magazine of philanthropy, would suddenly find itself in possession of a prime block at the very center of America's psychic city. The new quarterly's summer issue comes just two months after the Presidents' Summit for America's Future, led by Gen. Colin Powell, focused national attention on the importance of voluntary charitable efforts.

Any reader expecting (as this one did) the chronicles of philanthropy to be socially uplifting but terminally tedious is in for a pleasant surprise: The new issue is chockablock with timely and intriguing articles.

One, written by John Sedgwick, board chairman of the Associates of the Boston Public Library, recounts the disaster at Adelphi, the little Long Island commuter college with big ideas. In February, the New York State Board of Regents ousted almost the entire board of trustees (including Boston University chancellor John Silber) for failing to ride fiscal herd on president Peter Diamandopoulos, the $837,113-a-year president who spent like Louis XIV and governed like Napoleon III.

New York Times reporter Barry Meier tracks the dashed hopes for the C&J; (Caroline and John) Foundation that Jackie Onassis established in her will. The philanthropy world had hoped the foundation would generate as much as $190 million for good causes over the next quarter-century.

Funding the foundation was left up to C&J;, and by the time they took what they wanted of their mother's estate -- and the IRS had its due -- there was nothing left over for the foundation.

Meanwhile, Sarah Pekkanen looks at the charitable creeds and deeds of prominent members of Congress. Asked how much he gives, U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, the Massachusetts congressman who bites back, called the question "despicable." Sen. Ted Kennedy wouldn't say, though his staff volunteered that he donates his doodles for charity auctions. Sen. John Kerry, much maligned in the '96 campaign for skinflintiness, got lucky; he wasn't mentioned.

All about debt

For anyone who has ever opened a credit-card statement and groaned under the weight of forgotten purchases, the August New Age Journal is a must-read. Much of the magazine is devoted to examining the sociological and psychological implications of America's debt-driven lifestyle and offering alternative approaches.

Particularly fascinating is Brad Lemley's story on the Maine-based frugality movement, founded by Amy Dacyczyn, founder of the newsletter the Tightwad Gazette. Earning less than $30,000 a year, Dacyczyn and her husband saved nearly $50,000 over seven years, feeding a family of eight for $190 a month and clothing their brood in rummage-sale duds for about $9 per kid per year.

Writing a newspaper story on Dacyczyn's penny-pinching principles changed Lemley's own life. On an income of about $50,000 a year, he and his wife now own a home, are debt-free, have substantial savings and vacation two to three times a year. And, he says, lead fuller, more interesting lives than they did before. Oh yes: He's 42.

Smoke gets in your eyes

History records that when the great English explorer Capt. James Cook made landfall on one uncharted coast, the natives gathered to greet him, smug in the belief that the strange sailors had come from afar to learn the wonders of their culture. Today, those natives would be readers of Cigar Aficionado, the glossy monthly desperately trying to legitimize odoriferous behavior by chronicling the wonders of all things smelly and smokable.

This month's cover girl is Claudia Schiffer. But does she really smoke cigars -- or is she merely a super-mercenary? You be the judge. When tobacco first arises in the interview, the desperate fantasy that Claudia might be a cigar smoker is saved by the life ring of editorial annotation: "I don't drink, I don't smoke [cigarettes]."

Then this diplomatic foray. "I love the smell of a good cigar, the elegance, the feel," says Claudia. "I enjoy the camaraderie of being with people smoking cigars." (That camaraderie is notably easy to enjoy when the magazine is paying her thousands for a modeling session.)

Time to smell the coffee, Cigar Guys: If you really think stinky stogies are an aphrodisiac, there's something other than tobacco rolled up in your Havana.

Life after high school

Baffling as the emerging cigar culture is, it's nothing compared with the legions of 20-somethings slouching through life with goofy goatees, stunted vocabularies, and that odd air of alienated entitlement.

But the summer issue of Swing, "the magazine about life in your twenties," may help you puzzle it out. In Swing's pages, the reader learns that this generation's formative experience was "Fast Times at Ridgemont High." Now, rare indeed is the filmgoer who wouldn't place that flick at the very pinnacle of the bumbling- brain- addled-surfer-chases-mall - girls- and- eats- pizza- in -history- class genre.

But on the 15th anniversary of the movie, Swing reveals it was much, much more. " 'Fast Times,' " writes Joal Ryan, "has become not only a classic of its genre but the film that helped define a generation."

"We watched it, we quoted it, we lived it," he writes.

And how could one help but quote it, with unforgettable lines like "Hey, bud let's party," "What are you people, on dope?" and "Who ordered the double cheese and sausage?"

To each generation its own seminal experience, of course. Still, there are some not quite so taken with "dude" as a universal salutation or "like" as the carbon building block of all conversation.

Pub Date: 7/13/97

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