The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Saturday, December 20, 2003  

She Gets A Lot More Done, Too

I’ll bet you thought this post was going to include a bunch of Martha Stewart bashing. Sorry, no. We don’t do that around here.

Sure, my apartment may look worse than your son’s dorm room and only slightly better than a crack house. I may know how to prepare only one mildly impressive main course. And I’ve admitted to killing no fewer than 12 bonsai. Despite that, or maybe because of all that, Stewart is revered in this household.

Each copy of Martha Stewart Living is eagerly anticipated and warmly welcomed, if not read immediately. Despite all the whining about Stewart inflicting unattainable standards of perfection upon the already beleaguered American woman, much of which criticism strikes me as entirely affected and uninformed, the magazine is a top-notch work. Always has been; still is.

If you doubt this, try approaching an issue of MSL with an open mind. There really is something for everyone in each issue. Not that I actually do any of it. Still, I can appreciate the ideas in each issue for their cleverness, beauty, and efficiency, and I sometimes pass things along to people I know.

Unable to sleep last night, I settled down with a large stack of magazines, including half a dozen as yet unread MSLs, when an idea came to me. A blogging idea, of course.

You see, unless a bolt of reality lightning strikes Karen Seymour, the misguided and possibly delusional lead prosecutor, Stewart’s trial on securities fraud and other ridiculous charges is scheduled to begin January 12. That’s a day Stewart might otherwise be updating her scrapbooks, pruning fruit trees, or moving “winter-hardy bulbs from cold frame to greenhouse for forcing,” activities listed on her January 2003 calendar. (Don’t you just hate it when allegations of fraud and conspiracy mess with your gardening?)

Why not, I thought, track Stewart’s upcoming trial working with the monthly calendar she provides in the front of each issue of the magazine?

An entry might read something like this (but funnier):

Thursday, January 15: Stewart’s attorneys today are expected to call former Merrill Lynch & Co. broker Peter Bacanovic to the stand. The stunningly handsome Bacanovic, rumored to be involved with an equally attractive but still unidentified Philadelphia writer, is expected to back Stewart’s account of the questioned trades in shares of ImClone Systems Inc. (He’d better or he’s not invited back here. Uh, whoops.)

Meanwhile, Stewart, having reviewed the previous session’s court transcript taken directly from the stenographer, and having sent 10 single-spaced pages of notes to her attorney, Robert Morvillo, along with wardrobe suggestions for each day next week, will spend the morning at her Bedford, N.Y., home. There Stewart will review her accountants’ work on her 2003 tax filings, take an inventory of seeds for her gardens, and make a terrific beet salad (beets are in season according to the January 2004 number).

In the afternoon, Stewart will travel to Skylands, her home in Maine, where she will make notes on the oyster harvest; clean, filet, poach, roast, broil, bake, barbeque, freeze, package, and deliver to friends her latest catch of salmon; and sweep clear at least six acres of pine forest.

After returning to New York, where she will meet with editors planning the March issue of MSL and catch a late supper with friends Barbara Walters and Maria Bartiromo, Stewart heads to Turkey Hill, her home in Westport, Conn., where the refrigerator really, really needs a good cleaning.

Unfortunately, it can’t be done.

It can’t because there’s no calendar in the January 2004 issue of MSL. The feature was replaced in the September issue with “Gentle Reminders,” a front-of-the-book feature that dispenses similar wisdom, albeit in a less rigid format.

Perhaps the change was just part of a magazine’s normal course of updating features from time to time. Maybe it’s an element of a larger plan intended to reveal a kinder, gentler Stewart. Or could it be that Stewart, anticipating that the trial, combined with so natural a counterpart as the calendar, offered too tempting a target for the nastier elements of the media (and even the kinder realms of blogosphere), enacted a wise and strategic preemptive change?

I don’t doubt it one bit, because Martha Stewart is smarter than you are. She’s smarter than I am. And I hope Stewart and Morvillo -- and the jury -- are smarter than a handful of federal prosecutors run amok.

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