There are times when a magazine is more than just a magazine. Times like springtime! The season when ideas become conversations and bylines jump to life; when the caterpillar sheds its larval newsprint and blossoms, at last, into a butterfly in flight about the z calo. By next month, it'll be happening in twos, as the New Yorker and the New York Times Magazine both put on their nice clothes and venture into the world of the living with a pair of star-studded public conferences. Each will deliver its parent publication's noted intellects in a neat, bow-topped basket of brains, all spit-shined and freshly painted. But which to choose if you've got only one weekend and, say, no more than a month's rent or so to devote to the zeitgeist hunt?

The Times Magazine is the fluffy youngster on the carrot patch — their Sunday With the Magazine, scheduled for May 20 at the CUNY Graduate Center, is only in its second year, while the New Yorker's been hosting festivals and symposia and quilting circles since God knows when. That said, Sunday Magazine editor Gerry Marzorati is coming strong, leading a squadron of hot, boldfaced guest stars Center in his quest to articulate the ineffable. Thus, just like the Brandenburg Concertos, this year's "Sunday" will be a sextet of virtuosic chamber pieces, each of which has been given a royal-we title in the tradition of the NYTM's primary editorial directive and slogan, "The Way We Live Now."

Among them, according to the conference's inexplicably McSweeneyish website: What Makes Us Laugh, in which humor editor John Hodgeman will interview Ricky Gervais, and What We Eat, in which food editor Amanda Hesser will talk to Sysco president Rick Schnieders, a chef, and a "greenmarket pioneer" (that means foodie!). Then there's How We Innovate, featuring MySpace creator Tom Anderson, and How We Make Movies featuring Luke and Owen Wilson.

Each talk costs $25 — which, admit it, is less than you usually pay for conversation — and the Ricky Gervais one, be advised, is already sold out. The two main events, though, as far as Gawker Weekend is concerned, are both still wide open. They are: How We Obsess (Over Dogs), starring such "dog-human behavior experts" as inveterate giggle-inducer William Wegman, and How We Live Post 9/11, a conversation between Gerry Marzorati and Don DeLillo, whose new novel Falling Man "reflects how we live now: with our doubts, our fears and our new, shifting world." Of course, some readers of his last novel Cosmopolis might object that DeLillo better belongs on that dog panel. Zing!

All in all, the lineup beats last year's — the biggest stars then were Howard Dean and Randy "Moral Relativism" Cohen. (Incidentally, we're assuming that the Times is in fact asking questions with their talk titles, and not just maniacally screaming things like "How We Innovate!" and "How We Live Post 9/11!" Dr. Seuss-style.)

For planning purposes, note that the New Yorker Conference — which is a brand-new vernal celebration not to be confused with the end-of-harvest New Yorker Festival — takes place after Sunday With The Magazine. Well, that's not entirely true, because the "two nights — one day" gathering is actually happening May 6 and 7, a couple of weeks before the Times state fair. But it is mostly true, since this isn't the the 2007 New Yorker Conference we're talking about; no, according to the shiny official website, David Remnick's kickin' slumber party is to be called The New Yorker Conference / 2012: stories from the near future. And, as if to prove time ain't nothing but a number, it's all going down at that new Frank Gehry office building/melting ice cube on the Chelsea riverfront.

So what will 2012 be like? Well, surprisingly, sound-bite sociology will still be around; that is to say, Malcolm Gladwell is slated to attend. Also, the World Beat music sound will be as popular as it is today, as Talking Head David Byrne will testify to next month/five years from now. Newark mayor Cory Booker, SimCity programmer Will Wright, and architect-in-theory Zaha Hadid will also remain luminaries. And still so much science!

Through exclusive interviews, vivid presentations, and in-depth discussions, you will learn what the future holds. It's the ultimate insider's look at the works in progress that will shape our world, from boardrooms to courtrooms, from biology labs to design studios.

Of course, not everything can stay the same. By the time 2012 rolls around, it appears the nation will have suffered some rather catastrophic inflation. For instance, attending The New Yorker Conference / 2012 will set you back $1200, which includes meals but no lodging. No Times-style a la carte either; the magazine festivals of the future are all-or-nothing, and "all" involves listening to such heavyweight thinkers as Barry Diller, who owns that shiny Gehry, and Craig Newmark, the craig of craigslist.

Times Magazine or New Yorker; New Yorker or Times Magazine? Oh, who are we kidding — we're going to both; Lynne Hirschberg and Henry Finder are worth a little starvation. Alternative revenue streams for dead-tree Manhattan media: My, how they innovate!