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I went to Modern Times last night for the "Clamor Magazine" post-mortem. Jen Angel has put out a zine/pamphlet called “Becoming the Media” about what they tried and why they went under. “Clamor” published from 1999-2006. I think it’s best described as an activist/lefty general interest magazine. Political issues were covered but often from a personal standpoint. Unlike many other lefty publications though, “Clamor” also published articles on varied subjects with no obvious “political” tie-in, acknowledging that whatever our politics, it’s not all we are.

It was gracious of Jen to invite me because, while I did have an article published in “Clamor”, I was also critical of the project at times. The second issue published the meanest letter to the editor I ever wrote and when I reviewed later issues for “MRR” or “Zine World” I wasn’t always kind. I think I once said, in my typical style of faint praise, that it didn’t seem like every article was someone’s slightly revamped college assignment anymore.

I may have more to say when I read the pamphlet, but what I said last night was that I liked that Clamor thought big, and tried to make lefties less alienating to a bigger audience. Even if thinking big often ends in failure, we can be better off for it. I am so sick of movement papers (or websites) where you can read a headline and know what the entire article is going to say. Sure, “Clamor” published some flat-out bad pieces over their six years, and even if I liked to kick it around a little, I miss it now that it’s gone. Plus, they actually paid (a token amount, but still… ) and supported new writers.

A magazine that I have some similar issues with is also in trouble now. If you want, head over to Bitch Magazine and buy a subscription or make a donation. They seem to be very close to going under. Even if they drive me crazy sometimes, that would still make me sad.


May. 3rd, 2007 09:16 am
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I was so excited by the release of Dishwasher: One Man's Quest to Wash Dishes in All Fifty States that not only did I pre-order it, I read half of it last night. Go buy it! It's awesome.

Dishwasher Pete was one of the great zinesters of the great '80s/'90s zine era. I'm pretty sure that, like Cometbus, Dishwasher Pete somehow managed to scam a ciculation of 10,000 readers per issue by the time he stopped publishing. I know we couldn't keep in on the shelves at Epicenter, it was one of our best sellers, right up there with Cometbus, Doris, i'm so fucking beautiful, and Pathetic Life.

The general theme was working class kid attracted to dishwashing because of the opportunities for free food, slacking, travel, and quitting on a moment's notice, decides that his quest should be to wash dishes in every state. It's a class-conscious and funny memoir/travelogue. Lots of drinking, dish-breaking, leftover eating and finding better things to do than work. Go get it!
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I didn’t expect to be [livejournal.com profile] markedformetal’s handler when she came to town to promote her book Indecent:How I Make it and Fake it as a Girl for Hire but there I was. It turns out I’m good at handling ( and I don’t mean it that way you big pervs). If the cheese ever turns on me I guess I know what my next profession will be. Maybe I’ve been watching too much "Entourage".

I find it incredibly satisfying when someone from the zine world reaches a bigger audience. I know that there was a lot of debate about the merits of that back in the day, and it was always special to be in-the-know enough to read some of those amazing works of the ‘80s and ‘90s, but good writing deserves to be read. Those of us who care about such things have to be happy about writers coming closer to being able to make a living on their work. I can think of, literally, 50 zines written by people with wit and insight who I wish could have kept writing and improving. Maybe some of them have been and their books just haven’t come out yet.

I know Sarah Katherine because I bought zines for Epicenter in the early/mid ‘90s. My process for finding new zines was to look at the ones I liked and order 5 copies of anything that they recommended highly. The zines of that time almost always had a review section. I would also do the same thing, much more selectively, with Factsheet 5 and MaximumRocknRoll. I don’t remember where I read a review for "Pasty" , but I ordered it and it stood out as a great zine. Selling 10-15 copies of an issue was big for us and I think we even had a standing order for each new issue. SK and I, in those pre-internet days, became pen pals.

Zines will never die out completely, but places like LJ provide a lot of the drama, excitement, community, and support that the zine world did with, for good and ill, a much faster response time and much easier distribution mechanism. No dollar bills arriving in the mail, sure, but no one was really trying to make money on their zines anyway.

The audience for SK’s benefit reading for the St. James Infirmary was straight out of LJ. Like seriously, I don’t think more than 3-4 people were not Ljers and one of those was [livejournal.com profile] black_pearl_10’s mom. Partly that’s because there wasn’t much (any?) advertising for it outside of our friendslists, but partly it’s because, intentionally or not, we’ve created a community here. That probably half the audience were also published writers was also reminiscent of the zine days of writers supporting writers.

Her reading at Black Oak the next night was the opposite kind of crowd. We got there really early because we were hiking around the Albany Landfill and it got dark.* When we got to Black Oak we found a huge stack of her books on a handtruck which was exciting. By the time we got back from getting some food, about a half hour before the reading, the room had been set up and most of the chairs were already taken. Her publicist did an amazing job getting it co-sponsored with Peralta JC’s Women Studies Department because they came out in force and mixed with the stereotypical older Berkeley liberal set. The Black Oak workers had to keep adding chairs and there must have been at least 60-75 people there by the time SK started reading. Geez, I was nervous and I wasn’t even reading. My job was to sit in front and laugh at the funny parts so other people would know it was ok. By the end of the night I think only four books were left on the table.

It was certainly a successful reading and hopefully, this is the beginning of SK becoming a full-time writer. But then I also think it’s a crime that [livejournal.com profile] beelavender’s Lessons in Taxidermy was not a best seller and that [livejournal.com profile] final_girl’s Jokes and the Unconscious isn’t being endlessly discussed in bars and cafes all over the country.

Congratulations [livejournal.com profile] markedformetal!
sk at the bulb

*Somehow, I got all muddy and SK stayed clean. I guess that’s one of the reasons I’ll never make it as a femme. More pics of the Albany Bulb art can be found here.
**[livejournal.com profile] springheel_jack wrote a really good and interesting review here which actually discusses the book. Check it out.
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I went to go see this Bike is a Pipebomb and Full Moon Partisans a week ago at this amazing space. I didn’t get in. It made me feel old and out of touch.

That I haven’t been going to shows regularly was obvious. Five years ago I would have gotten in but no, after climbing four flights of crowded, narrow stairs past throngs of punks young enough to be my kids, I got denied at the door. Like those muscle things that I hear people talking about, subcultural cred goes away if you don’t use it regularly.

And the silly thing, you know why I got denied? Because it was a benefit. Since I work full time and make ok money, I tried to pay. That’ll teach me. ;)

I easily could have scammed my way in but I didn’t know it was sold out. I could easily have walked in with the crowd in front of me, showing my non-stamped hand, avoiding eye contact, and acting like I belonged and no one would have stopped me. If I had been stopped, the night was hot and sweaty enough and the room packed and drippy enough that I could have claimed it rubbed off.

But no, I tried to pay and got told, very sweetly and nicely mind you, that I couldn’t get in. I’ve been in that position (Bikini Kill at Epicenter? Hello!) so I only tried to convince him a little bit before giving up. I wasn’t in the mood to guilt him and I certainly wasn’t gonna pull my "paid dues" out of my ass. So I left.

Five years ago I would have known the person working the door. Five years ago they would have known me from Epicenter or MRR or something and let me in. And I don’t think that would have been wrong or unfair.

Putting on shows for hundreds of crappy bands and reviewing hundreds of crappy zines, all for free, should earn one something. But those dues have an expiration date and I haven’t renewed them. My interest in live music has been at an all-time low and this is one of the related outcomes.

Subculture is not exactly a who-you-know situation. It’s more of a what-you-do one. But the nature of scenes means that those things are pretty inter-related. I ran into some friends on the way out and someone who I only just barely met tried to imprint her stamp on my hand but I decided to let it go for the night.

I left and went to Needles and Pens where Zee was having an art opening. There I found the new issue of SCAM which is messy but, aside from Doris and Cometbus, pretty much the best political punk(ish) zine around. Meta-ly there is even an interview with Zee inside. Yup, instead of going to the punk show, I went home and read about a activists and punks. It’s $5 but you all should order it (Erick Lyle, PO Box 40272, SF, CA 94140) to get a feel for the last few years of punk, artsy, anti-war San Francisco. Hopefully, your issue, unlike mine, will have the pages stapled in the correct order.
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While organizing and weeding out zines from my, ahem, personal zine library, I found duplicates of a few that I didn’t want to send to some zine library where they would get stolen.

all the zines are claimed, sorry! thanks [livejournal.com profile] perigee

Cometbus #40
Doris #6
Doris #18
Doris #19
Mudflap (yin yang mudflap cover)
Mudflap (buttcrack cover)

These are examples of how amazing zines can be. I found a lot of reasons why I love zines while going through the issues I felt were important enough to save. I'm happy to have the amazing zines I do: a complete set of Doris, Pasty, and Processed World, almost a full set of That Girl, the Epicenter anti-war zine from before I worked there etc. I do wish I had more copies of Pathetic Life, Murder Can Be Fun and Diseased Pariah News. And it kind of burns me that my i'm so fucking beautiful #1 is missing since I accounted for selling about 200 of those fuckers at Epicenter, but I'll live.

Whatever happened to the great writers of Theoryslut, Spawn of Satan, Teen Fag and so many others? Any zines you, my lovely readers, miss terribly and wish were still around?
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--So how about the Chron? They’re really hitting the Matt Gonzalez as an Ivy-League-child-of-privilege while Gavin Newsom had a-single-mother-who-worked-two-jobs and he only-went-to-Santa-Clara-on-a-baseball-scholarship angle this weekend.

Gonzalez middle class? Well duh, he’s a Green isn’t he? As for Newsom, his background is best looked on as fallen aristocracy. His dad was a judge in San Francisco (which, for cultural capital, trumps the Gonzalez uncle they dug up who was mayor of an industrial town in Mexico in the ‘80s) and he grew up with the richest of the rich Specific Whites crowd that has ruled San Francisco since 1849. Even if mom was a little cash poor, the Getty family isn’t.

Seems like they’re really worried about Gonzalez’s campaign now.

(Edited to add:) The Democrats even got Bill Clinton to make an appearence to shore up Newsom's campaign this weekend. I love watching Democrats squirm. Especially for a candidate who actually gave the Republicans money a few years ago!

--[livejournal.com profile] nadinelet cracked me up with this post because I had just come home from the annual "MaximumRocknRoll" meeting. This year’s meeting was pretty short, but two years ago there was a half hour long argument about alphabetization of the MRR record collection. After it was settled that, say The Afflicted, should be filed under A not T, someone brought up the question about what to do if the band has an article in another language. "Does this mean we have to file Die Kreuzen under K?" "What about Les Thugs?" "What about Le Tigre?" "Wait, Le Tigre isn’t punk!" "Should we file them differently if they are an American band rather than a foreign one?"

--Speaking of MRR, I finally got my first angry letter from a review. Unfortunately it was from someone who bought a zine I’d recommended instead of a bad zine writer. Here it is:

"The other day we received this ‘Skin Deep’ crap in the mail which Gordon Zola reviewed in MRR #244. What the fuck are you guys doin’ over there?! What’s the matter with you!? Don’t ever review shit like this again! GZ stated in his review ‘I laughed out loud’, laughed out loud at what?! The kid had the nerve to send us three copies. .so we sent one back to him, one to you, and tossed the third one over the tier.
It was a fuckin insult to "BOREDOM", and being that you encouraged and raved about this crap, you’re into it too.
Look, DON’T REVIEW CRAP. .you got it?? It makes no sense.

This was my review )
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I was going to make a post about all the movies I’ve seen recently but I realized that I am never going to get around to it and it would probably bore all of you anyway. But I do feel the need to mention that "Daredevil" was truly one of the worst movies I’ve seen in years. I wouldn’t have chosen to watch it, mind you, but it was the only bearable movie* on the flight to London so I was stuck with it.

The scene where he meets his future girlfriend was a masterpiece of nuevo repugnant-cool filmmaking.** You have this creepy guy pimping his own blindness to get a date with a "beautiful" woman, She resists his advances and he lurks along after her, grabbing her when she tries to leave. Then they had an unintentionally slow-motion martial arts scene which made Matrix 2 look stunning in comparison.

But dissecting "Daredevil" is like pulling wings off flies, lying to children or openly mocking sales reps. There’s just no sport in it.

Because that’s not enough for one post, I’ll give my readers a special bonus. In honor of [livejournal.com profile] anarqueso*** and [livejournal.com profile] wookiepocket’s poetry , and the concept of pulling off fly wings, I’ll end this aborted entry with a poem from a wonderful poetry zine I’m reviewing for MRR called "Skin Deep":****

"In the mirror I try to look big
but I feel small inside
A skinhead mouse
In a skinhead house
I strap on my suspenders
And admire the red
But still I’m lonely in my head
Whenever I feel like this
I stroke my knife for a while
Sometimes I feel sad"

*Not totally true. "Far From Heaven" was also playing but I didn’t want to see its beautiful filming and saturated colors on an airplane flight. And the other movie channel, playing "Narc" kept freeze-framing every 4-5 minutes so I gave up on it.

**ala Quentin Tarantino* having his hip white characters use racist terms in scenes with Black characters but, you know, it’s all cool.

***If you are not yet reading her, you are missing out.

****It’s a parody skinhead poetry zine. PO Box 13093, MPLS, MN 55414, $1


*I almost posted this as Trentino instead of Tarantino. Trentino is an Italian cheese much like Parmigiano Reggiano but not from the region of Parma that would allow it to be called by that name. It’s a very small production cheese in comparison and almost universally outstanding, better than most low-end Reggianos but probably not quite as good as the high-end ones. Sharp, nutty, full-bodied and often a little younger and sweeter than the Reggianos though that will vary based on the time of year it was made and how long it’s been sitting in some cheese distributor’s warehouse.
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I’ve decided I can’t review books anymore for MaximumRocknRoll. It just takes too much time that I could use for other writing. If I was getting paid, that would be one thing. But volunteering my labor to write articles no one will read just seems useless. I don’t need the practice anymore.

I didn’t write for years. There were many reasons for it. I was too burned out from school. I was too tired from my job. It was too painful. I didn’t have the energy to put out my own zine so why bother. Even with all those excuses I felt like I was missing something. I felt like I should be writing and I felt guilty that I wasn’t.

Though it has come under much criticism in the last generation or so, guilt can be a very useful emotion. Sure, sure, sure. There’s a lot of downside to it. But think of the upsides: it keeps therapists* employed, it makes for new and interesting fetishes, and it can sometimes actually help people push away the inertia and change things they don’t like

Because while I needed a break, I also needed to not give it up. Guilt was the lifeline to the skills I spend years acquiring but didn’t want to lose forever.

After a few half-assed attempts to write article for other people’s zines and one pathetic try to do one of my own, I e-mailed Doug Holland and asked if I could do reviews for Zine World. I needed something that would make me write regularly, even at 75 words a shot. From there, I started putting out a newsletter at my workplace with an intensely obsessive person who would hound me into completing my articles. I was actually really proud of that publication which was, unfortunately, under-appreciated and stopped altogether after 4 issues. Somewhere along the line, a co-worker asked me to do zine reviews for MRR and a few months later I somehow agreed to do book reviews too.

The book reviews have become a turning point. Here’s the thing: If I’m going to do a good job reviewing a book, it’s going to take me a few hours to read it (skimming heavily, the current one I’m working one has taken me 3.5 hours and I have a third left.) then an hour or so to do other research (general review of the similar existing literature) and probably an hour or two to write the 1000 words or so, including editing/proofing. So at minimum, that’s about 8 hours. But keep in mind that this is a book review for MRR. Does anyone even read that section?

Of course not.

I can easily justify reviewing the zines because there are so few outlets for zine writers to get exposure. And I know that a really positive review will usually bring them a few orders so someone, even if it’s mostly just other MRR workers, is reading that section.

But it’s crazy that the response to almost anything I write here on my LJ is so much bigger than any response I get to writing in a 10,000 circulation zine. And it’s especially galling when a book review takes so much of my free time. It just feels completely wasted, especially since I never felt any of my book reviews were my best work. I realized pretty quickly that to do a review I wasn’t slightly embarrassed about, I’d have to spend even more time on the book reviews in order to compare the books to others in their genre. Since that wasn’t really an option, I just muddled along writing flat, unexciting, and mediocre reviews for an audience that didn’t read them anyway.

More than that though, I feel like I’ve gotten over the tricks I needed to play on myself to make sure I started writing regularly. All the people who’ve read my LJ over the last year have been a big part of that too, so I guess it’s also time to say thanks. My goal now is to figure out where I really want my writing to be, not just where I can easily get it published. That, and to write things that will actually be read.

* I keep double-taking this because for some reason the font I’m using has an extra, but not full, space between the e and r’s. I keep reading "keeping therapists employed" as "keeping the rapists employed" and it’s creeping me out.
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Well, I know that most of you don’t care because you’re all online oriented. But there are some good zines I’ve read in the last couple months too. First off, I owe [livejournal.com profile] easilyirritable an apology for not mentioning her zine earlier. It’s a great zine describing blob by blow what it was like to grow up Mormon. It’s called, appropriately enough, "I was a teenage Mormon". The reason I actually never said anything about it was because I had a whole Mormon post ready to write in my head and I couldn’t find the exact right quote that I read somewhere and wanted to use to tie it all together. While I was looking I did find this one that I’m kinda partial to though. Not that it has anything to do with EI’s zine.

In a book about San Francisco history, Sam Brannan, a San Francisco founder, grafter, and at the time still a Mormon leader, was being pressed to hand over the money he was raising in the name of the Lord, ". . .he came West in the name of the Lord, and brought with him an army of servants of the Lord, and charged the servants a heavy tax in the name of the Lord. And, when some remonstrated and said, "But this money you are collecting is not really being given to the Lord." Then he said, "Go and tell (Brigham) Young I’ll give up the money when he sends me a receipt signed by the Lord.

In a strange concurrence of events, the zine "Emergency #4: Monsters" came into my life in three different ways. When I was on my hurried trip to Reading Frenzy in Portland, I bought a copy because I was attracted by the cover and I read the first sentence and it didn’t suck. Such are my hard-line standards for buying zines. Before I could read it however, I read the new Doris which raved about it. Then I looked in my review packet from Zine World and a copy was already in there waiting for me.

And it’s one of the best zines I’ve read in years. It’s like a non-linear, novelized version of a personal zine. Or the other way around, I’m not sure. "Monsters" is the very loose theme, and even though the author "admits" to not knowing exactly where she’s going with it, the zine explores real and imagined monsters in friendships, death, activism, drinking and drugs, 9/11 and herself. In exploring these "monsters", the author doesn’t try to defeat them so much as try to understand, manage and even embrace some of them. Because there will always be monsters.

It’s just great to read zines by people who take their writing seriously as a skill and craft that I was borderline giddy as I sat and read this. The only place the writing bogs down a little bit is in her first-hand 9/11 accounts (which, judging from what I’ve read elsewhere, may be indescribable at this historical moment) and when discussing the death of her friend and fellow writer (Sera from "Slug and Lettuce") But even that is a very minor criticism, and she snaps back with one of those passages that makes me proud to be punk:

"So began the Sera is Dead Tour, an indefinable odyssey that taught me a lot and taught me nothing. A journey in the traditional punk styles of avoidance and acceleration. The rules are simple. When the territory to be crossed is emotional, cross physical ground instead. And when something simply takes time – like grief or like love – speed it up, speed it up, speed it up."

But it’s not just a punk zine, it’s a great zine for almost anyone. There are so many parts that I want to quote to show how good it is, but I’ll just leave you with this one: "Back in New York, I missed the Johns and Mikes, all the people I’d lost. People I’d folded and left in drawers after meeting Laura, Joe and the gang. I tried to open up those drawers after two years of neglect but they were empty. People don’t stay where you leave them, when you leave them. . . They don’t forgive you for leaving. You went away for one reason and one reason only: to become a monster."

In keeping with my policy of not reviewing zines by people I actually know. I will just mention that [livejournal.com profile] tarynhipp just put out probably her best zine yet, that [livejournal.com profile] slanderous has put out a massive second issue of "Race Riot" that is available from Pander and well worth the price. Even if she is "simultaneously so mid-90s i.d. politics AND new millennium bored with i.d. politics?" Also [livejournal.com profile] mala106 should be putting out a wonderful zine soon also which I recommend sight unseen. Unless of course she hated my submission which she hasn’t even acknowledged yet.

I already told you to get "12 Items or Less", but I don’t think you were listening.

And hey, did everyone lose LJ access last night for a few hours?

Bad Zines

Feb. 18th, 2003 08:40 am
gordonzola: (Default)
I get really bad zines to review sometimes. And even though I do reviews for the notoriously meanest publications in the review world, something often stops me from completely letting loose and trashing them. In order to more effectively criticize other people’s hard work, I’ve decided to try to figure out my, before now, unexamined reviewing philosophy.

Some would say that you should only print positive reviews and, at worst, appreciate the effort that’s gone into any publication. It’s all part of a community you should be supporting and blah, blah, blah. To me that seems like fraud. And boring-to-read fraud at that. The least compelling reason to be nice for me is "Who am I to stomp on someone else’s writing?" I just think of all the people wasting money, stamps, and time because I didn’t warn the properly or give an ambiguous review when a rant is merited. As a reviewer my responsibility should be to my reader first, at least after I’m sure I’m being factual with my criticism.

But there are certain things that mitigate bad publications. The first reason is obviously the who’s-writing-the-zine question. god knows I wouldn’t want to be held responsible for my teen-age writings. But then again, I didn’t publish them either. Teen-agers might not get exactly a free pass, but I’ll be a lot nicer to them than someone who’s had another ten years and still can’t form an interesting sentence. As The Clash once said, "If you’ve been trying for years / we’ve already heard your song."

In addition, I definitely give a break to anyone writing about intense personal drama. This I have more qualms about because there is a genre aspect to the this-is-my-horrible-life personal zine. But in the end I find it too hard to judge these zines as "too derivative" or "unoriginal" because that’s not really the point. I truly don’t believe that many of these zines are actually trying to be innovative or even necessarily well-written. But they serve as resources, vents, examples, sources of support, and pen-pal ads that, honestly, serve a much better function than, for example, a more well-written music zine does.

I try not to use the reviewer cop out solution which you learn after about five minutes on the job. If you write something scathing, you’ll likely have to defend it point by point and spend much, much longer reading the zine to make sure every fact in your review is correct. I resent spending so much time on a review when the author obviously spent so little time in the production. I try to be pretty scrupulous about actually reading the zines I get for review but when the boredom gets past a certain level, I’ll wing the rest.

Then there’s the left thing. When I get crappy political zines to review, I still find myself wanting to pull my punches because of my no-airing-dirty-laundry political education. While I didn’t grow up red diaper, it still feels like betrayal to criticize lefty, non-sectarian publications in a space that is not specifically "left". This is one of the harder ones for me because it’s partially subconscious. I have to figure out why I’m holding back before I can override that part of my brain. Lucky for readers who like the negative, my patience with much of the left press has worn out. In fact, I think I’ll get around to writing that "Why is the anarchist press so bad?" article I’ve been threatening to complete for about a year now.

There’s plenty of zines I have a less hard time criticizing. Music zines, pretentious zines, hardcore fanzines, "objectively written" political zines, I’m-so-oppressed-as-a-white-man-which-is-why-no-one-will-publish-my-books zines? No problem.

But all this questioning came to the forefront for me with the two zines listed below. I kept feeling the need to be nicer and more supportive while reading them. And then I asked myself why. Disorderly Conduct is pretty much unreadable and wrong, whereas boyfunk is just very 1993 and written by someone old enough to know better. Then I realized the other hard part: my reviews are only supposed to be 75 words long.

boyfunk #1 $2/trades/free to prisoners
8.5 x 11 - copied-22pgs
"100% Queer" zine for queer men. Includes the boyfunk manifesto, poetry, and interesting reflections at a funeral, but mostly consists of calls for revolutionary queers to fight back against mainstream society, and mainstream gays, who would kill or ignore deviants and dissidents. Of note to MRR readers is the "Fuck Punk Rock (Or an Open Letter to Punkers)" article. Except for the clever line "You adhere to an atrocious personal aesthetic in order to demonstrate your individuality" and his warning to punks to "Stop letting (. . .) MRR (. . .) or whatever run your fuckin’ life!" (which I basically agree with because, let’s be honest, that would just be sad) this bit of boilerplate rebellion is what made me realize that the "angry queer" zine is its own genre at this point that needs an obligatory "punk is not revolutionary!" article that can be delivered either with a "wow!" or a page full of bitterness. The editor also shows that he hasn’t completely purged his sectarian left background with the sentence, "The punk rock lifestyle is a reactionary response to the ills of capitalist society." Not a bad zine, but one that needs to develop more of its own voice. (GZ)

Disorderly Conduct #6 $3
5.5x 8.5 – copied - About 100pgs, numbering them is counter-revolutionary
Green insurrectionary anarchist journal from Eugene. The more I read anarcho-anti-civilization zines the more they just depress me. Here are some quotes: "(what unites us is) our hatred of all domesticating and dominating powers and our desire to be wild human-animals once again.", "We believe anarchy to be our natural condition." "Domestication creates a totalitarian relation with plants and animals, and eventually other humans." Sorry folks, there is no natural state to return to (how many thousands of years later?). I just don’t think nature works like that. There is a certain ideology these folks believe in, and try to convince other of, that they try to justify by proclaiming its purity and naturalness, but I’m not buying. I guess I’m just predisposed to be skeptical of revolutionaries organizing under those banners. Oh yeah, this zine is really thick, there’s lots of stuff including prisoner support info and news on the most recent bash and trashes throughout the world. (GZ)
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So I went to the Alternative Press Expo on Sunday. I think I’ve come to terms with it. I’ve been resentful of APE in the past because their table prices have mostly driven out the zinesters and the entrance fee keeps many other people out. But if I think of it as a comics convention with a few zines thrown in, it becomes a much better event.

It moved from Ft. Mason this year to a place within walking distance of my house. It was a big improvement. Carpeting made it not as loud and there was a full bar. The best thing was that there was a lot more space. It was much easier to avoid people with whom I have drama and not make eye contact with the sad tables and artists.

Last year a cartoonist blocked the small aisle trying to sell his comics by offering hugs to anyone who bought one. He wasn’t fooling anyone. Especially when he started offering hugs regardless of purchase. For some, APE is the best chance at human contact they have all year. Well, except for riding public transportation during commute hours, I suppose. Anyway, with more space, it was harder to be a victim of the needy, nerdy touchers and I think that made most people happy. Maybe it was me, but it seemed like there was a much friendlier atmosphere, in a non-threatening way, this year.

There were a lot more tables this year too. I spent a lot of time* picking up old comics at the 40 cents an ounce table, of course, but other memorable booths were PunkPunk, Not My Small Diary, (lots of comic zinesters) and Penny Dreadful. PunkPunk and Penny Dreadful produce amazingly beautiful zines. The new PunkPunk is six different small zines packed in a little burlap baggie and the Penny Dreadful "Travel Guide to the San Francisco Bay Area" is three volumes of different artists divided loosely under the titles of Personal, Dream, and Place, bound into one fancy package.

Though I love their stuff, there was definitely a lack of non-comic, not-so-artsy-and-produced zines. It’s just the nature of the event I guess. To echo another zinester, there just wasn’t much press at the Alternative Press Expo.

Confidential to Ericka: No "Cherry Comics" this year. Sorry.

*and it took a lot of time because there was so much crap there.
gordonzola: (Default)
I promised positive zine reviews awhile back. Here are a few zines I’ve come across that I think are great. In order to maintain some degree of credibility, I’m only plugging zines by people who I don’t actually know. (Which is why you don’t see hype for That Girl [livejournal.com profile] misscallis, The J. Cruelty Catalogue [livejournal.com profile] walktheplank, Pisces [livejournal.com profile] kmama, All This is Mine [livejournal.com profile] fluxions or Girl Swirl [livejournal.com profile] tarynhipp here even though I love all of those zines too). The first two are my reviews for Zine World. The third is special for you, my LJ readers.

Mala #1 / Insurgente #4 Probably the best political zine I’ve read in years. In "Mala" Bianca Ortiz returns to zinedom with great articles on recovering from her time in the punk/riot grrrl scene, hyper-sexualized images of Mexicana women, white activists talking "street", what "hard work" means in the context of analyzing class, a hilarious film script called "Save the Last Cumbia" (which will star J Lo and Edward James Olmos in multiple roles) and much more. "Insurgente" is a 30-part essay on Chicano identity, education, and struggling for social change. Written partly in response to a multiculturalism class the author attended with other teachers, Alejandro goes well beyond the basics of these issues, complicating the issues that come up in ways that make his essay always challenging and interesting even if you’ve done a fair amount of thinking on those subjects. Both writers are talented enough to convey theory without being alienating or condescending. It’s so dense I had to read it twice before I felt comfortable reviewing it. Highly recommended. Bianca Ortiz, PO Box 6884, San Pablo, CA 94806, messstiza@yahoo.com [$4 90S 1:30] -Gordon

Hope #19 I don’t fawn often but this zine is worth it. "Hope" starts with a long piece on the conceptualization, design, and implementation of the Guerilla Subway Dance Project, a synchronized, musical-style dance routine that the author and others performed, seemingly spontaneously on various subway lines in NYC over the course of a few weeks. Questions of public space, public art and the relation of real life to theater are all examined in an amusing and thought-provoking tale. The rest of the zine consists of well-written NYC vignettes and a piece of short fiction a million times better than most fiction I’ve read in zines. Totally recommended. Why haven’t I seen this zine before? Give me back issues! Elissa Nelson elissanelson@yahoo.com [$1+Stamp 56S :45] -Gordon

Rocket Queen #2 I bought #1 in a local record/zine store. The author’s name, and evidently part of the address, were cut off in the printing process so I recommended it as a great anonymous zine about stripping and the dancing part of the sex industry. Then everyone who ordered it got their letters sent back. Doh!

Now Janet’s back though with a second issue, but this time with a little bigger perspective because she spent a lot of time dancing in New Orleans instead of around North Carolina. This issue has a short history of the sex industry in N.O., "whore" as symbol, stripper FAQs, the (increasingly) mercenary nature of the work, occupational hazards (drinking, hating etc.), and the horror of Mardi Gras. The whole zine is filled with analysis, examples and great writing about doing exotic dancing for a living. Janet doesn’t glamorize it, or downplay the bad parts, just explains as well as she can what it’s like. Also comes with a stripper’s guide to New Orleans. $1.50 PO Box 64, Asheville, NC 28802 (this one will work, I promise)

gordonzola: (Default)
So yesterday I criticized The Feederz. But oh, how I appreciate the directness of their sarcasm and pointed comments compared to hippies. Below if my review for Zine World (http://www.undergroundpress.org/) of "Communities" magazine. It won’t be printed until issue #18, so consider this a sneak preview:

Communities "Journal of Cooperative Living" #113 Anyone considering living "in community" should read this. I mean that literally. If you can stand the passive aggressive, new age, pseudo-therapeutic, bullshit masquerading as "communication" within this zine, than it might work for you. This is the "Communication and Process" issue of this long-running publication aimed at (mostly) intentional rural communities (communes) which also contains a "communities" directory and classifieds. It’s not all bad. The article on one community’s solar power successes is interesting. One article on "True Consensus, False Consensus" could be useful. My frustration with this zine is that I agree with the importance of communication and process (I work and live collectively myself), but this issue mostly presents issues of power and language in a way that would make any sane person run for their lives. Words and phrases like "having a clearing", "checking out a fantasy" (not as titillating as it sounds), "non-violent communication" and "pushing my own buttons" do damage to the language and, in my humble opinion, hide the power of skilled manipulators by creating a new set of rules in the name of clarity and process. Unintentionally funny at times, but mostly useful as a flashing neon sign saying "DANGER! If you’re not a hippie, new-ager, or needy process queen STAY AWAY!" Communities Journal of Cooperative Living Rt. 1, Box 156, Rutledge MO 63563, www.ic.org [$6 US $8 world 82M 1:30] –Gordon

But even though I doubled the amount of words I’m supposed to use on a review, I still have more to say.

At first I thought that these people have a fundamental misunderstanding of language. That’s the only way I could figure that they could write/publish some of the inane shit in this magazine. Obviously different communities vary in their belief in the practices of any given issue of "Communities" But the creepy part is how many write in similar veins of therapeutic doublespeak.

The article "Towards Clarity and Honesty (Part 1)" leads off with this gem of an example:

Bill speaks to his best friend Andy because he feels Andy has been giving him the cold shoulder.
"Andy, can I check out a fantasy with you?"
"Sure, go ahead."
"My fantasy is that you think I’m a bad person because I was late to the meeting this morning. Do you think I’m a bad person?"

Ugh. Isn’t Bill pathetic? In his mind he jumps from being late for one meeting, (he’s described earlier as being the most punctual person in the group) into feeling that people think he’s a worthless human being. Isn’t living in "community" supposed to help your self-esteem? Not only that, but he manipulates the situation away from his fuck up (being late) into passive aggressively making Andy tell him he’s not a "bad person". Andy should say, "I thought we were best friends and now you’re all (whiney voice)’am I a bad person’ cuz I didn’t say hi to you or something. You were late, don’t make this about my feelings. Have some self-respect you needy little shit."

But no, direct communication and a flair for talented insults and clever word choice are frowned upon in the name of "process". There’s even an editorial piece at the beginning of this issue that warns against joking in meetings lest you be misunderstood. "Towards Clarity. . ." is all about using new phrases to prevent misunderstandings. The "Can I share a fantasy?" formulation is meant to acknowledge that an issue might only be going on in the initiator’s head. Fine. But what’s wrong with, "Hey, are you mad at me?"

Language is complex. Duh. You can’t take away misunderstanding, power and hierarchy by playing word games. It’s as if they think that you can take all the potential hurt out of words and process it away. You can "have a clearing" instead of saying what’s on your mind. You can "share fantasies" (yeah, there’s a phrase that’s impervious to misunderstanding and abuse) instead of saying, "what’s up?". But really it’s just creating a language that’s more insular, mysterious to outsiders and isn’t really any more clear.

I actually visited Twin Oaks (one of the communes involved in "Communities") in 1993. It was interesting on many levels, but one of the most striking things was the absolute disinterest on the part of community members about anything going on outside the land they lived on. Everywhere else I went people asked about SF and cities we were visiting. At Twin Oaks it was (I can’t remember the exact language, I’m sure it was more obscure) "Are you going to join Twin Oaks?" They had created a lot of great systems for involving community members in decisions but they actually had to pass out a glossary of terms used at Twin Oaks so we could understand what they were talking about. Again, how does this achieve clarity of process?

Later on in "Communities" I just decided that they hate language. How else can one interpret the following sentences?

"We wanted a ‘co-creative community’ – reflecting the integration of feminine and masculine virtues and whole-centered consciousness . . .This alignment of Self to Self, horizontally and vertically, is what we mean by ‘co-creation’."

Obviously utter nonsense of course. But what’s beyond it? I wish I could believe it was a carefully crafted, neo-Dadaist protest of the impreciseness of the written word. I’d disagree but appreciate the effort. Or maybe a Trojan horse-style word bomb? I know when I read too much of this type of crap I have a harder time thinking clearly. Maybe a KGB-planted time bomb wired before the end of the Soviet Bloc? I can’t think of any other way to explain the disregard to common practices of avoiding redundancy, avoiding random capitalization and having an overall, understandable series of words.

But finally I settled on the idea that these linguistic challenges are simply power grabs and control issues dressed up in "democratic" and new age robes. Check out this passage by a regular columnist:

"My roommates had decided to have a party in the middle of the night. I was not amused. After letting them know exactly what I thought of them, I went to get someone to referee. Imagine my surprise when he pointed out that I was the one making myself upset!"

In most articles in this issue there are references to "Making oneself upset", "Pushing one’s own buttons" and other examples of warmed over ‘70s self-actualization. In the above citation (which at least attempts to be lively, style-wise), the columnist realizes that he/she can’t control other people so they just need to let their anger go. I can’t think of an example better suited to the maintenance of established power.

In fact, the answers to most of the problems posed in these pages are all about looking within for answers. Introspection and self-examination have their place of course, but inward looking thought combined with a paranoid obsession with process and "non-violent communication" always leaves me looking for who’s really in control. Tools for "democracy" can become tools of manipulation rather easily, especially as language is rarefied into more and more esoteric constructions. In these situations, it’s usually the most skilled at word games who can keep deflecting issues away from their own actions and towards their feelings.

"When you got mad at me for partying and waking you up, it made me feel that you don’t appreciate all the work I do to make Commune X a wonderful place. It makes me feel like you think I’m a bad person. Do you think I’m a bad person?"

As for process, read "The Tyranny of Structurelessness" (http://www.jofreeman.com/joreen/tyranny.htm) and move on. Even if the author is some reform Democrat these days, It’s the best thing ever written about collective process.


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