Friday, May 07, 2004

From the Reading Pile XXVI

I am now a contributor to Zine World. Here are the reviews I've submitted for the forthcoming supplement to the reader's guide to the underground press.

Black Velvet #37: Despite my criticisms of Propaganda, it's a hella better read than this glossy British "independent" rock publication. Like a Kerrang! For the mersh punk and emo set, Black Velvet includes interviews with and profiles of Funeral for a Friend, the Movielife, All-American Rejects, the Ataris, the Starting Line, and Less Than Jake. While that's a reasonable genre range, the reviews -- record and show -- truly confuse: the Hard-Ons and Marilyn Manson, the Teen Idols and Staind, AFI and LA Guns. What the? There's even a Bon Jovi profile. No accounting for taste, this seems like a shameless bid for label promo service and Americanization. Surely there are more independent British bands worth looking at. God save the queen! Black Velvet, 336 Birchfield Road, Webheath Redditch, Worcs. B97 4NG England [$6 40L :03]

Cool Beans #15: Matt Kelly is a zine legend, akin to Aaron Cometbus and Dishwasher Pete in my mind. In this issue, the Truck Truck Truckin edition, Kelly details his 2001 experiences learning how to drive -- and driving -- a big rig, getting more personal than usual. The bulk of the issue is made up of "My Time as a Truck Driver," a 29-page journal of his time behind the wheel. He touches on trucker culture, truck stops, Wisconsin, Waffle House, and CB lingo before moving on to
more general zine fare. The interviews with Deadbolt, Jad Fair, and the Foibles also address trucking. A well-rounded read. Matt Kelly, 3181 Mission #113, San Francisco, CA 94110 [$5.95 68S :33]

Cryptozoa #9: Androo Robinson seems to be connected somehow to Utne magazine, and I'm not surprised. His high-minded ur-gag panel comics are as thought provoking as they are chuckle inducing. Drawn with a balanced hand, the text-heavy items address memory, gift giving and generosity, imagination, communication, identity, and playfulness. Not
only did Robinson's mini make me smile, it gave me several new project ideas involving found objects and mail art. Androo Robinson, 2000 NE 42nd Ave. #303, Portland, OR 97213 [$1 16XS :03]

Gold Dust (March 2003): Read this travel zine twice, once for the words and once for the photos. My copy includes several pages printed twice, but this narrative of a month-long journey to India by the publisher of Growing Up-Falling Down is one of the better travel zines I've read in awhile. Entries detail experiences with food, transportation, family, shopping, and the area's history. The sections detailing the formerly British city Shimla, a sketch artist, Sukhna Lake's ill fate for forbidden lovers, American discrimination at the Taj Mahal, a dancing bear, and the collapsing Krishna statue were particularly intriguing. Nav Violet fleshes out the travelogue with information about India and Bollywood. Not overly useful in terms of
retracing her tour, it's a fascinating trip journal nonetheless. Kudos! Nav Violet, Gold Dust, 400 Buchanan Ave., Staten Island, NY 10314 [$2 108XS :15]

The Last Prom #4: Were anyone but early-'90s zinemaker and documentarian Ralph Coons to "re-release" a zine, I'd accuse them of finding lost boxes and distributing damaged goods. But Coons' Last Prom -- as featured in Chip Rowe's Zine Book -- is well worth revisiting. This slim edition -- not even Coons' most-storied drivers' education film issue -- was supposedly inspired by UFO abductee Jim Nestor's skull. Continuing the tale of Gray Barker, West Virginian gay UFO scholar, the issue includes oral history, collage art, and Men in Black conspiracy theory. Last Prom, 4632 1/2 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90027 [$4 24S :09]

Muvfugga #3: Muvfugga is a charmer. Think McSweeney's with a Farm Pulp edge, and you get close to this Midwestern sleeper. Prepared on an NEC Versa 550D laptop by a library research assistant who used to work for Southern Illinois University, the zine is smart, caring, and thought provoking. Sean Chapman offers a popcult creation myth. Jon Ritz
provides "Smoke," a nice bit of quick fiction. Dan Seiters' eulogy for Vernon Sternberg is lovingly honest. And Gehner's interview with cartoonist P.S. Mueller, an email exchange in which Mueller gives extremely thoughtful responses, will make me appreciate his work more next time I see it. The zine blends appreciative localism, intelligent references, and enthusiasm. A need to read. John Gehner, 4146 39th Ave. S, Minneapolis, MN 55406 [$3 52S :15]

Nero Fiddled While Rome Burned #5: Thin given its content, this issue includes four pages of photocopied and mostly handwritten letters to the editor, four pages of anti-Arnold Schwarzenegger photocopy collage, and a six-page piece written in 2001 that's basically an assemblage of Bertrand Russell, Karl Marx, Al Franken, and Noam Chomsky excerpts. Now, I've been tempted to dig into my zine archives and I'm with David politically, but if you're as incensed as you ought to be, this is just plain lazy. Nero fiddled, indeed. Jacob David, P.O. Box 3050, Eureka, CA 95502 [3 stamps, trade 16M :04]

Pigman: What could have been a darkly alluring introduction to a comic book series ends up a disappointingly shallow ashcan. Rob Jones' art shows promise, exhibiting a Howard Chaykin via Gene Day sharpness. But "Philpott"'s bizarre plotline is inane: A disturbed man dons a pig's head and beats people up. Despite allusions to a familial proclivity toward porcine vengeance and some indications of political intrigue, the brief, well-printed comic fails to pique my interest. Jones could
be doing better things, like drawing for Max Allan Collins and Warren Ellis. Rob Jones, P.O. Box 23394, Jacksonville, FL 32241 [Free 12S :02]

Propaganda #2: If you're a skateboarding, British punk, please don't publish fanzines about Less Than Jake, Face to Face, and Anti-Flag. The fact that contributors name Blink 182 and Sum 41 and cite Goldfinger's version of "99 Red Balloons" as a punk song "close to my heart" indicates that they need to listen to some Drop Acid (that's a joke). Published by a self-proclaimed 15 year old, the zine follows the trite-and-true Maximum Rocknroll-inspired columns-interviews-reviews format. Despite the generic commentary on being a true punk, emo, politics, elitism, and "weak" scenes, several items stand out. The two-location skatepark profile is clearly locally actionable, and the interviews feature bands I'm unfamiliar with:
Lightyear, Phinius (sic) Gage, Route 215, and Adequate 7. A scene is only as weak as you make it. Go more local. Eddie Maile, P.O. Box 2837, Calverton, Nottingham, England NG14 GWU [$3 US/Mexico/world, $4 Canada, trade 28S :05]

S.S.O. Free Poetry Day #8 (December 2003): Subtitled "Building Rain in a Silent Movie," this zine, also labeled Free Poetry Day 263, reminds me of Shrimper's old poetry zine. Typewritten and cut and paste over photo collage, the photocopied collection addresses car culture, communication, depression, love, and memory. While most of the pieces are disposable, Brent Robinett's "Black Garden" and Josh Amberson's "Like We're Tearing a Hole" gave me pause. The addition of Bennn Money's comics "King Tubby Comics #6" and "Deleted Panels from Who Likes Milkshakes #2;" as well as Cole Cunningham's "The Reformers" was welcome. Those artistic elements could have perhaps punctuated the poetry. S.S.O. Press, P.O. Box 2645, Olympia, WA 98507 [Free16S :02]

St. Cosmo, I Come to Adore You #5: This photocopied literary journal of stories, poetry, and art isn't always printed on both sides of the paper. With material on art and want, storytelling, and mannequins, this edition includes several noteworthy items. Kurt Knebusch's poems "Field Guide to 1579 Brentwood Drive, Wooster, Ohio" and "Battle of Lake Erie;" and Christoph Meyer's illustrations "In the Naughty Boy Corner" and "Lil' Me" are worth checking out. Jacob Snodgrass, 6648 Eastland Court, Worthington, OH 43085 [$1, trade 40M :06]

Still Not Perfect: A 17-year-old woman who was a victim of sexual abuse at age 5 writes through her memories of and feelings about the incidents and their impact in way she can't in her Livejournal. Reminiscent of past issues of Navelgazing and Verboslammed, the mostly narrative self-analysis is compiled in cut and paste photocopier layout. Interspersed with quotes from Ani Difranco, Tori Amos, Garbage, and Poe, it's even bound with red thread. Stereotypical publishing metaphors aside, the one shot is a disturbing and inexcusable story, as well as surprisingly level-headed and well-reasoned. Ashlee doesn't want our sympathy: "If you're going to write me, write because you can relate. Ashlee, P.O. Box 576, St. Bonifacius, MN 55375 [$1, trade 16XS :03]

Umbrella Vol. 26 #3/4 (December 2003): In publication for 25 years, Umbrella is basically a more formal and academic approach to Ashley Parker Owens' old Global Mail. As a seemingly quarterly news and review zine about artist books, monographs, bookbinding, and visual poetry, the zine is an upscale directory to a partially democratic scene. This edition references works by Brion Gysin, Jeff Brouws (roadside readymades), Clive Piercy (aspirational architecture), Katharine Harmon (personal maps), Jacob Fabricius (Rent-a-Bench), and other projects. Despite the Mail Art Call section, Umbrella is more imposing than inspirational. Judith Hoffberg, P.O. Box 3640, Santa Monica, CA 90408 [$20/year 52M :06]

Media Dieticians everywhere can send materials for review consideration to Heath Row, P.O. Box 3318, Grand Central Station, New York, NY 10163.

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