zine review: cul-de-sac #7

Cul-de-sac #7
The Adult Geek Issue
by Liz Mason & Julie Halpern

I’ve known Liz Mason through zines for many years, probably since I first began selling my zine Thoughtworm on consignment through Quimby’s in Chicago in the early 2000s. We traded zines, too, and I always enjoyed reading hers, both her own perzine Caboose, and the zine Cul-de-sac which she co-publishes with her friend Julie Halpern. Zine time can be very slow, though. It had been 20 years since the last issue of Cul-de-sac appeared! So when I heard there was a new one out, I was really looking forward to it.

As someone who hasn’t been reading perzines lately, it was interesting to read one written by two people close to my own age (that is, a bit older than most people I know of who tend to write perzines). This new issue, subtitled ‘The Adult Geek Issue’, addresses the shifts in one’s milieu associated with aging, though not always at a straight angle.  Liz and Julie take turns penning essays on topics ranging from the light-hearted (changing taste in pop culture, celebrity encounters both direct and indirect, love of the television series Ancient Aliens) to the more thoughtful and serious (the regrettable disintegration of one’s D&D group, the experience of feeling like a square peg in round subcultural holes, a personal history of miscarriages).

Two of Liz’s essays particulary resonated with me. The first is one in which she discusses how she has never felt like she fit in with any subculture (be it punk, geek, zinester, etc.), despite her best efforts. Her point that ‘when you start to identify with the idiosyncrasies of what makes you you, you have to exist outside the group’ is an insightful one. In order to make peace with one’s status as an individualist, one must eventually learn to accept this somewhat bitter truth. The other essay of Liz’s that struck me was a rather rambling one titled, in part, ‘It Is Normal to Have a Shitty Time at the Party.’ In it, Liz hits on topics such as aging, personal identity, what it means to leave a legacy, and the importance of making honest human connections. This essay, like much of Liz’s zine writing, is funny, pensive, poignant, and pleasantly digressive all at once.

I suspect that many people approaching middle age who have struggled to fit in, lurked around on the fringes of society, however you want to phrase it, will find something relatable in this zine. And it’s been a fine reminder to me of that special type of raw, open writing I often find in zines that I so rarely encounter anywhere else.

Cul-de-sac #7 is available through Quimby’s, both in-store and online. Or you could go the old-fashioned route and mail $3 to: PO Box 477553, Chicago, IL 60647.

another review of rain crow

A new review of Rain Crow straight from the pages of the most excellent Razorcake, the only official non-profit DIY punk rock fanzine in the USA. If you like the punk rock, why don’t you have a subscription, huh. (Note: Razorcake is a PRINT magazine, with actual pages that you turn with your fingers. The reviews are also posted on their website.)

(Thanks, Todd!)

first review of rain crow

Rain Crow received its first review last week at DJ Frederick’s excellent site One Minute Zine Reviews. It is one of the most thoughtful reviews any of my publications has ever received. And his description of me writing ‘like an alchemist’ is likely the finest compliment anyone has ever granted me in a review. It also reminded me that… I must return soon to my laboratory.

If you have some time, I recommend poking around among DJ Frederick’s many other projects, including his various radio shows (my favorite so far is his folk show Night Train to Mundo Fine), links to all of which can be found at his Cottage Industry site.

rain crow has landed

rain crows

Printing in progress!

After a five-year hiatus, I made a new zine. This manuscript was first conceived for a chapbook contest that I did not win. Rather than continue to run hither and thither for possibly years on end with Rain Crow clenched in my clackity-clack claws, prostrating myself before the micro-press literati, I decided to publish it myself, just like I have always done. Regarding the content, it has all appeared here in this space in one form or another. So, it’s possible regular readers may not be interested. However, in its defense, it does feature illustrations and a handmade cover. Reading words in print has also been proven to cause less eye strain than reading them on screen, according to an unscientific study conducted by a known “damned bastard of a cloud-monger” (Baudelaire’s words, not mine).

Orders can be placed through PayPal (from this page) or by old-fashioned cash through the post (if anyone does that anymore). I am also open to TRADES. While I hope to recoup at least some of my printing and postage costs, I am definitely interested if you have something to barter in exchange. This can be artwork, writing, music, or any other kind of creative eruption. It does not have to be a zine. It can be some hand-scrawled poems you wrote while waiting for the bus. In fact, that might even be better than a zine.

If you want to send a trade (or cash), send me a message so we can trade addresses.

Order by PayPal here. If you have a color preference from the photo above, please make note of it in the order form. All colors are limited and others are yet to be printed, so there are no guarantees, but I’ll do my best.

hold this empty box

Tonight I watched Box of Moonlight. I cannot believe it took me so long to find this film [thanks to a respected Goodreads user for mentioning it in a comment thread]. It came out in 1996, while I was deep into my cultural blackout period. Lord knows what else I missed during that time. But I wouldn’t trade those halcyon days of shooting pellet guns at the abandoned van in the gravel parking lot of my hut down by the river. Or maybe I would. Depends on the price. Regardless, it’s all part of who I am now. When you watch a film from 1996 on DVD, the movie starts right up without any previews or pushing any buttons on the remote. It’s nice. I like John Turturro and Sam Rockwell and Catherine Keener. They are all good people in the movies. This is a film that the orbs would hate. Only strange people like films like this. People are smart in different ways. I wish this was universally understood. One person can’t know everything. People think in different ways. This leads to exceptional behavior in one avenue for one person, and a different avenue for another person. What this means is we each can learn from another, from anyone. People are so hard on themselves. It’s unnecessary. We can only do the best that we can.

So there’s this zine called Miranda and the editor, Kate Haas, writes a regular column in it called “Motel of Lost Companions,” where in each issue she spotlights some person from her past she’s no longer in touch with and talks about the significance of this person in her life at the time. This has always resonated with me, for my past is littered with lost companions. Where they all are now is anyone’s guess. I suppose I could get a Facebook account and try to find them, but what would be the point. Likely to be a depressing and futile exercise. I’m sure most are married with kids now…so boring and predictable. Although I suspect some of them aren’t even on Facebook at all. Some of them are probably living desperate lives in basements or roominghouses, struggling to get by and largely failing. Those are the ones I’d probably like to have a conversation with but could never find.

The current moon phase is 47% of full. I hate the internet for telling me that. It would be a tough night to gather moonlight in a box, especially in the city. When I went out, the air felt cool and clean at least. I thought about lost companions and the few that still remain. I thought about Joy Division’s song “In A Lonely Place” and how it haunts me. It’s tied to someone lost, then found, now in limbo. The needle on the vinyl in that room so long ago, caressing the marble and stone, the blinds drawn against our futures.

There are lost companions everywhere, some of them lost before they’re even found. And we’ll never meet because the world is so big. I guess that’s okay, although it sometimes still bothers me. We are all of us in lonely places, after all, but the ones inside us we cannot leave.

zine life

I’ve been publishing my zine Thoughtworm for about 12 years now. The consistency of my publishing schedule has fluctuated over the years, but in the past few years I’ve settled into a routine of releasing issues about once-a-year. It usually happens near the end of the summer, although an unpleasant bout with writer’s block knocked me off schedule two years ago and I’ve yet to return to a regular timetable.

Back in the zine’s heyday, I had a mailing list of well over a hundred; I sent out postcards and email announcements when new issues appeared, and traded with a lot of other zinesters. Producing and distributing the zine was quite an operation. Between the cover design and printing, the collating and stapling, and the addressing and mailing, it was a lot of work. And that was all in addition to writing, editing, and proofreading the damn thing. Of course, I had someone helping me for a long time, and she was much more efficient than me. Without her, I probably wouldn’t have been nearly as prolific. Even though it was hard work, though, it was a labor of love. I made good friends whom I still feel a special bond with. I have five binders packed full of correspondence that continues to grow, and a sprawling collection of other people’s zines and artwork. I used to receive the most interesting mail; every week the mailbox yielded several wildly decorated envelopes stuffed with a wide range of goodies and some of the most thought-provoking writing I’ve ever read.

These days I’ve scaled back a lot; it’s a much more streamlined operation. I print less copies. I trade with far fewer people. In fact, a lot of people who I used to trade with don’t even publish anymore. Zines, by their very nature, are ephemeral. Many don’t last past issue one or two. Those of us who have been publishing consistently for over ten years are members of a rare breed. Since I’m working on a smaller scale, I receive far fewer personal orders. I probably sell more copies through stores. Of course, I’m also not as thorough about sending new issues out to review publications. I guess I’m just not as concerned with getting new readers as I used to be. It’s nice when it happens, but I’ve never felt wholly comfortable promoting my own writing and it’s much easier to share new issues within a smaller known circle of readership.

Still, there is always the thrill of finding a letter in my PO Box from a new reader, especially in this age of primarily electronic communication. It’s equally exciting to discover a new zine there from an old correspondent who I thought had stopped publishing altogether. I may not find something in my box every week these days, but there’s a comforting rhythm to the waves of correspondence that do come my way. It’s these old connections that remain, and the few new ones that are forged from time to time, that are the pleasant side effects of my creative endeavor. They help inspire me, and for that I’m very grateful.

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