Friday, November 02, 2007

Zine Reviews: Uptight Moms, Transit Trains and Pack Rats

It's probably safe to say that anybody reading this blog can relate to the subject matter of YOUR MOMETER #7. This cute, old-school zine about – what else? – just how much of a pain the editors' moms were had me laughing out loud from its first pages. Everybody thinks their mom was the worst to grow up with and I can share some doozies about mine. But I digress. YOUR MOMETER is all about Cathy Catheter and Matty Monochrome's mothers, whom they describe as “hella uptight. Uptight. Strained. Stretched tight. Taut. UNRELAXED...”

The 32 mini-digest pages are fleshed out with illustrated stories (one about how their collection of MAD Magazine went missing hit very close to home), lists of things that make moms blow their tops, record reviews and the required collage. With its rough, hand-drawn cartoons and illustrations, typewriter set copy, and cut and paste feel, YOUR MOMETER feels fun, fresh and old school all at the same time. ($2 from YOUR MOMETER, PO Box 66835, Portland, OR 97290, no trades.)

While YOUR MOMETER partially succeeds because most of us can relate to the idea of an uptight parent who can't grasp our musical taste or romantic choices, a zine like OPUNTIA 63.1B has a tougher task in front of it. Dales Speirs' sparse, simple publication mixes it up from issue to issue, delivering a review zine, index, apa zine or perzine depending upon the numbering. This issue happens to be a review zine, but not your normal amalgamation of record, book, movie and zine reviews. Instead, Speirs tackles a decidedly niche topic: the commentaries, histories, magazines, and pastiches featuring the characters that populated the world of the popular fictional detective Sherlock Holmes. As a very casual fan (I read all the Holmes and Watson adventures as a youngster but haven't revisited them in decades) it was fun to see how writers and publishers had expanded the universe created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and conjured up new tales in which Holmes becomes a real world celebrity, Doctor Watson solves the case, or an author explains background details from Conan Doyle's work.

Though I found the zine's layout confounding at times – the 16 digest size pages are layed out in landscape fashion – the content was worth the effort. And, like any good niche zine, Speirs' look at the world of Holmes made me want to explore the topic more. ($3 cash to Dale Speirs, Box 6830, Calgary, Alberta, Canada T2P 2E7.)

WATCH THE CLOSING DOORS is another long-running zine, and one that has maintained its singular focus of celebrating, criticizing and appreciating the New York City Transit Authority for 37 issues. Editor Fred Argoff should know a thing or two about the subject, he's a conductor for the legendary transit system. Issue #37 is the comforting WTCD blend of photos, facts, observations and reviews you've come to know and love, all written in Argoff's pleasant and conversational style. Reading an issue of this zine – or the editor's equally interesting BROOKLYN! – is like sitting down and chatting with a particularly knowledgeable pal and letting them wax poetic into the early morning hours about their favorite subject.

What I love about WATCH, though, is summed up best in Argoff's letter from the editor that opens this issue. Bitching about work has become a national pastime in this world of ours but, as Fred writes, “if you cannot find things to amuse yourself during the work day, then you are in the wrong field, and you should find a new job as quickly as you can.” Of course, it wouldn't be a review of WTCD if I didn't register my one and only (minor) complaint about the publication: the photos. Though the photo reproduction in this issue is much better than in the past, a photo of a crowd exiting a train en masse is little more than an indecipherable blob of toner. Again, this is a minor quibble and one that can be easily overlooked for a zine that remains true to its roots and vision. ($2 to Fred Argoff, Penthouse L, 1170 Ocean Parkway, Brooklyn, NY 11230. And while you're at it send him a couple bucks for the latest BROOKLYN!, too.)

It's certainly naïve of me to think this way, but I can see zines like OPUNTIA or WATCH THE CLOSING DOORS still being published years from now. The technology required to put them out isn't going away anytime soon, and the editors seem to have an endless supply of information to share about their subjects. That isn't to say that other publishers who decide to give up the print route have run out of things to say. Quite the contrary.

In fact, I have been giving serious thought to ending the print version of THE HUNGOVER GOURMET after the next issue. Not because I feel like I've exhausted the subjects of food, drink, travel and fun. Just the opposite. The print edition simply isn't timely enough for me while the blog and website are able to share something like my recent trip to a 7-11 made over into a SIMPSONS-ized Kwik-E-Mart that day, not months later when the promotion is a distant memory in the collective, "what's now" psyche that plagues our world.

But I've been waffling on this issue since I first mentioned ending the zine in the pages of XEROGRAPHY DEBT. Yes, the death of Tower Records has been a major blow to the zin'e distribution, but the publication was never about readership or reach or core audiences. It was just another way to share my passion and the passions of others. I'm still up in the air about what to do, but I have to admit I'm leaning more towards keeping it going than pulling the plug.

I definitely fear there'll come a day when Anita j Michel hangs up her print hat and goes all-digital. And that's too bad, since Michel's SYNDICATE PRODUCT (the zine formerly known as LOW HUG) is one publication that I thoroughly enjoy reading and writing for. (Somewhat full disclosure – Anita and I have known each other for probably 20 years or so, I'm a frequent contributor to the pages of her zine, and I once gave her a very cool mushroom-shaped 70s stereo system that I couldn't move from Pittsburgh to Philly.)

Until that day comes when she decides to carry out her threat to move the publication on-line for good, we still have issues like 12.0: Year of the (Pack) Rat. Calling upon a wide array of writers and illustrators, Michel pulls together another great issue that delves into the diverse, but somewhat related, topics of collecting/acquiring/hoarding and the inability to get rid of things as well as the wonderful world of record stores, where many of us went to collect, acquire and hoard until they began disappearing one by one, from the corner shop to the corporate behemoth. It's another issue full of insight and wry observations and I'd love to see Michel turn some of these concepts into books. These tales of attachment to everyday objects really leave you wanting more. And for those of us who do want more, be sure to check out Anita's enjoyable, slightly snarky SYNDICATE PRODUCT blog at syndicateproduct.blogspot.com. ($3.00 to PO Box 877, Lansdowne, PA 19050.)

1 comment:

Aj said...

Aw, thanks for the kind words on SP12. Just a note, if people don't want to scrounge up $3, envelope and a stamp, you can also buy using PayPal from my Etsy shop:

SyndProd's Etsy Shop