Annoying Jenn

This is only an estimate, but today was about the 694th time I’ve gone to work in that building, and each of those days has been more boring than the other 693. I enjoyed the last twenty minutes or so today, though. 

Everyone else had left, so just Jennifer and I remained. She wasn’t getting ready to go, but she seemed in an odd hurry to say good night to me, like maybe she wanted me gone for some reason. She is often up to something, and it's always something skunky.

Being my contrarian self, I lollygagged around a little longer — went to the john, came back to my desk, said “Happy New Year, Jenn,” then briefly visited a guy I know in Advertising, came back to my desk, said “Happy New Year, Jenn,” then walked down the hall for no reason at all, came back to my desk, and said “Happy New Year, Jenn.” She was getting agitated, and I was finally getting some holiday cheer.

Then I said good night, walked down the hall, and hid out in the men's room for five minutes, and then I went around to a different door, so I could come up behind her and holler, “Happy New Year, Jenn,” again. When I did she shot out of her chair like a moon launch.

“Didn’t mean to startle you,” I lied. “I forgot to log off my terminal.” Haven’t seen her scowl at me that fiercely in, oh, a week or so, and it was great. Then I logged in on my terminal, just so I could log off, and then I actually came home.

I enjoy annoying Jenn, and she deserves it more often than I do it.

♦ ♦ ♦

Spent the evening cranking out a letter to the editor of the Anderson Valley Advertiser, jumping into a six-way argument among readers and writers that’s been flaring in the AVA’s letters section since last month’s newspaper strike.

Just before licking and sealing the envelope, I foolishly decided to enclose a copy of last month’s zine. Foolish, I say, because the AVA’s head dude, Bruce Anderson, is never shy about heaping abuse on people and things he doesn’t approve of. Quite likely he won’t approve of me or my zine, but what the hell. I’ve enjoyed his writing for several years, maybe he’ll endure mine.

The AVA is better than any newspaper you've ever seen. They do local and some national news, all reported with sarcasm and impatience and honesty. The honesty is why I love 'em, so even if Bruce hates my zine, it’ll be fun reading why.

You know, the AVA is so good, I’ll guarantee it. Send them two dollars for a sample issue (PO Box 459, Boonville CA 95415), and if you’re not orgasmically satisfied, let me know and I’ll send you two bucks out of my billfold.

♦ ♦ ♦

Which reminds me, it’s time to review everything — zines, books, a tape, whatever. Grab a beer or a bong or both, cuz this will take a while.

Apple Maggot Quarantine Area, Anne Fleck, █████████, Redwood City CA 94061. Price: $1. Reviewed: “The religion issue.” A quick study of the world’s major, minor, and some silly religions, with a “start your own religion” contest. It’s fun, but all the religious stuff pales next to Anne’s hard-hitting diary, where she ponders suicide but decides she’s too scared to go through with it. My zine has triggered a few stupid letters telling me not to kill myself, so I won’t toss that at Anne, but things are never that bleak if you still have your health, and I hope she sends another issue soon.

Assorted Stuff #9, Psyche, ██████████, Staten Island NY 10303. Price: $1. Music reviews, zine reviews, and many short, bad poems. It’s editorially uncertain, full of apologies — for lateness, typos, misplaced manuscripts, and the general lack of any theme. Also plenty of pleading for your submissions. The layout faces in every direction, so the zine rotates like a clock as you read it. Not sure this qualifies as a ‘highlight’, but there’s even a poem about poems that suck, and that poem sucks, too. I’d say, lose the apologies, buck up and be what you want to be and say what you want to say, maybe make all the text point in the same direction, and you’d have something pretty good here.

Budzine #16, Bud Banks, ███████████████, Tucson AZ 85713. Price: $1. Month after month, Bud’s zine, cleverly called Budzine, brings Bud’s outlook and personality into my mailbox. I always enjoy it, but I extra enjoyed this one. The whole issue is a calendar for 1995, and its theme is the life and times of Bud Banks & family. We all know July 4 is Independence Day, but now I know January 5 is Sarah & Boe’s anniversary. There are also photos of Bud through the years, and even a picture of Bud’s butt. Say cheese!

CAPRA #111, Matthew Kiernan, ██████████, Madison NJ 07940. Price: $3. This is the enormous (157 pages) reader-written open forum of the Cinema Amateur Press Association, a sort of movie maniacs’ club that meets by mail. There’s plenty of thoughtful film-related commentary, and since it’s unedited and open to all, some that’s not so thoughtful. You’re supposed to promise to write, and I’ve promised, but I’m on a waiting list until a few others drop out.

Cinema Revue #6, ████████, Memphis TN 38174. Price: $2. It’s about movies, so I was pretty sure I’d like it, but surprise, it sucks. The zine takes a wrong turn after the author’s folksy introduction, as he starts writing short stories about “Willy Hate,” a very uninteresting guy who goes to the movies. Speaking as an uninteresting guy who goes to the movies, I was uninterested. Then halfway through the zine, the format switches to standard film reviews, sans Willy, but they’re the kind of reviews I don’t care for, wherein the entire plot is listed point by point, and critical insight is coincidental, and minimal. 

Dishwasher #12, Pete, ████████, Arcata CA 95221. Price: 50¢. Always absolutely sparkling, this ongoing ode to washing dishes as a career is nothing but great writing front to back, and great philosophy. If you’re satisfied at the bottom rung of the employment ladder, there’s never any worry about falling off, so screw getting ahead, and quit any time you feel like it. There are always dishes to be washed somewhere else. Also, the asking price is ridiculous, and won’t even cover postage. Dig deep and send three bucks or so; it’s easily worth it, or more.

Feedback #17, Angela Hatcher, ████████, Lincoln NE 68501. Price: $1. Earnest teen angst by a self-described non-smoking, non-drinking, drug-free and virginal white girl at a boarding school in Nebraska. Does it sound boring as hell? Sorry, but … it is. She really cares about her apathy, but the zine is painfully serious, too serious to be taken seriously. If you call your zine Feedback, you should expect some feedback, so I'll say: You don’t have to buy a pack of cigarettes, get drunk, smoke dope, or get laid, but you gotta laugh once in a while.

Fly Your Eggs Right Down Their Stacks #1, Max R., ███████████, Lawrence KS 66044. Price: $1. Handwritten and unstapled, this didn’t make much of a first impression out of the envelope, and then it unfairly got buried under the next stack of zines that arrived. When I finally got to it, though, hey, it’s really quite good. Nah, bump that up — it’s terrific. It’s all one long, revealing rant about the women Max has known and the jobs he’s had, and it’s painfully personal and funny, with buckets o’ angst and agony.

Martina & Kay’s Big Secrets and Things To Do, Martina Eddy, ████████, Philadelphia PA 19127 Price: $1. Reviewed: “The breast issue.” Quite a delight, this is a joint effort by two librarians, with a little help from their hubbins and friends, and it’s mostly about the strange relationship between women and their breasts. Also, the contents of their purses, bizarre pick-up lines that didn’t work, sexual politics in pop music, a long  list of films with libraries and/or librarians in them, and the proverbial much, much more. A double-barreled, well-rounded debut. 

The Match #89, Fred Woodworth, PO Box 3012, Tucson AZ 85702. Price: $2.75. I’ve seen so many political publications preaching to the converted with insider lingo and doctrinaire dogma, I have little patience left for anything political, but The Match isn’t political. It’s anti-political. Openly anarchist, The Match strikes back at every institution that’s turning the world into shit. It’s too good to call it a zine, too forthright to call it a magazine, and far too thought-provoking for most people to handle. Can you handle it? Courageous, intelligent, funny, angry, and recommended by me.

Milan’s Zine, Milan, ███████, Tecumseh, Ontario Canada N8N 4G3. Price: “The value of this is completely subjective. What you got out of it is what it’s worth to you.” Milan’s search for something good in this silly world makes an intriguing philosophical adventure. The zine has some bits by someone else, which bounced off my brain like typical zine stuffings, but Milan writes most of it and he’s the main attraction. He’s got insight, wit, and a good touch for language. More Milan please, and less of the rest. 

My Cat Patches #4, Nathan Eahen, ██████████████, Tecumseh, Ontario Canada N8N 4C2. Price: Free, it says, but send a dollar, OK? Another zine from Tecumseh, Ontario — must be the Canadian San Francisco. Nathan, his sister Rachel, and his friend Milan put pieces of their personalities on paper, and the end product is worthwhile: The cat gets a comic strip with feline feelings, Rachel goes to her very first rock concert, and someone’s been writing obnoxious letters to a local pastor — sure do hope it’s Nathan et al. A likable zine.

My Letter to the World #11, ███████, Berkeley CA 94704. Price: $2? An engrossing diary of Lily’s visit to her relatives in Taiwan, full of breezy observations on the culture of capitalism, racism, sexism, and funny Monopoly money. There are no boring parts to skim through, so I read every word and then went back and read some of the words a second time. I enjoyed it much more than Lily seems to have enjoyed being in Taiwan. Includes Dysfunctional Family Circus, and some short book reports. 

The Neon Bible, a novel by John Kennedy Toole. A few months back, a reader recommended Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces, but it was checked out already, so I settled for this, the author’s other novel. It’s almost excellent, an engrossing memoir of growing up in a redneck rural town after World War II. Unlike so many novels that get less and less interesting as you get further and further along, this one gets better and better. Almost amazingly, the author was just 16 years old when he wrote it, which means I ought to throw my typewriter out the window.

The New Free Press, ██████████████, San Francisco CA 94102. Price: 50¢ on the street, maybe $1 by mail? During last month’s newspaper strike, the union published a weak weekly called Free Press, and after the strike was settled they shut it down. John Bryan, a feisty worker in the Examiner’s composing room, seized the banner and began printing his own Free Press. It’s a much more muckraking, radical paper, full of angry, opinionated journalism that’s gotten him fired by the Examiner, and possibly sued. Read his paper while you can. I suspect the courts will shut it down soon.

Obscure #28, Jim Romenesko, ███████, Milwaukee WI 53201. This issue of Obscure is a collection of zinesters whining about Factsheet Five. Are Seth’s reviews fair? Does he actually read or just skim incoming zines? Bitching and moaning is what it is, and that’s the zine’s description of itself, not mine. Zinesters have been complaining about Factsheet Five since it was four photocopied pages from Mike Gunderloy’s basement, but the gripes here are pretty petty, and frickin’ funny. Does Seth skim the zines instead of really reading them like a literature assignment? Hell, I hope so. How else could he possibly review 1,400 zines every few months?

Pasty, Sarah-Katherine, ██████████████, Seattle WA 98112. Price: $1? Good graphics and fine writing in this very personable, proud fat grrrl’s zine. Particularly memorable was “Meat,” a furious rant about the aftereffects of rape, not for the victim, but for a friend of the victim. That’s hard-hitting and powerful stuff. Another highlight was “Pussy Galore,” about an all-grrrls sex party where the author couldn’t get laid. Sounds like my luck too, except the grrrls wouldn’t even invite me, and the boyyys party wouldn’t interest me.

Prehensile Tales #5 and #6, John Styn, ███████, San Diego CA 92122. Price: $1? On almost every brightly-colored page are lighthearted articles and snippets, most of which made me smile. Join John on the job as a scabies incubator and sperm donor, eat the psilocybin mushrooms sprouting in his back yard, learn from the “Dick Knows” advice column, and imbibe in some legal disclaimers. Not great, but not bad. 

Punk Planet #4, ███████, Hoboken NJ 07030. Price: $2. The only thing I know about punk rock is that I mostly don’t like it, but that said, it’s surprising how much I enjoyed reading this big all-about-punk zine. It has some columnists with something to say, riveting short stories, and even the inescapable interviews with people I’ve never heard of are generally worth the time and trouble. Also, scene reports and music reviews, which meant little or basically nothing to me, but I am not the target audience.

Rediscoveries #14, Mark Harris, █████████████, Chicago IL 60613. Price: $2. This is sort of like CAPRA, where the subscribers write the zine, but it’s all about books instead of movies. The recommendations are all over the place, but none of them made me want to dart down to the library and check ‘em out. It’s a novel concept (get it?), and if I wasn’t so dang picky about what I want to read I’d probably be pretty excited by this zine.

Rice Dreams, erich dewald, █████████████, San Francisco CA 94110. Price: $3. A very personal collection of prose and poetry, on being beaten up for being gay, and on erich’s dysfunctional family. I don’t have much to say about it, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t like it. I did. It’s a kick in the groin, in a good way.

Rick News, Richard Hollander, ███████, Boca Raton FL 33481. Price: $2, and that’s a ripoff. It’s two pages of Macintosh mini-rants, which delivered one brief semi-smile in the middle of an extended yawn. Even if this was the Mona Lisa of words — and it’s not — it’s crazy overpriced.

Rough Draft #100, ███████████, San Francisco CA 94142. Price: Sase? Everyone is invited to mingle with madness, as Frisco’s strangest people plot their next events. This centennial issue came with a great write-up of last month’s Santa Fest, when 30 Santas went wild on the streets of the city. It’s a hoot to read, but I always feel I’m not quite the right kind of 'strange' to participate, so I won’t be there on January 9, when dozens of people unite to tap each other’s heads and say “Avi.”

Scam, Iggy, █████████████████████, San Francisco CA 94103. Price: $1.50. Reviewed: “The mutiny in Miami issue.” Huge handwritten tome about living the low life, squatting in Miami, and squeezing out a life in America without money. It’s fascinating, even inspirational, but I haven’t finished reading it yet. I’m working my way through it very slowly, since I haven’t seen so much tiny hand-scribbled text in one place since Cometbus, and Iggy’s penmanship isn’t as neat as Aaron’s so it’s making my eyeballs itch.

Slam, a novel by Lewis Shiner. Lots of laughs and a few ideas to mull over in this story of a guy on parole who lands a dream job as caretaker for a dead lady’s seaside house full of cats. A long list of loonies parade through the plot, and it becomes literally a book I couldn’t put down. Started reading at 7:30, and finished a little after midnight. The ending is too perfectly pat, but until my own great American novel is written, which will be never, I can’t complain if real writers tend to tie things up too neatly.

So What? #1, ███████, Richmond VA 23203. Price: Sase. The title describes my reaction to this, yet another zine about Bob, slack, and the Church of the SubGenius. It’s an old joke, and it made me smile when I first heard all about the satirical religion. I think everyone should be exposed to Bob and the Church. I just don’t quite understand the long-term dedication to telling the same joke over and over again.

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, soundtrack by Leonard Rosenman. Price: $2.95, used. The funniest and funnest film in the series had the cheeriest music, and it’s been lifting my spirits since Xmas had me down. Even the dark parts of the score have hints of optimism waiting to push through. Great music. My only complaint is that the album doesn’t include the mock punk song that the jerk played on the bus, “I hate you, I berate you,” until Spock pinched his neck.

Teenage Finger Fuck, Lee Reiherzer, █████████████, Oshkosh WI 54901. Price: $1. An adventure in unfulfilled teen lust, written in a delightfully lurid voice that brings back some of my own adolescent memories and makes them funny instead of tragic. Wish the story hadn’t ended so soon, but I’m hoping this is only chapter one in a sweeping anti-novel. 

The Thief and the Lyre #3, Laars, ███████, Daytona FL 32122. Price: $1. This is the grrrl issue, all about feminism and riot grrrls, with a decidedly non-doctrinaire outlook. Laars is a fine writer, and I loved his article on why he loves women. This time he’s got some quality contributors too, and a good interview with Kimberly Bright. (Hey, Laars, I never answer your letters, sorry, but I really really like your zine.)

Transcendence #6, Soozee Stack, ██████████████, Glenwood MD 21738. Price: $1. The dreams and stories are the high points here, especially one about the author’s underwear, and another where kid sister is learning to drive. Lots of quite strong writing, with amusing cut-and-paste graphics. The poetry is lame, but poetry almost always is. 

♦ ♦ ♦

I’ll review at least one issue of any and all zines received, but be forewarned, I’m genetically predisposed to hate pretentious poetry, political or spiritual or rant zines, intentionally obtuse crap, and anything done with half effort. Also, never never never send checks for a zine. Send cash only. I swear, the next nitwit who mails me a check, “pay to the order of Pathetic Life,” is going to get it back as soiled toilet tissue, since that’s all I can use it for.

 From Pathetic Life #7
Friday, December 30, 1994

This is an entry retyped from an on-paper zine I wrote many years ago, called Pathetic Life. The opinions stated were my opinions then, but might not be my opinions now. Also, I said and did some disgusting things, so parental guidance is advised.

Addendum, 2021: I still subscribe to the AVA, still love it, and my guarantee still stands.

Pathetic Life 

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  1. >The Neon Bible, a novel by John Kennedy Toole. A few months back, a reader recommended Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces, but it was checked out already, so I settled for this

    Have you read "A Confederacy of Dunces" since making this entry orignally? Boy fucking howdy, I HATED it. I feel like the only dunce in the room, but man, I despised it. I hated the characters, I hated the writing.

    1. I attempted to read A Confederacy of Dunces, many years back. I wouldn't say I *hated* it, but a novel is a big investment of time, and I only read to the end if it seems worth my time. It didn't.

      The Neon Bible was pretty good, though.


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