① No checks, and ② Shut up already.

Going through this week's mail, I'm the recipient of two checks for sample issues of the zine, so I'm going to rant about it.

Like it says in Factsheet 5, like it says in every issue of Pathetic Life, I don't take checks. It's not because your check will bounce. It probably would bounce, but that's irrelevant.

The price for the zine is three dollars. My price for carrying an out-of-town check from a stranger into some bank where I don't have an account, waiting in line for half an hour to show ID I don't have to a bewildered teller, and explaining to her who I am and what zines are and hoping she'll turn your check into three bucks, which she won't, would be substantially higher.

One of today's checks is "pay to the order of Pathetic Life," as if I'm a business. The other is payable to cash, which is slightly smarter, but still a nearly impossible challenge. Most checks come payable to Doug Holland, which, of course, is a pen name.

I've been quite nice about it, though, usually returning checks with a handwritten note explaining that I don't take checks. I've considered having a rubber stamp made. Out of dozens of such notes I've written, maybe five check-writers have subsequently sent stamps or cash. Sometimes I've stupidly enclosed the zine with the note, but the response rates seem no different.

The latest issue of PL still hasn't been mailed to everyone who prepaid for it, because I don't have enough stamps. I've stretched the mailing schedule out because I'm broke, and checking the maildrop is supposed to leave me less broke, and it does — there's always cash, it's always appreciated, and a few more past-due copies of the zine are going into the mail.

But there are also checks, every time, and it's starting to seriously piss me off.

Other people's ignorance shouldn't obligate me to spend 32¢ and waste an envelope, returning a check I can't cash. From now on, anyone who sends a check will receive no reply, and all incoming checks will be playfully ripped into 32 pieces and confettied into the trash.

♦ ♦ ♦

While filling orders and typing, I've been listening to Free Radio Berkeley, and for more than an hour now a man has been reading a rant against ending Affirmative Action.

I agree with him. Affirmative Action is a fitting apology for generations of discrimination, shouldn't be ended, and there ought to be more action and it ought to be more affirmative.

The guy talking on the radio, though, is awful at it. He's reading it and it sounds like he's reading, and even stumbling over his own words. Too many words, too. What he's said fifty times already is, basically, that America is a racist society and always has been. A ballsy thing to say at the Republican National Convention, but people listening to a pirate radio station probably already know that racism exists and is bad.

That's really all this guy's been saying, for a frickin' hour. It's an impressively ass-backward accomplishment that he can make such ugly and outrageous facts sound so boring. 

No, I'm not going to call the station and say this, but I'll say it here: 

Some people have a gift for public speaking. Some people don't. The people who don't should not be speaking publicly.

From Pathetic Life #18
Tuesday, November 14, 1995

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.


  1. Next time you send me a check for doing your taxes, I'm gonna take a shit on it and send it back.

    1. I've never paid you with a check. I don't have checks.

      Might have sent you a money order once, sorry.

    2. Just bustin' balls, it was probably a money order, and I don't give a hoot.

  2. I was very fortunate. My fanzine, Throat Culture (3 issues and NOT a metal magazine from Colorado/Utah), was once written about in the Village Voice and Rolling Stone due to its Lester Bangs cover. The VV didn't know that checks had to be made payable to my person and TC, so they printed a correction in the next issue that inspired even more orders. What amazed me is that every single person who sent me a check to TC re-sent a check to my person when I sent the postcard saying what the deal was. Lesson: Lester Bangs fans are serious about their fandom and are mostly all good people. I think maybe three checks bounced out of 100+. -- Arden

    1. You hung out with better mail-order people than me, obviously. Rolling Stone, at least as I recall, used to pay attention to better fanzines, so Throat Culture must've been better. Village Voice surprises me. I wouldn't have guessed they'd care or even know what a zine is.

      I should know more about Lester Bangs, probably. I should know more about a lot of things.

    2. The reason both RS and the Village Voice wrote about my 'zine was because Lester Bangs wrote for both publications at some point. RS was in his early years and he was a main contributor to the VV music section from the late '70s until his death in April 1982. I only published three issues of my zine. (They took a lot of work and the first two came with a music flexi-disc that featured four bands on each. Tons of legwork.) The Lester Bangs issue (#2) is the only one that received any noteworthy write-ups and that was all because of Lester.

    3. Jeez, that must've taken a lot of effort — and money. Pressing those flexi-disks must've cost multiple bucks indeed. I had an Archies flexi-disk, which came with a comic book, I think, but it was a major league comic book.

      No Zooming back then. Did you sit down with Mr Bangs, or talk over the phone? Do you still have the interview?

    4. Since I didn't have to pay for anyone's studio time and bands/labels sent the tapes gratis, I was only out the $600 or so it cost back then. I had friends in college with me and we all had bs jobs that paid us for barely showing up. My issue on Lester was a retrospective since he died in April 1982 when I was still 13. I was given a few interviews but mostly ran memories from his fellow writers and friends and what was then an unpublished piece Lester had written about the death of Sid Vicious, which was pretty darn good!

    5. Wait — the writing was good, or the death of Sid Vicious?

      Respect for the work you put into it. Research, interviews, printing that flexi-disc, etc. All I ever did with my zine was type it, copy it, and mail it.

    6. The writing by Lester was good. Also, I forgot but I did sell lots of ads to record companies to defray the costs. I was young and semi-ambitious back then. I had no fear of calling people on the phone and asking how to do things. Scott Becker of Option Mag, which was a serious music mag of the time, gave me a ton of free advice and a number of other music zine folk shared contacts. A number of zines were using Linco Printing in Queens. Their prices were about half of what every other printer quoted for the job. Only one guy there spoke English and the place was like an airport hangar loaded with pallets of local newspapers, ad circulars, newsletters and zines. We printed up 2000 of the Lester issue (figure we sold about 1,800 and gave away 200+ for promotion and to contributors and friends) and it looked so tiny sitting there next to 100,000 press runs. That was 1990.

    7. Who knew the 1990s would be the good old days? Sure didn't feel that way at the time.

      Your experience in zines was at the opposite end of the spectrum from mine, but I always wondered how the big guys like you did it. The quick recap is appreciated... and if you've ever written a feature-length account (or ever want to) I'd love to read it.


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