I wrote another book review for the magical miscreants at De’Lunula. This one is a review of “Normal”, the (really, really good) new novel by Warren Ellis. It’s one half mystery mixed with one half apocalyptic musings.
Recently I started a new job (that I’m loving, gods be praised). I’m grateful for the opportunity to grow professionally and earn a better living, but I will admit that there is one thing I’ll miss about my job working the book section at Zia Records on Thunderbird Rd: having fun with post-it notes.
Originally published on the Our Lady of Dischord Tumblr.
Thoughts on Coilhouse Issue #6
One of the consequences of working for a longtime in a used bookstore is that it can kill any respect that you have for magazines as a medium stone-dead. Where I used to work, we would get piles and piles of magazines, sometimes stuffed into garbage bags like overgrown leaves, that people would haul onto our counters, hoping to make some scratch. It didn’t take long to realize that magazines have very little collectible worth and often take up more room than they’re worth. At least once a month someone would come in with decades worth of National Geographic magazines, expecting that all those yellow magazines would be worth their weight in gold, only to walk away scowling with (if they were lucky) $5 in their pockets while we tossed 90% of those issues into a recycling bin. Some knee-jerk part of my brain hears the word “magazine” and thinks “disposable” immediately.
It’s an unfair thought to have, not to mention self-destructive: as a writer, I love that magazines exist, both as a source of diverse writings to read and as (hopefully) future outlets for publishing my work. And I’ve read more music and political and film magazines than your average bear, and I’ve seen 1,000s of New Yorker cartoons and not laughed at them, the same as every other person whose ever laid eyes on a New Yorker cartoon. I just find it hard to justify spending $5-10 on a magazine, when I know that a quarter of it is going to be ads and when I have no guarantee that the writing and design is well-edited and worth reading. The only reason why I’m tempted to one day get an e-reader is just so I have a portable and convenient way of reading magazines without having piles and piles of them taking over my shelves.
All this is to establish that when it comes to magazines, I have a pretty thick wall built up that keeps me from getting excited about them. Which brings me to one of the things I just finished reading, the 6th issue of Coilhouse.
Calling themselves “A Love Letter To Alternative Culture”, Coilhouse have put out a very impressive piece of work. A limited print run magazine (as much as I’d love to read Coilhouse Issues 1-5, I can’t cause they are plumb-sold-out), the latest issue of Coilhouse clocks in at 113 pages and costs $15 (they also have a $75 package deal where they throw in a Molly Crabapple art print). Is it worth every penny? Yes (its even worth the shipping and handling). For one thing, its just a beautiful OBJECT. With a die-cut cover, thick pages and sturdy binding, it feels more like a book than a magazine (hell, it even smells good). If all magazines went to the trouble of looking and feeling as good as this issue of Coilhouse does, I’d buy them more often (if I had enough dough, that is). And the art design is top-notch: even the ad pages succeed in not being boring to look at. Which brings me to the real reason that Coilhouse is worth buying: the articles.
Coilhouse #6 has a piece about Klaus Nomi and the text of an entire German Expressionist play by Lothar Schreyer. I must admit: the article before it by“‘Voluptuous World: The Erotic World of Weimar Berlin” author Mel Gordon giving some background on the life and work of Lothar was much more interesting and enjoyable to read than Schreyer’s “Crucifixion” play.
It also includes a piece talking about the brilliantly deranged film “The Forbidden Zone” (which if you haven’t seen it yet: what the hell is wrong with you? Go forth and see it this instant!). The article talks about The Mystic Knights Of The Oingo Boingo, alluding to their various Gong Show antics, before talking about the process of how “The Forbidden Zone” was made. There are even hints of a “Forbidden Zone II”: Richard Elfman gives a teaser of the plot and talks about plans to bring it to life at the end of the article. No explanations for who thought of the freaky frog butlers, though.
There are several interesting interviews, with comic artist/writer Paul Pope, director Terry Gilliam, (who talks about his renouncing his U.S. citizenship), painter Jared Joslin, dancer Rachel Brice, & Kathleen Hanna, who talks about the Riot Grrl archives being assembled at NYU’s Fales Library and her thoughts on the movement’s past and future.
There’s a “pedagogical portrait” of El Lissitzky, whose typography and layout looks like El Lissitzky had put it together. And lest I forget, the reason I bought the magazine in the first place: an interview with former Bad Seed andEinsturzende Neubauten main-man Blixa Bargeld.
There’s some fashion spreads, too, which aren’t my cup of tea, but they’re pretty to look at and eye-catching. A funny thing to note: that the models in the Constructivist photo shoot are from the band Angelspit, who I saw perform back in October at the Fetish Ball and was very unimpressed by (to the point that I was live-tweeting just how much I was bored by their music as they were playing it).
One other neat thing to note: people who buy the issue also get links sent via email for bonus material relating to Hanna, Brice & mathematician/origami crafter Robert Lang. I haven’t checked ’em out yet, but I think the idea of it is very clever, like the print equivalent of DVD special features.
I know this review of Coilhouse #6 is overwhelmingly positive (aside from the Angelspit hate), but I honestly can’t find anything to complain about. It’s a well put together collection of text and imagery, and if they can maintain this level of quality for their next issue, you can just slap my ass and call me Pre-Order.
The following is an archival piece from this blog’s early days, back when it was on Tumblr.
Here’s a review I wrote of the first issue of “The Paper Plane” zine for NewsExaminer.net (it’s another Austin Sweetwater joint).
“We’re not a regular zine, we’re a cool zine.”
I came across that sentence as I read the introduction to the first issue of “The Paper Plane” zine. Reading those words made me regret spending the $6 to pick up a copy at Lawn Gnome Publishing. I have an aversion to anything that labels itself “cool”. Usually when something or someone declares themselves to be cool, that is a huge blinking neon warning sign that they are anything but. Cool shows, it doesn’t tell. Cool is something that is so readily apparent that it needs no introductions, no declarations, no validation. If you’re going to call yourself cool, you better be so cool you’d give The Fonz frostbite. But I believe in giving the benefit of the doubt, so I read on to check the veracity of that statement. Was “The Paper Plane” a cool zine?
The answer is a resounding YES.
As debuts go, this will be a hard one to top. The level of craft and detail that went into this zine is truly impressive. The binding is tight, the paper stock is thick and durable; this feels more like an honest to God magazine than a zine. The layouts inside are diverse, juxtaposing art and text in different ways on each page. Just looking at “The Paper Plane” as a physical object (ignoring its artistic merits) confounds me: I can’t imagine how much it must have cost to have printed these things. On the basis of design alone, “The Paper Plane” soars far above the heads of other local zines.
But to be fair: I’m not that familiar with local zines. I’ve only been living in the Valley for six months since I moved here from Maui; most of the zines I’ve seen have been quick and dirty copy-shop staple-jobs. Not that that’s a bad thing: a lot of great zines have been made on less-than-a-shoestring budgets (hell, I made all six issues of my “Guns, Girls & Gipper” zine hunched over a copier at Kinko’s).
A lot of people don’t know this, but Maui has a GREAT zine scene. There’s a lot of folks there who’ve been putting together excellent zines for years: seminal publications like “Surf Wax Apocalypse”, “Puka Punks”, “Nude Beach A-Go-Go” and “Charlie Don’t Surf, He GRINDS” (written by Kahuna Kali, the Cometbus of the Maui zine scene). But none of those zines, as rad as they are, look half as good as “The Paper Plane” does. So maybe that’s why I can’t get over how good this thing looks: I’ve never SEEN a zine before that looked like this.
I’ve think I’ve digressed and gushed enough about the quality of the packaging. The important question: do the contents of the zine live up to its presentation?“Sure”, the monkey says, “the skin is a nice bright yellow… but how’s the banana taste?” It tastes pretty dang good, Mr. Monkey.
“The Paper Plane” features haikus, a brief travelogue of visiting Vietnam, a super short review of the comic series “Rat Queens”, comic strips, an illustrated step-by-step guide to doing the Paper Plane dance (it involves a lot of air-folding), a playlist (complete with a double-sided jewel case insert that you can cut out of the zine), pictures of Lionel Ritchie and all sorts of other randomness.
Most of the pieces are fairly short, so if you have the memory and attention span of Guy Pearce in “Memento” you should be fine. And with the wide range of subject material and styles contained in the zine, you don’t have to be worried about getting burnt out on too much of one thing (“Ah, cr*p, another poem?!”).
I think what I enjoyed the most about “The Paper Plane” is how well it strikes a balance between being twee and bawdy. It’s the kind of zine that offers tips on the best booze to drink while eating Captain Crunch. It casts a skeptical eye on being a grown-up (while looking like it was made by grown-ups). It does something that a lot of art fails to do: it manages to embody youth and positivity without being alienating (“this isn’t for you, old people!”) or irritating (“Jesus, how can you people be so up-up-up all the time? Do y’all just sit around snorting pixie sticks out of your belly buttons?”). The highest compliment I can pay this zine is that it reads the way a Beat Happening song sounds.
I’ve re-read it a few times since then, trying to use a more critical eye and find some kind of fault. I’m not one for hyperbole, and I don’t think something should get two thumbs up/four stars/A+ unless it’s the best of the best. While I wouldn’t say “The Paper Plane” is the best of the best, I have yet to find anything in it that takes me out of the experience of reading it.
It is well worth buying a boarding pass to get on this flight.
“As I grew up, everything started getting grey and dull. I could still remember the amazing intensity of the world I’d lived in as a child, but I thought the dulling of perception was an inevitable consequence of age- just as the lens of the eye is bound gradually to dim. I didn’t understand that clarity is in the mind”.