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The Persistence of Print | The Bleat.

The sun! So much of it. Not as hot as I’d like, but it’ll get there. I bought a chez-long a month ago, and have been waiting for the opportunity to sit out back and enjoy a few photons. Tonight we had a guest over for supper, and ate outside while the waterfall ploshed and the birds chirped and the dog whined and the planes bore down overhead like screaming metal pterodactyls keening for the blood of Jonny Quest. After dinner I drove Daughter through the paces of duty, from math to piano to a little weight competition. I feel somewhat ridiculous telling her how to punch in the boxing sim, and the phrase “you box like a girl” gets the expected response, and she thinks I am being totally ridiculous when I get behind the TV armoire so I can work the kidneys, but she gives me grief for hula-hooping like an oak tree in an earthquake, so we’re even.

I took a few minutes off during lunch to go through the stack of mags I bought ?Sunday, highlighting the pages I’ll scan. Believe me, I take no joy in this:

Each one of those pieces of paper represents a page I’ll scan, color adjust, clean up, and then do something with.

Ah, but what?

Wouldn’t you love a magazine based on the Institute of Official Cheer?

I would, so I’m going to make one. You might wonder if it’s madness to try a “humor” magazine, and it is. Recently I found a copy of “The Funny Papers,” an attempt to do a Rolling Stone-style mag – i.e., written for stoners – with lots of comics, old and new.


It had all the usual suspects, from Crumb to Vaughn Bode, with the rest of the space taken up by reviews. Everything about it says “it came out two months behind schedule, and never made it past six issues.” You wonder if everyone got paid. You wonder if the chief editors were frustrated with staffers who thought deadlines were the Tool of the Man, Man, I mean, relax, dude, it’ll get out, or whether the writers thought the editors turned out to be total, like, pigs, because they were like fascists about it when you turned in a piece that didn’t have punctuation of spelling. Hey it worked for e e cummings, and he was a genius, man. The illustration style has the hippie-era 20s style retread, and everything seems to suggest that if one is trucking, one should continue to truck.

I’ve seen many come and go, especially here in town; I remember “Machete,” which lasted a few issues, and “Sweet Potato,” which turned into “City Pages” – still around, and your dependable source for “everything is crap” stories about the world, with a non-crap exemption made for certain musicians and politicians who say the right things about the right subjects. For years we had two main free weeklies, City Pages and The Reader; since the latter seemed aimed more at people who wanted to enjoy life instead of marinate in the Trough of Suck, we called it “The Greeder,” assuming its target market to be yups with suspenders and blue shirts with white collars. (I worked for City Pages.) City Pages was sold; the publisher started another local magazine, which glossed up the freebies stand for a few years before it repositioned itself as an online-only publication. In other words, it was hard enough then, and I can’t imagine how hard it is now.

But people will still pay for print. This is the subject of a lecture I have to give tomorrow, now that I think of it. The failure of print in the modern age has to do with the failure of content more than anything. I subscribe to the Economist, which is a weekly feast, and makes you feel terribly smart because you’re reading a small piece on East Timor and thinking, well, yes, East Timor, good to catch up. It never comes up at any point in your life, and you wish it did, and if by some ungodly chance it does come up you’ll have forgotten everything you read, but for a moment your brain will flash a small picture of a small article – the background had a light puce tint, and was in the upper-right-hand corner of the page, wasn’t it? Or was that a piece on Sri Lanka pre-election tensions? – and you will know that you knew something once, if only for a moment, and that’s certainly better than nothing.

All that aside, the Economist is one of those magazines you can take on a plane, and the flight’s over before the magazine’s exhausted. It is impossible to read an entire issue, but if you do, you know more about Things than you did before. But the experience of reading an object, as opposed to a simulacrum of an object, provides some sort of container for the information. Everyone on the web is dancing in the spray of the firehose. A good magazine is like the wood frame into which the concrete is poured.

This does not apply to Newsweek or other American newsweeklies not devoted to opinion writing, because they are simple-minded things that exist to reinforce the half-formed opinions you absorbed from your information streams last week.

What will my magazine be? You’ll see. It will be about $3.00, monthly, and since it’s printed to your order I cannot lose money on it. Time is money, of course, but my goal has always been to make hobbies pay, and this is just more of that. Look for an announcement in a couple weeks.


97 Responses to The Persistence of Print

  1. Another vote for Gilbert Sheridan as a talent beyond the “hippyness”.

    Robert Crumb is also a extremely talented person who, in true artist fashion, does it mostly to entertain himself.

  2. Piers Penniless says:

    I will subscribe, yea, verily. woohoo!

  3. swschrad says:

    if you like East Timor news, you will love sitting up an eagle feather away from Canada, eh, and all you can get on the radio when the skies are threatening is the CBC World Service.

    you’ll know more about the warts on the backs of obscure African country secretaries of domestic interference than their paramours knew.

    @Marjorie J Birch: it’s easy to drag a computer into the bathroom. it’s hard to flush it.

  4. Perhaps “Flotsam” will kick off a revival of Xeroxed zines that all the art-school types were doing back in the 80s.

  5. I think I’ll start the “Ursine Times”.

    Our motto:

    It was the best of times, it was the Ursine Times!

  6. hpoulter says:

    Robert Crumb is a talented artist with a deep, deep vein of creepiness. Shelton was always refreshingly sane. I think it’s a remnant of his Texas redneck/drag racer background.

  7. winterhawk says:

    Woot, magazine! Sign me up too, please!

  8. Bonnie_ says:

    I’ll buy, too. The only print magazine I continue to subscribe to is First Things, a dense chewy wad of written thought that takes a full month to get through, and the beautiful Sunset Magazine. Pictures of gardens, homes, recipes, travel destinations, it is gorgeous eye candy from end to end.

    There’s room for one more in the pile.

  9. John says:

    I don’t know if the allusion to East Timor was wild or if The Economist really did have a piece on it, but I know from having checked that the Internet will tell you nothing interesting about East Timor…so there’s an opening for any competitor to the Internet. Print can survive, if it will only stop Biting The Big One. Print has luster; the Internet does not. Print can look and even feel cosmopolitan; the Internet is mostly housebound and backward-looking and will be “done” once the 1970′s have been scanned into it in their entirety.

    East Timor claims to be one of the eight lusophone countries – at least the other seven play along with it. I’ve done my Web bit for some of its obscure African quasi-colleagues. But all these places represent opportunities that print, I think, can handle better than the Internet. I think print can prevail if it dares to be funny, and about places and things you never heard of. Print has the professional-seeming edge, which it should exploit. Jokes are better, more memorable, more informative even, when delivered by those possessed of an unimaginable competence. I loved the Jonny Quest allusion, but the work of a blogger, it must be admitted, is chiefly to wisecrack about long-familiar stuff.

  10. oh yeah, Shelton, I do always that and then wonder why I can’t look him up on Google.

    Yeah, luckily most of us are not on the same page as R.Crumb, I mean I like sex as much as the next guy but, I keep my koo koo thoughts to myself. If you have ever seen the documentary “Crumb”, it is strange seeing that he is the sanest person in his family.

  11. Susan says:

    Oooooo! Sign me up!

  12. hpoulter says:

    @bgbear – you may be thinking of Dave Sheridan – who sometimes collaborated with Shelton. He was from the creepy side of the tracks, though.

  13. swschrad says:

    @bgbear: one hopes the Irritable Bear will write the editorials. it seems editorial writers are generally out of touch, surly, patronizing, and semi-educated with none of the useful lessons of life learned being retained.

    The Burger Family will be sure subscribers.

  14. Roger Wilco says:

    As far as scan ads and stuff. Has anyone else seen this?

    Front page sucks but it is a collection of scanned ads from the 1900 (few) to the late sixties. Click on a link, click on another link and then from there on click on Random Ad.

  15. The Ursine Times will probably avoid a sports section due to the number of losers who pick bears as their totem animal and then disappoint the fans: UCLA Bruins, Cal Berkeley Golden Bears, Chicago Cubs & Bears, Vancouver Memphis Grizzlies, Boston Bruins (closer this year).

    Go pick on another carnivore . . grrr.

  16. kc says:

    You let me know when and how, James, I WANT IT! I have given up all my subscriptions, because if the articles may still be relevant and decently written (that’s a big ‘IF’), the advertisements are overwhelmingly the major part of the magazine, and the price has gone out of my range. But My Chief (Retired) recently got a raise, and he appreciates your talent nearly as much as I do! So, we’re in! WooHOO!

  17. hmm, the strikeout code did not work, how about this this?

  18. RKN says:

    That feeling of feeling terribly smart after reading some highfalutin punditry of the antipodes, I totally know that feeling. On reading it you feel the knowledge swell the brain but weeks later when someone drops the name, you leap to opine eruditely, but the recall just a i n ‘t t h e r e… Never liked that about the way the brain works, or doesn’t, at least mine.

  19. swschrad says:

    strikeout code:

    function strikeout() /* called by all foobars */

    var team1[bool]
    var team2[bool]
    var maroon[str$]

    if team1 (Twins) and team2 (Yankees)
    maroon ::= “Ya maroon, fannin the breeze, yer out!”


  20. Erica says:

    I’m in. Can’t wait.

  21. tterrace says:

    Actually, the “Funny Pages” banner has a very 1910s Sunday comics front page look to it. “Little Nemo in Slumberland” wouldn’t look out of place below it.

  22. Marjorie J. Birch says:

    Magazines… there are a couple local mags here in Lancaster County, PA that remind me of what the David Letterman show has been for most of its duration — a series of advertisements interrupted by commercials. Oh, there’s a token article or three, but by the second paragraph, you learn that the so-called article is just an extended advertisement for someone’s local business.

    Obviously, ads pay the printing bills, but they aren’t always that entertaining. And I do eventually feel as if someone is flogging on the head with a rubber chicken.

    I think a magazine along the lines of “Flotsam” has the potential to be funny, interesting, and more than just a Remembrance of Magazines Past or Within the Budding Advertisement. The ad industry dominates our waking and subconscious lives. Where do we get our values and social cues? Church? School? I’d like to think so, but I fear that the logos are winning.

    Ads tell you who you should want to be, what you should want, and offer you something in a jar or a box, for a price. Life in America has become continual shakedown or hold-up. (perhaps it always was!) The message: “give me some of your money for this stuff in a jar and maybe I’ll leave you alone for a minute.”

    here endeth the rant.

  23. Jay – The New Yorker and Harper’s were always liberal, but after 9/11 they seemed to take a vertiginous swing to the left. (I have a liberal friend who insists that one of the reasons that he hates George Bush so much is that he turned Lewis Lapham into a crazed, incoherent crank. Interesting logic.) Or maybe it was just that I started noticing more. There was probably a time when they reflected my worldview more accurately, but there was a time when I read the Village Voice religiously as well. (A time that ended abruptly, when a feature by a “gay-identified” straight woman bemoaning her conventional sexual preference in the light of her fabulous friends made me toss the paper across the room in exasperation.) Those days seem so very long ago now.

  24. @tterrace, actually, Little Nemo is in place, above (& within) the word “Papers.”

  25. Borderman says:

    @Marjorie J. Birch: “Where do we get our values and social cues? Church? School? I’d like to think so, but I fear that the logos are winning.”

    When I read that I remembered riding in a convertible in June, 1965 on the way to the rehearsal dinner for my sister’s wedding and the song lyrics on the radio,

    “…about some useless information

    supposed to fire my imagination…”

    Yeah baby, and I still can’t get no satisfaction, all these years later.


    Please Mr. Lileks, put me down for for Flotsam. I would very much enjoy getting such a magazine. And yes, that cover is hot, a mom posed like a pinup, a salute to the Vargas and Elvgren. But with no failed elastic or visible celery, we must assume Frahm i snot included.

  26. buzz says:

    We luvz us some Vaughn Bode’. A great but troubled artist who never really made it out of the 1960s (he died in 1975, but like a lotta folks at the time was still living the counter-culture dream; his death was particularly creepy even for a cartoonist: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vaughn_Bod%C3%A9 ). In addition to his work in underground comix, Bode’ also did comix for CAVALIER and NATIONAL LAMPOON as well as numerous sci-fi mag covers. Ralph Bakshi’s WIZARDS is pretty much inspired by (i.e., “ripped off from”) Bode’s Cheech Wizard, Da Machines, Junkwaffel, and Cobalt 60 comix.

  27. madCanada says:

    The great thing about vintage adverts is that their manipulative bag of tricks seems, in retrospect, so lame & heavy-handed. They make us realize that today’s advertisers are doing the exactly the same things, only with more polish.

    FLOTSAM sounds great, and I don’t think it’s flotsam.

  28. JohnW says:

    “Auto-erotic asphyxiation is a lonely way to die.” – Clyde Bruckman
    (Peter Boyle)

  29. Mike Mistele says:

    I am *so* subscribing! I still maintain several magazine subscriptions, most of them are for niche/geek hobbies of mine (RPGs, guitars, model rocketry). “Flotsam” should fit right in. :-)

  30. “The American Home Ironizer”. Now THAT’s a magazine I would subscribe to.


  31. swschrad says:

    would have thought The American Home Ironizer would have been some shameless shill rag for the Ironrite presser folks.

    instead, they have some smarmy pretty boy blocking a good drawing of a TK-14 orth camera with a full turret of C-35 mount lenses.

    editorially bankrupt, those goons.

  32. “You’ve got a lot of living to do. Make sure you’re Iroline Fresh!”

  33. Ralph Bakshi, thanks a whole bunch for bringing that name up. I’ll never forgive him for the WORST Lord of the Rings animated feature to burn my retinas. Colossally bad on every level. Worse even than Clutch Cargo.

  34. Terry Fitz says:

    I’m in. And hoping to see it become so successful that it spawns “Jetsam”.

  35. Bill McNutt says:

    Hmmm . . . making hobbies pay. Now I need to find a way to get someone to pay me to eat rich food, drink expensive alcohol, and look at pretty girls.

  36. swschrad says:

    @Bill McNutt: become a Celebrity. the price you have to pay is merely insane pornographers photographers screaming around like mosquitoes. so every time you barf, pick your nose, or run off with the Cheetah Woodys Girl ‘O’ The Moment Club, you are the mostest from coast to coastest.

  37. BeckoningChasm says:

    Definitely sounds like a magazine I would buy. And one I would love to contribute to, as well.

  38. Julie says:

    Sign me up. I’m a magazine junkie and I can’t resist a new addition.

  39. Di says:

    I like this magazine idea. Actually, I feel wee bit guilty for getting all these goodies for free.

    I, too, used to get ton of magazines. Last subscription to go was Smithsonian *sigh*
    Budget constraints.
    But I can still get most from public library, even though they might be month or two behind.

  40. Shamus Young says:

    You are an unstoppable content-generating dynamo. I am feeling gratitude and envy in equal measure.

  41. bkd69 says:

    Dear Sir:

    Your ideas intrigue me, and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

  42. Kim says:

    Flotsam has my subscription! : )

  43. Mr_Hat says:

    Wahoo! Best news I’ve had in a long time. But what’s this noise about taking stuff into the can? Anyone who’s in the can long enough to read . . . . /snark

  44. Mikey NTH says:

    For my flight to North Carolina (via Atlanta) to see the little brother and family over the Memorial Day weekend, the reading material will be a treatise on Oil and Gas Law.

    Becuase there is no other way I will be able to force myself to read it.

  45. Nivaya says:

    If you’d be so helpful as to dispatch to this scepter’d isle I call my home, DO WANT SUBSCRIBE.

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