April 07, 2003
BOT Pt. 1: Bears Uncovered

Editing a magazine is strange work. In the past five years, I figure I've edited more than 50 individual issues alone. That's 50 times proofreading every page, 50 times agonizing over final approvals, 50 times worrying about folios and page numbers and did we spell everything right on the cover?

I love getting the new magazine fresh from the printer, all shiny and new. But then the issues pile up and after a while they start to seem stale. Your decisions live forever, although they don't age well. (What were we thinking with that cover photo, anyway? I can't believe we used that headline--sooooo cheesy.) Even so, five years later, I can pick up a back issue and a phrase or an idea will be ringingly familiar. It takes a long time for the words to fade away.

Lately I've been inspired to go back and re-examine the first magazine I ever edited. As mentioned here, in early '90s my friends and I published three issues of a literary 'zine called Bears on Text. It was, to say the least, of limited circulation; I think we printed 100 copies of each. The format was 8.5x11-inch sheets of paper, photocopied front and back, packaged loose in clear plastic bags. We sold each copy for $1 (and gave away lots for free).

So this week will be a sort of archaeological dig, wherein I try to tell the story of B.O.T. To see if I can explain what we were trying to do, and to understand whether we succeeded. To see if any of the cultural flies buzzing on the sherbet of 1990-91 are still around. To see if things are still "ringingly familiar" or if something surprises me. To figure out what I've learned.

Also, some of the stuff is pretty cool.

So here's the context:
I'm in my last semester of graduate school, fretting over my resume more and enjoying it less. To take my mind off the inevitable, I turn my attention to the zine my then-boyfriend and his friends want to produce. (Boyfriend is not E.; write your own script here.) The guys are all in the same band and we're all part of an intricately connected subcultural universe that is based on a series of shared cultural reference points and in-jokes. A lot of these reference points are intended to manifest themselves in the zine. They don't seem to translate very well now, though, so I'll skip 'em.

E. is around, but not actively involved in this project. A couple other friends of B&W are connected to the scene in emotional and practical ways. Cocokat has moved away, but is still involved with the group. Mike is a supporter and contributor, although I don't know him particularly well at this stage. In forms I didn't become aware of till later, they both informed what we tried to do, in their own ways; at the very least, I always was interested in their reactions.

A few more wacky things about the era: no one has a computer. No one has any money. No one has the Internet. We're in a college town 50 miles away from the nearest big city--so, largely, if we want anything interesting to happen we have to make our own culture.

We began with the premise that the zine would be about bears...and everything else.

Next: The Context, or "What Do You Mean, About Bears?"

Posted at April 07, 2003 09:09 PM

oh god. I feel a tsunami-sized wave of nostalgia coming on.
Cultural reference points? "In Like Flynn" (or was it Flint?) suddenly flashed in my brain. Cracking up, now.
I don't know how I informed things on this project. I remember feeling ecstatic, though, every time I sold a copy of BOT to a customer at the Oak Park Kroch's & Brentano's!

Posted by: laurie on April 8, 2003 07:51 PM

Tony takes on Tom Wolfe over the Great American Novel. Score: Tony 1, Wolfe zero (or four if you count novels and film rights, I mean).

Hilarity ensues.

Posted by: mike on April 8, 2003 08:17 PM

i can lay hands on my cover, but maybe not the originals. hmm... fun!

Posted by: mike on April 8, 2003 08:22 PM

Alas, grandpa, your memory! Twas not Tony who took on Tom Wolfe; twas Ed.

Also, if either of you still has issue 1 and could tell me who did the Michael Gitlin interview, I'd be indebted. I lost that page, alas.

Posted by: Anne on April 8, 2003 10:54 PM


Ed the MEAT POET! Wotta genius! Shoot, Googling gives limited results.

Hm, binding proves its worth in the long run!

To the ARCHIVES, Jeeves!

Posted by: mike on April 9, 2003 12:48 AM

mike, if you don't find it...I think I have mine!
It wasn't Bill was it, she said, attempting to remember off the top of her head something that took place 14 or so years ago...

Posted by: laurie on April 9, 2003 01:28 AM

Improbably, or obviously if you think about it (which contributor had moved to NYC for grad school and performance art? ), my ejaculatory huzzah above contains the answer.

C. E. Emmer.

make that PROFESSOR C. E. Emmer:


huh, dasein - Tony Rue used that for his handle back in the day on The Well.

Posted by: mike on April 9, 2003 03:11 AM

oops, forgot:

found all the prep work for the cover but not a) the final layout or b) the original doodle it came from (in the margin of my helleinist art theory class, Plotinus and symmetria somehow inspring a burger-eating bear).

Also: you were in GRAD SCHOOL? Man, I'm a laaaazy person.

Posted by: mike on April 9, 2003 03:16 AM

in #3:

Bill on Hurtt.

BTW, tape and mug rec'd, sorry tardy in noting that. TYVM.

Posted by: mike on April 9, 2003 03:37 AM

Yes, am still in touch with Ed. We saw him last year in New York. Lately he has been e-mailing me strange news bits. Plenty of those to go around.

Mike, would we have used the original artwork for printing? In that case, I might have kept it. I use "kept" extremely loosely in this context, it being a dozen years later.

Yes, I'm getting to Bill on Hurtt and all that other stuff. Hold yer horses!

Posted by: Anne on April 9, 2003 08:52 AM


It's possible I have it in a different "file." My files are more like piles carefully squared off and put in drawers.

Posted by: mike on April 9, 2003 12:55 PM

mike, pardon my dizziness concerning above "ejaculatory huzzah." It was late, and I was fuzzy!

Posted by: Laurie on April 9, 2003 01:12 PM

Fuzzy. Like a certain well-known BEAR!

Posted by: mike on April 9, 2003 06:34 PM

Now there's an "Ed the Meat Poet" page for "heroes" at Rox.com (with video!)


Posted by: ed on October 24, 2004 02:32 PM
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