April 09, 2003
BOT Pt. 3: Bears in the Wild

Last summer I studied the elements required for a magazine launch. Be it Turnip Weekly or Shoe Enthusiast , you need a plan; a budget; a subscription and distribution strategy; an Internet strategy; an advertising strategy; and so on, and so on.

I'm not going to say BOT had none of these, although we certainly weren't very organized about it. Only the Internet strategy was missing, it being 1990. The plan went as follows:

Editorial team collects a bunch of stuff for an undetermined period of time. Editor (me) does light copy edit, rudimentary typesetting, and layout with Xacto knife and glue stick. Friend who works in copy shop (we'll call him Gus) adds a few post-production fillips (like page numbers and random clip art bits) and photocopies gratis in turn for a few free ads for the copy shop. I can't remember who put the issues into the plastic bags, or where the plastic bags came from. Distribution was via local record stores, the hipster dorm's convenience store, and via mail order out of my apartment.

In its way, it was an education in production on a peanut-sized scale.

Looking at the individual issues, it's hard to highlight everything. There was a lot of art that time prohibits scanning and posting, and a lot of poetry that wisdom urges me to just skip right over. So the things I've pulled out are the things that seem to me to still retain some interest, or that were just plain fun.

Cover photo: Photo of a well-worn stuffed bear. This bear was made for me by a friend of my grandmother's when I was about 10. When it arrived, it smelled comfortingly of cigarette smoke, which seems strange but not inappropriate for this context. To make the cover I basically photocopied the bear. I have no idea which copy shop witnessed this entrepreneurial behavior.

Obligatory bear story: T.'s essay on "Short Things" riffs on the "short-faced bear":
...alive during the Pliestocene and one of the new world's "Mega-Mammals". ...Can bears see color? I hope so, however short of vision perhaps they were. Perhaps they could not adapt to the ever-warming conditions as the Ice Age drew to a close. But maybe not. There is a theory that Stone Age new world hunters actually killed off the mastodon. Perhaps after they killed off the mastodon, they hunted the short-faced bear into extinction.

Oddly it never occurred to me to fact-check this until now and lo and behold, this animal is actually real. Like a lot of stuff we did with BOT, I was never quite sure if it was real or made up.

Ed does an excellent cartoon autobiography of himself. "All the characters," he notes (including Jane Morris and the Devil) "in this comik are actually me. But I am not them."

Later in the mag there is a long interview with filmmaker Michael Gitlin, whose latest work at that time was a piece called "Duplicating the Copy from Memory." This is a film I never actually saw, although a film catalogue describes it this way: "an eviscerated narrative. It has two characters and a story that advances by fits and starts. Along the way there are anecdotes and asides that convey information by hiding it, the way and envelope contains a letter. "

Sadly, I don't know who wrote this interview; I managed to lose the first page (one of the disadvantages of our non-bound format). If anyone knows who the interviewer was, lemme know! Here's a tidbit:

BOT: This may be a banal comparison, but most movies would be like fast food restaurants--you walk in, you pay your money, you get your food. And maybe in a different, "nicer" restaurant, you lok at the menu, you know you'll have to wait a little bit longer, becaue there's actually a cook who's going to work...
MG: ...and in this film, you come maybe and sit down and the waiter's just died, and you have to sit there all night long until they hire a new waiter. Once they hire a waiter, then the cook dies.

The pseudonymous "Carl Shiffler" had a column in all three issues. In this issue, he envies Madonna, rails against national drug testing ("Drug addiction is the Communism of the '80s, an enemy to unite the country against") and offers one of the most loopy descriptions of Tussin'-Up I ever saw: "You know, George Walker agrees. He called Tussin-Up the 'Mad Magazine of South Central Indiana, a publication where young people can read about people like themselves. It puts the world at your fingertips and is a good place for news and information.' " **

Later, T. again, in "Style Crisis: Why I Need Cable" well before the era of reality TV:

My friend Tim is in Los Angeles. He keeps a list (on his refrigerator, I'd imagine) of the various movie stars he's seen. ...Prob'ly he's seen thousands of TV people BUT didn't realize they weren't real poeple. (It should be understood that "real" is more or less pejorative.) The fact of being on television confers some quality on people--coz nothing is more disheartening than an invasion of real people into TV land. It's just a sorta function-fixedness problem.

I left the back cover to Gus and I was surprised and delighted with the result. The original note was probably attatched to something left for us on the kitchen table. It misspells my name, but otherwise it's one of my favorites. The wacky cut-up collage back cover became a motif after this.

* Gitlin's musical star in the Bloomington underground firmament is detailed here, see especially the Dancing Cigarettes. He's still making films. I'm not sure but I guess this is probably him.

**Last word today goes to Steve Millen. For information on him I refer you to Mike's excellent Tussin'-Up archive and timeline. This was the zine I remember best that was local to the area. The reference sticks out like a sore thumb now because its creator, Steve Millen, committed suicide in late 1990. Steve, as I recall, didn't hesitate to offer faint praise for the first BOT. I think he said it was nice, but it didn't go far enough. I was taken aback but on some level, I thought he was right.

Next: BOT #2: Days of Bears and Roses

Posted at April 09, 2003 06:29 PM

Hey! I TOLE ya - it was ED!

Of course.

Posted by: mike on April 9, 2003 07:54 PM

re Gitlin interview, sorry.

Posted by: mike on April 9, 2003 07:55 PM

Was it Ed, seriously?

Posted by: Anne on April 9, 2003 08:04 PM

That's killer: "Subscriptions: yeah right." heh.

Posted by: brian on April 10, 2003 11:25 AM

Yes, I did the Michael Gitlin interview (I interviewed Gitlin in his New York apartment, not too long after I moved to NYC myself). That movie is great especially because Tim Noe plays two brothers, and you get to see them talk to each other. The one brother's just escaped from an insane asylum (Tim Noe now works at a mental institution) and comes to the other one for shelter, telling him the story of a dream he had about a monster and a football stadium, I think. It was a scene with a certain restrained humor. (Thanks, Mike -- Whybark, that is -- !) And yes, the link there is to Michael Gitlin, recluse extraordinaire.

I clicked on the Tussin Up link and was blown away! Oh my god! That is so cool, Mike, that you put that up. Tussin Up was always great -- it kicked ass! Especially the Grateful Dead stories, I thought. (I haven't had time to look closely at the archive but I can see it's all there -- so simple to do, on the one hand -- scan and post -- but on another unbelievably nevertheless not done -- until now. Genius. And thank you.)

If only there were a Mickey's Pink Butthole shrine, too. (That was the zine that Danielle Urschel and Kate put out -- also an excellent zine.)

Speaking of such shrines and and archives, there is a site I came across which has MP3s of one of my all-time favorite Indiana bands, LATENT CHAOS! Again -- as with the TUSSIN' UP site -- why in God's name didn't this happen before? I guess these things have to incubate. Link: http://www.bobchaos.com/musicdex/contents.html

Posted by: ed on April 10, 2003 11:53 PM

"Let's hear it for Kate! She was involved in one of the other great Bloomington 'zines, Mickey's Pink Butthole, which I'm also considering archiving"

DOWP! From Mike's Tussin' Up site. Well, you can see I just looked over the pictures and didn't have time to read the site.

OK, time to go to bed, I've got a class to teach.

Posted by: ed on April 11, 2003 01:36 AM

Edited the date of Steve's death, which I looked up. It was late 1990, not early 1991.

Posted by: Anne on April 15, 2003 09:32 PM
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