April 14, 2003
BOT Pt. 5: Bears on Toast

Whenever I open a magazine, I never miss the letters to the editor. In real life, however, my experiences with this kind of correspondence has been decidedly mixed.

Fan mail is great for the ego, but it makes for a self-congratulatory magazine department. Other letter writers are less enjoyable. There are the pedants who want to correct you or enlarge on an obscure fact; “irregulars” who have taken offense at something you’ve done, on purpose or by accident; and cranks who seem to write in again and again, dragging around the same old hobby-horse.

There used to be someone out West who would tape my current magazine’s business-reply card to a large envelope, fill the envelope with random newspapers and junk mail, and mail it back to us, just to drive up our postage costs. I'm all for creative forms of protest, but I'm afraid in this case it backfired--I don't know what they're cranky about.

So by far the best mail I ever got was the mail we got at B.O.T. By issue #3 we had gotten a certain (anthill-sized) amount of exposure via a listing in Factsheet Five, a regularly published compendium of zines and music resources published by Mike Gunderloy, who became somewhat of a cult figure.*

(Sometime early that year E., whom I still did not know very well at that time, rushed up to me and said something like, “YagonnasendyerzinetGunderloy?” I was so taken aback, I thought he was having a seizure.) I haven’t dug up the listing, but it was favorable enough to earn us a few correspondents, some of whom submitted things that ended up in issue #3.

There was a sizeable gap in between issues 2 and 3. By the third act I had undergone several seismic life changes that can help explain the delay. For one thing, I had a real, full-time job in publishing now and was paying my dues and more, doing entry-level grunt work and learning rudimentary desktop publishing software. For another, I had broken up with the person I had been dating (a BOT cofounder), which made it rather hard to concentrate on the magazine. There actually was a brief custody battle over BOT at one point. It wasn’t until after Christmas 1990 that things settled down enough for me to finish.

I don’t have any memory of the production process or putting #3 together. I have an idea that it might have been released, ironically, around the time of the start of Gulf War I. The third BOT, “Bears On Toast,” is dated “Winter 1991” which must mean January or February of that year. The cover art is done in ink by yours truly. I was inspired by Picasso’s “Don Quixote” to draw bears floating downstream on pieces of toast, apparently watching television. I worked very hard on the bears and apparently didn’t know what to do with the right-hand side of the page; see uninspired crosshatches. The bears look nice, though.

One of our correspondents was David Wagner in Singapore, who came across the Factsheet Five listing and sent us an impressionistic account of bathrooms in Southeast Asia.**

Arguing about the bathrooms in Southeast Asia, which are predominantly holes in the floor,…I said, why not a stool or even a bench for comfort? It’s better for your colon and ultimate comfort, my friend. Yeah, but I have a surgically altered knee and it’s not comfortable, or even very possible. Well, you’re the rare unfortunate, most holy god, scratch, subtract five points.

Carl Shiffler weighs in, as usual, on a number of controversial topics, including Robert Mapplethorpe, abortion, and…Lithuania and the last days of the Soviet Union. He offers what reads today as a sort of antidote to the current administration’s version of Pax Americana:

It’s beginning to look like the USA is getting its way everywhere in the world. The Eastern Bloc has cracked; Central America is toeing the line even though they still don’t want us to keep their countries under 24-hour radar surveillance. What have they got to hide? In Cuba, Castro is getting old, the Sovs can’t support him anymore. The Cubans must feel like they’ve got a big slavering wolf looking down on them. China, hell, them boys is old, too. Just a matter of waiting them out. Hong Kong will be the poison pill. Red China will get sick and die. The Japanese, too, are backing off.

What’s next? Well, it looks like the next big problem will be Supereurope. The U.S. and the Sovs, or at least the Russians, may have to unite as a counterweight, an Arctic Ocean League. The Third World could be a threat, too, you know, them getting nukes and all. Will the U.S. continue to dominate Central and South America? Tune in about a decade from now for the next episode of “As The World Squirms.”

I ought to mention, too, of “The Crossroads Bar,” a cryptic fiction series that appeared in all three issues. It never really got going enough for me to figure out what it was about, although this episode talks about flying saucers. Massey Ferguson contributes a Peter Rabid comic, one line of which reads, “What the Hell! Do I do with Mr. Turbo-Corpse?”

B. contributed two articles to this issue. One was “Three Dudes Standing Around Talkin’ About the Floyd,” a record store employees’ astute observations about music T-shirt culture well before Nick Hornby:

Once we got in some Misfits tie-dyes. I laughed almost ‘til I cried. A punker dude bought one with his mom’s plastic. I wrote “Misfit Tie-DIE” on the charge slip, but he didn’t get the joke. I guess it was a bit of a stretch.

The other article is “Two Dudes Sitting Around Talking about Dan Quayle Doing Coke,” which was inspired in part by the rampant gossip of the day connected to Brett Kimberlin, who claimed federal prison officials tried to keep him from going public with allegations that he once sold marijuana to Dan Quayle.*** B. had intimations of a bigger cover-up, about which we had a number of discussions. He fictionalized the whole thing as a long dialogue, with plenty of puns, conspiracy theory, and music snobbery. Looking back and considering the histories of both GWB and Clinton, it all seems rather quaint:

You figure he was into Dark Side of the Moon when party time rolled around?”
“Nah. Don’t figure that’s coke music. Goes with pot, not cocaine.”
“Doesn’t go with anything.”
”You got that.”
“Yeah, right.”
”Maybe Steely Dan.”
”Sounds more likely.”
“Are you making this all up?”

Ed contributed several items to this issue, my favorite being this fake ad for A Love Doomed to Deconstruction. “In preparation: a study of the iconography of a rock group, “The “The” of “The The.”” Below we also see a sampling of Mike and Gus’s Octogon strips. I also feel compelled to explain that I added captions to most of the incidental art from an uncredited children’s book about the adventures of a bear. I have no idea what “Run, Zigzag, Bo! And don’t drop the melon” and “A half-naked man was disappearing over the hill” mean. It must have been a good book, though: “Shed them clothes or I’ll shoot!” also appears.

The back cover was a pastiche of things, including a Singapore stamp, a menu for a smokehouse in Terre Haute, a plate from the bear book (“and they traveled on forever” ) and a handwritten note from one of our contributors.

Dudes, enjoy d(illegible) Dried ink and dead wood. Please feel FREE to Bears on Text. It is a most ? text.

And it was.

*This article gives you an idea of what Factsheet Five was like. It’s since gone out of print.

**Wagner’s note states that he’s an artist working in glass in Singapore. I never heard from him again, but here’s a few links about someone named David Wagner who left Singapore a few years ago to run a glass design business in California. Is it him? Who knows.

***The story of Kimberlin got a lot more press in the early ‘90s in The New Yorker. Later, the reporter who interviewed him wrote a book debunking the whole thing and claiming Kimberlin was unable to produce any evidence. Kimberlin has stayed in the headlines for various things since, most recently for suing the Bureau of Federal Prisons over a rule forbidding inmates from playing electric guitars. Ya know, I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried.

Tony is apprehensive about trumpet lessons.
"Music should be for the angels"--Schoenberg
"What is that? A record? I thot we had plumbing trouble"--my housemate Steve

Next: The Wrap-Up

Posted at April 14, 2003 09:49 PM

Can't say I've ever heard of seizures figuring in a how-we-met yet. Kudos to the A and M man. Hook 'em!

Posted by: mike on April 14, 2003 11:31 PM

Carl's "Crossroads Bar" stuff crossbred his semi-current "Liar's Bunch" stuff with a novel I edited for him called "Gunrunning to Mars."

His op-ed stuff was at least partially inspired by a palsied Bricher who bankrolled a pathetically illegible paranoid screed in the local paper called the "Freedomgram." The genuine article was awe-inspiring: reams of six-point eternal vigilance partially obscured with shaky, fixin'-to-die exclamations that never clarified matters. "Always!", "As I have noted before!!!" and such.

Carl contributed direct inversions of this stuff to Tussin Up as well: http://pix.whybark.com/gallery/tussin_05/aan?full=1.

Posted by: mike on April 14, 2003 11:45 PM

oops, Liar's Bunch URL misfired:


Posted by: mike on April 14, 2003 11:46 PM

Well, that does clear up some things. I had never seen the freedomgram. It's too great, though:
"Ahhhhh, SPEAK! Louder than words!"

Posted by: Anne on April 15, 2003 09:05 AM

"A Love Doomed to Deconstruction" was my favorite, too.

"In the end, even a rather well-educated reader could decode neither of their suicide notes. Destined to bring lachrymal indices to your cheeks."

still remembered that one after all this time...

Posted by: Laurie on April 15, 2003 11:00 AM

You know, I always loved that cover, and can't really decide which is wakkier -- "bears on text" or "bears on toast." I guess bears on text does have that frisson, but, still, bears on toast has the stronger punch. Am still undecided. Hmmm. Damn. And combining them (bears on toasted text) doesn't solve the conundrum. Bears on texty toast. Well, I guess having both is better than just one...!

Posted by: ed on April 15, 2003 11:08 PM

And, thanks, Laurie. It's nice to know that some of my linguistic detritus has stuck in someone's head like so many bits of language have gotten stuck in mine. The phrase that's been coming to my mind of late was something that Tim Noe and Don Trubey composed a number of years ago:

"I am Bic, the Pentameter,
son of the bitch Demeter!"

Ah, language.

Posted by: ed on April 15, 2003 11:12 PM

There's an "Octagon" I remember -- or better, I remember the emotion it called up in me --, I think it takes place in a coffee shop (OK, that doesn't narrow the field too much), where he's crazy about this girl, would give her his heart, but it's hopeless, she could care less. Life.

Posted by: ed on April 15, 2003 11:15 PM

That's more or less what Bill was writing about, alright.

Octogon - at least the ones that don't embarrass me art wise too badly.

Posted by: mike on April 15, 2003 11:42 PM

grr: URL foul up agin.


and as insurance:


Posted by: mike on April 15, 2003 11:43 PM
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