It’s been twenty years, and the world has flipped inside out. We did it.
Much like the printing press did for even older people, the machine you are using to dance through my babbling today has changed the human condition. Drastically. Not only did I live through it, but I gave myself completely to the revolution.
I remember wallowing in the mainstream media for my taste in hype with stuff like Sports Illustrated and Rolling Stone. Rolling Stone had some talented reviewers and one of them lit a fire in my desire with a dollup of hairy hyperbole about Husker Du. When they came to town we dove in, followed by trips to Open Books and Records, the local “underground” shop for all things independant when it came to music. I picked up a homegrown review magazine called Sound Choice out of Ojai. It lit the fuse.
“We will tolerate no bitching. If you don’t like something, create an alternative.”
Ours was called Alterior Facial Mandala. We had to type stuff on a real typewriter and make copies for 25 cents a sheet. We gave away the first issue at the R.E.M./Minutemen concert on November 24, 1985. It mushroomed.
The little toadstool grew fruit through the US Postal Service, and the process called “mail art” blossomed. There was a truly amazing thing called Factsheet Five, by Mike Gunderloy in Renssealar that reviewed every little scrap of Xerox he could get his brilliant little hands on and created a worldwide network of self publishing goodness that did not exist for us children of the seventies and even more historical figures.
In other words, we finally had a voice that could reach people beyond our local communities without selling out to the corporate media monster.
Alterior Facial Mandala got “big”. I received a request from Whole Earth Review. For all you youngsters, the Whole Earth Catalog was like the Academy Awards of hippieland. It was another review vehicle, but there was no way you could ever buy your way in. You had to produce something so good that the coolest cats on Earth valued it enough to share it with the world. We sent them some of our stuff. We got in.
Here is the crux of the matter. Jeanne Carstensen wrote this about the self-publishing revolution that the photocopy machine was fueling. She wrote it twenty years ago. See if it sounds familiar. See if it seems like she is describing this blog, and the millions like it. Jeanne said:
“Deep down, I think we all believe we’re the smartest hunks of flesh to ever walk the planet. Admit it. You know the real truth and want to publish it. You are destined to write, edit, design, draw, and cartoon your ideas into the psyche of this raging nation (this nation’s raging psyche?). If only you had access to the presses . . .
So start your own magazine. Engage the best writers and artists (you and your friends) and distribute it to the most influential opinion leaders (you and your friends). Exercise your right to rave. After all, that’s what professional writers do. They just get paid for it. You can do it too. “‘Zines” are wildly partisan small magazines of the fanatic, or devoted, depending on your view of the subject matter. They’re unabashedly noncommercial – true labors of love and don’t seem to conform to any standard of quality except their own. ‘Zines rave about special interests: hobbies like play-by-mail games, science fiction, “fringe” political groups. punk bands, comics, mail and xerox art , underground cassette music distribution , or that most special of special interests – the writing and art of one editor/writer/artist/designer.
Sometimes the raving is obnoxious, petty, or mediocre. Self-importance and incompetence can come together with unfortunate results in a ‘zine with no criticism to monitor it. The art can be bad, the writing worse. But at least it’s the raving of people who are dedicated to their concerns. It could also be called “passion. ” And sometimes passion joins with competence in an unusual way no mainstream publication would publish.”
Yep, it sounds a lot like the blog scene to me. I love it. In twenty years we have gone global in a way that none of us realized we could at the time. That’s the beauty of time. It gives us a mirror that remembers.
Speaking of collective memory improvements, I actually have a link for the original Whole Earth article. An old man like me needs to pinch himself all the time when he can put his finger on stuff like this with the click of a button.
Here’s your trip down memory lane, with her take on AFM:
Every day I put on pants to go out of the house, wishing I didn’t have to.