Tag Archives: should know better

Break ’em up the whole goddamn thing

Break ’em up the whole goddamn thing

I got my copy as a trade from the zinemaker
PO Box 221041 Chicago IL 60622

His life is worse than yours: Well, maybe not as a blanket statement but this zine covers some trying weeks in this zinemaker’s life. He’s getting undermined at work, has a bike accident, and breaks bone(s).
This zinemaker has the unnerving gift of being able to perfectly articulate that slow motion breaking point of the human condition. And he describes these experience wonderfully. Like some kind of valiant soldier of modern life.

It’s the little things: I love how the zinemaker includes a checklist of his greatest biking fears. Unfortunately all but one have now been realised.

Bonus: It’s one thing to hear about a medical horror story that you can afford to laugh at (it was a broken collar bone, it did presumably heal in the long term) …but it’s another to read the reproduced Yelp reviews of other patients who had the misfortune of consulting the same practictioner. Never has there been a better use of screen shots of the internet. This is like peak zine reading as far as I’m concerned.

Written structure: Doesn’t really work. This is one of the best zine stories told in the best possible way but awkwardly sandwiched between a beginning and an end that have no related significance and there’s no attempt to tie them together. The zine tries to open on a moral-of-the-story introduction, but there isn’t any really, and they know it: “You figure it out”. Quite frankly that’s just a typical lazy zinemaker attitude.

The zine begins with life as a teachers aid and is kind of an omen for the shittiness to come, just crappy work details and office politics as a teaching aid. It’s a kind of rambling and not completely relevant lead up to the Wednesday Morning that the real story begins. Which is fine, it’s still entertaining, but *because* the zine doesn’t end on a return to the workforce, it’s a narrative cul de sac.

The zine could have ended on what happened at the workplace post injury: the professional sympathies, how the career climbing worked out, maybe some student responses. (student responses are hilarious, amirite). That would have been great, but instead the story finishes on a forced post-script. Like a kind of like a two second “and then this happened and that happened the end” kind of trailing off.

But I cannot emphasise enough: The bike accident story and consequent medical exams? all gold. You can’t top it, it’s the best read I’ve had, making this one of my NEW all time favourite zines.

Presentation: Ratshit handwriting on unlined paper. Does the title quote some cultural reference I don’t get? probably. What does the picture of the badger or skunk on the front cover mean and how does it relate to anything? I don’t know. Inside the zine, aside from an x ray reproduction and some screen shots, the layout is clean and simple to give the appalling penmanship as much breathing space as possible. You’re not buying the zine for it’s cursive (there is none). You are buying the zine because it’s fucking good. Has the zinemaker ever heard of a stapler? Apparently not. And there’s nothing that shits me more than thirty four cut down pieces of paper folded and expected to not fall apart. But is this one of my most cherished zines of all time? Yes, it is.

The greatest gift: On one of the final pages, the zinemaker includes a selfie of himself with broken collar bone in his plaster cast. (If it strikes you that this sentence sounds utterly wrong on multiple levels, including medical, you’d be right). Up until now there had been lots of written descriptions, comparisons, metaphors, everything. In my mind’s eye, it sounded funny and kind of ridiculous…and you could tell he struck kind of an exceptional figure from the responses he got from other medical staff…but nothing prepared me for the actual photo. And there’s something gloriously resigned in the zinemaker’s forced stiff posture that still gets me as well. Can an photo also capture the zinemaker’s pure mortal courage in somehow always ending up as the chump who cops it? It fucking can when you get to this page. Beg this zinemaker for a copy of the zine to have and to hold. BEG him. Great storytelling.


Curse Journal

Curse Journal

PO Box 221041 Chicago IL 60622
poodrow (at) hotmail.com
I picked my copy up at Sticky late 2015 for $1

An ill-stapled narrow typed log book of swearing, recorded by date, time and incident in an effort for the zinemaker to induce shame and curb his swearing habit. The second half of the zine is an academic summary of why we swear. ‘Something for everyone’. This zine has been around for a while but must still go into occasional print runs.

First thought: That’s only the best idea for a zine, EVER.

Amazing: The third entry for January 1st is the best backstory for why the zinemaker said the word ASS ever. It comes with an engrossing character study of the zinemaker’s math and computer teacher in high school. So much greatness right there second page in.

Surprising: This zinemaker is one of those people who speaks out loud to himself. I think this was surprising to the zinemaker as well. Sometimes the first word he’ll say for the day has no audience. Thanks to this diary exercise, now such utterances have a readership.

Less Surprising: Playing Nintendo, and hanging out with his brother, prompts a lot of profanity. So does playing Nintendo WHILST hanging out with his brother.

What swearing reveals: See, this is the genius of the zine, because these little incidents of cussing are peepholes into someone else’s life at their most vulnerable moments. They cover the full spectrum of comic (dropping food, cooking mishaps, slapstick involving small time injuries, playing Boggle);
tragic (sad things that happen, things you wish didn’t happen but they did)
comic-but-could-be-tragic; (cycling in traffic) and social interactions where swear words serve as almost a social crutch or method of integration.

Fucking A: The writing is just gold. I loved reading this zine so much, it’s condensed and punchy, sincere and playful. And it also had a poignancy I wasn’t expecting: some of the times the zinemaker swears are quite touching and greater reflections on America’s education system and economic downturn. There are other stories where swearing punctuates amazement and wonder. I felt so connected to this zinemaker on so many levels everytime he recorded his inappropriate language. Hearing someone swear can be a thing of intimacy and beauty.

Great: The zinemaker includes a ‘near miss’ as an entry (getting bitten by a domestic animal).

Don’t Give Up: Quitting swearing was this zinemaker’s new years resolution, and I was dismayed when I came to the last entry and realised six months into it that the project had been abandoned. The zine kind of abruptly stops and then there’s a separate part looking at the science of swearing, and how it can be both good and bad for one’s brain and the greater diversity of linguistics. This is an OK read but I’ll be honest, I wanted more swear stories.

Meh: The second part has a lot of chunky quotes from academic papers/ research and it does read like a mini essay or a personalised wikipedia entry. (But great little opening quotes for each section). It’s interesting enough with some nice pop culture references but I was still experiencing withdrawl from the first half of the zine.

Production values: Woeful. When you make a zine, it’s perfectly POSSIBLE to take a bunch of single cut pages and just staple them down the sides sans margin, but usually when this is done it’s because someone has fucked up somewhere along the way. What happens when you just staple a bunch of pages down the side? The pages don’t bend back on themselves properly. Disaster. Worse still my copy has pages starting to fall out from the staple and all the pages are cut at slightly different lengths and it is killing me. I don’t know whether this gets filed under ‘endearing punk’ or ‘should know better’

Further reading: There’s a bibliography at the back if you want to read more into pain tolerance, linguistics, and the evolution of the human brain

Missed opportunity:
A glossary of swears in alphabetical order. Also, the zine contains no infographics, which would have been great. I would love to see the most used swear word in order of frequency in some kind of pie chart…or some kind of graph showing categorised contexts. There’s just so many statistical possibilities here too. Who cares, this is one of my all time favourite zines, shitty stapling and all.


Some additional notes from the zinemaker follow:

So let me explain some a couple parts of it. I was in between sessions at grad school when I wrote it and kind of stuck in an academic writing mode. That’s why the second half is like that. I was still in a “do the research, cite your sources” mode. I mean, it was intentional and I think it’s kind of funny, but looking back I can see it was clearly a product of my grade school mindset.

Second, yeah, the copying and stapling is garbage. The first batch I made I took care to make sure things lined up perfectly and got stapled correctly. It was a huge pain. By the third batch I really regretted making it that unusual size and started my slow descent into not giving a shit about how they looked. If I make another batch I think I’ll reformat it to it’s easier to put together.

Last, I really appreciate the compliments. It got reviewed in another zine and the reviewer didn’t like it, which is fine, but he accused me of making fun of my high school teacher for being gay. It really bummed me out because I thought I made it clear I made fun of him because he was a creep who liked his teenage students. Also he had a funny last name. No one else had read it like that and it definitely got into the hands of people who would have called me out. I still got worried that it inadvertently came across as homophobic so I stopped selling/giving it to people. I’m relieved that you got what I meant about him.  And just a quick note, I’m now a teacher with a funny last name so Karma has been getting me on that.