While Transportation Corridor Agencies execs lay the groundwork for the next ecological disaster and bored housewives sip lattes in South Coast Plaza, somewhere someone is staying up till 1 a.m., planning the overthrow of the government, reviewing a friend's band, bitching about her job, or writing about any number of things you won't find on the pages of The Orange County Register any time soon. You'll meet many of these small-time publishers at the Santa Barbara Zinefest on Saturday.
Amusing Yourself to Death #14Those who've been around the zine world a while probably saw the decline and fall of Factsheet Five coming from a long distance. Indeed, toward the end, many wondered how publisher Seth Friedman had survived: reviewing more than 1,400 zines, selling ads, and managing a breathtaking print run of more than 16,000 issues. In its place, there's the more humble Amusing Yourself to Death, Ruel Gaviola's single-minded review of zines and zine events. Amusing Yourself to Death features a rotating staff of zinester reviewers with zine-community announcements and hundreds of reviews in a compact half-size format. (Ruel is also co-coordinator of the annual Santa Barbara Zinefest). Along with lots of quality reviews are a few articles like "Lying in the Sewer and Looking at the Stars, Or, How Zining Ruined Me for Mainstream Work." Also included is the amusing must-read "Zine Death Match." The reviews are well-organized and fairly long—though that doesn't necessarily mean "nice"—making Amusing Yourself to Death well-worth a few George Washingtons. Send $3 to Ruel Gaviola, P.O. Box 91934, Santa Barbara, CA 93190-1934; www.aznet.net/~lorax/aytd/.West Virginia Surf Report #14"Please be aware that parts of this issue were written while intoxicated; however, everything was edited while sober," reads Jeff Kay's "disclaimer" in the latest issue of West Virginia Surf Report. For the curious, the West Virginia Surf Report has nothing to do with either West Virginia or surf reports. It is entirely composed of Kay's creative fiction, and "any similarities between Surf Report characters and those appearing in real life is purely intentional." This issue is an account of our hero's struggle against the tyranny of Earl T. Grey, editor of the town newspaper The Scoop, and the story Earl censored, "A Chicken Salad Tour of a Prickly Pit Town." I'll leave the "pit" thing to your imagination. And be sure to bring along West Virginia Surf Report on your next shopping trip so you can try the "Wal-Mart Game"—whoever finds the most "defects and afflictions" from a checklist about employees and customers wins a cream soda. Order West Virginia Surf Report from Jeff's "luxurious, fur-lined mailbox" today by sending $2 to P.O. Box 7422, Burbank, CA 91510.SemiBold #5While many of us smug Southern Californians were toasting the new year by a cozy fire pit on someone's patio, New Year's Eve came with 22 inches of snow for Kathy in Chicago. (I don't feel guilty, do you?) After spending hours digging their cars out of the snow, she tells us, Chicagoans have created a system of reserving their parking spots with all kinds of objects—a broom in a plastic bucket with tinsel wrapped around it, an air conditioner, two kitchen chairs facing each other with 2-by-4s duct-taped to the legs, etc. Issue No. 5 also includes eight detailed reasons she hates driving and an account of her hellish, eight-year stint as a graphic designer for Montgomery Ward. She relates a satisfaction few of us ever realize at work: of her two mean bosses, one is finally fired and the other croaks in the middle of a company meeting. "I won't 'hee, hee' over that, but I think if the two of them had known their futures, their priorities might have been a little different that day," she writes. "Maybe not." Send $1 to Kathy Moseley, 1573 N. Milwaukee Ave., No. 403, Chicago, IL 60622.Angerbox #3The best part of being severely depressed has to be clueless but well-meaning friends who can't help but treat it like a cold: "You'll get over it," "Shit happens; snap out of it!" and my personal favorite, "What have you got to be depressed about?" A departure from previous political-themed issues, Carlos Hunt's latest issue is dedicated to his bout with serious depression:what it was like on a daily basis, therapists from hell, cures and recommended St. John's Wort varieties, and "Questions No One Would Answer." Happy campers can enjoy the issue, too, but it is especially good for those in the throes of (or recently recovered from) depression and features none of the self-indulgent and incessant whining you might expect. Well-written and highly recommended. Send $3 to P.O. Box 24262, Los Angeles, CA 90024.Empty Life #12A hilarious comic zine containing Swanky Mike cartoons, ranging from Prick Da Mouse (think ghetto Mickey) to illustrated short stories and interesting drug-induced sketches. Issue No. 12 stars El Swanky the Luchador; discover how he kicks the ass of school bully Noodles Nixon. For "mature readers." Send $2 to Mike Tolento, P.O. Box 20028, Santa Barbara, CA 93120.Force Yourself #3Dubbed "Cliff's Notes for film," Force Yourself is a marvelous collection of film reviews, actors and actresses to watch out for, and an occasional short story. This issue features "Bunged Up," Victor's Top 10 school movies, and a eulogy for late director Akira Kurosawa. Although the reviews are thoughtful, they do not assume you have a degree in cinematography. In "Movies Inside My Head," Victor De Anda tells us about his first movie date, recalling with horror how the first thing on the screen depicted a gang rape in a gas station. In college, he takes design classes—this much is obvious in Force Yourself's beautiful layouts—hangs out with people possessing formidable Betamax collections, and frequents dollar movie theaters. Audiences at dollar-movie showings tend to be "a little rowdier than usual" (ever been to one of the Festival of Animation's showings at the old Edwards Mesa before they tore it down?), and at one point during a Jason Takes Manhattan showing, a girl stood up and screamed, "Bitch, get the hell out of there!" A good read for both hardcore film fans and the occasional rented-video watcher alike. Send 1 buck to Victor De Anda, 1613 Barry Ave., No. 7, Los Angeles, CA 90025-4012.Alternative Press Review Vol. 3, #2Under new editorship—including the rabble-rousing, former Out of Bounds publisher Tom Wheeler—Alternative Press Review is the essential nutrient missing from one's daily McMedia diet of misinformation and disinformation. The current issue features a censored Tom Tomorrow strip, zine and music reviews, several interviews, and all kinds of media-suppressed stories. There's a fascinating interview with Al Lewis (that's Grandpa from The Munsters), who talks about his acting career, being torpedoed twice in World War II, and his long involvement in progressive politics. There's also an article on the free radio movement, the free software movement, and the U.S.' nuclear space program (the latter not recommended bedtime reading). Although published somewhat infrequently, the lively and informative writing more than makes up for the sparse publishing schedule. It's $4.95 at newsstands, or you can send $6 to A.A.L. Press, P.O. Box 4710, Arlington, VA 22204-4710; flag.blackened.net/apr.Santa Barbara Zinefest in the Goleta Valley Community Center, 5679 Hollister Ave., Goleta, (805) 962-3379; www.aznet.net/~lorax/jt/. Sat., 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Free; half-tables for vendors, $15.