Tag Archives: james dawson

zine review: Junk Zine #6 (January 2012)

James Dawson is back with another collection of correspondence (from prisoners, for the most part), zine listings, and classified ads specific to the zine community, or what he terms the “papernet,” a sort of anti-Internet where communication takes place on printed pieces of paper sent via U.S. mail. Sound familiar? Of course it does. New terms to describe the old way of doing things. He even took some time to do a quick shout-out review of Whuddafug #’s 9 and 10:

Thanks, James! (Should mention that Whuddafug and its website is no more and has been rebranded as Koogmo.)

I love zines like this that are a random hodge-podge of information dumps, a potpourri mix of stuff to pour over while curled up beneath the reading lamp. Slightly reminiscent of Christopher Robin’s “Zen Baby” from a few years ago.

In this latest issue of Junk Zine, James makes an interesting distinction between luddites and what he calls “techno-skeptics.” Having worked in the tech industry now for sixteen some-odd years, I’ve acquired a healthy dose of skepticism towards technology. It’s simply a tool like any other tool, and sometimes it’s nice to go back to the old-fashioned ways of doings things with typewriters, handwritten letters, postage stamps, and real-life mail boxes. Ink on paper as opposed to pixels on the screen. I hear you, brudda, and this is why we do what we do in the zine community. Technology can only get you so far. The human spirit must carry you the rest of the way.

This goes beyond mere nostalgia or a yearning for the “good ol’ days,” I think. There is a practical and self-reliant aspect to this. You start with the basics — a blank sheet of paper and a pen. Or a typewriter, if your penmanship is illegible like mine. Once you’ve got those things, the next part is simple: start writing. When you’re done, put the stuff in an envelope and send it off. You don’t need an Internet connection. You don’t even need electricity. You are not dependent upon the system. An Internet connection means you’ve got an Internet account, which means you’re paying some corporation a good chunk of change every month. Not to mention the fact that everything you send across the wire might not be as secure as you assume it to be. Who knows who’s snooping those packets and tapping into those routers? But that’s just being paranoid, right? RIGHT?

Obviously, the Internet makes the transmission of this information quicker, more efficient. You can distribute a single bit of info to literally thousands with the single click of the “Submit” button. All this is common knowledge now. No longer seems as amazing as it did twenty years ago. But perhaps it is because of this now instant ubiquity that makes the opposite end of the spectrum seem so much cooler — sending stuff in an envelope only to be opened by its receiver. This pancake is not for the pancake masses and mindless mass consumption. There are no snoops, and if there were, you would be able to tell immediately by the broken seal on the envelope. Sure, it gets there a little slower. Days as opposed to instantaneously, but what’s the rush? Why this obsession with instant this, on-demand that? Everybody wants their shit now, Now, NOW! Step back, take a breath. Drop that letter off when next you’re out running errands or getting a bite to eat. The stuff will get there when it gets there. Like the title of Christopher Robin’s zine used to say: “Zen, baby.”

What disturbs me in reading these letters from prisoners are the sheer number of them who are spending (or have already spent) decades behind bars. Many of these inmates (most of them are men) are obviously intelligent and in some cases well-read and even eloquent in the way they put down the written word. How many are doing time for relatively petty crimes like drug possession and petty theft? A sad waste of what could otherwise be productive human lives. Makes you realize the very fine line that exists between the freedom you think you enjoy and a life spent locked up in a cell. The difference is really just one small misstep onto the wrong side of the law. Before you know it, you’re caught up in that snowball effect of institutionalization and imprisonment.

Some correspondence indicate inmate abuse and prison culture hypocrisy, such as this excerpt from a letter from Brandon Green:

“I sit doing ten years for a gram of dope. But witnessing a man get probation for murder! I sit watching men starve to death, literally. But witnessing guards who can’t even alight a flight of stairs because they’re too fucking fat!”

While others are from obvious lunatics and unapologetic drug fiends:

“Like your style James. You live a simple and easy life, is very relaxing on the mind. That is how I intend to live if I ever get back free. Me and my pet cat and a new pet Black Widow spider and 2 lezbin strippers.

I’ll trade you my high grade medical marijuana for some high grade crystal meth and stay high as fuck all day every day. Hey if in town I have my 2 freaky stripper bitches give you a couple of free nude lap dances James.

My first time ever checking out a zine, whatever the hell that is….”

To order your copy of Junk Zine, write to:

James N. Dawson
P.O. Box 292
Malden, WA 99149