Saturday, January 11, 1997

Zines in Canada

Zines in Canada

copyright 2015 Mark Bellis

Oct 7, 1997 - Symptom Hall, 160 Claremont Street, Toronto -
It used to be said that freedom of speech was available to anyone who could afford a printing press, but now that computers and photocopiers are available to almost anyone, people are producing and distributing their own personal manifestoes' for living.
'Zines "are pieces of expression for so many people." says Ralph Alfonso, known to just about everybody simply as "Ralph" who reviews 'zines for word magazine of Toronto and in his own self-titled zine and website at
'Zines and and chapbooks broadly describe self-published works that are usually printed, but can be or include audio, video, computer or even tactile media. A recent issue of Toronto's Glendon McKinney's "King of the Fairies", an Ashley MacIsaac tribute, was a paper bag with the title written in an icing sugar like substance, and which contained a printed magazine with a photo of an Ashley MacIsaac doll pasted on the cover, a cardboard icon with more photos of MacIsaac, and a sewn bag with a stick of incense and a candle in it, with instructions for setting up your own altar to Ashley. 

Glendon McKinney with"King of the Fairies", an Ashley MacIsaac tribute

Chapbooks are one-shot works, while zines are at least intended to be serials.
Ralph, a beat musician and poet living in Vancouver, who has been doing 'zines since the late sixties says that the self-publishing movements' roots go back to the 1800s when small printing presses became available so that people could publish out of their homes, and the word "zine" comes from the "fanzines" that science- fiction buffs mimeographed and shared between themselves in the thirties and forties. Pop music fans started their own 'zines in the sixties, some of which grew into large-circulation music magazines like Crawdaddy.
'Zines fall into categories of music fanzines, litzines and chapbooks, comic books, activist propaganda sheets, lifestyle and hobbies, and sometimes just the personal statements and viewpoint of the writer(s).
Fanzines are often written by teenagers. The youngest person at Canzine 97, a recent zinefest in Toronto was Miyo Takeda, who finished her first 'zine, Vitamin C, which reviewed local bands like Tristan Psionic, two days short of her 14th birthday.
Girls often do 'zines "because they're more free in expressing themselves and they read more" says Sarah Onyschuk, 15 of Pickering, who writes "minstrel heart", featuring mostly her own poetry.
One of the coolest 'zine in Canada is Poodle, devoted to the game of 5 pin bowling, invented in Toronto around 1908. Poodle is a bowling nickname for a gutter ball. The 'zine deals was started by six artists who regularly bowled at the Commodore, a bowling alley and night club in Vancouver. Rob Elliot, one of Poodle's writers, is in Toronto researching a book on 5 pin, says Poodle's contributors have covered the world visiting bowling allies. One issue contains a brief interview with Japanese band Shonen Knife, shown holding copies of Poodle, and telling about their favorite lanes.
Arouse-O-Rama, a 'zine of 'erotic humour' by Julie Fournier of Toronto, parodies the "just plain silliness" of porn magazine. In one section Fournier appropriates porn pics and then gives them fitting sub-titles. "I tried to run, but the car door blocked me, and she had me by the panties." reads one photo, which features a blonde in a bikini kneeling beside a pickup truck pulling another woman's panties down with her teeth.
Fournier's associate, who goes by the name of Ninjalicious, writes Infiltration, for the "Tourist of off-limit areas". Ninjalicious and his friends have snuck into the TTC subway system, the roof of the Royal York, and closed off areas of St. Mike's Hospital., and brought back photos and stories to prove it.
Some zines are political propaganda for oddball causes. 'blood sisters', a women's collective campaigning against the evils of disposable feminine products, which described itself as being "born out of a guerilla girl recyclable pad distribution network', was at Canzine 97, handing out blood red flyers encouraging women to save the environment by using their 'pussy power' sanitary napkins that can be washed and reused.
Zines are mostly circulated in the mail. Most zines themselves contain reviews of others zines, with their addresses, so that zinesters can swap copies of their work. Amanda Kelly is a trans, a gendered 'ziner and postal worker who tried to set up a distribution network to try to get 'zines into stores, but wound it down when she found her titles and two others were the only ones out of the 50 she handled that were moving. She produces Tranzine, a news, advice, and activism 'zine for the transgendered, Little Trany Franny, a comic about transgendered characters, and Fish Shticks, a rather innocuous comic about a gold fish. She said she started the 'zine, which she does with a desktop publishing program she bought for $ 19.95, to help other transgendered people and promote society's acceptance of them.
Hal Niedzviecki, editor for broken pencil, a 'zine review published in Toronto. Niedzviecki, who used to work for the literary magazine Blood and Aphorisms, said he left the magazine to start broken pencil two years ago because he "couldn't get publicity for the emerging zine phenomenon."
Not many book stores will stock 'zines, which are more likely to be found in record shops like Towers on Yonge, The Record Peddler on Queen, She Said Boom on College, Who's Emma on Nassau and Full Blast on Bloor. Niedzviecki says that most 'zines propagate themselves by mail. Many 'zines contain reviews and addresses, either mail or internet, for other 'zines.

Angela Chu wears her zine 'Love Buzz' as a hat 
Miss Chu sizes me up for a waterbombing
Mike O'Connor, Insomniac Press
 Cory and Gliz of "Punk Fiction" zine
Rob Elliott, Christine Cosby "Poodle" Five Pin bowling zine
notes ran out here!

Not sure if the following are from the same event but...

Notes: Jeff Chapman  (Ninjalicious) died in 2005 due to cancer at the age of 31.
Symptom Hall closed in 1998.

I took this photo after a meeting at a downtown library in the late 90s for a 'zine called C.U.N.T. for women bicyclists. I don't have any idents. I remember one guy had to ask "Are you Lesbians?" at the Q and A after the meeting....

from a 2012 Broken Pencil article: "main creators: Nancy MacDougall, Bridget Newson, Sally McKay, Nancy Smith Lea, Cathy / Katrib / free / c/o Cathy Katrib, 40 Noble Street, 2nd Floor, Toronto, ON, M6K 2C9"

Toronto, sometime in the 90s or early 00s

Wednesday, January 8, 1997

Swearing Dolls Talk Back

Dolls o' Destruction

copyright 1999 Mark Bellis

HAMILTON JAN 8, 1997 - A Toronto toy company denies it's making swearing Smurfs or kinky Clever Cutie dolls.

"They're working perfectly - they're not swearing or cursing." says Irwin Toy public relations vice-president Scott Irwin, after the company received more complaints of their dolls using indecent language.

It started last week when a Brantford mother complained that a Baby Smurf doll she got for her daughter would say things like "Who gives a f---?".

Irwin says they have received three more complaints, one from Sarnia and the others from the Brantford area, about the smurf doll, and now Karin Guyatt, a Hamilton women says that a Clever Cutie doll, also made by Irwin, her daughter Kimberly Desjardins, 10, got for Christmas is saying bizarre things "It's definitely saying "I want to cut you" and "I like it when you cut me". Guyatt says.

The petite blonde doll, which comes with a hair dryer, brush and cell phone accessories which fit into an electronic socket on its hand, is capable of recognizing them and asking for them in a sing-song voice recorded by an American actress in New York, according to Irwin, and then making the sound effects of a running dryer and a ringing phone when the appropriate object is placed in its hand. It also clearly says, in the same chirpy voice, "I want to cut you".

"If some people are hearing that, it's coincidence" says Irwin, who says the dolls really are saying innocuous messsages like "I want to hug you" and "I like it when you hug me". "All of the dolls are alike" Irwin says, who says no one at Irwin has found a doll which actually says anything else than what it has been programmed to say, and likens the problem to people who hear offensive lyrics on pop songs, and phone into radio stations to complain, and once disk jockeys tell the audience that there may be offensive lyrics, more people believe that they hear them. "It sounds like they're saying such and such, but in fact, the recording artists never said that." Irwin says.

"She really loves that doll" said Guyatt, who says her daughter is hearing impaired and did not notice the doll's odd speech. Guyatt only found out what the doll was saying after her nephew was playing with her daughter and heard it a few days ago.

Irwin says the Clever Cutie and Baby Smurf doll have a variety of messages recorded onto electronic chips that are all the same for either doll. Debbie Brown, a company spokesperson,says " We only use nonalterable RAM chips" that cannot be changed after they leave the factory.

"I'd like a new doll" said Kimberly. Irwin has said it will replace the toy.

Wednesday, January 1, 1997

Diary - Winter 97

Diary - Winter 97

Did New Year's with Chris - event culminated with him tossing zucchini out window into street while howling into mike praises of Jolt cola.

The teenagers were mostly blitzed out of their minds on beer and pot. God I wonder why people feel nostalgic for their youth. Only good thing is you're farther away from sterility and death.

He sold his club at the end of January, and I helped him "remove" a TV that someone had fixed to just project a squiggle on the screen that he left behind. Fun exploring an apartment building, the "Cooper" I think, one solitary man in attic, smoking a joint and in his own world, crammed firetrap basements in building with a creek running under the basement. Apparently someone from a mental hospital lives down there when he escapes. That is fun when you're young, you can do things like this that just skirt the law, exploring buildings and picking up things.

Jan 30 - Did little this month....... did story about foul mouthed


Saw vampire role playing game. Some nice costumes. Silly as hell. "My character is like ambassador Sarak in Star Trek". People sort of like in a cocktail party. "Would you like to see my books"...... Like, get an afterlife!

Friend had made copper links to go over her upper body like chainmail. Fantasized about shorting out my 6 volt lithium battery on it.

90 year old woman murdered by 27 year old grandson in home she had lived for for 50 years, over money.

Feb 13 - Hey, Joyce Carol Oates called me back on a story I'm doing on a group that wants to remove her book Firefox from a local high school -- gee, I thought it would be hard to get ahold of her!

Feb 14 - Coroner's Inquest into baby girl who died after mother could not breast-feed her. Did not realize something was wrong when she did not wet her diapers. Dehydration after 11 days.

Went to film at Elora festival "Breaking the waves" -by Lars von Trier in English - great film! There was a coroner's inquest in the film. Odd doubling, and when another reporter who was at the film and with me at the real inquest earlier asked me if I liked it, I was a little confused as to which thing he was refering to.

Talked with Geoff Pevere, who has started working at the Star.

Feb 18 - Went to boxing gym for poetry reading - two poets going head-to-head in ring. Club owned by former golden gloves champ. Has a bulldog which snuffled loudly - - mostly women at gym, had poem about fighting sprayed on wall --- talking about every fighter fighting himself in the ring ---- having to defeat his own fear. He was badly cut, and had a touch of that sort of Parkinson's thing Muhammed Ali has. Sometimes fear does have something sensible to say to you........

Mar 11 - Felt so proud! Chris and his pal Dan are starting 'zine and are investigating a questionable land deal in Stratford. Chris called me at Yawp!, a poetry slam that Jake Brown of Montreal puts on, to tell me he got booted out of a high school students' conference in Owen Sound for disrupting everything and wearing a dress on the first day. He wanted to give Education Minister an "Anti Bad Grammar" helmet while in full drag, but had to leave before this... Damn kids -- everyone knows that you save your best dress for the last day!

No sooner did I get my story in the paper about the boxing ring than a girl who showed up to play guitar during the intermission called through to the paper, who put her through to me to complain that I did not put her name in. This never happens when I do crime stories.

Woman's Day - Saw Faith Nolan. Warm-up act very typical of "woman's music" - girl who did not bother to tune up guitar or sing on key, and left not long after Nolan started set, instead of sticking around to pick up pointers.

Nolan, who I've been a fan of for more than 10 years, is extremely professional, with great voice and guitar talent, and extremely intelligent with great between song schtick imitating different types of people, but Jesus! if you want to send a message, use Western Union!

Being a black lesbian from Nova Scotia is one thing, but politicizing it and mixing it up with Marxism..... Zzzzzzzz! 'Bourgeois Town' ? G-7 Economic group, which includes Japan, made up of 'seven white men'???.

Full house, but no lineup for the men's room after the show. Sad, she could reach a broader audience than lugs going through the "masturbation is a revolutionary act and should get government funding" stage.

Saw Michael Hollingsworth's Trudeau and the FLQ at the Factory Theatre in Toronto, by the VideoCabarat theatre. The stage was behind transparent gauze that they projected video on, and the actors used Tex Avery type costumes and props to make them look like cartoons. Interesting way to teach history.

In Guelph, I saw a one-woman thing done in the back of a cafe that impressed me a little more --- was a play called Fever by Wallace Shawn,and the girl doing was Christine Mathieson. Lighting as can be imagined, consisted of ticket-taker flicking switches by door! Wallace Shawn is the funny looking bald guy you see in some Woody Allen flicks and who, I think, wrote and starred in My Dinner With Andre. Mathieson amazed me by keeping up her voice and not needing cue cards for an hour and a half and only flubbed one line when she said "Green tomatoes and red vegetables"!

Mach 15 - Went to Edvard Munch exhibit at AGO - my pager went off just before the Scream and had to call the Star about the guy who won 35,000 on the price is right. Just had time to glance at it before running out. Nice bright colours! They have a 30 foot blow up of the Scream figure in the gift shop.

Took pix of Hale-Bopp comet with the CN Tower and the Skydome in foreground.

Huge number of beautiful women at the exhibit, then I met an absolute ravisher at the Idler -- blonde, blue eyed private investigator......

March 16 - Police shooting in Hamilton. Police garlanded neighbourhood with yellow tape. There was a little tiny old Hungarian lady standing on her front step looking at us. She wanted to give me and a police officer some candy.

March 18 - Saw Nino Ricci and Paul Quarrington at McMaster