THAT LONG NEWSPAPER SPOON was a xerox mag I sporadically produced between 1990 and 1999, under the imprint “Colicky Baby Records and Tapes.” The name is derived from a quote by William Burroughs:
If civilized countries want to return to Druid Hanging Rites in the Sacred Grove or to drink blood with the Aztecs and feed their Gods with blood of human sacrifice, let them see what is on the end of that long newspaper spoon.
TLNS started out being pure political screed … rants, raves, and peeves. Issue number 1 was as bare bones as you can get: a single letter-sized sheet, printed on one side. More of a poster than a magazine, it stood in stark contrast to my primary publishing effort of the previous few semesters – a tabloid-sized newsprint “underground” paper, with a print run of 5,000 copies, and ads, and photographs, and everything. Instead of a newspaper – THAT LONG NEWSPAPER SPOON.
I don’t think I even have a copy of #1 anymore. As I recall, it was full of in-jokes and fake conspiracy theories (including detailed and highly ridiculous charts) involving the incestuous, yet constantly feuding, left-wing cliques hanging around Northern Illinois University during the spring of 1990. My distribution method was simple and direct. I stapled copies to bulletin boards and taped them to lampposts all over campus.
For the second issue, I changed format considerably, and focus. THAT LONG NEWSPAPER SPOON #2 was eight pages (two letter-sized sheets, printed on both sides, folded, and stapled) and featured an essay I had written about Ralph Nau, a notorious stalker of celebrities. The print run was small (maybe 50 copies), and I distributed it mainly through the mail, through a review in “Factsheet Five.”
Then, on August 2, 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait. On February 17, 1991, the United States began bombing Iraq, and on February 23, 1991, the United States sent in ground forces. That was when the zine really found a voice.
The next few issues dealt with the Gulf War, in increasingly warped ways, and after that war ended (if you blinked you kind of missed it), what seemed at the time like the insanity of politics.
The early ‘90s seem simpler in retrospect, compared to the utter madness of the present, but while they were happening I was convinced the world was going absolutely apeshit. The Cold War was over, but instead of demobilizing, the USA was taking advantage of the new absence of Soviet muscle in Asia to get involved in … well, who knew where the hell it would stop?
The Joan Flasch Artists’ Book Collection at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago has copies of a few issues from the early 1990s. Its catalog describes THAT LONG NEWSPAPER SPOON as “Ambiguous and cynical zine with an anti-Republican/anti-police bent.”
A straight essay format was too constraining to get across what I wanted to say, so I invented a character, who I named John Kitchener. Think Slats Grobnik mixed with Archibald “Harry” Tuttle from Brazil.
The fictional character of John Kitchener allowed me to say things about real life events that I couldn’t get across by writing a standard (ostensibly-)fact-based polemic. Kitchener was named after Victorian imperialist Lord Kitchener (not to be confused with the calypsonian of the same name), but he was an anarchist free agent (like a less-overtly-Marxist Trashman), fighting a lone fight against both the New World Order and a shadowy counter-conspiracy octopus known as AZOG – “Anti Zillions of Groups.”
Needless to say, people didn’t really know what to do with it. A successful issue had enough stand-alone jokes and funny clip-art collages to go over okay, but most people who encountered a copy had no idea what the hell it was supposed to be.
Not really helping matters any on the accessibility front, in 1993 I added another character – anxiety-ridden everyman Cole Stoma – to serve as a foil for the swashbuckling John Kitchener. More characters followed, and more, and THAT LONG NEWSPAPER SPOON went farther and farther away from being a political satire mag, until it turned into a sort of serialized soap opera about … well, it was about a mess, that’s what it was.
I gave up making the zine in 1999, while in the middle of putting together number 37. I had lost track of the narrative, and I hadn’t been able to maintain much of a readership. It had gotten more and more difficult for me to network or stay in touch with what seemed like a waning print scene, so I called it quits. I put out a few more issues of different zines I’d been publishing, but by summer of 2000, I was out of the xerox mag game completely.
Thanks to the help of the fine people at Smudge Relocation Press, I can now announce the publication of the first issue of THAT LONG NEWSPAPER SPOON since the autumn of 1999.
The new one is numbered 37, but it retains nothing at all from the number 37 I bailed out on in ’99. Since it’s a new start, I’m calling it issue 1 of volume III – the second reboot of the zine (the first reboot being in 1997 or 1998, but that’s a long story). I’ve dumped the convoluted plot and dispensed with the slick computerized production values of the late ‘90s (volume II) numbers. I picked up the scissors and glue stick again. And I fired the entire cast, except for John Kitchener and Cole Stoma, who get us caught up on how and what they’ve been doing for the last dozen years.
At 16 action-packed pages, it is the biggest THAT LONG NEWSPAPER SPOON, ever. Heavily illustrated, to boot, with tons of mystifying yet amusing visual flashbacks to that innocent time before blogs, Googles, Facebooks, and Tweets, the 1990s.
Print is dead; long live print!