(The first two posts in this series are here and here.)

“Officially, one may not use anything that looks like a stamp but is not. Since the use of this sheet requires one to tear up the regulations, I consider this an inverse book and thusly a Catalyst Komic. To bind and unbind is just the left and right hand.”
–John Rininger, 2000

At least one person must have composed a treatise on the subject of “what is a zine?” I don’t know of any, but I can’t imagine it hasn’t been worked out by somebody. I myself have spent a fair amount of time bopping about the question like a candy-colored golf ball on a putt-putt course, but I can’t pretend to have anything like a scholarly grasp.

And it’s not so important, once you realize that it’s a flexible concept. There’s a lot of room for movement. And, really, nobody is going to do anything to you if you exceed the conceptual boundaries.

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One Saturday night, doesn’t matter what year or month, masses of us gathered at Otto’s Niteclub on Lincoln Highway in DeKalb, Illinois for a concert performance by SHOOTER, Northern Illinois’ champion standard-bearer for the sacred cause of Southern Rock.

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I was camped out with my little crowd up on the balcony, jammed way over to the left-hand side, right up next to the stage. The bar was packed to the rafters, the greasy floorboards were streaming with spilled beer, and pool cues were snapping over adversaries’ skulls with sweet abandon.

About three-quarters of the way through the first set, John R. showed up, carrying a backpack full of something. John reached into the bag and pulled out a small wooden object, which he handed to me. “It’s the new Catalyst Komics,” he said. “What do you think?”

I was holding a mousetrap that had been set in the “armed” position and then doused with epoxy resin, so that it was firmly glued open. On the flat reverse side was stenciled “CK 182.” Catalyst Komics, number 182.

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So, not only had John R. done away with conventional text elements of magazines, like tables of contents or bylines or any clear textual exposition at all, now he had dispensed with … pages … paper … the codex format.

What it did have was an unexecuted time element – the trap was set, but it had not been, and apparently could not be, sprung. Did that make it a zine, or not? Who knows?

In between SHOOTER sets, Rininger sneaked downstairs and up to the stage, where he left a copy of CK 182 next to the lead singer’s monitor.

The singer, who called himself “Bounty Hunter,” took the stage after the break. He spotted something sitting on the stage and crouched down to check it out. He jumped back – “Whoa! Hey!”

Either this place had such a bad rodent problem that they were setting snares on the damn stage, or else some fool out there is trying to booby trap us! Whoa! Look out!

And then the band started in on some Molly Hatchet tune and the drunks started punching each other again and the Bounty Hunter was back on the case.

Well over 20 years later, the trap is still frozen open.

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Stronger Than Dirt Pete Moss is one of the many aliases used by a Tom Long of Chicago, Illinois (not to be confused with other Tom Longs of Chicago or elsewhere). Tom was active in xerox zine culture from the late ’80s through the early ’00s under the Colicky Baby Records and Tapes imprint, and several examples of Tom’s mail art periodicals are filed deeply and safely away at the University of Iowa Libraries Special Collections Department in Iowa City and the Museum of Modern Art Library in New York City. Every so often he posts things at http://colicky.blogspot.com.

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