Ah, the plight of today's rebels. They're in a terrible bind. To buck the system, you need an entrenched set of traditions to fight against. But revolution isour modern American value. The days of the opera-going CEO have made way for the goatee-wearing, ponytailed slacker heading his own little Internet start-up, always with an eye toward the next hippest trend. The business leaders, the marketers, the public opinion poll takers -- they are in your indie record stores, your avant-garde theater, your underground punk club, and the instant you invent something truly different? Well, they'll just sign it, package it and sell it right back to you inside of three months with a Sprite can in hand.
So what do you do, aspiring young revolutionaries? Do you toil in poverty until you strike that one good idea that takes off, then spend the next ten years in your mansion, with your trophy spouse, until you tumble into bankruptcy and become the butt of jokes reserved for yesterday's fad? Or do you take any hint of profitability as a sign that you're drifting dangerously far from the edge? These questions have plagued the ever-introspective self-publisher Abram Shalom Himelstein, who has been struggling to remain true to the revolutionary spirit.
He flirted briefly with the D.C. punk-rock scene, before taking to the streets to hawk his novel about the disillusioning experience, Tales of a Punk Rock Nothing, which led to a run-in with HPD (see "Booked Up," by Lauren Kern, August 31, 2000). It was on that "book tour" that he came up with the idea for Factory Direct, a service designed to unearth cutting-edge underground publications for a wider audience. Every other month he'll ship two of the most anti of the antiestablishment zines to subscribers. Each mailing will include an original love letter on the envelope by artist Asia Wong, who writes them to her lovers, crushes or any passing stranger, but never sends them.
The first installment includes The Tale of John WTO #199055676 and My Week in Seattle, which gives one protester's account of the World Trade Organization rally, and Notta Lotta Love Stories, a collection of Amber Gayle's many loveless romances.
Already Himelstein's basement Xeroxing venture, known collectively as New Mouth from the Dirty South, is coming terrifyingly close to "success." He has national distributors for his book, has been on NPR and has had another publication featured on an HBO special. He will hold a launch party with Spalding Gray-style speeches by zine writers and an art display, which will include originals by the king of zine art, Aaron Cometbus. So far, this idea has all the makings of the Next Big Thing.
What ever will he do then?