by Derrick Bostrom

Our first computer didn't have a floppy drive. We backed up our TRS-80 to a cheap portable Radio Shack cassette recorder. I would sit for hours, my face buried in the manual, learning how to program in basic. But my enthusiasm ended on the day I sat down to load my previous twelve hour session from the cassette into memory, only to encounter an unrecoverable error. Soon afterward, my brother traded it for a Colecovison. The next PC that fell into hands needed a floppy drive to boot. It was some sort of command line "word processor" that displayed orange text on a black screen and came with a small dot matrix printer. I presume it was a cast-off from my step-father's office. It had enough storage for three pages of text; I'd have to print that out and delete my work before I could continue.

I bought my first Mac in 1994 with money saved up from a summer's worth of tour per-diems. My neighbor was selling his IIci in order to upgrade to a Quadra. For a thousand bucks, I got the complete system, plus a printer, a bunch of software and some other miscellaneous peripherals. He even threw in a desk. The computer came with the usual "awesome" specs: a whopping 40 megabyte hard drive and four megs of RAM. I stayed up for a week trying to figure it all out.

I forwent most of the games, which were largely incomprehensible to me. I spent most of my time exploring the CompuServe and the FirstClass BBS dial-up communities. Soon I had drawers and drawers of floppies, all filled with downloaded crap: apps, chat transcriptions, scans, ASCI art, system sounds, and the rest of the mid-90s detritus. Managing all this media was hellish. Eventually, I burned it all to a CD-ROM and tossed the original floppies. Very little of this stuff is readable any more. 

Naturally, the pack rat in me also insisted I scan the art before I throw them out. And of course, they gotta end up here, all fifty-plus of 'em, all lovingly, painstakingly edited and processed. I guess I got my thousand bucks worth.

Phoenix Punk Rock Days: Browbeat

by Derrick Bostrom

"Browbeat was, to my knowledge, the first xerox-punk fanzine in the United States. It was David and me and Greg. And Sharon Ehle too. Debbie Dub/Durham was gonna be a part of it, but I think she was out of town that spring and summer. We were totally ripping off Sniffin' Glue from England. We had copies of those in hand, probably from even their first issue, maybe. Browbeat grew out of boredom. I don't remember how many copies we printed but it was something like 200, 250, 300 — it wouldn't have been anywhere near as many as 500, and I was paying the xerox bill, 'cause I had a job. I can't imagine I had more than like $50 bucks in all of life to piss away."

"Although Phoenix was a bit behind the curve when it came to exposing a fluid punk/underground culture, it is interesting to note Bart Bull's claim that he and David Wiley from the Consumers created the world's first xerox-copied punk fanzine called Browbeat in June 1977. It's first and only issues predates L.A.'s Flipside #1 by a month or so. I am not quite sure who was featured or what was written. The Browbeat name lived on years later as the name of Wiley's local music column that appeared in the Phoenix New Times."

"There's no question that David and Greg and me created Browbeat in direct imitation/competition with Sniffin' Glue... but first, way before us and, really, more important, if only because it was first and even less anchored to any apparent existing reality, was KDIL Blues Licks."



Gothic thrashmongers TSOL crashed into town last Saturday for a packed and rowdy summer's eve show. It's the best time of year, spring air in the bloodstream, young men anxious to lock horns, let off some steam. Aggressive music breeds aggressive behavior, yes, but why not fight the things that matter.Take on apathy, the power structure or the media for starters. Throughout the recent local past nobody — but nobody — has manipulated more attention than THE FEEDERZ. Just when their music, a cleverly crafted hodgepodge of infected styles, was reaching an international level of acceptance, commander-in-chief FRANK DISCUSSION has announced that neither the band nor the concept nor that upcoming EP exist. A final performance is being considered. Frank then plans on selling his history-laden equipment and exiling himself from music for the time being. Other members will continue with their own projects.

Last week's debut of PARIS 1942 was every bit as interesting as it promised to be, with each member turning in virtuoso performances of their extraordinary brand of rock'n'roll. Yes, rock'n'roll of the droning, hypnotic variety, oozing with life. As tired a cliche as 'rock'n'roll' is, there are those determinedly dedicated to redefining the term, two examples here in this group and openers MEAT PUPPETS. Commenting afterwards, MO TUCKER was pleased with her first live performance in over a decade although she said no one could hear anything onstage. "It was like a swirl of music," she laughed over the phone as young voices demanded her attention in the background. The group plans one or two more local shows before heading to the West Coast for a pair of dates.

Big news this week is that THE CLASH and THE ENGLISH BEAT suddenly decided to include Mesa Amphitheatre on their upcoming cross-country tour, Sunday, June 13. Stay tuned . . . Two days later another English outfit, THE ANGELIC UPSTARTS, will be paying a visit for a special Tuesday show at the Dog. These guys were one of the original skinhead hands. . . In the meantime there's still much to choose from. This Friday JFA, SOYLENT GREENE and FATAL ALLEGIANCE do the Dog and Saturday CONFLICT and MEAT PUPPETS at the same place. Sunday a holiday Merlin's appearance by VITAL SIGNS.

ALSO COMING UP: From Texas, THE BIG BOYS and THE BUTTHOLE SURFERS . . . BATTALION OF SAINTS, San Diegans of the thrash variety, June 5 at the Dog. . . DREAM SYNDICATE and pholksinger PHRANC . . . instrumental rock lunacy from AFRICA CORPS with performance artist DEVIATION SOCIAL. . . THE MINUTEMEN and THE DESCENDANTS, two of the most unusual uptempo bands . . . a definite July date for controversial SF rockers DEAD KENNEDYS.

BRIEFLY: The KILLER PUSSY record party was a stunning success complete with a tiered pink poodle cake, freshly cut bouquets and copies of the EP that is available around the Valley and selling well. Over in L.A. it's slipped into influential station KROQ-FM's regular daytime playlist. The band is currently planning some followup live dates there . . . Circus Circus in Las Vegas (where else?) set the scene for guitarist PAUL B. CUTLER and effervescent vocalist DINAH CANCER performing the proverbial marriage vows (the bride wore black?) . . .45 GRAVE begin working on a debut album this week. . . Another month for the MEAT PUPPETS LP; the work is complete, now rabid fans will just have to wait. Meanwhile, one selection will be appearing on an SST Italian compilation . . . Songbird BONNIE SOLDER has flown to California, opting sand, surf and Big City Life for up-and-coming primate rockers THE VERY IDEA OF FUCKING HITLER, who plan to continue as a trio. . . New faces: CAUSTIC WEAPONS, CONSTANT COMMENT, THE SECRET IDOLS with PIK RORTER and someone named VANYA from Finland. . . The Tucson cassette compilation "Valley Fever" is out and about, along with new tapes by JACKET WEATHER and a former member of SERFERS, whose name escapes me at the moment, all on Iconoclast Intl . . Local electronic strategist DAVID OLIPHANT has released a cassette, with some unique packaging, of various works including a sampling of DESTRUCTION. Seek it out. . . Lastly, linear avantjazzrock comrades KNEBNEGAUGE have moved to the Bay Area. Greener pastures some would say, but when was the last time they looked in their backyards?

-David Wiley (New Times Weekly, 1982)











John Thomson: Superstar

by Derrick Bostrom

 When I was growing up, nobody could explain my grandfather's job to me. Even when I was an adult, my mom couldn't really tell me what he did for a living. I knew he was a Shriner, because I saw his hats. I knew he liked to collect restaurant menus, because I saw the blog posts. Beyond that, all I ever knew was he had an office downtown. Last month, I finally learned the truth.

My grandmother was a regular fangirl when it came to her husband. From the 1930s right up through the mid-sixties, she kept a huge scrapbook about my grandfather, tirelessly collecting  hundreds of photos and newspaper clippings documenting the ups and downs of his career. And while my grandfather was no Frank Sinatra or Mikey Mantle, he was quite a superstar in his own right.

The story begins shortly after my grandparents' marriage and finds my grandfather working for a liberal newspaper in Syracuse, Nebraska. In 1936, the Otoe County Democrats elected him the youngest party chairman in the nation.       

John Thomson   John Thomson  John Thomson  John Thomson  John Thomson  John Thomson

John Thomson   John Thomson  John Thomson John Thomson  John Thomson


In short order, he was formally swept into the local bureaucracy, first as Assistant County Clerk, then as a trucking inspector for the Nebraska Railway Commission. Thanks to his ties to the newspaper business, or maybe just due to his basic inherent interestingness, my grandfather collected boatloads of ink throughout his career. He gathered tribute every time he climbed the ladder, garnering praise and support from peers and politicians. Along the way, he signed off on major issues of the day, and contributed "humorous" human-interest filler that would be considered inappropriate today.

 John Thomson  John Thomson  John Thomson  John Thomson  John Thomson  John Thomson  John Thomson  John Thomson

John Thomson John Thomson John Thomson John Thomson John Thomson John Thomson John Thomson John Thomson


Alas, despite Nebraska's deep roots of progressive populism (or maybe because of it), the state couldn't sustain a consistent majority for FDR. In the spring of 1940, my grandfather managed the Democratic candidate in a special election to fill the vacancy left by the death of a sitting senator. The Republicans campaigned against the New Deal and won by a landslide. Later that year, after Nebraska awarded its electoral votes to Wendell Wilkie, my grandfather found himself out of power and planning his return to the private sector. He soon relocated to Minneapolis, reinvented himself as a successful businessman, immersed himself in the Chamber of Commerce, and continued to generate column inches in the local newspapers.

John Thomson  John Thomson  John Thomson  John Thomson   John Thomson John Thomson John Thomson

John Thomson John Thomson John Thomson John Thomson John Thomson


Around this time, his media visibility expanded and took an unexpected turn. During the war, my grandfather began appearing as a model for print advertisements. (An earlier accident kept him out of the service.) Significantly, the roles he adopted charted both his own trajectory and the country's -- out of the Depression and the war, and into the boom of the late Forties and early Fifties. The earliest of these ads portray him as an overall-clad working class hero putting his back into the war effort. Later, he's an upwardly mobile everyman in a hurry to claim his slice of postwar prosperity. Finally, he's a successful self-made man, living the model suburban dream.

 John Thomson  John Thomson  John Thomson  John Thomson  John Thomson  John Thomson  John Thomson

John Thomson John Thomson John Thomson John Thomson John Thomson John Thomson


After the war, my grandfather owned several successful businesses before he finally moved out west and joined CIT Corporation (yes, the very same CIT that's been struggling for its life lately). As the vice president in charge of the Phoenix office, he doled out financing for many of the construction companies that built the modern Arizona. Here, he finally becomes recognizable to me as the man who became my grandfather -- the guy with the carving utensils, serving up the holiday meals with a gruff efficiency and a policy of zero tolerance for tom-foolery at the dinner table. While these later years tend to strike me as anticlimactic, this period certainly brought him his greatest rewards. Like so many of the men of his generation who saw his country through the crises of the day, he was glad to take his place in line when it was time to reap the rewards he deserved.

 John Thomson  John Thomson  John Thomson  John Thomson  John Thomson  John Thomson  John Thomson  John Thomson

John Thomson  John Thomson  John Thomson  John Thomson  John Thomson  John Thomson   John Thomson


And yet, my grandfather lived long enough to watch his country become unrecognizable to him. He saw the Democratic party fall apart during the Sixties, prey to both its own hubris and events beyond its control. Unable to corral its own disparate elements, the party splintered. (Sounds familiar, doesn't it?) Eventually my grandfather switched sympathies. But if he found any real satisfaction in the party of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, he never said anything to me about it.

In the end, extreme age and deteriorating health telescoped his life into a series of restless nights and passing days. I got to know him a little better once I got older, and he always impressed me as a serious, savvy son-of-a-gun. To hear him tell it, he never knew a fool that he suffered gladly. As his photos clearly show, he was a good-old-boy to the core, even as a young man -- a true big fish in a small pond. And though I might not have believed it when I was younger, nowadays I can't help but see a little bit of him staring back at me in the mirror. I'm glad I finally found out what he did for a living.

The Economics Of Christmas Vacation, as Explained by My Wife to Her Ten-Year-Old Niece

by Derrick Bostrom

My wife leaves her instant messaging client on all day while she's working. No wonder it takes her 60 hours a week to get anything done. It doesn't help matters that her ten-year-old niece periodically bombards her with interruptions. On the other hand, some of the transcripts are good enough to withstand the test of time:

Niece: I have a question.

Wife: k

Niece: How come you are coming Christmas Eve instead of a day earlier or something?????

Wife: because Uncle Derrick has to work

Niece: why?

Wife: he can't leave until Christmas eve

Wife: he works at a retail store, and during Christmas retail stores are filled with busy shoppers

Niece: he can work at our store

Wife: that isn't how it works

Wife: he supports his store only

Niece: poopie

Wife: well, in these troubling economic times, one wants to make sure they keep their employer happy

Niece: they're the same. aren't they

Wife: no, not at all

Niece: howcome

Wife: well, for one thing, your store already has someone doing uncle derrick's job

Niece: can't they both work?

Wife: the company can only pay one of them at a time

Niece: o

Wife: and then who would do uncle derrick's job at his store?

Wife: plus it wouldn't be fair to all the people who depend on him at his own store

Wife: if there were problems, they'd be in trouble right before the holiday

Niece: how would they depend on him

Wife: he keeps the computers working, makes sure all the prices are right, and makes sure the cash registers work

Niece: o

Wife: so you see, it's very important for him to be there on such busy shopping days

Niece: why

Niece: hmmmm?

Wife: imagine if you went to the store and they said "sorry, we can't sell you these things that you need because the computers aren't working right now"

Wife: because Derrick decided to abandon us and go see his niece a day early

Niece: sooo

Niece: i would go to a different store

Wife: and then all the people who worked at his store would lose money because you bought things somewhere else

Wife: that's not fair to his co-workers

Niece: why

Wife: they might get sent home early and not get paid since they couldn't sell anything

Wife: and then they'd have to take back the Christmas presents they bought for their kids because they had no money

Niece: no they wouldn't

Wife: yes, they would

Wife: they count on the money they get at Christmas time to make up for days that aren't as busy

Wife: some day you'll have a job, then you'll understand

Niece: no I won't

Niece: i am going to be a astronaut

Wife: an astronaut - so what would happen if one person didn't show up for a launch?

Wife: the rest of them couldn't go

Niece: yes they could

Wife: no, they couldn't because each of them has a very important job to do

Niece: yes they could

Wife: not really - you need people to be able to help each other.

Niece: what?

Wife: each person has their own skills and training. They work together and help each other

Niece: no

Wife: it's called teamwork

Wife: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teamwork

Niece: ok

Wife: A general dictionary defines teamwork as a "Cooperative or coordinated effort on the part of a group of persons acting together as a team or in the interests of a common cause, unison for a higher cause, people working together for a selfless purpose, and so on." Applied to workplaces teamwork is a method that aligns employee mindsets in a cooperative and usually selfless manner, towards a specific business purpose. Today there is no business or organization that does not talk about the need and value of teamwork in the workplace.

Wife: In order for teamwork to succeed one must be a team player. A team player is one who subordinates personal aspirations and works in a coordinated effort with other members of a group, or team, in striving for a common goal. Businesses and other organizations often go to the effort of coordinating team building events in an attempt to get people to work as a team rather than as individuals

Niece: 0123456789

Wife: ok i have to go now, one of my teammates needs my help

Breakfast Without Meat Part Three - Stupid Comics

by Derrick Bostrom

Back in the days before media saturation, folks relied on their own resources in order to amuse themselves. You could find people clustered under awnings, along roadsides and behind bus stations -- notebooks in their laps, ball-point pens at the ready -- all chuckling to themselves over their latest doodle or humorous cartoon. I miss those days; I still have all my old notebooks. Somehow, when I was younger, I had nothing better to do with my time than fill page after page with crude drawings. As I grow older and their memory grows more and more distant, these drawings make less and less sense to me. But I guess they must have made sense to the editors of Breakfast Without Meat magazine, because they used to publish 'em.

In those days, I had a whole arsenal of characters. Kee-Lah was a blithe, childlike everyman, protected from the effects of his awesome self absorption by the sheer fact that he was fictitious. Painman was one of many deconstructionalist superheroes. He seems to derive his power from the jaded assumption that his use of physical force will achieve the desired outcome. The narrative treats his victory as a foregone conclusion, concerning itself merely with the inevitable restoration of normalcy. Prez is another meta-character whose only purpose is to follow the conceit of his conception to its logical extreme.

As for the Burger Family, perhaps the less said about them the better. They do lead me to suspect however, that spending most of your day sitting in front of a notebook might be a practice greatly aided by a certain deliberately induced state of mind.


Breakfast Without Meat Part Two - Puzzle Page!

by Derrick Bostrom

Thirty years ago, life ended for The King of Rock and Roll. A decade later, an obsessive fan published a couple of obscure puzzles in a little-known Bay Area fanzine. Now, that same fan shares these ancient artifacts with you, the Bostworld visitor. Coincidence? I think not.

Of course, my encyclopedic knowledge of trivial Presley minutia and fun facts was nothing back then compared to what it is today. For instance, I now know that Elvis didn't merely see himself in the clouds with Joseph Stalin, and didn't merely receive spiritual instruction from his hairdresser. During this period, Elvis actually used to force his entire entourage to drive in a mobile home back and forth between Memphis and Los Angeles. What should have been a short trip by plane took the group several days, depending on how slowly Elvis chose to drive. He would hold forth on his self-aggrandizing religious theories for the entire trip. Much to the resentment of "the guys," the hairdresser often rode shotgun. The trip would be even more unbearable if Elvis became distracted and, say, decided to stop along the roadside and stare up at the clouds for hours.

To me, this added information makes for a much more interesting story. (And you can be sure, once The Colonel's spies let him know what was going on, he quickly cut off the hairdresser's access to The King.)

The other article is an obvious mashup of the Elvis film canon (with "On Tour" inexplicably, I left off) and some random fundamentalist jetsam I probably received in the mail. The last two pieces makes up for their lack of Presley content by their sheer inanity.

Next week: An even greater tribute to The King on the occasion of his 30th deathday.


Breakfast Without Meat, Part One - Take THAT, Madison Avenue!

by Derrick Bostrom

I met the editors of the Bay Area humor zine Breakfast Without Meat in the mid 80's. Bonding commenced forthwith. We quickly determined that I must contribute to the magazine. Over the course of the next half a decade or so, I supplied them with comics, interviews, spot illustrations and other bits of nonsense. But these are my favorite contributions. Based on the old ad parodies in "Mad" magazine, my series purports to attack those shameless companies who would prey on the fragile sentiments and allegiances of the American consumer. Armed with nothing but a few leftover markers and access to my neighborhood Kinko's, I launched a deft crusade against "the forces of unbridled consumerism" that could not be contained. That is, not until I lost interest (or the magazine ceased publication; I no longer remember which came first).

Adopting a pointlessly lofty tone, I breast-stroked effortlessly through a stridently paranoid miasma, equating advertising with fascism, finally indicting our very government itself. I'd like to say the hollow corpses of my targets collapsed easily under the weight of their own shabby corruption once the light of my righteous parody was shined upon them, but I fear this is not the case. Their presence remains, in fact: stronger than ever, their heavy heel resting comfortably upon our throats, our shoulders heavy from their yoke, our backs blistered by their lash.

Time for a sequel, perhaps?