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Ballast Quarterly Review
2022 X Avenue / Dysart Iowa 52224-9767
16 pp; send two first-class postage stamps for one issue

Ballast is essentially two things. First, it is a literary review magazine. The books Ballast reviews are mostly those of the art/design/architectural genre; the reviews are rich and detailed with occasional illustrations extracted from the source. Second, it is a magazine of quotes. Short, long, witty, dark, fascinating quotes. The two together create a delicious synergy. Essential reading for anyone involved with design/art.

"BALLAST is an acronym for Books Art Language Logic Ambiguity Science and Teaching ... it is a journal devoted to wit, the contents of which are intended to be insightful, amusing, or thought-provoking..."

lookie! a book!

Beer Frame #1/#2
160 St. Johns Place / Brooklyn NY 11217
56 pp; current issue $2.50; back issues $4.00

Beer Frame's strange title comes with a more explanatory subheading: "The Journal of Inconspicuous Consumption." In it, Paul Lukas lovingly reviews a large amount of products (Alpo Gourmet Dinner dry cat food, "Sweet Sue" female torso model, Barnum's Animal Crackers), services (free suitcoat buttons, the Apology phone line, The Society for Industrial Archeology), and records. He doesn't review the actual music; he bubbles on about the physical product (vinyl/sleeve/design elements). This is intrinsic to most of his reviews; the design of a product is as important as its function, which has always been an element of near-religious importance with me. Beer Frame brings out the consumer in you, and you'll be damn glad it did.

"A trip to the supermarket, hardware store, or office-supply outlet gets me going the way a big bag of fresh catnip jump-starts a friendly feline - my pupils dilate, I get all tingly and excited, and I have to be kept away from heavy machinery . . . In short, gang, I like stuff."
Beer Frame #4

Paul Lukas has a Thing Jones; in Beer Frame, products are reviewed, analyzed, and dressed-down. This issue features (among other things) The Smoker's Robot, the Hoover Spirit Vacuum Cleaner, The Enemy Wind hurricane videotape (what Paul refers to as "Weather Porn"), and an engaging expose surrounding the recent M&M "vote for a new color" sham, errr, election.

Bigrig Industries Manifesto #81
Box 30951 Oakland CA 94604
28 pp.; $1 each; fine choices include #81 (Nothin' But Beer) and #79 (Urban Survival)

From the city where the U.S. situationist movement took root, it's Bigrig Industries! I was initiated into the Bigrig pantheon via a chance meeting at Burning Man 1996. Bigrig publishes a quarterly magazine devoted to a variety of subjects, but mainly focuses on reality hacking ("Make good use of business reply postcards by creating custom-made self-inking address stamps "Quit Your Job Now! Your Bosses Are Abusive And Vile Corporate Swine - Thanks For The Postage") and beer.

"While a fine Pilsner should get a proper Pilsner glass, and a Belgian Ale should get a chalice, so a Budweiser should be appropriately served in a bedpan, and a Coors should be housed in a colostomy bag."
Indeed, the most recent issue ("Nothin' But Beer") features beer product hacking that discusses, among other things, their recent plague-like spread of low-cost Crack-N-Peel stickers for beer cases that read:
"WARNING: Consumption of this product indicates that you are a moron - CORPORATE BEER SUCKS - try some real beer for a change"

Murder Can Be Fun
John Marr / Box 640111 / San Francisco CA 94109
$.75-$2.00 per issue; $3.00 for 1997 datebook (64 pp.)

There is probably no other small-press magazine that deals with as much painstaking research as Murder Can Be Fun. John Marr (no relation) serves up thematic issues that explore topics so in-depth that finding glaring errors in reputable sources has become secondhand to him. Back issue themes include Sports, Deaths at Disneyland, Disasters (including the infamous Boston Molasses Flood), Typhoid Mary, the Tacoma Narrows bridge, Mormon cults, and Fatty Arbuckle, to name a few. In addition to this, there are occasional special releases, like "Anti-Sex Tips For Teens: The Teenage Advice Book 1897-1987" and the recent "Murder Can Be Fun Datebook 1997" (a new death each day, natch). Mix in a batch of true crime/teen sex/reference book reviews, updates on previous issues, and "Al Hoff, Girl Reporter", and it's a wonder you haven't started jamming cash into an envelope yet. I do miss the old typewritten layout, however; it added a special brute-force charm to the pages . . .

Recommended Back Issues: #11 (Disasters - $1.50), #13 (Death at Disneyland - $1.50), #16 (Zoo Deaths - $2.00; 48 pp.)

"For sheer strangeness, no disaster has ever topped Boston's Great Molasses Flood. Other disasters have run up higher body counts, caused more damage, inspired books and movies, and are remembered as Important Historical Events ... but the idea and irony of 2.5 million gallons of molasses raging through city streets, knocking over buildings and killing people in the middle of January ... unbeatable."
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