Negative Capability

Subway Inferno

Negative Capability

Subway Inferno


Believe it or not, I actually read and respond to every single piece of e-mail that I get, even if it makes no sense or bores me to tears. I don’t know why, but I care and try to engage people in conversations about my ideas whenever I can. I like to discuss the things that I’m talking about on these pages and in the print zine because more than anything, I do all of this to provoke reactions in people. Sometimes I figure out how I feel about something when someone else tells me their opinion. When I have to suss out my own take on something, I find that I begin to define myself, which is important for everyone to do. Anyway, I am not going to go on and on. I will just give you the opinions of some people who have something to say about the new issue. If you have something to say, e-mail it to me at joshsaitz[at] and if it’s even slightly interesting, I’ll be glad to share it with my readers. I will be adding new stuff as comments come in. Thanks.

This is a thoroughly enjoyable romp through the obsessive meandering of a pop-culture junkie. There’s so much material, it could easily fit in a zine twice the size. The letters and review pages are in themselves bigger than a lot of other zines. The pop quiz alone is a thing of wonder. The magazine invites readers to participate for cool prizes, which for a zine is pretty noteworthy, but the answers to last issue’s quiz combined with new questions runs an astounding 8 pages. A review of a Cornelius and Robyn Hitchcock concert runs 6 pages and the amazing thing is that it never once lapses into boredom. This is a zine you can keep picking up and reading for a month. — Broken Pencil, the Guide to Alternative Culture

One of the perennial debates in zineland is the “when is a zine not a zine?” debate. If a zine has a glossy color cover, is it still a zine? If it has (shudder) a bar code, is it still a zine? My own answer is that it’s not the form that determine what is or isn’t a zine, but rather the circumstances of ownership.

Negative Capability makes a good “exhibit A” in that argument. It has a glossy cover. It has a bar code. It has advertisements (although for pretty non-corporate stuff). And yet, despite all that, it is clear that Jøsh Saitz, the owner, operator, and primary writer here, isn’t trying to imitate a “real” magazine — he’s using Negative Capability primarily as a tool of his own personal expression, and that qualifies it distinctively as a zine. Mr. Saitz built this soapbox himself, and, damnit, he’s going to stand on it and say whatever he pleases.

This is a big part of the appeal of zines, and Mr. Saitz works it to the extreme here. Take, for example, his “review” of a Robyn Hitchcock show. It’s entitled “The Only Live Review I’ll Ever Write,” which already distinguishes this from a concert review that you’d see in, say, SPIN. The first paragraph ends with: “I’m not even going to start with the concert. I’m going to start with how life seems to work against me sometimes.” By paragraph three he’s into discussing the fine points of his writing style: “Lately when I am writing for the zine I don’t focus on anything but the forward momentum. I’ve come to trust my own ability to dig holes and then dig right back out of them.” Many anecdotes and hole-diggings ensue. Robyn Hitchcock enters the review in paragraph 15 and takes the stage around paragraph 36.

As a reader, you’ve got two choices with what to do with this material: you can either choose to enjoy the window into another person’s subjectivity (thus succumbing to Mr. Saitz’s charms), or you can grow more and more frustrated and go “Where the hell’s the review?!” I’d imagine that most lovers of zines will opt for the former, because zines excel at providing those windows into how other people live — something most other media products (say, SPIN) fail utterly to do. In this way, Negative Capability is a quintessential zine.

This issue clocks in at 48 dense pages, and each one showcases Mr. Saitz’s personality, which comes through, powerfully. He’s foulmouthed, insensitive, obsessed with media and drugs, and often very funny. He reveals these elements of himself constantly throughout the pieces of the issue. The pieces are quite varied— they include the answers to an impossibly-elaborate trivia quiz (and the questions for the next round), an appreciation of dead comic Bill Hicks, travel tips for New York City, video reviews (including midget porn) and a long memoirish piece about Mr. Saitz’s life of taking illicit drugs—and yet they all somehow seem to fuse together into one big piece about Jøsh Saitz. How you ultimately respond to it will almost certainly depend upon your reaction to him as a person.

My own reaction? Well, I don't know if I’d, like, be his best friend or anything— and the easily-offended should definitely steer clear —but I found his consciousness a pretty entertaining place to romp around in for a while. — Invisible City

Thanks so much for the zine! We just got back from vacation, and it finally made it to the top of my pile, so I've been digging it for a few days now—great job! I especially liked the article about drugs—the story about going to the stereo store had me laughing out loud... I've been through the same kind of stuff while tripping years ago. Also loved your tribute to Bill Hicks, who I was only introduced to recently by a friend of mine who has been sending me tapes. He rules! Your Robyn Hitchcock story was great too—I had a similar experience recently when I met one of my musical heroes, Pat Fish (from The Jazz Butcher). The NYC story really had me itching to get back there to check out the places you suggest. The thing I like about your zine is that you tell people to arm themselves, then you suggest a store that sells housewares (can't wait to take a look around that place, either)! — Ken Miller, Shouting at the Postman

Jøsh Saitz sent me a copy of his Negative Capability and asked to trade for TIS 4(1) “...because I’m a huge fan of Too Much Joy.” Apparently TIS came recommended to Jøsh, who exhibits enough energy, arrogance, and good writin’ for ten people. NegCap #2 is a great-looking zine and I must say if you can get past his in-your-face attitude there’s plenty of interesting stuff in there, even if the guy is an Apple Macintosh True Believer (shudder). Plus, there was the “Manmilk” fake advertisement on the back cover which had me and Ken West cracking up. What can I say? From a Swine perspective, this guy’s almost a perfect life form: self-interested and not ashamed to say so, opinionated, convinced of his own superiority, and not afraid to put very dangerous photographs of himself in his own zine. We think maybe we were separated at birth, although I am sure after we’re done disappointing Jøsh with the issues mailed to him he’ll invoke the Swine Way and deny deny deny. And besides, note that he is a Too Much Joy fan. We recommend that all Swine get a sample issue posthaste. — Jeff Somers, The Inner Swine

This is one of the more amazing zines I’ve seen in a while. The only problem I have with including it in these reviews is... well, I’m not so sure this is really a zine. I mean, it has a glossy cover with a bar code on it, it has paid advertising.. maybe you zine purist types wouldn’t consider it a zine based on the look of it, but all you have to do is take a cursory look at the contents inside and you’ll see that this is definitely a zine and a damn great one at that. Jøsh is a great writer with a great sense of humor who is totally honest and pulls no punches at all.

The standout pieces in this issue are “Lost in the K-Hole,” an account of Josh’s drug experiences, “How to Visit NYC Without Pissing Me Off,” which is really funny and quite useful as well, a tribute to the late comedian Bill Hicks, Angerboy’s Sick and Wrong Jokes (which really are sick and wrong, but also quite funny in a very tasteless sort of way) and... Hell, other than a really stupid and not funny bit about a chicken who talks to the dead (which takes up one page out of fifty) the whole thing is pretty damn great. Check it out. — Xerox Debt Review Zine

The letters section actually had a personality. Most zines have the usual letters of comment, with appropriate sneering or cloying response from the publisher. I can truly say I’ve never seen a section of letters like yours. The live review (“The Only Live Review I’ll Ever Write”) to me, summarizes the entire NegCap ethos. It’s full of bile and yet, still, a liberal stream of passion. It rambles. It embraces tangents. It takes its time getting to the point. Then it skips off the point. And it flips the reader the bird if the reader complains because of such skippage.

One of the criticisms of NegCap is that the writing is overlong, self-indulgent and desperately in need of editing. In general, I believe many zine writers could seriously benefit from someone else editing their work. That is because their writing is so self-indulgent (self-absorbed navel-gazing, basically) that, even if there is the germ of a good story in there, the message is lost. Simply put, many self-published writers can’t communicate.
BUT --
I agree wholeheartedly with you that language is a dynamic, living, breathing organism and I see your longer pieces as extensions of that belief. To edit and tighten one of these pieces would not necessarily improve it. Quite the opposite, it would very possibly suck some of the very life out of it. Is NegCap worth three bucks? It’s my belief that a publication should offer something a reader can’t get anywhere else; by that criteria, NegCap is the real deal and $3 is very fair. And please tell your wife that her Mini-Rants are priceless. — Scott Crow, Word Play

i just read your new issue and it's the best one yet. cliched, but true. you managed to make me laugh, piss me off, and go "aww!!" more times than with your other two zines combined. The NYC guide and K-Hole were both individually worth my whole fuckin' subscription. i would pass your zine around to some of my law school pals if i wasn't sure that it would make me a social leper, and law school is bad enough without having only your pencil to talk to. after all, josh, i am a minority, and you aren't very nice to us. might make them think i'm a self-hating latina. one of my friends is all gung ho about borrowing my issue from lookin' at your website. you don't mind, do you? i could always try to force him to pay for it, but he's a skinflint, try before you buy kind of guy.

All your stories were brilliant. i mean it. i tend to get bored extremely quickly, but you kept me reading. as always, there's a blanket disagreement with the smarter-than-thou white person crap, but there was so much true talent there that i still liked every single piece at the end. a true feat, because i still can't listen to howard stern without wanting to repeal his first amendment rights. just his.

i must go earn my paycheck, but i'll probably write again when i've had a time to re-read some of the stuff. as a request, i'd like to see some of your Bill Hicks collection, if you'll let me. — Martha, Stanford Law School

You are a god. The latest NegCap is supreme! We didn't hear from you for a while, so we assumed Neg Cap was gone. We both went into therapy to get over it. Then the latest issue came. We both told our therapists to kiss off, hopped onto the couch together and sucked in every word. You are a genius that is underappreciated by the world.— Dr. Paul Hartunian, NJ

I'd just like to say that Negative Capability is the best zine i've read in years! I'd like very much to help support you with it, while at the same time promote my band (from SF) Replicator. And what's the best way to do this you may ask? Why through the magic of capitalist free enterprise type dealings. Expect my ad shortly! I also wanted to tell you that I discovered Cornelius through NegCap... Cornelius, who I freaking LOVE! Incidentally I also discovered Bill HIcks because of NegCap and although I haven't yet tracked down the collection or anything, it's definitely on my x-mas/birthday list. He was a cool guy. — Conan Neutron, Replicator

Got the new issue. Wow, GREAT... just as I expected. My initial favorite article is "K-Hole”…but it'll take me some time to read your magazine all the way through. So content heavy. But...I'd like to make two observations now:
1. The thing that is best about your writing is that certain points stick in my mind long after I have read your pieces.
2. The point you made on your CD... about going off about retarded and stupid people... but then in everyday life actually being nicer and more considerate to them than most people would be... really hit home. Just as with yourself, even though I may drag folks through the mud... in real life, I am probably kinder to cripples, faggots, negroes, punks, retardos, and every other worthless craphole than your average person. Ain't that odd...?
Well, thanks for another mindblower of a mag...— LMNOP of babysue

Then again, maybe you're thinking of really blowing our little berg. Maybe you're packing up for New York City, an inexplicably popular destination for all sorts of Athens expatriates these days. In that case, I highly recommend you read Jøsh Saitz's polemic "How To Visit NYC Without Pissing Me Off," featured in his self-written, self-published and scathingly funny public journal/zine Negative Capability. Amid plenty of useful advice for newcomers on where to stay, where to eat, etc., you'll find basic truths such as: "As soon as you've decided that you're coming to New York City to visit, every single person that is already here has decided that they hate your fucking guts and would like you dead. It's nothing personal, but the thing is, everything is going smoothly without you." Write Jøsh Saitz in San Francisco to request a copy. That's right, San Fran. By the time his zine hit the printer, Saitz, a lifelong New Yorker, had decided that even he would be better off outside the Rotten Apple. In his words, "While I've come to realize that I thrive under pressure and adverse conditions, I might possibly do even better if life were working for me rather than against me." See you in about six months, Leif Erikson. Flagpole Magazine (Athens, GA Guide to What's Cool) [He was kind of right, I ended up moving back to NYC after about two years in San Francisco.]

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