The Culture Bunker – Fiction

The Culture Bunker

by William Ham
illustration by Rob Zammarchi

Buenos nachos, denizens of the undergrowth. Time to fire off another communiqué from the sub-stratosphere of our collective semi-conscious. I was going to clue you in on the hypnotic/transcendental virtues of watching The Commish while under the influence of a really strong expectorant, but other, more disturbing concerns have distracted this reporter.

To wit: While on one of my periodic excursions above ground to stock up on hard water, powdered jello shots and caffeine-free diet Jolt, I chanced to run across an old acquaintance from my days at Zircon Lake High School Correctional Facility. After we exchanged greetings and a few affectionate body blows, the subject of our respective employments came up. I don’t recall exactly what he said (something about gelding senatorial candidates), but when it came my turn, I smiled coyly, braced myself from the hammerlock of praise, and said, “Well, I happen to write a world-renowned culture column for Lollipop magazine.”

Golliwog?” he answered, scraping his scalp with simian grace. “Don’t believe I’m familiar with that ‘un. I’m an Armenian Rifleman man m’self.”

To put it mildly, I was aghast. Was this eyebrow-ridged troglodyte professing ignorance of the premiere publication of our entropic times? After I planted my response firmly in his perineum, I took a stroll down to Books and Other Books, the local print emporium. And what to my wandering eyes should appear but veritable rows of periodicals, most of which had the likeness of that chick with the melonoma on her face, and not a single issue of Lollipop.

I’ll give you a paragraph to regain your composure.

Yes, regrettably, ’tis so. Even though this magazine is available for free ($17.50 Canadian) and contains some of the finest scrawlings available on short notice, it is still left to wallow in the turgid seas of printed effluvia. Competition is rife – according to 1990 census figures, every person in America will have his own magazine by the year 2006, and two-thirds of them will have something to do with fly-fishing. An unencouraging atmosphere for a neophyte rag to compete in, but I hold great hopes for us. We will fight them on the beaches, we will fight them in the air, we will fight them in… uh… other places too, I guess. And we will rise, like the, mmm, Tucson from the flames, no, wait, I think I mean the Flagstaff… well, you get the point.

Nevertheless, we at the Bunker are nothing if not even-handed. (We each have two. I checked.) There are reams of rags competing for your lagging attentions, and I believe the time is right for a fair, unbiased consumer guide to several of them. So with open mind in hand, allow me to survey the current crop and let you, the reader, decide.


The December issue of Revolve, on newsstands now, features a fine cover story on Vermont’s rap sensation LL Cool Bean, part two of their in-depth interview with Church of Tim Conway founder Hervé Fernandez-Dorf, and a well-lit fourteen-page pictorial of new fashions consisting mostly of grunion. Their record reviews are among the best-written in the business, and their editorial policy remains strong (“No adverbs”). In fact, if there’s any flaw in the magazine, it’s only that the printer’s ink they use contains carcinogens that will cause the reader to drop dead within five years of purchase. Other than that, a good read.

From Chicago comes an exciting new literary journal, Dry Rot Quarterly. In the debut issue, bright young literary light Cletus Firbank contributes his “Diary of An Eleven-Fingered Man;” Bertrand Philbert continues his brilliant autobiographical study, “Whither My Teeth?”; and the long-suppressed excerpts from J. D. Salinger’s, “No Cream, Please: Selected Notes to the Milkman.” Wonderful, thought-provoking and illuminating, even if three-quarters of its $7.50 cover goes to the American Committee to Establish Mandatory Castration For Jaywalking (OUCH).

Falling Rock celebrates its fifth year of continued publication this month with a special double issue featuring some of the best articles, typographical errors, and page numbers from their first half-decade. Coincidentally, this month also marks the fifth anniversary of the publisher’s conviction for drowning cute, helpless little kitties for no particular reason. He would have had to serve a stiff jail sentence, but his father is extremely wealthy and was able to bribe the judge, the district attorney, and the chief of police, and still have enough left to finance this mag’s publication. Not that this knowledge should detract in any way from your enjoyment of this issue or anything. Those sweet little balls of fur would probably forgive you if the burlap sack weren’t secured so tightly.

The Throat continues its exemplary coverage of the new-music and orthodontia scenes with its new issue, available January 16. Maybe I’m mistaken, but isn’t the editor-in-chief the same guy who used to beat the crap out of you every Wednesday in junior high? You know, the one who threatened to crease your skull with a Louisville Slugger unless you drank a glass of his urine in front of the girl’s gym class? And didn’t he give you a concussion with a lead pipe, which gave you that uncontrollable stutter and caused you no end of grief and embarrassment, particularly when you tried to ask the cutest girl in school to the semi-formal? Remember how she laughed and told all her friends? Come to think of it, isn’t that her name on the masthead as well? Oh, well, if you want to put money in their pockets, I suppose that’s your business.

Charnel Surfing Today has now gone monthly, which would be heartening were it not for all the sex slaves tied up in their boiler room. Or the fact that I personally saw their art director handing out pamphlets that read “I LIKE EICHMANN” when he wasn’t taunting people with severe acne or tripping feeble old ladies with walkers. Or all those church bombings that the copy editor just happened to live in the vicinity of in the last six months. Or the conversation that I overheard on the Red Line between the production manager and the assistant photo editor about how minorities should be put into cages like wild animals. Still, if you have no particular qualms about aiding and abetting the eventual downfall of the American way of life and the implementation of martial law and totalitarian rule, you might enjoy the contents of this well made periodical.

And there you have it. Surely, given the fair assessment of our competitors on the great newsstand of life, you should be able to make a reasoned judgement as to what should grace your bedside tables and bathroom reading racks. Don’t allow all the hours of continued service to our community and our contributions to your favorite charities to be a factor in your decision. Just do as we have done, and allow the quality of the work to stand on its own. Now if you’ll excuse me, the entire editorial staff is due down at the homeless shelter for our weekly volunteer work.