Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Review- The Orbit Magazine Anthology: Re-Entry

The Orbit Magazine Anthology: Re-Entry (Painted Turtle/ Wayne State University Press, 2015)

Ask Baby Jingo was a regular feature where readers would ask questions and Jingo, the world's smartest baby, would answer them. 

Orbit was a free monthly tabloid-sized magazine that was published in Detroit during the 1990s. Once a month I scoured record stores for the new issue. Back in a pre-Internet world young people picked up the free rags like this to see what bands were coming to town. And while I also picked up The Metro Times every week, it was not as fun to read. Orbit was a party on paper month in and month out. The reviews pulled no punches and kissed no ass, an aesthetic that I have feebly tried to emulate in this here blog. My friend was in graduate school at the University of Chicago in the mid-90s, and I would clip out the best parts of Orbit and mail them to him and he would do the same with the local Chicago rag, The Onion. We both felt that Orbit was superior, because it was.

This book is and isn't the story of Jerry Vile. He spearheaded the Punk magazine White Noise in 1979-1980 and Fun, which was more of a direct precursor to Orbit that ran from 1986-1990. The zany humor was already in place in Fun. I especially enjoyed the Melvindale Community College faux brochure since I grew up near that armpit of a town. Also highly recommended is The Telltale Signs Of Teenage Drug Addiction. It was skit articles like this where the writers really shined.

An excerpt from The Telltale Signs Of Teenage Drug Addiction.

Long before the movie made veiled jokes, Orbit uncovered the terrible, terrible secrets of the television series.

Orbit launched in 1990 using space-age computers to do then-innovative layout and design. While the number of typos found in the scanned articles are numerous, bear in mind that this was done on primitive word processors in the days before sorcery like spell check existed. The people who did reviews for Orbit had good taste, and my friends and I would often check a movie out if they gave it a good rating. The cynical bastards who did reviews for Orbit would rip apart big budget fare long before the Internet made such things the national pastime, and we loved them for it. I laughed my ass off when Orbit gave Pearl Jam's Vs. a big fat 0, as I hated Pearl Jam with every fiber of my being back then, believing that they were everything wrong with music. And they were. Still are, really. Seeing this review again brought a smile to my face. I really wish that I had thought to save all of my Orbits.

I always loved Orbit's hype blurbs for concerts. Most rags talk about how great said band is. Not Orbit.

The Eagles have been a blemish on humanity for decades. I remember spitting venom at this money-grubbing reunion tour back then too. Thank The Eagles if you enjoy spending triple digits on concert tickets, because they and Barbara Streisand proved that people were stupid enough to pay it. Die, Eagles, die!!!

Orbit predicted Quentin Tarantino's success right out of the gate, giving him his first magazine cover and he returned the favor by featuring an Orbit T-shirt in Pulp Fiction. Orbit also predicted the success of Kid Rock and Insane Clown Posse as well as giving space to Eminem and The White Stripes. I really enjoyed their coverage of all of the local bands on the scene from the fall of 1998 in Now Playing In Detroit!, seeing listings of The Go, The White Stripes, Rocket 455, and all of the other bands that would define an era.

Jack White and Eminem, pre-fame.

The White Stripes, pre-first album.

Jerry Vile co-launched Real Detroit Weekly as he killed off Orbit, and it was basically a big fat tabloid of advertisements with ass-kissing write ups about events coming to town. I picked it up every week as I needed stuff to read on the toilet but the demise of Orbit left a hole in my heart which was already three sizes too small. The mythological final issue, which never made it to stores around where I lived at the time, does indeed exist as proven by scans of the cover and numerous interior pages in this book.

The following are from Orbit's holiday gift guide.

Word of this book started circulating a year or two ago, and I eagerly awaited any and all news of it. Author Robert St. Mary launched a Patronicity crowdsource funding page and I immediately plunked down money for it. The total needed to make the book happen was looking iffy as the deadline approached and then Kid Rock swooped in and saved the day. I am not much of a Kid Rock fan to be honest with you but he helped make this book happen so he is all right by me.

I have one quibble with this book. The skit article There Is No Iowa was not included in this 272 page tome. I remember hyperventilating when I read that article for the first time, it was so hysterical. I laughed and wheezed and cried. I have scoured the Internet in vain looking for a scan of it, but Orbit sadly existed before the world of scanners and most copies are sitting in landfills. The magazine did have the first website for a publication in Detroit, though, so who knows. Someone somewhere may have it stored on some floppy disc.

While I would never insult real writers by claiming to be one myself, let's say that for a minute I am a writer. If I, as a “writer” had a number one influence, it would be Orbit. The writing really informed me in terms of how to make a review fun instead of a sell out fluff piece or, worse yet, some rote book report style. But like I said, I'm not a real writer...not like those cats who got their work published in the prestigious pages of Orbit. I would be all over additional books of scans of Orbit. Hopefully this book sells enough to make author Robert St. Mary want to do that.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 5 out of 5.

Yes, that's right. Kris Shaw. My name IN PRINT. Who says that money can't buy happiness?

The OCD zone- This is the part where I go into tactile sensations of physical media. Those with heart conditions, high blood pressure, or women who are pregnant should exit my blog at their earliest convenience, as their safety cannot be guaranteed.
Paper stock: Thick coated stock with a slight sheen. This is coffee table book material, folks.
Binding: Sewn binding. The weight of the book block, combined with the size of the book, give the book a floppy feel...kind of like a tabloid size newspaper!
Cardstock cover notes: Matte finish which is resistant to scuffing. Should look handsome with repeated handling, and believe me, this book will be picked up often in my house.

For those of you still reading, here is a little something that I whipped up after reading this book. Consider this my love letter to Orbit...

A flash of inspiration just hit me like a lightning bolt, the answer to all of my dreams and my ticket to a life of wealth and comfort for my family.


Everything in this world has become easy and convenient, but what if my proposed chain of stores, independently owned and operated franchises with no unifying theme or decor, could undo that sameness that makes all chains lame and boring?

Imagine a store that carries only the brands that are unpopular. RC Cola. Zero Bars. Ketchup flavor potato chips. Imagine a cash register that only accepts cash, or cannot accept a bill larger than a five. Or doesn't have pennies. Or won't accept EBT. All varying from one location to the next.

Parking? Forgettabout it! THE INCONVENIENCE STORE ain't got no time for that! Located on the second floor or basement of buildings in densely populated cities with no dedicated parking or ease of access to mass transit, THE INCONVENIENCE STORE won't even make getting there easy!

Customer service? Not a chance. Rude clerks playing with their phone and updating their Facebook/Twitter/Instagram are the order of the day, babe. Cashiers with no knowledge of the layout of the store or even what items are stocked.

Merchandising? THE INCONVENIENCE STORE will have no unifying layout from one day to the next. Mallo Cups will sit next to cheap Chinese knockoff Minecraft toys on the shelf one day and be on opposite ends of the store the next. Rhyme or reason are out the window!

THE INCONVENIENCE STORE will carry it's mission into cyberspace too, as it's website will have a cluttered, confusing layout without a Store Locator as well as an app for your smartphone which will be on at all times, killing your battery.

THE INCONVENIENCE STORE...coming to a neighborhood nowhere near you!

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