The blog returns to the 1983 Project. Looking at media from 1983 and seeing connections to today. Go through the blog’s archives and see previous selections to get caught up.
Today I continue using the Harlan Ellison book, An Edge in My Voice, as inspiration. In his last official column for The L.A. Weekly, Ellison writes 2500 words about address labels. While this seems like an Andy Rooney worthy rant and possibly not worth the time his anger is properly channeled in a way that leads to answers. Not creating change, but at least have more information than where it started.
Harlan begins this essay in anger because two months earlier he could not find a magazine in his extensive files. Turns out the torn address label stuck to the magazine ahead of it, initially hiding it from view but then tearing the covers of both issues in a manner that defeats collectors. Sure, the contents inside are still good but without pristine covers what’s the point in saving them?
Ellison sought answers. The only reason to tear off the labels is to give the entire cover a showcase. As a collector and a reseller, this is a problem I also face. I have to tear a label off, risking tearing the cover as well. Or I have to black it out, which doesn’t look pretty either. I have numerous magazines, books, comics, and the like that I keep in plastic bags because the remaining sticker residue is so strong I risk damaging anything I put next to it. Years later and this is still a problem. Where I see a problem and throw up my hands, Ellison went to work for answers.
He called the magazine editors and asked why the labels can’t be put on the back. “Against postal codes.” So he called the post master who said that was rubbish. “The printer is unable to do it.” So he called the printers who said it is very possible and could be done without any extra time or money. Then where is the answer? Who is the culprit? A brave soul who did not want his name out there stepped up. The advertisers threatened to pull their ads from the back covers if an address label covered it.
The almighty dollar speaks again. Here’s the dirty secret of the magazine industry. By the time the magazine reaches you, the magazine is essentially free. You’re paying a nominal shipping fee to your home or enough to make it worth it for the grocery store to carry the magazine. The advertisements have paid for the cost of the magazine, but the magazine needs to sell enough copies to share those numbers with the advertisers and thus have enough for the next issue. The amount of magazines I get for free is absurd, but it pads those subscription numbers.
So while the reader does matter, truth is, the reader is second to any and all advertisers. Now is the place to take the second lesson. A lesson not only from Ellison, but also from the writers in these magazines. Back yourself up.
Ellison asked questions, and then sought out proof. He made people look stupid because he did not take their BS at face value and looked for facts. Anyone can spout their unfounded opinions in a public setting. Most 24 hour channels are full of that. You can’t debate everyone on social media for a variety of reasons. Pick your battles. Ellison had no fear and no F’s to give, so he would attack everyone and everything he felt compelled to fight. It’s not worth it to me to get into it with someone who won’t change their opinions. However, just because I’m not planning to fight does not mean I’m not armed for one should it come to me. Facts at the ready, counter points honed.
I do take these lessons to heart for matters that could affect me or those closest to me. While modern technology and social media is a bane in some ways, it can also be the greatest benefit. Stored citations and links. Even better, it’s entirely possible I have videos and photos stored on my phone should I ever need to defend myself. Question my thoughts, my work, my decisions? Here is moving living proof that you can’t dispute.
Now sulk off in defeat and lick your wounds where I tore the address label away.