January 1997s m u g
by Leslie Harpold

Just Another Four Letter Word

"SMUG, an online magazine about media and culture was the first online publication to have their URL mentioned in a top 100 college station single."

How We Got Here

One hundred dollars to Internic and a virtual domain. That was the easy part.

Welcome to SMUG v.1.0b - this is the beta edition of SMUG. There are a couple of columns that aren't in this issue, but this issue is packed with goodies. I wanted to get it up and running so I could beta test it, to see what was going to work for us, and to resolve all those pesky navigational issues, and to show myself and my staff that what we had been stewing over so long was going to work.

From 1987 to 1991 I published a print Zine called "House of Cards." It was fun, and I think after about thirty of them, I actually cleared a profit of 47 cents. Drunk from my fame, fortune, and copy machine ink fumes, = I dropped out of the Zine scene and tried my best to avoid my adoring public, going underground to try to make a decent living in New York City. It was only sporadically successful. Too gifted to lead a regular life and too insecure not to have a web site, I started publishing Internet specific content on my personal web space that came with my email account. What made it Internet specific? Only that it was on the Internet and that instead of calling them articles or editorials, nomenclature that is specific to the behemoth that is print, I called them rants. The only rant I knew of in print was Ed Angers column in the Weekly World News, but on the Internet, every time someone was vaguely dissatisfied, they bitched and moaned and called it a rant.

I could do that.

Much to my surprise, people read them, and when I got lazy and didn't write one, no one was paying me, after all, I would get urgent mail asking what the hell happened, it was Tuesday, it was noon, and there was nothing new to read.

I didn't think anyone was paying attention. It was just a personal web site, after all. I just didn't want to put up one of those "this is my house, this is my job, these are my pets" home pages.

Reasons to Be

This is the part where I wish I could tell you I was having latte at a chic boite with my intellectual pals and having that old Erich Fromm reason vs. intelligence debate - you know the one where he asserts that reason is what man uses to grasp the world and intelligence and thought are what man uses to manipulate the world. That's not what happened, as a matter of fact, like all my best projects, this one was born while I was wearing pajamas.

In the last two years, content on the Internet has come a long way, but not far enough. Good stuff is out there, but I wanted something a little different. Not finding it begat SMUG. Internet access is part of my life, but so are a lot of other things. Media comes at me from all angles. So, in a late night conversation with a friend, we kept thinking of all the ways we could tear apart the media, things we wanted to see in a magazine but just weren't getting, or getting enough of. I started contacting other writers I knew the next day. I didn't want to do this alone.

I kept thinking of the J.G. Ballard quote in a re/SEARCH article I had read, (from a 1971 interview in Heavy Metal) "Electronic aids, particularly domestic computers, will help the inner migration, the opting out of reality. Reality is no longer going to be the stuff out there, but the stuff inside your head. Its going to be commercial and nasty at the same time."

"Commercial and nasty at the same time."

The words rolled around in my head like an all day sucker, getting sweeter and sweeter. I enlisted the aid of some talented people I knew, and after lots of planning, fidgeting, panicking and email, here it is. Right now, it's monthly. This could change.

Off Our Backs

SMUG is an attitude. We think the media takes itself too seriously and gives itself a little too much slack trying to rewrite the way we think and behave, and for the most part underestimates us. We're not taking it lying down.

There's some stuff in here for other parts of your brain too. You, we hope, lead whole lives, which comforts us, since we live vicariously through you now that we're publishing SMUG and maintaining full time jobs. So poke around, drop us a line and let us know what you think. Welcome to SMUG, where content is king, but javascript is here if you want it. Come back often, and bring friends. It's a house party, and our Moms don't care if you trash the place.


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