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Ever been walking down the street and noticed a scrap of paper stuck on the sidewalk, blowing down an alley, or hanging by one staple on a nearby telephone pole? One man's trash, another's treasure. A sign, maybe. A coded arrow from an unknown Cupid messenger.

Davy Rothbart sure thinks those errant pieces of paper mean something, way beyond their initial purpose as shopping list, bookmark, sales receipt, or napkin doodle. Rothbart is the editor of Found magazine, out of Chicago. He travels all over the country "finding" stuff, then publishing these scraps in his eclectic zine.

"There's no better way to really feel someone than to read a note they've written filled with subtle shades of what they really want and what they're most afraid of," Rothbart writes in his preface to Issue One. Friends from New Mexico, Philly, New York, D.C. and L.A. are filling his mailbox and zine with print curiosities, the weird and the mundane.

His first printing of less than 1,000 copies sold out last fall. After Sept. 11, he went back to press with a second printing, adding 15 pages of a collage essay by Jane Fritsch and David Rohde, "Trade Center's Past in a Sad Paper Trail." It's the story of the World Trade Center horror from the point of view of scraps of paper that floated free from their appointed places and destinations--a fax, a phone bill, a resume, an invoice, a potluck dinner invitation--and it is moving, random, intimate, honest, real and very sad.

Understanding that sometimes a picture really is worth 1,000 words, newsstand junkies were surprised last month when two music magazines, Murder Dog and Maximum Rock and Roll, featured covers with an attitude. Hey, the cover dudes were flipping us off! You talking to me? This is supposed to get me to buy the magazine? Well, it got our attention, anyway.

Worth noting this month, too, is the return and evolution of posterzines. Remember the Ninth Street takeover, the April street party? Six weeks after the event, posterzines are showing up in West Durham, revisiting the history of the conflict. Web savvy, and masters of the punk poster look, street party organizers make effective use of oversize posters to recap that wild day. Street party organizers put out information like the Yippies of yesteryear. Their message is less intellectual, more provocative, looking for a redefinition of "public spaces," and, hey, having some fun while they're at it.

"Our streets have become so boring that a party in the streets really baffles people," they note vigorously on their latest broadside. Check your nearest telephone pole for the next update. That's communication, zine style.

More by John Valentine

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