Archives: Negative Capability
Negative Capability is a controversial glossy perzine.
The premiere issue of Negative Capability is the only full-sized,
glossy-colour-covered perzine I've encountered. Every feature in the 54-page
zine is by and about publisher Josh Saitz (with the exception the odd short
feature like "Isn't That Embarrassing?" or "How to Tell If It is Time to Get
Married," snippets of Dave Barry-esque humour which seem totally out of
Design-wise, Negative Capability is fairly easy on the eye. It's on real paper, not
newsprint, which is a real plus. The colour cover, which depicts a satellite
frying the Earth with a laser, is a strong image that hints at what's to come
inside the zine. Josh uses a lot of pretty fonts in his Xpress-fuelled page layout,
but kindly sticks to serifs for the body text. The illustrations compliment the
layout for the most part, except for a few instances of black text atop greyscale
pictures. The back cover is a parody ad that I'd love to have in poster size; other
than that, no ads in this first issue.
I paid a whopping $3.95 Canadian to pick Negative Capability up at Tower and
didn't feel ripped off, so I guess you could say I got a lot out of it. And yet, if I
had read NC from back to front, it's very unlikely I would have bothered to
finish this first issue. Like most of my friends, Josh chose to introduce me to his
charming side before his rotten side. The zine commences with Josh's editorial,
thanking lots of his pals and inspirations and proclaiming his devotion to his
girlfriend. I'm always impressed when a guy is brave enough to do this. Among
the first articles are "My Best Friend is a Junkie," an account of Josh's history
with illicit drugs and the tale of how he lost his friend to heroin; "I Enjoy Being A
Girl," in which Josh quite humbly admits his affection for stuffed animals; "Lit.
Majors Can Kiss My Ass," in which Josh talks about his struggles as a writer,
presents a fictional short story and then analyses his own story in a very honest
way; and "More Savant Than Idiot," a less personal, but extremely interesting
account of Josh's experiences on MTV's Idiot Savants game show. An account
of Josh's adventures tormenting people in AOL chat rooms was mischievous
and fun. These articles were all fantastic; very witty, sincere and more or less
As Josh admits, however, he is a very contradictory person. Roughly a third of
the articles, mostly towards the rear of the zine, are really Cranky and
hate-fuelled. It's hard to believe the same sensitive vegan who adopts unwanted
stuffed animals he finds in the garbage, feeds pigeons and proclaims "I do not
drink milk because I am not a calf" can elsewhere write "You were molested?
Get over it," "I hope your wife is gang-raped, your daughters get AIDS and your
sons die sucking dick for a living," or "[I] laugh out loud every time I hear a
cabbie is robbed or killed... they suck, and they deserve to die... don't feel bad if
you hear about a cabbie getting shot in the head for $20, trust me that guy
deserved it. They all do." It is startling that Josh would condemn an entire
profession to death over bad driving, but he does, and I think he means it (and
even if these are jokes, there's a lot of hate behind them). Other people Josh
wishes violent deaths upon include the retarded, those with poor grammar,
"every single personal injury lawyer," anyone who smokes cigars, bike
messengers who ride on the sidewalk and millions more. Josh seems to have the
exact problem he so accurately diagnoses in one of the characters in his short
story "Entitled": "Loved animals fine, but didn't seem to care about people.
Particularly in articles such as "The Eight and Ninth Circles of Hell" and "How
to Cope with Assholes," Josh offers a large number of rants about the very
flawed world he sees around him, though his suggestions on how to improve
things usually don't go much beyond people being "hung upside down until their
brain liquifies and comes pouring out of their nostrils." Josh seems really proud
of endlessly mail-bombing a company that criticized his writing, without
explaining what the employees are being punished for, and for throwing garbage
around his building to express his rage at receiving menus under his door. I have
no problem with mischief for mischief's sake, but I think Josh deludes himself
into thinking he's accomplishing something. He's very enthusiastic in his
contempt, so the rants are entertaining to watch even though they're useless,
kind of like a five-year-old pretending to help out with the housework.
Personally, I think Josh's writing gets worse and less organized as he loses his
temper. For example, I think it's strange that he feels that NASA is more
deserving of contempt than people involved in the fur and meat industries (I
suspect these victims of loathing are simply laid out in whatever order Josh
thought of them).
In my humble opinion, Josh has an excellent sense of humour and a lot of
interesting stories to tell. I'll continue to feel this zine is worth $3.95, if Josh can
attempt to share with the human race some of the empathy he seems to have
reserved for animals, and manage to come across as being slightly less
contemptuous of his readers. [Negative Capability #1 is 54 pages, and can be
ordered for $3 US or $4 Canadian from Josh Saitz, PO Box 226, Murray Hill
Station, New York, NY, 10156-0226.]
Now, I meant this as not just a review, but the first volley in a discussion.
Please feel welcome to pick the above apart. I'd love to hear what other people
thought of Negative Capability, or what people think of subjects like empathy for
animals but not for humans, or hate-fuelled writing in general.
I reviewed Negative Capability in the most recent issue of Skull (#2). It pretty
much sums up my feelings on the premiere issue of Josh's zine. The reviews are
posted on the Skull web page, so indulge if you have the time. I'd like to add that
animals really are better than humans. When was the last time a cat attacked you
because you're white and it's black? Do snakes feel the need to blow you off in
public because they're embarrassed by your presence? Have you ever been raped
by a cow?
For those of you who are offended by what you read: Perhaps it is because to
read it with an open mind would mean admitting to yourself that you are guilty
of the behavior described. That can be a tough thing to handle. If somebody
pisses you off so much that you add the imbecile to your hate list, why the fuck
would you want them to live? So they can continue to bother you? "Love",
"hate", and "friendship" are three words that people should use a lot less often
than they do. If I say that I hate somebody, I've got a reason, and I genuinely
despise them. Personally, I greatly enjoy reading and writing hate pieces. It's a
release. I feel that my wit quickens under the emotional heat of hatred. Reading
well-written, hate driven pieces entertains and inspires me. I find them
Hey, today my cat Leo attacked me because I was white and he was grey, same
Animals are far more cut-throat than humans, they rape, attack, and murder
each other constantly, it sounds like you've been reading too manyn animal
rights brochures. The only reason they don't rape and kill humans too often is
because we are big and scary to them, if you were a foot tall and a little fuzzier,
they would be eating you for breakfast.
Oh great. More on animal rights....
Bovine serial killers! At your local dairy farm now!
Dan, animals may chow on weaker ones for dinner, but that's within the laws of
nature. Humans eat other creatures all the time, even if they do use artificial
means to get that burger on their plate each night. We humans are the ones who
don fatigues and stomp through the woods, shotguns in hand, searching for
some animal (some GAME) who's just minding his own business to take out and
cart home so we can hang the bloody carcass on a tree in our front yard to
prove to our neighbors that we're badasses. I don't believe that so many hunters
have pictures taken of themselves, a conquering foot upon their kill, so they can
show their grandkids what they had to do to get a decent meal back in the day.
A dog can't walk into the supermarket and make a choice as to what he wants to
buy. Instinct dictates what these animals will eat - that's what they need to
If you ask me, "rape" in the animal kingdom would mean procreation. Do some
animals rape others for the pleasure of raping them? Are some animals into
sodomizing smaller ones? In all honesty, maybe I haven't watched enough PBS,
so if you can shed some light on this "animals raping animals" issue, please do.
As far as animals sparring with members of their own species goes - it's done
in the name of "survival of the fittest". Our society is designed to support the
ingrates that piss me off so much. The leaches. The drones. The weak.
Anybody who can get their paws on a gun has got the power to kill.
Even 1-foot-tall fuzzy people.
You don't like hunting? Don't hunt. You don't like meat? Have a salad. Hyperbole
alert: I have never seen a bloody carcass on a tree in anyone's front yard, and I
believe lions and tigers and bears also 'stomp' through the woods, searching for
some animal that's just minding its own bizniz. Same as hunters, sans fatigues
and shotguns. The photos are of course meant as mementos of a good time, and
I'm sure grizzlies would do the same if they had access to the technology. But I
prefer pork: the other white meat.
Just call me Marie Provost,and make me the doggie's dinner.... one more reason
4 legs good,2 legs bad or questionable at best: animals cant inflict emotional
damage/psychological abuse/verbal abuse (ok ok,Zak van RatFace kitty comes
close when he howls at me in the bathtub,but I think he's trying to tell this big
cat that I should escape the water.)
>I reviewed Negative Capability in the most recent issue of Skull (#2). It
>pretty much sums up my feelings on the premiere issue of Josh's zine. The
>reviews are posted on the Skull web page, so indulge if you have the time.
I checked out your review, and it was interesting. If you had posted the review
here, alt.zines people could have responded here. A few counter hits is a pretty
fair trade off for a good conversation.
>I'd like to add that animals really are better than humans. When was the
>last time a cat attacked you because you're white and it's black? Do snakes
>feel the need to blow you off in public because they're embarrassed by your
>presence? Have you ever been raped by a cow?
Gettin' a little personal here...
>For those of you who are offended by what you read: Perhaps it is because
>to read it with an open mind would mean admitting to yourself that you are
>guilty of the behavior described. That can be a tough thing to handle.
Are you trying to suggest that people only become offended by something
because they secretly feel the same way, or because they worry they're capable
of the same? If so, that's a pretty far-out suggestion, and one you should
attempt to back up.
>If somebody pisses you off so much that you add the imbecile to your hate
>list, why the fuck would you want them to live? So they can continue to
>bother you? "Love", "hate", and "friendship" are three words that people
>should use a lot less often than they do. If I say that I hate somebody,
>I've got a reason, and I genuinely despise them.
I may be unusual in this regard, but I don't hate anyone. I've heard and read
about people who certainly seem to deserve death, but I don't hate anyone I
know personally. I tend to despise people's actions rather than the people
themselves. I agree with you that words like love, hate and friendship are tossed
around too lightly. Most words are. I think Josh tossed a lot of very intense
words and thoughts around really lightly in Negative Capability.
>Personally, I greatly
>enjoy reading and writing hate pieces. It's a release. I feel that my wit
>quickens under the emotional heat of hatred. Reading well-written, hate
>driven pieces entertains and inspires me. I find them humorous.
Yeah, so you were amused. Is that all?
What's wrong with being amused? I'll also admit guilt to: feeling kinship with a
writer, getting inspired to write my own zine, and feeling a little less depressed
when I read well-written rants.
I'm saying that people often get offended when you force them to think about
Nothing's wrong with being amused. Being amused is lots o' fun. It seemed to
me, however, that you felt that the fact that you were amused absolved Negative
Capability of any possible faults.
>I'm saying that people often get offended when you force them to think
>about their weaknesses.
That might be true in some cases. When I'm offended by someone writing that
they wish others would be raped and get AIDS, I don't think it's because I'm
thinking about my weaknesses. I think it's because I realize that to wish such
fates on anyone is incredibly cruel.
Well, when I compare the behavior of most of the people I know, with that of
the animals I know, I tend to feel the same way. I think of lot of it was
hyperbole...and it's more entertaining to read a piece that says cabdrivers should
be killed, than a Andy Rooney "Isn't that annoying" whinefest. But I suppose I
have a similar lack of empathy, in some areas.
Well, catharsis isn't useless. Perhaps by putting his rage down on paper, Josh is
able to keep himself from actually doing certain things, things that would get him
into trouble. I know that I got a lot out of reading it. I guess it gave me the
feeling that I wasn't alone.
Well, he did wish "painful ball cancer" upon them and their children, "even the
Well, humans are always doing things to make themselves underserving of
empathy. And I like zines that are slightly contemptuous of the readers. Sort of
the same way I like cats because they usually aren't always eager to please,
begging for attention.
I probably do feel more empathy for animals. A lot of the time [not always],
humans usually do something to cause their own fates, whereas I don't think
animals have that much control. That being said, I do eat animals, and don't
really feel all that bad about it. I guess I mainly feel empathy for some animals
but not all, the way I feel it for some humans, but not all.
Negative Capability is actually pretty mild on the "hate zine" scale. It's a lot like
Crank, which makes sense, since Joshua and Jeff Koyen know each other.
You know that time has passed when people start comparing angry zines to
Crank and not Answer Me!!. If you want to see something really harsh, check
out Randall Phillip's FUCK or his book EXTERMINATION ZONE.
With me there seem to be two extremes in my favorite zines. I either like really
interesting, nice, personal zines, or things like the zines mentioned in the last
paragraph. I seem to enjoy reading about hatred for some reason. Sometimes I'll
even read Nazi books and publications for the same reason, even though I
disagree with most of the views.
It's pretty easy to love something that's cute and doesn't talk. It takes more
effort to be compassionate with people (except for cute mutes), but it's an effort
I agree that it would be very annoying if Josh ended all his rants with some
non-conclusion like "and that really sucks." But ending them all with some
violent torture is just as tiresome. The ideal would be to discuss not only the
problem but a potential solution -- at least once in a while.
It's good that you were comforted by reading about someone else's rage, I
suppose, but it would've been ideal if Josh could've suggested some more
positive use for anger than striking out randomly. Cartharsis may not be useless,
but it isn't productive.
> Well, he did wish "painful ball cancer" upon them and their children, "even
Yeah -- I thought some of the punishments he suggested were quite funny.
Others struck me as being incredibly violent and hateful (for example, wishing
rape on anyone is just plain evil).
> Well, humans are always doing things to make
>themselves underserving of empathy.
> And I like zines that are slightly contemptuous of the readers. Sort of the
>same way I like cats because they usually aren't always eager to please,
>begging for attention.
Yeah, I agree with you there, Joel -- it is always annoying when a zine sucks up
to or otherwise coddles its readers. I certainly wouldn't hope for any "dear
reader, thank you for buying this zine" nonsense from Negative Capability. The
most I'd want is for Joel to concede that he isn't necessarily smarter than all his
subjects and all his readers.
I think I flipped through Fuck and found it uninspired. I haven't read Answer
Me or Extermination Zone. If they're truly hateful, I highly doubt I'd enjoy them.
The hate literature I've encountered (on Usenet and the web, mostly) makes me
uncomfortable, perhaps because I'm very into history, and not in a detached
It's not that I like "tame" criticism. Criticism should be extremely forceful and
critics should not back down from denouncing anything that needs denouncing.
If they take the flaws of the world personally, so much the better. But if all a
critic can offer in response are wishes of physical torture and death, then I don't
think the critic is accomplishing much.
Answer Me!! was pretty focused in that Goad was attempting to make points.
He just has [or had?] a tendency towards violent hyperbole.
Randall Phillip [FUCK] is just out of his mind....hate for hate's sake, against
everyone. Readiing it is similar to putting your hand over a stove burner.
I admit I tend to follow politics mainly for entertainment value, so I'm not
disturbed by most extreme viewpoints.
>It's pretty easy to love something that's cute and doesn't talk. It takes
>more effort to be compassionate with people (except for cute mutes), but
>it's an effort worth making.
Not in my experience.
Oh, I feel compassion towards some people, but not all....
>The ideal would be to discuss not only the problem but a
>potential solution -- at least once in a while.
I think you are taking it too seriously.
I looked at the cover of Negative Capability #1 and thought, "Jeez, it's another
Pop Smear," because the production values are zine-atypically high. Imagine my
surprise when I started reading it and found out Josh is so dedicated to doing his
one-man rant / personal zine that he's footing enormous print bills because he
wants to do a professional job. We piss and moan about the cost of doing 48
page digest sized photocopied zines, and this guy is blasting out 54 page full size
glossies, paying out of his own pocket. No ads. Amazing.
Josh comes off a little like a cuddly Cobra from some as-yet-unreleased Disney
movie. The guy is alternately sweet and sour, nice and vicious, endearingly
vulnerable (his piece "I Like Being a Girl" is all about his personal love affair with
the stuffed animals in his life) and hilariously vicious (after quoting a particularly
asinine snippet of "thought" from Anne Rice, he urges readers who don't realize
how stupid Ms. Rice is to "please go die now").
Reading this zine is a lot like hanging out with your new friend Josh on a slow,
rainy Saturday and listening to him just go off on everyone and everything he
loves, hates, and isn't sure about yet as he shows you around his apartment. The
"lack" of a cohesive theme (other than a sort of "Welcome to my world, love me
or fuck you" attitude) is really refreshing. It's a lot like flipping through a few
dozen judgmental, funny, brutally honest channels on cable and finding a bunch
of shows you hope to catch again next time they're on.
Josh is a dichotomy, but the balance is believable and candid. To paraphrase
Whitman in his defense (which would probably make Josh want to stab me in
the throat), if he contradicts himself, fine, then he contradicts himself. His id is
large. He comes right out and says a lot of things most people would have
qualms about admitting they even . It's an interesting vacillation between
love and hate. He loves animals, he hates people. He loves stuffed animals, he
hates people. He loves ... that might be it, actually. He hates people.
A lot of it is hyperbole, a lot of it is over the top, and that's why it's funny. I
wrote him shortly after reading it, saying, "If you weren't so funny, I'd be afraid
of you," and that's about right. Thank god for humor (Ted Kaczynski, call your
I sort of see Ninj's points about it being so hate-fueled, but I guess it doesn't
bother me as much because I'm a pretty cranky s.o.b. myself a lot of the time,
and I think a lot of it is just Josh venting. I'm also sort of reassured by the fact
that Josh isn't hiding behind a persona-that's him, saying he thinks the retarded
are a waste of space-and even though I think his honest response to that
criticism would be, "Hey, it's just a joke," it might just be a cathartic "look at the
fucked up stuff I've been thinking" sort of thing, too. Josh is brave to throw his
unedited self out there like that, for sure.
One man's meat ... I don't know if I'd dig it as much if it weren't as angry. I
mean, Josh is a good writer, just about anything he'd put his hand to would be
an interesting read, but I think this particular brand of humor runs on
high-octane frustration and a dash of rage. I find it a lot disturbing than
some of the infamous envelope-pushing stuff that's been done in zines (some of
the stuff in Answer Me!, some of the Boiled Angel stuff). I think the thing that
makes me most comfortable with it is Josh's willingness to be accountable. He's
not passing it off as satire or "art", he's saying, "Hey, this is me, this is what
goes through my mind."
Interesting issue, though, the whole anger thing. I think Josh handles it well,
and I think NegCap wouldn't be the same without it. At the same time, I think
there are probably a few too many "fuck you" zines out there, and most of the
ones I've read suck. Another reason to kiss Negative Capability on the lips-Josh
is a hate artiste. He's funny, pissed off, eloquent and erudite. Most of the others
are just pissed off.
Anyway, anyone who hasn't had the pleasure should leap at the opportunity to
pick up a copy (directly from Josh, get ordering info from him at
email@example.com or at his website at http://www.hfnm.com/negcap/) of
this first issue, because I know Josh is hip deep in issue #2, and I don't think
there are many of #1 left. His website is also awfully damn funny. It's a solid
read, and even if the anger bothers you, there are more than a few good laughs
Josh sent us NC#1 to review in our zine. We haven't managed to publish that
particular issue yet, but we made Negative Capability our rave of the month. It's
an extraordinary piece of work, furiously entertaining. We liked it so much that
we decided to overlook the vegan ranting. I think it's a function of his
misanthropy rather than an authentic ethic,and I actually kinda like it better that
way. The thing is a must read in any event.
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