Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Buddhist Third Class Junk Mail Oracle

I've been working on an indexing project of underground newspapers and magazines from 1963-1968.

A lot of the titles included one or more of the following terms: liberation, movement, militant, peace, and free/freedom. The most ubiquitous name was probably [Your Town/State/Country] Free Press.

But other titles were more literary, humorous and intriguing, including my favorite: The Buddhist Third Class Junk Mail Oracle.

As it turns out, TBTCJMC was one of the first underground papers in Cleveland, Ohio, founded by a poet, artist and alternative press publisher named d.a. levy. According to Wikipedia, Levy died in 1968 of a gunshot wound to the head. Given that it was 1968, some people think he was bumped off by the government for his radical views. Given that he was a poet, others think he just killed himself. No one really knows.

In 2003, Seven Stories Press (a contemporary "alternative" publisher) brought out The Buddhist Third Class Junkmail Oracle: the art and poetry of d.a. levy, a collection of Levy's creative work. It also includes "an investigative essay on Levy's life and mysterious death."

For those interested in actually perusing original copies of TBTCJMC, Cleveland State University Library has digitized them.

The underground papers of the 1960s, often student-run, were sort of the blogs of their day. Cheap, affordable printing was the hip technology of the day. I enjoyed strolling through the list of titles. Apart from the obviously political names (Liberation News Service), you see some of the cultural influences on the radical youth of that fascinating and vibrant time. It's an interesting mix of Greek mythology, romanticism, spirituality, Tolkien, William Morris, Lewis Carroll (a lot of Lewis Carroll) and, yes, marijuana.

Rat, from New York City. (Imagine that.)

I've left out well-known papers like The Berkeley Barb or The East Village Other. This is just a list of titles that caught my attention. Ones with asterisks after the name have Wikipedia explanations below. (The information may not be needed for people more literate than I am.)

If you're interested, The University of Connecticut Libraries have an online exhibit called "Voices from the Underground: Radical Protest and the Underground Press," which provided most of my images.

So here are some of the underground rags that radicals in the 1960s were reading and printing:

Astral Projection
Atlantis News
Black and Red
Black Cat
Blue Bus
Brown Shoes
The Buddhist Third Class Junk Mail Oracle
Buffalo Chip
Cuervo International
Deserted Times
Despite Everything
Free Pagan Press
Free Venice Beachhead
Free You
Fresh Air
Gandalf's Garden
Georgia Straight
Good Morning Teaspoon
Great Speckled Bird
Grinding Store
Hard Core
Huevos del plata
Iron Cage
The Great Speckled Bird, from Atlanta.

Looking GlassLoving Couch Press
Mega Middle Myth
Middle Earth
Miss Blanche
Mother of Voices
News from Nowhere
Old Mole
Open City
Oscar's Underground Ghetto Press
Other Other
Other Scenes
Our Daily Bread
Paper Highway
Protean Radish
Rabid One / Enrage
Raisin Bread
Ramparts Wall Poster
Ryce Street Fysh Markete

Old Mole, from Cambridge, MA.

ScimitarThe Screw
Seventy-Nine Cent Spread
Small Change
SomethingSon of Jabberwock
Speak Easy
The Sun Flower
Super Love
Swamp Erie Pipe Dream
Teaspoon & the Door
Ungarbled Word
Le Voyage
Weakly Citizen Harold
Where It's At
Wild Flowers
Yankee Refuge
Yarrow Stalks
Yellow Dog
Zig Zag

Argo: The ship on which Jason and the Argonauts sailed from Iolcus to retrieve the Golden Fleece.

Bandersnatch: A fictional creature mentioned in Lewis Carroll's poems Jabberwocky and The Hunting of the Snark. The form or size of the creature is not described, nor is it clear whether Bandersnatch is singular, like the Phoenix.

Sansculottes: Sans-culottes (French for "without knee-breeches") was a term created around 1790 - 1792 by the French aristocracy to describe the poorer members of the Third Estate, according to the dominant theory because they usually wore pantaloons (full-length trousers or pants) instead of the silk knee-breeches then in fashion. The term came to refer to the ill-clad and ill-equipped volunteers of the Revolutionary army during the early years of the French Revolutionary Wars, but, above all, to the working class radicals of the Revolution. From this comes the now slightly archaic term sansculottism or sans-culottism, meaning extreme egalitarian republican principles.


Liam said...

"Heil Columbia..." Heh.

A LOT of Tolkein. Geeks.

Garpu said...

Interesting. My grandmother used to read a Free Press newsletter type thing all the time. Forgot the exact name of it, but I wonder if it was one. Wouldn't put it past her. :)

Jeff said...

That's a really cool post. I guess there always have been bloggers, eh? I got a kick out of reading some of those covers. "Did anyone ever tell you you had a losing smile?" Buddhist kitsch. Concerns about the the balance of payments deficit... Nothing ever really changes, does it? Nice job on the research.

I miss my days running around in Cambridge. The maoists running Revolution Books... Tracts tacked up all over the telephone poles and coffee house windows... There aren't any good bookstores or coffeehouses in Harvard Square anymore. They've all been bought out by chain stores.

cowboyangel said...


Yeah, that cover was for you.

I counted more Lewis Carroll than Tolkien, though. Thought that was interesting.

I'm assuming this was the hippie contingent rather than the militant lefties. Hard to see Black Panthers putting out an underground paper called Gandalf's Garden.

Although, 40 years later, the more militant titles were far more boring. Why does that not surprise me?

cowboyangel said...


Where was your grandmother? I can see if that was on the list.

I wonder when the term Free Press began? Probably long before the 60s.

cowboyangel said...

Thanks for the comments Jeff.

There aren't any good bookstores or coffeehouses in Harvard Square anymore. They've all been bought out by chain stores.

Yeah, this is one of the worst developments in our society, if you ask me. I used to spend A LOT of time in used or just good bookstores. Now it's just the corporate experience.

One more reason I don't believe in the concept of "progress." At least not in a linear concept of progress.

crystal said...

Is this a project for the library? Interesting subject. The Argo - history geeks :) I remember a nice movie staring Jason London as Jason in Jason and the Argonauts - pretty fun.

Garpu said...

She was up in Becker, MN. Could've just been a community newspaper, I guess. Although it wouldn't surprise me if she was into underground presses, too.

Darren Chase said...

riches beyond compare