Breaking: Legends of Dashboard Publishing to Relaunch Monk Magazine?
>>> For those of you not already familiar with the 1980s-90s-era magazine and multimedia pioneers known as the Mad Monks, click on over to their Wikipedia listing for a brief explanation. Unfortunately, you won’t find much online documentation about these two former residents of San Francisco, who famously chose to drop out of the City’s corporate rat race in the mid-80s, with the sole intention of criss-crossing the United States together in an RV. Almost by accident, the two Monks, as they called themselves — James Crotty and Michael Lane — began documenting their travels in magazine form, thanks in large part to a solar-powered Macintosh they’d been wise enough to bring along. Monk Magazine was the eventual result, and to this day, the Monks are universally recognized for having published the country’s first all-mobile magazine. (Cometbus actually pre-dates Monk by roughly two years, although I wasn’t able to determine whether or not the issues published during that zine’s first two years were published in the same mobile manner for which it eventually became known. If any readers can reliably supply this information, please do so in the comments section below. The premiere issue of Dishwasher, by the way, was published in Jan 1992.)
THE MAD MONKS TODAY:
>>> It’s probably also worth mentioning that Monk was indeed a standard-sized newsstand magazine that was eventually distributed throughout the country, and that it also carried big-name advertisers. This was no photocopied cut-and-paste job, in other words. And I point that out not to disregard homegrown zine culture, by the way, which is a scene for which I have nothing but the utmost respect. I mention it only to emphasize how incredibly groundbreaking and truly unique Monk really was. Considering the sheer number of publishing and media barriers they broke back in the 1980s and 90s, it’s a shame, as far as I’m concerned, that James and Michael aren’t better known in the indie-publishing universe. As it happens, the two are operating an incredibly bad-ass creative services company these days. The organization is known, appropriately enough, as Monk Media, and among other creative work, they’ve designed scores of ridiculously sick websites for organizations like American Ironic, Apryl Miller Studios, Boyntunes Inc., Forty Weeks, and Von Piglet Productions. And through March 15, 2009, they’re offering an incredible discount on web design work for independent companies — send a note to info(at)monkmedia(dot)net for the full details, and tell ’em Dan from Young Pioneers Media sent you!
A MONK MAGAZINE RELAUNCH?
>>> And what about the relaunch? Well, I was lucky enough to interview both James and Michael for the first issue of a magazine about independent travel culture I published back in 2004, and at the time, Monk Magazine had been out of commission for about seven years. But as James told me:
“[Monk] never officially ended. When we bring Monk back it’s going to be in a different format, because we do want travel to be a big part of it, but Mike and I — sort of like how Rolling Stone uses music, we use travel as a lens to look at a lot of different things. And we felt a little hemmed in by being a consumer travel magazine. We think our forte — especially my forte — is social commentary, and Michael’s forte is storytelling. And together we do profiles, but we each have our unique abilities. There’s just a magical coming together because we each supply each other with things we don’t have, so when we bring Monk back we want to open it up to other writers. We want to make it a little broader. The new slogan is going to be Monk: Look Deeper.”
>>> And although that conversation took place almost five years ago, James mentioned to me recently (in an email) that his plans haven’t changed much, regardless of the current depressed condition of the publishing industry, not to mention the economy itself. Again from the 2004 interview:
“The way we’re going to do it is, we’re going to take summers off, and periodically throughout the year — for a week or so — we’re going to go and dig deep into one place. So… we’re not sure, but it’s going to be somewhere in Europe. We’re either going to do Iceland, or we’re going to do Germany or maybe even just Berlin — and we’re going to live there for two months. We feel like we’ve exhausted the United States of America. So even though there’s still more to do, we really want to expand to the rest of the world.”
Of course, whether or not this will ever happen in anyone’s guess. But for those of you who happen to be interested, stay tuned: I’ll be posting any updates or tidbits of information right here. One exciting Monk-related development I can announce, however, is a new column James will be writing for my own soon-to-be-published magazine about creative and alternative entrepreneurs, which, just like my currently sleeping indie travel magazine, will be called Young Pioneers. James hasn’t signed a contract yet, so nothing’s set in stone, and in fact we still have to decide on a topic for the column itself. If any readers have potential ideas they’d like to share, I’m all ears, and I imagine James would be open to suggestions as well. Feel free to post a comment below, or contact me directly at dan(at)youngpioneers(dot)com.