Visit to a Nørb Planet: on the Philosopher-King of the Punk Rock Geeks, Rev. Nørb 

In 1976, my sixth-grade language arts teacher Mr. Larsen—a small, swarthy, and pudgy man with a heavy black mustache—announced our class would be putting together a one-off school newspaper to be distributed among all the other students at Green Bay’s Allouez Elementary. The kid whose dad edited the city’s daily paper was named editor-in-chief, and against my better judgment, I was named entertainment editor.

I recall receiving a handful of submissions from classmates for the small section, but four decades on now I only remember one of them clearly. Nørby Rozek turned in an obsessively-detailed, graphic, rambling, and hilarious review of Ralph Bakshi’s animated fantasy film Wizards. The review ran twelve pages. Only trouble was, the entire paper was only slated to run eight pages. Even back then, I remember thinking the piece had a preternatural flow and rhythm to it far beyond what you’d normally expect from an eleven-year-old. Trying to edit it down to size seemed almost criminal.

I didn’t know it at the time, but that review was a portent of things to come.

I’d known Nørby (aka Nob, aka Nubby, aka Orb, aka Orbit) since first grade, maybe earlier. A tall kid with a bit of a paunch and owlish glasses, Nørby was a determined, maybe even genetically-predisposed outsider. In grade school, his wardrobe consisted of deliberately and garishly mismatched clothes. A gifted artist and math prodigy, he spoke at a breakneck Walter Winchell clip, and peppered his speech with references to Sixties bubblegum pop, commercial jingles, comic books—Ronco and Wham-O products, Star Trek, and other trash culture ephemera.

He was, in simple terms, an eccentric genius (a word I try to avoid at all costs) whose brain absorbed and stored everything it encountered in the lower wavelengths of the cultural spectrum.

By 1984, in any small town in America, it’d be possible to find a couple disaffected kids with funny haircuts and torn jeans in a garage, banging out three chords on their guitars as fast as they could manage while screaming about Reagan and the Moral Majority. Four years earlier it was a different story.

After The Sex Pistols imploded in 1978, punk began evolving into a leaner, much louder, much faster guise dubbed hardcore. By 1980, the fledgling hardcore punk scene, dominated by bands like Black Flag, Minor Threat, and The Bad Brains was focused almost exclusively on the coasts, particularly Washington DC and Los Angeles. To this day and to a lot of people involved in the scene, that perception remains. Most paid no attention to what was happening in the middle of the country.

No surprise then that by 1979, Rozek—who was rail thin, had cropped his hair, had switched out his old glasses for severe hornrims, while accessorizing his already unlikely wardrobe with purple hi-tops and a Ramones t-shirt—became the first kid in school, maybe the whole city, or maybe the entire state of Wisconsin to discover punk rock. It was the perfect refuge for alienated, bored, and frustrated nerdy kids with too much free-floating energy.

By 1980, Rozek had adopted the punk moniker Norby Ugly, and together with childhood friend Gary Farrel, founded the city’s first hardcore band, Suburban Mutilation (SUM). He began publishing the city’s first punk zine, Sick Teen. His name expanded to Rev, NørbertElmo Ugly LXIX, before contracting again to the simpler and more economical Rev. Nørb.

Each issue of the sporadically-released, pocket-sized Sick Teen was crammed to its intense, migraine-inducing capacity. The zine was a mad-collaged jumble of photos and found images with added word balloons, show and record reviews, absurd lists, rants and stories. The type was barely legible and shrunk to microscopic levels, and the margins were themselves filled with quips, jokes, and drawings. Within the confines of a punk rock context, Sick Teen illustrated Rozek had a brilliantly zany Dadaist aesthetic and literary style all his own, and one that flew in the face of an all-too-often self-serious scene. The zine was a direct, explosive peek inside Rozek’s extremely cluttered head. It took hours to get through any single issue completely, and it was Sick Teen that first brought Rozek to national attention within the subculture.

“At that time,” Rozek recalls today, “pre-desktop publishing, pre-scanners, even pre-copiers-with-a-reducing function—one of the more unhurdleable psychological barriers to entry to making a fanzine was simply, ‘How do I get the type shrunk down like that? A typewriter gave off letters that were just too big for the printed page, so how does one make the typing smaller? I eventually found out that to shrink down type, you took it to a print shop, and they shot a photostat of your page with a vertical stat camera, which was a huge beast of a contraption that could fill the better part of a small bedroom or a large bathroom. They then handed you back a photostat copy of your original page, but smaller. So, one fine day, I took the bus downtown, original typed pages in hand, and told the guy behind the counter I’d like them shrunken down. How small? Oh, I don’t know, maybe 25%. As a fine, upstanding high school math student, I assumed that I was telling the gentleman behind the counter to reduce the size to one-quarter of its current size—ergo, every square inch of my original copy would come back as a half-inch square—0.5 x 0.5 = 0.25, and that sort of thing. That was not at all the case. I had assumed my text would come back half as tall and half as wide—that makes 25%, area-wise. It did not. It came back 25% as tall and 25% as wide—area-wise, that’s one-sixteenth of the original size, not one-quarter. Apparently when you say ‘reduce this to twenty-five percent,’ you mean ’twenty-five percent lengthwise and twenty-five percent heightwise,’ not twenty-five percent in a strict mathematical sense. My text was tiny. After a spate of momentary shock I was like, ‘Well, screw it, this is cool, I’ll just run with it.’ Thus, I crammed Sick Teen full of tiny, eye-wrenching type, and padded it out with graphics and scribblings and all manner of visual chaos in any blank spaces that were unfortunate enough to abhor my vacuum. It was excessive in the extreme, but in the 1982 Flipside readers’ poll, Sick Teen came in second in the “Favorite Fanzine” category, second only to Flipside itself—not bad work when you consider the meat of any given issue was mostly me interviewing my friends’ unknown bands.”

By 1982, thanks almost exclusively to Rev. Nørb, SUM and Sick Teen, Green Bay was home to a bourgeoning hardcore scene, with bands like Magnet School, No, No Response, and Butch Mucous and the Toadmen playing regular shows in the rented hall above Northside Lanes. The city became a standard stop for touring punk bands from across the country.

Suburban Mutilation dissolved shortly after the members graduated from high school in 1983. They released one album, The Opera Ain’t Over ’Til the Fat Lady Sings, a collection of blistering, screeching sonic diatribes focused on the standard hardcore themes of religion, government, parents, and high school. The enclosed lyrics insert came complete with not only little cartoons illustrating each song, but annotations as well.

In the early 90s, still living in Green Bay, Rozek went on to form Boris the Sprinkler, a lighter pop punk outfit with a decidedly geeky sense of humor. Influenced as much by The Monkees and Ohio Express as The Ramones and The Dickies, Boris may have been the purest expression to date of the Rev. Nørb musical aesthetic.

Over the course of the decade, they would release five original studio albums (as well as two in which they covered The Ramones’ End of the Century and Circle Jerks’ Group Sex albums in their entirety), filled with catchy, finger-popping tunes like “Do Ya Wanna Grilled Cheese?,” “Sheena’s Got a Microwave,” and “Your Stupid Pants.”

Their live shows were frenetic spectacles, with Rev. Nørb lording over the proceedings in a variety of homemade and found costumes ranging from superhero outfits to leopard print bodystockings to his famed antler helmet.

Over time Boris releases evolved from straightforward pop punk albums with funny lyrics into musical comedy albums, with ongoing banter between cuts, and the occasional appearance of a cyborg to offer song introductions and critiques.

From a listener’s perspective, it struck me Rozek seemed more at home performing songs about robots and Taco Bell than he did yelling screeds about El Salvador.

“Well, I don’t think it was so much of a case of feeling more ‘at home’ living in the world of 90’s pop-punk as opposed to early 80’s hardcore,” he clarifies. “I was perfectly fine with screaming about how the government sucks and religion sucks and people suck and everything sucks and everybody sucks for not seeing how all this stuff sucks. It was more of a case of once you’ve operated in that realm for a while, you’ve pretty much done everything you need to do there and it’s time to move along. Hardcore was great because it was the ultimate high-energy, no budget music. No talent? Crappy gear? No fans? No money? Abnormally putrid recording quality? Hey, those were all pluses. It’s not a bug, it’s a feature! People always (and rightfully) make a big deal about the first Ramones album only costing $5800 to record, but when’s the last time anybody gave you $5800 to record an album? In 1976 dollars, yet? $5800 is probably what Boris The Sprinkler spent to record all our albums combined; sure, in theory making a record that sounds like the first Ramones album is a much more attainable target than making a record that sounds like the eleventh Fleetwood Mac album, but if you’re a kid sitting around in your parents’ basement, neither are a particularly achievable goals. Suburban Mutilation would record tapes on boomboxes during band practice in our parents’ basements, and that was perfectly fine for what aficionados of the genre there were at the time. Alas, after a while, hand-drawn cassette inserts and album covers made with Sharpies and mailbox letters lose a bit of their appeal; one begins to aspire to product created with a bit less aesthetic brutality. I started looking yearningly at all those cool 70’s punk records I bought when I was fourteen, and wishing I could make records like that. A lot of it was the visuals—that original wave of punk records might have had to operate with some diminutive shard of the budget that the Eagles or Fleetwood Mac had, but they still had enough money for photo shoots, and more than one color of ink on the cover, and typesetting, and other such creative luxuries. Another record with a cover drawn with a Flair marker consisting primarily of a tank with dollar signs on the sides running roughshod over a mound of corpses or similarly utilitarian trope no longer stacked up particularly well to, say, the snazzy, new wavey sharpness of Malcolm Garrett’s Buzzcocks record covers. So the idea was to slide things out of the hardcore ghetto, and more into a new wave-informed early punk puddle, both visually and sonically. That’s kinda my sweet spot. Luckily, computers democratized graphic design in the early 90s (not without a legion of war crimes against the eye, of course), and digital moved decent quality recording facilities to a bit more reasonable rate at that time, so it all kinda worked out.”

 Rev. Norb with Spam in Green Bay, Wisconsin, 1992. Courtesy J. Shimon & J. Lindemann/CC. 
Rev. Norb with Spam in Green Bay, Wisconsin, 1992. Courtesy J. Shimon & J. Lindemann/CC.


Always insistent on tweaking whatever format he happened to be working in, most Boris the Sprinkler albums began with a lightning bolt barrage of verbiage that was Rev. Nørb’s absurdist opening monologue, and closed with an unlisted track (designed specifically for jukeboxes) consisting of, simply put, the entire album over again.

In cultural and subcultural terms, Boris the Sprinkler’s timing couldn’t have been better. The boiling teen rage that fueled the hardcore scene had inevitably burned itself out by the late 80s. The music had become generic and redundant, and there was nowhere else to take it. Ronald Reagan leaving office didn’t help matters either. Shortly thereafter, the major labels finally recognized the commercial viability of grunge acts like Nirvana and Pearl Jan, as well as squeaky clean and safe pop punk acts like Green Day and Rancid.

In direct opposition to the collective mindset that spawned it, punk rock became mainstream, with corporate punk boutiques like Hot Topic aimed at teeny-boppers opening in shopping malls around the country. Although Boris the Sprinkler were never signed to a major label, remaining steadfastly on Rozek’s own indie Bulge Records, they still tapped into the reigning musical zeitgeist, and became hugely popular among an international fan base of young, third-generation punks.

Just as it had been the case when he was a kid, Rozek’s lyrics, like his monologues and his day-to-day speech, remained obsessively and compulsively packed to overflowing with obscure references to cartoons, comic books, old pop songs, Green Bay, consumer products and Star Trek. So in 2012, a decade after the band broke up, he published The Annotated Boris ($15, Bulge Records). While ostensibly merely a bound collection of the lyrics to the hundred or so songs the band recorded, in Rozek’s hands the book actually became a punk rock version of Nabokov’s Pale Fire.

“In The Annotated Boris, I used 986 footnotes to expound upon the (obviously very deep meanings) of the lyrics to the ten years’ worth of songs I wrote for my band,” he explains. “The idea really wasn’t to create a completely ridiculous book for the sake of creating a completely ridiculous book—I really couldn’t think of any better way than massive footnoting to do what I needed to do, could you? The idea was to write a book explaining the various thought processes behind the lyrics, which also doubled as a memoir of my time with the band, and if it wound up to be a completely ridiculous book in the process, so much the better.”

Before forming Boris the Sprinkler, Rozek was working as a graphic artist at a weekly advertising circular in Green Bay. The weekly’s primary business involved running ads for local bars, porn shops and hookers.

“I took it upon myself to write columns to fill up any unsold ad space we might have left over each week,” he says. “My boss, who owned the paper, hated the idea of having writing—or any form of original content—sullying its pages. He thought it made us ‘look bad,’ because people would see writing and go ‘ah ha! Look at this ad space they couldn’t sell! Business must be bad!’ One can almost imagine him sitting down to breakfast each morning, sneering at the New York Times. Nevertheless, I persisted. I wrote record reviews about records virtually no one who picked up our paper could have possibly heard of or cared about, and did a weekly piece called ‘The Hooterville World Guardian’ that was about whatever my current tale of mirth and woe was that week. As this took place prior to our discovery of desktop publishing methods, all of these were typed out on a Varityper photoelectric typesetting system, direct from my brain to typesetting film. Sparing you the full technical data briefing on the Varityper, the upshot is that once I hit the return key, the line of text on which I was working was zapped onto a piece of film and could no longer be edited. Also, I could only view the line of text on which I was actively working and the line previous to that—nothing else I had written would be visible until the film was developed. There was a certain amount of working without a net involved. Oddly, someone just stopped me at the gas station last weekend and told me he always used to read my ‘Hooterville World Guardian’ column, and still couldn’t believe I could eat Taco Bell for breakfast. Apparently my heady intellectual meanderings took deep and meaningful root.”

In the late 70s, even before hardcore emerged as a growing and recognized subsect of traditional punk rock, Berkeley-based editor Tim Yohannanbegan publishing a monthly punk fanzine called Maximumrocknroll, or MRR for short. Each black-and-white newsprint issue collected record reviews, scene reports, band interviews, columns, photos and artwork from contributors around the world. Over the years MRR became the standard monthly punk bible, the one zine out of thousands that was an absolutely essential read. It’s been said that if you ever wanted to publish a truly comprehensive account of what punk was all about, all you’d needed to do was bind every last issue of MRR over its two-decade run into a series of volumes.

Personally, I stopped reading MRR around 1986, recognizing that hardcore had run its course. So I was shocked to learn in 1995 that MRR was still coming out monthly. What the hell kind of underground was there left to talk about? It seemed kind of sad. But I began picking it up again when someone told me Rev. Nørb was their star columnist.

As he tells it, before Boris the Sprinkler released their first single, Rozek was in San Francisco, visiting a post office with MRR’s Tim Yohannan. Yohannan told him that since Suburban Mutilation and Sick Teen were ancient history, no one remembered who Rev. Nørb was anymore. To remedy this, he suggested Rozek write an article reintroducing himself to the new generation of punks. That initial condensed memoir led to a monthly column, which ran in MRR from 1994 until shortly after Yohannan’s death in 1998.

In and amongst the magazine’s other writers at the time, who either wrote militantly, earnestly and humorlessly about left-wing politics, raged about the corporate co-opting of the scene, or raved slavishly in proper Tiger Beat fashion about the unerring brilliance of the latest hot new band, Rozek’s monthly column was a thing of wonder and dismay.

As foreshadowed by that review of Wizards almost twenty years earlier, Rozek’s column often ran four-thousand words or more, a torrent of words, ideas, stories, rants, asides, detours, roadside attractions, assessments, swipes at other columnists, bad puns and endless cultural references that likely went way over the heads of most readers.

In one early and particularly notorious column, he described in excruciating detail masturbating in the bathroom at his day job. Another begins as a story about a case of insomnia before wandering into his habit of writing bad punk songs as a cure for insomnia, to speculations about what happens to the body after we die, to his childhood plan to have his corpse encased in lucite, to his editor’s habit of binding the sleeves of his singles in green duct tape, to the subtle and shifting fashion trends among high-top sneakers to elsewhere and back again.

All of this is within a distinctly punk rock context, and though he does drop the names of dozens of bands you’ve likely never heard of, it doesn’t matter. Beneath the jokes and flights of fancy and cultural references, what matters is the seamless flow and rhythm of the language, which immediately raised Nørb’s work far above the standard semi-literate punk zine fare into a singular literary subgenre that deserves respect.

If Sick Teen was the ultimate expression of Rozek’s visual aesthetic and Boris the Sprinkler the perfect expression of his musical sense, then the MRR column was a hard look into the ways Rozek’s twisted and meandering but still sharply coherent mind worked. The columns are reminiscent of Nicholson Baker’s early novels (but with more references to The Ramones and punk label design), or the later novels of Louis-Ferdinand Celine (but without all the anti-semitism). As with those two, once you click into the rhythm and skewed logic of Rozek’s way of thinking, what might have seemed like random gibberish at first blush suddenly becomes crystalline to the point at which setting it asideand returning to the standard banal thinking we encounter most of the day becomes difficult.

Buried within it all he presents some strikingly lucid arguments about everything from the superiority of vinyl over compact discs to how anathema political correctness is to the core idea of punk rock, to why being on a scruffy little indie label is not necessarily morally superior to being on Columbia or Warner Brothers. Most of it involved absurd geeky minutiae, but his arguments had an indisputable elegance to them. Scattered throughout the columns are time stamps citing the precise moment he typed a proclamation or insight, simply so there would be a record that he was the first to utter it.

After being told he had to keep his column under a certain length, Rozek returned to a long column which had just been rejected for that reason and removed all the vowels.

Although extremely well-read, and despite all the literary references sprinkled throughout the columns, the only influences Rozek cites when it comes to his own writing style are Marvel comics’ Stan Lee, Creem magazine’s stable of brilliant and groundbreaking rock critics like Richard Meltzer and Lester Bangs, and what he refers to as “the divine art of writing like a simultaneously self-hyping/self-effacing carnival barker .”

“I believe my general aesthetic philosophy, phrased in the format of the most succinct cliché of which I can think at this exact second, is this: ‘Nothing exceeds like excess,’ Rozek, now 52, explains. “I figured this out when I was fourteen or fifteen, and had two letters published in Creem magazine. My first letter was very much the handiwork of some dumb kid who was trying to pass himself off as informed, passionate, and funny, and remains a cringeworthy memory to this day. My second letter was simply the phrase ‘HI MOM!’, followed by a P.S., a P.P.S., a P.P.P.S., and so on, eventually culminating in a P.P.P.P.P.P.P.P.P.P.P.P.P.P.P.P.P.P.P.P.P.P.P.S.—I don’t remember much of what my spastic effusion of post scripts said (I do seem to recall saying something about my age-old Trigonometry teacher being a punk rocker), but memorable commentary was never the point. The point, of course, was simply to be as ridiculous as possible—and if there was any value to be extracted above and beyond that, great, we’re in the bonus. It was sort of a Justine/Juliette duality—when I tried to write a letter that would match up to all the other writing in the magazine, it was embarrassingly lame. When I set out to just write the most ridiculous letter I could, it was great. The lesson wasn’t lost on me. I’m not saying just go for some corny gimmick and beat it into the ground with no further thought about content or quality—but I am saying don’t be afraid of ludicrous excess if it rears its weird head.”

As far as his later stream of consciousness style is concerned, he explains simply, “That’s just kind of how my mind works. When I write about things, I generally assume that I might never be writing about them again, so I better squish in everything I’ve ever thought about those things in case some of it turns out to be important someday. Thus, if I’m writing about the Ramones Rocket To Russia album, I might have to divert from the standard flow of data to inform the reader that back when I was fourteen, I added up the running lengths of all the songs on all my albums, and, wouldn’tcha know it, Rocket To Russia is the exact same length as Cheap Trick’s In Color album—29:32—which was also my jean size at the time. You never know. What if there’s a quiz?”

This past July, again under the rubric of Bulge Records, Rozek gathered all of his MRR columns together and published them as Fear of a Nørb Planet. Taken as a whole they present not only an astonishing and hilariously irreverent look at the ’90s punk scene, but also an unblinking tour of a singular mind.

In his introduction, Rozek mentions something that had also occurred to me when I first began writing for alternative weeklies in the mid-80s. There was something inherently nihilistic and so inherently punk rock about writing for places like MRR. In those pre-Internet days, the columns were utterly disposable. You wrote something, turned it in, it appeared in print, and a day or two later it was thrown out and forgotten. The following week, the following month, you started anew, unburdened by anything you’d written before. That was punk rock, and that was how it should be. Which begs the question, why gather them all together twenty years later in the near-permanence of a trade paperback?

“I think I always had it in the back of my mind that I would release the MRR columns in book form someday,” says Rozek. “The output had a nice, well-delineated beginning and end, and had a sort of bookly heft to it. Plus, once I realized that the word count of my five years’ worth of rantings was damn near equal to that of Moby Dick—206,000, give or take a run-on sentence or two—I thought, well, crap, no use pitching away a perfectly good Moby Dick, I gotta get full credit for this. I doubt that i’d be inclined to collect anything else I’ve emitted over the years in such a fashion, but I figured I could get away with it this one time. Plus, you know how it is, you write the first book, and you think you’ve got the itch out of your system… but then it looks so lonely on the living room shelf by itself, and the graphics start looking old and dated—I guess I needed to perk up the décor around the house a bit. Apparently I also missed having cardboard cartons of books stacked everywhere, who knew? Plus, once I thought of the title, I knew that was too ridiculous a concept to let slide.”

Going back to those early Sick Teen lessons, Rozek’s immediate challenge involved cramming what would normally be a thousand pages worth of material into a more manageable size. Even before you read the first word, there’s no escaping the book’s design and format. The print is Impossibly small, and the text is arranged in two columns on each page with nary a paragraph break in sight, and only guide words at the top of each page to help readers find their bearings.

“The small type size (7.5 points) wasn’t really an aesthetic decision,” Rozek says. “I just wanted to squish all 206,000 words into 288 pages, because my last book was 288 pages, and I like things to match. 288 was also the number of the original MRR P.O. Box in Berkeley, the Pantone color of the hats of both of the teams in the 2015 World Series, and the most pages a book can be and still be under the thirteen-ounce limit for first-class mail. But mostly I like things to match and I also didn’t feel like paying for the additional pages because I’m cheap like that. I figure any point size at or above 7 points is fair game, primarily because that was the smallest pre-set type size in Quark Xpress. As regards the lack of paragraph breaks, paragraph breaks are more of an exception than a rule with me. I’ve rarely used paragraphs, and, when I do, I like to couple them with drop caps, or something similarly dignified and mysterious. This also stems from the Sick Teen days – getting photostats shot down at the copy shop cost money, I think it was about three bucks for every two pages or something like that. When you’re a longwinded teenager working your Reagan-era after-school job for $3.35 an hour, three bucks for two pages isn’t necessarily a deal-killer, but it is fairly burdensome. Paragraph breaks, I figured, were a waste of space and resources – i’m not paying to shrink down blank space, man!—so I just left ’em out. I generally wrote that way from that point forward, I rarely even stopped to think about it. I guess I had paragraphs in The Annotated Boris because I wanted to be all fancy or whatever, but my columns never had paragraph breaks when they ran in MRR so i’ll be doggoned if i’m gonna go all revisionist on ’em and stick breaks in there after the fact. What I thought was more interesting regarding the style of Fear of a Nørb Planet were the guide words and the two-column pages. I’d always envisioned any book of my MRR columns to be in, well, columns. That’s how they ran; that’s even how they were written (another holdover from my Sick Teen days, where I typed my pages in two columns – I typed the first column down the side of the page, and, when I got to the bottom, I turned it upside down and filled the other side. That way, the ragged-right ends of the second column could fill the spaces left by the ragged-right ends of the first. Waste not, want not, to coin a phrase). When you’re dealing with my various run-on sentences and nested parenthetical asides and other linguistic cockleburs, I think it’s easier for the eye to track backwards or what-have-you with a shorter line length; if my lines (I can’t bear to call them ‘grafs’ with a straight face, sorry, too pompous) extended all the way across the page, the parenthese-seeking eyeball would need to go flying out at great distances leftward and rightward, trying to rope in the lost demarcations of the thought. With a shorter line, you just kinda zip up and zip down and keep on truckin’. It didn’t really occur to me until later that the only books you really see printed in columns are textbooks and Bibles. Eh, so much the better. I’m kinda proud of using guide words, which are generally the province of reference books and nowhere else. I thought that gave things a jokingly academic feel, plus, given the fact that there are so many side tangents and rants and detours, I think they’re kinda handy.”

As per the standard punk protocol from the very beginning, Rozek’s column raised the hackles and the ire of the magazine’s more earnest readers and fellow contributors on a regular basis, and deliberately so. Among the more urbane city slickers who worked on the magazine, Rozek, living in Northeastern Wisconsin, was some kind of backwoods rube, though one with a large vocabulary. Some were pissed over his brazen and strident proclamations about the scene, others by his debunking and mocking of beloved long-held myths, but most wanted his scalp over his open and oft-visited lust for young Japanese women and his repeated use of the word “fag” as a schoolyard taunt.

After Tim Yohannan (to whom the book is dedicated) died of lymphoma, the woman who took over MRR made it perfectly clear she neither understood nor appreciated Rozek’s sense of humor, calling him a misogynist, a racist, and a homophobe shortly before terminating the column. Two decades on, I asked if he thought his modus operandi had changed as he got older.

“I hate to admit it, but I find that I’ve gotten less interested in pushing peoples’ buttons and generally antagonizing people as I’ve aged. I think the Internet took a lot of starch out of the sails of my generation’s tropism towards ripping people a new asshole in print. It used to be where, if you were of a mind to pick a fight with someone in print, the delays in reading and responding to each other’s witty rejoinders usually meant that the feud fizzled after a few exchanges, and one moved on. Nowadays, one can go on the internet and argue all day, every day, and still never see the end of it. Most of us, at least those of us who don’t still live in our parents’ basements, lack the time and inclination to engage in constant verbal jousting. The fine art of arguing crap has died from an unchecked population explosion. Also, I no longer feel compelled, as a point of honor, to share every single smart-ass remark I think about every subject, lest I deprive the world of a vital smirk at someone else’s expense. The Internet has kinda thrown us all in a huge popcorn popper of radically different humans with radically different life experiences and viewpoints. I’m more inclined to think about how some wise-ass remark makes some perfectly good other human feel a bit more than I had previously been inclined twenty or twenty-five years ago. I still don’t think I quite qualify as politically correct, but I do tend to watch what I say a tad more than in the past. A tad.”

These days, along with fronting his latest band, Rev. Nørb and The Onions, Rozek writes a bi-monthly column for the LA punk zine Razorcake and occasionally contributes to Zisk, which he describes as a baseball magazine for people who hate baseball magazines. He says he plans to write a holy book next, after which he promises to take up Parcheesi.

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