Monday, January 14, 2013

Zine Review: Bill Daniel's Mostly True

Bill Daniel (Microcosm)
"In a world of put-ons and art scene fakery, moniker writing has endured for generations; organic, unchanged and pure of intent.” So says Bill Daniel in the introduction to the second edition of his hobo graffiti zine, Mostly True. As Daniel also notes, rail graffiti is a pre-Internet form of social networking whereby hobos and tramps communicate with each other through crude chalk drawings, symbols and a few coded words. But who are these people who's only mark on the world is a transitory icon on the side of a boxcar? And is that any less important than the mark most of us leave on the world? These are exactly the questions Mostly True seeks to answer. 

In addition to documenting boxcar art in printed form, Daniel is also the creator of the underground documentary film, Who Is Bozo Texino? which has screened in countless cities across the U.S. The film seeks out the enigmatic "Bozo Texino" whose ubiquitous railroad tags have been seen on boxcars around the country for over half a century. Many people claim to know the man behind the Texino moniker and Mostly True contains an interview with "Bozo" aka "Grandpa" in which he tells his tale of a life working on the railroads all the live-long day. The zine also features interviews with other rail car artists, letters from rail fans (some of which are reprinted from long-gone publications), and photos of boxcar art. 

Endlessly fascinating and a great document of the folklore and lost world of the rail yard that is being kept alive by a few dedicated tramps, writers and artists. Bill Daniel answers many questions, yes, but the free spirit of the rails isn't so easily defined and if things are still a bit of foggy mystery for you after reading this zine, well, it's only mostly true anywayChris Auman

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