The Origins of Midwest Rock Lobster
Part One: Early Lobsterism
While the formal emergence of Midwest Rock Lobster dates back to 1990, it has roots in the earlier Lobsterism movement of the early 1980s.
The Founder was growing his hair long and making a pariah of himself at Hocker Grove Junior High. Greeting Mayhem in the hall between classes, it was suggested that they, 'smoke some Rice Crispies and go to Lobster Land.'
Being an agreeable fellow, for a pariah, the Founder decided Mayhem's idea was sound.
In the early days, Lobsterism was confined to 'agrarian reform' schemes for the school, trying to cop guitar riffs off heavy metal albums, the pursuit of girls, and advancing Lobsterism as a religion.
The agrarian reform plan described a scenario in which the square footage of the school and its campus would be totaled and divided by the number of students, teachers, and administrators. The space, indoors and out, would be distributed equally to all, each person or Lobster getting an equal space. To avoid inequality of distribution of outdoor and indoor placement, the lots would be assigned each day by a lottery.
For the school day, each person or Lobster would have full property rights to their parcel, so that only by obtaining formal permission from a the temporary owner of an adjacent plot would movement be possible. While the possibility existed that, on a given day, a student or teacher might be surrounded by people they actually liked, the likelihood that a Lobster would be situated next to someone with anything in common with them was slim. The suggestion was that teachers use a 'pass this along' system to deliver their lectures. Plot trades were allowed by the bylaws, providing mutual consent and the granting of passage by the temporary owners of intermediary plots, if any.
The narrow-minded administrators of Hocker Grove rejected Lobsterism's agrarian reform plan on the grounds that we had not included kitchen staff, janitorial staff, or absentee students in our calculations. We suspected that it had more to do with their unwillingness to have their office divided up into random squares they might not see for months on end.
On the heavy metal front, there were other difficulties. While it was generally agreed that Lobsters played guitar well, especially given the limitations of their claws, Lobsters were generally not popular enough to attract a complete band. Exceptions such as The Ticket occurred, but even then there was often disagreement among Lobsters regarding which bands to cover. The Founder, for instance, was partial to Black Sabbath and the first two Ozzy solo albums, as well as to Van Halen, Rush and other bands that other Lobsters found distasteful. And Mayhem, a prominent figure in the Lobster movement focused on The Beatles, a band the Founder dismissed as 'talentless' and 'sonic criminals.' There was general agreement on Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, and early Yes.
In terms of pursuing girls, Lobsters faced huge challenges. One of these was that junior high aged girls, a skittish lot to begin with, were often put off by Lobsterism. The Founder's frequent, loud, lunchroom marriage proposals to girls he hardly knew probably didn't help. Some have speculated that wearing bell-bottom jeans in 1983 was also part of the problem, and wearing hair down his back in an age of rat tails and 'preppie' dress.
The religious front was probably the most successful aspect of Lobsterism in its first incarnation. The Founder appointed himself Pope of the Lobster Church and promptly began awarding titles such as Cardinal, Deacon, Padre, and Friar to the few schoolmates he had not alienated. And to a few he had.
By the time of the religious phase of Lobsterism, some members of the movement had matriculated to high school, and to smoking things you couldn't find on the cereal aisle. There were also disciples with divided loyalties, who, in addition to being part of the Lobster Church, were also being recruited by an aspiring shoplifter into the Church of the Subgenius. Fortunately, neither the followers of Bob nor officers of the Lobster Church were forbidden to serve two masters. Or even commanded to serve a master at all. This is believed by scholars to be the primary reason the Lobsters and Subgeniuses did not engage in the sorts of persecution and warfare that have plagued other religions. The Subgeniuses at Shawnee Mission Northwest never even considered a Crusade to take Hocker Grove, and the Lobsters certainly never considered sacking Northwest.
One Lobster did suggest that the Church should move its headquarters to Northwest because it was the only air conditioned building in the district, but the inscrutable map readers at the district administration building sent the Founder to a school which, while much closer to his house, was the district's oldest building and lacked such amenities.
Part Two: Lobsterism in Pupae
By the late 1980s, Lobsterism ceased being so much a religion as mode of existence.
As with any religion, doctrine eventually shifts, and after 1984, heavy metal was really not part of Lobsterism. The Van Halen album of that Orwellian name may have contained that band's best work, and was certainly superior to the Van Hagar that was soon to come, but the Founder ran into a crisis of faith when he'd copped all the riffs off the album in a couple of weeks.
The quest for growth with the guitar led to the discovery of Jazz. Pat Metheny's 'Bright Size Life' album, coupled with the introduction of bassist Karl Spicer into the Founder's sphere of friends. While Karl politely declined becoming a Lobster, he did turn the Founder onto a variety of jazz artists.
Next thing you know, the Lobster was taking music theory lessons from the great John Elliott, carrying around a copy of the Real Book and looking to trade his Gibson RD-Artist in for an archtop.
Other changes were in store for Lobsterism. As the socialist scales fell from the Founder's eyes, he began to drift in a decidedly anarchist direction.
Part Three: Lobsterism in Print
The Founder, with amazing hubris and naivete began to formulate the idea that Lobsterism had sufficient appeal and sophistication to support a magazine. To this end, he had an extra phone line installed in his Mom's house and had business cards printed. Armed with a Brother 'word processor' (this was really an electric typewriter with a floppy disk drive), a ten-key calculator, and profound disaffection for being a gas station cashier, the Founder set out to sell advertising in Midwest Rock Lobster.
The magazine was originally conceived as a glossy publication, with a projected page count for the premier issue of 64 pages, with a four color process cover. After failing to secure even an unpaid advertising contract, even in his best Debate Tournament coat and tie, these plans were scaled back slightly.
What emerged was a newsletter, photocopied at Kinko's and mostly given away. The Founder managed to sell a few copies, though ad sales (despite the very reasonable price of $1 for a business card size display ad) were still not forthcoming. Subscriptions also failed to take off as projected.
Still, a Lobster is nothing if not optimistic. The $12 in revenue from the premier issue went into a more upscale edition.
This was around the time Rush Limbaugh was making his rise to fame. While the radio show was adding stations faster than its host could make enemies of liberals, not all the spots were sold. Because of the bullshit nature of so many 'public service' spots radio networks use when they haven't sold time, the Limbaugh program would advertise things like Spatula City and The Barnacle Brothers 60 Second Sale. It was better than the pretense of caring about the public used by most radio networks when their sales staff still has work to do.
The local radio station carrying this cheap imitation Neil Boortz did a trade out with Nadler Publishing. The spot advertised that company's flagship tabloid, the K.C. Jones, which was marginally more successful that Midwest Rock Lobster was turning out to be.
The ad went something along the lines of:
Without the Federal government, roads and bridges would crumble, children would wallow in ignorance, and armed gangs would maraud the streets... In other words, things would be exactly the same.
The ad went on to echo many of the Founder's views on taxation as theft, the corruption of the public sector and so on. So the Founder called the number and the phone was answered by a lunatic.
Part Four: No, You Knee-Jerk Liberal, an Actual Lunatic
The person who answered the phone was not a conservative or a libertarian. It's hard to describe, in ideological terms, the person who answered that first call. And it wasn't immediately apparent that she was so dramatically impaired. She took the Founder's message and, unbeknownst to the Founder, promptly resumed looking for the 'bitches' and 'whores' who were trying to steal her husband. The miracle that either her or her husband had found a mate on earth is a subject for another day. As are the used feminine hygiene products left in her desk when she was eventually canned.
It's hard to believe, given the 'vast right wing conspiracy' notion popularized in recent years, but the Limbaugh show was hurting so badly that the exact same spot played the next day. The Founder hadn't lost his fascination with the show yet, and got curious about why he'd never been called back.
This time the phone was not answered by a lunatic, but by an ultra-right-wing-vegetarian-Republican-Jew, Rich Nadler, who was the Editor in Chief of the K.C. Jones and co-owner of Nadler Publishing. Pleasantries were exchanged, and while he was apologetic, Rich was not surprised that the message taken by the lunatic hadn't reached him. Such was to be expected of an employee who had to be reminded about putting used toilet paper in the toilet.
The Founder asked about subscribing to the K.C. Jones,but Rich offered instead to send a copy of the Jones out gratis. Rich is a generous soul, but this isn't as big a deal as the Founder thought at the time. Thousands of copies of the Jones were distributed free every month, placed on top of cigarette machines in bars, beneath Thrifty Nickel racks, on window ledges in thrift stores, and so on. And while Rich forgot to mail the free copy tot he Founder, an understandable oversight given some of his staffing issues, the Founder sent a copy of the second issue of Midwest Rock Lobster off to Nadler Publishing, an exchange of publications.
Then one day, something happened that had never, ever happened before. The phone line the Founder had installed to be the business line for Midwest Rock Lobster rang and it was not his girlfriend. It wasn't even his ex-girlfriend. Those two people were the only callers that line had received despite the Founder's vigorous push for ad sales and increased distribution.
It was Rich Nadler calling, having completely forgotten the phone call that prompted the Founder to mail a copy of Midwest Rock Lobster in the first place. He had received the issue in the mail and taken it as just another over-the-transom item. When you publish a political tabloid, especially a right-wing political tabloid that's distributed free in blighted urban areas, you get these things to spice of the un-payable bills.
What followed was the Founder writing for The K.C. Jones, eventually becoming a coworker of the hebephrenic who had neglected that first phone message...