10/11/08 - T-shirts & back issues

I've still got a bunch of these shirts -- I guess we didn't hang the shirts up high enough at the merch table, or make it abundantly clear enough that they were ONLY SIX BUCKS.

I can mail a shirt to most people for about $2 shipping, depending on size and location.

I'm out of Mediums, but still have a lot of L & XL and a few S & YL.

I've got a bunch of shirts and nothing to do with them.

SECONDLY, I still have around 50 (nearly) full sets. The first 10 or so of them are only missing issue 12 (I know, bummer, it's the Wunder Years issue), and after that they wind up missing between 2 & 4 issues. I'm giving them away for FREE!

I can hand them off to people who want to pick them up locally, or mail nation-wide for around *$10 SHIPPING*. And if you get a shirt, shipping won't cost any more, since it's flat rate Priority. So you could get a SET OF ISSUES AND A SHIRT FOR $16. What a deal.

Also, if you want any specific issues, as long as they're not 5, 6, or 12, I probably have extras and could send you some.

Contact me, yo. Help me clear out my garage.


9/25/08 - Some other folks' documents of the event

In the year 1996, I wrote publicly:

�With the exception of the Blockheads and Cropduster, Sonoma County�s music scene has become an embarrassing laughing stock.�

I was convinced, and not entirely erroneously so, that there were no good bands around here whatsoever. Luckily, a magazine called Section M came along a couple years later which seemed convinced otherwise.It proclaimed: Bands are great! We like all these bands! Bands, bands, bands!

I sneered at it, wrote irritated letters to the editor, and tried to ignore it. But I couldn�t. I read every issue. Everybody did. Looking back now, no longer under the intoxicating combination of Tanqueray and Albert Ayler and mid-20s cynicism, I have a lot of respect for what the many shitworkers at Section M pulled off.

On Saturday night, the founders of Section M are throwing a party with lots of bands from 10 years ago reuniting to perform. In a wild twist of fate, I�ll be playing bass with the Blockheads, since Mark Aver is on the East Coast. Steve Choi is back on drums. We had just one practice, tonight, and I gotta say, shit sounds fuckin� good.

Who else is playing this thing? Cropduster, of course. Hope to see you there.

I Took Too Many Drugs,
Gabe Meline

Gabe writes about it for the Bohemian here:

Caitlin Childs' awesome photos are here (even if I don't particularly like the pics of me):

Sara Bir, who worked for Section M as a writer and managing editor, takes a good hard look at the magazine both here:

A few members of the staff from the magazine share their thoughts and opinions here:

Sara Bir elucidates even further here:

A couple lo-fi videos of The Blockheads on YouTube here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HkL_mz_I7e8 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GrW2lgzzPXo&feature=related

9/19/08 - Thank you. The Section M reunion was AMAZING.

Thank you. The Section M reunion was AMAZING.

I want to say thank you so much for being part of that incredible night. Everyone I've talked to has told me it was one of the best times they've had in years, and more than a few of them claim to have either cried a little from grinning so much (I'm among them) or to have discovered a band they'd never heard, of but love now. Or both.

We topped out at about 300 paid, plus nine bands and all their guests, plus our staff and the various other folks who got in free (staff of the hair salon, etc.), I figure we probably had over 400 people there over the course of the night. Crazy.


So thank you specifically to Annie Ostrowski and Oona Risling-Sholl � I hope I didn't step on your toes too much by not being able to let go and let you run the whole thing. But by the same token, I wouldn't have been able to keep the parts of it on track that I did, without you two doing the rest. And Oona: sorry for making you stay so late despite your being near death.

Thank you to Travis of Daredevils & Queens for allowing us to use your rad space. Thank you to Casey of Grubbin' for the awesome BBQ, and for lowering your prices to barely-break-even level, and to Firestone Walker Brewery and Roshambo for donating so much alcohol. And thank you specifically to Brandon Borgel for making, what, THREE runs to the store for more ice and eventually more beer (we went through 35 cases of beer and 3 of wine by 10:30). And thank you to Martina and her friend (sorry, I forgot your name in all the hubbub) for bartending when Brandon and our crew of security guys needed a break.

Thanks to Nick Grizzle for being our sound guy, and keeping it running pretty close to on-time amongst all that chaos. Thank you to Charlie for helping us get all the equipment and for helping with sound, and to the other friend of Annie's (sorry again) whose name I forgot who also helped with sound. Couldn't have done it without you.

Thank you to Natalye Childress for being strapped to the door for pretty much the whole night, and to Avi Ehrlich for stepping up and helping out, even though he wasn't scheduled to.

Thanks to Brett Robert, Mark Benanti, and Eliot for doing security, which got increasingly crazy by the end of the night, and for working the bar, which was crazy the whole time it was open. Thanks to Kate and Coalmine for the coffee and for working the merch table, even though it was so packed sometimes people didn't know where the merch table was (more on that later). And thank you to Caitlin for taking all those great pictures (even if I hate having my OWN picture taken).

Thank you to John Courage for stepping in when we had a last minute cancellation, for literally getting someone to bring you a guitar and being on stage within 15 minutes of the time I asked you if you could fill in.

And of course, thank you SO MUCH to every single one of the bands. Amazing performances, every one of you. Like I said, I was grinning so hard, I cried a little.

So. Much. Fun.


I think Ben from the Reliables said it best. He thanked me because "this was the absolute best end to the Reliables I could have ever hoped for. It's like getting to go to your own funeral and have everyone tell you how much they love you and miss you."

I think I got that for the magazine, too - this glorious send-off and funeral pyre for the foolish, crazy, and naive, but ultimately beautiful and brave thing we did, that we can all be immensely proud we were part of. I had a whole bunch of people hug me and tell me how big a part of their life section M was, either as readers or volunteers, and thank me for that, and it meant the world to me. Considering that the magazine never really had a proper ENDING when it went under, I think that now it finally has.

So thank you everyone. It was an huge, amazing, emotional, and incredible night. Now I plan to get back to catching back up on sleep for a week or so...


9/11/08 - Seven Years Later

This is the letter from the editor from the October 2001 issue of section M magazine. I went back and read it today, and... well, it seemed worthy of sharing... ---

"Those who would sacrifice freedom for security deserve neither."

�Benjamin Franklin

I was awakened the morning of September 11th by my answering machine. It had been a late night�out seeing Modest Mouse the night before and arriving home around 4:00am�and I was sleeping in. I looked over at my clock briefly, and it said something in the range of 9:00, so I rolled the covers back over my head and tried to block out whoever thought it was a good idea to call me this early. But then certain words snuck into my plaid cocoon: "somethingsomethingsomething BLOWN UP somethingsomething BUILDNG somethingsomethingsomething THIS IS REALLY BAD, WE'RE UNDER ATTACK."

I tried to go back to sleep, but that was far too much for me to handle. Who was under attack? My brain couldn't possibly wrap around the idea of America being under attack�I mean, that just doesn't happen, right?�so, somehow, in my groggy state, I figured that somehow the magazine itself must be under attack, though I couldn't figure out exactly how you would do that, much less at this time in the morning. But I was awake now. I needed to know. So I got up, rewound the message, and listened to our photographer and webmaster, Bill Powell, tell me the news: planes flown into buildings, collapsing, fire, attack, gone, planes full of people, buildings full of people, all dead�"This is REALLY BAD, we're UNDER ATTACK, America is under attack. You should turn on your TV." This was obviously much worse than my paltry misinterpretation.

I got up and lay back in bed for hours watching the news, as they recounted the same horrifying things over and over with minor variations. The Pentagon. New shots of different angles of the planes crashing into the buildings. It didn't seem real. I watched the buildings crash down. I've seen that before in Independence Day, in Armageddon. This is just special effects. My brain couldn't absorb it. It's not real. Nobody attacks America.

But the bubble was burst.

I fell back asleep with the TV still on and slept for about an hour with it humming in the background, and watched the buildings in my mind collapse in slow motion, then build back up, then collapse, like a yo-yo. It was all too much.

I didn't work for two days.

There was one line on the news that really bothered me: that in that dust, incinerated, mixed in with the steel and plaster and other particles, were the ashes of people�6000 people. That the dust that was in your eyes, and nose, and mouth, and in all your clothes�presuming you're in New York, of course�contained people.

It's strange in some ways that something that happened all the way across the country, in a city I sort of loathed when I visited it, could affect me on such a profound level. But it wasn't just New York. It wasn't just that we had been attacked, but that was part of it. It was that we had been attacked swiftly, without warning, and so incredibly efficiently and with frightening success. I mean, Timothy McVeigh killed a lot of people: wasn't it like 150? He blew up half a building that was six stories tall. He made a bomb out of poop. In the scheme of things: only mildly successful. A deranged hick. Easier to dismiss as a one-off. Crazy. Won't happen again.

Not these people. These people had planned it so well that they didn't need a bomb. They hijacked four planes at once. They took out two buildings that were over 100 stories each. It was frightening�terrifying�that someone could be this organized and intelligent and still be willing to sit in the nose of a plane, make a hairpin turn, and drive it through a building wider than its wingspan.

But you know all this. You've all been watching the same news footage.

I don't know what to do with this energy. For a little while there, it threatened to derail this issue, made it hard to work for a whole week. But then of course came the desire to do something despite it, or maybe because of it�something to give me purpose. Time to put out an issue.

I still worry. I worry about the US making martyrs of the Taliban and Bin Laden. I worry about bombing innocent people. I also worry about big trucks with American Flags on one side and Confederate flags on the other, who throw bricks. I worry about our rights being curtailed in the name of freedom. I worry about the friends of mine who say that this is not the time for dissent of any kind�that we need to support our government, even if we don't agree with its actions. Okay, I believe that we must band together around certain issues�supporting those killed or injured, thanking the rescue workers, giving blood and money where possible�but I don't think those of us who disagree should shut up in order to make others feel better. If anything, it is our duty as Americans to say our piece: that is what a Democracy is about, and that is what our country is based on, this open dialog.

But I am also incredibly proud of America and Americans in a way that I don't think I have ever been in my life before. The image of people, the day of the tragedy, lined up around the block so they could give blood, unselfish, reaching out to help, to the point where they had to be told to make appointments. The week before I had been complaining about how apathetic Americans were. It almost didn't seem real�suddenly this incredibly bad thing, and then equally suddenly, this amazingly good thing, almost too much for the brain to absorb.

There is another good thing about America, which is at its very core�a wonderful and amazing thing that I overlooked through most of my rebellious youth: this is a country that was founded on trying things a new way. For all the confusion that throwing traditions out the window has caused us in our moral and personal lives, it has also given us the solution to every problem, or at least a way of going about finding one. America is always changing, always learning, always attempting to make things better�though not always succeeding�and always there are people who are trying to figure out the next step. As much as we sometimes think of the Vietnam-era protesters, of Martin Luther King, or of modern action groups as outside of the system, fighting against it, they are part of America�part of what makes us great. That's because this sort of dissent is not only allowed, it is part of the system by which things change for the better.

We sit at a crossroads right now, literally a crossroads in the history of the world. We can remain stuck in Teddy Roosevelt-era politics of charging and conquering and policing/bullying the rest of the world, harkening back to "manifest destiny." We can go "kick some ass," and very likely put ourselves into a sort of world-wide Vietnam. Or we can learn. Grow. Try something new.

I'm hoping for the latter. I don't know what it is yet, but I'm hoping for it anyway.

The Ogre,

Michael Houghton

Saturday, September 13th
5:30pm doors & BBQ / 7:00 bands

11:00 - The Paranoids (Damon of The Librarians)
10:30 - Hanalei (Brian of The Wunder Years) - 2nd stage
9:55 - The Blockheads (reunion!)
9:25 - Scattershot Theory - 2nd stage
8:55 - Cropduster (reunion!)
8:25 - The Reliables (reunion!) - 2nd stage
7:50 - 20 Minute Loop
7:25 - Mike O'Connor (of Hot April, Map of Tulsa) - 2nd stage
7:00 - Royal Pine (reunion!)

$7 (to help defray costs & pay the bands the best we can)
FREE Beer & Wine for 21+
CHEAP BBQ! (~$6 a plate)
Children under 14 free with parent

There�s two stages (inside & outside), so things will be moving quickly. And yes, several of the bands demanded specifically to play early, even if they oughta headline.

@ Daredevils & Queens
122 4th Street, Santa Rosa, California

Hey everyone -

1) There's been a little confusion with some people I've talked to: No, it's not free admission. But we're keeping the admission cheap -- only $7. We're NOT trying to make a profit, but we ARE putting out about $700 (on two sound systems, liquid refreshment, portapotties, and a whole bunch of other things), AND we want to pay all of the 9 bands that are playing the best we can. Wouldn't it be awesome if we could pay them better than they ever got paid back in the day?

1A) Your admission price INCLUDES: Free beer & wine (for 21+), juice, juice boxes (for the young 'uns), water, chips and salsa, and of course 9 freakin' bands and hanging out with everyone.

1B) Your admission also includes (while they last) full sets of Section M back issues - all 31!!! I wanna finally clear out the back hall of the ex-secM offices. Ex-staff will get first crack at them... But get there early to get yours FREE!!!

2) Bring some extra money. There's gonna be BBQ, which is being sold separately so that people who don't want food won't have to pay extra at the door. It's being sold by a vendor who was a fan of the magazine, so he's cut the prices in half of what he would normally charge, to about $6 a plate. There WILL be vegan options, chicken, or a beef or pork option, and of course potato salad and coleslaw.

3) We're printing commemorative t-shirts (which will be awesome - promise) and selling them at cost -- probably about $6.

Okay, I hope to see you all in a little less than two weeks!


3/26/08 - Section M Staff Ten Year Reunion

Yep, that's right. In September it will have been ten years since the first issue of section M came out. Weird, huh?

So we're going to set about trying to find all the folks who ever worked for us over those five years. And we're pretty aware how impossible that will be, what with the rather impressive diaspora that's happened since then. Thus, the hope is that some of you will randomly check back here from time to time, and we can find you by September.

We've got all sorts of ideas for it (band reunions, commemorative t-shirts, fancy booklets of writers musings about the experience, free full sets of issues for ex-staff), but the number of people we find (and who are also interested in this debacle), will have a lot of bearing on what makes sense to do. At minimum, it will be good to see all the old faces (and at this point, yes, we really *do* mean "old"), meet people we never met face to face, and reminisce about why we chose to mess up our lives so long ago.

Write me at michael@sectionm.com.

On another note, I�ve reorganized the site a little to get rid of some of the sections that are hopelessly out of date (like the �Where Are They Now� page). And to make the issues available only by full sets, and update the shipping to reflect changes in US Postal prices. If there are people that want to help me put more on this site (like back issues content, or updated profiles of ex-staff), feel free to contact me.


3/30/06 - Well, this isn't so much section M news, as it is personal news for me, but the Love Equals Death album is out now, and you can see the artwork I did for it at my new portfolio website at www.explodingfistofdeath.com. I've also started putting up some of my writing there, starting with much of what I wrote for issue #31, which includes my Chuck Palahniuk interview. I think I'm going to go back and put some of those up on this site eventually too, but for now, you'll hae to go there.

- Michael Houghton

11/14/05 - I am out of debt! Last sunday, 11/6, I wrote the final check for section M's debt and am now completely in the clear! Woo hoo! Only took two years, a nervous breakdown, bankruptcy, and a rather large amount of working my ass off at a job that is perhaps not exactly my dream for what I want to do with my life. But oh well. Let the next chapter of life begin.

In celebration, I've discounted all the prices for issues to make room in our back hallway. Full sets are now only $12.50 and individual issues are only $1.50. So buy up, me laddies and lasses.

And if you're someone who once worked for section M, really, feel free to write to me either to add or update your profile, or to get a vast discount on full sets of back issues.

I've also created a news page so that I can actually show what the latest updates are. I know that's rather optimistic, considering this is one of the first updates since i built this site a year ago.

But as of today, the only major update is just to my own little personal update.

- Michael Houghton


A picture I took of Michael Moore holding our final issue,
when he spoke in Santa Rosa in November 2003.
This is the picture our Designed By Monkeys
"Che Moore" shirts are based on.
section M magazine:
We're Not Just Morally Bankrupt Anymore.

I just finished watching My So Called Life on DVD. It was the first time I had seen it since it aired for that one brilliant season in 1994 and then prematurely disappeared. I guess when I first put it in my Netflix list, I was a little concerned that maybe it wouldn�t have aged well, and that like most of Morrissey�s albums past Bona Drag, going back to it would somehow call into question a key part of my life as a young adult. Well, there were several things I found. First off, it is still a brilliant and moving show. Secondly, ten years later, I was empathizing almost as much with the parents, what with being closer to their age now than to Claire�s. Thirdly... well, there�s just so many, so I�ll get to the last one: I�m still upset that it ended on a cliffhanger, setting up for a second season that never came, leaving all of us who were so enraptured with it no ending. With no sense of closure.

It�s been a little over a year since the final issue of Section M came out, in mid June of 2003, and for almost a year now, I�ve been trying to figure out how to write this statement. Most people reading this will be aware that the issue included a �Hiatus Letter� that promised we would return after regrouping. And so now, even a year later, I still run into people all the time who ask me when we�re coming back, and who is going to be in the new issue. People still have this hope, and I hate to dash it, but we�re not coming back.

Making that decision is honestly one of the hardest things I�ve ever done, because this magazine was my baby and the plan for what I was doing with my life, and the absolute center of everything I did for the five years it was around. But in the end, there were too many things broken to be able to fix them.

I�ve struggled with how much of the truth to tell our fans, because the last thing I want to do is to snuff out the hope and excitement that people still tell me the magazine gave them. But I also think it�s important to know how much was done with so little, by people who worked incredibly hard with pretty much no financial support. And I think it�s important to explain it, so that there is closure.

* * *

We managed to fool a lot of people over the years into thinking we were a huge, successful company. I was always baffled when people I talked to at shows were convinced that we all had paying jobs. I think it�s because what most people saw was the final product, which I�m very proud of. But that final product was made that good because of the talent and hard work of a great many people over the years, not by any sort of financial success, unfortunately. We all worked our fingers to the bone to create something that shouldn�t have been able to exist as long as it did, and shouldn�t have been able to have been as superfantastico as it often was. But unfortunately, that took a toll on all of our sanity, health, and wallets, especially mine.

Section M was a sole proprietorship, run in my name, and on my credit cards. I made some mistakes early on, in the idealistic haze that we would just make a great magazine and the advertising would just come automatically. It didn�t exactly work that way, and I wound up losing a huge amount of money, largely from credit card interest, but also from never being able to hire the excellent advertising sales team we needed. Unfortunately, putting art before business resulted in no more art.

So a few months after the final issue came out, I had to declare bankruptcy. I had $60K in debt, and had lost somewhere in the range of $100 to $150K out of my own pocket, not to mention lost wages from taking a month off to produce each issue.

* * *

There�s also the human side to the story, of course. Making something that was so detail-oriented and so far beyond what we should have been able to do, with absolutely no pay for 99% of us, was pretty grueling. They say that the number one most failed business is restaurants. Number two is magazines, and we didn�t have the budget that most magazines have. Most people in the upper management of the magazine didn�t last more than a few issues before burning out. I�m not sure how many people worked for the magazine over the five year run, but I have a feeling it was into the triple digits. And that meant, generally, that when someone quit, their tasks fell to someone else who was just as exhausted, and it became a domino effect. The only person who worked on every issue from start to finish was me, and so my level of exhaustion was the greatest.

For better or worse, as soon as the �hiatus� started, I was thrown into a world of confusion. On the one hand, I was so relieved to not be living with that level of stress anymore. On the other, I was incredibly depressed that this thing I had worked so hard to keep going was going to die on me. What the hell would I do with my life now?

But it was also at a point where it was no longer an option to continue. I had been ready to quit as of issue 30, and several people convinced me to let them try to take over�I would train them, but not actually work on the magazine anymore. Unfortunately again, I wound up working incredibly hard on that final issue, and losing more money than I would have if I�d quit at #30. But oh well. I learned it couldn�t continue, and that gave me closure. I wish we hadn�t angered so many advertisers in the process, but oh well...

There was also the exhaustion, which by the end of the five years had gotten to the point where it was literally a medical problem. I�m not going to go into detail, but suffice it to say that I wound up battling several non-life-threatening, but still pretty unpleasant stress- and exhaustion-related illnesses.

What I wound up deciding, even after the bankruptcy, was that I would still pay off the people who had been good to the magazine, and who we still owed money to. And I didn�t have a choice about paying the back taxes we had been unable to pay at the time they were due. Basically, that came to close to $20K of it, and I�ve been slowly chipping away at that for the last year. We had one benefit show, the Love Sucks, Valentines Day show, but I didn�t publicize that it was a benefit show, because I was still too embarrassed to ask for help. I�m less embarrassed now, but putting on a show is something I don�t necessarily have much interest in doing myself. But I�m ready to accept it if anyone wants to hold one on my behalf.

I�m much more interested in selling the back issues to people who want to have a piece of history. All of the profit from selling those issues will go toward paying off my still-sizeable debt. And I will make sure to keep you all in the loop about when it gets paid off.

And if you want to just throw me any size donation to help out, you can do so through Paypal with this neato button:

* * *

I once wrote in my letters to the editor about how all our local bands were breaking up. At the time, I compared it to a forest fire. You see, fires are a natural and necessary part of a forest�s life cycle. Every once in a while, there has to be a huge fire that burns down all the old, gnarled growth in order for the little baby trees to get enough light and take over. The old bands had to break up so that they could re-combine and become new, even better bands. One of the new bands that was starting then was The Velvet Teen, formed from the ashes of Little Tin Frog, The Conspiracy, and Edaline, and look where they are now.

So I guess those of us involved in the magazine, especially me, needed that cleansing fire to be able to do whatever it is that we are going to do next, though the time I spent burning kinda sucked. The thing that I�m finding, amusingly, what with all the of things I had to do to make the magazine come out, if I just do all those things as individual activities, then I get to be a Renaissance Man of sorts.

My health is coming back, with a lot of hard work. So is my sanity. And the great sucking sound that is my wallet is slowly getting quieter. I�m doing some new great things, and have found several new passions. I�m also finally making much more of my own music again, though still not in front of anyone. There�s more details in the Where Are They Now? section [currently defunct] about me and my cohorts and, um, where we are now, or more precisely, what we�re doing.

All good things must pass. But new good things will come. And that�s a promise I think I can keep.

Michael Houghton