Notes on the Present

From the editors

Fittingly, this object sort of like a magazine (sort of) was put together, or torn apart as it were, in a fit of overnight insanity that lasted approximately seventeen hours, twenty-two days, eight months by a ragtag outfit of sort-of-misfits. If you’re still reading, you may have noticed that the last sentence contained the word “fit” four times, a sign of, among other things, the difficult challenge of containing all the wonderful artwork [sic] and writing that I wanted to contain.

Being self-obsessed--with my self and others’ selves--finding a time and a place to put the proverbial period was hard. I suppose that I never did finish. The time-space we’re dealing with here is the present, and the present never really ends.

Except in the future. Chew on that! And this: The present doesn’t just end in the future, it starts there too. In fact, the future is the present’s renewable energy source, its solar panel, it’s wind turbine. That’s why this beautiful first issue of Present! is about the future. It’s the only real theme that keeps the present exciting, relevant, hopeful, significant. As contradictory as that is, just imagine the present without the future. Now imagine Dick Cheney in a sparkly silver wig as the DJ at a bar mitzvah in Beijing. Now you have some sense about what I mean by the future in the present.

“So that’s the present you mean!” No, not quite. You were going to ask--how do you say your name: Is it a noun, adjective or verb? PRE-sent? Pre-SENT? Prsnt? PRE-SENT? PRESENT!? Does it really matter? Does anything matter? Yes and no. Naming, classifying, those are undeniable human instincts. It’s how we typically identify the good, the bad, and the ugly, how we group ourselves and, perhaps most importantly, differentiate ourselves from so so so many others. That’s what I’m about.

In magazine terms, this desire to be original translates to a question William Carlos Williams posed when inaugurating a little magazine called Contact: “Who has the effrontery today to inaugurate a new magazine or to revive an old must justify himself for so doing in some way above the ordinary. With the confusion there is about us and the despairing minds there are, what in the world is writing [and drawing and painting and photographing] good for anyway?...Why not take the money there is for a magazine like this and give it away—as food—to [those] living in packing cases over near the East River these winter nights?” (February 1932)

The importance of that question has arguably grown since Williams wrote it: the thirties saw the birth of modern mass entertainment, the Hollywood blockbuster, cheaper, faster production techniques to fill America’s shopping catalogues with all the (useless) goods consumers could imagine. Surrounded by luxuries of all kinds today, we may more easily partake in another luxury: to forget that others don’t have the luxury of luxury. So the question is more pressing than ever: why this magazine and not food for the hungry?

I don’t know if I can answer the question. To keep the issue in mind in a productive way requires us to think about the money spent on Present! (under $800), which is significant but relatively little compared to other fancier magazines. And to the extent that this magazine is a waste of time, so are a lot of other things we do—art, poetry, theorizing, playing, watching sports, jogging, etc. It would be a waste of time to argue the virtues of promoting art vs. the virtues of promoting life; but exactly because there’s no basis for comparison, there’s also the possibility that art could be just as meaningful in some running tally, but on different terms. Especially when art is, after all, about the presentation of different viewpoints, different people than ourselves. Then maybe, depending on who’s looking, art could serve the mere purpose of reminding that there’s more to the world than just art, than just messy magazines.

I should warn you that I, Present!, cannot offer much in the way of political outcry, punditry, or IMPORTANT ISSUES. But getting back to the issue of my name, how to pronounce it and so forth: one thing Present! means for me is to be and “to be present” at that, to be in attendance: This isn’t about being in class, but being in the world, and being attendant. I started off with the aim of being attendant to the world, in any (every?) way possible; where I’ve failed, and where not, I hope you’ll be attendant nonetheless.
You’re not even reading this still, are you?

If you are, you’re probably thinking, “God, shutup, you annoying solipsistic excuse for a magazine!” I will, in a second, after I look up that word. O, but first, I just want to say what present is also about: presenting. Presenting here isn’t just showcasing different, curious ideas and art and objects and people to you, you different, curious people. It’s also sharing and giving. The magic of presents is that they have an untold, unseen value, a value that can be realized only at a future time, in another’s hands. Try and think of something of yours (a photo, a book, a cd) that doesn’t really excite you now, and then imagine how much it would excite someone else, a friend or not, to receive it. There you have part of the how and why I made this for you.

And also the reason why I’m not bound. Before tossing me into the ol’ recycling bin after a quick glance, I hope that you share me with your friends. And I make great wrapping paper too! (I could really use a new pocketwatch, now that you mention it).
I hope you’ll look at the rest of this, These organic, loud, beautiful pieces of writing and art are, I hope, deserving of that conspicuous ! (I couldn’t put everything in, so my friends voted, but you can see everything online at

Another idea: You could I suppose always try to sell me to some unwitting person and donate the profits to charity. There are always other causes and better presents to be given. For now this is ours.