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For Arthur, it's hard out there on the edge

June 27, 2008 |  6:39 pm


Arthur magazine, left; at right, Loren Coleman with one of the artifacts from the International Cryptozoology Museum.

Arthur magazine is in trouble. The not-quite-6-year-old free magazine has suffered a series of financial challenges, which culminated in editor Jay Babcock buying out his partner about a year ago. (Full disclosure: I've known Jay since we were both DJs at pirate radio station KBLT.)

Arthur is about music and politics, but that doesn't go far enough to describe its edginess. It is about independent music that gets little radio airplay, like alt-folk and contemporary psychedelia, and its politics are of the leftist, peacenik variety. Its columnists include media theorist Douglas Rushkoff and Sonic Youth guitarist Thurston Moore; writers Trinie Dalton and Brian Evenson have contributed. With a penchant for challenging the (political or musical) status quo, it's quite a bit different from the glossy magazines found on newsstands.

This difference may be part of the problem. A magazine that's saying something no others are saying and covering music others don't cover might be hard for advertisers -- upon whom it relies -- to wrap their heads around. It's not unlike the problem faced by Loren Coleman of the International Cryptozoology Museum -- he's doing something that the big guys just don't get.

Unfortunately for Coleman, the "big guys" are at the Internal Revenue Service.

Coleman's predicament after the jump.

The International Cryptozoology Museum is located in Maine; BoingBoing visited it last year and describes it as:

a multi-room cabinet of curiosities filled with artifacts, ephemera, and oddities related to "hidden animals," mythical beasts, and creatures unknown to science.

Hence the picture of Coleman with an enormous model of a Bigfoot-like creature. He's got physical artifacts and models of yeti, mermaids, sea serpents and more. But, the IRS wants to know, is cryptozoology real? The problem may hinge on how it is defined -- if it's not a science, is it just a hobby? If it's a hobby, is it really a job?

David Wilson of L.A.'s Museum of Jurassic Technology managed to get the paperwork right, it seems. His museum -- wait, is Jurassic technology real? -- has not only escaped the ire of the IRS, it also earned him a MacArthur "genius" grant in 2001. But Coleman isn't so lucky.

Can the health of a culture be measured by the health of its cultural institutions? What does it mean if the smart, odd, challenging, edgy places and journals find themselves making appeals for emergency cash?

-- Carolyn Kellogg