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The Story of Forget: A Memoir
by Jeff Coll

Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of Forget Magazine, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, this hypertext document must show. To begin my life with the beginning of my life, I record that I was born (as I have been informed and believe) on a Friday, at twelve o'clock at night. It was remarked that the clock began to strike, and I began to cry, simultaneously.

I did not stop crying for eighteen years, when I began my studies at the University of Prince Edward Island. It was at the university that I discovered that the world is filled with evil and has been for thousands of years. This realisation desensitised me from all violence, and the clock striking twelve did not seem to me like such a great tragedy anymore.

By my second year of study at the university, I was well adjusted enough to participate in extra-curricular activities. I had always enjoyed reading and writing, so I decided to join the basketball team. Before the try-outs even began, however, I was shamed away by my fellow hopefuls, because I only stood five feet and four inches tall. In a world only seen by me from atop a milk crate, they laughed. I decided to volunteer for the student newspaper-The Cadre-instead.

In the beginning, I tried to stay out of the way at the newspaper. I attended the meetings, handed in my articles on time, and fraternised very little with the staff and other volunteers. I wrote movie reviews at first-short ones, because the rather intimidating-looking editor-in-chief had commanded it so-but one week, a review that I submitted went unpublished in a publication desperate for material. In response-in retaliation, rather-I decided to write a letter to the editor under a pseudonym. In the letter, I explained how disappointed I was in the absence of movie reviews from the great Jeff Coll in the previous week's issue of The Cadre. On one computer disc, I submitted that fateful letter, along with two other letters that mused on various on-campus activities, and my regular movie reviews. The reviews were published, and so were the letters, and soon afterwards, I heard that the editor-in-chief of The Cadre was looking for me. (My job at Tim Hortons had prevented me from attending recent meetings, at which I would have been able to grant the editor an audience.) I thought that the editor had it in for me-that although he published my letters, he didn't appreciate criticism of the student newspaper coming from the inside.

One afternoon, in the early autumn of 1999, Kent Bruyneel lumbered up to me in the quadrangle of UPEI while I was talking to some friends. The editor-in-chief interrupted me with a look on his face that I thought meant that he was going to hurt me-and I believed he could hurt me, because he was much larger than I. It turned out, however, that he had greater plans in store for me-plans that would require me to remain unhurt for the time being. What I had interpreted as rage from Kent turned out to be confidence. When Kent has something on his mind, I realised, he goes out into the quadrangle-literally and metaphorically-and gets it done.

Kent's vision for me at the time was to write false letters to the editor. The reasoning was simple: plenty of people had negative things to say about The Cadre, but nobody actually bothered to write in to complain, or even volunteer to help improve the paper. Because I had a gift for writing in different styles and voices, and because I did not mind offering my genuine opinions, I became the critical voice of UPEI's student newspaper; there wouldn't have been one otherwise. I continued to write movie reviews, so as a hint to my true authorship, I wrote the letters using the names of movie characters as pseudonyms; Frank Mackey from Magnolia, Tracy Flick from Election, and Max Fischer from Rushmore all gave their criticisms of The Cadre, and nobody seemed to notice. Every once in a while, we heard that readers were a little concerned that Kent almost always responded to every letter with some variation of, "Go fuck yourself."

As my role in The Cadre became more important, I in turn became more comfortable spending time in the newspaper office. I befriended some of the volunteers and employees, and I even worked up the courage to apply for the job of production manager for the second semester of my second year. I was supposedly granted an interview, but nobody told me about it, so I never showed up. It would not have mattered, anyway, because the then-current production manager, who had planned on leaving UPEI after the first semester of that year, decided not to leave and wanted to keep the job.

And kept the job she did, but she never actually worked on any of the issues in the second semester. Once it became clear that I could fill in as the production manager, I declined, because I had already accepted a roll in a university-produced play-the Valet in Jean-Paul Sartre's No Exit. (It was a thankless and rather small role, but people commented that I played a good devil. My critics meant well, but I think they missed the point, because I was trying to play a character without personality. In existential drama, the main characters are their own devils. My character wasn't a protagonist or an antagonist or even a catalyst. He was exposition.) Kent, therefore, took it upon himself to handle the layout himself, doing the best he could while also trying to copy edit, edit for libel, and handle many of the newspaper's administrative tasks while the production editor made himself scarce, putting on his own plays and completing his education degree.

Near the end of the second semester that year, it was time for everyone to apply or reapply for positions at The Cadre for the next school year. Kent reapplied for editor, and for no good reason that I can recall, I decided not to apply for anything. When hiring was over, it turned out that nobody had applied for production manager, and once Kent had confirmed his position as editor-in-chief for a second year, he had a new vision for me. It was this vision that would cause Kent to proclaim himself a "star maker" without a trace of irony: he decided that it was time for The Cadre to become an entirely digitally produced publication, and that I would be the one to usher in the change.

For years, The Cadre was designed in Adobe PageMaker, printed out in segments on letter-sized paper, and assembled on pasteboards; photographs were adhered onto their designated places in the layout and the final pasted-together product was then taken to the province's daily newspaper-known to us as The Guardian-to be digitised and printed. With his mighty powers of persuasion, Kent obtained a scanner, a digital camera, and a new used computer to help with The Cadre's digital revolution. Kent would say that the pivotal moment of The Cadre came when he commanded me to be the next year's production manager, gave me a handbook for QuarkXPress-the publishing industry's leading design software-and told me to learn how to use QuarkXPress before the summer was out, or else I would be "strung up by my nutsack." It is difficult to resist Kent's command of the English language, so I complied with his demands.

When the summer between my second and third years ended, I had familiarised myself with QuarkXPress, and I was confident that I could do a more than passable job at designing the new Cadre. The Cadre that I single-handedly designed that year was markedly different from the various UPEI student newspapers that had been produced in previous years. (In the UPEI's 30-year history, the UPEI student newspaper had gone through many name changes. The first incarnation was known as The Cadre, but it later acquired such flinch-inducing titles such as The Panther Prints and The Gem. The year before I started going to UPEI, the powers that be changed the name back to The Cadre, which was an act of progress through regression.) Because the source document that I created was completely digital, the quality of the images being printed greatly increased. And The Cadre looked better than it ever did, not only because we had embraced the new technology, but because I knew how to do my job. Even back when I was making dozens of mistakes per issue, I knew that I was the best production manager that The Cadre had ever had.

To aid in deflecting the criticisms that the previous year's contents had too much humour and silliness (Criticisms that were all mine, of course, because I was the newspaper's only public critic.), Stephan MacLeod and I had the idea to isolate all of the humour into a four-page section that we called The Faction. Stephan and I and Kent produced the entire contents of The Faction: satirical news articles and opinion pieces, crudely drawn comic strips, and Stephan's immensely popular carry-over from the previous year "Fact and Opinion" were its staples. We considered The Faction almost like an independent publication within The Cadre-if the reader did not like it, he or she could remove the middle spread, line their litter boxes with it, and go on reading everything else. The rest of the pages of The Cadre tried to be credible, but edgy, journalistically by dealing with important issues on and off campus that other media in PEI didn't want to deal with.

By the end of the year, however, our best intentions failed and the contents of The Faction had merged into the "regular" pages of The Cadre. My first suspicions of such a fate were when Kent asked Jonah Campbell—the highest aggregate in second-year Arts at UPEI—and Mike Lecky (top) —dumpster diver and self-employed graphic designer—to bring their live-action comic strip "The Adventures of Boxlor" off of Mike's website Superfunk.com and onto the pages of The Cadre. Kent promised them the coveted back page of the newspaper, which did not qualify as Faction territory, although the concept of a man-played by Mike himself—-with a box on his head causing trouble in public places is definitely something that belonged in The Faction. With his usual persistence, Kent managed to get Mike and Jonah to produce an original "Boxlor" comic in time for it to be published in The Cadre's first-annual Christmas Issue.

Around the time that Kent was hassling Mike for "Boxlor," Kent must have realised that Mike was good for something more than funny comics about a vulgar person with a box for a head. Mike's Superfunk.com begat Aioku.com, which displayed Mike's remarkable talent for web design. His work was pure chaos and it confused me, because my design style is one of simplicity and order. We are both geniuses, but geniuses from different worlds that should never meet in case there is a paradox and the universe explodes. Neither of us really understood each other's theories of design, nor did we discuss them. We just let it be, as the song says.

So, as I understood it, spending three semesters putting out a print publication was not enough for Kent.. At some point in his long academic career (he had already gotten himself a Bachelor's degree in Business Administration at UPEI many, many years ago and was currently at UPEI accumulating a load of English and History credits that never quite added up to a Bachelor of Arts), he had gotten himself some sort of information technology diploma and knew about the ways of the World Wide Web. He already had for himself a corner of the web called TheBasementCo.com, which featured personal observations and fragments of novels that he had started, but what he seemed to really want was a web version of The Cadre—a cultural magazine of sorts—except with better writers and a more appreciative audience.

But that is not to say that The Cadre did not have its share of good writers. Around the same time that he had made connections with Mike, Kent also befriended Matthew Dorrell, who was known by us at The Cadre as the interesting contributor to the weblog Actsofvolition.com. Kent had convinced Matthew—who was taking a few courses at UPEI, trying to earn himself Honours in English after having already received his Bachelor of Arts—-to submit some short stories for the very same Christmas Issue in which Mike's "Boxlor" debuted. Two very fine stories by Matthew appeared in the Christmas Issue, and Kent also recruited Matthew to co-edit the Poetry Spectacular issue that would come out at the end of the second semester. Matthew did not actually write very much for The Cadre during the months between the Christmas Issue and the Poetry Spectacular, now that I think of it. But he did hang around the office a lot, and there was no doubt that he could write well.

By the time 2000 became 2001, Kent had immersed himself in the idea of creating a web magazine—Forget Magazine. He showed up less than before at the office, and entrusted the other staff members at The Cadre to perform their tasks without him. At times, I felt like I was more the editor than Kent was, and Kent would have agreed. I decided what would go in, and I had to contend with our new news editor, who had apparently written for real newspapers before, but did not seem to know how to write.
Kent isn't one to turn down a free ride to his home province, however, so he made sure to make it known that he was the editor-in-chief of The Cadre so he could attend the Canadian University Press conference in Vancouver. I was also able to attend the conference, and I was excited to see Vancouver, which I had always heard was exciting. (It turns out that Vancouver is really called Richmond and its most exciting attraction is a really big shopping mall within walking distance of our hotel.) At the conference, I witnessed firsthand as Kent tried to represent both The Cadre and Forget Magazine. He showed people issues of The Cadre, which he was very proud of, so they could understand what he was capable of organizing, so that perhaps someday they might consider writing for him in another publication. Kent made people like CUP's Ottawa Bureau Chief Darren Stewart so enthusiastic about The Cadre that whenever Darren saw any of the other Cadre staff who had come to the conference, he bubbled with excitement around them. Kent even tried to convince one of the guest speakers, Narduar the Human Serviette, to write a piece for his budding web magazine. From the computer room, Kent showed me a mock-up of the Forget design that Mike had done, noting that the margins would need to be increased, but otherwise it was perfect. In less than a month, the first article would appear on ForgetMagazine.com with that very same design.

There was a time when the story of Forget Magazine was also the story of The Cadre. But now, two years later, Forget is its own force. Kent is never one to keep all of the credit for himself, and he no doubt credits Forget's success to many of the people who were there from the beginning. I was there from the beginning, submitting my comic strips that had already been published in The Cadre and keeping the affairs of The Cadre in order while he was doing whatever he did to launch Forget. So the secret is out: Forget is a success because of me. Although Forget is now based far away from where it all began—from me—I will cherish the memories that I have of making the creation of such a fine web magazine as Forget possible. It is, after all, the little things in life that give me pleasure.


Jeff Coll keeps his deadlines.



Current Article

Kent Bruyneel

Lee Henderson

Matthew Dorrell

Darren Stewart

Jeff Coll

Nick Thran

Craig Battle

Megan Dorrell

Stephen Wittek

And from:
DAY 25
DAY 26

Matthew Dorrell
Kent Bruyneel



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