Mud-Wrestling with Keith Sanborn

NOT BORED! #28, December 1997

It is said that you shouldn't wrestle with pigs, because you get dirty and the pig enjoys it. NOT BORED! has been wrestling with a pig for the last two years, and -- contrary to the proverb -- we are unsullied, and the pig doesn't not seem to be enjoying himself at all.

We refer, of course, to Keith Sanborn, the greedy little piggie who put English subtitles on two bootlegged situationist films -- Guy Debord's Society of the Spectacle and Rene Vienet's Can the Dialectic Break Bricks? -- and then charged a minimum of $30 for each subtitled cassette he produced. Back in February 1996, NOT BORED! rather creatively disrupted a screening of Debord's film by Sanborn in Buffalo, New York (see issue #25, June 1996). In October 1996 -- that is, months and months later -- Sanborn finally responded to our review of what happened in Buffalo. It only took us a short while to write back.

In November 1996, we obtained a copy of the subtitled version of Society of the Spectacle from Blackout Books (Sanborn himself having refused to sell us one) and began selling second-generation copies of it for $5 each. The bad old days of Sanborn's price gouging and lying about it were numbered! On 11 November 1996 -- the same day we confronted Sanborn at a screening of Society of the Spectacle he'd arranged at Anthology Film Archives in New York City -- we authored and distributed widely (on the internet) a tract that explained what we were doing and why (eventually published in issue #27, May 1997). In April 1997, we obtained a copy of the subtitled version of Can the Dialectic Break Bricks? and began selling second-generation copies of it for $5 each as well.

In September 1997, we reached an agreement with Left Bank Distribution of Seattle, Washington, in which we would do all the leg-work (go to a bulk duplication service in New York, get the second-generation tapes made for as cheap as possible, and then ship the tapes to Seattle as cheaply as possible), and Left Bank would reimburse us for everything. In this exclusive arrangement, the tapes are ultimately sold for $8, a mere $3 above the price we charge for the videos that we duplicate at home on two VCRs. Over the course of the last year, and not including our arrangement with Left Bank, we have sold approximately 100 cheaply-priced videocassettes to people all over the United States and all over the world. Everyone is happy -- everyone, that is, but Keith Sanborn, who has seen the market for his $30 bootlegged tapes collapse. [Note added 23 December 1997: Sanborn has, in fact, taken down the webpage upon which he was advertizing his over-priced bootlegs, and hasn't put up a new page in its place.]

Having heard from Curtiss that Sanborn posts on a regular basis to an internet e-mail service called Frameworks (it specializes in experimental film and video), on 28 June 1997 we sent the text of our 11 November 1996 statement to the Frameworks list. Within just a few hours of receiving our post, Sanborn fired off the following terse response.

The only thing we posted to the Frameworks e-mail service in response was a short note that indicated the location of the website of the supposedly "sub-par" magazine NOT BORED!, so that subscribers to the e-mail service might be able to visit the site and judge its merits for themselves. Everything else was beneath comment.

One Peggy Ahwesh was also moved to respond to our humble post. That same day, she sent the following missive to the Frameworks list. Our response was brief, and hopefully not unamusing.

But writing a response and getting his girlfriend to write one, too, wasn't enough for Keith Sanborn on that beautiful Saturday in late June. He also e-mailed a copy of his remarks to Blackout Books (for some reason), and appended the following explanation.

Feeling that he just wasn't getting anywhere, on Sunday 29 June 1997 Sanborn called out for help (apparently for the second time) from, who rebuffed him, yet again. Oink!



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