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[whitespace] Kirsten Munro, Michelle Lamanet Sheep Deprivation

Teens bash tech and raise ire of Palo Alto school with 'Black Sheep' zine

By Steve Enders

KIRSTIN MUNRO AND her friend Michelle Lamanet are pretty normal 16-year-olds. Both have regular jobs and hang out together listening to loud music, gossiping about friends and getting bummed about the newly started school year.

Munro's bedroom, inside a comfortable Saratoga home, has all the markings of any teenager's lair. But behind all the rock & roll posters, a computer and a messy floor lie the true personalities of these enterprising girls.

The messy floor holds a clue: Munro won't let the family's maid in to clean it, because she believes in better wealth distribution--even when it's passed down from her father, who, she says, works hard for his family as the CEO of a tech hardware company.

Her idealism comes from books in a crate--well-thumbed texts from leftist thinkers Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn.

Munro and Lamanet, who's from Burlingame, are self-described punk rockers and, moreover, young cyberpunks who run a nonprofit mini publishing empire out of Munro's bedroom. They write and produce Black Sheep, a free "zine" (short for fanzine), which is a rough-cut, staple-laden booklet carrying rants about their Palo Alto school, the effeminate Castelleja. It takes jabs at Saratoga and includes some random scratching on being a teenager and reviews of local punk shows.

It's just one of their many rebellious projects or projects-to-be, which include a concert promotion endeavor and a public chalk art/political propaganda campaign.

They also run a website, a cousin to the print version of Black Sheep. It's frequently updated, carries links to other punk sites and hosts more contributors than the printed version.

It was during 1997 at Castelleja that Lamanet and Munro embarked on their venture "to jostle things up," Munro says.

Their public outpouring of animosity provokes the question: Why are two well-to-do girls so pissed off?

In the first issue of Black Sheep, the girls kicked over Castelleja's cherished "Five C's" slogan--Courtesy, Courage, Charity, Conscience and Character--by throwing in a sixth: Conformity.

The zine's second edition chronicles the adventures of Catie, a prissy blonde who enjoys a pleasant day at Castelleja. When walking home, she's smashed by a garbage truck.

The first edition also took a political tone, however, published to coincide with a national protest day against police brutality.

"STOP POLICE BRUTALITY," it read on page 5. "OCTOBER 22 WEAR BLACK." Then, in typical teenage rebel fashion, it couldn't stop there. Underneath is a drawing of a stick figure holding a gun, standing over a fallen police officer.

Not surprisingly, trouble followed.

The zine instantly became discouraged reading material by the administration. The second edition carries a photo of a few of those administrators dressed in punk garb.

Black Sheep takes on whatever the girls feel like including, whether it's personal thoughts on families and marriage or high school drug and alcohol abuse (both shun it).

Munro says, laughing, "It's our own personal coming-of-age story and about how we have no friends."

Funny, light conversations with the girls suddenly turn into deep, thought-filled laments. Both claim to have been subject to more than any 16-year-old's fair share of harassment, mostly for dyed hair and lack of name-brand clothes.

Lamanet says, "Everyone's too into themselves to be friends with anyone."

Chatting with the girls reveals inner conflict, such as the fact that they despise technology and the economy that has risen from it, especially here in Silicon Valley and wealthy enclaves like Saratoga.

Yet both live in comfortable homes in nice neighborhoods and often use computers.

"I like the Internet because it provides a free voice to anyone who wants to use it," Munro says. "But it's elitist because you've got to have money to access it."

Lamanet says that she doesn't like the Net because it takes over people's personal relationships.

It all relates to the "cyberpunk" ethic, bashing all things related to technology, government and capitalism but using Microsoft's free email service and free webpages to spread the message.

"Capitalism is OK and necessary when there's an appropriate message," Munro says.

"The whole irony of my existence is the conflict between me and my parents," she continues. "I mean, I live in Saratoga and I read Chomsky. It's not so much the music, it's the ideals."

Lamanet adds: "It's like we were just born punk rock!"

Follow Black Sheep online at http://www.geocities.com/SoHo/Cafe/8900/

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From the September 9-15, 1999 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 1999 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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