Reviews by Chris Auman, unless otherwise noted.
ALIVE WITH VIGOR
Surviving Your Adventurous Lifestyle
Compiled by Rob Sutter III
Alive with Vigor is like a compilation of advice columns that dispense nuggets of wisdom on a range of topics from medical issues to dating and personal finance. That's pretty much half the internet right there, but the internet won't give you all this valuable information in the form of a really cool looking zine, will it? No, it won't.
Although the purpose of this book is to help people survive an "adventurous lifestyle," there isn’t a whole lot in here that isn’t universal: constipation, diarrhea, autoimmune disorders, breast cancer and abusive relationships can effect anyone regardless of their lifestyle, but the intended audience are those people that are, perhaps, on the fringe of society: the punkers, the transgendered, the outcasts (both willing and unwilling), the renegades, the rebels, etc. This book is for them.
Contributors to Alive with Vigor include Joe Biel, Buck Angel, Ayun Halliday and Rob Sutter III (who put this guide together) and a host of other folks who are into the DIY spirit and living an alternative lifestyle.
GOD IS DISAPPOINTED IN YOU
Written by Mark Russell
Cartoons by Shannon Wheeler
[Top Shelf Productions]
I have finally read the bible. Praise, Jesus! My first attempt at reading this book was abandoned pretty early—like midway through Genesis early. I quickly became hopelessly bored after the 200th "begat". A few years ago, thanks to R. Crumb, I did make it through Genesis, but even that was no walk in the garden, so to speak. It is probably not surprising either, that after roughly 15 years of forced church going, I was pretty close to being totally ignorant of just what the heck went on in this book. (Some pretty crazy shit is what the heck.) Now before you get too proud of me, let me just say that I didn't actually read the whole unabridged version of the Bible, but I did read the pithy 200 plus pages of Mark Russell's God is Disappointed and that counts. While this Mark Russell is certainly a satirist, he is not the piano playing political comedian, Mark Russell, you may be thinking of. No, this Mark Russell is actually funny (sorry other Mark Russell).
God is Disappointed in You boils down the essence of each and every book of the Bible, Old and New, into small digestible morsels. It’s laugh-out-loud funny, and yes, by the very fact that it exists, it is irreverent, but it's the good kind of irreverence, not the sacrilegious, blasphemous variety. It's more like a gentle, good-natured ribbing to remind us what ridiculousness appears in these allegorical tales. It doesn't read like an atheist's jab at the Christian tenets of faith. The Richard Dawkins version would be very different, and humorless. This is just a lighthearted romp through hundreds of years of blood, gore, enslavement and miscellaneous human suffering. Whether you’re a fan of religion (this one or that one), a skeptical atheist or a wishywashy agnostic, whether you are Pat Robertson or Bill Maher, this is simply a hilarious book that keeps the morality intact. (More so the New Testament, the O.T. is just bananas, quite frankly.)
The cartoon illustrations were provided by Shannon Wheeler, whose work you may recognize from the New Yorker and his long running Too Much Coffee Man series—Chris Auman
Buy God is Disappointed in You:
BEYOND THE MUSIC
Joe Biel (Cantankerous Titles)
Subtitled, “How Punks are Saving the World with DIY Ethics, Skills & Values," Beyond the Music collects interviews with dozens of movers and shakers in the punk scene—and not the safety-pinned, mohawked, vomity punk bands of legend either. No, we're talking about the printers, publishers, artists, writers, and organizers—real, everyday folks who are out there trying to create, produce and contribute to the world using their own set of ethics, guidelines and principals. Collected between 2008 and 2012, with some pieces previously published elsewhere, editor Joe Biel focuses on the individuals in the punk community who have made a lasting committment and contribution to promoting the aforementioned "DIY ethics, skills and values". Such luminaries as Todd Taylor of Razorcake, Ian Mackaye of Dischord Records, Chris Clavin of Plan It X Records, zinesters Urban Hermitt, Al Burian, and Robnoxious, and a whole smattering of punks from vegan chefs (Joshua Ploeg) to polarizing pundits (Ben Weasel) are given a forum to relate their stories and philosophies. Some may be unfamiliar to you, some may be household names in your house, but there's something to glean from all of them be it inspirational and/ or informational.
Notes on Torture in a Modern Democracy
By Kristian Williams (Microcosm)
Hurt is a collection of writings by, and interviews with, Kristian Williams, a Portland based activist who is the author of two books on state-sponsored violence; Our Enemies in Blue and American Methods: Torture and the Logic of Domination. The essays, interviews and observations in this book were written and published during, or shortly after, the Bush Administration’s turn at the War on Terror and the subject matter was not something that I was necessarily anxious to revisit. Torture is a topic that has mostly dropped off the radar of many Americans and the ordeal of the Bush Era has left a lot of us mentally fatigued even to this day. No doubt these abuses are still occuring under the current administration and torture certainly continues at home in our prisons and abroad in secret holding cells all over the globe. There is an acknowledgement in the book's introduction of the failures of the Obama Administration to, among other things, close Gitmo, but more insight about where we are in 2012 would have been appreciated. I'm sure Williams continues to think and write about the subject and that work with be forthcoming in the months and years ahead. That said, these writings are the result of well-reasoned and researched thinking and go a long way in educating the reader on the causes and underlying factors of torture in the 21st century.
BAREFOOT AND IN THE KITCHEN
By Ashley Rowe (Microcosm)
Instructive, informative, educative and other words that mean infotational, Ashley Rowe has given us an easy-to-follow cookbook that seeks to demystify veganism and make it more palatable to the public. Mission accomplished. Rowe's Barefoot and in the Kitchen cookbook lays forth recipes for the creation of delicious, animal-free entrées, salads, salsas and desserts. Also included are cooking tips, an ingredients primer, a handy glossary of cooking terms and comic illustrations. NOTE: For safety reasons, Reglar Wiglar Magazine can not and does not condone cooking without proper protective footwear, however, we can endorse the recipes in this cookbook.
By Katie Haegele (Microcosm)
Sweet, funny, wistful, slightly sad yet somehow optimistic—how do I describe Katie Haegele’s writing? Well, maybe Katie found a few better words herself, like the Portuguese word saudade or the Welsh hiraeth. Both seem to get at that feeling of nostalgic sadness that's hard to pin down. Katie wasn’t necessarily using these words to describe her own writing, only that she’s familiar with the feeling they represent. That’s what White Elephants is about, really. It's about regaining the past and reclaiming something that has been lost. It’s about buying a bit of saudade. Of course, there’s also something satisfying about finding a good bargain.
White Elephants is four yard sale seasons in four sections. Throughout the book, Katie schools us on the differences, sometimes subtle, between yard sales and estate sales and their more churchy rummage sale cousins: different clientele, different proprietors and sometimes very different vibes can be found at each. Katie gives vivid, humorous descriptions of the people she encounters and the stuff they're either buying or parting with. White Elephants is about more than this, of course. Katie’s dad died when she was twenty-one and as a result of this tragic event she developed a friendship with her mother, and fellow yard sale devotee, that she might not have otherwise. White Elephants is also about relationships and community (Katie still lives in the town she grew up in, just down the street from the house she grew up in.) The last section, "Yard Sale Season Four,"
sees Katie embarking on a new relationship that might take her away from all of these things.
You can read White Elephants for tips on which sales might be best for finding used books or records, clothing or accessories. You won't be disappointed if you do, but read it for a story about loss, family and the comfort old things and you will be rewarded in kind by this well-written, heartfelt memoir. Now that's bargain!
HOME SWEET HOMEGROWN
By Robyn Jasko (Microcosm)
The subtitle of this book sums up the content quite concisely: "How to Grow, Make and Store Food, No Matter Where You Live". What can I add except to say that it delivers on this stated purpose. And not only that, it does so in a well-organized and easy to read fashion. Ok, I haven’t put it to practical application yet, but I certainly could. Starting with seeds and seedlings through to planting, harvesting and using and preserving the fruits of your labor, Robyn Jasko schools the aspiring green-thumb on the how-to. She even gives us the why-for (page 9). There's instruction on how to make rain barrels, non-toxic bug sprays and baba ganouj and, as a bonus, the book looks great and is lovingly illustrated by fellow Pennsylvanian, Jenn Briggs. Whether you're growing on a window sill in the city or a wild garden plot in the country you now have no excuse to get planting.
Dispatches from the Frontiers of Fatherhood
Edited by Tomas Moniz & Jeremy Adam Smith (microcosm) (pm press)
The Rad Dad book is a greatest hits package of the zine Tomas Moniz has been publishing for going on twenty issues now. It’s written for men who may be struggling with all the complexities of being a father in this or any age. The book is broken up into sections: "Birth, Babies, and Toddlers," "Childhood," "Tweens and Teens," and "Politics of Parenting." The last section of the book features interviews with rad dads like hip hop writer Jeff Chang (Can’t Stop Won’t Stop) and Ian McKaye (Minor Threat, Fugazi, The Evens, Dischord Records). I am most certainly rad but not a dad, so I haven’t read every article and essay in this book, but some are interesting regardless of your parental status ("Notes From a Sperm Donor" for example). If, however, you have achieved fatherhood and are looking for advice, find comfort in the fact that you can turn to the pages of Rad Dad, now in handy book form.
THE COMICS JOURNAL #301
When did The Comics Journal get so freakin' fat? Weighing in at one and a half pounds, this 624 page sucker features more of what you love (or hate) about comics criticism: long, detailed interviews and reviews that will take you days to read. Absorbing, or perhaps tedious depending on your mood, this is a beast I’ve been wrestling with for a few months. This issue features an interview with R. Crumb conducted by Journal publisher, Gary Groth. The topic of discussion is Crumb’s illustrated creation story, Genesis. Groth questions Crumb on the development of his technique over the years, his creative process for this project and what led him to begin his adaptation of the ultimate beginning. The interview is followed by a roundtable barrage of praise and criticism from over a half dozen art and culture critics, who either praise Crumb or take the artist to task for a variety of sins.
Also featured in #301 are sketchbook/interviews with Tim Hensley, Stephen Dixon and Jim magazine creator, Jim Woodring, from whom Groth seeks to find an answer to the question of why Woodring is compelled to draw such repulsive images. Turns out Woodring doesn't really know.
MAD Magazine fans will appreciate the transcribed, transgenerational conversation between the 89-year-old Al Jaffee (creator of the Mad fold-in) and Michael Kupperman (a current pop culture provocateur) in which the two artists talk about art as work, art as satire and art for art’s sake.
Adding further heft to the issue is Tim Krieder's arugument with himself over the question of whether or not Dave Sim’s epic Cerebus comic should be considered a major work of art? I must admit that I haven't been swayed that it should, but I also haven't made it to the end of Krieder's article and I've only made it through Volume 1 of Sim's 16 Cerebus volumes.
But wait, there's more, including an article on comics pioneer and "Dean of Amercian Cartoonists," John T. McCutcheon; an interview with Joe Sacco concerning his graphic novel Footprints in Gaza; reprints of the "Gerald McBoing Boing," strip penned by one Theodore Geisel, aka Dr. Suess; and a slew of other aritcles, criticism and opinion that I haven’t even gotten to yet—all wrapped in a fantastic Robert Crumb cover taken from his Genesis book.
BUY: The Comics Journal #301 (The Comics Journal)
HOW AND WHY:
A DO-IT-YOURSELF GUIDE
Matte Resist (microcosm)
Although I may not attempt all or any of the projects laid out in this book, this is a good resource to have at your disposal. Matte provides step-by-step how-to's on everything from caring for your own garden to building your own musical instruments. Internet how-to's just capitalize on Google algorithms, zeroing in on key words and bombarding you with more ad links than advice. Like much of the information found on the information superhighway, these web pages can prove to be ultimately frustrating, pointless and impractical. Don't get me wrong, I love my Interwebs, but this is a book you can take with you out to the backyard or work shed and get down to the business of building shit. The main chapters concern bikes, gardening, home schooling, home and garage and musical instruments. The last chapter is a catchall that gives advice on dumpster diving and tutorials on stencil making, watch repair—a dozen projects in all. That's the 'how-to' part. The 'why' is Matte's own take on why he does the things he does the way he does them. If you're at all familiar with Microcosm titles then you should be familiar with the DIY ethos and what that entails, so I won't break it down here. I'll just leave you with my own how-to: If you want to get your ass more self-sufficient, then don't "resist" this book. (Get it? Matte Resist...)
EDIBLE SECRETS: A Food Tour of Classified US History
Mia Partlow & Michael Hoerger (microcosm)
How do you take the information obtained from over a half million declassified government documents and present it in a way that is palatable for the average reader? You do what Mia Partlow and Michael Hoerger did. You make it about food. The pair noticed a theme while scouring through these piles of files: references to food kept popping up like waffles out of a toaster. That became the focal point of their presentation, from the CIA's attempt to poison Fidel Castro's milkshake (one of many failed assassination attempts) to the trumped up ice cream truck robbery charges that resulted in jail time for a young Fred Hampton. The book also sheds light on the bubbly relationship between the Coke and Pepsi corporations and whoever happens to be in the White House. (The Cola Wars is serious, ya'll.) Edible Secrets also examines the CIA's study of subliminal messaging, which was originally used to subconsciously compel moviegoers to crave popcorn. And what was Ronald Reagan's solution to Mexico's impending food shortage? Why the answer to all the worlds problems of course: The Free Market. Quite a compelling effort here and one that will make you hungry for more knowledge about what our government is cooking up in their behind the test kitchens.
(NOTE: All puns intended.)
THE CHAINBREAKER BIKE BOOK
A Rough Guide to Bicycle Maintenance
by Shelly Lynn Jackson & Ethan Clark (microcosm)
Half handy guide to bicycle maintenance, half zine about all things bike, The Chainbreaker Bike Book is a comprehensive, illustrated manual for maintaining your ride. The book covers everything from dealing with your bike (from tools to tune-ups) to dealing with bike shops. Authors Ethan and Shelly both have long histories with bicycles and have both worked at the Plan B bike collective in New Orleans, so they not only have a passion for the material, they have the knowledge to back it up. The guide is intended for anyone and everyone who has an interest in self-propelled, self-sustained, two-wheeled transport regardless of the make or model of the bike or its rider. The back half of the book is the first four issues of the Chainbreaker zine that celebrated bike culture, and New Orleans specifically, which is a huge bonus to an already valuable publication. Ride your bike!
ZINESTER’S GUIDE TO NYC
Ayun Halliday (microcosm)
The Zinester’s Guide to New York City is the second installment of such handy guides published by Microcosm (the first being the Portland version). For this two-hundred and fifty plus page book, writer and zine publisher Ayun Halliday (East Village Inky) gathered contributions from dozens of writers and artists who offer up their choices of favorite restaurants, bars, live music venues, parks, and special events in NYC. Very useful and well-thought out with a handy index section in the back of the book, although the section on public restrooms could be expanded, perhaps with a map and a star rating system anyway... just a suggestion. Illustrated and informative whether you are a New Yorker or just passing through. Includes artwork and writing from Liz Baillie, Carrie McNinch, Heath Row and many, many others.
FIREBRANDS: Portraits from the Americas
Produced by the artists and writers of the Justseeds Artists Cooperative, Firebrands is a compilation of seventy-eight short biographies accompanied by illustrations. Highlighting the lives and struggles of both well-known and lesser known activists, Firebrands is informative sure, but more than that, it's inspirational. The profiles here focus on Americans (North, South and Central) who have either worked, fought or died for social change in their communities. From such obvious candidates as W.E.B. Dubois and John Brown to more recent icons like Tupac Shakur (a surprising choice at first glance but completely justified), Firebrands is more in line with Howard Zinn's People’s History of the United States than with your basic Texas high school text book. Hopefully, this book will inspire all of us to learn more about these revolutionary individuals now that we've been given a glimpse, however brief, into their lives and accomplishments—Chris Auman
ALL MUSIC GUIDE TO COUNTRY
With country music and its manifestations reaching ever deeper into the world's
cultural psyche, All Music offers an in-depth encyclopedic guide to the massive
genre. The book covers the extended bluegrass scene given greater popularity
by O Brother Where Art Thou?, with entries from the close harmony traditionalists,
Osborne Brothers, to such progressives as Darrell Scott. Doc Watson gets four
pages and the FM country scene from Dwight Yoakam to popular western swing revivalists,
Asleep at the Wheel, is here. The alt-country scene is present, too, covered
from Bloodshot recording artist Robbie Fulks to the popular Old 97's. The entries
are in the expected form for these successful All Music 'cyclopedias. That is,
biographies and then key reviews with recommended starting points. This makes
for over 10,000 rated reviews. The well-indexed tome includes style descriptions,
a section for compilations and sound-tracks, essential albums by genre and two
dozen rich essays on aspects of country music, like "Country on Film" and "Country
Soundtracks." This is a valuable resource for the serious fan of any part of
the varied country music spectrum. Where else would you find that The Residents,
Savoy Brown, and Elvis Costello all drew on the early 70s countrified British
pub rock group Chili Willi & the Red Hot Peppers for members?—Tom 'Tearaway' Schulte
BUY: All Music Guide to Country: The Definitive Guide to Country Music
BORN TO ROCK
Todd Taylor (Gorsky Press)
Interviews and essays, but mostly interviews, and not necessarily insightful
interviews, but typical fanzine fare. I much preferred the introductory essay
on why and how Todd got into punk rock as I never tiring of such cherry poppin'
stories. Todd's story seems unique in that he came to punk rock via a car crash
and the Boy Scouts of America. I would like to read more about Todd's time at
the late Flipside magazine and his subsequent fallout with its owner and creator
Al Flipside. Maybe that is in the works. At any rate, as far as interviews go,
we got Toys the Kill, Fletcher from Pennywise, Duane Peters from US Bombs, NOFX,
Strike Against and more!
BUBBLEGUM MUSIC IS THE NAKED TRUTH
The Dark History of Prepubescent Pop from the Banana Splits to Britney Spears
Kim Cooper and David Smay, Editors (Feral House)
A cast of contributors (from cartoonist Peter Bagge to the bizarre Partridge
Family Temple to Greg Shaw) document the history of, and opine on, and celebrate
the unknowns of bubblegum music. Pete Townsend once remarked, "some of the world's
best music is bubblegum" and most of these contributors agree. Their overlapping
and amorphous definitions of the genre cause the chronologically laid out volume
to act as a history of pop music from the 60s to today with a focus on that
music created with marketing in mind. Entertaining and enlightening, this lively
tome sheds light on the names behind the manufactured sounds, the true stories
of the real people leading or trapped in the movement, and institutions that
fostered its growth. As educational as it is fun, this excellent collection
of essays and interviews is a must for any music fan—Tom 'Tearaway' Schulte
BUY: Bubblegum Music is the Naked Truth: The Dark History of Prepubescent Pop, from the Banana Splits to Britney Spears
A Collection of Short Stories
Stepan Chapman (Creative Arts Book Company)
Cosmologies, creation stories, myths, fairy tales; Dossier, more than anything
else, documents the inner workings of a very strange and creative mind. In Stepan
Chapman's world, forgotten scraps of metal rebuild themselves into machines
in a warehouse on the edge of town; Wheelgirls, half flesh, half machine, circumnavigate
Centaura 5 perpetually, unable to stop lest they melt from the planet's scorching
lava surface; and in a bizarre rewrite of history, the course of the Russian
Revolution is forever altered as the hydrogen in the earth's stratosphere bursts
into flame. It's a thin line between the dreamworld and dementia from this 1998
winner of the Philip K. Dick Memorial Award, (and Reglar Wiglar contributor!)
A Life in Punk
Joey "Shithead" Keithley
(Arsenal Pulp Press)
Keithley formed D.O.A. in 1978, giving him a founder's eye view of the North
American hardcore scene and post-punk underground rock the world over. This
chronicle of his adventures shows the many sides of Shithead: musician, activist
and businessman. The meticulously researched book has all the names and dates
to make this detailed D.O.A. history extended from band autobiography into scene
history. The naturally arranged chronological history is full of lessons for
would-be independent bands and illustrative anecdotes of venues and scenes now
gone. You will not find this book pandering to a morbid curiosity about rock
'n' roll excess, but you will find a triumphant and inspiring testimonial about
plucky punk pioneers as loose knit islands of affinity grow from a casual network
to a global web of labels, venues and touring agencies. The book has plenty
of pictures and D.O.A. lyrics from Joey's own hand—Tom 'Tearaway' Schulte
BUY: I, Shithead: A Life in Punk
The Fast Time and Short Life of Darby Crash and The Germs
Brendan Mullen with Don Bolles
and Adam Parfrey
Adam Parfrey's Feral House gives us another fascinating biography with the unique
format of chronologically arrayed series of short, paragraph-length quotes from
those that knew or experienced the subject. No attempt is made to rectify contradictions.
(Looking back, how often can the truth of biographical minutiae really be determined?)
The result makes for easy reading and provides a kaleidoscopic view of the subject.
Author/editor/ publisher, Adam Parfrey (Apocalypse Culture, Extreme Islam) stakes
a claim in the rich quarry of the violent and dark subcultures and counter-cultures.
Through this lens, Germs vocalist and songwriter, Darby Crash appears as both
a taunting jester of the burg-eoning West Coast punk scene as well as mischievous,
if not malevolent, pied piper leading impressionable thrill seekers into would-be
decadence of the type predicted by Oswald Spengler in The Decline Of The West.
Through the remembrance quips, Crash also reveals a side as an extre-mely image
conscious and thus insecure youth struggling more to obscure his homosexuality
rather than create a cohesive and worthy artistic legacy. Taken this way, it
seems that songs that still reverberate in the global punk community, are only
accidental revelations of writing genius whose suicide cut short a career that
could have been even more defining on this music genre. Full of black and white
pictures, this volume includes lyrics of songs by The Germs, a discography,
as well as a time line of gigs and key events—Tom 'Tearaway' Schulte
BUY: Lexicon Devil: The Fast Times and Short Life of Darby Crash and the Germs
THE ZINE YEARBOOK, VOL. 6
(Become the Media)
The Zine Yearbook, Vol. 6 samples from zines published in 2001 that had a circulation
of less than 5,000 copies. Arranged alphabetically, the article and comic excerpts
preserve the original layout. As such, each sample is a microcosm of the originating
zine. The varied compendium starts suitably with an analysis of the current
state of zines from Ache (more "meta-commentary in graphic form from Cat and
Girl) and thus begins a swatch that runs the gamut from personal rants (America?
and Etidorhpa) to the activist agenda (Media Reader and Resist). While, statistically,
most 2001 zines of small distribution were probably poetry and music publications,
The Zine Yearbook continues the worthy task of presenting a spectrum of guerilla
social criticism and the wit that arises from punk ideology—Tom 'Tearaway' Schulte