Reglar Wiglar


More Book and Zine Reviews

By Chris Auman

Lumpen #115

[Lumpen]

Issue number one hundred and fifteen for this staple of Chicago independent publications. Seems like Lumpen is getting back up to the tabloid size of its humble beginnings as the Lumpen Times back in the early 90s. I’m going to go ahead and say that, fluctuations in size and title withstanding, not much has changed with the magazine. What has changed, however, is that the twenty plus year gentrification of Wicker Park has finally been completed and Edmar and crew have long since left the north side for Bridgeport, "Neighborhood of the Future." Still free where you can find it and still an impressive effort for this left-leaning quarterly. Articles and commentary in this issue include "Please Don’t Bomb the Suburbs" by William Upski Wimsatt; "Third World America, Here We Come" by Democracy Now!; "Our Water is Not for Sale" by Abigail Singer plus comics and reviews.

Doris #15: Anti-Depression Guide

Doris #15: Anti-Depression Guide

Cindy Crabb

[Microcosm Publishing]

This is a reprint of Cindy Crabb's Doris #15 which serves, it is hoped, as an anti-depression guide. Cindy recommends long walks, daydreaming, remaining active and productive and drinking lots and lots of coffee. I'm sure scientific evidence would back all these claims up, except perhaps the abuse of caffeine. This zine was originally written in "1999 or 2000" according to Cindy's best recollection. Certainly then, as now, chemical remedies were a very popular form of curing depression. Certainly exercise and reconnecting with the outside world can be just as effective, especially for people for whom depression is more environmentally related than a result of chemical imbalances in the brain. But hey, I'm not a doctor, a shrink, a life coach, an Oprah or even your best friend, so don't take my word for it. Do consider reading this zine, however, it could only help you shake those blues.

Firebrands: Portraits from the Americas

Firebrands: Portraits from the Americas

[Microcosm Publishing]

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 textbook. 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.

A Guide to Picking Locks #2 Crimethinc

A Guide to Picking Locks #2

Crimethinc

[Microcosm Publishing]

I would be a bold-faced, dirty, rotten liar if I even pretended that I read this whole zine (or even one-third of it), but believe me, I get the gist. This is a guide to picking locks, like the title accurately suggests. If you want to learn how to bypass all manner of security mechanisms (for good and not evil, of course) then this guide will be incredibly helpful. The reason I personally could not “feel” or "get with" this zine isn't because I have no practical use for the information—hell, we’ve all been unfairly locked out of something at some point or another—but I don't possess the mechanical aptitude that's required to put any of these tutorials into practice. In fact, reading about how things work makes my brain achy. I could watch a tv show about it, however. That’s just my brain though, which shouldn't take away from the work and research that went into writing this handy guide, so read it... but don't pick my locks, please.

How to Make Soap: Without Burning Your Face Off

How to Make Soap: Without Burning Your Face Off

Raleigh Briggs

[Microcosm Publishing]

I gotta admit, up until a few days ago, I didn’t know squat about saponification. Hell, I didn't even know what saponification meant (it means soap makin'). Then I saw this zine on how to make soap and it got me thinking. I thought, wow that’s cool, I could make my own soap. Seems relatively easy too—not like rebuilding the transmission on a 1969 Chevy Nova or nuthin'. Then I thought, what am I nuts? I am never, ever, never gonna make soap. I don’t even use soap! But if I do get the urge to lather up someday and I want to use my own homemade brand of soapy suds, then I have this informative, easy to follow, entertaining and funny guide to help me through the process AND I won't burn my face off. Bonus! It all reminds me of a story about this guy who didn't bath for a whole year.

Learning Good Consent Cindy Crabb

Learning Good Consent

Cindy Crabb

[Microcosm Publishing]

This is a reprint of Cindy Crabb's Doris #15 which serves, it is hoped, as an anti-depression guide. Cindy recommends long walks, day dreaming, remaining active and productive and drinking lots and lots of coffee. I'm sure scientific evidence would back all these claims up, except perhaps the abuse of caffeine. This zine was originally written in "1999 or 2000" according to Cindy's best recollection. Certainly then, as now, chemical remedies were a very popular form of curing depression. Certainly exercise and reconnecting with the outside world can be just as effective, especially for people for whom depression is more environmentally related than a result of chemical imbalances in the brain. But hey, I'm not a doctor, a shrink, a life coach, an Oprah or even your best friend, so don't take my word for it. Do consider reading this zine, however, it could only help you shake those blues.

Chainbreaker Bike Book: A Rough Guide to Bicycle Maintenance  Shelly Lynn Jackson & Ethan Clark

Chainbreaker Bike Book: A Rough Guide to Bicycle Maintenance

Shelly Lynn Jackson & Ethan Clark

[Microcosm Publishing]

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!

Unemployment Aaron Lake Smith

Unemployment

Aaron Lake Smith

[Microcosm Publishing]

Zine writer Aaron Lake-Smith (Big Hands) finds himself unemployed in this one-off issue of Unemployment. Over the course of seven chapters, Aaron contemplates the paradox of his situation (What's better? Free-time, but no money; money, but no free-time) as well as the age-old question of how to survive as an artist in a society that makes that pursuit extremely difficult. Aaron also wishes he could enjoy just one day of unemployment without the nagging dread of what the future may hold. He almost takes a job as a data entry temp but holds out unsuccessfully for more money, unwilling to rationalize working for less than he believes he's worth. Unfortunately, in this economy we're worth what someone is willing to pay us and nothing more.

Proof I Exist #11 Billy Da Bunny

Proof I Exist #11

Billy Da Bunny

[Microcosm Publishing]

I bought this zine at Chicago Comics. It's rare that I get to that part of town anymore and my budget for zines and comics (and music and cool stuff in general) has been seriously curtailed in recent times. In fact, I felt like a real shlub browsing for thirty minutes and only spending ten bucks, but that's the reality of "these economic times." At one buck though this zine was priced right. It wasn't until I was riding the train home and had gotten halfway through Proof I Exist that I realized that I had heard of this perzine before and that I actually know the publisher, Billy, from his days running Loop Distro. I think my band even played a house show at his crib (The Control Room) back in the dizzily day. You are to please excuse the digression, but it actually keeps in check with theme of PEI #11: it's about looking back.

The Book Bindery Sarah Royal

The Book Bindery

Sarah Royal

[Microcosm Publishing]

This small bound book is about book bindery. It’s a collection of the zine of the same name and documents Sarah Royal’s time in Chicago working at a west side book bindery. Not the romantic environs one might picture of artisans lovingly assembling classics of literature, or producing the cutting edge in experimental fiction, but rather the binding of mind-numbing law publications. However, the characters and everyday situations Sarah encounters during her seemingly menial occupation provide the grist for some compelling tales of deranged bosses, delusional co-workers and destitute hood rats. Sarah also befriends a few commuters on the 55 bus which make for additional character studies. Every workplace is a microcosm populated with odd players and the book bindery is certainly no exception.

SCAM: The First Four Issues Erick Lyle

SCAM: The First Four Issues

Erick Lyle

[Microcosm Publishing]

Even though this four issue anthology of Erick Lyle's Scam zine almost hits the 300 page mark, it's still an abridged version! That's pretty impressive. What makes Scam different from hundreds of other punk rock zines is that its focus was not just on music and it wasn't overtly political either, yet it was entirely political because it served as a guide to living outside society.

Scam unabashedly encouraged theft, vagrancy, squatting and vandalism (as well as beer consumption). Scam was to be taken literally and was a part of the punk rock ethos of its creators. Taking what you want and doing what you want to do was central to this. From generator shows and squatting to scamming free copies at Kinkos and dumpster diving, Scam was equal parts how-to and holy-shit-look-what-I-got-away-with-you-can-too.

Scam was a cut-and-paste, handwritten, collage-style publication so unfortunately much of it is difficult to read. I'm sure the thought of transcribing the handwritten text into a more readable type would be considered heresy in the Scam Camp, but it did make for rough going and I couldn't make it through the bulk of it. Maybe that's not a bad thing.

Not every article still has relevance or will resonate with every reader. That's true with most zines. I was able to read enough to get a general understanding, however. Enough to recognize Scam's role as an important document of punk rock life in the 90s—a decade that, despite current public sentiment, was full of activism and great music, but is more associated with Grunge, Green Day and lo-fi, than punk rock. That's a common perception that maybe this zine will help change. So keep scammin' kids... but don't scam me, please.

The CIA Makes Science Fiction Unexciting #6: The Life of Lee Harvey Oswald Abner Smith

The CIA Makes Science Fiction Unexciting #6: The Life of Lee Harvey Oswald

Abner Smith

[Microcosm Publishing]

Two thousand and eleven marks the 10th anniversary of Microcosm's CIAMSFU series. This is the first one I've read, so I'm only a decade behind at this point. Issue number six is a short bio of Kennedy assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald. Using declassified government documents, writer Abner Smith constructs Oswald's life from his troubled childhood in New Orleans through his troubled military career to his troubled time in the Soviet Union (and his unsuccessful attempts at defection) and his troubled marriage to a young Russian woman.

Seems like Oswald was a bit troubled—a loose nut, probably not to be trusted as a spy or double agent. He was more likely than not, just a disillusioned wanna-be revolutionary and hardly someone the government would want to work with in the assassination plot of one of the most powerful men in the world. Yet something doesn’t quite fit and this is the CIA were talking about here. If you lean even slightly toward conspiracy theories regarding this pivotal part of American History, the ultimate objective was achieved and we know Oswald didn't spill his guts. Well...

An interesting read for sure, but Smith doesn't necessarily shed a lot of light on the subject for me. His writing style is a little clipped and he could have probably benefited from an editor to help organize his thoughts a little better, but this a zine not a graduate thesis so that's a gripe not a dis. It is amazing the things the CIA/FBI and the US Government thinkthey can get away with. What would probably be even more amazing, are the things they have gotten away with that we'll never know about.

Dream Whip #1-10 Bill Brown

Dream Whip #1-10

Bill Brown

[Microcosm Publishing]

Dream Whip is an unabridged compilation of Bill Brown's long-running zine of the same name. Seems like Bill did a lot of traveling between 1994 and 1999 and his zine chronicles that time on the road. DW is filled with short pieces, both fictional and nonfictional observations, comics, drawings and tidbits cut out of local newspapers and tourist brochures. The writing style can come off sounding like that of a freshman writing student at times. It suffers from simile overload in places and it seeks to flatter Beat writers in its imitation, but that's likely a result of a young writer trying to find a voice of his own. There's much improvement by issue number ten which Bill instructs readers to treat as a road map of his travels from Texas to Canada and back again.

Edible Secrets: A Food Tour of Classified US History

Mia Partlow & Michael Hoerger

[Microcosm Publishing]

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.)

How & Why: A Do-It-Yourself Guide Matte Resist


How & Why: A Do-It-Yourself Guide

Matte Resist

[Microcosm Publishing]

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 keywords 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.

Reglar Wiglar

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