Food and zines! Can it get any better? Carrie McNinch’s Food Geek is just ridiculously charming and useful. I was initially drawn in by the cover, a dead ringer for vintage Kellog’s Cereals ad art, but we all know that content is king, and Food Geek doesn’t disappoint in that respect. McNinch crams her minicomic-sized publication with an eclectic array of food writing that would never make the pages of stuffy pubs like Food and Wine, usually more concerned about how to cater a dinner party in the Hamptons. Their loss, because Food Geek is bursting at the seams with recipes, comics, essays and travel narratives that further the love of food. A noble calling, to be sure. Also key to this zine is the lack of judgment from either editors or contributors. While McNinch cops to being a vegetarian, she stresses that this is about food of all stripes and shapes, and the zine is all the stronger for it. Standout pieces include McNinch’s essay on her eating experiences while travelling in China, a Cheap Eats on the Road cartoon from Shawn Granton, and a recipe for Pakora. Even the letters section offers forth a clutch of recipes and tips. (And is that Shane Williams from Flipside contributing?) There’s a real joy (and a delicious aroma) wafting off every page. Dig in.
Archive for the ‘Staff Picks’ Category
Posted by Matthew Moyer on January 28, 2010
Posted by Andrew Coulon on January 17, 2010
For a zine, Going Postal v.1 is surprisingly dense and informative. I know how that sounds, and I’m really not trying to discount content levels in others zines but seriously; GP jumps from Kris Mininger’s personal remembrances of DIY godfather Irving Stettner to a brief history of zines from early table top presses through the Internet age of Big Brother and on to a second piece by Mininger about English anarchist, artist and bus driver Arthur Moyse… and that’s just the first half. GP even dips a toe into the academic realm with an excerpt from Steve Bailey’s and Anita Michel’s published paper on perzines and personal identity. Heck, much of GP’s content includes full citations for the discerning reading. But don’t think the editors of Going Postal are just a bunch of stamp collecting eggheads. They want you to share their love of print zines and mail and they don’t seem too concerned that their entire premise for GP may be judged as anachronistic. So if you’ve got some spare time and you have been ruminating whether or not to actually produce that zine you have been thinking about (come on, we know you have ideas…), check out Going Postal for a good kick in the pants.
Posted by Matthew Moyer on January 6, 2010
No matter how specialized and niche “mainstream” music publications get, so many amazing songs and fascinating stories are going to be missed. While a small handful of, for the most part, unimpressive bands gather up all the column inches in Rolling Stone or SPIN, there are hundreds (if not thousands) of bands toiling away in the underground, living almost parallel lives to what is considered rock n’ roll behavior. One of these bands is Operation: Cliff Clavin, a political pop-punk band from Bloomington, Indiana, active in the late 90s. Complete Control mastermind Greg Wells was their roadie for a brief American tour in 1997 and kept a diary that is an alternately funny, touching, and informative look at life in the punk rock underground in pre-Internet America.
In the six years that it took him to publish his diary (this issue was released in 2003), one might be forgiven for thinking that the material here would be dated, not so. “Spinal Tap” syndrome afflicts every band, large and small, and it’s no different here. Canceled shows, flaky promoters, the drummer getting a job mid-tour (!) to defray expenses, losing their van doors in a car crash – this stuff is like a rite of passage that will have the reader laughing or shaking their head in sympathy. The rest is a primer on the difficulties (and rewards) of slogging it out on the underground circuit before “pop-punk” was a dirty word and “Myspace” was synonymous with “promotion.” While Wells, as an earnest punk rocker, can’t help but occasionally throw out howlers like “my girlfriend called me, and she’s sleeping with that guy she met at the Mumia benefit” and that every night on the West Coast seemingly ends with an intense political discussion, this zine is an entertaining historical document – by someone who actually lived it. More!
Posted by Andrew Coulon on December 23, 2009
Science fiction fans know that the genre has a keen sense for social commentary by repackaging contemporary issues into futuristic operas involving robots, space travel and to some extent real science. With those expectations in mind, Simon Roy’s Jan’s Atomic Heart doesn’t disappoint. In this comic, Jan awakens after a car accident to find himself with a robot body in a futuristic (though thoroughly bombed out) Frankfurt. With news reports of suicide bombers trickling in, it doesn’t take Jan long to realize that his recycled body matches the model of the suicide bombers and that he in fact has a bomb where his heart should be. Jan’s not a terrorist though and he turns to friends to help him solve this frightening dilemma. Simon Roy’s artwork is outstanding and I can’t recommend this highly enough.
Posted by Matthew Moyer on December 15, 2009
Though older zine mavens long for the days when zines were all about punk bands with unreadable spiky logos and calling out Steve Albini for being a jerk, I’m really digging newer zines that are as awash in earnest enthusiasm for their chosen subject as they are intent on, well, teaching you something. Few strike this balance as enjoyably as Greenwoman. Sandra Knauf, a mother and gardening enthusiast, started Greenwoman as a blind leap of faith into self-publishing, collecting all of her various environmental-themed enthusiasms into a series of info-packed and charmingly illustrated booklets. Bound with twine, naturally.
This issue’s theme is bees. Knauf tells a story about hanging out with a bunch of beekeepers to see a swarm up close and personal, dropsa all manner of bee-related trivia, shares some honey-based recipes and even reviews some movies about… yes… bees. It holds together much better than it reasonably should. The tone is easy and conversational, and you’re left with the feeling that you really, really need to get outside more. Which is the whole point, really.
Posted by Josh Jubinsky on December 7, 2009
Zine Yearbook #9
Edited by Microcosm Publishing.
With anyone looking for a new zine – this general concept is paramount; the more you know, the more you know you don’t know. From the start of pulling together elements of the zine collection, I knew my familiarity with zines and their distribution aspects from running my own distro and record store would be helpful – much more helpful than my reluctant and half hearted enthusiasm over cataloging minutia. “Oh yeah, we should definitely get this title and that title and so and so is donating back issues of this and that.” I obviously never thought zines ended with what I knew of them, but I wasn’t quite prepared for how much I didn’t know outside of standard distribution channels. And the humbling power of hundreds of new titles came crashing like modern first-world economic plight.
Enter Zine Yearbook #9, where a culmination of historical torch passing compilers, from Jen Angel to Softskull Press to Tree of Knowledge, finally lands a new publishing partnership with Microcosm Publishing. Microcosm’s treatment of the Zine Yearbook project is nothing short of inspiring – both in terms of process and product. The thousands of zines read and mulled over at meetings lead to 230 pages of over 120 selections from various zines. The final product is a tasty sampler containing thoughtful, engaging, personal, independent writing and artistry from around the globe. Accompanying each printed submission is the contact information for your follow up – write them and tell them what you think, order the zine for yourself, or tell us local librarians how much you loved a certain entry and wish we had it available for checkout here. …the whimsical art and text of “My Friends and Their Tall Bikes,” the great storytelling in Pensacola’s “Mylxine” zine, the illustrations from “Bowling Stars of 1989,” the funny and interesting responses from the ad posting’s of the author of “Three Minute Girlfriend.” All a must-see!
Zine Yearbook 9 is an anthology of independent writing and artistry that should not go missed. Check it out at the library this winter and find a warm place to discover all kinds of new and neat zines.
Posted by Matthew Moyer on December 3, 2009
A familiar cliche of journalism is that everyone has a story. Famed writer/broadcaster Studs Turkel embodied this maxim, spending most of his professional career, in print and broadcast media, letting everyday people tell their stories. One would think that now, with a profusion of online media platforms and outlets, someone would have stepped up to continue Terkel’s work. Not so. So much online media is consumed with either first person accounts or celebutainment that the art of the interview is increasingly lost
I think one of the people hewing closest to the spirit of Turkel’s work is David Greenberger and his Duplex Planet zine. Since 1979, Greenberger has published this zine, drawing upon his time as a nursing home employee in Boston. He regularly interviews the senior citizens on all manner of topics, just letting them talk and absorbing their insights without interruption. It doesn’t matter who they are, everyone gets their say. The theme of this issue is music, and cleverly juxtaposed against slightly out-of-focus performance shots of flamboyant indie musicians are wry and touching observations on dancing, singing, and how a song can soundtrack a precious moment. Greenberger pulls off a coup here; his conversations transcend easy stereotypes like “the Greatest Generation” or “Grampa Simpson” to present a view of the elderly as they are, just people.
Posted by Andrew Coulon on November 24, 2009
King-Cat Comics and Stories No. 68
by John Porcellino
In these hard economic times, anything that can bring a simple smile to my face without a price tag is very much appreciated. With that in mind, I have been smiling all week whenever I think about John Porcellino’s King-Cat comics. Like traditional Japanese haiku, Porcellino’s Zen influenced comics are firmly rooted in nature and the peace he sometimes feels when present in the moment. Likewise, his ultra-simple line drawings and understated narrative only begin to tell the story. Along the way, the reader is reminded of his or her own experiences and invited to observe life in a more mindful way, bringing the story into the real world. But hey, this is Zine of the Week so I better pick just one. Issue 68 contains several comic strips about moving, observing nature and a very brief biography of Greek philosopher Diogenes. Also be sure to read the Nature Notes and the Top 40 section. Luckily, the Zine Collection has a few other issues so the joy doesn’t have to end… at least not right away.
Posted by Matthew Moyer on November 23, 2009
If I hadn’t been cataloging this zine for the collection, I may well have never have read it. (I usually avoid things with the word “hipster” in the title.) I’m glad I didn’t miss out on this one. Broken Hipster is a comic perzine from Emiko Badillo, and details her struggles with kidney disease via anecdotal offramps on traveling, the travails of a younger boyfriend, partying too hard, and pets. What makes this zine stand out from a sea of similar perzines is it’s actually a valuable resource for people with kidney disease, their friends or family, or anyone who wants to know more about the human cost of this illness.
In matter-of-fact, plainspoken language and carefully rendered illustrations (and a glossary of terms), Badiko walks us through her daily dialysis ritual and all of the attendant side effects, and it’s strong stuff. She discusses all of the physical issues with an optimistic frankness, pulling no punches. The potential for self-pity in a situation like this is no doubt huge, but Badiko soldiers on, and a glimmer of hope is offered at the end when her brother offers his kidney for a transplant.
Posted by Matthew Moyer on November 18, 2009
Heart Star is a gorgeously sad one-off zine from Christoph Meyer, who you should also know from Twenty-Eight Pages Lovingly Bound With Twine. It epitomizes what’s good about mini-comics of this nature; the diminutive size inversely proportional to the quality of personal storytelling and individual art within – something that would never get a chance under a larger comics imprint. Heart Star tells a simple story of a girl who committed suicide and her ghost’s quest to find peace for her restless, burning heart, and tells it in the style of a children’s fable or poem. The art reminds me of my attempts to draw ghosts in the first grade; all bedsheets, sad, sad, eyes, and skull faces drawn in thick pen-and-ink lines. This style lends it an air of Charlie Brown-esque whimsy and melancholy (Charles Schulz keyed into this same primal visual language) and is all the better for it.
The only occasional splashes of color are for a blood-red heart or red tongues of flame from a funeral pyre. Despite the deliberately rudimentary art, the layouts are creative and little touches like a hole-punched heart very literally communicates a feeling of loss. The story is rich and imaginative, the tone is meditative and elegiac, and the ending will definitely get you misty-eyed. Right before you flip back to the beginning to start all over again.