still the best
The Worst: A Compilation Zine on Grief and Loss
Issue 3, summer 2013
Various contributors, ed. Kathleen McIntyre
$5 from the editor, or from Mend My Dress Press
76 pg. at half-legal size
This is not a zine review— I never pretend at objectivity, and I try to be pretty clear about the ways that my experiences, values, and preferences colour how I feel about the zines I write about here— but I’m still totally not gonna review a zine I contributed to. Also, I haven’t read it yet.
I was, and am, a huge fan of the first two issues of The Worst, which I wrote about here. I really admire the work Kathleen McIntyre has done in compiling these experiences, which must be profoundly emotionally difficult work. I know this because I got my contributor copy in the mail, was excited, flipped through it, and went AAAGHHH and put it down. Reading about grief and loss is hard. Reading about it in quantity is super fucking duper hard, especially if it’s something you have particular experience with.
So, I can’t recommend this zine enough, because it is incredibly moving, helpful, and well curated. I also can’t stress enough that you should watch yourself, and only read it when you’re feeling really sturdy. Accordingly, I look forward to reading my copy at some point.
- Lily Pepper
8:56 pm • 12 June 2013 • 15 notes
Lady Teeth #2
by Taryn Hipp
37 pg. at 4” x 7”
$3 from the author on etsy
I apologize for being remiss in my zine reviews, I was enjoying some stressful times and decided to shirk a couple of obligations here and there. But my stack of zines to review has been staring me down, and I just heard today that Lady Teeth #3 will be out shortly (and that it will be a split with Your Secretary, which will be awesome), so I wanted to write about Lady Teeth #2, and how it is great.
Hipp previously wrote the zine Sub Rosa, which I wrote about here. Sub Rosa chronicles some rough times in her life, and she wanted a new imprimateur to tell us about her hard-won happiness, hence
“starting over with this zine, this amazing wonderful zine that I am already in love with because it reflects an honest life I have worked (& continue to work) so fucking hard at.”
There is nothing in this big world that will win my heart faster than a tale of hard-won happiness. I think it is the coolest fucking thing anyone can do to be miserable and scared and messed up and to fight tooth and nail, day to day, for contentment.
It’s not a battle you win and have done with, as Hipp makes clear in Lady Teeth. She writes candidly about having been shaped by bad times, about feeling out of control, about panic attacks, about doubting herself. I needed to read all this so bad, and reading Lady Teeth reminded me again why zines mean a lot to me.
The zine is also a travelogue about visiting the West Coast: Portland Button Works, Portland Zine Symposium, Seattle, and Kurt Cobain’s house,
Hipp also writes about the sometimes awkwardness of traveling as a person who doesn’t drink, and about apologizing to her partner,
“I’m sorry if my anxiety and mood swings ruined this trip. I tried so hard to have the best time and I think I did”
Lady Teeth is candid, moving, and well told. This should be no surprise; Hipp offhandedly mentions that it’s “the 43rd zine I have made (I think) in the last 17 years”. It is full of encouraging words and tips for leading a good life. I can’t recommend it or Taryn Hipp’s other zines highly enough, and I can’t wait for her split with Your Secretary.
- Lily Pepper
6:15 am • 4 June 2013 • 12 notes
Getting ready to table at Ravenswing Arts & Music Fair (Sunday, May 26th, 10 AM to 5 PM, Minto Park, Ottawa). I’m gonna have a silly amount of great zines with me, starting at $2, so come say hi!
12:00 am • 21 May 2013 • 32 notes
under the radar, there’s a mushroom
Under the Radar: Notes from the Wild Mushroom Trade
by Olivier Matthon, Spring 2013
40 pg. at half-letter size
$5 from Pioneers Press
Here in Ottawa, the last of the snow is now gone, and this past Sunday I had my first picnic, eating bread and cheese in a city park with some friends, listening to a teenage band cover classic rock songs from a rooftop, and getting my first sunburn of the year.
For me, though, the thing I anticipate most about the change in seasons is food, and I’m looking forward to ramps, morels, and other exciting springtime treats to start turning up at the market. So I was excited to hear that Pioneers Press is now accepting pre-orders for their latest publication, a zine about West Coast foraging culture. I reviewed an electronic copy, but the printed version will have the handsome cover pictured below:
Under the Radar is a tremendously interesting piece of investigative journalism by Olivier Matthon, a Québécois writer, student of anthropology, natural resources management, and creative writing, and itinerant worker in such diverse enterprises as Christmas tree farms, clam digging, and commercial fishing. In this publication, he looks into the wild mushroom trade in Mendocino County, California, spending time with pickers, and with the brokers and intermediaries who get the mushrooms out to chefs.
Written like a novel, Under the Radar was inspired by a book called Voices from the Woods, which collects oral histories of non-timber forest workers: treeplanters, gatherers of medicinal herbs, and, Matthon’s focus, mushroom foragers. It turns out you can actually read Voices from the Woods online in English or Spanish here.
I’d heard that the foraging world can be dangerously territorial, but Matthon exposes another side of the business, where buyers mentor pickers and point them in the right direction, hoping to pass their skills along to a new generation. Matthon shadows Alvin, a buyer who “lent money to people in need, taught new skills, shared knowledge with less experienced pickers, and listened to lonely people’s stories”.
Alvin also acts as a security net for the pickers who make a marginal living in the foraging economy: working sick, dealing with addictions and traumas, living out of their cars or in cheap motels or tents in the woods.
Matthon describes mushroom picking as “one of the last cash economies”, attracting those who haven’t been able to make it in the capitalist economy, and those whose libertarian views make them disinclined to try. Frequently, and sometimes dangerously, pickers run across people involved in the cultivation and harvest of Northern California’s other great cash crop, marijuana.
While Matthon doesn’t romanticize his subjects, when he writes that “They are not torn each morning between the desire to change the world and the desire to enjoy it,” it’s hard not to want to follow them out into the woods. Under the Radar is an engaging, well-researched, and compassionate look into a world hidden from most of us, and I’d highly recommend it.
- Lily Pepper
6:43 pm • 6 May 2013 • 7 notes
bodies and how to deal with them
With the weather warming up and summer ahead, it’s the season for people and dumb magazines and stuff to be making you feel like your body or the things you do with it are wrong, and suggesting that a “bikini body” is anything other than a body that’s wearing a bikini. Give ‘em all a hearty fuck-all-y’all with these two great zines about bodies, body image, and how to enjoy being embodied.
Get Fit for the Pit, Issue #1
Various contributors, ed. Nicole Harris
20 pg. at half-letter size
$2 from Fight Boredom Distro
This is an older (spring 2011) zine, but one that I’m glad is still around. Nicole Harris, who ran the now-defunct Click Clack Distro, compiled this zine, after realizing that punks and activists like herself often neglect their health. She wanted a place for people from her communities to write about getting and staying fit and healthy, and to combat punk’s “romantic emphasis… on late, sleepless nights and drunken adventures”.Get Fit for the Pit was the result.
Contributors include a number of noted zine folks, like Ramsey Everydaypants of List zine, and Chris Landry of Kiss Off zine. Korrina Irwin argues that you can still be a punk even if you do yoga, C.A. Eaves contends that there are parallels between moshing and rugby, and Ele contends that “there’s nothing more punk than taking control of your own body, discovering what you’re capable of. Harris, who compiled the zine, contributes a great piece about reconciling the conflict in her life between sports and counterculture.
I especially like Ramsey’s comic about how jock-type people at the gym are a lot more understanding of her listeing to punk rock and making zines than her punk friends are about her going to the gym. I’ve been surprised to find that most of the people at the gym I go to (it’s a YMCA, which helps) aren’t folks I’d identify as jocks, and that nobody has ever so much as looked at me askance for my leg hair or numerous stick-and-pokes.
James Russell Pyle’s piece also echoes my experiences, when he describes his teenage point of view: “I am not a fucking jock so I do not exercise”. Like a lot of people— most people?— I had shitty experiences in gym class, getting picked on and doing a lot of ducking and covering whenever a ball came my way. When I started thinking about going to a gym, I couldn’t separate out the concepts of “going to the gym” from my memories of gym class, something I had no desire to relive.
However, I was happy to find that the two have nothing in common, and that, as lots of people promised, working out is something that consistently makes me happy, makes me feel strong and confident in my body, and helps to tamp down the omnipresent anxiety to which I’m prone. Get Fit For The Pit is a great collection of perspectives if you’re thinking about making a change in your life and feel like you need to justify it to yourself or anyone else.
Fat-Tastic!, Issue #2
Various contributors, ed. Sage Adderley
16 pg. at half-letter size
$1.50 from the author
Fat-Tastic! was compiled by the tattooist, writer, and parent Sage Adderley, who runs Sweet Candy Distro. This, the second issue, was published in April 2012, and it collects a variety of contributions (non-fiction, poetry, photographs, drawings, and an interview) about being fat, from a body-positive perspective. Jennafur Lee Parks contributes an ode to the Gossip frontwoman Beth Ditto, in her capacity as a talented, hot, and powerful fat woman.
I especially enjoyed the interview with Anna Guest-Jelley, who runs Curvy Yoga, a website whose mandate is to be “a training & inspiration portal for curvy yogis and their allies & teachers”. She got into yoga because it allowed her to enjoy her body and feel strong and complete in herself, something that, having grown up fat, was a novel experience for her. As is affirmed in Get Fit For the Pit, enjoying your body and being healthy isn’t the exclusive providence of any one subculture or body type.
- Lily Pepper
5:00 pm • 4 May 2013 • 6 notes
a curious life
What a Beautiful Face: A Neutral Milk Hotel Fanzine
Various contributors, ed. Katie Johnson
20 pg. at half-letter size
$3 from Pioneers Press
I feel fortunate that Neutral Milk Hotel’s two records were around, and that I was privy to them, when I was a teenager. I don’t know if I would have been able to love them so thoroughly if I hadn’t found out about them til I was grown. Their music is earnest and raw like the feelings you have before you know anything of moderation and nuance.
Because the band’s songs are both confessional and impressionistic, they’ve been able to make a whole lot of people feel like they’re speaking directly to them and to their own sorrows and joys and crushes on long-dead teenagers. I’ve listened to and sung along with their songs driving alone out on rural roads, in dorm rooms, on Greyhound buses, around drunk campfires with friends.
Published by Punch Drunk Press, What a Beautiful Face collects writing about Neutral Milk Hotel. It’s a pretty quick read, but full of a good variety of stuff. Mostly, people write about their experiences of discovering, and being moved by, their music. Adam Gnade also contributes fiction inspired by the band, and several people write about the experience of seeing Jeff Mangum play on his recent tour.
As someone with longstanding warm feelings for Neutral Milk Hotel, I really enjoyed What a Beautiful Face, and would recommend it to anyone else for whose coming-of-age was made weirder and funner and noisier by their music.
- Lily Pepper
5:55 pm • 27 April 2013 • 8 notes
letters from ottawa
Les Carnets de Rastapopoulos, Issues #8 & 9
by Robert Gauvinov
both 16pg. at 1/2 legal size
Available at the Pressed zine rack or from the author (email link)
One of the reasons I started the zine rack I run is because I was having the damndest time finding any local zines to read, and I was hoping that if I made a home for them, they’d come out of the woodwork. Happily, this has totally actually been happening!
One Ottawa zine that came my way recently is Les Carnets de Rastapopoulos, by a writer who lives about a 15 minute walk from me. For any non-Francophones, the title translates as “Rastapopoulos’ Notebooks”, Rastapopoulos (I had to look it up) being a “sinister magnate” from the Tintin comics.
Issues 8 and 9 of Les Carnets de Rastapopoulos chronicle the author’s efforts to get back in touch with some of his penpals from the eighties, especially those from what was then behind the Iron Curtain. In so doing, he reflects on how the fall of the Berlin Wall, combined with the rise of the Internet, has changed how we in North America communicate with that part of the world.
As a teenager, Gauvinov first longed for a penpal from the other side of the Cold War, then, after taking out an ad in a Yugoslavian youth magazine, he was inundated with over 500 poignant letters from would-be correspondants. Issue 8 describes how he came to write back and forth with some of these folks.
In Issue 9, Gauvinov writes about his efforts to reconnect with some of his penpals, twenty-five years later. You get a great sense of how exciting that connection is, and how different from recieving a constant Facebook flow of mundane details from the lives of people you once knew.
As a kid, I, too, succumbed to the allure of a penpal agency, and paid to have my address shared with some other bookish kids worldwide. The two I remember were a blond girl from the Midwest who claimed to have psychic powers, and a girl from Japan who wooed me with elaborate stationery and lovely hiragana-inflected penmanship.
I really hope penpalism isn’t extinct in the modern world, because it was a hell of a lot of fun. But if the internet didn’t sound a death knell for zines, as some had thought it might, here’s hoping that penpallery too is alive and well. Les Carnets de Rastapopoulos is a really fun read, and it made me wish I had some penpals. Check it out!
- Lily Pepper
9:07 pm • 22 April 2013 • 7 notes
care and feeding of zinesters
Self-Care for Zinesters
by Maranda Elizabeth
14 pg. at 1/4 letter size
$2 from the author, on etsy
I really like, and need, advice, lord knows.
I’ve been going for massages (thanks, health insurance), and so I was told this week that the cause of all my problems is that I breathe “about 10% as much as I should”. I had no idea it was possible to be bad at breathing, but now I know that it is, and I am. Bring on the life-skills training.
So, it is fitting that I received some copies in the mail this week of Maranda Elizabeth’s latest zine, Self-Care for Zinesters. I am fully willing to follow Maranda’s advice, as all signs point to them being a capable, talented, and thoughtful person.
Maranda, who lives in Guelph, Ontario, is the author of Telegram zine, which was recently compiled by Mend My Dress Press into a book, and the co-author, with Dave Cave, of Real Life: A Magical Guide to Getting Off the Internet (links go to my reviews). They also just announced that they will soon be self-publishing their first novel, Ragdoll House.
In other words, they accomplish really amazing things, which impress me all the more because they also write courageously about their experiences with depression, anxiety, borderline personality disorder, PTSD, and about generally being a self-proclaimed weirdo, for whom many things don’t come easily.
Despite the title, Maranda’s advice is useful to all sorts of folks, not only those in the zine community. While some of the advice is specific to tabling at zine fairs, and such, much of it is just good practice for life.
Essentially, Maranda’s advice is to pay attention to what you actually want and need (rather than, for instance, what your friends want, or what you think you should be doing to make the most of your time).
Reading Maranda’s eminently level-headed advice for self-aware, non-debaucherous fun really made me wish that they would come to my city and hang out! I am grateful that they took the time to share their wisdom in Self-Care for Zinesters, and I’d recommend it highly.
- Lily Pepper
11:49 am • 14 April 2013 • 10 notes
magic, every day and in every way
Everyday Magic, Issue #1: Here
By Finn, July 2012
12 pg. at half-letter size
$4.45 from Doris Distro
It’s hard for a mind not to go to all the worst places when the term “magic” is thrown around. Whether it’s Sigfried and Roy, or avaricious new-age gurus hawking enlightenment on an installment plan, a lot of unseemly things get described as “magic”.
Finn, the author of Everyday Magic, proposes a radical, anti-capitalist type of magic, and proposes thinking about the way we love our friends and communities as magical. They suggest that it’s necessary for our belief systems to be “constructed from landscape, the particulars of place”. They recount their experiences with magic and ritual, like rebaptizing themselves in the Pacific Ocean with a new name that better suits their gender.
Finn writes about being influenced by Derrick Jensen, and positions magic as a way of thinking that’s opposed to the rapacious individualism of capitalism, and the rationalism that underlies it. We have to trust, it turns out, in the ways things other than ourselves matter.
I was raised by one New-Agey parent and one fervent skeptic, so I find myself both drawn to and repelled by talk of magic. I totally, totally agree that we need a cosmology where the individual’s drive to win at all costs isn’t the be-all and end-all. I think that that concept is so deeply entrenched in our ways of life that you have to talk about the world in radically different ways in order to even see that it’s an ideology, rather than just the way things are. I like the idea of magic as being that other perspective, that other way of being in the world.
“if we were truly here, what relief would we know? and what responsibilities would we hold? how much harder would we fight? what would we risk for change?”
and proposes magic as the way of being here and the way of shouldering those responsibilities. And why the hell not? It’s not like our current way of thinking about the world is getting us anywhere we wanna be. This is a really cool, genuinely thought-provoking zine.
- Lily Pepper
8:24 pm • 24 March 2013 • 7 notes
Last summer, I signed an open letter to Microcosm Publishing, about Microcosm’s lack of accountability in dealing with the shitty abusive behaviour of its founder, Joe Biel. Like many people, I’d stopped buying zines from Microcosm when I heard, by reading Alex Wrekk’s zine Brainscan, about Biel’s creepy behaviour. As Wrekk wrote:
So, the question is do I think people should support Joe Biel and Microcosm? If you think survivors of abuse should be believed, supported and respected and you believe abusers should be held accountable to their community and those they have hurt then I think you know my answer.
A couple of months ago, out of the blue, I got an email from Heavy Mental Distro, who had written the letter I signed. They wanted to let the signatories know about the following message, which had popped up on the Microcosm Distribution homepage:
Pioneers Press is owned by Jessie Duke and was started by former Microcosm Publishing collective members. We operated temporarily under the name “Microcosm Distribution” but dropped the name as it gave the false impression that we were still associated in some way with Microcosm Publishing. We no longer carry any Microcosm Publishing titles or support the company or its owner in any way…. This is a really healing and restorative move for us. (And we’re super tempted to include a link here to Destiny’s Child’s “Survivor” or Christina Aguilera’s “Fighter.”) On to bigger and better things. Thanks for your ongoing support!
Pioneers Press, as did Microcosm, carries a HUGE number of zines and comics, so I was pretty excited that I could order from them without supporting anyone creepy. I put in a huge order and found them super friendly and helpful, and the zines arrived quickly and were awesome. I know that some people might be wary of dealing with them because of their former affiliation with Microcosm— if this is so, please drop me a line and let me know why.
One of the zines I ordered is by Jessie Duke and Adam Gnade, who run Pioneers Press:
The Hard Fifty Farm
by Jessie Duke and Adam Gnade
28 pg. at half-letter size
$4 from Pioneers Press
The Hard Fifty Farm is a split zine by two formerly urban folks who live in rural Kansas. It’s about adjusting to the aspects of country life that aren’t necessarily or immediately scenic or adorable or heartwarming. Duke writes about the sad loss of a one-legged duck, about comforting a sick baby, and about trying to fit in in a place where your family hails from. Gnade relates a story about hearing older friends tell stories, and not necessarily quaint ones, but stories about all the heartbreak that can accrue in a life, the good people you know and lose, and the bad things you see and how they change you.
The Hard Fifty Farm is a pensive, slow-paced, quiet zine, with a writing style well suited to its content. Having grown up rurally, I think I’m less inclined to romanticize country living, and more attuned to the way it puts you right up on the raggedy edges of things, with all the newborn stuff struggling for life and the dead stuff frozen in the ditches. If that’s your background, too, this speaks to it eloquently. If it’s not, but you’ve thought about starting a new, pastoral phase to your life, maybe check this zine out.
- Lily Pepper
6:50 pm • 22 March 2013 • 27 notes