Friday, August 18, 2006

From the Reading Pile XXXII

It's been almost a full year to the day that I've submitted a batch of reviews to Zine World. But the new issue -- #23! -- just came in the mail today, and that lit a fire in my belly to finally type up some reviews I penned awhile ago. Here, then, are the reviews I recently submitted to the zine of zines!

Can You Hear Me in the Back? #2 (February 2006): I grew up in southern Wisconsin, so I have a soft spot for the Midwest punk rock scene. This handwritten, cut-and-paste zine combines the best and worst of what small regional scenes produce. The single-page columns are shallow and somewhat silly, although Max Suechting's anti-voting piece, "This Party Is Fuckin' Lame," borders on interesting but stops shy of insightful. He contends that voting in a representative democracy shunts the responsibility for activism away from the voter; I don't see them as mutually exclusive. "Mel" briefly recommends several books that appear worth reading, and the issue is capped by interviews with Stoughton-based SFN and the Modern Machines from Milwaukee. The interviews are the highlight of this fun and friendly zine and touch on regional music history, the local scene, and how politics connects with punk rock. Worth checking out, especially if you're from the Midwest! Amos Pitsch, 1510 Henry St., Neenah, WI 54596, email. [? 16S :12]

Eville: Big Rock Show: Bad Burrito and Evil Nacho try to sneak into the Broken Eardrum to see the Crawl and the Horror Movie Dropouts. They end up having to pay. That's about the extent of the narrative, but Luke's comic is notable for several reasons. One, the characters are extremely basic in their design and naming: our two heroes, and Frankenfloppy (my favorite!) and Lippy. Also, the layout -- brief text pages containing the exposition and dialogue alternating with full-page illustrated pages -- is a neat approach to comics making. Finally, Luke's artwork is highly stylized and unlike much of what I'm used to. Keep up the good work! P.O. Box 20005, West Village Station, New York, NY 10014, email, web. [? 24XS :02]

Fuck! Vol. 8 #8 (August 2005): It's been awhile since I've read Lee Thorn's photocopied poetry zine. And I'm not sure I've missed much! This edition features 10 poems by five poets -- most of them by Gary Every, whose "God, I Love Accordions" stands out as the best of his southwestern observations. Otherwise, Reed Altemus' "Stiff Switches Bounding Mail" struck me as a comic example of poetic pastiche -- detached words that still somehow work well together. There's not a lot here to hold onto. An acquired taste, perhaps! Lee Thorn, Box 85571, Tucson, AZ 85754. [$2 6M :05]

Fusion #1 (January 2005): This zine is somewhat similar to Mind Clutter in that it's published by a young woman who's questioning her self-image and social relationships. But Meena's writing and self-exploration isn't as developed or mature as Jenn's. That said, this zine is still good to see, as it's where many of us start. Positioning herself as the "original outcast," which is somewhat laughable yet loveable, Meena offers brief glances at her current thoughts about feminism; gender roles in southern California; fashion, self-confidence, and friendship; being raised by immigrant parents; and other topics. The zine, while quick and occasionally cliched (read: universal?), is a good introduction to Meena's mind -- and a sign that she's heading in the right direction by seeking opportunities for self-expression and connection with others. Meena Ramakrishnan, email. [? 16S :04]

Go for Seven #1 (May 2005): At first, Scott's artwork reminded me of the early comics work of Jef Czekaj -- I think it was the eyes -- but it didn't take long to for Scott to show he has his own thing going on. There are basically two sides to this minicomic. Pep is a punk rocker who's approached by a mohawked friend to save him from a dissatisfying relationship -- and who hangs out with his friend Willy drinking beer and watching cartoons. Then there's the "incredible Jesus the clown," who, after 2,000 years in heaven -- jail -- gets released only to stop off at Saturn for a drink. The rough art has charm, and there's enough pathos and parody to maintain interest. But all in all, it's an uneven effort -- in fact, the comic took almost a year to complete. Worth continuing. Scott Kindberg, 70 Camelback Court, Pleasant Hill, CA 94523, email. [$1 or trade 20S :03]

Mind Clutter #2: This zine reads extremely well, so well that given some effort, it could probably be expanded into one of those postmodern coming-of-age novels published by MTV Books. That's not a bad thing. For the most part, this issue tells the tale of an evening Jenn spent with an old friend in suburban California. Because both women were in high school, their lives still largely intersected -- sushi, tagging bus benches and hardcore shows -- but the night also identified how they were growing apart: One had gotten into drugs and (gasp!) screamo music, while the other -- Jenn -- remained an idealist. Jenn's writing is clean and clear and has a clever cadence that makes me think she'd be fun to talk to. An excellent introduction to her world… and zinemaking. Jenn, P.O. Box 800757, Santa Clarita, CA 91380-0757, email. [$1 or trade 28XS :07]

One Story #40: This is an awesome project. Every three weeks, subscribers receive a new edition, which includes a single short story between 3,000 and 8,000 words in length. No wonder it's called the "literary magazine you'll actually read." This edition, published in June 2004 and distributed free at the 2006 South by Southwest conference, features "Letters in the Snow" by Melanie Rae Thon. It's a disturbingly gentle story about a woman on the run -- from a crime, from an abusive husband, from an unsupportive family, and from herself. The story is well written and well worth reading. Send for a sample issue -- and consider subscribing! P.O. Box 1326, New York, NY 10156, web. [$1 32S :16]

Tones and Notes #3 (April 2005): This fascinating, text-heavy photocopied digest focuses on musical self-education and alternative notation systems. Published by the folks behind the ever-charming and -inspiring Dwelling Portably, this zine touches on the "Easy Chord" system, the possible dangers of copyright, easily typed letter notation systems, the STMN and FLMN music notation systems, and popular music on the radio. While this approach to learning music is utterly fascinating, I think it's as difficult -- if not moreso -- than learning traditional staff notation. So I'm curious what the point is… and benefit. Still, Bert's largely correspondence-driven approach is wonderful to see. (Nice use of annotated P.O. Box addressing, by the way!) Light Living Library, P.O. Box 190-tn, Philomath, OR 97370. [$1 or trade 12S :10]

Wave 2.5 #5 (Spring 2005): This is the best zine I've read so far in this review batch. Mimi Marinucci's pocket-sized feminist zine is equally fun and functional, personal and political. Following a small-print essay on GLBT culture, differences between transsexuality and transgenderism, and the need to broaden the use of the term "queer" (written for a zine called the F-Word), Mimi offers a number of thought- and occasionally laughter-provoking short items. Highlights include the children-oriented warning labels recast as "drastic solutions to unwanted pregnancy," the wicked women crossword puzzle, and the Menstrual Voodoo recipes. But what I appreciate most about the zines is its focus on introducing readers to new ideas and resources. Mimi doesn't spend a lot of time on any topic, but her brief nods to the Radical Cheerleaders, culture jamming, natural healer Nita Duff Marshall, and common herbs of the northwest give readers just enough to go on -- perhaps inspiring their own self-led learning. This is a zine to follow! Email. [Donation or trade 44XS :09]

World in Trouble (2004): This extremely brief sketchbook of sorts reminds me of the work the Paper Radio folks might do were they less inspired. The 14 images combine innocent and cartoony icons with occasional attempts at black humor and political commentary. Examples include a fanged clown stabbing a star, a man trapped in a TV, a Smurf-like creature with worms and snakes in his hair, a man eating a sandwich labeled Bush's Lies, and a phallic King Kong image. Despite the easily dismissable content of this edition, there is one artistic highlight. The illustration of a winged Bender (from Futurama) playing pinball shows how good an artist the publisher can be, as well as how simple and subtle detournements of popcult imagery can often be more successful. P.O. Box 14007, Minneapolis, MN 55414, email. [$1 or a stamp 32XS :01]

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