Zine Reviews

October 2015 Zine Reviews

abolish restosAbolish Restaurants
Full size, 60 pgs
This 60-page illustrated guide was first published in 2006. As the website states, it “draws on a range of anti-capitalist ideas as well as a heaping plate of personal experience…it is part analysis and part call-to-arms”. Having worked on-and-off in the “hospitality sector” for more than a decade and a half, I couldn’t put this down. Not-so-forgotten days of maniacal managers, long hours, shitty tips and often dangerous working conditions invade my delicate psyche. With lush stencil illustrations and well-informed and often biting commentary, this zine not only sums up what many wage-slaves already know, that working in a restaurant sucks, but it also offers welcome historical insight and a cogent Marxian critique of how exploitative this form of business really is. It is also hilariously on-point at some turns, particularly the section that details the division of labor between the “front” and “back of the house”. This is a thorough and well-balanced analysis on a subject that too many people seem willing to overlook. This zine also contains lots of interesting historical info, for instance: restaurants first emerged in Paris in the 1760s, and even as late as the 1850’s most of them were still centered there. The global rise of the restaurant was of course, conditioned by the “Industrial Revolution”. This was an awesome read from cover to cover, I’m excited to check out other prole titles.

broken pencilBroken Pencil #68
Magazine, 72pgs, 2015
It’s hard to believe that Broken Pencil turns 20 years old with this issue. In my review of Issue 61, I noted that I still distinctly remember the very first time I ever laid eyes on BP. I’ve had an on-again-off-again reading relationship with it over the years, but besides Razorcake it’s the only magazine I currently have a subscription to. Admittedly, I had unrealistically high expectations for this long anticipated issue, but I thought they did a pretty good job of anthologizing so much worthwhile material. No matter how earnest you try to be there’s just no way you can fit two decades of zinester shenanigans into a single issue. There’s tons of great content: articles on DIY artist Sonja Ahlers, cartoonist and game designer Tony Walsh, and an interview with Osa Atoe of Shotgun Seamstress Zine. There’s also a look back at early e-zines, anatomies of old BP Covers, and a section called “This Zine Changed my Life” where staff, reviewers and friends reflect on some of the most inciting and influential zines they’ve ever read. My favourite piece, was a profile of the late Ninjalicious of Infiltration Zine. As Frandroid of Great Worm Express Distro says, Infiltration may very well be “the best zine that was ever published in Toronto”. We didn’t know Ninj well, he contacted us after our first issue to get information on another “urban exploration” zine, but he was always really nice when we crossed paths at Canzine or the Cut’n’ Paste Zine Fair. But as author William Bryce George says he has left “an enduring legacy”. There’s also music, book and zine reviews, some listings, comics and short columns, even a few flash fiction pieces. Now that Broken Pencil’s teen years are behind it, it’ll be interesting to see where the mag goes from here.


Ghost Pine #13: Boys
By Jeff Miller
Digest size, 50pgs, $4PPD, 2015
Jeff Miller has been publishing the inimitable zine, Ghost Pine since 1996. His stories are always crisp and engrossing. This zine defies standard categorization, in that it’s very much a hybrid of a perzine and litzine. The first half contains a bunch of very well written shotgun lit pieces: “Kids” recalls a teenage punk band’s first rural show, “Relic: Part One” documents some of Jeff’s early fanzine adventures and “Austerity Blues” articulates how many young people “have now moved beyond pursuing plan B to trying something more like plan F these days.” The second half of the zine is a longer piece, “raw fragments of an elegy in eleven parts” which is about Jeff’s friendship with the late Will Munro. Munro was a prolific, inspiring artist, promoter, organizer and even emerging restauranteur in Toronto. He managed to cover an amazing breadth of artistic ground in his tragically short life, and is well known for his iconic club nights: Vazaleen, No T.O., Peroxide, Xerox & Moustache. He made a huge impression on many of us, and Jeff pays tribute to his friend in a forthright manner that is at some turns joyous and at others turns heart-wrenching. Miller’s carefully crafted stories are always a pleasure to savour. Highly recommended.

HeroesHeroes of the Underground Press
By Kris Mininger
4 mini zines, 2015
Each one of these minis could serve as fine stand-alone reading, but since we received them as a package, we’ll review them all in one go. Kris also publishes the long running zine, Chorrada, and contributes to Xerography Debt (the review zine with perzine tendencies). His passion for independent publishing is evident by the amount of care and research he puts into his zines. The 4 micro-zines focus on Arthur Moyse, Olaf Ladousse, Irving Stettner and Luke Sinclair of Sticky Zine Shop. When Kris “was 22 years old and at the height of his Henry Miller and Charles Bukowski obsession” he wrote a letter to Stettner, which began 6 years of correspondence that ended with Irving’s death in 2004. Described as a “struggling writer and painter who lived out of two suitcases, travelling the world with just enough cash to cover a day or two of expenses”, Stettner was uncompromising in his approach to art. He may not be as well known as some of his contemporaries, but his contribution to small press publishing is wholly unique. The interview with Luke of Sticky Zine Shop is a brief peak into the day-to-day of Sticky, and also serves as a great survey introduction to Australian zine culture, past and present. I hope Kris has more of these stellar micro-profiles in the works, the format is perfect, they are quick and easy to read, and serve as shortcut introductions to new artists and writers.

HP 2

Hoser Punx: Volume 2
By Shelby Monita
Half size, 40 pages, 2015
This zine is billed as a “Canadian Punk Rock Zine”, and is filled with lots of germane info on the DIY music scene north of the border. There are interviews with The Filthy Radicals, Deforesters, The Pretty Boys, and also, numerous show photos, comics and pen & ink drawings. All of the content is crisp and snappy, but the two standout pieces in my opinion were by Patrick of Hosehead Records who shares his story of moving his label from Toronto to Vancouver, and Sari Delmar from Audio Blood who “recounts her first brush with punk rock”. We’ve been contemplating a move to Vancouver lately and Patrick’s story has really got us thinking. In true punk fanzine style, there’s a playful almost cheeky tone to some of the writing, and the aesthetic is decidedly high contrast cut-n-paste. We hear so much about US & UK punk, it’s great to read about what’s happening in our own backyard. A fun and informative read.


Razorcake #88
Magazine, 112ps, $4US, 2015
I was shocked and saddened to read that in August, zinester and writer, Travis Fristoe (Radon, America?), took his own life. Todd Taylor’s pays homage to his friend in an honest and heartfelt piece. It was hard to jump into the often humorous columns and comic strips after reading this, and I had to put the magazine down for a few days before engaging it again. Razorcake’s moniker is “Non-Profit Punk: We Do Our Part”, and each issue is brimming with columns, features and reviews of DIY bands. This issue features interviews with The Worriers, Peach Kelli Pop, Jake Smith and John Talley-Jones. Also well written columns by Sean Carswell, Jim Ruland, Cassie Sneider & Donna Ramone. There is as usual a plethora of record, book and zine reviews and there’s even a contact listing of all the bands and labels reviewed in this issue or those recently posted to the mag’s blog. In the intro the editors make it clear they put people before profits and aren’t trying to make money. The magazine has almost two hundred volunteers and “is not a conduit for indiscriminate corporate bullshit advertising“. They have survived for fifteen years with ethical advertising and direct subscriptions at reasonable rates, and in the process they have showed us all how it should be done. Let us eat more Razorcake.


Stolen Sharpie Revolution: A DIY Resource for Zines and Zine Culture
By Alex Wrekk
Digest size, 150 pages, 2015
It’s a safe bet if you’re reading zine reviews on a blog called Zine Nation, you have already heard of Stolen Sharpie Revolution, in the off chance you haven’t, get ready to be excited. Wrekk is a zine stalwart, she publishes the fanzine Brainscan, and also organizes the annual Portland Zine Symposium. First published in 2002, this is the fifth edition of this venerable guide. It’s brimming with tons of useful tools and tips on layout, distribution, printing, PO Boxes and pen names, letter etiquette, zine libraries and festivals, and much, much more. There’s also a section that will transfix craft enthusiasts that covers stencils, binding, block printing, mail crafts and paper making. My favourite portions were the guide to planning a zine tour, the suggestions on how to set up your table at a zine fair, and the section that highlights the differences between fair use, copyright, copyleft, and creative commons. Wrekk’s tone is conversational and inclusive, and her love of fanzines and fanzine culture is truly infectious. Even the most grizzled zinester could glean a new tip or two from this. There are also stellar instructional pieces by well known and well regarded zinesters, Sage Adderley (Mail Art), Jenna Freedman (Zine Libraries), Jerianne Thompson (Guide to US Mail), and Sugene Mine (Paper making). Stolen Sharpie Revolution is an invaluable tool for all fanzine creators and enthusiasts. Highly recommended.


Zine-O-File 2015
by Toronto Zine Library Collective
Half size, 18pgs, 2015
Zine-O-File is the Toronto Zine Library’s annual comp. As the preface notes, it was a quieter year for the library, as they focused more attention on a new cataloguing system. They did attend a few events as well though: Word on the Street, Zine Dream, and the Toronto Queer Zine Fair. The main bulk of this issue is two articles: “The Decline and Fall of Zine Classification” by Patrick, and “In Defense of Perzines” by rachel. There’s also a brief “comic interlude”, and some “musings on the collection”. I’ve never paid too much attention to library classification systems, but as Patrick notes, it is a well studied area, and I will concede it is surprisingly very interesting. Both of the well known systems: Dewey Decimal and the Library of Congress are maintained by committees which decide what and how writings are classified. Understandably then, there is a socio-political component to classification, and “there have been attempts by radical librarians, particularly Sandy Berman, to correct perceived biases in official subject headings”. Patrick also highlights that because zines “differ in subject matter…and are often not about the same thing and cover disparate subjects in the same issue” they present a unique challenge to cataloguers.

Citing a dozen pieces of source material, rachel examines perzines and self disclosure as therapy, “mostly through the work of James Pennebaker, along with a couple other studies”. rachel draws the modest conclusion that indeed, “in the context of the findings of writing-therapy studies, there is great benefit for zine authors to be risking such deep disclosure of their own inner emotional turmoil”. This zine is a brief, but informative read. The library’s collection is fairly impressive, with lots of 90s zines, as well as more recent fare. They’re also a lending library, so if you’re ever in the downtown core on Tuesday or Wednesday evening, or a Sunday afternoon, you have to check them out.

zines in the classroomZines: Self-publishing as a Creative Classroom Experience
By Aaron Weber
Half size, 26 pgs, 2014
Aaron is a New Jersey based Arts Educator who has integrated zines into his lesson plans. As he notes, zines have great utility as a classroom activity, “because every aspect of a zine involves art”. Whether it’s collages, or bookmaking/binding, graphic design, illustration, design or layout, zine making overlaps them all, and can help inform “art” in accessible and affordable ways. Aaron starts off by explaining how he got introduced to zines in 2011, and has since made a half dozen or so of his own on various topics. After a brief but very readable “history” of zines which touches on the Revolutionary pamphleteers, Science Fiction fanzines and Riot Grrl, he offers up a succinct two-page definition of a fanzine. Aaron’s respect for his subject and reader is obvious, it never feels never like his is trying to enforce limits, and his profound love of the medium and its possibilities as a teaching device are apparent. There are lots of useful tips and instructions, most notably, how to make a one-page zine, how to make your own classroom zine library, and how to get your zines out there by way of distro or store consignment. The last portion of the zine acts as a proxy defence of zines as art teaching, by providing numerous list of “benefits”. Aaron even-handedly points out that there are factors to be addressed when bringing zines into the classroom, namely copyright, censorship and disclosure issues. But he makes his case that when used by a conscientious educator, zines can be a great fit for art curriculums. This is one zine I’m planning on sharing with a few of my friends who work in the elementary school system. Great stuff.

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