Monthly Archives: February 2015

Rampant Media Consumption #7

Here’s what we’ve been reading, watching, listening to, and playing this week. abner-jay


A friend of mine recently sold off all his records in an attempt to make some cash/lighten his load while moving. His loss is my gain. But of the few I bought, the one that has stuck out is Abner Jay. He was a one man band in his 50s, with a strange six string banjo, harmonica, percussion made with animal bones, and what ever else tickled his fancy. Sound-wise, he’s like the second generation of country blues meets Daniel Johnston, fueled by amphetamines. I usually dread the “this band on this drug” cliche in music writing, but it’s hard to avoid when he’s yelling at you about cocaine. 

And if you found your way to this blog, you probably know all about it, but I’m currently on letter “N” of Aaron Cometbus’ A Bestiary of Booksellers. Each letter focuses on a different character in Aaron’s life as a folding-table bookseller on the streets of NYC. A surprisingly interesting underworld of beardo book hunters and curmudgeonly characters.

I also watched the documentary Florida Man. Less a narrative and more a 45 minute portrait of the characters found wandering the streets and beaches of southern Florida. In the end, I actually ended up feeling a little jealous. Warm weather, a clunky bike, and a cold beer sounds pretty good right now…


This week the Champions League UEFA Champions League – began again, so I’ve been watching some soccer matches. For folks excited about European soccer, the Champions League title is like winning the Super Bowl, World Series, and the Stanley Cup all in one. 

I haven’t got much reading done; there were some Hemingway short stories, but I get bored and just wait for the punchlines. Although, The Snows of Kilimanjaro has a man suffering from gangrene, and somehow I find that fascinating… perhaps for the same reasons I keep a copy of A Journal of the Plague Year on my bedside table. 

I think I was swallowed by a slew of Hall and Oates videos… I can’t get enough of their use of fog and mesmerizing head-bobbing. 


read // Afro Vegan by Bryant Terry, started Yo Miss!ManspressionsWomen by Bukowski 

listened to // Giraffage’s “No Reason“, True Widow’s Self Titled, Joey Bada$$’s “1999“, Spazzkid’s “Desire 願う“, MIMM’s compilation of “From China With Love“, and A Tribe Called Quest’s “The Low End Theory” 

watched // X-Files season 2 and The Other Woman (one of the best rom-coms in my opinion, though I shamefully watched)

played // not enough basketball or Twister


listened to- Jessica Pratt (self titled album)

read- The Art of the Novel by Milan Kundera and Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert 


This week’s Powell book reading was a fictional tale, but still resonated with me in terms of themes and subject matter! Binary Star discusses body image issues like anorexia and the impact of veganarchism all in one terrific coming of age story we could all relate to, but most importantly find subtle references to lots of the issues we attempt to address with most of our titles at Microcosm Publishing!


Urban Homesteader

Want to learn to make your own soap? Mend your torn clothes? Grow your own cucumbers? Carry your groceries and children on a bicycle? This four book box set teaches you the basics and beyond. Authors Raleigh Briggs, Robyn Jasko, and Elly Blue are your friendly guides to a new, cozy, sustainable life at home and in the world. Live your own revolution!

Books included in this set: 
Make It Last by Raleigh Briggs
Make Your Place by Raleigh Briggs
Homesweet Homegrown by Robyn Jasko
Everyday Bicycling by Elly Blue

Everyday Bicycling by Elly Blue

Rampant Media Consumption #6

a page of manspressionsHere’s what’s been rocking our small worlds this week! (PS: Back our Crate Digger book on Kickstarter! Five days to go!:



This week, I’ve had an EP from Portland’s own Happy Dagger (nearly identical to Tame Impala, soft psych funk, perfectly relaxing and appropriate for a Monday morning) and Title Fight’s Floral Green (aggressive emo that immediately became a classic) alternating on repeat. I also listened to a fair amount of Kurt Vile before his show last Friday, and I still believe Waking On A Pretty Daze to be a timeless masterpiece.

Other than that, I was laughing my ass off at our upcoming educational title, Manspressions.



We were traveling this week. I brought two books: Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood and Physics for Rock Stars by Christine McKinley, but didn’t have time to open either one. Then I bought a third book, Cubed: A Secret History of the Workplace, at a little independent shop in Seattle, Phinney Books. I victoriously stayed awake long enough to read the first ten pages.


On good recommendation, I watched a Netflix documentary on the Virunga National Park in Democratic Republic of the Congo. The film, self titled Virunga, is a harrowing story of the park rangers fighting and dying to save and protect the Mountain Gorillas who live, as the last of their species, in a area set to be harvested for its natural resources. Corrupt and villainous investors and politician work with rebel fighters to enact whatever horrible means they can to kill all the gorillas, with their thinking being that if they’re all gone, there would be no reason to protect the park…

Listened to a bunch of James Brown. Inspired by the documentary I watched last week, I’ve dug into my collection of his records and been at it nonstop. Some of my favorite stuff came after Mr. Brown liquidated most of his band, The Famous Flames, and enlisted Bootsy (bass) and Catfish Collins (guitar). Here’s a pretty wicked performance featuring the two.

The New Yorker (Feb. 16, 2015) has an interesting article, Northern Lights. It A-B’s the global identity of modern Scandinavia and its laurels of utopia, against the vast spectrum of realities that are producing this identity; all of this balanced against the American dream…



Attended another Powell’s book reading about PTSD and found a lot of helpful information to assist me in my own struggles which you can read about in our excellent book Alive with Vigor: Surviving Your Adventurous Lifestyle which I had a small part in! We also sell tons of excellent works on similar subjects in our The Icarus Project collection which are also totally worth checking out! 

Now Kickstarting: The punk lore of Crate Digger!

george washington endorses crate diggerWe’re Kickstarting again! This time the project is Crate Digger: An Obsession With Punk Records

The book is Bob Suren’s epic saga of punk culture and music in Florida and beyond. He goes as far as Texas, Costa Rica, and Brazil on tour with Failure Face and other bands. While at home in the Tampa area he ran iconic record shop Sound Idea and also Burrito Records, always staying a step ahead of the music industry. His story is told through the records he collected—and eventually sold all at once, when it all fell apart. 

It’s the kind of book that kept our proofreaders grinning with bemused looks on their faces, so enthralled in the story that they didn’t hear us ask them what was so funny. We’re having ridiculous amounts of fun coming up with stickers to go with all the major endorsements that are rolling in (see right, and here). The reviewers so far love it. And we think you will too.

So we’re asking, with our hearts on our sleeves: Will you back our Kickstarter project and help Crate Digger come into being with the quiet fanfare it deserves?

Thank you.


Self-Promotion for Authors: What the Publisher Does

All our authors ask at some point “how can I promote my book?” A lot of our authors—well, a lot of authors in general—are quite shy and don’t know where to begin with talking about their books to the public. We think a lot about how to promote books to eager readers without totally burning out. We’ll share some of what we’ve learned in the next few posts.

This is the first of a series of posts that outlines how Microcosm promotes books, what authors can do, and some tips for tying your book in with your other work, past and future.  so much to read!These posts are written for Microcosm’s authors and artists, and are geared towards our processes, but they should still be useful for anyone who is figuring out how to promote any book, whether you’re publishing it yourself or have a contract with a major house.

The first post is our side of the bargain.

What we do

Microcosm is a traditional-format publishing house. We solicit books from authors, and occasionally accept submissions, work with authors to produce the best possible book, have large quantities of books manufactured (in the USA!), and work hard to get those books into the hands of the right readers. Here are the basic steps:

– Marketing and development: This is the hardest part of the process to describe, but probably the most important. We spend hours researching the market for each book and figuring out a title, subtitle, cover design, and description. Sometimes this process is immediate and obvious, other times it takes months of back-and-forth and doubt. The end goal is to make sure that your book is accurately described and also that it fills a wanted and empty niche in the world of books out there so that excited readers are able to discover it.

Editing: This is the part that you’ll see the most, in which we make sure that your book is what it says it is, is awesome to read, and has as few typos as possible.

Production: When your book is ready, we design it and send it off to the printer. The development process informs your book’s size, color, design, paper type, how many we print, when it is printed, when it is released, and where all the copies are warehoused. We pay for the production and budget our promotional activities around selling enough books so that we recoup the investment quickly and begin paying you royalties.

Publicity: We promote your book via printed catalogs and fliers that we distribute internationally, occasionally in targeted advertisements, and in every creative way we can possibly think of. Before your book comes out, we create digitally printed ARCs (Advance Review Copies) and both we and you distribute them to potential reviewers and interviewers. We work with book reviewers and media outlets that we have relationships with and create new connections with people whose readers we think would like your book. Sometimes we’ll run a Kickstarter campaign. We work closely with authors every step of the way to help you talk about your book and the bigger ideas behind it.

– Sales and distribution: We do our darnedest to sell the heck out of your book through many, many channels including directly to readers and fans—online, at events, and in our bookstore, to wholesalers, to distributors of various types, and more. 

This is only a very brief summary of what we do in putting out a book. Hopefully it’ll help put the rest of the series into perspective! 

Next in the series: Psyching yourself up to promote your book when that seems like the most terrifying thing ever.

Feel free to request topics in the comments, or by email. Read in more depth about what a publisher does in Joe Biel’s book, A People’s Guide to Publishing.

Things are Meaning More—catching up with Al Burian

Microcosm’s first paperback books came out back in 2002, and as I’ve been reading my way through them, I’ve been wondering—where are the authors now? I fired off a few emails with nosy questions, which were followed by a deafening silence… then at last, to my relief, Al Burian wrote back with thoughtful and generous answers. Thanks, Al. 

1. Hi Al! What are you up to these days? Where in the world are you and what’s it like there today? 

My last publication for Microcosm (Burn Collector #15) was about moving to Berlin, Germany, and in fact I’m still living there, even still living in the same apartment. But today I am not at home for a change; I am in Hamburg, a few hours away. I’m at a band practice in a basement room, filled with musical equipment, like so many similar rooms around the world: familiar, non-exotic territory. Outside, the day is a drizzling, oppressive dark grey. I imagine it is comparable to winter weather in Portland, OR.  drawn al

 2. Your first book with us was a comic book in 2003 (!), Things Are Meaning Less. Your work now is pretty different in format and also in tone—what changed and why? 

I don’t really feel that my work has changed so drastically, but perhaps readers see that differently. My early stuff was informed by a younger persons’ sensibilities, of course. In my twenties I had the typical know-it-all attitude that comes with a liberal arts degree and an obscure record collection. After I finished college I began touring with punk bands and produced a lot of zines; I enjoyed writing in an academic, pseudo-literary style, even as I described dumpster-diving, visits to Waffle House, and other low-brow everyday behavior. The contrast struck me as funny. Other people might have found the affect annoying. 

Now that I’m older and have had a few of the important traumatic adult experiences, my horizons have broadened, and I feel like I hardly know anything at all. I’m slower to produce and much more self-critical. I find myself talking about how it’s not all so black and white, weighing both sides of the issue, displaying all the wishy-washy attitudes that used to annoy me about old people. I don’t feel so comfortable anymore with the “insert situation, make fun of everyone’s haircuts, end with a Nietzsche quotation” style of writing. Nonetheless, I would maintain that it is not me that has changed so much– I have actually remained pretty consistent– but rather the context within which I’m working, the milieu I’m in (not touring so much, and definitely not much in North America), the recontextualization of the meaning of analog creative forms in the digital era…. stuff like that. 

3. What’s your plan for where you’re going with your work next?  al photo

I don’t know. I’ve never had any kind of plan. My creative history is one long and uncoordinated flail forward. In theory I agree, having a plan is a good idea, and I even tried to formulate one when I moved to Germany, which was to quit doing music and focus on writing. Apparently to succeed and be fruitful, you need a solid focus and single-minded discipline; all the self-help books say so. But those have traditionally been my weak spots, and sure enough, now a few years later I’ve meandered off track completely. In 2015, maybe some new comics, most likely will put out some new music, and possibly but not very probably will finish up one of many long-term writing projects. 

 4. What books and music have you liked recently? Or maybe “like” is the wrong metric, so: what’s gotten stuck in your head? 

Books: The Nostalgia Echo by Mickey Hess, Orlando by Virginia Woolf, The Loom of Ruin by Sam McPheeters, Susan Sontag: the Complete Rolling Stone Interview by Jonathan Cott 

Comics: Anna Haifisch, Mike Taylor 

Music: Mothers of Invention with Napoleon Murphy Brock, Disappears, Corrosion of Conformity self-titled album 

 5. What question should I really be asking you? 

Anyone can ask me any question they want to– leave a “comment” at But as far as “should,” I’d say, hey, no pressure. Maybe you don’t have any more questions. That’s OK too.

This is one of a series of interviews with Microcosm authors. The next interview is with Anna Brones.

Yo Miss

Yo, Miss: A Graphic Look at High School takes the reader inside Wildcat Academy, a second chance high school in New York City where all the students are considered at-risk. Through strong and revealing black and white images, Wilde tells the story of “eight students who are trying to get that ticket to the middle class—a high school diploma.” Whether they succeed or not has as much to do with what happens outside the classroom as in, and the value of perseverance is matched by the power of a second chance. It is a story that shows these teens in all their beauty, intelligence, suffering, humor, and humanity (and also when they are really pains in the behind.) A view from the trenches of public education, Yo, Miss challenges preconceptions about who these kids are, and what is needed to help them graduate.

Rampant Media Consumption #5

Here’s what we uploaded to our brains this week:


I watched a documentary on James Brown celled, Mr. Dynamite. It follows his career from childhood through the early 70’s. It’s a pretty impressive onslaught of explosive live footage and social history. Say what you will about the ignominy of his latter career, this film made abundantly clear to me why he’s known as the GFOS (Godfather of Soul).

Absorbed some exciting matches in the Bundesliga.

Read through Dream Whip #’s 11-13 by Mr. Bill Brown. He pours his heart all over America and shares it with us in his zine. Every issue is an adventure chock-full of honesty, innovation, and humanity.

I’ve re-visited The Knife album, Silent Shout. I’ve always liked The Knife, I probably liked Karin Dreijer Andersson’s solo work, Fever Ray more so, however, after more than three listens this week, I found the music dreamy and well executed.


Eyes Wide’s When It’s Raining

Title Fight’s Hyperview

Cloakroom’s Further Out

Once I’m deep in a very specific music-hole, it’s hard for me to crawl out. This week it was shoegazey alt/emo. Ironically, no tears were shed.

I’ve also been really inspired and intrigued by Kyle Hilton‘s work. He mainly works in pop culture and media, and his stylistic execution had me interested in something I normally felt apathy for.

I’ve also been binge-watching The X-Files.


While waiting in line for the bathroom at Powell’s on Sunday night I found Betsy Lerner‘s book The Forest for the Trees. It’s ostensibly advice for writers but actually has a great deal of excellent lore about being a book editor, agent, or anyone else who works with authors. Tragicomically, it’s been remaindered, so I forked over $7.95 and have been gobbling up Lerner’s anecdotes and observations from the New York edge of the publishing wilderness. In her evaluation of writerly personalities she quotes a ton of unbearably pompous manspressions from great male writers of yore, including Gore Vidal, so I was hesitant to agree to watch a documentary about him when Joe suggested it the next day. But the documentary is good, and anyone who was willing to go on TV in like the 1950s and say things like “homosexuality is entirely normal” must have needed a giant ego to survive at all, so hats off to him.


In a hilarious turn of events, I have found obligation to read something each week rather than state the sad reality that I just watch reruns of Bruce Campbell’s Burn Notice to unwind after work.

Of course, to most people something like The Responsible Company isn’t reading that you’d do to unwind, but I found Yvon’s light and simple advice to be really encouraging. He creates these neat checklists and it was heartening to discover that we are doing 90% of each of them already at Microcosm, basically everything but organizing the staff to do group volunteer activities in the community. The book has nice production values for a self-pub and I appreciate that it’s the right length. 

I got a stack of zines to review for the new Xerography Debt but you’ll have to wait six months to read about those when the new issue is published.

Elly and I watched The United States of Amnesia about Gore Vidal, which thankfully seemed to effectively demonstrate the ways that he’s not just another babbling old white guy in the spotlight, but willing to talk shit to power in ways that even rich people! I took in The Wolf of Wall Street as my chaser. I get it that it’s Scorcese’s style, but almost every scene could be cut in half so the movie could be under two hours. All of the historical exposition is interesting and helpful to understand the people that both ruined the American economy and created capital without labor to substantiate it or make it stable. Perhaps it’s the fact that half of the movie is watching the staff do drugs or hiring prostitutes or the main character, Jordan, cheating on his wives that make it interesting to certain audiences, but that stuff literally put me to sleep.

Also, last week’s episode of This American Life and this Guardian article detail a fascinating story of an angry man troll and his obsession, a fat-positive comedian who is happy with her life. Best of all, they interview each other in a way that is awkward but gives closure.


I went to another Powell’s book reading, for Sarah van Gelder’s Sustainable Happiness. Which ties into several of our “happy” books. But, more important, it fits right into our ethos of promoting “simple” living which pretty much covers all of our Urban Homesteader collection as well as many other DIY titles we sell. :o)

Aftermass: Bicycling in a Post-Critical Mass Portland

The world looks to Portland, Oregon as an example of how bicycle culture can blossom out of the ruinous freeways of car-oriented civilization. Aftermass is the first feature documentary to explore the events, people, politics, and social changes that led to Portland becoming the first major bicycle city in the United States.

Aftermass features many of the leaders and major participants behind the growth of bicycling ridership since 1971. The narrative demonstrates the complex dynamic throughout the 1990s between advocacy organizations, politicians, city planners, and the then new, grassroots Critical Mass ride. The film is full of smiling faces on two wheels, but also explores the controversies, setbacks, and bumps along the way, including riots, political roadblocks, and an illegal police spy.

The film provides new and vital insights into Portland’s transportation history as well as into paths other cities can follow to healthy planning and a green future.