In the new, updated edition of Elly Blue’s Bikenomics, you’ll find the economic case for bicycle transportation laid out clearly and on many levels — road paving and maintenance, car ownership, jobs, health and happiness, social justice, and much more.
We’ve been lucky enough to have a few designs in our catalog so popular that they get rampantly bootlegged. The most-stolen designs also happen to be our most popular, including Microcosm’s logo, the chainring heart, as well as Joe Biel’s iconic bicycle designs Put the Fun Between Your Legs and, the most popular of them all, Evolution.
When someone uses these images without our permission, they don’t always realize that they’re stealing. In reality, it’s pretty much the same thing as if they came into our store and walked out with a bunch of books without paying. We spend a lot of time laying it out for folks, and so we were stoked to find Portland designer Erika Schnatz‘s infographics about the topic. She’s created the clearest visual explanation we’ve ever seen of how you know what you can use and when, and how to register your own copyrights.
Erika kindly gave us permission to post her explanation of fair use (which answers the question: “Is it ok to use this thing I didn’t design?”) here. See it below! You can also download an interactive pdf and see her other copyright flow charts as well as her diverse other design work (and hire her!) at right here at her website.
Quimby’s, the most adorable bookstore in Chicago, and is about to celebrate its 25th anniversary! Microcosm has been working happily with them for many—most?—of those years to get adorable books into the hands of adorable readers like you. (Sorry, we get a little soppy about these things sometimes). When it began, it was a rare outpost of underground literature and zines. Today, it still carries that banner, and it’s impossible to go in without finding a book you absolutely must have an several more that you are very reluctant to leave behind. For our Indie Bookstore Love feature in July, we’re telling you all about them so you can go visit… and buy our books from them, along with many other fine books, zines, and print media of a less easily categorizable nature. You can find them at 1854 W. North Ave, in the Wicker Park neighborhood of Chicago.
Quimby’s boss Liz Mason sat down and answered some of our questions for the occasion, and sent a whole ton of photos!
What’s the story of Quimby’s? How did you get involved in all this stuff to begin with?
Quimby’s is an independently owned bookstore that sells independently-published and small press books, comics, zines and ephemera. We favor the unusual, the aberrant, the saucy and the lowbrow.
On September 15th, 1991, Steven Svymbersky, the founder of Quimby’s, opened the store in Chicago on 1328 N. Damen (at Evergreen) in Wicker Park, in a 1000 sq. ft. space. Since 1985 he had published over 50 zines with his friends, and had published Quimby Magazine for five years in Boston. Steven explained the philosophy of the store with these words: “I really want to carry every cool – bizarre – strange – dope – queer – surreal – weird publication ever written and published and in time Qvimby’s will. Because I know you’re out there and you just want something else, something other, something you never even knew could exist.” (And yes, that was a V.) In 1997 Steven sold the store to Eric Kirsammer, the owner of Chicago Comics. Steven moved to Amsterdam with his family shortly thereafter. Eric purchased the store from Steven in order to continue Steven’s commitment to the First Amendment. After a few years, the rent became too expensive to keep Quimby’s at the same spot in which Steven had opened it. Eric moved it to it’s current locale, 1854 W. North Avenue, to provide it with a more permanent location. He also still owns Chicago Comics. Quimby’s and Chicago Comics have a reciprocal “sister store” relationship, where we transfer materials between each other and often collaborate on ordering, outreach and off-site events.
I got involved because I sold zines at Quimby’s in the 90s and harassed them until they hired me. I’ve been working here for 15 years.
What’s the funniest encounter or wild story that has happened in Quimby’s (or because of Quimby’s?)
I would say the craziest story is that of the nameless gentleman who donated to Quimby’s a huge storage facility compartment full of erotica and porn with the caveat that we drive a cargo van to a rural area and pick it up ourselves. He wouldn’t tell us his name or why he was getting rid of it. Nor would he accept money or store credit as thanks.
When did you start working with Microcosm? Do you have a favorite book or zine by us? What are your favorite things to read lately, generally?
I started working with Microcosm when I started working at Quimby’s, because back then Microcosm was just a few zines on consignment. My fave Microcosm title is probably Xerography Debt, but maybe that’s just because I’m a contributor. But also it’s because it’s interesting to see what other zinesters and zine enthusiasts are enjoying. Lately I’ve been enjoying reading things in all sorts of different things (There Goes Gravity by music journalist Lisa Robinson, The Vorrh by the artist B. Catling, the new graphic novel Patience from Dan Clowes). But also, I’ve had my nose buried in mini-comics I bought at CAKE (Chicago Alternative Comics Expo) recently, so I’ve been enjoying the new comic from comics collective Trubble Club, Sara Becan’s Stockholme Is Sauceome, and the new issue of John Porcellino’s long time series King-Cat. Also of note: someone consigned a zine here that cracks me up called Crunch: A Taco Bell Fanzine. How could I not love that?
You’ve been in a position to watch as independent publishing and zine culture have gone through some huge changes over the years. How would you describe those? What do you predict will happen in the next 5 years?
There are a lot more resources offered to make publishing easier than ever before, what with all the DIY-advice-offering in both print and digital. Zines about how to make zines! Zines about how to make books! Books about how to make zines! Websites on how to make zines about making zines about books! Also, the internet really has changed everything, and has in some ways, become the great normalizer in that there are no more “gatekeepers” for “cool” stuff. Zines and their brethren mini-comics and chap books are a lot easier to come by. There are a ton of websites devoted to promoting, distributing, selling, ordering and archiving them, not to mention commerce websites creators can use to get the word out about their work. Another thing that has changed is that the punk rockers that made zines when they were younger are growing up and becoming teachers, librarians and zine archivists that teach younger folks about zines, inspiring a new generation to conitnue writng about the same isolation and unhappiness as their mentors did before them.
Anything else I ought to ask?
Yes! This year Quimby’s turns 25!
If you’re in Chicago, drop by Quimby’s to say happy birthday and check out their brilliant selection of independently published reads! Thanks Quimby’s! We can’t wait to keep working with you for decades to come.
Update: Thanks to 560 Kickstarter backers, these books have been funded! If you missed the project, that’s okay: You can order books directly from us. Here are our permanent pages for Comfort Eating with Nick Cave: Vegan Recipes to Get Deep Inside of You and Defensive Eating with Morrissey: Vegan Recipes from the One You Left Behind
We’re extra excited about the Kickstarter project we’re running until July 14:
These books started out as zines by Automne Zingg (if you like her project video, you’ll love her video performances as Lacey Spacecake, featuring her illustrations of sad Nick Cave and bummed Morrissey using food to make themselves feel better. We asked vegan chef and queercore chanteur Joshua Ploeg to pen recipes to go with each illustration in the book. He put the back catalogs of first Nick Cave and then Morrissey on his kitchen radio and whipped up some lyrically inspired and laugh-til-you-cry delights.
The result of this magic combo? Two crass, classy, and delightful hardcover books that’ll help get you through the hardest and hungriest times of your life. They come out in October; back the Kickstarter and you’ll get them earlier. Back for a little more and you’ll get a pile of other books of music, comix, and/or vegan food — or a bit more than that, and Automne will write you a song or draw a custom portrait of YOU eating your favorite food. Or perhaps Joshua will come to your town and cook you a meal!
We ask every intern to write a review of one of our books. Dane chose Jesse Reklaw’s Applicant. Here’s what he made of it:
I once had a roommate who told me that he simply didn’t like me as a person. This isn’t the sort of thing people say to one another, and for good reason. That level of honesty is more than hurtful. It is existentially threatening. One really cutting opinion from a trusted source can throw you, or at least me, straight back to an adolescent tailspin. Have you ever looked into your own eyes, late at night in the bathroom mirror, and whispering, asked yourself as honestly as you know how, “What the fuck?” This is Applicant.
In Applicant, earnest portraits of students are juxtaposed with the backhanded assessments of their professors and employers, people they trusted, spent countless hours with, looked up to. “Lack of personal discipline” reads the confidential recommendation under the portrait of a beefy grad student. Me too, brother. Next to a clean cut young man: “Somewhat too concerned with himself.” Which, if you have to ask.
The savagery is disturbing in the best way. This is the perfect book to leave on the back of your toilet if you’d like to introduce your guests to the horror of the void in the middle of their business. It is like looking through other people’s medicine cabinet. It’s like walking a mile in your sad-eyed uncle’s saggy BVDs. It is engrossing and strange but you will be glad you can leave whenever you need to. Reading Applicant is not unlike watching a pack of gazelles being ripped down by tweed-clad cheetahs. Part of me wants the naively hopeful gazelle to get away unharmed. Another part of me loves the spectacle of their demise.
But Applicant is more than absurdist-horror. The glimpses into the inner sanctum of 70s old-boy academia elevate this little pamphlet into read-out-loud-at-parties hilarity. Women are revealed to be on the brink of hysteria, if not childbirth. “Miss M___ is a black woman,” begins one assessment so fraught that, like fine art, it defies true analysis. I find myself wondering whether it is unbecoming to enjoy this as much as I do. Certainly to the people involved, there is nothing funny here, least of all to the hysteric young grad students apparently strewn about the Ivy League. I hope they never come across this book. One can only speculate what condition their nerves are in after all those children.
Fortunately, time and anonymity declaw the savagery. Whatever happened to these students has happened and they have made it or not, and the professors are all dead or retired and their prejudices are on the way out. The hope and pain and potential devastation are all safely in the past. Does that make it better to laugh at these people? But then I’m not laughing, at least not anymore. Instead I lean in, look each of them deep in the eyes and whisper, “What the fuck? What the fuck?”
This week, in the midst of national grieving, I happened to be editing a new zine by Dr. Faith… about grief. When I sent back the edits, I asked if she had any thoughts to share for folks coping with the tragedy in Orlando. She sent along the thoughts on Intimacy in Times of Fear she’d posted on her own blog, and suggested we blog an excerpt from her zine: The Griever’s Bill of Rights. Here it is:
“June Cerza Kolf created a Bill of Rights for the Bereaved, published in her book How Can I Help?. Her bill of rights, with my slight alterations and suggestions are as follows:
Grievers Bill of Rights
1) Do not make me do anything I do not wish to do.
Unless you are in literal danger, you have the right to not have someone’s will forced upon you. Even if it is for your own good. Even if they are dead right and have all the best intentions. At least not in those first days and weeks when you are absolutely shattered. Keep breathing in and out. It can wait.
2) Let me cry.
Fuck, yes. Cry. Be angry. Be numb. Be hysterical as all fuck. Whatever you are feeling is what you are feeling. Don’t hurt yourself, don’t hurt others. But get whatever you need to get out OUT.
3) Allow me to talk about the loss.
Kolf’s original said “the deceased.” But I’m opening this up to any grief experience. You get to talk about it. If you don’t have people who can be with you in that process, find a good counselor or join a support group. Find closure. Don’t hold in your story. Telling our story helps us find meaning and helps us heal.
4) Do not force me to make quick decisions.
If decisions need to be made quickly, pick someone you trust to be your point person. Everything that isn’t pressing can fucking wait. You don’t have to make decisions when you are reeling. In fact, making BIG decisions right after a huge loss often leads to regret and damaging fall-out in the end.
5) Let me act strange sometimes.
You may be fine for long periods of time and then something may trigger you. You may not even know what. But you may weird out. You’re allowed. You’re allowed to act strange. You are allowed to not even know why. With time you will start to recognize these triggers and be prepared for their eventuality.
6) Let me see that you are grieving, too.
It can be very healing to share your grief, whether with someone who is hurting along with you or for your pain. Human connection is vital.
7) When I am angry, do not discount it.
Anger is a secondary emotion. It’s coming from a place of pain and makes sense. You’re allowed anger as part of your experience. It’s a healthy part of the process and can be extraordinarily healing if you attend to it.
8) Do not speak to me in platitudes.
This goes back to what to say/what not to say. Platitudes are far worse than silence. They are a tiny Snoopy band-aid on an enormous wound. They don’t help, they don’t heal.
9) Listen to me, please!
You have the right to be heard. Not just listened to enough to respond to, but deeply heard in your experience. If you aren’t getting that from the people around you, ask for it. Or find it in a more formal support experience (therapy, self-help group, etc.)
10) Forgive me my trespasses, my rudeness, and my thoughtlessness.
Ok. Don’t intentionally be a dick because you can get away with it. But you do have leeway in this regard. You are not responsible for the care and feelings of others. You need to try to not actively be awful, but you get space to be spaced. Keep breathing. Apologize if you do or say something un-fabulous. But don’t beat yourself up for being in the muck if that’s where you are.”
In case you haven’t discovered her work yet, Dr. Faith G. Harper is one of our most prolific authors whose book hasn’t even come out yet. Her forthcoming book Unfuck Your Brain will be available in fall 2017; meanwhile, her constantly growing collection of zines combine science, compassion, and a lot of wonderfully hilarious swearing to tackle topics from Anger and Anxiety to healthy Relationshipping. The Grief zine comes out as soon as it’s back from the photocopier.
What can we say about Powell’s Books? It’s a huge, used-and-new, independent bookstore in downtown Portland that takes up a whole city block, plus a couple of smaller but still large and equally interesting outlying stores. It’s one of the best things about living in Portland, and any time we need inspiration—professional or otherwise—we head straight to one of their locations to get lost in the stacks. It never fails.
Powell’s has also been one of Microcosm’s longest running customers. Starting almost 20 years ago, when Joe moved the business from Cleveland to Portland (you can read about those early days in his new book, Good Trouble), and continuing to this month when we’re partnering with Powell’s to spread the indie bookstore love. All month, Powell’s is featuring our newest edition of The Zinester’s Guide to Portland at every register. And for a week mid-month, you can see a display of Microcosm books at their downtown store—keep an eye out for it.
For this month, we asked Kevin Sampsell, who we’ve long had the pleasure of working with during his 15 years and counting reign over the downtown Powell’s storied Small Press section. When not curating the zine rack and slinging books, Kevin’s writing, editing, and running his own small press, Future Tense Books.
1. What’s your history working with Powell’s? How did you become the Small Press guy?
I started working at Powell’s at the end of 1997 as a holiday temp but I dug my claws in and worked hard and passionately so they couldn’t let me go. In 1998, I became an events coordinator, which means I get to schedule and host author events at the store, which is a privilege and a thrill. I became the small press guy around 2001. My predecessors were the amazing Vanessa Renwick and the late great Marty Kruse. Running the small press section is almost like running my own store. It’s an amazing experience. I love my jobs.
2. Do you remember your first encounter with Microcosm? Do you have any embarrassing or hair raising stories about our early days in Portland?
I remember Joe riding his bike down to the store with his plastic buckets strapped on with all the zines and books crammed into them. A couple of times the zines would be a little rough around the edges or dirty from the rain or dirt. I’d have to flatten out things or wipe them clean before I put them out on the shelf.
3. What’s your favorite Microcosm book or zine?
I was a big supporter of the Zinester’s Guide to Portland, even in its first pamphlet-size format. I thought it was a good idea, and before Microcosm had bigger distribution, I’d be the one who had to email you guys and ask for more. Eventually, after the more polished paperback editions came out, our main book purchasers wised up and started buying them in chunks of hundreds. It’s been one of our most consistent best-selling books in the store for several years now.
Some of my other favorites over the years have been Coffeehouse Crushes, Indestructible by Cristy Road, Sarah Royal’s The Book Bindery, the About My Disappearance zines by Dave Roche, and Sarah Mirk’s Sex From Scratch.
4. You’ve been a mentor and something of a bellwether for Portland’s small press and zine culture. How have you watched those scenes change over time? What do you predict for the future?
Thank you. I have always enjoyed supporting small presses and individuals through my job. The scene here has grown just as the city has grown–very quickly and with a wide swath. I think we’re slowly getting more diverse and inclusive and there’s a beautiful synergy that can often be witnessed between established writers and authors and newer writers coming up. I think that’s one of the reasons writers keep moving here, because they know something special is happening here. But in the last couple of years, the rent problems are making it a challenge to stay here. It’s a trend (the higher cost of living) that I hope doesn’t continue because when you discourage the creative class—who often come from financial struggle–it results in the sad decline of artistic excitement in a city. I don’t want that part of Portland to be “over”—I want it to to stay a haven for artists and risk-takers.
We’ve got an exciting lineup coming out this fall. Here’s a little bit about each of them, and a link to order or pre-order. We’ll let you all know on social media as soon as these are available, or you can sign up for our monthly email newsletter to find out the latest:
Manor Threat: Snake Pit Comics 2013-2015
(paperback, 256 pages, 6×8″, 978-1-62106-381-0)
The latest three years of Ben Snakepit’s life, in the form of a daily 3-panel diary comic, each titled with a punk song. In this latest book, Ben turns 40, makes a whole bunch of life changes, continues to play in bands, and finds out he can’t party as much as he used to.
Railroad Semantics: Better Living Through Graffiti and Train Hopping
(box set, 4 books, 5.5×7″, $19.95, 978-1-62106-356-8)
Join Aaron Dactyl on his travels all around the U.S. west, hopping freight trains, hitchhiking, sleeping indoors or out, dodging bulls, tagging, and experiencing every day as it comes.
Sprouts: Live Well with Living Foods
(paperback, 128 pages, 5.25×6.75″, $9.95 978-1-62106-491-6
Ian Giesbrecht shares his passion for the magic and science of sprouts, including helpful year-round, indoor sprouting instructions and tips, and tasty recipes!
Bikenomics: How Bicycling Can Save the Economy (second edition)
(paperback, 192 pages, 6×9, $14.95, 978-1-62106-240-0)
An updated version of Elly Blue’s vision for a more equitable, economical, environmental world, plus a new introduction to the book that originally came out in 2012. This book makes the case for bicycle transportation as a strong investment for individuals and communities, and has been successfully used at creating changes in cities and advocacy approaches around the world.
Punk Rock Entrepreneur: Running a Business Without Losing Your Values
(paperback, 6×6, 128 pages, $9.95, 978-1-62106-951-5)
Caroline Moore takes business lessons from the unlikeliest of sources—touring DIY punk bands—and shows you how to apply them, plus a ton of hard work, to succeed in launching and growing your passion into paying work in today’s tough economy. The real takeaway: Lack of money and resources can actually be a good thing when it comes to building your biz.
God, Forgive These Bastards
(paperback + vinyl record in a polyvinyl slipcover, $19.95, 978-1-62106-218-9)
Rob Morton and his band The Taxpayers team up for this multimedia release, with a page turning novel and a jazzpunk LP combining to tell the story of a disgraced college baseball star who roams the world burning bridges and courting catastrophe, and ultimately finding something, well, not quite like redemption.
Comfort Eating with Nick Cave: Vegan Recipes to Get Deep Inside of You
(paper over board, 6×6, 128 pages, $14.95, 978-1-62106-613-2)
Poor Nick Cave has a lot to cry about. Fortunately, while he sheds his tears, he can soothe himself with vegan variations on comforting classics. Joshua Ploeg wrote the recipes to accompany Automne Zingg’s poignant artwork.
Defensive Eating with Morrissey: Vegan Recipes From the One You Left Behind
(paper over board, 6×6, 128 pages, $14.95, 978-1-62106-203-5)
It’s tough being the saddest pop star in the world. How does Morrissey cope? By making sure he never, ever, ever runs out of delicious vegan food. Recipes by Joshua Ploeg to accompany illustrations of Moz and friends by Automne Zingg
The Beard Coloring Book
(paperback, 8×10″, 128 perforated pages, $12.95, 978-1-62106-995-9)
We are proud to present to you Meggyn Pomerleau’s utopian universe of beards—beautifully drawn, brilliantly diverse, and meditatively colorable.
The Post-Structuralist Vulva Coloring Book
(paperback, 8×10″, 128 perforated pages, $12.95, 978-1-62106-138-0)
We were just going to make a plain old Vulva Coloring Book, but the more we contemplated the idea of an entire book focusing on one single culturally-loaded body part and all of the identity and gender and historical and gaze implications of that, the more wigged out we got. We decided a healthy dose of poststructuralist philosophy would serve to confuse and illuminate matters in equal part, and so we present to you the labors of Meggyn Pomerleau’s art and Elly Blue’s scouring and decoding of literary theory, so that you too can appreciate fully the fact that nothing is inherent and the center cannot hold.
Amica’s World: How a Giant Bird Came Into Our Heart and Home
(paper over board, 6×6″, 128 pages, $16.95, 978-1-62106-282-0)
Jane Goodall wrote the foreward for mom-son team Washo and Meadow Shadowhawk’s photo account of what it’s like to adopt and raise a large, flightless bird in their not-so-large suburban home. Spoiler: It’s not a walk on the park! We learn a ton about rheas (a relative of the ostrich and emu), and Amica in particular, as he goes from sweet-natured chick to angry teenager practically overnight, eventually mellowing into an inquisitive, loving, high-maintenance adult.
On my commute, I usually spend about equal amounts of time thinking about what’s going on around me (Is that car up ahead going to dart out in front of me? Whoa, that old park is now a construction site!, etc.) and thinking about *problems.* Problems can include anything from figuring out how I should have managed a difficult conversation to a tricky editing conundrum to worrying about all the people who used to sleep in the park that is now being converted to a huge new building. Not every problem can be solved, but when they can be the solution usually comes while biking.
I don’t know if it’s the repetitive motion, or the the passing landscape, or just the big block of time when I can’t even glance at a computer screen or device, but biking time is pretty much the best thinking time. Entire essays write themselves, negotiations become untangled, and perspective on everything gets clearer. When I get to work, I’m ready to rumble.
At least… sometimes that happens. On other commutes, I just get further mired in my thoughts, finding new ways to argue a point that’s already been won or lost in years past, finding new reasons to resent problems that were never actually that big a deal. Even so, when I get to work with such a disorganized brain, I’ve usually gotten whatever it is out of my system and am ready to go. Problem: solved by other means.
Remembering the years when I had no commute, except to stumble into my living room with a cup of coffee, I wonder how I worked anything out or got anything done. I also wonder, though, if it’s the same with any sort of commute. Is the time you spent driving, or on the bus, as productive? I know walking is—maybe even more so, for me at least. I’d like to hear how these things play out for everyone else.
Last week, on whatever day it was in the nineties, I was riding home with our six foot long trailer attached to my already long cargo bike. On the trailer was another bicycle that I’d just picked up from the repair shop. It wasn’t the heaviest load, but I was cruising slowly to keep from jostling my load, enjoying the sun and my music.
As I went through the traffic circle in the center of Ladd’s Addition, I heard a roar behind me. It was a giant pickup truck, and as it passed me slowly, I saw a truly giant American flag waving in the wind behind the cab. I gave the driver a nod and a thumbs up, from one weirdo vehicle to another. He blushed bright red and almost smiled back as he continued on past, enjoying his own sunshine cruise.
On the next corner was the friendly woman who’s often there with a big red cooler, selling food to hungry passing cyclists. Instead of yelling “tamales” as usual, she was holding up her phone, filming the truck ahead of me. I saw her almost put the phone away, then spot me and keep filming, her commentary amping up a notch.
Was flag guy cruising around lefty southeast Portland to make a point meant to differentiate himself politically? Or was he like me, going home from work after picking up his flag at the flag repair shop, and making the best of the way people reacted to his rig? Either way, on our own we each looked like a different brand of freak; converging this way in the Ladd’s circle, we became something else entirely, either a set piece from Portlandia or just a couple people doing their own thing as they saw fit, and with an undeniable performative flair.