The Microcosm Interview with Dream Whip’s Bill Brown!

Alt textHere at Microcosm we have massive love for all-things Bill Brown. Over the last few years we’ve put out a few of the guy’s releases and just, like, two seconds ago we published his incredibly awesome compilation of Dream Whip issues 1-10. (You can get that here.) A couple days ago we talked to Bill about bikes, food, zines, and much more!

Q: For people who are totally new to the zine what can they expect from the new anthology?

A: I started to write Dream Whip back in 1994, after I fell off a skateboard and hit my head. That’s how I spent the 1990s. dizzy. Spinning around from one state to another. By issue 10, I wound up in Canada. That’s when I snapped out of it. One day, I woke up, and I was living with a guy in Saskatchewan who believed in demonic possession. Luckily, I had issues 1-9 to let me know how the hell I’d gotten there.

Q: You’ve got a rep as a travelin’ man. Are you going to be doing any events or touring behind the new one?

A: That’s what I’m hoping. I’d like to go on a big, long tour this summer. If you know anyone who wants to include a zine reading at their next birthday party or barbecue, please let me know.

Q: I first found out about your stuff after someone gave me a copy of one of your DVDs for Christmas. Got any new films coming out?

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A: Someone gave you my DVD as a Christmas present?! Man! I hope you thought it was an okay gift (Editor’s note: “It was! Definitely!”). Anyway, for a really long time now I’ve been working on a movie about 9/11 memorials. I’ve been visiting as many of them as I can. I like the ones that are in out-of-the-way places best: Dodge City, Kansas; Belen, New Mexico; the one in Hattiesburg, Mississippi is a replica of the Twin Towers with holes cut out of it where the planes hit.

Q: Besides the new anthology have you got any projects coming out you wanna tell us about?

A: I’ve been working on a bike project with Sabine Gruffat. It’s a participatory audio tour that you can do while you’re riding your bike. It’s called Bike Box. here’s a link.

Word association:
Draw: bomb
Food: Not Bombs
Law: no!
Fuel: french fry grease
Money: argh!

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Q: Finally, if your zine was a three course meal what would it be?

A: It’d be a 3-course TV dinner that you find in the freezer section of an IGA supermarket in some little town in Idaho. It expired a long time ago, but you buy it anyway, because it’s the only one that’s got a lentil loaf, a slice of vegan corn bread, and green beans. You take it over to the 7-11 and you ask the cute girl at the register if you can heat it up in the microwave and she smiles and asks you where you’re from. You grab a napkin and a plastic fork, and you walk over to the woods at the far end of the strip mall parking lot. Then you dig around in your backpack for the can of beer you stashed away for an occasion like this one, and you watch the light fade and the fireflies flash up in the tree tops.

Helping Out the Ol’ Microcosm

Like any DIY project, we’re in near-constant financial peril. That’s nothing new. And we know that most folks who support Microcosm don’t have a ton of cash to spare, especially in the form of a straight-up donation. So, rather than passing the hat around, here’s a chance to remind you all of other ways to support Microcosm!

bff_programBFF Program

Like a CSA (Community-Supported Agriculture) share that gives farmers a guarantee before their crops are harvested, our BFF’s help us by paying upfront for their zines and books! Publishing our titles means we pay the printing costs before any books are sold, so every BFF gives us a little peace of mind. Plus, it’s awesome for people to get mailed something new every month of the subscription! Check out the BFF program here.

Sliding Scale Pricing

The standby of DIY venues and house shows, pay-what-you-can prices allow people to give within their means. We don’t know of any other publisher that does this, but Microcosm offers sliding scale prices for titles we produce! We try to put stuff out for cheap, so extra dollars go a long way to keep our pricing sustainable.

Getting the Word Out

The cheapest way to help us out is by telling folks about Microcosm and distributing catalogs. It’s also so important that we wouldn’t be here without it! Check out our Press page for more info about getting the word out.

Microcosm operates as a not-for-profit collectively-run organization. All money goes back into the organization and new publishing projects. We choose not to be a 501(c)3 organization because it would require outside management, which is a challenge to any radical organization. For more information on this, Incite! Women of Color Against Violence edited a book challenging the non-profit industrial complex in The Revolution Will Not Be Funded, and resources are available on their website. This means that we don’t write grants or push tax-free contributions, so we instead keep things at the grassroots level. To find out more about how our money is spent, check out our 2009 and 2010 financial reports. We sincerely appreciate any help you all can throw down!

Questions about how we roll? Check out our recently overhauled FAQ or get in touch!


Next Stop Adventure zine Kickstarter, Video, and Interview with Matt Gauck!

Next Stop Adventure author Matt Gauck is runnin’ a Kickstarter campaign to fund a bike trip to Alaska, which will be the basis for his next issue! We talked to Matt about all that and a bunch more. Check out Matt’s Kickstarter page right here.

Q: You’re Kickstartering a trip to Alaska/the next issue of your zine. Tell us how that works.

A: Well, I’ll be the first to admit it feels weird to kickstart something like this, but it came from joking with some friends about all the ridiculous things that might “work” as Kickstarter projects, and I submitted one – half for fun, and half because, if it DID work, it would be a great resource of names to actually get the zine to people that really wanted to read it. One of my main problems with zine writing is that I can’t bring myself to write if I don’t think it will be read by anyone, and there’s a sort of “built-in” readers list with Kickstarter. That, and I have this terrible feeling that in the next three years, kickstater is going to become “the norm” for means to start any creative project. I’m just making it work while it’s still new-ish. To be fair, if I had a means of “pre-selling” my zine, I would’ve just done that. Minus my own sizable distribution point, this is the next best option.

Q: For people who haven’t gotten a chance to read your zine, tell us about it…

A: It’s called Next Stop Adventure, and it’s basically a “good-natured, tongue-in-cheek, funny” travel zine, that typically centers on riding my bicycle for a really long distance. It’s a bike zine, for sure, but the stories are usually less about the biking, and more about the experiences that crossing a state at 18mph allows for. I’ve read a bunch of travel zines, and they never talked specifically about the stuff that I wanted to read, so I made a zine that did. Do you wash your clothes? What do you eat? What should a normal person expect when going on their first bike tour? I answer those questions with hilarious stories that end up with me on a rooftop, in a dumpster, or maybe even hiding in a covered slide at a Burger King. I aim for the first adjective used to describe the zine to be “inspiring.”

Q: How did you get into zine-makin’?

A: I used to draw for a bunch of punk zines in the North Carolina area back in high school (’96-’99) and that’s where self-publishing took its grip on me. As for writing my own, it wouldn’t happen until 2005, when I was back in school, and had just done a four-day bike trip across most of South Carolina, and the story was so funny that I was sick of emailing all my friends nearly-identical accounts of it. I decided it might have some kind of interested audience, so I made like 10 of them. I gave them all away, made a couple more, mailed those away to friends, and was all of the sudden getting a good response.

Q: What are some of the books/zines you’ve read lately?

A: I try to stagger my reading back and forth, usually “political then adventure.” I just finished You Can’t Win and I had been reading a Thor Heyerdahl book about crossing the Atlantic ocean on a raft made from reeds. Guerrilla USA is what I’m finishing up now – I got it from the library, it’s about the George Jackson Brigade, up in the NW back in ’70s. So crazy. Then I have a book on astral projection I’m really excited about. As for zines, I read one on UFOs the other day; One Way Ticket is always good, Bring on the Dancing Horses was great, I constantly re-read Big Hands, and I’ll leap on anything that’s traded to me. I finally finished Rod Coronado’s zines too, the Strong Hearts ones. Super good. OH and there’s a huge archive of impossible to find animal rights zines on some friends’ website

Q: What kind of zines would you say you gravitate towards?

A: I feel most compelled to read about bike touring ones, but they always fall short for me. I love reading about low-scale scams and crime stuff, and animal rights zines are always high on my list. On the other end, I can get into some comics occasionally, but usually just Ken Dahl’s stuff. I’m terrible at reading fiction. Non-fiction stories that sound like fiction are my favorite.

Q: Finally, if you had to get one zine’s title tattooed into your flesh what would it be?

A: HA! Well, as goofy as it sounds, I already have “next stop adventure” tattooed above my knees BUT if I was going beyond that one, I’d definitely say “Murder Can be Fun.” I wouldn’t get messed with when I’m camping on the side of the road.

The Microcosm Interview with How & Why’s Matte Resist!

We recently had an email chat with How & Why author Matte Resist about his new book, the definition of “work,” and building a DIY time machine!

Q: How did the book come about? What was the genesis of the thing?

A: The motivation of the book was Joe asking me if I’d like to do the follow up for Making Stuff and Doing Things, but really I’d been thinking about doing a DIY book for a long time. I’d written a lot of DIY plans for my zine (Resist), some of which were used in Making Stuff and Doing Things and I had started compiling other plans and ideas for a future book. Most of them centered around bicycle repair and modification. After How to Rock & Roll and Chainbreaker came out, I felt that the bicycle repair ground had been pretty well covered so a lot of the articles that I had actually written and illustrated were scrapped and I started writing about other projects I was doing. Some of the projects were things I wanted to do but hadn’t found time or motivation to do until I was writing a book.

Q: Have you had much feedback from people who’ve completed the projects?

A: I’ve gotten some feedback from the bike trailer plans which were included in Resist #46. All of it has been positive except for one person who said it was too heavy. Very little of the rest has seen print before now, at least not in its current form, so there’s been little time for feedback. I will say that since I’ve started writing about gardening that is by far the topic I receive the most questions about. I always try to share what I know but usually wish that I knew more and could offer more information.  I read a quote once that sums it up pretty well, something to the effect of “I’m a very old man, but a very young gardener.”  Taming nature is no easy task and even after a lifetime of trying there’s still a lot to learn! Mostly I’ve heard that the plans are easy to follow and that the illustrations usually answer any questions that come up, which is exactly what I was shooting for!

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Q: If a really young kid—say 10 or 12—asked you to define the concept of DIY—your own personal version of it—in one sentence what would you say?

A: It’s about learning to do things for yourself instead of always buying everything you need from the store.

Q: If you built a time machine and went back to meet your great-great-great grandfather and he asked you to define “happiness” in one sentence what would you say?

A: I’d say, “Grandpa, you know as well as I that happiness is about loving and being loved.”

Q: If your first boss of your first-ever job asked you to define the word “work” in one sentence what would you say?

A: Then or now? (and what’s with all this once sentence crap? I’m a storyteller not a poet!) At 15 years old I probably would have said, “It’s a necessary evil.”  Now? Maybe I’d say, “It’s the act of being productive, and doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with a job.”

Q: If an interstellar spaceship landed in your backyard and an alien climbed out and asked you to define your planet in one sentence what would you say?

A: It’s on the brink of a major upheaval which will either lead to total collapse or a resurgence of simple living.

Word Association Time!
1 Bike – ride
2 Tree – house
3 Punk – ethics
4 America – for sale
5 Publish- self

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Q: Finally, do you have any new projects coming up?
A: Yes, I have two major upcoming projects but they’re both top secret! Other than those, I’m hoping to finish up some work on our basement.  I’ve been meaning to install a bathroom for a few years and I think I’m actually going to do that this year.  We’ve also been thinking about having a small home recording studio which would double as a spare bedroom. I’m working on an improved sidecar design and a couple trailer designs for very specialized purposes. I have MANY more things I want to try with musical instrument building. (Percussion and amp building are on my mind right now.) Also, I’m building a time machine so I can go back to meet my great-great-great grandfather and ask him to define “happiness” in one sentence. I just hope I don’t mess up the space-time continuum in the process.

Order out How & Why right here.

2010 Financial Statement

Dino finances

For the sake of transparency and to operate under the same requirements of a 501c3, we will continue to publish our financial reports.

2010 Income $383,024.12 (increased $70,000 from last year) 



Total staff wages (divided between Nate, Jessie, Rio, Adam, Joe, Matt, Rio, Sparky, Steven, Dylan, and Chris) $47,298.74. (Paying an average annual wage of $4,729.87) (50% decrease!, 12% of budget))

Printing Bills $57,587.66 (a 26% decrease, 14.8% of budget)

Shipping $69,352.77 (73% increase!, 17.9% of budget)

Publishers and distributors $129,365.09 (339% increase, 33.5% of budget)

Zines bought from makers $24,315.73 (35% decrease, 6.2% of budget) 

Rent $14,480 (3.6% of budget)

Utilities, insurance, phone, office supplies, etc $6,682.77 (1.7% of budget)

Royalties to authors $20,256 (47% increase!, 5.2% of budget))

Travel $4,881 (1.2% of budget)

Catalog Printing $3,658.93 (.9% of budget)

Donations $4,975 

Staff Healthcare $3,576 (.9% of budget)

Advertising $4,410.52 (1% of budget)


Zines about zines Total Expenses $385,865.21

Total $-7,815.47 (loss) 

We’ve made two significant changes to our operation—we will no longer be publishing as many books and we will have stronger requirements for the zines that we distribute. The former change was decided at our annual meeting in May of 2010, but due to the weight of our existing release schedule, it took some time to reach that point. 

In the future we will focus primarily on publishing instructional DIY books and distributing DIY themed, politically powerful, and popular zines. 

Distributed zines will be required to sell at least 40 copies per issue per year in order to remain in the catalog. Because we have such an extensive zine catalog and pay zinemakers before the zines have sold, we end up buying a lot of zines that sadly live their lives in the packing room, not being read.

We think that with these changes we should be back on our feet by the end of the year and able to pay the zinemakers, ourselves, and our bills. 

In the short term, our finances are in dire straits. We are working hard to pay off bills from December. If you are able to donate, it would be an excellent time. We’ve recently took on a lot of new items in the catalog and published the new How and Why and Edible Secrets books. After hopes that our holiday sales would cover

more of these expenses, it seems we’ve bit off a bit more than we can chew. The writing has always been on the wall that there isn’t much money in this kind of work. 

We have decided to operate as not-for-profit without being a 501c3, because, to an extent, it allows us to put our mission ahead of our finances without being managed by an outside board of directors. Being a collectively-run publisher and distributor of zines and related work is important to us, and as always, Microcosm strives to add credibility to zine writers and their ethics, teach self empowerment, show hidden history, and nurture people’s creative side! 

We are currently accepting donations:

You can send paypal donations to 

Alt text You could call with a credit card donation. (503) 232-3666. Checks can go to Microcosm 636 SE 11th Ave. Portland, OR 97214. Please specify it’s a donation with your check so we don’t think we need to mail you something beyond our eternal gratitude.

But here’s to many more years of successful support of zine makers, distribution of radical literature, and giving people access to information—in print—that they is difficult to come by. 

All orders are also extra appreciated right now.

Thanks for all of the years of support!


(Illustration by Rio Safari)


We have a quick update on our ongoing campaign wherein folks trade in Kindles for their price in books. Here’s the bounty scored by a zine lover in NYC when she traded her Kindle in!

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ABOUT THE KINDLE EXCHANGE: Do you love print? Do you still read books? Did you get a Kindle for Christmas? Do you want to trade in your soulless faux-literary technology for its worth in good old fashioned books? Well, friends, Microcosm Publishing’s got your back! Beginning RIGHT NOW you can bring in your Christmas Kindle to the Microcosm store in Portland (636 SE 11th) and trade it in for its worth in new or used books and zines! That’s right! Why let fad technology kill print when you can take a stand and fill up your shelves in the process. (Don’t worry, we won’t tell your parents.) And make sure to bring a friend to help you carry all your loot; most of the store’s books are priced in the $2-$6 range so a $139-$189 trade-in (note: going retail for the Kindle at Amazon’s site) you might be carrying your books out in a fleet of wheelbarrows!

On Amazon’s Kindle page you’ll be able to read glowing endorsements like the following, “”My first impression of Kindle’s screen was: ‘That’s a screen?! It doesn’t look like a screen.’… It looks like a book page, only perfect. No grain or pulp.”—Jeremy.”

Well, you know what, Jeremy? We love the and grain and pulp. Long live the grain and pulp! Long live the PAGE.

Thanks for helping to keep print alive!

Microcosm Publishing book and zine store
636 SE 11th
Portland, Or 97214
11am-7pm, Seven days a week

Microcosm Zine Store in Portland Will Exchange Real Books For Unwanted Kindles!

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(illustration by Rio Safari) 

Do you love print? Do you still read books? Did you get a Kindle for Christmas? Do you want to trade in your soulless faux-literary technology for its worth in good old fashioned books? Well, friends, Microcosm Publishing’s got your back! Beginning RIGHT NOW you can bring in your Christmas Kindle to the Microcosm store in Portland (636 SE 11th) and trade it in for its worth in new or used books and zines! That’s right! Why let fad technology kill print when you can take a stand and fill up your shelves in the process. (Don’t worry, we won’t tell your parents.) And make sure to bring a friend to help you carry all your loot; most of the store’s books are priced in the $2-$6 range so a $139-$189 trade-in (note: going retail for the Kindle at Amazon’s site) you might be carrying your books out in a fleet of wheelbarrows!

On Amazon’s Kindle page you’ll be able to read glowing endorsements like the following, “”My first impression of Kindle’s screen was: ‘That’s a screen?! It doesn’t look like a screen.’… It looks like a book page, only perfect. No grain or pulp.”—Jeremy.”

Well, you know what, Jeremy? We love the and grain and pulp. Long live the grain and pulp! Long live the PAGE.

Thanks for helping to keep print alive!

Microcosm Publishing book and zine store
2752 N Williams Ave
Portland, Or 97227
11am-7pm, Seven days a week

Since opening doors in August 2008, the Microcosm zine and book store has moved twice to larger locations. In an age when out-of-touch doomsayers are hoping to drive the final nail in the print media coffin, Microcosm continues to prove that people still buy books and zines and that running a DIY bookstore (and publishing books) in this day and age isn’t a damned proposition. The new store location is in the massive 636 SE 11th building shared with likeminded folks Eberhardt Press and Printed Matter (and a skateramp.) The store is open seven days a week and features a full scale reading area and coffee counter. Check with for regular author signings, readings, and potlucks!

The Microcosm Interview with Edible Secrets’ Michael Hoerger and Mia Partlow!

What do top-secret CIA assassination plots, Black Panther arrests, and Reaganomics have in common? Food, of course! Michael Hoerger and Mia Partlow collect, contextualize and graphically narrate declassified government documents with food as a theme! Over 500,000 declassified memos, debriefings and transcripts were combed to uncover some of the most important and iconic people and narratives from US history. Providing a voyeuristic insight into the US government, these documents are like reality TV for politicos and foodies: Assassinations by milkshake, subliminal popcorn cravings, Reagan’s love of hydroponics, and what could be Fred Hampton’s most radical action—giving ice cream to small children. Illustrated throughout by Nate Powell.

Keep tabs on the regularly updated Edible Secrets blog right here. And get a copy of the book here!

Q: For anyone who hasn’t gotten a chance to read the book give us a little overview. What can people expect?
MH: An entertaining introduction to government secrecy and radical US history…starring food. Assassination by milkshake, a communist Jell-O box, subliminal popcorn cravings. It’s political voyeurism for foodies! Through food and declassified documents we’ve graphically narrated histories of the Black Panther Party, the execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, Fidel Castro and Cuba, US government experiments on humans, globalization, and more.

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MP: We tried very hard to make the book accessible and interesting to people of all ilks. There are graphics with information like “Top Five CIA Pranks on Fidel Castro,” which gives a little overview of the five most ridiculous assassination attempts/attempts to annoy Castro, or a graphic depicting all of the interactions the Black Panthers had with the police from 1968-1969 (hint: there were a lot). And there are also essays for people who want to delve a little deeper, which give a history of the documents and a little background that explains how that document came to be–for example, why did the US government fund a study on subliminal messaging, or how did Reagan come to be sitting in a room talking about hydroponic lettuce? Those questions get us into discussions of experiments with mind control and the US legacy of creating better torturers, and discussions of food subsidies and how the world food supply is propped up in order to keep capitalism legitimate. Like I said, something for everybody!

Q: How did you guys get a hold of the documents you used? How long did it take you to collect them all?
MH: The documents were casually collected over many years.  The first document I found by mistake.  Late one night I was searching a computer database of declassified CIA documents and, in a moment of boredom, decided to search for Jello Biafra of the punk band the Dead Kennedys.  No results came up for Biafra (though I’m sure he has quite the FBI file out there somewhere), but the document featured in the book about Julius and Ethel Rosenberg and the notorious Jell-O box popped up.

The documents were collected over a period of 5 years from library collections and online databases. If you’re interested in declassified documents, you should start by asking your local librarian for help finding them. And in the book we include a sample Freedom of Information Act Request.  Before becoming a book, Edible Secrets was a portable art installation of the documents (enlarged and screen-printed), historical artifacts, dioramas, art, and even featured an audio tour at one point.

Q: The super awesome Nate Powell does the illustrations for this one. How was it working with him?
MH: Nate Powell and I were roommates for many years, including when Edible Secrets was conceived of.  So it was great to work with Nate, as he was the primary sounding board for all things Edible Secrets.  And Nate is an illustrating genius, and produced perfect illustrations for each chapter and a beautiful cover.  There were a couple that didn’t make it into the book; maybe we’ll put those up someday.

MP: Nate is amazing! Besides being an awesome illustrator with the power to tell an entire story in a single pen-stroke, he is a super nice person with a wonderful creative energy.

Q: What do you think of this whole WikiLeaks thing?
MP: One of the more interesting things happening right now connected to WikiLeaks is the dialogue occurring around the issue of Julian Assange (the face of WikiLeaks) and sexual assault. There have been some good discussions in the media about it. As writers we feel it is important to confront these issues head on. When sexual assault victims are used as pawns, all victims and survivors ultimately lose, because the rhetoric around assault is clouded with other objectives. 

MH: As for the (most recent) leaks themselves, they are intriguing.  The most recent WikiLeak, dubbed Cablegate, is a data dump of 200,000+ state department cables; essentially internal memos from US embassies abroad.  The documents released so far (only 1% of the documents are available to the public) do not provide any earth-shattering revelations, but are interesting for the level of candor in the narrative voices.  They read more like emails between friends -kinda evil, profit-hungry friends- than official US documents or declarations.

PS, be on the lookout for our Gastronomical Guide to Cablegate, as we could not resist the temptation of using the food filter on Wikileaks: socialist sandwiches, Chinese licorice machine parts, and more government favors for Coca-Cola.

Q: What’s next for you guys? You have an event coming up soon. Tell us a little about that…
MH: Right now we are just trying to get the book out there.  On January 15th we’ll be doing a presentation on the book at Bluestockings in New York City.  After that we hope to do some events in the Midwest and maybe attend some book fairs.

As for next projects, we are tossing some ideas around: a history of plane hijackings before 9/11, a resource guide for prison abolition, and potentially a memoir/cultural history of asthma if Mia ever finishes that quilt she’s been working on.

Q: Finally, give us your top five favorite foods…
MH: beets, pizza, cupcakes, brussels sprouts, ice cream
MP: lentils, soup of almost any kind, sourpatch kids (corporate vegan deliciousness), vegan wings with homemade buffalo sauce and vegan ranch dressing, and ice cream.

Building a Cookie Tin Banjo with How & Why!

I’m a banjo enthusiast. That’s something I’ve made peace with. But building a banjo? I never thought I’d be capable of managing a hacksaw while keeping my jugular intact, let alone make a scrappy instrument that sounds rad! While editing How & Why, our latest DIY guide for the next apocalypse, Matte Resist’s instructions for building musical instruments gave me the push to try it out myself—and build a fretless banjo from a cookie tin.

Cookies plus banjos. It wasn’t a hard sell for me.

I bought an old cookie tin with a 9” diameter for $1. It provides a sturdy base to hold the neck (along with the tension of the strings) while being a good carrier of sweet tunes. Bigger equals louder. Then I cut a slot for the neck with a box cutter (see below) on what would be at the bottom of the tin’s side—that way, I can still take off the lid when the banjo’s done!

Diagram 1

Want to learn to construct your own banjo f or just a few bucks? Pick up your own copy of How and Why!