In our continuing saga to update you on the ever-slightly-changing story of our Microcosm, we present you: How to use a Microcosm Store!
For this episode of Meet Microcosm we talk to the newly moved Portland store!
Q: So, Portland store, you just moved to a new location. Tell us what people can expect from the new spot and how it’s different than the last two…
Joe: Well, the store can no longer be compared to metaphors about a clown car. I was honestly amazed to see how much stuff we had shoe-horned into the old store once it was spread out in our warehouse. And prior to that we were in Liberty Hall, which was more like an office than a store. Our setups were just not geared for browsing; they were setup for packing orders. Now we have 600 sq’ of store with all of our stuff nicely spread out and with lots of displays and attention to each little area. We get to show off all our little murals and you don’t have to pick stuff up to find what you’re looking for. Yes, that was fun but people also need to be able to browse. My favorite part is that, because the books were so jam-packed onto the old shelves, people always think the book they just noticed is new, when we have often had it for 2-3 years. But we are still getting in new books regularly—at least as fast as they come out—and we’ve got lots of books that our mailorder catalog doesn’t. What fun. It’s like a diamond hunt. We’ve also got tons of old and new zines and even more shelves for them. It’s still fun. Maybe I just like building shelves and seeing the signs that Matt, Rio, and Pamela paint on them.
Q: Who are you sharing a space with this time around and what’s it like being with them? Do you guys ever have roommate fights (or haughty pillowfights?)
Joe: We share our building now with Printed Matter who does textile screenprinting like our patches, Eberhardt Press who does offset printing like our zines, and Bruce the letterpress guy who we haven’t figured out how to incorporate into our shop yet. The artist Klutch (not to be confused with the comic Clutch) also has a studio in our building for painting. It’s rad to be with people that have aesthetic, ethical, and political similarities to our organization and who work really hard for everything they’ve got. I find it really encouraging to be around other people who are putting in long hours. Sadly there have not yet been any pillow fights. But we haven’t lost hope.
Q: The neighborhood you’re in has some really cool stores, including the Vegan Strip Mall. If someone was coming from out of town, where would you suggest going for a mini tour of the ‘hood?
Joe: We are two short blocks from Sweetpea Bakery, Herbivore Clothing, Food Fight Grocery, Scapegoat Tattoo, and The Red & Black Cafe, all of whom we seem to share a lot of patrons with. I think it’s important to visit each one to see what the deal is. With all of us in tow, and the hardware store in between, virtually all of your needs can be met! You’ve also gotta visit the dog park, to play everybody else’s puppies, which is great, because you can play fetch and rub bellies without having to clean up after them! I really like this neighborhood and we plan to be here for years to come.
Q: Last I heard you have a lot of people coming from other countries to check out the selection. True? What kinds of things do they buy?
Joe: The people from Canada are the sweetest, the cutest are from Australia, but the Europeans really nail it just for being so damned interested—and interesting! Strangely, they are just like you or me. They buy zines though they tend to read a little more and have longer attention spans. So when I see a Canadian or European, I try to point them to the “you must be insane to read over 600 pages” or “things no one is ever going to buy” sections. I particularly enjoy it when you get a friendly person from a country that is primarily non-English speaking but is a huge fan of zines. Because they don’t often have a lot of zines being produced in their native country and the only ones they can get are written in English, they are very excited to load up while in the store. And in that regard, Americans often tend to ask for what you, the shopkeeper, like. People from other countries still have the skill that I hear Americans had in used bookstores before the 1980s, where they could browse a zine for 5-10 seconds and determine if they are interested in it. Fascinating. I think it’s worth mentioning that Japan sends over some visitors who are SO excited about bikes and zines that they buy tons of stuff. Watching out-of-towner’s faces take the magnitude of the store in is pretty funny, too.
Q: What are some of your favorite things you have in you right now?
Joe: That Gabby Schulz/Ken Dahl book Monsters is just so-fucking-unbelievably-good. The new Ariel Gore book Bluebird about happiness is great. That and virtually any zine in the store.
Rio: R. Crumb’s Illustrated Book of Genesis. And a micro-zine about bad ass women called Bad Ass #2 by Mark Todd.
Matt: The Getting Out book on leaving the US is pretty rad, and that new Gristle book rules! Zine Libs is always a favorite.
Q: What have people been buying a lot of lately?
Joe: Two women bought over one hundred stickers yesterday. Other than that, a close runner up is Henry & Glenn Forever.
Rio: The Poor Man’s James Bond 2!
Matt: We sold three copies of Girls Aren’t Chicks coloring book the other day. DIY Submachine Gun was a major victory.
Q: Give us five things you have that might surprise us…
Rio: We have a section for coloring books! All of our shirts are neatly folded and displayed! A jackalope watches over our Cometbus/Doris display! The last two surprises are that we can fit thirty odd people in here (for a change) and they’d all have room to dance.
Q: Finally, who works inside your storebody and what are their superpowers?
Matt can paint on any surface with any material as ink. He can make anything like visually amazing. His work stills beating hearts. Rio retired his lucrative gig as a snake oil salesman to work here. He can find the perfect zine for any customer that walks in our doors. He also fixes shoes. Robin worked in stores before this one and knows how to do mythical things like “help customers” and “interact with the outside world.” Pamela has the patience to spend over an hour painting single millimeter brush strokes onto a canvas because she can envision the final result. Joe can find any pile of trash and conceptualize how it’s practical or even useful to build into something for the store.
(Photo credit: All photos by Elly Blue)
Dear awesome pals,
Always looking for new ways to keep print media alive, we at the Microcosm Publishing clubhouse have teamed up with the super sweet Kickstarter.com, a new fundraising website that allows artists and small companies to appeal for donations for upcoming projects. Recently profiled on Pitchfork Media and in the New York Times, Kickstarter works on a time-based system; you set the amount you want to raise for your project; family, friends, and fans can donate via the site; and if the amount isn’t raised by the specified date, no money is given over to the project. Rad.
Our Kickstarter project is publishing an anthology of the beloved long-running zine Scam which will cost over $11,000 to print. Scam is a hard look at finding a better way to live, about pushing for ultimate freedom, and discovering the alternative histories of America. As said A People’s History of America author Howard Zinn about Scam editor Erick Lyle, “Forget the statistics and pretentious analysis of urban society. Take a walk through the city with Erick Lyle and discover the reality of how people live in an American city.” The Scam anthology will collect Lyle’s long out-of-print work and give it a deserved platform for all to read.
Everyone who donates something will receive a gift in return–with increasingly larger gifts as the donation amount goes up! (The gifts are listed below the press release.)
To read more about Microcosm’s Kickstarter campaign and watch a video describing the whole shebang, go to http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/897079804/scam-the-first-four-issues
For questions email firstname.lastname@example.org
Joe Biel, Jessie Duquette, Rio Safari, E. Chris Lynch, Steven Stoddard, Sparky Taylor, Matt Gauck, Adam Gnade, and Wade the Cat.
Pledge $5 or more
You will receive updates about this project and we’ll give you a shout out for making it all happen on our website and in our newsletter.
Pledge $10 or more
In addition to the above, you will receive a copy of 13 Years of Goodluck.
Pledge $15 or more
In addition to the above, you will get a copy of the Scam Anthology and we’ll add your name to the Special Thanks section on the website and in our newsletter.
Pledge $25 or more
In addition to the above, you also get a copy of the Zine Yearbook #9
Pledge $30 or more
In addition to the above, you also get a copy of Xtra Tuf #5 by Moe Bowstern
Pledge $35 or more
In addition to the above, you also get a copy of Xerography Debt #25 and #26
Pledge $45 or more
In addition to the above, you also get a copy of Cantankerous Titles DVD
Pledge $50 or more
In addition to the above, you also get a copy of Sounds of Your Name by Nate Powell
Pledge $60 or more
In addition to the above, you also get a copy of Dreamwhip 14 by Bill Brown
Pledge $65 or more
In addition to the above, you also get a copy of Constant Rider by Kate Lopresti
Pledge $75 or more
In addition to the above, you also get a copy of the Best of Intentions by Keith Rosson
Pledge $85 or more
In addition to the above, you also get a copy of Things Are Meaning Less by Al Burian
Pledge $100 or more
In addition to the above, you also get an original edition $100 & T-shirt DVD
Pledge $200 or more
In addition to the above, you also get a six-month BFF subscription (we will send you all of our new published titles each month)
Pledge $300 or more
In addition to the above, you get all of those plus a copies of Brainfag Forever by Nate Beaty, Chainbreaker Bike Book, CIA Makes Science Fiction Unexciting #5, Distance Makes The Heart Grow Sick by Cristy Road, DIY Screenprinting by John Isaacson, Dwelling Portably ’80-89, I Hate This Part of Texas/Keep Loving, Keep Fighting, Invincible Summer Volumne I and II by Nicole Georges, Mostly True by Bill Daniel, My Brain Hurts Vol. 1 by Liz Baille, Rough Guide to Bicycle Maintenance, Snakepit 2007 by Ben Snakepit, Still We Ride DVD, Welcome to the Dahl House by Ken Dahl, X Ray Visions DVD (and soundtrack CD), and Zinester’s Guide to Portland
Pledge $400 or more
In addition to the above, you also get copies of The CIA Makes Science Fiction Unexciting #1-4, On Subbing by Dave Roche, Doris Anthology by Cindy Crabb, Hot Damn & Hell Yeah / The Dirty South Cookbook by Vanessa Doe and Ryan Splint, Best of Intentions: The Avow Anthology by Keith Rossen, Coffeeshop Crushes, Homeland Insecurity DVD, and a Microcosm T-shirt
In our continued efforts to be more transparent in everything that goes on at your friendly neighborhood radical zine store, here are our finances from 2009:
2009 Income $313,423.46
Total staff wages (divided between Nate, Jessie, Adam, Joe, Matt, Rio, Sparky, Steven, and Chris) $84,616.02. (Paying an average annual wage of $9,401.78)
Printing Bills $76,188.34
Publishers and distributors $38,303.33
Zines bought from makers $37,558.21
Rent, utilities, insurance, phone, office supplies, etc $14,709.02
Royalties to authors $13,417.13
Catalog Printing $6,851.93
Staff Healthcare $3,165.06
Total Expenses $334,388.25
Total $-20,964.79 (loss)
(which was partly borrowed, partly taken from income from the following year, and partly from savings)
It was a pretty rough year for us. There was one point where it looked like we might have to start working for free, but several factors converged to carry us into the forseeable future.
Despite not being a 501(c)3 organization, we are working hard to act in accordance to the rules opposed on these type of nonprofit organizations. This way we will keep our mission statement in mind through all of our decisions and show you our annual finances.
As a teenager, I used to read and really appreciate the financial reports in Maximum Rocknroll—even when I didn’t understand more than whether they made or lost money. And then in 1994, it was strange to see that as punk broke, so did MRR‘s finances—in a positive way! I can’t wish such a burden on zinemaking again, but perhaps something less obnoxious can be our financial boon.
So here’s to many more years of successful supporting of zine makers, distribution of radical literature, and giving people access to information—in print—that they find hard to come by.
All that said, now is an excellent time for financial donations of all shapes and sizes. We will be launching a campaign on Kickstarter.com in the coming weeks to support the printing of our next book: Scam: The First Four Issues.
But you don’t have to wait for that and sending financial donations just to support our general operating expenses are always needed and appreciated!
You can send paypal donations to email@example.com or checks to Microcosm 222 S Rogers St. Bloomington, IN 47404. Please specify it’s a donation with your check so we don’t think we need to mail you something beyond our eternal gratitude.
For this episode of our Meet Microcosm blog series we talk to Joe Biel about weirdo funlands, nontraditional tours, and the importance of trash.
Q: First off let’s talk Cantankerous Titles. You just released a new comic, the epically funny (and epically sweet) lovestory between Glenn Danzig and Henry Rollins, Henry and Glenn Forever. Tell us a little about Cantankerous…
A: Cantankerous was intended to be the stuff that either wasn’t appropriate for Microcosm to publish thematically or things that I felt were appropriate for Microcosm and other collective members did not. But Henry and Glenn Forever was something that Tom Neely approached me about because he liked the look of Jesse Reklaw’s Applicant and he knew my style. It was, of course, stupidly successful and can only continue to be that. I thought it would take years to sell out a print run but it took two weeks.
That said, I don’t want Cantankerous to feel like it only catches dregs or is more of a hodgepodge. I definitely see it as having a coherent style, form, and presentation, even if that is probably not yet clear to someone on the outside and some mistakes will probably be made along the way. Because I don’t have a nest egg to invest into printing books and don’t have a warehouse, all of the releases so far have been DVDs and zines. That may change over time and right now I’m honestly signing onto projects as they come up and don’t know what I’ll be doing next week!
Q: What’s coming up for Cantankerous? Any dream projects you’d like to release?
A: The original idea was that since Microcosm would not be doing DVDs anymore, I could release some classic and upcoming no-budget scrappy documentaries with it. But those films haven’t really emerged yet. I’ll probably self-release my new documentary Aftermass which should be finished in the next year and is about the new bicycle activist scene in Portland post-Critical Mass.
I would really like to become more of a beacon for filmmakers who share something of an ideological base with this idea of no-budget digital video that is more centered in journalism than art form. But I honestly don’t know how many people exist out there like that. Stay tuned. If you build it….?
Q: Tell us about the super-rad PDOT!
A: My involvement with The People’s Department of Transportation (PDOT) was kind of a spin off of working on Aftermass. I was very attuned to conversations in town around activism and a lot of folks don’t really want to bump heads or even rub elbows with people who work in official capacity of city planning and transportation. So new groups would start and I would go to their meetings and talk to people or shoot what was happening and it would kind of fizzle out as the role of the organization was being made clear in group process, rather than a few people getting together and saying, “This is what we are doing. Who is with us?”
So with PDOT, a half dozen people were talking about problems that were going on in their neighborhoods—mostly city streets like 39th, Powell, or Foster being managed as state highways by ODOT and how citizens could respond to that. In Howard Zinn’s last living interview he was asked what people can do who feel that voting is futile. His response was very simple: “Organize locally in your communities.” And that sticks with me a lot when I’m assessing how to impact a problem.
The city was building a wall between the light rail station and the bus stop in the 3rd busiest transit center of the city so The People found it necessary to embarrass ODOT for such ridiculous behavior. It turns out that the whole project started because the city had identified that area as a “crime problem” but all discussions around it talked about “jay walking” which wasn’t happening. If you are 150 feet from a marked crosswalk, it is legal for you to cross the street in what is legally defined as an unmarked crosswalk. But on 82nd Ave, where this was occurring, the biggest concern of ODOT was to stonewall any effort to make pedestrians safer, e.g. slow down traffic. And they were quite effective at creating a scenario that is even less statistically safe.
So what followed were some informational videos, a chicken suit, a series of crossing guard actions, a lot of press coverage, and numerous public figures and organizations publicly changing their stance on “The wall of 82nd Ave”
Future projects must remain slightly secretive but there is some big shit brewing.
Q: As far as living situations you live about as far as it gets from the white picket fence, 2.5 kids, and two-car garage. Tell us about the weirdo funland that is the compound, the trailer, and the treehouse…
A: I live on six lots of land in inner-Northeast Portland with four other people. Calling it unique might still be selling it a bit short. My landlord, Fred Nemo, is proof that you don’t have to give up the dream and he’s providing a living situation and lifestyle that I honestly couldn’t afford otherwise—where I can focus on the things that I want to do instead of paying the going rates of rent around here.
I live in a travel trailer that I bought from my friend’s grandpa and have been refashioning away from trailer and more like home. It has a composting toilet, an electric stove, a normal queen-sized bed, a dining room table, and a fridge. The shower’s not working right now but now that it’s finally spring, the plumbing can finally get replaced from when it froze out two winters ago.
There is also “The Treehouse” which is a freestanding structure built around a tree that we keep adding on to the monstrosity of. When I first lived in it in 2006, it had gaping holes in the walls and was very obviously incomplete. Now it has a deck on the second floor, an overhang for keeping wood dry and bike parking, and all of the cracks upstairs have been patched and reframed. My friend Sara Stout lives downstairs and upstairs is a communal artspace/living room.
I think it’s very important to live somewhere with creative people who are producing and you can respect their work that are also respectful and supportive of each other. I’ve got a rare circumstance like that. And when something breaks we just fix it. I honestly just find that arrangement so much easier than relying on someone else.
The Tour Game!
1 What five things should every person who tours bring with them?
Toothbrush, shaving razor, nail clippers, telephone with email, laptop. I think I’ve honed my craft enough that if I had those things, my merch, and projector, I could have a functional tour.
2 Ideal tour vehicle…
Lately I’ve been thinking it’s either a Sprinter or a Vanagon. But I was totally wrong and it’s an Xtracycle or regular bicycle and Amtrak combo.
3 Ideal tour-mate…
Must I choose between Dave Roche and Joshua Ploeg? It should be clear based on my habits of the past seven years.
4 Best place to table in the States…
Minot, North Dakota.
5 We’re stealing this question from Pitchfork: If you could have one thing on your merch table, some dream piece of merch (sky’s the limit, of course, money is no option, neither is rationality or common sense) what would it be?
I would like to get some actual cast chainrings made of the Microcosm logo that could actually be used on a bike but could be sold for $10.
Q: You’re going on tour this summer and it’s going to be pretty nontraditional. Tell us a bit about that…
A: It’s still not entirely clear. Basically, I get invited to table, speak, present, or show movies at all kinds of events all the time. But summer is often the worst because there will always be multiple things on the same weekend. Some of them can pay money and some of them can’t but if I can string together enough dates it becomes practical to make it into a “tour.” It started when the City of Boise asked me to run a workshop on graphic novels for teenagers around the same time that Minnesota Indie Arts asked me to come and present a panel on bicycle activism. Quickly, Billy had roped me into showing some movies at Why Not? Minot Festival and I was going to Minneapolis twice! I had to cancel the tour in January/February because I broke some ribs in a bike wreck and so there were already a number of events that I should do a makeup for. And there’s still plenty of gaps to fill in. It’ll be between Portland and West Bend, WI. Now the only question is, “What kind of transportation makes the most sense?”
Bike-related Word Association!
Biking in Portland! dangerous.
Broken bike! normative.
Safe bike! burgeous.
Mean bike! typical.
Bike zine! inspirational.
Q: You’ve been to known to haul trash across great expanses of Portland on a regular basis. What’s the deal with that? Why is trash important?
A: Well, because of the size of our yard, it’s hard not to collect things. I’ve been known to bring home giant wood scraps and intend to build one thing out of them and end up building something else. From what I can tell, my brain has a cataloging system of where I need or could use some kind of better arrangement system and a shelf could be built or an item of “trash” could contribute to solving a problem. So this past week I collected some discarded dresser drawers to make a new patch display out of at work, some little light fixtures, plenty of clothes, a fair share of 2×4″s, and even bottles of pills.
Conversely, with a property with so many former roommates, we have lots of rotting discarded items to get rid of. So part of my job is to bike the trash from the compound back to the trashcan.
Q: Finally, the question we ask everyone, what do you do for Microcosm day in, day out?
6 AM: I create another draft of the proposed cover design for a new book that comes out next month and submit it to the author and the collective.
8 AM: I write checks to zinesters for money we owe them and figure out royalties owed on the books that we publish.
10 AM: I figure out how we are doing financially in our current month and update our publishing production chart based on any email updates I’ve gotten from the authors, designers, or editors.
Noon: I answer email while eating lunch.
2 PM: I bike down to the Microcosm store and make restock orders based on what we’ve sold in the past week. I clean up and rearrange the shelves and often this week—build more new shelves!
6 PM: I check our mailbox and mail out orders for the day. Even though most of the actual order fulfilled is done in Bloomington, there’s always a handful of things that need mailed from Portland each day on top of mailing all of the checks out.
8 PM: I recline in the chair and contemplate if I have enough energy to ride my bike home.
6:48 Feel guilty about the sheer amount behind at work I am.
8:12 Ride bike while pondering appropriate responses to difficult to answer emails.
(Photo credit: All non-blurry photos by Elly Blue)
Recently called “the most talked about comic in America” the Henry and Glenn Forever comic is a sweet lovestory between punk/metal superdudes Glenn Danzig and Henry Rollins. We talked to co-creator Tom Neely about all-things Henry and Glenn!
Q: First I want to say that, as a massive fan of all-things Danzig, my heart turned to clarified butter the moment I saw my First Henry and Glenn panel. Such a super sweet and romantic love story! What was the genesis behind Henry and Glenn Forever?
Basically it was a joke born out of a night of drinking too many beers with my art fraternity The Igloo Tornado. At some point in the evening Gin Stevens said something like “There should be a book like Tom of Finland, but with Henry Rollins and Glenn Danzig…” and we all agreed that we needed to make this happen. It ended up nothing like Tom of Finland. We all did our own take on what would happen when pairing the two icons. Scot makes repeated pop-art portraits in which Glenn simply agrees with anything that Henry says. Gin had them writing notes to each other and sending postcards. And I drew inspiration from my own neuroses and past relationships to make more classic one-panel gag strips about domestic life. Now that it’s out there, it’s taking on a life of it’s own and turning into some kind of monster.
Q: Henry and Glenn is totally pee-your-pants hilarious but I get the feeling that there’s a steady current of love and respect for those dudes’ work in it. Tell us about your own Rollins and Danzig fandom. What do you love about their music?
I’ve been a huge fan of The Misfits since I first heard Last Caress in the 6th grade. Being a small town kid who was mostly listening to Mötley Crüe at the time, Glenn’s lyrics were the most evil thing I’d ever heard, so I immediately had to seek out more. The Misfits were my introduction to punk rock and dark themed music. Considering now that most of my music buying is in the black metal section, it kinda set the course for my future listening pleasure. Black Flag came to me much later. I became a fan of Henry Rollins after seeing his spoken word performance at my college in ’94. Not long after that I got into their music as well. I made a lot of my strips riff on some of their well known lyrics because I just love those songs so much.
Q: Danzig and Rollins both come from a staunch DIY background–the self-releases, the hand-packaging, the fan-friendliness–was that at all an inspiration in you doing comics?
Yes definitely. I’ve been self-publishing my comics for 10 years now and I think I’ll always be mostly a DIY artist. I feel very strongly about protecting my art from external influences, and through many experiences of dealing with publishers and galleries, I’ve learned that no one else will understand my art or represent me better than myself. I’ve turned down offers from major publishers because I would rather do it my own way.
I read This Band Could Be Your Life a few years ago and it was a huge inspiration to me. Especially the chapters on Black Flag, The Minutemen and Fugazi. When I feel like I’m getting nowhere with my comics, I think about that book and it reminds me to be patient and stick to my guns. I also look to a lot of musicians in the punk and metal scene who are friends of mine who do things their own way and I feel a strong kinship to what we’re doing. And other like-minded people in the indie comics scene like Carla Speed McNeil, Jesse Reklaw, Dylan Williams at Sparkplug Comic Books, Global Hobo and Microcosm who all do what they do with integrity and a dedication to their own vision. As the indie comics world is growing and getting more and more attention, I’d like to see more artists stick to DIY and self-publishing.
Q: If you were making a 10-song all Danzig/Rollins mixtape, one that could cover all points of their careers, what would the tracklisting be?
Oh man… It’s so hard to choose. I don’t know if I can answer that. I pretty much love every song that the Misfits did with Danzig. I love almost everything Samhain recorded. I love the first 4 Danzig albums. And I love almost everything Black Flag did with Rollins. I’m looking forward to the new Danzig album because it’s supposed to be more rockin’ like the early Danzig and less of the industrial stuff. I’m sorry… there’s just too much to boil it down to a 10 song list. Maybe I’ll just have to sit down and make a mixtape.
Q: I grew up in San Diego and saw Danzig at his booth every year at ComicCon. Any chance you’re going this year?
I’ve been exhibiting there for 10 years now. I’ve had a full booth the last 4 years and have been joking about what would happen if we ran into Glenn ever since we started making the self-published zines of Henry & Glenn. I’m sure he’s heard of the book by now, and I’m a bit worried. But I really hope that both of them will see the humor in it. And also see that I’m a real fan of both of them and there was no malice intended in this book. Maybe we’ll all be friends someday, or maybe they’ll try to sue me. I don’t know. I’m sure we’ll find out soon enough.
See Henry and Glenn Forever! here.
For this episode of Meet Microcosm we meet Bloomington collective member Steven Stothard and hear about his super busy life. So, without further adieus, meet Steven…
Q: So, the main reason we’re doing this Meet Microcosm series is to see what Microcosm folks do outside Microcosm. And you do a lot. First off as a Bloomington resident, Boxcar Books is a big part of your life. Tell us about what you do for them…
A: First of all, thanks for doing these Meet Microcosm interviews. It’s important to me that folks understand that Microcosm is actually a group of people working together to keep indie and radical publishing alive and well in these dismal times. Boxcar Books has been a huge part of my life. For those of you that don’t know, Boxcar Books is Bloomington, Indiana’s all-volunteer-powered, non-profit, and collectively-run bookstore and community space. We’ve been around since 2002 and our goals are to keep indie publishing and radical ideas alive, to provide a free community meeting and events space in Bloomington, and to directly support the rehabilitation of prisoners through the Midwest Pages to Prisoners program–our sister organization. I started volunteering at Boxcar in 2004, after moving to Bloomington from Columbus, Ohio. Whenever I had visited Bloomington, I came to Boxcar as a space to get information, to see what events were going on, and to connect with local folks. It just felt right that after moving to Bloomington I would get involved. I started by making flyers, working a shift, and taking on the never ending task of shelf-reading. From there I took on more and more responsibility and became really invested in the collective, mission, and other workers. For the last few years I’ve been the events coordinator and more recently the general coordinator, which means I pretty much try to make sure shit gets done. People will tell you, I have a tendency to micro-manage and it’s true that secretly I have lists upon lists of tasks to do, I even have a list of my to-do lists. It’s kinda crazy, but it takes a lot of time and energy and patience to help run a bookstore. As you probably know, it’s a really tough time for independent booksellers and radical businesses in general, so really it’s the Bloomington community who chooses to support the bookstore and the collective of volunteers at Boxcar that are the backbone of our success. Boxcar is really too big for me to fit into one interview, so if you want to learn more, I highly recommend checking out the website and our facebook: http://www.Boxcarbooks.org and /http://www.facebook.com/Boxcarbooks be our friend and we’ll let you know rad stuff that’s happening in Bloomington. And please come visit!
Q: Tell us a little about Pages to Prisoners…
A: The Midwest Pages to Prisoners Project is one of the most successful and well-established books to prisoners programs in the country, and it’s right here in Bloomington and has been for over 13 years. Termed “Pages” for short, Pages and Boxcar are the same non-profit with pretty much the same mission, but exist in different spaces. I always describe pages as the direct activism hand of Boxcar. Boxcar as a bookstore acts as a constant fundraiser so pages can focus on sending free books to prisoners upon request. It’s really an inspiring program. As my role at Boxcar Books expands, I unfortunately don’t work directly with Pages as much as I should. But there’s a core of committed collective members who are really dedicated and hard working folks. If you’re reading this, you should really donate to Pages, tell them I sent you. Even a buck or two would really help. Check out their website for how: http://pagestoprisoners.org/
Q: You also worked as a recreational therapist for adults with mental illness at the Center for Behavioral Health. What was the deal with that?
A: It’s true. Before microcosm, I worked for a behavioral health center in Bloomington as a recreational therapist. Basically, I taught life, social, communication, and community integration skills to adults with various mental illness. In the form of group sessions, classes, outings, and one-on-one intervention, we attempted to help folks with long histories of mental illness become more independent and to empower them to access community resources to help themselves. Oh damn, on the one hand that job was amazing on so many levels, but it was also very crushing to the soul. First of all, I worked with a team of other health and social work professionals for the same goals, but we worked at it in our own ways. As therapists, we had tons of support from our supervisors to do really whatever we wanted to support our clients. For instance, I saw a real need to address all these young dudes and ladies with schizophrenia because nothing existed for them specifically, no program was focused on being young with mental illness. We started a young adult group that focused on community integration, access to community resources, and how to navigate the terrifying times of being young compounded with having a mental illness. To be honest, we talked a lot about sex–they were all interested in getting laid, but that was good because we talked about safety, consent, and how not to get pregnant. And sure, there were pretty boring and structured activities like accessing community kitchen, the free clinic, getting library cards, using the library system, and plugging in to other places to address some real needs… but I also had the go-ahead to go plan fun trips like laser tag, fishing, and even a couple shows at the all ages youth center in town… just to be kids. That was great. But like I said, on the other hand it was really hard to not be affected by the bureaucratic bullshit within the mental health industry and to leave my job at the office, you know what I mean. Although the work was inspiring, there was also a lot of painful and heartbreaking stuff to say the least.
The Book Game
1. Favorite book, and why…
A: Are you kidding, I don’t have time to read. But really, you must read The Road by Cormac McCarthy. It’s one of my recent favorites. Absolutely dismal and beautiful… a good look at what’s to come.
2. If an 80 year old grandmother asked you to recommend something “useful” what book would you recommend?
A: The Guide to Getting it On. Old people are all about getting laid, you just don’t know it.
3. What would your autobiography be called?
A: Wow, I don’t know about that. But I have two friends in New York, Edan’s kind of a big hairy guy and Dave’s tall and skinny and I forget who said it, but if they made a porn together, it would have to be called An Otter Day in Bear-adice. I think that’s perfect.
4. What are you reading right now?
A: I’m towards the end of the Autobiography of Malcom X. He’s fucked up and “spiritual” or whatever, but what an interesting time, you know.
Q: Finally, what do you do for Microcosm, day in day out?
A: Well, first off I work at Microcosm Bloomington obviously. We run the Midwest Microcosm out of a house, nothing fancy. We have an office, a packing room, and storage in the basement. All of us at Microcosm end up doing a little of each and every task, from publishing to editing, from tabling to promotions and we stay well-connected through phone conference meetings, email, and our recent all-staff meeting. But, I’d say my main duties at Microcosm are shipping, customer service, and event coordinating. When you order something from Microcosm, whether you’re a store, a distro, another online distro or an individual customer–we pack up the orders and I ship them out. Basically, I’ve gotten really good at using a tape gun and determining weights of things just by holding them. I’ll help you get the things you ordered and take care of any problems you have. Event coordinating is just a fancy word for figuring out what events and tours we’re going to table and how to organize it. We table pretty extensively for the size of our publishing company, and it’s a nice opportunity for Microcosm staffers to get out of the office or store and actually interact with people, authors, and other publishers face to face, not just via email. Recently we tabled the Left Forum Conference in New York City, Stumptown in Portland, Bay Area Anarchist Bookfair, and the New York Anarchist Bookfair. We’ll be tabling the Montreal Anarchist Bookfair this month and Expozine in Montreal later this year with the help of our good Canadian buddy Jonathan Culp. Personally, one of my favorite events to table is the New Orleans bookfair, typically in November. I used to table a lot more on tour with bands like Against Me!, Defiance, Ohio, the F-Yeah Tour, Strike Anywhere, and other folks nice enough to let us come along and hock zines and books at the shows. I feel tabling is a pretty important part to staying connected with folks and keeping books and zines hip and visible. That’s one of the main reasons why I initially got into politics, picking up zines and AK Press books at punk shows in Dayton, Ohio. Never underestimate the power of tiny, little life-changing experiences–it may change the path for the rest of your life. Kevey Evilsizor–if you’re out there–I salute you and the Know Nothings!
From 11 AM to 7 PM!
And full disclosure: Nathan is often working on Sundays too. Just call first to make sure.
Head on over to the ‘cosm office and store at 2752 N Williams Ave. (that’s in Portland, OR folks).
Inside you will find everything that we’ve published and anything you can find on this here website plus a curated selection of zines and books from other publishers. Our selection also features remaindered (read: cheap!) and hurt books, i.e. books with minor dings that are deeply discounted—half price or less!
The store also has the addition of tons of unique and forgotten gems from the past—with sections like DIY, espionage, graffiti, bikes, gardenz, activism, and graphic novels! We may, in fact, be the only store in Portland where you can learn to build your own submachine gun and practice square foot gardening! But to us, you’re worth it (at the expense of our FBI files)!
Give us a call if you want to make an appointment to stop by at other times.
Microcosm hQ Store
2752 N Williams Ave.
Portland, OR 97227
For this edition of Meet Microcosm we chat with the awesome Rio Safari who works out of the Portland Microcosm store and does the zine Homobody!
Q: You work at the Portland store. Tell us a little about the new location.
A: Totally! We’re going to be sharing a space in SE Portland with two fine printers we have worked with, Printed Matter and Eberhardt Press. Yup, a bookstore/publisher with printers in back–pretty rad. The walls are being painted bright colors and the windows look out toward Portland’s downtown.
Q: Any good Portland store stories from the time you were in the old location?
A: Well, there was the one time we took over the space next to us and Joe knocked a doorway out of the drywall solely with his mental powers. In terms of impressiveness, that’s right up there with fitting 13,000 zines and books into a 13’x9′ room.
Q: If somebody came in the Portland store and asked you for five of your favorite things the store carries what would they be, and why?
(1) The zine trike. It’s used as an in-store display when immobile, but if people forget its true purpose, I will absolutely sit on the seat and ring the bell.
(2) Every drop of pink paint. The can is labeled the color “Bunny Fluff”.
(3) Everything in our Espionage book section.
(4) Everything in our Circle A book section.
(5) That we have zines divided into “Fix Shit Up” or “Fuck Shit Up”.
Q: Last time I was at the Portland store the free box was totally insane. What’s in there these days?
A: Let’s see…a few bags of figurines, some costumes, a pair of pants, scrap wood, some books…and a lotta love.
Q: So all the rest of these questions, besides the last one and the One True Game are open-ended. Feel free to answer them and interpret them any way you’d like. We’re throwing out the rules but if you want to catch them while they fly past, that’s okay too. Alright, Rio, your zine just got in a fight and got called into the principal’s office. Rumor is Mean Principal Miller is talking suspension. Why?!
A: That Mean Principal Miller has only one thing in mind for my zine: he wants to co-opt it to better market “alternative” culture for the corporate subsidiary that runs the school! I get a suspension for non-compliance.
Q: Who’s the boss? And why?!
A: I’d have to say that my boss is Amy Goodman, investigative journalist and host of Democracy Now!. She’s a compass to keep ya headed the right direction!
Q: Paper called and it wanted to say…
A: It made like origami and folded?
THE ONE TRUE GAME!
1. Give us one true sentence about things your zine might have in its pages and two untrue ones and let the reader guess which is true… Ads for losing belly fat. Ads for whitening teeth. Drawings of scruffy homos who don’t read ads.
2. Give us one true sentence about what you like to do outside of Microcosm work and two untrue ones and let the reader guess which is true… I play banjo. I do competitive cross-country vegetable julienning. I hate cats and they hate me and also oh yeah the world is flat.
3. Give us one sentence about the zine community and two untrue ones and let the reader guess which is true…
The zine community is a shady network of miscreants and psychopaths. The zine community will turn you into a bomb-throwing radical. The zine community recruits.
Q: Your Microcosm co-worker Matt Gauck, as featured in episode one of this series, has just turned into a bird. Why?! Birds are the living descendants of my favorite creatures (dinos!). And Matt’s my favorite person to discuss vegan deserts with. Isn’t it obvious?
Q: Your Microcosm co-worker Joe Biel, as shall be featured in an episode of this series soonish, has turned into a bike. Why?! The Bielbike, which looks like Joe riding a bike, is actually a species of cyborg (check your D&D Monster Manual, kids). The flesh just gave in and turned into bike, too.
Q: When I say “zinester” you say:
Well, again referencing my Dungeons & Dragons manual, the zinester class is a cross between bard and thief-acrobat. Skills include Work Aversion +3 and they get an extra saving throw for bad reviews.
Q: When I say “comics” you say:
I can’t stop drawing them. I just finished one about Amazonian river dolphins and I’m making one about skeletons that put on shows at my local cometary.
Q: When I say “activism” you say:
Activism is finding the word you insert for “(Blank) Not Bombs”!
Q: Finally, back we’re back on dry land: What do you do for Microcosm and how did you and Microcosm become acquainted?
A: My business card says “shopkeeper.” So I try to keep the Portland Microcosm shop from, well, I just keep keeping it. An average day entails helping somebody find that one zine with the stuff, packing and biking an order, shelfreading and organizing, painting wood brighter colors than nature intended, coordinating volunteer tasks, and building perilous monuments of cardboard boxes to ready for our upcoming move.
I met Microcosm online (who says online dating doesn’t work out!) about, oh, six-ish years ago? And then I volunteered for Microcosm at Liberty Hall, oh, fourish years ago? As for today, let’s just say we make quite the couple.
Check out Rio’s zines here.
For this edition of the Meet Microcosm series, we talk to Sparky Taylor, who works out of Bloomington!
Q: So, since this Meet Microcosm thing is less about Microcosm than about the people who work here and the things they do outside of the job, give us the goods on your new side job…
A: Oh, well, it’s not really new, and it’s not a side job! My other job is working at a place called Rhino’s which is an all-ages club, and also an afterschool center for teenagers. I work for the afterschool programs and am in charge of a mural arts program, and a monthly zine called the Antagonist. I also assist with graphic design for the screenprinting program, and assist the youth radio program by working a five hour shift at the local radio station every Saturday. Altogether I generally work around 20 hours a week for Rhino’s, although sometimes I also work door at the shows on Friday nights. Plus I just signed on to assist the local alternative highschool’s yearbook staff. Whew!
Q: One of the things we were really proud of you for was the art you did for the electric boxes. Please, as they say, give us the goods…
A: Oh, the city started letting local artists paint these big electrical boxes around town, so they let me do one! It has dinosaurs and a griffin on it. It was really intimidating to paint so close to busy traffic during the day, but the feedback was all positive. Oh, except one woman informed me the city didn’t allow graffiti and that I should stop.
Q: Give us the goods about the Animal buttons that everyone loves so much…
A: I didn’t know people liked them. I sometimes make animal buttons, but not so much anymore. I could make some more if you really want me to.
The Give Us The Goods Bloomington Special Quiz
1. Favorite place to eat in Bloomington:
La Charreda… Mexican restaurant with big portions and giant sodas
2. Best show you’ve seen in Bloomington in the past year:
Ooh hard… umm… probably a tie between Built to Spill and the Mountain Goats. Oh wait and also the Elephant 6 Collective… oh and the show that was Deerhunter and No Age! Too many great shows!
3. Who’s your Bloomington Honorary Mayor?
I looked and looked and couldn’t find anything, so I appoint my cat Wade as honorary mayor.
4. Least favorite Bloomington resident? Most favorite Bloomington resident?
My least favorite resident is the random drunk guy that called me retarded the other day. My most favorite is probably my co-worker Danielle who teaches screenprinting with me at Rhino’s. She is totally my hero because she works so hard and devotes so much of her life to teaching art to kids.
See #3. I am a total cat lady.
Q: Give us the goods! Give us the goods! What are your plans for nonMicrocosm art stuff and other project stuff in the next five years? Also, where can we find your stuff online? Give us the goods!
A: Maybe I should start a website! Recently I contributed a comic to Adventures in Menstruating #5, and also one to Not Your Mother’s Meatloaf #3. I got accepted into the Center for Cartoon Studies in Vermont, but can’t afford to go. I’d still like to eventually go there though. Then I could spend two whole years drawing! I also love working with teenagers and plan to do that forever. I just have to figure out in what capacity. And, most importantly I just got a Stay Positive chest tattoo!
Q: Finally, give us the goods on what you do daily for Microcosm…
A: I do the ordering of all the books and zines we carry. It’s a big job annoying the heck out of all those zine writers! I also list all of the new items on the website when they come in. That takes up pretty much all of my time, but if I have a few extra minutes, I like to help with proofing and layout, and if I’m feeling real wild, I might even clean something.