Microcosm Publishing Interview with the Team Colors Collective!

Team Colors is an awesome activist collective with members stretching across the US. Their latest venture is in publishing. Winds from Below: Radical Community Organizing to Make a Revolution Possible (Eberhardt Press) and Uses of a Whirlwind (AK Press) are out now and available here and here, respectively.

Q: Tell us a little about Team Colors…

Currently the collective is made up of Conor Cash (Tucson, AZ), Craig Hughes (Queens, NY by the time you read this), Stevie Peace (Minneapolis, soon to be Chapel Hill, NC), and Kevin Van Meter (Portland, OR), though we often work with other friends and organizations. As a collective our purpose is to examine current struggles, organizing, and movements, and to share findings that in turn better radical practice and build radical movements. Though each of us has had or is in the midst of academic training (i.e. grad school), we pull predominantly from our own experiences as organizers and active participants in revolutionary struggles.

Team Colors initially arose out of a decade-long organizing project in suburban Long Island, New York, that involved three of the collective’s current members. In organizing among DIY punk folks, hardcore kids, and related communities on Long Island–and in successful ways–we felt that we had developed a framework and set of experiences for examining how other organizations and projects functioned. This paired with an interest in militant and co-research–that is, research on militant activities and research produced in the encounter between the research team and those looking to produce knowledge about their communities and struggles. This focus brought us to New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina, where we met our fourth collective member.

The collective sees its role as examining struggles and circulating them, but not in a way that is removed or above or in ideological conflict with them or aspects of them. As organizers ourselves, we feel that it’s important to describe and share how an organization or campaign actually functions. Too often, organizers and activists give the “press release” version of their work: you read a short article on Indymedia or in the radical press that lists what’s great, what’s succeeding, including “orgasmic moments” of resonating power and potential, but what you miss is an in-depth description and analysis of how a particular organizing project works. We certainly need press releases and positive outlooks on our work, but we also need documents and media that reflect the complexity of organizing and struggling in the United States today.  

Additionally, we feel it is important to ground our politics and practices in our own life experiences, and we all have different interests that come through in our collective publications, including issues of class struggle, care work, and struggles around care. Each of us, and us as a collective body, have gone through some pretty traumatic experiences: state repression; a violent racially motivated attack; watching a friend and partner pass away; dealing with mental health and post traumatic stress disorder. We believe that unless movements address in real ways the mental and physical health issues, chronic pain, trauma, grief, and related experiences and realities of its members and surrounding communities, then they aren’t grasping the substance of life and the purposes of our struggles. Similarly, we are deeply frustrated by very problematic and lacking discourses on class and class dynamics around the Left. In our view, it is class struggle (in its multitudinous forms) that drives our history and present, and it is in the working class’s ability to recompose and renew itself and build power that we will get beyond the exploitation and domination of capital and state.

Q: You have two new publications coming out. Tell us a little about them.

Uses of a whirlwindA: Our first new publication concludes a two-year research project into radical movements in the United States. This began with an on-line journal called “In the Middle of a Whirlwind: 2008 Convention Protests, Movement, and Movements,” and has developed into a collection just out through AK Press, called Uses of a Whirlwind: Movement, Movements, and Contemporary Radical Currents in the United States (Whirlwinds).

The book collects over thirty voices from farms, forests, bookstores, streets and street corners, homes, and corporate chains (among many other spaces) so that they resonate with each other and share their stories. It is our intent that readers find this collection as simply one step forward in their organizing work, to encourage reflections about the complexities and cycles of struggle and examinations of their organizing.

As we wrote the introduction to Whirlwinds to help set up the context of the collection, we found we had a lot we wanted to bring forward but no space to do so. We wanted to examine the past thirty years of struggle–of this cycle of struggle, of capital’s response to it and the state violence used against it, and how this has developed into the current situation radical movements and communities face. So instead of straining to fit such a large amount of material into an already ambitious collection, we decided to place it in a separate pamphlet, called Wind(s) from Below: Radical Community Organizing to Make a Revolution Possible.

Winds from belowBoth of these projects are interventions. We are intervening into the current state of radical organizing and revolutionary struggle, and pointing toward exciting developments as well as the impasses that are limiting these potential struggles. One thing we want to stress, and we hope it comes off in our work, is that radicals need humility. We don’t have all the answers, we cannot understand all the complexities of life and the conditions of peoples’ lives through ideological lenses, we cannot presume that we are correct and that those who don’t agree with our politics are somehow immoral, ignorant, or corrupt. But we can walk together, ask questions, and create new ways of moving and living.

Q: The pamphlet’s being printed over at Eberhardt Press, who we love and support with all our heart. How’d you guys get hooked up with Charles at Eberhardt.

Since Kevin moved to Portland, OR two years ago, all of us have become fast friends with Charles and Eberhardt Press. But actually this is not how we encountered him and his unique and incredible printing work. Three years ago, we were looking to print a small run of about 350 cookbooks as a memorial and tribute to a friend who had recently passed away, and current “Green Scare” political prisoner Daniel McGowan pointed us in Eberhardt Press’s direction. (On that note, Team Colors would like to strongly suggest that those reading this take a moment to write a postcard, short letter or send zines to Daniel (www.supportdaniel.org) or another imprisoned activist (www.prisonactivist.org). It is these notes and printed materials that allow their lives to continuously flow into ours, and is among the best ways to show support for someone behind bars.)

Q: Tell us a little about what happened at the US Social Forum that took place between June 23-27th in Detroit?

Team Colors organized two workshops, a panel discussions, and a collaborative book party during the USSF (www.ussf2010.org) in Detroit at the end of June. We hosted a panel on radical research (with Chris Dixon, Harmony Goldberg, and Michal Osterweil of the Turbulence Collective), a workshop on research for radical movements (with Midnight Notes Collective, Institute of Anarchist Studies, Radical Reference, Frank Edwards and Robin Hewlett of AREA Chicago, Julie Perini, Chris Carlsson), a workshop on care (with SICK: A Collaborative Zine on Physical Illness editor Benjamin Holtzman, Philly Stands Up, Domestic Workers United, and Rockdove Collective), and finally, an amazing collaborative book release party with eight other authors (including Ben of SICK and Justseeds’ Firebrands, both Microcosm titles), co-organized by AK Press, Autonomedia, Black & Red, Fifth Estate, the Institute of Anarchist Studies, Justseeds Artists’ Cooperative, Microcosm Publishing, PM Press, Turbulence Collective, and author Jordan Flaherty.  New York based artist Seth Tobocman concluded the party with a slide show of recent work.   

All of this was part of a radical track of workshops and events called “A New World from Below” and we will be uploading audio from many of these events on our website as well.  Additionally, Whirlwinds was officially released during the Forum and we were super excited about the positive responses we received from new and old friends alike.  

Q: Do you have any other book events people can come meet you at?

Team Colors will be doing a national tour for most of the summer and into the fall. Immediately following the USSF we visited, and then Chicago, Madison, and Minneapolis. In July we will be doing events in New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Asheville, Nashville, Gainesville, Lake Worth, Hollywood (Florida), Miami, and other areas of the Northeast and South. We are excited to do August events in Portland, the AK Press warehouse in Oakland, and San Francisco, as well as events in the rest of the Northwest later that month. Many of our events will include contributors to the book and other friends. It is the discussions that arise during these events, and from the book, that we hope to learn from and continue to circulate. Our USSF events and tour dates can be found at: http://warmachines.info/?page_id=241

Q: What’s next for Team Colors?

Aside from the book tour, each member of Team Colors has their own interests that they are excited to explore as the intensity of this project slows down in late fall 2010. Stevie will be going to graduate school and pursuing research on radical Asian America. Craig will continue his research on suburban social struggles. Kevin will focus in on issues of care, death, and mourning, and will look to produce a pamphlet and other pieces of writing on these subjects. As for the collective itself, we are always looking at new ways to connect with projects that we love and respect, and share how they function in order to improve radical practice and movements.  

Q: Where can people find more info on you guys?

The collective’s website, which includes numerous articles we have published as well as excerpts from both of the books, is at www.warmachines.info. For the website for the Whirlwinds collection, you can go directly to www.whirlwinds.info.  

Meet Microcosm, Episode Eight, Meet Portland Store Intern Robin Yourgrave!

Ain’t nothin’ like a good, hard-working intern. For this episode of Meet Microcosm we introduce you to the super awesome Robin Yourgrave, who interns down at the ‘Cosm store in SE Portland.

Q: Hey Robin! Tell us how you got the intern position…

A: I got the intern “volunteering” position at Microcosm pretty much by making cold calls to businesses around Portland. I just moved here about a month and a half ago and the job search was getting quite frustrating. The initial intention of my phone call was to get a paid position, however I have been aware of Microcosm for a while and really support what they do so I was more than willing to take up a volunteer position there. A few days after I called, Joe and I met to discuss the position and I started that very day.

Q: What kinds of zines are you into?

A: As far as zines go, I’m a huge proponent of personal zines (e.g. Cometbus). I like the personal stories that I can draw from and relate to my own life and maybe get a different input of how to handle certain situations or, if the situations are not to be handled, make the best of them. I make a zine entitled Bird Shit which is pretty much a Cometbus approach to zine writing. I self-published my first issue back in April and a re-print is coming along with self-publication of my second issue. I am also working on a zine with my boyfriend entitled Coffeedrunk which is essentially about our traveling endeavors pursued together.

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Q: What do you do outside of your interning position?

A: Until recently, I didn’t really do much outside of my intern position other than writing and reading on my own time. Until last week, I was still unemployed. Now, though, I struggle for free time. I work at Whole Foods Market and continue to strenuously work on the assembly of my upcoming zines.

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Q: Give us your five favorite and five least favorite things about Portland…
As I am new to the area, it’s difficult to define what my favorite things about Portland are and what my um… un-favorite things entail. But, I will construct the best list that I’m able.

1) MICROBREWS!!!–I live right down the street from John’s Marketplace and, needless to say, they consistently have my business.
2) Public transportation–I have had quite the string of bad luck when it comes to vehicles because I had to rely on one in my hometown (Fort Wayne, IN) and, of course, I was always broke and could never REALLY afford upkeep. Here, it is not necessary to own a vehicle at all. I really appreciate that about this city.
3) The Cheerful Tortoise–Thursday nights… dollar beers and thirty cent wings. Enough said.
4) Ground Kontrol–Classic videogames and cheap beer.
5) Untouched nature–I love that this city is a perfectly blended landscape of concrete jungle and naturally wooded areas.

Least Favorite
1) ALLERGIES–Apparently the Willamette Valley has the highest allergen count of anywhere on the planet. Didn’t receive a warning on THAT one.
2) Hippies. I work at Whole Foods. Need I say more?
3) Road Construction.
4) Bad drivers.
5) Raised bridges.

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Q: Finally, what do you do at the Microcosm store?

A: While at the store, it’s a variety of things that I do that range anywhere from making buttons, cutting patches, straightening up shelves, or painting things. It really just depends on what needs to be done for that particular day.

Steven Leaving Microcosm….Not Goodbye, but See You Later.

Hi, this is Steven from Microcosm. 

Also from Boxcar Books- volunteer powered, collectively run bookstore and community space in Bloomington IN.

For those that may want to know, I’m leaving Microcosm and Boxcar and moving away from Bloomington.

I wanted to take this opportunity to thank everyone I’ve worked with over the years and all the friends I’ve made along the way.  On tour, tabling, at conferences, and via the internerd.  Everyone doing anything to support independent and radical projects deserves a big old pat on the back. 

But a nod and a wink sometimes aren’t enough in these fucked up and troubled times.  It’s like how frustrated I get when the punk kid won’t pay the $5 for the show but have cash for beers all night long.  Fuck that kid.

I was talking about this with Bill Daniel, author of Microcosm’s title Mostly True, on his recent film tour stop in Bloomington.  Things are so fucked and getting way worse.  I’m talking about collapse.  I’m talking about the Gulf Oil Disaster as a clear wake up call and chance to embrace a completely different paradigm.  But we don’t grasp it, signs and warnings will continue to fall through our fingers.

Are we going to dig our feet in and fight it out?  Or are we going to pull up shop and relocate to New Zealand or someplace, any place that doesn’t seem as fucked?

In a way, that’s one of the reasons why I’m moving to Knoxville TN to get a masters in social work. C’mon….there could be way more radical and anarchist professionals, right?  Lawyers, doctors, social workers, psychologists, instructors, scientists, maybe even anti-capitalist dentists?  Ha!  Whatever we can do to support our local communities and enrich our lives with good, local, meaningful work.  I’m trying to use my privilege and my roots in punk and DIY to try and dig deep and create better organization, adequate funding, and sustainability for radical projects.  Or just attempt to do more.  As my co-worker Chris says..”Something, anything.” 

I don’t want to lose touch with people doing good work, contacts and friends I’ve made along the way.

So please stay in touch, let me know what you think, and keep on keepin’ on.


I’m now on facebook, no matter how long I tried to avoid it: http://www.facebook.com/stevenstothard

Please support Boxcar Books and other radical bookstores and spaces like it — they are too few and far between.   http://www.boxcarbooks.org/

Love always and every time, Steven

another new intern.

Hi ! I’m Giz, the new intern here at Microcosm Publishing in Bloomington, IN.
I came all the way from france to stuff packages and stick pages but Bloomington is a really nice place for this kind of work. I find out about Microcosm about two years ago when I read Alex Wrekk’s Stolen Sharpie Revolution and I kept ordering things from them since they were the distro with the cheapest international postage out there. Besides that economic interest, my relationship to the zine medium itself is mostly based on trades and I’m even planning to do a research about it as a master degree thesis at the University of Nice.

As the subject exist mostly within postals system, I’m looking to connect with some zinesters who trade zines, some who don’t, non-zinesters with interest on zine making and trades (like if they trade zines for something else), and any people with an interest in collecting zines. here’s a few questions for which you can send me back the responses :

1- do you trade zines ? for how long ?

2- did you ever get non-fair trades ? did you sent yours anyway ?

3- did you ever refuse a trade ?

4- do you keep your zines as a collection ?

5- is trading a good way to expand your collection, compared to donations (for the zine libraries) or sales ?

6- except money and another zine, did you ever get something else for a zine ?

7- then some presentation : name, age, gender and the city/country you’re coming from.

contact : xtramedium@laposte.net

Brand New Microcosm Zine Store Grand Opening!

Ain’t no party like a zinester party! The Portland Microcosm Publishing zine store has moved to a bigger location yet again! After leaving the super rad ActivSpace building in SE, the zine store is now settling into its new digs down on 636 SE 11th .

To celebrate, the zine store folks are throwing a big ol’ zine fiesta grand opening on July 1st. Says party organizer/store employee Rio Safari, “After several moves and spaces with less than adequate dimensions, the Microcosm Store has finally found a spacious home in inner SE! Not only does it have room for awesome literature and the resident zine trike, we can finally host the grand opening party that we’ve always wanted.”

The party starts at 6pm and will feature zine readings by Sarah Royal and DIY Guide to Screenprinting’s John Isaacson along with a super sweet and super free vegan barbecue in the parking lot. Says Rio, “Microcosm Store finally has a parking lot, and we intend to fill it up with good people and grilled veggies!”

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(Photo by Elly Blue)

Meet Microcosm, Episode Six–Meet The New Portland 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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)

Hey pals! Help us Publish the New Scam Anthology!

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.

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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 joe@microcosmpublishing.com

Your friends,

Joe Biel, Jessie Duquette, Rio Safari, E. Chris Lynch, Steven Stoddard, Sparky Taylor, Matt Gauck, Adam Gnade, and Wade the Cat.

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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

Microcosm’s 2009 Financial Report

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:

ze store!

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

Shipping $41,286.31

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

Travel $11,151.01

Catalog Printing $6,851.93

Donations $4,825

bike moveStaff Healthcare $3,165.06

Advertising $2,316.89


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.

2009 tour

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 orders@microcosmpublishing.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.

Meet Microcosm, Episode Five—Compounds, Trailers, and Treehouses, The Joe Biel Interview!

For this episode of our Meet Microcosm blog series we talk to Joe Biel about weirdo funlands, nontraditional tours, and the importance of trash.

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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! 

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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…

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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.

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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!

  1. Biking in Portland! dangerous.

  2. Broken bike! normative.

  3. Safe bike! burgeous.

  4. Mean bike! typical.

  5. Bike zine! inspirational.

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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?

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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)