Bloomington Mourns the Death of Don Belton and Keeps a Critical Eye on Our Homophobic and Racist Justice System.

Don Beltont“Are you serious?!”  That’s what I said when I first learned what happened to Don.  The deep sense of bewilderment and disbelief I felt seemed to be shared by many.  It was a tragedy in the true sense of the word.

Don was an openly gay, African-American professor at Indiana University in Bloomington.  On December 28th he was found brutally stabbed to death in his home.  Police later arrested 25-year-old ex-marine Michael James Griffin for the crime.

The story of Don’s life and death has reverberated throughout our community and the nation, reaching much national news attention.

He will be remembered as a loved friend, respected community member, and adored teacher.  It seems like everyone knew Don. When there’s a sudden loss of someone, we cope by speaking about them, in whatever capacity we can.  We tell stories and accounts of meeting them for the first time, about chatting with them in the produce section of the co-op, about listening to them speak at author readings, about learning from them.  We tell stories of this man that was warm and compassionate who will be deeply and truly missed.

Don was also a very gifted writer, often speaking of race, sexuality, and the intersection of these identities.

As grotesque as it may sound, many homophobic and racist things were written on message boards and blogs after Don’s death. There are wider concerns over how the mainstream media has covered the facts and portrayed this story.  Mis-information often fuels the fire of hatred.  Between the lines of reporting exist missed opportunities to discuss overt and subtle heterosexism prevalent in our society, and how to work against that hatred.  Homophobic and racist prejudice runs deep in corporate media, and Don’s story shows no exception.

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Don Belton (top) & candlelight vigil downtown Bloomington January 1st, 2010 (above)

In another terrifying development, Don’s identity will reportedly be at the forefront of the murderer’s defense strategy.  Though Griffin has confessed to the murder, he will reportedly be using the “gay panic defense” to plead not guilty.

Griffin alleged that Don sexually assaulted him on Christmas day.  Two days later, Griffin took his knife to Don’s house to demand an apology. Bloomington’s Herald Times reported that when Don would not accept Griffin’s accusations, Griffin stabbed him several times, “until he quit moving.”

“In the ‘gay panic’ defense, the defendant claims that he or she has been the object of romantic or sexual advances by the victim. The defendant finds the advances so offensive and frightening that it brings on a psychotic state characterized by unusual violence.” (definition from Wikipedia)

Translation:  the “gay panic” defense blames the victim, something that’s totally fucked up and an unfortunately typical theme within our society and justice system.  You’d think the “gay panic” defense should reveal to any rational individual and group as unjust victim blaming, harkening to archaic values.  Of course, our current justice system sees it otherwise.

As recent as 2009, a Chicago man Joseph Biedermann successfully used the “gay panic” defense and was acquitted for the brutal murder of his neighbor Terrance Hauser.  Biedermann stabbed Hauser 61 times after he allegedly made a sexual advance.

Rather than being exposed for the victim-blaming it is, the “gay panic defense” has become an eerily standard explanation for hate crime.  Acquittals like that of Joseph Biedermann are all too common and I cannot believe that in 2010 we not only still face such inexcusable crimes, but also terrible administering of justice for those crimes.  Let’s hope this serves as a disturbing reminder of how flawed and homophobic our justice system can be, a wake up call that structural prejudices are not just a problem of yesteryear, or perhaps a fire beneath individuals looking to fight for justice.

Throughout Bloomington and the extended community that heard of Don’s tragic death, we are reminded of the preciousness of life, of friendship, and of community.  It all just seems crazy and unimaginable.  Like this could never happen – not in this town.  But maybe, in our own humble ways, perhaps we can seek opportunity from this tragedy—a discussion among friends about homophobia, a quiet time in a classroom to reflect on our own lives, a kindled feeling of duty to speak up and take action against these injustices and never let them happen again.

Along with candlelight vigils and other activities honoring Don, many groups are keeping a critical eye on how the case is taking shape.  Please visit these sites to get more information and to do something about it.

Justice for Don Belton:

Racialicious Article about Don Belton:

Further reading about “Gay Panic”

National Coalition on Anti-Violence Programs


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Xerography Debt, now in its 26th issue, is an in-depth, passion-first, all-inclusive review zine for zinesters, about zinesters, by zinesters. We recently got in touch with Xerox Debt editor Davida Gypsy Breier and asked her to talk zines, journalism, and zombies.

Q: As someone currently putting out one of the only zine reviewing publications that hasn’t fled for the blogs/’net, I think you’re a pretty good person to ask this: Is print dead or dying? If so, what can we do to shock it back to life?

A: Personally, I am less concerned with print “dying” and more concerned with independent voices and how those voices are discovered and connect. Waves of technology have affected independent publishers from the very beginning. In many respects modern paper zines exist because of inexpensive photocopy technologies. The proliferation of zines in the ’90s also coincided with PCs gaining popularity and desktop publishing becoming available to the masses. In the pre-‘net era we relied on postal mail and reading about zines in other zines. It kept people and ideas rather underground, for better or worse. Now a three-second search could turn up hundreds of zines and I can get immediate recommendations from contacts online. Blogs and the internet could actually help zines, but zine publishers need to stop seeing it as an either or proposition. I have two active paper zines, two blogs, and a website. Each has its own purpose and the online components support the paper.

I think that paper zines are something tangible and there is no way a digital replica can replace all the chaos contained in the average zine.

Q: What was the first zine you read? What kind of impression did it make on you? What about the last zine?

A friend gave me a copy of Reptiles of the Mind (and also Factsheet 5). RotM was a perzine written by a young woman in Tennessee. It gave me the idea that I could create a zine. She included reviews in the back of her zine and I sent away for copies. Within a few months I was doing a zine and one of those people I first wrote to is still among my closest friends. That was in 1994.

I think the last one I read was The Ken Chronicles #13, by a retired auto industry worker.

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Q: How do you feel about the future of zines?

I fear that zines may become a lost art among the younger generations. They have never known anything other than the internet and often that is the go-to source for knowledge instead of considering a book or zine. If that is the case, I think that zines will need to be more than just paper and ink to survive long-term. I am all too familiar with similar issues facing mainstream publishing, but in many cases zines are more apt to survive because they can adapt. I think that a lot of the piss and vinegar of self-publishing has migrated to the ‘net and that zines really need an infusion of that. I see very few outraged or political zines these days.

Q: As someone who reviews zines, do you consider yourself a journalist? Do you think journalism gives much thought to zines as a modern, relevant, culture?

I think I am more an accidental historian than journalist. I don’t think journalism thinks zines are any more relevant than zines think journalism is relevant.

Q: What kind of projects do you have coming up?

I am currently working on Rigor Mortis #3, a horror zine I started in 2008. Zombies are usually the main focus, but we are branching out into other genres. Xerography Debt #27 should be out in the summer and we are working on that now. I also contributed to a book, Ninety-Five: Meeting America’s Farmed Animals in Stories and Photographs, that will be out in June. I was able to visit animal sanctuaries in three states and take portraits of the animals there. All three projects are keeping me very busy at the moment.

(Davida Gypsy Beier photo by Uli Loskot)

Five Questions with Bill Brown of the Dreamwhip Zine!

Bill Brown is the man behind the wonderful Dreamwhip zine, a tender, funny, truth-telling look at American living. His adventures show an America snow-capped and heat-exhausted, half-asleep on highways and dreaming out diner windows. We caught up with him and this is what he had to say.

Q: If the President of the United States asked to you describe “the soul of Dreamwhip” in under 100 words, what would you say?

Alt text[Recording made by secret tape recorder in the Oval Office]. Nice place, Mr. President! And look at all these couches! Would you mind if I crashed on one tonight? [Inaudible]. Hah. I’m just kidding. Anyway, I know you’re busy, but I wonder if you’d like to check out my zine? [Inaudible]. Well, it’s sort of a book. [Inaudible]. Yes, I wrote it myself. [Inaudible]. Thanks, I try to write neatly. [Inaudible]. It’s mostly about wandering around and getting lost and feeling all the stuff you feel when you’re on the road. [Inaudible]. No, those aren’t kindergarten drawings. [Inaudible]. I drew them. [Inaudible]. Yes, I’m serious. [Tape ends].

Q: When’s the next Dreamwhip coming out?

I’m hoping to finish #15 in a couple months. It’s about a bike trip I took a couple years ago. For some reason, it’s taking me longer and longer to finish these things.
Q: What was the last book or zine you read? How’d you like it?
I’ve been reading the Chainbreaker Bike Book, which is amazing. I bought it after my rear axle broke and I wanted to fix my bike myself and not have to deal with the jerky mechanic at the bike shop near my house. Yes, it explains how to fix your bike, but it’s also about the joy of being self-sufficient, and the poetry of ball bearings and coaster brakes.

Q: Is print dead?

No way! The more everything goes online, the more I love printed things. I like holding them, and cramming them in my backpack. I like rifling through pages. I like the way printed stuff ages, or shows its age. Pages wrinkle and tear. Colors fade. That blog from 2000 looks exactly the same today as it did in 2000. But the zine you bought in 2000 is marked by the last 10 years of slow buses and black coffee.

Q: What sort of stuff (writing-wise, film-wise, travel-wise, life-wise, whatever-wise) do you have coming up in the future?



CATALOG COVER BY Alec Longstreth. Yeah, it’s nerdy.

We’re got our 2010 Publishing and Distribution Catalog printing! It’s  filled with published and distributed books, zines, videos, tshirts, patches, stickers, buttons, tshirts, posters, postcards–and everything else we do.

There will be tons of new stuff from Microcosm in 2010 and this is the first chance to get a glimpse of what we have planned. Right now we’re concerned with getting 2010 Catalogs in as many hands and places as possible. This is where we need your help!

Unlike major book publishers, we do not have a large budget for promotions and advertising. In fact, we don’t pay for many ads anywhere, even in publications or on websites we whole-heartedly support. In keeping our books cheap, we forgo the luxury of having a promotions department almost entirely.

So how do we get the word out about our books? Our existence is owed almost entirely to people like you telling your friends and spreading the Microcosm word.

If you’d like to help, please email your full name and full address and how many catalogs you think you can distribute.

Typically folks ask for 25, 50, or 100. It’s super easy to drop a stack of 50 each at your cool local coffeeshop and record store! Please don’t ask for more than you think you could pass out.

1. Full Name
2. Full Address
3. How Many?

Thank you so much in advance for your help. We couldn’t do this without you, for real.

Get in touch with any questions and thanks again!


Make Your Place Author Raleigh Briggs to Teach a Class This Weekend!

Raleigh Briggs, author of Make Your Place and other fine DIY publications, will be teaching a class on herbal home Alt textand body care at this weekend’s Portland Plant Medicine Gathering. The event, which takes place November 21st and 22nd at The Bamboo Grove on 134 SE Taylor Street, is billed as celebrating “the wealth of herbal and plant knowledge of our finest local Portland Plant People.”

Says Raleigh, her class, which takes place on Sunday from 5-6:15pm, will teach people to “use plant medicine to make a strong, clean, happy home and body.” She continues, “In this class, we’ll learn some basic preparations for herbal cleansers for your house and your body. I’ll provide some recipes, but we’ll also talk more broadly about how you can create your own formulas at home. This class is for folks who haven’t worked with DIY products before, and will probably be too basic for advanced and intermediate practitioners.”

Registration for the Portland Plant Medicine Gathering is $100 for both days, $60 for one. Other classes will include Colette Gardiner’s Magical Herbs for Healing and Protection, Women’s Health and Herbal Medicine by Dr. JJ Pursell, and Ben Pixie’s How To Raise Honeybees.

Go to PDX Plant for more info and to see the full schedule.

To read more about Make Your Place check out Amy Karol’s excellent blog right here. Raleigh’s book and zines can be found here.

The event runs from 10am-6:30pm daily.

Thanks Academia! Awesome Props for Zines in New Women’s Studies Journal!

The zine world got some awesome props recently in Signs: A Journal of Women in Culture and Society (Autumn 2009, issue 1, vol. 35). Published by the University of Chicago Press, Signs‘ Jenna Freedman, a zine librarian at Barnard College, writes how if it weren’t for zines, notably Krissy Durden’s excellent fat positive publication Figure 8, she would’ve never thought to question fat prejudice and body image.

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Says Freedman, “Although some of the resources Durden quotes are online … since I had never done any research on fat power, I had never encountered them. I somewhat unquestionably believed that fat equals unhealthy until reading this zine.”

Freedman goes on to say that Figure 8, “[E]xpands the zine canon on oppression, making strong arguments against sizeism, something many young, skinny punks may not have thought much about previously.”

Durden writes about the issue, which focuses on feminist zines, on her blog, saying it is “good inspiration for anyone making a zine. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that zines can have an affect, especially when you can find anything on the internet in a second. But, there is nothing like having a zine to hold and read anywhere you are. It’s less distracting than the internet and a much more intimate experience between you and the writer. And, like with Jenna, it can get into someone’s hands who would have never sought out information on that subject.

See more info on Signs right here.

Vegan Migas Via Ben Snakepit!

We don’t generally post press we get but this one is waaay too awesome to pass up. Recently Megan from the Say It’s Not Soy blog came up with a vegan version of the traditional dish migas after being inspired by the Snakepit 2008 book! If you want to check out the blog in its entirety go to but here’s how Megan’s article looks…

What is Snakepit? Snakepit is a daily three-panel autobiographical comic done by Ben Snakepit (Austin, Tx based punk rocker). It is one of my favorite comics and one of the longest running autobiographical daily comics that I know of. Ben used to print them up in a quarterly zine but now they are published once a year as a book. I just got my copy of Snakepit 2008 in the mail this week and I wanted to do a recipe out of it. One of Ben’s favorite foods is migas and it is referenced in this years comic. I had no idea what the hell migas are prior to reading the book but I was interested in them since he spoke so highly of them. Turns out they are some type of Mexican egg dish; which is super easy to make vegan (hello tofu scramble). You can find out more about Snakepit here.

Vegan Migas
Prep time: 30 minutes
Yields: 2 servings


    Tofu Base

  • 2 Tb Earth Balance,vegan butter
  • 1/2 bunch of Green Onions (chopped)
  • 12oz container of Extra Firm Tofu
  • 4oz can of Fire Roasted Mild Green Chilies (chopped)
  • 1 medium Tomato (chopped and seeded)


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  1. Take all your dry spices and whisk them together in a bowl then set aside. Heat a non-stick skillet to medium-low heat. Add earth balance and chopped green onions to your skillet once it is properly heated. Cook the green onions for a couple of minutes; make sure to stir them around.
  2. While you are cooking the onions, drain your tofu and pat it dry. After moisture is removed from the tofu place it in a medium sized bowl. Mash your tofu up with a fork and slowly add in spice mixture. Mash up tofu until the spices are well mixed in and the mixture is crumbly and void of large chunks.
  3. When your tofu mixture is ready to go then add it to your skillet. Cook for about 5 minutes and then add in chopped mild green chilies and hot sauce. Cook for another 10 minutes then add in chopped tomatoes. After adding in the tomatoes cook for another 5 minutes. You want to make sure to add in the tomatoes last because they can easily get overcooked.
  4. Serve with salsa, beans, tortillas, and roasted potatoes (Tamale House Style; supposedly the best migas in Texas). You can also try chopping up some tortillas and adding then when you cook the green onion if you want to have tortillas in the migas. Also note that letting the vegan migas rest overnight in the fridge will bring out a fuller flavor. I like to cook my vegan migas and then enjoy them the next day; it’s worth the wait!
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Thanks Megan and Say It’s Not Soy!

Obsession/Profession: Interview with Zinester/Traveling Vegan Chef Joshua Ploeg

Microcosm’s Joe Biel recently interviewed In Search of the Lost Taste vegan cookbook author/zinester Joshua Ploeg for an upcoming book. Here’s an excerpt from the interview. See the rest of the interview in Biel’s Beyond Resistance and Community, a look at, as Biel says, “People who grew up punk and took it to other places than music,” out in 2010 on Garrett County Press.

Q: Can you talk about your background in punk and how that came about in your life? What was your childhood like that made punk attractive?

A: Sure! I was pretty open-minded about music as a kid, and punk was a part of the whole tapestry. My sister was a punk first, I always liked her music. The whole attitude and politics of it was great and pretty appealing. I seemed quiet and a bit odd but once you got me going I was hard to shut up. Thus, I liked all of the yammering that punk tends to do. And as with most young people, the aggressive music helped get the yayas out (and I had a lot of yayas). Reagan sucked. Idaho sucked. People picked on me a bit (I didn’t care) but the punks were always cool to me. Also later on there was some solid support for being queer in the punk/DIY scene, especially in Olympia, which needless to say I loved. 

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Yes, make ME GAY the center of attention, please! At first I was more of a metal/goth type and punk was appealing as a more left-wing but equally offensive variation. It was in the ’80s that I started digging the music and going to shows, which, hey! punk shows were a couple of bucks and metal ones were $15-20. Punk shows had a small room where you knew everyone, and a pit. Metal shows were at the coliseum with 20,000 assholes, security and a huge barricade. No contest. Punk had good attitude—like me, elitist and egalitarian, at the same time. Once I moved to Olympia and went to college, it was so easy to participate. I dove into going to shows, putting on shows, zines, and playing music; a fast progression ‘cuz of the way things
were in the ’90s: more emo and guilt! Love it! It made it easy to just do whatever I wanted.

Q: How did you get involved in travel chefery/cooking and authoring cookbooks? How do you feel you have evolved and developed that interest into adulthood?

A: The cooking started the first time I became vegan. I was hosting bands all the time and also loved having people over. I loved to eat and loved taste. Thus, it was incumbent
upon me to try to make the vegan food taste better. After much failure I finally began to succeed. Then one day Jeff
Bettger said, “I’d pay for food like this,” and I started a secret cafe in my house pretty much immediately. For this I would constantly research and experiment with different dishes and styles until I developed quite a repertoire and a lot of my own recipes. My friend Andy Gilligan convinced me to have a book group. I would work on my cookbook and he on a children’s book. He insisted I put the recipes together. Eventually I finished it and when this was done the only model to pedal it I had was touring, so I did that. But I didn’t have a car so I just took the Greyhound and Amtrak everywhere. The often dire circumstances of cooking with whatever was available in so many different kitchens and towns honed my skills and brought out whatever latent talents that I had to the point that it turned into
an obsession/profession. It developed into a passion from experience.

Q: It seems what’s most impressive about your work is that you transitioned very directly from touring
with your bands to touring alone with your knives. Was this choice conscious? In what ways were the skills you were employing a direct result of your experience with punk?

A: Yeah, it was the only way I knew how. I didn’t realize how novel it was until the touring was well underway. Promoters were like, “Oh, you’re coming down. What’s your new band? What do you mean ‘dinner party’?!” It was great ‘cuz it could happen anywhere, anytime, any night of the week! Easy to book.

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My punk touring experience was the whole thing of it. We would play at noon or at midnight—any time. In a club, barn, gazebo, hall, basement, vacant lot, church, garage, record store; anywhere! For punks, middle-aged types, kids, heshers, hippies; anyone! And with Lois Maffeo through Man Is the Bastard; any style! Van breaks down, skinheads show up, stay in collectives, squats, dirty-ass places, cars—great PA or no PA, power going out, getting electrocuted; Whatever the circumstances were, do it for the experience. Always some kind of thrill, good or bad. Even boredom is kind of exciting. All of that translated to the cooking in crazy kitchens, hauling huge bags of groceries for a mile or two, abundance or lack of gear or customers, shopping for groceries wherever possible until the ingredients are all there; if you can find them all! Hanging out waiting for stuff to happen; I was ready for that; it carried over in spades!

Q: What are you most excited about in your own future? What can we expect from you?

A: I’m excited about upcoming tours and doing some new things with food and recipe books. Combining all of the mediums we’ve discussed into the realm of recipes and live food events. The latest experiments this year in combining food and design were pretty cool. More of that to come. I’m stoked to go to more countries and really live up to these monikers like “The Traveling Chef” and “The Touring Chef.”