Microcosm Artist Feature: Do-It-Yourself Screenprinting’s John Isaacson!

If you haven’t heard it from us (or through ye olde grapevine) we are running a Kickstarter campaign to fund the re-publishing of John Isaacson’s book Do-It-Yourself Screenprinting. Sadly, the campaign isn’t going so well. We currently have seven days to raise nearly $4,000 of the $5,000 goal (which is one half of the printing costs; we’re shouldering the rest.) So if you can find it in your big ol’ heart to help John’s book spring back to life, here’s the Kickstarter link. Meantime, feast your eyeballs on this collection of the dude’s screenprinting work! We love ya, John!

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Interview with DIY Screenprinting author John Isaacson!

We’re running a Kickstarter campaign right now to help fund one of thee most awesome DIY guides of all time: John Isaacson’s epic, wonderful, hilarious, helpful graphic-novel-as-silk-screening-manual Do-It-Yourself Screenprinting! Right now there are only a few days left until the Kickstartin’ is Kickstopped and it’s not lookin’ too hot. We could hella use your support on this one! If you’ve got a coin or two lying around, here’s the Kickstarter link. Now, without further adieu, meet John Isaacson. He’s a really amazing dude…

Q: Tell us how the book originally came about; where were you in your life?

A: I was discovering mini-comics for the first time in the early 2000s. I was a street vendor selling t-shirts I screenprinted. A lot of people bought shirts from me, but even more wanted to know how to print on their own shirts. They were like, “How do you do this?” So I would explain, and I tend to be a little long-winded, so their eyes would glaze over after a certain point. Then I realized, “Hey, I should just make a little mini-comic about how to silk screen and then more people will get what I am talking about. Then they won’t have to remember what I said; they could just look at it in a little book.”

Q: Do you remember your first screenprinting project?

A: I think it was a stencil of the Operation Ivy skanking punk. Either that or Kokopelli designs. Dancing people for the “Dance Weekend” event at my high school.

Q: What kinds of things are you screenprinting these days?

A: Mostly the odd poster here and there. A few comic book covers.

Q: What’s the first bit of advice you’d give a would-be screenprinter?

A: Be patient, be willing to start over from scratch, remain calm, think critically, and learn from your mistakes. Reuse materials to keep it cheap. Also, buy my book!

Q: Is there anything you wish someone would’ve told you when you were first getting started!

A: That you don’t need to wash out the emulsion with hot water after exposure. Also, that the spray from a spray bottle is not strong enough to remove emulsion.

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Q: What kind of town is Portland for screenprinters?

A: Totally amazing. There are so many studios for printing in and great printers like Daria Tessler, Zack Soto, Kinoko, Keegan Meegan, Corinne Teed, Roger Peet, and E*Rock. I wish I saw more screenprinted posters on the street…

Q: What would you say you’ve learned most from screenprinting?

A: I’ve learned to solve problems creatively. I’ve learned to constantly trouble-shoot and always look for solutions, to never expect “perfection”, to experiment and try new things, and to be loose and not uptight.

Hey NY: Come see us at the Pete’s Candy Store Zine Fest this Saturday!

Hey New York pals,
We’re going to be tabling at the Pete’s Candy Store (709 Lorimer St.) Zine Fest Saturday, May 28, 3:00pm – 7:00pm.

Check out the lineup!

Music by:

Jose Delhart
Bogs Visionary Orchestra
Reign of the Elephants
Rad Unicorn

Zine folks in attendance:
Andria Alefhi (We’ll Never Have Paris) http://neverhaveparis.blogspot.com/

Darryl Ayo (Little Garden Comics) http://darrylayo.tumblr.com/

Joseph Carlough (Lies in States, Today Terrific, Dark Nature, Modicum Issues, DSP’s Box of Horror) http://www.josephcarlough.com/

Marguerite Dabaie (He Also Has Drills For Hands, The Hookah Girl) http://www.mdabaie.com/

Dikko Faust and Esther K. Smith (Purgatory Pie Press) http://www.purgatorypiepress.com/

Jenna Freedman (of the Barnard Zine Library) http://barnard.edu/library/zines

Katie Haegele (The La-La Theory) http://www.thelalatheory.com/

Ayun Halliday (The East Village Inky, The Zinester’s Guide to NYC) http://www.ayunhalliday.com/

Alisa Harris (Urban Nomad, Counter Attack) http://www.alisaharris.com/

Gus Iversen http://www.iloanbooks.com/

Robyn Jordan http://www.robynjordan.com/

Mark Lerer (The Little General)

Sara Lindo (Carl Finds Love, Lobotomy, Wall Street Cat: Money Takes Naps) http://www.theLindo.com/

A.J. Michel (Syndicate Product) http://www.syndicateproduct.com/

Microcosm Publishing http://microcosmpublishing.com/

L. Nichols (Jumbly Junkery, Unrequited Monsters, ! [bang], A Shadow and Its Source, and An Aleatoric Basis for Understanding) http://www.dirtbetweenmytoes.com/

Morgan Pielli (Indestructible Universe Quarterly) http://www.IndestructibleUniverse.com/

Davy Rothbart (FOUND Magazine) http://www.foundmagazine.com/

Bill Roundy (The Amazing Adventures of Bill, Bar Scrawl, various gay romance comics) http://www.billroundy.com/

Kenan Rubenstein (The Oubliette) http://underthehaystack.net/

Steve Seck (Life is Good) http://secktacular.com/

Tales on Tape Hits the Portland Microcosm Zine Store Tues-Thurs!

Hey Portland pals,
We have an awesome event going down in the Microcosm zine store parking lot (636 SE 11th) this Tuesday-Thursday. Here’s the official write-up from the Tales of Tape folks themselves. Come on down! Would love to see ya.
-Cosm, PDX

Tales On Tape “Contemporary Narratives” Installation

In its fourth year of collecting stories from an array of people and sounds, Tales On Tape aims to contribute an ephemeral “Contemporary Narratives” section to Microcosm Publishing. This auditory section will be complete with a listening station and recording booth in hopes of capturing patron’s personal stories, tangents, and sounds.

The recording booth, located in the front lot of Microcosm Publishing, (May 24th – 26th) will be displaying excerpts from past stories, while focusing on capturing new stories from visitors of Microcosm. There will also be cassettes with self-addressed envelopes available after the departure of the project for patrons unable to record in the recording booth. This three day event hopes to record the non-linear facets of a public milieu on the ever so linear method of tape, a middle ground between participants and project facilitators.

    Such endeavors as the “Contemporary Narratives” installation seek to act as a material space in which personal trajectories are allowed to converge and be shared. Equally, Tales on Tape seeks to become a public space, byway of various projects and installations, acting as a dynamic archive of audio artifacts. Tales on Tape has been collecting stories over the last four years and will continue to do so past the expiration of this installation.

Tales On Tape



CIA Makes Science Fiction Unexciting Author Talks! First-Ever Interview!

In the new issue of the zine series The CIA Makes Science Fiction Unexciting, author Abner Smith looks at the life, death, and legacy of Lee Harvey Oswald. Throughout the course of the zine’s 10 year run, Smith has declined interviews about his work. Here he talks to us about the history of the zine series, his own reading list, and the man himself, Oswald.

Check out issue six of The CIA Makes Science Fiction Unexciting right here.

Q: Since this is your first time being interviewed about the series, how did zine series start and why did you originally decide to do it?

A: Over ten years ago I was browsing a used bookstore in Minneapolis that no longer exists. Combing various books about politics and history I decided that many of the texts about the CIA and covert activities were both retailing for over $25 and painfully out-of-date. And I half-heartedly thought about writing about such topics. And I realized that I could write zines on various topics that I could churn out relatively quickly.

Within a year I had written the first issue—about the government’s involvement in the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. It happened to come out just before William Pepper’s book that revealed a lot of new facts about the case and our tours coincided in 2002.

Aside from my interest in the topics of the U.S.’s domestic covert ops, I had found many zines of that era to be self-indulgent and relying more on enthusiasm than merit or topic, and that the writing was designed more for the author than for the reader. There was a youthfulness that I didn’t relate to. And I wanted to show the “scene” that zines had been and could truly be about any topic they could passionately write about.

And that aspect was not lost on people. I received a lot of mail—especially in the early years—that it was encouraging to read a zine that was not a memoir or about a punk tour or hitchhiking trip. And many other people wrote to tell me that it encouraged them to write zines about their own off-beat topics.

I found the writing to be very difficult and unfulfilling at first but I feel like with this current issue I have finally found my own and I now understand nonfiction writing to be more than a rote recitation of facts. I read William Zinser’s On Writing Well between the 5th and 6th issues and I found it to capture my theory of self-editing perfectly and in words. His book is so good that I forgive his Christianity and how it sneaks in awkwardly.

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(above, Abner Smith today.)

Q: One thing I got from reading the whole series is, “Wow, this guy must have a crazy-different reading list than most of my friends/most zinesters.” What are some of the books you’ve read recently that might connect to the zine’s vibe…

A: Other than perhaps John Marr, I probably have a very different reading list than most zine writers. I read hungrily and incessantly and most of the things that I’ve consumed lately that haven’t been related to Oswald are Hitler’s Secret Bankers, Covert Action: The Roots of Terrorism, The CIA’s Black Ops, The Secret History of the CIA, The CIA in Guatamala, Whiteout: The CIA, Drugs, and The Press.

Conspiracy theorists form a somewhat cohesive social community just like zinesters do. And being plugged into that really helps me stay aware of new or interesting books. And oddly enough, Amazon’s search engine is very helpful for finding related books on a topic and purchasing them elsewhere—like my neighborhood bookstore.

I’m hesitantly thinking that issue seven will be about the CIA’s manufacture and distribution of crack-cocaine. And I’m still uneasy with the fact that I’ll eventually have to handle Robert Kennedy’s assassination, MK Ultra, and the validity of where those two incidents might intersect.

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(Above, Abner Smith, artist’s portrait.)

Q: Why Oswald in 2011? Tell us how the man’s life and death relates to, as the kids say, “How we’re livin’ now”?

A: It would be classy to say that Oswald’s story mirrors the current Joint Terrorism Task Force or post-9/11 security paranoia but the truth is that I haven’t seen a story as tragic or hilarious as Oswald’s before or after so it’s a sick fascination with an off-kilter individual who was able to get all of the attention he desired. And after ten years of research I decided I finally had enough good sources on his life to tell his story. I hope no one now is living like Oswald—he was a monster, a bad shot, and a terrible date.

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(Above, Abner Smith, 1967)

Q: Throughout the course of your research on the man did you get to like him? You say he was a monster and a bad shot and a terrible date but in the text I feel a certain (subtle) sympathy. Did researching Oswald humanize him for you?

A: Oswald represents the humanity in everyone—our selfishness, our self-hatred, our insecurities, our yearning for fame, our willingness to be important. I don’t “like” him or want to be him, but I see a composite archetype of the uglier bits of everyone in him. He’s not a villain per se, but he’s troubled and not reacting well. And I think it’s important not to demonize certain people when they really aren’t that different from the people we talk to everyday, it’s just a lot more obvious. And I can see why even his widow and his children think of his positive traits first and don’t see him as a monster—and want to see him as a hero. Oswald does a good job of showing us how complex everyone’s character is and how perception paints those pictures.

Q: Which is a lot less reductive than most portrayals have been. How do you think Oliver Stone did with his version (JFK, 1991) of Oswald’s character?

A: Oliver Stone was setting out to prove a government conspiracy through what is essentially a propaganda film—and an effective one. But that makes Oswald’s character an afterthought, or at least secondary. It’s been fifteen years since I’ve seen the movie but I feel like it doesn’t really capture the depth or complexity of how I view Oswald.

Q: Do you think Stone’s film had any impact on the greater population’s opinion of the actual events?

A: Yes, most definitely it did. I think it was the first time in 25 years that the population was re-thinking these events and people who weren’t alive when the assassination happened were calling their history textbook into questioning. The film was also a very significant factor in demanding the FBI files on the assassination and Oswald.

Q: In your opinion, did Lee Harvey Oswald kill President Kennedy?

A: I’ve been researching this case intensively for the past ten years and in the beginning I was a bit tired of the conspiracy theory and had come full circle to believe that Oswald had likely had some major role in killing Kennedy, though was probably not working alone. There’s a giant volume of information and context in this case. And the more information that I came across from declassified files, the more evident it becomes that there was a very concerted effort on the part of our government to paint Oswald as the lone assassin. And the deeper you get into it, there’s high levels of corruption in that government and obvious links, resources, and motives far stronger than Oswald’s. I don’t think it’s possible that Oswald had more than a patsy role in Kennedy’s assassination.

Q: If not Oswald, then who killed Kennedy?

A: It’s difficult even to speculate about events from nearly 40 years ago—especially when all documents are still in various states of redacted and still not entirely declassified. But it’s clear that from the evidence we do have that Guy Bannister and David Ferrie were involved. Ferrie is a particularly sinister character who gave up a little more of the story when he protested to Jim Garrison that bringing attention on him would surely result in his murder—and it did. Other people who were aware of the details disappeared mysteriously. Read more here. When Oswald was arrested his wallet contained David Ferrie’s library card. Ferrie claimed repeatedly that they had never met—until photos were declassified showing them talking on multiple occasions.

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(Above, Abner Smith, 1953)

Q: Do you think we’ll ever know for sure?

A: It’s been too long.

The Microcosm Interview with Dream Whip’s Bill Brown!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Helping Out the Ol’ Microcosm

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

bff_programBFF Program

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

Sliding Scale Pricing

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

Getting the Word Out

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Q: How did you get into zine-makin’?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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