The Perfect Mix Tape Segue #2: Brutal Honest Tea
by Joe Biel Author
Joe Biel explains four years of his life in "Brutal Honest Tea," about honest communication, the opportunity costs of various choices, the room for regret in those choices, drinking iced tea, and the results of social awkwardness. It questions the various life paths and whether or not people really think their decisions through or feel pressured to do certain things.
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Comments & Reviews
" ... Joe's style is so catchy that one can't do anything but read the magazine from cover to cover."
"A personal zine about the trials and tribulations of living on couches in community punk rock houses in places like Portland. I love the small format; it reminds me a lot of Portland’s Mike Daily and his series of Spun titles where beatnik stream of consciousness prose meets blog-like self disclosure. Standing alone, I could take or leave this zine. But if it’s one in a long line of serials, sign me up for the fall season."
Joe Biel is cool. Joe Biel is a good guy. I know, I've met him. He is the brains and the driving force behind Microcosm Publishing, a super-cool DIY project that produces CDs, T-shirts, buttons, and cool zines like this one. You should support projects like these if only for the fact that it's people like Joe -- someone who can make a living off his beloved scene and do it with style -- that keep the rest of us firm in the thought that we are fighting the good fight. But on to the zine itself: Basically an essay, this zine finds me at the perfect time. Maybe it's because I know Joe and know that we are approximately the same age. Joe's thoughts seem to solidify a feeling I have had for a bit: That all of up hipsters/zinesters/scenesters/people for a better waysters over the age of 25 are dealing with the same thing. Maybe it's growing up in a community that spits you out after you come of age, or maybe it's stuggling to justify being part of something that consists largely of pre-teens and confused wanders in thier early 20s. For most people, when society tells them to grow up they do. For Joe and I the fight is the hard one. Struggling to live how we want the world to be and attempting to come up with a viable third way, we find ourselves panting uphill and being misunderstood by, well, everyone. It's comforting to me to know Joe is dealing with the same things I am. At the same time, it's disheartening to know that if Joe Biel, substantial cornerstone of (at least the Portland) DIY community can't figure it out, then how can I. In reality, both of us are trying to find answers where none exist and in the meantime will keep creating and thinking and trying to work it out. At least Joe has the balls to write it all down.
Brutal Honest Tea. Joe is the co-owner of Microcosm, a DIY publishing and distribution operation in Portland, OR. He has also helped organize the Portland Zine Symposium over the past couple of years. This is a short and sweet personal zine that he publishes. In this issue, he struggles with his life decisions thus far, and whether or not achieving his goal of becoming self-sufficient through his DIY projects has made him happy. He asks his friends who are involved in other life paths if they are content, and most of them don't feel comfortable having an honest conversation with him about the issue. He eventually contacts a good friend who helps him to sort things out, and ends up with a plan for modifications to his life. The other piece in here is a section called "Roommate Reviews" where Joe tells entertaining stories about former roommates. A good read for anyone who's reflected on their own life choices, but especially for those who have taken less traveled, but perhaps more rewarding, roads.
What I wasn?t familiar with the first issue of the zine, this issue came to me as a packet of Microcosm stuff, and by far, this is equitable in quality to any of the other zines in that parcel. This time, we are treated to a personal zine done by Joe, detailing the ennui of having everything one could want and the encroaching stagnation of being in such a position. Starting out in a bar show, where Joe only can ask questions about eir?s position to individuals who do not have any answer, self-reflection and one useful friend are able to bring Joe to a more solid resolve, ending with the desire to ?fix my bike when it needs work? build a shed in our backyard.. going to drink tea?. With this first section encompassing three-fourths of the zine, the typical cop-out would be to have some filler material finish up the last few pages. This is simply not the case with The Perfect Mix Tape Segue, as Joe goes rifling through the filing cabinets of eir?s past to dredge you! p a story about the few apartments and communal house and ey and Alex lived in before (and just after) they were romantically entangled. 16 pages may seem like a small number of pages, but the text is quite tiny, and Joe?s style is so catchy that one can?t do anything but read the magazine from
cover to cover.
Joe is one of the brains behind Microcosm Publishing, one of the 'big names' in this zine scene. It was good to see that even a guy like Joe who's 'made it', whatever that means (breaking even, maybe; interviewed by important magazines, possibly), has moments where he doesn't know where to turn and no one seems to understand him. From what I gather, Joe publishes a lot of zines. I picked this one by chance at Lucy Parson's Center in Boston, don't know how it made it there. The style is cut-n-paste with paragraphs in typewriter front glued onto old pictures from magazines or maps or drawings or photos of scenery. I like this kind of layout‹it's got something the computer hasn't: failure. When you a write a zine like Joe did, about going out alone more and more often, seeing people who can't relate to him, needing someone to tell him he's doing something useful with his life ('though we generally reiterated things that I already knew, it felt good to have some reassurance that I hadn't just lost my marbles) you aren't trying to win any layout competitions. You're a broken person at this point, and sizing text boxes to fit isn't really fitting. I think in this case the layout works real well‹I can imagine the man in a dark room with a desk lamp and glue small bits of paper all over his hands. To cap off the zine, Joe talks about his travels with Alex to Portland and a stay in a community-type house with lots of different and quirky people coming in and out. It doesn't really fit, thematically, with everything else in the zine, but it applies Joe's more intimate personal views and crises to a concrete situation, with a 'plot.' It's a nice little ending, but then I'm a sucker for travel zines.