Zine Review: Bright Lights #2

24 September 2007

Zine - Bright Lights #2

Bright Lights #2 is young without being naive. Sure, Katie writes about her PE class and her relationship with her mother, but it’s not all angsty whining. These subjects are largely platforms for her thoughts on social class and the homeless.

So, for instance, Katie’s complaint about PE is that “swinging around a racket in a stuffy tennis bubble makes me feel like a snob”; her arguments with her mother are political, about the causes of homelessness.

The second half of the zine is almost meditative, with some peaceful thoughts about rain and clouds:

One of my favourite things to do is just walk around aimlessly in the rain wearing a thick hooded sweater. I love to feel the rain collect on the bridge of my nose while I watch people hussle around like ants.

Me too!

Katie Joa, Bright Lights #2, 1/4 size, 20 pages.

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Zine Review: 8LETTERS #1

24 September 2007

Zine - 8LETTERS #1

I don’t have a tattoo. I have thought about it, but since I’m not passionately committed to the idea, I’m sure I’ll regret it later — I picture Derek Vinyerd covering up the large swastika on his chest.

But not all tattoos can be covered up, and I’ve often wondered how their owners deal with their regrets. 8LETTERS is “a little book of knuckle tattoos”, and it collects interviews Johnny NoPants conducted with strangers he met on his travels. He asks people what they have tattooed on their knuckles, why those eight letters are significant, and what the consequences of the tattoos have been.

There are flashes of humour, like Shawn showing his “FUCK NYPD” to the police, or this exchange with Kimya:

8- Do you ever wish you had different knucklers?

K- the only other ones that I though[t] would be fun, but I wouldn’t rather have, would be Capri sun or juicebox.

8- I’m glad you got LAFF LOUD.

For many of the interviewees, the tattoos are an expression of defiance against the system. These people are making a statement that they don’t want to fit in. As Kimya says, “I wouldn’t work at a place that wouldn’t let me have them”.

Usually I enjoy this kind of screw-the-Man attitude, but in 8LETTERS #1 it’s mostly just depressing. Zane tattooed himself while sitting in his high school class; two months later, he’s already unhappy that “because of the exclamation marks, people cant really read it”, and he’s dropped out of school. Lil J had his done in prison, to remind him of his former life. Josh, too:

He told me how he went to prison, and got “25to Life” tattoed on his knuckles, but after getting released he wanted to remove them to “get a decent job.” He couldn’t afford to get them laser removed, so he tore them off himself with a razor blade and packed them in salt. This left him with scars in the shape of 25to Life.

None of this has brought me any closer to wanting a tattoo, but it was definitely an interesting read. I’d love to see a follow-up with some of the interview subjects, to see what they’re doing and whether they still like their tattoos in another five to ten years. Unfortunately, their transient lifestyles — as Lil J’s knuckles put it, “HOBOCORE” — mean that’s highly unlikely. I’ll just have to cross my fingers that things turn out okay for them.

Johnny NoPants, 8LETTERS #1, 1/4 size, 32 pages.
Available from Microcosm.

Zine Review: The Jaws of Life

14 September 2007

Zine - The Jaws of Life

This brilliant mini-zine is a bizarre biography.

A first attempt was written about encounters with the yeti, but this was aborted due to typewriter difficulties. Instead, we are treated to a handwritten explanation of Gorbott’s extraterrestrial origins. He writes:

i was transported to earth in some sort of space ship. i think something must have gone wrong in the cockpit, because i was dropped off in arlington, texas.

The illustrations were produced by “allowing my subconscious to dictate the movements of the pen rather than my critical conscious.” I think this means he wasn’t looking at the page while he drew, and the results are a series of slightly disconcerting but still recognisable portraits. The subjects do not bear any relation to the text, but somehow that seems to make more sense.

The Jaws of Life is very well executed. Gorbott’s casual style and sense of humour avoid the potential pitfalls of silliness and pretentiousness. Instead, the zine is imaginative and playfully absurd, and it leaves the reader wishing it was longer.

The Gorbott, The Jaws of Life, 1/8 size, 12 pages.
Available from the author.

Zine - From the Desk of Business Chimp

Sean Bieri’s From the Desk of Business Chimp is a mini-comic comprising seven single-panel sketches of chimpanzees wearing suits in workaday situations.

Sounds a bit silly, but Bieri really captures the daily grind of office work. I can relate to every single page (well, except the one about smoking), and I think a scanned image of “Business Chimp regrets sending that last email” might come in handy.

From the Desk of Business Chimp is brief but entertaining, and worth picking up. I’m going to keep my eyes peeled for the sequel: Overtime for Business Chimp.

Sean Bieri, From the Desk of Business Chimp, 1/4 size, 8 pages.
Available from Microcosm.

Zine Review: Chainbreaker #4

13 September 2007

Zine - Chainbreaker 4

Chainbreaker #4 is really badly organised — or at least, my copy is. I should say this up front, because it got in the way of my jumping straight in to read it through.

It looks like there was a fight with the photocopier with no clear winner. Instructions for brake adjustments begin unintroduced with steps 4 to 6 on an upside-down page 15, before finishing with steps 1 to 3 on page 35. Worse still, some stories seem to be missing bits — Moose’s “Bike Nation” article seems to jump back a couple of pages, with at least a couple of sentences missing in the middle.

These frustrations aside, when I’d grappled with those layout issues enough to get properly stuck in to Chainbreaker #4, I found it was a vibrant, passionate and informative discussion about bikes, the people who ride them, and the problems of gender, capitalism and urban planning that confront them. The writing is truly inspiring:

[O]ne of the main reasons I love the bicycle so much is that you don’t need a car to use it. I like the rides that begin and end at my back gate. The rides that take me through old familiar neighbourhoods, winding crazy loops that criss-cross the city and eventually, bring me back home again.

These contributors love their bikes, and they love their cities. Being out in the open air as they commute or courier or play gives them a stronger connection to the streets they move through. For Sean, a ride across town “brought back a rush of memories”. Now that he lives too close to work to ride there, he thinks back to a bicycle commute and says “it made me feel alive.” Scott Spitz describes similar feelings: “This is how I celebrate freedom.”

But it’s not all rosy all the time. Freedom comes with risks, like Moose’s “broken teeth that I got from being nailed by a minivan on my bike” or “the cyclist that got killed in the French quarter last night”. But these horror stories are taken as inspiration: for a documentary (One Shoe in the Road, about “struck riders and their stories”), or a bike conference, or a more inclusive town planning system. And there is plenty advice on keeping safe, including tips for riding in traffic, and instructions for maintaining your brakes.

Zines and bicycles are both low-tech in a high-tech world, and Chainbreaker #4 is a celebration of both. It’s about getting stuck in with scissors and glue and bolts and grease. It makes me glad I own a bike — and guilty that I don’t ride often enough.

Shelley, Chainbreaker #4, 1/2 size, 48 pages.
Available from UrbanVelo, Microcosm and Paper Trail.

Danger zone

6 September 2007

I stopped in at a certain fast food chain this morning, to grab a coffee and a hash brown on my way to work. On the wall there was a sign:

Toilets are closed

Please do not touch the door, as it is evidence in a police investigation.

We apologise for any inconvenience.