Tag Archives: zine

I’ll Review Your Zine

If you’d like for me to review your zine (or other independently published book, booklet, etc.) mail a promotional copy to me at:

Robert Mitchell, P.O. Box 1322, Glen Allen, VA 23060-1322

My sainted father said, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.”  I think that was good advice.  So I don’t write bad reviews.  If I don’t like your zine, I just won’t review it.  That way there’s no bad karma, no negativity, and no assiness.  Makes sense, right?

Here’s a slideshow featuring some of my stuff, all available at PTDICE.com

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

RVA Zinefest 2014 Zine Reviews

wpid-20141004_145522.jpg

This is me and my new-and-improved tabling efforts.

RVA Zinefest 2014 was my best zinefest to date, primarily because I scored a couple of firsts: it was the first zinefest at which I actually made a small profit and it was the first zinefest at which someone came up to me and said, “Aren’t you Robert Mitchell?  Could you autograph this zine?”

But this post isn’t about me, it’s about all of the really cool zines I picked up this year.  NOTE: All of the titles link to the authors’ web shops or profies so you can buy copies.  If you want to buy copies of my zines, browse to PTDICE.com.

Genius (Love) and Minutiae #4 by Aijung Kim

Genius (Love) and Minutiae #4 by Aijung Kim

Genius (Love) and Minutiae No. 4 by Aijung Kim

Aijung Kim is (besides being a really cool person) a very talented artist with a unique sensibility.  I always love her stuff.  This year she traded me for two of her mini-zines because I just have a thing for the really small ones.  Genius (Love) is an illustrated prose poem “for the full-hearted, broken-hearted, & those who are mending.”  It is touching, sincere, and beautiful to look at and hold in your hands.  Even in a tiny zine like this, Aijung takes the time to add a little touch — a tiny heart insert on the last page.  (A+)  Minutiae No.4 is a collection of somewhat random thoughts and observations.  It is 14 tiny pages of cuteness and humor with a few dead centipedes and toads thrown in for contrast.  Loved it.  (A)

wpid-20141012_101217.jpg

Ralf Schulze’s zines

Caio Frau, The Larry the Leper Show Part 2, and Dinky Doo Meets Mr. Suburbia by Ralf Schulze at Aardvark Farms

All three of these free zines (reprints from the 80’s) are in the classic gonzo comic mold, so if that’s your cuppa tea, you dig ’em.  For the most part they are funny, light, and entertaining, although there is the occasional breakthrough into the unsettling and incisive.  In Caio Frau there is a one-page story called “Larry the Leper meets Dog*God” that is brilliant.  You could write a friggin’ term paper on this thing!  Sorry Ralf, have to take points off for some of your panels being just a little too small to read easily.  It’d be great if these were 1/2 sheets instead 1/4 sheets.  (A-)

Calm Down and Fragments of Karnage

Calm Down and Fragments of Karnage

Fragments of Karnage #365 and Calm Down by Mo Karnage (and friends)

First off, I’m just a tourist and sympathizer who sometimes steps into the leftist/anarchist/communist community to write prisoner support letters, deliver material support to protesters, or teach free self-defense seminars to activists.  I’m not at all qualified to critique movements and their approaches.  So all I can say about Calm Down is that it makes tons of common sense, is fun to read, and demonstrates the ever-increasing wisdom and maturity of Mo Karnage (a.k.a. “the hardest-working human in the anarchy business”). (A).  Blending haiku (some funny, some touching) and prose, and mixing the personal, social, and political, Fragments of Karnage is classic Mo: under-produced, emphasis on content over sizzle, minimal, and to-the-point.  It’s all good, but the section “Need a man” is brilliant, and the comments on open carry of firearms are insightful and smart.  (A+)

Sale into the 90s

Sale into the 90s

Sale into the 90s by Anita Rose

I’m pretty sure this 24-page 1/2 size zine violates about a hundred copyrights.  That said, it’s super fun to browse the old store ads, screen shots from TV shows, and snippets from newspapers and magazines, all dating back to the 90’s.  I especially have a soft spot for Matlock, which earns a full page spread.  You go girl!  Classic, hodgepodge, cut’n’paste zinester goodnes (24 pages, 1/2 sheet, center-glued).  (B+)

 

Prow by Hannah Huddle

Prow by Hannah Huddle

Prow: Prothonotary Warbler by Hannah Huddle

Um, wow.  I got a chance to meet Hannah when I got her zine.  Now that I’ve read it I can say that the zine makes as great an impression as she did.  Her art is excellent, and the content really makes you understand the the complexity and importance of studying these increasingly rare birds.  This a great zine, and not just for “bird nerds.”  After I read it I went to Hannah’s website and spent a half hour browsing.  1/2 sheet, center-stapled booklet. (A+)

Heirloom #2 by Cristina

Heirloom #2 by Cristina

Heirloom #2 by Cristina Isabellugo

This classic zine (40 pages, 1/2 sheet, center-sewed, B&W) is anything but typical.  The writing is superb (“I was reading a book under a dim orange lamp light, letting the crystals cast long shadows onto my forearm.”) and the artwork matches the mood and style perfectly.  It is intimate but not self-pitying, personal but not sappy.  Reading this one leaves you feeling like you’ve made a dear friend, like you want to give her a call and have coffee, like you want to see how she’s doing or mail her a card.  Loved it.  (A+)

Tent on Cement by Mara Hyman

Tent on Cement by Mara Hyman

Tent on Cement by Mara Hyman

This pink, quad-fold, 1/8 sheet zine is a tiny gem.  “Electricity humming/to the bugs singing/heat lightning dancing.”  Would love to see other stuff she’s done but I couldn’t find a link to a shop, just a link to her Facebook page.  Good job Mara, dig your zine.  (A)

 

 

I LOVE BAD MOVIES

I LOVE BAD MOVIES

Matt and Kseniyah, the editors of I LOVE BAD MOVIES

Matt and Kseniyah, the editors of I LOVE BAD MOVIES

I Love Bad Movies Vol. 6: The Food Issue edited by Kseniya Yarosh and Matt Carman

Okay, I love bad movies, and this is one of my favorite zines.  I only had issues 3 and 5, and although I wanted to get all the back issues, I was a little strapped for cash so I could only afford to pick up #6, the newest issue.  Professionally produced and edited, written by pros with real writing chops, and chocked full of interviews, trivia, hilarity, and fun, this is the zine for movie lovers.  You’ll find footnotes like this one: “*Hitch also said that “the length of a film should be directly related to the endurance of the human bladder.”  His last film was Family Plot, released in 1976 — coincidentally the very same year that the Big Gulp was first introduced.”  71 pages of 1/2 sheet, center-stapled, pure movie nerd-joy.  (A+)

If you’d like for me to review your zine, mail a promotional copy to me at:

Robert Mitchell, P.O. Box 1322, Glen Allen, VA 23060-1322

My sainted father said, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.”  I think that was good advice.  So I don’t write bad reviews.  If I don’t like your zine, I just won’t review it.  That way there’s no bad karma, no negativity, and no assiness.  Makes sense, right?

 

 

 

RVA Zinefest is Tomorrow

I’ll be at RVA Zinefest tomorrow!  Come by, meet me in person, and buy some of my stuff.  If you’re on a budget, you’ll be glad to know that I’ll also be giving some stuff away — and that admission to the event is free.

There will be over 60 of the most creative and fun people you’ll ever meet selling hundreds of zines, books, and other independent productions.  Where else can you buy a book, read the first chapter during lunch break, and then go tell the actual author how much you’re liking it?  (Try doing that at Barnes & Noble with a James Patterson book and let me know how that works out for you:  “Hey guys — I don’t think James Patterson is actually here.  Should I go up to the registers and ask somebody?”)

This is how I did it

Weeds_bw

This is me, aged 53, with 11% body fat. If you’re an old fart like me the program works. If you’re younger, it’ll work even better.

My 48-page booklet is called “CUT! How to Lose Weight and Get the Muscle Definition You Always Wanted” and you can get it for just $5.99.

(Damn I hate commercials, and really hate to put them on this blog, but baby needs a new pair of shoes…)

I could’ve padded it with 50,000 words of blah-blah-blah, turned into a fancy DVD program or download, etc.  But I didn’t.  I kept it short — and priced it low — because I want every Dick, Jane, Pat and Tracy to be able to enjoy and afford it.

No insane workouts, no weird food, no bull crap.  If my dried up old ass can do it, you can too.

 

 

CUT! How to Lose Weight and Get the Muscle Definition You Always Wanted

Okay kids, after months of testing, documenting, writing, and editing, it’s finally ready — my program for losing weight and shedding fat.  It’s called CUT! How to Lose Weight and Get the Muscle Definition You Always Wanted.

Don’t be fooled by the kitschy, comic-book-styled artwork.  This is the real deal.  Follow this program and you will get the lean body you want — no extreme workouts, no insanity, no mail-order food, no expensive equipment.  Just sensible food and realistic exercise.

I am uniquely qualified to write on this subject because I used to tip the scales at over 230 pounds.   If you want to hear the long, sad tale you can read on.  If you don’t, and you want to trust me, then head on over and buy a copy.

It works.

——————————-

How I Went From Fat to Fit

I had been chubby since middle school. The older I got the heavier I got, and while I had always hated being fat and out of shape, I had never been able to summon up with the discipline to change. Fortunately a couple of things happened that pushed me in a new direction. Both of them, inexplicably and coincidentally, happened in my car.

The first event occurred in the early 1980s. I don’t remember the exact year, just that I was in my early twenties and I was driving home from a sales trip. A shooting pain in my chest forced me to pull off the road. It quickly subsided, and I was able to finish the drive, but it scared me half to death. I went straight to the doctor. After a physical exam and some lab tests the doctor informed me that I had not had a heart attack – that was relief – but he added the following:

“Relax Mr. Mitchell. There’s nothing wrong with you that isn’t wrong with half of the men in North America. You’re grossly obese and you have the body of a man twice your age. Just keep doing what you’re doing and you won’t make 50.” He handed me some pamphlets about weight loss and he was gone.  Somehow his sarcasm was more searing, and more scary, than the pain in my chest had been.

I started trying to diet and work out, but it was slow going and I hated it. There was nothing about the process of dieting or working out that was anything other than miserable.

One day I was driving to an appointment and got stuck in traffic. It was hot, the air conditioning was blowing tepid air in my idling car, and I was desperate to get to my destination on time. The car was literally a pressure cooker, and it was just too much for me to handle. So I proceeded to throw a childish fit, complete with screaming, swearing, and pounding of the steering wheel.
“Come on people, just go! What are you doing? It’s the pedal on the right that makes your car go you stupid…”

I don’t know why, but at some point during my idiotic tantrum I realized that it was nobody’s fault but mine that I was late. The people in the cars in front of me were just like me. From there I came to the inescapable conclusion that I was sick. I did not have a multitude of problems – a weight problem, a patience problem, a temper problem, and so on – what I had was a one big problem, a massive mental problem centering around low self-esteem. This central problem resulted in ill health, poor discipline, and all of the other issues I’ve already mentioned, plus a heaping helping of monetary problems and relationship problems.

It’s hard to be a decent employee, husband, father, and friend when you’re an irascible prick who hates himself. You spend all your time trying to prove you amount to something when you really don’t. Your subconscious mind knows you’re worthless as all hell, but your rational mind can’t except that. The imbalance between those two moving parts soon begins to shake the machine to pieces.

Somehow, as I slid down a terrifying slope into a life of complete failure, I managed to put on the brakes. I reached out in desperation for something that would help. I had heard that martial arts were good for discipline and weight loss, and I knew myself well enough to know that if I was going to work out, I would have to find an activity. Running and lifting weights were just too boring.
I walked into a Korean Karate school so fat that I could barely tie my crispy white uniform shut around my waist. I had never played a sport in high school, let alone college, and I could not even do a single Push-up. I loved it though. It was fun. Fun that is until my exam for yellow belt.

The school was full of people. Students, parents, and friends gathered to see both children and adults take their tests. When it was my turn I stepped to the center of the mat in front of everyone. I did okay until it was time to demonstrate my form. I had only a couple of dozen movements to execute, but I blanked out. I couldn’t remember a single technique. The room seemed as quiet as a meat packing plant at midnight. There I hung in the silence, a hundred eyes waiting to cut me up into steaks.

For the first time in my life I found myself in a situation I could not bullshit my way out of.   Before then, whenever I got in a jam, I could always flash a smile and borrow some money, convince a lover not leave me or a friend not to ditch me, tell a believable lie to get my way, make an excuse and keep my job, or beg for extra credit so I could pass a class. But the faces of the black belts behind that long table in front of me said that there was nothing I could do but demonstrate my skills. This was pass or fail. No excuses. No bullshit.

The school had a wall of mirrors along one side, and in those mirrors I saw myself clearly for the first time. I was a crappy father, a worthless husband, an unreliable friend, and a lackluster employee. Everything that I had previously told myself about myself was a lie. And now I was about to prove that I was an awful martial arts student as well.

Something inside me welled up and I managed to turn on the lights inside my head. I completed the first movement and the rest followed in succession. I passed the exam and got my yellow belt – a yellow belt that is more precious to me than the black belt I got three years later. That was the day I started rebuilding myself from the ground up. I decided that I was going to be the best father, husband, friend, and employee that I could possibly be, and that I would never again fail to look at myself the mirror without flinching.

If you are a fat, miserable, unhealthy person in your mind and in your body there is only one thing you can do. Look at yourself in the mirror and evaluate yourself without fear. Make a decision, today, right now, this very moment, that you are going to change.

Look at yourself hard, without the candy coating. No more lies, no more excuses, no more bullshit. See that person? That’s what you were thirty seconds ago.

But not anymore.

Tons of Zine Reviews!

image

Some of the ‘zines I picked up at DC Zinefest

Now that I’ve had a chance to sit down and actually read the zines I picked up at DC Zinefest last weekend, here are some quick reviews (clockwise from upper left in the photo).

————

 Mt. Olyphant is a graphic novel in eight parts — only the first installment is available just yet — written by Zack Ziemba and illustrated by Christine Skelly.  This is the tale of Paul Tomarchio, a mythology scholar who wakes up in a mental hospital  only to find that the doctors, patients and staff are all figures from Greek mythology.  Is Paul frightfully insane, or is he seeing the machinery behind the curtain of reality?  The production value is perfect and professional, the writing is skilled and original, and the artwork is inspired.  I was blown away!  If the quality holds up until the end, this thing could and should win awards.  Buy yourself a copy here.  You won’t be disappointed!  (A+)

Felis Leon is a short story written and illustrated by Christine Skelly.  My only criticism is that the language is overblown in a few places, just a little too over the top.  But this is offset by great art and superb allegory.  Whether or not Skelly was aware of the alchemical symbolism she was using I can’t say.  But the colors of the internal illustrations — red, magenta, purple — are analogous to the rubedo phase of alchemy sometimes called “the purpling,” the final stage of transformation toward achievement of the Great Work.  And the protagonists?  The peacock and the lion?  Deeply symbolic and compelling.  Joseph Campbell could give a talk on this little gem.  Download available here.  Highly recommended.  (A)

Next we have two pieces from the G. E. Gallas collection.  The first is The Poet and the Flea which, like Mt. Olyphant, is a graphic novel being released in installments.  How in the world could you not love a graphic novelization of the life of William Blake?  Holy Urizen!  I’m no Blake scholar, but I’ve got my feet wet on the subject of England’s mad poet, and Gallas is doing a banging job.  And the courage to tackle Blake!  Are you serious?  One of the most studied poets in history?   This thing is fascinating, and she clearly loves her subject. “A tree filled with angels, their light blinding, their wings bespangling every bough like stars.”  Go and get some.  (A+).

The second piece from G. E. Gallas is The First Reich.  This teaser for a graphic novel in development is written by Shannon Brady and illustrated by Gallas.  It tackles the subject of the whacko genius Wilhelm Reich.  For those of you who are unacquainted with Reich, he was a highly educated and respected psychoanalyst who also believed in a cosmic energy known as “orgone.”  Because Reich’s writings are the only ones ever ordered to be destroyed by a U.S. court, he is a darling of the occult and conspiracy theory crowd (and how do I know this?  Back when I joined the Richmond League of Occult Research and Education they had just finished building an Orgone Cloud Buster based on Reich’s plans).  I love the subject, and both writing and artwork are solid.  Recommended (A).

FPOON skate ‘zine.  This is a skate ‘zine, which means that it is, well, a skate ‘zine.  Fragmented.  All over the place.  Funny as hell.  But what makes this one different is the high production value, the color pages, the brains, and the political savvy.  Blending fact and fiction, the serious and silly, this one was much more than I thought it would be.  Check these guys out on Tumblr.  I was impressed.  (B+)

Queer Witch #1. This is a ‘zine in the classic mold — intentionally low production value and purposely offensive — which basically means I have to give it a thumbs up.   I get the impression that issue #1 is a manifesto issue and that subsequent ones will have more actual witchcraft content.  Explicit artwork, swear-filled, transgressive, and refreshing.  It’s a little bit screamy, but if you want to shake up your perspective, buy it.   Unfortunately there is nothing in/on this ‘zine to indicate where you can get a copy.  Maybe you could tweet Kaitlin “Boomboom” Froom and find out?  (B)

One of the biggest surprises this year was the stuff I got from Kelly Chick.  I liked everything I picked up — a vertical folded booklet called Stop Having Boyfriends (“we made too much eye contact for it to ever be platonic/i always get out of the car just a little too fast”), and two quarter-sheet booklets called dear kelly…love kelly and Contextual Awareness (“you just want someone to rub your head until you fall asleep”).  She tabled next to me and she was charming.  She gave away a whole backpack full of free stuff.  People like her reinforce my belief that life is completely not pointless.  No website listed.  Maybe if you email her she’ll send you stuff.

Abraxas by Marta Lapczynski (Fat Heart Press 2013, perfect-bound, 50 pages).  The most expensive item I bought this year, and worth the $8.00 price tag.  This is classic NY stream prose poesy — grimy, gutsy, Ginsbergian, nerve-jangling shit.  Non-traditional construction sometimes hides her message rather than reveals it, and at times I wished she just wrote her story ‘straight.’  Still, Lapczynski should be very proud of what she’s done in this stunning little tome: “We’ve always been on the brink of losing our jobs.  We were born walking the line, took our first holy breaths already mid-collapse.”  She’s “swimming depths and waiting deep.” Fat Heart Press is now Elation Press.  Get yours here. (A+)

Quiet Desperation: A Zine about Heist Movies needs a better cover.  How can you put a 7th grade piece of art (no offense?) on the front of a doctoral thesis on the subject of heist movies?  Luke Stacks has produced a 28-page half-fold booklet full of real deal film criticism that’s comprehensive, educated, and professional.  At the end he promises to go even deeper in subsequent issues?  How?  This ain’t a ‘zine — it’s a reference book.  Put it on your shelf next to your Oxford English Dictionary and your Brittanica.  And he included Run Lola Run so he gets extra points.  Email Luke and I’m sure he’ll hook you up. (A+)

—————–

That’s all my reviews for this year!

DC Zinefest Weekend 2014

My dried up carcass sitting behind my somewhat-less-than-popular table

My dried up carcass sitting behind my moderately popular table

When I heard about DC Zinefest I wanted to go.  Problem is, I hate to drive.  Four hours in the truck for a six hour event didn’t equate to my maths, if you know what I mean.  So I talked to my honey, and we decided to throw our sixteen-year-old young ‘un into the gas guzzler and make a weekend of it.

We got there Friday around eight o’clock.  At that point our thinking was amazingly clear after a full day of work and two hours on 95 North: we decided to go and see the various monuments at night, which none of had ever done before, while the crowds were reduced.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Let me preface this next part by saying that, when it comes to the great patriotic monuments, I am pretty jaded and cynical.  I didn’t expect any part of our excursion to be poignant or touching.  So I was surprised by my reaction to the Lincoln Memorial.  I was profoundly moved (although I did make a Megatron joke on Twitter as we left).  There was something about the place that stirred me.  I’ve always had a hearty respect for Lincoln — the rangy wrestler, the great orator, the gentle and eloquent beanpole  whose bodyguards carried brass knuckles — and I felt like I was standing beside his ghost.

The next day was DC Zinefest of course.  It was a great time (as all Zinefests are) with lots of cool people and a huge crowd.  When I say “huge” I mean that it was literally shoulder-to-shoulder trying to get to the restroom.  Packed.  At some points even jammed.

If you’ve never been to a Zinefest, you should really try one.  These things are direct-from-brain-to-paper publishing extravaganzas, unfiltered, unmoderated, creativity tsunamis.  If you’re a writer, a Zinefest is a great way to get some inspiration.  Kind of like grabbing a naked, 220-volt imagination wire.  Hats off to Dirk and Ari and all of the organizers for their hard work, dedication, and success.

Just like I did after RVA Zinefest last year, I’ll be writing a separate post to review all of the great ‘zines I came home with.  Give me time to read ’em, will ya?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Sunday we went to the Smithsonian Natural History Museum.  There was a moment of drama as we walked up to the door and I saw the security checkpoint sign.  I always walk around with a pocket knife, and I forgot to leave it in my vehicle back in the parking garage.  Ooops.  Had to surreptitiously bury it in the mulch outside.  Luckily it was still there when we left and I was able to retrieve it.  Losing a $100 knife would’ve sucked.

I’m sure I’ve been there before when I was kid or something, but it didn’t sink in.  You appreciate this kind of thing much more when you’re an adult.   Here’s a selection of pictures that really don’t do the place justice.  It’s free and it’s great, but not awesome.  Lots of the displays are copies, and there is no obvious traffic flow pattern in any of the halls.  Which means that you have people going every which way, and on a Sunday afternoon, that’s just crazy.  Still tons of fun though.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

So that’s the trip in a nutshell.  Next post: ‘zine reviews!