8/29/2012 2:00:09 PM
Available on Domino (Sept. 4, 2012)
When Strawberry Jam was released in 2007 it was difficult to imagine Animal Collective creating a follow-up album of equaled excitement, innovation, and approachability, but they managed to surpass it with the masterpiece Merriweather Post Pavilion. So how would the band respond to the explosion of critical acclaim and fandom that followed the release of MPP? Would they produce a surefire hit, appeasing a majority of fans with a loop-heavy, melodic chill-zone Merriweather sequel? The answer is no. Animal Collective would go into the studio and do what they always have done—whatever they feel like.
Centipede Hz is, in certain respects, a return to Animal Collective’s past. For the first time since 2007, guitarist Josh Dibb (Deakin) has joined the other three members in writing and recording a new album. The band relies much less on samples for inspiration this time, instead opting for more of a live sound with Noah Lennox (Panda Bear) helming the percussive end, Dave Portner (Avey Tare) mainly on keys, Brian Weitz (Geologist) sticking with his sampler, and Deakin on baritone guitar. Most notably, Centipede Hz exudes an overarching intensity in its compositions and pace not achieved since 2003’s Here Comes the Indian.
Like the majority of their previous releases, however, Centipede Hz runs together as one continuous flow, with each song bleeding into the next. The transitions were constructed as if old radio advertisements were being hurled through the cosmos for any unsuspecting alien to stumble upon. With “Rosie Oh,” surprisingly one of only two Panda Bear songs, a bouncing bass and laser sample back up the clean vocal lines, sounding as if made inside a haunted cake factory. On the first ever Deakin-fronted Animal Collective track, “Wide Eyed,” the guitarist adopts a sort of roaming melody that hangs over a hypnotic and bubbling beat. Perhaps the most easily accessible track on first listen is Avey Tare’s “Today’s Supernatural.” The winding synthesizers, distorted guitar crunches, and rolling beats play secondary to the best collection of hooks on the release. Although Centipede Hz may not immediately stand out as exceptional, the songs have a way of slowly seeping in so that something new is revealed with each listen.
Listen to a multimedia stream of Centipede Hz at Animal Collective's website
Ben Sauder is an Online Editorial Assistant at Ogden Publications, the parent company of Utne Reader. Find him on Google+.
8/27/2012 12:20:18 PM
The Salesman and the Shark
Available on Anti- (Aug. 28, 2012)
Singer-songwriter Sean Rowe has a voice that grabs you and lyrics that keep it, and when you listen to the
fantastic collection of songs on his latest album The Salesman and the Shark, you'll wonder what took so long for Rowe
to get noticed.
While the 37-year-old Rowe probably wouldn’t have shied away from success
had he realized it with his first album, 27
(Rowe’s age at the time), he’s aware that what’s made him an exciting discovery
today required a lot of seasoning. He spent years honing his craft in noisy
bars filled with disinterested drinkers, exploring his many musical influences
and constantly finding new ones along the way. Eventually, he caught the ear of
Anti- Records, which eagerly put out his second album, Magic, in 2011. “I do feel like Magic
was a real starting point for me,” said Rowe. “Not that I hadn’t written
anything good before that, but it felt like Magic
had a real focus to it. Those songs hold some of my best literary work, I
The lyrical strength of Magic
earned him comparisons to Leonard Cohen and other lyrical and
vocal legends, something that Rowe appreciates, but has taken in stride. “It’s
natural to want to compare something we’ve never experienced with something we
already know,” said Rowe. “They are all artists I have identified with over the
years, but of course there are many more. I think the real key is absorbing
what you can from others, mix it with your own energy and then develop your own
Rowe has established his own voice on his latest album for
Anti-, The Salesman and the Shark. Compared
to the lyrical load of Magic, the new
record offers more opportunity for Rowe to literally breathe, which emphasizes
his impressive baritone. It’s a voice that rattles your bones on the deep end,
and gives you chills when it wanders into its highest range. “I didn’t think I
needed to repeat the same feel of Magic,”
said Rowe. “I wanted the new direction to be more cinematic. I guess you could
say it has a lot more color to it than the last one.”
That point is clear on songs like “Joe’s Cult.” With its Tom
Waits-ian qualities, it sounds right at home on an Anti- recording. “A lot of
that sound was producer Woody Jackson’s influence,” said Rowe. “I love the way
that one came out. I think we recorded three drum sets at once to get the boom
that it has.”
Here's a live acoustic version of "Flying," which gets the full production treatment on The Salesman and the Shark:
The Salesman and the
Shark was recorded live in studio with real instruments, and that organic
approach pays off throughout. On songs like opener “Bring Back the Night,” Jackson complements
Rowe’s larger than life voice with a chorus and full instrumental
accompaniment. Where Magic introduced
us to Rowe the folk singer, the production and song selection on the new record
introduce us to Rowe the soul singer.
While the entire record is outstanding, Rowe’s best moments
are those in which he taps into the spiritual connection he has with nature,
deftly knows when to let Rowe’s voice and lyrics and take center stage. On “The
Lonely Maze,” Rowe sings “I’ll never get to that star, but I’ve seen the
universe in a blade of grass.” The lyric speaks to Rowe’s appreciation for
nature, which fuels his passion, and has been the constant
driving force through all the ups and downs in his music career. “Ultimately,
it is the source for all of my writing,” said Rowe. “I cannot separate emotion,
feeling, sensuality, sexuality, life and death from nature. They are all
Listen to The Salesmen and the Shark in its entirety on NPR's First Listen
8/23/2012 5:06:46 PM
By Joy M. Kiser
Published in 2012 and available through Princeton Architectural Press
For bird lovers, the exquisite paintings of John James
Audubon’s Birds of America
stand not only as beautiful art, but as valuable references of ornithology from
Undoubtedly, Audubon’s work has influenced countless artists and naturalists
alike to produce their own memorable work or research, but perhaps none more so
than the book produced by one ambitious young woman and her family.
It’s unlikely you’ve heard of Genevieve Jones’ Illustrations of the Nests and Eggs of Birds
of Ohio, published in 1886. Limited to a print run of only 100, the book
has only been known to natural history museum librarians and rare book
collectors. But for one librarian, Joy M. Kiser, the few known details of its
author and the circumstances surrounding the book’s creation were tantalizing
and demanded further research. Furthermore, it seemed to her that a book that
rivals the beauty and scientific value of Audubon’s work should be made more
accessible to the public. The result is a story within a story—America’s Other Audubon—which combines
the original panels produced by Jones and her family with Kiser’s own research
into a tragic but inspiring family story.
Upon viewing Audubon’s color plates in an exhibition at the
1876 World’s Fair in Philadelphia,
Jones was inspired to take his work a step further. Where Audubon focused on
the beauty and characteristics of the birds themselves, Jones realized that no
one had focused on the various nests and eggs of birds—information she
recognized as being even more valuable in the pursuit of identification than
Audubon’s work. Having collected bird nests and eggs with her father since
childhood, Jones realized it’d be up to her to create that reference book, and
her family and friends enthusiastically supported the endeavor. An indicator of
her incredible ambition, Jones’ original plan was to illustrate the nests and
eggs of all 320 known bird species in America
at that time, but was talked down by her father to focus on a more reasonable goal
of illustration the 130 known species of Ohio.
Despite Jones’ lack of formal art training, the initial paintings were met with
an enthusiastic reception, and orders for the hand painted book exceeded
expectations. Good fortune wasn’t to last, though, as Jones succumbed to
typhoid fever in 1879 at the age of 32, the book just barely begun. While most
families would have grieved and moved on, Kiser’s research revealed a family
galvanized in the effort to see Genevieve’s book completed. They grieved by
continuing her work, enduring further setbacks and difficulties to finish the
book seven years later.
Kiser’s success in reprinting Illustrations of the Nests and Eggs of Birds of Ohio is reason
enough to check out America’s Other
Audubon. Whether you’re a bird lover or not, it’s hard not to appreciate
nature’s beauty illustrated in the color plates. But Kiser’s research puts the
Jones’ work in context, and makes the color panels that follow her account of
the family’s story even more beautiful and special. Altogether, it’s a moving
tribute to one woman’s love for birds, and her family’s love for her.
8/21/2012 2:21:09 PM
This post originally appeared at Shareable.net
Every August for one week, the Burning Man festival takes
place in a temporary city of its own creation, called Black
after Nevada’s Black Rock Desert where it is located. This year, Black Rock City’s population will be 60,000 — bigger than Carson City, the state capital of Nevada.
Our real-world cities,
meanwhile, are struggling to provide the services citizens need, limited by
declining tax income, record debt, and increasingly complex social issues.
Cities have no choice but find ways to do more with less. Many seek to harness
the creative energies of citizens to fill the gaps, asking them to take a more
active role in governance, service provision, and even in
creating new services.
It’s easy to write off Burning
Man as a hippie love fest in the desert. It has its own problems like any city,
but that's selling it short, especially in one regard - its remarkable ability
to foster participation. The event -- which for 26 years has expected
participants to practice sharing, gifting, and radical self-reliance -- is an
effective proving ground for experiments in community self-organization. In
fact, participants build most of the city without any direct oversight from
Given that cities need its citizens
more than ever, can the lessons of Burning Man’s Black Rock City, which pushes citizen participation
to the limit, be applied to modern cities? Of course they can. Here are a few
ways you can support participation, sharing and community in your own town.
the Right Mindset: There are No Spectators
Michel Bauwens, the
founder of the Peer to Peer Foundation, believes that the proper
role of government in our emerging networked society is that of partner in
social production. This means that in a myriad ways government helps
citizens help themselves. This turns the existing model of government as a
top-down service provider on its head. Instead, government works in a bottom up
fashion to empower citizens to provide for themselves.
Burning Man does exactly this.
It fosters a culture of participation through its Ten
Principles and provide basic infrastructure such as roads, sanitation, and
safety, which, by the way, rely heavily on volunteer labor. Participants fill
in the blanks beautifully with a seemingly unlimited number of options for
care, connection, artistic expression, education, sustenance, and fun. At
Burning Man, there are no spectators. Likewise, we increasingly need cities
where every citizen is intimately involved in creating their city on a day to
Almost none of the hundreds of
art projects exhibited at Burning Man are fully funded by the festival. Many of
them are crowdfunded through Kickstarter or Indiegogo. This requires active community participation,
and it also organically vets projects ensuring that the best ideas are likely
to be funded.
The city of Vallejo,
taking this idea for a spin, testing out participatory budgeting for 30 percent of its funds.
Community members decide which projects to fund, and must work together to get
the funding approved.
"If you live in northern Vallejo and you want a
bus shelter, then you know what, you've got to partner with people in other
parts of the city who want bus shelters too," Councilmember Marti Brown
told The Atlantic Cities. "People are going to have to learn how to think
like that. It encourages people to work with groups they've never worked with
Vallejo is the
first to try participatory budgeting city-wide, though it’s now
being considered in San Francisco. Want to see participatory budgeting in
your city? Get involved.
Build Your Own
Burning Man famously bans all
exchange of money, recommending that people share and “gift” their resources
within the community. That’s not likely to happen in the rest of the world very
soon — but with the recession, the housing boom-and-bust and the financial
crisis all tightly linked to the banking industry, an ever-growing number of
people are ditching their Wall Street banks for citizen owned banks like credit
unions and public banks. A
new report suggests that a public banking could reverse the effects of
recent consolidation, bolster the treasuries of government banks, and put
financial controls back in the hands of the people.
Though common in Germany and elsewhere, The Bank of North Dakota
is currently the only state-run bank in the United States, and it’s been hailed
as an “economic
miracle.” Could each city or county set up a local bank to create its own
It certainly could.
There’s another way to share
your money and your values with your community: Join a local cooperative and
encourage your city government to support the growth of the cooperative sector.
Coops are owned and controlled by either workers or customers. They are more
democratic, community-minded, and more stable job creators than most private
Did you know that 120 million
Americans belong to at least one cooperative? That 25 percent of the nation’s
electric grid is cooperatively owned? 2012 is the International Year
of Cooperatives, and this proven, fast-growing business model is offers
many advantages over conventional, tightly controlled private businesses.
Worker-owned businesses like The
Evergreen Cooperatives are
addressing poverty and unemployment, helping money stay in the community
where previous charity initiatives have failed. National coops are booming too,
including chains like ACE Hardware which help mom-and-pop shops stay open.
Want to live well on a budget at
Burning Man? Pool your resources with a “camp” of anywhere from five to 500
people, who share kitchens, showers, shelters and even transportation so that
everyone can afford access to these necessities.
Want to live well on a budget in
your city? Use the same logic: join
a car-sharing program, try out a
coworking space, share your lodging
and, if you’re traveling, rent somebody’s empty room instead of shelling out
for a hotel.
Many cities are beginning to
adopt community bike programs (of which Black Rock City also has one), but beyond that,
there is plenty of room to expand. City-run sharing networks could generate
income while saving residents money.
Think it’s a good idea? You
might need to start your own. And
encourage your city to adopt sharing-friendly
Plug In to the
Just a few months ago, Burning
Man launched a tool called Spark. Designed to facilitate collaboration between
attendees, the site allows anyone to create a free “ad” for services or
resources needed or offered (on a gift basis). Today’s ads include a call for
carpenters, an offer to “freeze anything” and several musicians looking for
Resource sharing is complicated
mostly because it can’t be done over longer distances. Sites like Craigslist,
Freecycle and Taskrabbit are good places to start active collaboration on
projects, and new platforms are being developed that will further facilitate
getting things done without buying a bunch of supplies. One new
platform-in-progress, Social Alchemy, is being developed by Burners Without Borders’
leader Carmen Mauk and hopes to be a collaborative project management tool —
for example, helping relief workers in disaster areas find the equipment and
labor they need to do their work more efficiently.
You might need to start your own
local sharing network using a service like ShareTribe — but first, check Craigslist, Freecycle and
your local tool lending library to find out what’s already going on.
Burning Man organizers lay out
the roads and some infrastructure, then allow the population to build its own
city. In the rest of America, we don’t have as much creative control — but many
of us are exercising much less control than we could, often because of the
difficulties of dealing with bureaucratic government bodies.
Do you want transparent,
efficient government? Participatory budgeting? Streamlined voting? Easy access
to your representatives? It’s all made more possible with technology.
Code for America is a group that works with city governments, helping them
transform their information infrastructure to improve citizen engagement,
efficiency and transparency. Can you help your city adopt new social
Yes, you can.
“As our futures are increasingly
becoming urban, cities need to start experimenting with citizen participatory
process,” says James Hanusa, New Initiatives Consultant to Burning Man.
He points to the Urban Prototyping
project, which seeks citizen participation in redesigning San Francisco public spaces, and the Burning Man Project,
which supports the application of Burning Man's Ten Principles in many communities.
These ideas just scratch the
surface. Much more can be done to make cities as participatory as Burning Man.
And while the above innovations increase citizen participation, they lack one
thing Burning Man offers.
City is manifested
by thousands of people in the spirit of celebration. The passion of
participants is unmistakable. They are drawn into the civic drama by the drama
of their own self-actualization. They experience — sometimes for the first time
— what it’s like to be accepted completely in public, and so are willing to
give their best to the city that invites the best in them. This is the way the
city is made, and how it makes people.
The true flowering of cities may
not occur until the civic is married to the celebratory. This too is within
Jessica Reeder is a member of
the Black Rock City Department of Public Works, and occasionally writes for the
Image by Christopher,
licensed under Creative Commons.
8/13/2012 11:20:01 AM
The Expedition: Book 1–Dark Waters
by Jason Lewis
Available now at BillyFish Books
Mixing the drama of a travel adventure with philosophical introspection, Jason Lewis’ account of the first human-powered circumnavigation of the earth is, simply put, an absolutely riveting and inspirational read.
In Book 1: Dark Waters—the first of three books to be released one month apart beginning August 1, 2012—Lewis’ 13-year journey begins as he and partner Steve Smith set sail for the United States from Portugal in a custom-built, 26-foot pedal-powered boat they call Moksha. The courage, patience and persistence they display on the three-month journey across the Atlantic is extraordinary, but that’s nothing compared to Lewis’ decision to skate across the United States on roller blades while Smith takes the “easier” option of biking. Each stage of Lewis' journey would easily stand as a lifetime achievement for any other individual, and speaks to the unbelievable dedication and effort required to make it around this beautiful and amazing planet under your own power.
While the book could easily stand on its own as a straight-forward travel adventure, Lewis smartly recognized his experience as an opportunity to help others recognize their role and responsibility on this planet. The journey offered him the opportunity to speak to hundreds of groups of children in 37 countries, and allowed him to raise $66,500 for a host of humanitarian efforts across the globe. To that end, Lewis’ experience stands as a guide for each of us to reference as we try to learn how to live better with one another, and how to better take care of the only Earth we’ve got.
As one might expect, Lewis' journey across the globe was fraught with danger at nearly every turn. The first major part of the voyage was the Atlantic crossing from Lagos, Portugal to Miami, Florida by pedal boat—an incredible physical, mental and emotional undertaking. As Lewis relates, the act of pedaling across the Atlantic leaves little room for error, and even the seemingly simple task of catching a fish can become an adventure. Here's an excerpt describing Lewis' encounter with a runaway dorado:
--- --- ---
November 15. Day 29
1 a.m. There are many God-awful things that I’ve come to tolerate on this boat,
but getting up at all hours of the night to pedal for three hours will never be
one of them.
4 a.m. Just finished first graveyard shift - a real killer. Like motorway driving
at night when you’re dog-tired, except worse. Head slumping forward every few
minutes, then whipping back and smacking against the stern window. (Journal entry)
Long-term fatigue, or Creeping Grey Funk as
we called it, became an evil thing lurking in the shadowy recesses of our
sleep-deprived minds, waiting to crawl in and feed as exhaustion grew. Slowly,
imperceptibly, it wound its way like a parasite into every aspect of our lives,
lessening our ability toexecute
tasks safely, and stealing even the tiniest scrap of pleasure from things we
once enjoyed, like reading a book, or cooking a meal. The rigid shift system
was becoming a double-edged sword. The same discipline that kept the pedals turning 24/7, and the
boat from drifting off course, allowed for only three hours of sleep at a time,
and never more than five in any 24-hour
period. After a fortnight of this,
we were turning into the living dead.
Steve suggested we break up the hamster
routine by doing a little fishing. On Madeira, we’d been befriended by Heinz, a
boozy old salt with an ivory beard and bushy
eyebrows. A former U-boat commander, Heinz made it his business to show up
every morning and pick holes in our preparations for the big crossing. The
other annoying habit he had was to bang on about fishing.
“Vat are you doingk for zer fees?” he asked
for the umpteenth time on the penultimate morning of departure.
Our response was always the same: “We’re not
going to bother Heinz. We have all the food we need.”
“But you must fees to survive! You must fees
On any other morning, he would chant this as
a mantra until we either found a way of getting rid of the old bastard or
Today, however, he reached into his jacket pocket, and pulled out a roll of
stout marlin line and a thumb-sized lure carved from wood. Furnished with
eye-catching tassels at one end, it was, according to Heinz, “Guaranteed to catch more fees zan you know vot to
We’d been trolling Lolita the Lure (so
nicknamed) for an hour a day since leaving Madeira, and caught not a damn
thing. The result of each day’s effort was so predictable it had become a
running joke. “You hungry?” Steve would ask, pulling in the line. “Let’s see
what Lolita has caught us for dinner tonight shall we?”
Something had to change. Lolita needed a
Using red and black felt-tip pens, I gave Lolita a pair of
exotic Cleopatra eyes and sassy
smile. Provocatively curled Betty Boop eyelashes completed the picture of sex
appeal although, as Steve pointed out, the idea was to get the fish to
swallow the lure, not have sex with it.
Whatever. Within a minute of throwing out the
all-new pimped-out Lolita, the line strained to its limit, and a huge dorado
fish soared into the air twenty yards astern. All hell immediately broke loose.
The inside of the boat erupted into a melee of shouting, swearing, and shrieks of delight
as we pulled the gasping beast alongside. The challenge was now to land the
thing without it flipping off the hook. Retrieving the old sail bag we’d used
to store our Madeiran veggies, I jumped into the
My plan was to scoop the fish into the bag,
which Steve could then haul aboard. The fish, not surprisingly, had other
ideas. As soon as it saw me, it shot under the boat, and started winding itself
plus the monofilament line round and round the propeller.
Events then took an unexpected turn. What
started out as a harmless bit of fun spiraled rapidly out of control.
The sail bag had slipped from my fingers
during the confusion, and was slowly drifting upwind. Or, to be precise, the
bag remained stationary in the water while Moksha
and I were blown downwind. I started to swim towards the bag. “I’ll just go
and grab it,” I yelled.
“You sure it’s worth it?” Steve shouted after
I pretended not to hear, and kept swimming. Damn Steve, I thought irritably, being a safety officer as usual. After
all, the bag was only a few feet away.
But by the time I reached itMoksha
was already sixty feet downwind, pushed by the wind and the waves.
On the long slog back, swimming breaststroke
with the bag around my neck, I tired easily. With our legs doing all the
pedaling, our upper bodies had lost what little conditioning they’d had on
land. A wave broke suddenly from behind, filling my nose and throat with
saltwater. I stopped to cough out the brine, losing valuable seconds as I trod
water. When I resumed my stroke, I looked up and saw the boat even farther
downwind. This was alarming. Moksha
was drifting faster than I could swim.
There’s nothing for it. Steve will have to come back and get me…
He was sitting on the stern, anxiously
watching my progress. Somehow he’d managed to retrieve the fish from the water
and had it clasped tight to his chest. Now I’d have to suffer the ignominy of
hearing him say, "I
told you so!"
“Steve!” I yelled. “I think I’m in trouble!”
His mouth opened and closed, but the words were taken
by the wind. I was about to call out again when my throat froze with the
The fishing line …
fouled around the propeller…
In the time it took for him to rummage in the
stern compartment for a mask and a knife, go overboard and cut the tangle free,
then clamber back in and turn Moksha
around, we’d be completely separated.
I’ll have to make it back myself, or…
I remembered the story my father once told m of how,as a boy, he’d nearly
drowned off the beach at West Bay in Dorset. After the initial frantic struggle, he described the
sensation as being almost pleasurable, “like falling into a trance.” My
grandfather, watching from shore, ran in and dragged him out just in time.
Another surprise wave broke from behind,
flooding my lungs a second time. As I fought for air, what I took to be the
same woozy sensation began spreading throughout my body. Blood was thumping
against my eardrums. Nothing seemed to matter anymore. Like the near miss with
the trawler, that interface between light and dark, life and death, seemed
perfectly normal, as if this was the way it was meant to be.
My arms grew steadily weaker, and my stroke
more erratic. I should have known hypoxia was kicking in when the sky turned
the colour of red wine and the water around me black ink, as though saturated
with blood. From the dying dorado, I thought
deliriously. Sharks sprang to mind. The
smell of blood will attract them, whip them into a feeding frenzy…
At that moment, something tripped in my
the idea of drowning seemed tolerable, almost pleasant, being eaten alive by
sharks most certainly did not. The soporific state of quiet surrender vanished, replaced by a primal urge
to live welling up from the innermost depths of my being. And with it came
reality hurtling back
into sharp focus.
I began swimming for my life. My arms were screaming, but I knew that
keeping sight of Steve between the towering crests was the only hope I had.
Waves were breaking from behind, one after the other. Frothy sputum, whipped from the crests,
blurring my vision. Moksha slowly
slipped from view. As the seconds turned into minutes, I no longer knew whether
I was making progress, or even heading in the right direction. The only thing that kept
my spent arms turning was the certainty that sharks were closing in. Any second
I would feel razor-sharp teeth tearing into my flesh…
In those final seconds of hopelessness and
despair, going on as if for eternity, the fingers of my right hand collided with
something solid. I felt my wrist being grabbed—Steve heaving me on deck. When
all seemed lost, I imagined a divine hand reaching out and offering me my life
Slumped on the stern deck, gasping for
breath, my eyes met the gaze of the dying dorado, its silent suffocation all too poignant.
8/13/2012 9:29:48 AM
Editor’s Note: Jay Ruttenberg is the
founder and editor of the New York-based comedy journal The Lowbrow Reader. Dubbed “an excellent and actually quite
high-minded comedy magazine” by The
Village Voice, the magazine was born in 2001 when Ruttenberg realized that
there wasn’t a quality publication devoted to comedy. Since its first issue in
2001, Ruttenberg and a small team of very talented writers and illustrators
have consistently surprised readers and critics alike with their articulate
defense and admiration for what many have dismissed as dumb humor. Ruttenberg recently
edited a book of selected writings and drawings from the first eight years of
the journal called The Lowbrow Reader
now on Drag City. An everlasting supporter of zines and zine culture,
Ruttenberg recently shared with us a list of his current favorites.
Here is my personally biased,
unapologetically subjective list of ten great contemporary zines. I applied
both terms broadly: “Contemporary” extending to works that are still being
published (however sporadically), even if their debut issue came out many moons
ago; “zines” to describe independent print publications produced more for love
than for profit.
I would be remiss if I
neglected to point out that Fashion Projects is edited by Francesca
Granata, who happens to be the more eye-catching half of my household.
Likewise, I would be remiss if I failed to place said publication at the top of
this list. Fashion Projects is a whip smart journal about arty fashion
and fashiony art. On the surface, Francesca’s publication could not be more
different from mine: Fashion Projects addresses Milanese designers and
Parisian fashion critics, while the Lowbrow Reader features Adam Sandler
idolatry and cartoons of people on toilets. Friends find it odd that both
publications are produced in the same apartment. But to me, they are very
similar. Both zines cover subjects that historically have been commercially
vibrant yet critically disparaged. Nobody would mistake me for a fashionista,
but through Francesca I have been introduced to some other noteworthy fashion
zines, including Garmento and Vestoj. In any case, I enjoy
everything about Fashion Projects except for the irritating fact that it
is inordinately more popular than the Lowbrow Reader.
Henceforth, I proceed
The famed political
journal was recently relaunched and uplifted from Chicago
It is very much a journal, but camefrom the zine world. I think a lot
of people who now publish independent magazines got their initial kick in the
rear from the Baffler’s original run. (I certainly did.) It was
politically prescient and bred founding editor Tom Frank’s wonk-adored book, What’s
the Matter with Kansas?
To me, the Baffler is steeped in Chicago—you
can smell the city just turning its pages. I am curious to see how the new
editorship and New England headquarters will
ultimately affect the publication.
Since 1979, David
Greenberger has interviewed nursing home residents and published his
transcripts in this slim, celebrated zine. Duplex Planet is kind of the
ultimate zine—it deserves every bit of its renown. In limiting his focus to
such a specific niche, Greenberger covers the world. Too many small
publications do the opposite. The Duplex Planet has spawned a cottage
industry featuring books, art shows, music albums, and more, but the zine
remains its foundation. If Duplex Planet had started in the contemporary
day as a website, it may have attained a similar popularity, but I guarantee it
would not feel as special and enchanting.
As far as I can
tell, Flop Sweat is among the only recent comedy zines besides the Lowbrow
Reader. It has only published two issues, but both are winners: classy,
funny, offbeat. I enjoyed Flop Sweat so much that I contacted the editor,
Joe O’Brien, about writing for the Lowbrow Reader. His article, a
defense of Chevy Chase, ran in our fifth issue
(years before Chase’s resurgence in Community) and is included in our
book. Although there has not been an issue of Flop Sweat for a few years,
I really hope the future holds further editions. One little-noted advantage of
zines is that they are not wed to strict publishing schedules. Without
subscribers or demanding distributors, publications can take years between
issues. All that is lost is momentum—which, of course, can be the silent
At this point, zines
about rock music seem redundant. The subject is so over-covered; as I write,
aliens are no doubt spying on planet earth and plotting to kidnap our leader,
Bruce Springsteen. Galactic Zoo Dossier, however, is startlingly unique,
a rabbit-hole of obsession. Although it revolves around obscure corners of
psychedelia, the real charm lies in the delivery. Each issue is beautifully
hand-written and illustrated by Galactic Zoo Dossier’s honcho, a
mustachioed man known as Plastic Crimewave. His world is inimitable.
Love Bad Movies
This smallish, newish
zine is published by a young couple in New
York. The premise is simple: With each edition,
various writers contribute essays in praise of scorned movies. The issues come
in loose themes. Had something like I Love Bad Movies been hatched 15
years ago, I suspect it would have trafficked in the irony of the era. As it
stands, the zine is mostly loving and even serious. Nobody has time for bad
novels or bad art—but for some reason, there remains something captivating
about bad film. The publication taps into the phenomenon with gusto.
The Minus Times
Our Lowbrow Reader
Reader book, Galactic Zoo Dossier, andthe Minus Times
all share a publisher: Drag City, the Chicago
record label/publishing house/film company/etc. Long before the Lowbrow
Reader was associated with the company, I was a Drag City
enthusiast. The Minus Times is a lovely example of the aesthetic that
defined the label’s early years. It is handsomely produced and rendered
entirely on an old manual typewriter. The writing is top-drawer, with all-star
contributors presented with an almost comical lack of fanfare. The Minus
Times is proudly abstruse; its editor, Hunter Kennedy, always lets the
reader come to him. (In September, Drag
City and Featherproof
Books are publishing a big Minus Times anthology, The Minus Times
Show with Elliot Aronow
Whereas many successful
zines ultimately transcend their format, breeding books and the like, the newly
hatched Our Show with Elliot Aronow came into being in reverse, as the
offshoot of its creator’s web show. The Our Show program is a kind of
modern-day take on Glenn O’Brien’s TV Party. As a zine, Our Show
is entertaining and eccentric, examining the fussy tastes of its editor. It
reads like an underground Monocle as conceived by a single aesthete.
Roctober recently published its 50th
issue, which coincides with its 20th anniversary. It is a thick
publication in an old-school mold, with gazillions of short reviews and
compelling tales about fringe American culture. This was the template for
sundry zines during the format’s heyday, but there is a reason why Roctober now
stands where so many others closed shop long ago. The publication is written
with lucidity and care, and will most likely be producing clear-eyed reviews
There is no
explicit mission statement behind this book-sized annual. Usually, lack of
focus is a recipe for disaster. But Yeti, edited by Mike McGonigal,
turns this into an advantage. Connections gel between the zine’s seemingly
disparate passions: hoary gospel and folk music, contemporary art, literature,
avant indie-rock. In the past, each issue came accompanied by a CD; moving
forwardin the spirit of Time’s Arrow,Yeti is upgrading
to vinyl. In its diverse enthusiasms, the journal illuminates the pleasures
inherent to being a good audience member. And I think this is the sensation
that most unites all of these publications.
Read more about Jay Ruttenberg and
The Lowbrow Reader.
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