From the Stacks: August 17, 2007

Utne Reader‘s library is abuzz with a steady flow of 1,500
magazines, newsletters, journals, weeklies, zines, and other lively
dispatches from the cultural front that are rarely found at big-box
bookstores, newsstands, or even online. So we share the highlights
(and occasional lowlights) of what’s landing in our library each
week in ‘From the Stacks.’ Check in every Friday for the latest

Welcome to a special edition of From the Stacks,
featuring highlights from the Portland Zine Symposium. The seventh
annual symposium (August 11-12, 2007) lured zinesters, artists, DIY
devotees, and curious hipsters to the Portland State University
campus for two days of workshops, table-browsing, and (in my case)
copious consumption of free vegan donuts. A few zine-community
bigwigs were on hand, like folks from the incomparable
Bitch, which recently relocated to
Portland from the Bay Area, and representatives of the
Publishing Resource Center
, which provides workspace,
materials, camps, and workshops for beginning and experienced
zinemakers.? A few favorites from the symposium — many of which
I’d never seen before — are featured below.????

After a four-year hiatus,
the much-loved Brainscan is back with two issues cranked
out already this year! The zine’s author, Alex Wrekk, pulled
together the newest issue (#22) in a hurry so that it’d be ready
for the symposium. It’s all about her new IUD (intrauterine
device), or ‘practical body modification,’ as she puts it. Wrekk
writes candidly about her personal experience, beginning with her
first few trips to the exam table, where she ‘ponders whose job in
a drug company it is to decide to get stirrup cozies with ads for
things like Femstat on them.’ Then she delves into a frank
discussion of what sex, orgasms, and menstruation are like 10
months later. Though she’s a fan of her IUD now (‘an amazing
investment!’), Wrekk doesn’t gloss over her initial anxieties,
post-insertion pain, or other assorted oddities. Along the way, she
unwittingly addressed pretty much every question or concern I’ve
ever had on this topic. — Danielle Maestretti

In the 14th installment of Gurl Scout, Bethany Young
recounts her life story through tales of her many (and mostly bad)
roommates. Young spent most of her adult life traveling between
Arkansas, Alaska, Costa Rica, and Utah, among other locales.
Currently settled in Salt Lake City, Young portrays herself as an
impetuous and fastidious person who picks up roommate after
roommate, despite longing to live on her own. After moments of
frustration and clarity dispersed throughout the Americas, the zine
ends with Young finally listening to her gut and renting a studio
of her own. — Eric Kelsey

Rad Dad ‘is not cool,’ according to
founder and publisher Tomas. ‘[I]t’s not about being hip, not about
trying to be in style… Rad Dad is for radical parenting.
The uncomfortable kind.’ And so the zine’s seventh issue picks up
where previous ones left off: by interrogating and reevaluating the
role of fathers in radical politics. Articles range from ‘Green
Parenting,’ in which writer Sky looks at the relationship between
anarchism and parenting, to ‘On Being Jewish,’ in which Bruce
contemplates the religious example he wants to set for his child. A
contribution from Tomas himself — ‘Who’s Your Daddy: Fathers in
Pop Culture’ — offers a forceful critique of how ‘cool parenting’
has become an apolitical and upper-middle class trend that
reinforces ‘dad’ stereotypes. — Eric Kelsey

A pioneer of the
autobiographical comic, Carrie McNinch documents her recovery from
more than 13 years of alcoholism in
I Want Everything To Be Okay, published
by Tugboat
. The comics (one drawn each day over the course of a
year) lay out the perils of going ‘cold turkey’ in deceptively
simple draftsmanship. ‘Sobriety?’ McNinch writes, ‘It sucks.
When people say that they are happier now that they are sober…
They’re lying!’ The comics can be hopeful, morose, and boring,
as McNinch struggles with depression, loneliness, and the need
for a beer. She finds neither a magical cure nor any dramatic
revelation, but the lack of definitive recovery or catharsis
harkens back to the advice given to many recovering alcoholics:
‘Just take it one day at a time.’ — Brendan Mackie

Compiled by Emily Heller, a sorry book is like a
dead-tree (and not anonymous) version of the popular blog
PostSecret. The idea behind both is
simple: People publicly confessing their innermost secrets and
regrets. But the quaint, photocopied pages of a sorry book
feel far more intimate than the near-monolithic
PostSecret. While some of the apologies can wallow in the
mawkish or the banal (‘My potential — Sorry that I’m screwing you
over by neglecting you’), others resonate with a disarming honesty.
At their best, the apologies show people at their most vulnerable,
and there’s an eerie voyeuristic pleasure in that. — Brendan

The intense loyalty and pride in Detroit, coupled with an
understanding of the city’s faults, is something only a Detroiter
can grasp. Rose White coveys both in her charming zine Old
Weird America: Postcards from a Ghost Town
. She opens her
collection of vignettes by writing, ‘Detroit for me isn’t political
— it’s personal. If you want to come along for the ride — well,
here we go.’ The ride she takes her readers on is honest; she
chronicles strip malls inhabited by prostitutes, but makes sure to
weave in the poignant stories of steadfast Detroiters who have
stuck around while the city flounders. Her second zine in the
series, That Olde Weird America: Postcards from the City,
is decidedly slicker than its ghost-town predecessor, which is
fitting, since it records White’s stories from New York. The two
are best read back-to-back, following White from a city deemed
‘dead’ to a city that never sleeps. — Cara Binder

Funwater Awesome #2, a personal zine by Zach
Mandeville, picks up where his first volume left off: enrolling in
Quality Beauty College, where he starts school with hopes of
becoming a barber. The school, however, is not quite what he
expects it to be. Rather than a school that’s ‘wood paneled,
sepia-toned, [one that] smelt of berma-shave and flannel,’
Mandville slogs through long hours of parting, combing, and
braiding for ‘Magnum,’ his male mannequin adorned with ‘shoulder
length hair and a three foot beard.’ With a charming, down-to-earth
voice, Mandeville captures plenty of laugh-out-loud moments as he
recounts making friends in beauty school, attempting his first
haircut, and writing and publishing his zine. — Julie

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