my national team woes

I wrote this at the height of World Cup Fever and sat on it until now out of respect for all of the soccer fans following it. I didn’t want to shit on anyone’s party. Now that it’s long behind us. I’ll shit freely.

The problem I have with supporting any US national team is that I conflate supporting the team with supporting what my country represents, what actions it takes and how those actions affect the world. I realize this is not fair. I realize that the athletes that represent our nation don’t have anything to do with actions taken by our government, or by the ruling class. But this doesn’t matter to me when it comes down to it.

It sits so wrong with me to be watching an event where the stadium is chanting USA USA and everyone is covered in red white and blue at the same time that domestic terrorists are burning black churches in our country. When domestic terrorists are murdering black people in our country. When police officers are torturing and murdering people – primarily people of color. When we are holding women and children in tiny deportation centers and cells because they were trying to make a better life for themselves here. When the leadership of my city of Chicago is attacking public education and turning it over to private companies wherever possible. When our government continues to support, materially and morally, the apartheid government of Israel in their oppression of Palestinians, and their general bullying of their neighbors. When our government continues to use our massive military as a unilateral global police force and conducts declared and undeclared wars on anyone who stands in our way somehow. When these wars continue to destroy people’s lives. When our government continues to deny support to veterans of these military campaigns once they come home.

The list goes on and many people much more articulate than I have written about these things.

But this is the problem. I cannot in good conscience support the national team without all these things – these current events – popping up in my mind. I am inundated with these things. Every day. What happens in my country and in my name sickens me. And when I see people say things about ‘Murica and Go USA it actually causes a visceral reaction of disgust. It feels jingoistic, tone deaf and divisive. I can’t be all nation happy about any nation that oppresses people and has a long history of genocide, slavery, racism, sexism, intolerance, hatred and injustice. A nation that continues to refuse to own up to its history. Yes, that is probably the majority of the nations on earth. I have conflicted feelings about supporting most national teams for some reason or another.

I am conflicted about this, especially with the women’s national soccer team, because I want to support them as players and people. If they were the club in my city or something, I would support them. It has nothing to do with them as people or players. It has a little to do with US Soccer being US Soccer and my negative feelings towards them as an institution. But nothing to do with the players involved.

I also have intensely negative feelings about FIFA and the world cup and the Olympic Committee and the Olympics. In general they are very destructive agents. You can read all about it elsewhere. I read about the behind the scenes news about what FIFA is doing, what the sponsors involved our doing, what the nations involved are doing. I try to be aware and then I try to treat the actual games as just a spectacle, as a soap opera drama, without getting caught up in who is actually winning. I go with supporting the underdog in general and players I like. But even so, at some point I find myself having extremely negative reactions to watching the US team. I do end up viewing them as complicit representatives of what we represent as a Nation. And I do end up viewing the loud supporters, the ones who dress up, the supporters groups, American Outlaws, et al, as representatives of what we represent as well. And I feel what we represent is ugly. Is violent and destructive. It’s not something I love at all.

I love the people in my community, I love my community. I think there are a lot of good people in my neighborhood, in my city, in my country. I think there are a lot of amazing people working for positive change in this country but they are not those in power. They are not the Nation. The Nation has almost always been on the wrong side of history, only making progress when the people at the bottom demand change.

All of this is just an expression of how I feel. I’m not telling anyone how to support or not support their team. Or what to think or anything like that. I don’t think less of anyone as a person for supporting their national team at all. I make no judgments. This is a personal feeling, for me. This is just something that has been festering for a while that I needed to get off my chest.

what we did and how we did it

October 26th through November 1st, 2015
Cleaned the house.
Rearranged the dining room and living room. Hooked up stereo.
Old and new friends over at our place for chili and a fire outside. S’mores. Link made an appearance.
Annual doctor appointment. Flu shot. Blood pressure down.
Another birthday party for another friend of our son’s.
Trick or treating with our son.
Soccer class.
Lego Batman was played.

October 19th through 25th, 2015
I turned 37.
My son and partner went apple picking in Wisconsin with some of his friends.
The battery in the car died.
We joined AAA.
The previous three events are related.
Birthday dinner at Leadbelly.
I played guitar. Cleaned the garage. Wired speakers.
Went to the Park, Paschke Art Center with my son.
Soccer class.
Gym. Yoga.
Daylight ceased to be saved.
Lego Batman was played.

October 12th through 18th, 2015
A birthday party for one of our son’s friends at Lillstreet Art Center.
Helped my sister’s family move to their house in Osewgo.
Parents took our son and niece to a pumpkin patch.
Gym. Yoga.
Mowed the lawn and we all cleaned up our yard.
A trip to the park.
Lego Batman was played.

October 5th through 11th, 2015
Washed the front porch. Assembled a lamp. Cleaned the house.
Put up Halloween decorations – streamers on the refrigerator, lamps, cabinets. Banner in the family room. Inflatable ghosts and pumpkins to scare guests.
Morton Arboretum.
Picture day at my son’s school.
I went to the dentist for the first time in ten years. No cavities.
Gym action.
Soccer class.
Lego Batman was played.
Published Flotation Device 14.

September 21st through October 4th, 2015

Visits to the therapist.
A fall picnic for my son’s school. Pierogis consumed.
Soccer class.
My son’s first visit to the dentist – movies, computer games provided, no cavities.
The farmer’s market in Jefferson Park.
Midnight Circus in the park. Dinner at Laschet’s.
Music practice. Graphic scores.
Lego Batman was played.
Yoga and gym.

how did you get into making zines?

Note – I am slowly going through and cleaning up my folders on our hard drive and found this document from around 1999. The second comics issue of Flotation Device wasn’t going to be a comics issue originally. I wrote the entire issue about how I got into zines and sometime in my editing process I decided it wasn’t working. So I put it on hold until the time came to revisit it a couple years later in comics form. Part of the original idea was to intersperse my experiences with zines with a few brief stories of how other zinesters got into making zines. Only two made it into the final comics version – Jon Resh and Travis Fristoe. Some of the people I knew and some people were beyond generous to give answers to a dumb kid. I apologize to everyone else who took the time to answer these questions only to be excluded from print. Thank you very much to Owen Thomas, Emily Larned, Abby Koch, Jon Resh, Andy Godzilla, Joe Biel, Rita Brinkerhoff, Katherine Raz, Eric Nakamura, Dustin Krcatovich, Mark Maynard, Jeff Wiesner, Jake Austin, Alex Wrekk, and Travis Fristoe. If you are one of the interviewees and want your interview taken down, please let me know. I am putting them here for posterity and nerdy archival reasons.

Owen Thomas – Ten Page News

When I did Gloat magazine with Andrew McGarrell in 1968, we didn’t know we were making zines – but I’d sure count ’em as such today. Gloat was produced on a spirit master machine (better known as a ditto machine) at school and distributed mostly to our math class. It ran for four issues. A few years later, I made the first issues of the Ten Page News (but only one copy of each issue, which circulated among a small set of my friends; it’s not so clear that this should be called a zine). The first zine I saw that I knew was a zine was Steve Romilar’s Tussin Up which ran from 1985 to 1989 in my home town of Bloomington Indiana: this billed itself as a magazine promoting constructive and wholesome alternatives to illegal drugs because they encouraged the kids to use cough syrup containing dextromethorophan recreationally (e.g., Robitussin; hence the title). From then on, I always enjoyed reading about zines in publications like Ivan Stang’s High Weirdness by Mail but, for no very good reason, never sent for any. When Factsheet 5 hit the bookstores (the Friedman era), I picked up several issues and browsed ’em avidly, but again never sent for any (for which I kick myself now). Finally, I just sort of up and decided to make one in fall 1996 and there was no going back. I like making my own for what I suppose is the usual reason: unfettered self-expression. And I like getting ’em because they continue to surprise me. You never know what the heck is gonna show up in the old p.o. box next. Plus I get to correspond with, and now and then to meet, some of the hippest people in the whole country. What’s not to like?

Emily Larned – Memory Town / Red Charming

[I learned about zines] through Sassy magazine, actually: they had a feature Zine of the Month. I never got it though; I thought zines were still magazines. So it wasn’t until I got Mike Gunderloy’s (of Factsheet 5 before Friedman) book on zines that I got very excited about them and wanted to do my own – before, actually, I ever saw one in person. I’ve always been equally engaged by writing and art, so that was a big part of it. But what was most compelling was the complete autonomy of zines from the corporate world of slick magazines, television, and my high school, where I was, of course, miserable. The variety and the enthusiasm miraculously manage to make up for the mediocrity.

Abby Koch – Chatty Pig

I got into zines at the ripe old age of 29 when I went to Quimby’s one Saturday. I guess I knew about zines already, at least I had heard about them in the context of punk lifestyle and riot grrrls. I already read indy-type magazines like Bitch and Bust, but I had never actually run across a zine before. I bought a bunch from Quimby’s that day (including yours) and then just kept going back for more. I like to read zines because I’m a natural voyeur and I’m drawn to the little glimpses of other people’s lives that I would otherwise not know about. I tend to read perzines more than music or poetry or any other kind of zines, although I have read and enjoyed zines of all genres. I guess I just like to read what people have to say about their lives and how they feel about it. I started doing my own zine because I wanted to put my own voice out there, too. I like to write and it seems like I’ve always got a running commentary going in my head, so why not put some of it on paper? It’s cool to have something to trade for other zines. I guess I have also used it to work out some of my lingering teen angst-type stuff. I’m currently working on Chatty Pig #4 and contemplating a new project. I’m thinking of doing a low-tech (no computer) mini that deals a little bit more with my life now instead of stories from my past. Chatty Pig has gotten to the point where my parents and coworkers expect to see it, but this would be for a different audience (i.e., an audience that won’t be offended if I’m not as nice as I am in Chatty Pig). I’m thinking of calling it something like Yuppie Bitch, but I haven’t really gotten going.

Jon Resh – Viper Press Presents / Amped

The first zine I saw immediately changed my perspective of the world, and I guess the reason I still read them heavily is because they have continued to shape and enrich that perspective. And in creating my own zines over the years, I was afforded the opportunity to express myself in any way that I chose – total freedom of communication, total art and action. I’d say a great deal of my education has come from zines, and some of the most brilliant and wonderful individuals I’ve yet met was through a shared love of this amazing, vital medium. Essentially, reading zines and creating them is among the things that, from my standpoint, simply makes life worth living.

Andy Godzilla – That’s Like Fighting Godzilla with a Squirtgun

my friend King Anal (not his real name) passed on to me copies of Underdog Zine and Retrogression Zine. I thought they were the best zines around, big, fat newsprint mothers of invention, brilliant and informative. And I still think so. Retrogression has since passed on, but Underdog Zine is still alive and well, and strangely enough, I now write for them. After reading their work for so long, they invited me to become one of their writers, which really meant a lot to me because they were one of the zines that inspired me to do my own. Initially my curiosity was sparked by the massive amounts of information they contained. Albeit, most of the zines I ended up reading were crusty-punk-hardcore-political types and that wealth of knowledge kind of called out to me. Look at how much I dont know about whats going on in the world. And interviews with stupid punk bands I idolized at the time (and now think are worthless) were simply supplemental. Some of the smaller, indie-emo-personal zine things I originally thought were cool in how they played with a closer level of intimacy in the writers life, but I now think emo-personal zines are shit. I don’t want to read the diary of some boring kid’s life. I love it when zines cover topics that no one else wants to touch. Transgender, satanism, religion, ufo’s, the history of the Third Reich; weird little snippets of history and information that probably only old people would care about. But then again, I’ve been going through quite a history kick as of late. I mean, seriously, as long as the author knows what he/she is talking about, and makes a clear effort to bring their knowledge from them to you, as long as they’re without pretense, its’ worthwhile. What I want from a zine is to read a few of the articles, learn a little something, and then want to do my own reading on the subject. What I don’t like about zines is when kids use them to whine and rant about how their parents suck, or why they dumped their boy/girlfriend. I can understand how aspects of those things would influence one’s work, but, when you have the power, the opportunity, to spread your words like a media virus to an audience, why would you want to clutter up your writing with references to when your mom threw out your Green Day albums or when your girlfriend cheated on you? Needless to say, I don’t read many zines anymore.

Joe Biel

I got into zines when the local crazy kid, Jake started doing a great zine called Summer. I had never heard of the idea before but I loved his zine, every new issue I would bring to school with me and share with all of my friends. Jake is still crazy and still does zines but not so often anymore. The underground networks were very appealing and the ability to have a voice and vehicle for my messages and concerns received by people that were truly receptive to them was incredible as a teenager. In my opinion some of the best writing is in zines, there is no red tape involved. You get, pure uninhibited writing from caring, honest people looking to share and connect with other people. What’s not to love?

Rita Brinkerhoff – Terrorist

When I was 13 (1994), a friend from Nebraska brought a box of zines to a unitarian church youth conference in my town (Kansas City). I read Girl Germs, WAD, Goddess Juice, and a few others. I was into the punk rock by then; listening to Bikini Kill, Huggy Bear, The Tourettes, you know. I knew what zines were, but that was the first time I actually saw one. I was so psyched that people could just get up and do something by themselves, without anyone’s approval. I’d made half an issue of a “newsletter” called Code Blue Bitch when I was barely 12, and when two of my friends saw zines, we made up Majjik Marrrkerz, which lasted for three issues, and that was more than enough, believe me. When they lost interest after 6 months, I was doing one called Estrogen Terrorist, trading with people, etc. People were really supportive when I sent our little 3 page Majjik Marrrkerz out – all constructive criticism, people sent me trades even though ours was fuckin ridiculously tiny. So I’ve done zines ever since; I just put out the tenth issue of Terrorist. But punk and friends got me into zines. Going to rock shows. That I could say whatever I wanted, as a 13 year old, and there was a whole community of people who were interested. Being challenged and challenging. Learning to stick up for my work. It’s totally shaped who I am, at this point (almost 21). I’m a library lady now, and I go into schools in Kansas City, KS in the inner city, and these kids (around age 13) are seeing that they can speak their minds and people will listen. That might sound super-saccharine, but they are awesome kids, and being able to work with them and get them to think and express their ideas effectively is so fucking great. Meeting people I admire, trading, etc, is also always awesome. Long live the Underground Publishing Conference!

Katherine Raz – Retail Whore

The first zine I ever saw was The Scaredy-Cat Stalker, which was done by Krista Garcia out of Portland I think. I went to school with Nicolette Liebermann, Jonie Liebermann of Psychoholics Unaminous‘ daughter, and she brought it to school to show to me because she thought it was right up my alley. I was way into celebrities at the time. So anyway, I thought it was pretty cool, and after a few experiments, I came up with a zine of my own – Apple Scruff. I’m not too sure why I decided to do it. I guess I’ve always known I could write, and I love attention and that seemed to be a good way to get it. Apple Scruff folded when I moved to Chicago because I couldn’t afford to do it in the city. But, if you have the bug to do zines, and you spend tonnes of time reading other people’s zines (as I did: whenever I went into record stores I skipped the music and went straight for the publications), you have a compulsion to keep publishing. So I started Retail Whore. What attracts me to zines? I guess the fact that anyone can do them. It sounds simple, I know, and I could launch into a big First Amendment thing and Freedom of the Press and all that, which is important, too, but what I really like is that anyone with a decent narrative skill and access to a copy machine can achieve this cult status. Also, in all the time I spent at Columbia reading magazines like Magnet and Rolling Stone and Time, whatever, I never really got into reading until I read zines. They suck me in, I don’t know why. They can really be about anything.

Eric Nakamura – Giant Robot

I think I saw one at a record store, and thought they were cool. Actually the zine that got me thinking that it would be cool to do one, was Ain’t Nothing Like Fuckin’ Moonshine. I met Brandon Steppe at a show in SF, I saw the raw energy in his publication. It was an awesome feeling. It made me think my life could change.

Indie ability to do anything you wanted. Plus, some have a great aesthetic. It’s great to see some zines look great. That’s always a bonus. Zines are just cool. Websites are an easy way to make a zine. But I think when someone digs into their pockets to make something with paper, it’s just better. I think if a zine is good, it can be entertaining. But the downside is that there’s not enough good zines out there. And another downside is that there’s a lot of zines who say they’re the best out there. It’s not a contest like some publications make it. It’s just doing it that counts, sometimes. I’m also guilty of high expectations with zines, which is unfair. That’s like expecting someone to be a good athlete. But trying does count and some don’t.

Dustin Krcatovich – Shuttlebus Zine

I actually started with “minicomics”, which is a fine line to draw, but I started when I was 12 going on 13. There was a thing in my local newspaper about these local comic guys, and one of ’em, Robert Lewis, used to be pretty prominent in mincomics. He started teaching classes at the Kalamazoo Institute of the Arts, and he kinda mentored me. So, I started with that, which is pretty much like it would be with zines, just a different “network”. I got into zines in a more proper sense because of my friend Randall’s high school zine Scapegoat. Pretty much the fact that most mainstream media sucks. I have my beefs with zines, actually, and I think eight outta ten of them are bad, but it’s like communism: it’s good in theory. There are no constraints, and you can do whatever the hell you want with them. And that those two out of ten are really, really good.

Mark Maynard – Crimewave USA

I don’t really remember. It was over a dozen years ago. I was in college, in Michigan, living with friends. We were drinking a lot and we were bored probably. We did a few issues of a zine back then. We spent our own money on it. Then, years later, when Linette and I were living together, I got a job at a copy shop and one thing lead to another. I started by publishing a short autobiography and then Crimewave happened. That was about seven years ago now. Having Obsessive Compulsive Disorder doesn’t hurt. I liked the fact that they were honest, the works of people who cared about something quite a bit. I like self-taught art and DIY music, so this the written equivalent. People do zines because they have to. I like that. If we didn’t lose money on Crimewave, we’d probably lose it somewhere else.

Jeff Wiesner – Double Negative

I got into zines because of kids I met growing up who put together zines. Two in particular influenced me, neither of which are still in publication – Wonder Rolling News, and Media Locals. I was attracted to the idea of creating something to share with friends and strangers, something to distribute and have some means of communication. I like the opportunity to put together writing, artwork, illustration and design. I love the fact that zines give you an opportunity to meet people you wouldn’t meet otherwise, and share artwork and ideas with people who wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to see it. I also enjoy being able to publish work by othertalented artists, give them a chance to get some exposure.

Jake Austin – Roctober

I always read zines and xeroxed comica, and made a few small ones when I was a kid (one compiling Mama Jokes, e.g. Your mama is so…) and the others just comics. The reason I began seriously doing my own regularly published zine was that some punk kids were putting one together when I was about 20 and I did a great interview with Sleepy Labeef for them. When it became apparent they weren’t ever going to do their zine I put my own together and it was rewarding enough that I kept it up. By being available at only stores that sell the best stuff (punk 45s, underground comix, etc.) they inherently seemed like they must be worth checking out. I like the voices of the writers seeming so undiluted and direct.

Alex Wrekk

I read a few local mags and a few poetry type things then my boyfriend’s dad actually was getting zines from people off the internet back in 1993. I read some of his. We started putting stuff together for our own zine that we didn’t put out till 1994. It was called Fun in a Bucket and by that time it was just my little sister and I. I saw them and thought I can do that . And that I can make connections with people and keep in contact with people who are always moving around. The community that surrounds it. And how I can say what I want in the way I want to say it. The only editing is up to me.

Travis Fristoe – America?

This kid Erik Grotz, who I sort of looked up to in high school in Dumfries, Virginia did a zine called Action Time. It focused mostly on the D.C. hardcore scene and it blew me away. I was on the newspaper staff, but a self-published zine was unthinkable to me until I met Erik. Zines were part of the punk rock mystery to me, but they weren’t as scary as leather-jacketed thugs asking for cigarettes at shows. People with glasses wrote zines but they weren’t as passive as me and my comic book / AD&D friends. Zines tapped into something that I very much wanted to know about and become a part of. Too many things to put in a short answer, but the writing is way more relevant to my life than the New York Times or Details or The X-men. Of course, the bulk of zines (like any art form) can be trite, banal, predictable, etc. But stuff like Doris, Scam, King Cat, Cometbus, Scenery, etc. Ranks up there with my favorite hardback books. Zines are a tangible embodiment of d.i.y.

interviews with zinesters – katherine raz

Note – I am slowly going through and cleaning up my folders on our hard drive. I just came across a bunch of old interviews I did with people while I was a journalism student at Columbia College Chicago. I think this interview is from an article I was working on for a magazine writing class. I am not sure. I only vaguely remember working on this project. You can tell from my repeated questions that I had some thesis that I was trying to cover, but I can’t remember what it was specifically. I think they are from 1999. At that time, I was a dumb kid, so I probably didn’t appreciate the time that these people took to answer the questions. But I do now. Thank you very much to Andrew Scott, Dan Sinker, Matt Cordell, Karl Erickson, Gretchen Larsen, Julie Halpern and Katherine Raz. If you are one of the interviewees and want your interview taken down, please let me know. I am putting them here for posterity and nerdy archival reasons.

Katherine Raz – Apple Scruff and Retail Whore

What was the name of yr zine? What was its purpose? What was it about? How long did it last? Were you the only person working on it? Where was it based out of?

It was called Apple Scruff, and it was mostly about people who were overly-obsessed with celebrities. In the zine world I think there are a lot of people who have unhealthy crushes on famous people, so that’s what Apple Scruff celebrated – the sick celebrity obsession. It lasted for about a year, my senior year in high school. Based out of Grand Rapids, Michigan. While I had contributors, I was the only one doing lay-out, photocopying, mailing, etc.

Why did you start making yr zine? What were yr goals and did you meet any of them?

I started doing it after I’d been reading zines for about a year. I just wanted to do it myself. You can’t make a profit so that certainly wasn’t a goal. I was written up in Factsheet Five, and they liked it, so I guess that was pretty cool. Otherwise, just a broad base of subscribers and enough people to send sad letters when I said I wasn’t doing it anymore. It just gave me a lot of personal satisfaction to get my own stuff out. It was like therapy.

How large did your zine get? How widely read?

At its peak I think Apple Scruff had about 50 on the mailing list. Read as far and wide as New Zealand. People at my high school read it, too. Once it was written up in FS5 I had a lot of people writing in for single copies which were one dollar.

Do you still read zines? Do you feel like there’s a zine community in Chicago? is it strong or weak? Would you improve it?

Yes I still read zines. There are some particular ones I pick up whenever I go to Reckless or the Clubhouse. I think – yes, to a certain extent Chicago has a good zine community. There are a few organizations that actually are trying to collect zines for posterity here. One in particular is the Chicago Great Lakes Underground Press Collection (headed by Kathryn DeGraff). It’s a part of Depaul that is trying to collect zines from the Great Lakes area. You can go visit it whenever they’re open – I think they’re part of the library up there. Quimbys is a great place to pick up zines. So there’s no lack of support for zinesters. I think the improvements should come from the authors themselves. There needs to be more zines – and the people who write their own should continue to do so with more regularity. Because it’s getting kind of scarce out there since the downfall of FS5 two years ago. I think there needs to be more communication between zine writers – more of a community.

Were you happy with how yr zine turned out?

Yes, I was very happy. I didn’t expect it to get the strange cult following it did. After all, I was only 17 when I started it.

Why did you stop making yr zine? or did you? Were you fed up with it? Tired of it? Bored of it?

I stopped making it because I started to get really big into music, not celebrity crushes. I felt like I was reaching for things to write about. Like the guy who does Rock’n’Roll High School zine here in Chicago – he was an atheist and wrote about punk/hardcore. Then he “found Jesus” and had to change his zine. People’s tastes change. It takes all your passion and all your free time and a lot of your spending cash to do a zine and get it out there. If you’re no longer willing to dedicate all that time to it, it doesn’t work anymore. Also, because I moved to Chicago I couldn’t make copies for free at my job anymore. I didn’t have space in the apartment for layout, etc.

What zines did you read or do you read? What zines inspired you to do yr own zine? Or was there an event or something else that inspired you to do the zine?

I read anything I can get my hands on. I love to go to Quimbys and just sit there reading for an hour or so. I’m sure they hate me because I never buy anything. Same with Reckless. Right now I’m big into the local Chicago zines, music zines, and the zines about zines (Zine Guide is a great one). A few titles everyone should check out: Puberty Strike, Cometbus, Scaredy Kat Stalker (now defunct), and there was this one called 1544 West Grace that was all about this apartment buidling in Chicago.

Was yr zine a personal zine? Did you consider it a personal zine? Or something else?

It was personal, but all zines are. It dealt with a subject. It wasn’t about me, per se, but then it was my zine, so of course it was about me or whatever I wanted to talk about.

Did you have any horror story experiences making yr zine? What were they? Will you ever do any other zines? Or are you done forever?

My zine was about celebrity obsession but there was an article I did about someone who I was obsessed with in high school (an upper classman who had graduated). The article basically detailed all the stupid stalking techniques I had developed in order to see him more often, collect artifacts from his friends (pop cans, homework, etc.) and “drop in” on his classes, etc. It was basically done tongue-in-cheek, but later on I found out he moved to Chicago and went to Columbia College. Then I saw him at a party and he was like, Yeah, I read your zine… HORROR! Zines are so personal that doing them is very self-divulging. People who you don’t know can learn a lot about you and you just have to be willing to put yourself out there.

I will probably be involved in the zine community – I support it, I read zines, I still write for other people’s. But it’s something that I have put on the back-burner because, as you know, Columbia takes up a lot of time. I’m a real journalism student now, so I have to focus on getting my clips out to a more broad audience. I’m not done forever. Who knows, maybe I’ll do one from the nursing home when I retire.

What was yr step by step process from brainstorming to final product and distribution? Did you have any rituals for yr process? Like did you start by writing in a notebook or computer or did you just improvise straight to the zine page? How did you print yr zine? Xerox? Offset? How did you pay for the cost?

I took 10-20 sheets of blank computer paper and folded them in half. Then I cut and pasted computer-generated articles (and typewriter generated as well) onto the blank sheets. I used the copy machine at my dad’s office for free. The layout was a long process. The room at home where I did it was a disaster area (paper shreds, clippings, gluestick, stapler, address books, other zines). Rituals: CD player! Lots of music (probably how I started listening to music so much) – at the end of every zine I had a section called Audio Survival which said which CDs I’d been listening to while preparing that issue.

I came up with ideas for articles and wrote most of the articles during Pre-Calculus, American History, and Psychology class in my senior year of high school. Also at my job, which was at the periodicals desk at a library. When I had free time, I just wrote about whatever came to mind.

The cost of postage was covered by the one dollar people sent me to send it to them. Inmates got it for free, so a lot of prisoners read it. It actually was pretty cool because prisoners become very obsessed with celebrities. There’s not much else to do. But I never went into debt because of it.

What makes a zine good to you? What elements make a zine good to you?

Zines are good when they’re personal. When they have rants and raves, and they touch on the ever-human trials and tribulations that real life involves. Good writing is of upmost importance. You have to have a good, conversational writing style. Organization, while some zines are cut-and-paste and hard to read, the ones that have some sort of organizational flow to them are usually the most interesting. Diversity. Have a number of different writers and opinions.

interviews with zinesters – julie halpern

Note – I am slowly going through and cleaning up my folders on our hard drive. I just came across a bunch of old interviews I did with people while I was a journalism student at Columbia College Chicago. I think this interview is from an article I was working on for a magazine writing class. I am not sure. I only vaguely remember working on this project. You can tell from my repeated questions that I had some thesis that I was trying to cover, but I can’t remember what it was specifically. I think they are from 1999. At that time, I was a dumb kid, so I probably didn’t appreciate the time that these people took to answer the questions. But I do now. Thank you very much to Andrew Scott, Dan Sinker, Matt Cordell, Karl Erickson, Gretchen Larsen, Julie Halpern and Katherine Raz. If you are one of the interviewees and want your interview taken down, please let me know. I am putting them here for posterity and nerdy archival reasons.

Julie Halpern – Cul-De-Sac

Why did you start doing a zine? What made you decide that you wanted to put a zine together and all that? What were your goals? What was your mission?

Liz went to college in Oregon, and I went to Madison. She sent me a copy of The Scaredy Cat Stalker and I thought it was hilarious. When she moved back to Chicago, we talked about how we should do something creative. We’ve known each other since we were five, and we always did lots of kooky, creative shit together. Since we were both done with school, we wanted something to do that was still somewhat intellectually stimulating for us. At the time, I was dating a guy who wrote a really crappy zine, and when we broke up, I thought it would be the perfect way to one up the dude. Not like he ever saw it, or anything. I felt very proud to have created something, though.

How small did you start? Print run, circulation, sales. And how far have you come? Is circulation and size and cost important to you?

We are pretty much just as puny in circulation as when we started. We make 200 copies each issue and more once they run out. The Zine Guide seems to increase our mail and orders, especially since they put a picture of one of our covers. Liz and I both have contacted people and stores in other cities, so the zine gets sold in other places besides Chicago. We have some in a store in Australia, and we’ve already gotten a few letters. People actually recognize the zine’s name sometimes, which is like mini-stardom. The cost is pretty important to me and Liz, since we have no money. Office Depot used to be really cheap, but they doubled the prices. Still, we do some shifty dealing here and there. And the infrequency of our printing makes it easier to save up.

How long does it take you to put an issue together? Is it fun? A chore? What distracts you from doing the zine?

The actual issue doesn’t take so long, especially at this point. We know what to get together and how to do layout and clip art, so it’s getting less painful. We start by thinking of a theme, and then we give each other assignments and brainstorm. We set a due date for the rough drafts, we read them, we make final drafts, then do the layout. But it takes us fucking forever in between issues these days because we’re busy. Distractions include school, work, boys… I’m getting my masters and working full time; Liz is in school full time and student teaching.

Do you think of Cul-De-Sac as a personal zine? Something else? An outlet?

Yes. It’s a personal zine, but it’s not like I wouldn’t just tell those stories on an everyday basis. I’m a pretty open person, but I’ve gotten to the point where I know I can’t be as open as I once was. People don’t deserve to know every bit about me. It’s weird. Matt [Cordell, of The Plan] and I are dating, and the way we hooked up was through him reading my zine. So he knows all these things about me, like sexual things and stuff, before I know dick about him. But in a way, that’s good, because he already knows I have some of these issues. We haven’t really talked about anything in the zines. It’s almost like the zine us are different from the real us. I never really thought of that before.

You live in the suburbs, right? Is that a hindrance? A help? Does it inspire you? Do you hate it? Do you identify with it? Why don’t you live in the city?

Actually, we both live in the city. That address came when I was living with my folks for 3 months after I got back from living in Australia. I had more time on my hands, so I opened it. Plus, Chicago mail sucks ass.

Do you feel like there’s a sense of community among Chicago’s zinesters? Do you feel like you’re a part of it? If there’s a community, is it strong or weak and how would you improve it?

No. The thing is, you can’t tell if someone writes a zine just by looking at them. Plus, being an indie venue, I’m sure a meeting between zinesters would be like going to a show where everybody tries to out-cool each other by how different they are. It would be fun if we tried to do a zine fest again, but that one a few years ago was shit cause no one came. Too cool, I suppose.

Are you happy with Cul-De-Sac? Would you improve it? How? Where do you see yourselves and Cul-De-Sac in five years?

I’m very happy with Cul-De-Sac. We get so much nice mail, it’s hard not to feel good. I wouldn’t improve it cause I don’t like to improve things. In five years, I’ll be a librarian. Liz, who knows? We’ll probably be doing the zine still. What the fuck else are we going to do?

Can you take us step by step through yr zine making process from start to finish?

Big question. Here goes: The easiest thing for us to get started is thinking of a theme. That way there’s some sort of focus. Otherwise, we have trouble thinking of what would make sense. Also, it brings that issue together. Then we give each other assignments. We talk to each other about things that go with the theme. Since we grew up together, we can remind each other of things that have happened.

Then we choose a date where the rough drafts are due. We meet with typed drafts and exchange. We edit and make suggestions. Then we set a date for the final drafts. On that date, we come and exchange finals to make sure it’s all good. Then we go through these clip art books we buy and get from the library. We pick the clip art and mark them. The next time we meet, we photocopy all the clip art and place them correctly. We don’t use any computer programs for this. We are so good at it by now, it doesn’t take that long. Plus, we don’t have the resources, such as scanners and Photoshop.

The next day we take the finished product to Office Depot. We choose a color for the cover, have the office dudes make a copy and check it. They fuck up and we check it again. This happens several times. Then they start printing, and as they go, we take chunks and staple them. It takes a few hours.

Distribution: we take bunches to Quimby’s, Reckless, Earwax, etc. Then we mail them to various zines that we trade with. Then we find zines that review, and we send them there.

Do you have any horror story type experiences making your zine?

Once, Office Depot’s machine broke, but they gave us a bunch of free copies. No, I don’t really have any horror stories.

interviews with zinesters – karl erickson and gretchen larsen

Note – I am slowly going through and cleaning up my folders on our hard drive. I just came across a bunch of old interviews I did with people while I was a journalism student at Columbia College Chicago. I think this interview is from an article I was working on for a magazine writing class. I am not sure. I only vaguely remember working on this project. You can tell from my repeated questions that I had some thesis that I was trying to cover, but I can’t remember what it was specifically. I think they are from 1999. At that time, I was a dumb kid, so I probably didn’t appreciate the time that these people took to answer the questions. But I do now. Thank you very much to Andrew Scott, Dan Sinker, Matt Cordell, Karl Erickson, Gretchen Larsen, Julie Halpern and Katherine Raz. If you are one of the interviewees and want your interview taken down, please let me know. I am putting them here for posterity and nerdy archival reasons.

Karl Erickson and Gretchen Larsen – Cakewalk

Why did you start Cakewalk? What made you decide to do it? Was there some event or some thing that made you want to do it? What were your goals? What did you hope to accomplish? Do you feel like you’re filling a void in Chicago’s zine scene?

Karl Erickson: Mari Eastman, Elliot Joslin, Liz Mayer and myself started Cakewalk a few years ago. Mari, Liz and I all worked at another art magazine and, I at least, felt a bit of dissatisfaction about content. Not that that magazine was doing anything wrong, they were and are serving their audience just great. But I wanted to see different stuff and I wanted to have more of a decision making role. Plus, I thought it would make me look cool. I’m really not sure why anyone else has joined on, other to bask in the warm glow of the Cakewalk machine.

Gretchen Larsen: Yes, the glowing machine was definitely a draw, but for me it was an opportunity to do some cool design. We all have a very similar aesthetic, attitude and sense of humor, so it’s way more fun to produce something with your good friends than for your no-good, unimaginative boss.

KE: But what I think what really started it was that Mari and I were having an unsupervised, over-caffeinated day and decided to do it. Our goals are to, from my point of view, continue to have artists and people interested in art talk about this interest and their other interests. It builds a sense of community and, I hope, allows people to get to know each other outside of more professionally orientated magazines. I like to see people talk about whatever in a more informal, but still critical way. Also, the more strange drawings we can publish, the better.

As for filling a void in the Chicago zine scene, I’d say sure we do. I only know of a couple other art magazines in Chicago and each has their own flavor.

How long ago did you start Cakewalk? Is it your first zine? Were there other zines, are there other zines that you work on?

KE: I think Cakewalk started in 1998, but it may have been 1997. It comes out very sporadically. All of us have worked on a variety of magazines.

How large is your operation? Do you employ anybody? Is it mainly just you? How do you feel about that?

KE: We have a revolving cast, but there is a 5 or 6 person core (Steve Anderson, Mari Eastman, Gretchen Larsen, Liz Mayer, Josh Rothkopf on drums and myself.) We don’t pay anyone, though I have used some of our advertising money for bus fare. I would love to make money and pay people, but I’d also like to be Hugh Hefner.

GL (Designer & Karl’s girlfriend): The hell you would!

Is everyone friends? Is it larger than when you started?

KE: We are all friends and the great thing is that we get to be friendly with the writers and artists involved. It is larger now in that we actually get around internationally. People are always saying Oh, I saw you in Singapore or UNICEF was including issues in a drop. Kind of surprising, really.

Do you think of your zine as a Chicago art magazine or an art magazine that happens to be in Chicago? Why?

KE: Definitely an art magazine that is based in Chicago. And not even that too much, as our writers are from all over, Mari is in LA. There is so much complaining in Chicago, particularly in the art scene, that we don’t get enough attention, blah blah blah and one of the things I think that Cakewalk does is just ignore the idea of regionalism. If it is good (or not good but we are interested in it) then it is in. This brings the world to us and us to the world.

Do you feel that there’s a sense of community among Chicago’s zinesters? Is it a strong community? Weak community? Do you feel that you’re part of it? How would you improve it?

KE: I really don’t know if there is a community among zine producers. If there is, I don’t feel part of it. That said, the folks at Quimby’s are very nice and supportive and I imagine are a focal point of the scene. Cakewalk is more centered in the art world then in a zine world, if there is one, so most of our contacts and sense of belonging are there. It would be interesting to hear how everyone else gets their magazines out in the world and into the hands of those who thirst for their brand of knowledge. But I hate group meetings. If somebody asked me to be part of the zine scene, I would say sure.

GL: I can’t say I really feel like we’re doing “‘zine” in the proper sense anyway. I’d say, rather, the “independent publishing” scene in Chicago has been pretty great, but I don’t know if I often feel part of a scene either. We all just sort of do our own thing and maybe run into each other every now and then. Karl mentioned Quimby’s, has picked up a few of our articles, Punk Planet has given some good advice, Reckless Records has been super nice to us – anyone interested in printed matter, really – which may or may not qualify as a community. The reaction has been pretty positive and most people are like This is cool, can I mention/sell you in my ‘zine/website/bookstore/shout from the rooftops? Everyone has been very giving and sharing and they play nicely with others.

Are you happy with how Cakewalk turned out? Is it what you had envisioned when you started it? How would you improve it? Where do you see yourself and your zine in five years?

KE: I am pretty happy with Cakewalk. I think it is great because sometimes it doesn’t make any sense and confuses me and sometimes it does make sense. I love our covers. I think Cakewalk has an internal logic that we just haven’t figured out yet. Oh, there could be all sorts of improvements. We could have more money, we could become “legit” and be business-y and probably have people give us money and it could be in color and have more than a thousand issues printed and people would turn stuff in on time and I could be super organized or hire organizing monkeys and actually present more new ideas to the world that make people think. In five years. Good God. If we are still around, it should be quarterly, at least, we should not be doing it from our mother’s basements or “borrowing” office supplies from other jobs, and have a nice website like and we should be able to impress people by saying I work on Cakewalk. And have meetings in hot tubs.

GL: It would be dreamy if we could make enough money to do it for a living. But it would probably take more than five years for that to happen. I could see it continuing casually as we have for another few years. Maybe more color, better print quality. But I can’t see the feel-good factor ever changing, I think that’s our biggest asset.

Is there a step by step process that you go through in putting together your zine? What is it? This includes everything, from brainstorming to final product and distribution.

KE: Kind of. First we talk loosely about what the magazine should be about. Then we take this loose idea and present it to different writers we are interested in who might be interested in us. Then we start to get in a few article suggestions and that usually spurs on other article ideas. Sooner or later we end up with most of the articles we need and we go about designing it. We usually have an internal theme that we work with that doesn’t really have anything to do with the article themes. For instance, last issue, a lot of the articles dealt with rebellion and the artists place in our society. But we decided that the internal theme would be all you can robot. Before that, it was country western. This just gives us the structure we need to have a cohesive design. So after it is all designed we send it out to be printed. Then we get it back, send some to our distributors, who take it and do something with it, I am not sure what. They don’t tell us. The rest we self-distribute, putting them on consignment and sending them to friends around the world. Probably the easiest thing to forget but the most important thing to do is send issues to people who are in the magazine or who have helped you out.

Has it changed since you put together your first issue? Is it smoother now? Is it always evolving or do you have it perfected?

KE: It is far from perfected, though we are moving away from doing the editing and designing at the same time. That is a recipe for pain. So, it is smoother.