ZINED! of old is D.I.Y. zen today

On the occasion of the 15th anniversary of the debut of MICRO-FILM, we’d like to share an excerpt from that first issue as well as related food for thought about the worth and place of independently made media, particularly of the print and self-created variety, in our world today. Themes discussed below, drawn from both the video explored in the excerpt and an event attended by your humble editor at Eastern Illinois University in the spring, will reoccur in additional material we plan to publish in the coming months. Enjoy!



Almost two years ago, esoteric renaissance artist Cory McAbee (CRAZY & THIEF, STINGRAY SAM) paid a welcome visit to Champaign-Urbana thanks to the efforts of the Champaign-Urbana Film Society. We at C-U Blogfidential happily marked the appearance by sharing L. Rob Hubbard’s interview with the cult musician about his prior filmmaking ventures, including THE AMERICAN ASTRONAUT, from MICRO-FILM 5 published in 2002. Flashbacks can be fun when they relate to the here and now in constructive ways.

More recently, yours truly participated in the ‘zine symposium “Cut & Paste at Eastern Illinois University in March, through which enough MF meta emerged to rival our previous sense of déjà vu as personified by McAbee. These reflections inspired a bit more pause then revelry, to be honest, innocently echoing a past when I’d regularly try out various media and technique with giddy abandon as opposed to the present, where methodical discipline and midnight oil fuel my creation. Ahh, the realities of being an adult in the publishing arts…

So, what signals did I pick up on, exactly? For starters, my contribution to the “Cut & Paste” panel partly focused on how I discovered the underground publishing surge of the Nineties, directly leading me to launch MF and then CUBlog. Liz Mason, a Chicago ‘zine maker participating in “C&P” through Skype, regularly stocked MF as a buyer at Quimby’s Bookstore in the Windy City. Dr. David Gracon, an EIU assistant professor in Communications and co-organizer of “C&P,” first made contact with me through MF as a college undergraduate in Buffalo, New York, more than a decade ago. The most overt Ghost of MICRO-FILM Past, however, came in the form of ZINED! A DOCUMENTARY, the screening of which closed the symposium.

One of the initial subjects I wrote about for MF was ZINED! Running as a sidebar to Dr. Steven Bailey’s feature article on independent film journals and Web sites in MICRO-FILM 1, the piece attempted to express the quirky character and self-empowering vibe given off by this glorious underground VHS tape I ordered through the mail from producer Marc Moscato. ZINED! introduced me to the idiosyncratic print media of Gracon and two dozen other individuals, primarily based in the upper East Coast and contiguous Canada, while touching upon base concerns of the subculture. My much younger self found veracity and vigor in those voices speaking to him from afar in a program so lovably rough around the edges as this one.

At Eastern Illinois, “Cut & Paste” discussion often broached the place of ‘zines in the modern media landscape, particularly one overtaken by a stress on electronic delivery. Gracon professed during our closing comments that ‘zine culture is worth academic study and archival preservation, as a mode of personal and political discourse with qualities quite unique to its form. One might argue the same goes for comparable media projects spun from the counterculture cloth such as ZINED! Fifteen years after Moscato assembled it as a video assignment for college, ZINED! provides a rare window into the past when a literal, personal touch lent to one’s self-publishing arguably meant volumes more than in might in the present day.

We now pull from the archives of the Secret MICRO-FILM Headquarters my article as it appeared in MF 1 to provide you a better idea of what ZINED! is like, particularly since it is not readily available for viewing apart from those “outdated” tapes originally sold by Moscato. (In fact, ZINED! was projected at Eastern Illinois’ Booth Library from Gracon’s personal VHS copy. Go analog!) At the end, we’ll update you briefly on Gracon, Moscato, and a few of their fellow ‘zine makers who appeared in the video.

~ Jason Pankoke



“It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad ZINED!”*

by Jason Pankoke

One of the earliest outlets that gave me a clue about how much non-mainstream activity existed in our world was Zine Guide, an offshoot of the Evanston, Illinois-based Tail Spins. When the gargantuan second edition finally came out a few months ago, I snapped it up because I wanted to see how many other individuals had been committing their movie madness to paper. I found roughly 40 entrants, a mildly depressing number when compared to the thousands of titles and dozens of genres that comprise the guide. Thankfully, I unearthed something rather unexpected as I reached the letter “z”…

A young lad from Buffalo named Marc Moscato had submitted a half-hour video to the Guide called ZINED! A DOCUMENTARY. Do you think I could resist checking out a movie about ‘zines for a magazine about movies? Not a chance! A package eventually found its way to my mailbox containing the tape, a nice hand-written note from Moscato, and the current issue of his own ‘zine, Generation Latex, a spry mixture of art, poetry, reflections, and anti-commercial television commentary. Once I popped the tape into the VCR, the documentary guided me through a much-needed introductory course on this copy shop subculture and why these kids do what they do.

“It’s part of the whole punk ethos. You get away with as much as you can,” says John from Hoi Polloi! Skazine. Amy Greenan of Highest Population of Rock Stars adds, “When I come home from work, I think, ‘Oh, I wonder if I got anything in the mail,’ or, ‘Oh, I should really be writing about such-and-such for the ‘zine.’” Burke Paterson of B.Mad Zine comments that, “The way ‘zines are laid out and cut-and-pasted by human hands, that even when a human hand tries to do them straight, they’re still not quite symmetrical. It’s really special and beautiful to look at.” Between these folks and nearly two dozen other interviewees, ZINED! endorses the hands-on, personal approach that’s relatively absent in corporate media these days.

“I thought it would be cool to do [a documentary] about fanzines, which was a culture that I’d been involved with for a while,” says the director, who produced the film for an advanced documentary class at the State University of New York-Buffalo two years ago. Although video is a much different platform for exploration than the printed page, Moscato sees ZINED! as a simple extension of his activities as a whole. “Even with my ‘zine,” he continues, “I like to document things, so that’s what it’s all about. I do this through many modes of expression, through writing, through painting, through video, through all these different mediums.”

To assemble footage for the project, Moscato taped interviews with several friends living in the Buffalo area and obtained additional material through contacts on the Internet. While he expresses disappointment that he didn’t get the wealth of material promised to him by some, he received more than his fair share from others. Take Ethan Minsker of Psycho.Moto Zine, for instance. “I had sent a list of questions to Ethan to ask other people, and somebody had interviewed him. One of the questions was, ‘Where do you do your ‘zine?’ and Ethan said he gets naked during the middle of the night, puts on a wrestling mask, sits in a wheelchair, and types it out! He just came up with that off the top of this head.” Not one to let a good idea go unused, the director convinced Minsker to demonstrate his purported working conditions for the camera!

After a year’s worth of production work, the finished documentary aired on local public access television and made its way into the hands of friends and other ‘zine publishers. “I’ve had people come up to me and say that they had done a ‘zine because they watched my video,” reveals Moscato. “That was pretty rewarding. That’s why I did ZINED!, to get people familiar with [the culture], open their eyes up, and if not to do their own ‘zine, to maybe pick one up in a record shop and check it out. It’s good that it’s on a grassroots level and it can affect things on a personal, day-to-day level.”

“I think it’s a great thing that camcorders are made available to consumers,” he continues when the definition of “independent cinema” is raised, “and this offers them a great tool for activism, for documentary, for recording their kids growing up. It offers consumers that great opportunity for expression, which I think should be utilized more. I believe that that is true independent filmmaking, when an individual is creating something without the backing of a corporation,” citing the irony of discovering an “indie” magazine published and distributed by the Viacom-owned Blockbuster Video chain.

Lately, Moscato has been working on a piece documenting the resurgent STAR WARS phenomenon, and plans to take on graduate school in the near future in order to hone his skills and tackle a production detailing the ins and outs of the food industry. “It’s weird to think, ‘Oh, food is political,’ but it is political,” he concludes, “and when so few corporations own our food supply, and so few agricultural businesses are controlling what we eat, and seeing all of the different chemicals that they use in our foods, well, that’s really something.” Something worth exposing before the eye of Moscato’s camera, we presume.

*My original draft drops the commas because I didn’t cross-check it with publicity materials for what I was spoofing, the all-star comedy IT’S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD (1963), until the last moment. However, eagle-eyed readers might notice a missing “Mad” in MICRO-FILM 1; I sacrificed it to be able to set the remaining headline as large as possible in the space I had for it. Editor’s choice, indeed!



“ZINED! The Zequel”

by Jason Pankoke

It might be an interesting study to investigate the whereabouts of everyone who appears in ZINED! Due to our typical time constraints we’re not going to attempt the feat in anything resembling a thorough fashion, but, one does wonder where the young artists, activists, and anarchists of yesterday might be today…

We’ve happily made the face-to-face acquaintance of David Gracon, a coincidental neighbor to the Secret MICRO-FILM Headquarters in the Sesquicentennial Neighborhood of Champaign and, back then, a college freshman in Buffalo beginning to dabble in media-making with his own ‘zine, Ape. He eventually double-majored in Sociology and Media Studies, and also earned his master’s degree in Humanities, at SUNY-Buffalo before moving all the way across the continent to tackle a Ph.D. in Communication and Society at the University of Oregon in Eugene. Gracon has taught English overseas and produced numerous videos including the companion documentary to his dissertation, WALLS OF SOUND: A LOOK INSIDE THE HOUSE OF RECORDS, recently picked up by Microcosm Publishing for distribution.

ZINED! mastermind Marc Moscato, who mailed his interview responses to me as a cassette tape recording, earned his own degrees at SUNY-Buffalo and Oregon ahead of Gracon and has since provided spark for numerous artist collectives, traveling media shows, and alternative cultural projects in Eugene and Portland, Oregon. He currently is the executive director of Know Your City, a multifaceted nonprofit organization that helps Portland citizens take ownership of the city’s past history as well as make positive change for the future. Not surprisingly, an educational product of Know Your City is a series of mini-comics drawn and written by Portland artists to highlight significant citizens or events that have shaped said history.

The graphic appearing before the sidebar text in this post also appeared in MICRO-FILM 1 sans caption, so we’d like to remedy that now. Featured clockwise, from top right, are Amy Greenan of Highest Population of Rock Stars ‘zine, Stacey Case of Rivet! ‘zine, Burke Paterson of B.Mad Zine, and Gracon.

Brief searches on the Interwebs have turned up evidence that everyone in the group has been quite active since their 2.5 minutes of on-screen ZINED! fame. Greenan is a commercial designer and fine artist living in Niagara Falls, New York; she published HPRS for more than a decade, with the most recent edition appearing in 2007 as an elaborate ‘zine-in-a-box. Case managed at least 11 issues of Rivet!, of which you can find facsimiles for #1 and #11 on Archive.org, and currently organizes the Trash Palace Theatre screening venue in Toronto. Paterson also lives in Toronto, having added “traveling all the way around the world” and “squeezing an Airstream trailer into a loft apartment” to his list of interesting accomplishments.

Finally, we should give props to Ethan Minsker, another ZINED! ‘zine maker mentioned in the sidebar, which brings full circle that uncanny sense of déjà vu felt by this author. Within a week of Gracon asking me to participate in the “Cut & Paste” symposium at Eastern Illinois University, I received a message from Geoff Merritt of That’s Rentertainment about Minsker sending the store his films as well as copies of a recent Psycho.Moto Zine! Blowing the mind is the realization Minsker has been publishing PMZ and its predecessor for a quarter-century; he also produces numerous other projects as part of the “Antagonist Movement,” an indie artists’ consortium based in the East Village of New York City. In the video below, Minsker briefly defines the fanzine concept and describes how they still have a place in his output, albeit as digital products.

Maybe some industrious young muckrakers out there would be willing to take this train of thought for a spin, telling us through their self-produced media the stories behind Moscato’s erstwhile misfits.


Fanzine from Ethan H. Minskel on Vimeo.


“It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad ZINED!” originally appeared in MICRO-FILM 1, October 1999, p.15. Article © 1999 Jason Pankoke. Used with permission.

CUBlog edits © 2014 Jason Pankoke

Back to the fore, MacDuff…

Visit the Article Index

Return to Home Page

Comments closed.