Zine On, Zine Off @ Pressed, Feb. 5

A zinester's booty from the Zine Off.
A zinester’s booty from the Zine Off.

As we drown in media, social or otherwise, do-it-yourself is becoming more and more relevant. We’ve found ways to distract ourselves on a regular basis and how much we give back to the buzz depends on whether our phones are connected to the Internet. Writers & essayists are relegated to blogs or journals if they wish to be published regularly but there’s an alternative for those of us dying to be in print, aching for a papyrus touch. And it’s as DIY as they come.

Zines (pronounced “zeens” of course) are usually small homemade pamphlets whose sole purpose is to pass along information. Nothing is taboo and you are the editor so you publish what you like. Fold paper, cut & paste, draw & write, then photocopy the hell out of it and bring it to your local Zine Off, like the one that took place at Pressed on February 5th.

The participants on Wednesday¬†were a¬†bag of mixed nuts with subjects ranging from travel,¬†poetry &¬†Vladimir Nabokov, to¬†dead celebrities, futuristic hotels & gratuitous swearing. The event was as energetic as a hive, with the¬†busy hum of worker bees bringing¬†sweet gifts to each other. Ottawa Showbox decided to participate because we’ve been toying with the idea of a print issue for months now. We wanted to share our favourite pieces of the shows we’d seen and add all local listings of February shows at the back.

Two zines from the belly of the beast: Ottawa Showbox Issue 01 & Shit Just Got Rural
Two zines from the belly of the beast: Ottawa Showbox Issue 01 & Shit Just Got Rural

Memorable zines of the night included¬†Speak¬†by Jessie Denise Huggett (here’s a¬†review¬†by the event organizer, JM Francheteau),¬†How to Get Rid of Squirrels¬†(the answer may surprise you) and¬†how i survived another winter¬†by Amber Dearest (probably the best balance of adorable & informative). A man handed me what I thought was a fortune from a cookie with a¬†tiny url¬†to his zine, proving that paperless e-zines do exist.

Making a zine requires the basic writing tools, a subject you feel good about sharing, and a whole mess of creative energy. It’s really that simple.¬†Why a zine? They’re easy to make, inexpensive and fun. Zines were once the perfect way to promote the punk music scene in the post-disco world of the ’70s. It’s still a suitable form of ¬†promotion of this music scene as Cut The Shit demonstrates. A history wiki of zines says pamphleteers were the precursors of zinesters, those who had access to a printing press and a message to pass along to the masses.

So again, why zines? Paper is still the best physical medium for the dissemination of information across the world. Connecting people through stories and accounts of life on this planet is a job the Internet does well, but it copied this mission from books and newspapers. Not only are we saying we don’t need all them fancy wires and tubes but we’re going to do just fine without publishers, news companies and corporations who decide what we should read. We’ll read whatever we want.

Pressed has a permanent zine library on the way in the cafe, I encourage anyone with loose change and curiosity to go check them out. Check out the zine scene!