Thursday, July 03, 2008

My Zines Reviewed

Well yes, sometimes you review, sometimes you get reviewed. This is what other publications think about my zines. In case you are interested, all of them are still available - for less than you folks pay your government to destroy the environment, kill other people and organise silly useless summits.

Call & Response #1 reviewed by Erin (One Fine Mess)
One thing is for sure: Call & Response is 2004's best English-language zine written by an Italian living in Japan. That's faint praise, so I should add that this engaging debut would stand out whatever the niche. In this issue, Gianni tells of travels, his occupation (teaching Italian to Tokyo-area students), his flair of filching photocopies, and his history in the world of mail art. Don't let the complicated overseas mailing address scare you, my pretties. Call & Response is worth that trip to the post office. [5.5” x 8.5”, $3 or 3 IRCs postpaid worldwide, selective trades (contact first)]

Call & Response #1 reviewed by Doreen King (New Hope International Review
This booklet has a mail art feel, with the personal, chatty and rather intimatefeel that mail art brings. It is full of short articles and anecdotes of the type that would not be out of place on a low ebb chat show. The artwork is very good

Call & Response #1 reviewed by Sean Stewart (The Zine Rack)
This is a new personal zine from passionate mail artist Gianni Simone. Most of the stories have been previously published in other places, but they still convey a unified, and intriguing, portrait of Gianni. And, as would be expected from a mail artist, the layout and graphics in here are top-notch. The color of the cover stock is really cool, too, and one that I’ve never seen before. And the cover features a color-copied photo of the man himself in India, posing with a four-legged companion. Topics inside range from a diary of photocopy thievery to breakfast in India, and from mail art to insect encounters. Gianni’s writing is expressive and articulate, even in his non-native language of English, which makes his new zine a pleasure to read. I’ll be looking forward to future issues!

Call & Response#2 reviewed by Keith Rosson (Razorcake
This one’s put together by the same guy that does Org{an}ism, and it could almost be considered an accompanying issue of that zine. This one also explores the theme of home and belonging, albeit with a lot more contributors this time around. Simone deserves a high-five for assembling a truly diverse group of contributors here. Standouts are 1.) John Adams’s scary account of being processed into prison—the delousing, the shower, the head-shaving, all the stuff in his pockets placed in an envelope and filed away for his release. 2.) Onjana Yawnghwe’s charming typewritten/hand-drawn history of all the houses she’s lived in throughout her life. 3.) Vincent Voelz’s lengthy story about moving from Minnesota to SF. See, that’s the cool thing about this zine: some of these stories are almost heartbreaking in their depth and sincerity, and some of them just detail trying to find home, trying to belong and feel a part of, in such a kind of average way that it’s so easy to relate to. That’s what makes this thing such a good read—that ability to identify. [$4, 5½” x 8½”, photocopied, 60 pgs]

Call & Response #2 reviewed by Quismada (Xerography Debt
This is a collection of some highly talented writers who share their experiences about home. Give credit to zine maestro Gianni Simone for putting together yet another classy publication. Some of these writings will make you cry, others will make you snicker, either way, few people will read the zine without being touched in some way. The writers come from all over the globe and this zine is an open window to their lives. Put that travel book aside and if you're thinking about moving? Consult this zine first.

Call & Response #2 reviewed by Geoff Huth (
Yesterday, I received a copy of the second issue of Call & Response, another zine from Gianni Simone, an Italian who seems to create only English-language zines while living in Japan. As with anything I receive from Gianni, this zine is carefully crafted. In this case, part of that craft is explained by the subtitle of the issue: "at home -- not at home." Gianni asked a number of his correspondents to write about "traveling - living abroad - culture shock - cultural heritage - feeling an outsider in the place where you live - different concepts of 'home.' This zine of Gianni's gives us some insight into others' points of view about home and how those changed over their lives. The visual poet David Baptiste Chirot writes about the concept "Home is where I hang my hat," recounts a non-meeting in Paris with the hat of William Saroyan, and tells us about living overseas and in a transitional home in Milwaukee. A couple of his famous frottage poems (which he calls "rubBEings") bookend his essay. The mailartist Bernd Reichert, whose work is often vispoetic, includes a small multilingual collage as well as the story of an East German self-exiling himself to Belgium after the reunification of Germany. Randall Osborne tells a too-short story of a home broken up and of how both of his names slowly changed on him against his will. Carlos M. Luis, "the great gesture writer of visual poetry," writes about being a Cuban immigrant to America, whose views are anti-Castro yet not in line with the Cuban-American majority.Onjana Yawnghwe tells us about her life in Thailand and the corollary of that life in Vancouver. She tells us a fully verbo-visual story. She draws simple pictures of her homes (often they layouts), types her story around those pictures, and then emends the text by hand. This ends up giving her story a childlike quality that I enjoyed.
But I'm giving away too many of the stories. There are six or seven more. This zine is the first in a long time that brings back to me a whiff of the Factsheet Five era, when my friend Mike Gunderloy served as the central node of a huge network of zines, when my mailbox was always full of some sweet gift from Asia or Europe or North America. (Gianni, for instance, writes the bios of each of his correspondents in this issue, giving the boring author bio some life and relevance.) This zine reminds of the network that once was. But it is mostly about the stories.We hear four stories from visual poets alone in these pages, two stories from people whose fathers were diplomats, two stories that mention tamarinds, as well as stories from Asia, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and both Americas. All of the people we hear from are artists of some kind, but of the type I call invisible artists (because I am one myself). Invisible artists don't make a big splash, don't really become famous, don't make any noticeable money off their art, and sometimes live the usual lives of usual people in unusual ways. There are some great stories in here, simply told, along with a few surprises about the lives of visual poets.
Call & Response is available for $4 or 3 IRCs worldwide. email.

Orga{ni}sm #1 reviewed by Davida Gypsy Breier (Xerography Debt #16)
I've been interested in Japan since becoming friends with a Japanese freelance writer a few years ago. I think about going to visit her in Tokyo one day. It is captivating to read about a place you want to visit, especially through the eyes of someone who lives there, yet who started as an outsider.In addition to Gianni's description of the city, food, and movies, and mass transit, Brant Kresovich (For the Clerisy zine) offers an essay about Jack Seward, Robin Bougie (Cinema Sewer zine) dreams about Japan, and Gigantor has a strange job interview. Recommended.

Orga{ni}sm #2 reviewed by Stephanie Holmes (Xerography Debt #20)
This is a travel and personal zine about the author's life in Japan. It's awonderful blend of essays (one to note is one about the first Western immigrants in Japan) and personal accounts including modern tales of healthcare in Japan, people watching on a train, memories of cultural integration by revisiting the author's stash of personal letters, and interactive lists (report of communication between author and readers) about free things to do and have in the city. Also includes contributions from two of XD's own, Bobby Tran Dale and Brent Kresovich (For the Clerisy zine). Highly recommended

Orga{ni}sm #2 reviewed by Keith Rosson (Razorcake)
Written in English by an Italian currently residing in Japan. The theme of this issue is “first contacts,” and Simone and Orga{ni}sm’s few contributors do a great job sticking with the theme while still keeping things interesting. While the majority of it is centered around Japan (things you can do/get for free, people-watching on the train, a history of immigration to the country, etc.), there’s also a running, almost unspoken undercurrent of just trying to feel at home in a place that is very, very different from what you’re used to. That’s what makes this thing such a captivating read. While there’s nothing explicitly “punk” about this, the writing and content transcends that—it’s a pretty consuming zine, put together by the same guy that does Call And Response. [$4, 5½” x 8½”, copied, 48 pgs.]

Orga{ni}sm #2 reviewed by Caroline (Zine World #25 )Color cover with great layout and formatting, well-organized and easily guides the reader into its pages. Many articles about life in Japan from a sociological perspective, written well and often from a wry perspective. Included in this issue is a packet of tissues with the following curse, “Issue #2 comes with a free packet of tissues. The packet cannot be sold separately. Those who will try to sell the tissues for personal gain are going to catch a deadly case of bird flu.” Very good read, well worth the time. [$4 US or 3 IRC’s 44S :30]

Call & Response #3 / Orga{ni}sm #3 reviewed by Lauren Trout (Razorcake)

This split is pretty rad. Orga{ni}sm features personal horror stories and straight facts dealing with the Japanese legal and prison systems, which take the cultural standards of conformity and subordination to extremes. Call & Response publishes firsthand accounts of prison conditions and some broader information related to the problems that plague the prison system in America. This split is remarkable to me because it manages to avoid articles full of anti-prison rhetoric and news about the handful of American political prisoners who have received national attention—topics that have been covered to death in prison-themed literature. This is a great personal zine of well-written contributions from different people who happen to be incarcerated or are interested in sharing information about the prison system. ( [$4 ppd., 5'' x 8'', photocopied w / color cover, 56 pgs.]

Call & Response and Orga{ni}sm reviewed by
As mentioned earlier this year, I’ve had a rough time finding zines that aren’t just perzines disguised as reprints of LiveJournal entries. These two zines from an Italian ex-pat living in Japan were a pleasant wake-up call – the writing from Gianni and contributors is just plain interesting to read. He’s also Xerography Debt’s resident mail art expert, and maintains a blog about mail art and zines, Gloomy Sundays. Send $6 for both to Gianni Simone. You’ll receive an artfully decorated envelope with cool stamps!

Call & Response #3 / Orga{ni}sm #3 reviewed by Dann Lennard (Betty Paginated) [This interview was originally slated for publication in Zine World #26 but was sent too late and didn't make it - my fault, not Dann's]

I enjoyed the articles in this split zine that examines prison life in Japan and abroad, even if I’m not sympathetic to many of the sentiments. Yeah, prison life is terrible – I get it. It’s just…well, they’re CRIMINALS and deserve to be in locked up. I can’t feel sorry for the fuckers. Still, I thought the zine was interesting. Life in prison is shit – and it’s fascinating to learn how inmates cope with their daily lives. But, frankly, they got themselves into this mess, so…y’know… [US$4 post-paid worldwide 56S :45]

Call & Response #3 / Orgna{ni}sm #3 reviewed by Emerson Dameron (Zine Thug #12) (to read the whole review:

America has a larger percentage of incarcerated citizens than any other nation on earth. (...) Prison might be the only growth industry we've got left. Yes, there are sociopathic assholes in our midst, and I'd rather not split a cab with them, but America's prison-industrial complex is an out-of-control monster, no one seems to know what most of these people are actually in for, and no one seems to be talking about it in mass earshot. Both sides of this split are devoted to prisoners, pretty much the only American zine writers who have any beeswax calling their shit 'zsamizdat. ' C&R showcases the paint-peeling wit of inmate John Adams and the addictive freestyling of inmate Seth Ferranti. (...) The deceptively precious title Orga {ni }sm reps joint life in should-be-zine-god Gianni Simone's adopted Japanese homeland, complete with goofy illustrations. This issue's pick o' the litter, easy.

Call & Response #3 / Orga{ni}sm #3 reviewed by Blackguard (
How wonderful it was to recently learn about Gianni Simone's zines Orga{ni}sm and Call & Response (thanks to Xerography Debt!). In 1992 Gianni moved from Italy to Japan and has been living there ever since. He is a language teacher, teaching Italian to the Japanese. In 2004 he started up a zine, or two zines (not sure which came first since both are at #3) as a means to share his experiences and opinions of life in Japan. Gianni generously sent me Orga{ni}sm #1 and 2 plus the split Orga{ni}sm #3/Call & Response #3. His covers are very nice, with obvious handmade touches. When I was reading one on the bus I had people giving me curious and envious looks. All they had was a crummy iPod. Inside I read about Gianni's history and explanation of how he came to move to Japan, as well as his involvement with *mail art*. He rides an old streetcar line and documents the journey. Elsewhere he writes about food, like that available at Techno Sushi, a sushi restaurant where they blast deafening techno music to make you eat fast and leave quickly, and Strictly Ramen, a ramen joint ruled by the iron fist of Tokyo's answer to Seinfeld's Soup Nazi. On the grimmer side, his split zine focusses on prison and state-organised punishment of all kinds. Most fascinating in this issue was the details about life in a Japanese prison and the accompanying illustrations by Kazuichi Hanawa, a manga artist who spent time in prison and drew a manga about it. The zine also contains contributions from actual prisoners.
All three zines are fantastic and highly recommended. [Email Gianni at to order copies, he is up for selective trades.]

Call and Response #4 reviewed by Astrogirlzarro,

A parcel arrived from Japan a few days ago, sent by the zine maestro, Gianni Simone, containing some of his exceptional zines, one of them being Call and Response. The zines were accompanied by a gracious letter written in Gianni’s distinctive handwriting (which resembles Japanese ideographic characters to my eyes) on the back of a photocopied image. Veteran zinesters never fail to amaze me with their proficient use of stationery, printed media, and innovative ideas when it comes to beautifying snail mail. The most ingenious I get is sticking cheap Betty Boop stickers randomly onto drab manila envelopes for my zine mail out. I’m not exactly letting my freak flag fly in the mail art department, but I’m working on it.
Issue four of Call and Response is a (mostly) black and white photocopied collaborative zine. The theme is Windows (as in the peep holes in buildings not the computer operating system). The stories vary in quality and are written by a clutch of zinesters in various stages of their self publishing journey. They attack the theme from different and fascinating angles; no two stories are alike.
Swedish contributor Mikael X Eriksson records some fine insights in his Libraries and Churches Saved My Life piece. He says:

‘there are two places where you can always sit in peace without having to spend any money: libraries and churches.'

It got me thinking about the astrological significance of what he said.
In the birth chart, libraries and churches are institutions traditionally ruled by the twelfth house of what is hidden from the mundane world. The institutions represented by this sector of the chart are not established for profiteering; they are organisations set up to shelter and protect the vulnerable (hostels and halfway houses); heal the sick (hospitals); reform the misfit (prison); educate the curious (universities and libraries); and provide solace to the seeker (churches). Eriksson states that he had a drinking problem and then lived rough. Libraries and churches played a significant part in his survival during this phase. The twelfth house demands that you confront your demons and take responsibility for your recovery within the parameters of these institutions. I think that Eriksson’s piece represents the twelfth house anecdote completely.
He ends his story experiencing true twelfth house divine home sickness:

'I’ve had many addresses in many cities. Never a place to call my home. I’ve come to understand that when I miss home, I miss a place inside myself. A place I’ve never lived in. A place I constantly long for and will probably never find.’

Eriksson, my man, I hope you find want what you’re looking for.
Call and Response also contains other gems written by Gianni himself, Andrew Culture, K Frank Jensen, and a couple of Australian journalists/zinesters, Dann Lennard and Helen Vnuk, who write about the view of Harris Park, a suburb in western Sydney, from their window. The stories are multi-layered, mature, and thoroughly engaging.
To discover more about zine extraordinaire Gianni Simone and his various self publishing projects, check out his blogs Gloomy Sundays at and A Man Called Horse at They are also good insights into Japan’s zine culture.

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