When I was a teenager in the early 2000s, I put the first edition of this book to good use. I learned tips on sewing that I was too angsty to get from my mom, which I then put to use by altering my clothes and adhering band’s patches to everything. It taught me about composting, bike repair, and how to make my own books and zines. Microcosm and CrimethInc stuff was drawing me in like moths to a flame. They kept me company when I was grounded for doing something stupid, and they kept my idle hands from doing the devil’s work. I got creative and learned how to survive on a budget. If I needed something, I considered if I could make it myself first. This book was a tempered blade to keep in my arsenal of knowledge. And it kept me hungry for more skill sets and know-how.
Though I recognize how biased of an opinion this is, I feel that my generation was the last one to truly feel the relevancy of this how-to book. At the time that I found it, my internet use was heavily rationed, with exceptions for homework research which was duly monitored by a parental figure. Today’s setup is far and away different. There are ten year olds with the internet in their pockets. Punk rock constantly taught me DIY approaches to every situation, and by making stuff and doing things, I was able to critically shape my way of thinking. I still think that this book will be helpful to someone who’s never even considered how to make a stencil because the need never arose. Now those same people might own their own screen-printing business.
In the age of the internet, though, this book just doesn’t pack as much of a punch as it used to. Some things in here are super outdated and don’t quite fit into today’s zeitgeist. For example, there’s a bit about making your own envelopes that suggests if you can’t afford the thirty-seven cents to mail a letter, make postcards that only cost twenty-three cents to send. We’re talking about a difference of fourteen cents here! Or the tip about using UV light to unstink your socks that you can wear for up to three days before they get “really crusty.” Less of that and more of how to keep your socks clean so you don’t start growing feet fungus, please. You can still be punk rock and take care of your body. My only other major gripe is the readability. These tips are all reprinted from various zines, of which some are hand written chicken scratch, in eight point font. So while we’re making stuff and doing things, how about reformatting this book? Consistency in the text will go a long way, and you can still reprint the pages from your tattered, old zines in the back. –Kayla Greet (Microcosm, 2752 N. Williams Ave., Portland, OR, 97227, microcosmpublishing.com)