The world according to Marko and Ms. Chiff

Modern Books and Manuscripts 2014-06-27

Grade ‘D’ but edible is a zine authored by Marko and Ms. Chiff. The two issues found so far in Harvard College Library’s zines collection tell of their extended travels in southeast Asia and India, and their life on an organic farm in Tennessee. Through them both the authors share their views of the world.

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In issue 57 – which actually precedes issue 56 since it documents their travels retrospectively – Marko opens by questioning the ethics of “3rd world tourism”: “As roads are paved, Coca Cola is put on ice, rock music played in family restaurants, and local crafts are mass produced for souvenirs, the indigenous culture begins to atrophy and disappear.” The impact of tourism on indigenous cultures is then compared to processes of gentrification in urban neighborhoods in the United States.

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Marko, a self-professed punk rocker of sorts, writes a piece on the places they visit through the viewpoint of the local music scene. He describes an old Javanese man strolling about in a sarong and sporting a second-hand Red Hot Chili Peppers shirt; an encounter with a Singapore youth who is a policeman by day and a punk by night; the “obnoxious” music of Bob Marley blaring out everywhere they go; and the “European raver scum” doing drugs and having raves on the beach. Ms. Chiff, a vegetarian for eight years and vegan for five, writes a piece on the plight of the vegan traveler.

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Marko sums up the impact of their travel thus:

Basically, the things I witnessed have shown me that sustainable agriculture is a crucial form of political activism. There are lots and lots of people who need to eat, and chemical reliant agri-business is failing to do so and killing the planet as well. So now my priorities have switched from globetrotting to learning as much as I can about organic farming and sustainable technologies and living practices.

Back in the United States, the two have put their new priorities into practice and are living on an organic farm in Tennessee. In issue 56, Marko writes:

…as we worked + played (the same thing when coercion is not a factor) around this place, we realized how fucking punk it is to grow your own food and cure yourself with plant medicine. To us, punk was all about the “Do-it-yourself” attitude. The fact that we did not need the bullshit corporate death culture to feed us on unnourishing packaged culture, so we made our own noise, our own zines, built our own culture from scratch. Well, the same D.I.Y spirit fits well into agriculture…

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He goes on to talk of a new zine they are writing about their experiences on the farm. While Farm Punks International is not among the titles listed so far in the collection, there are plenty of zines still to go, meaning one may well turn up in the future.

Thanks to Alina Lazar for contributing this post. Alina is a second-year PhD candidate in the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures at Harvard.  She is one of the initial cohort of Harvard Library  Pforzheimer Fellows, working with curator Leslie Morris at Houghton Library to compile a title listing of Harvard College Library’s Printernet Collection of approximately 20,000 zines. The Printernet Collection was assembled by an anonymous collector, and was purchased by Widener Library in 2012.  The current project to create a title list is the first step in the process to decide where the collection, or portions of it, might best be housed at Harvard, and how it will be made available for research.