Bound for better

Pub date January 30, 2008
SectionArts & CultureSectionLiterature


INTERVIEW You probably stumbled over it during your holiday shopping travails: a little 2008 pocket date book branded "Slingshot" with a hand-drawn cover of kids wearing engineer boots and "A is for anarchy" garb, picking flowers, vegetables, and fruit in an idyllic garden scene, a cityscape looming in the distance. Inside, each page is embellished with a quirky hand, oddball fonts, and quintessentially activist remembrances like "1979 Police machine-gun a mass rally on the steps of San Salvador cathedral, killing 25" (May 8) and "1925 Lenny Bruce b. ‘If you can’t say FUCK you can’t say FUCK THE GOVERNMENT!’" (Oct. 13), as well as faithful reminders for all of the Berkeley Critical Mass rides in ’08. The bold-faced coups de grâce: the international radical contact list, quasi phrasebook, and quick tips to "Resist Government Repression." Other anarchist groups throughout the world put out calendars, but this year Berkeley collective Slingshot published an organizer that allows you to literally organize more than just the crap that surrounds you.

This year is a banner one for the planner, and for the 20-year-old nonprofit as well. After several cryptic bouts of phone tag, I spoke to a group representative — who appropriately called himself Slingshot — earlier this month, and he said the group printed 30,000 pocket and spiral-bound 2008 editions, a jump from the wee 400 copies issued when the organization began printing them 14 years ago. Now with distribution in 50 states and a dozen countries, they’re almost sold out, though copies are still available at Bound Together Books at 1369 Haight.

What started out as a fundraiser — inspired by the radical organizers made by European collectives — for Slingshot’s free newspaper has taken on a somewhat anarchic life of its own. "Technically we’re trying to promote historical knowledge about liberation struggles and trying to disseminate contact info for those engaged in social justice work," Slingshot explained, though the handmade, cut-and-pasted, non-computer-generated paperback is also a pure product of a pre–digital age, DIY aesthetic.

Each collective member worked independently on four pages per organizer, drawing from a huge compendium of historical events for each date, so no one person controlled the overall style or process. "It’s contrary to the way the mainstream press looks, where everything [is] programmatic," Slingshot stressed. "Just like life, each page has a different look." The artists, whom Slingshot described as "the people who were filling the streets at the [World Trade Organization]," remain anonymous, except on the cover, which is signed Molly Crabapple.

"Anyone can make art. If we waited for professionals to start the calendar or the paper, we never would have gotten there," he continued. "I think that’s why people like our calendar. People want to feel engaged and not just spectators in their lives."

Next up in Slingshot’s own organizer: the collective hopes to create a zine-making space in its office at the Long Haul Infoshop in Berkeley, complete with typewriters and other materials. "We’re not really against computers per se," Slingshot confessed. "But it’s not a good thing to not question whether everything has to be computerized. We can make it accessible here: people don’t have to have skills other than using scissors."