reviewed by Franc Redhews | Sunday, May 22nd, 2011

Microcosm Publishing, 176 pages, trade paperback, $14.00

There is something awfully charming about doing things yourself. Binding your own books: that’s classy. Planting your own garden and then not having to buy veggies: color me impressed. Changing your oil and fixing your engine: super. There’s something substantially less charming about do-it-yourself home schooling with no direction or logic, and do-it-yourself dumpster diving.

The intention is here. The confusingly-named Matte Resist (I guess that’s even more alternative than changing “Matt” to “Mat”) has compiled his how to do-it-yourself guide relating to just about everything he cares about. The problem is, the guide pretty much explains the way to do things yourself and have them not really turn out that great. Resist admits that his contraptions are just that, and projects — ranging from the bike he made, to the trash can potatoes — just seem pretty average.

How & Why reads like a zine more than a book, and it is a compilation of material that you could just as easily find on the internet. That being said, if you are looking for some helpful hints on where the best dumpsters are, and you can still afford purchasing a book, this might be just the book for you.

  • Mat Resist

    Normally I wouldn’t bother responding to a bad review. After all, everybody is entitled to their opinion. However, this review seems like someone who either has a personal grudge or dislikes homeschooling in general; because it not only goes into personal digs about my name, but is rife with inaccuracies. Also, a Yahoo! search for Franc Redhews comes up with only this review. A pen name chosen for this specific review perhaps?

    To start off with, this book does cover one variety of bookbinding. Granted, it’s not the traditional sewn version, but it’s included. Also, a HUGE section of the book is dedicated to gardening. Almost 1/3rd of the book is dedicated to ” Planting your own garden and then not having to buy veggies.” So why does Franc make it sound like I haven’t covered these things, lumping it in with things I specifically chose not to include in the book? I didn’t cover working on cars because I’d rather see people devoting their time to a more sustainable mode of transportation; specifically, bicycles.

    Unlike gardening which I devoted a 3rd of the book to, less than 6 pages were devoted to homeschooling. Is this because it only takes 6 pages to teach someone everything about homeschooling? Obviously not! It’s because I wanted to give people who might not otherwise think about it, an introduction to homeschooling. A lot of my friends and acquaintances are just starting to have families and a lot of them haven’t even thought about alternatives to public schools. I figure it’s the same with a lot of folks, and I wanted to get people thinking about it. As for homeschooling without direction or logic, we don’t run our “school” like a military camp (perhaps that’s how I got on this reviewer’s bad side) but I think the kids test scores (quoted in the book) show that our methods are working.

    As for my “contraptions,” I don’t seem to recall ever admitting that they’re just “contraptions.” On the other had, I do admit places where I’ve run into problems and include recommendations for avoiding those when you (hopefully) give the projects a try yourself. Is there a difference between a $5 bike trailer and a $150 one? Of course there is! Could I teach you how to build a $150 aluminum trailer? If I tried, I’m sure I could. However, it would probably take up the contents of an entire book and would certainly cost more than actually just buying a $150 bicycle trailer. The idea is to provide instructions for projects pretty much anybody could do with minimal tools and at minimal cost. My “contraptions” have run for years and hauled hundreds of pounds on multiple occasions without the use of fossil fuels. My garden has grown more food than we could eat or even preserve fast enough. I’ve sold dozens of my homemade musical instruments. So apparently my “pretty average” projects are doing pretty well.

    As for my name (really? You’re going to make fun of my name?) it’s actually spelled Mat, and i find it rather annoying when people spell it Matt. I was named “Matte” by a friend of mine something like 15 years ago. It feels a bit goofy now and I’d kind of like to switch back to Mat, but I kind of feel stuck with it now.

    So if you feel that building your own bicycles, building with salvaged materials, growing your own food, building our own instruments or escaping the rent trap could save you $10 feel free to stop by my website and pick up a copy of the book.

    • Jarno

      I picked up this book (at the anarchist bookshop on Haight) last month, and have found it severely inspiring, reassuring and helpful. It’s a lot of fun to read and actually goes into great detail about subjects I happen to be very interested in, like DIY food production and homeschooling. There’s just some really nifty stuff in there, like the lists of companion plants & which (useful) insects are attracted to which plants. A lot of material to mess around with. (And ever since I got this, I’ve been on the lookout for a used cigar box – I almost wish I smoked :)) This is just an honest account of one person’s specific DIY path. It doesn’t claim to be anything more.

  • Miranda

    You`re stupid.

  • Jai Bhai

    a bit late. I grew up in minneapolis and have lived in India since 1997. I picked up this book in Minneapolis a year or so back from Mat, who I meet from time to time when I visit USA. I liked his stories as much as the content, which why this review is so strange… it is his handling of the subject that makes the book worth more than looking up the projects on google. Anyhow. I was wanting to recommend it a friend so I looked up the name and this review came up. I have known Mat since 1995 and he is honest in his lifestyle and committed to his ideals, which are DIY to the core. I heartily recommend this book as one who knows Mat and sees him every couple of years or so over the last 17.