Author Archives: gem

About gem

Born in London, lived in the Philippines, current Melbourne-based writer.

spoiler: there’s nothing about cellos

There were loads of things I intended to do today, but I got caught in reediting/reformatting a work-in-progress Dantean circle of hell. Hardly surprising…often (personal experience with poems over prose) a supposedly ‘final draft/version’ of something will still nag, and I’ll stupidly believe that I can fix it.

With poems, you have to make a decision at some stage to actually stop. Maybe it’s like social drinking? You know how much is going to hurt you the morning after, but that doesn’t always mean you stop…

zine: Play My Cello issue 1 by Astrid (2011)

drink: Tangerine Dream Altocumulus dry hopped tangerine Berliner weisse (4.4% ABV, 355mL can) by Sailors Grave Brewing (Orbost, VIC)

music: Insen by alva noto & Ryuichi Sakamoto

As a result of fretting over another hardcore edit, it’s a tad difficult to wind down. I tried watching The Mighty Boosh but its ridiculous racist/transphobic jokes and appropriation bug me so much, and it makes me feel like a killjoy. Yeah yeah, I know it’s a cult classic and all, and it’s different today, but for fuck’s sake, they do blackface. I started watching London Spy which so far, is fucking fantastic and tantalisingly slow but also makes me wish someone could do a Merthur fanfic crossover/rewrite (yeah, sorry, I’m sad and have no life).

Anyway, the zine. The creator has the most beautiful, uniform capital letter handwriting ever. I mean it! How on earth did they get it to be like that?! There’s a few photos and collages, but the zine is mainly made up of vignettes about life or life-like imaginings with photos. There’s also a double-page chart with comprehensive cider reviews! It just comes out of nowhere, yea!

It’s probably no secret by now (especially if you’ve ever read my Froth reviews) that I loooooove Sailors Grave beer. They do so much weird, wonderful shit. I’ve this one before. The can notes say it’s dry hopped with Amarillo and Cascade hops, and has tangerines and cumquats. It’s also given me a delightful buzz (yes, seriously, just from the one can?!)

As I try to wind down, I put on a gorgeous minimal techno album I’ve been listening to a little this week as noted above. I’ve used it as one of my ‘sleep’ albums…it’s perfect late-night lone listening. My only complaint is that it’s too short…I kind of want it to be a 3-hour set and lull me to sleep. I love glitchy music, and am so ready to blissfully crash now thanks to the beer, so maybe it’s okay.

late night tea and reflective reading

zine: Smut  ‘Day Dreamer’ issue 4

drink: Afternoon Australian Grey (Ceylon, bergamot, and Aus. lemon myrtle) by Madame Flavour

Wow, today was a very good day. I’m currently working on a commission, and today, I was adamant that I had to get the damn thing done so that I could print it out on paper (don’t judge me!), and finally call it finished. It’s been a work-in-progress for quite some time, and one I’ve agonised over in several drafts. It morphed a lot in those drafts.

Tonight, I deliberately picked up a super-short zine for the daily read, as a result of my brain being mush thanks to editing, Trying to read this zine after watching Thor: The Dark World (is it odd that I find superhero films boring? not counting Black Panther because that was fucking rad, you know it) to wind down still meant a shift back into poet-as-reader mode! And no music – just comforting late-night outdoor ambient noise. Is it weird to hear trains so near but find their sound reassuring?

Tea, time for tea.* It’s also been a while since I did a non-alcoholic post, and today has Melbourne in glorious cool change mode. This Australian take on Earl Grey I’m drinking is so damn fragrant. I’ve had it in my pantry for a while and the scent it leaves lingering is heavenly, and distinctive (the lemon myrtle).

Online hunting has revealed that Smut is a microfiction and poetry zine from Melbourne, and the ‘Day Dreamer’ issue is the latest one. Each contribution is numbered and has a reproduction of what look like vintage photos (of very white people…). My favourite ones were the very amusing one about a dog burning shared memories and recollections with a human onto CDs, and a poem about a sinister dream, blood, and reproduction (which, if you read yesterday’s entry, you’ll know has been on my mind very recently!)

The zine ends with a single word on its last page – ‘dream’ – another topic that’s been preoccupying me lately. I’ve been rewatching The Fall and one of the main characters, Stella Gibson, keeps a dream journal. I used to do something similar when I was on medication that on certain doses, gave me the most vivid, violent or downright ridiculous dreams (though sometimes it’s not the meds, it’s past trauma stuff). It’s funny because as a kid, I never had nightmares (probably because I found it so hard to sleep!). I’ve had a lot as a grown-up.

Venlafaxine in particular on high doses is notorious for night terrors, nightmares (that wake up everyone else in your abode but you), and sleep paralysis. Quetiapine just makes me you dopey as fuck, so the dreams tend to be good-weird and rambling. Zolpidem can give you even weirder dreams: it never gives me nice ones, they’re always regret-laden ones that make me feel sad and lonely upon waking. This is why it’s good to have a cat. My old cat Wolfie, was a fantastic grump and nightmare vanguard, and my cat now Fance is a huggy cat who’ll let me snuggle her like a soft toy (under quilt and all! if she’s not sleeping on my hair!) who’ll sneak out from under my arm when I’m just about to fall asleep again.

Sorry, not a fun note to finish on, despite feeling a really good kind of tired. The Bengal kitty I’m looking after likes me again (she’s been napping as I’ve been working my arse off today), and I’ve got another cup of tea to attend to that may have been left to brew for a wonderful-but-socially-unacceptable time…g’night.

*Nope, tea doesn’t keep me awake. I also find it comforting to have hot drinks before bed. Coffee is the drink that mess up my ability to sleep, upset my tummy, make me shake lots. It clashes a fair bit with my day med unless I’ve eaten shitloads. Boooo.

blood and tunes and fruits not always of wombs

zine: Fruits of My Labour #3 ‘bloody oath (available from Junky Comics, Brisbane)

drink: blood orange gose (orange ale) (4.2% ABV, 355mL can) by Anderson Valley Brewing Company (California, USA)

music: Wet Lips (2017) by Wet Lips

It turns out after reading through all the possible choices of yesterday’s zine, there was an option to go perv at potential bookshops, some cool supernatural action, and kebabs after drinking and dancing despite dinner beforehand.

I’m also trying to get through my Shazam queue which is hours of songs long. It feels like forever since I got to listen to music that isn’t in my car CD player or designed to help me settle into sleep (Hildegarde von Bingen and Grouper, I’m looking at you babes). Tonight was either going to be The Slits’ Cut, but I went with Wet Lips to keep the blood/bleeding theme consistent *wink*.

Anyone that has ever menstruated has most likely experienced the following: shame, stains, not having sanitary products at hand, cramps, dejection, more shame (particularly because Catholics love that shit and think all pubescent females are dirty), and more misery.*

The flies and/or ants really have it bad for my beers: they keep flying into my bloody full glasses, grrrr. Screw it – I’m not tipping my beer this time (hoping the ABV will save me), but if I get sick then you know why. Goses (singular: gose, pronounced go-suh) are supposed to be fairly low in alcohol content but this one’s fairly hefty. And yeah, it’s sour, not really that salty and there’s a healthy presence of blood orange, in a pulp and cloudy fruit juice kind of way.

Coincidentally, Wet Lips’ first song on their self-titled album is called ‘Shame’. There’s also one called ‘Hysteria’, and one called ‘Period’. The album is over almost as fast as I can down my fly-attacked beer.

Bloody oath‘ begins with the reminder that not every woman menstruates, or has a uterus, and this is important. As also explained in my lengthy endnote below, some people will experience shame and trauma around the good ol’ Auntie Flo (who actually has an aunt Flo?!).

There’s lots of colourful illustrations, and the zine begins with a piece about how periods are portrayed in (seemingly) predominantly feminist films (Clueless, The Hot Chick, Ten Things I Hate About You, Mean Girls, and Juno). It does finish by mentioning that the series Broad City deliberately does not use periods to shame or as an opportunity to belittle or make fun of those who have periods. That’s kinda the show that Broad City is though, yeah? Who doesn’t want a bond like the one Abbi and Ilana have?!

Then there’s a great piece about using sponges for convenience from the viewpoint of a sex worker, but consider my mind blown! Possibly TMI but if you have PMDD, overnight pads and super tampons can only absorb so much. You will fuck up your sheets. You will be grumpy about it in the morning even if you’ve woken up every 2-3 hours to change your chosen products.

It almost makes me miss the times my body (I assume – it is a side effect, but not many people talk about it) has just stopped having periods for months, or having them sporadically because of fairly regular ECT. From experience, it’s taken about a 9-12 months for some sort of cycle regularity to return. I have also noticed that PMDD symptoms only really became obvious in the last four or so years? Not that I would’ve noticed before: too busy being chronically depressed, hehehe SIGH. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got a healthy supply of self-hatred, but the way PMDD morphs my sense of self and sense of what my body is…it makes me hate being born with female reproductive parts so, so much. I start to get fantasies about ripping out my ovaries with bare hands and about how cool that would be (that is not cool – I’m just explaining how…intense the body dysmorphia can get). I don’t want biological kids, so it seems pretty bloody unfair that you can’t just up and go to your GP and beg for a hysterectomy.

The hormone drop post-birth would probably be too much for my depression. I don’t ever want to entertain the notion of not being able to care for a baby while having to convince myself to hide just how much I want to die.

No, it’s not an easy thought to sit with, but a lot of what mood disorders are are very lonely and isolating. And there are times when you’ll burn out even the most empathetic, understanding mate, lover, or family member if you voice any of these concerns. I’ve had people tell me my depression is nothing compared to the loss suffered by an acquaintance having an ectopic pregnancy. Society values reproductive-related health more over mood disorders – provided you’re reproducing, or wanting to.

So what the hell did people do before menstrual cups, synthetic sponges and Thinx underpants?! Cloth pads/rags! The next essay is about what to not do when using, preparing or laundering reusable cloth pads. God, how did people cope back then, honestly. And how ace would it be if free bleeding were socially acceptable. I get nosebleeds all the time and when they have happened in public (common), people have been freaked out and worried (I find it intensely embarrassing), but if you get period on your clothes (which admittedly leaves me mortified), it’s somehow seen as gross, or dirty.

Because this zine is Brisbane-based, there’s some info about the Brisbane Period Project and there is also one for Melbourne too! They donate products to the homeless and those who can’t afford sanitary products, and are trans-friendly. Anyone who needs their service is welcome. Also a timely reminder that thank goodness sanitary products aren’t subject to tax anymore in Australia! What the hell took so long?!

Natural, plant-based remedies were also used back before modern pharmaceutical privileges were available, and there’s a page about some of these options for pain relief, anxiety, generally encouraging the related muscles to relax the fuck down. It sounds like most of these were used as tea/infusions or as essential oils.

Last three contribs I’ll mention: there’s some great info on why folks can miss their periods (obvs, if you’re concerned about irregular or missed periods, please see a doc you trust) and are pretty certain they’re not expecting (ovarian cysts), an excellent playlist (fuck yeah!!!) for ‘music to bleed to’ (I’d like to add The Slits’ Cut and Wet Lips’ self-titled to that!), and an excerpt that acknowledges that some Indigenous and Eastern spiritual traditions treat fertility, womanhood and puberty with a sacredness and reverence we’re not exposed to today.

Bodies are amazing. They could get so many things wrong, but for the most part do a loooooooot of things well. But aliens are still not going to visit us, our minds and sense of consciousness is far too daft for them to want anything from us.

Thanks soooo much Junky Comics for recommending this as a zine to pick up/take home. Apologies to regular readers – I apparently have a lot of feelings (to lovingly borrow the line from the girl with a heavy flow and wide-set vagina in Mean Girls).

*************

*In case you’re wondering, I wrote ‘Stain, guilt‘ about this very phenomenon. Becoming part of the menstrual clan, no matter what particular cishet white non-intersectional feminists tell you, is not a cause of celebration for some folks. Since my diagnosis with PMDD, and my cycle being made irregular post-ECT, it’s made menstruation a consistently more miserable bodily experience. I joke that it’s a pretty goregrind experience (it’s not normal to use up a months’ worth of sanitary products in a week). The only thing I’ve ever been lucky with in this regard is a high pain threshold (when I do get cramping), like go me. It’s more painful on the bra-caged boobs when they go all ‘go-go Gadget enlarge/swell’.