brexistential gothic in brunswick

I grew up in Melbourne, so you’d think I’d know not to rely on weather forecasts that are more than three days old.

Sadly, some of us are amusingly slow to get the memo, or perhaps just unusually optismistic about the wrong things. I’m catsitting for a mate, and wondering why I’m sweating buckets and why my laundry is dry as soon as it comes out of the washing machine. It’s 39 C. I’m thirty-nine. And still an idiot.

zine: Riz Ahmed Eldritch Erotica by Black Book Shoppe

drink: Australian Gothic dry hopped apricot farmhouse ale with wormwood (5.4% ABV, 355mL can) by Sailors Grave Brewing (Orbost, VIC)

music: Merrie Land (2018) by The Good, The Bad & The Queen (squee!)

There’s this series of zines called ‘Eldritch Erotica’ and they’re dedicated to men I embarrassingly hadn’t heard of till semi-recently. Actually, I had heard of Lin-Manuel Miranda of Hamilton fame (thanks Shang Lun for singing the soundtrack back in good ol’ ADB days!), and recently learnt that Jason Momoa is a jerk but only seen pics of Riz Ahmed (phwoar, dishy…). Because he’s born in the UK, this zine is set in London (my birth city: its weather also being somewhat…infamous).

I’ve also saved my first listen of The Good, The Bad and The Queen’s new album (holy fuck! it’s been a bloody decade since their debut?!) Merrie Land for a proper listen. My fave community radio station had said that the album had been described as a product/example of ‘Brexistentialism’ (if you don’t know wtf is going on in the UK re. Brexit then you’re just deliberately ignoring the news) – a contrast to the debut which came out when England was all about expanding and being more connected to the north.

Of course I managed to muck up pouring the bloody beer into a glass, which I’ve had (and looooooved) before. The wormwood this time around isn’t as pronounced (to be fair, it’s been in a fridge for a fair few months) and has more of the slight sourness expected from a farmhouse ale. The first time I had it, it was a bit more floral and fragrant…which I guess was the wormwood (yep, the stuff that used to be in absinthe and made a fair few French 19th-century artists very, very unwell…).

I’m not really paying much attention to the lyrics on the album because it sounds like they’re using recorders or a recorder synth sound and it’s giving me British primary school flashbacks (in case you were wondering, they expected more from their students on the recorder than they did here in Australia. It was only really an aurally painful experience here). They also use the Welsh Male Choir in a lot of the tracks – it’s sad in a childhood flashback kind of way. I keep expecting Aled Jones to break everyone’s hearts with his ‘Walking In The Air‘ (seriously: how is The Snowman a happy Christmas experience?!?! It’s beautiful but it’s really bloody hauntingly sad – sorry, that was a long aside).

The zine. Like the Lin-Manuel one, it’s a choose-your-own-adventure and begins in London. The person you’re pretending to be is nice and awkward, and starts off with hot drinks, and autumn before progressing to tumbling in fallen leaves (I usually die or get to a dead end on the first go of these zines). The reason I love autumn in Melbourne so much is reminds me of England. It’s not too cold, it’s much easier for anyone to feign some sartorial competence, and the colours…

And it looks like I’ve spoken too soon: after an extended bout of affectionate shenanigans, Riz just vanishes?! Should I have fed the ducks in Hyde Park? Checked out the old building? I didn’t want to go shopping in the city, that’s boooooooring! Unless it’s for books…? Or clubbing, I’d just make a fool of my myself on the dancefloor, sob. I can already hear an uncle making fun of me for wearing ‘dem tum-byoy tups an’ dem dawk marten beutsss’* (I’m not taking the piss: that’s is exactly what he said to me the last time I was in England. I still have those boots, probably the longest long-term relationship I’ve ever had if you don’t count the one I have with my shrink).

Usually once I reach my second dead-end or read-through, I read all of the pages from start to finish, but the album I’m listening to is on its last track, and my beer is very, very patiently waiting for me to scarf it down.

*translation: them tomboy tops and them Doc Marten boots

massive porky pies for humankind

So many updates! Check out ‘Syntax & Salt’ for their poetry issue, because I was a guest editor; Rae White’s ‘Milk Teeth’ has been shortlisted for the Victorian Premier Literary Awards 2019 (mega grats Rae! I’m saving your book to read over this holiday period!); I no longer write for Froth so not sure what I’ll tell those kiddos at work about how often adults actually want to drink alcohol…

So I apparently only binge-watch audio-visual media when I’m starting to feel 5-6/10 depressed which also means: lots of sleeping; lots of avoiding food; missing practising musical instruments regularly; not listening to music; limbs entangled around cat/s; not reading…anything. It’s really difficult to deal with that last one because even when I’m down, I still feel like I’m getting things done if I’m getting through reading material. Reading online doesn’t count, unless it’s submissions for Syntax & Salt.

Despite how consistently miserable I’ve felt the last couple of months, I’ve really, really been enjoying my not-really-new-anymore job. A couple of weeks ago, I…agreed…with a group of kids I work with regularly that adults do not drink much alcohol because we all know how bad it is for our health and relationships. I am an appalling liar: if needed, I’ll say things along the line of preferring to be quiet rather than lie (stony faces/glares work well for this kind of thing). In what I call the biggest white lie I have ever told in the potential protection of future adults, I told this same group of kids that I only drink beer twelve times a year, when reviewing beer for Froth. Yeah, yeah, big deal…IT IS, ACTUALLY.** I hate lying, because it’s easier to keep track of the truth.

Aside from the fact that the thought of physically birthing humans is real-life horror film stuff, a major motivating factor for (me personally) not having kids is that adults do have to be epic jerks and lie to them at some stage about all sorts of things. Then there’s times where being honest can break them. Then there’s times when kids aren’t as clueless as adults think we are, then there’s the genuine consideration that some of us are as mature as Alfie Wickers* even on our ‘best’ days…

Seriously, how do conscientiously procreating humans process this?! Anyway: enough freaking out. A zine review, and you bet there’s a damn beer to go with it.

zine: Rabbits & Relics by Rae White

drink: Salted Caramel Shake salted caramel milkshake IPA (6% ABV, 375mL can) by 3 Ravens (Thornbury, Melb.). Worth checking out the beer description and can design on their specialty range page.

This beer is pretty much everything excellent about being a legal-age member of society: it’s good if: you’re thirsty; you’re feeling down; you’re craving sweet things; you can’t be arsed making fancy desserts; you don’t have clean glassware; you’re not a purist about your beer styles (and shame on you if you are, but oh well, more for us plebs to enjoy!); your wife has left you; your wife won’t leave you; you have no wife; you made carbonara for the first time out of the stalest but not rotten ingredients ever because you’re poor and too lazy to get groceries…you get the idea, yeah?

I’ve lost count of how many tinnies of this 3 Ravens tipple I’ve bought, guzzled and lusted after once my supply ran dry. I deliberately left one in my fridge to match up to a zine for this series.  It’s probably best to come clean about the fact that I do not in fact imbibe alcoholic beverages on a maximum of twelve occasions per calendar year.

The beer: it’s like drinking this ever-so-slightly alcoholic, slightly bitter chocolate-vanilla drink that feels like drinking a silky cold (but made hot) chocolate beverage. It smells like an enticing candy that won’t make you feel sick because you’ve gorged on it.

I chose Rae’s zine because in just over a week, I’m mega-excited to get to participate in a poetry reading where they’ll be reading too. You might remember that Rae had a poem in the zine I reviewed in the post before this one: I got R&R at that same QPF zine fair. This zine is about Ōkunoshima (Rabbit Island) in Japan, an island that’s part of Hiroshima Prefecture and has live rabbits running about amidst reminders of World War II history.

As someone with mixed Asian heritage, Japan has always struck me as a culture of ‘paradox’ – within Asia, and because of its similarities to (dominant) Western attitudes. A loooong time ago, I thought my life might mean I’d end up living in Japan. Having mixed-heritage children, for instance, would have been considered a ‘pollution’ to his family line. My ex’s family liked the idea of me, but always at a distance, and as an ‘other’. He also said that deliberate cultural blindspots are accepted when it comes to WWII history and the related war atrocities in an attempt not to deal with it emotionally.

I mention this because Rae says on the first page of their zine that it exists to make sense of how confronting and striking having loads of live bunnies hopping about in a site of significance to WWII (Ōkunoshima’s poison gas factory which was responsible for producing what waged chemical warfare in China) oddly does make sense to my head. Not a good sense, but a sense in that the Japanese can adore cats, nature, can have better physical health that their Western counterparts…yet can be deeply misogynistic or homophobic, or ignorant of emotional well-being. What is it about neglecting emotions to a degree where it affects mental health that is common enough to be shared across several cultures (no, really, if you have answers, tell me!)?

This post turned out more somber (sober?) than expected. It’s the first one I’ve edited down to not blab on about personal history. The cricket highlights: beer is delicious especially when made to taste like sweet things even if this is a contradiction, rabbits are scarier than they initially appear, and Japan embodies this metaphorically and otherwise…

* * * * *

*okay, no one could be that immature in real life and have to be responsible for that number of minors, but the problem with having a brain is there will be many times where you will feel like this is your unintentional peak

**also told another kid that my Haiku Society membership would be revoked because I let them write haiku with three lines/6-8-6 syllables instead of the usual 5-7-5.

blueprint for a lifehack, zineful of wolfpack (sic)

For the first time in A MONTH I’ve finally woken up at a decent hour, got out of bed, stayed upright, had meds and breakfast/appetite. It’s not groundbreaking: good sleep is essential to survival.

When I started my new job, much like another writing pal whose work you should support (hi Ali!), I had this idea that I’d use my work days to only focus on getting ready for work (travel, be dressed and ready, eat well etc.), and on my days ‘at home’, I’d blog here, or write and edit poetry and works-in-progress and book reviews.

That hasn’t really happened. My sleep cycle has been pretty bad of late, as I either crash too early to avoid life, or can’t sleep at all even though I need to be up by a certain time the following day. Cut to today where I woke up this morning (like, early), was actually starving and spent a bit-lot of $ on a lifehack thing I do when I’ve spent a sad day in bed: wake up early the day after, get breakfast and lunch ordered on delivery services…

It’s a lifesaver for folks with a chronic mental health condition. I know it’s not socially very responsible, but it’s hauled my arse out more times than I count. The trick is to get two serves of food so that when you’re too exhausted to prepare anything for next time you feel awful (which unfortunately, will happen), you’ve got a reserve (an açai bowl) in the fridge!

zine: Woolf Pack #10

drink: NU Healthy Cafe ‘Honey Nutter’ smoothie

Confession: I kind of slammed down my smoothie so only had a tiny bit left when I started reading the zine. Probably because it had: chocolate protein (powder?), peanut butter, chia seeds, and honey! It was delicious, not too thick, and had that thing going where you keep drinking and keep going ‘um, just one more sip’ and then all of a sudden the whole thing is gone.

Your day is off to a good start when you’ve eaten and you’re reading an essay on fat pink Pokémon?! The zine starts off with an editorial (am assuming) from editor-in-chief Rebecca Cheers about feminism and #metoo in Hollywood (let’s not forget that it was created by Tarana Burke a decade ago), before a playful but thoughful piece by the zine’s visual editor Talia Enright. There does seem to be a fair bit of cute, popcult discussion on the queerness of Pokémon, more recently as detailed in this delightful Junkee article (initially viewed in the author’s Twitter feed). For someone who was just a tad too old to catch the initial Pokémon craze, it’s pretty gleeful to learn that queerness and Pokémon doesn’t have to be age-specific: they’re allowed to keep morphing to suit whoever wants to find them a source of joy and identity.

Talia also has a few illustrations in this issue, as well as an excellent recipe for soy and sriracha tofu which I’m dying to try!

There’s also an essay on episodes from Black Mirror by Humyara Mahbub which name-checks some theorists that make my brain hurt this early in the morning (ie. anything before midday) but must confess that while loving this essay, I still haven’t seen any eps from start to finish (and forgotten ones I have seen bits of). I try not to watch a lot of TV because it’s usually my time-wasting thing, or my starting-to-get-really-unwell thing and try to funnel that energy into reading instead (though recently have been a bit obsessed with Versailles and more generally music from the period à la Le roi danse because it reminds me of a happier, more productive period in my life most likely never to happen again).

I tell myself I don’t like writing fiction, but seem to enjoy reading it when it’s in an anthology or zine. ‘Love and Baked Goods’ by Helen Taylor is really cute and full of that unspoken longing that two people sorta-kinda-maybe mutually acknowledge but don’t do anything about, and ‘Dead Channel’ by Brianna Bullen invokes my empathy so much in that it probably reminds me a bit too much of life not that long ago despite its highly speculative element of accessing ‘memory labs’ to experiences others’ memories.

Bec Jessen (‘there is nothing you could ask or I could tell that would reveal a true thing about me’) and Rae White (‘Go and Gone’) are two Brisbane-based poets who I met briefly at QPF, and the work they have in this issue are loooooovely in that they both articulate intimacies and awkwardnesses that exist outside of gender and heteronormative constructs.

The last piece I’ll mention is Honor Webster-Mannison’s ‘Inside Problems’, sequential art about imagining the interior very literally (the house one lives in and one’s body), and the interior emotional lives of oneself and others. There’s also a beautiful bit of text:

…out is a world born by endless roads filled with cars with windows rolled down to shout ‘suck’. It’s filled with mothers with laser gun eyes, with fathers at home, with leaf blower limbs that they wish were machine guns.

Tried to keep this one short and sweet, in the spirit of GETTING! SHIZ! DONE!