Tag Archives: zine review

s(h)i(t)ck life stuff happens

content warning: self-harm ideation (body horror), mental illness (depression, premenstrual dysphoric disorder), eating disorders, health issues related to being assigned female at birth


zine: Cooking With Baggage (& Verve): Lessons From An Ex-Vegan Ex-Chef by Cher Tan (find them on Twitter here. Check out their other zines here.

drink: The Matriarch New England India Pale Ale (NE IPA) (355mL can, 6.5% ABV) by CoConspirators Brewing Co.

music: Ghost Stories For Christmas by Aidan Moffat & RM Hubbert

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This is kind of confusing because a new blog post is live on my blog, but that means a completely new one is up on my Patreon. patreon.com/posts/s-h-i-t-ck-life-29478582 ($) Anyway, latest free one: https://eatdrinkstagger.com/sick-life-happens/ Latest Patreon one is @coconspiratorsbeer ‘The Matriarch’ and @palindrome678’s zine ‘Cooking With Baggage (& Verve): Lessons From An Ex-Vegan Ex-Chef visual descriptor: 1. a green beer can with a caricature of a rich old white lady, right to a filled glass of beer, hazy orange-amber. At forefront is the black & white zine, illustrated. 2. The green beer can with caricature of old rich white lady and filled glass with beer, side by side on a wooden chest of drawers.

A post shared by Gemma E. Mahadeo (@eatdrinkstagger) on

I know I’ve been in worse situations before health-wise, but a fortnight ago (edit: mid-Aug 2019), some equally amazing professional stuff happened, and some pretty awful health and life stuff did too.

I don’t know what will happen with the life stuff and its resolution, but I need to learn to deal with that. I’m more worried about the health stuff. I’m officially in a depressive episode again (it’s been a while, so it’s okay, we’re old predictable mates), but the premenstrual dysphoric disorder treatment is just…it’s not killing me, but even when your shrink in absolute sympathy tells you it’s still a bloke’s world, what do you do? Oestrogen patches, epic nausea (again), and menstrual blood that’s not even supposed to exist. It makes me hate being assigned female at birth, why can’t I be saved from my own body?

I’ve been getting a bit more public about identifying as non-binary, and I’ve no intention of changing what I like to call the ‘sack’ I’ve come in…unless my PMDD symptoms are extreme. One recurring fantasy I have is of cutting off my breasts with an amazing Japanese culinary knife (because they’re known for their sharpness and quality, there’s no cultural misappropriation shit happening here), even though it’s the menstruation that brings on these gruesome desires.

Perhaps presumptuous, but I consider the zine author a good friend and colleague. We’re very similar in the kind of ‘Asian’ that we are…we don’t tell our immediate families everything, we’re kind of considered weirdoes by them, and Cher is also infinitely more talented than I am as a writer. Uni education can’t teach you some shit (don’t get me wrong, I’m really fucking grateful for spending my undergrad time reading books I fucking LOVED), and Cher is living proof of that. I wish the Australian writing would get over itself in terms of its love affair with academia wank and just…I dunno, adopt a rescue pet, maybe?

Cher and I also listen to a lot of music that is coded as that meant for white people. We don’t do this deliberately, we just listen to music that moves us?! Isn’t that what music is for? So yeah, they’re also in a punk/noise band, and can’t wait to see them perform in a few weeks. If you can’t already tell, I’m a pathetic fanperson for Cher.

An old joke, but I love dangerlam‘s drawing of me, Cher, and Sonia Nair here because we look like a badarse power metal trio. I was freaking terrified the first time I met Cher, and was having severe impostor syndrome about what the hell EWF was doing programming me with a critic like Son!

Sadly, upon reading Cher’s zine intro, I realise we have a lot of really shit things in common. Yeah, yeah, all Asians are supposed to love food! (sarcasm) Asian parents aren’t exactly the first to pick up on the fact that disordered eating can stem from:

  • a. it feels like the only aspect of your life you have control in (if your family unit is controlling/strict)
  • b. as an Asian child, you’re expected to be fucking perfect at fucking everything – this can bleed into the way you start to look at food; abstention from the ‘pollution’ of consumption looks like a way to emulate perfection, or reaching it?

For me, meals at my house as a child till I moved out of home were sheer hell. I can recall this even from my London childhood. Because there was no choice over what I ate or portions thereof, I somehow got really good at being a closet pseudo-anorexic: just restrictive enough to not register as having an issue. In Year 9 (when I had my first year-long major depressive episode), I got my arse kicked for hoarding sandwiches with SEVERAL layers of ham in them, rotting in my school bag. I got picked on so much for lunches I didn’t even want to eat. I was too scared to throw them out at school, and knew there was no way I could throw them out at home. I didn’t exactly have a lot of spatial freedom – till I started uni (thank god). As a teen, I also developed irritable bowel syndrome: just another way to piss off my mum because she didn’t exactly take well to the suggestion that it’s stress-related. To be honest, neither do I. I wanted to be tougher than that, so I ignored all my mental health issues because that was what strong people did. I would grow up strong.

Not that it mattered. My mother was too angry at me for x, y, z to register that I even had major psychological issues start early (anxiety, depression, possibly PMDD), and my father worked too much to notice…anything. For them as psychiatric nurses, mental illness didn’t hit people you weren’t treating. She isn’t big on empathy (she no longer calls as my health issues are worse than hers).

Also like Cher, I learnt to cook pretty late in life – maybe at 19, when I first moved out in second year uni, from Marie Claire cookbooks before Donna Hay got famous, authored by her! Yep, I’m that old. Sometimes, I’d return home to try and cook for my parents. My father once took a look at a chicken pilaf I’d made, shook his head and pursed his lips and said he wasn’t eating that. I was gutted, but not surprised. My parents are not people to pay me compliments.

Cher once cooked for me and it was fucking fantastic. Nothing fancy or major, but it was about the setting and experience: sitting on a balcony, drinking tinnies, sitting on milk crates. I scarfed down my serving of her dish.

A far cry from the human who didn’t learn to really enjoy food until I was put on an antipsychotic called quetiapine (Seroquel). In smaller doses, it’s great for chronic anxiety (which I now realised was the sort that came with PTSD) and hoo boy, did I gain weight taking that med! To the point where cholesterol levels were an issue. You will not have any control over what you crave. My main ones were rich fatty foods, meat, cheese, lots of beer. Decent cheeseburgers. Why didn’t anyone tell me food could taste this amazing?!?!

Mirtazapine, an antidepressant also great for chronic anxiety, can do the same thing. My main craving for that (which was also depression eating because I was in an abusive work environment for the first half of 2018) was matcha flavoured icecream. Hit me up with all the tubs.

I love that Cher isn’t into any of that ‘authentic’ bullshit and, like me, just embraces when something tastes damn good even if it’s not part of the recipe. Likeomg, you mean you can change or adapt recipes to your liking?! No fucking way!

I want to try making Hainanese chicken rice (no way can I pull that off, unfortunately), the palak chicken paneer on cauli mash (because I am the world’s worst South Asian Indian diaspora kid ever that actually wants to cook Indian cuisine. My brother, I’m sure, wouldn’t give a hoot about learning *wink*), and the Singaporean-Malaysian-style chicken curry because roti c(h)anai is the fucking flavour bomb.

Seriously, reading the zine, I’d forgotten about my beer, but I did make tasting notes before starting to read, so we’re all good. I constantly harp on about how I have no formal training when it comes to beer tasting because a lot of me does feel like a fraud in that respect. Having said that, I’d LOVE to take the cicerone (beer sommelier) exams now that they hold some sessions in Melb/Aus, but it’s just another dream. It’d be great to write more eloquently on something I love so much but would I stop writing in a way that communicates my love and wants to share that love with you readers (for which I am grateful – for every single one of you, don’t you dare forget it)?

Check out the above IG embed for the photo of The Matriarch and the full (!!!) beer glass next to it, mmm-hmm. I can’t move it. It’s stuck there (ie. it’s too tricky, soz!).

I love The Matriarch. It’s a beer I’ve demolished many a of tinnie of, expect to demolish more of, even on tap. It’s not going to kill your palate with bitterness so it’s a great intro to folks who say they hate beer but are willing to give something new a go because…they’re ace and not coeliac (I have a wonderful mate who is, and it breaks my heart that I can’t wax lyrical on amazeballs beers with him. Gluten-free options exist, but they’re slim). Clint aka. Pocketbeagles is an amazing designer and all-round fab human (he was once super-nice to me when I was crying in public at a Froth launch) but I don’t have the guts to suggest to him to maybe do a non-white CoCon character…I’m a coward. A burnt-out one.

*Patreon-only tasting notes appear here*

As a queer person of colour, however, there are a couple of things about the brewery that I try to ignore (seriously, this lot cannot put a foot wrong with the beer they make) or when I try to be vocal about, guess who isn’t listening? Um, only the entire cishet white beer industry. Why the fuck does no one ever talk about 2 Brothers?!?! No really, whitemansplain it to me! Is it ’cause they’re Azn bros? Their Kung Foo rice lager is a killer accompaniment to a wide variety of Asian cuisine.

Doctor’s Orders Brewing (on hiatus at present) do this thing where they don’t brew from a set, fixed location all the time and they refer to themselves as ‘cuckoo’ brewers. Cuckoos (cheeky bastards!) lay eggs in other birds’ nests!

CoConspirators Brewing Co. frequently refer to themselves as ‘gypsy’ brewers. Unfortunately, most of the Australian beer media industry doesn’t give a shit that this is considered pejorative. In parts of Europe, it’d be like saying the ‘n’ word to someone from the African diaspora, but Aussies love travelling! If they don’t see or live this, then is it really true? I had to block an Anglo-Aussie male on Twitter who got into this very discussion with me. Never mind that I was fucking born in Europe.

I’m tired of shutting up about these issues. I got emotionally flogged by various folks as a result of giving a speech at the launch of the Shifting The Balance report led by Diversity Arts Australia. This was one of the few times people were paying attention to this small feminine-presenting creative of colour and it wasn’t something to be forgotten after the event. So yeah, I know the (Anglo-)Australian beer industry don’t give a hoot for my opinion, but damn, it breaks my heart that I’ll never see a face like mine on the cute CoConspirator can labels or tap badges. I try to laugh it off, but it hurts.

I’m also going to assume you know my choosing a beer called The Matriarch isn’t unintentional. It stands for a lot of things that oppress me, in society, and culturally. My personal protest is to never become one. That’s all I can do with my brand of intersectional feminism.

The music choice? It’s because Christmas isn’t warm and fuzzy for everyone. I recently tried to explain this to a gorgeous woman I matched with on Tinder. She unmatched me when I told her that Christmas and family dynamics were stressful for me. I’m not surprised, but phwoah, it stung! White queers don’t really like me (or the ones I’ve been on first dates with like to pas-ag or neg on me).

I’m so sorry this was so long! If you got this far, thanks so much for reading (and you Patreon lot, I am bear hugging you in my mind’s eye). Corny but true: en route using a ridic expensive pool rideshare, I thought to myself “Gem, every second, minute, hour, day, week, year you survive is triumph. Try to focus on surviving second by second, then minute by minute. The rest might start to feel a bit more doable.”

P.S. oh okay, there was this one time a person of colour featured on a CoCon beer… and let’s face it: West Indian rum is pretty fucking special.

If there’s any breweries that want to make a beer called ‘The Poet’ and put my ugly yellow-brown mug on it, let me know! People of colour have dreams too, y’know.

Tim Tams and when people are missing to you

zine: Concrete Queers 10: Milestones by various authors (more info here)

drink: Timothy Tamothy Slam-othy chocolate biscuit milk stout (5.6%, 440mL can) by Moon Dog Craft Brewery (Abbotsford, VIC)

music: before: a lot of late-night Radiohead (Kid A and Amnesiac, and Jonny Greenwood’s Bodysong soundtrack (I’m giving away some serious sleep music playlist secrets here)

It’s 3am and I can’t sleep because I haven’t taken my prazosin. I’m terrified of missing a really important appointment tomorrow (well, technically today), so thought maybe I’d just hope diazepam would knock me out for a few hours. As is common with folks with PTSD symptoms, I’m exhausted, but not tired to sleep without the bloody prazosin. Lesson learnt. It’s also felt like forever since I had one of these late night writing sessions…I miss ’em, but I love my mental health more after sleeping semi-wellish on the newish meds.

There were three zines I could’ve chosen to review as you’ll see below, but they felt too male-dominated. Paper & Ink 13: Tales From The Bar actually has a lot of female contributors but sometimes there’s this drunk Bukowski aesthetic (tautological, perhaps, to mention?) that in P&I that doesn’t always feel inclusive. Yes, I know who Bukowski is, but I don’t always want to read writing inspired by him. Soz.

I was selfish and chose a zine that I do have a poem in, but because it very obliquely relates to Tim Tams: bear with me.

It’s also finally starting to act like dark beer weather, drooooool. Or maybe that’s just 3am loneliness talking. Lately, Melbourne has me a bit down. Don’t get me wrong, I’m used to going to shitloads of events by myself (it’s actually quite weird that when I go to writing events, I often bump into colleagues and friends. Like mega-weird. Haven’t really experienced anything like that since maybe The Con(servatory at Melb Uni)?

Anyway, Melbourne seems to do this thing where people only really become good friends when they spend a lot of time together, in a fairly enclosed space. I’m thinking mainly sharehouses where you can get along with some people in the loveliest way possible, and then as soon as you’re no longer in their proximity, you’re off their radar. No one gets in touch to catch up with you, which makes you look like an epic loser when you get in touch with them to say “hey, it’s been a while, let’s catch up?” I think it’s a Melbourne thing because there’s something about this city that makes you feel like people want to be your friend, but it’s easy to confuse that with them wanting something from you.

That used to get me down enough to have me drink a lot more than I used to. That isn’t an easy thing to admit. I had one ex-housemate who I felt I got along really with really well. We used to talk heaps after work, he taught me I wasn’t completely clueless around plants and gardening, and he actually cared or could tell if I’d had a bad day. Most of my sharehouse time now is spent joking about badly I’m doing, or people not caring enough to notice (that’s actually a good thing). The resentment is noticing stuff about others, and yes, those you live with that you don’t want to see. It doesn’t seem fair that it can’t be shut off.

Anyway, this particular ex-housie fucking loved Tim-Tams. So much so, that I even occasionally bought those limited edition black forest ones (they were pretty bloody amazing). The poem in the zine mentioned above is about my time in that sharehouse (some of my happiest, most prolific writing months too). It was pretty fucking wholesome.

To the beer? Um, it’s scrumptious. I already feel better about being awake at this silly hour, and not so guilty about not taking prazosin because I wanted to be awake in case someone paid me a visit. That was silly of me. It is chocolatey, slightly bitter in the way flavoursome black coffee (of course, the single origin wank, like duh, this is Melb, bitchez) and not one you want to slam down, but gulp and savour those gulps every so often.

Here, there would be pics of my beer tasting notes for Patreons in the appropriate Field Notes notebook which doesn’t have many pages left!

The first contrib in CQ Milestones is ‘Save the Date: Legalise Queer International Poly Marriage’ by Lauren E Mitchell. One part slays me, because it’s all too familiar:

Hot nights, poor sleep. Meds acting up, poor sleep. Worrying about you, poor sleep.

The next two pieces are a poem about being a bipolar bisexual (by Alex Creece), and ‘You’re Smart for a Chick’ by Joni Nelson, a narrative about transitioning, bad 7-Eleven coffee, and the implications of being given tampons and using female toilets. (I never hate my body as much as I do when it menstruates, but I have premenstrual dysphoric disorder, so it tends to fuck me up hardcore whenever I’m bleeding. I can’t wait for the meds I’m on for it to start working, which could take still take months 🙁 )

The next piece is my poem ‘stationary objects’ which I’m obviously not going to review or talk about but will mention that it’s about that wonderful sublet/sharehouse I mentioned earlier, and about knives, pill cutters, and Officeworks no longer being threatening places. Maybe don’t read it unless you’re really sure about being mentally strong. It is a positive poem, but it’s about a practice I still miss in my life very, very much. It reminds me I’m still alive. Without it, there is just numbness.

Daniel Hayek’s piece is about being gay and suffering the various microaggressions that anyone who is not cishet and white has to deal with. My favourite line is the following, towards the end:

…it’s naive and dangerous to think you can love the flaw out of a person. Unless of course that person is you.


‘Ding! Level Thirty’ by Wolfram-J VK is everything I wish I could have thought about my thirties! My thirties weren’t overly horrible, but I was really, really sick and don’t much remember anything about them other than learning about craft beer, and hospitals. A lot of time in hospitals. It wasn’t all bad though…I fell in love with someone who I think might have loved me in a similar way. That had never ever happened before in my life. I still think about her a lot. The one thing I do love about queerness is that you don’t have to be with someone anymore to still want the best for them. I’m sure there are straight people who do this, but it always sounds tinged with regret and failure (FYI, if anyone ever tries to hurt my exgf who has been through a lot of hard stuff in her life, I will fucking do my best to end you…somehow. Our shared boyfriend at the time turned out to be a mega-stalky creep, so this is mainly aimed at him).

My thirties were awful. I hope my forties will be better, though to be honest, they still seem terrifying too. I think my only true ally in any of it will be my beloved cat, who is sleeping next to me as I type, on my phone. She’s finally used to guarding or staying with me when I have nightmares.

Oh yeah, and the title: I’ve said this many times before, but I really like it how in French, “I miss you” would literally translate to us in English as “you are missing to me” (tu me manques), thus privileging the person you miss. As it should be. It sounds less selfish, even though it’s just grammar: direct and indirect objects. There are times when I get really, really anxious, and my brain’s way of dealing with it is to come up with the French of what I’d usually think or say in English. The mind has some really weird-arse ways of protecting itself.

There are people missing to me, and some of them really like Tim Tams. Some drink Melbourne Bitter <3

define ‘mission’

zine: Plant Witch (666 Apartment on Lygon St / The Altona Oil Refinery Warehouse) by Alison Evans and Tegan Webb

drink: Mission Gose (4% ABV, 12 fl. oz.) brewed by Westbrook Brewing Co (Mount Pleasant, SC) for Evil Twin Brewing (Brooklyn, NY), USA

music: Late Night Tales: Franz Ferdinand compilation

I’m still in the process of having to wait a few months for various treatments for various chronic illnesses to start working, so I haven’t been doing much writing, because ‘existing’ has been taking up most of my time.

I did recently start trying to read Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal in its original French, and learnt the word ‘le jumeau‘, which kind of translates to ‘twin’ or ‘double’ depending on context. I’m going to finish the bloody book or I’ll die first, dammit!

A few weeks ago, I also watched a film about Serge Gainsbourg called Gainsbourg: La vie héroïque where as a child, he imagines he has this grotesque, enlarged, exaggerated version of himself (no doubt fuelled by the time’s anti-Semitism post-WWII; he was originally a visual artist and later became a singer-songwriter). That’s why I chose the beer I’m drinking now…evil twin, it’s freaking hot for autumn, so thought a refreshing gose would go well with a zine about plants…

(Patreon-only photo here…)

What the heck is a gose (go-suh)? Briefly, it’s a salty-sour beer style, usually pretty low in alcohol content, and very thirst-quenching when the weather is disgustingly hot. It’s the kind of beer you have more than 3 cans of and not too feel too shabby after a session, even if they are some weird boozy version of electrolyte-laden beverages! This one is very sour at first, then coats your mouth in salt, and has a hint of coriander in its taste (don’t worry, none of that soapy business, it’s suuuuuuuper subtle, promise), and smells more of promised eucalyptus than tastes of it.

(Patreons get my awful handwritten not-so-eloquent this time around beer tasting notes here)

Though there’s eucalyptus in the States, I often associate it as a very Australian thing. I guess I didn’t really know about eucalypts existing till my family moved here. It’s got a pretty distinctive smell, no? Lots of native Australian flora does. It’s taken me a long time to appreciate that, but there’s also probably a lot of not-great reasons for that too.

(Patreons get my better handwritten notes copied straight off the beer can here)

I should probably also disclose that I do know Alison and Tegan in real life, and consider them both friends and writing colleagues. That’s why I bought the zine in the first place: to support their work.

How fitting that the narrative should start with a description of wattle flowers (the true enemy of anyone with hayfever!). Each section has two distinct narratives or seems to be told from different points of view, which conveniently is typed up in differing fonts.

The first narrative seems to describe a walking figure and the flora around them. The second narrative is at the apartment, and its resident seems to be preparing to ‘cleanse’ it. There’s lots of talk about plants, suburbs in Melbourne, and alien/ation.

Reading the zine reminds me of an old housemate I miss very much who was really good with plants, and gardening. Before meeting him, I’d always thought I was pretty shit with plants, but he taught me that you only really have to care, and observe, perhaps similarly to the way you can read your cat familiar, if you’re lucky enough to have one. My cat is next to me right now, as I read, as I type. She follows me out to the tiny backyard in the house I’m in now, where today I’ve got my hands filthy from pulling out tenacious ivy growing between concrete and slate cobblestones delineating where the garden beds technically start. It feels good to have hands filthy, not from blood, or from fountain pens’ inks gone rogue (like what happened on the weekend!), but from a plant, an intrusive one.

I know it’ll survive and start sprouting up from somewhere else. Winding plants are stubborn that way. Another good friend today told me I had my first non-PTSD dream, and I wouldn’t have known otherwise if they hadn’t pointed it out. The living can be really, really resilient, and good at being stubborn and surviving: alone, or with help.

(Patreons get a bonus photo of me, zine & kitty here! look, she’s my mascot, okay?)