Sometimes I’m Shit and Thick

Sometimes I’m Shit and Thick. And Sometimes I’m Just Shit.

No contact details.
I got my copy from Sticky for the super value of $1.

You had me at ‘hello’: I scanned the following paragraph and reached for my wallet knowing I had to buy this zine: “Artists would build brick walls in the middle of the studio, or create puddles of petrol, or make huge metal dandelions, or order funeral wreaths that said ‘FANNY’. I once watched someone have a bath during their crit and it lasted an hour…’ = YES. Shut up and take my money.

Loved it: Reading this zine is the equivalent of sitting in a circle cross-legged, and listening enthralled to a storyteller as they create this world around you with their words and you can’t wait to hear what happens next. That’s how perfectly this zine is written. And yes, it’s full of mad shit (tick) but it’s also earnest and genuine and contains profound wisdom, bet you weren’t expecting that. The zine is actually drilling down to the ultimate legacy of the zinemaker’s time at art school; critical thinking. But specifically how to really evaluate any kind of endeavour; how to think about ‘success’ and ‘failure’ and analysing one’s motivations. This zine actually hits on universal truths as it narrates entertaining accounts of ‘crit’ sessions where students present their work to their class group and listen to their fellow students’ assessment and feedback – and contribute their own personal responses to their classmate’s work.

Rogue Scholar: The zinemaker gets into crits so much? they start sitting in on crits going on in other departments. That’s right, introducing the zinemaker as that mystery student who never has anything to personally present but plenty of opinions to share across all kinds of artistic disciplines. And now you’re part of it as the reader, becoming equally as obsessed with the sculpture department.

Master storyteller: Total anticipation builds with every page. Honest to God, you will seriously read this all in one go, desperate to know what becomes of great personalities and greater ambitions. It also contains the stuff of Art School Legend, retold here for the first time. Everything is so perfectly unfurled, with precision and gusto. I was wetting my pants, I was so into it. You will too. Hashtag: Instant classic.

Aesthetic: Simple sans serif accompanied by occasional photographic evidence, tinted colour paper cover in self depricating green hue.

Crime against humanity: No contact details.

-E.P.

 

Can Tofu be Vegetarian?

Can Tofu be Vegetarian? Edition One 2015

Mark Allen and Michael Bayliss
feetlittle (at) gmail.com
I got my copy for $1 at Sticky

That title sounds familiar… (and/or I don’t understand the title?) That’s because this zine is crafted as a response to the Australian zine Tofu Is Not Vegetarian reviewed here.

Do yourself a favour: Read the original zine that inspired this effort.  This? is very much a counter argument and kind of a mini essay in defence of vegetarianism. (Yes, that’s as exciting as it gets).  See, the original zine has some really great criticisms of vegetarianism and veganism. This zine is the “no, wait, vegetarianism is still righteous” voice. And it’s not the most charismatic. Unfortunately. The main argument is that the original zine is essentially misrepresentative of the larger vegetarian movement – so, you know, it’s an injustice. Don’t listen to me, let’s hear a direct quote: “Some of the arguments that the authors of aforementioned articles make is that veganism is a movement borne of white privilege and that it objectifies and places value judgements upon western culture..” etc. That’s pretty much the tone of this zine in a snapshot. Stop poking me. I was asleep just then.

The Writers Did Some ‘Soul Searching’: Well, that’s what they claim, as vegans and as white Australians. But I seriously doubt it. ‘Soul searching’ is too strong an expression. How about they started to draft a response for their first year journalism assignment then decided to print it out and circulate? Harsh, I know.

Thank you, Spokespersons: Not only is this body of formal writing devoid of passion, spark or wit, but this entire written response seems to totally miss the point of the original zine which was refreshingly critical of vegan culture, full of personal insights, valid accusations and really thought provoking material. This response? feels like something an authority in Canberra signed off on for the parliamentary press gallery to assert that the veganism movement may include some discrimination and racism but this is a reflection of greater society as a whole and not reflective of the actual movement, no correspondence will be entered into.

Cringeworthy: There’s a section at the back designed to break the ‘endless cycle of ego’. It’s more a list of tips and tricks on how to try and socially integrate and be tolerant (and not be an annoying dick). But I just can’t take lifestyle advice seriously that a) cites an endless cycle of ego and b) when one of the sentences begins, “I recently went out to dinner with my parents…”. This whole effort just kind of misses the point so woefully it’s painful.

The good stuff: Well, it’s always good if someone is inspired enough to put pen to paper. So there’s that. And the makers are interested in what people think, so there’s that too. They also preach tolerance.

Aesthetic:  Because this is a serious word document set out in A5, it does feel more like a booklet than a zine. Zines are more fun.

-E.P.

Sidenotes

Sidenotes

Ivana
badbellyfoods (at) gmail.com
badbelly.bigcartel.com
I got my copy from the zinemaker as part of a zine swap

Wanky: If you were to describe this zine as a collection of out of context sentences written over a number of years and put together, you’d be excused for rolling your eyes. This was kind of my initial reaction. But no. This is not a self indulgent literacy piece of crap or bad attempt at poetry.

Correction: Okay, all self published work is self indulgent, point taken

But this one is clever: It’s considered and it’s not overly sentimental or dramatic or coming across as try hard. It’s kind of like flicking through a diary of a small lifetime, and each sentence it’s own snap shot of a memory, a feeling. Then there are occasional paragraphs written in past tense that punctuate the single floating sentences and link everything together like beads on a necklace, so that the greater effect of reading this zine gives you the sense of a greater personal story, albeit in fragmentary snippets. It’s a little product of writing craftsmanship, goddamnit, and I found myself quite liking it.

Aesthetic: You know those rolls of patterned miso tape you can buy. And or those generic scrapbook pattern pads. Well imagine some strips of [insert craft product] of variable thickness cut up to break the text on some pages…except that the patterns still remain totally recognisable as miso tape slash generic scrapbook pattern. Yep. The whole scrapbooking fad of the mid 2000s slash japanese pop culture has been to the detriment of zinemaker’s imagination when it comes to collage. There. I said it. And *everyone* needs to be ashamed of themselves. Apologies to the zinemaker if they sourced the collage art from somewhere else.

-E.P.

Bamtan

BAMTAN In: ‘No Crime Please’

Apparpo Steel Wabspnp
I got my copy at Sticky for $5
The colour printing is actually washed out saturation wise, I’ve done the production values a favour in photoshop.

I’m not qualified: I’m always hesitant to write about comics because the whole medium is beyond my expertise (and usual smart arse confidence). But when I saw this comic it made me smirk and soon I was thumbing through the pages, there was also snickering. It’s stupid enough for me to comprehend & accessible enough to respond to.

Prerequisites for enjoyment: A basic understanding of batman, appreciation of sexual innuendo, a basic appreciation of lame-yet-endearing humour, decent slash average artwork and deliberate misspellings designed to grate on your nerves. And anagrams to stimulate your higher brain functions. And euphemisms for small penises.

Confusing: Some of the artwork in this comic is good: some of the line drawings are quite decent but they’re mixed up with stylised clowney cartoonish characters which really throws me (but this was also the style of the original comic genre, so this is probably a deliberate homage). Still. I’m not sure if this mix of realism and cartoonism works successfully. (My terminology). Maybe it doesn’t work because even the main characters aren’t consistently drawn. Bamtam starts off with a square jaw on the cover, and by page thirteen he has a totally different shaped chin (and lost half a leg in some unfortunate foreshortening, but that’s another story) (Robin meanwhile looks a bit froggish, his legs are too long). I did find the way the artwork jumps around a bit…and it’s inconsistency…a bit distracting. Like, I shouldn’t be thinking how Robin looks like a frog, right?

But is it hilarious and did it make you LOL: Yes. Yes it did. Finally we have the hero we deserve. It’s got that twist of absurdist humour that hits the spot.

Destined for obscurity: Cultural reference to one time Australian muso and ‘media personality’ slash light entertainment presenter Coxy.

Bonus points for: the double meaning of Bantam as both anagram and slang for tiny dick. (I had to be educated on this, so less street cred points for me).

-E.P.

 

In Defence of Fanfiction

IN DEFENCE OF FANFICTION

becksley.felix (at) gmail.com
I got my copy at sticky for $1 last year, and it’s been around for a little while. I’ve also seen copies at the moment, reprinted with various interchangable subtitles.

A compact little read about how much 50 Shades of Grey sucks, providing some interesting insights into fanfiction.

What’s it all about: If you don’t know what fanfiction is, it’s time to hit wikipedia.

I’m an outsider to fanfiction, so was willing to read a defence of it: I am familiar with the stigma about fanfic though;  that’s it’s a whole lot of generally bad writing posted on the net, reimagining pop cultural texts and full of sexual imaginations. I also know writing fanfic can be a teenage gateway drug to serious fictional writing, like zines can sometimes be.

Spoiler Alert: Bestselling erotic novel-turned-movie ’50 Shades of Grey’ originally appeared online as fanfiction of bestselling vampire fantasy romance, ‘Twilight’. (I love how meta this is). The blatant twilight version (‘Masters of the Universe’ was online for fellow fans to read courtesy of author Snowqueens Icedragon. (Fantastic name). It was later pulled offline and reworked sufficiently so it could successfully claim to be an original work and claim (and capitalise) on copyright. And, of course, became the shitty phenomenon of 2011 that was 50 Shades of Grey.

It’s impossible to discuss fanfic without referencing 50 Shades of Grey. So it is to be expected that 50 Shades gets introduced early on in this zine. What I did not expect was for the whole zine to end up being a bitch fest OF 50 Shades of Grey.

Nothing wrong with a bitchfest: In fact I love bitchfest zines, they are one of my favourite genres of zines. (it’s now a genre, okay!). I love it when a zinemaker cannot help but rant about all the things that are wrong with ‘x’, ‘y’ and ‘z’ and you know you’re listening to a tirade that has already been unleashed to all the zinemaker’s friends (or not, because they don’t have them). You cannot, however, claim that a 50 Shades of Grey bitchfest from a self identified fanfic reader is coming to the DEFENCE of fan fiction. Because, um, as far as I can work out, fanfiction is best characterised by being bad writing lifted from stuff riddled with porn. And that’s pretty much all 50 Shades is, so what’s the problem?

As far as I can tell, the zinemaker is pissed off that:
-You can tell you are still reading ‘Twilight’
-All the small niggling faults you can overlook in self published online fanfic are unforgivable once they appear printed by a large company in paperback form. Thus it is actually ‘delegitimising real literature’
-that 50 Shades contains bad erotica and does BDSM a disservice
-that it lacks realism
-that 50 Shades is misrepresentative of fanfic (this seemed a bit contradictory)
-that there is better fanfic on the internet than 50 Shades of Grey. (Sorry, but again, this was one of the least persuasive arguments in the zine).

Other irritants:
-Initially the zinemaker was enjoying 50 Shades. At least the first part. They now feel tricked.
-Something about over-used tropes and something something first person.
-The publishers made out that the twilight fanfiction draft was too hot for the internet (“Fandom generally wants more porn, not less porn, that’s why they are on the internet in the first place”). I can appreciate that trying to make out that something is too hot for fanfic readers is an offence to the entire global fanfic community.

Who cares: Given that several years have passed now, probably not many people, but I imagine the zinemaker could still be baited on the topic. And it’s still an enjoyable read.

It’s Complicated: A strange undercurrent of cultural snobbery runs throughout this zine. 50 Shades is an assault on the publishing world and Real Literature. But what is Real Literature? There’s mention of HG Well’s Invisible Man as a demonstration of a ‘proper’ book and in the same breath it’s referred to as H.G. Well’s “best selling” novel – what does best selling mean? Was it OK for The Invisible Man to be a best selling novel because it’s ‘proper’? Is it unfair for 50 Shades of Gray to be a best selling novel because it is not ‘Real Literature’? Is it so neccessary that the zinemaker qualifies that they are smart and educated enough to recognise quality writing of great literature canons by establishing they are capable of reading H.G Wells and are just disinclined to read ‘proper’ books when they can access ‘easy reading’ fanfic on their mobile on the tram instead. So yeah. I sense some inner conflict.

Aesthetic: The way this zine has been laid out is INSANE. The zinemaker has cut up individual sentences and/or words from presumably an A4 print out to fit it down to a smaller page size and to include the occasional image to break the text up. It’s pretty irritating to the eye. You kind of get used to it. But mainly I imagine how crazy time consuming this would have been to glue down, and that’s the real cringe factor.

In defence of bitchfests: Bitchfest zines are great, I’ve said it before and I will say it again. I love how passionate people get about the most esoteric shit, or in this case, the most hyped. It’s impossible not to come away from this read feeling that now you too have an informed opinion on the Great pop culture Controversy of 2011.

-E.P.

 

 

ZINES I NEVER GOT AROUND TO REVIEWING LAST YEAR… BUT SHOULD HAVE… PART 3

ZINES I NEVER GOT AROUND TO REVIEWING LAST YEAR… BUT SHOULD HAVE… PART 3
(Or, also in this case, two years ago).

STRONG

I got my issue from Sticky but have no idea how much I paid for it.
amydevereux.com

Little A6 ink illustration and photo collage zine with turquoise ink riso cover

Awesome: I consider this to be a belated fanzine for Germany’s ‘turn of the century strong man and circus performer’ Arthur Saxon. Judging by the man’s physique, moustache and no-nonsense facial expressions, I believe this has been a long time coming.

But what is ‘strong’ and why should I care about it? Because strength shows itself in many ways and this zine is a happy illustration of how strong can be a good cup of tea, or dealing with heavy shit like philosophy.

But who is Arthur Saxon and why should I care about him? Because for one thing he is zine gold. The photos of him in this zine are lifted from the 1910 Textbook of Weightlifting where Arthur must evidently pose in every possible action-man stance in an oriental inspired black sash pair of jockeys. The man was made for cultural appropriation.

Aesthetic: It’s perfect with a strong graphic sense. Arty but not wanky.

-E.P.

ZINES I NEVER GOT AROUND TO REVIEWING #2

ZINES I NEVER GOT AROUND TO REVIEWING LAST YEAR… BUT SHOULD HAVE… PART 2
(Or, in this case, two years ago).

DEALING WITH AN UNSAFE LEFT Issue #1
dealingwithanunsafeleft (at) gmail.com
http://dealingwithunsafeleft.tumblr.com
I got my copy at Sticky for around $3 back in 2012/2013

A compilation zine of various correspondence and articles about issues in the leftist political scene in Australia but specifically dealing with criticism of the movement within Melbourne’s Socialist Alternative organisation.

Excuses, Excuses: SO! I never ended up reviewing this zine because it was so politically dense and so charged and…overwhelming. It went into the “too hard” basket. But while still in January of 2016 where the first month to the new year is always a ‘trial month’ and the new year doesn’t REALLY start until February, it’s time to give this zine the attention it deserves from the bottom of the zine box.

Background: The zine is specifically dealing with current events in Melbourne of 2012, or at least the events are the catalyst for the zine, so to make sense of the zine you do need to appreciate the context. In this year,  a breakfast radio producer at the ABC (Australia Broadcasting Commission) went missing and was discovered (a week later) to have been raped and murdered.

Her disappearance and the fast evolving news story gained huge media attention and inspired much dialogue in Melbourne at the time on rape culture, women’s safety and freedom of movement at night, why the media hype over Jill Meagher and not other victims of crime from the lower rungs of society; violence against women and even the justice system itself as it was revealed her attacker was out on bail at the time for similar rape convinctions.

The zine begins with an open letter to the Socialist Alternative for an article it published entitled ‘Jill Meagher, Reclaim the Night and the Political Right’ which used to be on the website – but I couldn’t manage to locate it online, it’s quite possible it’s been quietly removed from the site where it was once a working link. I guess you can figure out how it was offensive by reading the open letter response as a stand alone article.

The zine describes itself as: A direct response to ‘hard line rape apologism’ in the lead up to Reclaim the Night, featuring multiple points of view including those from organisers and women who have experienced rape and violence, but it does include a random article on how a coal seam gas protest campaign could be interpreted as colonialist and blah blah. There’s also the token poem and some filler graphics towards the end.

In one sense the zine is kind of like a left wing student newspaper; It’s full of terminology like wom*m and rape apologism (a term I hadn’t come across before) and absolutely assumes you share the same rage and passion. It’s Interesting to read internal divisions and candid criticism from within any political activist scene,  but at the same time it’s obviously of limited interest to those outside these circles and in that sense is very much  niche reading. (So basically perfect zine material).

Forget all that, THIS was fascinating: What really made this zine something exceptional was two of the articles towards the end which were both written by former Socialist Alternative members. They both describe experiences of manipulation, peer pressure, and an environment full of doctrine and a kind of sinister, superficial unity. One woman writes about how her recruitment to the organisation was like being ‘groomed’.  She’s an indigenous woman and over time figures out that she’s receiving special treatment (including mentoring) because obviously Aboriginal involvement within Socialist Alternative gives the organisation a credibility – an authenticity. At the same time however her experiences, and those shared by another former member in a separate article, both experience harsh judgement from some quarters of the political scene for not being political enough, dedicated enough, or not having the correct political stance.

Parallels are made to that of some kind of evangelic religion, even of a cult, and I found this super fascinating since Socialist Alternative are prominent at public rallies, will sometimes have a table and try and sell you a dodgy looking newspaper,  and you will ALWAYS pass a poster advertising an introduction to Marxism lecture to be held at the Trades Hall taped up to a pole somewhere in the city.  They do have some kind of marginal social presence, and this was the first time I’d ever read about what it was like to have been involved and to have become disillusioned. Both women’s articles express how each individual is ultimately betrayed on both ideological as well as personal fronts; how the organisation creates a culture “in which raising differences inside the organisation is not the norm, and, importantly, where doing and saying things you don’t agree with is normal” – not to mention how disagreements are managed with political rhetoric and accusations of anti-Marxism. I found this absolutely fascinating reading of one of Melbourne’s subcultures that you just would not read about anywhere else. These two particular articles were totally accessible to read and very much personal accounts which I guess really drew me in and stayed with me long after reading about coal seam gas protest slogans and borderline rantish discussions over rape apologism.

Unfortunate: Watch out for a very 90s font at the start that gave me flashbacks to street magazine headlines on techno releases. That’s a little aesthetic spray,  if you didn’t pick it. It’s not the most super attractive zine and there are some slightly distracting background graphics against the text. I’m guessing the cupcake images were a feminist statement.

Trigger Warning: As indicated in the opening pages, the zine comes with a trigger warning for the first article which is an open letter addressed to the Socialist Alternative. Basically jt discusses violence against women, queers and racial groups as well as some content on police.

What happened to this zine: Not sure if further issues eventuated but happily it has an active facebook presence and tumblr too.

It’s still kicking: ‘There have been three more issues thus far (these ones aren’t quite as busy as the first issue though the cover page is pretty much the same with just the images changing). While there is still a Melbourne left feel to the zine – it has covered other stuff including around rape in the British SWP; the left’s rape apologism around Julian Assange, and Germaine Greer’s transmisogyny. Our second issue consisted exclusively of articles by sex worker activists about their experiences in working in left and feminist spaces.’

-E.P.

 

 

 

 

 

ZINES I NEVER GOT AROUND TO…

ZINES I NEVER GOT AROUND TO REVIEWING LAST YEAR… BUT SHOULD HAVE… YET DID NOT

I got my copies of all of the below from Sticky in Melbourne. The deeper into the box I go the older the zines.

THE ADVENTURES OF THE SHEBBAB & The Haunted Percolator Issue 1

theshabbab.bandcamp.com
@vitobitmyfinger

Totally cute: Little pocket comic zine that opens up into band poster art, WIN.

Self explanatory title: the coffee percolator contains a ghost when cleaned.

Spoiler alert: Josef Mengele

Best: Any comic that finishes with “You should have been there” to save on drawing space

Finally: a zine that contains the word WALLA. Multiple times.

AWKWARD HANDICK: A Prequel-Mengo Lee Boredom Was Killing Me Just Like An Orgasm

Mengo Lee
toolazytopee.tumblr.com
mentsugo(at)gmail.com

I got this because: It’s full of mental drawings. And the colour cover is very very bright. You can see all the directions of the texta marks where it’s been hand coloured in. I like that.

Outlay: This was more like buying an art book, with lots of cool and weird looking pen illustrations, and many drawings of dicks. Some pages are spaced, some are overflowing. The drawings and mark-makings and asian characters  all vibrate with a frenetic energy.

I liked it more when: The urban myth as relayed to me was that the zinemaker did not want to waste an entire year of his life in military conscription, so he decided to make this zine during his compulsory service in Taiwan.  [This is also alluded to inside the first page].

SUBURBOPHOBIA ISSUE #12

chrish(at)stokeferry.com
suburbophobia.tumblr.com
etsy.com/shop/suburbophobia

Kuedos: This is a long running comic and by comic I mean really bad drawings of figures that is TOTALLY ENDEARING. It’s beautiful and nieve and just lots of bad one liner kind of skits on paper. The longest story in this issue is about a trip to Canberra split into four sections across two pages. Most of the panels are kind of one-liners.

Humour: Honestly it’s lame. It’s lame but…you gotta smile. Like money saving tips gleamed from share house living – ‘get your furniture off the street’. And a cute drawing of a stinky couch. You cannot but love. It has little stink lines coming from it.

What hooked me: The fact that the back cover advertises the forthcoming comic, “Father Yod and the Source Family: Guru, Cult Leader, Psych Musician, Killer: A comic based on a true story.” Amazing. I feel like I’m holding it in my hands already.

VALENTINE’S DAY

Tim
Sydney Exploratory Society
PO Box 4 Enmore NSW 2042
sydneyexploratorysociety (at) gmail.com

Morose: This is a dark personal zine about the zinemaker and how he came to learn of his mother’s death February 14 1999. It’s very concise writing – just a few sentences or so a page – in one sense it kind of made the zine seem overly dramatic and it ends up being heaps of pages as a result of this decision, but you do get a sense that there’s pause and hesitation and self doubt within all the empty space on each page. This kind of paired down writing is really full of impact, if anything it could have been paired down even more in some parts. It’s like someone is sitting you down and telling you something very, very important and private and you have to listen and not interrupt and just let the person chose their words carefully and do it in their own time.

Tragic: I really felt incredibly upset reading that the short note that was found on the zinemaker’s mother meant that he and his brother were unable to keep it. Due to police protocol. A detail like that is a hurtful shock. I didn’t realise something so intimate, so intensely personal, as a final note…can end up as tagged evidence somewhere and not be returned to family members. It’s heartbreaking. I just never knew.

Guilt: There is so much guilt in this zine. It’s so sad. You get an insight into the family situation and all you can think is how none of this could possibly be a reflection on the zinemaker or is their fault but at the same time you can see how someone is always going to feel like that, when the person is your parent, when it’s an enmeshed relationship. Even when the parent is broken, when they should be parenting you…there’s loyalty, there’s unapologetic love. The dysfunction is laid bare in this zine in simple words and you immediately get the sense of just how dark and complicated dysfunctional relationships can be. How they can be wrong, and hurtful, and irresponsible, and fucked up and aggressive, and remorseful and faithful and forgiving and everything else.

Multiple Loss: The story doesn’t end there. It continues to follow the zinemaker’s life and how he rebuilt his world. And how it came falling in anyway. The saddest thing to me is the social isolation that comes from growing up in exceptional circumstances and trying to integrate into the mainstream when you have so much different stuff going on inside you. Reading this zine made me want to hug the zinemaker so bad and make everything different. It’s very hard not to be affected by reading this. I wanted to review this zine, but it was too overwhelming to grasp. But I’m glad I’ve written about it now.

BIZARRISM No.14

Chris Mikul
PO Box K546, Haymarket NSW 1240
Cathob (at) zip.com.au

Return to Glory: Bizarrism is a cherished and longstanding Australian zine title amongst a wide global community of aficionados and only gets released once every two years. 2016 fell into a Bizarrism release year, and I was really excited to get my copy and see that the zinemaker has returned to the old skool production values of plain black and white photocopying on crappy tinted paper. This year was pale blue. I love this so much more than when Bizarrism flirted with glossy colour covers.

Daggy: Bizarrism is very much from the discipline of self publishing which crosses over into all things zine. It’s basically a desktop magazine containing articles about weird shit from around the world and different eras…whatever takes the zinemaker’s fancy I guess that ends up getting researched and written up. Chris Mikul is also a published author, but fuck that, he makes zines like the common man. I love that one stuff up meant additional text had to be stapled in on the relevant page. Keeping it real.

Amazing: I always learn cool shit from reading Bizarrism and for me the real highlight of this issue was being introduced to the world of Mingering Mike, a dude who created his own fictional cardboard records, (ACTUAL CUT OUT CARDBOARD RECORDS…Think about that for a second) complete with lovingly created cover art, and extending to acapella home soul recordings. His back catalogue lives on at the Smithsonian. God the Smithsonian is cool. You’ve got to check it out, or was I the last one to get onto this. http://www.mingeringmike.com

Darius Howard’s WATCH ODYSSEUS FUCK SHIT UP  #1

No name, no contact details.

Nice: Another little pocket comic, made by someone with consumate drawing skills as far as drawing men, horses and one eyed giants go. Seriously, there are serious skills here.
Confession: I never got around to reading it, the stapling makes the margins hard to access, and it looks like some narration about nanotechnology and gore and bisexual scum and greek mythology. Awesome.

Furthermore: I can see the pages contain double sided stuff but it’s been folded in such a way that you have to remove the staples to get to the secret stuff underneath (unless it’s just recycling older failed photocopies). I can’t be arsed undoing the staples so a) I’m not worthy and b) I’ll never know.

CHIPS A tale of Lust

Ham
undergroundanimation.com

A hit with the kids: Okay, so this zine actually came out in 2014 but really I’m going to say it became a cult classic across 2014/2015 as at least one new title appeared in the franchise. It’s basically a crudely drawn comic zine of a seagull which is kind of a hybrid gull with a man’s body and makes chip eaters take it up the arse. It’s so insane and so Out There, people went crazy for it and it made me begrudgingly smile despite myself. I think it shall remain timeless.

High Art: It’s done on a riso for all the riso fans.

LUMPEN 12

Pat Grant
God, this comic is actually from 2013.

Excuses: This is another comic – I never really have the confidence to write about comics, because I can never describe the drawing styles or the layour or aesthetic because I just have no freaking knowledge about the great comic tradition, or enough of the local scene.

Beautiful: This comic artist is a master. All the comics produced are beautifully produced for starters, this one with a lovely brown paper cover and brown and pink riso printed cover art. The comic, all in brown and orange,  is a story from the artist’s personal life, (a father and son relationship) and it is just told just really…simply and with heart… and you find yourself immersed in this comic world of capital lettering and childlike, cartoonish graphics kind of reminiscent of Ginger Meggs (see, I don’t know how to reference the style). PLUS the actual story is emotional and tore my heart out.

Meh: the ending? It felt contrived, like there had to be some meaningful closure. Sometimes a story doesn’t HAVE to have a neat ending. I don’t know. It didn’t feel that clever but it felt like it wanted to be.

Production values: Riso is a hard medium to work with as far as printing goes, the pigment lodges itself on your skin and riso inks don’t always apply smoothly. My copy of the comic was almost rough in the way the ink clings to the page – it’s as if the paper was too porous for the riso, or maybe the ink cartridges were low – but I still love it somehow, it’s kind of grainy and rough like an old newspaper comic and the zine carries the look since the images are heavy set and thick lined and deliberately pixilated (which loans itself perfectly to stencil technology), so you can afford the texture of uneven printing without losing detail. You know you’re holding something precious and special – this goes for pretty much anything this artist puts his hands to.

Other zines from 2014

ANAlog: Dispatches on d.i.y anorexia and recovery issue 2

Ponyboy Violet
PO Box 553 Northhampton MA 01061
ponyboyviolet(at) gmail.com

Freak out: this zine super freaked me out. I had no idea how to tackle it as far as whipping up a review. The zinemaker has anorexia and does the most insane thing which is to move to a third world country. The whole endeavour is almost a self-inflicted political punishment. It was definitely an experience approached in revolutionary terms. It’s kind of an act of madness, so crazy it’s almost genius; at the same time I cannot imagine any self respecting medical professional recommending this…but the zinemaker did this, fully immersed themselves in the experience and DOES recommend it.

The jist: It’s a really well written (agonising-to-read) zine all about teaching English in a former fishing village to ethnic minority Mon people in Myanmar. There’s lots of cultural gulfs to overcome, the first being the political dilemma: is even teaching English enforcing colonial traditions or helping to create resistance (itself a fascinating topic). Nevermind the obvious cultural clash: where the zinemaker is in close quarter communal living, people are free with exposing their naked bodies, and students especially prepare food for you as the ultimate act of caring. Everything, every action, every turn of event is a trigger for disordered eating, and everything is an ironic twist of fate, like travelling there on ANA which is the nickname for anorexia where even the packaging of snacks have ANA in massive lettering. I loved the zinemaker’s humour throughout the zine, the most minor observations that for someone with anorexia is absolutely defining. You realise how much you take for granted, how UNCOMPLICATED life is, without this physical and psychological condition tormenting your entire ‘being’. It’s a powerful insight into the condition and the mental processes that try to control you.

Intense: So, naturally everything about this zine is intense. And the zinemaker – once they have created this situation, they can’t escape from it either. It’s a deep political journey, it’s a huge personal commitment to every individual student they teach, it’s an emotional commitment to the entire culture. You don’t run from this. At least, the zinemaker wants to, and writes of this in the most incredible honesty, and yet they do not.

Unknown: The thing with a condition like anorexia is that there is no simple one stop cure. I am personally convinced it’s a disorder that survivors have to fight most days of their life, on some conscious level, to not go regress and return to disordered patterns the brain is so hardwired to want to return to. I have no idea if this zinemaker lived happily ever after or not. And it’s not the kind of zine I would throw in the face of someone with an eating disorder, either. But fuck me, it’s a fascinating read.

You should also check out: Kenneth, a zine also about recovering from anorexia albeit in a conventional treatment setting. Just as engaging and compelling. No longer in print but available as a reissue here.

TINY FRIENDS

Ashley Ronning
www.ashleyronning.com

More cuteness: Another little pocket zine, this one is really sweet, printed on a riso in pink ink on a lighter pink tinted paper. (a little too sweet maybe…the pink on pink is a bit hard on the eyes). It’s an illustrated mini zine all about cool facts on little bugs. When you fold the zine out, you get thousands of little ants everywhere (in pink). The carefully documented wonderment for nature makes you like bugs (or reminds you how much you do already).

Riso Fail: The only annoying aspect to this zine is: that the quality of riso printing has lost all the delicate details that I presume exist in the original illustrations, and because there’s no use of thick lines or contrasting lights and darks, the subtle marks are lost in the riso process.

– E.P.

Curse Journal

Curse Journal

Dave
PO Box 221041 Chicago IL 60622
poodrow (at) hotmail.com
I picked my copy up at Sticky late 2015 for $1

An ill-stapled narrow typed log book of swearing, recorded by date, time and incident in an effort for the zinemaker to induce shame and curb his swearing habit. The second half of the zine is an academic summary of why we swear. ‘Something for everyone’. This zine has been around for a while but must still go into occasional print runs.

First thought: That’s only the best idea for a zine, EVER.

Amazing: The third entry for January 1st is the best backstory for why the zinemaker said the word ASS ever. It comes with an engrossing character study of the zinemaker’s math and computer teacher in high school. So much greatness right there second page in.

Surprising: This zinemaker is one of those people who speaks out loud to himself. I think this was surprising to the zinemaker as well. Sometimes the first word he’ll say for the day has no audience. Thanks to this diary exercise, now such utterances have a readership.

Less Surprising: Playing Nintendo, and hanging out with his brother, prompts a lot of profanity. So does playing Nintendo WHILST hanging out with his brother.

What swearing reveals: See, this is the genius of the zine, because these little incidents of cussing are peepholes into someone else’s life at their most vulnerable moments. They cover the full spectrum of comic (dropping food, cooking mishaps, slapstick involving small time injuries, playing Boggle);
tragic (sad things that happen, things you wish didn’t happen but they did)
comic-but-could-be-tragic; (cycling in traffic) and social interactions where swear words serve as almost a social crutch or method of integration.

Fucking A: The writing is just gold. I loved reading this zine so much, it’s condensed and punchy, sincere and playful. And it also had a poignancy I wasn’t expecting: some of the times the zinemaker swears are quite touching and greater reflections on America’s education system and economic downturn. There are other stories where swearing punctuates amazement and wonder. I felt so connected to this zinemaker on so many levels everytime he recorded his inappropriate language. Hearing someone swear can be a thing of intimacy and beauty.

Great: The zinemaker includes a ‘near miss’ as an entry (getting bitten by a domestic animal).

Don’t Give Up: Quitting swearing was this zinemaker’s new years resolution, and I was dismayed when I came to the last entry and realised six months into it that the project had been abandoned. The zine kind of abruptly stops and then there’s a separate part looking at the science of swearing, and how it can be both good and bad for one’s brain and the greater diversity of linguistics. This is an OK read but I’ll be honest, I wanted more swear stories.

Meh: The second part has a lot of chunky quotes from academic papers/ research and it does read like a mini essay or a personalised wikipedia entry. (But great little opening quotes for each section). It’s interesting enough with some nice pop culture references but I was still experiencing withdrawl from the first half of the zine.

Production values: Woeful. When you make a zine, it’s perfectly POSSIBLE to take a bunch of single cut pages and just staple them down the sides sans margin, but usually when this is done it’s because someone has fucked up somewhere along the way. What happens when you just staple a bunch of pages down the side? The pages don’t bend back on themselves properly. Disaster. Worse still my copy has pages starting to fall out from the staple and all the pages are cut at slightly different lengths and it is killing me. I don’t know whether this gets filed under ‘endearing punk’ or ‘should know better’

Further reading: There’s a bibliography at the back if you want to read more into pain tolerance, linguistics, and the evolution of the human brain

Missed opportunity:
A glossary of swears in alphabetical order. Also, the zine contains no infographics, which would have been great. I would love to see the most used swear word in order of frequency in some kind of pie chart…or some kind of graph showing categorised contexts. There’s just so many statistical possibilities here too. Who cares, this is one of my all time favourite zines, shitty stapling and all.

-E.P.

Some additional notes from the zinemaker follow:

So let me explain some a couple parts of it. I was in between sessions at grad school when I wrote it and kind of stuck in an academic writing mode. That’s why the second half is like that. I was still in a “do the research, cite your sources” mode. I mean, it was intentional and I think it’s kind of funny, but looking back I can see it was clearly a product of my grade school mindset.

Second, yeah, the copying and stapling is garbage. The first batch I made I took care to make sure things lined up perfectly and got stapled correctly. It was a huge pain. By the third batch I really regretted making it that unusual size and started my slow descent into not giving a shit about how they looked. If I make another batch I think I’ll reformat it to it’s easier to put together.

Last, I really appreciate the compliments. It got reviewed in another zine and the reviewer didn’t like it, which is fine, but he accused me of making fun of my high school teacher for being gay. It really bummed me out because I thought I made it clear I made fun of him because he was a creep who liked his teenage students. Also he had a funny last name. No one else had read it like that and it definitely got into the hands of people who would have called me out. I still got worried that it inadvertently came across as homophobic so I stopped selling/giving it to people. I’m relieved that you got what I meant about him.  And just a quick note, I’m now a teacher with a funny last name so Karma has been getting me on that.

My life as a Guinea Pig

My life as a Guinea Pig

I got my copy at Sticky for $2
somewhatobzine [@] gmail.com

A little zine about taking part in a PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) study

She got paid for science: Here’s a zine where the zinemaker actually participates in a scientific study for a bit of cash and to increase our knowledge of the human body. Have you ever heard the horror stories of people going on those weird medical trials? Neither have I! (Those survivors have been relocated to unknown bunkers of government facilities). This zine is the story of a medical test survivor. Except the tests are kind of banal.

Sign me up: The zinemaker has PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) which made her a successfully qualifying candidate. She never quite knows what the tests are trialling, or whether she’s in the placebo group (she has her theories). PCOS is super common, a kind of collection of abnormalities associated with menstruation and hormone production that does not necessarily include massive pain and suffering. Plus let me add this, this zinemaker is fortunate, her periods are regular, so she doesn’t need to ‘manage’ her PCOS. (The Pill is pretty much the only solution FYI).

Freak of nature: And here we have it. PCOS is an interesting syndrome for a woman to have because it can include the ultimate physical threat to western femininity: that is, hairiness*. Most dramatically, facial hair. This alone is enough to prompt the question ‘what is normal’ as far as gender identity but is amplified when the zinemaker has scientists ask her to access body hair according to a chart; “then later when I take off my clothes I can tell the researcher is checking to see whether I’ve been honest…”

The zinemaker is pretty ambivalent about her condition, and has a healthy appreciation of her body, including all its stretch-marks (also measured and recorded). She writes about perceptions of femininity and conventional beauty norms and speaks of the politics of the body…all relayed in a clear and informative manner. You do find yourself pondering what is normal, what IS healthy.

Look Away: The funniest part of this zine is the cool little drawings scattered throughout, illustrating some of the more unusual moments of being…a science experiment. And the anecdotes are impressive. For instance, storing urine for a 24 hour passage of time in a sharehouse. Or having a blood pressure monitor on in the library which periodically beeps with visible tubing. Perfectly described. And I am seriously loving the collage use of the guinea pig photo.

Was it Worth It: Anything that ends up as a zine or a hilarious story to tell can hardly have been a complete waste of your time, but when I read at the end what the financial renumeration was…I was like…’woah, seriously?’. It’s not a lucrative side project. There’s more altruism than dollars going on here.

The real nightmare story in the zine: There is an account of experiences with a naturopath the zinemaker describes, referred to her by a FRIEND. Oh my God. Bad, bad bad.

What’s Wrong With You: I love that the zinemaker is cool with her body. We all fall somewhere within a broader spectrum of ‘human body’ and it’s OK. Maybe your ovary is growing extra follicles and maybe it’s not. And that ladybeards are cool too.

You also need to read: An incredibly powerful zine, Ladybeard, also by an Australian PCOS zinemaker. It’s no longer in print but you can get a reissue of the original zine here.

*(For the record, other PCOS symptoms can involve complications with conceiving, period weirdness, gained weight and a tendency to type 2 diabetes).

-E.P.