Review: Zine-O-Matic, April 2017


Price: 13.99 USD + 9.99 USD shipping
What is it: A monthly subscription of zines, independent art, stickers, and paper goods.

April’s bounty of weirdness arrived and boy was it a good one. This envelope again contained three zines: ‘Kackle Issue 3d: Skullwater’, ‘Soliloquy’, and ‘Guile Guild Press #1’. There were also other little extras and a mini zine called ‘Why are you dumping me?’.


I quite enjoyed Kackle’s 3rd issue ‘Skullwater’ by Bruce Wilson. A short story that comes with 3D glasses? Yes please! I was initially doubtful about this one, as it’s a horror story about reanimated corpses. Horror and I do not get along, but this is the year of trying new genres so I gave it the old college try. It turns out that ‘Skullwater’ isn’t that scary. It’s definitely creepy, and everyone dies, but the story isn’t long enough to get emotionally attached to anyone. The plot follows a young boy who brings his elderly mother back to life, and accidentally reanimates his father, who died months previously, in the process. His father ultimately murders everyone in the house, including the boy, and then lies down with his reanimated wife. Months later two hunters stumble into the cabin and the two corpses beg for help to ‘fornicate’. I enjoyed the read, but I feel that veteran horror fans wouldn’t appreciate it much. ‘Skullwater’ doesn’t break any new ground, and sticks to a pretty traditional plot. The writing was well structured, and I found the final scene funny, but it lacked the tension expected of a horror. Instead Bruce Wilson used a very deadpan tone, which brought an element of comedy that I appreciated. The 3d illustrations had novelty, but I didn’t find that they brought any extra personality to the story.

476‘Soliloquy’ is really cool. The title on the front cover is embossed in Braille, with the translation typed on the inside flap. The zine contains guides to learning and using the following forms of communication: Tap Code, Morse Code, Braille, US Sign Language, and Binary Code. It’s a really cool concept, and I’m planning to put a few days aside to at least learn Tap and Morse Codes and Braille. The tutorial on US Sign Language doesn’t help me much, as Australia has its own system (is dialect an appropriate word in this context?). This has definitely inspired me to seek out some lessons in Australian Sign Language on the internet. Soliloquy was clearly a well thought out and executed zine that provides information about the various forms of communication that it then teaches. I’m really pleased with this one.

480‘Guile Guild Press #1’ is yet another art book, made up of various contributions instead of one or two artists’ work. There’s plenty of variety, but the quality between contributions varied widely. One particular comic ‘Proletarian Comix’ was drawn very heavily with limited space, and as such it was hard to read the captions or even differentiate arms from legs. A lot of the art has underlying political or social commentary, which is cool for a while but does tend to drag your mood down when every art work tells you that we’re selfish and doomed. You definitely have to be in the right frame of mind to peruse it, or you’ll just end up angry and more depressed than when you first opened the covers.

478‘Why are you dumping me?’ was good for a quick laugh, but it’s funnier when you can’t relate at all. Sandra’s real-life dumping scenarios will hit too close to home when you have a few tragic stories of your own to bring to the table. I reread this following an awkward attempt at wooing and I found that it wasn’t nearly as funny as when I was innocent and free. Or maybe the wound is still too raw. Either way, Sandra has a real skill with drawing expressions in simple cartoons, and the accompanying illustrations made the captions even funnier. She has a zine available on her Etsy store ‘BogusPress’, and I just might make the purchase and see if the rest of her work is as good.

464Out of all the extras, my favourite is a post card with art by Joe Elias Tsambiras. It’s so pretty, and I love the contrasting shades and textures. Is it weird to frame it – because I want to. There was a sticker of a dismembered arm with a mouth that reminds me of a band shirt from the 80s, and a card illustration of two giant lizards fighting. I do not know what to do with that. I sense a spontaneous gift to a stranger on a train in my future.

Overall, I got a decent haul of zines and a pleasant afternoon whiled away reading them. There was a good mix of thought provoking and hilarious. I have no regrets, and I’m definitely gonna be an oddball and frame that post card.


Review: Zine-O-Matic, March 2017


Price: 13.99 USD + 9.99 USD shipping
What is it: A monthly subscription of zines, independent art, stickers, and paper goods.

It seems that the more I age, the more I resemble a crazed, literary badger lurking in its den and refusing to venture into the sun. A subscription for independently published articles, fiction, poetry, and art is therefore incredibly enticing. I don’t have to leave my house and hunt these things down for myself, allowing me to maintain my hip street cred without actually going to the street. Bliss.  Zine-o-matic offers a few subscription options, and I opted for the smallest (read: cheapest) option – 3 zines and a few little extra goodies. This month’s delivery had a nice variety of zines: ‘Our Best Shot: The True Story of an Illegal Supervised Injection Facility in the USA’, ‘Imaginary Homework’, and ‘KJC #3’.  The subscription came in a large envelope, and everything was packed well to prevent damage. The extras were slipped into the pages of the zines. While other people would have found pleasant surprises as they read, I shook the pages vigorously to uncover the bounty.

Anonymous gives it to us straight

My favourite zine would have to be ‘Our Best Shot’. With raw humour, cynicism, and a kind of seething and restrained fury, the anonymous comic follows the development of an unnamed and illegal Supervised Injection Facility in the USA. I love anything that’s both informative and hilarious, and the author’s dealings with the addicts she works with had me in stitches. There was a lot of medicine slipped in with this honey: I learned that the leading cause of death in the USA is drug overdose, how to recognise the signs, and how to treat it. She also explains how the facility she works for, while technically only a clean needle exchange, originally allowed participants to shoot up in the bathroom before moving on to become a (highly illegal) supervised injection facility. The data collected by her organisation, and others, shows that having access to clean needles and a safe place to get high prevents the spread of disease and discourages the habit of leaving dirty syringes in public places, as well as reducing the risk of overdose by having staff like herself on hand. She also highlights the stark reality that pretty much the only people who care about the welfare of addicts are other addicts. The comic was incredibly interesting, and while I don’t condone illegal drug use, I do believe that better systems and programs need to be in place to support addicts to go straight.

It’s better than algebra

‘Imaginary Homework’ by Theo Ellsworth was…interesting. I originally misunderstood the title to mean homework that doesn’t exist, as in an imaginary friend. It turns out that this zine is a collection of illustrations and activities designed to inspire and exercise your imagination. Some of the activities look fun. Others appear bat shit insane. It’s the perfect blend of surrealism and inspiration, and I’m minded to try a new “Homework Task” each day to get my imagination stirring. I may also end up as a lucid dreamer who sees elephants where tables are. Either way, it sounds exciting.


  I have no idea what is happening here

Despite my earlier crowing, I am not cool. I have no actual hip street cred. This was shown excruciatingly well when I opened the final zine. ‘KJC #3’ a collaboration between artisits DW and Kevin Uehlein, is a psychedelic wonder if indie art that made me feel like a worthless, uncool amoeba. I have no idea what was happening in any of the artworks, and I constantly felt like I was staring at something beyond the grasp of my puny, wretched understanding. There was a deeper meaning. I’m sure of it. But all I can say is that the colours were striking, the geometric patterns were cool, and I could make neither head nor tail of the comics.

There were a few extras included in the parcel. These were:
A booklet of ‘Tasteful Insect Nudes’ (funny)
A fake 10,000 yen note (odd)
A sticker, possibly inspired by Beatrix Potter, of kittens wearing dresses (cute)
A second sticker of a vintage lady crying over a couple kissing (went immediately on my laptop).

I’m pretty pleased by the collection I received this month, and I’ll probably maintain my subscription to see what other baffling and amazing zines will be revealed.

Review: Sun Bum Sunscreen & Lip Balm

Price: Sunscreen 17.99 AUD; Lip Balm 4.99 AUD

Seeing Sun Bum at my local pharmacist was pretty exciting. Their cruelty free status was quite clear and the prices were relatively affordable. The packaging was also appealing because it was adorable and easy to use. The little monkey is cute and the squeeze bottle means that I can get every last drop of product out. The texture of said product isn’t too thick, which is exactly what I was going for. It applies nicely on my arms and legs, and for the review’s sake I tried it on my face. Don’t do this if you have oily skin. It will just mix with the oil on your face, refuse to hold makeup, and the day will end in acne and tears. When applied to the body, the sunscreen set after about 20 minutes and I didn’t notice I was wearing it, except for the occasional whiffs of coconut throughout the day. That’s right, Sun Bum is scented. I sure wish they’d put that on the cute packaging. I wore the sunscreen to walk/chase dogs around an outdoor pen for 5 hours, and by the end of the day I found I was ever so slightly pink in some places where I had applied. This was gone the next day, and I don’t know if it was mild sunburn or just flushed skin. Either way, from now on I’ll be reapplying this sunscreen every 3-4 hours to be sure that I am maximising my sun protection.

This sunscreen isn’t The One, and I don’t think I’ll repurchase once the bottle is empty. For me the coconut scent is incredibly off putting – I don’t like coconut, and now I have to coordinate any scent I wear with the sunscreen. I also don’t like having to reapply as that means waiting indoors for 20 minutes waiting for the sunscreen to sink in again. I did like the lightweight feel and would use this as sun protection travelling to and from an indoor job if it didn’t also involve walking around in a coconut cloud.

While the sunscreen was disappointing, it wasn’t nearly as much of a letdown as the lip balm. The lip balm is incredibly heat sensitive. I used it when the temperature was in the low end of 20 C and the balm was already incredibly soft to touch. When I applied it to my lips the balm melted very quickly and as such the pleasant pink grapefruit scent became a decidedly unpleasant grapefruit taste invading every crevice of my mouth. Even when I wiped the balm off the taste lingered for hours. I couldn’t keep it on for long enough to be able to comment on the moisturising or sun protective qualities of this product. I’m sure that putting it in the fridge would firm it up, but a day wear lip balm that needs refrigeration is of absolutely no use to me, or anyone else for that matter.

Review: Fox Hat Knitting Kit


Price: 24.63 AUD + 14.83 AUD shipping

I found this gem on Etsy, and my only regret is that I made this on the eve of Brisbane’s 30C summer heat and won’t be able to wear it comfortably for months.  I was drawn to the Fox Hat because it looked both ridiculously adorable and comfortable in the stock photo.

The kit consisted of 200g of orange acrylic, 20g of cream acrylic for the contrast in the ears, 9mm straight bamboo needles, and the pattern. The needles were optional, and the kit was cheaper without them. Everything was packed into a canvas tote that was useful for carrying the hat and materials around as I completed it and I plan to use it for future knitting. The pattern was very easy to follow, and the beginner’s tips were very helpful when it came to decreasing the row for the ears. There was no guide on the mattress stitch for sewing the hat, which I think would be frustrating for someone who doesn’t know how to sew knitted pieces. I knitted the hat after work over 3 days, but I imagine a more experienced knitter would be able to complete it in a few hours. The finished product feels nice: the wool isn’t very itchy and is quite thick and warm. The hat is very roomy, and I wear it pulled backs lightly and covering my ears so that the brim doesn’t cover my eyes. I like that my ears stay warm, but in hindsight I would have sewn the fox ears further on the front so that they would be more visible.

The finished product! I’m pretty pleased with myself

While my version doesn’t look as good as the ‘professional’ one (observe the flippy floppy ears), I had a lot of fun making this hat. I really look forward to wearing this little cutie around town during winter, and I recommend the kit to both new and experienced knitters looking for a fun weekend/couple of hours. The kit makes a lovely gift to a knitter, even if it’s a gift to self!