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Auckland Report

August 8, 2012

Last week I crossed the Tasman Sea to visit Auckland for the Auckland Zinefest. I had never been to Auckland before, though I had been to other cities in New Zealand, I even wrote a whole zine about Dunedin once upon a time. People commented upon this when they browsed through my zines at my stall, and I said this was my first time in Auckland: “but you’ve been to Dunedin!”. One man looked at my Melbourne zine and my Dunedin zine and said, glumly, “all my friend are moving to either Dunedin or Melbourne”. I suggested I make a zine about Auckland, and maybe they’d stay.

The Auckland Zinefest was held in St Kevins Arcade, a 1920s shopping arcade with lots of little gem-like stores selling vintage clothes, and potted palm trees here and there. The Wellington zinefest, which I attended at in 2010, also had a notable amount of indoor plants, a minor point perhaps, but a detail that I appreciated both times. The “First Thursdays” banner in the above photo refers to the umbrella event that the zinefest was a part of. All along K Road (which I finally realised is short for Karangahape Rd, rather than being the name in its own right) were different events as part of First Thursdays. At one point a band of rose-petal scattering folk wearing green taffeta came in to spruik a performance with free wine going on at another K Road location, and as my stall was at the start of the arcade a number of people asked me directions to sites of interest along the road, but I investigated none of this, spending most of my night behind my stall. I took particular delight in providing directions, considering the maximum time I’d spent in Auckland in my life was about two hours by that point.

I did make it out from behind my stall for a few circuits of the zinefest, and bought and traded some zines. The table adjacent to mine was the home of Kakelake, German for cockroach (pronounced ‘kakalaka’, rather than phonetically, though I do like the idea of a cake lake, makes me think of that pool cake from the Women’s Weekly Cake Book) and Auckland for art and books. Journal of Symonds St. Studies is by my friend Alex who I stayed with while I was in Auckland. I hadn’t met Alex before, only written letters, but we had a lot of strangely specific things in common. Some of these things stemmed from being teenage musical obsessives, and this zine has a excerpts from her old secret project as a 12 year old: satirical comics lampooning Hanson.They’re funny and intense in the way that only a fledgling music obsession can inspire. Also in this zine is the super-popular “Belle and Sebastian Write About Fucking” essay, adored by even those who hate Belle and Sebastian.

Cool Trash is by Eli, who runs Kakelake, and is the zine to read for a breakdown of Justin Bieber’s album Believe. Now I knew next to nothing about Justin Bieber before I read this zine, so when Eli mentioned the Justin Bieber movie I said “does he have a movie?” “The movie is old news!” Eli said, looking shocked. This zine could be the only zine that includes both Justin Bieber and Lisa Carver, 90s zine hero and editor of Rollerderby, as well as Eli’s history of using the internet, a story told concurrently with the life story of Justin Bieber. The two narratives weave together surprisingly well.

SSN is a scrapbook, most of which relates to the various bands that Duckling Monster has been in. I traded zines with her and blabbered for a while about all the nonexistent bands that I have been in, hopefully not boring her silly. My favourite part of this zine was the “Twenty-eight IPENZ Engineering Heritage sites in Auckland that you can go listen to”. If I’d had more time in Auckland I would have made my way to the NZ Steel Slurry Pipeline or the Vacreator Cream Pasteurising Plant, or maybe the Mangere Wastewater Treatment Plant, and had a listen. Next time. This zine also came with a CD which I have put on now: it makes me feel like it is 2am and I am the only person awake in the house, although it is actually 9:30 and everyone’s awake. (Here’s a review of a previous issue, with contact details.)

Relocated, “A zine about things that people have stolen from me and things I have stolen from others”, by Ruby Solly, is a good example of why it’s good to write what your zine is about on the front cover. Even I, as a veteran zinemaker, can feel nervous about browsing people’s zines as they sit behind the table, watching me. I’ve been on the other side of the table so many times, and never expect people to buy my zine if they stop to look at it, but as the person browsing it’s hard not to feel awkward. Ruby has worked out something which took me about 12 years to, that it is good to write what your zine is about on the front. I immediately got to thinking about items I’ve stolen from other people inadvertently, and items that people have borrowed from me and never returned. I still have a Simon and Garfunkel CD I borrowed from one of my friends in high school, for example. After a certain amount of time elapses, it’s too embarrassing to return things. My favourite of Ruby’s stolen items was a set of Russian dolls. I also traded for Ruby’s zine Artistic License, which has three real-life stories in it, my favourite being about a doll’s house brothel in an antique store (as in, a doll’s house of a brothel – imagine!). Find Ruby’s zines at Little Caravan Publications.

The final zine I want to mention (I got many more, but if I don’t stop it will be 2am, what with getting distracted by reading the zines I’m meant to be reviewing, and going off on tangents and then deleting them because these reviews should not be about my memories and musings, they should be about the zines) is The Boiled Egg Theory by Sarah Laing. I was delighted to find she posts a lot of her comics on her blog, as the Boiled Egg Theory was great. It is the story of hearing her great uncle on the radio, telling a family story about World War 2, the Resistance, and a letter hidden inside a shoe. What do boiled eggs have to do with this? Well, you’ll have to read the zine.

Beyond the zinefest I visited a number of other important Auckland zine sites, the first being Alphabet City. Alphabet City has New Zealand’s largest zine library and is also a letterpress workshop and hosts fun events that I read about and wish I could go to, like their letter writing club and zine salon.   If you’re in Auckland, make sure to visit, you will know you are in the right place by the robot in the window:

Alphabet City Zine Library

Auckland is blessed with accessible zine libraries, the central city library also has a zine collection, in which I was a little embarrassed to see one of my Psychobabble zines from 1998 on display. My first reaction was “that zine looks familiar”, then I realised why (I’ve made a lot, it’s hard to remember them all). It’s strange coming across something you wrote 14 years ago, a bit like finding one’s diary in a public place, but I was happy to see it there too, of course, and nice to think a library in the centre of Auckland has a zine section.

Auckland Central City Library Zine Collection

What else did I do in Auckland? Well, I hung around in diners unchanged since the 70s, reading the Coffee News.

Thanks Auckland Zinefest and Alex Wild for having me, I will be back to listen to the NZ Steel Slurry Pipeline soon.

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