Thursday, January 27, 2011

Call and Response

A parcel arrived from Japan a few days ago, sent by the zine maestro, Gianni Simone, containing some of his exceptional zines, one of them being Call and Response. The zines were accompanied by a gracious letter written in Gianni’s distinctive handwriting (which resembles Japanese ideographic characters to my eyes). Veteran zinesters never fail to amaze me with their proficient use of stationery, printed media, and innovative ideas when it comes to beautifying snail mail. The most ingenious I get is sticking cheap Betty Boop stickers randomly onto drab manila envelopes for my zine mail out. I’m not exactly letting my freak flag fly in the mail art department, but I’m working on it.

Issue four of Call and Response is a (mostly) black and white photocopied collaborative zine. The theme is Windows (as in the peep holes in buildings not the computer operating system). The stories vary in quality and are written by a clutch of zinesters in various stages of their self publishing journey. They attack the theme from different and fascinating angles; no two stories are alike.

Swedish contributor Mikael X Eriksson records some fine insights in his Libraries and Churches Saved My Life piece. He says:

‘there are two places where you can always sit in peace without having to spend any money: libraries and churches.'

It got me thinking about the astrological significance of what he said.

In the birth chart, libraries and churches are institutions traditionally ruled by the twelfth house of what is hidden from the mundane world. The institutions represented by this sector of the chart are not established for profiteering; they are organisations set up to shelter and protect the vulnerable (hostels and halfway houses); heal the sick (hospitals); reform the misfit (prison); educate the curious (universities and libraries); and provide solace to the seeker (churches). Eriksson states that he had a drinking problem and then lived rough. Libraries and churches played a significant part in his survival during this phase. The twelfth house demands that you confront your demons and take responsibility for your recovery within the parameters of these institutions. I think that Eriksson’s piece represents the twelfth house anecdote completely.

He ends his story experiencing true twelfth house divine home sickness:

'I’ve had many addresses in many cities. Never a place to call my home. I’ve come to understand that when I miss home, I miss a place inside myself. A place I’ve never lived in. A place I constantly long for and will probably never find.’

Eriksson, my man, I hope you find want what you’re looking for.

Call and Response also contains other gems written by Gianni himself, Andrew Culture, K Frank Jensen, and a couple of Australian journalists/zinesters, Dann Lennard and Helen Vnuk, who write about the view of Harris Park, a suburb in western Sydney,  from their window. The stories are multi-layered, mature, and thoroughly engaging.

To discover more about zine extraordinaire Gianni Simone and his various self publishing projects, check out his blogs Gloomy Sundays at and A Man Called Horse at They are also good insights into Japan’s zine culture.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Prophet

The Prophet is a book of poetic essays by the Lebanese artist, philosopher, and writer Kahlil Gibran (1883 - 1931). In conception it was to be the first of a trilogy: The Prophet addresses the realities of the human experience such as birth, children, marriage, love, work, pain and death; the second book, The Garden of the Prophet, was to address humankind's relationship to nature; and the third, The Death of the Prophet, would focus on divine union. Gibran was working on The Garden of the Prophet at the time of his death in 1931.

Possibly the original 'self-help' guide, The Prophet is a book I refer to whenever I need solace. Each passage is a jewel of self-contained poetry laced with wisdom. It is as comforting as a well brewed pot of Twinings. Despite the growth of the New Age movement and the barrage of self-improvement books that has accompanied it, nothing quite resembles The Prophet in terms of foresight and philosophy. Many esoteric practitioners have based their psychobabble on Gibran's principles, but most are mediocre imitations of the real deal. The Prophet was written in an era before selfish individualism became an acceptable part of the human condition (was it ever?). The rare quality of selflessness that is virtually non-existent in the new millennium is what streams through the pages of Gibran's words.

For those of you who live in Sydney, The State Library of New South Wales is holding an exhibition of Gibran's artwork and manuscripts until 20 February 2011. The sixty items on display are on loan from The Gibran Museum in Bsharri, North Lebanon (Gibran's birth place). It was euphoric to see the original watercolours and charcoal sketches that compliment the pages of this notable book. Gibran's charcoal drawings in particular are mesmerising - the eyes of his subjects are piercing, particularly those of Almustafa (frontispiece for The Prophet) as seen below on the copy I bought in an op shop in Portland, Oregon about ten years ago:

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Welcome to Astrobabylon

Welcome and Happy New Year!

Today's New Moon and partial Solar Eclipse is the perfect opportunity for me to launch Astrobabylon. Hopefully this moon, situated in the practical sign of Capricorn, will support my plans for making this blog work.

The purpose of Astrobabylon is to compliment my zine Astrobabble: the Zine for Astrology Nerds which I have been creating for two years with the help of my creative partner, Cate Riley. I am a Sydney-based astrologer and Cate is a Canberra-based artist.

My aim with each issue of Astrobabble is to stick to an astrological theme of some sort, hoping that the articles and information on each page connect to each other in some way. I see this zine as a manifestation of my two passions - astrology and pop culture.

As I straddle two opposing Universes - the zine world and astrology - I am ambivalent as to how Astrobabylon should function. I guess the blog will morph organically and take on a life of its own. Initially I was going to back track two years worth of zine work, but that seems unrealistic and exhausting. Instead I will pay credence to Cate, who generously takes time out of her busy schedule to create Astrobabble cover art.

Below is art created by Cate of cult leader Charles Manson for the latest issue. Check out her website fadstudios for more shit-hot art at For copies of Astrobabble (I have created four issues so far), contact me here at Astrobabylon.