Friday, August 30, 2013

Friday, I'm in Love

I was NOT going to post today, but I'm at work listening to The Cure, and this just came up on YouTube, and it made my morning!  I know the song, of course, but have never seen this particular video. 

So, Happy Friday, everyone!!  Especially the Friday before a three-day weekend!  :-)

Friday, I'm in Love

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Music: Hannah Fury

I was first introduced to Hannah Fury on someone else's blog, and I'm so glad!  This woman's music is awesome!  Described as "dark cabaret", it's hauntingly beautiful and mostly sad.  Many of the songs' subjects are rather obscure and often you don't know what it's actually about, but that doesn't take away from their beauty and pathos.  (I think several are connected to the book, Wicked.)  Some people may feel her music is more emo than goth, but I don't because so much of it is about calling on one's strength in the midst of adversity, or about using cunning and determination to get what one wants.  And her songs about love are often a bit... twisted.

Ms. Fury writes her own music and lyrics, and also has her own recording label.  Information about her personally is extremely hard to find.  I haven't found any of her work done later than 2007, so I don't know if she is still writing music.  She has never performed live because she is uncomfortable with crowds.

A word of caution:  Some of her lyrics may be triggers for those with abuse issues.  I've had some limited experience with abuse, and a couple of songs put me in mind of it.  Nothing graphic, but I just wanted you to be aware of the possibility.

Here are the links to a few of my favorite pieces.  (As far as I can tell, none of these have triggers):

The Necklace of Marie Antoinette  (the first piece I ever heard)

Girls that Glitter Love the Dark



The Vampire Waltz

A Latch to Open

I hope you enjoy them!  :-)

Monday, August 26, 2013

South Bay Goth Meetup: Natasha's Attic Costume Shop

On Saturday our goth meetup group went on a shopping spree at Natasha's Attic Costume Shop in San Jose, CA.  Natasha is a new member of our group, and I thought it would be a fun opportunity to meet her AND get in some early shopping for Halloween!  :-)

Unfortunately, Natasha's family had an emergency and she was unable to be there after all, but her staff knew we were coming and made us feel SO welcome.  They were just awesome, and so is her shop!!  I can honestly say I've never been to a costume shop that I've enjoyed more.  And not only does it have lots of great Halloween costumes, but they carry a spectacular line of handmade masks AND a large selection of good quality steampunk clothing and accessories. And the prices are extremely reasonable.

My friend who rode with me and I were the first to arrive, about 15 minutes after the shop opened.  Everyone else arrived not long after, and we spent between an hour and 90 minutes in the store, taking pictures, trying things on, chatting, and having a great time in general.  Everyone bought something (and some of us bought quite a few somethings!), so Natasha still benefited from our event even though she couldn't join us.  Here are a few photos! 

This is everyone who made it to the meetup (except for the weird looking guy third from the right, he's a mannequin):


Please note that I made the skirt I'm wearing!  It's black with white skulls all over it, although you can't tell that from the picture:

And I bought these awesome leggings (someone else is wearing them in this pic)...


If you'd like to see more photos of the shop and our trip, check out Eternal Wynter's blog.

If you're ever in San Jose, CA and want to spend a fun hour or more, I highly recommend a visit to Natasha's Attic!  Her website can be found here.  The shop is open every day except Sunday.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

I've Always Wanted to be a Superhero

Before we start, check out this YouTube video featuring the song 'Malice' by Diary of Dreams.  Be sure to watch as well as listen.  (I have never played The Witcher, but some of you may recognize it.)  One of my favorite lines in the song is, "It makes no sense to hide from what you are."  So why do we??  Because we're usually told that these kind of things are "all in your imagination", that monsters and magic really don't exist, and that nobody really has special powers.  Really...

Here is a quote from the book of stories that The Witcher is based on.  Geralt, the speaker, is the Witcher himself, so you would figure he knows what he's talking about:

"People," Geralt turned his head, "like to invent monsters and monstrosities. Then they seem less monstrous themselves. When they get blind-drunk, cheat, steal, beat their wives, starve an old woman, when they kill a trapped fox with an axe or riddle the last existing unicorn with arrows, they like to think that the Bane entering cottages at daybreak is more monstrous than they are. They feel better then. They find it easier to live."

This post isn't about Diary of Dreams or about The Witcher, although the video above inspired it.  Instead, this post is about imagination, computer games, and why I've always wanted to be a fantasy superhero but didn't think it was possible.  Until now.

I grew up reading books and watching cartoons, TV shows, and movies in the 1960s and 1970s, when ALL the superheros were guys.  Oh, there was Batgirl, but even though she was pretty kickass, she was really only one of Batman's occasional side-sidekicks, so you didn't get to see her all that often, plus she frequently "needed help" from Batman and Robin.  And there was the 18-year-old detective, Nancy Drew, who was my absolute top literary mystery hero(ine) of all time.  There might have been one or two others, but basically back then the closest that girls ever got to superheros was when they were being saved by one.  When playing either with friends or by myself, if I was a 'good guy' I always felt like my character was male, while if I was a 'bad guy' I could be (and usually was) a girl.  (I'm not ignoring Wonder Woman, but I didn't read comics so I didn't know she existed until Lynda Carter brought her to TV in 1975, and by then I was too busy trying to attract male attention in a different way; the LAST thing I wanted to be identified with was an Amazon!)  

Fast forward to married life/motherhood in the early 1990s, when computers and computer games were popular enough that even I got interested in them.  One year for Christmas, my then-spouse (who was a hardware engineer and actually HAD a computer at home) gave me Wolfenstein 3-D and Quest for Glory 4: Shadows of Darkness.  Once I figured out how to work the mouse and the keyboard, I was hooked.  I later progressed to Doom and Duke Nukem (the original 2-D versions), the rest of the Quest for Glory series, and several other games whose names I can't remember now.  Long after my guys were in bed, I'd be sitting in front of the computer fighting Nazis, demons and monsters, discovering treasure, solving riddles, and saving the world (or some portion of it) from utter annihilation.  And it felt REALLY GOOD to be the hero and do that stuff, whether I was using magic or a sword.  But my character, whether I could see it on-screen or not, was always... a guy.

Since then, female characters have become a regular option in most games, and I've even known some men who enjoy being female characters once in a while.  But I've never been one myself, and I'm honestly not sure I'd enjoy it.  We've often heard that everyone has a masculine side and a feminine side, and I feel like that is true, at least for me.  There is a part of me that is very aggressive and risk-taking, and that part definitely feels male (and frequently non-human).  The combination of the above-linked music and video with this side of me feels very powerful and exciting, and I'd honestly like to be able to explore it in real life.  Sounds weird to you?  I'm sure it does.  But then, so am I.

It's been said that one of the positive things about the goth subculture is being able to explore nontraditional aspects of one's Self, such as men wearing makeup and skirts, and women being more aggressive and outgoing, without the usual fear of rudeness and/or attack from those who are uncomfortable with such things.  LARP (Live Action Role Playing) has apparently become fairly common even in goth circles.  This last one sounds an awful lot like the games I used to play as a kid, only with costumes!  And it also sounds like the computer games I played as an adult.  But life isn't a game, and these things aren't real... are they?

No, they're not, in and of themselves.  But there really ARE monsters and demons in real life; they just look rather different from the ones on movie and computer screens.  You know what/who they are, because you've seen them in the news, and possibly even up close and personal.  Some of them are the thieves, drug runners, kidnappers and murderers we all expect.  But some of them are more unexpected.  They're the genetically engineered food plants and animals mixed in with the naturally grown ones we buy in our supermarkets.  They're the hypocrites who want to take away everyone else's right to privacy in our mail, our phone conversations, and our sex lives.  They're the people who try to control us by telling us how to think, how to dress, how to vote, and what god(s) to pray to. And, as Geralt said so eloquently, they do this so they can make us believe that someone or something else is the monster, not them.

So here's the thing:  We really CAN defeat the monsters that exist in our lives, and we can do it without special powers, AND without becoming monsters ourselves, as long as we don't hide from what we are.  Which means that girls can be superheroes, just like boys.  We don't always have to be the saved, we can be the saviors, too.

A final note:  I did a little research and found a book called The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski, one of Poland's most famous and successful authors.  Originally published in 1948, it's an English translation of several short stories put together to create a novel, and was the inspiration for the video game, The Witcher.  I bought a copy of the book recently, and I couldn't put it down until I'd finished it.  VERY gothic in style, and it has several subtle twists; if you like Grimm's fairy tales, you'll love this book... provided you're open to a slightly different view of some of the 'heroes' and 'monsters' you grew up with...

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Mortuary Anthropology?

Have you ever had one of those days when everything in your whole life feels like crap, and all you want to do is run screaming and throw yourself off the nearest cliff into the sea??  Well, last Monday was one of those days.  Tuesday wasn't great, either; in fact, I took a sick day on Tuesday so that I wouldn't totally lose it at work like I wanted to do on Monday.

I'm totally frustrated with my job and my life right now, and have been for almost five years, ever since I got my MA and started looking for a job that would make me eager to get up in the mornings.  As of today, I'm still in the same job, making the same salary, and with the same prospects for something better.  And now this whole losing my office thing.  It SUCKS.  And I'm tired of it.

I've been thinking (endlessly) of how to get out of this gods-awful professional rut that I'm in.  I want to DO something with my anthropology degree, but it appears there is no room for me in the museum world, at least not around here.  And forget going to Egypt, at least for quite some time!!  So, where to go??  What to do???

After quite a bit more thought, I've come up with an idea; rather vague as of yet, but at least it IS an idea.  Combining my fascination with death, mummies, cemeteries, and anthropology in general sums up to something I've only heard about recently: mortuary archaeology.

Death is such a subjective and emotional subject for most people in our society, and so many people refuse to prepare in advance for it, especially if they are healthy; they put it off indefinitely, insisting that they will have "plenty of time".  Because of this, way too many arrangements have to be made by grieving relatives at practically a moment's notice, when they are still shocked and grieved by a death they may or may not have expected.  Mortuaries and funeral homes charge high prices for making dead people look enough like they aren't dead that the mourners can pretend their loved ones are "just sleeping", as well as for services such as embalming and expensive padded caskets that most people feel are either required or "expected", whether they actually ARE or not.  But mortuaries also perform very necessary services, burying or cremating bodies and keeping the records of the deaths as required by law, and they steer the grieving family through the legal morass of red tape required.  Perhaps both sides could use some help that they are not currently receiving.

Mortuary archaeology is the study of death rituals in various societies, of how people bury their dead and how they express their grief. I ordered (and just received) three books on various aspects of mortuary archaeology, and I'm going to immerse myself in them and see if I can't come up with one or more ideas on how to possibly become a bridge between mortuaries and those who use their services, hopefully meeting needs on one or both sides that aren't being met by the status quo.  It's all very tenuous as yet, and I'm not sure what (if anything) will come of it, but we'll see how things progress.

At least I'm no longer fighting the urge to run screaming...

Thursday, August 8, 2013

When Life Gives You Wormwood, Make Absinthe... Then Get Toasted

I read an obituary yesterday.  Normally I don't read them if I don't know the person who died, but this was unusual in that the person, who was a journalist, actually wrote her own obituary before her death.  So, wanting to know what she thought was important enough to be what were basically her last words, I read it.  And the sentence which stood out to me like a beacon on a dark hill was one that she wrote to her children:

"...always remember that obstacles in the path are not obstacles, they ARE the path."

This sentence hit me like the proverbial two-by-four, probably because it was one.  All I could think of was that Hekate (or Someone Out There) finally found someone who had the words to make it clear to me.

And it was definitely the right time for it.  This illumination came after receiving some rather devastating news from my director.   Due to various things having absolutely nothing to do with our department, we are going to have to move several people around, and the result is that I am losing my private office with the huge windows overlooking lawn, trees and sky.  Instead, I will be working in a shared office with no windows.

Now, to truly appreciate the extent of my devastation, this office was the last reason I still had for actually wanting to go to work.  No raises since 2007, increasing workloads and health care payments, boredom from being in the same venue for the last 15 years, and five years of frustration looking for a job where I can actually use my degrees have all really worn me down.  This room was the only bright spot, both literally and figuratively, left in my work day.  And now it's being taken away because someone in some other department wants to show they have clout.

This is where the wormwood and absinthe come in; they're the goth version of  "when life gives you lemons,  make lemonade".  If the obstacles ARE the path, then going around them is impossible; the only way to continue on is to go through them.  Very well, then.  And as Christine Jette says in her book, The Shadow Tarot, "There is no going over, under or around the Shadow; the only path to freedom is through the darkness."  Since I can no longer have the light at work, I shall embrace the shadows.  My new work space will be decorated as a haven of gothdom for me.  I'm looking over things that I have at home that I can bring in; I've already got a lovely picture of an antebellum skeleton lady in front of a broken-down mansion (that I bought for our front bathroom but didn't use) ready and waiting to be hung in my new space.  Here is the picture, from the Etsy shop of The Mighty Squirm, without the frame it's in now:


 Just think Scarlett O'Hara sitting on the lawn at Tara, only one hundred years later.  Isn't it incredible?? 

I'm also haunting Etsy and GothMart, and I plan to continue my bi-monthly trolling at EcoThrift. I'm going to make this new space SO incredibly goth that most people will be too scared to bother me, heheheh...

Monday, August 5, 2013

Appreciating the Darker Deities

This post started out as a reply to a comment sent to me about my "Being a Pagan Goth" post.  For some weird reason, I got it as an e-mail, but the comment never actually showed up on the post.  As I was replying to the e-mail, lots of things I never intended to say suddenly started spilling onto the screen.  I decided that Someone was trying to tell me Something, and obviously wanted me to share it, so here is my attempt to do so.

The comment I was replying to was in regard to Dark deities, many of whom are considered to be evil by people who don't know anything about them, including fellow pagans who should know better.  For example, Kali, Hekate, The Morrigan, and the "trickster" gods like Set, Loki and Coyote, are often considered to be evil deities who spread death, destruction and chaos wherever they go.  However, this is not always the case.

The Dark deities are awesome, but they are NOT evil.  They are part of the Balance, the ancient Egyptian concept of Ma'at, or Cosmic Order.  I do believe that Evil exists, but anyone, Light or Dark, can do evil things, sometimes with the best of intentions.  Even those gods who kill or destroy are not necessarily evil, but they ARE necessary, and we must learn to appreciate them in order to truly appreciate the deities of Light.  Like us, they each have both Dark and Light inside of them, although one is usually found in greater measure than the other. 

Hekate is one of my favorite and most honored matron deities; She has given me great advice and much comfort over the years.  Others whom I honor are Sekhmet, Djehuti (Thoth), Anpu (Anubis), Odin, and Gaia.  In the past I have also worked with Erishkegal (a goddess of death) and Oya (a guardian of cemeteries, among other things).  Of all of these, only Gaia is not considered to be a Dark deity, yet in the past few decades we've all seen the destruction that Gaia or "Mother Nature" has unleashed across our planet.  I'd definitely consider that to be Her "dark side", don't you?

I've often wondered why almost all of my patron/matron deities are those usually referred to as Dark.  I think I'm drawn to them because I feel most comfortable with them, both because of my goth tendencies toward death and the shadow side of things, and also because these deities are so down to earth and in-your-face about the realities of life.  They don't pull their punches, but they DO tell you the truth, both good and bad.  I'm tired of all the "what you think about you bring about" and "you create your own reality" slogans that try to convince us that ignoring the shadows and the darkness will make them go away, and then our lives will be all rainbows and sunshine and fluffy bunnies.  That is NOT how life works, and all the positive affirmations in the world will not change that.  We as goths should understand that, and be glad of it!  (Who wants all that horrible sun and those stupid fluffy bunnies around, anyway???)  However, we can live with the shadows and the darkness AND the sunshine around us, as long as we understand that it's all part of the Circle of Life.  

Just make sure to bring your parasol.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Making my Inner Goth Child Happy

Yesterday I did something I've been thinking about for several months now.  I stopped at my local K-Mart on the way home from work and bought THIS:

The Just Kidz Scary Fashion Doll Set comes with one doll, two outfits and accessories (including a purse and boots), and a coffin-shaped wardrobe to store her stuff in.  The shoes she's wearing are pretty cool, I wouldn't mind having a pair (in my size, of course).   Ms. Scary has three tattoos, one on her face, one on her left arm, and one on her right leg.  She actually has a pretty nice face, too, with appropriate amounts of shadow and liner, and a deep red lipstick.  AND she's got white streaks in her hair; you can see a little in the closeup.  No fangs, thank goodness, that would have been just a bit over the top.

While I really like the doll and her accessories, it interests me that they chose to call her "scary". WHAT exactly is scary about this doll?  Now Bratz dolls are scary, with their oversized heads and weird legs that come off when you want to change their shoes!  And Monster High dolls are supposed to be creepy, with their fangs, scars and the occasional bony arms or legs.  But THIS one???  Nope.  She's a minus-5 on the Scare-O-Meter.  All I can think of is that whoever created the Just Kidz line is afraid of goths.  ;-)

Anyway, time for me to go home and play... 

What makes YOUR Inner Goth Child happy?

Thursday, August 1, 2013