Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Goth Challenge, Day 13

Day 13 – What was your first band t-shirt?

I got this Cure shirt in, I think, 1987. I was about 14.


My mom took me out of school for a special day together. We went to downtown Pittsburgh, had lunch, and did some shopping. I remember asking her to take me to Eide's Entertainment store. I remember being excited to find this shirt in a size small enough to fit me without looking like a tent as this was well before the advent of the Girly-Tee.

I also remember the first time I wore it because I was disappointed that no one else that I knew at the time was excited about the Cure. In fact, I had several people actually ask me who the Cure was.

Looking back, I'm not really surprised. After all, this was the Pittsburgh area in the mid-80s. Pittsburgh was, and still is, stuck on "classic rock." In fact their current "alternative" radio station seems stuck in thee early 90s - they have a heavy rotation of Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Stone Temple Pilots... But back then, if it wasn't 80s hair metal, Zeppelin or Floyd, or top 40 crap, 99% of people in my high school didn't know it. In the next couple years, they did know the Cure and Depeche Mode, as each band had radio hits then. The Cure had Pictures of You and Depeche Mode had Personal Jesus and Enjoy the Silence.

But this shirt became symbolic to me of realizing that I existed somewhere on the fringes - outside the norm.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Goth Challenge, Day 12

Day 12 – What's your Gothic inspiration?

I can't say there is one outstanding person from when I was in my formative Baby Bat years who made me think: "I want to be just like you," or "You've really inspired me to be the Goth I am." I've almost always done what made me happiest and most comfortable.

I have already addressed what drew me into the Goth subculture in Goth Challenge, Day 1.

As for inspiration... I can say I've always found inspiration in Queen Elizabeth I.


I greatly admire the determination, grace and will with which she lived her life in the face of so many seemingly insurmountable obstacles. She fought with every fiber of her being to gain and maintain her crown, then proceeded to become one of the greatest monarchs of her time: despite imprisonment; despite multiple attempts to dethrone, discredit, or assasinate her; despite the country being nearly penniless; despite the deeply divided and fighting religious factions.

She refused to be bullied by those around her who wished her to follow the more traditional routes for a woman - marry, have children, and let the men rule.
My Lords, do whatever you wish. As for me, I shall do no otherwise than pleases me.
Elizabeth to Parliament on the succession issue
She made the world stop and take notice of her. "She is only a woman, only mistress of half an island," marvelled Pope Sixtus V, "and yet she makes herself feared by Spain, by France, by the Empire, by all".

Her reign became the idealized Gold Standard.

Elizabeth was also a great patron of the arts. During her reign, such greats as Shakespeare, Marlowe and Spencer rose, and literacy flourished.

She encouraged great scientific minds like Sir Francis Bacon and Dr. John Dee. And encouraged exploration by Sir Franscis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh, among others.

I try to be true to myself while striving to reach all of my goals in life without bending to the cries of society telling me I have to conform to their ways and norms. That includes living a goth lifestyle.
Elizabeth I, painted after 1620, during the first revival of interest in her reign.
Time sleeps on her right and Death looks over her left shoulder;
two cherubs 
hold the crown above her head

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Goth Challenge, Day 11

Day 11 – Is Goth a lifestyle for you?

This is a really dumb question. It's the Goth Challenge, so I think it's a foregone conclusion that anyone participating is a Goth, and therefore, yes, the Goth lifestyle is for them.

Really, what is a Goth lifestyle? Does it mean living like a Goth? How exactly do Goths live?

Yes, my hair is dyed black with white streaks instead of my natural dark blonde.
Yes, I dress in mostly black and white - that's how I'm most comfortable.
Yes, I often wear accessories with bats, skulls, coffins, spiders/webs, etc.
Yes, my makeup is pale with dark accents.

Me
Yes, I primarily listen to Goth music.
Yes, I read Victorian literature.
Yes, my home is full of Halloween-themed housewares. My plates have spiderwebs, bats and skulls. I have skeleton-hand salad utensils and monster finger knives. My book shelfs have macabre dolls perched among the tomes. My walls have Pre-Raphaelite art hanging on them as well as paintings done by my grandfather.
Yes, I watch horror and sci-fi movies and television.
Yes, I participate in Goth communities online.
Yes, I do like going to the Goth club - when I have a sitter.
Yes, my favorite drink is really the Corpse Reviver #2, which combines absinthe and gin.
Yes, I did visit 13th century ruins on my honeymoon.

Kilmallock, Ireland
But...

I do have a normal full-time job.
I do participate with the PTA at my kids' school.
I do like some main-stream TV shows and movies.
I do have friends who are not Goth. In fact, my husband is not Goth.
I do normal family things with my children and husband.
I sleep in a normal queen-sized bed and not a coffin (though the coffin/couch/bed is very cool, and I would love to have one)
I drink things other than absinthe and gin.
I do go out to bars that are not Goth.
I live in a normal, town-home community.
I do sometimes hang out with my kids' frieds' very normal moms.
I do enjoy watching sports, like hockey and American football, and sometimes soccer or hurling.

So... Do I live a Goth lifestyle? I don't know. I am part of the Goth subculture. But I am also a mom, a wife, a full-time employee, a neighbor, a sports fan... People are not one-dimentional. We have many, many facets to our personalities, and therefore our lives flow in interesting ways that don't necessarily mesh with our chosen subculture. I think that a lifestyle is really just the way in which each person lives their life comfortably as themself. You can be part of a subculture, and live accordingly, but I guarantee not one person can fully eschew all facets of a conventional lifestyle.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Goth Challenge Day 10

Day 10 – What do you love and hate about the subculture?

Victorian clothes by Drac-in-a-Box
There are so very many things that I love about the Goth subculture!

I love the aesthetics:
I particularly love clothes in gorgeous Victorian styles with decadent fabrics like velvet, satin, silk and lace. There is something just hauntingly romantic about Victorian clothing, not revealing, yet sexy and flattering. And to wear Victorian outfits and pull it off, you have to be confident and eccentric, which most Goths are.

Neo-Victorian Clotes by Drac-in-a-Box
I also love the shoes - chunky Mary Janes, platform boots, Victorian boots...
And the makeup - dramatic and bold.
And the accessories - bats, skeletons, spiders, coffins - for your hair, or on your jewelry, or as your purse...
And I love the music (see Goth Challenge, Day 7).
And the literature.

I could go on for hours about what I love about the Goth subculture. ^o^

But what do I hate?
Within the subculture, I hate the cattiness and "Gothier than thou" attitude. It's not a competition. Every one has their own style and comfort levels. There is no reason to pick on others. Now, being "Gothier than thou," when dripping with scarcasm and not serious meanness, is another thing, and that doesn't bother me.


I also really hate the stigma that society in general places on the Goth subculture. Like how any time there is an unbelievable violent act, like a school shooting, the media starts on about how the perpetrators were "goth" and how dangerous it is to let your kids be goth. I'm not going to shoot up a school. I don't worship the devil. I'm not really evil. How a person looks is irrelevant to what they're really like on the inside - the truly evil tend to look just like everyone else.

The song, Leave Me Alone by the Cruxshadows samples  clips from the many news shows covering the Columbine shooting and blaming the Goth subculture. Also, the lyrics pretty much sum up how I feel about main-stream society's evaluation of Goths:
Leave me alone, I'm a freak
Leave me alone, make it easy for yourself
Everywhere I go they all stare
I don't understand why they care
They stare at me all in black
And when I turn they stare at my back
All these things can't,
All these things don't...
Let me go.
Leave me alone, I'm a freak
Leave me alone, make it easy for yourself
Everywhere I go they all stare
I don't understand why they care
And I don't want to be part of your world
And I don't want to see the things you see
Can't you understand how I feel?
Can't you let me be?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Goth Challenge, Day 9

Day 9 – What genre of music do you dislike?

This one is easy. I absolutely cannot stand country or rap. I also don't like R&B, pop, or emo.

shudder...
Country just sets my nerves on edge. The whiny, nasally, twanginess makes me cringe. I truly hate the sound of this genre. Deeper, I also dislike the associations that go with this genre of music. I don't like Rednecks or Redneck humor. I have no problem with patriotism and love of one's country, but I do have a problem when it is presented in a way that is "us against them," or involves guns, or right wing propaganda - I have a very deep dislike of right-wing politics. I also dislike how often the topics of cheating spouses, guns, and fights are involved in songs. There is also a rather misogynistic quality about a lot of country music that bothers me.

That said, I do like some of the root music that gave rise to country. I do like the blues and some jazz, as well as the Old World folk.

yeah...
Rap - bothers me on several levels. I don't find the sound appealing in the least. In some cases, I can't understand how it qualifies as music and not just spoken word with a beat. But what I find most disturbing is the themes of violence, hatred and misogyny. I don't understand the glorification of a criminal or degenerate lifestyle. It does its fans a disservice by screwing up their values.

I realize that rap is a sub-genre of hip hop, and in general, I don't have a problem with most hip hop. I wouldn't choose to listen to it, but most of it doesn't offend me. I even kinda like the some of the old school hip hop artists like Run DMC and the Beastie Boys. And of the new style, I kinda like Eminem...

meh.
R&B music just isn't my style. Yes, some is beautiful, but just doesn't do it for me in any way. I have no strong objections to it though.

chewy and flavorless.
Pop annoys me to no end. Most of it is mass-produced crap designed specifically to sell records, not out of any artistic integrity. Most of it sounds the same and has the same themes. Listening to pop is like drinking rail gin instead of the good stuff, like Hendricks. No, thank you.

cringe...
Then there's emo... Let's get this straight right off the bat: Emo IS NOT the same as goth! Yes, both have roots in the punk movement, but from vastly divergent parts of punk. Goth came from the 70s-80s London punk scene. Emo was born from the 80s DC hardcore scene. Very different roots. And the music sounds very different. Sadly, some of the misguided fans have usurped some aspects of goth fashion, but they mixed it in with stolen bits of hipster and scene fashion as well.

Back to the point. I can't stand emo music. There is a discordance in the sound that makes me twitch. And the lyrics tend to be the introspections of manic depressives (sorry Matty). I've tried to wrap my head around this music, as my husband does greatly enjoy it (but thankfully doesn't embrace the terrible emo fashion), but try as I might, I just can't.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Goth Challenge, Day 8

Day 8 – What's your worst and best experience with non-Goths?

What a weird topic. To me it sounds as if the creator if this challenge assumed that all Goths live in some Goth commune with little contact with the outside world; as if dealing with non-Goths was some sort of rare occurrence...

But in reality, 98% of my interactions in real life are with non-Goths. Online, I do have a solid group of goth friends and groups with whom I interact more than with non-Goths, but even then, my online life is a small percentage of my daily life.
 
Me, in work attire, with bat accessories
 My worst experience was by far the nonacceptance of my gothiness by my ex, which I have discussed in previous posts (Goth Challenge, Day 2 and Day 3). I have experienced some minor prejudice toward my being Goth from my supervisor at work. He once attempted to give me a slightly less than stellar mark on my review because of my wardrobe. After a heated discussion where I pointed out that I always follow the office dress code, and wear professional attire and that he can't sanction me just because I wear primarily black. He then tried to remark about my hair and accessories. And again, I made it clear that my hair color isn't extreme. There are many women here with black hair, and white streaks - granted, their streaks are from aging, and mine are by choice, but he can't possibly penalize me for that. And as for accessories, how is my wearing jewelry with spiders or bats any different than the receptionist who wears jewelry with cats and ladybugs? I also pointed out that the client has absolutely no problem with how I appear, and that my work is always praised by the client, so trying to penalize me on such a petty matter could definitely be construed as prejudicial. While he chaffed at me being right, he did concede, and we have never again discussed my personal style.

My favorite earrings, worn above
by Alchemy Gothic
Other than that, I am lucky in that I have never been in a situation where I've had to experience extreme prejudice or Goth-bashing. I understand in the UK, the prejudice experienced by Goths is a somewhat regular occurrence, and is extremely hateful. The worst case being the brutal murder of Sophie Lancaster.

Because of the ambivalence toward most sub-cultures here, I can't think of a shining moment of interacting with non-Goths that bears mentioning. I do have the occasional "normal" person compliment me on either my hair, style or confidence that allows me to wear what I want and not care how others judge; but that's not so remarkable. I guess, the lack of bad moments - the general acceptance and lack of prejudice toward Goths - would really be the best experience in non-Goth interactions.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Goth Challenge, Day 7

Day 7 – Ten of your favourite goth bands.
Normally I like making lists. I'm a list person. I even make fancy printed lists for my kids so they know what to pack when we travel. But I hate making top ten lists! I don't like being limited to just ten. And my musical taste is so very influenced by my moods - my list of ten today would be a different ten tomorrow...

Without further ado, here is my list of ten of my favorite goth bands that I'm enjoying on my ipod today (in alphabetical order because I'm OCD like that):

1. The Birthday Massacre - they make me happy. My kids like them too. One of my favorite things is catching my daughter singing along to them.


2. Clan of Xymox - I particularly like listening to them at work for some reason. 


3. The Cure - They really are a form of nostalgia for me. The Disintegration tour was my first big concert.


4. The Damned - In 2003, shortly after Matty and I were married, we saw The Damned on the Warped Tour. I went to the merch table to pick up a shirt, and lo and behold, Captain Sensible was manning the table. I bought my shirt, then he proceeded to hit on me in front of my husband. I had to turn him down, but he did sign my shirt :) They are touring this fall - I hope I can line up a sitter because I would love to go to this show!


5. Fields of the Nephilim - I just love Carl McCoy's voice...


6. London After Midnight - I love their driving and heavy beats. And I love their dark, witty and often political lyrics. Plus, Sean Brennan is delicious eye candy...



7. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - I love their sound, his voice, the lyrics...


8. Rasputina - I love their use of cello, and Melora's voice is fabulous.



9. Wumpscut - I love their sound.


10 Xmal Deutschland - I do love this band. I had them heavier in my rotation today because of a conversation in one of the Facebook goth groups in which I participate discussing favorite female vocalists from the 80s. I said Siouxsie and Xmal Deutchland's Anja Huwe.

    Wednesday, August 17, 2011

    Goth Challenge, Day 6

    Day 6 – Hand write your favourite lyrics and take a picture.

    Hm. Favorite lyrics... This is hard. I always struggle to pick favorites in music, movies and books. They are all so dependant upon my mood. This is something my husband, Matty, or my dear friend, Carmilla Voiez, would be better at doing...

    I've been on a Rasputina kick lately, so I've chosen "Transylvanian Concubine" off of the Thanks for the Ether album.

    Why did I pick this song? First and foremost, I really love the sound of it. The cello is such a resonating yet melancholy sound. It reaches deep into my soul and captivates me.

    Then there are the lyrics. Yes, I do love vampires. And this song illustrates the dark, seductive, beautiful and ultimately tragic essence of vampires. But it goes deeper. The social commentary of the lyrics about the superficiality of beauty and our desire to be rich, thin and perfect. Yet, having it all isn't fulfilling.

    Drusilla and Spike
    Lastly, there is the nostalgia factor. This song was played in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer, "Surprise" episode.



    Tuesday, August 16, 2011

    Goth Challenge Day 5

    Day 5 – Is there a local Goth band or group in your area?

    I am not aware of any local goth bands.

    But if you can consider supporting a friend's goth band, even though they live several stated away (because the Internet has made everything sort of "local"), then yes, I have a local goth band - Ending the Vicious Cycle. Toby, the lead singer and guitarist, tells me that they hope to release an EP later this year. I'm looking forward to that release. Then hopefully, they can manage an East Coast tour.

    Ending the Vicious Cycle
    My favorite EVC songs are Le Tourment Vert and 1000 Words. I often get Le Tourment Vert stuck in my head, and my kids like dancing to it. 1000 Words was written about my dear friend Carmilla Voiez's experience writing her debut novel, Starblood. (If you like goth horror books, you will love Starblood!)

    Starblood by Carmilla Voiez

    Or, if by goth groups, this meant a social scene, I am in luck, because DC has several. The two prominent scenes are Midnight and my favorite, Spellbound. I don't get to go out that much any more because of babysitter issues, but when I do get the chance for some goth fun, I do love the ambiance, music and crowd at Spellbound.

    Monday, August 15, 2011

    Daily Haiku

    Waiting for the rain
    The gentle patter calms me
    Pain is washed away

    Goth Challenge Day 4

    Day 4 – Name a stereotype or cliche you can relate to.

    There are oh so many little goth stereotypes. I think all goths dable a little in more than a few of these sub-genres of goth. By examinining each type and comparing them to my personal tastes, I will determine exactly what conglomeration of the types I am.
    • I like the music of the Trad Goth, but that's as far as I can relate to that particular stereotype.
      Not me.
    • I also like the music associated with the Romantic Goth, and I do enjoy " the dark, sensual and mysterious world of Gothic created by Victorian literature and subsequent movies." I also find dead roses, crumbling graveyards and old skulls to be exquisitely beautiful. This is pretty much me in my baby bat days. I still do have leanings toward this sub-genre, but I've evolved past this narrow definition.
      Partially me. 
    • Cyber Goth is so not me. I like a small cross-section of this music, but that's as far as it goes.
      Definitely not me.
    • I think all goths have a touch of Fetish Goth in them. I certainly do. I love wearing corsets and some of the less severe bondage gear. It is fun, and sexy.
      Partially me. 
    • I am very liberal in my politics, including peace, protecting the earth, and tolerance. I also do have crystals around my home and I do burn sage to cleanse things... and I like the music listed with this sub-genere, so, I guess that means I am a bit of a Hippie Goth. But I'm not really into the look or full-on hippie lifestyle.
      A bit me. 
    • J-goth... I like anime, but I don't really get into the Lolita thing. It's a little to... well, childish I guess, for me.
      Not me. 
    • I like some of the music associated with the Rivethead sub-genre, but that's as far as I get into this stereotype.
      A tiny bit me. 
    • My six and a half year old daughter is a Perky Goth. I am decidely not.
      Not me at all. 
    • I have my down days, and sometimes I prefer shadowy corners in goth clubs, but that's only because I can't dance. Mopey Goth is not for me. And honestly, other than angst-ridden teens and hot topic poseurs, I don't think any real goth falls into this category.
      Very much not me. 
    • Huh, I would have said I'm not a Deathrocker, but I do like the bands and artists mentioned, and I truly love horror films - especially the cheesy ones. So I gues I have a touch of Deathrocker in me after all.
      Surprisingly, yes, a little me.
    • Baby bat.
      No.
    • I have a nice full-time career, and therefore am definitely a Corp Goth. For a while being a goth at work was not easy, and was frowned upon by the higher-ups. But the lovable Abby Scuito, the smart and gregarious goth forensic scientist on the show NCIS has changed things for me. Now the government people with whom I work think it's cool that they have their very own government goth girl.
      Very much me.
    • Ah, the Victorian Goth. This is where my heart lies. The clothes, the literature, the history, the music... *happy sigh*. I wish I had the money for a propper Victorian Goth wardrobe. I would love to dress that way often.
      Very much me.
    • I am also a good deal Medieval Goth. I have a degree in Medieval Literature with a minor in history... And as the description says, I have "an enormous sense of history, and may also be found in museums, castles, churches and ancient monuments. And when [I] go to cemeteries, [I] actually look at the names and dates on the gravestones..... and live in a house filled with pre-Raphaelite prints..."
      Very much me. 
    • Not really a Metalhead, though I do like a small sampling of the music.
      Not me. 
    • Emo Goth.
      No.
    • Vampire Goths are "pale, brooding, adverse to sunlight and attracted to strange period clothing." Yes. And I do love vampires.
      Partially me.
    • I have a tiny smattering of Geek Goth in me and I'm not ashamed to admit it.
      A tiny bit me.
    • I like polkadot dresses, and old horror movies, and a little bit of 50s loungieness. So, I guess there is a tiny bit of Gothabilly in me.
      A tiny bit me.
    • Caberet Goth? Yes, but in moderation.
      Partially me.
    • I find the concept of Steampunk goth interesting, but I'm not obsessed with Jules Vern, and I abhor the browns and bronzes favored by this sub-genre.
      No brown, thank you. 
    • I do love fantasy literature, and have a sizable collection of Brian Froud books. And I do have some old sets of wings - which I've since handed over to my daughter. So, there is a bit of Faerie Goth in me as well.
      Partially me. 
    • While interesting and exotic, Tribal Goth is not for me.
      No, thank you. 
    So, while i have little bits and pieces of many kinds of the various goth sub-genres in me, I primarily relate to and identify with: Victorian, Medieval, Corporate, Romantic, Fetish, Vampire and Faery.

    My daughter and me in 2005

    Sunday, August 14, 2011

    Daily Haiku

    Future once shining
    Now tarnished with lies and pain
    Leaves me crushed and numb

    Goth Challenge Day 3

    Day 3 – When did you come out the Goth closet?

    Back in my baby bat days, I wasn't shy about my goth tendencies. I wasn't really closeted at all. Then, like I mentioned in yesterday's post, I got involved with a very controlling person. He didn't like my gothiness, and wanted a Stepford sorority girl type. And stupidly, I tried to become someone I wasn't just for him. So, I went into the broom closet in about 1993.

    I did have brief forays out of the closet between 1993 and 2002, but they were fleeting.

    Late in 2001, I knew the relationship was done, and I started doing more of what I wanted and being more true to myself. At first, it was extremely hard. I had spent the last almost 10 years denying my true self and cowering from an abusive asshole. I knew my defiance and opening the closet door would meet retribution, and it did. But at that point, I just didn't care any more. I had gone numb and only cared about doing what would make me happy. (I know some readers are asking "Why the fuck didn't you just leave?" I promise I will explore that in greater depth at some other point. Suffice it to say for this post, that at this point, I wanted desperately to leave, but was trapped by finances and a lease. It was a long and nasty process to break that lease. But I did get out.)

    When I started dating again in 2002, I was fully committed to being true to myself. Attitude and general taste-wise, I was fully out of the closet. But at this point, I had almost no goth gear - not even more than a few black items at all. And I was still a bit shell-shocked and working hard to break old, bad habits, therefore was afraid to do anything with my very long, blonde hair.

    Fortunately, I met someone who was kind and understanding and had no problem with my dark side taking over.

    Shortly after we got married, I chopped off my hair and dyed it red. And I began decorating our apartment with creepy items. I would say that time - spring of 2003 - was when I was fully out of the closet again.

    Me, freshly out of the goth closet


    Me and Matty around our 1st anniversary - and I am fully myself

    Saturday, August 13, 2011

    Goth Challenge Day 2

    Day 2 – Share photos and experiences from your Baby Bat days

    I don't have many photos with me. I am sure my parents do, but they also live over 200 miles away.


    This is me in 1990. This was probably one of the last times I was myself until about late 2001. I ended up getting involved with an asshole who didn't like my dark ways. And I was young and stupid, so I tried to become someone I wasn't. I repressed my gothiness and was miserable.

    Slowly, over the 10 years I was with that jerk, bits of the real me started coming back out. I did manage to go see some bands I liked, and still had my fun colored wigs hidden away. And when I could, I would sneak to the goth club, but it was few and far between.

    After that relationship disintegrated, I started being myself again. I was able to the goth club regularly. I could openly listen to my music. And I was able to get rid of all the awful Stepford clothing I wore to make that asshole happy. Black infiltrated my wardrobe and I couldn't have been happier!

    Friday, August 12, 2011

    The Goth Challenge

    I found this challenge through a Google Sparks link to the Juliet's Lace blog. It looks like fun, so I will be going through the challenge here.

    Day 1 – How did you come across the subculture?

    I was in high school (my school was grades 7-12). It was somewhere around the late 80s or early 90s when I became aware that there was a goth subculture. But looking back, I was already immersed in gothiness long before the realization that there was definition for my tastes.

    As a child, I had a thing for the creepy and scary. My mother said that when I watched the Wizard of Oz for the first time around age 2, I was enthralled by the Wicked Witch of the West. I was apparently terrified, but would not allow her to change the channel or turn off the TV. From there grew my fascination with movie villains. I adored the Evil Queen in Snow White. I was fascinated by Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty. When the Black Cauldron came out, I thought it was the best Disney movie ever (I still think so).
    I remember watching the Fiddler on the Roof and A Christmas Carol at a young age with my parents and being absolutely thrilled with the ghost scenes.

    Disney Villains
    I was introduced to monster movies and murder mysteries by my aunt and grandmother. My aunt used to take me to the theater for Godzilla double features and on occasions, the Hammer films. My grandmother watched the weekly Mystery! and Agatha Christie shows as well as movies like Arsenic and Old Lace with me.

    By the early 80s, I would sneak down stairs to watch late night monster movies. And at sleep overs, my friends and I would manage to get our hands on the slasher movies. I recall watching A Nightmare on Elm Street in 1984 at a friend's house. Yes, it scared the hell out of me, but I couldn't get enough of the scary stuff either.

    I have always been a very avid reader. I read children's versions of many of Charles Dickens' novels. I developed a deep love for the Dickensian and Victorian era. When I was 8 (1983), I read The Lord of the Rings and was drawn into the realms of science fiction and fantasy. That was also the year I discovered Edgar Allen Poe, thanks to my third grade teacher who recognized that I needed more advanced things to read, and that I liked scary things. From that point I read a strong mixture of sci-fi, fantasty, horror, and the classics.
    Edgar Allen Poe
    Musically, I was a little sheltered. I grew up about 30 minutes from Pittsburgh, PA. Now, that doesn't seem that far, but back then, where we lived was extremely rural. And the Pittsburgh area is steeped in classic rock and country music with a heavy dash of top 40. I never liked country music. I can tolerate classic rock, but I'd prefer to not listen to it. I did listen to top 40. But that was how I began to discover the sounds that I liked.

    Once again, it was 1984, and I heard the new Depeche Mode album People are People and I fell in love with their sound. That lead me to The Cure and Echo and the Bunnymen and the wonderful sounds of 80s darkwave. In the early 90s I heard Nine Inch Nails' Pretty Hate Machine and took a trip down the Industrial and EBM path.

    Echo and the Bunnymen
    So, I guess I have always been a goth at heart. 1984 was a hugely formative year for me in the goth sense; but I really consciously joined and understood the subculture around 1989 or 90.

    Thursday, August 11, 2011

    Monsters!


    Deep into the darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing
    Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortals ever dared to dream before
     ~"The Raven," by Edgar Allen Poe
    Elsa Lanchester as the Bride of Frankenstein
    
     I woke this morning thinking of monsters. I had a dream that I had gotten two tattoos - one on each shoulder. The first was of the Bride of Frankenstein, and the second was Lily Munster. (And yes, I think I just may have to get these tattoos when I can afford them.)


    Yvonne De Carlo as Lily Munster
      
    Me
      I think it's easy to see that I identify with these two characters at least on an aesthetic level.

     
       But that got me thinking. What is it about monsters that resonates with us?

      I took a class in college about monsters it was taught by Jeffery Jerome Cohen, who often appears on the Discovery Channel as a subject matter expert on topics involving the middle ages and/or monsters.

    Archetypically, there are really three kinds of monsters: the ones who are grotesque on the outside, shunned and feared, they can't help what happened to them; the ones who look like the guy next door but is so twisted and rotted on the inside; and the unknown closet monster, we don't know what it looks like or even is, but it is scary as hell.

    I find monsters intriguing in several ways, which are best illustrated by Frankenstein's monster and Dracula.
    Frankenstein's monster makes a friend
    
    Frankenstein's monster wasn't inherently evil, and had the mind of a child; but its grotesque appearance and inability to articulate its thoughts made it frightening. But the story really speaks to society's intolerance of that which is different. The frightened villagers form an angry mob to hunt down and destroy the creature, rather than try to understand him.

    The lynch mob comes for the Creature
    Fear of the unknown and different is such a visceral reaction. For many it often takes a conscious effort to get past that fear to try to accept. But for others, like me, the different is intriguing. Our curiosity takes hold and we strive to know and understand this new thing. Then the monster becomes a friend. I think this attraction to the unusual and unknown, and, well, somewhat creepy is part of what drew me into the goth subculture.

    Then there are vampires.

    Bela Lugosi as Dracula
    They are dark, animalistic, terrifying, mysterious and very sexual. What isn't to love about vampires? The vampire haters see only the savage animal side of these creatures. Yes, they are darkly savage and dangerous. But they were once human and still have that echo of humanity about them, and the memories of human emotions, needs and urges. That dark mysteriousness, and the seduction of the victim ultimately ending with the very intimate exchange of bodily fluid when a vampire drinks the victim's blood makes them incredibly sexual.

    Gary Oldman as Dracula
    They represent all our hiden desires and urges and our darkest, and most violent fantasies. Yes, I've thought of torture scenes involving hiddeous exes and former bosses. Would I ever act on these fantasies - no. But were I an immortal and conscious-free creature of the night, I most certainly would. I like the idea of being a dark avenger, like Selene in Underworld.

    Kate Beckinsale as Selene in Underworld
    Then there is the seduction of victims. I'm not sure if the draw to this aspect of the vampie is more toward being the predator or the prey. I find both roles exciting. Vampires aren't hampered by our conventions of sexual orientation, promiscuity or monogamy and since they're dead, they don't have to worry about pregnancy or disease. All the fun and none of the bad consequences. Seducing attractive men one night, and lucious women the next.

    But the prey side doesn't sound that bad either when looking at it from the seduction point of view. Having the dark, mysterious immortal wanting you is a bit of a turn on. And think of the years of experience they have... This mysterious and seductive aspect of  the darker side is another reason I gravitate to the goth lifestyle.

    Lastly, there is the unknown thing. While I don't find myself drawn to the unknown horror like I do with the other two types, I don't avoid it either. And honestly, I find that movies with the unknown evil are much more terrifying than those with a clearly defined villain, and therefore the far superior film. However, in real life, I'm not so much a fan of being terrorized by something I can't see.

    Monsters are really a big part of who we all are. They hold up a mirror and show us the darkest recesses of our souls. And for that, I love monsters.

    Wednesday, August 10, 2011

    Only This and Nothing More?

    I'm feeling a bit existential today.

    Calvin and Hobbes
    I spent the weekend visiting my family in Pennsylvania. I wanted my children to visit my mom before she started chemo therapy.

    We drove from VA to PA Friday. I left early to avoid rush hour. But shortly before we reached the Mason-Dixon line, traffic ground to a halt. Apparently, an old fertilizer truck flipped, spilling hazardous materials all over the highway. I got the kids out and we played on the side of the road for nearly three hours.

    We finally made it to my parents' house. My mom was in agony. Her back has been causing her a great deal of pain since her tumor removal surgery in June. It was so bad she was crying and making remarks about taking one of every pain pill and not waking up just to end the pain. Fortunately, she wasn't really serious about that. But still, seeing your parent in such a painful and vulnerable state is hard. And knowing it is going to get worse once she starts the six months of chemo is even harder.

    My brothers were there. It's always nice to see them. And the kids - my son especially - really love playing with the uncles. We found a treasure trove of legos in the attic. My brothers and son sat on the living room floor for hours building castles and having lego battles. My boy was in heaven.



    The next day, my grandparents visited. My grandmother is slowly losing her mind. I think I've had the same conversation with her almost every time we've talked for the last four months. It's really sad. She had such a sharp mind and now it's faded and torn like an old news paper.

    When it was time to head back to Virginia, my daughter cried like her heart was being torn out. Leaving loved ones is always so hard on her.

    Once again, the vengeful gods of MD I-70 struck. Traffic halted then we were diverted to back roads through the Middle of Nowhere, MD as the highway was closed due to a fatal accident.

    Back in Virginia, it was nice to be with my husband again. But, he's mired in depression. He lost his job last month. He had four interviews with one company and had very good reason to believe he had the job, but then was rejected. It was soul-crushing for him.

    And things between the two of us were not quite right. There was a big fight - the kind of fight that ends with us pondering whether or not we want to just walk away and get a divorce. Some soul-searching and some long, heart-felt conversations along with a dinner date (thanks to a good friend who was able to watch the kids last minute), brought us to the conclusion that we really do love each other and will work hard to keep the marriage going.

    The accidents, my mom, my grandma have me thinking of mortality.



    My husband's job search and our marital drama have me thinking of the arduousness of being an adult. And what do we get out of all the hardship, hard work and toil?

    If I died today, what would the sum of my existence be? What have I done with my life to make it worth while? And seeing my son so happy immersed in his toys with his uncles made me ponder: what is it that makes me that happy?

    I can say I am happy with my family. I do love my husband very much and my children really are shining lights of happiness in my life. But I don't get to spend much quality time with them. The majority of my life is now spent working. I like my job enough and coming to work isn't torture, like some jobs I've had, but I don't really love it.

    We work because we have to. That's what brings in the money. I work the kind of job I have because it pays very well and has very good benefits. And that takes care of my family. But shouldn't we spend most of our time doing something we really love? Something that brings joy into our lives? The thing is, I don't think most of us even know what we would do with ourselves. I have been pondering this very question a lot recently, since the Gothic Council debated what we felt would be the best goth job for us.

    We are so programmed to do what brings in the most money. Everything in our society is so materialistic and capitalistic in its basis. We have lost sight of what is really important. It's not what things you have, because ultimately, things can't make you truly happy. In fact, having all those things often is the root of all of our stress.

    I'm feeling a need to simplify things in my life. Get rid of things. Change focus. Figure out what it is that brings joy and peace to my life. I don't have the answers right now. But I plan on meditating on this and finding the right, or best path for me.

    Thursday, August 4, 2011

    Kill the Poor

    Why do we hate the poor?

    Dead Kennedys "Kill the Poor"

    This issue is really at the front of my mind right now. First we have all the debt drama unfolding, with the right demanding we slash spending to programs like medicare, medicaid, social security, etc. And in fact, the right calls those of us who believe in helping our fellow citizens who are down on their luck as Socialists (and sometimes they call us Fascists - which shows that they don't understand the different "ists", but that's another rant entirely). Second, there is the anti-union fight. And third, there are the bills in FL and a few other states trying to make drug testing mandatory for all welfare applicants. This third one - specifically comments I saw made by online friends - is what really got me on my soapbox.

    Back to the original question: Why do we hate the poor? My opinion is that our society hates the poor, because being poor is something they fear. Society views it as a disease. And by eliminating social welfare programs, they see themselves as inoculating themselves - we don't need social welfare because we're immune to becoming poor. And it feeds that 50's Rockwellian image of the American Dream - you too can have the house in the suburbs with a white picket fence and Betty Crocker in the kitchen, if you just work hard. Except, that is a lie.

    Norman Rockwell painting
    Most of you reading this fit squarely into the middle class. And you will work diligently all of your lives and never escape the middle class. Yes, some will make it big, but your chances of that happening to you are about the same as those of you getting struck by lightening. Your chances - especially in these tough economic times - of losing that stability and falling into poverty are significantly higher. But society doesn't like to think of that - we just want to sweep bad thoughts under the rug. Put our heads in the sand. Put our fingers in our ears while yelling "La la la I can't hear you!" Why? Because we want to believe we are safe.

    The fact is, our economy is not getting better. Foreclosure rates are predicted to get worse. The unemployment rate, which is around 9.2% (almost double the "normal" rating of 5%) is predicted to stay high until around 2016. Inflation has almost trippled since January. This paints a bleak picture.

    But we have ways of protecting the middle and lower classes so they don't end up living in a van down by the river. The protection comes from unions. Yes, unions protect the middle class. Unions ensure fair wages, decent benefits and protection from being abused by corporations. Unions are why we have eight hour work days, workman's compensation, sick and vacation time, etc.

    Disbanding unions gives companies license to take advantage of their employees. It allows them to demand longer hours, and give less compensation. Without unions, what's to keep companies from reverting to near-slave labor conditions like those seen at the turn of the last century? And then we will see more people falling to hard times.

    Despite these facts, the right wing wants to get rid of programs that help those in dire need. Medicare and Medicaid, for example are primarily used by impoverished elderly, children and single mothers, and the disabled. The right call helping these people Socialism. They call the poor lazy and say they are stealing tax payer money to support themselves and not contributing to society or taxes.

    Let's examine why that is wrong: The elderly have worked and contributed to the funds for Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security. It is their right to now reap the benefit of programs they helped fund for years. And sadly, many of the elderly lost much of their invested savings when the housing bubble burst and killed the financial market. Fortunately, they are able to count on their medical needs being met with Medicare and Medicaid.

    Children are the tax paters of the future. If we don't take care of their needs, we have no future.

    Single mothers are most certainly not lazy sponges. Many single mothers work more than 40 hours a week - usually at minimum wage jobs (yes plural, because many have more than one job). Just to be able to keep a roof over their heads and not starve. Minimum wage jobs do not provide decent health care. These families depend on social welfare services.

    Many of the disabled who use these services are former U.S. military. Denying them benefits after they put their lives on the line to preserve our freedoms is the ultimate hypocrisy.

    Now, many of these same demographics rely on welfare. Some states are pushing for mandatory drug testing of all welfare applicants. Right off the bat, this kind of legislation says that we believe all poor people are lazy delinquents. But worse, it is unconstitutional. It is in violation of the fourth ammendment, which protects against unreasonable search and seizure. In fact, this was already proven in court when Michigan attempted to create similar legislation, but was deemed uncontitutional in Michigan's Marchwinski v. Howard in 2003.

    This legislation (as well as the FL Medicaid reform) is really a ruse. While on the face it looks like Rick Scott is trying to protect FL from junkies abusing the system, but in reality, it is a way for Mr. Scott to throw money to his own company, Solantic, which processes the drug tests.

    Yes, there are some people who do abuse the system, and this is true of any system. Before the MI law was stricken, only 10 percent of welfare recipients tested positive for illicit drugs. This clearly illustrates that the mojority of people in need, are honest, law abiding citizens, many who currently do pay taxes, have paid in the past and will pay again in the future.

    The bottom line is that we need to look at our fellow citizens as our family. We need to take care of each other. If we allow corrupt politians, pandering to corporate greed, to erode our infrastructure, this will be the lynch pin that is the fall of the American "empire."

    Wednesday, August 3, 2011

    Once Upon a Midnight Dreary...

    Well... nine o'clock, really...

    Perches pallid bust of Pallas above my chamber door...
    I've decided it's time to get back to writing. Writing for me, that is. I do write every day for work - I am a writer after all... But I find lately, I can't write unless it's in a work capacity, and I need to fix that.

    I started working on a novel last year for NaNoWriMo. I've worked on it here and there, but not with real conviction, as I have no faith in my abilities. And I'm usually too bloody tired to bother after working all day and mommy stuff all evening...

    So, here I am, with a shiny new blog. And I promise myself I will update it daily - even if it's only with random haiku poems.