Monday, October 24, 2011


Halloween is a week away, why not spread the good spirit of the season?

Things have been less than pleasant at home lately, and the tension has been high. The kids and I were trying to settle from the hard weekend while the husband was at the grocery store. Everyone was on edge and unhappy, then there was a knock at the door. I opened the door but no one was there - then I noticed a lovely black and white stripped gift bag sitting on the welcome mat. The bag was filled with yummy organic treats, pencils and cute eco-friendly water bottles for the kids. Attached to the bag was this:

Suddenly the negative feelings in the house evaporated. The children were smiling and so thrilled with their little treats; and I was so pleased by the perfect timing of this random act of kindness that I had happy tears in my eyes.

The kids and I will be making special boo bags to pass on the cheer tonight. They are so excited about making others smile with random kindness.

Whoever came up with this wonderful plan should be showered with good karma.

To participate and spread the spooky love around your neighborhood, go to to print out the poem.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Goth Challenge, Day 23 (part 2)

Day 23 – Your favourite artist or photographer.

Ophelia by Hughes
I've decided to split this into two separate posts - favorite artist/photographer (more  modern) and favorite artist/art movement (classical). I've already written about my favorite contemporary photographer/artist in Goth Challenge, Day 23 (part 1).

My favorite art movement is the Pre-Raphaelite movement. This is considered by many art historians to be the first avant-garde movement. It began in either 1848 or 1849 when a group of English painters, poets and critics founded the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (PRB). The founding members were  William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Later additions to the Brotherhood included William Michael Rossetti, James Collinson, Frederic George Stephens and Thomas Woolner. Other artists, though not part of the PRB, were also associated with the movement, including: Ford Madox Brown and Charles Collins, the poet Christina Rossetti, the artist and social critic John Ruskin, the painter-poet William Bell Scott, and the sculptor poet John Lucas Tupper. Later additions to the Pre-Raphaelite circle include J. W. Inchnold, Edward Burne-Jones, William Morris and even J. M. Whistler.

Ophelia by Millais
They rebeled against the standards of art being taught at the time. They wanted to make their art more detailed, with intense colors and complex compositions with a more realistic represenatation of life and nature. They also believed all arts were closely related and encouraged artists and writers to practice both art forms - though the only one successful at both was Dante Gabriel Rosetti. And because of this interrelation of the arts, they drew much of their subject matter from literature, such as Shakespeare, Keats, Tennyson, and the Bible.

The Lady of Shallot by Waterhouse
I think it is this intermingling of literature and visual arts that is part of what drew me in at a young age. The first Pre-Rahpaelite images I saw were in my mother's college art books, and the subject matter came from Tennyson's Idylls of the King and Hamlet. These pictures were stunning illustrations of the Arthurian legends and Shakespear's and characters that I already knew well.

The first to really catch my eye were various renditions of Ophelia, and The Lady of Shallot. But my favorite was Dante's Dream, by Dante Gabriel Rosetti.

Dante's Dream by Rosetti
I truly love almost every Pre-Raphaelite painting I see; but I seem to gravitate most to Waterhouse. I love his Shakespeare paintings, those based on Tennyson and mythological characters. It is as if he plucked images straight from my mind.

There is, however, one particular Pre-Raphaelite painting that I hate - The Scapegoat by William Holman Hunt. I saw this one in my mom's art books as a child, and had an instant negative feeling toward it. Something about this image has always made me feel ill.

The Scapegoat by Hunt
As I mentioned earlier, the Pre-Raphaelites also embraced the literary arts. My favorite poet is Christina Rosetti, and my favorite of her poems is The Goblin Market. I also particularly love her Monna Innominata: a Sonnet of Sonnets - in fact, I used parts of this poem in my wedding vows.

Goblin Market - poem by Christina Rosetti,
illustration by Dante Gabriel Rosetti

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Spooky Kids' Movies that Have Better Messages than Disney Movies

These days, Disney has a choke-hold on children's movies. All little girls get sucked into the Plastic Pink Princess Phase. And the little boys are all Buzz, Woody or Lightening McQueen.

I personally think the Princesses are evil. For the most part they are all beautiful teens who can't seem to cope with life unless the handsome prince comes to save them. Everything revolves around finding the right boy who will make your life happy - and to do so, you need to be beautiful. Not a message I want my daughter growing up believing.

The boy characters aren't that much better.

Disney movies are the gateway to a yuppie, Stepford existence. Everyone is mostly white, rich, and tends to get what they want. And the bad guys are the ones who dare not to conform to society.

I have always been a fan of horror/monster movies. My mother tells me that when I was two, I saw The Wizard of Oz for the first time and though the Wicked Witch of the West scared me, I would not let her turn it off. And so it began...

As a child my aunt used to take me to see Godzilla films, and watched many of the Harryhausen and other creature features with me. I also used to watch Hitchcock and the Twilight Zone with my grandmother. By the time I was in 4th grade, I was sneaking and watching slasher movies, like A Nightmare on Elm Street.

Naturally, growing up in a home filled with bats, skulls, spider webs and Living Dead Dolls - and a sizeable collection of horror movies - my children wish to watch scary things as well. Obviously, most horror films are not appropriate for the younger children, so here is a list of those I feel are appropriate for younger audiences and won't upset my children too badly.

Better still, these spooky movies have a much better message than the Disney movies. The characters come from the fringes, they are smart, resourceful and believe in themselves. And often, it is the girl saving the day.

*Note: I am a bit lenient when it comes to ratings. I have no problem letting my little ones watch some PG-13 films.

When my children were approximately one, I began showing them Nightmare Before Christmas. Needless to say, it became an instant favorite. They have both grown up with a love for Jack Skellington. In fact, my son's first year of trick or treating, he dressed as Jack, and my daughter as Sally.

In this film, Jack nearly allows his arrogance to destroy life as we know it. It is Sally, one of the average village citizens, who saves the day. She summons up the courage to face Oogy Boogy and rescue Santa. Sally's resourcefulness and bravery save Jack from himself.

Keeping with the Tim Burton stop-motion animation theme, they soon discovered - and loved - The Corpse Bride. While not as amazing as Nightmare, this movie is a lot of fun and has many loveable dead characters, as well as some wonderful Danny Elfman music.

In this film, it is the seemingly rich aristocracy who causes the problems. Victoria's family is greedy and schemes to have her marry Victor for his family's money. Lord Barkis is also motivated by greed. Victor is rather spineless and does what he's told by mostly everyone; and when he decides not to listen, he's sneaky. It's Emily, the Corpse Bride, who overcomes all the awfulness that's happened to her - being killed, having Victor run out on her - to show true compassion and to save everyone with selfless sacrifice.

A bit scarier is Neil Gaiman's Coraline, another stop-motion animation film, done in a dark style like the two previous movies. Coraline is not for children who scare easily or are prone to nightmares from things they've watched. Children of some friends have had issues with this movie until they were closer to 8.

Coraline is a unique girl who moves to a new home and is left to her own resources while her parents are consumed by their work. She is lured into a trap by the Other Mother, but rather than succumb to her will, Coraline fights back. Her bravery in the face of mortal peril and her ability to outwit the Other Mother not only saves her life, but also sets free the spirits of the Other Mother's previous victims.

Another Neil Gaiman story made movie (by the Jim Henson Company) that we love is Mirrormask. Helena Campbell is sucked into a creepy world of light and shadows, where everyone wears masks, and fantastical creatures roam. She is mistaken for the Shadow Queen's daughter who has stolen the magical charm of the Queen of Light to take Helena's place in the real world. Helena must find the charm, escape the Queen of Shadows and restore life to the Queen of Light. Like the three previous heroines, Helena uses her brains and bravery to save the day. She doesn't need her male companion, Valentine, to save her; in fact, she saves him.

The Jim Henson Company also made two other magically creepy children's movies: Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal.

In Labyrinth, Sarah starts off as a self-important, angsty teen who throws a tantrum and wishes her baby brother into the hands of the Goblin King. She must go "through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered"  and  fight her way to the castle beyond the Goblin City to take back the child. This adventure helps her find herself and grow up when she realizes that she controls her own destiny.

The females are not the protagonist(s) in The Dark Crystal, but without them, Jen would never compete his mission of healing the Dark Crystal and bringing peace to the land. Kira is a loving, kind and generous spirit; and Aughra is wise and brave. The combination of these two females and their strengths are what guide Jen through the perils thrown at him by the Skeksis and enable him to fulfill the prophecy.

These movies are very imaginative, artistic and somewhat scary. They all have strong female characters and a better message for children than those simpering twit Disney Princesses.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Goth Challenge, Day 23 (part 1)

Day 23 – Your favourite artist or photographer.

I've decided to split this into two separate posts - favorite artist/photographer (more  modern) and favorite artist/art movement (classical).

My favorite contemporary photographer/artist is Darla Teagarden. The lovely and talented Ms. Teagarden has lived an interesting and eccentric life, and her experiences combined with her natural talent have created an outstanding mixed media artist.

Darla Teagarden

A bit about Darla Teagarden (from her official bio):
  • Darla began as stylist in San Francisco in the 1990s and then for FAD Magazine in Île-de-France.
  • She became a historical cabaret dancer for the Goethe Institute of San Francisco portraying a Wiemar dancer named, Anita Berber. These series of productions, Staring German singer Nina Hagen, were choreographed by Martha Graham, Marni Wood, and directed by Voluptuous Panic author, Mel Gordan.
  • Darla was also a part-time production designer, vintage clothing buyer , published writer, a part-time model in both the United States and Germany.
  • In 2003 she delved into mixed media on canvas showing in New Orleans' French Quarter, New York's Woodstock Art Fest and Austin, Texas Continental Gallery, Gallery Lombardi and Guadalupe Gallery. 
  • By March 2007, she was lead to photography and began mixing her trades and interests into one medium. 
Doll Maker, Christy Kane by Darla Teagarden
    • Each image tells a personal dream - story but also leaves the viewer room to impart their own experience and ideas...a cross between perceptual and conceptual.
    • Her images hark back to souvenir portraiture, theatrical vignettes and even the art of window display.  
    • These scenes are accomplished largely by hand: drawn backgrounds, painted mythical body, and paper clothing or up-cycled materials 
    • Her images are primarily inspired by children's literature, her work in theatre arts, pop surrealism, and in part, the Southern Gothic genre. 
    Liz McGrath, Artist and
    Singer for Miss Derringer
    by Darla Teagarden
    I have had the pleasure of knowing Darla Teagarden for the better part of the past decade. She is one of the most amazing people I have ever known. She is also a caring and supportive friend.

    It was an exciting time when she began mixing photography with her other artistic skills. Those of us who knew her got to see her talent blossoming and we all knew it wouldn't be long before she'd become a well-known name in the art world. Sure enough, she's been appearing in art galleries, magazines and Web sites with more frequency and each time with a higher profile.

    In the fall of 2007, I visited Darla in Austin with some mutual friends and was fortunate enough to have some pictures done by her.

    Take some time and peruse the beauty on her Web site: - you won't regret it!

      Wednesday, October 5, 2011

      Goth Children's Books

      As Halloween approaches, many bookstores stock up on the more spooky children's books. This is a great time to augment the bookshelves of your baby bats at home.

      My children are 6 1/2 and 4 1/2, so we don't have many past the 4th grade level yet (aside from my large personal collection of books). This post contains books good for up to a first grade level (at least in our house) to read on their own.

      I've ordered the books from easiest reading to more advanced.

      My youngest loves reading Monster Town by Ryan Heska. This book follow a young vampire boy on a tour through his home, Monster Town. The colorful illustrations depict the inhabitants, like the Ghost Writers at the news paper, Dr. Mummy the vetrinarian, and the Giant Squid, proprietor of the local cafe.

      "In the cold gray tomb, there was a gravestone and a black lagoon, and a picture of ...." Goodnight Goon by Michael Rex is a playful parody on the chidren's classic, Goodnight Moon, in which a young werewolf is getting ready for bed surrounded by classic horror icons. The illustrations are make what may initially seem scary to children something fun.

      Another playfully dark Michael Rex book is his parody of Runaway Bunny, called Runaway Mummy. It shows that even scary monsters like mummies can be a loving and good family.

      The Spider and the Fly illustrated by Tony DiTerlizzi (author of the Spidewick Chronicles). The book is made to look like silent black and white film set in a Victorian doll house. The tale by Mary Howitt is timeless and teaches a good lesson, but the illustrations are what really make it engaging. My children have spent hours just looking at the pictures in this book.

      Step right up and enter the Creature Carnival by Marilyn Singer and Gris Grimly. This trip through the traveling side show introduces children to fantastic mythological and fabled creatures, such as the Lochness Monster, Sirens, the Minotaur and Anansi. The story and pictures have a playful yet macabre air about them. There are more Gris Grimly books in my children's future.

      Hipira the Little Vampire by Katsuhiro Otomo is a lot of fun. This book is presented in comic book style and contains several stories in which Hipira, a  little vampire boy and his best friend, a sprite named Soul get into all sorts of harmless mischief. While there is no real message in this book, it is pure fun, and a great way to introduce your little ones to vampires.

      Cinderella Skeleton by Robert D. San Souci takes the classic tale of Cinderella casts it with the undead and transports it to a graveyard setting. The story is presented in a collection of sonnets and shows the skeletons can be as wonderful as you and me.

      Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich and Frankenstein Takes the Cake, both by Adam Rex. These whimsical books are filled with short stories, poems and songs all with classic monster themes and accompanied by original artwork. When we first got this, we had to read it to Lily every night for months. Even now, three years later, she still frequently reads this book before bed.