Monday, 31 October 2011

Reading and Writing.

This is one of those spur-of-the-moment posts. It's not coming from good feelings, to be honest, but I'll try to keep it as light-hearted as possible.

When I think of my childhood, reading is one of the first things that come to mind. In primary, I was the books kid. I was the kid who learnt to read early and stayed ahead from there on in. I was the kid who found writing fun, and consistently got top grades in creative writing or English pieces. I was the kid who, in year two, would randomly walk out of the classroom the second the teacher's back was turned, run off down the corridor to the bookcase, plonk herself down on the floor and start reading. A couple of years later, I was the kid who'd have to be forcibly dragged out of the library, and who would take a book off a shelf whilst standing in the dinner queue, never getting deterred by the  fact that she'd have to grudgingly put it back after a minute or so when everyone moved forward. I was the kid who, in year six, would pull a book out of her bag and start reading in class whenever the work got too boring (and then get verbally bollocked into next week by the teacher).

Then, in year seven, I attempted to write books, some fact, some fiction, and, after religiously writing at least a page a night, I actually managed to finish one, although nothing ever came of it. I also regularly read the textbooks on teaching and disability in my school's Student Support area, because the vast majority of the fiction was so far below my level I just could not muster up any interest in it. In year eight, I submitted an autobiographical piece of writing to a child psychologist, who was writing a book about autism as seen from the perspective of children on the spectrum, and was happy to see it make the final cut. Around this time, I started doing patches of creative writing for fun.

When people asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up, my answer would always be some variation on 'writer'.

Now, I'm...

I can't exactly pin down when things changed, but they did. They did so damn much. I can only suppose that when I got... whatever I got... around the middle of year nine, and my motivation to work began to wane, my motivation to write did too. It's been so, so long now since I wrote bits of fiction just for the fun of it. I still have ideas, but they never seem to make it to paper like they used to. As for reading, well, there's been a couple of years now where it's taken me ages to get round to reading anything, and even longer to actually read it. I'm gradually getting better on that front, but considering reading used to be something I just did all the time, the fact that I've spent vast swathes of the last two or three years just 'not in the mood'... I just don't know how it happened.

My current environment hasn't helped. At least, with Wyvern, I had my English GCSE coursework (most pieces of which I got an A* for), and the school newspaper, which I wrote for multiple times over the course of the year. Even the final exam allowed me to be creative, and I actually had fun as I answered the final question with a surreal fantasy short story. Itchen? Nothing. I applied to write for the newsletter, but this time I just had no motivation, and ended up writing my entry at the absolute last minute. It didn't get included, probably because it was rushed, possibly because it wasn't suitable, and I never made an effort to get a second chance. I don't really have any creative subjects, either. Teaching To Exams is one of the biggest problems with the current education system, and English lang/lit is one of the worst casualties. You hardly ever get a chance to experiment or be creative on this course. Everything's about the exam, and the real objective seems to be learning to write what the examiner wants to read. It's dry, businesslike, and joyless.

I was supposed to be going on a creative writing course last July, but that fell through. My lack of organisation has a lot to answer for, really.

Anyway, today my best friend started talking to be about the novel she's randomly decided to write, and it struck me just how much I want to reverse whatever went wrong. The one thing I was naturally really good at and I've just... done next to nothing with it for two years or so. To be honest, writing is still what I really want to do as a career, no matter what other plans I make, and it's looking as though my feelings that I'd 'lost the knack' when it comes to writing might not be as accurate as I'd thought. Last week, my history teacher complimented me on my 'fluent' writing style. I almost died of shock. I had been convinced that I wasn't good at it anymore, it's starting to look like I might be wrong.

I am gradually turning things around. I have taken A level Journalism, even though it might never get me anywhere, because it's what I wanted (although it's turned out this first year will be all about Radio, and I won't actually get to write anything until next year). I have entered a poetry competition. For the first time in ages, I'm reading regularly for fun. However, the fact that I'm having to put effort into this at all is a bit of a downer, really.

The seven year old kid who used to sit in the corner of the class with a book in her hand, enjoy writing poems, and look forward to visits to the local library? I miss her. I want her back.        

Now, I did say I'd make this light-hearted, and I'm not sure I've managed that, so here's some fluff to finish off. I have a confession: I've been watching the Moomins, not out of nostalgia, but because that show is just too cute. And the artwork's pretty. And it has whimsical charm and blah blah blah. Basically, I watch it for the same reason a baby watches when you dangle a really shiny necklace in front of it's face. It's what I have instead of a lava lamp.

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The Goth Challenge- Day 18: Worst Hair Experience?: 

Oh, there's no question about this. My worst hairdo is late 2008 to mid 2010.

Right, to clarify, my hair is stupidly thick and naturally wavy, and it long ago decided that it wasn't going to take any orders from the likes of me. My hair does what it likes. I can tie it back or put it up, but it will battle styling products like no-one's business, it took serious cunning to get it to accept black dye rather than chuck half of it out during the first wash, and I'm yet to see straighteners have any effect on it besides 'horrible'.

When it's long, this doesn't matter, because long thick wavy hair looks nice. When my hair is long, like it is now, I see it as my best feature. No, the problems came when I, aged thirteen and deciding a change would be nice, decided to cut it down, in a couple of stages, from chest-length to chin-length.

It wasn't having that.

I'd hoped to straighten my newly short hair into a nice sleek bob. What I got, no matter how thorough I was with the straighteners, was the revolting, mud-eating twin of this:

Once or twice, I tried to solve the problem by adding a layer. All that did was give me Miss Hoolie with a slight edge of James May.

It took me a long time to realise that there was just no way my hair was going to look decent below shoulder length, and even once I'd decided to grow it back out, it took forever to get down to a good length, as though it was trying to punish me for getting uppity with it.

It couldn't hold off forever, though. (Excuse pyjamas, the wonderful background of Shower Screen, and fact that I had to pull a stupid trick with two mirrors to get my phone at the right angle).

(Once, when it was about shoulder length, I tried to backcomb it It stayed put for about half an hour before deciding that anti-gravity wasn't its cup of tea, ta very much, and falling back down).  

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Questions 14- 17

I have four posts coming up that I can't really attach questionnaire questions to. One because it's my official Autistics Speaking Day post, and three because they're, well, you'll see, but trust me when I say that tacking my witterings about the Goth subculture onto the bottom of them would be not only horribly out of place, but plain disrespectful.


Just call this post the Home for abandoned questions.

Day 14 – What was your best and worst DIY disaster?:
Worst- My tattered umbrella. I went a bit overboard, and it wasn't until I actually tried to walk around with it that I realised breaking bits of the frame instead of sticking to tearing the canvas probably wasn't such a great idea. The tears themselves don't look particularly good either- too clean. It wasn't a terrible effort, but it didn't come out how I'd hoped, and I fully intend to have another crack at the whip at some stage. 
Best- What I now refer to as simply 'the green thing'. It used to be a lime green long sleeved top, but over the Summer I dug it out of the wardrobe, cut off the sleeves and most of the trim, and after much deliberation, decided to cut large triangle shapes out of the sides, and a small diamond shape out of the back just below te neckline, and zigzagged the hem. I never imagined it to actually turn out alright- even as I was cutting it I wasn't sure what I was doing was really a good idea- but it has. It's a nightmare to put on, as it's basically nothing but strips of fabric, but it's turned out exactly how I wanted it to, if not better. 
I'm also proud of the fact that the first time I changed an entire set of buttons on a shirt, they came out perfectly in line and functional. Truth be told, I'd fully expected to cock up. 

Day 15- Your favourite or most expensive item in your wardrobe?: 

Most expensive? Easy enough, my current pair of boots cost £100-and-stupid, although to be fair, they're hopefully going to last me two or three years. Can't really choose a favourite though, partly because my taste in clothes jumps about a bit (I'm one of those whatever-Goths who won't stick with one style for more than five minutes at a time), and partly because I've found that my 'favourite' always seems to be whichever DIY attempt I've recently managed to pull off. 

I do have a pair of earrings I made out of two beads and some craft wire that look really nice, though. 

Day 16- What's the most casual you've ever dressed?: 

What... ever? In my life (or at least, my life after I was old enough to have some kind of personal style)? Well, when I was about ten, eleven, twelve I was quite tomboyish, and mostly stuck to jeans, trainers and an ordinary top, with no makeup and very little jewellery, so... probably something from that general time period. I feel I should probably post a photo of eleven year old tomboy-me, but I don't really have time right now to go rummaging around in search of a good example. I'll see if I can get my hands on one for the 'post a picture for every year/month you've been in the subculture' question. 

Day 17- Your favourite Goth brand?:  

I don't generally have much in the way of brand loyalty, but if to name the few that catch my eye more than most...

New Rock- ClicheClicheFuckingClicheOnAPenny-Farthing. But it's true, they have never failed me. 

Alchemy- I do believe I mentioned the way flicking through one of their catalogues turned me, for ten minutes, into a three year old visiting Toys R Us for the first time- at Christmas, after drinking an entire bottle of Sunny Delight. Again, Cliche, I know. But to be honest, I don't care. 

Also, I'm generally not the type to bother with expensive jewellery. The way I see it, why bother spending £50 on a ring, when you can pick up something just as nice for under a fiver at a Charity Shop or cheap mainstream shop, or in one of the little Hippy junk shops you find dotted around most major cities? So the fact that I'm impressed enough by Alchemy to consider spending £20 or more on one of their necklaces says a lot about them, I feel. 

And to bring this either down into the realm of the mallgoth or across to the Metal and Hard Rock subcultures, depending on your perspective... Spiral. Why? They have more T-shirts, jumpers and tops emblazoned with fantasy artwork than you could shake a stick at, and I love wearing fantasy art. I looked in my wardrobe a while ago, and discovered that almost  all of the T-shirts I'd bought from alt clothing shops during my babybat years (Oh, OK, I do still visit them from time to time) were by Spiral. I hadn't done that intentionally, I'd never paid any attention whatsoever to the label on the clothes I was buying, but it was clear that Spiral clothing had just kept catching my eye again and again, and I'd be lying if I said that had changed. The designs are pretty, and I'm enough of a geek to wear them in public. I regret nothing. 

Monday, 24 October 2011

Shamelessly plugging things.

Well, almost three weeks after ordering it, my top hat hasn't turned up. I've reordered using express delivery, which is a bit more expensive but I'm not running the risk of having this one go AWOL too, and once I'd done that, I messaged the company, which wasn't easy. There doesn't seem to be an adequately formal-but-friendly way of saying "I'd quite like to recieve some compensation, but i won't kick up a strop if this can't be done." It appears my message was coherent enough, though, because I've just had another email come through saying I've been fully reimbursed and my new order is on it's way. I'll go and thank them in a minute...

So, it looks like all's well that ends well, but I'm still not impressed, Royal Mail.

I'm also not impressed with you, Depressiveness. OK, maybe telling the Doctor that I thought I was over this lapse was like holding up a sign asking you to pop up the following morning all "Only joking, I'm still here!" but nonetheless... you are such a Motherfucker.

Speaking of aforementioned Doctor, it's looking like I've found one who's willing to take me seriously. Huzzah!

One of the footpaths behind my house couldn't actually be walked down due to overgrown bushes, so today, in full Responsible Citizen mode, I wandered off down there with some secateurs and a garden bag. I won the ensuing woman-vs-shrubbery battle, but suffered terrible wounds (well, I got scratched a bit and the secateurs rubbed some skin off my thumb) for my efforts.

Flipped through a friend's Alchemy Jewellery catalogue. Once I stopped making moon eyes long enough to engage my brain, I decided that if I ever win an insane amount on the premium bonds, I'll buy the entire contents.

Feeding the neighbour's cats this week... and just like the last time, I started off the stint by putting the food in the water bowl by mistake, and then spending the next ten minutes shamefacedly scooping it out and mopping the floor. **sigh**

Wait- what was I talking about again?

Oh, yeah. Radio shows!

I have a new Sunday morning routine. I set my alarm for just before Six in the morning, bully myself awake (and nip downstairs to make a cup of tea if I have time), turn on my computer, load up my Itunes, click on KUCI live streaming, and listen to the Black Cauldron and the Heart Beats Machine. Two radio shows, one directly after the other, that play a wide variety Goth, Darkwave, and Industrial music. The early start is because the station, KUCI, is based in California, which is a full 8 hours behind me in terms of time. It may be silly o'clock for me, but for the vast majority of the audience, it's evening or night.

OK, so the fact that I'm willingly getting up with the lark on a Sunday is making me seriously doubt my own sanity, and I am yet to perfect the art of not nodding off during the ad breaks and missing bits, but to be honest I think the effort's worth it. In just three weeks of listening, several bands and songs I hadn't been aware of previously crept into my radar.

(Unnecessary spammage just for the sake of proving my point in 3, 2, 1...)

Die Form: I hadn't heard of them prior to the Heart Beats Machine, but they caught my ear instantly. This particular song got downloaded almost straight away.

I'd listened to The Birthday Massacre casually for a while, but I hadn't come across this song before. I'm now hopelessly in love with it. 

Somehow, I'd managed to remain ignorant of Diary of Dreams' existence up until I heard them on the Black Cauldron. I'm pretty glad that's changed, because this band is awesome. 

Tired as I was when I first heard this song this morning, I fell in love with it instantly, and fully intend to check out the band properly sometime soon. 

Another find from this morning: I'm not usually a big fan of lyrics as misanthropic as these ones are, but I just couldn't help but like this song. It's catchy, it's funnier than it should be, it's original... I'll probably have this playing on a loop for a while, whether I like it or not. 

So, while I can't expect everyone to be as enthusiastic about this find as I am (let's face it, early starts on Sundays aren't fun), I will say that if anyone reading this is into goth music and finds themselves awake and at a loose end during the early hours of Sunday morning... tune in. These two shows are well worth a listen.

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

This is cliched as hell, but it was a Marilyn Manson one. It cost £Cheap. I soon found out why. 

Seriously, within a matter of months it was full of near-unreparable holes. Not fun. 

Friday, 14 October 2011


So... I turned eighteen today- well, technically yesterday now, and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't finding it a bit strange. 30 hours ago I was legally a minor. Now I'm... not. And it's good, because I can vote and buy things and apply for jobs that require bar service, but something's telling me it might take a bit of getting used to.

My lack of organisation really showed through today. It may be my 18th, but I didn't organise anything (although that's partly because of the lack of places in Southampton I'm actually interested in going to), and my inability to come up with present ideas means I'm now the proud owner of enough jewellery to set up a small business. Not that I'm complaining. It's all nice jewellery. :)

And yes, I did buy a bottle of beer on the way home from college today, just for the novelty of it.

In other news, I'd like to congratulate VNV Nation on being the creators of the first and only song to successfully reduce me to a crying puddle on the floor. I don't tend to cry at songs, and on the rare occasion I do it's a couple of tears and that's it. One listen of VNV Nation's Illusion, however, and I found myself having to wipe off my eye makeup because it had run and smudged all over my face in the sudden floods. That song really hit home for me in at least three different ways, probably more. The lyrics could have been said by me.

After hearing this song, I remembered something I'd heard recently about VNV Nation playing in Southampton. Deciding it would be nice to go to a gig again, I rushed to Facebook to look up the date... only to find it to be the 11th of October. In other words, two days ago.



I still don't entirely know what I'm doing with this blog, to be honest. I keep worrying that I'm talking about myself too much, which is a bit silly really. Aren't blogs the best places for that?

More objective posts might be an idea though... Hmm, I'll see.

And now, Question twelve (answered on what appears to be day sixty-one. I'm not doing very well here, am I?)

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Day 12 – What's your gothic inspiration?:

In terms of how I dress, I don't really have one. I get inspiration for that from anywhere and everywhere, and I rarely take influence from the same person twice. In terms of everything else... well, it was Jillian Venters and her pony show that first made me feel as though the Gothic subculture might actually be open to me, so I'll definitely throw her name in. Reading Gothic Charm School was what made me shift mentally from "I sometimes think I might be Goth, but I don't do A and B, I listen to band X, and I havent done K, so I can't be" to "Actually... this seems to fit and I might as well go with it." Her attitude is pretty awesome, as well. 

Sometimes I get tempted to look to Emilie Autumn for tactical reasons. I'm an asexual Goth with a weird brain; she's an allegedly asexual Goth with a weird brain. It makes too much sense to just ignore. 

And I cant really call him a 'Gothic Inspiration' so much as a general living legend who happens to play Goth-friendly music... but Mana of Malice Mizer/Moi Dix Mois fame. I have a huge amount of admiration for this guy, mainly because of how he just does things his own way. He was the bandleader of one of the most creative and theatrical bands I've ever come across, and is now making a living out of a self-indulgent pet project, coupled with the entire brand of fashion he created. Also, he's an eccentric in Japan. He lives in one of the most pro-conformity nations in the world, and he doesn't conform. There are stories of him trying to get a job in 80's Tokyo whilst sporting green hair, there are photos of him just wandering down the road crossdressed. If you read an interview with him, it becomes clear that he definitely has his own way of seeing the world and has no desire to make his music anyone else's way. Also, he explicitly said that the Visual Kei scene was a mess, so he was going to turn to clock back- a.k.a, reclaim it, rather than run away from it, which is what a lot of other artists tend to do. 

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Question 10 is a juggernaut (Question 11 comes free).

Just realised that in the last post alone, I have sentences that jump around every tense in the English language and an 'it' with two Is. So careless! I really need to start proofreading my posts...


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

Well, normally I don't make entire posts about individual questionnaire questions, but I feel I have enough to say about this one to break that rule.

Bad thing 1: Elitism: 

This probably goes without saying. We all know the types: The trigger-happy Self-Appointed Poseur Police who will take to task anyone who doesn't do things exactly the same way that they do; Playground bullies with no self-awareness who talk gleefully about how much fun it is to tear babybats to shreds, and then wonder why young people aren't joining the subculture; People who accuse emos of the same attention-seeking, faux-depressive, violent behaviour that Goths were accused of for years, and manage to not see the brain-breaking hypocrisy: People who take everything way too seriously and view liking non-Goth music and not wearing elaborate makeup every day as Treason.

You know. Idiots.

What anyone who gets hit with the 'poseur' stick has to remember is that just because the elitists see themselves as experts, it doesn't mean they actually are. In my experience, everyone has a different idea of what Goth is and isn't, and chances are the guy calling you a poseur has been accused of the same himself at some stage. You'll never please everyone, but you'll never displease everyone either.

It is worth saying that there are some things that people claim to be Goth, but aren't. The correct way to deal with this is by politely correcting them, not losing your temper as though they've just committed an act of treason.

Good thing 1: Appreciation of intelligence: 

What can I say, I love being part of a subculture where intelligence is encouraged. You're encouraged to read books, to think, to be creative, to do well in tasks you set yourself. Most people believe in basic manners, which is great. Also, as someone who has a natural tendency to use old fashioned, technical, or otherwise 'low frequency' words, sayings and phrasings in her everyday vocabulary, it's nice to have a subculture where that's not really frowned upon.

... and theres not much more I can say about that, so moving on...

Bad thing 2: Beauty standards (Or something to that effect, anyway...):

This is the big one, but despite this I'm having trouble putting it into words. I'm afriad this is one of those cases where I know what I mean... but can't quite nail down a decent explanation. It's all I'll be able to do to make this make sense, to be honest. If you're reading... good luck, because you'll need it.

Here's the long and short of it: I'm one of those social justice types who has a very left wing, very sociology-based, and very feminist view of society. Most Goths, as in most sections of society... don't, and occasionally I come across things that everyone else seems to be fine with, but which I see as problematic or can't relate to, and feel... I don't know, maybe a little cut off, or like a killjoy. Take Monster High Dolls. I first came across them on another forum, and the OP was complaining about them, for the same reasons people complain about Bratz dolls. Toys that teach little girls that looking sexy and getting guys are the most important things in the world, you know the drill. Anyway, I basically agreed with him/her- it's hard to not raise an eyebrow at a werewolf doll who's backstory includes her giggling about how she spends all day removing body hair, when the product is going to be sold to girls who aren't even in a position to shave yet. I wondered what the hell were the company had been thinking, and decided that these dolls weren't something I'd ever give a child.

Later on, I began to notice that a few other Goths were mentioning Monster High Dolls on their blogs, and they all thought they were the coolest things ever and wanted to buy one. I don't have any problems at all with the last bit- you can't object to an adult buying something to stick on the windowsill, but the former... I don't get it. Does nobody else see that there's something a little bit screwed up in society if dolls who exist solely to look sexy are being sold to six year olds?

Another example. The overuse of models. I surely can't be the only person who thinks professionally developed images featuring equally professional models are used to represent Goth too much, and is slightly worried that this is setting up a beauty standard? I mean, I don't object to people using models where it's appropriate, but a lot of the time they use them where they could just as easily have used... anyone. An elaborately dressed and perfectly airbrushed model. A plain Casual goth in jeans and a T-shirt. A bearded forty year old man. A fourteen year old girl who hasn't quite got the makeup down yet. All these people. A big group of people of various shapes and sizes, some elaborately dressed, some not. Some with perfect hair and makeup, some with no makeup or untidy hair. Some fat, some thin, some short, some tall... I suppose what I'm basically saying here is that I wish a much wider cross-section of the subculture was used on blogs and in videos. By using just the 'perfect people' in everything, whether it's necessary or not, you risk setting up a beauty standard that is difficult or impossible for many people to attain, and if that happens there's likely to be people, particularly younger people, being made to feel as though the way they look isn't good enough, or that they're letting the side down or failing miserably because they can't get their lipstick to go right. And that's a trap I'd quite like the Goth subculture to not fall into.

Good thing 2: The fun of it.

There's a reason I eventually caved in and self-identified as Goth. I love the music, for a start. I love Bauhaus. I love the Cure. I love the Cruxshadows more and more every day. I have what it takes to love Sopor Aeturnus and her lyrical weirdness, to the stage where I have, in the past, got Feralia Genitalia stuck in my head and worried I'd end up wandering around college singing under my breath about my genitals falling off.

I love doing DIY jobs on my clothes. Slashing an old T-shirt to bits, changing buttons, adding chains, making kitschy jewellery out of craft shop compartments or bits of stationery. I'm a womble these days. I pick things up in shops of all sorts, markets, the kitchen drawer, and wonder what I can do with them. I even caught myself looking at a bit of synthetic hair that had fallen out of my friend's Lady Gaga wig and wondering if I could make use of it (I couldn't, surprisingly enough :p).

I love the clothes.

I love things that tend to get written off as scary or strange. I love weird things mainly because they're weird. Hell, I found myself looking at Malice Mizer with flying saucer eyes the first time I came across them age fourteen, because I hadn't seen anything like them before, and I loved that.

Some people say Goth is a mindset, others don't, I'm personally on the fence. However, when I hear people define 'the Goth mindset', I can often relate to it very well. Seeing good things where others don't. Being introspective and interested in psychological matters. Being creative. Having at least a slight pretentious streak (although I do try to keep her quiet and out of bother).

There's a subculture where I can be a tea addict and like anachronisms, and that's OK. I can also use words like 'anachronism' without worrying everyone will think I'm some horrible snob.

I daresay a lot of people would have me down as a poser. I could never really get into the Sisters, I'm yet to go to a Goth club, and I've never read Poe outside an English lesson (not because I dislike his works, it's mainly because I prefer long books with complex plots to short stories. There's a lot to admire about Poe, but in a contest between him and the latest Discworld/China Mieville doorstopper/bit of Neil Gaiman bizarroness, or a book with more social commentary than the entire 1960's packed between it's pages, he comes off worse). I don't worry about that too much any more though, partly for the resons I detailed in my first point, partly because I know that Goth is just me. And I love it.

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As I've taken so bloody long to update yet again (it's hard to ignore the fact that my EPQ exists), I've decided to throw Question 11 in here as well.

Day 11- Is Goth a lifestyle for you?:

I'll say yes to this one, simply because there's never a day when I'm "Not a Goth". For that to happen, my entire set of likes and dislikes would have to radically change for a day. The way I see it, even when I'm sat in my pyjamas listening to/watching/reading something very un-gothy, I'm a Goth.