Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Review: Rock of Ages

You could say that Rock&Roll runs in my blood. My first CD I ever received from my mother included classics like Iron Man by Black Sabbath and Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin. My grandfather was known throughout the campus at which he worked for building speakers and then testing them, loudly, with classic rock. While my own tastes steer me toward the dark, spooky, and, well, Gothic, I still like to rock out sometimes. While I'm not a movie buff in the slightest, I knew I had to see the new movie Rock of Ages when it came out. You may have seen commercials for it, but if not, here's the video:

The movie is based on a broadway musical and stars such talent as Tom Cruise (in a bizarre and out of place call back to when he could actually act), Catherine Zeta-Jones, Alec Baldwin, Russell Brand, and some people I've never heard of. The story goes as follows: there's a new girl in town who meets a guy and they start to get along. Unfortunately, there's a huge misunderstanding and she leaves him. He takes the chance for fame, finds out its not all it cracks up to be, they meet up again and actually talk about the big misunderstanding and everything is happy and rainbows forever.

I'm not spoiling too much, am I? I shouldn't be, if you've watched a romantic comedy in the past five years. So what makes it different? In a rather Glee-like turn of events, the movie gets it claim to fame with the entire cast bursting out into covers of awesome rock songs. There's covers of Joan Jett, Journey, Styx, Def Leppard, and Twisted Sister, among others. While I'm not exactly a connoisseur of vocal talent, I enjoyed the music. They didn't mangle the songs too much, but managed to make them appealing to a more pop-loving audience (honestly, it's probably what you and I sound like when we sing Metallica in the shower. Don't tell me you don't.)

The acting, as I alluded to above, was not terrible in the slightest. Tom Cruise in particular played an excellent drug-addled rock star Stacee Jaxx and Alec Baldwin's "by gone" rocker was funny. However, I have most of my love reserved for the script. It was funny. Rock&Roll allusions. One particular bit that made me silent clap in my seat and almost spill my (smuggled in) Mike&Ikes was a play on a Journey lyric by the main male lead, played by Diego Boneta. He tells the female lead that he has been working on a song for her and breaks out into an acoustic version of Don't Stop Believing by Journey. "For a smile they can share the night" he croons as she smiles dopily at him. However, it's a work in progress so he breaks off mid lyric to mumble apologetically "and it goes on and on and on" which, for those of you unfamiliar with the song, are actually the next lyrics. Very clever, very well played.

I have a huge gripe, however, with how the female characters were dressed. I understand that they have to make it appeal to a modern audience (and that some 80's clothing isn't exactly flattering and sexy) but the female Rock&Roll girls look like what Forever 21 thinks Rock&Roll clothing looks like. It was very modern and de-fanged, if you know what I mean. However, the whole movie does have a "de-fanged" feel to it so I suppose it's appropriate. I know you have to somewhat modify the Rock scene to appeal to a wider audience, but for those of us who love Rock at its grittiest it can be frustrating.

Overall, though, I liked Rock of Ages. It turned out to be an amusing little romp through some great songs. Have any of you seen it? What did you think?

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Is Goth A Choice: Your Thoughts

Thank you all very much for your understanding about the events in my current life. It's been a little rough but I think I'm ready to get back into the swing of things. With that, I'd like to take the time to reflect on the results of the poll I set up last time and muse a little bit. As of three o'clock this afternoon, the poll results are as follows:

At time of posting, 85 people have participated in the poll. The majority of my readers believe that being Goth is a combination of decision/choice and nature, or something you can't help. To be honest, that's about what I expected. However, I didn't expect some of the thought provoking comments on the post (shame on me!) and I'd like to reflect on some and respond.

I believe Gin had a great point in her comment when she said that Goth is "it's simply a word that makes it easier to describe ones self." It, to me, evokes that notion that we as a subculture have been pushing that says that you shouldn't have to try to be a Goth. You either are, or you aren't, just by your actions. In the same vein, Morticia Merle says "I do think however, that you can choose whether you do or don't wan't to be labeled AS a Goth or not." Unless you happen to be Andrew Eldritch, you might find that a great many people will respect your desires to not be a part of the subculture. Of course, others may not, but it's not like their opinion matters that much anyway, right? Julietslace discusses those "NotAGoth" people in her response: "I know a few people who could easily call themselves Goth based on their taste but simply don't. I think you have to consider yourself Goth to be Goth, along with music taste etc etc." This is definitely true, so the consensus here that being Goth starts out as an uncontrollable tendency toward elements of Goth and then the decision of actually accepting the Goth label.

On the other hand, Charlotte the Terrible calls it an issue of "nurture more than nature", which is equally valid. Often times, people's likes and dislikes are linked to memory and association. If, for example, I heard The Cure playing sometime while I was happy, it would follow that hearing The Cure would bring back that good memory and make me happy again. For myself, that works out perfectly as my mother is a lover of Goth music and was before I was even born.

I am glad some of you brought up what happens when you do not act on your desires. While for some, as Jade says, do it to avoid conflict (very reasonable in your circumstances, dear,) it can cause conflict of its own. People pick up on your "weirdness", no matter what you express on your outside, so the best thing you can do is try to be happy with who you are (Goth or not.) Merrihel Wednesday points that out, and I thank her for it.

The article itself, for the sake of clarity, was not discussing taking "off days" from the subculture, but rather about taking days off when you don't want to fuss about with your wardrobe. I just kind of latched onto that one sentence. I apologize for any confusion on that part, and urge you to read the article if it's available to you. It does make some lovely points.

Bridget and June however, I think sum up my whole thought on the issue: it's an issue of happiness. Whether you consider yourself a born-Goth or a born-again-Goth, as long as you're happy to be in or out of the subculture, that's all that matters.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Personal Update

On June 16th there was a death in my family, which has taken its toll on all of us. In order to get away and do my private mourning, I'm not staying in my house for a while and am instead living with my grandmother a few towns over. While my last post was pre-planned, I'm finding it hard to come up with the proper inspiration for a follow up with all of your opinions. I thank you for taking part and please rest assured that I have read all of them and do plan to respond at a later date. For now, though, I am going to be taking this day off and hope to get back into the swing of things this Saturday so we can get back on track. Thank you very much for understanding.

-Mary Rose

Friday, June 15, 2012

Poll: Is Goth a choice?

I'm an avid reader of Gothic Beauty Magazine. Cover to cover, I devour all it's articles and reviews. A good chunk of my iPod is from recommendations I received through music reviews, whereas my wishlist often has a fair few items from the ads in the magazine. Some of the articles are extremely thought provoking and I'd like to discuss something mentioned in this past issue.

Source: Gothic Beauty

The article in question was "Gothic Off Days" by Gail Brasie, an interesting look at what we can do to make being Goth (particularly dressing the part) seem like less of a chore on "off days." While the article itself is interesting and informative, I found one bit that was more thought provoking than the rest. Brasie says, on page ten, "This article is to help remind you that being Goth is a choice..." Well, is it? Really? I'd like to discuss that with you today.

My knee jerk reaction to this question was a resounding no, but I think that also has to do with what I think Goth is, at it's center. Goth is a matter of taste. Taste in music, clothes, literature, whatever your preferred definition is. Personally, I didn't chose to like Depeche Mode or corsets. I just do. There are some things I definitely can't control about my relationship with Goth music, particularly. My mother, an ex-Goth, listened to The Cure and Bauhaus all the time at home while I was growing up. I now consider that music comforting because it was what I listened to at a happy time in my life.

On the other hand, one might argue that it's a choice that I act upon these desires, thus making myself a Goth. I find this argument slightly flimsy because I don't know anyone who just says "no, I'm not going to listen to the music that I like" and makes that decision. Of course, those people probably exist somewhere, but they're definitely in the minority. Then again, if someone likes Goth music, prefers Black clothes, loves Gothic literature and Tim Burton movies but instead wears pastels, listens to The Beatles, reads nothing but gossip magazines and watches Oprah (for whatever reason, so long as it's a choice) can we really call them a Goth? Or, if someone doesn't like things that are considered Goth but partakes in them anyway for whatever reason (to impress someone, etc.) are they Goths?

So, readers, what do you think? Is Goth a choice or were we just born this way ?

Is Goth a Choice? free polls

Saturday, June 9, 2012

What makes a complete wardrobe?

Oof. I've just finished culling my closet and boy can fabric start to feel heavy after you've carried so many armfuls of it. Anyway, you'll be pleased to know that my closet is much less cluttered and now I'm moving onto the next phase of my wardrobe overhaul: planning and purchasing. Since I'm not on a regular income, I decided that the most efficient way to build a complete wardrobe was to plan out carefully what I needed and buy all the essentials before I start flinging around any (nonexistant) fun money. But that got me thinking: what is a complete wardrobe? What will be my essentials? Oh god, this is going to be harder than I thought.


Well, no fear! My twelve year old self's compulsion to buy books about fashion (to appease her dreams of becoming a fashion designer, bless) will help me out! I pick up the well read paper-back tome from my bookshelf and blow the dust and cobwebs off. The cover proudly proclaims that it is "The Complete Guide to Finding the Style That's Right for Your Body" by Clinton Kelly and Stacy London, Hosts of TLC's What Not to Wear. Shoving aside the issues I have had with their methodology in the past (insinuating that one of the participants looked like a prostitute, among other things) I peeled the pages apart and began to read. Aha! I found it! On the twelfth page is a big blue spread of "Essentials for Every Woman." Now let's see what they have here.

Readers, I wish I could scan the spread so you can see the horrors embedded within. Neutral trousers? Tweed skirts? Sparkly tops? Jeans? Brown bag? Brown heels? TWEED??? (Readers, I flipped to the Essentials for Every Man section and found even more horror's there! There was a suggestion, and I quote, for every man to have "six sport shirts, long or short sleeve, like polos.) The horror! THE HORROR!

Okay, enough of that drama. I wasn't exactly that shocked to see those here. And, sure, some of their examples do have a place in a Goth's wardrobe. Leather jacket? Sure thing. Black boots? Oh definitely. Black dress? Of course. But still, I had to shut the book. That wasn't what I was looking for. Apparently "Every Woman" doesn't include me. Not only do I think that trousers and jeans are beyond evil (those black jeans you saw in a previous post were casualties of the wardrobe culling), but where are the things that I consider essential? Like a well fitted bra? And a coffin shaped purse? Guess I'll have to do my own digging.

So, in the mean time, readers, what's in your "wardrobe essentials" list? What, if anything, makes Goth wardrobes different from Kelly and London's?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Red&Black Vampire Books

As a newbie blogger, I was a little taken-a-back by Red&Black Week. I've never happened on it before in my browsing, much to my shame, so I had no idea what was going on. After some scrolling back through the archives of some lovely older blogs, I finally got the hang of it. (It was after this that I discovered the Q&A page about it on Sophistique Noir's blog. Oops.) So, for my contribution, I offer you a list of some of my favorite Red&Black Vampire books!

The Deluxe Transitive Vampire by Karen Elizabeth Gordon- Yes, my first book on my vampire reading shelf isn't fiction! but it is no less a favorite of mine. If you do any amount of writing and sometimes struggle with grammar, I highly recommend this book to you. (My blog might be the exception to the rule I have for grammar checking all my writing.) The book teaches you the rules of grammar that you need to know by way of ghoulish monster-infested examples. My personal favorite is the example of a participial phrase: "Someone's been sleeping in my bed," cried the baby vampire, snuffling at his dank cradle of earth. It has a rather black sense of humor in it's lessons which, really, is the best way to teach me something ever. Very Goth appropriate! It stays on my desk because I reach for it quite often. If you'd like your own copy, you can buy it here.

Vampires by David J. Skal - This book is a series of short stories, excerpts and essays about the origins and characteristics of vampires, arranged in a rather casestudy-like form to teach the reader about our favorite bloodsucking cretins by way of side commentary with historical and cultural links. The book is thoughtfully divided into parts one (the Historical Evidence), two (Romantic & Victorian Vampires), three (Vampires in the Twentieth Century) and four (Postmodern Vampires.) In it's pages you will learn about Bela Lugosi's "real vampire romance", the various diseases that can be linked to vampirism, and a handy timeline of most of the influential vampire-related fiction from 1818 onto 1995. If you look hard enough, you might also see little nods to (or jabs at, I can never quite tell) our own little spooky subculture. You can buy it here on Amazon, if you're tempted.

100 Vicious Little Vampire Stories by Various edited by Robert Weinberh, Stfan Dziemianowicz and Martin H. Greenberg - What Goth's bookshelf is complete without a collection of short stories about vampires? Mine certainly isn't, and this collection is absolutely fabulous. The time periods of the stories range from the late Victorian to the current era, providing a fun little exercise as you try to imagine a dastardly vampire runing around in a fedora circa 1930 (or was that just me?) The thing about it, however, is that the various authors sometimes reimagine the very idea of vampires. However, luckily for us, the editors limited the book so that these reimaginings are less along the lines of brooding-disco-ball-re-imaginings and more along the lines of the vampire's primitive origins. And cannibalistic scarecrows. And possessed child spirits that like blood more than they probably should. Really, this book is awesome. If you'd like to purchase it, it's available here on Amazon.

Dracula's Brood: Neglected Vampire Classics selected and introduced by Richard Dalby - If you like vampire short stories but are less enthused by the modern writing of the above book, I strongly encourage you to have a look at Dracula's Brood. As the cover happily boasts, the author's in this short story collection range from the talents of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to M.R. James and more. The time period of the vampire stories range from the earliest in 1867 to the latest in 1940. As such, while the vampires are by no means all the same, they tend to be more in line with our traditional Romantic (with a capital R, not as in the latest Twilight-knock off romance novel) and Victorian vampires. They're nicely scenic stories, written in that evocative "paid by the word" style and the stories are not strictly terrifying, more along the lines of creepy and darkly beautiful. If you'd like a copy, you can buy it from Amazon here.

Mr. Darcy, Vampyre by Amanda Grange - I make no secret of the fact that I am not a Jane Austen fan. I've read Pride and Prejudice and Emma for my English class and found myself not entirely enthused by either. However, peculiarly, the works of Miss. Austen seem to be vastly improved by terrifying creatures of the night. Yes, I unironically enjoyed Pride and Prejudice and Zombies because I hate the characters of Austen novels and enjoy seeing them get punished for their ridiculous behavior. Now, this book came along and tried to do something vaguely similar but with Mr. Darcy as a vampire. Sorry, VampYre. The difference here is that it takes place after the ending of Pride and Prejudice, after the wedding and Mr. Darcy finds himself craving blood. It's a fun popcorn read if you're tempted and stands out above the other Pride and Prejudice "Darcy is a Vampire" reboots (seriously, I have four in my house.) You can buy it here on Amazon if you like.

The New Annotated Dracula by Bram Stoker, Leslie S. Klinger, and Neil Gaiman. I contemplated putting straight Dracula on this list because it's one of my favorite books of all time until I remembered this little gem. While you get all the content of Dracula, you also get the benefit of analysis and new tidbits of information in the margins. It's a rare annotated book that teaches me things I don't know about my favorite subjects and this book is really, really informative and also well written and entertaining. I, like many fans of the book, find all the female characters insipid and annoying so it's nice to see some sort of justification for it. Maybe I'm the only one that likes this kind of thing (I had fun doing the mandatory annotations for all my school books, so there you go) but I really do like it because I'm going to look these things up anyway so having it in the book for me is really thoughtful of the game. If you're a fan of these annotated books, you can buy it here on Amazon.

My outfit for the occasion is actually full of things that won't be in my closet in about two hours. While I enjoy the red and black color scheme, I was really into it when I had a much different style. Now I have a lot of pieces that I am donating to Thrift Stores or throwing away (depending on how beat up they are.) The blouse in this outfit is one of them because A. the plastic boning inside it is mangled beyond repair and B. I just don't like the pseudo-medieval styling of it. It feels costumy to me, and not in my Victorian/Gothic Lolita preferred direction. So, in the bin it goes. The shoes are a size too small for me and I don't wear much red/black plaid anyway, and the purse is just...hehe. Um. I'll just say that I was a very interesting babybat to enjoy a backpack made of a red heart and bat wings. Anyway, these will be gone (along with a host of other clothes) and then my purging will be complete! Next up is the ever anticipated buying part of the wardrobe overhaul. Are you as excited as I am?

Skirt: Retroscope Fashions
Blouse: Torrid
Shoes: Payless
Rings: Various
Necklace: Alchemy Gothic
Purse/backpack: Goodgoth

Disclaimer: All the editions of these books that I own have black and red covers. This may not be the case in later or earlier editions.