Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Non-Goth Songs I've been Loving Lately

Readers, I have to ask, do any of you have seasonal music tastes? I asked my older brother if he did and he looked at me like I'd grown two extra heads (that talked in Biblical Greek and Mandarin Chinese, respectively.) I can't explain why, really, but sometimes when the summer rolls around I find myself with more eclectic, less Goth music tastes. Don't get me wrong, I still love The Cure and the Sisters of Mercy, but I'm more likely to reach for something else. Anyway, today I thought I'd give you guys a taste of my current musical tastes.

Need to Destroy by THC


In Bloom by Nirvana



I Want Your Love by Transvision Vamp



Magic Man by Heart



 Bedroom Hymns by Florence and the Machine

 

Maneater by Blue Eyed Blondes

 


So, what have you all been listening to lately? And do any of you have "seasonal" music tastes?

Saturday, July 27, 2013

8 Ghoulish Museums To Visit Before you Die


It should come as no surprise that I love museums, as this isn't exactly the first time I've posted about them, but I'm always on the look out for more museums to add to my ever-growing life-long bucketlist. And what better kind of museum to add than those that display all things dark, creepy, and delightful? Anyway, here for you all today I have a list of 8 Ghoulish Museums To Visit Before you Die, some I've been to, some I can't wait to see, all of which will keep me up tonight.

I love the fourth skull on the top row. He looks concerned.

Mütter Museum, Philadelphia, USA

Those of you who joined us at the East Coast Goth meet up will be familiar with the Mütter museum, but for those of you that didn't get to: The Mütter museum specializes in medical anomalies, and in it you will see pictures, casts, and real examples of some of the curious things that can to happen to our bodies. Some of it can be quite disgusting, like the skin-disease casts, or quite enchanting, like the fetal skeleton displays, or even just weird, like the display cabinets filled with swallowed items. You can finish the museum in just a few hours, less if you're feeling rushed, and the gift shop is also great fun (it has Madame Talbot's posters!). 


Torture Museum, Amsterdam, Netherlands

This museum is one that I've wanted to visit for a while (blame my parents and their love of Medieval history) but haven't gotten around to it on account of my inability to fly to Europe on a whim. The Torture Museum in Amsterdam focuses primarily on, you guessed it, historical torture devices, mostly dating from Medieval times. While some of the devices are reconstructions, there are enough really used one to make it interesting. Among the torture devices you can expect to see include thumb screws, an Iron Maiden, and a rack, but there are also a fair number of execution items, such as a Guillotine. Along with the devices themselves, you'll see them in practice on mannequins, which is enough to give me the creeps.


National Museum of Funeral History, Texas, USA

You know that rhyme that young children used to sing to one another whenever they so much as looked at someone of another gender that went something along the lines of first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a baby in the baby carriage, etc. etc. etc.? Or was that just in my neck of the woods? Anyway, first comes torture, then comes execution, than comes a visit to the National Museum of Funeral History (I know it doesn't rhyme, I'm working on it.) This museum has artifacts and reconstructions of funerary culture from much of America and the Western World, including funeral carriages, some monumentally strange caskets, Dia De Los Muertos exhibits, Victorian mourning clothes, and more! This museum might just break my resolve not to go to Texas again (long story, lots of sunburn.)


Museum of Funeral Carriages, Barcelona, Spain

Want something more specific than just general mourning culture? The Museum of Funeral Carriages houses Europe's only collection of 19th and 20th Century horse-drawn Funeral carriages, all of which are cleaned up and displayed with mannequins in historical costume (and horses mannequins in historical oh-look-cutie regalia) Personally I feel as if most of the literature on funerals focuses on clothes, which I love, don't get me wrong, but seeing the other trappings of funeral culture is a breath of fresh air.


El Museo De Las Momias, Guanajuato, Mexico

Translated as the The Museum of Mummies, this museum houses the mummified remains of 19th century cholera victims from Guanajuanto, Mexico. The mummies were disinterred due to a burial tax that many families could not afford to pay, and then their containment facility became a museum. Now they are an interesting record of mummification, some natural, most not, from the area. While browsing the Wikipdia article, I found that cult-famous author Ray Bradbury (famous for Something Wicked This Way Comes, among other works) visited and had this to say:
The experience so wounded and terrified me, I could hardly wait to flee Mexico. I had nightmares about dying and having to remain in the halls of the dead with those propped and wired bodies. In order to purge my terror, instantly, I wrote 'The Next in Line.' One of the few times that an experience yielded results almost on the spot.
2Spooky.


Glore Psychiatric Museum, St. Joseph, USA

The history of medicine has always been a depressing one in which much of western culture blundered about in the dark for several centuries, but no subset of that history is more unfortunate than the history of Psychiatric treatment. And what better place to view that history than in a dis-used Psychiatric hospital? The Glore Psychiatric Museum showcases not only reconstructions (with mannequins) of historical Psychiatric treatments, which range from bizarre to horrific, but also art pieces created by patients of the facility. Plus there's a strange mosaic made from all the items swallowed by a patient, which is interesting in and of itself. 


Museum of Witchcraft, Cornwall, England

Looking for the world's largest collection of witch-related artifacts? Look no further than the aptly named Museum of Witchcraft, which is definitely making it onto my bucketlist for the next time I visit the United Kingdom. Inside it there are plenty of objects, from a Devil's head oil lamp to a Bellarmine Jar Witch Bottle, that relate to witchdom, witch-persecution, satanism, and all things unholy in the eyes of God. Infuriatingly, their online catalog does not display dates for the artifacts, but that's all the more reason to go in person and see if I can figure it out.


Museum of Death, Hollywood, USA

Right so I've been tip-toeing around this for the whole list thus far, let's get to the magnum opus of macabre museums, the Museum of Death. For the serial murder-obsessed among my readership, there is an impressive collection of serial murderer art work, Charles Manson crime scene photographs, and more. Among the rest of the collection are coffins, taxidermy, morgue photographs, autopsy instruments, and all other kinds of creepy, death-related items. And I'm pretty sure that gate is one of my favorites in the world. Is there a gate fandom?

Of course, this list doesn't even begin to cover the museums that have specific exhibits that rock my spooky socks off (such as the rocker exhibit in the Victoria & Albert museum where I saw stage costumes worn by Adam Ant and David Bowie, plus a Siouxsie & The Banshees poster framed like high art.) What museums have piqued your interest recently? Or what museums have you visited with Goth-appropriate exhibits?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Planning the Halloween Attack (And a DIY update)

For me, Halloween is pretty much all about the lead up. It's about having a few months of the year where my preferred aesthetic isn't frowned upon (and is easy to find in stores) and where I can expect to be cheered up by decorated storefronts, themed radio hours, horror movie marathons on television, and discounted candy. Halloween day is usually not a big event for me since I don't have a special religious connotation for it, I'm not big on the Goth clubs, and my college friends are several states away. So, how do you capture the magic of this season and make the most of it before Christmas stuff is rolled out on November 1st? Here's my "attack plan" for the following months so that I can make the most of the Halloween season:

Stock up on DIY supplies

Yes, I made a haul of Michael's supplies last week, but there's definitely more to find. For the coming year I'm thinking of stocking up on ribbon, wooden shapes and coffins, fake flowers, stamps, and stickers. Bane of GIY: Goth it Yourself has a post about some great Halloween fabrics that are going up on sale, and maybe this is the time to learn to make myself a skirt (I'm eyeing this fabric but my sewing skills aren't exactly up to scratch.)

Halloween Movie Marathons

For something not-that-scary? Nightmare Before Christmas, Paranorman, Ruby Gloom, and their ilk. But then there's metric tons of horror movies out there (I have The Cabin in the Woods, The Devil Inside, 1408, and Grave Encounters, cued up, besides a whole host of vintage horror movies I found, and I plan on gorging myself on them until Halloween is over. If I suffer a heart attack from high-sodium popcorn, I'll let you all know

Dress to the Nines

I think I missed the Goth gene that makes people bothered by "it's not Halloween yet!" comments from passersby. It's not even an insult, really, just them demonstrating their knowledge of the date and their own misunderstanding of our subculture. Either way, as Halloween approaches and autumn sneaks up on us, I'm taking the opportunity to dress up more and more. Hopefully I'll have a fascinator to add to my outfits soon.

Flavors of the Season

Beyond just Halloween candy, there are a lot of flavors of autumn and Halloween that will put you in the mood. Pumpkin is a big one, but you can add licorice flavor to your cooking with a bit of anise, which tastes wonderful. Not to mention cookie cutters shaped like Halloween favorites (if you have metal ones, pop them in a frying pan and fill with batter to make shaped Halloween pancakes. If you are of drinking age (or are feeling rebellious), hard cider, absinthe, apple schnapps, spiced rum, and those kinds of flavors are great for the season. Or you can follow Jayne of The Dark Victorian's recipe for Absinthe cupcakes, which look delicious.

Browse for Decor

I'm saving this mostly for the very, very brief window of time after Halloween where everything is for sale because there's this pesky holiday mark up to contend with during the rest of the season. This year I'm looking for candle sticks, cupcake liners, plaques and signs, plates, and maybe a few other bits and bobs. Long, long ago I posted a guide to Halloween Decor for Year-Round Design, and I'm still going to adhere to those rules.

Speaking of decor, I finished crafting my plaques made from last week's Michael's Halloween Haul!

First I finished the tombstone one, which was done vertically. Black paint on the background, a skull ribbon for hanging, and the tombstone itself.


That tombstone is kind of a silly story because I couldn't find grey paint or white paint (to mix with my black paint) so I was kind of stuck. In the end I used a mixture of gray crayon, silver gel pen, gray colored pencil, and black paint smudged with my finger. I think it turned out alright, no?

Next, I did the bat one.


I hung glued the bat horizontally and did a longer ribbon. 


The face was added with silver gel pen. I've rubbed it with my finger and it doesn't smudge or anything, which is great for me.

I haven't finished the coffin yet, nor have I found another craft for the remaining wooden tombstone and bat, but I'm working on it. And I ordered supplies for my skull fascinator, which should come shortly. It's DIY central over here. What projects have you all been working on? And how are you going to go about making the most of the Halloween season?

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Michael's !HALLOWEEN! Haul

Are you guys missing Halloween as much as I am? It feels like autumn is years away, but lo and behold! I went to Michael's today with my mother and they had Halloween stuff! That means the season is here! YES! So, trying to restrain myself from buying up the whole shop, I managed to spend just under $4 (after a 25% off coupon. Ch'yeah) and here's what I found:

This little coffin, made out of a balsawood-like material, would make a cute jewelry box once I give it a paint job. But the question is, what to paint on it?


Last year they had slightly larger coffins and I painted it all black. This one doesn't have those horizontal bar things, so I think I want to do black and white stripes, and maybe add a cameo from one of my often-unused necklaces. 


The inside of the other coffin is black and white flocked damask scrapbook paper, so maybe this time I'll do red flocked or something else? I don't know.

The coffin was only 99 cents (before coupon), by the way, so you could buy a bunch to paint it up in all matter of ways. 


These little wood shapes are very cute, and were 29 cents each. I know, right? The other shapes included witches and skulls, but these were my favorites. They need a coat of paint but there are endless possibilities. Don't believe me? Bane of GIY: Goth it Yourself used very similar ones in her Stripey, Batty Chest of Drawers.


Next, in the clearance isle I found these oval plaque things. They're made of a plaster like material, but they  would make cute plaques of some kind. These were $1 each and there were a lot of different shapes, but I preferred these.


So, I figured that I would use the little shapes on the plaques. Cute, right? They still need a paint job, though. I'm thinking grey for the tombstone and bat, black and white stripes for the plaques, and maybe some fancy calligraphy in paint pen to make them name plates. Maybe my new roommate next year would appreciate one (hehe.)


And I can even use ribbon from my Michael's haul last year, which I still have a lot of.


But then that leaves the question of what to do with the other shapes. I could make cute and corny brooches, or use them to spruce up my school supplies for the coming school year. Oh the possibilities...

So, that concludes my haul for this year, but I'm super excited to get back to the store with more than a $5 on me and buy some things. Have you guys found anything super great in stores yet? If so, what? 

Oh, and P.S., not done listening to me discuss Fatphobia in Goth? I'm a part of Sary Walrus' Plus-size Fashion, Privilege and The Scene With Alt Bloggers series, and my interview went up today! Go check it out! (She called me renowned, shucks.)

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A Goth's Guide to Decorating with Fake Flowers

Nothing adds vintage elegance to a room quite like flowers, but living plants are a lot of work (more than many people are willing to put into their home decor) and cut flowers don't last very long. Besides, while there are a variety of dark-petaled flowers, they're usually quite expensive and have to be specially ordered. So, what's a stylish Goth home decorator to do? Well, if you're like me, decorating with false flowers is the way to do, and here's my guide to how to do so.



First, you have to pick your flowers. The best place I can think of to buy fake flowers is at craft stores, Michael's being my persona favorite with Hobby Lobby coming in close second. Online, I've heard good things about Afloral, but have yet to check them out. Flowers tend to come in a variety of materials (and prices), from hyper-realistic silk to obviously fake plastic. You can still make a very pretty flower arrangement with fake-looking flowers, so just buy what you can afford.

When choosing flowers try to keep in mind your rooms personal style and don't just go running for the first black blooms you see. My favorite fake flowers for home decor are roses, dahlias, peonies, baby's breath, and ivy, but there are flowers for any aesthetic. Daisies (painted red, black, and white, maybe?) would go cute with a retro-aesthetic and lilies (especially white) are great for a romantic look. Around Halloween time you can always find a variety of dark false flowers, especially black ones and white roses with "blood" splatters. If you can't find flowers in a color you like, it's not particularly difficult to spray paint them your preferred shades.



Next, you have to find a container. Vases are traditionally used but I love seeing flowers arranged in larger bowls, in jars, in perfume bottles, in dinnerware, even in tea pots (such as the above display, which is in my house's entrance way.) For your Goth sensibilities, try miniature coffins, absinthe bottles, candle holders, or other such containers. When choosing your container, it's worth remembering that having a display where the flowers and vase are the same color makes for a very drab arrangement. Vary it up with texture or color to make a more interesting display.

After you have selected your flowers and your display, you have to arrange your flowers pleasingly. Generally speaking, it's advised that taller flowers go in the center of the display and smaller flowers around the outside so that the smaller flowers don't get overwhelmed. If you have trouble getting your flowers to stay put, fill the container with pebbles or foam to stick the flowers in.

Lastly, you're not just limited in putting flowers into your arrangement. Other decorating elements, accessories to the arrangement, can be used to add more Goth style and to help the flowers match the rest of your decor. Accessories like ribbon, feathers, fake spider webs, jewelry, and anything else sparkly will really bring the arrangement to a whole new level of spook.

Wait, did I say lastly? Well, that's not entirely true. Once you've found a spot to put your lovely little floral piece, you need to upkeep it. Fake flowers are dust magnets and while this can add a certain spooky charm to it, it'll be a nightmare for someone with dust allergies (ahem, me, ahem.) Fake flowers can also bleach if left in sunlight for too long, so respraying them or moving them out of sunlight would be helpful. It seems like an awful lot of work for fake flowers, but it's worth it to keep your display looking good as new, and so that you aren't stuck with a sneeze-inducing, bland decor accessory.

Here's the floral arrangement I made just for this post:


The container is a small black cauldron, which I filled with pebbles to keep the flowers standing up. Inside are two black roses, one red rose, and a few sprigs of some plant I don't know the name of. The accessories are a few beaded "berry" sprigs, black fake feathers, a ribbon with a fleur-de-lis charm on it that used to be a necklace, and a tiny little fake bird from Halloween time. I think I'll name him Norbert.

Not bad, huh?

Do any of you decorate with fake flowers? What flowers did you use, and where are they? Or do you keep live plants?

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Help me plan my next DIY project?

Have you ever had a DIY project waiting around for months and months because you couldn't figure out exactly what you wanted to do about it? I've been sitting on top of one particular project for I think over a year now, and so I finally think it's time I asked you guys what you would do in my situation, just so I can get this done and have something to do with myself for the next month an a half.


You see, I have this groundhog skull that my dad found for me on one of his archaeological digs. It's just the upper part of the skull, and it's only missing one molar tooth, so it's in pretty good condition and perfect for making a kind of super Gothy accessory. But the question is, what to make?

(For reference, the skull is 4 inches long, 1 1/4 inches tall, and 2 1/2 inches wide.)

The first and most obvious option is to make it into a hair accessory, but what kind?

(Forgive my startled expression I was trying very hard not to blink)

Essentially, I have three options. I can attach it to a headband, turn it into a fascinator, or put it on a hat. 

Hats would be the least labor-intensive of the project, but would require the most planning (and potentially the most money) because it takes the right kind of hat. I imagine it with a kind of vintage tilted hat but those tend to be pretty expensive and hard to find. Besides, the size of the skull isn't friendly to every hat, so maybe it would have to be put on a wide-brimmed hat, but do I want a wide-brimmed hat? Questions, questions.

The headband is a cheaper option but headbands don't look great with all outfits (particularly super fancy ones), so it might be the least versatile. There's also the problem that I don't want my skull to look out of place on the accessory and tower miles above everything else, so I have to add background elements (like lace, flowers, etc.) to even out the structure, all of which might make the headband so heavy that it would slide off.

Fascinators are probably the most labor-intensive for what I'm picturing. Essentially I would have fabrics of different lengths, textures, and patterns, and then sew the ends of them together to make fabric loops. Once I have the loops I would stack them on top of each other (longest on the bottom) to make a circle out of the stacked loops and sew them down the center, attaching the skull so that it sits on a pillow of fabric. Then, add more decorations as I see fit, and sew clips on the bottom-most fabric to attach to my hair.

And speaking of decorations, there are so many options! Lace, feathers, buttons, beads, ribbon, bows, and the most goes on! What would look good with this skull?

Alternatively, I could string a chain through the ear canal and wear it as a (very large) necklace...perhaps that's what I'll do while I'm still waiting to put the rest of this project together.

Personally, I'm leaning towards the fascinator look, but I'm still not fully decided. Will it look weird in most outfits, and am I wasting my time? How would you guys tackle this project?

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

9 Goth-appropriate Netflix Picks

Continuing in my epic quest to find something to do with my summer, I've been watching a lot of Netflix. It's nice to have something in the background while writing blog posts or reading books, and it's become somewhat of a pass-time of mine to read through the titles and try to surprise myself by watching something new...but I keep falling back on old favorites. Oops. Today's post is a list of nine shows and movies currently available on U.S. Netflix that I think Goths would absolutely love.


RUBY GLOOM

First up on my list is Ruby Gloom, a cute and quirky animate television series about Ruby, a cheerful Babybat who lives in a Gothic mansion. If that isn't sweet enough, she named her cat Doom Kitty. Group bawwwing may now commence. I don't know about the rest of you but I find this kind of cute but spooky television show very endearing, and it makes me wish I'd been watching them when I was growing up.

THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS

Tim Burton's magnum-opus (is that a controversial opinion? I've just found his more recent works disappointing), this movie is about Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King, satiating his ennui by deciding he's going to take over Christmas. This movie was released the year before I was born and I remember it coming down from the attic in the Halloween decoration box every autumn to be watched again and again and again (and then I stole it from the box and watched it year-round.) Now it's available on Netflix so I can give that tired old VHS a rest.

AMERICAN HORROR STORY

The only real horror on this list, American Horror Story is a curious television show that follows a creepy, sometimes down-right terrifying plot each season. The first season, Murder House, surrounds a family moving into a house only to be haunted by the houses former occupants and a weird Southern lady. The second, Asylum, takes place in 1964, and documents the goings on in a mental institution. The third season, which will air later this year, is called Coven, but I don't know much else about it. 

Be warned: this series is SCARY and takes no prisoners. Trigger warnings for: blood, mutilation, body horror, jump scares, flashing lights, scary faces, murder, self-harm, suicide, school shooting, hospitals, abuse, gore, rape, sexual abuse, etc. etc. etc.


ADDAMS FAMILY VALUES

If you're wondering where all those gifs on your Tumblr dashboard came from, chances are they originated with this classic movie. The Addams family are back with a new baby in tow and a crafty, sassy love interest for Uncle Fester. It's my favorite Addams Family interpretation, however much I enjoyed watching the show, especially for Wednesday and Gomez.

PARANORMAN

I had intended to watch this movie when it came out because I thought it was great that we were getting an influx of spooky movies, but I didn't get around to it until last week. The movie stars Norman, an oddball kid who eventually has to save his town from the zombie outbreak (and not with a shot gun!) It's a very cute movie, and it's PG if you have a Babybat around you need to distract for an hour and a half.

BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER

Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a nineties show circulating around Buffy Summers who, surprisingly enough, is chosen to be the Slayer, an age-old tradition of kick-ass women who fight vampires, demons, and all things ick. But, Buffy is also a teenager in the nineties, and her unique sassy personality shines through in every episode. Besides, there's a hot British Billy-Idol lookalike vampire named Spike. What more could you ask for?


THE MUNSTERS

This Addams Family rival is a silly, fun show starring the Munster family, Lily, Herman, Grandpa Dracula, Eddie (a werewolf) and Marilyn, their normal-looking niece. It definitely takes after the family sit-com trend of the 1960's but is shaken up in a very spooky way. It's got a great kooky sense of humor and a house to die for. There are currently two seasons available. 

ODDITIES

Oddities is a reality television show about the antique & oddities shop Obscura, base in New York City. Owners Evan and Mike, and buyer Ryan, buy and sell unique piece of history sure to surprise, amuse, and horrify. But what's really amazing here are the customers, who sometimes come in with requests or to show off their bizarre talents (ever seen a guy shoot kernels of corn out of his tear ducts?) There are two seasons on Netflix, and you might see someone you know! (Cabaret performer Voltaire makes an appearance, among others!)

DRACULA

Bela Lugosi stars in this 1931 interpretation of Bram Stoker's famous novel Dracula. This is a classic early-horror hit that gave inspiration for Bauhaus' iconic song Bela Lugosi's Dead. The movie is 74 minutes of classic black and white horror, a must-see for spooky types.

What movies and shows are you guys currently interested in? Anything on Netflix?

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Religious Iconography in Goth Fashion

Goths have a number of visual tropes commonly associated with us: bats, coffins, skulls, ravens, and others. While many of these have (essentially) secular origins, it's not uncommon to see Goths sporting religious iconography as well. Ankhs (an Egyptian symbol of eternal life), crosses (crucifixes or otherwise), and Pentacles (a symbol commonly associated with neo-Paganism and modern Wiccan religions) are all commonly seen being worn by Goths. However, some people question the validity of using another religion or culture's symbol without being a practitioner or member of that religion.


Today's post comes at the request of reader Kallie, and this is what she sent me:
Hi Mary, I was wondering what your thoughts are on Goths wearing religious iconography as fashion. Sure, it's normal to see Goths wearing Ankhs and other Pagan symbols, but what do you think about non-Christian Goths wearing crosses? There are some absolutely gorgeous Gothic-style cross necklaces that I drool over, but I don't feel comfortable wearing a cross, as I am not a Christian. What are your thoughts on this?
My thoughts on the matter can be summed up in the fact that I, an Atheist, wear crosses. I wear them because I find them very beautiful and it's a way to wear my love of western art and history around with me all the time (until I can wear a Gothic cathedral or replenish my wardrobe to take Gothic Architecture inspiration into account), not to mention the fact that they tend to ward off my more conservative religious family members and their questions about my religious passions. 

Here are some of the reasons I've heard for people wearing crosses when they're not religious:
  • Ironic statements against religious extremism
    • Irony is so punk rock don't you tell me it's not
  • They're pretty (yes, that's enough of a reason)
  • The whole vampire association
  • An interest in antiques and old-fashioned things

It's worth saying that this is not a problem unique to Goths, and that many alternative fashions use crosses. If you have any interest in Gothic Lolita, you'll know that designers like Mana are almost addicted to slapping crosses on anything, and he's not the only one. Hipsters, Nu Goths, Soft Grunges, and many other "urban tribes" wear crosses. 

However, I have to wonder (in the midst of so many groups wearing crosses like it's no big deal) why someone would feel uncomfortable wearing crosses. Is it because one worries about offending Christians, or because they feel that they're betraying their own religious beliefs by wearing the iconography of another religion, or because of what the cross represents? All of these reasons, and the inevitable others that haven't occurred to me, will have different ways to solve these problems.

Firstly, I imagine that some people will be concerned about what actual Christians think about the use of their symbol by non-Christians. Now, I'm coming from a country that is overwhelmingly Christian, and Christianity is a central tenant of our laws and media (even in cases when it shouldn't be) and from this perspective I say that Christians aren't oppressed by non-Christians wearing crosses. It doesn't hurt them in any way. And even among Christians that I know, it isn't a big deal because one person wearing a cross doesn't ruin the many advantages they have. So, this shouldn't be so much of an issue.

If someone does begin to harass you as to why you're wearing a cross, here are a few sample responses:
  • I think they're very beautiful
  • I'm a student of religion/art
  • A reminder of my favorite executuion techniques (Evil eye)
  • It was a gift
  • I finally accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior after people like you kept harassing me about it
  • (Exclaiming) How did this get here?
  • It keeps away the vampires (especially effective if you ward it towards them while saying so)


As for worrying about betraying one's own religious beliefs by wearing the iconography of another, I would hope that one's connection with their God and belief is strong enough that it isn't threatened by a necklace, but what do I know? If it helps, Christians didn't invent the cross and it's been used for executions far before Jesus. So it's a bit like wearing a noose on a necklace, except for the religious connotation. 

This also goes for worrying about what the cross represents and the messages you are sending to others. Now, you'll never be able to remove the religious connotations of a cross from the minds of most people. However, wearing crosses has recently become a more popular fashion statement among hipsters, even if those crosses are St. Peter's crosses rather than the traditional one, so it's not like people are generally very surprised by fashion crosses. You can view wearing crosses as an ironic, anti-Man statement if it helps as well, which is pretty Punk Rock. You can think about the vampire connotations of a cross, or you can just think of them as a beautiful piece of jewelry. Either way, there are more ways to think about crosses than just as Jesus symbols. 

So, that's how I justify wearing crosses despite the fact that I'm not a Christian. Now, other religious symbols come with questions of cultural appropriation, but I think this is a good starting point of a long-term discussion on what responsible decisions we can make with our wardrobe.

Do you guys wear crosses, or other religious jewelry? Do you wear religious iconography when you're not a member of that religion? Why? What responses do you get? What do you say if people ask why you do?

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Finding Spooky Books with GoodReads

Readers, I love reading. Of course, being an English major that's no surprise, but even before I thought that I would be spending my life analyzing the feminist implications of Mina's cultural role in Dracula, I thought books were one of the best things in the world. I either suffered from chronic insomnia or chronic "I am a night owl stop making me get up for school at unreasonable hours" in my childhood, so I spent many a night curled up in bed with a flashlight enjoying the spellbinding powers of books, and even got in trouble in classes as I read books under the desk instead of paying attention.

If only my second grade Reading teacher (who very strongly disliked me) could see my reading list now:

Sorry, Mrs. Lewis...but not really.

However, one constant struggle of reading for me is that I often am at a loss for things to read, and I get discouraged when I pick up books and find that they're not to my liking. However, since joining GoodReads, I've found my problem much less difficult, and I've been enjoying reading more than ever before.

GoodReads is a social networking site centered around books. You sign up, pick a few favorite genres, and start rating books that you've read (you can even leave reviews.) Once you've started rating books, you will get customize recommendations based on the books you've liked. Once you start adding people as friends, you can see the books they've marked as To Read, see their book ratings, and read their reviews. You can even join groups that have forums for discussing certain books (some of the groups are even Goth focused.)

Here are some other features of Goodreads I love to use:

  • Make themed shelves to organize your Read or To Read books (I have a shelf for all my books I need for my English and Art History majors, a shelf for Goth books, a shelf for vampire books, a shelf for Scotland-related books, and several others.)
  • Record and share quotes from the books you're reading.
  • Keep track of your progress with a specific book, including notes along the way.
  • Answer polls and surveys about your reading habits.
  • Take quizzes for your favorite books written by other users to see if your trivia knowledge is up to scratch.
  • Read blog posts written by current authors who've joined up, and follow your favorites.
My For Goths shelf

I also use GoodReads to keep track of my challenge to myself to read 52 books this year. While sometimes I get behind (I somehow managed to get five books behind during exam time last semester) I've found it useful to have someone else keep track with me. Hopefully next semester's exam time won't be so stressful that I get behind again.

If you're interested in joining up (which I recommend you do, this site is so much fun) you can add me here (and then see my bookshelf For Goths here.)

If you don't use GoodReads, and don't plan on it, how do you keep track of the books you're reading? Do you at all?