Mix Tapes I Have Loved

mix tape 1I was rummaging through a box of old stuff and of all the useless things, I found two shoe boxes of cassette tapes. I don’t even have a machine to play cassettes anymore so it was long past time to let most of them go, but I such a great time looking over my handful of old mix tapes I couldn’t bear to part with them.

Mix tapes used to be a big thing in our family. My oldest sibling is seven years older than I am, so he was off to college before I hit my teens. He used to send me mix tapes for birthdays and Christmas. My youngest sister, in turn, is nine years younger than I am, so I was off to college before she hit her teens. I used to send her mix tapes, or bring them home on visits. Somewhere in there, my other sisters got involved, and anytime we were stuck for a gift to send, we’d create a mix tape and send it along.mix tape 3

Eventually mixing tapes turned into burning CDs (so much easier!) and now we’re all old and set in our ways and we barely send music at all. It’s too bad–maybe next Christmas I’ll try to revive the tradition.

This is verging on an Ungoth Confession, but if you can make out the songlists you’ll notice my taste was and still is all over the place. Partly, I was gearing the tapes toward my sisters and not myself, and partly I’m just like that. I listen to all the things. Just not on cassette anymore.

This last photo is pretty much my favorite Christmas album ever, put together by one of my sisters and her ex, Mike. I listen to it just a silly amount every year.

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In case you can’t read the list off my crappy photo, here it is:

  1. Sleigh Ride–The Ronettes
  2. No Christmas for Me–Zee Avi
  3. Please Be Patient–Feist
  4. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas–Aimee Mann
  5. Christmas is Going to the Dogs–Eels
  6. Winter–Kristin Hersh
  7. I Saw Three Ships–Sufjan Stevens
  8. Goyim Friends–The LeeVees
  9. We ThreeKings–Reverend Horton Heat
  10. There Are Much Worse Things to Believe In–Elvis Costello, Feist, John Legend, Stephen Colbert
  11. Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town–Bruce Springsteen
  12. Silver Bells–William Hung
  13. Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)–Darlene Love
  14. Maybe This Christmas–Ron Sexsmith
  15. Angel in the Snow–Elliot Smith
  16. Here Comes Santa Clause–Elvis Presley
  17. Snow Song–Judd & Maggie
  18. We Wish You a Merry Christmas–John Denver & the Muppets
  19. 25th December–Everything But the Girl
  20. I Know You’ve Come to Take my Toys Away–The Mountain Goats
  21. Joy to the World–The Klezmonauts
  22. My Dear Acquaintance (A Happy New Year)–Regina Spektor

Random Stuff, Part 1

Sorry for the lapse in posting. Stress and holidays will do that. I’ve been cleaning house and resetting our routines now that Thanksgiving is done, and now I’m listening to Bauhaus and catching up with all of you. Here, in list form, is what I’m into right now:

  1. Dirk Gently season 2: at first I didn’t know what to think about this new season but now I’m eagerly awaiting the finale. It’s less bloody than the first season and much more whimsical and weird, and I love it at least as much as season 1.
  2. Stan Against Evil: this one is also in its second season but I didn’t get around to watching season 1 until a couple weeks ago. Where has this show been all my life?! It’s the greatest combination of horror, comedy, and relatable humanity since Shaun of the Dead.
  3. Ghosted: Ghosted is a new sitcom about ghosts and monsters. It features Craig Robinson and Ben from Parks and Recreation and it’s cute. The best thing about it is being able to watch it with my kids. They’re getting older, but still a bit young for truly hardcore horror, so this is a nice compromise.
  4. The Italian, by Ann Radcliffe: one of the original “gothic novels.” Radcliffe’s novels are quite long and I don’t have much time to read lately, so it’s taking me forever to get through this, but it’s quite nice so far. It’s atmospheric and mysterious and much more fast-paced than Mysteries of Udolpho.
  5. From Here to Eternity, by Caitlin Doughty: I’m not finished with this either but I’m really enjoying it. If you liked her first book you’ll love this one. If you found her first book a little to graphic in the details of death, you might still enjoy reading this one, which is much more focused on her experience of death rituals around the world. If you like her Ask a Mortician series you’ll love this book.

So that’s how I’ve been coping with life stress and family visits. Those of you that celebrate U.S. Thanksgiving, I hope yours was a good one. Those of you that don’t celebrate it, hopefully you had a peaceful weekend while I was entertaining kids and hosting in-laws.

Bustles and Hoop Skirts

It’s my youngest kid’s job to empty the kitchen trash all month and put in new bags. She’s taken to puffing the clean bags up with air and using them as bustles, so I hopped on YouTube to show her the real thing. Bustles and hoop skirts are the kind of thing I really admire but just can’t stand to wear. Too fussy for me, but I admire people willing to put up with them for the perfect dramatic look. I admire even more the people who learn how to custom make these kinds of heavily engineered hoops and crinolines and gowns. 🙂

 

 

Blood into Wine

They played Tool on the radio last night–yes, I still listen to radio sometimes–and I got all nostalgic. I was a big fan in college and even got to see them in concert back in the day. As my mind wandered back into the past, I remembered that Maynard James Keenan makes wine now down in Arizona. There was even a documentary about it several years ago that I never got around to seeing.

blood into wineSo I watched it this morning. It’s about seven years old now but it’s still good, a geeky and fun look at a region just getting into the wine industry. If you know nothing about wine it’s a painless introduction, and if you know something about wine it’s an unpretentious look at the subject. It also gives some interesting insight into Maynard James Keenan himself. I’d love to try some Arizona wine and tell you how it stacks up but I’ve never found any around here. Our state only sells wine in state-run stores and they usually stick to well known brands, with a smattering of local Utah products. I might have to take an actual trip to Arizona to see what its wine country has to offer.

As much as I love the music, it kind of makes me happy when famous people move on to other things. As Keenan put it in the documentary (and I paraphrase badly), you get to be a beloved rock star by screaming about your issues, and if screaming about your issues helps you should eventually feel better and move on to other things. If your music isn’t helping you feel better, how can it help anyone else feel better?

This certainly seems true in my own life. Back when I was young and struggling and full to bursting with unprocessed pain, bands like Tool were such a vital part of that process I can’t imagine making it through without them. But now that I’m older and healthier and just a tiny bit wiser, that intense need for music has faded. I miss it sometimes, but I think Keenan is right and it’s good that I’ve moved on and cultivated new talents and projects.

Semi-Goth Confessions

hobbits togetherFor reasons way too complex to explain here, I went to a very conservative university. In many ways, it was a Jesus college. I wore a lot of black, for a year I had a shaved head, I had way more piercings than my school approved of, and the only club I bothered joining was the extremely controversial campus feminist organization, but I still did a lot to placate the conservative powers at my school. I toned it down, pulled my punches, and I still sort of regret that.

The feminist club, by the way, were just as disturbed by my black nailpolish as everyone else in town. It was a real disappointment. The coolest, most liberal people I knew were still weirded out by my gothy tendencies. Which only encouraged me to give in and tone down more.

I never gave it up entirely, but I spent years at various points between mainstream and goth. I spent years in the shadowy realm of the semi-goth.

If I could have worked “semi-goth” into a good blog title, I would have. Or I could have gone with the more acceptable “Darkly Inclined Grotesquerie,” but there’s no alliteration there AT ALL!

Oh gods, I’m rambling. Perhaps I should write down some Ungoth/Semi-goth confessions to salvage this post.

Confession 1: I don’t make much distinction between Goth and “Not Goth Enough.” Maybe there should be a line, like owning 9 skulls isn’t goth enough, but buy that 10th skull and BOOM! You’re GOTH now. But I don’t know the exact number of skulls I need to own, so I just keep buying them and hoping they’re enough, you know?

Confession 2: I’m really obsessed with cooking and food history. Not just gruesome stuff like butchery or spooky cocktails, but all of it, from Australian wallaby steaks to the origins of Punjabi cuisine. I’m a great home cook, too, and when I’m not watching Stranger Things and Stan Against Evil I’m watching shows about cooking and food culture.  Whatever. I’m a food nerd.

Confession 3: I do love coffee and some red wines (I’m currently in love with Argentinian Malbec) but I have no idea why those things are supposed to be goth. None at all.

Confession 4: I love Christmas. I put up lights all over my house. I own the entire Lego Winter Village collection. I put up my tree on Thanksgiving weekend and cover it in Christmas ornaments from almost everywhere I’ve been.

Confession 5: I no longer wear corsets. I have irritable bowels that just don’t like to be squished. I love the way they look, but I don’t own even one anymore. Which leads to . . .

Oops, my kids are just about home and they’ll need my help with their math. I’ll have to do my next 5 confessions next time. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lore

lore 2Kids went back to school on Tuesday, and since then I’ve been binging on Lore. Finally watched the episodes on Amazon, catching up on the podcast as I get some exercise and get the house back in shape.

I’m a sucker for urban legends and historical ghost stories, which is good and bad in this case. Good because Lore is right up my alley, bad because a lot of the stories are familiar already. I like hearing his dramatic tellings, though, with the spooky background music and (in the Amazon version) occasionally gruesome visuals.

My favorite of the Amazon episodes was Echoes, mostly about Walter Freeman, who popularized the lobotomy in the United States. I actually knew a lot of the story from reading Great and Desperate Cures a few years ago, so I was prepared for the shocking images and stories, but I didn’t know much about Freeman himself. It was fascinating and sad seeing his life and work dramatized like that.

The Lore podcast has been around for a while, so you’re hopefully familiar with that already. If you haven’t seen the Amazon series it’s definitely worth a look. It’s very much like the podcast, but with surprisingly well-acted reenactments of the stories he tells.

Dead Man’s Party

This is my blog’s first Halloween! dead mans party 2

I mostly grew up in 1980s suburban America, which means a)loads of trick-or-treating and b)weird candy scares. Seriously, when I was a kid the local police would offer to x-ray our candy every Halloween, looking for razor blades and needles that never appeared. My parents never actually bothered to x-ray our candy (they would gladly risk our lives to avoid waiting in line on Halloween), but they did feel up every piece of candy we trick-or-treated. Not one razor blade or needle, and obviously no poison–I have four siblings and every one of us is still alive. As an adult, I suspect they were really just looking to steal a few of their favorite flavors from us. I do the same thing, but I’m honest/mean enough to just grab my “mom tax” without making excuses.

Just kidding. My kids are really nice, so they’re usually more than willing to kick me a piece or two from their haul.

dead mans party 1

As a grown-ass adult, I live in the Rocky mountains, in a basically suburban neighborhood, so every year we get a hundred to a hundred fifty trick-or-treaters. I’m a witch every year, as an excuse to sit on my porch in full goth regalia, munching candy. We get a lot of tiny kids, so I try not to make it too scary.

We have a dozen or so skeletons we put out every year–a human skeleton, some crocodile heads, and various other skeletal creatures–and every year I aim for a theme of some sort. I’m not super artistic, but I try. Last year was bayou themed, and this year I’m hosting a “Dead Man’s Party.” The kids helped. I’m very pleased.

 

I’m not sure how popular Oingo Boingo* was worldwide (they’re mostly famous for the “Weird Science” song), but I grew up with “Dead Man’s Party” in my head every Halloween. This year, we’re making it a reality. We bought party hats and kazoos for our skeletons, and come Halloween we’ll blow up balloons and spray some sparkles onto our spiderwebs. By then I’ll have a couple spotlights set up and ready to turn on. Those and our strings of purple lights will keep the party going all night long. The local toddlers will be terrified and excited.

*You may not know Oingo Boingo, but you probably know Danny Elfman from the Nightmare Before Christmas soundtrack, among others.

What the Hell Did I Just Read

whatthehellI have a few friends who like their comedy, horror, fantasy, sci-fi, whatever in nice little boxes so they know exactly what they’re getting before they start reading. I get why they like that, and that’s fine for them, but I love my genres to mix. Just throw them all in the same box, shake them around a bit, and see what Frankenstein hybrid stories you can tell. I like not knowing what I’m in for.

That’s what attracted me to David Wong in the first place–with all the comedy, horror, sci-fi, and serious drama mashed together I never knew what was coming next. But sadly, I’m starting to figure it out. What the Hell Did I Just Read is the third book in the Dave and John series and I loved it, but I wasn’t quite as enthralled. It was still funny and sometimes horrific, but not quite as mind-bending the third time around.

What I did love, though, was that Dave and John are based on real people. Literally, on the author and his best friend growing up. This makes the goofy heroes of the story also incredibly normal and sympathetic, with realistic insecurities and ambitions and drinking problems. That real human drama is still compelling and sometimes very sad and frustrating, especially as the books follow their characters into the long and complicated years of full adulthood.

David Wong is still one of my favorite authors, right up there with my more acceptably “litarary” faves.* I wonder, though, if Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits ruined me for John and Dave. Less utterly confusing, but more tense and mysterious. Who knows? Only time and several sequels will tell. violence

*For context, I was a literature major. This year’s Nobel Prize for literature went to Kazuo Ishiguro, and though I’ve read at least three of his novels, I was secretly hoping Murakami would finally get picked. I know all this because I’m a bona fide lit nerd. But I try not to be a lit snob. 😉

Trying Too Hard

nuclear redAll you goth and alternative lovers out there, have you ever been told you’re “trying too hard”? I’ve been asked that a few times over the years, and it recently came up again. On Facebook, that bastion of meaningful conversation. :-/ To be fair, the conversation wasn’t totally useless. But there were the comments I’ve heard time and time again: “those people think fashion is a substitute for personality,” “they’re trying too hard to be different,” “they talk about individuality but they all look the same as each other.”

Back in my babybat days I took this stuff seriously. I worried that I was just trading in one conformity for another, I worried that I was trying too hard to be unique, I worried I wasn’t deep enough or cool enough to pull off alternative fashion. Like you have to earn the right to have purple hair or black jeans. The older I get, though, the less I worry about any of that and the more confident I get that I like what I like and there’s nothing wrong with that.

I made peace with the fact that we all strike our own balance between fitting in and standing out. I accepted the fact that by mainstream standards goths aren’t that cool anyway, so not being “cool enough to be a real goth” is the stupidest thing I could possibly worry about. I realized I was never trying at all to be unique, I just was a little different from most people I knew. Even when I tried to look like everyone else and act like everyone else in this super conservative Trump state, people could sense there was something different. And not one of my friends or neighbors was surprised when I went back to black.* The only one my “normal” act was fooling was me.

Funny thing is, the older I get the more I realize how much effort it takes to look exactly like everyone else. Constant diets and hair and manicures and makeup and shopping and microblading and cosmetic surgery all too look exactly like everyone else. I’ve always had “normal” friends who spent an hour or more curling their hair and putting on their “no makeup” makeup, who agonized over which color of boring sweater and skinny jeans to buy. (Or, now that I’m a suburban housewife, which expensive yoga pants to pretend you work out in.)

I spend a lot less time and money on my nuclear red hair and color coordinated (black and red) outfits. I spend a lot less effort just being myself than they spend being “normal,” and I seem a lot happier doing it. I’m amazed that I ever believed for one second that I was the one trying too hard.

If “normal” is who you are then do it. Love it and be happy. I have an evil twin (not literally, but we share our first name and a whole lot else) who looks like a stereotypical suburban mom. Why? Because she’s too busy being an awesome jazz musician to worry about what she’s wearing. There’s nothing wrong with that if that’s who you are. But putting yourself through the wringer just to fit in with a bunch of other superficial, insecure barbie dolls? If you’re doing that, please don’t tell me I’m trying too hard. I’m just trying to be happy with who I am, and you can never try too hard at that. **

*Not one was surprised, but a whole lot of them vaguely disapproved and/or pray for my soul to this day. So it goes, so it goes.

**This rant has been mostly fueled by my kids’ fall school break and a tad too much vodka and coke. I promise, though, that I think the same things when I’m stone cold sober. In fact, I think the same things better and more clearly when I’m sober, I’m just usually too busy to write them down. 🙂