Great Bone Structure

I may have mentioned that my dream house would look like a Victorian study/wunderkammer. I’m already partway there, with my specimens and pictures of bugs and bats and my curios from around the world, but someday I will have more. Oh yes, I will have more.

Specifically, I would love a collection of animal skulls. Animals look like fantastical monsters without their skin, and I find them fascinating. But I currently have nowhere to put a collection of skulls, so for now I make do with one tiny muskrat skull. Someday, though, I would love to have a proper home library with beautiful dark wood book shelves and a few choice specimens on display.

They’d have to be mostly replicas–I’m not about to hunt a giraffe or net a sea turtle or harpoon an Indus River dolphin–there are just so many problems there, both ethical and practical. Replicas would do just fine. And while we’re talking replicas, I might like a replica child’s skull complete with all those teeth waiting to grow in. It’s funny, I really enjoy looking at skulls and imagining where the muscles attach and why they’re shaped the way they are, but looking at all those extra teeth hiding inside a kid’s skull freaks me out a bit.

 

Southern Gothic

hap and leonardSummer is coming I’m in that Southern Gothic mood again. This year I got in the mood early, before the weather caught up with me. Back at the end of February I ran across Hap and Leonard on Netflix and could not stop watching. I loved every strange, sad minute of it. Netflix only had the first two seasons, but it looks like I can watch the third on the Sundance website. They’re based on Joe R. Lansdale’s books. I’ve never read any of his Hap and Leonard series, but I’ve read a bit of his straight-ahead horror and I recommend him if you don’t mind gore and torture.

I’ve also been watching True Blood free on Amazon Prime. I find Sookie Stackhouse herself (the TV version) kind of annoying and immature, but I enjoy most everything else about the series.

roller millsSadly, my town looks nothing like these shows. My town looks like, well, have you seen the original Footloose? That was filmed around here. Not that romantic. We don’t have sultry evenings filled with ancestral ghosts* and sexy vampires around here, so I’m stuck watching them TV.

Maybe I’ll pull out my billowy nightdress so I can sit on my patio in it, sip a mint julep and pretend I’m in Louisiana. Or maybe I’ll spring for a new one. Gotta have something to cool down these hot nights ahead. A light dress and a good chill up my spine oughta help.

nightdress
I have this in black.**

 

*Okay, we probably do have ancestral ghosts around here, but they’d mostly show up to complain about your skirt length and make sure you dance at least 12 inches apart from each other. 

**I swear it was cheaper this when I bought it, though. 

Lost Souls Shawl

Way back in January I said I was making the Lost Souls shawl, and then I never mentioned it again. I actually finished it weeks ago and was all set to show you, but Dad died and life got crazy and I’m just now getting around to writing the post.

skull shawl 2The pattern was actually pretty easy for someone of my middling skill, and it’s such a lacy pattern it worked up quickly. Around the time I finished, I bought a cheap IKEA chair for my living room, and I decided the shawl should live on the chair. It spices up the dull light gray, and it’s easy to drape over my shoulders if I get cold while reading or watching TV.

I must have made the shawl a bit small, because I had yarn left over. I used it to make arm warmers for my girls. (My boy also got arm warmers, but I ran out of the shawl yarn and he opted for red cotton from my stash.)

If you’re wanting a pattern for the arm warmers, you’re out of luck because I didn’t use (or write) one. I basically made single crochet rectangles big enough to wrap around the kids’ arms, then stitched them into tubes with single crochet. The top and bottom ruffles are half-double crochet if I remember right, and the edging on the thumb holes is slip stitches. If you’re good enough with a hook to understand that description, you’re good enough to make way fancier arm warmers than these.

Oh, and speaking of the chair, it’s bland and boring and I’m looking for more ways to spice it up. I’m considering some sort of stencil or even freehand Sharpie art. What do you think? Any experience or suggestions?

Bugs Under Glass

I have a bad case of Olympic Fever so I haven’t had much to post about, but in my odd non-Olympic moments I’ve been mooning over pictures of Victorian style libraries and British Raj style decor. I’ve been nostalgic for India, and one of these days I’ll do a dream post full of black saris and salwar kameezes.

My dream home would mostly look like one big Victorian library/British explorer’s study. Our current house probably isn’t the one we’ll grow old (well, older) in, so we’re holding off on expensive furniture or renovations until our kids grow up and we eventually we decide we’re too lazy to ever move again move into our dream home.

But we indulge in smaller, more portable things like art and bedding. Over the years we’ve found that we both like natural specimens like rock crystals, taxidermy birds and preserved plants and insects. We own a beautiful grasshopper and a robo-beetle (rhinoceros beetle with watchworks attached) that I might have shown you before, and I couldn’t resist adding this amazing pair of cicadas from Bugs Under Glass. They aren’t the exact cicadas that whirred away every summer when I was a kid, but they’re close enough (and a lot prettier). I can’t wait until it arrives.

I especially like that preserved bugs are so sustainable. They’re generally raised on “insect farms” in and around the creatures’ regular habitat and harvested at the end of their naturally short lives. The farms provide locals with an income that preserves rain forest habitats instead of destroying them, so bonus eco-points there.

Someday I might spring for a beautiful black “mormon butterfly” specimen, or a specialty “skeleton butterfly” with the scales removed from one wing to expose the delicate structures underneath. Nature is so amazing, don’t you think?

Chainsaw Art

It isn’t very goth, I suppose, but I spent part of my weekend binge watching Carver Kings on Netflix. It’s technically reality TV, so there’s a feeble attempt at drama, but mostly Carver Kings is about watching people make huge chainsaw scupltures. And that’s a pretty cool thing to watch. One year we even saw real live chainsaw carving at the state fair. I love seeing people create things, especially when they have a lot of skill.

octopus carving.jpeg
Jeffrey Michael Samudosky

 

Sometimes they carve amazingly cool stuff, but most of what they make is kind of western American folk  art–lots of snarling bears and screaming eagles and mysterious wolves, assorted other woodland creatures and occasional “wood spirit,” and maybe a dragon for the really adventurous types. It’s all over the place out here in the mountain west. You can’t buy a fishing pole or visit a canyon without wading through a gift shop full of this kind of art, and I get kind of jaded about it.

So jaded, in fact, that I forget just how much Mr. Robot likes this stuff. He likes screaming eagles and mysterious wolves, and we have exactly zero of these things in our home. We have a mountain scene with a yeti in it and a picture of sharks eating boats, but that’s not really the same, apparently. So the kids and I decided to look for an affordable chainsaw sculpture for Mr. Robot’s birthday in April. Maybe a curious little owl. He likes owls.

owls
by James Haggart, found on eBay.

Dragon bench is by Igor Loskutow. Dementor/wraith is by Denius Parson. I couldn’t find a credit for the ground sloth monster. 

Bionic

If I ever lost a limb, I’d want a super cool prosthetic from the Alternative Limb Project. Maybe a super cool tentacle or a robot-looking one that lights up. But I’d settle for basic black, I suppose. Or Vanta Black, that would be awesome.

You may or may not have seen Viktoria Modesta rocking prosthetics made by the Project. I’ve never cared much for her music, but I love her aesthetic and the way she uses prosthetic legs to achieve that bionic look. It’s got a cyborg/dystopia/healthgoth vibe that I love. And I like that she rocks the look and makes a powerful statement that this missing leg is important, yes, but only one of many important things about her.

She’s not the only one, I’ve noticed. Among others things, I love the books Michael Stokes has created featuring U.S. soldiers with various injuries and amputations. (Invictus and Always Loyal. I got them through his kickstarter campaigns.) Most such books focus on the human tragedy of war, because of course they do. That’s an important thing to focus on. But Stokes treats his injured models the same way he treats all the other well-muscled good looking guys he photographs. The soldiers’ stories tell us plenty about the human tragedy, and the photos tell a hopeful story of moving forward and making those scars and injuries just one part of a full and purposeful life.

Okay, I don’t want to totally nerd out about the social and emotional ramifications of normalizing disabilities and promoting body diversity, and I don’t want to bore you by geeking out about advances in prosthetic technology (3D printers can make limbs, y’all!), so I’ll just let this be for now.

Here. Enjoy some weird ambient music from Karmelloz instead.

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.

christmas cd 1.jpg

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.