Sunday, February 28, 2010

dream job

This is probably the only post entirely unrelated to the topic of this blog that any reader will ever see:

I HAVE A CAREER-TYPE JOB NOW!!!!!!

*jumps up and down screaming*

*sees everyone staring, stops, straightens hair and clothes, regains composure*

Indeed.  I will be working as a museum facilitator for a Pontiac's Rebellion battlefield and museum running education programs, events, and volunteer activities.  It's only a seasonal job, starting in two weeks and running to November, but it's a start. And it means that I don't have to work three different jobs at nearly 60 hours a week.  Only two jobs, hopefully at less than 50 hours a week.

I've worked at this battlefield for two years as an intern, and volunteered when I wasn't an intern, and have dreamed since my first day of work there that I'd someday get to work there as well.  While it isn't a permanent position, at least I'll be officially making my own way into the world doing something I absolutely love: educating and exposing the public to history.

This news will not affect the operation of this blog. My excitement has led me to share this information atop this personal virtual soapbox of mine.

So in two weeks I'll be stuck amidst the chaos of 18th century frontier wars:

I'm not a groupie.  The men follow me.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

ankle boots

I apologize to the Clockwork Quartet and my eight Elegant Gothic Lolitas for not yet posting the articles that I interviewed them for. The delay is mainly due to the fact that I hold three part-time jobs at the moment which take priority. I'm a barista, a retail sales associate, and a freelance writer, jobs that take anywhere from 44-56 hours a week away from me.  The articles are partially done; I will have them completed as soon as I can.

Now on to the topic of this post- shoes.  Specifically ankle boots:


image source: About.com

While trying to find a suitable pair of ballet flats to replace the ballet flats that I have worn into near disintegration, a few of last season's ankle boots caught my eye in the sale section of the local DSW, much like the image below: 
image source: girldir.com

 It came to me that ankle boots appear to be trรจs victorienne, but I could not figure out why. Until I saw this picture:
image source: Polydore

And this one at an online costume store:
image source: costumeshoes.net
 As one Lolita I interviewed said, fashions tend to repeat themselves.  Here's proof in footwear at least. 

I almost even bought a black and gray pair that looked terrific with my dark skinny jeans and black boyfriend jacket.  But I could not justify buying a pair of shoes when I actually didn't need them and am saving up all the money I can to pay back bills and the other fun things that come along when you're thrust into the real world.

*sigh*

Monday, February 22, 2010

monocles on the rise

According to this not-so-recent article by Henry Wallop from The Telegraph, monocle sales have gone up in recent months in England:
Bryan Magrath, the chief executive of Vision Express, said: “To our surprise we’ve had dozens of requests from customers in the last few months, so we thought we’d bring back the monocle on a trial basis. We’re as puzzled as anyone by the interest, but we’re a responsive retailer and we are delivering. I guess it’s one of those inexplicable fashion things.” 

image source: Gentleman's Emporium
Looking back at GQ's article about the current popularity of late 19th century fashions, which came out around the same time as this Telegraph article, is it really any surprise?

The ironic thing is I would be a perfect candidate for a monocle.  The vision in my right eye is about two times worse than that in my left eye for some inexplicable reason.  I could probably go without glasses altogether if it wasn't for that poor right eye.  However, I think I'll pass on purchasing one if they become common in America.  Even is the monocle will be attached to my neck with a chain, there are some situations, like driving, in which I can't afford to be feeling around for a monocle that has fallen off while keeping my poor eye on the road.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

steampunk darth vader

Thank you Internet for showing me such creative oddities:

image source: Geek Alerts: Gadgets for Geeks
The Bismark German military helmet take on Vader is just classically steampunk on this sci-fi character's usual outfit.  Awesome.

Friday, February 19, 2010

"i am the asylum"

*Warning: Here Be Spoilers for The Asylum For Wayward Victorian Girls. Don't read if you don't want the book ruined for you.* 

I finished Emilie Autumn's book several days ago.  I could not write a review until today, mainly to sort out my own thoughts.  Otherwise the review would have just consisted of the words: "Holy fucking shit."  While those words say so little, they mean so much that it would be impossible for anyone to comprehend what I really thought of the book. Those words are neither complimentary nor critical.

Now where do I start?

I suppose with a brief synopsis of what I've read without blowing the entire story:

image source: Attention Deficit Delirium
The book begins with Emilie Autumn's own interment into a psych ward after a failed suicide attempt.  She is required to stay under suicide watch for 72 hours.  Except she cannot enter the ward until a bed becomes empty, so she must stay in a sort of "transition room" for several days until a bed is ready.  When she finally enters the psych ward, instead of being put with other suicidal or depressed people or people detoxing from drugs she is placed in with the people who have personality disorders and are probably certifiably insane. She ends up having to stay there for several months even though she is just a a very sad girl, and it changes her.

Each morning Emilie Autumn receives a letter from a girl named "Emily with a y," who gives her own life story and describes her experiences in the horrific 19th century "Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls." This asylum is a concentration camp of sorts for not only certifiably insane girls, but also perfectly normal girls who were interred for disobeying the males of society concerning religion, marriage, or the like.  Emily herself is interred for jumping into the Thames while trying to escape a life as a sex slave.  At the Asylum she struggles to survive a world of leechings, chemical experimentation, insufficient nourishment and hygiene, molestation, and rape, where the treatments are the most likely thing to drive a girl mad and the only sure treatment is death.

Intermixed with the parallel accounts of Emilie Autumn's stay in the loony bin and Emily with a y's life as an Asylum inmate are: EA's "Cutting Diary," where she explains why she cuts herself and compares it to a drug addict's "fix" as a necessary way to keep her from not thinking about suicide; a Drug Diary, where EA describes the terrible experience of detoxing from medications; and a Suicide Diary, in which the authoress candidly divulges in musings about how society looks down on the mentally ill and suicidally depressed, and how no one who does not understand mental illness can comprehend the pain of those who suffer from depression.

There is so much so say and ask. How to truly begin? In constructive criticisms one is always required to approach the good aspects of the work first, then the negative, and finally offer a few suggestions.  I will attempt to do it that way.

After reading this book I totally understand almost everything that happened during the concert now.  Nearly everything has a backstory that I can appreciate, from the rats to the blood to even the spoon of which EA was so possessive.  The concert is simply the way the Asylum is described in Asylum Letter No. LV- after the inmates have taken over the asylum and are trying to construct their own sanctuary from the outside world, that male-dominated society that imprisoned them in the first place and turned those who were not already lunatics into mad girls.  It's a sort of false reality, but it is a brief respite from the world to say the least.  The inmates bake delicious treats (which were thrown at us at the concert), take tea at 4 p.m. and 4 a.m. (the latter being, according to EA, a common time that manic depressives wake up for an inexplicable reason), perform music and plays, and are accompanied in all they do by the Asylum rats and leeches, who also suffered experimentation or death at the hands of the Asylum doctors.

Spoons like this one were often filched from the dining hall by inmates and used as a form of currency, hence the possessiveness associated with it at the concert.  A very nice touch:

EA with her big spoon
EA also did a good bit of research on 19th century technology, lifestyles and the like, thrown in with horrors my mind associates with concentration camps.  Bodies are cremated, patients have uteruses removed, and inmates are photographed like Shakespeare's flower-strewn Ophelia to advertise for the Asylum's prostitution ring. I never knew there was such a thing as an elaborately designed leech jar until now:

image source: Medical Antiques
The public obsession with Ophelia and depictions of "beautiful" suicides is, according to friend of mine with an interest in art history, a very common image used by the Pre-Raphaelites.  Any further elaboration on EA's historical art research should not be done by me, as I know very little of 19th century art.

I could easily imagine the showy PDA between the band members at the concert, of which I soon got bored, is also a result of the male-dominated society that put the girls in the Asylum in the first place.  Why would you love any sort of man if those who put you in the Hell on earth that is the Asylum were all men?

EA kissing Captain Maggot
 Going to the Hospital Entries that revert to Emilie's POV, the first few days of her experiences in the mental health system in Hollywood were especially detailed and enthralling.  I actually enjoyed those modern depictions more than the Victorian ones because they were much more attached to the narrator's situation than the Asylum Letters, even if just as candid, and had better descriptions and storytelling methods.  At least, until more than halfway through the book.  Then the Hospital Entries became less interesting as they declined in detail and the Asylum story picked up momentum.

There were a few things I really didn't like or was just plain confused by, mainly about EA's trustworthiness as a source of information on her own experiences in the modern-day psych ward.  Now, I have never set foot inside a modern-day psych ward.  I don't know what it is like.  I have one friend who went to a "loony bin," as he fondly calls it, for suicide watch.  He went for the 72 hour observation, got a bed immediately, was only put with the suicidal people and those detoxing from drugs, and left 72 hours later, having received proper medication and counseling for his depression.  One thing he pointed out was that insurance companies don't pay for someone who is "just" suicidal to spend months in a psych ward.  When he went 12 years ago it was about $1000 a day.  I guess that EA went around five or six years ago, and I can't imagine that a psych ward in Hollywood is cheaper than one in central Pennsylvania, as my friend guessed.  So when Emilie complains about not being let out and essentially being forgotten by the staff, he thinks that that would be virtually impossible, because the insurance company would probably just stop paying for her stay.  

Either she is not telling the reader something about her condition (i.e. maybe she has a personality disorder herself that prolonged her stay that she is not disclosing to her readers) or she is a rare case of an individual who fell between the cracks of the system and got royally screwed over.  Whether her experience is one that is common of those who go through the system has yet to be researched, but an account such as EA's must, in my opinion, be treated carefully before being taken for its word.

I would love to interview her and ask her about it.  And ask some professionals in the mental health industry, and other loony bin inmates, about the way it works.

I also have a little beef about grammar and editing. I understand that EA probably self-published her book, which meant that she was probably the editor as well as the writer.  That's a bad combination, simply because once someone has read their own work so many times there comes a point where they begin to miss simple mistakes because they know the story so well that they read it as they think it should read, not as it actually reads.  There were a few typos, a few misuses of the word "its," for example.  Those weren't major mistakes, but careless anyway, and were mistakes that EA could have avoided with a good copy editor.  But there were also a few major mistakes, mistakes that were actually very disappointing to me.  Pages 10 to 11 transitioned horribly.  In my copy of the book, for example, this is what it says on the bottom of page 10:
"I just can't quite process this," I say, unable to give up until I either get my-
At the top of page 11, however, the sentence is not continued, and I find myself in the middle of an unrelated sentence:
"-that, you'll probably add more days onto my sentence, right?"
A copy editor should have definitely caught such a mistake.  If EA had one, that individual should be promptly fired.  If not, then EA should have hired a good one.  It happens at again on page 226, where the end of a page leaves a sentence incomplete, but does not continue on the following page:  
The only reason why I find-
The ending of the book, however, was so fantastical that I have absolutely no idea what to think of EA's sanity.  I was worried when the Asylum inmates took over the Asylum that EA was going to go for a hopeful ending, one that would not fit any of her candid accounts of her bipolar disorder and suicidal thoughts and dreary outlook on life described in the other pages.  But that ending fit the Ophelia theme and the irony of the song "The Art of Suicide" that Emily with a y hated so much up until that moment. It was a perfect metaphor for the hopelessness of depressed and suicidal girls and how sometimes the only solution is to end life on one's own terms.

EA also threw any aspect of autobiography out the window with her last Hospital Entry, tying the modern world into the imaginary Asylum world of Emily with a y so perfectly that it actually had me questioning whether she was truly mad or just extremely clever.  Or both.

The book is a loyal account of what suicidal and depressed girls experience, at least from what I have known myself.  I have suffered from depression for three and a half years now.  I've experienced the feeling of not wanting to get out of bed in the morning, of feeling so unbelievably sad that one wonders how it could get any worse.  I sometimes even wonder if I had committed suicide and my continued perception of existence was really a personal Hell created for suicides where, as punishment, you relive that which gave you pain while you were alive. While I am now on medication and am no longer suicidal, I still fight to get through each day and try to make it seem like my life has meaning.  I deal with many misconceptions of my "condition" as well.  Many of my family members don't believe that depression even exists; unfortunately many people wouldn't unless they experienced it themselves.  Emilie Autumn addresses these issues and so many more in her book, and deserves praise for her honesty and straightforwardness.  I don't have bipolar disorder, and I did not go through even half of what Emilie Autumn herself claims to have happened in her life, but I understand how hard it is for depressed people to do anything.  It's amazing that she was able to write and put together an album as terrific as Opheliac, tour almost non-stop, and publish a 266-page book with more add-ons than an iPhone. 

Whether the "autobiographical" part is true, or missing some key information, must be looked into, but read if you are interested in learning more about a fucked up mental mind or just like horror stories.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

v day

 image source: Twin Brooks Antiques and Collectibles
Yet another holiday's modern practices find their roots in the Victorian Era.  And all of these years I was blaming Hallmark for using Valentine's Day as a reason to have some business in between New Year's and Easter.

This news story from The Washington Examiner briefly discusses the Victorian tradition of making Valentines for the one or ones an individual loved:
FREDERICK, MD. — The Museum of Frederick County History will host a morning filled with white lace, red ribbons, pink hearts and more on Saturday as remnants of the Victorian age will come together to create valentines for the whole family.

During Victorian times, valentines, like most everything else, were equally elaborate and decorative.

Before 1846, Valentines were handmade affairs, and although popular, were not widely exchanged. But after mass production made fancy papers available, the elaborate lace cards with ribbons, flowers, and romantic sentiments took Victorian society by storm.

The Valentine reached its height of popularity in the late 1800s and young lovers found this February holiday more exciting than Christmas.

Victorian Valentines have a distinctive look — lacy with paper cutouts, gold leaf and ribbon — the more elaborate the better. There were often layers and layers of fabric and paper, folded intricately and sometimes three dimensional. Visual and literal puns were quite common, such as "forget me knot" and "bee mine."

Flowery prose was the norm, as well.

Friday, February 12, 2010

the crazies, both modern and fictional

There has been a flurry of writing activity going on in the past week or so with yours truly, despite the nearly two feet of snow outside.  I have two articles coming up for the readers in the next couple of weeks.  I hoped to get them out earlier, but I have more pressing pieces with actual deadlines for The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that take precedence over a blog that I do in what little spare time I have.  My article (yes, this is a shameless plug) did come out yesterday, but it took me until nearly 5 in the evening to receive a copy, thanks to the failure of the news trucks to deliver since the nor'easter set in one week ago.

image source: kaboodle
In relevant neo-Victorian news, last Friday a friend thoughtfully gifted me with a truly wonderful present: a copy of Emilie Autumn's The Asylum For Wayward Victorian Girls.  After looking through it, it's no longer an amazement that the book is $50- it's over 200 glossy pages filled not only with the stories, true and fictional, that EA committed to paper, but also a plethora of photos, drawings of rats and leeches, detailed advertisements for corsets, leeches, and lithium, and a heavy-duty hardbound cover that gives the book the heft of a textbook more so than anything else.  Aesthetically, it's a masterpiece. 

The text itself I will reserve for further comment at a later time, when I have finished reading it and fully absorbed my thoughts.  If you don't like blatantly depressing tales told candidly, this isn't the book for you.  It's pretty intense.

And here's a short blurb from This is Nottingham on Emilie Autumn, her music, her glam rock/goth show, and her struggles with bipolar disorder.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

queen victoria has an iphone

I know, it's been nearly a week since my last update.  I wish I could blame it on this continuous blizzard that has blown through Pittsburgh and the entire northeastern part of the U.S. Actually, I can, as it has been messing with my internet connection.  But I also blame it on my part time jobs, which have worked me pretty much nonstop for the past five days.  The good news is I will have a story published in tomorrow's Neighborhoods sections of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review to show for some of that work.

I am too tired to write out a more detailed blog post, but I will send the link to a rather singular daily web comic called the New Adventures of Queen Victoria.  It's essentially a four-panel comic (with exceptions) made from photos of the English monarch who defined the Victorian Era, but throws any sort of historical accuracy in our faces.  From the website:

About New Adventures of Queen Victoria

Join HRH Queen Victoria as she daily levels her regal gaze upon the fools and tomfoolery of our time. Along with her classically-rendered co-characters Prince Albert, Anne Boleyn, George III (aka “Grandpa”), Mrs. Clipart and Maurice, Queen V grapples daily with the strange state of our affairs, whether it be resisting a vicious comic strip jihad, surviving a visitation by Howard Stern, or hosting a special edition of “Victorian Idol”. Never has a sovereign quoted the Marx Brothers with more aplomb, paid such heed to the fate of the lite-brite, or dared to go where a comic strip has never gone before: shopping for a Wii. Join the Great Lady as she dares to do battle with Oliver Cromwell and James Cameron, and rules with a steady hand over people who can’t tell the difference between the Virgin Mary and Mary Worth. “Curse you, historical accuracy!”
From what I have read of it so far, the punchlines are not often that funny, and the reader usually has to know previous comics to understand the next day's.  However, the fact that today's comic has Queen Vickie "conquering" India via a Four Square app is pretty entertaining.  There seems to be other little funny applications of modern life, as experienced by Her Majesty, in this comic.

It's worth a look-see at least for creativity of concept, if not total entertainment in the execution.

Friday, February 5, 2010

manners in the victorian period

I came across this pretty cool game on the Musee McCord Museum's website that tests how well one knows how to react in certain social situations in the Victorian era.

Being the dork that I am, I played both sides.  Oddly enough, I did better as a male than as a female, scoring nearly 300 points higher on the former.  As a female I didn't know that it was more appropriate the shake hands in the park and how to use the restroom in a train.  And yet for both, I managed to be "the picture of politeness."

Try the game and post your scores in the Comments section of this blog.  :)

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

franchising

I apologize for being so quiet over the past several days.  Three part-time jobs and applying for more full-time jobs have been taking up a good portion of my time, as well as some side projects for this blog.  But I promise to have some interesting posts in the upcoming days.

Instead I leave you with the unofficial news of a Sherlock Holmes sequel, which would turn the 2009 film by Guy Ritchie into a true franchise.  Check out these stories from The Los Angeles Times and Hollywood Insider.

Let's just hope they don't turn it into the disappointment that became the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.