Goth Blog Award

I came back from a weekend away from the internet (or even cell service)* to discover that I had been given the Goth Blog award but none other than the fabulous Siouxsie Law whose own blog is one of my favorites. I am extremely chuffed.

The rules are that once awarded one must pass it on to three other goth blogs which one enjoys.  I had quite a time selecting only three, although the field was considerably narrowed by deciding to not re-award any of the brilliant blogs already so honored.  Anyway, my selections:

The Phantom Cat's Otherworld: The Irish Phantom Cat writes on everything from fashion and makeup to music and books, but my favorite posts are when she writes on Irish legend and history with a Gothic twist.  I loving reading about other cultures and places and her writing gives a real sense of place and mood.

Still Dark at Heart: this blog to me exemplifies the best of a personal blog, reading Sal Kaye's blog feels more like checking in with a friend. Her discussions on reclaiming goth identity as a professional are also extremely relevant to me as I enter the professional world.

Black-Clad in Korea: They don't post often, but the posts here tend to be in-depth and extremely interesting, and cover such topics as teaching troubles, classic gothy TV shows, and zombie walks.  It also often makes me nostalgic for my own time as an English teacher in China, for while those are very different countries there are plenty of similarities, the experience of living in a culture radically different from your own is similar. I tend to just lurk there and rarely comment, because I am weird sometimes.

PS: Happy Halloween!  If you haven't done so yet, check out this amazing Halloween light show featuring music from Nightmare before Christmas, and read Simon Pegg discussing why fast zombies are just plain wrong.

For the curious: I was on a knitting retreat deep in rural Pennsylvania (and yes, part of the driving directions included, "turn off the paved road") and spent the weekend doing nothing but knitting, watching zany movies, having absurd conversations with friends, and drinking various mulled beverages.  We were even snowed in; it was brilliant.

Take Back Halloween!

So, I am sure most all of you have your Halloween costumes sorted by now, but I found this great costume resource and project that I couldn't help but share.  It is called Take Back Halloween! and offers suggestions and how to guides for making amazing costumes based on various goddesses, queens, and notable women.  Their point is that Halloween costumes for grown up women in stores tend to be pretty exclusively limited to Sexy Whatever, and while sexy is fun and good if you feel like it, that shouldn't be the sum total of Halloween costume options for ladies.  I would also point out that the version of sexiness offered up by mainstream costume shops is pretty limited and ludicrous.  There is a whole lot more to being sexy than showing as much of your breasts as possible and it's kind of a shame that this doesn't have wider cultural acknowledgement.  Also, Sexy Takeaway box? Sexy Crayon?  How about, if you want to dress in a sexy costume don't go as a crayon, can we make that rule?  Anyway, what was I talking about? Oh yeah, so Take Back Halloween has great ideas.  Here are some of my favorites:

Persephone, they even tell you where to get black roses with skulls inside, which I think I just need in general.

Pele, because what's more badass than a volcano goddess.  I also think I need those pants in general.

Josephine Baker who is fantastically glamorous and beautiful (and pretty sexy in a non-cheesy-porno kind of way).
Boudicca! Because there is no amount of fake blood that is not appropriate for this costume.

So what are you all dressing as for Halloween?  I am currently thinking of some sort of gothy Miss Fizzle, but I actually have left my costume planning to the last minute and may have to fall back on Generic Witch, since everything I need for that is already in my normal wardrobe.

OOTD: Very Pink

As soon as I saw this sweater on the (virtual*) clearance rack last year I knew I had to have it. The color name: Parton Pink.  Dolly Parton and Miss Piggy were pretty much my original style icons, and I will always admire their uncompromising confidence and panache.  Altogether I think it is a good color to be named after Dolly Parton, it is a really full bleed PINK sort of pink, not at all baby-ish, or shocking neon, assertive but strangely orthodox.
I want to get new buttons for the sweater, the pearly shell ones it came with are boring.  I am thinking small jet beads would be perfect.
I also discovered that these socks match almost exactly.  I just realized this despite having both for nearly a year, anyway... I wore them with lace leggings, which combined powers to be surprising warm. Perfect for an afternoon spent failing to get Vietnamese vegan cult buffet (cultists have no work ethic) on a brisk fall day.

Outfit Details
Sweater: Old Navy online
Leggings: Jessica London
Dress: Target, years ago
Jewelry: Target, this season
Socks: handmade

*Old Navy only sells plus sizes online.  I mean, they can't have fat people actually showing up in the store, obvs.  They have free returns shipping so sometimes I like to order things in like four sizes, you know, to try on.  Too bad I couldn't just go to the store...

Proctor & Gamble study proves gender-based discrimination, fails to notice

Recently the always interesting Siouxsie Law wrote a letter to Proctor and Gamble about their garbage study (in partnership with Harvard, so yes, money can buy credibility) that allegedly proves you need to wear makeup to be perceived as a serious business professional.  Of course, media reporting on science-y things always turns all vaguely ridiculous and so I thought maybe that isn't what the study said.  It was published in a PLoS journal so is open-access so you too can read it here.  Indeed, the study doesn't say what P&G claims in their press release mainly at all and has even less relation to the problematic portrayal of the study in the media which Siouxsie already wrote well on. 

Okay, here is what it claims to prove: makeup production and use functions as an extended phenotype to overlay our natural traits to make an individual's features more in line with facial features which humans seem to have an intrinsic preference for (you know, assuming your makeup is normally applied by professional makeup artists under the direction of beauty scientists, differences which are heavily glossed over in the literature).  Or, in slightly less science-y speak, we use makeup as an evolutionary strategy to be pretty and people's positive reactions to makeup are intrinsic.  There is a large body of research on traits which are intrinsically attractive (all of which nonetheless demonstrates a wide range of variance by individuals).  This study used four women of different ethnicities, made them up at three different makeup levels: light, moderate, and heavy, but the same general palette and styling was used for each level.  They showed pictures of with either no makeup or with the three levels, in one condition for 1/4 of a second and in another for an unlimited time.  Results (mostly, not sure what happened to moderate makeup):
From this they concluded, surprisingly considering they were sponsored by a cosmetics company, that yes makeup does function as an extended phenotype to make people like you more (well, find you hire-able and bangable, only light makeup makes you likable or trustworthy)!

I could spend several not very happy hours de-constructing the discussion section alone which is just filled to the brim with gendered assumptions (lol your suggestion that that naturally attractive people are nice, but ladies who wear a lot of makeup to fake attractiveness are probably shallow and promiscuous*), but instead I will just make a general point.

It's moments like these that I think back to all the times any of my hard science friends made fun of anthropology, sociology, or psychology and think, yeah, this is why my field is just as valid as yours (crotches) and we should probably interact like people from different but equally valid specialties which occasionally touch on each other normally do.  These results are completely expected and explainable by anyone remotely versed in social construction of gender theory.  First, let's talk about how this study used adults from similar cultural backgrounds, obviously you have to use adults to rate these specific traits, but the reasons psychologists in this area generally use babies is in order to filter out the profound effect of encultured beauty standards.  Without that filter their studies would have been totally non-compelling *coughnudge* and close to meaningless.  The alternative to babies is generally cross cultural research, which is not perfect, but a huge improvement. They do actually have a line about that in the discussion that says: "our study included only North American subjects; we do not know if such effects will be found in subjects from other cultures".  Or: Hey our study proves nothing outside of our own cultural assumptions, but yeah perceptions of makeup are totally innate.

So now, to the study authors: In case you are wondering, this cultural beauty standard and the cultural construction of cosmetic use on women perfectly explains what you considered to be the deeply anomalous result of the profound difference between the rating of trust, likability, and attractiveness for women with glamorous makeup depending on how long study participants looked.  While 1/4 of a second is only enough time to register a vague impression of an image, when given the opportunity to look harder study participants could see clearly that those women were wearing a lot of makeup.  Wearing a lot of makeup is pretty culturally loaded (the fact that lots of makeup is more culturally significant than natural makeup also explains the profound differential between short and long looking times for "glamorous" vs. "natural" makeup), because it is perceived as aggressive and slutty.  We often associate aggression with being good at business, and sluttiness with being bangable but unlikable and untrustworthy.  So what I am saying is, all you have proved is that socially constructed beauty standards expect women to alter their appearance through makeup, but too much alteration, while still being more attractive, will cause them to be judged more harshly.  So, congratulations Proctor and Gamble you just proved Naomi Wolf right!

Also, what exactly is this studies' justification for only using women?  Seriously?  I just can't....
Shouldn't the fact that men don't use the apparently brilliant evolutionary strategy of makeup being kind of a big red flag.  I'm starting to think Harvard's Psychiatry cirrulum doesn't include any Foucault at all.

*No seriously, it says that: "In general, there is less agreement about whether beauty invariably signals social cooperation, with some studies suggesting that there is a ”dark side” to beauty characterized by vanity, immodesty, or greater likelihood to cheat on a partner. Our findings suggest that it may be fruitful to disentangle the effects of beauty from beauty enhancement, or phenotype from extended phenotype here [lol, how? how do they suggest that?]. It may be that natural beauty or natural appearing beauty leads to positive inferences of social cooperation, where more obvious beauty enhancement may lead to neutral or even negative inferences."
Okay, so technically it just says that naturally beautiful people are assumed to be nicer whereas heavily made-up people are assumed to be lying whores, it doesn't say they actually just implies that if you have read the research they are referencing.

OOTD: Some Days...

I did way too much procrastinating this semester and got caught up in some paper writing and test prep emergencies this past week. I managed to get dressed (and co-ordinated!) on Wednesday in enough time to take pictures, but am I just now posting them.  This outfit is all about my boss new Moriar-Tea tee. I have a minor obsession with the BBC series "Sherlock" and a major obsession with tea so I was powerless to resist. I had a massive Sherlock Holmes phase in about fourth grade (between my Little House on the Prarie and 19th Century 800 page French novel phases) and this is a pretty great modern adaptation.  Of course I miss the completely non-sequitar anti-mormon rant dropped unawares into the middle of the plot of "A Study in Scarlet", but I guess that would make even less sense in a modern setting.  Anyway, about the outfit.  I like casual t-shirts with frilly skirts and lacy cardigans or similar.  I am still not sure about the stripy socks with the floral skirt, but I think I like it.  It's slightly off-kilter, but so am I sometimes. I have a purple sub-theme that I couldn't bring out in the photos with the most amazing black-purple eye-shadow and purple sugar skull earrings.  I am most pleased with my ridiculous teacup pendant though.
Outfit Details
Shirt: Qwertee
Cardigan: Torrid
Skirt: hand-made
Socks: Sock-it-to-me Curvy
Pendant: Baby Loves Pink

All Hallow's Read!

As your local (or internet local) goth librarian I have to announce this pretty cool new Halloween tradition.  Neil Gaiman explains:

I am completely in favor of this notion of giving scary books on Halloween.  I am in favor of giving books for all the holidays. So what books to give?  I am not a huge reader of scary books.  While I enjoy many books which are scary, scariness is not something, all on it's own, I look for in books, so I would love to hear the favorite scary books of others in the comments.  You can also find more recommendations at the All Hallow's Read website. 

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley: pretty close to the original scary book, and while not actually that scary by modern standards it is still a good read.
Pretty much anything by H.P. Lovecraft
The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Welles
Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman, although only about 1/3-1/2 of the stories within are scary, it does contain what is probably the single most unnerving story I have ever read: "A Study in Emerald"
Watchmen by Alan Moore, with it's especially unsettling comic within a comic
Affinity by Sarah Waters
Beloved by Toni Morrison

For Kids (A very short list):
The Wolves in the Walls by Neil Gaiman
Bunnicula by James and Deborah Howe
Coraline by Neil Gaiman, which would also be enjoyed by most adults

Not-scary but theme appropriate, for those that don't actually like being scared:
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (or really any of the Quirk Classics)
World War Z by Max Brooks
Crocodile in the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters
Carpe Jugulum by Terry Pratchett 
Category: 6 comments

OOTD: The First Velvet of Fall

It is finally, properly Fall and time for all the wonderful fall clothes.  I am sure all seasons have their virtues: winter has Christmas and plenty of excuses to curl up with a good book and hot cider, spring has lovely weather and asparagus, technically necessary for agricultural production, but Fall is definitely the best.  The past weekend was truly chilly in Pittsburgh and I finally got to wear my new shawl, which I finished about three weeks ago and have since been checking weather forecasts trying to decide if it is finally cold enough to wear.  On Saturday I went out to dinner and a cheesy movie with friends, including several knitting buddies, and this was pretty much the perfect moment for shawl deployment.  It was also perfect for wearing some velvet things I bought over summer in clearance sales.  The muff turned out to be profoundly useless, but I am not sure how I have lived this far in life without a velvet bonnet.  It is the perfect head-wear!  It is warm ans pretty and doesn't interfere with my hair-do.  Perfect, I say!  The dress, like the other I have bought from avenue is just weirdly matronly.  Without the belt it is obviously kind of huge and shapeless, even though based on the size chart I would have expected it to be small-ish.

Outfit Details
Dress: Avenue
Shawl: Hand-made
Bonnet and Muff set: Victorian Trading Company
Socks: Sock Dreams, house brand

Yes, I bought the socks just to match the shawl, over-all the outfit is very matchy-matchy, but I like that.
Category: 8 comments

OOTD: The Symphony

This Sunday I was lucky enough to get to see a fantastic performance of the Pittsburgh Symphony and the Eroica Trio (for free, no less).  They preformed Beethoven's 3rd symphony, which marked Beethoven's shift from away the classical school and towards the romantic.  While not my absolute favorite, it is definitely up there, and it was beautifully preformed.  Besides their skill, the other great thing about the Pittsburgh symphony is that they preform in Heinz Hall, a fantastically opulent 20's era movie theater turned concert hall that has been recently restored, with all the gilt and thick red velvet you could want.
I was going to a matinee, but still wanted to dress up a bit.  In general Pittsburgh is a casual town, but it is also pretty old fashioned.  If you are going to the opera or symphony in the evening you will probably see at least a few men in tuxes and ladies in evening gowns, but for a matinee it's more on the order of "Sunday best".
 I find I am getting a huge amount of wear out of this camisole.  The lace insert adds a touch of elegance, without being over the top.  Of course it requires some cardigan or similar to go over it and I went with the lacy teal one for a bit of color, and also because it matches my new sugar skull earring which I am kind of over-fond of.  It was a bit cold for lacy tights on Sunday, but sometimes one must suffer for style, and it made a good excuse to stop in for a post-concert chai before going to wait for the bus.

Outfit Details
Shrug: Handmade, Liesel
Camisole: Soma intimates
Skirt: Igigi
Tights: Torrid

Earrings: Loungefly
Necklace: underground (literally, not as in illicit) pearl market in Shanghai
Eyes: Pan-Galactically Banned Ale shadow by Geek Chic Cosmetics, and L'Oreal HIP cream eyeliner in black
Lips: Bordeaux lipstick by Rimmel

What would Vampires Knit?

Lace of course!
One fateful night at my local knitting group we were discussing how terrible and rom-com-saccharine most novels about knitting groups (yes, this is a genre) are, even more terrible than the post Twilight wave of crappy vampire novels.  An idea was born, and now we are collaboratively writing a knitting vampire (and witch, werewolf, and were-spider) novel.  I have sort of taken over writing for the vampire character, partially because as she is from the Shetland Islands in the18th Century and so requires some research and occasionally, just for fun, I like to use the History degree I am more than $20,000 dollars in debt for.  Mostly though I just seem to be finding it very easy to write for the extremely fussy (even possibly to the point of mild-OCD), precise, opinionated, and slightly bossy former farm-girl.  No idea why.

Anyhoodle, as this is a knitting novel I have been basing a lot of the character work on what sort of things she would knit.  Happily this character work perfectly coincided with Sophistique Noire's one-day theme event of lace because of course, she would be a lace knitter, having cut her teeth in mortal life on the sort of jaw-dropping wedding ring shawls (so called because they can pass entirely through a wedding band) which the Shetland Islands are famous for:
Image by Vulpecva on Ravelry
In her long life she has only loved once, and it was certainly not with the dull sheep farmer to whom she was once betrothed, but with Herbert Niebling from whose beautiful mind flowed the sort of design dreams are made of:
Image furballchaser
Of course one doesn't knit precious masterpieces all the time, even if one is immortal and usually knits with pointed bicycle spokes.  Our vampire lady engages in the sort of profession where one would need a few easy pieces which looked suitably darkly romantic yet still kept off the chill of a Pittsburgh evening.  Something like this Dragon Wings shawl:
A well-liked long standing patron might be favored with something neck-covering like this or this come Christmas.