Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Stereotypical Goth Portrait

While trying to create some promo materials for my eBook "The Gibson Girl's Guide to Make-Up" I accidentally created the following Stereotypical Goth Portrait.

Here's how to make stereotypical Goth portrait like the one above:

  1. Don't smile.
  2. Wear dark lipstick.
  3. Wear dark eyeliner.
  4. If your hair isn't messy to start with, mess it up.
  5. Try to look either sad or pissed off.
  6. Wear black.
  7. Tilt head slightly downward OR hold camera over your head but still look straight forward.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Aka Manto: The Ghost With the Red Cape

We seem to be developing a series of posts about Japanese ghosts! After the previous one about Slit-Mouth Woman, I was looking into some more data about the ghosts of Japan and came onto Aka Manto, or Red Cape.

Red Cape is reportedly a handsome man wearing a red cape: however, he wears a white mask to disguise his good looks, as they had brought him problems in life. Presumably this is the cause of the unhappiness which turned him to a malicious spirit. He usually only is said to haunt girl's bathrooms, and especially inclines to the final stall or the fourth stall (four is an unlucky number in Japan as it is a homophone to the word for Death.)

An experience with Red Cape finds one sitting on the toilet. A man's voice appears mysteriously, asking: "Do you want a red cape or a blue cape?" To answer with a preference for either results in one's own grisly murder: asking for red will find Red Cape appearing and cutting you to shreds or beheading you so that your blood will resemble a cape, asking for blue brings him to appear and strangle you or else drain the blood from your body so that your skin turns blue.

Also, Red Cape is not so easily fooled as Slit-Mouth Woman. While giving her an alternate answer to her pre-set questions can confuse her into leaving you be, Red Cape responds to any requests for alternate colors of cape by simply dragging you away to Hell -- or, some say that if you ask for yellow, he will end his mischief at merely dunking your head into the toilet. The most effective way to avoid Red Cape's wrath, however, is to refuse any of his offerings.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Lively Morgue

A "morgue" of photographs from old newspaper articles. The lack of context on many of them just makes them all the more interesting.

If we posted 10 new archival pictures every weekday on Tumblr, just from our print collection, we wouldn’t have the whole thing online until the year 3935.

That’s a bit too ambitious. Instead, we’ll be dipping in and publishing several photographs each week...

We’re eager to share historical riches that have been locked away from public view, and have been awaiting a platform like Tumblr that makes it easy to do so. We hope you’ll enjoy the serendipity of discovery, that you’ll know something of the thrill we feel when we unlock the door of the morgue and walk into a treasure house made of filing cabinets, index cards, manila folders and more 8-by-10s than anyone can count.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Make Any Food Goth with Black Salt

Black salt has been turning up everywhere lately, and it seems like an easy way to goth up a plate of food. One marketer even states that this salt "adds drama" to any dish. Who doesn't want drama in their food?

But what is it that gives this salt its black color? Is it dried from the tears of a thousand devils?

While the ads may lead you to believe the salt naturally forms in this spectacular death metal hue from being near volcanos or ashy deposits, the surprising truth is that this "black salt" is merely regular sea salt with food-grade charcoal added to give it color and a smokey taste. This pretty much means you can make it yourself at home, if you know how to get the proportions right.

Black salt can be used in the place of any other coarse salt in recipes, and due to its flashy look might best be applied as a sprinkle. Use it in place of pretzel salt to make Goth Pretzels, or instead of the kosher salt when making Death Fish. See how easy it is to give food ridiculously gothic names once you factor in this salt?

Friday, May 18, 2012

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


I have had the song Thursday's Child by David Bowie stuck in my head for days now. What is it that causes this phenomenon? The BBC has researched it, and concluded the following causes:

Exposure. You can't get it stuck in your head if you've not heard it, and having heard it recently makes it more likely to wedge its way in.

Memory triggers. Something in your environment reminds you of the song; maybe a phrase that's similar to some of the lyrics, or maybe an experience that connects to an occasion when you'd listened to or thought of the song. Stressful experiences especially make strong connections (like the story of the mountain climber who was lost and starving in the wilderness and couldn't get Boney M's Brown Girl in the Ring out of his head.)

He says the main question people ask him about earworms is: "How do we turn them off?"

Levitin offers a piece of advice. "Just think of another song and hope that'll push out the first one."

Dr Vicky Williamson is currently trying to find the best "cures" for earworms. She says the structure of one tune may have a bearing on whether it's useful in displacing another.

She's also looking at whether everyday strategies help, like going for a run or doing a crossword.

Both Levitin and Williamson agree that getting an unwanted tune out of your head is a relief. But of course the song that cures you might just end up being the next one that gets stuck.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Nightmare Before Christmas Wedding Reception

While Googling about for something else altogether, I just so happened upon this page of photos labeled "Nightmare Before Christmas Inspired Wedding." Scroll about 2/3rds down to see the relevant photos -- the wedding itself seems to have been a basic, classy vintage affair, but the wedding reception -- that's where the Nightmare begins!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Steampunk Future

In 1900, some German speakers* produced a series of postcards about the marvels which would exist in the year 2000: weather-changing machines, personal airships and flying machines, and devices for walking on water. Some of the predictions we do have (underwater boats) and some we could have but don't because it's a terrible idea (X-ray police surveillance -- you know some perv would just use it to watch women undress.)

*Apparently they were part of an ad campaign for Hildebrand's German Cocoa.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Gothic: The New Arts and Crafts Movement

It seems that there is this belief, mostly amongst non-Goths, that Goth is seen as an identity people take on in order to be visibly rebellious against a middle-class upbringing, and that for Goths past university age that it is a variation on being a "trustafarian". This, I think, misinterprets the motivations of those who become Goth - it is not done as an active rejection or rebellion of anything, simply as the enjoyment of music, fashion and art outside the mainstream. It has become a subculture, but it is not a counterculture in the way of Punk or Hippie - Goth is more concerned with arts than politics, especially music.
One of the ways that Goth is different to the mainstream in terms of values is the importance of self-made cultural signifiers over bought cultural signifiers - Goths tend to value someone sewing their own bustle-skirts and fancy jackets over them being bought, and while judgement may be passed on the quality of the final product by some, the desire to create for oneself will be lauded, not just for the skill required, but because creating emancipates one from having to buy into mass-produced concepts and allows for originality and a heightened level of freedom of expression bound only by courage and skill. Making one's own clothes has often been mocked as either being a forced condition of poverty (strange in a country where it is cheaper to get clothes from a discount retailer such as Primark or from a charity shop than it is to buy materials to make clothes, although this does not necessarily stand for alternative clothes - it is cheaper to buy a t-shirt than to make one, it is cheaper to make a bustle gown than to buy one) or an attempt to be deliberately countercultural - i.e simply doing so because the mainstream isn't - rather than simply as a way to have clothes that fit correctly and look exactly the way the wearer intends, or at least hopefully rather close to that vision.
I think there is also an assumption that in order to have the time to actually ponder concerns like the one I am writing about, or to "indulge" in the arts or music, that one must be at least middle class-because it is assumed that otherwise I would be too busy trying to make a living. At one point I was at college, working in a supermarket, and going to evening classes - I wrote observational poetry in the quiet moments in the supermarket, on the back of discarded receipts. While an active pursuit of the arts, like learning a musical instrument from a teacher, or going to concerts and the sorts of exhibitions where you have to pay, does require financial resources, it is possible to be personally involved and interested in the arts with little in the way of resources. I taught myself to play piano, partly because I could not afford a tutor, and yes, it took a long time, and yes, my technique is highly unorthodox (and probably self-defeating on occasion) but I can now play things with relative competency and musicality, I draw on cheap office paper with the biros that are given away free in banks or with catalogues, I make and modify my fashion out of things I bought in charity shops. A passion for creativity may be bracketed in terms of its final form by resources and circumstance and opportunity, but not in its existence. Goth, as a subculture focused on artistic expression, especially music, is therefore bracketed only in form by resources, not in vision, passion or inclusion. Passion and determination can to a certain degree prevail over circumstance and lack of opportunity.

-- from Domesticated

The blog post quoted above has a point: Goths tend to be crafty and artistic sorts of people; and in general, they are not wealthy. Most of my own goth friends work in retail. And yet, the points made in the article above turned my mind to an old Victorian/Edwardian era art and cultural phenomenon: The Arts and Crafts Movement.

The Arts and Crafts Movement began in England around the 1860s, and flourished until about the 1930s. In the US it is mostly associated with architecture and furniture. Decorative arts were certainly a large part of the movement's concept. It stood for traditional craftsmanship using simple forms and often applied medieval, romantic or folk styles of decoration. It advocated economic and social reform and has been said to be essentially anti-industrial. By the end of the nineteenth century, Arts and Crafts ideals had influenced architecture, painting, sculpture, graphics, illustration, book making and photography, domestic design and the decorative arts, including furniture and woodwork, stained glass, leatherwork, lacemaking, embroidery, rug making and weaving, jewelry and metalwork, enameling and ceramics.

The notion behind the movement was to create items with a rustic or natural appearance, in contrast to the modernized appearances brought on by the industrial revolution. It was also a reaction against the way that mechanized production eliminated the need for skill and creativity amongst workers: for example, weaving a tapestry in the past would have been a long, personal process which required much training, ability and knowledge. In the industrial age, it was simply a matter of threading a machine pre-set with an already selected pattern and cranking it along. No more creativity or skill was required. Furthermore, the ability to produce items cheaply was degrading the quality of goods overall, since no care or thought needed to be put into them. William Morris, one of the figureheads of the movement, "believed that industrialization alienated labor and created a dehumanizing distance between the designer and manufacturer."

Sites like Gothic Martha Stewart instruct members of the gothic subculture in ways to cheaply handcraft decorative items like decoupaged tables, drawstring bags and stamped candles. Etsy's handmade and vintage market is full of goth crafts for sale. Most goths I know have at least one item in their wardrobe that was handmade or hand-altered by their own selves. Is Gothic the new Arts and Crafts Movement, rejecting the standards of mass production in the name of the individual?

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Goth Jokes

Q: What's the difference between a goth girl and a goth guy?
A: About 200 lbs.

Q: Why didn't the goth cross the road?
A: Because she never left the house.

Q: What do you call a goth toilet?
A: Bowelhaus.

Q: Why don't goths use fabric softener?
A: They like the pain.

Yes, thank you. Thank you very much. Try the veal.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Playing With Black: Gothic Eyes Makeup Tutorial

I've been noticing these little floral splashes are the fashion lately - and props to the director or using the Danse Macabre as the background score!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Kuchisake-onna, Ghost of The Slit-Mouth Woman

I confess, I'm a scardey-cat, and I have the particularly unreasonable fear of ghosts, of all things. I managed to completely terrify myself into sleeplessness one evening by just reading the Wikipedia article about the Slit-Mouth Woman.

According to Japanese legend, the ghost of the Slit-Mouth Woman approaches her victims on the street, covering her mouth -- in the old days she used the long sleeves of her kimono as her cover, but in modern form she wears a surgical mask. She asks her victim, "Do you think I'm pretty?" A no answer means instant death; but a yes prompts her to reveal her face, showing that her mouth has been carved into a Glasgow grin. She asks again if she if pretty. Again, a no ensures instant death, but a yes this time means she blesses you with the opportunity to look as pretty as her, by slicing your mouth open into a similar Chelsea smile. In some versions of the story, she will also kill you when she does this.

The legend however does say there are ways to escape. The Slit-Mouth Woman, like many ghosts of lore, is easily confused. Simply repeating your answer multiple times, whatever it may be, can be enough to confuse her and allow you a chance to escape. Another (very Japanese) way to flee her wrath is to simply tell the ghost of the Slit-Mouth Woman that you are in a hurry and need to be elsewhere: she will apologize for her bad manners for detaining you, and let you be.

According to the legend, Slit-Mouth Woman was a beautiful girl whose jealous husband mutilated her face by slitting her mouth out to her ears. This trauma drove her to insanity, and this is why her ghost remains bent on inflicting the same fate upon others.
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