My personal blog as a 'grown-up' Goth and Romantic living in the Highlands of Scotland. I write about the places I go, the things I see and my thoughts on life as a Goth and the subculture, and things in the broader realm of the Gothic and darkly Romantic. Sometimes I write about music I like and sometimes I review things. This blog often includes architectural photography, graveyards and other images from the darker side of life.

Goth is not just about imitating each other, it is a creative movement and subculture that grew out of post-punk and is based on seeing beauty in the dark places of the world, the expression of that in Goth rock. It looks back to the various ways throughout history in which people have confronted and explored the macabre, the dark and the taboo, and as such I'm going to post about more than the just the standards of the subculture (Siouxsie, Sisters of Mercy, Bauhaus, et al) and look at things by people who might not consider themselves anything to do with the subculture, but have eyes for the dark places. The Gothic should not be limited by what is already within it; inspiration comes from all places, the key is to look with open eyes, listen carefully and think with an open mind..

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Goth, Definitions and Inclusivity vs. Elitism

Today I ended up in a rather involved and passionate debate over what it takes to be a Goth.

The term Goth, or any other label, exists to summarise interests in terms of describing an aesthetic, a musical genre, and participation of a subculture.  In terms of the word 'Goth' describing a level of participation in the subculture, to me  there is a sort of Goth 'triumvirate' of aspects (I know that the word triumvirate refers usually to three leading people) - a Goth is someone that is interested in Goth music, admires the Goth aesthetic (including fashion) and has the broader mindset and lifestyle. A Goth is someone who is involved in all three aspects. Some believe that the term Goth can apply to someone who is involved in only two of  the three. I know that what does and does not constitute the music, lifestyle or aesthetic is up for enough debate, let alone the level of involvement it takes to call oneself a Goth, and that each Goth probably has their own standards, but that is the definition I use. 

What I actually want to talk about is not so much where to draw the line, but how that line is used in the subculture.

It seems that in attempts to be very inclusive of people with a variety of interests, all sorts of things that are not actually Goth, and sometimes not even alternative or dark, get lumped under the term, as do other subcultures such as Steampunk and Lolita. I have no problem with being accepting of people with interests in Goth and other subcultures, people who have hybrid subcultural affiliation, and other forms of subcultural and cultural cross-polination, but for the term Goth to remain a useful description, it needs to have some sort of definition. One does not need to say, for example "oh, Gothic Lolita is Goth" or some such in order to socially accept Gothic Lolitas. All that does is muddy the waters and make it more difficult for people to communicate their actual interest - the proliferation of terms has coincided with the proliferation of hybrid subcultures, new subcultures and    , with the rise of the internet, a globally connected alternative scene where people want to communicate with and connect to people with similar interests. If the term 'Goth' becomes too broad, it stops signifying a reasonable amount of potential interests and becomes vague. 

The biggest issue, though, is the imaginary correlation between Goth-ness and acceptance, and a concept that how Goth someone is equates to how cool, or how pretty, or how interesting, or how nice they are as a person or a whole load of other equally unrelated assumptions and non-existent relationships between terms.  If you accept or reject people purely on how close they stick to a label, then you are probably a very shallow person indeed - people are a lot more than the sum of their music collection,  clothes and interests. There is nothing wrong with being a metalhead that likes Goth fashion, or a Gothic Lolita that likes Goth music, and just using terms like those to describe it should not mean a lack of acceptance by the groups involved, but sadly it seems that some people feel that unless they are 'true Goths' they can't have acceptance, and equally, there are people who would have Goth as an isolated subculture exclusively for participation in by those who are, to them, 'true Goths'. Surely we should be open-minded and accepting enough for it not to matter how Goth someone is? 

There seems to be a confusion between the exclusivity inherent in a term that describe something - as for a term to be a valid description a word does have to exclude certain things,  for example the word purple does not mean pink, red or blue, it only means purple; pink and, red and blue not being purple doesn't make those other colours any less colourful, it just makes them not purple - and a sense of exclusivity in terms of a closed club for only certain people. People should be able to freely participate in the subculture at any level they choose, from an interest in only certain aspects of it, to living as a Goth for all 24 hours of every day, all seven days of every week and all 365 (or 366) days of every year, and do so without judgement. It is far more important for people to be true to themselves than it is for them to adhere to a label. Goth is not an exclusive club or a clique; it is a descriptive term; there is no value judgement to it. It is open to participation by anybody interested, and people can participate at a variety of different levels and contribute in a variety of ways. 

Acceptance of non-Goths with an interest in the subculture should not be a case of "You're not goth enough, but I still like you" as if whether or not liking someone has ANY RELEVANCE to how much they participate in the subculture, on what level, and in what manner. Those things ARE NOT RELATED, or at least should not be. It is creating some kind of relationship between acceptance and aesthetic/musical preference/lifestyle that I see as the problem. You can like someone who does not have all the exact same interests as you do, and you can despise someone who does - there are certainly people who share a huge amount of common interests with, but whom I cannot stand (and sometimes wish I could hit over the head with a sturdy cane...).

If it was not for the term 'Goth' being used for the purposes of creating social boundaries, we'd be discussing what musical techniques define the sound in musical terms, or what artistic movements have contributed and how the visual aesthetic can be described, or some such instead of discussing elitism and exclusivity. To me, Goth is something akin to Romanticism; a creative movement, something defined by a musical and visual aesthetic and way of looking at the world, and therefore, ultimately something like Romanticism or Impressionism. Nobody argues over whether the definitions of either are elitist (or at least not anywhere I come across) because as historical movements of times past, the terms mean little in terms of social inclusion or acceptance in the present day (says someone who calls herself a latter-day Romantic) and thus people feel much freer to define them by specific aesthetic, musical, literary and philosophical styles and differences. 

It is time that elitism within Goth dissipates, and that people feel free to clear about their interests, and to admit their extra-subcultural interests, or a desire not partake in certain aspects, without people judging them as somehow lesser for not being Goth enough. Such shallowness breeds a feeling that it is somehow  not right to explore or other paths, or to admit that for example, one likes the fashion but not the music. There is nothing inherently wrong in liking Goth fashion but preferring say, folk music. It might not be Goth music, but if the person is happy listening to it, then there is no issue. There is far more of an issue when people force themselves to adhere to a certain subculture against their own preferences in order to feel accepted. 

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Arches, Tracery and Details

❝Architecture on a Saturday?
What is this heresy? 
Photographs are for Fridays!

<evil villain> 
You all thought you'd escaped Photographic Friday's usual bunch of architecture pictures, didn't you? You thought that I'd be content with Raven's lovely pictures of me (lovely because he's a good photographer, not because I'm a lovely model) and that there would be no spires, steeples, turrets, arches, or other architectural photographs of any kind, and that you were safe from my photographic obsession with buildings. 
 </evil villain>

Out in the sunshine with a camera and a corset.
Photograph by Suzy_Bugs

Now, over the last week or so, I have not actually been out to photograph buildings, but spending a lot of time indoors. This is for two practical reasons. The first is that I physically am not up to walking around a lot. Last Thursday (yep, actually last Thursday) it was really rather hot out, and I fainted in the heat, landed awkwardly, bruised my hip, sprained my ankle and bruised my knee badly. Normally I would say this is minor damage and carry on as per usual, but I work on my feet and cannot afford to take days sick. I made the mistake of trying to carry on as per normal, with Roller Derby on Monday night and walking my daily 14 to 15 mile commute on the Tuesday, but by Tuesday evening my ankle was so sore that I was using my cane and not shuffling far from the sofa! As such, I thought it best to avoid too much unnecessary walking, so my photographic activities have been curtailed. The second reason is that I have been focusing my efforts on illustrations for a book. This is paid work, valuable to me, so it must take priority. 

I didn't have to digitally straighten this one!

That said, I did dig out a few pictures from a previous trip. These are all (I think all) of St. Mary's Catholic church on Huntly Street, in Inverness, on the opposite side of the river from the churches I usually photograph. It is an unusual church building, and a very beautiful and ornate one. From the website, I gather it has beautiful stained glass windows, including some wonderful modern pieces commemorating local historical figures and ties with the Polish community in Inverness, but I do not want to be disrespectful by photographing inside the church, especially as I am not Catholic (even if I once was, maybe because I once was.). 

Dramatic skies ahoy!

Trying to get a half decent angle that takes in a large portion of the building was a real challenge - one I think may best be answered from the other side of the river! The picture above is from an angle suggested by Raven, as he was being a very helpful photography coach for me.  The sky was mostly a dull sort of cloudy that day (hence why the direct photograph has such a dull sky above it) but it had a moment of drama, and I took the opportunity. This is my favourite photograph from this little expedition, and in my uneducated opinion, the best. 

Open tracery

The front of the building is designed to maximise grandeur, with the church recessed from street level and connected to the equally ornate ecclesiastical buildings either side with angled walls that create a bit of false perspective and also draw the visitor in towards the church door. It does not appear, in terms of size, to compete with the Protestant churches of various denominations on the opposite side (Free Church, Church of Scotland, etc.)  although I do not know how far back it goes, and it does not posses a tall and imposing steeple. It does, however, manage to cram as much ornament as physically possible into a relatively compact space. It is a Victorian Gothic Revival building in a city full of Victorian Gothic Revival buildings, and I do wonder if the architects involved got a bit competitive. 

Fleur de Lis design. 

Even the floor tiles are fancy! This tile is made with two different clays, rather than being painted, a terracotta red for the design on a creamy-coloured background. Tiles have been produced in this manner and in similar designs for hundreds of years - the Victorians didn't just emulate their Medieval inspiration, the reproduced its craftsmanship. Now, where can I get some of these for my hall-way... 

The cement render behind the gate is in pretty ruin.

I want some of my pictures to have a sense of narrative, a sense that they are part of a story. I like taking pictures that have doorways, paths, arches, passageways - things that give a sense of how the building is something that can be walked through, not just detail on a flat plane, and also I want there to be a bit of mystery. I'd like people to wonder, as I do, what lies behind the gates, around the columns and down the passageways. Whenever I played games like Tomb Raider or Assassin's Creed or Prince of Persia, it was always exploring the nooks, clambering on buildings and generally being curious that intrigued me, more so sometimes than finishing the level! I have this sort of attitude towards real life, except with the limitation that there are places I am not allowed to go and apparently clambering on the buildings is frowned upon (not that this stopped me at boarding school...). 

I have a feeling this is part of another church.

Sometimes it's just the shapes, the patterns, the textures, things less directly 'building' that catch my eye. Hopefully, as my legs (especially that ankle!) recover, I shall be out and about taking more pictures. Maybe there will even be variety as I find something other than buildings and monuments to photograph. Either that or I will eventually produce a comprehensive guide to twiddly buildings in the Highlands. I am hoping to get some castle photos taken; Cawdor Castle, Inverness Castle, Brodie Castle, etc. etc. Lots of castles around here, including the fabulous Eilean Donan Castle (my correspondents will recognise that one from the multitude of postcards I send), so it that sort of project could keep me occupied for a while. 

Friday, 24 August 2012

Dark Romanticism and Goth

I'm more aptly a 'dark Romantic' than a Goth.

Photograph by Raven, Editing by the HouseCat

Maybe I've always had a broadly Romantic attitude, but one that was not really cultivated into anything productive until I started reading about the philosophy and literature of that time period. I started finding that I agreed with a lot of it and that the rest of it was taking me down new and exciting avenues. Some of these ideas became building blocks of my personal philosophy (which constantly evolves) and some of them fell by the wayside, but my way of thinking and my creativity were far more influenced by things that happened over  150, even 200 years ago than by what happened in the 1980's. My head was full of Clare, Keats, Wordsworth,  of Beethoven, Paganini, Weber, Liszt, Chopin, etc. long before it was full of Ian Curtis, Siouxsie Sioux, Robert Smith, Andrew Eldrtich, Patricia Morrison and Dave Vanian. Mary Shelley, Edgar Allan Poe, Bram Stoker, etc. were my transition between the two, with a large dash of Arthurian poetry and art, Pre-Raphaelites and Tolkien. 

Photograph by Raven, Editing by the HouseCat

Romanticism informs far more of my world-view than Punk thinking - even my tendency towards anarchism is rooted more in centuries-old political philosophies than 1970s political philosophies. My search for experience is core to my way of life, to the point where I think the purpose of life is to experience as much and as richly as possible. A lot of my art is based on direct inspiration from nature; I see strong emotion as an authentic source of aesthetic experience, with a decidedly Gothic emphasis on such emotions as apprehension, horror and terror, including the feelings that come around contemplating the inevitability of our own demise and decay. Awe, to me, is the emotion upon which I build inspiration, especially that which is experienced in confronting the sublime glory of untamed nature - the awe experienced while looking into the raging storm, or at wild currents of a river's rapids - and I'd go storm-chasing at white-water rafting if I could. On one hand I embrace medievalism, Gothic revival architecture and Arthurian myth, and on the other I look to the exotic (relative to my culture), to Japanese culture and ancient ruins. I empathise with William Blake as he talks of 'dark Satanic mills" in reference to early industrialisation, and see it continue in the smoke-stacks of coal fired-power stations, and in the seemingly unstoppable increase of materialistic consumer culture and all the factories thousands of miles away that feed it. 

Photograph by Raven, Editing by the HouseCat

In feeling like an alien amongst mainstream society I went looking for philosophies I did agree with - somewhere other people had to see things the way I did, and it did not seem that I was mad - and unfortunately found them to be an anachronism in relation to modern life, but then, as I read and experienced more about the various counter-cultures and subcultures from Arts & Crafts and Pre-Raphaelite era women in 'artistic dress' through Hippies and Punks to Goths -especially Goths- I saw the ideological tendrils that began with Sturm und Drang and revolutionary France were still bearing fruit. I did not set out to become a latter-day Romantic, albeit one with a fondness for black and the macabre, it just suits my personality down to the ground. 

Photograph by Raven, Editing by the HouseCat

My interests are broader than the Goth subculture, my perspective has not grown out of punk or of rock, but out of philosophy, literature and art, and I'm often a bit of a walking anachronism in more than just my fashion choices. Talking of fashion choices, stylistically I am fascinated by an aesthetic, not a subculture, and will wear things from Visual Kei, Elegant Gothic Aristocrat, Lolita and other Japanese styles as much as I'd wear Goth things, and will also wear vintage things or "hippie" things, or whatever else takes my fancy. I am more interested in anachronistic styles, luxuriously textured fabrics and an almost theatrical appearance than in what particular subculture you could attribute a garment to. My eclectic approach to fashion is not something I disguise, and where possible, I do try to accurately describe my various subcultural influences. 

Photograph by Raven, Editing by the HouseCat

My not-Goth interests predate my interest in the Goth subculture, and have not really wained in interest, only in time to spend on them. I am into the music, the fashion, the broader creative endeavours and the attitude that comprise the Goth subculture, but that only represents a small facet of who I am, and I feel that "Dark Romantic" encompasses a far greater amount of who I am than "Goth". Goth is still part of my identity, I still think the label applies to me, just it does not cover everything. 

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Domesticated: Now On FaceBook!

Domesticated Goth now has its own FaceBook page!

I figured there needed to be a place where readers can discuss the blog in a wider context than comments on specific blogs, and where I can update people with information. Like the blog's page ::here:: to be kept updated and to make suggestions, discuss the blog, and view the photograph's I've posted (and a couple extra) in an album format. 

Symbolism, Fashion Statements, Pentacles & Pentagrams

This is a short post about my personal attitude towards wearing religious, political and philosophical symbols. 

I won't wear any symbol where I do not personally agree with or support what it symbolises. I won't wear rosaries as a fashion statement, nor Soviet gear, nor anything else that isn't something I personally believe in. I see a lot of Goths wearing various religious and political symbols, and sometimes I wonder if some of them might be doing it for what I would see as not the best reasons.

I do this for two main reasons.

The first is that in wearing a symbol you are communicating your support for what it means, that is why the symbols exist in the first place, to represent something and communicate association with what it represents to those who see it. People tend to see someone wearing a symbol and assume it is representative of the wearer's beliefs - it is often assumed that someone wearing a cross, for example, is Christian, or that someone wearing a headscarf is Muslim and not just keeping the wind out of their hair (or part of other religious groups who practice head-covering). I do not want to communicate to others inaccurate or mixed messages. I am Pagan, previously of Wiccan denomination, and do not want people to believe I'm Christian because, simply, it would be an inaccurate assumption. 

Secondly, I do not want to accidentally use somebody's symbol in a way that would cause offence, especially by inadvertently committing blasphemy, or by using a symbol in a context that would be offensive within its originating cultural context. Some things that we in ignorance perceive as mere decorative motifs can be religious or cultural symbols of great significance in their originating context. There are people (mostly Catholic) for whom a rosary is religiously important object, and who find wearing one as a fashion statement to be offensive and trivialising and commercialising the symbols of the faith that is very important to them. 

I also think it is wrong to use symbols in order to look 'cool', 'edgy' or 'shocking'. Doing so hijacks potent symbols, strips them of their intended meaning in the new context, and replaces that meaning with a statement of "look how daring I am!" on behalf of the wearer. Personally, I disagree with using shock value to make statements anyway, but that is not the point here. If you wear Communist symbols or Swastikas, people will  often assume that it is in support of those ideals, and not for shock value anyway, so firstly expect to get some strong negative reactions if you do wear such things, and also realise that in using the symbols of the darkest parts of history in order to appear shocking or make a statement, you are using that symbol outside of its historical context, appealing to its historical context on a superficial level of "evil bad guys" and thus reducing that symbol to a very black and white and simplistic pastiche of a history that ought to be remembered and understood in greater detail with an understanding that history and culture are full of nuances and complications. Yes, the Nazis, Fascist Japan, Communist Russia and Communist China all committed horrific atrocities, but that is not the full summation of 20thC world history or even the summation of those particular periods and regimes. 

A Tangent On Use Of Pagan Symbols
(I hope the Triple Goddess works on your browser)
Another pair of symbols used for shock value are the pentacle or pentagram, as a lot of misguided people believe those symbols to be representative of Satanism, regardless of orientation, or context and regardless of the fact that they are primarily used today by the Wiccan and Pagan community (and that they have a long history with other groups, going back to at least pre-cuniform Mesopotamian pictograms, and are used by other religious groups).  As a Pagan I am opposed to people appropriating the symbols of my religion for shock value, and I would imagine that there are Satanists who also disapprove of people using ignorant portrayals of their religion for shock value, too. 

These symbols have different names and variations in meaning.
As a Pagan, I feel very upset when I see people who mis-use pentagrams and pentacles, and tie them to things such as animal sacrifice, sexual depravity, and other things very alien from actual Paganism. I also feel very upset when I see people wear them to try and be 'spooky' and 'edgy'. I also dislike it when clueless people wear them and claim to be Pagan, yet spout cliches based on negative stereotypes of our religion. Paganism and Witchcraft are not well-accepted religions/spiritualities, and we face real discrimination, mostly from people who really believe we are fringe-crazies who worship evil, sacrifice things, are sexually depraved and altogether immoral - think of the Satanic Panic of the 1980s. People have lost their jobs, their children, even their lives because of a misunderstanding of, and prejudice against, our faith, and misappropriating our symbols and using them in ways that reinforce the misunderstanding are thus harmful. So it is appropriative, and it is harmful to use our symbol in this manner. 

Also, and this is a minor aside compared to the point in the previous paragraph, Pagans are a religious minority, there aren't that many of us around, although the concentration in various alternative groups is higher than on average, but even so, many of us wear our Pagan symbols visibly as a sign of solidarity - so that we may identify each other as people of similar faith and feel a little less alone. Some of us get a little bit excited (even if secretly) on spotting someone else wearing a pentacle or Goddess symbol; we think we've found another of our kind, and there's a little bit of frustration and disappointment that can occur when we find out that the person wearing it has no idea what it means. 

I cannot stop people from wearing symbols, and in the end, it is mere clothes, mere fashion, but I think it is important to remember that fashion can convey meaning, and that there repercussions to the display of symbols. I feel that it is important to be understanding - to understand the meaning of the symbols, and to understand how people my perceive them, and to how the people connected to the original context may react. Also remember that one symbol can have more than one meaning, depending on context and culture. 

Monday, 20 August 2012

Raven Appreciation II: A Year Living Together

♡ A Year Living Together ♡
It has now been a year since Raven and I moved to Scotland together. Our 1 year anniversary of living together was on the 20th of this month.  Nobody's been killed, the apartment building hasn't been suddenly replaced with a crater and there have been no major arguments: I call this a resounding success! I must admit I was really nervous when first moving up to Scotland; it was a new city, a new country, a new job, a new life with the man I love... a new everything! Yes, I was made redundant within a month of taking up my new job, and ended up unemployed for a while, but those are the risks of a recession, and Raven has been hugely supportive of me during that time. On the whole it has been a wonderful, wonderful experience. I have fallen in love with Scotland, and fallen even more in love with Raven. 

Tugging Raven's jacket off him. My old music corner, April '10
Photograph by Raven.

Raven and I have been together as a couple for a few years now, and I still love him as much today as I did when we first got together. It is a cliché, but I love him more each day than I did the previous, and will love him a little more the next. He is worth waxing lyrical about (read ::Raven Appreciation I::), but I'm not very good at that sort of thing and it always seems strange gushing like that in public. 

Oh, here I go anyway... 

Raven is a very kind, thoughtful, loving person; the sort of person that is always considerate of others and who worries about everyone (even though we're all fine, really!). He's hardworking, diligent, and sees "above and beyond" as the standard. He's a romantic (lower-case 'r') who sends flowers, hand-written letters, and adorable notes. He knows when I need chocolate. He is exceedingly patient, and manages to cope with my bouts of irrationality and over-emotionalness (is that even a word?) and my delving into obsession with my topic-of-the-moment. Raven is outdoorsy and adventurous; he thinks ideas like touring Europe on motorbikes and climbing random mountains are good ideas, and doesn't think that foraging for wild food in the autumn is strange. Raven is creative, and supports me in my creativity. He is, altogether, a wonderful human being. 

Dear readers, please extricate yourselves from that mass of sticky sap before I end up glueing you all together.  

Later Note:

I am entering this blog post for Victorian Kitty's monthly theme of "Someone Special" over at Sophistiqué Noir, as Raven is certainly someone very, very special to me. Victorian Kitty's blog is a very interesting fashion blog focusing mostly on her work attire, and is very well put together (as are her outfits, consistently) and she certainly deserves the title of "Corporate Goth Style Icon".  Check out her blog, and those of the other participants in this month's theme. 

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Fashion Advice for New Goths and Babybats

I was discussing the topic of Babybats, and it inspired me to write some advice for people starting out in the subculture on assembling a Goth wardrobe. 

The first thing I will say is "Do not panic!" You do not have to immediately look like a Gothic model in gorgeous Romantic finery or a really intricately layered Deathrock-type ensemble (yes, I am aware that Deathrock is not the same as Goth, a case of parallel evolution in America that later cross-polinated with Goth, etc.) and that it does not make you 'less Goth' if you don't have fancy clothes. You cannot judge how Goth someone is by their clothes. You certainly cannot judge how good or interesting or fun a person is by their clothes! Do not forget that a lot of models are being paid to wear a certain brand or designer's clothes - those are not necessarily the clothes they actually wear every day! Also, those who do have vast wardrobes of finery have probably acquired them over a very long time, often a decade or more.

If you have a passion for the music (Goth started out as a music-based subculture, and music is still its beating heart), the mindset, and taste for things dark, the reasonable amongst us will understand that you are new and may not know a huge amount about the music, the literature etc. Fashion is really a superficial concern, although I know how much looking the part can help a new person feel like they will fit in more with other Goths and how important it can be to those establishing this newly discovered facet of their identity. People who are mean to you for being new are unreasonable and silly; don't let them put you off the subculture when there is so much you might miss out on enjoying! 

The second most important thing I can say is that creativity is more valued in the subculture than your ability to afford expensive things. If all you can afford are charity shop clothes and craft supplies, but you spent hours carefully painting and sewing patches or adding lace trim, you will earn a lot more respect than if you have bought the latest offerings from Lip Service or Retroscope Fashions or whatever, because you will have shown creativity, individuality, a desire to make things for yourself and to customise and make something your own, and you will have put in the effort. 

Do not be daunted by the prospect of DIY, even if you are not hugely crafty - a lot of things are a lot easier than they look, and with a little practice even the least dextrous person can turn a plain garment into something interesting and aesthetically pleasing. There are a huge amount of tutorials and step-by-step craft projects on the internet; browse through them and pick out things you really like and think you can manage and then work your way up to more complicated projects. You might find out that you have a knack for a craft after all, you just hadn't encountered it before - it turns out I am rubbish at knitting, but I'm rather good at making my own wigs, but if I hadn't tried to make my first braid wig (project ::here::) I would never have found that out or had the confidence to make more complicated wigs (like my neon green and black cyberdreads). 

As to what to actually wear? Start with looking at the musicians, going back to the early '80s and late '70s, and then look at the models, and other goths. Then look at lots of other things - clothes, costumes, even interior design and artwork. Consume visually, create for yourself a scrapbook and digest all that visual information, analyse how the shapes work, how the textures work, look for why clothes look good together (here is where a physical scrap-book where you can write and draw has an advantage, but I like scrap-bookign and am therefore a bit biased), and then aim for what  inspires you, what you think looks nice, and what suits you. 

When shopping, try to aim for a few items that look good with each other, rather than just going for the things you think are prettiest first. If you must buy something that you don't have other things to make an outfit with, because it's one-off bargain or something, it is not the end of the world that you can't wear it out right away because nothing you own goes with it, and it is better to wait until you have gathered enough to incorporate it into an outfit where it will look really good than to try an combine it with garments that just do not look right together - it won't show off your new find to its best, anyway. Your new find will not vanish, and unless your weight and shape fluctuate greatly, it you will still be able to wear it a few months later or so. Also, to begin with, buy things where you can try them on first, instead of ordering off the internet, so you get a feel for what does and does not suit you before you've actually spent any money.

The most important, biggest piece of advice I can say is "Be Yourself" - wear what you think is beautiful, wear what you feel beautiful wearing. Goth isn't something you should have to try to become, it should be a natural extension of your own tastes. It is more important to be yourself than to adhere to any subculture, although if you do land between subcultures, try to describe yourself accurately - it is perfectly reasonable to say "I am a metalhead that likes Goth fashion" or "I like Goth music, but I like a Gothic take on Lolita and Aristocrat fashion" or "I like lots of things, a bit of Goth, a bit of Punk, a dash of Hippie" or whatever, but trying to say, for example, that Sweet Lolita is somehow Goth generally does not go down well. Also note that Cybergoth is not a subsection of Goth, it is a hybrid of Goth, Rave, Industrial and a few other things. 

Anyone can be a Goth, it doesn't matter if you're disabled, or dark skinned, or larger,  shorter, blonder, ruddier, manlier, more girly or any other deviation from the stereotype. There already are Goths-of-colour, Muslim Goths, Goths in wheelchairs, Latin American Goths, Asian Goths, really short Goths, blonde Goths, freckly Goths, skinny Goths, large Goths. All sorts of people are Goths. And I've met at least one of all the above.

Have fun, be beautiful! 

Friday, 10 August 2012

Eden Court Theatre, Photography and Architecture

As promised, I have been back to Eden Court Theatre to take more photographs of the very unique building. The majority of the things I photograph are either monuments, graveyard photos, or Gothic Revival and other historical architecture, but Eden Court is far more modern by comparison, and a lot less stereotypically Goth. Eden Court is actually named after the Bishop's Palace which still stands and is linked to the modern theatre building - that building is Gothic Revival, Victorian and recently restored, but appears to be administration and offices for the theatre, and I'd feel a bit strange walking across the grounds to photograph offices where people are working. 

Eden Court Theatre and Cinema 

Eden Court was opened back in 1976, and was designed by successful architect Sir James Dunbar-Nasmith. It wasn't his first or last theatre project, having already worked on the Dervaig Arts Theatre on the Isle of Mull, the Loretto School Theatre, and then Pitlochry Festival Theatre three years later and then on the 2000 refurbishment of the Birmingham Hippodrome. I've always thought designing a theatre must be a particularly difficult challenge because of all the specific facilities associated with a theatre, and then the need to have good acoustics and for the audience to have a good view of the stage, plus it is a building where you are going to have a whole crowd of people in one big room, and those people need to be able to flow in and out of the building. 

Shown Previously On This Blog. Angular Railings.

The building was refurbished and updated between 2005 and 2007, and I don't know what it looked like before its refurbishment as I did not live here at the time, but currently it looks exceedingly contemporary now. I love all the different textures and forms of cladding on the building, it manages to have a huge amount of interest and detail for a building that is not ornamented in the way the buildings in historical styles that I tend to photograph do. The picture above has been shown before, but I think it really highlights the sort of interesting angular shapes and pattern that can be found on this building. 

Leaden skies and sharp angles.

Eden Court is faced with dark cladding that seems to blend well with the leaden skies that often hang above Inverness, and while it is angular with crisp edges it seems to blend in well with its surroundings, and even not clash hugely with the Gothic Revival building of the Bishop's Palace. The landscaping around it definitely helps. The back of Eden Court is painted yellow, with blue on the roof... Personally, I think the colours are a bit garish, but I have never been a big fan of painting buildings bright colours, except in the case of those rows of terraced houses where each one is a different colour -those are very charming. 

Eden Court has the most amazing roofs.

My architectural photos are tending towards details, parts of buildings rather than whole. I look for parts that are striking or interesting. It is tricky to get a composition that fills the two dimensional rectangle well when buildings are inherently three-dimentional. Often reflections and skies help me out a lot! It seems very un-creative of me photographing buildings - the beauty comes from the hard work of the architect, I just work to capture it in interesting ways. 

Light and Reflection.

I'm certainly not going to give up photographing buildings any time soon. I really appreciate and enjoy the wonderful structures I encounter and my photographs are my tribute. I will probably go back to Eden Court again, probably to see something at the cinema or theatre there, and I will probably take more pictures. In the meanwhile I will take more pictures of other places in the Highlands - probably of Inverness city from my next trip in, but possibly of elsewhere too. 

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Travels, Photos and Suchlike

Ok, so my car is still in a different country and the cost of public transport hasn't gone down (I wish!) but I do actually go out and about quite a bit, and am going out more as I get to know the area better. Maybe acting like a tourist in the place that has now been my home for a year is possibly the best way for me to get to know the area, except that I have local friends who can give me tips of what is of interest. 

Inverness is very pretty, it is the Highland capital, with many beautiful buildings and cemeteries, and I have taken a lot of pictures there. Maybe Visit Scotland will send me a cheque for my efforts to corner the Goth tourism market and encourage spooky visitors... or maybe not. Either way, I have shown a lot of Inverness on my blog. It is the nearest city to me, and I go there for the sorts of thing you can only go do in a city, so I visit relatively frequently and often take a camera with me.

The HouseCat out and about.
I have evil black eyes of demonic doom! 

But Inverness is not the be-all and end-all of the beautiful Highlands, it is but a small fraction. As such, I am going to try and take photos of other places and smaller towns. Elgin is the second largest local town, and has a lot of historic architecture, plenty to rival even Inverness, and will probably be my next target, but even small towns like Aviemore, Forres, Dingwall, Fort William and Nairn have plenty of things worth photographing, not to mention all the fabulous places in between. Expect a far more varied blog in the future! 

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Goth, Hate and Ignorance


I am in foul mood, and a rant is ahead - you have been warned. 

Amongst the slurs aimed at Goths, I have noticed a trend - I think a lot of the people who hate us have only met those amongst Babybats who are perhaps the least representative of the subculture, not even representative of Babybats, and are more in it for the shock factor and to seek attention than Goth being a true representation of themselves.

The Negative Stereotype
Goths are sullen, moody teenagers. We're white, from a middle-class background, and complain without reason in the face of a privileged life, or are always depressed. We dress the way we do to "rebel", we think we are special snowflakes, unique and individual and soooo non-conformist. We listen to Marilyn Manson, Evanescence and My Chemical Romance. We self-harm, and self-harm for attention. We wear white-face makeup and lots of chains. All male goths are gay, or transvestites, and all female goths are lesbians. Goth girls are promiscuous and all goths are into fetishes. We live with our parents, will either grow into sad, unemployed adults or give up looking weird at college. We're rude, anti-social and cliquish, and we think we're a cut above the rest. Goths are either anorexic or morbidly obese. They're ugly, using their freakish style to try and hide behind, etc. Goths are Nazis, or shoot up schools. Etc. etc. 

This is the view I see come across in various goth-bashing post on the internet; on YouTube, on forums, in the comment sections of various pages. I'm pretty sure if you've seen a Goth video on YouTube you'll have come across some of this sort of nonsense in the comments section. It's also surfaced in real life situations where people have expressed their intolerance towards Goths. You might have noticed the latent homophobia and sexism, and also the fact that it is self-contradictory. The self-contradictory nature is probably because it is coalesced from a variety of hatred spewed forth on the internet and real life (although there are quite probably people who hold these self-contradictory views too). Anyone who has spent any time in the subculture or is friendly with actual Goths will see this as nonsense far removed from the actual nature of the subculture, but this is the stereotype that remains.

Mostly, it is ignorance, closed-mindedness and an intolerance for people who are different, but somewhere in there I think there's people who have had bad experiences with those they think are Goths. Now, I don't doubt that there are few adult Goths who are neither young nor Babybats who give the subculture a bad name and act deplorably - especially as I have met a few - but the majority of these stereotypes reflect the behaviour of the more obnoxious younger pseudo-Goths; not a reflection of Babybats as younger members of the subculture or as those just starting out in the subculture, or even as those meandering through subcultural identities in search of their own, but a reflection of those people who use the subculture as a means to play the rebel or seek attention or who seem so caught up in the false stereotypes of the subculture that they become living embodiments of them. 

Goths are not all depressed, but this is a common stereotype. There is this concept that we are indulging in melodramatic angst when there is nothing really wrong with our lives. Most Goths I know are actually relatively happy people, they have their ups and downs, and I think are more likely to be open about when they are down than those in the mainstream, but are not, on the whole, particularly miserable people. Maybe it exists because Goth music has been dark and a bit depressing since the days of Joy Division, and this has probably been around for as long as the subculture. In recent years this has been worsened by the conflation of Goth with Emo, and the negative portrayal of Emo being all about depression, or worse, affected depression for attention.

Goths and Emos are often conflated in hate comments, and there seems to be a genuine lack of distinction made between the two, although one would think that on looking at a Goth and an Emo that they even look vastly different. This conflation is really annoying me, especially when perpetuated by the media., and so do people conflating Goth and Punk. It's like not being able to tell the difference between deer, sheep and goats. Lots of people have already written about the differences between Goth and Emo and between Goth and Punk and suchlike, so there is no need for me to go into it here.

The stereotype of the sullen teenager writing angsty poetry, acting in a melodramatic manner exists for a reason. Teenage years are complicated, confusing times which make a lot of young people unhappy, especially in a modern world where so much pressure is put on young people to have flourishing social lives, be sexually active, and keep up to date with trends as well as deal with the sorts of issues that come with puberty and with secondary education and whatever may be happening in their family lives. A lot of teenagers seek release in various subcultures, and sometimes do so in less than advisable manners, but that is no fault of the subculture, and while the teenagers who do this do need to be held responsible, there should be full acknowledgement of how even with all modern technology and trained adults, that the teenage years will always include mistakes, mistakes we should learn from to become better adults. That is what being a teenager is about.

The part that does, however, get to me, is the part where people do things for attention. Self-harm is a serious issue, real mental illness is very serious too, but there are people who fein mental illness for attention, and will even go as far as to self-harm for attention, or to emotionally manipulate people, and this causes a lot of problems for people who do have self-harm problems and mental health issues. I had mental health issues as a teenager, and self-harmed, but it was often pushed aside with me merely being an 'attention-seeker' in the eyes of those I was trying to seek help from and my subcultural interests I think did not do anything to sway their opinions in my favour. This sort of behaviour causes real harm to people.

There are also those who use  Goth, among other subcultures as a method of getting attention - these are the people who wear all the "gothiest" things at once regardless of whether or not they clash, that claim that they really are vampires to everyone in their school, threaten to curse people, or even threaten to shoot their fellow pupils, say rude things about "preps" or "chavs", claim to be Satanists while ignorant of actual Satanism, graffiti things with scrawled pentagrams, think Marilyn Manson is shocking, and generally try and act like they are spookiest, most evil thing to ever go to secondary school/high school/college/etc. They want to shock, they want to get attention, and they don't necessarily realise that they are embarrassing themselves and making the subculture look bad, and if they receive negativity for their behaviour, claim it is discrimination on account of their subculture. Attention seekers often think of themselves as special snowflakes, too, and are people who try and gather to themselves labels that set them apart from the majority, to make themselves ever more esoteric, and Goth can be a convenient label.

If someone is seeking attention then they are making a determined effort to be noticed, and it is these attention seekers that are therefore more likely to stick in people's minds. Those who are particularly negative in one way or another are also more likely to be remembered than those who behave politely and decently.

I have explained before how Goth is not an act of rebellion, simply a set of differing tastes, a subculture rather than a counter-culture. We are not trying to be "nonconformist". 

The mental image that many have of a Goth, as someone with white-face makeup, badly done or over-done eye-makeup, lots of chains and the sorts of clothes and accessories that were available in Hot Topic in the early '90s or in Claire's Accessories now (although I admit I have bought gloves, socks and  earrings from Claire's, as there are some nice things in amongst the tat, but my experience has usually been of things of low quality and over-priced), trying very hard to act the spooky part, perhaps being sarcastic and cliquish, or acting with pretension and superiority (such as referring to non-Goths as "mundane mortals" in seriousness) is not a representative of Goths, it is representative of Babybats and Mallgoths, who either are just learning in their subcultural beginnings or are going through a phase. Most people do not think of the many talented artists and musicians in the scene, or the elaborate outfits of Whitby Gothic Weekend or Wave Gotik Treffen, or of anything representative of just how amazing, well-done and classy Goth can be.

The homophobia, sexism, heteronormative bias, and suchlike inherent in the sort of hatred that says "Goth guys are gay because they wear makeup" or "all goth girls are dykes because they wear combats and have piercings and listen to angry music" and similar is a representation of just how inculcated into mainstream Western culture these attitudes have become. I am not here to write about gender and sexuality and society; there are reams of articles already in existence on these topics, and I am not going to paraphrase people who are far more studied and eloquent on the topics than I am. 

A lot of people who have, for one reason or another, felt uncomfortable looking "normal" have found Goth and other alternative-looking subcultures helpful to them. There are certainly Goths with eating disorders of various sorts. There are also Goths who are not traditionally "pretty" or "handsome" and suchlike. Some people find being able to create their own appearance through creativity and artifice a whole new way to be beautiful when not happy with the way they naturally look, and that is a) not necessarily a bad thing and b) not unique to Goth. There are Goths of all shapes, sizes and Goths of all colours, from paler than pale to goths of colour who are more than just black in terms of their clothes. Goths are vastly variant in appearance and body-type. 

A lot of Goths remain so long into their adult years and have successful careers, often in careers that require a significant amount of education and are certainly respectable, and often well-paying. Just look at blogs such ::Siouxsie Law:: or ::Sophistique Noir:: or ::The Dancing Maenad::  (previously ran Le Professeur Gothique) for proof of well-educated and successful adult Goths (as well as really interesting blogs). 

The last three paragraphs are things that members of the subculture already know, but yet somehow elude those outside of it, as do many of the ways in which the stereotype differ wildly from the actuality of the Goth subculture. As to the BDSM community confusion, ::this article:: at The Everyday Goth should be helpful, and as to the "goths are Nazis that shoot up schools", most of the blame can be put on the shoulders of the media coverage of the Columbine massacre. 

I am not blaming Babybats or even Mallgoths for the discrimination Goths face - only the people who discriminate against us are to blame for their actions. Babybats are not bad people, they are not deliberately giving Goth a bad name, and a lot of them are simply new to the subculture and people judging Goth by the efforts of Babybats are as misguided as people judging the whole of archery by the people who do it for an afternoon on an adventure holiday. Even attention seeking pseudo-Goths are not to blame, however annoying they may be, for the actions of others. People are ultimately responsible for their own actions. 

The Babybats a person meets at secondary school, or the Mallgoths lurking in the local shopping-centre may be the only Goths and Goth-like people that a lot of people outside the subculture interact with, partly because they are the most numerous as those for whom Goth is a phase will often have it as a teenage phase, and partly because a lot of older Goths tend to keep their subcultural affiliation fairly quiet. 

I do think, though, that more needs to be done to show the positive side of Goth, to show what the subculture is really about. The resources are there, but somehow both the mainstream and younger Babybats are not getting them, because the stereotypes remain, and even people who are interested in Goth seem to be getting stuck at the level of these stereotypes. I think the answer is for ordinary Goths to stick their heads above the parapet a bit more, for all the beautiful, creative, and wonderful sides of the subculture to be allowed to outshine all of the flawed characters and fringe members and things that just go a bit wrong that come with it being a subculture made of real human people with all of their human strengths and weaknesses, and for the subculture to encourage the best in its members and make it clear what Goth is really about, so that however much the term is abused by people twisting it for their own ends, that such abuses are infinitely outweighed. 

Monday, 6 August 2012

Sunshine, Summer And The Outdoors

❀ I got a bit distracted... ❀

I was supposed to be taking pictures in the cemetery on Friday; I took the bus to the city, arranged to meet up outside the gates with my friend Suzy, got there and found it was locked up. This was not that late in the afternoon, and I'd been looking forwards to getting some nice pictures of the run-down mausoleum at the back (which I have featured before on this blog) with the nice Canon camera (rather than my point-and-shoot Ricoh). I was not hugely amused. I went to the graveyard in Church St. instead but my heart wasn't in it and I didn't take any good photos. In the end Suzy and I took the bus and went to my place.

It was far too warm to stay indoors, so I went to go play in the meadow outside my apartment building. Suzy likes the meadow as it is always full of various creepy crawlies and wildflowers. Suzy is a wildlife photographer focusing  (pardon the pun) mainly on bugs and has blog ::Up Close and Personal:: and Flickr stream: ::Suzy Bugs::. I like the meadow because it is a nice green open space where I get a stunning view down across the valley and to the mountains. Suzy took some pictures of me mucking around in the meadow. I took the picture of the clouds and the meadow and suchlike. It was actually really sunny all afternoon - a rarity in grey and rainy Scotland! 

This is the meadow by my flat, and the little wood with the burn.
This really was taken in Scotland, I don't live in Canada or somewhere.
I much prefer being outdoors to being indoors; being outdoors instantly lifts my mood. Sometimes I just sit in the meadow with a recorder or a flute and practice, or read a book, or sketch, or take photographs, other times I have no creative secondary purpose; the outdoors fulfils enough. The meadow isn't particularly large, but it is large enough to be enjoyable. I think it was too awkward a space with too much of a slope to be developed, especially as there is the rather steep slope down to the trees and the burn. (A burn, for those who do not know Scots terms, is a large stream to small river.)
The poetry of the earth is never dead.❞
~John Keats
A lot of my poetry (which is terrible and never being aired on the internet) is inspired by nature, as are a lot of my musical compositions (also terrible and never being aired on the internet) and my art (less terrible and frequently aired on the internet) is inspired by nature, and I live in such a beautiful place that I cannot ignore it. I feel really privileged to live in such a beautiful place. 

Enjoying my natural habitat. Photograph by ::Suzy::.

I mentioned that Suzy took some pictures of me. I guess these pictures are fairly representative of my summer style; somewhere between Romantic Goth and Trad-Goth, with a lot of lace in order to keep cool. As the odd spot on my face will attest, that pallor is not foundation; I am naturally really pale. In summer I tend to slather on the the sun-cream and leave off the foundation as it just gets greasy and horrid when I get hot. I was, however, wearing eye-makeup and lipstick (as is fairly obvious). As is again fairly obvious, this isn't my real hair (that's a sort of plum colour at the moment) but one of Raven's wigs.

Sunsets are pretty, and distracting. Very distracting.
Photograph by ::Suzy::. Thankyou!!

Anyway, this is not supposed to be an outfit post! This is about my love for the outdoors! And I do love it, regardless of weather. Recently the weather has been a mix of sunshine and showers, and yesterday evening it decided to rain rather heavily. I was out in a forest a short (well, short by my standards) walk away, scrambling down a ravine to get a good look at the waterfall where the burn (a different one, my area has several) went down some steep rocks, and also to scramble back across because there happened to be a good fording point at the bottom of this ravine. I got rather muddy indeed, and wet when I stepped in the burn instead of on a rock, and I didn't care that I was wet, cold and muddy because I was happy. It was a couple of hours in the outdoors, away from the human race, in the fresh air, burning off some extra energy. 

I love my little skull earrings. Photo by ::Suzy::.
I do conservation work with groups like Trees For Life and BTCV, and last autumn spent a lot of time helping at the nature reserve. In my own time I like going out for hikes (for which my attire is a lot more practical than it was on Friday!) and tend to get distracted by any rocks present. I used to live in Oxfordshire, which is not known for rocks and boulders and things to clamber on. I now live in the Scottish Highlands, known for being well, mountainous as the term "Highlands" indicates, and am a very happy outdoorsy lady.