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..

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Summer Garden Goth

An Outfit Of The Day Post

This is actually last Friday's "outfit of the day" - well, I actually wore three different outfits that day for different things; work, rest and a dinner date, but this was the one I photographed, and I think it would be a bit weird if I posted every single outfit I wear. This one was a bit a fancier, and I think it looked quite nice, so I am posting it up here. The skirt is familiar - it is my favourite skirt, from Restyle, but you will see that my hair has changed quite a bit. This outfit has obvious Gothic Lolita influence, but I wouldn't class it as actually Gothic Lolita because of the stripy tights, hair, and lack of accessories. 

I no longer have a beautiful meadow right near my apartment to be photographed in, but I now live in my own house (well, Raven's and mine) and we have our own garden. It was left untended for quite a while 0 I think the property was vacant for some time over the growing season, and now it is a bit unkempt. There are some lovely rose bushes that I really must photograph, but for the most part it is scruffy and a bit overgrown in places with weeds. There are some nice fields near where I live, but I would need to be photographed by a second person, whereas I just plonked my laptop on top of the bins and used the timer function on webcam for these. There was not much time between having to poke the laptop and it taking a picture, so getting far enough away from the laptop for my whole body to get in shot while wearing platform boots was a bit tricky, especially as I am co-ordinationally challenged at the best of times! Scampering about the garden in ridiculous boots is not exactly something I am good at. 

Selfie by HouseCat
Outfit run-down: ☠ Blouse: HellBunny ☠ Cincher: Restyle ☠ Skirt: Restyle Stripy stockings: can't remember who made them, bought them in Osiris, Glasgow ☠ Boots: TUK ☠ Gloves: Accessorise ☠ Necklace: secondhand on eBay, not sure who made it. 

It's not the best set of photographs to show my new hair-dye off (I will make a post soon just about my hair), but it is now violet underneath, then a layer of royal blue, then turquoise, then spring green on top, with gradiation. I did it myself, and it took a whole day of dyeing to get it done, and lots of bleach to get my dark, nearly-black regrowth to blonde. In the next few days, expect a proper blog post on my hair in all its rich colours. The filters I used on editing these photos washed out quite a lot of the colour. In real life, it is quite vibrant. 

Selfie by HouseCat
I wasn't wearing the most complicated make-up that day. It was just thick eyeliner with wings and points, basic foundation and some lip-gloss. I was going to work later and I did not want to spend a long time on elaborate makeup just to take it all off again! 

Selfie by HouseCat
As mentioned, these are taken on my webcam, which is not the best camera. If anything, it's somewhere about "potato quality" and both low resolution and poor at handling varied lighting. I edited them in ::PicMonkey::, which is what I edit all my selfies with. The only way these could be worse if I had taken them on my phone-cam. When I have my new house set up, I am going to mount a camera opposite a relatively blank wall so that I can have somewhere to take decent outfit of the day selfies. This blog will probably end up with more outfit posts on account that I will not have as much time to write extensively. 

Selfie by HouseCat
This outfit was something of a trial run for what I am going to wear to my induction day for University. I don't want to wear a completely fancy "vampire queen" sort of outfit, nor do I want to look too plain, because then I will feel like I am giving a false impression. I think the changes I will make are to wear a plain black blouse rather than the feather print one - something less visually cluttered - with a statement necklace. I will also swap out the striped stockings for plain black tights or over-the-knee socks, and swap the platform boots for something a bit easier to walk in. As much as I love my big platform boots, I do have quite severe dyspraxia, and wearing them out and about is impractical for me.  I have a tendency to try and pretend that wearing very high heeled footwear is a good idea and do it anyway, but it always ends badly (and often painfully). I will probably also wear more extravagant makeup, and braid my hair so that all the colours show through more. 

Saturday, 29 August 2015

My Reflection On The Oxford University Study Into Depression and Goth

A lot of newspapers yesterday were publishing articles based on ::this:: recent study in the Lancet by Dr Lucy Bowes at the Department of Experimental Psychology of the Oxford University, and her team, that saw correlation between teen depression, self-harm and Goth. The study was statistically modified to account for other upbringing/personal background data on the participants that may contribute to an increased risk of depression. 

First of all, I have a two things that, as a member of the subculture at the time these inquiries were made (and in Bristol in 2005 and 2006) and only a few years older than those being asked (so still a teen at that point, and interacting with other subcultural teens, possibly including a few of the cohort asked, with which I wish to mention about this study itself. Psychology and anthropology are not my areas of expertise, but I feel that I have well over a decade of experience of the Goth subculture and have tried my best to fully educate myself on the subculture I belong to (it is part of my obsessive tendencies to thoroughly read anything I can on whatever subject I fall in love with, whether it is cathedral architecture or the Gothic subculture). 

The big thing I was surprised at was that "Emo" and "Metal" never came up as identity categories/subcultures. Emo was much more of a big thing than it is now; it's a subculture that seems on the wane these days, but it was certainly very popular in the mid-to-late '00s, and there is also no category for "Mosher" or "Metalhead", which means that anyone identifying as those things would probably have chosen the closest category, "Goth", especially for young Emos, as there has often been confusion amongst babybats as to what is Goth, what is Emo, and to a lesser degree in terms of broader subculture, but greater degree in terms of music, what is Metalhead, because those three subcultures have a lot of overlapping features, and figuring out which subculture you identify with the most, or which combination, can be a bit complicated to begin with. Heck, when I was a babybat, I was probably closer to a metalhead/scene-kid, but mostly because I didn't really understand what Goth was, and was ignorant to its subcultural history and the broader range of things it encompasses. The age group - teens - also means that this confusion is far more likely to arise than if they asked adults (who also can be Goth, but that is another paragraph) and as such it is likely that this should be "young members of darker alternative subcultures" because I would imagine there are a quite a few in that group who might have been identifying as Goths for the purpose of the survey because they could not identify as Emo or Metal, in order to express subculture despite not having the correct named subculture. The way that the survey was conducted, in terms of being able to identify from 'strongly identify' to 'not at all' would counter that to some degree, but I do think that it would have been clearer to have these separate categories. As categories were not exclusive, those who felt they were part of more than one subculture could have identified as Goth as well as Emo, for example, so it would not have forced those who are still exploring their identity to chose. 

I have also noted a distinct difference in attitude towards negative emotions between Goth and Emo subcultures. I am no expert on Emo, nor one myself, and do not wish to tarnish them by misinterpreting what I have experienced, but what I personally have seen amongst the Emo/Scene people I have interacted with is that there seemed to be a greater tendency to glorify depression and mental ill-health, including self-harm, and a linked tendency to overly identify with the idea that a troubled soul a poet (or other creative type; I'm not being literal) makes. It is not that personal troubles do not make good fuel for the creative forge sometimes, but that I noticed this taken to extremes within Emo sometimes. Emo, by its definition, focuses on music that is Emotional Hardcore (derivative of Metal and hardcore Punk) and one that focuses on one's personal emotional turbulences, from depression and anorexia and other mental illness at one end, to the turbulences of life such as isolation from ones peers and heartbreak, and Goth is a much broader subculture, and while it does embrace the darkness in these manifestations, it also embraces the darkness in a lot of other manifestations. Emo seems to be more about a creative release for one's personal troubles, and Goth seems to be more about appreciating the darkness in the world around you. As such, the effect that joining the two different subcultures, or a combination of them, may have, when it comes to depression, may well be quite different. 

The second thing that I am surprised at is that they chose to look at specifically teens, and seem to be writing as if Goth is a youth subculture, something only partaken of as a teen and young person. Goth may be a phase for some, but it is a lifelong commitment to a beautiful artistic world of dark beauty for some of us. One thing I would be intrigued to know is the breakdown of how many of those that identified as Goths as teens would do so now, and how many of those who didn't might do now. Perhaps it would be interesting to see if there is any relation to those for whom Goth was a phase and higher or lower rates of depression; Goth and other dark subcultures can seem like a place of asylum in the original sense of the word - a haven - somewhere where they can safely express themselves with less judgement than from their conventional peers, and where the content of the culture can be cathartic, or a means to express painful emotions, and maybe if the connection is based more on having a safe group within which to express and be open about troubling emotions, as they fluctuate, or as other coping mechanisms and support networks form, and as adults can be less openly judgemental than teens and more mature in their understanding of mental health, some of those teens may have moved away from Goth. Some of them, like me, may have fallen in love with dark side, and stayed for good! Anyway, to better understand the relation of Goth and depression, it would probably be interesting to see whether those who identified as Goth as teens still did as adults, and how rates of depression continued, including in relation to whether or not they later left the subculture. 

The third thing is that more detailed inquiry into the personal relationship for those who identified as Goth and were showing high indications of depression, was not further explored. I think this was a large enough statistical study as it was, and it would have been hard to transfer personal experience into statistical data when a lot of those relationships are probably not easily quantifiable. Personal testimony and explanation would need to be examined, and that is not a research task I'd have any clue as a person outside of the field, on how to conduct, but I imagine those who are researchers in psychology and anthropology would probably have suggestions (and I image that there are probably a few amongst my readers). One thing postulated at the end of the article in the lancet was whether Goth music would aggravate depression in Goths, but personally, I don't think that "Listening to repeated music from the goth genre might lower mood and exacerbate symptoms of depression" as the paper suggest rings true for Goths; it might work if that music is played to people who don't have a predisposition to liking it, but for most Goths I have met, listening to our music makes us happy; that's why we listen to it! Some find it a release, some find it a comfort in knowing they are not alone, some find it cathartic, but I have never come across a Goth who finds that it makes them feel worse.

I think it is an interesting study to have been done, and I am very happy with the fact that the researchers were clear to state that CORRELATION DOES NOT EQUATE TO CAUSATION. Sadly, some of the newspapers and other media have ignored this fundamental point of logic, and some articles have been less than favourable. I am not going to link to those articles, because every page view is revenue for them. I will, however, link to this ::article:: in the Guardian written by Simon Price, who was Goth back in the '80s in London, and I think has had subcultural leanings ever since by what he said in the article. I would also like to commend the BBC on their coverage. They even interviewed one of my friends - Holly Weeping Willow; a Gothic model and someone who is professionally a Goth in other ways - for the radio, although I haven't got a link to that audio yet. Their articles on the subject have been more balanced and the main one can be read ::here::, with a more detailed personal account ::here::. While personal anecdotes can be the "enemy of good science" as Simon Price said in his article, I think it needs to be noticed that similar themes come up in nearly all of them, including my own, and it would indicate to me that perhaps "good science" ought to come in and explore those connections better with proper research. The Independent seems to have a reasonable and balanced article, but with a clickbait headline and that is ::here::.

My main concern is that people will use these findings to target Goths as potentially mentally ill, that it will fuel stigmas that we are all 'crazy' or depressed. That is not the fault of the researchers, who seem keen to avoid this, but of the way some people will use this data for their own agenda. I can't say that I don't have my own protective bias towards the Goth community, because I certainly do (the community has protected me, and I feel duty bound to reciprocate), but I am at least aware of that, and open about it, which is more than I can say for those with a bias against Goth who report in a sensationalist manner about it. 

Friday, 28 August 2015

I Was Disconnected From The Internet

I apologise to all my readers. I have recently moved house, following a trip to visit family in Wales, and I was supposed to have my new house reconnected ages ago, but there was an error on the part of our provider and internet access was delayed. I only had occasional internet on my mobile phone at places with internet access (such as cafes offering wi-fi to customers), so not enough to update my blog and inform readers. I am back, though, and I start university next week! Lots of exciting things going on right now. I will try and keep things up-to-date here, but I am quite busy, so it may be patchy. Apologies in advance if I vanish again; I have a house to renovate and a university course in architectural technology to begin!