When this time of year hits I either want ominous airy-sigh folk music woodland twinkles or aggressively retro darkwave synth soundtracks to movies that never existed. There’s no in-between. (But whatever exists in that strange in-between, I probably want to listen to it, too.)
So to kick off the autumn season, we’ll start with a playlist composed of the latter, songs to either make you want to dance or fight zombies, or jump into a spaceship to go to a zombie dance planet rave! It’s incredibly cheesy, but whatever–we love what we love.
Bryan and I had such an enjoyable conversation about a lot of interesting stuff: books, and dreams, and Draculas, and the things that scare us. I think I have come to the conclusion that he is maybe my long-lost brother!
Once upon a time, I used to have an informal column of informal guests posts, where friends would contribute a list of ten things. Ten whatever things that they wanted to talk about! That lasted for a few years, and it was so cool! I love reading about what the people I like and admire are into, or what they recommend or suggest for this, that, or the other thing!
Sadly, due to the extremely understandable lack of mental and emotional bandwidth available to all of everyone during the pandemic, as well as a scarcity of time and energy while we are all just scrambling to survive (and maybe just lack of interest in writing and blogs in general, and specifically writing for blogs that aren’t yours) there’s hasn’t been any new Ten Things content in that vein in quite some time. Also, I realize I’m not paying anyone to write, and this certainly isn’t a blog that makes any money, and it doesn’t have a huge audience and I can appreciate there’s not a huge draw for people to be an uncompensated guest poster. I can’t even pay you in “exposure”! I’m sorry!
I wanted to take a moment to thank everyone, warmly and sincerely and from the bottom of my heart, who did volunteer to write something over the years. For the most part, except for maybe one or two exceptions, all of these guests volunteered their writing and ideas, without me having directly asked them to do so. How amazing is that! Firstly, I’m not really keen on saying “hey, will you do a thing for me?” It really feels like an intrusion and a lot to ask. But secondly, that someone came to me with a thought or an idea and wanted to share it on my blog? That just feels so freaking cool. I love that! So thank you, EVERYONE. Your work and your writing are so genuinely valued and I just can’t express that enough.
I thought I’d share a roundup here, in no particular order, of all of the Ten Things articles and essays that have been posted at Unquiet Things over the years, so that you can find them easily, or so that you can re-reread your favorites, or so that you find something entirely new to read or learn or become obsessed with.
I am definitely not saying that a Ten Things guest post won’t appear from time to time in the future. Heck, I might even contribute one myself! And if you’ve got something you want to share here, well, you know where to find me. But please just keep in mind, I’m not going to hunt you down and haunt you for it if you’ve expressed an interest. Just come to me whenever you’re ready and say “here’s a thing!” Otherwise…life’s too short for me to stress out about that, or for me to stress you out about it. Serious inquiries only, friends!
Pssssst…! I went through the archives to gather these up because I…uh…didn’t tag them very well. If you’ve shared some 10 Things here and don’t see a link to your contribution listed above, please forgive the oversight, it wasn’t intentional! Let me know and I will fix it straight away!
Be Scared of Everything by Peter Counter is a tremendously thoughtful, smart, funny, book combining essay and memoir celebrating all things horror, from cinema and video games to heavy metal and haunted houses. His writing examines popular horror media from such a wonderfully lively place of vulnerability and curiosity and reads like many conversations I’ve had with myself about horror. Except, he’s a million times more articulate about the meaning-making to be experienced, where in this cauldron of horrifying influences and inspirations, and I’m quoting from somewhere else here, he finds “…poetry in madness, and beauty in annihilation–” I’ve been reading this book a little spooky snippet at a time every morning to get my day started with this very excellent spooky energy
A Ghost in the Throat by Doireann Ní Ghríofa was an interesting read for me, because the narrator of the book has four children and there’s a lot of baby making and nurturing and maternal feelings. Which is very uncomfortable for me, So it has been interesting to sit with that. I guess you could say the book is about a poet who becomes obsessed with another poet across time. But there’s also a lot of visceral baby stuff and daily ritual involving homemaking. The latter thing definitely more relatable than the former, but I think to experience this book, you gotta be all-in with all of it. So I’m trying!
The Hole by Hiroko Oyamada An odd little story of mundane strangeness, this story follows the story of Asa, who after her husband’s work transfer, gives up her own job and moves along with him to be close to his employer. This entails living in a house in his hometown, next door to his parents. Both the town and the parents are strange in unsettling, dream-like ways, and Asa spends a sticky, aimless summer bored and adrift, and trying to figure out this weird place and its equally weird inhabitants.
Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke by Eric Larocca. OOOOOF. I saw this book mentioned all over YouTube for the better part of a week and so I thought, ok sure why not. I had some reservations as the title reminded me a bit of I’m Thinking Of Ending Things by Iain Reid, a book which I wanted to throw into the ocean after I read it. My review, such as it is, can be found here. Thankfully, these books are nothing alike. Not so thankfully, I did not really enjoy Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke. A story of two lost and/or lonely souls meeting through the internet and their developing relationship, which escalates pretty swiftly and in really distressing ways. I personally found it hard to read–and maybe a little bit distasteful– because it felt awfully familiar. I am not trying to kink-shame anyone but the master/slave or sub/dom dynamic is hugely problematic for me because I experienced that to a large degree for a time in a former relationship, the really awful, toxic, and abusive one that I have written about previously on this blog. So…it turned out I was the wrong audience for this book. But while I found that aspect of the story intensely disturbing, I wasn’t disturbed by the details? Maybe I’m jaded or really hard to gross out. I don’t know. It just wasn’t that freaky.
In That Endlessness, Our End by Gemma Files. Funny thing. I wrote this review before I wrote the one above it, so I think this is book to follow it with, and a good one to end on until next time. I have been reading horror for a very long time and there just isn’t that much that freaks me out anymore. In the past few years if I want to get freaked out, I’ll go to the /nosleep subreddit for an unsettling dose of writing deeply weird and disturbing yet which still contains a soupçon of those “this happened to a friend of a friend” vibes. Stuff that reads like anecdote or tall tales or urban legend…strange, but not so fantastical you don’t believe it at midnight when the house is settling and the world is silent and the darkness is absolute.
There is always a moment in my dreams where space shudders and what was fine and well is suddenly not. Gemma Files’ stories contained In That Endlessness Our End begin in that shiver just before the nightmare. It’s unnerving how preordained the descent feels, yet how abrupt. The horror is always uncharted and inevitable. Her writing feels like some of the best /nosleep narratives in their eerie inventiveness, their proximity to real life (but really there’s no comparison here, it’s just the best I can offer, is all) but with a precision of language and astonishing detail that comes from someone whose imagination has been guiding her hand for an impressive amount of time, and knows exactly how to take those things that frighten her and unleash them on us.
Honestly, there is no one who scares me like Gemma Files and HOLY SHIT do I love her for it.
I made a little video about getting out of my head when I am feeling bad, and spending time in the kitchen. I hope that you’ll give it a watch! It’s mostly me puttering and clanking spoons, but put me on in the background at a reasonable volume and we can keep each other company while we kitchen witch our crappy feelings away!
Over on the Midnight Stinks TikTok, I shared a gathering of my favorite vanilla scents, as per a commenter’s request. I thought I might share a blogged version as well in order to have a written account for those who are interested!
A forewarning: so as not to be too overwhelmed with possibilities, I gave myself the constraint that any scent I choose must already be found within my perfume cupboard, and it must be something a actually own in a size larger than a sample– which to my thinking at least, means that I have spent enough time with it to think of it as a favorite. Your logic on this might vary, you might have favorites that were love at first sniff, but I’m not here to debate anyone about that. You do your favorite lists your way* and I will do mine my way, so here goes!
*PS this isn’t to say I don’t want to know about your favorite vanillas! Please share in the comments!
• Dior Addict is a billowing cloud of honeyed amber and vanilla, jasmine and orange blossom with creamy tonka bean chiffon sandalwood lace. It’s femme fatale by way of baroque gothic lolita.
• Vanille Insenseeis a warm, wispy citrusy vanilla but it’s hard to pinpoint which citrus it is that’s lending a crisp, very mildly juicy aspect, but without any hint of fruit pulp or sourness or even vaguely tart. It’s like a sweet, fresh guest soap and warm towels
• Lea from Calypso St. Barth’s is a, pretty, pillowy perfume of vanilla, musk and almond; it’s not overpowering and as a matter of fact, it’s fairly delicate. Think a simple, unfrosted angel food cake. Wearing a your favorite cozy, worn-in cardigan. This stuff is hard to find and until recently, rumor has it that you could apparently get it from Montaigne Market, but they have closed their online shop. However, I hear whispers if you message them on Instagram you could purchase it in that way.
• Fleur Cachée from Anatole Lebreton is celery and shadows and green seeds and spice pods crushed on cool marble, desiccated bouquets more dust than bloom, and the skeletal, crumbling remains of frosted confections covered in cobwebs. It’s the deeply melancholic Miss Havisham of vanillas
• Tokyo Milk Arsenic has got vanilla salt listed in the notes, which enhances the more interesting aspect of the scent, something unique and green that reminfds me of fresh marjoram with slightly piney, citrusy, and vaguely musty aspects. All of this in turn reminds me of Avon potpourri Christmas ornaments from when I was young, so it feels very nostalgic. This is another one that’s hard to find, but it looks like you may be able to grab a bottle from Flutter PDX.
• Vanille Noire du Mexique is vanilla of dark, moody florals and balsamic resins that smells like the platonic ideal of a hot chocolate but there’s something a bit off-kilter about it like you’re enjoying it in a claustrophobic room with creeping yellow wallpaper, with a friend who has a mysterious green ribbon tied around her throat.
• Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab’s Snake Oil is a luxuriant molasses-y, musky deeply sugared vanilla incense, blended with dark spices more sacred than culinary. This is a scent that lends to a sense of danger and power, and not for the faint of heart–but rather for a heart-pricked thrice under a full moon right before you take a big dripping bite of it to seal the spell in flesh and blood and death. You’re the dangerous, powerful creature in this scenario and you gotta commit if you’re going to wear this gorgeously potent thing. It looks like Snake Oil is out of stick right now, but this is one of their best-selling scents so I have to imagine it will be back sooner or later. In the meantime, peek in on their site for seasonal releases where they sometimes include Snake Oil variants!
If you signed up for Nuri McBride’s Aromatica de Profundis newsletter, then you got to see a super fun interview that I did with her recently! Nuri is a writer, perfumer, researcher, and community organizer whose professional work focuses on olfactive cultural education, aromatics in lifecycle rituals, and the preservation of traditional forms of aromatic preparations. She is also deeply interested in labor rights and power equity in the fragrance trade. She is also a wonderful friend! Thank you, Nuri, for the amazing questions, and your incredible insights and thought-provoking articles and content. (And the very lovely things you said about me!)
The above is a screenshot snippet from this month’s newsletter–you must be a subscriber in order to read it, and I highly suggest you do subscribe for more interviews like this, along with updates on Nuri’s various projects, and whatever else she might be sharing in that issue! This delightful missive is fast becoming the highlight of each new month! Be sure to sign up for the newsletter so that you, too, can receive a bit of smelly magic in your inbox every month.
A gathering of death-related links that I have encountered in the past month or so. From heart-rending to humorous (sometimes you gotta laugh, you know?) from informative to insightful, to sometimes just downright weird and creepy, here’s a snippet of recent items that have been reported on or journaled about with regard to death, dying, and matters of mortality.
Is every second of your last day of vacation an existential slog where you can’t enjoy anything and everything feels pointless, or are you normal?
Just kidding, I know everyone feels like this. (Right? Please tell me I’m not alone!)
Last night I stayed up until 2am finishing a shawl. It’s my third time knitting this pattern and because I love it so much, I wanted an extra special version to keep just for myself. I started watching Brand New Cherry Flavor on Netflix and aside from the name which really grosses me out (it makes me think of gum and/or energy drinks, and the thought of either makes me want to barf) holy wowzers & weirdness, this is an exceptionally fun show. Writer/creatives and dreadful secrets and ooogly body horror and seedy LA magics (a genre unto itself, and one which I adore—I blame Weetzie Bat) and Catherine Keener as the most delicious witchly villain.
Anyway, I figure I’ve got 12 hours left on the countdown clock and I could either sit here in a catatonic state of anxiety or I could pin this shawl out, a task I will curse soundly all the while and detest every second of. But afterward, when I see these saffron strands of stitches stretching in the sun, I know I will be so glad did it.
Later: Okay maybe it actually only took 20 minutes to do this…!
I’ve learned that if there’s something I’m not looking forward to doing, I ask myself, “how can I make this more enjoyable?” So I poured a goblet of something icy and fizzy, I lit a cone of sandalwood incense, and while Lana serenaded me about chemtrails over the country clubs I crawled around and stuck pins in things.
The real MVP here is Diet Coke, if I’m being honest. Imagine a commercial with a brawny construction worker, wiping their sweaty brow with a chilled can of Diet Coke, except it’s creaky, moon-shaped me, and I’m not drinking from a can because I have a weird thing about that. I can’t drink from a bottle, either. I must have a glass, with ice!
Anyway, the rest of my day is now free for whatever and to keep my mind off of going back to work I’m going to write a perfume review about a fragrance I don’t like and I’m going to try not to be mean about it but I might not try very hard.
How do you power through tasks that you’d rather not be doing? What are your preferred ways of taking your mind off of the fact that you must shortly return to the real world after you’ve been on a break? Please share in the comments, if you feel so inclined!