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Could it be that our Ten Things feature has returned, for real? Well, let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves (I’m a bit superstitious like that and don’t like to make those kinds of declarations, BUT…)

I am extraordinarily pleased that this month we are hearing from my long-time internet friend, Jack Guignol, whose dark, gothic tastes in literature, music, and film are absolutely impeccable, and whenever I peek over at the atmosphere and ambiance of the stories/supplements he shares on his blog, it always makes me wish I were way more into D&D than I actually am. For reference, I am zero percent into D&D–it makes me very anxious!–but his blog posts make me YEARN!

Jack is also the co-host, along with Tenebrous Kate, one of my other favorite internet people, of BAD BOOKS FOR BAD PEOPLE–a podcast where two ridiculously smart people talk about the weirdest, kinkiest, most outrageous books they can unearth. I can count the podcasts I am interested in on three fingers, and these guys consistently invite us into insightful and entertaining discussions on truly offbeat literature. They are the ultimate excavators of the darkest corners of the bookshelf and my go-to for bizarre literary deep dives.

When Jack asked me last month if we might be interested in a Ten Things focused on …well, whatever he wanted to write about… I said HELL YEAH. And now, today, we have ten glorious recommendations from the realm of Euro-Gothic cinema, where classic Gothic themes like vampires, haunted castles, and dark family secrets intertwine with distinct national filmmaking styles and historical anxieties, creating a truly unique and unsettling cinematic experience.

I found some beloved favorites listed below and some thrilling titles I’ve never even heard of, so I think you’re going to have a lot of fun with this one. Thank you kindly, Jack!

 

Jack Guignol, Morbid Scholar

Jack is a scholar of all things morbid and literary. He is a cohost of the Bad Books for Bad People podcast, the creator of the PLANET MOTHERFUCKER roleplaying game (better have your “show me adult content” filter checked for that one, it’s outrageous), and has a chapter in the forthcoming book Something Wicked: Witchcraft in Movies, Television, and Popular Culture from Bloomsbury Academic.

Black Sunday (1960): Loosely based on Nikolai Gogol’s Viy, Black Sunday (also known as La maschera del demonio or The Mask of the Demon) was Mario Bava’s directorial debut–and what a debut it is. Barbara Steele, the stunning Queen of the Euro Gothics, does double duty starring as both Asa Vajda, a condemned witch, and Katia Vajda, a haunted and beautiful young woman in danger of having her youth and vitality drained when Asa returns as the undead. Black Sunday is a gorgeous film; from the famous opening scene in which a mask is nailed over Asa’s face before execution to the big reveal of the final reel, you could press pause at any point and come away with a stunning still image that captures the macabre beauty of the genre.

The Church (1989): The literary Gothic tradition is rife with convoluted storytelling combined with a heady brew of anti-Catholic anxieties, so why should its cinematic counterpart be any different? Originally intended as a sequel to Lamberto Bava’s Demons series, director Michele Soavi insisted that The Church be a separate entity with its own filmic identity. There’s a lot in the mix in this movie, but it’s all classic Gothicisms: a gloomy cathedral whose catacombs harbor a dark secret from the medieval past, something-something about Teutonic Knights, and a priest who just wants to watch the world burn.

Dark Waters (1994): Straddling the line between Gothic horror and folk horror, Dark Waters is a dream-like film that should appeal to viewers who have room in their hearts for both H. P. Lovecraft’s “The Shadow Over Innsmouth” and Mattew Lewis’s The Monk. Elizabeth (played by Louise Salter) arrives at a convent on an isolated island during a tempest; she is assigned Sarah (Venera Simmons), a young novice, to be her guide. The two women delve into the forbidden mysteries of the convent’s library, the secrets in the convent’s catacombs, and even Elizabeth’s own tainted familial history.

Eyes Without a Face (1960): Who needs “elevated horror” when we have Georges Fanju’s 1960 classic Eyes Without a Face? Dr. Génessier (played by Pierre Brasseur) will do anything to restore the beauty of his daughter Christiane (Édith Scob), who was disfigured in a car accident. And by “do anything,” I mean abducting and murdering young women so he can attempt to graft their faces onto Christiane’s damaged visage. The masked Christiane is a truly tragic figure; even with her face hidden behind a stoic expression, Édith Scob manages to convey an overwhelming sense of sadness that spills over into madness. Despite being such a dark film, it’s also one of the most beautifully shot on this list.

The Gorgon (1964): You could put just about any Hammer Horror joint with Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee on this list, but I’m including The Gorgon here for one simple reason: instead of the usual Gothic monsters such as vampires, werewolves, and mummies, this movie has a snake-haired lady who turns people to stone as its central figure of terror. There’s a fun wrinkle with the monster here too–an otherwise normal-looking woman becomes a gorgon on nights of the full moon! You will have no trouble figuring out who the gorgon is (there just aren’t that many women in the movie), but you’re sure to enjoy the schlocky thrills of a Hammer movie made from a story submitted to the company by one of its fans.

Lady Frankenstein (1971): Lady Frankenstein is a film of star-studded madness that features the considerable talents of Rosalba Neri, Joseph Cotten, and Mickey Margitay. Tania Frankenstein (played by Rosalba Neri) arrives home from medical school, but she’s already well aware of what her father’s experiments are really about. No shrinking violet, she wants in on the transgressive mad science action! Of course, like most Frankenstein flicks, this one features a monster running amok–though this one is doing his best “Jason will kill you if you are nude romping in the woods” gimmick. That would be enough for most movies of this ilk, but Lady Frankenstein doesn’t know how to say “no” to excess: add in brain transplants, seductions and murders, and the obligatory peasants with torches and pitchforks storming the castle.

The Long Hair of Death (1964): The Long Hair of Death, which also stars Barbara Steele in dual roles, would make an excellent pairing with Black Sunday for a Euro-Gothic double feature. Steele plays Helen Rochefort, a woman whose mother was burned at the stake as a witch for the “sin” of being desired by a powerful man. Helen, too is killed for confronting male power and its base lasciviousness. But the story doesn’t end there! On a stormy night, a mysterious woman named Mary, who is uncannily identical to Helen, appears at the castle to pursue revenge against patriarchal hypocrisy in an extremely morbid and overheated Gothic way.

Mill of the Stone Women (1960): Hans (played by Pierre Brice) arrives at an obscure island to research a legendary carousel of female statues created by Gregorious Wahl (Herbert A.E. Böhme). During his visit to the mill, Hans falls in obsessional love with Wahl’s supposedly ill daughter Elfie (Scilla Gabel). What follows in the film is an absolutely insane tangle of psychological fixations, corrosive love, and murderous desire. And the titular carousel of statues? Absolutely unhinged when they appear on screen. I can practically guarantee that you will be haunted by the film’s final images.

The Vampire Lovers (1970): Did you really think we’d get through this list without running into a vampire movie? Specifically, a lesbian vampire movie? The Vampire Lovers is an adaptation of Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s classic Carmilla with all the sapphic dials and opportunities to exercise the “male gaze” turned up to eleven; with Ingrid Pitt as the vampiress Carmilla Karnstein and Madeline Smith as her desired prey, The Vampire Lovers is the epitome of “Hammer Glamour.”

The Whip and the Body (1963): We started this list with Mario Bava, and by God, we are going to end it with Mario Bava too. Whereas Black Sunday is an undeniable atmospheric classic, The Whip and the Body is for the sickos only; if you’ve made it through the other films on the list, you can have The Whip and the Body as a little sadomasochistic treat. It really does what it says on the tin–it features both whips and bodies. Make no mistake, this is a vile little movie, but it has got Gothic nonsense like familial strife, transgressive sexual desire, and dubious inheritance claims galore.

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I don’t have to look far in my home to find a beautiful item or a gorgeous offering from Roses & Rue. Kate’s meticulously curated antiques house my jewelry and perfumes; they hang from my walls, lurk on my vanity, and one particularly lovely and moody wrought iron piece of vining roses lays casually propped against a wall in my office because I don’t quite know what to do with it, but it’s such a striking visual that I always want it in my line of sight!

An aesthete with a keen eye for detail and a vast knowledge of vintage treasures, Kate has an uncanny knack for finding pieces that whisper mysteries of the past. A chipped porcelain doll with hauntingly absent eyes, a faded painting conveying the cryptic messages of flowers, a deliriously evil inkwell – these are the gems that truly spark the imagination!  Her expertise in antique history ensures each piece has a fascinating tale to tell, adding another layer of intrigue to her collection. One only need  peruse a small sampling of her Instagram stories to quickly learn this is a person of exquisite tastes; every image, whether a film still or a photo of her own collection, is deliciously arranged and luxuriously lensed, and often set to a sumptuous soundtrack, and if you’ve had the delight of chatting with Kate, you’ll know what wit and brilliance she possesses! Truly, she is one of my favorite people under the sun..

…which is why you will not be surprised to learn that the following is her second guest post here at Unquiet Things. Four years ago, she generously shared with us details of her ten favorite antique pieces from her personal collection, and today, she is back to chat with us about some fragrances from her stunning perfume collection. AND she included a playlist! I cannot imagine a more thrilling sentence to have typed out just now, and you don’t even know how excited I am to hit the “publish” button on this post.

Flowers & Flesh: 10 Fragrances from the Collection of Roses & Rue

Sarah and I are like a pair of squawking magpies: Whether it’s a fragrance, a painting, a couture collection, or a piece of 19th-century chinoiserie, our eyes are always drawn to the most beautiful, luxurious things. It was Sarah’s enthusiasm for fragrance that motivated me to explore on my own, so it would be fair to say this extravagant pile of bottles you see before you is entirely her fault. Very soon after arriving at my last day job 5 years ago, I became the go-to staff member for the store’s fragrance line. Someone else on the management team told me I knew so much, they were surprised I’d never sold perfume professionally before. Yet another fragrance fancier told me that my very good nose would make me an excellent evaluator… Heavens, what a dream come true that would be! I think that learning about fragrance is the same as learning about wine: There’s a little science and a little jargon to memorize, but beyond that, it’s simply a matter of trying everything under the sun and figuring out what you like and what you don’t. I’m not an expert- I’m just lowkey obsessed.

Today I’m sharing 10 fragrances in my current rotation. They are mostly amber florals: That’s the scent family that I am always most drawn to, no matter what. I don’t care for green florals much, nor for the dainty soliflores that would have been popular for women during my era of expertise, the 19th century. The fragrances I like best combine a dark floral with something warm and musky and something sweet.

I really loved the question Sarah asked during the last AMA I did in my Instagram stories: She asked me to pair a favorite song with a favorite fragrance I’m currently wearing. I’d already begun this article, anyway, so I was inspired to pick a song for every fragrance. Find the playlist here. 

1. Lorenzo Villoresi: Alamut

I discovered Lorenzo Villoresi only about 5 years ago: A client was wearing his most popular scent, Teint de Neige, and her fragrance suffused the entire floor. Although he’s Italian, Villoresi studied the art of perfume making in the Middle East; his work is very much a marriage of these two cultural sensibilities. Alamut is a complex, amber floral inspired by the epic One Thousand and One Nights. Building on the powdery character of Teint de Neige, which basically smells like the world’s fanciest baby powder, Alamut is a warm scent that is slightly spicy, sensuously warm, and lightly sweet. It’s very gender-neutral and about a million times more interesting than more popular amber scents like the ubiquitous but extremely dull Baccarat Rouge 540.

It truly wears its literary influence on its sleeve, so I couldn’t help but pair it with Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Scheherazade,” also based on One Thousand and One Nights. The framing device of this collection of Arabic legends is the narration of Scheherazade, who saved her own skin through storytelling: The sultan, having been betrayed by a woman, resolved to marry a different virgin every day and behead her the following morning. Scheherazade survived by telling him a story before bed and stopping in the middle before dawn. By the time she ran out of tales, the sultan had fallen deeply in love with her. She is a woman saved not just by her beauty, but by her wit and her charms.

The violin solo in Rimsky-Korsakov’s symphonic suite, a classic of 19th-century romanticism, represents the voice of Scheherazade. I love it the way I love mauve roses, embroidered silk, mother-of-pearl inlay, high cheekbones, good tailoring, and expensive perfume. It is everything I find delightful and irresistible in the world. The entire piece is about 50 minutes in four movements; I’ve included just a brief selection from the start of movement 2, “Tale of the Kalendar Prince,” on the playlist.

2. Rogue Perfumery: Jasmin Antique

When I was in my early 20s, my signature scent was Lust from Lush. It used to be the dirtiest, nastiest, most delicious jasmine scent I’d ever met, balanced out by a sweetness that turned heads and awoke libidos wherever I went. Regrettably, it was reformulated several years ago: After buying one final bottle on my lunch break and wondering if I was crazy, a co-worker asked, “Why do you smell like a bath bomb?” Humiliating! I would call it a ylang-ylang bomb, specifically. The ferocious musk component is entirely missing, the jasmine fades immediately; it’s now hideously, sickly sweet.

I searched for a better, more refined replacement for years and almost found it in Serge Lutens’s Sarrasins. This is why it’s so crucial to buy samples and test drive a perfume before committing to a full bottle: Sarrasins was the perfect dupe, but it’s $300 per bottle, the sillage is terrible, and it completely disappears from my skin within an hour. The performance simply wasn’t worth the price, an especially great bummer since I do adore Serge Lutens. I finally found the perfect replacement last September at Scent Bar in New York: Rogue Perfumery’s Jasmin Antique. There’s just enough musk to amp up the indolic, fleshy aspects of the jasmine. This is a jasmine that bares its teeth. It smells like a fevered, illicit tryst, your lover’s sweat mingling with the nightblooming jasmine on the warm, summer air. Wear it to seduce.

I’m pairing it with “My Birdman” by Christine and the Queens, which is the sexiest song I currently can’t stop listening to. This man makes me blush like a 14-year-old girl. I’m going to go out on a limb and presume the title is a Max Ernst reference? Whatever happened to Jamil, I wonder? It sounds like he set the bar pretty high but, Chris, beau gosse, I’m very confident I can clear it.

 

3. Lvnea: Babylon Rose

As you might guess from a person who put “roses” in her business name, I adore rose scents and have several. There are many, many different kinds of roses: They can smell dainty and delicate, green and fresh, jammy and rich; dark and mysterious… It’s probably obvious that I’m not much of a damask rose girl. I don’t like scents that are too polite; I’m always on the lookout for the exotic. One of the most interesting rose scents I’ve encountered in the last few years is Babylon Rose from Lvnea, which is only available from time to time due to the high cost of the real rose absolute it contains. This one needs at least half an hour to settle down and develop: It opens with a very strong petrichor top note that comes across as quite camphorous at first. This fades gently into the background, supporting the notes of clove, saffron, and black pepper that give this dreamy rose its thorns. Whatever she’s using for attar of oud and musk, this thing is incredibly animalic and dirty. Another big, sexy scent.

Its sonic complement is an early Dead Can Dance track, “Frontier,” a drum-heavy, dizzy number that sounds like a 19th-century painting of an ancient world femme fatale.

 

 

4. Serge Lutens: Chergui

Although most of my favorite scents are amber florals, as I’ve been wading more confidently into a genderfluid space, I’ve been exploring scents that read a little more traditionally masculine. (To the contemporary Western nose, anyway: Men all over the world have been wearing florals for thousands of years.) Chergui is an amber tobacco scent that I chose for fall: Its golden notes of sun-kissed hay make it feel like the perfect autumn fragrance for a New Englander who likes tweed. I thought about retiring this for the season, but I’m curious to see what qualities it takes on in the summer: Although it reminds me of fall, the Chergui is actually named after the hot, dry, easterly wind that blows from the Sahara desert into the southernmost parts of Morocco.

With this in mind, the song I chose for it is “Blues Nile” by experimental composer and trumpet player Jon Hassel. His 1977 debut Vernal Equinox is an ambient classic and one of my go-to Hot Weather Albums: It’s a sensuous soundtrack for the kind of heat that’s so oppressive, you can’t do anything besides disrobe and lie down, feeling like a puddle of molasses. His trumpet sounds like it’s drunk.

 

5. Comme des Garçons: Avignon

Catholic iconography is a staple of my shop and a key way that I express my spirituality, although I am not technically a Catholic. Mine are the kinds of syncretic spiritual ideas that would have gotten me burned at the stake; I like to think I’m training to become a mystic in my old age like Hildegard von Bingen, Alice Coltrane, or Hilma af Klint. I think every Catholic queer needs a good church incense scent, and in terms of mood you can’t do much better than Avignon by Comme des Garçons. It’s part of a series of 3 incense fragrances representing different spiritualties from around the world: Kyoto for Buddhism and Shintoism, Jaisalmer for Hinduism, and Avignon for Catholicism. Really, what I wanted was a fragrance version of my favorite candle, Spiritus Sancti by Trudon, which smells like a pre-Vatican II Easter mass in a stone cathedral full of frankincense smoke and newly opened lilies. I browsed at Scent Bar for a comparable perfume and Avignon was as close as we came. I really love it, but I might not replace the bottle: I blew through it in just about 2 months and wish the sillage were a little better. If anyone has any suggestions, I’d love to know!

I’ve paired it with one of my favorite medieval devotional hymns, “Beata Viscera,” which means “blessed flesh.” It written in the 12th century by French composer Pérotin for the mass celebrating the birth of the Virgin Mary, September 8th on the Catholic calendar. I think you’ll agree it’s devastatingly beautiful.

 

6. Lubin: L de Lubin

Leave it to me to walk into a perfume store without any ideas and to walk out with a genuine, disco- era fragrance. One of three vintage perfumes on my list, L by Lubin is a heady, sweaty floral first manufactured in 1974 and favored by darlings of the disco scene. I swear, I didn’t know this until I got it home and read the description on the back. I have surprised, perplexed, and even alienated some folks with my love for disco, which feels like a hard-left turn for those whose musical tastes tread water in the shallows dominated by Joy Division revival bands. Disco gets a bad rep: I thought it was all ABBA, goofy dance moves, and ugly polyester. Nobody told me that disco was a Black, Latinx, and queer underground movement that was quickly appropriated by the mainstream and turned into something awful. Turns out that disco is a lot less about ABBA & Saturday Night Fever and a lot more about hot gay people sweating in Paco Robanne. What sold me on L de Lubin is its earthy heart that reminds me of a very nice but too expensive rose chypre, Rose de Nuit by Serge Lutens (a name which haunts this list like a spectre). L de Lubin has a lot more going on: More flowers, spices, and bright notes of citrus.

I’m picking two songs for each of these “historical” fragrances on the list: One that best embodies the fragrance’s mood for me and another that was released the very same year, to place the perfume in its cultural context. “It Looks Like Love” is one of my favorite, girly, flirty disco bops. I know absolutely nothing about the artist, Goody Goody. I can’t even recommend any other of their songs. I just know it puts me in a cheerful mood. Being a huge P-funk fan, I’m delighted to have found a song from the very first Parliament record that fits: “The Goose” is a shamelessly sexy groove that I hope makes you think twice about dance music from this era. If you don’t like disco, don’t worry: George Clinton didn’t either. Try funk instead.

 

7. Santa Maria Novella: Rosa

I was first drawn to Santa Maria Novella for its remarkable history: It’s the oldest, continuously operating apothecary in the world. It was founded in 1211 by Dominican friars, who sustained their convent by selling all manner of fragrances and medicines from their garden. They made perfume for the Medicis. Although I love all their products, I’ve found the longevity of their fragrances very hit or miss: Each one is incredibly true to life, but they diminish almost completely within an hour. Again, I strongly recommend buying samples and testing the fragrances for at least a day to see how they perform on your skin before buying a full bottle. Thankfully, their Rosa perfume, my favorite rose soliflore that I own, is an absolute powerhouse. Not for the shy or faint of heart: Its sillage is ENORMOUS. Prepare to smell like the Red Queen’s entire rose garden parading down the street. These are rich, fruity, intense centifolia roses. Uplifted by a hint of citrus in the top notes and grounded by patchouli and cedar, the fragrance gives the impression of the entire plant: Petals, woody thorns, and green leaves. It makes a great base if you like to layer your fragrances: You could skew this scent in several interesting directions if you added musk, leather, oud, amber, more citrus, or more flowers.

There’s something about this scent that reads as quintessentially Italian to me, so I’ve paired it with a track by one of the great Italian songstresses, Katyna Ranieri. Spritz a little Rosa, put on “Sensualidad,” have a seat at your favorite outdoor café, and pretend you’re in a Fellini movie.

8. Diptyque: Fleur de peau

I picked this up one day on a whim simply because I don’t have anything else in my fragrance collection quite like it. What can I say? I started my musk journey on a very small, timid scale: Diptyque’s Fleur de peau (flower of skin; sounds nicer in French) is basically just a soft blend of iris and musk. I might not replace it once it’s gone: I think I’m ready for something a little more forward and bold when it comes to musk. This said, it did earn me a compliment from another girl at an annual white elephant sale at a local convent. She was very demurely dressed but looked quite curious, even more so when I told her the perfume’s name. She blushed and told me it was lovely. I hope I gave her a few bad ideas.

I’ve chosen as its song companion Leonard Cohen’s “I’m Your Man:” It’s sexy in a soft, gently insinuating, but nevertheless insistent way. Like Cohen’s voice, this is a musk that purrs.

 

9. Dior: Poison

An extremely loud, bombastic, polarizing classic, Dior’s Poison might be the best-known but most offensive fragrance on this list. To me, it represents everything that was the decadence of the 1980s. I have both a contemporary and vintage formulation of this: Definitely spring for an old bottle if you can. They are fairly common wherever secondhand goods are sold. I picked up by bottle for only $10 and it’s much more well-rounded than its current formulation, which fizzles down to a rather generic, spicy vanilla after a while. Poison blends a bouquet of queenly flowers with wild berries and dark plum, while anise, coriander, musk, sandalwood, and cedar lend it a dark, narcotic undercurrent. I rarely wear anything this fruity but it never veers into dreaded gourmand territory. I’ll be retiring this one soon: It’s resolutely a winter fragrance; I think it might actually be discourteous to wear it in summer. It comes alive in the bitter, winter air, transforming you into the formidable snow queen of your wildest fairytale dreams.

Hence, I’ve paired it with “Ice,” a spellbinding track from the soundtrack of Sally Potter’s Orlando. Your historical song from the year of Poison’s release, 1985, is “Boys and Girls” by Bryan Ferry. Nothing says 80s bombast quite like a cheesey saxophone and Bryan Ferry’s white suits- a whole mood.

10. Gayle Haymon: Delicious

I tested this when I found it at an antique store because the bottle looked so absolutely fucking stupid I couldn’t resist. I am astounded that I like it: Yet another amber floral, but it’s a 90s perfume through and through; I usually never like anything this… Sunny? But it makes me feel nostalgic for the fantasies of womanhood I aspired to when I was a little girl flipping through fashion magazines: Versace and Chanel dresses, big, side-swept hair, juicy red lips; skanky little pointed-toe pumps. It was a god-tier decade for the bimbo aesthetic; the 90s elevated her to very elegant, ladylike heights. A slightly more sentimental reason for its appeal is that the star floral here is mimosa: I grew up fascinated by a number of gold perfume bottles from Fragonard that my grandfather brought home to my mother from a trip to France. The mimosa fragrance was always my favorite; in fact I stole it and used to rub small amounts onto my lightbulbs with a cotton bulb to perfume the room.

Your track for this one is Mylene Farmer’s “Je t’aime mélancolie,” which embodies everything about that 90s high femme aesthetic I described. Your historical track from the year of the perfume’s release, 1994, is just as perfect a fit: “Secret” by Madonna, a favorite song since childhood.

11. Le Labo: Lys 41 (EDIT: Kate was so into writing this that there are actually eleven fragrances on this list, and man, I find this overachieving enthusiasm so wildly, hilariously marvelous and relatable on a soul-deep level. I love you dearly, my friend!)

Le Labo gets a lot of flak in the perfume world. Look, I get it: Is it too expensive? Yes. Does the fragrance ever match the name on the bottle? Nope. Are there better perfumers out there? Absolutely. Nevertheless, Lys 41 was love at first sniff. When Poison gets relegated to the back of the cabinet for the season, Lys 41 will take its place. It’s a tremendous white flower bomb: Florist-fresh lilies, jasmine, and tuberose, rounded out with vanilla and musk. Tuberose is one of my favorite florals and like rose (a different flower entirely, thank you very much), it can bend in several different directions: It can be creamy and sweet, fleshy and indolic, green, or even beachy like coconuts and sunscreen. I think this would be a great intro tuberose fragrance for someone: It’s very true to the actual flower. If you keep your empty bottle from Le Labo and bring it back to the store, they will refill it for you at 20% off, which brings the perfume down to a reasonable price.

I’ve paired it with one of my favorite songs that reminds me most of spring: “Your Dream,” a 1973 psychedelic pop track by South Korean artist Kim Jung Mi.

Find Kate and Roses & Rue: website // instagram // facebook

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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.

10 Of Ekho’s Anti-Racist Book Recs
Ten Things: Spooky Nerd Necessities From Generally Gothic
Shana’s Top 10 things I Love About Animal Crossing New Horizons
10 Things I’ve learned from Owning an Art Gallery by Laurel Barickman
10 Things That Keep My Spirits Up As Winter Darkness Descends By Allison Felus
10 Things: My Bougie Holiday Wish List + Stocking Stuffers Courtesy Harlow Skalwold
Ten Favorite Things For Magical Baking By Jessica Reed
Ten things: Favorite European Botanic Gardens by Jantine Zandbergen
Ekho’s 10 Things to Stop You Burning it All Down (the World, the Universe, and Everything)
Ten Things I Know By Flannery Grace Good
Ten Things That Got Me Through 2018 From Harlow Skalwold
The Spooky Vegan’s 10 Things Getting Me Through The Post-Halloween Blues
Amanda Lynn Of Ghoulish Delights Bath Shop: 10 Things I’m Loving For Fall
10 Things I Cannot Live Without: Nuri’s Picks
Caitlin Ffrench: Ten Tools That I Use Most Often
Ten Favorite Pieces From My Collection by Katie Kierstead of Roses & Rue Antiques
Ten Things That Bring Me Joy From Angela St. John Of Solstice Scents
Vampires, Witches, and Ghosts: The Top Ten Reasons Why I Love the Holiday Season By Sarah Chavez
La Belle Otero’s Ten Gems Of Decadent Cinema
10 Goth Cheeses and What to Pair with Them from CheeseSexDeath
10 Delights for Autumn Nights By Pam Grossman
Ten Things I Tell Myself to Make Life Worth Living by Ariel of Carpe That Diem

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!

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I don’t really like odd numbers–I feel like they are super aggressive? Probably a weird take, I know. Odd numbers just make me feel intensely uncomfortable and itchy in my soul. But somehow a list of four things just doesn’t sound as interesting as a list of five things.

I was somewhat inspired by writer Rachel Symes over on twitter, who asked her followers to chime in and share something frivolous and silly but that sparks joy for them:

 

 

So here are five gilded good things and life enhancements that are small sources of joy to me right now. Some of them didn’t cost anything at all, but most were under $25.

 

1.“Rajio taiso” exercises, a program of Japanese morning exercises and gentle calisthenics broadcast in the early mornings on NHK, Japan’s public broadcasting company. I’ve read that the first broadcast took place in 1928, and the aim was to improve the health of the general public in Japan. What’s nice about it is that it’s been designed for anyone at any age to do on their own, without any equipment required. Everyone from children to the elderly can join in, and there are even versions that you can do while seated. On mornings when it’s raining outside and I can’t go for a wake-up walk (or maybe I’ve just woken up too late, whoops!) I do ten minutes of Rajio Taiso exercises instead.

Alternately, I’ve been trying my best to follow along with this “yoga for sensitive knees” video, but don’t be fooled. If you, like me, don’t have much in the way of a regular yoga practice, this is not as easy as you think it’s going to be!

2. There are times I can’t commit to sitting in a bathtub full of water and getting my whole body wet. On some days, that seems like a major production and I haven’t got the energy for it. It sounds like an exercise in misery, but at the same time, my bones are are crying out for some sort of relaxing soak.

On those days, I run the tub half full, use all the bath bombs and salts and oils that I have at my disposal…except maybe even more than I might use for a regular bath, and then proceed to roll up my pants, sit on the edge of the tub, and lower my feet in. I bring a book with me and I read for about 10-15 minutes while my toes wiggle under the warm water, and then I use a nice salt or sugar scrub to slough away the barnacles and follow it up with an enthusiastic callous scraping. I dry off with a good towel, slather on a thick, healing foot lotion, and then suit my feet up with a cute pair of socks. I make a weekly ritual of this, and it is so very, very nice!

I thought I had a more illustrative photo of this process, but apparently, I do not. The above imagery is from an Instagram story I posted a few months ago. It’s definitely not that chilly anymore, which is even more reason not to immerse my entire body in a tub of hot juice!

3 . The Faculty of Horror Podcast. I believe I have mentioned before how picky I am when it comes to podcasts. They have to hit me in the right spot (weirdness, witchy tidbits, horror) AND they have to not be obnoxious. There’s nothing I hate more than listening to two people rambling off-topic and amusing themselves with a whole bunch of inside jokes. There’s a fine line between two friends who are having a good time and keeping their audience amused, entertained, and informed, and two friends who record themselves because they think they are hilarious but no one outside of the two of them knows what they are laughing about. So that’s my problem with a lot of buddy-podcasts. I don’t have the patience for them and they embarrass me. Not that you asked.

Andrea Subasatti and Alex West, however! I enjoy the heck out of their discussions in their Faculty of Horror podcast. If you are interested in horror analysis and scholarship through a contemporary, feminist lens, Andrea and Alex’s fabulously insightful, passionate, and incredibly fun chats are such a treat. I believe there’s over seven years worth of content, so if you’re unsure where to start, just pick through and look for some of your favorite films, and dive right in. I find that hearing people talk about a thing you already love is a great way to get a feel for their treatment of and read on a thing. 

And I’ve recently been inspired to rewatch so many films due to their commentary and perspective! See Interview with the Vampire, Event Horizon, The Mist, and Hausu, for a few of my favorites. Additionally, they just did a “best of 2020” and I really just gobble up lists like that, so that’s a highly recommended episode, as well.  The Faculty of Horror also has a Patreon where one can get access to additional content if one is inclined to support them in that way!

4. 505 by Elektroforez. I don’t know what to say about these guys, but I sure am enjoying them. I have been listening to them nonstop for the past week. They make me want to dance! Albeit, in a moody, morose, sort of way. A recommendation from my good friend Sonya, who I hear has got an excellent list of these austere, gloomy Russian goth, new-wave, synth-pop, post-punk type musicians that they’re going to share for our ears over at Haute Macabre sometime in the near future. Yay for new music! It’s been a while, but I’m suddenly becoming interested again and that is both a pleasure and a deeply relieving realization.

5. Oh, Suddenly Egyptian God! These little six-minute slice-of-life snippets are just too, too adorable. “This is sudden, but welcome to the world of Egyptian gods, where ancient deities work, have fun, and relax like the rest of us.” These little stories are, as one dour reviewer points out, probably full of inaccuracies, but come on. It’s cute fun.

Some bonus good things!

-We placed an order with Botanical Interests for a gazillion seeds and are so excited for our summer garden possibilities.
-This chili crisp oil is, at $17 or so, insanely overpriced (damn you, persuasive Instagram ads!) but SO GOOD.
– This addictively trashy book which I am looking forward to finishing while soaking my feet in the tub and enjoying a glass of wine.
This Marshmallow Fireside candle, which is just as amazing as everyone says it is
-Twinkle lights for my shelves, seen in the feature photo for this post. Granted there’s only one string of them up now, but they just make the workday so much nicer that I can’t help but to think more lights will make the day even better? Eventually with enough twinkle lights, I will look forward to my 9-5? It’s probably too much to hope for, but I’m going to give it a try.

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ekho feature pic

YOU GUYS. This has been A Time. We are all having A Time right now, in various ways, reckoning with various things, and wow, there is a lot to reckon with. Enter: my friend, Ekho.

For this month’s Ten Things, Ekho is paying us another visit at Unquiet Things (you may remember them from their excellent 10 Things To Stop You From Burning It All Down guest post last year!) and we are always so thrilled and honored to host their knowledge, wisdom, and insights. I know that whenever Ekho and I have a conversation, I will always come away both energized and humbled, having learned more about, well, something (we have diverse and interesting discussions!) as well as learning something about myself. I honestly count them among the most brilliant and thoughtful humans I know! One of the things I love most about Ekho though is something I wish I could be better about myself–I can always count on them to tell me when I can do better. Discussions like that aren’t easy to have and they are not always easy to hear, but I do my best to always be open to learning how I have misstepped, and how I can get it right, I am so appreciative of people who will take the time and energy to broach those conversations with me.

In that vein, Ekho is here this month to help us build a better bookshelf.

Ekho lives on Wurundjeri land in the Kulin Nation in so called “Australia”. They write, read, study social anthropology, are committed to anti-racism, & believe in nonbinaryfuturism. Let a thousand genders bloom. During the pandemic they have been bed ridden like a Gothic literature protagonist, & have coped by burrowing under their one hundred odd unread books. Their IG is @_hex_libris 

Hi there, what you are about to read is a shortlist of antiracist book recs. A few years ago, in a paradigm far far away, I became very frustrated with how many books I owned that were by cis-White-men. Libraries and bookstores in my corner of Australia were packed with them too. Franchises were predominantly written and directed by cis-White-men. This was in recent time but still feels aeons ago compared to Taika Waititi doing epic work with The Mandalorian, N. K. Jemisin bringing out Eldritch supernatural SFF to punch racist Lovecraft in the proverbial and literary face, Janet Mock directing a TV series about BIPOC queer and trans lives, and Alok Vaid-Menon getting published by Penguin to write a pocketbook for gender-expansive teens to help equip them for this not so welcoming world. Don’t know who these folx are? Well now you have read their names and you have 4 wonderful BIPOC folx to look up and consume what they create.

CONSUMING. CONSUMER. We are all consumers no matter how little waste we want to produce. I am a post-grad social anthropologist working on my honours thesis, and like many millennials, I have anxiety about what I consume. How much waste do I leave behind? What’s my carbon footprint? I need to stop shopping! Why did all my earthworms die? In one of the many wonderful textbooks on Indigenous peoples I read in my bachelor’s degree, I came across an Amazonian culture that viewed every single thing as a consumer because we literally need fuel to survive. This translated into cannibalism as well. You are a cannibal because you consume. You consume a thing with life force even if you are a staunch vegan. And the earth is a cannibal too, breaking down and consuming our bodies with the help of cannibal bugs and consuming bacteria. So I say CONSUME and be mindful of what you consume.

White folx, if you read, watch, listen, dance to, support, donate to, fund, and view, work by Black, Indigenous, people of Colour, then you will begin one of the many steps towards being antiracist. You will be funding their livelihoods and you will be supporting them with your dollary-doos. Your antiracism must be active. That includes, buying (or requesting your library to order it in) THEN READING, the book. Blog or review the book WHILE BEING MINDFUL that if you are White you will have been socialised to read and understand literature in a certain way. When an author who is Black/Indigenous/of Colour breaks White Euro literary conventions, learn from them, don’t police them. You are literally making your own life tasteless and empty by reducing the potentiality of literature to a mirror of yourself and your education and your Whiteness. Don’t be that person. I have read each and every one of these books that I am recommending. I read a lot, so 10 doesn’t mean much… I wish I could recommend 20. Or 100. What I have here is a mix of ethnicities and cultures, a mix of genders, a mix of sexual orientations, a mix of forms of literature. All the authors are BIPOC. The quick info-data-intro summarises what you are getting into and why I think you should get on in; but please do not let that limit your experience with it. Many of these authors are so expansive and multiplicitous that my mere words are not enough. Where possible I have recommended another form of media to consume when you read that book as a complimentary item.

In closing, before you jump into this list, me- a White nonbinary person living on Wurundjeri land in the country so-called Australia, is writing this list to direct you to books by BIPOC and also content by BIPOC creators because right now and forever, our bookshelves need to get decolonised, our minds and hearts need to as well, and White people who can, need to do this work to directing others to creations by BIPOC. I’ve read the books, I’ve watched the films, and I’ve danced my bod to the songs. I am not going to regurge yet another listicle of content from White creators. And if your listicles DON’T contain some work by BIPOC you need to ask yourself why because these folx work in every genre, in every medium, in every art form. Creation doesn’t occur in a vacuum. Don’t let Whiteness be the reason you consume something.

dark emu

Title: Dark Emu.

Author: Bruce Pascoe.

Background: Nonfiction about Aboriginal Australian agricultural practices prior to and during early years of colonisation. Bruce Pascoe is an Aboriginal Australian writer who has done work across YA, children’s lit, historic fiction, literary fiction, and nonfiction. Dark Emu examines the colonial myth of Australia and how European colonisers have deliberately framed Indigenous Australians as lacking agriculture and forms of farming to perpetuate the idea of Aboriginal people having little to no culture, being nomadic hunter gathers who lived like cave people out of a DreamWorks animation. Sounds ridic but the plan worked for a very long time with many policies and racist White Supremacist laws paving the way for destruction of Aboriginal Australians. Bruce got sick of ALL THAT and went through the colonial archives reading essays and surveys and diaries by colonisers and found so much evidence of beautiful cultural traditions, bravery of Aboriginal people along with agriculture, aquaculture, and community. That is what Dark Emu is about, that journey into the archives to read firsthand accounts of a history that has been deliberately erased through White Supremacy, Imperialism, and greed.

Accompanying Media: Mystery Road, a crime/mystery series spanning 2 films and 2 tv series following the career of Detective Jay Swan, an Aboriginal Australian man, who investigates murders and mysteries that directly impact and pertain to Indigenous lives in Australia.

Pet

Title: Pet.

Author: Akwaeke Emezi.

Background: a short middle-grade novel about a utopian American antiracist society with a trans femme main character. Akwaeke Emezi is Black, nonbinary writer based in New Orleans. Their various IG accts are so wonderful and you can see facets of their physical and spiritual journey there. Pet is set in a utopia that SHOWS an imagining of how we could do things differently, no police, no crime, no violence. We get to read the transition of the main character and it is one of joy and love, part of her life but not central to the story (since when have any of us wanted to be reduced to just GENDER yet that seems to dominate media about transgender people). A monster crawls from a painting by Jam’s mother. Her town is supposed to be free of predators yet Pet is here because it is not, and they must be stopped before evil seeps back in. It is a truly chilling story relevant for any age despite the character being in their early teens.

Accompanying media: the amazing song Q.U.E.E.N by Janelle Monae featuring Erykah Badu released in 2013.

muslim

Title: Do Muslim Women Need Saving?

Author:  Lila Abu Lughod.

Background: I studied a textbook by Lila Abu Lughod in first-year anthropology about Bedouin culture. The perspective she wrote it from was from that of the women within the society, revealing to her a very different world to how most of the world views not only Bedouin women but also Muslim women. Lila Abu Lughod is a biracial woman with a Muslim Middle Eastern background. Her research as an anthropologist and empathy for the different cultures and ethnicities that follow Islam led her to write various essays that challenge the social imaginary of what White people think about Muslim people, especially the narrative of ‘saving Muslim women’. Do Muslim Women Need Saving collects essays that directly challenge these notions and educate those not within those cultures.

Accompanying Media: A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night. A female vigilante vampire in Iran kills baddies, dances gloriously in her apartment, wears a chador, and falls in love.

unkindess

Title: An Unkindness of Ghosts.

Author: Rivers Solomon.

Background: Rivers Solomon is a nonbinary Black person now residing in the UK with their family. They write wonderful speculative fiction that addresses intersections of body, race, culture, class, gender, sexuality, and what resides in our pasts. An Unkindness of Ghosts follows a highly intelligent gender nonconforming young female called Aster who assists a ship surgeon on a space station lost off course. Something is sending people within the space station crazy, and the racialized classism is claiming lives quicker than the mysterious “ghosts”. Aster must solve the puzzle to understand not only the death of her mother, but the root of the racism and classism in the space station and what is causing malfunctions and death and insanity.

Accompanying Media: Seji the Artisan Geek on Instagram @theartisangeek runs an amazing booktube, bookstagram and has made a database of Black authors as a resource for readers wanting to find specific themes, topics, genres, age groups and accessibility. You can find the google document at https://docs.google.com/document/d/1ffsB6mzGd0IHztJOCyFjFLYcfpP7I6H5UrV45tz42eg/mobilebasic

mirrors

Title: Ezili’s Mirrors, Imagining Black Queer Genders.

Author: Omise’eke Natasha Tinsley.

Background: Omise’eke Natasha Tinsley is a queer Black woman of Afro Caribbean descent. This book branches between academia, song, oral communications, and visual material that sublimates the concept of research into something new or perhaps, something very old, something pre-colonial. The book explores modes of Ezili, the many Ezili of the Voudoun pantheon and how these Ezili embody various forms of femme queerness and who then interacts with these queer Ezili. I hope through exploring this book you will understand part of the impact colonisation has had upon gender and how Black people, queer or not, live outside of the White gender binary and that it is something imposed on them, on us all; a violent liminality to control and minimise. If you are interested in different cultural practices, the influence Afro Caribbean culture has had upon queer communities, if you are enamoured with magic and spirituality like me, if you want a book celebrating Black women and girls and femmes (the answer is yes), then Ezilis Mirrors is waiting.

fabulous

Title: Fabulous, the Rise of the Beautiful Eccentric.

Author: Madison Moore.

Background: Madison Moore is a gender-expansive queer Black man, an academic, a fashionista and, a DJ. Fabulous contains a collection of amazing essays exploring Black and Brown Fabulousness and its history in Afro American culture and in Queer culture. You will get to explore different art forms and expressions, be introduced to mythic sex clubs, groundbreaking film, the social media of the new generation of Fabulous BIPOC Queer folx, and my fav, and interview with the nonbinary fashionista/prophet/poet/artist/healer Alok Vaid-Menon. Focusing on the work and influence of Black and Brown people in not only Queer communities but the fashion world is so important and understanding the multiple modes of intellectual and cultural dispossession we enact towards Black and Brown queer folk is one of many steps towards anti-racism and changing our thinking and practices.

queen

Title: Queen of the Conquered.

Author: Kacen Callender.

Background: Kacen Callender is a nonbinary Black person of Caribbean descent. They write across multiple genres and age groups and if I had my say, their Tweets would be bound and published by the Folio Society. Queen of the Conquered is as far as I can tell the first genre fiction book Kacen has had published (but far from the first they wrote, if their Tweets tell the truth). It is set in an alternate Caribbean Islands, heavily leaning into themes of Gothic Horror. The book is very much marketed as a Fantasy novel but I disagree with that, Gothic Horror is my toe-jam, and this book is GOTHIC AF. The mc Sigourney Rose seeks revenge for the slaughter of her family when she was a child due to running plantations on one of the Islands and as punishment for their Blackness. All the other Plantation owners are White with heavy Scandinavian vibes. Sigourney is biracial but very dark-skinned and adopted into a family sympathetic towards the slaughter of her kin. She vows to seek revenge and grows up entwined in the racist and brutal politics of the Islands. Full of ghosts, mind games, psychological terror, and whimsical women running through mangroves, yes this book feels very gothic horror to me.

It’s about time we have more gothic books with predominantly Black and Brown characters because the gothic subgenres have been built upon the suffering of Black and Brown bodies. Wuthering Heights to Dracula, the aspects of racialization are very difficult to ignore and many an academic essay will pop up discussing the value of race in these genres especially race and villain. This is a pull no punches book on colonisation in the Caribbean, the only fantastical elements is how magic manifests, but pull away the metaphor and that magic represents who has the right to live, who has the power to make others die, and who has the ability to inflict pain on others. Book two comes out in December and I am excited to read the next installment despite screaming at our unlikeable heroine the whole time, who cannot see revenge will never succeed when on the playing field of White Supremacy.

Accompany Media: https://www/fiyahlitmag.com/review/review-queen-of-the-conquered-by-kacen-callendar/ check out this #ownvoices review if you are still on the fence about this eerie and challenging book.

graves

Title: The Land of Open Graves.

By: Jason de Leon

Background: Jason de Leon is a Latinx archaeologist who has done contemporary archaeology on people crossing the Mexico American border into the States. This is one of the most harrowing books I read, I learnt about the weaponization of nature and land against the people needing to journey into the US, their vulnerabilities, their hopes and dreams, the lies they are fed, and the very real reason why they would want to cross an imagined border into a different country to be able to provide for their families and change their opportunities. Mostly I learnt of the imagined concept of borders, their politicization and their role in upholding White Supremacy. I urge all people living on colonised land with govts not allowing refugees and asylum seekers in (or allowing them in but profiling them and leaving them in detention) to read this book.

Accompanying Media: Mayans MC TV show. This spin-off of Sons of Anarchy is far superior from the OG series and primarily focuses on Brown Lantinx and Indigenous bikers and the various social issues that are caused by Trumps’ wall, corruption, racism, and people trafficking. The show is very violent but highlights police corruption in the US, vigilantism, family bonds, and primarily Latinx actors.

devour

Title: The Devourers.

By: Indra Das.

Background: This is one of my all-time favourite books which I have not read since my initial foray between the pages in 2017. I expected a South Asian Interview with the Vampire-esque story with shapeshifters and gore. I got that but I also got many openly queer characters, an examination of gender expansion and gender nonconformity in colonial India, racism and misogyny in India, and a lush AF heartbreaking story that is filled with longing and hope. Looking at this makes me want to reread it. Because there is a reason I keep gifting copies to folx and that I hold it so close to my heart.

Accompanying Media: I urge every reader to check out https://www.alokvmenon.com and explore the work of Alok, the wonderful Indian, nonbinary genderfluid writer and artist. They create exquisite fashion, have performances available on youtube, and have a pocket-book and poetry collection available in print to purchase. They have always been a huge inspiration and validation for me as a nonbinary trans person.

Mongrels

Title: Mongrels.

By: Stephen Graham Jones.

Background: Mongrels is a werewolf story and a coming of age narrative, in an urban horror setting that is analogous for being Indigenous in North America. Stephen Graham Jones is a Blackfeet Native American author with a prolific bibliography. Mongrels was an outstanding read, gritty, suspenseful, and examining the impact of blood quantum on a child growing up on the fringes, and how that affects their sense of self, their life choices, and indigeneity. I anticipate his newest release, The Only Good Indians, which comes out in a few months, and I have preordered a copy because in the publishing world preorders assist authors with getting better pay with their next book deal (pay in publishing is incredibly uneven for BIPOC authors). I wish I could say more about Mongrels but I actually read it a handful of years ago, but I did so in a buddy read and I remember both of us were blown away by how unputdownable the book was, and how heart-rending. Stephen Graham Jones books are tough to come by in Australia, but that’s the truth for every author who is BIPOC or queer, shops think we still want Tim Winton, or, the poisonous JKR.

Accompanying Media: I highly recommend @thunderbirdwomanreads on Instagram. This incredible bookstagram account run by Dani who is Anishinaabekwe; features beautiful posts and reviews of books by Indigenous authors. She is a skilled writer and through her posts she educates on social justice, and the importance of decolonizing your mind and bookcase. While her feed is full of amazing books, you can also pay her for her time and order specialised recommendations that she has created with her knowledge and time investment.

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In conclusion, I can’t force you to become anti-racist. I cannot walk you onto the path of becoming that is unending, that is never-ending, that is unlearning, that is confronting your prejudice, confronting the racism you were socialised in, confronting the White Supremacy you benefit from. This is a journey we all embark on alone. But there is no reasons you cannot take a book with you, a book to teach you, to learn from, to develop your empathy, to unlearn false histories and become informed, to become a better ally, to actively work on being antiracist.

Reading and financially supporting creative endeavours by BIPOC people is only one facet of antiracism. But it is something you can continue doing as you learn, as you make mistakes, as you spread awareness in your communities, as your confront friends and family on their racism, as you unpack your shame and move into doing something constructive, something that actually benefits BIPOC lives. Don’t be too scared of getting it wrong that you do nothing. Don’t assume that everyone around you knows you are antiracist. If you are not active and present in your antiracism then you need to be, because racism doesn’t sleep or go on pause or just stop for BIPOC. It is constant– so antiracism must be constant in its various, myriad, shifting, and nebulous forms.

 

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generally gothic feature

On this month’s (?) (unidentified measure of time)’s installment of Ten Things, I am thrilled to share the spooky musings of Hannah, creator of the Generally Gothic blog.

Generally Gothic is a collection of content on broadly gothic themes; articles exploring the Gothic within art, literature, architecture, film and television, social history, and life in general.
Today Hannah shares the ten things she finds necessary to maintain these spooky endeavors!

Peek in on Generally Gothic : Instagram // Twitter // Tumblr // Goodreads

‘L'autoportrait Interdit’ | © Generally Gothic
‘L’autoportrait Interdit’ | © Generally Gothic

Bio:
Hello! My name’s Hannah and I’m a Master of the Gothic. You can find me online as Generally Gothic, where I blog and post about (you guessed it) the Gothic within the arts and humanities. I am currently exploring literary and historical witches under my current theme: Season of the Witch. You will also find me as Associate Editor of dark literary journal, Coffin Bell, and in the upcoming edition of YOGURT Culture Zine.

One of the questions I am most frequently asked at, and as, Generally Gothic is how I maintain my blog. I am grateful to have found a space in which I am no longer asked why, but still find it shocking because mine is a sporadic and not very present online presence…

Regardless, during this weird year of confinement and armchair adventures, I thought I would share ten of the things necessary for maintaining my spooky endeavours, which I hope you can apply to whatever it is you’re nerdy about online.

1. A Sincere Passion

Mine was born on the bathroom floor at the age of seven.

I grew up in a house that had books in every room. Amongst the clothbound volumes on the bathroom shelves was a collection of short stories. And amongst their number was Edgar Allan Poe with ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’. I devoured most of the books on most of the shelves, but that moment with that story in that unlikely room was what can only be described as ‘formative’.

‘Library 1/n’ | © Generally Gothic
Library 1/n’ | © Generally Gothic

2. Inky Fingers

Just as gardening cannot be done without getting muddy, writing, for me, cannot be done without getting inky.

I find greater freedom in writing by hand ‒ that I cannot truly write without pen and ink. If you follow my posts closely, you will spot strong suggestions of my ecological beliefs. It should, therefore, be no surprise that I favour an ink pen that is refilled over and over again, without waste. Mine is very dear to me ‒ it was a graduation gift that I intend to collaborate with for the rest of my life.

I am sure that there are ways of refilling the cartridge without pouring ink into my pores, but I don’t think I want to know them…

3. So Many Papers

With inky fingers come papers… so many papers. Bound in books, and loose, ripped, recycled, and lost, and rediscovered in pockets once long forgotten.

I know that hoarding paper isn’t the most eco-friendly practice, but like inky fingers there is something in the physical, the tangible, that I cannot turn my back on.

Do you remember assessments in primary school to determine ‘what kind of learner’ you were? I am a note-taker. I don’t know that that’s even one of the options. I also don’t know that it works… but that’s what I am. And those notes are the seeds that develop into my blog posts, so I take it back; be a note-taker ‒ it does work, because it is the work. Or part of it, anyway.

‘A Different Pen & Ink’ | © Generally Gothic
‘A Different Pen & Ink’ | © Generally Gothic

4. An Internet Connection… Albeit a Terrible One Right Now

This post is consciously not about the whole Voldermorty (You-Know-What, or That-Which-Must-Not-Be-Named) state of affairs, but I would like to ask just one related question.

The internet has undoubtedly been an invaluable tool in innumerable ways during this time, but has anyone else been surprised at how it’s struggled to cope with the increased traffic? Maybe it’s just the service offered by They-Who-I-Really-Want-To-Name-(and-shame-)But-Won’t…

Anyway, the internet, though fatigued at present, is obviously a spooky nerd essential. There were already so many incredible resources, and now an influx of services have digitised or temporarily waived fees, which is as exciting as it is overwhelming. Go forth and discover!

5. Open Eyes

Whilst memory is not a strong point of mine, I do have a spongey constitution.

Perhaps it’s an individual thing, but once I began to look for it however long ago, manifestations of the gothic in life around me became delightfully inescapable. Whatever it is that I am researching, reading, or writing about at any given time, I will find echoed in likely, and very unlikely, places. I suppose this synchronicity relates to passion. If you find what you love, you will seek it. Once it takes root, you will encourage it to grow wild, as I do.

‘Gardner’s Short Gallery’ | © Generally Gothic
‘Gardner’s Short Gallery’ | © Generally Gothic

6. Inspiring Surroundings

Though the world of natural and human invention is ripe with inspiration, it is undeniably more so in certain corners than others.

Just as the great poets and painters sought intellectual salons, country retreats, and dimly lit cafés, I find that connecting with the existing work of the world positively impacts my own output.

Personally, I have a soft spot for museums, galleries, and historical homes. I know I said I wouldn’t mention it again, but one of the greatest things to come out of the pandemic is level access to the arts. I honestly cannot say whether theatres, performers, workers, establishments, etc., are being supported sufficiently by governments and public donations, but I can say that I am hugely grateful for the resulting geographical and financial equality afforded to their expanding audiences.

7. Human Inspiration

Once again making an example of historical creatives, we know that, whilst many succeeded in isolation, with community as muse, art proliferates.

Through Instagram, I have found myself surrounded by a collection of companions with whom I can share and from whom I can learn about all sorts of interesting things that spark endless inspiration.

I remain open about the fact that I would be doing what I do whether anyone was listening or not. And, whilst it’s true that I began by whispering into the silent void, it would be entirely dishonest to discredit the impact that community has had on Generally Gothic. A discussion, rather than a lecture, allows for everyone to grow and, having just this year learnt that I am 3 inches shorter than I had previously believed myself to be, that sounds pretty appealing to me…

‘Giving Away du Maurier’ | © Generally Gothic
Giving Away du Maurier’ | © Generally Gothic

8. Tea, Coffee, and Cake…

…for I am human, and I need fuel. I can write without tea, coffee, and cake, but I’d rather not. It really is that simple.

9. Libraries

As you may have gathered, I feel very passionately about access to information and equality in education. I believe in books, and I believe in trees.
I am soon moving from the place that I have called home for the past 2 years. Amongst an assortment of wonderful organic things, such as people and landscapes, one of my favourite foreign discoveries has been the local network of Little Free Libraries. (Take a book, give a book whether back or forward.)

I vouch to build one of my own when I am a home-owner, but until then, I aim to share books online. I am currently giving away 2 vintage Daphne du Maurier hardbacks that I purchased from one of my favourite, virtual second-hand book shops. It is an ongoing attempt at practising what I have always vaguely known to be true: that books need people as much as people need books. And that I can exist without hoarding them all… particularly when my luggage allowance is limited.

I have scattered a selection of my library back around the Little Free Libraries I frequented. If you ever find a novel with a Generally Gothic stamp inside, let me know! I’d love to see how far they travel.

‘In Progress: The New Gothic Review Review’ | © Generally Gothic
‘In Progress: The New Gothic Review Review’ | © Generally Gothic

10. Embracing the Chaos, with Open Arms

I have a really strict schedule of expectations, and also a whole load of other commitments that are as demanding as they are unavoidable.

I have found that when I choose to cut a bigger slice of cake, take a break with a book, and shrug it off if I miss my self-imposed deadline for another formless week in a row, I create better.

Remember point 1? It’s a passion ‒ enjoy it!

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Last month I put out a call on Instagram, pleading with my friends to fill me in on the appeal Animal Crossing, and what is it, exactly, anyway? Don’t get me wrong, I do understand the appeal of escapist video-games (I mean, we’re entrenched in the FF7 remake right now!) but I just knew absolutely nothing about Animal Crossing, and I was SO curious. Not curious enough to play, mind you–I know how easily I get sucked into games and I don’t need that temptation right now–but I just wanted to hear, from someone’s personal perspective and experience, just what is it that makes Animal Crossing so special? If nothing else, I can live vicariously!

My friend Shay rose to the occasion. Shay and are internet friends who have actually met in real life, and to say I adore her is a vast understatement. She and I were in somewhat similarly bad places in our lives when we first crossed each other’s path on the internet in the comments section of a blog that we both loved. As we became friendly and learned more about each other over the years, I’ve really come to lean on her friendship and cheer and perpetually bubbly nature, and I am happy to say that, while we switched places geographically (when we first started chatting she was down south and I was up north, and now the reverse is true) we chat at least once a week, and are always cheerleading each other on in our various goals. Shay–much like my Best Good Friend–is a very Aries Aries and as a slow, shy, sort of detached Taurus, I really need those dynamic, enthusiastic Aries energies in my life.

Thank you, thank you, darling Shay for taking the time, especially right now, which is a super weird and scary time, to have given this some thought and to have shared it with me. See below for Shay’s Top 10 things I Love About Animal Crossing New Horizons I hope you guys found this as illuminating and enjoyable–and fun!– as I have!

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Hello, I’m Shay and I’m a casual gamer that has found a little place of zen in a game. I have played puzzle, design, and sim games for years. I played Animal Crossing beginning on the GameCube and have played every iteration of the game since. It’s the game with no rushed goal, no actual end, it’s a game where you just exist. There is something special about the town and now it’s an island that you get to create and curate.

The Sounds and Songs

Kazumi Totaka has created something amazing with Animal Crossing. The ASMR is being recorded and people are making YouTube videos of his hard work. The Washington Post described it as “a blissful 24-hour lullaby that’s helping countless players weather countless hours of forced downtime.” Totaka recorded the sounds of the island that you hear while out in nature. The ocean waves, a crackling campfire, walking through wet grass, the sound of the mole cricket, cicadas and he changed into sandals to get the sound just right for walking through sand. There is also a theme song that changes throughout the day starting slow chill in the morning and building up to a pop song around noon, happy hour sounds a little jazzy and then as you get late into the night and the dark sets in the tune takes on a slow gothy sound. It’s all so lovely and thought out.

My island celebration for the museum expansion! Hooray!

Cute Anthropomorphic Characters

If you have played the game before, most of the characters are still here and there are quite a few new additions as well. I’m pleased to say my islanders so far are enjoyable but if they weren’t you could go to the town hall and submit a complaint to Isabelle, she’s the dog that works there. There are different animals and they all have different personalities. Personality types tend to be nice, hard workers, lazy, jocks, rude and some are just eccentric. I currently have 2 that think they are a pop star & a superhero (a panda and a rabbit).

Creepy Zipper on Bunny Day
Creepy Zipper on Bunny Day

The Ever-Changing Seasons and Holidays

Depending on if you choose to play the game in your own hemisphere and time zone your game will follow the current seasons. The fish, bugs, and flowers change with the seasons. There are a number of holidays that come along with the season change. We just had Bunny Day that had the CREEPIEST bunny I have ever seen. It really topped the charts in its creep factor, right down to the zipper in the back of his suit. Cherry blossoms bloomed with the beginning of Spring so all the hardwood trees turned into trees covered in pink flowers and at the end of the season the town was raining in pink blossoms.

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All The Outfits!!!

My character is nothing but stylish. She has a packed closet and since you get Nook Miles for changing the outfit….she pretty much changes daily. I have been stuck on a retro 1940’s look lately but I have so many to choose from. The Able Sisters show up on the island and start selling you clothes from a stall, but soon get a store and you can go daily and buy new pieces. I have hipster outfits, gothic lolita outfits and some of my favorite are my punk outfits.

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Fishing and Bug Catching

Part of what drives the game is catching fish and bugs and digging up fossils that eventually start being collected by Blathers, an owl that runs a museum. You also get to sell these items to help pay off loans that the island creator Tom Nook (in the American version of the game they call him a raccoon but he is actually named after his Japanese likeness…a play on words, he is a tanuki which is a raccoon dog that lives in East Asia) give you when he helps you set up your house. Tom Nook continues to help you build up the island with loans for expanding your house and costs that the island creates as a whole to build bridges and inclines to easier get around the island. The money is called bells and you get bells when you sell items to Nook’s Cranny, the local general store. The fishing and bug catching is very much like the real thing. A relaxing pastime that allows you to clear your mind a bit and focus on a task that requires sneaking up slowly to a butterfly or outwitting the tarantula.

Watching the fish from the tunnel in the museum
Watching the fish from the tunnel in the museum

The Museum

As mentioned above, part of what drives the game is the seasonal comings and goings of fish and bugs. This makes the collection to help fill the museum have time frames (again, a few months’ time that isn’t rushed by any means). You have a few months to catch a Marlin. Come May 1st that fish leaves along with the elusive hard to catch tarantula. Taking the place are a scorpion, catfish, and rainbow fish just to name a few. Filling the museum is probably one of my favorite activities. Once Blathers has taken the item from you he adds it to the museum. You can wander through the many halls anytime you like. The museum is quiet. The music is in hushed tones. You can hear the splashing of the water recycling through the tanks, you can hear buzzing from the bees and chirping of crickets. It’s part of the game that feels the most like a meditation. You can sit in the museum and watch the fish swim in schools. It all feels very natural.

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Decorating the Home & Island

Islanders share recipes with you and you can collect flowers, stones, clay, and iron to create furniture to fill your home and the island. You can also buy things from Nook’s Cranny to fill your home. There are multiple random ways to get furniture or designs for furniture. Filling your home and making the island feel cozy lead to happy homes awards and visitors deciding to stay. I tend to like decorating games, so with this part of the gameplay I end up taking a long time changing up wallpapers, flooring, rearranging the furniture in my home and all over the island.

Moon gazing from the cliffs
Moongazing from the cliffs

Terraforming

One of the final tools you unlock allows you to then take your designing even further. Terraforming allows you to change the shape of the island. This allows you to build cliffs, create waterfalls, and lay down paths. I spent days building paths. I found myself cutting down trees and moving flowers so that everything moved in a flow that felt like a little village I would want to live in. I carved a waterfall into an area I dubbed my zen garden. This game has become an escape from a world that is troubling. When the news is too much I find myself turning off the TV and picking up my Switch.

My husband was my first visitor .We play on separate consoles.
My husband was my first visitor. We play on separate consoles.

Connecting With Friends and Visiting Islands

Finally, the last thing that I love about this game is sharing the fun with friends. You can swap codes and fly to each other’s islands. Here you can swap recipes, trade fruits (you start with only one type of fruit and build all the fruits by traveling and visiting other islands), and get ideas for all the many ways you can design your island and make this game your special Universe. I find myself watching YouTube videos of the 5-star islands. If any of this interests you, you must look up the Zelda island and the Twin Peaks island. These are both spectacular examples of people taking an idea and making it so wildly, wonderfully weird. I hope when my friends that are playing visit my island they feel the love, glitter, and weird I have added to make this place something that takes me away from all the bad in the world.

If you are interested in becoming Animal Crossing friends, you can find me on Instagram @shaynovinnyc and send me a DM for my friend code. I sometimes make stories about my island, but most of the time what you see is what interests me on my walks through the New York park near my apartment or something cute my cats did while we are in quarantine in a tiny apartment. Take care, stay safe, stay weird and happy gaming.

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recspecgallery_interior

I “met” Laurel as I “meet” many of my dear, good friends–online, geeking out over the stuff we are intensely passionate about. In our case, we wandered into each other’s orbits, over at the now-defunct sonic cosmos of 8tracks, constellations winking and shimmering excitedly in our shared tastes in music and art. This was in 2010 and I still recall the very mix that began our friendship–I went under a different internet handle at that time, and I was just on the cusp of becoming the ghoul next door that I am today– and in that initial encounter, Laurel introduced me to a strange and wonderful new-to-me artist (which I later wrote about!) and who remains a favorite today. Music and art. Two of the things that we continue to geek out over, nearly a decade later!

It was not a huge surprise to me then, that a few years later, Laurel opened her own art gallery! I was thrilled, amazed, and proud–but not a bit surprised. Laurel, an artist and designer herself, is a shrewd businessperson with a deep love of community and fostering connections, and believes in the vital importance of art and artists creating it.

And so, I am a heady combination of  pleased, excited, and thoroughly honored that Laurel has shared her thoughts at Unquiet Things today, in our monthly installment of Ten Things:
10 Things I’ve learned from Owning an Art Gallery

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Laurel Barickman is the Creative Director of the Austin, Texas based design agency Recspec, and for three years she’s also been the owner, operator, and curator of Recspec Gallery. She has put together over 20 shows for the gallery, working with local, national, and international artists across every type of medium, with a focus on uplifting new and unestablished artists – especially women artists, queer artists, and artists of color.

When I decided to start an art gallery a few years ago, I had no idea what I was doing. I was looking for a space to have an office and also meet with my clients for my design agency, and when I found the right space, it had – prior to me moving in – been a gallery. I had always had an interest in curation, and had been in shows myself, and there was definitely a far-away dream in the back of my mind to one day own a gallery, but I definitely didn’t think it was the time or that I was ready yet! But I decided to take the leap based on the community around me and the amazing artists that I know. It hasn’t been easy, and a year or so ago, we lost our location – and it took almost a full year for me to find a new one, a task at one point I thought was impossible because of the rising rents in Austin. But the biggest thing I noticed during that time that we were closed was how much I missed it, and how much I wanted to do it again.

So here are a few things I’ve learned in the process. I hope that it might help any budding gallerists out there!

rf alvarez - NudeinRed
“Nude in Red” by RF Alvarez

You will buy a lot of art.

As I’ve told my husband any time I announce that I’m buying ANOTHER piece of artwork, in order to sell art, you have to drink the kool-aid and buy art yourself. A gallerist who doesn’t buy art (which I doubt exists) doesn’t really understand the consumer-art relationship, which is so essential to be able to sell art in the first place. Understanding the other side of that relationship is important – what people are looking for, what price-points work for them, why they connect with certain pieces over others, what mediums are most popular, etc. If we don’t believe in the value of art, supporting artists, and buying art, how can we expect anyone else to?

christa blackwood - charis
“Charis” by Christa Blackwood

Supporting your artists is the most important thing.

My main job as a gallery owner is to make sure that my artists are taken care of, supported, and have everything they need to fulfill their vision of their show at my gallery. Galleries take a split of every sale, and it is important to earn that split through our actions that support the artist. I handle all of the marketing for the show, getting the gallery space ready for their work, installing, lighting, I assist with pricing if they need it, photographing all of the works and getting them online for non-local sales, getting sponsorships and setting up our opening and closing events, and more. It’s a huge amount of work to put on a show, and it’s important to me that the artist only has to worry about creating the work. We take care of the rest, which is how it should be. I also encourage collaborations, and if an artist has a vision for creating something special for the show, I do what I can to make it happen.

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Community is essential.

Without the attendees to our shows and visitors to our gallery, we would not exist. Building the community that we have took time, but without knowing that I had a dedicated audience who would show up for our openings and be supportive of what we do, I would not have felt confident opening a new location. I’m so appreciative of this community, and try to foster and continue to build it through talking to everyone who comes through the door, asking how they heard about us, thanking them for their interest, and building a connection. I am not the type of gallerist who barely acknowledges a visitor, I am right there to answer any questions or give any information they may need. As a natural introvert, it can be difficult to put myself out there in this way and spend hours talking to so many people, but I feel like it’s been a huge contributor to building the community we now have.

eva claycomb - ten o clock
“Ten o’clock” by Eva Claycomb

It doesn’t always have to make sense.

When we had our first ever show, I came up with a name for it – loosely based on a film quote, maybe? Just a saying I liked? It was The Eyes Have It — and I remember telling a few people about it and them telling me it didn’t really make any sense. I went with my gut and it was an amazing first show, that I left to my artists as an ambiguous theme that really paid off in the end. Art is weird. It often doesn’t make sense. Trust your ideas, your taste, and your artists. Magic will blossom from the strange ideas you may have.

Joanne-Leah---Sugar-Smell
“Sugar Smell” by Joanne Leah

Selling art is hard.

This is something that anyone who wants to start an art gallery won’t want to hear, but it’s true. Art – while it feels vital to many of us – at the end of the day, is a non-essential, and a luxury. Convincing someone that they should spend X 100’s of dollars on a piece of art for their walls is a challenge, and requires the right circumstances. There has to be a connection for the buyer, there has to be money involved, and you have to make it as easy and no pressure as possible. Sometimes I haven’t sold a single piece from a show that took months to prepare. Sometimes I’ve sold X 1000 plus dollar pieces. It’s a complete unknown, and very hard to predict. For that reason, I try to make sure I have a lot of different price points represented in the gallery and our shop at all times so that everyone can afford something, even if it is just a small enamel pin. Buying art is a privilege, and some people just aren’t able to. Making it as accessible to as wide of a range of folks as possible is important to me, and helps with sales in the end.

Lee Noble
Lee Noble

Grants help.

While I didn’t start my journey owning an art gallery with getting grants — I’ve realized that if there are some available to you, through your city, state, or country — its important to try to take advantage of those resources. It is a huge amount of work to do grant-writing, but as I said above, it’s hard to sell art. Money is needed to own and operate a gallery, so finding some help, even if it’s not a huge amount, can help immensely.

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“Unlikely Growth” by Kevin Munoz and Graham Franciose 

Develop relationships with buyers.

Remember the people who bought pieces, and remember what they bought. Maybe you’ll have another show and you’ll think “Oh, I bet so-and-so would love this.” Reach out to them personally, say hi, invite them by. They might not buy another piece, but they might.

Tell Me When It Rains - Annalise Gratovich
“Tell Me When It Rains” by Annalise Gratovich

Support other galleries.

Much like buying art, if you don’t go to other gallery’s shows, how can you expect them to come to yours? It all ties back into the community, and it’s important to show up and foster that network with other galleries. I’ve never felt in competition with the other galleries in my city because we all do different things. I try to remember what their openings are so I can tell people about them and create those conduits between us. And often I know that they, in turn, do the same for me.

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“Flowerskull” by Mike Combs

It doesn’t hurt to ask.

I’ve been so lucky to show some incredible artists in my gallery — from Australia, to New York, to California — some with such big followings that it seemed silly to even ask. But I did, and they said yes. All you can do is ask, be confident, and make it easy. They’ll either ignore you or say no if they aren’t interested (which has definitely happened to me), or they will say yes and you’ll get to show your community an artist they probably never expected to see.

Twin Insight - Lesley Nowlin Blessing
“Twin Insight” by Lesley Nowlin Blessing

Art is important. And so are the curators.

It may seem obvious, but my biggest take away from starting a gallery, is that art IS important, collecting it in a space that is accessible to all kinds of people is important, and even if someone cannot buy a piece, just being able to show them that work, connect them with an artist, foster those connections, and hopefully help financially support artists in the process is important. It’s a ton of work. It’s hard to make money. But it is worth it.

Thank you for reading, and for any budding gallerists out there, if you have any questions feel free to reach out. [email protected].
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Snow sucksIs it profoundly uncool to talk about how often I look at my blog’s stats? I guess I just like to know where people are coming from and what they are interested in, I can’t help it! It’s probably less uncool than googling yourself, though? Right? Which I don’t do…but that’s only because I have a very common name and there’d be no point in digging through all of the search results, heh. Otherwise, I’d probably be looking myself up on the internet all of the time.

It was one morning that I was poring over the statistics for Unquiet Things I saw that one of the referring sites was an actual website–a proper blog– and this always excites me. (Mostly my referral stats are just pinterest or tumblr, or what seems like shady fake traffic sites.) When I peeked in at some of the content, I was so pleased to find out there was a real human behind it, with real thoughts and feelings that I could oftentimes very much relate to! And that is how I first became aware of Allison Felus, and whose thoughtful, balanced, and informative writing I often find myself returning to because I find it so wonderfully warm and restorative– and I am so happy she is sharing her spirited voice and thoughts today at Unquiet Things, in our last Ten Things of 2019!

Allison Felus is a writer, musician, and psychic living in Chicago. Find her online at Queen of Peaches or check out her latest zine, The Last Band of My Youth . Read further for her ten things to keep your spirits up as the winter darkness descends.

Alison Felus

I grew up in Indiana and have lived in Chicago for close to two decades now. So it feels a bit disingenuous to complain about the winter. It gets cold here! It’s dark and it snows a lot! That’s what it does! I feel like such a whiny baby for even making an issue about it. I mean, I guess I could move somewhere else? But my family ties are in the Midwest and my day job doesn’t afford me the ability to work remotely, so really, I just have to make the best of it.

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Smelly Things

So much of my resistance to winter centers around the physical hardships it entails. Unshoveled sidewalks make getting around the city on foot so much more difficult and time-consuming. The harsh temperatures wreak havoc on my hair and skin (both the harsh outdoor cold and the harsh indoor radiator heat). The hours of darkness trigger my SAD. So anything that provides a little bit of sensory pleasure in the midst of all that is, to me, worth its weight in gold. Knowing that gorgeous bath products await me in the shower is sometimes the only thing that gives me enough motivation in the morning to stumble out of bed and into the bathroom.

I find it increasingly difficult to deal with LUSH’s sales tactics anymore (the emotional labor it requires, as Victoria of EauMG has so aptly put it), so though I will occasionally cave in for the sake of a bottle of Rose Jam shower gel, my main bath-time love these days is Paintbox Soapworks

I started buying my partner their shaving soaps a few years ago when he was finding it more difficult to source the brand he always used to use, and that was gateway drug enough for me. My love for all their products has blossomed into a genuine obsession since then. (I’m wearing their Mandinka perfume oil as I type this, in fact.) The seasonal blends are always impeccable; this fall’s What the Moon Brings and Cathedral of Pumpkins were big loves, and I’m still hoarding the last dregs of a bottle of the Kamasi Washington-inspired Secrets of the Sun lotion from this summer’s release. Between seasonal offerings, though, I gravitate toward anything scented with the previously mentioned Mandinka as well as Blackbird, Whiskers, and Nekisse.

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Coffee

I love coffee. I just do. I’m not really a snob about beans or specific methods of preparation (this tender essay “The Case for Bad Coffee has long stuck with me). I’m just grateful that I live in a world where it’s abundant and readily available. However, I seem to have inherited my grandmother’s sensitivity to caffeine. (I remember being horrified as a teenager when I heard her say that the caffeine from even the tiniest piece of chocolate would be enough to keep her up all night.) I’ve never been a multiple-pots-per-day drinker, but when I started to notice that even a cup or two in the morning would be enough to disrupt my ability to fall, and stay, deeply asleep, I mourned having to give up that bit of morning pleasure.

I tried every possible substitute–tea/matcha, hot chocolate/ceremonial cacao, Dandy Blend, even a DIY carob-based concoction that I dutifully mixed up myself from a combination of powdered roots purchased from Mountain Rose Herbs. Until I realized, uh, decaf coffee exists.

The overly, unhelpfully logical part of my brain protested a bit–“if the whole purpose of drinking coffee is to get the energetic and cognitive boost from the caffeine, then what is the bloody point of drinking decaf?!” But eventually, I realized that it was never actually about the caffeine; it was about the ritual of it. Boiling the water, grinding the beans and scooping the grounds, waiting patiently for it to brew, then pouring it, hot and fragrant, into a treasured mug. So now I allow myself to enjoy the ritual for the sake of itself. These days I just make the generic Whole Foods decaf in a French press and finish it with a plop of coconut cream. It’s just so brilliantly comforting on a cold morning.

light box

Light box

Does a light box actually do anything? Is it just (“just”) the placebo effect? To me, it’s a bit like the old saw about it being better to believe in God on the off chance that God exists than to not believe in God and risk the consequences of unbelief, eg, there’s no real downside to using a light box if it does nothing while there’s a whole lot of upside if it actually does. And in fact, I do know that any time I start having a really whiny emotional meltdown about something seemingly insignificant, my partner is usually right when he (gently) asks me if I forgot to use my light box that morning.

I have a Verilux HappyLight, and I just turn the thing on in the bathroom, perched on a shelf, before I get into the shower so that my eyeballs are absorbing its rays while I towel off, get lotioned up, and whatnot. I’m also just constantly amused that it looks like an iPad whose sole function is to glow bright white.

Soundtrack

Commute Soundtrack

Astrologically, the new year isn’t really until mid-March. Personally, my own new year, my birthday, is in mid-February. Academically, my partner, who teaches college, begins his new year in mid-August. But music, for me, is the one place where January actually does feel like the new year.

I’ve been compiling and writing extensive liner notes for my own personal Best of the Year mixes since 2004. (Here’s the 2019 edition!) So I spend much of early December listening back to the music that was meaningful to me throughout the previous eleven months. By the time I’ve posted my latest installment to all my socials, though, it’s a relief to my ears to abandon those songs for a while (no matter how much I love them) and start totally fresh. Since I mostly stick to new/contemporary releases for my year-end mixes, this also becomes a time for me to dip into music that’s much older or otherwise oddball and non-mixable.

Late December/early January is also the time when my commute to work can feel most miserable. It’s deeply cold, I’m bundled to my eyes, everyone is packed like sardines into the train, the Chicago skies are often leaden and grey. But, this liminal time on the train is simultaneously so, so precious to me. It’s a place where I’m temporarily free and truly alone, despite the crowds. I’ve left home and all its chores and distractions, and I’m not yet at my office where e-mails and conversations and meetings demand my constant attention. The train is one of the few places in my life that’s, oddly, just for me. So it becomes an opportunity for me to really sink into music, one of the most important, most sacred things in my life.

I can never accurately predict what kind of music is going to hit me in January, what kind of energy is going to be needed to sustain me through those bleak mornings. In recent years I’ve had major love affairs with stuff by Brian Blade and the Fellowship Band, Chris Stapleton, Helen Merrill, Sammy Davis Jr., Black Sabbath, Chris Whitley, Jason Falkner, and Tim Hecker. All I know is that my heart will know it when I find it, when the promise of getting to live in a particular sonic world for 40 minutes will be enough to motivate me out the door and on my way

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Therapy

Haha, OK, so let’s be for real now. Therapy is obviously a must, all year round, of course, but never more so for me than in the winter.

I’ve been in therapy off and on (but mostly on) since I was 25. I’ve been lucky enough to have good health insurance that’s made that level of commitment to my mental and emotional well-being affordable and accessible, and I never take that for granted.

Earlier this year, after well over a decade of more traditional talk therapy, I switched to working with a Jungian practitioner. I took the leap not long after I turned 40, as a way of acknowledging my growing sense that the way I take care of myself in the second half of my life is going to require a radically renewed commitment to inner accountability. So, sometime in late summer, as the shadows began to get longer and deeper earlier in the evening, I prepped my new therapist for the fact that the winter can be a difficult time for me and that I would likely need some extra help and support to get me through it. Her response was nothing short of revolutionary: “what if instead of trying to fight or resist it, you accepted the suffering you experience during the winter?”

My whole spirit released a level of tension that I didn’t realize it had been holding onto. Wow. Accept my own suffering? Rather than running away from it or otherwise attempting to bypass it? A challenging notion, to be sure, but one that holds the promise of a kind of radical reclamation of my all-too-human dark side that I’d previously been missing out on due to my unconscious internal insistence that life must feel “good” in order to be valid.

It remains to be seen how I’ll feel about this approach as the calendar ticks through the darkest and coldest months ahead. But actively preparing to get my Persephone on has already helped me feel a little better about facing down the darkness both within and without.

buddha hall altar offerings

Meditation

This is where I extol the virtues of meditation and talk about how, after years and years of practice, meditation gets super easy and is definitely something I do consistently every day, right? LOL, wrong, so wrong.

Look, yes, I’ve had some sort of meditation practice since I was fairly young. I briefly attended karate classes at a local rec center when I was in middle school and somehow, even in the extremely square environs of Northwest Indiana in the early ’90s, the teachers were able to convey to us some basic notions about the power of our thoughts and the possibility of focusing our own internal energy. OMG, hearing all that, I was hooked. I’ve actively sought out so many different methods and techniques and approaches to meditation since then. Truly, meditation is one of my greatest passions in my life. But if you think for a damn moment that there aren’t straight-up WEEKS when I’m like, “nah,” well, then, my Gemini-rising-ass distractibility would like a word with you.

That being said, aside from an equally important journaling practice, meditation is basically the only place where I can access that elusive state of being where I’m able to both accept myself as I am while also tinkering under the hood, so to speak, to tweak the internal mechanics that drive me. Which is an important place to go to if I’m meant to make friends with the messages that my winter-specific misery is trying to send me.

second sleep

Second Sleep

Have you all heard about the concept of second sleep? I love it so much. The idea is that in times before electrical lighting, most people went to bed not long after the sun went down. So in the winter, that means they were going to bed fairly early in the evening, and after sleeping for those first several hours, they’d wake up for a while in the middle of the night before going back to bed again until sunrise. In those precious midnight hours, they would read, pray, or have sex (basically all my favorite things).

I definitely don’t go to sleep when the sun goes down, but even just acknowledging these archaic rhythms is enough to inspire me not to resist my impulse to go to bed early. I was such a confirmed night owl throughout my youth that I long felt like going to bed early was some kind of indication that I’d lost my edge or otherwise gone soft. But, I also LOVE to sleep and need to get plenty of it to have a baseline level of coherence and emotional stability, so the more I thought about it, I figured what could be more badass (and frankly even anti-capitalist) than going to bed super early and then reclaiming a few stolen moments in the middle of the night untouched by the demands of the outside world?

In the years when I was drinking fully caffeinated coffee, I would dread waking up in the middle of the night, because that usually meant my thoughts and my heart were racing and that I wasn’t going to be able to get back to sleep easily and would be a groggy mess by the time I had to officially get up for work. But now that I’ve weaned myself off that caffeine cycle and have learned to trust my body’s signals a bit better, I almost look forward to an hour or so of overnight wakefulness. It gives me a weird freedom, an “I’m alone at the bottom of the sea where no one can find me” vibe.

gym

The gym

BIG eye roll here. I’m your typical unathletic book nerd who has always dreaded all manner of sweat and exercise and frankly anything that required extra physical exertion. But the (boring) fact remains that everything in my life functions a little better when I’m getting some sort of regular movement in. During the warmer (or at least non-snowy) months of the year, I walk outside a lot. I’m lucky that Chicago is a pretty great city for getting around on foot, so I take advantage of that by, say, getting off the train a few stops early in order to walk a few extra blocks when I have the time to do so. But even with decent winter boots, getting around on snowy, unevenly shoveled sidewalks can be treacherous, so I definitely make more of an effort to get myself to the gym this time of year to compensate.

After years of punitive exercising meant to neutralize or ideally reverse caloric consumption, I finally realized that the best reason to get to the gym for 30 minutes or whatever is actually for my MENTAL health. It’s undeniable how much less prone I am to having random meltdowns or temper tantrums or can’t-get-out-of-bed doldrums when I’ve raised my heart rate beyond its resting state a few times a week. Plus, much like my daily commute on public transportation, the gym is one of the few remaining places where I get to have uninterrupted time to myself where I’m responsible to/for no one else. If I’m not listening to whatever my weirdo winter soundtrack is, I’m probably putting a dent in my podcast backlog, usually listening to the latest episodes of big faves Rune Soupor Against Everyone with Conner Habib.

bday magic

Birthday magic

I share my birthday date with Toni Morrison, Audre Lorde, and Yoko Ono. Pretty auspicious, right? I remain obsessed with my birthday in a way that I think most people probably get over by the time they’re, oh, 12 or 13. But I genuinely still look forward to it every year. I get excited about it and I make sure everyone around me knows when it’s near. Part of it, I’m sure, is that I’ve internalized a lifetime of messaging that says I shouldn’t make too big a deal of myself, so my birthday provides this one socially sanctioned time when I’m allowed to celebrate not my talents or accomplishments or most lovable qualities but the MERE FACT of my existence. How wonderfully refreshing, right? “I was born and I’m still alive—give me cake and presents about it!”

But it’s also, as I mentioned above, my own personal new year, and as such a time of intense reflection for me. Oh sure, I’ll idly set new year’s resolutions and half-hearted, drunken intentions on December 31. But when those quickly reveal themselves to be utter shit, I have the opportunity in the intervening 50-ish days to think more deeply about what kind of energy I truly want to cultivate in the next year of my life.

This also is the time when I’m willing to splurge on every possible kind of bodywork and spiritual and esoteric guidance. In Chicago, I’m devoted to Vita Lerman for shiatsu, Nancy Cole for reflexology, and Jana Robison Cheffings for massage. For tarot readings, I look to Angie Yingst or Angeliska at Sister Temperance Tarot online; for psychic wisdom, Lisa Rosman of Ruby Intuition or Erin the Psychic Witch. Booking one, or several, sessions with these magical healers around my birthday is a perfect thing for me to look forward to in that post-Christmas/New Year’s letdown and before the tantalizing promise of Spring.

books

Books

How incredibly obvious, right? It’s almost not even worth mentioning, especially to the crowd that gathers here at Unquiet Things. But, books! Books take on an especially magical–borderline talismanic–quality during the winter, don’t they? A to-be-read stack that feels depressingly overwhelming in warmer, busier months can suddenly become SO cozy and inviting in the cold darkness.

When friends are all hunkered down in their own houses and there are fewer reasons to venture outside to be sociable, what could be more inviting than the promise of losing oneself for a few hours in the pages of a fabulous book? The condo I live in is on the third floor of a lovely tree-lined street, and before we even moved in, I was already fantasizing about putting a couch in the sunroom so that I could recline under the windows and gaze out into a winter wonderland while curled up under a blanket with a book. Which is indeed a favorite activity, especially on long, lazy weekend afternoons.

window

I read way less fiction these days than I generally care to admit, but if I’m going to dive into a novel or a series, it usually happens during this winter window. (I think back fondly on the year I gulped down the entirety of the Dangerous Angels series one snowy January.) Maybe this will finally be the year I read Perfume: The Story of a Murderer or Emily Wilson’s lauded translation of The Odyssey? Looks like I’m gonna have plenty of time, soon enough, to figure that out.

Find Allison Felus: website // blog // instagram

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Snow & Rose Cake
Snow & Rose Cake

I went through a phase maybe two years ago, during which time I was obsessed with seeking out writers/cooks who recreated foods from literature–think Dracula’s “excellent roast chicken” or Harriet The Spy’s iconic tomato sandwich. I could have sworn that it was around this time that I stumbled upon Jessica Reed’s Instagram, although now my memory fails me and I don’t actually know that for certain. And I can’t even be sure that she was ever creating or writing about such things? So don’t quote me on that!

But whenever, or whyever it was that I became aware of her wonderful presence in this world, once I peered more closely, I immediately began to see a multitude of such wonderfully kindred little signs of kinship. This photo, for example, of these deliciously magical-looking cookies and a copy of Carmen Maria Machado’s Her Body And Other Parties. Or this photo of Pam Grossman’s What Is A Witch…and even more delightful cookies! A repost of a fabulously snarky teacup from Miss Havisham’s curiosities! Staaaahhhp! Weird, witchy literature, beautiful baking, vitriolic teacups…I mean, can we just be best friends already?

Self-Portrait in Cake no 10, Perimenopause
Self-Portrait in Cake no 10, Perimenopause

Ok, that’s a little weird and intrusive, I get it. But when I peeked even further and discovered more of the culinary work that Jessica shares and the thoughtful energies and emotions that go into creating it, my admiration grew much, much deeper than these surface-level impressions. I’m particularly enamored and intrigued by her self-portraits in cake; I’m deeply appreciative of her discussions on mental health, and can I just say how refreshing it is to find a website with a section titled “just the damn recipes,” sans lengthy preamble about your late Aunt Maude, or whoever?

A writer and artist living in Portland, OR, Jessica Reed is a Cake Historian exploring history, culture, mental health, and identity through the lens of cake. Jessica is a baker of conceptual cakes (as well as regular ones!), freelance food writer, book cover designer, and author of The Baker’s Appendix. Find her online at thecakehistorian.com and on Instagram @cake_historian.

..and I am so ridiculously pleased that she’s here today to share her Ten Favorite Things For Magical Baking. 

The Lottery
The Lottery Cake

Baking is magic. I believe that every handmade good contains magic, but baked goods particularly so. There’s just something intrinsically special about sweet or savory treats born from hands, a few essential components merged by beautiful chemistry and fire, and sometimes even literal blood, sweat, and tears (I know of no baker who would argue against this).   I bake at least once a week, be it our usual sourdough bread, cookies for the kid or neighbor-bribery, or one of my conceptual cakes. But sometimes, when going after a particular desire or in need of some extra help working my way through difficult situations,  I need to up the bewitchment factor. The following are a few favorites I turn to again and again for inspiration, process, and flavor.

Books

Books

I am a proud bibliophile and am devoted to books. My baking is influenced by literature, non-fiction, art tomes, and other cookbooks of all kinds, but two of my most favorite when it comes to magical baking are A Kitchen Witches World of Magical Food by Rachel Patterson and a reproduction of the 19th-century dictionary of Victorian flower meanings, The Language of Flowers. I never bake magically without them by my side.

Leighton,_Frederic_-_Invocation

“Invocation” by Frederic Leighton

I keep a small print of this taped in my baking cabinet and make a sort of baking altar with it when I am working a little kitchen magic. Leighton, a member of the Pre-Raphaelites, is best known for his paintings, particularly “Flaming June,” though I was tickled to learn that he designed Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s tomb for Robert Browning.

stella

Stella

If I remember correctly, I named my KitchenAid Stella after imagining going all Brando and yelling “Stella!!!” out in fits of baking frustration. Gifted by my now-husband around twelve years ago, we’ve only made the occasional swing into Streetcar territory.

DigitalScale

Digital Scale

I am a big proponent of baking using the metric system, so much so that I wrote an article about it. As well my book, originally a small self-published booklet, was written to make converting from the American Imperial system of measurement to the metric system easier for the average home baker.

bowl

Silicone Bowl

I LOVE this bowl from the Cake Queen Rose Levy Beranbaum’s line. Its intention is to serve as a double boiler but can be used for a variety of baking purposes, my favorite being the vessel for combining the dry ingredients in a recipe. Its flexibility allows for easy distribution into a mixing bowl.

LodgeCastIronMeltingPot

 

 

Melting Pot

My kitchen cauldron, this is the pot I use for any small project that requires melted butter, a small quantity of melted ingredients, or infusions of vanilla or herbs into milk or cream.

CakeStand

Cake Stand

This Aetco stand was another investment, but so worth it. The sturdy base and smooth-moving turntable make frosting and decorating a breeze. Bonus points for aesthetics.

BlackCocoa

Black Cocoa Powder

A favorite when mixed with standard cocoa for depth of flavor and color. I never bake a chocolate cake without it! I prefer the King Arthur brand.

Vanilla Extract

Homemade Vanilla Extract

I started my Vanilla Extract at least ten years ago and am so devoted I even brought it across the country when we moved from Brooklyn to Portland, OR. Homemade extracts are a beautiful, simple, potion-y, way to work some kitchen magic.

 

handsbw

My Hands

Calculating, opening, whisking, stirring, kneading, folding, mixing, sifting, dipping, sprinkling…. Covered in burn scars, new burns (I never learn), occasional knife cuts, there’s nothing more important for my magical baking.

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