One of the first pieces of writing for which I was recognized was an essay, of sorts, that I wrote in the first grade, detailing my grandmother’s love for feeding local birds in wintertime. I don’t recall anything of what I wrote, save for a passage that my mother thought was hilarious and my grandmother herself got a little huffy about. “I do NOT do that”, she remarked when she read my passage about her hollering at the squirrels and chipmunks who stole tidbits and treats meant for the birds, as she stamped and swore in front of the kitchen window. Well, it could have happened that way, I thought. A few dramatics certainly made my ruminations more interesting! And my young writerly instincts were correct; this piece of writing won first place for the whole grade level in a contest I hadn’t even realized I had entered into.
The writing portion of this recollection is neither here nor there, really. In my 44th year, and during my little garden’s period of looking crappy and dead, I have recently hung up my first ever bird feeder. Though it took a week or so for the neighborhood avian population to take notice, check it out, and feel safe enough to start poking around, I am now enjoying watching them from my office window all throughout the day. It’s a delightful pastime, and I wish I’d thought to have done it sooner! And it occurred to me, as I ran outside this morning, shaking my spatula at a particularly audacious squirrel and shouting “fuck off into the sun, you thieving little shit!” that perhaps my grandmother is the one who is laughing now.
This is cross-posted from the Haute Macabre blog today, but I think in my effort to post once a day in February, this should count as a post here, too!
I’ve been struggling lately. I know I am not alone; I believe we all encounter this particular phenomenon in the 21st century and I don’t think it necessarily does me any good belaboring the point, if not only to say that yes–I too suffer from this modern-day affliction of social media comparisons. Sometimes when I log into Instagram and see person X, Y, or Z being successful and ambitious and motivated, it just makes me feel like a big, stupid blob in the shape of a human.
And yes, yes, I know, we all know, that Instagram and Facebook, etc., are just highly curated, specific aspects of people’s lives and no one knows what is going on behind the scenes. I have some friends who have written so beautifully and articulately on this subject and of course, it all makes so much sense when you’re reading these thoughts and nodding your head and saying “yes, yes that is SO TRUE!” But…sometimes knowing these things on an intellectual level doesn’t do your sensitive, vulnerable heart an ounce of good when you happen scroll across the accounts of certain individuals and then all of your insecurities and fears are triggered and you begin the lousy-feeling blobular spiral. And so, sometimes, it’s better not to look at all. Or at least…spend a lot less time looking.
I’ve been trying to recall how I spent my time before I was constantly and routinely peeping in on people’s lives and projects and purchases and press events on social media. I think I had some interesting past times and habits, possibly? I finally remembered how I used to be in eternal pursuit of the perfect new album, and would spend hours reading new music reviews and listening to everything that came across my radar. I used to channel my frustrated and untrained artistic inclinations into things like creating little fantasy outfits and stories to go along with them. Oh, yeah. My languishing How To Wears. I forgot about how much I loved them!
So in an effort to remind myself of the things I like to do and the things that I have a knack for, here are a few recent ensembles I have pieced together, and as an extra something, I’ve shared the new (to me) music I was listening to when I created them!
P.S. If you’re looking for the item particulars included in the feature set, you can find them here. Accompanying album: Demonologia by Mala Herba
P.P.S. I have made this disclaimer before but it’s been awhile: sometimes some of these things may be sold out. I’m sorry! It happens! And most of these things are not budget-friendly. I don’t have economical daydreams!
I was upset by something I saw on Facebook this past weekend. I won’t go into any details and I will never confront the individual, but I’m still thinking about it almost 24 hours later. It was just…mean. There’s no other word for it. Mean.
It’s possible that this person’s observations and remarks hit me so hard because I too, can be mean. I’ve tried to reign it in over the years. And I don’t think it’s that I am mean to someone’s face. But I have certainly been known to make a snide or snarky remark, sotto voce, or perhaps internet-dm-voce, to a circle of close friends or sisters, about someone who I think has done something dumb or foolish.
Maybe I thought I was making a funny observation. Maybe I thought I had some sort of point, hinging on some sort of principle. I don’t know. I’m not denying it, though. I can definitely be kinda bitchy, and I am not sure that I always recognize it for what it is when I am doing it, but when I see it in someone else…oooof. It is not a good look. It’s awfully ugly, as a matter of fact. And in seeing this, and drawing parallels with my own behavior, I begin to feel a deep sense of shame. No doubt this is why I can’t stop thinking about this other person. Because that’s been me, as well. More times than I can count.
Bernard Meltzer is credited with having offered the following:
“Before you speak ask yourself if what you are going to say is true, is kind, is necessary, is helpful. If the answer is no, maybe what you are about to say should be left unsaid.”
And granted, there’s nothing fun about keeping your mouth shut. The experience of someone laughing at your clever commentary can be a high, and certainly one that I can ride on all day long. And there’s nothing worse than someone pooh-poohing your fun, I know! “That’s not nice,” seems like such a weenie thing to say, or to hear, like having a bucket of water dashed in your face, when you’re being hilarious, or at least you think you are, and on a roll!
But…more and more I realize (and I’m pretty sure I have always known this, deep down, where my heart is supposed to be) that being cutting and contemptuous, disguised as clever, and at the expense of kindness and compassion…well it’s not being clever at all. It’s rude and shitty.
There’s nothing clever or cool about shitting on people who are just enjoying things and living their lives. You’re just mean. And you look like an asshole. And so do I.
Maybe let’s just say nothing next time. Or if we do, let’s be more discreet* about it.
*And here’s where maybe I am the biggest asshole of all. Am I upset because the person was so mean and shitty, or because they were so thoughtless about who might be reading their words? Am I suggesting that we keep our mouths shut, or that we read the room and know our audience if we choose to flap our mean girl mandibles?
As usual, I have no answer. Maybe it’s just best to write about these things, passive-agressively.
You may have noticed that Unquiet Things has a new look. You have a keen eye! After about five years I think it was time for a change, don’t you? Many thanks to the folks at RecSpec for helping to shed our old form and emerge as something new, brimming with moody glooms and midnight blooms, but with an overall look and functionality that remains familiar, because let’s face it, we don’t like change very much.
A lot of blogs that I see recently just don’t look like a blog to me. They look more like a commerce site, like they are trying to sell me something. I suppose I am mentally and emotionally stuck in the look of the 2003-2008 era blog. Maybe before people realized they could monetize their content…they didn’t even view it as “content” yet perhaps, and they were just shouting into the void, hoping to make a connection. When blogs looked like blogs! So that’s my comfort spot. And “when blogs looked like blogs” is also maybe the dumbest sentence I’ve ever typed. Whatever! I know what I like!
Additionally, you have perhaps noticed I am posting more frequently than usual here in this blog space. Indeed, I am. For the month of February, I have challenged myself to create one blog post per day for the entirety of the month. I’ve got a few ideas, and a handful of things already scheduled, some snack-sized, and others more meal-shaped morsels. But you know, with words. Not food. But there might also be food! You know me.
Finishing a thing–whether it’s a book, or a television show, a piece of writing, or, in this case, a knitting project, always makes me a little sad. This thing and I, we built something together, we took a journey together, traveled as companions, unraveled mysteries and solved problems together, we probably hit more than a few bumps in the road, and then… we reached the end of the line. Rewatching, re-reading that same story, recreating that sweater or shawl or whatever, it’s just not going to be the same as the first time we embarked upon and engaged with that experience. This reddit user sums it up pretty well.
And although holding a finished project in your hands is nice…that *thing* you’ve now got is never really the point. It was the stitches we made along the way, you know? And anyway, I don’t keep most of the things I knit, so having the thing after I have bound off the last stitch is definitely not the reason I knit it to begin with, and certainly not what kept me working on it for five months only to rip out the whole thing and turn it into something else entirely.
Whoa, that is strangely specific, isn’t it?
This is the Vedbaek shawl, which began its life as the Carlina sweater. I had knit up the entirety of the body and half of a sleeve when I decided it absolutely was not working for me, and I then proceeded to unknit the whole thing. I will confess that the demise of that sweater is one ending which did not make me at all sad.
In the process of taking that sweater apart, I was not able to unravel the yarn in one entire unbroken piece, and so there are several knots that poke through the pattern of the shawl now, in places where I had to tie the snipped pieced back together. I’m trying to convince myself that these imperfection add to the wabi-sabi rustic beauty of this piece, but I don’t know that I am entirely persuaded.
But you know what? It doesn’t matter! That project is bound off, pinned down, and stretched out, and there’s nothing more I can do with it. Furthermore, as soon as it is dry and and the ends are woven in, it’s going to surprise someone in the form of a parcel at their doorstep in the next week or two, and I will never have to see it again!
Unless, of course, this individual sends me a photo of it being draped or dangled or worn or used in some way, in which case I will be very happy to see* the beginnings of this finished thing’s next journey.
*P.S. if I have ever sent you something that I knit, I hope you will always feel free to share with me photos of you wearing it! Nothing delights me more do see how these projects live out their new lives.
[Edit] Looks like that video above was taken down due to copyright violations. Hope you were able to see it while it was up on YouTube! Otherwise, maybe it will show up somewhere else. I realize it’s more a less a broken link, but I am leaving it there as evidence that it once existed.]
When I was young, oh maybe about five or six years old or so, one of my very favorite television shows was Benson. Which…was kind of a weird pick for a little kid. Not a cartoon or a fairytale or kid’s variety show, or even anything that I might typically watch now, as an adult–I think it was what I might refer to as a “classy comedy”, which some critics and reviewers note as being on par with MAS*H and Barney Miller. Neither of which I have ever watched, but so I can’t really comment on that!
I’m not sure how this sitcom came across my radar or what my mom thought about me watching it (she didn’t let us watch The Flintstones because she thought Fred Flinstone was an asshole) but somehow I guess Benson was okay.
Running from 1979–1986, Benson was a spin-off of Soap, a show which apparently parodied the melodramatic antics of soap opera families. Witty, sharp-tongued Benson DuBois is a former butler from Soap who becomes the title character in his own show, and the “director of household affairs,” to a bumbling state governor. Benson moves up in the world, becoming the state’s budget director, then lieutenant governor and eventually candidate for the executive mansion. I am not sure what on earth drew me to this show, but I loved Benson’s character so very much and wanted us to be the very best of friends. I thought he was silly and smart, and that he would be an amazing person to have on my side.
Up until the season 4 opener episode, “Death in a Funny Position,” Benson was just a funny, light-hearted television program that I looked forward to watching once a week and which made me laugh. Everything changed when I first saw this particular storyline, and I mean EVERYTHING.
As a little girl at that age, I don’t think had encountered many references to death at all, let alone any instances of it. And on a lesser note, I certainly didn’t realize that television shows had episode titles, to even pick up on this particular episode’s theme. I don’t think I really even comprehended the idea of a season of television. It was just an ongoing story, as far as I was concerned.
There were a lot of things I didn’t pick up on. Either due to my immaturity or just being an oblivious little person, in general (maybe both, I am still pretty oblivious as an adult and there are many things I don’t pick up on!) Re-watching a snippet of this episode just now, it’s clear they are setting it up as some sort of mystery, whodunit episode, but I don’t recall that as keeping in tone with the typical plots on Benson. And so you must understand that child-me was totally blindsided and shocked by what happened next. I thought this guy was declaring his romantic love to Miss Kraus, but instead, he was pleading for help because HE HAD BEEN STABBED IN THE BACK. The visuals of which I have tried to capture for you, above, but it’s awfully fuzzy and grainy.
As an aside, it’s just been in the past few days that I have been thinking of all of this, and if you look to see when the video was uploaded to YouTube, it was February 4, 2021–just two days ago! How weird is that?! Must be a sign from the universe! Definitely time to write this blog post you’ve been sitting on, Sarah.
I screamed and hollered right alongside Miss Kraus. I was in such a state of profound panic and extreme terror that if my mother had some sort of sedative, I am quite sure she would have administered it. What WAS that? WHAT HAPPENED? The guy was alive and then…then…he just WASN’T ALIVE?! And not only that, someone stuck a KNIFE in him? What was the point of that? What was the point of someone witnessing that (both Miss Kraus and me)? If this is what happens to that guy, is that what happens to all of us? And if so, what was the point of…anything?
I don’t think I ever quite recovered from that betrayal and loss of innocence, and I certainly never watched another episode of Benson. As an adult many decades later, sometimes I still question the point of anything. Of everything. But you know what? I think I am ready to forgive my old friend Benson, and finish watching this episode.
If you want to watch it as well, it’s a two parter! Here’s “Death in a Funny Position” part 2, below.
3. Pyrrha Andromeda 14K Gold Goddess Talisman I’ve been enamored of Pyrrha’s wax seal jewelry, full of myth and meaning, for the longest time. I recently peeped at their Goddess collection and it was tough to choose between the empowering energies of all of these beautiful talismans, but how could I not go with the dreamy, heart-following light of Andromeda?
4. Aesop Hwyl Eau de Parfum In looking for smoky, campfire scents for a friend recently, I stumbled across a review for Hwyl, which, according to the perfumer, was inspired by the calming nature of Japanese forests and “walking among the remarkable 300-year-old Hiba trees in an ancient Japanese forest and experiencing the country’s lush temple moss gardens.” The reviewer’s succinct summation describes the fragrance as “the one that smells like Totoro’s home.” Enough said. Gimme!
I used to love to share music with friends and would compile playlists on a weekly basis featuring the new, or new-to-me artists that I had uncovered. I both love music and I also love it when someone says, “hey, thanks for introducing me to this new band, I’d never heard of them!” I guess it’s a bit of an ego thing. I always want to be the reason that someone found out about something new and cool. I want credit for something. That’s probably an embarrassing confession, but it’s undeniable. It is also probably something to look at more closely and sit with for awhile, like why is that important to me, and what am I getting from that recognition? I don’t know the answer right now, but it’s a drive that’s compelled me for as long as I can remember.
Sometime in the past few years I’ve slowed down when it comes to seeking out and sharing new music. I don’t have the time for it that I once did, but aside from that, it’s possible I have become more comfortable with just listening to other people’s suggestions, recommendations or even whole-ass playlists. What a weird and dumb thing to think and write, but it’s like, hey, why not let someone else do all the work and get the credit for once? It doesn’t always have to be ME. And also, I don’t have to know everything, I can’t find or don’t have access to everything, so why not listen to someone else’s offerings now? Think of all that I have been missing while I was trying to do it all on my own!
HOWEVER. as part of something else that I will touch on at a later time (although I will note that it is an initiative having to do with revisiting old activities that I loved as an effort to keep myself off of social media) I kinda miss my eternal quest for fabulous new musicians, every-song-is-perfect new albums, and breathtaking new songs and pieces of music. And so I have slowly been dipping my toe back in, and thought I might include a handful of favorites here today.
But ok, wow. This is super frustrating. Apparently with whatever version of WordPress I am using, I can’t embed bandcamp albums. Boo! Stupid WordPress. Whatever. Anyway!
MALA HERBA is a solo project of a sound artist and queer music activist Zosia Hołubowska. Their sets fluctuate between minimal darkwave, experimental interpretation of Eastern- European traditional music, noise soundscapes, and dark techno. Demonologia “is peppered with allusions to Eastern European music, magic, herbalism, and demonology, combining these references with contemporary electronic music. The results are akin to a disco at a witchy ritual.” (I’ve gotten out of the habit of writing about music, so I realize I am pulling a lot of quotes here. This is from The Quietus.)
Pitchfork describes this duo’s sound as that of “disco extravagance with Old Hollywood glamour” and “lush, shape-shifting glam rock, orchestral pop, and breezy psychedelia.” Sounds about right. I concur,
On weekends my partner and I will often share a bottle (or two, le whoopsie) of wine and stay up til the wee hours of the morning listening to music. We particularly love to find new artists and musicians through KEXP live shows.
Tomo Nakayama is a Seattle musician is and songwriter and his most recent album, Melon Day has been touted as an “exuberant synth-pop spectacular” and we just adore this guy. His offerings, to me, just feel so universally relatable. In “Get to know you,” Nakayama sings:
Tell me stories, tell me rhymes Tell me anything you like Tell me all about the good things That could make you feel alive Could be just one little spark Just two strangers in the dark, honey I’d like to get to know you I’d like to get to know you now
…and this conjures so vividly for me the wonderful, exhilarating nostalgia of a first date wherein we went from coffeeshop, to restaurant, to bar and stayed out until 4 in the morning talking and laughing and learning all about each other the first time. Feels! Lots of them!
Bonus! A BPAL Playlist!
Lastly, the folks over at Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab polled their fans with the question of what songs make them thing of BPAL scents. The results of this enquiry are reflected in this playlist. I think friends who have been listening to my mixes and playlists for a long time can probably pick out the song that I submitted! Any guesses?
Ok, yes, I get that you are probably reading books to learn stuff, and that’s the whole point. Like, you didn’t read that book about growing mushrooms not to pick up the finer points of the hobby, right?
But what I mean by this blog post’s title, “stuff you learn in books” is to indicate the unexpected tidbits that you come away from, the neat little surprises that come up in the pages, or between the author’s thoughts, and over the course of your experience with the book– those things you weren’t looking for, but when you saw them, you thought, “Huh! How about that?” Or “wow, that’s really interesting–I need to read more about THAT!”
I know there’s so many instances of this that pop up in my reading; for example I recall last year reading Carmen Maria Machado’s wildly creative memoir In The Dream House, recounting the emotionally scarring trauma of a psychologically abusive relationship, and at one point she references Amy Mann’s vocals and lyrics in the Til Tuesday Song “Voices Carry”. And I was like “wow, no way! I didn’t know that was Amy Mann!” And then I listened to that song non-stop for a week straight. Obviously not at all the point of the book, and I promise you I am totally aware of that, but I love these little eureka moments that pepper the path of your overall journey with a book.
I am currently reading The Houseguest and Other Stories by Amparo Davila, and if you are interested in hearing more about this little collection of strange tales, I do discuss it in my recent video, but what I wanted to share here today was this passage in the photo above wherein the narrator mentions a perfume that an ex-lover would wear. A fragrance called Sortilège by Galion, which I’d never heard of before. Was it a made-up scent, or was it at one time a real-life perfume? Does it still exist? Where can I find it? Can I purchase a bottle for myself??
I love coming across little treasures like this! And yes, the perfume was/is real–I didn’t mean to imply that just because I had no knowledge of it, that didn’t mean it couldn’t possibly exist, ha! And though it looks to be reformulated, yes, one can still purchase a bottle of this “iconic fragrance of the House Le Galion and signature perfume of the famous Stork Jazz Club in New York in the 1930s…a floral aldehyde composition, a totally seductive fragrance full of history.”
I just consulted my reading notebook (which I also discuss briefly in the video referenced above), and here some other examples of things in which I have become interested or perhaps will do further research on because I had read mention of it in whatever book I was reading at the time:
What about you? What’s come up in your reading that you weren’t expecting, but which led you on merry chases and rabbit hole depths of research or discovery? Did you find out about a new pastry technique you’d never heard of? A wine from a certain region in Argentina? A musician or an artist? Please consider the comments to this post a place where you can stop by at any time–even years from now!– and share the weird and wild and wondrous things you learned of, but weren’t necessarily looking for, within the pages of a book. And if in doing so, you happen to stumble across the German word for this scenario (I mean, there’s got to be one, right?) please let me know!