jadegirl: (honor)
Steampunk is having its moment in the sun these days, with appearances in major network TV shows and front page articles in metro-area papers; even Disney's hopped onto the bandwagon, releasing a series of sepia toned, gear adorned accessories. In a lot of ways, it's a very good time to be a steampunk. Being lucky enough to live in NYC I can't go a month without a steampunk gathering to attend, filled with live music, fashion shows, and authors reading new work.

Of course, brass tarnishes. Frequently, as any subculture comes into its mainstream moment, battle lines are drawn, and the subculture becomes a target for all sorts of ire. While having its moment in the sun, steampunk is also taking its turn against the wall. This can be a wonderful thing, actually. Any cultural movement needs to be interrogated, questioned, told it can do better, be better, and it must. Without this pressure, culture stagnates and become stale parody. Steampunk in particular requires a great deal of critique and interrogation, because of the problematic nature of the history it encompasses.

However, this pressure, this interrogation needs accuracy above all things, else it devolves into mere ranting and divisiveness that merely offends, silences, and sets the speakers up into camps, ending all possibility for communication. This phenomena is easily observable in many of the essays decrying the popularity of steampunk coming out of the Net at this moment. Many of the complaints about steampunk lack the thinnest accuracy, and are more than questionable.

I shall begin with the concept that steampunk is inherently forgetting or eliding the inherent ills of the 19th century. Please consider Steampunk Magazine, maintained by a collective of people who describe themselves are mainly anarchists, and whose fiction not only acknowledges the labor issues of the 19th century, but frequently revolves around labor riots, or the lives of those at the bottom of the social strata. Consider Cherie Priest's Boneshaker, whose protagonist is a single mother who works in a factory, and whose path leads her to living amongst those who have utterly rejected traditional society. These works are not in the least obscure, and yet NPR references a recent essay by Charlie Stross with a title that asks if we've forgotten the word “Dickensian”.

Some will even point to the clothing of steampunks as evidence that they are ignoring the epidemic levels of poverty in the 19th century. I beg your pardon, but are you really policing my clothing, attempting to tell me that I am ignoring my own lower class background? Isn't the concept of policing women's clothing (interestingly it's most often bustles and unisex items like top hats and goggles that are brought up as evidence of these failures of consciousness) fraught with enough issues that you might want to avoid it? Except, of course, in the case of cultural appropriation, but that's been addressed by better authors than I whose links I will include in the appendix.

Another frequent complaint is that steampunk is inherently a monoculture, ignoring the existence and perspectives of people and cultures outside of the British empire. This ignores and silences the voices of steampunks of color who are quite active in critiquing these issues. For example, if you Google “steampunk and race”, the first result is an article on Racialicious written by Jha of the Silver Goggles blog. Google “steampunk and imperialism”, and the first result is once again an essay by Jha, the fourth by Ay-leen the Peacemaker, of Beyond Victoriana. “Steampunk and Multiculturalism” leads back to Ay-leen, who recently won the Last Drink Bird Head award for Gentle Advocacy for her work in Beyond Victoriana.

These people are not difficult to find at all. My husband recently had a birthday party at which a few friends had their first introduction to steampunk. These friends happened to be women of color, and within a day one of them emailed me excited to have read Jha's The Intersections of Race and Steampunk essay. Tor.com recently ended their “steampunk fortnight” which featured the work of Nisi Shawl, Amal El-Mohtar, Jha, and Ay-leen. They tirelessly engage in exactly the sort of interrogation I mentioned earlier, and without them steampunk would be much worse off than it is. Why is it that those who are writing their “Against Steampunk” essays seem to have no idea these people exist? The silencing of so much excellent and difficult work is distressing, to put it mildly. The act of silencing the voices of those who are working in the arena of addressing steampunk from a specifically multicultural perspective is fraught with privilege, especially when done by white authors. Considering the fact that much (by no means all) of this silencing is men ignoring the voices of women of color adds to the extraordinarily suspect nature of such work.

Some say that steampunk literature is shallow, more interested in the tropes of the subculture than any real literary merit. I must ask if they've looked at bookstore shelves lately. We have our paranormal romances, our wizard's schools, and now, steampunk. Like any other genre, the pearls are few and far between, but that is not a sin particularly inherent to us. It can and has been said of any genre.

Finally, the endemic nature of steampunk at this moment is often brought up as a problem. Over saturation is a complex question. How much of anything, be it paranormal romance, telepathic animal companions, wizard's schools, etc. is 'too much'? If gears are being slapped on any old thing in order to hitch a ride on steampunks coattails, is that a fault within steampunk? The wide world of marketing has followed this formula for a very long time.

Indeed, as I said in my opening, we are having our moment in the sun. Our current era resonates strongly with the 19th century – war and rumors of war, the movement of empires, the rising levels of poverty, social injustice, and the pace of technological innovation are all quite similar. Steampunk can be an attempt to own and remake these things, humanize our technology by making it aesthetically pleasing, work towards new ways of interacting with the world by learning from the injustices of empire, etc. This is the platform which some of us chose to stand on while trying to enact a better future.

Popularity fades, and soon steampunk will move back into the shadows, replaced by the next big thing. I'll stay, though. I like it here.

Further Reading, in no particular order and by no means complete:
Jha's The Intersection of Race and Steampunk: Colonialism’s After-Effects & Other Stories, from a Steampunk of Colour’s Perspective [Essay]
http://tinyurl.com/nhh3xa

Ay-leen the Peacemaker's Beyond Victoriana: A Multicultural Perspective on Steampunk
http://beyondvictoriana.com/

Steampunk Magazine
http://www.steampunkmagazine.com/

Jha's Silver Goggles
http://silver-goggles.blogspot.com/
jadegirl: (Default)
Come and spend a relaxed, casual afternoon in the company of local steampunks! Bring a blanket, food (enough to share would be great, but is not expected/required), and your favorite piece of steampunk or Victorian literature, poetry, art, musical insturments, or personal projects to read aloud/show off.

We'll be gathering in the field next to the Music Pagoda, the site of countless musical and theatrical performances since the 1880s. Nearby is the Audobon Center, a gorgeous 1905 Beaux Arts Building (perfect for photos!)

RSVP or check the Prospect Park website for directions/our cell phone numbers. Steampunk attire encouraged, but not required.

Our first one in early June was a wonderful time. Come and make the second even better!
jadegirl: (Default)
Yesterday I attended Solstice in Times Square, a yoga event with free classes, live music, and lectures. I'd done it last year and enjoyed it very much. I don't regret going this year, but found it different, and in some aspects quite strange.

I registered as soon as I got the email notification that it was open, but even then the only time slots still available were 6:30AM and 12:30PM. The 12:30 was a Bikram class, and that's not a style I partake in. The other classes are by teachers of some fame - Alanna has a very popular podcast (which is also quite excellent, I practice to it frequently), and Paula Tursi was the teacher I had last year, and she was *wonderful*, I'd love to go to her studio.

So, there I was in Times Square at 6:15AM. Waiting in line for 45 minutes was a bit uncomfortable, but not horrendous. Unlike last year, when the free mats given to attendees were utter crap (I'd have felt more stable on a waterslide), the first 100 attendees were given Manduka travel mats, and Manduka is the same maker my 80 inch, 15mm thick home practice mat comes from. I hadn't known they'd be giving away good mats, so I'd brought my own studio mat, but still, free presents!

The teachers was...interesting. A very high-camp presentation, which made for a lot of laughter. His metaphor for the class was that on the longest day the sun has reached a place of stillness, and our effort should be guided by that stillness. He's of the ISHTA school, which isn't one I'd experienced before. I'd still say my favorite style is Anusara, followed by generic vinyasa.

I did feel like he was perhaps a little too enamoured of the performative aspect of doing a class in Times Square. It's theoretically an all-levels class, but I've observed that attendees tend to push themselves harder, attempting things they might not in a studio or private environment, perhaps because of all the cameras and passersby. Arm balances like Crane or Koundiyanasana I don't really strike me as appropriate, especially considering the surface below is *cement*. I can do Crane, but opted not to, not wanting to risk breaking my nose. The teacher opened up into beautiful full versions of each, and with only two adjusters walking about, attendees seemed to struggle to try and get to where he was, but mostly fall short.

That wasn't the oddest thing. The oddest thing was people getting up out of the cycle of poses and taking photos. In the middle of a yoga class! Such a thing would be unthinkable in a studio environment, and I was really taken by the whole idea of being so wrapped up in documenting an experience that you don't actually *have* the experience.

On the whole I believe I'll keep coming to this (the coupons for free classes certainly make it worthwhile!), it was just fascinating to see some of the more problematic aspects.

In other news, this is a busy week. Friday is DoV Enchanted Menagerie Masquerade, for which I'm still putting together what I can for a costume. (It lacks fabulousness. I am sad about that.) I also have to finish Shien's birthday gift, and mail out my niece's birthday gifts. The end of June is a bit of a mess.
jadegirl: (Default)
The picnic was fantastic,, surprising no one more than me, because the morning dawned grey and damp, worrying me rather a lot, and my silicone muffin pan kept ruining my chocolate cupcakes. (sigh) Sir had an MRI for some shoulder trouble scheduled for 10AM, and we thought that we'd have plenty of time for him to get home, load up the car and head to the park early, so as to stake out some space for the gathering. Wrong! By 11:30 I was looking over our things and muttering worriedly to myself when he called and told me to leave without him, since he hadn't been seen yet. Add that to surprise construction on the N and I was late to my own affair. (sigh)

However, the day brightened and developed a lovely breeze, and people began to show up! [livejournal.com profile] chelseagirl47 was there with Miriam and Althea by the time I rushed up, and in the end we had about 12 people, which is not bad at all for 1 week of notice. Most everyone brought something to read or show off, with [livejournal.com profile] chelseagirl47 and I having an Arts and Crafts Movement theme going on, with her reading from Ruskin (BTW, what was that book you were reading from?) and Althea was kind enough to do a reading from the gigantic William Morris book I had brought to show around (I don't read aloud very well, my brain and eyes move too quickly for my mouth, so I stumble and stutter if I can't do a lot of rehearsal.). She reads beautifully, which made it even more of a pleasure for me. Another attendee brought a mandolin, and after a reading of a somewhat surprisingly funny Joseph Conrad story he played some sea shanties, which was a lot of fun. There was plenty of food being shared about, everyone was beautifully dressed up, and all in all people seemed to have a very mellow, pleasant time. I'm *so* pleased. There's interest in it being a monthly thing, as I'd hoped, and while my original idea was a back and forth between Prospect and Central Parks people said Central is too crowded, which is fine by me - while Prospect Park is somewhat of a trek from Astoria it's an easy one, and there's a Jamaican restaurant nearby. I'll put up with a lot for good Jamaican.

I'm really happy with this - my intention and desire was to have a quiet, mellow event that put few expectations/burdens on people in terms of money and time, both things precious few people I know have these days. All I really did was give out the invitation, it was what everyone brought to it that made it all come together so well.

I'm already musing on next month, thinking of things I want to look at to see if they make good readings, what food to bring, (While I am quite specific that people only need bring enough to feed themselves, many people brought to share, and Sir and I are incapable of not feeding armies.) and how to make a water-cooler look steampunk. Giant tea cozy!

In other news my mother is amazing. Every few years I get a birthday present, and when I do it's something amazing. Last time it was a gift certificate to a knitting shop, beaded stitch markers, and a gorgeous side table. I think I was 26. Today she told me to get online and buy a Victorian outfit from someplace like Clockwork Couture or Gentleman's Emporium. I actually asked her not to, instead I asked her to get me a set of heirloom quality, hand cast sewing scissors - three sizes, everything I could possibly need in the absolute best quality. Currently I'm using scissors that belonged to my grandmother, which seems nicer than it is, since the metal is so worn down they can't possibly cut in a straight line, making it impossible to do anything well, much less work from a pattern with any hope of success. For the cost of one outfit I bought the ability to make my own. I can't wait till they arrive.
jadegirl: (Spinning Wheel)
I would really not mind living there. While my own home decor aesthetic is far more Arts and Crafts Movement than traditional Victorian, and I hate electric ranges the media center is really quite brilliant, and could be done just as easily in a quarter-sawn oak frame. Stylistic differences aside, this really, really works for me on a more philosophical level. Indeed, why shouldn't everything we interact with be beautiful? Beyond Victoriana posted a link to a commentator who took issue with steampunk aesthetics, declaring them "ironic", positing Datamancer's gorgeous laptop as some sort of statement of irony relating to the conflict between the past and the present. I just can't understand looking at that and seeing some sort of 'snark', as opposed to the statement; "This is a part of my life, and beauty is important to my life, so I have made it beautiful." Irony is a dangerous concept, I find - easy to attempt to engage in as protective coloring, and just as easy to become the filter through which one may observe everything, which is a 'safe' place I imagine, as you never have to hear someone expressing distaste for your darlings.

Back on Beyond Victoriana an interview included some interesting commentary on conformity - noting that brown seems to be a very popular color in steampunk fashion. I had to laugh, because I'm a ruddy faced redhead - I look great in browns, and wear them frequently. Analysis and questioning is needful, even required, but can go overboard. Cory Doctorow had some interesting comments about what he calls the "lie of steampunk", that underneath every steampunk "remake" (not sure what he's referencing here) are huge factories and corporations. One of the specifics he mentions are Nerf guns, which are frequently repainted and modded. I can see his point a bit, a new Nerf gun is a plastic product most likely made in a Chinese factory under unknown, unresearched labor conditions, something which is of great concern to me - I wince inside when I hear people talking about steampunk cloths at H&M, for example, because of my concerns about labor. On the other hand, I can go to thrift shops and buy clothes to make over because I have the *time*, and someone else can buy from the boutique steampunk crafters because they have the *cash*, both commodities/privileges not enjoyed by all. My conclusion, and it feels like a weak one, is that while we have to examine/question these things we also have to decide on a point where we *stop* questioning them, and make our choices. Life is entirely made of various acts of compromising our principles, we just have to make sure it's a compromise we can live with and respect.

Speaking of modding thrift store finds, I went to the Housing Works street fair this Saturday, and made a few scores. One was a brand new skirt that had lovely detailing that gives it a lot of swirling movement - in a 2XL, or 20-22. I bought it anyway, ripped out the waistband and resewed it, cut a couple holes in the empty waistband, and crocheted a long chain - now it's an ankle length drawstring skirt with even more fullness and drape. My machine sewing still stinks in that straight lines are apparently beyond me, but each time I sit down and sew something on the machine I walk away having learned how to do it even better next time. Tomorrow I'm taking a red lace dress that my mother gave me (which looks like a frumpy sack on me) and turning that into another skirt, I hope. Velour "workout" pants from Goodwill are being made into bloomers suitable for going to the free Pilates classes at the park in, and I have *no* idea what I'm going to do with the terrible leather pants. (It was a "give us cash and stuff a bag full" sort of sale, what can I say?)
jadegirl: (Default)
Steampunk Picnic in Prospect Park!

Saturday June 12 1pm-?

Come and spend a relaxed, casual afternoon in the company of local steampunks! Bring a blanket, food (enough to share would be great, but is not expected/required), and your favorite piece of steampunk or Victorian literature, poetry, art, or personal projects to read aloud/show off.

We'll be gathering at the Music Pagoda, the site of countless musical and theatrical performances since the 1880s. Nearby is the Audobon Center, a gorgeous 1905 Beaux Arts Building (perfect for photos!)

RSVP or check the Prospect Park website for directions/our cell phone numbers.
jadegirl: (Default)
Oh! You Pretty Things was largely not my type of scene, but the all-female Judas Priest cover band was very good. The rest of it just sort of made me feel like I was neither pretty enough nor dressed correctly for the crowd. No blame, surely - everyone has their scene, this just wasn't mine. I will admit to there being a sort of warmth to the experience of walking up to the bouncer and announcing; "We're on the list." That's quite the thing to someone who spent their teenage life sitting in the corner of the cafeteria by herself.

I think I'm finding that while I like being social, my favorite sort of events are still somewhat quiet. While I'm looking forward to the Tango del Diablo and the Enchanted Menagerie, I'm much more looking forward to the Baroque Banquet in July, with a chamber music ensemble and opera singers, in a much quieter venue. I'm also *really* looking forward to the steampunk picnic on the 12th. Smaller, almost gentler events, with more opportunity for conversation without having to shout to be heard. I also want to do more one on one socializing, just sitting with people over tea, seeing what relationships develop out of my suddenly somewhat vast sea of acquaintanceship. Reaping what I have sown, in a sense.

In other news life has been pretty quiet. I'm working on a lot of "proof of concept" sculptures, since finances aren't in shape to get me more supplies, just testing out if what I have in my head *can* work. So far it seems to be going shockingly well, the failures of the early part of the year have taught me an awful lot about the vagaries of fiber, and how to adapt to them. I'm very pleased with how that's working, and really looking forward to being in a place where I can start producing enough to show and sell.

Last year I went to the Times Square Alliance event "Solstice in Times Square" where there were a series of free yoga classes held right in the middle of it. It was am amazing experience, especially considering how much I hate that area, since it triggers all of my discomfort with crowds and having too many things pulling my attention at once. Thanks to the quality of the teachers and perhaps even my own willingness to try I found myself able to reach a sense of being centered and calm in the middle of all that. I've already signed up for this year, and it's coming at a fortunate time, since I really think it will be valuable to reaffirm my ability to find that place in the midst of so much.
jadegirl: (Default)
I'm starting to think there's been a miscalculation. On the one hand, I'm having fun, but on the other hand there's a lot to value in my day to day routine that is getting shoved around a great deal, or left out all together. Also, I'm starting to feel a little physically worn out. We're going to Oh! You Pretty Things tomorrow night, which is a last minute addition to our schedule. During the week M is coming to the neighborhood for some help putting together her next DOV outfit, but otherwise I think I need to slow down a bit, and maybe focus on quieter events, like the steampunk picnic [livejournal.com profile] chelseagirl47 and I are working on. Everything feels somewhat frenetic, even frantic. While there's sometimes something exhilarating about that sort of energy, it feel right now like there's just too much of that - even book group felt a little frenetic.

Speaking of the steampunk picnics, what do people think about the idea of suggesting that people bring related things to read aloud? Not making a requirement of it, of course, but putting the idea out there as a way of ensuring at least some focus *on* steampunk, aside from our fabulous, fabulous clothes.:) The only sort of outdoor appropriate activity I can think of otherwise that could possibly fit the period, if not the "steam" aspect would be croquet, and I don't know anyone who has a set.
jadegirl: (Default)
I've been meaning to post, but there just hasn't been time! I've been having moments now and then where I think I might have hit my peak of sociability for a few days, moments where I just can't imagine having to speak or interact with anyone at all, the simple act of being silent and looking out a window, or petting a cat bringing a physical relief. It's quite a thing to have gone from wondering about my level of functionality due to being too shy/phobic to make an appointment to get a haircut to dances, dinner parties, and all this.

First, the Swan Lake Masquerade. I'd been hearing mention of the Dances of Vice for a couple of years now, but I'd always had an image in my head of it being the sort of thing that "the beautiful people" did. You know, the sort of velvet rope things where everyone is wearing the 'right' clothes, knows the 'right' people, etc., etc. There's a lot of that in NYC, and I just assumed this was more of the same, and since I'm just not one of the beautiful people of that type, I thought it wasn't available to me. A couple of months ago I went to a gothic sort of vaudeville event with Himself and a friend, and we met the DoV organizer, Shien Lee. She's a gracious, friendly woman, and chatted with us for quite a bit, including an invite to the masque. So, considering Miriam is up for just about *anything* and Himself is as sociable as they come, we went. We had a wonderful time - they're more than just parties, the masque included exhibitions by a dance troupe, a chamber ensemble, and opera, and finished off with an 18th century dance lesson. (which may have been better timed earlier in the evening - I was drink a cocktail called "Dancer's Ruin", and it seems I wasn't the only one!) Add that to an imaginitivly costumed, friendly crowd, and you have quite an evening.

The crowd is really quite a surprise. Shien says that they all tend to be quite hermetic, not going out much except for these, and my mind turns to caterpillers - when they come out of the coccoon, they're quite the butterflies, both in dress and manner, greeting even people they haven't seen before like old friends. I felt quite easy and welcomed quite quickly.

I didn't enjoy Midnight Follies (which was *not* a DoV event) as much. The crowd seemed a bit more insular, and was mixed with people who were members of the private club (the Player's Club) who really didn't have much interest in what was going on. On the other hand, watching the skilled swing dancers take to the floor was nice, as was hearing Martha Wainwright sing "La Vie en Rose".

Yesterday we went to the Steampunk World's Fair. I do wish we'd been able to do the whole weekend, there's so much to see and do! Finances just aren't right for it right now, but now we know, and are already talking about next year. There was a fair amount of the book group ladies there, and filling lunch table with any number of them always makes for fast paced, excellent conversation. I had a wonderful time.

Look at this, paragraphs of nothing but 'event reporting'. Unsurprisingly with all this gallivanting about my life at home has been somewhat hectic. It's working kind of well, though. I've been spending enough time with the sewing machine that I can see myself improving my skills. Also, that trouble I'd been having feeling like I was maintaining the housekeeping has been solved by Sir helping me out with a schedule. Amusingly it took ten minutes with his help, since I was so bogged down in the details I couldn't even think straight about it. Nothing like having a project manager helping you get procedures straight!

My inner life feels a tiny bit dusty and neglected, but now that I have a daily schedule set up that feels right and sensible I'll be able to start adding in more time for me meditation practice and yoga. I feel good about things. There's kinks to work out, but it's as if I'm finally starting to forge a life that has *everything* we want. The tricks are simple, just working out how to ensure we have it all in the right amounts. Pacing, really.
jadegirl: (Default)
The house project is done and has been so for a while now. I *think* it's working, the general idea was to get the place clean enough that maintaining took less time - since it wasn't in 'move in' condition when we arrived a lot of things are in what one would be generous calling 'serviceable' condition. Think tiles broken off of floors, unsealed wood flooring that really needs buffing and refinishing, cracks and dings in the plaster, 50 year old stains, etc. Everything has been scrubbed and bleached within an inch of its life, and we got rid of truckloads of stuff we didn't need/want anymore. It does take a lot less time to maintain now, but I', frequently nagged by the sense that I'm not doing something, or not doing it right, and that at some point it's all going to fall apart and I'll be back where I started. I don't know yet if that's just me being odd, or if I am really missing something. I suppose I'll find out.

Thanks to the book club and some new friends I have a social life beyond my wildest imagination. There's a lot of "vintage' events here in the city, and I've begun attending quite a few of them, like the Dances of Vice Swan Lake Masquerade tomorrow, and the Midnight Follies the following Friday, and the Steampunk World's Fair the Saturday after. Whew! While the cost of these things does add up we've decided that we like them so much (lots of live music!)that we've adjusted other things around, like eating out less often, so we can do all these things while still keeping up with our savings goals.

Two weeks ago we were driving to the farmers' market on a grey Saturday morning. Crossing the bridge we get a huge view of Manhattan, and it's not unusual for the tops of the buildings to be lost in the cloud cover. That day you couldn't see anything at all, the whole of the island from the tips of the buildings down was shrouded in a pale grey mist, giving everything an eerie, unexpected quality, as if what we were about to enter might not be quite what we'd expect. It was a beautiful moment.

So busy...

Mar. 18th, 2010 12:10 am
jadegirl: (Default)
The clean the house till it's afraid to get dirty again project is in the final stages, it's just too bad that the final stages involves me staring at things and wondering what in the hell I'm supposed to *do* with them.

Visited my family for the better part of the week last week, which was fun, and went by so fast it felt no different than the more usual three day weekend visits. Last Saturday was the NY Steampunk Library tour, which was a lot of fun, despite the truly horrific weather. I saw Pooh and his associates! They all looked amazingly well loved, to the point where Roo was a little hard to figure out, as he looked more like roadkill than anything. The Library building itself was really amazing - I've never been there before, so I'm not jaded by the idea of being able to sit and read at tables and chairs that are 99 years old (literally). We also met a girl who will be coming to our next book group meeting. I get along splendidly with her, and hope she fits in well with the rest of the group, despite our age differences - she's in her early twenties, and I'm the next youngest in my early thirties, and with so many higher degrees at the table I often wonder what I can contribute!

Our last book was Octavia Butler's Dawn, which I enjoyed, and intend on reading the rest of the trilogy, but I had a strong sense that I was reading a heavily edited version of the original - time and character reaction jumps made me feel like I'd missed a page or three here or there. The narrative was cohesive, certainly, it just felt like I had to accept a lot without getting a sense of what in the characters development got them there. It's my first Butler, though, and good enough that I'm intending on reading more.

Tonight was a reading from the Fantastic Fiction series at the KGB bar, at which N.K. Jemisin was going to read. She was there, and probably did read, but we arrived right on time to a standing room only crowd, and were outside the door of the bar itself, standing on the landing of the stairs leading to the theatre above. We couldn't hear a damn thing of the first reader, and it didn't look to be getting better, so we got our books, got them signed, and got out. M. from the library tour was there, so we walked about till we found a place to hang out and chat until 10pm, and had a lovely time. She introduced us to a speakeasy on St. Marks that was too crowded for this evening, but we're already planning on making a special trip.

The rest of this month is devoted to finishing the house project, and then April starts with a bang - my 16 year old niece is visiting us for the first time. First family guest that isn't one of my parents. I don't really know the girl, having only really been around for her infancy, so this will be my introduction to her as a person in her own right. I'm looking forward to it.
jadegirl: (Need Fantasies)
I've often felt of late that I have had things I wanted to make note of here, but for some reason that act of typing them out has been put off and off until whatever it was slipped my mind, or otherwise seemed unimportant.

I've been putting a lot more of my energy into outside life, though. I've joined a group that is trying to start a food co-op in my local area, for one - I'm on the development committee researching and applying for grants, financial help from local politicians, etc., etc. It's going...ok. The finance committee is responsible for getting the feasibility study done, and we've even found a grad student willing to do it as a school project, but the committee hasn't actually *moved* on any of that yet. Considering the very *point* of a feasibility study is to discover whether or not this idea has a chance in hell of coming to fruition, that's rather important! I am offering my time, not *wasting* it.

There's also the book group (waves), our latest meeting was yesterday, on a selection of H.P. Lovecraft stories. I'd never read any Lovecraft before, and really got a lot out of the discussion and the reading of it. While I was reading them I spent a lot of time thinking about the following/near-adulation Lovecraft has gained. I suppose that had influenced my reading of them, because I was honestly surprised that I didn't find them very frightening or disturbing in the reading. However, after reading six stories in one go, the next two nights I literally woke up gasping from nightmares. That sort of insidiousness is really impressive, and I'm honestly still trying to work out exactly what had gotten under my skin like that, all unaware.

All this sociability has a cost, however. It's not the sort of thing where one can sit quietly and observe, rather the whole point is to interact, engage with other people. I've always been an awkward-feeling sort, the school outcast, etc. I can spend literally days after any outing going over every single aspects of it, trying to figure out where I've misspoken or otherwise done something 'wrong'. Even if I can't point out a moment to regret (I frequently can!), I can agonize interminably over knowing that there must be something, even if I don't know what it is. This gets exhausting, and sometimes makes me wonder if it's worth it. I feel strongly that it is, because in the moment I can enjoy myself, it's just the aftermath that troubles me.

There is much to enjoy, too. On the 13th there's going to be a steampunk-oriented outing to the New York Public Library, with a guided tour. Even having lived here for 10 years, I've never actually been to the Main Library!

At home things are rather quiet, if busy. I'm doing a deep cleaning of the house, starting from one corner of the kitchen and working my way through the entire place, purging junk and scrubbing everything within an inch of my life - my tools have included q-tips and toothbrushes. We're getting rid of a lot, and the theory is that once the project is done the entirety will be easier to maintain in a more near-pristine state. This is the theory. This has frequently been the theory, but practice has been harder. So, we'll see. I have high hopes though - it's been three weeks since I started, and one morning a week is devoted to going over what has already been done, maintaining it.

I've also been making more of an effort to dress in the Victorian Gothic style I mentioned a while back. I'm quite happy, it's amazing how much I enjoy going out and about when I'm utterly, perfectly pleased with how I look. I feel very happy and confident, and I'm sure that comes across in my body language. I get somewhat more notice than I used to, but I've always sucked at fading into the background, so it's no thing, just sometimes amusing, in the "I just saw a guy with a magenta mohawk riding a unicycle, surely you can't find *me* all that unusual." sort of way. I frequently get compliments, too, which just adds to the happiness. I'm glad I finally let go of my insecurities around it and began dressing to please myself. Now if my social insecurities could be fixed with a new dress...! However, I find people taking pictures of me without my permission a bit rude - I used to get paid for that!

I'm looking forward to finishing the house project, and having more time to devote to my art. Lots of plans bubbling under the surface there! Since money is tight and new art to brighten up a newly clean house is a little out of my range, I'm planning on doing a few small pieces and offering them up for trade with the artists on my friends list, considering I'm blessed with so many talented ones.

On a final, but joyful note, happy birthday [livejournal.com profile] wlotus!
jadegirl: (traceyourhand)
Thank you so much, [livejournal.com profile] docstrange and [livejournal.com profile] tezliana! The dish is beautiful, and we can't wait to try the teas. I had to laugh, though - we're sharing the gift-brain again this year. :)

The card is beautiful, [livejournal.com profile] danaewhispering. Thank you so much for thinking of us during such a busy time.

I've decided to start getting a few cards here and there, and send them out as New Year's/just because I want to say I'm thinking of you. Of course, I can't do that without addresses! (hint, hint)

Yesterday was awesome with a side of awesomesauce. Sir felt well enough that he wanted to go out and see the holiday displays on 5th Ave. The crowds were less horrific than I expected, and our first view upon leaving the subway was the iced over pond and snowy hills of Central Park. After a delightful and inexpensive tea at a department store we window shopped and looked at lights to our hearts content.

Today is quietly splendid. Yes, we're not where we want to be in Sir's working life, and there are other small troubles, but we have what we need, and so much of what we want I can't find it in myself to wish for more than this peace to last.

May this time bring you peace and contentment as well.

(comments screened for addresses)
jadegirl: (traceyourhand)
Yesterday I was *done* Last holiday card addressed and mailed, last two parcels should be at their destinations tomorrow, done, done, and done. Very pleased and somewhat relaxed. Only somewhat relaxed because we had to be at a plastic surgeons office at 6:30AM this morning, so he could get a growth removed from his face. He'd been given Xanax and Valium beforehand, so I was babysitting a stoner before my first cup of coffee. Just like college! He's doing fine, and I even sat with him and watched during the procedure itself. The only issue is that it's awkwardly close to his mouth, making talking somewhat painful, and eating anything requiring large bites unlikely. However, we're not 24 hours into it, and I can hear his voice becoming more enunciated, and he wants to go out and look at holiday lights tomorrow. All good, in the end.

For those who were interested, someone Faeriecon photos can be found on my Facebook. Not too many, though - Sir hadn't been feeling well, and so my best costume went undocumented (which is no big deal, I wear it every time!), and most of you have much better cameras than we do. Seriously, that thing is awful.

Sir is done with the whole flying off every week, which is good, but we were both taken aback by how hard it has been to get used to being around each other so much again. It was rough going for a bit, but we seem to have hammered everything back into shape.

I seem to learn a great deal every holiday season. This is not a bad thing at all, mind you - it allows me to make things better and better for Sir and I every year. This year the new thing is the house is more lavishly decorated, with two large 'crystals' topped with glitter encrusted greenery. They're just Hallmark store trinkets purchased for me by my mother, who saw me admiring them on a visit to their place in the late summer, but they're quite lovely in the window, even my in-laws say they look quite striking from the street. Next year if finances permit I'll add rechargeable LED candles for a bit more light.

I've noticed lots of road rage recently, huge traffic jams near malls, and recently saw a child comment when asked how things were that everything was fine, but the holidays were making her parents fight. It's amazing and saddening to me how trapped we get by our obligations. I respect that the season is many things to many people, my work to try and make it a time of quiet, restful pleasure and re-grounded puts me in a privileged minority, but the level of unhappiness I'm seeing this year is striking. The reasons for it are fairly obvious and tangled - the economy, familial dysfunction, etc., etc.

Next year I want to do more holiday cards. I'd skimped this year as a money saving measure, and I regret that. I know it's a little thing, but thanks to Etsy there are a lot of really beautiful cards out there, and especially considering how little I seem to put out here these days, sharing a token of regard with the people I have on my friends list is an idea that pleases me. Besides, if I collect them slowly over the year, and manage to be disciplined enough to address them when I get them, sending them out will be no chore, or financial burden.

So, I will screen comments, and if you like, give me your address! Please don't assume I already have it, either!
jadegirl: (Default)
Finally discovered the source of my eye swelling - an infected tooth. Antibiotics, and getting my gum opened and a drain put in (yuck, and OUCH.) should clear it right up. Ow. Ow. What perfect timing. Hopefully I'll feel better by Friday. Still dithering over costuming ideas for myself, for the two masked balls. Friday is "good faeries", Saturday "bad faeries". For bad faeries I usually do a basic "Unseelie Queen", lots of black, lots of lace, etc. No wings, though, as whacking people with them is too hard to avoid, especially at my height. For good faeries last year I did a sort of "May Queen" costume, a white gown with pink accents, white domino, and a tiara of pink and white rosebuds. It would have probably been a lovely costume on someone *other* than me, as I really don't look good in such cool colors. So bad faeries will be another iteration of the Unseelie Queen, but I'm at a total loss for good faeries. Ah, well. I'll cobble something together.
jadegirl: (Default)
The swelling is somewhat lessened in my eye, thank goodness. There's still some, as well as some discomfort, but Bob is still befuddled. So far, so good though, I know what to look for in the "call him ASAP" case, but we're still just hoping it goes away on its own. I feel like I'm falling apart, though - just so run down and generally 'off'. Not a lot is getting done, which is frustrating, as well as *boring*, but my concentration is off, and I'd hate to just ruin anything I should be working on due to a lack of focus.

Sir's on another deathmarch at work today, which just adds to the low feelings, since that cuts our already paltry interaction down even lower. Some of what is going on with my health is just the buildup of stress and unhappiness finally showing itself physically, which is something my body is very good at, but seems to have a terrible sense of timing on.

I don't have much to say today, I'm just sad and tired, but at the same time, I want to thank you all for your comments, offers of get-togethers, and swaps. Those are very brights spots in my days.
jadegirl: (Marko Hietala)
Murphy's law is running my life again. Yesterday was my body letting me know my cycle is very late, in a nauseating, stabby fashion. So that had me curled up in a ball slamming Aleve and clutching my heating pad till about 4pm, when it finally passed and I was able to get a few things done. Not nearly the level of productivity I'd planned on, but there wasn't a lot to do about that. On the very bright side, the lace [livejournal.com profile] rennie_frog sent me arrived, and it's gorgeous, gorgeous stuff, perfect for the projects I'd had in mind, and even inspired me to a few more. Thank you so much! Your gingerbread went out UPS today, and should be arriving to you tomorrow. I hope you enjoy it!

I'd be perfectly happy to swap homemade gingerbread (not cookies, a loaf cake) to anyone who has fabrics and trims they're looking to get rid of.

Today I woke up with my lower right eyelid very swollen. No pinkeye, no real pain, just some mild irritation. However, we're talking *really* swollen. I did some research online, and only managed to get myself utterly confused as to whether I should use warm or cold compresses. *sighs* A Skype message to Sir got my father in laws' number, and I figured I'd call after 5pm. Some confusion later, FIL stopped by after work, and is confused as well. He's got me taking a decongestant, warm compresses, and instructions to call if it gets worse. He's not sure what it is, just what it isn't - there's no visible injury, no pinkeye, nothing gross. It looks like it might be a sinus issue, so we're addressing that, and hoping it just goes away. It's not terrible, just a bit annoying. I *look* terrible, though. It's raining today, so I couldn't hide it with my sunglasses, and was getting *lots* of horrified stares. It's a good thing Sir wasn't with me, I do look like I've been hit.

I'm feeling pretty drained and 'off', but that's likely due to my cycle having gone off the rails. Still, Faeriecon is next weekend, I don't have time for this!
jadegirl: (Spinning Wheel)
My self-scheduling is erratic, to say the least. Faeriecon is November 6-8, and thanks to some ridiculous discounts, both because it's a new con, and because of a kerfuffle involved in its move, we got seriously cheap rates for the full pass *and* the hotel. We'll be packing a cooler full of food, since we don't want to spend money on overpriced and mediocre hotel dining. Of course, this means getting *ready* for Faeriecon, particularly the costume balls both Friday and Saturday night. I've made an incredibly gorgeous copper greenman mask for Sir, it's the nicest thing I ever made, even if all I did was paint a foam domino and some fake leaves, and glue the leaves on. Still, it's fantastic, and I'm really proud of it. I have more ideas for the full costume, as well. He doesn't have much in the way of nice clothing, just a green shirt to go with this outfit, but I just had some ideas to paint more copper leaves and accent the shirt with them, I'll have to spread it out and play around to see if it'll work.

I am not feeling the same sort of inspiration for my own costumes. Blarghle. On the other hand, I'm finding myself doing quite well at my "make do and mend" project. A couple of months ago, I had a bit of an epiphany about my personal style. Ever since I was a teenager I'd always loved the romantic/Victorian gothic look, but lacked both the finances and the guts to array myself in such a fashion. To be perfectly honest, it was my shyness that was the biggest obstacle, since I was frightened of being "stared at" or thought odd. Now that I'm older I finally realized I just don't care anymore. I've never managed to dress inconspicuosly - even when I was at my most conservative my MIL described my clothing as "striking", and I'm very tall. I attract attention, and can't get away from that. Finally understanding that, I decided to let myself go all the way, and make myself happy. So, I've begun 'gothing up' my wardrobe and makeup, although this self-reassesment came at a very financially inopportune time. So, make do and mend. I've harvested some black velvet from old thrift store shirts that never fit, and have asked my mother to keep an eye out for lace trims when she goes thrift shopping (she has two great stores in walking distance.) Clothing with potential is getting hacked up and made over, altered, or otherwise made quite satisfyingly pretty. Perfect example - I have black cording from a faire bodice that no longer fits, and am adding D-rings to the back of my utterly drab grey wool frock-coat, and thus we have corset lacing! Black velvet appliqued with beads from a tattered and torn bag will adorn the collar and cuffs. Instant pretty, unique coat.

Busy week. Aside from my wonderful cooking yesterday I hennaed my hair using Mehandi's Punjabi Prime. Supposedly it's both a particularly good crop, and an abundant one, and I can certainly say it's high quality. I tried something new, using yogurt, honey, and chamomile tea as the liquids, and found that made the rinse out a much less grit-filled experience. Tonight I'm going to do a 15 minute amla treatment, to see if it works as many have said, in accentuating the waviness of my hair. If it does, I'll be ecstatic.

Sir arrives home tomorrow morning. Finally. It's been a long week for both of us.
jadegirl: (Default)
Being alone most of the time now has inspired me to learn to cook. I'd never really learned how before, at least not anything I regarded as particularly interesting, although when I was 16-17 I was making Beef Stroganoff, sweet-and-sour chicken, and sweet potato pancakes for my SO at the time. The recipes were from a Betty Crocker cookbook, and full of horrifying ingredients like canned cream soups. Edible stuff, but not much more than that. On the other hand, my god can I bake. Breads, pies, intricate pastries, hell, even puff pastry - I've done it all. I can whip up a mouthwatering gingerbread that will scent the whole place in ten minutes, while sitting on the kitchen floor (Sir needed the counters, and we were multitasking.). Since he's always liked cooking, and is quite excellent at it, I never bothered to do anything else, since for some reason while baking is an absolute pleasure, cooking has always seemed like drudgery to me.

I've embraced my cooking related laziness, and made nothing but Indian dishes so far. It's my favorite cuisine, and so much of it is one pot, making enough for plenty of leftovers, so I can cook once a week, and feed myself well every day, limiting both kitchen time and cleanup. Enter Manjula's Kitchen. I'd be *lost* without this website. Not only are the recipes clear and simple, each one has a video where Manjula guides you through the entire process, like a cooking show without the chatter. Some people might have some searching to do to get some of the spices, depending on where you live, but I'm quite lucky to have a market three blocks away that caters to our local Bangladeshi population.

Today was Spicy Squash. OMG. I had to fudge a little, since I couldn't get mango powder or fenugreek, so I substituted mango pickle, which has green mango, fenugreek, cumin, and chili, and dropped back on the chilis in the recipe. Not hard, since it's way spicy already - this recipe calls for 4 whole chilis and a teaspoon of chili powder. It's *so* good. Seriously, best thing I've ever cooked for myself.

There's a *ton* of other recipes, including breads and desserts. When I have someone to cook for I'll try a bread, but for now I'm doing one new main dish a week.

nomnomnom.
jadegirl: (Marko Hietala)
My night has kind of ruined my day. First, Sir and I use Skype, since it has a video-call function. However, there was a lot of congestion on the hotel network, so the call kept dropping. He decided to take a bit of a nap and call me later, when there is less traffic on the network. This was at 10PM. At 1AM I figured his alarm wasn't getting him up, left a chat message saying I'd call at 8AM to make sure it got him up for work, at least, and headed to bed myself. Early for me, since I usually stay up from anywhere between 2AM to 4AM. Just as well, considering how the evening progressed.

I live in an apartment high-rise, and we don't control the heat. Considering it's only early October, it wasn't on last night. Too bad that it was in the 40s. Now, I'm generally easily chilled, so I have all the wool throws in the house piled on the bed. Last night my feet were so cold it was actually painful, so I pulled the heating pad into the bed with me, and found that my feet only got warm where they were touching the heating pad, any flesh not directly on it was still cold. Insert the sound of Zazen yowling impressively loudly at random intervals here (also insert me murmuring;"Isobel, would you go kill him, please?). After about an hour and a half of this it finally dawned on me that I was freezing, and curled into so tight a ball my knees were touching my forehead. So at about 3AM I got up and wrestled the comforter into its cover, replacing the cotton blanket with that, piling the wool throws on that, and made myself a cup of hot chocolate to drink while feeling sorry for myself. At about 4:30AM (insert more sounds of Zazen yowling here) I went back to bed, and managed to warm up enough to fall asleep by sunrise. I did manage to wake up to my own alarm and call Sir, who was woken by his work alarm, but better safe than sorry.

Today has held fetching the dry cleaning, some straightening up, and not much else, since I woke quite a bit later than intended, and freezing my ass off leaves me ill-slept. I want an electric blanket.
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