Celebrating All Things Goth

 

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Okay Goths and Goth lovers, it is time to descend into the Underworld to celebrate your dark, sinister and delicious selves! Today, May 22nd is… (drumroll) …  World Goth Day!

Chances are you may have never heard of this very unique holiday. (In the U.S. they would not want word to get out, trust me.)  I learned about it from my friend, the awesome Australian blogger V Something Speaks.  Check out her Goth Day post  for some great info and recipes to help celebrate!

Because the term Goth is complicated and comes from many origins, I thought it would be fun to explore a bit of our twisted Gothic history.  Who exactly were the first Goths, what does the term mean and how did it get associated with horror movies and punk rock?

The first Goths were ancient Germanic barbarian tribes, also called Visigoths and Ostrogoths. The term comes from the Latin ‘Gothicus’ and the Greek ‘Gothoi’, later synonymous with ‘vandal’.   The Goth tribes resided in what now is Eastern Europe, and were known to be pretty bad-ass, especially under their first organizer, King Alaric.

Alaric Visigoth

The Goth tribes apparently got fed up with Rome running the world and, after several failed attempts, finally, under Alaric’s leadership, effectively brought down the Roman empire. This occurred sometime in the 5th century. They then scattered to various places around the world, including remote corners of Europe and Asia Minor. The last of the Gothic tribes were still living in areas near the Baltic Sea as late as the 18th century. One of their languages, known as ‘Crimean Gothic’, was reportedly spoken up until around 1945.

But the Goths were not just warriors. ‘Gothic art’ was a term used to describe a Medieval art movement that developed in France around the 12th century. It included unconventional forms of sculpture, fresco, stained glass, and architecture.  Its characteristics were a hodge-podge of different elements (spires, spirals, arches, gargoyles and figurines). Because it broke with classical art forms, critics eventually called it ‘Gothic’ as they thought the new styles were somewhat barbaric and crude.

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(I know! It is hard to imagine Notre Dame cathedral as ‘crude’. )

Fast forward to the 18th century when English authors re-used the name Gothic once again to describe literature. Gothic fiction centered around themes of terror and mystery, hauntings, vampires and death. Gothic romance featured dangerous, sensual, forbidden love affairs with overtones of bondage — both physical and psychological. Horace Walpole is credited with the first Gothic novel, ‘The Castle of Otranto’, published in 1764.  Gothic fiction carried into the 19th and 20th centuries.  More popular writers include Mary Shelly, Bram Stoker, Anne Radcliffe, Emily Bronte and Edgar Allan Poe.

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Do you see a pattern here? Goth has always been about stepping outside the accepted norms of society and overthrowing the status quo.

Our current Goth subculture probably grew out of these unconventional, shocking and romantic ideas. It perhaps became most prominent in the 1980’s underground music scene with bands such as The Cure,  Bauhaus, Joy Division and The Damned. Enter MTV, the internet, and the beginnings of a new revolution.

Of course, many other things gave influence to post- modern Goth – for example, the art of Edward Gorey, movies like ‘The Hunger’ and ‘Edward Scissorhands’, Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles, Holly Black’s urban faerie tales —  as well as a variety of spiritual and political ideas.

And then there is the fashion! You know it when you see it.

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Present day Goth is the natural evolution of its original barbaric/ rebellious/ mysterious and romantic roots, coupled with a great love for the color black.

At any rate, World Goth Day is a great time to don some sexy clothes, fly the freak flag, read Poe, eat Black Forest cupcakes and (broodingly) let your dark side shine.

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(Even a blonde sun worshipper like me goes Goth from time to time…)

And finally, a video to make your day 🙂

 

 

 

Anne Boleyn, Women’s Martyr

 

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On May 19, 1536, Anne Boleyn, Queen of England and second wife of King Henry VIII, was executed by beheading, after being held prisoner in the Tower of London for four days and declared guilty of high treason.  The formal charges against her were adultery, incest and plotting to kill the king.  (Most historians agree these were bogus accusations.) However, Anne’s actual crime was miscarrying two babies and not being able to provide a male heir to succeed King Henry.

As we know, Anne had given birth to a daughter named Elizabeth who later became queen, one of the strongest monarchs ever to rule Great Britain. King Henry, of course, would never live to see this. Henry, in his quest to bear legitimate male heirs, notoriously married six times, broke with the Catholic Church and changed the trajectory of Great Britain’s future. He divorced two of his wives (Catherine of Argon and Anne of Cleves) and sent another two to the block — Anne Boleyn and her cousin Katherine Howard.  All of these woman had committed the crime of not bearing a son.

Why all the fuss over a male heir?

Apparently, the laws had strictly adhered to a thing called ‘male preference primogeniture’ which meant, in essence, boys came first. Girls became rulers only if there were no available boys to take over.

Anne-and-Elizabeth

Females had a slim right to the throne, but it was complicated: “Male-preference primogeniture accords succession to the throne to a female member of a dynasty if she has no living brothers and no deceased brothers who left surviving legitimate descendants. A dynast’s sons and their lines of descent all come before that dynast’s daughters and their lines. Older sons and their lines come before younger sons and their lines. Older daughters and their lines come before younger daughters and their lines.”  — Wikipedia

This archaic practice was in effect for over 900 years. It began with the Norman Conquest and stayed strong all the way up to 2011 (yes, 2011!)  when sixteen Commonwealth leaders finally agreed to change the succession laws. In 2013 a formal a act of parliament changed the established ‘male preference primogeniture’ to ‘absolute primogeniture’, thus allowing female babies an equal part in the royal heritage .

Great Britain, what took you so long?

If only they had been so enlightened 500 years earlier! They would have put an end to Henry’s worries, saved Anne’s head and certainly given Elizabeth a much easier reign…

As it turned out, Anne’s daughter ruled England for over forty years.  She defeated the Spanish Armada, stabilized religion, avoided a lot of unnecessary wars and brought peace and prosperity to the land.

She was known as ‘Gloriana’ and ‘Good Queen Bess’.

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Here is an interesting documentary about Anne’s execution. (Running time about 30 minutes.) Hope you get a chance to watch!

 

 

 

 

Jesus Christ Superstar, Female Apostles and the 1%

 

Jesus Netherlands

In honor of Good Friday, I am paying tribute to my favorite rock opera, Jesus Christ Superstar!  Fresh out of The Netherlands comes this timely and creative interpretation, featuring female Disciples, a very young Jesus and a Roman government which is akin to Wall Street elites.  A lot of effort went into it — careful casting and two years rehearsal.  The play was first performed in 2016 at Candea College in Duiven.  The cast includes Tijmen Steg as Jesus, Don Voogt as Judas and Anne Baars as Mary Magdalene.

In the house of Lazarus, Mary  tries to anoint Jesus with precious oil, only to be reprimanded by Judas Iscariot.  “Woman, your fine ointment, brand new and expensive, could have been saved for the poor. Why has it been wasted? We could have raised maybe, three hundred silver pieces or more.”

Jesus, looking at the big picture and knowing he is not long for this world, answers: “Surely you’re not saying we have the resources to save the poor from their lot? There will be poor always, pathetically struggling; look at the good things you’ve got.”

(For more on Jesus’ anointing see my previous post Lazarus and the Pink Moon)

These very talented performers may come as a bit of a juxtapose and surprise.  I think they are fantastic!  Hope you enjoy it and have a happy Good Friday 🙂

Here, Anne Baars as Magdalene performs the ballad “I Don’t Know How to Love Him”.

Intrigued? Watch the whole opera here: (Running time about 1 hour 30 minutes.)

 

 

Póg mo thóin

 

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The river is green, the Guinness flows freely, the leprechauns are out and about. You never know what may be at the end of their rainbow.  However, it would not be Saint Patrick’s Day without music from the FABULOUS POGUES!!!!

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This Celtic punk band was formed in 1982 by front man Shane MacGowan (aka Shane Hooligan), a rabble rousing displaced Irishman who had plenty to say about politics, prejudice and poetry.

The band was originally named ‘Pogue Mahone’, which is the phonetic pronunciation of the Irish phrase Póg mo thóin. Translated to English it apparently means “Kiss my ass.”  🙂

Shane chose the name as a joke and figured no one in English speaking countries would be able to figure out the meaning, but au contraire.  The name caused a massive uproar.  The BBC banned performances by Pogue Mahone and they could not get a record deal, so they shortened their name to ‘Pogues’. (This was acceptable, the Irish word póg meaning ‘kiss’.)

Shane had the last laugh though, when the Pogues released an album called ‘Rum, Sodomy and the Lash’. Reportedly the title was a quote by Winston Churchill. When asked about the state of the British Navy during World War 2, Churchill allegedly replied “Don’t talk to me about naval tradition!  It’s nothing but rum, sodomy and the lash!”

 

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At any rate, you won’t find a better band to celebrate Paddy’s Day. Here are two of their classics, ‘If I Should Fall From Grace of God’ and ‘Waxie’s Dargle’.  Break out the whiskey, kick up your heels and have a listen!

Lá Shona Fhéile Pádraig! (or Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!)

If I Should Fall From Grace With God — an Irish patriot grapples with his own sins and mortality. “Let me go down in the mud where the rivers all run dry.”  Worth listening just to hear Shane’s banshee scream mid song. I dare you not to dance, or at least toe tap!

 

‘Waxie’s Dargle’ is a traditional folk song, made punk by the Pogues.  A Waxie (candle maker) wants to go to the party (dargle).  Sadly she is so poor she cannot raise the money to go, not even by selling her husband’s suspenders.  “When food is scarce and you see the hearse you know you died of hunger!”

For such a morbid song, this version is hilarious! Sorry about the poor quality of this video, but nonetheless —  you can’t beat their loopy energy.  Sláinte!

 

 

 

 

Happy Mardi Gras!

 

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Eat drink and be merry, for tomorrow we fast 🙂

If you are lucky enough to be in New Orleans, Rio de Janeiro, or some other designated Mardi Gras  center today, more power to you!  As for the rest of us, we can still don a mask, eat jambalaya and jiggle  to some great music.

This video features one of my favorites, ‘Iko Iko’ by the Dixie Cups, with a montage of fabulous Mardi Gras Indians. Hope you like it!

 

In case you were wondering how this crazy celebration  got started, and what put the ‘fat’ in Fat Tuesday, here is a (very brief) history of Mardi Gras as it evolved through the Catholic Church.

 

And for those who can’t get enough of Dixieland, here are around two hours of it for your listening pleasure. Have a fantastic Fat Tuesday!

 

 

 

Happy Birthday George Harrison!

 

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He was the youngest of the Beatles, reportedly ‘the quietest’ and also perhaps the most spiritual.

George Harrison was born on February 25, 1943 to working class parents in Liverpool England. He was the baby brother of three siblings. According to legend, he fell in love with rock & roll after hearing Elvis Presley’s song ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ playing from a neighbor’s window. In 1958, at the tender age of fifteen, George auditioned for a band called The Quarrymen, led by two lads named John Lennon and Paul McCartney.

Because he was so young, John thought it best he not join the band, but George wormed his way in, hanging around rehearsals and making himself so available they could not refuse him. That band, of course, was eventually renamed The Beatles. George’s age came back to haunt him when the Beatles played their first gigs in Hamburg. George was too young to legally work in Germany and got deported back to England. He rejoined the band after his eighteenth birthday and the rest is history!

beatles-in-hamburg-1962

Raised as a Roman Catholic, George sent himself on a spiritual search that lasted his entire lifetime.  As the excesses of materialism and the rock & roll lifestyle mounted, George became desperate to fill the hole of the soul with more substantial things. He explored Hinduism, Buddhism and transcendental meditation. He, along with the other band members,  traveled to Rishikesh India and studied under the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

rishikesh-the-beatles

George also became interested in Indian music and culture. He learned to play the sitar under the tutelage of Ravi Shankar.  This influence changed his western perspective and reshaped his life.

George Harrison died of lung cancer on November 29, 2001.  His last words on his death bed were “Love one another.”

Ironically, whatever afterlife George found himself in, he still lives on in this physical world. The astronomer Brian A. Skiff, working out of the Anderson Mesa Station, located in the arid fields of Flagstaff Arizona, happened to discover an asteroid. He named that asteroid after George, the 4149 Harrison!

This interview, recorded in 1997 for VH1 was George’s last public appearance. He speaks wise words of life, death and spirituality.

 

Give Me Love – a song that I feel must sum up George’s philosophy. Hope you like it!

 

 

 

Universal Languages

 

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Music needed                                                                                                                                                      no  translation  violin                                                                                                                             bittersweet, saxophone bold, drum heart and the                                                               xylophone shining.

Color needed                                                                                                                                                    no translation red passion                                                                                                                      black mystery, bridal white,  yellow  and the sun’s                                                                    bread  of life.

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Grief needed                                                                                                                                                    no translation, desolation,                                                                                                                         dull eyes, empty breath forever                                                                                                         broken in its lonely void.

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Love needed                                                                                                                                                        no translation, a wink a smile a                                                                                                             steady gaze, gripped kiss raw flesh, leaving only                                                                           grace and desire.

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