Children (and Parents) of the Night

This Guardian article about grown-up Goths has been making the rounds:

What happens when a teenage goth grows up? Gets a job, takes on a mortgage, has a couple of kids…? Can you combine elaborate Frankenstein make-up and a lace-up bustier with getting a toddler ready for nursery and yourself to work on time?

Dr Paul Hodkinson, deputy head of Surrey University’s sociology department and an expert in youth music subcultures, has been re-interviewing a group of goths he first studied in the late 1990s to find out. “They were teenagers and in their early 20s then, and I thought it would be interesting to go back because a number of people do stay involved in the goth scene,” he explains.

Though many people who belong to youth subcultures such as punk and rave tend to drift away in their 20s, Hodkinson says it’s more likely that older goths will want to remain involved in the scene, even though it may become harder to combine with the responsibilities that come with age.

To outsiders, it’s the visual markers of being a goth – long, dyed-black hair, black clothes, pale faces contrasted with dark, dramatic eye make-up –that stand out. Taken on their own, these characteristics might be reasonably easy to cast off. However, Hodkinson says that although the aesthetic and clothing are important, the primary tenets of involvement in this subculture mean being “thoroughly passionate about goth music and style, and some goths would tell you they have an interest in the dark side of life, and a natural tendency towards a degree of angst”.

This means a level of commitment to the goth scene, and friendship groups and identity that develop around being a goth, which result in social lives that “are so intertwined that it would feel very odd to leave it,” he says.

Continuing with education and getting a decent job while staying involved isn’t as hard for goths as it may be for those involved in other youth subcultures, some of which promote disengagement with school to the point that academic failure is all but inevitable.

“It’s a relatively middle-class subculture, so despite … all the going out and being into the music, goths have always had a fairly positive view of people who are also achieving academically.”

What’s most fascinating about the article is something that goes unmentioned. Namely, the contrasting attitude about Goths. Back in the day, we were portrayed as morbid delinquents obsessed with death, if not out-right Satanists. We were blamed for the Columbine Shooting and mocked for being friendless losers who write bad poetry.

Now, we’re the bastion of Middle Class values, hard workers, flexible and friendly, easily adaptable (hey, we recently discovered the color brown!) and, unlike other subcultures from the 80s and 90s, we stuck around and had kids. Some of us, anyway.

The reason for this is mentioned in the article: Goth’s value culture. Specifically those outdated fashions like literacy, appreciation for the arts and the craftsmanship of things that were built to last beyond the owner’s lifetime, let alone just for a season. The punks wanted to destroy the culture that was hindering them and the Preppies eventually got their fondest wish, and were absorbed into the collective, but the Goths remain because we adapt, borrow and create anew. It may be the motto of the Addams Family, but it serves just as well as a Goth raison d’etre:

Sic gorgiamus allos subiectatos nunc

“We gladly feast on those who would subdue us.”

Space Suit

At Wired, they have a great little slide show covering the history of the space suit. I especially like the anecdote form Yuri Gagarin:

After reentry, Gagarin had to eject from his spacecraft and parachute down to the ground. He landed in a field, where a farmer and her daughter spotted the strange sight of a man clad in a bright orange suit with a large white helmet. Gagarin later recalled, “When they saw me in my space suit and the parachute dragging alongside as I walked, they started to back away in fear. I told them, don’t be afraid, I am a Soviet like you, who has descended from space and I must find a telephone to call Moscow!”

You better believe that’s going in the book.

Countdown to NaNoWriMo

Just a reminder that National Novel Writing Month starts 2 weeks form today.

I alas will not be participating this year, at least officially, as I’m already about half way through a novel and don’t want to stop just to start another. However, I will be unofficially participating in that during the month of November, my goal is to write the last 50K words of my novel-in-progress, so I’ll be updating my progress towards that goal here on the blog.

But this shouldn’t stop you, no sir (or ma’am). Grab a notebook and a pencil, your favorite word processing or novel writing software and start preparing your notes or just start staring out the window and day dreaming about what story you want to tell during the month of November. Whatever method works for you.


I’ll be using the word count death bar provided by writertopia. Here’s my progress on the Novel so far:

As you can see, I have a set goal of 125K words, a total I reached by the mathematically exact method of guessing about how far into the novel I am and adding up all the bits and pieces I’ve written so far. I’m estimating about a 2-3K margin of error.

And since I’ve still got ten days before NaNoWriMo officially starts, there’s a chance of finishing the first draft by Thanksgiving. A slim one, but a doable one. At the very least, I’ll get most of the way there, Stay tuned to see how close i can get!

Crime and Punishment

While doing some research this morning, I came across this fascinating story about Russian poet and Novelist, Boris Pasternak, and his best known work, Doctor Zhivago:

After his own novel was denied publication by the journal Novy Mir, Pasternak arranged for Doctor Zhivago to be smuggled abroad by Sir Isaiah Berlin. In 1957, the novel was printed by the multi-billionaire Italian publisher, Giangiacomo Feltrinelli. To the outrage of the Politburo, the novel became an instant sensation throughout the non-Communist world. As retaliation for his role in Doctor Zhivago’s publication, Feltrinelli was expelled in disgrace from the Italian Communist Party.

[…] The first English translation of Doctor Zhivago was hastily produced by Max Hayward and Manya Harari in order to coincide with Pasternak’s Nobel victory. It was released in August 1958, and remained the only edition available for more than fifty years.

Between 1958 and 1959, the English language edition spent 26 weeks at the top of The New York Times’ bestseller list. Although none of his Soviet critics had the chance to read the proscribed novel, several officials of the Writer’s Union publicly demanded, “kick the pig out of our kitchen-garden,” i.e., expel Pasternak from the USSR. This led to a humorous Russian saying, “I did not read Pasternak, but I condemn him”.

Meanwhile, as the novel topped international bestseller lists, the British MI6 and the American CIA commenced an operation to ensure that Doctor Zhivago was correctly submitted to the Nobel Committee. This was done because it was known that a Nobel Prize for Boris Pasternak would seriously harm the international credibility of the Soviet Union. As a result, British and American operatives intercepted and photographed a manuscript of the novel and secretly printed a small number of books in the Russian language. These were submitted to the Nobel Committee’s surprised judges just ahead of the deadline.

Spies waging a covert cultural war with literature, using the Nobel Committee as a proxy agent. I’m not sure what form it will take, but that is going into a future novel, somehow.

One Of These Things Is Not Like The Other

Over at Gawker there’s a piece on the Democratic Party’s reaction (or lack thereof) to Occupy Wall Street:

There are several drawbacks to engaging with Occupy Wall Street, the Democratic sources said. One is the movement could blow up in everyone’s face, embarrassing all involved. Another is it fades as quickly and mostly mysteriously as it appeared, making it little more than several cable news cycles in the long run.

“I was thinking about this this morning-the local Fox affiliate had some guy from the ‘movement’ on to talk about it,” one operative said, “and his rhetoric was strongly reminiscent of the tea party, to my ear. Different goals, obviously, and the rhetoric was less, um, violent and vitriolic. But the same dissatisfaction with the current ‘system’ is there.”

“[So] this could end up being good for Dems the way the tea party was good for Republicans,” the operative said. “Or it could end up scaring the crap out of folks.”

And this is the problem with Democrats (says a life long Democrat). They’re so afraid of offending Republicans and the mythical Moderate Swing Voter that they’ve adopted this middle of the road, lukewarm porridge philosophy that is completely uninspiring. The GOP is not afraid to handle a few snakes in order to show that at least they stand for something (even if that something is racism, bigotry, greed and class warfare). What do the Democrats stand for? Tepid hedged bets, capitulation to extremism on the right and an inability to grow a pair and get in a shouting match with some lunatics.

The point of contention seems to rest n the fact that everyone in the media keeps comparing the OWS movement to the Tea Baggers. The problem with this comparison is that it’s absolutely false. The Tea Baggers are now and always have been a GOP Astroturf outfit. They’re funded buy the fucking Koch Bros. and organized from the top down by FreedomWorks, the conservative action group led by Dick Armey, a former Republican Representative form Texas. Meanwhile the OWS movement isn’t funded. By anyone. It’s actually what the Tea Party claimed to be in the early days: a grassroots movement created by citizens fed up with the current failed system.

What the Democrats should do is embrace Occupy Wall Street. Start a few shouting matches on capitol hill (calling John Bohner a dick would be nice but let’s not hold our breath). Anything that shows they actually give a fuck about this country and the direction it’s going in. Otherwise, they’ll be remembered as the party sitting in the passenger seat as the GOP drove the country off a cliff, refusing to grab the steering wheel and make a last ditch effort to steer us clear of disaster for fear of being impolite.

RIP, Steve

Steve Jobs has died.

I’m writing these words of a Mac. But whatever platform you use, you owe the ability to do so to this man. His innovative thinking reached far and wide, from Pixar to John Hopkins medical research to a thousand tiny aspects of our modern world that we take for granted.

He changed the world and gave others the tools to change it for the better as well.