No time for reflection, only hyenas having tea.

I turned 31 today, which I am choosing to celebrate by largely ignoring it and not indulging in any kind of retrospection, introspection, or inspection of my life choices.

Instead, I shall look at this lovely painting that Emma Weakley did in honour of me being older:

Hyena Tea Party by Emma Weakley (click for full size)
Hyena Tea Party by Emma Weakley (click for full size)

Isn’t it glorious? They’re having a tea party in a gazebo and they have dainty fucking tea cups. I love it!

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100 Works of Art: (Audio) We Hate The Kids, The Indelicates

The 100 Works of Art blog post series is, in the most basic form, me rambling about the personal connections to and appreciation for works of art that I like. It is not particularly critical or intelligent, more a way of cataloguing things I consistently enjoy and reminding myself, when the world is full of infuriating news stories and people having pointless flamewars on the internet, that humanity has also produced great things. It begins with 25 posts on visual art, which starts with Matta’s “Black Virtue” triptych, and has since continued on with a few posts about audio art (i.e. music), beginning with “Let’s Go To Bed” by the Cure.

31. We Hate The Kids, The Indelicates (2006)

The Indelicates are a band whose introduction into my life I forget. I know that I came to them via their sarcastic, bitter song Our Daughters Will Never Be Free, and was given said song because I liked (and still like) The Pipettes, being told “they’re sort of the anti-Pipettes”. It wasn’t until I listened to Julia, We Don’t Live In The Sixties (an anti-activist/death of hippydom anthem) and Your Money that I realised that sweet, pop catchiness (characterised by Julia’s clear, beautiful, almost childlike voice) with bitter and often nihilistic lyrics were characteristic of the band. Anyone who has read much of this blog series will know that I have an almost pathological love of the particular cognitive dissonance in “upbeat music, downbeat lyrics”, previously described as “triumphant songs about heartbreak”, and recently on Facebook outlined as “cheerful songs about death”.

Picking one specific Indelicates song for this series was quite difficult, as alongside literary references and an interest in failed messianic figures, nihilism, cynicism, and bitterness seem to be their stock-in-trade lyrically as much as catchy and uptempo is their stock-in-trade musically, leaving me with several albums of “existential horror you can dance to” to sift through. Magnificent.

We Hate The Kids comes in the vein of Last Significant Statement and to a certain extent Sixteen, in that it’s a song about music and music fandom and the adhesive quality of idol-worship; I enjoy songs about the music industry as experienced both by fans and by bands (Dinosaurs Will Die by NoFX, Behind The Music by the Vandals, especially the latter as it served as a brilliant adjunct to the “Music Business” classes I took as part of my HNC in Music Production a couple of years ago), and as with all songs, the more bitter the better.

This particular song is ecstatic in its form: it rises to a crescendo, denigrating along the way all the fans of the band, of all bands, all the hangers-on, the businessmen involved, and the entire mythology attached to the youth culture of music. It is blazingly destructive, eschewing the sacred cows of rock and roll with the same fervour that rock and roll eschews the standard set of achievements in “normal” living, a kind of energetic end-note to a youth spent in worship of the world of music.

Perhaps in some respect this is why it, and indeed the rest of their work, appeals to me so much; it is a powerful chapter ending to a specific period of life that normally receives no farewell, no recognition of being over, leaving it to either peter out unsuccessfully, or to never quite die – with stringy fifty-and-sixty-somethings kidding themselves that they still have it in them to pogo, while their adult children sigh and move to the back of the crowd.

The allusions to rock anthems are many (“every generation gets fooled again/and every generation is to blame” slams into the Who at least twice, while “dance, dance, dance to this radio tonight” more or less picks up Joy Division and hits the listener with them), the references to business bitter and bold (“no one discusses what they don’t understand/and no one does anything to harm the brand”), and there is even an echo of one of my favourite Radiohead songs, Anyone Can Play Guitar (“this gift is an illusion, this isn’t hard/absolutely anyone can playing the fucking guitar”), but ultimately it is the rise to the euphoric nihilism of “NO MORE MUSIC, THANK YOU AND GOOD NIGHT” which really sells the song to me. It is by way of being the hallelujah of the hymn, and, true to its word, right afterwards everything cuts out.

Unbridled Consumerism: The Japan Centre Edition

It’s my birthday at the end of the month, and to celebrate I am pumping my meagre wages back into the economy.

By which I mean I bought myself a birthday present (you could also do that if you are so minded, but really buying my books would be a better present):

It is a Kokeshi Doll that is also a Bento box, from the Japan Centre’s website. Her name is Hanako, her hat is a bowl, her face is a lidded dish, and her body is a dish. I now want someone to make a Lucky Cat version.

Sewing: Gauntlets

Continuing the theme of using up off-cuts, I had some leftover velvet and lining from a bodice (and skirt, and belt) which I’ve posted on here before, and rather by accident came up with first one, then another velvet, lined gauntlet that laces up with ribbon:

Spooky hooded look brought to you by the stretchy roll neck of my Tesco poncho.
Spooky hooded look brought to you by the stretchy roll neck of my Tesco poncho.
Now featuring dramatic lighting.

There’s nothing to these, it’s just some long, truncated triangles of velvet sewn together, which happened to fit my arms somehow. General props to my chap indoors for banging the grommets in, and to the Resident Australian for the lovely photos.

At this point I have the most ridiculously charming outfit in vivid spring green velvet and NOWHERE TO WEAR IT.

Jewellery/Accessories: Cuffs

I had some leftover lace ribbon off-cuts, and the alternative to making these was “doing something actually difficult”, so here you go:

15 inch / 37.5 centimetre white satin ribbon cuffs with lace ribbon. 

Cute little additions to a shirt sleeve, jumper, or even a sleeveless outfit, these fold up tiny and fit inside the average wallet, perfect for emergency glam!

(Buy them here!)

What happens to this book is up to you

I now have a complete/final draft of my most recent finished novel, Brown Bread, Boys. It’s a retelling of Julius Caesar, with some fairly major alterations: it’s set in contemporary London, in the power struggle of an organised crime family seeking to control, among other things, the gory trigger sites of a poorly-understood form of powerful magic.

There are three options for this manuscript.

  1. The usual: I make it available for purchase on Lulu.com (and therefore eventually Amazon, the iBook store, etc) and the various Amazon Kindle sites. Very few people find out about it this way, because word-of-mouth marketing doesn’t work for me; I risk nothing, but gain a small amount.
  2. The print run: I do a subscriber run, and if fifty people put money up front they get special editions of the book. I then have a few over to put into shops who take books from independent publishers, and hopefully a few more people get to see the book. (I also put it up on Lulu etc some time later, but it will cost more than the print run copies will).
  3. The traditional: I write a query letter and start shopping the book to publishers. This means no one will be able to buy it for a while (until it either gets publisher or I get sick of it and go for option 1 or 2), but, as with any real gamble, stands a very very very slim chance that someone will see potential in what I think is a pretty good book, and then lots of people will hopefully get to read it.

So, what do you think? Which option should I gravitate towards? How much potential does the book I’ve just described have?

Book Release: Tame

Melissa Snowdon, my romance-and-erotica-writing alter-ego, has just dropped another book out of her slathering maw. Why is it slathering? Who knows, but who has ever seen any other kind of maw? Exactly.

The book in question is Tame, a lesbian chick-lit retelling of Little Red Riding Hood – in the loosest possible sense – with werewolves. Or a werewolf. The point is, it’s totally paranormal romance and I heard that was hot. Or at least readable. Anyway,

Julie Holms has it all, if “all” means living in the shadow of her beautiful best friend, her obnoxious sister, and her bewilderingly-obsessed-with-wheatgerm Mummy. She’s got an eBay habit, a wardrobe that occupies dimensions bigger than her flat, and a coat everyone in Marketing thinks is very Last Year, but her life is about to become far too exciting by way of mysterious strangers on rooftops, That Cute One From Marketing, and possibly one or two things she thought only happened in the movies.

… like werewolves.

Quoth the blurb, and:

“Tame pleases and satisfies like diet-breaking chocolate,” quoth Mina Kelly.

“Snappy, honest, funny and touching. [Tame] turns the chick lit genre on its head then gives it a proper kicking while it’s down. A brilliant read,” quoth Melanie Clegg.

This time the photographer is the model, ooh la la.
This time the photographer is the model, ooh la la.

Tame is available in print, for the Kindle (US, UK), and in ePub format.

Shirt to Skirt

Yesterday, when I could have been doing anything vaguely productive with my time, I spent most of the day turning a shirt I’d already altered into an underskirt.

Front view
Front view

Laced up with a ribbon lace left over from some Diesel trainers I bought in Amsterdam several years ago: the trainers are long gone but the laces have been recycled; waistband from fabric left over from making another dress; lace edging bought at a market years ago; lacing grommet strips left over from an attempt to recycle a wedding dress which was too small for me.

side view
Side view
Back View
Back view

Originally split as shirt-tails.

The cotton making up the shirt tails at the back I think comes from some left over which was bought to make a pair of bloomers many years ago. The front was cut off the shirt and is being stored for other use: the sleeves were unpicked, stitched together, and then folded back in darts along the waistline: the back of the shirt was cut off at waist height, then sewn into the gap at the front, below the shirt sleeves, and edged with lace. The shirt in question was originally £2 from ASDA’s prestigious George range in 2004 and now doesn’t fit me.

And here is the underskirt in action:

Visible petticoats are very in. Because I said so.
Visible petticoats are very in. Because I said so.

Overskirt is a wrap skirt bought from an Indian import shop in Camden for the wallet-scalping price of £2.99 (it is silk, even); knee-high buttero Docs purchased from the British Boot Company in Camden after a certain amount of panicked flailing around every corner of the city looking for a line which had been tragically discontinued. They are now my pride and joy, which unfortunately doesn’t preclude wading though bramble patches in them.

How To Not Die Of Winter (Part 1 of however many).

Winter is inching closer and in anticipation of the cold I have a cold.

Not to worry, as I also have combination of ideas which will if not make me feel better then at least distract me from being an entity constructed entirely out of sore throat, earache, rogue mucus, and barking coughs:

The first part is from an idea I saw circulating on that pernicious time sink, Tumblr.com, and it is ideas like this and photographs of pretty crystals which have prevented me from flouncing away from that appalling lavatory of the internet in favour of slightly less time-wasting wastes of time.

ingredients part one

These are the principal ingredients of that first, cribbed part:

  • Fresh, peeled chunks of ginger
  • A sliced lemon
  • However many types of honey you like (I actually also used a tin of honey someone sent me from Norway as well, which was conveniently much runnier).

    like so
    like so

Put lemon slices and ginger bits in a jar. Fill up the remaining space with honey. Give it a shake.

The honey should engulf the lemon and ginger. The reason for this is that honey is a preservative; “sweet burial” used to refer to preserving a corpse in honey, and honey – edible honey – a few thousand years old has been found in pots in various places. It does not go off. If your honey has gone lumpy and has a weird slightly gritty texture, it has just crystalised or separated due to cold and will return to its previous character if you bung it in the microwave or heat it up in some other way. Naturally this is an excellent way to preserve the other ingredients, but it isn’t the only purpose of the honey: it’s also a natural topical antibiotic (as you will know if you read that link up there). This is pretty useful for horrible sore throats, and it has the bonus of tasting a lot nicer than most throat medicine. Lemon contains a mild quantity of vitamin C, which you almost certainly don’t get enough of, and ginger’s just generally good for you.

If you’re at work or don’t like booze you just stick with this part: plonk a tablespoon full in a mug of boiling water (make sure there’s some lemon and ginger bits in there too) and you have a lovely hot drink. Everyone knows this.

However, I don’t really believe in drinking things that don’t have alcohol in them if I can possibly avoid it, in part because we all know water is evil and teeming with microbes and only the sainted touch of spirits can cure that, and in part because being slightly fuzzy all the time is the only way to cope with the terrible echoing knowledge that we are alone in the universe and everyone apart from you (yes, you, just you) is an idiot and probably dangerous.

Part two is for drinking when you are not at work:

pictured empty with good reason
pictured empty with good reason

The alcohol mix goes in with the tea. My measurements are inexact, but it’s roughly equal parts Fireball (cinnamon whisky), ginger wine (do not use the non-alcoholic sort, that undermines the purpose), and Aberlour whisky (or other scotch) at about half the amount of the other two because it is more expensive and less sweet. I put between 25 and 50ml in with the tea and achieve blessed respite from the dreaded darkness of the dead days of the year.

I suggest keeping it pre-mixed in a bottle for days when you can’t be bothered to do anything much more complex than cry about the fact that it is -4C and there is freezing fog outside:

booze mix, in a water bottle of water that i bought from tesco specifically because i liked the bottle.
booze mix, in a water bottle of water that i bought from tesco specifically because i liked the bottle.

Future posts about the hideous death of summer and light may include advice on how to stuff yourself with carbs, where to buy full-spectrum lightbulbs, and why it is legal to kill anyone who says they’re looking forwards to the nights drawing in.