Monthly Archives: July 2010

Etsy Find – Naughty Cat and Talking Eyes

So I don’t even like cats.  Or I don’t dislike cats.  It’s just that everyone I’ve ever lived with is severely allergic and I guess I’ve never considered the dog v. cat debate because of it. 

But, I simply cannot resist these kitty items. 

“Talking Eyes” photo by Marlene Pennacchietti (marlysart on etsy)

Those eyes are liquid blue fire. so pretty.

Naughty Cat, made by Alexandra Ferguson

 

Perfectionism, Worries, and Other Wasters

Untitled (Perfectionism) by Sarah Hobbs

I can never do anything for five minutes, which drives me absolutely fricking crazy.  Pluck weeds in the garden?  Yep, there goes three hours.  Vacuum my office?  Er, try every room.  It’s a disease, but there’s a reason I’m like this: I never, ever catch up.

No matter how many to-do lists I accomplish, or how many daily successes I have, there’s no real kick back. Heard the statement, “Don’t put off tomorrow what you can do today.” I’m revising it to, “Don’t put off tomorrow what you should’ve done yesterday.” Cause there’s always a delay, be it a day, week, month, in what I feel should’ve been accomplished.

Slow down, I hear myself say. You’re so young. You’ve got all the time in the world. Or at least, all the relative time.

What’s mind boggling about this – and I apologize for continuing this bitch rant – is that I’m crazy busy and I don’t even have kids (unless Josie is included, cause that pooch demands a lot of attention!) Now I understand the term “quarter-life crisis” although to be honest, I think it’s a little cheap. I mean how weak, spoiled, whatever adjective you prefer, are we that twenty-somethings have quarter life crises? Thinking about this from my grandmother’s Depression Era pov shames me.

I think this present life chaos all boils down to options. We have a gazillion choices a day, a gazillion things to filter. If I realistically breezed through my to-do list, which on most days includes work, write, house clean, yard maintenance, walk josie, internet research, staying abreast of industry news, cooking dinner for hubby, etc. – those sails would definitely be deflated. And I don’t even have kids . . .

Which brings me back to a few things I always aspire to:

Don’t worry about what you can’t change and don’t worry about what you can change. Yes, Mr. Buddha says, “Don’t worry about anything. Do.”

Things fall apart, it’s their nature. Mend those things you can, leave the rest. It’s okay if some things are broken. Keep only what you can care for.

“You can’t have everything. Where would you put it?” Comedian Steven Wright.

Perfectionsim

In one of my former lives, I used to be a perfectionist. I say former because perfectionism is something I’ve repeatedly yanked out by the root. I guess it’s a control aspect of my personality, psychologically, but I never really felt that way. For me, perfectionism was about never wanting to disappoint, to pull through and do those things that needed to be done when somebody else wouldn’t or couldn’t. It was a little like taking speed every day (which fyi, I never have) because in my head all things had to be done now and done right. I cleaned with fury, revised and rewrote until I would wake up disoriented from arranging sentences in my sleep.

I have since embarked on a tentative 90% fail-proof cure. It’s one part aging, one part taking daily risks to exercise outside my comfort zone, and one part applying logic to an emotional situation. Perfectionism hinges upon emotions: “I’m not enough. I don’t do enough. If only I…” The Critic. The Puritan. And as writer Deanna Kizis has called it, Stan.

If you read one more thing today, read Talking Myself Up by Deanna Kizis.  It’s quite possibly the best article I’ve ever read on destructive inner dialogue.  Think of it this way: Stan might inspire you to name your own doubter and thereby vanquish him.

And if all else fails, see the rosy side of doubt  á la Rene Descartes:
“If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things.”

Molly Houses – 18th Century Subculture

Molly:  term for an 18th century gay man, usually effeminate, and especially one who frequented Molly Houses, private establishments where homosexuals and cross-dressing men could meet likeminded partners.  

Since sodomy remained a capital offense in England until 1828, Molly Houses sprang up all over large cities, a subculture in their own right when homosexuality was widely considered an unnatural act against God and man.  Here, gay men could gather, unmolested by the harsh opinions of a moralistic society, to express their sexuality, to sing and dance or merely find a partner.  Gatherings like these flourished in 18th century London,  with the most famous, Margaret (Mother) Clap’s Molly House in Holborn, London, reportedly entertaining around 40-50 men per night. A story concerning Mother Clap’s Molly House has also been made into the eponymous play by Mark Ravenhill.  The 2001 play was billed as a “black comedy with songs, is a celebration of the diversity of human sexuality, an exploration of our need to form families, and a fascinating insight into a hidden chapter in London’s history.”  I couldn’t find a recording of it, which is a bit disappointing, but you can buy the play on amazon.

Interested in learning more? Sodomite’s Walk – A cruising lane in Moorfield (see map here)

Rictor Norton’s book Mother Clap’s Molly House.    He also has a pretty exhaustive body of work on Gay History and Literature that is worth checking out.

A Broom of One’s Own – A Rambling Book Review

From the doctor who leaves his poop in the toilet (really!), his teenage children walking around in their underwear, to the broken couple who write scathing and sometimes heartbreaking notes to each other on the kitchen counter, Nancy Peacock, housecleaner extraordinaire, tells it all.  But this book isn’t about the messes people make, it’s about writing, writing from the dirt up. For the aspiring writer teeming with illusions about the fabulous writer’s life, it might just be a slap in the face, but a slap, alas, that every butterfly catching, cloud hopping dreamer should read.

The Nitty Gritty

There’s a passage in Chapter Two: Diary of a Mad Housekeeper where Peacock is talking to a guy who’s read a book or two of hers. It made me howl, especially when first, he informs her he didn’t like them and second, he suggests she read Bridget Jones’ Diary for the learning experience, a book he thought was flipping great. She thinks (and of course as a nice, tongue-frozen-in-restraint writer doesn’t say) that he should read Miss Manners. 

Some claim kids say the damndest things? No, adults do.

Being a writer, published or unpublished, provokes all sorts of comments. My recent personal favorite: “What’s the point of writing a book if it’s not gonna be published?  You’re not gonna write a second one are you?”  For the record, that was in regard to a conversation about my first book,  shelved for the time being.  It’s stewing for more flavors. Until it’s cooked, it’s going to stay there, maybe forever.

But back to the point, success doesn’t prevent a writer from catching a stinger now and then.  As Peacock writes, being published does not provide a magic shield that separates your splendid self from money woes, from the daily grind of being human. From anything. Writing makes you vulnerable, publishing even more so.

Which leads me to my next favorite part: writing is “like living a double life.” Yes, I thought while reading this. Yes, yes, yes! This may be the one thing I fail to communicate to those closest to me. My characters are real to me. They bring me pain, joy, all the emotions a friend could elicit.   And if I talk about them with as much passion as I feel, I sound crazy. I’m really not. I just live a double life. God, I love that.

Verdict:  Buy it.  A Broom of One’s Own is a short work on writing and life that is nothing short of honest, soul-tickling amazing.  It has nudged itself on my cramped keeper shelf for all it says and everything it implies.  Peacock’s words made me feel saner.  Her story reminded me that publishing is not always (or perhaps not often) the life altering earthquake it’s cracked up to be.  It’s a paycheck, a foot in the door, a badge of success, but it doesn’t make you something you’re not.  It doesn’t change your work for the better and it doesn’t make you instantly fabulous or celebrated or free from life’s hassles.  And I think that’s a good thing.  Life needs to be real for writing to stay real.  And really, what’s more real than cleaning up other people’s dirt?

Dress Me! 18th century Girly Garb

The glamour, the elegance, but man, oh, man, the work. I complain about my dressing abulations in the 21st century when at most this involves a dress, tights, boots, and accessories. But these ladies? How horrifying. No wonder they had little time for pursuits outside fashion.

Youtube has some great videos about getting dressed 18th century style. I particularly like the opening of Dangerous Liasons, which shows an aristo’s morning routine for both a man and a woman.

This video gives a nice, if general, overview from shift to the whole shebang.

And last, but not least, these drawings are amateur, but pretty wonderful. I particularly like 0:06, 0:16, 0:46 (the redingote), and 0:54 (notice the belt and the grey/yellow. Love it.) Some of them are quite Georgiana Cavendish.

What did the 18th Century Listen to?

Classical Music, of course! But we’re not talking about music as it pertains to the Western instrumental style typical from the sixteenth century onwards. Think the Classical Period.

Situated between the Baroque and Romantic Periods, this new style spans from 1750 to 1820 and is a reflection of a resurging interest in Classicism, ie. antiquity and in particular, all things Grecian. Opera and vocal performances still reign supreme in the early part of the century, but more increasingly, music events give witness to concertos and symphonies as interludes between vocals and later, as seperate performances altogether.

What to listen for? The piano replaces the harpsichord, woodwinds become a self-contained section, and the orchestra grows in size and range. In contrast to the heavy ornate quality of the Baroque period, the music is lighter, varied, and clear.

But that’s enough with the wiki regurgitation. Let’s imagine ourselves in the music room . . .

18th Century Music Room, Chateau de Canisy in Normandy

I like those chairs.  They look like peppermint sticks my grandmother used to buy me for Christmas. 

Oh, and look.  A harp.  Based on the plethora of musical women in paintings around this period, if we were indeed in an 18th century music room, I’m guessing we could listen to this lady, probably playing horribly.  She doesn’t look too enthusiastic. 

Maybe her capacious skirts are weighing her down?  Methinks even my strong husband wouuld struggle to walk in all that fabric!

Countess of Eglinton, 1777, Sir Joshua Reynolds

And now, for your listening pleasure, provided you are in a theater like the one here . . .

Theatre Royal, Covent Garden

You could be listening to Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven (also of the latter period, Romantic), two Bachs, Schubert, Gluck (Marie Antoinette’s favorite), Salieri, and many others.  To explore a fuller list, see here. 

Ghosts of Versailles

Since I’m on a Marie Antoinette kick, I’ll go with it cause who doesn’t want to see the Ghosts of Versailles? Luckily some wonderful youtuber has seen fit to upload parts 1 through 19 of John Corigliano’s opera so you can experience this on your couch, probably in the dark with champagne and confections for the best experience. It premiered at the Metropolitan Opera in 1991 and I really want it to come my way to the MN Opera. I’ll just have to buy tickets to Wuthering Heights in the meantime. Here’s Part 1:

Marie Antoinette’s Affaire de Musique

by Franz Xaver Wagenschön (1726-1790)

Given Marie Antoinette’s Austrian heritage, it’s not suprising she adored music.  Under the direction of the famous composer, Gluck, she grew up listening to the works of Viennese masters in a court rich with the arts.  At an early age, she learned how to play the harpsichord and on one special day, in July of 1762, the precocious six year old Mozart performed for Empress Maria Theresa and her family, Marie Antoinette in attendance.

Her appreciation for emotionally resonating music only grew once she moved to Versailles. She attended operas and threw fabulous parties replete with music and dancing. As shown in this 1774 painting by Jean-Baptiste Gautier Dagoty, she played the harp before the French Court.

During her period at the Petit Trianon, she acted in plays and comic operas in her private theater. There’s a charming DVD/Documentary (La Petite Musique de Marie-Antoinette) where music by Grossec and Grety is played in this very room where Marie Antoinette once performed.

What most people might not realize is that she even composed her own music for her friends, in particular C’est Mon Ami (below) and Portrait Charmant.  

There’s an album I’d love to get my clutches on, Les Musiques de Marie-Antoinette, except it’s only offered on Amazon France.  But if you have the time and the inclination, it gives a list of music she enjoyed, which might be worth stringing together piecemeal. 

To have a Marie Antoinette experience at home, though, I’d probably go with Le Salon de Musique de Marie-Antoinette by Sandrine Chatron. You can also download C’est Mon Ami on Amazon.

And if you just can’t get enough, Chateau de Versailles on Itunes has some worthy music/videos to check out. Yes, for free. Contain yourself.

Coiffure v. Coiffeur

Easily confused with one another, coiffure and coiffeur have the same letters, only rearranged. Unlike blond and blonde, they have also two distinct meanings, however closely related. 

Coiffure (ending in e) is a hairstyle.  In the latter 18th century we hear the term pouf, a coiffure that refers to the elaborately constructed hairstyle teased over pads with the addition of horsehair for volume and the essential ribbons/decorations to produce towering effects.  Powder is, of course, used. 

Coiffeur, on the other hand, is a male hairdresser.  Marie Antoinette had her favorite, Léonard Autié, the man responsible for the essential Antoinette style – the pouf.  Translated into English in 1909 and full of anecdotal Louis XV and XVI court references, his book, Recollections of Léonard Autié: Hairdresser to Marie Antoinette is available here on google books.

Pouf

One might say there were as many pouf styles as there were aristocratic women.  Poufs celebrated social and political occasions; one’s love of a collection of items, be they portraits or dogs or whatnot (called pouf au sentiment); the queen with feathers a la reine.  One of Antoinette’s most fondly remember coiffures was the “pouf a la Belle Poule.”  Complete with a model of a frigate at full mast, floating atop curls and powder, it celebrated the triumph of the eponymous French ship over an English vessel Arethuse off the coast of Brest  in 1778.

Middle to Late 18th Century Coiffure Evolution

Notice the difference between Madame de Pompadour’s coiffure in the 1750’s and Marie Antoinette’s in the 1770’s – it’s striking. 

by François Boucher, 1757

Pompadour wears her natural hair closer to her head.  Brushed back from the forehead and temples, the hair is twisted in a small bun at the crown.  The detailing, pearls and ribbons(or in this case, flowers), is simpler than the vast ornamentation displayed in the pouf.

 

Marie Antoinette by Jacques-Fabien Gautier d’Agoty, 1775

Antoinette first wears the pouf to Louis XVI’s coronation in 1774 and starts a trend of neck-breaking coiffures that only mellows (at least in terms of height) when her fondness for the petite trianon and the queen’s hamlet call for more natural styles.  Instead of tall and ungainly, the coiffure now frizzes from the temples and fat sausage curls cascade down the neck.  In lieu of feathers or figurines, the top of the head is covered with a large  puffy hat secured with a band of ribbon.  

 

Vigée Le Brun, 1785, Konopiste Castle, Prague

For a great b&w sketches of coiffures worn in France during the 18th century, see americanrevolution.org.  Also worth a looksie is ladyreading.net for a collection of Antoinette portraits through her life.

Etsy Find – Monday, July 5

Two little girl art prints by French artist Matilou (Anne Cresci) soon to be in my collection.  I spotted the first one months ago and she’s just added the second.  Yay!  I adore them as a pair. 

Plein Vent

Dark Forest