fellow traveler

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There are three things in today’s hopper:

Starting off, the first of several posts on my visit to the olde-timey paradise that is White River Junction, Vermont. Josh and I spent this past weekend there for our third (!) anniversary, and if it isn’t a vintage girl’s heaven? Then heaven doesn’t exist. More on that later this week!

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This novelty-print dress, purchased from a local brick-and-mortar vintage store and packed away for the trip. A village print to visit a village, because I have to be obnoxiously meta wherever I go. Even better? The dress has not one but two vintage twins on Etsy. That second one is more of a fraternal twin or maybe even a regular sibling, but still! Kristina should buy one and we can blog them together. (Speaking of whom, today is her birthday! Go give her some love.)

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You have no idea how long I’ve been sitting on this. No idea. I didn’t want to say a word until everything was finalized and I was holding my byline in my hands, in case it all turned out to be some horrible mistake. But I’ve pinched myself a hundred times and it’s still real: as of today, 04/27/16, one of my short stories has been published in Yale’s Letters Journal. Their mission:

LETTERS  promotes writers and visual artists whose
 work concerns matters of
religion and spirituality. The journal publishes poetry, short fiction, nonfiction, and
visual arts by people of all faiths and those whose faith is lost or yet to be
discovered. With word and image, we gesture toward mystery;
we break the feedback loop of self. LETTERS  is produced by students
from Yale University’s Institute of Sacred Music and Yale Divinity School.

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My co-contributors include Claire Beynon, who has her own Wikipedia page, and Christine Hemp, who teaches at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival. Letters is a big. deal. I still can’t believe I’m being published alongside someone who teaches writing. At Iowa.

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You can read Letters free online here. The good stuff starts on page 38.

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southern belle style | a call to writers!

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It’s 36 degrees and – ugh – snowing today, so I’m sharing these photos I shot last week when the mercury was at least twice as high. Spring will shortly resume its regularly scheduled ascent, so I’m only a little grouchy, but still. Gross.

But I’m feeling like a Kentucky Derby belle in this dress from Sartorial Matters. I’d had it on layaway for months, paying it off little by little, and it finally arrived just in time for…snow. Yay. I’m very much looking forward to wearing it this summer, though. Soft, breathable cotton, and pockets! Deep ones at that.

I got the hat for $5 at a synagogue thrift shop. The volunteer at the register told me it had been his grandmother’s. He was in his 50s or so, so she must be at least a hundred. I suspect said grandmother bought it later in life, though – the condition is practically mint, too good to be really ancient.

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And now for something completely different:

I’ve maintained my writing blog, Beginning Our Dissent, for over a year now. I’ve got 203 followers; my most popular post has 223 likes and reblogs. It’s time to climb the ladder. I am officially launching a same-named magazine, to which I encourage anyone and everyone to contribute!

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From my Craigslist ad:

Fledgling magazine seeks writers of all stripes and experience levels willing to share their unconventional ideas. From our website:

Beginning Our Dissent is a marketplace of ideas in microcosm. Six times a year, we present the best, the newest, the most seductive in unpopular opinions.

Want to write for us? It’s easy. Bring me something you’ve gotten flak for. Bring me axes to grind and grains to flail against. Bring me ideas so dangerous you can only publish them anonymously. You had me at “I think”.

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Shoot me an email at beginning.our.dissent@gmail.com to pitch an idea! Any and all experience levels welcome, so long as you abide by our writers’ guidelines.

I’m really excited about this, and I’d love for it to become something. This is where you come in: any shares, forwards, and general tip-offs would be much, much appreciated. Everyone has an axe to grind, after all. Let’s chop something down.

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Dress: ’50s vintage, via Sartorial Matters

Hat & gloves: vintage, thrifted

Belt, shoes, & socks: thrifted

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young scrappy & hungry

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Like any good theater kid, I’m currently mainlining the soundtrack to Hamilton. I was late to the party, as usual: I never seem to jump into these cultural moments right when the wave is cresting. I prefer to wait until the mania has settled a little and I can enjoy *thing on my own terms. Feels less claustrophobic somehow. But now that I’m a bona fide Hamilton lover…hot damn.

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In case for some reason you don’t know, Hamilton is a hip-hop musical about the life of Alexander Hamilton, founding father and first Secretary of the Treasury.  It’s RENT meets Les Miserables. It’s an unusual marriage of themes, to be sure, but its creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda, is so irrepressibly enthusiastic about both that it just works. I mean, there’s a song about dueling that samples Biggie Smalls’s “Ten Crack Commandments”. Who else would think of that?

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That’s my favorite part, I think: the undeniable enthusiasm. I don’t do detachment. I don’t like ironic nods and half-sneering winks. I value sincerity, and everything about Hamilton is so genuinely sincere that it’s goddamn infectious.

Don’t just take my word for it: Hamilton’s official cast album was “the highest debuting cast recording on the Billboard Top 200 in over 50 years“. Fifty. Years. The show is sold out through July. And I can’t help but be thrilled that a nerdy artist’s love letter to historical minutiae is – not just reaching, but enthralling so many people. I love that there’s still room in the world for obvious passion. Just do your thing loudly enough, insistently enough – like the real Hamilton did! – and people will listen.

Also, Lin-Manuel Miranda is probably an actual genius. That helps too. With a Sondheimian gift for wordplay, I might add.

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Dress: vintage, via eBay

Everything else: thrifted

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And now, the part you’ve been waiting for – here are my top five tracks from the musical (subject to change, of course, at any moment). You really should listen to the whole thing in order, given that it’s a sung-through, but if for whatever reason you can’t:

  • Burn. Hooooly Moses. Even if you don’t know the context, I hope you can appreciate that this song is basically the “On My Own” of our time. Plus “you’ve married an Icarus / and he’s flown too close to the sun” is probably my favorite line in the show.
  • Yorktown (The World Turned Upside Down). The string section from ~2:10 – 2:20 is my favorite bit of music in the entire show, hands-down.
  • Right Hand Man. The role of George Washington was described in the official casting dossier as “Mufasa meets John Legend” and…yep. I really have no qualms with that.
  • What’d I Miss? I may or may not be in love with Daveed Diggs. That voice…plus, I mean, this.
  • Wait For It. I honestly have no explanation for this one. It’s not at all the kind of song I’m usually drawn too – too smooth, too poppy, too top-40. But it has a downright maddening hook, and I can’t stop listening to it, so it must be a favorite by default.

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beware the pides of march

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If the 15th is the Ides of March, it stands to reason that the 14th is the Pides, right? Et tu, Frute!

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I’ve been reading the Metamorphoses lately. In its original Latin, which I’m very pleased is an ability I haven’t lost. I’d been worried that my Latin had slipped, but I guess I’ve made like one of Hannibal’s elephants and locked that shit down tight. An hour or so of reviewing my verb endings and it all came back.

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I’ve been out of school for three years this May, and lingua latina remains my favorite subject in the world. Latin class was the reason I didn’t drop out of high school and graduated a sort-of-sane person. I’ve studied a few other languages, but it’s not the same. It’s not like this. Latin makes sense to me. When I decode a sentence bit by bit, when I puzzle out the difference between identical cases, when all the “t”s are crossed and the macrons positioned and each suffix properly attached, the whole world feels a little better.

Dead language my foot. If I do nothing else in this world, I’ll bring Latin a little more to life, and I’ll be happy.

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I’m not a Classics nerd, not really. I can take or leave ancient Rome as a historical period; I’m far more interested in other eras. But Latin grammar is one of the most beautiful things in my world. I don’t even need to read Ovid. I’d be happy doing verb drills for hours and charting every possible use of the ablative.

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Dress: Retrolicious, also worn here

Cardigan, petticoat, brooch, shoes, stole: thrifted

Hat: vintage, via Gem’s Vintage Gems, also worn here and here  blackgreenX

I wore this outfit on Saturday night to a friend’s bowling-alley birthday party. Josh dared me to bowl in a full petticoat, and I’m pleased to announce I hit a whopping 86. Which, for me, is excellent.

And my ladies and I looked all the hotter at the club afterward.

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fat friday

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I took these pictures Monday and just around to posting them today, in honor of a holiday that took place over a month ago. Congration to me, I done it. Not that the entire state of Vermont was much better. Our official Mardi Gras parade was just last weekend. Vermont, as a collective, is very, very high most of the time.

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On that note, earlier this week an illegal hash oil extraction lab was busted barely three blocks from my house. I was on my way home Tuesday night and saw more cop cars than I’d ever seen in one place; the story broke a few hours later. Now, I am very pro-drug, politically if not personally. I consider bodily autonomy an inalienable right: my body belongs to me and me alone, and what I put in it isn’t the business of the state. I’ll lecture anyone who will listen about the racism, classism, and ableism embedded in American drug policy. I have no problem with people smoking weed in their own homes, though I wouldn’t choose to be around it.

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But this? This pisses me right off. I support drug use because I think consent is the backbone of a free society. And I, as someone who lives in that neighborhood and frequents the club directly underneath said lab, do not consent to being blown up. It freaks me out to know I was thisclose to umpteen potential explosions. And it infuriates me that so many locals don’t see anything wrong with that.

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Because I’m an incorrigible masochist, I always read the comments. I expect them to be terrible, but these might be a new low. No, “the man” is not punishing drug users. (I mean, he is, but not in this case.) You aren’t being persecuted for smoking weed – you’re being prevented from sending the whole block up in smoke because you care less about strangers’ safety than about your right to a better high. That is really, really not okay with me.

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Dress, hat, & gloves: vintage, thrifted

Cape: medieval faire

Everything else: thrifted

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petticoats & pattern-matching

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Does anyone else feel they have a stronger-than-average tendency toward finding patterns in every. single. thing?

The fancy name for this is “apophenia”. And it describes my brain exactly. If I see a group of three things, I’m immediately, even subconsciously, finding what each pair in the group has in common that the odd one out lacks. For as long as I can remember, I’ve seen number sequences in a distinct pattern. (So does my mother, actually, and so did her father before he died. And they are the only two people I’ve ever met who experience this thing or even understand what I’m talking about when I mention it. It’s profoundly weird to me that anyone doesn’t see numbers in a pattern, though. How do you count?!)

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When something significant happens in my life, or even just adjacent to my life, my first impulse is to find things that augured it. “I started dating this person, and a week ago I had a customer at work who was wearing the same brand of shirt that he was wearing on our first date, so it must have been foretold.” We laugh at those “666 in my cereal – ILLUMINATI” videos, but- that’s what it’s actually like inside my head. Given enough time, I can find Jesus in any piece of toast.

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Hat: vintage, via Gem’s Vintage Gems

Dress: handmade vintage reproduction, via eBay

Collar: made by Emily!

Gloves, petticoat, tights, & shoes: thrifted, gifted, or old

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I never paid much attention to this particular feature of my mind until I mentioned it to a friend recently. And he was floored. “That’s a goddamn superpower right there,” he insisted. It’s so strange to me to hear my daily life described that way, and even more so because it doesn’t seem all that unusual to me. I can’t be the only one, right? Fellow apopheniacs, tell me your woes!

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windy bop

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It’s not that I have writer’s block, exactly. It’s more the opposite. I have so many ideas that they’re stuck in the door, and I can’t quite bring any of them to fruition. Working on one project means I’m not working on the others, after all. I can’t have that. So I lie awake with thoughts pooling in my eardrums, and I hope one of the five(?) stories I’m writing will eventually assume precedence.

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Hell, I’m having enough trouble just writing this post. Have a bit of my latest while I go attempt to unstick my gears.

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I told the wood that Momma’s getting bad. Last night there was weeping until the small hours. I couldn’t sleep. I came up by her bedside and I lay down my head like I used to do, but she just bawled that I bring her a switch. After that I really couldn’t sleep.

This morning I carried the water and I carried the wood, and on my way back from the forest, I told the trees my mind. I told them I didn’t sleep anymore. I told them Momma’s hand grips that switch like a seventh finger. After the telling I felt a little better. The leaves wagged at me. I like trees better with leaves. They don’t leer like winter’s skinny ones. I like friendly trees.

I told the trees my mind, and I think I left a piece of it with them. Like I dropped something behind me and they sucked it up into their roots. Like they pulled out little threads from my head and made a nest of them. I don’t mind. I like friendly trees.

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vvitchy vvoman

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Okay, so nothing about this  outfit is witchy, besides the fact of my wearing it. But it is accompanied by a review of one of the best theatrical experiences I’ve ever had. I would summarize The VVitch as “Puritan family loses child, succumbs to witch-hunting hysteria”, but it’s so much more than that. First, you should probably watch the trailer.

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My local paper called The VVitch “the world’s creepiest historical reenactment”, and how true it is. I always prefer media that’s totally immersive, that doesn’t step into the meta level to comment on itself or judge its characters.  I’m not interested in morality plays. I’m here to live two hours in someone else’s world and come away with my own conclusions. I don’t like being told who to root for or which humors are supposed to be stirred. And The VVitch delivers just that.

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There’s no directorial judgment on the characters’ choices, no rationalist rebuttal to Puritan hysteria, and that’s just the way I like it. It feels, genuinely, like a reenactment. Like the way things really were, not a modern critique thereof.  I will always prefer a peek at the past to a 21st-century condemnation of it.

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And, of course, it doesn’t hurt that “rural religious gothic” is my favorite genre of anything ever. The VVitch is a northern, Protestant answer to Flannery O’Connor, and I’d love it for that alone. I grew up ghost-hunting in graveyards and river valleys. I had a special interest in the Salem witch trials. I am a child of rural New England, and its landscape trips a very specific wire in my lizard brain. The scariest stories are the stories that feel like home.

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Several reviewers have called this movie “something you should not be seeing”, and that’s probably the best way of describing it. Guys – I have a really high bar for “unsettling”. But there were definitely a few scenes that felt too alien to be looking at. Like you’ve walked in on something profoundly other and you can’t find the door.

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That’s all I want from my horror, really. Not monsters, not madmen. I want the altogether strange. I want things that rattle your bones with just how much they shouldn’t exist. I want eldritch fucking abominations, dammit, and it’s all too hard to find them in a world of jump scares.

I’m tired of horror that’s “all in your head”. There’s a big world out there. Show me characters wrestling with it – with one filled with things that should not be.

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in praise of effort

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I confess: I don’t understand “effortless chic”. I don’t understand applying makeup to look bare-faced, I don’t understand moussing one’s hair to emulate bedhead, and I really don’t understand why expending effort on your appearance has ceased to be cool.

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You see it everywhere. Don’t look too “done”. Don’t look costumey. Spend hours caring, but only to achieve that perfect careless look, that purgatory of the average. You’re still supposed to care, but looking like you do? That’s just gauche.

We’ve cargo-culted casual, it seems. We’ve taken symbols of a laid-back look – Levi’s, bedhead, yesterday’s eyeliner – and proceeded to thoroughly miss the point of what makes them effortless in the first place: the actual, y’know, lack of effort. A $200 white t-shirt might be following the letter of the law, but it’s spectacularly neglecting the spirit.

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And there’s something dishonest in that, I think. In working so hard to pretend you don’t care, in not even getting the satisfaction of articulating yes, this matters to me. Maybe my red lips and shapewear look too done, too fussy, too too, but at least I’m upfront with it. I don’t care if I look costumey. I don’t care if my outfit looks like I labored over choosing it, because you know what? I did, and it was labor well spent.

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It’s not just fashion, either. I’m growing wearier and wearier of millennial disaffection. I want to like things unironically. I want to care too much and get too excited. I want to flap my hands and squeal when something amuses me. I want to spend more time unequivocally appreciating the world and less calling out what’s problematic about it. I want it to be cool to go all in, dammit.

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After all, all fashion is artifice. No use pretending it isn’t. It’s okay to admit you want control over how you appear to the world. Natural is overrated. Preventable diseases are natural too. Doesn’t make ’em a net good.

Here’s to going all out. To turning your passion up to 11 on whatever it is you’re passionate about. Here’s to dressing like a 1950s caricature if you damn well want to, because life’s too short not to live your art.

dabblers & devotees: an ethnography of vintage blogging

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After four years of fashion blogging and two-ish in the vintage/retro/pinup scene, I think I can sort us into a few distinct, albeit occasionally overlapping, categories.

On one end, you have what Jessica of Chronically Vintage deems “vintage appropriate“: not vintage, and not explicitly vintage reproduction either, but evoking a vintage aesthetic nonetheless. Bloggers in this category do sometimes wear true vintage or repro, but it’s not the cornerstone of their look. Such bloggers are more likely to describe themselves as “retro” than straight-up vintage, and they often emphasize the modern twist. They rarely go all out, preferring instead to mix in contemporary elements and give the past a subtler nod: an heirloom brooch, Grandma’s purse.

Examples from around the blogosphere:

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In the next ring, you have “vintage inspired”. The pinups, the lindy boppers, the rockabilly dames. Often covered in tattoos. These girls tend to go for a highly stylized, almost fantastical affect. Their closets are full of Hell Bunny and Voodoo Vixen, and their look is less a representation of the past than an abstract homage to it. There’s an aspirational element to this particular corner of vintage blogging. A glamour that transcends the everyday. While the first category is about wearable retro looks, this one is about playing a character. Many such bloggers are artists or performers in their everyday lives, and it shows.

Examples:

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Finally, on the “haplessly obsessive” side of things, you have the lifestylers. The immersives. The ones who have a separate closet for their petticoats and stalk rare vintage on eBay (it sold for two dollars over my max bid, guys. Two dollars.). We in the third category certainly turn up the glitz at times, but we’re more focused on what women of old actually wore day to day – which was, sadly, a lot less flashy than pinup art would suggest. Category Two girls get asked if they’re headed to a photo shoot; Category Threes get asked if we’re in a play.

The line between Categories Two and Three can be nebulous. I’ve fallen pretty squarely into both. The main distinction I’ve noticed, though, is in accessories. In my experience, the more die-hard the enthusiast, the larger her collection of vintage hats, gloves, and brooches. Lots of bloggers wear vintage dresses, but we here in our strange little bubble refuse to forget the details.

Examples:

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What do you think? Any categories I’ve missed? Any bloggers you feel were slotted incorrectly? Let me know!