Category Archives: Culture

St. Valentine and Macabre

Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is not a holiday created by greeting card companies.  It is not a day to make single people feel left out or a day to lavish your significant other with candies, cards and other crap.  As with every other religious holiday, marketers have found a way to commercialize history and exploit the celebration of faith.  I’m not saying I don’t participate in chocolate covered strawberries or sarcastic valentine cards, but I can say that I know the history.

For my loved ones...

Saint Valentine

St.Valentine was a catholic priest in Rome in 269.  He is the patron of love, marriage and the young, and his day of feast is February 14.  The story of St.Valentine is unclear.  Some say he was martyred for his faith, others say he was jailed for defiance against Claudius (king at the time).  The story I learned goes a little something like this… St.Valentine married couples and taught Christianity when it was a crime to do so.  He was caught, beaten and stoned.  He survived and attempted to convert Claudius which was the last straw and was ultimately beheaded.  Regardless of the details, we know he existed because archaeologists found a Roman catacomb and an ancient church dedicated to St.Valentine.  In 496 AD Pope Gelasius dedicated February 14th to honor his martyrdom.

The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre

This next story provides a little more relevancy for the ol’ blog.  Gangsters and cuddly love just don’t mix.  It is said that  Al Capone organized the brutal 1929 mass killing on a rival gang to become the Crime King of Chicago.

The St. Valentine's Day Massacre 1929

Several of Capone’s goons dressed as police officers raided the SMC Cartage Company garage that the Moran gang used for illegal business and pumped seven men with 90 bullets from submachine guns, shotguns and a revolver which was dubbed the St.Valentine’s Day Massacre by the media.  No one was ever sentenced to jail for pulling the trigger.  The following decades, Chicago fell victim to Al Capone’s mob and organized crime.

Scary Valentine

A valentine found at LivingGreenRoom.com, a wonderful blog.

Roses Are Red

This post isn’t meant to put a damper on anyone’s plans with their sweetie.  It’s just a reality check.  Instead of getting caught up in the flowers, the reservations and the raging hormones, we should take a few minutes to think about why this celebration really means.  Let’s celebrate love, appreciation and gratitude instead of empty wallets.  Normally I measure my love through the amount of glitter caked on my crafts, but I will take it seriously for once.  I love my family for our colorful history and for raising me with strong values.  I appreciate my friends for giving their time to support me through good and bad times.  I am grateful for a boyfriend who is proud of his faith, works hard towards big goals and treats me like a queen even when I’m being a brat.  What are some uncommon ways you celebrate Valentine’s Day?  Don’t be afraid, this is a judge-free zone.

Violets Are Blue

I know a few people who swear off Valentine’s Day, chocolates and anything heart-shaped in February.  These people are not all single either.  Some feel attacked by society and lash out at public displays of affection, others refuse to allow one day to change their routines.  I’ve heard so many justifications… “It’s stupid to treat my boyfriend to gifts today because I love him just as much all of the other days of the year…” or “Valentine’s Day just reminds me that no one loves me except my mom…” or “If I plan something big then she’ll know I can do it and expect it all the time.” and my favorite, “Flowers just die anyways.”  Why does it have to be about boyfriends and girlfriends?  Everyone has someone to appreciate.  Celebrate Valentine’s Day by making that person feel loved.


The Horror of Disney

Note:  This post highlights inappropriate content connected to Disney, so please read with caution.

The Walt Disney Company

Believe it or not, there is a lot of horror surrounding the Disney company.  Sex scandals, subliminal messaging and evil villains all feed this growing rep.  I bet you’re unfamiliar with the real stories behind Disney’s fairytales.  Some of the classics are rewrites based on the Grimm Brothers’ stories which are collectively dark and often cruel.  The Walt Disney Company is most known for its animation, theme parks and media channels.  Disney’s persistent use of the Horatio Alger Myth, or rags-to-riches stories, tells us that no dream is too big to achieve and no person to small to achieve it.  Numerous scandals threaten Disney’s very existence, but it’s continued goodwill and outstanding movies continue to keep it afloat without too much scrutiny.

Disney Princesses by Daekazu on DeviantArt.com

Disney Princesses by Daekazu on DeviantArt.com

Subliminal Scandals

Aladdin– During one scene in which Aladdin floats up to Princess Jasmin’s balcony while standing on the magic carpet, a whispering voice says, “Take off your clothes.”  When I first heard about this I didn’t believe it.  I decided to investigate with an old VHS copy of Aladdin and turned up the volume as high as I could.  Lo and behold a creepy voice proved the rumor correct.

The Rescuers– Approximately 38 minutes into the animated feature, two frames of a topless woman can be found in a background window.  This rumor was confirmed by Disney and has since been corrected in later releases.  Anyone with an older version can play the animation in slow motion to see the nudity.  No thanks…

The Little Mermaid– The wedding scene towards the end of the movie portrays an over-excited priest and the original VHS cover art shows what looks like a giant penis drawn into the castle architecture.  I remember watching this movie dozens of times when I was little and never noticed these erections, but now that they’ve been pointed out, it’s clear that someone has a sick sense of humor.

Grimm Brothers

The Brothers Grimm by Fran85 on DeviantArt.com

The Brothers Grimm by Fran85 on DeviantArt.com

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm were born in Germany during the 1780s and both were professors and scholars.  Their fairytales include stories featuring royalty, talking animals and magic (just like most of Disney’s stories).  What people are surprised to learn is that the Grimm stories are just that– grim.  They are sad, cruel and sometimes scary.

Cinderella– This a story about an abused girl with horrid stepsisters and an evil stepmother.  Cinderella is constantly ridiculed, forced to work long hours and receives no positive reinforcement.  Cinderella’s fairy godmother grants her a night at the prince’s ball.  He falls in love with her and vows to marry the anonymous party-goer.  A glass slipper is his only clue to her identity, and he scours the village to find her.  The Grimm story is very similar except that the fairy godmother is a bird who brings a dress and gold shoes, the step-mother forced her daughters to cut off their toes in order to fit into Cinderella’s shoe and the step-sisters’ eyes are pecked out by pigeons as punishment for their cruelty.

Cinderella by Jeffery Thomas

This depiction of Cinderella inspired investigation into the horror of Disney.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs–  Snow White is an innocent, beautiful girl whose jealous step-mother hires a hit man to kill her off.  The evil queen tricks Snow White into eating a poisoned apple, and it is up to her new friends (seven hard-working dwarves) to find the prince and rescue her.  The Grimm story is again similar except that the evil queen did not fall off of a cliff to perish, instead she was forced to dance in iron shoes until she fell down dead from exhaustion and infected burns on her feet.

Snow White by Jeffery Thomas

Another inspiring photo by Jeffery Thomas

The Little Mermaid–  We all know about Ariel’s dream to explore the world of humans and her love for the prince.  We know that Ursula, the evil sea witch, is defeated in the end and Ariel is free to marry her true love.  Hans Christian Anderson tells a very different story.  The mermaid falls in love with a prince who is already in love with another woman.  She goes to the witch for a chance to be with him, but a curse causes excruciating pain with every step she takes with her new human legs.  In the end the prince marries the other woman (whom he’s loved the entire time) while the mermaid is offered a knife by her sisters in order to kill him.  Instead she accepts a broken heart and returns to the ocean only to disintegrate into a suicidal sea foam.

For more Grimm stories, I suggest Grim’s Complete Fairy Tales.  It is currently on my Amazon wish list.  Also, for more Disney heroines of horror by Jeffery Thomas, click here.

The Little Mermaid by Jeffery Thomas

Another Disney image by Jeffery Thomas

Whether Disney actresses are in the middle of some nudity scandal, seen scantily clothed or dancing suggestively, the company will always recover.  Poor public relations, ill-humored subliminal messaging and racial stereotypes are no match for this animation god.  Children will continue to enjoy Disney productions and theme parks as long as we are all alive and most likely for hundreds of years to come.  We can all appreciate the art, storytelling and spin-off ideas including the work of Jeffrey Thomas.  Disney will always have a place in my heart and in my memories.


Macabre in Fashion

I’m not going to pretend to be a fashion expert.  I wear dress pants and cardigans to work, sweats and t-shirts to discus practice and jeans and jackets on the weekends.  I learn from Stacey London and Clinton Kelly from What Not to Wear and build outfits from whatever I can find on the sales rack.  I want to make a few observations about fashion, macabre and subculture and by no means claim expertise.

Runway Collection by the late Alexander McQueen

Fashion collection by the late Alexander McQueen

Macabre Fashion Subcultures

When we had cable, I used to watch America’s Next Top Model for the end of the episodes where the “best photo” from the week’s shoot was revealed for each contestant.  To me, high fashion means photographers, high heels and extravagant hair and make-up.  What makes high fashion special is the complicated and often inspirational concepts that go into the photo shoots.  How does this relate to macabre?

High Fashion

High fashion with a touch of Gothic influence can look as elegant or grungy as you want.  Haute Goth is a subculture that showcases the traditional black materials .  One of the most noted fashion designers to take Gothic inspirations to the runway was Alexander McQueen.   An article in the NY Times said,

The monstrous, sometimes sadistic, styling of his [Alexander McQueen’s] collections became a hallmark, as when he showed models wearing horns on their shoulders. A collection in 2000 was shown on models with their heads bandaged, stumbling inside a large glass-walled room with the audience on the outside as if its members were looking into a mental ward.

Macabre and fashion

Another line from Alexander McQueen

McQueen brought real world issues into fashion.  Some people were shocked, some applauded his efforts, others took offense to his in-your-face antics, but the important thing is that people learned something new.  Art isn’t always pretty.  Sometimes it’s pain.

Another high fashion subculture borrowing from the Gothic style is Gothic Lolita.  Lolita is a subculture that began in 1980s Japan and is influenced by the Victorian era.  The subculture’s intent is to look elegant  while wearing Victorian clothing to embrace the Rococo style.  Gothic Lolita is differentiated by the black clothing, black accessories, and pale skin.

Scene Kids

Scene kids are usually young individuals with big hair, bad attitudes and tight jeans.   Their reputation  says they’re lazy, unambitious teenagers who are anti-social and mean (to others outside their group).  The lethargic attitude reflects in classroom performance, after-school clubs, and lack of hobbies.

Photo by ad3on

Photo of a male "Scene" kid found on DeviantArt.com

Cyber Goths

Cyber goth fashion looks like  a mix between steam punk, Japanese anime and goth styles.  The phenomenon began in the UK club scene with its neon colors, masks and goggles.  Cyber goths usually wear black with neon accents, high platform shoes, goggles or gas masks, and incorporate industrial materials, such as PVC pipe, into their attire.

Violet Morphine's Cyber Goth photo

Fashion Identity

We all look for ways to express who we are.  We all want to belong somewhere, and  fashion is a way to achieve both.  The groups we feel connected with won’t always be accepted or understood by the majority, so it’s important that groups like Scene kids and Cyber goths exist for the people who don’t fit the norm.  We should also remember that we all don’t fit into just one group, we participate in multiple groups.  We can look at fashion to categorize subcultures and to determine if that community could be a good fit for us.


Mexican Culture, Tradition and Macabre

El Día de los Muertos

Day of the Dead depiction

We all come from different places and different cultures.  You may not agree with the traditions of where you come from, but it’s important to at least be aware of them. I’d like to share one of mine with you.

I’m Hispanic and I continue to follow my Mexican and Puerto Rican customs out of love and respect.  Like a typical Hispanic person, I am Roman Catholic, I value family and music, and I am very familiar with El Día de los Muertos, also known as The Day of the Dead.

Celebrating our dead ancestors is not only important because it keeps their memories alive, but it also gives us hope that we won’t be forgotten when we’re gone. Despite the skulls and death, El Día de los Muertos is a happy and beautiful holiday.

Sugar Skull

Day of the Dead Traditions

Many people make sugar skulls to identify and honor each deceased family member.   The skulls are then decorated with paint and frosting, jewels, fruit and feathers to create a cheerful atmosphere. This symbolizes the belief that we are dreaming in life and truly awake when we die.  It’s a celebration of the continuation of life, even though our ancestors’ bodies are no longer living.

The altar is the center-point for each family, and can be set up inside the home or at the cemetery.  This ritual is celebrated differently depending on where you are, but the point is to choose a central area for the spirits to meet. The altar usually incorporates the four elements of nature: earth, wind, water, and fire.

Day of the Dead Alter

  • Earth is represented by crops.  People leave a feast of fruits and vegetables for the souls to eat when they arrive.
  • Wind is usually represented by something that moves easily if air is blown near it, such as tissue paper.
  • Water is offered in a container for the souls to quench their thirst.
  • Fire can be found by candle.  Each burning candle represents a soul, and any extra candles represent forgotten souls to ensure all the deceased are recognized.

Day of the Dead parades can be found in Mexico and parts of the United States.  Dancing, live music and dining are all typical activities that occur during a celebration.  If you ever find yourself near a celebration site, don’t be afraid to participate.  The opportunity to witness other cultures’ traditions is one I wouldn’t pass up.

Day of the Dead Art

Portrait by Sylvia Ji

Portrait by Sylvia Ji

Sylvia Ji is one of my favorite artists.  Her work is feminine with shadows of beauty, decay and power.  She seems dedicated to mixing her techniques with cultures different from her own.  The exploratory approach she takes is admirable and the paintings she produces are breath-taking.

Skeleton Painting by Jose Posada

Calavera Catrina by Jose Posada

Jose Guadalupe Posada was a Mexican engraver and illustrator in the late 1800s.  Although he worked on many projects with different job titles,he’s most famous for his calaveras (Day of the Dead skulls) and humorous paintings of skeletons interacting with the living.

Sugar Skull Tattoo

Sugar Skull Tattoo

Artists everywhere are embracing death.  I was pleasantly surprised at how many tattoos, paintings and sculptures I found that were created by non-Hispanic artists.  An area of expression that I’ve come to love is skeleton make-up.  People are so much creative. The concepts, shadowing and color are endless!  I could look at this stuff all day.

Thanks for taking some time to learn more about the Day of the Dead. Please enjoy more artistic ways to experience one of my favorite holidays with the photos below. What is one of your favorite holidays that isn’t so popular in the U.S.?

Day of the Dead beauty shot

Imperial Trio by CaptainMagnificent on Etsy. See?! The Day of the Dead is even mixed with American pop culture icons. How cool!