Sunday, September 25, 2011

Little Tidbits: Fall layout and musings on Japan

First of all, check out my new fall/winter layout! I wanted something that would reflect both the changing of the seasons (theoretically, at least- today was in the high 70s and mostly sunny. I wish fall would hurry itself up!) and the new direction I'm taking my blog in, which is away from solely lolita and into other alternative fashions. This layout is more mature and earthy and I think it suits my personality, blogging style, and aesthetic much more than the last one! The photograph in the header is by Nina Lin, an incredibly talented friend of mine from New York. What do you guys think? I have a few more changes in the works for it, too, but those will come over the next few weeks.

Secondly, in my last post, I mentioned that I was doing an assignment that might interest you guys: a few paragraphs of descriptive writing about Japan. The assignment for my creative writing class was to devote a paragraph each to three different places you had been- just open up and write every detail you can remember about them, no matter how long-winded it becomes (kiss of death for me, if you know my writing style!) A few people expressed interest, so I figured, since it's kiiiiinda relevant (is there really anyone here who isn't a Japonophile?), I may as well tack it on to this housekeeping post!

The first paragraph, describing a closed kindergarten I passed by on my way to school during my third trip (senior year of high school, rural Japan):

 Himawari Youchien had its door barred. All that showed above the garage-like barricade was the sign, a hand-painted sunflower and simple hiragana labeling the kindergarten. I passed by it every day for ten days on the two mile walk from the train station to my high school. The road wound like a vine down the hillside, and I was always struck by the iconicity of the scene; winding mountain roads in rural Japan are like endless plains are to Nebraska, or urban sprawl to LA. On one side was a small water garden, a pond with an elaborate waterfall and lilies floating like candles for the dead. On the other side squatted a plain white building made of something akin to brick but almost plasticine in its glossiness, and further down the road had to swerve sharply to avoid a small corn field half the size of my American backyard. The steps up to the small door were cracked and lichened; if they were an alcove there would be a thick layer of very unJapanese dust covering them. There was an ancient, rusting padlock on the gate, and the windows were harshly curtained with yellowed linen that might once have been white. The brightly-painted yellow sunflower, its fresh green leaves and succulent-looking stem were a harsh, confounding contrast to the general feeling of abandonment and disuse.

And the second, about Meiji Jingu in Tokyo:

(My own picture, these are the two oak trees in the first courtyard.)

There was a certain stillness in the air that breezed breathily through the ancient oaks. The only sound was the crunch of gravel and the murmur of pilgrims punctuated pizzicato by their clap-clap-clapping, and then drowned out by the big bell ringing the prayers up to the Shinto gods. The first courtyard of the shrine was nearly empty; aside from a periphery of scattered stalls where shrine maidens sold ema and cell phone charms – charms for lovers, for students, for drivers, for pets – the only things there were two massive trees. They were rung round with prayer boards, a wooden circle with rows of pegs hung sometimes nine boards deep, and most of them read the same things. I pray that I make it into university, I pray that I pass my exams, I pray that my sister finds a boyfriend, I pray that my mothers gets well, I pray for world peace. They were written in Japanese but also in English, in French, in German, in Korean. The second courtyard is a vast emptiness with archways on each side leading to paths through the surrounding forest, and at the opposite end is a huge arched doorway, through which a large rope and slatted box are visible in the darkness. There were people nearby, taking pictures or tossing coins into the box and clap-clap-clapping their prayers, women in modest skirts and sandals and men in polo shirts and khakis contrasting harshly with the white-and-red kimonoed miko sweeping floors and raking gravel, their long black hair tied into ponytails at their napes.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Quotes for the Lolita: Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson

I'm starting to think I have a problem with finding ways to associate fine literature with lolita fashion. Oh well, at least it makes blogging easier! One of my favorite classes right now is an English course called "The American Renaissance," focusing on American writers from the 1803's-1860's- think Thoreau, Melville, and, my current focus, Emerson. This weekend we were assigned his essay "Self-Reliance," which was written around the 1830's or 40's and discusses the importance of non-conformity and being true to one's self. Now, while Emerson was writing to and for male academics of his era, I've been struck during this reading by how pertinent it is to followers of lolita fashion, who mostly have to follow their own internal compass but often get bogged down by the "rules." Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the essay, all of which I think a lolita could really benefit from:

"There comes a time in every [hu]man's education where he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide."*
"Whoso would be a [hu]man, must be a nonconformist"* 
"My life is for itself and not for a spectacle."
"What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think. This rule, equally arduous in actual and intellectual life, may serve for the whole distinction between greatness and meanness. It is the harder because you will always find those who think they know what is your duty better than you know it. It is easy in the world to live after the world's opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude."
"[...]conformity makes them not false in a few particulars, authors of a few lies, but false in all particulars. Their every truth is not quite true. [...]every word they say chagrins us and we know not where to begin to set them right."
"To be great is to be misunderstood."
"Insist on yourself; never imitate. Your own gift you can present every moment with the cumulative force of a whole life's cultivation; but the adopted talent of another you have only an extemporaneous half possession."
"Do that which is assigned to you, and you cannot hope too much or dare too much."
"For everything that is given something is taken. Society acquires new arts and loses old instincts."

 *Note: The original quote uses the gender-specific word "man;" however, it can still be surmised that Emerson was speaking to all people, not just penis-bearing individuals, hence my edit.

What is the lesson that can be taken away from these quotes, and how does it relate to lolita? Well, if you haven't picked up on it so far (you must be new here...), I am all for sartorial self-reliance. I believe it is the natural state of a person's aesthetics to be constantly evolving, and if one forces oneself to pigeon-hole into one style they are doing a disservice to themselves and their society- or subculture, as the case may be. It is only through standing on one's own feet and supporting one's own ideas that one reaches their true potential. This isn't to say that finding and using inspiration isn't important; however, one must take the essence or the details of an inspiring source (the softness of textures in mori-girl, or gyaru-style stilettos) and absorb them into one's own fashion without emulating the source outright. It's only through experimentation and absorption that a person's fashion style evolves, not through emulation and mimicry.

What do you think? Do you agree, or do you think that emulation is the sincerest form of flattery? Or do you think that I should shut up and stop pretending that Emerson was writing about floofy dresses and petticoats when he wrote this essay?

Oh, I've just remembered! My assignment for my creative writing class this week is about establishing setting, and our homework was to write three paragraphs about a place we've been. Mine's still in the works, but it will be three paragraphs about places I've been in Japan. Would you all like to see it when it's done? I know a lot of people have been asking for more detail about my Japan trip - I know, I know, I still owe you one article on it- it's coming, promise!  - so if you're interested that'll be posted later this week! ♥

(Picture from F Yeah Nerdy Lolitas on Tumblr and originally posted to the sew_loli livejournal community)

Friday, September 2, 2011

Operation LoliBlog: The Balancing Act

School, work, family, and friends- we all have them, to some varying degree. Let's face it: as little as it can seem like it at times, there exists a life outside of our computer and away from our blogs. Not only is there nothing wrong with that as a blogger, if anything our passions and commitments make us stronger as writers because our experiences give us more to pull inspiration from. For example, my Literary Lolita series is based entirely off of books I'm studying in school as an English major, and almost all of my daily outfits are coordinates I put together for a day in the city with my friends. However, as a blogger, one will often encounter the problem of budgeting their time, and while this is true for all of one's commitments, as a blogger it seems to be even more pivotal. It's so important for us to take the time out to write, to brainstorm, to create truly inspired pieces for our adoring public while also being a source of catharsis and relaxation for the blogger. But when you're taking five classes and working two jobs and still have friends and dates and family (who has two thumbs and all of the above? This guy!), it can get hectic, to say the least, and often your blog will be the last thing on your mind. There's one little trick that can make this whole blogging thing that much easier, and that is a magical thing called scheduled posting.

And it isn't only you who benefits. Having a blog schedule makes blog-reading easier. Say your readers regularly read a large amount of blogs: I'd say most people have a handful they check often, some have over thirty on their blogroll or RSS feed, while some have over a hundred bookmarked that they look at only rarely. All of these readers' relationships with blogs is made possible by schedules. The blogs that they check every day are often updated every day; those which are read only through an RSS feed may update two or three times a week; and those which are checked only a handful of times a month probably update as many times sporadically. How often do you update? How many of your casual readers could you upgrade into devoted followers if you only changed your blogging schedule?

Scheduling posts doesn't only make blog-reading easier. It's also a great way for you to keep track of your blog. If you have a busy lifestyle and only find yourself able to sit down and write once or twice a month, you have two options: only post once or twice a month, or on these days, sit down and crank out three or four articles at once and schedule them to post for you throughout the week. It's a choice with one determines for oneself, based upon what one can realistically accomplish.

More importantly, though:
If you're having trouble meeting the needs of your blog, though, it may be time to reevaluate, and now I'm not just talking about scheduling but in general. If you're no longer happy, engaged, or interested in your blog, something's gotta give or this ennui is going to show, either in your own satisfaction with your work or that of your readers. While I'm not telling you to stop blogging completely, it's important to have a creative outlet that you can keep up with. It may be time to decide what of your needs your blog is meeting and on which it's falling flat. For example, I consider Miss Lumpy to be a blog where I discuss in-depth ideas on fashion and lifestyle, and that's what it always has been and always will be. However, when I started college, I realized that, even though it certainly went into philosophy, it was lacking a certain depth that I craved. One thing I was really loving about my English classes was the literature I was studying and how I related that in my mind with all of the above topics, so I started a blog series based on that (which is still being updated often despite already being a few years old). That being said, this blog is still not feeding my needs as a writer, an artist, and a person, so I have come to the conclusion that it is time to reevaluate.

As my personal aesthetic turns further from lolita and I begin to branch out in my sartorial desires, not to mention my interests outside of fashion, I am finding the current state of this blog to be less and less satisfying to write. If you've noticed a lack of lolita-based philosophy articles in the past few months, that would be why. That's why, as a new school year begins and I continue growing and evolving into a higher version of myself, I have decided that it's time not to grow away from this blog, but to start including other sides of myself. There is so much about myself that I find personally satisfying - my intellect, my personal relationships, my experiences and hopes and dreams - which I'm yearning to discuss with all of you and encourage all of you to share as well. I've done this a few times in the past, and it's been something I've wanted to do more of ever since. Consider this a warning, then, and I apologize from deviating so much from my original topic of keeping of with your blog (consider this the section of "making your blog keep up with you"), that things are going to change around here; I'll probably start leaning away from the strictly lolita side of things and include more of my life than I normally would. I'm taking a creative writing course this semester, as well as some really interesting history courses, so don't be surprised if you see more than a few related posts on those subjects!

In the end, the important thing to remember is that, as a blogger, you blog for yourself. You may have thousands of adoring fans or you may have a private blog open only to your dearest friends, but either way, in the end your blog needs to be about yourself and what satisfies you as a writer and a person in need of creative expression. Otherwise, what's the point?


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