Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Steampunk World's Fair

Anyone who knows me well knows that I am a steampunk fanatic.  Not that I'm alone in this; several friends and I have created an elaborate steampunk universe, and base our outfits off of our characters.
Man, I wish I could live there!  I go somewhere like the steampunk world's fair, and am happily lost in the haze of beautiful costumes, creativity, and bohemian people- the very stuff of my imagination...but then the next day, when I'm back in the normal world, to quote my friend Leo, "Life seems so underwhelming,"

Not that it is, of course… As long as I can be creative, then I'm happy.  It's just that it makes me question why the population has to be "normal".  Is there a pressure to wear a pencil skirt and blouse and pantyhose and torture shoes when you go to work?  Why not express how you feel with how you look?
I feel like steampunk is actually a really good thing to have in your life, or at least be exposed to, because most importantly, it lets you dress up and make up stories like you did when you were a kid.
Also, in this society, we buy something, use it briefly, and then throw it away.  Or we buy stuff just for the pleasure of buying stuff, and then forget about it when we buy the next stuff.  Why not make something beautiful that lasts for a really long time?  There's enjoyment and practicality every step of the way, plus you're reducing what you're putting into a landfill.
In  steampunk literature, there's a lot of focus on bringing to light the oppression of the victorian age, such as women, other races, other classes, gender identities, etc.  Sadly, this isn't the case in the "normal world"… not much more than it was in the Victorian era.
I love wearing steampunk clothing in public because it makes me feel like I'm in that universe, and it breaks up the mundanity of everyday life.
However, I wish that steampunks (or at least steampunk women) were as respected as they are in that community, because the night I came back from the steampunk world's fair last sunday (the 18th), AT LEAST three people hit on me.  (One was a goth transvestite or genderqueer person)
This happens every time I am steampunk in public!  I wish that people would see that I'm trying to express myself artistically, and just because I'm wearing a tight corset, doesn't mean you can try to pick me up!

Now that I have a job (okay, I busk, but it makes money, right???), I plan on making more steampunk clothing.  I get inspired easily for outfits, most of them very bohemian or punk or whatever.  Like I said, I feel like I'm living in that universe when I'm all steampunk'd up.
For the steampunk world's fair, I didn't have much time to order the corset making supplies I usually use for steampunk events, so I did the best I could with the things that were around my room.
A while back, I bought an ugly-a$$ amish dress from a thrift store in Texas.  My mom said I shouldn't get it, but I thought it really had potential.  So I cut off the skirt part and added elastic to the waist, and voila!  Then I created a lace-up bodice recycled from the fabric from my costume when I was Jan-the-Sweet.
Even if you don't have any money when you go to the Steampunk World's Fair, it's a LOT of fun.  You can listen to the dozens of live steampunk bands, or attend the (free!) workshops (some of which being "Book Purse creating", and "history of voodoo").  Also, on the last day, people will likely give you free stuff, or five dollars off of their merchandise.
However, I do recommend coming with about a hundred dollars, because there are REALLY amazing things being sold, most of them handmade, all of them fascinating, unusual, and beautiful.
Everything from corsets to leather masks to Doctor Who tea.
I went to the fair with Leo and Julia, a girl who used to be homeschooled but now attends high school.  Julia also brought her friend Emily from high school to enjoy the adventure.
Julia's mom, Pam, drove us ALL the way from Brooklyn to Piscataway.  I think that next year, when I learn to drive, I'm going to drive my friends there, cos I hate being a burden on the parents of us crazy teens.
Leo proposed an idea that we get a three-day pass next year, and stay in the hotel.  Julia, who makes jewelry, wanted to open a stall at the steampunk world's fair so that we could go for free.  Thank GOD I'm legally going to be an adult next year!  Then we can do whatever we please (More or less), with me as their guardian!  I've been writing steampunk songs ever since the fair, in the hopes of performing there next year.  We all want to perform in a sort of cabaret show, where we have singing, short scenes, dancing, comedy, maybe improv, etc… a bunch of our friends would each contribute something.
Oh, I wish I could live in the steampunk universe!  But that's why we write, right?

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Anthony Quinn Foundation

Hello, everybody!  I'm just loving this spring weather- just not the allergies.  BUT after that five-month winter, I ain't complaining.
My allergies have really hit me hard last week especially.  AND I had a sore throat.
It was particularly inconvenient for an event I was going to.
Okay, get ready for this: I got a $3000 scholarship from the Anthony Quinn Foundation for the Bel Canto institute!
I think I've told all ye about the Bel Canto Institute.  In case you don't remember, it's a summer program  IN FLORENCE, ITALY, where I get to study classical singing with a very prodigious voice coach (not assigned to me yet), tour the city (the cradle of the Renaissance!), eat fantastic food, and have intense Italian classes.  I feel that when I come back to New York, I'm going to be fluent or close to fluent in Italian; at the moment, I've been studying Italian like crazy, but I'm at the point where I can have really derpy conversations with people.
I'm hearing SUCH many things about Florence, everything from "You absolutely must go to the Uffizzi Gallery!" to "Italian men like to pinch girls,".  But mostly good things.
I am going to miss my friends SO much, though!  I'll only have a free day
One of my closest friends, Valentina, plays the piano (jazz!) but wants some slightly more formal lessons for a performance that's coming up.  So her mom (Jackie) and my mom have come up with an ingenious solution.  My mom exchanges piano lessons for Valentina, while Jackie gives me an Italian lesson!  In one of my earlier blog posts, I introduced this family as the people who I made pasta and had  an Italian conversation with.

Last week, they even came to see me get my award in Rhode Island!  Anthony Quinn was a writer, screenplaywright, book collector, sculptor, painter, and actor.  He passed away a few years ago, and his wife runs the (enormous!) house and the foundation.  The house was beautiful!  We got to see his sculptures, and were even told we could touch them cos "His art is a sensory experience, too!"
There were some truly maginificent sculptures, many of them depicting abstract female figures growing out of raw  rock.  He loved collecting crystals and statues, and even had a Philosopher's Stone on display!
Kathy (his wife) led us around the garden and grounds.  I loved how the grass was long and soft, splashed by the yellow and purple of violets and dandelions.  She said she much preferred it this was because it was naturally pretty.  Anthony was laid to rest in a circular garden with a pond in the center, huge windchimes making soft gonging sounds emit from a plane tree.  His grave was under an enormous stone which he apparently brought back from Italy.  He loved stones.
 Before the award ceremony, I met several delightful people who sponsor the Anthony Foundation.  Many of them were interested in musical theater, so I had something to talk about!  They all seemed genuinely pleased for me.

Several people were present to give out the awards to the four of us.  They said a brief speech about each person's accomplishments, and then presented the award.  After I got mine, I had a brief interview for a video for the website, and then I went back to the public area.  I made friends with a girl who agreed that high heels shouldn't be mandatory for public events, because they mess up your feet and hurt like hell, so why should women have to wear them??  Then we had the idea that if there MUST be high heels, they should be some kind of multipurpose item that you wear, like yeah, they're shoes, but you can use them to plant corn!  It's a self defence weapon!
Unscrew the heel and it's an awl!  Detach the other and it's a lighter!  And with the heels off, NOW you can dance.
Seriously; this has to be a thing.

After the event, my dad summoned me to the car.  He was sitting in the front seat; didn't say a whole lot, but he gave me a pendant necklace with a bear made of jet, carved in a native american style.  My dad wears an elaborate turquoise and pipestone necklace, also with a bear on it, because of his Choctaw heritage, I think.  My dad said I reminded him of Bear. When I wear it, I not only feel connected to my indigenous ancestors, but to my dad.  I don't really think I could have been accepted by the Anthony Quinn foundation had it not been for my parents.  My dad gives me vocal lessons twice a week- he's one of the best opera singers currently in the classical world, so he really knows his stuff.  AND he treats me as a singer, not as his daughter, so he doesn't mince words!
My mom works even harder for me.  She helps me tune up my voice nearly every day, and helps me memorize the songs, too.

My aunt was visiting (the sassy foodie aunt) and she, my grandma, my mom, Quintin, Valentina, and her family went to a lobster restaurant for dinner (I had a salad).  Valentina's grandma lived nearby, and had arranged for us to stay at her house.  Her house was BEAUTIFUL!!  It was, without a doubt, THE biggest house I've ever seen.  She loves Morocco, so the walls were hung with painting depicting scenes in the Middle East, and the tile work was, I think, from Morocco.  There was a swimming pool, a sauna, and many bedrooms whose luxury was only surpassed by those at the palace of Versailles.
On Mother's Day morning, all the moms, grandmas, and aunties had breakfast on the front porch with a shimmering view of the ocean.  We had mostly sweets for breakfast.  After thanking our hosts and saying goodbye to our friends, we drove back to New York.  But first, had a DEElicious lunch at my mom's favorite destination in New England; Mystic Pizza.

Right now, I am slightly nervous.  Why?  Well, tomorrow, I'm going to audition for a pre-college vocal program at Juilliard (my college of choice, and if I get accepted, then I'm more apt to get accepted to go to the ACTUAL college.)  I feel like this year is a HUGE turning point for me, and my path is very, very clear.  It's all starting with my audition, which is tomorrow.  Did I mention that already? So I have been singing literally every day, and thank god my allergies are nearly over with this year, cos I get asthma from the pollens!
I've come up with a great way to make money; I have to sing every day, right?  Doesn't matter where, right?  Well, I've been singing classical music in the subway stations, a capella, with a bag open at my feet.  And I make at least 30 dollars an hour!  Sure beats my last time busking; it was in March, and with a ukulele, and I made eight dollars in two hours.  I spent the money from my first time busking seriously at the Steampunk World's Fair, but that's a whole other blog post.