July 31, 2013

What an Aristocrat Should Know: Part II

Isn't this a lovely gazebo?
I am tired of people being nervous to commit to a set body of knowledge which everyone should know. These are a list of things that a Neo-Aristocrat should know:

1. An Aristocrat (of all genders) should know how to iron a shirt.

2. An Aristocrat should know the quadratic equation.

3. An Aristocrat should know how to recognize at least three bird calls.

4. An Aristocrat should know, even if you don't agree with, the philosophies of Plato, Aristotle, Nietzsche, and Kant.

5. An Aristocrat should know how to stand with proper posture.

July 30, 2013

What an Aristocrat Should Know: Part I

Clearly, she has more important things to consider
As I enter the two weeks of finals for my school, I don't want to give up on blogging, but I do need to scale back the thought that goes into my posts. This seems the perfect time to work on a series that I have been thinking about for a while: Things an Aristocrat Should Know.

Yes, I just finished saying a Neo-Aristocrat makes her own goals, but I am also tired of seeing so many vague insistence that there aren't any standards of knowledge for an alternative aesthetic. These will be my standards. If you want to be a Neo-Aristocrat, you ought to know these or be in the process of learning them. Why? Because they are cool.

Without further ado, the next two weeks of posts will comprise of five point lists that, in no particular order, outline some general knowledge necessary:

1. An Aristocrat should be able to locate three constellations in the winter and summer skies.

2. An Aristocrat should know how to find a book in the library using the dewey decimal system.

3. An Aristocrat should know how to change a bike tire.

4. An Aristocrat should know how to properly address an envelope.

5. An Aristocrat should know how to play chess- even if she doesn't care for it.

July 28, 2013

Aesthetic Analysis: Mieljolie's Steampunk Bustle Bar

The Bustle Bar worn

Friends, this is steampunk done correctly.

Mieljolie from the blog All Things Crafty has posted another wonderful demonstration of her creative designs. I highly recommend that you take a look through this blog and some of her tutorials. They could be adapted pretty easily into most aesthetics I think. But today I am focusing on the Bustle Bar- a steampunk accessory that not only looks amazing, but is incredibly practical and useful.

As I have said before, my biggest problem with steampunk is that it is an aesthetic for a fantasy world, not the one we live in. I see this reflected in the way most of the people I have met embody steampunk. They create characters that live in a steampunk world and elaborate outfits that those characters would wear and that they can wear to festivals and conventions. The outfits themselves, I have little problem with. But most of the elaborate and often times exquisite accessories that they carry around (mechanical arms, fantastical ray guns) are just props. Granted, often times superbly crafted works of art, but serving no practical purpose.

The Bustle Bar is the first example of a practical, useful and aesthetically pleasing design that I have seen. Read the post to really appreciate the craftsmanship of the work. But this is why I think the project embodies Steampunk so well:

First, they realized there was a problem: they became thirsty during their outings.

Second, they realized that the normal solution wouldn't work for them: lugging around normal water carriers would detract from their costumes.

Third, they saw this as an opportunity not to take the easy or conventional approach: no modded water bottles or safari canteens for them!

Fourth, they built, rather than bought, a contraption: I'm sure there is someone, somewhere selling steampunk camel packs or the sort.

Fifth, using science and incredible ingenuity, they created a device that was both practical (it did dispense liquid), whimsical (hidden under the bustle of the skirt), maybe not the most efficient (see previous), but definitely more fun (see all of the above.)

Sixth, it used low tech science: I'm not sure how one would make a computer chip/robotic under bustle drink dispenser, but the science and mechanics behind the device is intuitive and easily grasped.

Seventh, they didn't skimp on aesthetic: it could have been easy to make this look very industrial and unpolished, but care was given to the presentation of the tubes leading from the containers and the holster for the pump. There was also the conscious decision to make the working parts of the device part of the aesthetic, rather than hiding them away.

If steampunk could exist in our world, I think it would encompass these seven aspects: a recognition of a problem, the decision to fix it yourself with innovative, creative, low tech and whimsical designs that you make yourself rather than buy and that looks beautiful in the process. As you can probably tell, it made me really happy to find this piece. If more of steampunk embodied this rational, I would be a far more steampunk than I already am.  Thanks to Mieljolie for writing about this!

July 27, 2013

The Importance of Diverse Feeds

"Study, at a Reading Desk" Leighton Lord Frederick"

I, like most people probably reading this blog, read a lot of blogs. Until about a week ago, my feed list was a pretty even split between webcomics and alternative fashion blogs. After all, webcomics are amazing and, writing a blog that deals at least tangentially with alternative lifestyle, I like the inspiration from everyone else.

However, I've realized- more with the alternative than the webcomics- we share many of the same first principles. Or else, nothing I read, I strongly disagree with. Granted, since most of the posts I see are either DIY projects or outfit posts, it's hard to have a strong, visceral reaction. After all, you have your aesthetic. I have mine. Even though I might not have created the same project, chosen those materials, or wear the same outfits, the law of tolerance rules the day.

Even the alternative essays on fashion, lifestyle, etc, if I disagree at all, it is about subtle points that engage my intellectual curiosity, not the emotional one. In summary, for a blog list dedicated to alternative and counter cultural fashion, it is a pretty homogenous group.

"Portrait of a Reading Girl" Thomas Sully

Then in this past week, I've started looking into blogs dealing with homemaking and femininity.  Let me tell you, my dear readers, there is a world outside of my modern, liberal, egalitarian WASP-y world and I am so excited to find it.  It is the world or Christian home-making, child-rearing, and wife-being and it is a very different fare than I have enjoyed thus far. 

Now, I'm still debating if this deserves a post of it's own, but I am all but an atheist. While I respect the church and religions - to a point- the Bible, to me, is about on the level of "Philosophical Investigations" or "Thus Spake Zarathustra" i.e a very interesting, confusing, contradictory work of philosophy. In that sense, I am glad there is a fraction of people who are devoting them selves to daily explorations of philosophy in the form of bible study. On the other hand, I cringe every time someone calls it the absolute truth.

But a lot of these blogs are dealing with questions that I find interesting. Everything from the practical, "How does one run a household," to the philosophical, "What does it mean to be a woman." However, these people come from WILDLY different first principles.  Some of their conclusions resonate quite deeply. On the other hand, reading through some of the descriptions of femininity leave me with such a shock of revulsion I am nearly breathless.  Which is great.

The things that disgust or horrify us define us as much as the things that enrapture us. It is, in fact, much easier to define ourselves by what we aren't than what we are.  While this can lead to some very nasty habits of xenophobia and racism, it also does help put your preferences into clearer focus. Just remember the essential premise that because you like something doesn't make it absolute.

So I encourage everyone to diversify their blog feeds. Not just with blogs about similar subjects but different view points, but if you like gothic fashion, have a blog or two devoted to perfume, to cooking, to foreign affair analysis. Look for blogs that actively challenge your views. Just because you write in a niche doesn't mean that you have to read exclusively in that niche.

The corollary to this is that just because a blog differs in content or viewpoint from your interests, you don't automatically have to include it. Obviously, you have to enjoy the content or at least find it well written and compelling. There are plenty of Christian Housekeeping blogs that I have skipped past because every other post was in praise to the Lord. I don't mind a dose of theology if it comes with a large helping of decent information or thoughtful reflection on life. Nor do I find a preteen's (baby bat?) blog referencing various bands, actors or artists I don't recognize to be my cup of tea.

What diversity of blogs do you follow?

July 25, 2013

How to Nip a Whim in the Bud

I want to move to the country.

I want to breath in lungfuls of fresh air each morning. I want to be able to step out my back door and walk for miles along beautiful paths to glorious views. I want to be alone- not a soul around for miles. I want to know the ways and lives of the animals and birds. I want to be re-acquainted with the faces of the moon. I want to feel the rainstorm crash through my bones and the sun entangle in my hair.  I want to live in quiet serenity and awe of the huge trees in the forest, the slow dance of the seasons, and the webs that bind us to each other.

I am two breaths from calling up my Best Beloved and suggesting we move to somewhere in the midwest where the land is cheap (relatively) and the people are sparse.

But I won't.

The country as I am imagining it is a collage of scenes from romantic movies, gothic books, and pictures from the turn of the century. Images where the young noble woman spends hours drifting through the woods, a book in her hand and no destination in her feet. Where she returns home to the manor to set a simple table, or have her maids do it. Where family and friends are a mile or two stroll through meadows, farms and hills.

Unfortunately, if I move to the country with my Best Beloved, our lives won't be like that. For one thing, we would need to live in town considering our potential jobs and our grad school debts. The isolation I crave would be impossible or else require a very long commute into work each day. If so a commute, then groceries, supplies and other necessities would also be far away.

Entertainment would not be so varied or available as it is in a larger city. There would not be, from my handful of experiences, the same people with varied and unique interests. Yes, there would be outdoors, but they would not be the vast forests I have imagined of England and I would probably not have hours to walk through them every day.

In short, the sudden passion for the simple, outdoor life brought on by being caught in rain storms for two successive days is just a whim.

Everyday, my mind is filled with half filled plans that are more passion than thought. They can verge from the dramatic- quitting school to devote myself to writing- to the simple - picking up a free, metal shelving unit for my closet without measuring. Does the same happen to you?

I indulge in these whims too often. My sewing box overflows with half started projects that seemed like a brilliant idea for the first few hours. There are a number of books bought on impulse and never read on my bookshelf. My relationships with friends and family are littered with excited plans to do things that were backed out of at the last moment. I do have a large metal shelf that is too large for my closet looming at the foot of my bed.

Usually, these impulses are not overly damaging. Eventually, I'll finish the projects, read the books, do things with my family and figure out what the heck to do with this shelf. The disappointments are worn away with time and other activities.

Luckily, I've avoided committing myself to any big or life changing plans on a whim like moving to Israel, joining the army, giving away all my possessions, moving to a hermitage, taking random jobs, etc. (Yes, these have all been thoughts at one point or another.) But there is a lot of energy put into the initial stages and planning of a project. To see it abandoned as the whim fades, is painful and makes me wonder if I will ever be able to see anything through to completion. These disappointments are not worn away so easily. So while whims may seem, well, whimsical, indulging often in them is not.

There are four steps that I have found to nipping a whim in the bud before you can tack on any energy, time or money into indulging it.

1. Identify that this is a whim. Realize what was the origin of this new whim. Was it a book you just read? A movie? Were you listening to a certain type of conversation? Or music?

2. Think deeply about this whim. What exactly do you want to do? As I showed at the beginning of this post, my idea of moving to the country was more than just a simple move to a less populated part of the country. Often times, this will reveal the unrealistic expectations behind the whim.

3. Rationally think about the consequences of the whim. A good imagination is just as good as coming up with downsides as it is with coming up with the pro's of a whim if given the right motivation. A move to the country does not just entail a deeper- possible- connection with nature. It also means leaving the culture that I enjoy surrounding myself with and separating further from friends and family. Once the good and bad sides of a whim are revealed, it generally loses the immediate, passionate appeal.

4. See if you can incorporate some part of the real whim into your every day life. I am clearly missing a connection with nature- so I can take a walk this weekend and enjoy the outdoors a bit more. This may cut down on further whims and further indulgences later.

Whims can add joyful spontaneity in life. Obviously, the answer isn't to cut them out completely. However, you should be able to choose which whims to indulge in- not be victim to every passing one.

What whims have you had? Do you regret any?

Seven Elegant Lessons: July

Don't wait for a fairy godmother to fix your problems

Elegance is the hallmark of an Aristocrat. It pervades every moment, every word, every gesture. But in the hustle of our day to day lives, it is easy to forget that we must have elegance in the little things as well as the large.

There is nothing elegant about the hassle of preventable disasters. Just as a stitch in time, saves nine; so does a bit of forward planning prevent foreseeable waste of time, energy and money. Here are seven applications of the idea of forward thinking in various aspects of a life. Think about where else it can apply to yours.

~ Create a meal plan for the upcoming week. Write out what you will have for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Keep in mind time commitments, when you can make a whole batch of something to eat for several days, and any special occasions. Create a grocery list based on this menu and only this menu. Benefit: healthier meals are planned when not staring blankly into the cupboard or refrigerator. Money is saved by not purchasing unnecessary thing.

~ If you are a student, print out monthly calendars for your semester. Input the dates of tests, quizzes, and projects from your classes syllabi. As you plan out vacations and activities with friends, you can see at a glance when you'll need to schedule time for study.

~ As you begin to run out of shampoo, conditioner, etc, put it on a to-buy list. Don't wait until the bottle is empty to buy more. Benefit: Not having to forgo your product because you don't have time to go to the store.

~ If you know you will have big expenses in the future, set aside as much money now as possible, rather than pay it lumpsum at the time. Benefit: There won't be such a sizable blow to your bank account.

~ If a button falls off of your shirt, or a hemline drops on your skirt, repair it now. Too many times I have just hung the piece of clothing in my closet and then wondered later why I have nothing to wear because all my clothes were falling apart. Benefit: avoid embarrassment and lack of clothes, by repairing things now.

~ Another for students, start preparing for finals two or three weeks ahead, especially for classes that require a lot of memorization. Plan out what you need to know, do a little bit each day for two weeks before. Benefit: Not cramming for the final.

What forward thinking planning do you do to prevent future problems?

July 24, 2013

Challenge Update #3: Good Goth Keeping, Summer Reading, and Health

Good Goth Keeping

Rather than focus on these in order, I'll post as complete a list as I have complied and annotate each of them.

1. Assess your physical baggage and the psychological will follow.

My room is nearing the point of sustainable cleanliness. Most of the messy points have been organized to some sort of order and it feels pleasant to be in my room rather than overwhelming.  I have solved my shoe dilemma by taking out my most popular pairs of shoes and lining those up along a wall of my room rather than in a jumble at the bottom of my closet. The biggest thing was to organize my bookshelf though.

However, in addition to physical clutter and baggage, I have also spent some time this month going through my electronic baggage. I've gone through my phone and deleted all the contacts who I don't recognize, gone through my bookmarks on the computer to categorize, remove, and rediscover some great sites. Electronic clutter can be just as frustrating as anything else.

2. Write something everyday

My letter writing plan is going well insofar as though I have not reduced the number of letters in my basket, I have kept them growing larger. Newly sent letters have been given a quick turn about and I am nearly caught up with emails. I'm working on turning a few things into daily practices and letter writing will continue to be part of that.

3. Self-forgiveness

4. Read your label.

Having just finished a week of posts about refocusing on what a Neo-Aristocrat is, I have realized that it is sometimes helpful to not just go through, analyze and possibly discard your labels, but it is also important to add some of your own.

5. Ask for Help

No major revelations in this department, unfortunately. I've been thinking a bit about the flip side of asking for help which is giving help when asked. Perhaps it is because we are all so hesitant to ask for help, but I can't think of the last time someone asked me for help. So, while I would love to help my fellow people, I am bad at actually seeing a need without being directed towards it and thus end up not being a very helpful person. Can you think of any ways to change this?

6. Go and do something

I've recently had the urge to cross stitch after being reunited with my embroidery floss. I've purchased enough of a linen-esque cloth to make a small tablecloth with a swedish inspired border. It's been fun deciding on a project and seeing the steps so clearly that I need to take to complete it. 

7. Sleep, Eat, Rest

Stress has not damaged my ability to do any of these things! Huzzah!

Alas, I must report another month of not living up to my challenge. Though a great deal has been read (my library book total is finally down to a mere 11!) and my best beloved and I have begun to re-read "Atlas Shrugged" again, actual reading has continued to decrease, especially as school has taken a turn from learning to reviewing. Still, August hangs like a beacon of hope on the horizon for long, lazy days filled with reading.

 An Aristocrat's Health

At first, with the help of Beeminder, this challenge was going beautifully. The pounds were being slowly shed, my diet was improving, and I was trying to add little bits of exercise to each day (climbing the stairs instead of the elevator, etc).

Then the fourth of July break came and destroyed my progress.  Between sitting in the car for days on end, eating junk food and then the delicious platters of food at my family's, all the weight has come straight back. Alas, I need to improve my self control over holidays. An important thing to remember when at a fancy meal or with friends, is not to have the mental idea "oh, this only happens once, so I better enjoy." This just leads to rampant over eating of unhealthy foods. 

I'm back to working it off slowly and to help myself along the way, I've dedicated myself to doing Blogilates 4 week beginner pilates workout.

Is the instructor ridiculously upbeat, preppy, and cheerful? Yes.

Is the feel and aesthetics of everything from the music, to the encouragement, to workout names grating to a darker and more reserved Neo-Aristocrat as myself? Oh yes.

Is it nice to have a schedule that I don't have to plan and that has already taken into account a rotating work out routine and provides all the necessary videos? Yes.

Do the workouts leave me sore, but not exhausted? Energized while still feeling like I accomplished something? Yes.

The two final questions trump the previous and so for the past three mornings,  I have laid down my folded blanket and cue the chirpy voice of the instructor.  What will be interesting to watch is when in this cycle, my initial interest begins to fade. So as I chart the ease with which I complete roll ups and burpees (I mean, no one could think of a better name?) I'll also be looking for the point where my interest flags and I have to dig into my resolve to keep going.

July 23, 2013

Aristocrat in the Kitchen: Cookies from a Wood Burning Stove

Over the weekend, I had a fun adventure with a recipe from another century. The Country Handmaiden, who does reenactments on the weekends, baked these cookies first and posted them on her website. (Yes, as all-but-an-atheist, I do enjoy reading Christian Homemaking blogs. But the importance of being regularly exposed to ideas with which you disagree must wait for a later post.)

The recipe is as follows (emphasis mine):

Ginger Snaps (1890)

2 eggs well beaten
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup molasses
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp soda
Enough flour

Mix in order given.  Turn out on a floured surface; cut into shapes.  Bake in a quick oven.

Luckily, Miss Elizabeth does a quick bit of translating to make the recipe more recognizable for us who are used to modern cookbooks where all the steps and ingredients are given.  I like ginger snaps, I had a jar of molasses in my pantry, I thought it would be fun to make an old fashioned cookie, so I gave it a go.

Now a word about molasses: it is amazing. Sweet, but also a hint savory, it is one of the better sweeteners you can use by taste. But it also has amazing mineral properties giving you an excellent source of manganese, copper, calcium, iron, potassium and magnesium. Your body depends on these minerals for a wide variety of biochemical reactions, but our diets and our food these days don't provide much by way of minerals. So unless you are taking a multivitamin- which you should be- you could be mineral deficient. (Obviously, don't take my word for it. Do you own research or consult with your nutritionist.) 

Full of excitement and delight, I mix up the ingredients and begin adding flour. Now, maybe it was the heat (edging into the 100's that day) or maybe I just miscalculated something, but I added A LOT of flour before the dough wouldn't stick to the counter as I tried to roll it out. The cookies came out of the oven (after only 7 minutes) rather puffy and cakey.

The cookies were less of ginger snaps and more of travel rations. Thick, heavy - not bad tasting- but not like any cookie I've had before. You could eat two for a meal and be just about fine.  Now, I'm not sure if it was my fault for adding too much flour and being incapable of rolling out cookie dough, or if cookies have evolved since the 19th century. Maybe they were heartier and less delicate now. Fewer dainty macaroons that you see popping up everywhere and more of the breakfast cookie you can buy in coffee shops. It was a fun experience, even if I'll be sending most of them to my boyo.

Have you ever experimented with recipes from another era or century?

July 22, 2013

Francis Bacon and the Neo-Aristocrat

Nature to be commanded must be obeyed
- Francis Bacon

This quote may be the most concise explanation of the Neo-Aristocrat's philosophy on life that I have seen yet. For those who don't know, Francis Bacon was a scientific philosopher born in London in the 1500's. His book, Novum Organum Scientiarum (a new method for science), outline the beginnings of the process known as the scientific method which is the foundation for modern science. Opposed to the ancient methods where truth about the world was believed to be reached through careful thought an consideration, the Novum Organum emphasized a focus on the physical world and the importance of experimentation and experience. I would recommend at least reading his introduction, if not the whole book. It is a really fascinating read.

The above quote is one of his most favorite and is extremely applicable to today's reality of climate change. It is a little confusing to parse on the first read through because it appears, at first, like another paradox (yay!). How can you command something if you must obey it first?

There are certain laws in the universe which exist: gravity, the conservation of momentum, the feed back cycle, the interchange of yin and yang, etc. Or, for the Neo-Aristocrat, the realization that certain external factor influence your perception of reality, personality, and day to day life. If you are studying in school and working a job, this will make you tired. If you are alone, listening to sad, wispy music and the sky is overcast, you will end up feeling lost and forlorn. Granted, the effects differ between people. A certain set of factors may have little effect on one person but a huge effect on another. But the fact is, our environments and activities have effects on ourselves. 

But if we ignore these laws- if I decide to attend a party after a long week of school rather than sleep, or if a child jumps from the roof attempting to mimic the birds- we will suffer necessary consequences. The introvert will end up more drained rather than refreshed and the child will suffer broken bones and bruised skin. We must obey these laws of nature.

However, man does fly in airplanes. He may not be able to overcome gravity through the force of his will alone, but he can observe the other animals who are not constrained to land. He can study wingspan, aerodynamics  lift and propulsion and- still obeying, still using the laws of nature- build himself an airplane to take to the sky.

In the same way, the Neo-Aristocrat can use the laws of how the environment to affect her personality and world view in a conscious, deliberate way. If, at the end of a long week, she is exhausted, she knows to go to bed rather than a party. If she realizes her soul has taken a twist for the melancholy, she knows not to indulge in activities, such as lying in bed and sighing soulfully at the ceiling, that will entrench rather than fight the mood.  The laws of her personality are still obeyed. At no time is she trying to will herself out of the state. Instead, she is in control, commanding her nature rather than being a victim of it. 

The first step to this ability to command is the recognition that these laws can not be ignored, but first must be obeyed. Then comes the long and never ending study into the delicate interplay between personality, worldview and environment. This study will never end, so begin employing the laws you learn as soon as you learn them. Also, be careful in the application. In psychology, even more so than biology, too much of a good thing can be deadly. 

The Neo-Aristocrat looks clearly upon the laws of the world, but is not cowed by them. Instead, she realizes the power she has to control them and her situation and uses that to improve and better herself. 

July 21, 2013

You Both Already Are and Never Will Be....

I love paradoxes.

I love the momentary confusion of seeing two apparently contradictory statements. The pause in daily life as your eyes narrow at the sentence and you wonder, "how can that be?" Take, for instance, this sentence:

You both already are and never will be a Neo-Aristocrat.

By our rules of grammar, this sentence is nonsensical. How can someone both be and never be something? This violates our sense of time, of being, of reality. Yet, these senses of ourselves exist only in language and the paradox exploits the limitations of our understanding.

I love paradoxes most for this reason.  Not only do they lead us to a deeper understanding of the world when we resolve them, but they also remind us of the limitations of our language. And that is a trap we all fall into too often.

What is meant by the above paradox?

Neo-Aristocracy is not a set point, it is a process. It isn't a state of being, but a way of being. It is the ideal that is always out of reach, but in the process of striving anyways, we reach it. We live in a world of cycles upon cycles upon cycles. Things are always, constantly changing around us and we must continue to adapt to them. There will always be new things to learn, new revelations to have, new bests to achieve. You will never reach the form of the Neo-Aristocrat, but reaching the goal is less important than the reaching itself.

Focusing on the process is not as comforting as being able to fulfill a list of requirements necessary to reach the perfect state. There is a great deal of assurance that comes from the idea that you have arrived, no longer have to strive, can bask in your completion. But that is not how reality work. What Neo-Aristocratism lacks in comfort it makes up for in freedom and reality.

Do you have any paradoxes in your life?

July 19, 2013

First Principles of a Neo-Aristocrat

Neo-Aristocracy is a highly individualized aesthetic and alternative lifestyle. After all, a person's best is a personal determination. However, we do not live in a vacuum. The laws of the universe do govern- even if the more superfluous laws of society can be ignored. Therefore, there are some first principles which anyone embarking on the path of Neo-Aristocracy should embrace. For sake of mnemonics, I've categorized them under three key words: sustainable, attainable, and benevolent.


The Merriam Webster dictionary defines sustainable as:  of, relating to, or being a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged.  Sustainability is increasingly becoming a key word and will become even more prevalent in the future. As we realize that we do not live on a planet with infinite resources, we are going to need to stop acting like we do. Sustainable practices are a recognition of the cycles and laws of nature and attempting to use those to benefit ourselves in the long term rather than ignore them and reap short term gain. 

A Neo-Aristocrat applies this principle to different levels of her life. On a global level, she realizes that the earth is indeed finite and strives to do as little damage to the environment as possible. Buying second hand, reducing carbon footprints, buying local, reusing, reducing, and recycling- all the catch phrases that have become so popular in the past years- she knows are possible to embody without sacrificing a luxurious, decadent life. 

On a personal level, as much as a Neo-Aristocrat might like to spend her entire bank account on good stationary, beautiful clothes and interesting books- she knows that the future must be considered first. Buy champagne or next weeks groceries? There is a hierarchy of needs (though it may be unconventional) and since the Neo-Aristocrat is life affirming, starvation isn't a choice.

Sustainability, in short, is the ability to weigh the tradeoffs today for the benefits in the future.  A Neo-Aristocrat is able to look into the far future of generations to come, the middle future of the course of her own life, and the near future of the next few years, months or days and balance her goals and luxuries with the concerns of time. 


All our lives, we are told "You can do anything you want if you put your mind to it!" or "Reach for the stars. Be whatever you want to be." Encouragement of children's passions is a necessary step for their growth, but over encouragement can lead to unrealistic expectations. 

When we were children, we dreamed of being astronauts, presidents, prima ballerina's. But there comes a time when it is necessary to wake up and say "I am 23 years old. Based on the choices I have made up until this point, I am not going to be the president of the United States or a ballerina or an astronaut." It is hard to admit- very, very hard- that our potential isn't infinite and that it is better to stop wishing for things so far beyond our reach. A person in a position that exceeds their ability is even worse than someone whose potential isn't being fully utilized. 

A Neo-Aristocrat has the self awareness, the clear sight, and the courage to take a breath and say "This is who I am. That is not what I will or can become. Instead, I will focus on becoming the best that I am able to be. Not the best as the world decrees." Because there is a difference between doing your absolute best and being the absolute best. The first we have control over. The second we don't.
Attainability is applied not only to our careers  even if that is how it is most commonly found- but also to our possessions and lifestyles. A Neo-Aristocrat must be able to come to terms with the fact that she will not have a sprawling mansion in France, a wardrobe commissioned by the best seamstresses in the world, time to lounge about the house or devote herself to studies or pleasure, and every little thing that she dreams about. 

This principle probably deserves another post, because there is a difference between being realistic and settling. Realistic desires balances between the unhappiness of never achieving your grand dreams and the resentment of betraying your potential to have something lesser.


 A Neo-Aristocrat knows that if the pursuit of their desire brings too much harm into the world, then the desire should be reconsidered. Benevolence has no set laws because there are times when your actions will cause pain to another, but both the action and pain are necessary- such as getting a job that your co-worker didn't. But there are some actions, such as toying with another's emotions to reach your ends, which are unacceptable. 

Benevolence is the most outward looking of these qualities. It is the principle which sets the Neo-Aristocrat in society. No one can pursue their desires heedless of how those desires affect others. Benevolence is the art of making sure you aren't destroying more relationships and benefit than you gain from your desire. On the other hand, Benevolence is also the ability to help others with their path towards their best as well.

As a  Neo-Aristocrat works towards her best in life, she must keep these principles in mind so as not to forget her connections and relations to the rest of the world. She does not exist outside of reality, outside of herself, or outside of society. Whatever best she decides to pursue can not ignore these factors. Beyond that, she is open to be everything she can.

July 16, 2013

What's in a Name?

Over the past few years, I've talked to a few people, both on and off the internet, about my aesthetic, the Neo-Aristocrat. Invariably, the first response is something of distaste or confusion. When pressed further, the explanation usually runs along the  lines of "the aristocracy oppressed people for hundreds of years. They are a small elite. Why would you want to associate yourself with something hierarchical and prejudice?" 

It is impossible to deny that the historical term of 'aristocrat' has baggage associated with it. For centuries, the upper classes treated lower classes as chattel or less while monopolizing the money, leisure, education and culture. However, if we could step back from the historical connotations and consider the etymology of the word.

Aristocrat is the pairing of two greek words: "aristos" or the best and the suffix "-cracy" which meant to rule. Literally, translated it means to be ruled by the best. In a country, this translates into power, money and influence being centralized in the hands of  a small group of elites. Democracy was supposed to counteract the ills of the prior centuries, but if you have doubts about how well the American experiment in democracy is working, I urge you to read Christopher Hayes "Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy."

What I am doing with this blog and my own idea of Neo-Aristocrat is applying the idea of "the rule of the best" not to a country, but to my own individual life. What does this mean? That is a work in progress that will never fully be answered. As I grow older and accumulate new experiences, education, and wisdom, my idea of what is best will undoubtedly shift. Will it, at times, mirror aesthetics and philosophies of other alternative lifestyles or even the mainstream? Probably. But I am a unique individual and deserve a tailor made life and philosophy, just like anyone else. (This is one of the beautiful things about uniqueness. Everyone can be unique without losing their uniqueness- whatever cynical quips might declare.)

Since Neo-Aristocracy is applying the rule of the best to your own life and since best is not a set standard but differs from individual to individual, there is no limit to the number of people who could become Neo-Aristocrats. I would frankly love it if everyone did become one, because Neo- Aristocracy isn't about being better than others- only better than your past selves. 

But questions about discovering what is best for you and other qualities of a neo aristocrat will have to be saved for another discussion. 

July 15, 2013

A Responding Manifesto

My previous post about the necessity of refocusing on my aesthetic, drew a comment from Nadja Sands of La Domna. If you haven't had a chance to take a look at her blog, I highly recommend it. She is an excellent writer but her main, amazing skill is in writing some of the most evocative and gorgeous descriptions of perfumes that I have ever read. My nose is terrible, but reading over her descriptions of, say, Midnight Gypsy Alchemy scents made me want to go out and buy a collection myself.

Now, her comment (bolding mine):

I don't focus very much on creating a cohesive aesthetic in my style.... I don't want to have a set of rules, self imposed or not, to follow... that would just kill my joy and creativity! My only guideline is to wear only what feels good and feels "me". This method has actually led me to have quite a cohesive personal style, but one that doesn't fit into any single mainstream aesthetic (but drawing inpiration from many). I guess what I'm trying to say is that if I like a particular aesthetic, or parts of one, I can always find a way to make it mine and part of my personal aesthetic! I feel no need to classify my style, put a name on it or impose rules...

First, this comment really show cases an alternative method of pursuing one's aesthetic than mine- a method that may be more common in the community. Which is great. Different people have different methods for choosing their aesthetics just as they have different aesthetics in general. For me, I like overthinking things. Finding rules, laws and patterns in my life is a source of entertainment and learning, even if I know the laws won't stay in place for more than a week. But, not everyone spends as much time up in their heads, and it is great to be reminded of that.

But what really struck my attention was the line that was highlighted above: my only guideline is to wear only what feels good and feels "me". 

I don't have a "me." Oh, there are some broad generalizations: strong introvert, cerebral (see above or this blog), etc. But for a me? A me that I can look or wear an outfit or a piece of clothing and say "ah, this is me?" I don't have that.

Part of my personality is that I am very, very easily influenced by external stimuli. In psychological terms, I'm highly sensitive  If you were a hypnotist on stage, you'd want to pick me out of the audience. The books I read, the music I listen to, the clothes I wear all have distinct and noticeable effects on my personality and actions.  

For example, the longer a skirt I wear, the more quiet and mature I feel. Cardigans make me feel tired and dumpy. Wearing my vest makes me more more put together. High heels mean that I stop to smell the roses and am more outgoing. Wearing all black, makes me feel more dramatic and melancholic. More rugged, outdoors clothes, really do make me more adventuresome. Etc. These aren't the most original changes to happen depending on the clothes I have nor have I learned all of the changes that can occur. However, the change can be striking.

As with everything, there is both good and bad in every character trait. My extreme impressionability is unfortunate because I don't have that core of personality and strength to draw on. I can't look at a dress, a job, a potential friend, an activity, and think "this is right for me." It has always been, "let me be right for them." The problems that relate from this are  numerous and don't need to be entered into at this point.

However, there are strengths. Imagination and flexibility are important qualities. I can empathize very highly with someone if I take the time to stop and think (another reason I don't read the news). But most importantly, with enough foresight  I can stop and make conscious decisions about how I want to act and feel in a certain situation and then take steps to deliberately alter my mood to reflect that. This deliberate alteration is becoming a theme of this blog.

Neo-Aristocracy is, for me, my attempt to create an aesthetic and lifestyle that is the ideal lifestyle for this world. The parameters of that are always changing, but five important characteristics of a neo-aristocrat are: capable, life affirming, seeing and living in the real world, finding and cultivating beauty in your world, and practicing these qualities daily. 

Given those qualities that I want to practice and thus embody, I can make conscious choices about my wardrobe to make me feel and act like a Neo-Aristocrat every day. Right now, my closet holds a lot of options that don't make me feel capable or beautiful or are coherent with my aesthetic. But lacking a strong inner compass for just wearing what is me, I need a set of guidelines and rules to help me develop a self. 

This has been a really interesting enunciation of my dedication to Neo-Aristocracy. It's clear that I'm going to need to go back and re-examine my application of this to my life. Thank you, Ms. Sand for prompting this!

Now, this blog is dedicated to my aesthetic, but also my method of coming to terms with this aesthetic. I would love to hear and discuss your methods for creating a coherent aesthetic, discovering what you like and why you like it and even if you think these questions are important.

July 13, 2013

A Chance to Refocus

Developing your own aesthetic is difficult.  Even if we restrict ourselves to considerations of only dress and fashion- it is difficult to create your own, integrated, authentic aesthetic.

What I mean by integrated is this:

Mori Girl Dress Found Here
50's inspired dress

I genuinely like both of these dresses. I could see myself wearing and enjoying both styles. Yet they are both wildly different from each other and neither is Neo-Aristocrat- the aesthetic I am trying to cultivate. How, then, do you stick to cultivating your own style and not be led into different aesthetics by different passions and interests?

With my top three mainstream aesthetics, there are certain rules to the fashion which can help even if they are not iron clad and often broken. With goth, black and certain motifs can easily identify a gothic dress from others (no matter what sub genre). Steampunk has the same color guidelines- sepias- but also the Victorian influence and the presence of technologically whimsical accessories. Lolita, the most fashion defined aesthetic, has the clearest guidelines- a specific, distinct silhouette, specific embellishments, specific brands.

Naturally, none of these laws are iron tight or never broken. I have seen white goth outfits, chinese steampunk and punk lolita (which I'll be honest- I don't get.) But even these outfits which deviate from the norm at least have the norm from which to deviate. When you are creating your own aesthetic, there are no guidelines but the ones you impose on yourself.

Now, I as I am glancing through my closet- I am not seeing much coherence anymore. Maybe I've lost sight of the Neo-Aristocratic aesthetic. Maybe it was too vague to begin with. Maybe the heat and humidity of the summer has just made me not care. Either way, I am tired of looking in my closet and not having a good idea of what I am wearing.

This is, unfortunately, not a complete overhaul of my closet. Grad school budgets don't allow for that, but it is time that I set down my own guide lines for Neo-Aristocracy. I will also be trying to focus a little more on the Neo-Aristocrat Aesthetic rather than just documenting my life.

What are your guidelines for what you wear?

July 12, 2013

Thoughts on Roadtrips

Cover to a Vintage Road trip Map

For the fourth of July, I went on the quintessential road trip with friends to visit my family on the other side of the country. Each trip took about three days of at least 13 hours of driving a day. Thank god a life in grad school prepared me for sitting for most of the day and thank all the gods that we got along well. Naturally, I began thinking about things that I would do differently or learned during my travels. Here are a handful of random thoughts and suggestions I have about road trips:

~ Give yourself more time. 13 hours may seem manageable, but remember that it takes about an hour to get a meal (and you will want to get out of the car to eat, trust me.) So you're looking at about 15 hours of travel all day. That doesn't leave much time to coo over scenic passes, stop at random museums, go explore caverns, or do the typical adventures one expects from a Road trip. If I were doing this again, I would drive a maximum of six or seven hours a day and do a bit of research of fun places to stop.

~ Don't have expectations. I thought that we would stop at funky, bizarre places and have lots of adventures and stories to tell. I thought I would have plenty of time to study while the other two were driving. I thought 13 hours wasn't such a long time. All of these were wrong. 13 hours is long- too long to have those sorts of adventures, too long to do much more than sleep in the back when I was finished. Studying was unfinished and we mostly saw interstates. I wish I had known better and not given myself these expectations going in so I didn't feel disappointed when the road trip finished.

~ Interstates, especially through the midwest, are deadly boring.  Try to take scenic routes even if they add more time (see first suggestion). You'll see more interesting signs too because most of the stops and billbords along the interstate are appealing to truckers (there are  A LOT of truckers) rather than roadtrippers.

~ Camping is cool and inexpensive. But bring tarps for your tents. Our best night was camping out on this random little river behind a cornfield in Missouri. We made a fire, collected frogs, chased after fireflies (this was the first time I had seen them) and went for midnight walks were disturbingly nice people in pick up trucks pulled over and asked if we were alright. (sorry, the east coast has rubbed off on me. Not used to friendly strangers). Sure there are no beds, showers or, often times, electricity, but the memories are better.

~ Choose non-chain restaurants. One of the best stories we have is pulling into a tiny town where their restaurant (the star street diner) doubled as their town hall. The entire town of about seven looked up as we stepped in and asked if the kitchen was open. Oh, the food wasn't good. But we played pool (first time for that too!) and were more or less kicked out at 8:30 when it closed.

~ Drive through the little towns. Not only is that where you will find the little shops and diners, but you can really see a side of America that I, having only ever lived on one of the coasts, haven't seen. The Great Recession doesn't touch my life. But driving through town after town where most of the main streets were empty store fronts and only strip clubs, liquor stores, groceries and hardware remained? It really brought home how hopeless people are feeling and how desperate they are for change. This was the most eye opening revelation for me.

~ Make sure your companions are a good fit for a road trip. They must first get along. Second, be able to drive long stretches. Third,  have similar taste in music (on that note, bring A LOT of music with you. In many different play lists. Also books on tape.) They should be aware of the rules of driving (shot gun needs to entertain the driver.) and be able to have conversations that don't devolve into arguments or disagreements.

~ Know yourself  (the constant theme of this blog). If you are an introvert, ten days of constant exposure to even your best and dearest friends will leave you socially worn out and depressed. Just be aware of this and have some contingency plans.

Have you been on road trips? What did you learn about them?

July 11, 2013

A Parable of Nutriton

A cornucopia of all sorts of food.
What thanksgiving feasts probably should consist of.

Once upon a time there was a young girl who wanted to be healthy. She knew that the first step towards a healthy life was a healthy diet so she went to her local food guru and asked what to do. The guru listened to her diet, which was typical of a college student, and told her "Eat more fruits and vegetables." So, she stocked up on apples and lettuce and bananas and all was good.

A little while later, she went back to the food guru and said "Alright, I am eating fruits and vegetables with every meal. Will I be healthy?" The food guru shook his head. "No, my child." he said. "For you are eating foods sprayed with deadly chemicals. You must eat organic foods to be safe." So the girl threw out the typical food and stocked up on organic fruits and vegetables. For added measure, she began only eating organic bread, cookies, icecream and snacks too.

Having eaten more plants than a rabbit, she returned to the food guru and said: "Alright, my house is totally organic. I buy organic dishwasher, organic salsa, organic cookies- everything is 100% organic. Will I be healthy?" The food guru shook his head. "No my child," he said, "Even though those food are organic, they are still processed and full of chemicals and other contaminants from factories.  Eat close to the food source. As raw and natural as possible." So she went back and threw out all her peanut butter, processed foods, frozen organic pizza's and bought natural.

After eating like this, she went back to the food guru and said "I'm eating organic, natural ingredients. I cook with only whole foods. I make my own pizza and cookies from only the most natural of products. Will I be healthy?" The food guru shook his head. "Not yet, my child." he said. "For you are eating foods that were grown in far off fields on factory farms- organic or not. The shipping pollutes the air and destroys the nutrient value of the food. No, you must eat local food grown in the surrounding area." So the girl looked up farmers markets, local farms and began buying as close to her home as possible. She was lucky she lived in an area that had such access to farms all around.

After restocking her house, she went back to the food guru and said "I am friends with my local farmers, I know the name of the turkey I will eat for thanks giving, I am a regular member of the farmers market. I'm learning to eat in the seasons. Will I be healthy now?" But the food guru shook his head. "Not yet, my child." He said. "Food today is far less nutritious than food was fifty years ago. The soil is depleted. Even local organic food doesn't offer the same nutritional value as it should for the stressful life you lead. You must take supplements." And so the girl went home, researched vitamins and supplements and developed a complicated but thorough plan to stay healthy.

After taking 11 different pills and supplements that morning, the girl marched back to the food guru and proclaimed. "I eat fruits and vegetables from local, organic farms. I make all my food myself. I have a complicated number of pills and tablets to take each week." She brandished the schedule she made for herself. "Most of my time is spent either buying, preparing or cooking food. Am I healthy yet?" The food guru leaned forward, looked over her schedule and menu plan, and then shook his head.

"What!" exclaimed the girl. "What else could their possibly be?"

"Your diet is too regular," said the food guru. "Food insensitivity springs from too much of the same food. You must vary your ingredient intake or risk developing an insensitivity."

"Ok," said the girl. "But if I do that, will I be healthy?" The food guru shook his head.

"Oh no. Because you are also eating too regularity.  You must have time to fast and let your body purge itself of accumulated toxins and build up. And after that you must start considering food that is good for your blood type, that is not too acidic, that has the right thermal temperatures. You must investigate whether it is a paleo diet or a vegan one that is best for you. You must keep up to date on the new algeas and seaweeds that will prevent cancer. You must be soaking your grain before eating it. You should be milling your flour, growing your own food, foraging for your own food in the wilderness-"

But as the list of eating requirements grew, disgust and despair filled the girl's heart. She had done so much and it was all for naught. Shaking her head, she left the food guru's sanctuary, went to a fast food chain and ordered one of everything on the menu.

Moral of the story:

There will ALWAYS be something more to do to improve your diet. You will never reach the most perfect, healthiest diet no matter how many books you read, seminars you attend, and nutritionists you visit. There is just too much we don't understand about the digestive system and too much conflicting and directly contradicting data in the world.

But just because perfection is unobtainable, does not mean we should give up like the girl and regress back to fast food. Each step we take along the path to perfect eating does help, does improve our lives and health, does help the planet a small bit even if we acknowledge it is not the panacea.

What do you eat to be healthy?