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Style Icon: Vulnavia

The illustrious Vincent Price has left us with many cult gems of horror and suspense. One of his characters, and probably one of my favorite villains of classic horror ever, is Dr. Anton Phibes, a brilliant, reclusive man who set out on an elaborate revenge scheme in The Abominable Dr. Phibes. Executing his plan with theatrical grandeur and styling the murders after the Ten Plagues of Egypt, Phibes went about unleashing his vengeance on those he held responsible for his wife’s death. In his quest to right that terrible wrong, the Doctor is assisted by a silent, stunning assistant named Vulnavia, played by Virginia North. While I could go on and on about the movie, I’ll leave that for a more detailed post over on Cinema Midnight, a film blog I’m doing with Marie AKA Agent Lover. (We soft launched last fall, but then had to put it on the back burner for a while. It’s a work in progress.) Instead, straight and to the point, here are some photos of Vulnavia’s glorious outfits.

From towering headdresses and gilded capes, to fur hats and leather driving gloves, she set the bar pretty high for sidekicks, henchmen and nefarious assistants everywhere. She drove Phibes around, helped him stalk and kill his victims, and after they were done, they’d unwind by waltzing to the music performed by his animatronic band.

How to make a grand entrance, 101 (

How to make a grand entrance, 101

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What Does Your Stuff Mean?

My friend Gooby Herms’ home office in NY

My friend Gooby Herms’ home office in NY

While I can’t exactly blame Socrates for my tendency to seek meaning in even the most minute details of life, he provided me with a philosophical excuse to do so when he said: “The unexamined life is not worth living for a human being.” Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about stuff and things – literally. I am fascinated by our relationship to the objects that surround us, whether it’s nurturing some kind of a collection, or choosing a reduced, even ascetic, way of living. In the process of this soul searching, I’m finding that a lot of collectors and minimalists actually have more in common than I realized.

We obviously live in a very product-driven age, what with advertising’s global reach and shopping made more accessible through the internet. So as populations rise and space and resources grow more scarce, there is an advantage to keeping things as simple possible. On top of that, moving with a lot of belongings is a chore, and we are certainly doing a lot of relocating these days. According to last year’s census report, 12% of Americans – age 1 and older – had moved at least once between 2011 and 2012. (This doesn’t deter everyone, of course. One of my relatives just moved to Bahrain for work. She brought with her just a couple of suitcases…and about 300 lbs of books.)

In response to the threats of growing consumerism, advocacy for minimized living is a popular topic among bloggers, life coaches and journalists. A few months ago, entrepreneur Graham Hill wrote an opinion piece for The New York Times about his journey from excess to simplicity. A hotly debated article, it resonated with some and was panned by others, with Richard Kim of The Nation going so far as to call it “a majestic display of guileless narcissism.” The trouble with some of the advice urging us to simplify and reduce is that the process of having less can become just as needlessly competitive and aspirational as the pursuit and accumulation of more. Whether filling life with stuff or striving for minimalism, it’s important to first acknowledge our intellectual and emotional connection to objects. Getting rid of some belongings without a little bit of soul searching won’t always lead to somehow feeling lighter. Just think about the invisible accumulation that is a very new symptom of the times we live in: digital clutter rules our lives a lot more, but because it isn’t as prominent or tangible, it’s a way of expression that doesn’t get examined as frequently. Read the rest of this entry »


A cocktail glass with straw and a red mixed drink sitting on a marble counter next to a red album for 45" records, with words "My Record House" printed on the cover in gold letters

Sometimes I think about the ease with which we can document the minutiae of our daily routines. It seems like it’s changing the way we store memories, and I’m conflicted about whether or not that’s a good thing. Like many others, I use social media, and I take photos with my phone. Because it is still the easiest app to use for editing and sharing photos on the fly, Instagram has become a bit of a habit.

Against the grey twilight sky, a black silhouette of a fountain statue of a woman holding up a torch and palm trees surrounding the statue.

A small chocolate pot-de-creme glass sitting on pebbles. It is covered in parchment paper and wrapped with twine. In the background is a red rose bush.

I am aware that through the simple act of pausing and taking a photo, we’re altering the experience and casting an editorial glance that changes our perception. I understand the disruptive nature of documenting, and it’s something I try to think about a bit more. I do my best not to be egregious with photo taking, and having been reprimanded on some occasions, reach for my phone as little as possible while out with friends. I’m also starting to come to terms with the fact that our way of experiencing and interpreting life is going through a major shift. I’m curious about our relationship to these photos when we look at them at a later point. Am I, in fact, preserving a memory when I take a photo? Or am I crafting a somewhat altered, carefully edited and selected version of a moment, so that in retrospect, it seems more ambiguous and interesting, almost cinematic? Maybe a little bit of both.

A night time shot of a downtown with many high rise buildings with lights on. The window through which the photo is taken is framed in multi-colored Christmas lights.

Three musketeer figurines with swords and capes, one riding a toy horse, sitting on a wood grain table next two three champagne cocktail glasses.

While taking snapshots of the everyday may be an exercise in self satisfaction, there is also a benefit to it. Looking through my set of pictures, what I see is a life that often has lovely, interesting moments. The fact is, these snapshots are still a documentation of at least some degree of reality. I am reminded that my life often has moments of joy, creativity, learning, and comfort. Given the human tendency towards dwelling on the negative, I am OK reflecting on only the positive moments I choose to capture. Bad experiences and frustrating memories will find their way to us regardless, so why not balance it out with something pleasant.

A small black kitten with white paws and cream stripe on her nose asleep on a green couch. She is wearing a pink flower on her collar and a 90s celebrity teen magazine is in the background.

A white sign with bold black letters saying "Wedding this way" and a gold arrow, tied to a white metal post at the entrance to a wooded grove. The ground is covered with yellow leaves.

How do you feel about documenting daily moments in pictures? Do you think it’s a reliable way to record memories? What do you feel when you look back through your photos?