Tuesday, December 21, 2010

transformation between labels

Just a fun little video I came across on YouTube by steampunk band Abney Park.  They explain what makes their band steampunk, and their transformation from being labeled "goth" to being labeled "steampunk."  It's quite interesting, and makes one wonder how they were ever really labeled as a "goth" band in the first place.  Perhaps someone more knowledgeable of the band's songs and stage presence from '93-'04 could better enlighten me?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

"who is this king of glory?"

Random thought:  Why the hell are there silhouettes of a Victorian man and Victorian woman on the restroom doors of the Pittsburgh Hofbrauhaus?  One would think that a German beer hall-themed restaurant would rather want to have Bavarian-dressed men and women denoting the correct gender that may enter each restroom.

On a completely unrelated note to this blog, my twin sister, who is visiting from South Carolina, showed me this clip of Stephen Colbert expressing himself through the art of dance:

After watching this, Leigh and I surmised how Colbert will be received by God when he arrives at the gates of Heaven.

God: (referring to The Colbert Report) Well, Stephen, that certainly was one interesting way to use the gifts I gave you.

Colbert: (pointing) Can You name that cloud after me?

God: No.

Monday, December 13, 2010

neo-victorian ringtones

Six months ago my Motorola phone's durability was tested by a careless friend who tried to open the keypad beneath the touchscreen  the wrong way, disconnecting a corner of the screen in the process.  Although the phone itself continued to work, I knew that the touchpad would eventually come off of the keyboard. 

Yesterday evening, as I was busily texting away to my twin sister about her future plans to visit me while walking back from a church in Shadyside, I dropped my cell phone. The fall that it received yesterday proved to be fatal.  The screen was completely severed from the keypad.

I immediately began to panic.  Not because my conversation had been interrupted, or I wouldn't be able to text my friends for a few days, but because my boss is currently in India, and has been calling or texting me every single day for nearly two weeks to give me instructions on running his businesses until he comes back.  He has no other way of contacting me except email, and I am pretty sure he is not checking it-- not only does he have yet to answer one email that I've sent him since I started working for him, but many of his calls have been to ask me to read and write his emails for him.

Despite a rather windy snowstorm that set in last night and has continued all day, I managed to make it to the cell phone store early this morning.  Within half an hour I had my new phone, an LG COSMO Touch.  I don't require much for a phone- just calling and texting capabilities.  After receiving my orders from my boss and completing my tasks, I sat down to fully program the phone.

I am amazed by the variety of music that is now available for purchase- bands like Within Temptation and Rasputina, Broadway songs, and the like.  Even relatively new band We Are the Fallen had all of their tracks available for purchase for the ringtones.  None of these bands' songs were available as ringtones as recently as two years ago And, image my surprise when I typed in "Emilie Autumn" into the ringtone search and came back with two results- "Shalott" and "Liar."  To be honest, I don't want an EA ringtone.  When I had Davy Jones' music box as my ringtone I found that I started to jump and check my phone every time I heard something that sounded remotely like a music box:

Although "Liar" has to be one of my least favorite EA songs, so I am sure that such a ringtone would not be detrimental to my listening habits:

I tried to find several steampunk bands with no results, however. I was really hoping for an Abney Park song, perhaps "Building Steam " or "Throw Them Overboard:"

So the long saga of my cell phone purchasing may not have been necessary.  I think I just wanted an excuse to post more neo-Victorian songs on this blog.  Cheers!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

quotable holmes

I've been living on my own for nearly two months now.  By "on my own," I mean, of course, that I am living by fully supporting myself financially.  In college my parents footed my rent and education costs, while I paid for my grocery and car fuel bills.  Even when I worked at Bushy Run, although I paid my parents a monthly rent for the privilege of living under their roof, they still took care of my food needs and repairs to the car that I drove.

Now I am entirely out of their hands, and it has been the most wonderful, liberating experience.  I meet all of my expenses on time, I have no trouble at work concerning my abilities to perform my job or come in on time, I've been attending church more regularly than I ever have since high school, and I am in a healthy relationship.  I have two roommates who are both laid back and yet responsible for their bills and doing their part at our apartment, and I am content.  The only things I need to improve upon are my exercise regimen (currently nonexistent) and setting aside time to work on my novel.

December in Pittsburgh has been bitter.  It's snowed more often than not, we lost water in our apartment for about 12 hours when a water pipe burst elsewhere, and we're doing all we can to just stay warm both at work and at home.  My boyfriend, Scott, and I have been staying in during these dreadful evenings.  He paints miniatures for wargamers (a business he has had for several years now), and I read to him.  The reading of choice has been the Sherlock Holmes canon.

It's been nearly ten years since I last read Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's stories about the famous consulting detective.  I never realized how genuinely funny Doyle sometimes makes Holmes.  And, as I read, I find more quotes taken directly from the stories that were used in Guy Ritchie's adaptation of the characters of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson.

One of my favorite quotes includes speech that I had always considered to be a modern invention rather than used in Victorian times, such as this one from "The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor:"
"What's up, then?" asked Holmes with a twinkle in his eye. "You look dissatisfied."
A short selection of what I consider to be the best Sherlock Holmes quotes:
"I have nothing to do today. My practice is never very absorbing."
Watson, in "The Red Headed League"

"What are you going to do, then?" I asked.

"To smoke," [Holmes] answered. "It is quite a three pipe problem, and I beg that you won't speak to me for fifty minutes."
From "The Red Headed League"

"If I tell her she will not believe me. You may remember the old Persian saying, 'There is danger for him who taketh the tiger cub, and danger also for whoso snatches a delusion from a woman.'"
Sherlock Holmes, in "A Case of Identity"

"God help us!" said Holmes after a long silence. "Why does fate play such tricks with poor, helpless worms? I never hear of such a case as this that I do not think of Baxter's words, and say, 'There, but for the grace of God, goes Sherlock Holmes.'"
From "The Boscombe Valley Mystery"

"Well," said our engineer ruefully as we took our seats to return once more to London, "it has been a pretty business for me! I have lost my thumb and I have lost a fifty-guinea fee, and what have I gained?"

"Experience," said Holmes, laughing. "Indirectly it may be of value, you know; you have only to put it into words to gain the reputation of being excellent company for the remainder of your existence."
From "The Adventure of the Engineer's Thumb"

"They have been identified as her clothes, and it seemed to me that if the clothes were there the body would not be far off."

"By the same brilliant reasoning, every man's body is to be found in the neighborhood of his wardrobe."
Lestrade and Holmes, in "The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor"

"But when I gave him every particular that had occurred, he tried to bluster and took down a life-preserver from the wall. I knew my man, however, and I clapped a pistol to his head before he could strike. Then he became a little more reasonable."
Sherlock Holmes, in "The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet"

"Man, or at least criminal man, has lost all enterprise and originality. As to my own little practice, it seems to be degenerating into an agency for recovering lost lead pencils and giving advice to young ladies from boarding-schools."
Sherlock Holmes, in "The Adventure of the Copper Beeches"

"At least you have his assurance that your horse will run," said I.

"Yes, I have his assurance," said the Colonel, with a shrug of his shoulders. "I should prefer to have the horse."
Watson and Colonel Ross, in "Silver Blaze"

"Watson," said he, "if it should ever strike you that I am getting a little over-confident in my powers, or giving less pains to a case than it deserves, kindly whisper 'Norbury' in my ear, and I shall be infinitely obliged to you."
Sherlock Holmes, in "The Yellow Face"

Monday, December 6, 2010

galveston turns retro victorian

Once again, I must conclude that I live under a rock.  Has anyone, ANYONE, ever heard of Dickens on the Strand?  According to the Galveston Historical Foundation's website, Dickens on the Strand is an annual tradition that brings the charm of Victorian London at Christmastime to the city of Galveston, Texas.  It's the major fundraiser for the Historical Foundation and, apparently, one of the most popular events in the nation.

Either their website exaggerates or I am way out of touch with most things that go on in the world, because I have never heard of this festival, now in its 37th year.  Then again, not having a TV or reading the newspaper regularly doesn't help my knowledge of current events.  My eighth grade GOAL teacher would not be proud- her weekly current events tests obviously made no impression on me.

Dickens on the Strand sounds pretty awesome.  Who wouldn't want to attend this family-oriented event, that displays Victorian London in all of its idealized glory for young and old?  Who wouldn't want to meet Queen Victoria or wave to Tiny Tim, dress up like a Victorian and sing 19th century Christmas carols with scores of others and RIDE ELEPHANTS!

This year, however, the event took an interesting twist on the Victorian world: it went steampunk.  According to the Galveston County paper, The Daily News, the steampunk theme:
...helped draw one of the biggest crowds in the event’s 37 year history, the event’s organizer said.

“We won’t know for another week, but it’s clearly one of our better years, up (to more than) 30,000 people attended,” Dwayne Jones, the executive director of the Galveston Historical Foundation said.
Check out this mechanical Mad Hatter from the event:

Sunday, December 5, 2010

2010: the year of the consulting detective

A few months ago I heard that BBC was producing a miniseries called Sherlock.  Its premise?  Take Sherlock Holmes, Dr. John Watson, and other characters associated with the famous consulting detective from their late 19th century setting of swirling London fogs and transport them to 2010 London, laden with cell phones and forensic science.

I had heard about it, but after the spectacular success of Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes, I wasn't too eager to give the series a try.  I had already had my Holmes "fix," so to speak, and besides, I've seen enough TV characters who resemble a modern-day Holmes:  Dr. Gregory House from House, M.D. and Law & Order: Criminal Intent's Detective Robert Goren, to name a few.  I would even go so far as to compare Bones's Dr. Temperance Brennan's logical methods as a forensic anthropologist to the Victorian consulting detective's own focus on logic for solving cases.

But what could yet another modern take on Holmes bring to the table that hasn't already been presented?  So I chose to let the series alone.

A few weeks ago, however, one of the regulars at the coffee shop where I work on Saturday mornings raved about the miniseries.  He went on about its merits and introduced enough details that I became fully intrigued.  So when I finally installed internet in my apartment around Thanksgiving, I looked up the miniseries.  One week later I watched the first 90-minute episode.

I have since finished the entire three-episode miniseries, and I must say that I am blown away. BBC managed to remain truly faithful to the characters of Sherlock Holmes and Watson while putting their own modern spin on things.  Not that they actually had to try very hard to do so.

image source: BBC One
The series' first episode, "A Study in Pink," starts out nearly identical to the first Sherlock Holmes mystery, "A Study in Scarlet."  Dr. John H. Watson, recently wounded while serving in Afghanistan, needs a roommate.  A mutual acquaintance introduces him to Sherlock Holmes, a consulting detective (who, at the time of the meeting, has just finished beating a corpse to see how it would bruise postmortem).  Sherlock is also looking for a roommate.  A perfectly modern situation.

Then Sherlock is invited by New Scotland Yard to investigate an apparent suicide where the victim has written "Rache" into the wood of the spot where she died.  And then the real fun begins.

The differences between 19th century Holmes and his modern-day counterpart are often subtle.  Holmes and Watson go by their first names in the present day instead of their surnames.  Instead of smoking a pipe while he ponders a mystery, Sherlock sticks nicotine patches on himself.  He makes extensive use of cell phone technology to text others, locate murderers via GPS, or look up small details that the Victorian Holmes would have looked up in the encyclopedia.  The modern Sherlock even shoots a smiley face into a wall during a fit of boredom, while the 19th century one chose to decorate with a "V."

There are a few blaring differences.  The modern Sherlock Holmes can be extremely lazy when he is occupied on a case.  He often makes John text people for him, or hand him a cell phone that is three feet away or even in Sherlock's own coat pocket.  The modern Inspector Lestrade of Scotland Yard appears to have the greatest respect for Sherlock, while the Lestrade of the 1890s often lost his temper and tried to flaunt his "abilities" as a detective in front of Holmes.  Also, Mycroft Holmes, Sherlock's brother, is not the anti-social member of the Diogenes Club of the Victorian era, but a very influential British civil servant who often uses the resources at his disposal to keep tabs on his younger brother.

The miniseries was done extremely well.  Modern twists include constant comments made by many characters alluding to their own opinions that John and Sherlock are homosexuals who are dating each other.  Since John is in a heterosexual relationship by the third episode and Sherlock remains as asexual as the Holmes of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's stories, fans of the consulting detective may not be as offended as they were by the "bromance" displayed in Guy Ritchie's portrayal of Holmes and Watson. Modern John Watson is also a blogger who writes about his adventures with Sherlock online.

While I was not exactly a fan of how the first mystery was resolved, the second and third episodes were thrilling displays of Holmes' own abilities to solve problems.  The third episode ended on an amazing cliffhanger.  Apparently this cliffhanger will be resolved by BBC, because they plan to produce three more episodes.  While that might please many fans of the series, I hope that they don't extend the show to too many more episodes.  The first three episodes were excellent, but too many more may ruin the Doyle-esque purity that the writers and actor Benedict Cumberbatch have created in the character of the modern Sherlock.  Besides, I don't know if television would be greatly improved by yet another crime show, or the permanent presence of another TV Sherlock Holmes. 

If truth be told, however, I would not mind for the series to have ended on the note it did during that third episode.  It would truly be what Sir Arthur Conan Doyle would have wanted when he wrote "The Final Problem."

Monday, November 22, 2010

reconfiguring old classics in steam

According to kikazemusic.com, this holiday season PadWorx Digital Media Inc. will be introducing a new take on Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol.  The format?  An interactive, abridged version of the classic Christmas tale, inspired by steampunk, as an iPad App.  Check out the teaser trailer below:

Friday, November 19, 2010

just your friendly neighborhood airship consulting agent

Noting this blog's interest in airships, Joe Bloggs pointed me to Airship & Blimp Consultant, a service dedicated to free consultations on anything dealing with modern airships.

Although the Consultant's blog and website appear to be under construction for the most part, the site itself has recent airship-related news such as the World Skyship Race, interesting links such as the mysterious "airship" phenomenon of 1896 (a 19th century UFO siting, anyone?), and plenty of photos of this particular mode of transportation:
image source: Airship & Blimp Consultant

Sunday, November 7, 2010

childhood toy gone lethal

Got an old Mr. Potato Head collecting dust in the attic?  Give him an upgrade, steampunk style, as saritamarianyc did over at Instructables:

image source: Instructables
Why am I reminded of Dr. Robotnik/Eggman from the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise?  An appropriate comparison, I would say.  Robotnik (I will never accept the new name, Eggman) could easily be a steampunk character, especially due to his love of robots and machines.  Paul Shortino does a nice song with an excellent mechanical/industrial feel  for Sonic Adventures 2 called E.G.G.M.A.N:

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

dystopian wars soon to be released

Thanks to Scott for directing my attention to The Miniatures Page for the following announcement:
Wayland Games are pleased to announce that we are already taking pre-orders on Dystopian Wars - the amazing new Steampunk-era wargame by Spartan Games...

Set in 1870, the game focuses on some very familiar, but very different takes on the great powers of the nineteenth century - from the Kingdom of Britannia, to the Federated States of America. And the struggle for world dominance is underway, as the great nations use all of the technological wonders at their disposal - from land battleships to steam tanks, to zeppelin aircraft carriers and giant spider walkers - in order to get their way! With stunningly good-looking models, and a set of rules that lives up to the pedigree of its forbears, Dystopian Wars looks like being one heck of a Victorian era to fight through!
Looks like a promising VSF game.  Battles by sea and sky with naval or airship fleets, air pirates, and ground warfare pack this game full of action, at least by the descriptions.

image source: Spartan Games
Pre-orders of this new VSF wargame can be done at Spartan Games and Wayland Games.

Monday, October 25, 2010

your life would suck if you were victorian

Note: I don't pretend to know anything about the politics of Britain. I just thought the column discussed below was quite entertaining from a purely neo-Victorian cultural aspect.

Your life would suck if you were Victorian.

At least, according to Tom Shields' column in yesterday's Herald Scotland.  He compares suggested Coalition public spending cuts to "Victorian values".  Not that I know anything of politics in Britain.  But it's certainly funny to think that the Victorians "valued" any of the examples of the terrible quality of life that many Victorians had, compared to the relatively great quality of life most people in England have today.
Did you know that if we could get the child mortality rate back to what it was 150 years ago, it would cut £10bn a year off the family allowance bill?

Did you know old people got on perfectly well before the state pension was introduced in 1911? Mostly thanks to dying from malnutrition and disease before they got too old.

These days the working class live too long. With fewer jobs to be filled, they have become a luxury Britain can no longer afford.
He goes on to create a gloomy image of a neo-Victorian lifestyle based on the "Victorian values" supposedly "favored" by the Coalition government:
Rat-infested slums. Gruel in the workhouse. Bread and a thin scraping of margarine, if you’re lucky.

No state benefits to keep the wolf from the door.

No health service to keep the grim reaper from the door.

A return to rickets, scabies and snottery noses. You don’t see so many snottery weans these days.

Probably because there are too many hankies and not enough colds and flu on the go. And too many young folk with shoes that don’t leak.

Also, children are too well-nourished to be put up chimneys. If we had enough chimneys. There’s no smoke without chimneys.

This is why people don’t die of bronchial diseases the way they used to.

When was the last time we had a good old Victorian fog to raise the death rate?
This column is a perfect example of why one should know history.  When many people think of the Victorian era they are more likely to recall 4 o'clock tea stereotypes or a romantic image of swirling fog beneath gaslights.  Yeah, that fog was actually pollution, as Shields points out.

What Shields conveniently ignores are the wonderful aspects of the period, such as the conservative dress, the literature, the increasing literacy and educational opportunities for the population, and the reforms made to change the terrible "Victorian values" that Shields lists above.  But how would that prove his "point" against the Coalition government's public budget cuts?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

gepetto's steam monster

What a crazy busy week.  It's fun moving into a new apartment and experiencing my new job, but I've done too much and have gotten myself pretty sick in the process.  Therefore, I am going to nap this beautiful Indian summer afternoon away.  I'll post more when I actually get an internet connection at my apartment, instead of using my work computer.  Not that my boss cares, but I have been coming into work on my off-days this week just to check email, and it's getting a bit annoying.

Before I go, here's a steam-tech take on a beloved children's tale:
image source: imgur

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

ea reschedules tour dates

Emilie Autumn has finally rescheduled the Fall 2010 North American tour dates she canceled a few months ago.  While I am pleased that she had rescheduled the dates, today I am sad because if they hadn't been canceled, I could have been living it up in the Asylum VIP style this evening. Such is life.

Well EA, my little sister, boyfriend and I eagerly await your arrival in February 2011.  Come Hell or high snow falls (as was the case in Pittsburgh last February), PLEASE COME!  WE WILL DEFINITELY BE THERE!

Monday, October 18, 2010

knights really just blow off steam

I have finally moved everything into my new apartment, and mopped and vacuumed and scrubbed every single surface until my fingers bled.  The transition into my new job has been awkward, to say the least.  I spent the first three hours of the job just sitting around, waiting for direction from my boss.

So I decided to check Facebook for some photos that my twin sister Leigh promised I would enjoy from her recent trip to the Carolina Renaissance Festival in Charlotte, NC.  She had posted them on Saturday, but I don't have internet access at my apartment yet, and the state computers at Bushy Run have blocked Facebook as of late.  Fortunately my new job doesn't worry about silly things like distractions from productivity via the web.

The Carolina Renaissance Festival looks a lot better than the Greater Pittsburgh Renaissance Festival.  That's actually saying a lot, because the Greater Pittsburgh Renaissance Faire is an excellent attraction.  But besides having better seating for the jousting, and belly dancing and what look to be (from Leigh's photos) better medieval buildings, it had something this weekend that has become very dear to my heart indeed.  

Leigh, I love you for posting the photos, but I hate you for experiencing sci-fi and fantasy weekend at this Renaissance Faire without me, especially due to the presence of...


Such as these three lovely fashionistas with the simpler steampunk gear than the three steampunkers pictured above.  The young woman in the middle told Leigh that she had thrown her get-up together at the last minute.  I would have never known- it looks great to me!

The woman on the right, however, got elaborate with her outfit.  Take a look at her ray gun.  It's powered by...

A hamster.  Yes.  That image made my day.

Steampunk merchandise was also offered for sale.  The following photos are of steampunk items made by Silver Leaf Costume:

Leigh was probably tempted to buy these corsets.  I know I certainly am:

Someone please explain to me why I haven't seen any steampunk people in person here in the industrial North, and yet my sister gets to experience several neo-Victorian and steampunk-related things in the more rural South.

Leigh, why do you get to have all of the fun?!

Friday, October 15, 2010

"i vant to suck your blood"

Another short post, because I am moving my entire life into a small three bedroom apartment with several friends today.  My new job begins on Monday, and I finish the one at Bushy Run the day before, so things have been a little hectic, to say the least.

I came across this beautiful song purely by accident on YouTube the other day from the musical Dracula.  I never even knew there was a musical rendition of this 19th century vampire story.  Dracula is not my favorite Victorian horror novel by far.  That honor goes to The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  I have an aversion to vampires that grew long before the Twilight series came out, and reading Bram Stoker's Dracula did nothing to help that aversion.  I think it's due to the same reason that I don't like zombies--I don't like the dead not staying dead.

But I digress.  Enjoy this song from the Dracula soundtrack.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

southern flair on a northen stone

My twin sister, now a grad student at the University of South Carolina, recently took a trip to Charleston.  She came across these in the Market:

So many cameos, and all made out of Baltic amber.  I wonder if anyone else makes these.

Thursday, October 7, 2010


Tonight my father, a huge Clint Eastwood fan, and myself watched the Eastwood-directed film Invictus (2009).  The inspirational poem that titles the movie, recited by Morgan Freeman as South African president Nelson Mandela, was written by Victorian poet William Ernest Henley.

While I am no fan of sport-inspirational stories, this poem caught my attention as few motivational pieces have in years.  I found this poem both beautiful and relevant to the struggles of daily life, especially a life like mine, which is so fraught with the continuous downs of depression:

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

I rarely feel like I have an "unconquerable soul," but sometimes I reason that I must, if I have not yet succumbed to the suicidal thoughts that have plagued me during the worst of my mental illness over the past four years.

As for now, I have hope because I control my fate.  Many new beginnings await me over the next few weeks.  I will be moving to an apartment of my own and attempt to prove to myself that I can survive based on the decisions I make for myself, not on decisions others try to make for me.

Monday, October 4, 2010

steampunk superheroes

Check out these 19th century takes on Wolverine and... others. 

image source: The Geek Twins blog

Update 10/5/10:  According to my sister Leigh and my friend Scott, who know way more about the X-Men than I could ever hope to (having never seen the movies, read the comics, or been obsessed with Hugh Jackman as my sister is), they have made the following guesses as to the others' identities:

  • The guy in the wheelchair is Professor Xavier (followed by my sister's claims that I am pathetic for not knowing that).
  • The guy in the trench coat is Gambit.
  • The lady in the green corset is probably Rogue or Jean Gray.

Gah. Wolverine and Storm are the only ones I am familiar with, name-wise, and Wolverine's the only one I can readily identify in a line-up.

The image is copyrighted, so click on this link.

Monday, September 27, 2010

taxidermy to a whole new level

Thanks to Scott for telling me about these creepy creations... several months ago.  Forgive me for not posting these until now:

Check out these images and other creations of the artist, Lisa Black, at Sci-Fi Fantasy Anime Blog or Lisa Black's website.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

this definitely wasn't around when I first started blogging...

I must have been in my own little world for the past several months.  I happened to get onto a discussion about steampunk with someone at Jitters' Cafe the other night.  He told me he ran across three steampunkers in Lawrenceville one day.  They were telling him all about it.

Erm, what?!

So I did a quick Google search using key words that I last used during the months I wrote this blog for a grade: "steampunk" "pittsburgh."

And I came across the first attempt at organizing steampunk events in the 'burgh that I had yet seen: The Greater Pittsburgh Steam Society.  It appears to be a fledgling group, but they certainly keep people up-to-date on local events related to the interests of the group.  I must find out more, if anyone will talk to me.

There also appears to be a Facebook group looking to get a steampunk convention in the 'burgh.  Their efforts should be lauded- Pittsburgh is the heart of American industrialization, after all.  The city's heyday was when the likes of Andrew Carnegie and Henry Clay Frick were running things in the 19th century, not today with its current reputation as a city that likes to start riots (Super Bowl LXIII and the G-20 summit).  Not that we can't rise above that reputation...

Monday, September 20, 2010

steam-powered politicians

image source: Mile High Comics
As I sit here at Jitters' Cafe in Shadyside after an arduous day of apartment-hunting, my fellow coffee drinkers are watching the new season of Dancing with the Stars.  I don't care much for the show, or TV in general, but seeing Bristol Palin descend the stairs at the introduction of the show's dancers for the next several weeks reminds me of alter-egos. Like mother, like daughter, I suppose.


Because of Sarah Palin's secret life as a steampunk heroine, as told in Mile High Comic's new comic book:  Steampunk Palin:
Energy catastrophe has struck worldwide! Massive oil spills, nuclear meltdowns and more leave us desperate for viable energy sources to rebuild global society and technology. Inspired by a little tea party, Sarah Palin hits upon the answer: steam power! She begins the 'Steam Initiative', touting geothermal energy as the cure for what ails ya. The heads of Big Oil and Nuclear Power are less than happy with this trend, and they send their agents to do in the Rogue Republican. Luckily, she comes prepared with a set of steam-powered armor! (Standard equipment, don'cha know.)
Who knew?

Friday, September 17, 2010

a new suspect?

It looks like readers of this blog, if there are any left for this blog since I started it over a year ago for a blogging class, will experience a dry spell for an undetermined length of time.  Most of my free time is going into looking for a new place of habitation and a new (i.e. old, used, and cheap) vehicle.  Since my current job is only seasonal, I have been pursuing more permanent opportunities.

I'd like to discuss Paul Roland's book The Crimes of Jack the Ripper, which I finished rapidly soon after beginning it.  As I mentioned in my last post about the book, it's a "Jack the Ripper for Dummies" sort of format, which was good as it's been years since I last bothered to do any readings on those late 19th century Whitehall murders.

image source: Top News
Roland offers up a new suspect to consider: a "mad" Jewish butcher by the name of Jacob Levy, who lived within the vicinity of the murders.  Apparently the "mad" part comes from the syphilis that he contracted from the local Ladybirds.  The mental instability brought on by his STD, as well as his adept skills at butchering animals and his proximity to each of the murder locations, all make Levy a likely suspect who could have walked through Whitehall in the early hours of the morning stained in blood without anyone giving it a second thought.  Roland also says that Levy died in an insane asylum 1891, the year the official Jack the Ripper file was closed by Scotland Yard.  A coincidence, or proof that the Yardies knew that no longer had to contend with the infamous serial killer?

Roland made a good case against Levy.  Of course, all of his claims are purely theoretical.  There is no solid evidence against Levy, nothing to strengthen the muscles of the finger accusingly pointed at the Jewish butcher. The author knows his case isn't strong in that sense and admits it, ending the book by saying that it is unlikely anyone will ever learn the identity of the real Jack the Ripper.

Roland also notes in the last paragraph:
"Jack the Ripper continues to hold a grim fascination because he remains in the shadows and as such can be whoever we want him to be.  He is the only one who got away, the bogeyman of our nightmares..."
Jack the Bogeyman.  It makes perfect sense now why I am obsessed with this Victorian serial killer.  I am enthralled by nightmarish images and horror stories.  Not the gory kind, per say, but the suspenseful thrillers, the ones that make you stop and think, and wonder why and how.  Mysteries are always more entertaining for me than bloodbaths, which is why I'll always chose Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho over the Saw series.  Jack the Ripper will always be more memorable in my wild imagination than the likes of butcher Vlad the Impaler.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

four weddings and an experiment

I've been to three weddings and four wedding receptions this summer (the fourth wedding was in Ocean City, MD, during a weekend I was not allowed to get off from work, and the wedding reception one week later.)

In honor of the four happy couples, I offer congratulations and cake.  Or, at least I wish I could offer such a cake:
image source: LiveJournal

Saturday, September 11, 2010

never forget

On this, the ninth anniversary of the heartless terrorist attacks on the citizens of the United States of America, I'd like anyone reading this to pause and reflect on that terrible day, and all it has become in the years since it happened.

I was in eighth grade at the time.  My old junior high is located a little over half an hour away from the Shanksville crash site of Flight 93.  We didn't go outside for gym that day, and no one could figure out why we wouldn't.  Although we all had school-issued laptops, and news of the attacks trickled in so that by the time our principal explained what had happened over the loudspeaker, we all had a pretty good idea.

After that panic-stricken parents flowed in and students were removed.  Classes became counseling sessions for shell-shocked students and teachers alike, or discussions on our future and what it meant to be American.  We knew that this event was our generation's Pearl Harbor.  That day is forever cemented in my memory, and will remain a black stain on it for the rest of my life.  And yet, through the uncertainty, the fear, and the grieving, we felt a level of camaraderie, unity and hope.

Don't forget the thousands of innocent people who died on that day.  I never will.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

the mechanical field of honor

Instead of writing about what I thought of Paul Roland's book about Victorian serial killer Jack the Ripper, I am going to be lame and not do it.  Mainly because I just made six dozen cookies for a party and am about to hit the sack, and what I wanted to say would be more coherent with some sleep.

The only alternative is to show this awesome video by Blur Studio about how real men settled disputes in the 19th century:

Somehow I knew it would end that way.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

a bit o' this and that

I meant to write a post last night about a post I had written way back in October.  As soon as I got home from work, however, my mother greeted me with a request- could I  accompany her to a mall about 45 minutes away to purchase a Yankee Candle Haunted Mansion tea light candle holder?

A change of clothes, one white pizza, discussions on Jack the Ripper and people throwing acid in other people's faces, and an 11-mile drive on the PA Turnpike later, and we were at the counter of Yankee Candle, purchasing the massive mansion.  Then it struck me-- it's frickin' September.  SEPTEMBER! The stores are ready for fall with their "harvest" and Halloween themed items.  The clothing stores have changed their stocks for warmer clothes.  And I was in the mood to buy due to the drastic temperature drop in western PA this weekend. 

So I went to my favorite store, Forever 21.  I've decided that that store is currently my favorite for two reasons:

  1. There is such a wide variety of clothes and styles in their stock that, even though I may not like most of their collection, I am more likely than not to find something I like every single time I walk in there, no matter what my mood or current tastes in fashion may be.
  2. Neo-Victorian jewelry!

While my mother bought a USC t-shirt in honor of my twin sister's new grad school, I ended up purchasing a cameo ring and a felt cloche hat to go with my new haircut.

We got back pretty late after that.  I read myself to sleep with a book called The Crimes of Jack the Ripper, by journalist Paul Roland.  I bought the book when it went on sale at Barnes & Noble.  It's been a few years since I've done any real reading or research on the Whitechapel murders for which this notorious serial killer is said to be responsible.  Therefore, I am probably not informed enough as a critic to make a judgment on the biases and the veracity of what the author says. 

In my opinion, however, this book is a good start for people with a cursory interest in Jack the Ripper- one review on Amazon.com calls it a "Jack the Ripper for Dummies" guide, and I would have to agree.  Roland explores the potential Ripper murders, describes the Whitechapel district in which they take place, as well as Victorian attitudes on sex, but all in layman's terms.  His conclusions on some evidence and suspects in the murders, however, as well as various conspiracy theories concerning the murders, are more fit for a better Ripperologist than I to decide.  To his credit, Roland doesn't get bogged down in the details of other researchers' conclusions, but gets straight to the point they made.

Overall, so far it's been a great reintroduction to my early teenage obsession with the Whitechapel murderer without getting too deep into detail, a relief after the heavy French and Indian War books I have been reading as of late.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

ea concert postponed

What a sad discovery I made this morning while checking The Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls website:
My Dearest Plague Rats,

It is with a sad and heavy heart that I announce to you that I must postpone the Fall N. American tour dates until January, 2011.

Instead of singing my little heart out with all of you and throwing cups of tea where they don't belong, I will be recovering from some very unpleasant surgery on my jaw. (Yep, the very same jaw I employ in the tasks of holding a violin and singing with...why couldn't it be a foot or something I don't really need?) Without going into gory detail, this is a surgery that I have been needing to have for several years, and only now that my jaw has threatened complete dislocation am I actually forced to attend to it. The truth is that, not only am I unable to entirely open my mouth at the moment (a blessing to many), I have been advised by my doctor (you know how much I love those) that, if I do not have this surgey immediately, serious and irreversible damage will undoubtedly occur. Thus, I will go under the knife within mere days, and will be in recovery for several weeks after, but, during that time, will be rescheduling all N. American dates for January, AND adding even more cities to the tour!

For Plague Rats who would prefer refunds for their tickets instead of waiting for the rescheduled dates, please contact the site/venue you bought your tickets from and let them know. For those of you who are willing to wait just a few months more, I can promise you a night worth waiting for, including new songs we have never, ever before performed live (eeek!!).

Please keep an eye on this page for more details regarding what to do with your tickets, as well as the newly scheduled tour dates. This will be a busy week of updates in the Asylum, so please keep checking back. VIP tickets will be honored of course, as will all tickets already purchased.

Now, for some must needed good news! Some of you may have already noticed that dates for "The Asylum Tour: The Door, S. America 2010" have been released. These shows will not be affected as I should be fine and dandy by November (and thank goodness for this as my Crumpets and I have been absolutely dying to get to your homeland for years now, and this S. American tour is a dream come true for us).

Plague Rats, fellow soldiers in the Asylum Army, and beautiful creatures I adore singing with, I offer my most sincere apologies, and all I can say to you is that I am filled with never-ending gratitude for your understanding, support, and friendship during what I admit is a rather frightening time (getting one's face cut into, while very Asylum-esque, is not nearly as much fun as it sounds).

With love from the Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls,

Inmate W14A Cell Block B, Emilie Autumn
I texted Jordan the bad news while she was at school.  Her response?

Wtf! omg you ruined my day i hate my life really bad

I mourned by getting 10 inches of hair chopped off.  Well, I had planned on cutting the hair back when I had planned out my suicide a few weeks ago with the intention of donating it to Locks of Love, as I reasoned that at least it would do someone who needed it some good. I didn't do it until now in an attempt to prevent myself from the heinous act I so badly wanted to do.  Now that I have had some support from friends and some distance from that bad time (although I am still far from being safe from my own mind), I could cut the hair without thinking that something macabre would follow.

Then I tried on my Asylum outfit for kicks:

It will sadly have to remain in the closet until the new Pittsburgh concert date is set in January.  That will give me enough time to decorate a teacup a la gothic Victoriana for the VIP experience, and make EA a gift that I think she would appreciate.

Recover quickly, Emilie!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

victorian sexual healing

After a little hiatus, I am a little hesitant to write a post about the Victorian-era movie Hysteria, starring Maggie Gyllenhaal, Hugh Dancy, Jonathan Pryce, and Rupert Everett. The topic of this movie? According to Variety, this movie is about the invention of the vibrator:
Dancy and Pryce will star as doctors in London treating cases of hysteria, a condition said to be characterized at the time by a woman's irritability, anger or unexplained tears. Dancy's character and his best friend, portrayed by Everett, experiment with a new electrical device for treatment for the ailment. Gyllenhaal portrays the daughter of Pryce's character.
There is a lot to be said about the Victorians' attitudes towards sex, and I've read a few excellent books and essays on the topic, as well as discussed it in various classes. But I'm going to go the Victorian route and avoid talking about it. There is something else related to that most taboo of topics that I hope to discuss in detail later this week, and more than one sex post might be in bad taste. That, and I am no sexpert on the Victorian era. All I can really do is parrot what others have said who have actually studied the topic.

That being said, I would be interested in seeing this movie. I've always wondered why it was thought that relieving sexual tension would relieve the symptoms of "hysteria," that "weakness of the fairer sex."

Friday, August 20, 2010

Thursday, August 19, 2010

disney delves into steampunk...

... with a new vinylmation series devoted to the genre, according to the Disney Vinylmation blog.  An example of what the series may look like can be seen in the photo below:

image source: Disney Parks blog
 A few questions needed to be answered before I could fully grasp this news:

1) Why do the figurines look like they have a Mickey Mouse body?

Yes, this was my first question, and one I wanted answered more than anything else. True, Mickey Mouse is a recognizable trademark of Disney, the perfect idea for any sort of Disney collectible series, and one that seems to unify the collectibles on the website, no matter how different they were.  But I could not find the answer to this question on the website, at least until I found explanations for my other inquiries:

2) What is "vinylmation?"

According to the site's FAQ section:
Vinylmation™ is a fun and affordable collectible designer toy created by Disney Theme Park Merchandise. At its core, Vinylmation™ is about creative expression and the mysterious thrill of the chase.
That did not help much, as I had already figured out it had something to do with collectible figurines.  So I just went one down on the FAQs and found my next question:

3) "Where does the name Vinylmation" originate?"

The answer?
"Vinylmation" is a combination of the word "Animation," which is at the heart of The Walt Disney Company, and the word "Vinyl," which is the medium upon which creativity is expressed. Vinyl + Animation = Vinylmation™.

The current Vinylmation™ Figure form we use is shaped like Mickey Mouse but does not represent the "character" Mickey Mouse. In other words, we aren't "dressing up" Mickey Mouse to look like something. This form is seen as a blank three-dimensional canvas upon which our Disney artists can express creativity from many angles.

I must say, I am impressed with the idea now that I understand it.  Disney can make money off of a variety of creative figurine designs with one unifying feature to make them all relevant to one another.  That, and the fact that such a franchise as this one recognizes the steampunk genre is very promising for the future of the genre.

Now what if steampunk goes mainstream?

But I will leave such musings for another blog post, as its much bigger than Disney's announcement.

According to the Vinylmation blog, the steampunk series of figurines is slated to come out in early 2011.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

battle time!

Right now I'm too lazy and sick to post anything neo-Victorian.  That, and the following video is a pretty awesome clip of the battle reenactment that took place at Bushy Run Battlefield last weekend.  Besides, it's that battle reenactment which has made me too sick to post anything neo-Victorian in the first place.  Does that mean it's actually relevant to this blog? Hmmm...

Monday, August 9, 2010

battle over

The 247th Anniversary of the Battle of Bushy Run is finally over.


Only now do I realize how truly stressed out I have been over the past six weeks or so.  This weekend came and went, and suddenly I can breathe again.

What a terrific weekend.  Our battle reenactment at Bushy Run was a true success.  Record turnout and relatively smooth operations, with a few glitches that were, for the most part, readily remedied.  We had great media coverage too, especially in the Tribune-Review and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Now I am taking a well-deserved break.

Monday, August 2, 2010

three in one deal

I came across three things relevant either to this blog or to my own person interests:

An animation by Edward Gorey for the introduction to PBS's Mystery! series; followed by an introduction by Vincent Price, the particular host of this particular film in the series; that film being "A Scandal in Bohemia," a Sherlock Holmes mystery.

Gorey's images don't look very Victorian- actually, most of the female characters wear dress that looks like it's more from the 1920s- but he has that nice, gothic, macabre connection to the late 19th century through default of most of his other illustrations, some of which I pointed out in a previous post.

So Vincent Price isn't quite neo-Victorian, but he did voice the great Professor Ratigan in The Great Mouse Detective, a take on Sherlock Holmes if he was in the mouse world.   And he talks a good deal about Sherlock Holmes, especially as a Victorian character.


Friday, July 30, 2010

"no corsets, no hatpins... and no crying"

It's my birthday.  Which means I am giving myself a break from a purely neo-Victorian post.  This time it's a neo-Regency Era post.  Not that much of a stretch from the purposes of this blog, I know...

That being said, I bring you a modern day film mixed with Jane Austen characters into the best YouTube video I've seen in weeks.  Ladies and gents, prepare yourselves for the brilliance of...

The Jane Austen Fight Club:

Jane Austen's Fight Club - watch more funny videos      

If I ever chance to meet the ladies who put this "trailer" together, I will shake their hands. And then duck before they sucker punch me.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

d is for death

Yesterday I "Stumbled Upon" a rather macabre ABC book, written and illustrated by the infamous Edward Gorey, called "The Gashlycrumb Tinies."  Drawn in a rather goth-like cartoonish Victorian or Edwardian setting, the artwork depicts 26 children and how they met their deaths in rhyming dactylic couplets:
images source: Stumbled Upon
I've seen this book for sale on ModCloth before.  I wonder if Gorey's book is really an efficient way to teach kids their ABCs.  I certainly won't forget K anytime soon.
image source: Stumbled Upon

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

"it's the opheliac in me"

Going back to a previous blog post from May about my lack of updates on my blog, I wrote that it may have been because I tend to write more when I am depressed.  Since I was at a really good place regarding my mental health at that time, I surmised that I was less depressed, and therefore blogging less. 

It's ba-ack.

It started a few weeks ago with a few work-related stressers and got progressively worse with a few deteriorating personal relationships and a tense living situation (I am fully convinced that adult children should not live with their parents, for the benefit of both sides.)  I won't delve into the details, as they're much too personal to put on the public soapbox that is this blog. That, and you readers came to read about all things neo-Victorian, not my messy personal issues.

Suffice to say, things got so ugly, my own sense of worth was so low, and my outlook of the future so bleak that I had my suicide fully planned out at this time last week.  I was just waiting to complete my usefulness in a few projects of which I am an essential, if not an appreciated part--mainly the annual battle reenactment at Bushy Run Battlefield.

Then a loving friend purchased VIP tickets to the upcoming Emilie Autumn concert. I can't go without seeing her.  That, and it would be a slap in the face to my friend, who did it specifically to give me something to look forward to so I wouldn't focus so much on the act of self-destruction I had planned for.

I am still convinced that I wore out my use as a human being in high school.  But for my loving friends, I am certainly trying, for you at least, to focus my energies on getting another job, a car, and a place of my own, instead of focusing on my Opheliac tendencies.

And what are these tendencies?  They are results of the disease of Ophelia.  And what is the disease of 'Ophelia'? As Emilie Autumn's Dr. Lymer states in The Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls:
"[The] 'disease of Ophelia' is the disease of the melancholy, mad, and female..."
The title track of Emilie Autumn's Opheliac album has been a great comfort to me as of late:
Studies show:
Intelligent girls are more depressed
Because they know
What the world is really like
Don't think for a beat it makes it better
When you sit her down and tell her
Everything's gonna be all right
She knows in society she either is
A devil or an angel with no in between
She speaks in the third person
So she can forget that she's me  
I am not alone in my thoughts of worthlessness or hopelessness.  You don't sympathize, Emilie Autumn.  You empathize because you get it.  I may be crazy, but so are you.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

new album!!!!!

I should have joined The Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls mailing list eons ago.  This message was waiting for me in my inbox this morning:
Just a little note from me, EA, to all my Plague Rats out there:

This Fall 2010 N. American tour is a very special tour indeed, as well as an extremely emotional one. The reason for this is that the next time my Bloody Crumpets and I stand on a stage before you, it will be in celebration of an entirely new album (the title of which I believe most of you have already figured out;). This is exciting, of course, but it also means that this Fall tour is the very last N. American tour ever that will be based on the music from "Opheliac," a work I still consider totally relevant, and which I could sing with you forever and never, ever tire of, because it is my soul, and my story. However, there is so much more to the story than that, and we must all march forth into the darkness, and be brave little Muffins. During the last three years, you, my Plague Rats, my Asylum Army, my Inmates, and I have been collecting, honing, and sharpening the tools necessary to climb to the next level of existence within the Asylum. There are dark times ahead, but we are ready.


New albums from favorite musicians of mine have greatly disappointed me in the past (*cough*Evanescence*cough*).  At the same time, those musicians usually suffered significant changes in the band's line-up or some other problem that either made the quality of the music go down or alter the genre of music the band had played when I fell in love with them.  From what I hear, Emilie Autumn is a control freak to the point where her music and her stage show is purely hers, and no one else's.  Unless she suffered a drastic change in musical leanings or got lazy with writing and compiling the songs (the latter of which I doubt she is capable of doing), I think the new album will be a truly great addition to the Victorianindustrial genre. 

Recalling my first attempts at listening to Emilie Autumn, however, it may take me a few weeks to actually like the album.  Although several of the songs on Opheliac were instant favorites, the majority of the album had to grow on me over time.  But who knows?  Perhaps the adjustment took so long because the music was so drastically different from anything else I had listened to previously.

Now I must ponder the meaning of the rest of EA's message:
P.S. Did I mention that this tour will be like none before, and will feature something unimaginably new? If you think you've seen it all, you have no idea...

Thursday, July 22, 2010

new look?

As you can see, Unlacing the Victorians has a new look.  I was fooling around with Blogger templates this evening and came up with this design and color scheme.  I was trying to go for a more girly "Victorian" look.  I'm not sure how crazy I am about it, especially the color scheme I chose--I'm definitely no graphic designer, and usually I latch on better to simpler designs, something the Victorians were not well known for.   But the old template has a lot of limitations, including narrow posting columns that would force me to reformat the width of YouTube videos, and the inability to add blog posts directly to Twitter or Facebook if readers so chose.

I'll test the new design out for a few days and see how it works, both practically and aesthetically.  Let me know what you think- if you love it, hate it, or have some suggestions.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

return to the 'burgh

While checking my e-mail during my lunch break, I discovered a most surprising message from the Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls:
The Asylum Tour, Fall 2010: "The Door," On Sale Now!

Dearest Plague Rats, all N. American Fall 2010 tour dates will go on sale at 3 PM local time on the 21st of July. These will go fast, so stake your claim HERE!!! Don't miss the show PlayBoy touted, and Kerrang Magazine gave 5 stars!

The first venue on the bill? Mr. Small's Theater in Millvale, PA. I was shocked that Emilie Autumn had decided to come back to Pittsburgh for a show- her show was by no means sold out the last time. When MCR didn't sell out a show in Pittsburgh and the band got food poisoning two venues before they hit the 'burgh, they canceled their Pittsburgh date and rescheduled the venue before they were supposed to go to the Steel City for the day that they were supposed to be in Pittsburgh.

And yet here was the proof that, despite less than perfect attendance at her last gig at Mr. Small's, EA will not abandon her PR following in the 'burgh to try something that may be more profitable.

I jumped on my cell phone, called up a friend, and asked him to order two tickets for the show at 3 p.m. on the dot, as I was still at work and I didn't think the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania would appreciate my ordering tickets to a Victorian industrial burlesque show on their computer. He very kindly ordered the VIP package.

A Musical Tea Party with EA

Along with the tour dates above, we are again pleased to make Asylum VIP packages available! For a very small number of people per show, EA is offering what is most definitely the most amazing fan experience yet!

For the price of $75, thirty-five people per show date will have the opportunity to purchase the Asylum VIP Package, elevating you to Official Asylum Inmate status. Inmates will receive:

» 1 concert ticket

» 1 hand-signed and numbered limited edition lithograph art print of EA's "Plague Rat" painting

» 1 admission to a pre-show private "Inmates Only" classical violin concert featuring twenty minutes of live music by Bach and other great composers performed for you by EA

» 1 "Meet & Greet" session with EA, including autograph signing and photo opportunity

» 1 commemorative "Asylum Inmate" concert laminate

» Be the first to try a hot cup of the new Asylum Tea as you listen to the violin performance (feel free to bring your own teacup)

» Permission to remain inside the venue after the VIP session, insuring your prime spot at the front of the stage
So guess who now has the chance to have tea with the musician who inspired this blog?


My little sister Jordan will be attending as well. Her reaction to the news was similar to the one I had when I first found out EA would perform at Mr. Small's last December.

Monday, July 19, 2010

happy birthday my old (and new) friends

Today is my little sister's 17th birthday.  Happy birthday Jordan!

To honor this special day and the plethora of July birthdays that my friends, acquaintances, and myself have, I leave you with a dark neo-Victorian reminder of what birthdays signify from Voltaire and 100 Gothic Lolitas:

Birthday boys and girls, please shoot me after I've enjoyed your cake.  :)

Saturday, July 17, 2010

'alice' a pleasant sequel to carroll's novels

*Warning:  Here be spoilers for Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland.  Proceed at your own risk*

My younger sister and I got my father a subscription to Netflix for Father's Day.  When I helped him activate it, he chose a bunch of old 50s-era TV series, a few classic black and white films circa 1960, a few Quentin Taratino films, and The Exorcist.  My mom complained and forced him to put Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland (2010) high up on his queue. 

When it finally came in the mail, I sat down with her to see what Tim Burton had in store, expecting to hate it.  I was surprised by what I saw.

Unliek what I had previously surmised, the movie was not all about the Mad Hatter.  Alice was the integral part of the movie, and even though the Mad Hatter influenced some of Alice's actions, for the most part his character did not run the show.  Alice was still the main character and the single most important one for the progress of events.

The colors and imagery were beautiful, even if the scenes seemed wat too computer-generated to be convincingly real.  But the characters were all designed extremely well. I especially liked the Mad Hatter's make-up.  Alice's many costume changes were so refreshing.  My favorite dress was the one she wore as "Um" in the Red Queen's court:

image source: Style By Joanne
image source: Style By Joanne
Mia Wasikowska certainly played a convincing Alice with the curiosity of a child and the sense of a smart and strong-willed individual.  While she is in the "normal" world she knows she is abnormal by their standards, but accepts herself for who she is anyway, even if no one else will.  She is not bothered by her curiosity, by being blatantly honest, or by expressing what she wants.  That certainly never changes while she is in Wonderland.

This movie also did not waste a huge amount of time on a backstory or unnecessary scenes or actions.  The movie was under two hours, so it got straight to the point and never looked back.  While that may have been a disadvantage to those unfamiliar with Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass: and what Alice found there, it certainly was nice to not have to sit through some long, complicated explanation of why Alice was in Wonderland after so many years, for example.  And it was nice that Alice wasn't wandering around questioning everything she saw or being afraid to do anything.  She fit into her Wonderland perfectly, which seemed more like home for her than the stuffy Victorian party she had been to shortly before falling down the rabbit hole.

Overall, it was a nice, concise, refreshing retelling of Alice's experiences in Wonderland.  It wasn't the best movie I've seen, but it was a good effort that did not alienate fans of Lewis Carroll's original stories and had enough kookiness (such as the floating heads in the moat) to make its mark as a Tim Burton film.