Sunday, January 31, 2010

nerds at the tracks

Members of the Colorado Steampunk Facebook group met a few days ago for a photoshoot at the Colorado Railroad Museum in Golden.  Below is the local newscast on the photo shoot, the do-it-yourself ethos of steampunk fashion, and reactions of ordinary, 21st century-grounded observers:


Read a synopsis of the newscast here.  Hmmmm... wonder if there is a Pennsylvania Steampunk Facebook group.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

scientific inquiries into the healthiness of the corset

Last month I posted a drawing concerning the altered arrangement of organs while wearing a corset:


An anonymous reader recently responded to my implication that corsets may cause internal damage by saying:
While corsets do rearrange your organs, it is no more harmful than pregnancy really, which does the same thing but in a different configuration and with more hormones. (and a baby...)

Organs are designed to be able to move around a bit, and the only thing that can happen internal organ wise if corsets are worn too tight for too long, is that the liver can end up with a groove through the middle from where the ribs press against it. It doesn't seem to impair function any though.
The reader then pointed me to the source of this image: a study conducted by Robert L. Dickinson and published in The New York Medical Journal on November 5, 1887, entitled: "The Corset: Questions of Pressure and Displacement."   It's an intriguing (albeit, long) article, not only on the history of corsets and its possible pressure on the human body, but also a rare view into the nature of scientific inquiry and the era's knowledge of the female body.

The history of the corset appears, to the researcher, to go back to ancient Greece with the use of girdles, disappear for a while and then reappear in the 16th century.  After the French Revolution they became more like the standard of corset Dr. Dickinson and his contemporaries were familiar with.  He then makes the claim that lacing was tighter at the beginning of the 19th century than at the present (1887), and some deaths were hemorrhaging caused by too much pressure on the body.

In order to determine how much pressure corsets actually exerted on the female body, he tested an experimental group of women by measuring their natural waist size, their artificial waist size with a "loose" lacing of a corset, and their artificial waist size with a "tight" lacing of a corset.  He also slipped the bag of a manometer under the corset before lacing to measure the pressure caused by wearing the corsets with specific lacings.  What is a manometer?
Manometer image source: Corset Patents.
 The square shaped "bag" at the end of the tube is placed under the corset, which forces a mixture of water and mercury to shoot up the measuring scale, indicating how much pressure is exerted with the lacing.
 How does a manometer measure corset pressure?
The total pressure exerted by a given corset is obtained as follows: The areas of like pressures are chalked out on the corset by shifting the bag about under the corset, and testing at every move with the manometer.   Knowing the number of square inches in an area and the number of pounds of pressure to the square inch, the pressure exerted on that area is found; adding the pressures in the various areas together gives us a total.   This is by no means absolutely accurate, but furnishes a tangible figure.   This estimate errs on the side of too low pressure by entirely leaving out of account the pressure below the crest of the ilium laterally and posteriorly.
The researcher admits that the terms "loose" and "tight" are not accurate, professional terms with specific definitions, and that much of the determination of the tightness of a lacing was based on what the subjects themselves said were "loose" and "tight."  Some other problems with the experiment includes lack of restrictions on test subjects.  It would have been more accurate, at least to my 21st century mind, for the women to all be placed within test groups of a within a certain age, weight, height, and number of full-term pregnancies, along with the amount of time a woman actually wore a corset.  For example, Dickinson measured the pressure of two patients who were rather different from each other in childbearing and corset wearing habits, and weight and height were not taken into account at all, although waist size was.  His patients and his results are as follows:
X. Y., habit of tight lacing; four children; lax abdominal . wall; corset rather short. Circumference at waist without corset, 29 inches; circumference at waist over corset, 23½ inches; difference, 5½ inches. The total pressure of her corset is 65 pounds.

A. Z., vigorous, well built; one child eight years ago; has a strong abdominal wall; do not think she has worn tight corsets in some years, as she states; corset long. Waist measure without corsets 27 inches; waist measure over loose corsets, 27 inches; no difference. Pressure, 40 pounds.

Same patient, waist measure without corsets, 27 inches; waist measure over fairly tight corsets, 25½ inches; difference, 1½ inch. Pressure, 73½ pounds.

The patient X. Y. had a flabby abdominal wall from frequent pregnancies and constant corset pressure. The patient A. Z. has a muscular abdominal wall; she says she works at home without corsets. These facts explain the seeming discrepancy that in the first case, with 5½ inches of constriction, the pressure is 65 pounds, while in the second, with 1½ inch, it is 73½ pounds. In one the parts readily yield; in the other firm resistance is encountered.

Despite the research discrepancies, the woman unaccustomed to wearing a corset (A.Z.) experienced the most pressure, even though the one who usually wore corsets (X.Y.) had a lacing that was 4 inches greater than the first woman's "tight" lacing.
Dr. Dickinson also points out how corsets change the breathing patterns in women (while dispelling the idea that women naturally breathe differently) by constricting the lower part of the lungs.  Corsets also cause abdominal pressure while bending forward, which he speculates causes problems with the uterus.

His conclusions:
  1. The maximum pressure at any one point was 1.625 Pound to the square inch. This was during inspiration. The maximum in quiet breathing was over the sixth and seventh cartilages, and was 0.625 Pound.
  2. The estimated total pressure of the corset varies between thirty and eighty pounds—in a loose corset about thirty-five pounds, in a tight corset sixty-five pounds.
  3. Within half a minute after hooking the corset such an adjustment occurs that a distinct fall in pressure results.
  4. The circumference of the waist is no criterion of tightness. The difference between the waist measure with a and without corsets gives no direct clew either to the number of pounds pressure or to the diminution in vital capacity. Relaxation and habit seem to affect these factors largely.
  5. The capacity for expansion of the chest was found to be restricted one fifth when the corset was on.
  6. The thoracic character of the breathing in women is largely due to corset-wearing.
  7. The thoracic cavity is less affected by the corset than the abdominal.
  8. The abdominal wall is thinned and weakened by the pressure of stays.
  9. The liver suffers more direct pressure and is more frequently displaced than any other organ.
  10. The pelvic floor is bulbed downward by tight lacing one third of an inch (0.9 cm.).
Whether he recommends that women should or should not stick with corsets was a topic he failed to mention.  He did not seem to think they were a good thing, mainly due to the pressure they exert on some of the organ, but in typical researcher fashion Dickinson said that more questions that needed to be answered would be the subject of future study.

Thank you to my anonymous reader for bringing this article to my attention. You can read the article in its entirety here.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

19th century alarm clock

A longer update will follow tomorrow, I promise.  For now, I indulge you with an interesting tidbit I came across in the introduction of The Word Museum: The Most Remarkable English Words Ever Forgotten, by Jeffrey Kacirk.  In it he points out how historians and teachers can bypass the smaller details of everyday life in past times:
Take, for instance, the long-defunct activity called upknocking, the employment of the knocker up, who went house to house in the early morning hours of the nineteenth century to awaken his working class clients before the advent of affordable alarm clocks. Until encountering this entry, I had never thought about how people of this time managed to awaken with any predictability.
image source: Mental Floss

And, as the actual entry of the word says later on in the book:
upknocking, knocking up One of the curious ways of earning a livelihood in the manufacturing towns.  The "knocker up" wakes the different hands of a mill who cannot wake themselves, so that they can get to their work in time, and not be fined for being too late.  The general pay of the knocker up is twopence a head, per week.  I remember once a witness, being asked what he was, answering, "A knocker up," deeming it, evidently, as much a trade as a tailor or a baker. [Leigh]
 I had wondered for a long time how 19th century people woke up in the mornings too. Now I know how the working class did it.  According to folk singer Joe Stead, the profession became obsolete only 40 years ago:

Saturday, January 23, 2010

is holmes stuck in the closet?


 image source: Movie Maven
Some Holmes fans panicked when Robert Downey Jr. expressed the thought that Sherlock Holmes could actually be gay by comments he made on David Letterman's show.  So did Andrea Plunkett, the woman who owns the U.S. copyright to the Holmes stories.  As Total Film's interview with Plunkett revealed:
“I hope this is just an example of Mr Downey's black sense of humour," she says. "It would be drastic, but I would withdraw permission for more films to be made if they feel that is a theme they wish to bring out in the future."
 Now I must ask:
  1. Why is there a U.S. copyright for Sherlock Holmes, and how can I get in on that ownership?
  2. Will it really affect a sequel the movie that much if Sherlock Holmes is, indeed, a homosexual? 
  3. How much "bromance" will count as too much for Plunkett to withdraw permission to make a sequel?
I understand Plunkett's fears to an extent.  Sherlock Holmes was never really written to be an obvious homosexual, and some of the "bromance" in the movie was not actually in the original stories.  She wants to remain loyal to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's works.  I for one liked the bromance parts because they demonstrated just how close of a working/living relationship these two have.  That doesn't necessarily mean that one or the other or both are necessarily gay.

But movies do have their own degree of interpretation, and with a character as well known and often portrayed as Holmes that's not unreasonable for even the actor playing Holmes to explore the idea of homosexuality.  If we're talking about loyalty to what Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote, Holmes is known to not be attracted to most women--in fact, Irene Adler seems to be the only one he is truly interested in, but that may even be from an analytical level rather than a sexual or emotional one.  Homosexuality could explain this.  As long as it isn't some sort of blaring Victorian Brokeback Mountain thing then I don't see a problem with that and staying true to the original stories.

Here's the clip from Letterman that raised Plunkett's ire:

And a clip from an interview with Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law about the relationship between the Victorian detective and his sidekick:

Friday, January 22, 2010

telegraphing all writers

For writers interested in writing steampunk stories, Steampunk Quarterly is looking for your work to put in their first issue in February or March:

Additional information from their website:
Steampunk Quarterly is planned to be a regular anthology of exciting, interesting and generally entertaining short stories from a number of different writers to be published four times a year, starting in February of March of 2010. We will mainly release new issues as PDF online, but there will also be a small edition in print form that we want to distribute via mail.

To attract interested writers we made an announcement to send us stories, preferably between 7,000 and 9,000 words long. We will consider every submission and reward each story we choose to include in the first issue with 50$. Some people took umbrage to this amount, arguing that it is far less than the usual price for a story of this length. The point here is that the 50$ are not to be seen as a purchasing price for the story, but as a fee we pay to publish it in „Steampunk Quarterly“. All rights for the story and the characters will remain with the writer and he is, of course, free to publish it elsewhere as he sees fit.

This project is a private endeavour by steampunk fans to further this great genre, give a (small) incentive to writers and, most of all, spread the word. We provide all funds for SQ out of our own pockets and don‘t plan on making a profit whatsoever. On the contrary, we stand to lose money with every sold issue. This is only of small price we are willing to pay for giving a way for other steampunk fans like us to find new and entertaining stories about airship pirates and victorian inventors.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

steampunk gameboy

Barbara, thank you so much for bringing this new take on an old classic--a steampunked-out Game Boy made by Thretis.

Here's this 1989 GameBoy in action, so to speak:


I think I would rather see a game being played on this, but I think that that would have caused some motion sickness due to the way it was filmed.  Besides, it probably would not have been easy to see.

This is just one of many gadgets that can be changed to look rusted and industrial in a 19th century way.  Check out these two USB devices:
[image source: iTech News Net
image source: Gadget Venue
image source: Geeky Gadgets
And these steampunk computer mouses (or is it "mice?")

image source: Geekologie
image source: Boing Boing
And steampunk headphones.

image source: Gadget Venue
I could totally make some of these pieces. *evil grin*

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

neo-victorian vintage

Just a note; I may be updating here a little less in the future.  I have two part-time jobs right now and am doing from freelance writing on the side.  I still am trying to set up interviews for actual "articles" in this blog, so the quality of writing won't go down.  Just the quantity.

I came across an intriguing article on 20th century Victorian fashions purely by accident at The Vintage Collection.  The author discusses the mistakes some buyers make when looking for Victorian clothes-- instead they buy clothes from the 1930s, 40s, or 50s, thinking that it's a true Victorian dress or outfit.  Apparently, there was a sort of revival in Victorian styles for women, such as the bustle skirt, corset waists, and hoop skirts, with an emphasis on creating an hourglass figure.
Though it wasn't a universally accepted style, neo-Victorian dresses were worn from c. 1947 - 1949 as a softened look emerged in women's fashions. And the look wasn't only for the wealthy, either. A peek inside the ever down-to-earth Sears catalog details this:

"The 'Back Look' is the Newest Look..."

"New Bustle Back Suits..."

"Straight, slim front...rippling, bustle back...marvelous profile..."

Sears' headlines - not to mention those in fashion magazines like Vogue and Harper's Bazaar - raved about the new, decidedly feminine Victorian style.
But the late 1930s had its own "pioneer" Victorian style, as can be seen below.  It's a short-sleeved, checked dress with a full skirt, form-fitting waist, and a ruffled V-neck collar:

image source: The Vintage Collection
Here's a sample of some of Christian Dior's neo-Victorian designs from the late 1940s, with padding added to the hips to slim the waist even further:

image source: The Vintage Collection
image source: The Vintage Collection
 Many staples of the 1950s fashion scene such as gloves, fitted bodices and full skirts (I'm thinking of the stereotypical poodle skirts as an example) were influenced by the neo-Victorian styles of the previous decade.

To read the article in its entirety, including tips on how to differentiate between vintage neo-Victorian clothing and the real thing, click here.

Monday, January 18, 2010

the clockwork quartet

Scott directed my attention to a steampunk band based in London called The Clockwork Quartet.

Despite the name, this band is more of a 12 or 13-piece orchestra rather than a quartet.  Although their website and MySpace page have only two songs posted online, one can tell just by looking at them that they have embraced the steampunk, Victorian science fiction genre full-force. All of the band members dress as characters who are Victorian-esque in appearance, such as a doctor, a scientist, and an engineer.  The rest wear leather vests or jackets with bowler hats, boots, ruffle skirts, and clockwork cogs.  The time-keeping gears are attached as pins for their lapels, made into earrings, or just sewn onto any spot on their outfits that seems to need a little decoration.
image source: Original Content London
I can tell very little about their background or history, despite what it says on their website and blog.  They appear to use a  wide variety of instruments ranging from the violin, cello, several types of banjos, accordion, oboe and musical saw, with percussion coming from objects such as scrap metal, metronomes, clocks and typewriters. In addition, almost everyone in the band sings at one point or another.

Going along with the hands-on ethos of steampunk, they even create their own unconventional instruments to give them a very distinct sound, such as the Steamdrone.  What is this strange contraption?  According to this blog post:
It’s a pseudo-organ that runs on steam power, or will do in a sort of theatrical magic way... it will provide a veritable bonanza of steam and lights and pipe organ sounds.
[image source: Original Content London]
Click here to listen to what this infernal instrument sounds like.

To be honest,since their blog has not been updated since October, and there does not seem to have been much forum activity on their website, I wonder if this band, which was so active until their last update October, is currently doing any shows.  I would like to know if an album is in the works and if they're gaining a following in England outside the steampunk community.  Their stage performance seems to be more of a show than a concert, so perhaps an album is not a viable option at this point.  But they should still update their website more so than they have been doing recently, because people will lose interest if they don't think a band is producing anything new or touring or performing.

Below I've linked to "The Watchmaker's Apprentice," a song that makes use of not only the accordion, cello, and violin for its 19th century feel, but also uses a metronome and ticking clocks to make its own distinct and appropriate sound for the subject matter of the song:

Saturday, January 16, 2010

park place never looked so fictionally 19th centuryish

Some creative soul invented the newest take in old boardgames: steampunk Monopoly!
image source: instructables
Check out how this individual personalized his monopoly to include a raygun Chance card holder, a tower tower, and a working electric railroad.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Thursday, January 14, 2010

an interview with the lovely ea

An interview with Emilie Autumn, conducted by Clayton Perry, was posted on Blog Critics several days ago.

It's a nice sit-down Q&A with EA, but not exactly my cup of tea.  Perry appears to have too little knowledge of EA to ask any really enlightening questions of her, in my opinion.  I doubt that people who know of her learn anything outstanding of which they were not already aware.  There is a good bit of information on the concept of the show, the props, and EA's evolving showmaking techniques at the beginning, though, and a discussion on whether EA had been approached to go more mainstream with her music due to her devoted fanbase.

There were two items in the interview that I personally found very interesting, if not necessarily fulfilling.  The first was EA's response to Clayton Perry's question about her Victorianindustrial genre of music.  The answer was less than satisfying for anyone who wants a solid definition (or me, who attempted to define this genre in a previous blog post).  Here is her explanation:
Victorian Industrial – that’s just me being cute and clever and stupid and putting two words together. That’s the fun of it...by taking things that basically did describe it and putting them together and creating a new genre...if it’s any category, it’s more Glam Rock than anything else. But it’s still very hard to categorize. I don’t even know what it is. It’s just a mix of all of these things and it gets filed under whatever it gets filed under.
Great, Emilie.  You don't even know how to describe it.  I'm not looking for a stringent definition, but something more than "I don't even know what it is" would actually be kind of nice from the woman who pretty much invented the genre.

The last major response EA gave in this interview, by contrast, was much more satisfying, and addressed her bipolar disorder and the "fun" of her Asylum concept as a joke to deal with her depression.  I think that's what many of her fans get from the concert experience, from listening to her songs.

My younger sister borrowed my Opheliac album a few months ago, and she loved it.  But she had to stop listening to it, she said, because the songs were too depressing- too much mention of death and suicide and insanity and depression for her liking.  But even mentally ill people have to laugh at themselves.  Emilie Autumn's songs and shows are a farce, a joke on the suicidal thoughts of severely depressed people, of which many of her fans probably are.  It's like saying, "I know what you're going through, I am going through it too, let's get together and make fun of ourselves and have a blast doing it, because only then can we stop taking our thoughts and problems so seriously."

As she herself says:
The idea now is taking back the asylum and basically making it into what that word really means – which asylum means sanctuary. That means a place where people can go to be safe. That’s not what it is. That’s not what it was 150 years ago – which is what we’re referencing and we're comparing this to the Victorian insane asylums for girls. Not a lot has changed between then and now. And that’s the problem, and that’s what we’re bringing to light in our way: nobody wants to be preached to. So if you want to actually have a real message on top of all the rest of this silliness, the way to do it is through comedy and sarcasm and ridicule and farce and sexuality.
In this previous blog post I linked to EA's cover of the legendary Hungarian "suicide" song, "Gloomy Sunday."  If you haven't already done so, listen to it.  The words speak of suicide, but her tone is so melodramatic, one can't imagine the singer actually taking the words seriously.  Her music isn't meant to encourage people to kill themselves, no matter how dark and depressing their lives are.  It's to admit there is darkness with no light, but get a rise out of it.

You can read Perry's article here.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

around the world in... a skyship?

What an interesting development to wake up to on this fine winter morning--the first ever World Sky Race, where airships worthy of an Abney Park song will take to the skies and race against each other for almost half a year around the globe.

 

From their website:
WORLD SKY RACE PROGRAM

The World Sky Race is an historic tour and competition of lighter-than-air skyships racing 30,000+ miles. In sixteen back to back races that completely span the globe, the overall winner will be crowned World Sky Champion.

The World is our Canvas. The Sky is our Challenge.
The competing skyships will travel from the Greenwich Prime Meridian southward to Africa and the Middle East, across the Indian Ocean to Equatorial Asia and through the Orient, island hop across the Pacific to the western shores of North America, down to Central America, up to the North Atlantic and crossing back to Prime Meridian for an exciting finish in an historic race, completing a full global circumnavigation.

Historical Significance:
  • First organized international race of lighter-than-air skyships
  • First full global circumnavigation by a lighter-than-air skyship; will establish the international aviation record
  • First unassisted trans-Atlantic skyship crossing since 1937
  • Largest cultural, sports & entertainment event ever seen by the greatest number of live spectators in all of history
  • Target Title Purse Prizes - $10,000,000
Prestigious Sponsoring Partners and Program Supporters:
  • UNESCO World Heritage Centre
  • Ministries of Tourism, Culture, Antiquities, Education and Civil Aviation around the World
Global Media Exposure - BILLIONS of Favorable Viewings
  • National Geographic, CNN, BBC, ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, RTL, RTE, CCTV, NHK, Univision, TF1, RAI, Doordarshan, Al Jazeera, Euronews, Eurosports, Star...
  • Every Major Newspaper in the world - First page, first section, international, regional, and local news, Entertainment, Business, Sports
  • Magazines - Feature Coverage and Photos
  • Radio - Interviews and Feature Coverage
  • Extensive Global Internet features - YouTube, Podcasts, Blogs
The Monumental Icons of the world, ancient & modern, will be the connecting beacons by which the race is measured.
  • Starting on the Greenwich Prime Meridian in front of the Atomic Clock where all time on Earth is synchronized
  • Big Ben, Houses of Parliament and London Bridge
  • Roman Coliseum
  • Great Pyramids of Giza
  • Taj Mahal
  • Petronas Towers
  • Mount Fujiyama
  • Kilauea Volcano and Diamond Head
  • Golden Gate Bridge
  • Teotihuacan Pyramids of the Sun
  • NASA Johnson Space Center
  • Statute of Liberty
The entire concept has an Around the World in 80 Days feel to it, don't you think?  The race starts this fall, and it is expected to continue for the next 140-150+ days.

I'm going to go listen to "Airship Pirate" now.  On repeat.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

in which swindlers attempt to bamboozle your blogger

Let's talk about swindlers.

My friend Scott read up on Victorian crimes when I first began researching heavily for my historical fiction novel three years ago.  The book he read, a section of nineteenth century writer Henry Mayhew's four-volume series of articles, London Labour and the London Poor, included a great amount of information on criminal activities ranging from pickpocketing, prostitution, receiving stolen goods, forgery and even river crimes. And swindling. Swindling is a catch-all phrase for embezzlement, sharping and scams.

These Victorian equivalent of scammers were often people who pretended to be higher up on the social scale than they were to live a lifestyle they could not possibly afford.  When these people showed up claiming to the cousin of the third earl of whatever, especially abroad, shopkeepers or the like extended them credit.  Sometimes they lived for months at a time on this credit before moving on, leaving the local shop keepers and inn keepers all the poorer.

Others worked at home.  As Scott says in the information sheet he wrote up for me three years ago:
One guy advertised in a paper that he could get people a job if they sent him their information and a 5 [shilling] stamp to send them a letter back.  He made about [£]700 from this enterprise and all at the cost of an advertisement and a quarter years' rent of an empty house.
Swindlers still exist.  They're just adapted their schemes and trickery to fit modern conveniences.  Think of data entry advertisements and that infamous Nigerian prince scam as comparable to the two examples I listed above.

So what do swindlers have to do with me?

I visited my parents this past weekend to celebrate Orthodox Christmas.  Since I have graduated I have been kicked off of my family's health insurance, loans are due in less than six months, and my parents are less than thrilled that I am currently unemployed.  They are trying to be as supportive as possible, but their patience is wearing thin, so they demanded that I get any job as soon as possible.

I was not in Pittsburgh, so I figured that Craigslist would be a good way to find said job near my apartment while I was visiting.  Now, I have never used Craigslist to apply for a job before.  Sure, I've looked at the ads, but never considered it for actually applying to jobs.  I'm a neat freak and a very organized person, so I decided I'd apply to some secretary or administrative assistant positions.  On Sunday afternoon I managed to send out about nine cover letters and résumés for the same number of administrative assistant positions.

I have received five e-mails in reply thus far.  Four of them are definitely scams.  How do I know?
  • Two were automated replies for me to fill out an additional application on their website.  And, while I was at it, why don't I just pop over to FreeCreditReport.com or some other type of credit website and fill out a credit report and forward it to them? That would prove that I could "follow directions."  Hell no, I will give no one my credit information.  I have little money to begin with, and I don't want to risk losing it all.  I'd rather not get a job than follow shady instructions at best. 
  • The other two did not address me by my name. They began with "Hey" or "Hello there!" Not even a "Hi Lauren."  Ahem.  My name is Lauren.  If you cannot repeat my name to me, you obviously did not look at my résumé information and are not interested in hiring me.
  • One of these scams asked me to go to a website called Verify Your Identity and follow the instructions.  If you even bother to check this website out you're just wasting your time.  They want you to create a Hotmail account, post a service on Craigslist, verify your ad via phone, and send them the verification code.  I was unsure of how this, exactly, was a scam, as there was no real personal information of any value being given to these people.  Then I did a little research.  Apparently Craigslist only lets you post three ads every 48 hours in every account.  A new account has to be verified by a phone before anyone can post.  This scammer/spammer wants to sell new accounts to other scammers/spammers so they can post more than three times in 48 hours, so they will ask you to complete these ridiculous steps to collect PVAs (phone verified accounts) for sale or use.
  • Almost none of these e-mails actually specified what companies they were in the e-mail. External links sent you to their fake websites advertising companies like TET Management and the like. 
  • The replies came from Yahoo or Hotmail accounts, which are free.  Any so-called professional "national companies" or "firms" (as all of them claimed to be) would have its own company e-mail.
  • If the company had a website (two of them did), then I Googled some of their information.  If the company did not show up in the results, or if the results announced them as a scam, I immediately knew that these were scammers.
No, I did not pass out my Social Security number or credit information to these scammers.  But I did contact Craigslist and try to get them taken off, and researched online extensively to see if my résumé information might possibly be used by these scammers or my identity stolen.  Fortunately, I have read that there should be no backlash since I did not actually fulfill these stupid scam things.

Then I spent the rest of my time yesterday looking for jobs on legitimate job search engines such as Indeed, Monster and CareerBuilder. By the time I found time to get to blogging, I just didn't want to look at a computer screen anymore.

Damn swindlers. They never go away, do they?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

"a sudden snowstorm blankets all the countryside"

For Pittsburgh to get hit with snow is no unusual occurrence.

For it to stay more than a day is less common.

For the snow to pile up to half a foot or more over the period of a week is rarer than good champagne.  There is so much snow on my parents' back porch that you can't even tell that the three snow mounds out there cover a table, a chest, and a rocking chair respectively, and we had to make paths in the backyard so the family dog (a golden retriever) could actually walk out into the snow and do her business, it was hitting her so high.

And yes folks, there is snow in Florida.

Reminds me of the song "1816, the year without a summer," by Victorianindustrial band Rasputina:



I looked it up.  There definitely was a Year without a Summer in 1816.  What do you know.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

pretty pictures

Another monster, AnnaNigma, has directed my attention to a blog post on BibliOdyssey that displays obscure historical, informational visual material.  This particular post shows a series of Victorian "infographics" from a flow chart of human history since the Flood (Noah and the Ark and all of that) to a map of New York City.  I myself spent a good ten minutes poring over the map of Pennsylvania, and managed to find not only the fledgling town where I grew up, but other communities that are no longer significant, but much larger back in the mid-1800s.

Since I am currently rereading the first Sherlock Holmes mystery "A Study in Scarlet," I will post a picture of the Copernican theory of the solar system, a topic of which he is completely ignorant in the story:
image source: BibliOdyssey
Check out the rest of the images here.

Friday, January 8, 2010

great. more neo-Victorian zombies

While this blog did not actually spawn the Victoriana monster that is Mild Colonial Boy, Esq., he is feeding me, the primary monster. Many thanks to him for directing my attention to more Victorian undead sources, despite his shared dislike of the mangy dreadfuls.

The first is George Mann's novel The Affinity Bridge.  I have never heard of George Mann, but he appears to be a writer of steampunk novels.  The description of The Affinity Bridge from Amazon is as follows:
Welcome to the bizarre and dangerous world of Victorian London, a city teetering on the edge of revolution. Its people are ushering in a new era of technology, dazzled each day by new inventions. Airships soar in the skies over the city, whilst ground trains rumble through the streets and clockwork automatons are programmed to carry out menial tasks in the offices of lawyers, policemen and journalists. But beneath this shiny veneer of progress lurks a sinister side. For this is also a world where ghostly policemen haunt the fog-laden alleyways of Whitechapel, where cadavers can rise from the dead and where Sir Maurice Newbury, Gentleman Investigator for the Crown, works tirelessly to protect the Empire from her foes. When an airship crashes in mysterious circumstances, Sir Maurice and his recently appointed assistant Miss Veronica Hobbes are called in to investigate. Meanwhile, Scotland Yard is baffled by a spate of grisly murders and a terrifying plague is ravaging the slums of the city. So begins an adventure quite unlike any other, a thrilling steampunk mystery and the first in the series of "Newbury & Hobbes" investigations.
 Sounds like a very interesting story, actually.  Must. Resist. Purchasing.

The next is a roleplaying game called Unhallowed Metropolis.  The description of this game from the game's website:
Set two-hundred years after the advent of a zombie Plague, Unhallowed Metropolis is an apocalyptic Neo-Victorian dystopia written by Jason Soles and Nicole Vega. Inspired by the works of Mary Shelley, Edgar Allen Poe, and Robert Louis Stevenson, and painstakingly researched by the authors, Unhallowed Metropolis provides a rich role-playing experience steeped in alchemy, mad science, and undeath.

Never having participated or even watched a roleplaying game, I have no idea how this works.  I assume it's a LARPing game where players dress up in some conglomeration of Victorian and steampunk and just plain made-up garb, select roles for themselves in this Neo-Victorian world, and have at it with battling the twisted elements of this society. I would like to see a demo of it.

For more information on Unhallowed Metropolis, check out this interview with the games' codesigners Jason Soles and Nicole Vega, who discuss the finer points of their created world.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

victorian undead

This blog has spawned several monsters.  Yes, monsters.  The primary monster is myself, obviously.  I haven't immersed myself in so much Victorian information since I first started seriously editing my Victorian historical fiction novel over three years ago.  It's starting to show in my fashion tastes, slowly but surely, as well as my leisure reading choices.  My bookshelf's predominant ancient history and Islamic history collections are gradually being overtaken with Victorian books, either bought for me or borrowed from family and friends.

 The secondary monsters are family, friends, and commentors.  You are all such bad influences.  My roommates, my sisters, and my friends have kept up such a string of suggestions, sending me links or just mentioning a website or book or band in passing, that my horizons have expanded exponentially since I started this blog.

Such as zombies.  I never thought I'd talk about zombies on this blog.

Why?

Because I HATE ZOMBIES!

As a current resident of the city of Pittsburgh I live in the city of zombie filmmaking. It's a big deal here.  My parents lived near the cemeteries where the original "Night of the Living Dead" was filmed.  One of my high school teachers was an extra in the original "Dawn of the Dead." Every semester students at my alma mater play "humans v. zombies" (essentially a big game of tag where the tagged ones become zombies) for days, if not weeks, on end.  People go on zombie bar crawls. One of the local malls has a day where humans dressed as the "mangy dreadfuls" stumble about and talk about brains.

I am not a fan.  The only thing I liked about the remake of "Dawn of the Dead" was its soundtrack, which had this ridiculous cover of the Disturbed song "Down with the Sickness."  And that Johnny Cash song "The Man Comes Around."  I don't like zombie movies, I don't like zombie movie spoofs like "Shaun of the Dead" (2004), and I just don't like zombies.  There is just something so unsettling about the dead not staying truly dead, but wandering about the earth looking to feast on humans. No wonder I'm not a fan of vampires either.

I bought my friend Andy (the same guy who went to the ScareHouse with me) a copy of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies on his birthday and have regretted it ever since.  Now he sends me links to images of Hollywood-esque monsters in 19th century England:

image source: imgur
So I was not surprised when my friend Christine jumped on the Victorian bandwagon and gave me the first issue of a comic book series for Christmas that pits Sherlock Holmes against--you guessed it--zombies!  She gave me something she thought I would appreciate based on what she thought was cool (zombies) with what I think is cool (the Victorian era and Sherlock Holmes). It really was thoughtful, but all I could do as soon as I saw it was laugh.  Laugh at the cover image.  Laugh at the title.  Laugh at the irony of it all.  And groan inside.  Damn it! 



My only real consolation was that it is a comic book, perhaps 20 or 30 pages of absorbing scenes of carnage and possibly dreadful dialogue at worst.  So I settled into bed one night and went through the entire comic in about half an hour.

Written by Ian Edginton, illustrated by Davide Fabbri, and published by Wildstorm Comics, Victorian Undead #1 is mainly an introduction to the series, as it should be. After some meteor or asteroid crashes near London in 1854, a zombie plague breaks out, turning oridnary Londoners into mangy dreadfuls.  Flash forward to 1898, where two Underground construction workers come across an old plague pit, and are attacked by a reawakened zombie.  Sherlock Holmes is called in by Scotland Yard to figure out how someone could be undead, when the case is quickly suppressed by Her Majesty's Secret Service.

image source: Wikia
Christine, good choice for someone who is not a fan of zombies and writes about Victorian culture's influences on modern culture. The zombie aspect was more of a curiosity than a bloodbath in this installment, and Sherlock Holmes was introduced in a true Victorian science fiction manner- solving a case involving an automata (machine) that looks like a human. Fabbri took a reel from Guy Ritchie's recently released movie "Sherlock Holmes" and dressed Sherlock Holmes in normal Victorian suits, not the Inverness cape and deerstalker hat that has become a Holmes staple.  Thank goodness for some degree of creativity, even if the cover art displays the stereotypical Holmes garb.

I got through the entire zombie comic without being annoyed by any unnecessary carnage and ridiculousness that seems to be common in zombie movies.  And there actually appears to be a decent zombie story plot, something that made "I am Legend" (2007) a great zombie movie.

I haven't decided whether I'll purchase the next installment of the series, but it looks rather promising so far.  My hopes is that the writer will eventually settle the following questions:
  1. What, exactly, created the plague?  Is there a logical, scientific explanation, or one out of this world?  Can Sherlock Holmes make sense out of something as unsettling as the dead coming back to life to attack the living?
  2. Why is the Secret Service trying to suppress investigation of the zombies? 
  3. How did Sherlock Holmes not hear of the plague back in 1854? Does that have anything to do with the Secret Service's attitude on the subject?
  4. What was with the automata that attacked Holmes in his introductory scene?  Does that have a connection to the zombie plague?
Thanks Christine, for buying me a comic I would never have purchased, and exposing me to aspects of neo-Victorian culture I would not have dared delve into myself.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

goth v. steampunk

Image source: Steampunk Goth © Trellia (Megan Balanck) 2008.  
Image used with permission.
Jake von Slatt over at The Steampunk Workshop posted an intriguing article yesterday on his blog analyzing the similiarities between the goth and steampunk movements.  It's an excellent article that looks at the modern goth and steampunk movements and how they have incorporated historical things that were never made specifically for those movements (think of gothic novels like Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights and Victorian science fiction novels (comparable to steampunk) like Jules Vernes' 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.)

And both movements are strongly influenced by the Victorians, something I've always known but have picked up on more since I started this blog.  It's hard to point it out in music due to my unfamiliarity with the gothic music scene, but gothic literature, with its gloomy, dark aspect, is not too different from steampunk.  Wouldn't one call The Mysterious Explorations of Jasper Morello steampunk in nature with a gothic storyline?  And wouldn't Dr. Frankenstein's monster be as equally terrifying (if perhaps less human) made out of mechanical parts?

However, fashion probably has the greatest crossover between the two genres.  While shopping online via Google, eBay, or Etsy, look for modern Victorian pieces- often corsets, jewelery, and suits are listed as both gothic and steampunk attire, such as this neck cuff:

image source: Etsy
Read Jake von Slatt's article here.  He makes clear, concise comparisons between the two genres in a more intellectual way than I have here.  He's pretty bloody brilliant that way. 

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

the new and the newer

My updating has been rather lax over finals week and the holidays, but it was a much-needed break.  That was the first break from schoolwork since last Christmas, and I was cracking.  I even spent my past summer vacation at the beach working on a research paper.

After some deliberation, I've decided to go back to updating once a day, as I did before the Emilie Autumn concert.  My reasons?
  • I am still jobless, but I am attending job fairs and putting resumes and cover letters out like crazy.  In order to ensure that I don't get lazy in this interim period between taking classes and actually going to work, I want to spend a lot of time writing as well.  This blog is a perfect outlet for that.
  • It also keeps me on a stable schedule.
  • I love this blog.
  • I have a thousand new ideas for this blog, some of them involving posts of a more journalistic nature.  I just bought a digital voice recorder to replace the lame tape recorder I had been using for the past year and a half.  So I may experiment with directly uploading blog-related interviews for your listening pleasure.
So what's new in the neo-Victorian world?

Yesterday the final installment of Chapter One of the steampunk Riese series was released on YouTube.  I'm a little more impressed, but my first assessment of the series remains the same.  There is too much unexplained, not only in the way of a storyline, but also in the way of the world in which Riese lives.  The series makers are gradually explaining who Riese is.  That's fine, there are plenty of stories out there that divulge information at that same slow pace to great effect.  I'd still like to understand the Sect and the society in Riese from what I actually see, though, not the additional supplemental information provided on associated websites.  I love researching connections and more information about topics myself, but I think it's just a little too much research for the average viewer.

image source: tubefiulter

I'm also not sure what was settled in Chapter One, other than establishing that Riese is being hunted and she is a threat to the empress's power in more ways than just being a rebel.   Once again, there is a severe lack of a clear storyline here that is getting in the way of my viewing pleasure.

Then there's Emilie Autumn's The Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls, which I am currently too broke to buy!  It's only being sold online at The Omega Order.  I could get the book for $50 there, or an entire gift set for $30 more that includes a t-shirt, tote bag, the "Opheliac- The Deluxe Edition" CD (includes extra tracks such as "Gloomy Sunday" and Asleep," as well as the intro to the entire concert experience), and a recipe book.  It's hard to justify purchasing just the book alone when you can get so many goodies for only $30 more, but it's just as frustrating trying to rationalize buying a deluxe edition of a CD I already have, a tote bag I'd never use, and a recipe book with only two recipes. 

Although baking those muffins would be a good excuse to have a tea party....

Okay, I just want the book!  I have heard nothing but good reviews about it so far, but that's mostly from her fanbase, and fans can be fanatical about even "bad" products if it carries the brand they love.  Unfortunately, I am not enough of an Emilie Autumn fan to forgo most of my meals for three weeks just to save up money to purchase the $80 gift set.

*sigh*

Maybe when I get a career-type job.

 For your listening pleasure, Emilie Autumn sings "Gloomy Sunday."  Originally composed by a Hungarian in the 1930s, it was translated into English in the same decade and has sprung an urban legend that hundreds, if not thousands, of people have committed suicide to it.  Not a Victorian song, but it certainly fits the"crazy Victorian girl" persona that EA emulates:

Sunday, January 3, 2010

similarities between two very different women

This afternoon I settled down at my desk with the full intention of completely editing my resume and cover letter to fit a museum facilitator position that I just found out about yesterday.  But it in quiet in my apartment; the only roommate who has been here with me since I returned left this morning.  She'll return tomorrow, but the silence is stifling.  I was not in the mood for music, however.  I wanted to hear conversational voices, not  melodic ones.  So I borrowed another roommate's copy of "Becoming Jane" (2007).  I do not sit easily in front of a TV, so I thought I'd this movie, which I had a minimal interest in seeing, would be nice background music while I concentrated my energies on the resume.

By the end of the movie my resume was completed, but my cover letter had only two sentences in it and I was fighting back tears.  Not that I really take much stock in this presumptuous biography of Jane Austen's life; such Hollywood treatments of a famous person's personal life should be approached with caution regarding its veracity.  But the story itself struck me by its similarities to George Eliot's The Mill on the Floss, and that was a little too much tragedy for me to take.

Keep in mind that I don't consider Jane Austen's work to be Victorian in any sense of my definition.  She died before Queen Victoria was even born and the industrial revolution that defined the society of the late 19th century had not fully formed at that time.  But George Eliot wrote and lived in the Victorian Era.  Both women's novels featured intelligent, interesting female characters, many of whom were attracted to men who were not their social equals.  Both women wrote about love and social outcasts and propriety and breaking propriety.The Bennett family incurs great scandal when Lydia runs away with Wickham in Pride and Prejudice; in The Mill on the Floss, Maggie Tulliver's partial elopement with Stephen Guest causes even the parish priest to eventually dismiss her as a governess to his children to "save face."

The greatest difference between these two women, however, is their personal lives and their characters' final fates.  Austen never married and, although "Becoming Jane," depicts a scandalous partial elopement and subsequent rejection of that elopement (which brought The Mill on the Floss to my mine), she never seemed to have any taint on her in regard to her writing or her perceived sexuality in real life.  I've read three of her books thus far.  All depict mention of scandals and sex masked in PG language, but all of them eventually become happy endings.  The women of no fortune or prospects end up happily married, or the parted lovers are reunited.

Eliot, on the other hand, lived a common law marriage with George Henry Lewes (who was already married).  I've read three of her books thus far as well, and nearly everyone seems to be unhappy or have something truly terrible happen to then.  People commonly die at the end of her books.  They're rather depressing in nature.  And rarely is the intelligent female, as attractive as she may be to the intelligent male, ever truly happy with her lot, even if she attains goals she had aspired to achieve.

And yet all the characters are truly human, with their own flaws.  Austen's Jane Bennett is awkwardly shy around Mr. Bingley even though she is attracted to him. Elizabeth Bennet is a sharpshooter in her exchanges with Mr. Darcy and Lady Catherine de Bourgh in time when they are just rude.  Marianne Dashwood is the silly little hopeless romantic.  Eliot's Dorothea Brooke yearns for intellectual enlightenment but then loses ambition and self-respect when her intellectual snob of a husband puts down her dreams.  Maggie Tulliver is a wild child who lives to please her brother, even if she does not always obey him.  These are not perfect women by a long shot, and they live very real lives, at least until the end.  Then Austen goes for the ending with a wedding, while Eliot seems to favor the sad, reflective ending. 

Such an ending, ironically enough, was how "Becoming Jane"reached its conclusion.  And it brought the same tears to my eyes that Eliot's The Mill on the Floss did only days earlier as I finished the last chapter.

Friday, January 1, 2010

a bow in for 2010

Hope everyone's New Year celebrations were safe and awesome.  And as cool as this New Year's Eve Gala held at Mount Hope Estate and Winery in Manheim, PA (also the site of the Pennsylvania Renaissance Festival):
image source: PA Renaissance Faire
image source: PA Renaissance Faire
What beats wining and dining the new year in with Victorian flair?

Happy 2010!