Tuesday, March 30, 2010

guitarists have hobbies too

I am aware it's been a week since I have last posted-- probably the longest gap in a while for me not to post.  The museum I now work for hosted a big French and Indian War-related conference this weekend, and I worked late nights and such.  But it was all fun, even if it was physically draining.  It's such a release to be doing something you love.

My friend Scott brought my attention to this article that was published several months ago in The Guardian.  Yes, this article is not "new" news, but rather interesting anyway.  Brian Mays, the guitarist from the band Queen , collects Victorian stereo photographs and cameras for fun. 

What is a stereo photograph?

According to the article, it is "...two images, taken by the same camera but moved a few inches to the left for the second, [which] created a 3D effect which the Victorians called "stereography" when seen through a special viewer..."

Here's two examples of stereo photographs.  The two pictures were placed side-by-side like this:

 image source: Early Visual Media

 image source: Early Visual Media
The slightly altered pictures created a 3-D effect in the mind when viewed through a stereoscope:

image source: Early Visual Media
 They could be hand-held, as this Holmes stereoscope was:

image source: Early Visual Media
Or kept in more permanent locations, as this stereodrome was:
image source: Early Visual Media
If you ever get the chance to look at an image through one of these Victorian contraptions, please do so.  I have had the opportunity to do so at the Henry Clay Frick mansion in Wilkinsburg, Pittsburgh.  It's quite impressive to see the images literally pop out at you as easily as they would in a 3-D viewing of Avatar.

It's pretty cool that Brian Mays takes such an extreme interest in an obsolete technology, so I thought I would bring it to your attention.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

they DO exist!

Saturday was a crazy day for me.  After eight hours at the museum, where I sat through tour guide training and worked on the stacks of paperwork I have yet to get through, I drove 45 minutes to my second job, that of a barista in a quaint little coffee shop in Pittsburgh. 

When I got there I found the other two baristas who work that shift haggard and worn, wrappers on the floor and the counters and tabletops unwiped because they had been running around ever since their shift started three hours ago. From the looks of it, about half of the city of Pittsburgh out on the streets due to this past weekend's warm weather must have hit up our coffee shop for cool drinks and ice cream.

So I rolled up my sleeves and began to restock the condiments and take out the overflowing trash bags.  As I was securing a trash bag to a garbage can, my twin sister Leigh (who was also patronizing the coffee shop at this time) ran up to me, pointing excitedly out the window. 

Look! Lolitas!

I spun around.  Sure enough, I saw two girls clad in Lolita fashion, wearing the conservative dresses in festively springtime hues of green and pink.  Leigh wanted me to run out right then and there and talk to them.  I washed my hands, stepped outside the door, looked ahead to the girls a half a block ahead of me, and... stopped.


I'm used to being looked at like a freak show exhibit when people see my twin sister and I together for the first time. We are identical twins and, although we don't dress the same, we have received the scrutinizing stares, the examinations, pointing and the verbal comparisons to the Olsen twins.  What was I going to say to these Lolitas after having pointed and gushed over them as well?  "Hi, I write a neo-Victorian blog and I'd like to talk to you ladies because your dress is so unusual, but I can't do it right now because I have to work, so here's my number and my blog address, please contact me" would be kind of awkward.  It would treat them like a freak show, and did they really want that?  They were obviously trying to enjoy the sunny and warm weather, like all the other pedestrians.

So I watched them walk away, wondering if I did the right thing. 

At least I know this:  Lolita fashion has infiltrated Pittsburgh.  This old, once-great industrial city is not as far behind the times as I had thought it was.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

poto parody

Here's a gem I watched several years ago, and had to watch again-- a parody of that movie based off of the infamous musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber, The Phantom of the Opera:


I unashamedly admit that I was a total Phantom Phangirl back in my wayward adolescence.  It is a gothic Victorian-era musical that fit the hopeless romantic mindset I had back when I was 13.  But now I have to wonder what I was thinking.  Sure, the Phantom is sexy, but he's also a psychopathic murderous stalker.  Erm... what's the draw?

As, I am sure, many current Twilight fans will probably be wondering in a few years about their obsession.

The above clip (which is actually 33 minutes, not the advertised 15) parodies the things that just don't make sense, as well as the silly love story surrounding the creeper who secretly watches a young girl from behind a mirror and then proceeds to single-handedly kill people to improve her career, and then to destroy it.  It's not always easy to understand what the dubbed-over voices are saying, and it takes a while to get really funny, but there are some real humorous nuggets.

Such as the following:
Phantom:  Welcome to my lair. Let me show you around....
Christine:  Wow!
Phantom: [image of the wall filled with sketches of Christine] My wall of crazy!
Christine:  [sounding impressed] Ooooooh!
Phantom:  My terrifying detailed Opera House diorama, and voodoo dolls!
Christine:  I like the colors!

Friday, March 19, 2010

"a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away..."

On Wednesday I started my job as a museum facilitator.  It's been... interesting.  Mostly cleaning out my new office, fighting my way through cobwebs and going through stacks of paperwork.  Although my old boss came out today and went over the education programs and a detailed description of the battle fought at the site.  I wish I could talk about it more, but I never wanted this blog to be a personal journal, and my new job has little to nothing to do with the 19th century.

Back to the focus of this blog: remember the steampunk Darth Vader helmet I came across a few weeks ago?

My friend Scott found something better:

image source: Sillof's Workshop
This fellow designed and sculpted all of these figures.  The Vader has a German Bismarck-esque helmet like the first Vader helmet I posted, and Leia's got a corset and laser gun.  The steampunk look does work very effectively with Star Wars, especially if you consider that there is so much Victorian sci-fi media such as The Time Machine or Space 1889.  The robots and the light sabers, the fantastic creatures and machines and imperialism of the Star Wars Universe, can easily be altered to fit the steampunk aesthetic.

This artist is onto something when he imagines Darth Vader as half-man, half machine:
image source: Eric's Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Idea

Saturday, March 13, 2010

"almost alice"

I came across an interesting news update while using Rhapsody the other day of a compilation CD inspired by Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, released in time for the premier of Tim Burton's new film.

According to Zach Freeman in his review of the album for Blogger News Network:
Including such known entities as Avril Lavigne (whose track “Alice” serves as the end title song for Tim Burton’s new 3-D extravaganza Alice in Wonderland), Franz Ferdinand, Plain White T’s, The All-American Rejects, and Wolfmother, as well as individual members of bands - Mark Hoppus of blink-182, Pete Wentz of Fall Out Boy, and Robert Smith of The Cure, Almost Alice is a fairly star-studded affair. And though each group of artists was given free reign to explore “elements from the film and Lewis Carroll’s books to develop their own individual interpretations” this hour-long collection of music feels solidly grounded in central themes of strangeness and exploration.... Overall, this is an enjoyable poppy album, but nothing too ground-breaking is ever presented.
I've been listening to some of the songs on YouTube.  I was not impressed by Grace and the Nocturnal's rendition of "White Rabbit," but the Avril Lavigne track and "Technicolor Phase" by Owl City really caught my attention.  They were rather poignant and relevant to the story of Alice.  "Tea Party" is a fun song with unimaginative lyrics that one could easily dance to in a club, but its connection to the stories is poor at best, and hardly strange enough to bring the bizarre adventures of Alice Liddell to life through music.

 Here's the music video to Lavigne's song:

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

[queen?] victoria's lingerie

Once again I prove to be way behind on neo-Victorian events.  I knew I should have watched the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show last December, as I only discovered its steampunk elements tonight purely by accident:
image source: flickr

image source: style fuss

Mechanical and clockwork angel wings! How did I miss hearing about this?!

Time to go crawling back under the rock that I apparently live under in shame.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

the wonderland obsession redux

I should have talked about Alice in Wonderland, the new Tim Burton movie, much sooner, but to be honest I had no idea what to think of it.  The previews give me the impression that the movie is more about the Mad Hatter than Alice. I mean, why is it listed as starring Johnny Depp?  And why do  most of the advertising posters and merchandise appear to feature his character?  Mia Wasikowska's Alice seems to have been forgotten in the publicity for the most part.

Am I entirely insane for thinking this?

I haven't seen it yet, but the film appears to be the typical Tim Burton fare that he has delivered up in the past five years- extremely bizarre, freak-show-like tales that are (usually) Victorian and star Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter.  This film will tell whether this formula will continue to work for Tim Burton.  I've heard mixed reviews on this film, most of them negative.  But most people I've spoken to about the film seem inclined to see it, so it should do well at the box office even if it isn't very good.

What I have seen is an incredible amount of advertising and merchandising, which actually seems unusual for a Tim Burton film.  True, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005) had a lot of candy-related advertising spurred by Nestle's Willy Wonka treats, but that was to be expected.

The first inkling I had had of this current Burton movie's merchandize was Hot Topic, but that is no real surprise.  Their  lines of clothes and items for the Burton cult classic The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)are still a fan favorite nearly 20 years after that movie came out, and they certainly handled all the merchandise I saw for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Corpse Bride (2005) and Sweeny Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007).  They have sold items featuring Disney's Alice in Wonderland for years as well.

But then I walked past a Claire's, and came across an entire collection of Alice in Wonderland-inspired accessories such as these:

And these:

Then there is O.P.I. with its four-piece nail polish collection featuring outrageous colors based on the new movie called "Absolutely Alice," "Mad as a Hatter," and "Off with her Red!"

image source: All Lacquered Up
Even Bloomingdale's is hopping on the Alice bandwagon.  They are currently stocking their stores with a line of Alice-inspired fashion items created by designer Sue Wong:

image source: Disney Dreaming
image source: Disney Dreaming
Last weekend, in time with the movie's release, Bloomingdale's NYC store windows revealed the new line in a Mad Tea Party style, with displays of the Wonderland dresses and accessories:

image source: MTV.com
You can view the rest of Sue Wong's line here.

My first blog post on this topic appears to still hold true:  People are obsessed with Wonderland.

Friday, March 5, 2010

wotcha know?

For interested readers, an excerpt from my Victorian historical fiction novel. Victorian slang and working class ways of talking are some things I have been practicing and trying to master in my writing for years now. I hope you readers enjoy, or can impart any useful criticisms or advice:
Several minutes passed. The warm tears that poured from her eyes cascaded down her cheeks, rolling along the curve of her mouth before streaming down her chin and falling against the collar of her blouse. She hugged her legs against her chest and buried her head in the folds of her dress, trying in vain to gather some more warmth. But she could not seem to stop her body from trembling.The thump of metal against wood came from some distance away, followed by a string of loud oaths.

“Would ye shut yer trap!” someone else bellowed.

Her head snapped up in the direction, tears still falling from her eyes. She heard footsteps echoing among the wooden crates. She covered her mouth with her hands and pressed herself against the crate. The rough wood bit into her arm through the soaked cloak and cotton dress, but the solid frame of the crate helped to keep her still.

“Which one did ‘e say it was?” a low, gruff voice cut through the darkness, closer now.

“They’re right over ‘ere,” another voice said in reply. “They came in today. I saw the boxes meself.”

Rose wondered if the two men knew of a place to stay. But she recalled the stories the blackguards who roamed the streets at night. She had already been robbed once today; she was not eager to get herself into worse trouble.

The footsteps stopped. She heard something soft and heavy hit the ground.

“Where are the others?” the first voice asked.

“Jest you’n me’n the boy.”

“’Ow’s that?”

“The Boss wants to see a bit o’ the goods first.”

Rose waited, straining to hear more. Besides the light pattering of rain on the canvas she could only discern grunts and heavy breathing. She cautiously lifted a corner of the canvas and peered out into the night.

It took her a few moments for her to distinguish two black forms as they lifted a crate off one of the piles to the ground.

The larger one of the pair motioned to the ground. “’And that over,” he ordered.

Lifting a long, slender object from the ground, the smaller man passed it to his compatriot, who then thrust the object into the crate. He began to bring the object up and down, causing the nails in the crate to creak with the effort.

“Gorrit!” he murmured as the lid broke free.

The darkness was suddenly dispelled as a flash of yellow burst from the direction of the two men. She covered her eyes and looked away.

“Where are they?”

“Look under the cloths.”

She heard the men rifling through the contents of the crate. “Right there,” the second voice said.

The first voice gave a low whistle. “Boss’ll be paying well if they’re all like this’un.”

Curiosity made her squint into the light and observe the two men. The smaller man held the lantern, illuminating himself in the gloom. He wore dirty blue trousers, a striped red and white shirt, with a navy blue cap over his head. He bent over the crate, giving light to his bulky companion. Rose could only see his profile outlined in the dull radiance his comrade shed. The larger one fell to his knees. He began to transfer some tightly wrapped objects from the crate to a burlap sack that he produced from his coat. Rose observed each bundle that was taken out of the crate, trying to figure out what they were.

But before she could determine the purpose of the bundles someone pulled her canvas covering away from her.

Rose looked up, dumbstruck, at a new personage. A young boy held the canvas in his hands. He had a dirty brown hat pulled low over his dark eyes gleaming in the light of the lantern. He grinned mischievously.

“Lookit ‘ere, Bill!” he called out. “An undercover Yardie!”

The two men snapped their heads in her direction. Rose suddenly realized that she should not be there. But before she could react they were at her side, the larger one gripping her arm and yanking her to her feet. The smaller one shoved the lantern in her face to see her better.

The large man thrust his gritty, unshaven face towards hers. “What’re ye doin’ ‘ere, eh?” he hissed, the stench of stale beer in his breath.

She turned her head away, facing the smaller man instead. He had a tightly drawn face and a small pointed nose which gave him the appearance of a rat. He leered at her, showing dirty, yellow teeth.

“Yeah, what’re ye doin’?” he parroted.

“I- I- I- du-don’t know,” she stammered.

“Think of seein’ somethin’ that ye weren’t ‘posed to, eh?” He gripped her arm more tightly.

The pain drew her voice back out. “Nu-no! Nothing!”

“It don’t look like you was seein’ nothing,” the rat-face man said.

“I was just t-t-trying to ge-get out of the co-cold!”

“I think ye was tryin’ to get in on some of our goods,” the larger man said in a dangerous voice. “I think ye wanted some for yerself. What do ye say, Pete?”

“Oh, I dunno.” The rat licked his lips. He reached out a hand and slowly ran his fingers along Rose’s cheek. “Tryin’ to get some of our goods, Ladybird? Was ye plannin’ on payin’ us for ‘em?”

Rose had meant to scream the answer, but it came out as a whispered, “No.”

“Wot’ll we do wit ‘er, Bill?” the boy asked.

The large man glared up at the boy. “Yer ‘posed to keep lookout! Why aren’t ye at yer post?”

The boy pointed to Rose. “I’m doin’ my job! I found this’un for ye, didn’t I?”

“Back to yer post!” Bill snarled.

“Boss’ll ‘ear about this,” the boy huffed, disappearing into the darkness.

“I says we teach ‘er a little lesson,” the rat said, a roguish expression on his features. “Make sure she think twice ‘fore squealin’ to the coppers.”

“Yer right. Get me my bar,” Bill said.

The rat lost his grin. “What?”

“Get me my bar,” Bill repeated, motioning to the crate.

The rat lowered the lantern, casting his face in shadows. “What are ye goin’ to do, Bill?”

“Don’t want anyone on us. The Boss’ll have our heads fer it.”

“Yer goin’… goin’ to…” The rat imitated hitting himself on the head.

“Get the bar!” Bill snarled.

“No!” Rose cried, trying to pull her arm away. He only griped her arm more tightly and chuckled darkly at her weak attempt.

“Bill! Ye can’t! We’ll ‘ave the coppers on us fer sure!”

“Ye yellow bastard! I’ll get it meself!” He dragged Rose to the open crate. She saw the crowbar lying on the ground. He bent down and picked it up.

“Let go of me!”

He twisted her arm expertly to bend her over and then raised his hand, preparing to swing the crowbar down on her head.

“What do ye think yer doin’?” a harsh feminine voice cut in, staying Bill’s hand.

Bill spun around, crowbar still raised. He peered into the darkness. “Oo’s there?” he barked. “Show yerself!”

The form of a woman materialized out of the night next to Pete. She was slightly taller than Rose and had a thinly lined face with rouged cheeks and red lips. She wore a brown netted shawl and dingy pink dress with imitation roses at the breast and in her brown hat.

“It’s jest me. What’re ye doin’, Bill?” she murmured as she approached Bill and Rose.

Bill glared at her, but slowly lowered his weapon. “None of yer business!”

The woman took Rose’s free arm. “I’ve been lookin’ fer ye everywheres, dearie. I told ye that ye shouldn’t be walkin’ around. Ye’ll catch yer death o’ cold out ‘ere!”

“I... what?” Rose asked, confused.

“What is this, Scarlett?” Bill demanded.

“I might ask ye the same, Bill Stryker. Now get yer filthy ‘ands off my niece.”

Bill looked from Scarlett to Rose, as if seeing them for the first time. “’Uh? Yer what?”

“Ye ‘eard me!” the woman snapped.

“Ye lyin’ ‘ore. She’s too genteel to be yer niece!”

“What are ye sayin’? That I can’t ‘ave nice relations?”

“No ‘ore ‘as nice relations! Ain’t that right Pete?”

The rat glanced from Bill to Scarlett, as if afraid of saying something wrong. “Weel…” He shrugged.

Rose coughed. “Aunt Scarlett, can we go home?” she meekly asked the woman.

“O’ course, dearie,” she said, linking her arm in Rose’s.

Bill swore. “I don’t believe it!” But he let go of the girl. Then, throwing the crowbar down, he barked, “Get back ‘ere, Pete! No more ‘ruptions!”

Scarlett began to lead Rose away from the two men as the rat rushed back with the lantern.

Rose stopped. “My bag,” she whispered, and pointed to the crates where she had been hiding. “I left it over there.”

The woman gently nudged her. “Get it.”

Rose retrieved her bag, lying in a puddle of stagnant water where it had fallen when she was pulled out from behind the crate, and returned to Scarlett. The woman took her by the arm and quickly walked away.

When they were out of earshot of the two Scarlett whispered, “Ye got to be careful on the docks. They goes there near every week for goods.”


Scarlett lightly squeezed the sleeve of Rose’s dress, causing some of the dampness to fall on her hand. “Yer wet and near well freezin’!” she exclaimed.

“I know,” Rose murmured.

“Ye got somewheres ta go?”

“No, ma’am.”

Scarlett picked up her pace. “We’ll go ta The Black Crow. Millie’s a good’un, she’ll get ye right warm an’ dry in no time!”


“O’ course.”

Rose remembered that Fran had warned her to stay away from The Black Crow. But the thought of getting dry was too tempting to turn down, and she did not want to insult Scarlett by refusing her offer....

Thursday, March 4, 2010

laced-up metal

How would you like the sexy lacing of a corset around your finger?
image source: Auralee & Co.
image source: Auralee & Co.
image source: Auralee & Co.
That certainly gets rid of the breathing issues associated with tight lacing.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

class act

Thanks to Mild Colonial Boy, Esq. for bringing my attention to this photo from 1930:

image source: Lumete Eyewear
I have mixed thoughts at seeing eyeliner and a monocle, and I'm not sure why.  This woman looks so classy and yet I've been thrown off.  Perhaps because I've never actually seen a woman outside of a steampunk photo wearing a monocle, and never from this close.

Monocles were popular until before WWII and, as I said in this blog post, coming back in popularity.