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."