Thursday, March 31, 2011

diving deeper into 20,000 leagues under the sea...

...and doing it better than Disney World, from the sounds of it.

Earlier this month at Patriot's Point in Foxboro, Massachusetts. a new attraction entitled, "Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea Interactive Entertainment Experience" opened to the public.  Taking inspiration from the famous Victorian sci-fi novel "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea," the attraction takes visitors deep into the bowels of the Nautilus, the submarine of the novel, where kids and adults alike solve musical and mechanical puzzles to activate secret doors or even control giant squids, according to this article from The Sun Chronicle:
image source: Boston eattractions
"Two young visitors last Saturday - sisters Hannah Marie, 11, and Amanda, 9, from East Taunton - figured out a musical code and repeated it on an organ to open one of the doors in [Captain Nemo's] library. With the help of their cousin Kaylen, 7, of Raynham, they ventured further into the ship, looking for a way back to the small museum where they started.
In the next room, with the help of some lost teenagers, they got the ship active again by adjusting wheels and pipes. Above, the metal pipes started moving again, and the kids were able to continue their way back to the surface. Captain Nemo's scratchy voice, recorded on an old voice box, warned the children of a giant squid, Architeuthis, that he had been trying to control with a chemical serum."
image source: Boston eattractions
In addition to the hands-on puzzles, the attraction also offers a temporary steampunk art exhibit, where various artists recreated gadgets in Verne's novels or just added their own steampunk-inspired pieces.

images source: cnet

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

steampunk princess

With the recent release of Disney's 50th animated feature on DVD yesterday, I've had princesses on the brain.  Tangled (2010) is a story that strikes rather close to home for me- so close that I found myself shivering at parts at how accurately a controlling relationship between a daughter and parent was depicted.

Despite the terrible soundtrack (how I yearn for the days of Tim Rice and Alan Menken once more!), Tangled is a hilarious, yet touching movie reminiscent of the "Golden Age" of Disney in the late 80s and early 90s.

What if Disney created a steampunk princess?
image source: this next
Some creative artist on DeviantArt did a re-imagining of most of the Disney princesses with steampunk gear.  The result is impressive indeed.  I had to do a double-take on both Pocahontas and Snow White, as I couldn't recognize them at first glance.
image source: The Dillenttantista

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

steampunk of the pre-victorian era

Neo-Victorian Studies, the e-journal that I wrote about in yesterday's post, has proved informative reading on steampunk aspects of the 1800s.  Take the article: "'The Steam Arm': Proto-Steampunk Themes in a Popular Victorian Song." The article discusses the theme of technology gone wrong, prevalent in the steampunk subculture, within the pre-Victorian song "The Steam Arm." Written at an unknown date, probably before Queen Victoria's reign, with an unknown melody by an anonymous writer, the song describes the incompatibility of new technology with the daily life of common people.

Just a fun little "what if?" ballad of a man unable to control the superhuman powers inherent in new technology?  Or, perhaps, a song delving into the realm of Victorian anti-technology propaganda?

Whatever this may be, I think the ballad would make an excellent basis for a hilarious steampunk movie.


Oh! Wonders sure will never cease,
While works of art do so increase;
No matter whether in war or peace,
Men can do whatever they please.
Ri too ral, etc

A curious tale I will unfold
To all of you, as I was told,
About a soldier stout and bold,
Whose wife, ‘tis said, was an arrant scold.

At Waterloo he lost an arm,
Which gave him pain and great alarm;
But he soon got well, and grew quite calm,
For a shilling a day was a sort o’ balm.

The story goes, on every night
His wife would bang him left and right;
So he determined, out of spite,
To have an arm, cost what it might.

He went at once, strange it may seem,
To have one made to work by steam,
For a ray of hope began to gleam,
That force of arms would win her esteem.

The limb was finished, and fixed unto
His stump of a shoulder neat and true;
You’d have thought it there by nature grew,
For it stuck to its place as tight as glue.

He started home and knocked at the door,
His wife her abuse began to pour;
He turn’d a small peg, and before
He’d time to think, she fell on the floor.

With policemen soon his room was fill’d,
But every one he nearly killed;
For the soldier’s arm had been so drill’d,
That once in action, it couldn’t be still’d.

They took him, at length, before the mayor,
His arm kept moving all the while there;
The mayor said ‘Shake your fist if you dare,’
When the steam arm knocked him out of the chair.

This rais’d in court a bit of clamour,
The arm going like an auctioneer’s hammer;
It fell in weight like a paviour’s rammer,
And many with fear began to stammer.

He was lock’d in a cell for doing harm,
To satisfy those who had still a qualm,
When all at once they heard an alarm,
Down fell the walls and out popp’d the arm.

He soon escap’d and reach’d his door,
And knock’d by steam raps half a score;
But as the arm in power grew more and more,
Bricks, mortar and wood soon strew’d the floor.

With eagerness he stepp’d each stair,
Popp’d into the room – his wife was there;
‘Oh! Come to my arms’, he said, ‘my dear’;
When his steamer smash’d the crockery ware.

He left his house, at length, outright,
And wanders now just like a sprite;
For he can’t get sleep either day or night,
And his arm keeps moving with two-horse might.

Monday, March 28, 2011

for the scholarly neo-victorian

Swansea University in Wales has a scholarly e-journal for those interested in modern interpretations of Victorian life- Neo-Victorian Studies. 

Some of the articles in past editions of the journal explored steampunk culture in art, literature, film, and gender roles; and rewriting the idea of the Victorian era through modern media such as Sweeney Todd, The Illusionist, and Oliver!  There's even an article discussing the influence of Oscar Wilde in Alan Moore's V for Vendetta!

Here's a sampling of what to read in the current edition of the journal, which can be found here:
  • "Understanding the Literary Theme Park: Dickens World as Adaptation."
  • "Norbu's The Mandala of Sherlock Holmes: Neo-Victorian Occupations of the Past."
  • "Ophelia, the Singing Corpse: Pleasure and the Gaze in Where the Wild Roses Grow.
I think I just found where I want to go to grad school.

Grad school is an interesting and painful topic for me to discuss, mainly because I left my undergraduate at the University of Pittsburgh interested in too many topics and not really sure where to go.  I can easily adapt myself to studying any period of history as the occasion calls for it- I did so with pleasure while I worked at Bushy Run Battlefield, even though I had never studied The French and Indian War, Pontiac's Rebellion, or The Seven Years' War before.

But when I do not have to invest myself in a historical era I always find myself drawn, again and again, to the Victorians.  Now I think it would be foolish for me to study anything else, because I obviously derive the most enjoyment from learning of the Victorians.  That doesn't mean that I will never want to learn about other periods of history- I just finished a book on the Northern Crusades in East Europe.  But it's obvious to me that the Victorian Era is not just a passing intellectual interest, as the Northern Crusades are to me, but a true passion that has been with me for the majority of my short life thus far.

For crying out loud I've been writing a blog on Victorian culture for a year and a half now!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

elephants want to belong too

Last night while leaving a local bar with a friend I found a flier for a play that's coming to Pittsburgh in two weeks:

 According to the description on the back, the play is about a man with a severe deformity and how he is protected by Victorian doctors and eventually accepted by Victorian society as more than a "freak of nature."  A more detailed description can be found on The Ninth Wave's website:
The Elephant Man tells the story of Joseph Merrick, a grossly deformed English man who was taken in by the Royal London Hospital from 1884 to his death in 1890. Dr. Frederick Treves, a young surgeon at the Hospital first saw Merrick as he was being exhibited as part of a side-show near the hospital. He examined Merrick and persuaded the Hospital to allow him to stay on, despite the fact that his disorder was deemed incurable. In this way, Merrick not only was given his first real "home", but was also introduced to and ultimately embraced by English society. The play, by Bernard Pomerance, portrays Merrick's life while in the protective cocoon of the Hospital, and examines how he affected all who knew him.
It performs at The Mutter Museum of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia, PA, on Monday, April 11.  But there will be two series of showings at the Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre on April 1-3 and April 7-9.  I'll see if I can make the latter dates. 

I am feeling in a kickass writing mood today.  Not so much blog-wise, but fiction-wise.  I need to seriously get back on my Victorian historical fiction novel.

As a tribute to the art of writing, I give writers this piece of advice that my twin sister Leigh reminded me of today:
"Substitute "damn" every time you're inclined to write "very;" your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be." ~Mark Twain
In my high school AP English class our instructor, Ms,. Boyle, drilled this piece of advice into our heads.  It is excellent advice.  All unnecessary words such as "very" should be removed from your writing because it doesn't add any special meaning to your writing that isn't already there.

Friday, March 25, 2011

more steam-powered musical goodness

I am not sure if bands like fans like me.  I am never obsessed with bands.  I am obsessed with particular albums and particular songs at certain times, usually in daily or weekly increments.  As for the artists who make the songs or albums I enjoy, I am more likely to use them as a guide to exposure to more music, rather than look into their personal lives and all of their recent happenings. On one hand, that means that I don't go crazy when I see them to the point where I become a scary fan.  On the other hand, that's how I miss important news items, such as the fact that steampunk band Abney Park came put with a new album over five months ago.

I wasn't expecting an album so soon after Aether Shanties, which came out at the end of 2009.  A Facebook status from my twin sister alerted me to the new album, The End of Days.

I've listened to a few of the tracks on YouTube so far, and I must say that I am impressed.  For their third steampunk-themed album, they maintain their focus on the genre and Victorian sci-fi well with their unique world music flair.

My particular favorites so far are the title track, "Victorian Vigilante," (makes me think of Sherlock Holmes for some reason)   and "Fight or Flight."

Yep, I'll definitely be downloading this album from the band's website this evening when I get home from work.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

yeah, it's kinda like that

image source:
I guess Van Helsing (2004) does fit the steampunk genre albeit in a very loose sense of the definition.  He's got spifferific weapons and access to all sorts of technology, and so does his nemesis, Dracula.  There are all sorts of Victorian science fiction goodness in it as well.

Btw Hugh Jackman, curse you for this Victorian science fiction movie!  Not only have I had to suffer through this movie numerous times due to my twin sister's love of it (and you), but it's also fed her crush on you way too much with each viewing.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

beetle-wing dress returns to the spotlight

Fashion icons such as Marilyn Monroe and Madonna have nothing on Victorian actress Ellen Terry, according to an article on the National Trust website:

image source: Incredible Things

A stage costume worn by Ellen Terry, one of the most celebrated and glamorous actresses of the Victorian age, has returned to its home, Smallhythe Place in Kent.

The emerald and sea green gown, covered with the iridescent wings of the jewel beetle (which the beetles shed naturally) was worn by Ellen when she wowed audiences with her portrayal of Lady Macbeth at London’s Lyceum Theatre in 1888.

It was one of the most iconic and celebrated theatre costumes of the time, immortalised by the John Singer Sargent portrait now on display at the Tate Gallery. 
Notable for her roles as Shakespearean heroines, Ellen Terry wore the dress on stage when she portrayed Lady Macbeth in Shakespeare's Macbeth at London's Lyceum Theatre in 1888.

The dress, made of 1,000 beetle wings, took several years to restore to its original 19th century condition:

image source: The Beautiful Necessity
At over 120 years old, the dress had seen many years of wear and tear and was subject to much alteration. It was structurally very weak and a shadow of its original self. Two years ago the intricate process of conserving it began. A successful fundraising campaign raised £50,000 for the work to be completed.
Paul Meredith, House Manager, at Smallhythe Place, said:

'We had collected the beetle wings that had fallen off over the years so that the conservator was able to re-attach many of the originals, plus others that had been donated to us – 1,000 in total.
'The one hundred or so wings that were broken were each carefully repaired by supporting them on small pieces of Japanese tissue adhered with a mixture of wheat starch paste.

'But the majority of the work has involved strengthening the fabric, understanding the many alterations that were made to the dress and ultimately returning it to something that is much closer to the costume worn by Ellen on stage in 1888.'

I am just astounded that a) someone would think to put beetle wings on a dress, and b) that so many of the original wings were able to be repaired and reattached to the dress.  I wonder if the Victorians considered it frivolous, or avant-garde, or picked it apart in another way as a fashion statement much like we do with celebrities' outfits today.  Potential future research, perhaps?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

historical fads, attributes, and lives rediscovered

Here are several things I learned this weekend, not all of which are relevant to this blog:

While running registration for a French and Indian War conference this weekend, I came across a girl with a piece of jewelry that, until now, I had only seen in portraits from the 16th century:

image source: The Anne Boleyn Files

Yes, that is a replica of the necklace worn by Henry VIII's ill-fated second wife, Anne Boleyn, in many depictions of her from the time period:

image source: English History

When I questioned the girl she told me that she had ordered the necklace from a site called The Anne Boleyn Files, which explores the time surrounding the reign of King Henry VIII of England as well as the veracity of representations of Anne Boleyn, especially in shows such as The Tudors and movies such as The Other Boleyn Girl.  There is more Tudor/Elizabethan replica jewelry on this site, although not for those with small wallets- everything looks rather masterfully crafted, and the price reflects the quality of the merchandise (as shown in the photos, of course.)

Another participant of this conference gave me a heads-up on a TV series that came out 12 years ago, around the same time that many reality TV series such as Survivor were starting to make their mark.  Made by PBS, the series is called The 1900 House.  It records the experiences of a modern family living in a controlled environment consisting of a Victorian-era house fitted out in Victorian appliances, decor, and technology.  The family must dress in Victorian dress whenever they are in the house, and must live as the Victorians lived. The person who told me of the series said that it was not a "Let's stick a 21st century family in the 19th century and see how long they survive, mwhahahahaha!" type show, but rather the journey of a family who is genuinely interested in trying to live like the Victorians.

Now I need to find a copy of this series and add it to my growing queue of movies and TV shows to watch.

Finally, I received a package in the mail yesterday containing my very first pocket watch!

I apologize for the poor quality of the images.  If I want to take photos my only option is my laptop's built-in camera, which makes everything rather fuzzy and requires me to hold at weird angles in order to take the photos.  This battery-operated pocket watch consists of a gold-plaited timepiece with antique engravings on the sides and back, covered by a sepia-tinted glass cover.

I have been wearing it so far by clipping the chain into a belt loop and then placing the watch in the small pocket on the right-hand pocket of my jeans.  While I was trying to find out the name of that little pocket, I also managed to find out the utility of it.   According to the blog "Not Yet Published," it was invented specifically by Levi Strauss in the 1870s to hold pocket watches.

image source: Not Yet Published
The mystery of that annoying little pocket has finally been solved for me!

Friday, March 18, 2011

la femme de steampunk

I apologize for the short posts recently.  After a conference this weekend I will have more time to write.

Until then I leave you with a steampunk-looking French film from last year called The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec.  Directed by Luc Besson (The Fifth Element, La Femme Nikita), the film is based on a 1970s comic about reporter Adèle Blanc-Sec and her adventures with the mythical and supernatural.  According to FemaleFirst this film will premier in the UK next month. 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

joyce = fail. leprechauns = win.

I just finished James Joyce's Dubliners, a collection of short stories surrounding the lives of average Irish people living in Dublin around the turn of the 20th century.  After reading all of them, I have to ask myself- why did Joyce even bother?  I don't feel like I got anything out of any of the stories except "The Dead." They're short pithy little character sketches, but it doesn't seem like these character sketches were worth reading.  I didn't really learn anything about people and humanity or even the time period, and I certainly wasn't very engaged.

Anyone else get the same feeling from reading Joyce's works, or completely disagree? Because after this little experience I am not inclined to bury myself in any more of his written work.

In honor of St. Paddy's Day, here's a video recording the League of S.T.E.A.M.'s attempts to catch a leprechaun:

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

pregnant women must be skinny too?!

So I have a new image at the top... but I am still not sure if I like it enough for it to remain.  Ashlee thought the previous The Lady of Shalott image was too busy, and I had a similar vibe, so I went with something without color.  So far this is my favorite corset image, but I'd rather have one that's truly "unlaced."  I guess it's too much to expect Victorians to have images of unlaced corsets on women- that might be just too vulgar for their sense of morality.

But encouraging pregnant women to wear corsets is, apparently, not at all vulgar or immoral to Victorians.

According to the University of Virginia's "Reflections on Health in Society & Culture" page on the maternity corset:
Women who had worn corsets since childhood or adolescence probably had weaker abdominal muscles and might have benefited from proper support, but maternity corsets were not specially designed for support. Instead, the corsets were designed to mask, even minimize, the size of the pregnant body.
image source: Past Perfect Vintage
Sanitation and good birthing practice issues aside, is it any wonder that so many women and children died during childbirth?  The woman probably had no muscle strength with which to push the kid out of her- she probably died from exhaustion, and the child probably suffocated.

I wonder if infant deformations resulted from corset wear during pregnancy as well.  It's too disturbing to think about. 

Yet why do I have the sudden urge to pursue the topic further (i.e. research and write a paper about it?)

Sunday, March 13, 2011

spring cleaning, blog style

I must have been bored this afternoon because I just spent the past two hours reconstructing my blog using a free blog template by Splashy Templates.  I'm still working on the kinks of this new template by reformatting its html code.  Unfortunately I am only an amateur (although patient and experimental) computer techie at best, so some of the "odd" buttons, like that "home" link at the top of the page, will remain there without other pages added onto it until I've figured out how to add more pages.  I'm thinking an "About this Blog" page would be nice. 

What's everyone's opinion of the new blog?  Better than the old one?  Too flashy?  Just perfect?  Its advantages include the fact that it has more color, instead of just shades of pink, and a few little design trinkets that are nice little stylistic touches.  Its cons include the fact that the blog post screen is not big enough for my YouTube video posts. 

I must confess, most of my time was spent trying to find a public domain image, preferably a colorful one with women and corsets (due to the title of the blog, of course, and the idea of "unlacing").  When none of the ones I tried worked to my liking, I settled for William Holman Hunt's The Lady of Shalott, based on Lord Tennyson's poem "The Lady of Shalott."  This particular image was on the front of a Victorian literature book I used for a class in college, and it always caught my attention due to the fact that the Lady seems to be caught within the threads of her tapestry, (i.e. the imaginary world of her making).   For more on this thread (no pun intended) I've previously discussed the symbolism in Victorian paintings of the Lady of Shalott in this post from November 2009.

So Hunt's Lady of Shalott will grace the top of this page until I can find a more suitable image.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

the 19th century's own buffy the vampire slayer?

This post actually hurts to write, because I've just about had it with vampires in pop culture.  But it is relevant to this blog, so I feel obligated...

Seth Grahame-Smith, the author of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, has another book based on a 19th century American icon- Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.  

The story is apparently based on Lincoln's secret life as a vampire assassin, according to a quote from Fearnet:

"Lincoln's mother was killed by a supernatural creature, which fueled his passion to crush vampires and their slave-owning helpers. The novel depicts the 16th U.S. president as an axe-throwing, highly trained vampire killer."

Well, I'll give Grahame-Smith points for creativity of a story conception dealing with vampires. It's certainly not your modern teenage-girl romance kind of reading material.

With Timur Bekmambetov directing it and and Tim Burton producing it and many cast members already signed on (including Benjamin Walker as Honest Abe and Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Mary Todd Lincoln), a movie version will begin filming this month in New Orleans and is currently scheduled to come to theaters in June 2012.

Despite my frustrations with the entire vampire story genre, chances are I'll probably end up seeing this movie. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is a favorite of my boyfriend, and he'll probably give me the appropriate puppy-dog eye look to get me to accompany him.  The look is too powerful for me to resist.


Friday, March 11, 2011

insomnia = eccentric blogging

For weeks I have rarely fallen asleep with ease, despite many recent nights of catching less than 4 or 5 hours of sleep.  It baffles me, where this insomnia comes from or the nightmares that occur when I do slip into a state of unconsciousness.  I blame it on my Victorian boogeyman.  Maybe he just wants me to blog more.

If that's the case then he got what he wanted.  It's 2 a.m. and I am painting my nails black and blogging about Victorian smokers.  Yesterday on Reuters I came across an article by Stefano Ambrogi about a recent study done on Victorian skeletons froma cemetery in Whitechapel (infamous for its association with Jack the Ripper) by the Museum of London.  According to the article:

[Most of the skeletons]  had "notches" in at least two, and often four, front teeth made through the habitual holding of pipe stems.

image source: Reuters
Osteological analysis of 268 adults buried between 1843 and 1854 found that some disfigurement had occurred in 92 percent of adults exhumed, while wear associated with habitual use of pipes was evident in 23 percent.

"In many cases, a clear circular "hole' was evident when the upper and lower jaws were closed," said Donald Walker, human osteologist at Museum of London Archaeology Service.
 Clay pipes were used for centuries by smokers, and remains of clay pipes are often found at historical sites from the 18th and 19th centuries at least, to my knowledge, in America.  According to an archaeologist I used to work with, clay pipes can even be dated to within ten years of their use by the size and shape of the bowl.  I knew they were used well into the 19th century, but I never associated clay pipes with teeth disfigurement.  The article points out that even young adults had these notches on their teeth, indicating that they started their habit very early.

I wonder how many Victorians ended up dying of lung cancer or other respiratory diseases as a result of their smoking habit.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

is it really THAT important to you?

Once upon a time I belonged to Twitter.  After several months of trying to figure out Twitter's purpose other than a person's would-be Facebook statuses (and I, as a rule, hate Facebook statuses) I deleted my account.  No one cares what I have to say in a pithy 140 character phrase. Of course I could see the benefits of belonging just to have direct access to Charlie Sheen's daily proverbs.  And, apparently, to find out how crazy and upsetting rising stardom can be for Miss Emilie Autumn:
The Best Way To Start Your Day: Noticing this message in Sharpie written across your tour bus, "I waited 5 years to see you and all I wanted was my violin signed." Nice. Allow me to share some details with those moderately interested. We arrive in El Paso, Texas on the morning of the 6th. We spend the whole day preparing the set, the stage, ourselves, rehearsing, soundchecking, etc. 2 hours before the show, I give an hour-long VIP session where I play a violin recital, meet Plague Rats, tell (bad) jokes, sign posters, CDs, and body parts, and pose for pictures with every living breathing thing I can wrap my arms around, one of which freaked the fuck out and started yelling "FUCK YOU!!!" at me as we were being photographed, at which I had to call for security. Then, it's back to the bus for us all to get ready in a panic, because our venue has no dressing room, i.e. backstage. 1 hour later, and we board the stage to perform a sweaty and physically/emotionally draining show just exceeding 2 hours in length. After the show, we rush through the crowd to get to our tour bus so that our small crew can break down the stage as soon as possible and load the trailer in time to get us on the road to the next city in time for tomorrow's show to do the same thing all over again. Fans are waiting outside the bus as the girls and I are inside changing and taking "showers" with baby wipes, and they sometimes pound on the door, but we expect this by now. Our amazing tour manager, Melissa, who tries to take care of every fan and aids me in my desire to give everyone everything they want all the fucking time, comes to the bus to see that we are alright and meets a "Plague Rat" just outside our door. The girl wants her violin signed. I am touched by this -- I always am. Melissa comes in to ask me if I will sign it. I tell her that of course I will as soon as we are changed and ready to meet the girl. Melissa plans to bring her on the bus, which is something we never, ever do, but the girl seems sweet. Melissa asks the girl to wait with her violin outside the bus until she comes back and tells her that I'm ready. You'll never guess what happens next, because I sure couldn't have. Contessa and Maggots are sitting on the couch on one side of the bus, changing out of their costumes. Veronica is sitting on the couch on the other side doing the same. The window behind Tessa and Maggots is open just a crack to let some air in, but that's not all, because, right behind their heads, a long, sharp object is shoved through the window, making stabbing motions and flailing around, just barely missing the backs of their skulls. As far as they know, It could be a gun, a knife, any number of things. VV sees it first -- it's a fucking violin bow. She screams and pulls the girls away from the window, Contessa screams as she is nearly stabbed, and Maggots is just trying to calm them down and make sure nobody is hurt. I am in my bunk, asking what the fuck just happened. The girls are terrified, and I want to kill somebody for this outrageous breach of the tiny personal space we have while on the road and attacking my girls. One of my crew comes to the bus and we inform him of the shit that just went down. He can't even believe it. I ask him if this girl with her violin (and bow apparently) is still waiting outside our bus. He looks out and says that she is. I ask him to let her know that she needs to step away immediately, because no one will be signing anything tonight. She was as good as on the bus, her violin was as good as signed, and all she had to do was wait until we were changed, but this wasn't enough for her, and she had to come up to our window, find an open crack, and shove her bow inside, and now, she needs to leave. It's over. She ruined it. Good night. So, when Melissa comes to me first thing this morning with the new the aforementioned message was scrawled in permanent ink all along the side of our bus that night (which I now need to pay to have removed because this bus is rented -- I do not own this), I ask myself again why I even bother. To this girl, and to other "fans" such as this, of which there are, sadly, MANY, thank you for once again reminding me that you are entitled to everything, I am obligated to give you everything, that my personal space is nothing, that your petty wishes are all that matters and that, if they are not fulfilled to the last detail, my personal property, or that which I rent, may be destroyed in an act of obviously justified revenge. Thanks for making me, once again, consider just saying "Fuck this," and going home. And thanks for ruining it for everybody else, whom I now will not trust within a mile of my bus, my girls, myself, or anything I hold dear (or have to pay for). So, for any true Plague Rats or simply decent human beings who see such acts as this being committed, you know what to do. To any who see this girl posting about the cruelty of myself and my crew for not allowing her fucking violin to be signed, you know what to do. But the true tragedy of my morning? That my gluten free oatmeal just exploded all over the bus microwave. Now THAT sucks...
 I'm not sure that there's much to say, except- WHAT'S WRONG WITH PEOPLE?

About the girl with the violin- Emilie Autumn isn't God.  She's a great performer, but not that much more special than anyone else on this planet.  She doesn't have to fulfill everyone's requests.  She is human.  That is why I don't flatter myself by thinking that she's actually reading this blog even though I gave her the address.  I wish she would,  I wish everyone would read my blog and inflate my nonexistent ego.  I also wish that I was the one marrying Prince William, much to my boyfriend's insistence that Harry is the better catch because his brief stint fighting with the British Army in Afghanistan in 2007 has truly turned him into a warrior prince.  But I digress.

My point is, if EA went about pleasing every one of her fans personally she's die of exhaustion in two days.  No celebrity is that important that you have to lose your senses over them.  Destruction of property is just not cool.  If you really want EA's attention, then pay the extra money to attend the VIP sessions and meet her in person.  She'll sign your violin there.  

The "FUCK YOU" girl just baffles me.  Didn't she know she was going to get hugged?

Despite everything that went wrong with the Pittsburgh concert, I am so glad that the fans were as mellow as they were (except for the girl who lied to Veronica on her poster just to get kissed during the Sexy Rat Game- I overheard her tell a group of Plague Rats after the concert that she lied about it being her 18th birthday to get Veronica's attention. Come on.  As a Plague Rat do you really need to deceive to get such special attention when there were plenty of other deserving Plague Rats in the crowd?)  The only fierce passion shown was the fact that we were freezing our arses out in zero degree weather, which I think is more of a "survival instinct" passion and rather understandable, compared to "Waah, Emilie Autumn won't give me immediate special attention and personal gratification, waah."  Just enjoy the music and her message of "I'm depressed, you're depressed, let's forget about the depression through my expression of those depressed feelings."

Now I feel really bad about making Emilie Autumn cry.  Sounds like she is going to need serious mental help after everything her fans have done to distress her during this tour.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

tidbits on the brain

After some recent dissecting of memories of the past and dreams of the present, I've just learned that I have a personal boogeyman who's been haunting my worst nightmares since I was six.  Is it any surprise to any of my readers that this boogeyman is Victorian?

As an aside, for any Victorian era enthusiast who's trying to decide which foreign language to study, my recommendation is French.  Not only were French words and phrases commonly used in 19th century novels such as Jane Eyre, Anna Karenina, The Brothers Karamazov, and Vanity Fair, Paris was perceived as the center of the world at the end of the 19th century in regards to advances in technology, increasing trade opportunities and tourism attractions.  Perhaps the importance attached to Paris and France at this time in history is why French is so prevalent in non-French literature of the time.  Even in The Turn of the Screw the use of the French word "mot" (which means "word") would have no meaning to a reader without footnotes or a basic exposure to French vocabulary.

French certainly helps one dissect the meaning behind some of the lyrics in Kanon Wakeshima's neo-Victorian music video, "Lolitawork Libretto":

Aides-moi= Help me
Reveille-moi = Wake me up
Arrêtes- Stop
T'entends ma chérie- Hear me my darling

Friday, March 4, 2011

"just slap some clockwork on it"

We've found the culprits behind the "Not Remotely Steampunk" category of Regretsy.

image source: Tree Lobsters! 
Click on image to enlarge.
This is the last of this week's "Not Steampunk" posts, I promise!

"not steampunk" redux

I thought this comic was rather appropriate with yesterday's post about items erroneously labeled "steampunk" in order to create more hits and, therefore, more sales:

image source: Alaska Robotics

Thursday, March 3, 2011

the "not steampunk" category

Last night I found myself on Regretsy, the "fail blog of hand crafts."  While browsing this amusing site I noticed an entire category dedicated to ll hand-crafted things that are "Not Remotely Steampunk."

How does an item make the "Not Remotely Steampunk" category?  By being tagged or listed as steampunk when, in actuality, it is not.

Like this fanny-pack:

Erm, how is the same item I wore to Disney World as a cutesy Disney Princess obsessed five-year-old tourist in any way "retro," "steampunk," or "gothic?"

And if this counts as "steampunk," then I should start shopping at American Eagle more often for my steampunk goodies:

Okay, if "steampink" isn't actually a new subculture completely unrelated to "steampunk," then this next one just hurts:

I've noticed this problem of items that are not obviously "steampunk" being labeled as such on eBay, Amazon, and other websites.  Once in a while a friend will send me links to perfectly normal Mary Janes and fashion trenchcoats that are labeled as steampunk, thinking that I can write about it on my blog.  Then I have to explain why the item is not noticeably steampunk and, therefore, probably not steampunk at all. The trenchcoat I linked to could be steampunk with a lot of customizing on the part of the buyer, but is, of itself, not a steampunk item.

FYI: Just because steampunk is not all that clearly defined doesn't make it a catch-all category for every vintage, Goth, or subcultural item out there.  It really just means that the seller is too lazy or not knowledgeable enough about his or her own product to pick a good tag description that is actually true to the product.

Kudos to Regretsy for displaying the wide world of "Not Remotely Steampunk" for our viewing pleasure.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

"the turn of the screw" and victorian sanity

*Warning: Here be spoilers for Henry James' novella The Turn of the Screw.  Do not read if you do not want the novella ruined for you.*

Out of all of the books I bought last week, Henry James' The Turn of the Screw caught my boyfriend's eager attention the most.  He insisted that I should read that book first.  I was actually going to read Salman Rushdie's short stories first, but seeing as my boyfriend wanted me to read those stories aloud to him, I chose James' book as my break time and bedtime reading.  It took me a week.
image source: Aesop to Oz

The Turn of the Screw is a psychological thriller that starts at the end the 19th century, where a group of people gathered together are treated to a written account of strange paranormal activity involving two children that occurred about 40 years earlier.  The account was written by the governess of the children, and the rest of the story is written from her point of view.

Her charges are a little girl named Flora and her 10-year-old brother Miles, who were left in the care of their uncle after their parents died.  The uncle leaves the unnamed governess in charge of Bly, the country home  where he has placed the two children and a household of servants.  He does not want to be bothered by any details of the children's lives- he just wants to be left alone.

The two children are perfect little angels, never doing any mischief as far as the governess sees.  The only blight is the fact that Miles was expelled from his boarding school shortly before the summer holidays, but with no explanation given by the headmaster.  The governess, however, proceeds to teach both children and subsequently falls until the spell of their charm.

One evening in June, however, the governess catches sight of a man on the tower at Bly, and then her troubles begin.  Upon disclosing her discovery to Mrs. Grose, the housekeeper, she discovers that the man is a former servant named Peter Quint.  But Peter has been dead for several months.  When the governess sees the apparition the deceased Miss Jessel, Flora's former governess, she begins to fear for the innocent lives in her charge.

I've never read anything by Henry James before, but his style and syntax are so bizarre for Victorian writing.  They're incomplete in meaning.  As a result, the conversations between the governess and Mrs. Grose are confusing to read because they're actually a delicate dance of propriety and investigation, as only Victorians seem to know how.  The topics?  Mostly the possible relation of the two apparitions to the children.  What is not said is what is most terrifying, for it leaves the reader imagining the horrors that may have lurked, and may still exist, between the deceased servants and the little ones.  There are hints of a sexual relationship between Quint and Miss Jessel, and from the words that James chooses, it's never resolved whether this sexual impropriety was extended to Flora and Miles.

One thing is for certain to the governess- the apparitions have a hold on the children, such a hold that she is convinced that the children are being possessed by the spirits of the dead servants.  To the governess, the innocence of the children is a facade, the good behavior hides vicious plotting, and the apparitions will taint Bly with their evil presence until the children are entirely theirs.

 The end does not settle the question of what the apparitions may want, but leaves the reader with more questions.

Interestingly enough for me, when I finished the story Scott and I had completely different interpretations.  Scott thought the apparitions were real and really trying to corrupt the children.  I thought that the apparitions were a concoction of the governess, that she was attributing deviousness and an evil influence in the children to something that was not actually there, and that the entire story was actually a display of the governess having gone mad.  The points for that interpretation are that Mrs. Grose could not see the ghost of Miss Jessel when she, Flora, and the governess were confronted with it. The points against my interpretation are the fact that the governess could describe the apparitions to Mrs. Grose in a way that she immediately recognized who they were, and that it appeared that Miles could see at least one of them as well (Flora never actually seemed to see anything, which the governess attributes as the greatest sign of her confederacy with the apparitions. I think whether Flora saw anything or not neither supports nor hinders either interpretation.)

It was quite a thriller, and I enjoyed it thoroughly.  Overall, it was an excellent read, one that I strongly recommend to anyone who likes stories that play with the mind.