Monday, October 31, 2011

'appy 'alloween!

Today is just simply too busy a day for me to write a full blog post.  I just wanted to take the time to wish you all a very happy Halloween.


Now it's time to go pass out some candy to schoolkids visiting the office while attired in all my steampunk glory:

Thursday, October 27, 2011

jesus get your steamgun

I love Regretsy's "Not Remotely Steampunk" category for giving me this image to start out my day on a different note:

image source: Regretsy
And for anyone who went to high school with me, oh yes I did.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

humdrum workday turned steampunk fun!

'Twas the afternoon 'fore today, and all through the office,
The lawyers were gone, the secretaries absent.
Silence descended on the vacant space,
Except for one keyboard, typing apace.
Your blogger was working on Microsoft Excel
When she thought she would stretch her legs for a spell,
One hour until the work day was done,
And she could go for Girls Night Out fun.
A trip to the mailbox was surely in order,
For bills and junk mail to be sorted over.

By the brass-colored boxes, what did she spy?
Two nondescript boxes caught her eye.
The first, addressed to an Indian name,
Bespoke of new checks for the same.
The second, larger and wrapped in brown paper,
Addressed to your dear Unlacer.

She grabbed both boxes and rushed up the stairs
And once in her office, ripped the paper to shreds.
She lifted the ancient box's lid
And found therein an eBay bid
Hard-won in a search for a ballgown
For which to wear to let her hair down
For Goblins & Gears, a steampunk ball
A charity event outside DC this fall.

The dress was green, violet and blue
Shimming and changing colors anew
With each new angle and every new light
Made as one swishes through the night
Sewn beads on the bosom, black fringe there too
Cloth draped the waist, a dark rich blue.
Draped in the back with crushed black velvet
And flowered cloth, colored fringe so elegant
A pillowed bustle to enhance her posterior
Rounded out the decorated derriere.
Jewels, a rose, lace and sparkle
Completed the weighty dress's dazzle.

Atop the dress lay a black top hat
More fitting for one with a cravat,
If left in a plain and unadulterated state
But this hat had trimmings for feminine tastes.
Roses and ribbons and gold chains draped the back
With more flowered cloth and layers of black
A dark daisy, a peacock feather, and other bling
To complete this girly steampunk thing

Your blogger noted all around
The vacant desks, the absence of sound.
She blasted on a steampunk band
And, with dress and hat in hand,
Rushed into the printing room, locked the door,
Threw 21st century clothes to the floor,
Transformed herself into a belle of the ball
Then hurried out into the hall.
A mirrored wall had been built there,
Long ago, along the elevator.
She stood on the landing, gazed at the glass
And saw a Victorian lady looking back,
Not in clothes such a one would wear
But this blogger does not really care.
The appearance is pleasing, the dress a dream
For a science fiction world run by steam.

Yes, poetry is not my forte.  Yes, most of the rhymes and punctuation are questionable.  Yes, I could have written this description in a much simpler way.  But where's the fun in me writing posts in the same old format all of the time?  

And yes, I really did try the dress on at work.  The photos were taken at my boyfriend's apartment by said boyfriend.

More information on the seamstress who made me this lovely dress to come in a future post.

Monday, October 24, 2011

review of an actual "modern" novel: soulless

Yes, this is an exciting moment for me- I will be doing my first review ever of a novel written about Victorians by 21st century authors!  Why this is such a big deal has been explained in this previous post about steampunk novels.

The book of choice for my dissection:  Gail Carriger's Soulless.   Why?  The description on the back was most entertaining (i.e. the diction was hilarious).

So, without further ado, my review of Soulless.

*Warning: Here Be Spoilers for the novel Soulless by Gail Carriger. Do not read if you do not want the book ruined for you.*

image source: Wikipedia
This novel tells the story of Alexia Tarrabotti- half Italian, a spinster, and a person without a soul, living in an alternate Victorian London where werewolves and vampires have become integral, mostly accepted members of polite society.  In this steam-powered world of automatons, dirigibles, and hot water heaters for tea in carriages, vampires feed only off of willing victims (such as "bloodwhores"- yes, blood prostitutes) and werewolves imprisoning themselves during the full moon to prevent harming any mortals.

Where does a soulless individual fit into this colorful world of supernatural beings mingling with the upper echelons of 19th century English society?  As an overtly practical, outspoken, scientifically inclined and fashionably sensitive spinster of 26 whose very touch can neutralize supernatural powers and whose own family is unaware of this "minor" fact.

Now take that combination with a mystery involving vanishing vampires and new vampires popping up in their places, a very aggressive, attractive werewolf agent of the Crown butting heads with the socially unacceptably assertive Miss Tarabotti, evil scientists and a plethora of brass octopuses, and you have a steampunk paranormal romance novel.

Add Gail Carriger's ability for creating colorful characters; short, descriptive details not only of dresses but also quick assessments of the appearance of rooms and people's changing emotions;Victorian social norms and scientific discoveries (she knew that aluminium was a new and expensive metal at that time!); with creative diction and a style that constantly keeps the reader's interest (i.e. explaining much in as few words as possible); and you have a recipe for a terrific read.

Part of the creativity is due to the authoress's passing descriptions of the "changes" in history due to her alternative historical take.  For example, the schism between Henry VIII and the Roman Catholic Church is attributed to his allowing supernatural folk to live in peace alongside his subjects.  Whether a divorce from Catherine of Aragon figures into this theory is not mentioned, but because that event has nothing to do with the Soulless storyline itself one believes that it can be safely omitted.  The same goes for American history- the Puritans did leave England over religious differences- many of those differences with roots in the belief that vampires and werewolves are demonic creatures who should be killed, not invited into society with open arms.  Therefore, in the America of Carriger's mind, the Land of the Free is usually not so for supernatural beings.  England is, at this time, much more progressive on the topic.

The other refreshing breath of fresh air is the character of Alexia herself.  While she is assertive and strong-willed, it is obvious that she is also very vulnerable to self-doubt and feelings of self-depreciation.  These feelings do not consume the narrative, but they pop up at appropriate moments in brief but significant descriptions that tell the reader of a life filled with little affection, kindness, or love from her mother, stepfather, and half-sisters.  Her sardonic tongue and strong personality seem to be shields from that inner vulnerability, further developing her character without straying too far from the storyline.

Surprisingly, this is the first book I've ever liked that had vampires in it!  If an author can get me to like vampires then they deserve much praise.

My only dislike about this book is that it was a romance novel. I've only had the misfortune of reading a romance novel once before.  While it was not a terrible experience the genre itself is one that I have stayed away from for well over ten years.  I must applaud the author once again on her writing ability- the romance is mixed in with the storyline in such a way that it does not detract from it.  That, and the characters involved in that aspect of the story play it out in a very Victorian way- the naive female partner of the relationship really not knowing anything about sex and exploring the potential of crossing the boundaries set by society while still trying her hardest to restrain herself, and the male being filled with an animal and overly assertive lust but... perhaps caring more in an emotional way than he would ever let on if not directly asked.

Overall, I highly recommend this read to anyone looking for a paranormal steampunk book that dabbles in some adult themes.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

lolita invasion begins in earnest

It's official:  Lolita fashion has hit the U.S. Market via something more tangible than online Japanese stores or online specialized clothing retailers.

According to this post in CNN's Geek Out blog, the Lolita line h.NAOTO will be premiering this fall in many boutiques in San Francisco.  Included in h.NAOTO's line are many items that, according to the blog, fall into the "gothic Lolita" category.

image source: Geek Out! blog
 The post goes on to explain the concept behind the Lolita fashion:

Many Americans may be familiar with the word "Lolita" from Vladmir Nabokov's 1955 novel, which tells the tale of a middle-aged man who falls in love with a twelve year old girl. The novel has remained a topic of discussion ever since, spawning the pop culture version of lolita, which was once used to describe a "sexually precocious" girl.

However, another aspect of the word "lolita" describes youth, and it's this meaning that's intended in the fashion style that bears this name. The style includes victorian-inspired clothing and also echoes Rococo stylings, although since its inception the fashion genre has expanded to include much more....

Some fans of the fashion believe that it is a direct commentary on the oversexualization of the female image, and by taking it in a new direction, lolitas challenge the image of what women are supposed to look like. Some believe it makes them less approachable, creating a wall of safety between themselves and men who might otherwise approach them. Some enjoy the idea of looking doll-like and simply enjoy the fashion for what it is, and like wearing it out in public gatherings.
Read the article in its entirety here.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

blackfriars bridge makeover and the "steampunk" label

Nearly 150 years after its construction, the Blackfriars Bridge on the River Thames is getting a modern upgrade.  A covered roof and solar panelling that will fuel the Blackfriars rail station.

Great!  Awesome!  Victorian bridges being used to create green energy!

image source: Earth Techling
But why is the author of the article about the improvements, Susan DeFreitas of Earth Techling, calling said improvements "steampunk?"  What, pray tell, is so "steampunk" about the facelift?  We're in the 21st century, so making changes to a Victorian bridge isn't exactly an anachronism that would have it deserve a steampunk label.  Unless the solar panels were covered in brass or clockwork.  Or they were steam-powered renewable energy panels.

I'm just saying, as I have said in this post before, that one shouldn't use a label unless they have a good definition behind the label that applies to what one is trying to label.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

blogging: the likes and dislikes

So I've been writing this blog now for over two years.  That doesn't seem like much time to me, but the odd thing is I find it hard to imagine the past two years without the blogging, or the community I've discovered around it.

As a result I've decided to write a post entirely about blogging.  I want to know what you readers think about what I am doing here.  Specifically (but not exclusively), my questions are these:

  • What sort of posts do you enjoy reading the most?  Reviews, fashion articles, historical articles, current events in neo-Victoriana, gaming articles, etc.?
  • What sort of posts do you dislike the most?  Rants, personal posts (i.e. me getting all "This is my life, waaaaah!"), etc.?
  • What turns you on to reading this blog?
  • What turns you off to reading this blog?
  • Is there anything you would like to see featured that I don't cover?
  • How often do you want me to update?
  • How would finding advertising on this blog affect your opinion of it (in both positive and negative ways?)
  • Is there anything about the general design of this blog that makes it difficult to navigate or read?  If so, what?
  • Anything else you think I should know to help me better focus the direction of this blog?
As for what I look for in a blog, they are these:

  • Articles on a plethora of varied topics.  The Ultimate Goth Guide does this extremely well.
  • Photos or pictures relevant to your post.  While I will read posts laden with paragraphs, if there are no photos my eyes tend to skim over the page rather than concentrate on what I am reading.  I don't like staring at computer screens for too long, apparently.
  • A simple overall design.  Don't plaster a blog with so many images that it's difficult to load or even more difficult to read.  And categorize your blog posts somehow.  It's still simple, but also organized for those who want to hunt through archives.  Juliet's Lace does this rather well- maybe more so on the extreme side of simple, but I can't fault it.  As a result of this method her blog is easy to read and everything is easy to find.
  • Regular updates.  Despite what blogger Andrew Sullivan told me about blogs not being updated on a daily basis only being "websites" rather than "blogs," I am not convinced that such a goal is realistic for most people.  He gets paid to write his blog, for crying out loud!  No wonder he updates daily!  For me, blogs don't have to be daily- but two or three times a week is much appreciated.  Otherwise I tend to drop following the blog within a few months.  Sophistique Noir does this very well, updating at least two or three times a week.
  • Withholding the urge to constantly rant.  I understand why people rant online.  There's a level of anonymity to an online presence that makes one more bold than they might otherwise be, say things aloud via a computer screen and text that they wouldn't be brave enough or even organized enough to say in person.  And, when you're really upset about something, you often want to share it with someone and discuss it, hoping to find sympathy and understanding.  As a blogger with a niche audience you already have people who may respond to your rants in those favorable ways.  But too many rants and I, as a reader, start to think that you're only trying to use your blog as a soapbox to get those sympathetic comments to boost your own self-esteem.  I've stopped following two blogs because of their tendency to rant rather than post the interesting, informative subculture posts that had me following them in the first place.
  • Bloggers who can gracefully take criticism or differing opinions.  So far, among the small number of blogs I have followed in the two years since I began blogging, I have seen only one blogger that has not been able to handle criticism, negative reaction, or different ideas posted in a comment on a regular basis.  Unless the comments are intentionally malicious or rudely ignorant, losing your temper with someone who may not agree with your take on, oh, I don't know, "How to properly dress a dog for Halloween" doesn't make you as a blogger look open minded (not that I have seen anyone actually post a post like that, but hopefully you all get my point).  Fortunately the majority of bloggers I've run across seem very open-minded so far.
What do you look for in a blog?

Saturday, October 15, 2011

trailer for "hysteria"

In this previous post I had mentioned Hysteria, a movie dedicated to the history of a certain device invented in the Victorian Era to help cure women of hysteria, a "disease" thought to be most common in women.

Well, here it is.  It doesn't appear that the film has a U.S. release date.

Friday, October 14, 2011

graveyard picnic photoshoot

As promised, here are the photos that resulted from the professional photoshoot that became last Sunday's Cemetery Picnic, an event hosted by the Steel City Steam Society.  It was originally meant to be a potluck picnic gathering at the beautiful and spacious Allegheny Cemetery in the Lawrenceville neighborhood of Pittsburgh, but turned into a full-blown steampunk photoshoot when a professional photographer was invited by our group's founder.

Note: The SCSS did ask permission before this event, so don't think that such practices are acceptable at every cemetery.  It's best, especially on consecrated ground, to ask the people who take care of the grounds what you can and cannot do there.

The man behind the camera lens was Ray Feather, a local Pittsburgher with years of experience as a professional photographer.  He covers a great deal of fantasy/historical/alternative subculture events in the city as well as scenery, weddings, portraits, and whatever else may catch his fancy.  You can check out his work on Ray Feather Photography.

Below are a sampling of the photos he took during our five-hour picnic:

Copyright Ray Feather Photography 2011. Photo used with permission.
Copyright Ray Feather Photography 2011. Photo used with permission.

Copyright Ray Feather Photography 2011. Photo used with permission.

Copyright Ray Feather Photography 2011. Photo used with permission.
As a photographer Ray was just terrific to work with.  When he heard me say that I was not photogenic (something even my boyfriend has agreed with) he kindly pulled me aside to take additional shots and demonstrate my ability to take a decent photo.  He carefully positioned me and patiently instructed me numerous times between clicks on how to relax, goading me to smile more than I am wont to do in front of a camera.

The result:  Pretty bloody brilliant, if you ask me!

Copyright Ray Feather Photography 2011. Photo used with permission.
Many thanks to Ray Feather Photography and the Steel City Steam Society for making this wonderful Gothic steampunk fall afternoon possible!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

"villette", or: "what happens when you put jane eyre in a small european town"

*Warning: Here Be Spoilers for the novel Villette. Do not read if you do not want the book ruined for you.*

Villette. The last novel written by Charlotte Brontë, the eldest and longest living of the famous Brontë sisters.  Before I start this review, I do think that there are several things you need to know about my biases, so you can reprimand me for not giving an entirely fair review if you see fit:
  • Jane Eyre has been my favorite novel for the past eight years.  
  • The strong female character, alone and friendless in the world who manages to avoid temptations and succeed nearly independently (well, Jane Eyre does depend on the goodwill of others in her moment of poverty, so she doesn't completely succeed on her own) is something that I find inspiring.  
  • Strong, intelligent men who admire and clash with the above-mentioned sort of women are amusing interactions for me.  They don't have to be good-looking.
  • I hate Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights, mostly because no one character is likable.  Note, however, I have actually read it more times than Jane Eyre and admit that the former novel is probably a better work of literature than the latter.
image source: The Blog of Oddments and Curiosities
Published in 1853, it is a strange and beautifully written novel that most critics call the most autobiographical of all of Charlotte Brontë's works.  The story surrounds the life of one Lucy Snowe, a poor, educated young woman with no family who must work to support herself.  On a whim she travels across the English Channel and arrives at the (Belgian?) town of Villette, where she obtains a post first as a nurse to the children of one Mme. Beck, and eventually becomes an English teacher at Mme Beck's pensionnat (boarding school) for girls.  The story then focuses on Lucy's relations with the school's staff and the English friends she eventually finds living in Villette.

Several of Charlotte Bronte's favorite themes pop up in this novel- unrequited love, religion, female independence, and the working woman of the 19th century.

The quite, the shy, the depressed, the physically unattractive, and the socially awkward will find much in common with Lucy Snowe.  She spends months in the presence of one Dr. Bretton, her godmother's son, without revealing her identity as the adolescent girl who used to visit the Bretton's house in England ten years earlier.  It takes Mrs. Bretton, the doctor's mother, to suddenly recognize the identity of her goddaughter after Lucy is confined to the Bretton abode in Villette after suffering a nervous breakdown.  

Yes, nervous breakdown.  During an idle summer vacation Lucy becomes depressed, wandering the halls of the empty boarding school haunted by her own terrible thoughts.  There is something very human about Lucy and not only her depression, but also her own reaction to being outside her comfort zone.  She is afraid of failure.  She does not push herself- Mme Beck has to force her to be an English teacher, throwing her almost entirely unprepared into an English class full of students for her first lesson.  Mrs. Bretton forcibly makes Lucy attend a ball with herself and her son, even purchasing the pink dress she will wear (a more frivolous color than Lucy would have picked herself had she been given the choice.)  When one of the professors at the school, M. Paul Emmanuel, endeavors to give Lucy a more detailed education in the evenings, she fights him tooth and nail, claiming her own inability to learn and not wishing to be put on the spot.  It is rather frustrating to read about someone who is so adverse to changing and growing, but one has to admit that most people are not too different.  

In the course of the book Lucy harbors a secret, unrequited attraction for Dr. John Bretton, one that she finally gives up as hopeless when a mutual acquaintance and prettier rival for the doctor's affections comes along.  Another example of not pushing herself outside her comfort zone, in my opinion- Bretton does like Lucy, and if she had given him any sort of hint of attraction, who knows what might have happened between them?

Meanwhile, Lucy's interactions with the eccentric professor, M. Emmanuel, become more frequent.  An intelligent, very Catholic, temperamental little man, has many humorous clashes with her.  The stubbornness of both results in a kinship that is eventually verbally sealed as a mutual friendship between the two.  And, despite the machinations of Mme Beck, M. Emmanuel's cousin, and Père Silas, M. the professor's mentor and priest, to keep the little man away from the heretical English Protestant, Emmanuel and Lucy fall in love with each other.  

Here Lucy discovers, more so than in any other part of the book, cross-cultural struggles of being a foreigner in a foreign land.  Her religion and her habits are constantly criticized and set her apart from true friendship with the native people of Villette.  But when there is a danger of M. Emmanuel loving Lucy those who oppose the match hold it up as a fight of Heaven versus Hell.  Her status as a woman who must work for her bread, has no money to bring to a marriage, and her lack of physical charms also appear to be raised up as potential issues, in her mind, to her marriageability.

Toward the end true love prevails in settling these differences.  When M. Emmanuel is sent by relatives to oversee a West Indies plantation (in an attempt to take him far from Lucy) he buys Lucy the start of her own pensionnat with the promise that he will return and marry her in three years' time.  

All seems picturesque and happy.  And then, at the end of the three years, something happens that leaves the happy ending forever in limbo for the reader.  A deadly storm springs up just as M. Emmanuel's ship is coming home.  But the reader is never graced with the result of the storm.  Although many ships are destroyed, the narrator never reveals whether M. Emmanuel's ship is one of the lost number.

Charlotte Brontë, you ended a novel on a never-to-be-resolved cliffhanger!

The main issues with the book that I had was that Lucy Snowe seemed more to me like Jane Eyre than a separate character in her own right.  Considering that Charlotte Brontë was known to have been socially awkward and both Jane Eyre and Villette are said to be quite autobiographical (with the latter being much more so than the former) it is not surprising that Lucy and Jane are most likely the authoress under different names.

Also, unless the book edition of Villette you may be reading has footnotes translated into English, a working knowledge of French is necessary to read some parts of this story without consulting a dictionary or typing the words onto an online translator.  I guess Brontë thought that it would be more realistic if the French-speaking characters actually spoke French a great deal of the time.  While most of the dialogue spoken in French is not that important to the progression of the story, and Brontë drops the French almost entirely in the French-speaking characters by the end of the novel, it was rather time-consuming for me to pause at each French sentence and search my brains for the remnants of my French education to discover the meaning of a sentence.  That sort of work interrupts the flow of the story.

The one other complaint I had was the little "ghost story" of the nun Brontë imposed in the novel, which seemed too much like the crazy woman in the attic of Jane Eyre.  While it was rather creepy and had both the narrator and some characters thinking that Lucy was quite unhinged and hysterical, and it ended up being a convenient plot device, I am not sure it was totally necessary.

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed the book.  I strongly suspect that this book is a rarity in that it delves so much into the Victorian English woman's mind- her thoughts, her fears, her views on society, and her worries over doing things right and not putting herself out there.  It was a strong character novel that, despite its lack of a resolution for the relationship between Lucy and M. Emmanuel, does give Lucy something rare for Victorian woman- the ability to financially support herself, independent of family or an employer.  She is also eventually accepted as a valued member of the community, despite her foreign and heretical status in the town of Villette. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

house guest or permanent resident?

I would really like to smack my depression upside of the head right now.  I have no idea why it's scrambled my brains with my great-grandmother's hand-crank egg beater again.

Which, ironically enough, looks almost exactly like this one.
image source: The Prepared Pantry

Since April I felt at peace with the depression in many ways... like it had finally decided to die and a rock inscribed with the capitals R.I.P. was all that was left to mar my memories.  I did have enough sense to know then that it was only dormant, but I took full advantage of its indifference to torturing me by having a pretty good summer.  Sure, it resurrected itself every so often, but it always managed to go away after a few days or so.  It never stuck around longer than four days, and gave me time to take care of other issues that would have otherwise left me a mess had it decided to poke its nose in my life at that time.

I wouldn't say that my sadness has transitioned from the spaced-out cases of the blues that struck at various times this summer to a full-blown depression, but the attacks of the blues have become more frequent and more vicious since I returned from my European trip.  I know why in a vague sense.  I haven't eaten well or exercised enough in the past few weeks, I used my boss's month-long trip to India as an excuse to turn into a cranky workaholic by trying to make his businesses "perfect" when he himself is just fine with "getting by," and the constant web of relationships any somewhat sociable human has in their life is always a balancing act between delightful mutual enjoyment of each other's company and mental and emotional stress when misunderstandings, real or imagined shortcomings, and vulnerabilities arise. 

The sadness has gotten noticeably worse, however, and I am rather alarmed.  The insomnia has returned, as has my inability to get up in the mornings after a night mostly spent fretting at work until two in the morning trying to make sure everything is filed away and nothing new is left for the next morning.

I guess my major issues are these:

  • Trying too hard to be perfect all of the time
  • Not knowing when to say "No" to others when they demand too much time and resources from my limited supply (like a boss who has spent the last four weeks in India makes too many odd demands on my abilities at strange hours and then doesn't even tell me that he will extend his Indian holiday one additional week because I am doing too good of a job)
  • Comparing myself to everyone else and what I perceive as their successes
  • Continually contemplating the Meaning of Life and my Great Life Purpose in a metaphorical Heaven v. Hell sort of way

What a ridiculous list.  

I need to reorganize what it most important to me.  Like focus on my actual career goals.  Being a personal assistant/secretary is not what I wanted to do with my life, although I will admit that I have always recognized my mad office managing abilities.  But I hardly do any sort of fiction writing anymore, and my history readings have mostly gone to the wayside as well (excepting the Victorian Era, of course.)  

Also, I need to teach that little voice in my head to stop being so negative.  To not be such a miserable little nag, but rather a helping hand, a friendly word of advice to put me back on track.  Anyone have any ideas on how to effectively do that?

Is there anything in your life that you need to reprioritize?

Monday, October 10, 2011

work appropriate

This recent article about fashion do's and don'ts at work by VictorianKitty over at Sophistique Noir inspired me to think more about my fashion choices for work and work-related events.  Last night I attended a wine reception with the lawyers and legal secretaries that my boss and I share offices with.  I am trying to get more work from the lawyers and legal secretaries with the hope of getting more exposure to the legal profession, so I saw this as a perfect networking opportunity to chat with people who are not quite my coworkers.

The dress code: cocktail attire.  So I went with this white dress with black roses on it from Ann Taylor Loft, nylons, and black high heels:

To add my signature neo-Victorian touch, I went with somewhat heavier eyeliner, a white cameo necklace on a black background (which is, unfortunately, covered by my hand), and Sally Hansen Salon Effects Nail Polish Strips (in Laced Up):

I know, my photography skills still need  a lot of help.  I was actually running late and, determined to get a few shots in, took them quickly.  I do plan on setting up a wall of my bedroom with cloth, mirrors, and a lamp to direct light so self-portraits and close-ups will be more in focus.

I will do a close-up of the Salon Effects Strips soon- they add a nice little touch to any outfit with black of a bit of a goth edge to it, and are ridiculously easy to put on.  The only problem with them is that if you open a package of them you have to use them immediately, as they are made with real nail polish and will dry up quickly.

At the reception I received compliments on the cameo and dress, although I doubt anyone could actually see my nails.  The nails did come in handy for a graveyard photo shoot the Steel City Steam Society had at the Allegheny Cemetery in Lawrenceville yesterday.  Photos from that event to follow in another post.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

theatrical trailer- "the raven"

Here's a sneak peak, via trailer, of the alternative historical take on the last days of Edgar Allan Poe.  Starring John Cussack, Luke Evans, Alice Eve, and Brendan Gleeson, The Raven is slatted to be released in March 2012.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

and the winner is...

It doth appear that the epic battle that the world awaited for between Professor Elemental and Mr. B, the "gentlemen rhymers" of the steampunk/Victorian/Edwardian/alternative history/any-other-title-you-can-jam-in-here worlds was indeed played out... at least four months ago at the Meadowlands Festival in Sussex.

Why do I always report on these sort of things so late?


Anyway, here is an excerpt of the war of words exchanged between the two rapping oddities.  Who deserves to be the king of "chap hop" or "Victorian rap" or whatever you want to call it?

In my opinion, Mr. B came off better in the clips shown in this excerpt in his quick, witty rhymes.  What do you think?

Friday, October 7, 2011

"going once... going twice... SOLD!"

Break open those piggy banks, Victorian machine enthusiasts.  Today RM Auctions will be auctioning off a one-of-a-kind steam-powered vehicle: the 1884 De Dion Bouton Et Trepardoux Dos-a-Dos Steam Runabout, a.k.a. La Marquise.

"What is it?"  you may be asking yourselves.

Besides being one of the first horseless carriages invented, the vehicle that will be auctioned off in Hershey, PA is the oldest running car in the world.
image source: Autoweek
According to this article in Autoweek, the car's creation is a classic story of an incidental meeting that resulted in an investment that changed technology forever:
In December 1881, de Dion was shopping in Paris and stopped at the Giroux toy shop. He was looking for prizes to give away at a ball he was planning. De Dion loved the workmanship of the steam engines he saw and asked who built them.

De Dion was introduced to Georges Bouton and Charles-Armand Trepardoux, who were working at the shop making seven francs a day. He immediately hired them to build a bigger steam engine, one that could power a carriage.

After first adding a steam engine to a tricycle the pair went to work on adapting it to a four-wheeled machine. La Marquise was born.

The quadricycle sends power to the rear wheels with connecting rods, similar to a train locomotive. Steering was done through the front wheels, as opposed to the hard-to-control, rear-steer tricycle. Its sophisticated boiler can be steamed in just 45 minutes, a small amount of time for the era.
image source: Autoweek
For those interested in purchasing this usable piece of steam-powered history, be prepared to open your pockets wide.  RM expects La Marquise to go for $2 to $2.5 million.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

mark twain and the steam-powered oddities that never were

image source: The 2011 Steampunk
Bizarre Exhibit blog
Mark Twain as a collector and protector of lost steampunk artifacts?  It would seem so from the Victorian science fiction art pieces that are currently on display at The Mark Twain House and Museum in  Hartford, Conneticutt.

According to an article in The Hartford Courant, one can find the bubbling brains of Edgar Allan Poe and Amelia Earhart at the Twain House along with other steampunk oddities in a new exhibit titled "The Steampunk Bizarre Exhibit" that opened at the beginning of this month:
...Middletown artist [Joey Marsocci], whose professional alter ego is Dr. Grymm, is the curator of the new exhibit at the Hartford landmark, "Steampunk Bizarre: The Unknown." Work by Marsocci and 20 other steampunk artists from around the world will be featured in the 147-piece exhibit...

...[Marsocci] said the appeal of steampunk — which is characterized by elaborate engineering — is a rejection of the overly sleek aesthetic of contemporary design.

"We live in a very plastic sleep world, shiny, with very little look to the design aspect of things. … It's not that there's no design to technology [today], but they're so trimmed down and sleeked down, the opposite of what the Victorian age would have done," he said. He compared a computer to an antique Singer sewing machine. "The sewing machine had exposed gears and belts, and is still works today. A computer will die in five years."

So one of the pieces of art Marsocci will bring to the Twain show is a working iPod, redesigned in a Victorian style inspired by Mary Shelley.

All of Marsocci's works are grounded in bizarre flights of fancy: He designed a massive gun designed to alter the atmosphere and control the weather through crystals and steam power; in addition to Peggy, a robot encased in a glass globe, with brass hands and bulging eyeballs. "She's Dr. Grymm's secretary," Marsocci said.

And of course, there are his "brainstorm machines," also called "Edgar Allan Poe Nightmare Inducer" and his "Amelia Earhart Navigational System..."
The opening of the exhibit included the premiere of the documentary "I am Steampunk," which chronicles the story of Dr. Grymm's Laboratory and his traveling exhibit.

Catch this exhibit at the Mark Twain House until January 15, 2012- it is open during the regular operating hours of this one-time home for Samuel Clemens and his family and is included with admission to The Mark Twain House and Museum.  For more details click here.

Monday, October 3, 2011

ALERT! sexy steampunk scientist!

Last week, when Alexa from the Steel City Steampunk Society told me about a webcomic spoofing history in weekly installments, I knew I had to check it out.

Hark! A Vagrant, written by Kate Beaton, is pure unadulterated fun.  Check out Ms. Beaton's take on one of the greatest inventors of the 19th century below:

image source: Hark! A Vagrant

Sunday, October 2, 2011

steampunk threads

Continuing with last Thursday's post about sellers of fashionable, purported high-quality goods a la Victoriana,  I would like to direct everyone's attention to Recollection's sister site, Steampunk Threads

This clothing line, launched in 2009, is inspired by a variety of historic and imaginative styles to create a unique mix of 19th century-looking apparel for the inner clockwork femme fatale in all women:

image source: Steampunk Threads

image source: Steampunk Threads
image source: Steampunk Threads
image source: Steampunk Threads
image source: Steampunk Threads
image source: Steampunk Threads
image source: Steampunk Threads

image source: Steampunk Threads
Like Recollections, the price tags are not cheap.  And while some outfits, like the Gypsy Rose, could probably be emulated with much cheaper clothes, the prices for most items don't seem too different from similar items from any other specialty steampunk, goth, or alternative fashion merchants.

You may not find any steals on Steampunk Threads, but you are sure to find a few pieces that can be mixed and matched with sister site Recollection's outfits or that vintage skirt you found in the local secondhand store.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Monthly Theme Post: Lovely Lace

VictorianKitty over at Sophistique Noir really propelled a terrific idea when she began coming up with these Monthly Theme Posts for bloggers to share the lovely contents of their wardrobes.

I've never done one of these themed posts before. I did want to partake of last month's boots theme, my trip to Europe was a hindrance to that goal.  While I could have just done the theme post ahead of time like all of the other posts that were published in that two-week period, I completely forgot.  I guess I could have uploaded photos from Vilnius, Lithuanian, but the only photos of boots I own that I could actually have taken a photo of were my ugly hiking boots.  Comfortable, but definitely not fashionable.

But I digress.  This month's theme is lace.  So I chose to feature not something that has a lace fringe (as there are quite a few pieces) but an eBay purchase I made a few months ago that caught my eye because of its lace features and its corset-inspired design:

Despite the shirt being the equivalent of a size small instead of a size medium, this shirt is really nice for fall days when the sun is out and bright but is barely getting into the mid-60s.  It is also a great going out piece and keeps you covered up more so than most evening casual "going-out pieces."

As an aside, I really need to learn some photography skills or posing skills or something.  For one, the lighting in our apartment is terrible, so I tried to move lamps around to get better light, which doesn't seem to have work.ed.  So I think I need to designate a wall of this apartment as a "photography studio," where I can tack cloth and take photos that will actually come out better for you all to see the details.  Also, I've never been photogenic- most of my friends and my boyfriend have recognized this fact long ago.  I have no idea why I look so pear-shaped in the first photo.  In another photo that was not featured here I looked pregnant.  Any "modeling" advice?