Friday, December 28, 2012

bizarre foods of the victorian dinner table

I'm sure many of you readers spent this last holiday sitting down to wondrous feasts of pork, turkey, lamb, geese, or chicken.  I certainly had my fill of ham and turkey, and lamb and pork will be ample over New Year's and Serbian Orthodox Christmas.

The Victorians themselves enjoyed a good- or not-so-good- cut of meat.  Listverse presents readers with a sample of the kind and quality of food to grace the Victorian table: from calves' foot jelly to broxy.  And I thought the tales of my own relatives partaking of pickled pigs' feet in the 1950s was unique.

Click here for the list of ten bizarre food items that Victorians ate.  Note: Vegans, vegetarians, or those easily made queasy by descriptions of dead and cut up animals may find some of the descriptions and images disturbing.  Proceed with caution.

image source: Listverse





Thursday, December 27, 2012

early 20th century "steampunk" home furnishing


One of the museums I work for recently received a mention in the New York Times for one of its new acquisitions: a "steampunk jellyfish!"

image source: New York Times
CHANDELIER FOR CARNEGIE

The Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh has acquired a newly discovered chandelier designed by the Belgian innovator Henry van de Velde in time for next year’s celebrations of the 150th anniversary of his birth.

The 1904 fixture, a slab of perforated copper and brass studded with opalescent glass blocks and light bulbs, originally hung over a dining table at an industrialist’s villa in western Germany. Van de Velde (pronounced vahn de VEL-duh) had supplied roomfuls of woodwork and furniture for the house.

The chandelier remained in the family, and scholars did not know it had survived until the Carnegie bought it for an undisclosed six-figure price. It measures about five feet tall, and installers spent a day wielding a forklift to attach it to a gallery ceiling.

Rachel Delphia, a decorative-arts curator at the Carnegie, said in a recent phone interview that she was particularly fond of a custodial staff member’s description of the piece: “It looks like a steampunk jellyfish.”

The museum is contemplating lending the chandelier to next year’s van de Velde exhibitions and tours in Germany and Belgium. Research for a retrospective, which will open on March 24 at the Neues Museum in Weimar and travel in September to the Cinquantenaire Museum in Brussels, has uncovered other objects long believed lost. A silver pendant from 1900 has turned up, with an intertwined L and B, designed for van de Velde’s niece Léona Biart.
For anyone visiting Carnegie Museum of Art, you can currently check out the "steampunk jellyfish" chandelier in the museum's Bruce Galleries.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Monday, December 24, 2012

"we three kings" by abney park

It's Christmas Eve, which means I am getting ready to attend Mass, then have a dinner of Chinese food with the immediate family and exchange a few gifts.  I hope your evening is as joyously filled within the company of those you love.

So I leave you with the holiday musical machinations of steampunk band Abney Park.  I love the intro to their rendition of "We Three Kings."

Saturday, December 22, 2012

christmas in 1862

I apologize for getting this event up so late- I only just found out about it myself yesterday!

But if you aren't too busy and are looking for some historical and CHristmas tunes to brighten up a dark winter night, consider attending this holiday concert in the Pittsburgh suburb of Carnegie.

Event: Holiday Christmas Concert – Christmas in 1862
Location: Andrew Carnegie Music Hall, 300 Beechwood Ave, Carnegie, PA 15106
Date: Saturday, December 22, 2012
Time: 7pm
Cost: Free (donations accepted)

Description: The year is 1862. Both Union and Southern troops are becoming demoralized in this 2nd year of fighting.

To boost the spirits of those at home, and our own Company A, 9th Regiment, home on leave, the Pittsburgh Historical Music Society, orchestra in residence at the Depreciation Lands Museum, will be offering a Free Concert in the incredible Andrew Carnegie Music Hall in Carnegie, PA.

Both musicians and Company A will be dressed in period attire, and music includes the popular tunes of this 2nd year of war, as well as Christmas favorites new (new to 1862!) and old. This concert will appeal to all and is definitely family friendly.

Donations will be accepted to benefit the Pittsburgh Historical Music Society and the Andrew Carnegie Music Hall.

Thanks to Getty of the Steel City Steam Society for bringing this to my attention!

Friday, December 21, 2012

dystopian legions

Scott has been getting rather excited about a tabletop miniature wargaming ruleset recently, or so I assume from the plethora of links about the game he's sent me or his hovering in front of the game's display at the local gaming store last weekend.  The game?  Dystopian Legions by Spartan Games.

image source: Tales of a Tabletop Skirmisher
What is Dystopian Legions?

DYSTOPIAN LEGIONS is a fast-paced, action-packed 28mm scale tabletop game set in the exciting world of Dystopian Wars, where Victorian super science fiction has created a fascinating and brutal arena for a deadly world war.

Having brought carnage to the Dystopian battlefields with giant tanks, massive airships and technologically advanced naval vessels it is now time to get up close and personal with your warfare. It is up to your Sections of infantry to storm enemy positions, capture towns, secure strategic objectives and devastate rival nations.

The DYSTOPIAN LEGIONS core rules will be available as a free download when the game launches, with a handy printed copy included inside each Starter Box. And for those who like the glossy printed rulebook stacked full of images, a hardback rulebook will follow several weeks after the game’s release.

Welcome to DYSTOPIAN LEGIONS… warfare just got so much more personal!

image source: Battlemind Gaming
You can game with the Empire of the Blazing Sun complete with ninjas and steambikes; or have a Kingdom of Britannia army with jetpacks and tankettes; or play the Federated States of America with its Wild West characters and American Civil War area uniforms.

What would world war look like in a steampunk universe?  I think Dystopian Legions comes close to figuring out the answer.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

"the sepia show"

I don't really "get" modern art.  But for those who "get" it, and love the tints of old-timey sepia photos mixed with artwork about historical 19th century figures, you might want to check out the works of Anthony Purcell at The Sepia Show, now showing at The Gallery 4 in Pittsburgh's Shadyside neighborhood.

And who's face is on the fliers advertising this show?  Andrew Carnegie, of course!

image source: Anthony Purcell's Work
According to The Gallery 4:
'The Sepia Show' presents a culmination of an enduring artistic exploits into an industrial yesteryear. This series of portraits endeavors in the glamour of old, informed by the appearance of aged photography prints. The subjects of the paintings, whether infamous or anonymous in their time, are portrayed amidst a suspension of surreal, absurd, and realistic elements whilst symbolic motifs recur throughout series. As per Victorian decree that one 'leave no space unfilled,' the crisply detailed wallpaper patterns which adorn each painted room, embody the lauded virtue of a life which is busied, yet orderly. In ornate and formal couture, these figures pose for their moment of preservation, staring eternally through yellowing years to a mechanized modernity.
So check out 19th century figures such as Nikola Tesla and Henry Clay Frick in a new way:
image source: Anthony Purcell's Work

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

alternative subculture holiday gifts

Much to my surprise, this weekend I received a plethora of gifts from those associated with Black Hearts Clothing.  I haven't known these people for long, but it was very sweet of them to think of me on the holidays.

First, these skull and crossbone earrings, which I plan to wear to the next Club Arkham goth night on Saturday, December 29- it's an end of the world themed party.

Sorry the photo is so bad- I tried everything to make it less blurry.  Eventually I gave up.

I also received these Betsey Johnson earrings, which seem to be better suited for a bride than for me, but I guess I do wear a good deal of non-conventional "goth" colors for these club nights.



What would a Christmas gift be without ornamentation for my tree?  The first was a Doctor Who inspired snowflake with the Ninth Doctor on the one side, and the TARDIS on the other:



And a real Goth Christmas ornament- a black bulb with skeleton cameos on golden Fleur-de-Lis deocrations!


And finally, a gift I truly can use for more than just a holiday decoration- these fingerless gloves.  Just perfect for so many of the steampunk items in my wardrobe!


 What is your favorite goth/steampunk/alternative gifts that you have you received- this year or in the past?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

early winter burn-out

Well, I am home sick for the day, despite this being a ridiculously busy time for me and my department at work.  I've just been doing too much, most of which I put on myself- helping to run goth nights at The Ironworks for Club Arkham (now you get why I've been "advertising" that on my blog), extra work for Black Hearts Clothing (which I recently became a part of) and trying to get in my steampunk socializing have resulted in major guilt from having to cancel a lot of things last minute.

It also hasn't helped that I very recently made the colossal decision, to cut down on my anti-depression and anti-anxiety medication.  My current doctor has only been my doctor for one visit (my regular doctor was recently forced to let go of all of his patients) and I did talk to the new doc about my desire to cut back.  He knows nothing about me, so of course said that if I felt ready to do it I should.  I also have forgotten to take the pills for a few mornings rather recently, resulting in terrible withdrawal symptoms.  Since I have been relatively anxiety-free for the past few months and happier, I thought that now was an idea time to cut my daily dose in half.

Well... I've had mixed results.  I haven't noticed my depression worsening- on the contrary, for the most part my mood has been pretty stable- but my anxiety has gotten much worse.  Of course, with all of the extra work I've taken on since I cut down, it's hard to say whether it's the change of dosage or not that's causing the worst of the anxiety.  Instances of insomnia have increased, but my memory seems to be doing a bit better than in the more recent past.

Also, some of my old desires have come back- the desire to write, to run.  Knowing that I was writing fiction eagerly up until I took this medication, I wonder if it killed some of those desires.

So I am back on a bumpy road, and my path over the next few months are uncertain.  I have a rare opportunity, through my job, to potentially go on a scientific dig.  Unfortunately, as a non-scientist, I will have to pay my own way, and what with civil unrest in the particular country of the dig it may be cancelled last minute.  But I need my writing more than ever now- to prove the value of non-scientific staff to scientific expeditions.  So I need to get rid of the "life unwanted," so to speak- throw out all of that trash and rediscover my own creativity.  Most of the reasons I had been anxious when I went on the medication in the first place is gone.  I've added difficulties onto myself over the past few weeks.  I've learned to say "no" to my family.  Now I need to learn to say "no" to people who are not family.  I am competent and generous and impatient.  I need to take care of me, to re-remember that selfishness can be healthy to a degree.

I am not Wonder Woman.  I have a breaking point. I need to remember that.

So today's sickness is most likely my body telling me that I need a break, that I have a career and friends and family more important to me than the silly things I have been focusing on at present.  I need to work on getting my career down (i.e. be well rested to do my best at the museums) to spend time with the friends who will help me make the healthiest decisions for myself, and to try to nurture good family relations and not feed the poisonous ones.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Monday, December 10, 2012

tesla techonology still has it

image source: theintelhub.com
Nikola Tesla's revolutionary ideas of 100 years ago are still making improvements to our quality of living.

Electric vehicles being plugged into charging stations? So yesterday.

According to an article on theintelhub.com, Utah State University has demonstrated that it can wirelessly charge and power a bus transporting 16 passengers.

How did they do this?
By carefully applying a mix of modern advances in engineering and Nikola Tesla’s principles of induction, USU engineer Hunter Wu and his team have solved one of today’s vexing problems in WPT [Utah's Wireless Power Transfer team]....

“Current battery limitations prevent an all-electric transit bus from operating all day from an overnight charge. WAVE solves that problem by charging the bus wirelessly during its daily operations when the bus stops to load and off-load passengers,” said Wesley Smith, CEO of WAVE.

“This technology makes electric buses competitive with their diesel hybrid and CNG counterparts.”

The bus powered by wireless technology, dubbed "the Aggie bus" by USU, has achieved many significant firsts for the future of public transportation. 
 
It is the first bus developed and designed by a North American organization that is charged with wireless power transfer technology and is the world’s first electric bus with WPT technology combining the three following performance metrics:

A power level up to 25 kilowatts, greater than 90 percent efficiency from the power grid to the battery and a maximum misalignment of up to six inches.

“The unveiling of the Aggie Bus today is a historic achievement and a great leap forward in the science and engineering related to electric vehicles,” said Robert T. Behunin, Ph.D., USU vice president of commercialization and regional development.

“As a result of the work done by Utah State engineers, scientists and partners, EV owners and operators will now be able to simply drive over a pad in the ground to recharge their batteries, the benefits of which reach far beyond convenience.”
Nikola Tesla understood that the Earth itself was a battery of sorts.  He conducted many experiments that showed him that electrical charge could be transmitted through the air and received almost undiminished in power from what it had been when it was originally sent.  Not knowing enough about Tesla's work I cannot say with confidence what Tesla did to determine this.  But the fact of the matter is, he understood the power of wireless electricity and wireless communication long before most others did and how it could be used to benefit the masses.  Utah State University has just taken a large step in Tesla's 19th century boots toward revolutionizing electrical transportation.

scamming like a victorian

Let's start Monday off right with this how-to: The Real Victorian Hustle!

Friday, December 7, 2012

gothidays: home-spirit of the season


Last Gothidays post, folks- this is how we do Christmas at Clementine Dahling's apartment!


While I love decorating for holidays, my stash of anything other than everyday decorations is ridiculously small.  Lack of space for storage as well as a rational of "I have a little money  but why spend it on something that I can only use once a year when I can buy something else that I can use all year!" tends to reign supreme in my mind.

That being said, I got this wonderful 7 ft. artificial Christmas tree FREE from a friend just before she moved to Dubai last year (I scored, as these trees are usually $80 at Walmart.  I offered to pay, but Jyoti was having none of that nonsense).  The ornaments are a mixture of items I bought on sale at the end of last Christmas, candy canes, ornaments I've gotten for free from church or gift exchanges, and Victorian inspired tin ornaments I bought from a gift shop at a historical site six years ago.


I don't have a tree topper, so this year I stole the ribbon from a gift basket we received at work.
See last year's tree topper- an Angry Bird!  (And yes, the picture behind the tree is none other than a movie still of Clark Gable as Rhett Butler.)
My only "Goth" ornament- a freebie I received from
the steampunk fashion show I modeled in two weeks ago

My most cherished ornament- my parents bought this for me when I was a kid, which I used to hang on our kid tree at home.  It being the only fragile ornament I owned as a kid, I always treated it with greater than usual care, gently unwrapping it from old newspaper before securely hanging it from a place of honor where all could see.  When I opened the kids ornament box last year I took this ornament for my own "home."

Two  of the tin "Victorian" ornaments- a star and a twisted colored icicle-like ornament

The mantle, with stockings for myself and Scott.  I already have Scott's stocking ready. He'll probably put nothing in mine, but that's mostly because he doesn't live here and so doesn't have the chance to fill it up.
My musical tea tin, which plays "Jingle Bells."

My "present" salt & pepper shakers, a freebie from my mom


This is the only room in our entire apartment which is decorated for Christmas.  My bedroom- nothing.  My roommates' rooms- nothing.  The kitchen- nothing.  The front door doesn't even have anything.  I do have some colored lights I could string up, but we also don't have enough outlets in this apartment to support our appliances, let alone frivolous lights.  There is room in the hallway, but I've already got my Tesla lights hanging from there and didn't want to take them down.

What I can carry around with me, however, is a nice mug of hot chocolate, complete with whipped cream and holiday sprinkles on top.  It's the absolute best to just sit in front of the tree with some carols playing softly in the background, sip at the cocoa, and enjoy the beauty of the warm, homey symbol in front of me (i.e. the tree.)  

Cheers to you and the season, dear readers!


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

gothidays: ethnic family traditions

I am finally getting to the posts about how I celebrate the holidays as a part of dear Professor Z's Gothidays 2012 posts (Scott wanted me to post his guest post first and the Airship Pirate Days review was waaaay overdue.)


My holiday experience is filled with traditions.  Some are religious in nature, some are ethnic traditions passed down from generation to generation in my family, and some are ones that my mom made up to help us enjoy the holidays, and my dad is too much of a child at heart to let go of.  But the important thing about all of these traditions is that they're based around family.

I don't exactly have the best relationship with all of my family members, so sometimes these traditions just create problems.  But we stubbornly stick with them and try at it again each and every year.  Without further ado:

The Ethnic Traditions

The actual Christmas celebrations begin on December 6- St. Nicholas Day.  It's a German tradition where children put their shoes out and St. Nicholas (i.e. Santa) comes and fills them up with candy.  I'm 25 and St. Nick still leaves something for me at my parents' house.  But he visits my roommates at my apartment and always leaves a treat!  Both of my parents are of German descent.

On Christmas Day we break a Christmas wafer, called oplatki in Polish, and kalėdaitis in Lithuanian, and pass it around the table, each breaking off a piece before handing it to the next person.  This is an Eastern European tradition that can mean different things.  But generally we do it to show family unity- usually just after remembering the loved ones who are no longer with us.  My dad's side of the family is Lithuanian.

We also celebrate a German tradition that I think is supposed to take place on Christmas morning- finding the pickle ornament in the tree.  The first kid who finds it wins an extra present.  Instead of celebrating it on Christmas morning, my family usually celebrates it the evening of December 26, and my dad has turned it into a ridiculous competition of sorts.  He puts all of us kids (who are, by the way, legal adults now- we're just all unmarried and childless) into the family room.  He then goes into the living room with Mom, where they hide the ornament in the tree.  Then Dad has us go one at a time into the room with the Christmas tree to find the ornament. We each have three minutes to find the ornament.  If you do find it, your time is recorded and the next person goes.  Whoever finds it in the least amount of time wins the grand prize!  The grand prize?  Always a jar of roasted peanuts.  I haven't won in probably a decade.  Dad blames it on my denial to race into the room and run up to the tree like my older sisters and little sister do.



The end of the Christmas season is January 7, when we celebrate Serbian Orthodox Christmas (from my mom's side of the family).  Since none of us are religiously Christian Orthodox my mom and some of us daughters will sometimes go to mass at the nearest Serbian Orthodox church about half an hour away.  Last year I went to my first Serbian Orthodox mass with Mom.  It was nearly two hours of standing on our feet, blessing ourselves so much so that my arms ached by the end, and watching one of the four priests yelling at the choir more than once for coming in at the wrong part of the service.  My mom and I were elbowing each other and snickering so much that one of the ushers kept glaring at us.  

What we never miss, however, is the big celebration that we give as much attention as our Roman Catholic Christmas dinner.  Mom cooks an entire leg of lamb, stuffed with rosemary and garlic and spices.  She makes palachinke, a traditional Serbian crepe-life dessert, filled with cottage cheese or apple butter.  They're delicious!  She also bakes coins into bread, which the children of the family break apart.  Whoever has the greatest amount of money in their bread piece will be the most prosperous in the year to come, or so superstitious Serbs say.  It's a delicious meal and usually more enjoyable than the Western World's Christmas because everything has calmed down by then- no crazy gift-buying or gift giving, no more parties, and on January 7 it's usually a white Christmas to boot (or so it seems to me.)  We've also put hay under the table before to symbolize the Christ child in the manger, but that seems to make a bigger mess than we want to deal with.

I love my ethnic family traditions.  They always give me something nice to look forward to. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

con review: airship pirate days

Many apologies for not updating about the Airship Pirate Days convention outside Pittsburgh at an earlier time.  It will be a busy month for me at both work and in my so-called "leisure" time.  

The convention was the weekend after Thanksgiving- November 24 and 25, at the Washington County Fairgrounds.  With normal traffic patterns it would be an easy 45 minute drive.  Unfortunately there was a major problem with the highway leading directly to the convention on November 24, the day I traveled out to the con- there were numerous accidents- some of them deadly.  I ended up being very late but arrived in one piece.

When I got to the spacious Fairground building reserved for the con, however, I noticed that pretty much every single individual there was a vendor.  Surprisingly enough, so was I- vending for both House of Broken Needles.  

The season's first snowfall and the accidents may have contributed to the poor turnout of actual attendees.  Most of the vendors themselves were Renaissance Faire vendors, but a few participants had excellent steampunk costumes:



A pickpocket!


There was also a band playing, story time (with yours truly) and some kids games.  Unfortunately there were only four kids there between the ages of 0 and 12, all the children of vendors.  Of those kids there was only one who was of proper age to appreciate my faerie wings, and she seemed afraid of strangers. *sigh*

There were also some feats such as whip stunts and firebreathing:



There was also a costume contest.  


Sadly enough  I was not in the running.  But two Steel City Steam Society members- Gina and Narla- snatched up 1st and second place respectively:



My assessment of the convention isn't the best.  Forgive me any harshness- the con has promise, but it has a long way to go before it can reach the caliber of even modest steampunk cons.

The pros:
  • Close to home
  • Only a $7 entry fee
  • Tons of goods to buy (if not always steampunk)
  • Cheap and decent food
The cons:
  • Seemingly lack of leadership.  I was not impressed with the con's organizer- she wasn't eloquent or organized at all.  Part of it was beyond her control- the bad traffic made the band late by over two hours.  But I actually interviewed her for more details on the con on an internet radio show a few weeks ago and she was not doing a good job of explaining herself or the goals of the con other than "It's family friendly."
  • All attendees who did make it were adult, defeating the purpose for a steampunk family-friendly event.  
  • Hated the venue- felt it was too far out in the boonies (but at the same time one would be hard pressed to find a "nicer" venue and only charge $7 for people to attend.)
  • Not advertised well at all- seems like the word only got out to Ren Faire vendors.
With some better advertising and organization this con might be able to grow... might.  And there are people in Pittsburgh willing to take such a job on.  Heck, if the Airship Pirate Days staff had reached out to the Steel City Steam Society at all we would have gladly promoted- and we offered our services for next year.  But the offer wasn't met with much enthusiasm.  Maybe we'll try again in a few months.

As for me, I had a good time hanging out with friends, looking at goods, and talking to the vendors for the most part.  My outfit was more conservative as I was slatted to read a story to kids that never came, topped with a Black Hearts corset as I was representing the Black Hearts table:


Yours truly with George Kosana, the Sheriff from "Night of the Living Dead"
I also spent time vending goods with several friends from both Black Hearts and my sewing group:

House of Broken Needles table
Candy
House of Broken Needles table
Fascinators
House of Broken Needles table
Bustle pads
House of Broken Needles table
House of Broken Needles table
"Ice Queen" Faerie Wings
My contribution to the House of Broken Needles table

"Tinkerbell" Faerie Wings
My contribution to the House of Broken Needles table
"Firebird" Faerie Wings
My contribution to the House of Broken Needles table
House of Broken Needles table

Overall it was a good time, but the event itself needs to take a serious look at its mission and its marketing before considering another go at it.  The second day of the con had few traffic issues and yet suffered less attendance than the first day.

A group photo of The Steel City Steam Society:


Monday, December 3, 2012

guest post: more on repression and victorian sexuality


Guest blog post by Scott, the Blogmistress's boy toy

The blood was so soaked into my hands that two days and three showers after being plastered with the substance there are still hints of red around my finger nails and in the folds of skin on my knuckles and the cracks forced into my hands by the winter weather. The Gwar concert was a pretty spectacular show. It is not normally the thing that one would think would inspire much thought about Victorian literature. In my case it did.

It is a little over 100 years since the Victorian period came to an end. On stage Monday night I saw a band perform a song and talk about having sex with babies, or at best toddlers. From the oppressive anti-sexual attitude that the Victorians are somewhat famous for, we have moved very far.

My last post here was about Victorian sexual norms and the novel Winesburg, OH. I’d like to continue that theme and discuss the subject in relation to another novel, written during Victorian time but published after them.

image source: The Christian Monist

The novel I’d like to talk about is The Way of All Flesh by Samuel Butler. Unlike Winesburg, OH, The Way of All Flesh takes place in Victorian England. This time we have a more direct view of what the view of sexuality was not only at the time but also the place where the schwerepunkt of the moral force in this period was located.

Butler’s novel is a criticism of Victorian hypocrisy. In many ways there are sexually charged subjects within the novel. They are more hinted at than directly related. Our first exposure to sexuality in the novel is the pregnancy of the maid of the main character’s family. The maid is an unmarried 18 year old and is found to be with child. The pater familias,and father of the main character, is a minister. As it would be improper to keep her in the house, the pregnant girl is sent away.

In the continuing story of the main character he is ordained in the Anglican Church. As his faith is worn down by various means he reaches a point where he lashes out against his moral beliefs. He has been told indirectly by one of the other women in his building that two of the single girls in the building are prostitutes. He goes to convert them to the ways of the Lord- that is, until a college chum comes in for his appointment with one of them. With this incident the protagonist's anger with the world implodes.  He kicks his Bible away from him and storms upstairs to proposition the other girl for sex. She, it turns out, is not a prostitute and he is reported to the police for his effrontery.

They arrest him and he is sentenced to six months in jail with hard labor for his offence. When he gets out he has abandoned the ministry and any idea of organized religion as something worthwhile. He then opens a shop after running into the very maid who had once worked for his family- the same one who had been kicked out for becoming pregnant. He marries her and they have two children together. But she turns to drink, which is something the naive young man did not realize was a problem. Try as he might he cannot keep her away from her alcohol. She is always sneaking it in behind his back and it makes her hysterical. She takes money from him to buy it and the shop they run comes close to ruin.

Only by chance does he run into his dad’s former coachman, the man who drove her away from their house when she was kicked out. He reveals that he married this woman before the main character did, showing her to be a bigamist and their two children to be bastards. He feels comfortable now packing her off. She agrees that she is not good enough for him because of her drinking and does not make much of a fuss. The two children are sent to live with a family out of town.

The woman will write later to say that she is marrying another man and moving to the United States. A bigamist twice now, she leaves the story.

So in this book we have prostitutes; illegitimate children; bigamy; premarital sex; and a turning away from, and condemning of, the Church of England. So much for Victorian morality.

Still there is something that is amiss. The book contains more criticism of Victorian hypocrisy, but in this post I have only highlighted the parts pertaining to sexuality. Although the book was written mostly in the 1870s, the author would not have it published until after his death. Butler was afraid to have it published in his lifetime.

It is also noteworthy that, while the poor are the source of much of this immorality in this story, they are also openly critical of it. The poor woman upstairs from the main character is very critical of the two other women living in the building. The landlady,  having a rather morally hazy past herself is more forgiving.

The book was published soon after the author’s death in 1903. Despite being known as an iconoclast during his lifetime, this send-up of Victorian ideals was too much for him to face up. The author himself was certainly no role model for moral behavior. He visited a prostitute weekly and may have been bisexual- although there is no confirmatory evidence of the latter.

The Way of All Flesh shows us that while Victorian morality was not absolute, it was powerful. In both the crushing of the main character for merely propositioning a woman and the fact that the book was not published until after the Victorian Era, we see the power of this moral superstructure on the lives of the people at the time.

The same thing is shown in the book from my earlier post, Winesburg, OH. While there is quite a bit of sex going on it that in the 1890s, the book itself is not published until about 20 years later- showing the author's own hesitation to own up to his own observations of morality in the Victorian period.

Friday, November 30, 2012

movie trailer: les misérables

Damn my sister Margarete.  I actually had no idea that there was going to be a film version of the musical Les Misérables.

Having been both a fan of the novel and the musical for years, I actually had no desire to see the film version.  I had quite literally not listened to my two disc original cast soundtrack CDs for years, and when Margarete told me on Thanksgiving about the movie, I scoffed at the thought of seeing the likes of Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, and Helena Bonham Carter in a film version of this musical.

Unfortunately her reminder of this musical I had once love adored resulted in me pulling the music from the depths of my computer.  I've pretty much done nothing but reacquaint myself to old favorites such as "I Dreamed a Dream," "Master of the House," "One Day More," "On My Own," "Bring Him Home," and "Javert's Suicide."

Here's the trailer for your enjoyment- not set in the Victorian era, but the original novel by Victor Hugo was published in 1862.  It is truly a masterpiece in ways that novels just don't measure up anymore- with multiple, intricately interwoven storylines that just collide at the right moments, creating a logical whole:

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

hardcore outings

This past weekend was PACKED with crazy social events.  I'll write about one of of these in more detail when I can gather my thoughts to do an intelligent blog post about them, but for now you're getting a mostly general synopsis.

On Friday night I was in a steampunk fashion show, and I want to show off the lovely outfits designed by Pittsburgh's own Jen Rocket- who also designed steampunk-inspired costumes for Scarehouse's 2009 Rampage! attraction.  As an aside, after I stammered uncomfortably some noncommital bull when she directly asked me what I thought of those costumes (readers, I didn't think they were very steampunk at all) she saved me from having to save face by telling me that she was unhappy with how they had turned out as the Scarehouse had taken her original costumes and broken them up into pieces between several actors- so four full costumes ended up being spread out among 12 people or so.

Anyway, three of us volunteered to model some of Jen's creations at the Edison Steampunk Ball at Cattivo's this past Friday.  This skilled seamstress has worked with leather extensively in the past, and more recently with elaborate epaulettes.  Using these skills, and latex masks made by her husband, Jen made three uniquely steampunk-inspired outfits in a style that I like to call "Valkyrie steampunk-" a more hardcore ethereal appearance with the color schemes of steampunk but no obviously Victorian trappings:

image source: Jen Rocket's website

image source: Jen Rocket's website

The final result on the lovely models- guess which one is me:

Photo by Nim Derringer.  Photo used with permission
Photo by Nim Derringer.  Photo used with permission

Photo by Nim Derringer.  Photo used with permission
I had no idea the dress was going to be THAT short when Jen fitted me...
Photo by Nim Derringer.  Photo used with permission
I had so much fun modeling in the fashion show.  I'm still rather stiff and uncertain of myself, but geez, I do seem to know what I am doing in these photos!  

Saturday was Airship Pirate Days.  More on this event later, as there is much to say about the first steampunk convention within reasonable driving distance of the city of Pittsburgh.  I was a vendor and a storyteller at this event as well.

Sunday was my only day at home to relax, but instead of relaxing I spent the day doing laundry, thoroughly cleaning my apartment, and decorating the place for Christmas.

Monday, however, Scott and I went to see GWAR perform at Mr. Smalls Theater.  Having never been to a GWAR show before, I wasn't quite sure what to expect.  I knew that I was probably going to come out of the show with my clothes a bit stained with fake blood.  I wasn't expecting the BUCKETS of fake blood and alien... erm... fluids... sprayed all over my person:

Me.  My middle is clean only because I had a tank top that I took off before we got back in the car.

Scott.  You should have seen his glasses...
It was one big sweaty mosh pit of course.  I don't mind moshing- in Pittsburgh it's relatively mild compared to other places, or so I am told.  What I do mind are crowd-surfers- mostly because I usually get kicked in the head and Scott usually ends up losing his glasses.

At the encore song there was a pretty terrifying moment with not one crowd surfer, not two... but FIVE of them practically on top of Scott and I.  It was so bad that one of the crowd surfers was being thrown onto another crowd surfer.  Scott decided that he wasn't going to put up with that crap, so he pulled the one guy down, bringing the entire mass down with him.  

Unfortunately I thought that they were falling by accident, stepped forward to try to catch the first guy, and ended up having the guy fall nearly vertically on top of my legs, bringing me down as well.  The crowd closed in, Scott disappeared from view, and when I tried to get up I was hindered by the weight of that guy on my legs.

After a two-second contemplation of the best way to get out of this situation without getting trampled, I decided to start screaming hysterically like a little girl to get Scott's attention that I was down.  Within seconds he had found me and was trying to pull me up- which took a few efforts as I was pretty weighed down.  

I was shaken up from the experience and pulled close to him, but then one of the security guards (as we were pretty near the first row) offered to pull me out.  Without any sort of permission on my part Scott and another guy lifted me up so I could be pulled over the barrier and allowed to exit the mosh pit.  Scott soon exited in similar style.

I'm fine, and had an awesome time with Scott otherwise, but I still want to smack those crowd surfers for fucking up the last song for me by making me have to so ignobly leave the mosh pit in such a manner.

When I got back I saw my own reflection:


Yeah, that red eye?  At first when I saw it I freaked out, convinced I had burst a blood vessel.  Then I took out my contact lens.  The eye was fine, but the lens was stained red.  And I can't get it to come out!

According to the internets, it was all the rage for kids about 12-13 years ago to put food coloring on their contacts to make them different colors- which eye doctors said was dangerous.  I have never heard of this trend before.  Has anyone else?