Saturday, March 31, 2012

monocles and bars of gold

Pictured above is my new monocle, ordered from eBay.  Unlike the traditional images of monocles we've all seen (pictured below), this monocle cannot possible fit to be worn in the eye, even for a few seconds.

image source: Boston
What it can do, however, is magnify the text of a book, which would have come in handy had I had it three weeks ago when I was working major overtime for my part time job and had trouble seeing the small text on some pages after several hours of typing information into a database.  And, because said monocle is actually attached to a long gold chain that can be worn around the neck.

I wonder if it can start fires as well...

On another note, I also had the pleasure of watching a Victorian caper film, The Great Train Robbery (1978), this evening.  Starring Sean Connery, Donald Sutherland, and Leslie-Anne Down, it depicts the execution of a train robbery involving a shipment of gold meant for the troops in the Crimean War by mastermind criminal Pierce (Connery).  Besides hearing Sean Connery's sexy voice throughout a great deal of the movie, it's also a greatly entertaining flick.  Besides that, it also depicts a few  interesting things which existed in Victorian times- such as a bell for coffins to indicate that someone was buried alive- as well as a few which I am not sure did- such as a doorbell for a carriage driver to ring from his carriage.

image source: Rail Serve
Regardless of what may or may not be historically correct, go see the movie anyway, especially if you like caper films.  It will be worth it.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

pre-raphaelite art exhibit

Chivalry, Frank Dicksee (1885) 
image source: Culture 24
Pre-Raphaelite lovers- want to get your Victorian art fix this spring and summer?  Then you might want to consider a trip to the Leighton House Museum- a Victorian house that was not only the home and studio of Victorian artist Frederick, Lord Leighton, but will also host an exhibit of prodigious Pre-Raphaelite art.

 The exhibit, entitled "Victorian Visions: Pre-Raphaelite and Nineteenth-Century Art from the John Schaeffer Collection" will run from Thursday, April 26 to Sunday, September 23, 2012.

Featured works will include creations by Leighton, John William Waterhouse, William Holman Hunt and Alfred Gilbert, among others.  So if you happen to be in Kensington, England this summer, consider stopping by.  I certainly wish I could, but England's not on the agenda at the moment.

For more information on the collection and exhibit, check out these articles by ArtLyst and Culture 24 by clicking on the respective links.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

blame it on the victorians

Last Friday marked a historical event in Indian history, as an 1860 law against homosexuality was finally repealed.  

What makes the event so odd and relevant to this blog is that this law was not made by any Indian government, but by the British Raj, the British government that ruled India between 1858 and 1947.  India's attorney general, G.E. Vahavanti, claimed that the anti-homosexuality law was not culturally Indian in nature, according to The Telegraph.  It's all the Victorians' fault:
"Homosexuals to satisfy their fancies in India whereas in Britain they were widely despised and buggery was a capital crime until 1961," he said, quoting a book on the British Raj.

"Indian society prevalent before the enactment of the [British] Indian Penal Code [in 1860] had a much greater tolerance for homosexuality than its British counterpart, which at this time was under the influence of Victorian morality and values in regard to family and the procreative nature of sex," he argued.
What I am a little confused by is why the law wasn't repealed along with a good many other laws soon after Indian independent in 1947?  One reason may be because the generations who had grown up with the law pre-1947 weren't capable of that sort of mind-set in the new Indian state- that there were other concerns that were more important than recognizing the rights of homosexuals at the time, such as the Partition issues regarding a Muslim or a Hindu state and all of the fighting that occurred as a result of it.

But 61 years?  Even my Indian boss thinks it's silly.  Although in 1947 it could have also been the result of years of "Victorian" indoctrination that had the general public not as accepting of homosexual relations as they were pre-1860, when the law was first enforced.

You can read the rest of The Telegraph's article, "British Raj 'Victorian prudery' to blame for Indian gay sex ban" by clicking on the link.

Monday, March 26, 2012

vsf gaming preview- scott's experiment

My boyfriend has gently suggested all week that we do some tabletop wargaming at a local gaming store.  It was a particularly tough week for me, as several things came crashing down at once and I had to sort through the mess.  But on Sunday I finally stopped making excuses and went, mostly to spend quality time with my boyfriend doing something he loves and I like.

The game he had set up was, more or less, a Victorian Science Fiction game of his own creation.  The backstory appears to be that a mad scientist has run off to Zululand in South Africa, where he is building some sort of infernal device that will do something terrible to the Earth.  

British troops must get through the scientists' hordes of Zulu allies, a steampunk witch, a witchdoctor and a flame-throwing dreadnought to destroy his device before it works its terribleness.  

From left to right- The witch, the mad scientist, the dreadnought (behind) and... I have no idea
what that big guy it.

Zulu warriors
But they have help from one artillery piece, a ninja like woman with a Tesla gun that shoots electricity, and a power armor noble.

British Troops
Natal Native Contingent
British Calvary
Miss Rosemoore (or so I think Scott called her) 
Lord Morrow (?)  He definitely looks like Dr. Robotnik
I played the British, while Scott took the mad scientist/ Zulu side.  It was a very close game, and the sides seemed to be pretty evenly distributed.  Although Scott slaughtered me down to the last man, his troops took a rather similar beating.  I think if I had had more confidence in the strengths of my character figures- the woman and the armored man- against Scott's dreadnought and witch, then I would have positioned them differently.  As it was Miss Rosemoore ended up killing the dreadnought, which had annihilated the armored man and two full units of British soldiers, with one fatal blow.  

The Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny- VSF style
A smoking, deactivated dreadnought.
Scott may make a few minor changes, but overall it looks like the game is a go for the SCSS as long as we can get enough members to play.

Unfortunately I did not bring my camera, so I ended up using my cell phone's poor camera instead to take these photos of the game in progress.  Enjoy anyway!


Scott: "Hi blogosphere!"

Saturday, March 24, 2012

spring cleaning

It's almost as if Pittsburgh skipped spring- we went from a mild winter to 80 degree weather in a matter of days, and the high temperatures remained for about seven days.  Since an overnight rain has finally cooled temperatures, I took the opportunity presented by the weather to attack the dust and clutter that built up in my apartment over the past few months.

Once a member of the Steel City Steam Society asked where members stored our bulky Victorian and steampunk clothing.  She had a crinoline in the way at home and, I suppose, wanted advice as to how to store it so that it was no longer taking up so much space.  I just replied that I kept all of my costumes in my boyfriend's closet, taking up about half the space in there.  

Although he never complained about the amount of space I had arbitrarily claimed as my own, I knew my boyfriend wasn't thrilled that he could not get to his wargaming figures without pushing heavy skirts and fallen corsets aside.  When I hit this closet during my cleaning, however, I knew that something had to be done.  The closet was just overflowing.

So I went to Walmart and bought new pant hangers to replace the broken ones I had been using for my skirts and corsets.  I even purchased a six-tier skirt hanger for my extensive collection of corsets.  My eight corsets fit perfectly on the hanger.

Front view
Back view
Then I bought a canvas clothes closet.  It's about three feet wide, 1.5 feet deep, and over five feet tall.  In our tiny apartment it's not easy to find room for such a thing, but we had just recently moved a futon out of a corner of my bedroom, and I had a bit of space to play with.  

One plus of this purchase is that it can be zipped up to keep out dirt and dust.  Another plus is that small "costume items" such as hats can be stored in the bottom of the closet, rather than under my bed where they can get dusty or damaged.

The best part of all was that I could add my other costume items, such as a full 18th century gown, my Queen Gorgo costume, and V for Vendetta cape, hat, mask, and throwing knives belt.  I also managed to give Scott even more space in his closet by adding his Spartan costume and a full-length heavy black cloak, officially making this easy-to-assemble bit of Wal-Mart goodness our "costume closet."

Where do you store your alternative clothing items?  Where do you store your costumes from Halloweens, conventions, or events?  Is it easy or difficult to find the space?  Do you have any storage tips to share?

Friday, March 23, 2012

tea girls

Want to see Disney-esque cartoon girls steampunked out? 

Disney storyboard artist Brian Kesinger has managed to take his work skills and create a beautiful series of young stylized women decked out in- you guessed it- steampunk garb.

image source: Brian Kesinger's Tea Girls
Making its way through the steampunk sites on the internet,, especially this past winter, this artwork particularly resonated with me because it looks like stills for a Disney princess animated movie.  As most of you know, I do have a fondness for the animated Disney princess movies, mostly out of nostalgia from my childhood days.  Since Kesinger does work for Disney, it isn't surprising his Tea Girls, as these steampunk femmes are fondly called, seem so appropriate for the entertainment giant.

image source: Steampunk Chronicle
Considering the gradual decline in popularity Disney princess movies have received for the past 10-15 years, such scientifically based, mechanically inclined, intelligent and feminine characters might be what the whole Disney princess genre needs to rejuvenate itself.  Of course there is no such plan in the works for Kesinger's Tea Girls.  I am merely contemplating the future of the Disney princess line of movies.

image source: iO9
The Steampunk Chronicle spotlighted Mr. Kesinger in this Q&A article written last month, where readers are given an insight into his inspirations for the Tea Girls, the process through which he creates each new "girl," and his general experiences as a Disney artist.  

The article also reveals that Mr. Kesinger takes commissions- which makes anyone's desire to be made into a Tea Girl a very real possibility.

image source: iO9 
Mr. Kesinger's Tea Girls artwork is sold as prints through Clockwork Couture and as apparel through WeLoveFine's Shop.  His work can also be found on his website and Facebook page.  On the latter link you can see the start of what appears to be the first page for a comic book or graphic novel of a Tea Girl entitled "The Intrepid Molly McGuinness," which will apparently be coming out in the fall!

image source: Brian Kesinger's Tea Girls 
Thnak you Brian Kesinger for creating such wonderfully creative steampunk artwork!  I love it!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

kiss me, I'm... victorian!

Happy St. Paddy's Day!  

Since there is not a drop of Irish blood in me, I shall be celebrating near Downtown Pittsburgh with my two half-Irish cousins.  So "Kiss me, I'm with the Irish!"

Friday, March 16, 2012

review: the pirates of penzance

image source: Pittsburgh City Paper
This past weekend was not all work for me- I took the evening off on Saturday to attend a performance by the Pittsburgh Savoyards of The Pirates of Penzance, that famous 1879 opera by Gilbert and Sullivan.  

It was nearly a full house at the Andrew Carnegie Free Library and Music Hall in Carnegie, PA, where the performance took place.  I came dressed in a Victorian dress I featured in a previous post, for which I received many compliments.

Having never seen The Pirates of Penzance, I had no idea what to expect.  I was very pleasantly surprised- the storyline was very simple and yet very entertaining- the perfect farce.  The singers were excellent, the lines were very often hilarious (such as the Major-General's declaration that he was an "orphan" to get the pirates to not take his beloved daughters) and the full orchestra accompanying the singers was perfect.  The Major-General did a great job singing "The Major-General song", Mabel had a beautiful soprano voice, and the woman who played Ruth was also a beautiful singer.  The scenery was well done, and the props (of which there were many) were appropriate and well used to compliment the choreography. Outbursts of laughter from the audience were very common, proving that a 133 year old opera can still be enjoyed nearly as much as when it was first performed.

image source: Your Carlynton 
The only real issues I had were not being able to understand some of the singing- because none of the singers had microphones and, because I was seated on the far right-hand side of the audience, whenever they turned their heads to sing in another direction the volume dropped considerably and sometimes I could not hear what they said.  

It wasn't the most professional production- some of the players were off in their choreography more than once and, as mentioned, not all of the singers could fill the music hall with their voice enough to be heard, but  overall it was a very enjoyable and well done performance.  Great job, Pittsburgh Savoyards!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

hiatus hopefully over

Many apologies for the week-long hiatus.  I have been swamped with work.  It's great as the work day goes so much faster, but I've also been working major overtime as well.  I must have clocked in an additional 50 hours from last Wednesday to this Wednesday as a result.

Hopefully this easy. fun post is the start of a little of the normalcy that is slowly returning to my schedule.  Many thanks to Ms. Lou from The Neo-Victorian Parlour for tagging me for this blog questionaire thing that's been hitting the round of blogs I read.  Here's how it works.
  • Post the rules on your blog
  • Write 11 things about you
  • Answer it
  • Create 11 new questions for the future tagged ones
  • Put a link to the tagged blogs
  • Prevents them by leaving a message on their blogs
  • No information about us in the "tag" section
  • Tag 11 people

11 Things About Me
  1. Ben & Jerry's Phish Food Ice Cream is my weakness.
  2. I'm a neat freak.  My part of my apartment is almost always immaculately clean, my jewelry, books, and clothing organized, and even my sewing stuff is almost always put away at the end of each day.  Everything has to be put away before I go to bed at night and set out for the next day in order for me to feel ready.
  3. I'm extremely clumsy.  I've managed to fall out of my office chair and have it fall on me, trip over numerous Pittsburgh sidewalks or rocks on wooded paths, slip on ice patches in cemeteries and trip over my own feet.  Once I fell up an escalator, receiving a gash on my knee that nearly sent me into shock and required eight stitches and five hours of my time to mend.
  4. I'm absolutely hopeless at math.
  5. Despite despising most rap music, I do listen to the 8 Mile soundtrack very often while running.  it pumps me up. 
  6. Don't talk to me while I am busy writing, even if it's an email.  You mess up my mental concentration on the task at hand.
  7. I want to live out of the country for one year or longer just to see what it's like.  I am not expecting to like it- just expecting something different and new from what I already know.
  8. The best way for me to discover a city is to get lost in it and try to find my way back to a familiar landmark on my own again.
  9. Although I am not a motherly person and I don't want kids anytime soon, kids of most ages seem to love me.  I have not yet figured out why.
  10. Nicknames I have had include: "Big Fry," "Serious Lady,"  "Thing 2" (my twin sister is "Thing 1"), "La-la," (like the Teletubie) "Cluny," (from the Redwall series) "Beast," "Boss-man," "Evil Twin," and variations of my Lithuanian last name.
  11. I play the alto saxophone.

Here are Ms. Lou's questions for me:

1. What is your favorite book or series?

Jane Eyre

2. What album or artist are you listening to a lot of right now?

Hmmm... I am going to have to go with Flogging Molly.  St. Paddy's Day is just around the corner...

3. What was your favorite class in high school? Are you still interested in that subject?

Despite having mostly horrible teachers, history was my favorite subject and still remains my favorite subject.

4. What was the last thing you cooked/baked? Did it turn out?

Old World Chicken in my crock pot for a group of friends.  It's a super easy recipe and is always done when I get home from work.  It turned out juicy and delicious, as always.  But don't think I am a cook- that's the job of the boyfriend.  :)

5. What is your favorite item to wear right now?

Fishnet tights, like these ones from Target shown briefly in this post.  Since the weather is getting warmer, however, these may be too warm for me in a few weeks.

6. Do you wear nail polish? What color? Or do you go for a more natural look?

I rarely wear nail polish, but mostly because I'm too lazy to apply it or maintain it, and too impatient to wait for it to fully dry before going about my normal tasks, which messes up the work I did on them.  Otherwise I would wear it all the time.

7. What is your dream job?


8. If you were a super heroine, what would your power be?

Flying.  I would love to fly over everyone to get more quickly from point A to point B and to not have to deal with stopping at traffic lights.

9. Where is the place you most want to visit in the world?

That's a tough one, as I wanted to visit Lithuania for the longest time before I went last year.  I guess now I want to visit England and Ireland more so than anywhere else.

10. Is there a clothing item or shoe you are craving right now?

Always!  These items from Plasticland have particularly caught my eye:
11. What advice would you give your 13 year old self?

Holding grudges like your mom is not the way to resolve differences between friends.  And chill out- life isn't so serious.

I'm tagging everyone who hasn't already been tagged, as I think most of you have already been tagged.

My questions for you are the following:
  1. What is your greatest physical feature, or one you are most proud of?
  2. Do you have any odd skills that no one knows about (i.e. peeling a banana with your feet, rattling off 50 different slang terms for alcohol in 2 minutes, or being able to block people out who are annoying you?
  3. If you were at Hogwarts, which House would you most likely be in and why?
  4. Who's your favorite book villain?
  5. What job would you want to try out just to see what it's like?  it doesn't have to be a dream job- it should be a job you were always curious about seeing if you would like it.
  6. What is the best clothing item you's ever owned?
  7. Dogs or cats?
  8. Who's your favorite author?
  9. If you had a particular time period you would want to live in circa 1980, what would it be and why?  If not, what's great about our modern times?
  10. What "immature" things are you known for?  Proud of it?
  11. Give us an odd historical fact- can be recent history.

Friday, March 9, 2012

sad day in pittsburgh

Yesterday, around 2 p.m.,  one of our law interns, who is currently enrolled at the University of Pittsburgh, received a report of a gunman, possibly two, at the Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic.  "Western Psych," as everyone in the area calls it, in located right on the University of Pittsburgh main campus in Oakland, about one mile away from where I work and live.  I have friends and relatives who work in the area in and around Pitt.  After sending a few warning texts to friends and family to be careful, I went quietly about my day, checking the web every so often to see of any updates.

My friend Sarah texted me back.  She works for accounting for Pitt, and said that they were on lockdown.  So we exchanged information throughout the day as we both discovered it- the false rumor of a hostage situation and the casualty count.  I wasn't particularly worried about her or any of my relatives as none of them worked in Western Psych.

When all was finally cleared up three hours later, two were dead (including the shooter) and seven wounded.  It was at this point that my boss revealed that one of his baristas for his coffee shop works at Western Psych during the day.  One phone call confirmed that she was safe and had no idea what had happened as she had been in a completely different part of the building.

I wouldn't say Pittsburgh is a violent or dangerous place to live.  I feel perfectly safe walking around many neighborhoods at night- with precautions, of course.  Any violence is usually in the same three or four neighborhoods regarding drugs or gang-related violence.  Collateral damage has happened, but it's rare.

But these sort of incidents just baffle me.  Within the past three years I've lived within a mile of two very violent and uncalled for shootings.  The first involved a man who killed three police officers who responded to a domestic dispute at his house.  And now this.

But what possesses people to hurt others in their own desire for destruction?  

I thank God that not more were killed.  We all feel for the family of the young man employed by Western Psych who was killed.  But police response was speedy, those involved with the university and the hospitals in Oakland were notified and locked down very quickly and effectively, and the damage done was no worse.

Please pray for the victims and their families, especially the family of fallen employee Michael Schaab.

Friday, March 2, 2012

more league of s.t.e.a.m.

After a one-year YouTube hiatus, the League of S.T.E.A.M has finally come out with new episodes, available on their website and YouTube Channel.  I have posted one of the episodes below.

For those of you who don't know about the League of S.T.E.A.M. and want to learn more, check out this previous post of mine about this steampunk performance group.  Check out the League's website to find out more about supporting their web episode projects.