Thursday, June 28, 2012

"the sea is a cruel mistress"

I want to make something like this:

image source: Days Fall Like Leaves
As an aside, there is a reason for my general silence on Blogger for the last week.  Will update more when I can.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

croquet and absinthe and bears oh my!

Last night the Trundle Manor kindly hosted a lawn game and absinthe night for the Steel City Steam Society.  It was a great hit, with tea, cookies, pound cake, croquet, Nerf dueling, and absinthe drinking.

I would like to thank Mr. Arm, Velda, and Polly for giving us the run of the Manor and assisting us in every way, from making sure the lawn was mowed to scolding me for not preparing the absinthe correctly. By the end of the evening I was a pro, as I made nearly everyone's drinks.
Bears chillaxin' at the absinthe table

Photo by Nim Derringer.  Used with Permission.

Photo by Nim Derringer.  Used with Permission.
Everyone had a great time, and Mr. Arm is willing to host yet another lawn game party at the Manor.  Join the Steel City Steam Society on Facebook for updates on future events!

Friday, June 22, 2012

19th century film friday

For your Friday fix, here are two movie trailers for Victorian-era films currently out in theaters:

Thursday, June 21, 2012

"a trip to the moon"

image source: Pittsburgh Filmmakers Theaters
Last night to SCSS went to see the famous 1902 silent film "A Trip to the Moon" at the Regent Square Theater in Pittsburgh. The quality of the restored version, in its original 1902 colors, was absolutely stunning. After that we also saw "The Extraordinary Voyage," a 60-minute documentary on the early years of cinema, Georges Melies' contributions to early cinema, the tragedy of Melies' lost films, and the restoration of the 1902 colored version of this film.

The documentary also proved, again, how much of an arse Thomas Edison was (he pirated "A Trip to the Moon," along with other American entrepreneurs, so that Melies never made a dime from their profits.)

The film will be shown only one more night at the Regent Square Theater, so if you're in the Regent Square area around 8 p.m. you should check out this amazing feat of trick photography with film.

Here's a short segment from the 15 minute silent film:

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

steampunk giraffe

At the International Steampunk Day Celebration last week, two non-steampunker customers who stopped by the coffee shop asked me if I had ever heard of a band called Steam Powered Giraffe.

Actually, yes, from some person some time ago, but I hadn't listened to them.  The customers urged me to give the group a serious listen.

Steampunkers, if you haven't heard them already, give Steam Powered Giraffe a try.  They're quite an interesting mix of genres- a lot of folksy, electronica, cabaret, and blues influences.  But the greatest treat is the watch the three "robots" perform-moving to the music in perfect and unique mechanical time while keeping impeccable harmony.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

steampunk empire symposium review on doctor fantastique

Doctor Fantastique's Show of Wonders, a website about all things steampunk, recently featured a write-up about Cincinnati's Steampunk Empire Symposium by Sarah Hans.  And look at which Steel City Steam Society members made the photo choices:

Narla Thotep (left) Umbrella Dueling against the fine gentleman on the right
The impromptu "Baby Got Brass" dance party on stage at the Fashion show with the blogmistress (second from left); Lydia Lamplighter (third from left), and Narla Thotep (fourth from left).
Check out the review of the convention here.

Monday, June 18, 2012

aether dancer trailer

I recently saw the following trailer for a proposed web or television series based on steampunk- "Aether Dancer."  The group who made the trailer is hoping to raise enough money to make this trailer a reality.

To help make this TV series an actual work rather than a roughly shod trailer, go to their fundraising campaign at Indiegogo.

Friday, June 15, 2012

tea dueling at coffee shops

Last night we had a blast at our International Steampunk Day celebration!  About 10 to 12 people showed up- half of whom I had met before, half of whom I had not.  We even had some steampunk walk-ins who had no idea there was a steampunk scene in Pittsburgh, and representation from the local Lolita scene!

The tea dueling was fierce at times, with myself refereeing again, so I apologize for the lack of action shots.  The winner took away the golden teacup and all honors bestowed upon her as a result.

Thanks to everyone who made it out and made the night an absolute success!

Some photos from last night's event:

Gina, the beautiful Lolita
The blogmistress

Rose, our tea dueling champion!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

happy international steampunk day!

Today is International Steampunk Day!  To celebrate I am throwing a party at my boss's coffee shop in Pittsburgh.  Look at all of the pretty decorations!

 And check out our ice cream and coffee flavors:

Photos of the actual celebration to follow tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

review: "darker still"

image source: What I Read and What I Thought
At the Cincinnati Steampunk Empire Symposium in April I purchased a novel by Gothic Victorian romance writer Leanna Renee Hieber.  From attending Ms. Hieber's lectures I was curious to see what kind of a writer she was, as she seems extremely well read in aspects of the Victorian era.

The novel, Darker Still, had quite a lot going against it at the start.  It was a romance and supernatural novel, which are genres of which I am not particularly fond.  But I do enjoy the "Parasol Protectorate" series by Gail Carriger, which are also romance/paranormal stories, and Hieber's own admission that the story was inspired by Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Grey sealed the deal in the purchase of Darker Still.

This epistolary novel consists mostly of the journal of 17-year-old upper middle class girl Natalie Stewart living in New York City in the 1880s.  Having recently returned from an asylum for deaf and mute girls, Natalie is separated from most of the society of the city by the fact that she has not spoken a word since she was four years old.

Through her father, a curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, she learns of a portrait of a handsome young English lord named Denbury, a beautiful, life-like painting that is said to be haunted.  As a result of this one painting Natalie finds a whole new world that she never knew about- a world filled with magic, ghosts, demons, premonitions, mediums, dangerous power-seekers, and true love.

Well, I must say Ms. Hieber- Well done.

One of the greatest strengths of this novel was, in my opinion, Hieber's ability to make most of the events and interactions between characters seem believable, natural or supernatural though they may have been.  Natalie is, as are the other females of the novel, constantly concerned about propriety in interactions between themselves and the people with whom they come in contact.  Sometimes these Victorian social boundaries are tested, but quite often, in the main action, they are outright broken.  But the situations that present themselves- having one's spirit sucked into a painting, for one- would call for temporarily putting off propriety and societal decorum.  And the actual "magic" of the story, as well as interactions with supernatural characters and situations, were logically thought out and the important details eventually deciphered and explained to the readers.  Not everything was explained, but part of that reason was that some of the magic and the presence of supernatural creatures was not understood by the main players in the story.

I also appreciated the fact that the two main characters were, in true historic fashion, religious in that they believed in a Christian God despite their interactions with supernatural elements.  In fact, such religious faith seemed to strengthen the gifted Mrs. Northe's resolve in dealing with the supernatural and the evil surrounding it.  It also goes along with the research of spirituality in America that Hieber discussed in one of her lectures at the Symposium.

The amount of research Hieber did on Victorian social interactions and various religious and supernatural concepts, symbols, languages, and stories is impressive.  The book wasn't bogged down by the finer details, but all important points were made clearly and concisely.  Much of this was due to the presence of Mrs. Northe, an upper class society lady and a wise, intelligent medium, who cared to relate only what was important to solving the mystery behind the painting to the narrator, Natalie.  The best part was that so much was left unexplained that did not need to be explained in order to make the story run logically from beginning to end.  I also would bet that many of the questions raised in the first novel will continue in the novels to follow in the "Magic Most Foul" series of which Darker Still is a part.

The climax, as well as the final pages of rising action leading up to it, made me stay up two hours longer than I had intended that night.  It was very exciting, and still made logical sense to me, signs of excellent storytelling in my opinion.

The only problems I had with the book were few and not major.  The first issue was with the large printed words, which makes the fact that the book itself is printed as being 271 pages seem a joke.  It's definitely written for a young adult audience, not a literary snob like myself.  I also don't like the cover art, mostly because of the model's dress- not Victorian enough for my tastes.

I also had trouble with the romantic interactions.  I guess I am not much of a romantic at heart, but I could not see how two people in Victorian times who don't know each other at all could get to kissing and caressing in less than two weeks, supernatural events or no.

My last problem was I felt Mrs. Northe was too convenient of a character.  She always seemed to have an answer for everything, and her continued assistance of the protagonist to do dangerous things, even if she didn't approve of them, did not seem right for a Victorian-era lady.  It's one thing to send one's "dirty job" man to tail a girl going into a dangerous slum neighborhood at night, but it's an entirely different thing altogether to have a valise packed and ready to help the girl to run away from home at a moment's notice.  She was just too ready to help the story's action move along that more quickly.

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed the novel and would recommend it as a great addition to any Gothic romance or Victorian era lover's modern reading collection.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

recollections: victorian accessories

Recollections, the historical clothing site that specializes in Victorian-era clothing, had a sale over Memorial Day weekend.  I took full advantage of the lower prices by ordering a few accessories.  While they have beautiful outfits (featured in this post and this post), I doubt I'll purchase any more full outfits from them anytime soon due to the fact that I am attempting to make my own outfits now, but I certainly will keep my eye out for any good deals they may have.

Such as these tan faux leather Victorian-styled boots:

This leather waist cincher (featured in Friday's Red & Black Week post):

And this derby hat:

The shipping was speedier on these items than the dresses I bought previously as nothing had to be custom-made.

Overall I am very satisfied with the purchases.  I strongly recommend Recollections for their great quality of clothing items.  While they may be at a higher price, I think the price is certainly worth it.

Monday, June 11, 2012

the first diamond jubilee

While Queen Elizabeth II marked her 60th year as monarch of England and the British Commonwealth last week,, it is remarkable to note that she is only the second in the long ling of English kings and queens to have done so.  The first one to celebrate a Diamond Jubilee was none other than Queen Victoria.

Elizabeth II
image source: Cruise International
Victoria I
image source: BBC News
BBC News provides a peek into the 19th century Diamond Jubilee celebration with the informative article by Andy Sully: "Queen Victorian and Britain's First Diamond Jubilee."

Similar to the current Royal Family at this moment, Victoria and the institution of the monarchy was high in public opinion at the time of her Jubilee.  Colonies such as Kenya, Rhodesia, Zanzibar, the New Hebrides, and Somaliland had been added to the Empire.  Military troubles in places such as the Sudan were gradually being taken care of.  And although England was starting to lag behind in economic growth to the likes of the United States and Germany, it was still a significant part of a strong, global economy.

Taking place on June 22, 1897, the Diamond Jubilee celebration for Queen Victoria took place all over the world.  It was a bank holiday in England and India, and public artwork, free feasts for the poor, and even free ale and tobacco provided by tea magnate Sir Thomas Lipton allowed people of all social classes to participate in the festivities.

The highlight of the day included a six-mile procession from Buckingham Palace through the streets of London.  This procession included members of the Royal Family and government leaders of the self-governing and Indian states, accompanied by the British Army, Royal Navy, and colonial troops from Canada, India, Africa, and the Antipodes.

image source: BBC News
As the queen herself wrote about the procession: 
"No-one ever, I believe, has met with such an ovation as was given to me, passing through those six miles of streets... The crowds were quite indescribable and their enthusiasm truly marvellous and deeply touching.

"The cheering was quite deafening and every face seemed to be filled with joy."
The aging Queen herself  could not participate much in the overall festivities due to arthritis, so the focus of the celebrations was more so on the greatness of the British Empire, according to Sully's article.

Read the article "Queen Victorian and Britain's First Diamond Jubilee" by clicking on the link.  It will be well worth the read.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Red & Black Week: Final Day's Outfit

For the final day of Sophistique Noir's Red & Black Week, I put together an entirely new ensemble for a fun Goth-inspired Friday work outfit:

The drapey white blouse is from Dots.  I cinched it with a new leather cincher from Recollections.  The skirt is New York and Co., the boots are from DSW, and the black rose-patterned tights are from Target.

I would not recommend for anyone to actually wear this sort of outfit to work with the patterned tights and the belt cincher.  I'm fortunate enough to be able to get away with it because, as I have discussed in several posts in the past, my workplace lets me wear whatever I want.  My boss actually likes my style and discusses my new outfits with me.  But my mother would probably think that I looked more like a streetwalker than a secretary in these clothes, and only Heaven knows what the lawyers with whom we share office space think.

What is the most daring thing you ever wore to work?

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Red & Black Week: Victorian belles robes dans la rouge et le noir

Today's Red & Black Week installment will be a small selection of the scores of red and black Victorian-inspired clothing items one can find online- bustled dresses, tightly laced bodices, and the occasional corset as outerwear with lots of lace, ruffles, and frills:

image source: BustleDress
image source: Wizzley
image source: TooToo
image source: TooToo
image source: Gothic4Weddings

image source: Kaboodle