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?

Friday, November 23, 2012

trailer for "lincoln"

It's Black Friday, and I'm... at work.  But that's okay, as I love my job!  (and partially because due to my working today, I don't have to work Christmas Eve.  Yeah, we're that kind of museum.)

It's been too hectic of a week for me to write any really meaningful blog posts, but then I remembered that I never actually featured the trailer for Lincoln, starring Daniel Day-Lewis.  While I am not a Lincoln worshipper, the fact that Day-Lewis is playing the character almost guarantees a spectacular performance.  The man is truly a master of his craft.

Americans, check this film out in a theater near you.  International community... check your local listings.  I am not sure how much interest one act in the life of a mid 19th century American president will generate amongst you, as the USA is not the focus of your world.  But if you ever see it on DVD, it may be worth checking out, to see how one country struggled with the issue of slavery.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

edison steampunk ball

Looking to escape the Black Friday madness in Pittsburgh?  Blow off some steam with the local scene at the Edison Steampunk Ball!

Welcome to a decadent night that will get your gears turning! Join us on Black Friday and help us celebrate like it is 1889!

Music, Performance, Merchants and More-

Come dressed to impress

Hosted by Lilith Deville "The Mouth of the South" part of Kabarett Vulgare!

Performances by -

Macabre Noir from Kabarrett Vulgare Pittsburgh, PA
Bella Sin from Le Femme Mystique Burlesque Cleveland, OH

Vending by:

Haus of Sin's Herbs & Heirlooms Leather Works

Steampunk Fashion Show by Pittsburgh Designer Jen Rocket

-A fourth generation designer/seamstress of fashion and costumes, Jen Rocket is located in the Highland Park area of Pittsburgh. At her studio she designs; makes patterns; and constructs couture women's clothing, specializing in dresses;wedding gowns; corsetry; tailoring of men's and women's clothing; leather work; and costumes from detailed cosplay characters to walk around style mascots. You can see Jen's work and contact her at; on Facebook as Jen Rocket Sewing/Design Studio; and follow her on twitter @jenrocketstudio.

21+ $5.00 admission fee

In many ways this is a shameless plug, as I am slated to participate in the fashion show. After my fitting yesterday evening, however, I must say that I am blown away by designer Jen Rocket's amazing ability to take a genre of the now-cliched top hat and goggles look and completely invent a whole new look for it.  We're talking a mix between "steampunk Valkyrie" or "shiny brass warrior goddess" sort of look- which, strange as it may sound, works amazingly with the steampunk label.

More on those designs later, as they're supposed to be a secret until Friday night.

I am also slated to vend at this event as well under the moniker "House of Broken Needles" with two friends.  My specialty?  Faerie wings.  Below are some of the smaller versions in progress, which I fear look like absolute crap:

No matter.  My first priority is to the fashion show, not trying to sell wings that Emilie Autumn taught me to make.  :)

If you're in Pittsburgh the day after Thanksgiving, be at Cattivo's for the Edison Steampunk Ball.  For $5 you get two top-notch burlesque shows, a fashion show, and access to the most unique merchants of the Pittsburgh area, not to mention the steamiest steampunkers around.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

ten minute steampunk time waster!

Many apologies for not updating much last week.  I was swamped at work and swamped after work- apparently I am either a very popular person or a gullible one, agreeing to help out with various projects that may not be of the best benefit to me.

Here's an update on the work situation-

I continue to love my museum job.  Part of the reason for this heartfelt love is due to the history behind this museum.  Andrew Carnegie truly fascinates me.  I haven't yet figured out why this Robber Baron of the 19th century wanted to start museums in Pittsburgh.  His true pet projects seem to have been libraries and charities in Scotland.  Yet he never forgot the Steel City in terms of culture.  Not only are most of the public libraries in this area "Carnegie Libraries," we also have a music hall, two museums, and numerous other public gifts due to his generosity.

During a recent meeting, however, I discovered where my salary comes from- Andrew Carnegie's fortune.  If our museums only use a certain percentage of Andrew Carnegie's original endowment from over 100 years ago, then we can continue to operate without depleting the endowment.

Folks, I am living off of the blood, sweat, tears, and guts of steel workers from the Victorian Era.  Carnegie sold his steel industry in the late 19th century and ended up donating 350 million dollars of his fortune by the time he died in 1919.  I am assuming most of this money came from the steel industry.  The funny part of all of this is that I come from a line of Pittsburgh steel workers.  It's quite possible that I am profiting off of the injustices they experienced.

Why does such a thing give me a "nerdgasm" every time I receive a paycheck?

Work has been busy due to the end of our fiscal year approaching in a few weeks.  It's been a pain in the arse, but I fully understand that "dream jobs" don't always consist of work I love.  That's just reality.  My father loves his job, and yet there are days when he wants to strangle his patients and call in sick the next day.  But overall he believes in what he does (physical therapy) and loves his work.  I love my work too- just not always.

Here's a simple steampunk game I found online called "Steampunk Odyssey."  Can you follow the puzzle to get "Abe from one end of the city to the other?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

birthrite- "goodbye happiness"

Here's a cool steampunk-inspired music video by a British hard rock band called Birthrite.  And look!  No sparkly vampires!

Monday, November 12, 2012

guest post: winesburg, ohio and victorian sexuality

image source: S. R. Brady Blog 
Guest blog post by Scott, the Blogmistress's boy toy

Victorian sexuality is not a subject that will be unfamiliar to any of you.  We all have our own prejudices about how the stuffy Victorians handled sex.  My perception of it, from early on, was formed by a Mad magazine comic about sex through the ages.   It started off with the Victorian era and had a middle aged man and a young woman sitting on a swing.  The woman says that she thinks it is time they spoke about sex.  The man replies, shocked, that she is 19 and far too young for that kind of talk.  The woman replies that she might be young but she is also his wife.

As I've read more about it I've learned that these values were probably a product of the middle class, the poor certainly not being able to subscribe to them and the very rich being somewhat above them and, while still marrying to complete social standing, must have had to find love where they could. Nonetheless the idea existed in some form at least in the middle class.  As an adult it is difficult to imagine that, at any time, people were totally monogamous or that premarital sexuality was completely banned among any people.  Reading the novel Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson certainly made me see a Victorian middle class take on sexuality that was far different from what I had previously thought.

True, this is not English morality, nor is it the morality of even the big eastern cities of the burgeoning republic, but it is small town America and it is rural America.  The country is traditionally more conservative than the towns.

Winesburg, Ohio was written from 1915 to 1916 so it is not truly a Victorian book.  The events in the novel take place about 20 years earlier and are based on memories of the author’s life in Clyde, OH- where he lived from 1884-1896- making the setting of the novel firmly late Victorian.

Sex is prevalent throughout the stories that make up the novel.   One of the major themes of the work is the sexual maturation of the main character.  He loses his virginity in one story and there are two other women that he has near sexual encounters with.  The youth of the town are not often chaperoned while out on “walks” and find themselves in the woods, alone.   Even relatively supervised dates in someone’s house are described.  The pair are left in a sitting room to their own devices with no adults present; one of the stories finds one such couple with disheveled hair, panting from their libidinous exertions.  We are not led to believe that these two characters did more than have a jolly long make-out session but we find the youth of the town with plenty of opportunities to take advantage of their isolation and express their newly discovered sexuality.

The sexuality is not even something that is much of a secret, really.   It is as though the town expects the kids to do this as if this has always been done.   Some, like the preacher, express horror at their own sexual thoughts, but his horror is due more to his thoughts being adulterous than purely sexual.  While it is certainly not a theme in the work, there is no serious condemnation of premarital sex, . If someone gets pregnant then a wedding seems to be expected. It is a very “You pays your money and takes your chances” arrangement.

image source: Wikipedia

That the American heartland would produce such a lax sexual morality during this time period has increased my interest in the subject.  Certainly it could be debated that an author writing some 20 years after the fact might embellish things for the sake of the story.  The book, however, received acclaim from critics at the time of publication and was well received.  There were questions about the morality of the book but for it to be taken seriously at all it must have reflected some truth. The author was writing about events only 20 years past for an adult audience.  His audience would have remembered how society was at that time. It would be interesting to read some of those early criticisms to see if the sexuality in the work seems fantastic to the age, something I have not yet done.

Winesburg, OH has certainly led me to question my own view of middle-class Victorian morality. When I have a chance to break away from all the late 17th century reading I’m doing at present I will have to investigate the subject further.

Friday, November 9, 2012

digital artwork a la steampunk

Love this image by Conselho SteamPunk- I want to be in this image, spiders and all!

Check out this and many other awesome steampunk images at Conselho's Steampunk's Facebook page.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

workday halloween costume

Out of curiosity, what is your workplace's policy on dressing up for Halloween?

I only ask because for two years running the boss at my last job made me pass out candy to local schoolkids during business hours, so I took the liberty of dressing up in a full-blown costume the entire workday.

Working at a museum, however, is a bit different.  People expect you to be eccentric but professional. We are a respected contemporary art and scientific research institute, after all.  And costumes are definitely not considered to be professional outside of a Halloween store.  I did make sure to ask, after my coworkers discovered my steampunk leanings, what the museum's policy was on Halloween.  I was told that people just didn't dress up- that sometimes people wore hats, but rarely, even though there was no official corporate policy against it.

So I took a bit of a risk last Wednesday and decided to use my new vintage pith helmet with a bit of inspiration from the entomology department of Carnegie Museum of Natural History to create a bug-infested field hat:

I hand-stitched a length of tulle around the circumference of the hat.  Using plastic insect toys purchased from JoAnn Fabrics, I then hand-sewed the bugs onto the pith helmet. I Since I did want to remove the bugs without damaging the hat I couldn't glue them.  I tried taping them on, but that didn't work either.  In the end the bugs did manage to stay on securely, although I drew blood more than once and broke a needle in the process of completing this project.

Paired with rather normal workclothes (a turtleneck, dress pants, and a vest) the results of my costuming effort were successful in being mild and not inappropriately showy:

Of course I only wore this helmet at my cubicle, leaving it behind for any forays into the museums proper.  But with the natural history museum's recent BugWorks exhibition and the fact that a scene of The Silence of the Lambs was filmed in the entomology department in the early '90 (where the two "bug guys" who identify the "deathshead moth" are playing chess using a bug as a timer), I think it could have been appropriate work and Halloween attire.

What do you think?

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

steampunk wedding in the steel city

My friend Sarah, who recently got married and had invited me to celebrate in her ceremony as a bridesmaid, sent me a link to these photos from a wedding of a different sort-

A Steampunk wedding in Pittsburgh! (which I think took place this year)

image source: caitlin thomas photograhy

image source: caitlin thomas photograhy
The wedding took place at The Heinz History Center, a museum in the heart of the city of Pittsburgh.  What a perfect venue- a museum in a former Heinz Co. factory buidling:

image source: caitlin thomas photograhy

image source: caitlin thomas photograhy

image source: caitlin thomas photograhy

image source: caitlin thomas photograhy

image source: caitlin thomas photograhy

image source: caitlin thomas photograhy

image source: caitlin thomas photograhy

image source: caitlin thomas photograhy

image source: caitlin thomas photograhy

image source: caitlin thomas photograhy

image source: caitlin thomas photograhy

I know none of these people, but congratulations to Taylor and Shawn!  And kudos on the awesome wedding theme!

Monday, November 5, 2012

steampunking your wargaming miniatures

Want to have a steampunk miniature, but only have plain old fantasy, sci-fi, and historical minis that simply don't scream "steampunk?"  Try the "gas and goggles" sprue from Victoria Miniatures:

With these accessories, which can be easily molded around the head of a figure, anyone with basic sculpting skills can automatically steampunk their figs for the low, low price of $2.00!

It's actually pretty cool that the steampunk genre has grown to include even these "accessories" for tabletop wargaming, don't you think?

Friday, November 2, 2012

steampunk greenery

Time to display some neo-Victorian industrial styles in the liveliest color of nature: green!

A few weeks ago I entered a drawing for a set of steampunk earrings on The Punkettes- a steampunk, dieselpunk, and clockpunk blog.  And I won!  w00t!

I received the earrings when I returned from my trip to South Carolina, and have enjoyed them several times so far- so lightweight and fun!

Also, while at the Monsters, Music and More charity event, there was an auction with all proceeds going to the charities for whom the event was run- the American Cancer Society and St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. I played the part of Vanna White, showing off the various pieces in the auction- movie posters signed by cast members of the original version of The Night of the Living Dead, a samurai sword set, and paraphernalia from local undead loving group The Steel City Zombies.

Then this deliciously lusciously green coat came into my hands.  And I couldn't let go.

So for $50 this baby was mine! 

Made by Lady Moon Designs, an alternative clothing seamstress based in Australia, this gorgeous brocade coat seems t have been upcycled from something else- either unused brocade material or an actual coat.  Either way, the craftsmanship is second to none and the detailing is amazing, especially with the accessories added on:

The collar

The lapel

The lapel

The back midsection

The sleeves

Check out Lady Moon Designs on Etsy or Facebook. and The Punkettes' blog for awesome items or giveaways.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

monthly theme post: hosiery

It's time for another one of Sophistique Noir's Monthly Theme Posts!  This month's theme is hosiery!

I love hosiery.  It keeps me warm in cooler weather, shows off the shape of one's legs well, and is just another fun "accessory" to spice up an outfit.  I have a drawer full of the stuff, but for the sake of time I will only show a few of my most interesting pairs.

The first specimen is this rather tightly knit pair of hose with an interesting winter-sweater-like pattern on it.  I can't remember for the life of me where I got it, but I do know I had them last winter.  They're so warm.  In fact, I am wearing these with a turtleneck sweater dress to work today.

This next pair I haven't yet had the chance to wear.  Purchased at Urban Outfitters on clearance this summer, these pink hose have a lovely embroidered heart pattern on it.  Unfortunately because they were purchased at a time I was beginning a retail job I sort of thrust them aside and forgot about them until I cleaned out my dresser a few days ago.  Having "rediscovered" them, I am excited to create an outfit to show them off:

The next two stockings are my favorites- a fishnet like weave with flower patterns on them.  I have two of each color- black and gray- so when one set is completely worn out I can immediately begin wearing the second set.  I purchase these at Target.

And finally, my striped stockings, purchased from a Halloween store last year and only worn rarely to preserve them.  I've worn these to an Emilie Autumn concert, Pittsburgh Zombiefest, and for just hanging out with goth and steampunk friends.

Do you have special pairs of hosiery that you only use for special occassions?  if so, why?