Steampunk inspiration and resources

Posts tagged “Victorian

Quotable Quotes by Oscar Wilde

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1. I think that God, in creating man, somewhat overestimated his ability.

2. The world is a stage, but the play is badly cast.

3. Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much.

4. It is absurd to divide people into good and bad. People are either charming or tedious.

Oscar cape5. The only thing to do with good advice is pass it on. It is never any use to oneself.

6. Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go.

7. What is a cynic? A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.

8. A little sincerity is a dangerous thing, and a great deal of it is absolutely fatal.

9. When I was young I thought that money was the most important thing in life; now that I am old I know that it is.

Oscar red10. There are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it.

11. Work is the curse of the drinking classes.

12. Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination.

13. True friends stab you in the front.

14. All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That’s his.

15. Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months.

16. There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.

17. Genius is born—not paid.

18. Morality is simply the attitude we adopt towards people whom we personally dislike.

19. How can a woman be expected to be happy with a man who insists on treating her as if she were a perfectly normal human being?

Oscar cape and hat20. A gentleman is one who never hurts anyone’s feelings unintentionally.

21. My own business always bores me to death; I prefer other people’s.

22. The old believe everything, the middle-aged suspect everything, the young know everything.

23. I like men who have a future and women who have a past.

24. There are two ways of disliking poetry; one way is to dislike it, the other is to read Pope.

25. Quotation is a serviceable substitute for wit.


So You Thought the Victorian Era was Chaste? Check Out These Pictures…

Okay, okay, these lovely burlesque dancers are still pretty modest by today’s standards, but I find the primness of the steam era often overshadows the diversity of human experience. People were engaging in all kinds of behaviors and enjoying many different forms of entertainment back then the same way they do now. I ran across this collection of photos on The Daily Mail, and I couldn’t wait to share them with you! (For the Daily Mail article click here.)

In case you haven’t checked my About the Author page yet, I first learned about Steampunk because I have a friend who is a burlesque dancer and she was in a themed show a few years ago. She taught me both about burlesque and Steampunk before I saw her show and I am definitely hooked on both now. Going to see a burlesque show is not at all the same as going to a strip club. The word has its roots in the italian word, burla, meaning “mockery”, and has more in common with a vaudeville show than a seedy bar. Though it is true that people remove their clothing for the sake of entertainment, you will often see jugglers, magicians, comedians, singers and dancers in addition to the main event. The tone of a burlesque strip tease is also totally different than say, a lap dance at a bachelor party. Burlesque dancers actively engage the audience and solicit applause for each piece they remove before they will move on. There is a flirty exchange between dancer and onlookers, and I have seen several acts that are totally tongue in cheek and are as much about making the crowd laugh as it is about undressing.

If you have never been to a show, I absolutely encourage you to see one. I have been to several shows in two different countries and it is always a great time.


Take a Trip Down Memory Lane with the Earliest Footage of London

Yestervid is a super cool website that compiles footage from the earliest days of filmmaking. This montage features some of the oldest film and sound recordings around the city of London, and they have a map showing the exact location and camera angle for reference.


Spotlight on Traders: Empire Edibles

I had a wonderful time talking to traders like Claire “Skip” Peacey (pictured below) and giving out bumper stickers at the 2014 Weekend at the Asylum, and I am planning to do more of these spotlights like the one I did for Doctor Geof earlier this year.

Empire Edibles stall at the Castle Market

Empire Edibles stall at the Castle Market

Empire Edibles close upOur steamy business this time is all about delicious food. As you can see, this booth featured beautifully packaged goodies with a Victorian theme. Flavors like absinthe and rose are front in center in a variety of chocolates and cookies, and Steampunk author Kit Cox (aka Major Jack Union) helped Miss Emily Ladybird to design the packaging and presentation. If you are planning a Steampunk event in the UK, or you need something special for a wedding, you should definitely keep Empire Edibles in mind.

Links:

Empire Edibles official site There is a note on the homepage that says the website is being revamped, but there is lots of information there in the meantime.

Empire Edibles Etsy shop

Empire Edibles Facebook page


This is my 300th Post!

My, how time flies when you’re having fun! Earlier this month I surpassed 40,000 views and 1000 likes, so thanks a lot for all of your shares and tweets about my articles. I started this site 18 months ago, and I keep finding great stuff to write about. I thought reaching my 300th post would be a good opportunity to compile links to my most viewed and shared articles in case you missed them the first time around, plus my personal favorites.

Enjoy!

Most Viewed

Van Helsing review

Brothers Grimm review, and since it was posted the Fairy Tale Guide/Drinking Game to go with the film has also been very popular

My Artwork

Steampunk Movies and TV

Review: Dolls of New Albion at Ed Fringe (including links to listen to the album for free! I listen to it all the time, it is an amazing soundtrack.)

 

Most Shared

Steampunk Sourcebook: Captain Nemo

Steampunk Scrapbook Paper: “Steampunk Botanica” and “Memories Documented”

Music to Steampunk by: Lindsey Stirling

Steampunk Assemblage Clocks (by me!)

Steampunk Sourcebook: The Statue of Liberty

 

My Favorite Five Posts and Pages

Making it to the Party Early Does NOT Make it Your Party, an editorial about bullying and inclusivity

A Few Thoughts About Steampunk and War, an open response to a Beyond Victoriana article which advocated that you can’t have Steampunk without violent conflict in the story.

The Tips for Makers Series, insights about using different kinds of materials from my own work as well as sessions at Weekend at the Asylum V

How to Punk Your Steam series, exploring different ways to “punk” the Victorian era.

Steampunk Sourcebooks series, fun facts and interesting information about topics related to Steampunk and historical figures

 

Thanks again for your support!


The Reform Club

The Reform Club exteriorIf you have heard of this site, it is probably because of Around the World in 80 Days. Phileas Fogg’s journey began at The Reform (as it is colloquially named) over a game of cards, and ended in dramatic fashion on the same spot. The Reform was also featured in politically-minded novel entitled Phineas Finn, which was released as a serial by notable Victorian author Anthony Trollope from 1867-1868.

The club was founded in 1832 as a liberal bastion for people to exchange radical ideas in response to the conservative Whig Party that had held power in London for decades. For many years it was the unofficial headquarters for the Liberal Party, and boasts a huge library filled with contributions from its members. Unfortunately, the inside of the club is off-limits to non-members except for select groups that can visit during a special architectural festival in September, and the exterior is nothing special. But, you can see a few photos of the interior on their website.


“Heterosexual” is Yet Another Thing Invented in the Victorian Era

I recently ran across and article by Thomas Rogers in Salon magazine from 2012 that was an interview with Hanne Blank, the author of Straight: A Surprisingly Short History of Heterosexuality. I knew that “homosexual” was a relatively new word in our vocabulary, but I had never really thought about its counterpart, “heterosexual.” The article is all about the history of this word and the baggage that got attached to it by psychiatrists and evolutionary scientists in the early days of their crafts, aka the time period that much of Steampunk occupies. I haven’t had a chance to read Blank’s book, but I wanted to pass on a summary of the article.

From the Cover of Straight: A Surprisingly Short History of Heterosexuality

From the Cover of Straight: A Surprisingly Short History of Heterosexuality

The terms “homosexual” and “heterosexual” appear at the same time. According to Blank’s research, both were the invention of an Austro-Hungarian journalist writing about a piece of Prussian legislation that made certain acts between same-sex people illegal. He was trying to create two categories that were on equal footing as a way to address the hypocrisy of making some acts legal for some people, which the same acts were criminalized for others.

This was sometime in the mid-19th century, but the terminology didn’t really take off until closer to the end of the century. Thanks to the work of Sigmund Schlomo Freud (who is and will always be “Ziggy F” to me) and his acolytes during the 1880’s and 1890’s, people were suddenly being diagnosed with all kinds of crazy stuff. In regards to the term “heterosexual” Blank said it perfectly in the interview:

Psychiatry is responsible for creating the heterosexual in largely the same way that it is responsible for creating the various categories of sexual deviance that we are familiar with and recognize and define ourselves in opposition to. The period lasting from the late Victorian era to the first 20 or 30 years of the 20th century was a time of tremendous socioeconomic change, and people desperately wanted to give themselves a valid identity in this new world order. One of the ways people did that was establish themselves as sexually normative.

Ziggy F’s theories are largely a source of giggles nowadays, but when they were shiny and new they carried a lot of weight in society. The Zigster was more or less a narcissist and viewed himself to be the apex of human psychological development. Basically, if you followed his formula for ‘health’ what you arrived at was a heterosexual (and probably white) male. (Women were already hopeless cases according the F-man. He believed we were all born longing for a penis and it just went downhill from there.)

So now let’s bring romance into the equation. Keep in mind that for much of human history, “love” and “marriage” had very little to do with one another. Marriage was more often than not an alliance between families, more akin to a business arrangement than anything based on desire, and procreation was considered part of the bargain. You didn’t have sex with your partner because you WANTED to, you did it as part of your marital duties. Of course, if you desired your partner in addition to meeting the requirements of your contract then bully for you, but being attracted to your partner was not necessary to pass on the family name.

As I am sure you are aware, society at large was undergoing many changes during the Victorian period, and this is probably a big reason you find Steampunk compelling (I know this is true for me!). Cities were drawing people out of the countryside and crushing them together in close quarters. Women and people of color started to demand the right to vote. Workers began to demand better conditions and wages. And anarchists challenged the very fabric of society with their views. And when times get tough, people fall back on the simplest of relationships, the binary. Breaking a complex world into sets of two categories is much easier than investigating the gray area that lies between black and white. As Blank put it, they started to find an identity that proved their validity in a rapidly changing world.

Also, as people started to demand to be allowed to determine their own futures, they had to stop and think for the first time what it was they WANTED from life. So the question of desire and the shift to seeking out a partner because of your feelings of attraction and love came to the forefront of the discussion for the first time.

Blank’s book goes into far more detail and continues to unpack the term “heterosexual” and its relationship to gay, trans and other terminology and notions into to the present day, but I will leave off here. If you would like more information you can read the full interview, or buy the book.


Lose Yourself in the Immersive World of Stars of Empire

Stars of Empire Cover Art by Rachel Mayo

Stars of Empire Cover Art by Rachel Mayo

I am pretty new to this whole RPG (role playing game) scene, but creator Terry Sofian was kind enough to share the games that he and a group of collaborators designed. The first in the “Hive Queen and Country” series is called Stars of Empire and was released in 2011, with a new edition currently in the works. It is a “d-20” game, meaning that players use 20-sided dice to decide their fates during game play, and characters grow and change with each adventure.

Sofian has envisioned a rich alternate history which revolves around the discovery of a mineral that helps humans achieve lighter than air flight at a much earlier time. Between its discovery and the perfection of Babbage’s Analytical Engine within his lifetime, the human race ushers in the space age during the Victorian era. Both in the RPG and on the Hive Queen and Country website, you can see the detailed timeline on which the game and accompanying fiction is based. The shift in the timeline towards greater technological advances deeply influences the geopolitics of the entire globe. New empires are formed, new (and often uneasy) alliances are struck, and some countries, like a United States still reeling from the Civil War is content to keep its head down. For now…

Intrigued? Well wait, there’s more! Within a few decades of leaving Earth’s atmosphere, humans have visited the moon (Luna), Mars and Venus. Luna in this scenario resembles First Men in the Moon, where the hollow body houses a network of tunnels. But unlike the Wells’ story, Luna has been abandoned by its inhabitants. The most troubling discovery is there also appear to be human burials on its surface, and no one knows how they got there. I don’t want to give too much away, but let’s just say that Mars and Venus are not quite so empty. The same care and detail are given to describing the back-story of the alien races as to their Earthly counterparts, and gives another whole dimension to the types of adventures that can be crafted within this world.

So far, I have only read Stars of Empire and it is not for the faint of heart. At almost 300 pages, this is not a game that casual players will be able to pick up and learn in a single evening. But, if you enjoy d-20 games and are looking for a Steampunk world to immerse yourself in, I would definitely check out this title. There are tons of creatures, settings and characters available to create interesting scenarios and keep you engaged. The tone is realistic and the story has gravitas, so be prepared to assemble a group of serious gamers to play with.

In the RPG, Sofian notes that the game can also be played with miniatures to enhance the look, and makes recommendations on the website about where to find suitable aliens and vehicles. Stars of Empire is the first in the series and uses a timeline that ends in 1893, but subsequent books move the timeline forward through the first and second “Hive Wars,” as well as conflicts on Venus. The book includes stunning artwork by several artists including Rachel Mayo and Paul Daly.

You can find all of Sofian’s RPGs in a digital format at RPGnow.com, and Stars of Empire can be purchased in print from Amazon.

Do you enjoy tabletop RPG’s? Have you ever played anything in the Hive Queen and Country universe? Please comment below!


“Big Ben” and the House of Parliament

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The House of Parliament and its iconic clock tower date to 1844 and were built after the original building was destroyed by a fire in 1834. Although today we know the tower as “Big Ben,” this is technically the name given to the huge bell that accompanies the world’s largest four-sided clock. The tower has officially been known as the Elizabeth Tower since 2012 to commemorate Queen Elizabeth’s diamond jubilee, and prior to that was simply The Clock Tower.

However, during Victorian times journalists often referred to it as St Stephen’s tower because Members of Parliament (MPs) held their proceedings in St Stephen’s hall. In fact, there is a St. Stephen’s tower on the Westminster premise, but it is much smaller than the clock tower, which is the third tallest in the world. While you can tour the House of Parliament, the tower itself is off-limits unless you are a British citizen with express permission from an MP.


The Museum of London

This institution has two different locations, but I only got a chance to make it to the one just north of the Millennium Bridge. (the other is at the seafront and focuses on the history of the docklands and shipping industry). The city of London has a very long history, so there is lots to see that doesn’t fit into my Steampunk theme, which can make it ideal for entertaining a group with varied interests. I loved the open format of the exhibits that allows visitors to meander through history, including one of the best displays on the everyday life during the Roman Empire that my Historian hubby has ever seen.

From the Pleasure Garden exhibit at the Museum of London

From the Pleasure Garden exhibit at the Museum of London

On the steamy side, there is tons to see. There was an amazing immersive exhibit about pleasure gardens like those that became popular during the 1800s. The darkened space features really cool period clothes, and videos that appear on the walls featuring people wearing them and acting out scenes. The mannequins are also sculptures in their own right and are lit according to what is being shown on the walls. The low light made it difficult to capture with a camera, especially because I didn’t want a flash to ruin the experience for other visitors, but trust me when I tell you it was captivating.

There is also a series of Victorian storefronts that you can walk through that are chockfull of period-appropriate merchandise and props. There is a big-wheel bike out in the open if you want a picture with one.

I also liked the displays of shoes, watches, and other technology that were strewn around in some of the other period sections. The exhibit on the suffrage movement was extremely well done, though I was shocked by a lot of what I saw. I had no idea how violent the pursuit of voting rights became in Britain. All in all, it is a wonderful museum with free admission and worth a whole day’s visit.


Steampunk Sourcebook: Jack the Ripper

On display at the Museum of London

On display at the Museum of London

Jack the Ripper is the world’s most famous serial killer, both because of the brutality of the murders and the fact that the crimes are still unsolved. I have seen many Steampunk works make reference to the Whitechapel Murders as a means of situating their stories in time, as well as Jack appearing as a character in movies and books. But with so many interpretations floating around, it can be hard to keep the facts straight, so here is a cheat sheet to help you get it right.

(I went on a Jack the Ripper tour while I was in London for my Steam Tour research and you can read about it here.)

The Murders

  • In 1888 there were a string of murders in the Whitechapel District of London. Due to the similarities between the victims, modus of the murders, and the proximity of the crimes they were attributed to the same killer. There are five women who are generally accepted as victims of the same serial killer, but there easily could have been more murders that were never discovered, or there could have been more than one murderer.
    • Murder #1: Mary Ann Nichols, killed sometime between 2:30 and 3:30 a.m. on August 30, 1888. She was an alcoholic, which led to her separation from her husband in 1882 and her inability to keep any other job than prostitute. Her throat was cut and her abdomen was mutilated.
    • Murder #2: Annie “Dark Annie” Chapman, killed at approximately 5:30 a.m. on September 8, 1888. After the death of one of her children by meningitis, she and her husband both became heavy drinkers and separated in 1884. Her husband was required by law to provide for her welfare, but he died in 1886 from alcohol poisoning. She tried to support herself through crocheting and selling flowers, but was also involved in prostitution.
    • Murder #3: Elizabeth “Long Liz” Stride, killed sometime between 12:35 and 1:00 a.m. on September 30, 1888. Her throat was cut and her abdomen was mutilated. The postmortem doctor identified the weapon as a thin knife blade, approximately 6-8 inches in length. Like the other victims she and her husband separated, but she was a prostitute before and after her marriage fell apart. She spoke Yiddish and Swedish in addition to English.
    • Murder #4: Catherine Eddowes (aka Kate Conway and Kate Kelly), killed a few hours after Elizabeth Stride on September 30, 1888. She left her first common-law husband, Thomas Conway, and her three children in 1880. Later, she took up with John Kelly and they lived together in a lodging house on Flower Street. The night of her death she was arrested for drunkenness and held at the Bishopsgate police station until approximately 1:30 a.m. Within minutes she was killed on her way home. Her face and her abdomen were mutilated, and a piece of her ear as well as her kidney was taken by the killer.
    • Murder #5: Mary Jane “Fair Emma” Kelly (aka “Ginger” and “Black Mary”) was killed November 9, 1888. It is believed that the increase in police patrols accounts for the lag between the deaths of Eddowes and Kelly. Her origin is less well-documented than the other victims, but sources say she was the widow of a coal miner with the surname Davies who died in an explosion around 1881. Like the other victims, she was a drinker and reportedly sang Irish songs while enjoying her gin, so it is believed she hailed from Ireland. Unlike the other victims, she was found murdered in her home around 10:45 a.m. and the time of death was set at between 6 and 8 a.m. that morning. Her body was extensively mutilated, the coroner believed the murderer took more than two hours to complete his task.
  • During press coverage, the killer was most often referred to as “The Whitechapel Murderer” or “Leather Apron” because of the aprons worn by butchers. The name “Jack” became connected to the murders after letters began to arrive at news outlets and signed by that name.
  • The five canonized Ripper killings occurred between August and November of 1888, but police continued to investigate a total of 11 murders that they suspected were linked up until 1891.

The Suspects

  • Historians and hobbyists alike have speculated over the identity of The Ripper, and some sources say as many as 500 different people (including at least one woman) have come under suspicion. Many of these people were not suspects during the actual investigation and that is far too many to talk about here to I will only highlight the most well-known and/or plausible.
  • According to some, Jack’s identity was already discovered in 2014—or was it? A silk shawl that supposedly belonged to one of the victims underwent DNA testing starting in 2007. In 2014, a book by Russell Edwards detailed the findings of scientist Jari Louhelainen, who claims to have definitive evidence that identifies Aaron Kominski as the notorious murderer.  Kominski came under suspicion in 1888 at the age of 23 and died in a mental institution 30 years later. Unfortunately, Louhelainen made at least two major errors in his analysis that were brought to light in October 2014, rendering the conclusions useless. The search continues.
  • Others think that the Jack the Ripper conspiracy went all the way to the highest levels of government. Spoiler alert! In the 2001 Johnny Depp flick called “From Hell,” Jack is in fact Prince Edward “Eddy” Victor, aka “grandson” to queen Victoria. According to the theory, Eddy impregnated a low-class girl (and a Catholic no less!) and to avoid the scandal, the queen ordered the matter be “taken care of.” Annie Crook and her royal offspring are spirited away by the royal physician, John Gull, but her friends like Mary Kelly are making too much noise about the disappearance and must be silenced. The serial killer who hates prostitutes is created to cover the real scandal and claims many victims.
  • Others actually suspect John Gull himself as the murderer because of the precision of the cuts made to the victims and the fact that Jack was never caught points to some kind of conspiracy in the minds of many enthusiasts.
  • One of the more likely suspects is Seweryn Klosowski (aka George Chapman), a Polish-born Jew who had only been in Whitechapel a short time before the murders began. In 1903 he was convicted on three counts of murder and hanged for killing his wives. This would seem to make him a very good suspect indeed, but he killed his known victims with poison, not brutality, and serial murderers rarely change their modus operandi.
  • John Pizer was arrested in 1888 for the murders, but was later let go because he had alibis (including talking to a policeman) during two of the five canonical murders. The Sergeant who arrested him, William Thicke, allegedly had personal animosity against Pizer and no evidence whatsoever. Pizer sought reparations from at least one of the news outlets that reported he was the murderer. Thicke was later accused as being The Ripper in a letter sent to The Home Office, but this was likely a hoax and was never followed up on by the authorities.

batman-gotham-by-gaslight-000Jack the Ripper in Literature

  • Gotham by Gaslight (1989) pits Jack against Batman in Gotham City.
  • In the Steampunk Chronicles series by Kady Cross, Jack is a character.
  • Ripper (2012), by Stefan Petrucha, follows the quest of young man from New York City to find his father in London, but instead finds himself in the middle of a murder investigation.
  • Ripper (2012), by Amy Carol Reeves, is about a young woman who is volunteering at a Whitechapel hospital and has visions of the Ripper’s murders before they happen.

PosterJack the Ripper in Other Media

  • Ripper Street” is a BBC show about rebuilding Whitechapel in the wake of the Ripper killings. It began in 2012 and the third season is airing as of now (January 2015). (Review coming soon!)
  • Time After Time” (1979) Jack the Ripper uses H. G. Wells time machine to escape his own time and is pursued by Wells to San Francisco, CA.
  • From Hell” (2001) Johnny Depp and Heather Graham star in this film that takes its name from one of the famous Ripper letters that were sent to the press.
  • Progress” is a webseries that operates in an alternative Victorian London where there is already a steam-powered internet. You can watch the first three episodes for free at progresstheseries.com.
  • A game for Xbox 360 and Microsoft Windows entitled “Sherlock Holmes vs. Jack the Ripper” was released in 2009.

SH vs JtR game

Did I miss and Ripper references, books or movies you know? Please leave a comment so I can add to my list!


The Tower Bridge Part 2: The Exhibition

View from the Tower BridgeVisiting the bridge and looking at the outside is of course free, but visiting The Tower Bridge Exhibition within has a small fee. Visitors begin by going up into the top of the north tower where there is a short introductory video with a screen that blends into the Victorian era props around it. Afterwards you get to move into the tower and enjoy the historical and artistic exhibits on the East and West Walkways. I can’t say that the walkway exhibits were the highlight, but there was some interesting information about the history of bridge construction for “how does it work?” types. (You should go to their website for more info on what exhibits are currently on view.)

They recently installed glass floors on the West Walkway, but this was shortly after my visit in September 2014 so I didn’t get a chance to experience this aspect of the bridge. I can only imagine the incredible view onto the bustling street below, but I can vouch for the panoramic views of the city from the top of the towers!

But for me, the best was yet to come. As part of your exhibition admission, you also get to visit the engine room that used to power the raising of the bridge. So check out The Tower Bridge Part 3: The Inner Workings next time!


The Leadenhall Market

IMG_1754The site of this market has been a trade center in London dating back to the Roman period, but its current visage was constructed in 1881. Like the Hay’s Gallery, it is enclosed by an amazing wrought iron and glass ceiling, which shelters the various shops and bars within. The Victorian redesign of the original stone marketplace was by none other than Horace Jones, the Architect and Surveyor of the City of London from 1864 to 1887. Though he is best known for the Tower Bridge, Jones was responsible for several markets around the city. Unfortunately most of them have been destroyed, damaged or moved in the century that followed.

I passed through the Leandenhall Market complex on a weekday at happy hour, and many of the city’s well-dressed businessmen were enjoying an after-work cocktail near the main intersection of this pedestrian area. I wandered around some of the side streets and also found an incredible hanging sculpture made out of books that look like they are flying around the halls. On a side note, The Leadenhall Market has appeared in several films, including as the access point for Diagon Alley in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

Like what you see? Check out my posts about The Sherlock Holmes Museum, The London Museum of Water and Steam, and The Tower Bridge!


The London Museum of Water and Steam

IMG_0763This is my pick for the best place on my entire Steam Tour to take your littlest Steampunks. There are fun, hands-on exhibits about the water cycle and great info about the history of harnessing the Thames and combatting the Cholera outbreaks through London’s history. But the most exciting parts of the museum complex is room after room of real, working steam engines. They don’t run every engine every day, but I was lucky enough to visit on a bank holiday when they did run every engine for at least 15 minutes at some point during their open hours.

In the courtyard there are some smaller engines as well as a station to make giant bubbles in the afternoon, so that is another plus for kids. There is also a replica of a Victorian-era workshop where all the machines run on the same belt system (the original workshop was destroyed during the Blitz) and they offer tours.


Spotlight on Traders: Island of Dr. Geof

The HindenBOOB by Dr. GeoffWhile I was in Lincoln for Weekend at the Asylum in September I got a chance to meet several of the Steampunk world’s writers and traders. During the run of Longitude Punk’d at the Royal Observatory, the Cutty Sark was also featuring a tea-riffic exhibit of Dr. Geoff’s printwork. And then at the markets for Asylum, I got a chance to meet that man himself selling his wares. We traded stickers and had a nice little chat, and I got to see more of his whimsical work. Most of his work has a military bent, while other pieces dabble in the risque, but for me that is the fun!

The good Doctor also offers a variety of Steampunk-inspired pins and patches to compliment his work on paper, and you can see what he has to offer on his website.


Steampunk Movie Review: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes (2010)

Sherlock_holmes_by_asylum_film_posterThat’s right, there was another Sherlock Holmes movie that came out around the same time as the Robert Downey Jr. movie I reviewed last week. Didn’t hear about it? I am not at all surprised.

I am a huge fan of what I call “shitty-good” movies (pardon my language, but it is utterly appropriate!) These are films that you can’t help but laugh at even though they are not meant to be comedies. The Mister and I spend a lot our time wading through the sea of crappy movies out there giving them the old Mystery Science Theater 3000 treatment. That is to say, we crack wise throughout at the terrible special effects, mediocre writing, atrocious acting and blatant continuity errors, often aided by a glass or two of our favorite adult beverages. (If you aren’t familiar with MST3K but you also enjoy terrible old movies, you MUST find them on youtube. They were shot near my hometown in MN and aired until 1999.)

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, which is the first role for Ben Syder (“Robert” Sherlock Holmes. Yes, you read right, apparently his name is really Robert) and also features Torchwoods’ Ianto Jones (Gareth David-Lloyd) as Watson, is just such a movie. It falls firmly into both the mockbuster (a low-budget film piggy-backing the publicity of a better-known movie) and Steampunk camps. I decided to watch it as part of my Halloween Extravaganza this month, both because I am working on my Sherlock Holmes article for Steam Tour: An American Steampunk in London and because it promised me a plot full of monsters. As a Sherlock Holmes film it pretty much failed miserably, but as a movie centered on futuristic technology in the Victorian era it deserves a mention.

The story begins when a sailing ship is taken out by a Kraken-like tentacled monster. In the next scene, we get to see a dinosaur inexplicably interrupt a rendezvous with a lady of the night. So monsters, check. Sherlock is tortured by the fate that befell his brother Thorpe (yep, they didn’t even bother to get his brother’s name right), who became paralyzed after he was shot while trying to foil a bank robbery several years earlier. So ‘punking’ literature, check. After some watered-down deductions, Holmes and Watson (in the least well-fitting waistcoat of all time) find their way to a country estate where they discover the monsters are actually automatons crafted by a thoroughly ticked off Thorpe (Dominic Keating), who is bent on revenge against London, the city that forgot him, and his former partner, Inspector Lestrade. He uses his (okay, pretty awesome) mechanical dragon to wreak havoc on the masses while another automaton delivers a bomb straight to the gates of Buckingham palace. Oh yeah, and there is totally a hot air balloon/helicopter hybrid vs. mechadragon fight scene.

From Asylum Pictures, the makers of classics like Mega-Shark vs. Super Octopus

From Asylum Pictures, the makers of classics like Mega-Shark vs. Super Octopus

As I said before, this is not a “good” movie by any stretch, but it is a campy movie with undeniably Steampunk tendencies. This is definitely a popcorn movie, that is, if the shaky camera work they use to signify an action sequence doesn’t make you seasick first.

It is currently available on American Netflix, but can anyone tell me if you can get it in Britain?


The Victoria and Albert Museum Part 3: International Exhibitions

The site of the Victoria and Albert Museum was purchased largely through the proceeds from the Great Exhibition of 1851, which was the first international exhibition of its time, though not the last. Many of the wonderful items showcased at these types exhibitions that were held all over Europe during the 19th and 20th centuries eventually found a home at the museum and are still on display today. When walking through the exhibit halls I felt like I was on a scavenger hunt looking for these pieces of history which were seen by millions of people during the course of exhibition and are still breathtakingly beautiful to behold over 160 years later. One of the appeals for me about Steampunk and the era that gave rise to the aesthetic is the emphasis on craftsmanship, and there is no shortage of that at the V&A. Here are two pieces of the most impressive pieces that I encountered during my visit.

This “cathedral in wood” was a gift from the Austrian Emperor, Franz Ferdinand, to Queen Victoria. According to the museum label, it’s decoration reflected the debate about the unification of all German-speaking peoples under one rule. The bookcase had to be at least 20 feet tall, which means it just might hold the entire literary collection of one Steampunk fan 🙂 In the center there is a Belgian altarpiece on display that looked like it had been carved out of the most delicious dark chocolate, but it was also made of wood. These two pieces were not originally shown together, but they both made cameos at the Great Exhibition. The altarpiece reflects the revival of the Gothic style that is often seen in Steampunk works, and makes it a lovely addition to the imposing bookcase.

This symphony in metal is called the Hereford screen, and was on display at the International Exhibition of 1862. Like the altarpiece above, this was a way of harkening back to the Gothic era when churches employed magnificent screens like this one. The choir would stand behind large and ornately carved wooden screens, but this one was intended to showcase new advances in metal-working techniques as much as celebrate the Gothic style. There are several figures on the screen, which is over 10 meters high. The figures could very well have been cast in bronze, but instead were created by using newly-discovered electroplating technology that employed plaster molds and electricity to bend copper to the artist’s will. This is truly an example of old-meets-new in the Victorian era, so it definitely piqued my Steampunk interest.

Have you spotted any pieces of the Great Exhibition or the International Exhibition in London? Please share!

 


Cosplay at the Asylum: The Costume Contest

IMG_1828You should have been there. The buzz in the ballroom was happy and excited as the DIY models assembled to strut their stuff for a very appreciative audience. I had hoped to get a seat at the end of the runway, but even 10 minutes before the show started it was difficult to find any empty floor space at all, so I had to settle for sitting on the floor seat near the stage. I hope you enjoy the gallery of photos as much as I enjoyed being there, and I also got a chance to shoot a quick video of the models’ final procession right before the judges made their decision.


Cosplay at the Asylum: Out and About

There were so many wonderful costumes during Weekend at the Asylum, so I decided to keep the costume contest participants for another post. Here are some delightful folks from around the convention.


Don’t Miss Longitude Punk’d at the Royal Observatory

Prime Meridian GlobeThe Royal Observatory is probably best known for being the home of the Prime Meridian, but I went there to check out an amazing Steampunk exhibit dedicated to “the longitude question.” Thousands of seamen lost their lives because they couldn’t be sure where they were when they were in the open ocean, so the British Parliament implemented a competition in 1714 and offered a reward of 20,000 pounds to anyone who could figure out how to calculate longitude when out to sea. Little did the Longitude Board know that it would be 50 years before anyone could find the answer.

The exhibit, Longitude Punk’d, is set up as a series of submissions to this contest and is intermixed with the Observatory’s collection of real and sometimes bizarre submissions. There are many buildings in the Greenwich Observatory complex, and this exhibition takes advantage of the historic Flamsteed House that sits on the grounds. There is normally already a gallery dedicated to longitude in the house, but for now the Steampunks have taken over that gallery as well as several other rooms as well as the courtyard to show their amazing contraptions and costumes.

The Commodor employed kiwi birds to keep him informed about his position.

The Commodor employed kiwi birds to keep him informed about his position.

Throughout the house you can read “The Rime of the Ancient Commodore,” which is a whimsical epic poem about one of the artists’ alter ego and his unique quest for the answer to the longitude question. His theory? Animals know exactly where they are, so if you can learn to talk to animals, all you have to do is ask for directions 🙂 Make sure to take the time to watch the series of short films embedded between display cases to meet the artists and find out the ideas behind their amazing creations.

The exhibit costs 8.50, but you also get admission to the Cutty Sark and the complementary and more serious examination of longitude at the Maritime Museum called Ships, Clocks and Stars any time within a month of your first visit. It will run between now and January 2015, so don’t miss your chance to get punk’d!

But even if you aren’t in town in time for the exhibit, there is a ton to see at the observatory for fans of the Victorian era, and I am going to post soon about their permanent galleries as well so stay tuned.


Fortnum and Mason

One of the defining parts of the Industrial Revolution was the rise of ready-made fashions and pre-packaged foodstuffs, and on the forefront of the trend was the posh department store, Fortnum and Mason. When the first steam-powered factories were just starting the churn out their wares F&M was already in business, and it continues to be a mainstay of the stores on Piccadilly today.

Beautiful crystal chandeliers provide light all over the store

Beautiful crystal chandeliers provide light all over the store

They made a splash at the Great Exhibition in 1851 where they won first prize for their imported delectable desserts and dried fruits. In addition, when Henry Heinz (best known nowadays for ketchup) wanted to market his canned baked beans in the UK, he took his wares there. Within a few years, baked beans had become an important part of the British diet.

In literature, F&M are best known for their picnic hampers and several Victorian authors including Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins made mention of their characters enjoying a luxurious feast. I am also reading The Difference Engine right now, and the day after snapping shots of the whimsical window displays below I read a passage where the protagonist passed by this prestigious store on his way to buy a wedding gift for his sister. Today, you can still visit and stroll through the heaps of lovely packages tied with bright ribbons and peruse the fanciful fudge of the dessert counter.

As with many luxury goods stores, the prices are steeper for things such as tea and cookies than at a normal grocer, but the ambience alone is worth a stop in at the store, or at least a meander by the window displays!


Review: Morgan and West Parlour Tricks at Ed Fringe 2014

I know it is cheesy, but I love magic shows. I remember snuggling under the covers in my parents’ big bed in order to watch them on TV when I was a kid, and I still get a kick out of seeing them as an adult. Not the overwrought, super dramatic ones, mind you. I like my magicians a bit cheeky and out to have a good time, and Morgan and West definitely delivered.

The description on their website is utterly fitting: “Time travelling magic duo Morgan & West present a brand new show chock full of jaw dropping, brain bursting, gasp eliciting feats of magic. The dashing chaps offer up a plateful of illusion and impossibility, all served with wit, charm and no small amount of panache. Be sure to wear a hat – Morgan & West might just blow your mind.”

Me and Mr Morgan after the Aug 14 performance

Me and Mr Morgan after the Aug 14 performance

I saw some great tricks that I have never seen before, and their concept of Victorian-era time-traveling magicians is hilarious and oh so Steampunk. I won’t go into details because I don’t want to ruin the fun for people want to go and see them at Fringe and on their tour, but let me just say the diary trick still has my head spinning. Their onstage chemistry is great, and make sure to queue up early before their show so you get a chance to interact with them while you are waiting in line.

One tip for you Fringe goers. Try to sit in the front half of the theater. I was sitting in the back and the sight lines were fine, but I could hear a msucial act going on in a different venue and it was a bit distracting and they deserve your undivided attention.

Get your Fringe Fest tickets here: tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/morgan-west-parlour-tricks

They will be appearing at the Edinburgh Fringe Fest now through Aug 25, but if you can’t make it all the way up to Scotland never fear! They start their UK tour in September with their show from last year’s Fringe (plus 30 minutes of new content in case you caught them last year). Check out the dates below, or visit their website for more information: www.morganandwest.co.uk/

11th September Chipping Norton

A Grand Adventure

Chipping Norton, Chipping Norton Theatre, 7.45pm show.

Book Tickets
12th September Uppingham

A Grand Adventure

Uppingham, Uppingham Theatre, 6.45pm show.

Book Tickets
13th September Uppingham

A Grand Adventure

Uppingham, Uppingham Theatre, 6.45pm show.

14th September Braintree

A Grand Adventure

Braintree, Braintree Arts Centre, 4pm show.

Book Tickets
19th September Chorley

A Grand Adventure

Chorley, Chorley Little Theatre, 7.30pm show.

Book Tickets
20th September Reigate

A Grand Adventure

Reigate, Harlequin Theatre, 7.30pm show.

Book Tickets
30th September London

A Grand Adventure

London, Pleasance Islington, 7.30pm show.

Book Tickets
3rd October Taunton

A Grand Adventure

Taunton, Quay Arts Festival, 7.30pm show.

Book Tickets
10th October East Grinstead

A Grand Adventure

East Grinstead, Chequermead Arts Centre, 8pm show.

Book Tickets
11th October Great Yarmouth

A Grand Adventure

Great Yarmouth, St. George’s Theatre, 7.30pm show.

Book Tickets
16th October Harrogate

A Grand Adventure

Harrogate, Harrogate Theatre, 7.30pm show.

Book Tickets
18th October Salford Quays

A Grand Adventure

Salford Quays, The Lowry, 8pm show.

Book Tickets
19th October Brighton

A Grand Adventure

Brighton, Brighton Comedy Festival, 4.15pm show.

23rd October Colchester

A Grand Adventure

Colchester, Colchester Arts.

Book Now
25th October Southampton

A Grand Adventure

Southampton, Hangar Farm Arts.

26th October Lyme Regis

A Grand Adventure

Lyme Regis, Marine Theatre, 6pm show.

Book Tickets
29th October Cardigan

A Grand Adventure

Cardigan, Theatr Mwldan, 7.30pm show.

Book Tickets
30th October Builth Wells

A Grand Adventure

Builth Wells, Wyeside Arts Theatre, 7.30pm show.

Book Tickets
31st October Stourport

A Grand Adventure

Stourport, Civic Hall Theatre, 8pm show.

Book Tickets
4th November Inverness

A Grand Adventure

Inverness, Eden Court, 7.30pm show.

Book Tickets
8th November Reading

A Grand Adventure

Reading, South Street Arts, 7pm show.

Book Tickets
12th November Aberdeen

A Grand Adventure

Aberdeen, Lemon Tree Theatre, 7.30pm show.


Gearing up for Steam Tour: Sweeney Todd and the String of Pearls

London, 1859. Holborn’s shameless streets are awash with unsavoury individuals, wiling away their lives practicing the variously sordid Victorian vices of the times. On Fleet Street, Mr Sweeney Todd runs a reputable barbershop, shearing the whiskers of the gentry and clergy of London town. His sweetheart, Mrs Cornelia Lovett, spends her days managing an ailing pie shop, constantly on the brink of bankruptcy and plagued by belligerent bailiffs. What will they do to survive? Original, immersive promenade musical.

Get more info at the Edfringe website.


Amazing Steampunk Wedding in Minnesota

Hello friends!

It has been 9 days between posts, and that is the longest I have gone so far since I started this blog. I haven’t been able to finish any of the big posts I have been working on lately because of trying to fit my whole life into a couple of suitcases, but I wanted to make sure you got your infusion of steam for the week. A friend just sent me a link to a wonderful post showcasing a steampunk wedding so check out the stunning photos here.

On Monday I board the plane for my first leg of my 14-month European adventure. I will be working on an archaeological dig and I am not sure yet how much time I will be able to devote to ForWhomTheGearTurns during June and July. But never fear! The closer we get to Steam Tour (which now includes an Edinburgh leg Aug 8-15) the more posts you will start to see again.

Thanks so much in advance for your patience and I look forward to sharing everything I learn as I prepare for Steam Tour!