Friday, March 30, 2012

Fashion Friday: Victorian Houses

I love Victorian era architecture. The attention to details, the towers, spires and large windows really achieve a pleasing overall aesthetic. I want to spend a couple of days exploring a house like this, checking everywhere for secret doors and passages. It must have some. Isn't it against the law for a house to look like that and not have secret passages? If it isn't it should be.

The above two pictures are of the Carson House in Eureka California. Unfortunately it is no longer operating as a single family house. Now it is home to the exclusive Ingomar Club.

William Carson, the first owner, earned his wealth by inventing the Steam Donkey, a winch system for hauling logs up from hard-to-reach places. The foundations were laid in 1884, and William's daughter sold the house to the Ingomar Club in 1950.

Probably you'd never heard of William Carson before. This house was built for a more famous man, Samuel Clemens aka Mark Twain.

This is another fantastic house. If I could have any house in the world, location notwithstanding, it would certainly make the short list. Not only the fantastic architecture, but the feeling that, maybe, some of the previous owner's magic still resides there.

Built in 1873 in Hartford Connecticut it is considered one of the finest houses of the era in North America.

Abbey Mills, film location for the exterior shots of Arkham Assylum in Batman Begins, and an A-ha music video (seriously dating myself here). It certainly looks like it could have been a house once.... In reality it's a sewage pumping station. Seriously, the Victorians took such pride in their civic infrastructure they built this wonderful looking building for the sole purpose of poop-pumping.

Well, that's all for this week folks. Please comment if you liked anything or you have a suggestion for future blog topics!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Inspiration: Abandoned Theme Parks

I was inspired last week by Kimberlee Turley who said she didn't think abandoned theme parks really existed outside of fiction, where they seem more common than Starbucks in the real world.

So I thought I'd seek some out.

Deranged clowns, falling into decay. I think these guys were creepy when they were new.

This is what it looked like in 2005. These photos were found at lovethesepics.

The four photos above are from Koka Family Land in Japan. Photos by Olivier Malosse. Not the best collection of pictures I found, but I love the way nature is reclaiming this park. The overgrown rides look like something just begging to have their story told.

This is Nara Dreamland, again in Japan.

Spirited Away anyone? The clock towers on the last picture really remind me of that movie.

I thought it might be a challenge to find good pictures of abandoned theme parks when I decided to take Kimberlee's comment to heart last week. Turns out I actually had a harder time sorting through all the pictures than finding them. I could do another five posts like this one and still have more to explore.

Makes me want to travel to some of these places and check them out, though I understand the first and last ones are actively patrolled by security guards, so if you want to go on a photo safari, be stealthy.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Friday, March 23, 2012

Fashion Friday: Pocket Watches

I love pocket watches, always have. There's something special about the feeling of a watch in your hand, pulling it out, popping the face open to read it, winding it. It's like how you often hear about pipe smokers, how they can give up the nicotine more easily than they can give up the routine necessary to smoke and keep the pipe in good working order.

This pocketwatch is known as La Cueillette des Cerises. It is a one of a kind from around 1800. Beautiful, but impractical, I don't think anyone would dare actually carry it around for fear of damaging it. Still, if I could have any pocket watch in the world, this would be in the running.

This is more what I'd like to carry on a regular basis. A nice, solid antique watch. This one, by Jaeger leCoultre was manufactured around 1890. It also has the Hunter configuration I prefer, where the face opens to the side, and the winding mechanism is at the three o'clock position, rather than twelve as it is in a standard pocket watch. It would only set you back the price of an economy car.

If anyone wants to spend $16k on a present for me, this is what I'd like you to buy.  :)

Another by Jaeger leColtre, more flashy than I'd personally wear, but beautiful enamel work. It's from 1894, it's actually slightly less expensive than the one above, but still out of my price range. Until I get stinking rich from this whole author thing I'll just have to buy the cheap knock-offs every few years (they keep breaking on me) and dream.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Carl Sagan

I used to watch Cosmos when I was a kid. Carl Sagan is seeing a real resurgence these days. This video in particular captured my imagination. Somehow inspirational, in spite of how it shows humans at anything but our best. Humbling... perhaps that sums it up best.

I think I'm going to re-visit Sagan videos in the future here. There is so much to his words that is truer today than it was when he lived.


It is okay to feel small, or at least it's better than believing a convenient lie. Only when we open our eyes to see things as they truly are do we have the opportunity to experience reality for what it is, not just what we want it to be.

I could watch these all day, but I'd never get any work done.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Icarus, a Dream of Flight

I know it's modern tech, but it's a very steampunk idea. Flapping bird wings.

Daedalus would be proud.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Monday Inspiration: Chernobyl

I love abandoned places. There is something poetic about seeing nature reclaim the works of man.

The Chernobyl exclusion zone has to be one of the most abandoned places on Earth. Apparently they run tours there now, you can go for the day and the dose isn't too likely to kill you. It's not legal, but there's nobody around to stop you either. I hope the tour guides don't spend too long on that particular career though.

Looking at the pic of the wall of gauges in the operations room at Chernobyl I don't find it hard to believe things went wrong. Who could keep track of all that mess?

Nature reclaims an amusement park. Apparently the radiation levels keep most animal life away, so plants have free reign.


Bunny seems lonely without any children around.

It all falls apart. I can remember this, the meltdown. I guess that makes me kind of old. Most people graduating University now weren't even alive when it happened in 1986. Now, twenty-six years later it's rotting. I wonder how many more years until there's no trace left without digging. A hundred? A thousand? What will it look like in another fifty years?

Almost makes me want to write some post-apocalyptic piece.

Of course I couldn't let you go without a photo of an abandoned doll. Those are mandatory for all such photo-essays.

If you want to see more I found these in the fabulous collection over at:

Friday, March 9, 2012

Fashion Friday: Steampunk Superheroes

Superhero comics and steampunk go together like... two things that go really well together (you can tell I'm a writer, right?). I came across a few fun pictures which made me wonder why there aren't more mainstream superhero/steampunk crossovers so I thought I'd share.

I really like the idea of the Clockwork Cricket, an original superhero created by Pokketmowse. Unfortunately he never got around to the finishing touches, but it's a great concept, and I love the style.

ChetArt has the Union of Superlative Heroes trading cards available on Etsy, other available cards include Feline Fraulein and Lord Wolverton. I've got to get a set of these.

Nicholas Avallone brings us the awesome Robber Baron.

Last, but of course not least, the real thing! Well, as real as it gets at DragonCon I suppose. I can't find any names for credits to go with the costumes, but if you know any, feel free to leave it in a comment below.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

ARC put to good use

ARCs or Advance Reader Copies of books come out about six months prior to the actual publishing. Because the print runs tend to be small, each individual copy can be $100 or more. Of course they are hard to get your hands on, and even authors often complain that they don't get enough ARCs.

I think in this case, Harry Turtledove (one of my favourite authors) will not complain about this ARC of the final novel in his The War That Came Early series. One of the recipient's greatest regrets was that he might have never known how the series ended.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Fashion Friday: C is for Corset

Corsets are a defining element of steampunk fashion. A friend of mine once said that if your corset doesn't leave bruises you're not wearing it right, but I think that may be taking things a little too far. Thanks to modern elastic materials and better manufacturing techniques you can get the benefits without the pain of whalebone and steel digging into your ribs.

Unfortunately, the health consequences of wearing tightly laced corsets hastened their demise. Medical studies in the 1880s and onward showed how tightly laced corsets caused problems with heart, lungs, circulation, breasts, uterus, gall bladder and colon. In some cases tight lacing was directly linked to organ failure.

Not to worry these days though. So long as you don't take my friend's advice modern corsets will not do you any harm.

I love the above picture. I suppose in those days it was enough to fool the unsuspecting, but anyone with half an eye for photoshop will quickly pick up the fact that everything below the bustline on the right hand picture is drawn, not photographed at all. The shadows are all wrong, the buckles on the garters don't have the right amount of detail, and the stockings lost their tendency to curl at the top.

A more modern corset. This one by Lageuse leather corset with brass rivets and only a slight bit of 'glue some gears on it and call it Steampunk' is a pretty typical high-end model.

Ooooh, Shiny! This corset by Nola incorporates actual brass for the trim. She has a few 'making of' pics on her website as well.

That's it for me this week. Until next time, keep your boilers hot and your fashion steamy!