Saturday, February 25, 2012

Saturday Steam: 2/25/12

I can't believe I've been letting our steamy Saturday posts slide! Time to do some catching up!

Let's get right to the goods:

I know some in the steampunk community think modded Nerfguns are old hat, but would you LOOK at how cool this is?

Head over here for the lowdown on how Elesa did it. (Thx to Pam L. for the link!)

Or how about this kickin' sniper rifle?

Made by vanbangerburger, found via

I really must get me an old Nerf gun soon.

You probably saw this when it debuted a month or so ago, but Bicycle is now making steampunk playing cards:

Submitted by Richard R.; Steampunk Playing Cards, $5.95

The box only *looks* like metal, sadly, but for less than $6 I guess we can't complain. Much.

It is wrong that I wanted the cards to look more aged, like parchment paper?

Thea L. sent me a TV commercial, of all things, but you'll see why soon enough:

This is a
Canadian company, so odds are my fellow Americans have never seen it. Aren't the little robots adorable? And that little beating heart! Ack!

Sarah S. spotted this nifty gear crown made from chipboard, metal paints, and charms:

Steampunk Crown by Stamptramp (hit the link for more details)

Kinda reminds me of the steampunk Glinda from that Wizard of Oz troupe I saw at Dragon*Con two years ago.

And speaking of amazing finds, you guys, I FOUND MY DINING ROOM LIGHT FIXTURE!!

Isn't it amazing?? I love the armillary sphere design, and the giant industrial chain and hook, and the magnifying glasses in front of the Edison bulbs.

Here's a close-up:

Yep, it took years, but I finally found the perfect light for our steampunk dining room.

Now I'm just gonna need one of you to spot me $6,375 so I can buy it.


Oh, and the maker, Jefferson Mack Metal, also has this enticing option:

And this one's only $4,275, so that's practically a bargain.

I'm trying to convince John to learn welding so we can make our own, but maybe a Kickstarter campaign would be a better idea. Or lotto tickets. Lots and lots of lotto tickets. Heh.

And finally, I stumbled across this cool steampunk monorail-looking thing on Pinterest...

...and had to do a little digging. Turns out it's the Ocean Express, located in a theme park in Hong Kong. The train takes you on a virtual underwater journey, and is inspired by the works of Jules Verne (of course!). Check out the entrance:


Armored seahorses? Yes, please!

You can see a quick video of the train pulling into the station here.

Ok, I think that's enough for today! As always, if you see something cool and steamy this week, please share in the comments, or shoot me an e-mail!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Supernatural Scares

I have to preface this by stating, for the record and with no equivocation, that when it comes to scary stuff, John and I are wimps. Wusses. 'Fraidy-cat namby-pambies. We don't like being scared, and each year when the commercials for Halloween Horror Nights come on we both dive for the remote to change the channel, because those things are REALLY STINKING SCARY.

So, naturally, we recently started watching Supernatural.

I blame Netflix.

See, John and I get addicted to shows, and then watch nothing but that show from start to finish. Which usually doesn't take too long. So I'm always on the look out for new obsessions series to start.

But here's the clincher: we don't have cable.

Which is fine, because most stuff can be found online or through Netflix streaming. Streaming is the easiest, although Netflix's selection still leaves much to be desired. So, while I was listlessly clicking through the "recommended" options a few weeks ago, I perked up when Supernatural came up. I knew nothing about it except it sounded familiar, and - what's this? Over 150 episodes available on live streaming?! SOLD.

I actually started the pilot while John was in the other room, and within two minutes I was pausing and inching the show forward frame-by-frame while peering through my fingers to see when the scary stuff jumped out.

At the fifteen minute mark, John wandered in.

"What are you watching?"

[speaking through a pillow I was holding over my face] "Supernatural. But it's really scary."

"You're watching something scary? What are you thinking?!"

[wailing] "I don't know!! It looked kind of cool!"

"You know we can't watch scary stuff!"

"I know!!"

There was a pause as the creepy music reached a crescendo and we both contemplated the screen with eyes the size of dinner plates.

"Hang on, I wanna watch, too."

And so began our abusive relationship with a scary TV show. Abusive because it lulls us into a false sense of security with one or two episodes with relatively tame scares, and then, POW! We're screaming like little girls behind the couch and sleeping with the lights on.

It doesn't help that our prime TV-watching hours start around 1AM. And you know what *else* doesn't help? When you're watching a creepy suspenseful show about some demon with tree branch fingers scratching at bedroom windows and THEN YOU START HEARING SCRATCHING AT THE WINDOW because there's either a squirrel scaling your window screens OR POSSIBLY A DEMON COMING TO EAT YOUR SOUL and have I mentioned we haven't slept in a few days?

During the squirrel scratching incident - and let's go ahead and assume it's a squirrel since we're still alive. SO FAR. - John and I actually got so freaked out that we did what any sensible, fully grown adults would do: we shut off the TV, left every light in the house on, locked ourselves in the bedroom, and finished watching the show on his laptop in bed.

We kept promising ourselves and each other that as soon as one of us started having nightmares, we'd stop. Having already reached the third season, though, now we're rationalizing:

"Well, yes, it was a nightmare, but I didn't dream anything specifically from last night's episode, so I'm sure it's not related."

"If you think about it, this show is probably toughening up our psyche, so in the long run we'll actually have LESS nightmares."

And so on.

Usually Supernatural gives you a nice lead-in to the scares with lots of ominous music and suspense, thereby enabling us more cautious-minded individuals to "assume the position." (This involves peering with one eye through our cupped hands while yelling, "I can't look! Are you looking? Is it over? Did you see it? AAAUGGH!! I LOOKED! OH MY GOSH THAT'S SO FREAKING SCARY! Don't look! It's RIGHT BEHIND HIM!!" And so on.)

Last night, though, we had our biggest scare from the show yet. It even managed to dethrone that scene in "Crossroad Blues" where the wife is saying goodbye to her hubby and then suddenly cranks her head sideways and goes all demon-faced on him. [shudder]

This one involved children, who I never realized could be so bone-chillingly creepy even without makeup or special effects, and can I just say I am so, SO glad we're not having any, because after that episode I could never sleep with a kid in the house for fear I might see their reflection in a mirror and realize they're really some leech-faced monster and holy crap I'm scaring myself just writing this and what have you done to me, Supernatural?!


So, yeah. It's a good show.

And for the uninitiated out there who are thinking of giving it a try, you should know that the pilot is a bit scarier and more intense than a lot of the subsequent episodes. Until you get to "Bloody Mary." And the clown one. [shiver] And when you get to "Heart," the werewolf one in season two? Yeah. Just skip that one. Not because it's scary, but because the ending is dumb and needlessly dramatic - like punching a kitten just to make us cry. That was really out of character for the show, though, and the only bad episode I've seen yet. Fortunately it doesn't have anything to do with the over-arching storyline, though, and a few shows after that is "What is And What Should Never Be," which we *thought* was going to be really cheesy, but ended up being one of the best yet. So that makes up for it.

Just watch out for "The Kids Are Alright," alright? Especially the car scene. Trust me.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Contemplating Solitude and Mortality

I know, I know. Could that...BE a more depressing post title? [snicker]

So last night John was the sickest he's been since that time he nearly died in Texas on the book tour, and I spent the hours before dawn sitting by him in the dark, changing the cold packs on his forehead, watching him breathe, and generally trying not to panic.

Today he's better. He has a bad ear infection and strep throat and tells me everything still hurts, but the fever broke at dawn so at least he's back in his right mind.

Last night that fever was so high he started hallucinating, and I found him shivering violently under two heavy blankets. 'Til then I didn't think it was all that serious; he'd been to the doctor that afternoon and started some antibiotics for a run-of-the-mill ear infection. No biggie, right? But then his teeth started chattering and he kept telling me he had to save some soldier in WWII, which I can only assume is what you get when you mix a high fever with too much Downton Abbey and Borderlands. That degenerated into gibberish: he would walk into my office and deliver an earnest, pressing speech, but none of the words coming out made sense.

I discovered it's very lonely when your spouse is konked out and helpless like that. See, I'm not really the caregiver in our relationship; John is. He prides himself on looking out for me, and I'm used to his constant presence and strength. I think that's why Texas was such a traumatic experience: I've become so spoiled that I honestly don't know how to function without John. We go everywhere together, and do everything together. The only times we're apart are when John runs out to pick up dinner - and to be honest, that's how we like it. We've worked together since our first wedding anniversary back in 1999. We tell our friends that we're "happily codependent." That may not be healthy for some people, but it works for us. We just need each other.

So in Dallas, when John was admitted at the ER, I was like a little kid lost in the big city. Things like hailing a cab or changing hotels became these huge, terrifying tasks, made even worse by the knowledge of how truly pathetic I was on my own.

I'd like to say I discovered untapped wells of hidden strength, and emerged a better person for it. The truth is those days are nothing but a blur of white-hot terror in my memory. I got through it, but not well.

Last night, all those feelings of inadequacy and fear came rushing back. Today they seem unfounded, and maybe even a bit silly, but I wanted to talk about them anyway. And since I don't have a therapist, you guys are filling in. Hope you don't mind. (I'm picturing you as a crack psychological SWAT team led by Craig Ferguson, Liz Lemon, and that sweet old guy who did Admiral Ackbar's voice. Because yes, that's my therapy dream team. Which probably proves I need a real one, but this is SO much cheaper.)

Thanks for "listening," and hug your loved ones today, guys.

P.S. Oh, and BEWARE THE CON CRUD. Seriously. Purell is your friend.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Labyrinth Love

Random Jen Fact: Labyrinth is one of my favorite movies of all time, and in college I would listen to the soundtrack every night while playing solitaire as a kind of relaxation ritual. (But I always skipped track 8, The Goblin Battle, 'cuz that thing is super annoying. [Cheesy synthesizers. That is all.])

So, when Christina shared this on the Epbot FB page, I of course had to drop everything and run over here to post it right away - even though the dropping and running were in a purely virtual sense, since I'm just sitting here clicking and typing. But there is a definite sense of urgency to it, let me tell ya.

Ok, enough of that - now watch this:

Haunting and oh-so-beautiful. [dreamy sigh]

This was posted all the way back in 2009, and I'm kind of heartbroken that the free mp3 download link is broken since it led to MegaUpload. Maybe Geekella will see this and take pity on me and post a new link somewhere else. [hinthintprettyplease?]

(UPDATE: Yay! New download link here. Thanks, Geekella!)

Oooh, and this gives me the perfect excuse to share Heather H.'s family Labyrinth costumes!

He reminds me of the babe.

And say "'ello" to this little fella!

This entire family is made of WIN. Kudos, Heather!

Plus, this weekend Leah sent me a photo of her AMAZING Jareth Masquerade costume:

She made everything herself, and her wife even wired the glass ball she's holding so it spins! Here's a quick video of it in action:

{Turn your sound off}

[Update: See how Leah did it all on her blog here. I still can't believe that mask!]

Ok, this concludes my Labyrinth Love Fest.

For now.

UPDATE: Someone in the comments linked me to the most impressive Goblin King cosplay I've ever seen. I mean, WOW.

You'd almost swear that was Bowie himself, wouldn't you? His name is actually Massimiliano Poggi, and you can see a few more pics of him in Sandman-AC's DeviantArt portfolio.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

MegaCon 2012 Best Shots

I've kept you all in suspense long enough, so here they are: my favorite costumes from last weekend's MegaCon. Enjoy!

Sonic/Mario mash-up!

Pretty steampunk ladies: Catwoman, Harley, and Poison Ivy

The resemblance is uncanny.

At one point we happened upon a whole busload of Disney princesses coming in through a side entrance, and the light was just perfect:

You can't see the shell in her hair, but this is Ariel.

Possibly my favorite shot of the whole con:

Like I said: the light was just perfect. It was also a mini miracle that the crowd cleared right at that moment.

[Update: Alyssa in the comments pointed out that both Snow White & Ariel are based on the Disney Princess Designer Dolls - and their costumes are a perfect match! So cool!]

It's not a con without Furries!

Not a costume, but I forgot to include the Ecto-1 and Blues-Mobile in yesterday's post:

My girl-crush of the weekend:

Clearly I'm not the only one - check out the guy's face in the background. Hee.

Ok, remember our friends Chris & Christie? Christie's the one who won the Dragon*Con Comic Book Babes contest last year. Well, on Friday she and her sister Robyn cosplayed two Anime characters named (I am so not making this up) Panty and Stocking:

To go along with the outfit (and I would assume this is a story-line thing) Christie also had removable hot pink underwear:

She had on shorts underneath, but the guys didn't know that, so each time she'd pose this way guys would race around behind her to try and get an upskirt pic. Which is both disgusting and kind of funny.

On Saturday Christie and Chris went as Harley and Joker:

Chris prides himself on having a completely screen-accurate costume, and it's fascinating to hear all the time and effort that went into it. Things like the orange lining on his jacket, which most people will never see, and that the second button on his vest is never buttoned, because that's how Heath Ledger wore it.

In fact, here's my second-favorite shot of the whole con:

Pics like these are why I love conventions: the entire process from taking it to tweaking it to posting it online is pure joy for me.

Chris & Christie were actually part of a large group of friends cosplaying Batman villains that day:

That's Christie's sister Robin as Catwoman, and Robyn's boyfriend Dan as Bane (in the face mask.) The Penguin is Chris's Nerdgasm co-host Andre. They're all incredibly laid-back and sweet people, and it was hard not to brag to everyone in sight that, yeah, I'm totally friends with them. ;)

Speaking of which, I actually met Christie through my Epbot post on last year's MegaCon; I posted a picture of her and Robyn in costume and she sent me an e-mail introducing herself. I've met several fellow geeks that way, and I love it.

Ok, back to the costumes!

Something about this photo - especially the lower half - makes it look like a comic book drawing. Nifty.

The cutest gal MegaMan *ever*:

And now, zombie Leia & Stormtrooper:

She had freaky yellow eye contacts in. Freeeeaky.

I heard later that these guys won the Judges' Choice in the costume contest:

The guy playing Shaggy is especially perfect.

Here's an amazingly adorable Princess Zelda:

And an elegant GLADOS:

Not sure who this guy is, but I thought the pic turned out great:

Boring technical note:
This was our first time trying out a wide-angle lens at a con, and WOW did that help. You could literally stand three feet away and get the entire body shot, from shoes to pointy hats, in frame. It's perfect for big crowds when you don't have room to back up. We experimented with the lens on different cameras, and sadly John's Canon 10D (which is supposed to be a better camera) didn't have a quick enough sensor for the low light in the hall, meaning most of Saturday's shots are quite blurry. My trusty old Canon Rebel XT, though, worked like a champ. Yeah. Take THAT, more expensive cameras!

Another Batman group.

John's latest game obsession is Borderlands, so he was thrilled to spot these characters from the game:

Only at a con:

And finally, as we were leaving on Sunday we spotted this whole family of Jedis, and I'm not gonna lie: I totally teared up.

That little girl in purple is about to mess. you. up.

Rock on, little padawan. ROCK ON.

Want more great costume pics? Of COURSE YOU DO. So head on over to my Flickr set to see over a hundred more; there were just too many good ones to include here!

Monday, February 20, 2012

MegaCon 2012 Highlights

Well, THAT was an awesome weekend.

I'm used to conventions being a somewhat solitary affair; John and I wander the floor together and only interact with the occasional person in line or chatty artist over at Artist's Alley. This time, however, we had several friends both attending and exhibiting, and it was a delightful change to run into people we knew on a regular basis. Everything's just more fun with friends. (That probably makes me sound like Winnie-the-Pooh. And I'm ok with that.)

On Thursday we met up with Amy Ratcliffe and Thom Zaler at Epcot, and spent a delightful several hours roaming the world showcase together and eating far too often. I've followed Amy on Twitter for ages, so it was fun to finally meet her and find out she's even more likeable in person.

Amy in her Trek uniform at MegaCon (though she'll be quick to point out she's really more of a Star Wars fan).

Friday night as we were leaving the con we had the surreal experience of getting a phone call from Paul of Paul and Storm, the musical duo best known for their Wootstock performances. He threatened and cajoled us into coming to their show which was starting in just 30 minutes downtown, and somehow we managed to get there with barely a minute to spare.

The concert was awesome and hilarious, Paul name checked both us and our friends Missy and Scott of Basic Instructions from the stage, a CW fan bought me a beer (which I swapped with John for coffee, since my throat hurt), and after the show the six of us hung out in the green room for a couple of hours just chatting and laughing. (My first green room, you guys! And it was actually green! With lots of penises drawn on the walls! And everything was really, really filthy!)

We sat in a small balcony together with Scott and Missy. Here Paul's pointing at us and saying something about us being too "good" for the ground floor. ;)

Saturday was the crazy crowded day of MegaCon, with a ticket line that took over an hour to get through and parking spread out so far you had to take a shuttle, which added another 30 minutes to your travel time. This was also the big costume day, though, and the people-watching was grrrr-reat!

We kicked Saturday off with a Warehouse 13 panel:

It was held in a massive room that only had mics for the celebs, so we couldn't hear most of the questions being asked. Other than that, though, it was a good panel. Not spectacular, but good.

(Later that afternoon we got Saul Rubinek's autograph. He was perfectly polite, but very clearly not interested in small talk - even though no one else was waiting in line. I don't think any less of him for it, but the experience did leave us feeling a bit deflated; that's $30 I wouldn't spend again.)

Oh, and I figured out the perfect way to ensure your personal space at a con:

Wear a costume with pointy bits sticking out at face level! This Queen of Hearts had an extra chair's buffer between her and the rest of the row. Brilliant.

As much as we hang out in Artist's Alley it should be no surprise that we've made a few friends there. Here's Jennifer Teeter and Jason Thomas of Red Rocket Farm:

Every time we stopped by they kept trying to give us things (they're big CW fans), so we were thoroughly spoiled by the time the con was over. We did buy John a t-shirt and these two pieces, though:
Aren't they great? They're hand-painted 3D wood plaques; the robots are raised above the back pieces. One was $20, and the other was $30, I believe.

We also stopped to chat with Jasmine Becket-Griffith (whose art I've followed for years) and her husband Matt, who are just fabulous people. They live here in Orlando, too, so we see them at all the local art shows.

And while I'm at it, here's the rest of my art haul:

Ray gun prints (only $5 each!) by Amy Williams

Ninja Turtles print ($10) and original monster painting ($15) by Bianca Roman-Stumpff
The original Beaker & Dr. Honeydew ($20) is by Micheal Duron, who was kind enough to paint in lots more color while we waited:

Ooh, and I tried something new on Sunday, guys: I commissioned some art! I asked for Chell from Portal with cake and two portals, and a few hours later, I got this!

Seriously. How fabulous is that? (And only $15!) I'm going to have to start commissioning more sketches: not knowing exactly what you'll get is actually quite fun! (The only sad part is I don't remember the artist's name, and I can't decipher her signature. Anyone know?)

We met a few of you readers on Saturday, too, including Patti and Dave here:

Don't they look great? They credited Epbot with getting them into steampunk, and even for getting them hooked on conventions! Folks like this make me so happy I could pop. Thanks again, guys.

Saturday afternoon our good friends Ray and Julianne come out for their very first visit to their very first convention. (Am I a good influence, or what??) We wandered around and pushed Julianne - a lifelong Trekker - into meeting Brent Spiner by buying her his autograph. Brent was both snarky and sweet as always, telling her that life was going to be all downhill after meeting him and generally making her giggle like mad. She claims she'll be hanging his picture over her bed, but I'm guessing Ray (her husband) might veto that idea. Regardless, *that* was $30 well spent.

Which brings me to possibly the funniest thing that happened all weekend.

There was a large Star Wars section on the con floor with props and photo areas like this:

So we asked Ray & Julianne if they wanted to bring their 2-year-old over for a family photo near some Scout Troopers. What I don't think they realized was that *one* Scout Trooper was not a dummy.

Isaiah the two-year-old, however, knew IMMEDIATELY what was going on, and the following hilarity ensued: (Keep in mind this all occurred in less than 10 seconds, and that I was laughing so hard I had a hard time holding the camera steady.)

Isaiah eying the Scout Trooper with deep mistrust.

The "dummy" Scout Trooper and Isaiah play peek-a-boo over the oblivious heads of his parents.

Ray tries to direct Isaiah's attention to the camera, but there's no WAY the boy is taking his eyes off that Scout Trooper.

Mistakenly thinking he must be looking at his mother, the parents decide to swap. Meanwhile, the Scout Trooper gives mom bunny ears and the photographer (that would be me) starts howling with laughter.

Even while being swung onto his mom's hip, Isaiah never takes his eyes off the Trooper. Ray finally glances back as they walk away, only to see a harmless Scout Trooper dummy, standing stock still.

After that we got a few shots near the Jawas, but the damage was done:

I'm afraid little Isaiah will never trust another mannequin again. :D

Saturday night after the con we went to dinner with Scott and Missy, and Sunday night we went out with our friends Chris and Christie and their family, who all went to the con. They're all super amazing cosplayers, so I'm looking forward to showing you their various costumes in my next post.

Speaking of which, I'm going to wrap this post up now and show you my favorite costume shots in the next one. So stay tuned!