Monday, April 29, 2013

Epbot Exemplars 4/29/13

It has been waaay too long since I featured some new Exemplars, you guys. How could you let me get away with that? Yell at me or something next time, will you?

For those who don't remember, this is where I feature mostly younger geek girls proudly just being themselves - and of course I always reserve the right to showcase older geek girls or guys, too. Because we don't have "rules" here - more like "guidelines." ARRR.

Julie B. writes, "My almost 4 year old daughter's Halloween costume arrived in the mail today from a friend (we had the tutu and leggings already), and she is so excited. Is it October yet?"

YES! And I love that she chose red instead of the usual R2 blue, Julie! So great! 

(I'm suddenly struck with the need to see a whole troupe of little girl droids in every color of the rainbow.  MAKE THIS HAPPEN, INTERNET.)

Next we have Abi, who writes:

"Dear Jen,
I am 12 years old, and a major geek girl and artist. About a year ago, I started to read your blog, and to be honest, it was a major thing. I used to hide my geekiness at school, and I was not happy a lot of the time. As I read your blog more, I became more comfortable with my geekiness, and stopped hiding it. My life is SO much better now, and I am so much happier. I really wanted to thank you for that, and for introducing me to steampunk. It is now one of the loves of my life, and I'm working on next year's Halloween costume already. (It's going to be a steampunk girl-version of the Phantom of the Opera. *squeal* I can't wait!!) This year's was a steampunk air worker, from Scott Westerfeld's 'Leviathan.'"

This gal has fantastic taste in blogs, books, AND costumes, you guys. She's totally going places.

Here's five-year-old Allison cosplaying as Pixie from the X-men at Chicago Comic-Con:


That was two years ago. Here she is now at age seven rocking her favorite hat - which her mom Leigh tells me she wears pretty much every day:

A-HA! I spy a Whovian!

Allison's four-year-old sister Lizzie is also on the proper path to geekdom; when her school had a "pirates and princesses" day, she decided to be the Amazon princess, Wonder Woman:


Seriously, this makes me so happy I could bust.

Their mom Leigh writes,  

"I love that my girls have no qualms about liking what they like. I love Epbot for being a resource to show them that they are not alone. I'm not naive enough to think that they will always feel as free to be themselves as they do now. I just hope that knowing there are other girls out there who like the things they like will help them find a community they might not have in real life.  But I am also holding out hope that by sharing their love of superheroes, science, and other 'geeky' things, maybe they're influencing other kids to be themselves too!"

I have no doubt they are, Leigh, and good on you for being such an awesome mom!

Sandy R. posted this on the Epbot Facebook page, saying, "Just felt like trying to make your day, Jen. Yes, that is a Darth Vader clipped to my 3YO daughter's backpack. :)"

Day = MADE.

Which reminds me - here's one of my formerly featured Exemplars, Hayden, with her sixth birthday cake:

Yep, she requested the Darth Vader-riding-a-My-Little-Pony design - and just look at that grin! (I like the substitution of Rainbow Dash, btw - good choice, Hayden!) Note how all the ponies around the cake have Star Wars riders, too. Ha! [Cake by Sweet Startt's Bakery]

I'm probably the last person on the 'net to finally post this, but if you haven't seen Little Girls Are Better At Designing Superheroes Than You, you should totally check it out. It's an art project by Alex Law, where he draws superheros based on real costumes little girls have put together:

He only has about half a dozen up so far, but I'm hoping the fact that his project went viral last week will encourage him to do lots more!

Oh, and I've mentioned it before, but Alex got some of those original photos from Girls Love Superheroes, Too, another excellent blog. (LOOK AT THIS TINY HAWK GIRL. AND THIS WEE WONDER WOMAN. AND THIS SASSY BAT GIRL. AND...ok, ok, I'm done. Really.)

And finally, I'm going to wrap up with Sierra T's story, because I love it to pieces and it's super inspiring. She writes:

"I was a closet geek all through high school and college. I desperately wanted to embrace the geeky side of me, but I got enough grief just being the toned down geek version of me. Like so many geek girls, I got teased and picked on and excluded. As much as I wanted to watch Star Trek marathons and read from the sci-fi section of the bookstore, I pushed that down and away in the interest of having some sort of social life. I found Epbot through chance and would literally sneak away to read it so no one could tease me.

"I saw all your pictures of the cons that you went to and the Ah-Mazing costumes that were there and I was so jealous that you could be so open about what you liked. Then it was like a light bulb went off in my brain, and I realized, life is far too short to worry about what everyone else may think.

"It was empowering!  I went to my first convention in October and even dressed up. I have a new friend who went with me because there are other geek girls out there (who knew, right?). It was fun and I’m already looking forward to the next one where I will hopefully work up the courage to actually speak to others. These people are my tribe and I don’t have to be ashamed of loving Dr. Who and Star Trek and anything that Stan Lee ever creates. I give you a lot of credit for making me see that and giving me the courage to step out and be awesome!

"P.S. Attached is the worst possible picture of my husband and I as the 11th Doctor and Amy Pond, but quality aside, we were having fun."

Sierra, the courage was all you, my friend, and you ROCKED it. I bet someone reading this right now just decided to go to HER first convention, so thanks for sharing your story and encouraging us all to get out there and live the lives we want to live, not just the ones we think are expected.

Ok, that does it for this installment, Exemplars! I'll try to do this more often, though, so I can chisel away at the small backlog I've accumulated. Which reminds me: If you have an Exemplar story to share, or a fun photo of yourself or your kids showing off your geeky passions, then please send them to me! (Or share them over on the Epbot Facebook page!)

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Saturday Steam 4/27/13

One of the first things to make me fall head-over-heels for steampunk was the house of Bruce & Melanie Rosenbaum, who've since created ModVic design. The house is a three-story Victorian which the couple painstakingly remodeled in all ways steampunk, and every year or so it goes viral again online. Happily, this past week saw the house popping up all over again, so I get an excuse to revisit some of my favorite rooms:

You've probably already seen Bruce's incredible computer desk, since that's their most famous creation:

He made it from an old pipe organ!

See lots more photos of the house here, and thanks to all of you who sent in the link!

And since we're talking about my steampunk first loves, here's an older - but still awesome - video from 2009 spotlighting one of my first-ever Maker heroes, Jake Von Slatt:

I love the fact that Jake not only makes beautiful, re-purposed and handcrafted steampunk items, he also tells you how he does a lot of it on his website, The Steampunk Workshop.  (If you haven't seen it yet, check out the microphone he made for the Girl Genius creators. Goooorgeous!) 

If you just felt a disturbance in the Force, then I think I may have an explanation:

This is a real book.

Yep, it's Star Wars, "reimagined in glorious iambic pentameter." Oh. My. Bard.  
(Not exactly Steampunk, I know, but I figure this is still the right audience for it. :D)

It's not out 'til July, but you can pre-order the hardcover at that Amazon link up there for less than $12! Suh-WEET! I think I want it just for the cover art. Is that wrong?

Next up, we're getting a double-dose of amazing steampunk decor today, because Sarah M. spotted a steampunk restaurant that's guaranteed to make you swoon. Me, I'm already on the floor.


Look at that door! And the recessed lighting on those walls! With the pipes and the gauges and the dripping-pipe light fixtures! AAAIEEE!

If I ever win the lottery, my entire house is going to look like this. (Well, except maybe my office. It's kinda hard to fit Ninja Turtle and Stay Puft art into this style. :D) Oh, and sadly this little slice of riveted heaven is all the way in India, so I guess I won't get to drool on it in person. Boo. Think it's too much to hope for a franchise?

See more pics over on TecheBlog.

Since I seem to be on an interior design streak today: A few of you have sent me this fantastic roundup of sources for everything you need to make your own caged pendant lights for - get this - less than $11 each! DUDE. We are so doing this. (Just FYI, John, sweetie.)

And finally, I've seen a few different versions of "mounted tentacle" art out there, but this one Rachel C. found is by far the coolest:

 "Octopus Tentacle Wall Sculpture" $120 by ArtAkimbo

Not only is the sculpture creepily realistic, the acrylic "water splash" and rusted porthole hanger are fantastic extra touches. These come in three different sizes and a few other colors as well. I particularly like the blue/green:

Or for a slightly more modern and cartoony style (or at least less slimy), there's also this one:

So fun! And that's officially something I never thought I would say about disembodied tentacles, y'all.

Hope you guys are having a great weekend! As always, please share your steamy creations/finds here in the comments or over on the Epbot Facebook page!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Girl Meets BioShock: Infinite - FAQs & Review

With all the fangirling I've been doing lately about BioShock: Infinite, I've been getting a fair amount of questions about it. Since most of these (along with my answers) are now buried in the comment section or over on Facebook or Twitter, I figured I'd gather them all together along with my "official" review for anyone else thinking about giving the game a try. (And don't worry; this is a spoiler-free zone!)

If you've read this blog for a while, then you already know I'm not much of a gamer. I have below-average skills and little interest in the vast majority of popular games. The few exceptions include titles like Portal and Portal 2 and more kiddie-ish games like Mini Ninjas.

I watched John play BioShock 2 (Infinite is the third in the BioShock series), but my own attempts to play were disastrous at best - albeit funny in retrospect. :)

So what's different about Infinite?

1) It's gorgeous

Even if you're not the art lover I am, this game offers unparalleled eye candy that's guaranteed to make you stop and smell the virtual roses:


It's much lighter and more color saturated than the first two BioShocks, with added touches like hummingbirds and candy-colored sunsets. Everything from the clothing to the advertisements to the weaponry is exquisitely detailed, and the longer you take to appreciate it all, the more you're going to enjoy this game.

Oh, and yes, it's also kind of steampunky. BONUS.

2) There's an "easy" mode

Without this I never would have made it through the first time. I'm currently playing again on normal mode, and even with all that experience I'm dying a LOT during the big battles. Again, I'm not great at games in general, and first person shooters in particular, so the fact that I managed to complete the whole game on Easy says that you probably can, too.

Also, even when you do die you regenerate very close by, minus a little money and only partially healed. Your enemies are also partially healed, but not completely, so you don't have to repeat much or - worse - start over at your last checkpoint. That helps ease the frustration a LOT when you die 6 or 8 times in a single fire fight. (Not that I would ever... ok yeah that was last night.)

3) It combines a compelling story with fighting that's actually fun

I've always preferred games that felt more like interactive story books, and in this, Infinite really shines. The surprising part to me was how immersive even the side stories became - the ones told through the "voxophones," taped recordings you discover hidden throughout the game. I was moved to tears by at least two of these stories, and I've never heard voice acting of this caliber in anything.

It should go without saying that the main storyline with Booker & Elizabeth is also beautiful - so rich and complex that you'll be decompressing and deciphering it all long after the ending credits roll.

I never thought I'd say a shooting game was fun, but here again Infinite surprised me. More on that in a minute, though.

- The music

Yes, really, the music. From an old-timey jazzed-up version of "Tainted Love" to a choral hymn of such haunting beauty that you'll find yourself humming it for days, Infinite has a plethora of musical Easter eggs that I'm still uncovering on my third play-through. (Find the guitar and play it. Trust me.)

The music in this scene is some of the most beautiful in the game. Love it.

Ok, let's get to my top FAQs:


- Do you need to have played the first two BioShocks?

No, Infinite stands on its own perfectly well. There's one small nod to the previous games at the end, but even just knowing those games exist will be enough for you to understand what's happening.

- Can someone who's not great at video games manage, or will it be too hard/frustrating?

Again, easy mode is your friend! To give you an idea of my own skill level: I was able to beat Portal 2 but not Psychonauts. I also can't get more than 1/3 of the way through most Rayman and Jak & Daxter type games. So if I can do it, odds are you can, too.

- Is it worth the money?

Alternatively, I've had a few of you mention you can't afford BioShock right now, so this is less an answer and more a suggestion for those of you in the U.S.: Redbox. Find a kiosk at a grocery store or gas station near you, and you can rent Infinite for $2 a day. Rent it on days when you have several hours to play at a time, and if you're mildly obsessive like me, you'll be done in 5 or 6 days! Even if it takes you longer, $20 for 10 days isn't bad at all. Think of it as an installment payment plan!

A word of caution: One thing I haven't addressed anywhere yet is Infinite's level of violence, which has been labeled "excessive," "extreme," and "insanely ridiculous."

Look, I can't handle violence or gore. I just can't. Shows like Walking Dead and Game of Thrones are WAY beyond my tolerance, as are most cop shows with forensics-style gore. So I was surprised to see reviews blasting Infinite for excessive violence.

Now, I'll be straight with you: the very first fight of the game is pretty dang disturbing. A guy gets his face ground in, followed by either an in-your-face, blood-spurting decapitation, or a graphic neck-snap. Up to that point you've been in this perfect, idyllic world, so that first fight is designed to be extra jarring, and it is.

However, I can tell you that if you choose to shoot your enemies - as opposed to running up and smashing them in the face with your spinning hand claw of death - then the rest of the game is dramatically less graphic. It's all about how close you are and which weapons or vigors you use. Some are more graphic than others, so if that bothers you, focus on using sniper rifles or other long-range weapons. Either way, though, know that it never gets any worse than that first fight. (Although a certain cut-scene with a bunch of ravens gets kind of close. You have been warned.)


To end on a more positive note, I have to share one of my favorite little discoveries in the game so far. This contains a mild spoiler, but I don't believe it's anything vital that the trailers haven't already given away.

Ok, so, during the very first tear you see Elizabeth open, if you look closely (and quickly!) to the right, you'll see a movie theater marquee that reads "Revenge of the Jedi" in French. (Apparently that was the original working title of Return of the Jedi - so this shows the tear opens to an alternate world/time.) A moment later, as you're climbing a nearby stairwell, you hear Booker say, "This job is getting worse all the time," in the exact same inflection Lando Calrissian uses to say, "This deal is getting worse all the time," in Empire Strikes Back. Yep. STAR WARS HOMAGE, baby! (You'll see another movie marquee with the same title in English later on in the game, too, so watch for that!)

Again, there are lots of hidden little treasures like that throughout the game, but I believe that's the only one to reference another geek franchise. That said, you should go play it and see if I'm wrong!

Oh, and if you're a non-gamer looking for more titles to try, here are eight that I recommend.

I hope this review was helpful, guys, and feel free to ask any other questions you might have in the comments, since I'm sure I may have missed something!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

April Art Roundup!

It's that time again! Here's some of the best geek art to cross my path this month:

Max Kostenko is a Russian artist who does digital painting caricatures guaranteed to make you smile:
Look at Yoda's downy hair fuzz. Look at it.

Sadly I see no purchasing options (although I could have missed something on his blogs) but Kostenko's portrait of Superman taking a nap is just too perfect:


 Next up, some amazing 80s pop-culture illustrations by James White:

See the whole set here, although again, I can't find a way to purchase any prints. BOO. Take our money, artists! TAKE IT! (Found via ProtonCharging)

Oh, and White also did this cover:

The Rocketeer! YESSS.

Diane L. found this adorable artwork by J Salvador of Super Emo Friends over at WonderCon a few weeks ago:
"Crossing the Streams" 5X7 print, $15

And THIS one we can buy! YAY! Check Salvador's etsy store for lots more adorably sad geek characters.

Next up, Nicole C. spotted a great Disney/Avengers mash-up: Stitch dressed as Thor and Loki!


By Agnes Garbowska, who does a lot of convention commissions, if you're lucky enough to see her that way, or you can buy a few of her larger prints at her online store. Only $20 for a signed 11X17 like one of these:

 Naturally, I had to include something for my new video game obsession this month:

 "The Songbird" by Kirsten Sjursen-Lien

I get the feeling Songbird art is going to be my new drug of choice. LOVE HIM SO MUCH. And I like this softer style of watercolor for him; such a great look.
I'm working my way through my second play-through of BioShock: Infinite, (third if you count the time I watched John play) and this time I bumped it up to "normal" difficulty. I'm about halfway through, and I think I died a dozen times last night. :D Still, this game just gets richer and more beautiful with each play-through. It really is a game that rewards exploration and taking your time. The art, design, and music are all just stunning.

K, moving on from my fangirl ravings...

Andrea O. found this next one by Andrew Hickinbottom. He calls it an "homage to comic conventions, and a tribute to those brave attendees who cosplay in skimpy outfits." Heheh.

"Comic Con Curves", prints start at $20 for a 12X16

Not a completely fair representation of geek guys, of course, but still accurate enough (from my experience) to make me wince and smile at the same time. (Smince? Wile?) I get the feeling this piece could spark some valuable discussions about cosplay culture - or at least be used to illustrate some of the excellent articles already out there - so that's partly why I'm including it. (The other part is it's gorgeously done, and I like the eyes peeking out of the droid. :))

Now hold on to your socks, because they're about to be blown off by SHEER CUTENESS:

Viva C. found these fantastic custom art dolls by Santani, another Russian artist with insane skills. I WANT TO HUG IT. And then tickle its feet.

Some of the dolls ride the line between creepy and cute, but usually in a way that's downright hysterical:

Tell me that doesn't make you smile. YOU CAN'T. (And...the little wings! Ack! So cute!)

Head over to Santani's deviantArt to see lots (and LOTS more), or to contact her about purchasing one. She says in the FAQ that her prices range from $94 to $233 US, which doesn't seem bad at all when you look at all that detail and snuggly squishable wonderfulness. (I want to rig up a shoulder perch/harness for that second one and walk around conventions with him.)

And finally, I think my friend Chris C. was the first to pass on this epic Haunted Mansion/Batman villains mash-up:

Isn't Harley with Killer Croc the best? Although they're all fantastic, really.

By Abraham Lopez, who says you can e-mail him to purchase prints. Hit the link to see lots more of his fan art in his deviantArt gallery.

Ok, guys, I think that does it for this month! As always, be sure to leave a comment to enter my monthly art drawing! The randomly selected winner will get to choose any available piece from my Pinterest art board as their prize. (I'll ship anywhere, so no worries if you live somewhere outside the U.S.) The winner will be announced by next week, so stay tuned!

UPDATE: The give-away has ended, and the winner is Justy! Congrats, Justy, and please e-mail me your address & choice of prize!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Steam-Powered AT-AT Enjoys Hunting Rebel Forces, Long Walks On The Beach

I usually reserve my steampunk finds for Saturdays, but it's rare that I get to debut something this awesome before all the other big sites out there, so you'll have to indulge me:

Behold, Captain Bayley's Infernal Mechano-Perambulator!

[Who else heard that in Dr. Doofenschmirtz's voice? Just me?]

This is Caroline L.'s engagement present from her fiance, Mark, who made it from a vintage AT-AT toy and is CLEARLY a keeper. Just saying, Caroline. But I guess you already knew that. :)

Caroline writes,
"Each one of those rivets was cut out with a punch and applied with tweezers, and we both lost track of the number of coats of spray paint he used to get that gorgeous patina before washing it down and creating the stains and drips. He made the narwhal horn on the front as well. It's hard to see but the legs and feet are covered in seaweed and barnacles - I can just imagine it tramping up and down the coastline, or standing in a harbour next to a crumbling pier."

Wow. I can't get over how great that finish looks! And I especially love the Widow's Walk on top:

Hey Caroline, any chance Mark will post a paint tutorial? Because I have a baby AT-AT here on my desk that's just BEGGING for a steampunk make-over now. :D

Watch Mark's Flickr page this week for more photos of the IMP. They're not up as of this writing, but Caroline assures me they'll be there soon. [Warning: there are mildly gory special-affects makeup pics on that stream, so don't click if you're squeamish.]

[UPDATE: Direct link to those photos here!]

Thanks for sharing the awesomeness, Caroline!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Saturday Steam 4/20/13

My biggest steampunk news this week is that my Lady Vadore costume is now officially in transit to Wisconsin for the Oshkosh Public Museum's summer exhibit! (YAY!) John and I spent most of Wednesday afternoon carefully packing everything up and doing paperwork, and I could have easily fit myself into the box by the time we were through. o.0 Cross your fingers that everything arrives safely, although with the amount of packing peanuts we used I *think* it should be Ok.

I was excited to hear from reader Beth D. that she'll also have one of her works on display: this beautiful steampunk arm she created for her "Steampunk widow" costume:

Here's a closer look:

 Lovely! I especially like that filigree piece on the wrist.

Remember, I'm counting on you locals to send me lots of photos once the exhibit opens up June 8th, k?

Now, tell me the truth: Is it wrong that I kind of want this in my front yard?

On second thought, don't answer that. ;)

This gorgeous steam train sculpture is actually - get this - a four-ton BBQ! There are two compartments for cooking, and the steering wheel inside the cab operates a rotisserie spit:

I believe this was made by a group called "Tvoryukami" for a private owner. More pics and info (in Russian) here. (via my friend John, aka Steampunk Boba Fett.)

Heather M. sent in this stellar raygun necklace, and John was so enamored with it he INSISTED I included it in this week's roundup. Heh. (We're all cool here with rayguns mixing with our steampunk, right? Cool.)

So tiny! I do love the shape, though, and it's made of polished bronze, which is pretty sweet. $38 over at Shana Logic.

I recently joined a FB group on steampunk costuming, which is completely out of character for me since it's so, you know, SOCIAL, but I stay true to myself by just lurking creepily in the virtual shadows, only darting out long enough to "like" everyone's amazing projects and pictures and such.

It's only been a few days, of course, but I'm already in awe of all these mega-talented makers. Here are a few of my favorite finds so far:

Brett King spent four months building this jaw-dropping interactive automaton, named "The Aetherologist." Turn up your volume to hear the recording in the vid below:

Admit it: your jaw totally dropped. And, hey, best use of Siri ever? I'm thinking YES.

Believe it or not, this back pack by Frank Thomas Puricelli is still a work in progress:

However, it already has working "steam," LEDs, a drink dispenser, and dual speakers that hook up to Frank's wrist-mounted phone so he can play music. WOWZA. I'm torn between being inspired and just abandoning all of my own projects in despair, because how are they ever going to be this good?!


Now for a dose of pretty:

Sílvia in Portugal makes these fabulous neck corsets, with lots of beautiful designs to choose from:

"Helene Neck Corset," approx. $27 US

Each laces up in the back, and is scalloped on the sides for comfort:

"Isabella Neck Corset," approx. $31 US

Head over to Sílvia's etsy shop, Sky Pirate Creations, to see the rest!

And for something most of us mere mortals can actually attempt: this steampunk finger stylus may look like a million bucks, but it's actually made from a plastic milk jug handle:

Head over to Instructables for Rob's super easy tutorial.

And finally, I think John and I have reached a point on my next costume project that I can give you all a little sneak peek/clue:

Still a work-in-progress, and we're debating starting over from scratch entirely, but let's see if any of you can guess who/what I'm planning from just this. :D

(And no telling, those few of you who already know!)

I hope you all have a great weekend, and get some much needed rest and peace after this crazy week. As always, feel free to share your steamy finds here in the comments or over on the Epbot FB page!