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!