Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Thinking: A Dangerous Occupation

Photo by Janetmck (So much love!)

My life has been one strange swirl of riot grrl theory, comic books, and daily writing, and the culmination of such. Dakota Lane, who is awesome, sent me a couple of books as a thank you for the writeup on BUST. It made me think of her, of Zoe Trope, and the book-lover culture online.

Why do we revere some authors and shun others? There seems to be this undertone of resentment for young authors, or ones that write a bit too close to home, like Zoe did. Instead of seeing a rich memoir, one of the first that dared to speak of post modern sexuality, readers screamed that she had the audacity to publish her LiveJournal (not true), and how could she get a book deal and not them?

The industry goes like this: hopeful author shops their book around, and if they're lucky, they get an agent. If the agent's lucky, they get a sale. If the publisher's lucky, they have a new author for the roster. If the author doesn't get enough sales, then they're out on their luck. Of course, there are other factors--who you know, what's hot, how fast they can get it out, whether you'll bargain your soul or not, and so on and so forth.

Point being, I can understand animosity when it comes to celebrity authors, but the rest of us mortal folk went through the same sweat, blood, and tears to get our babies an ISBN of their own. Don't hate your sisters and brothers in the writing world, sale or no sale--we really are all in this together, till the business model changes.

I genuinely love books and authors, and this blog is my labor of love. If I've gained so much pleasure and knowledge from the things I've read, I feel it's only fair I share that with others, so that the authors gain another devoted reader, so that bibliophiles gain a new favorite to quote on their Facebook and pass on to their best friends and giggle over an iced chai--an ourobouros of book love, if you will. It tastes like a new, delicious turn of phrase you can't stop running through your head, smells like the paperbacks of your youth, and fits easily into a messenger bag.

Embrace the book love, and support your local author. Who knows, they might do you a favor someday. :D

Monday, July 28, 2008

On Public Personas

Ani DiFranco sings "32 Flavors"

Lately I've been thinking about the way we present ourselves to the blogosphere, after have a bit of an identity crisis over my writing voice, the direction of this blog, and life in general.

Long story short: there is a very real girl, or young woman, behind the blog. I turned 23 a few weeks ago, and in another couple of weeks I'll be starting my second semester of grad school. Like many book bloggers, I am joining the esteemed path of professional librarianship; despite a lousy job market, I've never found a field that suited me better. Books are love. When I find a particularly good one, I'll hug it till I get to the cash register, because some combinations of art and words and presentation are just magic, and thrill me into tiny bits. I do, occasionally, wear purple and shiny bits. I intermittently keep a very pretty journal, and write one poem per affair of the heart and no more.

On the other hand...

I love dirty jokes. Photostories about dolls with filthy mouths or censored Muppets make me laugh until I cry. I don't wear heels for political reasons, and cut my hair short for practical ones. I really like red lipstick and ties on girls, and my dream career is librarian by day, drag king/faux queen by night. I like hiking in the Greenbelt. I've kissed somebody whose name I never learned. I used to not shave if I was feeling cranky at my internship, until I learned one of my supervisors did the same thing. (<3 her!). Gender commodification at the local Toys'R'Us is enough to send me into a nasty 3rd wave ranting fit. I think fashion magazines are irrelevant and that Web 2.0 may save the world. Sometimes I make up really horrible songs about people who have wronged me in the past, and sing them in my head to make the day just a little bit brighter.

I am 32 flavors and then some, and some of those flavors want their chance to speak up. If the thought of your local Rie going a little bolder and less sunshiney in general freaks you out, then you may skip out with no hard feelings. If not, welcome to the show.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Character Interview Challenge: Stella Heke

drawing by K.Virge

Ashley Lorelle, of Lucious Letters, says:

In order to write a character, sometimes you must BECOME that character. I would go full days dressed and disguised as one of my characters and testing them against the real world. I think this constant practice of making my characters this vivid was the reason I always had serious identity issues. Who I was and how I dressed and what I believed in always depended on which character was possessing me that day.

Do you have the power to make your characters this vivid and real? Here is your weekly challenge: Make your characters real! Create a character and fill out this Character Interview form. Post the filled out form in the comments here. Tomorrow I will post mine. Remember you are conducting an interview, so make sure you address all these questions to your character.

What fun! Here's this week's interview, with Stella Heke, the brains of the expedition in the comic my friend Krista and I are working on, tentatively titled What Exit?

(P.S.: She also did the character art to the left.)

What is the first thing you remember?

My first memory is of playing with my mother's medical textbooks with the colorful plastic overleafs. I didn't know they were supposed to be grotesque; I thought they were beautiful.

What is your favorite childhood memory?

I always liked hanging out with the ghost of a little-known local children's author, who owned the house before my family bought it. She was glad of the company, and is probably the reason I'm an English/women's studies major.

Building my dollhouse with mum and dad was really nice too. I keep a family of little plastic lizards in it; they're much more realistic looking than silly dollhouse dolls.

What is one thing that no one knows about you?

Sometimes, I read books just because I like how the main character dresses. Also, I like girls.

(Editor's note: Everybody knows.)

What are your regrets?

I should have punched Brett right in the kisser when I had the chance.

(Editor's note: Brett is one of her greatest admirers, a rockabilly theater major in a Pagan rock band. He'd be totally awesome if he wasn't utterly obnoxious.)

What makes you feel proud?

Pulling an all-nighter where most of the theory came from Ye Old Archive De Butte and getting an A on the paper anyway.

What do you want to change about yourself?

I wish I made friends as easily as Taylor does. He can talk about anything and everything and when people meet him, they can't help loving him because he's so friendly and full of life.

Who do you love? And why do you love them?

I love logic, fact, and reason. I love the power of the written word. I love solidarity. I love the smell of certain old paperbacks. I love abandoned amusement parks, poet's graves, and the haunted schoolhouse two towns over. I love the unseen. I love the night.

Do you fear dying?

No. I know what comes next.

What kind of person do you want to become?

I want to be well-educated and self-sufficient. As for the rest, I am satisfied being surprised with the directions that life takes me.

Are you able to love easily?

I fall in love a hundred times a day, but not with people.

Who has betrayed you?

Her name is Viola and I don't want to talk about it.

Tell me about your mother (hehe, couldn’t resist).

Her patients call her Dr. Alice, and she took her mother's maiden name to honor her. She is tall and slim with a fall of red hair, like a coppery weeping willow. She has a tank of tropical fish in her office, all shades of blue and purple, because it has been scientifically proven that watching fish soothes the nerves. For breakfast, she eats granola out of the box standing up, and a peach or a persimmon or a pomegranate, whatever is in season. Her houseplants always look peaky until Dad starts taking care of them. She has a tattoo of the "Twittering Machine" on her left shoulder and her favorite movie is Mirrormask.

What do you want people to remember about you fifty years after you’re gone? Do you want them to remember you at all?

I would like to fade like a pressed leaf in an old text: a mere whisp of a memory, crumbling away but leaving faint traces of my presence to seep through the pages surrounding me.

What are your fashion staples?

My favorite shoes! Also, a black fedora, little birds to stick on my hat, and interesting ties, and jewelry made out of watch parts and chandelier crystals, and I like clothes. I like clothes an awful lot.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

If You Loved: From The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

If You Loved number two is up at, and it's one of my favorites this week.

Kirsten Miller's Kiki Strike books are like Nancy Drew meets the best of BoingBoing--full of weird stuff and girls kicking butt. Check out the post for more info, and then hop on over to Kiki Strike website for the online exclusive story, The Colombia Conspiracy. (For shame, Ananka! Barnard's library is so much better...)

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Irregulars

Photo by jez.atkinson

Some people, I've found, are almost bursting at the seams with the desire to let you get to know them better. Ask one innocent question, and within ten minutes, you'll learn that their beloved pet Chihuahua suffers from halitosis, that their grandfather once wrestled an alligator, and that they secretly dream of being a Las Vegas showgirls. As entertaining as these people may be, experience has taught me that those who say the most are those who know the least. Quiet people keep their secrets to themselves. That's what makes them interesting--and generally worth the wait.

~Kiki Strike: Inside the Shadow City by Kirsten Miller

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Baby's First Blog Award!

The illustrious Penelope Bat has gifted me with my first blog awards!


Both are passed on to blogs that are inspiring, uplifting, and all-around peachy keen. I can get behind that. Now, the official rules are that you tag seven people, and then they have to do the same--but you guys are under no obligation to follow up. Just bask in being amazing!

In alphabetical order:

Cocoa is a charm bracelet of word paintings, style tips, and beautiful images. She's also a fantastic penpal, and always quick to put in a good word for a fellow blogger, so here's mine for her. Add her now, cause then you can say you knew her when.

Bitterbutton is all-around wonderful, featuring such edibles as terrarium cupcakes, owl linzer tarts, and Superman lemon pies. Simply the most creative and unique food blog out there; may many more follow in her example.

The Ladies at BUST are turning their website into one of the must-see stops on the web for the smart and sassy pop-culture obsessed but culturally aware ladies, gents, and everyone in between. I'm so glad to have been a part of their team!

Disasterville rocks a mix of heartfelt advice, classy photography, kicky fashion editorials and little groovy bits to make your day better. Dayna's also one of the soon-to-be-famous-fabulous femmes who's helping me turn LSL into a better place on the web, so cheers to her for her patience with newbies!

Pink World is Lisa Clark's groovy little pink home on the web, featuring interviews with inspiring peeps, the latest in kitschy fashion accessories, and some pretty rockin' book reviews as well.

Treats and Treasures
is tempting, colorful daily hints of my favorite artist journal. She's inspired my own journaling, with her quirky layouts and fun subject matters, not to mention her play with different kinds of media.

Ullabenulla is one of my longest-read blogs, and for good reason: each entry is like stepping into an exquisite cache of antique jewels, forgotten books, little worlds for dolls and insects, and Victorian forest animal theatres.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Fool's Journey: Leaving Shangri-L.A.'s Favorite Tarot Decks

Dayna's recent post inspired me to share one of my favorite divinations-slash-artforms with you. Ever since I first read The Hanged Man, I've been drawn to Tarot cards as an art form, from their mystic symbolism to the Fool's Journal that processes through the Major Arcana. Because of its mutable, archetypical nature, the Tarot lends itself to whatever other artistic passions you could ever want to pair it with, from curious big-eyed forest creatures to elegant animal-headed people to ethereal mermaids to sinister lunatic moons. I would like to share my five favorite decks with you.

The Tarot of a Moon Garden is set in a gentle, night-time world that is something of a jungle, something of a circus, and something otherworldly entirely. Trembling lianas and twisting vines are home to fairies, fireflies, and dragons, this deck is wonderful for dreamy-eyed fantasy lovers.

Pay no attention to what is behind the curtain, she told me, but I could smell pomegranates and sea air. One day I would be ready for her wisdom.

A surreal romp awaits you in the Phantasmagoric Theater Tarot. Strange cartoonish images exist in their own Burtonesque dimensions. At times childlike, at others quirkily adult, it will definitely appeal to the indie-comics-loving pop surrealist.

"The history book on the shelf is always repeating itself," he warbled before he sped off. Wonderful, my classmate was right all along: ABBA really is the answer to all of life's mysteries.

The Motherpeace Tarot appeals to the side of me that would have burned my bra and road tripped to Womyn's Festivals around the country, if she had the ovaries to do it. Motherpeace is a colorful, primitive dance through time and myth, perfect for earth mamas and soul sisters.

"You'll need some guidance along your journey," I had been rebuked. I wasn't expecting the menagerie, but they certainly made for conversation pieces whenever I cartwheeled into town.

The Fey Tarot is whimsical with a dark edge, just like the Fey themselves. Modern, anime-influenced art blends with creative details (like a world of toys, pet mice, and star showers) for a playful deck that speaks to inner children and urban fae.

After squabbling forever, we soon came up with rules of our own devising and set about creating a pocket universe, beautiful but temporary.
Dori Midnight's Dirty Tarot is a hand-drawn love letter to kitsch, lowbrow tastes, reclaiming them to celebrate their "beauty, meaning, and essence." With cards for Pretty Ponies, Road Trips, and Snow Globes, pop-culture goddesses will have a divine time with this deck.

There was music and dancing, a inside-out, glittering, transformative world she had never imagined. All she had to do was join the dance.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Accounting for Taste: Cherry Cake and Ginger Beer by Jane Brocket

PhotobucketOne of my birthday presents came today! I've been waiting for this beauty ever since reading about its inspiration on Jane Brocket's blog, yarnstorm. (Oh, how that stack of books delights my soul...) Cherry Cake and Ginger Beer is a celebration of classic children's cookery from 19th and 20th century children's literature, with an especial focus on books from the UK (from which it hails, naturally.) Each recipe starts with a generous introduction to the story it hails from, perfect reading for a children's book lover like myself, as well as many descriptions of feasts enjoyed by the characters and meditations on the midnight spreads and picnics. From the simple delight of Pippi Longstocking's gingersnap hearts and campfire cocoa to more elaborate Turkish Delight a la Narnia, gilt gingerbread, and "immensely enjoyable meringue," it's a sweet, nostalgic delight. Cherry Cake and Ginger Beer is beautifully designed to boot, with the books' original art and vintage typefaces, in a nice little pastel hardcover the perfect size to toss in your bag before heading over to a friend's to bake some jam tarts and shortbread.

*Jane Brocket's website
*I love, love, love The Book Depository. Discounted books with free shipping to the US, and my order came a week to the day it was purchased. Love them
*Other bloggers weigh in more elegantly than me: Poshyarns, Lacer's Life
*My favorite lesser-known titles featured in this cookbook: Dancing Shoes, The Little White Horse, The Borrowers, The Phoenix and The Carpet (and all E. Nesbit's books)
*Jane Brocket's Top Ten Food Scenes in Children's Literature

ETA: link 7/17

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

If You Loved...

Hey, guys!


Just letting you know that my lil' weekly feature, If You Loved, just went live on BUST Magazine's website-read it here! You, my lucky readers, will get a hint at what title will be featured on Mondays before the piece goes live on Tuesdays--this week, it passes on The Orpheus Obsession by Dakota Lane to lovers of Weetzie Bat, a natural progression. I've got about a month's worth already lined up, and matching them is very exciting--but I'd love your help, too. If you have any old literary loves that you'd like to see paired with a fresh new title, drop me a line in the comments and I'll keep it in mind when writing the next few pieces. Happy Reading!

P.S. I've reviewed The Orpheus Obsession in the past; have a peek at it.

Monday, July 14, 2008

How to Make a 3D Collage

Art by Peregrine Blue

Wait until it rains and turn off your computer. (Unless you want to make a cyber collage, but that's another story.) Get all the cool stuff you've been saving, that poster you peeled off the wall in the city, scraps from magazines, the picture of Moon's place with the sun mysteriously casting stars on the side of the building, that Japanese candy wrapper you found on the ground, and of course the five hundred pics of your pals and enemies and the strangers whose images you like to steal so you can turn them into members of a fictional tribe. Make sure you've got lotsa ordinary stuff, like buildings and trees, and then you start gluing the stuff all together on stuff cardboard and bend it this and that so it stands up and pretty soon you have this whole surrealistic village that you've been doing since you were eight, and Zack picks through it, making the tiny, thin cutouts fly up buy you don't get mad. In fact, you don't even finish cutting out that pic of Orpheus from his CD cover because you'd rather go back online than glue his head onto that fish riding the bicycle through the ill-conceived, half-finished, psychedelic suburban neighborhood.

~The Orpheus Obsession, by Dakota Lane

Sunday, July 13, 2008

In which the poppets come to life

In mindollie's world, the girls have hair like cotton candy where birds come to roost, tiny French babies sit in the pastry, and forlorn robots wait for the rain to come.

She has the sweetest little doll room, too--look at all that detail!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Nibbles! I love Nibbles!

Tiny things are my weakness: tiny animals, tiny books, and especially teeny tiny food. Miniature worlds always fascinated me as a little girl--I had multiple shoebox houses for my collection of plastic kitties and family of poison dart frogs and I still haven't quite given up on the idea of building my Pullip doll, Amandine (aka Nomy), the artsy loft of her dreams, with wall-to-wall toile scrapbooking paper and the twee-est little pastry stocked kitchen, ever.

One of my tiny loves? Re-Ment, teeny toy food sets from Japan. Popular with Pullip and Blythe collectors (they're scaled to Barbie doll size), each set is deliciously, impossibly detailed. Here are a few of my favorites:

From the Fairytale Sweets collection (Go look, they're all adorable.)

Amandine never suspected that the chessman chocolate molds had been enchanted, but wised up as soon as the rabbit pawns hopped off the cake to declare a truce.

This one would make a nice top for a trinket box, pieces either fixed in place or left loose for an impromptu game of chess.

From the Fairytale Tableware collection

The first teacup she found nestled in the rosebush, the second on her garden path when she walked outside to water. The others clattered their way to her on the bookshelves, in her jewelry box, and on top of her library books.

Could you see them as a wee little charms for a bracelet, maybe spaced with some French pastries?

From the Elegant Sweets collection

"Well now," thought Amandine to herself, "Am I supposed to eat them, wear them, or frame them and admire them longingly from a distance?"

Wouldn't they make a sweet set of delicate rings, two or three to a finger with a frothy white top, jeans, and matching flats?

I found my sets at the Toy Tokyo booth at NYC ComicCon, but you can check the Re-Ment International website for the store nearest you. Till you can track down your own, the Re-Ment Addicts Flickr group is full of photos of every set you can imagine in some pretty creative vignettes. Happy hunting!

Friday, July 11, 2008

What a Wonderful World: Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan

PhotobucketTrust me, I hate overuse of the word "quirky" as much as you do.

But if any book is, it's Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan. Quirky and whimsical and refreshing normal yes distinctly odd in the best way. Paul lives in Gaytopia, New Jersey, and he's your typical teenager. He's architecting the Dowager Dance on a teeny budget and lack of volunteers to dance with the Dowager's portrait, his big brother gives him grief, and he's stuck in a love triangle with the boy he loved and lost and the gentle, artsy new kid in town. Unlike your typical queer love story, the rest of the town doesn't care much--in their society, being gay is okay and everything's skewed a little bit beautifully eccentric:

Zeke's already jamming by the time we get to the highway bookstore. He's put his stage in the European History section, and every now and then he'll throw names like Hadrian and Copernicus into his mojo rap. The place is crowded. A little girl in the children's section puts the Velveteen Rabbit on her shoulders for a better view. Her moms are standing behind her, holding hands and nodding to Zeke's tune. The Gaystafarian crowd has planted itself in the gardening section, while the three straight members of the guys' lacrosse team are ogling a bookstore clerk from Literature. She doesn't seem to mind. Her glasses are the colour of licorice.

Teenagerdom's not easy, even in a gaytopia where the Joy Scouts practice guitar in the park, the cemetary markers have memory books and trinket boxes to celebrate the lives of the deceased, and painting abstract masterpieces to a jazz soundtrack is an acceptable first date. Paul kisses the wrong boy, gets a friend in serious trouble with his less-than-tolerant parents, and almost loses his best friend over her poor taste in men. Unlike a lot of YA, the book never becomes mired in its own drama; Paul and his friends--gasp!--actually communicate, and come up with some pretty ingenious solutions to their assorted woes. I would like my future lovers to take notes from this title on the proper way to beg forgiveness:

On the first day, I give him flowers and time.
The night before, I unlock my closet of origami paper--over a thousand sheets of bright square color. I turn them all into flowers. Every single one...

On the second day, I give him words and definitions...I decide to look randomly through the dictionary to find other unique words...After I jot down the words--a hundred in all--I rewrite them nicely on a long scroll, under the heading

Words to Find and Know in this World

Levithan has an incredible way with words--every word, every sentence has meaning. If it sometimes feels if the message is overpowering the story, I can forgive it for being such an inspirational one:

I have seen men holding hands walking down the street in a big city and I have read about women being married in a state that's not so far away. I have found a boy I just might love, and I have not run away. I believe that I can be anyone I might want to be.

It is, as I said, a victory. It might not last, but right now it means everything to me.

David Levithan's website
*Interviews: Teen Book Review, Achuka (especially good!), (rest of the site is variably NSFW, browse at your own risk)

Want more? Worth the Trip is my favorite blog for GLBTQ-and-then-some lit.
*Speaking of painting the music...
*How-to's for origami paper flowers, in case you need to do a little groveling
*The International House of Logerrhea can help you make your own list of words to find and know

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Today's my birthday!

Photo by Alice's Tea Cup

I arrived on this planet 23 years ago today, and I'm celebrating with lunch at Alice's Tea Cup with two good friends, and then a bit of adventuring around Union Square with a visit to my old Place of Internship. Some of my amazing friends have gifted me already, and I'd like to share their art with you.

Callan is the secret love child of Hillary Knight and Mary Blair, but you didn't hear it from me. If you care about me, you'll just have to care about her too, because she's the other half of my brain and our wands have the same core. We enjoy the bon mots of Oscar Wilde, giggling at ridiculous hats, and plotting world domination by cute things. This is her portrait of me; the spiked wheel is for St. Catherine of Alexandria, patron saint of librarians, and the unicorn...well...why not a unicorn?

Krista will be the next John Lasseter some day, just you wait and see. She can leap tall storyboards in a single bound and sketch faster than a Pratt freshman on a quad mocha and a thesis due the next day. Recently, she spent a week here, where we left secret messages for visitors to Governor's Island, painted the roses (and my hair) red, and stood in defiance of the rain on my parade. She's drawn an illustration for the picture book I've written, Dear Mrs. Winterbloom.

Call it Cabinet of Curiosities Couture

Art by Vera Bee, who draws cute kisses and fantastic hats

Oh, that's a wonderful question. I'd definitely want plenty of 18th century polonaise dresses, and I have long greatly coveted the Princesse de Machin's headress: a bird cage filled with live butterflies! I'd want plenty of elaborately draped dresses from the 1870's, both bustle and natural form, two eighteenth century men's coats, one plain and one all embroidered. As well as that lots of wonderful wire-and-padding undergarments! An 1860's croquet skirt would be nice as well. I would also adore a Poiret lampshade skirt (could I try and make one out of a real lampshade?) I'd love a stylized version of 1700's skirt supports, made to look like an pyramid of suspended gargantuan picture frames, graduating in size from the waist to the floor. I'd love to have one of those umbrellas with antique dolls on them, and a few of Mme. Tilman's taxidermy hats, though perhaps not, because I'd feel terribly guilty wearing them, knowing that the animals were killed for it. Since it is my dream wardrobe, I will have lots of automaton jewelry that in real life, like these other things, I could never afford. Oh, and I'd love some of the costumes from the Ballet Russes, and Loie Fuller's dancing dress, and 1940's doll hats, and posy holders, and a hat with a Venus flytrap on it, for insect control! Also wearable terrariums, and a land going octopus familiar that would sit happily on my head and act as a wig during bad hair days. ~mudpie_duchess, in response to "What hangs in your fantasy closet?"

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Comics, Ghosts, and Venus Fly Traps

Like many of you, I usually have a couple of creative projects brewing. Currently, I'm working on a comic series with my friend Krista. She draws, I wrote, and we both brainstorm until wee hours of the morning about the virtues of vortices vs. the Mothman.

I don't want to say too much, as I'm a superstitious sort, but it's something like the child of Weird N.J. and Blue Monday with a touch of Boy Meets Boy and Coraline. Creepy, kooky, mysterious and snarky. As all roads lead back to Polyvore, I've been whipping up sets to help figure out just who these ghost chasers and folklore hunters are.

Come, meet the cast!

Stella only falls in love with girls she can't have, because it's easier to deal with unrequited crushes. She plans to write her thesis on the perils of psychic powers and teenagerhood in YA literature, and marks up her books with mysterious notations only she can decipher. Her dormroom houses a dollhouse full of lizards, and points to anyone who gets that reference. Japanese snacks and steampunk comic books make her happy, but don't tell anyone that she was a convention-roadtrippin' fangirl in her teens. Come midnight, you'll find her engaged in an act of bibliomancy or fighting with her favorite tarot deck.

Taylor finds that his case of synesthesia only aids his choice to major in art. He enjoys yard sales and thrift stores, especially when the objects start talking to him. He secretly wishes that Doctor Who will show up when he's walking to class and make him a new companion, so he always keeps his bag packed.

Eleanor doesn't have secret powers that let her blow things up with her mind, so she became a chem major. Those who spend a lot of time with her soon realize that everything she says comes true in the future, which leads to a rather empty dance card. The gummy 'staches are a gift for Taylor; he uses them in his 3D Design class, building a tiny carousel entitled "Mustache Rides."

Monday, July 7, 2008

I Will Do Something Unexpected: Cathedral Child and Clockwork Angels by Lea Hernandez

PhotobucketCathedral Child, the first in Lea Hernandez's Texas Steampunk series, is the story of an analytical engine and the mysteries surrounding it, a political game and flowering romance. Sumner Nikola's father built Cathedral in hope that he and his childhood best friend, Glory, would take over programming someday. After Nikola Sr.'s untimely death, his business associate Parrish takes charge of Sumner and the Cathedral project, all going according to plan until Glory discovers a talent for communicating with the analytical device in a new and extraordinary way.

PhotobucketIn Clockwork Angels, Temperance's Spiritualist magic is popular with the parlor set, but soon attracts the attention of those who would use it for darker purposes. Her companion, Amy, an orphan adopted into her family, never sleeps but soon wakes to powers neither had ever imagined. As friends and lovers, they come together to defeat an unspeakable evil being run amok in 1897 New Orleans. Clockwork Angels works best as a direct sequel to Cathedral Child; I read it on its own before CC was reprinted, but the story is far richer if you know the background story.

The Texas Steampunk world is richly detailed with singing computers, talking jackalopes, wereyotes and angels. Her female characters kick ass, beating the snot out of would-be kidnappers, communing with the spirit world, and saving the ones they love from darkness; they are strong and flawed and beautiful. I unabashedly love Lea Hernandez's style, manga-inspired with sketchy penwork and fantastic settings: opulent train cars, the mysterious peach-and-morning-glory filled town of Heaven, Texas. If the story is sometimes hard to follow, then her artwork is certainly easy on the eyes for repeat readings. Warren Ellis, in his introduction, coined the phrase "Scientific Romance" and these two are certainly that, with Glory and Sumner or Temperance and Amy defying family and convention in their pursuit of happiness and the glory of scientific and metaphysical discovery. They are deep, emotional, fantastical stories, and anybody with a love of Victorian magical realism with steampunk trappings would do well to seek them out.

*Though unfortunately out of print, they are easy to hunt down via online booksellers; Lea Hernandez offers the superior Cyberosia edition of Cathedral Child for sale on her website
*Dangerous Beauty: The Livejournal of Lea Hernandez
*Lea Hernandez on DeviantArt
*You can read the entirety of Cathedral Child at Webcomics Nation. Click on the first page to go forward. (It took me a few tries...) Don't forget to look up her other comics (available there and at Girlamatic)
*Interviews: Bookslut,
*Lea Hernandez will be in the upcoming Tori Amos comic anthology, Comic Book Tattoo, with a piece illustrating "Ribbons Undone." (Perfect!)
*Seeking more steampunk goodness? Brass Goggles is my favorite stop on the web for all things anachronistic, with cogs in
*Lady Ada Lovelace was a real enchantress of numbers. Her work in early programming was remarkable for its time, predicting the use of computers for artificial intelligence and procedural generation.
*Jennifer Perkins (of Naughty Secretary Club) spots Victorian ladies with tentacles instead of toes popping up everywhere

Edit on 7/8/08 for extra links and good things

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Puppets and Synchronicity

PhotobucketWho's seen the movie Labyrinth? It's one of my favorites; the scene where Sarah's friends come back to party with her never fails to make me tear up. (So right! So fitting! It spoke so much to my 16 year old self, who thought she'd have to leave her stories behind when she became an adult.)
Remember the baby, Toby?

Turns out that he's the son of Brian and Wendy Froud, famous fantasy artists and collaborators on both Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal.

And look what a handsome satyr he's become!

All things come full circle; Toby Froud is a puppeteer in his own right, and worked on the Scissor Sister's video for "She's My Man," using the same technique as the "Chilly Down" sequence in Labyrinth.
You can read about the making of this video in Toby Froud Returns to the Labyrinth.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Invitation to Miss Marianne Moore, by Elizabeth Bishop

This poem I found in the text used for my History of NYC class in my freshman year of college. I think that it sums up everything that I love about my wonderful city.

Photo by Swan-T

From Brooklyn, over the Brooklyn Bridge, on this fine morning,
please come flying.
In a cloud of fiery pale chemicals,
please come flying,
to the rapid rolling of thousands of small blue drums
descending out of the mackerel sky
over the glittering grandstand of harbor-water,
please come flying.

Whistles, pennants and smoke are blowing. The ships
are signaling cordially with multitudes of flags
rising and falling like birds all over the harbor.
Enter: two rivers, gracefully bearing
countless little pellucid jellies
in cut-glass epergnes dragging with silver chains.
The flight is safe; the weather is all arranged.
The waves are running in verses this fine morning.
Please come flying.

Come with the pointed toe of each black shoe
trailing a sapphire highlight,
with a black capeful of butterfly wings and bon-mots,
with heaven knows how many angels all riding
on the broad black brim of your hat,
please come flying.

Bearing a musical inaudible abacus,
a slight censorious frown, and blue ribbons,
please come flying.
Facts and skyscrapers glint in the tide; Manhattan
is all awash with morals this fine morning,
so please come flying.

Mounting the sky with natural heroism,
above the accidents, above the malignant movies,
the taxicabs and injustices at large,
while horns are resounding in your beautiful ears
that simultaneously listen to
a soft uninvented music, fit for the musk deer,
please come flying.

For whom the grim museums will behave
like courteous male bower-birds,
for whom the agreeable lions lie in wait
on the steps of the Public Library,
eager to rise and follow through the doors
up into the reading rooms,
please come flying.
We can sit down and weep; we can go shopping,
or play at a game of constantly being wrong
with a priceless set of vocabularies,
or we can bravely deplore, but please
please come flying.

With dynasties of negative constructions
darkening and dying around you,
with grammar that suddenly turns and shines
like flocks of sandpipers flying,
please come flying.

Come like a light in the white mackerel sky,
come like a daytime comet
with a long unnebulous train of words,
from Brooklyn, over the Brooklyn Bridge, on this fine morning,
please come flying.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Capsule Prize Reviews: She's Staring at Me

Like the little treasures in a gumball machine, here are mini-reviews of three titles celebrating the wide-eyed and wonderful.

Once upon a time, Blythe was an obscure 70s B-line doll, shunned for her eccentric looks. Along came Gina Garen, fairy godmother to a troupe of tiny plastic muses rescued from antique toy haunts. Blythe stole hearts and paved the way for an all-singing, all-dancing doll revival. This is Blythe is where it all began, dreamy vintage-toned photos that "embrace the rare and unique, the beautiful and funny qualities that are the true essence of who we are." See Blythe masquerading as produce, hailing a cab in a number reminiscent of Built by Hannah, and arguing with the angel and devil on her shoulders.

PhotobucketBig Eye Art: Resurrected and Transformed documents the rise of enormous eyes in pop surrealist portraits, from Margaret Keane to our own Gina Garan. Strange and eerie, cute and colorful, or whimsically subversive, Blonde Blythe introduces us to 22 big-eye-artists, who share what drew them to the style along with their best pieces. I heart Lisa Petrucci and her loving tributes to retro dollies with a modern twist, Misty Benson's gothic beauties with their insect collections and skeleton pets, and Elizabeth Victoria Knowles' surreal monsterscapes where miniature elephants frolic and Victorian poppets carve jack-o-lanterns.

Kitty Ballerina hasn't been the same ever since she traveled to Abby Denson's Dolltopia, a tiny city where toys can live and love as they please. After breaking free of her dream house and going AWOL with her new best friend, pacifist Army Jim, she finds herself questioning her identity and the nature of freedom, tempted by a whole new set of beauty standards, and ultimately willing to fight to bring more dolls to the light. It's deceptively simple and endlessly cute, and bonus, uber-queer-friendly. Hand it to your younger siblings till they're old enough for But I'm a Cheerleader, and then give them a hand with the ensuing Barbie makeovers.


*Gina Garan is webmistress of This is Blythe, your destination for everything you've ever wanted to know about the dolls, her photos, and their fandom
*Want more? Check out SuperJunk's Blythes and monsters running amock in an ultra-mod dollhouse , JamFancy's circus girls and forest elves run away from a theme park, and Boopsie Daisy's Technicolor dreamland
*Big Eyed Art Bonanza is your guide to vintage big-eye-art, with an upcoming print companion Big Eyed Masters
* Lisa Petrucci, Misty Benson, and Elizabeth Victoria Knowles all have online galleries--as does Blonde Blythe.
*Read the first issue of Dolltopia online
*Abby Denson, as well as creating several other excellent comics, pens a bi-weekly comic in The L Magazine dedicated to the "sweet and sugary wonders of NYC." Don't miss the past columns!
*Abby was a Lulu of the Year for 2007; read her interview with Friends of Lulu here

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Next Exit, Wonderland: A Blog Soundtrack

If you've ever asked the burning question "What exactly is she listening to while she composes those posts," wonder no more.


Brought to my attention by the lovely Dayna Desastre, Mixwit allows you to make cute little mix tape playlists for your blog, easy as anything. (Also, it uses one of my favorite streaming music apps, Seeqpod.) I've made a folky, summery little grrl-filled mix of my most heavily rotated tracks.

1. White Rabbit - the murmurs
She woke to find that her bunny slippers had turned into many tiny white rabbits, in rainbow hats, playing the drums. Cold feet are a minor inconvenience, as is a too-slow shutter speed.

2. Crimson and Clover - Joan Jett (<3!)
In her daydreams, the bride always wore deep red with crinolines and American Beauty roses, and walked down the aisle blessed by the Goddess of Rock.

3. You Could Be - Mixel Pixel
There was nothing in her contract against bringing in animatronic dinosaurs to help with storytime.

4. Open Your Heart - Lavender Diamond
"The skates are from a thrift shop, and the little piano is from my childhood," she told me, "but the dance troupe sprung up of its own accord."

5. As Cool As I Am - Dar Williams
Work at the magazine was much improved by falafel pitas with avocado and dance parties in the bathroom.

6. Siren Song - Sweet Soubrette
There was no other explanation for it: her best friend was a ukulele-playing mermaid vaudeville star in another life.

7. Grass Skirt - All Girl Summer Fun Band
Everyone went bobbing for squirting rubber goldfish in the Tiki Punch.

8. 32 Flavors - Ani DiFranco
They met over the street vendor selling sock puppet portraits; it could have been true love but damn if she would let Mr. Freckles get away this time.

9. Raspberry Swirl - Tori Amos (Storytellers Remix)
The former lover would be missed, but a mango lemonade, a good bass line, and a particular shade of neon red light were almost as good as sending a thrill up her spine.

10. No Rock and Roll Fun - Sleater Kinney
The perfect outfit: white button down, fitted black pants, shiny sky-blue shoes. Accessorize with a skinny tie and the blond with the guitar quoting Anais Nin.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Layout Update and Some Questions

Hail, bright spirits!

Leaving Shangri-L.A. got a little makeover, with help from Pyzam. I'm not crazy about using premade templates, so this is just temporary until I learn a little bite more about making Blogger layouts. The header image, however, is my own. It's taken from a photo of The Tarot Garden in the Tuscan countryside, one of the most beautiful places I've ever visited.

While I've got your attention, I'm curious as to how many people are reading this blog. Even if you've never commented before, it would be awesome if you could drop me one here, and tell me what I've got right. Should I do more capsule reviews? More link drops? I'm not one for short articles, but I could give them a try. Would anyone be direly offended by Polyvore Phridays? Inquiring minds would love to know.

(Though I do kindly entreat you to be gentle, as the Puberty Fairy is visiting and my moods are roller-coaster like.)

And always, always feel free to email me at devilinpetticoats AT gmail DOT com with books you'd like to see reviewed.


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