Tuesday, March 31, 2009


I had wondered to what purpose would be put the gothic building in Cape Wrath. The building stands next to the pub, on the water, and has a darkly forbidding look.

All was revealed when I received a note saying the building would house Amaranthus, a Victorian jewelry store, owned by Miss Elbereth Nightfire. Below, I look at some of the pieces for sale.

An amaranthus is a type of flower - as the infallible Wikipedia says, named from the Greek, the "one that does not wither, or the never-fading (flower)."

Although I missed the opening celebration, I saw that the shop still had out cake and assorted goodies. I thought cutting the cake would be rude, so I contented myself with a small piece of chocolate.

Of course, leaving without buying a piece of jewelry would also have been rude.

Politeness simply required that I buy something. Or at least that's what I plan to tell my accountant.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Bashful Peacock First Anniversary

The Bashful Peacock held a three-hour dance on Sunday to mark its first anniversary. Although I could attend the last hour only, an impressive number of supporters came out to celebrate.

Our host, Mr. Rudolfo Woodget (left) and Mr. Austin Susanti dance

Duke Otenth Paderborn dancing with Mr. Steadman Kondor

Mr. Jameson Despres and Mr. Jayleden Miles dancing (and matching!)

YHN, with Sundog Silvercloud in the background

Radio Riel DJ Miss Soliel Snook

Miss Caladon Rae, dressed to kill, looks on as Miss Magdalena Kamenev dances

Miss Garnet Psaltery

Miss CronoCloud Creegan

Moi again

Center: Miss Kiralette Kelly and Mr. Podruly Peccable dance; Left: Mr. Sascha Vayandar; Right: Mr. Roy Smashcan

Inkwell Manor

I was wandering through Regency, Stormhold, and Wellsian today when I saw the most amazing gothic/Steampunk structure.

Wandering closer, I saw it was named Inkwell Manor, and is owned by Mr. Wrath Constantine and Miss Aevalle Galicia.

Every good Steampunk house needs a rocket ship poised for quick getaway.

The gazebo in the gardens is striking in its own right.

The balloon-ship doubtless ferries its guests in style.

All in all, one of the most impressive Steampunk builds - with nary a gear in sight!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Chapel of Lost Hope

Some hours later, shoulders aching, I cry uncle: I managed 12 of the 18 Easter Eggs in the SSC hunt, I have some guesses about what some of the clues mean but cannot find an egg where one should be, and...well, that's it. I'm done.

Even praying at Mr. Sands' Chapel of Lost Hope did not help with the final six.

Back to the salt mines and other work.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

This Way Lies Madness

This weekend marks the second Steam Sky City Easter Egg hunt. Miss Fogwoman Gray has once again placed these treasures in fiendishly difficult places, and provided deliciously unhelpful clues. (Truth be told, some of them were helpful, at least to those who know SSC. But we'll keep that to ourselves, so Miss Gray doesn't make the clues even more obscure next year.)

Kathy and I worked for some hours today, and we don't claim to have found all eighteen eggs. I count ten at the moment, which is a good day's haul.

And no, I won't spoil the fun by posting pictures of locations of eggs. However, here's something that nearly startled us out of our bloomers: a giant chipmunk!

He looks quite menacing, doesn't he?

Of course, in SSC one must be wary of even more dangerous creatures lurking in the depths...

Gah! Giant Bunneh!

I keep encountering rabbits, often in the form of giant ones - the specimen below is in Eyre.

I feel a little like Jimmy Stewart's Harvey. :)

Friday, March 27, 2009

In the Airship

Up here, where the air is thin, the ground rushes past, much of it a featureless blur.

The cares of the ground are gone - or, if not gone, blurred like the terrain itself. My only responsibility is to pilot the ship, to return safely. The wind blows through my hair and I tighten my grip on the controls. My job does not concern me, the tax man does not concern me, growing old does not concern me.

This is freedom.

Magellan Templemore

The land of Megellan Templemore lies adjacent to the original areas of Magellan Straits and Megellan Kinvera, connected by a long iron bridge.

The town is girded by a high stone wall, and protected by several watchtowers.

Inside the walls, the newer, ivied buildings are laid out along stone walkways.

The older row houses stand at one end of the town, and look as though they have survived several centuries.

To the side of the town, the fort stands guard.

Babbage Burlesque

I had heard at the Aether Salon that the New Champagne Rooms burlesque club (pictured below) would be opening a location in New Babbage.

More recently, Dr. Mason had noted in passing that the club's Babbage location was open, so I decided to pay a visit. Not during operating hours, I hasten to add.

Although I am told that the ladies of the club satirize famous operas and theatrical productions and ridicule conventions of the stage, and are thus not performing for prurient purposes, one cannot help but think that the gentlemen of Babbage will use these performances to scrutinize the young ladies as they scandalously wear trousers, or are even less appropriately clad.

Though no reactionary myself, I firmly believe that the female form is best admired by an intimate acquaintance from the privacy of the boudoir, not by the assembled masses surrounding a stage.

Rest assured, gentlemen, that this will not end well for you! You may think that loosening the strictures of society in this dimension provides you with pleasure at no cost beyond the coins with which you tip the performers, but heed me well. The next thing you know, these same ladies will be wearing trousers all the time, demanding to be allowed to work at your jobs, insisting on equal pay, abrogating their household duties (think about it, gents), and, worst of all, demanding the vote. No, I say, nip this evil in the bud.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Teen Lit, Vampires and Wizards

Despite my *ahem* youthful appearance, my typist is perhaps more accurately described as middle-aged. (Definition: the age when one's middle makes its appearance.) I make no secret of this. It is also the case that my typist lacks direct offspring - is "child-free," in the parlance of a few years back. These two facts imply substantial separation from my days reading vast quantities of books aimed at teens - or "young adults," as the marketing folks insist, though, really, if one thinks about it, that would be someone over but near the age of 21 - and would make me a bad candidate to review teen lit, as my era involved Nancy Drew when she was still a little dowdy, and the controversy over Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret. All true.

Nonetheless, I make the occasional effort to keep up with important trends. For example, I noticed some years back that a new style of music had arisen in which the performers routinely forgot the melody, and thus spoke, or "rapped," words, often of a violent and/or misogynistic sort, and almost always emphasizing the performer's lack of literary skills. Naturally, this form of music became both very popular and highly praised.

Somewhat more recently, a Miss J. K. Rowling became well-known for a series of books chronicling the adventures of a young wizard. After resisting the siren call of the series for the first few years, I purchased the first adventure and discovered that the book was witty, well-written, and explored themes that resonated with young people but were often of broader applicability. This induced me to contribute six more times to Miss Rowling's retirement fund, and I enjoyed at least 85% of the journey. (About half of book 7 really dragged, if you ask me.) (My uncle dismissed the whole series as "just another person writing about the awful English boarding school experience," which I suppose is true in a way, but seems awfully ungenerous.)

So it came to pass that another lady, Mrs. Stephenie Meyer, has written a series of popular books for teens. I saw the first volume, Twilight, on the shelves at my local lending library, and decided to see what all the fuss was about. A few months later, the next volume, New Moon, appeared in the same location, so I made the same mistake twice. I say "mistake," but these books are surely not without their charms. The problem is that their charms are too few, their pages too numerous.

I can see the appeal to young girls: the sassy, pretty teenager; the (usually) understanding Dad; the ennui of high school; and, of course, the unnaturally-hunky boyfriend who is rich, and caring, and romantic, and never pressures his girlfriend for any sexual act beyond kisses, which are always Fourth-of-July-fireworks amazing. The vampire business is just a hook; otherwise, it's Barbara Cartland for tweens. (Yes, I know, vampires are really all about sex - the biting, the blood, the need - fine, I'm with you critics, these books allow vicarious sexual thrills to little girls who are a ways away from having actual... Anyway, to focus on this misses the point.)

The problem is that the books are often so darn dull. How can that be, with the romance, the vampires and werewolves, the killings, the angst with the dad, the "will it be Edward or Jacob" tension, and the "will he make her a vampire or not" tension? For one thing, the writing is fairly wooden. (Pot, kettle, black. I know it, okay? I'm not the one making a killing - ha-ha - off the series.) That's not fatal by itself, but it doesn't help. Too many stock scenes: the boring high school class, the lunch hall segregated by friends, the boyfriend hanging out after hours, the earnest conversations. Gag. Too little humor, though every once in a while there's a laugh-out-loud line. Mostly, though, the series is predictable without providing insight.

A series is often predictable in certain ways. I read a lot of mysteries, and I know, for example, that when I started reading Sue Grafton's "T" is for Trespass I wasn't going to worry too much whether Kinsey Milhone was making it out of the book alive. In the end, the crime would be solved, Kinsey would still be poor, and she'd still be living on her 80-year-old landlord's property and eating Rosie's bad Hungarian food. But along the way, we readers learn, or are reminded of, some aspects of the human condition. People lie, and cheat, and even murder, for various reasons. There's good and bad out there. Cops can be compassionate or cold-blooded. And so on. The predictability of the series is just the framework for understanding the characters within.

Similarly, Harry Potter isn't going to die in the end. Sorry if that's a spoiler to anyone, but that was predictable in Book One, as was Professor Snape's true loyalty. Along the way, though, Harry and his friends get to grow up and learn things about themselves - and about human nature.

In the Twilight series, on the other hand, we know what will happen and we get no particular insight, no real character growth. (Spoiler alert. Well, sort of.) Bella's first crush turns out to be her soul-mate. Go figure. Dad never seems to accept that his girl is becoming a woman, the vampires and werewolves don't seem to learn to get along better, and bad vampires don't become good vampires. And predictable? Let's just say that I wouldn't take any bets as to whether Edward puts the bit on Bella in Book Four.

Actually, I decided to spare myself the trouble: figuring that Wikipedia had an entry on almost anything, so it would likely have a plot synopsis of the last two books, I cheated and looked at what happened. And what happened was that Book Four decided to be one big deus ex machina, a colossal cheat that apparently got all the loyal fans extremely upset and was dramatically unsatisfying as well. It reminded me of the discussion of the conclusion of Battlestar Galactica: fans thought it was overly long, lazily plotted, and a dramatic cop-out.

On the bright side, the books and movie provided several opportunities for little girls to dress up and be at a bookstore at midnight. And anything that gets them reading is not all bad.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Cape Wrath Coastline

As I noted in the last post, Kathy was overflying Middlesea last night. This was merely en route to Cape Wrath, where I had asked her to survey the coastal buildings.

First, she took a detour to Strathspey, where the ruins of an old castle rise from the island.

In Cape Wrath, she noted that Miss Kelley's teahouse displayed RFL banners.

Flying low along the coast.

The archeological dig appears to be coming along nicely.

A tower whose purpose appears to be that of harnessing energy, though for what experiments one could not say.

Some houses hearken back to a simpler time.

Mr. Smashcan's Norseman pub, open for business as always!

Approaching the consulate of Fatima.

A Light That Shines to the Heavens

Flying over Middlesea's Citadel Island last night,...

...Kathy noticed the beam of light radiating high into the air. (As you may recall, Gentle Reader, the Steamray was last seen, disabled, in a Gorean town. This is a replacement, okay? She argued with the manufacturer about those overheating engines, and he eventually agreed to a good-sized discount on the new aircraft. But the insurance premiums? Let me tell you, don't wreck an aircraft if you don't want a big bite taken out of your retirement accounts.)

Was this a grand opening? Advertising for a new hansom dealership? Abney Park playing a free concert?

Closer inspection revealed: a Relay for Life donation kiosk. Carry on, Lord Middlesea, carry on.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Jamesons of Gor

[A more accurate, but less amusing, title would have been "The Jamesons Visit Gor." Disclaimer: no actual Goreans were harmed in the making of this adventure. - RJ]

The distress signal arrived just as I was returning home from a long day of trailing a suspected smuggler. The story was going to be spectacular if I could break it, but would require at least another day of following the fence before he would make contact with the buyer. However, the story would have to wait.

Kathy had set out in the Steamray some days before. I reminded her to have the engines checked, as the last time out one or both had overheated. In the history of mankind, has an older sister ever listened to the sage advice of a younger sibling?

The coordinates that I received were from the edge of a Gorean city. This was bad news, though for whom I was less certain. To be on the safe side, I loaded the rescue airship with as many heavy weapons, with as much ammunition, as the ship could carry.

When I landed on the outskirts of the city, all was eerily quiet. Kathy walked to the ship, smiling. “Okay, sister, what happened? Why the distress call?” I asked.

“Ah, well, I thought I might be in a scrap of trouble. And, indeed, I need a ride back to Caledon. Therein lies a tale…

The Steamray Flies Over the Gorean Town

“My engines overheated and failed just as I came into sight of land. Having espied the schooner moored on the quay, and the primitive castle to the north, I thought I could land and remain here safely until your arrival, as the area looks quite medieval. Unfortunately, I failed to realize in time that this was a Gorean city. I have a pair of sidearms, of course, as well as enough high explosive to convert their entire city into a crater, but all of that was in the cargo hold, doing me no good whatsoever. No sooner had I left the Steamray when I was surrounded by men in leather garments. They were physically fit, and some were handsome enough, I suppose, but all carried themselves as though they were God’s gift to women. I made the mistake of laughing at them.

The Airship is Captured

“They frog-marched me into their town square, stripped me down to my undershirt, and manacled me while they fetched their Big Chief. I got the usual lecture: men are made to dominate women, women are made to please men, somehow that means I get to wear some rags that show off my bosom and rear end while waiting to be auctioned off like a prize cow, and live the rest of my short life either doing all the heavy lifting around this place or satisfying the carnal desires of a man who can’t be bothered to bathe. Big Chief ordered me placed into a cage for his amusement. I consider myself a fairly optimistic gal, but even I was starting to worry a bit.”

Kathy is Taken Hostage

The Big Chief has a New Pet

At that point, two men arrived bearing plates of food and pitchers of what smelled like beer. Both were a little over six feet tall with muscles rippling across well-toned bodies. The one on the left was heavily tattooed. They looked none too happy about their task. Kathy bade them set the food and drink on the ground and leave. “Our refreshments are here. Still, I would be careful about consuming any of it, if I were you. I wouldn’t put it past them to try to poison us.”

“They didn’t seem to like us very much.”

“Don’t take it personally. It’s me they really despise. As I was saying, just when things looked black, I saw the men drag the Steamray into the town square so Big Chief could see it for himself. Two men tried to open the cockpit canopy, which, of course, locked after I exited the craft. They went at it with a variety of tools for a good twenty minutes. I considered warning them, but, really, what incentive did I have? They finally started to pry open the canopy, which set off the explosive charge to deter intruders. Both men were killed, though I’m afraid one lingered for a bit, screaming all the while, and the Steamray initiated the distress signal with my location.

“In all the confusion, I took the opportunity to yell at the women – both the slaves and the so-called ‘free’ women, who seemed to be only marginally better off than their scantily-clad sisters – that they didn’t have to take this any more, that I had the means for them to control the men, and so on. The usual spiel – I think I took a good chunk of it from a voting rights activist I once heard in Caledon. It turns out that they weren’t all that committed to the idea of the superiority of men. They outnumber the men by a ratio of perhaps five to one, in large part because the men insist on killing off one another. This meant that a mob of angry women freed me from the cage and kept the men, including Big Chief over there –” She gestured at the tattooed servant whose retreating back was heading into the town square. “– away from me while I made my way to the weapons cache in the ship. I had to put him in chains for a bit, but he came around to my way of thinking. We’ve been holding the men at bay ever since, and even trained a few of them, as you can see.”

The Women Revolt

Throw Off Your Veils!

The Big Chief is Held Captive
I nodded. “I didn’t know what I might be encountering, so my ship is filled with weapons, including dozens of rifles and hundreds of rounds of ammunition.”

Kathy clapped her hands together in delight. “Perfect! Let me pass out these, give the ladies some basic instruction, and we can be on our way.”