Monday, May 31, 2010

The New Widow

Alison Stevens, still dressed in her mourning clothes, idly dusted the picture of her late husband. The picture lay on the mantel in the sitting room where Alison passed by several times per day. Should she sit in her favorite chair to engage in knitting, she had only to look up to see his stern face staring back at her.

After the dusting was done, she knew she would have to turn to scrubbing the wooden floors, mainly in the dining room where, try as she might, she could not remove a stubborn stain. Alison had tried several times, using a variety of products and techniques, but still it remained, and she was afraid to try a harsh chemical, lest it ruin the floor. As a result, she procrastinated over the dusting.

Henry had left her reasonably well-off - the house was paid for, and she had a legacy that would see to her meager needs - so she could have kept Bernice, their long-time maid. Indeed, had it come to it, either of her sons, both grown men with good jobs of their own (Leland had a job in the City, something to do with finance that she never quite understood, no matter how often he explained it to her), would have helped with the household upkeep. When Henry passed away, however, she thought she could not take Bernice's sympathy daily, and she believed that the housework itself would keep her mind occupied, lest she think too often about her husband's untimely passing. Indeed, so suddenly had she made that decision, and so eagerly did she want to implement the plan, that Bernice returned from her day off to find her belongings already packed and ready to be shipped, a packet containing two months' pay (for Bernice had been in the Stevens' service for many years) in Alison's hand, an apologetic look on Alison's face.

Rather than tackle the flooring directly, Alison decided to procrastinate by taking her dust cloth to the root cellar, where she could tell herself that dusting off the sealed jars was a worthy endeavor. She descended the steep staircase and pulled the chain that switched on the single light bulb. Henry had had electricity installed in '86 and, despite the glare of the bulb, Alison much preferred it to balancing the kerosene lamp as she made her way into the subterranean gloom.

The shelves groaned with the weight of the glass jars. Alison went to work, starting with the front row: vegetables - snap peas, yellow beans, turnips, and carrots - on top, jams - blackberry, boysenberry, and apricot - in the middle, and starches - potatoes and yams, on the bottom. Then she carefully removed these and gazed at the row behind. On the top shelf, an eye stared back at her. She wiped the jar with the rag and placed it carefully back in its spot. Several others held digits, both fingers and toes, and one held what she referred to as the "manly parts." Viscera went below, and the bottom shelves mainly contained bones, floating gently in a sea of isopropyl alcohol, each bearing the marks of the hacksaw used to make them small enough to fit inside the jar. Henry would have been so upset with her had he known how she used his hacksaw. He was fond of saying that most people had no idea how to keep the blades from going dull and, in retrospect, Alison could see his point. The last few she did were very difficult. Still, her sense of thrift did not allow her to throw away the now-dull tool, and it rested in a dark corner of the cellar.

The eye had an accusing look to it, so Alison replaced the jars of vegetables, keeping only some beans to take with her into the kitchen. Upstairs once again, she stared at the stained floor and sighed.

She remembered that day very well. Harry had been upset with her again because she had overcooked the roast beef. She could feel the bruises starting to form along her arms, her legs, and her torso - but not the face; never the face. She apologized for her ineptitude, went back into the kitchen to pour him another glass of wine, the first having been knocked over during his tirade, placed the glass of wine in front of him with as sweet a smile as she could manage, and plunged the carving knife into his back with all her might. His expression of surprise provided her with the greatest satisfaction.

Alison had little time to savor the moment. She changed into old clothes and placed an apron over her dress. The cleanup took longer than she anticipated and, in retrospect, though she spread newspaper over the area, cutting up the body in the dining room was a mistake. She moved the parts into the cellar, covering them temporarily with a canvas tarpaulin. (Though the small parts went into the alcohol-filled jars, she buried the skull and the larger bones that night beneath her newly-planted begonias. They bloomed like never before.) Only then did she notice the enormous stain on the wooden floor in the dining room, and tried for the first time to scrub it out. It then occurred to her that she would prefer that her maid Bernice not see that stain, so, though she was exhausted, she quickly packed Bernice's belongings and placed them by the rear door.

There was no use in putting off the chore any longer. Alison knelt on the hard wood and applied a new cleanser, the special recipe of one of her neighbors. As she rubbed the darkened area, she began humming a cheerful tune.

[Inspired in part by Amanda Palmer's video for "What's the Use of Wondrin'", as well as by my overactive imagination. - RJ]

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Caledon Inish

Some days I just get a desire for flight, to feel the air move past as I soar above Caledon. Tonight was one of those nights. Unfortunately, my airship was in the shop. Fortunately, Rhianon left hers in the dock, with the keys in the ignition, the trusting soul. Well, I owe her a hopper of coal. Off I went!

As it turns out, I made a discovery: east of Regency lies a new land in Caledon - the Duchy of Caledon Inish, owned by Her Grace Random Wezzog.

A mysterious land, to be sure, mostly water, with a breathtaking series of waterfalls...

...a large house...

...and a bonfire atop the tall, steep outcropping.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

New to the Downs - May

It's my turn for the periodic, sporadic, and largely unreliable "Who are the Jamesons' new neighbors?" segment of this Journal. I took a night ramble about Caledon Downs to see what popped up since, ah, the last time. (February, in case anyone cares.)

Just a few doors away from Chez Jameson, on the border of Glengarry, where previously stood Sir Thaib and Lady Dawn's cottage, is Miss Chandra SpiritWeaver's Luminescence Court, a lovely spot styled in the manner of the Orient. I should think that house would be drafty after the snows fall, but perhaps by then we will see some remodeling.

Up the hill from our Gothic retreat, Miss Audrey Fotherington has landscaped her property extensively, and added this charming house and footbridge over the river.

Across the road from Miss Fotherington, Mr. Blake Panache has this rugged house abutting a small pond.

Tucked away in a location near the Tamrannoch border, Mr. Monty Streusel has remodeled his house and founded an organization he calls the Independent Artists of Caledon.

The Caledon's Got Talent organization has two properties (one of which is the former site of the Steampunk Resource Centre, near Glengarry; the other is Mr. Whybrow's former property, near South End). One wonders what will become of those sites after the talent shows to benefit Relay for Life.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Review: Julian Comstock, by Robert Charles Wilson

In the last quarter of the 22nd century, after civilization has wound down – between energy shortages and population-reducing plagues, the infrastructure could no longer support the great cities of the past – the world is largely reduced to 19th century technology. The United States still soldiers on, an aristocratic class owning most of the capital and using indentured labor, ruled by two seats of power: a series of quasi-dictatorial Presidents, and the State religion, the Dominion of Jesus Christ on Earth. Within this environment, Adam Hazzard relates the story of his friend, Julian Comstock.

Julian is an aristocrat, the nephew of the current President, Deklan Comstock. He has been sent to a Western estate in a small town, where, despite their class differences, he and Adam become friends. Julian is intellectually curious, a voracious reader, interested in science and philosophy, and in sharp disagreement with Dominion dogma. He is also in danger from his uncle, who may have had Julian’s father, a popular Army general, arrested on trumped-up charges and executed in order to eliminate a potential rival for the Presidency. As Christmas approaches, it becomes clear that the Army will be drafting able-bodied men to fight in Labrador, where the United States has been attempting, without success, to dislodge the European powers that took the territory some years back. Julian believes that his uncle wants to send him into battle in order to eliminate another potential Presidential rival. His mentor and protector, Sam Godwin, devises a scheme in which he, Julian, and Adam escape from the town and attempt to bribe rail passage back East along with others avoiding conscription. They manage to do so, only to be double-crossed, and find themselves in the Army, albeit under assumed names.

During their stint in the Army, Julian, though merely a private, commands the respect of his fellow soldiers, and Adam, a budding writer, writes embellished versions of Julian’s exploits. Upon their release from the Army, Adam is astonished to find that Julian has become a folk hero on the back of these semi-fictional accounts. Partly as a result of Deklan’s mismanagement the Labrador campaign and paranoia of any successful generals, the war is not going well, and Deklan seizes on Julian’s popularity to put him in charge of the campaign and send him into a desperate situation in order to have him killed. Julian, though gravely wounded, inexplicably survives the ordeal and, when rescued, finds that the Army has deposed Deklan and installed Julian as President in his stead.

The remainder of the book describes Julian’s efforts to deal with his sudden rise to power, particularly his conflict with the Dominion. This conflict starts as merely philosophical, but quickly becomes personal. Deacon Hollingshead is the leading Dominion figure, and Hollingshead arrests Julian’s mother and Adam’s wife while the two men are at war.

Julian Comstock is not a Steampunk novel, but it is certainly a cousin of sorts, from the use of 19th century technology to the class-conscious society. Within the story itself – which at times reads like a boys’ novel of warfare (intentionally so, I will add) – Wilson takes on a variety of themes, from the interplay of people stuck in desperate situations to the corrupting sway of power, whether political or religious. Julian is a philosopher, but a philosopher needs an economic and legal system that permits and supports his heterodoxies. In Wilson’s view, the stifling influence of both Church and State inevitably crush that intellectual freedom.

Despite Adam’s protestations that he has attempted to write a “true” and “accurate” account of his friend, various clues abound to suggest that Adam is an unreliable narrator. After he shows his early writings to a professional journalist, the writer asks Adam whether he wants to be accurate or whether he wants to sell books, noting that there is nothing wrong with adding “drama” to an account if it helps sales. Similarly, when Julian, long enamored of Charles Darwin, commissions a movie of Darwin’s life, it becomes a fanciful musical, with a lion and a giraffe among the animals found in the South Seas, and a pirate attack on the Beagle, with Darwin having a sword fight with a pirate. Dramatic, if not very accurate. Might those episodes inform the reader about the reliability of Adam’s own accounts?

I’ve long admired Wilson’s novels, which combine both the Big Idea approach to science fiction (What if the entire planet found itself encased in an impermeable membrane that slowed down time? (Spin) What if, in 1912, an alien force had replaced Europe with an alien jungle? (Darwinia) What if we were confronted with statues commemorating great military victories from some years in the future? (The Chronoliths)) and the interpersonal relations that arise as a result of these external forces. Julian Comstock isn’t my favorite Wilson novel, in large part because both the Big Idea and the relationships are somewhat lost in the attempt to condense 160 years of history plus the minutae of three years or so of more intimate details into a single book. Too much time is spent in exposition such that the story gets lost in the shuffle. Nonetheless, it’s a solid book, combining the sweep of an epic tragedy with meditations on subjects ranging from evolution to religion and power to the unreliability of narrative.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

"How the West was Redone"

On Saturday afternoon, Mr. Caed Aldwych delivered a talk on the redevelopment of the Deadwood 1876 sim.

After a brief introduction by the Deadwood Librarian, Mr. Blitzer Renfold, Mr. Aldwych described the origins of the original Deadwood 1876 sim, or "Deadwood 1.0" as it has become known. He based much of the look of Deadwood 1.0 on the HBO series about the town, and from a few period photographs. Subsequent research showed that this was not entirely historically acurate - Television people taking liberties with the past? Shocking! - and so, when the time came this past March to close this chapter of Deadwood's history with the conflagration that burned most of the town, Mr. Aldwych set about building Deadwood 2.0 with a greater eye toward accuracy.

He and others researched the town's history, particularly the photographic record. In his words:

It wasn’t until a few months prior to our great fire that I discovered a hand drawn map of the entire town of Deadwood. This map was created by White Eye Charlie, a friend of Wild Bill Hickok during the latter part of his life in the 1940s. He drew this map by memory and it included some of the more prominent buildings and occasioned several stories as well, written right onto the map. I located this gem of information in the book “Wild Bill Hickok Gunfighter” by Joseph G. Rosa. For those interested, Joseph G. Rosa is an excellent author old west history. This map was a rare find, never seeing it on any previous web searches it finally closed up many of the gaps in the town I had been lost on before. Not only did it pinpoint where Preacher Smith’s body was found - murdered in the hills above Deadwood. It also described the Senate Saloon where Wild Bill sometimes played poker and where Calamity Jane threatened a miner to pay a whore 5 dollars which he owed her. Now with the pictures in one hand and this map in the other, I was finally able to identify the locations and orientation of all the photographs.

Mr. Aldwych now believes that Deadwood 2.0 is as close as possible to being historically accurate, given the constraints of Second Life builds and the available record. He added that he feels this accuracy is important. "We opened Deadwood wanting to have an immersive historical roleplay environment. We wanted the players to feel like they stepped right into the past when they entered Deadwood. Without having a historical cornerstone to ground the roleplay, we were doing our players a disservice."

The lecture was aided by a series of slides, such as the one below, contrasting the "real" Deadwood of the 1870s with the Second Life recreation of the town.

Friday, May 21, 2010

My Journey to Heritage Key, Part 5 - King Tut Artefacts

(Follows directly from Part 4, in which I travel to the Valley of the Kings.)

As noted earlier, King Tut's tomb had been excavated and spiffed up, and many of the artefacts removed. Having finished my perusal of the tomb, it was time to see those artefacts. From the teleporter in the Valley of the Kings, I entered a replica of a pyramid/burial chamber.

The first thing I encountered was the outer funerary shrine, an imposing object nearly 50% taller than I. The room also contains a list of everything taken from the tomb. A sign reads "To the coffins," and this teleports one past the next room, although I found it easier to walk. The next room contains the second outermost funerary shrine, along with a set of informational placards. As before, one clicks to pop up the introductory card, then clicks through to subsequent cards.

The outer funerary shrine.

The coffin room contains the nested coffins, bearing the likeness of the king. Here, both audio and placards await. A button to "enlarge artefact" produces a large, rotating hologram.

First coffin and second coffin

The next room contains a variety of individual artefacts, including the golden mask of King Tut, a dagger and sheath, and a diadem.

Golden mask

The centerpiece of the mummy room is a red quartzite sarcophagus. Clicking on "meet the mummy" causes four holograms to appear, each depicting the mummy in different stages of wrapping.



The final teleporter is to the Vannini Gallery, a collection of photographs of artefacts (from the so-called "real world") by Mr. Sandro Vannini, an Italian photographer.

Unlike the other areas, this one was more like a traditional museum, with set pieces and information on each piece, and links to the Aetherwebs for additional information.

Next in the series: the British Museum?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Alchemy Immortalis

Hello there! It seems as though it's been ages since I've appeared here. I've been...away. Yes, let's go with that word, as it covers a multitude of sins. I hope everyone has been behaving himself or herself during my absence.

I paid a visit to Alchemy Immortalis and the adjacent sim, Empress and Hierophant. The shop describes itself as "a bizarre bazaar of the odd, peculiar, and wondrous for mind, body, and spirit." I tried for a moment to parse through the distinctions between odd, peculiar, and wondrous, then surrendered and entered the shop.

The first thing I saw was a very welcoming table, laden with brandy-laced cigars and a bottle of cognac on a tray. Very fine cognac indeed!

The harpsichord - complete with sheet music - is finely detailed. Bach in my day, I preferred other types of music, but Hayden know any better. Now I know: if it isn't Baroque, don't fix it. (Thank you, and I'll be here all week.)

Some of the items available through the vendors in the shop are on display in the house elsewhere in the sim. The merchandise is described as "Medieval fantasy, Steampunk, Victorian, Bohemian, pagan influences - Eclectic mashups to be expected."

The owners seem to have plans for the next sim over as a bed and breakfast. The charming inn overlooks the water. Its remote location, as well as the steady rain, suggests a romantic getaway spent largely in the room.

Should one brave the elements, however, the rustic area also would make for a series of romantic walks.

Alas, I was there by myself.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Aether Salon: Music!

This month's guest at the Aether Salon was the Steamlands' eminent musicologist, Miss Gabrielle Riel, whose ownership of the eponymous Radio Riel has made her known throughout the radio-listening and ball-going lands.

Her talk on Sunday naturally centered on music (or "Music!" as it were, with the Salon) in the Victorian era, as well as that broad and amorphous category of "Neo-Victorian" music.

Miss Riel sat in the Salon's hot seat (though the crowd was, as usual, polite if boisterous), but directed our attention to the slide show (seen in the first photograph, above), with which she outlined her presentation. Period music appropriate to each topic streamed throughout her talk, adding a new dimension to the presentation.

Miss Riel began with the Classical period (1730-1820), playing some Mozart for us, before switching the discussion to the Romantic Period (1815-1910), when "Composers began to 'break the rules' in terms of the structures of their pieces and music became more expansive and lyrical. They brought more emotion to their works. Many composers used poetry for inspiration for their music during this era."

Below, Miss Saffia Widdershins listens intently.

The next topics were Opera and Social dances of the time, such as the waltz and the polka. Miss Riel noted:

"The Waltz, which originated in Vienna, debuted in Great Britain in 1812, before Victoria's ascension to the throne, but people initially condemned it as shockingly inappropriate, due to the fact that the dance partners were in such a close hold!

" The Polka appeared in the mid 19th Century and came from Central Europe. The Mazurka was a Polish Folk Dance that became a popular dance in the Victorian Ballroom. The Schottische was a Bohemian Folk dance that was also a part of the Ballroom 'folk dancing craze.'"

Turning to more popular music, Miss Riel said, "A new form of music and music venue appeared during the Victorian Era. The Music Hall was born from the entertainment of public house saloons that was common in the 1830s. The saloon was a room that charged an admission fee to see the singing, dancing, drama or comedy that was performed there. The first Music Halls built for the purpose of public entertainment appeared in the mid 19th Century."

"The songs of American Composer Stephen Foster became extremely popular in these venues all over the world. Irish jigs, Polkas and Waltzes all influenced Music Hall songs in England while Vaudeville exploded in the United States, with a substantial influence from African American music in the late 19th Century."

As a sign of the growing respect for the music of the folk, composers of "serious" music started incorporating bits of popular tunes into their compositions.

Below, Miss Breezy Carver (left) and Miss Ceejay Writer. Miss Writer allowed as to how she was "headbanging" to the Mozart piece, whatever that means.

Music also came into the house: "By the 1850s, most middle class families had a piano in their Parlour and at least one family member who could play it. Families and friends would gather there and create their own music. Thanks to the brand new music publishing business, music and bookstores sold songs in sheet music form."

Below, Miss Bookworm Hienrichs dances to "This Corrosion," by The Sisters of Mercy, waving her oil lamp enthusiastically:

The good people of New Babbage, upon hearing the racket that the song produced, surely must have started gathering their torches and pitchforks.

Turning to Neo-Victorian music, Miss Riel noted that opinions differed widely regarding what fell into this category. While not attempting to resolve this debate, she divided the category into "Roots" music, Goth, Steampunk, Dark Cabaret, Carnivale, and Marching & Kletzmer bands.

" The “Roots” Music is the music that people, looking back with hindsight, see as foundational styles and themes for today's Neo-Victorian scene. Probably the artists that most people agree was the father of it all was Paul Roland, a British musician who released some Victorian and Edwardian themed songs in the early and mid 1980s. Adam Ant's early work is sometimes seen as foundational as well.

"Carnivale music is exactly what is sounds like, contemporary music influenced by traditional carnival and circus music."
A most informative lecture!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Review: The Kingdom of Ohio, by Matthew Flaming

Some view Steampunk as a very specific literary genre, encompassing a particular time and place, and incorporating specific stylistic elements: set during Queen Victoria’s reign, in England or English possessions, with steam-powered devices, cogs, gears, rivets, goggles, and airships. I take more of a Big Tent view: I know it when I see it. (Which, coincidentally, was Justice Potter Stewart's definition of...oh, never mind.) By my definition, The Kingdom of Ohio is most certainly a Steampunk novel, though it incorporates almost none of the traditional elements. It is also a very fine book.

The novel is told by an unnamed elderly man in modern-day Los Angeles that is very similar to ours, an antiques dealer who has found an old photograph that has caused him to sell his shop and write down a fantastical tale. This story-within-a-story is set in 1900, just as New York City is building its magnificent subway system. A newcomer to New York, Peter Force finds work – hard work indeed – on a subway construction crew. One day while he is wandering through the city, a young woman collapses in front of him. He helps the woman, clearly disoriented, who tells him that she is missing several years and that she is from the Kingdom of Ohio. Force thinks her mad, of course – there is no Kingdom of Ohio, and time travel does not exist. Against his better judgment, he first buys her a meal and then finds her shelter. (The horrible impropriety of an unmarried man and woman spending the night in the same room, unchaperoned, however chastely, shocked this reader.) The woman, who gives her name as Cheri-Anne Toledo, tells Force about her upbringing as the king’s daughter. She is a mathematical prodigy, and meets and shares ideas with Nikola Tesla. One of those ideas involves a teleportation device, which Cheri-Anne works on privately.

Our narrator fills in some of the detail of the Kingdom of Ohio: in the 18th century, the fledgling United States government sold land in its western territories, including a large area in Ohio, which was purchased by Henri Latoledan. Latoledan led a group escaping the strictures of the Old World, becoming their king. Several generations passed. The U.S. found the Kingdom to be an embarrassment, and sent troops to reclaim the land.

Meanwhile, in New York, Cheri-Anne visits Tesla, who has no recollection of the woman. He has her arrested. Meanwhile, financier J.P. Morgan, working with Thomas Edison, has been looking for the secret to time travel for several years. Morgan hears that Cheri-Anne has claimed to be a woman who died seven years earlier, and has travelled through time. Morgan hires Peter Force to get Cheri-Anne out of jail so that Morgan and Edison may talk to her. Peter does this, much to Cheri-Anne’s dismay, but when he realizes that Morgan wants Cheri-Anne’s secret, the two of them escape. They search for the portal that is needed to operate the device while staying clear of the police, who are in Morgan’s control.

Flaming maintains the illusion that this is a historical novel through extensive use of footnotes – about the construction of the subway, details of New York City, Cheri-Anne’s arrest, and even the Kingdom of Ohio. He plays with our perceptions of time and place…at one point, the narrator watches Wheel of Jeopardy and Price It Right, signaling that his Los Angeles may be close to our, but is not the same.

The novel is many things: a romance, a time-travel story, a meditation on the impermanence of history and memory. It provides a window into working class lives of the early 20th century. And it’s got Tesla and Edison! What’s not to like?

In fact, I enjoyed the book very much. Though not Steampunk in the “traditional” sense (can there be tradition in a relatively new genre?), The Kingdom of Ohio has a Steampunk aesthetic. I look forward to Matthew Flaming’s next book.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

My Journey to Heritage Key, Part 4 - Valley of the Kings

(Click for Part 1, Part 2, or Part 3 of the series.)

The next portal in the Travel Center was set to the Valley of the Kings, a 1920s Egyptian dig wherein Howard Carter uncovered the tomb of King Tut.

First, however, let me show a picture of the Service area of the Travel Center, below ground. This is no doubt where the magic happens, and, as such, is off-limits to ordinary travelers. Indeed, a close look will show the defense mechanism - an alligator (or perhaps a crocodile, as I'm none too clear on the difference and did not stay long enough to ask the creature that kind of personal question) - and the consequences of encountering the defense mechanism - note the safari hat in the foreground. Poor bloke.

At any rate, I walked through the appropriate portal to find myself in the Valley of the Kings. A friendly gentleman at an orientation tent provided me with a Journal (similar to the one in Life on the Nile) with which I might record my memories of my journey. The wind blew sand everywhere.

Again, various mini-games provide entertainment and information about the setting. One such game involves collecting photographs of scenic vistas, such as the one depicted below. (That's actually my photo, but the in-game camera provides a similar shot.) In the right-hand corner is a hot-air balloon. Ride the balloon and get audio commentary. (This feature was not working during my visit (or perhaps just not on my machine).)

I encountered several of Howard Carter's men, moving a large find out of one of the tombs. King Tut is not the only royal entombed in the area, and Mr. Carter's team has excavated others already, with still more merely marked off for further work. None of these is open to the casual explorer, however. These gentlemen were happy to provide me a few lines' worth of information before returning to their duties.

Another mini-game involves taking a trusty pickaxe and trying one's hand at excavation. Several sites are marked with the orange flag depicted below. A successful "dig" (using the "crouch" command, or C on the keyboard) will yield an antique object, or a trading card. An unsuccessful dig will yield nothing, or a sarcastic remark from the sand itself.

I rest in Mr. Carter's tent. (No, he wasn't there, you nosy people! I'm completely clothed, as you can see, the archeologists aren't my type, and, in any event, Heritage Key does not have those kinds of poseballs! Sometimes a nap is just a nap.) Another mini-game involves finding six lost pages from Howard Carter's Journal.

At long last, it was time to descend into the tomb! The stairs descend into the chamber below. Click on various objects to get information on them.

The next room is the burial chamber, with brightly-colored walls providing the story of King Tut's passage into the next world. There's a quiz about the depictions on the walls. No Gentleman's C on this test, though: all questions need to be answered correctly to win a prize!

Many of the valuable objects have been removed from the tomb itself, and are available for viewing in the nearby museum...which will be the subject of the next entry in this series.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Breakfast in Babbage - Superhero Edition

Another month, another Saturday, and another edition of Breakfast in Babbage at the Clarendon. Mr. Edward Pearse was again spinning the wax cylinders on his Victrola. (His typist, meanwhile, was doubtlessly sipping a Guinness while the rest of us were coming to grips with another day.)

Today's theme was superheroes, and many revelers dressed the part. Below, left to right: Mr. Vernden Jervil, Miss Sky Netizen, Miss Kimika Ying, Mr. Pearse, and Miss Searra Weatherwax.

Below, Mr. Caesar Osterham (center). Left to right: Miss Rational Clarity, Mr. Wiggy Undertone, Miss Melanippe Karas, Miss Gabrielle Riel, and Mr. Elina Koskinen (with wings and a little tail - Superbee!).

Mr. Elilka Sieyes, Miss Breezy Carver - I was paralyzed by those legs! - and, in back, the New Babbage Clockwinder, Mr. Mosseveno Tenk.

What would a gathering of heroes be without a villain? Doctor Obolensky dropped in with his usual panache. (The doctor's typist was suffering through a hotel wi-fi connection and a tiny laptop screen, so I admire his effort at making it in-world.)

Below, I did what I could to fit in theme - Crusader Girl, perhaps? - and dance with Miss Ying and Miss Netizen.

The best costume had to go to young Jimmy Branagh, as one of the Incredibles.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Early Pictures of Caledon Rocabrannagh

Rocabrannagh is the most recent part of Caledon to be reclaimed from the ocean. Although it is early days yet, and pioneering Caledonians are still shaping the raw landscape, I decided to pay a visit in my new vehicle.

Yes, for those days when the Hangover Two - an Expedition-class airship - seems too large, and the Barsoom Express seems too flashy, I purchased Miss Ember's "Dragonfly of Kintyre." It boasts a Cavorite helix turbine as well as anbaric turbines. Hey, I deserved it. I put a great deal of mileage on my airships, and I most certainly do not want to be stranded in the Wastelands, or a Gorean city during a slave auction.

At any rate, off to Rocabrannagh I flew. All that is there are a few houses...

...a lighthouse...

...a flag..., another lighthouse...

...and a mysterious bird's nest. I flew higher to see it more clearly.

The monstrous-sized bird did not seem pleased to see me so close to its egg. I powered the airship away as quickly as I could.

Friday, May 7, 2010

New Toulouse Bayou

(Continued from here.)

The small boat let me off at the dock. "Here we ah, Miz Jameson," the driver said in his Cajun accent. The fog swirled around us. I lifted my skirts to step out of the small boat, trying not to trip over the side as I stepped on to the planks of wood. I looked at the items strewn across the dock, including a fishing rod and a bait can. I hoped we were not trespassing. My look must have conveyed that message, for the driver said, "Don't you worry, ma'am, we-yah not goin' to be in trouble, no. People is all friendly down on the bayou."

He arranged to return in two hours. In the meanwhile, I looked about. I crossed the railroad tracks and began walking down a packed dirt road. The ramshackle houses were all open to the humid air, and many of the roofs bore the weight of varieties of moss. I could sense people about me, though I walked alone. No doubt my walking dress and boots, purchased new in Caledon, identified me as a stranger.

Mists obscured the view, but I could see small boats tied up at most of the docks, as the poor road system would have made walking difficult; the boats were considerably more practical.

A ball rolled across the road in front of me. A young boy chased after it, dressed in short pants and a grimy shirt that may have been white at one point, looked up at me. I smiled at him. Ordinarily, my smiles scare small children, but this one giggled, picked up the ball, and ran back behind a shack. I heard the ball bang against the side of a building.

I made a circuit around the area in the two hours allotted to me and was waiting on the dock when the driver returned in his boat to return me to my hotel.

There you have it: the two sides of bayou country, city and swamp, rich and poor.