Thursday, April 28, 2011

Wedding Preview: Groom's Coat

Throughout these wedding preview posts, I've been focusing on the details.  I've done this to the extent that other than the hats, I've yet to show a single item in it's completeness.  I'm now going to completely contradict everything that I've been telling you about the importance of details.

There is one thing that is more important than paying attention to details when building an outfit both for a character and for a wedding.  Details mean nothing without some way of tying it all together.  Here's what I mean.  I'll be wearing a kilt at the wedding.  You know this.  I've show pictures of it in my post about how pants are entirely inferior garments. You also know about my hat as well as my tie and other accessories.  There's one thing that I've left out thus far, and it's critical.  Without a proper coat, the outfit falls apart.  

Think about coats for a moment.  There's a typical suit coat, which would just look silly with a kilt.  There's also your traditional set of tails, which wouldn't fall right over the material of my kilt and would end up looking rather haphazard.  The same goes for a frock coat.  I couldn't go with a trench coat or duster of any kind because I'd end up looking like a flasher, since the kilt would be entirely hidden.  A morning coat, however, actually ties the entire outfit together.  

What is a morning coat?  A morning coat is a single buttoned dress coat that was typically worn in the mornings (hence the name) for formal riding events.  It features the same upper and lapels of a regular dress coat and below the button (which is usually situated at the naval), the coat immediately begins to taper or cut away towards the back.  In America, morning coats were typically referred to as cutaway coats for just this reason.  In the back, the coat has a single split in the rear center and has two long tails.  The morning coat is in contrast to the typical set of tails in that a standard set of tails squares off at the waist and goes horizontally back to the tails.  Typically, on a set of tails, the tail pieces are cut separately from the fabric and attached to the back of the coat, leaving a horizontal seam at the waist.  On a morning coat, however, the length of the tails is cut from a single piece of fabric , leaving no such seam.

There are several distinct advantages to a morning coat.  They're unique.  With the prevalence of tails at weddings, a morning coat maintains formality while bringing a little interest to the situation.  The lines also work rather excellently with my kilt.  Rather than hide or obscure the kilt, the cutaway accentuates the look and the kilt provides just enough volume to the rear of the coat to showcase the shape of the garment.  It's also period accurate.  

With how important the morning coat is to the outfit, I couldn't let it go without a little extra attention to detail.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Beer! Lindeman's Framboise Lambic

This particular beer review will be very straightforward.  It's the first of Lindeman's beers that I've reviewed, but hardly the first that I've tasted.  Lindeman's brews only lambics, a specific type of wheat beer brewed with a specific family of wild yeasts native only to a small region southwest of Brussels.

Lambics truly are a special beer.  They're something best reserved for special occasions.
"Lindemans Framboise is a lambic made from local barley, unmalted wheat, and wild yeast.  After spontaneous fermentation, raspberries are added, creating a secondary fermentation an yielding a beer of exceptional flavor and complexity."

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Steampunk Interviews: The Fabulous O.M. Grey

I think there's something lacking in the steampunk community.  There are blogs focusing on a number of specialized aspects of steampunk, but there's a general lacking of interviews being done.  While I doubt that it will become a primary focus of this blog, I am hoping to have interviews on a semi-regular basis.  With any kind of luck, my questions and technique will get better as I go along.  Unfortunately, as an engineer by trade, I currently sound a bit like I'm doing a job interview, but I digress.

I'm quite excited that the author of Avalon Revisited, the fabulous O.M. Grey, agreed to be a guinea pig for my first interview. 

B.S.: First, I’d like to thank you for taking the time to sit down and answer a few questions.

O.M. Grey: It’s my great pleasure, Bryan.

B.S.: What is it about steampunk that initially appealed to you?  What kept you around?

O.M. Grey: The aesthetic, likely. I remember first hearing the term steampunk when I was shopping for an agent back in ’09. Everyone was looking for steampunk, so I looked into it. And it was so cool! I was immediately seduced by the aesthetic. Being somewhat of a goth and on the fringes of society anyway, this movement merged the punk and anglophile in me. After I read Carriger’s SOULLESS, I was hooked. I knew I had found the home for Arthur Tudor. I had been wanting to write a novel around him as a vampire for some time.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Beer! New Holland Brewing's Dragon's Milk

I consider any beer brewed either in Michigan or within a six hour drive of where I currently live to be "local".  New Holland certainly fits both criteria.  New Holland is, unsurprisingly, from Holland, MI and they've been serving up frosty brews since 1996.

The Dragon's Milk is part of their High Gravity Series, and the second from both the brewery and the series that I've reviewed.  If you missed my review of their Beehive Tripel, I recommend reading it.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

A Steampunk Bookshelf: A Few Thoughts

Without getting into the complete unabridged history of the genre, steampunk started as a literary movement.  The term was coined in the 1980's by sci-fi author K.W. Jeter.  Of course, there are many books and stories from much earlier that are now considered to be a part of the genre.   The whole visual part of the movement came directly out of descriptions from those early novels.  Since it's such a literature based movement, I'd be amiss if I ran a steampunk blog and didn't start up a series on the books of Steampunk.

There are, however, two rather major problems with my doing this.  I am what some would call "rather bad" at writing book reviews.  I'm great at writing high school style book reports, though.  Then again, that's just regurgitating the plot with a little surface level analysis thrown in and I've been doing that since I was in elementary school.  I didn't major in english or communications, or any other field which lends itself to writing.  I'm an engineer.  Engineers are, in fact, notoriously bad at writing anything other than a technical paper.  The other issue is that, well, I'm a slow reader.  While Katie can read through three Terry Pratchett novels in one day (I've seen her do it), over the same time period, I'm lucky to get through a half of one novel.  Once you factor in that I have a day job, a commute, and several ongoing projects, you can see where my reading time would be rather limited.

So, while I will be "reviewing" several books here in the future, I'm going to be doing it my way.  Adapting standard items in a way that is unique and works for you is, after all, one of the tenants of steampunk, isn't it?  

Here's a little look at some of the books that I'll be taking a look at in the future

It looks quite small, but the steampunk shelf of my bookcase is constantly growing.  Since I shot this picture, I've picked up Horns of Ruin by Tim Ackers as well as The Affinity Bridge by George Mann.  While it's not really a steampunk book, I'll also be taking a look at Cherie Priest's newest book Bloodshot.  

Currently, I'm about forty pages into The Affinity Bridge.  I don't have any steampunk books lined up after this, so please leave comments suggesting what I should pick up and read that isn't either pictured or mentioned above.  If I don't end up with another steampunk book on the list, I'll next be reading Freakonomics and then go back to the rather small list of Kurt Vonnegut books which I haven't read.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Beer! Williams Brothers Brewing's Ebulum Elderberry Black Ale

Williams Brothers is a Scottish brewery and Ebulum is the second of their Historic Ales of Scotland series for me to try, but the first to review.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Wedding Preview: Tea Cups Part 2

It's been a while since I shared some of the tea cups that will be used for the "yet to be named" project for my and Katie's wedding, and I feel that it's about time that I share some more.  If you missed it previously, you can catch up with Part 1 of the series.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Beer! Sam Adams Longshot 2010 Winners

I happened across what I consider to be a great contest.  For the past few years, Sam Adams has been hosting the Longshot American Homebrew Contest, wherein home brewers can submit their beer for judging, and the winners have their beer brewed in a limited batch by Sam Adams and sold in stores around the country in a limited edition six pack.  I picked up the pack from the 2010 winners at a recent trip to my beer store.

Blackened Hops - Created by Rodney Kibzey from Illinois

I hate to tease anybody for the picture of them on the label of their winning brew, but this guy seriously reminds me of Alton Brown with a cartoon smile. 

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Denim (Or the Lack Thereof) in Steampunk

The next time that you walk through a steampunk convention or spend some time browsing pictures online, make note of the materials that people use to construct their costumes.  I can tell you right now what you'll see.  There will be a lot of wool, cotton canvas, taffeta, silk, ect.  These are all perfectly lovely materials, and generally fitting for a steampunk costume.  What you won't find a great deal of is denim.  Why is that?

Is there not a lot of denim because it wasn't around during the time period?  No, that can't be it.  First off, steampunk is all about anachronism.  Even if there was no denim, somebody would have thought to use it in a costume by now.  Truth is, denim was around.  Here's a little history lesson.

Denim is actually a shortening of the phrase "serge de Nimes" a fabric that was developed sometime in the middle ages near Nimes, France.  Initially, denim fabric was used for work wear.  This makes sense, since work wear had to be both durable and comfortable.  Of course, this work wear wasn't exactly the same thing that we know jeans of today to be. 

Jeans made of denim were invented by a guy named Jacob Davis, a tailor from Nevada.  He did this in the late 1860's.  He even came up with the practice of putting rivets in high stress areas to prevent tears.  The problem was that he didn't have the money to file for a patent.  So, he contacted Levi Strauss, a Bavarian who had made a name for himself by supplying clothing to gold miners in California.  They were awarded the patent for Davis' design in 1873.  Together, they put overalls made of blue denim into production and even those first garments used the now famous copper rivets and gold thread that they had chosen specifically to match the rivets.  Since Queen Victoria took the throne in 1837, not only was the material around during her reign, but it was even around in the form of Levis.

Denim is even logically a good choice to be used in a steampunk costume.  How so?  It's actually pretty simple.  Steampunk is a beautiful fusion of form and function.  Realistically, there are two ways to accomplish this.  First, you can use the materials of form for the garments of function.  It can work, and I've seen it be done rather well in the past.  However, something like a set of coveralls made of silk just doesn't make logical sense.  The second way that you can achieve this fusion is to put the materials of function into the garments of form.  Don't understand?  

via Footnotegirl

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Beer! Keweenaw Brewing Company's Red Jacket Amber Ale

This is the second of five beers from Keweenaw Brewing Company that I'll eventually be reviewing.  If you missed out on the review of KBC's Widowmaker Black Ale, you can catch up here.

Here's a quick review: the Keweenaw Brewing Company is based in Houghton, MI and was founded by a couple of beer lovers.  One is an alum of Michigan Tech University (my alma mater) and the other is originally from Denver, CO, microbrew capital of the world.  They opened up in 2004, and have had a fast growing business ever since.  They're currently available only in Wisconsin and Michigan, but I would be unsurprised to see this expand over the next several years.  

The Red Jacket Amber Ale is one of the original three beers that the KBC started canning.  Why can?  That's an easy one.  Their cans (and their canning process) were developed for them by students at Michigan Tech.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Wedding Preview & My Favorite Things: Groomsmen Ties from Cyberoptix

This post is a little bit special.  Not only is this another in the Wedding Preview series, but I'm also going to introduce another feature, all in one post.  

I think that one of the things that is lacking in society as a whole is loyalty.  People tend to be so focused on price, that they hop around from brand to brand, supplier to supplier, all to save a few bucks.  This, ultimately, doesn't do anything to help you build working relationships.  The only way to build those relationships which are critical to success is through loyalty.  This is why I'm introducing the My Favorite Things feature.  I'll be using this feature to share some of my favorite people, places, and things with you.  They may not be the least expensive, but when they're not, they make up for it in customer service and quality.  I figure that there's really no better way to introduce this feature than by sharing Cyberoptix Tie Lab with you.

I was first introduced to Cyberoptix when Katie and I were initially considering doing a steampunk wedding.  Pull up a new tab on your browser and do a quick Google search of "Steampunk Wedding".  While there are many more couples doing this theme than when we first started looking at it, the one everybody knows about is the very first link.  The Offbeat Bride post about the wedding of Siouxzi and Allen Donnelly is still the best known steampunk wedding around.  The groom asked Bethany (Cyberoptix's owner) to design a tie for their wedding.  What she did was create one of the best ties ever designed.  She took the design from their invitations and gave it a little work over.  The resulting design, Katie and I decided to use for our wedding as well.