Saturday, October 26, 2013

Make Up Post: Automaton Halloween Make Up

For the past couple years, I haven't really planned for Halloween. Due to a mixture of being overwhelmed with college and procrastination, my costumes have been really last minute scrambling. But this year, I wanted to do it right! I'm elaborating on the basic idea of past years, steampunk, but putting in extra effort. I was inspired by this robot make up tutorial. So here is my effort: Automaton-Human Hybrid Make Up.




You can find my full tutorial here. If you want to do a full automaton face, skip the first few steps and replicate the robot make up on both sides. It takes some time to do, but it's pretty easy and fun!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Makeup Review: Shiro Cosmetics Halloween 2013

I came across this website, shirocosmetics.com, recently and fell in love with it. All the makeup is handmade and themed around geeky themes, such as The Hobbit, Fullmetal Alchemist, Minecraft, and (in the case of this set) The Nightmare Before Christmas. I saw this collection and had to buy the full thing. I must say, I'm pretty happy with the purchase.






I apologise that some of the colours are hard to see. Those colours (Zero, Finkelstein, and Oogie Boogie) are quite sheer. Zero is a light pink, Oogie Boogie is a pale green, and Finkelstein is a shimmery white.

Here's a pic of me wearing Two Faced, Pumpkin King, and Something in the Wind.



This set will only be available through October 31st, so hurry up and order yours!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

New Etsy Listing: Adventuring Portable Telegraph Bracer

Brand new listing up on TheEmporiumMechanica! This is a personal favourite of mine as it really showcases the fantastical imagination that goes along with steampunk.


Friday, October 11, 2013

Video Game Review: Alan Wake

This game isn't exactly new (it was originally released in 2010 for Xbox 360 and 2012 for Windows), but I just finished it and absolutely loved it. It's basically my new favourite game. It's dark, it's scary, it's a great mystery horror story.



The story sounds very much like a Stephen King novel. In fact, he's quoted in the very beginning of the story. But as I am pretty terrible with giving concise summaries, I'll give you the short and sweet promo from the Alan Wake website:

Part action game, part psychological thriller, Alan Wake® is a pulse-pounding thrill ride. When the wife of the best-selling writer Alan Wake disappears on their vacation, his search turns up pages from a thriller he doesn’t even remember writing. A dark presence stalks the small town of Bright Falls, pushing Wake to the brink of sanity in his fight to unravel the mystery and save his love.



 I love the plot of the game, but that's not the only thing that is great. The cinematography is wonderful, as are the graphics. I also really enjoyed the voice acting of all the characters (I've heard some really bad voice acting, so this is an important quality for me). The game play is super easy and smooth and the game does a good job of introducing you to how the game works, but doesn't baby you too much. Along with that, the beginning (or Prologue) of the game makes the plot instantly interesting. They don't explain to you what is going on or where you are. You are in the same state of mind as Alan is in this strange dream. You know something is wrong and it is dangerous, but beyond that you and Alan discover the mystery at the same time. The layout of the game is pretty unique too. You play through multiple "Episodes", which do feel like episodes of a mini-series. They even put a little "Previously on Alan Wake..." at the beginning of the episodes.



Alan Wake keeps you constantly guessing at what the mystery is and continues to confuse and complicate the plot. But at the same time, it doesn't complicate for complexity's sake. At the end of the game, everything finally makes sense. I really loved this game and want to play it many more times. I also am eager to check out the sequel: Alan Wake's American Nightmare. I urge everyone to watch the trailer and check out the screenshots on the website.


Sunday, October 6, 2013

Update: Comments Now Working

It has come to my attention that the comment making function has been unavailable for a while. I apologise for that, I tried to change the settings for making comments so that I would not get spam comments from people that don't follow this blog. One certain person had commented a few times and those comments were quite rude. I want to encourage a supportive and pleasant community here. Of course, I want everyone to speak their mind and share their opinions, however I believe there is always a way to say what you think without coming across as a jerk.

Hopefully, the commenting is working. If not, let me now by emailing me directly (blackinkandblackcats@gmail.com) and I'll try to fix it again!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Check Out My Etsy Shop!



Today I launched my very first Etsy shop, TheEmporiumMechanica. There aren't a lot of items up as of now, but more are in the making. The main theme of the shop is steampunk jewellery and "inventions" (non-functioning items of fantastical imagination), but I also plan on making hair accessories and items of gothic design (made with lots of black lace, yay!). So far, I have listed the gear ring and the screw earrings I made and posted about previously.



I will make posts of any new listings in my shop as a special heads-up for all of my fabulous followers. Remember to favourite anything you like!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Hair Post: Autumn Colours

Lately, I've been getting a bit bored with my hair. Turns out, I don't like to have the same hair style/colour for too long and after a few months of having the same thing, I need a change. Previously, I had been dying my hair permanent black (bad choice on my part, more on this later) and decided that I'd had enough. For a while, I've wanted to dye my hair lavender but couldn't since I had to work this summer. Instead, I worked on growing out some of the black in my hair so that at least part of it would be easier to bleach. Okay, enough premise, here come the pictures of my hair transformation that turned out a bit differently than I expected/hoped.

Crappy before pic, don't ask me why I'm derping so much

This is the bleach I chose to use. Actually, before the bleach I tried using Colour Oops on my hair but it wasn't too effective. I guess dying and redying it permanent black over many months makes it hard to remove, which is why I'm never going to do permanent dye ever again.

ERMAGEHRD HER BLERCH!

And after the first bleaching. My hair is stubborn (the first time I bleached my hair to dye it burgundy, I had to bleach it twice too), but I had hoped that more black would have been bleached out. Oh well, what to do but bleach it again...


And the second bleaching. Still not enough to dye my hair lavender unfortunately :( There was absolutely no why to convince myself to bleach it a third time. I really do want lavender hair but I don't want a large portion of my hair to fall out trying to achieve that.


Here it is dry. Looks much better. After a couple of days, I did get used to it and now I even like it. Definitely not what I had planned or hoped for, but I plan on making a second bleaching effort around the holidays. And right now, my hair is making it feel like it's autumn. I'm like the leaves, changing with the season.

Side view

Top view

Different top view

Cute little bat clips I got earlier this summer from Gothandgeekery on Etsy.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Bizarre Curiosities: Premature Burial

I don't know about you, but the idea of being buried alive is terrifying. It's not so much a problem these days, but in the past there were many stories about unfortunate people awaking in their own coffins. The history behind premature burial and preventions against it is incredibly fascinating.

Source

Once again, this topic was discussed in the book I'm currently reading, A Cabinet of Medical Curiosities by Jan Bondeson. Apparently, before the mid 18th century, the issue of premature burial was all but ignored. The opinion on death was that you either were alive or you were dead. There was no middle ground. If a person looked pale in the face, felt cold to the touch, didn't have a pulse and did not appear to be breathing, it was assumed they were dead. However, physicians began to publish accounts of terrifying tales of people being mistakenly proclaimed dead, bringing awareness to the matter. One such Parisian physician, Jean-Jacques Bruheir d'Ablaincourt, believed that if people read horrifying and memorable tales, the dangers of premature burial would circulate throughout the public knowledge. He was correct.

Now to give you a taste of some folk tales about premature burial:
  • For one, not all premature burials of the past were unintentional. Execution by burial was used in ancient China during the Warring States Period. Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi ordered 400-700 scholars buried alive after saving classics, which the Emperor had placed an imperial ban upon. After the emperor's death, Qin's armies lost in battle to warlord Xiang Yu, who ordered the 200,000 survivors buried alive.
  • Although not exactly premature burial, Vestal Virgins that were suspected to have broken their celibate vows were walled up in an underground chamber. Vesta would save the virgins who were still pure and leave the tainted ones there to die.
  • One of the most popular folk stories surrounding premature burial is the lady and the ring. This story has popped up in multiple versions in Germany, France, and Italy. The wife of a rich man dies and she is buried with a large gold ring upon her finger. During the night, one of the servants digs up her grave in order to steal the ring, however he is unable to pry the ring off. As he attempts to cut off her finger, the woman awakes with a  scream.
  • This one is probably my favourite. A young lecherous Frenchman is forced to become a monk by his religious parents. While he travels to the monastery, he goes into an inn. The innkeeper begs him to watch over his deceased daughter in order to determine whether or not she is truly dead. She is very beautiful and the monk, who cannot contain himself, has his way with the corpse. Once he leaves, the girl awakens. None months later, the monk visits the inn and surprised to see not only the daughter alive and well, but also a newborn child in her arms. He immediately tells her parents the truth and offers to leave the monastery in order to marry their daughter. Her parents gladly accept, even though their new rich son-in-law is a necrophile.
There were some interesting "tests" conducted to determine that the deceased was actually dead. In Germany in 1670 (before premature burial was a public threat), Theodorus Kirchmayer and Christophorus Nottnagel advised that the funeral should take place several days after the death if there was any doubt. Most physicians claimed that absence of respiration and heart beat were not enough to base an assumption. Instead, only putrefaction and the presence of livid spots could establish death. When a person was suspected to be still alive, it was advised that the suspected deceased should not be treated as such; instead of lying in a coffin, they should lie in a warm bed and others should vigorously try to revive them. If the deceased did revive, the soles of the feet were cut with razors and poked with needles. Attempts of this manner did remain in practice very long.

Source

By the end of the 18th century, premature burial was the biggest fear of all. There were pamphlets, books, and articles everywhere all across Europe describing the horror. This led eventually to the creation of special coffins designed to combat premature burial during the 19th century. The most famous of safety coffins is the Bateson's Belfry, which had a bell mounted on the top of the coffin attached to a cord that was placed in the deceased's hand. Twenty-two safety coffins were patented in the United States alone between 1868-1925. The simplest of models had a hollow tube and rope ladder attached to the coffin. The top was a sliding door so that either the captive could climb out or others could easily check for signs of either life or death. Many later coffins were able to detected any slight movements from the individual inside. However, the detection devices were often too sensitive, picking up on the slightest movements associated with decomposition. One of these coffins was created by Count Michel de Karnice-Karniki, chamberlain to Tsar Nicholas of Russia. When the coffin registered movement, a tube on the top of the coffin would let in air, as well as flail around a white flag and emit a loud ringing. The gravediggers were none the least happy when the majority of coffins they dug up were filled with a half-decomposed corpse.

The fear of premature burial has long been persistent throughout history and is present today even when the possibility of unintentional premature is negligible. Still, we find the theme of alive burial in popular culture, from classics like Poe's Fall of the House of Usher to modern day example, such as Kill Bill Volume 2 and The Girl Who Played With Fire. Chances are, people will continue to find the idea of being buried alive terrifying. I know I will.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Make Up Post: Gone Batty!

Some I was perusing my favourite place on the internet to get inspiration/ideas for make up and came across a delightfully spooky Halloween look! Yes, I know it's still a bit early for the holiday, but I like pumpkins, black cats, ghosts, and bats all year round. I decided to try out this great tutorial for bat eye make up. It's by no means perfect, but for a first attempt with limited supplies (most of my make up is up at school...) I think it turned out reasonably well.



Please excuse the blotchiness of my face. I had no other make up on >.>




I used Maybelline ExpertWear Eye Shadow in Amethyst (I've had it for several years, not sure if they still make it) for most of the purple and Sephora MicroSmooth eye shadow palette in Ultraviolet (the medium purple for the outer edges and the dark purple for the crease). Really, you can use any combination of colours you like! I definitely want to try this again in the orange colour scheme once I have access to all of my eyeshadows.

For the bats, I used gel eyeliner but you might get a better result with liquid liner. Do not try this with pencil. Pencil is highly inaccurate and too soft to draw precise shapes (unless you're magically skilled in it, in which case you are amazing). It also helps if you're good at drawing in general, which I am not.

All credit for the tutorial goes to the lovely bloodsexsugarmagik at Reddit's r/makeupaddiction.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Make Up Post: Autumn is Coming

Don't know about where you are, but here in Northern California the weather is still acting like summer (that darn Indian Summer, grr!). I am completely ready for fall. All that cold weather, warm sweaters, and cloudy skies. But sadly, I get none of those for at least another couple of weeks, so in the meantime, I've been consoling myself with fall inspired make up looks. If autumn isn't coming to me, I may as well bring it to myself.




Here I used a copper shadow for about half the lid, then blended in some black on the outer edge. Same on beneath my eyes. Pretty simple, but definitely gets that "fall leaves" feeling going. I put on some coppery lipstick just to add some more autumn feel (and because I love the colour).



Sorry, I don't have a full face picture of this (turned out blurry). Also, ignore the red eyes, the store I was working in had terrible ventilation and was really dusty (a huge terror for my allergies. I was sneezing all day long). For this one, I wanted a bit of winter (it was in the 80s all that week and I was desperate for some chill). I put a dark, blackish purple all over my lid and then smudged in some light lavender in the crease. I lined the bottom lid with lavender, too. I love purple, there is something magical about the colour, and using a dark purple really brought that wintery feeling to me.

That's it for make up posts for now! There will be another Curiosities post coming up, as well as a big post about my next hair colour journey (it's a big change, I hope it turns out well).

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Make Up Post: Inspired by Steam

Hello everyone! This summer, I've been working full time at a small department store and as a result, I've had loads of fun with my make up to keep my spirits up (standing on your feet for 8 hours straight is hard work). I'm only going to post two looks here, but as I am leaving my job this Friday (yay) expect a few more looks in the near future.

Anyway, this summer, I've rekindled my love of steampunk and these two looks are inspired by the subculture. To all of those silly people who say that black and brown don't go together, I say that they should rethink that arguement. In my opinion, they go together quite nicely.



Here, I'm using EsteƩ Lauder gel eyeshadow in Bronze (which I sometimes use as an eyeliner). The lipstick is also EsteƩ (in Burnished Bronze). The lipstick does look more bronze-y than in this picture. Ah, the perks (or drawbacks from my wallet's point of view) of working right next to the cosmetics counters.



I'm a big fan of the "haunted" look, so that's what I went for here. I'm using some Mary Kay eyeshadow my friend gave to me (she doesn't wear make up much). For my lips, I washed them out with foundation and then dabbed a bit of Burnished Bronze in the centre.

Stay tuned for more make up posts and at least one outfit post in the next few days!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Bizarre Curiosities: Spontaneous Human Combustion

I've always had a fascination with the odd and unusual. Currently, I've been reading a book called A Cabinet of Medical Curiosities by Jan Bondeson, which talks about strange medical occurrences that have been documented both in folklore and in official medical records throughout history. Some are believed and mentioned often today. I found the history, the stories, and the theories behind these medical curiosities very interesting and have decided to share some of what I've learned with all of you. Hope you find it as fascinating as I do!

A scene from Charles Dickens' Bleak House. Illustration by Phiz, 1933.
Source

The first topic in the book was spontaneous human combustion (SHC). This abnormal event has been documented since the sixteenth century. The theory was that if a person drank too much liquor and strong spirits, the alcohol in their stomach might suddenly ignite. This was one of the main arguments for temperance, used through the nineteenth century. However, now the most popular theory is the candle or wick effect. In this theory, there is no real spontaneous generation of a flame. Instead, a person might have dropped a lit match or gotten cigarette ash onto their clothing, which then ignited. The person's fat would then act as a fuel and as it melted, would seep into the clothing, which would act as a wick. Since many of the tales of spontaneous human combustion involved drunken or old individuals, it would seem likely that they would have been unable to put out the fire on their clothing due to either weakness or unconsciousness.

Now for the stories. First, many of the tales surrounding spontaneous human combustion involve many of the same details. The body of the victim is always either fully or mostly incinerated. Sometimes a single part of the body, such as a foot, would remain behind. Also, the clothing was not always reported burned. In many stories, the clothing is untouched, as well as the surrounding environment. There is usually no evidence of a source of fire, thus leading the witnesses to believe the fire ignited spontaneously. Finally, the victim is almost always alone at the time of combustion.

Comic from A Perfect World

Spontaneous human combustion had actually been present in Scandinavian folklore very early on. There was even a "cure" for it: human urine thrown into the flaming mouth of the victim would quench the fire. However, the first account of SHC was in the sixteenth century in Norway. A parson of the village of Telemark was leaving a Sunday service when he came across a unconscious drunken man lying on the ground. A blue flame was burning inside the man's mouth. The parson quickly urinated into his mouth to stop the fire, but the man awoke and thought the parson was insulting him as a non-churchgoer. The congregation supported the drunkard and the parson was beaten to death with an alter candlestick.

Possibly the most famous account of SHC took place in St. Petersburg, Florida in 1951. An obese elderly widow, Mary Reeser, had not come out of her apartment. When a landlady tried to open the door, the door knob burned her hand. Once she had broken into the apartment, she found Mary's burned remains in an armchair. All that was left of the widow were part of her backbone, a foot, and what resembled a shrunken head. After investigation, it was theorised that Mary had dropped a cigarette on her very flammable rayon-acete nightgown after taking sleeping pills.

SHC is a very intriguing topic. Literary minds, such as Charles Dickens and Herman Melville, were intrigued enough to include it in their writing. To this day, it is unproven whether or not SHC is a real phenomenon. Who knows if this mysterious curiosity of science will ever be solved?

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Bookshelf: Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea

As you all know by know, I love classic books. I've read a lot of different authors but I have just finished my first Jules Verne. I don't know why I put it off for so long, I think it must have been a combination of my bad memory and long list of books people keeping telling me I must read. I'm just happy I finally got around to it.

My overall reaction to Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea is that it is fantastic. Verne had a lot of imagination going into it and a knack for story telling. That doesn't mean I loved everything about the book, but overall it was a great read. If you like science fiction that isn't space ships and time travel, or if you're a fan of steampunk, I highly recommend this book.

Source
Now, I just want to take the time here to clarify something that I found a bit confusing: the title. At first glance, I (and I'm sure many others) thought that the title was saying that Captain Nemo's magnificent ship would be able to dive to a depth of 20,000 leagues. As I knew next to nothing about how deep the Earth's oceans are, I had no problem thinking that. But after reading the book (and some research), I found out that the deepest part of the ocean (Mariana Trench) is only 10.911 kilometers deep, which is equivalent to 1.96 leagues. Obviously, unless Verne had a great imagination, the Nautilus would not be able to reach that deep. Actually, the title means that, throughout the entirety of this story, the Nautilus would travel a total of 20,000 leagues (111,120 kilometers) while being under the ocean's surface (aka "Under the Sea). This is by no means a rant that Verne should have given his book a clearer title, just a bit of confusion I'd like to clear up.

Enough of little technicalities, let's talk about the book as a whole. I won't include any spoilers here, so some of this might seem a bit vague. I'd say come back and read this again right after reading the book to see if you agree with my opinions.

First, I'd like to cover what I loved about the book. As I've probably mentioned before, I love good description. I'm a very visual person and enjoy a lengthy description about how the landscape looks. Jules Verne does this very well. He gives a lot of description of the wonders of the ocean: the terrain, the fish and critters, the interior and exterior of the submarine. I could see it all in my mind. Of course, if you don't like pages of description, I'd saw it does get a little draggy after a while (more on this later). Also, I thought the basic premise of the story, as well as the initial set-up, was great. The idea of travelling around the world's oceans and discovering all the fantastic sights and animals is a great idea, but Verne adds another layer of tension and excitement by making our three companions prisoners on the Nautilus. The set up for the encounter with Captain Nemo's ship was done well. I thought it was very interesting that Verne decided to make the false assumption of a destructive animal a global affair, even into a hunting competition. That made the reveal of the man-made ship that more fantastic, especially since the only people that knew this information would never see humanity again. The characters were great as well. They felt fleshed out and different from each other. Even though some of them definitely had some similarities of interest between them, after just a few chapters you could look back on what the character said or did and think, "Yes, that is definitely what ____ would do." The characters also kept the plot going and always brought something to the table. Finally, just the imagination of Verne is wonderful. From the great speed of the Nuatilus to descriptions of parts of the globe that were still a great mystery. Verne was able to bring all of this to life and made it seem real.

Of course, I didn't love all of the book. I believe that all books (with the very rare exception) have their low points. Even if I can't find anything wrong with a book, someone else will. For me, I found some of Verne's description annoying and boring. Me? Find description boring? Yes, if it happens to be dry scientific classification of animals with names I can hardly pronounce. Verne, with his love of science, felt the need to go on and on about the specific species and classification of many animals. After a while (half a page or so), it got very boring and tiring. I even skipped some of them entirely, and I usually hate skipping any part of a book. But it was not just animal classifications that got to me, Verne also talked in length about latitude and longitude, mathematics, and dry geography. It was a good thing most of these were discussed separately from each other, otherwise I would have skipped a lot more.  Another thing, I felt that many of the events that occurred in the story that were intended to be high points were resolved too quickly. I have a few in mind, but I won't include any here to avoid spoilers. I just felt that the main reason I was reading was to find out how our three companions would escape Captain Nemo's ship, not for the events in between. Also, I felt the ending fell a bit short. Instead of telling us exactly what happened, the point of view character falls unconscious and later the other characters can't tell him what happend. They don't know how they escaped, so the readers are left in the dark. I just felt that there was no pay-off for the amount of anticipation I had going into seeing them escape.

Once again, I'd like to say that I did greatly enjoy this book, even with it's short comings. Overall, it was a great reading experience and an interesting story. If you love classics as much as I do, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne is a must.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Wires and Clasps: Jewellery Making!

I've always wanted to make jewellery, but have no experience with it. I do plan on taking some classes at my university, but until then I've been dabbling in it on my own. My sister used to make jewellery so I know some basics already.

The theme of my jewellery is steampunk. I've always really enjoyed taking random things apart (not much luck in putting them back together...) and I find the innards of machinery and electronic devices beautiful. I also love steampunk (probably since it combines scifi, Victorian era/history, and machines all together) so that seemed to be a great fit. I've only made a few pieces right now (some are much better than others) but if I make enough pieces I might open up an Etsy store and see how that goes. All the pieces I make are one of a kind (at least for now) and handmade. The jewellery is either metal or plastic (which I paint in metallics, sometimes I paint the metal to highlight and diversify).




This is the first piece I made. It's ok, but not my favourite. The pendant of the necklace is a speaker that I removed from some crappy portable speakers I had.





My favourite piece so far. It's a ring made from two gears I found while breaking apart a music box. The ring base is from Michael's.




These earrings are just three chains I linked together and stuck screws into. I had all these extra screws lying about and didn't know what else to do with them. I think these turned out quite well.





I absolutely love chokers so I made this. I love it a lot. Like the other necklace, this is made from a speaker (same set of speakers, actually), except I removed the dust cap on this one.

So that's my jewellery! What do you all think? Esty worthy?
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