A True Victorian Lifestyler!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

I came across this link to a British news article on Facebook, and upon reading it, my jaw dropped in sheer happiness. Here's a woman who has done what I have always dreamed of doing...

Julia Wood has created a plush and luxurious Victorian wonderland for herself. Her small flat in inner-city Leicester is the result of years of careful collecting and furnishing. From breakfast to bedtime, she is decked out in Victorian and Edwardian era-inspried clothing. This isn't just a visual preference, but her manners, morals, and beliefs accompany her tangible tastes. Her speaks of her wardrobe:

"Jeans? Never. To me they represent everything that is wrong with modern society. Everything is too casual these days. There is casual sex, casual talk. Everything is disposable — from microwave meals to morals. It’s all gone to pot really."

This true lady puts me to shame! I deeply agree with her, and her disillusion with the 21st century world  mirrors my own thoughts and feelings. However, she has had the drive and determination that many of us lack - she has gone and DONE IT by God! She has surrounded herself with what truly makes her happy, and created her own Victorian sanctuary.

I wouldn't be surprised if I end up in a similar situation when I grow older. In her interview she said that her fascination with the past began in her late teens, and her first piece of historical clothing was a pair of silk breeches that she would wear to school. I too used to wear knee-breeches and stockings to highschool as well! 

She speaks about how she bought her first velvet chaise when she got her first home, and the transformation began from there. This proves to be an important detail - if you want something so complete as a Victorian bedroom, one should consider resisting the urge to fill one's current bedroom with contemporary cheap crap. Just wait and save. If you know where to look, antique and recreation furniture is not hard to find or procure, and if you are diligent about not spending funds on the cheap stuff, you should have the money for it too. My own family owns quite a few nice pieces, and my Beau can attest to this principle as well - nearly his entire closet contains vintage and antique clothing. His modern wardrobe is miniscule yet hardworking.

This lady as set the bar, and I am willing to aim for it. Perhaps not right now, but certainly in the future. This seems like a relaxing and pampered way to age and live one's life - away from the endless crunch and clatter, whine and grind of this sloppy and angry century.

The Big "Black Swan Controversy" - What you need to know...

Monday, May 2, 2011

 "I only care to speak the truth. The truth is that no one, not Natalie Portman, or even myself can come anywhere close to the level of a professional ballerina in a year and a half. Period" - Sarah Lane
Actual photo of Lane with motion-capture dots. 
While I am late in writing this, some people may not be following the Black Swan scandal as much as I. I hope this article will enlighten you!

Let me sum up the whole 'Sarah Lane vs. Natalie Portman' fiasco:

In the film Black Swan, Natalie Portman plays a ballerina. She is shown dancing in the film, both full-body shots and waist-up shots. Interviews and most behind-the-scenes footage have depicted Portman as having danced nearly all her scenes. Watch almost any interview with Portman, and she talks about how difficult it was losing weight and training for the film. While relatively little was said about the dancing, the public still was (mis)lead to believe that every dance scene in the film was danced by Portman herself.

20/20 Segment  - Excellent little documentary. Really helps you understand why Lane (and ballet) deserves more credit. Includes beautiful footage of Lane dancing, and interview with her, and interview with Wendy Perron, the DANCE Magazine blogger who helped bring this controversy to light.

Then Natalie on an Oscar for Best Actress. This is when the sparks began to fly. Many balletomanes and dancers already knew of Sarah Lane - the ABT dancer who acted as Portman's dance double - and were a little irked when Portman didn't acknowledge her work in the Oscar acceptance speech, even though she mentioned camera men and such. Dancers knew that Portman could not have possibly danced all the scenes in the film with only 18 months of dance training, and that the real ballet artistry that enthralled viewers was the work of Sarah Lane.

In the weeks that followed, more information came to light that Fox may have been deliberately keeping the small amount of dance work that Portman actually did under the rug. Sarah Lane came forward with the statement that Portman only did about 5% of the dancing, not the 75% previously claimed by Darren Aronofsky, the director. Lane also said that she was told not to take any interviews before the Oscars. There has been a heated back and forth debate over this.

 Recently, a special effects reel was released online, intending to be for the special features of the DVD. In the original, they showed clips of Sarah Lane dancing across the floor, and then having her face "replaced" with Portman's via computer. Facial replacement is not a new thing, and has even been used in Lord of the Rings. The actress wears tiny dots on her face during filming so the special-effects crew can replace her face later with another. However, in a re-released reel of the special effects used in the film, all the facial replacement scenes were cut.

I've heard from quite a few of my peers and other people that Sarah Lane is just being a whiny bitch because she didn't get her dues, and she is supposed to be hidden because that's her job. I won't lie, but this view makes me fume with rage. Sarah Lane deserves to be recognized - the art of ballet deserves to be recognized. To be a dance double is very different than being a stunt double, since ballet demands not only sheer physical effort (far more than most realize), but artistry, grace, and poise.

There is simply no way in hell that anyone can dance ballet (in pointe shoes no less) like in the film with only 18 months of training, even if that training was intensive. Ballet takes years and years of daily work. While dancers know this, most of the public does not.

I highly encourage people to educate themselves on this subject to see what a travesty this is towards Sarah Lane and the ballet world in general.

Wall Street Journal article by Sarah Lane  - If you read a single article, let it be this one. Written by Sarah herself, it beautifully illustrates the work needed to be a real ballerina.

"My only wish is that Natalie, Darren and certain others who worked closely on the movie, could have grasped the beauty and the heart of true ballet. If they had, they would have advocated for this art more and given the real dancers the credit that they deserve."  - Sarah Lane
Sarah Lane as Princess Florine in "The Sleeping Beauty", ABT

"Horseland" SIM Review

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Every so often I have a bizarre urge to play horse SIM games. I used to really like them as a child, and I used to play them in the early days when they were almost never automated, and all transactions had to be done by hand through PMs. I remember fondly “Concordia”, an older SIM that I used to waste oh-so many delightful hours on. And who can forget SIMs made with “Ex-Pages”?

“Horseland” was the first major automated SIM, I believe, and it honestly hasn’t changed much since it’s creation. I went back there last week after a *lengthy* absence and was quite disappointed that it still has the same boring, static, confusing home page. However, they have added a semi-decent flash element to their games. Instead of generic clip-art horse pictures, or a picture you steal from another site, you now have a badly drawn flash horse. While they may have hundreds of different breeds to choose from, the horse remains the same, save for color changes, which are not that well designed anyway. You also play games to earn coins to by things for your avatar and horse, but the games are basic (yet some have the merit of being addictive), and the choices for tack and clothing are severely limited. You would think that with all the people paying money to play as a Premium member, they would revamp their site...

Horseland does have the nice ability to enter shows which are actual flash-based jumping games instead of random number generators or numbers being pumped out based on your horse’s stats. The downside - only Premium (paid) members can create, design, and run them, and as a result, the courses are nothing like actual jump and hunt courses, but instead rows of jumps, since most of the 13 year old girls who play the game have no idea how to design a true course.

The website also has a flash based “World” to go riding in and chat with friends. It’s terribly basic, with poor horse animation and no where to really go. Eh. I stopped playing the game soon after I viewed all the features.

In summary, sort of cute, but terrible graphics. Has great potential, but they need to get some good artists on their creative team. I suppose young children may like it.

Rubens' Horse Study WIP

Friday, April 22, 2011

A few weeks ago I managed to draw something! I have been in a massive, horrendous art slump lately, and the only way I could manage to draw anything was to sit in front of the TV and do a master study. This is the horse from Ruben's The Duke of Lerma, 1603.  It's a truly gorgeous and sweet animal with beautiful Bambi-eyes and a stunning mane. 
First sketched in pencil, then Sakura Micron pens.

"Riding Club Championships" Review

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

I regret to report that "Riding Club Championships" has shut down their game as of April 8, 2011. ArtPlant, the studio that created the game, announced that they were not making enough money to continue hosting the game. It's not surprising, and in my opinion ArtPlant made some very serious errors in marketing and promoting the game. For one, they originally released it as a fully paid game - in which you had to pay real cash in order to play longer than the two-hour trial. This shut the game off to what would have been their largest audience - young girls - in addition to almost everyone else. Bad move. Second, they made the decision to open the game up for free (good move), yet not create any options to make money, such as introducing items that could be bought for real money or subscriptions (bad move, again). Honestly, I'm surprised that ArtPlant made so many fatally BAD decisions. 
There is one ray of good news. ArtPlant has decided to re-release the game on Facebook. You can find it here:
Riding Club Championships on Facebook


I'm always up for a good horse SIM. I am not a heavy player of games at all - maybe an hour here and there every few weeks. I also don't play many games. For me to pick up a game, it has to be slick and graphically gorgeous. Otherwise, I have no interest.

I came across "Riding Club Championships" about one or two years ago. It looked really fun, with accurate graphics and game play in a completely 3D world with nice looking locations. There was only one catch - the game required the user to pay real money to play. I left it and thought nothing more. 

Imagine my surprise, during a desperate late-night search for some equine entertainment, to discover that Riding Club Championships had been made completely free in October of 2010! HUZZAH! Without much hesitation I created an account and downloaded the game. 

Riding Club Championships Review

    You download the program onto your computer. It is not a browser-based game like Howrse or even Horse Isle. After you download the program, it opens up full-screen and guides you through creating your rider avatar and your horse. 

    For you avatar, you choose between a plain white female with a few bland hair colors (no hair styles besides the default loose bun) or an African-American. You can also choose a frighteningly buff and intimidating male rider. The skin tones are not that great, with the Caucasian tones looking almost pink. The animation and design of the riders is not as good as those of the equines. Hands are large and clownish, and there is no real diversity in faces. Blah.
    Designing your horse is much more fun. There are quite a few coat colors, and you can mix and match your coat and mane/tail colors. You can also overlay a pattern, such as different paint patterns, spots, blazes, and dapples. However, all horses come in the same default base - a light breed with an Arab-ish face. No breeds. You can name your horse anything you like, but you cannot chose the sex, breed, or age of your horse.

    Once you finish your horse, you are taken to a field with some jumps. Riding your newly created horse, you get a quick tutorial of how to control your steed how how to steer. I quite like the controls and the options available. Not only can you can you change gaits (walk, trot, canter, halt), but you can also control the speed of the gait by holding the up or down arrows. You change gaits with the number keys.
    Jumping is a challenge, since you must estimate when to hit the spacebar to jump without an aid. In other games, you have a meter or signal that tells you when to jump, making the game a little easier. The riding system in RCC is well designed, yet challenging enough for even adult game-players.
    After the tutorial, you can choose to “Accept Horse” or back to further customize you equine.
BEWARE - once you have accepted your horse and rider, there is no going back, and that is the horse you are stuck with for the game.

Horse and Rider with tack and clothing purchased from the shop.

     From the main screen, you can choose a variety of options. After sampling most of them, you can get the feel for the game - it is centered on riding and competing, and has less focus on the “pet” and simulation/customization aspects.

    The grooming simulation, the only thing you can do with your horse besides ride him, is one of the best I have ever seen of any online, paid game, or otherwise. You groom with specific grooming tools that serve different functions, and you have to groom the entire animal by swerving 360 degrees around him. That even includes the top of his back, his legs, his rear, and even his stomach. The dirt really comes off and his mane even straightens and gets fluffy when you use the mane comb. It’s fun and easy to groom, and the mouse and camera controls are perfect  and easy on the eyes.
    I really enjoy the fact that your horse gets progressively dirtier the more you ride. The dirtier he is, the more “grumpy” he is, which affects his performance.

    After grooming, you will have to complete a series of practice tests in order to advance to Tier 2 (which allows you to compete), as well as get a better hang of riding and jumping.
    The lessons are instructed and led by a blonde woman with a pleasant English accent. The animation on the lady isn’t that advanced, but as soon as you start riding through the “Paces” test, you’ll be amazed at how nice the riding animation is. Again, RCC takes the cake for some of the best horse animation I have seen in a game.
    You will have three separate lessons to learn and improve your Paces, Maneuvering, and Jumping technique. You will need to complete all of them with only one mistake or less - otherwise you will not receive your “pass” and will have to take it again. However, I felt no anger in having to repeat the lessons - the riding experience is so much fun!
    Some people complain that the instructor is annoying, but I find her quite enjoyable. The dialog is very good, and doesn’t feel forced, fake, or uneducated at all. A few terms could be a little more accurate, but overall she is a great NPC. She’s even wearing a safety vest!
    I have played a few games in which the learning curve for riding controls was so difficult that I stopped playing. While RCC is challenging, it is not so difficult as to discourage users. The camera is smooth and rather thrilling at times, following your horse and rider perfectly. The jumping is spot on, accurate, and fun.

    After passing all the lessons, you will have moved on to Tier 2. Time to start competing! You can first begin by trying out the unlocked courses on your own. Courses are set in all sorts of fun locations, from snowy Norway to sandy Australian beaches to English manor estates. You can choose from maneuvering courses, show jumping, and dressage (which is rather tricky!). You will not have access to cross-country courses until Tier 3.
Show Jumping. The white bulls-eye only indicates whether your horse is capable of clearing the jump.

    Again, while the courses are challenging, I found myself improving with each round. The fact that you can speed up (extend) and slow down (collect) your horse in each gait is immensely helpful and helps add another sense of satisfying realism to the game.
    When you are ready, you can compete against other online users or custom groups of your friends.
I don't think that putting an arena next to a massive Ferris wheel is the best idea...

    Sound effects are pretty good, but there could be more of them. 
    Music is standard and rather dull (has nothing on HorseIsle’s great soundtrack!). Sounds a lot like the canned soft rock used in “The Saddle Club” television show. I generally turn the music off, keep the sounds on, and blast some dramatic classical music.

    This game does not offer a lot of features for those who would like more a “digital pet” or action/adventure experience. You can only groom your horse and ride him. Your avatar cannot walk around the stable or do any ground-work.
    There is little in the way of wardrobe either. The options for riding clothing and horse tack is severely limited. There is only one style of bridle, saddle, wraps, and saddle pads in a few colors and patterns. You will need coinage to purchase the items, which are obtained from winning shows against other players or betting in “King of the Hill” matches.

    I wish that if the game developers could work on one thing, it would be adding more customization features. It would be nice to have a bigger and more diverse amount of clothing and tack, as well as being able to better customize your avatar’s face, skin tone, and hair.

    The nice aspect about this game is that developers are still adding features after the game’s release. I think this game could really go far and attract a lot of members if it was better advertised (and more members blogged and promoted it). It has a LOT of potential, and I hope to see it grow to include more adventuring aspects that didn’t center around competition. It would be fun to have virtual worlds to explore, quests to do, things to collect, and people to talk to.
    Originally, this game cost money to play (they offered a free, two-hour trial). Recently, they released it free to all members. While I applaud this move (smart!), I wonder if the game was “abandoned” by developers and will not be updated any longer. I hope that is not so, since this game really is a diamond among horse sims.

Outfit: Casual Steampunk

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Here is a casual Steampunk-inspired outfit that I wore about a week ago. It's made up of pieces that can be easily attained (save for the Laura Ashley blouse), and are not necessarily expensive. It's toned down, but different and unique enough to describe the wearer as a steamer. Perfect for little outings in towns and cities that are not necessarily accepting of OTT alternative fashion.

Whenever I head out for dinner, cafes, shopping, and the like, I always try to dress up. I usually do not wear fashion to school, since my college is not exactly accepting of alternative fashion (or fashion in general), and I prefer to blend in and focus on my studies, not the multitude of stares I usually get. I do dress up for class occasionally, and it depends on my mood and confidence that day.

Anyway, here you are:

Blouse: Laura Ashely (eBay)
Vest: Xhilaration (Target)
Belt: Ariat
Pants: Jones New York (Ross)
Jodhpur Garters: Local Tack shop, no brand.
Boots: The Walking Co. 
Watch: Mossimo (Target)

"Swan" One of the Best Mangas you've never heard of...

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Swan, by Kyoko Ariyoshi. Published by CMX Manga. 15 volumes.

I have never been a huge consumer of manga. In truth, there have not been very many titles that truly intrigued me. However, there is one series that has taken my heart (and my bookshelf).
I first heard about Swan from the Princess Tutu community. I didn't know very much about it, save that it was an older shojo manga about ballet. I finally found the first issue for sale at Wondercon, and I was hooked.

User ImageThis manga is beautiful. Each page is an artistic delight as characters dance across each page, their emotions and feelings beautifully penned in a 70s style that is very appealing. The main character, Masumi Hijiri, is a very aspiring character. She struggles to succeed in a prestigious ballet school, even though she is from the country and does not have the best technique. However, she has a deep passion for dance that will be familiar to anyone who has ever felt the desire to make their dreams a reality. She has has believable flaws - no Mary Sues here!

I was surprised by how well researched this manga is. It is thick with ballet technique, famous dancers, and classical ballets such as Sleeping Beauty, Little Humpbacked Horse, and La Sylphide. However, even a non-dancer should enjoy it, since it does provide helpful notations on more obscure subjects.

~Where to Buy Swan~ 
Swan can be difficult to find. I have picked up most of my volumes at conventions and at Kinokuniya book stores. If you local bookstore doesn't carry it, you can always try requesting it. It is currently out of print.

Here is a collection of quotes about the series from different reviews. They capture the feeling of the series perfectly!:
I fell in love with Swan not because it’s about ballet, but because it’s so hardcore about it. The dancers sweat as hard and compete as ruthlessly as any athlete in a sports manga....Swan is the tasty manga equivalent of gritty American films from the 1970s. It is the Taxi Driver or the Apocalypse Now of ballet manga...The art of Swan is freaking amazing. During ballet sequences Ariyoshi illustrates time in gorgeous cinematic sequences, following the dancers’ movements in trails across the page. Drawn in the experimental 1970s, Ariyoshi experiments with panel layout. Masumi’s worries and fears break out of square borders into explosive layouts. Even through the psychedelic sequences, everything stays legible. Reading across a page of Swan is much less confusing than picking your way through the randomly scattered dialog bubbles of modern shojo. ~ Erin Finnegan

Incidentally: The real tragedy here is the fact that CMX still had six volumes to go in serializing Kyoko Ariyoshi’s ballet drama, Swan, quite conceivably the most formally daring children’s comic ever drawn. Working hot on the heels of the revolution in shojo manga in the early 1970s, Ariyoshi’s daring page compositions skillfully blended imagery and structure to evoke mood, motion and emotion like few other cartoonists before or since — I can almost picture sweat flying from her brow as her pen leapt across the board, setting new benchmarks for innovation that cartoonists would spend the next three decades trying (and failing) to match. These days, we in the West lionize Bernard Krigstein and Jim Steranko’s all-too-brief bodies of work for things that artists like Ariyoshi did as a matter of course for thousands of pages at a stretch. Every practicing cartoonist should own at least two volumes of Swan. - From http://www.tcj.com, commenting on the demise of CMX.

Swan is a series so packed with drama, beauty, pain, and art that you'll wonder why today's shoujo stories feel so bare. Full of the blood, sweat, and tears of both success and failure, it's a sports manga dressed in a tutu and draped in glittering, syrupy romance. The theatrics are big, but so is life. Swan is more than just ballet; it's a rich narrative that defines classic shoujo. An unfinished run is a devastating hit to my bookshelves. - Julie Rosato from http://www.mania.com

Some additional sample pages - I love how dynamic this manga is!

This is why I love thrift stores....

Monday, January 10, 2011

My mother and I donate a lot of things to Goodwill. Not only do we get a tax deduction (which can be quite beneficial during tax time if you end up donating a lot of stuff), but we get clutter out of the house. Whether Goodwill actually helps out people in need can be debatable, but I know that our local Goodwill has prices low enough to service the people who really need it.

I don't purchase many items from thrift stores, but I enjoy browsing. The trick with thrift is to browse often, and buy little. It may take a while to find something really good, but if you have a good eye, you can find some real treasures. I try not to go overboard at thrift stores - I want to save money, so I only tend to purchase really special or unique items.

I was very, very lucky last week. I was browsing the dress racks, and I flash of black velvet caught my eye. I pulled out a gorgeous Scott McClintock short party dress from the 80s. I immediately fell in love and bought it on the spot. It has a beautiful shape and fits me like a glove. The off the shoulder lace collar has thick, gorgeous lace. I was greatly attracted the to the design, since it echos the Victorian dance dresses that I'm so fond of. It has silk covered elastic straps that help keep the dress in place and a delicate tulle petticoat with decorative lace edging.

I will most likely be wearing it to the social dance parties that my dance partner and I have been planning on going to, like Swing Goth and Friday Night Waltz.

Size: 4
Total Cost: $7 (Not a typo!)

Having Compassion for Compassionate Eaters

Monday, January 3, 2011

    Quite simply, there are a number of animals that I would never consume. While I am not yet a vegetarian, I’m conscious about my meat intake and I am working to limit the amount of animals I eat (I can’t remember when I’ve last had a steak). I have had a great deal of love, compassion, and empathy for animals since I was very young.
    I refuse to consume duck, goose, deer, and lamb/sheep. I just love these animals too much (and have known many of them personally), especially ducks. Anyone who knows me knows that I LOVE ducks. In having such a love for fowl as I do, I have encountered a good deal of rudeness concerning my interests. Some of the comments that I have received have been downright cruel. I don’t deserve this kind of treatment, and neither does anyone else.
    No matter who you are, what you eat, or what your beliefs on animal welfare are, you need to be compassionate and polite to people who have different beliefs than you do.

    More often than I would like, the first time I tell someone that I don’t consume ducks, I almost always get some comment about ducks being eaten/hunted/killed. This is rude. When someone tells you that they don’t eat an animal, you do not return the conversation by talking about how delicious that animal is. Firstly, it’s cruel, insensitive, and rude. Secondly, it shows your poor conversation skills. If you someone tells you that they don’t eat an animal, and the first thing you say is “Oh, I LOVE eating [insert animal]!! They are SOOOOO yummy!“, then you have a lot to learn about how to carry on a polite conversation, and quite frankly, you are rude and insensitive.
    Do not talk about how someone you know is a duck hunter, how you ate duck last night, how your dog is trained to retrieve the dead carcasses of ducks, how you LOVE to eat ducks, how stupid it is not to eat ducks, how yummy ducks are, what balut is, or anything related to the destruction of ducks.
    Instead, you need to find something nice to say to carry on the conversation.
    “Oh, that’s really sweet. I’ve never met anyone like that.”
    “Do you have a pet duck?”
    “I used to feed ducks at the local pond when I was a kid. They had really wet bills…”
                                    “What is your favorite kind of duck?”
    Remember Thumper’s famous words: “If you can’t say nothing’ nice…don’t say nothing’ at all”. The same holds true when you encounter a compassionate eater. If you feel something insensitive and mean welling up in you, do these two things: First, realize that you have compassion issues to work on. However, be proud with yourself that you were able to catch your impulse and hold your tongue. Second: smile, give an interested “huh!”, nod, and change the subject. “What kind of foods can you eat?” is a good way to steer the conversation in another direction.

    If you encounter some one who has dietary practices that you are not sure about (such as a vegan or someone who follows Kosher practices), you need to curb the desire to approach something you don’t understand with aggression, fear, or hostility. Instead, politely ask some questions. What does keeping Kosher entail? If you don’t eat animal products, what are some of your favorite foods to eat? Are your parents the same way? How long have you been eating like that, or have you been doing it all your life? Make sure you ask these with a smile, not a smirk. Don’t be haughty or confrontational. If you are afraid that your question might be rude, either don’t ask it, or start off with a disclaimer - “Oh, I hope this isn’t rude, because I’ve never known anyone like you, but I’m really curious…”
    I would advise against drilling into someone about religious beliefs, if they have any. “Why do you believe this? Are your parents forcing you?” are questions better left unsaid. It can cause tension!

    When eating out with friends, keep their dietary choices in mind. Make sure to choose restaurants that have something for everyone, and don’t stupidly point out, “Oh they serve DUCK here! Look!”. Strangely, some people almost impulsively begin to point out every dead duck in the vicinity after they learn about me. They don’t seem to mean to be cruel, but it’s almost like an impulsive reaction that some people tend to have. Someone once even ordered roast duck during my birthday dinner - when they knew very, very well of my sensitivities. Always try to check yourself - are you feeling urges to hurt someone based on their interests?
    Should you refrain from eating a treasured animal in front of your friend or loved one? In my personal opinion, if you genuinely care about them, yes. You can eat baby puppies on your own time, but when you’re with your best buddy, spare them the discomfort, and spare yourself the chance of an argument or a tense day.

At the end of the day, remember that your Compassionate Eater-friend is probably refraining from eating certain (or all) animals because she has a love for life….And what could be wrong with that?

Ballet Polyvore

Sunday, January 2, 2011


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