Masks: Anonymity and Excess

Masks were originally part of the regalia for religious rituals and early theater in Europe. The fashion of wearing masks as an accessory did not make its way to the Continent until the early 1570’s when Italian courtesans began wearing stylish face coverings in order to hide their identity while in public. Although masks are worn for many purposes in the modern era, the celebration of Halloween is currently the main reason for choosing to cover one’s face. The purpose of “masking” ones identity remains the same as in the Sixteenth Century: The scope, however, has grown through the years until it is now an industry that draws in over 5 billion dollars annually for a single day of celebration.

In Salem Truth is Stranger than Fiction

The story of the witchcraft accusations, trials, and executions has captured the imagination of writers and artists in the centuries since the event took place in Salem, Massachusetts. Many of the literary interpretations have taken liberties with the facts of the historical episode in the name of literary and/or artistic license. Yet the facts of the events, and the investigations into the possible causes of the behavior of the girls who made the claims, are as compelling as any fictional narrative.

October 21st, 2015: The Importance of DeLoreans And Time Travel

Marty: “Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Doc, uh. . . . Are you telling me that you built a time machine . . . out of a DeLorean?”
Doc Brown: “Yes, the way I see it, if you’re gonna build a time machine into a car, why not do it with some style?”

In the Back to the Future trilogy, the DeLorean time machine was Doctor Emmett Brown’s most successful invention. Comprised of a DeLorean DMC-12 sports car and a flux capacitor invented by Brown, the vehicle allowed Doc Brown, Marty McFly, and others to travel into the past and into the future. Today marks one of the most significant days in the trilogy—October 21, 2015—the day that Marty and Doc Brown arrive in the future. In order to celebrate this occasion, we will take a look at the machine that made it all possible. No—not the flux capacitor, but the iconic DeLorean automobile.

Strandbeests, Hackbeests, and Steamspiders

In 2007 Theo Jansen demonstrated his famous “strandbeest” invention at a TED Talks presentation. Strandbeests are wind driven creations that use no electronics and yet are able to wander the beaches. Each one is constructed of PVC electrical conduit, plastic tubing, and lemonade bottles. They are able to count steps with a binary step counter, sense and flee from the edge of the water, and protect themselves from strong wind. The way they move is fascinating to watch.

French Steampunk Cinema and Graphic Novels

French author Jules Vern has long been acknowledged as an influence on the modern day steampunk genre. Other authors/artists in France have continued the tradition; in fact there is a thriving steampunk community in the country producing vast amounts of artwork, film, and narrative fiction. Not every work makes it “across the pond,” but here are two that you might enjoy.

Steampunk and the French Connection

Many articles that discuss the modern steampunk genre reference the influence of Victorian England. Authors like H.G. Wells and Jules Verne are mentioned as being significant inspirations. Yet Jules Verne was not a British subject: he was a French author whose novels were first translated into English during the Victorian era. Due in part to the translated texts being widely available worldwide, Vern’s novels have long been associated in mainstream culture with Britain and not his native France.

Adaptation is the Name of the Game

There are diverse reasons why a movie grabs the attention of an audience or why it sputters in the theaters. Each movie endeavor is a complex mix of story ideas, casting, narrative, writing, cinematography, musical score, advertising, and other intangibles. If one element does not work, the success of the entire movie is at risk. Is it any wonder that studios look to produce movies with a built-in fan base? This is why studios are more likely to fund remakes or sequels—and why they search out best-selling novels, popular comic series, and MMO, RPG, and FPS games to adapt. * Yet movies developed from games tend to provide mixed results among fans. Some are successful—like Lara Croft: Tomb Raider—and some fade away into obscurity. There are two movies in development that gamers will instantly recognize: Borderlands and Warcraft: Fans will have the opportunity to judge for themselves if the massive success of these games will be duplicated on the big screen.

Are Steam-Powered Cars in Our Future?

The horse was still the primary mode of transportation at the turn of the 20th Century in Europe and America, but that was poised to change. As people became more prosperous, they turned to the newly invented motor vehicle—available in steam, gasoline, or electric versions—for travel. Steam was already an established energy source for transportation, having proven reliable for powering trains, and by the 1850s it was viable to produce steam vehicles on a commercial basis. While initially more popular with the public than gasoline vehicles, steam cars were eventually a commercial failure. The current interest in alternative energy sources, however, has led to a renewed interest in developing a steam-powered vehicle for personal travel.

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