Would you wear and use a vintage pocket watch?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Waxing Magic Among the Spirits - The Voice of Harry Houdini

Harry Houdini, attempting the bridge jump

Harry Houdini led the way in the world of showmanship and performance magic and enthralled a generation with his spectacular death-defying feats of escape.

During his life, Houdini was outspokenly anti-spiritualist, and vehemently descried any who claimed to be mediums or fortune-tellers; he penned a book, entitled A Magician Among the Spirits, attempting to expose such performers as charlatans. (He also challenged spiritualists to prove their beliefs were true, under test conditions, in this speech.)

Houdini had some illustrious friends, one of whom was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes. In contrast to Houdini's mindset, Conan Doyle readily embraced the Spiritualist world, yet despite their conflicting ideals the two gentlemen were friends until a genuine row over their spiritual beliefs brought an end to their comradeship.  (In early 2011, rumors spread of a possible SyFy channel show about Houdini and Conan Doyle joining forces to solve crimes in 1920's New York. The name of the show is "Among the Spirits"; the scenery and costuming will take aspects of Victorian and Steampunk to appeal to fans of both.)

Houdini in handcuffs, 1905
 But for now, we have access to recordings of Harry Houdini's voice preserved on wax cylinders. Some of the clips came from sessions where he was practicing his lines; here you may download a file of Houdini speaking about his Water Torture Chamber act, from 1914.  The enunciation we hear on the Edison cylinder recording was necessary for the words to be inscribed clearly, so his actual stage voice was probably a bit different even though it is said that when one speaks on stage it should be loudly and slowly as well.

When he finally succumbed to complications from a ruptured appendix, Houdini had already revolutionized the world of stage magic and openly challenged the magicians of the world to better their skills as performers.  You may find details regarding his death and final resting place (including monuments to him) here.

The below video includes photos, a recording of Houdini's voice, and also one of his wife speaking about her efforts to contact him after his death (she held a seance at least once per year to try to contact him, apparently without any luck).

Whether you like Houdini's act or not, he certainly embraced the style of the times.  It has been said by many that certainly nobody before him put on such spellbinding performances and while looking as dapper in collar and jacket. Bonus points for that, chap. Bonus points for that.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Time Has Come -- Own a Datamancer Laptop Computer!

The prototype Datmancer laptop, open
Good day, everyone!
Over time, I may not have sufficiently extolled the creativity of the maker known as Datamancer, but his undisputed success in the steampunk world has undoubtedly made up for any such oversights. Regardless, I will now tell you of his seemingly latest endeavor: one-of-a-kind, dazzling steampunk laptop computers -- for SALE!
The prototype Datamancer laptop, closed, with key

That is right, ladies and gentlemen, you may now place a pre-order for a cutting-edge handcrafted work of art with immense practicality, created by the world famous Datamancer. He says that the new designs will be lighter and even more elegant than the prototype model, with all the bells and whistles upon which discerning technophiles insist (but he says PC only for now, sorry!).  The new models will still have the lovely collection of gears on the lid, but they will now spin.  Purchasers may choose from many options regarding the design of their wondrous contraptions, including the color of the wood stain, the type of metals used, and even the style of font on the keys.  He even has plans for the devices to be brought to life by the use of a brass key. (Squee!) To further involve patrons of the arts in the process, buyers will have access to YouTube videos of their own laptop machine being made. Now that is customer service.

All of this may be yours for a mere 50% downpayment, with a total cost of around $5500 (he mentions that future models may cost around $7500). Here is where you may read more about the design specifications and place an order; you may email him at laptops@datamancer.net.   Thank you, Datamancer, for your hard work and contributions to steampunk!


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