Springingtiger's Blog


The Steamimg Web

GUESS

When I started this piece I had thought to produce some sort of guide to internet sites for Steampunks. I have to admit to a gross naivete. I dare say someone might collate such a guide, but it’s not going to be me! I had to start again from scratch and I have despaired of ever completing it.

There is a question often asked and answered with as many variant replies as there are questioners seeking an answer. I will not presume to provide a definition, but I am interested in what Steampunk is in societal terms. Is it a movement?

I am a member of quite a few Steampunk groups on Facebook, but they have no formal relationship with each other so we are certainly not a movement like the Socialist International, nor an organisation like FIFA, but we are connected and we are international. So what is Steampunk?wp-image-135174496jpg.jpeg

Within Steampunk there are many organised (or more usually semi organised) groups. Many of them are, one might say, evangelical in intent; for example it is one of the goals of the Glasgow Ubiquitous E Steampunk Society ‘To promote the appreciation of the Steampunk cultural movement.’ Some groups exist primarily to organise events like the Victorian Steampunk Society who bring us The Asylum in Lincoln, and there are pages for Steampunk events all round the world. There is an incredible amount of overlap as I have discovered when clicking on various people tagged in pictures, many of whom I discover follow the same groups as I. I suspect that just as the internet has no central control yet connects people all over the world, Steampunk is a cultural web of like minded people. I was going to say eccentrics, however there are so many of us I am not sure eccentric is the correct term.

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Me with SPG (my life is complete!)

The GUESS Aims describe Steampunk as a cultural movement, but is it? I know there are people writing ‘Steampunk literature’, and comics. There are many Steampunk musical performers like Steam Powered Giraffe, The Cog is Dead, Abney Park, Before Victoria, Steampunk Stompers, Alice’s Night Circus; the list is too long for me to include it all, but when you listen you find that within Steampunk the music includes every genre from Jazz to punk rock and folk to cabaret. Perhaps there is no Steampunk music as such, but rather Steampunk is a sensibility that informs the music and also the literature, the poetry, painting that appears under the umbrella Steampunk.

To appreciate Steampunk we have to approach it with the mind of Sherlock Holmes and discover for ourselves the connections between its many parts. For example one might begin with one Facebook group like ‘Welcome To The Asylum‘ click on any name that is tagged into a photo and then check out the groups they follow. Of course if that feels too intrusive one could just search Facebook or any social network under the tag Steampunk to be presented with a plethora of groups to investigate. Were I to list all the wonderful groups I have discovered like White Rose Yorkshire Steampunks I’d be here forever there are so many, so have fun!

As for the question ‘What is Steampunk?’ I am more convinced than ever that it is dscf2243something I shall never be able to answer to everyone’s satisfaction, I shall be pleased if someday I can answer it to mine own.



I Went to the Cinema

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I went to the Cineworld Multiplex in Renfrew Street to day to see the new The Magnificent Seven and I thoroughly enjoyed the film. However this is not a film review. I appreciate that cinemas, like any other business need to run at a profit if they are to keep providing the service they do. I have an Unlimited Card which enables me to go to the cinema whenever I like for one good value monthly payment and I appreciate that too. I like Cineworld, I have had an Unlimited Card since they were introduced by UGC.

The Cineworld in Renfrew Street is undergoing a major refurbishment and I think it fair to call it a real improvement. I love that the former bar has been separated into a bar (very good discount for Unlimited card holders by the way) and a Starbucks (let’s face it Cineworld coffee leaves a little to be desired). The toilet facilities are greatly improved, they’d be better with another hand dryer on each level, I cannot comment on the Ladies. The whole place is becoming much more enjoyable to visit.

But, as Jeremy Corbyn said to Labour Party Conference, “There’s always a ‘but!’” I have found the Cineworld App upon whose information I plan my cinema visits is now inadequate for its purpose. I arrived today to see my film as advertised at Eleven Thirty. It was only when I got to the cinema that the girl on the desk told me. “That’s a DX4 film.” Apparently that meant there were all sorts of added extras like shaking seats, water sprays, air jets, and smells. I asked whether there were any normal seats to which dhe responded that there were, but not until Half Past Two…a three hour wait.

There was, she told me an alternative, I could see the film on the special screen at Twelve Forty. I asked her what the difference was and she explained that the screen was bigger and the sound, apparently, better. However I would have to pay a £2.50 premium.

Rather than wait three hours I paid up. That was £2.50 wasted as far as I’m concerned. I could not perceive any enhancement of my viewing experience. Perhaps has I been watching a 3D blockbuster it might have been worth it, but I wasn’t. Still I did enjoy the film. I am annoyed that I was put into the position of having to pay extra or lose a large part of my day because Cineworld had provided me with insufficient information. I accept that they are in a period of change, but it is unfair on their regular and loyal customers to mess them about however inadvertently. While they are busy upgrading the building they should, to avoid disappointment, update their Cineworld Phone App as a matter of priority.



MCM 2016

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Oh isn’t it big! I have never been to the big Comic Cons in the USA, but I am not sure they would impress me any more that MCM in terms of size. I was impressed at how quickly the entry queue at the SECC moved. We did not have to queue for long before we were in the 20160924_133240Comic Con. It was then that its shortcomings became apparent.

There didn’t appear to be any sort of program to tell people what was happening. I don’t 20160924_114634know whether there were any panels and if there were when they were. There was a meet and greet, I only know because I found it as I wandered about and I only know who was there by the signs at the tables, On a positive note there was a food court, over priced as at every event, but big and varied.

In the end I spent the whole day wandering around the stalls, taking some photographs, being photographed and introducing enquirers to the existence of the Glasgow Ubiquitous E Steampunk Society. I gather we had a dozen applications to be added to our Facebook Group from the weekend, which is gratifying. Unlike some of the smaller Cons there were a couple of Steampunk stalls, sadly Victoriana for the Voluptuous Vixen wasn’t there, but those that were were fairly reasonably priced. Of course as MCM is serving a wide range of genres it couldn’t hope to be as satisfying for me as a dedicated Steampunk Festival or Bazaar. Sadly most of the dedicated Steampunk events tend to be South of the Border so we have to grab what we 20160924_133338can up here. It was nice to find quite a few Steampunks wandering around several from South of the Border. Had the other GUESS members who took photographs uploaded them to our page they’d be illustrating this, in the meantime I’ll just use the few I took.20160924_144704

I was disappointed that the Rebel Con alternative Masquerade had to be cancelled because of the bad weather, particularly as it was the only thing that was happening whose time and location I knew in advance. It appears that the reason for the Rebel Con was removed by the accommodation of those who wanted to perform in the official masquerade…I never found out when or where that was!

It may sound as if I didn’t enjoy the event, but that would be wrong. I had a wonderful time. I just love the imagination and work that the cosplayers put into their Cosplays; creating outfits and accessories, intricate face painting, building EVA armour 20160924_122532and prosthetics, some had actually used metal…heavy, and learning moves, speeches and songs. It always makes me smile when confronted with a camera they drop into poses associated with their characters and then stroll off being 20160924_162415Iron Man, Batman, Sailor Moon or whoever they are cosplaying.

We were interviewed by BBC Scotland who were including participants’ comments in their piece about MCM on Sunday’s Good Morning Scotland. The item filled the last half hour of the program and focused very much on cosplay and included a fair amount about Steampunk with several references to the Asylum. All in all a very gratifying weekend, I think next year I shall go on both days.

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Those Days Are Gone…(The Lessons of History)
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WRNS, RNVR, & me

Today a friend on Facebook posted a tribute to her newly deceased uncle. In it she referenced his time as a ‘Bevin Boy’ called up to serve during the Second World War not in the Armed Forces, but as a coal miner. We sometimes forget that the whole armed struggle would have been in vain had not the infrastructure existed to support it. The post reminded me of a recently shared picture fron a veterans parade showing a weeping man, alone, carrying a wreath, marching as the last member of his battle group. It occurs to me that very soon there will be none of that generation who endured the Second World War left to remember it. It is not something that should be forgot.

Our politicians and captains of industry are of a generation whose eldest were but children in the war. For many the dark years of World War Two are nothing more than a source of cheap insults to score political points. It is sad to see the sacrifices of so many millions cheapened by a generation so fixed on their own gain that they treat the deaths of millions whether in mid Twentieth Century Europe or Twenty-First Century Syria with utter disregard. I was appalled when Ken Livingstone referenced Hitler’s support for a policy of forced settlement of Jews in Palestine is a cheap criticism of a particular political lobby. I was even more appalled when Michael Foster attacked those who supported Jeremy Corbyn as Nazi Stormtroopers. I was angry not just because of the dishonesty, but because it cheapened the sacrifices of a generation.

I don’t know much about my father’s war except that he spent most of it on a minesweeper keeping open the Mediterranean sea lanes and that he didn’t like Stukas. My mother was in the WRNS when she met him, she drove a lorry. I remember her telling me of how she drove the young men down to their ships and how when the ships returned to port she drove the bodies of those same young men back for burial because sea burials might have provided washed up bodies for Nazi propaganda. My uncle retreated across North Africa before Rommel and then fought his way through Europe from France to Germany. He told stories about his war, but only ever the funny anecdotes, he didn’t like dive bombers either. Every time a politician uses the war to score a debating point he pours contempt on the deaths and the scars seen and unseen of those who were there, that is why it is important that we keep their memories alive. The truth should not be buried along with the dead.

The Chilcott Enquiry stressed the importance of learning the lessons of the Iraq War. The truth is we are very bad at learning the lessons of any war, that’s why we keep fighting them. We dwell on the victories and acts of heroism and conveniently hide the truth of the profiteers who made money from the war, the treachery and cowardice that are also part of any conflict. As long as we glorify war we will breed new generations eager to fight them, of course we also continue to provide a good income for those who make and sell the weapons. Just as fortunes were established by slave owners and still enjoyed by their descendants today, so were the profits of war enjoyed by an elite whose children continue to occupy the upper echelons of society.

There have been commemorations of the battles of the Great War, but much less about the domestic history of that war. We remember Churchill sending tanks into France, but tend to ignore him sending them to crush demonstrations against intolerable labour practices in Glasgow. We are inclined to forget Mary Barbour and the brave women of the rent strikes exploited by profiteer landlords while their husbands were fighting and dying in Flanders. Ironically during all the commemorations of the Great War and the ignoring of the Rent Strike Conservative MPs, many of whom are landlords themselves refused to pass legislation compelling landlords to make the properties they let fit for human habitation. Finally as I think about the Clydesiders and the labour struggles of the earlier Twentieth Century my attention was drawn to a remark in yet another article about anti-Semitism in the Labour Party that quite rightly pointed out the valuable part played by the Jewish community in building the Party one of the writer’s examples was Manny Shinwell. I remembered a conversation I once had with Fenner Brockway about the need to capture the memories of the early campaigners while they were still with us. Of Manny Shinwell he said, “Manny was one of us, but he turned!” Not an anti-semitic comment merely an expression of Brockway’s lifelong refusal to compromise his socialist principles. Not long after that conversation I shared a taxi with Phillip Noel Baker and he talked non stop about Eleanor Roosevelt, I wished I could have recorded him. We allow too many of our past generations to go without leaving a record of their life, times and personal memories and opinions, we need to remember and learn from the lessons of our history.



Playing Hooky
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GUESS at MCM

On Saturday I took a day off from my usual schedule. I enjoyed it. Everyday I write my journal, everyday I read my Bible, everyday I post my blog. Saturday began as any other day I did write in my journal in the morning, but decided to postpone my Bible reading until the evening, as I often do. I usually blog in the evening, often the subject of my blog is suggested by the events of the day or, perhaps, the news. Saturday began as a normal day, the only anticipated break from routine was meeting up with some of my friends in the Glasgow Ubiquitous E Steampunk Society to go to the MCM Comic Con. This is not going to be a blog about MCM nor Steampunk, but there will be reference to both later in the week possibly.

It was only in the evening as I thought about blogging that I realised it felt like a burden. I could have posted one I had in reserve for an occasion when time did not permit writing. However as I contemplated what to post it occurred to me that I had become a prisoner of my targets and goals. I love setting goals as they provide a clarity and focus to my actions, but on Saturday I realised that instead of using them I had become subject to their tyranny, I had become obsessive about achieving them. I had set myself the goal of posting a blog every day of the year and having blogs in hand made that a simple enough thing to do. On Saturday the thought of posting a blog everyday ceased to give me joy. Blogging is not my job, I don’t get paid for it, I do it for pleasure and if it does not give me joy then what is the point? On Saturday I chose not to post even a reserve blog, I chose not to read my Bible, and in the evening I did not complete my journal for the day.

For a little while I felt uncomfortable, I do not like it when my days do not follow their expected routine. For a little while I felt uncomfortable that I was letting myself or others down, I have no contract with anyone but myself so at worst I was letting myself down. I learned many years ago from Werner Erhard that even when one has given one’s word it is permissible to renegotiate any agreement. My agreement is with me and I realised that the deeper level of the agreement was to find joy in what I was doing, I gave myself permission to play hooky and immediately experienced a great feeling of freedom, so much so that I almost wrote about it there and then. I think that might have defeated the point a little as it was only by breaking my agreement with myself that it ceased to be a burden.

One day off from goals and schedules and then it was back to the blog and all the rest of it because that’s what I wanted. I have a better agreement now, now I will not allow myself to be burdened by my commitments, but to focus on the joy to which they lead. And where there is no joy on which to focus then I will do something else. Another thing I learned by taking that day off is that I love to write and a day without writing feels like a day with a hole at its heart. I doubt I’ll take another day off like that, but I’m happy I did.



The Pakora Problem
September 25, 2016, 22:21
Filed under: food, Health, Scotland, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Some weeks ago my wife and I went to our optician (Jordan’s) in Ayr. After our appointments we went to have a coffee and found a nice little café that also sold second hand books. For a pound we bought ‘Great Indian Dishes’ by Rafi Fernandez. The first page has recipes for Onion Bhajis and for Curry (a spicy yoghurt soup made with gram flour). The Bhaji recipe is good and I use the batter for all sorts of pakora now so much so that Friday has become Pakora Day.

I told my wife that the idea was to make a batch of pakora, have some with tea on friday and have plenty for the weekend. She laughed. The problem with fresh pakora is that it is very difficult to only eat a few and this is a very good recipe giving a delightfully light and tasty result. I rarely am left with enough for the weekend, but if I have some for Saturday I am content.

I remember I thought I would save money by making bread in a bread machine rather than buying a couple of loaves every week. What I had not foreseen was that there would be no saving because faced with freshly baked bread people just eat much more of it than they would supermarket loaves.

Any home baking suffers the same fate, the saving over buying ready-made products is quickly ‘eaten up’ by peoples increased appetites. I suppose home-made is better in many ways than shop bought products, at the least for the control of the quality of the ingredients, but they represent no overall saving unless one is very disciplined. Faced with the reality of the pakora problem could I go back to an occasional takeaway from the local restaurant? I dare say I could, but regardless of my appetite, the sheer pleasure of fresh, home-made pakora means Pakora Day will remain a regular part of every week.

Success! I managed to have pakora on Friday as well as plenty for the weekend. I had worried I might not manage it, especially as pakora is so very moreish, however I have discovered the solution to the pakora problem….make lots of them! It may have done nothing for my economy nor for my waistline, but I am well satisfied. Perhaps a little too well satisfied and content, very content. As for our cookery book, I am not yet inclined to move beyond the first page!



Gratefully Alarmed

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I was reading interviews with the new Strictly Come Dancing contestants the Radio Times earlier. Daisy Lowe’s interview was interrupted by an alarm going off. She explained that she has an alarm set for every day to remind her to be grateful for the doors that have opened for her. I love the idea of setting am alarm to remind oneself to be grateful.

I don’t set an alarm because the practice of gratitude is an integral pert of my morning journalling. However for anyone not following a daily journalling process, in fact for everyone, a daily practice of gratitude is an excellent idea. Deliberately looking at one’s life to find things for which to be grateful puts the whole day into a positive perspective.

It is very easy to focus on the negative things in our lives, loss of job, loss of income, aching joints, the cost of food and heating, yadi yada…Faced with a catalogue of problems there is a temptation to see the world and life in a very gloomy light. However when we look at our lives we have much for which to be grateful, I have my wife and our long and amusing marriage, family, my daughter, grandchildren, a brother who invited me to base myself in his house during the Asylum in Leicester. If I cast my focus further afield I can be grateful for my free bus pass and all sorts of age related concessions. At the very least I can be grateful for being alive. Richard Wilkins says that every day he reaches out to his sides with his elbows and as long as they are not encountering the wood of his coffin he is grateful because there is always the possibility of a great day.

Most of us forget to take time to ‘count our blessings’, we probably don’t even take the advice to count our blessings seriously. In my experience taking time to be grateful in the morning provides hope for the day and a reason for living. Being grateful at the end of the day gives me cause to look forward to waking tomorrow. I once posted on Facebook that I didn’t want to wake up tomorrow morning. I didn’t mean I wanted to die, just that I wanted to remain in bed asleep rather than get up and go to work. The reaction from my friends on Facebook was quite wonderful in the concern they showed for me. Although I suppose I should be grateful for worrying them I am not. Since I started deliberately practising gratitude every day my bouts of depression have become infrequent and rarely take a proper hold any more and that makes a huge difference to the way I live my life. Of all the components of my daily journalling and all the spiritual practices and personal development exercises I have practised over the years I have found none as simple or powerful as the daily practice of gratitude. It works for me and for that I am grateful.