Springingtiger's Blog


The Glasses For It

 February is Steampunk Hands Around the World month hosted by the Airship Ambassador. The theme this year is Making Life Better. I have chosen the category ‘Personal Issues’ because Steampunk has added so much to my personal enjoyment of life.

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You should come along, you’ve got the glasses for it!” said my friend Brian as he informed me that the Glasgow Ubiquitous E. Steampunk Society was going to participate in the Glasgow (Scotland) Style Mile Winter Parade. I hadn’t heard of the Style Mile and the existence of Steampunk as a thing had escaped me. A little explanation left me wondering how it had escaped me. I had the glasses, I also had a long association with waistcoats, cravats, bow-ties, hats and other sartorial eccentricities. I was at school when William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton were ‘The Doctor’. My school reading tended to be HG Wells, Kipling, H. Rider Haggard and Michael Moorcock as well as The Eagle and the Rover and Wizard. I loved the cartoons of Charles Addams and Heath Robinson. The school film club brought us films like The Time Machine, 2000 Leagues Under The Sea and Journey To The Centre of the Earth. However Steampunk had never impinged upon my consciousness.

I had accidentally retired early when I was made redundant at the age of sixty. I had time on my hands and so I wrapped a top hat in holly, put on my naval greatcoat, picked up my carved Indian walking stick and joined GUESS on the parade. I was unprepared for just how much fun I would have and how much entertainment we would give the public just by walking among them. I was easily persuaded to attend RaiCon a few weeks later, I had never considered going to a Comic Con previously and I had a marvellous time. Cosplay is another concept that had largely escaped my notice, but what a lovely welcoming group of young (well compared to me) people they are and they seemed delighted to have a bunch of Steampunks wandering around the Con.

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The Society’s annual general meeting came around and inevitably I went along and left at its end, the ‘Chief Engineer’ (Club Secretary) of the Glasgow Ubiquitous E. Steampunk Society. No longer just a pensioner, but a pensioner with a purpose (besides my writing that is). As a representative of Steampunkery and of the Society I threw myself into Steampunk. I had been up until that point an E Bay virgin, but building a Steampunk wardrobe for every occasion can prove costly and I was on a small pension. I not only learned to use E Bay, but became a frequenter of charity shops and antique shops. I was forced to become creative and gradually more adventurous. I began by camouflaging with cogs, burn holes in a used Morning Coat. It was not too long before I had sewn myself a leather coachman’s hat from a bag of scraps bought online. I learned, as I went round charity shops, to look at things differently; I learned to see things not as they were, but as what they could be. Sometimes I bought things merely because they looked as if they could become something amazing even if I could not yet see it. I have even been on a workshop to learn how to use a sewing machine!

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I went online seeking ideas and inspiration on You Tube, Facebook and Google Plus, there are so many of us in cyberspace! Steampunks are very helpful and encouraging and some I call my friends even though we may not yet have met, and some I have. I was amazed to discover how large a community we are and how widely dispersed around the world. I was delighted to discover that many are ̶ like myself ̶ on the autism spectrum, finding in Steampunk an ideal outlet for their imaginations. I find Steampunk is a wonderful vehicle for communicating with the world and building a web of relationships. I now edit a quarterly (ish) online newsletter for the Glasgow Ubiquitous E. Steampunk Society. From the last issue we have started to produce it in association with the Music City Steampunk Consortium of Nashville, Tennessee and hope to have increased participation from them as time goes on.

dscf2236There is something magical and inspiring about the internationalism of Steampunk. I went alone to the Asylum Steampunk Festival in Lincoln last year and had no problem communicating with complete strangers from all around the world. Those who understand Aspergers will appreciate how important that is. However I did not feel as if I were among strangers, I felt very much at home (in the evenings I was staying with my brother outside Lincoln which probably helped too).

There is so much to discover in Steampunk, culture, fashion, art, music, literature, amazing events. My days are never dull despite retirement. Also it opens the door to so many other new interests. In Glasgow we have the Britannia Panopticon Music Hall, the world’s oldest operating music hall and I have become a volunteer in its struggle to preserve a unique cultural institution. I used to study medieval history when I was younger, now I find myself looking at the history of the Georgians, Victorians and Edwardians to inform my Steampunkery and of late I’ve been looking at the American West in the Nineteenth Century in a way I never did before (Bass Reeves…wow!)

Here I am in my sixties, on the Spectrum, with a whole new and exciting life open to me. I had expected, once the work dried up, to spend my time at home reading and writing and growing old. Now I’m like a child in some sort of brass and copper built Disneyland with a new wonder around every corner, a new adventure over the brow of every hill. Someday I may die by chronological inevitability, but I doubt if I shall ever grow old!

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At Crossed Purposes

I wrote this some weeks ago, but held it back for various reasons. Now time has passed to think about it, it’s time to post.

It is, some people say, a characteristic of people with autism spectrum disorders that they assume that everyone knows what they do; indeed there is a diagnostic test that uses this very principle. It is therefore possibly asking for trouble, or at least a degree of confusion, when a person with Aspergers uses several social media accounts.

 

The first problem is that the contractions one makes to squeeze a meaningful statement into one hundred and forty characters for Twitter may render it confusing to others while to oneself the meaning is obvious. It may not matter as a rule, but when the subject matter is controversial the lack of clarity can be problematical. One hundred and forty characters often means that a message is stripped of much of its context which may be important in the interpretation. Facebook and Google Plus are not limited to the one hundred and forty character limit, however for reasons of pure convenience my posts on Facebook and Google Plus are often edited to fit the twitter limit.

 

I like to use Hootsuite so that I can post one message to my five accounts (actually six because my main Twitter account posts into my Linked In account too) Facebook, Google Plus and three Twitter accounts (No, I’m not sure why either). This makes life very convenient, but also poses problems which had not occurred to me until the other day. People who follow one of my accounts and engage in conversation on it, I now realise, have no idea what is happening on my other accounts. I on the other hand, may well inform my response on one account with what is happening on another, forgetting that unless people have access to the other conversation, much of the meaning of what I write will be lost on them. I have seen this lead to a degree of justifiable confusion which on reflection might have been avoided had it occurred to me to weigh up the consequences in advance…I don’t do consequences. I know what I’m talking about, it never occurs to me that others don’t because it never occurs to me that they do not share my awareness.

 

Another less obvious problem is that of responses. Once I have finished a post it tends to leave my consciousness at the same time as it hits cyberspace which is generally the point at which I lose interest in it. It is only when I am actively seeking a response that I tend to follow with any interest what I’ve written and so replies break into my consciousness with a degree of violence, only because my thoughts have moved to other things. If I am to be honest even when I seek a response I often quickly forget I have done so, thus replies can come as a surprise. This happened to me the other day and it was only when I looked back to see to what people were replying that I realised that they might quite reasonably be misinterpreting my post. However as the NLP principle says, ‘The meaning of a communication is the response you get.’ the fault lies in the original posting. It may be time to review my social media strategy. Convenience is inconvenient when it compels me to waste time clearing up confusion.

 

 



Favourite Folk (Love Endures)

 

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Taj Mahal: Love Endures

While much of the time I find Facebook intensely irritating I do find its reminders of what I posted last year or three or four years ago very enjoyable. I suspect others do too. Today a friend of mine posted a photo taken of him, his wife and two friends outside a bar in Corfu several years ago. I wasn’t there, I don’t know the bar, but I do know all the four people in it. I haven’t seen three of them for many years, although I encounter them on Facebook, and it reminded me of how much I enjoyed their company when we moved in the same circles.

This weekend my wife and I had been hoping to get to a celebration of the life of a friend who died recently. I knew him when I was a student, my wife knew him through his daughter. It would have been nice to meet her again, we haven’t seen her since she stayed with her two young children. Then the younger was in nappies now he’s recently become engaged.

Sometimes it amazes me how quickly time flies by. At a family gathering recently I found myself reflecting on how recently the adults around the table had been the children served first so they could play while their parents enjoyed their own dinner. Now they sat with us as their children played.

However love pays no heed to the passage of time and the people we let into our hearts tend to remain there while many others we meet fail to find a lodgement and pass out of memory. The photograph of my friends showed me that I feel as warmly about them now as I did when we were all involved with the work of Landmark Education. My happy memories of skiing with them in Italy when my daughter was small are undiminished. It is funny how they remain so alive in my memory while so many others have faded. Of course one of the joys of that photograph is that it unlocked all my memories of them. “The mind is a complete multi-sensory record of successive moments of Now.” I learned in my Est training and it stuck with me. My friends faces allowed me access to every memory I have connected with them and it brightened up my whole day.

It is a shame that it is impractical to get to the memorial event at the weekend. However merely knowing about it and thinking about the people involved, just as my friends’ photograph did, brings up a feast of memories and in this case valuable lessons learned. Lessons that go back over forty years. A good lesson is as valuable now as even a couple of thousand years ago. One of those lessons of which the photo and the celebration I will miss remind me is that love never ends.

I generally dislike St. Paul for all the usual reasons: misogeny, twisting Jesus to fit a dodgy theology etc., but sometimes he wrote something good, sometimes beautiful. I had thought to quote one verse of 1 Corinthians 13, but the whole piece is too beautiful to cherry pick. (I personally would usually use the KJV, but the RSV is probably easier to grasp so here it is.)

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right.Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends; as for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophecy is imperfect; but when the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood. So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”



The Lure of Facebook

 

Oh it is nice to be back on social media, having finished putting the Glasgow Ubiquitous E Steampunk Society Newsletter together! I mentioned the other day just how addictive Twitter and Facebook can be. However they are fun. I still remember how when, after I was given my diagnosis of Aspergers Syndrome, I was offered a contact to a social group for Aspies, my wife remarked, “It’s called Facebook!”. She wasn’t far off the mark.

It is strange how many good friends I have on Facebook I have never met and some I have, some I knew first from Facebook and met later. I suppose it is very probable that when you make friends on Facebook with people who share your interests, that sooner or later your paths will cross, certainly if you live in the same city. Much of my Facebook time is spent on special interest groups. I love how someone can share a post which leads me to visit a page where I see something amazing that provokes me to comment. The person who’s page it is replies to my comment and I respond and suddenly I find myself with a new friend and a new source of ideas and inspiration.

Talking of ideas and inspiration. Once I have looked at my notifications, perhaps spent some time on my time line, I like to go to my groups and see what has been added since I last looked. The political groups are very useful for keeping me abreast with various campaigns and sourcing information to pass on to other campaigners. The autism groups let me know what’s happening in the Autism Community, much of it I ignore because I’m bored with many of the debates, particularly around vaccines. At the moment I am spending quite a lot of time on Steampunk groups because they are such a source of ideas and other people’s experience which is a godsend to anyone involved in crafting and creating.

Facebook is a good source of material. The graphic on my Facebook Profile Header I got from Facebook. I hasten to add I am using it with permission. I generally find people are very generous with their work as long as I ask permission to use it and acknowledge their work. I was on a march the other day wearing Steampunk gear and several people took my photograph. It is nice when they ask first, not that I mind particularly when they don’t, but it is courteous. I notice that many professional photographers are very scrupulous about asking. It is even more important to get permission to use other people’s art work. The painting you share in a second may have taken the artist weeks. It is not so bad to share what they have themselves shared on Facebook, but to take a picture from their commercial catalogue and share it without permission or acknowledgement is tantamount to theft. Having said that, most creatives are delighted to have their work appreciated and are happy to have it seen widely. If you ask, they will usually let you. When you share someone else’s music or writing you may be giving away that on which they depend to put food on their table by selling. Again if you ask they may be happy to allow a representative extract to be shared with appropriate acknowledgement. I have said it before, and I will repeat, people on Facebook tend to be very generous as long as you treat them and their work with respect.

I have several ongoing conversations on Facebook Messenger. Often these are related to the groups in which I’m involved, for example one of them is a way the committee of a society can discuss matters relating to the group without putting them on the Group’s page. Another is a means of sharing news reports with a small group interested in a particular subject. Messenger is also a good way to keep in touch with family and friends, some conversations are better not put on an open page.

I am back after just a couple of days. I miss Facebook when I’m not using it, even if it were just a couple of days. However coming back and immediately getting involved in disputes with people whose relationship with reality is utterly illogical and uninformed reminds me why it is so good periodically to take a break from it.



Slow Down You move too Fast!

wpid-27122011232-001.jpgLast night there was an attempted coup in Turkey, the night before that an evil man drove an lorry into crowds of innocent revellers including women and children in Nice. In less than three weeks since the English voted to drag the UK out of the EU events have preceded at a terrifying pace. The Prime Minister resigned, his party had a leadership contest (almost) and appointed a new Prime Minister who then conducted the most ruthless cabinet reshuffle that anyone can remember, certainly since MacMillan. In the meantime a group of careerist MPs in the Labour Party, hoping to protect their elite position in the party mounted a rebellion against their own leader. Now it seems that everyday brings a new attack on democracy from the Blairite wing of the party, not so much New Labour as Neo-Stalinism. I almost forgot that the Chilcot Report has finally been published, but there’s just so much happening so fast it’s easy to miss something. I am sacred that if I fall asleep at night I’ll wake up in a world I don’t recognise and I won’t have seen it happening.

My wife made a remark at one point to the effect that the speed of change has made the print media obsolete. It is certainly true that even the broadcast media seem to be struggling to keep up with events. We seem to have a need for twenty four hour live streaming of news and commentary. Sixty years ago the Six O’ Clock News signalled the end of ‘Children’s Hour’ and that it was time for bed. The News was on at Six and at Nine, but I was in bed long before nine knowing that the next morning things would be much as they were when I went to bed. Nothing was instant, even the television took an eternity for the valves to warm up before the picture appeared, so did the radio although its pictures were painted in words. No email, no internet, no cable, no satellite television. Everything was slower except the traffic, given a good road cars were not tied to a seventy miles per hour upper limit.

We can’t go back to those times. To be honest I don’t think I would want to. However painful the pace of modern life, the technological innovations that make that pace possible have brought great benefits and scientific advances. In many ways all our lives have improved. I do worry about the urgency that drives us though. I can appreciate that up to date information is essential in business and military decision making. For the most part we do not need to rush. Facebook and Twitter feed into the immediacy of our lives, but most of what they feed us we don’t need and most of what we do need we don’t need immediately. I know people who are addicted to immediate information and spend an inordinate amount of time glued to a screen. We need to learn to filter our information better. I use the BBC Parliament Channel to review information that is often days old, I never watch PMQs live. When it comes to Question Time I tend to wait until I see the comments it has provoked before deciding whether to watch it. I love ‘catch up’ services like I Player, my wife downloads podcasts of radio programs. Obtaining most of the information we need in our lives can be fitted in to suit our schedules and yet too many of us instead try to accommodate our lives to the constant barrage of information.

I don’t believe my mind nor anyone else’s mind is designed to process a constant stream of fast moving information, that way lies madness, at least for me. If information is a constantly flowing river rather than swim in it and risk drowning, I prefer to sit on the bank and periodically dip my beaker into the flow and sample it. Most of the time I only need a little taste to know whether I need to try more. One thing I have learned is that it is inadvisable to just swallow anything one pulls from the stream.



Who Do You Think You Are?

Oh dear when it comes to the Bible’s boring bits the early bits of Chronicles take some beating! I don’t find long lists of the generations of the tribes of Israel from Adam onwards particularly interesting, although if we took the Bible as a historical account I suppose it means that all the violence in the Middle East is nothing more than a nasty family squabble. Personally I find these lists as boring as all the begetting and begotting at the start of some gospels intent on proving Jesus to be descended from David, and I take those with a pinch of salt as well, a big pinch.

Genealogy is a source of fascination to some people. I suppose everyone wants to know who they are and how they fit into the overall scheme of things, why else would the BBC program ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ be so popular. It feeds ordinary people’s fascination with celebrity and fantasies of possibly being special, if not in themselves then by heredity. Many Indian families like my wives have family records kept by hereditary priests in Haridwar or Rishikesh in the Himalayas on the banks of the Ganga which help to preserve people’s place in society.

The Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter Day Saints are very assiduous about genealogy because of their belief (which is found in the letters of St Paul) that the living can participate in ceremonies like baptism on behalf of their ancestors.

Genealogy has a role in health care as so many conditions or the tendency to contract them can be hereditary and it helps to be aware of ones ancestors health problems. It can be vital in matters of inheritance, kingdoms have been lost over disputed ancestry. In time gone by it was not unusual for kings to have constructed genealogies to demonstrate their right to the throne.

I have never been excessively concerned about my own heredity. However it still came as a slight disappointment to learn from my cousin that I was a descendant of the Dublin gunsmith Richard Guinness and not, as I had always believed the brewer Arthur Guinness. I can still say that two sorts of Guinness flow through my veins.

At the moment there are many people anxious to establish their Irish descent so that they can remain citizens of the European Union despite the English decision to drag the United Kingdom out the EU. Last week the main Post Office in Belfast ran out of Irish Passport application forms so great was the demand. I know there are many people who prefer not to call themselves British at the moment because of its negative connotations and who are seeking to attach anchors to alternative nationalities to which they may be entitled because they no longer feel secure in a post Brexit UK.

In India when a person decides to dedicate themselves to the life of a sunyasin they not only put off their possessions but also their family and their name. Other cultures have similar practices. Hereditary, family, and name are like any other possession, merely ties to bind a person into society. Genealogy is both a tool for placing oneself in society and a chain to bind oneself into that place. Curiously enough although the renunciant may no longer find themselves in that place and may disappear from the recognition of all who knew them, who they were will always remain in that genealogy and in the memories and records of the family. Whether one passes through a symbolic funeral at renunciation or a real one at death they retain a place for the members of their family within their family. They may no more leave a mark on the world, but they have left an indelible mark behind them.wpid-S5000634_1.jpg



Life Is Short And Ends In An Instant.

Today in Parliament MPs were paying their respects to Jo Cox MP who was killed last week. This week she would have been forty two years old…just forty two years old, so young, so full of hope for the future and suddenly no more.

As I awoke the next day after Jo Cox’s murder my new copy of the ‘Gigg News’ (my old school magazine)dropped through my letter box. In it, as always were notices of achievements, births and deaths. It included the obituary of my headmaster, the headmaster who saw me through all but my last couple of years in the school, Owen John Tressider Rowe. I can say from personal experience that he was a wonderful and kind man. I was a difficult child, perhaps because of the Aspergers that was not to be diagnosed until several decades later. I was called to his study on a few occasions and I remained in the school until I finished my ‘A’ levels. I may not approve of the Public School system, but were it not for Mr. Rowe and my Housemaster William Brocklebank and their understanding I might have been cast adrift into a state system ill-equipped to handle me. I may not approve of the Public School system, but without it I douby whether I would have completed my secondary education. Mr. Rowe was ninety three when he died, he achieved great things both in Giggleswick School and at Epsom. ninety three is a good age, and his life was filled with accomplishment, yet I was still sad that he had gone although I had not seen him forty five years, some people have that impact on our lives.

Jo Cox was just forty two years old yet she had had time to make a deep impact on the lives of those who had met her. I have been moved to see long serving politicians like Neil Kinnock unable to hide their tears. She had filled her life with accomplishment working for charity and as a political advisor and campaigner before becoming an MP, but I don’t need to tell anyone about her, it’s been in all the newspapers. I am sad when a fulfilled man of ninety three dies, but how much sadder am I when someone so young, with so much still to accomplish dies so tragically.

A friend of mine, the Reverend John Peck who I have not seen in perhaps thirty years and is in his nineties came to my attention this week because his son posted his picture on Facebook on Fathers Day. I benefited greatly from his advice and example as a young man. Perhaps the biggest lesson I learned from him was that a true Evangelical Christian is as forgiving and as generous as the Christ they profess to follow. I suspect that one of the reasons I left the church was that very few lived up to his example. What I love is the love he still inspires in so many people and that his writings, his cultural activities, and his loving (and deliciously wacky) family and friends ensure that whatever happens his legacy will continue.

It does not require a long life to make an impact or to change the world for the better. Mr. Rowe’s legacy lives on in his buildings and the changes he wrought in education, and in his family and the impression he left on the people who met him. Jo Cox in her ridiculously short life has obviously made an impact on people, she made a difference in the world and like my other examples is well loved. Her life may have been short, but her legacy will not pass away any time soon.

If I have learned anything this week it is that none of us know whether our lives will be long or short. They may be cut short, unexpectedly at any moment and so if we want to get anything accomplished we had better not waste time, but do it now. I don’t know about Jo Cox, but John Peck is and Mr.Rowe was a man of faith. They none of them slept when they should have been attending to their duties and trimming their lamps, so to speak, Should they be called into God’s presence, assuming there is such a thing, I expect they will be met with the words, “Well done thou good and faithful servant…” and I suspect that will be reward enough.