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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Newsletter Time Again


Now blogging must be put to simmer gently on a backburner. My writing focus for the next couple of weeks must be upon the editing of the second edition of the Glasgow Ubiquitous E Steampunk Society Newsletter.

What may readers expect this time? Hopefully there will be reports from the Society’s Officers (as yet zero received). There are TWO workshops, one on Steampunk goggle customisation from the Sky Captain, the other a fascinator by Ambika of Sundara Run. A review of what members have been up to over the quarter from Comic Con and acting as extras in July through to MCM in September via  another ‘Walking Workshop’. There will also be a report on the Asylum Steampunk Festival in Lincoln. There are also articles from Karen McKay and Iain Cameron and we have been promised a page of Steampunk humour (no I don’t know what that means either!).
I have a GUESS leaflet signed by all the members of Steam Powered Giraffe to be given away as a prize along with a voucher to spend at our favorite Steampunk stall, but a prize for what? You will have to wait and see or, to put it another way, wait until I’ve set the competition!
I hope the newsletter will be released by the end of October before NaNoWriMo begins in November. So no time to chat, I’d better get on with it!



GUESS Who Was At Rai Con Winter? 

The answer of course, is  GUESS: the Glasgow Ubiquitous E Steampunk Society. The great thing about Rai Con for provincial Steampunks is that it is another opportunity to dress up and raise the profile of Steampunk in Scotland. This Rai Con like the one in spring GUESS hosted a Steampunk Cosplay competition.

I know Rai Con isn’t as big as the MCM Comic Con, but I actually prefer it. It doesn’t have anywhere made as many vendors, nor does it attract such big names, but it has a more intimate and friendly atmosphere. The other thing  I like about Rai Con in common with the Glasgow Comic Con, also held in the Royal Concert Hall, is that it is so much easier to navigate. At MCM we missed things…most things because we didn’t know what was on where. It didn’t stop us having fun, but we might have had more. 

Rai Con is aimed primarily at Manga and Anime fans, many of whom come dressed as characters from their favourite Anime. What makes any Con memorable is above all the cosplayers, both for each other and everyone else. The program is very much aimed at promoting Cosplayand I went to two good panels: Mitch Gardiner on body painting and Nonas talking about wigs. 

Also on the schedule was our Steampunk competition sponsored by Victoriana for the Voluptuous Vixen who had a stall at Rai Con. I had the privilege of judging the competition and it was not easy because there were some great cosplays and outfits to judge. The last winner Mitch Gardiner reprised her ‘Rabbit’ from Steam Powered Giraffe, Iain Cameron another GUESS member’s outfit  featured his own craft work and custom paint work. I was torn, but in the end the prize went to ‘Steampunk’ Sally from Night Before Christmas whose cosplay had taken months of sewing and also featured body paint. However Steampunk is not only cosplay, but is also about a state of mind, a different way of relating to the world. Our two first prize winners so far have been cosplayers so this time we awarded a special prize to someone who is enthusiastically Steampunk and probably deserves a prize for fitting ridiculous numbers of goggles on a bowler hat, two and a half…well two pairs and a Steampunk monocle: Robert Alerdice. If anyone needs a stovepipe hat it’s Robert! 
Glasgow Ubiquitous E Steampunk Society would like to thank the organisers of Rai Con for inviting us to hold the competition as part of a great event, Victoriana for the Voluptuous  Vixen for providing the prizes, the contestants and all those who came to watch. Next time it will be bigger and better just keep an eye on the Rai ConVVVIXEN, and GUESS Facebook pages.



NaNoWriMo

wpid-captured_by_snapseed_2_2_1.jpgFor the last two Novembers I have embraced the National Novel Writing Month challenge. One month, one novel of at least 50,000 words. The first novel grew far beyond November and requires some topographical research before I can complete it. The second, ‘Brianna: A Life Between Lives‘ I self published and is available on Amazon. It is an exploration of the underlying metaphysical realities of existence as they are revealed to a woman whose post mortem status is to be determined by a tribunal. In the meantime she is guided in the Astral planes by Caraid whose identity and status remain somewhat of a mystery until the final denouement. Having completed Brianna I crossed off another item on my bucket list and thought this year I would just kick back and enjoy November. At this point the only things in my diary are a trip to Inverness and a gig in Edinburgh on the nineteenth, to which I have yet to buy tickets.

Writing is addictive and so are writing challenges. A few days ago Sarah, a friend of mine, announced she was going to do NaNoWriMo again this year. This is October and as November approaches I have found myself increasingly inclined to give NaNoWriMo another go. I have an idea sloshing around the troubled waters of my mind, actually several. However one idea is pestering me more insistently than the others. I can see and hear the protagonist Cain and he refuses to be silent. He invades my dreams and my quiet moments. I have had to tell him that I will not write his story until November, otherwise I will not be eligible for the challenge. And so I wait patiently, he less so irritatingly. Today I committed myself publicly again to NaNoWriMo. On the first of November I shall begin writing ‘Cain At The Edge Of Space’ (a working title, it may change). This year instead of blogging in November I am going to post an uncorrected instalment of ‘Cain At The Edge Of Space’. Whether I will be able to complete it on November the Thirtieth is another matter.

To anyone who has never participated in National Novel Writing Month, but who has an idea for a novel floating around in their head, I say this could be the kick-start you need. A month of intensive writing probably won’t leave you with a polished work of art. However it will leave you with something you can polish. At the very least, if you complete the challenge, you will be able to enjoy a sense of genuine accomplishment. I am actually beginning to look forward to November where I can see Cain sitting on his horse, or not quite a horse, on the ridge waiting for me, his hat pulled low over his eyes. I know he sees me. He misses nothing and I mean that in the worst ways you can imagine…



Sheiky Journalism.

Today the television news seems to be exulting in the conviction of Mazher Mahmood, the Fake Sheikh. Mahmood was the master of the sting a so called journalistic procedure wherein someone is tricked into making damaging admissions to a journalist posing as someone else who then catches the admission on a secret camera. Because Mahmood worked for News Corp it has allowed the News programs to revisit the Hacking Scandal and the Millie Dowler case and make sanctimonious observations about print journalism. There seems to be undisguised delight in the news that Mahmood’s conviction has opened News Corp to some twenty legal suits from those stunr by the Sheikh. If I’m honest it’s a delight I share, but I am less comfortable to see the glee on the part of BBC journalists at dubious practices.

I do not believe journalists should be allowed to break the law as Mahmood did. However for BBC journalists to take such pleasure in the discomfiture of an investigative journalist occurs to me as arising from relief that their journalists are out of the spotlight. For the last few years their news reporting has been under constant fire for its palapable bias in favour of the establishment. They have also been under fire for bias in the picking of panels for programs like Question Time as well as the audiences for the programs. In contrast with Channel Four which has exposed the Tory electoral expenses scandal and unlike the BBC has not ignored the war crimes of our Saudi Arabian allies in the Yemen whereas the BBC agenda in the Middle East has to report on Syria according to the UK and US government’s regime change agenda.

I suppose we should by now expect shortcomings in BBC investigative journalism considering their failure to notice the paedophilia of Jimmy Savile and other BBC celebrities over many years. However that coupled with charges of bias in news reporting has reduced the BBC’s reputation as a news organisation to little better than Fox News or North Korean State television. It is sad that through much of the world people who would once have relied on the BBC and its World Service for their news are turning instead to Al Jazeera. Perhaps more worrying is the number of people in Britain who prefer other news channels including Russian Televisions RT News to the BBC.

What is of concern is the low esteem into which journalism in general has fallen. People no longer trust the mainstream newspapers and media. The more trusted papers include The Morning Star and The National and that’s largely not because of a lack of bias, but because their agenda is upfront and they are honest about their leaning rather than pretending to impartiality. It is the practices of journalism that have destroyed its reputation both online and in print. There is a dishonest selectivity in their selection of what they report, thus Teresa May’s pretending to want to make life better for the ‘working class’ (Am I the only one to notice during her party political broadcast her involuntary head shaking as she made that claim? An indicator she didn’t mean it) was reported while her intention to compile lists of foreign workers in the country (to make it easier to deport them?) was ignored. But to get back to Mahmood at last I have concerns about this easy acceptance of entrapment. A few days ago the news was full of the entrapment of Sam Allardyce by journalists who put the desire for headlines before the success of the English Football Team. I am uneasy because I am not convinced of Allardyce’s dishonesty, but a question was raised by his comments. What concerns me is that people who are not dishonest or criminal, but who are as human as the rest of us, are being tempted into illegality by journalists offering them the possibility of making some extra money. I suspect that some of those entrapped might have never been involved in illegality before the trap. Perhaps there should be an offence of Entrapment for journalists who on trapping a celebrity, politician or whatever are unable to prove demonstrate good cause to suspect the victim of the sting of previous criminal behaviour.



The Steamimg Web

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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.



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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