Filed under: social media, Steampunk, Technology, Travel, Writing | Tags: Abney Park, Alice's Night Circus, Before Victoria, FaceBook, Glasgow Ubiquitous E Steampunk Society, Steam Powered Giraffe, Steampunk Stompers, The Asylum, The Cog is Dead, Victorian Steampunk Society, Welcome To The Asylum, White Rose Yorkshire Steampunks
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?
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.
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 something I shall never be able to answer to everyone’s satisfaction, I shall be pleased if someday I can answer it to mine own.
Filed under: asperger's syndrome, social media | Tags: diagnosis, FaceBook, OCD
The other day a friend on Face Book posted one of these silly quiz type things that are so popular. This one was a pictorial test for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Those with OCD would ostensibly recognise which of three pictures was somehow different from the other two.
I immediately spotted the difference. However all that demonstrates, surely, is that I am observant? From the comments I am reasonably certain that most people could tell the difference. I do not have OCD and I do not think it, or indeed any psychological condition, should be trivialised. It’s not just a matter of being put out because one picture is different from others, for those who have it it is a debilitating condition that can severely impede their ability to function effectively. Like all psychological conditions its diagnosis is a matter for experts rather than online quizzes.
I am not saying that there is no place for online quizzes when designed by health professionals. However their administration and evaluation should be performed by professionals. I know we all like to do these tests, I have done lots, but the only self diagnosis I can successfully confirm is one of Chronic Hypochondria. (Before the internet I had a nurse’s dictionary and all my ailments occurred in alphabetical order!)
On the OCD front I always have a slight problem because my Aspergers gives me a liking for order that some people confuse with OCD. It is a very different thing and does not prevent me from functioning normally. Okay I may straighten your pictures, and I may like to follow certain routines, but the discomfort I get from the disruption of my order rarely causes me to be unable to function.
If I do try and straighten your pictures you should probably stop me. I may straighten them onto a slant, because I have one eye higher than the other, (every shelf I put up is on a slant!). Leave me alone without a spirit level and you’ll come back to a room full of sloping pictures. I am even worse in older houses where the angles of the corners are not ninety degrees because I will try and set things parallel with the edge of the ceiling, the skirting or with a vertical wall…I can readjust for hours!
An interesting spin off from this is the reason I would never make an artist. I have a bad habit of moving my focal point to each component of anything I draw so that each object has its own perspective. That’s just the way I am and the way I look at things. No two people respond to the world in the same way and no standard test will fit everybody. I won’t tell anyone not to do tests on Facebook whether psychological or woo woo (you know the sort of thing…’What Is My Spirit Animal?’ or ‘Who Was I In My Past Life?’ yadi yada). However if you come up with any result that causes concern, don’t go straight to Google, consult a qualified professional, it could save a lot of worry…
Do you want to hear about my anxiety issues? No?
You know I have problems with rejection?
No, don’t close the page!
Sometimes I think people are ignoring me!
Filed under: asperger's syndrome, autism, NLP, Politics, social media, Technology | Tags: FaceBook, information processing, Twitter
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.
Filed under: social media, Steampunk | Tags: cosplay, crafting, eBay, EVA, FaceBook, Google, shopping
If you’re thinking of going Steampunk the chances are you’ve seen Steampunks and thought ‘Ooh I like that look!’. Of course if you saw that look at a Steampunk event, you probably saw several ‘looks’ from Eighteenth Century Venetian masqueraders through pirates, Victorians and Edwardians through to astronauts and a Darth Vader encased in leather and brass. People ask what Steampunk is, better men than I have tried to answer and failed. Failed because there is no one answer. The best I can come up with is that it is an alternative history of an alternative reality and you access the Steampunk universe through the way that makes you feel good, and it is very much about feeling good.
Having said all that, and after admitting that there are no fixed rules in Steampunk, there are several accessible stereotypes that can provide a foundation to work on: alternative scientists, Wild Wild West, Steampunked Fandoms, Victoriana, Militaria, Airship Nauticalia, and Fantasia.
Alternative scientists include engineers (if they are in uniform they may cross into Militaria and Nauticalia), Alchemists, Doctors, Time Travellers, etc. They are generally identified by their machines, preferably featuring gauges, dials, and plenty of brass and copper tubing. Engineers have tools, Alchemists all sorts of flasks and bottles. Whatever machines a Time Traveller carries will probably feature clocks.
Wild Wild West is an alternative view of the American Union immediately after the Civil War and effectively is a blending of the Old West with gadgets and machines.
Steampunked Fandoms are generally a reworking of the classic subjects of Cosplay: Darth Vader, Iron Man, Batman, Harley Quinn, Star Fleet officers, etc. The basic rule seems to be take your favourite character then re-imagine it in leather and polished metal. Theatrical make up may feature, particularly in automaton costumes (think Rabbit from Steam Powered Giraffe).
Fantasia is fun with Fairies in goggles and all sorts of Unicorns, vampires and dragons. This is very much the realm where the Gothic and Steampunk blend, the realm of Van Helsing and the league of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
The other categories are very much as their name, but with the possible addition of identifiably Steampunk accessories. However as someone once said “Goggles are not obligatory”, if you read the fiction that inspired Steampunk there is a large cast of people who merely wore the clothes appropriate to the era, what makes these outfits Steampunk now is their presence in our time. The amount of accessorising an outfit will receive will depend on the effect its creator is trying to present, there are no hard and fast rules.
So where does one start? I would suggest the first step is to look in your own wardrobe and see what lends itself to Steampunk. A leather waistcoat suggests Wild Wild West. A greatcoat suggests Militaria or Nauticalia. Look at pictures of Steampunk outfits, just Google ‘steampunk’ or enter it as a search term on Facebook and G+. I think, from personal experience, that it is a mistake to rush online and start buying ‘steampunk’ items even though there are some worthwhile purchases out there. I suggest after raiding your own wardrobe try the attics of the family, parents and grandparents may be hoarding garments that realistically they will never use again. Look in your shed and garage you may have all sorts of bit of wire, nuts, bolts and other bits and bobs you’ve held on to ‘just in case’. These can be re-purposed to add an industrial look to hats and garments.
The next stage is to visit thrift shops, charity shops, junk shops, and antique shops as well as ‘Pound Shops’. Don’t restrict yourself to an item’s intended use, but always ask, ‘What else can I use this for? What does this remind me of?’ I am in the process of turning a brass doorbell chime into a ‘gun’. I know someone about to adapt an old brass insecticide spray into another gun…possibly unless inspiration takes them down another path. Possibilities are infinite when informed by imagination.
One thing I have learned about the Steampunk community is that they are very supportive and ready to provide feedback and advice so just ask. I personally started merely by exaggerating my usual clothes, it was only when I received positive feedback that I started taking it further. I personally like my outfits to be things I can wear everyday: Top Hats, frock coats, bowlers, waistcoats. I can then dress them up or down as appropriate. You may prefer to build an outfit specifically for an occasion.
Goggles and gears may not be essential, however wearing them is an easy way of self identifying as Steampunk. If you take a few everyday items like a waistcoat, shirt, bow-tie or cravat, newsboy cap and add to them a watch-chain and a pair of goggles you have an outfit which is very identifiable as Steampunk without much effort and would allow you to dip your toe into Steampunkery and see if you wanted to wade in further. Try this at an event like Asylum and you’ll be in above your waist before you know it! As I posted a couple of days a hat can tie an outfit together or start one. I have bought hats in charity shops, but if you have an idea of what you seek there are reasonably priced bargains online in eBay or Amazon like a perfectly proper pith helmet for twenty-five pounds, albeit with imitation leather chinstrap.
My best advice is start small, frugally and build up. When you see a bargain grab it, then work out how you’re going to use it. A bargain in a charity shop may disappear the same day, if you think you can use it, don’t wait; I have and regretted it. After a while you will have a stock of items you can mix and match to produce an increasingly wide range of outfits.
I suppose I should end with a health warning. I began with a hat, coat, waistcoat, glasses and goggles. I am now sewing leather and on the verge of working in EVA foam. Steampunk is great fun, but it can be addictive…the crack cocaine of crafting!
Filed under: asperger's syndrome, autism, Gardening, Health, Justice, personal development, Politics, Religion, social media, Steampunk, Travel | Tags: Brexit, EU Referendum, FaceBook, football, hatred, Jo Cox, political violence, retreats, Twitter, xenophobia
Sometimes it is difficult to make sense of this world. Within the space of a week we have seen a homo0phobic mass shooting in a Gay nightclub in Orlando and an English Member of Parliament murdered, it would seem for her support for refugees, but as yet we can’t be entirely sure of the killer’s motivation except that he is a supporter of Britain First. We have seen English football fans attacking people on the streets of France, but to be fair, thuggery seems to be the distinguishing feature of football fans of several nations. I must admit my mood is not improved by this being the season of Orange Walks and the inconvenience and disruption they cause, even when orderly. The media and social media are full of people spouting xenophobia and hatred to try and secure Britain’s departure from the European Union while many who spouted the same hatred a little while ago are now are arguing with similar language to keep Britain in the EU. What is astonishing and depressing is the sheer amount of vitriol from both sides and the incessant negativity. No one is making any sort of case for why a vote in either direction will make the world better or even, Britain. The inescapable conclusion looking at both camps is, that in the words of Private Fraser “We’re a’ doomed, Doomed I tell ye!”
Regardless of the violence of the last few days there is little to celebrate elsewhere in the news. The Chancellor can say what he likes, but I can see the empty shops and closed businesses in our streets. Sometimes the government seems to forget there is a Britain outside London.
It is impossible to escape the information onslaught. Every pub and every bank and office seems to have television screens either feeding us football or news. Nearly every shop and restaurant insists on playing music, often of dubious merit. On social media I find friends being unpleasant to each other merely because they express divergent opinions. It seems that the inevitable consequence of free speech is hatred and ruptured relationships
Sometimes this world is just too demanding, the amount of information too overwhelming, the lack of clarity and validated fact too confusing, and the incessant sensory stimuli too omnipresent. It is time to escape. Turn off the television, stop reading newspapers, ignore Facebook and Twitter except perhaps the Steampunk and Cosplay sites where participants are interested in more important things than politics…okay fluffy kittens are fairly safe too.
Sometimes it is necessary just to shut down. It is a couple of years since I last made a silent retreat, but I feel the urge to escape building. A break in the country with no phone signal nor wifi would be very acceptable too, just a pile of books and my wife to keep me company, that would be good.
I had a friend who used to swear by flotation tanks. I am too suspicious of shared water, although I don’t suppose it’s any worse than a swimming pool, indeed given recent articles about ‘floaters’ (another reason to avoid newspapers), probably cleaner than a swimming pool. Even a walk by the river, or digging the garden can help. We all need sometimes to stop and let go. To pause. To relax and just breathe.
At the moment Britain is awash with emotion, with anger and hatred, xenophobia and sectarianism. We need to cool ourselves and release the pressure now. If we do not something will have to give, and an uncontrolled explosion of violence in the streets of our cities is something none of us need. I almost said ‘none of us want’, but unfortunately the death of Jo Cox shows that is not so. There is a very real danger of hatred and resentment leading to violence and the levels we have reached, I believe, make that imminent. I hope our television screens are not going to be filled with images of violence, I think perhaps I shall leave mine turned off a little longer.
Filed under: Health, NLP, Parenting, personal development, Scotland, social media, success, Technology | Tags: Crosby Stills and Nash, FaceBook, Rai Con, Steampowered Giraffe
Time and tiredness precludes edits today, all spelling mistakes may be blamed on the auto-correct.
There used to be a sign in a shop in Dumbarton Road that said, “Employ a teenager now while they still know everything!” Reading that back in my forties I chuckled because, of course, it rang a bell. Hadn’t we all thought we knew it all in our teens and hadn’t a couple of decades down how wrong we were.
That was then. Now another couple of decades down the road I am less smug than I was at forty and a lot less smug than in my teens because I’m learning from young people. As regular readers will be aware I am going to see Steampowered Giraffe at Asylum in August, I wouldn’t have known who they were had out not been for a kid who won the Glasgow Ubiquitous E Steampunk Society competition at Rai Con. Thanks to the same person today I discovered live streaming on Facebook and I am quite excited by it’s possibilities.
The world has moved rapidly since I was young and like most people my age I was formed in a very different world from the one in which I now live. I have brought a lot of value with me. However I would be stupid to think I knew more than the kids off today brought up in the information age. I don’t know more, nor less, I know different. My generation can inform this world’s history, philosophy and values, but only by sharing what we have with the kids do that they can apply their knowledge to it and make of it something they can use. I don’t know how my knowledge and experience can help my granddaughters’ generation and I don’t have the right to tell them how to use it. I can only hand it over and let them use it as they will and trust them to do the best they can with what they have available. In exchange I’m learning lots of cool stuff from them.
The music was generally better in my youth though, apart from previously mentioned exceptions, which brings me to this post’s title which comes from a line out of a Crosby, Stills and Nash song. It’s not just the cool stuff we need to learn and share, we also have to understand the bad stuff, the fears and anxieties we all have and stand together to help each other through it.
My wife says, “it is the job of grandparents to create happy memories for their grandchildren.” Those memories are built on what we share both good and bad. Learning and teaching and being there for each other, young and old. Whenever I look at politics and worry about the future of the world, I look at the young people and from them I learn hope.
Filed under: food, Health, Parenting | Tags: Ask Restaurant. family, children, FaceBook
This will be a short blog because I have today allocated my blogging time to family. I am glad that Facebook makes it easy to keep in touch with family around the world. However nothing can compare with the experience of actually spending time with them.
The staff of the Ask Restaurant were very good and allowed us to sit beyond closing time and obligingly took group photos of us. We talked for a long time and it was good to refresh our contacts. We met a three year old niece for the first time, what a sweety! She was incredibly well behaved considering that she was the only child there and totally uninterested in the conversation of adults.
I had a thoroughly enjoyable evening and so this is another ‘gratitude blog’. I think I am very lucky in the family I have my only regret is that as so many of them are in India or Canada we see too little of them. Still perhaps it’s true that absence makes the heart grow fonder. All I know is that it was good to see them.