Springingtiger's Blog


I Won’t Sing The Asylum Blues.

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I am a little disappointed that my plan to attend the Asylum in Lincoln again this year will not come to fruition. However the simple fact is that I cannot afford it. I am not blaming the ticket prices which are not at all unreasonable, at £36 for a weekend wristband that covers and enables participation in events for four days (and probably Thursday evening) that’s less than a tenner a day for a lot of fun and access to the most amazing Steampunk markets. Of course tickets to Evening Events add to the cost, but with a city full of Steampunks there’s plenty of fun to be had without paying for evening entertainment. I should point out that while tickets for the Steam Powered Giraffe concert are £25 (worth every penny and cheap for the BEST BAND in the Universe) most of the other evening events only cost £12.00 and that’s positively cheap these days! Sadly one also needs to factor in the costs of accommodation, transport, and food and my budget won’t stretch that far.

Of course not going to Asylum provides no block to my Steampunkery. I have written several times in my blog and in the Glasgow Ubiquitous E. Steampunk Society Newsletter about how Steampunk accommodates itself to a limited budget. Although the Asylum is out this year, and I’m sure there are others in a similar position, there are still plenty of local opportunities for unexpurgated Steampunkery. Most countries now host a number of Comic Cons and our Glasgow group takes advantage of them. As well as the Cons there are plenty of other events to which our group is actively invited so there are plenty of occasions to enjoy. It’s true that these events are not the same as being surrounded by thousands of fellow Steampunks for a weekend, but they do allow what one might call ‘missionary work’. After each event we attend we receive requests to join GUESS. Although we may only have a handful of members at an event our online group is growing and it’s not always the same members who attend each event.

Perhaps the hardest part of not going to Asylum is reading the posts of all those excited people on ‘Welcome To The Asylum‘ who are preparing to attend. However, on the plus side, this does at least hold out the promise of some wonderful photograph albums to peruse in September. There are so many events I can’t attend like Wild West Con and the Steampunk World’s Fair, but whose photos provide pleasure and inspiration; this year the Asylum will be another of them.

One of the pleasures of the Asylum is watching civilians walking through the markets and gradually becoming Steampunked. That’s the first step for some, hopefully it leads on to crafting one’s own Steampunk creations. Events like the Asylum are a huge boost for one’s Steampunk soul, but life has to go on and so does one’s Steampunkery. Perhaps the true power of Steampunk is not that it can bring thousands of Steampunks together on the Castle Green during Asylum, but that it can provide them with pleasure and purpose throughout the other three hundred and sixty days of the year.

I won’t be at Asylum this year, but I won’t suffer the Asylum Blues, my life steams on regardless. However to those who are going may I wish you all a wonderful time and good weather. If it rains there’s usually cover somewhere, last year as a shower came in I found myself in a tent full of corsets feeling like a character from Father Ted. I hope you have fun and make new discoveries. Take time to appreciate the organisers (The Victorian Steampunk Society) and volunteers too, they do a terrific job. Oh, and please post lots of photos to the Welcome To The Asylum Page, we’d all love to see what you get up to.



Steampunkery and Politics

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Steampunk Superhero’s Cosplay

I think it is fair to say we live in strange and troubling times, what with the decision by the English to turn their back on Europe and drag their neighbours also into a new parochial rejection of the outside world, and the election of Donald Trump as President of the USA who appears also to want to turn his back on the world whilst at the same time plundering its resources. I accept this is somewhat of an over simplification, but the political details are not really my concern here, but rather how people respond to them. I think it is fair to say that that feelings are running high not only in The USA and the UK, but in Europe and throughout the Middle East, look further afield to Africa, Asia and Russia and it looks as if the whole world is on the edge of some sort of emotional cataclysm. So what, if anything, has any of this got to do with Steampunk?

I know that Steampunks like other folk hold political opinions, some are guided by political and religious beliefs so why, when countries are bitterly divided within themselves and from their neighbours, are Steampunks from all around the world still bumbling along together cheerfully? The answer is not ‘Gin’…at least not entirely. I would like to postulate that there are several reasons Steampunk is not dragged into the political morass in which the world now wallows. I have to confess at this point that my reasoning is based upon my observations of British Steampunk, it may be that some countries Steampunk differently, however I suspect that what is true for a British Steampunk is as true for others around the world.

fb_img_1464539054462.jpgThose who know my personal political beliefs to be extremely socialist, republican, and nationalist may find it strange to see me including Scottish Steampunks in the umbrella term ‘British Steampunk’. The truth is that apart from some details of expression there is little to distinguish the attitudes of Scottish Steampunks from their southern neighbours…when in Steampunk mode. And I think that is my first point: Steampunk as a way of thinking occupies a place that is meta to ordinary political thinking. Some Steampunks live in a permanent attitude of Steampunkery, for others Steampunk is more of a cosplay that they put on and off. However as I have said, when in Steampunk mode Steampunks relate to the world differently from other people.

DSCF2074I remember being startled when I realised that in a whole weekend at the Asylum in Lincoln I had heard not one swearword nor a raised voice. There is something about being a Steampunk that induces courteous behaviour. A Steampunk uses politeness like a shield to parry the unpleasantness of the world and wit the blade to return the blow. I will not pretend for one moment that Steampunks do not insult each other, but we do so with wit and humour, perhaps some buffoonery so that there is almost as much enjoyment of defeat as pleasure in victory…when the other side scores a try (or a six) we applaud and enjoy the moment for its own intrinsic artistry. What is saddening about politics at the moment is the depths to which people have sunk in their interactions with each other, people have become nastier, xenphobia, homophobia, and other forms of discrimination and abuse have become commonplace. People have no embarrassment at being caught in a lie. Respect for the rights and opinions of others is no longer considered important or even desirable, there is no place for old fashioned courtesy. Except in Steampunkery where old fashioned courtesy lies at its heart (we do like old fashioned or even an Old Fashioned).

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One might expect a strong conservative streak in Steampunk because of its embrace of old fashioned courtesy and dress. However Steampunk cherry picks what it takes from any era and so while embracing the virtues of the past it rejects its vices. Strong women are very evident in Steampunk circles, frequently armed to the teeth with customised Nerf guns and they’re not afraid to use them! Steampunk is undoubtedly trans cultural as can be seen in its Facebook groups, but also at major Steampunk gatherings that attract attendees from all over the world. Our Glasgow Ubiquitous E. Steampunk Society is not only associated with the Music City Steampunk Consortium of Nashville, Tennessee, but has scheduled a jolly day out with the North East Steampunk Society from England (now that is true internationalism!). I haven’t noticed religion entering the Steampunk conversation except as a costume, we have Steampunk monks with goggles and Victorian Bishops with gaiters at one end and goggles at the other. Given the international nature of Steampunk, I assume that it contains folk of all faiths, but they don’t let it come between them or get in the way of the fun.

Conservatives may not be very evident in Steampunk, but conservation is. Steampunks have a respect for history especially, as the name suggests, for its technology. Nothing sets the Steampunk blood racing more assuredly than polished brass, well oiled pistons, smoothly turning gears, and the ecstatic call of a locomotive whistle. “Ah but,” I hear you say, “Steam engines run on fossil fuels and pump carbon into the air!”…don’t expect a clever argument from me, although I would argue for balance and responsibility. However the Steampunk embrace of steam should be interpreted rather as an embrace of the best of contemporary technology, which in Victorian times was steam. I think we should note that Steampunks are equally enamoured of clockwork. The essential thing about the Steampunk attitude is that technology is employed for the good of society. You may object that Steampunk has its evil villains india94-070and mad scientists with their death rays and killer robots, but they only exist as villains in opposition to the positive technological vision of Steampunk…besides they are playing a role (or possibly over playing in the case of Kenneth Brannagh’s Dr. Loveless) we all come together in the bar at the end of the day. In Steampunk science is treated with respect and so is scientific method and evidence, some (many) of our inventions are fanciful, but they can be so because we are aware of the difference between science and superstition and so are free to play with both. More importantly in Steampunk the urge to conservation manifests itself in an abhorrence of waste, or more accurately a love of recycling and up-cycling. Steampunk is not part of a disposable society; where civilians dispose, we reuse and re-purpose.

I think what sets Steampunk apart politically from much of society is that it is cooperative and sharing. In victory there is little inappropriate triumphalism whether in cosplay competitions or a tea duel…okay there may be a little (I’m not sure ‘little’ is entirely the correct word.) triumphalism in tea duelling, but there’s none of the vicious denigration of the losers that has marked the conduct of Trump supporters and Brexiteers, nor the bitter resentment we have seen from the other side. Steampunks are building a better future for all based on the best of the past and that means magnanimity and mutual support. You will rarely find a Steampunk rubbish someone else’s work, but they will be generous with suggestions for improvement. Steampunks help each other, they share their skills and insights, they encourage each other. I think it is safe to say that wherever you observe someone indulging in selfishness, discrimination, misogyny, xenophobia, abuse, or any form of discourtesy the person you are observing is not a Steampunk. Steampunks are building a future on the foundation of the most noble values of the past. To put things more simply: If they ain’t nice, they ain’t Steampunk! Now it’s Time For Gin!



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.



When A Plan Comes Together (The GUESS Newsletter is coming together again)

 

I went to the Film and Comic Con (Collector Mania) at the weekend and for fun, instead of one of my bought pairs of goggles, I wore on my hat the goggles I made from yoghurt drink pots for the Glasgow Ubiquitous E Steampunk Society newsletter. I am pleased to say they were very well received.

It is my intention to have at least one step by step Steampunk build in every issue. I wasn’t sure if I would manage it however on present showing there may well be more than one next time alternatively I am set up at least until next year’s AGM. I am pleased to announce that there are at least three full builds and one wee one in the pipeline.

I am delighted that Ambika of ‘Sundara Run’ will provide a step by step build of a fascinator. I think it’s the one she was wearing on the ‘Farewell Ela’ photo-shoot so if you want a preview just scroll through the pictures on the Glasgow Ubiquitous E Steampunk Society Facebook page until you find it. If you haven’t read the newsletter and want to know more about GUESS that’s also the place to go. You’ll find a PDF of the newsletter under the ‘Files’ tab and more besides.

As I said there are more makes in the pipeline. Assuming it works out okay we have one on building a BFG from a brass pipe, plywood offcuts and a cardboard tube, which may or may not be in the next issue. There is also another build being put together on turning safety glasses into aviator goggles using leather scraps.

The fascinator is up first and there may be others. I am hoping members (especially those busy getting gears from Ebay) will keep a photographic record of their work to share with the newsletter. I am not limited to just one an issue.

I have been promised at least one article about a member’s relationship with Steampunk, but there’s plenty of room for more.

There will be reports on Society activities including our upcoming ‘Walking Workshop’ on the third of September. If you don’t know about Walking Workshops you’ll find an explanation and report of the last one in the current newsletter. It was a very enjoyable experience for all participants.

I have also been promised a page of Steampunk humour…whatever that may be. There’s one way to find out, but it involves waiting to read the next issue in October.

What I am enjoying most is that members are now actually coming forward with contributions. I hope that more will. We don’t just need full articles, small pieces are very welcome. We need top tips and handy hints. Reviews of events, fairs, concerts are all welcome. Any other Sreampunk group that wants to give notice of activities is welcome…indeed you can always share Steampunk events to our Facebook page.

The first newsletter was somewhat of a kite flying exercise. I expect number two to be more of an airship and by three, all being well, we’ll be in the Rocketeer’s airspace. So please don’t just watch this space…fill it. Hope to see you on our Facebook page soon.



Focus, Focus, Focus.

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A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do…and for me it was taking some time off social media. Although I must admit I did peek a couple of times, I was taking a break, it’s allowed!

I had undertaken to put together a newsletter for the Glasgow Ubiquitous E Steampunk Society and as we are now over a month into the period that will be covered by the next issue I thought I had better get a move on. Furthermore one of the things I was asked to include, The Steampunk Tempest at the Edinburgh Festival Free Fringe, begins in three days. I was running out of time.

I am the first to admit to being an inveterate procrastinator and worse, far too readily distracted. Television easily ensnares me into watching programs on subjects I had never even realised existed and so are largely irrelevant to me, except to feed my sense of astonishment at human behaviour. However the Television is nowhere near as great a drain on my time as social media. In this age of smart phones it’s far too easy to take a quick look at Facebook or Twitter to see what’s happening. An hour later you’re still there clicking links and your only defence is that you had to spend the first half hour checking your notifications in case there was something important. Important or miraculous like the mainstream media reporting honestly anything about Jeremy Corbyn, but we know that’s not going to happen.

I don’t know how much of a difference my withdrawal from sources of distraction made in itself. What did make the difference was the intensification of my focus of which the withdrawal from social media, particularly, was a symptom. I do tend to work better to a deadline and so when suddenly faced with a specific date, the sixth of August for The Steampunk Tempest, my intense writing mode was triggered. It is as well that it was as I had much to do.

I had hoped someone would write a workshop for the newsletter, but as non had been forthcoming I wrote my own from scratch complete with illustrations. The I had to edit the copy I had and produce more to add variety. One of my biggest problems was adding an advertisement I had been sent. No matter what I did I could not get it into the newsletter. However I was focused on my end result, I wanted it in, and so I ended up taking the whole thing apart and rebuilding it right on the page where I wanted it, piece by piece. It may not be perfect but it’s there. I am reminded of a remark made by a NASA engineer comparing the mathematics of theoretical physicists with that of engineers, he said “Its not the engineer’s job to be perfect, our job is to be perfect enough”. The newsletter definitely is not perfect, but it is finished and uploaded. Sometimes you just have to get the job done and it’s focus that does it.



Little Jobs

 

It’s funny just how time consuming the little things in life can be, no I’m not talking about children, but I suspect the rule applies. It occurs to me that it takes as long to sew up a few inches of a torn seam as it does to wash a car. When I am working in the garden I set a timer and work in one hour blocks of time. An hour is almost long enough to dig over a bed, as I have said it’s long enough to wash the car, but not if you include locating and setting up the pressure washer.

Delicate tasks are my bête noir, Perhaps my hands are too big, they do tend to hit several keys at a time when I am typing on a keyboard never mind a smart phone! My eyes are not as sharp as I would like either. I find I have recourse to bright lights to illuminate the task in hand far more often than I used. One of the great joys of steampunking is the watchmakers lenses I bought to attach to my spectacles. I can now, once more, quickly thread needles without pain and cursing. Until I had the lenses I could spend half a bad tempered hour just threading the needle before a stitch were sewed.

I find intricate tasks require rather more planning and time in execution than the big ones. I am, at the moment documenting a crafting exercise (Free Goggles from a Yoghurt Drink) for the Glasgow Ubiquitous E Steampunk Society first quarterly newsletter. It is something that I could rattle through easily if I didn’t have to show how it’s done, step by step with photographs. The good thing is that when it’s done the piece will also double up as a blog post which will save some time. The bad thing is that as I am editing the newsletter at the same time my deadlines are breathing down my neck and I really do want to have it ready by the weekend.

You may wonder why I’m telling you this. It’s really just to provide my excuse for the shorter than usual posts over the next few days and that includes today!