Saturday, August 4, 2012

Steampunk Newspaper Article From My Dad

USA Today Steampunk Article:  (also posted below)

In yesterday’s mail I found an envelope from my dad that contained a clipped article from USA Today titled “Reliving history that never was.” In red pen he had highlighted points of interest and noted that he read this article on the plane from Los Angeles to Maui. My dad is 80 years old. It never occurred to me when I was planning our Steampunk Letterboxing gathering last October that my family never really understood what I was doing. My sister who helped me with my outfit got it but she is also 8 years younger than I am. I think I may have left my parents in the dark just a bit. When you have kids it’s easy to brag up you daughter who run’s marathons (yes, that’s my insane sister who I love dearly). But what in the heck do you tell people about your other daughter who does Letterboxing and loves Steampunk? “Gee, I’m so proud that Kelly finally found the perfect miniature owl for the top of her hat to wear to her Letterboxing Steampunk Event.” Neither Letterboxing nor Steampunk lend themselves to much of a parental bragging moment. But I love the fact that he took the time to understand what I was up to and shared what he had found. My dad is an avid reader and stays up on the world’s top news every day so I find it incredible sweet that he paused to learn and share about Steampunk. We may never see him in a top hat and Goggles (although I guarantee you that it would be priceless) but at least in spirit he is catching on.

On a side not the article mentions Justin Beiber and the horror of the Steampunk community as he added Steampunk elements to a music video. Well, I saw the holiday video at a movie theater in 2011 just after our event and was completely mortified. Justin Bieber is so not Steampunk it was a crime to see that he exposed it to the world that way. I think I liked Steampunk better when it was underground. Now that Steampunk is so main stream there is no way to predict where and when you will encounter its influence. Just please no more Justin Beiber videos!


Justin Bieber, Hollywood drawn to steampunk movement

By Elizabeth Weise, USA TODAYUpdated 7/15/2012 11:20 PM

SAN JOSE – By day, Joel Reid is a flooring specialist at Lowe's, Amy Gibson is a secretary, and James Ridgeway is a commanding officer at the Navy's operational support center in Alameda, Calif. Catch them at night or on the weekend, and you might find them decked out in full Victorian regalia with a twist: bustles and ray guns, top hats and goggles, corsets and clockwork.

They're steampunks, part of an international movement that's a mashup of do-it-yourselfers, ahistorical recreationists and science-fiction aficionados who are happily reliving a past that never was.

The Victorian period was "a wonderful era when people were still being surprised by the world," says T.E. MacArthur, author of The Volcano Lady, about the adventures of a "lady geologist" in the 1880s amid aerial clipper ships and submarines.

MacArthur was among the 500 or so in San Jose recently for Clockwork Alchemy, a steampunk convention that had workshops on Victorian atomic power, the science of airships and corsetmaking.

The event included a ball, movies, martial arts using weapons such as the Victorian cane and a telegram service courtesy of the Aetheric Message Machine Co.

Tucked into a corner office, its Teletypes, rebuilt by John Nagle of Redwood City, Calif., clattered as if in a 1930s movie. It was part art installation, part hack — in the cool, nifty tech trick sense. Cards instructed guests to text to a certain number. The messages were printed out as telegrams and delivered to areas of the hotel. The faux firm's motto: "Bringing text messaging to the 19th century."

Merging high-tech with old tech is a hallmark of steampunk. For San Jose's Gene Forrer, a state government radiation safety specialist, steampunk is "the history that never was — as if Jules Verne and H.G. Wells wrote documentaries, not fiction." Attired in a pith helmet and 19th-century military leg wraps known as puttees, the 52-year-old finds steampunks "very well-mannered and polite — just a really nice group of people." Pausing to tip his hat to a passing group of ladies sporting bustles that twinkled with lights, he handed out his card identifying him as an "Intertemporal Man of Mystery."

The word steampunk first appeared in 1987 to describe science fiction that imagined a Victorian era in which technology took hold but the shift from steam power to electricity never happened, says Mike Perschon, an Engish lecturerer at MacEwan University in Edmonton, Canada, who writes on steampunk. It's become an international movement of aficionados who craft clothing, build gadgets and make music using anomalous materials and technologies.

Much of the aesthetic comes from films such as 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and The Wild Wild West, all of which Perschon calls "Victorian scientific romance."

The literary and aesthetic aspects came together at the turn of this century when some in the do-it-yourself movement started playing with Victorian themes.

Jake von Slatt of Littleton, Mass., sees it as part of a movement that is leading people back to making things. A designer and tinkerer, he loves how steampunk plays with 19th-century mechanics because it's hands-on and accessible while using 21st-century technology. Von Slatt's home business is making steampunk-ized Fender Stratocaster guitars and iPhones, "finding really elegant ways of adding original art" to these technology-heavy devices, as he puts it.

The steampunk aesthetic is showing up in popular culture. Three Rings Design, a San Francisco game company, did its offices in full steampunk décor, complete with a secret room behind a bookcase. A company called ModVic in Sharon, Mass., will redo your house in neo-Jules Verne.

And to the horror of the steampunk crowd, Justin Bieber's Santa Claus Is Coming to Town video last year had a strong steampunk overlay. Some were so appalled that their subculture had gone mainstream that a version of the video called Bieber Minus Bieber showed up on YouTube, removing the pop singer entirely and rebuilding the video using only its steampunk-themed elements, to a song called Build the Robots.

Hollywood is seeking out steampunk. Portland authors Paul Guinan and Anina Bennett recently had their book Boilerplate: History's Mechanical Marvel optioned as a movie by producer J.J. Abrams. It features a robot that fights with Pancho Villa and travels to Antarctica.

Steampunk is "so much more than goggles on top hats," says Lev AC Rosen, author of the steampunk novel All Men of Genius. He sees it as a response to today's unknowable technology. "Everything I own is Apple, but I have no idea how it works," he says. In steampunk, "you can feel the gears at work. It's rough, physical, tangible science. It has all the wonder that science doesn't have today."

The movement spans the globe. "Brazil is a hotbed of steampunk right now," says Kory Doyle, an organizer of the San Jose event.

The steampunk music scene started with Seattle band Abney Park, which has dark, old-timey sound and songs with lines such as "out with the new, in with the old." Bands across the country play events such as The Jules Verne Ball of the Future in Pasadena. A steampunk music festival, Steamstock, is in the works for October.

The sense of elegance, formality and etiquette is what drew Doyle, a therapist in San Jose, to steampunk. "There is no one answer to 'What is steampunk?' " he says. "All are welcome, and everyone's correct."

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