Monday, December 27, 2010

Multicultural Ensembles in Steampunk

I have discussed this before and will do so again, but for now I will simply post a link to an excellent article about how narrow it is to think of Steampunk (the capitalized version that refers to the sub-culture itself) as in any way limited to European, much less purely British, or Victorian era clothing, science, fiction, or aesthetics regardless of the powerful influence in the culture's origins of authors like H.G. Wells and Jules Verne (who was decidedly not British!).

Native American Steampunk?

There is an excellent post regarding interest int his concept and all the problems inherent in it in Steampunk Magazine.  I will post the link to their article and assoc. comments along with my own reply to it below:

First off:  It's very hard to do this well other than to do what Native Americans, that dress as steampunks today do themselves:  namely, they dress similar to other Steampunks except that, like most people, they have favorite ways to wear their hair, favorite, jewelry, etc. and often continue wearing it even if it is obviously Native American in style.  Feathered head dress-certainly not!  I can't see that in any time period where it was not a daily wear item regardless although as Stemapunk characters are often time travelers, anything is possible, but it like standard Army Fatigues, it is neither pleasing to the eye, mixed into steampunk, nor practical to use.

Below is my response to the Steampunk Magazine writer's suggestion that people do their homework and use elements of Native clothing in a fusion design, but suggested it should probably be put together without a bunch of mini-skirts, corsets, etc, as that has never been culturally desirable among those people and still is not now. 

Ramon Leon del Mar said...
Thank you! I may look more European due to my Irish blood and some Welsh, German etc, but I was raised with more Cherokee and Choctaw cultural concepts than anything else easily recognizable today. (The old country Tinker Irish culture still exists, but those outside their culture might mistake it for either Native American which is surprisingly similar or Gypsy culture, which they learned about half of it from). As such I agree that cultural sensibilities are much more raw and sensitive in the Northern Native American communties than say among the South or Central American cultures, due to how recently they were still being hunted down and shot or simply killed quietly for acting too Pagan or "uppity". As recently as the 1950s int he US and the 1970s in Canada the government still approved of taking children at gunpoint ond forcing them into religious boarding schools where their culture was quite literally beaten out of them until they were 18. For that reason, it is now difficult for me, a person raised in the culture, to gain acceptance easily simply because I have blue eyes. Understanding this is necessary in order to move forward with this in a good way. We actually studied and practiced Aztec dance and rituals for years because they were much more accepting of blue eyed Indians than my own relatives. When we do native American Steampunk, we plan to do an Aztec version, partly , because we actually have more colorful clothing of that type and partly because they are a little less defensive, especially since we are formally adopted Azteca Indians who know enough to avoid using specifically religious items, generally, and have a right to use them, and use them correctly, if we do. I think that since the Hippie movement, with the best intentions, co-opted an incredible mish mash of Native American style items and mixed them with East Indian styles managed, through the goodness of their hearts, to gain acceptance by many traditional people who saw them as right minded and right hearted, if a little silly, young ones. As such it seems only natural that we try this again, but hopefully with a little more educated and careful approach, now 50 years later. I agree as well that time period should be specific and realistic as the base of the ensemble with "aquired steampunk items" that they claim to have confiscated, traded for, or learned to make from a steampunk adventurer that married into their tribe. We also have a comedy routine about some Aztec Dancers being observed by a time traveling professor, who slows them down almost to frozen, by making his own time move too fast for him to be seen, then inspects them, talks into his holographic recorder, then watches some more, until of course, he has a malfunction and gets chased around with funny results. In the end, another Aztec walks on wearing goggles, a raygun, and a similar temporal distortion field device that freezes the adventurer and they joke and laugh about the silly Englishman who still thinks all non-English are uneducated savages. Just a thought. (Kali's Hourglass-Dallas, Texas)


Friday, December 24, 2010

Kali's Hourglass-2010 Year in Review

The year 2010 was quite an eventful and memorable one for Kali’s Hourglass, flagship of the Covenant of the Kraken.  We came from the year 1856 (just after reversing the outcome of the second Opium War between the British and the Chinese) forward to Irving through a time portal in a gravity well off of Bermuda.   We have established a land base with my husband’s relatives who are in on our secret as time traveling privateers and are willing to keep our secret as long as we get keep them supplied with the finest Mexica (Aztec) chocolate and curry spices from India. 

We have forged alliances with other time travelers in this area and become members of the Steampunk Illumination Society.  At this time we wish to express our gratitude to the community members who have come forth to organize and create a haven for the time traveling public.   Thanks to all of you who have driven long distances to events, helped organize them, offered to give others rides in your airships or gypsy wagons, and given your time, energy, laughter,  and courage to enrich our community.   Many of you are more like adopted family to us now than just friends and we are proud to call ourselves members of the DFW Steampunk Illumination Society.   What we have here is unique and we should continue to support one another in our projects as individuals, as groups, and as a united community.   We have traveled far and wide across the land and seas and not witness such commitment and dedication as we have seen over the past few months.   We have rapidly grown from a just a handful of travelers to a large and growing family often with multiple events happening the same week.   Again you have our gratitude and our salute for all each and everyone one of you has accomplished. 

For our part, I am proud of our accomplishment in this age.  We began our contact with the Dallas area by attending an Abney Park concert at an most unusual tavern called, strangely enough, “The Church” on Swiss Avenue where we learned that these marvelous musicians blended music, song, and dance with clothing that was a mix of many times and styles into a wonderful and entertaining medley.  We also learned that they were using their musical performances as a cover for their occasional work as time traveling airship pirates who are now semi-retired (from the piracy part anyway, they work like madmen now as musicians!).  Naturally that peaked our interest enormously!!!

We looked into the idea of taking extended shore leave and doing some of the same sort of thing while allowing our young son, Cannonball Joe, a bit of respite from cannon fire (which we think has already damaged his hearing-or maybe just his attention span).  We began by participating as models in the Crow Collection Asian Art Museum’s “Asian Pop Culture Night Fashion Show” in which we demonstrated our current officer’s working uniforms and a few of our own futuristic creations such as weapons and a universal translator device.   Since then we attended the Green Steam Circus in Austin to see Abney Park naturally.  We then followed Abney Park again to a bizarre weekend ritual they call an “anime festival”.  We went mostly to see Abney Park, but really enjoyed ourselves and met very interesting people there.  Not long after that we met the organizers and some of the members of the Steampunk Illumination Society whom we now think of as a second family! 

We were then enlisted to help put together the Carnival of Creatures show in which we were gently nudged more and more into the comedy arena, a very strange place indeed for a couple of Admirals to find themselves!  At Yulecon, we presented the “Ugly Gun Skit” for the first time where Adm. Ramon made a greatly exaggerated parody of our occasional “debates” between the importance of function (his focus) versus my own natural love of form and beauty in things.  He also made fun of the common power struggles between men and women in which, he has shown enough wisdom to recognize that we women have developed wisdom, cleverness, and persuasion to a fine art, primarily for the purpose of keeping our men doing what they need to be.  He finds this powerful hidden talent as fascinating as it is baffling to him, but I think he did a good job of writing a spoof of just how fascicle it can get at times, although I must protest that I never actually draw blood from him, well, not recently anyway.  We performed the skit again for our “Steamunk family” recently at a Steampunk Illumination Society meeting and will do so again at the upcoming Clockwork Wonderland Event. 

We also were privileged to perform as actors/extras in the Marquis of Vaudeville silent film Clockwork Wonderland promotional Video where I waltzed with my gallant friend Larry while attempting to hold teacups and pretend like we were drinking from them without interrupting the Waltz, while Adm. Ramon, and his friend Greg, chased poor sweet Alice all through Wonderland with pole arms while trying not to actually kill anyone in the process!  (I was a little worried about Ramon in that role as real weapons like that halberd tend to bring out the old warrior instincts in him, but fortunately he really liked Alice and felt more fatherly protective attitudes toward her-she was freezing in that costume- than any actual blood lust.) 

In other areas, Adm. Ramon and Cannonball Joe both entered and won semi-finalist prizes in an amateur art contest held by the steampunk band Sunday Driver where they drew a fictional vehicle for the band’s first world tour.  You can see it on their website or Adm. Ramon’s blog.  I, V. Adm. Radha Narasimhan , won a Kraken Rum photo contest using outlandish attire, a raised bottle of my favorite rum, and a lot of panache!  I also had a lot of fun, as did the photographer, at a Steampunk Modeling photo shoot after one of our Steampunk Illumination Society meetings.   Adm. Ramon is now acting as the host for a University of North Texas TV serial called night class where he portrays a sarcastic and somewhat mad professor (I hear his character is similar someone called “Professor Snape”, whoever that is) that introduces and wraps up each episode.  We are also presenting panels for various conventions on topics ranging from DIY Steampunk fashion, especially multicultural fashion, to acting, and even Steampunk music and dance trends.

Adm. Ramon is also now writing reviews and Steampunk articles (with some help from me) that are published or scheduled to be published in Steamed, Gatehouse Gazette, Convention Fans E-zine, Steampunk Tribune, Steampunk Chronicle, and Cogs ‘n Gears, and 3 other such publications are still considering taking him on as a writer.  (I assist in the collecting of information and sometimes the writing of these articles, but put my name only on those where I provide most of the content and writing and he does the same for me.)  He hopes to use these various outlets to further promote the means and ends of Steampunk culture and political change. This is a huge change from our usual methods of just rolling out the big guns and firing cannonballs through obstacles to social change or through the fortresses or ships of slavers or other local bullies.

We have also taken up the cause to promote study of archaeology, anthropology and art by the community.  To this end we visited the Houston Museum of Natural Science and published a review of their exhibit “Real Pirates” which seeks to set straight so many myths from the world we are from.  We were pleased to see such detail and care taken to educate those in the present age about life aboard the great ships of our age.  It did a magnificent job of explaining why indeed so many turned to piracy and why this still strikes a cord with many living in this century.  We have been contacted by the museum about reviewing future exhibits with our unique insight into the social sciences and why they are of interest to the Steampunk community.  The same weekend we visited the historical festival Dickens on the Strand with our good friends from Steampunk Illumination Society and got to spend time on the tall ship Elissa.  Again, so inspiring to see people taking an interest in preserving and maintaining the sea fairing vessels from our own age. 

We have also taken up the cause of making the wonder and majesty of dance a larger part of the Steampunk, Clockpunk, and Dieselpunk Culture!  We are doing this by inviting and encouraging members of our community to come and dance out their fears, frustrations, anger, and sadness until all that remains is the joy of the dance every Friday at Club Escuses.  We are also offering Panels to all the local anime and Steampunk conventions on current and future trends of dance and music in the Steampunk realm.  We will even present a Steampunk time traveler comedic skit in which I and Admiral Ramon show off a little of our real historical Aztec Dance training as part of the skit at the upcoming Carnivale of Creatures show.  We are trying to find ways to make this an ever larger part of events, celebrations, entertainment, and culture in many ways and will continue to do so.

We have managed to forge alliances here with explorers, adventurers, pirates, mad scientists, airship crews and time traveling anthropologists which I believe will help to move forward our ultimate hidden agenda, which has always been to give the common man or woman a fighting chance to live freely in a world dominated by military and corporate tyrants.  As my people suffered horribly under the hands of the Mogul conquerors (and later the East India Tea Company) and my soul-mate’s family were pretty much all starved to death by wealthy commercial interests in Britain during the Irish potato famine and again later by wealthy American interests when his Cherokee relatives were driven down the “Trail of Tears” into Oklahoma by troops approved by the traitorous President Jackson, whose life Ramon’s relatives had saved countless times as his personal  bodyguards during the War of 1812, you can understand why we fight a hard as we can to give people a chance against those powerful forces that try to make slaves of us all.  We push forward this agenda under the more public  veneer of attempting to encourage (sometimes by use of arms) all privateers to earn the label “privateer” by treating prisoners honorably and following some kind of ethical standards.  We don’t worry about what the “pirates are up to only those using the label “privateer” as their behavior impacts our own group’s reputation. 

We have also been actively been promoting the steampunk/sci-fi film Nickel Children, and have managed to increase its range of venues for screening to include a large number of Anime, Sci-fi and Steampunk festivals including the Steampunk World’s Fair 2011.  We not only believe that good Steampunk films like this will improve perceptions of our community in general, but that the brave choice of the screenwriter director to treat child slavery and sexual exploitation very directly in this film may help  our own centuries long battle to end human slavery.  Slavers have always been our enemy whether they come in the form of Feudalistic tyrants, East India Company representatives, African Slave ships, the Ottoman Empire, The Crimean Mongol Khan, or the somewhat milder, but still oppressive modern wage slavery under the various international corporations that exist purely for greed and profit on the oppression of their workers.  We have received good news that the worldwide charity love146, a premier charity for the location, rescue, and rehabilitation of child slaves and sex slaves has taken an active interest in aiding us in promoting this film which we all hope will use good “Steampunk Art” to bring attention to the most evil of social ills and thus make the world a better place for us all.  We will also be presenting the film and this new alliance at the Ikkicon Anime festival on the last day of this year. 

We never dreamed there would be sub-culture movements like “Steampunk”, “Clockpunk” , Dieselpunk”, etc. that would be fighting for the same agenda, but far more openly now in the future.  I capitalize the names of these groups intentionally as I believe these proud and vital new Sub-cultures are deserving of having their labels used as proper names for the vibrant new people they bring forward!  We feel very at home among you and are thrilled that the world has changed enough to allow us to use art, music, poetry, dance, fictional literature, and even comedy to fight the battles that, in the past, had to be fought and won with blood and human suffering.  We have never liked that approach, but in past centuries were afforded no better path.  Please excuse us if at times we, and Adm. Ramon especially, are a bit coarse or too direct in our speech, as we are accustomed to settling matters with the blast of cannons and the edge of a steel blade, so we have had only a little opportunity to learn the fine arts of courtesy and diplomacy, but we are trying hard to learn.

In fact, Admiral Ramon has even consented to take the path of his beloved “Dagda”, apparently the first great champion of the De Dannaan Clan of his earliest Irish ancestors, who often would go out pretending to be a fool in order to entertain, educate, and observe in order to gain knowledge of their enemy’s camps prior to a battle and of their friends in time of peace.  He said if it was good enough for his people’s champion to effect change through the use of comedy, he can manage to do the same.  He says that the Celtic Bards believed that music, drama, and story telling, comic or otherwise, was the most powerful of all methods to reach the hearts of others and to effect change.  For this reason he says, the bards were often as respected, and even more feared, than the most powerful and learned of Druid Judges, priests, or Magicians, because their satire, when necessary, had brought down even the most powerful of tyrants time and again.  Besides, what better cover for a time lord than to pretend to be a comic performer that pretends to be a time lord?  Anyone trying to learn the real secret of our origins will get so confused they will give up and assume it’s just part of the act.

Well the point is that we are thrilled to find such a wonderful, strong, vibrant, and healthy community where we can put aside the real weapons, send our crews out to their normal tasks, and focus on arts, entertainment, writing, dance, and use these as vehicles to enlighten and effect change for a time instead of gunpowder and cold steel.  It is a wonderful change for us, so we will stay among you in this century as long as we can.  Well…at least until we hear the call of battle too strongly to remain or the wanderlust takes us again.  Until then, thank you all so much for embracing us and making us a part of your century and of your lives.

Vice Admiral Radha Narasimhan, 2nd Admiral of the Flagship Kali’s Hourglass, Lord Admiral of the Covenant of the Kraken, Vice Admiral of fleets for decades from 1950 and later

Daughter of Shakti Singh, Headwoman and Healer of the Naga Clan of the “Romani” (Gypsy) People of Gujarat India

Grand daughter of Vijaya Singh, Warchieftan of the Kashmiri Sikhs.

Sunday Driver's Amateur Steampunk Art Contest Finalists

The fabulous Steampunk music group Sunday Driver held a contest for the fan that could draw the most interesting picture of a "Steampunk vehicle" for their upcoming first world tour that they could fictionally use to travel from place to place between concerts.  The prize includes a goody bad full of their music including a custom written and recorded track and similar other items, which considering their talent level, should have been highly motivating!  My wife loves their music so much she lit a fire under me to brush off my artistic talents and give it a go.  I love art, but was busy furiously trying to stay above water with normal mundane day job duties and also prepare for a performance at Dickens on the Strand, but I did give it a bit of thought and finally sat down to draw out a steam powered Gypsy wagon which was what I thought really suited the Anglo-Indian flair of the band.  Of course that might run into a few problems getting across such great distances and varied terrain, so it has a retractable hot air balloon to help it over tough spots (like the Atlantic Ocean if they catch the trade winds right), but it would have to be a super stretchy material in order to get large enough to actually lift such a wagon completely (physics is lovely, but so limiting at times), so I told them it was just to get them out of a bog or up a hill until they could hook up with some futuristic types that had stretchy enough material to produce a bolloon that would pack away and still expand enough to lift them entirely.  Of course if you've ever been stuck in the bog, or even a bit of mud, and unable to get your Gypsy wagon free (I have a lot of Irish Gypsy relatives-Tinkers-"Fagan" is the name don't ya know!), then you can fully appreciate how valuable even a small hot air balloon would be!

OH!  How could I forget!  We even got our 10 year old son in on this, to get him started right down the Bardic path.  Being a big Sunday Driver fan himself, we convinced him to dream up and draw a picture of a steampunk vehicle for Sunday Driver as well.  The only criteria we set was that he had to do it totally unassisted.  AS his picture was clearly the youngest, and therefore the most ambitious entry, and even included their beloved "Om" symbol on the side of the blimp, it also made it into the finalists.  Take a look and vote for your favorite.  I think all of them are pretty great efforts at making something for the band, but of course, I voted for my son's picture to win.  Oh well, I can't pretend to be objective this time.!/album.php?aid=257077&id=19773347953

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Ada Lovelace-Early Steampunk Pioneer and Friend to Charles Babbage

I confess to my own ignorance of this noble pioneer, that is until my friends at the Lovelace Reader, named for this early pioneer, brought her to my attention.  This link will take you to a lovely little video about her and her contribution to our heritage.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Real Pirates! - Delve into their mind and way of life!

From the desk of : Ramon Leon Del Mar

If you are interested in real pirate lore, you should make a trip down to Houston and see the wonderful exhibit about the real life of pirates.  It focuses in on four historical members of the crew of the Whydad under the command of Black Sam Bellamy, one of the most notorious pirates that ever lived.  The captain, Black Sam, a rescued Black slave, an Indian, and a nine year old cabin boy, who all became part of this notorious crew, are followed from their first encounters through their fateful end.  
This exhibit tells not just about the greatest haul of pirate treasure ever recovered, but also about the culture of the pirates and about the people in their world.  It goes into much greater detail than most exhibits about the lives, conditions, and state of mind of the slaves and abused free sailors that were the people most often recruited to become members of pirate crews. 
The museum has done an excellent job of explaining the motives that drove men to piracy, the choices they were faced with, and what day to day life was for them.  It also gives excellent information about their weapons, tactics, and psychological warfare used against their enemies and victims with real artifacts from the Whydah to illustrate each point.  There is even a life sized mock up of a small pirate friendly tavern, (a pirate’s favorite spot), the Captain’s cabin, and the crew’s quarters that you walk through while learning about their way of life.

Dive into the wreck of the Whydah to discover more than 200 fascinating artifacts in the world's first exhibit of authentic pirate treasure!

Top of Form
Limited showing: 

Exhibit Info
Oct 8, 2010 - Feb 6, 2011
Public Pricing
Adult Tickets$ 25
Child Tickets$ 18
...Senior (62+) Tickets$ 18
Membership Pricing Available

Ramon Leon Del Mar It was truly excellent and well worth the money and the time! It's probably the best exhibit on pirates, from the point of view of the pirates themselves, that we have ever encountered.

Click the link below to learn more about this wonderful exhibit:

Monday, December 13, 2010

Steampunk Invasion at Dickens on the Strand 2010

Steampunks at Dickens on the Strand

Dickens on The Strand is “a holiday festival, where Bobbies, Beefeaters, and the Queen (Victoria) …recreate the Victorian London of Charles Dickens.  Characters from Dickens novels walk the street. Food and entertainment fill the area with sights and smells that take you back to another era.”  This year in Galveston, Texas, the 37th annual festival put together by the Galveston Historical Society was invaded en mass (with the Queen’s permission believe it or not) by Airship Pirates, Time Traveling Privateers, Steampunk Inventors, artists, and craftsmen, and a host of creatures from realms foreign to the standard fair goers. 

            This festival is so strict (normally) about proper historical recreation that all entertainers are required to fill out a detailed form about what they will be presenting, and to present the entertainment committee with photos of costumes and recordings of performances to ensure that all clothing, melodies, and lyrics are from “pre-1900s sources.”  In spite of this, representatives of Airship Isabella convinced them to make an exception so large this year that the square around the “Crystal Palace Stage” had a huge banner across the entrance reading “Steampunk Square” with the sponsors listed jointly as the Galveston Historical Society and Airship Isabella.

            The only obvious change at first was the plethora of colorful characters that blended underlying historical ensembles with very anachronistic and often futuristic accoutrement.  Then it really got strange!  More and more very unusual looking airship pirates, sea pirates, privateers, adventurers, time travelers, and even the “Mad Hatter” from another universe all together made their appearance on the streets and in the photographs of people from across the country.  

Airship Isabella was out in full regalia along with friends from as far away as Mississippi that came specifically for this event.  They and several other vendors ran a brisk trade in Steampunk jewelry, clothing, and other items.  They also set up a “Steamunk Museum” where their friends and visiting Steampunks were encouraged to display their most interesting and elaborate Steampunk weapons, inventions, or armor pieces for all the visitors to see.  

When time came for the evening parade, the historical society was uncertain where to place their strange assortment of guests in the parade, (at least this reporter was told that was the case as we had never been there in such large numbers before) so we were placed at the very end behind the Queen, her beefeater bodyguards, Highland guardsmen, Bagpipe bands, many other groups, and even the “Texas Army” which is a Confederate Army reenactment group.  The leader of that rather impressive group of Confederates asked one of the event staff members, loud enough to ensure we could hear, if our motley looking group were ruffians  that had been lined up for them to throw off the island.  In his usual shy and retiring way, Admiral Ramon Leon del Mar (Kali’s Hourglass) answered equally loudly that “No.  We’re the pirates that are here to take over the island!”  The Texas Army Captain  looked a bit nervous at first, but the laughter and friendly, jovial attitude seemed to put him at ease.  Just the same, the Admiral’s words proved to be prophetic, for take over the island they most certainly did!

Much of the credit for this goes to Captain Cedric Whittaker (Airship Isabella), who made a sincere plea to friends and Steampunk associates across the country to attend and support this project to bring the Steampunk Subculture and movement to the mainstream people of Texas at this festival.  He convinced many to attend that had never before considered this festival or typically traveled to gatherings this far from home.  What really made the difference though is that, just before the parade, Cedric told all of us assembled that (I’m paraphrasing here as I didn’t have a recorder on hand)  he wanted to humbly thank us for traveling so far and coming to support this effort.  He then said (best I can recall) “This parade is for you!  It’s for every time someone called you a freak because of how you dressed or because of how you think.  Let’s get out there and let them see who we really are tonight!”

Needless to say, the crowd then cheered, and screamed themselves hoarse yelling in a celebratory and happy way at pretty much every intersection in downtown Galveston or any time we stopped.   The audience watching the parade responded wonderfully to this.  It seemed that the sedate parade ahead of us had always been dignified and sedate, but never terribly exciting, and here were a bunch of oddly dressed (and heavily armed-or so it appeared) that were so welcoming, friendly, and happy to be there, that our joy was contagious!  The crowd watching began cheering, yelling, and waving back.  We actually got a standing ovation at many intersections just for dressing so wild and sharing so much joy and enthusiasm with the crowd.  Airship Isabella and Airship Neo Dulcimer also led parade groups of Steampunks during the day parades on both Saturday and Sunday.  The papers the next day and on Monday gave extremely favorable reviews and specifically stated that this year’s fair had the highest turnout for many years.  It seems our performance of simple joy at being alive and sharing our happy madness with the crowd brought out people in droves the next day that otherwise might never have come. 

(Link below shows actual video from the night parade)!/video/video.php?v=134813033243746&comments 
On Saturday Evening Airship Isabella put on three short shows and a dance on 3 different stages.  The shifting stages every 30 minutes or so was sort of a Dicken’s tradition, so they had a large number of friends helping them carry everything from props to fire extinguishers several blocks at a trot between each performance.  They might have lost a few audience members at each stage change, but they seemed to gain more each time as well, so each performance was well attended.  

The first act was a comedy about a lion/man combination creature that they had picked up somehow in their travels, but instead of wanting to eat them, he was offering them cupcakes and tea.  Yes, it was supposed to be strange, but the audience got it well enough that two people I interviewed said it was their favorite of the three acts.  The second act got even stranger in that Commander Leroux brought out a talking head in a jar who could tell people’s futures.  Airship Isabella’s first mate, Javert Marchand, did a fabulous job of appearing un-human, otherworldly, totally mad, and sneering down his nose at the silly humans that came to look in his jar.  Kudos for a job well done!  That act was also a comedy in which three local celebrities from the anime community, Chris Ayres, Greg Ayres, and Audra Lilietha, were supposedly selected randomly from the audience and then told the worst futures imaginable insulting and exchanging insults with the head in the jar all the while.  The third act was fire spinning with first fire poi, then flaming sticks and finally belly dancing with flaming iron fans.  

This was followed by a dance in which Airship Isabella once again broke stereotypes by playing tunes from Swan Lake, much to the surprise of everyone.  I have to say that I believe in breaking stereotypes in a big way and that seemed to work just fine.  It is difficult; however, to get Americans to dance much to a waltz, so after about 30 minutes, they managed to convince the historical society staff to permit the DJ to shift to more modern music.  The DJ played excellent dance music, and we were really enjoying it, but unfortunately time ran out for the dance after only a few of his livelier selections.
By the end of Sunday, we found people from all walks of life, including the Texas Army, the Bobbies, and the Beefeaters, had become very friendly, wanted to take pictures with us, and thanked us all for coming.  There can be no doubt this invasion was a huge success for both our Steampunk community (worldwide as well as locally) and for one of the most popular historical festivals in America.  This sort of mutual exchange and support should continue to help many different parts of society come together and make the world just a lot more healthy and fun for all of us in the future!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Ancient Greek "Clockpunk" like device

This is one of the most fascinating and marvelous geared clockwork devices ever built in any time anywhere, and it was made over 2000 years ago near Syracuse  on the island of Sicily, or possibly in Northwestern Greece.  It uses an extremely complex system of high precision gears to anticipate and precisely predict all forms of eclipses and some other significant astronomical events.  It also has a sort of religious and pop culture use in tracking what Olympic games are held in which years.   Most of our Steampunk and Clockpunk friends don't realize that Leonardo de Vinci (or someone around his time anyway)  built the first clockwork robot, as a metal lion the walked up to a visiting monarch, sat, opened it's chest, and presented a bouquet of flowers from inside.  They also don't realize that Hero of Alexandria invented the steam engine long before 1 AD (even though he never figured out a way to make it a useful engine at the time).  They certainly don't realize this happened in the 1st century BC.  Sorta throws out the whole idea of setting a specific time line for Steampunk and Clockpunk background don't it?  Unless of course you actually start speculating about use of a "Tardis" or some other time travel device eh what?

(Thanks to Zak-Tzu for pointing out some incorrect data I had received regarding dates and inventors in the above which are now about as corrected as anything can be when referring to ancient history which is usually pretty inaccurate by the time it gets to any of us)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

My Personal Favorite Abney Park Interview

Interview of Abney Park, right after The most recent singer (Jody Ellen) was selected, ergo, the most pertinent, but also the one I feel is most insightful on the most topics all at once in a single interview.  Hey...I needed at least a token interview, or rather la ink to one, here related to Abney Park as they are my favorite Steampunk Performance group of any kind and realistically were my real introduction and inspiration for joining the movement.  (or at least adopting the label)

Death of Tragedy 

Sunday Driver-Interview on Beyond Victorianna

This is an excellent interview with a varied array of topic ranging from background of the musicians and their motivation for working together to personal musical tastes seperately and together.  It also explores the idea of Steampunk as a musical genre, but sets little in teh way of specific expectations.  For them it involves celebrating the shared heritage of India and England in a beautiful collage, but for others, as they say, ti should be allowed to grow and develop organically wihtout artificial barriers or boundaries.  What they see as a unifying base is more the Steampunk mindset and a sense of the dramatic more than any actual musical styles.

  Link is below

Monday, November 22, 2010

Putting on a Corset Unassisted

This is a wardrobe necessity for many of our well dressed Steampunk Ladies, so we should applaud Ms. Flint bringing this information to our attention.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Article on Writing Steampunk Fiction-by G D Falksen

Once again Ms. A.E. Flint has found a gem and listed in her blog Trial by Steam.
In this case it speaks to the basic building blocks to begin writing Steampunk Fiction.  In this article Mr. Falksen talks about the most critical starting point, which is the creation and/or selection of the world in which the story takes place.  It is well worth a look for any of you writers out there, which ought to be all of you, if only for your own back story if nothing else.  The link to the article is below:
Fair winds to you!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Yulecon 2010 - a Review

Yulecon was a three day Anime Convention event here in the Dallas Fort Worth area from November 12th to 14th and included a great number of voice actors/actresses, Arc Attack, One Eyed Doll, Mega Ran, Brental Floss, Airship Isabella and Airship Neo Dulcimer, Anime Hell, the Renai Rangers, Anime Midstream, Repo Shadowcast, Axis Powers Hetalia, Sleeping Samurai,The Covenant of the Kraken Players (Kali's Hourglass is the local group), Circus Freaks, Saraswati Bodhisatva, Jennifer Hurley (from Blaming Grace), Greg Ayres, and a host of other performers too numerous to identify individually.  In addition they had an anime viewing room, a fairly extensive table top and role playing gaming setup in two rooms, and two more rooms that not only introduced attendees to new video games, but actually conducted fairly high money competitions with prize money up to $500 (and of course proportionate entry fees to raise said prize money).  What was new was that Sleeping Samurai, a group that taught, demonstrated, and made available an area to practice and compete with padded weapons, kept the area open for most of the convention, albeit for a modest additional price during times outside of their panels and workshops.

Another really new item worthy of mention was that Airship Isabella and Airship Neo Dulcimer brought out a new set of Characters they picked up as interdimensional hitchhikers that were the hit of the event.  The Mad Hatter (right out of the new release of the Johnny Depp Movie by that name) was far more "madder than a march hare" and absolutely hilarious!  Alongside were the Haberdasher (the red queens previous tailor who was replaced by the Mad Hatter as part of the escape plot during the film) and the Cheshire Cat from the same movie.  All of them were excellent and very funny!  The Cheshire Cat said very little, but was wonderfully creepy.  The Haberdasher did such a good job of acting like a very eccentric, mad, and shriveled little old man, I didn't recognize the actor for almost 5 minutes even though he is a personal friend of mine.  He even managed to give the appearance of being about 6 inches shorter with body language alone, just as the Mad Hatter seems to grow six inches, the same way (not counting the hat) by using posture, presence, and body language to give a very different appearance.  This sort of thing shows excellent use of body language and stage presence to produce special character effects on a high level.  Alongside of them was another character, whose identity was unclear that appeared to be accustomed to a very dark universe as he was wearing a mask and goggles that looked like they would cut out almost all light, yet he was able to function, at least when not behaving as if he was an extremely paranoid madmen off his medications.  (and no, I am certainly not being disrespectful to the mental health community of which I am personally a part, in more ways than one some days, but these are the characters they were attempting to portray and I am simply commenting on how well they pulled it off.)

One Eyed Doll was incredible!  It's really hard to describe, but highly entertaining.  It was a little like watching Little Orphan Annie doing a very intense imitation (complete with dangerous mosh pit) of Johnny Rotten from the Sex Pistols.  Kimberly Freeman was good on the guitar, Junior was "spot on" on the drums, the lyrics (the ones you could make out anyway) were very interesting, and the eccentric, uber narcissistic, extreme dark comedy performance and character itself of One Eyed Doll was literally one of the funniest performances I have ever seen!  It is like wandering into some sort of Ramstein or Mega-Death concert given by a beautiful girl that shifts suddenly from a lollita cupie doll with the speech patterns and mannerisms of an innocent playing with her dollies into a harsh dominatrix and then into the  most radical head banger super hair guitar rocker imaginable in a matter of seconds.  Classic moments ranged from a shot we got of her balancing one foot on one arm rest and the other on a different arm rest of stadium seating while playing the guitar and doing an extreme yoga back bend above the mosh pit

to when she talked about living in a universe far far away called "Oregon" where her boyfriend spent all his time at a local Nude bar, so she wrote a song about burning the place down in a very special way and amazingly enough it happened just that way!  The highlight though is when they come to the part where she says many fans get so sad they commit suicide, the last song.  As such she has to make the demand for an encore mandatory and gets her fans to rehearse clamoring for an encore while begging, pleading, and demanding sufficiently sufficiently to make it happen.

While the topics are dark, everyone was pretty clear that it was meant to be funny, and it was hilarious!  The mosh pit; however, can get a bit real, so I don't recommend getting into that area if you can't afford a few bruises the next day.

Arc Attack was fascinating!  They get two giant teslas coils to play music through the lightning somehow.  It was fascinating just to watch the 3 dimensional lighting crackling around and in front of us while they, and the robotic drum set, played.  The music was not to our taste, but heh, it was an anime festival, so anime theme songs, video game soundtracks etc. were the order of the day.  Really I don't think anyone was there because the thought it was great music.  They were there to see the giant Tesla coils doing amazing things.   My hats off to the Uber-geniuses that bring us this great ultra Steampunk Act!

On one note of caution though, if you carry as much brass, copper, and steel as we were packing that day, don't sit on the front row like we did!  We weren't harmed in any way, but I did get nervous enough to start disarming and hiding all the metal I could take off under my chair.  At one point my wife also reminded me we were supposed to meet friends elsewhere, but I (who am normally pretty fearless) was too nervous to leave early with a 3 foot long fencing foil while on the front row with lightning all around me.  Nuff said!

As for Panels, they were many and reportedly of high quality.  I personally was able only to attend part of Greg Ayres "Host Club to Hospital", and the Steampunk Leather Working and Steampunk DIY workshops by Airships Isabella and Neo Dulcimer.  All were well handled and very informative.  Mr Ayres was personable, entertaining,  and insightful.  The leather working panel taught me a number of excellent tips and a few trade secrets even though I am not new to the topic.  The DIY workshop focused on the two most asked for topics which were making your own steampunk goggles and steampunk weapons with excellent advice given in spite of the constant efforts by the Mad Hatter and his friends to disrupt the entire panel constantly with his madness and hilarity.  Kudos to the crew members conducting and leading the panel for the first time in the absence of both Captains who were busy being insane at the time. I would also like to mention that the crew members that were attempting to serve as handlers to the mad hitchhikers did a very credible and well received performance as well.

Now for the hard part.  So what didn't go well at Yulecon?  Actually, most of what went wrong had more to do with an extremely limited website, until very late (when it was significantly upgraded), a lack of information on the online schedule, which was published only a couple of weeks before the event, and limited ability to contact staff during the planning and promotional phases.  While the staff were very friendly, very helpful, and very courteous at all times, they did not have detailed enough schedule information or contact information up on the web site to permit people to make good decisions about attending or when to attend if they could not come all 3 days. 

 The lack of mention of any of the Steampunk Events in the online schedule and the lack of any weapons policy information in the online weapons policy section of their site caused a lot of problems for some that were attending as well as those still undecided whether or not to go. At least one of the events, a comedy skit by Kali's Hourglass, was not even mentioned on the written program causing further confusion. Kali's Hourglass was doing a pirate comedy skit followed by singing by Jennifer Hurley with interpretive dance (also by Kali's Hourglass), but most people had no idea they were performing.  On the other hand, when they arrived and explained what sort of furniture they needed as props, the staff was extremely helpful and accommodating. (This is certainly not the case everywhere!) While some level of error in these types of things always occurs, this simply did not give enough ability for attendees to know what was available and to decide what and when to attend. 

Very few of the local Steampunk Community actually came to the event.  One of the most significant problems that contributed to this poor Steampunk turn out was that Airship Isabella and Airship Neo Dulcimer were advised of their panel order, days, and times, only after they arrived.  This caused a huge problem for the steampunk community in that we were unable to confirm for certain if they were even coming until a day or two before the event, and we still didn't know what day or time the panels would be.  As a result, their panels, especially the first two, received far less attention and attendance than they deserved. There was also some confusion about what one day fees would be causing a few that came just to say hi to Airship Isabella and Neo dulcimer and to see Kali's Hourglass perform to simply leave when they realized it would cost the full $30 each for a day pass even if they attended only a single performance.  That would be obvious to most of the Anime Community, but many of the Steampunk community are much less familiar with this type of event.  Naturally pre-registration prices were posted, but when pre-registration was closed there was apparently no information put up on the web site to replace it about what the door fees would cost.

These are all things that could be corrected for the next event and contribute to a much larger turn out, especially from the local Steampunk community, who were simply not familiar enough with the event to be able to decide about attending without more advance information.  James, (the event organizer) tells me he understood the problems with limited information availability on the web site and intends to get that corrected in time for the next event.  I and my contacts are also planning to try hard to get this information in advance and help disseminate information for them, through our own channels, as much as possible next year so as to greatly increase the Steampunk Community notice and attendance.

In spite of these communication problems, which always happen behind the scenes, (and sometimes in front of the scenes) it seemed that everyone had a great time, and really that is what matters most!  In fact, my 10 year old son even entered one of the big prize money Halo Reach competitions, and said he might have won if they had stuck to classic controls, but they were using some special setting that disabled many of the weapon types.   Regardless, he thoroughly enjoyed competing against adults on a mostly level playing field and the staff were very courteous, tolerant, and helpful with our child and the children of others who frequented this event.  They even had a sign in sheet, since that room was frequented by younger attendees, but had not fully worked out the sign out system, nor were they (understandably) willing to assume responsibility for tracking any of the children there.  I found the staff to be extremely child friendly and that made the entire event, for parents like us, more enjoyable.  We had trouble getting our child to come out of the console game room much, but he had a blast trying out new games, learning new tricks, and meeting new people there!

On the topic of the future of Yulecon, there is a rumor in the works that they are at least seriously considering setting the next Yulecon on the weekend of Dec. 30th through January 1st and making it a true Steampunk Convention and Steampunk New Years!  I say rumored as nothing is ever certain until the venue is selected and paid for and they may wait to make that decision until after they gauge interest level.  This would compete with Ikkicon Anime Convention nearby in Austin.  While the organizers are correct that the Texas Steampunk Community, as well as Oklahoma, Arkansas, etc, would be pretty sure to select their even over any anime convention if the choice were presented, some may already be committed, if they take too long to announce this, and the lack of good dissemination of information prior to this Yulecon caused the Steampunk Presence  from the community to be nearly non-existent in response to some of the finest Steampunk Entertainment around.  That is obviously a problem.

We would have to be certain of the event, the guests, the program, etc. very early in order to promote this enough to get a good turnout on a weekend when many other events are occurring simultaneously.  Many members of the  Steampunk Community, for instance, have children (or possibly even a spouse/girlfriend etc. that might prefer an anime convention, so we need to be very sure what will be presented at a new event in order to choose it above something else.  On the other hand, there are no actual true "Steampunk Events", aside from Marquis of Vaudville's "Winter Wonderland" Steampunk Mini-Con on January 22nd at the Curtain Club in Dallas, that are any closer than Austin or Oklahoma City, so a local event would be very welcome, and we will certainly do what we can to promote it through the Facebook North Texas Steampunks site and through the local chapter of the Steampunk Illumination Society.
The Covenant of the Kraken Players (Kali's Hourglass) will probably be performing again along with as many of the Carnivale of Creatures Performers as we can talk into doing so, and we should be able to offer a panel on use of relaxation, meditation, and self hypnosis techniques to perfect one's spontaneous method acting and/or character acting presence for Steampunk or any other type of character desired.  Hope to see you there in 2011!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Ugly Gun Skit

We just finished doing a very fun comedy skit/play at Yulecon.  It was a blast!  Unfortunately we were not able to film it though some others did, so maybe it will show up in cyberspace somewhere, but we were billed as the local group which is Kali's Hourglass, so watch for it on you tube etc.  We have audio, but it loses a lot without visuals since there is some physical comedy as well as verbal.   The next time we perform this pirate/privateer comedy skit, we will try to get it on film!  We will be performing it again at the Steampunk Illumination Society meeting at Crystal's Pizza in Irving on Nov 18th  and at the Winter Wonderland Music, comedy, and Mini Steampunk Convention at the Curtain Club in Dallas on Januray 22, 2011.  This skit was custom developed as a promotional comedy for the upcoming Carnivale of Creatures music, comedy and dance spectacular.  Carnevale of Creatures will be on Febuary 11th, 2011 at the Son's of Herman Hall.   At Carnevale of Creatures we will be doing a Steampunk Naturalist skit, and some various types of dance such as traditional Aztec dance , probably, thought the actual line up is still being discussed.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Marquis of Vaudville-Interview on

Marquis of Vaudville is certainly one of the most interesting and creative of bands around these days.  When they just do a simple "gig" it brings the club alive!  When they produce one of their famous Soiree events, like they plan to do soon at the Curtain Club in Dallas on January 22, 2011, it is something special indeed!  This one will be even more extraordinary as other forms of entertainment have been invited to perform in different ways and there is even a second smaller stage in a different building with an airship market for vendors opening this one up into a mini-steampunk convention!  The following article is excellent and will give you a good feel for what this extraordinary band is all about.  I have, once again, included only the most intriguing, for me anyway, paragraph, but give a link to the full article on it's original website, which is naturally where it should be read in full.  See below:

For an independent band that’s so new you have a very sophisticated sound. Amanda Palmer of The Dresden Dolls described your music as “Space-age modern-age glam nostalgia" while the editor of Spin magazine, Doug Brod, praised your music as “Very Impressive.” How do you achieve such high quality to your music?

Our entire endeavor has been approached with an independent sense of mind, yet we don’t feel that this should mean that we have to record with out-of-tune guitars or end up with recording quality that sounds as though we tracked live in a garage with a washing machine going under a humming florescent light. Everything we record, we track and produce independently for ourselves in our own studio. The quality comes through because we know music, it’s as simple as that, and we know what elements must be present in order to write a good song. We’ve all been fairly successful with previous other projects within the music scene, and I believe a good deal of that aforementioned quality also comes from each member being a learned, well rounded musician with an excellent sense of all aspects of musical composition and sound production. On top of that, we never settle for “substandard”, and we don’t believe in “filler”. I’m sure we’ve all had that disappointment of purchasing or listening to an album, and there being only one incredible song. How utterly dissatisfying. The rest of the album doesn’t have the same luster, the same glimmer or gleam as that one gem. For what we do, we feel that every song should incite something genuine & relative in people’s lives. The music should inspire sincere emotion, in whatever form that might manifest for any individual. Each composition must be unique, with strong melody. A potential song must have a certain intriguing element to all of its parts and components. If a certain aspect is not up to par, then we simply put it aside until we find the right piece. Writing music is much like imagining a puzzle and then piecing it all together in your mind.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Nickel Children-Full Review (with comments from the director included)

“Nickel Children“:  SteamPunk/Sci-Fi Western Short Film

I have gotten so hopeful, then disappointed with other attempts to use the currently fashionable Steampunk Aesthetic and Fictional approach (much less actual Steampunk Cultural ideas or values) to boost attention to various movies or TV shows lately that I find myself almost afraid to hope that something really good would come out of a project like this.  Thank Goodness Kevin Eslinger, apparently with help from his brother, was the one that put this project together! 

    Imagine a place where an “Indiana Jones” like vigilante goes after the most evil imaginable, yet classic, bad man from the old west, who is hiding a secret weapon right out of classic science fiction horror films. Now picture it set in the one place and time on earth where everyone, and probably the family pets even, would need to have a pair of adventurer’s goggles on them at all times, the dust bowl time period in Kansas.  As this is a “Steampunk Film” the goggles are naturally very decorative and science fiction looking including one pair (that the vigil ante’s partner uses) that appear to be the most elaborate pair of magnifying, telescopic goggles I have ever seen, and I assure you I have seen a lot of them!

    The acting ranged from good/very good (depending on your interpretation of the director’s intent) on the part of some of the minor actors to some of the finest acting I have ever seen on the part of the stars.  The script was also tight, well written, well thought out, and well executed, as it must be when you have only 16 minutes to tell a gripping tale.  All short films try for that perfect blend, but few come up to this one’s high standards of delivering this combination that can make even a very short film something to remember!

         I was very impressed with the actress that played Jack's mother.  To give you some idea of how talented this actress really is, she managed to convey deep love and protectiveness for her son, love and admiration for her man, thanks that he did not object when she gave the lion’s share of their meager food to their child, then fear, grief, shock, and finally abject terror in every possible way without so much as a single spoken line.  I had to catch my breath again from that alone just to be able to focus on the core film which followed and we were still in the first two minutes or so of the film with almost no spoken lines! The film only got better from there, but first, let's discuss some of the other actors in the film.

    Easton Lee McCuiston plays Jack, a quiet, polite, young boy, whose parents are murdered, apparently just to steal him for the child fighting arena. When I asked the director about the very emotionally restrained performance of this character he gave a very sound and artistic explanation for how this character was directed to perform:  “Easton did a fantastic job at keeping that somber, blank expression, of a kid whose been almost completely traumatized by the events he's witnessed. Almost catatonic shock, he's going through the motions, but not really understanding what is happening. “

     Amanda Bailey plays Anastasia, the vigil ante looking for her stolen son.  She is exciting, intense, and superb! Michael Venter plays his father who manages to convey, without even speaking, courage, despair, love, and tragedy when trying to calculate what will give his family the best chances when a gunslinger comes to destroy them.  While his part was brief, it was very good and very memorable.  Jeremy Snowden plays the evil gunslinger (referred to as “Sherrif” in review info) that rules over a network of child sex slave and gladiator slave rings throughout the territory.  He gives a chilling and very believable performance with excellent attention to even very small details of facial expression, body language, and range of emotions conveyed by the eyes.  Brian J. Lowry was entertaining and interesting as Dr. Montague, the Steampunk inventor and vigil ante accomplice, but he was not given enough of a role in this to evaluate well.  We will see more of him, I hope in future episodes.  Benjamin Wood also did a great job as the evil “Sherrif’s” secret weapon, but I can’t say much about that here without giving away too much in the plot.  I would also like to make a special mention of the fine performance of the ring announcer, his lovely female assistant who exudes greed from her eyes while happily taking money for a child sex slave, and the “Sherrif’s Exotics” a pair of Asian women who show a strong performance of sensual pleasure at watching Jack’s blood being spilled.  

       While the subject of child slavery, especially for sexual purposes, is, or at least should be, repulsive to us all, it was handled about as tastefully as it can be and still get across the level of evil the vigil ante is up against.  Besides, what sci-fi/steam punk/western story could possibly be more enjoyable than seeing the worst scum imaginable get beaten up by the very children they were abusing?   In fact the director, like many before him, insisted that his “evil” actors show as little emotion, either pity or anger toward the children as possible in all scenes of the film.  He said this was completely intentional: “ their lack of emotion is only to show that this is just another day, another betting ring, and another kid. They feel no remorse.”   He said it was important to make the evil characters as evil and predatory as possible so that the children not have any negativity attach to them as characters in later scenes where they violently retaliate against the betting ring staff and patrons.

    On a similar note that would make the Bards of my own Celtic ancestors proud, the director briefly mentioned in an e-mail to me that he actually hoped this film’s story line would help to draw attention to this worst of all modern social problems.  He didn’t make an issue of it, and may not mention it again, but that really caught my attention.  The reason it caught my attention so strongly was that this is a “Steampunk Movie” and from the very earliest beginnings of the 1800s era science fiction that “Steampunk” evolved from, such as “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” and “The Time Machine”, our “Steampunk” sub-culture (and it’s early ancestral sources ) have rebelled not only against the idea of mass production of ugly, shoddy, disposable goods in settings that demean and abuse 3rd world factory workers, but also against the idea of apathy toward social problems and the trials of disempowered classes, including children. 

    In other words, those members of  the “Steampunk  Community”, like myself, who treat it as far more than just a fashion statement, have been progressively making it into a force for positive social change.  Why would this matter to the TV/film industry you may ask?  It should matter, because after the fiasco of NCIS-LA attempting to use an incredibly poorly researched and insulting episode they pandered as “Steampunk” which did bad things to the reputation of the show‘s writers and producers, much more attention is being paid to whether or not writers, directors, and producers take the time and trouble to actually ask members of any given community or subculture for information and assistance in developing entertainment that gives professional results, not to mention responsible and respectful reflection of various cultures and values.
    Mr Eslinger, and his costumer, and other production staff not only asked for  opinions and help from their local Steampunk Community, but were actually loaned personal items to use in the film with their blessings and support.  The Castle TV series went so far as to hire members of the California Steampunk community as extras and expert consultants for their “Steampunk Episode“.  Why is it so much trouble for people to pick up the phone, or drop a courteous e-mail and ask for support from people so desperately trying to communicate?  When this is not done, it simply shows the writers and developers to be lazy and apathetic about producing good art in a way that is actually in touch with the times and the people represented.  As a film director that is using a truly excellent Steampunk Genre film to tell a fictional tale that attracts attention to the worst of all social evils, I would like to say that I at least consider that sufficient reason to try to claim him, at least in an honorary capacity, as a part of our Steampunk Community!  If any of my readers do not believe that child slavery is still a serious problem worldwide, including in America, I would strongly suggest they take a look at the website of an excellent charitable organization that directly assists these children at

    I have to say that while any film (yes pretty much any of them) can be criticized in one area or another if dissected enough, and that all films, including this one, can be polished more or made more smooth and more easily understood if given more screen time to fill and more money to spend, overall I found this film truly enjoyable and a great pleasure to watch!  I also have noted that the comments and responses from literally every viewer I have been able to locate, canvas, or see a review or comment from so far has been unanimously very positive!  I have trouble recalling other films with such a universal appeal although I realize the limited audiences that have been able to see it so far have tended to be persons already seriously interested in the genre or in the film industry in general, but that is still incredibly impressive!  Having already given you my opinion of the acting, I would like to say that the script and the directing are truly outstanding!  I would also like to point out a few items of special interest in the technical areas.

    The costuming is wonderful!  It ranged from old west, Kansas area, dust bowl farmer/rancher through upper class wealthy family riding/traveling clothes from the time period with the addition of goggles and corsets, (the two steam punk fashion essentials)as well as a few intentionally anachronistic accents.  In spite of what may sound, to persons unfamiliar with the “Steampunk Fashion Aesthetic”, which derives from an 1800’s era genre of science fiction stories. (which surprisingly enough really did begin to be published in that time period, but has changed much over the years)   This may sound rather odd, but assure you, the look and feel of a really good “Old West” movie, like the “Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” pervades almost every fiber of the short film, aside from the goggles, but even the goggles make good sense in light of the time and place where even Clint Eastwood would find such eye apparel pretty much a necessity if he wanted to hit anything in the daily dust storms. 

    While I have seen more elaborate and more luxuriant Steampunk ensembles, goggles, toys, backpacks etc., and they looked great in a 21st century “Dream Team” concept version of a “Private Steampunk Nightclub” on a recent episode of the TV serial Castle, such extravagant looking costuming and fabrics would not have been nearly as perfect for this setting and I think such extremely fancy toys would have damaged the realistic, gritty, believability of the film in general. 

    The soundtrack is also one of the film‘s great strengths!.  Unfortunately my expertise in this area is insufficient to say as much about the details in this area, but it was far more emotionally moving and richer as a soundtrack than I would have ever expected from any low budget short film. 

    The cinematography was also really good!  Most, if not all of the shots were in setting where limited and/or muted lighting was used to give an emotionally dark aspect to a very dark themed adventure.  While most viewers have never tried to act or perform in such lighting, I have, and I tell you it was murder!  Somehow the camera and lighting crew of this film found the magic formula to make everything very clear, yet realistic at the same time.  Even in the darkest, dungeon like area where the child slaves were caged, I could see every detail of every facial expression and every line of body language without multiple shadows.
    The computer graphics that were used in some scenes to add background and depth were also used in one scene to make a very surprising and fairly believable sudden change to the building itself where the fight occurs and to even add an escape dirigible up close and later at a distance. 

    The acting ranged from good to absolutely superb and the technical work on this short film was impressive as well!  I sincerely hope it was enough to help it win the recognition and support from the film industry and producers or bakers that it needs to make their dream of turning this short film into a Steampunk Serial a reality!  I and pretty much all of my hundreds of Steampunk friends worldwide are hoping his dream will happen as this is the best non-anime, possibly the best ever, Steampunk Fictional story TV or film, I have seen to date!  Best of luck to Mr. Eslinger and all the cast and crew of “Nickel Children”!