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I quite enjoy the steampunk aesthetic, but what I beheld there was rather pathetic.
December 22, 2011 1:15 PM   Subscribe


 
Put a bird on it!
posted by Apropos of Something at 1:16 PM on December 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


Heh. Lovely song, but Steampunk pretty much left the realm of alternate history sci-fi a while back and is mostly a kind of fantasy where cogs and gears have magical powers.
posted by Artw at 1:31 PM on December 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


I recently watched Young Einstein and was wondering how influential it was in the birth of Steampunk. That guitar feels like the quintessence of Steampunk, glued-on gears and all.

It's always interesting to see how geek subcultures evolve. They start small, then expand, then you get the purists pushing against that expansion, and the populists trying to expand it as wide as possible, etc. etc.
posted by jiawen at 1:44 PM on December 22, 2011


Regretsy's Not Remotely Steampunk
posted by Blasdelb at 1:56 PM on December 22, 2011 [6 favorites]


Steampunk existed before Young Einstein. Maybe not as strongly as a subculture as it is today, but it existed - as a kid, my friends and I were gluing old gears and bits of brass tubing to things to get that retro look (even though we didn't know what "retro" was back then) and pretending they were real back in the 70's.

If I had to pick a time and a movie for the birth of Steampunk from "Victorian Romance" to "retro Victorian Romance", I'd choose Disney's 1954 version of "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea", with a hat-tip to later movies such as "Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines" & successors.

That said, the current crop of childmen playing at faux-Victoriana annoy the everliving out of me…
posted by Pinback at 2:04 PM on December 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Quick, somebody phone Justin Beiber! There's been a terrible mistake!
posted by Stagger Lee at 2:04 PM on December 22, 2011


"Quick, somebody phone glue gears all over Justin Beiber! There's been a terrible mistake!"

FTFY.
posted by Pinback at 2:06 PM on December 22, 2011 [8 favorites]


This made me smile and I wasn't even familiar with this phenomenon before.
posted by grouse at 2:15 PM on December 22, 2011


mostly a kind of fantasy where cogs and gears have magical powers.

Not to mention monocles and handlebar moustaches.
posted by acb at 2:45 PM on December 22, 2011


Regretsy's Not Remotely Steampunk

Hilarious.

I thought the hot-glued vacuum tubes and gears thing was a joke. I was so wrong.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 2:56 PM on December 22, 2011


Every generation has its thing. I haven't minded very many of them, but I'm one of the few who hate Steampunk. Mostly because I've never been fond of Victorian-era fashion to begin with.

I did, however, like this video.
posted by Malice at 3:13 PM on December 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


I recently watched Young Einstein and was wondering how influential it was in the birth of Steampunk. That guitar feels like the quintessence of Steampunk, glued-on gears and all.
It seems hard to believe that a 1988 movie could have influenced a subgenera named in 1987, to describe books written a few years earlier (according to wikipedia)

Plus that guitar doesn't look steampunk to me at all...
posted by delmoi at 4:04 PM on December 22, 2011


Shitty job is always shitty.
posted by c13 at 4:06 PM on December 22, 2011


delmoi - if it helps, think of that stuff as old Steampunk and anything current Steampunkers (most of whom would not read that stuff) are into as nuSteampunk. That guitar is totally nuStreampunk.
posted by Artw at 4:12 PM on December 22, 2011


ARGH. STOP. NO. JUST NO.

Ok, fine. Steampunk is as strong as an argument we'll ever need to build a functioning time machine, if only so we can send thousands of irritatingly a-historical hipsters with more discretionary income than common sense back to the Victorian age where they'll hopefully perish in a raging, unstoppable conflagration inside the locked and chained doors of a shirtwaist factory.

That or they can try out some historically accurate mumps, measles, rubella, polio or perhaps even some bubonic plague. Or perhaps indentured poverty and debtors prisons would be more to their liking, or perhaps the sweet, sweet taste of lead in everything will suit their fancy.

If anything the lack of cheap, mass produced clockwork gears and springs (and hot glue guns) will stop them from gluing gears all over everything.
posted by loquacious at 4:28 PM on December 22, 2011 [9 favorites]


Or perhaps indentured poverty and debtors prisons...

Heh... The way college debt and lack of jobs are going, soon you won't even need a time machine.
posted by c13 at 4:40 PM on December 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


Mandatory Lego Post: Brass Meets Bricks: 20 Steampunk LEGO Creations
posted by modernserf at 4:41 PM on December 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


That said, the current crop of childmen playing at faux-Victoriana annoy the everliving out of me…

My son loves the Steampunk aesthetic, and thus spends his clothing budget scrounging through thrift shops for nice vests, dressy shirts, Victorian style hats, and the like. The style suits him. He's tall and slender, and looks terrific in the classic styles. That's as far as it goes, though - he's not a "lifestyler", and was more than a little amused to be soundly chewed out by one. He was told not to dress the part if he didn't intend to live the life.

When he related the tale to me, I pointed him at the most recent season of The Guild and the HILARIOUS mocking of the lifestylers. He was horrified that such "lifestyler" behavior was widespread enough to merit that sort of public spanking.
posted by MissySedai at 4:44 PM on December 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you want extra stupid Dieselpunk which lifts the 1940s era design elements, which pretty much never totally went away, and turns it into a 'punk' thing.
posted by delmoi at 4:57 PM on December 22, 2011


Would the lifestylers be the ones who claim that Sticking cogs to their mp3 player means they know how it works?
posted by Artw at 5:06 PM on December 22, 2011


Would the lifestylers be the ones who claim that Sticking cogs to their mp3 player means they know how it works?

*snerk*

No, those kids would get chewed out by the lifestylers, too. The lifestylers are the ones who affect fake British accents, insist on Victorian manners and clothing at ALL times, and declare themselves the Final Arbiters of True Steampunk.

Annoying little fuckers.
posted by MissySedai at 5:20 PM on December 22, 2011


"My son loves the Steampunk aesthetic … He was horrified that such "lifestyler" behavior was widespread enough to merit that sort of public spanking."

Yeah, that's pretty much my position too - I appreciate the aesthetic, but can't stand the utter crap that goes with it.

For me, it's possibly the end of a long chain of annoyance at dilettante knobs who do stuff, but don't understand what they're doing. Many people playing with, for example, arduinos and the like fall into that category as well - can code, but don't really understand the how the rest of the hardware works, and they end up doing things like re-creating the wheel in software when it's easier to do it in hardware…
posted by Pinback at 5:22 PM on December 22, 2011


[Pardon me while I Google "Steampunk lifestyler" from the sheltered confines of my rural town]

Wow, that's a thing? That kind of poops on the partial defense I was about to make on steampunk's behalf, but here goes anyway: Over the last couple of years I unexpectedly drifted into the outer orbit of the Civil War reenacting scene, by way of the 19th century early banjo scene (wherein many people perform in 19th century dress in living history settings.) I haven't gotten into steampunk at all, but I think there's a lot of overlap from a dressing up in old-fashioned clothing standpoint.

When you get right down to it, I think that people just need a safe place to let their freak flags fly. Put on a derby and a frock coat and go to the mall and you'll probably get heckled... put on a derby and a frock coat and walk around a camp of reenactors and you'll have visitors asking if they can take their photos with you... it's fun. I love the clothing styles of the 1800s, and it's great to have a context in which to wear them along with a bunch of other people.

But with the civil war stuff there's also a pretty well researched body of knowledge and a general expectaction that participants will strive for at least a minimum of authenticity. What vaguely bugs me about all the steampunk photos I see is that anything goes and all the "A little glue, some random burnished metal crap, and... STEAMPUNK!" kind of drags the whole thing down to the lowest common denominator.

But what the hell is "living the steampunk lifestyle?" If you want that badly to wear your cool getups every day, you don't need to invent a shallow pop philosophy as justification... just wear your cool getups because you think they're cool looking. Haters gonna hate no matter what, but there's no need to give them ammunition.
posted by usonian at 5:27 PM on December 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


For me, it's possibly the end of a long chain of annoyance at dilettante knobs who do stuff, but don't understand what they're doing. Many people playing with, for example, arduinos and the like fall into that category as well - can code, but don't really understand the how the rest of the hardware works, and they end up doing things like re-creating the wheel in software when it's easier to do it in hardware…

Well gee I'm sorry I don't already know the stuff you do and this is a fun way to figure it out. I guess that's "annoying".
posted by flaterik at 5:33 PM on December 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Reminds me of that episode of Daria where Jane got chewed out by her swing-craze (remember that?) boyfriend for mixing vintage shoes and dresses from different eras.

As with any hobby, there are those who do it well, those who do it obsessively, those who half-ass it, and those who don't seem to have a fucking clue.
posted by emjaybee at 7:04 PM on December 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think anybody who owns an Arduino and actually fools around with coding and constructing circuits is far beyond the "put a cog on it" crowd. Even if they don't really know what they're doing, at least they're making an effort to try something that's difficult for them.

Also, the video was neat. I like the cut of that musician fellow's jib. What, what.
posted by Kevin Street at 7:05 PM on December 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Well gee I'm sorry I don't already know the stuff you do and this is a fun way to figure it out. I guess that's "annoying"."

No, my problem is with people who want to play in a domain, but remain totally uninterested in figuring out what they're doing, or even if others have solved beforehand the quite simple problems they repeatedly encounter. Copypasting code to implement a FFT filter & gate rather using a simple analogue filter & threshold detector, choosing to reimplement multiple resampling to debounce a contact rather than a simple 5¢ R/C circuit, and blindly following Instructables on how to modify a specific cheap Chinese no-name LED torch (rather than learning the basics that can be applied to any cheap Chinese no-name LED torch) before sticking gears, cogs, and tubing all over it, fall into pretty much the same category for me.

In short: it's not that they "don't already know the stuff [I] do", it's the not trying to "figure it out", or even "I wonder if there's a simple, better way?"
posted by Pinback at 7:25 PM on December 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm a cyberpunk lifestyler. I'm constantly hacking gibsons.

(And I jam with the console cowboys in cyberspace erryday)
posted by delmoi at 7:56 PM on December 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


From a different, completely non-steampunk universe:
After a time, Ekaterin remarked, "I want to go home. But I don't want to go back to Old Barrayar."

"No more do I, dear. It's wonderful and dramatic to be able to read about. So nice to be able to read, you know."

"I know girls who pine for it. They like to play dress-up and pretend being Vor ladies of old, rescued from menace by romantic Vor youths. For some reason they never play dying in childbirth, or vomiting your guts out from the red dysentery, or weaving till you go blind and crippled from arthritis and dye poisoning, or infanticide. Well, they do die romantically of disease sometimes, but somehow it's always an illness that makes you interestingly pale and everyone sorry and doesn't involve losing bowel control."

Lois McMaster Bujold, Komarr
posted by Lexica at 8:28 PM on December 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


It really sucks when people have fun in a way I don't approve of, and they didn't even bother to like ask me if I approve. I mean Jesus Christ would it kill them.
posted by pts at 9:45 PM on December 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Pinback, I find it rather frustrating that a very well written tutorial teaches the software resampling debounce technique without mentioning your hardware solution. I actually would love to learn better hardware tools for things, because... right tool for the right job, and the software limitations on an arduino are pretty severe... but how do you learn those things, without having taking engineering and electronics classes that computer science classes prevented?

If you have a recommendation for a book from which to learn these things, I'd love to hear it, because I like doing things the right way. (no hamburger)

I've actually been quite frustrated with hardware component selection - there are a few sites (adafruit, at least one other whose name I can't remember right now) which sell a limited assortment of things with information about them, which I appreciate, but when I need something not on them most others (digikey, etc) assume a huge knowledge of what you're looking for, and I'm unsure how to acquire it. In my case, if I had time for a "start from [not usually applicable in real life but good to know because then things make sense] fundamentals and build from there" class, I'd be really interested in taking it, but without being in an undergrad program I don't know how to get going with that.

Apologies for the derail, but I can't be the only nerd who feels a little stymied and really doesn't want to be the uninformed dilettante that irritates, though only because not knowing things sucks.
posted by flaterik at 11:05 PM on December 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


pts: Maybe a multiple-choice analogy will help me explain my position.

Q: Which one of these is pretentious?
  1. Someone who buys a paint-by-numbers kit, learns to paint without it, and goes on to show their paintings off to others.
  2. Someone who buys a paint-by-numbers kit, develops an appreciation for art, and buys artworks to show off to others.
  3. A person who buys a paint-by-numbers kit, thinks they're really great art, and buys lots more paint-by-numbers kits to fill in - maybe going outside the lines now and then, or daringly swapping cobalt blue for cerulean blue - and show off to others.
Quite besides that, it's got nothing to do with whether I approve or not. Remember, I said back there that I actually appreciate the steampunk aesthetic. You want to potter around bending brass rod and gluing it to otherwise functional stuff? Knock yourself out. Want to dress up in a frock coat and ruffles while doing it? I'm certainly not going to stop you, and it's quite likely I won't even laugh at you. If the end result is well done and looks cool, I'll love it. But if you stop there, learn nothing more about what you're doing than how to put on clothes and hold a hot melt glue gun, and (this is the crucial part) try to claim it's something special, then I'm going to think you're a pretentious prat.

(That's a general "you", btw, not specifically you…)

Arduino-wise, it's the difference between buying $100 worth of dev board & interface boards to code something up and stick in a case (probably spray-painted brass & rubbed to fake wear…) for each thing you want to build - something you see all the time in projects on the 'net - vs buying a single dev board and set of interface boards for prototyping, and learning the few extra skills required to make up the final version from $20 worth of Atmel or Microchip PIC + components on veroboard.

flateric: Sorry, I don't have any good analogue / basic electronics books or tutorials to recommend. I picked most of it up when I was a kid, from reading the articles & occasionally building the circuits published in local electronics magazines like Electronics Australia and ETI, supplemented by the occasional Mimms book and "101 circuit"-style compilations from the US & UK that turned up in my local newsagent. Later on I did a technical apprenticeship with the local telco, but I pretty much understood analogue electronics before I started that*.

There's been a few AskMe's on the subject, so that'd be a fair start. Usually they recommend "Art of Electronics" which I'm only passingly familiar with. If you're OK with working through a (rather large!) book with a focus on radio, googling or flipping to an explanatory appendix as you go, then the ARRL Handbook would be a fair choice too. A cheap second-hand copy from the 70's or 80's would be fine, as nothing in the basics has changed over the years (though some of the terminology was a bit different in the 60's and earlier).

Rest assured that if I ever find a really good introductory website on the subject, I'll be making a fpp about it!

(* Part of the application process for my apprenticeship was an interview with the senior training engineers, and we were asked to bring along something we'd built. Some guys rushed out and bought a kit from DSE to build and take along; one guy I know took a motorbike he'd built from parts; another took a leadlight window he'd restored. I took along a circuit I'd designed and built to remove common-mode noise from stereo signals - basically, a vocal canceller - that was adjustable to account for phase shift and different noise levels in each channel.

I think that got me my apprenticeship, because otherwise I was shithouse in the interview ;-)

posted by Pinback at 1:16 AM on December 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yours is not the first Art of Electronics recommendation I've seen, so I think I'll get on that soon. I could give a similar answer to "how do you write software", since I just Started Fucking Around And Figured It Out. I wish I'd done more of the same with electronics, and I do empathize with frustration with people that aren't intellectually curious.

I also have not liked the idea of using arduinos in final products- it seems very inefficient- so I appreciate the "it shouldn't be that hard to use that to dev and something else to produce" info. I wish it was more readily available to hobbyists.... if you're bored I think there's a market for information in the "beyond MAKE wankers but less than fully professional" space.
posted by flaterik at 1:51 AM on December 23, 2011


Pinback, everyone debounces in software now to save on BoM cost...
posted by Joe Chip at 2:48 AM on December 23, 2011


That "Not Remotely Steampunk" has got me crying to my deity in pain with each image. It reminds me of trying to search eBay for "goth" or "Victorian" or "gypsy". I'm afraid to check if etsy has any articles on "Not Remotely Goth". I'd cry.

(sigh) There was a lot of cross over between the goth and steampunk styles* here a few years back but I don't recall any of the locals I know going off the deep end with it. We already had a lot of Victorianish clothing items in our closets. Most club goths here began shying away from steampunk when (other, not goth) people started getting weird about it. We never did like to do anything once it became popular.**


*Best quip I heard/read: "Steampunk: when goths discover brown."
**Oh, crap, goths are hipsters.
posted by _paegan_ at 3:47 AM on December 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


....I was so wrong


Oh dear lord do I hate that stupid octopus.
posted by louche mustachio at 5:51 AM on December 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Fortunately, I went with hard-soldering brass gears onto metal, so even if I decide steampunk has jumped way too many sharks to take seriously any more, I have all these cool tools and skills that I can use to make practically anything (well, anything small and made of metal).
posted by rivenwanderer at 9:31 AM on December 23, 2011


Yeah DEATH TO FALSE STEAMPUNK! One day I'll write something based on what the Victorian era was really like ie Bloody Awful.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 9:57 AM on December 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


> No, my problem is with people who want to play in a domain, but remain totally uninterested in figuring out what they're doing, or even if others have solved beforehand the quite simple problems they repeatedly encounter.

Why do you care?
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:32 PM on December 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'd never heard of "lifestylers" before. Looking it up led me to this page, which talks about the political aspects of being a steampunk lifestyler without explaining them. Does anyone know what that is? Chaining yourself to 10 Downing Street to demand votes for women?
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:40 PM on December 23, 2011


That "Not Remotely Steampunk" has got me crying to my deity in pain with each image. It reminds me of trying to search eBay for "goth" or "Victorian" or "gypsy".

Hah. I have learned that if I want to find interesting bellydance attire, I will have good luck if I add "gypsy" or "boho" to the search. No shit, I found an amazing collection of Kuchi amulets by adding "boho"! Boho! For Afghani jewelry? Lawdy. Strangely, it was not to be found under "gypsy".
posted by MissySedai at 6:01 PM on December 23, 2011


But what the hell is "living the steampunk lifestyle?" If you want that badly to wear your cool getups every day, you don't need to invent a shallow pop philosophy as justification... just wear your cool getups because you think they're cool looking. Haters gonna hate no matter what, but there's no need to give them ammunition.

That's the way I look at it, too. By all means, have fun and enjoy your interests. But please, don't be an asshole about it.

Elder Monster has made me a number of pieces of Steampunk hair jewelry - fascinators and tiny hats - that I wear often when dressed up for the theater or dinner out. He himself is always nattily attired, and garners lots of smiles and compliments, usually from older folks who seem to have A Thing about young folk wearing old-fashioned clothes. It's rather sweet, and he's always gracious to them. My experiences with the Steampunk kids who simply like the manner of dress have been pretty positive. With the lifestylers? Not so much.
posted by MissySedai at 6:09 PM on December 23, 2011


Anyone doing a faux-British accent around me is asking for a fight, TBH.
posted by Artw at 11:55 AM on December 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


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