Thursday, August 27, 2009

Steampunk, Part 1

The astute reader may have noticed that I am slightly anachronistic in my tendencies. And by slightly, I mean very. One does not read Sherlock Holmes mysteries, shave with steel double-edge razors, and sneeze into handkerchiefs if they are not trying to achieve something.

The sad fact is, I am an avowed Steampunk, and there is no curing me. Because it has been asked of me, and because I can, this post is devoted to the subject – and more specifically why it's so fuckin' awesome, and how you can try it out yourself.

I've already mentioned in a previous post what Steampunk is. Succinctly, it is a sensibility, fashion trend, art form, and sub culture that attempts to emulate and celebrate the Victorian era, while allowing for a great deal of science fiction and fantasy to permeate. That was wordy. It's really a bunch of hot people dressing anachronistically, building fun and fascinating machinery and weaponry, writing great stories and essays, and enjoying tea and crumpets all the while. I'm still not doing well at explaining this, so there will be links to follow.

The movement is meant to be fun – we don't actually think it's 1889, although that would be neato. Most steampunks dress rather normally on a day-to-day basis. But many things carry over from the past that apply well to us on a daily basis. The best, and my favorite aspect of Steampunk, is the green aspect. This may shock you, but people did not always throw pounds and pounds of crapola into the dumpster on a weekly basis. And when people threw stuff away into their middens, other (less fortunate) people came by and picked through it. In short, there was a lot less waste. Mothers did not throw away clothes – they cut them up for new items, or handed them down to siblings or cousins. There were no paper tissues, as we know, just those fabulous hankies – there was very little paper anything, as a matter of fact. Newspapers were reused in the outhouse or spanking new water closet. Both sides of foolscap were used. Et cetera.

I'm not suggesting we wipe our asses with the Times. Papercuts. It's the idea of less waste that is appealing, not the manner is which is was achieved. Some of these methods were not even a choice – no one was thinking of global warming when riding their horse or bicycle somewhere. But the benefit to us today makes using a bike more appealing. The waste-nothing ideology is at the heart of Steampunk. Because our trade is in the old, we jump headlong into flea markets, resale shops, and that box in the basement to find goodies that can have new life. Victorian and Edwardian-style clothes can be bought ready-made – for a price. And we do buy many pieces already made. But there is a high respect for those of use who can cut up dad's shirt and make something new, or who can weld old pipe fittings together for something amazing. We're not exactly saving the world, but we damn well are trying to do something.

I can't ignore the nostalgic aspect either. It's nice to think of a time when men and women were more polite, social mores prevented a gentlemen from commenting on a lady's hooters at the gas station (er, horse post?), and people took the time to write thoughtful letters in flowing script rather than texting “where ru bitch?” Admittedly, there was a great deal of shitola going on in that time as well - class unrest, poverty, disease, racism, wars. We have the benefit of eschewing the bad and fitting the good to modern sensibilities. We can all dress up pretty and have tea and no one will care if you are black or white or how expensive you hat was or what you do for a living. That's sort of badass.

This leads me to my final point on the matter, which is the creation of community. The community is not overlarge, and the gatherings that occur are often smallish. People get to know one another. The creative of us start making clothing and jewelry and awesome weapons out of just a cap gun and some crap from the attic. We buy from one-(wo)man shops and websites and all of a sudden we are supporting friends and American-made products and services. That's right, bitches – we are buying American (or British, or whatever your locale is) and getting fine, hand-made products. You cannot beat that. People on forums and communities gladly offer patterns, advice, and information to those who ask. We are fortunate that we haven't yet devolved into a clique-y, bitchy group that shoots every noob down. Our general motto is to let y'all keep on doing what you do and make your vision of what Steampunk is be what it is.

This soap box pitch has turned out longer than I originally anticipated, and so I hesitate to scare you away with another thousand words. I think I will leave off my second part for next week, that part being about what we wear and do – and instead leave you with the promised informational links, some good resources, and a few links to some you-know-you-want-'em accessories. Cool?

Thought so.

For Your Information
Wikipedia, because it may be wiki, but the info is far better than my definition.
Aether Emporium

Steampunk Fashion on Livejounal wherein you can get a shitload of info and good times.
And on Facebook
Steampunk Cafe
Steampunk Debate

And Some Pretties to Look At
I'm trying to whet your appetite here.

Ladies Hats and Mens Hats
Pocket Watches
Walking Sticks, Umbrellas, and Parasols

(Links were chosen based on what I've explored, price, and relativity to the post. There is WAY more on each item available. Maybe if you have a site/store, you'd like to comment?)

Image Sources:

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

This is what they call a space filler.

Hello, my darling and awesome readers. All 6 of you. A new blog post is coming soon. Kissing Commas is attempting to revamping her layout, which is difficult when one does not know much about creating templates.

I have been busy working on fliers, bookmarks, and t-shirt designs for my school organization, Lyceum, and working on my summer 'job'. Basically I've been on the internet and Photoshop a great deal and not just to look at/make lolcats.

What is upcoming is thus (this?): A post about Steampunk, that is, how to locate and/or fake the essentials, an update on my exciting summer reading adventures, and other stuff that I haven't thought of yet. So, if you've got an idea, comment, dammit! No, really. Because I have no idea who is reading this.

Also, if you can make a layout template, let's talk.

Oh, and here's a picture of my children because I've got nothing else to amuse you.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Putting the Saving in Shaving

Listen, y'all. You are being scammed.

I'm talking about shaving today, ignoring other toiletry scams for now. This scam is even named after the shaving mafia. I speak of course about this disposable razor business. If you shave, you are either buying a new plastic razor all the time, or just the razor head, and throwing the old ones in the garbage again and again. Or you use an electric razor, but I don't care about you. Hush now.

When we buy the fancy-handled shaving razor with disposable heads we have bought into a money making scheme first devised by Gillette – the actual man, I mean, King C. Gillette. And it's a pretty good deal, really – you get the handle for cheap and in turn pay buckets for the fancy razors, but are pretty much happy because it seems cheap at the time. Or, you can get out of this trickier scheme by just buying the disposables, still allegedly happy.

But that's not the end of their ploys! The razor companies, in their no-holds-barred competition with one another are constantly devising new ways to get your money. These are the new razor models that come out all the time. Some of these are more useful and alluring than others. I personally think three blades is stupid, but a lather strip is very tempting. However, at the end of the day – or shower – five blades and a lather strip hack up my shapely legs just as well as a single blade razor. The Onion illustrates the absurdity of five blades very well in this article. There is also the cost. For awhile, I was lured by the siren call or the Venus Spa Breeze into paying 12 bucks for a packet or four blades, but this isn't practical, even if you are lathering as you shave.

And here's the biggest problem in my eyes: that's a lot of garbage. Waste, I mean. All that plastic goes into the garbage – just like your money – and more oil and chemicals must be used up and burned to make more while your super badass or super pretty razor head or handle sits underground for like a quadrillion years. Terrible!

Fear not, my friends. I have an answer. It's not the straight razor, so gentleman, please do not cover your necks in fear. It if the tried and true original safety razor model invented by Mr. Gillette himself.

Pssst, it looks like this:

The benefits are plain to see. These razor handles are non-disposable – they are made from sturdy steel, etc. that will last and last. They are easy to keep clean and keep in good shape so there be no need to pitch them. The blade is just that – a single double-edged blade with not a bit of plastic in sight. These blades are cheap (as in, packets of 10 for under five dollars), last longer than the disposables (double-sided!), usually come in minimal packaging, and are far less waste in the landfill. I imagine there are some metal recycling places which will take these stainless steel blades, or you can do what I do and drop them down the slot in your medicine cabinet, which I am told by reliable folks is what that slot is for. Ahem.

Perhaps you are not convinced. Perhaps you are concerned that this type of razor will not give you a good enough shave, that this is not the best a man (or woman) can get. From my experience, this system gives just as good a shave. I have paper-thin skin and still tore my legs up with the most expensive, ergonomically designed ladies razor. The weight of the safety razor gives better control, and once you relearn your shaving technique (which takes about five minutes), you are enjoying smooth skin. And these are the grandaddy of today's safety razors, so there are blade guards to keep you from filleting your face/legs. That in mind, let's not forget the last joy of these razors – they enable us to relive to good old days, when things were made to last and were so much more CLASSY.

There are several reputable companies that still make these uber classy items. You can splurge or go easy on you wallet and still get quality. Try out Derby International,, or Lee's Safety Razors. Here's what I have. The blades can be bought online, and in brick-and-mortar drugstores for ridiculously cheap.

If you are a wimp, and can't let go of your plastic planet-killing shavers, check out the Preserve razor. It comes in two or three blades and is made from PLASTIC YOGURT CUPS. When you're done with the razor, send the handle in postage free and complete the circle of life. I also recommend the Preserve toothbrushes and cutlery!

While you're on a fancy shaving kick, why not try ditching your chemical-filled shaving cream for some planet-friendly lather soap?

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

If Sherlock Holmes were a woman. And 14.

In my efforts to act as my own English professor and make myself read important, classic works this summer, I've fried my brains out just a little. Fortunately, I have found some delicious balm for my poor, Renaissance-addled mind, and that is the Enola Holmes mystery series.

Yes, Holmes.

I cannot confess to be a die-hard Sherlockian – I even found the trailer for the upcoming Guy Ritchie adaptation to be interesting, which I am told is blasphemy. However, I do own the complete collection of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's stories, have read a few pastiches, and love watching television and film adaptations. As far as book pastiches go, I have found this series to be as great a read as The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, which I love.

This series, written by Nancy Springer alleges to be for the 9-12 year old set. Haha! Certainly young'uns of that age group may read and enjoy the series, but the reading level actually seems a bit higher to me – given the amount of meaty words, intelligent prose, and mature themes carefully brought up so as to pass younger readers by without notice. The story itself could easily appeal to a range of ages. The books follow the adventures of Enola Holmes, the 14 year old sister of Sherlock Holmes. When her mother disappears suddenly and mysteriously from their home in the country, Enola finds herself booking to London and hiding from her eldest brother Mycroft's devious plans (sending her to boarding school) and the younger Holmes brother as well. On wits and a little cash alone, she manages wonderfully and also starts solving crimes that even Sherlock Holmes can't solve.

The most pleasing aspect of the series is Enola herself. She is a strong character – intelligent, clever, charming, sneaky, and innovative. Her weaknesses stem from being a 14 year old, not a helpless girl in the Victorian age and and this distinction makes her a plucky and fun role model. She seems to have all of the Holmesian detective skills with the added benefit of of a more sympathetic mindset allowing her to achieve more in ways her brothers cannot. Her success at solving crimes that elude her brothers has much to do with her extended knowledge of the female world, something Sherlock Holmes obviously lacks, and consistently derides in the series. This weakness is exploited in the Holmes men again and again with laugh-worthy telling results. This lack of knowledge on the part of Victorian men makes the situation of Victorian women and their positive attributes shine. The books manage to be very true to the Doyle canon, incorporate this new character and her antics, and turn out a charming result. Sherlock Holmes is recognizably Sherlock Holmes, Mycroft Holmes is hilariously made an almost-villain in the eyes of his sister, and the world they all inhabit is both fresh and nostalgic.

Enola's adventures take her through all parts of Victorian London – from Savile Row to the East End docks. I learned more about the era reading these books than searching fifty webpages – each disguise Enola dons, from Lady to beggar is carefully described and their purpose and role in society explained. Etiquette, laws, morals, society at large are simply and interestingly explained. This most likely was to easily inform the young reader, but it helped this old lady immensely. Enola explains for the reader which colors of sealing wax signify what, what the first indoor toilets in London were like, how to tell a gentlemen from a gent, and other good things to know if you have a time machine or Steampunk meetup to go to.

These lovely books are quick reads for the adult or teen reader, and just difficult enough to be educational and worthwhile for the younger set. Like most books, they are on – I was able to find them in my local library, but will end up ordering them used because they are that damn good.

I made it all the way through without a 'No shit, Sherlock” joke. Aren't you proud?