Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Out and About: Teslacon II- Madison, WI

Ooh, shiny.

Sometimes Miss Kagashi gets out of her tiny student apartment and occasionally, it's for something supremely awesome. The kind of awesome that provides fodder for late nights with friends for years to come. The kind of awesome where you're relating the story with the same people who were THERE, IN IT- and everyone's still in stitches:

Oh yeah, Teslacon II did that.

But first, a bit of background.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

FF: Dearly Departed: Global Funeral Customs of the 19th Century

Irish members of the U.S. Cavalry staging a 'mock wake' in the mid-late 19th century (Collectibles Corner)

Dearly beloved, we gather here to take heed and to read this blog post. Remember this blog as it was, when I had free time coming out my eye sockets and I didn't have to seek employment to keep myself rolling in microcurry and peanut butter. Amen....

It's Halloween, my lovelies, my favorite holiday. In keeping with this month's folkways theme, we'll be discussing that most final of topics: Death. Since I can't find a lot of reliable primary sources about trips to the afterlife for some reason, we'll have to deal with the aspect of death that impacts us living- the funeral. Specifically, funerary and mourning practices of the 19th century and you'll see that the Age of Steam was one interesting time to die and be the bereaved. If you find that this article starts depressing or creeping you out (which is why the tone will be quite light) then I recommend detoxing with this tumblr: Oh Yeah Adorable Puppies. Feel better? Splendid! TO THE GRAVEYARDS WITH US!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Tutorial Time! Sugar Calaveras

19th century Mexican illustrator Jose Posada created la Catrina, an image that mocked the excess of high society ladies of fashion. To this day, La Catrina-style art is very popular.

It is often said that the people of Mexico have a special relationship with death. Much of the Western world prefers to ignore the inevitable. Relatives are regarded as truly gone from this earth, images like skulls or cemeteries are seen with either morbid glances or very clinical, clean scrutiny. There isn't nearly the soul or celebration in death that the Mexicans have that is, quite frankly, beautiful. Many cultures have veneration of the dead holiday or tradition. Native American tribes had spring rituals that evolved (thanks to the colonizing French who introduced All Saint's Day) into modern Ghost Suppers (myself and Aaron over at Steampunk Cookery are planning to host one as we speak) to which you would invite dead relatives by hanging wreaths on their graves. In Vietnam the anniversaries of loved ones' deaths are celebrated with feasts and the burning of so-called "hell notes", paper money intended as gifts to the dead person.

But Dia de Los Muertos tops them all in popularity and liveliness. It's captured the imagination of people outside of Mexico and venerates the dead, but with a joyous twist for the living. Traditions include cleaning and decorating relatives' gravesites, eating pan de muerto (spindly loaves of sweetened bread that look like cracked bones), and designating offering altars in the home called ofrenda. These colorful tables are adorned with flowers, paper decorations, photographs of the deceased, food (and booze), items the deceased enjoyed, and perhaps the most iconic image of Dia de Los Muertos: the calavera, or sugar skull. Note that the dead cannot actually eat the food, they simply indulge in the aroma, sight, and memory attached to it.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

FF:Another Way to Love: GLBT Culture in the Age of Steam

A tender photo of a Japanese couple (1910s, judging by the cut of the suit) (Buzzfeed)

October is GLBT History Month here in the United States and encourages everyone, both Queer and heterosexual alike to explore an often unspoken record. While homosexuality has only been brought to the forefront of civil issues in the Western world in the past sixty years, it's certainly (as old as sex itself) been present- albeit trapped under the ice, conveniently shoved into the back of the bookshelf, or simply ignored outright. If we view LGBT history (like steampunk) through the Euro-American lens it can seem pretty stuffy or one-note (that note being hard labor if we read a lot of Victorian novels). But it's not all doom, gloom, and repression, folks! There were plenty of cultures and nations around the world during the 19th century who accepted homosexuality, bisexuality, and even transgendered folks as a common occurrence.

Before we get into it, I'd like to preface this article, considering the political climate in some countries (including my own) these days that this piece is about alternate sexuality and gender identity. On top of that, it addresses it (and unions thereof) in a sympathetic, positive manner (I know that makes me a bad academic, but I'm also a proud straight ally). If you disapprove of this or aren't comfortable with these facts, I would really suggest you find a different article to read. Also all of the images are safe for work. All right? Is the unpleasant disclaimer business done with? Rockin'.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

October Preview

19th century watercolor depicting a Punjabi funeral procession (gdhillow)
October is another one of those months filled with observances and meanings- seemingly more than usual! Since Miss Kagashi is still buckling down her Fall semester, the weekly post goal is going to be two (perhaps three if it's a slow or inspiring week). Here's what you can expect for the month of October:

Clothing You'll Love
Once Upon a Time in Mexico...

Focus on Folkways
The Other Ways to Love (A Survey of LGBT Culture in the 19th century)
Ashes to Ashes (Exploring Mourning and Funeral customs- just in time for Halloween)

Kagashi's Kitchen
Dia de los Muertos Sugar Skulls

Featured Traveler of the Month

It was also noted on the blog's facebook page that a few days ago the Steamer's Trunk officially turned one year old. As is the case with anything online, its success is a mirror of the many wonderful people that subscribe, read, and repost- so thank you all. It's been a hell of a year and I've learned a lot through my research- and I hope you've learned something too! Or perhaps that you saw something and was inspired. My deepest thanks to all of you, from the casual reader who was linked here by a friend, to the lovely people who link, to the subscribers that have been here from the beginning. Hopefully I can meet you on the road somewhere (we'll have a cup of tea!).

Nautical hijinks! Mummy unwrappings! Irate Germans! OCTOPODES!
Speaking of which- I'll be appearing at Teslacon II in Madison, WI in November! In addition to my duties playing Kapitan von Grelle, the irascible captain of the Imperial Anti-Piracy Squadron, I'll be giving a panel on the possibilities of Multicultural Steampunk! Sitting on the panel with me are Captain Anthony Legrange of the Airship Archon, Aaron Egan the Steampunk Chef, and the blog's Archaeology and Anthropology consultant Jade Luiz. If you have a ticket to this sold out event, don't miss it!

Friday, September 30, 2011

CYL: Zouaves- Swank and File

Trois Regiment des Zouaves, 1916. (The Zouave Archives)
Salut, mes amies!

Uniforms. Ladies love a man in them and a well-presented one can make anyone feel like a badass. Well today we're going to learn about some of the greatest BAMFS of them all, born in North Africa and then extolled the world over: The Zouaves. What started as a group of Amazigh mercenaries hired by the French turned into a global phenomena within a few decades because of guts, determination, and some damned snappy clothes. But first, we need to revisit a little history from a prior CYL article (it's almost like I'm planning this!).

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Feedback Board: Reader Turbans!

I've been wanting to do one of these posts for some time showing off some of your results from using the tutorials that I post and the interesting spins you take. More than anything else, I've seen some pretty fancy turbans out there from some of you travelers! Some of this could do with the simplicity and versatility of the project, but it could also correlate with the hot summer weather that's rolling in a lot of our reader areas (handy tip, you can wrap cold packs and bags of ice into the turban itself). Why don't we look at a couple of fashionable examples?

First up we have Gretchen Jacobsen, a very talented costumer from Atlanta, Georgia. Gretchen sent in a couple of photos of her steampunk costume that was inspired by the Orientalist craze of the late 19th century, including a very colorful turban made using the tutorial:

As you can see, Gretchen was smart and used a soft-folding natural fiber.

Another intrepid turban-maker is Tabitha Kelley, who made this one for her little 16-month old daughter. The results are simple, but adorable:

I just broke my d'aww bone
I'm glad you ladies are enjoying your turbans. If you've done a project based off of one of the tutorials posted on the Steamer's Trunk, please send in your pictures and show them off! Creativity is the gift that keeps on giving and indeed, is what gives steampunk its steam- so keep experimenting!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

FF: I Do (Love This Dress)

A pleasantly purple wedding kaftan that would have been worn by a Jewish-Turkish bride (Magnes Collection)
Until recent years (when September and October have eclipsed it, according to a poll of wedding planners) June was considered the month in which to hold a wedding in several Western countries. Many cite the mild weather and preponderance of flora, while others point their fingers at pre-Christian traditions centered around the Summer Solstice- a time of great fertility and prosperity. Personally, this blogger blames the Victorians; who seemed to imprint as many modern traditions with weddings as they did funerals (and that, my friends, is a lot). In addition to its ancient ties and clement weather, June also would have offered great conditions to embark upon a honeymoon- the modern idea of which is an invention of the (early) 19th century.

It should be noted that Miss Kagashi hates weddings- or at least mainstream American ones. The blogger will spare you all her acid concerning these travesties of consumerism unless asked, however. So why focus an entire article on weddings and dresses worn by brides around the world if I detest them so? Much like headgear and etiquette, things were just so much more nifty back then and elsewhere. If these gorgeous pieces of art can make a believer out of me- who knows, I might get some drooling out of you.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Mix it Up!: Real Airship Pirates- Pirates of the 19th Century

Shown: Scarier and more badass. (Also this print was done in 1909, historyaficianado's flickr)

Airship pirates. You can't go to an event or a convention and swing a cat around by its tail without hitting one. I'm not going to lie everyone, pirates are getting awfully old- particularly with Jerry Bruckheimer's quest for more money. But a lot of the Sky Pirate Popularity (and therefore staleness because nobody does anything else with it) I blame on the band Abney Park and the carefree antics of their crew on the Ophelia and their songs of adventure (that and the cartoon Talespin- Don Karnage rocks!). Now, before I engage the rant drive, I request that you consider that I do in fact listen to Abney Park. I own three of their albums and a respectable chunk of my itunes is dedicated to their music. I know full well that this won't dissuade several Abney Park fans from posting things like "NO, ur wrong! Robert is hott!" or "This is just for fun, man, stop being such an elitist!"

I know that pirates will exist; it's a natural, healthy part of any history-oriented subculture. In fact, I encourage the growth of the steampunk underworld- body smugglers, prostitutes, opium peddlers, and con artists. All I ask is what I normally desire with this blog: do it right. How do you do piracy right? Well why don't we look at some of the fine examples of rotten behavior left to us by history!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

BB: Multicultural Celebrations by Norine Dresser

You can find it used very inexpensively!
So yeah... the real reason for my recent absence from posting has been a severe inundation of real life- which as many of you know, is an unavoidable threat to every blogger or webcomic author, particularly if real life is offering you money. I assure you, it's worth it: because in two month's I will have helped birth a bouncing baby novel ("Blood in the Skies", which has been written by my friend and sometimes contributor G.D. Falksen and published by Wildside Press).

I'm kidding, the real reason why I haven't written up a post in a long time is because I was captured by a secret organization called the Build-a-Bear Group, who were after my scone recipe to use in their diabolical scheme to take over the world with a massive Teddy Bear Tea. After giving them a dummy recipe (for crumpets), I escaped: wreaking much havoc, breaking windows, and putting bananas up tailpipes of cars. After a nice, long shower I'm happy to be back to discussing multicultural steampunk and its many applications.

Today on Babbling Books I'd like to show you a wonderful book I picked up a couple of days ago that's so engaging that I haven't been able to put it down! I was hunting for more information for my Victorian etiquette panel when I found Multicultural Celebrations by Norine Dresser tucked in the 'manners' section of John K. King Books in Detroit. The book proclaims that it's a guide to "today's rules of etiquette for life's special occasions" but it's truly more than that...

Monday, April 25, 2011

FF: Be Not Afraid of Color!

Turkish caftan 19th century (Alain Turong)

I know I'm due for a recipe or tutorial post, but I was feeling particularly clever tonight (also I just finished another illustration for the upcoming steampunk adventure novel by G.D. Falksen- Blood in the Skies). Instead of locking myself into my sewing room I've decided to instead tell you to "BE NOT BE AFRAID OF COLOR!".

I promise, my good readers, that this is not going to be a rant. Instead, it's an argument. They're really not the same thing, just ask Monty Python. I propose that the most steampunk color is purple.... don't look at me like that, I have my reasons!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

CYL: Those Incorrigible Cossacks!

Three members of the Cossack "life" guard 1899 (militaryphotos)


My first exposure to the Cossacks was in 8th grade language arts when our class read the famous short story by Richard Connell, "The Most Dangerous Game". The villain in the story was a man supposedly of Cossack descent... which (like a good reader!) led me to look it up in the dictionary because as a 13 year old American I rarely came across the term. I daresay it was actually more interesting than the story I had just read (writing a report on it didn't help, but that's neither here nor there).

The trick with 'Cossack' is that it both names a group of people and a branch of the Russian army- so over time the word has gained a stereotype of burly men in exquisite uniforms, riding horses and twirling their mustaches (and believe me, we'll see some of them too!) when in fact... any age and either gender could be a Cossack. This journey we'll be looking at both, so let's head to the plains of Eastern Europe!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

FF: These Boots Are Made for Walking

We can always trust the Mongolians to have something fun on their feet.

One of the things I've noticed about steampunk fashion is an adoration for boots of all shapes, sizes, classes, and creeds. Whether this is because boots suggest a more rough and tumble air or just because they're so bloody cool remains unclear, but all the same- a good pair of boots appear on just about every "how-to steampunk dress-up" guide. Victorian ankle boots and army surplus models are certainly great (I own a few pairs and wear them around on a day-to-day basis), but you should know by now that there are many options and inspirations from around the world during this time. So, ready boots?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

TT: Chinese Rockets

Extant drawing of a dragon-headed multi-stage rocket (Grandhistorian)

I'm going to tell you all a secret: Imperial China invented A LOT of things. No, seriously. I would make a list, but I fear that that would be a blog within itself (if someone wants to take that and run with it, feel free). A few of my favorites include sunglasses (used as early as 1000 C.E. by Imperial judges who wanted to appear unemotional and impartial at trials), the collapsible umbrella (1st century C.E. for use on the chariots of political bigwigs), and the landmine (3rd century C.E., for... well... same use as always- blowing people and things into wee tiny bits). Then of course there was the mechanized water clock invented by a Buddhist monk to regulate the Emperor's sex life...

.... the man had a LOT of concubines.

A lot of these groundbreaking technologies were developed centuries before the Age of Steam- so why bring them up? Well, if something like a rudimentary rocket was in use on the battlefield as early as the 13th century C.E., just imagine how advanced it would be with the industrial and technological explosion that a steampunk age would offer?  But before we ponder that, why don't we look at this simple, yet inevitably complicated invention: the rocket.

Friday, April 1, 2011

CYL: The Neglected and Overlooked Nation of Britain

Victorian women's dresses from (L-R) the 1830s, 1860s, and 1890s (TFC)

You know, if you mention the 19th century and steampunk countries to event-goers or artists the answer you never seem to get is Britain. This overlooked island, though obscure in its contributions and actions on the world's stage in the Age of Steam, still has an exotic culture to inspire even the most timid steampunk. Why don't we take a look at the fashion of this strange land?

Monday, March 28, 2011

BB: Freebie! Racinet's Le Costume Historique

19th century Spanish folk dress by Racinet. Love the embroidery on the skirts.

Between 1876 and 1888 Auguste Racinet, a French artist, compiled a visual encyclopedia of world costume spanning antiquity to the contemporary. It was pretty. And all was well. Except that the book was largely forgotten outside of costume designers and other such strange communities of people.

In the same vein as Max Tilke and Braun and Schneider, this book encompasses a large portion of the world, is in wonderful color, and is available for free on the almighty internets. Unlike Braun and Schneider, however, Le Costume Historique goes into some fantastic detail, including hairstyles, makeup, and accessories with some plates. True, while Racinet isn't politically correct by a modern definition (Monsieur Racinet, your Chinese models don't look particularly Chinese....), his sense of detail and dedication to the garments should at least be commended and studied.

So check it out, it's available for free here at The Costumer's Manifesto labeled in English and categorized into time periods so you aren't confused. Happy researching, world travelers!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Preview: April Showers Bring... More Blog Posts!

More mustache than you know how to deal with! (Mansvolk)

Let's mix things up folks, shall we? Yes, I owe a few posts, but frankly I'd rather tuck them away for later than to do a sloppy job. Also I know I promised a rant about airship pirates, but I've calmed down a bit since then... false angst alert, I suppose. You might also notice a smaller list of topics- that's because April is Finals for me, and I'll probably be doing a few short, spontaneous posts to fill in spaces between- such as Featured Travellers and Mix It Up!

Clothing You'll Love
Andean Attire

Talking Tech
Chinese Rockets

Focus on Folkways
Be Not Afraid of Color!
Made for Walking... Boots from Around the World

Tutorial Time!
A Basic Guide to Applique

Kagashi's Kitchen
Second to Naan

I'll also be announcing a special contest this month, so stay tuned!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Mix it up! 10 Alternatives to Top Hats

Look familiar? (Motoring Pictures)
 All right, time to clear some air. Less than a month ago a blogger who attended Wild Wild West Con in Arizona made a (probably unintentionally) controversial post about the "Top 7 Overdone  Steampunk Fashions " at the con. What was intended as a piece of snark to poke fun at some costuming stereotypes exploded into a flamefest of people accusing the blogger of being elitist, ignorant of people who either can't sew or afford a fancy outfit, and trying to restrict others' creativity.

I'm not going to lie, I stand with her. I'm not doing this to be snotty or because I'm a professional costumer (so therefore I don't understand what it's like to not have a lot of cash or the resources/skill set to make an outfit) but because steampunk is supposed to be a creative genre. You're welcome to wear whatever the hell you want. I don't care. Wear goggles on your goggles, because as much as I detest them and they pervade at least 65% of steampunk outfits (or somewhere around there), I can't take away your right to wear them. However, I beg for you just to look at OTHER possibilities (because that's what I do on this blog, doncha know) to broaden your horizons, if not for the sake of newbies. Yes, newbies. I have a few come up to me at every event and ask if that person who said that their outfit wasn't "steampunk enough" because it lacked goggles, a top hat, or a nerf gun was right. And I'm sorry, that doesn't sound particularly creative or welcoming to me. The last thing we need are people being hindered creatively because they feel they need "status symbols" to belong.

One of Ms. D'Andrea's points concerned that most Victorian and steampunk of archetypal fashion- the top hat. We see them everywhere. Convention floors are veritable seas of top hats in either black, gray, or brown- from the tiniest doll hat with feathers glued on it to the standard felt behemoth that a lot of vendors have in stock. Do I like top hats? Certainly. Am I sick of seeing them? Sure am. There are legions of hats that fell from popularity and memory as the 20th century progressed, so why don't we look at a few? Should you find yourself enamored, a few links will be provided of where you can get your own- affordably!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Out and About: Marche du Nain Rouge- 2011

Mac and I in front of the Detroit Masonic Temple. Say hi to Mac everyone! (Ladies, he's single!) (Al Bogdan)

What do the ghost of Antoine la Mothe du Cadillac, a velociraptor, a brigade of men dressed as the wives of automobile moguls, vikings manning a flamethrower, and a handful of local steampunks have in common? They were all at this year's Marche du Nain Rouge in the heart of Detroit, Michigan and they celebrated in a way that only Detroiters can. There were over a thousand revelers in this year's march, from people manning chariots (modded bicycles or scooters), to hundreds of costumed revelers, to families or couples looking for a fun afternoon out.

Want to find out about more kookiness or why I'm wearing red paint on my face again? Read on!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

FF: In Search of Steampunk St. Patrick's Day

A Victorian St. Patrick's Day postcard. I might heave.
Once upon a time, there was a fellow named St. Patrick. He did some awesome stuff with shamrocks, leprechauns, and snakes, and in honor of his awesome we all get blitzed in the pub every year. The end. Also if you don't wear green, you get pinched.

....This is most Americans' understanding of St. Patrick's Day. I'm not sure how folks in other parts of the world might partake in this most Irish and Catholic of holidays, but here in the United States St. Patrick's Day has become about as Irish as Cinco de Mayo is Mexican. Similarly, not many people know how this holiday developed or how it was originally celebrated.

Let's see if we can explore the origins, traditions, and how St. Patrick's (NOT St. Patti's) was celebrated in the 19th century so maybe we can piece together how it could be observed by steampunks.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

GLLC: And the winner is....

Entries were judged on creativity, effort, accuracy, and how much tea came out my nose from laughing.

So you learned, you spoke, but who conquered? I received 4 very nice videos as a result of our very first Great Language-Learning Challenge and as promised, it's time to announce the winner....

...Below the cut (Look, I'm creating suspense, just like a reality tv show!HAHA!)

Monday, March 14, 2011

My Nativepunk and Some Anachrocon Memories

The photos from Anachrocon are in, folks, so I'm pleased to present the first incarnation of my Anishinaabeg Native American steampunk creation, which I premiered at Anachrocon 2011 a couple of weeks ago. The judges were so impressed with it that I won 2nd place in the masquerade!

Photograph by Ryen Wilson.

Let me take you on a tour:

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Top Ten Reasons Why You Should Attend the World Steam Expo

Spot the blogger!

Last year I was in attendance as a panelist at the World Steam Expo (being held this year on May 27th-30th) in Dearborn, Michigan for its maiden voyage and now the convention planners are hard at work trying to top themselves. I personally think they'll succeed, but I'm dismayed at how many people either refuse to come to WSE or just haven't heard about it. Which is why if you're on the fence, I'd like to bring you over with my Top Ten Reasons You Should Attend!

Why should you believe me? Because I'm a native Michigander, poor as a dustmite, and I've been to a variety of steampunk conventions over the last couple of years and believe World Steam is really the hidden jewel in the bunch. Here are my reasons why:

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

CYL:The Roving Roma

A young Roma performer- 19th c: Svenko


What do you see when you hear the word gypsy? Colorful caravans of exotic individuals? Life on the road, with no country to call home? Hot, thick music dripping with expression and rhythm? Well, when it comes to "real gypsies", the people known as the Roma (aka Romany/Romani/Rrom) these connotations are not entirely inaccurate... but it's not the whole story.

But don't get depressed! Sure, the Disney-tinted images of "gypsies" with hiked up messes of skirts and opened shirts is... well... wrong, but that doesn't mean that these world travelers were bland in their dress. Why don't we take a look?

Monday, March 7, 2011

Tutorial Time!: Basic Wrapped Turban

"Woman in a Blue Turban" by Delacroix. Dallas Museum of Art

So you're looking for some awesome headgear? Hmm... well bowlers and top hats are all well and good (and done OFTEN). Fezzes are cool- but we've already covered their construction in a previous tutorial. Let's face it, folks, buying new hats can be expensive (but a joyous experience, one which I would recommend having with the folks over at Blonde Swan) and making them does take a certain degree of skill. But what I'm going to show you today is a hat that requires very little money, barely any sewing, and can be in a matter of minutes... with some practice.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

March Preview... Wait, March?

A Meiji-era geisha (Okinawa Soba)

If anyone could tell me where February went, I'd be very grateful... At any rate, I apologize for the low density of posts this past month; I became very wrapped up in mid-terms, super secret projects, commission work, working on the Nativepunk, and a fairly long trip south to Anachrocon 2011. As promised, backlog will be dealt with and in the next week you should see a few ghosts of February's docket:

Clothing You'll Love
Joseon Korea

Tutorial Time!
Turbans 101

Kagashi's Kitchen
I Love it When a Flan Comes Together

However, March also brings some shiny new content coming down the pipes, including:

Clothing You'll Love
The Roving Romani

Focus on Folkways
Masks of Moon and Vermillion- Geisha Makeup in the 19th Century
In Search of Steampunk St. Patrick's Day

Featured Traveler
Joanne Alford

Special Content
Marche de le Nain Rouge- is an old French custom brought over to a variety of Francophone territories during the 17th-19th centuries. The city of Detroit, which was founded by Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac in 1701, has brought back the tradition of scaring off the "red dwarf" that causes the mischief and strife of the previous year through a loud and raucous street festival. Should you find yourself in Detroit on March 20th don a mask and join the parade!

I'll also be posting photos of my finished Native American steampunk as worn at Anachrocon once more come in. I would post a teaser picture, but I've become a little paranoid these days about things being taken out of context.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Guest Post: Khaki; Or, How India Invented Camouflage by G.D. Falksen

Two Punjabi infantrymen by Lovett

(G.D. Falksen is an author, lecturer, and impresario who specializes in writing literature for a variety of genres. It's his work on steampunk, however that's gained attention from the likes of MTV, The San Francisco Chronicle, and The New York Times. His work has appeared in Steampunk Tales, Steampunk II: Steampunk Reloaded, and he frequently blogs for His various essays on global steampunk possibilities were really what got the ball rolling on multicultural steampunk and inspired this very blog.

In addition to being one of the most recognizable names and faces (and boy, is it a nice one) associated with steampunk, Mr. Falksen is also a huge aficionado of Indian culture and military history- two interests that he combined in this article. Miss Kagashi thoroughly approved as one of her interests is drooling over military uniforms.)

Throughout the 19th century, colorful uniforms were the order of the day, a practice inherited from the 18th century.  Beginning with the general adoption of drab colors shortly before the First World War (or during it, kicking and screaming, in the case of the French) and continuing through the development of pattern camouflage in the decades that followed, the 20th century witnessed the adoption of camouflage uniforms as a battlefield standard, replacing the earlier fashion-conscious model.  But in fact, the practice of using camouflaged uniforms began half a century earlier, in the middle of the 19th century, in the dry and dusty regions of northwestern India, with the creation of a not particularly glamorous shade of brown known as “khaki.”

GLLC: It's Video Time!

I took Adam Jones' suggestion and named the owl Curio- it's snappy.

Hello Travelers, I've just returned home from Anachrocon 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia - hence why posts have been few and far between around here. But never fear! Backlog will be dealt with in a timely fashion (*cracks knuckles*).

So as the astute of you have probably noticed, it's not February anymore, which means that the Great Language-Learning Challenge has officially ended for 2011. Did you have a good month? Why don't you tell me about it in your videos?

To be fair to people who need to time to access a camera or upload their video, I'm making the deadline for the competition March 10th- which gives people a little over a week to submit their entry for the prize! The winner with the most creative/fun/memorable video will be announced March 15th, so stay posted to Multiculturalism for Steampunk for more details!

Remember to look over the video rules and required tags one more time before you submit!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A Message to my New Zealand Readers

The epicenter of the recent seismic activity, focused around Christchuch. (

You've probably heard it, seen it, or read it by now, but yesterday at 1pm Christchuch time (7pm EST) a large earthquake, registering 6.3 on the Richter Scale rocked the Southern island of New Zealand. Of course, this was just one in a long line of aftershocks descended from a 7.1 earthquake back in September. There are dozens declared dead already, with hundreds wounded and thousands without power. Flights out of the country are suspended.

While I don't normally look into current events on the Steamer's Trunk, there are many friends and readers of the blog in New Zealand and it's my greatest hope that they, their families, and their friends are safe.

Take care, kiwis.

-Miss Kagashi

Just to lighten the mood a bit- a cycling band from 19th century Christchurch. (Kimballtrombone)

Sunday, February 20, 2011

FF: Wearing Wisdom: Kanga Cloth

A woman of 1890s Zanzibar in a kanga ensemble (Zanzibar history)

Everyone has that one basic piece of clothing that they can never have enough of. For some, it's sturdy jeans. For others, bandannas or a handbag for every occasion. Personally, I collect black tank tops (those who associate with me can attest to this). However, rarely do these 'vital' pieces communicate something traditional, emotional, or spiritual. Imagine a garment with the same amount of appreciation as a good pair of sweat pants with abilities of a billboard and you have the Kanga (or Khanga) cloth. The Kanga is an expression of wisdom, joy, history, and self-empowerment. It emerged from traditions of slavery in East Africa to become the national garment of many African nations today... but I'm getting ahead of myself. What is a kanga and how did it come to be?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Talking Tech: Korean Turtle Ships

A reproduction turtle ship in Yeosu harbor (Korealife)

I'm starting a new portion of Multiculturalism for Steampunk called Talking Tech, in which we'll look at a piece of technology from a culture which existed during the Age of Steam. While costuming and food can really give an impression of a culture and learning about traditions will give you context, looking at technology can really inspire people to take it to the next level in steampunk. What would a Chinese lightening rifle look like? Or an airship from Istanbul?

By looking at pre-existing inventions and gadgets, it's my hope that people can get some ideas on multicultural tech, as well as appreciating them for their innovative and artistic value. Today we'll be looking at one of my favorites: Geobukseon, or Turtle Ships of Korea.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Convention Appearance: Anachrocon 2/25-2/27

Bozho everyone, I have an exciting announcement!

For those of you in the Atlanta area or planning to attend Anachrocon, I'll be appearing as a Costume/Art panelist at the event! Unfortunately I was not given a place on any multiculturalism panels- however should anyone wish to discuss global costuming and steampunk with me, I'd be happy to meet with you.

In addition to conducting panels, I will also be giving the Nativepunk it's first trip out. I know I said that it was going to be debuted at Oklahoma Steampunk Expo, but I progressed fairly quickly on it (an ever-lengthening commission roster doesn't hurt either). Needless to say, I'm ecstatic. Ever stitch is bringing me forward and I can feel the energy rising.

Tonight I hand-stitched my first moccasin. (Well, not really. When I was six or seven my grams and I sat down and made a pair. But these were made of felt, not leather). My fingers are throbbing, but on my right foot is a very structurally-sound piece of footwear- and it was easy! I highly recommend making your own moccasins, even if you're wearing them as house-shoes. Not only is there something powerful in making a garment by hand, but you will never get a nicer fit. They feel like a second skin.

I hope you're all having your own learning experiences- whether they be from making a steampunk outfit, reading about a new culture, or perhaps practicing a new language?

A pair of Potawatomi moccasins decorated with ribbonwork- 1840s. (Canku Ota Newsletter)

Friday, February 11, 2011

CYL: The Wild, Wild South- Gaucho Gear

Three gauchos 'fighting' for the camera- early 1900s

¡Saludos, mis amigos!

One of the more popular branches of steampunk is Weird West- a sub-genre that despicts science fiction, horror, or fantasy out of the Old American/Mexican West of the late 19th and early 20th century; such as Wild Wild West (television series and movie), Jonah Hex (comic), Deadlands (game), and The Adventures of Brisco County Jr. (television series starring the awesome Bruce Campbell).

Now, I'm not saying that Weird West is weak or overplayed- it's just that there are so many spins you can try on it. I rarely see Native American or Mexican characters portrayed or created (if at all in general despite- y'know, being there) and often there's a high preponderance of cowboys, lawmen, outlawmen, and saloon girls. Mix it up! You can still have your roguish cowboy flair and still be creative- just look at today's inspiration from the Pampas of South America. I give you: gauchos!

Monday, February 7, 2011

FF:The Way of the Woo- Courtship Around the World

19th c. Mughal painting of amorous Indian Lovers, artist unknown. (Bonzashiela)

(Warning: this blog post, while educational, contains a healthy dose of cynicism and snark. Snark levels are expected to equalize on February 15th, when candy goes on sale.)

Ah, courtship. That most... the... amongst all...

... what does courtship really mean, anyhow? (The hell if I know, I've never comprehended it.) Furthermore how does it compare to how we think of it with the lens of the present versus how it was in the past? Cynics will say that it involves goats and talks with fathers. Romantics will push daydreams of courtly love, letters, and costume dramas that probably involve Colin Firth or Ewan MacGregor. But really- how would people be hooking up in the steampunk age? (Yes, I know that there are robotic carrier pigeons and telegraph messaging, but nobody learns anything if we leave it at that.)

Let's take a jaunt around the globe and see just how people were flirting, fawning, and f.... avoring one another during the Age of Steam.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Take a Page Out of Lovett's Book: "The Eye of the Storm"

Lovett as the lone pilot. Courtesy of Soapbox Films

I was recently given the opportunity to review a brand new music video by American recording artist Ben Lovett for his atmospheric song "Eye of the Storm". While this short vignette isn't inspired by the cultures of Asia or Africa, I feel that it's such an extraordinary example of mainstream Western steampunk that I simply had to introduce it to the readers of the Steamer's Trunk.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Twas the night before GLLC:

Also comment if you have a good name for our owl mascot!

And all through the blog, Miss Kagashi was dumbstruck and slightly agog....

I didn't know the call to the Great Language Learning Challenge would be so strong! According to the official facebook event, over 160 people are taking part this first year. It's going to be some stiff competition for the prize hat, haiku, and title of Most Fun Video!

But I'm curious- what's drawing people to the Challenge? Allow me to pick your brains and answer this poll question for me:

So, tomorrow the GLLC begins- what should you do to prepare?

-First of all, find a reliable resource for learning your language- if you haven't already. This can include books (I'm a fan of Berlitz Book's  "Hide This ___ Book" series, which teaches you modern language, slang, curse words, and suggestive things like how to buy a drink or ask if he has a condom), computer programs like Rosetta Stone, youtube videos (there are plenty of great instructional videos fro native speakers), and websites.

-Second of all, find a buddy (if you can). Learning a language happens much easier if you have someone else to practice with or just laugh with if you're feeling self-concious or silly. Remember- there's little point to learning a language if you aren't going to use it, so get used to speaking it in front of people. A buddy can also help you pace yourself throughout the month.

- Better yet- find multiple buddies! Steampunks, here's a list of foreign-language forums and communities where you can no doubt find some kind folks to help you. In fact, one of the primary reasons for starting the GLLC was to get steampunks around the world talking to one another. Just be polite and I'm sure it will be duly returned! :
- Go over the rules one more time. Not only does it give that entry more pageviews (and that looks impressive) but it'll help you map out your month (i.e. Week 1- Greetings, basic phrases; Week 2- Vocab; Week 3- Simple verbs; Week 4- Sentence structure).

I hope you enjoy the challenge, Steampunk Travelers, have a great month and Good Luck!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Bombay to London and Back Again: An Interview With Sunday Driver

The colorful characters of Sunday Driver- courtesy of Sunday Driver UK

Good music takes you on a journey; across time, over land and seas, and though peoples' lives both real and imagined. The music of U.K. band Sunday Driver does just that. This eccentric blend of pop-rock, cabaret, Western folk, and Eastern traditional (I've even detected a hint of klezmer) styles creates a catalyst to tell the stories of smoky dens and mysterious temples. Unlike a lot of 'world' groups that I've encountered and listened to over the years- they're a lot easier to listen to and seem more frank (and less lofty) about their influences. Their fusion of East and West is unburdened with agenda, but still filled with purpose, which makes the music sound much more natural. They also have a heavy emphasis on real instruments and real skill with using them- which sets them apart from a lot of other popular steampunk bands. Most of all, you can tell by their musicianship and ease in their music- such as their 2008 album In the City of Dreadful Night that they're having a lot of fun.

This U.K. group consists of Chandrika "Chandy" Nath's swirling vocals, Joel Clayton pulling impressive double duty on the guitar and sitar, classically trained Kat Arney playing the harp, clarinet (which just MAKES the song "Black Spider" with its slinky sound) and spoons,  Amit Jogia on the traditional Indian tabla, bass-player Melon, Chemise on the guitar, and Scot Jowett playing the drums. The London-based band has played a variety of impressive venues, including the Asylum festival in both 2009 and 2010, Queen Elizabeth Hall, and has the distinction of opening the Cambridge Folk Festival in 2009. Their music has been played on several programs on the BBC and has led to a recent Grant for the Arts for their skill and drive.

Chandy Nath was kind enough to let me interview her with various questions about the group's history (which is as strange as fiction!), current sound, and future plans

Thursday, January 27, 2011

February Preview

A princess of the Joseon Korean court

We still have a few more posts out of January- including an interview with the delightful UK band Sunday Driver coming down the pipe on Monday, but here's what February has to offer.

First of all, February is the Great Language Learning Challenge! For possible participants, you still have four days to pick your language and spread the word! Remember to RSVP to the official facebook event as well!
And yes, February is also host to Valentine's Day, so there will be some content catering to the holiday (marked with a star). Perennially single Miss Kagashi personally isn't a fan, but that doesn't mean that you can't learn to make a homemade dessert for someone or to woo like an Egyptian if you do have a significant other. For the rest of us: WOOHOO, More flan for you!

Babbling Books
-The Art of Clothing: A Pacific Experience by Susanne Kuchler and Graeme Were

Clothing You'll Love
-The Wild Wild South: Clothing of the Gauchos of South America
-Joseon Korea

Kagashi's Kitchen
-I Love it When a Flan Comes Together*

Tutorial Time
-Turbans 101

Focus on Folkways
-Wearing Wisdom: Khanga Cloth in East Africa
-The Way of the Woo: Flirting and Courtship Around the World*

And a Special Guest Post! 
 -Distinguished steampunk author, historian, and personality G.D. Falksen will be contributing an article on The Evolution of Uniforms in 19th Century India.

Mr. Falksen in a stunning photo by Lex Machina Photography

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

KK: Majadara (and Mad Science?)

Note: I may have eaten some while I was posing this photograph.
Majadara is a Levantine dish, dating back thousands of years. By its definition, it is a simple pilaf of rice and lentils topped with caramelized onions and was primarily eaten as "poor man's" or "working man's" food. As with most staple Middle Eastern and Mediterranean dishes, there's some squabble over where it actually originated (similar to baklava and hummus), but the recipes differ country to country so it could actually be considered several separate dishes. In some places the rice is switched out for bulgar wheat, in Lebanon pine nuts and garlic yogurt are sometimes companions, and sometimes the recipe alternative between red or green lentils.

Monday, January 24, 2011

February is the Great Language Learning Challenge! *fanfare*

Get Ready.... Get Set...
Here at the Steamer's Trunk culture is kind of important, if you haven't figured that out already. But aside from art, food, and clothing, what else is a major facet of a culture? Language. In the 19th century and the ages prior, it was de rigeur to have fluency in multiple languages- not only to be fashionable, but also practical. You simply weren't educated if you didn't know Greek, Latin, and French or English. As the modern age progressed however, the Great European Empires standardized, indigenous languages died out, while other ones were strangleheld into learning the mainstream languages of the day in order to enjoy political and economic benefits. (Then again, the Romans did it, Charlemagne did it, this blogger is doing it inadvertently...)

But this is steampunk! History with the benefits of the contemporary! With all of this internet at our fingertips, we can certainly learn about a culture's clothes and art, so why don't we study their languages too? There is actually a Learn a Foreign Language Month, but it's a little appreciated observance in December and I'm anxious to try out this experiment and see if others are on board. That's why Multiculturalism for Steampunk: The Steamer's Trunk declares February to be the Great Language Learning Challenge!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

CYL: Burma and the Magnificence of Mandalay

Nei Kaung La? In this installment of Clothing You'll Love we journey to Burma, a country that in the 19th century was both besieged by war and colonialism and undergoing a revitalization of the arts. On our trip to this we'll look at what the average Burmese citizen wore (a few surprises for you there!) as well as the mythically dramatic attire of the court. Who knows, in this forested land of diverse peoples and golden Buddhas, you might find some inspiration for your steampunk.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

BB: Mayan Cuisine: Recipes From the Yucatan Region by David Hoyer

Fresh and straight-forward: what you can expect inside Mayan Cuisine.

Once upon a time there were some people called the Maya. Between 2000 B.C.E. and 900 C.E. they built a host of wondrous cities, pyramids, and temples, only to go into decline and eventual elimination at the hands of the conquistadors in the 16th century.

.... except, that wasn't the end of the story. When most people think about the Maya, they only consider those human-sacrificing, doomsday-prophesying, pyramid-building astrologers who left scores of ruins in the Mexican forests. However Maya culture (particularly their language) has lived on for centuries in rural parts of Mexico and Guatamala. In fact many of the people guarding the archaeological sites of Maya cities such as Copan and Palenque are often descendants of the ones who built them.

Maya cooking is a similar story to that of Mexican cooking: a mix of seemingly opposing cuisines (Spanish, Carribbean, French, American, and Maya) blending together with the backbone of local ingredients. In Mayan Cuisine: Recipes From the Yucatan Region by Daniel Hoyer, this relationship of traditional tribal fare and foreign influences is explored in a bevy of dishes that serve as much as cultural record as much as palate pleasers. As much as Maya cuisine is a fusion-based one, there are many dishes that would have been recognizable to the natives of centuries ago- such as Atole and Pinole (corn-based beverages) and Kol (a traditional gravy-like sauce served atop tamales). However, there are also contemporary dishes that reflect the 19th and 20th century influxes of people from Germany to Lebanon.

Yum Kaaz, the ancient Maya god of corn.

New to Mexican AND Maya cooking? Don't worry, Hoyer includes an appendix at the front of the book with the instructions on various cooking techniques. On top of this, all of the recipes start at a basic level- then add. There's an entire section on how to make a basic tamale first before Hoyer launches into a collection of regional variations. Furthermore through Hoyer's procedures and the natural simplicity of this regional cuisine, you really feel like you CAN cook these recipes.

If you're at all interested in exploring Maya culture, Yucatan cookery, or just looking for something interesting to serve at your next steampunk gathering, I would highly recommend this book- particularly for the summer months. Still on the fence? You're in luck! Next month, the Steamer's Trunk will be trying out Hoyer's recipe for flan- which I thought would be a great idea for Valentines day (share you flan with someone special or DELIGHT IN NOT HAVING TO, MWAHA!).

Monday, January 17, 2011

FF:Baby, it's Cold Outside- Outerwear of the World

A gorgeous beaded amauti- the hood would be worn down for carrying babies.
Cold weather is relative. What a crippling winter storm is to one part of the world may be a simple case of the flurries to another. Everyone has some kind of inclement weather: be it rain, snow, wind, or whatever else happens to be flying through the air at the time and throughout history people have found ways to cope with Mother Nature's bouts of peevishness. Here are some examples of outerwear (including boots and hats) that in an alternative past, possibly kept people warm, dry, or protected during airship voyages or expeditions elsewhere.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Steamer's Trunk Has Won an Award!

And I didn't even have to go to a fancy dinner or get all dressed up!

The Steamer's Trunk: Multiculturalism for Steampunk has won a 2010 Facebook Steampunk Award for Best Blog! I don't remember there being an announcement for voting, which means I probably have you great people to thank for this less than 4 month old blog getting so much attention (and nearly 58,000 hits- which I know isn't my family being nice because my mom doesn't have the patience to click the refresh button that many times).

Shiny, innit?

This definitely is encouraging, since I wasn't sure how much appeal a blog of this nature would have- I just felt that it was important that people who were interested in art, clothing, and food from around the world during the Age of Steam should have a friendly place to view it and be inspired without discouragement or agenda. All I do is post the pictures, the information, and the projects- ultimately it's up to you folks as to whether or not you think its cool; and it's nice to see some of you think it is!

So thank you everyone: my subscribers, you random linked aetherwebnauts, the facebook steampunk community, my friends, family, and any small furry (or scaley, I don't judge) who might have gotten here by taking a nap on your owner's keyboard.

On a similar note: Did you know you can subscribe to The Steamer's Trunk on your livejournal? It's kind of cool- thanks to Miss Lynx for setting it up!