Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A Message to my New Zealand Readers

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

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.