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!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Tutorial Time!: Sirwal (Turkish Trousers)

Miss Kagashi lounging at Dragon*Con 2010 in her sirwal. Photo by Anna Fischer.

There is a world of comfy trousers out there and today I'm going to show you how to make a pair. Sirwal have been kicking around (HAH, I make myself laugh...) the Middle East for over a thousand years in some form or another, and can you really blame them? They're easy to make, conserve fabric fairly well, don't require very much tailoring, look marvelous, can be made in a variety of fabrics to suit their purpose, and (most importantly) are damned cozy. In addition, they're unisex (not that that matters in steampunk anyway), so they can be used in a variety of outfits.

They work well for military considering their zouave ties (just make them in a stiffer fabric), they can be worn by ladies under their dresses as an alternative to bloomers (if made full enough, they look identical to a skirt- a skirt that can't fly up and give everyone a free show), they can be dressed up in silks or taffeta or dressed down in simple cotton or linen. Airship pirates: looking for an alternative? These add a well-traveled feel to an outfit. Furthermore, people of any size or shape can wear them- this isn't just fashion for the skinny or female! If made full or stiff enough, they can even take the place of a petticoat under knee or tea-length skirts.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

From My Workshop: Karakuri Robots and the Tradition of Joy

A karakuri robot- read on to find out more!
You asked for it, so here is a little peek into what art I've been working on/what's been driving me crackers the last few weeks. Also please note that if you'd like to commission me for either costume design or fabrication, just drop me an email!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Featured Traveler: Kian Sattar

One of the things that's so distinctive about steampunk in comparison to other genres and subcultures is the near-equal ratio of men to women, and yet costuming is often considered a woman's hobby! I know several male steampunks who not only make their own clothing, but also make extraordinarily creative and layered outfits- and now thanks to this blog I've met another: Kian Sattar

Kian as Abdulhaq, his Afghani scientist.
Kian told me that he had a bevvy of inspiration for his steampunk persona: Khan Bahadur Abdulhaq, (who is Chief Scientific Advisor to the Emir of Afghanistan) including The Peshawar Lancers by S.M. Sterling, traditional Muslim and Indian garments, and his own varied heritage (Pashtun, Greek, Arab, and Turkish on his father's side and German, French-Swiss, Norweigian, and Dutch from his mother). He has several outfits that mix Central and Eastern Asian styles, such as kurta-pyjama suits and Nehru jackets with European aesthetics.

Charity Drive: What We've Done


Tonight I went to Heifer International and divided up the money received during the 1st Annual Steamer's Trunk Charity Drive on:

2 Llamas- to help provide transportation of goods and wool for families to spin into textiles, which can be sold or made into clothing for the family.

2 Goats- hearty critters to provide milk which can be sold or turned into cheese.

1 Colony of Honeybees to aid in the pollenization of crops and make honey and beeswax.

1 Flock of Ducks to provide eggs and meat for years to come!

Now, some of the money didn't clear (that's okay, we've still done plenty!), so instead of $40 remaining we were only left with $15. Since that wasn't enough for more animals, I donated the remainder to a women's education and self-esteem program in Laos.

Thanks to everyone who donated, boosted the signal, or at the very least cheered on this very successful (any drive that manages to give -something- is a success) first attempt. With any luck the drive will be back next holiday season, but remember that you can give to heifer any day of the year!

CYL: The Magnificent Maghreb

A velvet Amazigh kaftan from Morocco... I want it
The Maghreb is an Arab moniker that literally translates to "the Land of Sunset", which explains its westerly position from the center of the Muslim world at the time. The modern countries of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, and Mauritania all fell within this zone which was won and lost more times than a gambling fortune before the contemporary period. Within the region are a bevy of places that summon up the very essence of exotic and mysterious to the Western ear: Marrakesh, Casablanca, Algiers, Fez, Tangiers, The Barbary Coast, and Tripoli. But what were the people like- and most importantly, what did they wear? And why?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A Letter to the Orientalists

"Girls Dancing and Singing" by Etienne Dinet (1902). Dinet lived amongst the Ouled Nail tribe to fully understand and capture his hosts honestly. He even converted to Islam.
Or: What Happens When a Costumer's Dream meets a Researcher's Nightmare.

Dear Orientalists (Or: Chers Orientalistes, since I know much of you lot are French),

You make my head hurt.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Charity Drive: Conclusion

It's New Year's Day and the Steamer's Trunk Charity Drive has officially ended. We may not have reached our lofty goal of $5,000, but over the last few weeks I have been amazed by people's generosity and together we've raised $625. That's still plenty of money to make a difference in someone's life.

The gift of a goat is $120.
So, my question to you folks is: How do we want to divvy up the money? Since these funds are thanks to you good people, I think you should decide:



I'll give everyone a few days to discuss, then we'll make our gift to heifer international.

Thanks everyone! Not only have we done something wonderful for people, but we've also proven that the steampunk community isn't all talk. If you weren't able to give, that's fine- I'm grateful to anyone who passed the link around. We made this a Happy New Year for someone.

Me and BERNARD. Photo by Russ Turner
My friend, the talented Pamela Papo, was inspired by our drive and presented me a huggable Bernard the Steampunk Llama last night at "The IAPS Bright and Steamy New Year". Look at his little goggles!

Bab(ies) New Year!

For those of us in the United States and elsewhere abroad, 2010 is no more. However with a glad heart and a giggle I'd like to usher in the new year with an old tradition: Baby New Year.

Baby New Year stems from an old Celtic belief in that the old year fights the new year for the right to rule. Of course, the stronger, younger new year always wins. This has morphed through the ages into an infant symbolizing the optimism and vigor of a brand new year.

Flash-forward to 2010 at World Steam Expo in Dearborn, Mi- where my long-time friend Jade Luiz and I were cooing over small children wearing steampunk costumes. Shteambehbehs, we call them lovingly. For your 2011 viewing pleasure, here are the shteambehbehs for the year; may they make you go 'awww' or go into diabetic shock from the sweetness.

A baby from Japan playing in a pile of discarded silkworm cocoons.