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Monthly Archives: February 2012

I’ll be at AnachroCon! And other various things…

February has been rather busy. And fast. I swear I had just posted the review for Her Majesty’s Explorer and BAM! It’s a week later. Perhaps Sephora is messing with the Temporal Bi-Resonator again. Perhaps I should have ranted about the Grammys, but they were just so dreadfully boring this year. It just wasn’t worth it, even with Adele’s success.

Anyway, I’m here to let everyone know that I will be at AnachroCon this weekend! I won’t be on any panels, but I will be working for The Extraordinary Contraptions for the two days I will be there. Feel free to swing by the table to chat and perhaps pre-order The Time Traveler’s Constant for $12. That is, if you didn’t already back the album on Kickstarter.

If I’m not at the table on Friday or Saturday, I will either be chatting with the other bands (or attending their shows), visiting Dim Horizon’s photobooth ($5 for one session, $10 for the weekend!), partaking of Emilie Bush’s Men Without Pants party or reading of Her Majesty’s Explorer (two vast ends of the spectrum there), or attending the Music of a Time That Never Was panel at 3 PM on Saturday. Or just wandering the con and visiting with friends. I’m good at that. I hope to see you there!

After that, I will be hopping out of this dimension for a week to visit a man and his mouse down in Orlando. My internet use will be short, but I will be back on schedule soon after that!

As for upcoming blogs, I will probably do an overview of AnachroCon and my Orlando trip. For pop culture stuff, I will soon be finishing up Avatar: The Last Airbender and starting Game of Thrones, so I will be offering my views on those series for sure. I’m also planning on doing an overview of the first 13 books I’ve read this year as part of my personal attempt of reading at least 52 books this year. And the lead up to The Hunger Games will be an absolute blitz. Stay tuned!

For now though, I will be leaving this blog off with six songs I’m digging right now.

  1. ‘No Church In The Wild’ – Jay-Z and Kanye West – The amazing opener of Watch The Throne. Consider this album my #7 of my top albums from 2011.
  2. ‘Used To Love U’ – John Legend – From Legend’s 2004 debut album Get Lifted. Might seem a bit inappropriate now due to it’s reference to Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown, but it has been stuck in my head since seeing John Legend perform at Georgia State University.
  3. ‘Synthesizers’ – Butch Walker and the Black Widows – Click the link to see the band perform the song on the Late Show with David Letterman. There were tears of pride.
  4. ‘All Warmed Up Inside’ – Rebecca Sugar – From the Season 3 finale of Adventure Time. Rebecca Sugar songs have a way of getting in my head, and Jake’s Finn-proxy serenade to the Flame Princess is just so wonderfully cute. John DiMaggio’s performance is just as great as Rebecca Sugar’s demo.
  5. ‘Barton Hollow’ – Civil Wars – Performed for 60 seconds at the Grammys, the duo of Joy Williams and John Paul White managed to be more impressive than most of the “big name” performers. Country music the way it’s supposed to be.
  6. ‘Starships’ – Nicki Minaj – A fun and lovely piece of pop from one of the most controversial names in popular music today. I wouldn’t be surprised if this song becomes bigger than ‘Super Bass’.

-Liesel

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Posted by on February 21, 2012 in General, Music, Steampunk

 

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Three cheers for Her Majesty’s Explorer!

Happy Valentine’s Day, readers! I hope that you all snuggle up with something you love today, be it a special someone, a movie, a good book, or enough chocolate to stock Buckingham Palace. My friends and I have decided to partake of Thor and Steampunk Chronicle released my first feature on fundraising, which I also love.

Instead of reviewing something related to romance, I’d like to focus on something that I was asked to review that loops back around to something I’ve loved since I was young: bedtime stories. Ever since my parents would read Dr. Seuss and Judy Blume to me before I went to sleep, I’ve loved a good book to read before going to bed. Eventually, I would start reading by myself and would keep a huge stack of books beside my bed that usually included J.K. Rowling, Meg Cabot, and any other book I could get my hands on.

Still, no matter how old I get, I still get a certain joy out of going through the pictures in storybooks and reading Young Adult novels. So I was excited to get an Advanced Reader Copy of Her Majesty’s Explorer: a Steampunk Bedtime Story by Emilie P. Bush and William Kevin Petty. I have not had a chance to read Emilie’s other books (soon, hopefully!), but Emilie is a wonderful lady in the Atlanta Steampunk scene who is always a joy, even if she’s calling me by an unfortunate nickname that happened after I accidentally walked into a tree…

But yes! Her Majesty’s Explorer! To put it simply, it is lovely and wonderful!

Following automaton St. John Murphy Alexander as he comes back from a long journey of adventuring and prepares the long and arduous journey of just going to bed. Through Petty’s colorful and whimsical  illustrations and Bush’s charming prose, Her Majesty’s Explorer is a sweet children’s storybook that is perfect for winding down at the end of the day. Even if I wasn’t into Steampunk, the story of St. John trying to get to bed is a great little bedtime story that is especially relatable for anyone who’s been very tired, but has to do a million things before bed.

Along with the main story, there’s an extra bonus story titled “Three Cheers for Steamduck”. Telling the story of St. John’s mechanical duck, the poem tells of the amazing adventures that the cute little duckie goes on. It’s like a sugar toothache: it hurts by how sweet and cute it was, but it’s a good kind of ache. If the soda fueled duckie wasn’t cute enough, there’s one page that features a STEAMPUNK OTTER! If I wasn’t already sold on the book, that would have been the page would have done it. I am that obnoxious girl who coos at the otters at the Aquarium, and a Steampunk Otter made it worse. I may have even been inspired to purchase goggles for my own stuffed otter…

Overall, after reading Her Majesty’s Explorer, I’m even more excited for it to be unleashed at the world at large. It’s a story that kids of all ages will find joy in. I especially look forward to sharing this book with those close to me. As I said in my last post, I’m not generally a fan of children, but I have two cousins, Tea and Linn, that are 5 and 9 years old. Tea is sure to be the next funny one in my family and Linn is brilliant and creative. They may not be Steampunk kids, but I have a feeling that they’ll love St. John and Steamduck more than I did.

And that’s what excites me about this book coming out the most.

Her Majesty’s Explorer: a Steampunk Bedtime Story will be released through Amazon on February 28. For now, you can RSVP the date on Facebook and follow Emilie’s blog up to the release.

 
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Posted by on February 14, 2012 in Books, Steampunk

 

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Hellblinki does it all for you.

I don’t think I cannot properly start off this blog without saying one thing…

THANK YOU!

Seriously, thank you to everyone who read, spread, commented, and subscribed to my blog after the Steamhipster post. I was not expecting that kind of feedback at all. You are all wonderful and fantastic. Yes, even those who disagreed with me. Say what you will about the Steampunk community, but you guys know how to make a girl feel special!

Today, I’m laying off my frustrations and getting back to talking about things I love. I’m still keeping this one pretty Steampunk though.

Ladies, gentlemen, and those in between, let’s talk about Hellblinki!

If you don’t know, Hellblinki is a band from Asheville, NC that describes themselves as a band that “combines elements of American folk, European cabaret, Guerilla Operatics, and Punk Rock Experimentation into an intoxicating brew of transcendent madness…”

I usually just go with “weird and fun in the best possible ways,” but that is accurate as well.

I first became familiar with the band at Dragon*Con 2009 when I walked in on the tail end of their Saturday night show that later went onto be them backing Voltaire. I think what initially caught my attention was Valerie Meiss’ haunting vocals and the fact that everyone but me had party favors. What I really remember about them though was the next night when they attacked Abney Park with newspaper cannonballs in a pirate ship made of cardboard, and I apologized profusely to their bassist at the time for nearly breaking his hand as we talked about Coraline.

Of course, since my life takes me in weird directions, a little more than a year later, I was sleeping on Valerie’s couch after a gig The Contraptions played with them in Asheville. That gig involved an impromptu, yet amazing cover of ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’ that involved Andrew singing through a modified telephone receiver, and Valerie singing with a puppet version of herself.

I guess the whole point I’m trying to make there is that Hellblinki is a wonderful band that is always bringing about the unexpected. Be it puppetfied covers of 80s power ballads, Disney princess songs about the Zombie Apocalypse, creepy bluegrass songs about what lurks in the woods, or making the main hook of a song random noises made with ones mouth.

So when they announced a Kickstarter to raise money for a 7″ single last August, I could not resist backing the project. One of my favorite bands making a vinyl single? Sign me up!

The project was ultimately successful, with the band raising a little over $2500 from fans. I’ve had the digital version of the single since late November, but earlier this week, I received the physical single!

Before I talk about the music, I have to gush about the physical specs. The single has beautiful artwork from Andrew Hellblinki on both sides, though those with hangups about female anatomy and/or childbirth may want to brace themselves before flipping the sleeve over to look at the ‘I Am’ side (nothing graphic though)! The vinyl itself is a gorgeous white 7″ that balances quite well with the black and orange of the cover. I also couldn’t help but giggle at the conveniently placed hole for the spindle. Puts a new spin on putting one’s eye out.

The songs also sound gorgeous coming from a record player and are not laden with the digital crackle that sometimes accompanies modern vinyl records. If you’re like me, it may take you a second to realize that the record needs to be on 45 RPM instead of 33, but it sounds great at both speeds. Hell, ‘I Am’ sounds more frightening at 33.

Which brings me to my assessments of the actual songs.

I first heard ‘All For You’ and ‘I Am’ at Dragon*Con this past year. ‘All For You’ didn’t stick out in my memory as well after the con was over, but when I heard the recorded version a few months later, I was surprised about how it managed to get under my skin so quickly. It’s a sinister and haunting track that part horror movie soundtrack, and part unrequited love song. I don’t know if it was the synth, the saw or Andrew’s crooning, but ‘All For You’ seriously reminds me of all those times I felt simultaneously horrified and sympathetic of a character’s actions in a book, TV show or movie. With imagery of the end of the world, plagues and genocide, it’s easy to feel frightened by the subject matter, but the touch of heartache almost makes the actions of our protagonist understandable. If a song can make you feel Stockholm Syndrome, this is the one that does it.

The B-side, ‘I Am’, tends to be a bit of a debate at Hellblinki’s live shows. Andrew claims the song is about childbirth, but Valerie counters that it is really a song about Daleks. At the surface level, the staccato, synthesized nature of the song brings about a lot of mental images of everyone’s favorite genocidal alien pepper pots. It’s even easy to expect someone to shout “EXTERMINATE” at some point. However, when really listening to the lyrics, it really does bring about thoughts of what Turanga Leela calls “a disgusting, beautiful process.” Of course, the song also makes it sound like the next Antichrist is about to be born, but that just might be my own personal fear of children under the age of five talking. And like I said earlier, the song at 33 RPM makes me want to hide under my desk and hope whatever is incoming can’t break down doors.

Overall, the first 7″ single from Hellblinki is a solid effort that features two of the most fear inducing songs in their library. Hellblinki promises that there will be more of these singles in the future leading up to their next album, but in the meantime, you can purchase this single at Bandcamp and on Hellblinki’s website.

Tomorrow, I’m going to be reviewing something else relating to children, but it’s a lot less fear inducing. Unless you find Steampunk duckies scary…

 
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Posted by on February 11, 2012 in Music, Steampunk

 

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Now is not the time to be a Steamhipster!

Hello again, readers. First off, I’d like to apologize upfront for my sparse updates in January. The month was hectic for me both personally and professionally and it left me little time and inspiration to actually write my blog.

However, I do have some good news! Starting later this month, I will be writing a regular column for Steampunk Chronicle! I will still be doing occasional media reviews, but once a month, I will be focusing on fundraising projects and philanthropy in the Steampunk community. I will have more information on that soon, so stay tuned!

Today though, I’m here to talk about something more serious. Something that is plaguing the Steampunk community as it continues to grow. I’m talking, of course, about Steamhipsterness.

The Steamhipster, for those unaware, are those who have a regular temper tantrum anytime anything vaguely Steampunk hits the mainstream and says that the genre has been killed at least every few months. This can be a reaction to anything, like a Steampunk episode of a TV series, but most of the Steamhipster’s tantrums are directed towards music. The first known example of this phenomena happened in January 2011 when Panic! at the Disco released the video for ‘The Ballad of Mona Lisa’ unto the world. The video featured a Steampunk wake organized by the League of S.T.E.A.M. and had Panic! letting everyone know they were saying goodbye to their past. Of course, most Steamhipsters could not see this. They cried that Brendon and Spencer had killed Steampunk, even though they have been a band with a consistent victorian aesthetic since they had a budget to throw around. How is making a Steampunk video and forcing Jake Sinclair to play banjo not the next logical step?!

What came next is debatable. Panic! was the dead horse for most of the year, but some people think Lady GaGa’s ‘You and I’ was Steampunk. It was some kind of retrofuturism, but I thought it was mostly about how hot GaGa is a Jo Calderone. T-Pain dressed as Captain Robert on the cover of his latest album, but that was more confusingly amusing more than anything else. Victoria’s Secret had a Victorian inspired section of this year’s fashion show, but all that really brought on was weird opinions about underwear (sidenote: no, we do not need to be returning to corsets, garters, and stockings as regular wear). However, the community was not prepared for the storm that would be Justin Bieber singing ‘Santa Claus Is Coming To Town’.

The video, which features clips from Arthur Christmas and a $3,000 leather and brass glove created by artist Ian Finch-Feld, takes place in a Steampunk version of Santa’s workshop. The focus is obviously on Bieber, but there’s also some pretty cool scenery, dancing, and fashion. It’s not the best thing ever, but it’s actually pretty nice looking. Of course, forget all that stuff. Bieber went Steampunk! Forget that Panic at the Gym Class Fall Out band! Steampunk is dead now and Bieber is holding the smoking gun! IT’S ALL OVERRRRRRRRRRRR!

Until last week, when Nicki Minaj and David Guetta upped the ante with ‘Turn Me On’.

The video reminds me of a Steampunk Frankenstein story, with an inventor trying to create a perfect creation and the creation getting away from him. The gearwork CG is pretty fantastic, and the costumes are wonderful.  Of course, once again, the Steamhipsters cry out that Steampunk is…

Okay, you know what. Stop.

Just.

Stop.

If we’re going to declare that Steampunk is dead every time it goes mainstream, the mainstream isn’t going to be the one that kills it.

There’s a reason so many musicians have started using Steampunk in their videos. And it’s the same reason so many of us flocked to it in the first place. It’s because it’s awesome.

Visually and conceptually, Steampunk is an awesome thing. You have ladies looking sexy in gear that hasn’t been considered attractive in years, technology running on clockwork and steam, and Tesla winning. When a band is producing a music video for a single, they want to focus on making a memorable video that will get people talking and thinking about your product and ultimately buying it. Steampunk looks cool, and people will remember your video if the woman who killed Brendon Urie is caught in a net canon or see Nicki Minaj being made out of gears. For better or worse, by complaining endlessly about so and so “killing” Steampunk, we’re ultimately doing what the artist wants by talking about them.

Complaining is not worst thing the community does though by practicing Steamhipsterness. Stifling potential creativity is.

I mean, it’s bad enough that we aren’t celebrating the fact that The League of S.T.E.A.M. has an expanded audience, had large props scene across the country as Panic! at the Disco toured, and went beyond their $10,000 Kickstarter goal for their second season. It’s bad enough that no one wants to acknowledge the artist who sold a $3,000 piece to Justin Bieber because he sold it to Justin Bieber. It’s bad enough that we forget that the producers of the ‘Turn Me On’ video put out a casting call for Steampunks in LA to play the plastic automotons. The community just wants to focus on the fact that Steampunk is mainstream, and that’s bad.

But by focusing on what’s “bad”, it puts the community in this mindset to exile those who come from the “bad”. What if the next great leather maker came into the community because they saw it in a Panic! at the Disco video, or a potential hatmaker gets interested in Steampunk because they liked the one Nicki Minaj wore? Will we be exiling them because they admit that this is where they came from? How is that any worse than a goth who followed Abney Park to their Steampunk change, someone who got into Steampunk because they saw it at Dragon*Con, or because they saw a Steampunk band open for Voltaire and thought it looked like fun?

The point is that we can’t judge a person for discovering Steampunk from a Justin Bieber video. It’s not any worse than the way you discovered it or the moment you decided you wanted to be a part of that universe. Our community is growing and we simply cannot adhere to the same rules anymore. Cherie Priest recognizes this. Why can’t everyone else?

Steampunk Community, now is not the time to be a Steamhipster! People are noticing us and we’re getting more awesome by the second. If you spend so much time focusing on how the mainstream is interpreting us and how you wish they would stay out or how Steampunk bands should get the budget for these videos, you’ll lose focus on those who really need it or what kind of things are actually coming in because of the mainstream attention. If there’s anything that will really leave this community behind and kill the genre, it will be that mindset. Not a pop-punk band wearing gears and goggles.

And PS… The Bieber video only has a little over 6 million hits on YouTube. The Panic! at the Disco video has over 16 million, but it has been out for a year. Minaj and Guetta have over 12 million and it has been a week. Morals of the Story: Bieber didn’t kill Steampunk, and “You can be the King, but watch the Queen conquer.”

 
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Posted by on February 7, 2012 in Steampunk

 

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