Steampunk Stuff

On Friday, August 25th, we went to “An Evening of Steampunk” at the Underground Collaborative, put on by A Company of Strangers theatre group. Although “an evening” might have been a generous description for an event lasting an hour and a half, this was a pleasant time. The occasion was to promote the group’s upcoming production of Oscar Wilde’s play, “An Ideal Husband,” which will evidently be done with a Steampunk aesthetic. The group provided free snacks and soft drinks, music, door prizes, a costume contest, and performed excerpts from the play. We met local Steampunk stalwarts Julie Ann Hunter, Charles Tritt, and Mary Prince there, and chatted with a number of other interested people.

“Steampunk Junque”, ArtBar

The following Friday, September 1, we went to an art exhibition at ArtBar, a tavern and exhibition space in Milwaukee’s upper east side neighborhood. Organized by “The Martini Girls,” an artists’ group, the theme was “Steampunk Junque,” and featured paintings, constructions, and mixed media works on a generally Steampunk theme. There was a very interesting selection of works, with some creative approaches to the theme. Level of polish varied, with some very nicely wrapped up, and some, perhaps intentionally, less so. Again we met Mary Prince, Julie Ann Hunter (both of whom had pieces in the exhibit), and Charles Tritt. Patrons at ArtBar, including some of the other artists, were very enthusiastic about our Steampunk outfits, and one artist asked us to pose for a picture with his work.

American Players Theatre, “Cyrano De Bergerac”

On Saturday, September 9th, we drove over to American Players Theater for this season’s production of “Cyrano de Bergerac,” which starred James Ridge as Cyrano, Laura Rook as Roxane, and Danny Martinez as Christian. James De Vita directed the production as a rather spare and fast-paced (although handsomely costumed) performance. Ridge’s Cyrano was very fine, and perhaps the most realistic and believable portrayal I have seen. Perversely, this works partly against the unabashed sentimentality of the play. Cyrano’s final rant is less effective than others I have seen, because Ridge is more like a real man at death’s door, and less like a firework burning out in a blaze of glory. Although not my favorite translation (I think the one I like best is the Anthony Burgess one--), at least it preserved some poetry and rhyme. However, by not making prior reference to Cyrano’s “white plume” (which he didn’t have in this version) or his “panache”, Cyrano’s final words, “My panache,” drew a laugh for the first time I have ever heard. Admittedly, Rostand’s play is considered a comedy, but I don’t think it is supposed to end with a punch line.

Schlitz Audubon Nature Center.

We’d never been up to the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center before, so took advantage of the good day on the 16th to drive up to the northeastern corner of the county to see it. The area is mostly wooded, with oaks, maples and some beeches, and occasional stands of conifers. There is a sizable remnant prairie, some ponds and associated wetlands, and the bluffs and ravines leading down to the Lake Michigan shoreline, thus including most of the main ecologies of southern Wisconsin. The main structures on the plot are the visitor center, which is a large and handsome building containing classrooms and meeting rooms, and a lookout tower. We climbed the tower, which looks out over mostly treetops and the lake to the east; walked down to Lake Michigan, and back up around “Mystery Pond” which was a very nice walk, with the landscape beautiful at the cusp of autumn.


On Sunday, September 17th, we went to see this new animated movie, about a young orphan girl who wants to become a ballet dancer, and her friend who wants to be an inventor. It is set in France, approximately 1887, judging by the state of construction of the Eiffel Tower, where some of the action takes place. (However, time is rather fluid, as we also see the Statue of Liberty under construction, which was dedicated in New York in 1886.)
The film was created by an international consortium, and shares some elements, such as similarities of character design, with other animations handled by the Weinstein Group, such as How To Train Your Dragon. However, a strong French element is present as shown by the loving depictions of Paris, and particularly, the very accurate renderings of the Opera House, where much of the action takes place.
The story does start with a lot of clichés: the girl with native talent and heart but no training; the former dancer, career ended by an injury, who becomes her teacher; the martinet ballet master, but uses them with reasonable freshness. The orphanage masters are harsh, but not heartless. Character animations and voice characterizations are OK, but not really special. (We were, however, astonished to see that the supporting role of Luteau was voiced by Mel Brooks, aged 91!) It was a cute, diverting story with a few surprises, good entertainment for a matinee.

Dining at Screaming Tuna.

I had been having a craving for sushi lately, so we decided to get dinner on Saturday the 16th at Screaming Tuna in the 3rd Ward, which came highly rated. I think the rating largely comes from its extensive and creative menu of maki (rolls), which I don’t really care about. I prefer the classic nigiri sushi, or sashimi. I ordered the Omakase platter, which came with nigiri sushi representing seared salmon, tuna, flounder, lightly seared squid, and shrimp. There was also salmon, albacore, and seared albacore sashimi. The light searing for sushi was new to me. The salmon and albacore could be seen to have a cooked layer about one-eighth-inch deep, which did somewhat change the flavor and texture of the fish. The squid was solid white rather than translucent all the way through, indicating a bit deeper cooking. This I considered an improvement over raw squid. I suppose there really isn’t all that much that can be done with raw fish—that being somewhat the point—but I have had better sushi I liked more. For main dish, Georgie had the salmon salad. The soy-glazed salmon was very nice on a bed of fresh greens.
For appetizers, we had tempura and gyoza. Both of those were good. The vegetables in the tempura included a piece of red bell pepper, which was unusual. For dessert, we had Purple Door Ginger ice cream, which was good, very gingery, and has lots of potential for experimentation. The Tempura Banana with whipped cream and caramel sauce was nicely excessive.
Service was good, and we had a table at the window wall which gave us a good view of the Milwaukee River traffic without having to be outdoors.
Saturday evening, the 11th, we drove up to the American Legion Hall in Mequon for the second Milwaukee area Midsummer Masquerade. The Legion hall is a small but nice venue, and the organizers had laid on a decent snack buffet included with the ticket price. Open bar prices were very reasonable also, at two dollars for a soft drink, and only three for a cocktail.

Live entertainment was provided by The Rat Package Cabaret Troupe, who put on two sets of World War II/Korean War Era song and dance. The performers, lead by Rich Mach and Lori Minetti, put on a good show and engaged with the audience. They had a good repertoire of songs, including short Frank Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe tributes.

There wasn’t a huge turnout, but the people that were there dressed for the occasion and had a good time. According to signs, another Midsummer Masquerade/Dieselpunk USO is planned for 2017. If it comes off, we will have to share the info around to get some more people there.
The new French animated Steampunk movie, billed as April and the Extraordinary World, opened Friday, April 22nd, in Milwaukee. We saw it on Saturday the 23rd.

April and the Extraordinary World is the title used for English distribution. The French title, Avril et le monde truqué, more accurately translates to "April and the Twisted World." The "Twisted World" is a fair description of this Steampunk dystopia, which has its roots in France's Second Empire, which is on the verge of war with Prussia. Emperor Napoleon III has engaged a scientist to create a serum that will make his soldiers invincible. The serum has not had the desired effect, and the Emperor orders the experiments destroyed, which results in a catastrophic explosion, killing the Emperor.

This is the point at which history twists aside from our world. With the death of the Emperor, war is averted and peace made. However, leading scientists world-wide begin to disappear, which causes technology to stagnate. By 1931, reliance on steam power has not only exhausted Europe's supplies of coal, but deforested the continent as charcoal has become a strategic resource.

The movie is based on a graphic novel by Jacques Tardi, creator of "Adele Blanc-Sec," and his character design style is quite distinctive. Scenery and backgrounds depict a fascinating Steampunk Paris, with the skyline defined by the twin Eiffel Towers, the cable-car railroad, and a colossal martial statue of Napoleon III dominating the world.

In 1931, the son of the original scientist, Gustave (French voice by Jean Rochefort), his son, Paul (Oliver Gourmet), daughter-in-law Annette (Macha Grenon), are attempting to continue the family work on the Ultimate Serum, while in hiding from the French police, because all available scientists are being conscripted to design new weapons for the Empire. Their young daughter, April (Angela Galluppo) assists where she can. They are raided by the police, led by Inspector Pizoni (Benoît Brière), who combines the persistence of a Javert with the ineptitude of a Clouseau. (Tardi typically depicts the French police as corrupt, brutal, and stupid. For some reason, many have Italian surnames--.) In the resulting debacle, Gustave escapes, Paul and Annette are lost in the explosion of a cable car, and April is sent to an orphanage, from which she escapes with the aid of her scientifically enhanced cat, Darwin (voice by Phillippe Katherine).

Then, we flash forward to 1941. April is grown up (now voiced by Marion Cotillard) and continuing her clandestine work on the family's serum project. The demoted Pizoni has her under unofficial surveillance by a parolee, Julius, (Marc-Andre Grondin), in hopes she will lead him to her grandfather, who is still at large. There is a war in progress between France and the United States over access to Canadian forests. Meanwhile, the mysterious force behind the abduction of scientists begins to close in on April and her work.

The story of how this all plays out is a grand adventure, with the settings, including the desert that is now rural France, well realized, and the Steampunk and other alternative technology creations depicted being worth the price of admission. I liked the fact that grown-up April is a rather plain-faced, square-shouldered young woman, not conventionally beautiful. Julius, the eventual and reluctant male lead, is a classic Parisian street youth, not conventionally handsome. Tardi's convention of drawing eyes with only black pupils but no irises is a bit unsettling at first, but one grows used to it. The characters as written are all very strong and well done, including April's grandfather, Gustave, who is the ultimate scientist.

One significant disappointment of the movie is that the ultimate crisis/climax very strongly parallels that of Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. However, getting to that point, and, ultimately, past that point to a very satisfying conclusion, is very much worth the ride.

Recommended for Steampunks everywhere.

The main feature was preceded by two animated shorts, "French Roast," dealing with the embarrassment of a gentleman (drawn as sort of a French John Cleese) who, having had coffee in a café, discovers he hasn't got his wallet. Humorous complications ensue, in a beautifully drawn little movie. In the second one, "In Between," a young woman's social anxieties manifest as a cartoony blue 'crocodile' that follows her everywhere. This one was cute, sweet, and funny. These are both worth looking up, and can be found on YouTube.

French Roast:

In Between:
On Friday morning, March 11th, we drove down to the Lake Lawn Resort at Delavan, Wisconsin, for the second Geneva Steam Con. It was a pleasant drive of a bit less than an hour, and we found the resort with out much trouble.

Lake Lawn Resort has been a vacation “destination” since 1878. The expansive grounds include a golf course, indoor swimming pool, and other recreational facilities, as well as a lovely view of Delavan Lake. Although none of the original buildings remain, the existing complex has a pleasantly rustic style while being fully modern in every respect.

We got checked in easily, and were given a very convenient room close to the main building and just a short distance from the conference center, which also houses the two main restaurants. The sprawling complex is rather mazelike, but one can learn one’s way around fairly easily.
Once settled in, we found Convention registration in the Conference center, and then took a look into the Dealers’ Room before the first panel. This was “How To Mentally and Physically Survive a Con,” presented by Leesa Almgren. As most of the people present were veteran con-goers, this was chiefly preaching to the choir, but Ms. Almgren gave an enjoyable presentation, and audience members swapped useful tips.

Following that, we went to “Arming Your Steampunk Vessel,” by Scott Logan, which reviewed artillery technologies ranging from the Napoleon cannon that was still standard armament at the beginning of the US Civil War to the Dynamite guns and TNT loaded projectiles of the early 20th Century. This was a pretty comprehensive though not too technical review that showed an impressive knowledge of the subject.

In the three o’clock hour, I dropped in on hat maven Greg Jensen’s presentation on Men’s Hats. Mr. Jensen gave a talk on Steampunk era men’s headwear, using his truly impressive personal collection of hats, and including information on care and maintenance.

Next, we went to “Wear to Begin: Women’s Fashion,” presented by Emily “Dragonweilder” Shultz, which was a nice introduction to Steampunk fashions for women, and how to find and wear them.
We then hung around for the first stage of the Costume Contests which were scheduled throughout the convention. This one was for “beginners” and had some very impressive costumes, many of which followed the “Fairy Tale” theme of the weekend. My favorite was the awesome Steampunk Big Bad Wolf by Timothy Smith, the centerpiece of which was a heavily modified wolf mask, which had had a completely scratchbuilt top hat (with visible steamworks) added. He also had a very impressive prosthetic clawed hand, and steampunk boot tops.

Having checked out the dinner options, we had made reservations for the Frontier Restaurant, which, as the hotel’s main restaurant, tends to be pricey. However, they had a seafood buffet Friday night which was not unreasonable, and promised to be edible for us. (The regular menu suffers from over-trendiness. Every dish has either cheese (which my wife can’t eat), exotic peppers (which neither of us like) or both (Jalapeno Cheddar Smashed Red Potato?)) The buffet was quite good. The cocktail shrimp had an idodiney taste which only indicated that they were deep-sea shrimp and not farm-raised, which is not a reflection on their preparation. Deep fried shrimp were very good, as was the battered cod. There was a very nice salad bar with a broccoli slaw that was good enough that we went back to it the following night. I tried the seafood macaroni and cheese, which was very good macaroni and cheese, but light on the seafood.

The dessert table was very nice, in particular a mandarin orange cheesecake that was just delicious.

Service was friendly and attentive but not obtrusive.

After dinner, we went back to our room and changed for the evening, which in this case meant “dressing down” for the evening’s Steerage Ball. On the way to the ball, we detoured to the Clan McSteam party, hosted by Henry Osier.

This was a very pleasant gathering, with good company and interesting drinks and snacks on offer. I took small samples of a Scotch whiskey, a small distiller Irish whiskey, and an oat-based whiskey made in Chicago. The Koval Oat Whiskey was interesting and different, but I’m not sure I’d care to drink a lot of it.

There were some nice Irish cheeses to nosh on, but I was disappointed that the advertised “haggis” turned out to be corned beef hash (as a joke mainly). Having had haggis when in Scotland, I liked it, and would much prefer it to corned beef, which I abominate. We have a company making haggis now in Milwaukee, and I shall have to bring some if there’s a Clan party next year--.

We then progressed on to the Steerage Ball, with Celtic Music by the Dublin O’Shea band. Dublin O’Shea plays a good lively set of danceable music, although they tend to have one tempo for pretty much everything. There was a lot of enthusiastic dancing, and both of us trod a measure or two, both in company and with others, before wearing out and retiring for the night.

The bed mattress, at least ours, was distinctly on the hard side, which made getting a restful night challenging. This was the least good thing about Lake Lawn Resort, which otherwise was very good in every respect. The staff in particular were extremely friendly and courteous.

Saturday, we got breakfast back at the Frontier, enjoying the view of the lake, as well as an excellent omelet and Belgian waffle. (People were out boating on the lake! In Wisconsin! On March 12th! The weather was indeed uncommonly fine--.)

We began the con day with Georgie Schnobrich presenting a lecture on “Radical Cinderella,” which discussed the numerous variations of the basic story occurring from ancient Egypt, to China and Japan, to the Zunis of North America. She also advanced her well-supported theories that Cinderella might have chosen initially to sit among the ashes in mourning for her mother, which then becomes expoited by her stepmother and stepsisters; and, that, far from waiting to be “rescued”, Cinderella takes an active role in bettering her position, and the Prince is the prize and reward for her efforts.

I then sat in on “Intro to Steampunk Literature” along with writer Bill Bodden, and engaged the audience in lively discussion of essential titles in Steampunk writing, comics, and film.
At noon, Georgie Schnobrich was back up, in her persona as “The Black Fairy”, doing “Weird Fairy Tales, A Reading.” This presentation was well received, although the audience was small both due to the noon hour and the presentation “Brazing and Melty Metals for the Impractical Steampunk” by Rory Sutherland was going on at the hotel’s firepit, using real fire.

At 1PM, we went to “Belly Dance in Victorian Egypt,” in which Julianne Hunter gave a nice historical presentation of the history of Ghawzi dance and performance in Egypt from the early to late 19th Century, showing how the once culturally important dancers were marginalized by the imposition of Ottoman and European mores, which pushed the dancers from performing at weddings and birthdays, first totally underground, eventually to resurface in cafes and cabarets. A short dance workshop ended the session.

We then attended “Fairy Tale, Myth, and the Importance of Telling Stories,” by Keith Green, which was a very good introduction to the academic approach to fairy tales and myths.

Then, I was on a panel with Georgie Schnobrich, “What Victorian Children Read (and What Steampunks Might Borrow From Them)” which was a survey of Victorian Literature for young people, ranging from the famous (H. Rider Haggard, Robert Louis Stevenson) to the obscure (Anna Letitia Barbauld, Bracebridge Hemyng), and adventure writers (Fredrick Marryat, Sir Walter Scott) to poets (William Brighty Rands, Christina Rosetti).

We were a bit late in line to get seats for Terra Mysterium’s dramatization of the German tale, “The Cold Heart,” (which was, by report, very good--), so we killed some time in the dealer’s room before dinner.

Saturday night, the Frontier restaurant has a prime rib buffet, so we were for that. Henry Osier joined us for dinner and we had a very pleasant time, good food, excellent wine, and again, very nice desserts (although the orange one from Friday night was the best of the weekend). We were particularly pleased to find Yorkshire pudding on the buffet, which was quite tasty. The Frontier has a good wine list, and the wines by the glass are generously poured.

After dinner was the “Grand Ball” featuring the return of Sir Pinkerton Xyloma and the band from Milwaukee’s Dead Man’s Carnival. This year there were no carnival acts, so the evening was all music, except for another installment of costume contest. This band is fun to listen to—they frequently remind me of Big Bad Voodoo Daddy with their eclectic mix of retro and funky pieces, but they are not a great band to dance to. They did make an effort to include more danceable numbers in the show, but mainly it was the brave and the bold that took to the dance floor. The advanced session of the costume contest was won, in the couples division, by a paid doing “Wild West Cinderfella,” in which the good (but rather dim) poor cowhand is taken up by the wealthy female rancher. Individual honors went to “The Empress’ New Clothes” which displayed a creative array of colorful underthings, which the wearer insisted were completely covered by a gorgeous elaborately beaded gown.

Sunday morning, we got breakfast at the “Lookout Bar and Eatery,” which is one of the resort’s more casual dining venues. We both had the cinnamon battered French toast, which was good, but I was surprised to see that it was served with “pancake syrup” –i.e., maple flavored corn syrup—which was a bit of a let down for an otherwise classy resort. Juice, tea, and ham were all first rate, and service in the morning was cheerful and alert.

Back at the Conference Center, I began the con day by appearing with Emily Dragonweilder on “The Universality of Folklore,” which explored themes begun earlier in the con of the persistence across cultures of story motifs, not just with Cinderella/Ashenputtel/Coat o’Rushes; but others such as Rumplestiltskin/Tom-Tit-Tot, Bluebeard/Mr. Fox, and others. I gave a brief introduction to the study or folkloristics, and the Aarne-Thompson Folklore Index.

We finished up the con attending “Who’s Who and What’s What of Transgender in Victorian Edwardian History” presented by Edwin Cushing. Although Edwin wasn’t able to present his visuals due to the room’s monitor being remotely shut off (the one logistical failure I noted at the con), he was very knowledgeable on the subject, and I learned some things I had not known, which always pleases me.

We drove home Sunday afternoon with no difficulties, very satisfied with our weekend, and looking forward to the prospect of a third Geneva Steam Con. Interesting themes for next year are being bruited about.
On Saturday afternoon, March 5th, we went with other members of the Milwaukee Steampunk Society to the Schuster Mansion Bed and Breakfast in Milwaukee, for “High Tea”. In this context, “High Tea” means a tea that is a meal rather than just a refreshment. “Afternoon tea,” sometimes “low tea,” or just “tea” accompanies the beverage only with sweets such as scones.
The Schuster Tea is technically a “full tea,” which includes savories (little sandwiches, which most people think of as being part of afternoon tea), scones, and sweets; whereas in British parlance “high tea” is a working man’s dinner that includes hot dishes.

Quibbling aside, the Schuster Mansion’s tea was very nice, and served us adequately for dinner, since we were running off to the theatre directly from there. The “February-March-April” menu (it changes quarterly--) consisted of cucumber and chive sandwiches, ham and radish sandwiches, and “tuna kitties”, which were tuna salad on dark rye bread which had been cut out in cat shapes. The scones were rosemary and cheddar, and the pastries included cream puffs with hazelnut cream; “compote bloom”, a small fruit tart; and “Raspberry Pavlovos” (sic), which is a typo for pavlova, a meringue with fruit.

All the foods were well prepared and delicious. We had the option to sample seven flavors of tea, which were all premium teas from Harney & Sons. I tried “Tower of London,” a black tea with bergamot (basically Earl Grey) but flavored with honey also, and “Valentine”, a flavored black tea with rose and chocolate. Georgie had “Paris”, a black tea with lemon bergamot, black currant, vanilla and caramel, and the “Peaches and Ginger” black tea. The teas were very pleasant, tending to be a bit lighter on the flavoring elements than some other brands.

The hostess, who dressed for the occasion, handled all the serving for twenty, no light task, but also gave an entertaining talk covering the history of tea, the history of the house, and a preview of her fall talk on Victorian attitudes toward death, which contained both fact and fable.
This was a very pleasant afternoon’s outing, with very good company as well.

TeslaCon 6

Nov. 26th, 2015 11:50 am
We arrived at TeslaCon 6 about noon on Friday, and checked in without difficulty. This year’s program, the “Cognitive Reasoner” newspaper, was useful and informative.

The first presentation we attended was “The Not-So-Wild West; The North-West Mounted Police,” which dealt with the origins of the forerunner to today’s Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The presentation included a great deal of very interesting information about the history of Canada and the founding of the North-West Mounted Police, but was somewhat difficult to listen to due to the speaker’s verbal tic, which at times seemed as though every other word was “ah” or “um.” I think that having the presentation copied out instead of switching between notes and reference books might have helped this.

The next event we went to was one of the “Immersion Events,” “The Story So Far,” which was described as “Totes McCoates, from last year’s ‘Time Travel for Tourists’ is back to get you up to speed on what’s brought everything to this point.” I’m sorry to say that this event was very poorly prepared. When Your Correspondent attempted to get the ball rolling by asking her to relate the significant events of the past year, she essentially responded that she couldn’t do that. “Beauregard Krieger”, also present, offered no help, although perhaps he felt he’d already done his share at the “War Stories with Beau Krieger” event earlier. After a bit of unstructured talk, “Ms. McCoates” attempted to address the request of another audience member, who was a new attendee, to fill in some of the more historical backstory. This was done clumsily, and the information supplied in many cases directly contradicted the historical timeline given in the Cognitive Reasoner. For example, referring to Lord Bobbins’ lunar adventure, she alleged that Dr. Proctocus had used a giant magnet on the moon to activate a robot army on Earth. According to the newspaper, Proctocus had pre-positioned a robot army on the Moon, which was de-activated by Bobbins and Krieger using a giant magnet.

At dinner time, we had purchased advance tickets for the “Krieger Family Barbecue.” At $21.00 a head the price might have seemed a bit high, but in my opinion made up for not having to either go out of the hotel for dinner or deal with the hotel’s rather small restaurant. The quality of the food was mostly excellent, with smoked brisket, beans, bread, and barbecue sauces being particularly good. Corn on the cob, which, at this season, has to have been frozen, was a bit spongy, but not too bad. The musical entertainment, “Milkhouse Radio,” was very good and entertaining, without being obnoxiously loud. Admiral and Frau Krieger worked the room, but, with 150 for dinner the actual interaction couldn’t be much.

After having stood in line for dinner, we stood in line for the Opening Ceremonies, which was the biggest disappointment of the convention. Entering the auditorium, we found that there were very few seats set up (presumably in order to leave the floor open for the Cotillion, which was immediately to follow), so the vast majority of people attending were “standing room only”. After having stood for an hour to get in, we did not feel like continuing to stand, so seated ourselves on the floor along the wall and attempted to listen. Unfortunately, the sound was poorly adjusted, and was largely unintelligible past the first few rows. Given that the other people in the back of the room couldn’t hear either, there was no reason for them not to mill around and chat, which made the whole thing a bust from our position. We eventually gave it up as a bad job, and, feeling too tired to dance, went back to our hotel room and to bed.

Saturday started off better. I was assisting my wife, Georgie Schnobrich, with her presentation on “Lies and Legends of the Old West,” which covered such storied characters as Wild Bill Hickok, Jim Bowie, Judge Roy Bean, and “Deadwood Dick,” the pulp hero. The presentation ran smoothly and seemed to be well received by the audience.

After a break in which we took a brief glance into the awesome dealer’s space, I did my presentation on “Weird Weaponry of the Steampunk Era,” which again the audience seemed to enjoy.
After that, we attended “From Disaster to Dashing; Steampunk Fashion for Men,” presented by Tony Ballard Smoot and DJ Doctor Q. The two gentlemen gave an entertaining and useful presentation on style basics for men, from shoes to hats.

This was followed by “The Pinkerton Detective Agency” presented by “Famous Captain Anthony LaGrange” a.k.a. Tony Ballard Smoot. This covered the establishment, founding principles, and history of the pioneering detective agency. The presentation seemed to be well researched, included lots of interesting information, and was skillfully presented by Mr. Smoot.

After that, we took a break to change for dinner. This year’s “Bobbins Dinner” was a bit bigger than years past, which made interaction a bit harder. (I note that the website posted that there were thirty tickets for the Bobbins dinner, but closer to sixty people were seated, some of whom, of course, were cast members.) The Marriott’s banquet staff is usually excellent, and the appetizer, salad, and dessert were all up to standard. The appetizer, shrimp on a rosemary skewer with chili barbeque glaze, was perfectly cooked, spicy but not too hot, and the shrimp were large and tasty. The salad was lightly grilled endive, with cheese and chicken garnishes, and a very nice lime and cilantro dressing. Dessert was a generous portion of flourless chocolate cake with bourbon infused whipped cream. The entrée, cider braised pork belly, was not a success. We were served a very pale piece of meat that some could not tell if it was pork or fish. Half the portion consisted of gelatinous fat, and the rest of nearly tasteless meat. No trace of cider was detectable. This was a misjudgment on the part of the chef. It is to be expected that pork belly is going to be fatty, but the braising method of cooking does not generate enough heat to render down or crisp up the fat as roasting or grilling would have. Nevertheless, since the appetizer was virtually an entrée in itself, the salad a goodly portion, and dessert filling, we did not go away unsatisfied.

After dinner, we lined up for the Night Circus, and were fortunate to get swept into fairly good seats. I was thrilled to enter the auditorium and hear the band strike up “The Big Cage: A Circus Galop”, which I had played in my high school band days. We were pleased to recognize Milwaukee performer Sir Pinkerton Xyloma of Dead Man’s Carnival as the ringmaster “T.E. Night,” and I was delighted to discover that the Original Baraboo Circus Band was being conducted by Professor Jerry Stitch, my old professor of Music.

The first half of the program was made up of acts associated with Dead Man’s Carnival, which are local people who are reinventing for themselves old-style circus and sideshow acts, with considerable success. The feats of strength, balancing, and juggling were truly impressive, all the more so for the occasional wobble or do-over which lets you know the effort involved is real, and the performers human beings like us.

The second half of the program was presented by Madison’s Cycropia aerial dance troupe, who performed a series of sets using fabric, trapeze, and custom equipment, including some I had never seen before. This show was beautiful, lyrical, and sensual and well worth seeing.
After the performance, the seating was broken down for dancing, but we preferred to decompress by finding a spot to sit in the hotel lobby to people-watch and chat with passers-by until we decided to call it a night. (People-watching at TeslaCon is always fun, but this year’s was exceptionally good. Perhaps the Western theme made dressing easier, but it seemed that the level and pervasiveness of good garb and gear was up a notch from years past.)

Sunday morning, I again assisted Georgie Schnobrich with presenting the second installment of “Wild Women of the West,” which dealt with Belle Starr, Martha “Calamity Jane” Cannary, Mary Ellen Pleasant, The Other Magpie, and Adah Isaacs Menken.

Following that, we checked out the Science Fair, which had some very amusing entries, but seemed down in numbers from years past. One of the highlights was the robot-drawn pony cart, which was actually pulled by a walking machine (based, so I over heard, on the walking action of a dollar-store wind-up toy), which was built to resemble a scaled-down version of “The Steam Man of the Prairies” from 1868 dime novel by Edward S. Ellis.

Next, we made a thorough inspection of the almost overwhelming dealer’s room, which was rather crowded, but crammed to the rafters with luscious merchandise of every description. After making a couple of purchases, we escaped with what little remained of our money.
By this time we were beat, and, facing the possible prospect of having to shovel snow walks and driveway at home, we took off before the closing ceremonies.

Conclusions: We had, as we always do, a very good time overall. There did seem to me to be, in some ways, a bit letting down of standards perhaps due to “Lord Bobbin’s Vacation” being a bit of a pause in the more intensively scripted episodes of the past and the promised future, but overall still a very impressive effort bolstered by a lot of very well prepared volunteer presenters. Next year’s outing is Paris for the International Mad Scientist’s Convention, which looks to be fun. Special guests will include Abney Park and Professor Elemental which will be “specially ticketed events” which I expect means they will cost extra, but probably within reason for those who are interested. We have our tickets for next year.
On Sunday, June 28th, we drove to the Paine Art Museum in Oshkosh, to see the travelling exhibit, “Dressing Downton: Changing Fashion for Changing Times.” (We weren’t able to join the Milwaukee Steampunk Society for the outing on Saturday, so went on our own--.)

This is the exhibit’s second stop in America, having just come from its opening at Biltmore, the palatial home of the famous Commodore Vanderbilt. Curated in conjunction with the show’s production company, it is apparently being shown only in museums such as Biltmore and the Paine, which once were fine homes and provide appropriate settings for the costumes.

In this regard, the Paine Museum is a spectacular success. Construction of the house began in 1925, but it was deliberately designed by the architect to appear to have been constructed and (tastefully) added on to over three centuries of English building styles. As such, the home suits the costumes marvelously, and many are shown in the correct setting: dinner dress in the dining room, travelling clothes in the foyer, formal gowns in the ballroom, and outdoor clothing, such as Lady Mary’s riding habit, Matthew Crawley’s military uniform, and Lady Edith’s bicycling outfit (complete with bicycle) are shown in the specious purpose-built gallery.

The house and its permanent collection of artworks are worth the trip alone, but it was hard to pull ourselves away from the costumes. They are all shown in the open. Most you can get very close to, and many of those that you can’t see the back of have strategically placed mirrors allowing you to see back details. The exhibition includes large color photographs of the costumes as worn, and text identifying the episodes in which they appeared.

The museum gift shop has been totally given over to “Downton Abbey” related merchandise, from tea and wine to jewelry and teddy bears. (There’s no “Carson” bear—yet!) We resisted most of the temptations, but did buy an exhibit catalog, which is very nice.

Of course we dressed Neo-Edwardian, which got us a number of approving comments from visitors and staff. The staff mentioned also that they had very much appreciated the Milwaukee Steampunk Society visit the previous day.

The exhibition remains in Oshkosh through September 20th. The exhibition will be returning to the Midwest later: The Richard H. Dreihaus Museum, Chicago, February-May 2016; The Taft Museum of Art, Cleveland, July-September 2016; and The History Museum, South Bend, Indiana, October 2016-January 2017.
On Sunday, June 14th, we drove to Racine to visit the Racine Art Museum. The drive itself was not without its adventuresome aspects, as not only is the main freeway exit to downtown Racine, Highway 20, closed, the rain in the area wasn’t as gone as we had hoped, and there was some rather tense driving between Franksville and Racine on the detour route as there was a fortunately fairly brief downpour.

We managed to find the Museum without difficulty, and also found free parking (on Sunday) in a ramp one block east. I don’t know if it was the daunting rain, or if it was Sunday, or both, but downtown Racine was very quiet, and we were two of a dozen or so people that visited the Museum while we were there. Admission was a very reasonable three dollars each, and the lady at the counter was very helpful and friendly, stashing our dripping umbrellas out of the way for us.

The Museum currently has two major exhibits. On the first floor is “Contemporary Art Jewelry at RAM,” which was fascinating and worth the price of admission itself. The exhibit was made up of recent additions to the Museum’s permanent Jewelry collection, and included some really unusual and interesting items. Also part of that exhibit (although stretching the definition of jewelry) was a piece entitled “Byobu,” by Mariko Kusimoto, which was a toy theatre made out of metal, decals, and magnets, which allowed one to assemble scenes and characters paper-doll fashion.

The second floor hosts “A Whole Other World: Sub-Culture Craft: Artists Inspired by Doctor Who, Star Wars, Steampunk, and Superheroes,” which we had specifically come to see. This was, as one might expect, a very eclectic exhibit. We were met by three fantasy dresses by Timothy Westbrook, which were also featured in oil paintings by Gary Leonard, an unusual juxtaposition. Other fashion items included dresses by Silversark, and clockwork jewelry by Creek Van Houten (Compass Rose Jewelry). There was a display of “jetpacks” by Magnus Effing, Charles Tritt, and others of the “Airship Fortuna” crew. Centerpiece of the Doctor Who portion of the exhibit was an enormous quilt, depicting the The Tenth Doctor, 96 by 68 inches (eight feet by five feet eight inches) done in white and sepia tone squares each roughly the size of a large stamp. Star Wars was represented by a thirty-foot long “Coruscant Tapestry” (by Aled Lewis) and a croggling four-foot long “Millennium Falcon” (by Thomas E. Richner) composed mostly of cardboard. Cheong-Ah Hwang provided intricate cut-paper bas-reliefs of superheroes which were an elegant contrast to humorous hand-knitted “supersuits” by Mark Newport. (I thought the familiar red and blue “Sweaterman” cleverest.)

This exhibition continues through September 6th. Reviewing the Museum’s website, I’m annoyed to discover that there is the additional exhibit, “Sci-Fi, Superheroes, and Steampunk: RAM Community Art Exhibition”, which is at an entirely separate location, the Wustum Museum. Particularly annoying since the route we took in and out of town drove us right past the Wustum, on Northwestern Avenue. Foo! I must read websites more closely in future. However, the Wustum is closed Sundays, so we couldn’t have seen it anyway--. Which is annoying in a different fashion--. The main exhibits are worth going to just for themselves, but I would plan to go on a day when I could see both museums.
The Geneva Steam Convention Mid Winter Carnival went on March 6-8 at the Grand Geneva Resort at Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.

This was a first convention, so attendance was very good,official attendance figure 266 including vendors, drawing mostly from the Madison, Milwaukee, Chicago triangle, and a bit lightly programmed, but very pleasant and showing promise for the future.

The drive from Milwaukee was a pleasant one given good driving weather, and took just under an hour. We were able to get registered with the hotel and the convention with no problems, and settled in. The Grand Geneva Resort is quite a posh complex in many ways, including a golf course, ski hill, and riding stable. It’s also rather odd in some ways. The architecture is based on Frank Lloyd Wright principles, so the major structure is built to follow the terrain, in this case a ridgeline overlooking a valley that contains the golf course and a decorative lake. This means that the lodge is very strung out, and getting from a room at the far end of “Building Two,” as ours was, could be quite a hike. Getting from one point to another is less linear than expected, also, since each building unit is on a different level, and there’s no standard interface at connecting points, making it possible to choose the wrong ramp or stair and get shunted off into a dead end.

Rooms were nice enough. We had a “Lakeside Double Double” on the ground floor with a walk-out terrace (not that we used it due to the temperature--). There were some—interesting amenities, such as the television built into the bathroom mirror. I was interested to see that the room desk included USB, VGA, and composite Video ports, apparently allowing one to use the main flatscreen TV as a monitor. All of the staff we encountered were cheerful, friendly, and helpful, although I gather that all was not sweetness and light between the con committee and the resort sales team during the convention, a likely indication that if there is a second Steam Convention it may well find another venue.

The first event we attended was the 2PM Friday panel on “What is Steampunk?” A good discussion was had, focusing on Steampunk as an aesthetic movement, involving literature, music, and style.
Next, we attended the “Golden Miracle Medicine Show,” by Dr. Brady Jebediah Peters and Miss Annabel Lee, which was an amusing satire on the classical medicine show spiel and associated entertainments.

At 4:00PM, “Haberdashery,” presented by Robyn Tisch Hollister was an interesting presentation on hat styles and types. (This one was mostly women’s hats, so “Millinery” would have been a more correct title--.)

5-8PM was a “Mixer” in the lobby bar, which was a pleasant low-keyed event. I had been asked to act as a host, so made a point of meeting and greeting the attendees on behalf of the convention committee.

The other major event of the evening was the “Victorian Pajama Party.” This was a very pleasant and convivial event with many of the attendees indeed showing up in period nightwear, ranging from red long johns to lace-bedecked but modest nightgowns.

Saturday morning there was a reprise of “What is Steampunk?” with some different panel members, followed by my presentation of “Melodrama and the Music Hall,” which was well received. Also a popular draw at that hour was the presentation on “Fast Upgrades to Your Costume,” by Tracy Benton.

“19th Century Weapons Beyond the Gatling Gun” at noon was a well attended and enthusiastic presentation that could have used a bit more organization and proofreading (example: both presenters referred to a famous World War I era artillery piece as a “French 76” when it was actually a 75mm gun:

1:00PM, “Corset Lacing for Others,” was a brief but useful lesson on how to assist someone else in getting into her (or his) corset, by Henry Osier.
At 2:00 was “Fact or Fraud: Victorian Mysticism,” by Robyn Tisch Hollister, which focused on the Spiritualist phenomenon, and mainly on the famous frauds. Well done and informative, but sometime I would like to see one of these presentations give equal time to the sincere believers.

After a tour through the well-stocked dealers’ area, we attended the 4PM panel, “Meet Your Steampunk Groups,” hosted by Bridget Sharon of the Milwaukee Steampunk Society and Sam Perkins-Harbin of the Chicago Steampunk Society, which was a very good networking opportunity. (I took the occasion to plug Steampunk Chronicle--.)

At 5PM, there was “Bellydance History and Movements”, presented by Julieann Hunter and members of the Stellamani dance troupe. Yes, belly dance falls into the Steampunk milieu, since it was largely introduced to the West during the Steam era, at the 1876 Centennial in Philadelphia, and the 1893 World's Fair, the World Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Stellamani has added Steampunk costume elements to their “fusion” style of dance, which were very interesting and effective.

We had dinner at the Resort’s Ristorante Brissago, which features modern northern Italian cuisine. We both started with the Insalata Casalinga alla Brissago, which was quite good. Georgie had the Salmone con Finnocio, with wild rice and a limoncello sauce for entrée, and I had the Vitello alla Grigia, veal tenderloin with root vegetables and orzo. For dessert, we split a chocolate-caramel confection. All the food was delicious, and the service pleasant and prompt. Considering the quality of the food, I didn’t have a problem with the prices, which compare with an urban fine dining restaurant. (Our bill, with two glasses of wine, topped $100.00.)

This may be one of the Resort’s biggest drawbacks for a hobbyist convention. The resort is a long way from anywhere else, and the food is mostly pretty pricey for the fan on a tight budget. Breakfast buffet at the Grand Café was $18.00 each. Granted, this includes made-to-order omelets and fresh waffles, tea or coffee, juice, fruit, pastry, etc., all of which was excellent, but it’s a good thing there was also the “Café Gelato,” which had a variety of “grab and go” sandwiches, muffins, croissants and other pastries. This is where we got part of our Friday dinner and Sunday breakfast, and I gather they did a good business this weekend.

At 7:00PM, the doors opened for the Grand Ball, which was the major event on the “Mid Winter Carnival” theme. Entertainment was provided by the music of Milwaukee group “Dead Man’s Carnival,” interspersed with sideshow and circus acts, including a juggler, magician, acrobat, and aerialist, as well as Sir Pinkerton’s notorious “blockhead” sideshow turn. The Stellamani dancers also performed some very entertaining numbers from their repertoire. There were also carnival games presented by various local charities as which one could win raffle tickets. Con attendees turned out in their finest and had a good time, with many dancing to the band’s eclectic music.

Sunday morning, we attended the presentation on “How to Thrift for Costumes” by Mary Prince. This involved finding and re-purposing both clothing and non-clothing textiles and other bits into Steampunk garb.

At noon, we rolled home, having enjoyed a very pleasant weekend. Congratulations to the Geneva Steam Convention committee for having staged a very nice convention with few detectable glitches.
Friday, November 7th, we made the trip to Middleton, Wisconsin, for TeslaCon 5.

We started the program with the first afternoon round of panels, “Exploring Your Steampunk Story.” This story-telling-style presentation was lightly attended, but the people who did participate had some interesting and well-crafted backstories to share.

Next, I did a presentation on “The Melodrama and the Music Hall: Victorian Middle-Class Entertainments.” I talked about the genesis of the melodrama, its rise and fall, and the various genres of play within the type. The talk was accompanied by a PowerPoint presentation with pictures and some sound and video clips. The Music Hall portion was similar, giving origins and history of the Music Hall phenomenon, with numerous illustrations of halls and performers, and some music and video. The audience seemed to enjoy the presentation and find it interesting.

At 4:00PM, we went to the “Owen Society” presentation, “Cryptomania: Cryptology, Cryptozoology, and Cryptobotany for Fun & Profit.” This was a performance rather than a factual presentation, giving purported preliminary findings about the world at the “Center of the Earth,” which was cleverly done and amusing.

After dinner, we got in line for seating for the Opening Ceremonies. We were pleased that things started close to on time and we got good seats. Augmenting the usual broadly humorous acting of Eric Larsen as “Lord Bobbins,” William Dezoma as “Admiral Krieger,” and the rest of the crew, this year’s video presentation was, in a word, fantastic. From the moment the “Freya,” Lord Bobbins’ new combination armored dirigible/mechanical mole combination hove in site of the glowing polar hole leading down, until arriving at the Pellucidar-like “Center of the Earth,” the visualization of the journey was unlike any other I have seen. Totally unscientific, even by “hollow earth science” standards, but fascinating and beautiful to watch. The ultimate Center was the expected Verne/Burroughs homage with dinosaurs, mastodons, and, ultimately people. Much to the disgust of Lord Bobbins, the Earth’s Core also proved to harbor arch-foe Dr. Proctocus (Heath Howes), rescued by his minions from exile on the Moon and again plotting world domination.

Filing out of the Ballroom, I was particularly struck by the magic Eric has his people work: while the opening ceremonies were going on, the signage had been changed to add “beware of dinosaurs” notices. There were also dinosaurs in the Hotel! “Dakota & Friends” (, are a troupe that has some amazingly cool dinosaur “suits” (for lack of a better term) with “animatronic” effects, and were now on site.

After the Opening Ceremonies, we attended this year’s fashion show, which featured Dr. Proctocus as M.C. After all, he said, “fashion is evil.” Actually, this year’s collection was very good.

The first collection was by Steampunk Angel Couture and BEW Steampunk Design which featured outfits with very creative and fresh uses of brown and black, plus a very attractive metallic paisley greatcoat.

Revive Gifts presented an attractive dress with multiple stripe patterns, one ornamented with gold tassels and bead fringe, a brown slinky number, and a harlequin skirt in pale blue and brown.

The collection from Ugo Serrano had a “family theme” showing us a daughter, son, father and mother. Included were an iridescent blue skirt with plaid bodice, vest with multi-check patterned trim, and a brown bib-front waistcoat. We also saw a sophisticated skeleton bustle, armor (steel!) corselet, and a flowing net skirt decorated with garlands of ruching that gave the effect of flowers.

Scoundrel’s Keep began with a lovely turquoise-patterned cutaway coat, followed by a bronze corset and pantalette outfit, a black and bronze ensemble with exposed crinoline hoops, and a white bolero jacket worn over coordinating corset and black floaty skirt.
KMK Designs showed us an elegant cream-colored corset dress, a basic black lapelled waistcoat and rousers, a steel gray hourglass corset with black lace overlaid skirt, and a black tunic top with mermaid skirt.

Silversark, who based her collection on the different colors and textures of obsidian, the volcanic glass, had one of the most spectacular collections, augmented by feather headpieces by Debra Olsen, and with jewelry by Muses’ Jewelry.

The collection opened with a yellow lace cocktail-length skirt under an exposed crinoline cage, accented with a black feather collar.

Next, was a black leather Empire waist tunic length dress with puffed sleeves; a black, off shoulder beaded number with elaborate feather headdress; and a largely sheer black negligee outfit, among others.

Enchanted Designs ended the show with a very unusual and imaginative collection, including a man’s firefighter uniform, an ensemble with wrap bodice and skirt hitched up to the hips, a red satin lapelled waistcoat, and some outfits incorporating very natural looking leather waist cinchers tooled by lasers. The final out fit was “The Gatekeeper,” which had a male model wearing a corselet of steel bars, and made ominously tall by stilts crafted to look like brick gateposts.

The designers took questions after the show, and talked briefly about the origins of each collection. After the formal show we were able to take close looks at the outfits and talk to the models about how it was to wear them.

Saturday Morning, we stopped in on morning coffee with the Milwaukee Steampunk Society, and then went to the Tea Room for the Suffragette Tea and Conversation, hosted by Frau Krieger, (now “Baroness Munchausen”, since the Admiral’s inheritance of the family title--), which was very pleasant. Georgie read some bits from a suffragist text, Are Women People?, by Alice Duer Miller, which the attendees present professed to find very interesting.

At 11:30AM, Georgie went to the presentation “vTech: Real Victorian, Edwardian and Georgian Technology” by Dr. Charles Tritt, which was very informative and covered a great deal of fascinating topics.

I went to “The Use Of Metafiction In Steampunk, And Steampunk Literature”. This was not “Metafiction as commonly defined, such as “Metafiction is a literary device used to self-consciously and systematically draw attention to a work's status as an artifact.” Instead, the presenters, including featured guest Thomas Willeford, discussed “the use and adaptation of various Victorian and non-Victorian characters and genre into the steampunk aesthetic.” This included both use of pre-existing fictional and non-fictional characters in new work and how to avoid the pitfalls that may exist. This panel had some useful information, not only for authors, but designers and actors as well.

Comic relief in the “Immersion” story was provided by “The Grink,” a troll-like puppet who enjoys singing, and whose idea of a good drink is a “grub smoothie.”

At 1:00PM, we went to “Cause Of Death II: The Sequel - An examination of illness and accident in 1880s America, with an emphasis on the medical advances and social issues surrounding contagious disease,” presented by Julieann Hunter. In this second installment, Ms. Hunter gave facts regarding diseases borne by insects and other vectors. This was again a morbidly fascinating discussion.

Our next presentation was “Our Lady Spies,” by Georgie Schnobrich. This program talked about Belle Boyd, Emma Edmonds a.ka. Frank Thompson, Elizabeth van Lew and Mary Jane Bowser, all of whom spied during the U.S. Civil War. A great deal of fascinating information was dispensed to a room packed with an appreciative audience.

After the panel we madly dashed to change, having tickets for the “Bobbins Dinner.” We’ve attended these in the past and always found them great fun, as well as a good meal. It’s a pleasant challenge to stay in persona for a social event such as a dinner and we enjoy that. Also, it’s a good way to get some hints as to what’s coming up next year, as well as some entertainment in the form of the banter between Bobbins, Krieger, and their spouses and children.

This year’s menu was particularly good: titled “A Feast for Otto Lindenbrock” (the protagonist of “A Journey to the Center of the Earth,”) the first course was “Otto’s Foraged Mushroom Bisque,” which was delicious, but I found the “en croute” cap over the soup to be a bit awkward to deal with. Axel’s Intermezzo, elderberry sorbet with St.Germain liquor and basil was unique, refreshing, and delightful.

The main course, “Mastodon Tenderloin with Mushroom Mousse, Fingerling Potatoes, Asparagus, Lemon Oil, and Bordelaise Sauce” was marvelous. We got a tender and flavorful serving of (beef) tenderloin stuffed with the mushroom mousse, which we were quick to pronounce “the best mastodon we had ever had.”

Dessert was “Anoplotherium Milk Cheesecake, The Professor’s Poached Pear, Marcona Almonds, and Micro Mint,” which was also delicious. The chef was roundly applauded by all.

After dinner, there was time to digest before the Grand Ball. This year, the wonderful First Brigade Band played again, and they were better than ever, having added more dance music to their repertoire. What could be better than the TeslaCon Grand Ball? There is beautiful music, beautiful attire, charm and good cheer for all. This year there were even dancing dinosaurs: yes, one of the “Dakota” group got out on the dance floor and bobbed around to the music.

Having danced our fill, we found some seats outside the ballroom, admired the passersby, and listened to the remainder of the music. We had wanted to stay for the start of the Steerage Ball, but it got too late waiting for them to set up, so we went to bed.
On Sunday morning, visiting the Steampunk Science Fair is de rigeur, and we admired the creatively designed gadgets on display. Following that, Georgie gave another presentation, “Wild Women of the West, “ telling stories of Lola Montez, Carrie Nation, and “Poker Alice”. It is likely there will be a sequel.

After both her presentations, Georgie got lots of good comments and feedback from her audiences. After “Wild Women of the West,” she was even asked if she would come and talk at a ladies’ tea!

I had to see the Closing Ceremonies, which involved a lot more fantastic video. For my taste, the “magma layer” sequence went on a bit too long, but it was all hypnotically beautiful to look at. The stage acting included a very good swordfight between new character Beauregard Krieger (the Admiral’s guerrilla fighter son) and one of Proctocus’ deep cover agents. Proctocus was foiled again, and given into the custody of the indigenous people, with a significant chance of being fed to the dinosaurs. (But, he’s not dead yet, so you know he’ll be back.) I did like the bit showing that Bobbins and Krieger are proper Imperialists, having loaded up the “Freya’s” holds with valuable “thorium ore” from the Earth’s Core before setting off.

Next year’s theme will be “The Wild West,” with Saturday evening having a “Night Circus” theme. We have our memberships--.
On Saturday, March 8th, we went to the Milwaukee Public Museum for a “scavenger hunt” as arranged by Henry Osier. Although not strictly a steampunk event, it was promoted through the Milwaukee Steampunk Society, and a goodly number of people attended in Steampunk garb.
Unlike the conventional scavenger hunt, in which people actually collect and bring back artifacts, each team of players gets a list of questions which can be answered by study of the museum’s exhibits.

Georgie and I got there about 10AM, and managed to finish all three floors by about 1PM. We had a fun time scouring the exhibits and chatting with fellow steampunks, and as usual discovered some things we had never noticed before. Since it was early when we finished, and we had other things we needed to do, we skipped dinner with the other attendees. Thanks to Henry and helpers for all the work of organizing. With two sets of twenty questions each per floor, considerable effort was involved.
On Wednesday, February 12th, we went to the Humphrey Scottish Rite Masonic Center downtown for the monthly Milwaukee Steampunk Society Salon, which is held in the Double Eagle Pub downstairs.

Featured event of the evening was the Valentine exchange, which we hadn’t come prepared for (although I did end up participating, courtesy of Mary Prince--). We were glad of the opportunity to mingle with friends and acquaintances, and very interested by the calendar of upcoming events. There are quite a few, and kudos to the organizers for reaching out to include such things as music and dance performances of interest.

Next month’s salon will be March 12th and feature a demonstration of bookbinding.
After the Bobbins dinner, we went to the “Grand Ball.” We were somewhat pleased to hear that the first set, the “classic” section, would be recorded music, mostly by the First Brigade Band. Much as we love the First Brigade Band, it must be admitted that they are more of a concert band than a dance band, and picking out danceable pieces from their repertoire can be a job. So this proved. The first waltz played was a concert piece with a wandering tempo that proved very difficult to dance to. There were a couple of schottisches—nothing intrinsically wrong with the schottische, we just don’t care for it--, and it turns out people can schottische to a march melody as well.

We were able to get in a waltz, to “The Blue Danube,” and a polka, to “Feuerfest,” but once the set works through two long group dances, “The Bobbins Bob” and “Excursion Train” a.k.a. “The Choo Choo Dance”, there isn’t much of the set left.

Now, the website blurb for the ball said: “The Ball will happen in three (3) sections. Each section will have between 7-10 songs. Waltz’s, Polka’s and Reels will be prominent. Instructions to these dances will also be available before Saturday night.” (sic). After the first section, the Ball was given over to live performers, whom I believe were (and here I’m relying on memory so this may not be definitive), Lord Monty, “unique ‘steampunk funk’/Victorian rap”; Frenchy and the Punk, “Imagine Django Reinhardt, Johnny Ramone, Siouxsie Sioux and Edith Piaf jamming together at an event hosted by Tim Burton and Nikola Tesla”; and, I think, Eli August & the Abandoned Buildings, who, from the somewhat turgid prose description, appears to be rather a folk singer type. I’m sure they are all fine musicians, and it’s great of TeslaCon to furnish Steampunk performers with a venue, but, as one critic later said, “What parts of ‘grand’ and ‘ball’ did they not get?”

Now, Georgie and I are satisfied if we can have a waltz and a polka, and so, when the music switched to a modern beat, we retired and found some chairs overlooking the atrium where we held court and chatted with friends, intending to drop in on the Steerage Ball when it started at 10:30. Thus, we were in a good position to observe the breakout of what I have to call the “Dance, Dance Revolution.”

There was a flurry of activity near the atrium stairs, and we were somewhat bemused to see a small woman in a green Empire dress and matching hat climb onto a chair and harangue the people around her, declaring a “revolution,” and that the atrium floor was about to be liberated in the name of dancing, as what was going on in the Grand Ball was not the promised waltzes, polkas, or reels. Her escort, a slim man with a gray goatee and military coat, declared that he had a First Brigade Band CD in his car and went out to get it. A CD player which had been set up near the front doors playing ambient music (mostly the “Downton Abbey” theme) was requisitioned and relocated to the impromptu dance floor.

We watched this with considerable interest, not only for the amusement factor, but because there appeared simultaneously to be some kind of flap on involving hotel or con security or both, with serious-looking men rushing about checking doors and inside the nearby function rooms. However, to the credit of both the con and the hotel, no one attempted to interfere with this impromptu event. By the time the music was going, there were a hundred people in the area, some just to see, but others eager to dance. The recording started off with a waltz (“Beautiful Dreamer,”) which was restarted and Georgie and I joined in for this slow dance. Then, “Reel! Reel!” young people, who had perhaps learned the Virginia Reel that day but not had a chance to dance it at the Ball, called. The Reel was started, then over again, the organizers having declared they would play through that CD as many times as people cared to dance.

Now, it must be admitted, that, as a fraction of the people attending the con and the Ball, these people were in a distinct minority, but I think it was a minority that had right on their side, and whose opinion should be respected. Some took time out of their convention to learn to dance, and others just wanted what was promised—waltzes (plural), polkas (plural), and reels.

By this time it was after 10:30PM. We had by this time seen signs indicating that the Steerage Ball was being moved to the Grand Ballroom. However, inspection proved that the Grand Ball musicians were still holding forth, which told me, given how long it takes a band to set up and tune, that there wouldn’t be any Steerage Ball music until more like 11:30PM, so we called it a night.

I have no idea what logistical issues caused the relocation of the Steerage Ball, but I have to consider the circumstances unfortunate.
We had another decent night's sleep at the Comfort Suites. The one drawback we found there was that closet space is lacking, although there are numerous bureau drawers to use. Consequently, we had clothing and gear strewn around on every available surface, but the hotel staff was good about honoring our "Do Not Disturb", so things worked out well enough. Breakfast entrees were genuine scrambled eggs, a bit over-scrambled so falling into small bits, but still tasty; and pork sausage patties.

For Saturday day, Georgie wore her new ensemble, consisting of the pale gold gown we bought from Pendragon Costumes at Bristol Ren Faire in September, and the new hat from Ravenworks we bought Friday. The effect was splendid, and she got many complements on the outfit.

The first panel we went to "Journalism in Steampunk," featuring "Steampunk Chronicle" Editor Emilie Bush. Instead of being about how journalism is depicted in Steampunk, this presentation was about journalism covering Steampunk and how it is portrayed on sites such as the Chronicle, blogs, magazines, etc., and the application of journalistic standards and ethics (or the lack thereof) to such reportage. As a trained and experienced professional journalist, she (justly) views with alarm the overwhelming of real journalism by shallow sensationalism, ignorant credulity, and amateurish self-regard. These things may be particularly endemic in ego-driven areas such as fandoms, but, in my opinion, the critique could be well applied to the Internet as a whole. Ms. Bush gave a good talk on basic journalism, which seemed well received by the audience.

At 1:00PM, we went to "Lord Bobbins" speech on "Defining Steampunk." Although no one can doubt Eric's sincerity in wanting to keep Steampunk fandom as a "big tent" and to spread the word, the text, "Steampunk is what you make of it," was hardly profound. Nevertheless, since he was preaching to the converted, the speech was generally well received. I'm not as sure about the "Bobbins Initiative," to recruit more fans for Steampunk is going to make people run out and drag in new folks. I think that the plateau in fan convention attendance is a fact for the foreseeable future. For a number of reasons I won't go into here, I tend to believe that fannish sorts generally are marginalized in employment and economically, and have been disproportionally affected by the Great Recession and the slow recovery. Unless and until there's a genuine economic upturn-which I, frankly, don't see happening-time and dollars for hobbies are going to continue to be scarce resources.

At 2:30, we went to "But He Said He Was a Scientist!", which was an entertaining survey of pseudo-sciences current before and during the Steampunk Era, including such ideas as "phlogiston," "caloric," "N-rays," and "electro-gravitics".

Then, it was time to change for the Bobbins dinner. Georgie changed into an elegant black gown that she had made Steampunk by adding chains and medallions to a very good effect, and accessorized with her gold shawl and a lovely fan. I wore my white tie and tails with "Dr. Duquesne's" decorations. The doors of the dinner room did not open on time then, either, but queuing up gave us an opportunity to chat with the other elegantly turned out guests, and I also had the pleasure of meeting the "Chancellor" of Romania, who was actually in the wrong line and destined for the villains' dinner.

The Chancellor is a "Lycanbrom" (sp?), one of a tribe of descendants of Romanian peasants modified by the infamous Dr. Moreau before he moved to his island. (When I first heard the name, I heard "lichen brow," and so was looking for people with mossy foreheads--.) In the aftermath of the Ether War, they have taken over Romania or a large part thereof, and established a pariah state that is a haven for SWARM and its terrorist allies. The lycanbrom are rather swarthy, sharp-toothed people who affect wolfish furs as part of their clothing, and have a familiar, boorish manner. The effect is rather like half-orcs or Klingons in a Steampunk setting, with a dash of "Jagermonster" from the "Girl Genius" comic.

(I later learned from our friend, Kelly Lowrey, who had been following the convention's murder mystery plot, that the scientist who had disappeared under mysterious circumstances and was presumed dead, had supposedly discovered a way to decouple the lycanbrom's "wolf parts" from the human parts, this being part of the ongoing intrigue.)

The Bobbins dinner was, frankly, delicious. The menu was:
§ Pumpkin soup with sage crème and toasted peppitos.
§ Riesling poached pear stuffed with goat cheese. Black walnut candied and Vinaigrette.
§ Elderberry inter-miso.
§ Monkfish with two sauces. Smoked tomato and popcorn butter. Truffle spaghetti squash.
§ Drunken beef, potato dauphenoise, bacon sauce, port wine reduction and brussels sprouts.
§ Apple Gallette for dessert.
Everything was excellent, with the only criticism being that the crust on the apple gallette was on the tough side.

Dinner was also an amusing experience. The blurb for the dinner had indicated that "challenges would be sent back and forth," something I was looking forward to. It turned out the challenging mostly came our way. We had a visit from the tree-demon thing, who snarled and menaced us, to notably little effect. We were also addressed by a motley group apparently representing the SWARM factions, who lamely read off insults swiped from Shakespeare and Month Python. I think I surprised them by replying with what I fancied was an appropriate Southerner's "brag", which I hoped the others present found amusing.

Most of the people seem to be there to see what will happen rather than interacting, which puts quite a burden on William Dezoma, who plays "Kapitan Krieger," Lord Bobbins' chief henchman and poor relation. He's an experienced actor and good at improvisation but maintaining a monolog over an hour-plus dinner is quite a job. Thus, he doesn't seem to mind when I or Georgie occasionally pick up the conversational ball. I suppose it's gauche to recount one's on bon mots, but I was really pleased with myself when, after getting the Kapitan, who was giving hints about next year's scenario, to admit that the "Freya," the craft for the "journey to the center of the earth," would be able to bore through solid rock, I replied, "Aha! Only Lord Bobbins could build such an exciting boring machine!"

After a moment's 'take', Dezoma frankly broke out laughing. Lord Bobbins, who had been making conversation with the lady next to him, seemed quite nonplussed when it was repeated to him. Oh, well, I thought it added to the fun.
On Thursday the 31st, we packed our garb and gear and headed over to Madison for TeslaCon 4, "The Congress of Steam." Driving was good, and we got there with no problems. We stopped in downtown Madison for lunch and a bit of shopping, but got to the con in plenty of time for the first events. Check in at the Comfort Suites (a bit down the road from the Marriott) and for TeslaCon went smoothly.

We had some time before the first event we wanted to see, so naturally wandered into the dealer's rooms, which were as usual, dangerous to the pocketbook. Georgie had been going to look for hat decorations to go with the new outfit she had bought from Pendragon Costumes in September, and instead found THE perfect new hat at Ravenworks. While that was being negotiated, I discovered that my watch had stopped, and so bought a new one from Lily's Steampunk Emporium, which served me well during the con, and, besides, came with a number of cool chain decorations. So, we spent the better part of our discretionary funds within the first hour of getting there--. No regrets, though.

The first panel we went to was "Haunted Victorians: The Occult Sciences." This was a generally entertaining and informative presentation, with a few issues. They opened with a skit portraying a "gypsy" fortune-teller being exposed as a fraudulent spirit medium. I found this a bit inaccurate, conflating fortune telling with mediumship, and tending to reinforce the stereotype of Romany people as swindlers. To the group's credit, they received this criticism with good grace and acknowledged the point. In a general survey of people who might be considered as being in the "Spiritualist" scene in the 19th Century, there was not a clear transition made between charlatans such as the Fox Sisters and believers such as Wovoka, the Native American leader responsible for the Great Ghost Dance, which unintentionally implied they all belonged in the same "bucket". The panelists also agreed that this could be improved for future iterations of the presentation.

After the panel, we went back to our room to change for the Halloween Masquerade. Georgie was going as "La Fee Verte," or the "Absinthe Fairy." For this, she had an absinthe-colored evening gown stylishly distressed at the hems, elaborate black butterfly wings, a somewhat disheveled wig, and matching green eye shadow. The outfit was accessorized with an actual glass of absinthe and absinthe spoon. I revived (so to speak) my Dracula persona from years past. As time's gone by, I look more like the Count as described by Stoker-the long white mustache mentioned in his first appearance needs no artifice-with my white tie and tails paired with an appropriate sash and medallion, with the deathly pale make-up, and I'm good to go.

When we got into the Great Hall, we were dismayed to find it dark, lit mostly by the changing colored lights from the DJ's stage. What's the good of a Masquerade if you can't see the costumes? It also hadn't occurred to us that the music would be contemporary-most of it not at all obnoxious, but of course loud, and with today's thumping bass line that guarantees any attempts at conversation have to be done at a scream level. Not our thing, although it must be admitted we were in an evident minority and most people seemed to have no problem with it. After a look round, we retreated into the hallway and ensconced ourselves in chairs at one of the information tables in order to scrutinize the costumes as they came past. This worked well for us, as we were able to hail our acquaintances as they came past, made some new ones, and got to get good looks at the most delightful costumes, as the hallway became an impromptu photo gallery. People who wanted to chat came out to the hall, also, so it was a pretty "happening" place and we did not in the least feel like wallflowers.

We got quite a number of favorable comments on our costumes, and a surprising number of people wanted to take even my picture, which surprised me since there were many more spectacular costumes to see.
We retired about 10:30PM. This was not exactly the Masquerade we had imagined, but we had a good time nevertheless.
On Friday, August 16th, we drove up to Oshkosh to see the Public Museum’s unique Steampunk exhibit. The weather was good and we had a pleasant drive.

The Oshkosh Public Museum is a general-interest historical and natural history museum that occupies the former Edward P. Sawyer mansion. This beautiful and historic home has had a modern wing added on that houses about half of the exhibits. The house, built in the early 1900’s, is worth seeing just for itself, and provides a perfect setting for the neo-Victorian Steampunk exhibit.

The exhibit itself occupies several adjoining rooms on the second floor, and is very well laid out. One of the best things about the exhibit overall is the comparison between Steampunk fashion and tech and the actual period styles and devices. For example, the clothing portion started at one end with genuine period outfits drawn from the museum’s collection, and phased over to the more outré Steampunk styles. A display case holding elaborate Steampunk helmets and hats faced one containing late 19th century military helmets. An exhibit of “ray guns” sits next to one of authentic weaponry of the era.

The curators drew pieces from all over the country, including the South and Southwest, and from professional artists as well as hobbyists, the latter including a collection of rocket packs on loan from the “crew” of Southeast Wisconsin’s “Airship Fortuna.”

Other notable items on display included a Steampunk dollhouse, and a Steampunk conception of a “Mars Rover” robot. Also on hand were some artifacts from TV and motion pictures: “Uncle Irwin” an elaborate brain-in-a-jar prop from “The City of Lost Children,” and a set of prop and setting diagrams from “The Further Adventures of Jules Verne.”

The Steampunk exhibits are immediately adjacent to exhibits on the American Civil War, frontier life in Wisconsin, and the lives of immigrants in the 19th Century, so lots of other things of interest as well although not part of the featured exhibit. The exhibition continues through September 8th.
June 22nd was the third "Cogs and Roses" picnic at the Mequon residence of Chuck Tritt and Julie Ann Hunter. This year's theme was "The Orient Express," noting the 100th anniversary of that fabled train service. The house was decorated with signage appropriate for a station, and Henry Osier, in agent's garb, was manning a ticket window in one of the outbuildings.

Rainy weather held off and it ended up being a lovely day. There was a large turnout of many imaginatively garbed people that made fascinating watching.

Georgie produced a lovely cake, based on an authentic Orient Express promotional poster design.

Steampunk croquet was again a feature, with a significant twist this year. Instead of the past "steeplechase" or obstacle course pattern winding around the grounds, this year's course was laid out in a flat field, with all the wickets in sight of one another. The trick was in figuring out the order in which to play the wickets. Players were given the following instructions:

"Croquet Adventures III: A Journey Through Techno-History

In this course, each of the eighteen wickets is associated with an individual who has made a significant contribution to the technology or culture of the Victorian Era. The various items placed at these wickets are clues to the identity of those individuals--it is thus incumbent upon the participants to correctly associate these items such that the course may be played in the proper order as indicated on the list below.

"To assist in this identification, the year in which the contribution was made is listed after each name. Should a player require further clues, consultation with others is allowed--or in circumstances of dire puzzlement, contact the course master for the disbursement of helpful hints."

The list:

1 Louis Daguerre 1827
2 Dr. George Gatling 1861
3 Nichola Tesla 1886
4 Alfred Nobel 1867
5 Thomas Crapper 1861
6 Louis Pasteur 1886
7 John Erickson 1862
8 George Henry Corliss 1849
9 Elisha Otis 1853
10 John Ambrose Fleming 1901
11 Thomas Alva Edison 1889
12 Moritz Jacobi 1868
13 Robert Heinrich Koch 1892
14 Samuel Colt 1836
15 Guilemo Narconi
16 Sir Arthur Conan Doyle 1887
17 Dr. Alexander Wood 1853
18 Samuel Morse 1837

The wickets were decorated with (in random order here):

1 high-voltage coil
2 motion picture camera
3 flask labeled in German "bacteria culture in medium"
4 vacuum tube
5 toilet seat
6 hypodermic needle
7 revolving pistol
8 (faux) bundle of dynamite
9 floating naval mine
10 telegraph key
11 spark-gap radio set
12 steam valve and governor
13 (model)Gatling gun
14 model of the USS Monitor
15 magnifying glass and bottle of "7% Solution"
16 lab glassware labeled in French
17 still camera
18 elevator

Can you match them (without recourse to Google)? Some are obvious, but others are quite obscure.

We played croquet, socialized, had cake and sparkling wine, and stayed for a tasty dinner that Chuck and Julie Ann had catered by Scheherazade restaurant, in keeping with the theme.

Everyone seemed to be having a good time--I know we did.
On Saturday, June 15th, we took the annual Historic Concordia Neighborhood house tour. This year's theme was "The Modern Victorian: From Steam Trunk to Steampunk," and anyone who came dressed in Steampunk attire was admitted free of charge. Since we normally do the tour anyway, this was a bonus for us.

So, we garbed up for adventuring, and were pleased to see other members of the local Steampunk community came out as well. The tour volunteers were pleased to see us, and we got a lot of compliments on our outfits.

The homes available for viewing this year included some real gems, in particular one on West Highland Avenue, which is not only beautifully restored, but is a showplace for the owner's spectacular collection of antique "talking machines", plus music boxes, early coin-operated "player" devices, and a medical Tesla coil machine.

We were also very interested to see a house on N. 34th St. This was a house built by Milwaukee brewer Fredrick Pabst for his daughter. For many years, it was a rooming house, until the present owner bought it and began the process of restoration in 1998. It's still a work in progress, but the progress that has been made is very impressive indeed.

On Sunday, the 16th, we joined a Steampunk outing to the East Troy Electric Railroad organized by Henry Osier. As a group, we rode in a former Milwaukee streetcar the five-mile trip to the Elegant Farmer at Mukwonago. The elegant farmer was doing a bang-up business at that time, and we decided that, rather than stand in long lines then, we would take the next train back to East Troy, have some ice cream at Lauber's Old Fashion Ice Cream next to the Railroad Museum, and then take our car back to Elegant Farmer, which was on the way home for us, and pick up a couple of things (like a basket of juicy strawberries)that it would not have been practical to haul back on the train.

We rode back on the streetcar, and got into Lauber's just ahead of the mob from the following car. Initially, the shop only had one server on, so getting served took a bit of time. I ordered a classic Banana Split, which was very nice. Very traditional ice creams, good toppings, and a nice, ripe banana. Georgie had a double scoop of mint chocolate chip, which was very good also. Then we took our car back to Elegant Farmer, and bought some jam, pancake mixes, and the aforementioned strawberries. By the time we got there, the rest of the group was on the train back to the Museum, so we packed up and drove home. Although we cut our time a bit short, we had a very good time.

TeslaCon 3

Dec. 7th, 2012 09:32 am
We spent the weekend of November 30th through December 2nd at TeslaCon 3 in Middleton, Wisconsin, and had a very good time. This was the second TeslaCon for us, so things went a bit more smoothly (for one thing, I packed lighter, although I still brought along props I didn't use (this time, anyway.)

We got to the hotel about 10AM Friday and checked in with the con with no difficulty. There were a couple of glitches, in that "pocket programs" or matrixes weren't initially available. We did have the copy of the schedule I had printed off from the TeslaCon site, so we had that covered, but there were no site maps. Labeling of rooms with the TeslaCon designations (i.e. "Selenite Salon") was incomplete and inconsistent (and gray-on-gray "metal" signage was hard to read, which made finding rooms a job. There were two poster-size maps located in the hotel corridors which helped, but we eventually more-or-less memorized where the rooms were.

After scouting around and orienting ourselves (and taking a first quick look at the croggling dealer's room)we chose some programs. We were intrigued by the appearance of the Madison Ballet, and so saw their interesting presentation of a couple of dances from their upcoming production of "Dracula"--not Michael Pink's "Dracula," but a new production which has a soft-rock score and a distinctly Steampunk aesthetic. We were shown the "Ghostfire Waltz," a pretty and sensual pas de deux, (in which I nevertheless percieved bits of "The Time Warp"--), and "Revolta", a dance for four women which borrowed from "The Dance of the Cygnets," and the "Can-Can" with a distinct nod to "Cabaret." The concept looks like good fun.

Next, we went into "War of the Worlds: Which Side Are We On?" Presenter Jason Leisemann lead a free form discussion on imperialism and militarism as critiqued in the works of Wells and others, but it was rather directionless with frequent gaps, and gave the distinct impression of under-preparation.

After that, we went and took a first thourough look through the dealers room, which was purely fun. If you needed a steampunk outfit, you could get everything from hats to boots and most inbetween; guns and other gear; pouches, bags, and strps to hold it all together, and pins, medals, jewelry and other accessories to finish off the look. There was a definite emphasis on finery, though. I was looking for a "driver" or "newsboy" cap for my "steerage" outfit (of which more later) but no one had brought any, although some of the more comprehensive dealers, like River Junction Trading Company do stock them in their store. (On reflection, I didn't notice anything I might call "practical underwear" such as drawers or chemises either, but I don't think most people worry about that for Steampunk outfits.)

At 1:30, we wnet to "Tesla Hall" to hear Lord Bobbins give a run-down of the TeslaCon story history so far, of particular interest since we weren't at number one and didn't know the early parts. This was interesting, since it included not only Lord Bobbins' life story, but also a precis of the dreadful events that resulted in Dr. Proctocus' madness and gave rise to his reign of terror.

For some reason we got disoriented as to time after that and missed some things we would have wanted to check in on, but got back on schedule in time to join "Madmen and Miracle Workers," again by Jason Leisemann. Leisemann had some interesting material, including people I had never heard of (the very eccentric Karl von Cossel) or bits I hadn't known about people like Wilhelm Reich, but again really only had about half an hour of material to fill an hour-plus timeslot.

We got dinner at the hotel restaurant, beating the later rush, and had a very tasty meal, with reasonably fast service, at least initially. By the time we were done eating, the dinner hour was in full swing, the servers were swamped, and it took a very long time to get our check.

After dinner the main attraction was the "Opening Ceremonies" which featured the S.S. Silverstar's trip to the Moon. "Lord Bobbins' Amphitheatre" was the hotels' largest room and unfortunately not well suited to theatrical events, having only floor seating. Georgie and I were only about a third of the way back but still couldn't see a bit of the live action portion of the program, annoying since there were large screens used for the video projection, so why not project the speakers as well?

The "blast-off" and initial space travel sequences were nicely done and clever, "shot" from the spacecraft point of view. The trip was complicated by a midcourse collision with Santa's sleigh (!) and some evident sabotage by the depraved Dr. Proctocus. Systems "failures" extended to the outside cameras, so there was a rather pointless period of static on the screens while lord Bobbins ranted at the Captain for restoration of the picture. System problems also included the braking rockets (a non-trivial issue, since at ten minutes to the Moon, the ship had to have an average speed of at least 1,433,400 miles per hour). This was overcome in time to save the ship from destruction, but not to prevent a belly-landing which required the eventual assistance of the Selenites (moon people represented by puppets) in order to re-launch for Earth.

Expecting that we were going to have a late and strenous night Saturday, we went to bed relatively early, after some chatting with con-goers and a lot of people watching. (Being able to look closely at people's outfits and gear is worth the price of admission alone--).

Saurday morning, we helped get Mary Prince's presentation "Making Memories" off the ground, and then went to "The Murdoch Mysteries," about a Canadian quasi-steampunk detective drama Georgie had heard of.

Henry Osier and I did "Keeping the 'Punk' in Steampunk" to a good sized and engaged audience. We talked about keeping the punk edge in Steampunk characters, while dealing with issues raised by non-PC bad guys. This is significant for the TeslaCon milieu, since the newly released "history" of the United States Civil War reveals the existence of a new villain group, the racist and pro-slavery "Knights of the Golden Circle" (As if meglaomanic Dr. Proctocus and his fellow-travelers the anarchistic S.W.A.R.M. aren't enough to deal with--).

At 12:30, I presented "The Cthulhu Cult in Literature," with notes on how the Cthulhu Mythos could inter-relate with the Steampunk milieu. Again, I had a good sized audience that seemed appreciative.

At 4:30, Georgie gave her lecture on "Amazing Women of Our 19th Century," which featured Ada Lovelace, Jane Digby, Lakshmi Bai, Victoria Woodhull, and Aurore Dudevant/George Sand, each of whom was quite remarkable. The audience took quite a few notes and several thanked Georgie for her work.

After that, we got dinner from the hotel fast-food counter. The fish and chips were tasty and hot, although the breading of the fish was soggy due to being made ahead and kept warm in a steam table. We took time to relax and to prepare for the Grand Ball that evening.

Getting the 1st Brigade Band for the ball was a definite coup. Other cons have live music, but how many have a fifty-piece period authentic brass band? The band looked and sounded wonderful, and the guests were marvelous to watch as well. Georgie and I got in a couple of waltzes and polkas much to our enjoyment. Much of the first set was taken up with group dances, which were enjoyed by the attendees, with literally hundreds taking part in the "Train Polka."

We left during the second half in order to make our third change of clothes for the day, and show up at the "Steerage Party". The party also had an excellent Celtic band, Airat (listed in the program as "The Air Rats"--). Georgie and I "dressed down" for this event, me wearing a flat cap, tweed waistcoat over collarless shirt, dungaree pants and boots; and Georgie's outfit having a shorter bohemeian-looking skirt that showed her striped stockings and sturdy boots. These inspired quite a bit of amusement and appreciation among our friends. We got there early and set an example of crude jigging that established a "dance as though no one is watching" tone that really make the event lively and fun. Worn out, we left about midnight and went up to shower and sleep.

Sunday morning, we had the hotel's buffet breakfast, which was good enough, and I remembered to tell the server we wanted the check right away, which was cheerfully complied with. Getting baggage down to the car was a hassle, in part due to the fact that the hotel has only two elevators. All the baggage carts were reserved at the time I wanted to be moving, so I resorted to hauling the luggage one man-load at a time downstairs, where Georgie sat watch on the pile until I could pull the car up and load it all in. This worked, but may call for more planning next year.

Georgie got many complements on her "Downton Abbey" inspired outfit on Sunday. We took in parts of the panels on "Sneaking Around," and on 19th Century Swindles and Con Games, both of which were interesting and well prepared and presented. We bailed out of the Steampunk Bellydance program when it appeared that it was a 'workshop" in which everyone was expected to participate. That left us with a big gap of time before the Closing Ceremonies, and we were tired, so we decided to head home.

We really did have a fun time. We are signed up as "Delegates 003 and 004" for the "Congress of Steam" next year.
We had a very nice weekend the 4th and 5th of August. The fourth was the second Milwaukee-area Steampunk Picnic, hosted by "Commander" Chuck Tritt and "Lady" Juliann Hunter at their home in rural Mequon. Repeating the success of last year's gathering, it was a very pleasant occasion.

Attendance was (fortunately) down from the projected maximum of 100 plus, in part due to the high temperatures forecast, but the day was actually more comfortable than expected due to overcast that eventually yielded a light rain in the late afternoon, which did little to dampen festivities.

Georgie was again commissioned to provide a cake. When we heard the theme "A Midsummer Night's Steam," the phrase "rude mechanicals" came to mind, and inspired a cake depicting Shakespeare's "Bottom" in tool bedecked overalls, wearing a brazen, steam-spouting donkey's head. It was universally admired.

We took our leave in the late afternoon, but I understand the party went on well into the night. A rather nice video of the event can be found here:



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