Wednesday, February 25, 2009

On Marquis Hector Oswald

Our search for a greater understanding of our world and its inhabitants hit a stumbling block with this topic. It's rare that we'll admit this, but we have found something beyond human understanding. Still, the conversation was a spirited one and we hope you can pull something from it.  - Patrick

Klint: I've spent my entire adolescence dabbling in various subcultures.  Hell, I still identify with a few in my mid 20's, but there's one that I really don't understand at all.

Patrick: Evangelical Christianity? 

Klint: Close.  Are you familiar with "steampunk?"

Patrick: Vaguely. I see people on the internet talking about it, but it seems to be the same people who are into those cats with the words underneath them so I can't say I know much about it. 

Klint: Picture an entire subset of people who loved the movie Wild Wild West so much that it's influenced every aspect of their being.

Patrick: The Will Smith movie? It meant that much to people?

Klint: I think there's more to it than that.  At least I hope there is.

Patrick: Give me a moment to do a Google image search. I don't want to stay ignorant. 

Klint: I'm going to do some research of my own.

Patrick: Ok, first question:  Is this real?  Like a real thing?

Klint: Well, it has enough of an internet presence to lead me to believe that it's not just some elaborate 4chan prank.

Patrick: Are we sure it's not like that photo with the shark attacking the guy on the helicopter? Totally fake? Because I'm into some pretty square shit and this is even too nerdy for me. 

Klint: Some of this stuff is pretty elaborate.  There's a "Steampunk Name Generator."  According to this, I'd be "Honourable Quinby Belcher"

Patrick: So this is just an aesthetic choice? 

Klint: I think that's how it started off.  Based in some awful subgenre of science fiction.  But, now there's steampunk music and even some sort of steampunk philosophy.  According to Wikipedia

"Other have proposed a steampunk philosophy, sometimes with punk-inspired anti-establishment sentiments, and typically bolstered by optimism about human potential."

Patrick: Is this about glorifying a period in human history where the anemic nerds who are into it would have died of tuberculosis? 

Klint: Sort of, except none of this stuff ever actually existed.

Patrick: And maybe I'm confused, aside from dressing like a jerkoff, what does it have to do with punk?

Klint: I think it's a few steps removed from cyberpunk, which is in turn a few steps removed from actual punk.

Patrick: So this is roleplay?

Klint: Right.

Patrick: Quinby, I'm still confused.  Why does steam power speak to greater human potential? 

Klint: Let's back up.

Patrick: My head is spinning. 

Klint: It's all based off some books a few guys wrote in the late 70's into the 80's.

Patrick: So there is a steam punk bible?  A little red book for virgins?

Klint: Not so much.  It's all bad fiction about what would happen if computers and technology existed in Victorian times.

Patrick: That hardly seems like a full enough world view on which to base your life. 

Klint: Which brings us to why this is all a bunch of crap.  It's just a bunch of weirdos romanticizing a timeperiod that never existed.  It's so idiotic that your average person at a club's goth night thinks these people are losers.

Patrick: I don't understand what makes steam powered gold plated technology any more appealing than "cavepunk" or "iron agepunk"

Klint: I think they assume that if they conduct themselves in a manner they perceive to be befitting of aristocrats, maybe normals will respect them instead of slashing their tires while they're parked outside of the store where they buy Magic cards.

Patrick: Let me refer to the internet for a moment. Someone must have published a Martin Luther-style agenda or proclamation on this whole thing. You and I think we have the "why" of it, but what do they tell themselves?

Klint: Good idea.  I'll look independently

Patrick: Well, here's something. On the community forum The Gaslamp Bazaar, I found the following poll: "Steampunk with or without magic?"

Klint: Wow.  I found a "Steampunk Manifesto," but I think that one simple question upset me even more than this did. 

Patrick: 77% of those polled like some magical and occult influences mixed into their steam punk world view. 

Klint: That makes perfect sense to me. 

Patrick: Klint, or Quinby, or whatever you prefer to be called these days.  I know this is a scholarly blog. 

Klint: Klint, please.

Patrick: I know we attempt to raise the bar and teach ourselves something with each entry.  But can I speak freely here?

Klint: Please do, because I think I know where this is going.

Patrick: I'm not confident there is anything to understand here. I don't think further research will yield any more profound an answer. I think we can sum this up simply: These people suck. Trying to decipher their motivations is pointless. That entry you just shared with me includes the following line:

"Our corsets are filled with safety pins and our tophats hide vicisious mohawks. We are fashion’s jackals running wild in tailorshop."
There is no reason here. Just ugly nerds.  If there is a side against this in the culture wars, I'd like to join. 

Klint: I'd agree.  Things like this are an affront to all that we, as learned men, stand for.  They're using misplaced SAT words to make their garbage subculture appear elegant and intellectual.

Patrick: Ok, shoot straight here: Would any of these people be involved in this if they were physically attractive?

Klint: It's possible, but unlikely.  No intelligent people could be involved, and for an attractive person to get into this, they'd have to grow up as ugly ducklings.  Maybe a big girl who loses a lot of weight, or a formerly acne ridden late blooming male.

Patrick: Do you think people will raise children as steampunks?  And do you think those kids will make it out of middle school without serious trauma from their peers?

Klint: I don't envision steampunks as effective breeders, but if a child is raised and sent to school in "steampunk attire," I forsee them being severely beaten and chastised.  

Patrick: This can't end well. I vote we close the topic for fear we'll let more of this idea into our lives. 

Klint: I agree.  I'm actually visually agitated by all of this.

Patrick: I mean, I'm impressed with people building computer mouses out of gold foil and balsa wood, but it also fills me with a particular sadness. 

Klint: As if there was something wrong with their brand new Dell 17" Inspiron laptop, that they had to open it up and rehouse it in polished walnut and brass.  So much wasted time and crafstmanship.

Patrick: Maybe they could build a time machine next. Go back to another era and be disliked there as well. 

Klint: I could see the LARP crowd really wailing on steampunks with their foam swords.

Patrick: I respect LARPing. Steampunk doesn't even have swords. 

Klint: True.  Final words?

Patrick: Should we expect hate emails from steampunkers or will it all arrive via carrier pigeons wearing brass goggles?

Klint: I picture them being written with quills on tattered parchments with a lot of flowery language that doesn't mean anything, sealed with a dollop of red wax that they pressed their class ring from vo-tech school into.

Patrick: That says it all. Tallyho, Quinby. 

Klint: Ugh.  Tallyho.


  1. another movie these unfortunate people seem to base their lives upon is the cinematic miscarriage that is 'van helsing'. a few months ago i stumbled upon a website dedicated to modding out nerf guns to resemble weapons that van helsing used in the movie.

  2. Another slightly related sub-culture is AtomPunk:

  3. I've yet to see one in the wild.

    Klint, if you know their gathering places in the city, please let me know.

  4. I have a neighbor who dresses in this manner, and I honestly thought he was the only one (it is Williamsburg, nothing surprises me)until I read an article in the NY Times about it. I think it might fill you in on a few more details.

    I hate to hate on this group of people, when they might say "Why dress like a group of poor kids from the late 1970's, or a group of high school football players, or the Kennedy's vacationing in Martha's Vineyard, or Morrissey?" which summarizes what most hardcore kids draw their clothing from. If I want to wear a varsity jacket and boat shoes, so be it. They can wear coattails and top hats.

  5. Hey Klint, it's Samm. So, I'm way more into this broader subgenre than you are, and I will affirm that steampunk is ridiculous. The only good thing to come out of it is Alan Moore's League of Extraordinary Gentleman graphic novel, NOT to be confused with the festering turd of a film adaptation that wasted two hours of my life that I will never get back. He is a smart, smart man who somehow manages to include most of the significant (and some lesser known) works of British literature in a relatively short comic. And come up with his own, damn entertaining story in the meanwhile.

  6. I had my first sighting last week. I saw three inside of a place called Divine Pastabilities. They like pasta sandwiches just like me!