Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Steampunk Tuesday - Why I Love Steampunk

Why I, Adrienne Kress, love Steampunk:

1.  It's Oldy-Timey

I am, as the title of my blog would suggest, an actress.  Why did I become an actress?  To play make believe.  And what do I want to pretend to be?  Oldy-timey people.

Okay.  I love any kind of acting really, anything from contemporary realism to fantastical musicals, but I absolutely adore period pieces.  I love the costumes, I love the different way people expressed themselves.  I love the plays that have lasted the test of time.  I love dueling, and historic dancing, and carriages and yes, I even love corsets.  Because I don't have to wear one every day.

2.  I'm an Anglophile.

Now there's nothing saying Steampunk needs to be set in Victorian/Edwardian England.  There's a very popular Wild West Steampunk subculture, and more and more people are exploring other parts of the world as well.  All good things.  But, hello, my name is Adrienne Kress and I am an anglophile.

I have loved England (or my romanticised version of England) since before I can remember.  It was the setting for all those oldy-timey BBC movies/TV shows I watched growing up.  Where my favourite Disney musicals took place.  The land of Shakespeare (which I fell in love with at the age of 9).  Thatched cottages.  Grand estates.  And then there was London.  Magical, grimy, historical, fabulous London.

Magical, grimy, historical, fabulous London.

I made it my goal in life to get me to England, as soon as I possibly could.

And so . . . 

Through the University of Toronto, I was able - in my first year - to study at what we dubbed "The Castle".  Herstmonceux Castle in East Sussex to be precise.  I was horribly homesick, but I stuck it out.  Why?  It was ENGLAND.  I was living in the English countryside. I went for field trips into London and visited the Tate, British Museum, National Gallery, St. Paul's and on and on and on.

The Castle

Then after I graduated from university in Toronto, I returned to the UK to live in London proper.  I had been accepted into LAMDA's post-graduate one year Classical Acting program, and after about two days I had determined that I had to stay longer.  So after my fantastic year at LAMDA drew to a close, I acquired what is called in the Commonwealth a Working Holiday Visa.  It's a visa for people under 30 that allows them to live and work in a fellow Commonwealth country.

I spent three incredible years in London, leaving only because my visa expired.  I learned that London (and England itself) was far from a perfect utopia.  It has political difficulties and a class structure held over from the past that still permeates contemporary interactions.  Tube lines are shut down often for construction, and the downtown streets are packed so tightly with locals and tourists.

But despite learning that my dreamland had flaws, I still loved it.  I loved that most of the museums were free, and if I was feeling low or bored or whatever, I'd just pop in and be inspired.  I loved the parks, would wander through them as often as possible.  I found my cozy pubs (not so easy, as many London pubs are very serviceable, not nearly as quaint as one would think), The Dove on The Thames was right near me and also had so much charm.  Speaking of which . . . the part of the river I lived near was lovely.  Parks lined it, leading to rows of pubs and rowing clubs, and then the more posh fabulous homes in Chiswick.  Most of all, I loved the theatre.  I went to the theatre there the way I see movies in North America.  It was affordable, and it was almost consistently quality.

The exterior of The Dove

Along the river near where I lived.

And after many years of being back in Toronto, I still get pangs in my gut, missing London so much.

3.  I love leather and brass and clockwork pieces, oh my!

The combination of those elements makes anything look cool.  I also love goggles, and corsets, and weird crazy weapons.

4.  I love the Swiss Family Robinson treehouse, the Mouse Trap board game, and the machine that made Violet Beauregarde's gum in the Chocolate Factory. 

Seeing how things work, how one thing affects the other.  Watching wheels turn, and balls roll, and pulleys pull.  It's just so cool.  And really fun.

5.  I love SF/Fantasy.

Why?  Well aside from the cool toys factor, there's the brilliant opportunity to deal with certain subjects that might otherwise come across as a bit preachy or too on the nose or just too darn risky thanks to the nice distancing layer of the fantastic.  First interracial kiss on television?  STAR TREK.  And has any contemporary television show dealt with the tension between religion and science better than DEEP SPACE NINE or BATTLESTAR GALACTICA?   Well okay, maybe THE WEST WING comes close. . .

6. And the number 1 reason I love . . . wait . . . And the number 6 reason I love Steampunk . . .

I love Douglas Adams.

He is my writing inspiration.  His work showed me one could do weird and fabulous things, could break the writing rules.  That one could have fun.

By John Martz - http://johnmartz.com/

No, he didn't write Steampunk.  But what he wrote was wonderfully absurd.  And I love absurdity.

The concept of Steampunk is an absurd one.  You need to have an ability to suspend your disbelief, and, I really think, a sense of humour.   You need to be able not only to accept the dichotomy of a world in the past using technology of the future, you need to be excited by it.  You need to, when you see the trailer for THE WILD WILD WEST with Will Smith for the first time sit up a little straighter in your chair and think, "You can DO that??"  You need to think that it's wonderfully marvelous, and utterly ridiculous, and the fact that it is utterly ridiculous makes it even more wonderfully marvelous.

I love a good idea.  And Steampunk is just a really good idea.  It's fun.  It's wacky.  It's absurd. 

So there you go.  My list.  It's hardly comprehensive, there are many smaller things I love about it.  But these are the major factors that brought me down the road to THE FRIDAY SOCIETY. 

Now it's your turn!  What do you love about Steampunk??

Monday, February 20, 2012

All The Rage

There is nothing wrong with passion.

I myself am a rather passionate person myself, as anyone who has met me in person can tell you (and as you, dear readers, might be able to glean from the general length of my blog posts).  I actually get very tired of living in a world where being unemotional is considered cool, where a flat delivery of speech, with barely any inflection except, oddly, an upwards one at the end of any sentence, question or not, is de rigour.  Whenever I meet someone who speaks with enthusiasm and passion I am totally thrilled.  Caring is not always easy in our cynical world.  Sarcasm and negativity gets you much further.  People understand it.  You don't have to explain yourself.

It's hard to care about things in this day and age.

So I get it, I really do.

I also get how frustrating it is to try to have a conversation about something that matters to you, only to have it be dismissed as, "You can't do anything about it anyway, why bother trying?" or "Woah, chillax."  Or the even better dismissal of, "What are you talking about?  That whole problem you think still exists, like, so totally doesn't."

A person can develop some serious rage being dismissed, especially when it's so clear that said problems do still very much exist, if maybe a bit differently than they did in the past. 

I get angry.  Oh boy do I ever.  And sometimes at kind of inappropriate moments.

But you know what I'm learning as I live on this planet more and more, and very much through personal experience? 

Rage ain't never gonna change no one's mind.

It doesn't matter how salient your point is.  It doesn't matter how right you are and how wrong the other person is.  It doesn't matter if there is a giant sign over your head with a flashing neon arrow pointing at you that reads:  "SHE'S RIGHT!  SHE'S RIGHT!" 

Rage ain't never gonna change no one's mind.

People don't hear cogent arguments when they sense rage.  People just feel the anger.  And you know what happens when they feel that someone is angry at them?   They get defensive.  They want to protect themselves.  It makes sense, it's instinct.  People don't say, "You know, you've got a point."  No, they find any and all ways of defending their position.  And the angrier you get, the tighter they'll hold onto it.

So how does one actually affect change? 


And through respectful discourse.  Where not only do you share your thoughts calmly and logically, but you LISTEN to the thoughts of others, and truly take on board what they have to say as well.

Also by acknowledging that not everyone will be interested in what you have to say, and that it's not worth wasting your energy on people who clearly won't listen, no matter how calm you are.

Why am I writing all this?  Well there's been some fun business around the interwebs of late.  There have been people so angry and frustrated with the world and the injustices that do exist, that they have been lashing out.  Calling people names, being truly brutal in how they voice their opinions.  Most importantly not allowing for middle ground, that maybe someone might not be perfect in their actions but nor are they, you know, evil.  And the end result winds up being defensiveness.  And people commenting back on how stupid these people are being.  And in turn calling those people names. 

And the whole purpose of the rage gets buried under an argument of "why you gotta be so mean?".

The message gets lost.  People get angry.  No lessons are learned on either side.  And the conversation reaches a stalemate.

Because it never was a conversation to begin with. 

(this is happening not just on the net, but in my political environment too - my mayor is so upset that people [experts, fellow councilors] are pointing out that a certain plan that he is passionate about likely isn't going to work for numerous reasons [including financial ones], that instead of actually listening and maybe coming to some kind of compromise, he's threatening to fire everyone who dissented against the idea)

I want to change the world.  I do.  I want to even more so after I attended the Engineers Without Borders conference as a temp (will be blogging about this this week).  And I like to think that those who rage also, deep down, want to change the world.  Which is why I am writing this blog post.  In my own little way, this post is meant to help change.  Because we can't actually change the world, until we change our way of communicating with each other.

Consider this my appeal:

We need you.  We need your intelligence, and we need your insight.  We live in a world, especially in the western half, that doesn't even think there are still injustices to be fought.  It is such a horrible waste to see those who could help make change choose to make rage instead.  I realise it's still a personal choice, and I can't prevent anyone from making it.   And it's harder to work towards something, to stay optimistic, than it is to rail against something.  I know that.  I like to rail myself :) .

But please, please, if you can, if even a small part of you wants to, choose thoughtfulness. 

Because then we can start to truly make a difference.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Steampunk Tuesday - Interview With Professor Elemental

One of the sincere pleasures I had last year was attending the first ever Canadian National Steampunk Exhibition.  At that wonderful event, I met many fabulous people.  But the highlight of the weekend had to be meeting Professor Elemental and seeing him perform.  Here we are photographed together with my fellow author J.M. Frey.

For those of you unaware of the most talented Professor Elemental, here's a brief bio:

"Professor Elemental is a steampunk mad professor. His hobbies include adventure, invention, and a good cuppa. Aside from a few of his experiments (best left unmentioned), the Professor first got himself noticed with the track Cup of Brown Joy. The video has notched up over a million views on YouTube. 

  He takes to the stage and engages the audience at any kind of show – from festivals to fetish nights – and he also loves to work with people on special, bespoke events such as weddings. He's happy to host cabaret or perform solo. Recent events have included The Bizarre Ball, Secret Garden Festival, and the Steampunk World’s Fair."

I am most thrilled to announce to you all that the good Professor agreed to be interviewed by yours truly, and the following is the result.  Enjoy!

Professor, you are a true renaissance man.  Not only a skilled performer and musician, but also an adventurer, scientist, and boiled dead leaves enthusiast.  Where on earth did you acquire so many skills, and why do you think you are so talented?

 I think it’s something in the water. Namely a cocktail of mind altering drugs that my father used to sprinkle randomly into our daily cordial. He delighted in seeing which of us might become geniuses or go quite quite mad. So far as I know, I’m the only one who escaped madness- I am not sure about my brothers and sisters, or indeed if I didn’t imagine having them in the first place. I have a photographic memory, but it is a shaky, amateur photography at best. 

What made you think, “Hip Hop, well now wouldn’t that be just delightful?”?

 It was the only choice available to me. I love hip hop, more than almost anything, it feeds my every waking moment. Plus, it involved a great deal of words and talking and I’m a great fan of both. 

What are your musical influences? 

Hrmm, Bonzo dog doo dah band, Dizraeli and the small gods, Isaac Hayes, Walter Snicket and the army of broken toys, Tom Caruana, Jon Clark and every single piece of rap music that came out in the 90s. 

How do you see your music evolving in the years to come?
 I am pushing in some very strange and beautiful directions over the next couple of years- collaborations and solo shows, shows in strange fictional places and songs about things that no one has ever done songs about before. 

What is your favourite part about performing?

 Peoples. I love meeting people afterwards and having a party with whoever has been watching. That has always been my favourite bit- I’ve never been very good at doing and show and leaving straight afterwards. 

I also enjoy being able to ask a crowd to do my bidding- it is amazing what people will do if you ask politely.   

Any excellent stories from your tours you’d like to share (oh do say yes!)?

 There’s many that I really can’t share as this might be read by children or the infirm. Well, in the last 6 months, I have been upstaged  by America’s best gorilla, spanked heartily at a fetish night and ridden a bicycle powered roundabout through San Francisco- my aim is for something unique to happen at every show, and my record is pretty good thus far. 

The worst show for me was still the ‘Shoreham by sea food festival’ a few years back however, where I played for free to three old ladies in the rain. (One of whom stopped me mid-verse and asked me to turn up the beats as the vocals were annoying her.) 

What part of the world have you enjoyed exploring (either fictional or real or both) the most, and what part would you like to still visit? 

I am aiming to do a tour of purely fictional venues before the end of 2012. I have popped into a Conan the barbarian comic (Dark horse comics, issue 12) and am appearing in a few role playing games which is a nice start. I’d like to work my way up to a live concert at the town hall in Oz or at the Queen of hearts royal garden party- but it’s still a way off…

Photo courtesy Lex Machina

You are now being honoured with a comic book about you, could you tell us a little bit how this came to be and what it will be about?  Were you concerned they’d get anything wrong about you?  What did they get oh so right?

 Well, when your face is as handsome as mine, it is of course very difficult to capture it accurately. Even looking directly at it can make one go blind, so all of the artists had to wear special protective goggles when they were sketching me. 

To be honest, they have done a fantastic job overall- the adventures are accurate and exciting. And so many secrets are revealed: just what did happen on that arctic expedition, how did I meet Geoffrey and why on earth do I have so many giant robot bees around the house. 

Now that you are being immortalised in ink, are there any other goals out there for you, Professor?

YES. We are filming a TV pilot later this year- a sort of cross between Sherlock Holmes, Flight of the Concords and some other things that I don’t really have a frame of reference for. It will be amazing.

Plus there is plenty of new music on the way; you can find it all at www.professorelemental.com

What’s your favourite animal hybrid?

 Oh the badgermingo definitely. Lovely plumage and can wrestle a dog to the death. 

What is your favourite Steampunk accessory?  

My goggles, they allow me to see backwards and also the colour of peoples souls, which can be a great party trick.

And there you go!  Thanks so much for joining us!

Thanks so much for having me. Battenburg?

Video for "Cup of Brown Joy" :

Monday, February 06, 2012

And then . . . it was February.

Yeah, it's been a while.  Those of you familiar with my blog may note that this happens on occasion with me, these sudden vanishing acts.  You might also likely recall upon my return I tend to post my excuses.  So that's what I'm doing right now.

First, I started a very cool and interesting new Temp job with Engineers Without Borders.  As such, I spent a full week in Ottawa at their annual general conference.  This made it tough to post, but it inspired much fodder for posting anon (it was a truly inspirational week).  Then when I returned I thought I might start posting again, but . . .

I got my edits for THE FRIDAY SOCIETY.  Both from my editor and copy editor.  So that then occupied my time a fair bit.

Now the edits are in, I've got a bit of time, and I promise to post more frequently.  At least for the near future. 

My plan is to start up fresh with a new Steampunk Tuesday tomorrow.

So until then . . .

Enjoy the latest HUNGER GAMES trailer.  I know I did: