How To Be As Annoying As A Gryffindor

How To Be As Annoying As A Gryffindor

The Hogwarts express!

This magical moment is brought to you by Glimmerdark Fairy Festival, which reminds you: Wands are for waving, not for eating!  Usually!

How To Be As Annoying As A Gryffindor

1. Be academically slapdash, yet clearly be several teachers’ favorite student. Ravenclaws seethe.

2. Go about things in an inefficient, pig-headed, holier-than-thou moralistic fashion, yet always win. Slytherin hearts freeze.

3. Be really brave and loyal, thus rendering Hufflepuff (even more) pointless.

4. Have Great Cosmic Power. Be Really Emo About It.

5. Be aware of all of the above, yet never ONCE stop to wonder why everybody else wants you dead.

~Jeff Mach

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Jeff Mach runs Jeff Mach Events, which in turn runs the world’s largest Steampunk event, The Steampunk World’s Fair; the peculiar Faerie festival Glimmerdark, and co-runs Dark Side Of The Con (with VampireFreaks).  He’s on Twitter @steamworldsfair.

Steampunk Tips For The New And Curious

Steampunk Tips For The New And Curious

Photo by @Babs Who Takes Pictures, from The Steampunk World’s Fair 2013

We get a lot of new people at The Steampunk World’s Fair, and we like it.  Rennies, Goths, geeks, convention-goers, historians and anyone who loves imaginative worlds – they all come to us for their first Steampunk experience, and we’re honored.

How do you do Steampunk “right”?  What are the rules?

Secret: There aren’t any!

Oh, sure, if you show up as Gandalf or Captain Jack Sparrow, with no Steampunk elements, nothing fanciful, nothing 19th century, people will be sad.  But if you take some form of alternative 19th-century history, interpreted YOUR way, nobody can criticize.  Author GD Falksen once famously said “Steampunk is Victorian Science Fiction”.  Let’s be honest: he’s  a Victorian science fiction writer.  Of course he wants to see Steampunk that way.  No offense, but Steampunk is much bigger.

DO: Play around!  Have fun! Be creative, and don’t be afraid!

DON’T: Let anyone tell you “You’re doing it wrong.”

DO: Try new things. Be creative if you want.  But also, if you want to show up in a t-shirt and just get a feel for what’s going on, that’s okay.

DON’T: Fall into the trap of thinking the most elaborate, the most historically-detailed, the most “accurate” Steampunk is real.  Nobody owns Steampunk.  Nobody can tell you what to do.

DO:  Accept everyone and welcome them as comrades!

DON’T: Discriminate on race, creed, gender, or even level of experience.  We’re past that.

Get the theme?  It’s this:

Nobody owns Steampunk.  Take something vaguely from around the 19th century and have fun with it.  That is ALL you need to do to.  You can always do more – but you Do. Not. Have. To.  Just go out and enjoy yourself.  Be a Steampunk Fairy. Be a Dark Victorian.  Be a Steampunk Goth.  Be of whatever race, gender, sexual preference, or other attributes which fit you; NONE ARE WRONG!  We whatever you want to be.  Come to Steampunk, find us, and have a home.

The Steampunk World’s Fair is dedicated to radical inclusivity in Stemapunk.  We’re also the world’s largest Steampunk event.  Coincidence?  ABSOLUTELY NOT.  Create a safe home for people, and you create a place that’s ripe for all the creativity and joy Steampunk can muster.

We do Fairy Things.  We do Goth Things.  We do adult-only things, too.  And they all have one thing in common: ALL ARE WELCOME.

Come be whoever and whatever you want to be.  We’d love to welcome you.  Join us!  Join us!

-Jeff Mach

Gothic things:  www.darksideofthecon.com

Fairy things: www.glimmerdark.com

Steampunk: www.steampunkworldsfair.com

All the things: www.jeffmachevents.com

and to keep me writing:

www.patreon.com/jeffmach

 

 

More thoughts: Making great Steampunk, Goth, or Fairy Events

Photo of Holly Brewer from HUMANWINE; photo taken by Babs Who Takes Pictures

“The world always seems brighter when you’ve just made something that wasn’t there before.”
-Neil Gaiman

So I run events for a living. But I don’t call myself an event organizer; I call myself a Playground Builder. And here’s why:

My younger brother is developmentally disabled. He’s 35 now, but his mental age is somewhere in the 2-4ish range. (I can tell you: My brother was a 30-year-old My Little Pony fan way before it was cool.)

And Louis loves the things kids love. Trick or treating. Toy stores. Playgrounds. It was the playgrounds which taught me the best lesson, and I’d like to share it with you.

Louis is a kid. That’s how he acts, that’s how he sees himself. He’s not big for his age – something arrested his physical growth as well as his mental acuity – but he’s easily twice the size of the people he perceives as his “age”. And he really doesn’t speak as well as someone who is three or four; he’s got unusual verbal tics and mannerisms.

This is the thing:

The worst playground in the world is the one where kids turn away from him, won’t respond when he talks to him, or, hardest of all, laugh.

The best playground in the world is the one where a person, usually so small in comparison that they need to reach way way up to do it, takes him by the hand and leads him over to come and play.

In other words, the playground matters very little…compared to the players.

I don’t build physical playgrounds; I build events. And if you want to try to have a great event, I believe you should try to have events which encourage wonderful people. And don’t be afraid of seeming corny or silly – sure “wonderful people” sounds more like a description for a kid’s show than a kink event. I don’t care; the phrasing works. Praise kindness and model it in your own actions. Value respect. Fight for safety even when it’s very hard to know how to make a space “safe”. Discourage hateful people. Turn down their money; urge them to take their business elsewhere.

Let me give you, then, my big secret, the formula, the recipe for a great event:

1. Attract amazing people and try to treat them well.
2. That’s it.

~Jeff Mach

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Jeff Mach runs Jeff Mach Events, which in turn runs the world’s largest Steampunk event, The Steampunk World’s Fair; the peculiar Faerie festival Glimmerdark, and co-runs Dark Side Of The Con (with VampireFreaks).  He’s on Twitter @steamworldsfair.

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Photo of Holly Brewer from HUMANWINE; photo taken by Babs Who Takes Pictures.  You can see Holly at Glimmerdark.

It’s very hard to kill a werewolf.

It’s very hard to kill a werewolf.

Do you happen to know a song called “Werewolves of London”?  It’s by a fellow named Warren Zevon, now deceased.  There are two things I think about, when Warren comes to mind:

  1. For a number of reasons, he’s my favorite recording artist (and his musical performances were some of the best I’ve seen.  That’s saying a lot, as, when you run The Steampunk World’s Fair, you see a tremendous amount of live music throughout the year.  But there’s something about Warren’s dark, funny, moving, sweet, sharp-edged lyrics which really gets to me, and I admire his range; his career spanned all the way from country to hard rock to cyberpunk to singer-songwriter.
  2. There is a man who REALLY REALLY REALLY hated singing “Werewolves of London”.

See, “Werewolves of London” was Warren’s hit song; it happened near the beginning of his career – after he’d had enough failure and rejection to really appreciate having some success.  It brought him to Letterman (and he and David Letterman became friends; he was later on several times, and featured Mr. Letterman in one of his songs).  It took him out on tour with a great band.  And it launched…

…what you might pretty much see as a career that declined from that on.

Declined financially, I mean; artistically, he did incredible, incredible things over the next two decades.  But they just didn’t get noticed.  He still wrote a lot of very quirky, offbeat songs, just because that’s what he did.  But reviews (and oh, I read a lot of his reviews, in actual newspapers and magazines, pawing through the pages to hear what they thought of Warren’s new album – the reviews all said:

-“It’s a good album, but he’s trying too hard to have another ‘Werewolves of London'”

or

-“It’s a good album, but there’s no “Werewolves of London” here.

After Warren’s death, his executors made a lot of live recordings (bootlegs!) available over at archive.org, and I do, of course, own all of his albums (“fan” is still short for “fanatic”; of all the slang terms I’ve heard in my life, that one’s never changed).  I’ve heard Warren sing Werewolves many times.  There’s that crisp, sharp, punchy delivery when it first came out on album.  Then there’s the roaring rock-band wall of sounds on the live album, with strut and cheeky messing with the words.  And then…

….then, I have about two decades of Warren not wanting to sing this damn song anymore.  You can hear it in his voice.  And he was an ironic person, he’d say, “And now, it’s that time I’ve been looking forward to ever since my last drink”, or “I think you know what happens now”.  Never disrespectful to the audience, but the bitterness is visible, and while his playing is meticulously, technically correct, and he’s carefully on-key… there’s no joking around, as there often was with other old songs that made it into his 90s sets.

Warren Zevon worked with Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Dave Gilmour, George Clinton.  One of his songs became a hit for Linda Rondstadt.  He’s one of few rock musicians who made coherent Cyberpunk concept album, “Transverse City”.

And all most people wanted was that “Aoooooo” song.

He still makes it onto classic rock stations, and sometimes into “thousand greatest song” countdowns.  Sometimes, his other songs will make an appearance – if the DJ is feeling very, very puckish, or if it’s Two for Tuesday.

I was a kid in my twenties, watching an artist in his late 40s desperately, desperately trying to escape his one-hit past through making great art.

In 2002, Warren was diagnosed with throat cancer; citing his lifelong fear of physicians, he wryly said, “”I might have made a tactical error in not going to a physician for 20 years.”  Rather than have his voice incapacitated by treatments whose prognosis was dicey, he recorded a final album. “The Wind”.  It’s a great album.  It never enjoyed commercial success, but the music’s original, strong as anything, and runs a range from gently poignant to raucous.

Still, as I listen to it again, I can’t help but be struck that here was a man who died doing what he loved, and died throwing himself into his work – but I’m not sure if he died happy.  I’m not sure that he ever got out from under that one hit which defined him to the majority of the world.

As I look at what I could create and do in the world, I think of Warren often.  I want to do something that people remember, something which endures after my death.  But I also don’t want to be remembered for just one thing, or just one piece.  I’d like to do a lot of memorable things.  I’d love to create a lot of great art.  I don’t know if I have it in me, or, if I do, if I’ll be able to show that message to other people.  But I know I’m going to make an attempt.

I’m going to slay the werewolf.  Or I’m going to die trying.

~Jeff Mach

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Jeff Mach runs Jeff Mach Events, which in turn runs the world’s largest Steampunk event, The Steampunk World’s Fair; the peculiar Faerie festival Glimmerdark, and co-runs Dark Side Of The Con (with VampireFreaks).  He’s on Twitter @steamworldsfair.

A Terrible Confession regarding Tea

A Terrible Confession regarding Tea

Dark secret for those who read the alt text: The stock photo gallery actually says that this is a person drinking coffee, not tea. Don't tell!

“America’s new tea lovers are the people who have forced the tea trade to wake up. Elsewhere, tea has meant a certain way, a certain tradition, for centuries, but this is America! The American tea lover is heir to all the world’s tea drinking traditions, from Japanese tea ceremonies to Russian samovars to English scones in the afternoon. India chai, China green, you name it and we can claim it and make it ours. And that’s just what we are doing. In this respect, ours is the most innovative and exciting tea scene anywhere.”
~James Norwood Pratt

Erm.  I’m not quite sure how to say this.

I don’t really like tea that much.

I’m sorry!  I realize that it’s one of the cardinal sins in Steampunk.  But it’s true.

Recently, I was driving with a friend, and she said, “And what kind of tea do you like?”

“Sugar,” I replied.

“I beg your pardon?” she said.

“Sugar.  I take tea pretty much as an excuse to put as much sugar into my mouth at one time as humanly possible.  There is literally no limit to the amount of sugar I will put in tea.  You could fill the entire mug with sugar and drop a tea leaf on top, and I would consume it.”

“Stop!”

“It’s true. When I’m at restaurants, if, for some reason, I’m drinking loathsome tea, instead of the Universe’s perfect food, coffee, I will put in as many packets of sugar as I feel I can without actively offending the other people at the table.  Sometimes, I’ll wait for them to look away so I can put more sugar in.”

“No, seriously,” she said, “I’d love to make you some lovely lovely tea.  What do you prefer? Floral notes? Bright, with a clean finish?  Smooth?  Full?”

“I literally have no idea what those terms mean in this context.  I am going to assume you’re making these things up.”

She looked as though she was considering smacking me, and I presume she didn’t do so because I was driving.  She opened her mouth, but nothing came out.

“You know when I was with my husband in China?  We went to a venerable tea house where I had a tea from a tea plant which had literally flowered for 2,000 years in an unbroken lineage.  It tasted like green muck.”

At this point, she began beating me about the head and neck with her parasol, and that’s when I crashed my TARDIS into 1827.

~Jeff Mach

(Tea terms stolen from the Stash Tea educational blog.)

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Jeff Mach runs Jeff Mach Events, which in turn runs the world’s largest Steampunk event, The Steampunk World’s Fair; the peculiar Faerie festival Glimmerdark, and co-runs Dark Side Of The Con (with VampireFreaks).  He’s on Twitter @steamworldsfair.

How do you run a good event?

How do you run a good event?

Steampunk woman with goggles.As someone who’s been in the event business for twenty years, I often get asked, “How do you run a good event?” I have six rules – and I’ll share them with you.

1. Die. Die every time you realize you’ve made a mistake you could have prevented. Die every time someone is sad and the event hasn’t cheered them up. Die every time you ask more of a member of your team than you rightly should.

2. Be reborn. Every time someone says they’re having the weekend of their life, every time someone says they’ve found new parts of themselves, every time someone comes to say, “I met someone at your event two years ago – and now we’re getting married!”

3. Care. Every mistake matters. Every problem matters. Every piece of feedback matters. Every good thing and every bad thing matters.

4. Have perspective. Because everything matters – but the event as a whole matters more than any individual mistake, criticism, or praises.

5. If your mind and body permit, work your ass off. Not simply to be a workaholic. And not because a well-run event needs you to kill yourself to make it go – in fact, a well-run event shouldn’t need that at all. But you work your ass off for this:

An event should be a total sensory experience for everyone there. That means you, too. And since you already know what’s going to happen, and don’t have the luxury of being just a participant, be the next best thing: throw your mind, body, and soul into what you do.

6. Practice joy. This is the newest one for me. I used to believe that my job was to create joy in others, but to push myself too hard to enjoy anything. I thought that made a good event – and you know what? When I was inexperienced and events were full of chaos, it was needed. But now that my events run well, it’s not needed. I need, instead, to project through myself want I want to see in everyone: that glorious feeling of running amok with a thousands of your closest family, your chosen family, your kin.

I am the luckiest person in the world, and I have the best job in the Universe. I thank you all. And I love you all.

~Jeff Mach

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Jeff Mach runs Jeff Mach Events, which in turn runs the world’s largest Steampunk event, The Steampunk World’s Fair; the peculiar Faerie festival Glimmerdark, and co-runs Dark Side Of The Con (with VampireFreaks).  He’s on Twitter @steamworldsfair.