Building (Metaphorical) Steampunk Playgrounds

“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
Jeff Mach Events

My Steampunk New Year’s Resolutions

This is a picture of me - Jeff Mach - taken at The Steampunk World's Fair by Babs Who Takes Pictures. As usual, I am utterly confused by my surroundings.

This is a picture of me – Jeff Mach – taken at The Steampunk World’s Fair by Babs Who Takes Pictures. As usual, I am utterly confused by my surroundings.

As a Steampunk, a dreamer, and a generally weird individual, I hereby make the following resolutions for 2018:

I plan to go out there and be as strange as I want, and as normal as I want, and not to worry about which is which.  If other people want to call me weird, I will take it as a compliment.  If they don’t mean it that way, then that is their loss!

I am going to attempt to be creative and make new and unique things!  But I will also have days when all I want to do is stay in bed in my fuzzy gear-and-coc pajamas, and on those days, I’ll be proud just get the heck out of bed.  Because being called to be different is not always an easy thing, and it’s sometimes going to be difficult as hell.  But it’s also incredibly rewarding.  I will try to remember both of those.

I can be as silly as I want, as eccentric as I would like.  But I also know that Steampunk – and dreaming in general – is not a competition.  I don’t have to be “more” Steampunk or “more” eccentric than anyone else.  I just have to make myself happy and be good to those around me.

I will foster an indomitable spirit, because you need a strong spirit to keep dreams alive.  I will foster a sense of whimsy, because humor keeps the spirit whole.  And I will wear ridiculous hats if I want to!  There’s no particular reason for that.  I just like silly hats.

I will face the future and the imaginary past, and I will attempt to conquer them with happiness, good times, good friends, new ideas, and a rich, full life.  And if that fails, then I will resort to my fallback plan, which is conquering the world with my army of clockwork flying monkeys.

Yours in service to Dream,

Jeff Mach
Jeff Mach Events

 

The Wicked Faire: A Steampunk Origin Story

Wicked Faire blue-haired Steampunk Rennaissance Faire attendee!

(Photo from The Wicked Faire 2013 – by Babs Who Takes Pictures)Our flagship event, The Wicked Winter Renassance Faire, was seminal to how we got into Steampunk.  We created an indoor Renaissance Faire which broke all the rules of Renfaires – so when Steampunk came along and broke all the rules of what a punk or geek culture could we, be embraced it with open arms.

This is the ethos behind doing an unbounded Faire; it was written eight years back, and I think you might see how it influenced the Steampunk we do.

“Hello! This is Jeff Mach, of the Wicked Winter Chocolate Factory Renaissance Faire. You may have heard of us; you may not. This is the part where it would be helpful for me to describe Wicked Faire in a single pithy sentence…but I’ve never been able to do that well, even though I strongly believe a promoter should be able to explain things that simply.

I’ll try this: If you took an event which changed rules of place and time, like a Renaissance Faire; had an insane amount of entertainment, like a festival; was social and full of rich interaction, like a convention; and worked its metaphorical ass off to give unusual people a place that felt like home–

Then you’d come as close to a good description as I can.”

We’ve gone through good times and bad time and most of all weird times, and we’ve learned this: the more we welcome and accept ever-greater weirdness and friendliness, the more we help create joy.

If we do it right, if we welcome you, then I feel, in the back of my mind and the center of my heart and the core of my gut, that we have succeeded in the thing I wanted most: We have put together something unspeakably, gloriously, wizardly unworldly great this year–and at the very damn core of my being, I want to share it with you.

That was my credo almost a decade back.  It’s my credo now.  And it’s my happiness and my delight to see that I’m not alone – to see that Steampunks all over the world feel the same way.

I live in the best of all possible worlds: the one right between the imaginary and the infinitely possible.

Yours in service to dreams,

Jeff Mach
Jeff Mach Events

Steampunk For World Domination: An introduction

Steampunk: Let's take over the world!“I’ve been making a list of the things they don’t teach you at school. They don’t teach you how to love somebody. They don’t teach you how to be famous. They don’t teach you how to be rich or how to be poor. They don’t teach you how to walk away from someone you don’t love any longer. They don’t teach you how to know what’s going on in someone else’s mind. They don’t teach you what to say to someone who’s dying. They don’t teach you anything worth knowing.” 
― Neil Gaiman, “The Kindly Ones”

Steampunk: Exactly what the hell are we creating here, anyway?

I’m going to let you in on a huge secret here: Steampunk is imaginary. But just because it’s imaginary doesn’t mean that it’s not real.

Consider how odd our ideas of “reality” are.  Does a locked door stop you from going through?  Not if there’s an emergency fire axe. Does a door marked quote “authorized personnel only” keep you out? Not if you are authorized – or rude – or have a mission – or are fearless.

So many barriers are of the mind, not the physical world. Hell, even barriers of the physical world are overrated; ask the athlete or the survivor who  “can’t go another step”–and then puts one foot in front of the other until they get there.

Steampunk is a product of thought, inspiration, dream, and spirit. Without those intangible things, it we would never create anything “real”–that is, tangible things, things which everyone perceives as being “real”. Humans would never make, transcend, build, invest, or dream. They would, in short, not be human.

So how about we break some barriers of Reality together?

We’re going to offer you some pathways and portals  into the glorious alternative realities, the rich places in the mind, heart, and passion, which are Steampunk.  It’s my hope that you can use them for any world of the imagination with which you might care to work or play.

The unreal world awaits your royal pleasure, O Majesty of the Mind.

Let’s jump in!

-Jeff Mach

Jeff Mach Events

Some Ideas For Creating A Sweet Steampunk Cocktail

Tuxedo cocktail, consisting of Old Tom Gin, dry vermouth, maraschino liqueur, absinthe and orange bitters, garnished with a maraschino cherry and a lemon twist

If you’re like me, you spend a great deal of time thinking about the important things in life: Steampunk, and cocktails.  If you’re a LOT like me, you spend as much time as possible combining the two.

What are some ways to make a truly great Steampunk cocktail?  Here are a few pointers that I’ve picked up over the years.

First off, if you’re thinking of something sweet, did you know that it is entirely possible to get tiny edible top hats?  It is!  I’ll admit a secret: I have always wanted to purchase some of them and place them atop a cocktail, but I haven’t yet.  I’m giving this secret away to you in case you want to try it first.  Please let me know how it turns out!

For sweet drinks, consider this simple combination of flavor and color: take dark rum, pour it halfway into the glass, and add some grenadine.  You’ll get a splash of deep red which looks a little like a heart, and it will give you bit of a candied flavor.  Then be extra Steampunk and go overboard by putting in some actual candy!  (You can even make your own Steampunk candy molds, if you want to.)

In general, if you want to theme your drink, you could use bourbon for something with a Wild Wild West Steampunk; Gin for something British; and Absinthe for something that will make you see airships and possibly travel through time.  (Do NOT try combining all three into one drink.  Trust me on this one.  I’ve heard it can be done, but I believe it involves some sort of dark magic.)

That being said, combining gin and green absinthe will give you something with a lovely light green tinge, and a powerful kick, as well.  Absinthes vary tremendously, of course; but choosing something with a strong anise flavour will give you a nice bite, which will compliment the kick of the gin.  And you can always add to the verdant look with another sweet alcohol – Midori.  Midori doesn’t have a Steampunk tradition, but I find it quite tasty.

(You can get the same color possibilities with vodka, but vodka has a bit less Steampunk history; also, vodka is best consumed neat, preferably while standing atop a snow-covered Russian steppe while grimly awaiting the approach of Napoleon’s army).

I could – and likely will – write whole articles on Absinthe.  But if we’re looking for a sweet cocktail with bourbon, let me give this simple advice: bitters!  As you might know, despite their name, these drink spices come in a variety of flavors.  I’d recommend picking one which really suits your own tastes – this, of course, has the added bonus which comes with all cocktail experimentation: It means you get to try out lots of lovely beverages while you’re figuring out what you like best!

-Jeff Mach

Jeff Mach Events