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


Jeff Mach Himself

Jeff Mach is one of Steampunk’s premier singer songwriters in the opinion of both of his parents.

Jeff Mach is the person behind Jeff Mach Events, which puts on several events – including this one!  He wants you to know, however, that he gained his position as a performer through hard work and merit and wearing an excellent hat.

Our Artistic Director notes: “It was mostly the hat.”

The Most Fantastical Steampunk Songs Ever Written (by Jeff Mach, anyway)

If you don’t come see my set, I will have Popcorn throw you out. -Jeff Mach

Jeff’s been a singer-songwriter for almost thirty years.  His songs are wry, darkly humorous, witty, sharp, and sometimes poignant and sad, as well.  Almost all of his songs tell various stories of Steampunk worlds – of mad scientists, of air pirates, of giant robots, and, sometimes, Steam-accountants.

Care And Feeding Of Jeffs At Events

There’s an event coming up soon – check for details.

Many people are kind enough to ask about my welfare at events, and/or want to help me with things. I’m creating a really teeny note about some of the things I run into most often. You’re still welcome to ask about these things. I’m just putting them out there.

It’s probably best to note that I view events much as I’d view participating in a fairly hardcore endurance event. (It’s not a perfect analogy by any means – for example, on the one hand, I can rest more often than I would in an endurance race; on the other hand, I’m also more likely to have emergencies come and eat me.)

  • Water. People often ask me if I’ve had enough water. On any given day at an event, I drink approximately a gallon of water. I do stay hydrated as best I can.

Food. It’s amazing how often people ask if I’ve eaten. It’s also really kind of them. I eat about every two hours at events; I also stretch, meditate, and take lots of vitamins. I primarily eat relatively low-fat, high-protein food, plus vegetables, in the staff meal areas, and protein bars and shakes.

  • Sleep. Folks kindly assume that I never sleep at events. Actually, it’s other folks who generally, through either preference or excitement, sleep very little. I am a sleep fanatic. Any night at an event when I haven’t had six to eight hours of sleep is either a really serious bout of insomnia, or a crisis for which I was awakened.
  • Alcohol and such. People are often kind enough to offer me alcohol and related lovely things. Barring illness, I seldom take anything on-site, including caffeine, except for my prescription sleep drugs. Thank you, though!  I often will accept little airline bottles, though, for after the event
  • Cake, candy, bacon, and other delicious foods People often offer me those things at events. I am terribly grateful for it, and feel free to keep doing it! But note that I pretty much never eat those things at events, and I will usually take it, with gratitude, and give it go some deserving staff member or awesome volunteer or kind person of some sort. I do, however, gladly accept protein bars.
  • Being kind to our staff and team.  That is about one of the best things you can do to make me really, really happy.
  • And do come back next year – or next event.  Because I’d love to see you again!

~Jeff Mach

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.