Thursday, March 19, 2009

how can I brace myself for razor blades on whips

Sometimes, life takes us strange places. Any life.

In lieu of a formal apology to the usual suspects of the Poetry Slam (each Thursday at five pm SLT, at Winterfell Absinthe--I can make that a SLUrl link later, but just hit me up for a port request around that time if you want to join the mayhem), I'll offer somewhat of an explanation.

Without getting too much into non-SL situations (my personal ones), we live with another maker of things in SL. So many of our conversations in and around the house feature SL to a large extent.

She wanders into our room tonight, where I already sit somewhat stressed because my work on what was to be the next blog entry was taking a lot more thought than I'd anticipated (and ended up making me fifteen minutes late to the Slam), and listened as I read a problematic portion of the entry (concerning Victorian class structure, how rigid it was, and how essentially one was either nobility, of some stripe, and usually born so, or born gutter-poor and rarely elevated past that) aloud.

She asked what I was doing. I explained to her I was trying to identify the core themes of steampunk music...and we were off and running.

In the four hours of intense, heated conversation that followed, we covered eugenics and brutality; Germany's rise to power if unchallenged and weakened by two world wars; potential post-apocalyptic warzones peopled only by the damaged and the mad; the Industrial Revolution, and how necessary it was to save those trammelled underfoot by such social restrictions; the absolute execrable conditions that most lived in during actual Victorian times, in England; the fact that if we had not had the Industrial Revolution, with the concurrent rise of electrical power, over steam power (essentially, if the internal combustion engine had never been invented), we would not have hospitals, colleges, and workspaces that were useable in any of the ways we use them today; the fact that directly due to the advent of mass production, that for the most part, in America, 98% of all citizens are, all factors considered, actually far above what is considered "poverty" in such places like East Timor and Calcutta, India... essence, it went on, and on, and on. And I couldn't think of a way to get out of it, past a certain point.

I'm just concentrating on the music, I kept saying. If I stop, and think through the entire invented history of an alternate time stream in terms of what may or may not have "actually" happened during each year of the developing brain caves in. I stop writing. I stop talking, because my brain will have evaporated from the pressure. I can't encompass all of that in what I'm doing.

I'm just concentrating on the music.

Just the music.

World wars, Victorian culture, the studies of electrical fields and their affects on plants, Nikola Tesla, social anthropology, and all of this flung like knives back and forth, with me doing my best not to hit for vital organs, and her in near tears trying to make me understand why I was wrong.

Just concentrating on the music. Not really thinking about the rest of it. Just the music. I can't get any bigger or I lose all focus.

Four hours. I'm still shaking, she's incredibly depressed, and neither of us have a resolution.

Save for this. I freely acknowledge that if the internal combustion engine, and mass production, had not arrived, had not screamed out to be invented, we would not have the society we have now. Hands down, she's right there. I acknowledge that if gasoline and diesel had not been the power source for the new engines, that we would not have been able to develop so far, so fast (even if I still also believe we could have been in space by now, but that's a whole separate rant). I acknowledge that having non-coal-powered machines and industry was a much better thing for everyone involved (since coal mining is inherently dirty, dangerous and--to this very day--lethal) than coal and steam power at the time. And I agree that a lot of steampunk's adherents are glossing over the bad, in favor of the beauty of nostalgia when seen through rose-colored goggles.

And we both agree that there is far too much fashion (that whole, slap a gear on it, it's Steampunk mentality), and far too little actual content. We do agree there.

We just...disagree on everything else. And at this point I'm tired, I'm shaking, I'm wanting to just kill everything as prosaic posturing, as--as she said--the "errand of a fool".

Give me a bit, I'll come back to it. But for me, it was, it is...all about the music. Just the music. I really wasn't considering the socio-economic devastation that could potentially occur if Germany won both wars in a culture already conditioned to think that clockwork people--and genetically-engineered people--were reality, not fantasy.

It's too much. I can't go there.

It's just the music. It has to be just the music. I can't think bigger than that. I may be wrong--I may be going about everything in the exact wrong way--and I may be making very, very many mistakes as I go.

But I don't know how else to do it. And the project can get bigger once I'm out of the mass band list. Until then...I have to take it as I'm taking it.

One band at a time. One sound at a time. The music. What is, what isn't. What might be. What can't be. Deal with the visuals and the mentality later.

So. In brief (ish), that's what distracted me tonight. I wish it hadn't all blown up. I doubt I'll be reading anything aloud from the blog past this point.

You are, by the way, any of you who read down to here--perfectly free to not respond to this post. I'm not asking people to choose sides, I'm not pushing for support. But I did pretty much go silent for nearly all of the Poetry Slam, and I wanted to mention a bit of why.

Now. Another topic entirely.

In searching for Baron Wulfenbach's "dirty skin"--a project started by Mr. 1wuz Gray, and which I still haven't found anything on--I decided to search through Xstreet Uncensored. Because I don't tend to browse that side of Xstreet, I don't often see the pop-up warning.

I did tonight, and maybe it was just the fried nerves, but they've made one distinct change in the agreement.

You are about to be redirected to Xstreet SL Uncensored.
The adult content within this site is intended for ADULTS ONLY (18 years of age or older). If you are not of legal age or do not wish to view materials of a sexually-explicit nature or you are offended by transgender images or topics, then please click CANCEL now. If you continue to on to view any adult content within this website, you are stating the following:

1. I am an adult over the age of 18 years.

2. I will not allow anyone under the legal age, stated in 1. above, to access any of materials labeled Mature.

3. I am viewing mature content of this site willingly and I understand that by doing so I will be exposed to materials of a sexually-explicit nature.

[OK] [Cancel]

Maybe it's just me, but...exactly when did "transgender topics" become adults-only?


Sphynx Soleil said...

Likely because it involves "bits" and rearranging of said "bits". I don't agree with it either, but that's all I can think of.

(If they can do that in Xstreet, why can't they do that on the grid? Why???? *frustrated growl*)

As for the rest, I accept that a lot (or all) of steampunk is "Victorian flavored" or "Victorian revival" - there's always differences between the original and "revival" in architecture, at least - Egyptian revival being a prime example - and I don't really try and relate it to historical Victorian times as having much relevance on the current subcultureishthing.

Maybe I know too many SCA members? :)


Emilly Orr said...

You know, that's exactly what I thought at first!

And every major game has one of those CYA clauses in their ToS, or at login, and no one has complained yet as far as I know--Runes of Magic (which as of last night, is now out of beta and live, woot) has, in their ToS, which you still have to hit "Confirm" on, every time you log in, a provision that you cannot be under 18 to play the game. Apparently Korean games (the makers are German and Korean) have a provision that all games that involve dueling--PvP--must by country law be 18 or over.

I don't see why SL can't do the same thing. Are you 18? [Y] [N]

And then if people lie, it's on them for lying, not the company for making the game. "We do ask; we are legally bound to ask; it's not our fault."

I'd answer more, but Fawkes, Neome and Midnight are poking me to finish the run in PSO. :p

Emilly Orr said...

And to follow up--maybe we both know more SCA folks, but I'm fine with the idealizing, the concept of Victorian Revival, hells--the concept of 'steampunk' really, at its heart, being purely Victorian fantasy, start to finish, no concrete science involved.

And really, if you read through Verne, and other authors who are counted as the foundation of what's now termed both "steampunk" and "gaslamp fantasy", you'll find there's the same attitude in those works as in the real world at the time:

* Things are bad
* Things need to change
* An invention occurs that revolutionizes the bad things and begins making things good again
* It is thrilling and inspiring; hijinks ensue

There was a phrase she used, that the Victorian era was nearly "pregnant with the need for change"; and at the time, even sitting here now, all I can think of was, It was train time.

I can't remember who said it, but someone said once, that when events happen, when inventions occur, it's because it's time for them to happen. We didn't have cars until it was car time; we didn't have trains until it was train time. And then, separately and together, ideas began to come out of various sectors, some good, some bad, all advancing the idea of the Needed Thing.

Something *had* to happen in Victorian times to advance the culture. There was mass poverty. There were children used as replaceable parts in factories. There were men who died trying to retrieve valves in cases of boats going down or buildings going up, because they cost less than the valve. This had to change. She's right. It had to.

And it did. In reality, it did. And things were jagged, but then evened out, a new balance was found, and slowly, steadily, a better standard of life emerged. She's not wrong.

The problem is, I'm not thinking of all of that. I'm going specifically by a potentially specious start (the Russian composers of the late 1880's-1890's), and "aging up" in reverse by listening to bands now, and trying to hear the influence from then.

I may be failing. I may look back and shake my head at my choices. People may--hells, already do, based on some emails I've gotten--disagree with me.

That's okay. I'm fine with being disagreed with. Where everything fell apart tonight was with being stridently attacked because I didn't hold the proper respect for a fandom she hates (oh yes, that came out later), simply because I'm not adding in all the social and economic factors of the actual, as-things-happened, Victorian age, and consider all the events which did happen after, and--as she said more than once, and I tried to explain, with little success--essentially denied the Industrial Revolution, electricity, the principle of mass production, and the inherent dangers involved in both coal gas and coal power.

And I did not deny those things. But once she had that concept, she would not let it go, and kept bringing it up. So yes, very long, very long night.

*hugs back*

Rhianon Jameson said...

Re: the pop-up warning. It's part of the culture of our Right to Never be Offended. Someone complained, surely, and Xstreet decided the easy approach was to add to the disclaimer. I don't understand it, personally. It's like the magazine rack: if you don't like the T&A mags, move your eyes elsewhere. (The B Dalton at Union Station in DC thoughtfully puts the computer magazines right next to the lad magazines, so you can admire the Maxim cover model while deciding whether to buy a gaming magazine aimed at teenage boys. At least it corrals them into one location.)

Without pretending to understand what the argument was all about - for the record, my simple-minded self sees no problem limiting focus to "just the music," although we've seen what a subjective and totally unsystematic mess that's become - but it must be nice to have someone in the house who doesn't completely hate SL and resents the amount of time you spend in-world. *sigh*

Sphynx Soleil said...

Where everything fell apart tonight was with being stridently attacked because I didn't hold the proper respect for a fandom she hates (oh yes, that came out later), simply because I'm not adding in all the social and economic factors of the actual, as-things-happened, Victorian age...


Maybe it would work better for her as "alternate reality" thinking? An alternate reality where the good stuff happens and the bad stuff didn't?

Meh. It was a thought. Sorry about that level of suckage though. I did wonder why she didn't get involved with it, it seemed kind of odd, now I know why.

Emilly Orr said...

Miss Jameson: Fffft. We do not have a right not to be offended; no one has that right. Most Americans do strongly have that sense of entitlement, however.

And no, that's the upstairs people that resent the amount of time spent in SL. *shrugs*

I'm remembering Kent, Washington. In Kent, dancing is outlawed. (I'm not making this up, it really is--or at least used to be a few years back, they might have changed things.) This is because dancing, according to the city fathers, leads to "immorality", and nothing must lead to immorality.

So. Do the men and women of Kent go elsewhere to dance? Likely. But as a friend of mine in Bellingham discovered, when she worked at B. Dalton's there, the men of Kent come to the mall--and her store in it--in droves for porn. It seemed to amp up the need for such things to an insane level.

There's this feeling that if we outlaw something, no good person will want such a thing. In actuality, it happens in reverse: if we do not outlaw a thing, if we treat it like it's no large concern, at best a momentary phase that will pass...there's no curiosity for forbidden things.

But, eh, that's also a rant for somewhere else, likely. :)

Emilly Orr said...

Sphynx: It turned out that there were actually two root causes of last night.

1. She had a friend who was well-known (in the community) for playing Boba Fett at conventions. This was in the time before mass marketing of costumes, and he hand-hammered, painted and aged his Boba Fett costume, entirely his own work, made from a near-obsessive watching of the film.

When he died--a motorcycle accident on a dangerous stretch of California highway--by will and by his family's permission, he had two funerals: one for the family, small and intimate; and one for the fandom, in which his Boba Fett costume was laid out atop his coffin.

Because, in her mind, the Star Wars fandom was alive and active until George Lucas, himself, cheapened and commercialized the ideas by three ruinous "prequels", she is infuriated by anyone who enters a fandom without having solid creditation and starts saying what things are or not allowed.

2. To her, "steampunk"--a term she dislikes intensely--should more properly be called "Victorian fiction". As fiction, in her mind it is a narrow, easily defined genre, does not escape its borders in any direction, and is not musical in any way--or, if music can at all be said to be "steampunk", it is Victorian music. Which to her means no vocals, no homemade instruments, no music distribution in any way; just simple orchestral compositions recorded in the time and passed out by means of sheet music alone. And nothing changes her mind on this; that is all that "steampunk" is, it cannot be other, and anyone who says it is is wrong.

And she doesn't like "steampunk" anyway, because she sees the same thing happening that I see happening in the goth culture: from homemade lace and nihilism to Hot Topic in twenty years. She sees a small and aberrant selection of literature and Victorian era groupies, ten years later, turn into pop icons (Abney Park, to her, have nothing to do with steampunk music in any way; they just wear goggles) and people who slap gears on things 'because it's cool'.

She's not entirely wrong on any of her points, I just have a wider view. And because I have a wider view, I am somehow, in her mind, tied in with Lucas' tarnishing of his own fandom, and her friend's death, and people who don't get that steampunk is more than just the Holy Gear.

Edward Pearse, Duke of Argylle said...

You know, despite hearing the angst you've had with this argument with the housemate, I wouldn't mind taking her on with her arguments. The one of Germany's rise to power without the two world wars is load of tripe. Late 19th century Germany was little different from late 19th century Britain. In the Isles those in power promoted the idea of "Britishness" to try and curb some of the simmering nationalism that festered in Wales and Ireland and Scotland. Not that it worked. In Europe the idea of "Germanness" was promoted to try and overcome the 300 assorted Kingdoms, Principalities, Duchies and City States that were endlessly squabbling with each other. That one actually worked.

I have said on several occasions Steampunk is to Victorian history what the SCA is to the Middle Ages. Trying to tie Steampunk to Victorian historicity is like asking why there are no Vulcans or transporters in Star Wars. They're both science fiction so they should both follow the same genre shouldn't they?

Though I do note the irony of the idea that the prequels ruined the SW franchise she will love the idea of Wil Smith playing Captain Nemo in the prequel to 20,000 Leagues currently in production :-)

If she thinks Victorian music is no vocals she really needs to put her head out of her arse. Elgar and Strauss are just as Victorian as Harry Dacre, George Leybourne, Dame Nellie Melba or Enrico Caruso.

I would agree with the Hot Topic analogy but that happens to all subcultures that reach critical mass. How many 15 year olds wear Ramones t-shirts without knowing they were even a band? I don't like it happening either but then if because of this I may be able to one day get a mobile phone that has a brass keypad and a mahogany finish to it I think that would be a good thing.

Yep, I think I could right into this debate :-)

Emilly Orr said...

If she thinks Victorian music is no vocals she really needs to put her head out of her arse. Elgar and Strauss are just as Victorian as Harry Dacre, George Leybourne, Dame Nellie Melba or Enrico Caruso.

Well, precisely, but ooh, I'd forgotten entirely about Leybourne and Caruso. Keen. More "current sources" to evolve into the "steampunk now".

I have no problem IMing you the name, if you truly wish to wrangle, but she's very dogmatic, and she does not let things go. All day long, she kept dropping in with tidbits, the most outlandish of which was, without electricity, there would be no theremin, so hah! And first, I never said that electricity would not have been discovered and adapted, it would have, because electrical power is very much a "train time" issue--when the time for electricity rolled around, there were a lot of folks working on things, Tesla and Edison notably among them.

But she developed the idea somewhere along the line--because I'd tossed up a concept on Nikola Tesla's idea that power would be better conducted by burying power lines deep underground (and you don't even want to know the hour-plus of debate that inspired, as nearly everything I tried to say at that point was dismissed as "you'll believe anything you read on the net" (which was ironic, as that tale I'd read in a Denver library mid-eighties)--that I was insisting that steampunk society would not have electricity in any fashion, and thus, the world would be forever in darkness, in the postapocalyptic wasteland where all is dire suffering and madness reigns.

I'm out of it--I'm more just making appropriate noises--and I'm sure it's going to take at least a week before she tosses up 'facts' to 'disprove' my 'position'.


Anonymous said...

I did an identical double-take regarding the XStreetSL disclaimer not long ago, but then I double-checked... turns out that the inclusion of "transgender images or topics" is NOT new. In fact, aside from changing "SL Exchange" to "Xstreet SL", the current wording is identical to the version archived on November 5, 2006.

Still a ridiculous inclusion, but this one's not the Lab's fault.

Emilly Orr said...

Then yes, I'm still stating, it's a ridiculous standard, but that does in fact cement how often I use the uncensored side of SLX--normally, folks who send me links from that side of things, I auto-click through the yes-I'm-of-age notices until I see whatever they wanted me to see.

This time, I paused to read what I was clicking. :p

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