Put a gear on it: The Art of Steampunk

This morning I’m reading the gorgeous review copy of The Art of Steampunk (the revised second edition). Its full title is The Art of Steampunk: Extraordinary Devices and Ingenious Contraptions from the Leading Artists of the Steampunk Movement. It’s a coffee table paperback, with beautiful photos of steampunk art and short articles, focused on the 2009-2010 Steampunk exhibit at the Oxford Museum of the History of Science.

The photos are awesome, glossy and often full-page, and I liked having a collection of them. The art is admirable! I especially enjoyed Mikhail Smolyanov’s motorcycles and Jessica Joslin’s mechanical animals.

Jessica joslin animal

My favorite art piece by far is Joey Marsocci’s Amelia Earhart Navigational System which has a brain in a bubbling, steaming jar on top of what looks like a wooden radio cabinet and which you can type on to get audio clips of Amelia Earhart’s voice (as a paranormal connection). It looks completely amazing, and I’m a sucker for anything that’s a complex framing of history. Here’s a short video about the piece:

Richard Nagy’s steampunk laptop designs are also just great!

As I read The Art of Steampunk this morning I spent some very enjoyable time looking up the artists and their work. I think this book could be a fun starting point for anyone interested in adding some biographies to Wikipedia, and their notability is easily sourced.

I am very fond of analyzing anthologies, who is in them and why, how genres or cultures are defined, looking at who’s in the index or table of contents, and so on, all in a political context. It is a lifetime habit! As maybe is obvious from my enormous anthology project on Spanish-American women poets I particularly like to look at the inclusion and non-inclusion of women.

Of the 17 artists featured in the museum exhibition, or at least in the book’s description of the exhibition, only 2 are women. The book’s introduction says,

Although it’s technocentric in styling, Steampunk design is definitely not just a “boy’s club” of enthusiasts. Its fans and creators are equally divided among women and men, young and old alike, from around the world.

Claims to diversity stand out to me in anthologies when they are not actually reflected in the work represented. It would be better, I think, to acknowledge the diversity represented — in this case artists from several different countries — and also acknowledge where it is lacking or flawed.

A section at the front shows work and biographical profiles for eight more artists whose work was perhaps not known to the book’s editor until after the exhibition, and the work featured dates from after 2009. 6 of these 8 artists are women. I note it as an improvement in apparent diversity in the book, even if it was not reflected in the museum exhibition.

I was somewhat annoyed, in this context, that the book’s editor referred to Mary Shelley in another attempt to be “diverse”, but spelled her name wrong.

While reading this book I thought of postcolonialist steampunk and Jaymee Goh’s blog Silver Goggles, always worth reading. I like her critiques of racism and colonialism in steampunk communities and the framing of “what steampunk is”. Beyond Victoriana: A Multicultural Perspective on Steampunk by Ay-leen also explores, well, actual diversity in the culture and its representation.

Beyond Victoriana is the oldest-running blog about multicultural steampunk and retro-futurism–that is, steampunk outside of a Western-dominant, Eurocentric framework. Founded in 2009, Beyond Victoriana focuses on non-Western cultures, underrepresented minorities in Western histories (Asian / Pacific Islander, Middle Eastern, First Nation, Hispanic, black / African & other marginalized identities), and the cultural intersection between the West and the non-West.

The Art of Steampunk didn’t overtly focus on pith helmets and celebrations of colonialism but it does not go deep into the possibilities despite its sweeping claims of diversity. So while I love the book, I wish that there were more of it!

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My tiny adorable flowered computer!

I got an HP Mini Vivienne Tam edition to review a few days ago, and I’ve used it so far for blogging, surfing, email, IM-ing, and writing up my thoughts in Notepad. Here’s my preliminary review based on four days of casual but heavy use.

This is a good computer for a blogger or a student who doesn’t need a huge screen or massive computing power. Also it’s incredibly cute.

Here’s some praise!

I’m a demanding blogger. I type 100 words a minute and I like to have about 50 tabs open. This HP Mini was incredibly easy for me to slip into using. I blogged from it without noticing the slightly smaller keyboard; I could type just as fast as I usually do. The size, key placement, action, and feel of the keys are all just great. If you’ve tried a mini before, but had trouble getting used to the keyboard, you may be pleased with a Mini.

The screen is big and very readable! It’s tiny and very light.

I like the way the case opens and shuts. The shell is hard plastic – not fabric or gelskin covered.

It has two USB ports, which seems quite nice.

I’m happy with a 60GB hard drive in such a tiny, light computer.

The wireless mouse works well.

Everything I wanted out of my Asus EeePC, but sadly never quite got, has come true in this adorable netbook!

Here’s my wishlist.

I fervently wish for holes in the case where I could attach straps. Two holes near the hinge would be ideal, so that I could put a shoulder strap on this beastie. At She’s Geeky conference this weekend, how many women did I just watch, walking around the room holding a computer, a paper notepad, a pen, a purse, and a latte? Around the house, it would be all that plus a book and a baby and 6 things you’ve picked up from the living room to move to the office. Computers need handles. But beyond the OLPC or old clamshell iMac handles that require a hand. Shoulder strap power!

Backlit keys would make me *very* happy. I’m often typing in bed or in a darkened room, in work meetings or conferences. It’s lovely if I can see the keys, but keep the screen relatively dim.

Neutral thoughts

* Mostly, I use MacOS X or Linux. So this is the first time I’ve used Windows. While I’m not especially impressed with Windows XP, I’m also not especially annoyed. So for a week or two, I’m going to stick with XP to give it a fair shake.

* I haven’t tried doing any development on this machine yet, but I think that will go quite well.

* I haven’t tested battery life. So far, it hasn’t been a problem, but I haven’t approached it systematically.

* I haven’t tried the webcam yet. It has a built in camera! I will take it through some video chat paces.

* I haven’t tried installing any games or a Second Life client on it. I’ll let you all know how that goes. I figure, I don’t play a ton of games, but if Second Life behaves well, then I can stand by my recommendation the computer for the writer and student who’s also a casual gamer.

My criticisms of the HP Mini are minor.

* The computer goes to sleep a bit too quickly when I half-close the lid. I’m often blogging or emailing or IM-ing in social or work situations, or doing actual work with private information in a cafe, and if someone comes up to talk with me, I need to half-close the computer so they can’t shoulder-surf. While the Mini wakes up very quickly, I wish it didn’t go to sleep until I *actually shut the lid*.

* The bumps on the f and j keys are too subtle for me to feel them easily. I could type with more confidence with better subliminal feedback about the “home” keys.

* The hinge on the case could open a little more widely. It goes past 90 degrees, but not quite far enough. I type in my lap, not on a desk. This is partly habit I’m sure, but I wonder if it’s at all a gender related habit, as chairs, desks, and tables often don’t match up for me, because I’m shorter than the default person (male) they’re designed for? Because the computer’s in my lap, and the resulting viewing angle, I sometimes need to tilt the screen further back than 100 degrees. Now, this is also true when I have my HP Mini in bed. Which I often do.

AND NOW FOR THE ADORABLENESS

This computer is cute. It’s pretty. But it doesn’t make me hurl with the pinkitude. Really!

It’s a really nice color of deep red, with black around the screen. There’s nothing ugly and clunky about this computer. It’s totally elegant. I take it out of my bag, and everyone admires it, and whatever one might think about HP’s targeting of women or the cut of the marketing, women everywhere I go are exclaiming with delight at how cute this computer is. It is very much OMG I WANT THAT. Then, because I’m this sort of person, I hand them the computer and invite them to type something and take it through its internet browser paces. In fact, it’s been really fun to have people come up and talk to me and be so friendly, because they’re curious about my computer.

For quite some time I’ve been asking the world for an adorable computer that is small and light, yet still a useful computer. (Oh, how I miss my 12 inch MacBook, but how I wished it were *even smaller*.) While I have issues as a feminist with everything being pink especially like, pink tools and pink computers, (see girl geek bingo), I also have mixed feelings and like things that are pretty and cute. It’s better if they’re pretty, cute, and punk rock, and actually work.

This is my usual style (me and my sister, with 13-inch MacBooks covered in stickers)

And here I am with the Vivienne Tam,

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This gets across how tiny and handy it is. See how it likes to sit on top of my MacBook?! It’s like a cute little ladybug!

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The Internet is srs bzns and so am I, in black boys’ guayabera, SF State tshirt, cotton handkerchief with red stitching, and matching computer,

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The Vivienne Tam and its matching mouse want to wear my Fluevog boots:

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If it had a hat, it would have a beret. If it were a color of nail polish, it would be “I’m Not Really a Waitress” red. Yes. I have middle class brand awareness. I cannot help it. When I wasn’t playing video games, I grew up in a mall. It seeps into your blood.

Even the packaging was nice! It was like buying a computer at Sephora. Or Bloomingdale’s or something. I know it’s shallow, and obviously I care WAY more about the specs and usability of a computer than the box it comes in, but I noticed the box anyway. Check this out:

exciting box

tiny pink computer!

At the She’s Geeky / Women 2.0 Dinner, I ended up passing the computer around almost as much as I got to use it myself. And when I whipped it out of my backpack to show to my friend Beth aka Techmama, she yelped and pulled out her own! We were like, “Oh no, same dress at the prom!” We managed to share the cuteness!

I can heartily recommend this computer if you’re a blogger, writer, or you just want your own laptop instead of using a shared family computer. The 60 GB hard drive is big and fast enough to deal with the *ton* of photos, Flip videos, and music that I tend to accumulate as a blogger. The wireless also works very well so the machine lives up to its promise of portability.

ALSO, IT IS REALLY CUTE. Did I mention that!?

I have three matching wireless mice to give away. Red mice with lavender flowers and silver sides. Who wants them?

* Buy it from HP: HP Mini Vivienne Tam (“Buy it” link gives all the specs)
* Buy it from Amazon:HP Mini 1140NR 10.2-Inch Netbook – Vivienne Tam Edition (1.6 GHz Intel Atom N270 Processor, 1 GB RAM, 60 GB Hard Drive, XP Home, 3 Cell Battery)

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HP Magic Giveaway entries so far

Here’s a sampling of the entries I’ve gotten, two days into the HP Magic Giveaway contest:

A bunch of folks commented on a review of the G1 Android phone. I am still wondering why there isn’t a pedometer app! But there are lots of other ones I asked for, like a simple compass and a geocaching app.

On that post, briguy992 wants me to be happy that the Android system’s background is fabulous. Most of the time yes, I agree. But when I’ve tried to kill a process I can’t! Despite how cool the G1 is, it’s not some kind of miracle device that manages its memory perfectly, or never crashes. In fact I have to restart it fairly often.
So I don’t agree with briguy992 that what I should do is “ignore that feeling it’s not ‘closed’ “. Actually, I think that’s very condescending advice! It is not like I’m just having a superstitious “feeling” like someone who can’t deal with having multiple tabs open. It’s that I’d like to be able to control my computer. Wouldn’t you rather have root on your G1 so you could screw it up thoroughly? 😉 Or go looking for some kind of kill program or task manager?

While I was looking for something like this, I did find out that holding down the home key for 5 seconds shows the 6 most recent open apps. I have a terminal window, I can type ps -x, therefore, I should be able to type kill -9 and have it work! But no. I’d also like the apps written with the option to close them! So, briguy992’s comment made me think, but also totally annoyed me, so in the spirit of this blog, I have to give him hell. That’s just how I roll!

A bunch of people commented on my long complaint about how mad I get in airports while travelling with a wheelchair. Disabled or not, lots of folks notice the dehumanizing treatment that goes along with air travel. Of course it is not just air travel or airports; it’s any big institution whose power goes unchecked by the people it (in theory) serves.

* S. Bear Bergman started a whole different conversation from thinking about diversity training issues. He asked his readers to undergo the cruel discipline of Twitter (or, to enter 140 character thoughts into a form on LJ) some short, crucial concepts on being trans. A bunch of people, including Kate Bornstein, responded! Now, that’s a cool sparky cascading result to this contest!

* Amanda’s comment about her brother being treated like a pre-schooler in a social group for people with disabilities was touching and made me boiling mad. That is the treatment most older people get in nursing homes and assisted living and it’s what a lot of people with disabilities get too. Hello to Amanda’s brother, and I wonder what he would say to what I wrote?

There is a very long interesting comment with good links, by Digital, over on “Highly trained girl-monkey sys admin bait“. She points out that it takes strong communities to make a climate where our stories win out over the acceptance of sexist ones, and links to the Anita Borg Institute. Well, I have to agree. I’ve been part of the Systers email list for years and am very happy to work for BlogHer, which was just honored with the Anita Borg Social Impact Award!

I look forward to more amazing comments! To everyone I haven’t yet mentioned… I’m reading your comments and blog posts, too! Thanks for your comments and thanks for reading.

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HP Magic Giveaway: Welcome y ¡Bienvenidos!

Very soon, I’m going to be giving away a bunch of fantastic computer equipment from HP, as part of the HP Magic Giveaway, co-sponsored by Microsoft Windows Live.

I’ll be running a contest here on this blog. You can enter it AND you can enter the 49 other contests listed on the HP Magic Giveaway page!


If you’re here for the first time from the HP pages, welcome. I’m a feminist, activist, poet, and literary translator; I’m a computer programmer and a geeky, gadget-loving mom; I love games and science fiction, blogging, photos, and creativity! If you like to talk about any of those subjects, you’ve come to the right place. Especially if you like to mix up those subjects. Take a look at the tag cloud in the sidebar, and see where you might intersect with me and this blog’s readers. It’s very nice to meet you!

¡Y, Bienvenidos a todos que hablan español!

Stay tuned for my contest guidelines. Meanwhile, drool on some photos of these gorgeous computers that you have a great chance to win!

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