Ukrainian steampunk mask-maker gets plagiarized by Skymall stalwarts Design Toscano


Update: Design Toscano has apologized for this and agreed to pay a royalty to Bob Basset. They blame an unscrupulous supplier who presented the design as its own.


Design Toscano, a wealthy, fast-growing company, is selling a leather steampunk mask that clearly plagiarises the work of Ukrainian leatherworker Bob Basset, a favorite around these parts. As Rob Murdoch points out in his post, Toscano could easily spare the budget to work with Basset to produce masks or designs for them -- the ethical thing to do. Basset, a poor artists living in Ukraine, feels powerless to do anything about it. This ugly business calls all of Toscano's products into question: are all the designs in their catalog unacknowledged rip-offs from independent designers, or just this one?

So having known and loved Bob’s work for 10 years at this point, imagine my happiness for him when I came across a sculpture of one of his masks being sold on this site. I thought “Great for Bob! More of his work is out there and it’s a great paying gig for him!” (Toscano is a multi-million dollar company so they can afford to pay their artists well and they often give credit to the artist). Then I had the horrible thought that maybe this isn’t good and it’s a case of a big company ripping off the little guy, which has happened before and will happen again so long as companies can get away with it. So I popped over to Bob’s personal Facebook page and linked him the online catalogue page with his mask and asked if he knew about it. An hour later, he replied with “Yes, I know they simply stolen our design. But what I can do from Ukraine I don’t know.”

So there you have it. There is no mistaking that the sculpture is a copy of Bob Basset work: his style is so unique. Not only was he not given credit for it, but he was not compensated at all for their using his mask. Now I hate to have to bring this to light because I have loved Design Toscano for years. I have a lot of fantastic statues and art from them lining my walls. But something has to be said. And you have to wonder, why did this happen? Toscano makes good money on the art they sell. They didn’t need to copy this work without compensation. Why not have approached the artist who made the masks they obviously liked and wanted to sell and commission a sculpture from him? Artists live or die by their sales. They need to be paid by people who want to make use of their work, and they need to be credited for their art.

Toscano's catalog copy is an exercise in chutzpah: "Get ready for a little anti-establishment, alternate history with our forward-thinking Steampunk gas mask that boasts a gramophone for hearing and no end of techno-Victorian charm!" They even call it a "Design Toscano Exclusive." Well, yes, they are the exclusive purveyor of the cheap knock-off.

Jaborwhalky Productions • Steampunk art stolen by Design Toscano? When you... (Thanks, Rob!)

How steampunk can humanize gadgets


Ben sez, "In 'Being More Human,' an essay in the fall/winter issue of Oregon Humanities magazine, Intel futurist and technological optimist Brian David Johnson explains what steampunk has to do creating friendlier, more humanist gadgets."

Steampunk reveals three relationships that people want with their technology. First, they want their technology to have a sense of humor. Humor and jokes give us a way to connect with and understand each other. Also, humor is a great cultural indicator that we understand each other. Studies show that if I can make you laugh, you not only think I’m smarter but also feel a deeper human connection to me. If we want to have a closer relationship to these technologies that are filling our lives, it makes sense that we would want them to get our sense of humor and make us laugh.

Second, people want their technology to have a sense of history. History is the on-ramp to the future. Only by understanding where we have come from can we make sense of where we are going. It might surprise you to realize that a pocket watch is a lot like an iPhone. We carry both around in our pockets. Both give their owners an advantage over other people who may not have them. But there is one difference: a pocket watch was designed to be handed down from generation to generation. An iPhone is designed to be refreshed from generation to generation. For an increasing number of people this doesn’t work. They want their devices to have grounding in history, a connection to the past so we can have a clearer view of our future.

Finally, people want their technology to have a sense of humanity. They want their devices to understand them as individuals. If you sleep with your smartphone next to your bed you want it to know who you are when you wake up in the morning. As our devices become increasingly smarter and central to our lives, we want these devices to understand us as individuals, not as consumers.

Being More Human (Thanks, Ben!)

Steampunk pipe-lamp with valve-switch


PeteJ sends in "a steampunk desk lamp I built, the valve is also the on/off switch." That's a hell of a switch.

New surreal woodcut collages from Dan Hillier


I've long admired happy mutant illustrator Dan Hillier, who produces beautiful line-art collages that combine Victorian woodcuts with original illustration to produce beautiful and surreal effects. He's just uploaded a passel of new work, including the wonderful "Wayfarer," above. You can buy 'em as prints online, or from his stall in the Sunday Upmarket in London's Brick Lane.

NEW WORK

Victorian jargon watch: "a dictionary of heterodox English, slang and phrase"

The Internet Archive has a complete scan of James Redding Ware's wonderful 1909 treatise "Passing English of the Victorian era: a dictionary of heterodox English, slang and phrase," ganked from the University of Toronto's Robarts library. The Archive has OCR'ed versions, hi-rez PDFs of color and b/w scans, and every ebook format you're likely to need.

If you'd prefer a hardcopy there's a paperback reprint for sale, too. It's really something. Here's a few gems:

Enobs (Back slang). Bone, in ordinary plural. A very favourite inversion is a sort of rebus, bones showing affording a study of ' knobs '.

But he swallowed a box of matches one day which burnt away all the fat and left the mere enoba you see now.

Evening wheezes (Peoples'). False news, spread in evening half- penny papers in order to sell them.

Fairy (Lower Peoples). A debauched, hideous old woman, especially when drunk.

Fake a poke (Thieves'). To pick, or manipulate, a pocket. This phrase is a singular revival. Johnson has ' Fake amongst seamen a pile of rope,' and as to poke ' a pocket or small bag'. ' I will not buy a pig in a poke !' Camden.

He denied that when entering the music hall he was accused by a larty of picking her pocket, and further said that when called out he did not say he had never ' faked a poke ' in his life. People, 6th September 1896.

Fake pie (Straitened Soc., 1880). A towards -the-end-of-the- week effort at pastry, into which go all the ' orts ', ' overs ', and ' ends ' of the week. See Resurrection pie a term which this has superseded.

Penny puzzle (Street, 1883). Sausage because it is never found out. (See Bag o' mystery.)

Wingers sometimes called Flanges (Colloquial about 1865). After the Crimean beard, which meant all the hair growable on the face, had lasted in fashion about ten or twelve years, the chin came to be once more shown, and the whiskers were thrown back, or pulled away from the cheeks, and allowed to grow as long as nature decided. The name was obtained from their streaming and waving character.

Passing English of the Victorian era : a dictionary of heterodox English, slang and phrase. [archive.org]

Passing English of the Victorian era : a dictionary of heterodox English, slang and phrase. [Amazon]

(via Making Light)

Gigapixel images of Charles Babbage's Difference Engine #2


Greg sez, "This project is using a number of computational photography techniques to document Charles Babbage's 'Difference Engine No 2' for the Computer History Museum in Mountain View. There are interactive gigapixel images for the four cardinal views of the device available to view."

Babbage Difference Engine in Gigapixel (Thanks, Greg!)

Steampunk's Guide to Sex


Margaret Killjoy sez, "We just got A Steampunk's Guide to Sex back from the printer! With contributions by Alan Moore, Molly Crabapple, and Professor Calamity, the book covers all kinds of crazy Victorian sexuality as well as ideas about steampunk and geek sexuality in the 21st century. It comes complete with sketchy DIY how-tos and is illustrated by original tintypes."

Prostitution, pornography, sex toys, dirty stories, BDSM, gay New York, can-can dancers, strippers, tight-laced corsets, prudery, polyamory, consent, venereal diseases, piercings, birth control, aphrodisiacs, creepers, floggers, steam-powered vibrators, sex slang—mad historian Professor Calamity and his assembled crew of steampunk authors, artists, and performers share everything you want to know, and more, about sex under the reign of Victoria and sex in our modern subculture. Featuring contributions by: Professor Calamity, Luna Celeste, Molly Crabapple, KC Crowell, O.M. Grey, Sarah Hunter (aka Lady Clankington), Margaret Killjoy, Canis Latrans, Talloolah Love, Screaming Mathilda, Alan Moore, Miriam Roček, J.I. Wittstein.

A Steampunk's Guide to Sex

Steampunk Dalek

About this spectacular wearable steampunk Dalek, BB reader Mark Dumont writes:
Electronics are contained in box at back waist containing arduino uno, 2 nine volt batteries, and small amp. Speakers are in ends of tube around neck and mic is on an earpiece. Arduino board powers eye stalk and dome lights as well as handles dalek voice modulation. I found the arduino sketch (source and circuit diagrams) can be found here, kudos to Andy Grove for the sketch. Originally created for my wife (the only dalek I will ever love) for the Time Traveler's Ball held at the Redmoor in Cincinnati 11/17/12
Photo Link. (Shared in the BB Flickr Pool)

Doktor A's immortality helmet


Doktor A's beautiful immortality helmet was produced on commission and looks like a spectacular way to extend your lifespan:

1. Remove strap and leads from the storage drawer.
2. Place electrodes against forehead and tighten strap.
3. Attach bulldog clips to terminals in the jaw.
4. Set over-ride timer to desired duration.
5. Crank the main handle to build electrical charge.
6. Close the main switch to engage the electrical flow.
7. Increase the electrical voltage using dial.
8. Wait until your Asphyx manifests within the tube.
9. Shut off charge to electrodes using the main switch.
10. Transfer the Asphyx to a long term containment device.
11. Congratulations you have gained immortality.

Congratulations you have gained immortality. (via Super Punch)

Encrusted, elaborate assemblage sculptures


Richard Symons, an artist based in London, makes elaborate, gadget-encrusted sculptures, and sells them on Etsy. The teapot above sells for USD130.00. The mask on the right sells for USD60.00.

Richard Symons (via Super Punch)

Steampunk clockmaker Roger Wood among his creations

Stephen sez, "Masterful gadget-maker Roger Wood poses alongside some of his whimsical clock creations at his Hamilton-based workshop and steampunk emporium, Klockwerks. When he came out in his goggles and steampunk kit, I told him, 'You look so much like an inventor.' He answered, 'I AM an inventor.'"

Roger was my neighbour for a decade, and his workshop was always a wonderland. I haven't been to his new place in Hamilton, but if this picture is any indication, it's every bit as wonderful.

Steampunk Thing-Maker Roger Wood and Assorted Klockwerks (Thanks, Stephen!)

Steampunk Nintendo casemod


Redditor Andrew5785 refurbed an elderly Nintendo system for a covetous steampunk nephew, turning it into a sweet little contrafactual brass retrofuture contraption.

Steam-Punk Nintendo: Built this for my nephew that likes steam-punk and wanted my old Nintendo. (imgur.com)

Munson typewriter, a beauty from 1890


The Martin Howard Typewriter Collection has a new treasure to show off: a Munson typewriter, with horizontal rods that control a hammer that strikes the page from behind:

The Munson typewriter is a remarkable piece of engineering, with a complex and original mechanical design packed into a small frame. Its inner workings are largely exposed, so the machine comes to life with moving rods and levers when being used.

The Munson does not have type-bars but uses a horizontal type-cylinder (about the size of ones finger) that slides from side-to-side and rotates to have the correct character move into place. Then a hammer strikes the paper from behind, pushing the paper against the ribbon and type-cylinder. Type-cylinders with different fonts were available.

With two shift keys, uppercase and figures, only three rows of keys are required.

The Munson was introduced in 1890 and did quite well on the market; however, today it is hard to find. The Munson became the Chicago in 1898 when the enterprise was bought and the typewriters were manufactured by The Chicago Writing Machine Co.

Munson 1 (Thanks Martin!)

The Arrival: graphic introduction to steampunk ARG


The Arrival is the opening salvo in a multi-year, multimedia steampunk alternate reality based in London. It tells the story of how restless mechanical servants were brought to Victorian England, servants who had to move always to recharge their batteries (this alternate world has a different sort of entropy than ours, I gather), and then broke free of their constraints with the help of human masters.

It's a nicely told, rather short introduction to a very rich world that is unfolding at Clockwork Watch. The organisers have put on some reportedly extraordinary live events in London, and there seems to be a lot more to come.

London 1899. Steam billows out from every corner of the city while huge Zeppelin airships float in the sky overhead. Enter the world of Clockwork Watch, a place where Victorian values are coupled with anachronistic technology, not least of which are the clockwork servants - the mechanical slaves that keep this society ticking along - this is the world of Steampunk.

Technological and social change is in the air - human-clockwork hybridisation is the talk of the town; the unwise employment of science has led to amazement and outcry - the public wants to know whether Science is about to play God.

The Arrival | Clockwork Watch

Victorian and Edwardian proto-science-fiction

David Malki sez, "I moderated a panel at Worldcon the other week on Victorian & Edwardian (proto-)science fiction, and my co-panelist Matt Bennardo kept notes on everything both the panelists and the audience brought up. A lot of great work was mentioned, including tons of titles I'd never heard before. Now Matt's compiled this list of links to free etexts of everything we could find! Months of reading at the very least. Hope you enjoy!"

Over the course of the Victorian and Edwardian science-fiction panel, about 50 books and short stories were mentioned or discussed. It’s not possible to reproduce all the discussion here, but the list makes a fair starting point for those who may be looking for a general introduction to the science-fiction of the period.

This list has many shortcomings. It is nowhere near comprehensive. In fact, the panel largely jumped over the well-known catalogues of writers like Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, and Edgar Rice Burroughs. This doesn’t mean that the unnamed books by those writers aren’t worth reading. But most readers are likely to already be aware of many of them, and the discussion veered more often towards some less commonly read works.

In a few places, the list strays from all reasonable definitions of “Victorian” and “Edwardian”. Some books and stories that fall into different periods were discussed as points of comparison. I’ve included all those that I remember, whether or not they are technically “Victorian” or “Edwardian”. Finally, the list is not very diverse — it consists almost entirely of books written by American, English, and French men. Mary Shelley and Charlotte Perkins Gilman are the only women mentioned, and no writers from other countries make an appearance.

A Brief Survey of Victorian Science Fiction (Thanks, David !)