Thursday, October 20, 2011

Burning Brightly...Our Way.

It's no secret that steampunk is rapidly growing in popularity.  There have been articles in the New York Times, the Chicago Sun-Times, Wired, Huffington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and there was a great article today in the Detroit News about one of my favorite places, Off the Beaten Path.  All that you need to do to see the almost meteoric rise of steampunk is to take a quick look at this Google Trends chart. 

Since the tail end of 2006, steampunk has gone from almost invisible, to having a hit count greater goth, scifi, and even greater than the Texas Rangers (until they made the World Series).  That first spike that you see near the beginning of October in 2009 is a big turning point for the genre.  That spike is when Wired ran story about Cherie Priest's Boneshaker in their Geek Dad column.

Etsy lists over 97k results for steampunk. Ebay returns over 25k results. Google brings up over 7 million, 128k of them being shopping results, and another 16.5 million pictures.  Steampunk conventions are popping up all across the country (and world) and their attendance is skyrocketing.  

By this point, you're probably wondering what my point is.  

Steampunk is about to go big time.  I predict that within the next two years, steampunk will be come bigger than any of us ever expected.  With this, comes a whole number of fantastic things.  Supplies for projects will become plentiful.  Steampunk will become less costume and more outfit.  Steampunk communities and gatherings will spread from major cities into the medium and small towns across the country (and world).  

However, with this massive growth comes risk.  Does anybody remember the goths?  I do.  The goth scene started out small and underground, just like steampunk.  However, as the popularity of computers and the internet rose, so did the popularity of the goth scene, exponentially.  

The philosopher Lao Tzu was the first to say "The flame that burns twice as bright burns half as long."   This is the fate that came to goth.  Since 2004 (as early as Google Trends has data), search results for "goth" has been cut in half.  Goth hit the mainstream, went viral, and burned out quickly.  What happened?

As the goth culture grew in popularity, more and more merchants and vendors began to produce products to feed society's growing hunger.  These products came out quickly, too quickly.  They were rushed to market without much thought or care.  They were made cheaply, and the cheapened the culture.  Companies thought "If we make it black and put a scary font and a bat on it, we can sell it to the goths".  Hell, the goth culture became so prevalent that you could find stuff that tried to pass as goth in Walmart.  Hell, you could even find this guy in Walmart:


By learning from the mistakes that were made with the growth of goth's popularity, the steampunk community can make a concentrated effort to negate the Walmart effect. 

Already, we have the first stage of the Walmart effect, people marketing products as steampunk that have absolutely nothing to do with the culture.  Regretsy has an entire category dedicated to things that are Not Remotely Steampunk.  Already, there are steampunk craft books that teach jewelry makers that anything is steampunk if you put a gear on it and some little brass bits.  Hell, there's already an item at ((shudders)) Hot Topic that's tagged as being steampunk.

There is a cure for this.  The cure is promotion from within.  As members of the steampunk community, we cannot allow the media to come to us, to decide who to promote for themselves.  Instead, we must bring ourselves to the media.  We must actively promote those within the community who provide the best example of who we are and what we're about.  We must shove ourselves down the media's throat before they shove something that vaguely resembles us down the throat of society.  We must be active in social media and conventional media.  We must make a grass roots effort to promote those people and products that we love.

A perfect example of this type of promotion is Off the Beaten Path.  At almost a year old, the store has already had a signing with Cherie Priest, been voted Best Overlooked Local Story by the readers of Detroit's Metro Times, and most recently, today's article in the Detroit News.   

There are three reasons that Off the Beaten Path has gotten enough publicity to stay solvent and to even grow in the middle of one of the worst economies in the country.  First, Off the Beaten Path is a great store.  The owner Sal has done a great job of creating an environment that is inviting and comfortable.  It stays on theme without intimidating customers who aren't familiar with steampunk.  The second major factor is Sal's marketing prowess.  A small independent bookstore cannot survive without getting customers in the door.  How does Sal do it?  By doing more than just sell books, she gets people into the store every night.  There is food and beverages from the cafe, wares from several talented artisans, and special events nearly every night.  She has drumming lessons, belly dancing lessons, a game night, a stitch and bitch night, musical performances, and once a month or so packs the house for karaoke.  That's right, karaoke...in a bookstore...a steampunk bookstore.  What's wonderful about this event is that the crowd is of a common mindset, they're pretty much all geeks and nerds.  Nobody is too self conscious to sing, and you're more likely than not to hear both a group sing along and a Jonathan Coulton song in the same night.  Lastly, and this is where we all come in, is that the customers of Off the Beaten Path are fiercely loyal.  Sal is the Captain of the ship and her customers are her crew.  We help keep the ship running, and in return, we get everything we could ever want out of the store.  We get a place to visit and meet new people, purchase books and wares that you just won't find in a chain store, and we get to be a part of something special. 

Steampunk is a culture that still small enough to be a community.  The great thing about a community is that it's easy to get behind another community member and help lift them up.  If we all do this, we all promote the people, products, and places that we love, we can dodge the Walmart effect.  We may still burn brightly and burn out quickly, but if nothing else, we'll at least do it our way.  After all, that's what being a steampunk is all about.  We do things our way.
Who are the people, places, and products in the steampunk community that you feel are overlooked?  Who do you think deserves promotion to the masses?

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Extended Bio....or Why Should I Trust You?

Tomorrow, my first piece of advice is supposed to be posted on Em & Lo. I say supposed to be simply because I know that shit happens and sometimes things get delayed.  While some of you may already know all about me (or have a pretty decent picture from reading my older posts), I think it's for the benefit of those who've found their way here via my work for Em & Lo if I share a bit more about my background and why you should bother to trust my advice at all.

You know how everybody has that one vicious breakup that completely changes the game?  For me, that happened just as my second year of college was starting up, when my ex (herein referred to as Jane) dumped me and started dating a mutual friend of ours a mere days later.  After a couple of months of mourning, I picked myself up and decided that I was going to do whatever it took to prevent that from happening again.  This was, conveniently, just about the time that AJ and Jordan Harbinger started up Pickup Podcast.

I'm not ashamed to say that I've studied dating and relationships and got into it via a show designed to teach men how to meet women.  In fact, I'm quite proud to say it.  The show provided me the reaffirmation that I needed to know that turning my dating life around was possible.  It helped to get my feet under me and get me pointed in the right direction.  Through them, I got involved in the general personal improvement movement.  Why should we accept who we are right now if we're not happy with it?  We shouldn't.

People were made with the ability to learn, to grow, to change, and to become better.  To help become better at dating and relationships, I studied the works of many of the big names.  I can highly recommend picking up books by Sean Stephenson, Ramit Sethi, Tim Ferriss, Michael J. Gelb, Phineas Mollod and Jason Tesauro, and David Deida just to name a few.  These are just some of the people who've helped to help me become a better person. 


I think that the key to my success is that I felt I had nothing to lose.  With this attitude, I was able to turn my very existence into a social experiment.  Of course there were plenty of blunders, but I learned, made changes, and got better.  After all, that's exactly what science is about, isn't it?  


In the end, I met a wonderful woman who I recently married.  My wife and I have been together since sometime in the later half of 2005, and finally tied the knot this past July.  We're not necessarily the perfect couple, but we're great for one another.  We make each other happy, we make each other smile when we're upset, and we're better when we're with one another.  Ultimately, there's not much more that you can ask for.


At some point along the line of my personal growth, people started to come to me for advice in their own relationships.  Over time, I've become the person whom most of my friends come to for advice.  I think that I do a pretty good job at it by taking a step back and looking at every situation without the emotion involved.  By removing the emotion, we can made decisions logically, and rationally.  Sure, I admit that it doesn't solve every problem, but logic rarely steers you in the wrong direction.


I have a few major concepts when it comes to relationships that I've picked up from my studies and personal experiences.  Some of them have been in my mind for so long now that I've completely lost track of where they come from.  The chief amongst these concepts is that in any relationship, it is our responsibility to define what we want out of it.  Are you looking for a long term relationship, are you looking for some unattached fun, or are you looking for somebody who simply makes you happy and if it lasts, it lasts?  Once you know what you want, you immediately know when it's time to leave.  When a relationship no longer serves your purposes, get out.  Failure to do so is lying to your partner and to yourself.  It is dishonest, and disrespectful to continue the relationship past this point.  Remember, it is always better to be single than to be in a bad relationship.


There's really no better way to end this post than to share with you the hilarious and stunningly accurate Tim Minchin performing "If I Didn't Have You", about relationships.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

They Call Me Doctor...Steam?

For the past week, I've been hinting at a big announcement on Twitter.  Well, since Comcast finally came out and fixed my internet, I had the chance to do the last few things I needed to do to be able to make the announcement.

Back in August, my sister-in-law sent me a link to Em & Lo, a website that doles out well thought out and educated advice on sex, dating, relationships, love, ect.  As a regular part of their site, they have a section called "Ask the Wise Guys" in which readers can submit questions to a group of men that they've chosen to give their input and advice.  Em & Lo were in need of a new group of Wise Guys and were taking applications.  I decided to apply.

I went for over a month without hearing anything back, but was ok with it since I was very busy at work.  I had given up and assumed that I had been passed over, until Monday.  On Monday afternoon, I got an email from Em & Lo, informing me that they loved my application and that I had been selected to be one of their Wise Guys!  So, starting this coming Tuesday, I will occasionally have my dating and relationship advice featured in their Ask the Wise Guys section.

To celebrate, there's been a few changes around here.  First, and probably most noticeable is a bit of a refresh of the page look.  It's still the same basic look (hey, I'm not a programmer, but I can modify a Blogger template), but with brand new colors and a new background.  I think that the new colors play together nicely and are the same family of colors that Katie and I used for our wedding.  If anybody knows a web designer who can help me do a custom site, please let me know.

Secondly, you no longer have to go to yoopersteampunk.blogspot.com to get here.  I've gone out and purchased my own domain.  No, you can come here just by typing www.yoopersteampunk.com.  You can also (I believe) get emails to me via bjsebeck@yoopersteampunk.com.  I haven't tried that one out yet, so feel free to give it a shot.

I'm also likely to be ordering MOO MiniCards as well.  I know several people who have ordered cards from them, and I've heard nothing but good about working with their company for printing.  

Along with my involvement with Em & Lo, I'm going to try and update here semi-regularly.  I don't really know that I'll be able to keep up posting 2-3 times a week as I have in the past, especially with how busy I've recently been at work.  However, I will try to get at least one post a week up, hopefully two posts, both dealing with the same Steampunk topics and things that I've been talking about for a while, as well as occasionally posting the same type of dating and relationship advice that I will be sharing with Em & Lo.

But now that I've made an announcement of my own, I need some help from you.  It's far better for me to give advice that directly relates to your questions, so that's what I need.  Feel free to leave questions that you'd like for me to answer in the comments to this post, and if you prefer anonymity, you can email them to bjsebeck@yoopersteampunk.com and I will post responses without your personal information.