14 November, 2008


I’m back to the blog (at least temporarily) to throw out some more ramblings now that Darling Daughter #3 has arrived healthy and beautiful. I’ve missed being able to throw the odd, occasional thoughts into written form and hopefully a few new readers and old friends will stop by and take a look.

I’ll give a tip of my hat to Tim over at Old World Swine for prompting me to briefly explore the Rube Goldberg-esque subculture known as Steampunk. While I was aware of its existence on the fringes of my mind, I also knew that as a genuine subculture it was bound to have leanings toward the absurd end of the human experience. Think of it as the positivist, pseudo-conservative counterpart to the dystopian realm of Cyberpunk. While both are amusing and more than a little frightening in their purest forms as complete lifestyle options, Steampunk has managed to find a soft spot in my heart when it comes to the wide world of design. (All images courtesy of http://www.datamancer.com/)

The aesthetic amalgamation of quality materials with classic forms and motifs applied to thoroughly modern devices inspires (at least for me) a markedly more sober appreciation for the very real power inherent in our array of electronic gadgetry. Take your typical, ubiquitous laptop computer, deployed by scores of over-caffeinated college chaps and lasses at the local bookstore. As a piece of industrial design, I personally feel that most models embody the definition of mediocre. Even the Apples of the laptop world, with their strict minimalism, are noteworthy more for their projection of the tabula rasa rather than the Portal to All Knowledge. When you think of exactly what it is that the machine allows you to accomplish, you realize its enormous worth as one of the most powerful leveraging devices in acquiring the vast wealth of accumulated human knowledge, experience, and history. In the not-so-distant past the laptop computer would certainly have portrayed this power in an entirely different way, ornamented and carefully crafted to announce to the world its place as The Key to the wonders of the ancients, the galleries of the Louvre, or the arcane mastery of Galileo or Einstein.

It is that rare sense of awe that I find exhibited in the fancies of Steampunk design. While often terribly overwrought, the best examples still show that spark of realization that there is eternal value inherent in the most disposable of techie widgets. In another post at Tim’s blog he shows a Steampunk inspired thumb drive – Why shouldn’t this disposable piece of junk acknowledge in its physicality the very real and awesome ability to contain more information than the Library of Alexandria? The humble laptop should proudly reflect its position as the modern Oracle, minus the arduous journey and temple virgins of course…