Sunday, September 25, 2011

Something to Sink My Teeth Into

The problem with doing this powder punk stuff is that it gets my neo-Romantic heart beating again. Back when I was stumbling about in and out of colleges, drugs, play-writing and relationships that resembled those more of cats and dogs than fully conscious beings (my late teens and twenties), one of the salient trends in my reading was that of the writings Voltaire, Goethe; and then moving up the line to Emile Zola, Anton Chekov, Fydor Dostoevsky; even further into Bertolt Brecht, Bernard Shaw and Jean-Paul Sartre. Mind you, most of this reading was fictional works and stage scripts, not books on philosophy. One director of my plays at the time once said, "You don't get out much, but when I need Chekhov you're the man to drink with. Let's revel!"

I actually got out a bit more than the man assumed, but that's not the point here.

At 24 until about 31, I got my act together a bit and joined the Army, got serious about my studies, and did the adult things-- have a kid, buy a house with a satellite receiver in the backyard, drive a Ford Fairmont station wagon and whatnot. About the same time my cultural explorations became more in tune to FM Classic Rock stations, along with whatever was available at airport newsstands and mandatory textbooks. I could barely talk my party bruder in Germany, the second time around, to attend a showing of Death of Salesman, let alone an in-German presentation of Faustus.

And then getting out of Army, married life and other things, I decided it was "Me time" again. This took on the focus of being a fantasist. In case you are unfamiliar the term, a "fantasist" is, as according to the
World English Dictionary is pronounced "fæntəsɪst" and is a noun that describes a: 1.) a person who indulges in fantasies. 2.) a person who writes musical or literary fantasies. I think everyone reading this knows, I fulfilled this bit of actualization with a vengeance over the last twelve years or so.

But until recently, my most important concerns have been about whether JRR Tolkien or Lord Dunsany reflected the true face of fantasy. Now with the research that I have been doing my previous interests have been coming to the fore.

Did you know that Voltaire was always gossipy about his friend Fredrick the Great of Prussia? Okay sure that's nice, let's research his reign of Prussia. And then the next day on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, As It Happens was broadcasting sex poems written (in French) by Great Fred to his boy Voltaire. I am not making that up, the mainstream media is diverging into subjects that I thought I was making up a week ago.

Sadly for me, it has always been easier to understand the causes of the European Great War an the German Counter-Offensive (often called WWII), than to relate to most folks in the arts fields of things. So I am suddenly struck with the yearning for a bit more than video-tape Filmers and digital analoguers have to offer-- godshead bless Stargate and Dr. Who, they're just the cheapest speculative fiction shows ever made.

But when the Clevelang (big stuffy and over-princed) theater runs a Bertolt Brecht piece like, The Life of Galileo, I am stuck at looking the cheap-seats for a mere $100 dinner date, for the Peryton and I. That happens to be a bit much for my tastes.

I produced a rendition, The Caucasian Circle of Chalk back in 1987. Alas, no one cares.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Think I'm turning Viennese, think I'm turning Viennese...

Wow there's a lot that happened between Febuary 1326 and July 1698, which I had already figured before I started reading more into the events within these points in time about eighteen months ago. You see in 11 Feb 1326 the very first hand-held weapon powered by gun-powder was displayed in the city-state of Florence and on 2 July 1698 an engineer fired from the English Navy, Thomas Savery, was able to patent a steam engine that would be used for industrialized applications. The time in-between these two events, I call," the Age of Powder," and I like to delve into a fantasy with it to make a forthcoming Powder Punk setting. I have to laugh, most of the people that have heard me use either of the phrases assume I am speaking of the powdered wigs.

The most fun of this process has indeed been just all the historical research. I didn't realize the gaps I had in world history even my degree in History. For all the ignoring that the US education system does of the whole cultural schisms there is a lot of stuff that would be nice if our foreign policy makers knew about obscure places with far off sounding names, like Canada. One cannot ignore that the great ethnocentric struggles of the last millennium have shaped where we all are today. We often overlook the Muslim/Christiandom antagonism, the whole Catholic versus Orthodox, and then the Protestant versus Catholic, usually skipping from the Magna Carta to Lincoln's address at Gettysburg, PA, leaving the rest for people getting a PHD or making a BBC channel 3 documentary. And the history is about as punk-ish as I can make it, St. Josaphat of the Catholic and Othodox faiths is Buddha dammit!

And besides Alexandre Dumas's story of d'Artagnan, a cycle taking over six years in serial form to complete, which would become known to the English-reading world as The Three Musketeers, Twenty Years After, and the Man In the Iron Mask; there are plenty of works to draw from in popular culture for my Powder-Punk 'research." Russia and most of the former Soviet Bloc seems to be infatuated with the 14th through 17th centuries. The movie 1612 is about the rocking-est thing I have seen from the era. And then there is whole pirate craze in our own western climes, which is, for the most part, pre-Steampunk. I suppose the cosplay crowd at the conventions will be drawing upon the Showtime series The Tudors, which is a music video recounting of the Henry the 8th gang.

All the study itself would have been great if I stopped just at the siege of Antwerp and the various sieges of Vienna.