“Uncanny Valley” – The concept of the uncanny valley suggests that humanoid objects which appear almost, but not exactly, like real human beings elicit uncanny, or strangely familiar, feelings of eeriness and revulsion in observers. (Link to Wiki Page)
Or in this blog’s case…stuff I find weird, cool, or disturbing.
20 Strange Beauty Pageant Queens of Food Industry
From the Mid-20th Century
A Dutch man, 69, tries to legally turn back time twenty years.
Good luck with that.
Where do you even start…?
Do you REALLY want to know the backstory here?
Get in the Halloween spirit…
Owls Need Our Help!
The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) is asking people to listen for the distinctive hoot from their garden, a local park or woodland, once every week for the next six months.
“You can even do it from the comfort of your bed,” said BTO’s Claire Boothby.
Light pollution and urbanisation are thought to be impacting populations.
The conservation status of the Tawny owl recently changed from green to amber, signalling a growing concern for the species.
‘Anyone can take part’
Researchers hope the Tawny Owl Calling survey, which runs from 30 September to 31 March, will help them understand if, and where, the bird may be in decline.
They say it is not essential that members of the public listen every single week, insisting that all data will be useful – even in locations where an owl call cannot be heard as this indicates where the species is missing.
“Anyone can take part, and the more people that do, the better picture scientists at BTO will have of our Tawny owl,” Ms Boothby said.
A seal, an octopus, and a kayaker walk into a bar…
First images of Highland Wildlife Park’s rare leopard cubs
Motion cameras in an enclosure at the Highland Wildlife Park in the Cairngorms have taken the first images of two rare Amur leopard cubs.
The three-month-old cats were born in a part of the zoo off-limits to the public, and rarely visited by staff.
The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland hopes this reduced human presence will make the cubs eligible for a reintroduction project.
It is not known yet the sex of the cubs, or if they have siblings.
Their birth was announced in July.
Linky Here (Who doesn’t love some bizarre retro ads?)
(Wilson’s Bird of Paradise)
(Doesn’t instill confidence in the product, does it?)
Vietnam chefs cook up 3,000 pound
bowl of soup
Aug. 14 (UPI) — A Vietnamese food company celebrated its 50th anniversary by cooking up a Guinness record-breaking nearly 3,000-pound bowl of soup.
Guinness announced the food company, VIFON, broke the world record for largest serving of noodle soup when it filled a custom-made bowl with 2,996 pounds and 1.3 ounces of beef pho.
A Guinness adjudicator was on hand to certify the record after the 55 chefs finished work on the soup.
VIFON said the soup included 336 pounds and 5.7 ounces of dried pho mix, 129 pounds and 13.3 ounces of fresh briscuit beef, 46 pounds and 4.4 ounces of seasonings, and 2,466 pounds 12.34 ounces of hot water.
Moose has taken up residence in Greeley
Kangaroo Brings Soccer Match To A Standstill
A Giant Sea Cucumber
(Spiral Poop Log – I can’t make this stuff up)
In April, Alex Hentges of Dubuque, Iowa, opened up a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, ready to enjoy a chocolatey, peanut buttery treat, only to be disappointed. The cup was solid chocolate — no peanut butter in the middle, which is what makes a Reese’s a Reese’s.
Hentges took to Reddit to share his experience. “My Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup had no peanut butter,” he wrote as the caption to a photo showing the solid chocolate cup. As more proof, Hentges even posted a video of himself breaking open another Reese’s cup from the package, only to find no peanut butter inside. The images went viral and received a barrage of comments. “Somewhere out there someone is getting an all peanut butter Reese’s cup,” one commenter wrote.
“If you sent that photo to them they would bombard you with gifts. For real.., I know from first hand experience working for companies similar to them,” one person commented on the Reddit post. It’s unclear if this inspired Hentges to write to Reese’s, but he eventually did.
“Yo Reese’s what gives? Where’s me peanut butter? April Fools was almost 2 weeks ago!” Hentges wrote, sharing the photo on Reese’s Facebook.
Well, a few weeks later, Hentges got another, much more pleasant surprise from Reese’s. The company saw his photo of the no-peanut butter fiasco, and sent him a replacement. In fact, they sent Hentges an entire care package full of Reese’s products to make up for the snafu.
The package also came with a note.
“Here’s enough chocolate AND peanut butter to to make everything cool between us,” the company wrote.
Hentges updated his Reddit to show the results of his complaint. “Reese’s replied to my peanut butter-less cup,” he wrote. The photo of the care package soon went viral as well.
“I need to find me some peanutbutterless cups and post pics on reddit,” one person commented. Others thought it might’ve been Reese’s plan all along: “Reese’s was totally hoping this guy to share this on social media and get free advertisement,” someone commented.
“They sent you $20 of chocolate and got $100,000 worth of free advertisement, you can’t beat that return on investment. I’ll be back, I’m craving some peanut butter and chocolate,” one person wrote. Others just shared similar stories of food misfortunes that turned into freebies.
Hentges accepted Reese’s gift with open arms and a hungry stomach — although he says he did share some of it with his coworkers.
(I’m not really sure what’s happening here…but I like it)
From “Anthropomorphic and Loving It” Facebook page
Two rare Scottish Wildcats, born at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland’s Edinburgh Zoo, may help provide a lifeline for the iconic species.
The kittens will join a conservation breeding programme, which it is hoped will save the species from extinction in the wild through future reintroductions.
David Barclay, RZSS cat conservation project officer, said, “Scottish Wildcats are facing severe threats due to cross-breeding with domestic and feral cats, disease transfer and accidental persecution.”
“Wildcat populations have suffered a sharp decline in Scotland in recent decades with studies suggesting there may be as few as 115 Scottish Wildcats left in the wild, making them one of the UK’s most endangered mammals. Our conservation breeding programme and work with partners in Scottish Wildcat Action, the national conservation project, is therefore vital.”
David continued, “Every birth is a potential lifeline and improves the chances of a genetically healthy population that can act as a source for future wildcat release.”
Born in April, the kittens have recently started to emerge from their den and explore their habitat.
A rare flower which smells like rotting flesh is blooming for just 48 hours at the Eden Project in Cornwall.
The titan arum, known as the corpse flower, has been nurtured for years by expert Tim Grigg at the project, but will only flower for two days.
During that time, it will let off a foul smell, which has been likened to the stench of rotting flesh.
The Milwaukee County Zoo is proud to announce that a Reticulated Giraffe was born on May 15.
The female calf arrived in the early evening to mom Marlee. This marks the second offspring for Marlee and the fourth for Bahatika, the father.
On May 16, veterinarians completed the calf’s first exam. The baby weighed 174 pounds and stood 6 feet, 1 inch tall. Zookeepers and medical staff have been observing mother and baby closely. Marlee appears very calm and attentive to the calf, who is nursing regularly.
The calf does not have a name yet. Zookeepers who work with the newborn say they want to wait a while and learn more about her personality before choosing a name.
Six-year-old Marlee arrived at the Milwaukee County Zoo in 2013 from Zoo Miami. Bahatika is 12 years old and arrived in 2006 from the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.
The zoo currently houses six Giraffe: adults Bahatika, Marlee, Ziggy, and Rahna; youngster Kazi; and the newborn.
Reticulated Giraffes are one of nine species and subspecies of Giraffe found in Africa. While widespread geographically, their numbers have decreased dramatically in recent decades, with only about 100,000 individuals remaining in the wild. Habitat loss, fragmentation, illegal hunting, and expanding human settlement contribute to the decline. Giraffes as a species are listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, with their status uplisted from Least Concern just over a year ago.
I happened upon a Very Cool website of an artist who makes some fantastic and other-worldly art. Check out his site.
Visitors at a leading contemporary art museum in Paris didn’t leave only their coats in the cloakroom — they left all their clothes.
The Palais du Tokyo museum opened its doors to nudists for a special visit Saturday. It’s part of growing efforts by France’s tiny nudist community to encourage acceptance of clothes-free activities, after a nudist restaurant and nudist park opened in the French capital.
The museum visit was arranged before regular opening hours so the nudists wouldn’t mingle with other visitors. They viewed an exhibit of contemporary works focused on “Discord.”
Organizers said they are hoping to attract younger members and get rid of “complexes” around their nudist practices, which they don’t wanted “limited to beaches, summertime or a certain category of the population.”
Library Shut Down After Stinky Fruit Mistaken For Gas Leak
Things were out of odor at a university library in Melbourne, Australia, on Saturday afternoon, with fears of a gas leak.
But the smell that aroused suspicions was no leaky pipe. It was a notoriously stinky fruit.
Around 500 students and staffers were evacuated from the RMIT University library so that 40 firefighters, including masked crews, could investigate the source of the smell, according to the Herald Sun. The culprit was a durian left rotting in a cupboard, Melbourne’s Metropolitan Fire Brigade said in a release.
This sort of fruit-driven flight would surprise few who have come in contact with the durian, a native of Southeast Asia with an odor that has been compared to “turpentine and onions, garnished with a gym sock,” “hot poop garbage” and “gasoline.”
Although aficionados relish durians for their creamy, sweet interior, the fruits are so polarizing that they’re banned from Singapore’s subway system and many hotels around Asia, according to Time.
Once authorities knew there was no danger, the building was reopened. However, Victoria state’s Environment Protection Authority still had the task of removing the foul-smelling fruit from the premises, according to The Age.
In the early hours of April 15, 1912, a lifeboat navigated the frigid waters of the North Atlantic Ocean, its skeleton crew scanning the dark, debris-littered surface for any sign of life. Hours earlier, the unthinkable had happened: The RMS Titanic, a majestic ocean liner deemed “unsinkable,” had struck an iceberg and slowly disappeared into the sea on its maiden voyage.
Hundreds of passengers fled in lifeboats. Hundreds more perished, going down with the ship or freezing to death in the icy water. The only one of Titanic’s lifeboats to turn back to the wreckage found body after body — until it discovered a young Chinese man, still alive, clinging to a piece of wood.
That man would be one of six Chinese passengers who survived the Titanic, a little-known fact about the historic disaster that has largely remained untold or distorted, owing to a racially hostile environment toward Chinese people in the West at the turn of the 20th century.
Now, the lives of these men — who they were, how they survived that fateful night and why they were barred from entering the United States — are being examined in a new documentary, “The Six,” by Arthur Jones and Steven Schwankert.
Read the entire article from the Washington Post Here.
It’s like something from a Monty Python sketch: Portions of a 16th-century Scottish castle were recently closed to the public due to a “very angry badger.”
It’s not clear what the animal did to leave the impression that it was “very angry”:
An absent “Oxford comma” will cost a Maine dairy company $5 million.
The suit, brought against Oakhurst Dairy by the company’s drivers in 2014, sought $10 million in a dispute about overtime payment.
“For want of a comma, we have this case,” U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit Judge David Barron said in March, 2017.
The sentence at the heart of the dairy drivers’ case referred to Maine’s overtime law and whom it doesn’t apply to: “The canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, marketing, storing, packing for shipment or distribution of:
“(1) Agricultural produce;
“(2) Meat and fish products; and
“(3) Perishable foods.”
The disagreement stemmed from the lack of a comma after the word “shipment.”
The use of the Oxford comma — also called a serial comma — delineates the final item on a list. For example: “Milk, cheese, and yogurt.”
In 2017, Judge David Barron reasoned that the law’s punctuation made it unclear if “packing for shipping or distribution” is one activity or if “packing for shipping” is separate from “distribution.”
The five drivers who led the lawsuit will receive $50,000 each from the settlement fund, according to the Portland Press Herald.
For full article, visit:
The village of Ramygala, Lithuania held its annual goat beauty pageant, and the winner was a female goat named Demyte, a.k.a. “Little Spot.”
After a parade, six goats were selected to be finalists. They were then judged based on aspects such as nicest skin, the news agency reported.
The goats were also dressed up for the occasion.
Reuters reported that several of the finalists flat-out refused to participate and wouldn’t walk. They had to be carried by their owners instead.
Maybe that makes them the real winners here.
The Norwegian King’s Guard mascot and Colonel-in-Chief is a penguin called Nils Olav (Brigadier Sir Nils Olav to be precise). Sir Nils resides in Edinburgh Zoo, Scotland, and was initially given the rank of visekorporal (lance corporal) in 1961. He has been promoted each time the King’s Guard has visited the zoo since.
American Horror Story Leak… (take it with a grain of salt, as you know, anything can happen in Hollywood)
With seven seasons in the can, Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story has delved into haunted houses, demons, witches, and perhaps most terrifying of all, the polarization of U.S. political discourse. Even though less than six months have passed since the ending of AHS: Cult, tentative details are already emerging about the incredibly secretive show.
According to Bloody Disgusting, we know three things:
1. Murphy says the story takes place in the “near future.”
2. Sarah Paulson’s signed up for another presumably starring role.
3. An industrious and likely kind of obsessed AHS fan found out 21st Century Fox has registered the trademark “American Horror Story: Radioactive.”
Keep in mind a media company as huge as Fox registers trademarks before they know if they’re ever going to use them on a routine basis. So while this info doesn’t confirm “Radioactive” is the title of the next AHS, it is a strong indicator that one of Fox’s lawyers thinks it might be the case.
Also known as “Hoop Man Yu-Ya” in his native country, Yamada is famous for his hula hoop tricks. He can spin a hula hoop while running, spin it vertically using both his head and his backside and can also spin dozens of them at the same time. The guy has incredible coordination, which basically allows him to keep the hoops spinning with virtually every part of his body, but for his latest world record attempt, he needed a completely different approach.
Spinning a 5.14 m hula hoop with only your torso is completely different than doing it with a regular size one. Instead of rocking your waist back and forth, you have to get it spinning using your hands and then literally run and spin inside the giant hoop while it is moving to keep the momentum going. It may look silly, but there’s actually a very precise art to it and the timing has to be just right.
A pair of penguins were captured on camera appearing to pose for a selfie in Antarctica after one of the aquatic birds discovered the filming device.
The footage, filmed at the Auster Rookery near Australia’s Mawson research station, was shared on Twitter by the Australian Antarctic Division.
The penguins are seen tilting the camera over and examining it in a way that makes them appear to be taking a selfie together. The video also gives viewers a close view of the penguins and their facial features.
Australian Antarctic expeditioner, Eddie Gault, had left the camera after visiting the Auster Rookery, the Australian Antarctic Division said.
Hitchin’ a ride…
Rooster captured after a month
on the loose in Illinois
Nothing says Happy Valentine’s Day more than creepy old-school Valentine Cards. Enjoy!
A fish that changes its gender after it’s simply had enough
…tale from Blue Planet II’s first episode involves the kobudai, a fish that lives in the waters surrounding Japan. Among this species, one male will mate with many females, but he’s always got to be on the lookout for what might happen if one of those females disappears to hide out for months — during which time she changes genders, becoming a male. If the new male has grown large enough, he can return to shove the original male out of his territory, only to begin the cycle anew.
- Sheep and goats may look similar, but they’re different species. Sheep have 54 chromosomes, while goats have 60 chromosomes.
- Sheep have excellent peripheral vision. Their large, rectangular pupils allow them to see almost 360 degrees. In fact, they can see behind themselves without turning their heads!
- During World War I, President Woodrow Wilson had a flock of sheep trim the White House lawn.
- Not only can sheep recognize up to 50 other sheep faces and remember them for 2 years, but they can also recognize human faces.
Boanthropy is a psychological disorder in which the sufferer believes he or she is a cow or ox. The most famous sufferer of this condition was King Nebuchadnezzar, who in the Book of Daniel “was driven from men and did eat grass as oxen”.
Happy New Year! Welcome to 2018
This movie is a brief (8 minute) pseudo-documentary loosely based on a mutated version of logophobia (a fear of words). Such a fear can cause a laundry list of symptoms, such as: breathlessness, excessive sweating, shaking, inability to think, feeling nauseated, panic attacks, paranoia and even a fear of death.
I have always been fascinated with “scary logos” because I remember seeing a number of these when I was growing up. I even wrote a short story about it in one of my books (In a Corner, Darkly: Volume 1). There was something creepy and disturbing about them and they have stuck around in my brain for the better part of 45 years.
The problem about these video logos is that, yes, they can be scary – it just depends on the particular person’s point of view. As an adult, witnessing these things probably amounts to a lot of nothing. But as a 4, 5, or 6 year old, the jarring sounds and the unsettling visuals can cast these clips in a whole different light.
Here is a rather complete list of the logos that struck fear into the hearts of kids in past decades: Linky Here.
If you so choose, simply google “scary logos” or “creepy television logos”. There are a number of websites, links, and video collections that provide other examples of what this fear/phobia is all about.
Here is another article I wrote for The Grim Seer Society Weblog – From June, 2016
Why Clowns Aren’t Funny (or scary)
I’ve never been a big fan of clowns. It’s not that I’m afraid of them (never was), nor do I find them endearing, charming, funny or delightful. For me, a clown represents over-the-top slapstick and exaggerated goofiness that goes beyond entertainment. I think it’s the combination of their greasy make-up and sophomoric behavior that makes them so distasteful to me. Even when I watched Bozo’s Circus as a child, I always preferred Cookie over the title clown himself, simply for the fact that Cookie wasn’t as theatrical and overly dramatic when on stage.
In the horror culture, clowns are wonderful tropes that elicit a deep-seeded fear that runs rampant in many people. Coulrophobia is a real thing. Twelve percent of people in the United States admit to suffering from this fear. According to Coulrophobia Facts, “Scientists and doctors now agree that it is a result of not knowing who lies behind the excessive makeup, red nose and hair color.”
This website also states that, “… clowns can also break social norms, their mask makes them able to do things that others can’t do socially, like interacting with unknown people at ease.”
While it is true that movies and television have made certain clowns appear fanatical with their wild antics and vengeful conduct, I believe that these particular characters would be terrifying regardless of what they wore on their faces or how they were dressed.
In Stephen King’s novel, It, Pennywise (the clown) terrorizes children, luring them into the sewers with promises of fun and balloons only to shower them with their worst fears as the character It actually murders them. Now, let’s think about this for a minute. If any middle-aged man lured a child into harm’s way with candy or puppies, he would be regarded as a monster, as someone to be feared. Does it matter what his attire is at that moment? While dressing up as a clown might carry a little persuasive pull, using a cute animal or treats in order to trick a trusting kid should be seen as more hideous and heinous than simply wearing a costume.
Stephen King utilized coulrophobia quite well. In order to burrow into the readers’ psyche, he levied a creepy clown against a bunch of anxious kids. What we have been left with is a solid horror novel and a compelling movie. (and I hear they are going to remake IT in the near future) While the concept is brilliant for a writer to use, to play to peoples’ fears, I believe the real terror in the book goes much deeper. The characters in the novel fear Pennywise, but the ultimate dread actually revolves around the issues of abandonment and loneliness. Those are far more devastating, after all. (though not as fun to read, perhaps).
In the feature film, Poltergeist, another evil clown makes an unwelcome appearance. During this 1982 movie, “Robbie” (one of the child actors) sees the clown doll staring at him and, finding it creepy, covers the doll with his jacket. Later in the film when Robbie is about to go to bed he notices the clown is gone. He starts looking for it, looking under one side of the bed, only to see nothing. He checks the other side of the bed and sees nothing, but when he gets up the clown doll is behind him, grabbing his face before dragging him under the bed. The clown continues to choke him until Robbie fights back, ripping the clown doll’s stuffing out before bringing it on top of the bed and continuing to attack it before finally stopping.”
Have you ever seen some of the dolls from the early 1900s in an antique store? Those dead-eye faces with gaping mouths are the epitome of disturbing. Yet, they are dressed in clothes of the day, usually in dresses with petticoats and a fancy coif. No greasepaint makeup or striped colored clown pants needed; they already posses an eerie vibe. If a little stuffed bear or bunny suddenly became animated and began choking the life out of your child, they would be seen as horrifying and a threat. It wasn’t the fact that a clown was hurting a young boy, but an object that was supposed to be inanimate.
Before Season 4 of American Horror Story aired, the commercial teases leading up to the premier episode revolved around snippets of Twisty the Clown in full mask regalia (in addition to other freaky clownish commercial bites). When the back-story is finally revealed, we learn that Twisty actually had a horrible life which ultimately led to his “taking up the exaggerated mask”. While he did kill along the way, his was a story that ended up more poignant than horrifying.
“Twisty was mentally handicapped. And given that he was the number one attraction at the local circus, some cruel and clever freaks spread a career- (and, for Twisty, life-) ruining rumor that he had been molesting the children who came to see his act.” He was also suicidal, and in a botched attempt to shoot himself in the head, he instead blew the lower half of his face off, resulting in his wearing the oversized grin (probably a shout-out to Mr Sardonicus: The Man Who Laughs).
So, what we really have in this case is a mutilated, disfigured, mentally handicapped man who made attempts at engaging with children, and when that didn’t work, took out his anger and frustration by murdering random innocents. Where is the real clown connection? Perhaps as a passing nod, he used a mask and makeup to cover up his mangled face while he chose to wear gaudy oversized clothes as homage to a profession of which he longed to be a part. But again, this guy would have been a societal nightmare regardless of what he wore or how he made up his face.
Was John Wayne Gacy a scary clown? No, he was an insane predator who used any means he could in order to destroy lives. He raped and killed 33 men and boys between 1972 and 1978 in Cook County, Illinois (near Chicago). Known as “the clown who killed” by the media only helped to provoke people’s fear of clowns.
In two of the previously mentioned cases, it was the individual behind the grease paint and peculiar clothes who was actually to be feared. They could have just as easily portrayed themselves as sports figures or policemen. Either of these “costumes” could sway an innocent child and get them to follow along with a perpetrator’s requests. In these previously mentioned examples, the clowns represented the ultimate bait and switch. Instead of having clowns represent joy and humor with a bit of mischievous behavior thrown in, they became uglier and larger than life. They came to represent evil incarnate even though the same character could have been portrayed as any other persona with the same results.
Clowns can be many things: annoying, distasteful, exaggerated, goofy, overbearing and gratuitous. The two things they aren’t, however, are funny or scary. Leave the art of pratfalls and slapstick comedy to those who have finesse, such as Charlie Chaplin, Dick Van Dyke, John Cleese, and The Three Stooges. Leave the horror to the writers, directors and actors. And if you must, look to reality for the authentic terrors that plague the world –John Wayne Gacy, Ted Bundy, Charles Manson, and Jeffrey Dahmer.
Compared to a list like that, clowns should just take their red noses, balloon animals and honking horns and go home.
Here is an article I wrote for The Grim Seer Society Weblog – from July, 2016.
Victorian Horror: Steampunk
Between the goggles, leather corsets, top hats, and boots, this sub-genre has managed to burrow its way into popular culture, bringing with it a multitude of other, somewhat similar categories. Cyberpunk, dieselpunk, and decopunk are variations along the same stratosphere. The relative difference between these (and the many other divisions that exist) is the time frame on which they focus. As far as Steampunk and its entire ilk are concerned, the late 1800’s through the early 1900’s is where this alternative historical setting is most often found.
Steampunk: From the Victorian View
According to http://steampunk-horror.deviantart.com/, “Steampunk is a subgenre of speculative fiction, usually set in an anachronistic Victorian or quasi-Victorian alternate history setting. It could be described by the slogan ‘What the past would look like if the future had happened sooner.’ It includes fiction with science fiction, fantasy or horror themes.” Under the heading of Steampunk itself, one can find quite a few sub-headings as well. As with any genre or sub-genre, the break down into smaller and smaller niche groups will happen over the course of time.
Steampunk, as a whole, is not a scary concept; nor was the Victorian Age, to be honest. The Victorian Age stretches from 1837 – 1901 and was named after Queen Victoria of England. People living during this period didn’t necessarily recognize their style of dress or current inventions like the fans of Steampunk do today. If societies were that self- aware, we might have never had to live through the big hair and annoying shoulder pads of the 1980’s.
Self-awareness aside, the concept of Steampunk as we now know it has so many facets that analyzing the genre as a whole might be viewed as rather generic and mundane. Because it encapsulates literature, music, fashion, furniture, décor, film and art, it is critical for us to narrow down a more palatable topic on which to focus. So, for our purposes, let’s discuss one particular issue as we regard this classification: the joining of man and machine.
During the Victorian age, the steam engine was the great new technology. With its ear-splitting hiss and enormous iron body, this new source of power generated not only energy, but a fascination about its very concept. Fashion, art, and design all took their cues from the population’s enchantment with this new creation. Much like what happened in the 1950s when the space race was a driving force – signs, furniture, outfits, television shows, and even advertising all jumped on the proverbial bandwagon, incorporating space-type themes into their design campaigns and merchandise.
Steampunk does the same thing, only the time frame is skewed. According to Wikipedia, “Modern appropriation of Victorian styles: a contemporary counter-cultural trend called steampunk. Those who dress steampunk often wear Victorian-style clothing that has been ‘tweaked’ in edgy ways: tattered, distorted, melded with Goth fashion, Punk, and Rivethead styles. Another example of Victorian fashion being incorporated into a contemporary style is the Lolita Fashion.”
Steampunk Goes Mechanical
In the 1990’s, when everything Steampunk really started to enjoy a more mainstream following, (the term ‘steampunk’ was first mentioned by science-fiction author K.W. Jeter in 1987), our culture was well past the steam engine lifestyle. We were up to our modems in hi-tech computers and advanced technology, and continue to be so. However, there was (and still is) a magnetism and appeal to things of the past; in this case, the style, mechanisms, and fashion of the Victorian Era.
In the late 1800s, machines of all sorts were becoming more and more integrated into daily life. (http://theinventors.org/library/weekly/aa111100b.htm) In 1886, Gottlieb Daimler built the first four-wheeled motor vehicle. One year prior, Mr. Daimler invented the first gas-engine motorcycle. In 1892, Rudolf Diesel invents the diesel-fueled internal combustion engine. A few years earlier, the inventions of the typewriter, the elevator, the sewing machine, and the gramophone were first shared with the public. This was a time when man and machine began to merge, both in business and in personal/domestic life. It was the intermingling of these two very different entities that have brought about the horrific concept of man becoming machine.
Man Becoming Machine
The idea of flesh actually intertwining with gears, bolts and various metal mechanisms can be shocking. We are not referring to the injured or disfigured; those among us that use prosthetics to aid in mobility from a medical standpoint. Rather, what we are contemplating is the juxtaposition of mechanical parts with flesh and bone.
The Swiss surrealist painter, H.R. Giger, comes to mind. His works provide great illustrations of the concept ‘man becoming machine’. Though not specifically “steampunk”, he combined humanistic faces or torsos with jutting tubes and elongated machinery. The idea of humans morphing into machines, whether by compliance or by force, can be seen as futuristically amazing or destructively horrifying. It depends on whose terms these alterations are being made.
During the Victorian age, as machines were ‘taking the place’ of what was once solely manpowered and human controlled jobs, these new devices could easily be seen as terrifying and a threat to the fabric of society. The fact that many of these new innovations were noisy, large and had the potential for injury only added to suspicions. If these inventions can do the jobs better and faster than people, who knew if the entire working population would simply be replaced? Or, going one step further, if mechanical devices are better on every front, why not just replace humans altogether?
Of course, many movies and books have dealt with this very topic from a variety of viewpoints. However, the melding of flesh and machine still retains a rather grotesque imagery. “He reached beneath where his bottom ribs would have curved, and lifted upward. I stared in utter amazement. No heart, no bone, no human ligament or vein. Inside a metal cage gears whirred and meshed. Wound springs intertwined with each other, and ticked off the slow measuring of his artificial life” (256). The steampunk grotesque emerges from techno fantasy, thus some mad scientist or inventor has assembled the machine/monster by hand.” http://scholarworks.gsu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1162&context=english_theses
The notion that gears, springs, sprockets and wheels are somehow adhered to a human being, not for any medical purpose, but instead to create a ‘new entity’ is somewhat alarming. Mechanical devices substituting for body parts can easily enough lead to robotics controlling our thoughts and movements. Free will would no longer exist. Human connection and all of its components would no longer be necessary. Nothing in the world would have feelings, emotions or heart, with the exceptions of animals. And eventually, even the animals might ultimately be mechanically controlled.
“A grotesque form is one of partial confusion, not complete confusion. If we can at least partially identify elements of the object, if ‘we have an inkling of the unity and character in the midst of the strangeness of the form, then we have the grotesque. It is the half-formed, the perplexed, and the suggestively monstrous’ (193-4).” http://scholarworks.gsu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1162&context=english_theses
Where is the Cutoff?
It is this very idea, human becoming something unnatural, which has horrified society for eons. We can see examples of this in Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” (pieces of corpses shouldn’t come back to life), Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” (once dead, stay dead), and The Fly (1958 or 1986 version – man turning into insect). Even in these cases, as scary as they were during their time, at least the human turned into a form of some kind of animal being. Turning into a fly (or part fly) is unfathomable, but at its core, the change takes place between one living creature evolving into another.
With Steampunk Horror, man’s eventual evolution is not reforming into another sentient being, but instead into something inhuman. What percentage of flesh and blood is required in order to consider something either a creature of humanity or as a robotic machine?
Being just another cog in the wheel would take on a whole different meaning.