Watch City Festival 2013 and food outings

On Saturday, 11 May 2013, Janice and I met Beruk A. and Ken G. for the annual Watch City Festival in Waltham, Mass. We also ran into other acquaintances at the steampunk fair.

Beruk chatted with various exhibitors and fellow attendees, and Ken took pictures of people in neo-Victorian garb. Unlike past years, Janice and I tried to attend more panels and performances. It was interesting to see an academic track at the “Author’s Den.”

We sat in on “Ay-leen the Peacemaker’s” (Diana M. Pho’s) panel on “Steam Around the World: Steampunk Beyond Victoriana.” Her discussion of the multicultural aspects of the burgeoning subculture was interesting, and I was glad that Avatar: Legend of Korra was among the many works she cited. Exploration of social issues is part of the “punk” in steampunk.

We enjoyed a little of Shin Daiko’s drumming as we went to Margarita’s for lunch. We then browsed a bit among the vendors on the Waltham Common before attending artist James Gurney’s excellent discussion of “Dinotopia: Art, Science, and Imagination.” Gurney’s talk was a master class in how to combine elements for fictional world-building.

Ken left for another event, and we then went to “Seeing What the Old Masters Sought: Thoughts on 19th Century Design,” by Steve Ebinger. It was a good analysis of how real-world architects, painters, and inventors reacted to the politics, trade, materials, and expectations of their time and how they’ve influenced the do-it-yourself ethos of those developing the alternative styles of steampunk.

Overall, the turnout for the International Steampunk City was good, but the cool, damp weather may have turned some people away on Saturday. Janice and I had dinner at City Streets Restaurant, one of our regular haunts.

The next day, we returned to downtown Waltham after Janice’s usual stint volunteering at the animal shelter, and the sun shone on a crowd that included families celebrating Mother’s Day. It was much easier to be in costume.

Steampunk fair May 2013
At the Charles River Museum of Industry and Innovation

We went to Brandon Herman’s panel on “Clockwork Beyond Thunderdome: Steampunk in the Movies.” While I think that Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome shares only a few aesthetic elements with steampunk and dieselpunk, the genres are inclusive. Granted, there have been more bad movies and TV shows — such as Wild, Wild West — than good ones — see The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.

I do think the literature (including some tabletop role-playing games) is ahead of other media in terms of quality. I have fond memories of Tim M.B.’s GURPS 3e “Arth” and my “Gaslight Grimoire” scenarios. Speaking of RPGs, Janice and I then had an early dinner at the Skellig before heading home for the latest “Vortex: Terra’s Pride” telecom space opera.

In the past week or two, I’ve also eaten lunch with co-workers at the Newton St. Deli, Coconut Thai Café, and Taqueria el Amigo. Although I didn’t run the “Vanished Lands: Vistel’s Circus” fantasy campaign for my regular Monday night group this week, we did go out for dinner at Angelo’s House of Pizza and Seafood, watch the amusing animated Despicable Me, and discuss upcoming games.

The “Escapists” book club of former co-workers had dinner at Habaneros, one of Janice’s and my favorite Mexican-American restaurants in the area. At Lizzy’s, we had dessert and discussed Robert A. Heinlein’s The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, which I liked more than everyone else.

This coming weekend, I look forward to hosting Byron V.O., an alumnus of the Boston-area social/gaming groups who now lives in St. Louis. But first, I’ve got to survive the workweek!

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