I have no coherent time-line for the wonder and beauty and fun that was the Showdown at Unobtainium
(hey, we were in a town full of unstable time-bending ore, OK?) so, instead, I give you The ABCs of Unobtainium:A: Actors, Airship & Artists
First of all, the town itself was a work of Art, with carefully-fashioned wooden facades and fencing for many structures, various props and odds and ends carefully placed about, lending atmosphere. Each and every vendor at the event had all hand-crafted, one of a kind, awesome stuff.
There was an Airship on site; the way it lit up at night looked like something straight out of a Cirque du Soleil production. It was a wonderful moving piece of art and many very lucky folks got to enjoy a ride around the site in the airship. They also had a shoot-out between the crew of the airship and the SteamPinkertons.
When the event was announced in July, the call went out for actors, and many folks stepped up and put in a lot of hours getting into character, practicing improv bits, practicing the showdown combat scene, and getting ready to show our visitors a good time. We had a mix of historical characters--Edison, Tesla, George Westinghouse, Calamity Jane, Lilly Langtry--and characters created by the actors for the event. Everyone did an amazing job of bringing their character to life and keeping in character throughout two days of festival.B: Bartenders, Builders & Burlesque
Shiner's Saloon, Tenyson absinthe, and others provided top notch beverages. The bartending team kept themselves cheerful and high energy from opening to closing. Everyone who came in to the bar was immediately swept into the spirit of the Wierd West! From a cow field in the middle of nowhere, a town was built; the Unobtainium volunteer builder team spent months building facades, furniture (the bar itelf was a thing of beauty), seating, you-name-it. And for the folks who were able to stay up late enough Saturday night, there was Ruby Joule
, a wonderfully talented, beautiful, and fun burlesque dancer. Ooh la-la!C: Crafters & Costumes
Everyone from the build team to the vendors & guest lecturers, robot-builders and everyone visiting the town for the day or the weekend was fantasically creative. There were very few people who came to Unobtainium in "street clothes"....most visitors were in fantastic garb with many individual flourishes. We had military-style steampunks, Weird West steampunks, renfaire steampunks, Explorer steampunks in pith helmets, Steam Pirates, Officers, Gentlemen, Gunfighters, Soiled doves & dollymops, gypsies and at least one automaton (me!). I think my eyes hurt from seeing so many beautiful and interesting people and costumes!D: DJ
. In between live music, science demonstrations & debates by Tesla and Edison, and Doc Ravencraft's talks on supernatural phenomenon, we had Dr. Strangevibe
, whose musical archives were a thing of wonder, as was his skill at mixing and matching the tunes. There were wonderfully etherial, strange songs, there were more "earthy" tunes, and all of them contributed greatly to making the atmosphere of this temporally-challenged town sliding into madness.E: Edison
. Daniel Benes
, the actor who played Mr. Edison, though he portrayed Edison as the arrogant man of business and science, was actually in reality a very nice, thoughtful, and funny person. In his personal life, he is a musician and sound engineer who also builds scientific gadgets for fun. One of the most enthralling pieces of art at the event was a mine shaft he constructed using hardware store goodies, with eerie lights and smoke and scary warning sign to avoid the mine shaft due to raw Unobtainium vapors. It looked amazing. He also built a board with a small steam engine which he used to power various light bulbs in order to demonstrate his electrical inventions. We were all absolutely *stunned* when, after all was said and done and we were packing it in Sunday night, when he confessed that he'd felt completely over-his-head, and had seriously contemplated quitting early on! He never showed it! I was also terribly amused when he broke into an absolutely adorably silly little dance at the end of the day Sunday. I hope someone got it on video. F: Friends & food.
FRIENDS! Wow, it was great to see so many friends at this event. We had friends vending, friends on cast, and more friends came out as patrons to shop, eat, drink, listen to music, see art, check out the gadgets and media displays, and have a good time. It was wonderful to see y'all and I hope you had the best time!
The Brou-ha-ha, one of my favorite food vendors from Sherwood forest faire, were selling assorted strange and yummy things, including 'hell spawn on a stick' and 'sea pig'. I hope to replicate the sea pig soon. The chef catering the VIP area was also fantastic; After a long day at the Ticket booth, I was absolutely starving and grateful for my VIP pass. I enjoyed nibbles of prosciutto-wrapped melon, basil, tomato, and mozzarella drizzled in olive oil, thai coconut soup, and bite sized cheesecake bits. G: Gadgets, Gamers & Gunfighters!
ATX Hackerspace was there, there was a Maker Mad Science Lab & the Edge of Imagination station, all demonstrating media, computers, blinky lights, and science. There was a funky spin-art machine, gadgets that would tell your fortune or diagnose your wierdness (I'm hebephrenic!) and all sorts of fun. Ubergoober & Cracked Monocle were on hand with Steampunk LARP goodness. I was sadly working the ticket booth when it happened, but apparently there was a grand shoot-out between the Steampinkertons and the crew of the airship, in an attempt on Mr. Edison's life. Thax, as the Town Drunk, was unfortunately killed. Twice. and brought back to life by the Mysterious Stranger, Mr. Satan. Oops, I meant Se
atan, of course. H: Hell. and HOT.
A strange twist on the story of Unobtainium, apparently the miners dug very deep, indeed, in their pursuit of the valuable and crazy-making Unobtainium ore. Weather wise, it was quite warm both days, especially for mid-November. Many volunteers and cast got sunburn, and I know of at least one heatstroke. But everyone soldiered on like champs.I: Ice Cream,
Ever made Ice Cream with Liquid Nitrogen? Heh, me neither. But the Maker/Hacker/Mad scientists sure did. It was great fun, nevermind that the entire apparatus was then covered in bees shortly after they completed this amazing demonstration of scientific fun!J:
Canary. That's be Calamity Jane to me and you, folks. Sue, the actress playing Calamity Jane, is one of the loveliest, kindest, most genteel ladies in the steampunk scene. She's known for going to cons and doing presentations on how to put together steampunk outfits from goodies you may have stashed in your closet, or find at vintage stores, with just a bit of alteration and perhaps one or two well-chosen accessories. She was on task and in-character from day one, in all her salty glory. Amazing!K: Kiki Jezebel
. I am sad to say that the actoress playing this role was rudely denied leave from work at the last minute; she was a hoot and a half at rehearsals and I hope she will reprise the role at some future steampunk shindig. L: Laminates!
The ticket gate crew had fun and headaches sorting through the dozens, or possibly hundreds, of laminated name tags for VIP, Artist, Vendor, Cast and Crew of Unobtainium. They were meticulously crafted, printed, laminated, sorted and organized by Sam Tyler, and after being in the grubby paws of the front gate volunteer team, all organization had fled and we were just fumbling through. It was a valiant attempt and the laminates all looked fantastic. I'm keeping mine forever :)M: Makers & Music!
I mentioned the gadgets brought by hackerspace, mad scientists, and media presentations already. As far as music goes, there wasn't a bad band in the bunch; Erika Maasen
is very talented at playing various stringed instruments and has a fantastic voice; she re interprets many 'alternative rock' songs from the 90's into her very own interesting covers. She was quite beautiful, as well. Saturday we saw and heard Ms. Maasen, Temple of Ape
's Theremin-carnival, Shakey Graves
, Darwin Prophet & the Chronus Mirror
, and the perennial Texas Steampunk scene headliners Marquis of Vaudeville
brought the house down. Sunday, many of the same artists played again, plus Barebones Orchestra
rocked the hung-over house! Amazing, amazing, amazing. Idea for next time: these artists really need a dedicated CD table set up all weekend, so people can take all that great music home!N: Nitrogen!
Again with the fun and messy science! The makers and hackers not only made ice cream but also demonstrated fruit-shattering tricks with liquid nitrogen :)O: Ozzy & Oktober Love
Not THAT Ozzy. Unobtainium's Ozzy was portraying Herr Doktor Einstein, a renowned expert on hysteria. He has worked as an improv actor at renfaire, he really added a lot to rehearsals and between him and the bartender, did some of the damn funniest improv I've ever seen in my life. Being that he was an expert on treating hysteria, I don't know about that other "O" tho I could be curious. ;)
Oktober Love was our very own steamgypsy; and a lovely one she made, too. Trekking up from San Marcos for actor rehearsals week after week, she was also an absolute ROCK at the front gate, helping with tickets and traffic, and then whisking off to help with bartending in the VIP area. What a lovely, multitalented, creative, and dedicated Unobtainizen. P: Presentations!
We had everything from soldering to arduinos to costuming to westernpunk to psychic phenomena. If you wanted to glue a gear on something and play in the alternate costume reality or actually make your gears go, there was someone there who could tell you how to do it. Art, science, DIY, you name it. Q:
of the event, the organizers heart and soul of the event: Sam Tyler, Maggie Duval and Lisa Ralston Turner. This whole thing came about from their dreams and ideas, and the people who believed in it enough to make it real. I know it was a stressful thing to plan and organize, and I know that in the aftermath of the event, they are exhausted and crispy around the edges, but I hope that when the smoke clears and the counting's done, the enthusiasm of the builders, makers, vendors, volunteers, and paying patrons will motivate them to let it happen again.R: The Robot Group
. These are the folks who brought the crazy spin-art machine for everyone to play with. Very nice folks, lots of fun, and very patient with science noobs. http://wiki.therobotgroup.org/wiki/Main_PageS: Science!
Have I mentioned the science? Robots, blinky lights, tubes and wires, dry ice, liquid nitrogen, Tesla Coils...this was hands-on learning at its finest and most fun. T: TESLA!
Portrayed by Edwin Wise
, a real-life mad scientist, improv artist, locally famous gore-maker, avid past participant in Scare for a Cure
and dedicated ladies' man. A true renaissance gentleman. He and Daniel took joy in bringing science goodies to actor rehearsals. He brought his small Tesla Coil and we fired it up in the back yard; the following week, Daniel brought a Van de Graaf generator. The two scientists worked and played very well together, and it was almost a shame that Tesla won the Showdown, because they were both just awesome.U: Unobtainium.
More than a few tents in a cow pasture in the middle of Nowhere, TX, this was a community of people who came together to make something happen. Everyone who visited added their own energy to the whole. It was an amazing, amazing event. Not a place, a feeling, a brief step out of time into a world we made real. I want to do it again!V:
is for VIP!
The VIP area was flowing with complimentary drinks and the most tasty bites of yummy things. Thai coconut soup, figs, tiny cheesecake bites, melon wrapped in prosciutto, I could go on and on. I hear there was a VIP supper as well, but I completely missed it. boo to that. Unstable chronological elements in play, what can ya do? There was lovely beer from our local Independence brewery and absinthe purveyors Tenneyson were on hand dishing out the Sazeracs as well.W: Wind.
There was a cold front trying to blow in all weekend, which didn't arrive til Sunday night. We had tickets and envelopes blowing around at the Ticket booth, until Holly found us a lot of rocks. The stage was a little wild at times, too. Apparently just being a few more feet above the ground raised the wind gusts even more. We all coped as we could, and at least the wind kept things a little cooler than they might have been otherwise.X: X rated
OK, I've got nothing for this, except I heard there was nudity out in the camping area. Y: Yearly!
This was the first, and from the sounds of it, the ONLY Showdown at Unobtainium event that will ever be. I would love to see this become an annual festival, featuring quasi-historical characters portraying history as it should have been, science and art pointing the way to the future as we'd like it to be.Z: Zeitgeist
I had to hunt for a Z word, and I think I found the perfect one: the spirit, attitude, or general outlook of a specific time or period
. Pretty much sums it up. Art, science, do-it-yourself-ness, re-purpose, re-cyle, community spirit, and fantastic costumes. The spirit of Unobtainium, a moment in time, more precious for having been short and intense, and leaving us all wanting more Art, Science, and Beauty in our daily lives.