An Antipodean Invention: Splendid Teapot Racing!

| August 17, 2016

This blogpost is dedicated to Donna Rose, the lady who inspired Countess Simona to create the sport of Splendid Teapot Racing. For the story of how it transpired, read on.

Splendid Teapot Racing is a Steampunk sport for all to enjoy! Originating from New Zealand in 2014, it was born of the steamy imagination of Countess Simona of Splendid Teapot Racing. With the initial racing vehicle ‘The Salty Sea Dog’ re-made from a classic 1950’s/60’s aluminum canteen teapot and a ‘junker’ radio controlled base by Captain Various, it hasn’t taken long for the craze to spread.
Captain Various with the very first racing teapot ‘The Salty Sea Dog’, made by him!
Image:  Courtesy of Splendid Teapot Racing
TheLadyArbitrates at SteampunkWayOfLife had the pleasure of interviewing Countess Simona, the Founder of Splendid Teapot Racing, earlier this week.

Tune back in to our blog on the weekend when we’ll post the most amusing movie snippets from the interview!

What is Splendid Teapot Racing?

Splendid Teapot Racing is a superb exposition of the creativity, speed and agility latent in all teapots that sit gathering dust on shelves everywhere.
Three of the inaugural competing Teapot Racing Vehicles at the 2015 Steampunk NZ Festival Oamaru, New Zealand: Salty Sea Dog, Stanley and Ol’ Smokey. These have three different bases and demonstrate significant in situ hints for success in teapot racing: wheel size, clearance (max 30 cm wide x 30 cm high x 40 cm long including all protruding parts of the chassis such as flags etc.) and a low centre of gravity.Image: Courtesy of Splendid Teapot Racing
Splendid Teapot Racing competitions are a call to all makers – amateurs and professionals alike. The Countess Simona describes it as a spectator sport which is “just silly enough”. She is firmly of the opinion that the more mayhem and absurdity ensues, the more entertaining the event.

Entrants are required to create a teapot-centric chassis, accessorised at the pleasure of the inventor, and mount this to a radio-controlled ‘vehicle’. Given that there are hobbyists with a range of expertise (and widely varying budgets) when it comes to radio controlled vehicles, racers are separated into 2 classes: ‘High Performance’ and ‘Junker’. The ‘High Performance’ class is for those hobbyists with electronics/robotics expertise and the budget to purchase and modify hobby shop calibre radio controlled vehicles for the base of their teapot chassis. The ‘Junker’ class of races are for those participants who use radio controlled devices such as one may pick up at Kmart or a junk shop for the base of their teapot chassis. Countess Simona has fashioned it thus in order to make the sport as participatory as possible and to ‘level the playing field’ so that those with the greatest expertise and budget for radio controlled devices don’t walk away with all the prizes!

That being said, those top ranking contestants in the High Performance class such as Colonel Hawthorne make it through the racing course very rapidly! The Colonel currently holds the record of 21 seconds (or thereabouts) for course completion with his racing teapot.


| August 10, 2016

Good Steampunkers, we love a classic novel. From Jules Verne’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth to HG Wells’ The War of the Worlds, the inspiration drawn for so many things steampunk – from cosplay to video game worlds, from gadget creation to event theming – is indisputable. 

And so, in the late 20th century, authors such as KW Jeter and Tim Powers brought us new, powerful works of fiction. Time travel is still an ever-present theme and with the passage of time, they and others brought us re-imagined historical figures and started immortalising the cross-cultural human milieu and its effect on steampunk sensibilities by finely drawn characterisation.

Yet, the steampunk imagination did not stop there. New voices continue to add their voices and visions – hopeful and macabre. The capacity to locate these new soothsayers is unparalleled through the portals known to us as the interwebs. Through time, space and place, the tenacious thought tentacles of new writers and media makers reach out and take hold of our imaginations as they birth potent alternative realities.

With that in mind, we aim to bring you news on the latest whereabouts of emergent steampunk prophets!

Gallery of Curiosities showcase ‘a fiction podcast of weird, curious and horrible stories’. You can download podcasts to enjoy at your leisure. 

Images that reference the obvious inspiration behind this publisher of new media’s clever name – the Cabinet of Curiosities – immediately spring to mind:

Image Credit: Domenico Remps [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


| August 7, 2016

Absinthe Salon

Good Steampunkers, we proudly bring you our review of a fine establishment in Sydney, Australia:

Absinthe Salon

What is Steampunk?

| August 4, 2016

What is Steampunk?

This is our definition of ‘steampunk’: ‘steampunk’ refers to a fusion of steam-era aesthetics and/or principles with futuristic ideas about human existence in the space-time continuum, informed by the possibilities offered by ongoing scientific endeavour when joined to the imagination. Steampunk is brought to life by the power of dreamers with nostalgic notions, who are supported by a deep knowledge of past eras, deftly knitting together science-inspired visions of the future.

Image Credit: Thomas Veyrat

Let’s deconstruct it.

JW Keter by Photo by Gemnerd 2011

Steampunk is a neologism which (arguably) was coined in the 1980’s. It apparently arose from the mind of science fiction author KW Jeter who was searching for an accurate description of his works.

But this is an origin story and if you’re interested, you can read about it here[1]. It still does not flesh out the meaning of ‘steampunk’ as it exists now after the pummeling we culture vultures give it. Thanks to us makers and appreciators and cosplayers and consumers, ‘steampunk’ is now a richly contested term. Let’s contest it a little more!

Image Credit: Shanna Jones Photography Yatzer Truth Coffee Shop Cape Town. Used under Creative Commons 4.0

The term ‘steampunk’ is largely used as an adjective.

Steampunk is used to describe speculative worlds, environments, communities and the attributes of people and things that exist within these. Those who adopt steampunk inspired identities often adopt affectations from their favourite eras: manners, mannerisms, speech patterns and communication styles. It adds to the flavor and experience. In delightful ways, it cross-fertilises the past with the digital age.


| July 31, 2016

 Painted Ponies by William Manns

Want a classic coffee table book on carousel horses? We’ve got you covered! ‘Painted Ponies’ is a classic coffee table book published in 1986 featuring the story of antique carousel art. Marvel at the detail of carved carousel horses created by the most renowned carvers. Painted Ponies has over 650 colour photographs and is a window into a bygone world which is, slowly but surely, being revived by restorers and visitors right around the world.

What could be a more Steampunk travel experience than going back in time on a carousel ride? From California to Connecticut, you too can be transported to a gentler, nobler time. Indulge your nostalgia, a sense that time is a circle and ride a horse in slow motion. We’ve got the goods for you, no matter what side of the States you live on! And for all us overseas visitors, we’re going to have to travel to get there!

Children love carousels – often termed merry-go-rounds – even the mass produced dinky ones you see dotting the walkways of malls.

But what of authentic old carousels? Lovingly hand produced by master craftsmen, they continue to swirl…yet just remember… in the early 1900’s when carousel rides were at their zenith, their rotational speed of 15 miles per hour was faster than anything! Hang on!

We recently visited Westfield Topanga just 30 minutes northwest of downtown Los Angeles to attend my favourite twins’ 1st birthday party.  We were pleasantly surprised to find an unusual double decker carousel ride indoors, on the first floor in front of the Target store.

Topanga Westfield is at 6600 Topanga Canyon Blvd, Canoga Park, California.

And just because babies are adorable…here are the twins (pic used with kind permission of their mom)!

By the way, the ‘smash cakes’ the girls are just about to plough into are from The French Confection Co. run by Mademoiselle Mallory in Burbank!

Here’s The French Confection Co.’s awesome Instagram feed

And The French Confection Co.’s amazing Facebook page
We love them because not only are their era-inspired cakes works of art, they taste sensational!
But back to carousels…food is distracting! We’ve just discovered the MOST DIVINE carousel related place ever: The New England Carousel Museum! In Bushnell Park stands a 1914 vintage carousel. Made by Stein and Goldstein, the 24 sided pavilion houses 48 hand carved wooden horses and 2 lover’s chariots that rotate around a Wurlitzer organ belting out the tunes in its lovably strident fashion.
This carousel is one of only 3 remaining Stein and Goldstein Carousels left in the world. The flamboyant horses with their flared nostrils, big teeth and wild eyes are decorated in colourful cabbage roses. The restoration work on each piece has been lovingly accomplished with the support of donations.

The museum has great hours for summer – open 10 am – 5 pm, Wednesday to Sunday in July and August. GO, GO, GO!!!

All Aboard the Steampunk Express……..

| July 23, 2016

Experience the Golden Age of train travel! Get that steam train smell into your lungs, close your eyes and travel back in time.

What’s the experience like? Since 1962, trains from the Trainworks collection have gone on tour right around New South Wales (in Australia) and beyond. Sink back into vintage vinyl covered seats with individual tray tables in impeccably restored, wood panelled carriages.

The dining car has an excellent selection of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks with which to wash down some tasty morsels. Martini, anyone?

Ladies and Gentlemen, leaving Sydney stations throughout the year, we thoroughly recommend exploring the many stunning regions of New South Wales in a First Class lounger. What could be a more authentic travel experience for the Steampunk aficionado? There is no experience more authentic than this!
Book your tickets, buy your friends a Gift Voucher, pack a little portmanteau and dress up in your 19thcentury finery (but we know how you like to PUNK it UP a bit!)

Where could you go? You board at Sydney’s Central Station to go on a day trip, a luxury weekend adventure, have a moving dining experience, or go to one of many special events…be sure to check back in as we’ll cover some spiffy occasions in upcoming posts.  

Should you book a Day trip in the First Class Lounge, you may very well be treated to a delicious Devonshire Tea.  The sterling service is explained by the manner in which Heritage Express is run: many of those assisting on board are volunteers and are there because of their love of train travel.

From the First Class Lounge – and only from this rarified section – you may choose to access the Observation Deck. Those with new fangled photographical equipment will be thrilled with the views they will capture from the vantage points on offer.

We beheld one of the Heritage Express steam trains chuffing out of Katoomba Station in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, collecting visitors who had arrived earlier that day to attend the Winter Magic Festival – held in June around the winter solstice in the southern hemisphere every year.

We heard whispers that those who had booked a dining car experience en route to the Winter Magic Festival were served a superb breakfast and plied with copious cups of tea until arriving at their mountainous destination.

To get your very own vintage Yuletide table, you may also visit the Victory Theatre Antiques located in Blackheath in the Blue Mountains (west of Sydney) where Radical Brochante (Stallholder “FRE”) upstairs has all your tableware needs covered.

Runcible is almost here…

| July 20, 2016

Runcible is an elegant, powerful mobile device. Circular & palm sized. As powerful as a smartphone, but designed with a sense of quiet serenity and longevity. This anti-smartphone can do “smartphone things” like make calls, type, take pictures & video, explore the web and get directions. The rest of the time, Runcible is quiet, beautiful, and truly yours.

Calling all steampunk enthusiasts!

| July 7, 2016

I have now had this blog running for a number of years and want to open it up to Steampunk Artists who would like to display their wares here.  I will not charge for this and will allow you to be on my front page for 2 days.  You can email me with a picture, description and cost with a link.  I will acknowledge receipt of your email and will let you know if is suitable for Steampunk Way of Life.

I have around 1,500 to 2,500 visits per month on average and only started monetising this site for the last two months.  If you have any questions, please feel free to ask me in the comments box……

YES! I bought the Profainomatic!

| July 3, 2016

This is a beaut machine which I bought at a Splendid Day Out…if you haven’t read the previous posts, you are in for a treat you will see where I found this marvellous contraption…..the PROFAINOMATIC!  It comes with this description:

Profainomatic: Imaginated by Verne Industries Ltd

Have you ever been in a room and accidentally overheard some one using bad language or profanity?  Even in some of the best homes in the country accidental profanity will sometimes rear its ugly head.

May we introduce the Profainomatic, a clever device developed by Verne Industries.  This small marvel is simple to operate and even easier to empty.

The eye on the front of the device uses the very latest in air spring vapour compression which teases the language out of the air.  Once captured the profanity or worse is then stored in the 2 pressurised amulinium (Author’s Note: Must be a new kind of aluminium I have never heard of?!) containment vessels at the rear of the device.  When the vessels are full, they can be emptied by one of our technicians at any time at your convenience.  A true marvel!

Here it is:

You can see the amulinium cylinder protruding at the back right, there is another one on the left.  Not showing are the lights…I didn’t need to turn it on at this moment in time as I was on my own!  The eye scans every bit of space for profanity and is very efficient at doing this..  It is a surprisingly heavy machine…no plastic was used in its primary engine!  Operation of this device is simple, even a 10 year old can operate it (heavens, I hope not, they should not be exposed to this level of profanity) by flicking the switch on the front.  It operates silently even at full bore!

Pros: Ease of operation, economical to run, does as described and doesn’t take up a lot of space.
Cons: The advertising says and I quote “Simple to operate and even easier to empty”.  The first is true but later on you read: “Can be emptied by one of our technicians”  I live in Australia and they are in the UK…this contraption should have had detachable cylinders!  Still I haven’t checked with the company if they provide free package and posting.

I will give this a five out of five star rating…but I would like to see an easier way to empty the cylinders.  We will see if they have any comments or advice to offer on this?

We have been using this device for a few weeks now and it has operated flawlessly and the cylinders appear to have plenty of room…maybe they last for one year like the battery?  As soon as people see this device it’s almost like they have forgotten to swear (This must be how the device works?) they just have a good laugh!

If you would like to see more of these wonderful contraptions, go here: Verne Industries

After my incredible time at the Steampunk Festival…

| July 2, 2016

If you have read my last few posts you will know that I had an incredible time at ‘a Splendid Day Out’ in Morecambe, UK.  It is located in the North of England and on Morecambe Bay.   I flew back a few weeks after the end of the festival and spent the time thinking about the experiences I had and I have to say it was an amazing few days….it felt longer.  Trust me I wanted it to be longer but as always…all good things must come to an end!

The flight back was with Etihad and the staff were very good and cheerful…which is what you want on a very long flight!  I was lucky enough to take a couple of photographs out of the plane’s windows as you can see…..pretty amazing!

Flying out of Abu Dhabi…

Flying into Perth….Western Australia

I will be posting about some of the venders I met at a Splendid Day Out whose wares are worth mentioning.

If you get the chance read some of the previous posts….you will be pleasantly surprised and it wouldn’t surprise me if it brings a smile to your face….especially Captain Nemo’s Ball!  Thanks for reading my blog and enjoy yourself!

Steampunk coffee

| July 1, 2016

How many of you love a good coffee?   I know I do!  But where do you go to find it?

There is this brilliant, or so I have heard, coffee shop in 36 Buitenkant St, Cape Town City Centre, Cape Town, 8000, South Africa.

Now isn’t that a good reason to Travel?

For those of you not in the know, coffee beans originated from Ethiopia,  the Arabica coffee bean plant as it is known.  Arabica grows on bushes and Robusta (another fruit) grows on trees …the ideal conditions for these to grow is along the equator at different heights.  Generally in the mountains.

The beans are picked by hand because of the difficulty of using machines on mountains, but Brazil has an automated system where the land is flat.

So now you know a little about coffee go and make yourself a cup or take that long needed vacation and do it in Steampunk style at Truth Coffee Roasting….

The excitement is over…..

| June 12, 2016

I have left Morecambe behind, sadly, the Fayre is over!  Now I have to go back to a normal life that most of us lead in a humdrum world.

One thing I have been able to take away from this wonderful event is the gift which I received from Ziggatino if you read my previous post you will know what a talented young person she is!  Here is one of her pencil drawings which is only the tip of the iceberg of the many things she has created!

Steampunk Wolf by Ziggatino

I wish you all a happy and fruitful day!  Regards, Michael