The Steampunk World

Being the continued explorations of a living steampunk.

The steampunk world is all around us, lying just out of sight, in a continuous thread of steampunk builders and culture that extends from the Victorian era to the present. You'll find no science fiction here: This is real life steampunk.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

One of the founders of RPOZ has a dad named Mick, and
it was Mick's dream 20 years ago to create a ski
resort and bobsled track in the mountains outside of
Canberra. So Dan aka Nancy Porker grew up in this
mountain resort, skiing and riding the bobsled. Later
he added some ziplines and a waterslide for the

Nancy Porker and Limp Jimmy founded the RPOZ, being
the tinkering types, and a few years later embarked on
a dream of their own: To create a music and arts
festival using the amazing location that Mick had
built. This is why they brought me to Australia: to
bring a bike element to the festival.

The location is absolutely gorgeous. It's a mountain
range, but the trees are all eukalyptus or ash. The
place is infested with kangaroos and now and then
you'll see the endangered black-tailed rock wallabee,
sort of their version of the mountain goat. There is
a flock of 30 or so cockatoos that live on the site
and they have a lot of character to say the least.
Seeing these intelligent, social birds in their
natural habitat makes me sad to think of the ones in
cages. Most of the other birds are parrots as well,
except for the kookaburra, a relative of the
kingfisher whose cry you'll recognize from any jungle

The Rat Patrol here is small but innovative. I see
lots of creativity, although it seems to be
concentrated in certain areas, like unique suspension
techniques. Canberra is a planned city like D.C. or
Brasilia, and it has lots of greenways, bike paths,
and has never had a traffic jam. The club itself is
extremely positive and caring. I doubt the city would
ever support a much larger club, so it's like a little

Oh- and they all have zipties on the top of their
helmets. At first I just thought they were weird.
Turns out that the magpies get really REALLY
aggressive when they have young. They swoop down and
peck you with their 3-inch beaks, taking out a chunk
of ear. They never come from the front, it's either
from behind or from the sun. So to fool them you
either put eyes on the back of your helmet, or zip
ties to make them misjudge the height. Schoolchildren
walk home from school with paper plates rubber-banded
to the back of their head, with faces drawn on.
Adults walk around waving a big stick in a circle in
the air. If you don't know the cause it seems really

Let me say this about Australia: We in the U.S. live
in a 2nd-world nation. In the last 50 years places
like Europe and Oz have been spending their money on
infrastructure, education, mass transit, city
planning, and preserving the environment. We've just
been spending it on war, while we allow sprawl to turn
our towns in to ugly, endless stretches of strip malls
and check-cashing places. It makes me really sad to
see what we could be if we cared. Unemployment and
illiteracy is low, there are no homeless, jobs are
relaxed, holidays are frequent, drivers are curteous,
healthcare is cheap, crime is rare. As depressing as
it is to think of America, it does give me hope that
things can be done right.

I've been chopping bikes like mad during the week and
then heading up into the mountains to do logging work
and sitework on the weekends. I'm getting pretty good
with the backhoe and sawmill, and driving dumptrucks
and landrovers from the wrong side. My first bike
project is a set of pedal-powered bumper cars, that
should be a hit at the festival. It's odd to see ads
for this festival in other festival's programs, with
me listed among the attractions: "Art Installation
Residency by Johnny Payphone (US Burning Man

Australia's dollar is so valuable because of an
industrial boom, and so welders and metal polishers
are on the "desired occupations" list. This means I
may be able to get a work visa. While the currency is
about equal, its effective value is double ours, so a
case of beer costs $36 and the minimum wage is $12.
If I get work in town I can make about $36/hr, if I go
out west they pay welders $100k/year. Given that I
will probably return next year to work Corinbank again
(and am helping the Cyclecide Circus to book a 2009
Australia tour), it would be nice to spend my winters
in Australia where it is summer and make a bunch of
money to last me through until the U.S. festival

As you read this you should also follow along on my
flickr photostream:

New pictures will be uploaded regularly and I'll keep
sending these updates along with them.


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