Monthly Archives: September 2016

Gay History: Bandana Codes


PIt seems like only a brief minute ago that on any night out in a gay nightclub, you would see all manner of guys there sporting bandanas and keys in their rear pockets, advertising to those in-the-know what they were into. Which pocket I used depended on my mood as I raced out the door at home, but there was no guarantee that that was the side it would stay on if the right guy showed some interest! Same applied to keys.

It was sort of one of those things that we took for granted, without stopping yo think that there was a history behind it. In times where being gay, and trying to attract a sexual partner, could not be done blatantly, so things like earrings, bandanas, keys and language played an important role in advertising what we were looking for.

Research seems to suggest that bandana (or hanky) codes originated in San Francisco after the gold rush. With a shortage of women, men danced with each other at square dances, and used coloured bandanas to denote what role they played – blue for the male, red for the female. Their hair would curl if they knew what they stood for now!

These days, they denote fetishes, or preferences. Wearing a bandana (or keys) in one’s left rear pocket denoted an “active” or “top” position for whatever the colour suggested, whereby the right rear pocket denoted the “passive” or “bottom” partner. Despite what many straight men think, these are NOT male or female roles!

There are some regional differences for some of the lesser practiced fetishes, though colours for the basics, or more common practices, are pretty well universal. The following list contains most of the basic codes, including some I wasn’t aware of.


There is also this alternate list of – in my opinion – bizarre and impractical objects used for some very rare fetishes. How true-to-form this list actually is, I’m not sure. I have seen small teddy bears being displayed by guys who are into cuddling…but as for foil, ziplock bags, chamois, cocktail napkins, enema nozzles or doilies, I’ve never seen it – though perhaps because I wasn’t looking for it!

I would have thought a celery stick denoted into vegetarians, so there you go!

I put in this link to Cowboy Frank for those who want to check out some very comprehensive lists of colours and items. http://cowboyfrank.net/archive/hanky.htm

Apart from the odd occasional leatherman – generally older – I haven’t seen people out and using bandana codes for many a year now. Its heyday was the 80s.

I also was not aware that there was a Raver Code, so obviously the tradition is carried on in other areas.


I believe, according to an article on hanky codes in the Village Voice, a twink bandana code exists, but I’ve not to-date been able to track it down. For nostalgia purposes, I include this list from Image Leather, which would seem to be a leather bar.


Back in the day, bandana codes were useful for knowing what you were getting yourself into when you went home with someone, and prevented those “Oh…I’m sorry…I’m not into that!” moments, as the whips come out.

Purely for both interest, and novelty value, I attach several other lists to peruse, at the end of this article.

Tim Alderman (C) 2016
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Steampunk’d

“Personally, I think Victorian fantasies are going to be the next big thing, as long as we can come up with a fitting collective term for Powers, Blaylock and myself. Something based on the appropriate technology of the era; like “steampunks”, perhaps…”

-K.W. Jeter[1]

Have you ever liked a particular style of jewellery, fashion, or design only to find, further down the line that not only does it have a name, but that it is a trend or movement? That happened for me with Steampunk.

Just prior to leaving Brisbane in early 2014, I was rummaging through the jewellery in a new gift store that had opened over the road from me, and picked up the following piece,  mainly because it was one of the few masculine pieces there, but also because I love things made out of cogs and gears. Unwittingly, I had entered the world of Steampunk! My final conversion was “Liking” a Facebook page called Steampunk Tendencies – the ephemera shown in their FB promotion was too much for me to ignore – I mean – fountain pens with intricate gold skeleton work wrapped around them! How could I NOT be addicted!


So, you are probably asking the same question I did – what the fuck is Steampunk? According to an article in the Huffington Post Style blog “What the hell is Steampunk?” [2] “So what the hell is steampunk? The term itself comes from science fiction novels. It was allegedly coined by author Kevin Jeter as a way of distinguishing him and fellow tetro-tech sci-fi writers from future-loving “cyberpunks” like William Gibson. But it’s grown into a whole visual style, and even a philosophy. It’s all about mixing old and new: fusing the usability of modern technology with the design aesthetic and philosophy of the Victorian age. Or as US young fiction author Caitlin Kittredge put it: “It’s sort of Victorian-industrial, but with more whimsy and fewer orphans…”

In its glibbest sense, it can be seen as a way of giving your personal technology a goth make-over. Imagine a top of the range computer pimped out to look like an old typewriter, or an iPhone dock that lets you answer your phone using an old brass and wood receiver. But at its deepest, it’s a whole way of looking and living: and a colourful protest against the inexorable advance of technology itself. And it’s a trend that’s sneaking its way into loads of different sectors: from fashion to film, interior design to video games…”

According to an article on Wikipedia “Steampunk is a subgenre of science fiction or science fantasy that incorporates technology and aesthetic designs inspired by 19th-century industrial steam-powered machinery. Although its literary origins are sometimes associated with the cyberpunk genre, steampunk works are often set in an alternative history of the 19th century’s British Victorian era or American “Wild West”, in a post-apocalyptic future during which steam power has maintained mainstream usage, or in a fantasy world that similarly employs steam power. Steampunk may, therefore, be described as neo-Victorian.

Steampunk perhaps most recognisably features anachronistic technologies or retro-futuristic inventions as people in the 19th century might have envisioned them, and is likewise rooted in the era’s perspective on fashion, culture, architectural style, and art. Such technology may include fictional machines like those found in the works of H. G. Wells and Jules Verne, or the modern authors Philip Pullman, Scott Westerfeld, Stephen Hunt and China Miéville. Other examples of steampunk contain alternative history-style presentations of such technology as lighter-than-air airships, analogue computers, or such digital mechanical computers as Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine.
Steampunk may also incorporate additional elements from the genres of fantasy, horror, historical fiction, alternate history, or other branches of speculative fiction, making it often a hybrid genre. The first known appearance of the term steampunk was in 1987, though it now retroactively refers to many works of fiction created even as far back as the 1950s or 1960s.
Steampunk also refers to any of the artistic styles, clothing fashions, or subcultures, that have developed from the aesthetics of steampunk fiction, Victorian-era fiction, art nouveau design, and films from the mid-20th century. Various modern utilitarian objects have been modded by individual artisans into a pseudo-Victorian mechanical “steampunk” style, and a number of visual and musical artists have been described as steampunk.”

The Steampunk movement flourishes through inventive repurposing: old elements find new uses. ‘Nemo’s Steampunk Clock/Electrostatic Voltmeter’ is the time-telling creation of Roger Wood; see more of his designs at http://www.klockwerks.com. Image courtesy Klockwerks
It is an odd – yet…not so odd – mixing of the technology of the now, the technology of the past, particularly Victorian, and the Victorian era itself. It expresses itself through history, gadgets, gizmo’s, literature, fashion, music, magazines, conventions, lifestyle. It is the true expression of a “movement”, a trend-in-the-making. In a recent documentary I watched titled “Vintage Tomorrows” [3], one interviwee mused that if Steampunk was to invent a WMD, it would be the size of a room, and be covered in levers, buttons, bells and flashing lights…most of which would do absolutely nothing. In a way, that describes Steampunk!

Sam Van Olffen has an abundance of examples of Steampunk design featuring the stereotypical gears and brassy look.
There is a very obvious bias towards romanticising the Victorian era, which is one of its more controversial aspects. Re-enacting and harking to this era is, to many – including Steampunk adherents themselves – is to base yourself in an era where the Industrial Era came to full fruition, along with its coal dust, choking air, its noise, its chimney stacks. It was a period of immense poverty, of workers being paid a pittance for long hours of work, child labour, women being denied the vote, slavery, and unconscionable wars and cultural destruction in places such as Egypt, India and Africa. Yes, it was an era of great inventions, ingenuity and forward thinking, but despite this it is not an era that should hold notions of romance, frivolity and purity. One woman in “Vintage Tomorrows”, discussing the wearing of Victorian clothing, noted that she had stopped wearing her pith helmet, as it brought to mind the savagery the British had inflicted upon both India & Africa as Colonial “masters”!

steampunk iPhone dock
It is for similar reasons that I see myself more an admirer and wearer of the Steampunk aesthetic,  more so than a lifestyle adherent. If one can single out the pure ingenuity and inventiveness of the era, as distinct from reliving the era through clothing and settings, then one can approach it with a clear conscience.

The Movement also harkens back to the authors of the era – Jules Verne & H.G.Wells, who created fantastical machines, and undertook fantasy journeys.  Books such as “Joyrney to the Centre of the Earth”, “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea”, “The Time Machine”, “Sleepy Hollow”, “Sherlock Holmes” and “Around the World in 80 Days” are steeped in the Steampunk aesthete. For more modern examples we only have to look to “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen”, modern remakes of the Victorian classics, “Faucalt’s Pendulum” by Umberto Ecco, “Blade Runner”, China Meiville etc to see where the Steampunk Movement draws its inspiration from.

Original illustration of Jules Verne’s Nautilus engine room
I am not even going to attempt to cover the whole field of Steampunk in this brief piece, but I will include a list of some of the links that you can use for further research into this old-but-new Movement. It is, in my opinion, and despite controversy, one of the singularly most intriguing Movements to come along for a long, long time. It caters to history freaks, those into fantasy & science fiction, those into costuming, jewellery, the lovers of gizmo’s, reality escapists, and those like me who just idolise it for its eccentricity, and inventiveness. In a word – Steampunk Rocks!

For the fascinated, Steampunk has sub-genres [5] for those into specific areas:

  • Boilerpunk: The blue-collar answer to aristocratic Steampunk, incorporating the experiences and hardships of actually shoveling coal to gring steam to the upper classes. Vive la Revolution! “Ainsley threw the hot coals at his supervisors protective steam powered mask;the man didn’t even flinch, heing accustomed to it from the proletariat.”
  • Clockpunk: Clockwork technologies replace replace or supercede traditional steam power. “Ainsley got his finger caught in the gear and screamed even as he realised his miscue would throw all,of London off schedule.
  • Dieselpunk: A heresy wherein diesel fuel and nuclear power replace steam power in alternate histories that often have a political component “Ainsley pushed the baroque OFFLINE button, but the diesel fuel continued to feed the reactor, with devastating consequences.”
  •  Gaslight Romance: A mainly British term for the alternative histories that romantisise the Victorian era. Some Brits would argue that all American Steampunk is actually gaslight romance “Ainsley put on his monacle and, bypassing the door leading down into the boiler room and the brutes who worked there, went to the quarterdeck of the airship, there to enjoy a nice cucumber-and-prawn sandwich edged with gold leaf as the servants wiped the floor clean of the blood from the recent encounter with the enemies of the Empire.”
  • Mannerspunk: Fiction that may, or may not, be deemed Steampunk in which elaborate social heirarchies provide the friction, conflict and action of the narrative, usually in the context of endless formal dances. At parties. In Mansions. “Ainsley took the hand of Lady Borregard andswept her across the dance floor, away from that cad Bennington and his steam-powered shoes that never missed a step; ‘Darling’ he said, ‘what rumors do you hear of the Countess Automaton and her piratical sub-siblings in the boiler room; isn’t it scandalous?'”
  • Raygun Gothic: Though not strictly a subgenre, this type of retro-futurism based in part on Art deco and streamlined modern styles has been used for a number of science fiction settings, usually in movies. Coined by William Gibson, the term has become more useful in the context of Steampunk as the fiction has come to feature more and more tinkers and artists. “Ainsley soldered the door to the boiler room shut in an attempt to stall the Revolution a couple of hours more using his ultrachic GSG (Gothic Solder Gun), which he had baroqued-up on the orders of the Queen herself.”
  • Stitchpunk: Fiction influenced by the DIY and crafts element of Steampunk, with a prime example being the animated movie 9, in which cute Frankenstein doll-creatures stitched together by bits of burlap sack try to save the world. In a wider context, Stitchpunk emphasises the role of weavers, tinkers, and darners in Steampunk. “Ainsley was soon accosted by the homeless tinker-weavers living in the shadow if the boiler room. ‘Only through the loom may you ge free, comrade,’ they would say.”

Very shortly, I will have the following two items in my hands. And I don’t think they will be my last!

Steampunk Salvaged Apocalypse Watch
Anatomical Rib Cage Pocket Watch from Steampunk Fans
Tim Alderman (C2016)

The fountain pens that first drew my attention to Steampunk
Steampunk Movement Toad Sunglasses
iRobot Pendant – Jewelled Watch Movement
Steampunk Necklace – Bumble bee pendant with silver watch movement
Steampunk Cufflinks – Steam Designs
Steampunk Gold Filigree Ring Victorian Watch Movement with Clockwork Gears Topaz Blue Swarovski Crystal with Adjustable Band
Steampunk Ying & Yang Pendant
 

ESS Watch Steampunk Skeleton Watch

Further Reading

References
1: Sheidlower, Jesse (March 9, 2005) Science Fiction Citations

2: Huffington Post 17 December 2011

3: July 12 2015 (USA). According to IMdB “Documentary · VINTAGE TOMORROWS examines Steampunk’s origins, explosive growth, and cultural significance. Is the Steampunk movement a homogenized, privileged subculture or a reclamation of technology …”

4: Wikipedia https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steampunk

5: The Steampunk Bible

Daily (Or When The Mood Takes Me) Gripe: This Bloody Marriage Equality Plebiscite!

plebiscite

ˈplɛbɪsʌɪt,-sɪt/

noun

noun: plebiscite; plural noun: plebiscites

the direct vote of all the members of an electorate on an important public question such as a change in the constitution.

“the administration will hold a plebiscite for the approval of constitutional reforms”

synonyms: vote, referendum, ballot, poll

“a plebiscite for the approval of constitutional reforms”

ROMAN HISTORY

a law enacted by the plebeians’ assembly.

Australia is moving backwards at the speed of light! I have always been proud to be a member of society in a country that used to be progressive, fair-minded, and – to a large extent – liberal (not in the political party sense of the word) in its attitudes! But the current path we are heading down has me throwing my hands in the air.

GLBT members of this society have had to sit on their hands over the last few years as country after country – some leaning towards the conservative sude of things – has passed marriage equality legislation. Even our “other state” over the ditch (New Zealand for our overseas readers), who can be more British than the Brits, have marriage equality. 

There was a time when we would have been at the forefront with this move towards equality for all…but apparently no more. The move to have a plebiscite to change the definition of marriage – how marriage ever became a government defined societal act in the first place is something I’m not going into – was mooted originally by our ultra-conservative, Catholic now-ex-PM Tony Abbott, as a way of avouding the issue from a parliamentary perspective, and seeming to allow the “Australian people” to have a say in things – despite polls over the years showing a steadily increasing percentage of the population being in favour of marriage equality. Go figure!

A vote for marriage equality could be done thus week by a vote in parliament. Yes, they do have that power! Instead, PM Malcolm aTurnbull – who is personally in favour of msrriage equality – has decided to not stick by his guns, nor show the guts needed to tell his party to show some gumption by voting on the issue, but going forward with this plebuscite that is going to cost the aAustralian taxpayers around $160+ million. And this from a government facing the largest budget deficit ever seen in this countries history! To make it even worse, they are oroviding funding to both the Yes and No sides of the argument!

So, what will the plebiscite give us that a vote in parliament won’t? In a word – nothing! It will happen, the conservatives will be left wringing their hands while the najority of us celebrate. It is the process of a plebiscite that is the problem! The government throwing some funding their way must have groups like the Australian Christian Lobby rubbing their hands with glee as they plot and plan their campaign of lies,misinformation, diversions and fear! Society will implode, the hand of god will strike us all down, and life as we know it will never be the same again! What a crock of shit! The proponents of hate-speech – invluding some of our conservative politicians and independents – are going to have a field day! Yeah, sure, the government has said that anti-discrimination legislation will still apply as a condition of the funding…but that does not stop what will be preached from pulpits (under the guide of biblical sermons), or is said in private, or behind the closed doors of meetings (redacted minutes?)! Nor will it stop the crackpots who just don’t care who they hurt pr traumatise! It is a prescription for hate! 

I’m an old hand when it comes to bullying and nane-calling as a nember of the LGBT community. It is like water off a ducks back! But not all are as tough! There are those poised on the sidelines, waiting for that magic moment amongst all their sexual confusion when the light comes on, they have that instant courage, and come out. They will be watching this shit-fight going on around them! They will see the hate, the lies, the true characters of those who think that they have rights that others shouldn’t have! And they will stop, and wonder…is this what I want to find if I come out! I fear – and bleed – for them!

What is it with this country that we always choose – or rather our politicians choose – the wrong way to approach things that can gring about great change in our society! We had it with the Republican referendum in 1999, when nany of us wanted a Republic, but were forced to vote against it due to the question containing the condition that the President would be voted in by parliament, rather than by the people! Needless to say, it failed. Now we have a similar issue with the plebiscite. It has become such a contentious issue that the opposition will more than likely vote against it, and as much as I hate to say this about anything that can bring about change – I hope the plebiscite doesn’t go ahead. It is time for our government to take some responsibility, and be arbiters of change, rather than “throwing blame” back onto the voting punlic, and allowing the advocates of hate, prejudice, intolerance and stigma to have their moment in the spotlight. Their insistence – against all reason – to tow the party line is not only putting them out of touch, but displays a crack within their own party that reeks of intolerance and hate!

I do not want marriage equality for myself. I am more than happy to live in sin. But I do want it for those who want it. Like everything else in society, they have a right to choice, a right to love their partner as they see fit. And no one has the right to deprive them of that. Society will not implode, the planet will not stop turning, lightening will not flow from heaven haling in the apocalypse! NOTHING will change! In 2004, PM John Howard used parliamentary vote to add the common law  definition of marriage (that it is between a man and a woman) to the marriage act. If a vote of this nature can be used to change the definition of the act once, it can be used to change it again!

The plebiscite, I think, will fail! The wait goes on! Change WILL come! Hate will never win out against tolerance and love! EVER!

Tim Alderman (C 2016)

I Do!