Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Steampunk Paris — Bohemians from Bohemia, et la Rue de la Not So Very Expensive Shoes

Ah, Paris! Then and Now, veritable site and verified Verne-ian source of Steampunk! Ancient metropolis whose looming symbol, Le Tour Eiffel, has magically transmogrified from Engineering Marvel Of The Modern Age into a quaint anachronistic key-chain fob. But Steampunk — Le Punk å Vapeur — seems to comprehend Le Tour Eiffel best: Plainly, obviously, apparently, definitely,  it's a hitching post for dirigibles, conveniently located for international airships to disembark the duded-up likes of distinguished Daguerreotypist Camillus S. Fly, dauntless dental surgeon Dr. Holliday, and a spare Earp or two, each and all disenchanted with the freshness of Tombstone, Arizona's oysters, to sample the glorious assortment of huitre et homard arriving at breakneck speeds on gleaming super-streamlined seafood locomotives, avec lobster-claw-inspired cow-catchers, les receveurs de vache a la homard.

The ultra-annoying putt-putt of one-cylinder petrol-powered guillotines encircling the Egyptian obelisk at Place de la Concorde is only somewhat alleviated by the inimitable trill of that latest and greatest of technologically-advanced instruments, the Accordion, sexily squeezed by bohemians emigrated direct from Bohemia.  Later, in the darkest districts — neon is being invented in ultra-moderne Paris even as we speak, but its glow can never illuminate the furtive back alleys — accordions will warble wickedly as the devilish demi-monde dares that forbidden dance, le Apache!  But now, in the gleaming day, no farther than a champagne cork can fly on its absurd invisible wings, tiny two-man pedal-powered submarines lurk in the Seine, periscopes erectly alert, peering and leering up at the schools of arm-in-arm fishnet-legged femmes clicking their heels down into the Metro — yet another absolute marvel of the modern age. (The Parisian woman, we mean.) Shall they get off their sleek Michelin-tired train at Arts et Metier? Emerge into its copper-clad-and-riveted station, handily equipped with portholes? Moderne et retro et tres, tres chic? Oui, bien sur!

Do these daring darling steam-powered girls set sail, heels clack-clicking the cobblestones, to la Rue of the Not So Very Expensive Shoes? Where exists even now, only just nearby, the original laboratory of Georges Melies, inventor of all cinema? Melies, he whose most famous film, A Trip To The Moon — perhaps Steampunk's central artifact, perhaps even its dream come true — is so cavalierly dismissed as a comedy and a science-fiction, when clearly, obviously, plainly it is a supremely accurate documentary, circa 1902, of the ill-fated French Expedition To The Moon? Wherein Le Academie Francais Of Long-Bearded Astro-Alchemists assembled — as ever, with lots of leggy girl assistants — to cannon-fire themselves smack into the eye of the grimacing Moon, and then, upon insulting assault from annoying Moonmen less congenial to Franco-colonization than proper etiquette might suggest, managed to fall all the way back to Earth (which is to say, France).  It is, indeed, a moving monument to Man's Deep Need To Dump Evian Bottles On Other Planets. In fact, in recognition of the film's powerful economic tidal pull, Thomas Edison, All-American Inventor Of Everything, managed to snake Melies out of the distribution rights, proving, even in the fin de siecle of the turn of that century's velo-spokes, the Internet is the New Supreme Court.

Bu, mais non, they're going, this gaggle of goggle-wearing gals, to giggle at the spectacle of the the bat-winged aeroplane at the Musee de Science et Industrie, pinned there, a butterfly on corkboard, a larval Lindbergh.  Oh, and also to glance winsomely — wantonly, if necessary — at the dreadlocked steampunk boys who wander the Musee studiously checking their gimcrack wrist-chronographs and consulting tiny miniature brass telephones. But there — wait!  Those two white-haired old men?  Isn't that Jules Verne strolling with Mark Twain? And this glowing, sizzling, beeping ray-gun Mr. Twain has pulled — can he truly be pointing it at Monsieur Verne?

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