Friday, June 20, 2014

Punkettes On TV!

Well, one of us anyway.

Last Saturday was the 50th anniversary of the airport where I took flying lessons. The breakfast in the morning was held in the hangar where most of the planes I learned to fly were kept.

There were aeroplane rides planned for young people, but sadly, thunderstorms trashed those hopes and the kids had to make do playing with paper aeroplanes in the rain. But there was a flight simulator brought in by the cadets, where I saw a good number of people I wouldn't want to be in a plane with, along with some ten-year-olds that I would be happy to.

Things were winding down when the Global reporter showed up, and everyone else seemed busy closing things down so I waved her down and asked if she wanted to see the planes. She asked if I was a pilot, and made me feel pretty special, and it was fun. But without further ado, click the link to the video that showed up on Global News that evening:

Global Report, St. Andrew's 50th

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Over The Waves: Radio In Fiction

I attended a panel presented by Kelly Armstrong a few years ago, where she commented on how cellphones were the bane of many urban fantasy writers. They create a lot of "well why don't they just _______" plot holes, requiring the author to get creative in finding ways of preventing the cellphone from working.

I felt cheated. I thought, if the technology of the era you're working in is a problem, why are you writing in that time period?

One of the awesome things about dieselpunk and the other 'punks, is that they're all about the technology (or should be!) The ability to communicate over long distances can be a great plot device that really sets the world apart from medieval fantasy. In contrast with most urban fantasy, you can have one character in one situation, who is in contact with another character in a completely different situation. They can communicate in real time, but not physically help one another. For example, you could have a character in a plane that's on fire and careening into the ground, speaking real time with characters who's heart's are breaking because there's nothing they can do to help.

And on the other hand, the limitations of radio keep it differentiated from urban fantasy. Radio is only good for a certain number of miles, and not so good over rough terrain. Better if you're broadcasting from high up, like in an aeroplane - you can reach much farther then. Less, if you're in the middle of a storm with a lot of electrical activity. Not only that, but there's limitations in the way it works. Only one person can speak at a time on any particular frequency. If one person is speaking, and another person tries to transmit over them, you get static and you're lucky if you can hear either of them.

Incidentally, that's why they say "over" in the movies when they're talking on the radio, and while the rule of saying "over to indicate you're done talking and someone else can talk is still on the books, we pilots don't actually ever say it. Well, there's one guy who does, and we all giggle at him in our respective cockpits. You can generally hear when someone lets go of the transmit button because the background static that's there while they're talking stops.

I wondered about that, years ago. How do people know what frequency to talk on, to talk to a particular person? Do they actually have to set the radio to a specific frequency, and know beforehand what frequency the other person is going to be on in order to contact them? That seemed entirely too inconvenient.

Now of course, I'm a pilot, and part of being a pilot is having a radio license and using a radio regularly. And the above is exactly how it works. There are specific frequencies that are designated for particular purposes. For example, in most countries, 121.5 is the emergency frequency. If you're calling mayday, and you're not already in contact with anyone, you'd call mayday on 121.5. Most airports have their own frequency. The busy ones might have more than one. My home city has five or six, if you include the frequency that's nothing but a continuous loop played over and over of the most current weather report.

If two frequencies are close together, you might hear broadcasts faintly from other frequencies. Or a very strong signal might bleed over all frequencies, like if you're emergency beacon goes off in your plane, it doesn't matter what frequency you're listening to, you'll hear it.

And then there's the cultural things. The frequencies where music would be played, to entertain the masses, or the news. You have radio plays, and with radio, came commercials. And everybody's favourite: propaganda.

Lots of things to bring a dieselpunk world to life, with just one piece of technology.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Poisonous Fashions

In Toronto, Ontario, a most interesting display is opening on June 18th. The Bata Shoe Museum "for the curious" is opening an exhibition called "Fashion Victims: The Pleasures and Perils of Dress in the 19th Century".

Beneath the ruffles and dainty lace of the highest fashions, lay perilous and deadly secrets. Can a top hat kill you? Can a pair of dapper boots slowly poison you to death? If you wear those billowing skirts and step too close to the fireplace will you go up like tinder?

From hair combs made of highly flammable plastic that caught entire factories on fire, to socks that were colored with highly poisonous dyes, the exhibition has it all.

The Event Announcement:

Fashion Victims: The Pleasures and Perils of Dress in the 19th Century

Transport yourself back to the 19th century where beautiful outfits fashioned by seamstresses and shoemakers supplied the privileged with enviable ensembles. Swathed from head to toe in expensive garments and shod in delicate footwear, fashion-forward women graced the boulevards and the ballrooms with their colorful presence. Their tailored male companions cut equally refined figures in their black coats, spotless white linens, lustrous top hats and shiny boots. Yet presenting an elegant exterior was not without its perils. The discomfort of constricting corsets and impossibly narrow footwear was matched by the dangers of wearing articles of fashion dyed with poison-laced colors and made of highly flammable materials.

From the challenges faced by those who produced fashionable dress to the risks taken by those who wore it, this exhibition provides thought provoking insights into what it means to be a fashion victim.

Oh darling, this dress is simply to die for.

All we can say is, The Punkettes may be making a trip to Toronto.

The Bata Shoe Museum Website

photo credit: <a href="">Sacheverelle</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Einstein and the Fountain of Youth

Did Einstein discover the secret to the Fountain of Youth?

As someone captivated with time and time theories I find Einstein’s theory of Special Relativity particularly interesting. In the interest of my not botching the description you can read about SR here:

Now the part I find particularly fascinating is the notion that when we travel at fast speeds we reach our destination faster. All right, I know what you’re thinking. It’s not fascinating, it’s a fact. Well if we apply Einstein’s theory to that fact than our perspective changes. We do not reach our destination faster because we travelled faster. We reach our destination faster because time slows for us.

Have you ever heard someone say Astronauts age slower than people on Earth? Well it’s technically true. It may be only mere seconds but they still age slower.

Here’s an example:

A moving clock runs more slowly than a stationary clock.
The most famous hypothetical illustration of time dilation is usually called the twin paradox. Suppose there are twins named Harry and Mary. Mary takes off in a spaceship which travels very fast away from earth (it must travel close to the speed of light for the effect to be noticeable) and returns very fast. We can think of the human body as a clock which records the passage of time by aging. Since Mary is moving very fast, her clock runs slowly, compared to Harry's clock. As a result, when Mary arrives back at earth she has aged less than Harry has. How much less depends on how far she has traveled, and how fast. (Read more here:

So this brings us to my question: Did Einstein discovers the secret to the fountain of youth. I think YES! If a stationary body ages faster than a body in motion than in order to stay young we have to stay active. So the secret to youth is actually not a secret at all. Richard Simmons, Body Break(Canadian fitness troupe) and many other space-time consorting activists have traveled before us promising youthful bodies if only we follow their routines. Perhaps they are right and my diet of caffeine and sugar merely gives the allusion of youth, because it makes you hyper and you talk faster. 

Happy hurrying!

Rebecca Sky
The Clockpunkette  

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Nazi Fetishism

Some time ago, I joined a dieselpunk group on facebook, and this post came up in my feed:

I wasn't sure how to react to that. My first thought was do these people not realize the reaction they're naturally going to get? 

I mean, sure, the swastika is a very old symbol, predating Nazis by a few thousand years at least, and has usually had positive connotations. But that's not what we're talking about - they're not invoking eastern culture, they're specifically invoking the Nazi connotations, and there isn't anyone who's going to see them wearing it that's not going to associate it with this:

(I went with one of the milder pictures - we all know there are more discomfiting images out there....)

And there is no getting around that association. These people cannot expect people anywhere in the world to look at them wearing Nazi uniforms and not think that these are people who probably hate Jews, Romani, Gays, and the mentally challenged.

And since they say they're not, it begs the question, are these people just wanting to be contrary and stir up trouble because their mothers didn't give them enough attention as children?

I was at an artist gathering where the models were dressed on a steampunk theme a few months ago, and one of the male volunteer models was dressed as an un-dead German soldier, gas mask and everything. He had a character backstory though, that it seemed very important to him that everyone know: This character had been involved in one of the failed assassination attempts on Hitler, and was killed in the attempt. (And subsequently re-animated, but that's beside the point.)

It was important to him that people be reminded that not all Germans in that period were entirely comfortable with Hitler's actions, and there were indeed people who stood up and tried to do something about it. And see, that's a commendable way to present that, and he wasn't being stupid about it. Not only was he trying to educate people, but he recognized that there was no getting around people's reaction to what he was wearing.

So I'm kind of on the fence about it. If it's your thing, I guess, go for it, but don't do it for attention, and don't go around being surprised about how people react to it, and what assumptions will be made about you. And Steampunk and it's derivatives aren't about historical re-enactment anyway. If you just like the style, and you really are into dieselpunk, don't just dress up in a Nazi costume - make it your own some how - use anachronisms, play around with the style, be creative. If it's true dieselpunk, it's about invoking the old images and twisting them, subverting them, turning them upside down, not re-creating them.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Book Review: The CaseBook of Newbury and Hobbes

Join the indomitable detective duo of Sir Maurice Newbury and Miss Veronica Hobbes in the dangerous street of Victorian London as they battle to solve some of their most challenging cases yet.

After the slew of Sherlock books I was reviewing, it was fun and refreshing to find this little gem in my mail box. Not only is the cover beautiful (commence petting) but the stories inside are engaging and well written. If you enjoy chilling plague revenants, clockwork monsters and the occasional evil nemesis, this book is for you.

If you haven't read other Newbury and Hobbes stories, you can still get away with reading this, though there are some instances that refer back to previous adventures, but nothing that would take away from the pleasure of the stories.

My one complaint was that Ms. Veronica Hobbes doesn't feature very much in this book, in fact, nearly halfway through I was starting to think it simply should have been called "Newbury".

Other than that, there are no negative points going towards this book, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Clever and well done.

If you want to take the "Newbury and Hobbes" plunge, but don't know where to start, I suggest reading "The Infinity Bridge", which is a steampunk classic, and will introduce you to the two intrepid detectives.

I give this book 7 out of 8 on the octopus scale!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Film Review: Iron Sky

I re-watched this one to review it for you guys because this movie does what I thought was a really interesting thing. It's definitely got some heavy dieselpunk elements in the Space Nazi side of things, in a very over-the-top way. It's meant to be ridiculous though, and the movie doesn't take itself too seriously at all.

The thing I find interesting though is the way they handled the Nazis. It's always risky to use Nazis in a comedy, because the Holocaust is so very much a sacred cow, and you don't want to make jokes about that.

These Nazis left the earth before the holocaust, though. The premise is that Germany had a space program and sent colonists off to live on the dark side of the moon. These people are unaware of the Holocaust - only of German nationalism to a comical extreme. The irony of course is this.

That's right - the American president thinks "This is brilliant - this is how to win an election!" and applies the German nationalist message to American nationalism.

And the audience watching the movie thinks "What the hell? Do these guys remember what these people did to the Jews/Rom/gays/mentally disabled, etc?"

And the interesting thing is that it's never once mentioned in the entire movie. Were they trying to pretend it didn't happen for the sake of the movie? How can you have a movie about Nazis without acknowledging the Holocaust?

But the answer is actually easy. It's because the writers know that there isn't going to be one single person who watches the movie who isn't aware of the Holocaust, and isn't going to have it in the back of their mind as they watch it. They wrote it assuming that we would be thinking about it, knowing that they wouldn't have to remind us "Hey, by the way audience members, you remember what the result of this extreme Nationalism was right?" They assumed their audience wasn't stupid. (Rare thing, I know - probably because the movie wasn't made in the USA.)

Keep your eye out for a follow-up post to this - there's a bit of a controversial topic I'd like to discuss.

Rating it eight cylinders.