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>