Wednesday, 28 May 2008

The Great Race

In 1908 an automobile race was run from New York to Paris. A centenary anniversary was due to be held at the end of this month until China revoked the travel permits due to the Tibet demonstrations.

However what I'm going to discuss here is the kinoscope that was loosely inspired by the original race: Blake Edward's The Great Race.

Now, it's cheesy as hell and it's characters are about a stereotypical as they come.

The hero in white

The moustachioed villain in black

The plucky heroine and suffragette

Is it steampunk? Well not as such. Certainly the concept of steampunk didn't exist in 1965 when it was made. But Professor Fate fits the mad scientist role to a T. His inventions include:


Bicycle Blimps

Rocket cars

Sonic Torpedos

And of course the Hannibal 8

The movie not only plays the foils of hero versus villain, but there's some lovely set pieces in here as well. The drivers travel through the town of Boracho (which is Spanish for "drunk") and have the classic bar room brawl. My favourite though it the lovely "homage" to Anthony Hope's The Prisoner of Zenda.

This time the country is called Carpania, where the Crown Prince Hapnik is the spitting image of Professor Fate.

There is of course a local villain, complete with goatee, who is after the throne

Whom our hero must duel.

There's a little something for everyone in film: comedy, music, dancing, fights, car chases, an explosion or two, possibly the largest pie fight ever filmed, faithful assistants, double crosses and some great music from Henry Mancini.

And the best thing of all?

Natalie Wood in her underwear, covered in custard and cream!

It's one of my favourites and one I can enjoy watching again and again.

Friday, 23 May 2008

They're on to me.

From the Caledon Underground blog.

Obviously security needs tightening...

Sunday, 18 May 2008

A Steampunk article that's very good

While the recent article in the New York Times may get a bigger readership, a recent article in The Phoenix does a better job of trying to explain the different perceptions of what Steampunk is.

More details here

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Still warm sim already attacked by buildings

In a frenzy of sims the latest sim to become part of the Independent State of Caledon is the Duchy of Argylle.

And the new Duke is yours truly.

The Duchess and myself look forward to seeing you for the housewarming!

Sunday, 11 May 2008

Liberty Enlightening the World

More commonly known as the "Statue of Liberty", on display at the Exposition Universelle in 1878, shortly before it's journey to New York.

Saturday, 10 May 2008

Welcome His Grace of Glamorgan

With the arrival of Caledon Glamorgan to Independent State, I'd like to congratulate His Grace the Duke of Glamorgan, Ambiant Kukulcan, on his new Dukedom.


Friday, 9 May 2008

Steampunk rates a mention in the wider world

Steampunk as a genre has been around since the phrase was jokingly coined back in the 1980s. There have been discussions, arguments and flames about what constitutes steampunk, whether it's a literary convention, whether it can be considered a subculture yet like punk or goth, or even what sort of music is steampunk.

People have been trying to jam many and assorted things under the heading of steampunk for a while. I remember the rather shocked feeling when some burke suggested Harry Potter should be included in a list of Steampunk fiction. Even things that were actually considered "Scientific Romances" at the time or even Speculative futurism are now steampunk.

But as the popularity of the genre becomes wider and people like Jake Von Slatt get invited to appear on talk shows and girlie reporters get sent off to cover the arrival of Babbage's Difference Engine No.2 at the Computer History museum in the US, the wider community is becoming more and more aware of the term "steampunk".

Whether that's a good thing or not is still out (I hope I never live to see something like the Steampunk Big Brother Submarine or something).

But the New York Times has published an article trying to describe what it all is.

Reprinted without permission

Steampunk Moves Between 2 Worlds

Published: May 8, 2008

“MEET Showtime,” said Giovanni James, a musician, magician and inventor of sorts, introducing his prized dove, who occupies a spacious cage in Mr. James’s apartment in Midtown Manhattan. Showtime is integral to Mr. James’s magic act and to his décor, a sepia-tone universe straight out of the gaslight era.

The lead singer of a neovaudevillian performance troupe called the James Gang, Mr. James has assembled his universe from oddly assorted props and castoffs: a gramophone with a crank and velvet turntable, an old wooden icebox and a wardrobe rack made from brass pipes that were ballet bars in a previous incarnation.

Yes, he owns a flat-screen television, but he has modified it with a burlap frame. He uses an iPhone, but it is encased in burnished brass. Even his clothing — an unlikely fusion of current and neo-Edwardian pieces (polo shirt, gentleman’s waistcoat, paisley bow tie), not unlike those he plans to sell this summer at his own Manhattan haberdashery — is an expression of his keenly romantic worldview.

It is also the vision of steampunk, a subculture that is the aesthetic expression of a time-traveling fantasy world, one that embraces music, film, design and now fashion, all inspired by the extravagantly inventive age of dirigibles and steam locomotives, brass diving bells and jar-shaped protosubmarines. First appearing in the late 1980s and early ’90s, steampunk has picked up momentum in recent months, making a transition from what used to be mainly a literary taste to a Web-propagated way of life.

To some, “steampunk” is a catchall term, a concept in search of a visual identity. “To me, it’s essentially the intersection of technology and romance,” said Jake von Slatt, a designer in Boston and the proprietor of the Steampunk Workshop (, where he exhibits such curiosities as a computer furnished with a brass-frame monitor and vintage typewriter keys.

That definition is loose enough to accommodate a stew of influences, including the streamlined retro-futurism of Flash Gordon and Japanese animation with its goggle-wearing hackers, the postapocalyptic scavenger style of “Mad Max,” and vaudeville, burlesque and the structured gentility of the Victorian age. In aggregate, steampunk is a trend that is rapidly outgrowing niche status.

“There seems to be this sort of perfect storm of interest in steampunk right now,” Mr. von Slatt said. “If you go to Google Trends and track the number of times it is mentioned, the curve is almost algorithmic from a year and a half ago.” (At this writing, Google cites 1.9 million references.)

“Part of the reason it seems so popular is the very difficulty of pinning down what it is,” Mr. von Slatt added. “That’s a marketer’s dream.”

Devotees of the culture read Jules Verne and H. G. Wells, as well as more recent speculative fiction by William Gibson, James P. Blaylock and Paul Di Filippo, the author of “The Steampunk Trilogy,” the historical science fiction novellas that lent the culture its name. They watch films like “The City of Lost Children” (with costumes designed by Jean Paul Gaultier), “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” and “Brazil,” Terry Gilliam’s dystopian fantasy satirizing the modern industrial age; and they listen to melodeons and Gypsy strings mixed with industrial goth.

They build lumbering contraptions like the steampunk treehouse, a rusted-out 40-foot sculpture assembled last year at the Burning Man festival in Nevada and unveiled last month at the Coachella music festival in Southern California. They trawl eBay for saw-tooth cogs and watch parts to dress up their Macs and headsets, then show off their inventions to kindred spirits on the Web.

And, in keeping with the make-it-yourself ethos of punk, they assemble their own fashions, an adventurous pastiche of neo-Victorian, Edwardian and military style accented with sometimes crudely mechanized accouterments like brass goggles and wings made from pulleys, harnesses and clockwork pendants, to say nothing of the odd ray gun dangling at the hip. Steampunk style is corseted, built on a scaffolding of bustles, crinolines and parasols and high-arced sleeves not unlike those favored by the movement’s designer idols: Nicolas Ghesquiere of Balenciaga, Alexander McQueen and, yes, even Ralph Lauren.

Quaint to some eyes, or outright bizarre, steampunk fashion is compelling all the same. It is that rarity, a phenomenon with the potential to capture a wider audience, offering a genteel and disciplined alternative to both the slack look of hip-hop and the menacing spirit of goth.

The elaborate mourning dresses, waistcoats, hacking jackets and high-button shoes are goth’s stepchildren, for sure, but the overall look is “not so much eyeliner and fishnets,” said Evelyn Kriete, who sells advertising space for magazines like Steampunk, The Willows and Weird Tales, and who manages Jaborwhalky Productions (, a steampunk Web site.

Ms. Kriete and her eccentrically outfitted cohort of teachers, designers, writers and medical students, drew stares last week at a picnic at the Cloisters in Manhattan, but provoked no shudders or discernible hostility.

“As a subculture, we are not the spawn of Satan,” Ms. Kriete said. “People smile when they see us. They want to take our picture.”

Robert Brown, the lead singer for Abney Park, a goth band that has reinvented itself as steampunk, echoed her sentiments. “Steampunk is not dark and spooky,” he said. “It’s elegant and beautiful.”

Even heroic, if you like. The movement may have a postapocalyptic strain, but proponents tend to cast themselves as spirited survivors. Molly Friedrich, an artist and a jewelry designer in Seattle, approaches steampunk, she said, “from a perspective of 1,000 years into the future, after society has crumbled but people have chosen to live in Victorian fashion, wearing scavenged clothes.” In keeping with her vision, Ms. Friedrich has devised an alternate identity composed of petticoats, old military storm coats, goggles and aviator caps with an Amelia Earhart flair.

She takes her emotional cues from scientists and inventors like Nikola Tesla, magicians like Harry Houdini and soulful spies like Mata Hari, each of whom injected a spirit of enterprise, intrigue and discovery into their age. Contemporary fictional parallels in film include the wildly ingenious scientist played by Robert Downey Jr. in “Iron Man,” who hopes to save the world by retooling himself as a flame-throwing robot made of unwieldy scrap metal parts.

If steampunk has a mission, it is, in part, to restore a sense of wonder to a technology-jaded world. “Today satellite photos make the planet seem so small,” Mr. Brown lamented. “Where is the adventure it that?” In contrast, steampunk, with its airships, test tubes and time machines, is, he said, “sort of a dream , the way we used to daydream. It’s like part of your childhood’s just bursting forward again.”

For some of its adherents, steampunk also offers a metaphoric coping device. “It has an intellectual tie to the artists and artisans dealing with a world in turmoil at the time of the industrial revolution,” said Crispen Smith, a Web designer and photographer in Toronto, and a partner in a steampunk fashion business.

Now, as in the late 19th century, “we have to find a way to deal with new ethical quandaries,” Mr. Smith said, alluding to issues like cloning, the dissemination of information and intellectual property rights on the Web.

Steampunk style is also an expression of a desire to return to ritual and formality. “Steampunk has its tea parties and its time-travelers balls,” said Deborah Castellano, who presides over, which organizes neo-Victorian conventions. “It offers an element of glamour that some of us would otherwise never experience.”

And an enticing marketing hook. The Bombay Company is selling steampunk-style brass home accessories, instruments like astrolabes and sextants. A steampunk fantasy game, Edge of Twilight, will be introduced by Xbox 360 and PlayStation next year.

And steampunk fashion, which until now has been a mainstay of craft fairs and destinations like eBay and Etsy, the online market for handmade clothing designs and artifacts, is finding its way into the brick and mortar world. has begun offering its cream and umber petticoats, an Air Pirate ruched tunic and Time Machine bloomers at boutiques. Abney Park is selling swallowtail tuxedos, antiqued flight helmets and airship pirate T-shirts, like those it wears on stage, at and at concerts across the country.

Mr. James, who performs with his troupe at the Box, the music-hall hideaway on the Lower East Side, has just leased space for a steampunk shop in NoLIta. He plans to offer brass Rubik’s cubes, riding boots, early-20th-century-style motorbikes, handmade leather mailbags and brass or wooden iPhone cases, all under the label TJG Engineering.

There will, of course, be a clothing line with vintage and new looks modeled on Mr. James’s own neo-Edwardian sartorial signature. “I’m so sick of baggy pants hanging off your bottom,” he said. “This is more refined. It goes back to a time when people had some dignity.

“It’s a new day.”

Sunday, 4 May 2008

Tiny dogfights - aftermath

This evening those insomniac among us brave few souls launched into the skies.

A rather tall observer Miss Nika Dreamscape, myself, Air Marshall Connolly, Squadron Leader Laval and a rather naked Nix Sands bidding us bon voyage.

The Krimson Koala swoops for the kill. Though I do hope the scrape of red paint won't show on the airship I clipped pulling out of the dive.

Cornelius "Bulldog Drummond" Fanshaw in a face off

"Foxy" Connolly whips past after having made several holes in my plane

"Cuckoo" Gustafson swings about for return fire

Free for all

After eventually being shot down twice the call of RL dinner bade me pack my wings and head off. Many thanks to those who stayed (or got up for) a bit of fun. It's certainly something I'd love to do again!

Writer Clockworks Grand opening 1st

I played for Mr. Newbe Writer's opening of his Writer Clockworks store in Babbage Pallisades this evening and received quite a few compliments on the selection of music. I certainly enjoyed putting the selection together. Sadly Christine wasn't able to make it in till right at the end and thus missed the Robbie, but she'll live I'm sure :-)

If you missed this evening's see if you can drop by for the Europe friendly version between 7-10 SLT this morning.

My playlist, as requested:

1. TV Theme - The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne
2. Dick Cinnamon - Habanera
3. Tom Waits - Little Drop of Poison
4. Eels - My Beloved Monster
5. They Might Be Giants - Robot Parade
6. Lemon Demon - Geeks In Love
7. Blur - Daisy Bell (A Bicycle Made For Two)
8. Jonathan Coulton - Skullcrusher Mountain
9. Mannheim Steamroller - Creatures of the Night [Creatures Original Mix]
10. Marilyn Manson - Tainted Love
11. Smashmouth - Walking On The Sun
12. Siouxsie and the Banshees - Cities in Dust
13. Depeche Mode - Master And Servant
14. Abney Park - Airship Pirates
15. OK Go - Here It Goes Again
16. Shriekback - Nemesis
17. Palast Orchester - Around The World (la la la la)
18. They Might Be Giants - Why Does the Sun Shine?
19. Reel Big Fish - Take On Me
20. Polecats - Make A Circuit With Me
21. Queen - Crazy Little Thing Called Love
22. Half Cocked - Bad Reputation
23. Wayne's World - Ballroom Blitz, Tia Carrere
24. TISM - (He'll Never Be An) Old Man River
25. Weird Al Yankovic - Hardware Store
26. Seanan McGuire - Evil Laugh
27. Love Lies Bleeding - Evil
28. Voltaire - When You're Evil
29. Abney Park - Herr Drosselmyers Doll
30. Snog - Flesh
31. Juno Reactor - God is God
32. Regurgitator - ! (The Song Formerly Known As)
33. Robbie Williams - Let Me Entertain You
34. Erick "More" Morillo - I Like To Move It
35. Oingo Boingo - Dead Man's Party
36. OMD - Tesla Girls
37. Elemental MC - Cup of Brown Joy
38. Squirrel Nut Zippers - Hell
39. Flying Neutrinos - Mr. Zoot Suit
40. Cherry Poppin' Daddies - Zoot Suit Riot
41. Big Bad Voodoo Daddy - I Wanna Be Like You
42. Benny Goodman - Sing Sing Sing
43. PigBag - Papa's got a brand new PigBag(12inch Mix)
44. Shirley Bassey - History Repeating
45. Geri Halliwell - Look At Me
46. Arrogant Worms - Canada is Really Big
47. Goldfrapp - Ooh la La (Benny Benassi Remix Extended)
48. Ewan McGregor & Nicole Kidman - Come what may (Josh Abrahams mix)
49. Fatboy Slim - Weapon of Choice
50. Bodyrockers - I Like the Way You Move
51. Peter Gabriel - Big Time
52. Big Bad Voodoo Daddy - So Long-Farewell-Goodbye

Saturday, 3 May 2008

Writer Clockworks Babbage

You are invited to the Grand Opening on Writer Clockworks in Babbage Palisades.

Your truly will be providing musical accompaniment for the first event. Hope to see you all there!

RCAF Tiny Dogfights

Officers of the Royal Caledon Air Force are planning 3 dogfighting sessions within two days of aerial combat fun during the first weekend of May 2008.

All participants will meet at the Connolly Aerodrome in Caledon Penzance at 10:00 AM SL time on Saturday May 3rd or Sunday May 4th (or both days if you prefer) for what may be the biggest air battle ever fought by tiny avatars!

We have also added a 12:00 AM (00:00) SLT Midnight Tiny Dogfight for the wee hours of Sunday morning. That's 3 aerial battles in the same weekend!

All you need is a tiny plane with the Terra Combat System (TCS) and a tiny avatar. A tiny dog avatar would be perfect, but if you have your heart set on another, we'll be glad to see you in another tiny incarnation.

Everyone is welcome. You do not need to be a Caledon resident or pilot with the Royal Caledon Air Force. All we ask is that you join the RCAF group during the time of the event itself to facilitate communication in group chat during the events and use a tiny avatar and tiny plane during the dogfights. Tiny planes will be provided by RCAF Marshal Zoe Connolly. The Tiny Avatar you use is up to you. Once we start, air battles usually last 30 to 40 minutes.

The Krimson Koala will be there, though sadly due to timezone issue will only be attending the midnight session.

May your skies be free of seagulls!

Steelhead starts with a Boom(town)

Steelhead Boomtown, now officially baptised with the orbiting of Keenly.

Thursday, 1 May 2008

We had hardly finished moving the boxes into the Highlands when I was advised that a substantial tract of land had become available, not in our beloved Caledon as we had hoped but in our good neighbour of Winterfell. As circumstances would happen my dear Christine had just headed abroad. Communications were limited but through telegrams and letters I managed to communicate the basics of the situation. It was an opportunity too good to pass by.

On the land was a very large manor house, which is quite a bit larger than Davaar. Christine is contemplating the gardening opportunities, while we both try to remember the layout of the new place. Once we get things sorted we'll be organising a housewarming. But do feel free to drop by in the meantime. The sailing is quite good!