Looks like another Friday, and it’s been a quiet week here in the darkest jungles of Appalachia. In fact, it’s been dull as heck. Did a little sewing here, did a little audio mixing there, little writing in between, lots and lots of reading, of course. Truth is, I don’t have a lot to report to you. Just passing the time, waiting for the rain to ease off and summer to officially arrive.
So about the title of today’s blog. On May 29, 1947, WVTR, the official Armed Forces radio station in Tokyo, interrupted their programming to report that a 20-foot sea monster had climbed up out of Tokyo Bay and was laying waste to everything in its path inland. Over the next hour, there were news bulletins, eyewitness reports; reports of troop movements as the U.S. Army moved in with tanks, flamethrowers and grenades (apparently bullets only pissed the thing off) to try and contain the threat. residents were advised to stay inside their homes.
Finally, after an hour of breathless reports, the monster reached the center of Tokyo, and a young corporal-journalist screwed his courage to the sticking place and approached the monster, live on the microphone. It was at this point that the monster gave its one and only sound bite. In a woman’s voice, the monster congratulated WVTR on its fifth anniversary in existence.
No kidding. All that fuss for a lighthearted joke (for a certain, decidedly bizarre, definition of a joke) to celebrate the station’s anniversary. But, as Orson Welles claimed to discover, the public didn’t appreciate the humor of the situation. The fake broadcasts had caused a very not-fake panic; thousands of calls poured into the radio station, the military police mobilized, and the Japanese civilian authorities mustered themselves to face what they thought was a very real threat. Suffice it to say, once the smoke had cleared, so to speak, the authorities were not impressed with the station’s sense of humor. People were demoted, relieved of duty, reprimanded, all the other things the military does to express its displeasure with a boneheaded move on the part of one of their own.
No, there was probably no direct connection between this little stunt and the movie Godzilla, which was released in 1954. Instead, Godzilla was said to be indirectly inspired by a 1951 Ray Bradbury short story and a 1953 movie based on that story. But still, there were amazing coincidences between the plot of Godzilla and the events of May 1947.
Not impressed? Okay, so how about this more Steampunk-flavored article…..
A Man Eating Tree Grows in Madagascar
In 1874, the New York World newspaper carried an article describing a fantastic new discovery that had recently been made on the island of Madagascar, to wit, an enormous tree that looked like an eight-foot-tall pineapple, had tentacles to defend itself, and ate people. According to the report, a local native tribe, the Mkodos, sacrificed a young woman to the tree (part of a religious rite? Unclear) and the reporter, “eminent botanist Carl Leche,” was witness to the death in all its gory detail.
The article was reprinted all over the country, appearing in publications like The Garden and The Farmers’ Magazine even two years later. It was the source of ongoing speculation even up into the early days of the 20th century. It spawned several expeditions into Madagascar to find the tree, one as late as 1932. Obviously it was a hoax, one of several supposedly perpetrated by Mr. Edmund Spencer, who had written a number of articles (of dubious accuracy) for the New York World.
Where am I finding these stories of frauds? On a webpage called The Museum of Hoaxes. It talks about hundreds of frauds, hoaxes, jokes and “misunderstandings,” divided by decade and type. They have whole sections devoted to photo fakery, April Fools jokes, military frauds, etc. Some of the stories are funny; some re mind-boggling, some are just sad. It’s not typical fare for ClarksonPunk, not being overtly Steampunk, Dieselpunk, or Pulp. But it covers decades, topics and people from all three eras, so I feel confident in recommending it to your attention.
But be warned: there is a distinct danger of being trapped in Archive Binge Land. I don’t think there are giant sea monsters or man-eating trees in Archive Binge Land. But I can confirm that there are Dreaded Time-Eaters there.
Now, see the pretty red in the picture here to the left? In America, these are called suspenders. In Britain they’re called braces. Here in Appalachia, we call them “gallows” (pronounced “gallusses.” Don’t ask, I don’t know why, I just go with it). I’m not really digging the bright red color of this set (nor do I like the metal adjustment buckle thingie), but I do like the fact that they button to the trousers. But I can’t afford to buy these guys; what’s a fashion conscious novice cosplayer to do?
Duh! Make your own! And apparently the rumor is true: if you can think of it, there’s a page about it on the Internet. A while back I bookmarked this article that describes how to make your own, custom fitted gallows, complete with a shopping list and diagrams. An absolute must-see for the well-dressed Steampunk gentleman.
And don’t think I’ve forgotten the ladies! Here and here are pages that describe how to make your own garter belt (I’m eschewing the picture for this one; decorum and all that). While in Steampunk the lady is more likely to wear a simple garter band (like you see in weddings), the belt is perfect for Dieselpunk cosplay.
Okay, our last installment is at hand. Now, anybody who’s talked to me for more than ten minutes knows I have a wild obsession with the indie arts. Independent music, indie publishing, indie movie-making, indie game design, you name it, I’m willing to give it a go. No, no, no, I’m not a hipster, I’m too old for that pretentious crap. But you have to admit that a lot of what’s coming out of the mainstream “creative” industries ain’t all that creative; they’re telling the same old stories, over and over again. And I understand that, they’re in business to make money, and those old stories are guaranteed moneymakers. I’m not opposed to them making money, more power to them.
But I don’t always want to see the same old stories. Honestly, after seven Fast and Furious movies, how much more is there to be said about driving fast and chasing pretty girls? Sometimes I just want something new and fresh. So I surf Smashwords for indie books, I surf YouTube for indie music and movies, I subscribe to Lets Play channels for news of indie games.
Now a lot of indie works have a bad reputation. Supposedly, since these products not going through the gatekeepers of the mainstream industries, there’s a lot of under-edited, under-developed, under-tested crapola getting out into the world. And I have to say, there’s a lot of merit to that argument; those mainstream industries spend a lot of money to hire the best editors, musicians, and film crews so that their products are the absolute best they can be. Many of the books on Smashwords — I’d even argue that the majority of the books on Smashwords — are so not ready for prime time; storytelling, editing, and proofreading are skills that the budding writer must constantly hone.
The same can be said of independent videos posted on YouTube. Sometimes the writing is a little clumsy. Most of these guys are getting their buddies to be the stars, so the acting is uneven, amateurish, or downright painful. Indie games can be buggy, crashy, or worst of all, just not interesting enough to be worth their price on Steam. To their credit, most of the indie musicians I hear on YouTube aren’t actively bad (you have to go to American Idol or Britain’s Got Talent audition episodes to find truly hideous singing). No, the sin of bad indie musicians is to just be uninspired, unimpressive, or just plain boring.
BUT! If you keep digging through the virtual stacks, you WILL find gems. Last year the Slenderman game on Steam was absolutely huge and spawned an avalanche of sequels, imitators, etc. Heck, those games were based on Marble Hornets and EverymanHYBRID, a pair of independent vlog-structured video series on YouTube, which were themselves based on some photograph manipulations and horror short stories (okay, “stories” is a loose description) that appeared in the Creepypasta forums. Nowadays, the big indie breakthrough game is Five Nights at Freddy’s, which I’ve seen played and I can see why it’s big, though it’s not really my cup of tea.
Indie author Michael Coorlim is my own personal discovery; I’ve mentioned him before, particularly his Galvanic Century stories about Bartleby and James (follow the link, follow the link, follow the link! The first book is free!!!). I adore his light touch with the Steampunk genre and I strongly recommend him. I found him on Smashwords, while doing another, now-defunct indie book review blog with a fellow writer.
However, Coorlim is not why I bring you here today. Today is for this:
I only stumbled across this last week, and I’ve not yet seen the whole thing; have to wait until I have a spare bit of money to buy the DVD (remember I have hospital bills). But this caught my eye because of the subject matter. Frankenstein is already proto-Steampunk in its own right. To carry it those final few steps over the line? Yeah, quit talking and take my money. Granted, the acting in the trailer is right on par with what I expect from amateurs, though not without some merit. It’s hard to tell on the script writing; there’s just not enough of a sample to judge. However!!! The costumes and sets? Oh, my goodness, that’s some terrific production values for a film that cost the same as a used motorcycle.
It’s not like me to discuss a Fun Friday focus when I haven’t seen it myself. But this one intrigues me. Here’s their webpage, if you want some more information. And here is the movie’s listing on Amazon, if you want to check it out. And if you do check it out, please do contact me and tell me how you liked it. If you write a proper review, I’ll post it here on another Fun Friday (you get a byline, but, other than my unadulterated gratitude, there’s no pay). When I finally see it, I’ll be sure and report back.
And with that said, I’m outta here. Y’all know the routine: write, tweet, comment, share. My email addy is ajwriter-at-ajclarkson-dot-net. Enjoy your weekend, but don’t enjoy it too much, if you take my meaning. And if you do, don’t get caught!