Wednesday, February 16, 2011

2010 Year in Review- from the desk of V.Adm. Radha Narasimhan

The year 2010 was quite an eventful and memorable one for Kali’s Hourglass, flagship of the Covenant of the Kraken.  We came from the year 1856 (just after reversing the outcome of the second Opium War between the British and the Chinese) forward to Irving through the time portal over the gravity well near Bermuda. We have established a land base with my husband’s relatives who are in on our secret as time traveling privateers and are willing to keep our secret as long as we get keep them supplied with the finest Mexica (Aztec) chocolate and the curry spices from India.

We have forged alliances with other time travelers in this area and become members of the Steampunk Illumination Society.  At this time we wish to express our gratitude to the community members who have come forth to organize and create a haven for the time traveling public.   Thanks to all of you who have driven long distances to events, helped organize them, offered to give others rides in your airships or gypsy wagons, and given your time, energy, laughter,  and courage to enrich our community.   Many of you are more like adopted family to us now than just friends and we are proud to call ourselves members of the DFW Steampunk Illumination Society.   What we have here is unique and we should continue to support one another in our projects as individuals, as groups, and as a united community.   We have traveled far and wide across the land and seas and not witness such commitment and dedication as we have seen over the past few months.   We have rapidly grown from a just a handful of travelers to a large and growing family often with multiple events happening the same week.   Again you have our gratitude and our salute for all each and everyone one of you has accomplished.
For our part, I am proud of our accomplishment in this age.  We began our contact with the Dallas area by attending an Abney Park concert at an most unusual tavern called, strangely enough, “The Church” on Swiss Avenue where we learned that these marvelous musicians blended music, song, and dance with clothing that was a mix of many times and styles into a wonderful and entertaining medley.  We also learned that they were using their musical performances as a cover for their occasional work as time traveling airship pirates who are now semi-retired (as pirates anyway!).  Naturally that peaked our interest enormously!!!

We looked into the idea of taking extended shore leave and doing some of the same sort of thing while allowing our young son, Cannonball Joe, a bit of respite from cannon fire (which we think has already damaged his hearing-or maybe just his attention span).  We began by participating as models in the Crow Collection Asian Art Museum’s “Asian Pop Culture Night Fashion Show” in which we demonstrated our current officer’s working uniforms and a few of our own futuristic creations such as weapons and a universal translator device.   Since then we attended the Green Steam Circus in Austin to see Abney Park naturally.  We then followed Abney Park again to a bizarre weekend ritual they call an “anime festival”.  We went mostly to see Abney Park, but really enjoyed ourselves and met very interesting people there.  Not long after that we met the organizers and some of the members of the Steampunk Illumination Society whom we now think of as a second family!

We were then enlisted to help put together the Carnival of Creatures show in which we were gently nudged more and more into the comedy arena, a very strange place indeed for a couple of Admirals to find themselves!  At Yulecon, we presented the “Ugly Gun Skit” for the first time where Adm. Ramon made a greatly exaggerated parody of our occasional “debates” between the importance of function (his focus) versus my own natural love of form and beauty in things.  He also made fun of the common power struggles between men and women in which, he has shown enough wisdom to recognize that we women have developed wisdom, cleverness, and persuasion to a fine art, primarily for the purpose of keeping our men doing what they need to be.  He finds this powerful hidden talent as fascinating as it is baffling to him, but I think he did a good job of writing a spoof of just how fascicle it can get at times, although I must protest that I never actually draw blood from him, well, not recently anyway.  We performed the skit again for our “Steamunk family” recently at a Steampunk Illumination Society meeting and will do so again at the upcoming Clockwork Wonderland Event.

We also were privileged to perform as actors/extras in the Marquis of Vaudeville silent film Clockwork Wonderland promotional Video where I waltzed with my gallant friend Larry while attempting to hold teacups and pretend like we were drinking from them without interrupting the Waltz, while Adm. Ramon, and his friend Greg, chased poor sweet Alice all through Wonderland with pole arms while trying not to actually kill anyone in the process!  (I was a little worried about Ramon in that role as real weapons like that halberd tend to bring out the old warrior instincts in him, but fortunately he really liked Alice and felt more fatherly protective attitudes toward her-she was freezing in that costume- than any actual blood lust.)

In other areas, Adm. Ramon and Cannonball Joe both entered and won semi-finalist prizes in an amateur art contest held by the steampunk band Sunday Driver where they drew a fictional vehicle for the band’s first world tour.  You can see it on their website or Adm. Ramon’s blog.  I, V. Adm. Radha Narasimhan , won a Kraken Rum photo contest using outlandish attire, a raised bottle of my favorite rum, and a lot of panache!  I also had a lot of fun, as did the photographer, at a Steampunk Modeling photo shoot after one of our Steampunk Illumination Society meetings.   Adm. Ramon is now acting as the host for a University of North Texas TV serial called night class where he portrays a sarcastic and somewhat mad professor (I hear his character is similar someone called “Professor Snape”, whoever that is) that introduces and wraps up each episode.  We are also presenting panels for various conventions on topics ranging from DIY Steampunk fashion, especially multicultural fashion, to acting, and even Steampunk music and dance trends.  Adm. Ramon is also now writing reviews and Steampunk articles (with some help from me) that are published or scheduled to be published in Steamed, Gatehouse Gazette, Convention Fans E-zine, Steampunk Tribune, Steampunk Chronicle, and Cogs ‘n Gears, and 3 other such publications are still considering taking him on as a writer.  He hopes to use these various outlets to further promote the means and ends of Steampunk culture and political change.  This is a huge change from our usual methods of just rolling out the big guns and firing cannonballs through obstacles to social change or through the fortresses or ships of slavers or other local bullies.

We have also taken up the cause to promote study of archaeology, anthropology and art by the community.  To this end we visited the Houston Museum of Natural Science and published a review of their exhibit “Real Pirates” which seeks to set straight so many myths from the world we are from.  We were pleased to see such detail and care taken to educate those in the present age about life aboard the great ships of our age.  It did a magnificent job of explaining why indeed so many turned to piracy and why this still strikes a cord with many living in this century.  We have been contacted by the museum about reviewing future exhibits with our unique insight into the social sciences and why they are of interest to the Steampunk community.  The same weekend we visited the historical festival Dickens on the Strand with our good friends from Steampunk Illumination Society and got to spend time on the tall ship Elissa.  Again, so inspiring to see people taking an interest in preserving and maintaining the sea fairing vessels from our own age.

We have also taken up the cause of making the wonder and majesty of dance a larger part of the Steampunk, Clockpunk, and Dieselpunk Culture!  We are doing this by inviting and encouraging members of our community to come and dance out their fears, frustrations, anger, and sadness until all that remains is the joy of the dance every Friday at Club Escuses.  We are also offering Panels to all the local anime and Steampunk conventions on current and future trends of dance and music in the Steampunk realm.  We will even present a Steampunk time traveler comedic skit in which I and Admiral Ramon show off a little of our real historical Aztec Dance training as part of the skit at the upcoming Carnivale of Creatures show.  We are trying to find ways to make this an ever larger part of events, celebrations, entertainment, and culture in many ways and will continue to do so.  

We have managed to forge alliances here with explorers, adventurers, pirates, mad scientists, airship crews and time traveling anthropologists which I believe will help to move forward our ultimate hidden agenda, which has always been to give the common man or woman a fighting chance to live freely in a world dominated by military and corporate tyrants.  As my people suffered horribly under the hands of the Mogul conquerors (and later the East India Tea Company) and my soulmate’s family were pretty much all starved to death by wealthy commercial interests in Britain during the Irish potato famine and again later by wealthy American interests when his Cherokee relatives were driven down the “Trail of Tears” into Oklahoma by troops approved by the traitorous President Jackson, whose life Ramon’s relatives had saved countless times as his personal  bodyguards during the War of 1812, you can understand why we fight a hard as we can to give people a chance against those powerful forces that try to make slaves of us all.  We push forward this agenda under the more public  veneer of attempting to encourage (sometimes by use of arms) all privateers to earn the label “privateer” by treating prisoners honorably and following some kind of ethical standards.  We don’t worry about what the “pirates are up to only those using the label “privateer” as their behavior impacts our own group’s reputation.

We have also been actively been promoting the steampunk/sci-fi film Nickel Children, and have managed to increase its range of venues for screening to include a large number of Anime, Sci-fi and Steampunk festivals including the Steampunk World’s Fair 2011.  We not only believe that good Steampunk films like this will improve perceptions of our community in general, but that the brave choice of the screenwriter director to treat child slavery and sexual exploitation very directly in this film may help  our own centuries long battle to end human slavery.  Slavers have always been our enemy whether they come in the form of Feudalistic tyrants, East India Company representatives, African Slave ships, the Ottoman Empire, The Crimean Mongol Khan, or the somewhat milder, but still oppressive modern wage slavery under the various international corporations that exist purely for greed and profit on the oppression of their workers.  We have received good news that the worldwide charity love146, a premier charity for the location, rescue, and rehabilitation of child slaves and sex slaves has taken an active interest in aiding us in promoting this film which we all hope will use good “Steampunk Art” to bring attention to the most evil of social ills and thus make the world a better place for us all.  We will also be presenting the film and this new alliance at the Ikkicon Anime festival on the last day of this year.

We never dreamed there would be sub-culture movements like “Steampunk”, “Clockpunk” , Dieselpunk”, etc. that would be fighting for the same agenda, but far more openly now in the future.  We feel very at home among you and are thrilled that the world has changed enough to allow us to use art, music, poetry, dance, fictional literature, and even comedy to fight the battles that, in the past, had to be fought and won with blood and human suffering.  We have never liked that approach, but in past centuries were afforded no better path.  Please excuse us if at times, Adm. Ramon especially, we are a bit coarse or too direct in our speech, as we are accustomed to settling matters with the blast of cannons and the edge of a steel blade, so we have had only a little opportunity to learn the fine arts of courtesy and diplomacy, but we are trying hard to learn.

In fact, Admiral Ramon has even consented to take the path of his beloved “Dagda”, apparently the first great champion of the De Dannaan Clan of his earliest Irish ancestors, who often would go out pretending to be a fool in order to entertain, educate, and observe in order to gain knowledge of their enemy’s camps prior to a battle and of their friends in time of peace.  He said if it was good enough for his people’s champion to effect change through the use of comedy, he can manage to do the same.  He says that the Celtic Bards believed that music, drama, and story telling, comic or otherwise, was the most powerful of all methods to reach the hearts of others and to effect change.  For this reason he says, the bards were often as respected, and even more feared, than the most powerful and learned of Druid Judges, priests, or Magicians, because their satire, when necessary, had brought down even the most powerful of tyrants time and again.  Besides, what better cover for a time lord than to pretend to be a comic performer that pretends to be a time lord?  Anyone trying to learn the real secret of our origins will get so confused they will give up and assume it’s just part of the act.

Well the point is that we are thrilled to find such a wonderful, strong, vibrant, and healthy community where we can put aside the real weapons, send our crews out to their normal tasks, and focus on arts, entertainment, writing, dance, and use these as vehicles to enlighten and effect change for a time instead of gunpowder and cold steel.  It is a wonderful change for us, so we will stay among you in this century as long as we can.  Well…at least until we hear the call of battle too strongly to remain or the wanderlust takes us again.  Until then, thank you all so much for embracing us and making us a part of your century and of your lives.

Fair Winds and Following Seas,

Vice Admiral Radha Narasimhan, 2nd Admiral of the Flagship Kali’s Hourglass,
Lord Admiral of the Covenant of the Kraken, Vice Admiral of fleets for decades from 1950 and later

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