The Thirteenth Hour Podcast #244: Reading from Empty Hands on the Imperial Ranger Uniform and Like a Hood Ornament 4 – Cliff Secord’s Jacket

Episode #244: Reading from Empty Hands on the Imperial Ranger Uniform and Like a Hood Ornament 4 – Cliff Secord’s Jacket

This week’s show is about clothing – Logan’s Imperial Ranger uniform in Empty Hands and The Thirteenth Hour as well as Cliff’s jacket in the Rocketeer segment (which inspired the way I drew Logan’s costume).

In the first part of the show, I’m reading from a section of The Thirteenth Hour interlude, Empty Hands, which describes what the Imperial Rangers wore for formal uniforms:

The morning of the Drawing was cool and crisp.  The last vestiges of winter were still apparent, though you could get by without a coat if you were willing to be a little chilly.  For the ceremony, we were supposed to wear our formal uniforms, which we started training in a few days prior.  Unlike many things about the Imperial Army, a lot of thought had gone into Imperial Ranger gear, and although there were no surviving craftsmen who knew how to make Imperial Ranger boots, uniforms, and weapons, enough of the old training manuals had survived that the ones in the castle could learn.  Compared to the stiff, uncomfortable uniforms the regular Army soldiers wore, the Ranger uniforms were fairly well designed.  They were intended to be working uniforms and could look sharp if clean and pressed, but they had both functional and cosmetic purposes due to the Rangers’ multiple roles as soldier, explorer, bodyguard, and diplomat.

As our instructors had said, we did have to move a bit differently when fighting in our uniforms, though not as much as one might have thought.  The pants and shirts were baggy and easy to move in, for instance, and the outer tunic that covered the shirt was flexible but offered protection since it was interwoven with a layer of fine-link chain-mail backed by suede to keep the links from embedding in a wound should the chain-mail break.  It wasn’t as heavy as wearing a full chain-mail shirt, but it offered disguised protection from glancing strikes to the internal organs of the torso.  It wouldn’t stop a point blank shot from a warbow, but then again, there’s a good chance standard plate armor wouldn’t, either.

All this flashed through my head as I raced to get ready that morning.  Unlike most days, there had been no early morning conditioning session, so everyone had slept later.  My bed was in the corner, and I must have continued sleeping as Blake, who had the top bunk, left with the others for breakfast.  When I woke, the position of the sunlight shining in the window let me know immediately that I had overslept, and a glance at the clock in the corner confirmed it was 8:50, meaning I had exactly ten minutes to get to the field where the Drawing would be taking place.  Cursing, I ran to the washroom, took care of my morning business, and rummaged through my locker, searching for a uniform that wasn’t crumpled or malodorous.  I’d hung up my sweaty uniform in the washroom after yesterday’s practice, but someone must have knocked it over soon after, since now it lay in a crumpled, smelly heap on the floor.  We had three each, but my other one smelled even worse, so it took some digging to get to my last one, which was still wrapped in the bag in which it had been issued to me.  I raced out the door as soon as I had it on and ran the whole way to the field where the King would be addressing us for the formal commencement of the Drawing.

I was still late.


A concept sketch of the Imperial Rangers wearing the uniforms described above.

Another sketch of Logan flying through the air on Lightning wearing the uniform described above.

There’s a little instrumental part to accompany parts of the story where the Imperial Rangers have to march around (in the LP Long Ago Not So Far Away) that is playing in the background during part of the reading.

Speaking of music, I’ve been going through a number of acoustic guitar songs I used to play a lot when I was first learning how to play, since in this time of national quarantine, I try to do music time with my kids as a part of, you know, daddy daycare.  I’ve picked out a few that are more hopeful and positive than the stuff songs are often written about (heartbreak, unrequited love, longing, substance use, and other important adult matters).   Anyway, I’ve included one such song (“If We Hold On Together” from the 1988 cartoon, The Land Before Time), as it was co-written by James Horner, who also did the music for, yes, you guessed it, The Rocketeer.

Today’s Rocketeer segment is also about flying – the Rocketeer’s jacket!


Today marks the fourth Rocketeer segment as a part of the podcast.  Below are a few previous episodes about the Rocketeer:

Ep 18 on comics (Dave Stevens)

Ep 53 on rewatching the Rocketeer as an adult

Ep 235 on making the resin miniature Rocketeer

This week, we’re discussing Cliff’s jacket – the iconic leather jacket with the front bib making up the front.  Although you can totally buy lots of replica jackets, the origin of the jacket is totally unknown to me.  I have never exactly been able to find where Dave Stevens got the idea for it but have a few guesses about things he may have been influenced by or watched as a kid:

-Commander Cody serials (which you can totally watch on Youtube) – wears a leather jacket; note the similarities to the Rocketeer’s helmet and double barreled silver rocketpack.

Commando Cody | Public Domain Super Heroes | Fandom

Commando Cody was the hero in a 12-episode science-fiction serial ...

-Westerns, like this shot of John Wayne in Horse Soldiers:

This is my new reproduction of the shirt worn by John Wayne in "The Horse Soldiers. Shoulder board insignia IS NOT included with this shirt. John Wayne, Classic Films, Western Shirts, Hollywood Stars, Soldiers, Double Breasted, Movie Stars, Captain Hat, Dessert Games

You can find a similar shirt in many places like (

Here are some pictures of Cliff’s clothes from the original comic drawn by Dave Stevens (they come from The Rocketeer: The Complete Deluxe Edition).


You can see a photo above of Dave Stevens on the right trying on a Rocketeer helmet wearing Cliff’s jacket (he used photos of himself as models for Cliff).

This little animated .gif is, of course, from the point in the movie where the Rocketeer, not above a little self conscious vanity, asks how he looks.  Peevy, not above a little blunt honesty, says “Like a hood ornament!”  The Rocketeer blasts off for the first time, Peevy gets blown backwards into the hangar, and I get a name for this part of the podcast!

Stay tuned for more Rocketeer gear talk next week!  Stay safe!




There are now Thirteenth Hour toys!  If you’d like to pick up one of these glow in the dark figures for yourself, feel free to email me or go to the Etsy store I set up ( and get them there.

If you haven’t checked out “Arcade Days,” the song and video Jeff Finley, Brent Simon, and I finished one year ago, click on the link below to do so!

You can find more pictures and preview clips of “Arcade Days” on IG as well as this podcast’s FB page.

Empty Hands, the synth EP soundtrack to the novella, Empty Hands, is now out for streaming on Bandcamp.  

empty hands ep cover_edited-2.jpg

Stay tuned.  Follow along on Spotify!  There is also a growing extended Thirteenth Hour playlist on Spotify with a growing number of retro 80s songs.

Check it out!

As always, thanks for listening!


The Thirteenth Hour Podcast Musical Interlude: “Dreams Go Far”

“Dreams Go Far”

One of the things I wanted to do with this podcast was showcase music written for the book.

I finally got around to recording “Dreams Go Far,” the song Aurora writes and sings for Logan when he’s going through a rough time (sick, weak, imprisoned) in The Thirteenth Hour.  I’ll talk more about its creation next week, but for now, the lyrics and guitar chords are below (visit the audio page to download them on a handy one-page sheet) and the song is above.



C       Cadd9    Fmaj7

Where are you now?

Am                         C                     G

Won’t you tell me what you’re thinking?

C              Am          C      (Cadd9)    G

I’ve been there; no resting for the weary.

Am                   Dm   Am

But in the end, hold true.

             C        (Cadd9)

For the best is yet to

Am             C

Happen to you …

C             Cadd9  Fmaj7

Sometimes – it’s hard,

Am                C              G

To keep your head up high.

C               Am               C                           G

You walk alone, feeling cold and scared inside.

Am            C     Am      C     Am      Em

So close your eyes, open up your mind.

Am         C            Am                                    

For it’s when you listen that you hear

C    Cmaj7  Cadd9  C

All there is inside.

C                  Cadd9   F

‘Cause dreams go far,

     Am         C             G

No matter where you are.

           Am                      C

If you wish for me, I’ll wish for you,

                 F                                    C

And we’ll make our dreams come true.

C       Am        

Long ago –

C        Am                                G

Could you guess this is where you’d be now?

C           Am         C          Am            (Cmaj7)   G

Yes, I know, it’s hard to watch your world unfold.

  Am                       C         Am

But on this long, winding road,

  C            Am          Em    Am                  C

How you think you are is what will come true.

Am           C          Am      C      Cmaj7  Cadd9  C

For it’s when you look that see all that you can do.

C                  Cadd9   F

‘Cause dreams go far,

     Am         C             G

No matter who you are.

           Am                      C

If you wish for me, I’ll wish for you,

                 F                                    C

And we’ll make our dreams come true.

C                  Cadd9   F

‘Cause dreams go far,

     Am         C            G

No matter how you are.

           Am                      C

If you’ll believe in me, I’ll believe in you,

                 F                                    C

And we’ll make our dreams come true.


**guitar chord fingerings**  (eBGDAE)

C = 01023x

Cadd9 = 31023x

Fmaj7 = 0123xx

Am = 01220x

G = 330023

Em = 000220

F = 112311

 © 2014 Joshua Blum

As always, thanks for listening!


Dreaming Big, Not Giving Up, and Other Thoughts from The Thirteenth Hour

All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible.

~T. E. Lawrence

Ask many children what they want to be when they grow up, and you’re likely to get a fantastical answer.  Professional football player, race care driver, ballerina, Hollywood actor, rock star, etc.  When my own brother was asked this question in nursery school, he said something to the effect of “someone who jumps off buildings” – he was really into Batman at the time.  I was pretty confident I was going to be an astronaut until I was about twelve, and then I wanted to be an American Indian (sort of), as described in this post here, so I could shoot bows and arrows all day (I’m sure an actual Native American would be horrified by this stereotype, but what can I say?  To me, it was a benefit).

But not very many of us go on to do those things.  So what happens to us?

We grow up, slog our way through school, realize most people don’t become astronauts, professional ballerinas, and rock stars, get “sensible” jobs instead, start paying taxes, start worrying about whether there will be tons of traffic slowing down the morning commute or how to make this month’s rent, get into relationships, have kids, start worrying about our kids’ futures and what college tuition will be in 2030, start taking Zantac before eating spicy foods … (maybe not in that exact order, but you get the picture).

And it’s no wonder.  Although this is too big a topic to discuss here, our world today is complicated.  Like the narrator says in The Gods Must be Crazy, modern man has to send his children to school for the majority of their formative years just to learn to survive in the world they were born into.  And now, increasingly, add on one to two more decades of schooling and/or training to become “independent” in this complex world we live in.
Perhaps because there’s so much “important” stuff that children are expected to master, they are often given the message that their hopes, wishes, and big ideas from childhood are nice … but, come on, get real, grow up, and take your place in line like the rest of us.  What’s more, that happens when children and young adults, when, as befitting their psychosocial developmental stages, they’re trying to figure out who they are, how they fit into the world, and what they want to do with their lives.

I would like to ask – is all this necessary?

Must we intentionally piss on the dreams of youth?

If you’re an adult reading this and have thoughts about trying to reality check the children around you – ask yourself: how would you have responded at their age if the future you tried to talk some sense into your younger self?  Would you have listened?  Would you have even cared?

There’s a scene in the 1985 movie, The Breakfast Club, where Vernon, the hardass principal is sitting with Carl, the school janitor (drinking beer in a closet, if I remember right) and musing about this very conundrum:

“Vernon: What did you want to be when you were young?
Carl: When I was a kid, I wanted to be John Lennon.
Vernon: Carl, don’t be a goof. I’m trying to make a serious point here. I’ve been teaching, for twenty two years, and each year, these kids get more and more arrogant.
Carl: Aw bullshit, man. Come on Vern, the kids haven’t changed, you have! You took a teaching position, ’cause you thought it’d be fun, right? Thought you could have summer vacations off and then you found out it was actually work and that really bummed you out.
Vernon: These kids turned on me. They think I’m a big fuckin’ joke.
Carl: Come on…listen Vern, if you were sixteen, what would you think of you, huh?
Vernon: Hey, Carl, you think I give one rat’s ass what these kids think of me?
Carl: Yes, I do.
Vernon: You think about this…when you get old, these kids; when I get old, they’re gonna be runnin’ the country.
Carl: Yeah?
Vernon: Now this is the thought that wakes me up in the middle of the night; that when I get older, these kids are gonna take care of me.
Carl: I wouldn’t count on it.”

And so, like Vern, we adults worry about the welfare of the future generation – maybe because we want them to do things we couldn’t, maybe because assuring their security ameliorates our anxiety about their future or makes us feel like good parents and role models, maybe because, like Vern, their success means our own futures are that much safer.  Or maybe because we just genuinely want the best for them or want to see potential fully realized.  There are many reasons to talk sense into fantasy, some out of self interest, some more altruistic.

So I ask again, must we piss on the dreams of youth for these things to happen?

I’m not a huge believer that every story needs to have an underlying message.  But if there is any one message behind The Thirteenth Hour, a fantasy novel of all things, it would encapsulated in the quotes from T.E. Lawrence and Harriet Tubman above – essentially, dreams are important, so make them big, for they are within your reach, and you shouldn’t give up on them.

Particularly the last part.  It’s an unspoken message in these quotes, but it’s there, under the surface – the sad fact that despite the mountains of pee that rain down on your dreams, you should hold fast to your umbrella and not let go.  It’s idealistic, that’s true, but that’s what dreams are – visions of something better, things that give us hope when we have none and help us get through the morning commute, the mountains of paperwork, the dead-end job, and the countless other mindless tasks we probably didn’t envision ourselves doing when we were children dreaming of being John Lennon.

You can help those younger than you in many ways.  Curiosity, hope, and optimism in the world’s possibilities are all qualities that can be as easily fostered as crushed.  Middle school, adolescence, and the early twenties will do a fair amount of the latter anyway, but less so if it’s circumstance, rather than the purposeful actions of another person, that does the crushing.  All this you know, because it’s probably happened to you, as it does to most of us.  But that doesn’t mean you have to like it.  Because underneath the calluses, the TPS reports, the bills, and the other trappings of adult life, beats the heart of a rock star, race car driver, jet fighter, Hollywood actress, or … even someone who jumps off buildings.

Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly.

~Langston Hughes

All quotes from: