Imagining a Better Future by Re-imagining the Past

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Dark Deco: A New Dieselpunk Flavor

Recently I posted a series about some changes to the Dieselpunk Cookbook. Since that time a new flavor has come to my attention that I had missed: Dark Deco.

According to the DC Comics Media website:
"Dark deco is an animation style created by Bruce Timm and Eric Radomski used in Batman: The Animated Series. They knew that Batman was a dark character so the two of them knew the show had to be dark as well. Backgrounds would be painted on black paper and anything that was black in the show was left unpainted. Kids WB once told Bruce Timm that his show was so dark he was about to reach the legal limit of how dark his show could be."

Dark Deco Art
Batman: The Animated Series Logo Fan-made by Vleermuisman, Fair use,

Dark Deco Photographic Art
"See Shanghai transformed into a real-life Gotham City" Photogallery at CNN
See the entire series here.

Dark Deco Fashion
"The notion of elevated luxury has been one that has driven design for generations. With a slant towards the decadent and ways of elevating classic style, Dark Deco starts with the 1930s where plenty of grandiose was the norm. Mix in the romance of 1980s New Wave, with exaggerated silhouettes and a novel approach of blurring the lines between genders and even formality, and you get a fresh presence that’s as poetic as it is edgy." - Shop The Floor web site

One might describe Dark Deco as being midway between the flavors of Gothic Dieselpunk and Decopunk for it seems to have elements of both. I'm sure that I'll be writing more about this in the near future for I find this new flavor to be very tasty.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

90th Academy Awards

On May 16, 1929 the first Academy Awards ceremony took place at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel in Los Angeles, California, USA. It consisted of a private dinner with 36 banquet tables, where 270 people attended and tickets cost five dollars (equivalent to roughly $71 today.) and was hosted by AMPAS director Fairbanks during a 15-minute event. Though the award categories were rather complex ultimately it was decided that the award for best picture would go to Wings. However, the public didn’t get to follow this live. The award show wasn’t introduced until the following year in 1930.

This year, the 90th Academy Awards ceremony has three Diesel-Era themed movies in the Best Films category.

Darkest Hour
Darkest Hour, directed by Joe Wright and written by Anthony McCarten, stars Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill, and is a fictionalised account of his early days as Prime Minister, as Hitler closes in on Britain during World War II, leading to friction at the highest levels of government. The film also stars Ben Mendelsohn, Kristin Scott Thomas, Lily James, Stephen Dillane, and Ronald Pickup.

Dunkirk, written, directed, and produced by Christopher Nolan, depicts the Dunkirk evacuation of World War II. Its ensemble cast includes Fionn Whitehead, Tom Glynn-Carney, Jack Lowden, Harry Styles, Aneurin Barnard, James D'Arcy, Barry Keoghan, Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy, Mark Rylance, and Tom Hardy.

Phantom Thread
Phantom Thread,written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, is set in London's couture world in the 1950s. It stars Daniel Day-Lewis as a dressmaker living with his sister, played by Lesley Manville, who falls in love with a young waitress, played by Vicky Krieps. The couple's relationship vacillates between affection and distance until they finally learn to live with one another's differences. The film was Day-Lewis's final film role before entering retirement. (Note: I included this since some set the Diesel-Era late into the 1950s.)

In addition to Diesel-Era themed movies there’s one Atomicpunk movie nominated for Best Picture.

The Shape of Water
The Shape of Water was directed by Guillermo del Toro (Hellboy) and written by del Toro and Vanessa Taylor. The film stars Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon (Boardwalk Empire), Richard Jenkins, Doug Jones, Michael Stuhlbarg, and Octavia Spencer. Set in Baltimore in 1962, the plot follows a mute custodian at a high-security government laboratory who befriends a captured humanoid-amphibian creature. Many critics declared The Shape of Water del Toro's best film since his Dieselpunk film Pan's Labyrinth, praising in particular Hawkins's performance.

The 90th Academy Awards ceremony will take place at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California on March 4, 2018 and will be televised in the USA on ABC.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Dieselpunk: A New Cookbook Part 3: Decopunk

In my last post I wrote about a new Dieselpunk flavor that I called Gothic Dieselpunk. In this final installment I address another new flavor that has been gaining a lot of attention in the genre-punk community. It’s called “Decopunk”.

The following is from the official website for the LARP Attaway:

"Attaway considers its parent genre to be dieselpunk, with some important distinctions. It’s commonly accepted that dieselpunk can be divided into two halves, either before or after the start of World War II as a jumping-off point. The first focuses on a world continuously at war on a global scale (“Piecraftian”), while the second focuses more on the pre-war Jazz Age and the so-called “Roaring Twenties.” If it isn’t already apparent, this second half describes the nature of Attaway as a game world and as a LARP on the whole. This subgenre is called decopunk. It takes a positive outlook towards technology as a form of innovation for humanity’s overall benefit, with an upbeat (if not devil-may-care) attitude towards the future and a general air of Art Nouveau decadence. Steampunk author Sara M. Harvey describes the subgenre thusly: “DieselPunk is a gritty version of Steampunk set in the 1920s-1950s. The big war eras, specifically. DecoPunk is the sleek, shiny very Art Deco version; same time period, but everything is chrome!”

Decopunk is a drop-dead-gorgeous lounge singer in a black velvet dress, clutching the microphone she croons into with a slick chromed prosthetic arm.

Decopunk is a hard-boiled detective in a leather trenchcoat cracking his knuckles as he prepares to confront his mark atop the roof of the midnight monorail going uptown.

Decopunk is the smoke from a revolver curling up the arm of a woman in a perfectly tailored three-piece suit and fedora, standing over the body of a crime lord… and her former lover.

Attaway is Decopunk."

In my opinion it’s time for the Dieselpunk community to recognize decopunk as more than just Hopeful Dieselpunk. With its growth and increased popularity I believe that decopunk should be recognized as its own flavor. 

For a good definition I go with the given at the Ash Dancer blog:
"Decopunk is considered a subgenre of Dieselpunk set in a more 1920’s diesel powered world."

Everyone welcome the new flavor of Dieselpunk: Decopunk.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Dieselpunk: A New Cookbook Part 2: Gothic Dieselpunk

“Each age, it is found, must write its own books; or rather, each generation for the next succeeding.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson

On September 16, 2017, I posted a blog post titled ‘VintageGoths’ in which I wrote about a subclass of Goths who seemed to have a Dieselpunk element. In this post, I propose that VintageGoths should be considered a new flavor of Dieselpunk. I call this new flavor ‘Gothic Dieselpunk’.

Gothic Dieselpunk aesthetics tend to what some authors refer to as a ‘dark allure’. A dark allure is a preference for gothic or the macabre. I define Gothic Dieselpunk as:

“A subclass of Dark Dieselpunk that emphasizes the gothic or the macabre.”

What Digitalis writes about VintageGoths taste in movies applies just as well to Gothic Dieselpunks, “They are fans of music both Goth and otherwise, and favor dark noir films like Nosferatu, Metropolis, The Golem, and the Cabinet of Dr. Caligari - and, of course, old Bela Lugosi flicks!” Some Gothic Dieselpunk movies include Young Frankenstein, Shadow of the Vampire and Blancanieves.

Gothic Dieselpunk music tends to the darker side as well. Digitalis mentions Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits, and The Dresden Dolls. I would add the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies, Wolfgang Parker, Tiger Lilies and Katzenjammer. And while their music isn’t always dark Big Bad Voodoo Daddy and Squirrel Nut Zippers both made some dark music and dark videos. Note: while Cherry Poppin Daddies and Wolfgang Parker are both generally considered mainstream Dieselpunk a close examination of their lyrics will see that they tend to be very dark.

Gothic Dieselpunk is only one of the new flavors. I plan to explore another in my next post.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Happy Holidays 2017!

Being that this is Christmas weekend I thought I would take a break from the new series to give recommendations for three movies for the holiday.

Diesel Era Movie
It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
There was a time when this movie was shown repeatedly. But now you have to look it up.

A Christmas Carol (1938)
With Reginald Owen and Gene Lockhart as part of the cast this filming of Charles Dickens classic is always fun.

Dieselpunk Movie
A Christmas Story (1983)
This fantastic little movie has now become a holiday classic.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Dieselpunk: A New Cookbook Part 1

Over the years I’ve written about the different flavors of Dieselpunk. The four flavor previously identified are Hopeful Ottensian, Dark Ottensian, Dystopian Piecraftian, and Post-Apocalyptic Piecraftian. The terms Ottensian and Piecraftian were coined by the web site Flying Fortress because of the work of the Dieselpunk Founding Fathers Nick Ottens and Mr. Piecraft (Piecraft is the pen name for Bernardo Sena).

At this point I should explain each flavor. What follows is from my blog post of January 1, 2011.

Hopeful Ottensian
"Believe in life! Always human beings will live and progress to greater, broader and fuller life." ~ W. E. B. Du Bois

As was previously noted Hopeful Ottensian dieselpunk looks at human progress from a positive standpoint. While human technological progress may advance at different paces, and at times might even slide backwards, the general direction is forwards. Though some of us complain that we don’t have the flying cars or jet packs that were promised us the fact that you’re reading this blog over the internet is a rather amazing thing. Many people, including myself, owe our lives to the miracles of modern medicine. Never in human history has so many people lived so well for so long. Hopeful Ottensian serves an important purpose of reminding us that, while the world is far from perfect, there are many positive aspects to our current times and that we need to avoid romanticizing the past for there never were any "good old days."

Hopeful Dieselpunk
Dark Ottensian
"This is the noble truth of suffering: birth is suffering, aging is suffering, illness is suffering, death is suffering; sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair are suffering; union with what is displeasing is suffering; separation from what is pleasing is suffering; not to get what one wants is suffering; in brief, the five aggregates subject to clinging are suffering." ~ Theravada version of the Buddhist Dharmacakra Pravartana Sutra

Where the Hopeful Ottensian is positive about human progress Dark Ottensian is a cold, hard, slap of reality. The amazing progress that Hopeful Ottensian points to is unevenly distributed in which there are a vast number of people in the world, including those in the West, whose lives are, to borrow a phrase from Thomas Hobbes, "poor, nasty, brutish, and short." There’s widespread crime, crushing poverty, war, genocide, disease and suffering even in the Western world where Modernity and technological progress has made so many advances. In fact, these very advances in technology and increases in productive ability have toxic side effects such as pollution and class warfare. Just like the 1920's we have our own culture wars and the recent economic collapse is reminiscent of the collapse of the 1930's. Then when we try to fix these problems it all too often turns out as Robert Burn wrote, "The best laid schemes of mice and men / Go oft awry." If Hopeful Ottensian keeps us from avoiding becoming luddites Dark Ottensian is a warning against hubris.

Dark Dieselpunk
Dystopian Piecraftian
"Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." ~ Benjamin Franklin

The warning in Dystopian Piecraftian dieselpunk has always been that freedom and human rights are fragile. As our world has become smaller and technology has tied us closer the potential for the loss of individual freedom has grown considerably. Add in the growth of terrorism, such as the attack on the US on September 11th, 2001, there has been a growing fear of how much freedom should we sacrifice for safety. The Left fears government and corporate intrusion into our lives while the Right fears bureaucratic control in our economic activities. Diesel era history shows that democracy itself is not a guarantee against tyranny for the Nazis were democratically elected by the German people. Dystopian Piecraftian dieselpunk reminds us that a free people must always be vigilant against tyranny.

Dystopian Dieselpunk
Post-Apocalyptic Piecraftian
“When the Lamb opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, "Come!" I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth.” ~ Bible, Revelation 6: 7 – 8

While it was the creation of the atomic bomb that brought the realization that humanity had created the power to destroy the world we’ve come up with new ways of imagining Armageddon. Some of these scenarios are human made while others would be natural in origin. Besides nuclear war we now worry about Global Warming, possibility of an asteroid strike like the one that killed the dinosaurs, a pandemic due to increased global travel or genetic experimentation, another massive volcanic eruption similar to Tambora of the early 19th century that helped create the Little Ice Age along with other nightmare scenarios not mentioned here. Post-Apocalyptic Piecraftian helps to remind us to cherish our time on earth for life is fragile and we have no idea what the future might hold.

Post-Apocalytpic Dieselpunk
As time has gone by I’ve noticed some problems with these labels. Those of us who have been with Dieselpunk since the early days when it migrated to the West from Russian may be comfortable with “Ottensian” and “Piecraftian”. However, if you try to use those terms with someone unfamiliar with its origins you will often see the the other person’s eyes start to glaze over.

Therefore, I’ve decided that it’s time for a change.

From now on I will no longer use the terms ‘Ottensian” and “Piecraftian” when describing the different flavors. I’m going to use the simplier terms of Hopeful Dieselpunk, Dark Dieselpunk, Dystopian Dieselpunk and Post-Apocalyptic Dieselpunk.

I still intend to give credit to Ottens and Sena for their important contributions to Dieselpunk. Not only is it important that we give credit where credit is due but it goes to the very heart of Dieselpunk that we remember the past. However, I do think it’s time to make these changes.

The Dieselpunk cookbook continues to change further than just some titles, which I’m going to cover in the upcoming posts.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Murder on the Orient Express

When I first saw the trailer for Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express I was so excited. And I still am.

Directed by Kenneth Branagh, the newest remake has an all-star cast with Branagh as Hercule Poirot, with Penélope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Josh Gad, Derek Jacobi, Leslie Odom Jr., Michelle Pfeiffer, and Daisy Ridley in supporting roles.

For those that don’t know the storyline to Agatha Christie’s classic, according to Rohan Naahar with Hindustantimes:

"While being snowed in during an overnight storm, a man is (brutally) killed on board the luxurious Orient Express, and only one of the 13 passengers on the first class compartment could have done it. Fortunately, through sheer luck, ‘The Greatest Detective in the World’ also happens to be present, and is compelled – now we know why – to bring balance to this world."

Naahar gives the movie 4 out of 5 stars and a good detailed review. Read it here.