Imagining a Better Future by Re-imagining the Past

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.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Remembrance/ Veteran’s Day 2017

I would like to say thank you to all of the Veterans who served so nobly over the years.

Saturday, October 28, 2017


Halloween is right around the corner, which means it’s time for some spooky Dieselpunk fun.

Universal Pictures
Universal Pictures during the Diesel Era set the standard for horror movies. Here’s a few of my favorites.

The Mummy (1932)

Frankenstein (1931)

The Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

Dracula (1931)

The Wolf Man (1941)

The Invisible Man (1933)

Dieselpunk Movies
Don’t want to watch a Diesel-Era movie? First, what’s the hell’s wrong with you? Second, here’s a list of some modern Dieselpunk horror.

Young Frankenstein (1974)

Shadow of the Vampire (2000)

The Mummy (1999)

The Mummy Returns (2001)

Dieselpunk Science Fiction/ Fantasy
Scary movies aren’t your thing? Check out these Dieselpunk Science Fiction and Fantasy flicks.

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004)

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

Iron Sky (2012)
Pan's Labyrinth (2006)
A Dieselpunk fantasy set in Fascist Spain of 1944. Though the protagonist is a child it's not a children's movie. Several scenes contain graphic violence along with some disturbing images.

Proto-Dieselpunk Horror Literature
H.P. Lovecraft
You can't go wrong with the Diesel Era master of cosmic horror H.P. Lovecraft

The Complete Works of H.P. Lovecraft (All of his works free online.)

Dieselpunk Horror Literature
Southern Gods
Horror novel set in Arkansas shortly after World War II. Part of the modern Cthulhu Mythos.

Web Sites

Horror Film History
A nice site about the proto-Dieselpunk movies from the 1930s

Bizarre and Creepy Halloween Photographs
The title says it all

Church of Satan Web Site
Okay, so it’s not a Halloween related site. I decided that it deserved a mention for combining a strong art deco look in the heading with the words “Church of Satan”. What’s not Halloween about that?

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women

Not too long ago the Dieselpunk smash hit Wonder Woman was released to Blu Ray/ DVD worldwide. With perfect timing comes the release of the movie Professor Marston and the Wonder Women.

According to the official movie website,
In a superhero origin tale unlike any other, PROFESSOR MARSTON & THE WONDER WOMEN is the incredible true story of what inspired Harvard psychologist Dr. William Moulton Marston to create the iconic Wonder Woman character in the 1940’s. While Marston’s feminist superhero was criticized by censors for her ‘sexual perversity’, he was keeping a secret that could have destroyed him. Marston’s muses for the Wonder Woman character were his wife Elizabeth Marston and their lover Olive Byrne, two empowered women who defied convention: working with Marston on human behavior research — while building a hidden life with him that rivaled the greatest of superhero disguises.

The film is scheduled to be released on October 13, 2017. It had its world premiere at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival in September.