Imagining a Better Future by Re-imagining the Past

Sunday, September 4, 2016

A Change of Focus - Continued

In my last blog post I wrote about how my wife had inspired me to rethink the central focus of Dieselpunk from changing the past to changing the present and hence the future. In keeping with this reorientation, I’ve decided to make some changes to my blog.

Previously I had in my heading the following: “Celebrating All Things Dieselpunk”. While I still plan on do so here, I thought that heading needed to be updated for my new focus. So it now reads, “Imagining a Better Future by Re-imagining the Past.”

In addition, I’ve rewritten my statement “What is Dieselpunk?” from “Dieselpunk is a subculture and style that combines the zeitgeist of the 1920s through the 1940s with postmodern sensibilities”. It now reads, “Dieselpunk is a mashup of modern ideas with the style and spirit of the 1920s through the early 1950s. The goal is to combine the zeitgeist of the past with today's ideas in order to build a better tomorrow.”

Rolls Royce Jonckheere Aerodynamic Coupe ll concept by Ugur Sahin Design

Sunday, August 21, 2016

A Change of Focus - An Important Post

“Life is divided into three terms – that which was, which is, and which will be. Let us learn from the past to profit by the present, and from the present, to live better in the future.” – William Wordsworth, poet

A few months ago my fiancĂ©e, now my wife, was spending some time with her daughter. During their conversation the subject of my involvement in Dieselpunk arose. My future wife described Dieselpunk to her daughter as “modern ideas combined with the styles of the 1920s through 1940s”. I’ve been intrigued by this description ever since she told me about it. To explain why, I need to start with a review of the various definitions of Dieselpunk.

Here on my blog I define Dieselpunk as a ‘a subculture and style that combines the zeitgeist of the 1920s through the 1940s with postmodern sensibilities’. My good friend John Pyka, Big Daddy Cool, defines it as ‘retrofuturism of the 1920s through 40s’. Tome Wilson, one of the Founding Fathers of Dieselpunk, defines it as, ‘an art style that blends the spirit of the 1920s - 1950s with contemporary technology and attitude’.

All of these standard definitions have one thing in common. They all place the Diesel Era as the center and today as being the modifier.

My wife though turned the focus of Dieselpunk on its head. Rather than placing the center of the genre on the past, what if we make today the center. The more I think about this idea the more excited I get about its implications.

One implication is that it acknowledges how good the times are right now in so much of the world. I have friends who say that they think my love of Dieselpunk means I would prefer to live during the Diesel Era. They’re so wrong.

I have no interest in giving up the technology of today. When it’s 100f outside why would I want to give up air conditioning? My wife and I recently had dental work done. Would I prefer to have Diesel Era dentistry over modern? Nope, nope, nope.
Hell no
This goes far beyond modern material conditions. I like the direction our society is going in the way of values. I have no interest in going back to the racism and sexism of the Diesel Era. I like the fact that the US has an African-American for President. I like the fact that women now lead both the UK and Germany and that a major US political party has nominated a woman to run for President. I like that equal marriage is now the law of the land in the US, UK and many other countries.

Those are just a few of the things good about today. There is so much more that I barely scratched the surface. However, with all of the goodness of today there’s so much goodness that has been lost.

In my opinion, and I suspect for most of my readers, much of the fashion of the Diesel Era was far better than that of today. That quickly becomes evident when a Dieselpunk goes out in public. It’s not uncommon for me to be complimented by a stranger on how “dapper” I look. Men stop me and ask where I bought my fedora or my black-white wingtips. I find it interesting when I receive these questions from men standing there wearing the ‘National Uniform’ (i.e. t-shirt, baseball cap, cargo pants, and either tennis shoes or flips-flops).

We’ve also lost an aesthetic to industrial design that existed during the Diesel Era that added value and character to the product. We’ve lost the magic of radio where the mind painted the picture rather than spoon feed it by a television screen.

Most importantly we’ve lost a progressive faith in humanity that believed that through human effort we could make the world a better place. New technologies such as the airplane, cars, diesel locomotives and more, that improved the world were appearing. Though severely flawed, Prohibition was conceived on the notion that through the law social ills resulting from alcoholism such as domestic abuse and poverty could be solved. The New Deal was based on the idea that the economic disaster of the Great Depression was human made and therefore human effort, rather than waiting on market forces and business cycles, could raise the nation up. The Greatest Generation stormed the beaches of Normandy and the Pacific Islands in the faith that their sacrifices could save the world from evil.
The Spirit of the Diesel Era

The most important implication of my wife’s definition is an acknowledgment that the past is dead and cannot be changed. However, we can do our part to change today and, most importantly, be a positive influence for the future.

We can read ‘What If?’ stories in which Hitler was executed rather than imprisoned after the Beer Hall Putsch, thereby preventing the Holocaust. But we can’t go back in time and make it real. Yet we can help prevent future fascists by reminding the world that Hitler was democratically elected by desperate and angry people such as today. We can remind the world that the Conservatives thought that they could control Hitler. We can remind the world how the Holocaust began by first labeling people, which started Germany down the path of slaughtering people on a historic scale.

We can imagine a Diesel Era with Art Deco rockets, flying Packards, and chrome grilled robots. But the truth is that these never existed and we can’t change that fact. However, we can put influence on manufacturers to build our cars, computers, televisions and other technology with the same good taste of aesthetics as the Interbellum period that added class and value. That bland, dull screen that you’re reading this blog post on doesn’t to be like that. We should expect and demand better.

We can illustrate women with gorgeous gowns and men in fedoras and sharp three-piece suits as though those styles never went out of fashion. But they did go out of fashion. However, we can put market pressure on retailers by shopping, either online or in brick and mortar shops, those few sources that sale the styles of the Diesel Era. Then we can encourage others by setting an example through the wearing of the best of vintage clothes with the best of today’s fashion.

Applying classic taste to modern fashion

We should still reimagine the past because that’s an important element of Dieselpunk and that’s one of its strengths. However, let’s make the goal of reimagining the past to be to reimagine a better today and a better tomorrow.

I encourage my readers to join me in the Forum on to discuss this exciting new vision of Dieselpunk.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Olympics – A Dark Diesel Era Legacy

As I write this the XXXI Olympiad is taking place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. What many don’t know is that while the modern Olympics date back to 1896 their current form with all of the pomp and ceremony along with the ever increasing grandiosity dates back to the infamous 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Germany.

For a limited time, you can watch free online the PBS production The Nazi Games – Berlin 1936. I highly recommend it.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Dieselpunk on Facebook

While there seems to be less dieselpunk presence in the form of web sites there seems to be nice growth in the number of dieselpunk Facebook pages.

Dieselpunk HQ

Dieselpunk Gallery

(The Facebook page for

Dieselpunks After Dark
(The PG-13 Facebook page for the adult site Dieselpunk After Dark.)

Dieselpunk Brazil

Diesel Powered Podcast
(The Facebook page for the Diesel Powered Podcast)

Dieselpunk (Public Group)

Boss Larry
(My fan page)

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Changing My Mind: Radio Riel Dieselpunk

“The best of us must sometimes eat our words.” ― J.K. Rowling

Back on August 13, 2010 I wrote a blog post in which I was highly critical of the online radio station Radio Riel Dieselpunk. Looking back, I realize that I was wrong.

As the new owner of I went searching for a replacement for our music player. The previous method of providing music was too costly in both time and money to maintain. In my research I checked out a variety of stations that I knew. When all was said and done I found that the perfect station was Radio Riel Dieselpunk.

Radio Riel Dieselpunk plays music commercial free 24/7. As they say at their web site, “Radio Riel Dieselpunk features music from 1920–1940, including Pop Standards, Big Band & Swing, Burlesque & Cabaret, and a dash of Film Noir soundtracks. Currently believed to be the world’s only Dieselpunk station.”

I would add that I’ve heard some electro-swing at times as well, which is certainly dieselpunk.

I was wrong about Radio Riel Dieselpunk. It's a great station and I highly recommend it.

Sometimes one just has to eat crow. Wouldn’t be so bad except for when the feathers get stuck between my teeth.

Saturday, July 2, 2016


Many of you who follow my blog are also familiar with If you’re not, was created by Tome Wilson and has served to spread the dieselpunk genre like no other source. Then on June 9th of this year the online dieselpunk community was shocked to learn that Tome was planning on closing shop as of June 23rd unless someone came forward to take ownership.

I decided that I couldn’t allow, which so changed my life, to close.

Emails flew between I, Tome and others as we hammered out a plan to save The biggest challenge we encountered was the hard deadline of paying the host by June 23rd or the lights on would go out. When we realized that a point man was needed to make this happen I volunteered to be that man. With everyone in agreement I made the needed investment.

Now what?

First, as the Hippocratic Oath goes, ‘Do no harm.’ Therefore, there won’t be any major changes to right away.

The only major change needed soon is concerning the music player. Since the music licenses will end at the start of July the player will need to be replaced. The current plans are to replaced it with a streaming online station. Watch the site for more on this to come.

Thankfully, I’m not going at this alone. I have a great staff helping me oversee the site. Many were in place before Tome left and several have been added

It’s important to mention that I’m grateful to Tome for all that he’s done in creating and for his friendship. I’m honored to be helping to continue his legacy.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

A Diesel Era Spirit

According to a recent blog post by Danette Wilson, “The Celts, the Norse and the Slavs believed that there were three ‘spirit nights’ in the year when magic ran amok and the Otherworld was near”.  Spirits such as pixies, phookas, willow the wisps, Jenny Greenteeth and more would roam the earth looking to snare an unsuspecting victim. She goes on to mention that the Midsummer Eve, or Summer Solstice, was one of those spirit nights.

The end of the Diesel Era saw a wonderful re-imagining of one of these spirits in the movie Harvey.

Starring James Stewart, Josephine Hull and Peggy Dow, Harvey may be one of James Stewart’s best movies. IMDb gives the following summary of the plot:

Due to his insistence that he has an invisible six foot-tall rabbit for a best friend, a whimsical middle-aged man is thought by his family to be insane - but he may be wiser than anyone knows.

So on this Midsummer’s Eve celebrate our own mischievous spirit and bring home a copy of Harvey.