Imagining a Better Future by Re-imagining the Past

Saturday, January 25, 2020

PEN International

In 1921 a small group of writers got together in London. It was a “Who’s Who” in the literary world. The writers included Joseph Conrad, Elizabeth Craig, George Bernard Shaw, and H. G. Wells. Together they formed International PEN.


PEN originally stood for "Poets, Essayists, Novelists", but now stands for "Poets, Playwrights, Editors, Essayists, Novelists",  and includes writers of any form of literature, such as journalists and historians.

The club established the following aims:
  • To promote intellectual co-operation and understanding among writers;
  • To create a world community of writers that would emphasize the central role of literature in the development of world culture; and,
  • To defend literature against the many threats to its survival which the modern world poses.
Today the organization is known as PEN International and is still very active worldwide. PEN International currently has autonomous centers in over 100 countries. PEN America was formed in 1922.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Welcome to the Roaring 2020s!

You’ve seen the Facebook memes declaring that this year marks the return of the Twenties. For Dieselpunks, the Nineteen-Twenties was the first of the decades that form the source material. Therefore, the Twenty-Twenties are exciting times for Dieselpunks.



The Nineteen-Twenties marked the beginning of enormous worldwide changes that still impacts us today. It’s tempting to write a summary of the decade. There certainly were elements that each country shared. However, each country carved its own path during that turbulent time.

As evidence of the differences, different countries have different names for the Nineteen-Twenties. In the US it’s called the Roaring Twenties or the Jazz Age. In Germany, it’s called the Golden Twenties (Goldene Zwanziger). In France, it’s known as the Crazy Years (Années Folles). While in Japan it’s known as the Taishō period.

In upcoming blog posts, I plan to explore the Nineteen-Twenties as it appeared across the globe. In addition, I’ll explore Dieselpunk trends during Twenty-Twenties.

Exciting times, indeed.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Retropunk Article

All too often it seems when Dieselpunk is mentioned in the media the writer seems to lack an understanding of it. So when I come upon an article where the author presents a solid understanding of Dieselpunk I get excited. 

Varden Frias is one such author.

Recently, Mr. Frias wrote an article for the web site 25 Years Later titled “Retropunk: The Strange Sci-Fi Subgenre”. In his article, he writes about the ever-popular Steampunk and Cyberpunk. He even references an obscure genre-punk named “Cassette Futurism.” However, the article gets really interesting when he writes about Dieselpunk.

It goes beyond knowledge of Dieselpunk. Frias shows a good knowledge of the Dieselpunk sub-genre of Decopunk.

This is an excellent article and well worth the read. You can read the article here.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Dieselpunk Holiday Gifts

Here are a few ideas for some last-minute gifts for the dieselpunk who has everything.

Last Request by Lee Presson and the Nails


You can’t go wrong with the gift of fresh dieselpunk music. The award-winning dieselpunk band from San Francisco is out with a fantastic new CD “Last Request”. According to website CD Baby,

No concept album this time. It's not like "the latin (sic) album" (El Bando En Fuego) or "the ballroom album" (Balls In Your Face), this one is just Lee and the Nails doing what they do best: pounding out their own peculiar brand of Sinister Swing! After playing for 25 years, Lee wanted this anniversary album to be something special so he pulled out all the stops. Some songs are brand new arrangements and some go all the way back to Show #1. It's smooth, it's silly, it's swing! It's LPN!

You can purchase "Last Request" through a variety of services. I purchased mine through Amazon.

Diesel Fashion Company

Diesel is an Italian clothing brand founded by Renzo Rosso in 1978. While the company is best known for its denim collection it also has accessories that would interest a dieselpunk.

Retro-Alcohol
As a charter member of DAMM (Drunks Against Mad Mothers) any holiday gift list of mine has to include alcohol. Here are a few brands with either retro or deco design/ theme.

Dad’s Hat Rye Whiskey

According to the Dad’s Hat web site, Dad’s Hat distillery is located in Bristol, Bucks County, which is just five miles from where the Philadelphia Pure Rye Whiskey Distilling Company was located until 1920 in Eddington, PA.

Johnny Walker Black Label

Johnny Walker Black Label is described as, “A deluxe blended whiskey, Black Label is a masterful blend of about 40 top-notch whiskies that come together to produce one of the most highly regarded spirits of its kind. Known for its silky feel, Johnnie Walker Black Label is an essential liquor cabinet staple.”

Twisted Shotz B-52

Twisted Shotz B-52 is a prepackaged shot of coffee cream liqueur and orange liqueur.

Stetson Hats

Nothing is more dieselpunk than a fedora. And one of the top manufacturers of fedoras is Stetson. If you don’t have a retailer you can buy them online. Online gift cards are available.

Downton Abbey: The Motion Picture

Here in 2019, fans of the television series got their long-awaited treat with a major motion picture of “Downton Abbey: The Motion Picture.” The film takes place in 1927. The storyline centers around a royal visit from the King and Queen of England to the Crawleys. Written by series creator Julian Fellowes and starring the original cast.

Dog’s Life.org

While it’s not dieselpunk per se, I wanted to make a personal recommendation for one of my favorite charities: Dog's Life.Org. According to their website: “Our mission is to remove the burden of having to make the impossible determination of the value of a dog's life who has been diagnosed with cancer by providing grants to dogs and their families for necessary cancer-specific treatment when it could not otherwise be afforded.”

Please consider donating to this great cause. You can visit them here.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

The Fall of Freedom

Not long before this blog post, Amazon loaded the final season of its adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s dieselpunk classic The Man in the High Castle. The novella, unlike the series, takes place almost exclusively on the West Coast of America, which is occupied by the Japanese Empire. A brief amount of time of the novella is spent in the Neutral Zone, which stretched from Mexico, through the Rocky Mountains, through parts of the Midwest and up to Canada.

The Man in the High Castle isn’t the only example of counterfactual history. Other writers have speculated less on occupied America and more on how Japan might have won the war. For example, Peter G. Tsouras edited Rising Sun Victorious, which is a collection of terrifying scenarios describing how Japan could have won the war. 

Certainly, these alternative histories are interesting. However, I believe that they all miss something much more important and pressing for the affairs of our time. What we need to be studying is not so much how Japan might have won the war or what occupied America would be like. What's needed is understanding how Japan slipped into totalitarianism.

Emperor Taisho


Many in the West are not aware that Japan had once been a democratic nation during the early part of the 20th century. Known as the Taisho Democracy this period ran from 1912-1926. With the death of Emperor Menji in 1912 his son Yoshihito took the throne and took on the Imperial name of Taisho. According to the Web Site facinghistory.org,

The young Taisho emperor was born in 1879 and at an early age contracted cerebral meningitis. The ill effects of the disease, including physical weakness and episodes of mental instability, plagued him throughout his reign. Because of his sickness there was a shift in the structure of political power from the old oligarchic advisors under Meiji to the members of the Diet of Japan—the elected representative officials increasingly gaining influence and power. By 1919 Emperor Taisho’s illness prevented him from performing any official duties altogether. By 1921 Hirohito, his first son, was named ses-ho, or prince regent of Japan. From this point forward, Emperor Taisho no longer appeared in public.

Despite the lack of political stability, modernization efforts during Taisho continued. A greater openness and desire for representative democracy took hold. Literary societies, mass-audience magazines, and new publications flourished. University cities like Tokyo witnessed a burgeoning culture of European-style cafés, with young people donning Western clothing. A thriving music, film, and theater culture grew, with some calling this period “Japan’s roaring '20s.”

For these reasons, the Taisho era has also been called Taisho democracy as Japan enjoyed a climate of political liberalism unforeseen after decades of Meiji authoritarianism.

So what went wrong? How did a military government succeed at replacing the democratically elected government of Japan in 1926? Recently NHK, the official Japanese government television station, broadcasted a documentary titled The Fall of Freedom. This extraordinary documentary chronicles the events that led to the fall of the Taisho Democracy in 1926. This is a must-see documentary for everyone.


More than ever with the rise of anti-democratic forces reappearing in the US and Europe we need to do what dieselpunks do best. We need to look to the past to understand the present and to build a better future.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

1917

With Armistice Day (Veterans Day here in the States) upon us, I felt like I needed to write a post about World War 1. Not long ago I saw a trailer for a new movie scheduled to be released later this year about the Great War. That movie is 1917.

By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=61433857
1917 stars George MacKay, Dean-Charles Chapman, Mark Strong, Andrew Scott, Richard Madden, Claire Duburcq, with Colin Firth, and Benedict Cumberbatch. It’s directed by Sam Mendes and co-written by Mendes and Krysty Wilson-Cairns. The film is based in part on an account told to Mendes by his paternal grandfather, Alfred Mendes,

According to Wikipedia,

At the height of the First World War during Spring 1917 in northern France, two young British soldiers, Schofield (George MacKay) and Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman), are given a seemingly impossible mission to deliver a message which will warn of an ambush during one of the skirmishes soon after the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line during Operation Alberich. The two recruits race against time, crossing enemy territory to deliver the warning and keep a British battalion of 1,600 men, which includes Blake's own brother, from walking into a deadly trap. The pair must give their all to accomplish their mission by surviving the war to end all wars.

The movie 1917 is scheduled to be released on December 25th, 2019.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Jazz Age Halloween

I love Halloween. So I knew as it approached that I had to write about it. But I just wasn’t sure what. Then it hit me. I decided to write about Halloween of the Jazz Age.

According to History.com,

In the early 20th century, Irish and Scottish communities revived the Old World traditions of souling and guising in the United States. By the 1920s, however, pranks had become the Halloween activity of choice for rowdy young people.

The Great Depression exacerbated the problem, with Halloween mischief often devolving into vandalism, physical assaults and sporadic acts of violence. One theory suggests that excessive pranks on Halloween led to the widespread adoption of an organized, community-based trick-or-treating tradition in the 1930s. This trend was abruptly curtailed, however, with the outbreak of World War II, when sugar rationing meant there were few treats to hand out. At the height of the postwar baby boom, trick-or-treating reclaimed its place among other Halloween customs. It quickly became standard practice for millions of children in America’s cities and newly built suburbs. No longer constrained by sugar rationing, candy companies capitalized on the lucrative ritual, launching national advertising campaigns specifically aimed at Halloween.

I would like to wish all my readers a happy and safe Halloween.