Celebrating All Things Dieselpunk

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Dieselpunk Shakespeare: Richard III (1995)

It’s difficult to overstate the importance of Shakespeare’s plays and poetry. In 1995, Sir Ian McKellen took Shakespeare’s play Richard III and reimagined it into a powerful dieselpunk play and movie.
In the dieselpunk play and movie, the setting of Richard III is changed from Britain of the 1480s to Britain of the 1930s. The film combines a wide variety of uniforms and weapons to create a yet very believable alternate universe. Early in the film, the uniforms and equipment are largely British however, they do at times still have a Soviet element (note the helmets of the soldiers at the train station when the young princes arrive). As the film progresses, and Richard rises to power, the uniforms turn more and more fascist until it achieves a full SS appearance.

The acting of Ian McKellen is extraordinary in this movie. Deliciously evil is the term that comes to mind whenever I watch it. Rickard III has a powerful cast including Annette Bening as Queen Elizabeth, Jim Broadbent as Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, Robert Downey, Jr. as Rivers, Kristin Scott Thomas as Lady Anne Neville and Maggie Smith as The Duchess of York. The acting, direction and cinematography are superb.

The overall effect makes Richard III into an extraordinary movie. Roger Ebert included it in his list of Great Movies and described it as “perversely entertaining.”

I highly recommend Ian McKellen’s ‘Richard III’.

To read a great dieselpunk review of Richard III check out this article by Cap’n Tony at Dieselpunks.org.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Dieselpunk Themed Beers

The Fourth of July just passed and Americans everywhere where enjoying barbecues, fireworks and hanging out by the pool with family and friends. For many, cold beer was the drink of choice. Beer of course plays an important role in the dieselpunk mythos thanks to Prohibition of the 1920s. Therefore, I thought it might be nice to mention two dieselpunk themed beers that are currently on the market.

Metropolis Lager (Brewed by Speakeasy Ales and Lagers)

Metropolis Lager is the recent beer by Speakeasy Ales and Lagers. It hit the shelves in San Francisco in February 2014 with its distinctive dieselpunk label. Metropolis is found only in the Bay Area and Los Angeles. Unfortunately, the company web site is currently under construction. The official propaganda reads:
“Metropolis Lager pours a radiant gold, with tropical fruit aromas and a delicate floral note. Caramel malts lend a subtle sweetness to balance the dry, crisp character of the lager yeast. Generously dry-hopped with a blend of Mosaic and Saphir hops, Metropolis unites classic German-style brewing and West Coast innovation to create a refreshing yet flavorful lager.”

Dieselpunk Beer (Brewed by World Brews)

Of course, I have to mention Dieselpunk beer. Besides the obvious name, the label art for all three brews (IPA, Porter and Stout) is wonderfully dieselpunk. In addition, the company certainly knows what dieselpunk is for the brand web site reads:
“Once, ours was a dark metropolis rife with corruption and urban decay; our soot-covered city needed to be restored. Fueled with inspiration, we look to what the future holds in our new city — our vision inevitably tainted by a layer of grime. Fuel your vision with Dieselpunk Engineered Ales.”

Sunday, June 22, 2014

A Chance to Help

Would you like to get your hands on some great dieselpunk art and help a great cause at the same time? Here’s your chance. A GoFundMe campaign has been established to help raise needed funding for the Second Annual North Texas Vintage Life Expo, which will take place January 10, 2015 at the Manske Library in Farmers Branch. The hosts of the Expo, the North Texas Dieselpunks, need help in providing advertisement funds, ink for posters, tablecloths, and any snacks.

Click Here to Donate
By contributing to the Expo, you can acquire prints of some of art that have been generously contributed to the Expo by the fantastic dieselpunk artist, Stefan Prohaczka.

Donation Levels

At the $25 level, you would receive one print; at the $50 two prints; and at the $100 level all four. If even $25 is too much one can contribute either $10 or $5 and while you won’t receive a print you will have the benefit of knowing that you helped advance the cause of dieselpunk.

Give now for supplies are limited.

Examples of available prints

Sunday, June 8, 2014

70th Anniversary of D-Day

On June 6, 2014, world leaders converged on the beaches of Normandy to remember the men who fought and died there 70 years ago during the greatest sea invasion in history.

A grateful world must never forget the sacrifices of those men who landed on the shores in 1944. They didn’t fight to oppress but to free. They didn’t fight for wealth but to secure a world free from tyranny.

It’s events like D-Day, a battle of mythical proportions, which inspires dieselpunks like me. During the 70th anniversary ceremony, President Obama summed up my feelings best:

“Whenever the world makes you cynical, stop and think of these men. Whenever you lose hope, stop and think of these men.”

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Foyle's War

Occasionally there comes along a television series centered on World War II that breaks new ground. One of the most truly unique is the British series by ITV, Foyle’s War.

Set in the English village of Hastings during the 1940s, Foyle’s War combines Agatha Christi style detective stories with World War II intrigue. The lead character is Chief Superintendent Christopher Foyle who is wonderfully played by Michael Kitchen. Other main characters are his driver Samantha "Sam" Stewart played by the lovely Honeysuckle Weeks and Detective Sergeant Paul Milner played by the dashing Anthony Howell.

Each installment is more like a feature length movie than a television episode. Every installment faithfully recreates wartime Britain and runs for an hour and half. In addition, they take place in chronological order with each one opening with the month and year of the story.

Foyle’s War differs from other wartime themed series in many ways. Not only is the concept unique, combining police detective with war, but its exploration of the varied civilian’s reaction to the war. Rather than a united front, it shows the British people severely divided in their support. This might seem odd to Americans in which World War II had so much support however, we should remember that Britain joined the war voluntarily while it was forced upon America. In addition, some British are shown with many of the same prejudices as was seen in America with the detention and attacks on ethnic Germans and Italians living in Britain.

Foyle’s War is a fantastic series that I highly recommend. Seasons One through Seven are available now on DVD, Blu-Ray and on Netflix. It's broadcasted in the US on PBS.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

War of the Worlds: Goliath

War of the Worlds: Goliath is a Malaysian created anime sequel to the famous novel by H.G. Wells. According to the story, after the failed Martian invasion the world built an international force meant to repel any future Martians invasion. They scavenged the alien weaponry and with the help of Nicola Tesla, combined it with human technology to build a fleet of mecha, biplanes, and battle airships.

The anime takes place in 1914. The threat at the start of the movie isn’t another invasion but a looming break up in the world defense force due its European members being recalled back to their home nations to fight in the Great War. The fear among the leadership, Teddy Roosevelt, is that a divided Earth would make it vulnerable if attacked again. It’s not a spoiler to say that another invasion does take place, which is the point of the anime.

There’s a lot of good stuff in this anime. I thought the CGI is excellent. I loved the look of the technology, both the human and the Martian. It’s all very realistic and believable. Just what one would think if humanity of the early 20th century had tried to fuse alien tech with human.

Another great aspect is the action. The battle sequences are fast paced and lots of fun.

Of the characters in the movie, their portrayal of Teddy Roosevelt is my favorite. I loved it when during the attack on New York he picks up a giant machine gun and started fighting the Martians to defend New York. The anime character was just what I would have thought Teddy would have been like in that universe.

However, this anime is far from perfect. One criticism I have is the art of the characters. They drew the men to be these bizarre, muscle-bound freaks where the muscles move and bulge in ways that are, I guess, anatomically impossible. Very odd and grotesque.

Several scenes appear stolen from other movies. The air battle between the biplanes and the Martian aircraft was blatantly taken from Independence Day. In addition, there’s a scene where the Martians are shown carrying captured humans in baskets under the tripods. They even have a scene where the Martians stab someone with a metal rod and suck out the person’s blood. Both scenes were obviously stolen from Spielberg’s War of the Worlds. If these were meant as tributes to those movies, they were really poor tributes. (Note: It's been brought to my attention that these scenes in the anime were in the novel by Wells and not based on Spielberg's movie. However, I do stand by my criticism for the air battle from Independence Day. - Larry)

Finally, is this movie steampunk or dieselpunk? The movie promotes itself as steam. However, it does have airplanes, which are standard diesel era tech. The vehicles operate on a hybrid of steam and internal combustion. In addition, steam tech, such as locomotives, was used well into the 50s. I rather think the creators called it steampunk because 1) they were unaware of dieselpunk, 2) they think any steam tech makes something steampunk, or 3) they simply stuck the label on it as crass commercialism. Regardless of their reasoning, I would call this movie dieselpunk.

Is this a great anime? No. However, it is a good anime and I would recommend it if you want something mindless to have on.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

So Far That Organ Plays Only A Dirge

Just recently, Wrigley Field in Chicago, home of the Cubs, celebrated its 100th anniversary. Today, April 26, marks another anniversary at the ballpark. It was on this date in 1941 that Wrigley Field became the first stadium to have an organ play live during a baseball game.

Here’s an article by an unknown author published in The Tribune a few days after the organ’s debut:
Ray Nelson, who on Saturday unveiled his pipe organ behind the grandstand screen at Wrigley field, was at his keyboard again yesterday, playing a concert to the delight of the 18,678 fans who arrived before 2:30 o'clock.

Mr. Nelson was obliged to still his bellows at 2:30 because his repertoire includes many restricted ASCAP arias, which would have been picked up by radio microphones hooked up half an hour before game time.

The organist, it is promised, will sort his album before the Cubs return home on May 13 and will be ready to peal BMI selections exclusively. Also in prospect is a Cubs theme song entitled, "When The Midnight Choo Choo Leaves For T-U-L-S-A."

Those who can think of a better title for a theme song are requested to send their selections to General Manager James T. Gallagher, Wrigley field, Chicago. Also any little number you'd like to have rippled off some afternoon, fitting the aria to the baseball score at the time, of course.
The title of the article was “So Far That Organ Plays Only A Dirge” because that day the Cubs, of course, lost to the Cardinals 6-2.