On January 2, 2021, one of the administrators of Dieselpunks Depot, Eddie Payne, posted a message to the Facebook page. Stuart Antony, who founded the group, had passed away.
As Payne wrote, Antony had “been a driving force in the dieselpunk community ever since.”
Stuart Antony will be greatly missed. Rest in Peace, diesel brother.
Alexander Weygers was a renaissance man. He was a sculpture, engineer, architect and philosopher. Weygers was born in 1901 to Dutch parents and grew up on a sugar plantation in Java. He and his wife Jacoba Hutter later moved to the United States. Tragedy struck when his wife died during the stillbirth of their only child. After his wife’s death he threw himself into sculpting, which he’s most famous for. After World War II he built a house using his blacksmith skills out of recycled materials and scrap metal. Some describe the house as looking like a mushroom that blended perfectly into the surrounding forest. He called it a “geodesic dome gone wild.” He also built a steam-powered car that he and his second wife Marian would drive. Weygers died on July 23, 1989.
Of all of his creations, there is one that may be the most intriguing for Dieselpunks. A disk shaped aircraft that he dubbed the “discopter.”
Two words come to mind when you see his proposed craft: flying saucer. The discopter would essentially be a helicopter with the blades inside the body of the craft rather than outside. Lift would be provided by the blades. The craft would move forwards and aft by a series of louvers in slanted positions, with all the steering done from a central cockpit.
While I’ve been unable to find images of his 1920s initial design I’ve found numerous drawings that Weygers made when he had it patented in the 1940s. In addition, Weygers made illustrations of how he thought cities could be redesigned to incorporate the discopter.
Weygers tried to sell his design to airplane makers, carmakers, and helicopter makers but none would buy the rights to it. Interestingly, the US military did build several experimental craft, such as the Avro Canada VZ-9 Avrocar, that had a haunting resemblance to his discopter. Weygers went to his grave believing that the military had stolen his idea.
Music is a big part of the Fallout games. For those unaware of Fallout, it’s a series of post-apocalyptic role-playing video games set during the 21st, 22nd and 23rd centuries. Fallout has a strong retrofuturism aesthetic with its setting and artwork influenced by the culture of 1950s United States and its Cold War paranoia of nuclear annihilation.
I’ve recently found Fallout Radio and I love it. Fallout Radio is part of the family of Old World Radio, which hosts several game themed streaming YouTube stations such as Fallout 76 Appalachian Radio, Rockabilly Radio and Vintage Radio.
Of the Old World Radio different stations I most enjoy Fallout Radio.The music is largely swing tunes from the Diesel Era (i.e. Jazz Age) along with American Standards. As part of the fun, they include odd songs such as Radioactive Mama by Sheldon Allman along with strange and darkly humorous Cold War themed Public Service Announcements. Fallout Radio music programs are set in the Fallout universe and include Cadillac Jack's Radio Shack, The Storyteller's Old World Tunes, and Radio FNGS.
The game Fallout along with Fallout Radio raises interesting questions for genrepunks and retrofuturists. With its mix of Swing and American Standards with 1950s Cold War culture is there really a genre that we can call “atomicpunk” or “atompunk”? If so, where does dieselpunk end and atomicpunk begin? Might what we call atomicpunk simply be a variant of dieselpunk, much like decopunk?
For now, I’ll let you, dear reader, ponder those questions. I plan to return to those at a later date. In the meantime, sit back, open yourself up an ice cold bottle of Nuka-Cola, and tune into Fallout Radio.
Most of my readers know that I’m a big fan of Blues and Jazz. I’m especially fond of the Blues of the 1920s. So I was excited to learn of the upcoming film on Netflix about the “mother of the blues” Ma Rainey.
Ma Rainey was born Gertrude Pridgett on April 26, 1886 in Columbus, Georgia, although some sources place her birth in 1882 in Alabama. Little is known about her childhood. She first appeared in the public at 14 in a local talent show called “Bunch of Blackberries” at the Springer Opera House in Columbus. In February 1904 she married William Rainey, a vaudeville performer known as Pa Rainey, and for several years they toured with African American minstrel groups as a song-and-dance team.
In 1902, in a small Missouri town, she first heard the sort of music that was to become known as the blues. Ma Rainey, as she was known, began singing blues songs and contributed greatly to the evolution of the form and to the growth of its popularity. In her travels she appeared with jazz and jug bands throughout the South. While with the Tolliver’s Circus and Musical Extravaganza troupe, she exerted a direct influence on young Bessie Smith. Her deep contralto voice, sometimes verging on harshness, was a powerful instrument with which to convey the depth of her songs of everyday life and emotion, and she was renowned for her flamboyant performances.
In 1923 Ma Rainey made her first phonograph recordings for the Paramount company. Over a five-year span she recorded some 92 songs for Paramount—including “See See Rider,” “Prove It on Me,” “Blues Oh Blues,” “Sleep Talking,” “Oh Papa Blues,” “Trust No Man,” “Slave to the Blues,” “New Boweavil Blues,” and “Slow Driving Moan”—that later became the only permanent record of one of the most influential popular musical artists of her time. She continued to sing in public into the 1930s.
In addition to being a pioneer in Blues and black women artists, Ma Rainey is known as a pioneer in LGBTQA rights. Although most of Rainey's songs that mention sexuality refer to love affairs with men, some of her lyrics contain references to lesbianism or bisexuality, such as the 1928 song "Prove It on Me":
They said I do it, ain't nobody caught me.
Sure got to prove it on me.
Went out last night with a crowd of my friends.
They must've been women, 'cause I don't like no men.
According to the website queerculturalcenter.org, the lyrics refer to an incident in 1925 in which Rainey was "arrested for taking part in an orgy at [her] home involving women in her chorus." The political activist and scholar Angela Y. Davis noted that "'Prove It on Me' is a cultural precursor to the lesbian cultural movement of the 1970s, which began to crystallize around the performance and recording of lesbian-affirming songs."
Towards the end of the 1920s, live vaudeville went into decline, being replaced by radio and recordings. Rainey's career was not immediately affected; she continued recording for Paramount and earned enough money from touring to buy a bus with her name on it. In 1928, she worked with Dorsey again and recorded 20 songs, before Paramount terminated her contract. Her style of blues was no longer considered fashionable by the label.
In 1935, Rainey returned to her hometown, Columbus, Georgia, where she ran three theatres, the Lyric, the Airdrome, and the Liberty Theatre until her death. She died of a heart attack in 1939, at the age of 53 (or 57, according to the research of Bob Eagle), in Rome, Georgia.
Ma Rainey's Black Bottom is a film directed by George C. Wolfe and written by Ruben Santiago-Hudson, based on the play of the same name by August Wilson. Produced by Denzel Washington, Todd Black and Dany Wolf, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom centers on a fateful recording session of Ma Rainey in 1927 Chicago. It stars Viola Davis and Chadwick Boseman (in his final film role), with Glynn Turman, Colman Domingo and Michael Potts in supporting roles.
Wikipedia describes its premise as,
“Tensions and temperatures rise over the course of an afternoon recording session in 1920s Chicago as a band of musicians await trailblazing performer, the legendary "Mother of the Blues," Ma Rainey (Viola Davis). Late to the session, the fearless, fiery Ma engages in a battle of wills with her white manager and producer over control of her music. As the band waits in the studio's claustrophobic rehearsal room, ambitious trumpeter Levee (Chadwick Boseman) – who has an eye for Ma's girlfriend and is determined to stake his own claim on the music industry – spurs his fellow musicians into an eruption of stories, truths, and lies that will forever change the course of their lives.”
Ma Rainey's Black Bottom promises to be a great film. It’s scheduled to be released on December 18, 2020, on Netflix.
Cerberus and the Gulyas LevesThe latest installment in the Tales from the Black Hart series. The evil Dr. Minneapolis St. Paul is still evil and intent upon ruling the world, and the Professor takes time from smoking his pipe and becomes engaged in the search for an errant…
“This is a true story.”
As horrible as the year 2020 has been there is one positive thing about it. There have been a lot of great small screen Dieselpunk. The most recent addition is season four of the award winning series Fargo.
For those unfamiliar with the television series, Wikipedia describes Fargo as an American crime drama-black comedy anthology television series created and primarily written by Noah Hawley with the Coen brothers as executive producers. Named after the Coen brothers 1996 film by the same name, the television series follows an anthology format, with each season set in a different era, location, story, characters and cast. In addition, each episode begins with text, “This is a true story. The events depicted took place in [location] in [year]. At the request of the survivors, the names have been changed. Out of respect for the dead, the rest has been told exactly as it occurred,” which is a nod to the original motion picture. However, like the movie, the story isn’t true.
Seasons four of Fargo is set in 1950. The series distinct dark comedy with bizarre characters and, without giving away any spoilers, there are some scenes that clearly makes it Dieselpunk.
Fargo season four has a great cast. Chris Rock plays Loy Cannon, the mob boss for the African-American mob. Jason Schwartzman plays Josto Fadda, the mob boss for the rival Italian-American mob. Jessie Buckley plays the bizarre nurse Oraetta Mayflower. E'myri Crutchfield plays Ethelrida Pearl Smutny, the 16 year old daughter of a funeral home owner and the show’s narrator. Timothy Olyphant plays U.S. Marshal Dick 'Deaf' Wickware, who is usually on the hunt for escaped criminals and is trying to bring down the Kansas City underworld.
I cannot praise this season of Fargo enough. I highly recommend it. It’s currently showing on FX and Hulu.
Nothing seems the same for 2020. That includes Halloween this year. There will be fewer parties, few public events, and no children going door to door yelling “trick or treat.”
However, dieselpunks are resilient. We’re not going to let the pandemic spoil our fun. So here’s a few Halloween tips to help.
Dark and Deco at Joann Fabrics
Recently the Dark Cabaret entertainer Aurelio Voltaire visited his local Joann Fabrics store for his video series Gothic Homemaking. There he found that their theme this year is called “Dark and Deco”. He described it as though Gatsby had become a member of the Addams Family. I’ve included his YouTube video. If you want to jump to the Joann segment, it begins at 15:50 minutes.
On a side note, check out the cover of his album "Then and Again."
Lee Presson and the Nails: “Last Request”
Lee Presson and the Nails always deliver great quality music. And their most recent Dieselpunk CD “Last Request” is perfect for Halloween, although I listen to it year around.
Classic Diesel Era Halloween
Want some classic Halloween from the Diesel Era? Thanks to the magic of YouTube that’s easy.
For music, I recommend the YouTube video “13 Vintage Halloween Songs from the 1910's, 20's, & 30's”
Of course, there were great cartoons from that era as well. Here’s just a few:
Silly Symphonies - The Skeleton Dance (1929)
The Haunted House (1929)
The Mad Doctor (1933)
Modern Disney Animated Short
I found this odd Disney contemporary short entertaining and fitting.
Ghoul Friend | A Mickey Mouse Cartoon
Dieselpunk Gothic Music Videos
These videos speak for themselves. Great Gothic Dieselpunk fun:
Black Swamp Village - the Speakeasies' Swing Band!
Ghost of Stephen Foster - The Squirrel Nut Zippers
If you’re not already watching HBO’s Lovecraft Country, you should be. Lovecraft Country is without a doubt the best small screen Dieselpunk since HBO’s Carnivàle. And it’s perfect for Halloween.
Speaking of Carnivàle, the first season episode Babylon was one of the scariest ever.
Here's wishing everyone has a fun and safe Halloween.