I’m excited to report that the British Dieselpunk comedy Timewasters has finally come to the American side of the pond.
IMDb’s website provides a severely understated one-sentence description of Timewasters, “A struggling jazz band from South London are propelled back in time.” This soundbite of a description fails to do the series justice.
Timewasters series centers around four main characters: Nick (Daniel Lawrence Taylor), Jason (Kadiff Kirwan), Lauren (Adelayo Adedayo), and Horace (Samson Kayo), who are all members of what they call a Jazz quartet. One day while preparing to practice, Horace barges in to announce that he’s discovered a time machine. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but our four heroes ultimately become stuck in 1926 London when their time machine breaks down with hilarious consequences.
Timewasters is definitely no Downton Abby. It’s a fantastic Dieselpunk “Stranger in a Strange Land” comedy that I highly recommend. You can watch Timewasters on IMDb TV.
On May 26, 2021, Amazon announced its intention to acquire MGM studios for $9 billion. MGM played an important role in Jazz Age culture and is therefore important for understanding the source material for Dieselpunk.
Movie magnate Marcus Loew had a problem. He needed a new film source for his Loew’s Theatres chain. To solve this problem, Loew purchased Goldwyn Pictures in 1924 for $5 million. The problem with this solution was that it caused Loew to need someone to oversee his new Hollywood operations. Fortunately, he was approached by Louis B. Mayer, owner of Louis B. Mayer Pictures, with an offer to sell his company. Loew agreed to purchase the company for $75,000. Loews then renamed his theater chain Metro’s distribution network and merged it with Goldwyn Pictures studio and Louis B. Mayer Productions. The merger was completed on April 17, 1924, with Mayer becoming head of the new Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer or MGM on April 26th of the same year.
The merger wasn’t without problems. Samual Goldwyn was never involved in operations and left early. In 1925 he unsuccessfully sued to remove his name from MGM. When Marcus Loew died in 1927, his assistant Nicholas Schenck took over his duties. Schenck and Mayer never got along. The failed merger with Fox Film made matters worse between them.
From the start, MGM was a movie-making machine. In its first two years, it produced more than 100 feature films. The studio had a golden touch when it came to successful movies. For example, the 1925 Ben-Hur racked in a $4.7 million profit that year in its first full year. It helped that MGM became home to superstars such as Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, Lon Chaney, William Powell, Buster Keaton, Clark Gable, Jean Harlow, Robert Montgomery, Spencer Tracy, and Myrna Loy.
MGM was one of the first studios to experiment with filming in Technicolor. Ironically, while it was cutting edge on color, it was the last studio to convert to talkies. Their first full-fledged talkie wasn’t until 1929 with the musical The Broadway Melody. But like so many MGM productions, The Broadway Melody was both a box-office and critical success, with it winning the Academy Award for Best Picture of the Year.
Even though its first talkie was a highly successful musical, it took a while for MGM to get the hang of them. However, when it did, the result was impressive. MGM produced musical classics such as The Wizard of Oz, Meet Me in St Louis, Singin’ in the Rain, An American in Paris, Kiss Me Kate, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, and more.
The Amazon acquisition is likely to be successful for MGM has long been signaling that it was looking for a buyer. The merger results could be a win for classic movie lovers with Amazon Prime memberships and Fire Sticks, who may soon have access to a treasure trove of classic MGM movies.
May 9th marks Mother’s Day here in the US, which was made a National Holiday by President Woodrow Wilson in 1914. Depending on one’s preferences, 1914 would place this within the Diesel Era source material for Dieselpunk. However, how and why the history of Mother’s Day became a national holiday in 1914 is different from what is portrayed in most sources. Here’s an excerpt from a fascinating article in the Washington Post.
That spring, suffrage leader Anna Howard Shaw lobbied President Woodrow Wilson to declare the first Saturday in May Women’s Independence Day “in recognition of the right and necessity that the women of the United States should become citizens in fact as well as in name.” Ruth Hanna McCormick, the Illinois suffragist later elected to Congress, then organized women across America to participate in the first Women’s Independence Day on May 2, 1914. Women in every state gathered to read a woman’s version of the Declaration of Independence and demand the vote.
Wilson did not yet support the federal suffrage amendment. He also didn’t want to meet with any pesky suffragists and ignored Shaw’s request. Instead, he proclaimed that henceforth the second Sunday in May would be Mother’s Day, reminding the nation of women’s primary role in American life. Wilson decreed that American flags should be flown at all government buildings and at private homes “as a public expression of our love and reverence for the mothers of our country.”
Wilson’s Mother’s Day proclamation disappointed women’s rights advocates as well as the women who had organized state and local Mother’s Day events since the 1870s. These early Mother’s Day events were never about empty praise of mothers, as Wilson imagined. Rather, they were opportunities for women to shape political debates, enact changes to policies affecting women and children and provide community support for mothers.
For example, in the years following the Civil War, abolitionist and suffragist Julia Ward Howe, author of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” began organizing mothers’ peace events, which provide one origin story for Mother’s Day. Having seen the ravages of war (and especially the deaths of so many sons) as a Civil War volunteer, she became a lifelong advocate for peace, using her position as a mother to propel pacifism. Howe organized the first Mother’s Peace Day in 1872, and this event was celebrated in cities across the nation for 30 years.
Anna Jarvis and her mother Ann provided another Mother’s Day origin story. Anna Jarvis grew up in West Virginia where she helped her mother (a woman who bore 13 children and watched nine die) organize Mother’s Day Work Clubs to combat the Appalachian region’s high infant mortality rate with improvements to sanitation and health care. After her mother’s death in 1905, Jarvis committed herself to securing a Mother’s Day holiday as a way to honor her beloved mother and, by extension, all mothers.
But shortly after Wilson declared Mother’s Day a federal holiday in 1914, women like Jarvis became disillusioned with the frivolous commercialization of what to her should have been a sacred and sincere commemoration. Indeed, in 1933, Jarvis even wrote President Franklin D. Roosevelt asking him to remove the federal mandate for Mother’s Day.
Why? Because instead of equality, health care, peace, safety and support, Mother’s Day had become an occasion for vapid expressions of “love and reverence,” increasingly characterized by flowers, brunch and store-bought cards.
More significantly, Jarvis’s opposition signaled that celebrating motherhood had become symbolic, not substantive. One could even argue that Mother’s Day provided a superficial placeholder in lieu of policies that actually would benefit mothers. Just months after the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920, Congress passed the Sheppard-Towner Maternity and Infancy Act, a longtime goal of women activists. This landmark legislation funded maternal and infant health-care centers, supported prenatal care and education and significantly reduced infant mortality, especially in rural areas. But the Sheppard-Towner provisions expired in 1929 in the face of increasingly vocal opposition grounded in fears of “communist” child-rearing and the dissolution of the patriarchal family.
Congress next approved major legislation benefiting mothers in the 1940s. For four years during World War II, the United States funded child-care centers across the country, under the Lanham Act, enabling mothers to enter the labor force while husbands fought the war. But, after the war concluded, so too did the program. Like women’s wartime labor, this program succeeded only to the extent to which it was understood to be temporary. Women took to the streets to protest the removal of funding for child-care centers, and federally supported child care has remained a core goal of women activists ever since.
Read the full article here.
"Diesel, because steam wasn't dirty enough." - Dieselpunk saying
One will find interesting stuff in the most unexpected places on the interwebs. Recently, the YouTube channel “How to Drink” posted an excellent video about Pre-Code movies.
In this video, the host covers the history of the Hayes Code and the Ginger Rogers movie “Gold Diggers of 1933.” While he makes two cocktails named after the actress Ginger Rogers, most of the video is an excellent history of the Hayes Code and how it changed motion pictures. Also, he briefly explains the difference between gangster movies and Film Noir.
Pre-Code is very much in the spirit of what would become Dieselpunk. I highly recommend this video to anyone interested in the Pre-Code movies and it's relation to Dieselpunk, regardless of whether they’re interested in the cocktails.
So, you've decided to start dressing retro. However, you look in your closet, and all you find is the “national uniform” of t-shirts, jeans, cargo shorts, flip-flops, and tennis shoes. You need a whole new wardrobe. But how to start?
For that, I highly recommend Dandy Wellington's tutorial video "Starting A Vintage Style Wardrobe (Men 2021)":
On February 28th, 2021, the 78th Golden Globes Awards honored the best of American television for 2020. There were many Dieselpunk nominations and one winner.
Chadwick Boseman posthumously won the award for Best Actor in a Motion Picture Drama for his role in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.
Viola Davis was nominated for Best Actress in a Motion Picture Drama for her role in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.
The movie Mank was nominated for Best Picture Drama.
Amanda Seyfried of Mank was nominated for Best Supporting Actress - Motion Picture.
David Fincher of Mank was nominated for Best Director Motion Picture.
Jack Fincher of Mank was nominated for Best Screenplay Motion Picture.
Atticus Ross, Trent Reznor of Mank for Best Score Motion Picture.
Tigress & Tweed of The United States vs. Billie Holiday was nominated for Best Song Motion Picture.
Lovecraft Country was nominated for Best Drama Series.
Matthew Rhys of Perry Mason was nominated for Best Television Actor – Drama Series.