The Art of Arthur Radebaugh

Arthur Radebaugh (1906-74) was a prolific midcentury illustrator, perhaps best known for his “Can You Imagine” and “Closer Than We Think” series, which were syndicated in newspapers across the United States in the years after World War II. The usually one-panel comics predicted various future scenarios, some of which, like remote working and electronic home libraries, came true!

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All Time Travel Authorities Look the Same

I finally watched Loki on Disney+ (it’s hilarious) and one of the things that stood out to me was the aesthetic of the show’s Time Variance Authority (TVA). Brutalist with a mix of midcentury graphics and 1970s decor, it reminded me of the Fallout video games as well as Counterpart, the most underrated science-fiction series of recent years. The Office of Interchange in that show also uses dot-matrix printers, rotary-dial phones, old computers, typewriters, and pen and paper.

The Office of Interchange isn’t a time-travel authority. Rather it manages relations between two parallel Earths. The Temps Commission in The Umbrella Academy (our review here) is, and it too looks midcentury. So does the Federal Bureau of Control in the video game Control. Brutalist architecture and midcentury American office furniture seem to be the time traveler’s favorites.

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For All Mankind

For All Mankind

The first time I gave For All Mankind a try was not long after I’d seen Altered Carbon, and another ten episodes of Joel Kinnaman’s pent-up anger was more than I could bear.

I still find it off-putting, and his character in For All Mankind shows almost no growth over two seasons. But the rest of the series makes up for it.

It starts with the Soviet Union beating the Americans to the Moon and shows the Space Race continuing into the 1980s. Along the way, the Soviets land the first woman on the Moon, convincing the United States to train its own female astronauts; both superpowers built lunar colonies; and East-West tensions come to a head in a Panama Canal Crisis, which in this timeline is aggravated by Ronald Reagan winning the presidency four years earlier and refusing to relinquish American control of the canal to Panama’s pro-Soviet government.

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Jungle Cruise

Jungle Cruise

Jungle Cruise was only the second movie I saw in the cinema since it reopened from the COVID-19 lockdown, and it was money well spent.

(It helped that we saw it in Amsterdam’s magnificent Tuschinski Theater. If you’re ever in town, take two hours out of your schedule to see a movie in what Time Out has called the most beautiful cinema in the world.)

Jungle Cruise is a throwback to classic adventures like Indiana Jones, Jungle Book, Tarzan and The Africa Queen, but, unlike the more deliberate and grown-up The Lost City of Z, this one is family-friendly and a whole lot more fun.

Emily Blunt and Dwayne Johnson are cast well opposite each other as the intrepid Dr Lily Houghton, who is determined to find the Tree of Life whose petals can cure any illness, and who has no patience for the disbelief and sexism of the male explorers of her time, and steamboat skipper Frank Wolff, who knows the Amazon like his back pocket. Jack Whitehall provides comic relief as Lily’s snob younger brother.

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Remaking the World

It wasn’t until the modern era that would-be conquerors and do-gooders could think on a global scale. The discovery of the New World and the invention of steamboats, the telegraph, airplanes, television and intercontinental ballistic missiles made the world feel smaller. Egyptian pharaohs and Chinese emperors may have claimed to rule everything under the sun and the heavens; it wasn’t until the nineteenth century that an island nation on the western edge of Eurasia could acquire an empire on which the sun never set.

The potential of world conquest inflated the ambitions of political movements. Marxists called for a world revolution of the proletariat. Fascist Germany and Japan planned to divide the world between them. America sought to make the world safe for democracy.

If world war and world conquest were possible, then surely so were world peace and unity? Pan-Europeanism and internationalism flourished in the twentieth century, giving life to the League of Nations, the United Nations and what would become the European Union.

From the 1494 Treaty of Tordesillas to the would-be EUs of the present day, here’s a history at attempts — few of them successful — to remake the world.

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Nazi Flying Saucers

Often, but not always, paired with Nazis in Antarctica and Nazis on the Moon is the Nazi UFO or flying saucer trope.

The trope has a tenuous basis in reality. The Nazis really did develop strange aircraft, including a flying wing, and Allied pilots did claim to spot “foo fighters” over the skies of Germany near the end of the war. This was when Hitler was banking on his “wonder weapons” to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

German flying discs, though, were invented after the war by conspiracy theorists and ufologists — and eagerly exploited by dieselpunk creators.

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