The Art of Charles Schridde

Charles Schridde (1926-2011) was an American artist and illustrator. He is best known to retrofuturists for the homes of tomorrow he drew for Motorola in the 1960s.

The paintings, which were printed in advertisements, were of lavish Modernist dwellings, typically against a spectacular natural background, such as a cliff or a waterfall. Naturally, they were equipped with Motorola radios, television sets and other electronics.

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Piazza Fontana: The Italian Conspiracy

Romanzo di una strage

It’s the height of the Cold War. Italy’s Communist Party is still a force to be reckoned with. Far-left and far-right groups terrorize Italians in the streets, with the latter pinning their assassinations and bombings on the former in hopes of fomenting a neofascist coup: the so-called strategy of tension.

These are Italy’s Years of Lead.

Romanzo di una strage, released internationally as Piazza Fontana: The Italian Conspiracy, deals with one of the opening acts in that twenty-year drama: the December 12, 1969 bombing of the Banca Nazionale dell’Agricoltura in the Piazza Fontana of Milan. Seventeen people were killed, 88 wounded. A prime suspect, anarchist leader Giuseppe Pinelli (played by Pierfrancesco Favino, whom you might recognize from World War Z), died in police custody a few days later. The policeman in charge of the investigation, Luigi Calabresi (Valerio Mastandrea), was himself killed in 1972.

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Flying Wings

Nothing says future of aviation like a flying wing. A century after they were first imagined, they still look futuristic. Probably because so few of them have flown.

Dieselpunk loves to stock the Nazi air fleet with flying wings designed by the brother Walter and Reimar Horten, but they weren’t the only pioneers in the field. America’s Jack Northrop, founder of the Northrop Corporation, was another flying-wing advocate. His designs didn’t impress the Air Force in the 1940s, but after his death his company would sell the Pentagon a flying wing after all: the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber, the most expensive aircraft ever made.

Northrop is designing the B-2’s successor. Many unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, are flying wings. They may even — finally — come to commercial aviation, almost a century after magazines like Popular Mechanics and Popular Science predicted they would.

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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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