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Beyond Thunderdome: Vintage images of the death-defying sport known as ‘Auto Polo’
09.23.2016
10:49 am

Topics:
History
Sports

Tags:
1900s
auto polo


A day in the life of some ‘auto polo’ players
 
According to the book Bain’s New York: The City in News Pictures 1900-1925 the idea for playing the traditional game of Polo with automobiles was the brainchild of a Ford from Topeka, Kansas with the snappy name of Ralph “Pappy” Hankinson. Originally Hankinson’s idea was intended to be a way to boost sales of the Ford Model T that the company had started producing in 1908.
 

 
Not only did Hankinson’s plan work, it quickly became a hugely popular sporting event in which not only the participants were at risk of injury or death but so were the spectators who flocked to such events. The matches were held across the country and the world, with the very first major auto polo exhibition being held in Washington D.C. in 1912. The outright brutality of the uncompromising sport also meant that cars would have to be routinely replaced since they would often give up the ghost in the middle of a match and because the main attraction of the sport was the very high probability that cars would crash into each other.

In other words auto polo was a bit like the 1985 film Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome only with cars operated by those insane enough to careen them around an arena armed with ball-smashing mallets at 40 miles per hour. So dangerous was the game of auto polo that an actual surgeon was onsite during the matches just in case anyone was injured (which according to most historical resources on the topic was shockingly rare). But deaths on the field did happen and those infrequent occurrences caused the sport to be banned in numerous states despite its rabid fan base. As I was looking through the images I found of matches that were held from 1912 until the early 1920s I noticed a distinct lack of protective equipment worn by the players who would drive the cars without seat belts as they were supposed to jump out of the moving car if it tipped over.  Which makes it even more surprising that more of the sports manly participants survived to ride another day which the following mayhemic images in this post will reinforce.
 

 

 
More mechanical mayhem after the jump…

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‘Hell Drivers’: Wild vintage images of fearless car stuntmen


Lucky Teter (or perhaps one of his stuntmen) jumping over a truck, 1930s.
 
Back in the early 1930s a man by the name of Earl “Lucky” Teter formed a troupe of eager thrill-seeking stunt-drivers for his daredevil extravaganza “Lucky” Teter’s Hell Drivers. It would mark the first time that a traveling “auto show” would put on as a “traveling” attraction.
 

Ward Beam’s signature ‘Dive Bomb’ or ‘T-Bone’ stunt, 1920s.
 
Inspired by the balls-out stunts by Ward Beam’s “Thrill Show” from the late 1920s who in addition to performing a wide array of stunts also played a bizarre game involving speeding cars and a giant ball called “auto pushball” or the Jimmie Lynch Death Dodgers who were getting started during the 1930s as well, Teter began trying to perfect his own “ramp to ramp” style stunts that had him hurtling over several cars or a city bus—a stunt that would ultimately take his life in 1942. Though his career was tragically cut short when his car failed to jump two Greyhound buses, Teter was the first person to coin the name “Hell Drivers” which would go on to be used by many other groups of adventurous automobile enthusiasts who would continue on with the legacy established by both Teter and Beam. Speaking of the crash-happy types of drivers here’s a want-ad that was posted by Beam in the Amherst Bee (a New York based newpaper) on August 6th, 1931 that will give you an idea of what it took to be a part of Beam’s “Congress of Daredevils.”

Wanted: Single man, not over 25 years, to drive automobile in head-on collision with another car at the Albion Fairgrounds in connection with the Congress of Daredevils on August 19. Must crash with another car at 40 mph and give unconditional release in case of injury or death. Name your lowest price. Write B. Ward Beam, Albion, N.Y.

I’ve been to exactly one demolition derby/car stunt show in my entire life and I was completely fucking terrified the entire time. That said, the images in this post don’t look much like what I lived through but they are still full of high levels of reckless and eminent danger, or in other words good old-fashioned family entertainment. Loads of pictures of the Death Dodgers, Lucky Teter in action and more pre-Dukes of Hazzard fun with cars follow.
 

A driver for Jimmie Lynch’s Death Dodgers driving through a wall of flame.
 

Lucky Teter.
 
More thrilling photos (and film footage) of these old school automotive daredevils, after the jump…

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Grisly vintage North Korean anti-American propaganda art

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North Korea is the ultimate “safe space” where only one opinion matters and no dissent is allowed. Safe spaces stop the dialectic in its tracks—just like North Korea does not permit any serious critique of its Supreme Leader the “Shining Sun” Kim Jong-un. We may not dig what happens in our own western countries, but we are free to question, to protest and to instigate change.

We have the opportunity “[t]o see ourselves as others see us,” as the poet Robert Burns once wrote, which—one hopes—“would from many a blunder free us.”

These propaganda paintings show exactly how North Korea views America and by association the West. Fair dinkum.

The North Koreans and South Koreans suffered terrible atrocities at the hands of the American GIs during the Korean War. At one point during the conflagration the US had a “take no civilians policy” which led to hundreds, if not thousands, of deaths.

Atrocities were committed by all sides—but while those of North Korea and South Korea have been documented—those committed by the American Army only came to light after an investigation by the Associated Press in 1999. Here’s one example of the US Army handiwork:

Just weeks after the conflict had begun, up to two million refugees were streaming across the battlefield; they clogged the roads and the UN lines.

Under pressure and fearing North Korean infiltration, the US leadership panicked. Soon command saw all civilians as the enemy regardless. On 26 July the US 8th Army, the highest level of command in Korea, issued orders to stop all Korean civilians. ‘No, repeat, no refugees will be permitted to cross battle lines at any time. Movement of all Koreans in group will cease immediately.’ On the very same day the first major disaster involving civilians struck.

The stone bridge near the village of No Gun Ri spans a small stream. It is similar to a great many others that cross the landscape of South Korea, except that the walls of this bridge were, until very recently, pockmarked by hundreds of bullet holes. On the very day that the US 8th Army delivered its stop refugee order in July 1950, up to 400 South Korean civilians gathered by the bridge were killed by US forces from the 7th Cavalry Regiment. Some were shot above the bridge, on the railroad tracks. Others were strafed by US planes. More were killed under the arches in an ordeal that local survivors say lasted for three days.

‘The floor under the bridge was a mixture of gravel and sand. People clawed with their bare hands to make holes to hide in,’ recalls survivor Yang Hae Chan. ‘Other people piled up the dead like a barricade, and hid behind the bodies as a shield against the bullets.’

Corroborating the Korean survivors’ testimony are the accounts of 35 veterans of the 7th Cavalry Regiment who recall events at No Gun Ri. Perspectives differ, but the detailed memories of veterans recalling events burnt into their souls by their first days in combat are as painful as they are shocking.

‘There was a lieutenant screaming like a madman, fire on everything, kill ‘em all,’ recalls 7th Cavalry veteran Joe Jackman. ‘I didn’t know if they were soldiers or what. Kids, there was kids out there, it didn’t matter what it was, eight to 80, blind, crippled or crazy, they shot ‘em all.’

Along with the My Lai atrocity 20 years later in Vietnam, the killings discovered at No Gun Ri mark one of the largest single massacres of civilians by American forces in the 20th century.

The events of the war help turn North Korea into what it is today. Everything flows from the Supreme Leader. Every oppressive dictatorship implements a safe space—which should be a warning to all of us today.

I’m sure the following powerful anti-American paintings were successful in getting their message across, still I can’t help but think there is something very twee (dare I say bourgeoise?) about these paintings—like religious paintings for the already converted faithful or like GI comics or James Bond movies.
 
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More paintings of evil GI Joes, after the jump…

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The hallucinogenic Pop artwork of Japanese master Keiichi Tanaami
09.15.2016
12:28 pm

Topics:
Art
History
Music
Sex

Tags:
Japan
psychedelic
Keiichi Tanaami


Album artwork for The Monkees by Keiichi Tanaami.
 
Keiichi Tanaami was a part of the Neo-Dada movement that was born in Tokyo, a force in art spurned forward by the vitriolic anger that was postwar Japan at the beginning of the 1960s. The goal of the painters and other creative artists that were a part of the Neo-Dada Organization (as they were called) was to create works that were “suspended between art and guerrilla warfare.” Tanaami himself was a survivor of the U.S air raids during WWII that targeted Tokyo starting in 1942 which took the lives of more than 100,000 civilians (although some estimates place the number closer to 200,000) and had been deeply affected by the war. One of the horrors that Tanaami recalls during the air raids is the vision of his father’s pet goldfish deformed body still swimming around it its bowl when his family returned from a bomb shelter after his neighborhood had been destroyed. It was this and other unspeakable sights that according to Tanaami robbed him of his childhood.
 

‘No More War,’ 1967.
 
Thankfully Tanaami would find a way to channel his grief, anger and loss into a remarkable career as one of the Japan’s most loved “pop” artists despite the fact that his own mother and the vast majority of his family were emphatically opposed to his choice of professions after discovering his passion for art during high school. Tanaami quickly found work as an artist in print media and doing commissions while still in college which would lead to a gig with the pioneering group JAAC (Japan Advertising Artists Club). The pop art influence in Tanaami’s work is vividly aparent and much of his early work centers around pop-flavored eroticism. In 1975 he got another big break after becoming the first art director for the Japanese version of Playboy magazine, called Monthly Playboy. During a trip to Playboy’s New York offices (and according to Tanaami’s extensive bio on his website) the magazine’s editor (or Hugh Hefner I’m assuming) took Tanaami to Andy Warhol’s mythical studio, the Factory. As if this wasn’t transformative enough for Tanaami his path would also cross with underground comix icon R. Crumb along the way, yet another event that helped shape Tanaami’s ever evolving visionary style.

By the time the 80s rolled around Tanaami, though still working, had developed a penchant for boozing around the clock. A lifestyle that landed the artist in a hospital bed for four months where the combination of medication used to help aid his recovery caused intense hallucinations from which he recovered, armed with an arsenal of boundary-pushing subject matter on which to draw from.

Now a triumphant eighty years old, Tanaami’s compelling work is routinely shown at museums across the world and has been the subject of a few books that celebrate various eras in his life that have included collage work and impressive sculptural interpetations of his paintings such as Keiichi Tanaami: Spiral and Keiichi Tanaami: Killer Joe’s Early Times 1965-73. Some of our more astute, artistically-inclined Dangerous Minds readers may also recognize Tanaami’s artwork from the covers of albums by Super Furry Animals and Jefferson Airplane. I’ve included Tanaami’s album art as well as a large selection of his hyper-colorful psychedelic works some of which are slightly NSFW. 
 

 

 

‘Two Twiggy’s.’
 
More after the jump…

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Sex Lives of the Gods: Vintage porn from the 1700s

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This vintage porn is all about cocks. Big cocks, small cocks. Permanently engorged cocks. Cocks to lead a goddess’s chariot. Cocks to ride into battle. Cocks that even look like Donald Trump.

They’re everywhere. Lurking in the undergrowth, hiding in baskets of fruit, frightening the horses and offering gratification wherever they go.

Drawings of cocks must have been the money shot—or money etching—back in the 18th century when these illustrations were first produced. I suppose that’s why artists will always be a prerequisite to civilized society—because when the Internet implodes and electricity eventually fails, artists can still can draw porny pictures. Just like the ones gathered together by Pierre-François Hugues, the baron d’Hancarville (1719-1805), for his volume of adult entertainment Veneres uti observantur in gemmis antiquis (1785).

Pierre-François Hugues almost had as many occupations as vowels to his name. He was an art historian, art dealer, poet, ideas man, writer, collector, intermediary, charlatan, con man, profligate, and producer of pornography. In his later years, he added the title baron d’Hancarville to his name—probably as he was convinced he deserved some recognition for all the hard work he carried out during his lifetime—most notably bringing a large collection of vases to diplomat Sir William Hamilton—which was eventually sold to the British Museum in London.

d’Hancarville and Hamilton compiled an inventory of these ancient vases—tracing their history and provence back to ancient Greece and Rome. While these four volumes had a certain fame among academe—it was d’Hancarville’s work as a pornographer that was his most popular and controversial work.

Between 1771 and 1785 (years vary depending on source—but invariably between these dates) d’Hancarville produced three volumes of pornography—Monumens de la vie privée des douze Césars, Monumens du culte secret des dames romaines, and most (in)famously Veneres uti observantur in gemmis antiquis. These books mixed drawings of artworks—stones, statues, sculptures, etc.—from antiquity—usually featuring Greek or Roman gods indulging in sexual shenanigans. D’Hancarville’ provided a text to explain in an amusing manner the symbolism and myth of each image. These books proved exceedingly popular which unfortunately led d’Hancarville into serious debt—which meant he had to eventually flee his home in Naples.

Veneres uti observantur in gemmis antiquis was originally written in French with color text and plates. It was soon published in numerous pirated editions in black and white. When asked why the images in the book were so small, d’Hancarville answered the images faithfully represented the size of the original and to be any bigger “would have still been more indecent had they been otherwise.”
 
18th century filth, in B&W and color, after the jump…

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Prostitutes, mannequins and street traders: The flâneur who photographed Paris, 1890s-1920s

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Prostitute, rue Asselin.
 
Eugène Atget first tried his hand as sailor, actor and painter before discovering his true vocation as a documentary photographer on the streets of Paris.

Documenting city life combined Atget’s passion for photography with his life as a flâneur. A flâneur is someone who strolls aimlessly through a city with no particular place to go—the route steered only by curiosity and chance. A flâneur dwells between the twin poles of private reverie and public space.

Novelist Charles Baudelaire first described a flâneur in an essay titled “The Painter of Modern Life” in 1863:

For the perfect flâneur, for the passionate spectator, it is an immense joy to set up house in the heart of the multitude, amid the ebb and flow of movement, in the midst of the fugitive and the infinite. To be away from home and yet to feel oneself everywhere at home; to see the world, to be at the centre of the world, and yet to remain hidden from the world…

Paris has long been hailed as the city of the flâneur. Its streets and boulevards invite perambulation and drift. Its arrondissements are filled with hidden beauty that trigger involuntary memory. Marcel Proust—the writer who coined the term “involuntary memory”—lived and worked in Paris. Like one of Proust’s characters, a flâneur wanders a city’s streets open to their “madeleine moment.”

Atget (1857-1927) wandered through Paris dressed in a large dark cloak, his camera and tripod in hand. He strolled, sauntered, until something triggered a response which he stopped to photograph. A chance encounter with a prostitute idling by her front door; a hawker selling wares from a cart; a maitre d‘s face at the door of a restaurant; a shop window filled with mannequins; or the empty cobbled street still fresh with the impression of activity.

Atget’s street photography captured a Paris that was fast changing. Its once golden age of the flâneur was being opened up to the motorcar and a system of signage, roads and roundabouts.

Atget lived in direst poverty throughout his life. For twenty years, it’s said, he lived on a diet of milk, bread and sugar. All other foods, he declared, were a poison. According to the American photographer Berenice Abbott who literally discovered Atget and his voluminous collection of photographs—or documents pour artistes:

In art and hygiene he was absolute. He had very personal ideas on everything which he imposed with extraordinary violence.

He applied this intransigence of taste, of vision, of methods, to the art of photography and miracles resulted.

 
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Prostitute waiting at her front door, 1921.
 
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Soldier with prostitute.
 
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Three prostitutes, rue Asselin.
 
More of Atget’s Paris street life photography, after the jump…

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That time Jack Kerouac finked out on helping Allen Ginsberg promote ‘Junkie’

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Allen Ginsberg was a hustler. He was always on the make. But if Ginsberg was getting a piece of the pie then everyone was getting some pie—that was the kind of guy he was.

In 1953, Ginsberg was one of the young writers loosely identified as the Beat Generation. There was Jack Kerouac—nominally the Beat daddio who had his first book The Town and the City published in 1950. It was a coming of age novel that lacked the Beat prosody (“spontaneous prose”) that illuminated Kerouac’s later, better known work.

There was John Clellon Holmes who had written Go—a depiction of the hip counter culture world of parties, drugs, jazz and “the search for experience and for love.”

And then there was William S. Burroughs.

Ginsberg had encouraged Burroughs to write. He grooved over the letters he wrote—he dug his style. He told Burroughs to write a book about his experiences as an unrepentant drug addict. Nelson Algren had already written and had published his tale of heroin addiction The Man with the Golden Arm in 1949. The book received rave reviews and won Algren a National Book Award. Ginsberg figured Burroughs—an actual junkie—could deliver a better, more powerful book if only he would sit down and write it.

Burroughs grudgingly took the advice. He had already co-authored an as yet unpublished novel with Kerouac And the Hippos were Boiled in their Tanks in 1945 about the murder of friend and associate David Kammerer by one of the original Beat gang Lucien Carr. The book had been a literary experiment with Burroughs and Kerouac writing alternate chapters. Now he would give the facts of his life some color in the manner of Thomas De Quincey—writing the semi-autobiographical Junkie: Confessions of an Unredeemed Drug Addict.

Ginsberg helped edit the book. Then he brought it to Carl Solomon—a publisher contact he’d met at Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital in New Jersey where both men received treatment. Solomon’s uncle was publisher A. A. Wyn—owner of the pulp paperback firm Ace Books. Through Ginsberg’s endeavors, Solomon convinced his uncle to publish Burroughs novel—written under the alias “William Lee”—as part of the Ace imprint.
 
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Ginsberg as ‘seen by Burroughs’ on the rooftop of his Lower East apartment, New York, 1953.
 
Kerouac’s reply and Burroughs’ ‘Junkie,’ after the jump…

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Get in the ring: Vintage images of female bodybuilders and ‘strong women’ showing off


Strong woman and acobat Louise Leers (aka Luise Krökel), 1930s.
 
Some of the images of the badass strong women in this post date all the way back to the very early 1900s however the female “strong woman” was an attraction as long ago as the early 1700s where women such a the “Female Italian Samson” and the “Little Woman from Geneva” would perform impressive feats of strength such as bearing massive amounts of weight on their backs or effortlessly hoisting several men in their arms.
 

The ‘Great Sandwina’ aka, Katie Brumbach.
 
Sometime in the late 1800s the appearance of strong women became more prevalent in sporting events and were also a common attraction in circuses where they would showcase their superhuman strength. This in turn paved the way for other rule-breaking girls such as female wrestlers and bodybuilders. One of the best known super women was Katie Brumbach called the “Great Sandwina.” Hailing from Vienna, Brumbach’s parents were also circus performers and it would appear that she was the combination of her father (who stood 6’ 6”) and her mother (who was herself a strong woman of sorts, sporting biceps that measured 15 inches around). She not only inherited her parents physical prowess and she performed with them, as well as many of her fourteen siblings. Brumbach would go on to wow audiences by lifting her husband (who reportedly weighed 165 lbs) over her head with only one arm and 300 pounds of weights with both. In her later years Brumbach joined the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus as a powerlifter where she snapped iron bars with her bare hands. At the age of 57 she was still able to pull to hoist her husband above her head with only one arm.

Another notable strong woman Kate Roberts went by the intimidating name “Vulcana.” In addition to her muscular build and ability to lift heavy weights (allegedly 181 lbs with one arm) she has some fascinating superhero-style folklore attached to her. In addition to saving a couple of drowning kids, Roberts dragged an unfortunate would-be purse snatcher who tried to steal her handbag all the way to the police station by herself. According to various historians Roberts also freed a wagon that had become stuck in a ditch in front of a crowd of awestruck Londoners. I’ve included images of other kick ass women in this post such as Abbye “Pudgy” Stockton (who was a notable member of the “Muscle Beach” crowd in the 1940s), and Joan Rhodes who enjoyed bending iron rods with her teeth and breaking nails with her bare hands.  There’s also a video of Rhodes showing off her strength in a cabaret act called the “Iron Girl in a Velvet Glove.”
 

‘Vulcana’ (aka Kate Roberts).
 

Abbye ‘Pudgy’ Stockton.
 
Much more after the jump…

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‘Monumental Nobodies’: Artist paints civic sculptures with a subversive twist
09.01.2016
12:34 pm

Topics:
Amusing
Art
History

Tags:
sculpture
painting
Matthew Quick

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‘Rockstar.’
 
In Glasgow, the city where I live, there’s an equestrian statue of the Duke of Wellington. This category-A monument situated on Queen Street, outside the Gallery of Modern Art, is famous not for its subject but rather for the regularity that traffic cones are placed on the grand Duke’s bonce. No one knows who puts them there. No sooner is one removed than another has replaced it. The Duke and his orange and white headgear are a symbol of the gallus nature of the city.

According to the city council, it costs $15,000 a year to have these pesky cones removed. A few years ago, the council considered raising the statue higher onto a second plinth—thus preventing any cheeky wee monkeys from hoisting yet another one on its head. In response, a Facebook campaign was started to save the cone. It received 75,000 “likes” in the first 24-hours. Since then the council installed CCTV cameras in a bid to capture the culprit(s) cone-handed.

This morning as I walked past the statue a fresh cone sat a jaunty angle on the Duke’s head. It’s not a mark of disrespect but rather a questioning of our inherited values, identity and history. History, after all, is written by the victors.

Matthew Quick asks similar questions about history, identity and inherited values with his series of paintings Monumental Nobodies. His starting point was “the monuments of empire and what happens to the things left behind, how they might be represented, or reutilised or reinterpreted.” He was also inspired by the sonnet “Ozymandias” by Percy Bysshe Shelley that tells of:

Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

The broken visage is all that remains of the once great king. Though there is a slight irony in the sonnet’s conceit that Ozymandias’ memory lives on in the lines of Shelley’s immortal posey.

Quick was reminded of this poem after watching television footage of American soldiers pull down a statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad during the Iraq War in 2003.

Removing the contemporary politics of the moment, I thought: ‘This is an invading army going in there and basically destroying art’.

The soldiers actions made Quick think of the ancient sack of Rome—“Except that the Visigoths were barbarians and the Americans did it for the cameras. It was a deliberate and stage-managed act,” as he explained in an interview

This led Australian Quick to produce Monumental Nobodies—a series of paintings re-examining our relationship with civic and classical sculptures.

Quick was late to his career as an artist. He had been a graphic designer, author, lecturer and art director before he started painting in earnest. When he was thirty-six, he was diagnosed with melanoma. The doctor’s prognosis was not good. It was suggested he may only have five years left to live. This caused Quick to reevaluate his life.

If you have only got a certain amount of time, what would you really like to be doing? It was the wake-up call I needed. Now I’m in a big rush. I am making up for lost time – what I’m doing now is what I’ve always wanted to do.

Thirteen years on, Quick is thankfully still alive and continues with his chosen career. It’s been over a decade since he turned “pro.” Since then he has won over sixty awards for his artwork and has exhibited in Australia and Europe. Technically brilliant, his work is powerful iconic and wonderfully cerebral. 

Quick started Monumental Nobodies before ISIS began thuggishly destroying historic buildings and artwork.

When you think about what ISIS is doing now, destroying artwork, we condemn that justifiably … but when the Americans did it, it was celebrated. These sorts of things intrigue me.

A statue of Saddam Hussein can be replaced but ancient monuments and temples cannot.

The irony is that when I started working on this series, the stuff with ISIS hadn’t happened. It has given it an extra layer of gravitas.

More of Matthew Quick’s work can be seen here.
 
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‘The Great Cover Up.’
 
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‘The Eternal Struggle.’
 
More ‘Monumental Nobodies,’ after the jump…

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‘U.S. sorry for fake Hiroshima’: The ill-advised ‘re-enactment’ of the Little Boy bomb drop, 1976
08.31.2016
09:27 am

Topics:
History

Tags:
atomic bombs
Hiroshima
Paul Tibbets


Colonel Paul W. Tibbets of the Army Air Forces standing next to the Enola Gay

Paul W. Tibbets held a unique distinction in the annals of history. He was the pilot of the Enola Gay (which was named after his mother, Enola Gay Tibbets) and thus was the man who carried out the command to drop the atomic bomb known as “Little Boy” on the Japanese city of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, making him the first person to detonate an atomic bomb in warfare. As was the conventional view for Americans of his time, Tibbets never expressed any pangs of regret about the act of killing upwards of 60,000 people in a matter of minutes, tending instead to emphasize the combat fatalities averted by bringing the World War II to a speedier end.

It is likely that he was even less apologetic about his participation in an air show 31 years later in which he re-enacted the Hiroshima bombing using a restored B-29 Superfortress (the same model as the Enola Gay) named “Fifi,” a reference to the co-pilot’s girlfriend. This event took place on October 10, 1976, in front of a large paying crowd reported as 18,000 (but possibly as large as 40,000) in Harlingen, Texas. Tibbets reenacted his historic Enola Gay mission—the event actually included a “simulated” atomic explosion—and repeated the flight twice the next day.

The impetus of the event was to raise money for a WWII aircraft preservation group called the Confederate Air Force—today the group goes by the name the Commemorative Air Force. Fascinatingly, the U.S. Army supplied a detonation team to assist with the “atomic-bomb simulator,” in other words “a barrel of explosives” that produced the crowd-pleasing mushroom-shaped cloud, which you can see in the news article reproduced below.
 

 
This was not the first time the Hiroshima bombing had been re-enacted. On October 27, 1945, the Los Angeles Coliseum hosted an event called “Tribute To Victory.” According to Daniel Tiffany’s book Toy Medium: Materialism and Modern Lyric, “this early simulation of an atomic blast hinted at the ‘devastation’ associated with Hiroshima—an image ‘almost too real’ for the crowd.” That event, however, did not garner a crowd of forty thousand—it drew roughly a hundred thousand! Considering that the Coliseum event was just a few months after the end of World War II, the morbid curiosity and willingness to offend the Japanese were a little bit more understandable.

It’s doubtful whether many of the spectators in attendance found the 1976 air show in Harlingen to be in poor taste, but in any case it did cause a minor international incident. Understandably, when the citizens of Japan learned of this event, they were none too happy about it.

The mayor of Hiroshima at that time was a man named Takeshi Araki, and apparently it took some doing to get him to believe that the incident had actually taken place. Araki called the re-enactment “a blasphemy” and “grotesque.” In a later press release he addressed the organizers of the air show: “What you have done insults the Japanese people who suffered from the bomb. I feel real rage and we shall protest to the U.S. government and all concerned.” Here was the reaction of Foreign Minister Zentaro Kosaka: “A bomb and a mushroom-shaped cloud is a real nightmare for the Japanese. Although it was a civilian air show, I cannot refrain from feeling badly. They lacked consideration for the feelings of others.”

October 10 was a Saturday; on Wednesday, October 14, 1976, the U.S. Embassy in Japan issued an apology for the Texas air show, triggering this memorable headline:
 

 
Right-wing nuts insist that Barack Obama apologized for the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bomb attacks, but that’s not true. The United States has still not apologized for those events—but at least we apologized for the fake Hiroshima bombing! One out of two ain’t bad!

The U.S. government may have apologized but of course the CAF did no such thing, issuing a statement that included these words: “We feel that this demonstration was altogether proper and presented in an appropriate manner. We do not owe an apology to anyone.”

‘MURICA DON’T GIVE A SHIT…

You can see actual footage of Tibbets participating in the re-enactment—complete with the mushroom cloud effect—by jumping to the 1:50 juncture of this video, which we unfortunately can’t embed.
 
via Conelrad

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