American Bombers In the Sky

When the typewriters happen to pause (8:20 and other mythical hours), and there are no flights of American bombers in the sky, and the motor traffic’s not too heavy in Oxford Street, you can hear winter birds cheeping outside, busy at the feeders the girls have put up.

—-Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow

B-25 “Devil Dog,” Commemorative Air Force, Dallas, Texas

 

B-25 “Devil Dog”

Paradoxical Phase

Paradoxical phase, when weak stimuli get strong responses…. When did it happen? A certain early stage of sleep: you had not heard the Mosquitoes and Lancasters tonight on route to Germany, their engines battering apart the sky, shaking and ripping it, for a full hour, a few puffs of winter cloud drifting below the steel-riveted underside of the night, vibrating with the constancy, the terror, of so many bombers outward bound. Your own form immobile, mouth-breathing, alone face-up on the narrow cot next to the wall so pictureless, chartless, mapless: so habitually Hank… .Your feet pointed toward a high slit window at the far end of the room. Starlight, the steady sound of the bombers’ departure, icy air seeping in. The table littered with broken-spined books, scribbled columns headed Time / Stimulus / Secretion (30 sec) / Remarks, teacups, saucers, pencils, pens. You slept, you dreamed: thousands of feet above your face the steel bombers passed, wave after wave.

—-Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow

Business End, B-24 Liberator, Commemorative Air Force, Dallas, Texas

Struggle: The Life and Lost Art of Szukalski

 

“Thus, when I say about myself that I am a genius, it is not self-praise, but a statement to describe a type of mind that: whatever it does in any field, it does well. A mind that peruses in many fields will comprehend better, and many things more, than one that is absorbed in only one. It becomes a universal mind.”

—–Stanislav Szukalski

Struggle, a sculpture by Stanislav Szukalski

 

We cut the cord today. Bye Bye to cable television. Good riddance. I have watched the Boob Tube… the Idiot Box too much all my life.

I still watched too much – there is still Netflix… and Amazon Prime Video…. and Sling… and a multitude of crazy channels available through the Roku … and even the antenna. I finished off an episode of Doctor Who (I have a strange yet slight crush on the New Doctor, as long as I don’t watch too much) and an episode of The Alienist.

Then, checking the documentary section of Netflix, I chose a Netflix Original Documentary, Struggle: The Life and Lost Art of Szukalski.

Holy Moly… what a rabbit hole.

Stanislav Szukalski was a sculptural prodigy born in Poland in the late eighteen hundreds who showed great promise even though he was partially blind from staring at the sun. At 12 he moved with his family to Chicago.

This began a bifurcated life – of an eccentric artist in the United States and a fervent nationalist in Poland. He developed an unfortunate streak of racism and anti-antisemitism in Poland in the 1930’s. He became well known and successful until everything was destroyed in the German bombing of Warsaw in 1939. Other than a few small sculptures in American hands – his entire body of work, thousands of sculptures, drawings, and other artworks – was destroyed. He and his wife escaped at the last minute with only two suitcases and moved to Los Angeles.

Penniless, he survived on doing odd jobs for the film industry, and became friends with famous screenwriter Ben Hecht and the family of George DiCaprio, Leonardo DiCaprio‘s father. In 1971 Glenn Bray, a publisher and collector of oddball art, became fascinated with the story and work of Szukalski and was stunned to find out he was not only still alive but living 5 miles away from him. They became fast friends, Bray introduced him to a circle of artists, mostly underground comics illustrators, and began to film extensive, lengthy interviews with him.

And now, all this has led to Leonardo DiCaprio producing this Netflix Documentary using a lot of Bray’s interview footage. It’s a wild and woolly tale, with references all the way from the Nazis to Zap Comics to The Church of the Subgenius to DiCaprio to Easter Island.

Yeah, Szukalski thought that all  human civilization originated in Easter Island and that all evil was the result of interbreeding with the Yeti. Really.

Not a big fan of his ideas here – but I love his art. There isn’t much out there – one bronze has been recently cast, but so much of his work was destroyed in the destruction of Warsaw. He whole life, ideas, and artistic output was warped beyond recognition by the terrors of the twentieth century.

Shame really – there is real talent there… eccentric talent, to be sure… but enough artistic genius to go around. I would like to see his work. Maybe a trip to Chicago – there is some stuff at the Polish Museum of America there.

D-Day Doll

“Now at this very moment I knew that the United States was in the war, up to the neck and in to the death. So we had won after all! … How long the war would last or in what fashion it would end no man could tell, nor did I at this moment care … We should not be wiped out. Our history would not come to an end … Hitler’s fate was sealed. Mussolini’s fate was sealed. As for the Japanese, they would be ground to a powder. All the rest was merely the proper application of overwhelming force.”
― Winston S. Churchill

C-47 Nose Art, Commemorative Air Force, Wings over Dallas

Devil Dog

“War must be, while we defend our lives against a destroyer who would devour all; but I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Two Towers

B-25 PBJ, Commemorative Air Force

Devil Dog Squadron

Carbine On My Handlebar

“When shoes and clothes and food, when hope is gone we’ll all have the rifle.”
― John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath

 

Vintage WWII bicycle.

I have worked a lot over the years, worked on ways to carry things on my bicycle. I have never, however, worked on how to carry a carbine on my handlebar.

Form A Constellation In His Image

“turn him into stars and form a constellation in his image. His face will make the heavens so beautiful that the world will fall in love with the night and forget about the garish sun.”

― William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

Nose Art, C-47, Commemorative Air Force

I have always had a soft spot for the C-47, the military version of the DC3. At the airshow they offered semi-affordable rides in the venerable old birds. Not really worth it for me, I’ve ridden on them so many times before.