03 February, 2019

Profile 134 - "The April 18th Project" (post #2)


Have a look above!

The Pollyannic Eye will lead you to believe my rendering of a "Doolittle Raider" to be nearly, if not 3/4ths, complete.  Don't believe it.  I'm a third-done at best.

Of course, there's the greater context of the project—if you look at the preceding post, you'll notice that I must draw two airplanes.  The B-25B shown is simply part of a greater whole.

But.

*break break*

For the observer, drawing airplanes is boring.  Certainly the novelty of it captures the attention for, at least, ten seconds.  But if you were standing over my shoulder, you'd soon realize you were having as much fun as watching paint dry.  On the other hand, for me, it's an awesome way to dissolve 40+ hours into a mere moment.  So often, I start at 0500 and have to be pried away 'round dinner time.

However, I cheat a bit—I've got a couple screens situated around my desk that pipe in all kinds of entertainment and thereby help keep the the practice of creating of 'art' interesting.  Music, movies, photographic references... I tune-in and tune-out in little bursts.   Nevertheless, recently, one of my distractions—Netflix—released a new series that's attracted a fair amount of publicity and fanfare.  It's a series on Ted Bundy, the serial killer.

© Netflix.  I took this screen shot from the service.  I am SO not endorsing this show.
 Just using it as leverage for the greater message.  Hang with me, 'k?

Being a quasi-filmmaker, I decided to give their offering a 'go' to act as background noise for this project.

(If you'd like to see the film I think is my 'best,' click here.).

Ok.  Hold that thought.

A while ago, a story was told to me by a WWII B-25 pilot about why he was initially seen as a 'strange ranger' in his squadron and thereby avoided.  The story is actually a long one and probably worthy of a Keynote Address some time.  However, pulling a little snippet out for this post, the pilot described how he tried to figure out why he wasn't fitting in with the rest.

Observation and some critical self-reflection revealed a strange answer—the pilot came to the understanding that his fault lie in not being bothered by the things that bothered the rest of the squadron.  Specifically, the pilot was immune to the stresses of "flak."

Before I go any further, it may be useful to describe what "flak" is.   Simply put, flak is a ball of expanding shrapnel that radiates from the explosion of an aerial artillery shell.  As guided surface-to-air missiles were not developed in WWII, the point of flak was to create a cloud of supersonic debris that would then penetrate anything that flew into its space.   Evasive action could provide some relief but if the aircraft had to fly a fixed course —a bomber or a reconnaissance aircraft — the flak was unnerving and too-often lethal.

I put this together to get an idea of what a flak burst was like.  Bear in mind, this is a two-dimensional
illustration (top-down) of a three-dimensional affect.  But, you get the idea that "flak" is at once inefficient
and totally nasty at the same time.  It was all about "luck."

Back to the story.

The pilot described that he had been given a strange gift that attributed to God's mercy; the gift was to be able to easily recognize what was within his control and what was not and reconcile a sense of peace.

"Flak never bothered me.  And it never bothered me to go on particularly hazardous missions.  And it never bothered me to be in particularly vulnerable spots in the formation.  People thought I was crazy.  Perhaps a death wish," he stated in his methodical, aged midwestern drawl.

I remember him leaning forward in his chair, insisting on locking eyes and stating, "John. Flak is something you can't control.  There is very little (in life) you really can control.  But what you can control, you can control absolutely."

I asked, "So tell me what you can control."

He didn't hesitate.  "The knowledge I put in my mind."

"And how does knowledge help control flak?  Flak is random..."

He leaned back into his chair, closed his eyes and smiled.  "Exactly."

*break break*

So.  At the end of my drawing time, I went upstairs to partake in my genius-chef-wife's dinner.  Typically, this is a glorious moment for me but in this case, I wasn't so shiny.  In fact, I felt kinda gross.   I let her know too, "I feel like I need some mental floss!  I just watched this show on Ted Bundy.  Gawd it's just...yuck!"

Ever the pragmatist, she responded, "Then why'd you watch it?"

Hmmm.  "Why..?" indeed.

The contrast of having a story of an evil criminal flicker on side of my desk while I'm drawing the bomber of a Doolittle Raider on the other popped into consciousness like a flak shell.   At first I felt ripped off for having exchanging an hour of time for a story that provided little other than the attention-grabbing that comes from shock-value.

But after the sting wore off, I noticed the contrast between the two screens.  I have to state it—Ted Bundy's story has some real fascination to it; what makes people go so evil, so dark?!  The answer to the question is useful in the same way that knowing it's not smart to wack your thumb with a hammer is useful—see it, know it, don't do it again.

Still.  I'm amazed that the serial killer received a whole freaking... series?!

I pouted about the hour I'd never get back and then wondered the thousands of people who'd plop down on their butts for the whole deal, looking for thrill, looking for drama, looking for terror...I don't know why people exchange precious time to learn about cheap people...

©Shutterstock.  I grabbed this off the internet.  I don't own it.  But it makes special sense in this case.

And then the irony of my project sunk in; the B-25 before me represented the same elements—thrills, drama, terror.  Yet, the story also represented the stuff that celebrates the best of us, too.  Duty, faith, discipline, optimism, love, hope...

It's an age-old problem of mankind - realizing we are responsible for what we plant into our psyche and therefore reap its fruits.  Surely, I learned that  Ted Bundy had been bent from the beginning—little positive guidance, a predilection for the prurient and a fascination with the violent; genetics?  A gift from the Devil?  Or maybe someone just wasn't there to show him that life is flak and it's what you do with it that determines your fate.

A gentle reminder is due. There are stories 'out there' that do not grub in the gutter.  Stories that have all the fascination of the awful but somehow leave behind a mark, not of filth but of inspiration and power.

I'd like to introduce you to Donald G. Smith, pilot of "#15" - the second to the last B-25 that took off from the US carrier Hornet on April 18, 1942.

It's a heck of a story and I'm still not even half-done with the art.

And I promise it will give you knowledge...the kind you want in your brain while you're flying through the flak of life.


I grabbed this picture from a blogger who lives in Bountiful Utah.  I hope he approves (dude! PLEASE check your email!)


As for Netflix's deal on what's-his-name?  I'm tuning out.  But I can't wait until they show this movie.

The cheesy poster totally rules over the sh*te that Neflix made for their poster-boy.  Again, the movie is cheesier than your local pizza parlor but still...it's awesome.  
It's as sappy as an IHOP pancake and over-acted.  But I'd rather fill my mind with that than the dreck of some loser.




20 January, 2019

Profile 134 - "The April 18th Project" (post #1)


So, after a needed many-month break, I return to the studio, coffee cup in hand, to start publishing the HUGE backlog of artwork/stories when suddenly, a project pops up on the radar that totally demands clearance to buzz my desk...


Indeed, "...the pattern is full."  (love the quote, hate the movie).

But this one* must go first. Frankly, it's one of the top-5 Great American Moments** of the 20th Century and that's why it sends the rest back to the stagnant hold-pattern over my desk.

So. Have a look at the pencil-sketch above.  The most extreme Wing Nuts and History Geeks will know exactly what's going on.  But if you're not one of them, let me digress.

*break break*

Have you ever wondered where Character comes from?   Have you ever wondered what Character means?   Just recently, the family table fired up when the topic of "What is character?" came up among four generations of participants.  And boy, did it get hot!

Gay marriage. Fatherless children. Divorce.  Generational dynamics.  The Vietnam War.  Rock'n Roll.  Even buying vs leasing cars (really!) were offered as arguments for one way or the other.  In the end, all faces were red, all blood pressures high...but thankfully we all kept our cool and no one threw a punch or hollered an awful epithet (though one—a highly educated academic-type— came close).

Yet, in the end, we settled on this sort of understanding that we have hope for the future that they will be better than "us." And they will embody the character in which we all hope will prevail.  Who is they?

The future generations.

And again, what is this "character"?

No one could define it.

(deep breath)

In the meantime, look at the progress-shot below.  Are you a teacher?  A CEO?  A shift-manager?  A department-head?  A housewife? A student?  An Instagram Influencer?

Look below.

This indistinct shape you see represents everything you (hopefully) want to be.


*You should SEE the stuff that's coming up!   F-100 combat gun cam footage, a tragically glorious Avro Lancaster, a TBM story that's the stuff of gut-busting pride, "MiG Killin'," a loooong overdue AC-130...and then, along comes a project that stops them all, fairly demanding a flyby.

**The other four?  I'd love to discuss!  Next time we meet, I'll buy the first round while you state your case.