Wednesday, October 20, 2021

 Vintage Military - Part 16
World War II - New Britain

In 1943, the U.S. had been retaking the Japanese-held Solomon Islands to the east of New Guinea with the eventual goal of taking the major Japanese base at Rabaul on New Britain.  New Britain is an island to the northeast of New Guinea.

This classic photo, which I've shown before, is called PBY Blister Gunner, Rescue at Rabaul.  For months, the U.S. had been attacking Rabaul from the air.  Photographer Horace Bristol was on a PBY (seaplane) assigned to rescue a pilot who had been shot down off Rabaul.  In Bristol's words:

“…The Japanese were shooting at him from the island, and when they saw us they started shooting at us. The man who was shot down was temporarily blinded, so one of our crew stripped off his clothes and jumped in to bring him aboard. He couldn’t have swum very well wearing his boots and clothes. As soon as we could, we took off. We weren’t waiting around for anybody to put on formal clothes. We were being shot at and wanted to get the hell out of there. The naked man got back into his position at his gun in the blister of the plane.”

By the end of 1943, the U.S. was finally in position to mount a ground invasion of New Britain.  Rather than invading heavily fortified Rabaul directly, they landed in two other locations on the island: Arawe and Cape Gloucester.  Artist David Fredenthal was with an aborted first attempt at Arawe.  This is one of his sketches, published in the Aug. 21, 1944 issue of LIFE magazine, but the incident pictured occurred on Dec. 13, 1943.

This photo of the Cape Gloucester landing was published in the Jan. 31, 1944 issue of LIFE.  The photo is credited to war photographer Frank Prist Jr., Acme Newspictures.

Previously we showed some photos of naked troops unloading supplies.  This movie clip from the Dept. of Defense Naval Photographic Center shows naked U.S. marines unloading supplies from an LST at Cape Gloucester on Jan. 4, 1944.  As I've mentioned before, this was purely practical: why get your uniform wet?

Meanwhile, LIFE photographer Myron Davis was covering the landing on Arawe.  It's not clear what the troops in this photo from December 1943 are doing, but about half of them are naked.  Note: I cropped the photo to show detail.

Ultimately, the generals decided not to attack Rabaul with ground forces but just to bottle it up.  Rabaul was blockaded, its aircraft were destroyed, and it played no further part in the war.

This photo and the next show LIFE photographer Myron Davis.  They are labeled "Myron Davis just before Arawe, New Britain Invasion."  They were presumably taken on one of the neighboring islands as the troops took a break before the invasion started.

Davis was only 24 years old at the time.  You can see why he would be accepted by the troops as one of them.  These two photos of Myron Davis swinging from a vine are my favorite portraits of any LIFE photographer.  Does that have anything to do with the fact that he's cute and he's naked?  I'll give you one guess.

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Ads - Part 11
Kyrö Distillery 

Kyrö Distillery is a company in Finland started by five friends in 2012.  The five co-founders are seen above running naked through a field of rye, the main ingredient for their distillery.

In this excerpt from one of their commercials, co-founder Mikko Koskinen talks briefly about the founding of the company. 

And in this excerpt from another commercial, Mikko (naked except for a branch held in front of him) tells us some more about Finnish rye.

In March, 2020, the Covid pandemic threatened to put the new company out of business, because bars and restaurants, their main customers, were closed.  The company switched to producing hand sanitizer for the pandemic, since a distillery basically produces alcohol, and hand sanitizer contains alcohol.  The sold the sanitizer at cost, making no profit, as a public service.  And by switching to producing hand sanitizer, they were able to avoid having to lay off their employees.  Bravo, Kyrö!

Monday, October 18, 2021

Artists - Part 14
Kristian Zahrtmann

Kristian Zahrtmann (1843-1917) was a Danish painter.  He was known for historical paintings, especially those depicting legendary Danish women.  Above is a 1916 self-portrait.  He was not openly gay, but he never married, he produced a large number of homoerotic paintings, and rumors about him were rife.

His paintings depicting nude men were generally on Biblical, mythological, or historical subjects.  The painting above is Kain (Cain), 1873.

Adam and Eve in Paradise, 1892, is unusual because it does not use fig leaves or other artistic props to conceal frontal nudity as other artists almost always did.

Two later paintings of Adam in Paradise, 1916, have a vine to conceal the nudity, but are actually more erotic.  The vine only partially conceals, and unlike the stiff figure in the previous work, Adam looks much more relaxed and inviting. 

The second 1916 version of Adam in Paradise is even more sensuous-looking.  There's no snake, and Adam's hand is on his chest, possibly stroking his nipple.

A historical subject is Nero Dancing, 1903.

This is the mythological subject Prometheus, 1906.  Other artists generally chose poses that concealed frontal nudity, but not Zahrtmann.

Another Biblical subject: The Prodigal Son, 1909.  The story of the prodigal son (Luke 15) makes no reference to the son being naked on his return (in fact, it's very unlikely from the context), but that didn't stop Zahrtmann from using the subject as a pretext to paint another naked male.

Even in the painting St. Catherine of Siena, 1913, Zahrtmann manages to make Christ frontally naked in St. Catherine's vision of him.  By the way, St. Catherine, in addition to having had visions of Christ, claimed that she had undergone a "mystic marriage" to Christ in which she had received Christ's foreskin as a wedding ring (I am not making this up).  She said the ring was invisible.  So, maybe Christ appearing to her naked is appropriate.

We end with this 1899 painting by Poul S. Christiansen of Zahrtmann's Malerskole (Zahrtmann's Painting School).  Zahrtmann taught from 1885 to 1908 at the Kunstnernes Frie Studieskoler, a new art school in Copenhagen that had been established as an alternative to the more conservative Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts.  He became so prominent as a teacher, teaching over 200 Scandinavian artists, that the school was simply referred to as "Zahrtmann's school."  Not surprisingly, the students here are learning to paint a male nude.

Sunday, October 17, 2021

World Naked Bike Ride - Part 15
Britain 2021

Last time we saw some riders in the 2021 London WNBR, which had been postponed from June to August.  Today we look at some other 2021 WNBR riders in Britain.

Coventry, England.

Manchester, England.  Looks like the same guy in front.

Cambridge, England.

A group shot of the WNBR riders in Cambridge.

Cardiff, Wales.

A unicyclist in Brighton, England.  We saw him earlier in the London WNBR.

A group of buddies in Brighton.

The Brighton WNBR always ends up at the beach.  Looks like these guys are more than just buddies.

One of the guys in the previous photo.  I'll let this scenic view say "The End".

Lots more WNBR photos to come.

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Festivals - Part 13
Ozark Music Festival, 1974

The Ozark Music Festival in 1974, unlike some others we have seen, was well-planned and approved and was held at the Missouri State Fairgrounds in Sedalia, Missouri, a venue that already had a stage and other facilities.  Promoters had lined up an array of top bands.  Wolfman Jack, a popular radio DJ, was the emcee for the concerts.  Above is a poster for the event.  I added the soundtrack from a radio commercial by Wolfman Jack promoting the festival.

Two problems occurred.  The fairgrounds could handle the expected crowd of 50,000.  But the actual attendance was at least 160,000.

The other problem was the temperature, which soared over 100 degrees.  One attendee remembers a radio weather report saying the temperature was 105.  The solution for many was to remove their clothes.

Not everyone got naked, but sights like this were very common.

It was a 3-day event, and the fairgrounds had a campsite area, so many attendees brought tents and camped out.  Again, in the heat, many camped naked.

Another camper.

Casual nudity was the order of the day.

Someone opened a fire hydrant for people to cool off.

There was also a pond ...

And there were water faucets ...

And mud.

Despite the heat, the scheduled bands showed up, and there was was plenty of good music.

Afterwards, however, the fairgrounds were trashed, no doubt because the crowd was so large.  Rampant drug use also occurred and there were overdoses, including one death.  The Missouri State Senate investigated.  Their report stated: “The scene on the grounds at Sedalia made the degradation of Sodom and Gomorrah appear to be rather mild.  Natural and unnatural sex acts became a spectator sport."  The state banned any future rock concerts at the State Fairgrounds.

Those who were actually there remember lots of nudity, but no public sex, either "natural" or "unnatural."  Instead, they remember it as a great time, despite the heat.

Friday, October 15, 2021

Protests - Part 12
 Vietnam War Demonstrations

1967 was the "summer of love" in San Francisco.  Lyndon Johnson was President, and he had gotten the U.S. into a ground war in Vietnam in 1965.  These demonstrators were protesting against the Vietnam War and the draft, including this guy in the San Francisco Civic Center Plaza fountain.

This 1968 anti-war protest on the Brooklyn Bridge in New York was a project of artist Yayoi Kusama (second from left), known as the "polka dot queen."  Her art consists of putting polka dots on everything (including the protesters).

January 19, 1969.  Richard Nixon had been elected, but the Vietnam War continued.  This was a "counter-Inaugural ball" to protest Nixon and the war.

Things kept getting worse.  On May 4, 1970, students at Kent State University were protesting the Vietnam War's expansion into Cambodia.  Four of the protesters were shot and killed by the Ohio National Guard.  Five days later, 100,000 people, including those above, demonstrated in Washington, D.C. against the Kent State shootings.

Nixon tried to counter the anti-war movement by holding a pro-war rally on the National Mall in Washington on July 4, 1970, called the Honor America Day demonstration.  Thousands of Nixon supporters were bussed in for the rally.  However, a counter-demonstration occurred, including these demonstrators in the Reflecting Pool on the Mall.  Police tried to break up the counter-demonstration with tear gas, which then drifted over Nixon's crowd, and that was the end of the Honor America Day rally.

This photo, taken by LIFE photographer Bill Eppridge, was labeled "Anti-War Demonstration, Washington, D.C."  It was only dated 1970, so I don't know which anti-war demonstration this is.

Another photo by Bill Eppridge of a 1970 anti-war demonstration, Washington, D.C.

On May 5, 1971, an anti-war demonstration was held on the Capitol steps in Washington.  According to the caption, police arrested the protesters when they refused to move from the Capitol steps.  Looking back, it seems so innocent now, compared to the scene fifty years later when Trump supporters broke into the Capitol and attempted to overthrow the government.

By 1972, young American men were still being drafted to fight and die in Vietnam.  This is a group of protesters at the Republican Convention in 1972 when Richard Nixon was re-nominated.

After the Paris Peace Accord cease-fire was negotiated in 1973, American troops were withdrawn.  In August, 1974, Nixon resigned in disgrace under threat of impeachment.  In April, 1975, after the North Vietnamese had taken most of South Vietnam and were about to take Saigon, Nixon's successor, Gerald Ford, finally ended the Vietnam War by ending all American aid to South Vietnam and pulling out the remaining Americans.

It was an unwinnable war that the U.S. had been fighting for ten years without the support of the South Vietnamese people.  Fifty years later, exactly the same thing happened in Afghanistan.  Will we never learn?

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Gods, Myths and Heroes - Part 6

Today we return to Norse mythology.  The god Loki was a complex creature.  He was known as a trickster.  Sometimes he aided the other gods; sometimes he insulted them and opposed them.  One gets the impression that this was not altogether a bad thing, and that sometimes the other gods needed someone to take them down a peg.  However, Loki had a darker side and could be very malicious.

Loki was a shape-shifter and could transform into other creatures.  His contradictory nature was even expressed sexually.  Normally he was male, and he had a wife and son.  But in one myth he transformed himself into a mare, had sex with a stallion, and then gave birth to a foal that became Odin's horse, Sleipnir.  (Sleipnir had eight legs, but we won't get into that.)  So, you might say that Loki was non-binary, centuries before that became a gender identity.

This 1912 painting of Loki is by Kristian Zahrtmann.  Note the twig he's holding from the mistletoe plant behind him.  You'll see the significance of it later.

Today we present two myths that express Loki's double-sided nature.

The first myth is about Baldur or Baldr, the son of the head god Odin and his wife Frigg.  Everyone loved Baldur, and he was so good-looking that he was referred to as "shining" (above).  Then both Baldur and his mother Frigg had a dream that he died.  Fearing that this was a prophecy, Frigg made every object and plant and animal vow never to hurt Baldur.  However, she forgot to ask the mistletoe.

(Baldur the Beautiful by Ludwig Fahrenkrog, 1908)

The gods then made a game of throwing things at Baldur, since nothing could hurt him.  Somehow Loki found out about the mistletoe, and he made an arrow from its stem.  Then he gave the arrow to Baldur's brother, the blind god Höðr, who shot it at Baldur, killing him.

The wooden bas-relief of Baldur's death, above, by Dagfin Werensiold, is part of the Yggdrasil Frieze at the Oslo Radhus (town hall).  Note the mistletoe growing on the tree in the background

This time Loki had gone too far.  This was no mere insult or trick.  Loki was condemned to be bound, with a serpent perpetually dripping venom onto him.  His wife Sigyn held a bowl to collect the venom and keep it off of him, but every now and then, she had to go empty the bowl, and then the venom fell on Loki and he writhed in pain, causing earthquakes.

(Loki's Punishment by Constantin Hansen, 1850s)

Loki's punishment was a favorite artistic subject for Nordic artists,.  Unlike most art from the Norse myths, in which nudity is rare, Loki is almost always naked in depictions of his punishment.

(Loki's Punishment, statue by Ida Matton, 1923, outside the Stockholm City Hall)

But as I said earlier, Loki had a complex nature, and he wasn't all evil.  His other side is shown in the story of Loki and the goat.  In this myth, the gods had killed the giant Thjazi.  The giant's daughter, Skadi, appeared and demanded reparation for her father's death.

As the first reparation, Odin turned her father's eyes into stars.  The second reparation was to make her laugh again.  None of the gods succeeded in making her laugh.  Then the trickster, Loki, took a rope and tied one end of it to a goat and tied the other end around his testicles and proceeded to have a tug-of-war between his balls and the goat (I am not making this up).  Needless to say, that made Skadi laugh.

Somehow, I doubt that we're going to see Tom Hiddleston acting out this myth in the movies.

(Loki vs the Goat by Thrandur Thorarinsson, 2012)

For the third reparation, Skadi demanded to choose one of the gods as a husband.  The gods agreed, but on the condition that the eligible gods would stand behind a screen and Skadi must choose her husband by his feet.  Skadi chose the one with the most beautiful feet, thinking that it was the beautiful god Baldur.  But it turned out to be the sea god Njordr, whose feet had been constantly washed by the ocean.

(Photo: Maslin Beach Nude Olympics in Australia.  A bit more than their feet was revealed – this was the Best Bums competition.)

Next time: a naked Christian myth.