Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Here's to Jack Kirby

He would be 90 today...

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

"The most fearful menace of them all!"

Did You Know?
In the language of comics, a drawing of Fin Fang Foom by Mike Mignola is the equivalent of saying "I love you".

© Marvel Comics

Saturday, August 18, 2007

"The last human being to occupy the White House."

Okay, I'm aware that this blog has turned into some kind of art/U.S. history hybrid. Through no grand plan of my own--I mean, I'm as surprised as you are that I wrote a blog about Taft. What was up with that?

Anyways, here I go again. I've been reading two books concurrently, the book by Daniel Ellsberg about his experience in Vietnam and with the Pentagon Papers (mentioned here way back when), and a great collection of interviews with Harry S. Truman that I try to re-read every year, Plain Speaking.

Merle Miller, who conducted the Truman interviews, once called Truman "the last human being to occupy the White House". So he's not exactly an unbiased guy...however, since most of the book is straight from Truman's mouth, you don't really have to worry about Miller distorting reality because of his natural bias towards Truman. For instance, I once read a biography of Eisenhower where the author was so obviously enraptured by Ike that I couldn't really read the book as serious nonfiction.

Speaking of Eisenhower...boy, Truman really disliked the guy. "The fella that followed me" gets a lot of attention from Truman, from Ike's swearing to Truman point-blank that he didn't have any political ambitions (Truman couldn't suffer liars) to Eisenhower's not walking up the White House steps to greet the outgoing President on Inaugural Day (the only other times that has occured were with John Adams and Thomas Jefferson--Adams had already left the White House by the time Jefferson arrived--and FDR and Herbert Hoover--FDR couldn't physically walk up the steps).

See, one thing that comes across in the book is the feeling that Truman just plain doesn't lie, which is stunning for a politician. He's very candid (Nixon gets called "a son of a bitch" more than once) without sounding cranky. He's also incredibly well read...he goes through a list of presidential history at one point, from William Henry Harrison to James Buchanan, with the factual certainty of a scholar. He also brilliantly sums up Chester A. Arthur in one sentence ("the man with the side whiskers and striped pants").

Of course, I'm just as biased towards Truman as Miller is...he's maybe my favorite president, despite a few things that started in his administration that I think were huge mistakes in retrospect (most presidents seem to have a few of those).


I'm not finished with Ellsberg's book, Secrets, but I came to a pretty stunning excerpt in the book yesterday. While talking to Bobby Kennedy about the Vietnam War (this was a year before Bobby was killed), Ellsberg asked him what he thought JFK's handling of the war would've been like if he had lived. Bobby point-blank says that JFK always privately said that he would never send U.S. ground troops into Vietnam--he would settle the issue the same way he did with Laos if it came down to it (meaning: diplomatically). Kennedy, showing surprising foresight at the time, thought that any war the U.S. undertook in the region would end up just as it did for the French.

So far Ellsberg's book has crystalized in my mind just how similar in many respects Vietnam is to our current situation in Iraq, especially in how the administrations of those respective times chose to handle said situations. And how they chose to ignore lessons of history.

Here's a sketch of Ellsberg, derived from a somewhat recent photograph of him that's printed inside the book.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

"Drawing is putting a line 'round an idea."

I wouldn't mind turning into a vermilion goldfish." --Henri Matisse

Here's a sketch I made from one of his drawings: