Interview on “Killer Cowboy Clouds”

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So why did you decide to paint the Marlboro man?

I had smoked 13 years previously and thought it would be an honor to Marlboro cowboy billboard ads that got me hooked. My father and brother both smoked.  My father got throat cancer from smoking 15 years.  I think my brother may die eventually of some cigarette related cancer.

Why did you choose Marlboro man vs. Joe Camel or other famous cigarette ads?

Well, Marlboro had essentially 1% of the market, selling only to women, moved to dominate the market place as number one after the cowboy billboard ads.  Later as the governments started to ban most forms of advertising, this just allowed Marlboro to be unchallenged for number one.  Camel Joe is an interesting image as well since most children can readily identify him instantly.  This suggests Camel may come to dominate in the near future the next generation of smokers.

Which brand dominated before Marlboro man came along?

I believe it was Lucky Strike.

What about the surge of vapor smoking?
I think the Marlboro, Lucky Strike and other traditional cigarette brands are in possible deep trouble since there is no limit on vaper smoking indoors and the advertising as well.  The worst advertising is one you cannot compete against say on TV and radio.  Additionally, this type of smoking is a bit healthier since they eliminate the tar and is mostly nicotine.

So what happened to the original Marlboro man?

Four of the real cowboys that starred as Marlboro man died of related smoking diseases.  This led to the name “Cowboy Killers”.

Why do you have other people in the background?

Besides tobacco companies, many other groups promoted smoking and profited it from it.  One of the obvious pairings was Hollywood from James Dean to Marilyn Monroe to Madonna to Jack Nicholson to Schwarzenegger to Sharon Stone. Other groups include musicians like Snoop Dogg and Bob Marley. Other artists behind the trend include

But beside blaming the music industry, Hollywood and pop artists, politicians are a major driver of encouraging smoking:
– Barack Obama
– Jack Kennedy
– Che Guevarra
– Fidel Castro
– Mao
– Lenin
– Stalin
– Winston Churchill
– Franklin Roosevelt
– Ayn Rand
Some of the worst part of the political connection was the politicians passing a draft and then encouraging soldiers to smoke with free tobacco and lighters.  The tobacco industry got tobacco included in soldier rations for WW2. Before the knowledge of the connection of smoking to disease and government regulation, cigarette makers like Lucky Strike used doctors and dentists to recommend smoking.
What happened to the original blog with images?
Well, do you think the tobacco industry sits on its hands? It had all my links dropped for copyright violation. So you see the power of these guys trying to expose its role models to pitch this drug.

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Links:

Wikipedia

Snopes TV

Phillip Morris

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Lucky Strikes

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Review of “Catching Fire” movie

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How would you rate the movie?

I think for a followup movie, they did a very good job of keeping the excitement of the original while driving in new elements.  As far as seeing it without the first movie, it has the elements it needs to make sense.  Although I think some of the training elements maybe should have been a bit different.  In the book, there are numerous scenes of studying Haymitch in his winning of the games previously that they skipped on.  Although this likely was a good decision as the younger fans would more enjoy the focus on Katniss and Peeta characters. Additionally, this would have dragged out the train tour scene visually.

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How well do you think they followed the book?

In each adaptation of a movie from a book there are shortcuts taken to focus on the key scenes.  Do I think they got that right?  Very close.  They did eliminate some foreshadowing of District 13, which probably made sense in that the ending becomes a complete cliff hanger if you haven’t read any of the books.

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Another section they slice off is the electrification of the fence and the finding of the house to retreat to in case of the revolution coming.

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What do you think are the successful factors?

The whipping scene is very strong and captures the brutality of an authoritarian regime.  There are historical parallels in modern society with slavery.

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Are there modern regimes using brutal methods?

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Sure, look at the Sudan where they publicly whipped a woman for adultery under Islamic fascist-style governments.  In Saudi Arabia they stone women.  Below is a photo of stoning in Somalia, again by a Islamic extremist group.

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As with the book, the structure of the Hunger Games changes over time and there are surprise plot twists.  This is a classical must-have feature for a sequel to have long-term success as the audience will bore of the same plots repeated as is common in many serial novels.

Because of the cover-up of some of the foreshadowing of the ending, the ending is very strong and comes to the audience in a blast.

 

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The fact that they focus on the results of the slow burning uprising really enhances how the general population of Panam is rising up.  Visually, its actually stronger than the sense you get in the book, which is trickier.  In the book, you have to describe the uprising and keep it top of mind.  In film, you can show the crowds getting more and more extreme, so it is burned into your retina memory much faster.

Why do you think this series touches such a nerve in the population?

One of the themes is a domineering political center, the Capital, stealing all the resources in abandonment ways of splurging while the rest of the population is starving.  Historically, this happened as the Nazis rose to power in Germany and as the war progressed, but also recently you can see similar trends in the US government. You saw this as a troubled teen took on the Boston bombing or the hacker group Anonymous beginning to challenge all different power groups worldwide.

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Boston Bombing and Police 2012

Are you saying the US is becoming Nazi Germany?

No, not yet.  What I mean to qualify is that you do see a militarization of the police to an extent never seen before in US history.  In my lifetime, I have seen AK47s wielded by the Polish Communist police, but now we are seeing the US police, SWAT and all other police forces carrying machine guns to protect us from terrorism.  A great example was the police response to the Boston bombing in 2012.

Another example is the response to the JFK assassination in 1963 and the 2013 women who rammed the white house road blocks.  In one case you have lax police protection, which allowed the opportunity of assassination.  In the other hand, you have a dental practioner with her child in the car gunned down by over zealous DC cops protecting the White House. This is major upset from likely too few cops to too extreme cops in 5 decades.

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Have you done any artwork on this theme?

Yes, I did do an artwork on the Hunger Games and will likely just leave it at one work for the entire series of books and movies.  My painting focuses right on the time when Katniss decides to volunteer in District 12 and show self-sacrifice to preserve her own sister while Effie, representing the Capital powerful elite excess, draws out her name with a beautifully decadent accent.  She then tells the reapees that “May the odds be ever in your favor.”

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May the Odds be Ever in your Favor

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Interview on “Equality 7.2521” painting

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So why did you paint this piece?

It is based on a small novella that Ayn Rand wrote as she took a “break” between writing her two larger novels “Fountain Head” and “Atlas Shrugged”.  This painting is based on the novel “Anthem”, which deals about a pure socialist future world where one individual rediscovers individuality, creativity and electricity.  She was addressing the encroaching socialism under the FDR administration in the 1930s.

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How is this relevant today 70 years later?

Well, recently we have seen the spectacular failure of socialization of medical insurance under ACA aka Obamacare.  You are seeing a failed running of massive bureaucracy, consumer fraud rising, doctors kicked off insurance plans and consumers faced with less choice.  All basically less liberty and freedom of choice vs. forced government care or tax penalties.

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100s of Gulag sites in USSR

Why was Rand so anti-socialist in the 1930s US?

Well, originally Rand grew up in Russia pre-revolution and actually witnessed the descent into Communism.  Her family lost their pharmacy business to be run by the state and she fled the country. Millions were executed by Lenin and then Stalin in state purges while they set up slave labor prison system called the Gulag with 100s of prisons all over the USSR.  After seeing the misery, poverty and cruelty under state socialism she made it her mission to write against it and form a philosophy called “objectivism”.

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What is Objectivism?

Basically, she said laissez-faire capitalism with minimal state intervention was the base of social morality.  In essence, when you buy a good or service, you are free to choose the vendor and whether to buy it at the price stated.  You can bargain if possible and both parties transact at a price both parties agree to.  She also believed no individual owed her fellow man anything except via voluntary charity.  Governments sole role was to dispute arguments arising between individuals or arrest thieves.  Socialism was actually like letting the thieves run government as it is based on forced wealth redistribution: social security tax, estate tax, etc.

There is a fabulous interview on the Phil Donahue show, which really exposes her mindset and how the TV show hosts of the time really wrestled with her very solid positions that some thought extreme.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FzGFytGBDN8

Part 1 of 5 Interview

How would Ayn Rand have interpreted Obama as a leader?

I think she would point out his socialist tendencies.  One statement that came out that she would ferociously argue against is his statement:

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Obama was trying to talk about the good of the government and its positive influence on society, but also saying the workers more than the owners of the original ideas were responsible for that business.  This is an extreme falsehood.  Only the original founders and idea creators of a business cause it to thrive.  Hence she would defend the creator’s right to most of the profits because the workers had the choice to work there or elsewhere.

Another point she may make is about charges of racism of their opponents like the tea party.  This is classic demonization of the opponents to grab more power.

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See any parallels here?

Do you think socialist capitalism could slide into autocratic socialism?

It already has.  In the 1930s, Germans voted in socialists to pass laws on social security, elder assistance, socialized medicine, etc.  In many ways, Germany was leading the world in socialism within a capitalistic society.  Paired with the debilitating WWI debt and economic collapse, this led to the rise of Nationalist Socialists ie. Nazis.  They were elected in to solve the problem of a non-functioning socialist democracy with autocratic methods.  After they were in power, the Nazis slower dissolved any democratic feedback into the system which led to war, euthanasia, medical experiments, demonized minorities, robbed minorities and eventually drove the Holocaust with 6 million dead.

Rise to power

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Party worship

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Ghettos lead to Death Camps

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Do you see any other societies falling into the terrible demonization of minorities?

Troubling enough, if you look at Israel, which was founded as a refuge after the Halocaust and specifically to defend against its recurrence, you see signs of extremism.  The state is founded on religion with little Palestinian input.  You see the power of the fundamental Jews gain more and more power.  The whole of Palestine was put into a massive Ghetto via the wall.  Now you see strict separation of the two peoples driving more racism and brutality and even theft of property of the Palestinians over time.

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Confiscate Palestinian Land and Property

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Form a country wide ghetto

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Border crossing like caged animals

 

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Interview on “Remember the 5th of November” painting

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So what is this title about in November?

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It is a line from the V for Vendetta movie in which V, the lead freedom fighter rescues a girl about to be raped by the secret police of the futuristic London and says…

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What exactly is he referring to?

In London, there is a Guy Fawkes holiday that falls on November the 5th, 1605.  It was the night that Guy Fawkes tried to overthrow the current King of England by blowing up Parliament.  Later it became a grand holiday that people dance to and light up bonfires.

In the futuristic movie, this holiday was banned and forgot, so the villain/hero decides to retry to blow up Parliament to overthrow the dictator Adam Sandler from power.

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Are there any parallels in our present day?

Well, if you look at UK they have over 1.4 million cameras run by CCTV to watch for crime.  This is equivalent to one camera every 32 people in the whole country mostly in urban settings.  This same use of cameras could be used as a way to control the population if an autocratic government came to power as in the movie V for Vendetta.

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In the US, the government set up Prism under the NSA.  The government story is that they only use it to check on the location of your phone number.  While Edward Snowden claims that they are using it to track any civilian virtually online with data up to 7 years in the past.  Sounds like a witch hunt of the civilian population.  This makes Nixon and McCarthy era look like Sesame Street in comparison.  This tool could easily be used to control a civilian population under an autocratic regime.  With the current Obama regime using the IRS to hinder the popular vote to possibly skew a popular election, you definitely have to be wondering where this is heading.  Are we still in a democracy?

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If you look at the US Constitution, the 4th Amendment strictly says government is not allowed to illegal search.  If you look at the NSA and Prism, this is an illegal search of the whole US population at will.  The government claims these are in check in under a secret court FISA.  Why does the court have to be secret?  Are the courts and President truly following the US constitution they are sworn to uphold?

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Which scene is the painting about?

In the film, the hero/villain survives a violent fire of the labs they run human experiments.  These experiments alters his DNA to have super-human traits while at the same time inventing a cure to the terrible virus the government unleashes on the population to seal the absolute power they take over the government.

How did the fictional dictator come to power in the film?

The group uses paranoia of the virus infection, hatred of minorities and fear.  As the inspector in the film finds out the genius of the plan is the fear instilled in the population.

Are there parallels in today’s world?

If you look at modern TV anchors, rather than reporting the news objectively they state their opinions.  Usually, it is how one side or the other is racist, hates minorites and is not worth listening to.  In a true democracy, people debate the issues and concede when they lost a logical point.  Do we have that in the current TV shouting matches we have nowadays?

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Interview of “TNT” painting

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How did this painting evolve?

Originally, I had signed the painting about 2 layers before this, but was dissatisfied.  The colors were overly dark after applying a beautiful dark purple, so I was definitely not satisfied.  At that point, I did large white streaks of paint over the entire work and thought I had destroyed it.  Luckily, I had used fairly thinned out white paint. Then I put in the final white edges.

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Did you have a particular inspiration?

Yes, I had just finished the interview of Don Clausen and seen 100s of his paintings at his house.  He has a bold style with black and white strokes using venetian blinds. I was directly inspired by his style from 2000 to 2013. www.donclausen.com

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So what is the title about?

I thought of Alfred Nobel, who invented dynamite aka TNT.  His major invention turned about to be a major destructive force in WWI, so newsmen labelled him the “Merchant of Death”.  Upon hearing this unjust naming, Nobel decided to recreate his will to use most of his wealth to create the Nobel foundation in charge of the Nobel Peace Prize.

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His invention of this highly desired prize stimulated the drive of pacifism worldwide and help expose injustice in autocracies everywhere. Famous winners include Martin Luther King Jr., Obama and Liu Xiabo. http://www.charter08.com/

What do you think about China denying Liu Xiabo the chance to accept the award?

Really, it shows what type of government it truly is. The other governments holding back Nobel Peace prize winners include the military dictatorship of Myanmar and Nazi Germany.  This just shows how little they respect human rights and how fearful they are of non-government figures being recognized as leaders.

 hitler mao photo

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Interview on “May the Odds be Ever in your Favor” painting

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So why did you choose the Hunger Games as a theme?

Well, I saw the movie and loved it.  It has such a beautiful brutality of reality and surreal future imbedded together.  The symbology in the film is extremely well done.  You have outstanding costumes showing immense gaudy wealth contrasted by poverty.

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Why did you choose this scene in the film?

Up to this point as a viewer to the movie, you think this movie is only about the dreary poverty of the future.  Once Effie enters the stage, you are literally shell-shocked by the utter extravagance of the Capital vs. the Districts.  At this moment, you see how cruel the Capital is.  Additionally, the microphone from the thirties and the construct of society is similar to a real autocracy. hungergames

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How important is the 3-finger salute to the film?

Well, the whole true reality is spoken by a simple gesture that the Capital cannot hide or manipulate.  This simple hand gesture becomes the symbol of the growing rebellion in the Districts as people realize they can be more than slaves.  They can choose to rebel despite over-whelming odds.  In the future as the symbology of the film wears out, there is a possibility this will be falsely mentioned as Nazi salute, but it is what it is.

Is this why you choose the title “May the Odds be Ever in your Favor”?

Yes, the title was hard to pick.  I thought of picking “give me liberty or give me death”, but I thought that was a bit obvious.  I like the idea of the mix of fiction and today’s symbols.

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So what are the symbols in the background?

I have many of the slogans of the Obama administration as the film came out during that time and there was a lot of thick campaigning bordering on propaganda.  I have MLK included as there were many references as well as logos of crushed railroads and failed green energy companies that Obama favored in his rule, Fiskar for example.  I also had symbols of global corporate rule such as Coca-cola, which is also a reference back to another painting of mine. Coke. It’s the Real Thing.

COCA-COLAking poster

The theme and labelling of Obama as a socialist and big government plays right into the same theme of the Hunger Games in that an obnoxious all-knowing government assumes it knows best how to allocate resources, save companies, how its citizens spend money, increasing taxes and regulate guns.  Other plays on the propaganda are from Shephard Fairey and derivatives of the message of Hope. ObeyGiant

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Why have an Osama bin Laden poster in the background?

Well, OBL was killed on Obama’s watch, so I have to credit that as well play on the meaning of that kill in the “War on Terror”.  I think that now that the foreign enemy has been beat abroad there is a danger of moving that war to US itself.  You see the beefing up of local police that now they have full machine guns to patrol its citizenry as just seen at Boston.  Other symbols include references to the Black Panthers, who were hunted down by the US government in the 1960s as a terrorist group as well. Of course, there is the Bill Ayers connection to Obama in his political youth as well. Ayers was part of another terrorist group the Weather Underground.

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Interview on “Top Gun: E=mc2” painting

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So why did you do a painting on Top Gun?

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Well, I love the movie itself as a brilliant inspiration of why young men join the Air Force: to be a bad ass, serve your country, save the world, be a hero and win the girl.  It has many classical elements from the early days of flight like stunts pulled and the elite status of a pilot vs. the rest of the armed services.  Additionally, there is a fairly good plot of bad boy trying to redeem his father’s reputation, challenge of conquering the girl, having logic vs. hands-on knowledge challenge, overcoming the trial of a close friend’s death and getting battle ready to serve after tragedy.  The interesting part of the logical analysis vs. the pilot experience comes from the early days of flight, where the US military was studying air flow and taking statistics, but not flying while the inventors created the air craft, but did not understand why it worked.  Another great feature was that in reality some of the best air pilots are completely fearless as the trait that defines the true ace pilots vs. conservative pilots that never shoot much down.

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What made you put an atomic blast in the photo?

Originally, I was just going to focus on the loss of pilot status from actual jet pilots and bombers to just using drones.  I had planned to have “Top Drone” in Top Gun lettering. Currently, the US services are on target to phase out military pilots for drones in the next 20 years, which I found shocking.  Although it would allow taller pilots to fly the drones, the real excitement for a pilot is flying jets vs. drones. But I thought of that problem as basically only about the pilots vs. the bigger controversy of how pilots are used in real combat.

They have about 3 basic divisions: bombers, surveillance and combat pilots with some overlap on the rolls.  All of these have been taken away from humans to computers.  First we had nuclear bombers and then transitioned to missiles.  Second, we had surveillance pilots replaced by satellite and now drones.  Third, we have combat pilots, which are slowly being switched to drones as well.

I kept going back to the relevance to the general populace, which is how these weapons and pilots are used by the government.  This is really a controversy or can be depending on your viewpoint and point in time.  So I scrapped the original Top Drone idea for the larger picture of US pilots dropping the first and second atomic bombs ever on a civilian population.

So why use Tom Cruise as a Top Gun pilot?

Well, I am a child of the 1980s with the continual threat of nuclear annihilation from the USSR vs. the US.  This was a very real threat at the time, which is one reason that Top Gun was so vivid and relevant as a movie.  Here was a Top Gun pilot acting recklessly.  If he had been a bomber, we might have had a nuclear war.  It really goes down to how well-trained the US Airforce is to respond only under political control and at the same time the political mindset a US government is in when confronted in possible battles.  I think that Top Gun just symbolized the Cold War threat in terms people can relate to better than the daunting atomic blast and many parties involved in the real event.

Has there been irresponsible war propaganda used before?

In my painting, I took many of the vintage posters that were actually promoted by various countries to go to war and to win the war.  War is so much about how you sell and brand the war to the public that has to sacrifice its sons and daughters for their country. I also threw in some modern headlines and posters about 9/11 and how that war was sold as well.  Very similar formats and themes repeat.

Do you think that the Japanese put themselves in a position to be bombed so massively?

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Definitely, if you look at the feel of the US after 1942, the US populace had no sympathy for Japan and were willing to do whatever it took to get revenge.  The US government even rounded up Japanese-Americans into internal camps to avoid spying and sabotage, which led to many US civilians being stripped of property in fire sales or appropiation.  So the US entered the war and ultimately took the decision to step up the bombing of Japan to nuclear weapons.  It was thought by the US generals and Truman that the bombing would shorten the war at least a few months and avoid a D-day type invasion like in Normandy.  They estimated to have “saved” 300,000 US soldiers from dying in combat.

Do you think that the US will fully apologize for the two droppings of the atomic bombs?

I think that some of the leadership were regretful over the years as they had time to process the result and terrible infliction the bombs had on civilians.  That said, in the moment noone in the US felt sorry for Japan after Peal Harbor.

The challenge I think lays with future generations of Americans to make amends with this terrible bombing of a civilian population despite the attack on Pearl Harbor.  That was one of the reasons for the painting to frame it in today’s terminology that we can understand its impact decades later.  Additionally, it is important to understand why this happened as the US is standing off against North Korea and Iran developing their own nuclear weapons.

Why use other modern symbols in the painting if it was about Hiroshima?

Again, it goes back to you have to package a view in today’s symbols.  For example, I have Hello Kitty in the background.  If there was a was war for Japan, they would likely put Hello Kitty on the planes as in WWII, the US put popular Disney characters like Daffy, Pluto and pin-up girls on planes to personalize the planes and take their mind off the tragic task at hand and possible death each time flying.  Another image I used was the Obama campaign symbol.

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Why use Obama in this type of painting? He was definitely way after WWII.

True, Obama has nothing to do with WWII at all. He is the current US president, representing current thought on the use of Air Force at war.  Obama was responsible for the decision to step up drone bombings, totaling 350 currently, in Afganistan and Pakistan and now currently using the drones to aid French bombings in Africa. Additionally, during the recent CIA director confirmation of Brennan, Brennan would not answer if Obama could outright kill a US citizen by drone.  Additionally, Eric Holder, the Attorney General agreed that Obama has the right to kill US citizens by drones inside the US. So this controversy definitely gives you food for thought on the wise use of the Air Force by US politicians against its own civilians during a time of war.

 

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