Thursday, August 11, 2011

Time Being Relative

There are reasons to appreciate the perspective of a twelve-year-old over that of someone four or five times older, and vice-versa, but in the spirit of the former, today I enjoyed driving my youngest daughter back home from a vacation with friends up in Sonoma County.

She sees everything with fresh eyes. She said she'd never seen the fog rolling over the Marin Headlands like a waterfall today. Or that house way up above Sausalito (probably because she's usually in the backseat.)

But my favorite was about the unripe pear we plucked from a tree up-country before we began our long drive south.

It was firm, too firm to eat, and I told her with a bit of time it would become nicely edible.

Apparently, she interpreted that to mean time in the short-term sense.

As we reached San Francisco, she grabbed the pear and pressed it. "Feels still the same, no softer yet."

No indeed. Not quite yet.


Monday, August 08, 2011

Joe O'Donnell and His Photos After the Atom Bombs Were Dropped on Japan

This post is in honor of a wonderful American artist who has never, in my view, been properly honored in this country, as well as in memory of those many innocents who perished, and whose suffering he captured so movingly.

The reason his work has been largely ignored is due to the subject of his art -- a brilliant and deeply disturbing collection of photographs in the immediate aftermath of the atomic bombs dropped by the U.S. military on Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II.

Young boy carrying his dead baby brother to the American forces for cremation.

Joe O'Donnell was a photographer attached to the military units poised in invade Japan in August 1945, when, unbeknownst to him or any of his fellow troops, the U.S. deployed its super-secret super-weapon -- not at military targets but over two cities filled with civilians who had nothing at all to do with their government's war.

Many innocent people died, of course, but I do not write these words to condemn the decision by the U.S. government. Despite many years of reading and researching and thinking about these terrible events, I'm not sure how to evaluate these bombings in moral terms.

There are many who argue that they helped end a terrible war that had it not been ended in this manner, would have caused many, many more to die, including an untold number of the American troops waiting offshore alongside Joe O'Donnell.

Plus many Japanese troops and civilians as well.

Others argue that the U.S. could have demonstrated that it possessed such a superior weapon that continued struggle was fruitless by dropping the first A-bomb on some part of Japan where so many innocents need not have lost their lives.

This camp also raises the pertinent question of why, after devastating Hiroshima, the U.S. then proceeded a week later to do the same thing to Nagasaki. Why the second bomb?

According to an NHK documentary I was marginally involved with a few years back, it turns out that the Japanese government, under siege much as Hitler's was in his final days, never was able to confirm what had happened at Hiroshima before what was delivered to Nagasaki.

Those times were not like our times. Communications systems were primitive; information moved at the speed of a slow car, not the speed of light.

Meanwhile, the U.S. had issued a demand that Japan surrender or the second bomb would be deployed., and when the high military command in Tokyo did not surrender by the deadline, the tragedy at Nagasaki occurred.

In any event there is much more I want to express about these subjects but tonight my main goal is to direct anyone who reads these words to my friend Tyge O'Donnell's site. Tyge the son of Photographer-Artist Joe O'Donnell, nd has waged a tireless battle, along with his father's second wife, a Japanese woman, to help Joe's remarkable work to receive the attention it deserves.

I could embed the YouTube video Tyge has created based on our conversation two years ago here, but I would rather that all of the traffic go to Tyge's site, the Neon Lounge. He is a fine writer, who covers a wide range of topics well, but when he writes about his Dad, and his Dad's work, he is at his absolute best.

Please go see for yourself.