Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Escape! Midway! Oorah!

This past weekend we hosted my Mother-in-Law and her boyfriend. We did a number of enjoyable activities, each of which left me with quite the impression.

Escape!

First off, with the help of my Brother and Sister-in-Law, the six of us busted out of Escape Room Arlington. This was Shira and my third Escape Room, and our first one solved without hints! This particular Escape Room is located up the street from us, so Shira and I were excited to try it out, if only to support a hyper-local business. We were all impressed the experience. The challenge, entitled Secret in the Attic sounded scary, but as promised was wholesome family fun.

The room employed a number of tricks we'd seen in our past Escape Rooms, as well as some game-changing new ones. The room was complex enough that we could all be busy working on different puzzles, yet it was easy enough that we kept making forward progress. If you're new to the Escape Room concept and looking for a good first challenge, Escape Arlington's Secret in the Attic is ideal.

Midway!

Saturday night we took in the movie Midway, which takes you through the Battle of Midway during World War II. I'm still processing this movie and I haven't determined whether I liked it or not. On one hand, the story arc seems long to the point of being excessive. I get that to appreciate Midway as a turning point you have to understand just how much of an underdog the US Navy was. But my gosh, that made for a long run-up to the action. Of course, had the film skimped on backstory, I'd probably be griping about how the film needed more context.

And then there are the cliche characters. Perhaps these really were made-for-movie personalities, but everyone from the geeky code breaker to cowboy-fighter-pilot seemed to fit the exact stereotype you'd have for that role. I'm not buying it.

On the plus side, the attack scenes are done well and give you a sense of how seemingly impossible the task of taking out a Japanese aircraft carrier would be.

I was surprised when I glanced over at the IMDB reviews at just how many folks liked the movie. The consensus from the top reviewers was that the movie gets the historic facts right with a minimum of distractions. So maybe the movie deserves more credit then I'm prepared to give it.

Oorah!

We finished our weekend with a visit to the National Museum of Marine Corps. Shira and I have been to the museum a number of times, but it still ranks as one of the best in the area. While I enjoyed my stroll through the various exhibits, it occurred to me after the fact that I really should have mixed things up. At minimum, I should have walked the museum in reverse. Even better, I should plopped myself down in one spot and done some sketching or writing. The exhibits are quite immersive and this would have been a chance to do some battlefield sketching without getting shot at.

As with past visits to the museum, I picked up a number of fresh insights and learned about a number of new personalities. One of which was Kerr Eby who's credited with the following drawing:

Eby's involvement in WWII was unexpected to say the least:

When the United States declared war in 1941, Eby tried to enlist, but was turned down because of his age. He instead received his opportunity to participate when Abbott Laboratories developed its combat artist program. Between October 1943 and January 1944, he traveled with Marines in the South Pacific and witnessed some of the fiercest fighting of the war, landing with the invasion force at Tarawa and living three weeks in a foxhole on Bougainville.

Wait, Combat Artist Program? Yes, Combat Art was a thing:

In January 1943, George Biddle, a mural artist and the brother of the U.S. Secretary General, was invited by the assistant Secretary of War to form a War Department Art Advisory committee and serve as chair. The army, inspired by the success of a small war artist program in WWI, had been considering sending artists into battle since early 1942. Biddle's committee, which would be responsible for selecting the artists, included the noted artist Henry Varnum Poor, the director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art Francis Henry Taylor, and the writer John Steinbeck. Steinbeck was an active supporter of the war art program, and wrote to Biddle: "It seems to me that a total war would require the use not only of all of the material resources of the nation but also the spiritual and psychological participation of the whole people. And the only psychic communication we have is through the arts."

What's remarkable was the mission given to these artists:

...Any subject is in order, if as artists you feel that it is part of War; battle scenes and the front line battle landscapes; the dying and the dead; prisoners of war; field hospitals and base hospitals; wrecked habitations and bombing scenes; character sketches of our own troops, of prisoners, of the natives of the countries you visit;- never official portraits; the tactical implements of war; embarkation and debarkation scenes; the nobility, courage, cowardice, cruelty, boredom of war; all this should form part of a well-rounded picture. Try to omit nothing; duplicate to your heart's content. Express if you can, realistically or symbolically, the essence and spirit of war. You may be guided by Blake's mysticism, by Goya's cynicism and savagery, by Delacroix's romanticism, by Daumier's humanity and tenderness; or better still follow your own inevitable star. We believe that our Army Command is giving you an opportunity to bring back a record of great value to our country. Our committee wants to assist you to that end.

Here's a gallery of art produced by the Abbott Labs project that Eby was involved in. The army, for their part, is still collecting art from its soldiers.

I love this notion of using art as a tool to capture what photography, film or prose may fail to grasp.

What a fun and thought provoking weekend!

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