Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Paying Homage to Godzilla before his May 2014 Rampage

I finally found the world's smallest statue of the world's largest monster somewhere hidden near Hibaya park in central Tokyo, where the Toho Studios were.
Coincidentally a helicopter was buzzing non-stop overhead because Obama was in town, presumably to discuss caging in the newest monster threat, China.

A few Japanese language classes have empowered me to properly ask directions to Godzilla. I was quickly pointed to the small big guy.

If you like beer and talking to fascinating strangers, then your bar heaven would be Shinjuku Golden Gai. Originally WWII era brothels, now all have been converted into what is likely the world's densest concentration of tiny bars--a critical mass so to speak; more of that later--most of which can only fit in about a dozen people including the bartender. 

I would have invited Godzilla, but he's a bad drunk, stumbling about whilst flailing his arms. A parallel plot of the original movies could be that he tends to get trashed, wake up in the ocean, blindly stumble ashore and then gets rather pissed with the Japanese Self-Defense Forces preventing him from further entanglement in Japan's electrical and rail infrastructure.

Below are signed photos I bought a while back; the first is signed by the man inside the original Godzilla suit, Haruo Nakajima. The second is of the Hiroshima mushroom cloud, signed by Tom Ferebee, the Enola Gay bombardier, as if it was his "work". 

I have written a bit here about the connection between Godzilla and Japan's victimization from nuclear weapons. Essentially during the decade of America's occupation of Japan, censorship was so tight that one couldn't even discuss censorship. So as to feed the universal appetite for war movies, without showing Japanese troops fighting other nations--which obviously would have been too controversial--Toho Studios released a movie in 1954 about defending Japan against a non-human threat; one that in fact had been created or awoken from the very nuclear weapons that had terrorized Japan at the end of the war. 

In Golden Gai last week I had a great conversation with a correspondent from one of Japan's top current affairs magazines regarding Godzilla and Hiroshima and showed him these photos. He himself has seen the horrors of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and just two weeks ago met the Dalai Lama (speaking of monsters--he is the figurehead of Tibetan theocratic feudal serfdom that was disbanded in the 1950s by other monsters). The journalist agreed that Godzilla was created, both literally--at least in the mythology--and figuratively--in the movie franchise--from the nuclear detonations during the "Pacific War." 

Let's hope they don't blow up this next Godzilla reboot.

Billy Jamieson's Collection up for Auction

Alas, I missed bidding on items from Billy Jamieson's collection, many of which had come from the old Niagara Falls Museum which first opened in 1827.

He passed away a few years ago, a week after I had sent him a book about the "unlikeliest rescue of World War II", addressing it to the "real relic hunter". He mailed back a hand-written thank you message, which was delivered the same day I heard of his accidental passing.

I first met Billy when I worked at eBay as the Canadian Collectables category manager and found an entire whale skeleton, previously owned by none other than P.T. Barnum, for sale in some random miscellaneous category. It didn't sell, so I got him to re-list it and promised him some PR to back him up. 

Not only did we reach 30 million people in Canada, assuming you can believe PR stats (definitely of the damned lies category), but we delivered worldwide coverage making a top story on CNN back before it became the Missing Airline Channel.

Soon the Smithsonian, the British Natural History Museum, the American Museum of Natural History in New York (my favorite haunt in the world), plus the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto all were interested, plus some private buyers in Japan and the Middle East, where the skeleton eventually ended up.

Years later he again got worldwide news, twice, when a mummy he had sold was proven to have been Ramesses I, father of the great Egyptian builder Ramesses II (assuming you can consider building countless monuments to yourself as being "great"). That mummy was repatriated to Egypt to much fanfare.

Billy promised me a tour of his flat, which happened to have the world's largest private collection of shrunken heads, plus Egyptian and Incan mummies, the electric chair from upstate New York that had killed the assassin to President McKinley, countless weapons, both actual and ceremonial and the back of hearse from Louisiana that had been converted into an aquarium (guests often reported seeing an elderly man perched ontop at night, watching them). I finally got invited years later, and eventually got my parents invited to parties with famous global explorers plus the world's scariest Halloween parties. 

On one tour, a we witnessed a real CSI-challenge involving a Toronto Police forensics officer and some U of Toronto criminology students. They attempted to lift a print from a two thousand year old Egyptian high priest (note the crossed arms; traditionally reserved for Pharaohs the tradition was extended to high priests during the Ptolemaic era). And they got prints; not your traditional field trip. 
Alas, there were some items that I was going to bid on, but being out of the country and in another time zone, I didn't quite make it happen. Of particular interest was a Papua New Guinean wooden shield from the 1940s that had been painted like the wing of a Japanese Zero fighter (obviously the most impressive thing this particular head hunting tribe had arguably ever seen). 

Unfortunately the shield had taken a direct shotgun blast; arguably that was the last thing the shield bearer had ever held.

More are in my father's blog.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Cranial Stooges

New addition to my art family: a set of 4 hominid skulls I bought at a recent art event. As an armchair anthropologist I recognized that whoever had made the skulls knew a little something about hominid evolution. 

I got in touch with the artist and found out that while he was living in Zambia as a teenager he had visited the Broken Hill Skull site where Homo heidelbergensis/rhodesiensis had been discovered—the first early human fossil found in Africa, and our most likely ancestor. Years later he decided to create skulls of hominids as yet to be discovered. He researched distinctive characteristics that actual hominid lines exhibited and then created these imaged species shaped by fictional habitats. 

Check out the prominent sagittal crests and flaring zygomatic arches for heavy chewing and the varying mandible and maxilla sizes. 

Since Iggy Pop was wandering the floor of the same art party, I figured I may as well name these guys The Stooges.