On September 18, 1951, the year before I started high school, the science fiction movie The Day the Earth Stood Still was released. Four years later, unrelated, and by then me being a senior in high school, a discussion between myself and the person I call my mentor came up about Leonardo Da Vinci and his flying machine and how as a kid a comic book induced me into both building and attempting to fly my own machine. The comic book story, titled 500 Years Too Soon appeared in True Comics, No. 58, March 1947, of which my copy was either long gone or stashed away deep in a couple of trunks in my father's storage unit.
My Mentor, who was the primary role model for Larry Darrel, the main character the acclaimed British author and playwright W. Somerset Maugham use in his novel The Razor's Edge, an American just like in the book, had been a fighter pilot during World War One flying for the British against the Germans before the U.S. entered the war and found my attempt to build and fly my own flying machine intriguing, so much so he was willing to go with me to one of the major comic books stores to see if we could find a copy. Sure enough they had a copy, and in much better condition than I remember mine being. Two highly interesting things happened that day, both of which triggered similar space related outcomes relative to me and my mentor. First, the store had a poster of The Day the Earth Stood Still on display that when discussing it, I made clear references to flying saucers. Secondly, when my mentor was going through the Da Vinci comic book he came across a few drawings of major buildings in Florence, one of which that had on exhibit a Renaissance painting done in the 1500's, around the same time as Da Vinci's Mona Lisa, that had a UFO in the background. That painting is depicted in a circular manner below. Of the two graphics of buildings shown below the one on the left is from the Da Vinci comic book that my mentor saw and related it to where the painting with the UFO is located, shown in the graphic to the right. The name of the painting is Madonna and Child with the Infant Saint John and is on exhibit in the Hercules Room of Palazzo Vecchio, Florence, Italy. Just beneath the first two graphics below is an enlarged image of that UFO and the shepherd and his dog looking at it. To see an enlargement of the circular painting itself click image then re-click the image that comes up.
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On November 15, 1951, one month after The Day the Earth Stood Still was released, When Worlds Collide was released. As the story line goes a rogue star, given the name Bellus, was on a direct collision course with Earth. Orbiting Bellus was a single earth-like planet given the name Zyra. Although all prospects indicated Earth would be destroyed it seemed Zyra would escape unharmed. The story follows the idea of transporting those that they can to Zyra by building a huge spaceship in the midst of earthquakes, volcanic activity, tidal waves, and floods as Zyra makes a close pass to Earth, to be followed shortly thereafter by an impending Earth-Bellus collision. The young, just teenage boy that I was, was somehow taken by the idea of building huge ark-like spaceships to transport humankind to other planets in order to continue our survival
Thirty-three years later, on April 6, 1984 the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), using the space shuttle Challenger, launched into orbit what was called a Long Duration Exposure Facility (LDEF). The LDEF was a hollow cylinder shaped structure as large as a school bus designed with a number of same width flat surfaces running the full length of the structure with the ability to hold a total of 57 different trays of experiments.
Originally intended to be in orbit twelve months (one year) the LDEF ended up in orbit 69 months (5.7 years), completing 32,422 orbits covering a total distance of 853,796,644 miles. NASA, after coming up with their plan and ensuring the project would be a go, they began putting out a request for proposals. After approaching NASA and receiving all of the necessary paperwork I submitted an application for consideration of approval. As presented, my idea was to put into orbit for long duration exposure the same materials that ancient historical and Renaissance masters used in their artworks to see how those materials would withstand the long term rigors of space. Since I would not be able to obtain samples of what Leonardo Da Vinci used for the Mona Lisa for example, I did have access to the same quarries the marble used in sculpting most of the major Renaissance masterpieces came from, so in my proposal I suggested using that as a medium for my initial attempt. The reasoning behind my reasoning for a need to do so was that if humankind found itself in an overwhelming position that they had to leave Earth en mass in order to survive that they should take with them the historical masterpieces that contributed to humankind being humankind. My proposal was rejected. NASA's reasoning was if mankind found itself in need to evacuate the planet in the short term we wouldn't have the ability, technology, or resources to successfully do so, let alone haul pieces of artwork along. On the other hand, NASA reasoned, if mankind found itself in the far future a need to disembark the Earth for survival, all kinds of information would have been gathered by then to successfully accomplish such a task, so any information that would have been gathered during my efforts would have been completely overshadowed.
A number of individuals associated with the edges of the project, catching wind of my proposal, found it most interesting, seeing humankind with all that was most important, sailing across space in a vast ark to find another Earth. They decided to instigate anonymously a way to possibly put my proposal into motion. In doing so they lined up a few special people already known to have their proposals accepted that would be sympathetic to my cause.
I met with a couple of people who ensured me it could be done, but since my original proposal had been rejected it would have to be done so on the sly. Thus, the object would have to be small enough to be Inconspicuous, concealable, or easily disguised and or all of the above. When they meant small they were talking not much larger in diameter than a pencil, two at the most, more oval shape than round, no more than three inches long, and the closer to two the better. I was about to throw in the towel when I decided to see what I could do rather than give up. After all, they were willing if I could live with the restraints.
In the end, without anybody knowing about it, it all worked out.
But I wasn't at the end. I was just at the beginning, with my first step being to get the Carrera marble I wanted. I didn't want just any piece of Carrara marble either. Since I was being limited on size, shape, and weight, the Carrera marble I wanted to use, if not size and weight, had to carry some meaning behind it, in other words, a piece of marble with history.
Probably the most famous and significantly historical single piece of carved Carrara marble in the world is the statue of David, completed in 1501 by Michelangelo, and beyond reach even for my vivid imagination. Below is a picture that depicts the real Michelangelo David in it's present location inside the Galleria dell'Accademia, Florence, Italy. There is a replica David in the original David's outside location in the previously mentioned Palazzo Vecchio, the seat of civic government in Florence, in the Piazza della Signoria. By clicking the graphic below you will be taken to an enlarged photo clearly showing David and it's outside location where the original stood close to four centuries before being moved inside.
MICHELANGELO'S DAVID, GALLERIA DELL'ACCADEMIA
There was, however, an exact carved duplicate within easy reach for me in the United States without going to Italy, but getting what I had in mind would be almost as difficult as doing so with Michelangelo's original. The replica David stood in all of it's open glory at Forest Lawn in Cypress, California. It was originally installed in 1967 after having been carved by Italian artists using Carrara marble from the same quarry that provided the material used by Michelangelo for the original in 1501. After reconnoitering the area and taking several photographs I approached a master sculptor adept in the carving of marble asking him, in a a hypothetical, how he would go about removing the piece I wanted without unduly disfiguring the sculpture. Showing me the tools he would use and marking off on the photographs where and how he would make his initial indentations and final cleavage I then began making preparations to do so myself. Being an exact replica of .Michelangelo's David the statue stood 17 feet tall above the stand it was placed on, with the area I was interested in being nine feet above the stand, well beyond the reach of me doing what I wanted done.
I had a number of options to draw upon to accomplish what I was after ranging from what is known in Sanskrit as Siddhis to the more traditional. Siddhis have a way of extracting a price that sometimes seem more unreasonable or at least unknowable than found in the traditional, so my first choice was traditional albeit possibly somewhat unsavory.
With the help of a couple of friends, a paper pusher on the inside, and a quasi-borderline unscrupulous groundskeeper willing to participate for a just compensation, a just compensation well beyond my means to pay, but with me becoming just as much if not even more so quasi-borderline unscrupulous, did so anyway. The piece of desired marble was successfully removed without incident, leaving only a slightly modified but acceptable different shape and a minor discolorization, both of which that standing at ground level, except for a trained eye, was all but indetectable. Once I had the piece of marble in my hands the next step was to start carving.
After I got to looking at what I actually had to work with, including the size restraints, I figured the end piece, albeit to be carved from Carrara marble, would be more cameo-like than fully rounded sculpture-like. The idea of a cameo-like piece became even stronger once the dual meaning of the word "cameo" was taken into consideration against what I was creating. In one meaning cameo meant a small piece of sculpture on a stone or shell cut in relief. It's other meaning was a small role, sometimes no more than a walk-on, often unrecognized or uncredited, by a distinguished actor in a performance. In both cases what could be more appropriate. When done, the piece was shown to the inner group that would be most surreptitiously responsible. They had made and brought with them a life size hard stock paper facsimile, a mock-up if you like, of where and how the piece would be placed and after a requested but seemingly needed on-the-spot narrowing down modification of the edges to the completed piece because of size restrictions, they took it along. I also gave them tools and instructions on how to implement further last minute modifications if necessary, something that was never needed.
Of the LDEF's different trays of experiments, the art piece was in a section of one of the 57 larger accepted proposals called Space Environment Effects on Spacecraft Materials, more specifically designated as M0003. Of the 19 experiments of the M0003 sub-experiments, each from a different company or agency, one was designed to study the effects of long distance space exposure on composite materials, electronic piece parts, and fiber optics. Many of the materials of the sub-experiments were not considered advanced, having been in use on already in place satellite systems, while others were baseline materials against which performance improvements could be measured. Part of the experiment included the use of a six inch deep peripheral tray and a 3 inch deep peripheral tray, From the mock-up I had seen, the sculpture piece must have been secreted away in the 3 inch deep tray.
M0003 3 IN. DEEP LEADING EDGE TRAY CONFIGURATION
The LDEF was launched April 6, 1984 and after being in orbit 5.7 years the space shuttle Columbia recovered it on January 12, 1990. The Columbia landed eight days later at Edwards Air Force Base runway 22 on January 20th. Three months later, roughly around my birthday in April of 1990, I received a bubble-wrapped envelope with a Boeing Seattle post office box return address shipping label, addressed to me and written by hand. In the envelope was the sculpture piece, and, except possibly a little darker, looking all the same as it did when handed it over. Accompanying the piece was a standard size blue-lined index card with a red line at the top that had typed in all lower case: 32,422 orbits, 853,796,644 miles with the letters mk, lb. That was it.
Forest Lawn's first full sized carved replica of Michelangelo's David was installed in their Glendale facility in 1937. It stood undisturbed until February 8, 1971 when the Sylmar earthquake toppled it to the ground. After hearing parts of the statue were in storage my initial intention was to get the piece of Carrara marble I wanted from there. However, when I heard the Glendale version had a fig leaf covering the area I was interested in I turned my interests toward the Cypress version. It just so happened that three years after I obtained the piece of marble from the area I wanted the Cypress version crashed to the ground by the 1987 Whittier Narrows earthquake, breaking into several large pieces.
Following a request by Donald Lagerberg, a former CSUF art professor, Forest Lawn donated the broken hunks to California State University, Fullerton. In 1989 the pieces were then put on display in an outdoor sculpture garden type setting and given the name "Fallen David," as depicted in the above graphic. It has since become a tradition for students to pat the buttocks-up portion of the statue for good luck before taking a test. Little do they know that on the face-down side David provided a part of his anatomy in all but a circumcision to be shot into space and circulate our home planet nearly six years only to return after racking up close to one billion miles. The buttocks-up portion can be seen in the graphic top center right just above David's left ankle. To see an enlarged close-up of the face down portion before I intervened and before it fell click HERE.
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THE SISTINE CHAPEL
The Sistine Chapel is, of course, most notedly known for it's painted ceiling as done by Michelangelo. When Michelangelo was commissioned by the Pope to do the ceiling his reputation as a great artist of significance had been established almost exclusively through his nearly divine sculptural abilities. Many notable painters of the time and their supporters were, it has been reported, totally upset by the Pope's selection of Michelangelo, thought by many as being no more than a mere stone cutter.
There were many great artists around at the time such as Botticelli, Raphael, and Leonardo Da Vinci, but none are on record as having berated the Pope's selection of Michelangelo publicly, so it may be more of a myth than the truth. Leonardo was never very highly regarded at the papal level anyway. The closest he got was in 1513 when Cardinal Giovanni de' Medici, the second son of Lorenzo de' Medici, became pope as Leo X, and appointed his brother Giuliano Di Medici gonfalonier of the Holy Roman Church who then in turn, followed him to Rome. Giuliano De Medici gave Leonardo Da Vinci a suite of rooms in his residence in the Vatican known as the Belvedere. He also gave Leonardo a considerable monthly stipend, but no large commissions followed.
The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel as painted by Michelangelo pretty much tells the story of the leading up to Christ's birth. Most of the major players of the First Testament are there. Adam and Eve, Noah, David and Goliath, most of the major prophets and sibyls including the Cumaean Sibyl. Michelangelo's painted rendition of David varies greatly from his giant carved marble version. The carved version shows David before the slaying Goliath while his painted version shows David after he brought down Goliath and just in the act of slaying him. Michelangelo's carved statue David is completely unclothed. In the painting David is wearing a shirt with long sleeves, a cape and possibly armor.
You may recognize the above graphic-drawing as coming from the bottom panel of the last page of the illustrated Michelangelo story presented earlier. The illustration shows the cartoonist, or artist as the case may be, version of the inside of the Sistine Chapel as seen from the floor just as Michelangelo was about done with his work. If you note carefully you can see a man's figure on top of the scaffolding, arm out stretched with a brush in his hand, putting finishing touches on the almost fully completed ceiling
Although the illustrated graphic was only a drawn for a throw away monthly ten cent comic book, it is still fairly accurate, showing to what extent the cartoonist went to depict for the reader the actual scene being presented. The view is as if the observer had already entered the chapel and gone toward the back only to have stopped and turned around to look up. The out stretched arm of the person on the scaffolding, presumed to be Michelangelo, with a brush in his hand doing final touches on the panel of Daniel. The ceiling curves away toward the left which contains a panel with a painting and just above it in the upper left hand corner is the famous depiction of God's creation of Adam, arms fully extended toward each other, their fingers about to touch. To the right of the Adam creation on the very top just above the two arched windows is the painting of the Cumaean Sibyl.
If you click the above graphic-drawing you will be taken to a map that shows the layout, position, and location of all of Michelangelo's artwork on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel as well as all of the other major works of art on the walls of the chapel. If you click that map a larger than full screen easy to scroll enlargement comes up. If you find the location of the Creation of Adam, just above it is the Creation of Eve, and just to the right of the Eve panel is the Cumaean Sibyl. For a full color photograph of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel from one end to the other and completely expandable click HERE.
MICHELANGELO'S CREATION OF ADAM, SISTINE CHAPLE
(click image then click image that come up a second time
THE CUMAEAN SIBYL
THE ARTIST IN ME
OUTER SPACE TO THE RENAISSANCE UFOs
DA VINCI 500 YEARS TOO SOON
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WPA ARTISTS OF NOTE:
JOHN SLOAN ----- PETER HURD
ON THE RAZOR'S
As to the subject of donations, for those of you who may be interested in doing so as it applies to the gratefulness of my works, I invariably suggest any funds be directed toward THE WOUNDED WARRIOR PROJECT and/or THE AMERICAN RED CROSS
FOR LARGER SIZE CLICK IMAGE. THEN CLICK THAT IMAGE ON ANY LOCATION AND THAT LOCATION WILL BE SHOWN ENLARGED
OFFICIALLY SANCTIONED REPLICA OF STATUE OF DAVID STANDING IN ORIGINAL LOCATION, LOWER LEFT
TO INCREASE SIZE CLICK DAVID STATUE THEN CLICK AGAIN
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THE RAZOR'S EDGE: TRUE OR FALSE?
THE BEST OF THE MAUGHAM BIOGRAPHIES:
- WILLIAM SOMERSET MAUGHAM
Good biography. Lots of Maugham graphics, from early childhood to late adult.
- W. SOMERSET MAUGHAM: A BIOGRAPHY
- MAUGHAM IN INDIA
- LITERARY AMBULANCE DRIVERS
Everybody knows Hemingway drove an ambulance during WWI, nobody knows Maugham did.
- THE ART COLLECTION OF W. SOMERSET MAUGHAM
SPIRITUAL GUIDES, GURUS, AND TEACHERS INFLUENTIAL IN THE RAZOR'S EDGE:
- BHAGAVAN SRI RAMANA MAHARSHI
- SWAMI RAMDAS
- YASUTANI HAKUUN ROSHI
- FATHER ENSHEIM
Includes a section on the missing years of the Razor's Edge
SRI RAMANA AND SOMERSET MAUGHAM
THE HOLY MAN, LARRY DARRELL, AND THE RAZOR'S EDGE
MAUGHAM'S FEMALE CONFIDANT
SEEING THE MONA LISA AND THE PIETA IN REAL LIFE:
During the early part of the year 1963, after having been drafted in the latter part of 1962, I had moved from Basic Training at Fort Ord, California to being fully ensconced in training and the goings on of the Southeastern Signal Corps School in Fort Gordon, Georgia. However, even though I had only just earned my Private First Class stripes from the slick sleeve I was, because of my ability with Morse code, a near savant as my civilian instructors continued to tell my chain of command officers, before completion of Signal School I was sent on my second TDY military experience, the first having been while I was still a buck private in basic training at the same time as the Cuban Missile Crisis.
My TDY destination from Fort Gordon was the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. I was sent to be part of a several week observed study control group working with initially ten, dropped to five, specially selected cadets supposedly versed in the intricacies of Morse code. The idea was to find out what I had that they didn't and once found could it be learned or replicated.
The father of one of the cadets in the group owned a yacht that one weekend he sailed up the Hudson River from some affluent suburb of New York City, hoping to spend some time with his son. The son invited several cadet friends and me to hang out with him on the boat, which, being a few notches better than nothing, I did. As what would eventually become usual for me nothing identified me as to my rank or status, so nobody really knew if I was an officer, an enlisted man, or maybe even a civilian. Often, for people who own yachts sometimes things like that matter. For example, the cadet's sister. If she had known I was a lowly private and not one of the group at large she probably wouldn't have even talked to me. Same with the dad. It came out between the father and I that we both knew David J. Halliburton Sr. and both had been on his yacht the Twin Dolphin, both several times. I told the father I knew Halliburton because as a young man he had a serious crush on my stepmother's niece, which is true. Halliburton's family lived right across the street from my stepmother and during the summer her niece would babysit me. In reality though I knew Halliburton later in life because I was a crew member on his yacht, a mere sander of wood. Of course I didn't tell the dad that and he automatically put me higher up on the scale of things. Years later Halliburton did so as well after the connection with my stepmother's niece became clear.
In any case, as it turned out, from February 4, 1963 to March 4, 1963, after having been on exhibit in Washington D.C., but before returning to the Louvre in Paris, and for the only time ever, Leonardo Da Vinci's painting the Mona Lisa was in the U.S. and on exhibit at the The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, a period of time that overlapped the exact same time I was at West Point. More than that, it just so happened the father of the cadet had long time philanthropic ties in support the museum and had at his beckon call special VIP passes to see the exhibit. When we got to talking and he thought I was right up there with Halliburton in the scheme of things and I expressed an overwhelming desire to see the Mona Lisa, as soon as he could arrange it and his soon and his son and I could get time off he sent a car up to West Point to pick us. We were whisked into the museum ahead of the hours long crowds and as others were being ushered through after viewing the painting, our neck lanyard identification allowed to stay as long as we wanted.
"Thousands of visitors waited in line for the doors to open when on February 7, 1963, the Mona Lisa went on view to the public at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. More than one million New Yorkers went to see the painting during the month-long exhibition, enduring winter cold and rain, as 'Mona Mania' swept the nation."
Da Vinci's Masterpiece Captivated a Nation
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Although I had been to Europe before I was drafted I had never seen the Pieta. Before I had a chance something almost as unusual as seeing the Mona Lisa happened.
The very next year following my discharge from the Army, on the occasion of my birthday day that year, found me once again in New York City and again in pursuit of seeing a masterpiece in real life. Only this time however, I was a civilian and the masterpiece was not done by Leonardo, but by his chief rival in things artistic, Michelangelo.
It was opening day of the 1965 World's Fair in New York City. My destination at the fair that day was the Vatican Pavilion, which had on display Michelangelo's Pieta, shipped across the seas from St. Peter's Basilica exclusively for the World's Fair. This time, unlike my VIP treatment for the Mona Lisa, I was standing in line with thousands of others to race across the fair grounds to see Michelangelo's masterpiece. And see it I did. After waiting in line for hours then getting on a regulated-speed moving conveyor belt that went right in front of the sculpture all the while determining how long you can remain. Even squeezing back eventually you are forced off the conveyor belt, and in order to see the Pieta again you have to get back in line. Clever.
IN AS A BOY,- OUT AS A MAN
THE DRAFT, ACTIVE DUTY, ACTIVE RESERVE
FOR IMAGE OF MONA LISA CLICK GRAPHIC BELOW THEN CLICK THAT IMAGE TO ENLARGE TO NEARLY LIFE SIZE