Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Alphabet Tree

Some time ago, my wife, Therese, brought home these foam alphabets from her first grade class to wash and disinfect and then hung up to dry. When I walked outside late that evening, I found our maple tree has sprouted an almost new spring look.

Kinda reminds me of the days when, as a kid,  it was my job to hang up the washed clothes outside on the line and and take down the clothes before it rained.

My father was always disappointed if I forgot to do it and the clothes got soaked from a passing thunderstorm.

Copyright 2015/ Ben Bensen III

Friday, February 26, 2010

An addendum...

As I left the cemetery, I noticed many other Saints fans wanted to share the big victory with their deceased loved ones. It seems like every other plot had a black and gold weath, or fake flowers, or deflated balloons and half deflated footballs sharing in the victory the way only New Orleanians do. Everyone celebrate... including those who never lived to see the day!

For all those who didn't live to see the day!

Last Friday, my younger brother, his family and Therese and I went to visit our father's grave and put flowers there on his 10th anniversary. Once we found his site, we noticed a homemade fleur-de-lis spray painted gold and trimmed in black with the words,"Who Dat" and the score printed on the front with the words, "Enjoy it" and a love note. Underneath the sign was some Brach's mints, and Mardi Gras beads. We knew immediately that our other brother, Tony, made a visit early that morning before he went to work and in classic Tony fashion, the craftsmanship and the sentiment was right on.

Dad wasn't a big Saints fan. Baseball was what he grew up with and loved. But Dad was a big supporter of anything New Orleans, so I am sure he did enjoy the win. Our father did love Mardi Gras unless it came early and he had to celebrate it freezing in the cold. I don't think he ever recovered from those four years in the Pacific war. Just couldn't handle the cold.

The mints represent his sometimes dry sense of humor. When I was a kid ballplayer, I always played first base and every year would get my glove hand bent back, smashed or stepped on. He'd always tell me to soak it in Epson salt. He'd always prescribe soaking it no matter what the problem was. As I got older and tired of this prescription, I asked him to suggest something different in his sarcasm. He suggested I, "Take a Mint". I forgot my anger and cracked up laughing. From that point on, it was, "Take a Mint" for everything. You got a headache? "Take a Mint." You got cramps? "Take a Mint." Can't find your keys? "Take a Mint." Whining about the bills you have to pay, "Take a Mint." To this day, it is our family running joke now starting in a third generation. Got something that ails you? Well...

"Mud Buff"

I liked the roundness of the angle, but it falls short of what I had in my dome at the time. Still, it is a pretty good likeness... don't you think?
Inanimate objects may be boring to most... people are much more interesting, but they move. B-52 don't. At least, not as much. I liked the triangular hangar tops behind the plane with its tail high above it all.

Waiting for a flight...

While waiting for a bus, I started this sketch of a crew waiting for their plane. I started the drawing on notebook paper so I figured I'd continue it on the final.

Crew sketch #3

Here's a cleaned up sketch done, off and on, in our pre-flight meetings. "Skype" was the co-pilot and "Verde" was the ops officer, I think, because he informed everyone in the post flight meeting that he was kind of a plant to try and trick the rest of the crew. I can't say I captured their likeness all that well, but I really like what I did with Major Mike Gregston. I'm pretty happy with that one! Somehow, I never even attempted "Shadow" except in a real quick sketch that only represents him because he has no hair on his head! Sorry 'bout that!

Crew sketch #2

This was our "mother" helping us get in and out of seat belts, parachute straps, oxygen mask setups and prevented one "Schmoe" from releasing the "T" ring on his parachute, which for all practical purposes would have opened his chute in the plane. She also picked out some tunes for all too hear in our intercom, after our mission was completed and headed back to base. I don't think I will ever hear Don McClen's, "American Pie" the same way ever again. She was great. Her real name is Schera Bowden, but we knew her as "Charlie". She normally is the electronic warfare officer on board... when not catering to our "comforts!"By the way, Schera, pink is a nice color when juxtaposed to camo!

Crew sketch #1

Here's a cleaned up sketch of our refueling flight B-52 commandant, Major Zack "Samson" Miller. He was awesome on our 5 hour flight, answered all our inane questions at the pre and post flight briefings. If memory serves me correctly, he's only 28 or 30 years old, as is most of the crew. The grey tone is a marker mess up... my bad!

Checkout photos of our Barksdale, AFB tour.

This is a B-52 Stratafortress. It is affectionately known as "BUFF" which stands for Big, Ugly, Fat, F%@3r?+... or you can clean it up call it the Big, Ugly, Fat, Fella. The Air Force considers it a flying icon representing all that is good and simultaneously all that is bad in our world. Know doubt about it, it is an icon of deterrence. We spent 6 days at Barksdale and shot collectively more than 2000 photos. I picked through a bunch of them, and came up with about fifty or so that tells the story of our stay and you can see them at:

"Gawd Forbid!'

Hypoxia, hyperthermia, hyperventilation, spatial disorientation, trapped gas bubbles, valsalva techniques, parachute maneuvers, how to fall, tuck and roll, power lines, trees, water landing egress maneuvers, ejection seat concerns, O2 safety, g-forces, what to pull, what not to pull, and tons of what ifs... Finally, in the middle of our second day of orientation, Norm said, in his best Jewish mother imitation,"From now on, could you please preface any more possible catastrophes with a "God Forbid!"

Where's da Monkee!

As part of our B-52 passenger training, we were given a six hour briefing on all the horrible things that could happen while on this mission. One of the tests to illustrate situational awareness was a video where we were given a task to concentrate on and report on what we saw. Norm, Mickey and I were expected to count how many times two teams of ball players passed the ball over to each other. I counted 15 passes for the black team, Mickey counted 17 passes for the white team and Norm said about 12 or 13. But Norm said what about the monkey? "Monkey?" I said, "What monkey?" Mickey inquired, totally confused, "I never saw a monkey... what are you talkin' about?"

On playback, plan as can be, a man in a gorilla suit walked across the screen, stopped, waved to camera and exited. It took about 10 seconds of a one minute video but Mick and I never saw him. Only Norm with that Bronx street cred, saw it. So, all through the 6 day tour, whenever I screwed up, he brought up "da Monkee".

No Time to Gloat...

Wearing my Saints cap was about all the time I had to gloat about our Super Bowl victory. We artists took the back seats in the briefing room the second morning of our tour. Up front were seated about thirty B-52 crew members. Pictured here are: Norm Siegel (next to me), Major Tim Miller( our esteemed guide ), an unidentified crew member, Teresa Palmer ( alert with the camera ) and airbrush genius, Mickey Harris ( a bit sleepy eyed! )

Seal the Deal...

Classic, nervous Saint fan that I am, I jumped up for joy, screamed and pounded the mahogany bar table in affirmation. One would think that would "seal the deal" but not so, if you are an long time fan and especially with Mr. Manning's reputation for comebacks. No, as long as I can remember, whenever the Saints scored, in any game of the franchise's forty-three year old history, I would mumble, "It ain't enough!"

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The B-52 Gang

Here' s the group of five illustrators plus me and Alex Bostic's wife. So, from left front to right front is, adMan turned realistic illustrator, Norm Siegel, airbrush genius, Mickey Harris, Alex's wife in from neighboring Mississippi, Charles Lilly and Alex Bostic, two of America's great illustrators/painters, Me and a MFA student of Alex's, Teresa Palmer. Norm, Mickey and I went up for a B-52 refueling and simulated bomb run later that week. We also drank a lot of Abita Beer while cheering on the Saints at the Shreveport Hilton lounge.

Tee wasn't too happy!

When my wife realized that the Saints were going to the SuperBowl and I wasn't gonna be there at home with friends to share a once in a life time adventure, well, she wasn't too happy about it! Tee is like most Saint fans who have suffered through so many horrible seasons, you wanna watch, but why ruin your week. When VHS tapes came out, many Saint fans would tape the game and watch it later... but only if they won!

What an idiot!

I'm the Society of Illustrators of Los Angeles chairperson for the Air Force Art Program and have been since 2002. I grew up in the jet age and spent many a rainy day in New Orleans building model airplanes. ( Wow, what a tangent this could be... I could spend countless posts sharing with anybody my love of aircraft, models, anything in miniature, model box art, Art Center heroes, sharing stories of my childhood with adults that grew up the same way I did and our love of those "simpler times!"

Anyway, I was asked by the Pentagon to go on a trip with five other artists to Barksdale, AFB to document a new command being established to replace SAC. I jumped at the chance to go especially since I had not been to Barksdale in Shreveport, LA since they were flying the B-47's.
Two weeks before the trip, I realized that I would be traveling to the air base on SuperBowl Sunday! I thought about canceling my trip, but I committed to escort these 5 other artists around in a van the Air Force provided for me. Surely, I have to "do my duty"plus I gotta represent my home state and show them a good cajun meal or two ... and besides, the Saints aren't gonna go to the Supa ...What!
Wow, what a month! I never thought the Saints would ever get that far. And can you believe it? They won it all. Some folks, those who have jumped on the bandwagon this year or last year, just knew we would win it all and mildly chastise those of us who just aren't so quick to"Believe". They obviously haven't lived and died with each game since 1967. Their positive attitude is refreshing and encouraging, but totally unfounded. They just know we're gonna win because, well, "we deserve to win", "God's on our side", "it's our destiny", "KatrinaKarma".

Still, the really neat thing about being a Saint fan is that everyone is invited to the "nation" regardless of your mental "Who Dat" state. For us, it's all about celebrating life, for better or worse. Like life, it's everyone's tragi-comedy and believe no one played it better than the Saints!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

SuperBowl 44

Hey, check this out. It is always amazing how numbers work. They don't always work for me, but I kinda like this one. I received this from my brother-in-law, who, you guess it, is an accountant!

The Numbers Racket............

This will be the 44th Super Bowl. Obama is the 44th President. There are
44 days from Christmas to the Super bowl. The Saints franchise is 44
years old. On Super Bowl Sunday it will be 4 years and 4 months since
katrina... The Saints won in 4 minutes and 44 seconds of overtime...
This HAS to be our year!


I hope that this means we'll win by 44 points.............Art

Friday, February 5, 2010

My feelings are hurt. Is there no love for the "Who Dats" and all they have accomplished from my SoCal friends? Got some props from Dick Henkel, Walter Lee, Mark McCandlish, Pascal Sabatella and, I think, that's about it! Being superstitious as I am to begin with, I don't wanna jinx forty-three years of frustration by bragging and talking smack about my team. So I kinda am laying low too busy sticking pins in my Peyton Manning voodoo doll to send Facebook and Linkedin shout outs. Geez, CAN I GET A WITNESS from all those SoCal friends who watched me suffer? Amen!