“A Little Sad Music Before Passing the Hat” (September, 1939; est.)

“A Little Sad Music Before Passing the Hat” (September, 1939; est.)
by Carey Orr (1980-1967)
12 x 15 in., ink on board
Coppola Collection

When the war officially broke out in Europe during September 1939, President Roosevelt wanted to provide assistance to the British. However, US law, and the prevailing isolationism that existed in the US after WWI and the still-present effects of the Great Depression, hindered any aid effort.

The Johnson Act of 1934 prohibited the extension of credit to countries that had not repaid US loans made to them during World War I, including Great Britain. The Neutrality Act of 1939 (March, following the German invasion of Czechoslovakia) allowed belligerents to purchase war materiel from the United States, but only on a “cash and carry” basis.

Internationalists, including the President, claimed that providing aid was a pro-active move that could prevent US participation in the war. Isolationists, including the military leadership, opposed diverting military supplies to the UK. Their position was that Britain would surrender following the collapse of France, and thus American supplies sent to the British would fall into German hands. US national security would be better served, so the argument went, by reserving military supplies for the defense of the Western Hemisphere.

In November 1939, FDR persuaded Congress to repeal the arms embargo provisions of the neutrality law so that arms could be sold to France and Britain.

This debate was still raging when Japanese aircraft attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

Military aid was not the only subject of the internal debate. Like most other countries, the United States did not welcome Jewish refugees from Europe. In 1939, 83% of Americans were opposed to the admission of refugees. In the midst of the Great Depression, many feared the burden that immigrants could place on the nation’s economy; refugees, who in most cases were prevented from bringing any money or assets with them, were an even greater cause for concern. As early as 1930, President Hoover reinterpreted immigration legislation barring those “likely to become a public charge” to include even those immigrants who were capable of working, reasoning that high unemployment would make it impossible for immigrants to find jobs.

Feelings of fear, mistrust, and even hatred of those who were different also shaped the public conversation around immigration.  Fears of communist infiltrators and Nazi spies were rampant, as was anti-semitism. Leaders such as Father Charles Coughlin, known as “the radio priest,” was the first to offer Catholic religious services over the radio and reached millions of people with each broadcast. See the previous coverage of Father Coughlin, here (from June 13, 1939).

This cartoon by Orr is pretty clear: a negative reaction to an accusation of European propaganda about the war as a way to solicit US aid. The cartoon only has the year on it, but there is evidence of public reports (and debates) about “the open secret that the countries facing off in the new war were employing propaganda to help their causes.” George Gallop, in a summary article, declared, “Propaganda has grown to be one of the most powerful weapons of modern warfare,” reporting from a poll from September 13-18, 1939.

Lydia Saad has a nice overview of this topic in her February 2, 2018 article from The Gallup Vault.

Gallup Vault: Propaganda and Fake News in 1939
by Lydia Saad

In September 1939, about two weeks after the start of World War II, Americans expressed considerable skepticism about news reports coming in from Europe. Two-thirds said they had no confidence in the news from Germany, and 30% said they had no confidence in the news from England and France.

Most other Americans said they had “some confidence” in each side’s reports. This left only 8% feeling completely confident about the news from England and France and just 1% completely confident about the news from Germany.

 First Casualty of War … the Truth?

Americans’ doubts about the credibility of European news may have partly reflected the open secret that the countries facing off in the new war were employing propaganda to help their causes. This awareness is evident in George Gallup’s introduction to his 1939 article on the poll, saying, “Propaganda has grown to be one of the most powerful weapons of modern warfare — useful both in demoralizing enemy forces and in influencing the opinion of neutrals. How aware is the American public that propaganda is being used in the present war, and how effective has that propaganda been so far?”

The article also addressed one blatant act of propaganda, or what today might be called fake news, involving the sinking of the SS Athenia — a British passenger ship — at the start of the war. As Gallup explained it, “The British have blamed the Athenia disaster on a torpedo from a U-boat. The German press, on the other hand, denied the torpedoing and even suggested that the passenger liner was sunk by the British in order to arouse anti-German sentiment.”

After the war, it was revealed that a German submarine commander had, indeed, ordered the Athenia to be torpedoed, mistaking it for a warship. How effective was Germany’s false claim that England had ordered the Athenia’s sinking as a ruse to draw America into the war? It’s not clear. Just 9% of Americans thought Germany wasn’t responsible, while 60% thought it was. However, another 31% were unsure — some of whom may have been influenced by Germany’s denials, while others were simply not aware of the matter.

Gallup’s World War II polling on propaganda didn’t distinguish between state-sponsored propaganda and propaganda spread through the press — perhaps because government influence over the press at the time, and the news media’s reliance on government reports, made it hard to separate the two.

“Fantastic Four 5” cover interpretation (2003)

“Fantastic Four 5
” cover interpretation (2003)
by Steve Rude (1956-)
17 x 28 in., pencil and ink on board
Coppola Collection

Another classic comic book cover motif: the large, imposing villain who is symbolically dominating the heroes.

Steve Rude interprets, rather than reimagines, the cover of the issue where the FF first encounter their long-standing nemesis, Dr. Doom.

“Fantastic Four 73” reimagined cover (2008)

“Fantastic Four 73
” reimagined cover (2008)
by Steve Rude (1956-)
17 x 28 in., pencil and ink on board
Coppola Collection

One of the classic comic book cover designs is the team-to-team face off, and you see it reflected right through the staging of the airport battle in the 2016 “Captain America: Civil War” movie. One team faces off against the other. The cover to Fantastic Four #73 (April 1968) is a good example among many. Clean and crisp, it can be read from a distance while on a newsstand and you know exactly what is going on. In this case (as with Civil War), the added attention-getter is that the heroes are facing off against the heroes.

Steve Rude re-imagines the battle in this piece, placing the three battles in context with one another. And while it is great, it does not eclipse the original cover in its stark composition and representational style.


Four Years Later

The Diabetes II diagnosis was in late March 2015.

I still take 500 mg of metformin a day because I think it is a good idea.

My PCP has officially classified me as non-diabetic for the purposes of calculating the prospective need to take other drugs that are typically prescribed when a condition interacts positively with diabetes (e.g., heart disease) because I am asymptomatic.

The A1c is still flat, and he’s only interested in collecting the data annually now.

Back in September 2016, I did that little (informal) glucose tolerance experiment, chewing up a set of my blood glucose test strips by measuring every hour to see how things were going after eating. The results were quite positive, in that all of the spikes were under any of the troublesome thresholds. The data are consistent with the way you see a pre-diabetic person respond to eating (high spikes that come down). Admittedly, a total of 64g of carbs and 14g of added sugars (64C/14S) is not the normal US diet, but it is mine.

For the 4th anniversary I decided to run that experiment again.

September 2016: eat at 9 (16C/10S), 12 (24/0), 4 (14/3), and 7 (10/1) [total 64/14]

March 2019: eat at 9 (16/10), 12 (14/2), 3 (20/2), and 7 (14/0) [total 64/14]

September 2016

March 2019

If real, the 2019 results are more consistent with the way a non-diabetic person reacts to eating. And while I am not going to try this at the normal US dietary levels, the comparison is as reasonably well-controlled as a pair of one-off days might be, and could be interpreted as an improvement (i.e., recovery of beta cell function) from 2016 to 2019.

My contention about the way diabetes is diagnosed remains the same as when I figured most of this out in 2015. People with a family history or other risks for developing diabetes, if they are interested in their health, should not wait until their A1c is elevated on an annual level. They ought to spend $30 on one of these testing kits and look at the hourly response to food intake, because the diabetic condition is going to show up a lot sooner than in the A1c value.

Again: if this 2-data point response change is real, it is a significant difference, and it is not picked up by my A1c, which has been constant. And that means that a person could go from detectably non-diabetic to pre-diabetic in their response to eating (my 2019 versus 2016, I just happen to be headed in the other direction) LONG before seeing the change in their annual A1c test result (if they even get it).

Within 5-10 years, blood glucose nano-bots will exist and feed this information in real time.

And some behaviors will change; and some will not.

“If you lived here, you’d be home now” (November 20, 1995)

“If you lived here, you’d be home now” (November 20, 1995)
by Mischa Richter (1910-2001)
11 x 14 in., ink and wash on paper
Coppola Collection

Mischa Richter (1910-2001) was a well-known New Yorker, King Features, and PM newspaper cartoonist who worked for the Communist Party’s literary journal “New Masses” in the late 1930 and early 1940s, becoming its art editor in the 1940s. This cartoon was published in The New Yorker in 1995.

In the 1980s, homelessness became a much more visible problem, with countless of people sleeping in the streets, on church steps and in public squares. In the midst of this explosion, state courts compelled New York City to provide shelter for the homeless.

Giuliani’s time in office (1994-2001) was marked by a series of get-tough policies, or at least attempts to impose them. Time limits on shelter stays, work requirements and narrowed eligibility rules were hallmarks of the mayor’s approach.

But while these controversies got headline ink, subtler but significant changes did not. One of these was the dwindling number of single room occupancies—small individual rooms in hotel-like buildings also known as SROs. The city had for several administrations tried to reduce the number of SROs, which were associated with seedy behavior but played a vital role in low-income housing. The Supportive Housing Network of New York City estimates that between 1955 and 1995, the city went from having 200,000 SRO units, to less than 40,000.

The saying on the sign is deeply embedded enough that finding its origins is difficult, at least in the 20 minutes I allowed myself. I am pretty sure it dates to the development of in-city real estate pushing back against the commute to suburbia, to catch the attention of people driving home with too much time ahead to travel. I certainly recognize it as commonplace and you see it used (at least in English-speaking countries) worldwide. In my 20 minute search, I found a 1976 real estate listing for a NYC apartment that used it.

“War Victory’s Unsung Hero” page 5 (January 1944)

“War Victory’s Unsung Hero” page 5 (January 1944)
in All-New Comics #6 by Harvey Comics
by Bob Powell (1916-1967)
14.5 x 21.5 in., ink on paper
Coppola Collection

I have 6 of the 8 pages from this story. In early 1944, the Allies were starting to get some traction in WWII on all of the fronts. The lower part of Italy was in hand; the Soviets were pushing from the East; and the D-Day Invasion was coming soon enough. Progress in the Pacific was slower.

This page is a standout for all of its classic stereotyping of the times. Patriotic war heroes. A Femme Fatale. Plenty of racial caricatures.

“Hair-Raising Experience” (02/12/1964)

“Hair-Raising Experience” (02/12/1964)
by Eddie Germano (1924 – )
11 x 15 in., ink and wash on board
Coppola Collection

A native Bostonian, Germano became a full-time cartoonist in 1948, at age 24, after serving in WWII. Among other positions, he worked as the editorial and sports cartoonist for the Brockton Enterprisefrom 1963-1990.

The Beatles “Invasion” – the band landed in the US on Friday, February 7, 1964, and appeared on the Ed Sullivan show Sunday evening, February 9. The immediate reception in the media was not positive. The New York Times reviewers called them a “placebo” and a “fad.” The Herald Tribune called them “a magic act that owed less to Britain than to Barnum,” and described the performance as “75 percent publicity, 20 percent hair, and 5 percent lilting lament.”

Germano definitely reflects the snark, here.

“Summer Skin I” (2010)

“Summer Skin I” (2010)
by Barbara Kacicek (1957-)
6 × 8 in., oil on panel
Coppola Collection

This was one of the first pieces I picked up from Barbara. There is an exceptional ambiguity about this composition. Is it inside, with a beam of sun interrupted by some shade; or outside, with someone else in the way? You want to stare and study, yet you want to turn away. Are we looking north or south? Or east or west, for that matter? You think you may understand the subject; but you might not. Provocative and evocative.

To me, it does what good art does: tells a story.

1 Mark (Rumki) Note (Litzmannstadt Ghetto) May 1940

1 Mark (Rumki) Note (Litzmannstadt Ghetto)
issued May 15, 1940
paper scrip, 2.5 x 4.75 in
Coppola Collection

This is an example of the 1 Mark Litzmannstadt Ghetto currency. These notes, issued by the Judenrat (Jewish Council) of the Lodz-Litzmannstadt Ghetto, were a unique currency created in this ghetto, located in the Polish city of Lodz. This money, not worth anything outside the ghetto, effectively isolated its inhabitants from the rest of the city. The signature of Chaim Mordechai Rumkowski, the head of the Judenrat of the ghetto, appears on the note.

The name Litzmannstadt was given to this ghetto by Hitler in April 1940, commemorating a German general named Litzmann who was killed in the area during World War I. This money was issued only a month later. These note, some times called a “Rumki” or a “Chaimki” because of Rumkowski , translate “As Receipt for 1 Mark, The Chief Elder of the Jews in Litzmannstadt, M. Rumkowski, Litzmanstadt , May 15 1940.”

The Nazis established the Litzmannstadt Ghetto following its September 8, 1939 invasion of Lodz. It was the second-largest ghetto in all of German-occupied Europe after the Warsaw Ghetto. Over 230,000 (about 30%) of the Lodz population were Jewish. By December, the plans were in place to confine the Jewish population to a given area. Some residents began to leave, and by February 1940, the boundaries were set and the order to complete relocation was issued. On May 1, 1940, the wooden and wire fences were completed and a population of 164,000 Jews were sealed inside the newly named Litzmannstadt, which occupied only 1.5 square miles with less than 1 square mile of that being habitable.

On May 10, 1940, orders went into effect prohibiting any commercial exchange between Jews and non-Jews in Lodz. And by the new German decree, those caught outside the ghetto could be shot on sight. The high security surrounding this ghetto prevented the usual underground economy that others relied upon for food, medicines, and other supplies. This Litzmannstadt currency, an idea attributed to Rumkowski, was issued on May 15, 1940, and had to be used inside the ghetto, which only hastened the rate at which the imprisoned population traded its remaining money and savings for this “Rumki” scrip.

The stories of Litzmannstadt and the fate of its inmates are intertwined with Chaim Mordechai Rumkowski. He was the chair of the Judenrat, appointed by the Nazis. Known, and unlovingly so, as “King Chaim,” Rumkowski had broad powers within the ghetto, and remains to this day a controversial figure who is generally placed in the ranks of Nazi collaborators. Under Rumkowski’s leadership, an autocratic rule, 95% of the adult population was working 12 hours a day on 700-900 calories of food. The ghetto was transformed into a major industrial center, manufacturing war supplies for the Nazi Army. Because of its remarkable productivity, the ghetto managed to survive until August 1944.

Himmler visited Litzmannstadt in mid-1941, and within a month its first residents, in this case psychiatric patients, began to be removed and never returned. Tens of thousands of Polish Jews were relocated to Litzmannstadt from Germany, Luxembourg, and Austria. And 30 miles north of Litzmannstadt, in Chelmo, the Kulmhof extermination camp began gassing operations on December 8, 1941, the day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. On December 20, 1941, Rumkowski was ordered by the Germans to announce that 20,000 Jews from the ghetto would be deported to undisclosed camps, based on selection by the Judenrat. Deportations to Chełmno death camp began in early 1942. By September, 55,000 people had been removed from Litzmannstadt.

In September 1942, with the first returns of all baggage, clothing, and identification papers to the ghetto for “processing,” the fate of the deported people was finally understood within the ghetto.

That month, a new German order demanded that 24,000 Jews be handed over for deportation. Rumkowski was convinced that the only chance for survival lay in the ability to work productively for the Reich without interference. He thought they should give their 13,000 children and their 11,000 elderly. His address is a tragic legacy (September 4, 1942):

“A grievous blow has struck the ghetto. They [the Germans] are asking us to give up the best we possess – the children and the elderly. I was unworthy of having a child of my own, so I gave the best years of my life to children. I’ve lived and breathed with children, I never imagined I would be forced to deliver this sacrifice to the altar with my own hands. In my old age, I must stretch out my hands and beg: Brothers and sisters! Hand them over to me! Fathers and mothers: Give me your children!”

The Ghetto was transformed into a giant labor camp where survival depended solely on the ability to work.

By January 1944, there were around 80,000 Jewish workers still in Lodz. Although Soviet troops were within 60 miles of Litzmannstadt and advancing rapidly on Lodz, salvation did not arrive as the Soviets stalled. History might remember Rumkowski differently if the Soviets had reached Lodz.

On August 1, 1944 the Warsaw Uprising erupted, and the fate of the remaining inhabitants of Litzmannstadt was sealed. Nearly all of the last 25,000 prisoners were murdered at Chełmno, and the remaining few thousands of Jews, including Rumkowski, were sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau aboard trains. According to witness accounts, Rumkowski was beaten to death on August 28 by Auschwitz inmates who took revenge for his betrayals.

Rumkowski is said to have boasted of his willingness to cooperate with the German authorities: “My motto is to be always at least ten minutes ahead of every German demand.”

When the Soviet army finally entered Lodz on January 19, 1945, only 877 Jews were still alive.