Historic Battleship USS Texas Taking In Water, Leaking Oil


The USS Texas is America’s oldest battleship. Commissioned in 1914, it fought in both World War I and World War II. Since 1948 it’s been utilized as a museum at La Porte, Texas, on the outskirts of Houston.

Now the vessel is in peril. It’s sprung a leak and is taking on water. So much water entered the ship that it started noticeably listing to port. The old oil tanks got flooded. While the tanks had been emptied decades ago, they’d never been cleaned, so oily water spread out into the bay.

The oil is being cleaned and the water pumped out. While problems continue, the ship doesn’t appear to be in danger of sinking. The Houston Chronicle reports the ship is taking less water now, from a high of 850 gallons a minute down to 100. Repairs will hopefully start Monday and the ship will be closed for the foreseeable future.

Despite its current troubles, the future may be bright for this floating bit of history. In 2007 a state bond issue raised $25 million to dry berth the ship. This would help preserve it for future generations. Now it’s estimated the project may cost twice that. Getting the money will be difficult in this economic climate, but the project would create jobs and preserve a major tourist attraction.

Check out the video to learn more about this amazing vessel.

Alcatraz Marks 50th Anniversary Of Famous Escape

Alcatraz
They said Alcatraz was escape-proof, but 50 years ago yesterday, three prisoners made an ingenious break out, paddled out into the cold waters of San Francisco Bay and disappeared.

On June 11, 1962, Frank Morris and brothers Clarence and John Anglin were ready to bust out of prison. Over the past year they had patiently chipped away at the air vents in their respective cells with spoons. At night they’d replace the vents and cover the expanding tunnels with pieces of colored cardboard.

On the night of the breakout they squirmed through the tunnels into an unused service corridor and made their way to the roof. To keep the guards from noticing they were gone, they left behind dummy heads in their beds made of paper maché and real hair gathered from the prison barbershop.

From the roof they climbed the barbed wire fence and floated away on a raft made of rubber raincoats. They were never seen again. Fragments of their raft and plywood paddles were found on Angel Island, two miles away from Alcatraz. Footprints led away from the raft and a car was stolen that night.

A fourth man, Allen West, didn’t make it to the rendezvous in time and was left behind.

Did the three men escape? Despite many rumors, none of them were ever found. A ship’s captain said he spotted a body floating in the bay wearing a prison uniform. The body wasn’t recovered. Their files remain open.

%Gallery-158021%According to legend, they would return to Alcatraz for a visit on the 50th anniversary. As unlikely as that sounds, US Marshal Michael Dyke spent yesterday on Alcatraz hoping to catch the aged fugitives. He left at the end of the day disappointed.

Alcatraz, also known as “The Rock,” started life as a fort. During the Civil War, local Confederate sympathizers and privateers were imprisoned there. It continued as a military prison through World War I, when it housed conscientious objectors. Alcatraz became a Federal prison in 1933 and was used to keep the most troublesome prisoners. Its guests included such model citizens as Al Capone and “Machine Gun” Kelly. It was closed in 1963.

Now Alcatraz is a National Park and open to the public. Visitors can see the prisoners’ cells and other areas, as well as the escape route of Morris and the Anglin brothers. All access to the island is via the private ferry company Alcatraz Cruises from Pier 33. Check out the gallery for some views of the prison, as well an intriguing shots of the escape route.

[Photo courtesy Bruce C. Cooper]

Centre Pompidou-Metz Recreates Artistic Life Of World War I

Centre Pompidou-Metz, World War OneIn the first of a series of events to commemorate the upcoming centennial of World War I, the Centre Pompidou-Metz in France is hosting “1917,” an exhibition of artistic life during that bloody conflict.

While millions were dying on the battlefield, the arts were flourishing in Europe. Much of it was centered on, or a reaction to, the most terrible war the world had yet seen. A large portion of the exhibit is devoted to trench art made by soldiers at the front line. Some drew sketches of their lives; others did creative things with the detritus of war, like the goblets made from artillery shells shown here.

Works from artists on the home front are exhibited too. The star attraction is Pablo Picasso’s largest work, the giant painted theater curtain he made for Parade, a ballet directed by Serge Diaghilev for the Ballets Russes. This impressive work is more than 30 feet long and is rarely displayed due to its size.

In all, “1917” gives us a snapshot into a crucial year in the development of modern art. The show runs until September 24.

[Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons]

Remembering the fallen

remembering the fallen
Today is Veterans Day, also known as Remembrance Day and Armistice Day because in 1918, at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, World War One ended.

For four years the nations of the world had torn each other apart. The Austro-Hungarian Empire collapsed, the Ottoman Empire was mortally wounded, Germany’s Kaiser’s fell and so did Russia’s Czar. The world changed forever and 20 million people were dead.

There are countless monuments honoring those killed. The most powerful, I think, is this one. It’s called The Grieving Parents and was erected in 1932 by Käthe Kollwitz, a German artist. Kollwitz’s youngest son Peter was killed while serving in the German army. The monument is in the cemetery at Vladslo, Belgium, where he’s buried. The faces of the parents are those of Käthe and her husband. Her husband looks at Peter’s grave while Käthe bends over in grief. So many young men are buried in this cemetery that Peter’s name shares a tombstone with nineteen others.

Whether you’re on the road or staying at home today, there’s probably a war memorial near you where people are remembering the fallen. Take a moment to visit it, even if it’s for the “other side.” After all this time that doesn’t really matter.

Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Vorticism: avant-garde art at the Tate Britain, London

VorticismIn the years before the outbreak of World War One, European artists developed a variety of different styles to reflect the pace of change and industrialization in what used to be a traditional continent.

Cubism and Futurism were two of the biggest movements. One of the briefest and most vibrant was Vorticism. The Vorticists started around 1913 and focused on the hard lines and quick pace of the machine age.

Now the Tate Britain in London is hosting a major exhibition on the movement called The Vorticists: Manifesto for a Modern World. It brings together more than 100 Vorticist works from all the major players.

One of the leaders of the movement was Wyndham Lewis, although some Vorticists say the only reason he was popularly seen as the leader was because he gave more interviews to the press. He was certainly important, though. Lewis was the founder of the Vorticist journal Blast, the first issue of which had a hot pink cover and featured writings by T.S. Eliot and Ford Madox Ford. A whole section of the exhibition is dedicated to this journal and its groundbreaking design and typography.

Some of the rarer works on display include those from the many women welcomed into Vorticist ranks, a daring move at the time. There are also the Vorticist photos of Alvin Langdon Coburn, often hailed as the first abstract photographs. These photos will blow your mind and hurt your eyes.

%Gallery-126430%While Vorticism was mainly a British movement, this exhibition also explores its influences on the New York modern art scene. In fact, it was an American poet, Ezra Pound, who gave the movement its name.

The output of this movement was remarkably small. Blast only had two issues, and there were only two Vorticist exhibitions. World War One killed some of the Vorticists and left others embittered against the modern world. Yet Vorticism had a major impact on modern art and its works are still discussed and copied today. The two issues of Blast are still in print almost a century after they first appeared. One advantage of its brevity is that an exhibition of this size can encompass a majority of the major works, giving the visitor a full understanding of the meteoric life of one of modern art’s most intriguing avant-garde movements.

The Vorticists: Manifesto for a Modern World opened yesterday and will run until September 4.

[Image of Workshop c. 1914-5, by Wyndham Lewis courtesy of the Wyndham Lewis Memorial Trust]