Mid-century sex symbol provides inspiration for nuclear erotica.
This unusual piece of art was made by a French artist named Jacques Puiseux, whose work we've shared here before. We happened to be in contact with him recently, and he sent this our way to enjoy. He painted it back in 1999, and it suggests Brigitte Bardot and the French nuclear tests at Mururoa Atoll, combined to create “a graphic pun of a sex bomb.” Appropriately, he calls it “Vénus Atomica.” We dig it, and Jacques' other art too, which you can see by clicking his keywords below. Just a little something different for you this lovely Thursday. Also, Jacques has a Flickr gallery here.
Hey, should we put another log or two on the— Actually, never mind. It's going pretty good now.
The Stokes nuclear test was part of the extensive series of blasts code-named Operation Plumbbob conducted at the Nevada Test Site, as the U.S. continued its race with the Soviet Union, seeking higher yielding, more efficient, and more specifically functional bombs. Stokes was a nineteen kiloton blast detonated with the use of an aerial balloon suspended at 1,500 feet. The result was one of the most reproduced photos of the nuclear testing age. From today in 1957.
It's a type of animal to which the normal rules of logic don't seem to apply.
Above is a photo of the nuclear test Mohawk, part of a seventeen blast series designated Redwing. The 360 kiloton Mohawk took place on Enewetak or Eniwetok Atoll. The first few milliseconds of a nuclear blast tend to produce forms like the one seen here, a bulbous shape with vaporizing guy wires that resemble stubby legs. To us, these shapes look a bit like tardigrades, those microscopic life forms found everywhere on Earth from jungle to arctic to sea bottom, and which are so resilient and difficult to kill they can survive extreme high and low pressures, radiation, dehydration, starvation, and exposure to the vacuum of space. Similarly, nuclear weapons seem able to survive anything, though their existence is proof of the folly of man. While we can certainly accept that we aren't an intelligent enough species to forgo the creation of armageddon causing weapons, the U.S. and Russia both have more than 5,000 nukes, an amount at which balance of power becomes meaningless. Weapon 4,999 is not the one that makes a nation secure. Nor is weapon 999. Military sources claim missile interception systems work at a rate of 80%, while arms control advocates say the real number is closer to 50%. In either case, in a full scale nuclear exchange hundreds of nukes would reach their targets.
Rule No. 1 of military service: Never volunteer.
The moment you see this photo you know something bizarre and unique to the 1950s is going on. In what was conceived by Air Force brains as a public relations event, today in 1957 these five men (and the photographer) voluntarily located themselves beneath a nuclear detonation to demonstrate that atomic weapons were suitable for use over civilian populations. Yes, we know—if they don't kill people what's the point? Like we said, bizarre and unique to the ’50s. The U.S. would later design a neutron bomb that was meant to kill only people and leave buildings and infrastructure intact, which makes sense in upside-down military world, but not killing people? We're baffled.
The explosion, which was code-named John, was part of the Operation Plumbbob series of twenty-nine tests, and took place over Yucca Flat in Nevada at an altitude of 18,000 feet or thereabouts (some sources say 15,000). It was the first and only usage of a device known as the AIR-2 Genie, an airplane launched, rocket powered, unguided nuclear missile.
We have no problem admitting they would have lost us at unguided. We wouldn't even be in the same time zone: “Okay, everyone ready? Good, we're counting down from— Hey, where'd those pulp guys go?” Did the test actually prove nuclear weapons were safe? They thought so. All five of the above guinea pigs lived for years beyond detonation day, but in a (not) shocking plot twist, all eventually died of cancer. The photographer, who was stationed a few feet higher than the other men, was incinerated. Oh, nope—actually he died of cancer too. You can watch the test at this link.
The greatest trick he ever pulled was convincing the world he was national defense.
Are we still here? We haven't been reduced to incandescent plasma yet? We're continually amazed by that fact. But let's never be complacent. The danger is ever-present. As we've mentioned before, nuclear weapons are part of the unseen—or sometimes seen—backdrop to a fair amount of mid-century crime literature and at least one celebrated film noir, which is why we periodically focus on them. Above is one of the most manifestly revealing nuclear test photos ever made. It was produced today in 1952 during a blast code-named Fox, and captures the essence of what atomic weapons really are—a demonic force unleashed that can't be shoved back into its pit.
Not only was she explosively sexy, but her voice could blow you away.
We love this nuclear themed 45 sleeve for an Abbe Lane four song disc, which we guess is titled simply Abbe Lane. It came from RCA Española and was released in Spain in 1958 with the offerings: “Que será será,” “¡Ay! Que Me Vuelvo Loca,” “Banana Boat (Day-O),” and “Very Satisfied.” All four songs are easy to sample online, so give them a whirl if you wish.
The rear sleeve text is fun. It says: Abbe Lane is without a doubt one of the most popular and applauded voices of the current musical moment. All her performances are hits and the songs she sings come to us covered in a rhythm and color that make them even more seductive.
Without a doubt, the secret of her success lies in herself, in her warm voice, in her exquisite way of conveying the message of her music to the listener, in her magnetic figure and great physical attractiveness.
In this recording, Abbe Lane sings in English and Spanish, interprets two calypsos, a fashionable rhythm that has come to dispute the primacy enjoyed by the much-discussed “rock and roll,” and two melodies that will be popular through the warm voice of the artist pampered by the public and critics worldwide: Abbe Lane.
The promotional staff at RCA Española might have loved Lane, but they couldn't spell. They open the third paragraph by calling her “Abre,” instead of Abbe. That amused us. We also like how, according to the front office brains, calypso was supplanting rock and roll. Really? Well, it turned out to be a marathon, not a sprint. We have a bonus shot of Lane below, for your viewing pleasure.
For there were no more worlds to conquer.
Above: a crowd of spectators standing under the entrance sign of the Last Frontier Village on the Las Vegas strip watch the flash from a nuclear blast emanating from the Nevada desert. In the immediate background are Old West-style buildings that housed shops, restaurants, and the Golden Slipper Casino. The sign is a nice juxtaposition by lensman Volkmar Wentzel, placing his shot at the nexus of visual metaphor and social commentary.
The bomb, named Annie, was detonated at Yucca Flat at the Nevada Test Site as part of the test series Operation Upshot-Knothole. It was one of the most photographed of nuclear tests, which is why we've already touched on it here and here, and in fact, because the event was even documented on kinescope, it's one of the few recordings ever made of the sound of a nuclear explosion. Below you see what Annie looked like for people closer to ground zero. It happened early this morning in 1953.
The decline and incineration of Western civilization.
These covers for Pat Frank's acclaimed post apocalypse drama Alas, Babylon can be considered additions to our collection of nuclear explosion book covers. In the story, a missile from a fighter jet causes an explosion in Syria that the Soviets mistake for a full scale NATO nuclear strike. They retaliate with a full strike, the U.S. retaliates with a full strike, and that's all she wrote. Actually, not really. That's the first act. Frank wrote plenty more, none of it fun. The novel first appeared in 1959, with these not-quite-identical Bantam editions coming later. We may have missed them in our initial searches for nuke covers because they're pretty subtle, combing the idea of a red sun with an atomic blast, but we're sure these are supposed to be explosions—or at least evoke them. There's also a very cool Spanish cover we posted way back in 2009. No explosion on that one, but it's exceedingly interesting.
Color, form, and function in the nuclear age.
This photo looks like a shot of the northern lights, but it's actually an image of the Starfish Prime nuclear test, which was conducted today in 1962 as part of the test series codenamed Operation Dominic. The photo was shot from a high flying airplane, which just goes to show that at a sufficient distance anything can look beautiful. You can just see the wing of the aircraft at the lower right of the shot. This test was unique in U.S. history up to that point because the warhead was mounted on the nose of a Thor rocket launched from Johnston Atoll, and the subsequent suborbital nuclear blast occurred two-hundred fifty miles above the Pacific Ocean. People from Hawaii to New Zealand saw the sky turn red. The electromagnetic pulse from the blast knocked out electrical service, telephones, streetlights, set off burglar alarms as far as a thousand miles away, and damaged satellites.
The test alarmed many, and had been protested in advance in various cities around the world, yet those protests achieved nothing. As the decades have worn on treaties have been signed and broken, hopes for abandoning these weapons raised and dashed, even as they've been steadily upgraded. Today there are nukes that make Starfish Prime look like a bottle rocket, including hypersonic missiles developed by both the U.S. and Russia that fly at up to 15,000 mph, which is too fast to be shot down or even reliably detected due to the incredible speed creating a plasma cloud that baffles radar. Of course everyone knows that there's no way to win a nuclear exchange, and the only outcome of even a half dozen nuclear blasts would be the destruction of civilization in its current form, yet the race to build planet killers goes on because of the immense profits involved. Humans are truly a mad species.
It isn't somewhere you want to spend a lot of time.
This photo shows a mushroom cloud in the process of rising to a height of 52,000 feet after a 100 kiloton yield nuclear bomb was dropped from a B-52 bomber near Christmas Island, a coral atoll south of Java, Indonesia, and now part of the Republic of Kiribati. The bomb was set off by the U.S. as part of Operation Dominic today in 1962. As we've mentioned before, the western powers are in the midst of another nuclear arms race, a fact that seems to get lost in a swirl of far less important news. Since mid-century crime fiction and films often touch upon the original nuclear arms race and its enveloping Cold War, we occasionally take a moment to look at these tests, and to remind people that nuclear weapons are pointless and stupid. Have a good day. |
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1954—Joseph McCarthy Disciplined by Senate
In the United States, after standing idly by during years of communist witch hunts in Hollywood and beyond, the U.S. Senate votes 65 to 22 to condemn Joseph McCarthy for conduct bringing the Senate into dishonor and disrepute. The vote ruined McCarthy's career.
1955—Rosa Parks Sparks Bus Boycott
In the U.S., in Montgomery, Alabama, seamstress Rosa Parks refuses to give her bus seat to a white man and is arrested for violating the city's racial segregation laws, an incident which leads to the Montgomery Bus Boycott. The boycott resulted in a crippling financial deficit for the Montgomery public transit system, because the city's African-American population were the bulk of the system's ridership.
1936—Crystal Palace Gutted by Fire
In London, the landmark structure Crystal Palace, a 900,000 square foot glass and steel exhibition hall erected in 1851, is destroyed by fire. The Palace had been moved once and fallen into disrepair, and at the time of the fire was not in use. Two water towers survived the blaze, but these were later demolished, leaving no remnants of the original structure.
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