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Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

How the Man Who Bombed Oregon Became an Honorary Citizen

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Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Most people think the only attack on United States soil during WWII happened on December 7, 1941—Pearl Harbor. Actually, the U.S. was hit again, less than a year later ... to much less drastic effect.

In September 1942, a Japanese navy pilot named Nobuo Fujita dropped firebombs over a forested area near the small town of Brookings, Oregon. By dropping incendiary devices and starting massive forest fires, the Japanese believed they could divert U.S. resources and potentially cause panic.

Luckily, the plan didn’t really work. Despite being spotted by a fire lookout, Fujita managed to drop two bombs—but due to light winds, rain, and speedy firefighters, the fires were quickly contained. The pilot eventually returned home, but what he had tried to do never left him.

In 1962, Fujita came back to Brookings to make amends, toting a family heirloom—a 400-year-old samurai sword to give to the town. If they refused to forgive him, the pilot intended to commit seppuku (ritual suicide) with it. “I was quite sure that once in Brookings I would be beaten up, people would throw eggs at me and shout insults at me,” he later admitted.

To Fujita’s surprise, the people of Brookings welcomed him with large crowds, a special reception, and a key to the city. He later returned the favor, footing the bill for three Oregonian teenagers to visit Japan. He also gave $1000 to the local library to purchase books for children to learn about his country, hoping that understanding each other would prevent more wars from happening. Fujita made another three visits to Oregon throughout his lifetime, even planting trees on the spot where he dropped the bombs.

Shortly before his death in 1997, the town of Brookings made their onetime attacker an honorary citizen. The following year, his daughter visited the town to honor her father’s last request: to have some of his ashes buried at the bomb site.

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‘American Gothic’ Became Famous Because Many People Saw It as a Joke
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Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

In 1930, Iowan artist Grant Wood painted a simple portrait of a farmer and his wife (really his dentist and sister) standing solemnly in front of an all-American farmhouse. American Gothic has since inspired endless parodies and is regarded as one of the country’s most iconic works of art. But when it first came out, few people would have guessed it would become the classic it is today. Vox explains the painting’s unexpected path to fame in the latest installment of the new video series Overrated.

According to host Phil Edwards, American Gothic made a muted splash when it first hit the art scene. The work was awarded a third-place bronze medal in a contest at the Chicago Art Institute. When Wood sold the painting to the museum later on, he received just $300 for it. But the piece’s momentum didn’t stop there. It turned out that American Gothic’s debut at a time when urban and rural ideals were clashing helped it become the defining image of the era. The painting had something for everyone: Metropolitans like Gertrude Stein saw it as a satire of simple farm life in Middle America. Actual farmers and their families, on the other hand, welcomed it as celebration of their lifestyle and work ethic at a time when the Great Depression made it hard to take pride in anything.

Wood didn’t do much to clear up the work’s true meaning. He stated, "There is satire in it, but only as there is satire in any realistic statement. These are types of people I have known all my life. I tried to characterize them truthfully—to make them more like themselves than they were in actual life."

Rather than suffering from its ambiguity, American Gothic has been immortalized by it. The country has changed a lot in the past century, but the painting’s dual roles as a straight masterpiece and a format for skewering American culture still endure today.

Get the full story from Vox below.

[h/t Vox]

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“Dissension” by Tobias Rothe. Original image courtesy Fondazione Federico Zeri/Università di Bologna // CC-BY 3.0
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Get Your GIFs Ready for This International Public Domain GIF-Making Competition
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“Dissension” by Tobias Rothe. Original image courtesy Fondazione Federico Zeri/Università di Bologna // CC-BY 3.0

Excellent GIF-making skills can serve you beyond material for your clever tweets. Each year, a group of four digital libraries from across the world hosts GIF IT UP, a competition to find the best animated image sourced from public domain images from their archives.

The competition is sponsored by Europeana, the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), New Zealand’s DigitalNZ, and the National Library of Australia’s Trove, all of which host millions of public domain works. The requirements are that the source material must be in the public domain, have a 'no known copyright restrictions' statement, or have a Creative Commons license that allows its reuse. The material must also come from one of the sponsored sources. Oh, and judging by the past winners, it helps if it’s a little whimsical.

The image above won the grand prize in 2015. And this was a runner-up in 2016:

via GIPHY

This year’s prizes haven’t been announced yet (although Europeana says there will be a new one for first-time GIF makers), but last year’s grand prize winner got their own Giphoscope, and runners-up got $20 gift cards. (Turns out, there’s not a lot of money in public domain art.)

Not an expert GIFer yet? You can always revisit the audio version of DPLA’s advanced GIF-making tutorial from last year.

The fourth-annual GIF IT UP contest opens to submissions October 1.

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