Starting in 1954 the Sugar Information, Inc. published ads in the Life Magazine and others promoting the health and weight-loss benefits of sugar. Of course in the 1950’s the sugar was delicious, healthy and local, not the corporate white death we have to eat today. Girls used it for an energy boost during a long school day; women used it for dieting so they can look good on the beach; men used it for
penis enlargement…well, ads didn’t actually mention men so no one knows what they used it for.
I want that America back. Free of disgusting diet drinks and sugar-free Jell-O. Where sugar slimmed you down instead of making you fat. Where sugar cured diabetes and cancer. Where you could eat a teaspoon of sugar to keep you from getting hungry between other teaspoons of sugar. I want this awesome America back.
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That’s why I will be voting for Ron Paul in November even if he is not on the ballot and I am not registered to vote.
In 1939 Life Magazine published an article “America Gambling: Half of the nation made bets in 1938“. Kansas city was prominently featured as one of the most notorious gambling towns.Continue reading →
There are two kinds of people in the world – selfless dreamers and the rest of us. Selfless dreamers are busy dreaming up ways to make the world better, feed the starving, enrich the poor and keep the Earth at some temperature that they know to be perfect for all of us to live happily and comfortably. The rest of us are lazily pointing out why these dreams will never come true and why they shouldn’t, at the same time hoping that there is enough medication to keep selfless dreamers sedated or at least writing another unsellable book. Sometimes the dreamers manage to convince the weakest-minded among the rest of us to follow them and that’s when we end up participating in wild social experiments like the one in the USSR that lasted for over 70 years.
I am sure in 1917 the idea of communal living sounded great: rich people where enjoying palaces and nice apartments with heat and indoor plumbing, while the poor where huddling in shanties, dorms and dirty cramped tenements with no running water and freezing outhouses. People reasoned that they could use an upgrade, kick out or downsize the rich oppressors, move into their posh apartments and share the amenities with their working class brethren. Thus was born a “kommunalka” or a communal apartment where many families were crammed together in a formerly single-family apartment. I am not sure how many days it took the new kommunalka dwellers to realize their mistake, find the dreamers who promised to make their lives better and beat them senseless, but they and their families had over 70 years to regret that move and some are still facing their neighbors every morning in the line to use the restroom.
I guess it takes a generation to grow up without knowing any better to have a completely opposite reaction to something that would normally be considered abnormal. I’ve seen all kinds of living arrangements but I never thought that any of them were weird, no matter how ugly, overpopulated or cramped some of these places looked I always thought that was business as usual. I wrote about communal living before and originally planned to expand on the subject but I found a virtual museum with plans, photos and videos, with English captions and transcripts which thoroughly covers every aspect of life in a kommunalka. You wouldn’t find any of this in the glossy cheery photo albums that somehow made it into this country.
However, for your enjoyment I uploaded and tagged a video clip from the movie Russian Dolls in which the characters arrive at the typical apartment in St.Petersburg.
Another clip is from a recent Russian movie Stilyagi which also depicts a huge communal apartment, although it may be a dorm. I think in real life the happiness was dialed down a little (or a lot). Also notice neighbors always being in your business and a lot of times in your food (imagine your office fridge times 10).
Thin walls, whole families in the same room with kids and grandparents, often separated only by curtains, fights, hate, backstabbing, stealing, it wasn’t a communal dream that the dreamers promised. But at the same time there was love, care, lifelong friendships, memorable times and helping hands – some things cannot be killed by years of inhuman living conditions.
A recent post on Kansas Travel and my own visit to a gallery this week, where I was chastised by my daughter for not understanding art, reminded me that I had this set of photos from 1955 bookmarked for a long time.
Up to now Attica, Kan., for all its classical name, could pass for any other tiny town in the wheatlands – a slowdown point on a rural highway leading to Wichita. But today traffic through Attica not only slows down but stops and looks. Encamped with palettes and drawing boards on the sidewalks, along the railroad, in the wheatfields are painters – singly or in bunches – recording the surroundings with the earnest concentration of Paris professionals. The painters are members of the Artists Guild of Attica, a burgeoning group that in course of three years had made the town of 622 people aware, curious and eager about art.Continue reading →
I previously discussed my feelings on the subject but I was happy to discover that I am not the only one pondering these questions. A short documentary by a young Soviet-born Jewish-Canadian offers a perspective I can identify with, a point of view from a person who came in contact with a different type of Jewish culture and now wonders if her own Jewishness is somehow not up to par. Since I arrived here at the age of 22 with established worldviews and my own understanding of what it means to be Jewish, I haven’t been subjected to the situations described by the people interviewed in the documentary, but I definitely recognized my own thoughts when she interviewed her Mom (although I do speak better English). I wonder if my daughter feels that way when she deals with her friends who have more active Jewish community and religious lives.
Before the video I’d like to offer a quote from an article on the subject:
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It is not surprising that Russian Jews — who love their treyf, enjoy their Christmas trees and keep away from synagogues — leave American, Israeli and German Jews wondering what to think. Perhaps they should begin by considering the notion that Russian Jews have something of great value to contribute to the Jewish world.
Russian Jews, with their radically global view of the Jewish world, with their ability to bring together thousands for a Yiddish concert or a Limmud gathering, with their multilingualism and transnationalism, belong at the center of conversation about Jewish life. With Jews around the globe seeking out new ways of expressing their Jewish identities outside the confines of traditional religious practice, Russian Jews’ own secular, ethnically driven notions of Jewishness, and their experience with maintaining community in multiple homes, may eventually place them at the center, not the periphery, of Jewish experience.