• Look Who Is Singing In Yiddish

    The Andrews Sisters perform Yiddish song Bei Mir Bistu Shein:

    Here is another one:

    P.S. I am finally running out of these. If you have any suggestions please let me know; I am looking for Jewish songs performed by someone who doesn’t normally sing in Yiddish or Hebrew.

  • Diversity For The Sake Of Diversity

    This colorful magazine showed up in my mail the other day to let me know that my local community college now sports a new “Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion” (ODEI). Reading through the articles I realized that this office embodies everything I hate about creating diversity for the sake of diversity, a repulsive and counter-productive result of  political correctness, guilt and stomping on something positive until it becomes a sad caricature of its old self.

    There is nothing wrong with diversity. In this country, unless you refer to your neighborhood as a “compound“, there is no way to escape some exposure to other races, religions, sexual orientations, or a handicaps. One can try to minimize such exposure by choosing a location, a school, avoiding media, screening out entertainment options, but unlike some people I knew in my childhood years, most of us had probably seen a black person or an Asian, a Muslim or a Jew, a person in a wheel chair or with a hearing aid. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that no matter how hard you try you cannot avoid diversity and that’s most likely a good thing.

    I am not sure when educational institutions and corporations realized that diversity is not only a positive development but there is some money to be made from exploiting it, either directly by receiving special funds or government contracts or indirectly – by piling on titles like the best company for Hispanics or for women, Asians or LGBT employees. While getting on these lists may require some investment in special benefits and recruitment, the payoff is much higher due to an influx of customers from grateful communities. That’s when creating diversity became a goal in itself exploding with consultancies, conferences, magazines, titles and offices such as the one I started this post with. “Virginia Tech committed $1 million over a five-year period to increase ethnic diversity on campus, which includes faculty and stuff” – says one of the articles. I am sure the best-qualified applicants to Virginia Tech would appreciate a million dollars in the scholarship fund distributed based on merit.

    One way to determine if the desire to create diversity is genuine is presence of bragging and showmanship. If you read a sentence: “In a spirit of the office in which we work, we should note we in the ODEI are three straight African American women, two straight White men, one straight woman whose country of origin is Pakistan, two straight White women, and one White lesbian” you know that this office was created with title funds in mind. Are we creating a professional educational institution or Noah’s Ark? Aren’t we supposed to look for the the best-suited individuals instead of trying to get a pair of each race, national origin or sexual orientation? I understand that the diversity of student body and faculty may be important to a new applicant, but would you actually base your decision on the fact that a particular college just hired a transvestite handicapped ex-hooker from Bangkok?

    If you  believe that diversity wouldn’t happen without being encouraged you are a victim of an ongoing brainwashing campaign by the people who work in the offices like this, so they can keep their otherwise worthless jobs instead of being replaced by faculty who will actually do what college is supposed to do – educate. Examples of skill-based diversity are everywhere, from the Navajo code-talkers during the WWII to sports , to science, management, education and any field where the best person gets the job. I am sure racism, antisemitism, misogyny, etc., are still a part of hiring decisions but no company in the right state of mind would condone or encourage these practices because they are too expensive to deal with in the aftermath. I was hired by a major corporation after a technical test and a phone interview without being seen in person until after the job was offered to me. I’d like to think that I was hired based on my skill and not because my company didn’t have enough Russian Jews. Being hired or accepted based on quotas and/or to add to “diversity” should be just as demeaning as being rejected because of race, gender, age or whatever other reason. Efforts to artificially create diversity steal money from the real goals such as education, hiring the best professionals, providing the best service, creating a better working environment.

    Fake and insincere efforts  to enforce diversity always show when someone brags about having the most minority executives or the the most women in management, or the first openly gay office-holder. As long as people are still identified by their race, gender or national origin first and only then by their professional or educational accomplishments there will always be talk about unfairness and bias. When the “Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion” would describe itself as consisting of educated professionals instead of a breakdown of their otherwise unimportant characteristics I will know that the real diversity is in place. Being Black or Jewish or Lesbian, or all three combined is not an achievement or an accomplishment. That’s why I wish that people would stop harping about the first black president. Barack Obama is an educated man, a lawyer, a politician, a Senator, a President which are all exemplary accomplishments in anyone’s lifetime. But the only quality he didn’t have any say about – being black – is being trumpeted more than all the others combined.  Every time is hear another mention of Obama’s race all I see it this:

    There is no question that diversity cannot be stopped or contained, but demeaning efforts to artificially expedite and quantify it are not helping along.

    UPDATE: Emaw previously shared his views on the subject.

  • Republican National Convention of 1976 in Kansas City, MO

    I interrupt slow vacation coverage and other musings to report on my recent archaeological trip to the Missouri Valley Special Collections to waste a day off photograph some artifacts from the Republican National Convention, hosted in Kansas City’s Kemper Arena in 1976.

    Continue reading →

  • Old Photos: Nixon Goes To The USSR

    Life Magazine reported on the Nixon’s trip to the USSR in its August 1959 article “The Vice President in Russia – A Barnstorming Masterpiece.” The only reason for this post is the photo of Nixon in a miner’s hardhat.

    Who doesn't belong and why?

    Continue reading →

  • Fencing Tournament

    Couple of weeks ago unbeknown to you the Russian population of this Metro Area has doubled for a few days. A surprising number of Russian-speaking coaches, parents and participants arrived to Kansas City for the U.S. Fencing North American Cup Tournament. There were of course many others (some of them even Americans :-)) but the number of foreign languages spoken at the Bartle Hall that weekend was indicative of a huge European influence on the sport of fencing. Among the participants was my niece from New York City which gave me a good reason to see the sport for myself. I spent two days at Bartle Hall watching and taking pictures, and while my photos are nothing to write home about, the people with good cameras probably had better things to do, so this is all I have.

    Fencing may not be as popular as other sports but it’s lightning fast, physically demanding, psychologically challenging and beautifully choreographed. It doesn’t hurt that fencing may be an asset for college admissions. For kids like mine who don’t seem to enjoy team sports this is an attractive option. There are a few local clubs in Kansas City, one was started by a famous Russian Coach who since moved on to become a head coach at Ohio State and the other one still has a Russian Coach.
    Here are just a few out of almost 300 photos I took with my slow camera.

    In this video I slowed down the motion a little just to demonstrate ballet-like quality of fencing.

    This video is a short clip of one of the final bouts.

    By the way, commonly used word touché originates in fencing (not to confuse with the Yiddish word tuches which means something entirely different).