• Visual Parallels

    Stalingrad, Russia, USSR, 1947.

    Statue of dancing children in front of the bombed-out buildings of Station Plaza. © Time Inc.Thomas D. Mcavoy

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  • Old Photos: 1948 London Olympics

    This article was published in the Life Magazine on August 23, 1948.

    American Athletes Sweep the Olympics

    They win 38 gold medals in games marked by many broken records, lots of rain but few quarrels – California beats all except three countries, but Dutch housewife takes top individual honors.

    For 17 days – except for one night when there was trouble with the gas line – the torch flamed brightly in Wembley, England. From July 29 to Aug. 14 it was the symbol of the 14th modern Olympiad. Last week, after a brief closing ceremony, the gas was turned off and 5,000 athletes from 59 nations were on their way home.
    The ceremonial dignity of the Wembley Olympiad was no match for the neopagan histrionics which characterized Adolf Hitler’s 1936 spectacle in Berlin. But by the athletic standards the show was superb, despite the fact that the weather was the worst in Olympic history (the sun shone only three days). The general decorum of competing athletes was admirable, and only a very slight international tension followed a disputed U.S. victory in the 400-meter relay. The U.S. team of sprinters won the race by seven yards but was disqualified when a British judge ruled that the Americans had passed the baton in an illegal manner. When the film record of the race proved the judge had erred, the U.S. was adjudged the winner in an elaborate show of good feeling. This deprived the British of their only track and field gold medal and gave the Americans another to add to the 10 they had already won.
    The U.S. Olympic sweep – 38 first-place medals- was overwhelming. In men’s track and field and swimming the U.S. scored more first and second places than all Europe combined, although the final unofficial point totals reflected the prowess of other countries in such peripheral sports as fencing and Greco-Roman wrestling. Considering comparative manpower and coaching standards, the parade of the U.S. track and field winners to the Wembley Stadium victory platforms was no surprise. And the unprecedented U.S. triumph in men’s swimming was made possible only because the Japanese were not permitted to compete. (Other absentees: the Germans, who were not invited, and the Russians who snubbed the whole show.)
    California athletes alone scored more points than any country except Sweden, France and Hungary. The two U.S. sensations were both Californians: Vicky Draves, who won both of the women’s diving championships, and Bon Mathias, a 17-year-old schoolboy who won the decathlon. But the greatest Olympic performer was not an American at all. It was Holland’s Fanny Blankers-Koen, the only person to win three individual championships.

    The U.S. Olympic teams leaving on the SS America. July 1948.
    © Time Inc.Cornell Capa

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  • Mustachioed Celebrity I Resemble The Most

    Let me preface this by saying: I despise ugly video-bloggers. If you don’t look like this but still have something important to say, please do everyone a favor and type it; your wife lied to you when she said you were handsome, you are not. That said, my charity participation gives me a temporary excuse to use any means possible to collect the money and help out the people with prostate cancer.

    So far my team has almost $500 collected and even more pledged. Thanks to your generous support and your sudden unexplained interest in Google Ads on this website I collected $50 so far and another $90 was donated to me and the team as a direct result of my various forms of begging for money on Facebook, Twitter and in person. As a cheap person I feel your pain, but extend your hand and feel the pain of prostate cancer (not there…little lower…still  lower…to the left…right here…ooooh) and you will understand why I defaced my own face by growing a mustache.

    As the Month of Movember progressed along, my uncanny resemblance of a certain celebrity became obvious.

    I am sure after seeing this you immediately recognized my mustache-double, but below is a clue for the slow ones among you.

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  • The Podunk Effect

    A while ago I was driving through Williamsburg,KS and stopped just long enough to take few photos for my blog. I didn’t write anything especially mean or disparaging, just my usual semi-ironic travel remarks. Then I got a few comments like this:

    Wow! Do you get your jollies by going around and finding the worst in every place you go? How sad! Did you bother to look at our new Library or the nice Community building or our school or the many nice houses or the new museum building? I pity you if all you see when you go through a community is the worst – and every community has some. We do have a great community – sure we’re struggling to stay alive – What small town isn’t. But we take care of each other, oh, why am I trying to explain anything to someone like you?

    This is what I call a Podunk Effect. Every other town in this country has a library, a school and a great community. It’s the rest of the stuff that makes a place unique, even if it’s a rusty truck, broken-down gazebo or an old sign. Podunk Effect makes you want to prove that your town is much much better than some visiting idiot made it out to be, even though the visitor is long gone and will probably never be back. He didn’t do his research, didn’t shake hands, didn’t sign your museum’s guestbook, and now everyone will see your awesome town as a giant pile of rusted metal and construction trash. Podunk Effect makes you boil with anger and leave angry comments on the offender’s site to set him straight.

    Recently an enormous case of Podunk Effect hit Kansas City, when a snarky article about the life of a vegetarian New-Yorker in Midwest was published in the New York Times.

    But make no mistake: meat-loving is one stereotype that the region wears with pride. Lard still plays a starring role in many kitchens, bacon comes standard in salads, and perhaps the most important event on Kansas City social calendars is a barbecue contest.

    – blasphemed the alleged heretic (none of it untrue) inadvertently creating a tsunami of righteous outrage.

    “How dare he! What does he mean by “meat-loving stereotype”? Lettuce is a vegetable!”

    One chef and refuter wrote:

    My first reaction to the article was confusion. My second reaction was to laugh. My third reaction was anger.

    My first reaction to her post was doubt – do people really have three separate reactions in a row?
    My second reaction was to wonder – what was the length of time in which these three reactions occurred? Was it really fast like “I am confused! Ha-ha! Boo!” or did every stage take some time, maybe an hour or more?
    My third reaction was amazement – did I just have three reactions in a row? Awesome!

    The problem with the NYT article is not the lack of research, or the author taking an easy route of propagating old stereotypes instead of portraying Kansas City as an oasis of vegetarianism in Midwest. The problem is the Pavlovian defensive reaction the article prompted on twitter, blogs, Facebook and even in the local paper, reaction which  just like a hurricane in a glass of water is pretty irrelevant in the scheme of things.

    Because I went to college I will use a Venn diagram to illustrate my point.

    All the reactions, comments, blog posts and rebuttals are staying here, with an exception of maybe this short note on the New York Magazine’s site, where one succinct comment expressed how most New Yorkers feel about Kansas City.

    Here is one headline you will never see in print: “New Yorkers are outraged about an unfair article about New York City published in the KC Star“. New Yorkers don’t need our or anyone else’s approval and acknowledgement, so why do we have to get hysterical and make everyone love us just like a podunk Williamsburg,KS? Until we drop small town mentality and just do our thing whether it’s eating meat or tofu, we will always suffer from the lack of self-respect as the city.
    No one is flying in here for the local vegetarian smorgasbord, it exists mostly for the people who live here and their occasional meat-hating guest. And, to be fair, the meat-loving stereotype served this city well, financially as well as being known as the BBQ capital of the world in the rest of the world. Recently I watched a clip of a Russian show where a lady presented a host with several bottles of the Kansas City BBQ sauce (ironically with all-vegetarian ingredients). That’s not a bad thing to be famous for.
    One thing this city needs to learn from New York: when you say or do something that a New Yorker doesn’t like, he will show you a finger and move on.

    We just need to learn to move on. But not before showing the finger.

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  • The Voice of The Russian People

    Celebrity death week went worldwide when the most famous Russian folk singer and the namesake of an asteroidLyudmila Zykina died on July 1st, just weeks after her 80th birthday. Even when I was a kid, she seemed old, I was actually surprised that she was only 80, I thought she was eighty in 1976. It’s probably safe to say that there is no person who grew up in the USSR who doesn’t know who she was or couldn’t recognize her distinct voice. She was everywhere – concerts, radio, TV and at that time not exactly someone my generation wanted to listen to, but in a system with 3 TV channels and a few radio stations we got our share of her singing. Seems pretty good now, not so much when I was 10.

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