• Old Photos: Trivia

    I didn’t realize that my Independence, MO theme weekend coincides with the Truman Days (TKC knew).

    Today’s old photo trivia question is: Where was the Medicare bill signed?

    Continue reading →

  • We Comin’ Rougher

    Today this country celebrates 20 years of having me around.

    Few years ago I wrote about our one-way trip here and I don’t have much to add to that story.

    Instead, you’ll get this song from another guy from my neck of the woods. I didn’t work in a sweatshop but in my early years here I did my share of pizza delivery and washing dishes.

    Another 20? I ain’t going anywhere…

  • Ebertskiy: Soviet Movie Critic Reviews Star Wars

    UPDATE: My Facebook conversation with Alan Scherstuhl inspired The Joys of Russian Star Wars: Meet Tripeo, Erdva Dedva, and Obi-Wan Knob

    I had this article saved up for some time but only now got around to translating it.

    To the best of my knowledge, the Star Wars were never shown in the Soviet Union, at least not in the wide distribution. Certain people always had access to the Western movies, the legendary uncensored versions, which included sex and violence and images of the Western lifestyles that were so detrimental to the psychological well-being of the Soviet people. For the rest of us, the press published articles like this, to nip the desire to see the banned movie in the bud. Even though some people could have read a much better review (links to the Google-translated version) in the limited distribution of the Amerika Magazine, in the pre-VCR era there just were no other options for and average Soviet Citizen to see the movie an decide for himself.

    Published under the heading “Mass Culture -77” in the box tiled “Their Sensations”

    Cosmic Movie Horrors*

    by Yulia Warshavskaya

    This summer a new wave of the movie mania washed over the American movie theaters. As reported in the press, the movie Star Wars directed by an American director George Lucas beat all the box office records: it made sixty million dollars just in its first month of release. From morning to midnight the Star Wars is being shown in the crowed theaters. To get in, one either needs to stand in line for several hours, or buy a  ticket from a scalper for an unheard price of $50.

    Following the monsters, mass catastrophes and giant sharks, American movie screens are overtaken by the horrors on a truly cosmic scale – terrifying tyrants terrorizing our Galaxy. They are being fought by the characters of the movie, a round-faced princess, a country boy, an old knight of the Round Table, an ape-man and two robots. One of them – huge and gilded Tripio possesses human speech, the other one – Artwo-Detwo – looks like an automobile and communicates with the “star signals”.

    The plot, as reported by the French weekly “Express”, is fairly primitive.**

    But to further terrify the audiences the creators of the movie employ the most menacing weapon ever – the laser beam – which the movie characters use to fight like a rapier. The screen is constantly filled with horrifying monsters – a lizard-man, faceless gnomes, a live mummy, whose head is covered with rubber tubes, fantastic animals…

    Along with this blood-curdling “masterpiece” which director George Lucas calls a “Western of the future”, several parallel commercial operations were undertaken. Ballantine Books published a novel with the same title; Marvel Comics, a publisher specializing in comic books, divided the screenplay into six parts and started publishing a million copies every month. Other classic attributes of mass culture followed – pins, shirts, promotional posters, soundtrack. And closer to the New Year the stores will be filled with toys – miniature Artwo-Detwo making the same noises as its prototype, as well as the gilded Tripio. The famous laser sword is not invented yet, but it’s in the works.

    In the near future the next episode of the Star Wars will be released, but, most likely, it will be as mediocre as it will be profitable. It’s not surprising at all. Mass viewer often “bites” on these “pieces of art”, so the life outside of the theater walls feels a lot safer…

    * amateur translation mine
    **obviously the author did not see the movie and has to cite another publication

  • Pepper, Honey, Honey…

    Back in the day before vegetables were genetically modified to grow in winter and still retained their natural look, taste and smell, each produce had its own growing season. You couldn’t walk into a grocery store in December and expect to find a watermelon or a tomato* and it was OK, there was something to look forward to in the spring and summer. Even though it’s now available year round, I still don’t eat watermelon in winter, but it’s nice to know that I could if I wanted to. To overcome the fruit and vegetable shortage people invented many ways to preserve foods for the winter – canning, drying, pickling, etc. Many families including mine had a closet like you see on the left where we stored a variety of preserves my Mom and Dad cooked during the summer. Opening one of those jars always brought back the summer even if only for a few minutes. Today’s recipe is a simple to make throwback to these years.

    Imagine one day you are browsing around Costco, mentally restraining yourself from buying another gargantuan item when you see these:

    “Only two pounds, could be worse”, you think to yourself, putting the package into your cart. There are so many things you can do with peppers including just eating them raw. At home you can just wash the peppers in the sink.

    Combine 1 cup of regular vinegar and 1 cup of vegetable oil (don’t waste olive oil):

    By the way, if you use the term “EVOO” I don’t mind losing you as a reader of this blog, feel free to never come back.
    Pour oil and vinegar into a medium sized pot, add half-a-cup of water,3/4 tablespoon of salt, 2 tablespoons of honey, a handful of whole peppercorns and a bay leaf if you have it (I do). Bring to boil and make sure it’s all incorporated. While that’s going on, cut off the tops and slice the peppers in strips. These are pretty small (and I know a small pepper when I see one), so I just quartered them.

    Try the marinade, see if you like it, it should have a pleasant sweet and sour taste. I felt like I needed to add some more honey, which I did. Add sliced peppers to the boiling marinade (in batches if needed) and boil for 3-5 minutes. This recipe works best for heavier thicker peppers, these are pretty thin and you want them to retain texture, you are not making mashed peppers here.

    Take the peppers out with a slotted spoon and place them in a jar, then cook another batch.

    After all the peppers are cooked, pour the cooking liquid over them to cover completely. I had to add some boiled hot water to have all the peppers covered. Let them cool down.

    These peppers are good with everything: salads, sandwiches, garnish, vodka, whatever you can think of. I am not sure how long they will keep in the refrigerator, but peppers this delicious will not last that long anyway.

    I’d like to mention that my friend Donna recently tried my borscht recipe and not only liked it but is still in good health. That’s better than having a seal of approval.
    Even though we now have everything available all year long, summer is still the best for cooking and eating vegetables. Enjoy!
    *you were lucky to find cabbage and potatoes at the grocery store in December
    **due to unforeseen circumstances I was using my old camera, so the picture quality is not the best.

  • Old Photos: May Day

    Another May Day is here and there is still plenty of time to celebrate by walking around with red flags, playing marching music and shouting the approved slogans:

    Long live the unity and close ties of the peoples of the nations of the socialist community! Let strengthen the indissoluble fighting union of the Communist parties of the socialist nations on the basis of the tested principles of Marxism- Leninism and proletarian internationalism!

    Fraternal greeting to the working class of the capitalist nations–a selfless fighter against exploitation and the domination of monopolies and for the rights of all workers, for peace, democracy and socialism!

    Warm greeting to the people of Latin America, carrying on a courageous struggle against the oppression of imperialist monopolies, against reaction and fascism, for free and independent development, for peace, democracy, and social progress!

    ©Time.James Whitmore

    US Communist Henry Winston at May Day celebration. ©Time.Stan Wayman

    Khrushchev and Fidel Castro in Red Square on May 1st.©Time. Stan Wayman

    Red Square, Moscow. May 1st,1961 ©Time.James Whitmore