• Back Off Devil!

    Continuing with the subject of random vehicle photos altered with annoying photo filters, here is an awesome moving piece of art. This Gulliver-like Jesus sitting in the low-flying cloud, winged angels leading people out of their coffins with lids still attached, and even a bible-gripping Yosemite Sam, could be yours if you manage to locate the owners phone number.

    I am the way, the truth and the life....
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  • Old Photos: Window Shopping In The USSR

    This set of photos is interesting in a sense that when I was growing up® nothing like this was left in existence in the majority of the country. The stores were stocked with a scarce selection of products and no need for visual advertising remained:anything that was slightly above the horrible level of the Soviet consumer products was swept off the shelves without hesitation; many times the lines were so long that people in the end didn’t know what was being sold, they figured anything worth buying will find some use at home or would be appreciated by other family members. Sometimes after hours in line, the supplies ran out and disappointed people were off to try their luck elsewhere.
    With empty shelves, long lines and sad-looking products around me, it was hard to believe my parents’ stories about many things being plentiful in the  late 50’s and 60’s. Grocery stores filled with caviar and various delicacies seemed impossible to me. Not that I was deprived of  good food and dressed in garb; we had more or less of everything from good food to decent clothing but most of it wasn’t purchased in the regular retail establishments. From black market to bribery, there were other ways to acquire things.

    Note: the prices you see on some storefronts are in pre-1961 rubles, in 1961 they were exchanged 10 to 1.

    TV Store. Map of the TV coverage in the USSR is visible at the top.©Time, Carl Mydans
    More TV's. The sign says "Samples"©Time, Carl Mydans
    Another TV store display. Soviet TV's suffered many quality problems. When in 1976 my father went to buy our first color TV someone he knew at the store turned on several sets. Many didn't stay on for long and some had display issues. The only one that worked became our TV and served us without too much trouble until 1992.©Time, Carl Mydans
    More from TV and Electronics store. I used to have a very similar reel-to-reel just slightly smaller and weighing less than a small vehicle. Talk about heavy metal.©Time, Carl Mydans
    Photo Store. Sign advertises store credit for items over 400 rubles. 400 rubles was a significant amount considering that average monthly income was around 913 rubles in 1960. On the left side there is a drawing of a pioneer with a camera. Photography was promoted in schools and after-school clubs.©Time, Carl Mydans
    Shoe Store. Pinocchio is holding a sign "Taking care of your footwear prolongs its usefulness". Sign below "Using shoehorn prevents footwear damage"©Time, Carl Mydans
    Liquor Store. Store clerk is visible through the glass wearing a pretty uniform.©Time, Carl Mydans
    Cheese display with names and descriptions of various cheeses. In 1983 a display like this would've looked like an insulting joke.©Time, Carl Mydans
    Cod Liver. So that ©Time, Carl Mydans
    Fabrics ©Time, Carl Mydans
    Fabrics ©Time, Carl Mydans
    Rugs ©Time, Carl Mydans
    Bookstore. Notice some propaganda display in the middle. No one in the right state of mind would buy this literature but it was always printed in huge numbers and sometimes forced on people who wanted to buy a hard-to-find book. ©Time, Carl Mydans
    Books ©Time, Carl Mydans
    This bookstore display showcases art, sculpture and graphics.©Time, Carl Mydans
    Bookstore display by the Academy of Sciences Publication dedicated to the July Meeting of the Central Committee of Communist Party. One of the books "Lenin and Physics" is an example of a propaganda mixed with science. Another book "First photos of the other side of the Moon"©Time, Carl Mydans
    Hats ©Time, Carl Mydans
    Clocks and Watches. Sign advertises available credit.©Time, Carl Mydans
    In the bottom "Large Selection of Time Pieces". Above "Everyone needs a clock"©Time, Carl Mydans

    I guess I got carried away a little. To be continued.

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  • Real World War II (Part 3)

    Part I
    Part II

    It would be nice if the colonel tried to think about and prepare an attack, to check whether everything possible is done, but oftentimes he was simply mediocre, lazy, drunk. Often he did not want to leave the warm shelter and crawl under the bullets … Often an artillery officer didn’t completely identify the targets and, afraid to take risks, shot from a distance covering an entire area, frequently shelling our own troops … Sometimes a supplier was having fun drinking and entertaining the women in the nearest village, forgetting to deliver shells and food … Or a Major would get lost using a compass and lead his battalion into a completely different area. Confusion, mistakes, deficiencies, fraud, failure to fulfill one’s duty, so typical of us in the civilian life, is more evident during the war. And for all these the price is the same – blood. Ivan’s attack and die, but their commanders sitting in the shelter keep sending them into attack again and again. It’s surprising how different the human psychology is for those who have to attack and those who observe; when you don’t have to die yourself everything seems simple – just keep moving forward!

    One night, I substituted for a telephone operator at the apparatus. Communications were primitive then and calls on all lines could be heard at all points, I learned how commander Fedyuninsky talks with divisional commanders: “Your mother! Forward! If there is no advance – I will personally shoot you! Your mother! Attack! Your mother! » (Russian swearing)… Two years ago elderly Ivan Ivanovich (*Fedyuninsky), now a kindly grandfather, was telling the kids about the war on TV in completely different terms.

    In a language of parable, the following occurred: the house got infested with bugs and the owner ordered the residents to burn the house down and burn themselves along with the bugs. Someone will be left to rebuild it all … We didn’t know any better and couldn’t do it otherwise. I read somewhere that the British intelligence service is preparing its agents for decades. They are taught in the best colleges; trained athletically, intellectually and become well-rounded professionals in their business. Then these agents go on to solve the world’s problems. In Asian countries, the task is given a thousand or ten thousand hastily coached people in the hope that even if almost all fail and are destroyed, at least one will accomplish his mission. They have neither the time nor the means to prepare and lack experienced instructors. Everything is done in a hurry – not enough time, not enough planning, or if there was an effort it turned out to be misguided. Everything is done reflexively, by intuition, by sheer numbers. That’s how we fought. In 1942, there was no alternative. A Wise Master in the Kremlin knew it all too well and kept pressing his iron will, ordering the only thing he could: “Attack!” And we attacked and attacked and attacked … And the mountain of corpses at the Pohost, and many other areas and nameless heights grew, grew, and grew. That’s how the Victory was hammered out.

    If the Germans had managed to infiltrate our command staffs with spies, and the troops with saboteurs, if there was mass treason and enemies would develop a detailed plan to collapse our army, they would not have achieved the effect which was the result of the idiocy, stupidity and irresponsibility of the authorities and helpless submission of our soldiers. I saw this near Pohost, and as it turned out, it was like this everywhere.

    The war has exposed the underside of the Bolshevik regime. Just like during the peacetime when they conducted detentions and executions of the most hardworking, honest, intelligent, active and bright people, they continued to do it on the frontlines, but in a more open and revolting form. Here is an example. From the high command came and order: take over a heights. The regiment stormed it week after week, losing a lot of people every day. Replacements were moved in constantly, there was no shortage of people. But among them were swollen from hunger residents of Leningrad, who were prescribed bed regime and high-calorie diet for three weeks by the medics. Among them are youngsters born in 1926 who fourteen and not eligible for the military draft … “Forrrward!!! “and nothing else. At last, a soldier or a lieutenant, a platoon leader, or captain, commander of the company (rarely), seeing a crying shame, exclaims: “You can’t sacrifice the people like this!. There, on top of the height, there is a concrete reinforced firing point! And we have only 76-millimeter tiny gun! It cannot pierce the concrete! “… Political officers and SMERSH immediately get involved, a tribunal is set up. One of the informers, who are plentiful everywhere, testifies: “Yes, in the presence of the soldiers he questioned our victory.” Immediately a pre-printed form gets filled out, where they only need to enter the name and the resolution: “Execute!” or “Send to the penal company!” which was pretty much the same. That’s how the most honest and responsible people got eliminated. And the rest – “Forrrward ! Attack!” There are no fortresses that could withstand the Bolsheviks! “And the Germans dug into the dirt, creating a maze of trenches and shelters. Go get them! Stupid, senseless killing of our soldiers went on. Presumably, this selection of the Russian people – is a ticking time bomb: it will explode after a few generations, XXI or XXII century, when selected and nourished by the Bolsheviks mass of scum will create new generations of their kind.

    It is easy to write it, when the years have passed, when the crater near Pohost got filled up; when almost everyone had forgotten that little station; when anguish and despair are not as painful as it was then. Imagining such despair is not possible, only a person who himself had experienced the necessity to stand up and run towards death can understand it. Not someone else but namely you, and not someday, but right now, this minute, you must go into the fire, where, at best, you can get lightly hurt, and at worst – either tear up the jaw, or the stomach, or he knock out  the eyes, or shred the skull. That’s you, although you want to live so badly! You, who had so much hope! You, who had not yet lived, and hadn’t seen anything in life! You, who still has the whole life ahead! You, who is only seventeen! You must be willing to die, not only now but always. Today you are lucky, death passed you by. But tomorrow there will be another attack and again you have to be ready to die, and not heroically, but without celebration, without the orchestra and speeches, in the mud, in the stench. And no one will notice your death: you will lie down in a big pile of corpses near the railroad and rot, forgotten by all, in the sticky mire of the marshes near Pohost.

    Poor, poor Russian peasants! They got caught between the millstones in the mill of history between the two genocides. On the one hand they were being destroyed by Stalin, herding them with the gunfire into socialism, and now, in 1941-1945, Hitler was killing myriads of innocent people. That’s how the victory was being forged, that’s how the Russian nation was being destroyed, especially its soul. How will live the descendants of those who survived? And what will happen to Russia?

    So why were they marching to the death, with a clear understanding of its inevitability? Why did they go, against their wishes? They marched not just with the fear of death, they were completely terror-stricken, and yet they marched! They didn’t have to think and justify their actions. They were too preoccupied. They just got up and walked, because they HAD to! They listened politely to the parting words of their political officers – illiterate retelling of the worthless newspaper editorials – and kept going. They were not inspired by some ideas or slogans, they just had to. That’s probably how our ancestors went to die on Kulikovo Field or at Borodino (major battles in the Russian history). It is unlikely that they speculated about the historical perspectives and the greatness of our nation … Upon reaching the neutral zone, they weren’t shouting “For the Motherland! For Stalin! “, as they write in the novels. In the line of fire one could hear the hoarse howling and thick foul language, until the bullets and shell fragments didn’t shut the screaming throats up. No one cared about Stalin when the death was near. So why now in the sixties, again arose the myth that we have won only because of Stalin, under the banner of Stalin? I have no doubt on this matter. Those who won, had either fallen on the battlefield, became alcoholics depressed by the post-war hardships. They had to bear not only the war, but also all of the post-war reconstruction of the country. Those of them who are still alive are now silent, broken. The people in power now are the ones who avoided the carnage – those who sent people to the camps, those who ordered the senseless attacks in the bloody war. They acted in the name of Stalin, and they are still crying about it. There wasn’t “For Stalin!” on the frontline. The Commissars have tried to hammer it into our heads, but the commissars did not go under bullets. I just had to vent…

    1942.Top: Destroyed Soviet Tank. Bottom: Graves of the crew of a downed German Plane

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  • Siege Of Leningrad

    January 27th is an anniversary of the lifting of the Siege of Leningrad – one of the greatest humanitarian tragedies of the World War II. 900 days of bombing and starvation claimed over 600,000 lives.

    Someone overlayed old photos of the blockade with the photos of St. Petersburg today to create haunting images at the same time signifying that life goes on even after a horrible tragedy like the one that happened 70 years ago.
    (Click for more)

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  • World’s Most Expensive Billboard

    Every day on the way home I pass the world’s most expensive billboard located in Merriam, KS.

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