• Behind The Iron Curtain: Sputnik

    On October 4, 1957 the first artificial satellite Sputnik-1 acted as the starter pistol for the space race.

    Cover of LIFE magazine dated 10-21-1957 of Smithsonian Observatory scientists working at M.I.T. in Cambridge to try to calculate Sputnik's orbit; © Time Inc. Dmitri Kessel
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  • Kansas City: Still Here 30 Years After

    Since there is no large-scale event like an All Star Game planned in Kansas City in the year 2013, I propose to make the 30th anniversary of the movie The Day After the theme for the year. Granted, The Day After is a horrible, poorly acted, made for TV movie, with special effects that make The 7th Voyage of Sinbad look like the Star Wars, but it scared the crap out of millions of Americans and convinced President Reagan to sign a Nuclear Treaty few years later.

    The movie demonstrated  that it only takes hours after the nuclear strike for the American Military to disband and start fending for themselves, few days for the food riots to start, and few weeks for most people to lose their humanity and forget the English language. It also showed that the government will be predictably unprepared, a nuclear shelter doesn’t protect against a big gun and that people will still ignore the warnings and go to a movie theater right before being blasted with inexplicably excessive number of nuclear devices.

    The idea of using The Day After to promote tourism in Kansas City is not new and not even mine. In his article “Kansas City after “The Day After”” published in the Travel Holiday Magazine in June 1984, John Garrity quotes Richard Pfanenstiel, director of the Missouri Film Commission saying:

    The Day After was the best thing that ever happened to Kansas City, Kansas City looked good”.

    then goes on to write:

    “If you caught the final 20 minutes of the ABC’s The Day After, last November’s doomsday movie, you probably don’t agree with the above statement. You saw Kansas City as an ash-gray rock pile, a windy moonscape dotted with small fires around which a few radiation-ravaged survivors huddled for warmth. The Day After,  you guessed, would not o for Kansas City what Where the Boys Are did for Fort Lauderdale.

    “As of Sunday night,” Kansas City Times columnist Arthur Brisbane wrote after watching the film, “we’re famous as the city ABC blew up.”

    Or, as some other wag noted, “There goes the neighborhood.”

    “If it weren’t for the honor of the thing,” a television newsman deadpanned, “I’d just as soon have passed it up.” This last remark, of course, paraphrased Mark Twain, the most famous of all Missourians, who predicted that mankind’s folly would bring it to just such an inglorious end.

    Others contend that ABC, by blowing Kansas City off the map, actually put Kansas City on the map. The film has now been shown to nearly 200 million viewers around the world. And if The Day After  depicted Kansas City as unlivable after a nuclear strike, its pre-attack footage captured this heartland city at its best: tree-lined boulevards, lush parks crowded with joggers and Frisbee throwers, monumental fountains, fashionable people shopping at fashionable store in the Country Club Plaza. The camera caught them all with an aching poignancy.

    Whether Kansas City will be rewarded with a sudden influx of foreign tourists (along the lines of Hiroshima’s sober pilgrims), it’s too early to say. But even the casual visitor to Kansas City could do worse than use The Day After as an approach for a visit.

    As you can see, I already completed all the necessary research, made a trip to the Kansas City Library and suffered through the entire 2 hours 6 minutes of the movie (which I have successfully avoided for my almost 20 years in this country), and now I am presenting this concept to the Kansas City Convention & Visitors Association absolutely free of charge. We need to hurry up before Lawrence steals the idea. I propose the following mottoes to be used in the campaign (sample):

    • Kansas City 2013: We Haven’t Been Blown Up For Real, You Know.
    • Kansas City 2013: We Are Not Mutants.
    • Kansas City 2013: Come Visit, The Radiation Is At Almost Gone.

    Proposed activities (sample):

    • Multiple walking, bus, Segway, Volvo station wagon and helicopter tours will carry the tourists to the sites shown in the movie such as the Liberty Memorial, Plaza, Nelson-Atkins Gallery, West Bottoms, Truman Sports Complex.
    • Big screen TV’s placed at these and other locations will be playing the movie as well as the KMBC special “Sunday, Nuclear Sunday” which aired on November 20, 1983, complete with commercials where young Larry Moore, Brenda Williams and non-senile Walt Bodine will discuss now outdated nuclear research.
    • Restaurants will offer themed menu items like “Missile Fries” and “Nacho Cheese Meltdown”.
    • This horrible song may be used for additional advertising materials.

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  • iWatchskiy

    Learning on someone else’s mistakes is sadly not a quality well-developed in most people, leaving the ones who already know the outcome to sit and watch another crash and burn just to say “I told you so” when it’s all said and done. Many people already have experiences similar to the ones about to be encountered by the American people; they recognize the similarities and know the lessons, but it’s next to impossible to overcome the “it can’t happen here” attitude. Knowing that, I long ago limited the amounts of “I told you so” I dispense on the daily basis.

    The above explains why I am not going to dwell on the video below posted by the LAPD:

    My favorite part is on the 27th second when the actor says “let the law enforcement determine if it’s a threat” and the other one says “let the experts decide”. Anyone with the knowledge of the Soviet history would draw a connection the the Great Purges of 1930’s when regular citizens were encouraged to uncover the “enemies of the state” among their friends, neighbors, co-workers and even relatives. Even small things could be important to the wise authorities, who will then decide if your  elderly uncle is really a foreign spy. Authorities wouldn’t send an innocent person to a labor camp for 20 years, right? Most people informed on their friends and relatives with the best and the purest of intentions (except in cases where they wanted to expand their living space once another “spy” gets arrested).
    The “authorities” of the Soviet 1930’s would be proud of this video but they had their own means of propaganda.

    Be Vigilant! Uncover the enemy under any mask!
    The enemy is deceitful - be vigilant!
    Vigilance is our weapon! Be Vigilant!

    Written on the snake “Spying, Sabotage, Provocation”.

    Foreign spies are seeking out drunks. It's well-known that drunks speak their mind.
    Militiaman! Be Vigilant! You can't lose your alertness even for a minute!
    Blabbermouth - enemy's treasure!
    Be vigilant everywhere. Remember, the enemy is mean and deceitful!
    Your chatter is helping the enemy!
    Don't even try!

    The book in soldier’s hand is “Great Patriotic War 1941-1945“. One of the medals is the Hero of The Soviet Union. In the lower left, clutching the atomic bomb and a torch of global destruction is Uncle Sam.

    People, be vigilant! (The snake spells "revanchism")
    Vigilance is our weapon!
    Be Vigilant! Comrade, don't let peaceful days fool you! Throw your kindheartedness out! Remember, the enemy is among us!
    Be vigilant! The enemy doesn't sleep!

    Uncle Sam’s bony fingers holding a wad of cash and a binocular peering at the map of the USSR.

    Don't Yak! The enemy is listening!
    The types of spy accessories

    Top left: “long tongue” can disclosed military secrets.
    Bottom Left: “rose colored glasses” make wolves seem like harmless goats.
    Top right: “making elephant out of the fly” (like mountain out of the mole hill).
    Bottom right: “catch the enemy’s helpers, be on guard”.

    No Chatter! Be on guard, these days even walls are listening! Idle chatter and rumors are not that far from treason!
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  • Old Photos: Kansas City Bombing

    I couldn’t find any article or a reference to any specific bombing in Kansas City for this set of the Life Magazine photos taken in 1953. I think they just illustrate a few unrelated episodes in a day of the KCPD’s Bomb Desk.

    © Time Inc. John Dominis.
    © Time Inc. John Dominis.
    © Time Inc. John Dominis.
    © Time Inc. John Dominis.
    © Time Inc. John Dominis.
    © Time Inc. John Dominis.
    © Time Inc. John Dominis.
    © Time Inc. John Dominis.
    © Time Inc. John Dominis.
    © Time Inc. John Dominis.

    Who wants to identify the hotel visible in the window? And what is the headlight-shaped object on the desk – intercom?

    © Time Inc. John Dominis.
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  • Behind The Iron Curtain: Stool Samples

    IMG_3258-2.JPG
    Infamous Stool Sample Matchbox

    This was originally written on my FB page where I post pictures and links almost daily and which you immediately should follow. I remembered about the stool samples when I was writing this post about the Soviet medicine of my day.

    *Warning: please don’t eat while reading this.

    Soviet kids had to be healthy whether they wanted it or not. And healthy meant parasite-free. So once in a while, my school (and I imagine all the other schools in the area) put out a call for stool samples. By a certain deadline every child had to submit a matchbox full of you-know-what, tightly wrapped and marked with the name of a producer.

    At that time (and maybe still) the Soviet toilets (in places with indoor plumbing but not in public restrooms) were different from the American model we are all used to. Instead of a small pool of water ready to accept your deposits, it was more like a vase with hardly any water at all. When done, a person would pull a chain and a waterfall coming down from the high-mounted tank (if the water was on that day) would flush the stuff down through the hole located in the front part of the toilet.
    That technical aside was necessary to explain that at least our parents didn’t have to fish for floating crap, it was all right there, nice and piled. Clearly no 8- or 9- or even 12-year-old wants to have anything to do with putting their own crap in a small box, so that somber duty had to be fulfilled by our parents. Many years later, as a parent myself, I’ve done many disgusting things and touched some substances that would make a grown man gag (and they did). But even after thousands of diapers changed I am still not sure I could go ahead and do what my mom had to do. This is something that would make you think twice about having a child.
    The next day, the matchbox was proudly delivered and submitted to school, securely wrapped in multiple layers of paper and plastic (we didn’t have zip-locks or any bags of that nature) and tied with a string, with my name proudly scribbled on it like a designer brand. To this day I have no idea if anyone did anything with those nuggets. You can imagine that a school with 800 or a thousand kids can produce enough crap to fertilize a small organic beet farm. (Note to self: submit this idea to the school district as an extra source of income in light of recent school budget cuts by Governor Brownback.)
    I always imagined that a lab in lower circles of socialized healthcare hell, populated by medical school dropouts, dimly lit and smelling worse than a meatpacking plant on a summer day, did nothing else but unwrapped the packages and examined the contents for parasite eggs and the signs of dinners past.But in reality I think they just threw these boxes away and faked the results. After all, sooner or later the parasites show their ugly heads, if you know what I mean.
    Epilogue: When we came to the United States we had to pass some medical tests (in addition to the overpriced testing we were required to do in Moscow before we left). Then we received a mail-in stool sample kit, which consisted of some Popsicle sticks and cardboard envelopes. I was tempted to send my stuff in a box, but reconsidered and just threw the kits away.

    They would have to pry a stool sample out of my……….

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