• 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).

    Continue reading →
  • Old Photos: Hitler

    I know, I know, these are pictures of Hitler. And maybe it’s not the best idea to put them here, me being who I am. But these photos are amazing, shot by Hitler’s personal photographer Hugo Jaeger in color and such close proximity that as a fan of historic photography I cannot just pass them by. And yes, I know what was happening while Hitler was greeting adoring women, checking out cars and watching parades, and I have these photos too. If anything these photos make one wonder how a grim, plain-looking and not extremely bright individual could achieve absolute power over a civilized country.

    (L-R) Ferdinand Porsche, Adolf Hitler and Robert Ley with Hitler's 50th birthday gift, the Volkswagen Beetle. ©Time Inc.Hugo Jaeger
    Continue reading →
  • Take Your Fat Off My Shoulder!

    I was on vacation when the whole Kevin Smith – Southwest fiasco happened but I don’t think I am too late to weigh into the situation. I don’t really care how Kevin Smith flies, as far as I am concerned his 1,6 million followers can all pitch in a buck or two and buy him a cargo plane to transport his fat ass around the country. This is not an issue of obesity and what our culture, or doctors, or friends say what a person should look like. For the record I agree with Nuke that being fat is unsightly, uncomfortable, unhealthy and sometimes embarrassing and humiliating. And it makes women wear one-piece swimsuits. I am far from being normal weight myself and every donut moves me a little further away from being moderately overweight, but nevertheless, I wholeheartedly support the Southwest’s “Customer of Size Policy“. (Yes, I know Kevin Smith purchased two tickets, but the discussion moved way past his particular case).

    The Policy says:

    Why ask large Customers to purchase additional seating?
    We could no longer ignore complaints from Customers who traveled without full access to the seat purchased due to encroachment by a large seatmate whose body extended into the neighboring seat. These Customers had uncomfortable (and sometimes painful) travel experiences, and it is our responsibility to seek resolution to prevent this problem.

    To demonstrate this point I made a diagram recreating a flight I had few years ago on an unnamed airline. After boarding a plane and taking my seat I was crushed by a person who plopped himself in the seat next to mine.

    As you can see in the drawing I (depicted in yellow, filled with healthy foods) fit in the chair with ease, not really much additional room left, but not overflowing the armrests (blue). My neighbor, as you can tell, did not fit in his chair with his ass-cheeks resting on armrests and not even touching the seat cushion. While the guy’s pain in the ass didn’t bother me, his encroachment in my personal space did.

    On a plane and elsewhere I use the NFL definition of the goal line to define my personal space, it’s bounded by the “imaginary vertical plane …, which theoretically extends in a great circle around the world and infinitely into space“. The recreation of my flight shows that for my money I was given only about 75% of the personal space due to me, while my seatmate received about 125% of his space for the same pay. It’s obvious that I did not receive and equal  value, and while I would’ve considered being inconvenienced by let’s say a disabled vet or an elderly person, this guy was my age and didn’t look unhealthy. Shortly into the flight the stewardess offered him to move into an emergency exit row. While I breathed a sigh of relief (or just breathed for the first time in a while), I don’t know what would’ve happened if the passengers would’ve had to evacuate.

    I sincerely hope the Southwest Airlines doesn’t cave in and stand by its policy. I also hope the other airlines will follow. There is no reason innocent people should be sat upon.

    The other choice would be to increase the size of the airplane seat but that would cause ticket prices to go up and if the American people were willing to pay more, the would’ve bought first class or double seat in the first place.

    The solution to the inconsistent application of policy already exsists:

    I am sure the rest of the flying public would enjoy watching someone trying to fit into the test seat.

    Next time Kevin Smith shows up at the Southwest counter I hope they taser his fat ass. Just to get even.

    Continue reading →

  • Good Intentions Pave the Road To Hell

    Some time ago I decided that this blogging thing is becoming too much of a burden and not as much of a recreational activity I envisioned it to be, so I relied on Forrest Gump to convey my feelings on the subject and stopped. Surprisingly the Earth didn’t stand still, and, according to a humorless fellow Pitch commenter, everyone is probably better off without me “spouting some inane half literate garbage off the top of (my) head, without offering a single new fact, based on things (I) read courtesy of the hard work done by the good folks in the “dead tree media”” . In the meantime, I entertain myself trading one-liners on Twitter and mostly keep my opinions to myself. Once in a while I see a subject, an image, a story and just like in the old days I think: “This could make a good post”, too bad I don’t feel like writing it. In the past weeks for various reasons I thought about death and dying, love, P&L made-up controversy du jour, almost typed something up in defense of Nadia Pflaum, who I don’t even know and rarely read, almost wrote something about Obama, auto industry, weather, movies and pickling of a watermelon (that may still show up some day). I thought about writing about these things but I didn’t because no one really cares what I have to say and to prove that, my blog is still getting about the same number of clicks I used to get when I posted something every day.

    I guess nothing prompts me to actually sit down and write something like a cattle-like public support for the Iranian opposition, complete with blogs, facebook messages, re-Tweets, green-tinted avatars, etc.  Here is a video of the public racing to support the “democracy” in Iran.

    For the record I don’t care who gets elected in Iran because in Iran “…Supreme Leader … has the final say in all matters”; Iran’s current president may be an angry Holocaust-denying degenerate with a potential access to nuclear weapons and no love for America but I can make a similar case for many other world leaders and, to some degree, for many people in the US congress and some former presidents. Let me make up some facts for you.

    1. Until last week you’ve never heard of Mousavi.

    2. You think he is better than the current president because an angry demonstrator with a green mask on his face told you so.

    3. You have no idea what his platform is and if he is planning to stick with it.

    4. You found out from Twitter that there was election fraud.

    5. You felt that the opposition needed your personal support.

    6. You painted your avatar green and now it says “where is my/their vote”

    7. Mission accomplished.

    8. This doesn’t seem ridiculous to you at all.

    I am sure after being beaten and sprayed with tear gas the Iranians come home and find satisfaction in the “sea of green” faces on Twitter. You played an important part in the supporting of democracy, give yourself a good pat on the back.

    It’s no secret that the tactic of indiscriminately supporting pro-American opposition didn’t always work out in the long run. One doesn’t have to look back 30 or 50 years to find another failed example of a misguided American foreign intervention. Both the Orange Revolution in Ukraine and the Rose Revolution in Georgia were enthusiastically supported, encouraged and financed by the United States but produced neither the expected results nor any significant political and economic improvements. Few years later the new opposition is clashing with yesterday’s revolutionaries demanding their removal from power. Today, Ukrainian and Georgian people resent the United States for interfering in their affairs and egging them on into hasty action.

    That’s why President Obama should continue with the policy of leaving Iranian people to resolve their election problems for themselves, while making sure that their Twitter is in perfect working order.  United States’ support of the Shah is in no small part responsible for the current situation in the country so if there is a time to stop interfering – it is right  now. It is painful to watch the beatings, bloody clashes and murders but there is no guarantee that if the opposition wins they will not kill and loot like their neighbors in Iraq. Who will you support then? So far the number of casualties is comparable to an average year in Kansas City, I don’t recall  a huge wave of Twitter indignation for our local beatings and murders.

    In the meantime all the clueless do-gooders can continue their self-gratifying support for the Iranian demonstrators and protesters, changing time zones for conspiracy and painting their faces green. Election fraud and stolen elections apparently happen to the best of democracies (just Google “2000 election stolen“), no reason to get hysterical about it. Especially if you live 7,000 miles away and it takes you 3 tries to point Iran on the map.

    In the famous words of Klaatu:

    Continue reading →
  • Been There, Had the Chicken, Lived To Tell the Story

    I just wanted to point out that I personally visited the “money laundry” (is this what it’s called?) on the Independence Avenue almost a year ago to do some investigative reporting. No big whoop…

    Continue reading →