Showing posts with label Soviet Union. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Soviet Union. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Ready for the end of the world

Summer had given way to fall in October 1962, and WAVA radio in Arlington, Va., rolled out its plan for dealing with The End of Everything.

In the Oct. 15 edition of Broadcasting magazine, the station's owner outlines how he and his staff will deal with a nuclear attack on the United States until everything got back to normal. In 1962, wild optimism and massive denial was as good a game plan as anything, particularly for WAVA owner Arthur W. Arundel.

"The announcer on duty will remain at his post," the Broadcasting article went, explaining that "all other employees are excused to follow individual or family civil defense plans and to report back to the station after the attack is over and there is no danger of radioactive fallout.

"Payday will be Friday as usual," Mr. Arundel states.

Halfway through October 1962, Arundel had no idea how close he would be in mere days to implementing WAVA's not-so-doomsday plan. On Oct. 16, the Cuban Missile Crisis began. And on Oct. 22, President Kennedy went on national television to give Americans the fright of their lives.

Don't you know? It's the end of the world. Payday's on Friday.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Oh, no!

Eduard Anatolevich Khil is dead.

The Russian baritone -- a singing legend of the Soviet era who found renewed fame, this time internationally, in 2010 via YouTube -- succumbed Monday in St. Petersburg after suffering a debilitating stroke in April. He was 77.

Moscow Times reports:
Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev expressed his condolences for the performer Monday.

“The death of this outstanding singer, Eduard Khil, is an irreplaceable loss for our culture,” he said in a statement on the White House website. Khil’s songs were “dear to people of different generations, loved not only in our country, but also abroad,” he wrote.

President Vladimir Putin also expressed his condolences to Khil’s wife and son.

Born Sept. 4, 1934, in Smolensk, Khil became famous as a singer in the Soviet Union, performing the songs “Loggers,” “The Moonstone” and “Blue City,” among others.

He also performed “From Where the Motherland Begins,” a song from the 1968 cult spy thriller “The Sword and the Shield,” which regained notoriety recently when Putin said he had sung it when he met the 10 Russian spies expelled from the United States in 2010.

Khil’s popularity faded after the fall of the Soviet Union, but he shot back into the spotlight in 2010 when footage of him performing his wordless 1966 song “I’m Very Glad That I’m Finally Coming Home” appeared on YouTube and immediately went viral.

The song’s joyous “la la la” vocalizations earned Khil the name “Trololo Man” among Western audiences. Several versions of the video have since been posted, with many having received millions of views.

Numerous spoof versions — including one stitched-together video appearing to show Khil unleashing a 10-hour stream of vocal acrobatics and another laid over scenes from “Star Trek”— have also appeared.

The song originally included lyrics about a cowboy riding a mustang in the United States, but the words were deemed anti-Soviet, and it was performed with Khil just humming the melody, he told LifeNews in a 2010 interview.

Khil said he only learned about the newfound popularity of the song after hearing his grandson humming the decades-old tune.

“I asked him, ‘Why [are] you singing it?’” Khil said. “He told me, ‘Grandpa, you’re home drinking tea here, [and] in the meantime, everyone’s singing your song on the Internet.’”

YOU KNOW, the guy was a hell of a singer. I'm glad he got the chance to revel in Act II of his long career before he died. For example, this performance on Russian TV early this year:

REST in peace, Mr. Khil. You earned it.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Before 'onward and upward' became a cliché

A half century ago today, man first hurled himself at the stars.

On April 12, 1961, we called this sort of thing "the space race." Well, I didn't. I was only three weeks old, but I am reliably informed this was the case.

For all the angst and nuclear anxieties of the Cold War, for all the trauma of a developing quagmire in Vietnam -- or Viet Nam, as a lot of folks spelled it before we knew where it was -- for all the hope and horror of this nation's civil-rights struggle, "onward and upward" still meant something back then.

Man was reaching for the heavens. The first was a Russian by the name of Yuri Gagarin.

We are in his debt.

Because of Gagarin, my childhood that took flight 50 years ago was one of assumptions that tomorrow would be brighter than today -- despite the troubles and tragedies of the day.

Back then, it was a race for the stars between us and the Reds. Now, we "go where no man has gone before" together . . . more or less.

IT'S A CASE, I suppose, of more enlightenment and friendship and less ability to go it on our own as we slog through this present age of small men and stunted dreams in our respective capitals.

I'd like to think, on this milestone day, that Yuri Gagarin and Alan Shepard -- America's first man in space -- are somewhere taking in the heavenly view, telling good-natured lies and tall space tales, trading notes on the vanguard of human spaceflight and wondering. Wondering when those of us who lag behind, stumbling through their giant footsteps, will hit our stride.

Wondering when the small minds of our present squabbling factions will remember that humanity once saw farther than the end of its pointing fingers.

Wondering whether mankind will once again look toward heaven and aspire to great things.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Your Daily '80s: The year that was almost our last

Somewhere near Moscow.
Sept. 26, 1983.

Stanislav Petrov, a lieutenant-colonel in the military intelligence section of the Soviet Union's secret service, reluctantly eased himself into the commander's seat in the underground early warning bunker south of Moscow.

It should have been his night off but another officer had gone sick and he had been summoned at the last minute.

Before him were screens showing photographs of underground missile silos in the Midwest prairies of America, relayed from spy satellites in the sky.

He and his men watched and listened on headphones for any sign of movement - anything unusual that might suggest the U.S. was launching a nuclear attack.

This was the height of the Cold War between the USSR and the U.S. Both sides packed a formidable punch - hundreds of rockets and thousands of nuclear warheads capable of reducing the other to rubble.

It was a game of nerves, of bluff and counterbluff. Who would fire first? Would the other have the chance to retaliate?

The flying time of an inter-continental ballistic missile, from the U.S. to the USSR, and vice-versa, was around 12 minutes. If the Cold War were ever to go 'hot', seconds could make the difference between life and death.

Everything would hinge on snap decisions. For now, though, as far as Petrov was concerned, more hinged on just getting through another boring night in which nothing ever happened.

Except then, suddenly, it did. A warning light flashed up, screaming red letters on a white background - 'LAUNCH. LAUNCH'. Deafening sirens wailed. The computer was telling him that the U.S. had just gone to war.

The blood drained from his face. He broke out in a cold sweat. But he kept his nerve. The computer had detected missiles being fired but the hazy screens were showing nothing untoward at all, no tell-tale flash of an missile roaring out of its silo into the sky. Could this be a computer glitch rather than Armageddon?

Instead of calling an alert that within minutes would have had Soviet missiles launched in a retaliatory strike, Petrov decided to wait.

The warning light flashed again - a second missile was, apparently, in the air. And then a third. Now the computer had stepped up the warning: 'Missile attack imminent!'

But this did not make sense. The computer had supposedly detected three, no, now it was four, and then five rockets, but the numbers were still peculiarly small. It was a basic tenet of Cold War strategy that, if one side ever did make a preemptive strike, it would do so with a mass launch, an overwhelming force, not this dribble.

Petrov stuck to his common-sense reasoning. This had to be a mistake.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Your Daily '80s: Signing off

The Soviet national anthem, as broadcast in 1984 on state television.

Here we see a vision of a mighty empire and a proud people. Here we listen to a soaring hymn to the glories of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

In little more than seven years -- on Dec. 26, 1991 -- the Soviet Union ceased to be.

OUR AMERICAN national anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner," as broadcast in 1984 at the close of another broadcast day for Buffalo, N.Y.'s public television station.

Here we see a vision of a mighty empire and a proud people. Here we listen to a soaring hymn to the glories of "the land of the free and the home of the brave."

In little more than. . . .

Sic transit gloria mundi. Thus passes the glory of the world.

Americans would do well to remember that.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Your Daily '80s: So much for the Iron Curtain

". . . and the Iron Curtain is probably no more."

The date: Nov. 9. 1989.

If you're too young to remember the Cold War, you can't possibly understand what an amazing sight this was. And how giddy we were.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Is glorious people's TV. Is funny.

Is missing glorious programming of SCTV from years ago.

Capitalist boot lickers is making television unwatchable today. Program now is counterrevolutionary offense to people's humor over the collective airwaves.

CCCP1 better than running-dog swill people must endure today.
Bring on glorious Soviet minicam!

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Mutually assured deconstruction


Without context, it's easy to think just once about things that have another think coming.

Apparently, the lack of context has a whole lot of Ugly Americans -- your Mighty Favog included to some extent -- either ridiculing mercilessly (many YouTube commenters) or chuckling bemusedly (me) at one Edward Anatolevich Hill, Soviet-era singing sensation . . . and star of the video in the previous post.

Upon further review (and a trip down Google Lane), the man doesn't deserve it. And come to think of it, maybe the godless commissars were doing a lot better job with Soviet culture than the "free" market is doing with ours right about now.

Comrade Hill was a little awkward-looking in that 1976 video from Soviet TV. So was Bruce Springsteen at last year's Super Bowl and The Who at this year's.

But there's a bunch to like in this 1966 performance on state television (above). Besides, I just saw Ludacris' "performance" Monday night on Letterman, and I'd give a farting chorus of Soviet collective-farm managers five stars by comparison.

Look at it this way. Ronald Reagan won the Cold War to make the world safe for hip-hop imperialists spewing cultural toxins into the global ecosystem? All while stereotypical "hos" shimmy in the background?

Where is Nikita Khrushchev when the world finally does need him to "bury" us -- preferably in Soviet-era music videos?

HERE'S SOME of that context I was mentioning about Comrade Hill's "vokaliz" performance, via Justin E.H. Smith's blog:

The song he is interpreting, "I Am So Happy to Finally Be Back Home," is an Ostrovskii composition, and it is meant to be sung in the vokaliz style, that is to say sung, but without words. I have seen a number of comments online, ever since a flurry of interest in Hill began just a few days ago, to the effect that this routine must have been meant as a critique of Soviet censorship, but in fact vokaliz was a well established genre, one that seems close in certain respects to pantomime.

Recent interest in Hill has to do with the perceived strangeness, the uncanniness, the surreal character of this performance. There is indeed something uncanny about a lip-synch to a song with no words, and his waxed face and hair helmet certainly do not carry over well. But once one does a bit of research, one learns that the number was not conceived out of some desire to cater to the so-bad-it's-good tastes of the Western YouTube generation, but in fact was meant to please --to genuinely please-- Soviet audiences who were capable of placing this routine, this man, and this song into a familiar context. The audiences would recognize, for example, that the same number had been performed by the Azerbaidzhani singer Muslim Magomaev in a film from the early 1960s, The Blue Spark:

One thing to notice is that, in spite of the absence of text, and of the fact that he is clearly lip-synching, there is nothing at all uncanny about Magomaev's version. It is a perfectly standard musical number from that era. So whatever it is that makes Hill so remarkable has to lie elsewhere than in what he has inherited from Ostrovskii and Magomaev, and what Soviet audiences would recognize as linking him to them. These other elements are the hair, the eyebrows, the elbows (I first decided to learn Russian when I became frustrated with the number of times the translator of my edition of War and Peace resorted to the phrase 'arms akimbo': surely, I thought, Russia can't really be a place where people so regularly resort to so special a posture). Still other elements are the set, the lighting, the quality of the color film: musical productions from the early 1960s still look charming and comforting; the same songs interpreted 15 years later often seem like perversions of the original. Hill's version seems nothing if not perverse, but what a bit of contextualization helps us to see is that this is not at all the result of his own innate weirdness, or of the innate absurdity of the song he has undertaken to sing.

THE POINT I think Smith is making here is that it was the '70s everywhere, even behind the Iron Curtain. The Brady Bunch Hour could happen anywhere . . . and did.

commenter put it, "It's easy to laugh at this bull****. But the Russians can just post clips of Lawrence Welk and we are owned. "

You mean, like this "modern spiritual by Gale and Dale"?

Monday, March 01, 2010

We're screwed.

Rod Dreher wonders sarcastically how the Soviet Union collapsed with cultural ammunition such as this.

I wonder seriously how, with cultural ammunition such as 50-Cent, we cannot.

Then there's this cultural linchpin of American greatness:

ALL THINGS being equal, I've developed a soft spot in my cultural heart for Soviets with bad suits and worse haircuts singing songs that, for sure, won't land you in a Siberian labor camp. And after this long, long winter on the snowy, frozen Plains, all I have to say is "YOOOOOOOOI, YOOOI YO-YOOOOOI! YOI YOI YOIIII, YOIIII YOI YOI!"

Oh, that and one more thing: Hold me closer, Tiny Dancer!