This is not the stirring tale of macho crew cuts and heroic deeds from The Right Stuff that is now a fat chapter in every U.S. high school history book. This is a tale replete with fumbling, bumbling, bickering and at least one insane-sounding notion. To nuke the moon
On the evening of Wednesday, November 22, 1961, a US Army "Duty Train" left Berlin for West Germany, traveling through Soviet-occupied East Germany, when a young East German, in a bid to escape, jumped aboard the train
when it slowed for a curve, and was let aboard. The incident was eventually dramatized as a film called Stop Train 349
, or Incident at Marienborn
A Soviet take on Rambo
) is "unique in its violence and anti-Americanism." A Russian point of view on James Bond
remarks that "so widespread was the interest in Bond that an official Soviet spy serial ... was released." But the spy novel
/ miniseries Seventeen Moments of Spring
(somewhat digestible in 17 highlights with commentary: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
) is for interesting reasons not a Soviet counterpart to James Bond or Rambo
. See also Seventeen Moments fanfic
, two pages
about its hero, and how he figures in the present
. [more inside]
"Twenty-five years after its release, The Abyss remains an oddity in director James Cameron's filmography.
But the fact that it's an oddity seems like an oddity. The underwater sci-fi epic, about a team of commercial drillers who stumble upon a deep-sea alien civilization, wasn't a flop by any means. It made more money than The Terminator
and came very close to matching Aliens
at the box office. It holds a higher critical rating than Avatar
(according to the almighty Rotten Tomatoes, at least). And yet it has utterly failed to reach the same levels of cultural saturation as Cameron’s other works."
Philby's boss was Sir Stewart Menzies, who, we are told, "rode to hounds, mixed with royalty, never missed a day at Ascot, drank a great deal, and kept his secrets buttoned up behind a small, fierce mustache. He preferred women to men and horses to both." Menzies was an amateur at a time when his adversaries were professionals. Philby's fellow Soviet spy Donald Maclean was a mess. But since he was a mess with the right accent and background he easily found a home in the British spy service. At one point, Macintyre says, Maclean "got drunk, smashed up the Cairo flat of two secretaries at the U.S. embassy, ripped up their underwear, and hurled a large mirror off the wall, breaking a large bath in two. He was sent home, placed under the care of a Harley Street psychiatrist, and then, amazingly, after a short period of treatment, promoted to head the American desk at the Foreign Office."
Kim Philby, the Soviet spy who infiltrated MI6, is the subject of a Malcolm Gladwell article in The New Yorker
. Gladwell argues that Philby's story is not about spying but "the hazards of mistrust." He is interviewed on a New Yorker podcast
about his article. Gladwell's article is also a review of Ben Macintyre's book on Philby, A Spy Among Friends
. Gladwell reviewed Macintyre's previous book, Operation Mincemeat
and argued that spy agencies might be more trouble than they're worth
George F. Kennan, bigot.
David Greenberg reviews The Kennan Diaries in The New Republic and discovers that the father of containment hated everyone, but didn't hate everyone equally. [more inside]
You may have heard how sounds travel farther during a temperature inversion
, when air near the ground is cooler than the air above. But do you know how this phenomenon is related to the 1947 UFO crash in Roswell, New Mexico? [more inside]
What Really Happened in Chile
'“A coup attempt will be initiated on 11 September,” the cable read. “All three branches of the armed forces and the carabineros [Chile’s national police] are involved in this action. A declaration will be read on Radio Agricultura at 7 a.m. on 11 September. . . . The carabineros have the responsibility for seizing President Salvador Allende.”'
"That is how the U.S. government learned of the coup in Chile. This might be hard for many Americans, Chileans, and people elsewhere to believe, since it has become conventional wisdom, especially on the left, that Washington played a crucial role in the military-led overthrow of the democratically elected Allende, which resulted in the nearly 17-year authoritarian rule of General Augusto Pinochet." [more inside]
The Age of Uncertainty, A Personal View
by John Kenneth Galbraith
was a 12 (or 15) part documentary mini-series about the fickle art of economics, co-produced by the BBC, CBC, KCET & OECA
, and broadcast on television in 1977.
Galbraith’s dry Scottish Canadian wit, and the 70’s-style art-direction, are worth viewing for those who like this sort of thing. The parody corporate videos for the Conglomerate UGE
anticipated some of the ideas explored later in the 2003 documentary The Corporation
Some parts will seem dated, considering that this series was produced in the thick of The Cold War
, before the rise of Reaganomics, Thatcherism, The Fall of the Berlin Wall, the rise of the EU, yuan, electronic transfers, etc. The basic insights about the instability of financial markets are still real, as always. [more inside]
wants to better inform Colorado residents about the history of the Rocky Flats Plutonium processing facility and recommends this brief YouTube documentary
as an introductory primer. [more inside]
The Truths Behind 'Dr. Strangelove'
Eric Schlosser, author of Command and Control
), celebrates the 50th anniversary of the release of Dr. Strangelove
by looking into the plausibility of the movie's premise.
Friendly Robots of the Soviet Union
: Even robots like to drink in Soviet Russia: a babushka hands this futuristic-looking robot from Kaliningrad what looks to be a pint of beer in 1969.
This is The Big Picture, an official television report of the United States Army, produced for the armed forces and the American people. Now to show you part of The Big Picture here is Master Sargent Stuart Queen
The series consists of ~822 documentaries produced by the United States Army Signal Corps Army Pictorial Service from 1951 to 1971 to educate both soldiers in uniform and the American public about military concerns as well as things like historical battles, world geography, famous soldiers, the latest weapons, space exploration, strategic objectives, peaceful initiatives, and the life of a soldier. Being a product of the Federal Government it belongs to the the American people, and is thus freely available to all to copy and distribute. Most can now be viewed on archive.org [more inside]
"By figuratively sticking her foot in America’s front door and keeping it wedged there long enough for an anonymous band of war-tossed Mongols to navigate around daunting racial barriers, Countess Tolstoy not only became the architect of the Mongol “invasion” of New Jersey and the country’s first ethnic Mongolian community, she also served as the midwife for the birth of Tibetan Buddhism in America." -- tells the amazing story of how a small band of Kalmyk Mongols (all WWII Wehrmacht veterans) established Tibetan Buddhism in America
, as told by David Urubshurow, who was one of them. Featuring Leo Tolstoy's youngest daughter, Cold War CIA and Ivy League intrigues, how the Dalai Lama came to America and why this was only possible under president Carter and more.
From 1949 onwards, the closed city of Semipalatinsk (now Semey, Kazakhstan) was the test site
for 456 nuclear devices. The test site
was known as "The Polygon
." Testing was stopped in 1989
, but the long term effects remained
. [more inside]
Command and Control
is a new book by Eric Schlosser
about nuclear weapons mishaps, with a focus on the Damascus Accident.
You can read an excerpt
at Mother Jones,
an op-ed adapted from the text
at Politico, or a different op-ed
at The Guardian. The book has been positively reviewed by The New York Times
and Publishers Weekly
. Schlosser has been interviewed by Steve Roberts
on The Diane Rehm Show, Amy Goodman
, Michael Mechanic
at Mother Jones, and Ryan Devereaux
at Rolling Stone.
Top Secret: Images from the Stasi Archives A collection of images from the book, including more disguises, images of house searches, hand-to-hand combat techniques, hidden cameras, and even fake beards, is available free of charge at Simon Menner’s website. [more inside]
A Plea for Caution From Russia
My working and personal relationship with President Obama is marked by growing trust. I appreciate this. I carefully studied his address to the nation on Tuesday. And I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism, stating that the United States’ policy is “what makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional.” It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation. There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.
In 1964, Goldwater campaign strategist Clif White
made a 28-minute long film called "Choice." Once Senator Goldwater saw it, it was never shown publicly. Now it's on YouTube! [more inside]
No big deal, just found an abandoned space shuttle
"If you spend any time looking for records at flea markets and garage sales, you come to recognize a variety of common vintage records: Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass, Barbra Streisand, box collections of "best of" classical music, the band America.
And then there are the rare finds, the albums that you would never expect to exist. My latest find at the Alameda Point Antiques Fair falls into that category ... it became my possession for $2. And now yours, via SoundCloud, for nothing."
Sounds of X-15s, Atlas missiles, Nieuport biplanes, and more
"Now the trumpet summons us again—not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need; not as a call to battle, though embattled we are—but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle [...]"
- John F. Kennedy, Inaugural Address
TWILIGHT STRUGGLE is a card-driven board game simulation of the Cold War. It has been called a game of crisis management
; dealing with them yourself, creating them for your opponent, and their proper timing. There is a extensive blog about the game, Twilight Strategy
. This is that site's article on starting out play. This page could help you decide if it's for you. ("Do you enjoy games that are extremely tense and nerve-wracking?") Here's a YouTube video on how to play it.
And, although I suggest learning to play with a physical set, the online multiplayer wargaming client Warroom has a Java Twilight Struggle client/server program available
. There is also a VASSAL module
, but it currently doesn't work with VASSAL 3.2 or later. There's a lot more on the game after the break.... [more inside]
The year is 1959. A local radio station, in conjunction with Bomb Shelters, Inc
. is seeking a newlywed couple to partake of a sheltered honeymoon
. [more inside]
Khrushchev Tours America
- His shoe banging incident
at the UN and the the Kitchen Debates with Nixon
are well known but less attention has been given to the time Nikita Khrushchev went to Hollywood
. He met Marilyn Monroe and other film luminaries but he was denied a trip to Disneyland (previously)
. [more inside]
"The military’s secret Cold War experiment to fight enemies with clouds of psychochemicals. Decades after a risky Cold War experiment, a scientist lives with secrets." [Via]
Cosmos: A Personal Voyage
is a thirteen-part television series of one hour shows written by Carl Sagan
, Ann Druyan
, and Steven Soter
, that was aired at the tail end of 1980 and was - at the time - the most widely watched series in the history of American public television. It is best introduced by an audio excerpt of one of his books, The Pale Blue Dot
. Inside is a complete annotated collection of the series. [more inside]
From the mid 40s to the mid 50s Coronet Instructional Films
were always ready to provide social guidance for teenagers on subjects as diverse as dating
, preparing for being drafted
, and shyness
, as well as to children on following the law
, the value of quietness in school
, and appreciating our parents
. They also provided education on topics such as the connection between attitudes and health
, what kind of people live in America
, how to keep a job
, supervising women workers
, the nature of capitalism
, and the plantation System in Southern life
. Inside is an annotated collection of all 86 of the complete Coronet films in the Prelinger Archives
as well as a few more. Its not like you had work to do or anything right? [more inside]
"All of their lives they had been taught and told--hypnotized, really--that no one played better hockey than Canadians. And in a span of the first few weeks, when they lost two games and tied another on Canadian soil, they had to confront the fact that this was just plain wrong. And then they had to immediately adapt and overcome and figure out a way to win anyway."
Andrew Cohen of The Atlantic
makes the case that 40 years ago today, the final game of the "Summit Series", between Canada and the Soviet Union, was the greatest day in Canadian history
. [more inside]
"Only July 10, 1971, America's newest photo reconnaissance satellite, the KH-9 Hexagon
, dropped a capsule loaded with film towards the Earth. The reentry vehicle was supposed to open its parachute; an American aircraft would snatch it out of the sky in mid-descent. But the chute was never unfurled. The reentry vehicle hit the Pacific Ocean with a force of approximately 2600 Gs. And then it sunk down into the deep, before settling at 16,000 feet."
While there were a few attempts at right-wing folk music during the
1960's, most notably The
was the darling of the conservative anti-communist
right. Her songs include Fascist Threat
, Commie Lies
her most (in)famous, Poor Left
"I'm just a poor left-winger, befuddled, bewildered,
forlorn, duped by a bearded singer, peddling his communist corn. In the
cafe, espresso, sounds of guitars could be heard, twanging a plaintive
folksong, spreading the communist word..." [more inside]
Most of us reading on the blue lived through at least a portion of it. Forty-plus years of tension between the world's two superpowers and their allies. That's right: The Cold War.
Then, they made a documentary
. Aired on CNN in 1998, and never released on DVD,
the 24 episode, 20 hour series features tons of archival footage, along with many interviews with individuals directly involved at some of the highest levels.
You might not be able to see it on DVD, but you can watch the full series on Youtube, starting with Part 1: Comrades (1917-1945).
"In short, the world without the Soviet Union has not become safer, more just or more stable.
Instead of a new world order—that is, enough global governance to prevent international affairs from becoming dangerously unpredictable—we have had global turmoil, a world drifting in uncharted waters." -- Mikhail Gorbachev writes about the world after the Cold War in The Nation
39 years ago today, Apollo 17
splashed down in the South Pacific, marking the end to manned exploration of the Moon
. What we learned from those 10 years of discovery was amazing. [more inside]
The B53 wasn’t just any old megabomb. It was the first bunker buster. U.S. nuclear doctrine called for it to be delivered over suspected underground Soviet command-and-control facilities. The dumb bomb wouldn’t destroy them so much as it would destroy everything remotely near it, leaving — literally — a smoldering crater. That was the U.S. plan for “victory” in a nuclear war right up until the implosion of the Soviet Empire. (related) [more inside]
During the cold war Wartburg and Skoda exported cars from the Eastern Bloc to the United States. An action that was . . . controversial. One dealership received both love and hate mail