During the Cold War years, listening to “Western” music–especially those genres of “ill-repute” such as jazz and rock ‘n roll–could get a person sent to the Gulag. So people got creative and made bootleg records of this music on old x-rays, called “bones” or “ribs.” Because the quality was so poor, people called the experience of hearing them to be “listening through sound”–meaning sound with some faint music coming through. Watch a less-than-15-minute documentary on “X-Ray Audio” here:
Many people today know and support the Overseas Missionary Fellowship (OMF), but few may know its past–a past dedicated specifically to China. A. Wetherell Johnson’s great autobiography, Created for Commitment, sparked my interest in the China Inland Mission (CIM)–of which she was a part, before the organization was forced to leave the nation amidst increasingly violent antipathy towards Christians and foreigners. But while the CIM worked in China, it led thousands to Christ under near-constant persecution resulting in internment, torture, and death for many of the missionaries as they faced the Boxer Rebellion, the Xinhai revolution, decades-long conflict between nationalists and communists, the communist revolution, and the Japanese occupation over the course of CIM’s presence in China for nearly 100 years. Continue reading →
When the Red Army liberated Berlin, the stage was set for some great Soviet propaganda. So the USSR captured the moment with this photo of a soldier raising the flag atop the Reichstag, looking out over the battered city. The only problem was the man holding him up, who sports two watches–a tell-tale sign of looting (something not unique to Soviet forces, but for which they were well-known in World War II). Before releasing the image, the Soviet government “photoshopped” these watches out of the photograph, and added a little more smoke for dramatic effect.
Polynesian pop and Tiki culture have always been about escapism. The trend got its beginnings in the 20s, though social and artistic obsessions with tropical climes have existed for as long as Europeans and Americans have been around to “discover” them. Escapism, however, is not a uniquely “Western” obsession; most everyone finds joy in a culture not their own, since they don’t have to live it every day. And that’s why people like to be tourists, as well as “pretend” to be locals for a time–which is still tourism, because the stay doesn’t last. So visitors buy contrived souvenirs, dress like cowboys or Harajuku girls, ride in rickshaws or double-decker buses, and take pictures, to live it all over again. But this particular history of an escapist culture is more than an exploration of kitschy shirts and fruity drinks, because it’s not about escaping a 9 to 5. Continue reading →
There is not, perhaps, a more amazing story of American valor and patriotism in World War I than that of the 369th Infantry Regiment. But it is also perhaps the most disappointing because of the regiment’s reception by the American government and its white citizens. One might think that stopping a 24-man German advance with nought but a Bolo knife, the butt of his rifle, and his fists would earn Hellfighter Henry Johnson some sort of American recognition, but that did not happen until two years ago in 2015, when Johnson no longer had any living relatives to accept his Medal of Honor. The Harlem Hellfighters deserve a better story than this, but hopefully it inspires a commitment to listen to diverse experiences before it’s too late to make a difference.
All roads lead to Paris, or so it seemed to what remained of the young male generation following the Great War. And certainly for colonists desiring nations of their own, the only place worth a shot was Paris in 1919, especially when U.S. President Woodrow Wilson introduced the idea of “self-determination” in his famous “Fourteen Points.” Having traveled the world for the past eight years, one particular disillusioned colonist found himself in Paris at the end of Empires. Continue reading →
The picturesque town of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon may look like an idyllic French village, tucked among the hills of the Loire and filled with quiet people wholly committed to the contentment found in daily routine. But this town is “Righteous Among the Nations,” and its population can count many heroes in its ranks. Together, its people saved thousands in a country divided by war. What seemed daring and different to many came but naturally to this French ville with a heart for resistance and faith. Continue reading →
The author of the famed novel-turned-film has a colorful and complex history with his home country. For all of his frequent brushes with the NKVD (Russian police, precursor to the KGB, and in charge of the USSR’s infamous labor camps), he was never once sent to the Gulag or even put on trial. His mistress once wrote: “I believe that between Stalin and Pasternak there was an incredible, silent duel.”* But in the beginning of his writing career, Pasternak wrote poems lauding the 1905 Revolution and party leaders. So how did he become a Soviet enemy, and why was he never “punished” by the government that disowned him? Continue reading →
Located along British coastlines, parabolic concrete structures such as these once served as interwar, pre-radar warning systems. They focused and concentrated sounds from the Channel, with the goal of detecting the approach of enemy planes. Image: Wikipedia.
In February of 1949, four years following the end of World War II, an exciting shipment arrived in New York City’s harbor. A ship bearing the words, “MERCI AMERICA,” came to port where thousands of on-lookers gathered to see the freighter’s cargo. Continue reading →