The Carousel of Progress

NOTE: This entry is a trip down memory lane, but be warned: At the end it gets political. As a result, I’ve disabled comments for this post. If you disagree with anything here, the Web is open – write your own blog. I have nothing against respectful dialog, but the Internet being what it is, I have no time for trolls.


I first encountered this lovely exhibit when I attended the New York World’s Fair in 1965. Of all the presentations at the Expo (aside from the food – Belgian waffles, mmm) – along with the Picturephone demonstration, this is the one that stuck in my mind.


After the fair closed, the ride was moved to Disneyland, where I experienced it again, and thereafter found a home in Disney World in Florida, which we visited just last week. It was lovely to reminisce.

Carousel 1

The 1900s. Life couldn’t be better with all the modern conveniences like gas lamps… and soon they’re supposed to have electric lights in the house!

As with anything, the ride did get a few updates over the years:

Carousel 2

Notice in this version it’s Valentine’s Day – and the model has had a bit of an update as well.

Carousel 3

The 1920’s. Electricity and gas are everywhere, and life couldn’t possibly be better. Happy 4th of July!


Hallowe’en in the 1940’s – this looks a lot like kitchens that I grew up with in the 50s.

Carousel 6

Christmas in the 1960s – this tableau has now been supplanted by a 21st-Century version – in the back is a view of Disney’s model city of the future, part of the original idea behind EPCOT (Experimental Planned Community of Tomorrow). Which, unfortunately, because our nation has been focused on flinging its precious human and material resources into unwinnable and futile conflict, has yet to become a reality – despite that dream.

Carousel 5

Another view of the 1960s.

Carousel 7

The 21st Century – (click for a larger view). Most of what you see here is now real, including much better graphics on Virtual Reality devices.

Carousel 8

If our 45th president and the climate-change deniers have their way, it might be necessary to replace the last tableau with one like this.

There’s a great, big, beautiful tomorrow
Shining at the end of every day
There’s a great, big, beautiful tomorrow
And tomorrow’s just a dream away

Man has a dream and that’s the start
He follows his dream with mind and heart
And when it becomes a reality
It’s a dream come true for you and me

The only dream of our current “leaders” seems to be to violate the planet, exterminate the poor and the different, and add to the bottom line of the wealthy. I do not support this, I will not support this, I will not be silent – or I will never be able to look my children and grandchildren in the eye with honor.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

The ‘10,000 Calorie Sundae’


The image above shows two young girls purchasing a so-called “10,000-calorie sundae” from Blair Parson’s store in Lynchburg, Virginia, sometime in the 1950s. Price: 35¢.

Odds are that this was some marketing license; the average hot fudge sundae comes in at about 284 calories, and these don’t look like killers. But it’s a cute picture.

They, the builders of our nation.

The builders

Found at the Facebook page of The Old Map Gallery in Denver, Colorado.

An inspiring work from a daughter of a calligrapher for the United States Treasury Department. Louise E. Jefferson is a fascinating figure that was a key part of the Harlem Artist Guild, author and mapmaker. Here her map for the many peoples that made the nation in the 1940’s

Our nation was built on the back of so many people, I find it surprising that a very small group of people are claiming this country as “theirs” and doing all they can to keep others out. This map is intriguing and historically revealing.

Slum Life in New York City

The collection of pictures found at io9 is extracted from the website I mentioned in this post, How the Other Half Lives – from a work by Jacob Riis.


Mulberry Bend


Lodgers in a crowded flat on Bayard Street. Rent: 5¢ per day.

It gives you a look at some of Riis’ work without having to dig through the online text, but I still recommend perusing the entire, impressive effort.

We have come far. We still have far to go.

The Old Wolf has spoken.


Colored School at Anthoston


Seen at Library of Congress

Colored School at Anthoston.
Census 27, enrollment 12, attendance 7. Teacher expects 19 to be enrolled after work is over. “Tobacco keeps them out and they are short of hands.” Ages of those present: 13 years = 1, 10 years = 2, 8 years = 2, 7 years = 1, 5 years = 1. Location: Henderson County, Kentucky

There appears to be no information regarding photographer or date, but it’s an intriguing photo.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

K’minyan Tov

I have long loved and respected the work of Art Spiegelman, author of Maus and Maus II, two graphic novels which autobiographically recount the experiences of his father Vladek through World War II and the years previous.

One thing in his account puzzled me, though – the exchange recounted in the panels below, just after Vladek arrives at Auschwitz.


I had no idea why the priest said that 17 in Hebrew was “kminyan tov,” because seventeen is “shiv’a ‘asar.” The internet didn’t help, because every reference to “k’minyan tov” led back to Spiegelman’s work. I was stumped. It turns out I just didn’t know enough about Hebrew or kabbalistic customs.

After letting the matter rest for about five years, during which interval I began a study of modern Hebrew, I returned to it with a vengeance and did some more digging.

The Polish priest was learned in the ways of gematria, or the mystical assignment of numerical values to Hebrew letters, and divining meaning from how words add up; I first became aware of gematria when I read The Chosen by Chaim Potok.

I was coming at my puzzle all wrong, assuming that minyan was referring to the quorum of ten Jewish male adults required for certain religious obligations. The word itself also means “count,” with “k’minyan” meaning “like the count of.” That expression appears to be used almost exclusively in referring to values in gematria. Look at this post in a forum:

A week or two ago, a posting on the number of brakhot in shmoneh esrei suggested, IIRC, something like that the addition of birkat ha-minim in E”Y changed the 18 to 19. It appears, however that in E”Y there were originally 17 b’rakhot, gematria tov and the addition of birkat ha-minim made it 18, k’minyan chai.

This entire sentence is far over my head in terms of understanding the context, but to have found the expression in an external source was significant. It seems then that this phrase can be read “like the count of ____”, whatever number is being referred to.

Thus the priest reads Vladek’s number (175113) and notes that the first two numbers are 17 – with “טוב” (tov, meaning “good”) being the numbers 9+ 6+ 2 (each Hebrew letter is assigned a value corresponding to its position in the alphabet). Hence “tov” has the value 17; “k’minyan tov” can be interpreted in this case as “like the count of ‘good’.) This would be seen as a good omen. Another interpretation I found indicates that 17 would indicate the 10 men necessary for a minyan, plus seven more, making it a “good minyan” or a “strong prayer group.”  I can’t speak to the accuracy of this interpretation, but it’s interesting nonetheless – this was the first thing that occurred to me, and it didn’t make sense. Now it does. Sorta.

Vladek’s priest friend notices that 1+7+5+1+1+3 equal 18, and the Hebrew word for “life” (חי – chai) is composed of the numbers 10 + 8, or 18, the number referred to in the quote above, which could be read as “like the count of ‘life’.” And this was sufficient for Vladek to express the feeling that he had been given another life. Vladek escaped, and the priest was never seen again.

I don’t think I have the intellectual discipline to pursue this any farther, but my curiosity has been silenced. At least I understand the basic meaning of what Spiegelman was relating in this scene, and that will have to do.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

(For what it’s worth, “Old Wolf” in English gematria is 522, which has the same value as Truth, Birthday, Stephen, Russia, Muslim, Bill Gates, Twelve, Justice, Victor, Vincent, Rand Paul, Priest, Person, Nothing, Lotus, Hail Mary, Yahuwah, Street, Stealing, The Sun, Blessing, Elishone, Cnaan Aviv, Noahs Ark, Elohiym, Lee Vayle, Dustin, Democracy, Praises, Potato, Euro Bay, String, Taav Aaleph, Myth U, Ninety, Baptist, Crackpot, Company, Inside Job, Architect, God Of Buddha, Different, Cotton, Buddhist, The Eyes, Chin Woo, Diaper Dude, Project, Break The Ice, Manifest, Charlemagne, Helsinki, Mackenzie, Gram Of Fat, Oh My God, Gnostic, Archigonic, Samskarda, Tornado, Forecast’, Paternal, Ho Chi Minh, Natural, Black On Black, Dream Logic, Swedish, Sonnet, Mind Of God, Cortez, Paul Rand, Indeed Jobs, Shelter, My Garden, Get Hay At, Consider, King Of All, Vietnam C, All Is One, Veronica, Punish, Fulfilled, Sam Bowie, The Gilded Age, Whether, Def Leppard, Get A T Hay, Pat Crock, טרוטה Truth, Canaanites, Dependent, Lumpy, Fallout, Frighten, Happily, Sticky, Pell Mell, The Mayan, Idiocracy, Pitagora, and Got Milk. Make of that what you will.)

December 17, 1940

From /r/historyporn:


“Children of Japan, Germany, and Italy meet in Tokyo to celebrate the signing of the Tripartite Alliance between the three nations, on December 17, 1940. Japanese education minister Kunihiko Hashida, center, holding crossed flags, and Mayor Tomejiro Okubo of Tokyo were among the sponsors.”

A relevant story from my own family history: My father was, in his day, a well-known character actor who began his career in radio. Italian was his first language, and his theatrical gift made him a superb dialectician. One day he was on a sound stage playing Mussolini in a radio play, when the actor playing Hitler became ill; Dad jumped in and assumed the rôle. By some odd quirk of fortune, the actor playing Hirohito also became unable to continue, and so my father ended up voicing all three parts. The director looked at him and exclaimed, “My God, you’re playing the whole Axis!”

The Old Wolf has spoken.

The Mission Inn at Riverside

Just got back from a little junket to California to see an aunt who’s almost 100, and some other friends and relatives as well. One of the things we saw while we were in Riverside, where one of my cousins graciously put us up (and put up with us) for a few days was the Mission Inn, an amazing hotel which made me think of my earlier visits to the Hotel Del in Coronado.

This enterprise began as an adobe cottage called the “Glenwood Hotel,” built by civil engineer Christopher Columbus Miller in 1876, and like the Winchester Mystery House (but a lot more sanely) has just continued to grow. We only saw a fraction of it, but what I saw was impressive. There are multiple wings with multiple flavors – Spanish, Oriental, etc.

Here are a few photos:


Special chair built for President Howard Taft for a conference. Taft’s portrait hangs in the background. He later is said to have remarked “I’m big,but I’m not that big.”


The Steinway Centennial Grand Piano. This piano was crafted as the company’s gift to the USA for the 1876 Centennial celebration. During a national tour, it was somehow “misplaced” – how one misplaces a grand piano is beyond me – but was rediscovered to be the one and only when it was undergoing restoration in the 1980s. Exactly how and when it came to the Mission Inn is unknown, but at the time of its disappearance the hotel was still a simple adobe cottage.


Herculean painting of the California Alps.


Campanero, or bell wall, built in 1903 and modeled after the belfry at Mission San Gabriel. Stairs on the right used to lead to the rooftop gardens of the original adobe building, which was later demolished in 1948 to make room for a swimming pool.


Another view of the campanero.


Restored cannon


The Nanjing bell, an imperial temple bell from the Manchu Temple in Nanjing, China. 3500 lbs, cast between 1875 and 1908. More information is readable on the plaque.


The other side of the campanero.


The internal rotunda. Normally accessible only by guided tour, we happened to be present when someone came out and we slipped in.


The rotunda, looking up. The stairs are structurally out of code, and are usable only by tours. There is a wonderful old elevator that ascends to each floor.


Tiled fountain at the bottom of the rotunda.


The goodwoman of the house, taking a photo of me as I take one of her.


The sky.


Another view of the rotunda.


An iron spiral fire escape in the bowels of the hotel.


Tiled dome visible from the top level of the rotunda.


Another view


This old building on the left is also part of the Inn’s property, but has yet to be restored.

There’s so much more… I’d love to stay there some time, if I could only win the lottery or something. In the meantime, it’s nice to just stroll the grounds and the lobby.

The Old Wolf has spoken.