25 August 2010

Today's Vintage Rusyn Photograph

From the cover of Carpatho-Rusyn American, Summer 1988: "Carpatho-Rusyn peasants in the Užhorod market, photographed by Margaret Bourke-White for Erskine Caldwell's North of the Danube, published in 1939."

Eine alte Postkarte

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This post comes during a kind of huge breakthrough for me regarding some of my own genealogical research.  Turns out, my great-great grandfather from Ladomirová actively used an alias, which is kind of cool.  That's as far back as I'm going right now, because of jus sanguinis.

Years ago, a friend teased me that I'd be one of those academic types searching through old letters and postcards at flea markets and antique stores looking for the lost letters of some famous artist I was researching.  I'm not quite at that point yet, but I do like looking through old postcards when I'm at a flea market or antique store.  Especially when the postcard was written and sent.

So when my mom and I were at this fantastically huge antique mall in the middle of Indiana cornfields about a month ago, I spent a lot of time looking through the old postcards I could find.  I got a lot of postcards featuring Mecki the Hedgehog, because they're so deliciously uncomfortable in some indescribable way, and a very interesting postcard from the Summit Inn in Uniontown that is typewritten and talks about General Pershing.

But there was one postcard that was most curious to me. I've been wanting to Google it, and it turns out, it's even more interesting than I thought.  Yay for literate, Anglophone, WASPy Americans who are easy to research on Ancestry.com!  Here's the postcard:

It was written by Marian Colburn, who at the time would have been 14 years old:

Marion's father
Marion's dad was a shoe salesman. In the 1900 census, the Colburns of Wellesley Hills, Mass. had a servant living with them named Cora Carter, and Frank the Traveling Shoe Salesman owned his house outright.

Her brother, Stanley Childs Colburn, married Marie Spahr, whose dad, George Tallman Spahr, graduated from Amherst College in 1878.  He was a WWI veteran.  Between 1910 and 1930, he was in Minnesota at some point. By 1930, Stanley Colburn and his wife Marie were living in Fargo, North Dakota and they had 4 children.  He died in 1986, age 100, in a long-term care facility after working as a wholesale grocery manager, and is buried in Ohio.

On October 3rd, 1903, she applied for an emergency passport at Vevey-Lausanne, Switzerland. This was probably her first trip abroad, but it wasn't her last: she returned to New York from Naples first class aboard the the then-very-fashionable SS Independence on April 2, 1956 with five pieces of luggage.

By 1920, Marian was living in Boston with her father's sister and was employed as a social services medical something or other. By the early 1930s, she was living in Allston, MA. In 1953, Marion, who never married and probably never lived outside of Massachusetts, donated three early American costume pieces to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (1, 2, 3).  She died in Lowell, Massachusetts on February 18, 1991 -- like her brother, she lived a long life!

The recipient of the letter, Professor Marshall Livingston Perrin, was one of those Who's Who types of people:

M. L. Perrin's 1922 passport picture
In addition to being a professor, he was also Superintendent of Wellesley Schools for 16 years (1893-1909) and they even built a school named after him.  He traveled all over the world and based on the emergency passport he applied for in Switzerland in August 1903, I'll venture the guess he was travelling at least part of the time with Miss Colburn -- the documentation also says he was with his son, Harold.  When he came back to the US on the S.S. Carpathia, he wasn't with his son, however.  Harold Perrin and Marian Colburn were about the same age.  Harold became a lawyer and was also the chair of the Committee on Street Railways in Boston in 1919. He had four children with his wife, Edith.

Clipping advertising a lecture in North Adams, MA in 1896.

Professor Perrin was quite the globetrotter: he lived in Germany from 1883-88, and almost every summer he was traveling in Europe, but in 1919-1920 he was in Asia, where he also visited at least once before 1896.  The Ship Manifests show him traveling on the White Star Line, Cunard, and Holland America Line, Red Star Line and on ships like the MS St. Louis, SS Dresden, RMS Baltic, SS Carmania, SS George Washington, and the famous RMS Carpathia.

Here's a map with some of the places the people involved lived and worked:

View alte Postkarten in a larger map

So I hope you enjoyed reading a little bit about other people's adventures (and all of the gaping holes in the story) through my little research into primary sources.  For my part, I'll keep looking through stacks of old postcards whenever I get the chance!

12 August 2010

It's not just me!
A grad school colleague just returned from Turkey and has posted some really interesting comments about what she saw in Turkish museums.

27 July 2010

Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum

This is why we went on this trip in the first place.
Lincoln Museum people, if you're reading this: I regret having taken pictures where they weren't allowed, but I did it discreetly and without using a flash, because otherwise how could I have illustrated this blog post?  And how could I have idea-mined, which is what all museum people do when they go to other museums?
Ultimately, my impression?  It was, at times, way too literal and really over-designed.

Sometimes, that over-design was cool:
Political cartoons from Lincoln's presidency
Other times, it was way too much -- in the case of this diorama of Lincoln with his cabinet, deciding when to release the Emancipation Proclamation:
My mind immediately associated it with the worst wax museum I've ever been to, the Museo delle Cere on Piazza Venezia in Rome:
Mussolini's Last Fascist Council, in wax.
I'd heard the accusations of edutainment, and honestly, I'd second them.  It was exciting, and there's a fine line between being intellectually rigorous, informative, and boring, but I'd do more of letting the objects speak for themselves and let history come alive that way instead of Harry Potter-inspired dramatics - I guess that's where I prefer to err in exhibits, and where my preference lies.


Instead of blogging about every little thing that happened on this trip (there's some stuff that gets left out!) I had decided beforehand to try to make a documentary about it.  If you can sit through the whole thing, you'll get a pretty authentic picture of what it's like to hang out with my mum and me - a little bit not-PC, some deep thinking and a lot of laughing:

Building Hope ?

Springfield, Illinois is a bureaucratic town -- the downtown, besides having the Lincoln Home National Historic Site, is a solidly 19th century place with enough neoclassicism straight from provincial ancient Rome to choke an Ostrogoth.  It's flat enough to have an almost perfect Cardo Maximus-Decumanus Maximus layout, used as it was designed to be.  The result is a 19th century New Rome -- and the architecture follows, because it has to, in order to reinforce the democratic ideals upon which the state of Illinois and the United States of America are built on.

The ancient center of Naples, Italy, laid out on a grid plan.

Springfield, Illinois, also laid out on a grid plan.

 And so then, following the grid plan, the buildings that must reinforce the democratic ideals developed by the Greeks and ahem, Romans, must follow:
Temple of Athena at Paestum, Italy
Old Statehouse, Springfield, Illinois - right down to the drum columns!
So far, everything fits: democracy, New Rome, neoclassical architecture -- but what happens when that envelope gets pushed?  The next generation, in the late 19th century, after the War of 1812 (at least the British really aren't coming back) and the Civil War (at least the unity of the country is preserved), a country on the verge of the Industrialized Victorian period comes out with guns blazing in a showcase of exuberance and confidence - keeping the vocabulary but yammering away like a 4-year-old with a sugar high.
Illinois State Capital

And so, for almost a hundred years, this vocabulary works.  It continues to work after WWI, and a bit after WWII, because while they're doing crazy things up in Chicago, it must have taken a while for such things to trickle down to Springfield - our guide at the Dana-Thomas House suggested Springfield was 15-20 years behind Chicago... And while I've had the International Style/High Modernism described to me as 'fascist' (perhaps mainly as a criticism of egomaniac architects like Le Courbousier and to an extent, FLW, who wanted everyone to use their buildings as they decided) and impersonal, to me it's quite the opposite.  I've lived in pánelaks, and waxed poetic about it plenty.

To me, this bureaucratic building across the street from the Illinois State Capital sums it all up:
Post-war, functional, transparent.  Technology is still the savior of mankind, and hope in progress is visible here - now, after proving ourselves and the worth of our system on two fronts in a World War, this is how we run our democratic bureaucracy - with efficiency and transparency.  Ideally.

It's rather fitting that in the birthplace of Lincoln and the birthplace of a politics of hope, this is where we see this sort of urban planning in real life.

22 July 2010

Vlog: My Grandfather's Hands

Since I've been back from Slovakia, and even before my grandma died, I've been trying to visit Bentleyville as often as my schedule allows, and even sometimes when it doesn't.  Now it's even more special for me as we all grieve her and realize how much she took with her when she went.  We have to work together more, cooperate more, brainstorm together more, and talk to each other more.  The dynamic is different and to say she's irreplaceable is an understatement.

The ways my grandparents kept their files over the years was different - my grandmother made albums, labeled them pretty well, and they've been a relatively user-friendly resource over the years.  Today, my grandfather pulled out this binder and a pack of college-ruled filler paper, and started showing me letters and photos off the top of the stack from some of our relatives in Slovakia, mostly from the 1980s.  So we read letters handwritten and typed in Rusyn and Slovak, and looked at pictures, mixed in with photos of his parents, grandparents, and cousins, obituaries, commemorative prayer cards, and other newspaper clippings.  Instead of being accompanied by a label, every piece has its story - which begets another story.  For example, those of you who know Svidník and that horrible old rusted-out former hotel - looking at a photo of the funeral of his aunt with that building in the background caused a short and parenthetical discussion of the current bedbug epidemic the world is experiencing.  In the meantime, Aunt Nell's in the background, mischievously taking advantage of me sitting and yelling into his good ear to quietly provoke me into asking him the right follow-up questions to get the whole story.
Aunt Nell: Maria, ask him to tell you about his Aunt Helen Zukovich.
Self: Hey Grandpap, what's the story about your Aunt Helen Zukovich?
Grandpap: She was half crazy! No, she was completely crazy!
Aunt Nell [in the background]: She was alright!
For a while, I've been thinking about how since Our People are separated by an ocean (and the Schengen Agreement, which is almost as bad), we've always used the best technologies that were available and affordable to communicate and record our lives to share with our far away families -- it used to be letters and photographs, now it's Skype and videos (and still letters and photographs!).

Letters and photographs are what my grandfather has left of his grandparents and parents and most of his relatives and friends.  I can also have video to pass along to my potential future offspring and theirs, إن شاء الله, and those photos and letters.  Unfortunately by the time he realized I was recording, he wouldn't let me record any more, even as he was telling me about who these people were and how we're related, which is information that will almost certainly die with him.

In the meantime, I'm often fascinated by people's hands, and in this case by the deliberateness of action, as my grandfather creates his/our "archives" with Scotch tape and college-ruled filler paper.  I post this, not because I think we're special because we really aren't, but to encourage you to take this sort of action in your family as well.

So after all that introduction, here's the video:

19 July 2010


Lots of yinz have been asking lately if I've been blogging, and I've said, not much because I've not gone anywhere interesting.  But here's a preview for the upcoming week.

11 May 2010

Today's Vintage Rusyn Photograph

It's been a while since I've done one of these, which I kind of regret because I think they're really fun.

Grandma and locals in Humenné, September 1978

21 April 2010

Stork Nest Live Webcam!

If you're reading this post via e-mail, click through to the website to see the embedded video!

Watch live video from milvus's channel on Justin.tv

15 March 2010

A Potpurri of Armchair Traveling

I've been saving these up for a while:

Library, Unknown Location: An awesome panorama that makes you feel like you're there - at first, I thought it was the Prunksaal in Vienna, but it's not.

Brick Labourer in Bangladesh: This video is short, but really amazing - I can't imagine doing this without crushing myself!

Universal Packing List: I wish I'd had this ages ago, though I'm usually pretty good about packing light and efficiently.  It seems like a great tool, I'll have to try it sometime and do a review.

03 March 2010

Recipe: Italian Olive Oil Lemon Cake

I baked this, and it's awesome. 
Just follow the recipe - do not use flavored olive oil, use the zest of 2 lemons for more lemon flavor instead of adding juice.

Barbeque in Georgia

I posted this picture a few days ago on Facebook, but my Facebook crew and blog-reading crews don't always overlap, so I thought I'd post it here for posterity.  After getting back from the South, I think I took about a 36 hour break from any sort of pork products.  My body knew/knows I needed/need a break, but my mind keeps thinking, "Bacon." 

Alas, fate took me to Quitman, Georgia - this place was recommended to us, but it was closed, so I'll have to return.  Instead, while driving back towards Valdosta, we passed this fantastic place:

So the great thing were the homemade barbeque grills on the side -- but the best was the ribs:

We, clearly know-nothing Northerner tourist-types (there were things on the menu that were incomprehensible, like chipped things and God knows what else - chipped as in Pittsburgh chipped ham? I don't know! It could've been another language), engaged in some witty banter with the locals regarding the high quality of the local ribs.  Based on that discussion, these ribs are the best in Georgia, which, until proven otherwise, I will agree with.  You can't see it in this picture, but there's a quarter of a chicken under those ribs.

The baked beans were not homemade, but the coleslaw was and it was great.  The last three weeks have seen my appreciation of coleslaw grow exponentially, and I enjoyed this iteration quite a bit. 

Ohhhh barbeque.  I think I could be happy just going from small town to small town in the South, sampling barbeque as long as my heart could handle it and my body could process the cholesterol.  It's got everything I like in my kind of food tourism:
  • something that speaks to the local culture,
  • something made in a semi-permanent structure,
  • something involving pork products,
  • something that is cooked to perfection, and that's the only thing the business sells, because they do it to perfection and so they don't need to fart around with other things.

25 February 2010

Shuffleboard: A Dialogue

Before this week, the most shuffleboard I'd seen was the beer-stained tabletop version they have at the Gaslight in South Orange.  But we're in Florida, where there are lots of retirees, and hence, lots of shuffleboard.  Last evening on the news, there was a whole thing about some shuffleboard club that was closing and how devastating that was because people had to belong to a club to join tournaments.

Generally, I'd say that these shuffleboard clubs are like the pool teams I encountered down in the Mon Valley.  This morning, walking down Flagler Avenue in New Smyrna Beach, we passed the Coronado Shuffleboard Club, and since I had lots of questions, I asked a lady (in a sparkly visor and earmuffs) about it:
Me: So are there any fights here ever?
Lady: No, I've never seen any.
Me: Are you really serious about those poles? Do you get them online and are they collapsible?
Lady: Yes, you can get them online and some of them are collapsible, but the Ace Hardware also has them.
Me: So do you play? [because at the time, she was sitting on the sidelines]
Lady: Yes, I'm waiting for my turn.  This side is the amateurs, this side is the professionals. [gesturing] I'm in the professional category, not because I'm so good but because of how many points I've racked up.
Me: How long do you do play?
Lady: We try to get to the point today where tomorrow we can just play for first, second and third places on the second day. Sometimes it takes three days if we get a crowd, but because it's so cold (about 55 degrees) not many people showed up.
(She'd come from a town 50 miles away because they're all in the same district.)
Me: How did you learn how to play? Did someone teach you?
Lady: Just practice, really.
Fascinating.  With that, I had to move along with my party, but seriously, when else do you have the opportunity to approach and talk with a professional shuffleboard player? I'm a bit biased, but as far as sports that retired people play, I think bocce is much more interesting and stimulating and graceful -- this is like curling with a little bit of paint drying thrown in - although I guess you need to know what to watch for, as with anything else.

Wekiva River Adventure

View Wekiva Float 24 Feb 10 in a larger map

Wow. This trip was a combination of the Adirondack paddle and Kremenec -- both days notable for being excellently beautiful, grueling, and ending with obscene amounts of rain.  I posted the bird list earlier, and the birds and wildlife we saw were amazing, though the alligators were always a bit too close for comfort...

Great Blue Heron
One alligator out of five (six) that we saw.


So midway through the Wekiva River, it started to pour.  This is not a big deal, because really, nature looks nicer in the rain than it does when it's dry -- something about light, refractions and reflections, methinks.  And we were expecting rain and were reasonably well-prepared for rain -- but raingear is almost never adequate.  It can be, but not really.

For proof that God has a sense of humor and she's really funny, this all happened on the first day of my period.  Because this is what happens in life (this was another one of those days).  Except this time, I was sitting in a puddle (especially because I was in a sea kayak, which drains easily but is wetter on a dry day in this type of water than a regular kayak is) in the middle of a downpour with highly absorbent material between my legs.  It's good to know that things work the way they're supposed to, I guess. 

The big issue for all of us was when we took a wrong turn at the confluence of the Wekiva and Saint John rivers.  We paddled about a mile in the wrong direction before we got out around some uninhabited vacation homes and had a pit stop/fact finding mission.  Then we headed back in the other (correct) direction and our fearless leader talked to some Great Samaritans who gave us a ride/tow to the car, which was at Blue Springs.  Things would have gotten quite unsafe because we were already wet and cold, we were tired, and it was going to be getting dark quite soon.

Thanks, Rick and Fred!

Our fearless leader bringing up the rear

We finally got to Blue Springs, and half of our group went to go pick up the other car while three of us waited in Blue Springs being wet and cold.  It's a state park, and it closed at 6:15pm, so they had locked the bathrooms and I couldn't go in there to sit under the automatic hand dryer -- which is fine because doing so would have required acrobatics I was incapable of since I'd just been paddling the last 5 hours.  Blue Springs is Florida's best manatee refuge, so we went to look at them while we were waiting!  So cool -- here's some video I took:

Blue Spring is 72°F year round because it's a natural hot spring, and so the manatees go there in the winter because they can't live in water that's less than 60°F.  There are some other varieties of fish in there, including some invasive species like these tilapia:
The cool thing is that so many fish were making their nests, and so you can clearly see it in this photo.  The fish use their tails to clear off a spot in the sand and then they go into hyper-defensive mode, fertilize their eggs via some sort of mating swim, and then protect the nests.

Our day was so awesome, and such an adventure.  Having to be bailed out is a bit of a sticky wicket, because it meant that we didn't plan well enough to know exactly where we were going -- if you're reading this and want to do the Wekiva, consider taking out at the Swamp House Grill in Highbanks.  We were as prepared as we were able to be, and that would have been the only place to take out...  You can't bail out of the trip in the middle of a swamp -- or you could but have fun in the swamp!  It was a great day, the birding and the float were excellent -- and we are able to say that because our heroes of the day, Fred and Rick, were so kind and responsive to our needs and our situation. 

Awesome float though, and truly a great adventure I'm not doing justice to in this post.  One of those things you've got to see in order to believe -- the map should help.

A Mostly Complete Bird List from the Wekiva River Float

  1. Cattle Egret
  2. Pileated Woodpecker
  3. Great Blue Heron
  4. Little Blue Heron
  5. Great Egret
  6. Great White Heron
  7. Peregrine Falcon
  8. Osprey
  9. Bald Eagle
  10. Cardinal
  11. Tricolor Heron
  12. Cormorant
  13. Anhinga
  14. Wood Stork
  15. Ibis
  16. Kingfisher
  17. Turkey Vulture
  18. Crested Flycatcher
  19. Hairy Woodpecker
  20. Sandhill Crane
  21. Red Shouldered Hawk

An Okra Recipe

I haven't made this (yet!), but I found it in the local paper today and it seems similar to what I had the other day.

Stewed Okra and Tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon ancho chili powder
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 pound of fresh okra, stemmed and sliced ½ inch thick (NB: choose young pods free of bruises, tender but not soft and no more than 4" long)
  • 2 medium Roma tomatoes
  • ½ cup water
  • salt to taste
  1. Heat the oil in a medium skillet; add the sliced onion and garlic and cook over medium heat until fragrant, about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Add the chili powder, cayenne pepper, cumin sees and turmeric and cook, stirring constantly for 2 minutes.
  3. Add the okra and cook for 2 minutes, tossing.  Add tomatoes and cook over high heat until they release their juices, about 1 minute.  Add the water and cover, stirring occasionally, until okra is tender, about 5 minutes.  Season to taste with salt if desired.

23 February 2010

REAL Soul Food!!!

Ohhhh soul food.  How I love it, yearn for it, and yet how I rather insist on having it be cooked by people who really know what they're doing and have been cooking in this style their whole lives -- because I want the real thing, baby.  Yesterday, on our way down to Florida, we had planned a stop in Savannah and this became our destination.

So let's let the food porn begin, shall we?

Clockwise from top: biscuits (dessert!), corn pudding, OKRA! and tomatoes, and sweet potato salad in the blue bowl.
The okra.  Okra doesn't look appealing to me, because it's kind of tubular -- but it's so delightful.  And the corn pudding was sweet and magical.  I didn't like the sweet potato salad, because there was a lot of celery in there -- but there was also fresh dill, which I love.  But the presence of celery lost me.  No matter, it was the only thing that I had that I wasn't 100% into eating.

Baked sweet potato with brown sugar butter, collard greens! and cheese grits.  I prefer my grits with a ton of butter, but these were delightfully savory.  I didn't have any of the sweet potato, but I would walk 500 miles for a mountain of those collared greens.  Any collared greens, really.

Notable on this plate? Lima beans with dill!  I know lots of people really loathe lima beans, but as long as you don't have to eat only lima beans for your whole meal or something, I really rather enjoy them.  And loving dill is part of my genetic structure.  You can't really see them on the dish, but they were part of the taste.

I'm saving the best for last.  We also had coleslaw, but it was rather pedestrian and we had to season it ourselves -- I usually won't season things other people cook, because I trust whoever's cooking.  Anyway.  This asparagus.  OHHHHHH.  It was chilled, with a bit of a fresh tomato, onion and parsley salad with a zippy viniagarette -- there was a teeny bit of horseradish in there that made it delightful.  And I really enjoy asparagus and don't get to eat it enough.  The asparagus was also picked small enough so that it wasn't some thick stalk, it was still tender.

I often think people wait too long to pick vegetables -- zucchini is much better when it's not the size of a baseball bat, so is asparagus, often tomatoes...

It's meals like this wherein I realize that if this type of thing was what was available to me, I could be a satisfied vegetarian.  Or if I was in India.  But it would be a great sacrifice for me to say no to bacon/pork.  I'd be closer to enlightenment if I could let that go.  I wanted to try the catfish and did have a bite of some chicken there, but I've been eating a lot of seafood lately and knew I'd be having more this week - so yay for veggies!

And where did we eat all of this wonderful food?  At Sweet Potatoes in Savannah, Georgia.  I first read about it on Serious Eats, and Yelp sealed the deal.  The place was pleasantly full of a local lunch crowd -- I think we were the only Yankees in there, and four of us ate for about $30.  It's not near I-95 and it's not near Historic Savannah, but I'd definitely go back and make it a stop if I was in the area.

12 January 2010

Two things:

  1. Friends Emily and Arnoux have a blog about being US civilian aid workers in Afghanistan.  You can read it here.
  2. The Monroeville Times-Express did a fantastic article introducing Rusyns to the Eastern Suburbs.  You can read it here.