Everybody’s heard the saying, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” Here at The Things, we’ve found that’s only true about 10% of the time. These thought-provoking before and after pictures show many people and places that aren’t the same at all… And a few that are. Where do you feel we’ve had the most amount of change? In politics? In music? The environment? Whether you’re talking election politics, music, or just a great place to go on vacation, the wheels of time usually do not stop. Deserts morph into metropolises and cities are rebuilt from dust. Occasionally, places change in ways that are completely unexpected. However, sneak in a topic like gender issues and it clearly takes more than a hundred years to change ingrained perceptions – no matter what the geography.
15. Dubai in 1980 and 2013
Dubai, the most heavily populated city in the tiny Persian Gulf nation United Arab Emirates, is quite an interesting place. It’s known for being a one of the most luxurious destinations in the world, never mind just the Middle East. Dubai is home to the world’s largest shopping center, one of the world’s largest amusement parks, and the world’s tallest building: the 164-floor Burj Khalifa, which can be seen from a distance of 55 miles. But as you can see from the picture above, it wasn’t always the modern wonderland that it is today. It was once a just a pit stop in the desert. The United Arab Emirates’ economy was bolstered by oil in the second half of the twentieth century, and that allowed Dubai to grow into what it is now. However, Dubai’s current economy has very little to do with oil; now, real estate and tourism bring in the big bucks.
14. Frankfurt, Germany during WWII
This German city, built in medieval times, got the s*** bombed out of it during World War II. Between 1941 and 1945, Allied forces dropped tons of explosives on the city, killing at least 5,500 residents. Many historical buildings were destroyed, now replaced mostly with office buildings. Today, the city is known as a liberal financial center. It is home to over 700,000 people and hosts visitors from all over the world; the city is packed during the Frankfurt Motor Show and Frankfurt Book Show, the world’s largest car and book shows respectively. The bombings’ effects are still felt, though – as recently as 2006, the New York Times reported that World War II bombs have exploded in Frankfurt and killed people.
Let’s lighten up the mood a bit with some heavy metal. Pantera, a seminal American metal band known for such Southern tough-guy albums as Cowboys from Hell (1990) and Vulgar Display of Power (1992), formed in 1981 as a glam metal band. So not tough-guy. It was all about neon clothes and hairspray. Once vocalist Phil Anselmo joined the band in 1987, though, the music started to gain a harder edge. “Although Anselmo still used Rob Halford-influenced vocals,” explains one source, “he also adopted a more abrasive delivery. Darrell’s more complex guitar solos and riffs, along with his brother’s faster-paced drumwork were evidence of the band’s extreme transformation. The album marked a critical juncture in the band’s history.” And once the riffs changed, all the Spandex went in the Goodwill bag and Pantera adopted the look they are known for now: Southern tough guys.
Okay, back to World War II. The United States dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, hoping that the devastating attack would cause Japan to surrender. The city was leveled and 80,000 people were killed instantly. Still, Japan did not surrender until the United States dropped a second atomic bomb on Nagasaki three days later. To look at Hiroshima today, you wouldn’t immediately guess that the bustling metropolis of 1.2 million was the site of such a terrible tragedy. But a closer look reveals war memorials, shrines to the victims, and ruins purposely left standing for educational reasons. Check out this photo essay in The Atlantic to see how Hiroshima remembers its past.
11. Las Vegas
Here’s a more cheerful before-and-after city picture: Las Vegas! History.com says, ” A desert metropolis built on gambling, vice and other forms of entertainment, in just a century of existence Las Vegas has drawn millions of visitors and trillions of dollars in wealth to southern Nevada.” Mormons tried to settle there in the 1850s, but were unsuccessful – perhaps fortuitously paving the way for the rollicking, no-holds-barred place Vegas became. The city was officially incorporated in 1911, and although gambling was illegal in Nevada from 1910 to 1931, it somehow was still happening. (As illegal things often do.) When the gambling ban lifted, it was “game on” for casino developers and mobsters who wanted a piece of the action. Today, Las Vegas gets over 40 million visitors a year.
10. Media Convergence
Having 50 companies control 90% of America’s media may seem like a lot of content in the hands of a relatively small number of people. But compare 1983’s numbers to today, when just six companies control 90% of the media, and 50 looks positively “indie.” One obvious problem with media convergence is a lack of differing perspectives. If there are only six corporate lines to tow and five of them basically agree with each other… Another problem is that localized coverage becomes increasingly unprofessional or disappears altogether; regional print and web outlets are combined in the name of budget efficiency, and what was once coverage for a county becomes coverage for a whole state. (Or passed off to sites like Patch.com or HamletHub, where individual contributors don’t have the same resources or fact-checking standards as journalists working in those quaint newsrooms of yore.) Don’t worry, though — as long as we can count on outlets like Fox News to have everyday Americans’ best interests in mind, everything will be okay.
9. Afghan Women
Everyone knows that the ol’ Taliban aren’t fans of the ladies. The first picture shows Afghan women (or possible Irani, according to some sources) happily walking down a street, free to show their faces and live their lives. The juxtaposed picture shows a group of women in burqas, restrictive garments that the Taliban forced them to wear with threats of beatings, imprisonment, and even death. Since the United States defeated the Taliban 15 years ago, everything is great for Afghan women today, right? Wrong. The third picture, taken in 2015, shows women in a rare domestic violence shelter. They are still covering their faces, on the run from abusive husbands; they’ve ended up in the shelter because their own families refuse to take them in. Al Jazeera reports that “almost nine out of 10 Afghan women face physical, sexual or psychological violence, or are forced into marriage.” The more things change, the more they stay the same…
8. Bikinis and Burqas
What was that old saying again? On the left, we have a police officer measuring a woman of yesteryear to see if her bathing suit is “appropriate.” On the right, we have a Muslim woman in France, August 2016, being forced to unveil at a public beach because her religious garb was deemed “inappropriate.” Unsurprisingly, many people across the world were disturbed by the photo of the armed male police officer looming over a seated woman on a crowded public beach and forcing her to remove articles of clothing against her will. Even officials in France didn’t like it; on August 26, a French high court ruled that burkini bans were illegal. France does ban burqas and niqabs, non-beach garments that cover most or all of women’s faces.
Oh man, we really need to lighten the mood! How about taking a look at 90s boy band NSYNC? From left on top, JC Chasez, Justin Timberlake, Lance Bass, Chris Kirkpatrick, and Joey Fatone have all changed a ton since their heyday. But hey, that was twenty years ago! Unless they were drinking the blood of young fans, of course they would look twenty years older. According to Buzzfeed, they are all at least reasonably successful — and of course Justin Timberlake has gone on to quite a career. In fact, Forbes Magazine reports that Timberlake is among the richest celebrities. His bandmates Chris and JC are now songwriters, Joey Fatone is a TV host, and Lance has been a bestselling author. (And thank Jesus that Chris and Joey have toned down the bizarre hair!) What have YOU done since the late ’90s?
6. The Salton Sea
The Salton Sea, in Southern California, is a testament to plans working out in strange ways. People got the bright idea to flood this dry lake bed in the early 1900s, and creating a man-made oasis in the desert. Then in 1950, fish were brought to the lake to create a “fisherman’s paradise.” The surrounding area was built up as a resort destination and became quite popular… Until the fish started dying. The sea/lake had no outlet, so salinity and toxic waste built up over time to cause mass fish die-offs – and a massive, unrelenting stench. The people moved out and the resorts are now occupied by a different kind of vacationer: migratory birds. In fact, the Salton Sea has become one of the most important stopping points for birds trying to make it over the vast desert. Probably not the visitors those mid-century developers had in mind, but it has become an ecologically significant location.
5. Ideal Women Through the Decades
Ideals for women’s bodies have changed over the past hundred years, but one thing has stayed the same: most looks are not realistic for the average woman. Tiny Fey put it perfectly when she wrote, “Now every girl is expected to have Caucasian blue eyes, full Spanish lips, a classic button nose, hairless Asian skin with a California tan, a Jamaican dance hall ass, long Swedish legs, small Japanese feet, the abs of a lesbian gym owner, the hips of a nine-year-old boy, the arms of Michelle Obama, and doll tits.” The 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s were probably the most inclusive. But skinny came in during the 1960s and stayed through the 2000s, with its strongest phase being the 1990s “heroin chic” stage shown above. And now in the 2010s, the “bootylicious” phenomena has created an otherworldly superlative of tiny waists and giant badonadonks. Only a tiny percentage of the population will be able to balance a champagne glass like Kim Kardashian!
4. Global Warming in Bolivia
Bolivia takes the cake for lake names. Its largest lake is called Titicaca! And unfortunately, Lake Poopo, the second largest and second most hilariously named (for us immature English-speakers), is in danger of drying up. This aerial photo from National Geographic shows Lake Poopo in 1986 versus today. It’s not just global warming and El Nino causing problems, though – New York’s Cary Institute for Ecosystem Studies says that the Poopo shrinkage is also due to “misuse of the water supply and a failure on the part of the Bolivian government to act on existing management plans.” There used to be 380 square miles of Poopo, but now it’s down to just 7.6 square miles or two percent of its former magnitude. Not a lot of Poopo!
3. Polar Icecaps
Can’t blame Bolivia for this one! This picture of the arctic ice in 1980 and 2012 shows how much the polar ice caps have shrunk due to global warming. Obviously this is bad news for arctic wildlife – their habitats are disrupted by changing water temperatures and lack of solid ice to live on. But melting ice caps cause worldwide problems as well. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association reports that “there were 10 weather and climate disaster events in the United States — including severe storms, floods, drought, and wildfires — that caused at least $1 billion in losses” in 2015. Higher temperatures also cause more heat-related illnesses, more air pollution, and higher sea levels. If you’ve ever heard the Rancid song “Antennas,” that’s what’s going to happen to California…
2. The Clintons
Wow, look at that nose (Bill)! And those eyebrows (Hill)! Hard to believe that the fresh-faced college kids in the top photo, glowing with young love, enthusiasm, and perhaps a couple shots of blackberry schnapps, would one day rule the world. Well, Hill’s not quite ruling yet, but we all know there’s no way Trump will actually be the United States president. (Right??????) And in the picture below, “Billary” appears every bit the happy married couple — standing close, with smiles that reach their eyes. They’ve had their share of difficulties, but it’s good to know that a t least some couples can stay together. After all, the world’s future may be riding on this one!
1. Barack Obama
But who really wants to rule the world anyway? The past eight years have not been kind to Barack. The 44th president of the United States began his first term filled with “the audacity of hope.” When he was sworn in on January 9, 2009, the United States was at war with Iraq and Afghanistan. Over the course of two terms, he has lead the country to strides in LGBT rights, equal pay for women, and much-expanded (and oft-debated) health care coverage. He was even awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Still, Obama has faced much opposition from members of Congress as well as many regular American citizens. He’s been criticized for handling of the economy and foreign policy. Some right-wing nut jobs even accuse him of being the Antichrist! Antichrist or not, the eight years he’s spent in office have been hell on his face.
Additional sources: grabhouse.com, wikipedia.org, wikipedia.org, history.com, nytimes.com, theatlantic.com, theatlantic.com, itimes.com, loudwire.com, history.com, independent.co.uk, cnn.com, cnn.com, nrdc.org, wikipedia.org, greatist.com, wikipedia.org, frankfurt.de.
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