Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Three by three

Sally and I went antiquing last Friday. She found some great old children's valentines, and then we went through a couple of boxes of old snapshots.

I find other people's photos to be like tiny time machines, taking us into the past. They seal that exact time, person and place on a piece of paper. Pretty neat. In another way it's sad. So many pictures of children, and you wonder how they got away from their rightful owners. While I'm looking at a picture of a baby without a name, that baby was very important to someone else. The people to whom these pictures meant something are gone. Their earthly goods made it to an estate sale, and then into the hands of strangers.

For some reason, and she probably didn't realize it, Sally picked out pictures of threes. Three little girls (date on the back says 1923), three women in beautiful hats (no date, but probably sometime in the late teens or early '20s), and a toddler, with a mother and new baby (dated 1916).

Are these girls sisters?

These three are related; they have the same nose.

Is this child a boy, dressed Buster Brown fashion?


Sunday, January 29, 2012

Bad blood

In 1972 news of a long-term medical experiment, conducted by the Public Health Service since the early 1930s on black sharecroppers from Alabama, became public. The Tuskegee Experiment, as it's called, gave medical "treatment" to African-American men with syphilis. The true meaning of the study was kept from the men. Its goal was to conduct autopsies on them after they died, to see the results of damages caused by this sexually transmitted disease. They were given free treatment for something called "bad blood." Doctors in the experiment did not try to cure the syphilis, even after penicillin was discovered.

You can read more about it here.

Ten years before that I read an article about a propaganda movie from the Soviet Union, which had something of the same idea. At the time It was derided as an outrageously untrue portrait of American society and science. The 1954 article about the movie, Silvery Dust, in LIfe, was in a stack of old magazines I found about 1961 in the library of my junior high school. At the time, like Life, I thought a plot involving black men for a medical experiment (in this case, being falsely accused of rape, and then used as guinea pigs for a killer radioactive dust), could not possibly happen in America. We were a lot more patriotic in those days—jingoistic. really—and more trusting of our government and its motives.

Life treats the Soviet movie strictly as hate-filled anti-American propaganda. On the other hand, unknown at the time to Life or the film's Russian producers, some of its ideas were being carried out in the U.S. by a government department.

The USSR had a history of murdering its citizens for various reasons, mostly political, but the U.S. was supposed to be above that. At least we were taught that in school. Something they didn't tell us at the time was what the effects of open air testing of nuclear devices was doing to citizens downwind. The Atomic Energy Commission is quoted, "Fallout does not constitute a serious hazard outside the test site." The AEC was well aware of the results from Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and knew that statement was a lie. Sometimes what is done in the name of national security causes some folks much less security. In this case it was the people of Southern Utah, who were exposed. The bombs weren't set off until the prevailing winds blew in the right direction, over a "low yield" segment of the population, Nevada and Utah.

These are the sorts of things that make citizens fear and mistrust their government, the basis for conspiracy theories. There are plenty of conspiracy theories to go around. The U.S. government figures into most of them. While I'm a skeptic on grand, far-reaching conspiracies, it chills me to think what if? What if conspiracy theorists of the past had screamed that the government was conducting inhumane medical experiments on African-American males, or that open air testing was done to make Southern Utah residents guinea pigs for radiation testing? Would anyone have believed them?


Thursday, January 26, 2012

Mulling over Mitt's millions

"I'm the 1%!"

Mitt Romney released his tax return and there were no surprises. He pays about 13.9% in taxes, whereas the working poor in our country pay more like 30%. Republicans are hanging on to these tax breaks until their fingertips are bloody. What I can't believe is that many poor and middle class people still support Republicans and their billionaire buddies. They have fallen for the canard that rich people who get even richer = more jobs for poorer people. It wasn't true when Reagan said it, and still isn't true thirty years later.

Mitt doesn't work in the sense you and I work. He collects money. Mitt made a point to say that he didn't inherit his wealth. But his dad was the CEO of a major corporation in the 1960s, American Motors, and Mitt grew up with money. He learned early on how to exploit, how to make himself wealthier. A commentator said that Mitt's income works out to $47,000 a day, more than the great majority of working people earn in a year.

"Of course I don't know how much money I have. It comes in faster than I can count."

When Mitt tries to sound like a man of the people he can't, because every time he talks that silver spoon he was born with gets in the way of his tongue. He has no common touch because he hasn't associated with common people. He sounds like a rich person trying to convince us lesser mortals he's less than he is, the top 1% of the 1%-ers.

After writing a couple of early drafts of this post I watched an NBA basketball game to get my mind off politics. It didn’t work. I was watching a bunch of really tall millionaires running up and down a court throwing a ball at a hoop. Even the NBA minimum salary is about ten years of a working person's earnings. These financial realities are true across professional sports in America. Athletes who have been given the double gifts of good genes and skill can earn staggering amounts of money. Ball players will justify this by saying their careers are short, and that's true. But our careers are long and they still don't even out. I'd like to see someone like LeBron James or Kobe Bryant play for $50,000 a year, minus endorsements. Would they still excel, or just gripe about their wages while worrying how they're going to pay their mortgage and still buy food or shoes for the kids, and god help them if anyone in the family gets sick.

Bryant earned $24.8M in the 2010-11 season; James lagged behind him with a paltry $14.5M.

But in sports big money comes with close scrutiny. In a pro ballplayer's career everything he does is recorded. If I were doing my job with thousands of people watching every move I made, and had other people on the sidelines keeping track of my statistics I'd be very nervous. In that way I was lucky in my job. I got to be responsible for myself for thirty years. Only occasionally did I have to answer for anything I did. And Mitt probably didn't have to answer for much, either. As long as everyone was making money who would want to ask where the money was coming from? The only questions would be is this all? and where can I get more?

"Stop asking me questions I don't want to answer!"

Romney finds his feet being held to a very hot fire. When he wouldn't release his taxes he was criticized for hiding something. When he did release his taxes he was criticized for how much money he has, and how he holds on to it at the expense of other American taxpayers. Sorry 'bout that, Mitt! It's the way of politics, but not the way of CEO's. They have to answer only to shareholders. They feel privileged, and don't like anyone asking intrusive questions of them. Mitt is especially brittle when asked these types of questions. He wants to say it’s nobody’s business but his, but of course it’s our business to examine closely the people who want to be President.

The Republican candidates bicker amongst themselves as to who is more conservative. It's all just eyewash. What they are really doing is trying to hold onto a status quo where the rich keep taking out of the system while others pay into it. There isn’t the thickness of a dollar bill between their philosophies. Why their supporters and members of the Republican Party—most of whom are decidedly not rich—go along with this is beyond me. Maybe they're just hoping if they get close enough to a candidate like Mitt some of his skills with money will rub off.


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

More mugs

I read recently that Internet pornography is addictive. Well, duh.

My addiction is mugshots. Since I found the mugshot of my former coworker, shown here, my "porn" is the local mugshots web site. I look each morning to see if anyone else I know has been busted. So far, no. But when it comes to interesting characters this site is arresting, and puts the cuffs on me. I go along quietly.

I thought the two pictures of Jessica sent a message, so I pasted them together. Before and after pictures of drug users can be scary and effective. In her January, 2011 bust Jessica was arrested for possession of a controlled substance; in the July arrest she was charged with prostitution and possession of heroin. It's an old, old story. No sarcasm here...I hope she's getting the help she needs.

I saw several people who were arrested and charged more than once in 2011. This man, for instance. He's either defiant or stupefied in the first picture, and putting my own interpretation of his look in the second, it's a kind of, "Oh shit. Here we go again" expression .


This nice-looking young man is an example of escalating antisocial behavior. In his June arrest he was charged with assault, in August he had graduated to murder.

You wouldn't think someone with an angel face like this would show up on a mugshot. She was charged with aggravated assault (defined as use of a weapon which may cause serious bodily injury or death) and domestic violence in front of a child.

It's no surprise that men arrested outnumber women by at least two or three to one, but driving drunk or impaired isn't restricted to males.

I always wonder about a person who wears his crime on his shirt. Weedman is charged with failure to comply with a police officer.

This man, who is mugging for his mug shot, was arrested for murder and obstructing justice. He killed a 20-year-old road construction worker he hit on the freeway, then drove home, where he was arrested the next day.

Facial hair is in, in all different styles. I like the retro-Buffalo Bill and Wyatt Earp look for these two.

I hardly know how to define these looks. The top guy's hair looks like a helmet, and the offender below him looks like lavender Jesus.

More lavender. This oldster was arrested for robbery. All you need is love, brother!

The gaping holes in this young man's ears are hideous. I will never understand self-mutilation like this, which seems almost criminal. It's not a crime, but forgery and possession of drug paraphernalia are. The ear holes could give other prisoners a finger-hold when administering a beatdown.

Finally, these styles are unique, but appear silly on what are otherwise two very tough-looking thugs.

All booking photos are part of the public record. I have deliberately left off names for the sake of privacy--mine. I don't want any of these people looking for me.


Monday, January 23, 2012

"They call him Colt...Colt .45..."

I found this beautiful Colt Firearms brochure from last year, promoting the one hundredth anniversary of the Colt .45 automatic model of 1911.

The last time I shot a gun was in 1968, at a rifle range in Germany, qualifying as a requirement for my job as a soldier in the U.S. Army. My memory is hazy on the event, except that with the M-14 rifle I did OK, but with the .Colt .45 1911 model I was pathetic, missing the target with every round. (To be fair to me, I'd never fired it before.)

Fast forward several years, and I'm working with many men who have guns, and actively buy, sell and trade guns. I got a reputation for being anti-gun, which was unfair. What I was really against was idiocy, which included grown men bringing large caliber guns to work, waving them around, acting like little boys playing with toy guns. One day I walked into the office and a fellow employee laughed and pointed a shotgun at me. (Coincidentally, that employee was later fired, and my boss was sure he was the type of person who would come back with that shotgun and shoot everyone. It didn't happen, thank god.) After several incidents of people around the nation being gunned down at work, my employer banned firearms from the premises, but by then it had stuck that I was "anti-gun."

I believe people should be able to own guns as long as the rounds fired can't stop an Army tank, and especially as long as they don't point a gun at me. I own a couple of guns, a .22 target pistol and a Colt single action .22 revolver, which my father bought in 1961 as a collectible. I still have it in the original box. Here's a picture:

Colt is an old company. It was 175 years old in 2011, founded in 1836 by Samuel Colt, who is featured in this little factoid from a 1948 crime comic book.

The brochure does a beautiful job picturing Colt's various firearms, and even includes 2011's version of the pistol my father bought 51 years ago, the single action. I notice it's no longer available in .22 caliber.

They have a page of history on the 1911 model. John Browning designed it and Colt built it. (Browning has a firearms museum fifty miles from me in Ogden, Utah. I visited it a few years ago.)

They have a page on the 2011 collectible versions of the famous automatic.

They also have a page touting a gun popular with criminals. The 1903 Pocket Hammerless, which was designed for Colt by John Browning. Apparently the 2011 Colt Firearms Company is proud of that small gun having gained its reputation by being carried by Al Capone, or used by Bonnie Parker to break Clyde Barrow out of jail. How many people got killed in juke joints on Saturday nights by the Pocket Hammerless isn't mentioned, but I'm sure it was more than a few. While I admire the Colt company for keeping itself in business for over 175 years, and appreciate the contributions they've made to American gun culture, I wonder about any company taking pride in helping criminals.

I probably don't need to go into any kind of rant about a gun's obvious design, which is to kill. I wanted to mention, though, how sexy guns are. All jokes about phallic symbols aside, a gun introduces a whole new level to sex appeal, especially in a babe's hand.

Colt .45 was a TV series from 1957-1960. It was like free advertising for Colt. It probably helped sales.


Thursday, January 19, 2012

What's the reality in reality shows?

I'm not generally a fan of reality shows. I've never seen Survivor or The Bachelor or any of those programs. I do have a penchant for shows with junk, so I like Pawn Stars and American Pickers on History Channel, and I'm a big fan of Storage Wars on A&E. Just the original Storage Wars, not the imitators that have popped up.

The question is, how much "reality" is actually shown in reality shows? I think they're all staged to at least a degree. Anytime you introduce cameras you change the situation, because everyone is distracted from the business at hand, thinking of how they look on TV. American Pickers has been staged. The episode where Mike and Danielle went picking while Frank was supposed to be watching the store but instead headed for Sturgis, South Dakota and the big annual biker rally, was ridiculous. Those guys can't pull it off because they aren't that good as actors. I also doubted the episode with Jack White of the White Stripes and especially the episode with William Shatner. It makes for good entertainment, but not much reality.

Storage Wars has some engaging "stars," who seem like people you'd know. Dave Hester is an entrepreneur, a villain, kind of a shark.

Boooooooo, hisssss!

Darrell Sheets is your neighbor with the cars in his yard, tinkering with them on Sunday, drinking beer and having barbecues.

Darrell with his classic tank-top, and hairy shoulders.

Brandi Passante and Jarrod Schulz are the young couple trying to make a go of it with their second-hand store.

Jarrod's last name is Schulz. Any relation to Charles Schulz, Jarrod?

Jarrod is a hip guy, wearing the stubble-haircut, baggy shorts look (which will look awfully funny twenty years from now, trust me, Jarrod). I admit to having a thing for Brandi, a busty, attractive young woman. Even if she weren't on the show I'd stare at her if I saw her in the grocery store. I like her smart-aleck attitude, too.

I think Brandi looks great with her hair in bangs, but can ruin the effect with those huge sunglasses. As you can see by the official A&E portrait, Brandi has pretty brown eyes.

Barry Weiss is my special favorite, with his dry, wisecracking style, reminiscent, as one reviewer put it, of Jack Nicholson.

I guessed Barry Weiss was a porn producer. He has the look of a dirty old man. He rides up to the show in various fancy cars, which means he has money. (Some sources say about $7M.) I found out through a little research (OK, I googled his name) that he made his money in produce—not porn—but fruits and vegetables. Damn. I felt cheated. He and his brother ran a produce company until Barry retired a few years ago. Since he's the only one of the bidders not in it for the money he makes some interesting choices of what to bid for. I can relate to Barry because he's a collector, and so am I. But he's also a character, and has emerged as a genuine star. I can see Barry in movies, playing parts Dennis Farina usually plays.

A picture of Barry with his skeleton gloves, so familiar to viewers, and a non-familiar picture that surfaced of Barry from the 1980s. It answers a question of mine as to why Barry is friends with musicians like Stewart Copeland of the Police. He ran his produce business by day, and maybe he ran with the rock crowd at night.

Part of the appeal to me of American Pickers is the relationship between the business partners, Mike and Frank, but I really perk up when they show their store manager, Danielle. Danielle Cushman is a burlesque artist called Dannie Diesel. She's got tattoos (normally a turnoff for me), and frankly, she's hot in a zaftig kind of way, not a Hollywood kind of way. I must have a weakness for women who make sarcastic remarks.

My wife reminded me of the episode where Danielle and Mike went picking that Danielle used her eyes to get what she wanted from a guy.

I have one more thing to say about these shows, because they always hinge on how much things cost, and what they're worth. Having been in the selling and buying end of the collector market I can tell you one absolute law of collectibles. THEY ARE WORTH WHAT SOMEONE IS WILLING TO PAY FOR THEM. Not a penny more or less. The shows have inflated how people think, that even the most common items from the past have some value, which they don't. I don't like the way they say some item they paid $50 for is "worth" $5,000. I want to see them sell it to someone for $5,000, or what they can get for it. Then those pronouncements of worth will have some validity.

Now that's the reality in these reality shows.


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Happy birthday, Betty, Steve and Mick

Betty White is 90 today.

Steve Earle is 57 today.

Mick Taylor is 64 today.

Ronnie Wood sings lead on this blues number, with Mick standing to his right. It's amazing to see all those Rolling Stones without Jagger and Richards!

Happy Birthday, all.



Since I regularly look at a web site for local mugshots, it was inevitable that sooner or later I'd find a picture of someone I know.

Lou was a coworker of mine for many years. My wife and I were both surprised to see him arrested for aggravated assault. He was a very nice guy, as far we were concerned. The last time I saw him was in June at a retirement function for a mutual acquaintance. It's hard to miss Lou, because his appearance is unusual. The picture cuts off his braided mustaches which he has been growing for years.

Aggravated assault is defined as using a weapon that can cause death or serious bodily harm. I wonder what he did? Too bad they don't give more detailed explanations, if only to satisfy curiosity.

I sometimes download mug shots if they provoke some sort of response in me.

If not for drugs and alcohol the cops' jobs would be cut by three-fourths. An awful lot of people end up being booked into jail on charges of DUI, public intoxication, or having drugs in their possession. The following four gents were all booked for drugs. In these cases, methamphetamines.

This guy looks like he's watching something horrible climb up the wall. Hallucinations are another good reason to stay away from dope.

There are always those that when caught try to resist arrest by fighting. As these booking photos show, they usually get the worst of it.

Fighting is undoubtedly how young man's hair got this way. I can't imagine anyone wearing their hair like this on purpose, but that's just me.

Women are usually booked for drugs, prostitution (to buy drugs) or for shoplifting (ditto). These two are in for shoplifting, and their faces give me pause. I'd think if I were committing retail theft I'd want to fly under the store radar, not make myself noticeable. Wouldn't you notice either of these women if they walked by you in the grocery store? Wouldn't they tend to be noticed stuffing items into their pants? And it goes without saying that a tattoo on the face makes for easy identification.

Occasionally mugshots remind me of other things. For this guy I'm thinking Rasputin.

I've found pictures for these guys as visual aids of what they bring to mind.

This guy was arrested for trespass. No wonder Santa never made it to my house. He was in jail.