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Thoughts on Jane Russell, death & Dragnet

An article in San Antonio’s Express-News—the only daily newspaper in the seventh largest city in the United States—on Monday, 28 February 2011 states that the cause of death for Jane Russell, the generously endowed star of Howard Hughes’ 1941 movie The Outlaw, was respiratory failure. Stop me if I’m wrong, but wouldn’t respiratory failure be the cause of death in every instance? I should think that whatever other condition caused the respiratory apparatus to fail would be the real cause of death.

Let’s at least agree on this point—when we say that death was caused by respiratory failure, we are saying that the departed stopped breathing, a term equivalent to saying that someone died because the heart stopped beating. That isn’t enough—we need to know why the departed stopped breathing and why the heart stopped beating. Either of those actions, or their failure to act, will cause the other to happen—when the heart stops beating the breathing also stops, and when the breathing stops the heart stops beating, and neither is the actual cause of death.

Each of us has the innate ability to contribute to the world’s store of statistics, other than just the statistic of having died, and the opportunity to make that contribution is given to us at the time of our death, namely the cause of our death. Was it by our own hand, thereby joining the ranks of suicide statistics? Was it suicide by firearm, hanging, wrist-cutting or a heart attack caused by an overdose of Viagra? As the immortal Jack Webb would say, speaking as Detective Joe Friday in his role as a police detective in the black-and-white television show Dragnet, We just want the facts, M’am, just the facts.

I realize that the Jack Webb skit above is not germane to this posting, but I wanted to show him in action and share his sleuthing techniques with my viewers. I know, I know—I have a lot of time on my hands. There are too many wrongs in this world and too little time to right them, but I will soldierly strive on in my efforts—it’s in my nature.

That’s my story and I’m sticking  to it.

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Posted by on March 2, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Fred Siemens, a Missing Person find . . .

During the early 1980s I was one of two second-level Customs supervisors in the inspection force at the port of Brownsville, Texas and on a very special evening I was performing my supervisory duties on the swing shift—4 pm to 12 midnight—at the Gateway Bridge. At some time near the middle of the shift, a pedestrian of a different kind walked in from Mexico and the officer on sidewalk duty referred him to my office.

The pedestrian was an elderly Anglo male, probably in his sixties, wearing slacks and a white shirt, his tie still knotted but hanging loosely. There was blood on his face and his shirt was stained with blood, apparently from a nosebleed. He walked erratically and seemed oblivious of his surroundings. My first thoughts were that he was either drunk or under the influence of drugs, but his answers to my first questions were always the same—I don’t know. My most pertinent question was Do you know where you are? His answer was simply No.

I asked him for his name and he said Fred Siemens. I asked him where he lived and he said San Antonio, and my next question was Are you an attorney? He said Yes and I realized that he was Fred Siemens, a prominent attorney in San Antonio, nationally and internationally known for his work in criminal law. Because of him and an article on him that appeared in one of San Antonio’s local newspapers, I became a devotee of Henry David Thoreau’s writings, specifically Walden or, Life in the Woods and On the Duty of Civil Disobedience. The image on the right is my well-thumbed copy of the work on which Mahatma Ghandi based his passive resistance movements. Click here for an explanation of how, when, where and why I first met Thoreau and his writings.

I suspected that he could be the subject of a missing person alert, and I immediately called the Brownsville Police Department and asked for an officer to come to the Gateway Bridge. Two officers arrived in record time, and I told them that they should contact the San Antonio Police Department and would probably find a missing person lookout on the man. They thanked me and gently escorted the attorney to their vehicle.

Now read about the non-existent grateful appreciation expressed by the Brownsville police for giving them a well-known missing person and the opportunity to shine a bright light on the coordination between local and federal law enforcement in the city of Brownsville. I never heard from the Police Department—I called the Department the next day and the people on duty claimed to have no knowledge of the incident.

However, several days later a lengthy article appeared in the local daily newspaper detailing the fine work done by Brownsville’s police in returning a missing person to his home in San Antonio. The article stated that in the early evening on a certain day Mr. Siemens was found wandering around in the vicinity of the Gateway Bridge, apparently unaware of his surroundings, and an investigation determined that a missing person lookout for him had been made by San Antonio police. Obviously there were some really ambitious officers on Brownsville’s police force!

I should have known what was going to happen, because the two officers that took custody of the missing person neglected to ask for my name or for my position in the Customs hierarchy. If I gave that any thought at the time, it would probably have been that they would return for the specifics of the interdiction, and also to tender the thanks of the local department to the Customs officers on duty that evening, specifically to the inspector on pedestrian traffic duty and to the supervisory officer on the shift, the person that recognized the missing person and initiated the investigation. I mean, like hey, everybody likes to shine!

So I can only offer kudos to the local police for their fine work in solving a missing person lookout and returning a brilliant and nationally-known criminal law attorney to his home and to his loved ones. Good work, guys!

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

 
 

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Dessie, my favorite aunt . . .

I remember all my maternal aunts—my mother’s sisters—except for the one named Vera, a young woman that died in childbirth or shortly afterward, unmarried and outlawed by family and friends. Pregnancy without benefit of clergy was socially unacceptable and frowned on in the early years of the twentieth century.

My aunt Vera’s baby boy was taken in and brought up by Vera’s mother—my maternal grandmother, a short stout white-haired whirlwind of energy that seemed to take great delight in applying a peach tree switch to the derrieres and legs of recalcitrant grandchildren, girls and boys alike. I was one of the most recalcitrant of the bunch, and was dealt with accordingly.

My grandmother’s name was Viola, but her nickname was Odie and she was called Miss Odie by all, including me and the other grandchildren. I intend to devote and dedicate a separate posting to her at a later date, so stay tuned—it will be worth the watch and wait!

My favorite of my mother’s sisters, for various reasons was Aunt Dessie. Two of those reasons were her daughters, both a few years older than I—my first cousins and by far the prettiest of the entire gaggle of cousins. I’m speaking of the female cousins, of course. There may have been male cousins that were more beautiful, or at least as beautiful, but I was not then, nor am I now, into recognizing and interpreting beauty in males, cousins or otherwise, not even if some had sported the marbleized features of a Michelangelo.

For several years in my early boyhood, the years between my age of six to the age of nine, Aunt Dessie lived, with her two beautiful daughters and her city police officer husband, next door to me and my family. Aunt Dessie was always, in my memories of the earlier years, a lady of ample proportions and a lady afflicted, or perhaps gifted, depending on one’s point of view, with a pronounced proclivity to accumulate and produce intestinal gases. She and my mother and my two elder sisters would frequently get together in her living room to sit on a sofa, form a quartet and sing gospel songs.

I didn’t hang around to listen to their singing because the vocals were sometimes punctuated with the release of said intestinal gases, but never was a note dropped nor any mention made of the activity by the other singers. Not all the punctuations were audible but the lean to the right was unmistakable—politically speaking she always leaned to the left, but for that purpose she usually leaned to the right because she was usually seated to the right of the others.

My aunt would sort of hitch up one cheek and tilt slightly to the opposite side to accommodate the action. Evidently the other two women had grown inured to the effect but I had not, and therefore did not long linger in the living room, regardless of the quality of the singing. I always found something to do or watch outside, something more interesting and more rewarding, both on auditory and olfactory levels.

Well, that’s enough of the religious references. I liked my aunt’s husband. He worked with the city for many years as a uniformed patrolman and drove a black-and-white in the performance of his duties. On more than one occasion he pulled up beside me and suggested that I return home because I had no business in whatever particular part of town I had wandered into. I usually followed his advice and headed in the direction of home, but depending on the circumstances I sometimes reversed my direction when the cruiser was out of sight.

I don’t know how much a uniformed police officer made in those days, but it must have been considerable. My aunt’s home was nicely furnished, and she and her daughters were always dressed in the latest fashions and had all the evidences of an upper-class family, including new toys and bikes, birthday parties, beauty parlor visits and vacations.

I often heard the adults in my family and their friends speculating on the source of my aunt’s family income and the prodigious outgo of that income, but the only emotion I can remember is envy, whether mine or that of the others.

In her later years Aunt Dessie lived the life of an unmarried alcoholic widow, a frequent visitor to the seamy side of life in Columbus, Mississippi in an area across the river where several unsavory hangouts existed at the time. As a young GI, just returned from a two-year assignment in the Far East that included a 15-month combat tour in Korea, I had occasion to visit those hangouts several times while on leave en route to my next duty assignment in South Georgia. I remember the name of only one bar, that of the Dew Drop Inn. I Googled Columbus’ night clubs of today and found lots of names: He Ain’t Here, Elbow Room, Hitching Post, First And Last Chance, Gravel Pitt, etc., but no Dew Drop Inn—bummer!

I encountered my aunt several times at different locations, always with a different person and always sodden with strong drink, as they say in the Bible. On one memorable occasion she asked me to give her a ride home at closing time, and during the ride she made several improper overtures to me, all of which were politely rejected.

I drove her straight home, and when I told my brother about her proposals he confirmed my suspicions—apparently my aunt was available to any bidder or buyer of drinks. I never saw or spoke to her again—not that I purposely avoided her—it’s just that I was never again in the circles in which she moved—she lasted several more years before leaving the bar scene and life for an unknown location—I trust that it is on a higher elevation than the plane on which  she lived in the latter years of her life.

My favorite aunt has long ago departed the scene, as have all my maternal aunts and uncles, and I would suppose also all my aunts and uncles on the paternal side of my family. If any paternal aunts or uncles survive, they are nearing or have already passed the century mark in longevity—I seriously doubt that any are still among us.

There is much more to talk about, especially about my aunt’s daughters. I was delighted to see both women several times in later years. The younger daughter was active in the music scene in Memphis, Tennessee for many years. My brother said that she was a high class you know what, a hundred dollar an hour lady—in those days and in that area one hundred dollars an  hour was indeed high-class, considering that the hourly minimum wage was only seventy-five cents per hour. You can click here to confirm that if you like.

I don’t believe the younger daughter ever married, but I know that she had one son in a relationship without, as they used to say in those days, benefit of clergy. She died at an early age, relative to the average life span at the time. The elder daughter, her sister, may or may not still be alive. That daughter lived an exemplary life—she married and had what the old folks in that era referred to as a passel of kids. I don’t know her married name, nor do I know of any way to determine whether she is here or gone to join the others.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

 

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Four killed by an SUV? What make, what color, what model?

San Antonio’s only daily newspaper, the Express-News, is considered by conservatives to be liberal, and is considered by liberals to be conservative. I have my own opinion, but I’ll keep it in reserve for another posting, and I’ll let my viewers decide the paper’s political bent when more information is given on yesterday’s crash—Sunday, August 8, 2010—that killed four people. The front page article on the accident identified the dead, all occupants of a green Dodge Caravan, as an infant boy and an eleven-year-old girl in the rear seat, and two front-seat occupants, the driver and a passenger. The article stated that, “No names were released Sunday.”

The vehicle that crashed into the green Dodge Caravan while being chased by a San Antonio patrol officer was not identified by color or make or model, although it was readily available for identification—it landed upside down in a TV repair shop near the collision site. The article referred to the upside-down vehicle as an SUV, a term that was used nine times by the two female journalists that wrote the story.

Why? Why identify the minivan in such detail and no details on the SUV? Perhaps it was oversight on the part of the journalists, but that isn’t likely. I am of the opinion that the SUV is well-known by many citizens of San Antonio. Did it have bumper stickers or magnetic political signs on its doors? Was there some feature of the vehicle that would link it to one of San Antonio’s political personalities?

After causing the death of four people, the driver of the SUV suffered nothing more than a broken ankle. She is identified only as a female in her late 30s, and the article states that, The SUV’s driver  had warrants issued for her arrest on charges of theft, failure to produce proper identification and driving without a license, as well as several traffic citations, Benavides said.

The speaker was police Sgt. Chris Benavides.

I submit to you, my readers, that the SUV and its driver are connected in some way to a prominent person or organization in the city, and the editors of the Express-News are withholding identification pending a decision on what to release. If that seems to be a stretch, consider this:

Some years ago a woman was jogging while pushing her infant child in a stroller, and was attacked and killed, knifed to death. The woman lived long enough to identify her killer as a black male dressed in jogging clothing. An all-points bulletin was sent out for everyone to be on the lookout for a male dressed in jogging clothing—no mention of the killer being black, nor did the Express-News include that fact in its coverage of the incident.

That murder occurred in Olmos Park, one of the most up-scale areas in San Antonio. The odds of a black jogger being in that area were astronomical then, and are much on the same par today. I am certain that every non-black jogger encountered in that area on that day and on later days was stopped and questioned. I wonder how much time was spent on those stops that could have better been spent on looking for the black jogger.

In the case of the murdered woman, vital information was withheld for the purpose of political correctness. In the case of the four people killed by a woman in her late thirties driving an SUV, I consider the possibility that the public is being denied pertinent information for the same reason—political correctness, in this instance to protect some prominent person or persons or organizations.

I don’t know them personally, but I know of them because I am a resident of this city and I try to keep up with the times. I am aware of several prominent people in this city that are married to women that are in their late thirties. I await breathlessly for future facts on the incident.

I’ll get back to you with more details as they emerge—I promise!

I’m back, and with more details, just as I promised. The Express-News today identified the SUV and the driver and dashed all my suspicions and speculations that the driver may have been a well-known and well-connected person, eitherpolitically or otherwise. She is in fact very well-known, but known to the local police force—she has a rap sheet that includes other drunken driving charges, a jail sentence, several charges of prostitution and a host of other violations of city and state laws.

And the mystery of the SUV is no longer a mystery—the SUV that did all the damage, the vehicle that was identified nine times as an SUV in the original report, the SUV that landed upside down in a TV repair shop after broadsiding a green Dodge minivan and killing four people—the driver, her mother, the driver’s four-month old child and the driver’s eleven year old sister—yes, that SUV—was not an SUV.

It was a PT Cruiser.

You, the reader, may  wonder why I included the oddities of the initial report and my suspicions and speculations of the reasons why the so-called SUV was not identified color, make or model. The answer is simple—I worked too damned hard on those suspicions and speculations to toss them away, so I decided to let ’em ride and report the details that should have been printed in the original article. At the very least I should get credit for having a vivid imagination!

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 

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I remember Earl Wilson . . .

I remember Earl Wilson . . .

The purpose of this posting is to introduce Earl Wilson to the multitudes of people that were not around to enjoy his contributions to our society through his varied writings, and in a small way to bring him back, even if only for a brief time to a brief few.

From Wikipedia: Earl Wilson (May 3, 1907 in Rockford, Ohio—January 16, 1987 in Yonkers, New York) was an American journalist, gossip columnist and author, perhaps best known for his nationally syndicated column, It Happened Last Night. Wilson’s column originated from the New York Post and ran from 1942 until 1983. For a biographical sketch of the famous columnist, click here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earl_Wilson_%28columnist%29.

I read Earl Wilson’s column faithfully over a period of many years, and I still remember many of the quotations attributed to him. For a comprehensive listing of those quotes, click here: http://creativequotations.com/one/2506.htm.

Earl sometimes referred to his Earl’s Pearls as Oil’s Poils—Brooklynese, perhaps, for the term. An internet search for that expression was fruitless, as was my memory of Wilson’s treatment of Thirty days hath September . . .

The following web site has 73 variations of Thirty days hath September—http://www.leapyearday.com/30Days.htm, but it does not include the one I remember best—the one I have parroted frequently over the years—this one:

Thirty days hath Septober,

April, June and Octember,

All the rest eat peanut butter,

Except grandma

And she drives a Cadillac.

Did I mention that I read Earl Wilson’s columns over a period of many years? Well, I did, and I still remember many of the quotations attributed to him. As a starter for those not familiar with Wilson’s wit, here’s a sampling of his quotes:

An exhaustive study of police records shows that no woman has ever shot her husband while he was doing the dishes.

Poise: the ability to be ill at ease inconspicuously.

Benjamin Franklin may have discovered electricity, but it was the man who invented the meter who made the money.

Snow and adolescence are the only problems that disappear if you ignore them long enough.

This would be a much better world if more married couples were as deeply in love as they are in debt.

Saying Gesundheit doesn’t really help the common cold, but its about as good as anything the doctors have come up with.

Success is simply a matter of luck—ask any failure.

Somebody figured it out—we have 35 million laws trying to enforce Ten Commandments.

Always remember, money isn’t everything, but also remember to make a lot of it before talking such fool nonsense.

Spend enough time on the quotations site, and I promise you that you’ll garner enough one-liners to dominate almost any cocktail party, reunion, pajama party or any other gathering—the younger people there will have never heard of Earl Wilson, and the older people there will have forgotten both him and his prodigious output of Earl’s Pearls.

Trust me on my analysis of people at cocktail parties, reunions, pajama parties and any other gathering—I was a younger person for a considerable length of time, and I’ve been an older person for an even longer length of time—I know whereof I speak and therefore have earned the right to advise—so trust me!

 
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Posted by on April 14, 2010 in Humor, newspapers, Writing

 

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Letter to the editor, Express-News—S. A. cop shoots man with knife . . .

Letter to the editor, Express—News

March 10, 2010

P.O. Box 2171

San Antonio TX 78297

Please accept my compliments for your report on the use of a hitherto unknown weapon available to our police officers, as reported in today’s issue of San Antonio’s only daily newspaper. The development of the new weapon and its procurement were unknown to me until today’s issue arrived and had been read. The prompt for this submission was an incident that was reported  on page 2B in the News Roundup feature of the Metro section. I was pleased to note that our city is well ahead of the curve for innovative additions to the arsenal of weapons available to our uniformed police. The innovation pleased me, but the writing gave me no pleasure. This was the item’s heading:

S. A. cop shoots man with knife

In accordance with current journalism practices, details pertinent to the heading were given in the first paragraph, effectively setting the scene for the reader:

A San Antonio police officer shot a man Tuesday night after he ran at officers wielding a butcher’s knife on the South Side, officials said.

The author—or authors—used an estimated 200 additional words to cover the events that followed the shooting, but no more details on the new weapon were given. I had no interest in subsequent events—my attention was riveted on the heading and on the first paragraph, one that featured a single sentence, pithily constructed. While pleased at the introduction of the new weapon, I was fascinated by the ambiguities contained in the heading and its first paragraph.

The heading—S. A. cop shoots man with knife—was a bit ambiguous, but clear enough for any reader to surmise that—or at least possibly that— a combination of knife and pistol was used. However, the paragraph that followed was even more ambiguous—it is repeated here for emphasis:

A San Antonio police officer shot a man Tuesday night after he ran at officers wielding a butcher’s knife on the South Side, officials said.

Based purely on that paragraph, no reader can be sure whether other officers were present nor whether one officer, the one that fired the shot from the combination knife/firearm, shot one of the other officers as he ran at them. The reader has already surmised that the butcher’s knife doubled as a firearm, so in the face of that ambiguity could also surmise that the shot fired hit one of the other officers.

Oh, and there is yet another ambiguity—we are told that a man ran at officers wielding a butcher’s knife. We don’t know exactly which man, nor do we know who was wielding the knife—one could reasonably surmise that it was wielded by the officers. If wielded by more than one officer, it must have been a really large butcher’s knife.

The reader is told that the butcher’s knife was wielded (carried) on the South Side, perhaps indicating that the carrier (or carriers) had previously wielded the knife/firearm combination in a different part of the city. The author erroneously capitalized both words, either inadvertently or purposely in the belief that locations appearing in the middle of a sentence should always be capitalized.

A reader might also surmise that the butcher’s knife  was carried on the side away from the officers—on the south side—in order to conceal it until the man came within reach of the target. I find that plausible—the wrong doer may have been running toward the other officers at an angle—sideways, so to speak—thus deliberately making an effort to conceal the weapon.

I thirst for more information on the new weapon, and I trust that the additional information will soon be provided. Apparently some highly imaginative weapons manufacturers and cutlery makers have created a dual-purpose weapon by combining a deadly blade with a deadly firearm—a weapon that can be used against a miscreant at close quarters or from a distance, depending on the situation and the discretion of the officer or officers.

The mere thought of police officers armed with such a weapon should strike fear into the hearts of any person contemplating one or more criminal activities. An errant citizen now knows that he (or she) will be sliced, slashed or stabbed as necessary if the officer is close enough, and if the officer is not within knife range, that errant (he or she) will be shot as many times, and in as many body parts, as necessary.

As an aside to this letter, I learned from a radio report this morning that the man was shot in the leg—which leg was not revealed, but it was either the left or the right. I do not recall the radio report shedding any light on that facet of the incident, nor do I recall the report specifying which man was shot and which man did the shooting, so my doubts created by the ambiguities present in the report remain extant.

And now for mandatory disclosures if any exist, and in this case there is one. This posting was not submitted to the Express-News for consideration. I have compiled an impressive collection of submissions to the editor in past years—some were printed and some were rejected. I soon realized that the rejections contained one or more criticisms, all of which were intended to be constructive, but the editor apparently did not consider them constructive, and in fact, in one instance the editor agreed to print a letter but would not include the whining portions of the submission. I refused permission to print it, whether with or without my whinings.

So now you know the rest of that story. I address constructive criticisms to the editor but I do not submit them to the editor. I submit them to Word Press on my blog. That publisher has never rejected a letter and I trust that they never will, assuming of course that my submissions are pertinent and in good taste—just as this letter is.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

 

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Letter to the editor, Express-News: Pierre shudderd . . .

I don’t deliberately look for gaffes in my readings, regardless of the publication or the topic—they just seem to draw my attention. I’m unsure whether that’s a gift or a character fault. I overlook most writing bloopers, but some cry out for attention.

In looking over past bloopers printed in San Antonio’s Express-News—the only daily newspaper in the eighth largest city in the US—I found this item. My letter was not published by the Express-News so I decided to share it with a somewhat—potentially—larger audience.

Note for copy writers and copy editors—please read and heed.

To the Editor, Express-News: San Antonio, Texas

RE: Your Metro article on Saturday, March 3, 2007, “S.A. cops schooled in Mideast culture.”

“During a classroom session on sensitivity training for San Antonio police officers, a chill apparently came over Instructor Narjis Pierre, president of the San Antonio Muslim Women’s Association. In response to a statement made by SAPD Officer Barbara Thomas, Pierre reacted by closing her blinds. We know this because the article tells us that Pierre “shuttered” when she learned that Thomas had entered a men’s prayer room, an area in which women are not allowed.”

Instructor Pierre did not shutter. She shuddered. Copy writers and copy editors sometimes place an inordinate amount of trust in word-processing spell-checkers. Although a boon to writers and editors, such programs are not infallible. If a word is spelled correctly the spell-checker will ignore it, regardless of its meaning or the context in which it is used. Final reviews (readings) by the copy writer and copy editor are necessary to ensure correct spelling.

I know, I know—I’m fighting a losing battle.

So many errors, so little time.

 

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