Tuesday, August 29, 2006

A Smiley Simulacrum

I’m away for a while from Plattsburgh, NY, escaping its provincial environs for a week or two. During my trip I had to transfer to a second bus in Albany that would take me to central New York State. I got on the bus early and while I was looking around, I noticed a pattern on one of the towers in the distance. No, I didn’t create this in Photoshop; what you see is what I saw. OK, it has a crooked grin, but it still looks like a smiley face to me, albeit one a bit pixelated. It appears to have been created by weathering on the wall. Once again Nature likes to play with our pattern-seeking heads.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Better For Whose World?

I just read a great book, but I’m not ready to write a full-blown review. At the same time, I do think the book is worth reading, even though I can’t get all my thoughts together.

So here are some bits of knowledge I gleaned from “Better for All The World” by Harry Bruinius (2006). These random items should intrigue you to pick up the book. If not, well, I didn’t waste my time writing a regular review.

The sub-title, “The Secret History of Forced Sterilization and America’s Quest for Racial Purity,” should clue you in on the subject matter and the fact this is non-fiction (even though parts of it read like fiction).

---“Eugenics” was the reason to sterilize the genetically “unfit” during the early decades of the twentieth century. By 1927, 8,500 indigent and poorly educated citizens were forced to undergo sterilization, the number rising to 65,000 as time went on. Yes, there was a human cost but within three generations all genetically based problems – from alcoholism to pauperism – would be eliminated under such a program if followed through to its final solution. Or so declared the proponents.

---Targets for sterilization included women deemed to be “morons,” “imbeciles,” or some other subjective term created by eugenicists. The motto, “Three generations of imbeciles is enough,” justified the method. As Bruinius explains, a third generation “imbecile” was adopted by a good family and ended up as an honor student in grade school. Apparently this genetic business wasn’t fully understood by those promoting racial purity.

---The targeted women, residents of mental institutions, prisons, and other state-run establishments, were told that by law they had to undergo sterilization. In other cases doctors sidestepped any potential legal challenges by not informing the women that they were being sterilized. The surgery, they explained, was only to remove a bad appendix.

---A leading eugenicist, Harry Laughlin, in 1936 was invited by the University of Heidelberg to have an honorary degree bestowed upon him for his work in “race hygiene.” Of course, Hitler and company was really interested in such hygiene. For some reason eugenics fell into disfavor after World War II.

---Eugenicists proclaimed that they had the best of intentions. After all, if they had their way, such disorders as epilepsy would be wiped out. As mentioned before, one of the leading voices behind the movement was Harry Laughlin. It should be noted that he kept a secret: he was an epileptic, one time suffering a seizure while driving a car. But that had to be overlooked because even though he was one of the “unfit,” he wanted to keep the Nordic race untainted and let the other lesser races fall under the control of the genetically superior.

---In the 1930s the state of Virginia took eugenics very seriously. In one county the sheriff rounded up some mountain folks, men and women – poor white trash – and hauled them off to the hospital so that racial purity could be maintained.

Of course, we in this modern, enlightened world won’t repeat the mistakes of the past with scientific breakthroughs such as genetic engineering – right?

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Another UFO Over Plattsburgh, NY

Hey, I must be getting lucky like Billy Meier. Here’s another UFO I captured, a classic saucer-shape, just before it dematerialized into another dimension. Compare this to my other UFO photo in the previous post.

Once again, I only used Photoshop to create enhance the complete image.

Monday, August 14, 2006

UFO Winks Over Plattsburgh, NY

I snapped this photo yesterday, just before the strange object winked out of sight.

This actual digital photo has been reproduced with relatively minor adjustments using Photoshop. The adjustments were made only to enhance details.

Now some might criticize the veracity of this image. For example, the perspective of the old courthouse building doesn’t match the object in the sky. The building seems to be taken with a wide-angle lens: its lines evince some keystone distortion, bending away from the camera towards the middle.

But the strange object doesn’t show any signs of such distortion, as if it was taken from a second image made with a telephoto lens. The UFO looks flat compared to the building.

And the angle of the sunlight striking the object doesn’t match the illumination falling on the courthouse.

Well, as you may see, the UFO is surrounded by an unearthly aura, indicating transdimensional flight. The reason why its lighting and perspective don’t match the building is because we are seeing the object as viewed in another dimension. In the other dimension the sunlight is at a different angle and the perspective is flatter.

Of course, the aura around the object couldn’t have been produced by using the “feathering” effect in Photoshop.

I am hoping the object will return and land so that I may meet its occupants. Mac Tonnies at his blog has been going on about his adventures with beautiful space women, carrying on the fine tradition of Professor George Adamski.

But since this is Plattsburgh, I won’t be surprised if the occupants are neither beautiful or women.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Here We Go Again (Maybe)

Fortunately a terrorist threat has been stopped in time, saving many lives. I’ve never doubted that there is a problem with terrorism.

But another problem is overreaction. OK, maybe all liquids should be banned from airplanes for the time being. I have no quibble with that. Yet, as it has been demonstrated before, some authorities might start down that slippery slope towards a state of strict control that violates the rights of the people while not stopping acts of terrorism.

And in a while we become more like the undemocratic states that support terrorists.

There has to be a balance. I’m concerned that fear might tip the response too far to one side, at least on local levels, if not nationally. The Noughties become a repeat of the Sixties, polarization and violence.

Photography, writing, blogging –- all forms of personal expression might be threatened if you don’t “get behind The Program,” i.e., agree with everything dictated from The Authorities, don’t complain, don’t question.

And if it comes to that, try not to bleat too loud on the way to the “relocation center.”

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Photography As A Criminal Activity

I enjoy photography as a hobby. But my hobby might one day get me arrested.

For example:

--White Plains, NY. March 17, 2006. Freelance photographer Ben Hider notices the flags outside the county courthouse waving in the wind. When he takes a few shots of the flags, he ends up being hauled in by court police officers. The zealous officers frisk and interrogate him. Hider, a British citizen with a green card, is threatened with deportation. www.popphoto.com

--July 2006. Philadelphia. A man is arrested for taking a photograph from his backyard with a cell phone. The subject of his imaging: police cars in the street during the arrest of a drug dealer in the neighborhood. The cell phone photog, Neftaly Cruz, a college senior, was grabbed, cuffed, and taken to jail. A neighbor says she heard the officer tell Cruz that he should have went into his house and minded his own business instead of taking pictures. www.nbc10.com/news

--August 7, 2006. New York City. The New York Civil Liberties Union expands its federal lawsuit in regards to NYPD officers unlawfully detaining and threatening photographers. The filing expands on a lawsuit on behalf of Rakesh Sharma, a documentary filmmaker who was detained last year for the act of being on a sidewalk and filming taxi cabs. www.nyclu.org

And I can also state that even a podunk like Plattsburgh, NY has had incidents of the city police leaning on someone just for taking a photograph. The officers have ordered the photographer to stop shooting and move along and also have even blocked his view. This is a violation of a little thing called the First Amendment.

Also, officers have demanded to see images taken with a digital camera via the LCD screen, a violation of a little thing called the Fourth Amendment.

What is going on? Don’t give me that terrorism crap. Most of these cases involve photography taken from public property of a scene or an event in plain public view.

Let’s use a bit of common sense: a halfway intelligent terrorist wouldn’t stand out like a sore thumb while taking photos to be somehow used for a violent act. He would take shots on the sly, using a concealed spy camera.

And with the way the police are acting towards photographers, it will turn out that only terrorists will end up with photographs, not law-abiding citizens.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Junkbox Gems: Those Women!

As regular readers are aware, I try to rescue books one step away from the landfill, checking out the FREE BOOKS box outside the used bookstore downtown. Unfortunately, some books have received rough treatment and end up in the freebie box because even the landfill won’t take ‘em.

Case in point: A copy of the classic paperback novel, The Sucker, by Orrie Hitt. The copy I found is unreadable for the most part, binding dried out, missing pages, and the pages that are left are browned and crumbling away. But I picked up the remains because of the front and back covers. After all, Art must be preserved, even if it’s only saved digitally with a flatbed scanner.

According to the cover blurb, the protagonist has figured women from every angle – except one. Considering how he’s figuring the gal on the cover, I can’t imagine what angle he hasn’t tried.

And check out the back cover copy. What’s a pseudo-Lesbian? (If you find the copy hard to read, click on the image for a larger view.)

But I did find another paperback in much better condition: How To Be Outrageously Successful With Women. I haven’t read it yet, but the back cover copy does promise to reveal the new approach to the new woman – circa 1975, that is. I find self-help books to provide unintended humor because when such a tome comes on the scene, it’s The One Book With The Right Answers. Then a year passes and someone else writes The One Book. Seasons cycle, time marches on, and all of these One Books end up in the junkbox.

One would think that at least one of The One Books would be The One and that there would be no reason to buy any other titles. Apparently The Right Answers have a limited shelf life and New Right Answers have to be found – even though most of the time what passes for “new” is the same old bullshit dressed up in a modern crock.