Where Have You Gone D.B. Cooper?

D.B. Cooper is in the news again. New claims are being made about the identity of the man who was last seen Thanksgiving eve, 1971 aboard a Boeing 727 as it was flying over southwest Washington. He parachuted from the plane via its rear exit stairs, launching decades of debate about who he was and what was his fate.

Northwest Orient Airlines flight #305 began its itinerary in Washington D.C. on November 24, 1971. After stops in Minneapolis, Missoula, Great Falls and Spokane, the aircraft was boarding passengers in Portland for its final leg, a thirty-minute flight to Seattle.

Taking a seat near the rear was a middle-aged man conservatively dressed in a dark suit and tie under a white raincoat, carrying a black attaché case. He lit a cigarette and ordered a bourbon and soda. He had paid cash for his ticket at the Portland airport counter and, in those pre-TSA days, gave his name as Dan Cooper. Shortly after takeoff, he handed a note to a flight attendant that he had a bomb. He opened his attaché to show her red cylinders attached with wires to a battery.

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What To Do with All Those Separated Children

When… or if… the “zero tolerance” border enforcement situation is resolved, there will inevitably be hundreds, maybe thousands, of children unable to reconnect with their parents. What to do? If we look back to the previous century, we’ll see there is a simple solution: put the kids on trains and ship them off to the heartland to work on farms.

In the mid-1800s, slums in New York and other eastern cities were bursting with immigrants who had come to the U.S. seeking relief from poor harvests, famines, political unrest and revolutions in their homelands. Advertising by railroad and steamship companies extolled America as “Land of the second chance” and where “free land” was available. The reality for most was quite different. Packed into slums where lack of sanitation resulted in rampant disease and working at low-wage jobs where safety was not a consideration during an era of no worker protection, neither against injury or death, nor resultant financial loss. The streets of New York became infested with 30,000 permanently separated children.

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How Roseanne and AIG Are Alike

Remember way back in 2008, when the U.S. economy – in fact the whole world’s economy – was on the verge of irreparable meltdown as a result of ludicrously complicated  investment schemes concocted by an unregulated banking industry? With taxpayer bailouts totaling $182 billion, insurance behemoth American International Group (AIG) became the poster child of financial shenanigans. They eventually were shamed into canceling expensive conferences at luxury resorts, the St Regis in Dana Point CA and the Ritz-Carlton at Half Moon Bay CA. The canceled events were had been incentives for top sales producers.

Headline stories fueling outrage for AIG’s lavish spending didn’t inquire into how the independent agents selling AIG’s boring insurance products felt about having their rewards pulled. Compensation for the high-flying perpetrators of the investment schemes was not affected. No note was taken of the housekeepers or banquet servers or other staff of the resorts and the effect on them of  lost income from the canceled events.

Much news lately about the sudden cancellation of the “Roseanne” TV show after the star’s racist Twitter remark. The show’s namesake will be fine financially, as will the on-air cast. Most of them, presumably, have guaranteed contracts. Not so fortunate, however are the behind-the-scenes workers who lost their wages with no advance warning. Prop makers, set decorators and special effects workers and others expected at least nine more months of regular paychecks from the hit show which the ABC network had recently renewed for another season.

Roseanne Barr posted on Twitter, “I just want to* apologize to the hundreds of people and wonderful writers (all liberal) and talented actors who lost their jobs on my show due to my stupid tweet.” The next day she took the comment down from her Twitter account and blamed ABC for the lost jobs.

* Why do people “want to apologize” or “want to thank” or “want to” whatever else? If they want to, why not just do it without telling us they “want to?”

The Stax Legacy

The active life of Stax Records was short, about a decade. The impact of Stax Records lives on. James Stewart and his sister Estelle Axton changed their small country-music-oriented Satellite Records to Stax (Stewart + Axton = STAX) and set up shop in an old Memphis movie theatre in 1961. The label became the sweaty, soul-drenched counterbalance to the slick, choreographed music coming out of Motown’s “Hitsville U.S.A.” Stax called its recording studio “Soulsville U.S.A.” Stax introduced the world to Rufus and Carla Thomas, Otis Redding, Isaac Hayes, the Staple Singers, Albert King, Sam & Dave and many others. The house band, Booker T. & the MG’s, backed up most Stax artists and also produced hits of their own.

The label’s biggest star, Otis Redding, died in a plane crash in 1967, along with several Stax musicians. Disadvantageous distribution arrangements with Atlantic Records and later CBS brought Stax to the financial brink. By the mid-seventies, Stax was insolvent and ceased operations. Its headquarter building was eventually demolished. Fantasy Records acquired the bankrupt Stax and its post-1968 library – Atlantic owned most of the older recordings – and used the label for re-issues, no new music. Concord Records bought Fantasy in 2004 and reactivated the name. Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats and Ben Harper are currently on the Stax label.

A rebuilt “Soulsville U.S.A.” is now the Stax Museum of American Soul Music. On the same block is the Stax Music Academy. The Academy offers after-school and summer music programs for grades six through twelve. Their various ensembles – Jazz, rhythm & blues, funk, and contemporary jazz – perform around the area, and the country. They also operate the Soulsville Charter School offering a college-prep curriculum with a strong music program.

Postcards from JazzFest

New Orleans is a majority non-white city. At the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, most of the workers were African-American. The majority of the performers were black, although most of the closing main-stage artists were not: Sting, Rod Stewart (filling in for Aretha Franklin, who cancelled) and Jimmy Buffet the first weekend; Lionel Richie, Beck, Aerosmith & Trombone Shorty the second.) The crowd was almost exclusively white. I don’t get it.

The Batiste Family – Father and Sons

Charles Lloyd & the Marvels with Lucinda Williams

Sunday church services

Can you find Rod Stewart in this photograph?

Just a few of the necessaries


The Other Beignet place

Rita Mae’s – better food and more attentive service than most of the fancy eating places. Hand-lettered sign: “DO NOT USE SUGAR PACKETS TO LEVEL THE TABLES”