Saturday, July 13, 2019

A Must Read For True Crime Fans

The Misbegotten Son: A Serial Killer and His Victims - The True Story of Arthur J. Shawcross - By Jack Olson 2015

This book is chilling in every way. The true story of New York States' more notorious serial killer. I'm listening to the 17 hour long audiobook and it's fascinating, sick, deranged, and sad. 

Arthur Shawcross experienced bloody killing in Vietnam and it never left him. He said he cut up bodies, heads, ears. Did horrible things over there. Then he came home and killed two little kids. He was convicted and went to jail for 14 years and then got out on parole.  

He moved to Rochester and started killing prostitutes, 12 of them over a two year period. Police arrested Shawcross on January 5, 1990. He had been spotted by a police surveillance team (and by an eyewitness) standing near his car, apparently urinating, on a bridge over Salmon Creek; upon whose frozen waters the body of his final victim was dumped.

This book is extremely graphic, both in depiction of the crimes and the profanity spoken by the police and Shawcross and his friends and family. Nothing is held back in this book. It's also a very deep dive into the mind of a killer, like nothing I have ever heard before. 

I recommend this book highly.  

Monday, July 8, 2019

Francis Gary Powers and the campaign to build him a Memorial

I wrote this chapter in 2005 as part of a book I wrote about growing up in the San Fernando Valley in the 1970's. Today I put up a website to campaign to get Francis Gary Powers a Memorial at the site of his helicopter crash where he and his cameraman George Spears died. He was a large historical figure of the Cold War and that history should be saved and shared in the community where he worked and lived.

Francis Gary Powers
Across Victory Boulevard, about 4 blocks from the Haynes house was a youth center with a dirt motocross track and beyond that was undeveloped land till you got to the LA River. The LA River cut a large swath, and across from that was Balboa Park, where there were tennis courts and baseball fields and a place called the Velodrome. This was a racing track for bicycles. To get over to the park area you had to walk across a train trestle. This track was never used by trains anymore. We would go there all the time to throw stuff off into the water just for kicks. Walking across the trestle could be scary because there were spaces between the railroad ties and you could see all the way down to the concrete and the water. Cascadden and I made a dummy out of some of his old clothes stuffed with newspaper and threw it off the trestle. We filmed it with 8mm camera for our film “On the Run”. There was a baseball field just at the end of the trestle.
August 1st, 1977 Francis Gary Powers, the famous U2 pilot that got shot down in Russia in 1960 was working for KNBC channel 4 in Burbank covering a fire in Santa Barbara. His helicopter ran out of gas about 2 miles from Van Nuys airport and crashed into a baseball field in Balboa Park, right next to the train trestle where we always walked. I had heard this mentioned on the news the day after it happened. I remember seeing smoke and didn’t know what it was. I had heard his name mentioned in history class and knew that it was important. The day after the crash I ran over there at around sunset with a shoe box to see if they had left any parts of the helicopter behind. Alone, I walked the burned black area of the baseball field, just a few feet beyond first base. I picked up enough pieces to fill my shoe box. Plastic pieces, painted and clear. Electronic parts, fiberglass, honeycomb pieces, insulation. It felt very strange knowing that two people had died there on that spot. The camera man, George Spears as well as Mr. Powers died that day. I went home and taped up that shoe box and wrote a description on it and dated it. I kept that box unopened for over 20 years in storage. After the Internet came into being I tried to find information on Francis Gary Powers. I found the Cold War Museum curated by his son, Gary Powers Jr. I emailed him and told him the whole story. He was interested in having this box. He had never been to the actual site. I overnighted him the box and he was very grateful to have it. I think it gave him some closure.
The crash of Francis Gary Powers’ Bell 206 Jetranger helicopter, with N4TV painted on the tail was apparently caused by a malfunctioning fuel gauge which had been repaired without his knowledge. Powers had 381 flight hours in this type of aircraft. Francis Gary Powers, an Air Force pilot, was flying a U-2 spy plane over the Soviet Union taking pictures of a Soviet missile installation when he was shot down by a Russian missile on May 1, 1960. President Dwight Eisenhower, believing Powers did not survive the crash, denied it was a spy mission until Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev produced Powers alive. Interestingly the aircraft that Powers was piloting, the U2, was built in Burbank at Lockheed’s secret Skunk Works. On the Burbank Airport property.
Sue Powers his wife, moved to Las Vegas permanently in 1994, after the Northridge earthquake destroyed her home. She died in Las Vegas on June 17, 2004, of pulmonary problems. She was 68. Their was a private service for Powers on the following Saturday in Las Vegas. Powers was buried with her husband in Arlington National Cemetery July 13, 2004. Powers had two children Dee and Francis Gary Jr.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

That Brazilian Sound

João Gilberto died today at age 88. I only knew about him peripherally. I had heard the name and probably heard some of the album he did with Stan Getz in 1963. My mother was a huge fan of good music like this and she did play Stan Getz in the house when I was growing up. Gilberto wrote the first Bossa Nova song, titled "Bim-Bom" which is on a 1959 album called Chega De Saudade that I'm listening to on YouTube as I write this. It's only a minute and 16 seconds long. Check this out, I can sit here in front of my computer listening to very high quality sound of an album from 56 years ago as I read about João Gilberto's life on Wikipedia. These are amazing times. He made wonderful music. Gilberto's father, upset by his son's bizarre singing style and refusal to take 'normal' work, had him committed to a mental hospital. He got out in a week.

There is something special about Bosa Nova and lyrics sung in Portuguese. That language is soo beautiful to listen to. I love an album by Lee Ritenour and Dave Grusin from 1985 called Harlequin where a Brazilian singer named Ivan Lins sings 3 songs. An incredible album if you get the chance to hear it. 

Gilberto gave us 39 albums to listen to forever. Rest in Peace.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

American explorer Robert Peary spent the 4th of July in Northern Greenland

July 4, 1892

American Explorer Robert Peary was the first white man to see the north coast of the island of Greenland. thereby proving that Greenland was an island. Peary's first transection of Northern Greenland was made with a single companion, Eivind Astrup, It was a sledging journey of close to 1,200 miles over inland ice. Peary and Astrup were able to sleep comfortably in air temperatures which ranged from 40° F. to −60°F. Of the twenty Greenland dogs taken, eight survived the eastward crossing, and five the entire journey. At the eastern end of his crossing, Peary on July 4, 1892, looked down upon a great fjord which he named Independence Bay, with the cliff above which he stood, he named Navy Cliff (Peary was a Navy draftsman). Eastward he looked out over a land without snow cover. The large northeastern land now on the maps known as Peary Land. Peary was most famous for reaching the North Pole on April 6, 1909.

Fjord in the south-eastern part of Greenland

Monday, July 1, 2019

An open source way to save your audiobooks

In recent news Microsoft is pulling the plug on their ebooks. They are paying people back for what they purchased, but what a huge hassle. What if that were to happen to audiobooks on It may happen someday, things change and services come and go, you never know. So here's the deal... someone wrote an application to strip out the copy protection so you can save them as an MP3 file. Is it legal? That's iffy but most things like this are OK for personal use. And a lot of people in this new project agree. It's called and they have an application that is free to use. I personally want this to back up my stuff that I purchased. I'm just downloading it now and it's beautiful. It's laid out with simple controls, looks pretty easy. Then once your done you can save the files to what ever you like. I will be putting mine on the Google Cloud. You can get 200GB for $2.50, that's cheap.