Homeless in Seattle – The Movie

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Seattle skyline from Kerry Park. Wikipedia commons image.

The title of this article is a bit facetious because ever since the famous film, Sleepless in Seattle came out in 1993, the phrase itself has entered the American lexicon in several different forms. This in Seattle, or that in Seattle. For the most part, the city itself is exactly what you’ve heard about it. More trees than houses, home to more than a few tech companies, and the headquarters for Boeing, Microsoft, Starbucks, and other famous corporations. There is the Space Needle, the Pike Place Market, the stunning beauty of the waterfront, and the multi-million dollar sports stadiums. (For the record, our upcoming movie will NOT be titled Homeless in Seattle, which we thought was trite.)

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A homeless encampment setting up in the West Seattle area.

But there is a dark side to the jewel of Puget Sound, and that is the approximately 12,000 people living homeless on its streets and under its bridges. The total population of the city is about 700,000, which means about one in sixty of its residents are homeless. This problem is not restricted to Seattle, of course. Most statistics you’ll find on a Google search say about 550,000 people are homeless across the United States, with almost a quarter of that total in California alone. But that statistic is misleading, since it fails to count runaway youth, or anyone who doesn’t want to be counted. The TRUE number, according to an article at Mother Jones, is actually over FOUR MILLION nationwide. African-American kids are also 83% more likely to be in that group, (rather than white kids) and LGBT kids over 100% more likely to be without a home. The truth is that many of these people fall through the census cracks, or the attempts of volunteers to count them, so no one really knows. However, if the true number nationwide were only a half-million, we would barely notice, and this writer believes the Mother Jones reference is more likely the real truth. If the four million figure is true, this would mean about one in eighty people across America are homeless, making Seattle’s problem slightly worse than the nationwide average.

When cinematographer Christopher Brown and I decided to produce a movie about homelessness in the Seattle area, we wanted to do some initial research first, before figuring out how to approach the project. (Right now it’s January 2018 and shooting is scheduled to begin in March or early April.)  Both of us are still trying to get a handle on the problem, i.e. to get up to speed on the issue. But I’ve already formed a few opinions based on our research:

  1. It’s a myth that homeless people migrate to where services for them are best. Interviewers find that almost 90% of homeless families give a local address as the last place where they had a regular home or apartment. If they DO migrate for better services, it usually means just locally, not from one state or county to another.
  2. Homelessness is not a city, county, or even a state problem, except perhaps in California. It is a NATIONAL problem, and should be addressed on the Federal level.
  3. When people said back in the 1990’s that ‘welfare was breaking the country,’ that statement was total baloney. Aid to Families With Dependent Children, (welfare) Food Stamps, lunch programs, after-school programs for needy kids, etc. has never accounted for much more than two percent of the yearly Federal budget. Former President Bill Clinton knew that, but when he put a five-year lifetime limit on welfare, all he really did was toss poor families into the street. We spend almost twenty times that much each year on defense, and ten times as much just paying the interest on the National Debt.
  4. Former President Jimmy Carter made a good effort to improve the Section 8 program, which took a great many families off the streets and put them into stable housing. But getting past the HUD requirements, and a waiting list that can run for years has stalled the program to a degree.
  5. Not all homeless are alcoholics or drug users. Only SOME of them. And those types of people exist in normal society as well. But living on the street just makes their problems worse.
  6. Homelessness is nothing new. It’s just gotten worse lately, and Chris and I want to discover WHY, as well as getting to the root of some possible solutions.
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One of many encampments during the Great Depression. This one is in South Seattle. You can see the Smith Tower in center background. Image courtesy of the University of Washington.

Chris and I haven’t developed any other opinions on this issue. Not yet. Which is the purpose of the movie. Our plan is to start by interviewing some of the people who deal with the homeless each day, such as the service providers and the folk who run the shelters. From there, we will do interviews with homeless families on the street, and then move on to the encampments. I would love to do this from coast-to-coast, but frankly we don’t have the budget and we live in the Seattle area. So we will do a microcosm of the problem, restricting the movie to Seattle.

Truth is, even if we could go national, it would probably be the same thing everywhere. Questions? You can reach us at adventurebooksofseattle@gmail.com

In a general way, I think this video addresses the situation. Not so much the issue of homelessness, but how our priorities as a nation have become completely skewed:

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Ten Good Reasons to Stop Executing People in the United States

prisoncellThis writer used to be a gung-ho death penalty supporter back in the day. Oh, yes. An eye for an eye, that was my motto for murderers. Gas ’em, fry ’em, shoot ’em full of lethal drugs, or in the case of my home state of Washington, hang ’em high.

I changed my mind.

I started exploring the reality of inmates who have no hope of release unless they suddenly discover the Fountain of Youth springing up through the floor of their cells, and that is unlikely. I found that for people doing life without the possibility of parole, their punishment really WAS a fate worse than death. They stood at the doors of their cells and listened as names were called out for release. They went through each day listening to stories from the other inmates about what they were going to do when they got out, or how great it would be when they could see their families again.

But they’re not going anywhere. EVER.

Meanwhile, over on Death Row, you hardly ever hear of an inmate fighting back against the guards when his time comes to take that long walk to the execution chamber. Most just go along for the Big Ride. They figure their life sucks anyway, and death puts an end to all the noise and the bullshit.

Here are ten good reasons why the United States should abolish the death penalty.

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It Wasn’t the Fuel Line – How the Buddy Holly Crash Really Happened

The Myth

February 3, 2018 will be the 59th anniversary of ‘The Day the Music Died’ that made Buddy Holly, J.P. Richardson, and Richie Valens bigger than life. This article is an attempt to provide a few facts about the famous plane crash that you didn’t know previously.

The biggest myth (although it’s easily debunked by the official Civil Aeronautics Board report) was that the fuel line in the Beechcraft Bonanza froze in the cold weather, causing the plane to lose power and crash. Another is that ice formed on the wings and brought down the plane. That isn’t true, of course, since the wings were ice-free when the wreckage was found. The fuel line was working fine, because it was also discovered the engine was running at normal cruising revolutions and airspeed when it struck the ground.  The cause of the crash has been determined as simply pilot error.

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Graffiti done by Holly and the Crickets, backstage at the Surf Ballroom.

Events Leading Up to the Takeoff from Mason City

It was actually Mr Carroll Anderson, the manager of the Surf Ballroom in nearby Clear Lake, Iowa who made arrangements to charter the plane. Anderson drove everyone in his car to the airport in Mason City, with his wife and child along for the ride. A few hours earlier, Anderson had spoken to the owner of the airplane, Hubert Dwyer, about a possible charter, and Dwyer had asked pilot Roger Peterson to make the flight. From later reports, it sounds like pilot Peterson was excited and a bit star-struck about the idea of flying three of the biggest names in rock-and-roll to their next gig. Peterson was only 21 years old.

Peterson had exactly 711 hours flying time, which is only a fair amount of experience, and he had failed one instrument-rating test already. Peterson had to get a special waiver because the hearing in his right ear was weak. But he finally passed the instrument rating and had about fifty hours on instruments. Ordinarily, this might be sufficient, but not on a sub-freezing night with blowing snow and unexpected wind gusts.

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Holly’s drivers’ license and other pictures as a poster. Available at Buddy Holly Memorabilia.

At 7:30 P.M. Roger Peterson started making preparations for the flight. He checked in at the Mason City airport tower with Dwyer and together they got a weather report through the communicator person in the tower. The report was typical winter stuff, but flyable. Unfortunately, the communicator on duty failed to tell the men about a new, much more intense weather advisory that had just been released. A major front was reported moving down from Minneapolis with winds to thirty mph and gusts up to fifty. This is a key factor, since plane owner Dwyer would almost certainly have canceled the charter.

Roger Peterson told Dwyer he would file a flight plan enroute by radio. At around 12:15 a.m. his passengers showed up in Carroll Anderson’s car and they stowed away the luggage and got aboard. The plane taxied to the end of the runway, took off and headed south, and then turned northwest to get on course for Fargo, North Dakota.

Hubert Dwyer walked out onto a platform outside the tower and watched as the plane flew away. He thought it was strange that the plane gained altitude to around 800 feet, and then seemed to descend slowly until its lights disappeared. He said later that because of the light snow and darkness, he couldn’t tell if this was an illusion caused by the plane flying away from him, or if it was REALLY descending. He went back inside the tower and waited for Peterson to contact him by radio with the flight plan. When there was no transmission from the plane, Dwyer told the communicator on duty to call up the flight. The communicator made multiple attempts without result.

As a matter of fact, the plane WAS descending, and the two culprits were a new artificial horizon instrument on the Bonanza, and pilot Peterson’s ignorance of how it worked. Unlike the traditional artificial horizon, this new Sperry model, called an ‘F-3 attitude gyro’, actually showed bank and turn in reverse from what Petersen had trained on, and without a doubt he was confused by it from the start of the flight.

Only a few miles from the airport, the Bonanza crashed into a stubble corn field and all aboard were killed.

But what happened?
Continue reading “It Wasn’t the Fuel Line – How the Buddy Holly Crash Really Happened”

My 40 Years on Ozette Island

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Ozette Island – Washington State

Quote from the official article written in 1998

“Seattle sci-fi author Robert M. Blevins describes his special relationship with the westernmost point of land in the continental United States. The island is both magical -and dangerous.”

The first time I saw Ozette I was on a camping trip with my Boy Scout troop and it was 1968. We were hiking along a muddy wilderness trail between the Hoh River and Shi-Shi Beach. For anyone not familiar with the more remote parts of Washington state, Ozette Island is off the Pacific Coast near Lake Ozette. Just look for the westernmost point of land in the lower forty-eight states.

The island sits offshore about a half-mile, looking like some picture-postcard Northwest version of Gilligan’s Island. It is about a half-mile long, with a low point in the center and is heavily forested, with sandy, inviting beaches. It is also a National Wildlife Refuge island. This means you can go there, but you cannot disturb the wildlife. The Makah Indians considered it special, if not sacred. Since I was restricted to the beach, I didn’t get a chance to try and make the crossing over to the island, but I promised myself I would try it later.

Fourteen years passed before I returned to the place. In the summer of 1982, I had taken in two German exchange students who expressed a willingness to try a new adventure. I convinced them to accompany me in an attempt to cross over to the island. Lacking enough money for a boat, we purchased fifty long spike nails and a hundred feet of rope.

We drove to the Ozette Ranger Station and hiked the three-mile boardwalk leading to the beach at Cape Alava. We began scouring the beach for big logs and flat boards. Within a few hours, we had constructed a giant raft with a center log nearly twenty feet in length. By the time we finished it was getting late. We rolled out our sleeping bags, built a crackling fire and waited impatiently for the morning tide. At dawn, the waves rolled into the beach as the tide changed, and the raft began to float free.
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The Self-Perpetuating Entity of America’s Prison System

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To understand why America continues to put more of its citizens behind bars requires a basic knowledge of how the system works. From the city and county level, up to the Federal system, all prisons are run by governments. And like most government programs, they naturally inflate themselves to the maximum level allowable by our tax dollars.It’s a self-perpetuating system that depends on new bodies to fill up the jails, courts, and the caseloads of parole officers. Instead of preventing or deterring crime, policies in use in most states actually foster crime. This results in more activity in the courts, and a fresh set of faces for transport to prisons around the country. The system has become an entity unto itself; a juggernaut that grows each year and thus depends on even MORE felonious bodies to justify its existence.

In order for this system to continue, you have to start early. You begin by taking youthful offenders and making sure they are trained in the ways of the system, instead of trying to rehabilitate them, which would be counterproductive. You do this by cutting funding to juvenile offender programs, the programs that can shift the balance between a kid who gets into trouble once and eventually becomes a successful citizen, to a hard-core number in the system. According to the rules of the system, actually helping kids is bad, because it potentially decreases the numbers of bodies available later to keep the system going.

This self-perpetuating process of creating criminals is working. America’s prisons are overcrowded, and more continue to be built. This means more parole officers, jailers, contractors, judges, and police officers. More tax dollars are needed, and there are more jobs to fill. The fact that 47% of incarcerated inmates are of color makes the system resemble a type of legal slavery.

A good example of how America went wrong could be Washington State. Up until the 1970’s, Washington used a system of work camps and a few juvenile facilities, staffed by college-educated counselors, to handle juvenile offenders. Prison populations remained fairly stable. Washington State abandoned this system in the 1980’s, transferring adult offenders to most of the camps formerly reserved for youthful offenders. Juvenile offenders were sent to jail for a certain amount of time for an offense, and little counseling or real help was offered.

Within a few years, Washington State found itself inundated with felons who had learned their trade in the revamped juvenile facilities. They were forced to build three new prisons and many more low-level institutions to deal with the massive influx.

If America wants a reduction in crime, the answer is not more prisons and jails. America must fund more programs for juvenile offenders. If we fail to do this, someday there will be a prison in every other neighborhood. If we take the right steps, then the perpetrators of the system will have to make some cutbacks. There may be some resistence. After all, it’s their jobs on the line.

International Olympic Committee Bans Russia for Blood Doping, and Why That’s a Good Thing

Why its a good thing the Olympic Committee banned Russia.

The IOC recently issued its ban on Russia participating in the upcoming Olympics, after a 17-month investigation. The IOC found a pattern of cheating by the Russians which was out of control, mainly because the Russian Olympic Committee and their ‘testing’ of athletes were holding hands with the athletes. In other words, the ROC was involved in supporting athletes who used blood doping to gain an edge. By ‘supporting,’ this writer actually means ‘falsifying the results of testing.’

‘What Lance Armstrong can do, WE can do better…’

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The IOC really brought the hammer down on these cheats HARD. Not only did they ban the athletes, but anyone on the Russian Olympic Committee who was involved in this farce, including senior ROC members, even their doctors. Any athlete who was caught doping previously is also permanently banned from ever participating in any Olympics, ever again. It was a far-reaching ban, deliberately constructed to weed out the cheats for good. The IOC even wants a central testing facility, a neutral one serving all countries, and probably based in Switzerland, the home of neutrality if there ever was one.

The only folks who really suffer in this whole scenario are ‘clean’ Russian athletes. (Yes, there are some.) The IOC has made a provision for them, allowing them into the games under certain conditions – like independent testing and no prior doping, for example.

Were the Russians REALLY involved in an organized cheating scandal? Well, you have two choices. Either yes they were, or some of their athletes had their DNA altered using alien technology. You decide which is more likely.

ROCtoon

A Winter Campout – A Simple Plan

If you’re reading this now, well…it’s not exactly a complete article. The reason is because it only outlines a plan. In November, I made a very successful appearance at the Auburn (WA) Public Library and presented a slideshow/discussion on the ‘DB Cooper’ case that ran nearly an hour over its alloted time. (No problem, said library staff who were in attendance that day.)

I used a 32″ Samsung smart TV to do the presentation, which worked really well because you can not only do slide pictures one after another, but you can also present video with ease. In fact, you can go back and forth with any media you wish, including music or anything that will go through a set of speakers or appear on a hi-def screen. All you have to do is hit this or that button on your remote. At the library, I had no problem with it.

This experience at the library gave me an idea. Why not do a multimedia presentation on the evidence against D.B. Cooper suspect Kenny Christiansen using this same method? My June 2015 video on Christiansen, filmed up near Jefferson Lake in the Olympic mountains was a big Cooper Hit, with more than 60,000 views to date. But for that one, all I had were a couple of props and some pictures, which I held up close to the camera.

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The Jefferson Lake video, June 2015.

 

Continue reading “A Winter Campout – A Simple Plan”