Ted Kawalerski: Interview

Ted Kawalerski: Interview

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TW:   Let’s start from the beginning. You graduated from a jesuit college in Buffalo, New York with a degree in English. What drew you to major in English early on in life?

TK:    I graduated from Canisius College in Buffalo,  NY in 1970 and I received a BA in English. At this point in my life, I had no idea what my career path would be but my main skill set was writing, so English was the obvious choice for a degree. I was also a voracious reader.

TW:   After graduating from college you were drafted into the Army?  What were some of the highlights/lowlights of enlisting?

TK:    After graduating from Canisius I was drafted into the Army and I ultimately did a tour in West Berlin, Germany.  This period of time changed my whole life.  Living overseas was an incredible experience since I had never been abroad.  I immediately related to the German people and I also met incredible people in the Army.

TW:   When you served in the armed forces what led you to your early interest in Photography?

TK:   There are two factors that brought me into the world of photography. The military base that  I was living in had an incredible photo facility which had state of the art film processing stations and darkrooms. The German civilian who ran the place was an amazing photographer and he loved to teach people the technical basics.  Above all, he was inspirational but brutally honest when he looked at my pictures.  

My girlfriend had friends who worked in various advertising agencies.  They supported my journey into photography and provide valuable and critical advice.

TW:   When did you decide you wanted to become a professional photographer?

TK:    By the end of my tour in West Berlin, I decided to pursue a photography career.  When I returned home to Buffalo, NY I intended to spend some time with my family and then head to NYC.  However, I had an opportunity to work at an incredible studio, Greenburgh-May Productions.  This where I really learned the business of commercial photography. I worked in formats from 8X10 down to 35mm and this experience convinced me that I was never going to pursue still life photography. I did plenty of that and  I never enjoyed the process. There were four photographers in the studio and I ultimately did the small format location work that primarily involved people on location.  

TW:   You started your career in Rochester, New York and made a decisive decision to move    closer to Manhattan in the early  eighties.  What prompted you to make the move?

TK:    After working in Buffalo, I was married and moved to Rochester, NY because my former wife was doing graduate work at RIT and teaching art in high school. For a brief time I worked in another studio but shortly thereafter, I started my own business. I did primarily location lifestyle work and I started shooting for corporate annual reports. At this point in time this was very high level work, both in terms of quality and fees. After a few years we moved to Sleepy Hollow,  NY which is only about twenty-file miles from midtown Manhattan.  With two small kids, we didn’t want to live in the city.  After a divorce, I continued to live here because the location is perfect for what I do.  I can be in Manhattan, New Jersey and Connecticut on short notice and I am centrally located to all of the metro NY airports.  When I moved it was much more important to be in New York than it is now. Many agencies and design firms wouldn’t take you seriously if you were not working out of a major city.  I wound up commuting to New York so it was time to move.

TW:    With decades of experience beginning in the 1970’s and enjoying huge success in the field, how would you compare the business of photography before the turn of the century to what it is now, early in the 21st?

TK:     This business is completely different today than it was when I began working as a photographer.  The number of photographers has increased dramatically so obviously the competition is much more intense. Art directors in advertising agencies used to hire photographers directly but now, art buyers do that.  So there is another layer to deal with and the bottom line price has become much more important. Design firms directly hire photographers but they are under constant pressure to keep costs down and photographers that I know have not raised fees in 10-15 years.  A problem for photographers that specialize in corporate work is that , in my view, many people in corporations that hire them have no clue about the process.  The importance of Marketing / Communication departments has seriously declined over the years. At one time, these departments were run by Senior VP’s that answered directly to the CEO. Now they could be run by an unrelated department.  As a result, people that are in charge of projects, very often, do not know what they are doing.  

TW:    For years you were at the top of the field creating still photographs for corporate America.  What made you switch to motion picture production? 

TK:    The demand for high level corporate photography has been steadily diminishing over the last fifteen years. So, ten years ago, while having lunch in Manhattan with a friend of mine, I made the split second decision to start a small film production company.  I had been thinking about doing this for several months and at that moment I felt inspired.

I contacted Matt Stanton who had recently graduated from college and had been making films since he was twelve years old. He was also a very experienced editor. We started to make a few demos and shortly thereafter, Gene Mayer came on board. Gene is a fantastic graphic designer and in a different life, he was a client. He is the producer, art director and designer.

When I worked in Buffalo, in addition to shooting stills, we were shooting television commercials and I would periodically work as an assistant director. I would occasionally be tempted to pursue filmmaking but, at that time, making films was more complicated and required more people.  Today, with digital cinema cameras and digital editing, you are much more self empowered.  I was absolutely ready for a change.

TW:   What was the best assignment you ever had?

TK:    The one shooting assignment that stands out was for Liberty Mutual.  This was literally an around the world project. NY>Madrid>Istanbul>Rome>Hong Kong>Ho Chi Minh City>Santiago>NY.  I was doing environmental / situational portraits of various Liberty Mutual employees. Since this assignment came down just as we were beginning the film / video business, I was also shooting video (without charging the client) to be able to put together a small film for our reel.  My client loved the piece, but because Liberty Mutual’s in house production company didn’t do it, they didn’t use it.  This is just another example of corporate bullshit.

TW:   What would you advise the young photographer trying to make a career in the field of photography whether it be fine arts or commercial photography?

TK:   If a young person is interested in pursuing photography as a career and wants to study in a university or college, I would recommend majoring in Graphic Design and Art History. In addition, of course, the student should take photography courses as a minor. A professional photographer routinely interacts with art directors and graphic designers and by understanding their workflow you are enabling a much smoother relationship. Furthermore, and more importantly, one has to develop a sense of style and composition. By studying Graphic Design, you start to understand the relationships of elements in a frame.

Studying Art History – all types of art including photography – gives one a sense of what has been perceived and recognized as “Art” – good and bad. It’s important to absorb as much as possible in order to start to develop one’s own sensibilities without imitating specific genres. 

If someone wants to pursue a career in commercial photography, it is extremely important to work for an established photographer that does the kind of assignments that you would like to be doing. By working as an assistant, you learn the real world workings of professional photography. This is the motherload of technical training and business practices. This is why I do not recommend Photography as a major.  I have seen too many people come out of school absolutely clueless.

I have also seen people that have never had higher education become extremely successful photographers and cinematographers,  We just started working with a filmmaker that quit school when he was fifteen years old.  When you speak with him, you would think that he has an advanced degree. He was a big time skateboarder in Florida and he began making videos of himself and other skateboarders.  He sold them to skateboarding websites and eventually expanded into other types of filmmaking.  He taught himself Adobe Premier and he does all of his own editing. This led him to work for the UN where he established himself as a documentary cinematographer.

TW:   At age 73, do you love photography as much as you did when you first started learning  the craft?

TK:  Even though I’m not shooting very many still assignments now,  I love photography more than I ever did because I am totally absorbed in my personal projects.  I have been working on three different projects simultaneously.  Since I live on the Hudson River and I really love the diversity of the entire length of the river, I started a black and white project twenty years ago: Top to Bottom – The Hudson River.  There have been two shows and I intend to do a book. I have photographed people and places along the entire length of the Hudson River from the headwaters in the Adirondacks at Lake Tear of the Clouds all the way down to Manhattan. I periodically add new images to the collection.

Another project that I have been working on is Windows which I started shooting while traveling on assignments.  I was interested in images that were reflected in windows and images that were seen in and out of windows.  I knew that this idea has been portrayed frequently in photography and paintings so it’s been challenging to make pictures that I haven’t seen before. I have been throwing out many more images than the ones that I have kept.  I had a show of this work at a gallery in New York about ten years ago and after reflecting on the collection, I realized that there were too many fillers. I have recently been revitalized about this work and I am making 40”X60” prints of about twelve pictures that I edited down from about thirty.

Landscapes 4060 is the third body of work that I am currently printing.  I have found that this work is the most difficult to produce.  I rarely make a picture that I keep.  We are inundated with wide angle photos of the Grand Canyon at sunset and others like it and it’s easy to fall into the trap.  After many years, I have fifteen images that work.  In general, I have been brutal in the editing process.  This pertains to all of my work.

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REEL: Cork Factory Films & Communications, NY.

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Profile of Ted Kawalerski professional photographer

To access Ted Kawalerski’s website, click here: https://corkfactoryfilms.com

 

    

As The Worm Turns: Of Nots, Knots & Nuts

Portrait Illustration of Steve Bannon by Thomcat23
Steve Bannon. Artwork by Thomcat23

Text by A.H. Scott, Copyright 2021

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As The Worm Turns: Of Nots, Knots & Nuts

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If you think of the United States of America as being a tree, then the seedlings which are rooted within the soil that has borne the harvest of today should be seen not only as parts of a whole, but a continuous, societal eco-system.

To see racism as a few bad apples here and there is excising the seedlings that made the tree of America grow to what it is today. It can make some feel cradled and cocooned in the myth of not being a part of a roaring mob of marchers with a hate-filled rant spewing from their lips. Yet, if down to the roots of the system of inequality those same people are beneficiaries of the past, then they are also the fruit borne of the American tree. Apple see, apple do.

Some branches of the tree of America have constantly been ignored upon the shading of reflective rays of perpetual reverence and affirmation. Branches upon the other side of the tree have been carefully tended and watered with promise of possibility, based solely on how planters of preference have decided things to be. 

Those who control the narrative of history hold a death grip on preventing it from becoming a dissolving relic to the tide of truth. 

Surely, but steadily, the branches set upon in a diffused shade of flourishing have gained visibility of the sun’s rays of gathering acknowledgement for their own harvest in this moment. 

School days have changed through the years, as the three axioms of Readin’, Writin’, and Arithmetic have expanded to a fourth – Reality. 

Seeds of the tree of America have been tilled with the systematic intermingling of racism’s roots in laws and policies of inequality, since before the birth of this nation. 

But, then there will be people who will do the ‘howl of offense’ in saying they’re not racist because of whatever explanation they can toss out in defense of not wanting their child to be exposed to critical race theory. 

This is where some of the NOTS come in:  

Not any stolen election. Not voter fraud, Not CRT [1] taught to little children. Not just the opposing of affirmation, but the recognition of what takes that space or spotlight.

I think I’ll repeat that – Children are NOT being taught CRITICAL RACE THEORY in schools.

And then, there is another type of knot, which some twist themselves like pretzels into for the sake to mask a false rage over. In such a tizzy some are, as the thought of their little Johnny or Janie being exposed to the big, bad hammer of history will make them melt like snowflakes. 

Working themselves into KNOTS, some people have gone on a blinding tear to make sure their tiny tots won’t be damaged by having to hear about something more in depth than just the Founding Fathers walking on water and that the enslaved population were just happy as they could be in picking cotton and indigenous persons were glad to have their population decimated and driven from their own land. 

Now, taking the NOTS and KNOTS and mixing it all together and what do ya’ come up with – NUTS, of course. Specifically, right-wing nuts.

Right-wing activists have played the card of outrage and being set upon by schools forcing a theory which is NOT even being taught to children. Then again, that outrage card is really a mighty fine fundraising effort to pad coffers of institutions, affiliated sorts, tricksters and various confidence persons in the eco-sphere of the right. 

This is the game of the right-wing, which comes as nothing new. Only the target subject has changed from “Stop The Steal” to “No CRT In Schools”. 

Even if a person on the street is asked what Critical Race Theory is; the majority will respond with they don’t like it and not that they can explain what it actually is. 

People who are opposed to CRT seem obsessed with size; not there of in proportion of stature being the largest, but in being deflated, diminished and shrunken. While on the other hand those who are in support of CRT have just the opposite view of having expansion of idea and thought. In the realm of knowledge, a human being prospers in being exposed to that which may challenge their ideas and own self serving orthodoxy. 

It seems as if we are in a moment of choosing which prism the history of this country can be seen:  

Future vs. Fear – To take a step forward on a highway of new ideas, instead of being unable to veer off from a narrowed road of dulled, repetition. 

Present vs. Past – Knowing that there are more Technicolor chapters of history that need to be known, instead of a monochrome mimicking of yesterday. 

Maximum vs. Minimal – Exploring the truth beyond our own comfort zone, instead of being locked into the box of what was taught to us in dusty tomes of days’ past.

Critical Race Theory or CRT is an academic framework [2] created by legal scholars in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Now, I wonder why in 2021 it has suddenly taken up so much of the oxygen in media coverage. For me, this issue is not an issue at all, because it does not pertain to elementary, middle or high school students being taught this theory. Secondarily, one must ask the question of the timing of this hubbub. I mean if there is something to get a parents’ nose out of joint in the realm of what is happening in America right here and now; I figure a somewhat waning of focus on an event of a coup/insurrection in January of this year could be the reason to get everyone’s attention shifted to something else at full throttle. 

But, hey only a cynic would think that is the real reason for the uptick in turning on the warning light to flash red against CRT being the most important issue facing the country. Well, I guess you can call me a cynic! 

It would be quite foolish of anyone to think that the uproar against CRT is spontaneous. Oh no, this is just an avatar which issues involving progress in these United States is being used under an umbrella at this smattering of present day America. 

To the extreme of going beyond not just banishing a conversation of critical race theory and banning books, is in some peoples’ minds of taking things one step further on the fascistic avenue of burning [3] books; as was remarked by a duo of Spotsylvania, Virginia school board members. Thoughts of Bradbury’s and Atwood’s tales of dystopia filled my mind in thinking something so extreme could not happen here. But, a video [4] shows it all in living color. 

Sounds like another place and another time. Yet, it is America 2021. History can be distorted, as are facts and outrage. 

Foundation of these principles of propagating history in a singular framework of distortion has been something a pair of pernicious purveyors of political poison have dabbled with for many a decade in the public eye. 

Stephen Kevin Bannon and Roger Joseph Stone Jr., otherwise known as Steve and Roger; have a long history of dubious actions and ties in the conservative eco-system.

Both being political operatives in the center of the right-wing circus ring and on its’ outer circle in varied moments of their careers in the conservative eco-sphere has given them the reputations they’ve so justly acquired.

First, Mr. Bannon; whose career has gone from being White House Chief Strategist for the Trump Administration to a person charged with contempt of Congress. But, in between the highest heights to the lowest lows is where good ol’ Steve truly laid his tracks of infamy. 

Bannon’s own words have mainstreamed the level of prejudice which has in some ways conditioned the right-wing politics, not just in the United States, but on a global stage: 

“Let them call you racist, let them call you xenophobes, let them call you nativists. Wear it like a badge of honor. Because every day, we get stronger and they get weaker. History is on our side and will bring us victory.” – Steve Bannon [5]

Mr. Phony Populist Steve Bannon fashions himself as the everyman riding the wave of a global movement. 

Build That Wall! Fill My Wallet!  

So, one might think Mr. Bannon was arrested in a hovel under a bridge, adorned in a tattered, burlap sack. But, of course he was not. His locale of getting nipped by the authorities was aboard a luxury yacht off the waters of the East Coast, which just happened to be owned by a Chinese billionaire. Well, well, Mr. Phony Populist who supposedly stands for patriotism and all things American is being finely pampered in a floating palace when he’s taken down in handcuffs by the FBI. Yet, Steve doesn’t travel cheap, for private jets [6] and yachts are just a part of how he rolls. 

Bannon wasn’t building the wall out of bricks at the U.S.-Mexico border in some crowd-sourcing campaign, but only dollar bills to pile up to the millions in his own pedi-cash box for himself. Phony Populism exposed for all to see once more. 

And, with a wink of the eye as this sloppy fella’ walked out of Federal Court during this imbroglio, he has that smug air about him. Yet, some may wonder why is a man charged [7] with mail fraud and money laundering would be so assured that the golden road of freedom would remain his? It’s an easy answer when this person is given the ultimate free pass of a Presidential pardon [8] from Donald J. Trump.

Yippee! Steve Bannon is off the hook for those charges of August 2020. Lucky man he is for having such a good buddy at the helm of the United States government. But, then again, time turns for the worm. 

Always pushing things over the edge in vileness, Bannon’s own words had consequences in being permanently suspended on Twitter for making a maniacal [9] musing aimed towards Dr. Anthony Fauci and FBI Director Christopher Wray. 

Humility is not Mr. Bannon’s wheelhouse, for hubris is the fragrance he wears. And, as the January 6th Committee Investigating the United States Capital Attack has proven in October 2021, the scent of defying a congressional subpoena can get ya’ slapped with contempt charges and the funk of your arrogance is gonna’ nail ya’ backside. 

Nuts gonna’ be nuts! As the right-wing nuts in the United States Congress claw and crawl all over each other to ingratiate themselves on behalf of getting a young man who killed two people in Wisconsin minted as a congressional intern for themselves, they are locked in a bizarre version of “Survivor: Kooky Wing-Nuts Island”.  

Will Matt Gaetz’ be getting a new wing-man or will young Mr. Rittenhouse become the pet project of the right-wing calliope of unwell ideas and castaway conservatism? Well, I guess time will tell.

Alongside the aforementioned Steve Bannon, there slithers the spiffily attired Roger Stone. 

For Steve Bannon and Roger Stone, it seems all their public antics are just making a mockery out of policy and politics just to get their own rocks off. To me it is infuriating. Everything is all in the game for them, as the citizenry are just reduced to red and blue pieces on a chessboard. But, that probably is the method to their over-hyped, media madness.

“Politics with me isn’t theater. It’s performance art. Sometimes, for its own sake.” – Roger Stone [10]

When weaving a fascination of persona, a cult needs cultivation. Repeat the lie with the vigor of a street hawker. Rinse the lie through the filter of right-wing bias. Repeat the lie over and over again. Cult descends into a well programmed trance. 

Cultivation of a cult does not take shape in a quick snap of a finger. Oh no, the power of association is a variation of connections that are drawn out over a period of time. With Roger Stone, it is events in Salem, Oregon in 2018 and Washington, DC in January 2021. 

Never shy or retiring, Mr. Stone has always been quite proud of himself. In some ways, you could say razzle-dazzle Roger’s a man that basks in his own pride. Or, maybe he can just be called a proud boy. Speaking of which, that right-wing group known as the Proud Boys [11] has been in the sphere of Stone since 2019, when he sought them out as some sort of protective element for himself. 

So the next time when the party that barks about law and order and loving the blue; just remember along with the rest of them, that Roger Stone and Steve Bannon ain’t to proud to stand by and stand back when it comes to flouting and breaking criminal codes; from mail fraud, tax anomalies, and varied forms of contempt with a toss of the cherry of insurrection [12] on top of it.

This is who they unapologetically are, without varnish of heady titles or descriptive flair.

Crapsters, tricksters, liars, and thieves are small time in the big scheme of things. Yet, a coup manufactured from layers of lies to propel the withering of democracy on the vine could allow the flourishing tree of America to be cast in darkness from this moment on. 

Now, how’s about them apples? Makes a person think about how close to the edge the government of the United States was to going over to the abyss of authoritarianism.

But, those who raise their hackles at the mistruths of what critical race theory is and is not have a singular focus on something that isn’t even a concern for children to be exposed to. Yet, those same people don’t feel a sense of urgency at the slow march of fascism that could even shake their status in this country.

Mr. Bannon and Mr. Stone preen around as if they are the cat’s meow or the apple’s worm. 

People will see what they want out of each of these men. I guess it all depends upon which branch of the tree of America you are perched upon. 

As for me, the apple’s rot is what I see.  

“AS THE WORM TURNS: OF NOTS, KNOTS & NUTS”

A.H. Scott – 2021

“As The Worm Turns: Of Nots, Knots & Nuts” – Footnotes: 

 

1.“Critical Race Theory Isn’t A Curriculum” (EdWeek)

2. “Where Critical Race Theory is Under Attack” (EdWeek) 

3. “Virginia School Board Members Call For Books to Be Burned” (Business Insider) 

4. “Spotsylvania School Board Members” (YouTube)

5. “Steve Bannon Told a French Far-Right Party to Wear the Racist Label as a Badge of Honor” (Business Insider)

6. “Steve Bannon’s Use of Private Jet Linked to Chinese Businessman Could Violate Campaign Finance Law” (ProPublica)

7. “Steve Bannon’s Trial Set for May in Border Wall Conspiracy case” (Washington Post)

8. “Trump Pardons Former Chief Strategist Steve Bannon” (Wall Street Journal)

9. “Steve Bannon Permanent Twitter Suspension” (CNN)

10. “Roger Stone: Political Animal” (Washington Examiner) 

11. “Right-Wing Provocateur Roger Stone Asked Proud Boys ForProtection at Dorchester Conference Last Weekend” (Willamette Week)

 

12. Longtime Trump Advisers Connected To Groups Behind Rally That Led to Capitol Attack (ABC News)https://abcnews.go.com/US/longtime-trump-advisers-connected-groups-rally-led-capitol/story?id=75261028

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About The Author: A.H. Scott is a poet based in New York City and frequent contributor to Tony Ward Studio. To read additional articles by Ms. Scott, go here: https://tonywardstudio.com/blog/ginger_wind/

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Bob Shell: Suicide?

Portrait of Marion Franklin by Bob Shell
Photo of Marion Franklin by Bob Shell, Copyright 2021

Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2021

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Suicide?

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When Marion died from a drug overdose I was very puzzled as well as devastated. She’d once described herself to me as a ‘walking PDR’ (‘Physician’s Desk Reference,’ a big book that lists every drug available in the U.S.A., with dosage and information on usage.) She was very drug savvy, telling me when we first got serious, ‘I’m an addict, Bob, and I’m a high-maintenance girlfriend.’
After her death, I travelled down to Banner Elk, North Carolina, to her memorial service and the wake held at her father’s house. He showed me the memorial garden behind his house and told me I was welcome there any time. Because she’d been cremated ‘at the urging of the police,’ the coffin on display at the church was empty. Her best friend, ‘Samantha,’ and I sat together at the service. She kept saying in a loud whisper, ‘This is a travesty!’ because, like me, she knew Marion had nothing but contempt for organized religion. She called people who observed Christianity, ‘Jesus biscuits.’ The church service portrayed her as someone she never was. ‘Samantha’ and I left early and I tried to console her in the parking lot. They’d been best friends since grade school, and ‘Samantha’ told me she was certain that Marion had killed herself intentionally because she just couldn’t stand being so happy with me. She knew Marion better than anyone, so I can’t discount her judgment.
We’ll never know, I guess. Nor will we ever know exactly what killed her.
My lawyer had told the prosecutor at the start of the case that we planned independent testing of the autopsy samples, and the judge ordered that. We hired a nationally recognized lab, National Medical Services, to do the tests. After the judge ordered the samples sent to them, a confused lab technician called me on the phone. “What are we supposed to do with this stuff?” she asked. I was confused because we’d already told the lab the tests we wanted performed, so I started to reiterate what they were to do.
“But it’s nothing but a bunch of empty specimen bottles!” the lab technician said. The police had sent the lab empty bottles! When we raised the issue in a hearing, the prosecutor admitted that the Medical Examiner had destroyed all of the autopsy samples! I was being prosecuted on evidence that no longer existed.
The local Medical Examiner, Dr. William Massello, said it was his policy to destroy all samples a year after the autopsy, regardless of the status of the case.
In another case, the case of Mindy Dickerson, Massello testified that no one should expect his autopsy samples to be uncontaminated, because ‘there is nothing sterile about the morgue.’ In that case he had mixed brain tissue from at least three cadavers, forcing the prosecutor to drop all charges against Mindy’s former husband, who most likely murdered her. I was convicted based on autopsy samples that were very likely contaminated!
Whether Marion’s death was accident or suicide will never be known, but I personally think ‘Samantha’ was right that Marion’s overdose was intentional. But, thanks to Massello’s incompetence, we will never know with any certainty.
If you’re interested in more details about Massello’s incompetence, I’ve put a lot of information up on my website, www. bobshelltruth. com .
Should anyone be convicted based on ‘evidence’ that no longer exists? In Virginia it not only can happen, it does, and it is still the policy of the Medical Examiner’s Office to destroy autopsy samples in a year. It is the responsibility of the prosecutor to preserve such evidence when the defense requests it, as we did, but my prosecutor did not do his duty, and stated he was not even aware of the ME’s policy to destroy samples, and the judge also said he was unaware of this ridiculous policy. If preserved, autopsy samples can be tested for many years. Virginia law is antiquated and grossly unfair in allowing the use of evidence at trial when it no longer exists for independent testing.

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About The Author: Bob Shell is a professional photographer, author, former editor in chief of Shutterbug Magazine and veteran contributor to this blog. He is currently serving a 35 year sentence for involuntary manslaughter for the death of Marion Franklin, one of his former models.  He is serving the 13th year of his sentence at Pocahontas State Correctional Facility, Virginia. To read additional articles by Bob Shell, click here: https://tonywardstudio.com/blog/musical-fun/

Editor’s Note: If you like Bob Shell’s blog posts, you’re sure to like his new book, COSMIC DANCE by Bob Shell (ISBN: 9781799224747, $ 12.95 book, $ 5.99 eBook) available now on Amazon.com . The book, his 26th, is a collection of essays written over the last twelve years in prison, none published anywhere before. It is subtitled, “A biologist’s reflections on space, time, reality, evolution, and the nature of consciousness,” which describes it pretty well. You can read a sample section and reviews on Amazon.com. Here’s the link: 

Bob Shell: Musical Fun

Composite photo of various musical instruments
Photo: Tony Ward, Copyright 2021.

Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2021

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During my recovery from my recent illness I’ve worked hard to keep my mind occupied and not dwell on how bad I was feeling. One thing I’ve had a good time with is a book belonging to a friend here. It’s ‘The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits,’ and contains every song that made it onto Billboard’s Top 40 list from 1955 through 2009. The one he has is the 9th edition. There may be newer editions that cover later years, but this edition covers my formative years perfectly. In addition to listing the place on the Top 40 that the song reached and how long it stayed there, this 900+ page dictionary-size book contains a brief bio of the artist(s) who recorded the song. I find it very interesting to learn the real names and other info about some of these stars. 

One of my favorites early on was Connie Francis, whose real name the book tells me was Concetta Rosa Maria Franconero. Her first hit, ‘Who’s Sorry Now,’ made it to number 4 in 1958 and held on there for thirteen weeks. She was only twenty at the time, and went on to chart 35 Top 40 hits until her last in 1964. She was a real beauty, too, and acted in a bunch of teen movies during those years. I remember watching her on the big screen of a drive in theater. There’s never been another voice like hers! I heard that voice coming from my radio and fell in love. 

In 1955, I was nine years old, and just starting to really notice music. My father was a radio DJ at the time and was always bringing stacks of records home to play. He thought rock and roll when it first hit with people like Bill Haley and Elvis, was going to be a passing fad. He was very surprised that it not only hung on, but grew to eclipse everything else on the radio. He hated it at first, but later came around to liking some of it. 

Another favorite of mine was and is John Henry Ramistella. Not familiar? You know him as Johnny Rivers. Although born in Brooklyn, he grew up in Baton Rouge, where he soaked up the musical influences of the Mississippi, and adopted his stage name. His first Top 40 hit was a cover of Chuck Berry’s ‘Memphis,’ which reached number 2 in 1964 and stayed there for an astonishing ten weeks. Other hits followed ranging from the hard rocking ‘Secret Agent Man’ to the gentle ‘Fire And Rain’. My favorite, and one of my all-time favorite albums, is 1967’s ‘Realization.’ I played the grooves off of that LP album in 1967. Years later I bought it on CD, and still listen to it regularly today as MP3 files on my tablet. It never gets old. 

There are many interesting and sometimes odd stage names chosen by recording artists. How about Ray Stevens? Now there’s an all American name for you. Would he have found success as Harold Ragsdale? Elton John as Reginald Dwight? Would Freddie Mercury have headed up Queen as Farouk Bulsara from Zanzibar! Would John Kay have been ‘born to be wild’ as Joachim Kauledat? Would Marty Balin have cofounded Jefferson Airplane as Martin Buchwald? How about going down country roads with John Henry Deutschendorf? Or blowing in the wind with Robert Zimmerman? Or plain old boring David Jones instead of exciting, dangerous-sounding David Bowie? Would ‘Scott McKenzie’ have sent you to San Francisco to wear flowers in your hair as Philip Blondheim? Would The Big Bopper have succeeded as Jiles Perry Richardson? Would Mac Rebennack have succeeded if he hadn’t taken on the persona of voodoo legend Dr. John? Why did Arthur Wilton change his name to Arthur Brown before he caught fire? Would Alice Cooper have made it big as Vincent Furnier? Or Kiki Dee as Pauline Matthews? We’ll never know, but probably not. 

Unfortunately, many of my favorite bands from the 1960s didn’t get enough national radio play to make the Billboard Top 40. They may have been big on local or regional radio, but didn’t get airplay elsewhere. Consequently, they’re not in the book. I’m speaking of exceptional 1960s ‘psychedelic’ bands like Mandrake Memorial, Fever Tree, Clear Light, H.P. Lovecraft, and more. Even the supergroup Grateful Dead only ever got one Top 40 song, ‘Touch of Gray,’ as did Captain Beefheart with ‘Clear Spot.’ 

The great singer/songwriter Laura Nyro isn’t in the book, either, although her songs are — sung by other people. That’s a shame. 

There are some real surprises in the book, like Senator Everett Dirksen doing ‘Gallant Men.’ 

And, as well as unusual real names of artists, there are the names of some of the bands. I just opened the book at random, and there at the top of the page is a band called ‘Right Said Fred,’ that had a hit in 1992 with a song titled ‘I’m Too Sexy.’ I couldn’t make this stuff up! Some others are: ‘Peach Union,’ ‘Mint Chocolate,’ ‘Jimmy Eats World,’ ‘Jive Bunny and the Mastermixers,’ ‘Butthole Surfers,’ ‘Ghost Town DJs,’ ‘Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen,’ ‘Faster Pussycat,’ ‘Amboy Dukes,’ ‘Edison Lighthouse,’ ‘Bingoboys,’ ‘Deep Blue Something,’ ‘Cat Mother and the All Night Newsboys,’ and on and on. 

This book is loads of fun for anyone who is into popular music. Over the last week, I’ve spent hours going through it until I’ve now read every entry and expanded my knowledge of musical trivia greatly. Sure beats sitting around bored, letting my mind rot.

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About The Author: Bob Shell is a professional photographer, author, former editor in chief of Shutterbug Magazine and veteran contributor to this blog. He is currently serving a 35 year sentence for involuntary manslaughter for the death of Marion Franklin, one of his former models.  He is serving the 13th year of his sentence at Pocahontas State Correctional Facility, Virginia. To read additional articles by Bob Shell, click here: https://tonywardstudio.com/blog/marijuana-legal-virginia/

Editor’s Note: If you like Bob Shell’s blog posts, you’re sure to like his new book, COSMIC DANCE by Bob Shell (ISBN: 9781799224747, $ 12.95 book, $ 5.99 eBook) available now on Amazon.com . The book, his 26th, is a collection of essays written over the last twelve years in prison, none published anywhere before. It is subtitled, “A biologist’s reflections on space, time, reality, evolution, and the nature of consciousness,” which describes it pretty well. You can read a sample section and reviews on Amazon.com.  Here’s the link: 

Riza Oliva: Sex And The City

Portrait of Riza Oliva for Homepage cover of Tony Ward Studio
Riza Oliva. Photo: Tony Ward, Copyright 2021

Text by Riza Oliva, Copyright 2021

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Sex And The City

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Before Netflix, Hulu and HBO Max, I would turn on my T.V. and watch a group of bold and promiscuous women taking over the Big Apple doing things that men would have been praised for. Instead women in society receive negativity and backlash for the same actions like dating multiple people, let alone having sex with them. My take on the subject is that people should be able to explore their desires when they’re single until they find someone who fits their lifestyle.

Imagine Sex And The City happening in this current generation. The generation of technology with Facebook, Instagram, Tinder, Bumble, and all the other dating applications right at the tip of your fingers. Wouldn’t that be a wild new twist in the series? I feel like I have lived my own “Sex And The City”. Dating in my 20’s during this generation in a big city was an adventure. I didn’t do too much swiping but social media had played a big part of me meeting people. After I became a model, my confidence grew but my perspective on dating also changed. I used to be that girl who was always in long relationships. One advice I would give any individual in their 20’s is to not settle down so quickly. I think being able to live your life and finding your wants, needs and most importantly finding yourself is so critical in life. But back to my dating life, my DM’s were pretty interesting and comical. I still have no idea what the fascination is of some men wanting to send random women dick pictures without even saying hello. It must be the confidence people have behind the screens. I don’t think I have ever publicly spoken about my dating life but I definitely received messages from athletes, artists, exes, childhood friends, and even people’s fathers. I was not one to really entertain a lot of people but I got to meet some really interesting characters in my own show which my friends and I even had nicknames for. I won’t kiss and tell so I will not be naming anyone in this article, I’ll bring those secrets to my grave.

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About The Author: Riza Oliva is a professional photographer, actress, model, business owner and mom based in Philadelphia. To read contributing writer Katie Kerl’s interview with Riza Oliva, click here: https://tonyward.com/interview-riza-oliva/