Thursday, March 27, 2014

Crime and the City Solution

Poking around the comics/graphic novel section at work the other day, I found CRIME, a big bound volume of '50s crime comics. With a title like that, you gotta take a look.

The library has a few bound collections like this - big color reprints of horror and crime comics that caused a stink in the '50s. Enough of a stink that there were Senate hearings and comic burnings.
They're not even storing them in plastic sleeves before burning them!
Soon rock and roll would take the heat for juvenile delinquency and fun, and comics were off the hook for a while.

As a librarian and a fan of entertainment with no redeeming social value, I've always been against the censors and banners of the world. And who the hell gets that worked up over some comic books, anyway?

Well, uh...maybe those squares from the '50s had a point. Holy crap, were those things gory. You've probably seen stuff from the horror comics, where bad people get their ironic comeuppance, like a greedy guy gets drowned in molten gold or whatever. The funny thing is, a lot of the 'bad' people didn't really deserve their fates. Like, for the crime of dancing with another man a woman gets mummified by her jealous husband, or a guy who is rude to waiters gets eaten by vampires. Kinda makes getting your hand cut off for stealing seem quaint.

That's to be expected in horror comics. What I didn't expect was how gory the crime comics were. Everybody's getting machine gunned or stabbed or shot on just about every page, all in beautiful detail. As in the horror comics, there is a moral at the end, where the criminal is either shot or led to the electric chair or noose. All of this is illustrated with lots of bright red blood, popping eyeballs and jumping tears of sweat.

I suppose the publishers could say that by demonstrating that crime doesn't pay, the comics were actually moral instruction. Possibly, although the only instruction I've gotten out of them so far is some cool slang, like, "Aw, go peddle a herring," and "Wot a night, baby! Dancin' wit you is like wrasslin' with a feather!" Which is answered with "Yeah, Slug! Ain't that music the nuts?" Look for me to drop those phrases in conversation the next time we run into each other. It'll be the nuts.

So with all this gore, violence, and outdated slang, I have to give CRIME Googoomuck's highest recommendation. Five stars, two thumbs up, 12 tommy guns blazing. Seriously, it's the nuts.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Casual Racism Fridays

A few weeks ago I'm at a training session at work. I'm waiting in line to sign the roster to get the all-important training credit (9 hours more to go!) and I'm talking to a co-worker who is behind me in line. I get distracted, probably looking inside to see if there would be cookies and somehow she snaked my place in line.

"Hey, how'd you get in front of me?"

"I'm crafty like that," she replied.

Without missing a beat, or even looking up, the woman manning the roster said, "All Chinese are crafty."

Now, ignoring the fact that the coworker I was talking to is blonde and blue-eyed, sort of the anti-Chinese, what does that even mean? Was she referring to the Coca-Cola thing? Because that has been thoroughly discredited. I mean, I'm sure at one point in history a Chinese person put some "pee-pee" in a Coke for humorous effect, but the vast majority of Chinese people frown on such hijinks and do not find urine in soft drinks to be funny at all.

But I don't think she was referring to that. I don't even know if she was referring to anything in particular. Maybe it's like that word association game, and "Chinese" is paired up with "crafty" in her mind. Or maybe she just has to tell the world her opinion about Chinese people for whatever reason.

I'd say that it bothered me all through the training session, but if I'm being honest, I was really more upset that we didn't get cookies.

Now, of course, I think I'm going to try to test her. Next time she's around, I'll mention specific countries and see if I get a response. I'll be sure to report back.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Shoplifters of the World

I used to shoplift when I was a kid. This shouldn't surprise anyone, since I think I've documented my adolescent (and pre and post) crapulence fairly well.

Occasionally, I'll look back on my younger exploits and wonder if there was any sort of deep psychological thing behind them, but I don't really think there was. Being bad was exciting and fun, even if I did spend most of my middle and high school years in constant trouble due to the consequences of my antics. In the case of shoplifting, stores had things I wanted, I didn't have money, so I shoplifted. Pretty simple, really.

I can't remember when I started, but I do remember that I soon perfected a technique. I would get an empty bag, then load up what I wanted when nobody was looking. This seemed to work better than the usual "jam a bunch of stuff in your pockets or under your shirt" technique employed by others. When taken to the grocery store by my parents, I'd get a bag, load it up with bakery cookies, Archie Comics, and whatever else appealed to me. I must have told them I had saved my money or something if they asked how I was buying things. Sure, it was risky, but later that night eating chocolate chip cookies in my bed catching up on Jughead's latest hijinx, it all seemed worth it.

From there I graduated to the mall. A friend and I would ride our bikes there and I'd get a bag from a store, then load up on records and dirty magazines.

We never got caught, which is pretty remarkable, considering that we would be conspicuously unconspicuously hanging around the magazine stand on the other side of the naked lady magazines, waiting to slip them into our bag.

Maybe I felt my luck was up, or guilt got the better of me, because I stopped. I'm not sure for how long, but I stayed on the straight and narrow for a while.

Until a toy store moved in to the spot by Eckerds. This was within biking distance, and I used to go up there to buy models. They also had a big display of Star Wars figures. This was after Return of the Jedi, when I felt I was too old for what were, in my eyes, children's toys. Today, of course, I know many professionals who buy Star Wars figures, but back then we didn't have those sort of role models.

So I figured it was OK to steal them. I'd wait til the teenaged clerk wasn't paying attention (which didn't take long), take them out of the box (I know! I was destroying the resale value!), and slip them in my pockets.

Looking at pictures of the figures on the internet, it looks like I ended up getting most of them. Again, I don't see how I got away with it.

Then came the end of my shoplifting career.

I went to the grocery store with my parents,  got an empty bag and walked over to the toy section of Walgreens. I had seen this pretty boss looking little vehicle earlier, and it was gonna be mine. These were vehicles that weren't really in the movies, they were just cash grabs, so I felt I was sort of justified in stealing it.
Admit it, that's a pretty cool toy.

I had it in my hands with the open bag on the floor. I was subtly glancing around to make sure nobody was watching. As soon as I slipped it in my bag, an old lady and her granddaughter appeared at the end of the aisle.

"Don't do that," she said.



I felt my stomach drop. Then they left. She was already talking to the manager up front. Holy crap, I thought. I'm finally going to get busted. My parents are just over in Publix and are going to have to come over and get me, minutes after they let me go. I am in such trouble.

They were obviously talking about me, and had seen me carrying the bag, so I thought my best course of action was to see if I can casually walk out the door. OK. Let's give it a shot.

"Can I see your bag?"

Oh crap.

"Oh yeah, sure," I said,  my insides churning like a cement mixer.

The mustached manager gave me a suspicious look and said, "Maybe we should staple this up for you."

And he did.


Seconds later I was out the door. I saw him talking to the lady, but by some fluke I was free. Free! I wanted to kiss the sidewalk.

I was scared straight. I didn't shoplift again. Now I am pillar of the community and a few months ago even mailed a 20 dollar bill to a restaurant when I thought I had stiffed the waitress. I'm sure whoever opened the mail spent it on drugs or a neck tattoo, but at least I sort of balanced the scales a bit.