Mark Terry

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

6/10th of a Second

At 11:21 a.m. on November 24, 1963, two days after Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated President John F. Kennedy, a Dallas nightclub owner named Jack Ruby shot Oswald in the basement of the Dallas Police Department, killing him.

At the time, the basement area was filled with journalists - photographers, radio and TV reporters, reporters. It was caught on live television, such as it was, and you can view it on YouTube today, if you're so inclined. Watch closely, it happens quickly.

The photograph here was taken by Robert Jackson, a photographer with the Dallas Times Herald. For this photograph, he won the Pulitzer Prize.

Another similar photograph, shot 6/10ths of a second later by Jack Bears, a photographer with the Dallas Morning News, did not win the Pulitzer.

Here is the footnote on this from Vincent Bugliosi's book, "Four Days in November: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy":

"Beers's daughter said that this six-tenths of a second bothered her late father to the day he died, her father feeling he had been cheated by fate. He had a 'depression that went untreated' and it was 'all due to that picture.' Bitter and despondent, Beers died of a heart attack in 1975 at the age of fifty-one."

I think this is a rather brutal illustration of the role luck plays in life. There are hard-working, successful people who totally discount luck. I don't like to give luck much credit. But the fact is, being in the right place at the right time doing the right thing ... sometimes it's just luck.

You work hard, you develop your skills, you do all the things. Chances are, you'll be some kind of successful. But that lightning bolt? The one that catapults you to ... wherever? Might just be the difference between 6/10s of a second.

P.S. I don't like this photograph very much. It's a real-life photograph of a murder. Lee Harvey Oswald was a sad, pathetic, mentally-ill man who was killed by another pathetic, mentally-ill man. Both of them, in their pathetic, screwed-up heads, thought they were going to be heroes for their actions.

And you know that 6/10ths of a second? Here's the thing. Ruby didn't plan to be there. They were moving Oswald to the jail. Ruby woke up late, got a call from one of his strippers asking for an advance against her paycheck because he'd closed his clubs for a couple days due to JFK's death. So he went to the Western Union, wired her $25, then drove toward his club in Dallas, passed the Dallas PD where he'd been hanging out for the last day or two, parked, left his dog in the car, walked down a ramp into the basement just as they were bringing Oswald out and probably only a second or two before the "paddy wagon" would have either blocked Ruby's way or carted Oswald away. On impulse he pulled the gun he was carrying, darted forward and shot Oswald. You could argue that Ruby got lucky or Oswald got unlucky, but either way, it was pretty narrow timing any way you look at it.

Friday, May 03, 2013

100 Great Rock Tunes

I'm going to start organizing my 100 Greatest Rock Tunes. You are encouraged to make suggestions and discuss those suggested. Here are 9 to prime to the pump: Bruce Springsteen - born to Run, Bruce Springsteen, Thunder Road; Bob Seeger - Turn the Page; Queen - Bohemian Rhapsody; The Beatles - Hey Jude (not necessarily my favorite, but a classic, I might actually prefer Paperback Writer); The Beatles - While My Guitar Gently Weeps (my favorite); The Who - Love, Reign o'er Me; The Who - You Better you Bet; The Police - Synchronicity.

On Facebook I've already been offered:

10. Elton John - Someone Saved My Life Tonight (I'm not so sure about this one, actually)
11. Billy Joel - Piano Man (hard to argue, but I'm not sure it's my favorite)
12. Billy Joel - A New York State of Mind
13. Billy Joel - Downeaster Alexa