Photo of the Day (1.1.2011)

Photo of the Day

Happy New Year! We hope today finds you merry and optimistic about the year ahead, rather than remorseful about last night….

This photo of an empty waiting room seems appropriate for two reasons. First, I always associate an airport waiting room – or airports in general – with anticipation. I’m not usually inside an airport unless I’m going somewhere, or just returning. We can think about 2011 as a trip that we are about to embark on, with all the happy trip anticipation that comes with the sound and smells of an airport.

The second reason I like this photo is because an empty waiting room is generally a good thing. No one likes to wait, and a packed waiting room usually means that somehow plans have been delayed. Flickr user jwannie writes that “the MSP airport at 5am is boring,” but I happen to think it looks like a wonderful place to be.

Have any travel photos that exude optimism? Upload them to Gadling’s Flickr pool, and we just might choose one for our Photo of the Day feature.

Jesse James’ greatest escape

Jesse James, Northfield, old west, wild westJesse James was riding high. After the end of the Civil War he had rocketed to fame by committing a string of daring robberies in Missouri and neighboring states. In a region where ex-Confederates still felt bitter over losing the war, this former Confederate guerrilla earned sympathy and support. One of their own was striking back at the Yankees, and it didn’t matter that some people got hurt in the process.

The James gang is an early example of political spin. Jesse James wrote angry letters to the press, claiming he had been persecuted by the government and forced into a life of crime, while at the same time insisting he was innocent. He was helped by newspaperman John Newman Edwards, a former Confederate officer who wrote laudatory articles about the James boys and their friends.

So as the James gang robbed trains, banks, and stagecoaches, part of the population cheered. Soon dime novel writers began to write books about them, describing exploits that never occurred, and their fame grew even higher. But in 1876 Jesse James finally went too far.

He had a bold plan. The First National Bank in Northfield, Minnesota, was supposed to have a lot of money, but even more important was that it held the savings of Adelbert Ames, a former Union officer and Northern politician who had tried (and failed) to give blacks equal rights in Mississippi during Reconstruction. Ames was the kind of Yankee Jesse and his friends hated.

Jesse and Frank James set out with a group of fellow ex-guerrillas: Clell Miller, Charlie Pitts, Bill Chadwell, and the Younger brothers Cole, Jim, and Bob. After riding hundreds of miles from Missouri to Minnesota, they scouted the area and on September 7 they struck. Frank, Jesse, and one other entered the bank while the rest guarded the entrance. One robber, probably Jesse, vaulted over the counter and pulled a gun on the three employees.

%Gallery-108420%Then everything went wrong. The bank employees insisted the safe was locked with a time lock and couldn’t be opened. Actually it was unlocked, but the bandits never checked. Instead they rummaged around the counter and found less than thirty dollars.

Meanwhile, the guards outside stopped a citizen from going into the bank, roughing him up in the process. Another man saw this, put two and two together, and started shouting that the bank was being robbed.

Now the James gang’s own fame defeated them. Everyone in those days feared the gang would come to their town and so kept their guns handy. Soon the bank robbers standing guard outside found themselves being sniped at from windows and doorways. Miller and Chadwell fell mortally wounded, and the others got shot as well. They opened up with their six-shooters, but the citizens kept firing. The local sheriff, caught without a weapon, even threw rocks. As a group of drunks fled a nearby saloon, one of the robbers took careful aim and killed one of them.

The fight set off a panic inside the bank. One cashier got shot in the head, and another ran for a side door and got away with only a minor gunshot wound. The robbers ran out to their friends outside and galloped off.

Soon several posses were in hot pursuit. In a running battle that lasted more than a hundred miles and several days, the James gang tried to shake off their pursuers, but the telegraph sent the news all around the countryside and everyone kept watch. Frank and Jesse split off from the rest of the group. The stole a series of horses and at one point had to crawl across a railroad bridge right under the noses of a posse that was guarding it. Eventually they got away, but the Younger brothers and Charlie Pitts got cornered in a stand of trees by a large posse. In a furious gunfight Pitts was killed and all the Younger brothers seriously wounded. Half dead and low on ammunition, they gave up. Luckily for them Minnesota didn’t have the death penalty. All received long prison sentences.

Every year, on the weekend after Labor Day, Northfield celebrates The Defeat of Jesse James Days with reenactments, a rodeo, parade, and carnival. The citizens of Northfield are as caught up with Jesse James fever as much as the modern-day rebels of rural Missouri, but in a very different way. They’re proud of their motto, “Jesse James slipped here”.

It was the second-to-last time he slipped.

Don’t miss the rest of my series: On the trail of Jesse James.

Coming up next: The assassination of Jesse James!

[Photo courtesy user Elkman via Wikimedia Commons]

Minnesota porn ban to spank some hotels, except when too expensive

If a porn ban in Minnesota‘s Winona County passes, hotels will have to operate under a “clean hotel” policy. County employees wouldn’t be able to stay at properties that have adult fare on the menu, though there are some specific exceptions to this rule. Ostensibly, this measure is intended to lower incidents of sexual and domestic violence, which the county says has a link to porn according to some studies (though there are indicators the other way, too).

According to a Winona Daily News:

“In and of itself, this policy is not a cure-all,” the document reads, “but it is an important effort to help prevent a social disease and its related costs to the public.”

Winona County officials believe that keeping porn out of hotels will alleviate the $221 million spent on issues related to sexual violence (in 2006). They feel that this form of prevention will lead to lower law enforcement costs. Winona Daily News continues:

“It is logical to assume that prevention of certain criminal activities would reduce the costs of providing these services,” the issue paper states. “Prevention would also prevent the much greater social cost to the community.”

In an effort to keep county workers from viewing adult entertainment – and banning local hotels from selling it in order to get county business, the state could be doing far more harm than good. The question staring me in the face is a simple and important one: does the county bring hotels more business than porn?

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For county workers, hotel stays entail local travel, so the business opportunity can’t be terribly high. The Winona Daily News notes that “law enforcement officials and other employees often require they spend the night in a hotel.”

Meanwhile, in-room adult entertainment is good for some big cash. The Family Research Council and a dozen other anti-porn organizations estimate that this form of entertainment is good for 60 percent to 80 percent of in-room entertainment revenue (though this is a dated estimate). Of course, the opponents of the freedom to view adult entertainment have had a tendency to pump up market size and other business-related numbers (as I found during four years of covering the business side of the adult entertainment industry) in order to emphasize its reach and influence. So, it makes sense to take a look at another source.

J.W. Marriott, whose background makes him no fan of adult content, is pretty clear on the importance of steamy televisions to his business. He wrote to the American Decency Association:

“If we were to eliminate R and non-rated offerings, the systems would not be economic [sic]. We believe it is more practical to have a system available through a wider variety and to allow our guests to make their own selections.”

Of course, the choice between county cash and porn cash may not be necessary. Given the nature of the hotel market in the state and the existing porn options, the measure may be close to irrelevant. Already, more than 480 “clean hotels” exist in the state, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. And, the rule only applies if a property is the “host site” for an event that the county employee is attending. Also, money does talk: if staying in porn-free digs would cost at least 15 percent more than staying at a porn-friendly establishment, the cost of “morality” isn’t worth it.

[Via USA Today, photo by Steve Zak Photography]

Photo of the day (8.26.10)

County fairs are full of good old-fashioned fun. Where else can you see a tractor pull, eat nothing but deep-fried foods, see carnies in their native habitats, and admire the area’s finest livestock, all in a day? This photo from the Nicollet County Fair in Minnesota by mlmartense is titled “the surly llama” but I get more of a coquettish, even cunning, vibe. It’s as if the llama alpaca has big plans for me to follow. Actually, llamas and alpacas are quite docile and gentle creatures often used as therapy animals as they have a calming effect on people. Looking into this fella’s eyes, I can see how an hour of feeding and hugging a llama or alpaca could be an excellent form of therapy.

Have you taken an evocative animal photo in your travels? Upload it to our Gadling Flickr pool (make it downloadable, please!) and it could be a future Photo of the Day.

UPDATED: It turns out this charming creature is, in fact, an alpaca and not a llama. Apologies to any pack animals offended by the mix up.

The ultimate Minnesota Twins fan getaway package

Target Field shot by Annie Scott
The Millennium Hotel in downtown Minneapolis, which is walkable to Target Field, has unveiled a Baseball Fever Package for die-hard Twins fans who want to stay downtown (even if they just live over in Wayzata).

The package, which includes:

  • Standard accommodations for two
  • Convenient complimentary parking in the hotel’s attached parking ramp
  • 2 Minnesota Twins t-shirts, 2 Minnesota Twins koozies and a box of Cracker Jacks
  • Two complimentary beverage vouchers for Martini’s lounge
  • Early check-in and late check-out to relish in victory

… starts at just $154 per night and is valid on any Twins home game days. This is a great way to check out the new Target Field stadium if you haven’t, or just to romance your nearest and dearest baseball fan.

Biased? Me? Never. I’m hoping other cities with great teams have hotels which will follow suit! Visit Millennium Hotel Minneapolis and use the code TWINSFAN to book.

[Photo by Annie Scott.]