Sunday, May 31, 2015

Your Flip-Flops Are Grossing Me Out

from SLATE:

The bane of society

"They’re unsightly, unhygienic, and unfit for public display."
“Some slow week in summer, I should write a tirade against flip-flops,” I unwisely remarked to my editor one disgusting August afternoon a few years back, as we walked back from lunch behind a woman whose street-blackened soles could be glimpsed anew with each schlapp!-ing step. Now, during an early-July lull between big summer movie releases, he’s gone and called my bluff. And the truth is, I’m not really one for composing tirades. I’m a live-and-let-live sort when it comes to personal grooming and style, and whatever qualities I’m remembered for at my funeral, I’m fairly certain neither hygiene nor chic will top the list. But the increasing prevalence of all-day urban flip-flop wear during the summer months is something we need to talk about as a culture.

I won’t deny that this ancient shoe design, which can be seen in Egyptian murals dating back to 4000 B.C. (the British Museum owns a 1,500-year-old pair made of papyrus) has its situational utility. On the beach, by the pool, showering at the gym, taking out the garbage, making a quick run to the Laundromat—all these are moments in which the advantages of lightweight, easy-to-don-and-doff footwear are self-evident (even if personally, as a non-fan of the feeling of rigid objects wedged between my toes, I’d prefer an across-the-foot “slide” in those moments). I understand, too, that there are parts of the world where the inexpensive, mass-produced flip-flop is widely worn for reasons other than aesthetic choice; in many circumstances, it may be the only shoe that’s both available and affordable. But we are not here to discuss the footwear choices of impoverished villagers, just-showered athletes, or Jimmy Buffett strumming his six-string on his front porch in Margaritaville. We’re talking about grown adults in affluent societies—people presumably in possession of at least one pair of actual shoes—who see fit to navigate the grimy sidewalks of large cities shod only in a loosely flapping, half-inch-thick slip of rubber. Those people—you, if you’re among them—need to face the reality that you are, in essence, going barefoot, and it’s grossing the rest of us out.

From what angle to approach the wrongness first? The crux of the flip-flop problem, for me, lies in the decoupling of footwear from foot with each step—and the attendant decoupling of the wearer’s behavior from the social contract. Extended flip-flop use seems to transport people across some sort of etiquette Rubicon where the distinction between public and private, inside and outside, shod and barefoot, breaks down entirely. I’ve witnessed flip-flop wearers on the New York City subway slip their “shoes” off altogether and cross their feet on the train-car floor with a contented sigh, as though they were already home and kicking back in front of a DVR’d Cheers marathon. We would all look askance at a person who removed his socks and sneakers on the train before ostentatiously propping his naked dogs in plain sight. Why do people get a break just because they happen to be wearing footgear that takes them 90 percent of the way there?

Then there’s the lack of support and protection the flip-flop offers its wearer’s foot. Of course, the same might be said of any flat, thin-soled shoe—but as soon as you slap a heel strap and a buckle onto that sad, flapping sole, my objections disappear. Individual sandals and clogs are subject to scrutiny as to their wearability and visual appeal: Tevas and Crocs may be aesthetic abominations unto the Lord, but at least they perform most of the basic functions of shoes. They permit the wearer to break into a run or take a step backward when needed (who can predict when you’ll need to sprint to catch a bus or help a friend move his couch on short notice?). And with their thicker soles and foot-harnessing straps, they at least go some way toward protecting the feet from the most egregious aggressors in the outside environment: broken glass, loose nails at construction sites, wads of gum, pools of motor oil, piles of dog poop, puddles of human effluvia. (If this unappetizing imagery is skeeving out you flip-flop loyalists, welcome to the mental world of everyone who looks at your feet.)

It’s tough to find hard numbers for the growing pervasiveness of flip-flops as city footwear, though the explosive growth of the popular, Brazilian-owned Havaianas brand over the past two decades suggests that wherever we’re choosing to wear them, we’re certainly buying more of the things than ever. But anecdotally, it’s evident that flip-flop culture is steadily gaining ground. In 2005, several members of the Northwestern women’s lacrosse team wore them on a visit to the Bush White House, sparking a national conversation about whether shoes originally worn to ward off fungus at the gym were also appropriate for trekking through the Oval Office. By 2011, the stigma had diminished to the extent that Obama became the first-ever president to be photographed wearing a pair of flip-flops (though to the president’s credit, the context—an ice-cream shop in his native Hawaii, where he was vacationing with his family—was entirely flip-flop appropriate. It’s not like he was meeting with foreign dignitaries).

I contacted some professionals to confirm my suspicion that flip-flops are not only unappealing and unsanitary, but actively bad for the health of the human foot. Dr. Richard Kushner, a podiatrist in New York City, stopped just short of committing to the condemnation of flip-flops per se—though he allowed that they left the foot more vulnerable to injury, and that any thin-soled, unsupportive shoe would encourage the eventual degradation of the structures that maintain the joints of the foot: “If the foot is too flat on the ground, there’s a clawing effect that happens with the toes.” Asked about the hygienic properties of the flip-flop as city street-wear, he replied, “That’s another matter. That’s something that I myself certainly wouldn’t …” He trailed off, joining me in a moment of anguished silence.

Jeff Gray, C. Ped., a pedorthist and director of education at the orthotics company Superfeet Worldwide in Ferndale, Wash., was more voluble in his condemnation of the rubber-soled scourge. “I see young people going through airports wearing flip-flops and I want to run after them and say ‘I can help you.’ And half their foot isn’t even on the shoe; it’s collapsed off the shoe. … I believe 20 years from now we’re going to see a whole generation who will have foot problems when they’re in their 30s and 40s—soft tissue problems, joint problems, arthritis.” I asked him to lay out the precise anatomical problem with locomotion via flip-flop: “Mother Nature knew that when your foot hit the ground it needed to be a loose bag of bones; then when you push off it converts to a rigid lever. Shoes are really a timing device that manages the transition between those two states.”

With the ordinary flip-flop, he continued, the “bag of bones” stage of the step lasts too long, leaving the foot in the pronated (inwardly rolled) position. (This would explain why flip-flop soles tend to wear out from the inside edge first, and why people walking in them often seem to have inwardly collapsing ankles.) Gray also believes that backless shoes in general are a major cause of injuries and falls, especially among older people, thanks to their lack of maneuverability: “Go and take the lug nuts off your car and see how well you corner.”

My final line of argument against flip-flops is a more nebulous one, having to do with their laziness and lack of character as footwear. Because of the ease with which they’re put on and removed—along, perhaps, with their generic ubiquity—flip-flops connote a sort of half-dressed slatternliness, a sense that the wearer has forgotten to do anything at all with his or her body from the ankles down. I was going to call them “foot underwear” (nomenclature that would be consistent with their older U.S. designation as “thongs,” a term still used in Australia) but that’s not quite right—after all, it’s not like you’re going to put a pair of real shoes on top. More precisely, flip-flops are foot robes, and seeing hundreds of strangers walk by in dirty, sidewalk-sweeping bathrobes barely held on with loosely tied belts (the analogy holds up all the way through) is no one’s idea of summer fun. Unless your daily commute is a stroll from your hammock across white sands to the piña colada stand you manage in Waikiki, please consider leaving the foot robes at home.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

The Sonics and Burger Records,
this week on 'The Pharmacy' (podcast)

from Dangerous Minds:

Gregg Foreman’s radio program The Pharmacy is a music / talk show playing heavy soul, raw funk, 60′s psych, girl groups, Krautrock. French yé-yé, Hammond organ rituals, post-punk transmissions and “ghost on the highway” testimonials and interviews with the most interesting artists and music makers of our times…

This week in conversation with Gerry Roslie, keyboardist and vocalist of the highly influential garage band The Sonics, Lee Rickard and Sean Bohrman, founders of the cassette revival record label Burger Records and Jonathan Toubin, founder of New York Night Train and the “Soul Clap Dance Party.”


Mr. Pharmacy is a musician and DJ who has played for the likes of Pink Mountaintops, The Delta 72, The Black Ryder, The Meek and more. Since 2012 Gregg Foreman has been the musical director of Cat Power’s band. He started dj’ing 60s Soul and Mod 45’s in 1995 and has spun around the world. Gregg currently lives in Los Angeles, CA and divides his time between playing live music, producing records and dj’ing various clubs and parties from LA to Australia.

Set List:

The Fall - Mr.Pharmacist (Intro)
The Sonics - Shot Down
The Ideals - Go Get a Wig
Sonics Gerry Roslie Part One
Set Chosen By - Bobby “Pantichrist” Butler (The Voodoo Rhythm and Pantichrist Hardware Store / Bern Switzerland)
The Wailers - Out of Our Tree
Billy ‘The Kid’ Emerson - A Dancin’ Whippersnapper
Little Richard - Keep a Knockin’
Richard Berry - Louie Louie
Sonics Gerry Roslie Part Two
Set Chosen By - Mr.Pharmacist (The Pharmacy / Los Angeles, Ca)
The Ikettes - Don’t Feel Sorry for Me
Les Jaguars - Jaguar Shake
The Equals - Green Light
King Coleman - The Boo Boo Song
The Avengers - Be a Caveman
Burger Records Sean and Lee Part One
Set Chosen By - Victoria Rawlins (All Girls , All Vinyl / Los Angeles, Ca)
Small Faces - What ‘Cha Gonna Do about it ?
Johnny Kidd and the Pirates - Shakin’ All Over ’65
The Seeds - Can’t Seem To Make You Mine
Screamin’ Jay Hawkins - Frenzy
Burger Records Sean and Lee Part Two
Set Chosen By - Mr.Pharmacist (The Pharmacy / Los Angeles, Ca)
Ike and Tina Turner - Strange
The Ideals - Go Go Gorilla
Etta “Miss Peaches” James - Tough Lover
Junior Wells - I got a Stomach Ache
Sonics Gerry Roslie Part Three
Set Chosen By - Rick Barzell (Green Slime / Los Angeles, Ca)
Don “Pretty Boy” Covay - Bip Bop Bip on Atlantic 1957
The Cadillacs - Holy Smoke Baby
The Rumblers - I Don’t Need You No More
The T-Bones - Rail Vette
Sonics Gerry Roslie Part Four
Set Chosen By - Jonathan Toubin (NYNT + Soul Clap / NYC)
Jenny Rock - Le Train Pour Memphis
Erma Franklin - I Don’t Want No Mama’s Boy
Lorenzo Holden - The Wig
What’s Happening - Hot Buttered Buns
Jonathan Toubin of Soul Clap

Friday, May 29, 2015

Atheist Uses 'Religious Freedom' Law To Challenge
'In God We Trust

from the New Civil Rights Movement:
Atheist Michael Newdow is taking advantage of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), using it to challenge the “In God We Trust” that’s inscribed on U.S. coinage and currency.

Newdow argues that the inscription goes against the first ten words of the Bill of Rights, which state that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” Complaints that state that "In God We Trust" goes against the Constitution have failed in the past.

So Newdow, an attorney and physician, is hoping that he’ll be able to argue that the motto, established by the U.S. in 1956, violates the RFRA under the section that states that “religious activity may not be substantially burdened without a compelling governmental interest and laws narrowly tailored to serve that interest.”

He writes that, “for those who feel that being forced by the government to carry a message that violates their religious ideals is substantially burdensome, lawsuits are now being prepared in the seven (of twelve) federal circuits that have not yet heard challenges to this governmental practice.”

Newdow asks people to “Join in and help make our nation stronger as it continues on its trajectory towards truly equal respect and protection for people of all races, of all national origins, of all genders, of all sexual orientations, and — as stated in the Constitution before any of those other characteristics — of all religious beliefs.”

According to ThinkProgress’ Jack Jenkins, Newdow could claim that atheism is a religion and that atheists should be exempt from seeing “In God We Trust.” He could also use people whose religious beliefs “are implicitly spurned by the phrase,” such as a Jewish man whose religion objects to the word “God” written out.

Jenkins thinks that this “just might work.”


I sure hope so, because this is LAME, almost as bad as starting each session of congress with a fucking prayer, pathetic. - GEF

Thursday, May 28, 2015

What I learned about leadership when I interviewed the biggest drug dealer in history

from Boing Boing:

Rick Ross sold about a billion dollars worth of crack cocaine during his "career."

We want you to come out here and interview "Freeway Rick Ross" on stage.


I was talking to Jayson Gaignard. I don't really know anything about anything so Jayson had to explain and then I looked up Rick. And then I got obsessed.

Rick Ross sold about a billion dollars worth of crack cocaine during his "career."

I read every book. I read his autobiography. I read about a dozen articles. I watched three documentaries.

I flew out to Jayson's Mastermind Talks in Napa Valley.

Seth Godin has great advice about speaking at conferences: If you speak at a conference either do it for free because you love it, or charge FULL RETAIL.

I flew out to Jayson's conference for free.

I was really nervous because I knew I had nothing at all in common with Rick. Maybe he would hate me. Some nerdy Jewish guy who thinks he knows everything.

I had written down about 100 questions but I knew I wouldn't look at my notes during the interview. I then rewrote them from memory. And then rewrote them again.

I knew the questions I rewrote the most were the ones that were probably most interesting to me.

There were many things I didn't care much about: politics, legal issues, the Iran-Contra situation (Rick was fooled by the CIA into providing drug profits to the Contras).

The rise of gang violence was an issue so, before the interview, I had lunch with Rick and asked about that.

He told me that while he was there, everyone worked for one cause: making money, and they knew that if homicide police came in then that would be the end of the money.

"There was less gang violence when I was in charge," he said, "because we were all getting rich".

We had a great interview that lasted an hour and the result will be on my podcast within the next few weeks.

Rick Ross's most active years were from 1981-1988. Basically a billion dollars worth of crack went through his organization. His connection was from Nicaragua. His distribution were all the gangs that he grew up with in South Central LA.

His family broke up when he was four. He grew up amidst non-stop violence. He watched his uncle kill his aunt. Gang violence was every day.

He didn't learn to read or write so when he was 18 he was kicked out of high school and kicked off the tennis team where he was an aspiring champion. That was his one chance, he felt, to get out of the ghetto.

He was on the street and needed to make money without an education, a family, and the ability to read or write.

He asked an ex high school teacher for advice on how he could make money. The teacher suggested he sell drugs.

So he sold drugs. And instead of spending his profits, Rick kept doubling and doubling until all the other dealers were now buying from him and Rick was using his scale to drive his own costs down.

Eventually he was the main connection in all of the United States, buying up to $5 million worth of cocaine A DAY.

The podcast will have the guts of the interview. But I was impressed how soft-spoken, ready to answer, and humble Rick was.

He had spent, in various periods, close to 20 years in jail. Now his main goal was to lecture kids in jail and school how to avoid the situation he was in.

Here's what I gather were his main rules on leadership. How to lead a billion dollar organization where many of the people below him ("all of them", Rick said and the crowd we were in front of laughed) carried guns.
"I wanted the same for them and for them to even surpass me."

They might not always take it. But give them the chance to be as successful as you and they will take that example to the people below them.
This sounds strange coming from a drug kingpin but there aren't any lawyers or courts to track down liars. Honesty is the law in that game.

When there are lawyers, people lie and deceive and betray. When everything is based on your word and everyone is carrying guns, honesty is the rule.

"If there was any funny business, I'd rather not deal with them anymore, or be very careful with them in the future."
Nobody ever saw Rick being flashy. He was so low key that even when he was running almost a half billion dollars a year, the police had no idea what he looked like.

Part of this was a decentralized structure. People several layers below him in the organization would not have any contact with him and would have to deal with conflicts at their level.

"I had to show by example how to manage, so the people underneath me would know what to do instead of me being always involved."
Rick arranged the top level contacts between his sellers and his buyers. Then he stepped back.

Everything else had to be dealt with by the people who worked for him and the people who worked for them.

"Everyone knew what they had to do." And if they didn't, they stopped being part of the food chain.
Again: odd advice from a mega drug lord.

Rick poured many of his profits back into his neighborhood.

This was in part to give back, to contribute. But at the same time, it was strategic.

When he went to jail at one point and his bail was set at over a million dollars the million had to come from legitimate enterprises. So Rick could not supply his own bail.

Instead, every household on the block he grew up on, put up their own homes as bail in order to get Rick out of jail.

When you make it not about the money the benefits never stop since money is only a tiny byproduct of the reasons we live, we do things, we strive for success.
When things have the possibility of getting incredibly violent, reduce confrontation as quickly as possible.

Often Rick would simply pay off or write off any losses on people who were no longer fitting in with the organization, rather than have a confrontation with them.

Violence could bring in a whole new set of problems. Better to take a loss and move on and now worry about it.
It's almost a cliche, but Rick told how he went to Cincinnati. Stayed with a friend and told him to invite ten of his friends over.

Then when everyone was there he gave everyone a free supply and told them if they were interested to come back in a week and buy the next batch.

Everyone came back. Sometimes the sooner you charge in a business, the quicker you put a ceiling on your potential for expansion. This is true whether your business is drugs or when Facebook was waiting to charge for ads.
"I always knew I was going to go to jail," Rick said.

But he wasn't going to sit around and wait for it to happen. He owned over a dozen houses so nobody knew where he was.

He barricaded the houses with multiple iron fences so that it would take the police over an hour to smash their way in and by then everyone would be gone.

He would leave town for months at a time. He would put extra profits into "legitimate" businesses like a car parts company and hotels.

He always assumed the worst, so that's how he was able to diversify all the potential ways he could succeed.


At the end of the interview Rick described how he learned how to read and write in prison.

He said that the US jail system spends $45,000 a year per prisoner but refuses to buy prisoners books.

He recommended the books, As a Man Thinketh by James Allen, Awaken the Giant Within by Tony Robbins, Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill, and The Richest Man in Babylon by Og Mandino.

He said that when he was broke and his mother was broke and his community was broke and he couldn't read or write and had no education or prospects, this seemed like the only way out.

When asked what he could've have done differently he paraphrased, The Richest Man in Babylon.

When I was young I asked the most successful person I knew how I could make some money, he said.

He looked down for a few seconds. Looked back up at the audience. Paused.

"I asked the wrong person."

Image: Patrick Bastien Photography. Copyrighted free use


James Altucher is an entrepreneur, chess master, investor, and writer. He has started and run more than 20 companies. He has also run venture capital funds, hedge funds, angel funds, and currently sits on the boards of several companies. His writing has appeared in major national media outlets and his blog has attracted more than 10 million readers since its launch in 2010. His latest book is called The Choose Yourself Stories.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

When New York was New York Mother Fuckin' City

from The Guardian:
by Kevin Baker

"'Welcome to Fear City' – the inside story of New York's civil war, 40 years on"

‘Stay away from New York City if you possibly can’ was the stark warning that greeted visitors 40 summers ago – courtesy of a mysterious ‘survival guide’ that symbolises one of the weirdest, most turbulent periods in the city’s history
Travellers arriving at New York City’s airports in June 1975 were greeted with possibly the strangest object ever handed out at the portal to a great city: pamphlets with a hooded death’s head on the cover, warning them, “Until things change, stay away from New York City if you possibly can.”

“Welcome to Fear City” read the stark headline on these pamphlets, which were subtitled “A Survival Guide for Visitors to the City of New York”. Inside was a list of nine “guidelines” that might allow you to get out of the city alive, and with your personal property intact.

The guidelines painted a nightmarish vision of New York; one that made it sound barely a cut above Beirut, which then had just been engulfed in Lebanon’s civil war. Visitors were advised not to venture outside of midtown Manhattan, not to take the subways under any circumstances, and not to walk outside anywhere after six in the evening.

They were also instructed to engrave their possessions with special metallic pens, to clutch their bags with both hands, to hide any property they might have in their cars, and not even to trust their valuables to hotel vaults. “Hotel robberies have become virtually uncontrollable, and there have been some spectacular recent cases in which thieves have broken into hotel vaults.” And oh, yes: visitors should try “to avoid buildings that are not completely fireproof” and “to obtain a room that is close by the fire stairs”.

Tourists must have been baffled, if not horrified. They might have been even more shaken had they known that the men in casual clothes handing them these strange, badly set little pamphlets – with their funereal black borders and another death’s head leering at them inside next to the smirking wish “Good luck” – were members of New York’s police forces.

“A new low in irresponsibility,” fumed New York’s embattled mayor at the time, Abe Beame, who sent the city’s lawyers into court to try to ban distribution of the pamphlet. They failed. Justice Frederick E Hammer agreed that the members of “New York’s Finest” distributing the pamphlet were violating “a public trust” – but ruled that this was a “reasonable dissemination of opinion” under the US constitution, even if it struck at the heart of public confidence.

Near panic ensued. The New York Convention and Visitors Bureau immediately dispatched emissaries armed with slideshow presentations to London, Paris, Frankfurt and Brussels, to “prove” to European travel agents just how attractive the Big Apple still was. Tourism was one of the city’s few remaining industries, still drawing 10.5 million visitors to the city each year, despite reports of massive city budget cuts.

“Those comments don’t get broadcast outside New York,” worried the bureau’s president Charles Gillett, as he announced the dispatch of his goodwill ambassadors. “But ‘Fear City’ – that went out to the whole world.”

New York’s fiscal crisis of the mid-1970s is surely one of the weirdest moments in the history of the city – indeed, of the United States. It was a time when the wholesale disintegration of the largest city in the most powerful nation on earth seemed entirely possible. A time when the American president, Gerald Ford – egged on by his young chief of staff, one Donald Rumsfeld – sought not to succour New York but to deliberately shame and humble it, and perhaps even replace it as the world’s leading financial centre.

Reportedly one million Fear City pamphlets were printed for distribution, with a further million on order if those ran out. The pamphlets were to be followed up with a couple of equally alarmist tracts, entitled “If You Haven’t Been Mugged Yet” and “When It Happens to You …” aimed at New York residents. They were produced and to be distributed by something called the Council for Public Safety, an umbrella group of 28 unions of “the uniformed services”, representing some 80,000 police and corrections officers, plus the city’s firefighters – all infuriated by the city’s plans to lay off thousands of their members.

I remember the New York of that era well, having arrived to start college there in 1976 and never left. The city was compelling in its contradictions: a vibrant and very cheap place to live, it attracted talented young people in droves. It was also coming apart at the seams.

Many of the warnings in the Fear City pamphlet were, of course, ludicrous exaggerations or outright lies. The streets of midtown Manhattan weren’t “nearly deserted” after six in the evening, and they were perfectly safe to walk on. The city hadn’t “had to close off the rear half of each [subway] train in the evening so that the passengers could huddle together and be better protected”. There were still many safe and secure neighbourhoods outside Manhattan, and there was neither a spate of “spectacular” robberies nor deadly fires in hotels.

The pamphlet read like one more piece of the dystopia porn then filling American cinemas; these were the years of Taxi Driver, The French Connection, Marathon Man, Escape from New York, Death Wish and The Warriors, to name a few. Jaded New Yorkers quickly turned the cover of Fear City into a tee-shirt, sold back to tourists in souvenir shops alongside other classics such as the “Welcome to New York” shirt – with its image of a .45 handgun and the charming instruction, “Now Hands Up, Motherfucker!”

Yet a frightening truth lurked beneath much of the pamphlet’s calamity howling. Crime, and violent crime, had been increasing rapidly for years. The number of murders in the city had more than doubled over the past decade, from 681 in 1965 to 1,690 in 1975. Car thefts and assaults had also more than doubled in the same period, rapes and burglaries had more than tripled, while robberies had gone up an astonishing tenfold.

It’s difficult to convey just how precarious, and paranoid, life in New York felt around that time. Signs everywhere warned you to mind your valuables, and to keep neck chains or other jewellery tucked away while on the subway. You became alert to where anyone else might be in relation to you, augmented by quick looks over your shoulder that came to seem entirely natural.

I knew few people who had been mugged or worse, but everyone I knew had suffered the violation of a home break-in. Worst was the idea that anything could happen, anywhere, at anytime. Female colleagues working in midtown routinely found their handbags had somehow been rifled during lunch hours, their credit cards and wallets gone.

While watching a movie once in an uncrowded theatre, my wife-to-be looked over to see her handbag moving on the seat beside her. A man had crawled down an aisle, crouched behind her chair, and was rummaging through her bag with his hand. Discovered, he simply ran out through the fire door. All the manager could do was shrug, and offer us two free tickets.

There was a pervasive sense that the social order was breaking down. Most subway trains were filthy, covered in graffiti inside and out. Often only one – and sometimes no – carriage door would open when they pulled into a station, and in summer they were “cooled” only by the methodical sweep of a begrimed metal fan that just pushed the sordid air about. The trains ran late, and were always crowded; their denizens included chain-snatchers, raggedy buskers and countless beggars, including at least two legless individuals, manoeuvring with remarkable agility between the cars on their wheeled boards.

The roads were in no better condition. Public restrooms were almost non-existent; dangerous and dirty when they were available at all. Men could often be seen pissing in the gutter down side-streets. Times Square’s venerable old theatres and spectacular movie palaces were torn down for office buildings or allowed to slowly rot away, showing scratchy prints of cheesy second-run films or pornography, which any casual visitor might have thought was the city’s leading industry.

Countless storefronts advertised live sex acts, X-rated videos, books, costumery and assorted knick-knacks. There were porn theatres even in respectable neighbourhoods, and corner newsstands routinely featured a vast array of pornographic magazines, with stunningly brazen acts depicted on their front covers.

Vandalism was incessant, with the expectation that anything not firmly bolted to the ground and covered in some protective coating would be stolen, broken, graffitied, spat on, pissed on, set on fire, used as a shelter, or tossed on to the subway tracks. Public mirrors (in reality, polished metal) were strategically placed by subway staircases so you could glimpse any lurking assailants.

Communities in each of the city’s boroughs were in advanced states of decay. Neighbourhoods, such as East New York or Brownsville in Brooklyn, were regularly compared to Dresden after the second world war. The Bronx, which had been a bastion of desirable upper-middle-class living until the mid-60s, was now burning nightly; once-magnificent apartment houses going up in flames lit by junkies or landlords looking to dispose of buildings they could no longer let or maintain.

Major pieces of infrastructure, such as the East River bridges, were allowed to rust until they were in serious danger of collapse. Grand Central Terminal was nearly lost to developers when Judge Irving Saypol – best known as the attorney who sent the Rosenbergs to the chair, and soon to be indicted on corruption charges himself – overturned the city’s landmark preservation law. Only Jackie Kennedy Onassis, in a handwritten letter, was able to convince Mayor Beame to risk scant city funds on an appeal, asking: “Is it not cruel to let our city die by degrees, stripped of all her proud monuments, until there will be nothing left of all her history and beauty to inspire our children? If they are not inspired by the past of our city, where will they find the strength to fight for her future?”

Beame found the money, and Grand Central was saved on appeal. But the first widow’s anguished words might have served as an epitaph for the era: was it not cruel to let our city die by degrees?

New York, like F Scott Fitzgerald, had gone broke in the usual way: slowly at first, then all at once. The city was no worse run, nor more corrupt, than it had been through most of its history, but for 10 years it had relied on a disastrous policy of funding its operating budget with short-term debt: Rans (“Revenue Anticipation Notes”), Tans (“Tax Anticipation Notes”) and even Bans (“Bond Anticipation Notes” – that is, notes drawn against future notes). The city’s financing had become so slipshod and haphazard that it no longer even maintained an official set of books. “In New York State, we haven’t found only back-door financing, we’ve got side-door financing,” lamented Governor Hugh Carey.

By early 1975, New York City owed $5bn to $6bn in short-term debt, out of an operating budget of $11.5bn. According to the then-city budget director, Peter Goldmark Jr, “Many people believe there is little or no real security or receivables behind these obligations.” Wall Street bankers, who had enabled much of this reckless behavior, now abruptly refused to take up any more of the city’s notes, leaving it teetering on the edge of bankruptcy.

In fairness, New York was still paying out much more than it received in state and federal taxes. It was also expected to pay out a higher share of support to its indigent citizens than any other major American city – and no city had anything like the number of welfare recipients that New York did: over a million by 1975. In the years since the second world war, the poor and the aspiring had flocked to the city just as they always had. What they found, though, were not jobs and hope, but heroin and firearms. The city had lost a million manufacturing jobs since 1945; 500,000 of them since 1969.

New York could no longer serve as both poorhouse and cash machine for the nation. The city turned to Washington for help, asking the federal government to back its bonds while it got its fiscal house in order, by making draconian budget cuts and reforms. It was then that President Ford decided to advance his own political prospects by holding New York up for ridicule to the rest of the nation.

Ford, an accidental president about to face a stiff primary challenge from Ronald Reagan, went before the National Press Club in Washington on 29 October 1975 and called New York’s mismanagement “unique among municipalities through the United States”. He blamed its situation on “high wages and pensions … its tuition-free university system, its city-run hospital system and welfare administration”. Ford insisted that the city’s “day of reckoning” had come, and promised he would “veto any bill that has as its purpose a bailout of New York City to prevent a default”.

The speech provoked the most famous headline in the history of the (usually conservative) New York Daily News, a tabloid boasting the highest circulation of any paper in America at the time. In 144-point type, its front page proclaimed: “Ford to City: drop dead.”

Reagan or no Reagan, Governor Carey – who had just spent a desperate summer fighting to cut New York’s budget to the bone – was baffled by such intransigence from the genial, deal-making Ford. Down in Washington to lobby for a bailout plan, Carey was told why by Melvin Laird, a former US defence secretary under Richard Nixon. “Jerry’s been told by somebody that when New York City collapses, Chicago may become the financial centre of the US,” Laird informed him.

But who could be spreading such nonsense? “Well, Rummy comes from Illinois,” Laird confided. “Rummy – he’s your problem!”

Donald Rumsfeld, then Ford’s 43-year-old chief of staff, was apparently operating under the delusion that Chicago could shortly become the world’s financial centre. Carey would have to look elsewhere for help.

New York’s budget cuts fell heaviest on the city’s public workforce. In May 1975, Mayor Beame had announced severe reductions in salaries, pensions and working conditions, plus the layoff of 51,768 city workers – more than one-sixth of its employees – with the proviso that these cuts might be averted if all the city’s workers agreed to work four days a week, for a commensurate salary.

But the municipal unions were not in a giving vein. Their members had borne the brunt of the social chaos over the past 10 years: workers in public hospitals had dealt with hundreds of thousands of heroin junkies; subway workers had got their deteriorating, antique trains back out on the rails every day, 24 hours a day. The police had engaged in almost open warfare with the Black Panthers and other would-be revolutionaries. Firefighters rushed to thousands of false alarms, and were repeatedly bombarded with bricks and garbage, or even shot at, while they tried to keep the city from burning.

“The mayor has a right to discuss a four-day week. Let him discuss it as a monologue,” responded Victor Gotbaum, the feisty executive director of District Council 37 (DC37), an amalgam of some 60 union locals representing 110,000 workers in different lines of work. Albert Shanker, the even more belligerent leader of the city’s largest teachers’ union – already lampooned in Woody Allen’s sci-fi comedy Sleeper as the man who set off the third world war – demanded a 21% raise for his members, saying he would rather see the city go bankrupt than give in.

The most audacious and ruthless tactics, however, would come from the uniformed employee unions of the Council for Public Safety. The vast majority were police – especially the roughly 40,000 members of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association (PBA), the rank-and-file street cops who were scheduled to suffer nearly 11,000 layoffs.

“Cops tend to like to hit back a little,” Richie Steier – editor of The Chief, a newspaper for New York’s municipal employees – told me recently. Steier expressed some sympathy about the cuts the police were facing, but allowed: “They’re not big on diplomacy. It’s a volatile union.”

In 1966, the New York Police Department had defied Mayor Beame’s predecessor, John Lindsay, and won a bitter fight against the appointment of an independent review board with a racially tinged campaign that included lurid adverts depicting a terrified young white woman standing alone by a darkened subway station.

The new head of the PBA, Ken McFeeley, decided on a similar tactic: “Fear City”. McFeeley, a broad-chested, 36-year-old Navy veteran, had been on the force for 13 years before being elected head of the association, most recently driving a patrol car around the crime-infested Crown Heights neighbourhood of Brooklyn.

The creation of Fear City was “strictly McFeeley and the PBA”, Steier said, quoting one former city union commissioner. Certainly it was McFeeley, and McFeeley almost alone, who was willing to become the public face associated with the pamphlet. Urging business leaders to stop the police cuts, it looked for a long moment as if his defiance might carry the day.

On 30 June 1975, the city laid off an initial 15,000 workers, including thousands of cops and 1,600 firefighters – 20% of the city’s entire force. Some 26 fire companies were simply disbanded. By September, 45,000 workers had been laid off – and the unions reacted with rage.

Ten thousand municipal workers demonstrated in front of First National City Bank, whose arch right-wing president, Walter Wriston, had led the bankers in demanding city cutbacks. McFeeley’s cops held a mass demonstration around city hall, blocking traffic and letting the air out of motorists’ tyres when they complained. Highway workers picketed on major roadways during rush hour, while bridge workers cranked up three of the city’s drawbridges and simply walked away.

Garbagemen staged a two-day wildcat strike that left 48,000 tons of trash to mellow in the June breezes. On the picket lines they yelled, “This isn’t Fear City, it’s Stink City!” Shanker’s teachers staged a one-week strike at the start of the school year in September, after the city laid off 7,000 teachers. They marched with signs that read, “Fear City, Stink City and now, Stupid City.”

Yet the tide had already begun to turn. Most of New York’s municipal unions condemned or distanced themselves from the Fear City campaign, including the unions representing police sergeants, lieutenants and captains. When the PBA won the right to distribute its Fear City pamphlets, Sergeant Harold Melnick, head of the Sergeants’ Benevolent Association, told the press “it’s time that reason took over”, adding that everyone “recognised an obligation to the City of New York ... Most police officers who stop me – 99% – are not happy about the Fear City tactic,” he claimed.

Other unions had also begun to reassess their slash-and-burn tactics. “We could stop the collection of millions of dollars a day, turn off the water supply, pull out the ambulance drivers, leave Coney Island without lifeguards,” ruminated Gotbaum, the DC37 union’s executive director, during the crisis, with a frankness no American union leader would dare voice today. “We could rape the city. [But] to me, this would be disgraceful for any union to do. I never think there’s validity in destroying the city. I really believe that a union has a responsibility to the public.”

Soon, even McFeeley and the PBA backed off. After a day or two, the pamphleteering ceased. Plans to hand out Fear City at train and bus stations were never implemented, though the threat remained. Instead of destroying New York City, the unions ended up saving it.

Where the banks and federal government baulked, Gotbaum and other union leaders persuaded their members to throw $2.5 billion in pension funds – often their entire savings for old age – behind the city’s bonds. If the city still went bust, there was a chance they would lose it all.

Throughout the morning of 17 October 1975, a car idled dramatically outside City Hall, waiting to rush out legal documents officially declaring New York bankrupt. Gotbaum and others sought to persuade the teachers’ union boss Shanker to stack the nearly half-billion dollars of teachers’ pension funds behind the city’s bonds, too (there were rumours that the bearish Gotbaum had threatened to throw him out of an eighth-storey window if he didn’t go along). In fact, Shanker had already begun to pull in his horns, getting his teachers to go back to work even though the city only restored 4,500 of the 7,000 positions it cut, telling them, “A strike is a weapon you use against a boss that has money. This boss has no money.”

The union leaders and government officials negotiated hurriedly in the Manhattan apartment of longtime city powerbroker Richard Ravitch, absently devouring slabs of matzoh, the only thing they could find to eat, and scattering the crumbs all over the carpet. At one in the afternoon, “the matzoh summit” broke up when Shanker declared simply, “Okay, I’ll do it.”

The city was saved – for the time being.

Governor Carey, meanwhile, was seeking out other pressure points to use on Jerry Ford; some of these would be found abroad. In London, the Times newspaper called Ford’s position denying aid to New York City an “act of monumental folly”. At the International Monetary Fund’s October 1975 summit in Washington, Ford reportedly approached the West German chancellor Helmut Schmidt and asked amiably, “How’s the Bundesbank? How’s the mark?” only to be told: “Mr President, never mind the Bundesbank or the mark. If you let New York go broke, the dollar is worth Scheiße!”

Schmidt went on to announce publicly that a New York default would have “a domino effect, striking other global financial centres such as Zurich and Frankfurt”. At a later summit in France, the French president Giscard d’Estaing joined Schmidt in insisting that the bankruptcy of New York “would be seen as the bankruptcy of America”.

At home, public sentiment seemed to shift. Polls showed nearly 70% of Americans supporting some kind of aid for New York, as long as the city balanced its budget and taxpayers outside New York didn’t have to foot the bill. In late November 1975, Ford urged Congress to pass a bill making $2.3bn a year available for three years to New York in direct loans. It quickly passed and was signed into law by the president.

The federal credit line was vital to restoring financial confidence in New York City. But it mollified no one: not Reagan conservatives, and not New Yorkers. The following year, the city handed presidential candidate Jimmy Carter – whose local adverts included the line, “I’ll never tell the people of the City of New York to drop dead” – a majority of more than 700,000 votes over Ford. This was more than twice Carter’s narrow margin of victory in New York State, whose 41 electoral votes put him in the White House.

Twenty-five years later, Ford was still insisting to a former aide to Hugh Carey, “I never said ‘New York City, drop dead’.” But New Yorkers knew better.

The city would not go bankrupt, but years of austerity and cutbacks still lay ahead, many of them imposed on the same men and women whose sacrifices had just rescued the city. Those city workers who kept their jobs generally lost their cost-of-living raises, at a time when inflation reached 16% to 18%. The NYPD shrank from more than 42,000 police officers to less than 27,000 by 1990 – the same year that murders in New York reached a record high at 2,245. The bitterness lingered as well. When a blackout set off a riot of looting and mayhem in the summer of 1977, some 10,000 cops – 40% of the off-duty force – ignored orders to report for duty.

“Municipal workers’ wages and pensions never recovered,” claimed Robert Fitch in his 1993 history, The Assassination of New York. At the same time, he noted, the fiscal crisis proved to be a great boon to New York’s elite as the city “got rid of the stock-exchange tax, halved the personal income tax, and set the real-estate tax at a record low”.

Today, New York City is a vastly different place than it was 40 years ago: cleaner, brighter, safer, more orderly – and richer. According to the US Census, its population is close to a record 8.5 million people – up by more than 300,000 since 2010. Once destitute and crime-ridden neighbourhoods such as Crown Heights, or Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn, are rapidly being gentrified – something that would have seemed unimaginable in the days of Fear City.

Other neighbourhoods, such as the High Line and the Meat-Packing District, seem to spring up overnight, complete with towering glass residences and chic new shops and restaurants. At times Manhattan looks, and sounds, like a single, gigantic construction site.

Crime here has been dropping exponentially for more than 20 years, making New York one of the safest cities in America. In 2014, murders fell to 328 – according to The New York Times, “The lowest figure since at least 1963, when the Police Department began collecting reliable statistics.” This new “Safe City” is reflected in a huge increase in tourism: there were more than 56 million visitors to New York in 2014, over five times the number that came in 1975.

And yet, a fear of returning to “the bad old days” appears to linger in the psyche of many New Yorkers of a certain age. The Republican candidate for mayor in 2013, one Joseph Lhota, tried to openly evoke that fear in his campaign. He was trounced, losing by nearly 50 percentage points to a little-known and little-regarded city councilman, Bill de Blasio.

Since then, the local outlet of the Murdoch press and sensationalist TV news programmes have trumpeted any uptick in crime or social disorder, especially since the city ended its police’s wildly unconstitutional “stop and frisk” programme.

This past February, however, the city set a modern record of 12 straight days without a murder, and crime continues to drop. For better and for worse, New York’s bad old days are not coming back. The average cost of a condominium or apartment in Manhattan is now $1.5m, for instance; no one is about to walk away from such investments the way many people fled their rental apartments in the 1960s and 1970s.

Rather, New York’s main problems today are those of wealth, and its distribution. Thanks to the seemingly endless real-estate boom, some estimate there are as many as one million millionaires in the city – as well as some 85 billionaires. At the same time, more than 21% of the city’s population is living in poverty; about the same proportion as in 1980.

Every mechanism of New York’s current economy widens these disparities. Much like London, the city has suffered the Invasion of the Foreign Building Snatchers: tycoons from around the world scooping up residences as boltholes or tax havens they visit for only a few days each year.

Meanwhile, those apartment and condo owners who are full-time residents routinely join landlords in jacking up commercial rents, driving out beloved small businesses and neighbourhood eateries, and reducing the cityscape to a monoculture of faceless chain stores, nail salons, bank branches and overpriced restaurants.

More and more, the new buildings of the super-rich turn their denizens inward, justifying their extortionate prices by offering amenities such as gyms, screening rooms, wine bars and even libraries – and thereby further reducing the street life that any great city depends upon.

There arises, for the first time in its history, the possibility that New York will no longer be a place where talented young people want, or can afford, to go – becoming instead the world’s largest gated community: incalculably wealthy, sterile, and dull. This, surely, would be the real Fear City.

Kevin Baker is a novelist and historian who lives in New York City. His latest book, The Big Crowd, is based on the greatest unsolved murder in mob history. @kbbakerauthor

summer note:

Growing up when this was what was going on in NYC is part of the reason I think it's disrespectful to wear shoes with your feet exposed, or shorts (unless it's above 90 degrees) in the city EVER. Manhattan may be an island but it ain't a fucking beach "cornballs", (as Ricky Powell would say) show some god damned respect to the concrete, steel, asphalt, bricks, and subways, suburbanites! This is NEW YORK MOTHERFUCKIN' CITY leave your sandals at the beach. - GEF

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Humans Have Shorter Attention Span Than Goldfish, Thanks To Smartphones

from the Telegraph:
A Microsoft study highlights the deteriorating attention span of humans, saying it has fallen from 12 seconds in 2000 to eight seconds

The average human's attention span is... oh look, a bird!

According to scientists, the age of smartphones has left humans with such a short attention span even a goldfish can hold a thought for longer.

Researchers surveyed 2,000 participants in Canada and studied the brain activity of 112 others using electroencephalograms.
The results showed the average human attention span has fallen from 12 seconds in 2000, or around the time the mobile revolution began, to eight seconds.

Goldfish, meanwhile, are believed to have an attention span of nine seconds.

The study, by technology giant Microsoft, did however find that the ability of humans to multitask has improved.

It read: "Canadians [who were tested] with more digital lifestyles (those who consume more media, are multi-screeners, social media enthusiasts, or earlier adopters of technology) struggle to focus in environments where prolonged attention is needed.

"While digital lifestyles decrease sustained attention overall, it’s only true in the long-term. Early adopters and heavy social media users front load their attention and have more intermittent bursts of high attention.

"They’re better at identifying what they want/don’t want to engage with and need less to process and commit things to memory."
The research follows a study by the National Centre for Biotechnology Information and the National Library of Medicine in the US that found 79 per cent of respondents regularly "dual screen" by using portable devices while watching TV.

Bruce Morton, a researcher with the University of Western Ontario's Brain and Mind Institute, suggested it is the result of humans craving information.

"When we first invented the car, it was so novel," he said.

"The thought of having an entertainment device in the car was ridiculous because the car itself was the entertainment.

"After a while, travelling for eight hours at a time, you'd had enough of it. The brain is bored. You put radios in the car and video displays.

"Why? Because after the first 10 minutes of the drive I've had enough already. I understand this.

"Just because we may be allocating our attention differently as a function of the technologies we may be using, it doesn't mean that the way our attention actually can function has changed."

I have an iPod and iPad, still no smartphone though, a regular old flip phone that i get laughed at for on occasion. - GEF

Monday, May 25, 2015

This Is Why You're Terrible With Names

from The Presurfer:

There is a very simple reason why it's so easy for the names of new acquaintances to slip right out of your head within moments of being introduced: Names are kind of meaningless. Memory experts say that the more pathways back to a memory you have, the easier it becomes to retrieve that memory, and this just doesn't often happen naturally with names.

Sure, there may be family history or a great deal of sentimental meaning behind a person's first name, but when you meet someone at a party, there's no readily apparent reason why this guy should be named Mike and that guy should be named Max. Names are completely arbitrary, and hold no specific information in them.


Sunday, May 24, 2015

Spend your sunday reading some of this:
The Digital Einstein Papers

The Digital Einstein Papers is a site by the Princeton University Press. It's an open-access site for The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein, the ongoing publication of Einstein's massive written legacy comprising more than 30,000 unique documents.

The site presents all 13 volumes published to date by the editors of the Einstein Papers Project, covering the writings and correspondence of Albert Einstein (1879-1955) from his youth to 1923.

Thanks to the Persurfer

Saturday, May 23, 2015

How Music Stimulates the Unconscious Mind

from Big Think:

Music plays with the brain in interesting ways. For instance, past studies have shown listening to a familiar, favorite song causes our brain to release dopamine — a chemical associated with pleasure and reward. However, some researchers believe music could be utilized to boost cognition in unconscious minds.

Alexandra Ossola from Braindecoder writes about the curious case of seven-year-old Charlotte Neve. In 2012, she had a had a brain hemorrhage while she was sleeping. Surgeons were able to stop the bleeding, but she had several seizures after and slipped into a coma. Ossola writes about her astounding recovery:
“Charlotte's mother, Leila, was at her bedside listening to the radio when Adele's hit 'Rolling In The Deep' started playing. Leila and Charlotte had sung the song together many times and, as Leila sang along to her unconscious daughter, she saw Charlotte smile. The doctors were stunned. Over the next two days, Charlotte recovered more of her faculties — she could talk, focus on colors, and get out of bed.”

It's uncertain if this recovery was caused by the music or if the entire thing was just a coincidence. However, it has become the basis of a recent study where researchers played music to 13 patients — all in comas for different reasons. The researchers split the patients into two groups; in one, the researchers played some of the patient's preferred music and in the other, researchers played a continuous sound to act as the control. Then, the researchers measured the patients' brains with an electroencephalograph (EEG) while they called the patient's name.

The researchers wrote in their paper:
“The cerebral response to the patient's first name was more often observed in the music condition, than in the control condition.”
These results have led researchers to demonstrate “that music has a beneficial effect on cognitive processes of patients with disorders of consciousness. The autobiographical characteristics of music, that is, its emotional and personal relevance, probably increase arousal and/or awareness.”

It's possible that this kind of familiar stimuli could help victims with brain trauma repair certain neural pathways. Past instances have also shown calling a patient's name shows increased brain activity. But it's uncertain. The unconscious mind is such a mystery — hopefully, one researchers will be able to figure out how to repair in the future.

Read more about the study at Braindecoder.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Classical paintings inserted into contemporary
urban settings

from Dangerous Minds:

Ever wanted to see William-Adolphe Bouguereau’s “Le Chant des Anges” or his “The Youth of Bacchus” painting peacefully hanging out in a subway, or Luca Cambiaso’s “Venus and Adonis” on a park bench seen from the perspective of city bus? Well now you can with the help of Ukrainian artist’s Alexey Kondakov‘s ongoing series “Art History in Contemporary Life.”

While some of the classical paintings are playful and whimsical in their new environments, there are other paintings that suggest sadness and pain when placed in a contemporary setting. Some of the paintings photoshopped into the subways and buses look as though they’re drunkards and / or addicts who are being helped by kind, cherubic strangers. They simply take on a whole new meaning or story.









via Beautiful Decay

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Johnny Rotten speaks at a bookstore
around the corner from here.

from Dangerous Minds:

Rock and roll’s turd in the punchbowl: An interview with John Lydon

John Lydon’s new memoir Anger is an Energy: My Life Uncensored is his second go round at chronicling his thoroughly fascinating life. His first Rotten: ‘No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs was published over 20 years ago so there was much new life to be written about and additonal elaboration and re-evaluation of his early years from the vantage point of now. He’s mellowed and aged quite nicely. Lydon has gone from rotten to nicely fermented. From snarly whine to barley wine.

In this interview conducted at my favorite bookstore in the world, The Strand, Buzzfeed Books editor Isaac Fitzgerald and Lydon have a grand old time shooting the shit as Johnny occasionally takes a chug from a bottle of cognac.

Anger is an energy. It really bloody is. It’s possibly the most powerful one-liner I’ve ever come up with. When I was writing the Public Image Ltd song ‘Rise’, I didn’t quite realize the emotional impact that it would have on me, or anyone who’s ever heard it since. I wrote it in an almost throwaway fashion, off the top of my head, pretty much when I was about to sing the whole song for the first time, at my then new home in Los Angeles. It’s a tough, spontaneous idea. ‘Rise’ was looking at the context of South Africa under apartheid. I’d be watching these horrendous news reports on CNN, and so lines like ‘They put a hotwire to my head, because of the things I did and said’, are a reference to the torture techniques that the apartheid government was using out there. Insufferable. You’d see these reports on TV and in the papers, and feel that this was a reality that simply couldn’t be changed. So, in the context of ‘Rise’, ‘Anger is an energy’ was an open statement, saying, ‘Don’t view anger negatively, don’t deny it – use it to be creative.
A couple of observations: the fellow in the background, to Johnny’s right, looks a wee bit like a Madame Tussaud waxworks version of Mark E. Smith. And why is Lydon dressed like a sous chef?


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The all-time best DEVO live recording.
found by Dangerous Minds - listen here now.

from Dangerous Minds


This is simply the best DEVO live recording out there. The sound is crystal clear, and the band is absolutely on fire during this 1978 performance at San Francisco’s Old Waldorf.

Terry Hammer was an audio engineer during the heyday of first wave punk in San Francisco. He maintains a mind-blowing YouTube channel upon which he has graciously decided to share dozens of live recordings he engineered for Bay Area radio stations KALX, KTIM, KSAN, KSJO, KUSF, and KSFS. Though it appears that Hammer was not the engineer on this particular live recording of DEVO, broadcast on KSAN on November 10th, 1978, he certainly had access to a low generation tape—and was kind enough to share it with the rest of us!



DEVO here are touring for their first album Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are DEVO!, and were a well-oiled machine at this point. Perhaps it was a desire to impress the West Coast punkers that has the group blasting through their songs at furious tempos, far more hectic than on their albums.

This is not the first time these recordings have been made public. Obviously they were on the KSAN airwaves, but then some enterprising bootleggers in the late ‘70s released the show under at least two different titles.





The sound here is much improved from those ratty bootleg LPs. This thing is phenomenal.

Check it out right here:



Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Technology's lost art: The ancient magic of the record label

from Dangerous Minds:


In our race to embrace new technologies much has been lost. During the 50s and 60s General Electric spokesman Ronald Reagan appeared regularly on American television declaring with godlike certainty “that progress is our most important product.” And we bought it. And we’re buying it still.

Until their recent resurgence, vinyl records were a thing of the past. Now it’s compact discs that are being phased out. DVDs and Blu-rays are next. The powers that be want us streaming data through the ether without the hassle or production costs of actually making something you can hold in your hand and own, not just store in a cloud somewhere. In our embrace of the new, faster, most convenient thing, we’ve lost a substantial amount of what we love about the things we love, the things that make our lives more beautiful. My Sonos streaming device is an ugly block of white plastic. My turntable, a Thorens with a beautiful wooden plinth, is a masterpiece of design and function, gorgeous to look at, soulful, unique. My record collection is not just, to my ears, a superior way to listen to music, it is a wonderland of marvelous sleeve art, label design and picture discs. All of which I can hold in my hands, all responding to gravity and easily handed off to a friend to appreciate as much as I do. No one ever comes into my home and asks to see my set lists on Deezer or flips through my Amazon cloud collection.

The phasing out of vinyl, CD, DVD, celluloid, happened so fast that a lot of people were caught by surprise. I own a vintage audio store and people are coming in on a regular basis to buy CD players because the local big box stores don’t sell them anymore. You might be able to find a shitty player that will shuffle dozens of CDs or some crappy all-in-one system. But a good single tray player with a decent digital audio chip is getting harder to find unless you move into expensive audiophile gear territory. If you told me even five years ago that CD players and CDs themselves would become collectible I would have laughed and said you were nuts. Guess what? Anyone want to buy a Suicide Commandos’ CD for $400. I got one.

The return of vinyl is wonderful for many of us. But the big three music corporations hate it. They’ve had to shift back to making stuff. And they have to pay a lot of people to make it. The new records sold in my store put scores of people to work, from the guys who make my record bins, to workers pressing the vinyl to the artists designing record jackets again. Add to that the truckers who move the vinyl, the folks in my store who sell it and homegrown turntable manufacturers like U-Turn who can’t keep up with production demands. All those people making livings thanks to vinyl. Not to mention, the musicians who now have more control over their product and profit when they produce their own records. Yes, a record costs much more than a CD to make or an MP3 to stream. But a record is something special to a bands’ fans. It is an artifact, a totem, something you hold close to your heart knowing that not everyone owns one of these slabs of black magic. With demand so high and current production so limited, every record made today is almost instantly collectible. You may be fine listening to iTunes or Amazon cloud, but vinyl is something you want to own. It is precious. It is art.

So that’s my vinyl rant. It was all leading up to sharing these beautiful 78rpm record labels produced in Britain between the years of 1898 and 1926. Enjoy them. And be happy that we may be seeing their like again, if not already.














More of these lovely labels can be viewed at Early 78s UK.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Is rap the most important music since 1960?
Scientists say they have proof - CNN

from CNN:
(CNN)Forget The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, the most important development in pop music in the past half century is hip-hop.

That's not an opinion, it's fact -- backed up by hard data, says a team of researchers from two London universities.

In a study published Wednesday in the journal Royal Society Open Science, the researchers say they threw out "musical lore and aesthetic judgment" in favor of scientific rigor.

"We had a sense that lots of people have opinions about popular music, but nobody has any objective evidence," said Armand Leroi, one of the study's authors.

Opinions vs. evidence
To gather that evidence, they used music recognition technology -- similar to what's in the apps SoundHound and Shazam -- to analyze more than 17,000 songs that made up 86% of the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 between 1960 and 2010.

The researchers took 30-second clips of each song and broke them down into topics relating to harmony and timbre, like "major chords without changes" and "guitar, loud, energetic."

Teaming up with the Internet music site, the researchers then studied how the different topics fit into different genres and styles, and how their popularity rose and fell over the decades.

"Everybody thinks the best music was produced when they were 17 years old. We wanted to do something better than that," Leroi, a professor of evolutionary biology at Imperial College London, told CNN.

Pop music became more diverse, not less
Here are some of the most interesting findings of the study:

• The rise of rap music and related genres appears to be "the single most important event that has shaped the musical structure of the American charts" in the period the research covered.

• Despite talk of a "British invasion," bands like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones didn't set off the revolution in American music in 1964. But they did benefit from it and "fanned its flames."

• Although many people complain that pop music has gotten more and more samey, diversity actually increased in the '80s and '90s as hip-hop emerged and flourished. The researchers said they found "no evidence for the progressive homogenization of music in the charts."

• The low point for variety was in the early 1980s, when genres like new wave, disco and hard rock dominated.

Books, paintings are next
Leroi said he expects this study -- which he worked on with Matthias Mauch from Queen Mary University of London -- to be the first of many in an emerging field examining the evolution of different cultures through data.

People are already applying similar methods to digitized books, he said, and paintings are also likely to be fair game through image recognition technology.

"We will be able to reconstruct the history of art and develop a mathematical theory of its evolution, just as scientists have done for the history of life," Leroi said.

But he acknowledges there are some aspects of culture that the technology can't reach -- at least for now.

"What we can't do with a computer is understand the meaning of the music to us," he said.

'Innovations of funk'
The impact of hip-hop cannot be under-estimated, said music journalist Dorian Lynskey. "It redefines what counts as a pop song and what elements you can use: the rapping on one level takes you away from the need for vocal melodies, while the production on the other is more about loops than chords and sampling.

"Hip-hop us a realization of how James Brown saw music, which is that it's about the beats and grooves rather than chords and harmonies. It's the realization of the innovations of funk."

he study by the researchers also identified three key years in which music evolved the most: 1964, 1983 and 1991. Lynskey said that for him, the last of these three years was the most exciting. "I think 1991 was such a diverse year for albums: You have 'Achtung Baby' by U2, which is the sound of a big mainstream stadium act radically overhauling its sound, you've got 'Nevermind' (Nirvana) which sees alternative underground music suddenly becoming a big seller, continuing to this day.

"Then there are these genre-mixing albums, 'Screamadelica' (Primal Scream), 'Foxbase Alpha' (St. Etienne) and 'Blue Lines' (Massive Attack) which are all empowered by sampling and new technology, and the idea that your record collection can be edited and merged to form something new. Along with 'Loveless' by My Bloody Valentine -- these albums are not just collections of classic songs, they're about experiments and expanding the parameters -- those records spawned so much."

Sunday, May 17, 2015

A short for your sunday

This movie was shot during our 20 days trip to Antarctica in December 2014 to January 2015.

[They] started from Ushuaia in Argentina and went to Port Williams in Chile, rounded Cape Horn and crossed the Drake Passage towards the Melchior Islands in Antarctica. [They] spent 16 days in the Antarctic and got to experience the most amazing scenery and wildlife before return[ing] back to Ushuaia.

Friday, May 15, 2015

MY RULES book signing and GEF design PIZZA event!
TONIGHT in Los Angeles !!!

Click for more Event INFO

In case it's not obvious, we will have copies of the 2nd printing of MY RULES the book for sale tonight, and i'll be there to sign them for you.

There will also be this funny, parody, limited edition T-Shirt,
with it's own Pizzanista Box available! (click to see details)


Click for more Event INFO

Click for more Event INFO

Click for more Event INFO

Here's a cool clip of our hosts showing you their spot and some other points of interest for them around town w/food.

Jeff Ho, my son, seated on either side of me as well as Lance Mountain, Salman, Price, and I testing the recipe last month - it's DOPE!