Sunday, July 31, 2011

Best of the Soul Train line Dances

from DangerousMinds

Someone points out in the YouTube comments that Americans are too fat to dance like this anymore.

(via Nerdcore)

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Chris Cahill dies at 54

Chris was a good dude who had some problems, bummer he's gone. I really wanted to get him on film for a "where are they now documentary on the Z-Boys", with Cahill and the "Bullet" gone I can hardly imagine moving forward. He needed to speak more than anyone since he was left out of the first film. Sad shame.

from the July 4th Los Angeles Times:

He joined up with the trailblazing skateboarding group at the Zephyr surf shop in Santa Monica in the 1970s.

By Keith Thursby, Los Angeles Times

July 4, 2011

Chris Cahill, one of the original Dogtown Z-Boys who brought seismic changes to skateboarding with their style and attitude, has died. He was 54.

Cahill was found June 24 at his Los Angeles home, said Larry Dietz of the Los Angeles County coroner's office. A cause of death has not been determined and tests are ongoing, Dietz said.

The Z-Boys came together in the 1970s at the Zephyr surf shop in Santa Monica. Dogtown referred to a coastal area of south Santa Monica and Venice.

"Skateboarding was always kind of about surfing," said Keith Hamm, who wrote "Scarred for Life," which he called a cultural history of skateboarding. "The Zephyr team skated like they surfed," Hamm said, so as surfboards got shorter and more maneuverable the Z-Boys brought a "sharp-turning, faster, aggressive style" to skateboarding.

The Z-Boys, originally 11 boys and a girl, were the subject of the 2001 documentary "Dogtown and Z-Boys" and their story was fictionalized in the 2005 film "Lords of Dogtown." The documentary, co-written and directed by Z-Boy Stacy Peralta, only briefly mentions Cahill, saying he had been last seen in Mexico.

Cahill was an accomplished kneeboarder and "at one point was the best in the world," said Nathan Pratt, another original Z-Boy.

"Chris was kind of the super feisty guy on the team. He definitely had the most spit and vinegar," said Pratt, who has curated exhibits about skateboarding and surfing including one opening this month at the California Heritage Museum in Santa Monica.

Cahill was born Dec. 5, 1956, according to the coroner's office. In an interview with Juice magazine, Cahill said he had lived in Santa Monica since the third grade. He said he was airbrushing surfboards at the Zephyr shop in the 1970s and talked his way onto the skateboarding team.

He was with the Z-Boys at the Del Mar Nationals in 1975 where they first competed against conventional skateboarders. "The Z-Boys, they didn't really go with trick-based contest runs. It was very hard for people, especially the judges, to figure it out," Hamm said. "They definitely represented a shift in the way skateboarding was performed and the attitude that went along with it."

Cahill told Juice that his "competitive nature wasn't that strong in skating." He later worked for Pratt at Horizons West surf shop in Santa Monica before starting his own store. Cahill also lived in Hawaii, Brazil and Mexico and "was an accomplished fine artist," Pratt said.

Bob Biniak, another original Z-Boy, died last year.

A complete list of Cahill's survivors was not available.

Friday, July 29, 2011

A Human-Waste Gold Mine: Bill Gates Looks to Reinvent the Toilet

The article below was originally published in Die Welt via Time Magazine dot com.
Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft who has morphed into the world's best-known philanthropist, wants to reinvent the toilet.

This next big idea for the good of mankind will now also be getting help from German taxpayers after Development Minister Dirk Niebel earmarked $10 million for a joint project with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Over the next five years, this project aims to provide 800,000 people in Kenya with access to sanitation facilities and ensure clean drinking water for 200,000.

The goal is to find "innovative solutions" for sanitation in poor urban areas. Gates says it's time to move on from the era of the classic toilet. He points out that, despite all the recent achievements, 40% of the world's population, or some 2.5 billion people, still lives without proper means of flushing away excrement. But just giving them Western-style toilets isn't possible because of the world's limited water resources.

The matter is urgent: the lack of sanitary installations and hygienic waste removal furthers the spread of disease. UNICEF estimates that 1.1 billion people worldwide don't have access to any kind of toilet or ways of eliminating waste. That, in turn, fouls drinking water and can cause diarrhea, which spreads quickly.

According to UNICEF, at least 1.2 million children under the age of 5 die of diarrhea every year; the main cause is contact with human feces. At the end of June, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon — together with UNICEF — approved a five-year sustainable sanitation plan under which the number of people who have no access to toilets would be halved by 2015.
(See the top 10 famous toilets.)

Ban emphasized that sanitary installations not only play a decisive role in reducing world poverty, but they are crucial for sustainable development and for making it possible to achieve Millennium Development Goals.

Dutch engineer Frank Rijsberman agrees. He heads the Water, Sanitation & Hygiene department at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and he is presently working on two projects. With one project, the foundation supports the construction of pit latrines in rural areas and slums without sanitation facilities. With the other, it supports research projects, giving grants to scientists who come up with new ideas for using human excrement. He says there have been experiments to turn excrement into a kind of microwave that can be used as a source of energy.

He says there are biological bacteria that could turn waste into compost; he talks about the possibility of toilets actually turning urine into drinking water. Human waste could be a real gold mine, Rijsberman jokes. In view of the world's limited water resources, both the Gates Foundation and German Development Policy support various projects for dry toilets that do not use water to flush and that separate excrement from urine in order to dry it.

Another method put forward by the Gates Foundation in South Africa is using the urine of 400,000 people to make nitrogenous fertilizer in powder form. A similar albeit high-tech variation is currently being tested by the Society for International Cooperation in Eschborn, Germany. Germany and the Gates Foundation's projects are complementary, says the German Ministry for Development. The importance of this research is not always easy to explain, says Rijsberman, because anything having to do with human waste provokes a "yuck factor."

Furthermore, hundreds of thousands of those concerned are far from convinced that it's a good idea to use toilets in the first place. "We have a lot of work ahead us," says Rijsberman, who knows he can count on his boss's full support.

And the billionaire himself seizes every opportunity to lobby for the end of the traditional Western toilet. In April, Gates met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Christian Wulff in Berlin. In a press conference he told journalists that they didn't talk politics, but discussed the idea of the "ultimate toilet."

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Finland’s high-quality, consistent education system eschews tests, reveres teachers

from BoingBoing:

On Salon, David Sirota interviews Harvard’s Tony Wagner about his documentary, The Finland Phenomenon: Inside the World’s Most Surprising School System, which looks at the way that the Finnish education system delivers consistent, high-quality education without testing, with long holidays for students, and with teachers who are considered national treasures
There is no domestic testing except a very quiet auditing program to test demographic samples of kids; not for accountability, not for public consumption, and not for comparison across schools. The fascinating thing is that because they have created such a high level of professionalism, they can trust their teachers. Their motto is “Trust Through Professionalism.” The difference between the highest performing school in Finland and the lowest performing school in Finland is less than four percent, and that’s without any testing at all…

Finland is rated among the highest in the world in innovation, entrepreneurship and creativity. It’s not your grandfather’s socialist country in any sense of the word.

But beyond that, what I find so striking is that the reforms in [the U.S.] have been driven and led by businesses for the last quarter century. It was David Kearns at Xerox and Lou Gerstner at IBM calling for a national summit on education and they didn’t invite any educators. They invited CEOs and governors and senators and congressmen.
How Finland became an education leader

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

New York Becoming a Model for How to Effectively Create Green Jobs

A new law will help generate 1 million energy efficiency retrofits on homes and businesses and create over 14,000 full time permanent jobs.

By Emmaia Gelman and Chloe Tribich, on AlterNet

The New York State Legislature's passage of the Power NY Act was a bright moment in a session marred by budget cuts and layoffs. The new law allows the Green Jobs-Green NY program to advance toward goals of generating 1 million energy efficiency retrofits on homes and businesses and creating over 14,000 full-time permanent jobs.

Consider this: Sealing and insulating a home saves 20 to 50 percent on energy. But many owners can't afford this work. That's where Green Jobs-Green NY and the Power NY Act come in.

If you're a homeowner and a utility customer in good standing, the state will pay upfront for retrofits. Using "on-bill recovery" -- the financing mechanism created by the Power NY Act -- you'll repay the state over time via your utility bill.

The repayment is less than the monthly energy savings, so it doesn't increase expenses. The fact that utility customers rarely default on their bills -- even if they pay late -- allows the state to attract billions from investors. The potential environmental impact is also impressive: The program could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of removing about 1 million cars from the road.

To date, New York, like other states, has focused on saving the most energy at the lowest cost without regard to community impact. Not so Green Jobs-Green NY with on-bill recovery. Among other unique elements, the program provides funding for community groups to recruit and educate homeowners. It's a real effort to channel the benefits of efficiency toward hard-hit families.

This vision did not emerge from an office in Albany. It emerged from organizers whose daily work -- knocking on doors of cash-strapped homeowners and unemployed workers -- showed the necessity of interdisciplinary policymaking.

Across the state, grassroots organizers saw that low- and moderate-income families couldn't afford heating costs. They pointed out that utilities annually consume about a month's household income in moderate-income households, and up to 17 percent in poor households.

The problem was compounded by inadequate government policies: homeowners who struggled to pay energy bills usually earned too much to qualify for grant-funded weatherization and too little to take advantage of rebates.

So when Center for Working Families built a multi-sector coalition to devise solutions, grassroots groups emerged as driving forces. They laid out the challenges facing homeowners. They kiboshed proposals that may have appealed to financers but wouldn't work on the ground. They built partnerships with local businesses and labor leaders.

As a result of this work -- and with the powerful support of the Working Families Organization (connected to the Working Families Party), small business owners and labor unions -- the Green Jobs-Green NY Act of 2009 passed the state legislature with near unanimity.

The state's initial implementation efforts were rocky. For timing reasons, on-bill recovery was excluded from the Green Jobs-Green NY Act. NYSERDA -- which has a deserved reputation as a top state energy organization -- was forced to begin implementation quickly. Community groups were not fully engaged.

The consequences became clear when NYSERDA created a loan product that would not work for vulnerable homeowners. Community groups quickly pointed out the problems with mounting late fees and untenable loan criteria. (One income stability requirement would've excluded workers with sporadic or seasonal incomes.) Disturbingly, promises to implement wage and hiring standards -- a critical component of the green jobs vision -- were mostly unmet, in spite of support from the NY State Department of Labor.

In the face of these challenges, the coalition, still anchored by Center for Working Families, held to its goals. Three years of organizing and wrangling are producing results.

The Long Island Progressive Coalition has launched a program with the Laborers' Union that has generated 100 energy audits and promises nearly as many retrofits. This has helped contractors go union and hire union-trained ex-offenders, displaced workers and low-income people, including a fair number of women. In Buffalo, People United for Sustainable Housing (PUSH) has built a coalition of contractors that, with the laborers' support, will develop its existing training infrastructure into union training, and will perform mold remediation, lead work and retrofits on Buffalo's troubled housing stock.

The prime lessons? One: Passing legislation requires a diverse coalition and real political muscle. Two: It's impossible to design meaningful efficiency programs without community engagement. In the absence of grassroots voices, energy policy reinforces economic inequalities and leaves masses of moderate-income households unserved. States wishing to replicate New York's program should take note.

In New York, where housing is inefficient and income disparities are large, the stakes are high. Implemented correctly, Green Jobs-Green NY with on-bill recovery will be the first state program to alleviate economic inequality by reducing energy consumption on a mass scale. If we succeed, it will be because we let communities lead the way.

Emmaia Gelman is the green & equitable economies strategist for Center for Working Families. Chloe Tribich is the communications director for Center for Working Families.

© 2011 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Soda bottles become electricity-less "light bulbs" for people who need them.

In many of the world's poor neighborhoods, homes are built out of whatever materials people can get their hands on, often without windows or electricity. That means the buildings are awfully dark during the day, reducing quality of life, safety, and productivity.

But the situation can be improved with only a used soda bottle, some water, and some bleach. Check out this clever solution, developed by MIT and distributed by the Liter of Light project.
Thanks, BoingBoing

Monday, July 25, 2011


Welcome to the new week.

I can't believe this happened, how I wish I was there to go off.
Pictures? NO.
Slam dancing old school style? YES!

I'm not sure how planned this was but apparently there was some rehersal between two of my favorite people of all time - Chuck Dukowski, Keith Morris and the band "No Age". There are several other clips of this up on you tube, but to hear this angle in front of Dukowki's amp is truly incredible (now 57 years old), inspiring as ever. Fuck I wish i coulda been there...

Sunday, July 24, 2011


from Richard Metzger at DangerousMinds:
With the entire world talking about Rupert Murdoch today—even Fox News got around to mentioning the News of the World phone-hacking scandal three days after everyone else covered it—BBC documentarian Adam Curtis had a dig through the Beeb’s archive to see what lurked there that might shed some new light on Murdoch’s career. He found some real gems:
Following the principle that you should know your enemy, the BBC has assiduously recorded the relentless rise of Rupert Murdoch and his assault on the old “decadent” elites of Britain.

And I thought it would be interesting to put up some of the high points.

It is also a good way to examine how far his populist rhetoric is genuine, and how far its is a smokescreen to disguise the interests of another elite.
Curtis has posted eight video clips of varying length and they are absolutely fascinating. I’ve not seen much footage of Murdoch in his 30s and 40s and 50s and some of it is revelatory, especially hearing Murdoch describe himself as some sort of moralist or populist crusader in the Panorama episode titled “Who’s Afraid of Rupert Murdoch?” It’s interesting to hear how he felt about himself when he was younger. I can’t embed the clips, but I highly recommend taking a look if you have any interest in Murdoch.

More on Murdoch from Curtis:
The British establishment decided Murdoch was not a gentleman. And then he did something much worse. He announced he was going to publish the memoirs of Christine Keeler in the News of the World. Keeler was a “model” whose liaison with a government minister John Profumo in 1963 had ruined Harold MacMillan’s government.

But since then Profumo had redeemed himself in the eyes of the establishment by going off to work for a charity in the east end of London. So when the News of the World published the sordid details of the affair, the whole of London society was scandalised. Murdoch was unearthing a scandal that should have been dead and buried, and destroying one of their own.

And, they said, he was doing it with the sole interest of lining his own pocket. Murdoch was seen as sleazy and destructive.

And this is where his monstrous image began. The man who had first taught Murdoch journalism on the Daily Express in the 1950s summed it up:

“The trouble is - Rupert was regarded as the Supreme Satan”
It’s worth noting that when you consider the general fear and mistrust of Murdoch that has clearly been on display since the late 1960s, he’s got a gazillion times more power, money and influence now. If these observations were true about him then, they are far truer today, that’s for sure

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Very Cool Doc on Early New York Punk Rock Family Trees

Before my time...

from DangerousMinds:

Narrated by the legendary John Peel and based on music writer Peter Frame’s extensive rock and roll family trees, this 1995 documentary features some tasty interviews with members of The NY Dolls, Patti Smith, Blondie, The Ramones, Television, Talking Heads, Richard Hell, Jayne County and more.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Emil Goodman's "Henry Waltz" animated film trailer

"Henry Waltz" is a feature-length animation in development by director Emil Goodman. The trailer gives me the same feeling as Peter Chung's early ├ćon Flux shorts. I look forward to the full film! Henry Waltz.

thanks, BoingBoing

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Lost Teeth Can Be Grown Again

from The Times of India
For the first time, scientists from the Tokyo University of Science have grown fully formed teeth from stem cells.

The artificial teeth that looked like the real thing, were sensitive to pain and could chew food.

Though the breakthrough was made on mice, it could pave the way for those who lose teeth to decay or injury to be able to grow' replacements.

Two types of stem cells, which between them contain all the instructions for making teeth, were mixed together and grown in the lab in a mixture of chemicals and vitamins that started their transformation.

After five days, they had formed a tiny tooth bud'. The fledgling tooth was then placed in a tailor-made plastic box deep inside a mouse's body, and ensured it had access to the fluids and chemical signals it needed to develop further.

Over the next 60 days it grew to form a full tooth, which was then taken out of the box and transplanted deep into the jawbone of a mouse that had had a tooth removed.

Six weeks later, it had fused with the jawbone, the study said.

The tooth had all the components of normal teeth, including enamel, crown and root, and connective fibres to fix it to bone.

The bioengineered teeth were fully functional ... there was no trouble biting and eating food after transplantation, the Daily Mail quoted Masamitsu Oshima, assistant professor at the Research Institute for Science and Technology, Tokyo University of Science, as saying.

Professor Takashi Tsuji of the University spearheaded the research.

The stem cell teeth that are likely to cost around 2,000 pounds each is still at an early stage and researchers say it will take at least a decade before people can grow their own teeth'.

The detail of the achievement has been published in the journal PLoS ONE .

I'm looking forward to this being real for my choppers.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Latest from Max "MVP" Tannone

Ghostfunk pairs one of my favorite hip-hop artists, Wu-Tang member Ghostface Killah, with vintage African funk, high-life, and psychedelic rock music.

- Max Tannone

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

C.R. Stecyk III

I just found this over on Vimeo same time as last weeks Alva post.
C. R. Stecyk III is a multimedia artist widely acknowledged as a major influence within the genres of graffiti and street art. He has participated in more than 300 international exhibitions and his work is included in a number of public collections. A surfboard shaped and painted by Stecyk resides in the permanent archive of the Smithsonian. He was also a writer and production designer on the Sundance award-winning documentary film Dogtown and Z-Boys.

Stecyk co-founded the innovative Zephyr atelier, where the boards he painted for individuals such as Skip Engblom, Miki Dora, Jay Adams, Jeff Ho, Tony Alva and Joel Tudor helped to establish the graphic styles of both surfing and skateboarding.

Stecyk lives and works in Ocean Park, CA.

Directed by Felipe Lima
Production Support from Susanne Melanie Berry & Ashley Fenton
Music by David Lantzman & Andrew Miller
Thanks Michael Leon, Colby Poster Printing Co.

Stecyk and I last Novemeber - photo by Randy Dodson

BONUS: Never released Stecyk scene "rough cut" from the DogTown and Z-Boys Documentary:

This clip is a very rough cut of a deleted segment from the Z-Boys documentary that talks about the original DogTown articles that C.R. Stecyk III wrote for the original SkateBoarder magazine. It begins with some material that will be familiar to those who have seen the film, in it's rough cut form, but then goes on to show various quotes from the stories and an entire scene that is an homage to the DogTown godfather Craig Stecyk that was cut from the film. Craig Stecyk is the reason the DogTown Z-Boys became famous. Stecyk is the one who wrote the stories and took some of the very first photos of the Z-Boys that were seen across the globe. His words inspired legions and helped shape skateboarding into the sport/art it is known as to this day. Those interviewed in this clip include Craig Stecyk, Henry Rollins, Jeff Ament, Ian MacKaye, Glen E. Friedman, Marc Reiter, Stacy Peralta, Nathan Pratt, Jake Phelps (Thrasher magazine), Fran Richards (Transworld magazine). This is the roots of skateboarding.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Devil's Toy

A National Film Board Archive - 1960s Skateboard Video

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Backwards "Reasoning" is Destroying Politics

By Robert Becker, The Smirking Chimp

What! Cognitive research daringly posits our highest intelligence evolved in effect to serve the hardly democratic, Karl Rove credo that put W. in the White House, twice! That our vaunted human reason didn't specialize in problem-solving, nor elevating us from the jungle but this mundane result -- to win arguments? Forget truth, goodness, and the exceptional American way -- let alone the democratic affirmation that rational wisdom is enshrined in majority rule. Okay, I extrapolate to politics, but not by much.

Evolution aside, this explanation clarifies how politics devolved into theatre and stage-managing, how sound bites and wedge issues allow a rightwing minority to dictate national policy. Item: gerrymandered GOP House dominance, up to their ears in contradictions on taxes, deficits, job creation, the role of government, and imperialistic war-making. Politicized "reason" (and language amplified by media) now browbeats a critical mass into shouting the most palpable nonsense -- vs. inspiring critical masses to realize middle-class status is getting stripped clean.

Hey, can progressives join this scheme -- funding entertaining, deranged Michele Bachmanns, think tanks pumping out partisan research, or a leftwing media to gull the gullible? Oh. We believe in education and enlightenment, even rationality, evidence, and wobbly evolution. To our horror, the modern era dramatizes what happens when reason, science and logic are depreciated -- Tea Party suckers (or worse extremists) fall prey to lower impulses -- fear, faith alone, prejudice, passions, instincts, or rapturous fundamentalism.

If true, this new psychology turns logic upside down, turning reason into just another "compulsion" that defines public opinion and remains open to the highest bidder. Conclusive proof aside (absent in the superficial NY Times sketch), this research suggests that rationality, the glory of secular humanism, did not evolve to defeat stupidity or superstition, even the vagaries of organized religion. Them's fighting words I'd think to the moral philosophers filling this site, though an idea helpful to charismatic columnists, politicians, lawyers, preachers, and teachers in the business to persuade.
Reason Seen More as Weapon Than Path to Truth

By Patricia Cohen

. . . Rationality, by this yardstick . . . is nothing more or less than a servant of the hard-wired compulsion to triumph in the debating arena. According to this view, bias, lack of logic and other supposed flaws that pollute the stream of reason are instead social adaptations that enable one group to persuade (and defeat) another. Certitude works, however sharply it may depart from the truth.

"Reasoning doesn't have this function of helping us to get better beliefs and make better decisions," said Hugo Mercier, who is a co-author of the journal article, with Dan Sperber. "It was a purely social phenomenon. It evolved to help us convince others and to be careful when others try to convince us." Truth and accuracy were beside the point.
This thesis raises more questions than it answers: did reason (elevating cause and effect, logic, methodology, continuities and patterns) not precede complex language (required for argument), which seems self-evident. When did brains conquer brawn -- not yet, by some standards? Would parsing facts occur to our half-dressed forebears? Did some early hominid fudge to convince the muscular, tribal idiot next door to share his wife and treasure? Wouldn't high attentiveness to pressing reality (hunting, warfare, threats) be critical to our survival, vs. making the group believe your spiel?

If reason serves a "hard-wired compulsion," then our species remains at its core irrational, prey to winning verbal battles above all. Finally, why aren't other smart, sentient mammals, capable of problem-solving and tool use, thus awarded full status, as in souls? If reason didn't make better decisions about life and death struggles, what did, and how fast -- drugs, trance states, lightning flashes, mythology, or prophets talking with burning bushes on mountain tops?

Undermining secular humanism

The notion that our aggressive, self-centered species applied reason to dominate is no great surprise, testament to clever elites who rise to rule. Nor, for one trained in classical rhetoric, is the notion that argument (as in oratory) aims to persuade, whether done by heroic champions "on our side" or ruthless agents who deceive for their "higher ends." But early man must have trusted verisimilitude when survival depended on tracking reality, while avoiding lies -- that is a saber-toothed tiger, not a phantom, Iraq never had WMDs, and low taxes do not spur job growth.

Okay, team, if not reason -- and confidence in evidence, logic, methodology, with adaptive feedback to correct errors -- what distinguishes us flat-earthers who thought us the center of everything, let alone today's God-is-on-my-side types who know, thanks to divine messaging, one man-made book is literally, perfectly true, despite countless editions and translations. If secular humanists can't trust reason, imperfect as it is, what separates us from brutes, rocks, rock stars and Republicans pandering for president? Or allows us to brag about civilization, even dare harbor the glimmer of hope against disruptive Tea Party idiocy? No, no, I must refudiate such folly or despair.

Evolving, Debating Cavemen?

Maybe the shrewdest cave-dweller influenced the strongman chief, like PR witch doctors do today. Our species obviously survived, likely by taking out competition. But that was far more about out-breeding, interbreeding and bigger clubs, not thought experiments or late-night cave orations. Further, how many of our much later geniuses won "their arguments" when first presented. Au contraire. Being smart, from Socrates through Galileo to Freud, was not fun for the original thinker.

Take Darwin, viewed as a loathsome, monkey-loving insurgent who insulted Victorian stuffiness by insisting hairy cousins whooped it up in trees. His nearly universal "law" of evolutionary biology, opposed still by current Neanderthals, needed a century of scientific verification. Few majorities anywhere (nor Nobel Prize Committees) honored Freud for elevating sexuality, internal conflicts, or unconscious motivations as he sparked a revolution (despite now discredited dead ends). Einstein's revolutionary theories relied on later experiments to validate counter-intuitive hypotheses (relativity, rethinking the "absolutes" of space and time). Climate change warnings appeared decades ago, and still the richest, greatest polluter on earth has no coherent plan to deflect devastation, with only the ultimate magnitude unknown.

Pen Mightier than Sword?

As a writer, with others here, I harbor the delusion the pen is occasionally mightier than the sword. Certainly not my pen -- or anyone's as predatory swords, not reason, dominate our foreign policy. I'd like to envision rationality and majority rule overlapping once again, that is, before the Rapture; that someday we'll boast a leader who's smart, courageous, and principled, not just a high wire balancing act. If power doesn't respect our reality-based top brains at critical moments, our nostalgic fondness for reason, truth and justice will become a dusty memory.

If reason mainly serves "winning arguments," we are doomed as both "confirmation bias" (embracing evidence to confirm entrenched beliefs) and the "backfire effect" (doubling down insupportable positions when challenged) rule our thinking. One wonders how many zealots would forego defiance of evolution if species survival hung in the balance? How many fundamentalists would confuse the upcoming flooding from melting ice-caps, justifiably termed "Biblical," for a watery Rapture? Judging alone by America's massive denials and Bachmann know-nothingism that manically defies reason, I can't help concluding (pace Einstein) that God spends entirely too much time playing dice with the universe.

Robert Becker is a freelance writer and blogger at

© 2011 The Smirking Chimp All rights reserved.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Local man captures entire universe in one photo

The Photopic Sky Survey is a 5,000 megapixel photograph of the entire night sky stitched together from 37,440 exposures. Large in size and scope, it portrays a world far beyond the one beneath our feet and reveals our familiar Milky Way with unfamiliar clarity.

from KOMO news

SEATTLE -- It's been the dream of a Seattle-area man to put the entire universe into one photo.
"And show them what's really hidden out there that we can't see, especially in Seattle," said Nick Risinger. "Maybe on a good night, we see 20 or 30 stars. At full size, you see 20 or 30 million."

Risinger spent a year toting his huge camera with six lenses across the world.

"All throughout the Southwest U.S. and twice to South Africa, so there was 60,000 miles total," Risinger said.

The lenses sit on a special robotic mount.

"The Earth spins, the stars don't stay, so you have to track with them," Risinger said.

To capture billions of stars, it takes some pretty impressive numbers. The photo isn't just one click -- it's made up of 37 ,000 photos and has a resolution of 5000 megapixels.

To get the rich colors, his shutters had to stay open for seven minutes.

"As anybody has shot with their point-and-shoot would know, stars are almost impossible to capture," he said. "It was a lot of, you know, sitting out in the cold out under the stars waiting."

After that, it took months to piece together the thousands of pictures into the largest true-color sky survey. He hopes his breathtaking image will get more young people looking up.

"If I was a kid and I saw this, I would go 'Wow, it's really inspirational,' " Risinger said.

You can see the photo and even interact and zoom in on particular stars at his website,

Friday, July 15, 2011

The New War of Independence - Against Corporate Politics

By RJ Eskow, originally published on the 4th of July, from AlterNet

This is the age of corporatized politics. That means we may admire our leaders, but we can't depend on them. We're paying the price for Thomas Jefferson's unfulfilled desire to "crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial by strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country."

This July 4th, politics is too important to be left to the politicians. The stakes are too high and the system is too broken. Citizen action is everyone's job now, and it will be as long as our political debate focuses on misplaced austerity and ignores the majority's yearning for jobs, growth, and those things that government does best.

But the problem isn't just with politicians, or even the system. The problem is dependence itself.

We call it "Independence Day." But the British didn't leave on July 4, 1776. The war lasted until September 3, 1783, when the Treaty of Paris was signed. July 4th is the day we declared ourselves independent. Victory came with the recognition that freedom is our natural condition. Our country wasn't born with violence, but with the realization that freedom is discovered and claimed, not granted by others. That's why we celebrate July 4, not September 3, as our Day of Independence.

That will disappoint the history-challenged right-wingers whose patriotic posturing is limited to speaking in their odd pseudo-military lingo, that echolalic Esperanto for fantasy revolutionaries. They don't realize that war is a tactic, not a system of values. And "independence"? Today's "Tea Party" wasn't named for the tea-dumping patriots of Boston, but for some self-entitled commodities traders shrieking "losers!" on cable television. They were sneering at struggling homeowners, mocking middle-class people like the Tea Partiers themselves. And they were enraged at the idea that ordinary families might be rescued the same way their own financier class had been rescued.

They won. Nobody's rescued the middle class yet. Unlike them, the Founders believed in common purpose. They shared George Washington's goal of "protecting the rights of humane nature and establishing an Asylum for the poor and oppressed of all nations and religions." They understood what conservatives don't: There's a difference between declaring independence and telling people they're on their own.

When Sarah Palin tells her followers to "RELOAD!" she has no idea where to aim. When Michele Bachmann says she wants people to be "armed and dangerous," she doesn't understand who or what would be endangered. When John Stossel "jokes" about hanging Barney Frank in effigy, he's putting reason (and the tattered shreds of his own reputation) in the noose generals once used for hanging enemies - and patriots like Nathan Hale.

At least their mangling of Revolutionary War history gave us a great chuckle, when Keith Olbermann said Sarah Palin thought Paul Revere was "warning the British Invasion that kicks keep getting harder to find." Conservatives adopt the Revolution's pose and forget its principles. They're dress-up generals in a make-believe war, corporate servants who use the rhetoric of yesterday's revolution to serve today's Redcoats.

We fought for the principles of self-representation and economic freedom. Those principles are under attack again today. But there's no place for rhetorical violence (or any other kind) in today's debate. When corporations intimidate us with economic pressure and distorted information, the best responses are communication and mobilization.

We resisted Britain's state-sanctioned monopolies in 1776. Today's government-sanctioned corporations hang out on Wall Street, not by the chartered Thames. The spirit of the East India Company lives in the five banks which now control nearly 96% of the derivatives market in this country. Our financial oligarchs receive Treasury Department money, Federal Reserve giveaways, and get-out-of-jail-free cards for a corporate crime wave that would make Al Capone blush.

Some of our ancestors came to this country as slaves or indentured servants. The slaves were freed in body but their descendants' economic freedom is not yet fully won. Unemployment's much worse for African Americans. Infant mortality rates are 2.5 times higher than they are for whites and life expectancy is years shorter. Indentured servitude's making a comeback, too. In colonial days people signed away years of freedom for the "loan" of ship's passage to America, where they were sold to bidders for a period of bondage. If only Wall Street had existed then! Imagine the money Goldman Sachs could have made on selling "IBS's" - "indenture-backed securities."

And then shorting them, of course.

Today's borrowers aren't exactly indentured servants, but their contract terms can be unilaterally changed and their debts sold and resold without notice. Their homes may be foreclosed by unknown lenders for violating terms they didn't know existed. If they resist paying unfair penalties the full weight of the law will be brought down on them (but not the banks.) Bad credit may leave them unable to borrow money, rent a home, or even find a job.

These economic injustices and others will continue as long as wealthy contributors corrupt our political process. Many of us feel the President can and should do much more to rein in Wall Street, create jobs, and defend Medicare and Social Security. But any likely opponent would probably be far worse. Politicians in this post-Citizens United world are either limited by corporate power or prostituted to it..

So we must work around, as well as within, the electoral system. That means getting the truth out, speaking for the majority's viewpoint, and outlining the real choices we face. That's especially hard when almost everyone in Washington is pushing austerity over jobs and growth (no matter how many Nobel Prize-winning economists tell them they're wrong), and when media empires mislead us about our situation and its causes. So we must wage a war for the mind - a war against corporate think tanks and TV talking heads who tell us our problems arise from self-indulgence and those in need, not corporate malfeasance and runaway greed.

Politicians can help this war against media monopolies and for publicly-financed elections. But they can't lead it. This week some conservatives claimed John Lennon was a secret Ronald Reagan fan. Jon Weiner, the writer and historian who's authored two books on Lennon, effectively refuted them. Weiner points out that Lennon's last political statement was in support of union workers. But to truly dismiss their claim, all you need (besides love, of course) is this Lennon quote:
"You make your own dream ... If you want to save Peru, go save Peru ... Don't expect Jimmy Carter or Ronald Reagan or John Lennon or Yoko Ono or Bob Dylan or Jesus Christ to come and do it for you. You have to do it yourself."
Lennon was right, and if he were still around I suspect he'd add another Presidential name or two to that list.

We can vote for the best (or least objectionable) choices in the next election, but we can't surrender our fate to them. We'll need to keep pressuring them with calls, petitions, and other initiatives. In this corporatized system, we can't expect many leaders to heed Revolutionary pamphleteer (and ur-blogger) Thomas Paine, who said "Attempting to debate with a person who has abandoned reason is like giving medicine to the dead." Paine also made this timely observation: "Moderation in temper is always a virtue; but moderation in principle is always a vice."

Some of us have surrendered to despair. Chris Hedges, one of our most brilliant political writers, wrote recently: " When did our democracy die? When did it irrevocably transform itself into a lifeless farce ...?" But he's wrong. Democracy hasn't died here, not yet. Despite a half-century of corporate manipulation and misinformation the country elected a President with an unlikely name and biography, one who promised real change.

What we've learned since then is that the system itself must change. That begins with the vision of something better. "Revolution is not the uprising against preexisting order," said the Spanish philosopher Ortega y Gasset, "but the setting up of a new order contradictory to the traditional one." We have to imagine what our leaders can't or won't imagine, then work to bring it into being.

Hard? Sure. But democracy? Dead? Tell it to the Egyptians. They won't be completely free or democratic until we're completely free and democratic. But they've accomplished what seemed impossible, and so can we. It will take action - independent action, action that doesn't depend on a leader or a spokesperson or party, action that rejects even the most informed pessimism or the deepest despair. That kind of action needs an independence that comes from within.

Happy Independence Day.

© 2011 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Giant schools of swarming squid surround fishing photographer

from BoingBoing

Photographer Jon Schwartz [blog] writes in:

"I was kayaking in La Jolla last week and saw a red frothing ball of squid on the surface. I jumped in with my underwater camera and had an incredible, surreal encounter with the huge swarm of squid."

Jon shares photographs from that encounter with Boing Boing, below, and he has a blog post with details here.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The UN Is Aiding a Corporate Takeover of Drinking Water

By Scott Thill, from AlterNet

Early last month, pharmaceutical titan Merck became the latest multinational to pledge allegiance to the CEO Water Mandate, the United Nations' public-private initiative "designed to assist companies in the development, implementation and disclosure of water sustainability policies and practices."

But there's darker data beneath that sunny marketing: The CEO Water Mandate has been heavily hammered by the Sierra Club, the Polaris Institute and more for exerting undemocratic corporate control over water resources (PDF) under the banner of the United Nations. It even won a Public Eye Award for flagrant greenwashing from the Swiss non-governmental organization Berne Declaration. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

"There is no admission of problems with the Water Mandate, or the United Nations Global Compact itself" -- the strategic policy initiative committed to human rights, labor and the environment -- Blue Gold and Blue Covenant author and activist Maude Barlow, who also chairs the National Council of Canadians and Food & Water Watch, explained to AlterNet. "These initiatives continue to flourish, not least because the most powerful member states of the United Nations are fully behind them. This also means that the United Nations is not funded fully. Programs and agencies often rely on private sponsorship to function, and are often barely getting their core administrative budgets funded."

Another major problem is that routinely compromised and controversial institutions like World Bank, International Monetary Fund and regional development banks in general are in control of the United Nations' biggest projects. In April, the World Bank assumed control of the United Nations Climate Conference's new $100 billion Green Fund, which is the opposite of a comforting proposition, considering the World Bank's repeatedly noxious financing of oil and coal projects.

"That gives control of billions of dollars to those who have been the most ardent promoters of water privatization," added Barlow, whose foreword for the Council of Canadians' recently damning report on private sector influence over the United Nations (PDF) argued that the planet is on the verge of a water crisis of terrifying proportions. "We're also seeing the IMF forcing indebted nations to sell off public assets, including water systems, as a condition of receiving financial support. The whole system is rigged for these corporations, and they still are losing contracts, not meeting their obligations and watching as remunicipalization moves forward in France and other core markets."

That kind of illogical corporate performance would logically lead to less control, not more. But the United Nations continues to hand over the reins to multinationals like its new cosigner Merck, which has repeatedly settled in court over everything from carcinogenic pollution to deceptive marketing. Despite the fact that the United Nations' own Joint Inspection Unit stated in a 2010 report (PDF) that the Global Compact's corporate partnerships were an unregulated mess.

"The lack of a clear and articulated mandate has resulted in blurred focus and impact," the report stated. "The absence of adequate entry criteria and an effective monitoring system to measure actual implementation of the principles by participants has drawn some criticism and reputational risk for the Organization, and the Office’s special set up has countered existing rules and procedures. Ten years after its creation, despite the intense activity carried out by the Office and the increasing resources received, results are mixed and risks unmitigated."

The report suggested that not only was a clearer mandate from Member States required to "rethink and refocus" the Compact's corporate partnerships, but that the United Nations' General Assembly must better direct the Secretary-General to delineate the Compact's overall functions "in order to prevent a situation whereby any external group or actor(s) may divert attention from the strategic goals agreed to promote interests which may damage the reputation of the United Nations." The short version? It's not working, and won't work in its current form for the foreseeable future.

But the United Nations' own advice to itself has evidently fallen mostly on deaf ears.

"Unfortunately, the United Nations appears to be embracing more and more partnerships with the corporate sector across the board," Corporate Accountability International campaign director Gigi Kellett told AlterNet. "Civil society has been raising concerns about this flawed approach for over 10 years. There are strong voices within the United Nations, including some Member states, who are questioning the partnership paradigm adopted by the UN and calling for more transparency and accountability."

But they are voices in the wilderness without the concerted support of a motivated public, as well as the usual civil society champions who make stopping this strain of corporate abuse their life's work. Power truly respects only one thing, and that is equally exercised power. And the public is fully empowered to make all the change it wants, provided it can unplug itself from distracting sex scandals and mainstream media marketing primarily designed to nurture its collective complacency.

"Corporations rely on people's tacit support and willingness to look the other way when they engage in conduct that harms people or the environment and undermines democratic governance and decision-making," Kellett said. "When people come together in coordinated fashion and withhold their support from a corporation, that relationship is turned on its head. Boycotts are one powerful way that individuals can withhold their support, but there are range of other strategies. When activists come together and raise questions about a corporation's actions and tie them to its brand and image, the resulting media exposure can greatly impact how the corporation is perceived by consumers, investors or even government regulators."

But how do you boycott a multinational that controls your water supply? Can you shame a mammoth corporation into abdicating control over a lucrative commodity that should instead be regarded as a universal human right? Talk about your Sisyphean tasks.

"Boycotts are much more difficult with water than a product like Coke," said Barlow. "There are no substitutes for water, and when these corporations are given monopoly power over water systems, boycotts are very unrealistic. Suez, Veolia and others are very concerned about their corporate image, but there is no effective means to hurt them financially except to end or block the contracts before they are signed. Boycotts have been very effective as public awareness campaigns, but citizens need to apply pressure on their governments as the first step in stopping the proliferation of voluntary initiatives."

Demanding regulation of the private sector's products -- from water and natural resource commodification to inscrutable financial instruments and beyond -- as well as the public's political electives appears to be the paramount first principle. Because the problem is getting worse and going nowhere, especially now that our dystopian climate crisis has permanently disrupted business, and existence, as usual. From escalating warming and extreme weather to destabilized nations and environments, Earth is already precariously balanced on the tipping point. And giving profit-minded corporations voluntary control over their power and procedures is a 20th century anachronism best left behind.

"We have not proven to have what it takes to deal with the climate crisis," argued Barlow, "and this is because it is all seen as a giant political and financial game, rather than the best and only chance to head off a catastrophe like we have never before imagined. Climate change is upon us, but we will never admit it fully, nor invest in stopping it, if our governments continue to represent corporate interests above others. It is up to us to challenge our states, and make sure they know we are engaged and aware."

Scott Thill runs the online mag His writing has appeared on Salon, XLR8R, All Music Guide, Wired and others.

© 2011 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


Like a Reese's peanut butter cup, when two of your favorites get together...
one of the cooler mash-ups i've heard in a long time...

Forensic Shimmy by WUGAZI
Sweet Release by WUGAZI
Sleep Rules Everything Around Me by WUGAZI
get the original LP's!
Instrument - Fugazi
Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) - Wu-Tang Clan

Thanks, Luke!

Monday, July 11, 2011

14 Propaganda Techniques Fox 'News' Uses to Brainwash Americans

By Cynthia Boaz,

There is nothing more sacred to the maintenance of democracy than a free press. Access to comprehensive, accurate and quality information is essential to the manifestation of Socratic citizenship - the society characterized by a civically engaged, well-informed and socially invested populace. Thus, to the degree that access to quality information is willfully or unintentionally obstructed, democracy itself is degraded.

It is ironic that in the era of 24-hour cable news networks and "reality" programming, the news-to-fluff ratio and overall veracity of information has declined precipitously. Take the fact Americans now spend on average about 50 hours a week using various forms of media, while at the same time cultural literacy levels hover just above the gutter. Not only does mainstream media now tolerate gross misrepresentations of fact and history by public figures (highlighted most recently by Sarah Palin's ludicrous depiction of Paul Revere's ride), but many media actually legitimize these displays. Pause for a moment and ask yourself what it means that the world's largest, most profitable and most popular news channel passes off as fact every whim, impulse and outrageously incompetent analysis of its so-called reporters. How did we get here? Take the enormous amount of misinformation that is taken for truth by Fox audiences: the belief that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and that he was in on 9/11, the belief that climate change isn't real and/or man-made, the belief that Barack Obama is Muslim and wasn't born in the United States, the insistence that all Arabs are Muslim and all Muslims are terrorists, the inexplicable perceptions that immigrants are both too lazy to work and are about to steal your job. All of these claims are demonstrably false, yet Fox News viewers will maintain their veracity with incredible zeal. Why? Is it simply that we have lost our respect for knowledge?

My curiosity about this question compelled me to sit down and document the most oft-used methods by which willful ignorance has been turned into dogma by Fox News and other propagandists disguised as media. The techniques I identify here also help to explain the simultaneously powerful identification the Fox media audience has with the network, as well as their ardent, reflexive defenses of it.

The good news is that the more conscious you are of these techniques, the less likely they are to work on you. The bad news is that those reading this article are probably the least in need in of it.

1. Panic Mongering. This goes one step beyond simple fear mongering. With panic mongering, there is never a break from the fear. The idea is to terrify and terrorize the audience during every waking moment. From Muslims to swine flu to recession to homosexuals to immigrants to the rapture itself, the belief over at Fox seems to be that if your fight-or-flight reflexes aren't activated, you aren't alive. This of course raises the question: why terrorize your own audience? Because it is the fastest way to bypasses the rational brain. In other words, when people are afraid, they don't think rationally. And when they can't think rationally, they'll believe anything.

2. Character Assassination/Ad Hominem. Fox does not like to waste time debating the idea. Instead, they prefer a quicker route to dispensing with their opponents: go after the person's credibility, motives, intelligence, character, or, if necessary, sanity. No category of character assassination is off the table and no offense is beneath them. Fox and like-minded media figures also use ad hominem attacks not just against individuals, but entire categories of people in an effort to discredit the ideas of every person who is seen to fall into that category, e.g. "liberals," "hippies," "progressives" etc. This form of argument - if it can be called that - leaves no room for genuine debate over ideas, so by definition, it is undemocratic. Not to mention just plain crass.

3. Projection/Flipping. This one is frustrating for the viewer who is trying to actually follow the argument. It involves taking whatever underhanded tactic you're using and then accusing your opponent of doing it to you first. We see this frequently in the immigration discussion, where anti-racists are accused of racism, or in the climate change debate, where those who argue for human causes of the phenomenon are accused of not having science or facts on their side. It's often called upon when the media host finds themselves on the ropes in the debate.

4. Rewriting History. This is another way of saying that propagandists make the facts fit their worldview. The Downing Street Memos on the Iraq war were a classic example of this on a massive scale, but it happens daily and over smaller issues as well. A recent case in point is Palin's mangling of the Paul Revere ride, which Fox reporters have bent over backward to validate. Why lie about the historical facts, even when they can be demonstrated to be false? Well, because dogmatic minds actually find it easier to reject reality than to update their viewpoints. They will literally rewrite history if it serves their interests. And they'll often speak with such authority that the casual viewer will be tempted to question what they knew as fact.

5. Scapegoating/Othering. This works best when people feel insecure or scared. It's technically a form of both fear mongering and diversion, but it is so pervasive that it deserves its own category. The simple idea is that if you can find a group to blame for social or economic problems, you can then go on to a) justify violence/dehumanization of them, and b) subvert responsibility for any harm that may befall them as a result.

6. Conflating Violence With Power and Opposition to Violence With Weakness. This is more of what I'd call a "meta-frame" (a deeply held belief) than a media technique, but it is manifested in the ways news is reported constantly. For example, terms like "show of strength" are often used to describe acts of repression, such as those by the Iranian regime against the protesters in the summer of 2009. There are several concerning consequences of this form of conflation. First, it has the potential to make people feel falsely emboldened by shows of force - it can turn wars into sporting events. Secondly, especially in the context of American politics, displays of violence - whether manifested in war or debates about the Second Amendment - are seen as noble and (in an especially surreal irony) moral. Violence become synonymous with power, patriotism and piety.

7. Bullying. This is a favorite technique of several Fox commentators. That it continues to be employed demonstrates that it seems to have some efficacy. Bullying and yelling works best on people who come to the conversation with a lack of confidence, either in themselves or their grasp of the subject being discussed. The bully exploits this lack of confidence by berating the guest into submission or compliance. Often, less self-possessed people will feel shame and anxiety when being berated and the quickest way to end the immediate discomfort is to cede authority to the bully. The bully is then able to interpret that as a "win."

8. Confusion. As with the preceding technique, this one works best on an audience that is less confident and self-possessed. The idea is to deliberately confuse the argument, but insist that the logic is airtight and imply that anyone who disagrees is either too dumb or too fanatical to follow along. Less independent minds will interpret the confusion technique as a form of sophisticated thinking, thereby giving the user's claims veracity in the viewer's mind.

9. Populism. This is especially popular in election years. The speakers identifies themselves as one of "the people" and the target of their ire as an enemy of the people. The opponent is always "elitist" or a "bureaucrat" or a "government insider" or some other category that is not the people. The idea is to make the opponent harder to relate to and harder to empathize with. It often goes hand in hand with scapegoating. A common logical fallacy with populism bias when used by the right is that accused "elitists" are almost always liberals - a category of political actors who, by definition, advocate for non-elite groups.

10. Invoking the Christian God. This is similar to othering and populism. With morality politics, the idea is to declare yourself and your allies as patriots, Christians and "real Americans" (those are inseparable categories in this line of thinking) and anyone who challenges them as not. Basically, God loves Fox and Republicans and America. And hates taxes and anyone who doesn't love those other three things. Because the speaker has been benedicted by God to speak on behalf of all Americans, any challenge is perceived as immoral. It's a cheap and easy technique used by all totalitarian entities from states to cults.

11. Saturation. There are three components to effective saturation: being repetitive, being ubiquitous and being consistent. The message must be repeated cover and over, it must be everywhere and it must be shared across commentators: e.g. "Saddam has WMD." Veracity and hard data have no relationship to the efficacy of saturation. There is a psychological effect of being exposed to the same message over and over, regardless of whether it's true or if it even makes sense, e.g., "Barack Obama wasn't born in the United States." If something is said enough times, by enough people, many will come to accept it as truth. Another example is Fox's own slogan of "Fair and Balanced."

12. Disparaging Education. There is an emerging and disturbing lack of reverence for education and intellectualism in many mainstream media discourses. In fact, in some circles (e.g. Fox), higher education is often disparaged as elitist. Having a university credential is perceived by these folks as not a sign of credibility, but of a lack of it. In fact, among some commentators, evidence of intellectual prowess is treated snidely and as anti-American. The disdain for education and other evidence of being trained in critical thinking are direct threats to a hive-mind mentality, which is why they are so viscerally demeaned.

13. Guilt by Association. This is a favorite of Glenn Beck and Andrew Breitbart, both of whom have used it to decimate the careers and lives of many good people. Here's how it works: if your cousin's college roommate's uncle's ex-wife attended a dinner party back in 1984 with Gorbachev's niece's ex-boyfriend's sister, then you, by extension are a communist set on destroying America. Period.

14. Diversion. This is where, when on the ropes, the media commentator suddenly takes the debate in a weird but predictable direction to avoid accountability. This is the point in the discussion where most Fox anchors start comparing the opponent to Saul Alinsky or invoking ACORN or Media Matters, in a desperate attempt to win through guilt by association. Or they'll talk about wanting to focus on "moving forward," as though by analyzing the current state of things or God forbid, how we got to this state of things, you have no regard for the future. Any attempt to bring the discussion back to the issue at hand will likely be called deflection, an ironic use of the technique of projection/flipping.

In debating some of these tactics with colleagues and friends, I have also noticed that the Fox viewership seems to be marked by a sort of collective personality disorder whereby the viewer feels almost as though they've been let into a secret society. Something about their affiliation with the network makes them feel privileged and this affinity is likely what drives the viewers to defend the network so vehemently. They seem to identify with it at a core level, because it tells them they are special and privy to something the rest of us don't have. It's akin to the loyalty one feels by being let into a private club or a gang. That effect is also likely to make the propaganda more powerful, because it goes mostly unquestioned.

In considering these tactics and their possible effects on American public discourse, it is important to note that historically, those who've genuinely accessed truth have never berated those who did not. You don't get honored by history when you beat up your opponent: look at Martin Luther King Jr., Robert Kennedy, Abraham Lincoln. These men did not find the need to engage in othering, ad homeinum attacks, guilt by association or bullying. This is because when a person has accessed a truth, they are not threatened by the opposing views of others. This reality reveals the righteous indignation of people like Glenn Beck, Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity as a symptom of untruth. These individuals are hostile and angry precisely because they don't feel confident in their own veracity. And in general, the more someone is losing their temper in a debate and the more intolerant they are of listening to others, the more you can be certain they do not know what they're talking about.

One final observation. Fox audiences, birthers and Tea Partiers often defend their arguments by pointing to the fact that a lot of people share the same perceptions. This is a reasonable point to the extent that Murdoch's News Corporation reaches a far larger audience than any other single media outlet. But, the fact that a lot of people believe something is not necessarily a sign that it's true; it's just a sign that it's been effectively marketed.

As honest, fair and truly intellectual debate degrades before the eyes of the global media audience, the quality of American democracy degrades along with it.

Dr. Cynthia Boaz is assistant professor of political science at Sonoma State University. She is also vice president of the Metta Center for Nonviolence and on the board of Project Censored and the Media Freedom Foundation. Dr. Boaz is also a contributing writer and adviser to and associate editor of Peace and Change Journal.

© 2011 All rights reserved.
View this story online at:

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Sick man robs bank for $1,
demands jail and healthcare

A North Carolina man with no health care robbed a bank for $1 in order to go to jail and get his ailments seen to. He is hoping to be convicted of a felony, so he can get the benefits he lost after he was laid off from his 17-year Coca-Cola delivery job. He has carpal tunnel, a bad back, and "a protrusion on his chest." He is in chronic pain. He has promised to reoffend if he isn't convicted and treated.
He took a cab down New Hope Road and picked a bank at random -- RBC Bank.
Verone didn't want to scare anyone. He executed the robbery the most passive way he knew how.

He handed the teller a note demanding one dollar, and medical attention.

"I didn't have any fears," said Verone. "I told the teller that I would sit over here and wait for police."

The teller, however, did have some fears even though Verone never showed a weapon.

Her blood pressure shot up and once Verone was handcuffed by police, the teller was taken to Gaston Memorial Hospital to be checked out.

Verone said he was sorry for causing the woman any pain.
Bank robber planned crime and punishment
Thanks, BoingBoing

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Tony Alva in the current era...
A cool interview

There are several people interviewed in this clip, but it's mostly surrounds Alva, a good watch.

And of course my shot of T.A. from an era passed that still inspires to this day:

Friday, July 8, 2011

Cool article/interview with H.R. (Bad Brains)

from Baltimore City Paper

I Against I
It's Not Easy Being a Punk Legend, But H.R. Still Has That P.M.A.

By John Barry

PABLO FIASCO, KEYBOARDIST, DJ, and renter of a sizable chunk of a five-story warehouse a block from the Baltimore Juvenile Justice Center on North Gay Street, directs me into the warehouse's parking lot. Once through the chain-link fence topped with razor wire, he leads me to the front door and into the dark central mouth of the building. Inside, there's a dentist's chair with a drill set. There are band practice spaces. A portrait of Jesus Christ on an upside-down milk crate, surrounded by shotgun shells, and a sign reading THOU SHALT NOT STEAL. Virtual walls constructed out of empty bottles of hard cider. We head up the freight elevator to the third floor. Fiasco (an occasional City Paper contributor) knocks and puts his ear to a fire door. I think I hear snoring. We wait.

On the other side of the door lives H.R., the singer for the Washington, D.C.-born thrash/funk/punk/reggae quartet the Bad Brains. When performing solo, he also leads the Human Rights Band. He was born Paul Hudson 52 years ago, though before long he became known as H.R. In high school, it stood for Huntin' Rod. Now it stands for Human Rights. He's also Ras Hailu Gabriel Joseph I. Friends call him H, or Joe.

Six degrees of separation with H.R. will get you a number of big names in the rock pantheon. He has played alongside underground icons such as the Beastie Boys and Minor Threat. Bob Marley's guitar player, Al Anderson, has played with Human Rights. Legend has it that the Rolling Stones tried to get him to open for them (and then settled for Living Colour). Prince has been sighted in his mosh pits, albeit with security guards. Madonna's Maverick Records label briefly seduced him. He gets pulled up onstage by jam giant 311. He gets called out in stadiums by Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters. Moby, the Deftones, Ignite, and Jeff Buckley have covered Bad Brains songs, as has, well, Living Colour. The list goes on.

A bare-bones version of his story as frontman for the Bad Brains goes like this: After exploding onto the D.C. music scene in 1979, the band recorded a classic first 45, "Pay to Cum." In 1982, the Bad Brains came out with their legendary eponymous ROIR cassette-only release, cementing their status as legends of the hardcore underground and, musically, the most dominant band on the scene. In 1983, the Bad Brains released the classic Rock for Light album, followed three years later by the epochal post-hardcore statement I Against I. In the yearssince--most accurately represented in Dance of Days, a chronicle of D.C. punk rock written by Mark Andersen and Mark Jenkins--the Bad Brains have functioned as a dysfunctional family, fronted by a charismatic, unpredictable singer who has a knack for attracting major labels and, in equal measure, driving them away. The band's latest effort, 2007's Build a Nation, was produced by the Beastie Boys' Adam "MCA" Yauch.

And then there's the history of H.R. the solo artist, a story that's full of even more fits and starts than that of the Bad Brains. From 1984 to 1992, H.R. and a wide and varying group of collaborators released a string of albums featuring an eclectic fusion of elements including (but not limited to) roots reggae, jazz, rap, funk, and hard rock. There was a long fallow period during the '90s and early '00s when H.R. lived in California, but two years ago, Grant Garretson invited H.R. back to the D.C. area and helped the Human Rights Band get under way again. Hey Wella, the first H.R. record since 1992, is set for release Oct. 21 on the independent DC Hardcore label.

When he's not on the road, H.R. lives in Baltimore, on the third story of Fiasco's warehouse, without much in the way of obvious accumulated wealth. The fire door opens, and he emerges with a smile. He's 52, and his beard is flecked with gray. Under his jacket, it looks like he's wearing a back brace.

That's because, when he feels like it, he wears a bulletproof vest. "That thing weighs a hundred pounds," says Garretson, who bought it for the singer two years ago. "It shows you what good shape he's in."

Being a punk rock legend is a tough gig. Once you start talking about it, and making money off it, it loses its shine. Iggy Pop has spent about a decade being professionally legendary. Jello Biafra and Henry Rollins have gone on one too many speaking tours. But H.R. is still the real thing. He's unpredictable and enigmatic, a mixture of Sun Ra and Little Richard. He's easier to talk about than to talk to. A lot has been said about him. When I explain that I haven't heard a lot from H.R. himself--especially about the music--he agrees to talk.

I meet him for our first interview outside the Depot on North Charles Street on a Monday night. H.R. is standing quietly outside, smoking a cigarette, wearing a hooded sweatshirt reading positive mental attitude. We head inside to a table. He starts to talk about Capitol Heights, in Prince George's County, where he grew up. His conversation is quiet and halting. Sometimes, when he pauses, I fill in the blanks.

He says he was born on Feb. 11, 1956, in Liverpool, England, where his dad was stationed in the Air Force. His mother was Jamaican and had met his father in England. His early childhood was spent as an Air Force brat, as the family moved from Georgia--where his brother Earl Hudson was born--to Hawaii to Maryland.

H.R. attended Central High School in Capitol Heights. His family lived on Addison Road. "I was the outrageous one," he says of his youth. He was a gymnast, a diver, and a daredevil. He was also heavily into LSD and, later, heroin. He describes coming home one afternoon after doing blotter acid to find the sound of his father's voice echoing in his ears--"It was a mind-bender." He played guitar and began absorbing the musical vibrations of Washington, circa 1975. Singing? He says he briefly did some singing in a church choir as a child. His brother Earl, meanwhile, began honing his considerable skills as a drummer starting at age 5.

Asked about his early musical influences, he goes all over the map. He mentions Deep Purple, the musical Hair, the Beatles ("`Helter Skelter' . . . `Day Tripper'"), Black Sabbath, and Parliament-Funkadelic, among others. In 1975, however, when he began playing in high school bands, he was a jazz-fusion fan. "Billy Preston, avant-garde jazz, Chick Corea, Mahavishnu Orchestra," he rattles off. In 1976, he and a group of likeminded musicians who lived in the neighborhood began to practice together. That would turn into the fusion group Mind Power.

"Gary Miller went to the same school as my brother [Earl]," H.R. says. "They were both two years younger [than me]." Miller, soon to be known as Dr. Know, or just Doc, was already an accomplished bass player in fusion groups and was about to morph into a guitar player. "We shopped around a little," H.R. says. "We found Darryl [Jenifer], who was younger." Jenifer, from Oxon Hill, was a guitar player who was morphing into a bass player. Earl Hudson played drums. They began to jam in a friend's basement.
In a quirk of fate that has become part of the Bad Brains legend, H.R. started thumbing through a copy of Napoleon Hill's self-help book Think and Grow Rich. "My father gave it to me," he says. "I was 18. I read it through cover to cover." It introduced him to Positive Mental Attitude: "It was saying, if you do it in your mind, if you get your mind right, you can do anything. It had this dramatic change in my life. I decided I would use it in my day-to-day living and I would put the lyrics and the message in the songs." In brief, the book lays out keys to success: "definiteness of purpose, the knowledge of what one wants, and a burning desire to possess it."

"There was a lot going on in 1977," H.R. says. "There was a demand for an original, creative, and innovative music, and seeing that there was a gap there, we wanted to fill that gap." Sid McCray, briefly the singer for the band, got turned on to punk rock after seeing a documentary about the Sex Pistols, and soon he was playing his friends music by Eater, Wire, the Dead Boys, etc. The band pulled its new name, the Bad Brains, from a Ramones song, although H.R. insists that he didn't know it was a Ramones song. He says he thought "bad" was street slang for "good."

He speaks of the band's nascent musical vision as a practical matter. "It was kind of like a transformation," he says, "taking an idea and certain techniques together and putting them together and creating a visionary style."

H.R.'s musical career began in earnest as his other career option started to tank. For three years he attended Prince George's Community College and then University of Maryland as a premed major. Then he decided he didn't want to be a doctor. I remark that it's a tough course of study. He laughs, shortly: "Yeah."

The newly renamed Bad Brains found a house together in Forestville and set up their instruments. "We practiced over and over and over again," H.R. says, smiling. By that point he had taken over singing duties and stopped playing guitar. After over a year of rehearsal and preparation--integrating the sudden and complex shifts of jazz fusion with the raunchy full-frontal assault of punk--they never looked back.

"That was the summer of '79," he says. "We knew we were good. We played our first show at the Marble Bar in Baltimore." Asked about the show, he adds, as if he's still trying to find a positive spin for what was, by many accounts, a disaster, "Well . . . there was a light attendance." The band's first big show in D.C., he says, was outdoors near the Lincoln Memorial and was prematurely cut short by police.

They recorded "Pay to Cum" soon after, and it was released on a seven-inch single in 1980. A scorching yet melodic 1:45 punk anthem built around a raging, three-chord riff, a machine-gun drumbeat, and vocals that sound like a cassette tape on fast forward, it would become a defining classic, inimitable, one of those songs no one dares to cover.

"We were listening to the Ramones," H.R. says, describing the band's development of "Pay to Cum." "We just wanted to do it faster We played [the Ramones] at 78 rpm. We decided we'd try to replicate that sound.

"We were shopping around for musical ideas," he adds. The Ramones were melodic and fast. Black Sabbath, he says, had the "grinding sound" that pops up in the Brains' early music. Jenifer was moving into metal. Miller was refining his fusion jazz licks at hardcore speed.

In 1979, the newly minted punk rockers went to the Capital Center in Largo to see fusion bassist Stanley Clarke and found themselves mesmerized by Bob Marley and the Wailers, who were also on the bill. If Napoleon Hill gave the Bad Brains their attitude, Marley gave them the spiritual ground for their sound and, once they became Rastafarians, for their lives.

"I was fortunate to have a friend who had a lot of reggae, and I went to his house and listened," H.R. says. "I introduced the sound to the band, and I asked them if we could orchestrate a couple of songs. And we worked from there." H.R. says the occasional reggae tune gave him more freedom vocally than the slam-bang hardcore tunes. That would remain the mix for the Bad Brains and his own music from then on: the high-pitched, reedy shriek of punk and the freer incantations of reggae.

H.R. writes most of the lyrics for Bad Brains songs, and I take him through a few. "Big Takeover" ("So understand me when I say/ there's no hope for this USA/ Your world is doomed with our own integration/ Just another Nazi test"): "Yeah. I was thinking about the divisions and segregations. Staying above it and making beautiful music." Asked about "Living at the Movies" ("Here's to the maker/ The film double taker/ The illusion type faker/ The paravision viewer"), he describes the negatives in his songs as "hypotheticals," stories he tells to help people avoid banging their heads against the wall, metaphorically or spiritually. When explaining "I Against I" ("And I say I don't like it/ And I know I don't want it/ I against I against I against I"), he says, "I think you have people who want you to fight yourself. You have to stay above it."

There aren't any visible chinks in the Positive Mental Attitude. When asked about Babylon, he muses, "I love the United States." So is he a patriot? "Yes," he says, "very much a patriot." What does he think about the state of the world? "I think it's a wonderful time to be alive," he says. What does he mean by that? He pauses thoughtfully: "There are the unifying possibilities of digital technology, the internet." (H.R. doesn't use the internet. His MySpace page is currently maintained by Garretson.)

OK, how about "Happy Birthday My Son" from the H.R. album It's About Luv? He speaks in the third person: "It's the story about a man who's in prison and his son is turning 5 years old. He wants to say hello to him." And he wants to keep him happy while he's doing badly. I ask him specifically if it's about his own experiences with incarceration, since H.R. spent several months at D.C.'s Lorton prison in 1984 for possession of marijuana: "Yes, sir." He says his son, Simeon, is now 32 and a computer programmer.

"Cool Mountaineer," from the Bad Brains' 1995 God of Love, originated on a farm in Vermont, he says: "We were sitting around, and someone just said, `Mountaineering, that's cool!'" I ask how he came up with the lyrics for "Riot Squad," a hoarse fist-pumper from Bad Brains' early days that would send people diving into mosh pits. "It was a reflection of society'" he says. "A parody. It shows the irony of life." And "Hey Wella," the title song of H.R.'s new album? He pauses. "Well . . . sometimes when someone is thinking about what's next, he says, `Well . . . uh . . . '"

I ask if, in his many years of singing in front of thrashing minors, he's found he's singing to people without much of a sense of irony. He pauses. "Yes." Was that a problem? "No. Not really."

A few nights later, we meet again in the warehouse. H.R. is wearing a jacket and his dreadlocks are coveredwith a red, green, and white knit hat. We head into a room lined with wall hangings, monitors, amplifiers, guitars, an armchair, and a stool. He opens the door for me and motions me in. He graciously gives me the armchair; he takes the stool. He gets up frequently and wanders around the room as he speaks in an exaggerated British accent that I've heard him use onstage.

The discussion turns to the word "polytechnical." He's using it to explain what sort of role technology plays in the life of the spirit. He considers the word and concept professorially. "Polytechnical," he muses. "It has multiple meanings. Technical regeneration. So it goes into multiple, polytechnical functions. Regeneration. Reuniting. Re-Ignition."

"Re-Ignition" is the title of a song from the Bad Brains' 1986 album I Against I. Musically and philosophically, H.R. repeatedly refers to it as a turning point musically for the group. In 1986, H.R. and his brother Earl had left the Bad Brains to begin work on Human Rights, but with I Against I, producer and ardent fan Ron St. Germain led them back into the studio to create a funkier, more metallic sound.

"It took four years to get that song right," H.R. says of "Re-Ignition." The staggering riff and bass line dated from 1981; the I Against I sessions found him in the studio with his bandmates and the producer waiting for him to add lyrics. "[Darryl] kept on asking me, requesting me to play on it, and we would take it into the studio, and then he'd be like, `Play it!'" H.R. recalls. "I'd be like, `In time, Darryl.'

"Then Gary [Dr. Know] tells me, `You get in there, you put vocals on it.' I say, `No way. You want me to put vocals on that kind of bass line?' Gary said, `It's either that, kid, or back to making pizza.' Because that's what I used to do at the Navy Yard, at Gino's." H.R. starts to laugh. "I'd be making my pizza, working at Gino's. I'd set up all the chairs, and the placemats, and the napkins. . . . "

St. Germain seemed to be the Bad Brains' ticket to the big time. He had the connections and credibility to bring them closer to the break they deserved, and a metal-edged sound that was commercial but also encompassing. With St. Germain's urging, the band crafted a hitherto unheard combination of funk, soul, and punk. "I'd put the vocal tracks on, and [St Germain would say], `I like that one! Can you try it again?'" H.R. recalls. "I'd say, `To that type of music?'"

But I Against I, though well received, was not the band's big break. Shortly after recording the album, H.R. left the Bad Brains to concentrate on his solo career. It was not the first time he had left, and it would not be the last time he and the rest of the band would part ways, often seemingly just as they were attempting to make a significant career move. (Attempts to reach Gary Miller and Darryl Jenifer for this article were unsuccessful.)

With the Bad Brains, H.R. was a frontman, pure and simple. With Human Rights, he was beginning to think of himself as an orchestrator of music, dabbling in funk, jazz, and other genres.

"I was thinking about being in an orchestra, going to the White House" he laughs. "I never wanted to be in the back of an alley pretending to be Sid Vicious. I knew I was a conductor. I wanted to be onstage with my orchestra. Wherever I was. New York University, CBGB. . . ."

Of course, living a vision as a conductor is a little hard when "they"--and he doesn't say exactly whom "they" are--always seem to want him to be a reincarnation of his former self.

"They're like, `You want to be mean and angry, you want to be a bad dude,'" H.R. says. "I'm like, `I don't want to be known as a bad dude at this time in my life.'"

The wailing whirling-dervish H.R. of early Bad Brains shows, immortalized on the recent Bad Brains Live--CBGB 1982 concert DVD, is now 26 years older and ambivalent about rehashing punk legend. In 2006, the Bad Brains delivered three sold-out shows at old stomping ground CBGB. The first night was distinguished by H.R. walking onstage with a motorcycle helmet, bulletproof vest, and headset mic; he was inaudible much of the time.

It ain't easy being a punk icon at 52. "They're like, `You're going to have to be here, you're going to have to be here. . . . Dude! You're the man. I've been telling everybody you're the man. Get with it!'" H.R. recounts breathlessly. "That's Darryl. And Earl would be like, `Don't get him started, he'll vocalize all night long.' And Darryl would be like, `You better not hate me, you'd better be entertaining.' And I'd be like, `Darryl! Of course I don't hate you.'

"Darryl's like, `You're crazy, you think you can go to a club and act like you're in church?' And you know what I'd say to him? I'd say, `I do what I want to.'" H.R. laughs out loud. "And I'd say, OK, `Gary, anybody else but you, I'd say no.' And I'd go onstage."

Human Rights guitarist and drummer Grant Garretson, who also is a drum technician for the Bad Brains and a longtime friend, acknowledges that when H.R. goes onstage wearing a motorcycle helmet, or perhaps wrapped in a robe, and stands stock still, as he usually does these days, it leaves some Bad Brains fans wondering what happened to the hyperkinetic punk avatar of old. Or they pass him off as off his rocker. "But none of them believe he's a normal guy when I'm hanging out with him," Garretson says. "He's cursed, you've got to understand. The dude is 52 years old. He'll do it. He'll go ahead and play [with the Bad Brains]. They're family. But a 52-year-old guy isn't going to do the same thing as a 25-year-old."

One afternoon, just before H.R. and the Human Rights Band are scheduled to start a mini-tour to promote Hey Wella, I visit H.R. in his room, which is no bigger than a college dorm room, with a window looking out on a parking lot, a large futon on the floor, and a large abstract painting on the wall. He's resplendent in a kingly blue robe with a white scarf on his head and a huge crystal pendant in the shape of a crown. His voice is very low, sometimes inaudible.

He offers water or food. I decline. He sits back. A long, polite, and nonlinear discussion follows. Much of it concerns the early to mid-'90s, when the Bad Brains were being courted by various major labels.

H.R. was living in California during the period and involving himself in reggae-oriented projects. In 1993, the Bad Brains put out Rise on major label Epic with another singer, Israel Joseph I, but that album flopped. The Bad Brains asked him back again for their next record. It looked like the the band had landed another deal, with Maverick Records, a label run by one of the biggest pop stars in the world. "Madonna came to me and asked me, did I know reggae, and would I give her a copy of my records," H.R. recalls.

In 1995, Maverick released the Bad Brains' God of Love album. While on tour supporting the album, a violent confrontation between H.R. and an audience member landed the singer in jail, ending the tour and, ultimately, the band's relationship with Maverick.

H.R. seems bored with discussing close calls with stardom. He pulls out his guitar and starts to noodle, then offers an unplugged version of "We Belong Together," a reggae tune that appears on Hey Wella. After he puts the guitar down, his conversation goes in different directions, as he discusses the state of the nation. He says things look good. The conversation slips to the subject of warning labels on microwave ovens. We talk about the possibility of building a new nation, in reference to the most recent Bad Brains album, Build a Nation. He tells me as models he likes Mexico and Singapore.

Singapore, I say, is a very clean place.

"Yes, it's a sterile location, definitely."

But they put you in jail if you swear.

"Well, one does have to be careful." What do you like about Mexico?

"Well, the beer is very good."

You like Corona?

"I haven't tried to drink it, but I hear it's very good."

Building and governing. Acting. Reacting. Polytechnics. Corona. Microwaves. Love I and I. These sorts of phrases come together at the end of the meeting. The conversation travels all over the place, and I ask him what advice he would offer younger artists.

"Love I and I," he says. "Move away from self-destruction and totalitarian views."

A week later, around half past midnight, a flannel shirt-clad H.R. is resting on a sofa in the warehouse's main rehearsal room, which is crammed with keyboards, guitars, amplifiers, and speakers. The Human Rights Band has just run through its Hey Wella set. There's a large flat-screen television playing Entertainment Tonight, which H.R. is watching with purple-haired Doc Night, a former saxophone player with Human Rights and a friend since the mid-'80s. H.R. looks a little bleary-eyed, and the room is filled with pot smoke.

Human Rights just finished a short jaunt that ended with a gig on a boat in the harbor in New York City; H.R. also played with Bad Brains in Chicago, opening up for N*E*R*D. (H.R. appeared onstage wearing a floor-length robe.) He is now preparing for a record-release party on Oct. 21, in New York, and a Nov. 1 show at Rams Head Live in Baltimore. There'll be a Bad Brains show a few days afterward, on Election Day, at the 9:30 Club in Washington.

Hey Wella, which Doc Night has placed in the CD player, pumps through a set of speakers. The album may be a grab at a larger audience. The guitars are heavy, in the service of a musical combination that Garretson and Doc Night call "funk/soul/rub-a-dub-dab." Garretson says he thinks this one will do well.

For Hey Wella, Garretson laid down tracks, some of which he says he's been developing for years in different versions. Then, as in the Bad Brains, H.R. added the vocals. Garretson plays some of the mixes for the album's title track, a combination of heavy metal, funk, and rap with a guitar hook. In the initial version, H.R. overlays the instrumental track with improvised vocals, including an English-accented rap that mentions, among other things, Michael Jackson. By the final version, H.R. has gradually moved the lyrics and vocals into place over a complex interlay of rhythms. It's the kind of technique that probably goes unnoticed at CBGB.

"I don't know anyone who can [lay down vocals] like that," says local filmmaker James Lathos, a friend of H.R.'s since the '80s who has been working on a documentary about H.R. that he hopes to complete next year. "He just cuts through to the melody, even when it sounds like chaos to others." Lathos shows me footage of H.R. laying down the vocals for his 1991 roots-reggae tune "I Luv." In the clip, H.R. stands alone in the studio, with his four huge dreadlocks, working his way into an almost operatic mix of high wails and slow crooning.

Paul Cornwell, a friend and one-time manager, has known H.R. since the early '80s and served as executive producer on two of H.R.'s reggae albums, It's About Luv and Singin' in the Heart. He speaks of H.R.'s disciplined vocal technique as something that frequently goes unnoticed. "He's almost got a cantor voice, it's almost jazz," Cornwell says. "I love his voice. It touches the heart where few artists will."

It's no secret that if H.R. was a little more predictable, a little easier to deal with, he could loom larger in the music industry. But those close to him seem to feel that a more focused, goal-oriented artist wouldn't really be H.R.

"That's the whole enigma of him," Lathos says, speaking carefully. "You never know what you're going to get. I'm not a doctor, but there's definitely something going on there. He's an artist, you know. He's a Rastafarian. His way of life isn't about money. H.R. is always doing something. Bad Brains is one dimension. He's got multiple dimensions."

After four interviews, I ask H.R. if there have been low points in his life and career. He considers the question and, for the first time, seems to give a hint at a less positive side. "There've been little depressions, temporary delays," he allows. He refers to "Saddest Day," a slow, lilting reggae lullaby that appears on his 1990 release Charge. It's H.R. at his vocal peak, with a voice that shifts from reggae lilt to crooning soul, from an album where he manages to flip back and forth between metal and mellow. "I'm gonna see the saddest day of my life," he sings. "Keep us from those eruptions/ Don't cry, my papa always said."

I ask him what it's about. He says it's about an incarceration, one of several he experienced in the late '80s. I ask him what it was for. "A case of mistaken identity," he says, a little sadly.

That explanation may not have worked in court, but after four conversations with H.R., I'm inclined to believe him. There are dimensions to him that no police officer, and few of even his most faithful fans, will understand. That may be why, unlike many punk legends, he's still a work in progress.