Friday, July 31, 2015

"The End of Gangs"

from Pacific Standard

Los Angeles gave America the modern street gang. Groups like the Crips and MS-13 have spread from coast to coast, and even abroad. But on Southern California's streets they have been vanishing. Has L.A. figured out how to stop the epidemic it set loose on the world?


In 2007, when housing prices were still heated, factory worker Simon Tejada put his home on the market. It was a well maintained three-bedroom in the Glassell Park district of Northeast Los Angeles, and the structure was appraised at $350,000. (Tejada had bought it for $85,000 in 1985.) But only one offer came in: $150,000. “Your house is fine,” the guy told Tejada. “The neighborhood’s awful.”

I met Tejada a few months later. I had been writing about gangs in Los Angeles since 2004, when, after 10 years as a writer in Mexico, I’d returned home to take a job with the Los Angeles Times. My reporting took me into scores of working-class neighborhoods and cities within Southern California, places like Pacoima, Watts, Azusa, Hawaiian Gardens, Florence-Firestone, and Harbor Gateway.

Gangs ravaged all these locales. Walls were covered with graffiti. Shootings were constant. In many of these neighborhoods, Latino gangs had taken to attacking and killing random black civilians, turning themselves into the leading regional perpetrators of race-hate crime.

Yet no place was as scary as the densely built two-block stretch around the corner from Simon Tejada’s house in Northeast L.A. Along those blocks, just south of the Forest Lawn cemetery, ran Drew Street, a stronghold of the Avenues, a Latino gang. I sat with Tejada in his home, shrouded behind a high wall and thick hedges, as kids in hoodies stood among densely parked cars outside and nodded at potential customers driving by. They carried on an unceasing trade in crack cocaine, with the apartments as their base. Graffiti was everywhere. When the police drove down Drew Street, it was two cars at a time, to the sound of gang whistles and Nextel chirps.

Six years later, on a sunny afternoon, I went back and found that Simon Tejada never sold his house. I met him this time outside the home, and we walked the street freely. Gone were the thugs in hoodies. Gone was the graffiti. As we strolled, Tejada waved to neighbors, some of whom had just bought houses. “Now I don’t want to leave,” he told me.

The transformation of Drew Street is not unique. In the past few years, street gangs have been retreating from public view all over Southern California. Several years ago, I spent a couple of days in the Florence-Firestone neighborhood, in an unincorporated part of Los Angeles County, interviewing some Florencia 13 gang members. One nearby garage was never free of graffiti for more than a few minutes a week. (This was the amount of time it took after the graffiti clean-up truck left for the 76th Street clique of Florencia 13 to re-deface the thing.) That garage wall has now been without graffiti for more than four years. I go by it every time I’m in the neighborhood.

Fifteen miles southeast of Florence-Firestone, much of the tiny city of Hawaiian Gardens used to be scarred with the graffiti of HG-13, a local gang that absorbed several generations of the town’s young men. The last three times I’ve been to Hawaiian Gardens, I’ve seen nothing on the walls, and young black men freely visit taco restaurants on the main drag, something that would have been inconceivable a few years ago. In Oxnard’s Colonia Chiques neighborhood in Ventura County, the decades-old neighborhood gang is not outside, and their graffiti is gone.

"Being the member of a gang doesn't have the panache it did," says George Tita, a criminology. "Things have changed radically in the last five years."

Some of this is a state and national story, as violent crime declined by about 16 percent in both California and the nation from 2008 through 2012. But the decline has been steeper in many gang-plagued cities: 26 percent in Oxnard, 28 percent in Riverside, 30 percent in Compton, 30 percent in Pasadena, 30 percent in Montebello, 50 percent in Bell Gardens, 50 percent in El Monte.

Santa Ana once counted 70-plus homicides a year, many of them gang-related. That’s down to 15 so far in 2014, even as Santa Ana remains one of the densest, youngest, and poorest big cities in California. “Before, they were into turf,” says Detective Jeff Launi, a longtime Santa Ana Police gang investigator. “They’re still doing it, but now they’re more interested in making money.”

No place feels so changed as the city of Los Angeles. In 2014, the Los Angeles Police Department announced that gang crime had dropped by nearly half since 2008. In 2012, L.A. had fewer total homicides (299) citywide than it had gang homicides alone in 2002 (350) and in 1992 (430). For the most part, Latino gang members no longer attack blacks in ways reminiscent of the Jim Crow South. Nor are gangs carjacking, assaulting, robbing, or in a dozen other ways blighting their own neighborhoods. Between 2003 and 2013, gang-related robberies in the city fell from 3,274 to 1,021; gang assaults from 3,063 to 1,611; and carjackings, a classic L.A. gang crime born during the heyday of crack, from 211 to 33.

This has amounted to an enormous tax cut for once-beleaguered working class neighborhoods. Stores are untagged, walls unscarred. Graffiti, which sparked gang wars for years, is almost immediately covered up. Once-notorious parks—El Salvador Park in Santa Ana, Smith Park in San Gabriel, Bordwell Park in Riverside are a few examples—are now safe places for families.

Above all, with gangs far less present and active, people can move about with less fear. “There’s not so much of the hanging on the corners,” says Chris Le Grande, a pastor at the Great Hope Missionary Baptist Church and Youth Center in Florence-Firestone. A decade ago, gang wars gave the neighborhood one of the highest homicide rates in the region. “It’s a whole different attitude in the area.”

The shift has happened fast. “I don’t know if it’s a cultural shift or what, but being the member of a gang doesn’t have the same panache that it did,” says George Tita, a University of California-Irvine criminologist who has researched gangs and their use of neighborhood space. “Things have changed radically in the last five years.”

Literature about street gangs in the United States dates back at least to the 19th century, when diverse groups of immigrants began settling en masse in the tenements of New York. The reformer and muckraker Jacob Riis, who spent decades among the city’s poor, saw the gang as a temporary product of dislocation, something that “appears in the second generation, the first born upon the soil—a fighting gang if the Irishman is there with his ready fist, a thievish gang if it is the East Side Jew—and disappears in the third,” as he wrote in the Atlantic Monthly in 1899.

In Southern California, street gangs had a later start, and many histories trace them to the 1920s, when groups of Mexican American teenagers began to band together in shared ethnic alienation. California’s early Chicano gangs usually restricted their violence to the use of fists, chains, and knives. Guns were rare, and shootings were seen as unmanly. Black gangs, which began to form following a great migration of African Americans to Los Angeles after the Second World War, were also subdued in comparison to their later incarnations.

Several forces conspired to make gangs more volatile. The Watts riots of 1965 sparked massive middle-class flight from the cities of southern Los Angeles County and left a poorer, often jobless, underclass. A surge of immigration, both legal and illegal, caused arrivals to ally with one another in new ways. And illegal drugs became an immense market. Crack, emerging in the 1980s, offered enormous profits, which in turn led to increasingly violent turf protection.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Jello Biafra and ‘uptight prude’ Tipper Gore fight it out in the pages of CREEM, 1986

from DangerousMinds


In the 1980s, the elected-to-nothing wife of then-Senator Albert Gore Jr. made quite a splash for herself when she formed the Parents Music Resource Center in 1985 with three other prominent Washington wives. The group called attention to lascivious and offensive lyrics in pop music, including those by Prince, Madonna, Cyndi Lauper alongside more familiar targets like Black Sabbath, and was instrumental in creating the single most “1980s” cover element on CD covers, the ubiquitous “PARENTAL ADVISORY: EXPLICIT LYRICS” rectangle, often found on one of the bottom corners.

Gore, naturally, protested that she was never interested in censoring anyone but the desire to use rating systems or warning labels in a corporate context inevitably has a chilling effect on speech and explicit content.



Understandably, Tipper Gore rapidly became Public Enemy #1 for fans of heavy metal and punk rock. (Indeed, I’m sure you could do a decent compilation of songs calling out the PMRC in their very titles.) When Bill Clinton named Al Gore to be his running mate in 1992, in an election they would ultimately win and which would delight liberals of all stripes as representing the end of the Reagan era, the existence of Tipper as a potential Second Lady was for principled rock fans a serious obstacle to voting for Clinton—indeed, DM head honcho Richard Metzger has never cast a vote for Al Gore largely for this reason, and bravo to him! Whatever benefit she was providing “parents,” the PMRC represented a generational war between Boomers and their children, even though its goals would be recognized as an utter affront to so many Boomer heroes like Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Grace Slick, etc.

The PMRC singled out a few acts that represented their view of unacceptable excess in rock and roll content. They were known as the “Filthy Fifteen”:


Prince, “Darling Nikki” (sex/masturbation)

Sheena Easton, “Sugar Walls,” (sex)

Judas Priest, “Eat Me Alive,” (sex)

Vanity, “Strap On ‘Robbie Baby’” (sex)

Mötley Crüe, “Bastard” (violence/language)

AC/DC, “Let Me Put My Love Into You” (sex)

Twisted Sister, “We’re Not Gonna Take It” (violence)

Madonna, “Dress You Up” (sex)

W.A.S.P., “Animal (Fuck Like a Beast)” (sex/language)

Def Leppard, “High ‘n’ Dry (Saturday Night)” (drug and alcohol use)

Mercyful Fate, “Into the Coven” (occult)

Black Sabbath, “Trashed” (drug and alcohol use)

Mary Jane Girls, “In My House” (sex)

Venom, “Possessed” (occult)

Cyndi Lauper, “She Bop” (sex/masturbation)


The PMRC was the best thing that ever happened to, say, W.A.S.P.—I scarcely remember any coverage about that band that wasn’t about “Animal (Fuck Like a Beast).”

In November 1986 CREEM magazine published a letter from Gore responding to a column by John Mendelssohn in which she defended herself against charges that she was an “uptight prude who wants to ban rock.” Eager to present herself as a fan of rock and roll, even of “the normal sex and sensuality of rock ‘n’ roll,” Gore depicted herself as undertaking the “responsible action” of protesting “the current excess of a minority of powerful artists.” Not unreasonably, she also framed her campaign in a feminist light, in that she was fighting “a degrading attitude” towards women, although without ever explaining how restricting the reach of a song like Cyndi Lauper’s “She Bop” fostered that goal.

In a later issue, Jello Biafra wrote in to debate Gore, accusing Gore and the PMRC of playing a 1980s version of Joe McCarthy and HUAC. Biafra pointed out that the climate for censorship was already plenty chilly, what with Republican Attorney General Ed Meese going after Playboy and Penthouse.

Most of the arguments about the PMRC’s methods are somewhat abstract—will this or that act prevent or foster this or that reaction? But Biafra pointed out that the PMRC was having real-world effects on working bands, specifically Biafra’s band the Dead Kennedys, who were facing the prospect of “a year in jail and a $2,000 fine” because of “what the Dead Kennedys say with their records.” Opponents of bodies like the PMRC are quick to say that they only end up benefiting their targets by increasing their sales, but Biafra disputed this point, noting that “more and more stores are now afraid to carry our records out of fear of being dragged through the nearest kangaroo court.”

Read the exchange for yourself, it’s well worth a read. You can see a larger version of these images by clicking on them.





Biafra would remain one of Gore’s harshest critics for many years. He dedicated a lengthy chunk of his first spoken word album, No More Cocoons, to a reading of this letter, the one he wrote responding to Gore in CREEM. On the Dead Kennedys live album Mutiny on the Bay, during their song “M.T.V.—Get off the Air,” Biafra tells the audience to “buy a homemade [record] instead, before the PMRC closes the stores down that sell ‘em”.

I found this issue of CREEM at the Rock Hall’s Library and Archives, which is located at the Tommy LiPuma Center for Creative Arts on Cuyahoga Community College’s Metropolitan Campus in Cleveland, Ohio. It is free and open to the public. Visit their website for more information.


Here’s a video from that era of Biafra and Gore on Oprah. Biafra’s mention of Willie Horton places this after the 1988 presidential election, so a good while after the above letters appeared.


Wednesday, July 29, 2015

[ Lessons on race, atheism and my white privilege ]

from Salon

Ta-Nehisi Coates woke me up: Lessons on race, atheism and my white privilege
I thought I was a race-conscious white progressive humanist. Coates' book taught me how much I need to learn


David Brooks, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Richard Dawkins (Credit: AP/Nam Y. Huh/Fiona Hanson/C-Span)

It was somewhere around the middle of the first chapter of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ new book, “Between the World and Me,” where I began to realize that the quintessential atheist and humanist text of my generation, if there could be such a thing, was neither “The God Delusion” by Richard Dawkins nor “The End of Faith” by Sam Harris, nor any number of other worthy contenders by astrophysicists or cognitive scientists or philosophers or by humanist chaplains like me, but this shit right here.

Coates was writing of good intentions, at the point where I began to recognize. Americans have good intentions. Few of us see ourselves as wanting to oppress anyone. Most of us pride ourselves on not being racist. But in an era where we are trying to do better than simply not kill people like Sandra Bland, Trayvon Martin or Eric Garner, Coates writes, good intention “is a hall pass through history, a sleeping pill that ensures the Dream.”

I feel compelled, responsible to explain the importance of this book, particularly to a community I call my own. For the past 11 years, I have worked as a chaplain for atheists and agnostics, at Harvard University and beyond. I served for a term as the chair of the advisory board for the national Secular Student Alliance. And I’ve taken part in thousands of conversations about important social changes such as the rise of the “nones”– the 23% of Americans and 35% of young adult Americans who currently identify as nonreligious, according to Pew.

The point of discussion, in my circles, is often that we must be Rational. We must overcome supernatural beliefs in concepts like God, heaven, reincarnation, “The Secret,” alternative medicine (if it was proven, it’d just be called medicine, we like to quip) and many more. And I am in many ways an Orthodox Atheist: I disbelieve in all of the above concepts. Ten years ago I gladly signed a contract committing to never pray in public, not even as a metaphor. My atheist wife, who grew up enjoying religious Jewish rituals like singing the blessings, baruch ata adonai, over Hanukah candles, is often taken aback by the staunchness of my belief in godlessness, even at home, just us, where I will hum along with her beautiful melodies but I will not utter words of praise for a deity. And though Richard Dawkins once correctly pointed out, over lunch, that the difference between himself and me is that I “don’t like to mock religion,” and he relishes doing so, I consider myself to have far more in common with Dawkins, the world’s famous atheist, than not. At least when it comes to metaphysics. Yes, as a humanist I like to consider myself a person of knowledge and consciousness.

But reading Ta-Nehisi Coates woke me up from a groggy state, a kind of semi-lucid haze I did not realize I was in.

Coates, an award-winning journalist for the Atlantic, is primarily seen as a writer on race. And “Between the World and Me” is, on one level, a book about race, with the story of his murdered friend Prince Jones making Sandra Bland’s seemingly similar death look all the more like a depressing and infuriating act of terror. But atheists and humanists tend to see ourselves as transcending culture and race. So much so that I’ve always been dismayed to find the majority of people who tend to show up at the meetings of organizations with words like atheist and humanist in their names, are so very, very white. Why? Maybe, as I explored in my book “Good Without God” (a title meant to offer a three-word definition of humanism), in an America where religious identity is all many minorities have to fortify them against a society that treats them as inferior and other, identifying as an atheist is far easier for people of privilege.

But Coates’ new book is also, boldly, about atheism. It is even more so about humanism. Crafting a powerful narrative about white Americans — or, as he says, those of us who need to think we are white — who are living The Dream — Coates makes a profound statement of what is, and is not, good, with or without god. Coates refers not to Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream, not quite even to the “American Dream,” but rather to The Dream in which we forget our history, our identity and much of our nation’s prosperity is built on the foundation of the suffering of people of color in general and black people in particular. The Dream, in other words, is not a state in which only Fox News Watchers find themselves. It is a state that can cancel out the very best of white, liberal, humanist intentions.

If you, like me, are a race-conscious progressive who had never really given serious consideration to the thought that maybe, morally speaking, we actually do still owe reparations to African-Americans: welcome to The Dream. If you, like me, applauded with all your might at the election of our first black president, but had never truly stopped to re-evaluate your life in light of the fact that slavery was the single biggest industry in early American history and thus the “down payment” allowing us all to enjoy lives of relative, super-powerful comfort, welcome to The Dream. Or if you, like me, have walked through predominantly black neighborhoods feeling occasional pangs of fear for your safety, while also wishing fervently that residents of that neighborhood could achieve justice, but if you never fully contemplated the “moral disaster” that because of redlining, profiling and various other unjust policies, laws and scams, each black resident of that neighborhood had to endure fears at least as profound, every waking and sleeping moment, and what an unjust physical impact that might have on them and their families to this day and beyond — and therefore what an injustice we all suffer, because we are all one human family, right? …

This Dream was made for you and me.

Now you may be asking, what does all this have to do with atheism? Maybe my lack of experience as a reviewer has got the best of me.

Or maybe Coates is not merely a black thinker who happens to be an atheist, but a human thinker of the absolute highest order, who uses both his experience of living in a black body and his atheism to offer some of the freshest insights our culture and society have seen yet.

First of all, the still relatively young author was not only flipping but ripping up the script about church-state separation years before, say, Sam Harris ever considered penning a “Letter to a Christian Nation.” Did you ever wonder, in the name of atheism, as to the sociology of why there are so many churches in poor black neighborhoods? Coates did, straight out of Howard.

Sixteen years later, he has become the most deft and creative writer I’ve seen in years in terms of his ability to craft language about the meaning of disbelief. Power, for him, comes not from divinity, but from “a deep knowledge of how fragile everything … especially The Dream, really is”; a point made more profound coming from a member of the single most religious demographic group in the United States.

Coates even channels the late Carl Sagan, astronomer and humanist ~patron saint, in passages that could inspire anyone, regardless of economic or racial background: “godless though I am, the fact of being human, the fact of possessing the gift of study, and thus being remarkable among all the matter floating through the cosmos, still awes me.”

Is ”Between the World and Me” an important but angry book, as the New York Times’ David Brooks suggests, in an epistle that breaks the sound barrier of tone deafness? No, and in fact it angers me that such an interpretation keeps coming up. This is, in the best and most powerful way possible, not an angry book, but a fearful book. “I am afraid,” Coates writes, again and again risking the shame with which fear is too often stigmatized, to share his deeply felt terror for his son, for himself, for all of us.

The most astonishing moment of Coates’ previous book, “The Beautiful Struggle,” comes when he explains the mysterious magic of hip-hop music as being, primarily, about fear. And as he says in “Between The World and Me,” “fear ruled everything around me”; surely the most realistic and Rational reinterpretation of Wu Tang lyrics I’ve ever encountered. Coates’ unique voice is far more vulnerable than most reviews, even positive ones, give him credit for. Why should we celebrate the vulnerability — meaning, the willingness to recognize and admit one’s fears — of a white Christian woman like the famous TED speaker Brene Brown, but fail to recognize the power of that same quality in Ta-Nehisi Coates?

A final concern: Perhaps humanists and atheists will respond negatively to what they will see here as breathless praise. We nonreligious people do not cotton to the idea that anyone or anything is perfect. And neither the present author nor his subject matter is. So I would urge “constant interrogation,” as Coates himself advises in one of the many phrases that echo great skeptic intellectuals like Paul Kurtz or James Randi. But Coates is not unaware of the flaws in his own narrative. He not only owns that the black community and its intellectual tradition isn’t perfect or sacred, he credits his Howard University professors — the secular imams at The Mecca, as he refers to America’s finest historically black college — with teaching him this.

Fittingly, the book ends with an expression of profound fear: that the same human motives and frailties that created the institution of slavery have morphed into a technological juggernaut that now threatens every human life, and our very planet, in the form of climate change. Will we, together, come up with a better way to live? Will we do it fast enough to implement those changes and experience a better future together, or will we ironically figure out how to treat one another equally, just as we are floating off vanishing coastlines into oblivion? Maybe, as a humanist, I should be more optimistic. Or maybe I will just admire the amazing little lesson Coates’ mother taught him when he was a small boy, failing or misbehaving at school. She would make him write essays explaining why. Maybe the most humanistic thing we can do right now is wake up from the Dream, at least enough to look at our worst failings — as humanists, as human beings, as people who may think we are white — and write, about why.
Greg M. Epstein has served as the Humanist Chaplain at Harvard University since 2005; he is also Executive Director of the Humanist Hub, a center for humanist life in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The next time someone says ‘all lives matter,’
(in response to #BlackLivesMatter)
show them these 5 paragraphs


from Fusion:
Earlier this week, Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley got booed when, speaking at the Netroots Nation conference, he responded to a group of #BlackLivesMatter activists by telling them that “all lives matter.” He was later forced to apologize.

O’Malley isn’t the first person to fail to understand why “all lives matter” is a tone-deaf rallying cry for a national politician in 2015. Hillary Clinton did the same thing earlier this year, though she has since corrected herself. And lots of white people have expressed confusion about why it’s controversial to broaden the #BlackLivesMatter movement to include people of all races.

The best explanation we’ve seen so far comes from Reddit, of all places. Earlier this week, in an “Explain Like I’m 5″ thread, user GeekAesthete explained, clearly and succinctly, why changing #BlackLivesMatter to #AllLivesMatter is an act of erasure that makes lots of people cringe.
GeekAesthete explains:

Imagine that you’re sitting down to dinner with your family, and while everyone else gets a serving of the meal, you don’t get any. So you say “I should get my fair share.” And as a direct response to this, your dad corrects you, saying, “everyone should get their fair share.” Now, that’s a wonderful sentiment — indeed, everyone should, and that was kinda your point in the first place: that you should be a part of everyone, and you should get your fair share also. However, dad’s smart-ass comment just dismissed you and didn’t solve the problem that you still haven’t gotten any!

The problem is that the statement “I should get my fair share” had an implicit “too” at the end: “I should get my fair share, too, just like everyone else.” But your dad’s response treated your statement as though you meant “only I should get my fair share”, which clearly was not your intention. As a result, his statement that “everyone should get their fair share,” while true, only served to ignore the problem you were trying to point out.

That’s the situation of the “black lives matter” movement. Culture, laws, the arts, religion, and everyone else repeatedly suggest that all lives should matter. Clearly, that message already abounds in our society.

The problem is that, in practice, the world doesn’t work that way. You see the film Nightcrawler? You know the part where Renee Russo tells Jake Gyllenhal that she doesn’t want footage of a black or latino person dying, she wants news stories about affluent white people being killed? That’s not made up out of whole cloth — there is a news bias toward stories that the majority of the audience (who are white) can identify with. So when a young black man gets killed (prior to the recent police shootings), it’s generally not considered “news”, while a middle-aged white woman being killed is treated as news. And to a large degree, that is accurate — young black men are killed in significantly disproportionate numbers, which is why we don’t treat it as anything new. But the result is that, societally, we don’t pay as much attention to certain people’s deaths as we do to others. So, currently, we don’t treat all lives as though they matter equally.

Just like asking dad for your fair share, the phrase “black lives matter” also has an implicit “too” at the end: it’s saying that black lives should also matter. But responding to this by saying “all lives matter” is willfully going back to ignoring the problem. It’s a way of dismissing the statement by falsely suggesting that it means “only black lives matter,” when that is obviously not the case. And so saying “all lives matter” as a direct response to “black lives matter” is essentially saying that we should just go back to ignoring the problem.
Yep, there you go. Bookmark it, print it out, give it to your friends.


thanks, Insideplaya

Monday, July 27, 2015

An interesting story of Skate Boarding History
"A Reinvention Of the Wheel"

from the Washington Post in 2004.

A Reinvention Of the Wheel
By Eric M. Weiss
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 17, 2004; Page B01

Who knew that a Navy brat from Annandale would discover the key to the modern skateboard?

But that is exactly what Frank Nasworthy did in the summer of 1970. By deciding to replace his skateboard's clay wheels with high-tech synthetic rubber wheels he stumbled upon, Nasworthy made it possible to do the sort of tricks that today's average mall rat considers ho-hum.

"It was so revolutionary, it spawned an entire movement," said Stacy Peralta, a champion skateboarder in the 1970s who produced the cult skateboard film "Dogtown and Z-Boys." "Skateboarding wouldn't be where it is. It wouldn't exist."

Nasworthy's innovation, which he tested on the streets of Arlington and on the granite and marble playground of the Mall during that summer, resuscitated skateboarding, saving it from going the way of the hula hoop and the yo-yo.

Southern California was the center of surfing and skateboarding, but Nasworthy's discovery will preserve a place for the Washington area in skateboard history, said Michael Brooke, author of "The Concrete Wave," a history of the sport.

Frank Nasworthy in the 70's -----

"It's amazing that the birthplace of the urethane wheel is Washington, D.C.," Brooke said.

Nasworthy didn't invent urethane. He wasn't even the first to make a wheel out of the petroleum-based compound. But, in the best tradition of American entrepreneurs, Nasworthy knew enough to recognize that the wheels would make a skateboard jump and rock and roll -- and that a few bucks could be made on that.

Nasworthy's father was a naval aviator who worked at the Pentagon, so his family spent the summer of 1970 in Northern Virginia. Elsewhere that year, "Love Story" and "M*A*S*H" drew crowds to air-conditioned theaters. The Chicago Seven were acquitted. In South Carolina, two white men tried to storm a school bus to prevent integration. Janis Joplin died.

One day Nasworthy and a high school friend, Bill Harward, went to visit another friend, whose family owned a plastics factory in Purcellville. The friend's dad tinkered with making things out of urethane. In the factory was a barrel filled with small wheels.

"I just looked at those wheels and thought, 'Wow, those would fit on our skateboards,' " Nasworthy recalled. "He told us to take as many as we wanted because they weren't perfect, and they were actually trying to figure out how to dispose of them."

He took about 30 to 40 wheels. When he got home, he put them on his skateboard and headed straight for the hills of Columbia Pike. Unlike balky clay wheels, the new wheels rode like a dream as he cruised toward the Pentagon, using parking garages and driveways along the way as private skate parks.

Then, he and his friends went to a nearby Toys R Us and bought up whatever clay-wheeled skateboards the store still had since the first wave of skateboarding had died five years earlier. They spent the rest of the summer carving the concrete slopes of the Washington area, the first teenage crew anywhere to have what is now considered a typical modern skateboard.

Their favorite places to skateboard included a Catholic girls' school and the area around the Lincoln Memorial. "There was so much concrete and granite around, so to skate all over it was a blast," he remembered.

The first skateboards in the 1950s were handmade, basically young boys nailing metal roller skate wheels to a piece of wood. If one survived the ride, his teeth would rattle, several skateboard pioneers recalled.

"First time I saw one was a bunch of kids coming down the Pacific Coast Highway on a one-by-six," said Hobie Alter, surf, skateboard and boating legend. "I said, 'You guys are nuts.' "

In 1959, the first skateboards hit toy stores. They were basically of the same crude design except they were made in a factory. In 1962, the first skateboard competition took place, and the first skateboard shop opened.

The skateboard craze took off nationwide in 1964, spread by Alter and a crew of the best California surfers. That summer, they rented a Ford Condor bus, filled it with gas and took off cross-country. In places where there were no waves, they played surfing movies and showed off their skateboard moves.

"Nobody had ever seen it," Alter said. His crew even made it onto "The Tonight Show" and had Johnny Carson riding a skateboard down a studio hallway.

But the early skateboards, with wheels made of metal or clay, just didn't grip well. "You couldn't maneuver it well. It was a joke," Brooke said. Kids were getting hurt; police chiefs were calling for bans on the boards. By Christmas 1965, the skateboard fad went bust.

After the summer of 1970, Nasworthy moved to California, but he never forgot about those amazing urethane wheels he got in Purcellville. Three years later, he got a company called Creative Urethanes to produce wheels specially for skateboards. (Nasworthy called them "Cadillac Wheels" because of their smooth ride.)

And he started pitching the wheels to skateboard manufacturers, skate shops and others. After some success, he said, Cadillac Wheels were overtaken in the marketplace by other manufacturers. Nasworthy, 53, is now an engineer for Hewlett-Packard in California.

Soon skateboarders began using the new urethane wheels to redefine what could be done on a skateboard. Stacy Peralta clearly remembered the first time he rode a board with urethane wheels.

"I took three pushes to the sidewalk, and it wasn't giving way -- I could build momentum," he said. "It was out of this world. Talk about a pinnacle moment in your life."

Peralta was part of a group of surfers from a tough part of Santa Monica, Calif., called "Dogtown." They would surf between the rotting piers of a closed amusement park. When the waves weren't up, the surfers took to skateboards. They pioneered quick surfing moves and a down-low style that created a new skateboarding aesthetic.

Soon, the group and its followers scouted the Los Angeles area for empty swimming pools in which they could practice new tricks and routines on the smooth concrete walls. Stylish photos of these radical pool sessions were reprinted in new skateboard magazines that were snapped up in 7-Eleven stores across the country, spurring skateboarding to new heights.

Skateboard routines and boards have changed since then, but the sport is still about freedom and attitude.

Nasworthy said skateboards fulfill a desire of kids to move, explore and experiment.

"It is still about the thrill of potential energy," he said, "and doing it in a manner that you can express yourself emotionally."


Thanks, Ian (of course)

none of these images appeared in the original article.
the wheel is from my own collection and the Frank Nasworthy portrait is the classic one everyone knows from the 70's

the incredible classic Jim Evans illustrated posters I dug up on line


Sunday, July 26, 2015

In Honor of Baseball Hall of Fame Weekend and the undeniable respect Hip-Hop artists have for the game

I present this find from the STRAIGHT//OUTTA//COOPERSTOWN tumbler:

A mashup of Hall of Famers from America’s two favorite pastimes.

“Then I get physical and hit you with another hit /The brother’s it, and nothing’s equivalent”
“Then I get physical and hit you with another hit /
The brother’s it, and nothing’s equivalent”

“Do the Smurf, do the Wop, Baseball Bat /Rooftop like I’m bringing ‘88 back”
Rooftop like I’m bringing ‘88 back”

“The pitcher all on the mound /Throwin’ fastballs with a curve,the nerve of speedballin, HA”

“Crank shit, Shawshank Redemption scholar/Roll up, based on dollars, baseball hat, big collar”

“Yo, my man, how bad do you want it? /You know how many cats I threw the pitch, and they never caught it?”

“Can’t do the shit we do, the way we do wit’ no dough /That’s like trying to win a ballgame, if you ain’t takin’ no score”

“You need to put me in the hall of fame /I’m worldwide, a legend in this game, (check the resume)”
“How the fuck can I stay out the pen /When it’s one-two-three strikes you in”
“They get in a slump like baseball players when they short on they rent /Anything goin’ you ain’t knowin’ how much money you spent”

“Whip smelling like fish from 125th /Throwing ketchup on my fries, hittin’ baseball spliffs”

“You talk all that robbery shit, but it’s lame /You wouldn’t steal first base at a baseball game”

“Never defeated not conceited, but let’s face facts /Couldn’t beat me with a motherfuckin’ baseball bat”

“I get baseball money, check my home run average /Take over the game and let my homeboys have it”

“So what, I’m a player, playing the field /if you want me, you better yield”

“Wherever I go, my crew is true to swarm /Got stripes in New York like Yankee uniforms”

“I go for the home run, you the type to bunt /No support, stay in court twice a month, light the blunt”

“All day ho, my neck look sweeter than parfait ho /Rap Derek Jeter in a red two seater /I can throw this dick from far away ho”

“Coming in the club with that fresh shit on /With something crazy on my arm /Uh-uh-hum, and here’s another hit; Barry Bonds”

“Now I’m in the 9th inning /Thought I fell off, ain’t quite finished”

“Wu Killa Bee appear on your body like the pox /Keep rivalries like Yankees and the Red Sox /I’d rather see it in the ballpark, then see it on the block”

“And big hitter in, leavin’ a fitter in, literin’ /Get rid of considerin’, rocks be glitterin’”

Saturday, July 25, 2015

BAD BRAINS new t-shirts with some of my old pictures!

Dig It.

Two new shirts available now in the Official #BadBrains Store, both featuring photos taken by legendary photographer Glen E. Friedman at CBGB in 1982.

Posted by Bad Brains on Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Friday, July 24, 2015

Zu Zu BLUES BAND (Dr. John, Jessie Hill) - "ZU ZU MAN" (A&M, 1966): NYNT Daily Party Platter

This is the continuing series I will post every other day while i'm out of town, thanks to Jonathan Toubin DJ of New York Night Train

When Mac Rebennack night-tripped to L.A. in 1965 he joined up with one of the Big Easy's most distinctive vocalists to record this lone single for A&M Records. For such a supreme quality record on a major label to be such a rarity means that the Zu Zu Blues Band was lost in the label's mountain of whipped cream that year and clipped before it ever had a chance to get off the ground. This is too bad because "Zu Zu Man" may be the perfect all-time soul dance record - groovy, infectious, dynamic, timeless, and unique in almost every way from the wild beat to the shimmering B3 to the exotic riff. Though it retains a very New Orleans syncopation, its way more upbeat than a lot of Louisiana groovers and so spacious and pentatonic and weird that its hard to place when and where it comes from. Dr. John and Jessie Hill sound exactly like Dr. John and Jessie Hill but this recording is an entirely new place and time for them. Two familiar characters in an unfamiliar setting. Though the two collaborated in L.A. on a few Pulsar Records after this, Zu Zu Man is a portal to a dimension that neither of them, and none of us for that matter, have ever entered again.... Turning this is as close as any of us will ever get.

This is my daily addition to the New York Night Train Party Platter playlist. Each track here is recorded directly from the original 45 (no bootlegs, reproductions, etc) to give you an idea of what the real deal authentic vinyl sounds like. COME BACK EVERY DAY FOR A NEW FIX! Because the records pass so quickly at my parties, this channel is an attempt to stop and focus on one record at a time in hopes that it'll turn you on to the artists, tracks, labels, etc. But mostly I hope this music moves you as much as it moves me.

Get your enjoys,
Jonathan Toubin
Soul Proprietor, New York Night Train

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Young Jessie "Mary Lou" (Mercury, 1963 Jack Nitzsche version): NY Night Train Daily Party Platter

This is the continuing series I will post every other day while i'm out of town, thanks to Jonathan Toubin DJ of New York Night Train

In 1963 supreme rhythm and blues vocalist Young Jessie updated his 1955 rock and roll hit "Mary Lou" for the soul generation on Mercury Records. Legendary producer/engineer Jack Nitzsche gives this one a firm latin beat and a super-elegant arrangement that turns the song into something completely new while still remaining true to the spirit of the original. All of this restraint forefronts the personality and deep nuances of Young Jessie's huge pipes and engulfs the song in his resonance. About as close to perfect as it gets. The other side "You Were Meant For Me" is also stellar.

I was lucky enough to have Young Jessie sing at the 2013 Lincoln Center Soul Clap and Dance-Off and, not only did he look like a million bucks, but his voice hadn't lost a drop of its brilliance... Check him out live and look for his consistently top-notch records!

This video is a today's installment in the New York Night Train Party Platter YouTube playlist ( Every track is recorded directly from the original 45s (no bootlegs, reproductions, etc) to give you an idea of what the real deal authentic vinyl sounds like. COME BACK EVERY DAY FOR A NEW FIX! Because the records pass so quickly at my parties, this channel is an attempt to slow down a bit and focus on one record at a time in hopes that it'll hip you to artists, tracks, and other details - and, on the most base level, give you something to listen to.

Get your enjoys,
Jonathan Toubin

Tuesday, July 21, 2015