Urban Studies

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Ben Gilbert of Endgadget has a succinct explanation of why Tesla is finding it a chore to open its Apple Store-ish dealerships in many states. It seems to have nothing to do with electric vs. gas. An explanation:

“Why do so many states have provisions against direct-to-consumer car sales? Because of the way the car dealership system works. Early in the automotive industry, carmakers needed individual franchise owners to invest and set up a system for consumers to buy vehicles. Without highways, transporting vehicles was difficult. Additionally, cars required far more maintenance early on. Thus, the franchise model was born.

The companies making cars — Ford, GM, etc. — negotiated deals with car dealers. As The New Yorker explained in a 2009 piece, those early deals were weighted heavily against car dealers:

‘In 1920, for instance, the US economy went into a deep recession. But Henry Ford kept his factories running at full tilt, and forced thousands of Ford dealers around the country to buy new cars that they had little chance of selling. The dealers knew that if they said no they’d never see a Model T again, so they ate the inventory. A decade later, when the Great Depression hit, Ford and GM used the same strategy to help keep the production lines going. They turned their dealers into a cushion against hard times.’

To protect themselves, car dealers formed associations. Laws were enacted, and it’s those laws — meant to protect car dealers — that are interfering with Tesla’s ability to sell cars directly to consumers. Here’s the logic of the argument against Tesla: If Tesla can sell cars directly to consumers, what stops the rest of the car industry from doing that? That is the heart of this, so let’s be totally clear:

The entire argument against Tesla selling cars directly to consumers is that car dealers might have to face competition from the companies they currently represent.

That’s it. It’s not really about Tesla, or electric cars. It’s about money. It’s an argument against competition that may or may not even manifest in reality.”


life or death of family

Please help me and my family. There is a hit out on us. Details when you call. There is a plan to kill 5-6 people. Any advice or help would be welcomed. ThANK YOU.

In his 1983 Police parody, “King Of Suede,” “Weird” Al Yankovic sang an ode to mom-and-pop stores, to the last time mail-order catalogs and video arcades would matter, to the moment just before the whole world could fit into your pocket, disappear there. It was a sweet, nostalgic and sad song, released on a vinyl album which was sold in record stores and counted down by Casey Kasem. More than three decades later, Yankovic is releasing his latest send-ups as an album, a format that’s largely lost its groove. He’s his own mom-and-pop store now, in danger of closing. From “The Winter of Weird Al,” Steven Hyden’s Grantland piece about the parodist’s precarious place in the new normal, where the 45s and 78s have vanished into the 0s and 1s: 

“‘Is the album dead?’ is an old canard that comes up regularly in very thinky think pieces each time another mediocre quarterly sales report is released. But as it pertains specifically to musical parody albums, the format truly does seem to be operating on dial-up speed in a breathless, web-oriented universe. At least the Lonely Island and Tenacious D are known for original material, which makes buying their albums seem sort of worth it. But Weird Al subsists solely on the rapidly staling bread of pop-culture ephemera. He might have benefited from the record-label system for much of his career, but his music was proto-viral back when the Internet was just an idea hypothesized by Weird Al–loving Poindexters.

In the past, Weird Al’s timing was perhaps his greatest asset. Right when the culture seemed to be tiring of a particular song or artist, the Weird Al parody would appear. It was the sign of an artist reaching ‘we love you, but we also can’t stand you’ stardom. But that timing now seems rather, well, sluggish, and this has caused Weird Al to drift back into a crowded field. Now that the release of Mandatory Fun completes Yankovic’s record contract, it seems wise to explore more expedient alternatives.

When I asked Yankovic if it still made sense for him to make albums in the future, he was eager to steer the conversation back to the record he had already made and was trying to promote. But in spite of the hemming and hawing, he was pretty clear about what’s next.

‘I don’t want to draw any hard lines in the sand, because I’d like to leave all my options open, but I’m feeling like this is probably my last conventional album,’ he said.”

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Speaking of a romantic age of advertising, here are videos of David Ogilvy of Ogilvy & Mather; and George Lois, who is responsible, along with Harold Hayes, for the classic Esquire covers, and on his own for the “I Want My MTV” campaign. The Ogilvy clip is from the ’60s and the Lois from 1974.

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I’ve mentioned before that Tom Landry, legendary coach of the Dallas Cowboys, was computer savvy in the 1970s (here and here), but the team’s faith in AI stretches back a decade prior, when original GM Tex Schramm invested in some hardware to help crunch numbers for the draft, hoping to remove confirmation bias and other human negatives from the equation. The opening of “Make No Mistakes About It,” Tex Maule’s 1968 Sports Illustrated article:

“The best computer in the world today is a small machine about the size and consistency of a ripe cantaloupe. It can digest, evaluate and extrapolate more data than the most sophisticated hard-metal device yet evolved and can do it quicker and better. The huge computer complex—a machine that takes up more than a thousand feet of floor space—has one advantage over the little one. It has a better memory.

Both types of machine are used in modern professional football, and next week they will be working overtime as the combined National and American football leagues meet to draft this year’s crop of eligible players. The little machines—the cantaloupes—rest in the skulls of the coaches and scouts of the game. The big one—the computer machine—accepts the data given it by the little ones, analyzes it, shuffles through its memory bank and returns black and white judgments to the brains for further evaluation.

In professional football the use of the computer has proliferated enormously during the last five years. The trend began with the escape of a general manager from a professional football team to a short term as an assistant to CBS Sports Director Bill MacPhail. It grew with the immigration of an Indian statistics expert to the U.S. and reached fulfillment when a young man who had made his living taking pictures of newborn babies in Milwaukee hospitals gave up his job to follow his hobby. The three together—led by the ex-CBS executive—easily developed the most intelligent scouting system in all sports.

Tex Schramm, formerly general manager of the Los Angeles Rams and now president of the Dallas Cowboys, decided upon computerized consideration of football players while he was associated with CBS. The Rams, during the years Schramm worked for Owner Dan Reeves and luxuriated in what was then by far the most efficient scouting system in pro football, consistently came up with the best draft in the National Football League and just as consistently lost to other teams that grabbed their discards. Deluged with fine young talent in those years, the Rams tended to drop ripening players in favor of bringing in the new ones.

‘While I was with CBS, I thought the whole thing out very carefully,’ Schramm said the other day. ‘I decided that I had undervalued experience and overvalued youth. And I decided, too, that I would have to find an objective method of deciding on the worth of a football player when I went back into pro football. The only defect in the Ram scouting system was that the people involved all had built-in prejudices of one sort or another. I thought we had to find a way to judge players without emotion. We used computers to figure scores and standings when I was in charge of CBS coverage of the Winter Olympics in 1958, and I discussed using computers to evaluate football players with IBM experts then. But I didn’t get a chance to put the idea into operation until 1962, when I was with the Cowboys.’

As examples of what Schramm means by emotional judgment, he admits that for years he has been partial to speed to the exclusion of other qualities when judging the ability of a player. ‘If a guy can run a 9.4 hundred,’ he says, ‘I’ll overlook a lot of faults. Some coaches have built-in prejudices against small colleges, and some coaches feel that a Big Ten player automatically is good. There are prejudices for and against regions and for and against individual coaches. These prejudices all lead to inaccurate judgments.’

Restored to football in 1960, when Clint Murchison bought the Dallas franchise, Schramm hired Photographer Gil Brandt of Milwaukee as his chief scout and installed a detailed and expensive scouting system. Because there were so many other details to be mastered, it was not until 1962 that he began to solve the problem of objective analysis. In that year the Cowboys were approached by a subsidiary of IBM, Service Bureau Corporation, which was trying to develop a market in handling pro football accounting systems. Schramm countered with the suggestion that SBC try to develop a method for applying computers to the multiple problems of scouting. Eventually SBC sent an Indian—Salam Qureishi—to Texas to look the situation over.”

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If you’re interested in advertising, New York City in the ’60s, Mad Men or the subtle levers of the free market, “The Quiet Persuader,” a 1967 installment of the BBC’s Inside America series, is great fun. It profiles Young & Rubicam exec Steve Frankfurt at 33, during the middle of that decade when the industry was flush and fascinating, when TV, the medium in which he excelled, was becoming the center of the ad world. Frankfurt’s work was so highly regarded that he was even hired to create the title sequence for To Kill a Mockingbird and other films. His first wife, Suzie, who also appears in the documentary, was a highly regarded interior designer and a friend and collaborator of Andy Warhol.

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From the November 29, 1910 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

Washington–’Big Bill,’ the son of ‘Mrs. Wayne,’ the White House cow, is dead. Brain fever caused the blue-blooded young bovine’s demise. ‘Big Bill’ had been promised by President Taft to ‘Big Bill’ Price, the dean of the White House correspondents, and was soon to have been transferred to a Maryland farm, where a special stable had been made ready for his reception.”

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In a Nautilus Q&A conducted by John Steele, which focuses on the valuation of nature, Cambridge economist Sir Partha Dasgupta offers up a dismal view of our future:


What do you think the world will look like in 50 years?

Sir Partha Dasgupta:

I’m pretty pessimistic. I don’t believe humanity is going down the tube; that is meaningless. There will be always some rich people who will overcome the problems that we will face, and enough rich people. But I think the idea that we are in a universal movement towards progress, for example the idea that we will eliminate poverty in 10 years, 15 years, yes, we can do it for a short period, but the way we are attacking nature, the way we are handling nature, she’s biting back. She bites back at the local level; we already know that. Catastrophe is not a feature of the future. Villages have been wiped out in various parts of the world, as we know, over the decades, civil unrest, civil war amongst tribes, neighbors, which we have seen in our own time, are not exactly unrelated to resource scarcities. These are battles for resources. The epiphenomenon might be cultural divides and so forth, but at the end of the day when you’re very poor you worry about who’s going to feed your child, and our baser instincts, our nobler instincts are suppressed. So in my judgment we have seen enough of that. To think that those things can be cured on a large-scale basis, I don’t have many hopes because we are doing enormous damage to the oceans, we have done enormous damage. Obviously the theme of this conference in large measure has been over climate, and God knows what we have in store in 30, 40 years’ time.

Now, it doesn’t really mean that, as I say, the idea isn’t like that we’re all like lemmings, we all fold under the roof. No, it’s not going to happen like that. The richest parts of the world will find ways, because they have enough resources to be able to overcome the difficulties, at least in some measure. They may not be able to prosper as much. But I hate to think what’s going to happen in the drier parts of the world, sub-Saharan Africa, Northern India. I don’t know what will happen there, but to think that it’s all progress ahead of us if we get our institutions right, I think probably we are a bit too late for that. Many of these processes have very long-term irreversibilities. I mean, my climate science friends tell me that even if you were to have a zero emission now, the cumulative effect of the past will come to terrorize us in some form or the other in the future. So I think we’re going to see deep poverty in various parts of the world, even as we move in whatever direction we have to move, because we’ve set in motion processes which are amazingly tenacious, some of them being our own habits. I don’t think we have in the modern era come to terms with the fact that collective action is required with the greatest urgency at every level, community level, and there is collective action at the community level; we see it everywhere in some form. At the national level far less so, and of course at the international level we see mainly disappointments. So we’ll survive, but this idea of progress which we have become accustomed to over a 250-year period since the beginning of the industrial revolution, certainly in the past 60, 70 years, I mean since the end of the Second World War, there’s been this very optimistic and rightly so, optimistic view with the knowledge that we had that reasoned behavior will take us there, but we’ve been using the wrong metric.”

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There’s probably room for just one Las Vegas in America, especially now that gambling is decentralized and ubiquitous, even on that screen in your shirt pocket. Vegas itself makes less money these days from gaming than non-gaming attractions (dining, shopping, shows, etc.). Atlantic City’s casino culture has always been a fraught thing, and now that the chips are falling where they may, the dealers beat, it’s hard to predict what comes next. From the Economist:

“Talk of diversifying the city’s economy is not new. In 2010 Chris Christie became New Jersey’s governor with talk about making Atlantic City more family-friendly, a ‘Las Vegas East.’ He created a commission to look at gaming in the state. A year later he launched a five-year plan to increase conventions, retail and tourism. Last year he gave a tax break to Revel, as the struggling casino had an unusual business model that relied more on revenues from conventions and regular tourists. Non-gambling visitors could easily avoid the casino floor, which until a year ago was also smoke-free. But gamblers fled the casino in greater numbers, and Revel now looks doomed.

Since the 1970s the casinos have delivered essential lucre to New Jersey’s coffers. Atlantic County, which includes Atlantic City, represents 20% of the state’s tourism industry, and tourism is the third-most important industry to the state. To manage Atlantic City’s waning appeal, New Jersey politicians are now seriously mulling a plan to bring casinos to Jersey City, which lies just across the Hudson River from New York City. This would be a big gamble: not only would it involve changing the law and holding a referendum, but also it would further deter travel to Atlantic City.

It is also not clear that more casinos would help.”


“You sense the excitement and challenge of change on the way”:

Edward Castronova, Indiana University telecommunications professor and student of video-game economies and cryptocurrencies, just did an Ask Me Anything at Reddit. One exchange that cuts to the heart of virtual money:


If you had $500 to invest in a virtual currency if your choice, which one would it be and why?

Edward Castronova:

I would not invest in any coin at the moment. I don’t like risky investments at all. All cryptocoins are risky at the moment and, from 60,000 feet, they do not show enough signs of better or worse right now. It’s like social network software in 2005. Would you bet on MySpace, Friendster, or Orkutt? It turned out that Facebook was the winner.”


The opening of Mark Harris’ Guardian report on the FBI’s investigation into robocars, which could be deployed as fleets of driverless taxis or as automated bomb-delivery systems–or both:

“Google’s driverless car may remain a prototype, but the FBI believes the ‘game changing’ vehicle could revolutionise high-speed car chases within a matter of years. The report also warned that autonomous cars may be used as ‘lethal weapons.’

In an unclassified but restricted report obtained by the Guardian under a public records request, the FBI predicts that autonomous cars ‘will have a high impact on transforming what both law enforcement and its adversaries can operationally do with a car.’

In a section called Multitasking, the report notes that ‘bad actors will be able to conduct tasks that require use of both hands or taking one’s eyes off the road which would be impossible today.’

One nightmare scenario could be suspects shooting at pursuers from getaway cars that are driving themselves.”


Evan Meeker, 1921.

Showing his wagon train to President Theodore Roosevelt, 1908.

Showing his wagon to President Theodore Roosevelt, 1908.

With President Calvin Coolidge,

Meeting President Calvin Coolidge, 1924.

Evan Meeker, Detroit, 1828, last photo.

Evan Meeker, Detroit, 1928, last photo.

When Ezra Meeker passed away 86 years ago, he took with him a lot of institutional memory–and the institution was America. A pioneer who traveled the Oregon trail in his youth, he spent much of his dotage trying to ensure people would remember those who endured such treacherous crossings to open up the country. The article that announced his death in the December 3, 1928 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

Seattle, Wash.–Ezra Meeker, 97, one of the last of the pioneers of the covered wagon era, died here this morning of after an illness of several months.

Meeker clung tenaciously to life until the end, holding on by sheer will power after physicians and relatives had given up. He had been at the point of death in a Detroit hospital for two months before returning here eight weeks ago. He had grown gradually weaker and when his condition became alarming it was impossible to move him to a hospital.

Last Thursday the pioneer was reported to have shown great improvement and hopes were held momentarily by his doctors that he would recover and live to reach his 98th birthday this month. He was in fine spirits over the weekend and his pulse and temperature were about normal. Late yesterday there was a turn for the worse and he sank rapidly.

Meeker was bitterly disappointed because illness in Detroit had prevented him from returning here in time to register for the recent general election. It was the first time he had missed since he voted in the first territorial election in Washington in 1854.

The pioneer, who brought his bride and a seven-weeks-old child West over the old Oregon trail by ox team in 1852, had intended to begin a second automobile tour of the trail when he was forced to enter the Detroit hospital in the first serious illness of his long and eventful life.

A son, Marvin J. Meeker, and three daughters, Mrs. Carrie Osborne and Mrs. Ella Templeton of Seattle, and Mrs. Roderick McDonald of Peshastin, Wash., survive him.

Meeker was born at Huntsville, Ohio, on December 29, 1830. After a boyhood there and an apprenticeship in a printing office in Indianapolis, her married in 1851 and struck out by ox team for Iowa to homestead a farm. A severe winter there induced the young couple to join a wagon caravan for Oregon and California in 1852. Months of hardship behind them, the Meekers reached Portland, Ore., in October of that year. Trail instinct kept the Meekers on the move until they settled at Fort Steilacoom, south of the present site of Tacoma, where Meeker kept a store from 1853 to 1862. Then the Meekers moved to Puyallup, where the pioneer became interested in hop growing, later going to London, England, for four years as agent of the hop growers of the Pacific Northwest.

Meeker was the author of several books on pioneer life, although he had but four months schooling in his life.

Meeker retraced the Oregon trail with an ox team in 1906 and four years ago flew over the route in an airplane piloted by Lieut. Oakley G. Kelley.

His last years were spent in obtaining recognition of the heroism of the Oregon trail pioneers by inducing communities along the route to erect suitable markers. In 1926 President Coolidge signed an act authorizing the issuance of a special half dollar to further interest in the building of monuments along the trail. Meeker was received at the White House by both Mr. Coolidge and President Roosevelt.”


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In 1969, Jimmy Breslin, who pours Piels beer over his Grape-Nuts cereal each morning, ran for City Council in NYC on a ticket that aimed to deliver Norman Mailer to Gracie Mansion. It was a secessionist platform that sought to make New York City the nation’s 51st state; 5% of the Democratic Primary voters approved. Here’s an excerpt from “I Run to Win,” Breslin’s May 5, 1969 cover article for New York magazine, written the month before the people voted nay:

“The first phone call on Monday morning was at seven o’clock.

‘He’s asleep,’ I heard my wife mumble.

‘Wake him up?’ she mumbled.

She kicked me and I reached over for the phone.

‘Somebody named Joe Ferris,’ she said. ‘He needs your correct voting registration for the petitions., What petitions?”

I sat up in bed, with the phone in one hand and my head against the wall and my eyes closed.

‘What petitions?’ my wife said again.

I knew what petitions Joe Ferris was talking about. I knew about them, but I never thought it would come to the point of an early morning phone call about them. You see, when it started, I was only in this thing for pleasant conversation with nice people. ‘Hello,’ I said to Joe Ferris. I was afraid he would send cold waves through the phone.

‘I’ve got to be at the printer with the petitions this morning,’ Joe Ferris said. ‘So what I need is the exact way your name and address appears on the voting rolls. We don’t want to have any petitions thrown out on a technicality. Because they’re going to be looking for mistakes. Particularly when they see how much support you and Norman are going to get. That’s all I’ve been hearing around town. You and Norman. I think you’ve got a tremendous chance.’

‘I’ll get the information and call you back,’ I said to Joe Ferris. He gave me his phone number and I told him I was writing it down, but I wasn’t. Maybe if I forgot his number and never called him back, he wouldn’t bother to call me anymore.

‘What petitions?’ my wife said when I hung up.

mailer-breslin-button‘Nothing,’ I said. I put my face in the pillow. Well, to tell you what happened. I really don’t know what happened, but I was in a place called the Abbey Tavern on Third Avenue and 26th Street at four o’clock one afternoon, when it was empty and I wouldn’t have to talk to anybody I didn’t know, and Jack Newfield came in. Jack Newfield is a political writer. He writes for the Village Voice and Life magazine and he does books and we got to know and like each other during the Bobby Kennedy campaigns last spring. Anyway, I’m having coffee with Jack Newfield and he says, ‘Did you hear me on the radio the other night? I endorsed you. I endorsed Norman Mailer for mayor and you for president of the City Council in the Democratic primary.’ I did two things. I laughed. Then I sipped the coffee. While I did it, I was saying to myself, ‘Why is Mailer on the top of the ticket?’

And a couple of days later, I had lunch in Limerick’s, on Second Avenue and 32nd Street, and here was Newfield and Gloria Steinem, and she likes me and I like her, and Peter Maas, and he is all right with me, too, and we got to talking some more and they kept saying Norman Mailer and I should run in the Democratic primary and finally I said, ‘Has anybody talked to Norman?’

‘No, not recently,’ Gloria said.

‘Give me a dime,’ I said.

I went to the phone and called Norman. While I was dialing, I began to compromise myself. Norman went to college, I thought. Maybe it’s only right that he’s the mayor and I’m the president of the City Council. But that’s the only reason. He has a Harvard diploma. On ability, I should be mayor.


‘Jimmy, how are you?’

‘Norman, let’s run.’”


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In an attempt to wring absolutely all the magic from romantic crushes, John Allen Paulos of the New York Times looks at the science and statistics behind human desire. We’ve been doing it all wrong! An excerpt:

“Let’s begin by imagining a person to be an assemblage of traits. Many are personal — our looks, habits, backgrounds, attitudes and so on. Many more are situational: how we behave in the myriad contexts in which we find ourselves.

The first relevant statistical notion is sampling bias. If we want to gauge public feelings about more stringent gun control, for instance, we won’t get a random sample by asking only people at a shooting range. Likewise, a fleeting glimpse of someone, or a brief exchange with him or her, yields just a tiny sample of that person’s traits.

But if we find that sample appealing, it can lead to a crush, even if it is based on nothing more than an idealized caricature: We see what we want to see. In the throes of incipient romantic fog, we use what the psychologist Daniel Kahneman, in his book Thinking, Fast and Slow, calls System 1 thinking — ‘fast, automatic, frequent, emotional, stereotypic and subconscious.’”


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From the November 30, 1910 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

Boston–James May was adjudged insane in court to-day and sent to an asylum. He was obsessed with the kissing idea and had tried to kiss strangers in the streets. Several women have driven him from them, recognizing the condition. He got into trouble when he tried to kiss a local policeman. That convinced the court that he was insane.”


Because it was inevitable, Timothy Leary once met Charles Manson. In prison, of course–Folsom to be exact. The LSD guru had been apprehended by the FBI in Afghanistan and extradited. One of his cellmates was the Helter Skelter dipshit. Leary documented the meeting in a 1976 article in OUI, a muckraking magazine that once uncovered Pia Zadora’s ass. The article’s opening:

“Commodore Leri, Agent from Central Intelligence assigned to earth, third planet of the G-type Star, sits on the bench of the holding cell of Soledad Prison, dressed in the white jump suit worn by transferees. On his left, John O’Neill, a slick good-looking big-city Irishman down for ten to life for murder two. To his right, a tall, slim, pretty cowboy named Ted with Indian cheekbones and a deep tan. Ted babbles evasively. He has been in and out of the joint for years and has the reputation of being a professional fuck-up. (‘He ain’t playing with a full deck,’ whispers O’Neill. ‘He’s one of the girls and a snitch, too.’) The three hold one-way tickets to the Dark Tower, and that has formed a bond among them. The Dark Tower is Folsom, a trans-Einsteinian Black Hole in the Earth Galaxy from which nothing ever escapes but feeble red radiation.

Leri had done some primatology research in Hollywood after the Tate-LaBianca murders and was fascinated by the wave of fright that swept through the film colony. The chic reaction was to install gate locks, which were opened by remote control after visitors identified themselves over an intercom. Whatever solace this arrangement provided, it certainly would not have thwarted the creepy-crawly Mansonites, who avoided the gate at the Tate house because they suspected that it was electrified. So Leri wrote a memoir for OUI magazine to show that none of the human fears that Manson systematically exploited can be neutralized by external defenses. These terrors, he wrote, are internal neurological reactions and, in order to understand Manson, one must understand the neurology of human fear.

Manson, it was said, stimulated fear in others in order to gain power.

‘One aspect of Manson’s philosophy especially puzzled me: his strange attitude toward fear,’ Vincent Bugliosi says in Helter Skelter. ‘He not only preached that fear as beautiful, he often told the family that they should live in a constant state of fear. What did he mean by that? I asked Paul [Watkins, Manson's second-in-command].

‘To Charlie, fear was the same thing as awareness, Watkins said. The more fear you have, the more awareness, hence the more love. When you’re really afraid, you come to ‘Now.’ And when you are at Now, you are totally conscious.’

Let us give credit where credit is due: Manson’s manipulation of fear has its roots in the paranoia behind the Cold War military posture, the antidrug scare campaigns, the addictive success of the most-popular movies and crime shows, the actions of all bureaucracy and law-enforcement agencies, and the operation of our penal institutions.

Before we can understand Manson, we must realize that a prison system is a microcosm of a culture and that the American prison system is run on raw fear and violence.”


Leary (sans Manson) interviewed at Folsom.

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"Alaskan thunder fuck."

“Alaskan Thunder Fuck.”

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An excerpt from “How to Choose?” Michael Schulson’s Aeon essay about the reasons why dumb luck sometimes outdoes deduction:

“Over the millennia, cultures have expended a great deal of time, energy and ingenuity in order to introduce some element of chance into decision-making. Naskapi hunters in the Canadian province of Labrador would roast the scapula of a caribou in order to determine the direction of their next hunt, reading the cracks that formed on the surface of the bone like a map. In China, people have long sought guidance in the passages of the I Ching, using the intricate manipulation of 49 yarrow stalks to determine which section of the book they ought to consult. The Azande of central Africa, when faced with a difficult choice, would force a powdery poison down a chicken’s throat, finding the answer to their question in whether or not the chicken survived – a hard-to-predict, if not quite random, outcome. (‘I found this as satisfactory a way of running my home and affairs as any other I know of,’ wrote the British anthropologist E E Evans-Pritchard, who adopted some local customs during his time with the Azande in the 1920s).

The list goes on. It could – it does – fill books. As any blackjack dealer or tarot reader might tell you, we have a love for the flip of the card. Why shouldn’t we? Chance has some special properties. It is a swift, consistent, and (unless your chickens all die) relatively cheap decider. Devoid of any guiding mind, it is subject to neither blame nor regret. Inhuman, it can act as a blank surface on which to descry the churning of fate or the work of divine hands. Chance distributes resources and judges disputes with perfect equanimity.

Above all, chance makes its selection without any recourse to reasons. This quality is perhaps its greatest advantage, though of course it comes at a price. Peter Stone, a political theorist at Trinity College, Dublin, and the author of The Luck of the Draw: The Role of Lotteries in Decision Making (2011), has made a career of studying the conditions under which such reasonless-ness can be, well, reasonable.

‘What lotteries are very good for is for keeping bad reasons out of decisions,’ Stone told me. ‘Lotteries guarantee that when you are choosing at random, there will be no reasons at all for one option rather than another being selected.’ He calls this the sanitising effect of lotteries – they eliminate all reasons from a decision, scrubbing away any kind of unwanted influence. As Stone acknowledges, randomness eliminates good reasons from the running as well as bad ones. He doesn’t advocate using chance indiscriminately. ‘But, sometimes,’ he argues, ‘the danger of bad reasons is bigger than the loss of the possibility of good reasons.’”

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Candace Bergen working as a photojournalist at a 1976 Whitney Museum bodybuilding exhibit (“The Body as Art”), with Arnold Schwarzenegger as the star (of course). An outtake from Pumping Iron.

In a Q&A in OUI, a pre-Brazilian periodical about pubic hair, Arnold discussed the Whitney experience with Peter Manso, who also profiled the testosterone of Brando and Mailer. An excerpt:

Peter Manso:

Is there a broader acceptance of the body these days, as an offshoot of the sexual revolution of the Sixties?

Arnold Schwarzenegger:

Yes. I’ve been in America for only eight years, but there’s been a change and it’s getting better. It’s happening in Europe, too. People are more at ease with their bodies.

Peter Manso:

Being at ease is one thing, but whatever possessed you to pose for the Whitney Museum?

Arnold Schwarzenegger:

A woman from The New York Times had been doing a piece on body building. She came to the gym and asked if Corney and I would pose at the museum. I thought at once that it was a terrific idea. I’d always wanted to tell people that when I work on my body I’m thinking about classical sculpture, so I jumped at the chance to show off body building as an art form. After the show, a lot of people came backstage and said it was fantastic, that they’d never thought of body building as art before.

Peter Manso:

Didn’t you feel like a pet monkey performing for the East Side ladies?

Arnold Schwarzenegger:

No, I felt great because I was the first athlete to be in a museum displaying his work of art, which just happened to be my physique. Overall, it was a great success. What does piss me off, though, is when people try to trick me into going to parties. You know, rich people in Beverly Hills who want to make the gossip columns.”

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Wernher von Braun, center, with Willy Ley, right, in 1954.

Ley with daughter Xenia at the Hayden Planetarium, 1957.

Speaking of Nazis, the top photograph offers an odd juxtaposition: That’s Wernher von Braun, a rocketeer who was a hands-on part of Hitler’s mad plan, whose horrid past was whitewashed by the U.S. government (here and here) because he could help America get a man on the moon; with Willy Ley, a German science writer and space-travel visionary who fled the Third Reich in 1935. A cosmopolitan in an age before globalization, Ley only wanted to share science across the word and encourage humans into space and onto the moon. He knew early on Nazism was madness leading to mass graves, not space stations. When Ley arrived in America after using falsified documents to escape Germany, he worked a bit on an odd rocket-related program: Ley led an effort to use missiles to deliver mail. It was a long way to go to get postcards from point A to point B, and an early attempt failed much to the chagrin of Ley, who donned a spiffy asbestos suit for the blast-off. Here’s the story of the plan’s genesis in the February 21, 1935 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

“It may be a long time before you can take a trip to the moon or to Mars in a rocket, but the time is not far off when rockets will be used to carry mail and to catapult airplanes from ships or from the ground.

This, according to Willy Ley of Berlin, who arrived today on Cunard-White Star liner Olympic for a seven-month stay in the United States, during which time he will work on the development of the rocket with G. Edward Pendray of Crestwood, N.J. Mr. Pendray is president of the American Rocket Society. 

Mr. Ley said that a friend in Austria had used rockets successfully in the delivery of mail between two towns, only two and a half miles apart, but separated by high mountains. In a very short time, he said, the rocket may supplant all other means of mail delivery.

Its use as a catapult for airplanes, he said would make it possible to equip planes with smaller engines, because airplane engines now require most of their horsepower to take off and can do without it in the air. By using rocket as a catapult, this extra horsepower would not be necessary, he pointed out.

Also on the Olympic were Dr. Walter Braun, young German physician, who has come to live with his brother, Fred Braun of 468 8th St., Brooklyn; William M.L. Fiske, recently chosen captain of the American bobsled team which is to compete in the coming Olympics, who has been in Europe on business; the Marchioness of Dufferin and Ava, who will visit friends in South Carolina. The ship was a day late due to terrific headwinds it met in the crossing.”


In 1952, Ley being interviewed, preposterously, about flying saucers, and also about space travel:

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Elon Musk, whose ambitions are part Edison and part Tesla, just announced he’s building a spaceport in Texas, aiming to send up rockets at an exceptionally fast clip. From Ashlee Vance in Businessweek:

“The new site in Texas, though, would give SpaceX a clean slate to put its unique spin on a spaceport. Knowing Musk, I believe this would mean an ultrafuturistic design coupled with loads of automation. The space industry could certainly benefit from this type of modernization, since it’s still relying, in most cases, on decades-old sites that were mainly built to send up missiles.

The SpaceX spaceport will be in Cameron County, where the company has been gobbling up land not far from the border with Mexico and near the cities of McAllen and Brownsville. The FAA has granted SpaceX approval (pdf) for 12 commercial launches per year on a 56.5 acre parcel of land. SpaceX would mostly be launching its current Falcon 9 rockets and its upcoming Falcon Heavy rockets.

Musk’s ultimate goal is to get to Mars, and he wants to be able to perform several launches a day, so that enough equipment and people could be sent to the planet to sustain life. The Texas site represents the first steps toward perfecting some of the launch technology needed to pull this off.”

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A three-wheeled concept car, the General Motors Roundabout was introduced at the 1964 World’s Fair as part of the “Futurama II” exhibit. Like the Electric Shopper, it was meant mostly as a chore vehicle. It looked like the future. It was not. From Concept Car Central: “The Runabout was a three-wheeled commuter car with two built-in shopping carts in the trunk for trips to the mall or grocery store. The front wheel could turn 180 degrees for easy parking. Aerodynamically similar to the Firebird IV concept, the Runabout featured a sliding canopy which provided access to the four seats. Driver equipment was sparse, though the Runabout had no driveline, and had to be rolled into the showroom.”


In the decade that the term “hooters” was coined, the 1970s, the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders plunged into the modern breast era, donning outfits with necklines that just a few years earlier might have gotten a go-go club shuttered. GM Tex Schramm had been gradually trimming the former “Cowbelles” cheer-squad suits, but in 1972 the women really busted out. Coach Tom Landry, a computer geek and Jesus freak, was not pleased. From The Last Cowboy by Mark Ribowsky, via the excellent Delancey Place:

“The vibe in Thousand Oaks at summer camp in 1967 contained a strange brew of old and new currents. The Cowboys’ first winning season had taken the team so far that it accumulated almost mythical properties in Dallas and the exigency for a grander scope. Clint Murchison Jr. relocated the Cowboys’ offices again, now to the Expressway Tower, an opulent fifteen-story glass structure at 6116 North Central Expressway that Murchison built on property he had bought expressly for the purpose. He put the organization on the eleventh floor, its picture windows offering sweeping vistas of the city. He also rented out a ground-floor space to the Playboy Club, which catered to the same upscale, male-dominated crowd that Murchison hosted in the Cowboy Club at the Cotton Bowl during home games. Not for a minute did Murchison consider that his coach might be embarrassed to have as neighbors cleavage-displaying young women wearing bunny ears and cottontails. The Cowboys were the hippest party in town, and the juxtaposition fit. Neither did he mind if players repaired to the Playboy Club after a hard few hours at the practice facility, which was under a big bubble behind the building. Landry already had the squares’ allegiance; could it hurt if they were balanced by Hugh Hefner’s ideal of 1960s American manhood?

Tex Schramm, for one, saw no downside to that equation. Working from the same idea, he junked the Cowbelles that off-season and created a new cheerleading squad, one that would remind no one of high school girls in hoop skirts and sweaters. Instead, the Cowgirls were professional go-go dancers hired to shake their pompoms while wearing hot pants and tight vests, showing off ample racks and bare midriffs. When Landry learned of it, he nearly had cardiac arrest. Years later in his memoirs, he was still exercised, saying that while the Cowgirls ‘transformed sideline entertainment,’ and that it was an example of Schramm’s lust to foster ‘a high profile image of style, flair, and maximum visibility,’ it also ‘sexually exploited the young women by pandering to the baser instincts of men.”

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Dubai, which is taking the lead in the air, hopes to forge ahead with air-conditioning as well, announcing plans for the first temperature-controlled, indoor city, the Mall of the World. I want to know more about the “specialized surgical procedures and cosmetic treatments” available in the “Wellness District,” which will cater to “medical tourists.” If the emirate’s real-estate market is as much a bubble as some think it is, we may have the first ghost town with a quiet-cool setting. From Belinda Lanks at Businessweek:

“Dubai is the land of superlatives. It already lays claim to the tallest building and the biggest fish tank in the world. Now the city has unveiled plans to build the largest mall and biggest indoor theme park in what will be the first temperature-controlled mini-city.

The 8-million-square-foot shopping center, dubbed Mall of the World, will include 100 hotels, a medical resort, event facilities, and a theater district—all of which can be shielded from the elements by a large retractable roof. The project, according to the developer, Dubai Holding, will be built ‘in phases in alignment with the gradual growth of family tourism in Dubai.’

Attracting shoppers from abroad is the goal.”


“Catering to medical tourists in a 3-million sq. ft. area”:


I Want to Fuck Joan Rivers (Lower East Side)

Sure, she is a bit long in the tooth but the woman has spirit and isn’t afraid to say what is on her mind. That kind of character is sexy. She is highly emotional and I bet she is still a firecracker in the sack. For all those reasons, I am IN.

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