black holes and gray matter. in one thousand tangos.

             

Hi Mom, I’m Home!

One in five people in their 20s and early 30s is currently living with his or her parents. And 60 percent of all young adults receive financial support from them. … The common explanation for the shift is that people born in the late 1980s and early 1990s came of age amid several unfortunate and overlapping economic trends. Those who graduated college as the housing market and financial system were imploding faced the highest debt burden of any graduating class in history. Nearly 45 percent of 25-year-olds, for instance, have outstanding loans, with an average debt above $20,000… And more than half of recent college graduates are unemployed or underemployed, meaning they make substandard wages in jobs that don’t require a college degree.”

Read on: It’s Official: The Boomerang Kids Won’t Leave

“IN THE WORLD of early-20th-century African-American music and people obsessed by it, who can appear from one angle like a clique of pale and misanthropic scholar-gatherers and from another like a sizable chunk of the human population, there exist no ghosts more vexing than a couple of women identified on three ultrarare records made in 1930 and ’31 as Elvie Thomas and Geeshie Wiley. There are musicians as obscure as Wiley and Thomas, and musicians as great, but in none does the Venn diagram of greatness and lostness reveal such vast and bewildering co-extent. In the spring of 1930, in a damp and dimly lit studio, in a small Wisconsin village on the western shore of Lake Michigan, the duo recorded a batch of songs that for more than half a century have been numbered among the masterpieces of prewar American music, in particular two, Elvie’s “Motherless Child Blues” and Geeshie’s “Last Kind Words Blues,” twin Alps of their tiny oeuvre, inspiring essays and novels and films and cover versions, a classical arrangement.
Yet despite more than 50 years of researchers’ efforts to learn who the two women were or where they came from, we have remained ignorant of even their legal names. The sketchy memories of one or two ancient Mississippians, gathered many decades ago, seemed to point to the southern half of that state, yet none led to anything solid. A few people thought they heard hints of Louisiana or Texas in the guitar playing or in the pronunciation of a lyric. We know that the word “Geechee,” with a c, can refer to a person born into the heavily African-inflected Gullah culture centered on the coastal islands off Georgia and the Carolinas. But nothing turned up there either. Or anywhere. No grave site, no photograph. Forget that — no anecdotes.
This is what set Geeshie and Elvie apart even from the rest of an innermost group of phantom geniuses of the ’20s and ’30s. Their myth was they didn’t have anything you could so much as hang a myth on. The objects themselves — the fewer than 10 surviving copies, total, of their three known Paramount releases, a handful of heavy, black, scratch-riven shellac platters, all in private hands — these were the whole of the file on Geeshie and Elvie, and even these had come within a second thought of vanishing, within, say, a woman’s decision in cleaning her parents’ attic to go against some idle advice that she throw out a box of old records and instead to find out what the junk shop gives. When she decides otherwise, when the shop isn’t on the way home, there goes the music, there go the souls, ash flakes up the flue, to flutter about with the Edison cylinder of Buddy Bolden’s band and the phonautograph of Lincoln’s voice.”
Another fascinating multi-media read from NYT:
On the trail of the phantom women who changed American music and then vanished without a trace.

IN THE WORLD of early-20th-century African-American music and people obsessed by it, who can appear from one angle like a clique of pale and misanthropic scholar-gatherers and from another like a sizable chunk of the human population, there exist no ghosts more vexing than a couple of women identified on three ultrarare records made in 1930 and ’31 as Elvie Thomas and Geeshie Wiley. There are musicians as obscure as Wiley and Thomas, and musicians as great, but in none does the Venn diagram of greatness and lostness reveal such vast and bewildering co-extent. In the spring of 1930, in a damp and dimly lit studio, in a small Wisconsin village on the western shore of Lake Michigan, the duo recorded a batch of songs that for more than half a century have been numbered among the masterpieces of prewar American music, in particular two, Elvie’s “Motherless Child Blues” and Geeshie’s “Last Kind Words Blues,” twin Alps of their tiny oeuvre, inspiring essays and novels and films and cover versions, a classical arrangement.

Yet despite more than 50 years of researchers’ efforts to learn who the two women were or where they came from, we have remained ignorant of even their legal names. The sketchy memories of one or two ancient Mississippians, gathered many decades ago, seemed to point to the southern half of that state, yet none led to anything solid. A few people thought they heard hints of Louisiana or Texas in the guitar playing or in the pronunciation of a lyric. We know that the word “Geechee,” with a c, can refer to a person born into the heavily African-inflected Gullah culture centered on the coastal islands off Georgia and the Carolinas. But nothing turned up there either. Or anywhere. No grave site, no photograph. Forget that — no anecdotes.

This is what set Geeshie and Elvie apart even from the rest of an innermost group of phantom geniuses of the ’20s and ’30s. Their myth was they didn’t have anything you could so much as hang a myth on. The objects themselves — the fewer than 10 surviving copies, total, of their three known Paramount releases, a handful of heavy, black, scratch-riven shellac platters, all in private hands — these were the whole of the file on Geeshie and Elvie, and even these had come within a second thought of vanishing, within, say, a woman’s decision in cleaning her parents’ attic to go against some idle advice that she throw out a box of old records and instead to find out what the junk shop gives. When she decides otherwise, when the shop isn’t on the way home, there goes the music, there go the souls, ash flakes up the flue, to flutter about with the Edison cylinder of Buddy Bolden’s band and the phonautograph of Lincoln’s voice.”

Another fascinating multi-media read from NYT:

On the trail of the phantom women who changed American music and then vanished without a trace.

"[W]hen Lacy auditioned for the Oakland Raiderettes a year ago, she made the squad. And the Raiderettes quickly set to work remaking her in their image. She would be known exclusively by her first name and last initial — a tradition across the NFL, ostensibly designed to protect its sideline stars from prying fans. The squad director handed Lacy, now 28, a sparkling pirate-inspired crop top, a copy of the team’s top-secret “bible” — which guides Raiderettes in everything from folding a dinner napkin correctly to spurning the advances of a married Raiders player — and specific instructions for maintaining a head-to-toe Raiderettes look. The team presented Lacy with a photograph of herself next to a shot of actress Rachel McAdams, who would serve as Lacy’s “celebrity hairstyle look-alike.” Lacy was mandated to expertly mimic McAdams’ light reddish-brown shade and 11/2-inch-diameter curls, starting with a $150 dye job at a squad-approved salon. Her fingers and toes were to be french-manicured at all times. Her skin was to maintain an artificial sun-kissed hue into the winter months. Her thighs would always be covered in dancing tights, and false lashes would be perpetually glued to her eyelids. Periodically, she’d have to step on a scale to prove that her weight had not inched more than 4 pounds above her 103-pound baseline.
Long before Lacy’s boots ever hit the gridiron grass, “I was just hustling,” she says. “Very early on, I was spending money like crazy.” The salon visits, the makeup, the eyelashes, the tights were almost exclusively paid out of her own pocket. The finishing touch of the Raiderettes’ onboarding process was a contract requiring Lacy to attend thrice-weekly practices, dozens of public appearances, photo shoots, fittings and nine-hour shifts at Raiders home games, all in return for a lump sum of $1,250 at the conclusion of the season. (A few days before she filed suit, the team increased her pay to $2,780.) All rights to Lacy’s image were surrendered to the Raiders. With fines for everything from forgetting pompoms to gaining weight, the handbook warned that it was entirely possible to “find yourself with no salary at all at the end of the season.”
Like hundreds of women who have cheered for the Raiders since 1961, Lacy signed the contract. Unlike the rest of them, she also showed it to a lawyer.
ON JAN. 22, Lacy T.’s attorneys filed a lawsuit in Alameda County Superior Court alleging that the Raiders fail to pay their cheerleaders minimum wage for all hours worked, withhold pay until the end of the season, require cheerleaders to cover their own business expenses, don’t provide lunch breaks and impose fines for minor infractions — all of which, according to the suit, constitute violations of the California Labor Code.
The provocation was unprecedented. When pro football’s first cheerleaders took the field in the 1920s, rah-rahing on the sidelines was a volunteer position, usually occupied by local high school and college cheerleaders interested in performing on a bigger stage. But as TV began to outpace radio, more and more teams stocked their sidelines with flashier — although still unpaid — performers. In 1972, Cowboys GM Tex Schramm upped the game. He’d seen Bubbles Cash, an artificially augmented local stripper, make the news after cameras caught her shimmying in the stands with a stick of cotton candy, and he wanted similar assets at his games. So he replaced his cheer director — a local high school teacher — with a Broadway choreographer, dismissed his squad of coed teenagers to make way for a team of (barely) legal women in stomach-baring tops and began paying them a meager salary. By 1976, they’d become a trademark part of a franchise. That year, Super Bowl X marked not only the end of the Cowboys’ season but the beginning of modern professional cheerleading: 73 million viewers watched as one cheerleader turned to the camera and winked, launching the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders as bankable stars of team-approved posters, calendars, public appearances and reality TV. These weren’t just cheerleaders; they were what Schramm called “atmosphere producers.”
But even as collective bargaining has caused players’ salaries to skyrocket, cheerleaders are still treated with the expendability of borrowed college students. Of the 26 teams that employ cheerleaders, only Seattle publicly advertises that it pays its squad an hourly minimum wage. The tenuous position of NFL cheerleaders is exacerbated by the fact that six teams don’t fork out any cash for squads. The Packers occasionally employ the services of a local collegiate squad. Other teams, such as the Lions, Browns and Giants, rely on unofficial squads willing to finance themselves through public appearances and calendar shoots for the opportunity to dance in a high-profile setting.”
Read on: Just Cheer, Baby | ESPN

"[W]hen Lacy auditioned for the Oakland Raiderettes a year ago, she made the squad. And the Raiderettes quickly set to work remaking her in their image. She would be known exclusively by her first name and last initial — a tradition across the NFL, ostensibly designed to protect its sideline stars from prying fans. The squad director handed Lacy, now 28, a sparkling pirate-inspired crop top, a copy of the team’s top-secret “bible” — which guides Raiderettes in everything from folding a dinner napkin correctly to spurning the advances of a married Raiders player — and specific instructions for maintaining a head-to-toe Raiderettes look. The team presented Lacy with a photograph of herself next to a shot of actress Rachel McAdams, who would serve as Lacy’s “celebrity hairstyle look-alike.” Lacy was mandated to expertly mimic McAdams’ light reddish-brown shade and 11/2-inch-diameter curls, starting with a $150 dye job at a squad-approved salon. Her fingers and toes were to be french-manicured at all times. Her skin was to maintain an artificial sun-kissed hue into the winter months. Her thighs would always be covered in dancing tights, and false lashes would be perpetually glued to her eyelids. Periodically, she’d have to step on a scale to prove that her weight had not inched more than 4 pounds above her 103-pound baseline.

Long before Lacy’s boots ever hit the gridiron grass, “I was just hustling,” she says. “Very early on, I was spending money like crazy.” The salon visits, the makeup, the eyelashes, the tights were almost exclusively paid out of her own pocket. The finishing touch of the Raiderettes’ onboarding process was a contract requiring Lacy to attend thrice-weekly practices, dozens of public appearances, photo shoots, fittings and nine-hour shifts at Raiders home games, all in return for a lump sum of $1,250 at the conclusion of the season. (A few days before she filed suit, the team increased her pay to $2,780.) All rights to Lacy’s image were surrendered to the Raiders. With fines for everything from forgetting pompoms to gaining weight, the handbook warned that it was entirely possible to “find yourself with no salary at all at the end of the season.”

Like hundreds of women who have cheered for the Raiders since 1961, Lacy signed the contract. Unlike the rest of them, she also showed it to a lawyer.

ON JAN. 22, Lacy T.’s attorneys filed a lawsuit in Alameda County Superior Court alleging that the Raiders fail to pay their cheerleaders minimum wage for all hours worked, withhold pay until the end of the season, require cheerleaders to cover their own business expenses, don’t provide lunch breaks and impose fines for minor infractions — all of which, according to the suit, constitute violations of the California Labor Code.

The provocation was unprecedented. When pro football’s first cheerleaders took the field in the 1920s, rah-rahing on the sidelines was a volunteer position, usually occupied by local high school and college cheerleaders interested in performing on a bigger stage. But as TV began to outpace radio, more and more teams stocked their sidelines with flashier — although still unpaid — performers. In 1972, Cowboys GM Tex Schramm upped the game. He’d seen Bubbles Cash, an artificially augmented local stripper, make the news after cameras caught her shimmying in the stands with a stick of cotton candy, and he wanted similar assets at his games. So he replaced his cheer director — a local high school teacher — with a Broadway choreographer, dismissed his squad of coed teenagers to make way for a team of (barely) legal women in stomach-baring tops and began paying them a meager salary. By 1976, they’d become a trademark part of a franchise. That year, Super Bowl X marked not only the end of the Cowboys’ season but the beginning of modern professional cheerleading: 73 million viewers watched as one cheerleader turned to the camera and winked, launching the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders as bankable stars of team-approved posters, calendars, public appearances and reality TV. These weren’t just cheerleaders; they were what Schramm called “atmosphere producers.”

But even as collective bargaining has caused players’ salaries to skyrocket, cheerleaders are still treated with the expendability of borrowed college students. Of the 26 teams that employ cheerleaders, only Seattle publicly advertises that it pays its squad an hourly minimum wage. The tenuous position of NFL cheerleaders is exacerbated by the fact that six teams don’t fork out any cash for squads. The Packers occasionally employ the services of a local collegiate squad. Other teams, such as the Lions, Browns and Giants, rely on unofficial squads willing to finance themselves through public appearances and calendar shoots for the opportunity to dance in a high-profile setting.”

Read on: Just Cheer, Baby | ESPN

There’s a reason Ukraine is at the heart of the most significant geopolitical crisis yet to appear in the post-Soviet space. There is no post-Soviet state like it. Unlike the Baltic states, it does not have a recent (interwar) memory of statehood. Nor, unlike almost every other post-Soviet state aside from Belarus, does the majority population have a radically different language and culture to distinguish itself from the Russians. In many cases, for these countries, the traditional language suggests a natural political ally—Finland for the Estonians, Turkey for the Azeris, Romania for the Moldovans. These linguistic and cultural affinities are not without their difficulties, but they do give a long-term geopolitical orientation to these countries. 

Ukraine has this to some extent in its western part, formerly known as Galicia, which has strong cultural and to an extent linguistic affinities with Poland. But the country’s capital, Kyiv, has much stronger ties to Russia: Russians consider Kievan Rus, which lasted from the 9th to the 13th century (when it was sacked and burned by the Mongols), to be the first Russian civilization. Russian Orthodoxy was first proclaimed there. Most people in Kyiv speak Russian, rather than Ukrainian, and in any cases the languages are quite close (about as close as Spanish and Portuguese). On television, it is typical for any live broadcast—whether it’s news, sports, or a reality-TV show—to go back and forth seamlessly between Russian and Ukrainian, with the understanding that most people know both. Russians too often assume that these cultural affinities mean that there is no such thing as a separate Ukrainian people. There is. But the closeness of the two peoples makes forging an independent path for Ukraine extraordinarily difficult.

Adding to this difficulty has been the Soviet legacy, which in Ukraine as everywhere else is always and everywhere visible. The Ukrainian historian Giorgy Kasianov has written that Ukrainians are forced to exist in several historical and semantic fields simultaneously: the roads they drive on, the factories they work at, the social relations they engage in—all are part of the Soviet heritage. As in the rest of the former Soviet Union, including Russia, this heritage is crumbling, but in Ukraine in particular it remains formidable. As a result, Ukraine has essentially been frozen in time since independence.”

Read on: Ukraine, Putin, and the West

[photos: NYT]

“Let’s go shopping. We can start at Whole Foods Market, a critical link in the wholesome-eating food chain. There are three Whole Foods stores within 15 minutes of my house—we’re big on real food in the suburbs west of Boston. Here at the largest of the three, I can choose from more than 21 types of tofu, 62 bins of organic grains and legumes, and 42 different salad greens.
Much of the food isn’t all that different from what I can get in any other supermarket, but sprinkled throughout are items that scream “wholesome.” One that catches my eye today, sitting prominently on an impulse-buy rack near the checkout counter, is Vegan Cheesy Salad Booster, from Living Intentions, whose package emphasizes the fact that the food is enhanced with spirulina, chlorella, and sea vegetables. The label also proudly lets me know that the contents are raw—no processing!—and that they don’t contain any genetically modified ingredients. What the stuff does contain, though, is more than three times the fat content per ounce as the beef patty in a Big Mac (more than two-thirds of the calories come from fat), and four times the sodium.
After my excursion to Whole Foods, I drive a few minutes to a Trader Joe’s, also known for an emphasis on wholesome foods. Here at the register I’m confronted with a large display of a snack food called “Inner Peas,” consisting of peas that are breaded in cornmeal and rice flour, fried in sunflower oil, and then sprinkled with salt. By weight, the snack has six times as much fat as it does protein, along with loads of carbohydrates. I can’t recall ever seeing anything at any fast-food restaurant that represents as big an obesogenic crime against the vegetable kingdom. (A spokesperson for Trader Joe’s said the company does not consider itself a “ ‘wholesome food’ grocery retailer.” Living Intentions did not respond to a request for comment.)”
"If the most-influential voices in our food culture today get their way, we will achieve a genuine food revolution. Too bad it would be one tailored to the dubious health fantasies of a small, elite minority. And too bad it would largely exclude the obese masses, who would continue to sicken and die early. Despite the best efforts of a small army of wholesome-food heroes, there is no reasonable scenario under which these foods could become cheap and plentiful enough to serve as the core diet for most of the obese population even in the unlikely case that your typical junk-food eater would be willing and able to break lifelong habits to embrace kale and yellow beets. And many of the dishes glorified by the wholesome-food movement are, in any case, as caloric and obesogenic as anything served in a Burger King."
How Junk Food Can End Obesity [ht/ Michael]

Let’s go shopping. We can start at Whole Foods Market, a critical link in the wholesome-eating food chain. There are three Whole Foods stores within 15 minutes of my house—we’re big on real food in the suburbs west of Boston. Here at the largest of the three, I can choose from more than 21 types of tofu, 62 bins of organic grains and legumes, and 42 different salad greens.

Much of the food isn’t all that different from what I can get in any other supermarket, but sprinkled throughout are items that scream “wholesome.” One that catches my eye today, sitting prominently on an impulse-buy rack near the checkout counter, is Vegan Cheesy Salad Booster, from Living Intentions, whose package emphasizes the fact that the food is enhanced with spirulina, chlorella, and sea vegetables. The label also proudly lets me know that the contents are raw—no processing!—and that they don’t contain any genetically modified ingredients. What the stuff does contain, though, is more than three times the fat content per ounce as the beef patty in a Big Mac (more than two-thirds of the calories come from fat), and four times the sodium.

After my excursion to Whole Foods, I drive a few minutes to a Trader Joe’s, also known for an emphasis on wholesome foods. Here at the register I’m confronted with a large display of a snack food called “Inner Peas,” consisting of peas that are breaded in cornmeal and rice flour, fried in sunflower oil, and then sprinkled with salt. By weight, the snack has six times as much fat as it does protein, along with loads of carbohydrates. I can’t recall ever seeing anything at any fast-food restaurant that represents as big an obesogenic crime against the vegetable kingdom. (A spokesperson for Trader Joe’s said the company does not consider itself a “ ‘wholesome food’ grocery retailer.” Living Intentions did not respond to a request for comment.)”

"If the most-influential voices in our food culture today get their way, we will achieve a genuine food revolution. Too bad it would be one tailored to the dubious health fantasies of a small, elite minority. And too bad it would largely exclude the obese masses, who would continue to sicken and die early. Despite the best efforts of a small army of wholesome-food heroes, there is no reasonable scenario under which these foods could become cheap and plentiful enough to serve as the core diet for most of the obese population even in the unlikely case that your typical junk-food eater would be willing and able to break lifelong habits to embrace kale and yellow beets. And many of the dishes glorified by the wholesome-food movement are, in any case, as caloric and obesogenic as anything served in a Burger King."

How Junk Food Can End Obesity [ht/ Michael]

"The ad agency Victors & Spoils has created campaigns for some of the biggest brands in the food industry — Coca-Cola, Quiznos and General Mills among them. Until now, what they’d never done was try to figure out how to sell broccoli. Or any vegetables or fruits of any kind. This of course is not unique to Victors & Spoils. Major American advertising agencies tend not to get hired by produce growers to help them market fresh fruits and vegetables. They are hired by large companies making huge profits from processed foods to reach into whatever crannies of the American (or global) public they have not yet connected with."

Broccoli’s Extreme Makeover

"I regret everything. Decades-old decisions, things I said, things I didn’t say, opportunities I missed, opportunities I took, recent purchases, non-purchases, returns. I turn all of these things over in my mind and examine them for clues — to what, I’m not sure. All I know is that very little of what I do or fail to do escapes the constant churn of revision. It’s just the way I process experience: sceptically, and in retrospect. It’s like being a time-traveller, only instead of going back to Ancient Rome or the French Revolution, I return again and again to the traumatic sites of my own fateful (or not so fateful) forks in the road. Some people see this as self‑flagellation; I tend to think of it as a lifelong effort to reconcile the possible with the actual — a getting to know the real me. After all, as they say, we’re defined by our choices. …

There’s a particular disdain for regret in US culture. It’s regarded as self-indulgent and irrational — a ‘useless’ feeling. We prefer utilitarian emotions, those we can use as vehicles for transformation, and closure. ‘Dwelling’, we tend to agree, gets you nowhere. It just leads you around in circles.

Regret is so counter to the pioneer spirit — with its belief in blinkered perseverance, and dogged forward motion — it’s practically un-American. In the US, you keep your squint firmly planted on the horizon and put one foot in front of the other. There’s something suspiciously female, possibly French, about any morbid interiority.

Best, then, to treat the past like an overflowing closet: just shut the door and walk away. ‘What’s done is done,’ we say. ‘It is what it is.’ ‘There’s no use crying over spilt milk.’

Sometimes, the prevalence of this point of view makes me feel regret toward my tendency toward regret. It’s hard not to feel bad when your way of processing experience is routinely pathologised, or dismissed offhand as whiny, weak, and useless. As I write this, I regret writing it because I fear it makes me sound more neurotic than I really am. At the same time, I worry that it makes me sound exactly as neurotic as I actually am, and I regret not having done a better job of keeping this under wraps. I regret regretting things all the time, because surely I could be putting my imagination to better use. What’s more, I regret that I’m compelled to talk about my regrets, not just in therapy, but at dinner, at the playground, on the phone, and in print. I regret these things in part because I’m acutely aware of how my regrets are perceived when I express them. What I want are deep explorations of parallel universes and alternative outcomes. But what I get in return are sad-eyed smiles, gentle pats on the arm, and the occasional rousing pep talk, which is never what I’m after.

The assumption is that these ruminations stem from a flaw in my character, or an unresolved trauma, or some questionable behaviourist conditioning. It’s a neurobiological glitch, maybe, or a bad habit. And all of these might apply, but I also think I’m driven by a combination of pragmatism and curiosity. Whenever I come up against a problem, or find myself plagued by questions I can’t answer, my impulse is to lift up the hood of my day-to-day denial and complacency and dive into the intricate circuitry of my past in search of whatever minor gasket malfunction sparked the powder train that eventually blew up the spacecraft. I guess in some way, I’ve come to think of regret as a deductive game that, although it’s almost never fun, will eventually unlock all of life’s mysteries. Is this what I intended to do? Could I have predicted this outcome? How did I get here?”

Read on: Why Regret is Essential to the Good Life

©2011 Kateoplis