New Wave Music Gets Introduced to America (1979)

Given the efforts of people like Malcolm McLaren to turn punk rock into a viable commercial product—or at least a quick cash grab—it’s a little surprising it took as long as it did for “pop punk” to find its profitable 90s/oughties teenage niche. Always a catch-all term for an eclectic variety of styles, punk instead further diversified in the eighties into various kinds of post-punk, hardcore, and new wave. The latter development, however, quickly found a commercial audience, with its successful fusion of 70s pop, reggae, and disco elements with punk’s wry, arty-outsider sensibility. Artists like Gary Numan, Blondie, DEVO, Talking Heads, and even The Clash emerged from the 70s with highly danceable hits that set the tone for the sound of the next decade. 

But first the public had to learn what new wave was, and many of them did in a surprisingly mainstream way, in the 1979 special produced by ABC’s 20/20 in two parts here. By comparison with the number of awkwardly clueless or blatantly sensationalistic news reports on emerging youth cultures over the decades, the show is “impressively astute,” writes Dangerous Minds, “for a news segment on new music from one of the major TV networks.” It features a number of the above-named artists—DEVO, Blondie, Talking Heads—and makes an interesting attempt to situate the music on a continuum with Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, and the Rolling Stones....more

10 alternatives to the soul-suck of shopping on Black Friday

Ways to spend the day for those who'd like to skip the whole 'bloodsport of mass consumerism' thing.

Leave it to modern America to take the least commercial of holidays – one about family and gratitude and sharing a meal – and turn it into a national day of stampeding and brawling in the name of hoarding cheap stuff. Go USA! It was bad enough when Black Friday started on Friday, but now people set up tents and camp for weeks in parking lots and more and more stores are opening on Thanksgiving Thursday. It’s not my place to judge, different things make different people happy … but it just feels like a sad homage to gratitude when the holiday devoted to thanks turns into frenzied mobs fighting for flat-screen TVs.

The day after Thanksgiving does make for a logical day to kick off the holiday season, but there are so many lovely ways to do it that don’t involve mad grabs and fisticuffs. Here are a few ideas:

1. Go to a park, not a parking lot

Let’s see … giant redwoods or reckless consumerism. For anyone struggling between the two, know that 49 state parks in California are being sponsored by the San Francisco nonprofit, Save the Redwoods League, for free admission on Black Friday. Likewise, Minnesota State Parks system announced that admission will be free at all 75 state park and recreation areas. Missouri State Parks are also being kind enough to offer free camping on the day. (And I know that parks have parking lots, but allow me some poetic license.)

2. Have a DIY gathering

The hardest part about making DIY things for gift-giving is often just making a game-plan and sticking with it. So commit by starting a DIY party tradition to take place on Black Friday. Pick a fun and realistic project (like any of these: 10 DIY gifts you make in less than an hour) and assign supplies as you would a potluck dinner. I know it sounds a bit “grown up Girl Scouts” … but that’s not necessarily such a bad thing. Plus, wine (if you swing that way).

3. Take a walk; bathe in the forest

If you’re a walker or a hiker, you already know that you may use your free Friday – your free Friday where you may be feeling extra full – to take a walk or hike. But if you are someone who is not in the habit of going around on foot just for kicks, there’s no time like now. The health benefits of walking are legion, and the mental benefits are wonderful. It’s such a beautiful way to feel connected to where you’re at – whether city sidewalk or mountain trail, it’s like your own personal Sensurround film experience, in real life! If you live near the woods, follow the Japanese tradition of forest bathing, a practice that science shows reduces stress and blood pressure....more 

A Trip Through Ireland

We were a group of Instagram photographers invited by Samsung Mobile Germany and Tourism Ireland to explore and photograph Ireland with our Samsung Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 edge on a four-day trip. Based on our interests and visual aesthetics, we split up into two groups. One group explored the cities of Belfast and Dublin while the other group went down south, focusing on the beautiful landscapes of the Kerry and Cork region.

In the end, it wasn’t surprising that we all came back with many pictures show and stories to tell.

The landscapes of Ireland’s southern region were steeped in a magical atmosphere. There were morning mists above green hills, foggy coastal views as well as long and winding roads that seemed endless. We made many quick stops to take pictures, especially at the remote Caha Pass. We promised that the next time we came here, we’d definitely bring a skateboard along to skate down the roads....more 

How Practicing Gratitude Will Rewire Your Brain

Thanksgiving is ostensibly the one time of year when (as we chew marshmallow-covered yams and avert political discussions) we reflect on what we are most thankful for. Sometimes at the host’s request, we have to stand around the table before we eat, and struggle as we search our minds for the answer— what are we grateful for? What is it that, in these difficult and troubling times, gives us our sense of hope and purpose? And why is it so hard to remember?

Our minds, of course, fall victim to negativity bias. As written about extensively by Rick Hanson (Hardwiring Happiness), negativity bias is our brain’s natural homebase. We remember “bad” events more than good ones, hang on to that nasty thing our coworker said and forget the praise our boss gave us.

That structuring was originally created in order to protect us. After all, if we can’t remember which berries are poisonous and which aren’t, our lives are on the line. But now that’s an outdated operating system, as ancient as Windows 95, and we must use the magic of neuroplasticity to rewire our brains. And how do we do that? If it were so easy to rewire our brains, wouldn’t everyone be doing it?

It's a practice to take a moment each day to take in natural beauty and reflect on positive events. And like all practices, it takes stamina to stick to it....more 

13 Ways to Live And Write Like Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut would have been 93 this month. If we were lucky enough to live in a world where people like Kurt Vonnegut lived to be 93.

The dude is one of those writers who's well-liked and popular, but still underrated somehow. How it is that The Sirens Of Titan isn't an all-time classic I do now know or understand, and frankly it's part of what makes me feel like our society is nothing but wreckage.

What really made Vonnegut great was his generosity. He wrote about fictional worlds in a way that let the reader in instead of keeping her at a distance. Vonnegut's voice on the page was that of a storyteller, someone who always made a point about the value of a reader's time.

And he gave some pretty damn good life advice too.

Take a moment, improve your writing, better your terrible life, and remember Kurt Vonnegut.

Most of what's below, unless linked, is contained in one of the two books featured at the end of this column, if you're looking for more advice.

Write And Quit Your Goddamn Nightmare Job

How do you make it as a writer? After Vonnegut sold his first story, he wrote a letter to his father. An excerpt:

"I've deposited my first check in a savings account and, as and if I sell more, will continue to do so until I have the equivalent of one year's pay at GE...I will then quit this goddamn nightmare job, and never take another one so long as I live, so help me God."

I'll give you this much, either story publishers paid A LOT more back then or GE paid A LOT less. But perhaps this is a useful tactic for any writer wondering whether to make the switch. Figure what you can live on, and once you've got that for a year, boom....more 

MUSIC: White Denim - Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)

MUSIC: Orches - Never Wrong

MUSIC: Justin Jay & Friends - Karma (Feat. Josh Taylor & Benny Bridges)