Monday, July 6, 2020

Away From The Numbers

Photograph by Lee Greenfeld © 2020

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Terminal Stasis

While it's hard to be excited about July 4th this year, I will attempt to remain hopeful for the future of our nation — a hope that is bound to those taking to the streets to demand change, as well as to a handful of upstarts in local politics doing their best to restore democracy within in a blood-soaked system that puts capital above people. The brilliant James Baldwin said it better than I ever could, “I love America more than any other country in the world and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.”

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

We All Breathe The Same Air

"So, let us not be blind to our differences — but let us also direct attention to our common interests and to the means by which those differences can be resolved. And if we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children's future. And we are all mortal."

Photograph by Lee Greenfeld © 2020

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

A Striking Addiction To Irreality

"If a society permits one portion of its citizenry to be menaced or destroyed, then, very soon, no one in that society is safe. The forces thus released in the people can never be held in check, but run their devouring course, destroying the very foundations which it was imagined they would save. But we are unbelievably ignorant concerning what goes on in our country — to say nothing of what goes on in the rest of the world — and appear to have become too timid to question what we are told. Our failure to trust one another deeply enough to be able to talk to one another has become so great that people with these questions in their hearts do not speak them; our opulence is so pervasive that people who are afraid to lose whatever they think they have persuade themselves of the truth of a lie, and help disseminate it; and God help the innocent here, that man or womn who simply wants to love, and be loved. Unless this would-be lover is able to replace his or her backbone with a steel rod, he or she is doomed. This is no place for love. I know that I am now expected to make a bow in the direction of those millions of unremarked, happy marriages all over America, but I am unable honestly to do so because I find nothing whatever in our moral and social climate — and I am now thinking particularly of the state of our children — to bear witness to their existence. I suspect that when we refer to these happy and so marvelously invisible people, we are simply being nostalgic concerning the happy, simple, God-fearing life which we imagine ourselves once to have lived. In any case, wherever love is found, it unfailingly makes itself felt in the individual, the personal authority of the individual. Judged by this standard, we are a loveless nation. The best that can be said is that some of us are struggling. And what we are struggling against is that death in the heart which leads not only to the shedding of blood, but which reduces human beings to corpses while they live."

Quote excerpted from Nothing Personal, 1965

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Art Is Work

"The role of an artist, and this idea of using art to find what is real, is almost an enemy to the idea of 'I am in it for myself and I can make a lot of money by selling this.'"

Milton Glaser
Rest In Peace

"Milton Glaser is a legend. A graphic design guru who has influenced his time for over six decades. A thinker whose visual language has shaped the identities of magazines, institutions, museums, and restaurants all over the world. The list of his accomplishments would be too long, but you know them — think Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits or the Angels In America posters, New York magazine and Esquire covers, or the Brooklyn Brewery logo. Glaser also co-founded the legendary Push Pin Studios in the '50s and the cult New York magazine in the late '60s. He studied etching with painter Giorgio Morandi in Bologna, Italy. He is the chairman of the board at the School of Visual Arts, where he still teaches. And he was awarded the prestigious National Medal of Arts by President Obama. One of his most iconic artworks is a symbol of pop culture and an ode to the state and city it celebrates: the glorious ‘I Love NY’ logo, which, as the story goes, Glaser sketched on a paper napkin during a taxi ride in 1977. And New York is what embodies Milton Glaser. The artsy New York, the intellectual New York, the zeitgeist New York."

All artwork by Milton Glaser
Quote excerpted from Designer Milton Glaser

Monday, June 22, 2020

¡Ay Carmela!

Spanish loyalists patrol the street, 1937
Paul Robeson singing "L’Internationale" for Republican Troops in Tarazona, 1938

Federación Anarquista Ibérica (FAI) patrolling the streets
Tom Mooney Company of the Abraham Lincoln Battalion

Confederación Nacional Del Trabajo (CNT) rally

Spanish anarcho-syndicalist Buenaventura Durruti
Abraham Lincoln Battalion volunteers, circa 1937

Juventudes Socialistas Unificadas (JSU) fighters
Oliver Law (far left) with the Abraham Lincoln Battalion

Insurgents during the Asturias miner's strike, 1934

U.S. volunteers from the Abraham Lincoln Battalion, Spring 1938

17 year old Marina Ginestà of the JSU

Unknown Spanish militants, circa 1937

Members of the JSU in Mauthausen concentration camp

Abraham Lincoln Battalion volunteers return to New York City

"Together with all this there was something of the evil atmosphere of war. The town had a gaunt untidy look, roads and buildings were in poor repair, the streets at night were dimly lit for fear of air-raids, the shops were mostly shabby and half-empty. Meat was scarce and milk practically unobtainable, there was a shortage of coal, sugar, and petrol, and a really serious shortage of bread. Even at this period the bread-queues were often hundreds of yards long. Yet so far as one could judge the people were contented and hopeful. There was no unemployment, and the price of living was still extremely low; you saw very few conspicuously destitute people, and no beggars except the Gypsies. Above all, there was a belief in the revolution and the future, a feeling of having suddenly emerged into an era of equality and freedom. Human beings were trying to behave as human beings and not as cogs in the capitalist machine."

Photograph of Marina Ginestà by Juan Guzmán
Words by George Orwell from Homage To Catalonia, 1938

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Some Sunny Day

Dame Vera Lynn
Rest In Peace

Vera Lynn with Dave Brock of Hawkwind, 1985

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

A.I.T.A. Hall Of Fame: The Candy Snatchers

Throughout the entirety of the 1990s I attended 2 - 4 shows a week (all multiple band bills), and out of all of the bands I saw one of the very best consistently were Virginia Beach's The Candy Snatchers. The first time I saw the Snatchers was one of their very first shows in New York City at the long gone Under Acme club, opening for Sweet Diesel. It was a shitty turn-out, so pretty much the only people watching the band were the other bands, the club's staff, myself, and a friend. Me and my pal stood up front as we had heard good things, and the band tore into their set as if they were playing to a packed room (Black Flag style), giving it their all, with singer Larry May even smashing a bottle on his own face for effect. We were completely blown away, and both ended up befriending the band.

After that night I saw The Candy Snatchers countless times — they played NYC all the time and quickly grew a rabid fanbase here — and in the middle of the flying bottles and fish, the blood, fire, and the feeling that everything could come crashing down at any minute, stood a true blue rock'n'roll band who had real songs. The Snatchers put on a show that all rock'n'roll bands should be judged against, though most fail in comparison. There's a lot of live footage of the band out there, but instead dig the video for "Why I Drink" (shot here in NYC), which features the genius couplet: "A lot of the shit, man, that I do, it might be silly/I gotta drink — so does Willy."

Dedicated to the memory of Matthew Odietus, R.I.P.

Photograph by unknown
Words by Lee Greenfeld © 2020

Sunday, June 14, 2020

From The Cradle To The Grave

"He was one of the numerous and varied legion of dullards, of half-animated abortions, conceited, half-educated coxcombs, who attach themselves to the idea most in fashion only to vulgarize it and who caricature every cause they serve, however sincerely."

Quote by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Art from VG Magazine by Bloom

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Interview With Reuben Radding

Reuben Radding is a Brooklyn-based photographer who has been eloquently capturing the heart and soul of the people of New York City through his images for a number of years. Like the best of street photography, there is a poetic warmth imbued in his shots which reveal the complex depth of his subjects within the confines of a hectic city. Radding calls his work "an improvisation, performed in long hours of wandering the New York City streets on foot, guided by the scent of great human character and fragility, poetic physical gestures of emotion or energy, explosions of life force, and human interactions which imply uncertain stories when stopped in time."

Radding's artistic quest began with music, having played in punk bands (notably Dain Bramage with Dave Grohl while still in DC) and many jazz ensembles since he moved to New York City in 1988. Later in life he turned to photography and recently focused his lens on life in the Big Apple during two very different, yet related pivotal moments in the city’s history — the Coronavirus pandemic (and subsequent shutdown) and the Black Lives Matter protests that kicked off across the five boroughs. Those protests led to a different sort of shutdown with a five-night citywide curfew, imposed by NYC mayor Bill de Blasio and enforced by an overzealous and seemingly out-of-control NYPD. We are fortunate to have Reuben's stunning work to help document this turbulent time.

Where did you grow up and when and why did you move to New York City?

I was born in Washington, D.C. and grew up across the river in Arlington, Virginia. It always felt like a somewhat characterless place to be and to be from. I played in punk or “new wave” bands from the time I was 15, and D.C. was definitely a place with a vibrant scene for that, but otherwise it was really limited. I left for New York City in 1988 to surround myself with serious artists and I never looked back. I had already been coming up for visits for the year and a half before that with my partner at the time, and we had become friends with Lydia Lunch. She encouraged us to move here, and we took the risk. It felt like a really big deal to come here back then. I was only 21 years old!

The city was an even more vivid version of itself then. Neighborhoods really had identities in a way that’s fading now. Every day walking out my door felt like I was in a movie. I had never felt that in Virginia for even a moment.

What sparked your interest in photography, and what drew you specifically to street photography?

From the day I arrived in NYC I would constantly see things that just astonished me, that would make me say “what the FUCK was THAT?” and then later, when I would try to describe those peculiar moments, words just didn’t seem to convey the bewildering experience of just seeing it. After a couple decades of hearing myself say, “god, I wish I had a camera!” I finally bought one. This was right before cellphone cameras became a really viable option. That’s probably a good thing, cause an iPhone would probably have pacified me for a long while. Or who knows? Maybe it would have been just as good a way in. I’ve had students who only shot with the phone, and they did great work.

Anyway, the interest in street photography was just an interest in the street and the complexities of people. I didn’t know it was a “genre.” I just wanted to make pictures of what I loved, which was unposed human life. My automatic relationship to the camera was to take it in the world and try to find candid images of people, as if I wasn’t there. I never considered any other kinds of photography until I was already working in the street, and then it was out of a desire to become more skilled or to make a buck. Eventually I did educate myself on the history of public photography, but like most artists, the desires in me came first, and then I sought out the fellows and heroes. After I’d been at it a little while I saw an article online about Henri Cartier-Bresson that called him a icon of street photography, and I thought, “huh...that sounds like what I do…”

Are you self-taught or trained? Do you have any photographers that are an inspiration or influence on your work?

I would say I’m mostly self-taught when it comes to technique. Early on I took a couple workshops at the 92nd Street Y and the International Center for Photography, and then a few private ones with some great mentors. Recently I got an MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts from Goddard College, but there were no photographers on faculty. At least nobody whose primary practice was photography. They pretty much let me do what I wanted, which was to continue shooting the streets, but also to expand my work to include every area of my life. This was partly to make new discoveries and open my mind to the idea that my kind of pictures might be found anywhere, but also because it had been my lifelong dream––like since I was 10––to live the artist life 24/7, and photography is a medium which lends itself very well to this way of living. You can do it pretty much anywhere, anytime. In my years of primarily living as a musician it seemed like a lot of my time was spent waiting to get the right people together, waiting to have a gig or the right space to practice in, waiting for the opening band to finish...but there’s always the chance that wherever I am there might be a picture there for me. It’s made me a much more patient person, and more content to do “normal life” things, because I might get to photograph.

I think a lot of my early photo influences were things I loved before I ever thought about photography. Like, one of my favorites even today is Anders Petersen. I first saw his work on the cover of Tom Waits’ LP, Rain Dogs, in 1985. For years I didn’t know much about the picture or where it was taken, but I used to stare at it for long periods and wish I could be in the place where it was taken. It just looked like a vivid life to live. I didn’t know it was in Hamburg. I didn’t know it was from the book Cafe Lehmitz. I didn’t know anything about Anders Petersen. But pictures like that were my food. As a teen I didn’t have a lot of money for records, so every time I got a new one I would spend a lot of time looking at the covers and reading the credits and liner notes. I absorbed rock and jazz photography deeply, and this probably had a bigger effect on my aesthetics than any specific artist after I got into photography myself. So in a way some of my biggest visual influences are people whose names I wouldn’t know till later, like Anton Corbijn, Penny Smith, Lynn Goldsmith, Jim Marshall, Julia Gorton, Lee Friedlander, and many others. 

Does your background in music relate in any way to how you approach photography?

Besides those early influences, yes, both in the making of pictures and in navigating the photo scene. Everything I experienced in all my years in music transfers over in a very direct way. It’s incredibly clarifying when faced with a problem to not only see the same issues I feel like I’ve already solved, there’s also something about seeing the solution in two different “worlds” that makes it all the more grounding and reassuring and makes me think I can follow my own path. Musicality is a central metaphor for how I evaluate pictures. I’m more interested in their tones and expressive qualities than some allegiance to truth or informational functions.

During the shutdown in NYC you took to the streets, documenting life in the pandemic. Did this time open your eyes to anything new about the city?

It would make sense that spending as much time as I do walking around would make me some kind of expert on the city, but mostly it makes me an expert on myself. I’m a basketcase without daily practice. I need to be photographing, and since all my paying photo “work” evaporated right at the beginning of the crisis, I didn’t really have anything else asking for my time. It’s true that during the early days of Covid-19 I noticed things I hadn’t before, or learned to appreciate different parts of the city. Mostly I just felt compelled to be out, to be experiencing this city that I’ve loved for many years while it went through this surreal shakeup. I mean, I’ve lived with NYC’s ups and downs for over 30 years. It would have been unthinkable to me to stay inside and not see for myself what the reality was, as opposed to the unreality of being online and stuck at home, getting more and more afraid and anxious. I didn’t take a single day off of shooting for the first 6 weeks of the crisis, and it was an incredible experience. Sometimes it was unsettling or frustrating, but every day I would see something that impressed or amazed me, and sort of made everything a little more “right sized.” By the time I came hone, whether I was out for 30 minutes or seven hours, I felt hopeful. Then I would get up the next day and be anxiety-ridden again, and have to go at it some more. 

In the midst of the shutdown, protests broke out nationwide in response to the police murder of George Floyd. It seems you shifted your focus to documenting the uprising. What has that been like? Are there any lessons or stories you'd like to share from your experiences?

I don’t have any lessons to offer. It’s been an amazing thing to be present for and I hope it leads to some major changes in our society. Before this all happened one of my lingering fears was that as a populace we were facing a real dilemma between the need for public protest and the need to follow new rules and guidelines for public health. I was worried the powers that be would use our fears of the pandemic to limit our dissent and that we would become complicit. But it turns out the people made the choice to stand up. And the most impressive thing to me was when de Blasio instituted the 8pm curfew, it was like a challenge. People felt like they had to defy it. That was personally inspiring to me. It's incredible timing that the murder of George Floyd happened at a time when 30 million people were out of work. It's probably a big aid to people's availability and willingness to protest.

You published two issues of your Corona Diary zine. Can you tell us a bit about it, and will you follow up with a publication focusing on the protests?

I started publishing zines last year with the title OFF TOPIC. It was a fun way to offer something to people who like what I do who don’t necessarily have the means or motivation to buy one of my photos as a print. I had been doing daily posts on social media I called Corona Diary, of sets of photos made that day or the day before and it made sense to kind of mark the first few weeks of it all with a thing. A lot was still changing every day and the pictures seemed to form a strange visual chronology of the whole situation, and my internal state as well. I also had no other way to make money! So, I made the first Corona Diary zine and while I was working on it I applied for a grant towards zines with Covid-related content from Broken Pencil in Toronto. I did get the grant, but it came through well after Corona Diary was all sold out, and it felt like I should use the money to make a second zine.

It’s been very strange for me to work within a context. Most of my work up till now has resisted theme, or story. I’m really more interested in being outside the context of reportage or narrative. But the pandemic put everything I looked at into a specific kind of framing. For those first few weeks especially, everything looked disproportionally interesting to me. People in masks were interesting, but then people who didn’t wear them were super interesting. A lot of people were photographing but it felt to me like most fo them were shooting the story we all thought we knew already, like empty streets and E.R. entrances. I think there are always other stories besides the ones we think of ahead of time. Things we don’t know until we see them. And for me there’s as much value in a poem as a story. So maybe Corona Diary was just a daily attempt to write those poems, and the zines are like chapbooks. Time will tell. It felt right to call it a diary because it made me feel free to include things that weren’t overtly Covid-related, and relieved me of the responsibility to “document.” It was as much about my feelings as anything else, and it seems like some people relate to what I’ve expressed. Still, I prefer not to act as a documentarian, because telling a story usually requires including weaker photos in order to convey important information, and I would prefer my selections to be a stream-of-consciousness that make their own unique story, using only the images that feel the strongest. To me it’s a more vital use of the medium, and more true to my own passions.

Follow Reuben Radding on Instagram
Radding's website and webstore

All photography by Reuben Radding © 2020
Interview conducted by Lee Greenfeld © 2020

Monday, June 8, 2020

American Crisis

When Trump was elected there was all this talk of how it was going to bring back protest music and "make punk great again." While there has been some fine moments, it took a 59 year old punk-rock/ hardcore legend to really bring the thunder.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Police Story

Yet another senseless police murder of a black man in the news, this one of George Floyd*, has me thinking a lot about my own interactions with the authorities over the years. Being a Jew with a white complexion, my experiences are obviously incomparable to someone of color, yet I feel as though growing up in New York City in the '70s and '80s, with a crew of friends from all backgrounds did allow me to get a taste of bad policing as well as see firsthand how unbalanced the law is dependent on the color of your skin.

When I was a teenager, me and my friends once caught a guy who was stealing mail in the neighborhood. He had been up to it for a long time so when we saw him we confronted him, and ended up grabbing him up while one of us called the police. While trying to restrain him things got a little rough, and by the time the cops rolled up they came out swinging... on us. I caught a walk-in talkie to the head and a few of us got bruised up pretty badly. The police behaved as if it was a fight; an excuse to fuck people up and seemed to truly thrill in bashing a bunch of kids doing the right thing, even if we were a bit misguided and overzealous.

A few years later myself and some other friends got into a street fight in Manhattan. The cops arrived as the drama wound down; they asked no questions and just charged straight at the one black guy there, my friend who wasn’t even involved. They clocked him in the face, slammed him to the ground, and began choking him out while the rest of us (all white) stood by in horror. While it shocked us, to our friend who was brutalized by the cops, it came as no surprise.

Fast forward to when I got bagged for writing graffiti in the train yards. I was caught with two other friends, one Puerto Rican and the other Italian-American. While I was being processed in Central Booking, the cops made cracks about me being a scumbag and how I should be ashamed for getting involved with my friends. They proceeded to rough me up, separate me from my friends, and toss me into a cell with adults (despite me being a minor). They in essence were punishing me for "race-mixing."

One last tale, which relates to the last one: I was ridiculously accused of blocking an ambulance when hanging out in a small town many years back by the local police who have nothing but time on their hands (there is no crime in this town beyond public urination and the occasional bar fight.) The cops grabbed me up in front of many witnesses, pulled me around the corner and slammed me into a wall; roughly frisking me while cursing me for being a "little shit" for insisting I did nothing wrong. A friend came over to make sure I was okay, and they arrested us both (him for interfering with an arrest). As they walked us to the precinct, the cops kicked our ankles, pulled our arms back unnecessarily tight, and asked my (white) friend why he was acting like a "Yo! MTV Raps n****r." Ultimately we were both released with no charges, but my friend was picked up again later that same night and assaulted by one of the cops while in a cell.

I tell these stories to illustrate the lens of race that police see through, not to mention the lawlessness of how they treat their position of power. (I have no illusions that in one or all of those aforementioned instances I could've very well ended up badly injured, or dead, had I been a person of color.) Cops truly seem to believe that by just donning their uniform they can act with impunity, making up the rules as they go. (If people are roughed up in the process, that's just part of the job.) And the system backs them up; time and time again. Even in the rare instances when charges are brought against the police, the centrists and 'law and order' types (and often times the DA's offices behind the scenes) side with the cops, and they walk free with no lessons learned. A few politicians may bleat on about the need for "reform" and altering "training" procedures, but nothing ever changes, as history has shown.

Police brutality and race-based law enforcement is systematic, and the only solution is a complete overhaul of the structure of policing, from the top on down. As long as the police see poor and minority people not as citizens, but as criminals until proven otherwise, even the cops who joined the force with good intentions will at the worst get caught up in the brutality, or in the least turn a blind eye to their fellow officers' actions. The end result of this broken and anti-democratic system as it stands is George Floyd... And Michael Stewart. And Amadou Diallo. And Eric Garner. And Tony McDade. And Rodney King. And Tamir Rice. And Anthony Baez. And Freddie Gray. And Oscar Grant. And Sean Bell. And Kathryn Johnston. And Philando Castile. And Alton Sterling. And on and on and on and on.

* This piece was written before the mass protests broke out across the United States in response to Floyd's murder. The heavy-handed, militarized response to this collective expression of outrage perfectly illustrates the broken system of policing in the country.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

I Loaded My Shotgun Today

For the first time in decades, I loaded my shotgun today.

With helicopters overhead, roving groups of opposing provocateurs roaming the streets and a small army of overtired police in the middle of a demonstration a mile or so away, I slid the shells into the magazine tube.

And with each click I felt a creeping amnesia slicing slivers away from the hopes I was once so sure would last a lifetime.

I can barely remember what I felt when Barack Obama was elected the first black president. I have no clear emotional recall of how proud I felt when I watched him and Michelle Obama dance at the second inaugural Ball as Beyonce sang and Alicia Keyes played. I have only the very clear memories of how little America has done since they left.

I think how long it took for Ahmaud Arbery's killers to be arrested. I think of how long it will take for George Floyd's murderers to be arrested. I wonder whether I will get a hashtag or a video or some social event like a ritual jog to commemorate my death if the violence in this city or some other city or some suburban cul de sac takes my life.

As I check the action on the shotgun to make sure it feeds correctly, I wonder if I will become the kind of celebrity black corpse of one political party because I'm a Liberal and a Democrat or will I be a prop for the other political party because I am a soldier. Will the video on social media be like that of David Dorn or will it be a police body cam video like Mikel McIntyre. How long will my body lay in police custody and unmourned before people who love me get a text message from people who saw the footage on the 24 hour news channels?

As I cleared the chamber and put the key in the trigger lock, I wondered what it would be like for my mother. Would she become a convenient hero for people to lionize and forget like Mamie Till. Or would she become widely ignored like Samaria Rice.

As I sat there for a moment on my stoop wondering whether there would be explosions in the distance tonight, or gunfire or smoke or teargas, I thought where it would be both easy to access and safe to keep the shotgun if someone who kills black people chooses my house tonight.

I thought how in three and a half years we have watched democracy reduced to riots and disease, and how angry white ladies armed with cell phones and crocodile tears are just as deadly as any enemy I faced overseas. And I can't remember if it is self evident if I was ever created equal, if my life can matter, if a black Muslim could ever be president when the idea of one remains an indictment and an insult. I wonder what my father felt like when he realized he could not give his sons the life he believed they deserved. I think how much easier it is to build a new prison instead of a new school. I thought about a trillion dollars loaned every week to keep Wall Street comfy and safe while streets in Minneapolis, St Louis, Los Angeles, Philly and Trenton are lined with broken glass and scorched blacktop where cars burned the night before. I wonder if there is anywhere on earth I could raise black children without bullseyes attached to them.

And what will happen when the people who post and protest and riot and don't vote, again. And will the people who shoot and excuse and nullify my fear, my pain, my loss, vote in large numbers, again? Will it be what it was when my great uncle was lynched? Will I have to tell the next generation of protestors to watch out because your skin is the color of the victim who fit the description?

I still feel powerless and unprotected in America, so I am connected to the black cop and the black rioter, the black police commissioner and the black convict, the black veteran and the black ventilator patient, the black shopkeeoer and the black elected officials pepper sprayed during a peaceful protest.

 So I loaded my shotgun today, because that's the best I thought I could do in America today.

Written by Sherwood Goodenough © 2020
Sherwood Goodenough is a policy analyst and military veteran

Monday, June 1, 2020

Wave Bye Bye With A Hammer

News of Confederate statues toppling down South during the countrywide protests in the name of George Floyd bring this timeless protest song to mind. "Kick over the statues, and the tyrants die..."

Sunday, May 31, 2020

New York City's Burning

"After the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968, New York Mayor John Lindsay walked the city streets alongside residents, a sign of respect that helped heal and cool the city. Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat elected on a promise to improve the way black and Hispanic New Yorkers were policed, has played a far less visible role. The lack of moral leadership from the mayor over the weekend was devastating."

Bill de Blasio, the limousine liberal mayor of New York City, must resign now. He has long failed his constituents, excused the brutality of the police department, and is now playing the blame game using right wing talking points all while claiming to understand and sympathize with the voice of the people. Perhaps he can get a job as a lobbyist for his pals in big real estate after he fucks off.

Photograph taken on Flatbush Avenue by unknown (Twitter)

Friday, May 29, 2020

Queen Of The Beatniks

Judy Henske was such an unheralded, powerhouse singer who brought the sonic thunder through many eras of music. Even after hundreds of listens, this song still blows me away (same with "High Flying Bird," which she recorded first and inspired countless versions of, most notably Jefferson Airplane's take). All hail the Queen!

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Silence = Death

"The great error has been to mistake the darkness for damnation, to surrender to immobility or worse, to try to retrace our steps backward to a safety that has ceased to exist or never existed."

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Cold Graves In Cold Earth

"Your lies persuaded people to accept the wasted blood, your filthy pride cleansed you of the doubt you should have had. You smile in the face of the death 'cause you are so proud and vain, your inhumanity stops you from realizing the pain."

"The U.S. death toll from COVID-19 has reached a somber milestone: as of Wednesday afternoon, the highly infectious viral disease has taken more than 100,000 lives nationwide." -NPR

Artwork by unknown artist

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Strictly Kings

“A race of angels, bound with one another.”

Brooklyneeze is a living archive of the County Of Kings... The people, the places; art, culture; life and death. Then and now. Dig it here.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Give The Anarchist A Cigarette

In The Hour Of His Darkest Need

For as far back as he could recall, there was one thing that always brought him comfort. The words that rang true and glowed like burning coal. Words that heralded hope, proclaimed love, celebrated loss, embraced shattered faith, and shook a finger at corruption. Words that carried his broken self to lonesome side-streets, waterfront docks, and beauty parlors filled with sun-pecked faces. Words that caressed with a singular voice, a knowing wink, and left in their wake a warm, seemingly all-knowing security.

Words by Lee Greenfeld © 2020

Friday, May 22, 2020

Interview With John Yates

John Yates made his name in the punk-rock underground as house designer for Alternative Tentacles, the record label owned and run by the Dead Kennedys frontman Jello Biafra. Via his nom de plume Stealworks, he has designed classic album covers for bands as diverse as Bad Religion, Jawbreaker, and The Phoenix Foundation, as well as packaging design and book covers (including notable work for City Lights, PM Press, Haymarket Books, and Verso Books).

Recently Yates has taken on a project of love: Punk Note, a series of radical redesigns of punk and hardcore albums covers, all in the style of famed Blue Note Records designer Reid Miles. The work is striking and pays respect to both Miles and the musicians' vision and style. We decided to reach out to Yates to find out a bit more about the series, and his plans for the future.

You were the long time designer for Alternative Tentacles and have done many projects since, but what sparked your interest in graphic design initially? Did you attend art school?

I didn’t even know what the term “graphic design” meant when I first discovered that I was just attracted to artwork on records as I was to the music itself. But it was my discovery of music — punk — that connected the two for me. I think I always leaned “artistic,” as I would always be drawing or making things as a young kid, but until punk entered my life, none of it really made much sense.

I did not attend what would be considered a straight up art school, but I did attend two different technical colleges in the UK, grad-uating both. I studied art history, photography, printmaking, general art, graphic design, and editorial design over a four year period.

What is your background when it comes to music, and did you alway intend to do work that related to music? 

I discovered music, and punk in particular, as most do, in my early teens through peers at school. I remember vividly the first time I heard The Stranglers on a school trip to France via a friend at the time. It was just so different, to me, and seemed to give me a voice I lacked, but didn’t know I lacked. Like every other teen at the time I started seeking out more and more music, and with that came the lifestyle and the mindset, I suppose.

I had no idea that I could make a career out of music, unless you happened to be a musician, so no. It wasn’t until I started doing a zine, and decided to send a copy to my favorite record label at the time, that I realized it might be possible. 

When did you move to the US, and how did you end up working at Alternative Tentacles? Was that your first design job? 

I moved to the States in 1988. I was providing freelance work for Alternative Tentacles while in the UK (for their London office), but spent a summer in San Francisco volunteering at the label. Then I got offered a full-time position, if I could return the next year. So, I jumped at the chance. Goodbye Thatcher England.

It was not my first design job, though it’s the only one of consequence. I worked at a small design shop immediately out of college for about a year or so, maybe two? The benefit of it was that it allowed me full access after hours to start my own zine using their equipment and supplies, so I figured I’d stick around. Mostly the job involved (very poor) illustrations for adult school medical textbooks. Insanely dull, but it paid the rent, and had fringe benefits, as mentioned.

On to the reason for this interview… I was really impressed by the Punk Note series. What was the impetus behind it?

In my time doing record cover design, I have on occasion dabbled with my version of homages to Reid Miles, the graphic design genius behind the iconic Blue Note jazz label aesthetic (together with Francis Wolff, who provided the majority of the photography). Having lost my job in late March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I found myself with some time on my hands, and way too much time living inside my own head due to personal reasons. I needed something to do, and decided to actualize some ideas I had notes on. The Punk Note series is one of them.

Combining the Blue Note aesthetic through a punk-rock filter seemed like a fun idea, as well as a nice creative outlet, and therapy. My grandparents were jazz listeners — my nan being a jazz singer for a small period of her life in her younger years — and I was always exposed to jazz as a child. I recall the odd Blue Note title from their record collection, so I suppose it was deep inside to some degree. Essentially, this series (200 titles, from 1965 to 1990) was therapy.

While you tackle some obvious classics in the series, you also go a little deeper in your choices. Are you a record collector? Also, are you a jazz fan, or just a fan of Reid’s design work?

I was an avid record collector, but not insanely so, as I just couldn’t afford to be. However, back in “the day,” I, like many others, used to trade tapes of bands. I traded within the UK (where I am from originally), but also with some penpals in the US, so I got exposed to a lot of music I probably wouldn’t have if I had restricted my sources to local record shops and the music press (which is all you had back then). I also had a good friend at a record store who turned me on to a lot of great music I wouldn’t have known about.

I am a fan of jazz music, but only of a certain period, which reflects the music my grandparents listened to and that I was exposed to. My gramps was really into big band stuff, whereas my nan was more into singers. And they had crossover with more traditional '50s and '60s jazz artists. Later in life, after my punk teen years, I revisited jazz for myself, and expanded my interests there. I love it as background music, especially when working, but I wouldn’t pretend to have any real knowledge about it. I just know what I like.

You recreated a few Crass sleeves for the series, and in the past created a fantastic Gulf War poster which is very reminiscent of Gee Voucher’s work with the group. Is the art of Crass an influence on your own work (or political poster-art in general)? Who else do you count as an influence?

Crass, and Gee’s work in particular, were a huge influence on me. I wouldn’t even pretend to be anything near as good as she is, because I am simply am not, but I was hugely influenced by her work, Winston Smith’s work for Dead Kennedys, and then, by extension, other sociopolitical work. I loved pop-art when I studied art history, particularly the work that had something to say (I know, all art has something to say, but it didn’t necessarily speak to me) and that asked questions. Art always had to have a point for me. I’m not particularly attracted to art for art’s sake, which is why I see myself as a graphic designer and not an artist. Well, that and the fact that I cannot draw or paint or do anything else associated with what would typically be seen as an artist.

At this point you’ve created dozens of alternate covers; is this a long-term project for you, and will the art be compiled in any way beyond Instagram?

I produced 200 covers, and have been releasing them in batches of 10 a day. I just posted batch fifteen this morning, so I am almost done. I started with my birth year, which also happened to be the year The Sonics album came out (1965), and decided to call it a day at 1990. At first I just wanted to do a few favorites for the hell of it, but then I got a bit obsessed and, as I said previously, it turned out to be good therapy for me.

I’m not sure what other options I would have to release the work, honestly. All originals are only 4"x4" format, but they are 300dpi, so could, in theory, be printed. I don’t have any plans to do anything with them, other than the Instagram posts.

What else are you working on these days; any projects you are excited about?

There are a couple of other personal projects I am trying to work up from sketch ideas, but I’m not sure when, or if, they will see the light of day. I was pretty pleased with the most recent actual record artwork project that I worked on for the band Be Well, but that’s about it at the moment. I also work on books covers, so there are a fe oof those starting to roll in for the new season. I lost my regular job due to the pandemic, so if there’s anyone out there with design needs, please do reach out!

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Contact John through his website Stealworks

Interview conducted by Lee Greenfeld © 2020