MJ vs. MJ and the fall of LA Gear

Michael Jackson BAD Edition Photoshoot Famous LA Gear Unstoppable

The two MJ’s – Michael Jackson and Michael Jordan – may have joined forces in the video for Jam but they were in competition when it came to sneakers in the late 80s.

the detail., a dedicated Michael Jackson channel, made a video discussing the King of Pop’s involvement with LA Gear and how it competed with Nike before its demise and eventual bankruptcy in 1998.

What is LA Gear?

LA Gear is a US shoe company founded in 1983. Focusing predominately on sneakers, the company had a long string of influential athletes endorsing their shoes, including:

  • Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
  • Karl Malone
  • Hakeem Olajuwon
  • Wayne Gretzky
  • Joe Montana

But the endorsements stretched further than sports.

Singer Belinda Carlisle appeared in print ads for LA Gear and, of course, Michael Jackson, who had his own shoe: the Billie Jean, released in 1990.

Shoe business

Michael’s endorsement was with $20m and billed “the largest and priciest corporate endorsement deal in showbiz history”. LA Gear saw Jackson as the best person to compete with Jordan and his “Air Jordan” line with Nike.

To target the younger demographic and kids going back to school, the company launched the Billie Jean sneaker in August 1990. Jackson also appeared in a TV commercial promoting them, at a cost of $700k for 30 seconds.

But this wasn’t enough to keep LA Gear from its steady decline.

Retailers immediately reported abysmal sales. Some department stores struggled to sell even a few pairs and were quickly discounted as a way to shift stock. Parents complained about the style, refusing to buy the impractical fashion-oriented sneakers. Many concerned that the studded and buckle-laden design would make their kids look like junior Hells Angels in them.

Quote from the detail.’s video

LA Geared for court?

While parents feared their children would look like mini bikers, the poor sales could have been related to Michael Jackson’s low profile at the time. The slated Greatest Hits he was working on was scrapped (before returning in a different form in 1995) and, instead, he released Dangerous in 1991. This was a particularly thorny point for LA Gear as he had suggested wearing their sneakers in music videos during that period but it never came to be.

LA Gear eventually pursued legal action in a $46m lawsuit, alleging fraud and breach of contract, claiming Jackson had “missed deadlines to deliver footage that could have been used in shoe commercials and had not released the album that was involved in the contract”. Michael filed a $44m countersuit but the stalemate led to an out-of-court settlement.

Nike’s dominance

As LA Gear continues its decline in the 90s, Nike grew from strength to strength. Michael Jordan’s Air Jordan line launched in 1984 and a slew of version came out throughout the 80s and 90s, with Jordan wearing each iteration for every season in the NBA and the Olympics in 1992.

In contrast, LA Gear filed for bankruptcy in 1998 but have made comebacks since then and the company’s products remain a part of retro culture. In 2019, Skechers sold a line of shoes branded “LA Gear X Skechers”. And who founded Skechers? None other than Robert Greenberg, founder of LA Gear.

Can you still buy LA Gear gear?

Absolutely. The brand doesn’t have the same appeal as it did at its peak and doesn’t have any endorsements on the same level of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar or Michael Jackson but the sneakers still retain their retro charm.

Check out the company’s collection and get a hit of nostagia, follow the detail. on Instagram, check out their store, and stream the video below.

The Rise and Fall Of L.A. Gear & Michael Jackson | the detail.

Fine: the Shanghai cafe that measures 20 square metres

Fine café in Shanghai

What is 20 square metres? It’s 1/357th of a soccer pitch, about 1/267th of an American football field, and less than 1/10th of a tennis court. Now imagine a cafe of that size. And it’s in Shanghai. Then call it Fine.

What is Fine?

Located in the Huashan Lu neighbourhood is a pastry café called Fine 西洋果子店 (literally translated as Fine Western Fruit Shop in English). Despite the misleading name, Fine is part of an “eponymous hospitality chain which runs Japanese retro-style cafés and shops in the city” (thanks to Superfuture for the info).

Brutal wooden minimalism

The rustic style is thanks to local architects Atelier A with a unique concave triangle entrance, adorned with shabby chic painting and dark varnish.

The inside design is much the same, with behind the counter (and the counter itself) full of dark olive kernel wood panelling. For the customer side, it’s all exposed brick and flaking plaster, with suspended lights. It’s like weathered 19th-century apothecary meets brutalism but if someone hated it and went to town on the walls with a pneumatic drill.

Fine’s menu offers a variety of cakes and biscuits, soft drinks and a range of tea options.

Fine’s location

361 Wulumuqi Zhong Lu (Huashan Lu), 200042 Shanghai, China

Pets wore masks during the 1918 flu pandemic

Cat in a flu mask from Dublin, California (1918)

(Content warning: the following article contains reports of animal death)

Do you have pets and, if so, are they wearing masks to protect them from coronavirus? The answer is likely “no” for the majority of pet owners but back in 1918, people were protecting their pooches and pussy cats against the notorious flu pandemic (known as the H1N1 virus) that infected around 1/3 of the world’s population.

Quarantine wasn’t an option like it is today so every man, woman, child and their dog wore masks as they ventured outdoors. We know at least during the current pandemic that while pets can contract the virus, and dogs are more susceptible, it has only been tested in a controlled environment and masks would be more trouble than they’re worth (have you tried putting a collar on a cat?)

But during the flu pandemic of 1918, people worried their pets could carry the virus, with one Pennsylvania councilman claiming that dogs and cats were responsible for its spread across the country. His solution? Shaving or killing pets to prevent further infections. This sensationalist rhetoric lead to many peopling killing strays and some putting their own pets down.

But for the pets that survived, a few became local celebrities. A baseball game between Pasadena and Standard Murphy featured the mascot’s dog (below):

Groups of big league players and one of the umpires who participated in the first "masked" ball game. Featuring Carl Sawyer with masked mascot's masked dog.
Image from The Library of Congress

There was also Yancia, a Boston bulldog from Seattle and this cool Californian cat (below):

I wonder how long it took to put that mask on (from Dublin Heritage Park & Museum)

Not quite as fashionable as this fetching dog from 2019. And yes, it’s wearing a Supreme sweater, shorts, and trainers:

Do you dance when Law & Order SVU comes on?

Law & Order SVU

Mike Post went hard in the studio when he composed the Law & Order: SVU theme tune and I’m grateful. The multi-award-winning composer created theme songs for hit series such as The A-Team, NYPD Blue, Quantum Leap, and Magnum, P.I. But did he envisage people dancing to it?

What is Law & Order SVU?

For those who haven’t seen it, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (shortened to SVU) is a spin-off of the police drama series Law & Order, which focuses on sex crimes in New York. Although most of the original cast has left since is started in 1999 (including Christopher Meloni), Mariska Hargitay, who plays Captain Olivia Benson, is still there.

Especially heinous dancing

There are lots of YouTube videos featuring dancers make their own SVU dance routines including Allison Bedell, Kelly Stamps, and some random folks off the street in New York City but this compilation (below) is my favourite.

When Law & Order SVU comes on 😤🔥

It’s a showcase of dancing memes and the accuracy is fantastic. I tend to play the instruments for the SVU theme tune but this video got me dancing ever since I saw it.

Do you have a dance? Let us know in the comments.

Why Dan Larson sold his toy collection

Why Dan Larson sold his toy collection

I once had a collection of Pokémon cards donated to me by my cousin. 2 years later, I sold them all for £20. I’ve made worse decisions since but that was a pretty bad one.

However, Dan Larson of Toy Galaxy had a clear mind when he sold his toy collection back in 2018.

Who is Dan Larson?

Dan Larson is a content creator, graphic artist, writer and host of Toy Galaxy, a YouTube channel dedicated to toys, comics, and all related media. (And he is awesome.)

At present, Toy Galaxy boasts over 165,000 subscribers and covers a wide range of topics, mostly in the form of top 10s and historical overviews. (And it is awesome.)

Gone but not forgotten

In a video, titled “Why I Sold My Collection“, Dan discussed his reasons for selling and how a need to “collect everything” got quickly out of hand. In his own words, he sold his toy collection to save it and gave some sage advice on how he managed to take control.

“If I’ve learned one thing from 24 years on the internet, it’s that if a thing exists, someone is out there collecting it.”

Dan Larson making his own variation of Rule 34 and Rule 44

But collecting things can turn into an obsession as Dan mentioned in the video intro:

“[…] part of being a collector – any kind of collector – is knowing when it’s time to step away from the collection, from the neverending pursuit of the next piece, and reassess what you’re doing and why. What are you collecting? Is it even the same thing you set out to collect when you started? How far away from the original idea have you strayed? How far will you go to justify that something should be a part of your collection just to be able to add to your collection?

Dan’s story transcends the collection of toys, or any paraphernalia for that matter. Unless you’re one of those minimalists, you’ll have collected items, consciously or otherwise, and you’ve avoided getting rid of the things you don’t need. Then you’ll continue collecting until you have the “moment of clarity” as Dan put it in the video.

Stream the video below and hopefully, you’ll find your own moment of clarity.

Why I Sold My Collection

The African American Miniature Museum

A Black Lives Matter diorama from The African American Miniature Museum

We carve out our space in history with everything we do. But for Black artist Karen Collins, she’s taken that concept literally (and figuratively) with the African American Miniature Museum.

In a film by Jacob Hurwitz-Goodman for Atlas Obscura, Karen Collins tells the story of the museum and its origins and how she wants to teach Black people of future generations about their history and lineage in the USA. It also shows Collins observing her pieces in Los Angeles Public Library (where her work was held between 2018 and 2019) and shots of her making the miniatures while narrating the film.

“We owe our ancestors a debt.”

Karen Collins

Unfortunately, the catalyst for the African American Miniature Museum was one of deep sadness. In 2002, her son was sentenced to 176 years in prison for “three counts of attempted murder and one count of discharging a firearm from a moving vehicle”. That’s when Collins decided to “make the Black History Museum and go into schools and explain their lineage.”

The attention to detail is magnificent as Collins’s work depicts African American art and life through history, from the prominence of slavery to the Civil Rights Movement, all the way to the Black Lives Matter movement.

Currently, the African American Miniature Museum exists only as a “mobile” project in her home but she hopes to find a permanent place to exhibit her 50+ dioramas and preserve the historical pieces.

Stream the full video below.

Meet the Woman Behind L.A.’s African American Miniature Museum | Atlas Obscura

Credits

Executive Producers: Doug Baldinger, Chris Naka

Director of Photography: Bill Meese

Co-Producer: Todd Lerew

The rise and demise of Betamax

betamax-video-cassettes

I was born after the Betamax came and went. In fact, I heard more about it in terms of its demise than any kind of praise for the technology. VHS was my life right up until 2006 (although I still use it to this day). If I’d been born a few years earlier, I might have seen the shift.

But for many, Betamax was a cult classic and Sony only stopped production and sales of Betamax products in March 2016. So let’s look at the rise, fall, and legacy of this iconic piece of video culture.

What is Betamax?

Sony’s Betamax (also known as Beta) was a video cassette format introduced in Japan on 10th May 1975. It was released as way for consumers to record everything from weddings to their favourite soap operas. The cassettes used a similar format to the U-matic, a Sony prototype cassette from the late 60s. but with a thinner design (0.5 inches vs. the U-matic’s 0.75inch width).

Betamax for professional recording

Betamax had a major influence on news broadcasting and music production for different reasons. Sony released the Betacam in 1982, the professional version of the Betamax, and it quickly became the most-used video format in electronic news-gathering (or ENG for short).

While the Betamax and Betacam formats were very similar, the difference between them was significant for professional recording. Betamax recorded in a lower-quality resolution and audio, using only two recording heads, while Betacam used four recording heads, producing a higher video resolution and audio quality.

In music recording, Sony created a digital recording system known as PCM that connected to Betamax recorders. The Sony PCM-F1 adaptor came with a Betamax VCR SL-2000 as a “portable digital audio recording system” and it became a mainstay for audio engineers when they made their masters.

Betamax for home movies

While Betamax enjoyed a good life in the professional market, it didn’t fare as well at the consumer level. Sony released its first Beta device in the US in November 1975 – the LV-1901 that came with a 19-inch colour monitor. There was also the Sony SL-6200, which came as part of the Sony LV-1901 with its teakwood cabinet, a 24-hour timer and camera input. The set also allowed you to record one channel and watch another which was an incredible feat back then.

But stiff competition in the West from JVC’s VHS format lead to its downfall outside of Japan. Their market share in the US rose to 60% by 1980 and left Sony in the dust. It was also cheaper to make VHS tapes in Europe, which pushed the format even further. That led to a gradual decline in Betamax tapes in the 80s, down to a market share of just 7.5% in 1986.

Higher quality in Japan

Even though Betamax wasn’t as successful in the West, Sony managed to localise its power in the videotape format war and build on it. The company released the SuperBetamax (1985) and Extended Definition Betamax (1988) formats, both offering better resolutions.

SuperBeta, as it was known, offered a horizontal resolution almost identical to live television at the time. However, the chroma resolution remained subpar in comparison.

In 1988, Sony released its ED Beta, or “Extended Definition” Betamax line, with 500 lines of horizontal resolution, matching DVD quality (which wouldn’t come out for another 7 years). Improvements were made to format to reduce the transport to reduce picture abnormalities and produce a better quality picture.

Tape length wars

Besides the general “videotape format war”, there was a subsidiary tape length war instigated by the RCA (Radio Corporation of America). The corporation tried to collaborate with Sony in making a format but wanted a 4-hour tape. Sony didn’t feel the Betamax was up to recording 4-hours of tape and maintaining a high-quality picture.

RCA went to JVC with the same proposal but received the same response although parent company Matsushita eventually gave in. This forced Sony’s hand and it managed to eek out 5 hours of Betamax footage with its Beta-III speed on an ultra-thin L-830 cassette. JVC more than doubled it with 10.5 hours on a T-210 cassette.

Other Beta variants and spin-offs

Here are some non-Sony branded Beta players and related Beta products (thanks to Betamax Collectors and Mr Betamax for the info).

Betamovie

Sony’s range of consumer camcorders for the Betamax format, it was notorious for not including a playback function and it was later abandoned in favour of the Video8.

Beta Hi-Fi

In June 1983, Sony added hi-fi audio to videotape as a way to edge JVC’s VHS format out of the market. However, JVC created its own VHS hi-fi system, about a year after the SL-5200 player was released.

Pioneer VX90

Pioneer’s VX90 was basically a SL-HF900 without the Sony logo on it. It produced high-quality SuperBeta pictures and that Beta Hi-Fi stereo sound.

Marantz Stereo VR 200

Sanyo’s Beta player was the first consumer recorder to offer a quality stereo VCR (thanks to enhanced Dolby signal processing).

Toshiba BetaMax V-M40

Toshiba’s model was priced was $379 upon release in 1984. The V-M40 included a 7-day timer, 12 channel selector, a clock, and a moisture detector which shut the system down if moisture was found.

Zenith VR 8510

Produced by Sony for Zenith, the 8510 featured a SpeedSearch picture scan function and SuperScan, allowing users to switch into “fast speed mode” to view where they were in the fast-foward/rewinding process.

Sanyo Betacord VCR 4590

As you might have guessed, it was called Betacord due to its corded remote control.

Failure to adapt – the true demise of Betamax

Despite the sharp decline in sales of Betamax recorders in the late 1980s and subsequent halt in production of new recorders by Sony in 2002, Beta, SuperBeta and EDBeta are still being used by a small number of people. Even though Sony stopped making new cassettes in 2016, new old stocks of Betamax cassettes are still available for purchase at online shops and used recorders (as well as cassettes) are often found at flea markets, thrift stores or on Internet auction sites.

Betacam cassettes are still available in professional circles but generally, Beta is nothing more than a novelty collector’s item. The simple reason why Betamax lost to VHS was Sony’s inability to cater to the general public. They wanted a medium that could record for longer, even if it meant compromising quality. Its legacy now lies in nostalgia and comedic devices.

A curious oddity is that Sony continued to make Beta recorders right up to 2002. But there have been some influential uses of Betamax, as we covered in an article about Marion Stokes.

First Betamax - Salesman Training Video 1977

Betamax related: Introducing the Sony SL-C7 Betamax recorder

28 facts about Jamaican culture

For a tiny island in the Caribbean Sea, Jamaica has had a massive impact on the world in a number of ways. But there’s much more to Jamaica than Bob Marley and Cool Runnings and that doesn’t always get represented. That’s why I’ll be giving you 28 facts about Jamaican culture to broaden your scope and show you just how influential the nation has been.

The history of Jamaica

  1. The name ‘Jamaica’ comes from the Arawakan ‘Xaymaca’ meaning ‘Land of Wood and Water’.
  2. Before the island was colonised, a group known as the “Redware people” arrived in Jamaica in 600 AD and then the Arawak–Taíno around 200 years later. Known as Yamaye, some of the natives still remain on the island.
  3. Jamaica gained independence from the British on 6th August 1962 and was the first English-speaking Caribbean island to do so.
  4. Jamaica’s motto is ‘Out of Many, One People’.
  5. Jamaica is a member of CARICOM, the Commonwealth, IMF (International Monetary Fund), the UN, UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), and WHO (World Health Organization).
  6. Kingston is capital of Jamaica but it’s in the smallest parish on the island by area (25km²).
  7. The yellow (or gold), black and green of the Jamaican flag represent the shining sun, the strength and creativity of the people, and the land.

Language

  1. While the official language of Jamaica is ‘Jamaican Standard English’, Jamaican patois is widely used and arguably the most well-known language spoken on the island. There have been many calls for it be classed as an official language.
  2. Jamaica is the third-most populous English-speaking country in the Americas, after the United States and Canada.

Religion

  1. Christianity is the largest religion on the island and has played a major role in Jamaican culture, as with many Black communities from the diaspora.
  2. The most notable derivative of that is the Rastafari movement, with its strong connections to Africa. Originating in the 1930s, Rastafarians follow teachings from the Old and New Testament but the movement is distinct in its belief that Ethiopia’s former Emperor, Haile Selassie, was the human embodiment of God.
  3. Besides Islam, Hinduism, and Judaism, Jamaica also has a congregation of Baha’i followers. In 2003, the then-Governor General of Jamaica, Sir Howard Cooke, made the 25th July ‘National Bahá’í Day’.
Jamaican man

Humanities

  1. Tony-Award-winning choreographer Garth Fagan was born in Kingston, Jamaica.
  2. A dance known as Bruckins is performed during Emancipation Day.
  3. Nobel prize laureate Derek Walcott, attended college in Jamaica.
  4. James Bond writer Ian Fleming wrote his Bond novels while living in Jamaica.
  5. 2015 Man Booker Prize winner Marlon James was born in Kingston.

Society

  1. Nine-Nights is a funeral tradition practised in Caribbean nations including Jamaica where people take part in an extended wake that lasts for several days. In that time, friends and family share anecdotes, eat food and sing hymns together.
  2. Some Jamaican believe burying the umbilical cord of a newborn under a tree is said to give the child a permanent connection to the island.
  3. In 2019, Jamaica reported its lowest unemployment rate in 50 years.

Sport

  1. Every August, the Pushcart derby takes place, involving races between push carts, similar to American soap box races. The finals take place in the parish of St Elizabeth.
  2. Jamaican has won 78 medals at the Olympics, including 1 bronze medal in the men’s cycling 1 km time trial at Moscow 1980.

Fashion

  1. The Kariba suit is a two-piece suit for men, popularised by former Prime Minister, Michael Manley. Designed in Jamaica in the early 1970s, the suit was made as a form of businesswear to replace standard European suits. When Manley and the People’s National Party came to power in 1972, Parliament passed a law making the Kariba suit the official outfit for formal government functions.
  2. The Quadrille dress is worn in Jamaica and other Caribbean countries but the quadrille dance, for which it is worn, is only danced in Jamaica and Trinidad today.

Nature

  1. Jamaica’s national flower is the lignum vitae while the national bird is the red-billed streamertail or ‘doctor bird‘.
  2. The Jamaican boa is the largest snake on the island but none of the eight species of snakes on the island are venomous.
  3. Jamaica’s exports include sugar, bananas, cocoa, coconut, grapefruit, rum, yams, and Blue Mountain Coffee.
  4. The Jamaican slider is a species of turtle that’s only found in Jamaica and on a few islands in the Bahamas.

Social Theory: fashion for black culture and identity

Black First T-Shirt from Social Theory

Representation of Black culture in art and fashion is important considering the predominately white landscape. With that in mind, outlets like Social Theory are perfect for promoting the culture and the facets of identity within it.

What is Social Theory?

Social Theory is an online apparel store based in Atlanta that “promotes pride in Black identity and Black culture”. It’s best known for its “Influential” collection with a range of hoodies, sweatshirts and t-shirts for all genders and ages.

Other ranges include:

  • BBW (Brilliant. Black. Women)
  • Revolution
  • Black King and Black Queen
  • Black First
  • Black+Proud
  • By Any Means
  • Influential
  • Loving Black Women
  • Melanin Princess
  • Pretty Brown Girl

Check out the website for the full range of collections (my personal favourite is the Black Culture Influences Everything hoodie).

Social Theory also offers free shipping and sizes from small to 3XL in a variety of fits and fabrics.

The Blak Blog

Alongside that, Social Theory also has a blog that covers all things Black culture and empowerment.

Don’t let their discomfort stop your greatness.

A quote from ‘Why Can’t We…’

My two favourite pieces

There’s a lot for everyone on the site but my two favourites are:

1. Black+Proud Crewneck Sweatshirt

Black+Proud Crewneck Sweatshirt in pine green
Black+Proud Crewneck Sweatshirt in pine green

Available in black, red, gold, pine green, dark green, and orange, this unisex classic fit sweatshirt is minimal in its design but power in its message.

2. Black Culture Influences Everything hoodie

Black Culture Influences Everything hoodie in black
Black Culture Influences Everything hoodie in black

As part of the Influential range, this unisex hoodie speaks volumes and comes in black, blue, and pink. The Black Culture Influences Everything design also features on a crewneck sweatshirt.