In 2011, Glaser discussed the fear of failure and the “myth of creative genius” as part of a video series from Berghs’ Exhibition 2011:
“Find out what you’re capable of doing or not capable of doing. Admit what is […] Embrace the failure.”
While he also suggested that becoming a specialist was the best way of achieving success, he warned that specialism was antithetical to artistic development:
The consequence of specialisation and success is that it… hurts you. It hurts you because it basically doesn’t aid in your development. […] Understanding development comes from failure. People begin to get better when they fail.
But for this list from Open Culture, the titles were recommended by readers.
If this is overwhelming but you feel you must start to engage with the history and theory of anti-racism, don’t despair or buy a pile of books you know you can’t read right now. All of the most prominent anti-racist authors have been in high demand for interviews.
Some of these books you’ll know, some you won’t. Some you may own, some may be on your wishlist already. The best time to be anti-racist is always now. If you can buy a book or have access to read one, I strongly recommend you do and put the learning into action.
Alongside the Open Culture list, I have chosen 5 books of my own.
Ever heard of a blerd? It’s a portmanteau of Black + nerd and, although “nerd” is mainly used as a pejorative, the term has been reclaimed to describe a person who has an interest in specialised activities such as comics, gaming, computers, and anime (more specifically, an anime nerd is often known by the Japanese word otaku).
I like to think of myself as a blerd and I’m not alone. In fact, there’s a council of Black nerds and they call themselves The Nerd Council.
Building and bringing the nerd community together
The Nerd Council was founded in 2017 as a way of bringing nerds together and with good reason. Black nerds have a major influence on a number of multi-billion dollar industries and so TNC wants to be “the number one space where likeminded individuals can find each other, and feel comfortable being themselves”.
They do this in three ways:
The Nerd Council has a podcast that covers nerd news, listener questions, polls, and a main topic every episode. The trio also have a YouTube channel and a popular Twitter account where they discuss nerd media, gaming, comics, and anime.
What’s the best way to bring a community together? Through curated events. TNC hosts a variety of events including film screenings, live shows, and quiz nights to reinforce the idea that there is a safe space for nerds to be nerds.
Talks and panels
It’s important to be heard as a Black person in a predominately white industry. But when it comes to industries like anime and manga, gaming, and comic books, we need representation on a grand scale. That’s why The Nerd Council gives its own insights into those spaces.
Black Lives Matter is not a catch-all term. It represents the fight for equality, liberation, and radicalisation for Black people around the world and we will continue to challenge every institution and system until it happens.
Skate publication Jenkem Magazine care about Black businesses too, and with the help of friend and contributor Patrick Kigongo, compiled a Google sheet of Black-owned skate companies to support, aptly named The Black List.
At the time of writing, there are 140 different Black skate brands, stores, organisations, and media outlets to give your money and support to. There’ll be some names you recognise (like Tyler The Creator’s Golf Wang) and some you might not. But all your proceeds, shares, likes, and listens will go a long way to bring a balance to a system created to marginalise Black people.
What’s the most unusual item you take everywhere you go?
It’s not really unusual, but I always have a pen with me. It started out as an accident, but I never bothered to take it out of my pocket. I’ll never know if Publishers Clearing House will accost me on the street with a million-dollar check or if I have to sign an autograph because something thinks I’m Jaleel White.
Why do you do what you do?
I love supporting music. I started out as a radio personality because I wanted to play music from local bands. I always went to local shows with a request form for some music. It basically grew from there. It’s always a great feeling to hear new music from a rising artist.
When was the last time you told someone you loved them?
I honestly don’t know. I probably should get better at doing this.
Where do you go to relax?
I don’t really go anywhere physically for relaxation. My idea of relaxing is just watching Twitch, listening to music, or playing video games. Sleeping is great, too. Lately, I’ve been falling asleep with spectator mode running in Unreal Tournament 2004. Best $3 I ever spent.
69, 280, or 420?
I was going to pick either 69 or 420, but 280 stood out to me. No one ever gives this number any love on social media. It’s never “280, blaze it” or no one ever says “Nice” when 280 gets mentioned. I never see 280 trending on Twitter. I’m choosing 280 because I believe in it. 280 can do the thing!
How do you say goodbye in your culture?
I actually don’t say goodbye. I tend to just exit the spot without saying anything. Irish goodbye. I’ll say something on social media after I leave, though.
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.
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.
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.
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.
(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):
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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’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.
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
The name ‘Jamaica’ comes from the Arawakan ‘Xaymaca’ meaning ‘Land of Wood and Water’.
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.
Jamaica gained independence from the British on 6th August 1962 and was the first English-speaking Caribbean island to do so.
Jamaica’s motto is ‘Out of Many, One People’.
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).
Kingston is capital of Jamaica but it’s in the smallest parish on the island by area (25km²).
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.
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.
Jamaica is the third-most populous English-speaking country in the Americas, after the United States and Canada.
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.
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.
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’.
Tony-Award-winning choreographer Garth Fagan was born in Kingston, Jamaica.
A dance known as Bruckins is performed during Emancipation Day.
Nobel prize laureate Derek Walcott, attended college in Jamaica.
James Bond writer Ian Fleming wrote his Bond novels while living in Jamaica.
2015 Man Booker Prize winner Marlon James was born in Kingston.
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.
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.
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.
Jamaican has won 78 medals at the Olympics, including 1 bronze medal in the men’s cycling 1 km time trial at Moscow 1980.
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.
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.
Jamaica’s national flower is the lignum vitae while the national bird is the red-billed streamertail or ‘doctor bird‘.
The Jamaican boa is the largest snake on the island but none of the eight species of snakes on the island are venomous.
Jamaica’s exports include sugar, bananas, cocoa, coconut, grapefruit, rum, yams, and Blue Mountain Coffee.
The Jamaican slider is a species of turtle that’s only found in Jamaica and on a few islands in the Bahamas.
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.
The itinerant life is coveted by many but it isn’t for everyone. The main obstacle is the insecurity of hopping from place to place without a home to return to every night; it’s there but not always within arm’s reach. But for Pat Perry, that has been a source of inspiration, even if that means being held at gunpoint and getting arrested.
Who in the world is Pat Perry?
Pat Perry was born in Michigan but now lives in Detroit, working itinerantly according to his website. He has worked with the likes of the BBC, Twitter, and Atlantic Records and could have worked for even bigger brands but turned them down telling Communication Arts, “I only want to make work that reflects what I care about.” He expanded, discussing the time he rejected a $40,000 offer to work with Taco Bell:
“I would never judge anyone harshly for taking work like this, and even for me, it was a hard situation I mulled over because I could have used the money, but I just don’t want to be remembered for that. Maybe it would have been a flash in the pan, but maybe I would have become the Taco Bell guy.”
Some of his influences include Max Horkheimer and Friedrich Nietzsche, and philosophy has a significant influence on Perry’s work, particular in his processes:
“Sometimes I just run away […] It is how I get to be alone and be a silent observer for a while.”
When Perry isn’t sketching, he paints on panels and walls. His acrylic work borders on the hyperreal, depicting the regular lives and scenery of the USA. His outdoor works have taken him to the corners of the earth, with murals in Sweden, Canada, New Zealand, and Iraq. What strikes me about his work is how considered and thoughtful it is. For an American to paint a mural in Iraq and for it to complement the surroundings so well is astonishing and refreshing.
Pat Perry’s work evokes and provokes. You feel safe in his creative world, with the soft, earthy palettes, and representations of humanity in its rawest forms. But his paintings and illustrations demand your attention as you search for unseen artefacts and subtle details. Every piece has a story to tell and you’ll want to cosy up to it to fully enjoy the experience.