The Bike Wars Are Over, and the Bikes Won

I’ve been meaning to get back to writing this blog for a long time.
Maybe this is how I’ll start, by posting links to other articles.

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Bloomberg’s Former Transportation Commissioner
Relives the Great Bikelash of 2010.

Source: The Bike Wars Are Over, and the Bikes Won — NYMag

Gross Opportunism

[This is part of the Release the Kraken! series.]

August 27, 2013

I was walking home from work yesterday (Aug. 28) when a headline caught my eye (the way they’re meant to): “East Village raises $18,000 for florist hurt by drag racer”.

Instead of leading the story with something like “Lack of affordable health insurance leaves people vulnerable”, they write a self-congratulatory story about a fund-raiser for the injured person:

Among the many who gave funds to the campaign for Ali was Veselka restaurant, which made one of the biggest contributions at $500. The biggest donor, though, was a tattoo shop, which went only by the tag “STI,” which gave $1,000. … Bob Holman of the Bowery Poetry Club also contributed, with the encouraging message posted on the GiveForward site, “Strength.” Activist and journalist Bill Weinberg, who leads tours for the new MoRUS museum on Avenue C, donated. Also giving was State Democratic Committeewoman Rachel Lavine, who lives in the West Village. … Katharine Wolpe, a leading member of Village Independent Democrats, pitched in $200. Fourth Arts Block also gave. The list goes on and on.

“I was kind of the catalyst for this thing,” [Chad] Marlow [a member of Community Board 3] said. “But I was one of 290 who gave. At the end of the day, a bit of the money is from me, just a bit. [Marlow gave $100.] I’m very grateful for having this opportunity to help. It’s been a bit of a healing experience for me. I walked past [the site of the crash], and it was all I could think about. I was really gratified that I could play a role. But it was really the East Village that did this.

This is sickening. Do they have no shame?

The article says that the injured person’s insurance was paying his hospital bills, but I seriously doubt that’s true. This is a guy whose job was “doing everything from making fresh-squeezed juices and salads to manning the flower stand.” There’s no question that the East Village Farm Deli didn’t pay for his insurance, which means he either paid for it himself, or had none. But The Villager has nothing to say about that.

Debt and Caruso

People with credit cards are probably aware, and people without credit cards might be aware, that credit card companies, in their effort to entice you to spend more money, offer “points” for every dollar you spend. These points accumulate, and eventually you can use them to partially offset the cost of new purchases. Or, if you have enough points, to offset it entirely.

I was never good at using my points. During the 1990s, I had Sprint as my phone company, and Sprint bequeathed points for usage. I had an account that allowed unlimited calls to Europe (for a higher price than the regular account) because I called Europe frequently at that time, so I started accumulating a lot of points. You could redeem a small number for useless tchotchkes, but if you held onto them, the top prize was a round-trip airplane ticket to anywhere in North/South America or Europe.

This was during the time phone companies would call and offer you money to switch to them. You might get a call from someone offering you $50 to switch your service to AT&T, and then another call offering $50 to switch back to Sprint. You would lose your points, however, by doing this. I held out all through this time, sacrificing this money because I wanted that ticket. By the time I moved in 2001, I had long since stopped making frequent calls to Europe, and I had forgotten all about my points. When I closed the account, they vanished forever.

Fast forward to the present. I was unemployed from October 2008 to July 2010. During that time, I was one of those people you may have read about who used credit cards to buy groceries. This was going along fine until one day I got a letter in the mail telling me my credit limit had been lowered to an amount that effectively prevented me from ever using the card again.

I had accumulated a lot of points by this time, and I would see them listed on the bill when it came, but I never thought about how to go about using them. Then, when I was checking on Amazon for the publication date of Palestinian Rights: Affirmation and Denial for my post on Janet Abu-Lughod, and found a copy of her book From Urban Village to East Village: The Battle for New York’s Lower East Side for a whopping $4.81, I suddenly remembered those points!

Seeing that after this purchase I would still have points left, I went back to my “shopping cart” and added the Enrico Caruso: 21 Favorite Arias CD that’s been there for over a year. So both the book and the CD were free! And guess what? When you buy a CD from Amazon, you get MP3 versions of the songs as well. Luckily for me, I paid attention to the web page I landed on after the purchase, and saw the Download button.

So here, for your listening pleasure, is “Je Crois Entendre Encore” from Georges Bizet’s Les Pêcheurs de Perles. (Unfortunately, I can’t upload MP3s, so this is the YouTube version):

Doc Martens

Back in the Spring, I met up with a friend of mine and his wife, who were out buying shoes for their daughter. She’s a strict vegetarian (the daughter) and will only wear shoes not made from animals. On this particular day they were shopping at Doc Martens in Union Square. Doc Martens sells boots that they call “vegan” – made with all-synthetic materials. (So all those times I bought cheap shoes on Orchard Street, they were actually vegan!)

While she was trying on boots, my friend and I reminisced about the days when we wore the non-vegan version of these same boots. I found myself looking around the store and I noticed that he and I were the only two men in the place. Every other person in the store, at least ten, was female. Somewhere over the years, Doc Martens went from being a worker’s boot worn by punks and posers to being a hip girls shoe. It probably happened somewhere around the time Doc Martens opened its own store, and was no longer sold only in the basement of Trash and Vaudeville.

Inside Dr. Martens; November 29, 2013


Here’s something I’ll bet you didn’t know. Most people think Doc Martens is an English shoe company, but the fact is that it’s German. And not just German, but Nazi German.

Oh yeah.

At least originally. From the always-reliable Wikipedia:

    Klaus Märtens was a doctor in the German army during World War II. While on leave in 1945, he injured his ankle while skiing in the Bavarian Alps. He found that his standard-issue army boots were too uncomfortable on his injured foot. While recuperating, he designed improvements to the boots, with soft leather and air-padded soles made of tyres. When the war ended and some Germans looted valuables from their own cities, Märtens took leather from a cobbler’s shop. With that leather he made himself a pair of boots with air-cushioned soles.


    In 1959, the company had grown large enough that Märtens and Funck looked at marketing the footwear internationally. Almost immediately, British shoe manufacturer R. Griggs Group Ltd. bought patent rights to manufacture the shoes in the United Kingdom. Griggs anglicised the name, slightly re-shaped the heel to make them fit better, added the trademark yellow stitching, and trademarked the soles as AirWair.

It makes sense. A lot of punks had an unseemly fascination with Nazi iconography.

Sid Vicious Swastika
Sid Vicious

Ads on Quilas

I recently discovered, quite by accident, that ads appear at the bottom of my posts. I inadvertently connected to a post of mine without being logged in and was appalled, appalled I say, to discover a 30-second video at the bottom of the page. I don’t know what it was selling – I didn’t bother to find out – but I must apologize to all of my many readers for this.

However, if you’re not already using AdBlockPlus, it’s really your own fault. AdBlockPlus is available for Firefox, Chrome, Opera, Android, even Internet Explorer! So get it! It’s free!

So, that said:

Richard Wolff Follow-up on Bill Moyers

“Capitalism is a system geared up to doing three things on the part of business: get more profits, grow your company and get a larger market share… If along the way they have to sacrifice either the well-being of their workers or the well-being of the planet or the environmental conditions, they may feel very bad about it — and I know plenty who do — but they have no choice.”


Richard Wolff on Bill Moyers

This was broadcast on February 22, 2013.

Richard Wolff was an economics professor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He leads a monthly discussion on the financial crisis every first Tuesday of the month, at the Brecht Forum in New York.


David Harvey in Athens

I’ve seen David Harvey speak before. He’s amazing. He can speak for an hour in a focussed and comprehensive way and not use a single note!


Swedish House Mafia

I’m adding a new tag today: Swedish House Mafia. Why, you ask?

I recently did a search on Google for “shmnyc”, to see what would turn up. I discovered there was a group (or band, or “crew”) called Swedish House Mafia, that some people abbreviate as SHM:


I guess shmnyc refers to when the Swedish House Mafia plays in New York City. Kids these days, with their txtspk! It’s bad enough that smh is a dyslexic ordering of my initials.

Why do I bring this up? It’s not as if sharing initials with some pop band is uncommon, or even worth mentioning. It’s that I get tweets attempting to reference them, such as:

So as a bonus feature for my readers, I will post these whenever I get them. It’s probably not as interesting as Kenneth Goldsmith reading the fan mail he got that was intended for Kenny G, back when he was at WFMU, but hey… you get what you get, and you don’t get upset.

Neil Smith Walking Tour

I was just about to post the next in my gentrification series when… Take a look at this! It was retweeted by David Harvey. I got it at 2:27pm:

(I don’t know how to explain what happened. The time I got this was 2:27pm. The walking tour began at 2:30pm. Now, however, when I embed the tweet, the time shows as 2:45pm.)

I replied: “When? Today? In three minutes?” Right away, though, I deleted it. I thought “David Harvey isn’t responsible for this tour. And he doesn’t even know me!”

So I went to the source tweet, and responded to them something like: “You really need to give people more notice of these things.” Then I thought “Maybe they did. I don’t follow them, I follow David Harvey,” so I deleted that one too.

Apparently, Neil Smith led walking tours in New York. I never knew this. I’m really surprised I never knew this. In all the years I’ve lived in New York, this is the kind of thing I would know. Maybe they were CUNY-Grad events? I don’t know. I’m sorry I missed these though.