Single Fatherhood in New York City

Back in 2012, I completed an interview for a Columbia University graduate student of journalism named Acacia Squires. She found me through a post I made on a website about single parenthood and thought I would be a good person to talk with about my experiences being a single father in New York City.

I want to share my story.

Some people call it the “pay up or shut up” model; that’s when fathers pay for child support and alimony after divorce, but loose custody of their children. In modern law, parents’ gender shouldn’t matter, only the child’s welfare is important, but research shows that judge’s bias can lead to unequal treatment in the courtroom. In the first of this three part series on single fatherhood, we look at the story of one Manhattan dad and his fight for his children after divorce.


How Santería Seeped Into Latin Music

IMG_9267.JPGSantería ceremonies traditionally make use of hourglass-shaped batá drums.
Eric Pancer/Flickr Creative Commons

Note: This piece is better heard than read. For examples of the music and a drumming demonstration, listen at the audio link.

If you wanted to put it in extremely simple terms, you could call Santería a mashup of mythology from west and central Africa and Christianity. Santería ceremonies are for calling out to the spiritual world, and that spiritual connection is made through music.

At his home studio in Oakland, Calif., percussionist and bandleader John Santos sets up a trio of batá drums, the hourglass-shaped drums traditionally used in Santería ceremonies, and explains where their unique sound comes from.

“The Yoruba language is a tonal language,” Santos says — that is, speaking a word with a different inflection can give it a different meaning. “So the drums are made to imitate the range of sounds, traditionally, of the voice of the person who commissions the drums to be made.”

According to Santos, Santería rhythms came out of clandestine spiritual ceremonies and into Cuban society in the 1930s, when Cuban musicologists could no longer ignore the country’s African heritage.

The sacred and the secular have shared a place in Cuban music going back to the 19th century — and, in fact, sacred music with roots in west Africa informs a lot of Cuban popular music.

Santos says that for many practitioners of Santería and the musicians who draw on those traditions for inspiration, the intricate and subtle, interlocking rhythms, as well as the haunting and profound melodies of the chants and ceremonial music, reflect an emotional and musical power that remind us that there is something greater than ourselves.

“When you put them together, they create a weave of rhythm that is absolutely magical and irresistible,” he says. “You cannot listen to that music and stay still. It’s music that just moves you from the inside out.”

Hear the audio HERE

With Downloads In Decline, Can iTunes Adapt?

Anyone who witnessed the transition from the older version of iTunes to the post-Steve Jobs version knows ITunes sucks. It is confusing, cumbersome and frustrating. I think I have purchased about 8 songs from iTunes in my life so my opionion is quite biased.

I have way too much music on vinyl, CD and MP3s imported from those CDS that I really don’t need another song in my collection. Plus, there is youtube and…hmmmm…I’ll whisper it (Spotify).

It’s inevitable folks, streaming is here and not going anywhere. Submit…repent and deal with the reality of life in the new Millenium.

Former Apple CEO Steve Jobs stands in front of a projection of iTunes at a presentation in 2004.
Ian Waldie/Getty Images

Apple’s innovative iTunes music service is still the market leader in music downloads, but after more than a decade of growth, sales of music tracks on iTunes have been declining. Last year saw the largest drop in sales — 14 percent. The drop is attributed to the increasing popularity of streaming music services such as Spotify, Pandora and YouTube. These services give fans access to millions of tracks from any Internet-connected device for a monthly fee or in return for listening to commercials.

But many people say they are leaving iTunes simply because it just isn’t that easy to use. When the late Apple founder and CEO Steve Jobs introduced iTunes almost exactly 14 years ago, on January 9, 2001, he made fun of the other software-based music players like Real Jukebox and Windows Media Player. “They are too complex,” Jobs declared. “They’re really difficult to learn and use.” Jobs unveiled the first version of iTunes software from a stage in San Francisco, boasting that it was “Really clean. Really simple” and “far more powerful.”

It charmed a generation of music fans like Alex Newsom, who gets nostalgic talking about the first iTunes purchase she made when she was only 13 years old. “I downloaded this song by Liz Phair where it’s like ‘Why Can’t I Breath Without You'” Newsom says. “I thought I was super cool because it was my first kind of grown-up-sounding song that I’d gone after myself.”

Newsom, who lives outside Seattle, is now 21 and increasingly frustrated with iTunes. For example, a recent update moved the playlist feature around. “You can still kind of go do things the old way but you have to go out of your way to do it,” she says. “And it’s clearly not the way that they expect you to do it.”

Newsom is not alone in her frustration. Jason Mosley, a web designer who specializes in user experiences, says the last version of iTunes he used — 11 — made him work harder to do what he wanted. For example, instead of being able to create a stream of songs based on a single song he likes with one click, he now has to hover over the song and bring up a temporary menu and then select from different options.

Mosley says he was “shocked to see that they had this all nested within another link.” The web designer says, “As a rule of thumb for user experience you want less clicks to get to an action.”

Mosley says part of Apple’s problem is that the basic design is old. “It was built for older things,” he says. “I think it’s just kind of been added onto since then, and that’s just going to make it heavy and slow. Spotify, these new applications, they have the advantage. They are starting fresh.”

Read the rest HERE:

The Original Funky Drummers On Life With James Brown

John “Jabo” Starks (left) and Clyde Stubblefield laid the grooves on many of James Brown’s biggest hits. Here, they clown around on the cover of their joint DVD, Soul of the Funky Drummers.
Rittor Music

John “Jabo” Starks (left) and Clyde Stubblefield laid the grooves on many of James Brown’s biggest hits. Here, they clown around on the cover of their joint DVD, Soul of the Funky Drummers.i
John “Jabo” Starks (left) and Clyde Stubblefield laid the grooves on many of James Brown’s biggest hits. Here, they clown around on the cover of their joint DVD, Soul of the Funky Drummers.

Rittor Music
All this week, Morning Edition is talking about drums and drummers. For the first installment in “Beat Week,” David Greene spoke with a duo who shared drumming duties for the hardest working man in show business.

From the mid-1960s through the early ’70s, Clyde Stubblefield and John “Jabo” Starks created the grooves on many of James Brown’s biggest hits, and laid the foundation for modern funk drumming in the process.

The two first met in 1965, at James Brown gig in Augusta, Ga. Stubblefield was there to audition, even though Starks had just been hired two weeks earlier – and was already one of a handful of drummers on the band’s roster.

“I went on stage and there was five drum sets up there,” Stubblefield recalls. “And I’m going, ‘Wow, what do you need me for?'”

Starks says the overstuffed lineup was a strategy Brown had adopted after an earlier conflict with his band had led to a standoff.

“The saying was, when Clayton Fillyau was the drummer with James, he had just one drummer, one guitar player, one bass player,” Starks says. “They was about to not play; they were rebelling against James for something … so he had to agree with them. And they said he made a statement after then: ‘I’ll never be caught without two of everything.’ So I guess that’s where it started. But when Clyde and I joined the group, we jelled together. And then he started letting the other drummers go.”

Essentially competitors for the same seat, Stubblefield and Starks could easily have ended up as rivals. Starks says one reason they didn’t was that their skills weren’t redundant: Each brought something unique to the group.

“You have to understand this: We’re two different drummers,” he says. “Clyde plays the way that Clyde plays, which, nobody’s gonna play like Clyde. I play like I play. We can play the same tune, but different ways. You never played together on James’ shows, but when he wanted to hear something different from Clyde, he’d point to me.”

Both drummers say working with Brown could be tough. Musicians were pretty much at his beck and call — and he would even fine them when he felt they’d made a mistake.

“Sometimes you don’t have to make a mistake,” says Stubblefield, who says he had to pay Brown more than once. “You just do a little something different and he’d call that a fine, he’d fine you.”

Remarkably, neither Stubblefield nor Starks ever took drum lessons. Stubblefield says he got his sense of rhythm by listening to the clatter of machinery emanating from the factories in his hometown of Chattanooga, Tenn. Starks grew up in the church in Mobile, Ala., and says he couldn’t help but move to the music he’d hear at services.

“You couldn’t even sit down. You couldn’t stop. You had to get up to do something with it,” he says.

The grooves the two drummers created have inspired generations of artists — not just in funk, but in hip-hop, where their steady but intricate patterns make natural material for sampling. Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power,” the bracing theme music from Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing, is based around a snippet of Stubblefield’s playing on “Funky Drummer” (to which rapper Chuck D makes a sly reference in his opening lines).

But more often than not, the artists who have used Stubblefield and Starks’ beats in their own music have failed to give them credit. That, on top of the bad times with James Brown, would leave anyone a little bitter. But when they speak to each other, the love and respect are unmistakable.

“We’re brothers,” Starks says. “That’s the way that I look at it. It’s a brotherly love.”

Stubblefield concurs. “Actually,” he says, “we’ve never had an argument.”

Listen to the conversation HERE