We Have a Winner: Best Cover of All-time Tournament!



Ok, so we don’t have a winning song, but the front-runner has to be the letter “J” (incidentally, my favorite).  Look at the roster of prospective covers below, and revel in how many incredible artists are representing that letter.

If you are a visual thinker, you might guess that there are more than 64 songs on the list.  I tried to take at least one suggestion from everyone who submitted songs.  At the moment I’m likely to cut a few and subject others to play-ins.

Tomorrow I’ll spend some time seeding the ones that are obviously getting, and we’ll be ready to launch on Monday!  Last call!

Amy Winhouse: Valerie

Animals: House of the Rising Sun

Aretha: Respect

Avail: Pink Houses

Bahamas: Don’t You Want Me

Band: Atlantic City

Band: Don’t Do it

Beach Boys: Cotton Fields

Beach Boys: Sloop John B

Beatles: Twist and Shout

Beyonce: Sex on Fire

Birdy: Skinny Love

Blondie: Tide is High

Bobby Darin: Mack the Knife

Bryan Adams: Anytime At All

Bruce Springsteen- My Ride’s Here

Byrds: Mr. Tamburine Man

CCR: I Heard it Through the Grapevine

Cat Power: I Found a Reason  Continue reading

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We’re Back: Looking for the Best Cover Song of All-Time!

bob_dylan_jimi_hendrixFrom 2010 to 2012, this site hosted some mighty entertaining single-elimination music tournaments, and now we’re bringing one back.

For the initiated, music tournaments follow a simple March Madness elegance- songs compete against each other in a bracket.  You vote for a winner, and it advances to the next round.  63 matches later, we have a winner.   We’ve got the details below the scroll. Continue reading

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A Few of My Favorite Things, Vol. 1

Living the dream...

Living the dream…

One of the themes I’ve taken away from Burning Man is being grateful about the good things in life. This is not only because so many of us (yeah, you reading this) lives in such relative splendor or because the world is an incredible place, but because a positive mindset reinforces itself, just as a negative one does. Dwelling on the positive is good for the soul.

So I thought I’d start a list of weekly favorites, sort of like a Positive Harper’s Index.

Favorite Beach in the World: Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica, on the Atlantic side. Though both sides of Costa Rica are mind-blowing.

Favorite Movie Viewed on a Bus: Big Fish

Favorite Movie: Big Fish

Favorite Dinosaur: The latest Nat Geo stars the Spinosaurus, a fifty-foot long amphibious predator that pre-dated the T-Rex.   The most complete collection of Spinosaur bones was bombed to smithereens during World War II, until a Bedouin treasure hunter stumbled across some a few years ago. Great story, great creature. http://events.nationalgeographic.com/events/speakers/2014/10/16/spinosaurus/

Favorite Career Move: Lawyer to Doctor- so far I know two people who have made the move, and neither seems to regret it one bit.

Favorite NYC Columnist: Ginia Bellafante.  Check out her latest on community colleges here: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/05/nyregion/community-college-students-face-a-very-long-road-to-graduation.html?_r=0.

Favorite Binge Watch of the Week: Transparent. Smart, funny, sad, and so real. Full of beautiful, interesting characters. Watched all eleven episodes in a day and a half.

Favorite Retro Activity: I sat down to watch baseball multiple times this week for the first time in years, and man, was it exciting. Go Royals!

Favorite Throw-back Discovery: I recently picked up a used copy of Doris Kearn’s (pre-Goodwin!) copy of Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream. It’s a fascinating insight into LBJ’s final years in and out of office, from a before-she-was-famous historian with enormous access. At times, she simply quotes him rambling for pages about how he’d been wronged, sometimes quite cogently. Sometimes used books come with bookmarks, and in this case it was a flyer for a movie at the Thalia Theater, on 95th and Broadway. This is five blocks from where I grew up, and I’d never heard of the place. The flyer was from a movie that came out in 1984, and the Thalia closed in 1987. And the book hadn’t been opened since.  Anna was born in 1984, and this fascinating account of LBJ was waiting her whole lifetime to be read.  Thanks, Doris!

Favorite Photo I’ve Seen This Week: Marsel Van Oosten’s delightful shot of a Japanese snow monkey inspecting an iPhone. It’s up for an award, which it really ought to win, despite some great contenders like “Mouse under Lion”: http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/28868787.


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Some Burning Man Photos on a Rainy Day in New York

This work by Peter Hudson was probably my favorite. The installation is activated by people experiencing the art, and gives the holographic image of a man falling.

This work by Peter Hudson was probably my favorite. The installation is activated by people experiencing the art, and gives the holographic image of a man falling.

I have not yet processed my thoughts on Burning Man, though I can say with some certainty that it was the most unique, fun, introspective and meaningful 8-day stretch of my life.  Meaningful because I got engaged, but the other adjectives would have held either way.  In time I would like to post some 2,000 word reflection, but for now I’ll leave you with photos that are supposedly worth way more than that.

Burning Man has been in my dreams more than half the nights since it ended. Because I got such little sleep during Burning Man, and probably missed out on proper rem sleep entirely some of those nights, my mind is probably still getting around to processing the sensory and intellectual overload.   Enjoy a taste of my experience below, and realize that you can way better images on google if you’re interested in seeing more.

Continue reading

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Buzzcocks and Titus Andronicus at Webster Hall, 9/3/14

Always fun vibes in the Webster Hall area.

Always fun vibes by Webster Hall.

The Buzzcocks began when their founders put up a flyer on a college board seeking fellow musicians who dug “Sister Ray” by Velvet Underground.  Nearly forty years later, they stormed through New York on their latest reunion iteration. I’m a sucker for these kinds of shows.

I’ve made it a point since seeing the closest surviving approximation to the original Beach Boys during the summer of 2012 to catch as many old school legends as possible when they come to town.  You simply never know…in 2009 not many people would have guessed that the Beastie Boys’ performance at Bonnaroo would be their last, especially because they kicked so much ass.

During the last two years I’ve seen Paul McCartney (A+), Brian Wilson perform Pet Sounds (A), Jeff Beck (B+), Kraftwerk (A-), John Fogerty (A), Yoko Ono (B+), Paul Simon and Sting (A). (Note the relevance of the Harvard comma- Paul Simon and Sting were together, and the only way you know that is because I didn’t put a comma to suggest the Paul Simon show was unrelated.)  I saw the Pixies before Kim Deal split and what’s left of the Wailers.  These moments have all added full-sensory memories to what were once just my favorite sounds coming out of machines.  Continue reading

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Moreland Commission op-ed post-script

moreland photoMy op-ed has been picked up by the Albany Times Union and the New York Daily News.  Links are below.  I like being contrasted with Hillary Clinton in the second Daily News story. I picked a copy of the print edition last night, where a truncated version of the story calls me an “anti-corrupt big” in the headline.

Daily News coverage of my op-ed: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/moreland-commission-special-counsel-blasts-andrew-cuomo-article-1.1930106

Janos v. Hillary: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/hillary-clinton-boosts-cuomo-ticket-moreland-counsel-trashes-article-1.1930038

Janos & Jeffrey Sachs team up: http://blog.timesunion.com/capitol/archives/219939/former-moreland-lawyer-economist-for-teachout/

The op-ed was also re-posted at Artvoice, which misspelled my first name (“Janus”). http://blogs.artvoice.com/avdaily/2014/09/05/special-counsel-for-moreland-commission-endorses-teachout-wu/

Feedback so far has all been positive, though I have yet to here from the governor’s camp, where I assume my reflections were not as well received.

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Why this former Special Counsel to the Moreland Commission supports Zephyr Teachout

When I joined the Commission to Investigate Public Corruption (“the Moreland Commission”) as special counsel during the summer of 2013, I knew Albany’s history of corruption, and relished the opportunity to investigate it and offer ideas for reform.  Like many of those who participated in or followed our work, I found hotbeds of scandal, apathy and mediocrity beyond even my low expectations.  The person who disappointed me most during my time on the Commission was Governor Andrew Cuomo.

The opportunity that has been lost by the Commission’s neutering, then disbandment, is more significant than most people realize, and the level of the governor’s interference more pervasive than press accounts suggest.  And while ethics may seem like a single issue in a large and complicated state, what I observed showed me what little regard Governor Cuomo and his senior staff have for the press, the public, and people with integrity who work in government.   Their disdain for ethics colors the way they govern the entire state.

Let me begin by describing my experience on the Commission in as much detail as I feel is appropriate during U.S. Attorney’s Bharara’s ongoing investigation.  The Executive Order under which the Commission operated directed us to investigate corrupt activity that was permissible under the New York’s weak campaign finance and lobbying laws, not necessarily uncover crimes.  (This being Albany, the Commission could not help but discover potentially illegal activity along the way.) While U.S. Attorney Bharara is in possession of the Commission’s files, he is unlikely to pursue non-criminal investigations, which comprised much of our work.

The Department of Justice, New York Attorney General and various District Attorneys will keep pursuing outright crimes such as bribery, but legislators convicted of such offenses are often small fish, while significant players savvily operate at the outer edges of legal corruption.   This includes state legislative leaders and other power brokers, such as prominent lobbyists, who thrive under “politics as usual.” As we noted in the Commission’s Preliminary Report, issued in December 2013 (a second report was never published), “œthe real scandal is what remains legal.”
You can view the report here: http://publiccorruption.moreland.ny.gov/…
No one abuses this system like Andrew Cuomo, who used a questionably legal vehicle, the Committee to Save New York, to spend millions on behalf in 2011 and 2012 before quietly shutting it down.
See this report on CSNY: http://public-accountability.org/…

For example, to most lay people, contributing hundreds of thousands of dollars to a candidate through various loopholes and accounts in exchange for favorable legislation or lack of regulation, as Governor Cuomo did, is tantamount to bribery.  This is how the real estate, telecommunications and gaming industries have operated for years.   Legislative leaders rake in huge legal fees for unspecified work.  Large corporations bankroll dozens of bi-partisan lobbying firms.  Anonymous political spending by both parties continues to grow. As the Daily News reported, Cuomo donors have been awarded lucrative state contracts. (http://www.nydailynews.com/…) Of course, as long as no campaign finance or lobbying laws are broken, all of this is legal,and Governor Cuomo has left the worst and weakest of these laws in place year after year.

Further feeding Albany’s corruption is that most who operate in this system don’t find it problematic or care.  Few legislators defended our work, and few beat reporters investigated its substance until the Commission was long disbanded.   Even good government groups withheld their fire during the budget process under the illusion that a strong reform bill was forthcoming.  Sometimes it seems like the entire political class lives in perpetual fear of an Andrew Cuomo reprisal.

Even Bill de Blasio, who spent the first half of 2014 in Cuomo’s doghouse, is now trotted out to sing the praises of right-winger Kathy Hochul on the governor’s behalf. Governor Cuomo’s general approach to governance is that fundraising nearly exclusively from mega donors, strong-arming  independent entities and bullying Democrats to get in line with his moderate-conservatism is a necessary part of “œpolitics as usual,” and his strongest defense is that the other power brokers of Albany feel the same way.   Weak-kneed politicians can perhaps live under this system, but primary voters ought to reject it.

Governor Cuomo’s behavior during the Commission is emblematic of this cynical approach to governance. During the life and aftermath of the Commission, Governor Cuomo repeatedly made comments and pressured Commissioners to make comments that Commission staff knew to be blatantly untrue.  The Commission staff did not realize that Governor Cuomo viewed them as chips in a misplayed poker hand, a gambit to be discarded via press conference.  Only after being browbeaten for months did we acknowledge the farce of investigating any target that could even tangentially set off Cuomo or his senior staff.   I learned of the Commission’s shutdown over Twitter, two days before the budget was due.  By then the Commission was a shell of itself anyway.

Without someone challenging this Albany mindset, it is no wonder most New Yorkers are completely cynical and disengaged from their state government. Indeed, if Zephyr Teachout’s campaign has achieved nothing else, it has shown that someone with political courage can stand up to any elected official, criticize him and offer a better vision, without suffering retaliation.  That is what democracy is.

Fortunately, the recent Moreland Commission revelations coming to light for a broader New York audience, coupled with the perfect storm of a federal investigation and gubernatorial election, has put the issue of corruption in an unusual spotlight.

The problem of “œlegal corruption” has been one of Zephyr Teachout’s main campaign themes.  I was recruited for the Commission because of my academic background in campaign finance reform, which is also how I first met Teachout in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’sCitizens United decision.  She and I also worked together on the legal team for Occupy Wall Street, making me one of the few people to have worked in the same orbit as both primary opponents.

When this campaign began, everyone knew that Zephyr Teachout was smart, wonky, and internet-savvy.  What I certainly did not know is her remarkable ability to connect with people, her passion for education issues, and her total unflappability in response to Andrew Cuomo’s usual set of bullying tactics.  I think that Zephyr Teachout can win on Tuesday, and Andrew Cuomo think so too, otherwise he wouldn’t be sending his political cronies after her days before the primary.

Corruption isn’t Zephyr Teachout’s only issue. Recent revelations that Cuomo actively worked to submarine a Democratic State Senate (http://www.capitalnewyork.com/…), which insiders all suspected anyway, show Cuomo’s utter distaste for progressive legislation, and should single-handedly be reason enough to vote against him in a primary.  One colleague who knows Cuomo far better than I do has remarked that the governor has hardly any core convictions, and after four years of governance, fracktivists and education advocates will surely agree. Will there be any doubt that Zephyr Teachout will fight for a Democratic State Senate and pursue a progressive legislative agenda?

When voting on September 9th, Democratic primary voters will have a choice between two competing visions of democracy, corruption and progressivism.   It would be great vindication to Commissioners and Commission staff denied the opportunity to finish their corruption investigations if voters could deliver the mandate for reform that the Commission’s work could not be.  That’s why this former special counsel to the Commission is voting Zephyr Teachout for Governor on September 9th.


P.S. I’ll also be voting for netroots pioneer Tim Wu over anti-immigrant, NRA-backed, anti-Obamacare conservative Kathy Hochul for Lieutenant Governor.

Cross-posted at http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/09/05/1327323/-Why-this-former-Special-Counsel-to-the-Moreland-Commission-supports-Zephyr-Teachout

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