On March 13, 1964, a woman was brutally murdered outside her apartment in Queens, New York. While the murder was tragic – as all murders are – it wasn’t especially noteworthy. It wasn’t until two weeks after the murder, when the New York Times published an article about the incident, that the whole world lost its mind.

*     *     *

Kitty Genovese was born in New York City on July 7, 1935. The eldest of five children, Kitty grew up in Park Slope, Brooklyn. In what has to be one of the saddest ironies of all time, Kitty’s mother witnessed a murder on a street in 1954 and demanded that the family move to a safer place. And so, later that year, the family moved to Connecticut. But Kitty was 19 by then, and decided to remain in the city. By 1964, Kitty was managing Ev’s Eleventh Hour, a sports bar in Hollis, Queens and living in Kew Gardens with her partner, Mary Ann Zielonko.

At around 3:15 AM on the morning of March 13, Kitty drove home from the bar and parked her car at the Long Island Rail Road parking lot. The lot was on Austin Street across from an apartment building called The Mowbray, and approximately 100 feet from the entrance to her apartment, which was above some shops. Kitty had no idea that a man named Winston Moseley had woken up at 2:00 AM and quietly left his house. He had driven around Queens looking for a woman to murder, and Kitty was simply at the wrong place at the wrong time.

Moseley approached Genovese in the parking lot. Genovese, frightened, ran across the lot towards towards her apartment, but changed her mind and turned to run up Austin Street towards Lefferts Boulevard, a street that was usually busy, even at 3:15 AM. Moseley caught up to her and stabbed her in the back twice. Genovese cried out “Oh my God, he stabbed me! Help me!”. A neighbor named Robert Mozer leaned out his window and shouted for Moseley to “let that girl alone”.

Mozer’s shout frightened Moseley. He ran back to his car, a white Corvair, and drove around for several minutes. He came back, parked in a different location, and put on a wide-brimmed hat, which he pulled down low to hide his face. He scanned the LIRR lot, the street, and the area around the shops. Genovese had slowly walked towards the rear of the shops, where her apartment was, and Moseley found her there in an exterior hallway. He stabbed her several more times, raped her, and took $49 from her wallet (around $360 in 2012 dollars). He then walked back to his car and drove away.

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At the time, most crime reporters simply took the NYPD’s word on most cases. Sure, there was the occasional high-profile case in which reporters would interview neighbors or witnesses. But most of the time, the NYPD would simply hand out sheets with crime summaries on them, and the reporters would rewrite them and submit them to their papers.

On March 27, 1964, the New York Times ran an article by Martin Gansberg with the headline “Thirty-Eight Who Saw Murder Didn’t Call the Police”. The article begins thusly:

“For more than half an hour thirty-eight respectable, law-abiding citizens in Queens watched a killer stalk and stab a woman in three separate attacks in Kew Gardens.

Twice their chatter and the sudden glow of their bedroom lights interrupted him and frightened him off. Each time he returned, sought her out, and stabbed her again. Not one person telephoned the police during the assault; one witness called after the woman was dead.

That was two weeks ago today.”

The only problem is, almost everything in Gansberg’s article is wrong. In fact, there’s a huge factual error in the story’s very first sentence: there were only two attacks, not three. And the alleged “38 witnesses”? The District Attorney’s office searched high and low for witnesses prior to Moseley’s subsequent trial, and according to ADA Charles Skoller, only six credible witness were found. And, due to the layout of the crime, none of those people actually saw Moselely murder Genovese.

Continue reading “RIGHTING THE WRONGS: Kitty Genovese”

Mad Men: Symmetry

Last night, Pete Campbell’s transition into Don Draper came full circle. The symbolism was blindingly obvious… after all, does this shot:


Remind you of anything? How about this shot from “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes”:


More beautiful symmetry from Matt Weiner and Co.


Taking Measure

Several historians have described the American Revolution as the “American Secession”. This is because the American Revolution was pretty tame compared to later revolutions in France and Russia. Most Americans weren’t even in favor of the Revolution, and the majority of those that were didn’t want to change their entire world… they just wanted the British to leave them alone. So after the British left, life continued for most Americans more or less as it had for decades.

Contrast this with the French Revolution, where revolutionaries railed against a millennia of rule by a theocratic monarchy. Most of France belonged to the monarchy or aristocracy, and much of the rest belonged to the church. From a revolutionary point of view, it wasn’t enough to just change their form of government. Society had to be recreated from the ground up, and certain people needed to be gotten rid of or “re-educated”. So aristocrats, bishops and priests were executed by the thousands, and their wealth and property redistributed to the working class.

But even that wasn’t enough. French revolutionaries created a new calendar to eliminate religious and monarchical days. The calendar would start not from the birth of Jesus, but from the founding of the Republic. Revolutionaries even invented a new decimal clock, partly because of its perceived ease of use, but also as another way to eliminate all traces of the Ancien Régime.

Many reforms weren’t very popular. Decimal time became the “official time” of a handful of towns, and was readily embraced by a few scientists and revolutionaries… but almost no one else. The Republican calendar was more successful, being used by the French government for 12 years. There was, however, a significant error in the calendar related to the calculation of leap years which made it mathematically inaccurate. And while many Frenchmen were at least initially more enthusiastic about the calendar than the clock, so many people had to use the Gregorian calendar so often – in business dealings with other countries, or working with dates from before the Revolution – that most just gave up and went back to the old calendar. For some reason, I’m picturing an 18th century French version of Lewis Black, complete with liberty cap: “we already had one perfectly good calendar, but invented a new one… SO WHY THE HELL DO WE KEEP GOING BACK TO THE OLD ONE? IF EVERYONE’S GONNA KEEP USING THE OLD ONE, WHY DON’T WE JUST DITCH THE NEW ONE? AM I THE ONLY SANE PERSON IN THIS REPUBLIC??”  In any case, the French government agreed and went back to the Gregorian calendar in 1805.

But there was one reform that was insanely popular. It was so popular, in fact, that almost the entire world now uses it. And people in France at the time were happy to see it.

It’s the metric system.


The first unified system of measurement used in France was established by Charlemagne in AD 790. His system was remarkably similar to Britain’s “Imperial System”. For instance, the pouce was the French equivalent of the inch, and was exactly 1.066 inches. And the pied du roi (“the king’s foot”, usually just shortened to pied) was equal to 12 pounce (12.86 inches, or 1.066 feet). Thus, the pied carré (square foot) was equal to 1.136 sq ft. The toise, the French equivalent of the fathom, was 6.394 feet, compared to 6 feet in England (the English only used fathoms at sea; the French used it on both land and sea). Liquid measurements varied a bit: the chopine was equal to .84 Imperial pints (but almost exactly 1 US pint, which was the system in use in England until 1824), the pinte was 1.86 Imperial pints (or 2.01 US pints). The quade was equal to a US half-gallon (or .42 Imperial gallons) and the velte was equal to 2.01 US gallons (or 1.68 Imperial gallons).

Continue reading “Taking Measure”

The Record That (Apparently) Doesn’t Exist

Billboard magazine is an American publication that compiles the official music charts for the United States. It was founded way back in 1894 as a magazine about outdoor advertising… hence the name. After a few years it started reporting on “outdoor amusements” – like fairs and carnivals – as these were a big thing in the days before television and movies. They were also one of the biggest billboard customers of the time. Billboard soon became the unofficial “newspaper of record” for amusement parks, circuses, carnivals and fairs.

When jukeboxes became popular in the 1930s, Billboard began publishing charts of the most popular songs in the country. On August 4, 1958, the magazine started publishing its famous “Billboard 100”, the list of the top 100 songs for each of three categories: Pop, Country & Western, and Rhythm & Blues.

Nowadays, of course, Billboard publishes a ridiculous number of charts every week: over 100 different charts at the time of this writing. “Pop” has now been subdivided into “Pop”, “Rock”, “Adult Contemporary”. “Adult Pop”, “Alternative”, “Hard Rock”, “Folk”, “Dance”, “World”, “New Age” and more. There’s the “Top Digital Songs” chart for downloads and “Top Streaming Songs” chart for sites like Spotify and Last.fm. There’s a chart for the week’s “Top Ringtones” (who knew that was still a thing?), “Top MySpace Songs” (ditto), “Top Catalogue Albums” (older albums like Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, which are almost pure profit for record labels), as well as “Top Tastemaker” and “Top Heatseekers”, whatever they are.

One of Billboard’s first tweaks to their music charts came in the June 1, 1959 issue, in which it debuted the “Bubbling Under the Hot 100” chart. Usually just called the “Bubbling Under” chart, it featured the 15 songs that would have been numbers 101-115 on the Hot 100 chart. This way DJs and others in the record industry could keep up with new artists. Over the years, Billboard has changed the Bubbling Under chart to include 35, 10 or 25 songs (which is what it remains today).

The Bubbling Under chart of Billboards June 16, 1979 issue of included a song called “Ready ‘N Steady” by a band called D.A.. And the funny thing about it is… no one has ever seen or heard a copy of the record!

Music historian Joel Whitburn – who has a massive underground vault containing a copy of almost every single 78, 45, LP and CD to make the Billboard charts since the 30s, and whose company, Whitburn’s Record Research, is the longest-running licensee of Billboard’s chart information – has looked into the matter with some depth. And, as a former record collector myself, I can see why: Whitburn owns a copy of every single that has ever appeared on the “Bubbling Under” chart… except “Ready ‘N Steady”.

In 1995, Whitburn said that he thought the band might actually be a girl-punk band from Chicago named DA! that was active in the late 70s and early 80s. He has since recanted this, presumably because DA! released a few records on a label called Autumn Records in 1981.

Whitburn has proof that Rascal, the label that released “Ready N’ Steady”, actually existed. He found a small ad for the label in the back of a punk rock “zine” (a type of self-published amateur magazine popular with sci-fi writers from the 1930s, but closely associated with punk culture in the 70s). Whitburn even hired a detective to go to the address listed in the ad – incidentally, a residential address – but the building was abandoned. I don’t know if Whitburn tried to do a title search on the property, or if he did and found that the home was a rental at the time or what. All I know is that it was a dead-end.

But perhaps the most titillating thing of all is that Billboard listed the catalog number of “Ready N’ Steady” as “RASCAL 102”. Presumably, there’s a completely unknown record out there with the catalog number “RASCAL 101”.

It amazes me that mysteries like these persist in the Internet age. You’d think that someone involved with the record – the band, the label, or a fan – would have come forward by now. After all, Ken Snyder’s By Request Only was thought to be a hoax for years… until it wasn’t. But it’s also possible that “Ready N’ Steady” was, in fact, some kind of hoax pulled on Billboard. But if so… why? Having a record appear on the “Bubbling Under” chart isn’t exactly the prank of the century. I mean, come on… the Max Headroom broadcast signal intrusion? Now THAT’S a prank, my friend. Getting “Ready N’ Steady” on a minor Billboard chart? Not so much.

SONGS I LOVE: “Secret Place”

I’ve mentioned it several times on the site, so I’m sure you’re sick of hearing about it. But I just have to do it one more time: in late 2011 I first heard – and fell in love with – the Greek synthpop duo Marsheaux. And I’m not sure ya’ll really get what I mean when I say “fell in love”. It felt as if I was back in 7th grade, experiencing my first crush all over again. They were the first thing I thought of when I woke up and the last thing I thought of before falling asleep. Any spare moment – any at all – I had one of their songs in my head.

The problem was, the band only had three studio albums, and the most recent one – my beloved Lumineux Noir – came out in 2009. As much as I loved that disc, I could only listen to it so many times. Last.fm says I’ve listened to Lumineux Noir tracks 637 times, and while I’ve enjoyed it every single time, what I really wanted was something new.

The band had a new album in the works, but it was delayed several times. It wasn’t until April 22, 2013 that Inhale saw the light of day. And the second track on that album has become an instant favorite of mine: “Secret Place”.

Please try to fall asleep
What a perfect moment
Dreaming, only you and me
So let’s sleep to be alive

Beneath the bright blue
I hold you tight
Floating, only you and me
So let’s fly and touch the sky

Why “Bowls”?

In America, the end of every college football season is celebrated with a variety of “bowl games”: the Rose Bowl, the Cotton Bowl, the Sugar Bowl and the Orange Bowl are just a few. And, of course, the NFL took a cue from the college game by naming its yearly championship the Super Bowl.

But why are they bowls? Did the winner get a bowl of roses or cotton or sugar or oranges? A free set of tableware? Did the first trophies look like bowls?

Haha… no. It actually comes from 1914, when Yale University built the first modern football stadium in the United States. Prior to this, most universities just took a large area of flat ground, marked off the football field, then built wooden or metal stands on one side of the field. As the team grew in popularity, the school would then build stands on the other side of the field, then on either end zone as needed. And by that time, the school would enclose the whole area with a fence of some kind, so that only paying customers could watch the game. Or they’d just use a baseball field, which presented its own set of problems.

But Yale’s new stadium was different. For one thing, the entire thing was recessed into the ground, so that the playing field was several feet (meters) below the surrounding ground. Bathrooms and food stalls were included. Access was controlled by various gates, and the entire building was circular. The whole thing kind of looked like a giant bowl from above, and this led people to call the stadium the “Yale Bowl”, which is the name it has today. It was new and it was breathtaking. And it was such a success that the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum (1921), the Rose Bowl (1922) and Michigan Stadium (1926) copied the basic design.

The Yale Bowl

But here’s the thing: the very first “bowl game” – the Rose Bowl – was originally created to help fund a preexisting event: Pasadena’s Tournament of Roses. If you’re an American, you’ve no doubt seen at least a bit of the famous “Tournament of Roses Parade” on TV every New Year’s Day. Well, what happened was that the tournament was barely breaking even most years, so someone on the organizing committee suggested holding a football game to generate a bunch of revenue.

Tournament of Roses parade

As envisioned, the game was to feature the best team from the western states playing the best team from the eastern states. However, in the inaugural game – played on January 1, 1902 – the eastern team (Michigan) crushed the western team (Stanford) by a score of 49-0. I don’t know if the Californians’ feelings were hurt or what, but for the next several years other sports were substituted for football. Given the immense popularity of college football today, it’s hard to believe that chariot and ostrich races were more popular than football, but so it was.

15 years later the game was resurrected. The first few games were played in nearby Tournament Park, but the game quickly grew so popular that a proper stadium became necessary. And so, in 1922 the “Tournament East-West Football Game” moved to the “Tournament of Roses Stadium”. Within a year, the stadium was called the “Tournament of Roses Bowl” (thanks to the Yale Bowl), and soon the game itself was just called the “Rose Bowl”.

Continue reading “Why “Bowls”?”

SONGS I LOVE: “Nightswim”

I don’t know much about Brooke Addamo, other than that she is around 22 years old, is from Melbourne, Australia, was an unsuccessful contestant on season 6 of Australian Idol, and that she performs under the stage name Owl Eyes.

Her debut EP, Nightswim, came out a few weeks ago, and the title track is just sick:

Take my hand
and speak to me
Say this nightswim
Will last for an eternity

Here Comes the Ban Hammer!

If you pay any attention at all to IT security issues, you probably know that many (most?) computer viruses and malware aim to turn your computer into a “bot”. As part of a group of infected computers (known as a “botnet”), your computer would then be used by the virus’ author to send out spam, conduct Denial of Service attacks on other computers, or whatever other evil thing the author has in mind.

But there’s a new breed of malware out there attacking WordPress installations. Why? Because most WordPress installations are hosted at data centers, which have several times the bandwidth of your puny home connection.Which makes total sense if you think about it: if having horsepower and bandwidth are the ultimate goals of a botnet creator, why bother with home users and their rinky-dink Pentium 4s and 1.5Mbps DSL connections? Think big and go for a quad-Xeon box at a T4 data center!

Anyway, the point is, I have really jacked up the security on this site as of late. One thing I’ve done is to add two-factor authentication. The second is that I’ve installed a plug-in which tracks login attempts and IP addresses. If unsuccessful, it locks out the IP address for 72 hours and emails me the IP address of the rogue computer.

So here’s a new policy: if your IP address tries to login to the admin portion of my site more than three times, your IP address is locked out for 72 hours. If your IP address is locked out more than once, your IP is banned permanently.

If you feel that your IP address was banned unjustly, please let me know (and seriously, I’d love to hear your story) and I’ll look in to it.