Pedro Paramo is the book I’ve most given away. It’s a thin, easy to read, very influential novel. It will haunt you.
The second book I’ve most given away is Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain’s Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk.
Through a series of alternating interviews, PKM traces the history of punk. From New York to Detroit to New York and London.
Punk Rock’s Origins Will Blow Your Mind
Picture New York City in the mid-1970s. Gritty. Dirty. Dangerous.
The City was on the verge of bankruptcy.
In contrast, rock ‘n’ roll in the mid-1970s is bloated and growing fatter.
On the East Side of Manhattan (on 47th Street to be exact), Andy Warhol’s factory births The Velvet Underground.
The Velvets play a stripped down version of rock ‘n’ roll mixed with avant garde sounds. They sing about mature subject matter: bondage, transvestites, and scoring drugs.
They go on to inspire many bands.
Halfway across the country, Detroit births the MC5 and The Stooges.
The MC5 are known for their aggressive, provocative, loud performances, which contrast hippie, flower-power bands.
The Stooges‘ Iggy Pop’s over-the-top performances earn him the moniker, “Godfather of Punk.”
The stage for punk is set long before it arrives at CBGBs, a club on the Bowery. 
New York births The New York Dolls, Blondie, the Dead Boys, the Patti Smith Group, the Ramones, and Talking Heads.
PKM’s cast of characters is extensive AND exhausting: Warhol, David Bowie, David Byrne, Debbie Harry, Malcolm McClaren, Iggy Pop, Dee Dee and Joey Ramone, Lou Reed, and Patti Smith, plus actors (Jim Belushi!), authors, artists, band members and poets.
All of them speaking in their own voices.
Explaining how bands were formed, who always had drugs, who knew how to play music, who didn’t.
To me, the book is an important lesson in making a scene.
By that I don’t mean “create a public display or disturbance” or “complain noisily and display bad behavior” (though punks did both).
I mean surround yourself with people who inspire you, help each other, do great work, perform together, and rinse and repeat.
Some of the people in PKM had talent. Others didn’t. Some used a lot of drugs. There were fights and stolen loves.
You might not want to be friends with several. Many of their stories are tragic. People died.
Yet, they came together to create something awesome.
By the dawn of the seventies, the philosophy was that you couldn’t do anything without a lot of money. So my philosophy was back to, “Fuck you, we don’t care if we can’t play and don’t have very good instruments. We’re still doing it because we think you’re a bunch of cunts.” – Malcolm McClaren
You can read this book straight through and enjoy the hell out of it.
You could also read it as a science fiction novel and enjoy it in a different way.
Livingston’s book (which I still come across on startup founders’ desks) is about changing business; McNeil and McCain’s book is about changing culture.
Updated 4/7/2108 to include footnotes.
 New York City today is nothing compared to what it was in the mid-1970s. Even in the late-1980s, when I first visited, New York still had an edge. Today, New York City is a santized shopping mall.
 I was lucky enough to see a few bands at CBGBs: Sonic Youth, The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black, Sham 69 (where EVERYONE knew EVERY song and sang aloud), Atari Teenage Riot, Bikini Kill, Batmobile, and a show that featured a who’s who of the California bands I’d seen live in L.A.: Circle Jerks, D.I., and 45 Grave. Today, CBGBs site houses a John Varvatos shoe store. R.I.P.
 The Blondie image is one of my favorites and it’s from band member Chris Stein who you can follow on Instagram.
 The Los Angeles (or West Coast) version of this book is Marc Spitz’ We’ve Got the Neutron Bomb. Sadly, it doesn’t come close to being as exciting or exhaustive or definitive as PKM.
This week I’ve been thinking a lot about this MIT Technology Review article on writing the yeast genome. The article profiles NYU’s Jef Boeke, one of the founders and leaders of Genome Project write (GP-write). Writing a genome, which is still expensive, will drive advances across many fields (I’ve written about this project in the past and predicted – incorrectly – that the scientists would be finished by the end of last year.)
Healthcare is broken. It’s expensive, eats up a significant part of our gross domestic product, and entering the healthcare system is no fun. Just think about the forms you have to fill out every time you visit a new doctor. The news that Apple is creating medical clinics for its employees (and to test new products) is very very interesting. If you believe that Apple was instrumental in designing technology that is easier to use (and I do), then for sure they will create a healthcare experience that many of us will crave.
 Colored scanning electron micrograph of lab-grown baker’s yeast.
Netflix just started airing Altered Carbon. It’s a rad take Richard K. Morgan’s 2002 cyberpunk novel. One of my favorite genres, cyberpunk typically explores how the street repurposes tech, life in cyberspace and off-planet.
Last fall, I reread William Gibson’s Sprawl Trilogy – Neuromancer, Count Zero, and Mona Lisa Overdrive. (Neuromancer, BTW, is credited with “launching” the cyberpunk genre, though purists will cite British New Wave authors and Philip K. Dick as originators.)
I was searching for biotech references. And man, did I find them, from the neurotoxin sacs that are surgically implanted in Neuromancer main character Case’s body, to a Mitsubishi-Genentech merger (that never happened), and hackers trying to bring back by-then extinct horses.
In many ways, Gibson already riding the biotech wave years before synthetic biology was re-defined. Gibson includes less biotech in later novels but he is always readable. His writing enjoyable and thought-provoking and he remains one of my favorite authors, plus his Twitter stream is a blast to follow.