29 May 2015

Retro Video Unit (5/29/15)

(The biweekly video clip and the monthly concert happen to fall on the same day this time around, so I thought I'd post this one early.)

I've mainly stuck to the 1970s and '80s for my video selections because that's when I was watching music videos and paying attention to them. In the late '80s and early '90s MTV had a weekly show called "120 Minutes" that featured clips by alternative artists. I usually recorded it on my VCR (!) so I could see videos by bands I liked, and occasionally get introduced to bands I hadn't heard of.

By the time his album Brick by Brick came out in 1990, Iggy Pop had already been performing and recording for about a quarter-century, but the album got quite a bit of airplay on alternative radio and raised his profile quite a bit higher than it had been for some time.

I've never been a huge fan of his work, but I have enjoyed most of it, and I appreciate his status as a progenitor of punk, a spiritual godfather to thousands of performers and bands, and a collaborator with other musicians like David Bowie.

The song "Candy," featuring Kate Pierson of The B-52's, stands out to me from the rest of the album. I haven't heard it in a long time, but it popped into my head a couple of days ago for no reason, which I took as a sign that I should feature it this time.

(Side note: Iggy has always rocked those bleached-out jeans, which seem to be back in fashion.)

27 May 2015

Car Stuff: The Getaway

Damn, it happened again. I was working on ideas for a Car Stuff post in my mind, then some time yesterday afternoon all thoughts of such left my mind and did not return. Most peculiar...

I'm getting a little better at capturing quick shots when I spot cars on the move, but there's always going to be luck involved in the timing. A couple of weeks ago we pulled into a parking space and I realized what was parked in front of us, so I got out my phone and prepared to take pictures after we got out of the car. But right at that moment I noticed that the car was occupied and the driver was about to pull away, so I just pushed the button to get whatever shots I could.
This sighting was a Chrysler LeBaron convertible from the 1980s. You may remember that after the
Cordoba, Chrysler kept Ricardo Montalban on the payroll to do ads for their other cars, including this one. The LeBaron was one of the finest examples in the history of the auto industry of making a silk purse from a sow's ear, the ear in this case being the lowly Dodge Aries and Plymouth Reliant. Conveniently, I can identify this one as a 1986, because it's the only year that this body style had the center-mounted brake light before getting a redesign.

The LeBaron was dressed up outside and inside, not enough to hide its origins but enough to make it a much more pleasant environment. The convertibles were available with a Mark Cross leather interior, and also with fake woodgrain paneling that evoked the Town & Country convertibles of the 1940s. Sometimes they also had a trunk-mounted luggage rack, which always looks silly regardless of what car it's on.
The second shot reveals more clearly that this car is showing its age, but it's still running after almost 30 years, and these are such a rare sight now that I'm very glad I spotted it, and got these pics in time.

25 May 2015

Long Weekend in Awesome (5/25/15)

Apologies for the lack of posting the past few days. No reason, really; just this and that, and not paying attention to the passage of hours and days...

This is a recycling/environment issue I never gave any thought to until I followed the link to the article, but I think it's a fantastic idea. (National Geographic via Dappered)

Think of these as sort of crowdsourced time-lapse movies. (The Verge)

Interesting piece here about visual effects in movies. For me it depends on the movie and the story it's attempting to tell. (Vice via Engadget)

And finally this... whenever: some news on the Twin Peaks revival set for next year on Showtime (Welcome to Twin Peaks via The A.V. Club); and one last piece about Mad Men (Vulture).

21 May 2015

Stashed Cash

I was at my local liquor store this evening, because I knew the Mrs. was coming home with burritos and I really wanted a cold beer to enjoy with mine. There was a guy in front of me in line who looked to be at least 40, with a woman of a similar age.

Long ago I worked in the gift shop of a local cultural institution that received a lot of visits from school groups, and camp groups during the summer. The kids had a tendency to keep their money stashed in their shoes, and I watched in amazement as the guy in line ahead of me bent his leg up, reached into his shoe, and pulled out cash. He was wearing a T-shirt and shorts, so I suppose he may not have had any pockets, and apparently he doesn't carry a wallet either.

20 May 2015

Some Final Mad Men Thoughts

After having thought about it for a few days, I have a few thoughts on the end (and ending) of Mad Men.

Initially I was disappointed, for a couple of reasons. I had really wanted to see Don return to New York, if not necessarily to return to work (I didn't want to see him submit to McCann). I didn't need to see Stephanie again, and I felt that the whole retreat thing was a long, slow diversion from the events I hoped to see, even if Don's time there did provide a couple of genuinely wonderful moments. And I though the whole Coke thing was a little too pat and a fairly cynical move even for this show. (I have never cared for Coke, and I admit this may be coloring my opinion somewhat.) But as I turned everything over in my mind, I eventually reconciled with all of it.

I didn't want Don and Peggy's last interaction of the series to be over the phone, but in reflecting on it, I now realize that the separation, the physical distance between them at that moment, is symbolic of what Don had been struggling with and what caused him to walk out of that meeting and go off wandering. It also occurred to me that, since the show chronicled how society changed during the 1960s, it's a nod to how the pace of life had begun to accelerate by the point in time at which the show ends. Outside of the business world, long-distance phone calls were a luxury for a long time for many people, but that changed along with almost every other aspect of our lives. And Peggy's concern for Don's well-being at that point, her saying to him "you can come home," spoke to the length and depth of their personal connection.

The fictional idea that the experience at the retreat could lead Don to come up with the Coke ad was admittedly clever, and the bit of foreshadowing with the Coke machine in the previous episode enhanced it. We didn't get to see Don back in New York, but we are given an indication that it did happen and are left to fill in the blanks ourselves. I happen to think that series finales tend to benefit from some degree of ambiguity, and that's true here.

Elsewhere, I did not need to see the reunited Campbell family boarding a LearJet for Wichita, but I didn't mind either. For a brief moment I had the awful thought, "Oh no, are they going to die in a plane crash?" but I dismissed it just as quickly. Likewise, I was not in the camp of those fans who had been wishing that Peggy and Stan would get together, but I felt the show had been aiming them at each other for some time, lining them up for an eventual pairing, and I like the idea of them becoming some sort of Madison Avenue power couple.

Joan? Joan is going to rule the world, or at least the industrial film industry. Richard wasn't good enough for her, and I'm glad she didn't have to invest a lot of years in the relationship to learn that. After what she went through I really wanted to see a bright future for her, and I was very happy with where her story was left. I don't know if things will work out with Roger and Marie, but she's definitely a better match for him than Jane was.

I mentioned to a friend that I had to chuckle a bit when we got the shot of Betty sitting in the kitchen smoking, because my own grandfather had lung cancer at around the same time period (a couple of years earlier, but close) and he too continued smoking during his illness; the doctor said there wasn't any point to making him stop. I doubt that attitude prevails today, but I also imagine that the survival rate is higher today than 45 years ago.

My main issues with the final half-season were that I didn't like seeing the agency cease to exist, but the reality is that such things happen all the time, and I definitely had no objections to how the stories were conveyed. Mad Men will always be a special experience to me, and I'm sure I will revisit it down the road.

18 May 2015

Car Stuff: Paulie?

This 1990s Cadillac Eldorado appeared recently in a neighbor's driveway. It's very similar to the car Paulie drove on The Sopranos, but one night I was out with the dog and saw a guy come out and get into it who looked to be about the age of the kid who Paulie had as sort of an apprentice for a while (name escapes me, it's been a while since I saw the show).
Whoever he is, I'll be friendly to him, just in case.

15 May 2015

Retro Video Unit (5/15/15)

I didn't forget but I am pretty tired, so I'm just going to drop this off here and be on my way...

I recently read a piece (can't remember where) about the album Forever Changes by the 1960s band Love. My introduction to that band was through this cover of "Alone Again Or" by The Damned from 1987—but, I'd never seen this video. Both bands' music is worth seeking out.

This Is the Modern World

A few months back I finally got around to downloading my bank's iPhone app. It was nice to be able to check my balance while I was out of the house and away from my computer, and there were a couple of times where I needed to transfer money from one account into another, and I appreciated the convenience of being able to do that on the go.

Today I needed to deposit a check, and I was supposed to be going downtown this morning so I intended to take care of that then, but my appointment got rescheduled pretty last-minute. I was thinking about which bank branch I should go to instead to make the deposit, and at what point during the day it would be most convenient, when I remembered that I can make deposits through the app. You just use your phone to take photos of the front and back of the check, fill out a digital deposit slip of sorts, and that's it.

I don't mind going to the bank to make deposits in person, but there are times when it's not especially convenient if I'm not already out doing other things. This is incredibly convenient, and I can't believe I didn't start taking advantage of it sooner. I'm definitely living in the 21st century now...

13 May 2015

A TV Highlight

Last week's episode of Comedy Central's Inside Amy Schumer was the most brilliant thing I've seen on TV this year (and yes, that includes Mad Men). It's a deft parody of the classic movie 12 Angry Men where the jurors are debating whether or not Amy is, essentially, hot enough to have a TV show. The jurors are played by several familiar faces: Jeff Goldblum, Paul Giamatti, Nick Di Paolo, Chris Gethard, Vincent Kartheiser, John Hawkes, and a few others; the judge is played by Dennis Quaid, making his second guest appearance this season.

You can watch the episode here if you have a TV provider, or in the Comedy Central app. (I'm sure there are other ways to find it, but you aren't going to hear about them from me...)

12 May 2015

Stops and Starts

The MBTA started adding some new buses to its fleet a while back. I don't think any of them are operating on the route I use most frequently, but they are running on the 101 so I've gotten to ride them several times on that route.

The most obvious and most pleasant thing about new buses is that they're clean. Buses see such heavy use that they lose their luster pretty quickly even when they are cleaned and maintained, so it's nice to be able to enjoy them at the start of their life cycle. The seats are made of a textured plastic that holds riders in place a bit better than the older buses' smooth seats. It also seems they decided to bring back the tinted glass.

I also noticed that the motors have a stop-start function, which probably helps save a little fuel. In theory these systems are great, but in usage it's a bit rough. When idling at traffic lights, the motor shuts down after a period of time, and the bus gives a big shudder. When the driver pushes the accelerator the motor restarts, and that part is a bit smoother than the shutdown but it's still slightly jarring.

It's entirely possible that implementing such a system on a vehicle as large as a bus is more difficult than adding it to a car, and I don't want to sound like I'm complaining about it. I'm not. I commend the T for choosing vehicles that will consume less fuel. The system just takes some getting used to as a passenger.

11 May 2015

Car Stuff: It's Back

I'm cheating a little by posting this, but I'm just not feeling up for any lengthy, involved explanations today...
The neighbor's '68 Camaro reappeared a week ago today. Last year it sat in the driveway all season, but I think it may have received some attention during the winter while it was in storage. It looks like it was washed recently, and I've already seen it parked in two or three places so I'm pretty sure it's being driven. Now I need to see if I can wrangle a ride in it...

09 May 2015

This Week in Awesome (5/9/15)

Got a little sidetracked today, but it's technically still Saturday in this time zone...

From last week, photos of the former Hilltop Steak House in Saugus being demolished. Bit of nostalgia there for a lot of us. FYI, the cactus sign will remain at the site regardless of what eventually gets built there. (WCVB via Brian Cummings)

One of the more interesting aspects of old cars, and one that doesn't get much attention, is the design process with drawings and clay models. This forthcoming documentary on PBS (no air date yet) looks back at designs from decades past. (Curbside Classic)

I generally skip the compilation videos of news bloopers, but these are vintage clips from the '80s and '90s, and somehow that made me enjoy them more. (The Daily Dot via The A.V. Club)

If you're in the mood to fall down a silly Mad Men-related rabbit hole, this one is pretty amusing.

And finally this week, this is the kind of thing the internet is good for. Dryer sheets—really? (@Midnight)

08 May 2015

Bits (A Non-Post Post)

I had a bunch of ideas for posts I wanted to do over the next week or so, but it's late and right now I can't remember what they were, except for ones that involve photos I haven't taken yet. Those will have to wait until next week.

We're going to see the Avengers movie tomorrow night, so I'll probably have at least a couple of thoughts about it.

Next week the TV networks try to get advertisers interested in their new fall shows, and announce their schedules for next season. From the limited information that's already been released, one trend I noticed is another batch of medical shows, something that rarely interests me.

There will be a TWiA sighting this weekend, and it will happen Saturday, I promise.

07 May 2015

Two Episodes Left

There are only two episodes remaining of Mad Men (or, in the ridiculous verbiage of TV marketing, "only one episode left until the series finale"), so I found myself thinking it might be an opportune moment to weigh in on this final half-season.

I'm sure I speak for many when I say that the recent events around the agency itself are not what I was expecting in the final stretch of episodes, but the show has always been adept at avoiding what viewers are likely to be expecting. With the agency being absorbed into McCann-Erickson, I was not at all surprised to see the characters having difficulty adjusting to becoming part of such a huge organization. It would have been too anachronistic to use Pink Floyd's "Welcome to the Machine" (Wish You Were Here was not released until 1975), but it certainly would have been appropriate.

Pete, Harry, and (especially) Ted seem quite comfortable with having been assimilated into the Borg; Roger feels like he no longer has any real purpose, but he doesn't need to work and could easily choose to slide into an early retirement. The mistreatment and lack of respect shown to Joan were unfortunately all too typical experiences for women in the business world and, sadly, women are still experiencing such things today. Don has simply abdicated, driving off in search of the elusive Diana Bauer and picking up hitchhikers going to destinations he wasn't even planning to go (I loved Roger's comment to Jim Hobart on Don's absence: "He does that").

Peggy stands out, quite pointedly, as the exception. She already has a decade of experience and is ready to set the world on fire. Watching her arrive at her new office, it's clear she's prepared to extract every possible ounce of portfolio-building mojo from her time at McCann, and she seems likely to arrive at the end of her contract as someone at the top of the profession, ready to move on and perhaps form her own agency.

Historically, acquisitions were very common in advertising (and led to the super-agencies of today), but my gut tells me Matthew Weiner does not intend to wrap up this story with his characters adrift in a place they feel they don't belong. It's just too much of a down note, even for a show that has been so focused on characters who were struggling to find meaning in life (and generally not succeeding). Therefore, I think there's a strong possibility we are going to see a time jump, either at the start of the next episode (as usually occurred at the beginning of each season), at the start of the final episode, or perhaps during one or both of them.

Don knows he is never going to find any kind of fulfillment working at McCann, so I think he might decide to walk away from the business. Jumping ahead in time would allow the story to move to a point where these people could theoretically come together again in some form, or it could merely serve as a kind of check-in, giving viewers a sense of the paths the various characters are on and where they may be going. But I realize that I may be completely wrong. Like I said, the show tends to avoid doing what we think it will.

05 May 2015

Fuzzy Cell Plan Logic

In trying to cut back on some of the household expenses, I have been looking at ways to potentially lower our cell phone and cable bills. Saving money on TV and internet likely means switching providers, and I have no particular love for Comcast so if that's what it takes, it won't bother me much.

I am rather reluctant to switch cell phone companies for a few reasons: inertia (it's easier to stay with Verizon); the network tends to perform better, with certain exceptions; my extreme dislike of AT&T. But the incessant ads proclaiming that Sprint or T-Mobile or whoever will pay off the early termination fees, and the lure of a new phone, led me to at least size up what others are offering and what it would cost.

It also led me to look at my account info on Verizon's website, which showed me that in any given billing period I have never used more than half of the data allowance I pay for, so at the very least I ought to be able to lower that and save a few dollars a month. I was also curious about the "More Everything" plan that Verizon has been offering, so after doing some inconclusive calculations online I called customer service to get answers from a human.

The lure of More Everything is that there are no limits on calling minutes or texts per billing period. We don't use a lot of phone minutes but currently I pay $5 a month for 250 texts on the Mrs.'s line, and on occasion she gets close to that limit, so it would be nice not to have to keep track of that anymore. (Most competitors' plans also offer unlimited talk and text.) But with three lines (my mother is also on our plan) and my current amount of smartphone data on one line for me, More Everything ends up costing a few dollars more per month. If I cut back the data to 1 gigabyte it would be a few dollars less, not what I consider a significant savings.

And what's worse is, if I configure the plan as though I were a new customer, it's about $15 less a month. This is not surprising, as these days there isn't as much growth in users as there was a decade ago, so cell phone companies fight each other for new customers, many of whom are switching away from a rival. Apparently, pleasing new customers is more of a priority than keeping existing customers satisfied, and this will certainly factor into my eventual decision.

04 May 2015

Car Stuff: Almost All of It

I've had a lot of near misses lately with old cars out on the roads. If the timing isn't right I can't get my phone out and turn on the camera in time to get any photos. Sometimes I just hold it up and push the button, not knowing exactly what it's going to capture.
Just a week and a half ago I was arriving at the corner where I wait for the bus. On my left I noticed a car that was about to pull away from the traffic light. My mind registered that it was large, sort of metallic beige, and probably old enough to be worth getting a shot of, so I pulled out my phone and this is what I ended up with.

I've seen my share of large GM cars from the 1980s and featured many of them here, but for some reason their 1990s counterparts seem to be more rare on the roads, except for Cadillacs. So this Chevrolet Caprice was a good find. This version was sold from model years 1991 to 1996, but I know this is at least a '93 because of the open rear wheels; for the first two years the rear wheel opening was lower and straight across, giving the car an unattractive bloated look.

You can see the passengers well enough to discern that they are old, which is not surprising. Older people are often the ones who hold onto these cars and keep them running.

02 May 2015

Retro Video Unit (5/1/15)

Friday, Saturday... it all runs together sometimes.

I heard songs by Tears for Fears a couple of times this week, first in a store and then on a TV show, so I figured it was a sign that I should post a video by the band. They were sort of a more eggheadish counterpart to bands like Depeche Mode, with lyrics directly inspired by the work of psychologist Arthur Janov.

The two core members of the band split up after their third album, but reunited in 2000 and continue to tour and record. But I decided to go back to their first album, The Hurting, for this song, "Change." I don't claim to understand what's going on in this video, I just like the song, and the band's music in general.

01 May 2015

Replacement Laces

This week I went in search of new laces for my Eastland four-eyelet mocs. Finding shoelaces isn't as easy as you'd think. Most neighborhoods and business districts used to have at least one she repair business, but most of those are gone. Shoe stores are a reasonable choice, but even there I found the selection limited and unsatisfactory.

Most drugstores have a very small section with shoe care products. A couple of days ago I was downtown and went into the big CVS across Washington Street from the Old South Meeting House. Because it's a larger than average store, it has a whole endcap of shoe stuff. I found two sets of laces I felt would work with these shoes, so I bought both.
The darker brown laces are 30" long, a much more sensible and manageable length for this style of shoe with this number of eyelets. (The laces that came with the shoes were around 42" long, and even after I'd cut off several inches they were too long.) However, these are intended for dress shoes, so they are thin and I don't think they look good here.

The other laces on the left are a curious sort of caramel color, but they look like they might have come with the shoes. They are a bit thicker, so more suited to a casual shoe, and the weave of the fabric is a bit more noticeable. They are only 27" long, which makes for pretty small loops when tied, but they seem like the better choice. If I can find darker brown laces in this style and in the 30" length, I will get them.

29 April 2015

Curbside Tubes

Back in the fall, a couple of old tube TV sets appeared on curbs in the neighborhood. The city does not take these with regular trash collection. If a resident wants to dispose of a TV or computer monitor, s/he must go to city hall and purchase a sticker that is then affixed to the item, and the resident must schedule a special pick-up with the waste management company. Sometimes this happens, while other times the set remains on the curb, and the person discarding it is likely hoping that someone else will take it away to use it for parts.
This one landed on a curb down the block and around the corner, and was gone within a day, two days tops. It probably got stickered and carted off. (Toshiba TVs were pretty good at one time, but now they just license the name.)
This one, not quite as large, was right across the street from us on a side street. It arrived at around the same time but lingered. After the first big snowstorm the drifts along the streets were huge, and it wasn't until the snow started melting in mid-March that the set reappeared. Once it got covered by snow I totally forgot about it, but there it was. It's still there today, now face down. If this homeowner's lot did not happen to be on a corner, the TV would be a lot more visible and more likely to be considered an eyesore by a neighbor.

28 April 2015

Car Stuff: Random Sighting #37

This week I have another contribution from Just Bud Fox, who finds these vehicles when he's out taking lunchtime walks.

This blue barge is a 1963 Ford Galaxie 500 two-door hardtop. Technically it's considered a 1963-1/2 Galaxie 500 "Sports Hardtop" because this model with a steeply angled roofline and rear window was a midyear introduction. (At the beginning of the '63 model year, the Galaxie 500 hardtop looked like this, and Ford continued to offer it alongside this one for the rest of the model year.)
It was curious for Ford to launch a new body style in the middle of the model year, especially since the more formal roofline with large "blind" side panels from the "regular" Galaxie 500 hardtop had originated with Ford back in 1958, with the introduction of the four-passenger Thunderbird. By the next year they had already started applying the roofline to the full-size Galaxie, a new model slotted above the long-running Fairlane. (Starting in 1962 the Fairlane name was transferred to Ford's new midsize cars, but by the end of the decade it had been phased out, supplanted by Torino.)
The formal roofline would return for 1965 on the new top-of-the-line LTD, and though Ford continued to offer a full-size two-door hardtop with a sweeping roofline through 1970, by that point the LTD's perceived luxury had become a much bigger selling point than any vague notion of sportiness, which had been shifted to the Mustang and, to a lesser extent, the Torino GT.
The '63 Fords were pretty attractive cars, perhaps not quite as appealing to me as the '63 Chevys, but close. Notice how the designers' 1950s habit of slathering on all sorts of trim bits is still in effect here: the individual letters on the hood and trunk, the little fin things on the edges of the hood, the full-length, bi-level side trim, the vertical doodads on the rear fender, the decorative panel across the rear that echoes the grille pattern, the attempt to make the roof look like a convertible top, etc.

(Back along the wall you can glimpse the Ranchero that I've featured previously, and that oxidized red thing on the right is a Yugo, a notoriously bad import from the 1980s. It's pretty amazing to see that one has survived.)

25 April 2015

This Week in Awesome (4/25/15)

To those of you who may visit primarily to see what I post in this feature, I apologize for its absence. Maybe it's me or my web browsing habits, or maybe the internet just isn't as awesome as it used to be, but lately I'm not finding as many things that I feel compelled to share. I tend to wait until I have at least four items, which is interesting considering that for a good while I'd post five items each weekend. Anyway...

Archer fans will enjoy this clip. Archer is a show that stands up to rewatching, if for no other reason than to unpack each episode's multiple such references (and also because it's really funny). I've also found that using closed captioning can help make certain jokes, dialogue, and other story elements clearer. (Indiewire via The Verge)

This one's weird and somewhat far-fetched, but also just plausible enough to believe. (BLDG BLOG)

Vulture was kind enough to assemble this list of great car movies. I've seen more than half of them; great to see Repo Man in the top five.

And finally this whenever, those of you who watched the early years of the MTV era will likely enjoy reading about the genesis of one of the most distinctive songs from that period. (Medium)

Retro Video Unit, Concert Edition (4/24/15)

When I found that U2 video a few weeks back, I also found this month's concert installment. And as a bonus, it's local: U2 live at TD Garden from their 2001 Elevation tour.

24 April 2015

Everything She Needs

The Mrs. is on her way to California for a high school reunion and a visit with her sister. With me still not gainfully employed in any meaningful way (there is work, but not consistent and not full-time), it was impractical for me to accompany her. And of course the other creature in the room, literally, is our elderly dog. She is approaching 14 and, while she is still in good health for a dog of that age, she requires a lot of attention and care.

She needs a pain pill three times a day, stuffed into a blob of tuna to make it enticing enough. Lately she's been ambivalent about eating the tuna, which means it and the pill often end up having to be thrown away. (After a couple of hours inside the tuna, the pill turns to mush and can't be reused.) Fortunately the medication is inexpensive, and we finally got smart enough to ask for the largest quantity we could legally purchase from the vet at one time. Also, she graciously prefers the cheaper light tuna to the solid white kind, and the light tuna is easier to pack into blobs.

She needs to go out four times a day at roughly six to seven hour intervals (though the "last call" walk at night tends to be only about four hours after the previous one). For the past three years I've been handling all of these except the morning excursion, but for the next week I have to do that one too. The need to relieve herself tends to be most urgent in the mornings, so I have to be able to get up, get dressed, and get her out of the house quickly. Whenever we go out, she needs to be assisted and supported going down and up the ramp we had built for her last year. She has spazzed out a couple of times and ended up falling off of it, resulting in minor injuries, and holding her while she traverses the ramp is the best way to avoid any more incidents.

She gets a blend of dry dog food and cooked food, along with "toppings" of chicken broth, plain yogurt, and ricotta cheese. It takes several minutes to assemble this concoction, and she eats twice each evening, about three hours apart, in order to accommodate the slower metabolism of an older dog. She still has a good appetite but on recent occasions has not been eating much of her "first dinner" for unknown reasons. After a couple of hours have passed, she's much more obviously hungry and consumes her "second dinner" rapidly.

To hire someone to meet all these needs at the appropriate times would likely cost us at least $50 per day. In our current situation there's no way that could happen, and even so it would be a lot to ask of someone. She's our dog, and at this point in her life she needs us more than ever, so we have to make sure she gets everything she needs.

23 April 2015

Rediscovering My Shoes

With the arrival of spring I've been going through shoes that I have stored in the basement and under the bed, evaluating potential eBay sales and such. And, as has happened before, I came across a pair of shoes that I've had for a while, but haven't worn much.

One of my favorite styles of shoes to wear in non-winter weather is the four-eyelet moccasin, which is variously referred to as a blucher moc (L.L. Bean) or a camp moc. I have a pair from Bean in the traditional saddle-brown leather, but I also wanted a pair in suede. Three years ago I somehow stumbled onto the Urban Outfitters website, a store I hadn't shopped in since the 1980s. They had four-eyelet mocs in two colors of suede, made by Eastland. In fact, I wrote about them when I ordered them.

Bean also offered a suede version of its blucher for a while in its Signature line. This past fall I ordered a pair because they had been marked down, presumably for clearance since they are no longer available. But unlike their regular mocs, the Signature shoes were only offered in medium width, and they just weren't comfortable for me. The Eastland shoes are also medium width but they have a more generous fit. Even so, I haven't worn them very much since I got them.
I think it's because I was always a little uncertain about their color. It's called "acorn" on the box, and I've also seen it called "peanut." At times it looked a little too orange to me. But last week I brought up the box from my basement and took them out. The suede is only a couple of shades away from a color called "snuff" that is frequently seen on Alden shoes and is one of my favorite colors for suede footwear.

I decided that I need to make the effort to wear these more. They look good, they're reasonably comfortable, and they fit, and whatever imaginary aversion I may have had to them seems unfounded. But I have to do something about those laces. Not only do I find them unattractive, they're much too long. When I tie them the loops stick out way past the edges of the shoes. I think maybe some plain brown cotton laces will do it, or maybe I'll try something a little more colorful.

21 April 2015

Concert (Ticket) Vault: Pilgrimage

Ah, this is a good one: on May 3, 1985, which will be 30 years ago next week (gulp...), I was fortunate enough to see R.E.M. play live at MIT. The band was doing a spring college tour in the months leading up to the release of their third album, Fables of the Reconstruction.
(For once it made sense to take the photo vertically)
The show was limited to MIT students and their guests, but one of my dorm mates had a brother who was enrolled there, and he was able to get tickets for about half a dozen of us (many of the same people I'd seen U2 with just a few weeks earlier). I remember walking across the Mass. Ave. Bridge on an incredibly beautiful spring evening to get to the show.

As it happened, this was not the first time I had seen R.E.M. Two years earlier, The English Beat had played a show at BU that I went to with some friends, and R.E.M. was the opening act. Both bands were on the same label, and R.E.M.'s first full-length album Murmur had just been released. It was one of those shows where you know you're witnessing something special and it's only a matter of time before the rest of the world catches on.

20 April 2015

Car Stuff: Drive-By Cruise-In

Last summer I caught sight of this weekly cruise-night event while visiting my family, but was unable to stop to view the cars that were in attendance. I got only this one quick shot, unfortunately through the car window smeared with dog dribble:
I can identify most of these cars (no thanks to the Camry that got in the way). From the left, there's a 1967-68 Ford Mustang; a 1976-77 Chevrolet Corvette (based on the nameplate badge between the tail lights, and the lack of the larger rear window that appeared for 1978); what appears to be a pair of Chevy Nova SS's from 1970-72 (originally I thought the one on the right with the spoiler was a '68 Chevelle SS, but they look too similar); a 1964 Mercury Comet convertible that appears to be the same color as the one in this brochure image; and a 1955 Ford Fairlane.

I'm hoping to get back this summer, though this particular event takes place on Fridays, so it will depend on work schedules and whether or not the Mrs. and I can take a Friday off. And no, I have no idea if the $8.95 lobster roll is any good, but my instinct would be to avoid it.

18 April 2015

Retro Video Unit (4/17/15)

After I assembled the Spotify playlist, I added a couple of songs that I haven't yet posted here. (It was tempting to keep going and add a lot more, but I decided to hold back...)

This week's selection is one of those songs, and also one that I couldn't find a video for the first time I looked for it. That must have been a while ago, as it says it was posted to YouTube two years ago.

Fischer-Z (pronounced "zed," not "z") was an early New Wave band from London. It's likely I heard this song played on WBCN way back in 1980 when their second album was released, and like so much of the music of that era it has stayed with me even though I never owned the album. From Going Deaf for a Living, this is "So Long."

15 April 2015

A Denim Solution

After I wrote about the Levi's stitching thing recently, I was able to return them to a store (I'd ordered them online, which is why I didn't know the stitching color had been changed), where I found that many of the other shades the 505 is offered in have also had their stitching changed.

Disappointed, I returned them without exchanging for another pair. I wasn't sure what I was going to do; I thought I'd start by checking eBay for older pairs that hadn't been worn. But before I had a chance to do that, I happened to go to a Kohl's with the Mrs., who was looking for a piece of luggage small enough to take on planes.

I checked their Levi's too, but then I noticed that right next to them on the same wall were the store's house-brand jeans. The label said "regular fit" and they were clearly meant as an alternative to the 505. I had thought this particular brand was made only in "young men's" styles and washes, so I figured it was worth trying them on.

They fit exactly like 505's, and they're available in the same "dark stonewash" shade (which looks quite a bit lighter in the online image than it is in real life) that I've been buying for five years or so. (I have no interest in elaborately distressed washes or selvedge denim; the basic stuff works just fine for me.) And the best part is they have a "regular" price of $36 and are typically available for $20, which is half the cost of a pair of 505's.

I wasn't looking for these, but I'm glad I found them. I'll have to see how they hold up to wearing and washing; I'll post an update in a few months.

14 April 2015

Car Stuff: Fantasy Garage #18

(Sorry this didn't happen yesterday; things were busier than I expected...)

The Fantasy Garage doesn't have any trucks. If for no other reason, it would be nice to add a truck as a runaround vehicle to acquire parts for the other FG cars as needed. Current trucks don't hold much interest for me (though if I were in that market, I'd most likely acquire a new Ram pickup), and a vintage truck is more in keeping with the overall idea of the Fantasy Garage.
Dodge A100 van (image from allpar.com)
I've always liked the "forward control" vans that GM, Ford, and Chrysler made during the 1960s (where the engine is positioned ahead of the front axle and the driver's seat is right above the axle), since those are the first vans I can remember seeing as a child, but I think I might wait before adding one of those. I'm feeling like a pickup makes more sense now. I don't think I'd want a 19509s truck because aesthetics are a consideration, and pickup trucks didn't start to get anything resembling styling until the '60s.
1963 Dodge pickup (image from Old Car Brochures)
Dodge pickups were the ugly ducklings of the period, placing function ahead of form until their 1972 redesign, and I've never been much of a fan of Ford's trucks, though I will admit that their late-1960s design was nice-looking (and my father had one for a while). I think the nicest-looking pickup design of the 1960s is GM's 1967-72 Chevrolet and GMC. (I encountered two of the GMC versions at a car show last September.)
1970 GMC pickup (my photo)
Chevy and GMC trucks have shared body panels for decades and each generation has differed only in minor styling elements like grille treatments. GMC trucks have always been priced higher than their Chevy counterparts, so they tended to have nicer trim and interiors. For this generation the GMC trucks had dual headlights while the Chevy trucks made do with single headlights, and mainly for this reason I prefer this period's GMC trucks.
1969 GMC Fenderside pickup (image by Mister Lou from deviantart.com)
One more important choice needs to be made: the type of pickup box. The more traditional exposed-fender box offered flat sides inside the bed, but by the late '60s it was being overtaken by one with flush body sides, which looked more carlike and stylish. But on older trucks, I think the older-style fendered box looks more honest and purposeful, and the ones on these trucks are especially nice-looking, with contours in the sheet metal that match those of the cab. One drawback to a "fenderside" bed is that the tail lights are housed in external pods that must be attached to the body, but this is a minor issue.

11 April 2015

Viewer's Choice

The two biggest TV shows of the past five years are The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones. I watch a significant amount of TV, but I don't watch either of them. Why not? Because of their subject matter, mainly. Horror and fantasy are areas that have never held much interest for me. Obviously these shows aren't only about those things, but those are the genres they are based in.

Today there's more TV available to us than ever, emanating from more sources than ever. If you're old enough, you remember what it was like when there were only the three broadcast networks: a few shows stood out, but most were just average, because there weren't any alternatives. The lack of choice meant the networks weren't under any pressure to offer better shows. People either watched one of the Big Three, or they didn't watch.

The explosion of original programming has coincided with a "golden age" of high-quality TV, and creators have more options. They can aim for a niche or for broad appeal. There is so much TV it's impossible to see all of it, which is totally okay. There are plenty of choices to satisfy the tastes of all viewers. Your only limits are your provider, your budget, and your free time.

09 April 2015

This Week's Binge

If things seem a little quieter than normal around here this week, it's because I've been submerged in an annual event that Comcast calls Watchathon. For one week, Comcast cable subscribers have free, unlimited access to all the TV shows from the premium channels like HBO and Showtime, either on-demand or online.

--> At the risk of sounding like a shill (this is not sponsored, and I have no particular affection for Comcast), it is a nice bonus if you happen to be a Comcast cable customer. For people like me who don’t have any of the premium channels, it’s an excellent way to catch up on shows you wanted to see but couldn’t.

Last year I watched the first two seasons of Veep and got into it immediately. I've already finished season three, and now I'm trying to decide how to spend the rest of my time: True Detective, Silicon Valley, The Knick… all those shows have been on for only one season, which is generally a better option for me, since there are typically only eight or 10 episodes to cover in the remaining time this week.

08 April 2015

Undone by Stitching

One of the signs of getting older is developing a curmudgeonly disdain for change when it isn't strictly necessary. Part of this comes from the simple fact that by being around long enough, some things are inevitably going to change, and there's a certain percentage of those things that I will inevitably be unhappy about.

Levi's has done it to me again, meddling with something that didn't need changing. Years ago I stopped wearing their jeans because they elongated the stitching on the back pockets and I thought it looked bad. (A side benefit was that I got rid of a bunch of jeans that fit poorly and were unflattering.) Eventually the stitching was changed back to how it had looked previously, and I found that the basic 505 was the right style for me. I've been getting a pair every year or so, adding them to the rotation and getting rid of the oldest pair when it was no longer suitable for wear outside the house.

They haven't changed the fit, and they haven't changed the stitching—well, not the shape of it. But they have changed the color of it, at least on the "dark stonewash" color that I prefer. It wouldn't even be that bad, except that there are now two colors of stitching on this shade of the 505. The familiar brown-gold thread is still present, but on the pocket arcs and in a couple of other areas it's been changed to a lighter color, kind of tan or beige. If it were all that one color it might not bother me so much, but the stitching that holds the pockets to the pants is still the original color, so the lighter color is right next to it and it's impossible not to notice it. It looks terrible.

At this point in my life I'm not interested in again going through the trouble of finding another brand and style of jeans to wear. So now I have to go around to various stores that sell Levi's and see if any of them still happen to have older stock with the one-color stitching, or see if any of the other colors the jeans are offered in are an agreeable substitute.

06 April 2015

Car Stuff: No Accounting for Taste

I'd planned something else for today, but it requires some prep work and it's too late to start on it tonight, so let's return to my occasional photos of odd or unusual modern cars.
This is a recent Honda Accord that someone has put a considerable amount of effort into customizing. The result is not what I would consider appealing or tasteful, but what do I know? It's probably a safe bet the owner was one of the first to see Furious 7 this past weekend. Is this car any faster than a stock Accord? Maybe, but somehow I suspect the modifications are only cosmetic.

04 April 2015

This Week in Awesome (4/4/15)

I know I haven't been consistent with these, and as a result the stuff I do include isn't as fresh as it should be, but truthfully I just don't come across as much interesting stuff as I used to. Of course people define "interesting" differently, but the internet is mature enough that a lot of stuff feels tired or played out, and my inclination is to avoid such things. Anyway, here are some diversions...

I imagine a lot of people have already messed around with Google's Family Feud game by now, but it's still a fun way to kill a few minutes. (Boy Genius Report)

If you're the sort of person who tends to notice background details in movies and TV shows, you'll definitely appreciate this rather esoteric compendium. (The A.V. Club)

Archer wrapped up its sixth season this week, but fans of the show will want to check this out. (also The A.V. Club)

And finally this whenever, the previous generation's home video tapes may be slowly decaying into dust, but some of the most important stuff is being digitized for future civilizations to appreciate laugh at/be confused by. (@Midnight)

03 April 2015

Retro Video Unit (4/3/15)

Following the concert story from yesterday, I went looking for the oldest U2 clip I could find. Want to feel old? Have a look at this:

U2, "I Will Follow," from their 1980 debut album Boy.

02 April 2015

Concert (Ticket) Vault: Unforgettable

This ticket is from a U2 concert at the Worcester Centrum in April of 1985, just a few weeks after the Prince show. This tour was for The Unforgettable Fire, which had been released the previous fall. It's the one and only time I saw U2 live.
I didn't win this one, I bought the tickets for myself and five of my friends. It was near the end of my final semester in college, my course work was winding down, but finals were still a few weeks away. But we still had to get out to Worcester, and with a group of six the bus didn't seem like a preferable option.

Back then, there were places around that rented out older cars for much lower rates than the big companies, and they didn't care so much how old drivers were as long as they were licensed, so one of my friends was able to rent a full-size Ford LTD that was about five years old.

Cynical types will say that the time to see U2 was on their previous tour, for the album War, when the band wasn't as popular and played the Orpheum; or their first-ever American show, which was at the Paradise; or even a couple of years later when The Joshua Tree came out. I do think that's a stronger album than The Unforgettable Fire, though I think by that point they were playing stadium shows at venues like the old Foxboro. And I do wish I'd seen them when they toured for Achtung Baby, because that is my favorite of all their albums.

But any U2 concert is still a pretty special event. We had floor seats, maybe 20 rows back, and we got to spend a couple of hours engulfed in the music. I happen to think it's one of those things everyone should experience at least once.

And if you're keeping track, this ticket cost $13.50, which was $4 less than the Prince show.

31 March 2015


So long, March. You weren't as bad as February, but you weren't great either. At least most of the snow has melted.

It's not surprising at all that such a severe winter would lead to such a cold March. Now I'm wondering what we can expect for April and May. I've put away my heavy-duty down parka and my insulated boots, but I'm keeping all my other options open for at least the next two or three weeks. It was warm enough today that I was able to wear a lighter jacket, but I still needed a hat and it was still chilly when I was waiting for the bus this afternoon, coming back from a couple of quick errands.

The transitional periods are the hardest ones to dress for, especially if you are leaving the house in the morning to go to work and not coming back until evening. Personally I would rather be a little bit cold in the early part of the day, rather than too warm later in the day. If I wear a coat or jacket, I hate if I end up having to carry it because it's too warm for it later.

By the way, it's supposed to reach the mid-60's on Friday (and rain, because we can't expect a warm day that's sunny too), but drop back to 30 by Easter morning. Dress accordingly...

30 March 2015

Car Stuff: Random Sighting #36

The timing of a traffic light can make the difference between seeing a car and being able to get a picture or two of it. This has happened to me on at least two occasions while I was waiting for the bus on my corner.

The road the bus route runs on is a fairly major non-highway route that many people use to get through Medford to Somerville and Cambridge, which increases the odds of someone being out driving in something interesting when I happen to be waiting for the bus. When I commuted on a regular schedule I used to see a 1964 Chevrolet pass by at least once a month, but it was long before it occurred to me to start taking photos of cars.
On this particular day I had just enough time to get my phone out, so this is technically not a "full" Random Sighting, but I'm classifying it that way because it was definitely random. This is from last June, and it was more interesting to me because the car is a 1967 Pontiac LeMans and not, as I originally thought, a GTO. I wish I'd been closer, but from just these two pics I can tell this car is exceptionally well kept.
More LeMans hardtop coupes were probably made that year, but more GTOs probably survive today because of their performance-car status and higher value, so a stock LeMans is the car you're less likely to see, especially on the road and not at a car show.

28 March 2015

Retro Video Unit, Concert Edition (3/27/15)

I thought about this yesterday, but it didn't enter my mind at all today until I was out walking the dog about 30 minutes ago. Sooooo... I've had Fleetwood Mac on the brain a bit lately, not least because of the impeccable, spot-on use of "The Chain" in a recent episode of The Americans (seriously, even if you haven't seen the show, take five minutes and watch the clip at the bottom of this article).

I was also thinking about the live performance of "Rhiannon" that I posted a while back from an appearance on The Midnight Special in the mid-1970s. I was hoping I'd be able to find that whole show but the Midnight clips on YouTube seem to be limited to individual songs, so I decided to look for other Fleetwood Mac concerts. This one is from 1982, in support of the album Mirage. And while you're watching, think about how unfair it is that Lindsey Buckingham has never really gotten the respect he deserves for his guitar talent.

26 March 2015

Economy Brushing

When did toothbrushes get so expensive? I guess I haven't needed to buy one in a while. I get one at the dentist twice a year, and I know I'm supposed to replace it after three months. I think for some reason I got two toothbrushes on my last visit, and maybe I've been using the second one longer than I'm supposed to, but it seems like I haven't purchased a toothbrush in at least a year.

I knew I needed to replace it, so when we went to Target the other night to get some household things I hit the "oral care" aisle. The basic brushes were around $4, and some were $5. There were also multi-brush store-brand packages that I didn't want.

Down near the floor, in a bin instead of hanging on pegs, I found single-pack store-brand brushes. They were kind of unattractive but had soft bristles, which is more important than appearance. They were about $1.50 each, which is what I had in mind. (I have a tendency to lock into what certain things cost 10 or 20 years ago and think it should continue to cost only that much.) They had clear handles with colored accents.

Later at home I went to open the package, and noticed on the back that the brush was made in USA. This is the sort of commodity item that I'd given up expecting to find still made domestically, and it's kind of interesting to me that the least expensive toothbrush is the one made here. I'm quite certain those $4 brushes are made in China.

24 March 2015

Trashy Matters

This winter's record snowfall posed multiple challenges, including not being able to put the trash cans out on the curb. The curb disappeared with the first blizzard in January, and while I usually attempt to keep a space cleared for a trash can or two, the volume of snow was too great and I had to abandon my standard procedure. Since the front of our house faces north, the area along the front sidewalk and curb gets the least amount of sun during the winter, so it takes much longer for the snowbanks in front to melt.

Also, before the first big storm I neglected to take the trash can out from where we store it under the back porch, and the door got blocked shut by a thick slab of ice from where melting snow drips off the roof, so we missed two weeks of trash pickup.

After I finally excavated the can, I had to put it at the end of our driveway each week, which in turn meant I would have to wait until the Mrs. had left for work. But her schedule is irregular, and I started to worry that the truck might come by before she had left. It got to where I was following her out the door on Monday mornings, rolling the can into place as soon as she'd driven away.

After several weeks of this, there has finally been enough melting so that yesterday morning there was a small space at the edge of the driveway that's wide enough to be out of the way of an entering or leaving car. And the forecast for this week has temperatures approaching 60 on Thursday, so perhaps the snow banks along the curb won't be around much longer.

23 March 2015

Car Stuff: Outside My Window

One Sunday morning last fall, I heard the distinctive idling of a large diesel engine out on the street in front of our house. I peeked outside and saw a tractor-trailer loaded with two classic cars. It's possible the driver was lost, or was checking directions, but the truck remained outside long enough for me to grab my phone and get a couple of shots.
Both cars were Mercury Capris from the early 1970s, so I kind of think they were on their way to a single destination. (It's not uncommon for vintage car purchases to come with a second parts car.) The Capri was a European model Ford, built in Germany, that was in many ways a continental interpretation of the original Mustang. (You can read a nice history of the Capri over at Curbside Classic.)
This is a car I've always liked. I knew someone in college who had owned one, but I never got to ride in it. They are somewhat scarce but not impossible to find, and definitely under the radar as far as the vintage car market is concerned. Wherever these two were going, I'm envious of the recipient.

20 March 2015

Retro Video Unit (3/20/15)

I signed up for Spotify a while back, and I'm enjoying it quite a bit. The idea had occurred to me to create a playlist from all the songs I've posted since I started this feature almost four years ago. In going back through all the old posts, I discovered that there were two songs I had featured twice, and no one ever noticed, including me. That means that when I posted the video the second time, I completely didn't remember that it was one I'd used before. The brain ain't what it used to be...

Anyway, the playlist is available; if you have Spotify, search for Retro Audio Unit. I haven't quite gotten to see if there's a Blogger widget that will let me post the playlist on the blog, but at a minimum there's probably a way to link to it. (Update: link added over on the right.)

As for this week's selection (which will be added to the playlist by the time you read this), after watching the Synth Britannia documentary that I mentioned over the weekend, this seemed like a fairly obvious choice: "Don't You Want Me" by The Human League.

19 March 2015

Another Milestone

According to Blogger this is my 2,000th post. I don't usually pay much attention to the post count, but about a month ago I happened to notice it was getting close to this mark (which I guess is better than having it pass unnoticed).

The 1,000th post was about three and a half years ago. Since then life has chosen to unmoor me from my reasonably satisfying employment situation without providing a suitable replacement. There have been times I felt like giving up trying to find a new job, but I'm not going to do that, because I need to work and also because I need to win out over being dumped on by life.

Blogwise things are going all right. Over the past few months my visitor stats are up, and I was toying with the idea of implementing Google's ad program, but with the number of visitors I get in a typical week, I don't think it would yield a useful amount of income. I've also been thinking about some other types of features I might do, and some of those will be popping up, either on a trial basis or semi-regularly, in the weeks and months ahead.

When I started this thing back in '06 I did not have a clearly defined sense of what I wanted it to be, and that has turned out to be beneficial. Figuring it out as I went along was much better for me in terms of challenging myself to write frequently and regularly. Thank you to everyone who visits. Stick around, there's more to come...

Late Winter Fluctuations

So much for the thaw... it's heading down to about 15 degrees overnight, and the forecast says we're going to get a little snow Friday afternoon and evening. We've already managed to get enough snow to break the record, so anything more is just going to extend it. And, just like last Sunday, whatever snow does fall will melt right away because it's going to warm up again on Saturday.

We're in that phase of late winter where the weather bounces back and forth between more or less normal, and quick blasts of arctic air. It will definitely do this at least a couple more times between now and Easter. At least we've had enough sustained warmth and sunshine to melt ice and shrink snowbanks, making walking around a reasonable option again.

There is one drawback to the receding snow, though: there's trash everywhere. Whatever got covered during the first blizzard is just now reemerging, and today's high winds started tossing the trash around. I was sitting here at the computer this afternoon when I heard a clattering go up the driveway, then a couple of minutes later the sound went back the other way. I went out and looked around and found a flattened plastic gallon jug. I have no idea where it came from or how it found its way there; I just dropped it in our recycling bin and assumed it wouldn't be the last such find I make.

17 March 2015

Car Stuff: Fantasy Garage #17

I admit that last week's alley-found Volvo was something of a stall tactic, as I tried to figure out what I wanted to feature in the Fantasy Garage this time around. I think the time has come for the FG to turn somewhat autobiographical and include a car from my early years.

For a good chunk of time we were a station wagon family. Wagons were so common as family vehicles in the 1960s and '70s that us having one made me feel like our family was a little bit more normal, because we were at least superficially like so many other families, at least in that respect. (Eventually we got a car that wasn't a wagon, but it's never been clear to me why, because it was still a full-size car. Maybe by that point my parents thought a station was no longer necessary.) There was also a Blazer and a Subaru wagon, but those didn't come along until after I went to college.
In fact, we had only three station wagons. The first was a 1965 Chevrolet Bel Air in turquoise ("Artesian turquoise" was its official GM name) with a matching interior. The seats were vinyl and were very hot in the summer. If you look at this catalog image (from Old Car Brochures) it's the car at the bottom, but the color of the car at the top (it was brighter than how it looks in this image).

A few years later we got another Chevy wagon, one year newer but a Caprice, which was the top trim level and a new model that year. (These were used cars, by the way.) Chevy had decided they wanted to go after the Ford Country Squire more directly, and in order to do that they needed to offer a wagon with woodgrain side trim.
After wood-bodied station wagons became too costly to produce, Ford started doing the fake-wood thing in the '50s, but other companies didn't offer their own versions until some time later. After Chevy jumped in, just about every other wagon maker brought out its own version. Ours was white like this one but the interior was blue, not red. And my recollection (which may be wrong) is that the interior was a cloth and vinyl combo, which was considered classier at the time.
In 1972 we got a 1970 Plymouth Sport Suburban. I've posted about this car before, and it's probably my favorite of all the cars we had when I was growing up. Ours was dark green with a dark- and light-green vinyl interior. Other than the color it looked just like this one, right down to the wheel covers. But ours didn't have the third seat; none of our station wagons did. We still rode in the "way back," just sitting on the hard metal floor.
The hidden headlights were my favorite feature of the Sport Suburban. The twin bulges on the hood had optional turn signal repeaters which faced back toward the driver; they're the same basic idea as the ones you see today on cars' side mirrors, except those are more for the benefit of other drivers.

So yes, I want a Sport Suburban for the Fantasy Garage, for nostalgia's sake more than anything else. The '71 was pretty much the same car, but the grille was different (it still had the hidden headlights), and Chrysler eliminated the vent windows from its full-size cars that year. But they also took away the hood bulges, so it's sort of a toss-up. I think I'd probably stick to a '70 just because it's what we had. I used to include the '72 on my wish list, but over the years I've come to like its styling less and less.

16 March 2015

Last Couple of Weeks in Awesome, Forgetfulness Edition

I'm not sure what's been happening on weekends. On weeks that I have something to share, it's always my goal to post TWiA on Saturday, but it almost never happens. And then when it gets to be Sunday night at 11:30, I don't always feel like getting into it at that point. So these are varying degrees of old, which means many of you will have seen at least some of them already...

Another delightful, spot-on parody from Sesame Street. (The Verge)

For the obsessively inclined, a miniature reproduction of Mulder and Scully's office from The X-Files. (The A.V. Club)

Okay, so I read a lot of stuff on the A.V. Club, and maybe not so much elsewhere as I used to, but there is a lot of decent writing about a range of subjects. For example, this "Primer" article on UK synth-pop is comprehensive, and led me to this worthwhile BBC documentary (also embedded at the bottom of the article) on the subject.

Also related to music (and also via the A.V. Club), a synthesizer you can use right in your web browser.

And finally this... time, a new tumblr recounting the type of inquiries one gets when one works at a media outlet. Not much content yet, but I hope there will be more. (Universal Hub)

14 March 2015

Retro Video Unit (3/13/15)

I completely forgot to post one of these last week, and no one ever calls me out on it... regardless, catching up on a small mountain of TV shows recorded over the past two to three weeks let me to this selection, "Don't Go" by Yaz(oo).

I posted "Situation" by Yaz a couple of years ago, but this song (and the album on which they both appear, Upstairs at Eric's) were minor plot points in a recent episode of FX's The Americans, which is absolutely, unequivocally one of the best goddamn shows on TV right now and you really, really should check it out.

13 March 2015

A Way Through

Yesterday morning I heard a snowblower, which I thought was strange since it's been weeks since we've received any new snow. But later in the day I found out why:
Someone took advantage of the several days of warmth to carve a passageway through from our neighbor's sidewalk to the parking lot of the adjacent business, allowing pedestrians to avoid having to walk in the street for a few additional feet. (It is pretty narrow though, and looks more like it was done with a shovel.)

11 March 2015

March Thaw

This week's warmer temperatures aren't going to last, but it has been warm enough for long enough to allow me to finally remove the last stubborn slab of ice around the perimeter of our house. This was on the side of the house away from the driveway, an area that gets very little sun during January and February (and not much in general), and the ice there was about two inches thick. But even that was no match for the thermometer climbing over 50 yesterday and today, and not dropping below freezing last night. I was also able to widen the walkway along the front of the house with minimal effort.

Elsewhere in the neighborhood, the melting snow is revealing previously buried items, like this:
This car belongs to the people who live in the yellow house at the left of the photo. They have at least half a dozen vehicles (and as far as I can tell, only two drivers in the household) and this old Chevy Cavalier seems to be one of the lesser-used ones, so it wasn't surprising that they let this one get buried. I wish I'd gotten a pic a couple of days earlier, when it was just starting to emerge from its snowy cocoon. Before that it appeared to be just a very large pile of snow; in fact I didn't even realize that there was a car under there.

Now, I'm off to enjoy the day on a nice long walk with the dog.

10 March 2015

Dry Feet/Wet Feet

After this crazy and challenging winter we are benefiting from a change in the overall pattern. There have been no significant storms for at least a couple of weeks, and for the past several days temperatures have been on the high side of 40. In fact, today it topped 50. As a result the snow has begun melting in earnest, resulting in puddles everywhere.

As we transition from winter to spring, waterproof footwear is very much necessary. I have a pair of Merrell Moab "trail shoes" which are basically sneakers with rugged outdoor styling. When I bought them about five years ago I decided to get the waterproof version, which turned out to be a good idea. For the past couple of winters I have been wearing them as my dog-walking shoes in all but the coldest conditions, and also sometimes when I'm out shoveling snow, depending on how much snow has fallen; this year I wore my pull-on boots a lot more, since the snow was much deeper.

Many of the storms we got this winter lasted for two or three days, so often after clearing the deep snow I had to shovel again the next day, and I would wear the Merrells. On a couple of occasions I came in from working outside and found that my socks were wet. I didn't think much about it at the time, knowing that snow could have gotten in around my ankles. But then I noticed the same thing after walking through some puddles which weren't deep enough to let water in at the ankles.

Then last week I noticed a tear at the heel of one of the Merrells, where the pull-on strap attaches inside the back. I figured I would have to replace them next winter, so I started looking around online to see what's available. I happened to be browsing the shoe section on the L.L. Bean website and saw that they carry the shoes (I think I bought mine from Zappos). Then I noticed that several reviewers claim that the waterproofing wears off after a while, which was consistent with my experience this winter. Apparently Merrell's version of waterproofing in this instance consists of some sort of treatment for the materials, but it is not permanent.

A look at the shoes on Zappos showed similar complaints from reviewers. I also noticed that Merrell now offers a Gore-Tex version of the shoe. Gore-Tex is a different, and far more effective, method of waterproofing shoes or garments, in which a membrane is bonded to the materials during construction. It's also more expensive, as the process is trademarked, patented, or whatever; companies that want to make shoes or clothing with Gore-Tex have to pay a fee to the company that invented the membrane, and that cost gets passed on to customers in higher retail prices for those items.

The Gore-Tex Moabs are $30 more than the regular "waterproof" version, which is now about $20 higher than what I paid for mine five years ago, so I'd end up spending almost 50% more to get shoes that are really, truly, and (in theory) permanently waterproof. On the other hand, I suppose five years is a decent amount of time for the lesser form of waterproofing to last, and for the Moabs to last in general. I may still end up buying a pair of the Gore-Tex Merrells, since I like them in general and they are available in wide widths, but I will definitely be looking for other options as well.

09 March 2015

Car Stuff: Brick on Bricks

Roving contributor A Proper Bostonian spotted this week's vehicle in one of the Back Bay's alleys:
Volvo built this basic design, with periodic refinement and restyling, from the late 1960s into the early 1990s. They were a common enough sight on the roads when I was growing up, but they aren't seen much anymore in this area.

This example is from the early 1970s (I think it's a '72 based on the door handles, vent windows, grille, and bumpers) and looks well used but still roadworthy and serviceable. While highly regarded for their durability, time tends to wear out cars in New England, and most of these have probably gone to the crusher by now, which makes it even more pleasant to see this one still being used.

06 March 2015

Concert (Ticket) Vault: Let's Go Crazy

Friday night already? I must be having too much fun, or something... anyway, here's another ticket, this one from Prince and the Revolution at the fabulous concrete Worcester Centrum in late March of 1985.
This was the year after the gigantic success of Purple Rain, both the movie and the album, and this tour was still being billed as "the Purple Rain tour." Note that the ticket says "wear something purple." In my case I was otherwise dressed in black and white, but I did wear a purple satin tie that was about an inch wide. What I'm wondering here in 2015 is, why did I already have that before I knew I was going to the concert? Well, it was the '80s—that's the only answer I got, so it'll have to do.

Prince had Sheila E as his opening act, which was pretty cool. At the end of her set, she did this thing with light-up drumsticks, and all the other lights were lowered so she was playing the drums in the dark with lighted sticks. Gimmicky, sure, but still fun.

I think I won these tickets as well, though there was no bus ride as part of the prize, so my date and I (yeah, I took a young lady to this, because that's what you do when you win Prince tickets) took the bus. Getting out to Worcester wasn't such a big deal, but finding our way from the Centrum back to the bus station in an unfamiliar city wasn't great, but other concertgoers had done the same thing, so between asking one or two people and following others (whom we could tell by their dress had also been at the show), we managed to find our way to the station, where we found that we had to wait another hour or so (maybe longer) for the bus back to Boston to arrive. I don't remember what time we got back, but I do know the T had stopped running so we took a cab back to BU.

04 March 2015


The view out the window of an MBTA bus:
The buses have acquired a bit of road dirt during the winter, as you can see.

03 March 2015


I had to go to the dentist in Brookline yesterday, and the T seems to be back to something resembling normal service. The subway and trolley lines don't have all the cars back in service yet that they should, but my trips to and from my destination did not take any longer than they otherwise would have.

Of course, I wasn't riding the commuter rail. If I had to ride a commuter train daily I think I'd be pretty disgruntled by now, especially after it was announced that it will probably take until the end of this month to restore service on the commuter lines to normal.

That seems like a long time, but I was thinking that date may have been chosen for a bit of the underpromise-and-overdeliver effect. Say the T is able to get service back to normal by St. Patrick's Day. They can then issue a press release claiming that a return to normal service was achieved two weeks ahead of plan. It's bullshit, but it's what PR is all about. It's also disingenuous and insulting to all the commuters who had to endure the commuter rail's miserable performance this winter.

The system's flaws were exposed in particularly harsh and unpleasant fashion, and even after service returns to what it's supposed to be, commuters aren't going to forget what they went through. I am very interested to see what measures Keolis (who operates the commuter trains for the MBTA) is planning and how they intend to remedy the commuter rail's problems.

02 March 2015

Car Stuff: A Winter Apparition

The weekend happened, didn't it? I was planning a TWiA but things got sort of busy on Saturday, and yesterday we were visiting my family. I'll just hold onto my selections for the coming weekend.

Meanwhile, the winter hasn't exactly presented me with abundant opportunities to take photos of old cars. I did have another near miss that I am very disappointed about: one day a few weeks back, I was out clearing snow from the end of the driveway when a Buick convertible from the early 1970s drove by. It looked very well-kept and I was surprised someone would have such a car out during the winter. I don't generally have my phone on me when I go out to shovel, and even if I'd had it, I wouldn't have been able to get it out in time to get a picture. (You can get an idea of how the car looks by browsing Google Images.)

I only got a quick look at it as it passed, but I know it was a full-size model, black with a tan top, and I saw enough of the rear bumper and lights (just different enough from previous years) to believe it was a 1973. That would mean it was a Centurion, a short-lived model (in fact, '73 was its last year) between the LeSabre and the Electra lines. There was also a LeSabre convertible in 1971 and '72 that was dropped for '73, but after the whole Centurion line was dropped, the remaining convertible became a LeSabre again for '74. Convertibles were declining in popularity in general and other car makers had already started dropping them as early as 1971, but General Motors held out through 1975 ('76 for the Cadillac Eldorado).

I'm a big fan of the full-size GM cars of 1971-76, which is not necessarily a popular sentiment. I'll qualify that by saying I tend to prefer models from the first half of the generation because they tend to be cleaner and although they are very large cars, they wear their size well. The federal bumper standards went into effect front and rear for 1974 models, and concurrent with that GM started fussing with the styling, changing rooflines, adding "formal" windows in the sides of the roof panels, making larger and more elaborate grilles, and generally messing up what had looked pretty nice before.

I am hoping that when spring finally arrives I see this car out again around Medford and can get photos of it.

28 February 2015

Retro Video Unit, Concert Edition (2/27/15)

I've only done two of these, but I'm excited by what I've found so this one's going to be a bit different.

Underworld is a band that creates and performs its music using electronics (and the occasional electric guitar). I've been a big fan of their work for over two decades (asterisk: they existed in a previous incarnation as a band with the same name that used conventional instruments; that album is an obscure curiosity, but it also has its moments).

Obviously they aren't the only band that has taken this approach, but Underworld's music connects for me in ways that few other bands do. Their live shows (I've seen them twice; they don't tour often) are very immersive, visual experiences, and that comes through in this film. If you happen to live in the Los Angeles area, Underworld is playing at the Hollywood Bowl in June, which I imagine will be a great experience.

(Programming note: going forward, I've decided I'm going to do these concert posts on the last Friday of each month.)