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 1950's 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.