27 June 2015

Retro Video Unit (6/26/15)

The '80s stopped by today and left this one for us: "This Corrosion" by The Sisters of Mercy.

It does not get much more ridiculous or over the top than this video, but regardless this is an excellent song and absolutely of its time. When I watched this now, I found myself wondering where these people are and what they're doing; Wikipedia informs me that while no new recordings have been released in over two decades, the band is active in touring and performing live.

(Trivia: this song was produced by Jim Steinman, who was largely responsible, as producer and songwriter, for the success of the Meat Loaf album Bat Out of Hell in the late 1970s.)

25 June 2015

Car Stuff: A Mystery

This one didn't quite get away from me, but we were never able to get close enough to get a better look at it, so I have to make a guess at what it is:
It looks sort of like a '55 Chevy with an added-on Continental kit. But truthfully, it could be one of many cars from the early to mid-1950s. I might see it around town again; that sometimes happens...

22 June 2015

Change in Status

So about a month ago I got attached to a long-term temp project. The catch was there was no definite start date. It's a very large corporation, and corporations move slowly. It still hasn't started yet, and it's looking like it won't get going until after the holiday weekend, at the earliest.

Meanwhile, in addition to the short-term projects I have worked on, just last week I unexpectedly got offered a three-month onsite assignment, starting today. The other one was going to be working at home, which was feeling more my speed these days. The agency arranged so that I could do this assignment, then rejoin the other one when this one ends.

We had to scramble to find someone who could come and walk the dog, but fortunately that worked out. Then I had to deal with the abrupt adjustment of going back to work on five days' notice, and figuring out my daily commute, and figuring out what to wear, and everything else that goes along with working a regular job. That is a work in progress.

Posting may be... I don't know. Erratic? Nonexistent? We'll see.

20 June 2015

Random Outfit Critique

I saw this guy on the T on Thursday and had intended to post this picture that day or yesterday. He's fully outfitted for summer professional work. I like seeing a pink shirt with a khaki suit; it works quite well and is a far less obvious choice than a blue or white shirt. I also like that the shirt and tie are not solids, but subtle patterns/textures. So what if the suit's from Express? Everyone has to start an adult wardrobe somewhere.
My only objection to his outfit is the green tie, or maybe it's more accurate to say the pairing of the green tie with the pink shirt. It's possible he fancies himself a devotee of The Original Preppy Handbook, but if that's the case it's supposed to be pink and kelly green. I think I would have been bothered less by that, even if it came off looking more costume-y. When I see this shade of green, all I can think of is the jacket the winner of the Masters tournament gets, and I find it singularly unappealing.

But however you feel about this shade of green, the pocket square that appears to be the very same shade as the tie is just a bit too much. He could have put a paper napkin in his breast pocket and it would look better than this thing. Points for effort, but docked for execution. (I don't remember noticing his shoes, which means they were probably fine.)

Status Report

Sorry for the relative silence this week. In addition to the short-term work thing I did, I've been working on trying to do some cleaning, organizing, and general de-cluttering of our living space, so I've been spending less time in front of the computer or the TV.

I also got, without much advance notice, a three-month, onsite temp assignment that starts this coming Monday. That means posting is probably going to be less frequent, but I'll be doing my best to keep up and maintain at least a nominal presence during the week.

17 June 2015

Not Quite

I'm working on another short-term temp project. This one involves checking transcripts against audio recordings. I just came across an amusing instance of auto-correct: "user info" on the audio became "urine foe" in the text file. Hmm...

15 June 2015

Car Stuff: Random Sighting #38

I've been sitting on this one since October. I just never found the right week to feature it, but after talking about the mid-1970s GM A-body cars a couple of weeks ago, an opportune moment has presented itself.
I was standing at the bus stop near home when this 1977 Buick Regal pulled up to the light. It was in the left turn lane, so I thought it might be making a U-turn (the road is divided and drivers often have to double back) and I'd have a chance to get some closer shots as it came around.

That is what happened, but because it was cloudy and raining that day, and I was standing under a tree, the closer shot is kind of dark. Conveniently, the Photos app on my computer has some basic photo editing tools and I was able to lighten the picture somewhat.
The color combo is accurate for this year: "orange" (that's all it was called) was available for this year only; for '78 it was replaced by "saffron." The vinyl top is "buckskin." Totally seventies.

14 June 2015

This Week in Awesome (6/13/15)

I only have three items for this week (I typically try to have at least four), but I don't feel like holding onto them for another week, so I'd rather just do a post with what I have.

The very funny comedian Aziz Ansari has written a book on dating and romance in the age of smartphone apps. It hits stores this week, so you'll be hearing more about it, and he's doing a book tour as well (stopping in Cambridge on July 10th). Meanwhile you can read an excerpt here. (Time)

One of my favorite movies turns 20 later this year. This will give you an idea of why I like it. (The A.V. Club)

And finally this (abbreviated) round, I know this is making the rounds on the 'book, but I found it the "right" way: through a men's style site. (EatLiver via Dappered)

12 June 2015

Retro Video Unit (6/12/15)

I was originally thinking of going with a different video, but then this one popped up in the right column when I was browsing YouTube. Most people remember The Romantics from 1983's "Talking in Your Sleep," but four years earlier they'd released their first album, with the single "What I Like About You."

It's certainly not a deep song, but it's catchy and upbeat, which is often enough. I first saw this video long before MTV existed, on a late-night syndicated show that I've mentioned before: it was called Rock World, and it introduced me to many bands I might otherwise not have heard of at all, or at least not until much later.

Two things about this video and song are worth noting: the presence of a Rickenbacker guitar, probably the first one I saw in a music video, and the first one I'd seen anywhere since Tom Petty's on the cover of Damn the Torpedoes and John Lennon's in early Beatles footage (The Jam got played on Rock World a short time later, confirming the association between Rickenbackers and coolness); and the fact that the drummer sings the lead vocal on this song, something I'd never seen before. (Tangentially, I'd never seen guys wearing leather suits before either, but I was 16 when this came out and hadn't seen much of the world yet.)

Overheard: Verbal Schooling

One day last week I was on my way home on the Orange Line. I had gotten a seat a few spots away from the doors, so I was reading a book and not paying attention to the goings-on in the train car. At some point I noticed a verbal skirmish going on nearby, as the voices of the two people involved had gotten louder. I wish I had heard more of it, because the brief snippet I caught was pretty entertaining.

I was able to discern that a middle-aged woman standing by the door was trying to lean against the bulkhead at the end of the row of seats, and the metal bar that's positioned a couple of inches above it. Another woman, quite a bit older, was sitting in the end seat, resting her left arm on the edge of the bulkhead,  and holding a travel mug. The standing woman wanted the seated woman to move her arm off the edge, and the seated woman would not yield because she wanted both to rest her arm and hold her beverage at a convenient position for sipping. (This is a lot of setup, I know, but trust me it's worth it.)

They traded some snappish remarks with each other, the standing woman eventually resorting to the tried-and-true Bostonian solution of flinging assorted curses at the seated woman. The older woman then proceeded to mock the younger woman because she wasn't clever enough to come up with anything more clever than calling her a selfish bitch, or along those lines. At this point I was smiling to myself, impressed by the older woman's resolve and wit.

I missed a couple of lines, but eventually the standing woman, knowing she was losing, already embarrassed by the seated woman's cutting remarks, and getting a bit desperate, said something along like, "why can't you just let me lean here?" The response was, "I don't want your butt on my arm. I don't know where that behind has been."

I started to laugh out loud at that one, then quickly clapped my hand over my mouth and turned my  noise into a fake throat-clearing, because I did not want to betray evidence that I had been listening. But that was the final blow; the standing woman gave up with a sigh. Had this been happening on a TV show, the older woman would have done an imaginary mic drop, and for once that overused gesture would have been entirely earned and appropriate.

11 June 2015

Concert (Ticket) Vault: An Opening Act Surprise

There are certain musicians whose names always make the eyes of guitar aficionados sparkle. The presence of Adrian Belew in his late-1980s band The Bears was enough of a draw for a friend and I to attend this show, especially since I had missed seeing him during his first stint with King Crimson a few years prior.
But truthfully, the most memorable thing about this show was the opening act, a group of guys from New York called Living Colour, who had just released their debut album Vivid. Vernon Reid's name has since come to be perhaps even more revered than Belew's for guitar virtuosity, and Corey Glover was a powerful and charismatic vocalist. They came out and simply blew away the whole audience, most of whom (us included) had never heard of them.

I'm happy to report that Living Colour is still around, and I saw the band play about two years ago, also at the Paradise. They sounded as good as ever, and the band members have local connections so playing in Boston is especially meaningful for them.

Other notes: the concert ticket price index registered at $9.50 for a general admission show in 1988; this show was on a Tuesday night, but I was only 24 at the time so going out on a weeknight was no big deal, even though I had an office job I needed to be at by 9 the next morning.

09 June 2015

Car Stuff: Mustang in the Wild

Ford Mustangs from the 1960s have survived in relatively large numbers because millions of them were built to begin with. It's possible some people held onto their cars hoping they would appreciate as investments, but they're also fun cars to drive even today. Even so, it's not so common to see one out on the road except maybe during the summer; you're more likely to come upon one at a car show.
About a month ago I spotted this 1968 Mustang convertible on a Saturday afternoon. (Apologies for the streaky car window.) It was sitting in a nearly empty parking lot, which made me wonder if perhaps it had broken down. The only reason I noticed this car and was able to get my phone up in time to get a shot was because of the color. If it had been a less vibrant color, I probably wouldn't have registered what the car was in enough time.

That said, I didn't think this was an original color, but a look at paint information for that year showed that in addition to the 16 standard color choices, there were almost two dozen limited-availability or special-order colors offered, and from just eyeballing some images online, it looks like this car is painted in a special color called "beatnik blue" (I know, awful).

08 June 2015

Last Week in Awesome (6/6/15)

Yes, there was supposed to be a TWiA over the weekend. No, it didn't happen. No, I don't have a reasonable excuse for why it didn't...

Word nerds, this way please. Can't say I've heard any of these in use, but that doesn't make the subject any less interesting to me. (NPR via Dappered)

Some thoughts worth reading on not only the future of the music business, but on songs themselves and songwriting, and how those things relate to each other. (Medium's Cuepoint via Kempt)

I don't know that anyone was asking for a website that maps old photos to the specific locations in New York where they were taken, but it now exists. (New York Times City Room blog)

And finally this round, a piece of automotive (and urban) history that car people have probably at least heard of, but may not know the story behind. (The Truth About Cars)

05 June 2015

Stamp It with Jimi

I don't get too excited about stamps. I don't use them much anymore, but I still have to buy them a couple of times a year. Every now and then, though, the Postal Service outdoes itself.
I got these Jimi Hendrix stamps about a month ago, and I think they're outstanding. The design is cool and the colors are great, but they went the extra step of arranging the stamps so that they form a trippy pattern. Notice also that the border around the stamps has been made to look like it's the sleeve of a 45 rpm record, with the little sliver of vinyl peeking out at the top; the finished size of the sheet is in fact 7" x 7".
Here's the reverse side, with a psychedelic illustration of Jimi. The Music Icons series has been excellent; prior to these, I had Ray Charles and Johnny Cash stamps, which I think are still available; there's also one for Janis Joplin.

03 June 2015

Overheared: All About the Context Edition

On Saturday evening we were at a bar/restaurant in Malden where there were two TVs showing one of the NHL playoff games. A woman at the adjacent table was engaged in a lively conversation with her friend and rarely looked in the direction of the TV, but at one point she looked up at it for a couple of moments, then said, "I thought that was a hug, but it's a fight."

02 June 2015

Car Stuff: Fantasy Garage #19, Continued

If I did have to choose just one car to represent all 1973-77 A-bodies in my Fantasy Garage, it would be a 1973 Pontiac Grand Am. It's a bit out of the mainstream, but I have good reasons. In the morass of 1970s bloat, the Grand Am was a legitimate attempt by Pontiac to create a "driver's car," something a bit more athletic, a more sophisticated blend of GTO performance and Grand Prix comfort and luxury, and clearly influenced by European cars of the period.

The Grand Am used the same body as the LeMans, but with its own distinctive front end made of Endura, a flexible urethane that matched the car's body color. The suspension was beefed up, and the interior used the Grand Prix's dashboard (full array of gauges, trimmed in genuine mahogany!) and had bucket seats and a console in both the two-door and four-door models. We don't think of this as unusual now, but at the time bucket seats were almost unheard of in a four-door car, and just to make things a bit more interesting, the Grand Am's reclined, had lumbar support, and were upholstered in a wide-wale corduroy fabric.

If you were so inclined, you could order your Grand Am with a four-speed manual transmission to go with the standard 400-cubic-inch V-8 (the base LeMans engine was a lowly six-cylinder, but most people probably opted for the 350 V-8), or upgrade to Pontiac's 455.
1973 Pontiac Grand Am two-door and four-door. (Image borrowed from Hans Tore Tangerud/Love to Accelerate)
It probably doesn't come as a surprise that this sort of vehicle was not what most buyers were looking for in 1973. The Grand Am was never popular, and sales grew even worse in '74 and '75, after which it was dropped. Curiously, when the GM intermediates were downsized for 1978, Pontiac brought back the Grand Am; it again sold poorly and lasted for three model years, though in its final one, 1980, it was only available as a coupe.

So why is my FG Grand Am a '73? As usual, it's in the details. I prefer the grille design used on the '74 and '75 models to the one used in '73, but I much more strongly prefer the horizontal tail lights and overall rear design of the '73 to the vertical design of '74 and '75. (If I wanted to cheat a bit, I suppose I could swap a '74-'75 nose piece.) A white interior was available on the '74 Grand Am, but the genuine mahogany dash was gone (the console still had real mahogany trim). And mine needs to be a four-door, since such an overall package was much more uncommon at the time.

And more broadly, my general feeling about the '73-'77 A-bodies is that, regardless of brand or model, the first year of the design was the best, and in each successive year it got a bit more cluttered and overdone. (Of course there are exceptions; I strongly prefer the quad rectangular headlights of the '76-'77 Grand Prix to the single round lights used on the previous three years.)

01 June 2015

Car Stuff: Fantasy Garage #19

It's been a while since we visited the Fantasy Garage. I was stalling a bit because I wasn't sure which car from my list of potentials I wanted to feature next, but just this morning I figured out how I want to tackle this next one.

The 1973 model year was a big one for General Motors. Besides federally-mandated 5-mph front bumpers appearing across all the company's lines, the company's midsize "A-body" cars were all new, with dramatically different, more formal "colonnade" styling (frameless door glass on all models, thicker roof pillars, no more pillarless hardtops), and a special two-door personal-luxury model for each division (Chevrolet Monte Carlo, Pontiac Grand Prix, Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme/Salon, Buick Regal) with a roofline that differed from the other two-door offerings.

These models were borrowed some of the cachet of big luxury cars like the Cadillac Eldorado and Lincoln Mark IV and brought it to a more practical (relative) size at a price accessible to hundreds of thousands of potential customers who would never be able to afford a Cadillac or Lincoln, or who would never want such a large car. It worked brilliantly, and the cars were hugely popular; Ford and Chrysler rushed to bring their own such models to market.

These cars made a big impression on me when they were new. I was nine when they were introduced in the fall of 1972, and to my young mind they felt more significant than either the subcompact Chevy Vega, which had been introduced two years earlier, or the redesigned full-size GM cars that had arrived at around the same time as the Vega. The intermediates were in fact supposed to be launched as 1972 models, but due to strikes the company decided to hold over the existing design and delay the new designs' introduction by one model year.

The colonnade design lasted for five model years and millions were sold during that period. Not everyone feels warmly toward these cars, though. They were still big, heavy, inefficient, and had mediocre interior space considering their size. But I happen to think they were one of the things GM got mostly right in the '70s. They were cars quintessentially of and for the period. Now, it would be impossible for me to choose just one vehicle to represent four brands and five model years, so I'm going to devote several installments of this feature to mid-'70s A-body cars... starting tomorrow.