30 September 2015

Retro Video Unit, Concert Edition (9/30/15)

I've been trying to make these happen on the last Friday of the month, but obviously that has passed by, so I guess the last day of the month will have to do. (And by the way, I completely forgot to post one in August.)

I went back to the German Rockpalast series for this one (earlier I posted Police and Pretenders shows). The Kinks don't get enough credit as far as influence goes. I think it's partly because they were not as popular in the 1960s as their cohorts (Beatles, Stones, Who). But as time has passed their legacy has only grown.

I happened to see them at the old Boston Garden in early 1982, which I think was the tour for the excellent album Give the People What They Want.

29 September 2015


It almost got by me... but it didn't. I started this thing nine years ago today. I had no idea how long it would last, but eventually I found my groove.

The past several months have been hectic, and challenging in unexpected ways: I've gone back to work and had to get used to commuting again, there was an adjustment to not having unlimited free time, and the dog has needed a lot of additional care and attention in her advanced age. I've thought about maybe hitting the pause button for a while, but I feel like sticking to it with less frequency is more like what I want to be doing, and should be doing. And I like having this bit of webspace to express myself.

So, cheers to everyone who visits. Now I'm off to try to get some sleep...

28 September 2015

Car Stuff: More Diesels

No, we're not getting into the Volkswagen thing; at least, not tonight. I'm referring to the Mercedes-Benz diesels I posted a while back. There was one that I had seen but wasn't able to photograph for that post, but fortunately that car remained in the same spot each time I passed, until one recent morning when I was riding past on the bus and I got a shot. (Sorry about the sun flare.)
As it turned out, it was joined that day by a friend. The silver car toward the back is the one I'd seen in front of this house several times. Maybe the yellow one was visiting, or maybe this person is a buyer and seller of these cars (there is a robust secondary market for them because of their durability). I'm glad I finally saw a yellow one, because back in the 1980s it seemed like all of them were that color.
And then last weekend we were at a friend's house and went for a walk, where I found this one parked on the street. It has California plates, so maybe it came all the way across the country.

24 September 2015

Deleting the Branding

I'm the kind of person that a lot of apparel and shoe companies don't want as a customer: I despise external branding. I won't wear shirts with things embroidered on them, and I remove the labels sewn above the back pockets of pants. If a logo can't be removed, I won't buy the item.

I have exceptions to this, and reasons for my exceptions. I have no problem with the "Off the Wall" affixed to the heels of Vans, both because it's iconic (Vans is turning 50 next year) and because it's always been part of the design. It has earned its place. Other shoe companies think they can also claim this territory, but they haven't earned it yet.

A couple of months ago I acquired a pair of white leather Cole Haan sneakers. I wasn't looking for them, but they appeared in front of me, so to speak, in an online clearance. They had the comfort insoles that CH is known for, light weight and a minimal lining (important during summer), simple, unadorned uppers—basically everything I'd want in a summer sneaker. The various discounts brought them down from $100 to $42, with free shipping. Canvas Vans are $45; leather Vans are usually around $70 or more. It was an easy decision.
They also had "COLE HAAN" set into the bottoms of the soles. But the bottoms of my shoes are generally not visible, so that didn't bother me much. There were also rubber logo badges at the back of the heels, just like Vans except "COLE HAAN" again, and they were black with white lettering so they were pretty noticeable. That was more of a challenge, but I don't give up that easily. I got an X-Acto knife and went to work on the badges for ten minutes or so.
One down, one to go. As you can see, the badges did not slice off in nice, even slabs, but I didn't care. I would 100% rather have them gone, with all these gouges remaining, than leave them on. (Apologies to Cole Haan, the sneakers are great but I don't want your company's name adorning my heels.)

22 September 2015

That's the Stuff

Fall has finally arrived, pretty much. The days are no longer scorching, and the nights are getting cool. We are leaving the windows open so our apartment cools down at night, enough so that we don't need to run the AC during the day. That chill in the early mornings feels great, and when I get up in the morning and go into the kitchen, I have to turn on a light. And for the past couple of nights, I've needed a jacket when I walked the dog.

I'm not naive enough to think it won't get warm again, but I know that when it does, it won't last too long. The long-range forecast suggests that warmer than average temperatures will continue into October, but as long as the nights are dropping into the 50s I can handle the daytime temps.

What I have not done yet is switch over my clothes. The darker colors and heavier fabrics will get brought back up from the basement eventually, but for now it's just too soon for that.

21 September 2015

Car Stuff: A Quiet Friday Morning

Several weeks ago I got to Harvard Square fairly early on a Friday. I had enough time to walk over to Darwin's on Mount Auburn Street for a breakfast sandwich, so I took a quiet street to cut over from Brattle Street.
Near the end I came upon this MGB (technically, an MG MGB) sitting in the stone driveway of a house. The whole scene was so attractive that I didn't crop the photo as much as I usually would. (The car is dark green, by the way; it's difficult to tell because the car is in shadow.)

I'd say the large gigantic rubber bumper guards put this at the early 1970s, because these cars got redesigned bumpers for 1975 to they complied with US regulations. Wikipedia informs me that these were fitted to 1974 models, and the heavier, full-width rubber bumpers began appearing midway through the '74 model year, so we may be looking at something a bit rarer than a typical MGB.

The MGB was produced from 1962 to 1980, with incremental changes along the way. They are fun cars, but they require some effort to keep tuned and running well. This is a fine example and I'm inclined to think it's someone's "summer car."

19 September 2015

Retro Video Unit (9/18/15)

I don't know why some music videos are not on YouTube, but since I've been doing this for a while, I know that sometimes things show up if I keep looking, and such is the case here today.

I've wanted to feature "In a Big Country" by Big Country for several years, and I've been looking for this clip without success, but according to YouTube this was uploaded only a couple of months ago.

Unfortunately, their early success in the 1980s did not last, but they made a big impression on kids like me back in 1983, and this video got a lot of airplay on MTV.

17 September 2015

Seasonally Appropriate

I was going to gripe about the weather, but what's the point? September is still summer around here, that's our new reality. I've accepted it. I have to dress for the conditions, not the calendar. I'm sticking with the lighter fabrics and colors until I can feel the change in the air.

Having to dress in office attire this summer, I realized that my wardrobe is much more skewed toward clothing for cooler weather. I have a lot of plaids in darker colors, and a lot of pants in heavier fabrics, and I took all of them out and put them in the basement. It'll be time for them to rotate back up soon enough.

And hey, next week's weather looks like it will be closer to what used to be normal for this time of year...

15 September 2015

Getting There is More Than Half the Drag

September has brought longer morning commutes, which I expected to some degree. But my earlier approach of taking an earlier bus is no longer effective, mainly because the buses are being delayed by heavier traffic.

It doesn't matter if I'm ready to leave the house at 7:45, because the bus isn't showing up for another 20 minutes. The gains I was experiencing by leaving earlier are gone, negated by sitting through multiple traffic light cycles at Wellington Circle. The culprit seems to be route 93, because 28 south is backing up all the way to the circle.

Sure, I read on the bus, or do crossword puzzles; if the mind isn't occupied, the ride seems twice as long. But it's all such a huge waste of time. And then I still have to get on the Orange Line, go two stops to Sullivan, and get the 86 bus to Harvard Square. It's still taking an hour, or longer, to go three and a half miles.

This morning I happened to be ready a little earlier than I expected, so I looked at the bus countdown page and saw that the even-earlier bus, the one that in normal traffic conditions comes by my corner around 7:30, was only a minute or two away, so I grabbed my things and hurried out to the corner. I made the bus, but it still took an hour to get to work.

But getting there earlier does mean I can leave earlier, and interestingly, the trip home doesn't seem to be fraught with the same sort of stress. I still have to be concerned about making connections, but generally it goes much more smoothly in the afternoons.

12 September 2015

Workplace Embarrassment Unit

The office I've been working in has had casual Fridays for the summer... but they ended with Labor Day, and no one conveyed this information to me. So I showed up dressed more or less the way I have every Friday since I started there. As soon as I walked into my work area this morning I knew something was up: the guy at the next desk was wearing a white dress shirt and black pants. He's not moonlighting as a waiter, so I thought it was unusual he'd be dressed that way on a Friday.

Eventually I noticed that other people were dressed the way they are during the rest of the work week. I briefly contemplated going over to the nearby Gap or EMS store to acquire some pants, but I decided it's not my fault that because I'm a temp, I'm not on the distribution list for any of the office-related stuff. It was a little awkward, but I got over it.

09 September 2015

In Praise of the Tallboy

Earlier this summer I deviated from my regular beer, Narragansett, to sample some others. At one point my refrigerator contained Founders All Day IPA, Harpoon's new Take 5, and some Magic Hat that had been brought to the house by guests. Whenever I drank one I'd think, I wish this was 16 ounces instead of 12.

The primary reason for this is that I drink a beer with my dinner, and the larger-size serving works much better as a meal accompaniment. Even with judicious sipping, too often I get to the end of a 12-ounce beer with several bites of food remaining. Draft beer is usually served as a pint, and I think that's probably related to food as well, at least a little.

I don't know who first thought of the 16-ounce can (I suspect that has been lost to beer history), but that person's effort is certainly welcomed by me.

08 September 2015

Car Stuff: Back Bay Vintage

This week, another contribution from my roving Back Bay correspondent A Proper Bostonian, who spotted this very old pickup truck a couple of months ago.
I admit to being sort of stumped by this one. I think it's a Ford from the early 1950s, the period before the first F-100, when it was just called the F-1. Admittedly, it's a little hard to be sure without seeing the front, but I think that's a F-1 badge just behind the fender.

05 September 2015

Grooming Garage: Bonus Buy

It seems a little silly to get excited about value-size packages of stuff I need, but some things (in my opinion) just cost too much. I've been using Schick Hydro 5 razor cartridges for a while now, and even though Schick has a far smaller percentage of the razor market than Gillette, they decided that they were going to price their products like Gillette does. So I've typically been paying $12 to $14 for a package of four cartridges, which strikes me as borderline outrageous, but unfortunately my face is so sensitive that I can't cheap out and buy store-brand blades, or any similar strategy—too risky.

Schick runs coupons in the Sunday papers pretty regularly, typically offering $2 or $3 off cartridges, but you rarely see them at an actually reduced sale price, but CVS sometimes offers $10 in "Extra Bucks" if you spend $25 on Schick products, so I have taken advantage of that in the past.

But recently I noticed that stores like Target are carrying a package of 12 Hydro 5 cartridges, priced at $31.49. That's a Costco-sized package. I haven't been to Costco in a while (I let our membership lapse to save some money) so I don't know if they are carrying Schick products now, but they didn't before. (Maybe one of the other warehouse clubs does?) Also, some of the packages have two extra "bonus" cartridges.

Careful shopping can combine a bonus package and a higher-value coupon; I had one for $4 off that was expiring this weekend, so yesterday after work I made my way to Target and got a bonus pack of 14 cartridges for $27.49 plus tax, which works out to about $2 a cartridge.

I want to track how long this package lasts. I estimate I won't need to buy cartridges again for a year, plus I have 3/4 of my previous package remaining. I typically shave only twice a week, and I can usually get about a month out of one cartridge.

04 September 2015

Retro Video Unit (9/4/15)

Hey look, it's on the right day! Heading into the long weekend, I didn't have as much going on today, so I was able to start thinking about this week's selection a bit ahead of time. I was helped by the season one finale of Mr. Robot, the USA series that's had a lot of people talking this summer.

This week's episode featured several excellent music choices, including 1984's "World Destruction" by Time Zone, which was a project that brought together electronica/hip-hop pioneer Afrika Bambaataa (whom you may recall I've featured before), singer John Lydon of Public Image Ltd., and musician/producer Bill Laswell.

(And yes, I know this song was also used in The Sopranos.)

The episode also featured "People Who Died" by the Jim Carroll Band. You may recall the 1995 movie The Basketball Diaries, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, which was based on Carroll's memoir of teenage drug addiction. True trivial fact: I saw Carroll speak and read some of his poetry in the '80s at Boston University.

And for something a bit more recent, the closing scene (after the end credits, for a bit of a fakeout) used "Sound and Color" by Alabama Shakes.

03 September 2015

The Lull

I know it's been quiet around here this week. I'm always hopeful that commuting will provide me with observations I can share, but the couple of weeks leading into the Labor Day weekend tend to have lighter ridership on buses and subways because many people take vacation time. Fewer people means less chance of me seeing something interesting.

So the lack of material becomes the material itself, so to speak. It's easier to get a seat on a train or bus. Lines are shorter at lunchtime. Both of my coworkers have been on vacation these past two weeks, leaving me to handle incoming phone calls as best I can. The office is very quiet, and I love that.

But it won't last. After the weekend, life goes back to normal. The commute will get hectic again, and I'll arrive at work already mentally exhausted from jostling to get on and off buses and trains, and trying to make timely connections while dodging slower commuters with their heads bent, staring at their phones. I'll start to think about the merits of working from home.

And this is probably a good place for a mini-rant about commuting etiquette: seriously, what is it with you people? You cannot all board the bus at the exact same time, yet you still keep trying, and I stand there watching all of you in a combination of amusement and disgust. And then I try to move into place and wait my turn, and one of you always seems to find it necessary to force yourself between me and the bus so you can get on first. And just this morning I watched a woman try to exit a train at Wellington while another woman stood just outside the door and refused to move two inches to her left to make it easier for the first woman to get out, as though somehow relinquishing those inches would allow someone else to board the train before her—and if that did happen, so what? I've never even seen such behavior in New York, and I've concluded it's simply beyond my understanding.