Music Du Jour

Paleo Retiree writes:

Vince Gill and the legendary pedal steel guitarist Paul Vincent — with backing from Marty Stuart and The Fabulous Superlatives — perform Merle Haggard’s wonderfully acerbic-yet-heartrending 1970 tune “I Can’t Be Myself.”


  • Gill and Vincent also perform the tune on “Bakersfield,” a recent CD of covers of songs from the likes of Merle Haggard and Buck Owens. Even though I’d have enjoyed one or two more uptempo shitkickers than they include — the collection is a little heavy on soulful love-and-heartbreak numbers — I’m enjoying the album a whole lot.
  • If you don’t know anything about the Bakersfield Sound, it’s time to educate yourself. The Bakersfield era — a direct, no-frills expression of white working-class masculinity — was one of the Really Great Moments in American popular music, IMHO.
  • Some praise from me for Marty Stuart.
  • Vince Gill, himself a virtuoso, highlights his 14 favorite guitarists.
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A Good Nonstick Pan

Paleo Retiree writes:

Over the years, my wife, an excellent home cook, has been unhappy with the nonstick pans she’s tried. They don’t distribute the heat effectively; they don’t impart any flavor; the surface loses its effectiveness in just a few years; she’s already a virtuoso with her beautifully-seasoned, decades-old $25 iron pan … so what’s the point? Recently, though, I did a lot of research and treated her to a ritzy Woll nonstick pan, and she’s been using it nearly every day. The base is heavy and handles heat well; the nonstick surface is a newfangled material supposedly incorporating titanium and diamonds that’s said not to have a lot of Teflon’s disadvantages; and the very comfy handle detaches, which turns out to have some benefits. So far, she’s enjoyed the Woll for cooking fried eggs — they develop a diner-worthy brown-and-webby crust — omelettes and frittatas (that she finishes under the broiler), and for sauteeing veggies that she’s pre-steamed. She’s just begun to experiment with fish and shrimp, and so far the results have been promising — a piece of delicate fish like flounder is less likely to fall apart when the surface is nonstick. The pan seems beautifully made — a satisfying example of Mercedes-like Awesome German Engineering — so we’re feeling optimistic about its lasting powers.


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Fenster writes:

  • Fenster agrees a lot with what Mickey Kaus has to say.  In this case, though he has no idea who Fenster is, it is Mickey Kaus who agrees with Fenster on the worrisome possibility of an emerging Downton Economy.
  • The estimable Alex Beam, who also is a fan of Kaus, says get off Twitter.  Perhaps Fenster is not the one to weigh in since he has never joined, never Tweeted, never read a Tweet except in a regurgitated state.  It seems to me like hive mind in action–all about spreading cootie memes with little of benefit of reasoned thought.
  • According one one wonk, the numbers seems “stacked against” the idea of upstate New York seceding and either forming its own state or joining with Pennsylvania.  The latter idea is mostly being pushed in the Southern Tier, which is  eyeing the fracking taking place across the border denied to New York by state policy.  The idea of a separate state has broader appeal because of the feeling that the City leeches.  Alas, while downstate is high expenditure it is also high revenue, with the result that the net flow of subsidy is from south to north.  Maybe breaking apart is a good idea in the long run on the grounds that the north should be allowed to pursue a redder future.  But it won’t be easy since Albany and Manhattan are not the only problems.
  • On the other hand, maybe upstate has reached bottom and the separate state idea has merit on the grounds of buy low sell high.  Maybe the cool kids are on to something.


Posted in Linkathons | 1 Comment

Restore, Don’t Redesign, Pershing Square

Blowhard, Esq. writes:


Today the L.A. City Council announced an international competition to redesign Pershing Square located in the heart of downtown. The existing design by AIA Gold Medal winner Ricardo Legorreta, which dates from 1994, has been widely hated for over two decades. Here’s a picture I took of it a couple years ago:

Pershing Square Today

The purple pylons are supposed to represent the San Gabriel Mountains, the orange spheres are symbols of the importance of the citrus industry to the city’s history, and the geometric concrete pathways that break up the lawn are some Deeply Important postmodern design element that us proles have failed to appreciate over the years.

But it looks like all of that will soon be history, so good riddance to bad rubbish, I sez. However, one should never underestimate the ability of our architectural betters to foist something even more heinous on us. When it comes to turning bad into worse, their creativity knows no bounds. When a committee was formed two years ago to investigate the feasibility of a new park, the design firm Gensler made the following pitch (skip to 2:56 to see their final results):

Dig the use of advanced computational methods that have been leveraged to create an integrative, sustainable design! Who cares the final result looks like a chaotic midsummer rave, complete with techno soundtrack? I’m sure the wireframe videogame terrain would win them a bunch of awards presented by people who wear thick-framed glasses and bowties.

Instead of choosing a trendy design that’ll only further alienate the public and require yet another remodel in 20 years, why not restore it to its former glory?


Parkinson1910in1931 colorized


John Parkinson’s 1910 design (the same architect who designed Union Station, City Hall, Bullock’s Wilshire, and the Coliseum) might not have had the advantages of CAD or a flashy presentation video, and modifications will be needed to take the underground parking into account, but it provides a pleasant pedestrian experience with multiple spaces for various activities that are elegantly buffered from one another. When a good design is staring you right in the face, why reinvent the wheel?

A group and petition have formed to reinstitute Parkinson’s park. I have little hope that city officials will consider it seriously, but it would be nice to be wrong. Whatever happens, it’ll be interesting to see how this story develops.


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Google: We’re Not Evil, We Promise!

Blowhard, Esq. writes:


Google-AlphabetnewlogoThe latest candy-colored Android update is called Lollipop, the new holding company is called Alphabet, and the sans-serif logo redesign looks fit for a franchise of daycare centers. Someone is trying really hard to look cutesy and nonthreatening.

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Taking Triggers Seriously

Fenster writes:


There are some ideas so stupid only a college president could endorse them.  At least that’s the impression given by reading this recent nearly-three-cheer defense of trigger warnings and microaggession bans on campus penned by two college presidents.

I know, I know it must be hard to be a college president.  You are running what amounts to a business and need to heed the voice of the market.  And since where one stands is often a function of where one sits, I don’t doubt that these defenses are at least in part sincere.

But if you allow yourself to get stewed in the juices you will eventually be rendered into the pot.  As they write “(t)hose who offer blanket indictments of calls for safer spaces and content notices would do well to sit face to face, as we have, with anguished 18-year-olds.” Well, yes.  I don’t doubt they had to confront anguished 18-year olds quite a bit.  But where is the perspective and–dare I say it?–the gravity that one would expect a president to exhibit?  A college president I respect once said that the most important quality needed in the job is social distance.  By that he did not mean don’t fraternize with the custodians–he did regularly, and well.  What he meant is that one should not blow with the wind and try to be a friend to all.

If only Colin Quinn had a Ph.D. he might make a run at a presidency somewhere.

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Streetcar Suburb Summer

Fenster writes:

Is it possible for planners to create a community with as much charm and character as one that evolved organically over time?  Heck, I suppose it might be possible.  Given enough bandwidth, time and creativity, and with possibly great changes in the worlds of nanotechnology, computer graphics and 3D printing, why can’t a simulacrum be better than the real thing?  My mind is effectively playing tricks with itself in its appreciation of certain things in the first place and it would be a kind of conceit to say it could not be tricked or persuaded at a higher level.

But that time is not on us.  To me, most fabricated communities have an uncanny valley quality–more off-putting than places that try less hard to simulate.  So for now, and probably from now on, I will prefer existing places to newly fashioned ones.

I now live in Newton, one of Boston’s streetcar suburbs.  Back around the turn of the century–the other one–Boston, Newton and the close in towns didn’t have just one streetcar running through them but were riddled with lines spun out like a web.


At each station, a cluster of shops and homes emerged.  And given the web like structure of the streetcar system, Newton developed into a agreeable bunch of villages, some running directly east-west but others here and there on other axes.   A few villages sprung up, too, along the Charles River.

Today, Newton is known as a city of villages–13 in all by most counts.  Some of these are not truly villages since they are not situated where the streetcars ran, with the village designation seeming to be a sop to a suburban enclave with no center.  But West Newton, Newtonville, Newton Centre, Auburndale, Nonantum, Waban, Newton Highlands, Newton Corner, Chestnut Hill, Newton Upper Falls and Newton Lower Falls all have a tie to the streetcar past.

Most of these have gotten quite genteel but there’s the down to earth Nonantum, or “The Lake”, to the mushes who live there (there is no longer a lake there but habits die hard).  The sheer number of small villages makes it easier to find a place with the proverbial “5 minute walk” to shops and activities.

Of course, Newton today is essentially fully developed.  That makes for some interesting time travel as one drives.  Leaving Newton Centre heading west on Beacon Street one moves first from an all-Victorian ambience


to one peppered with more early 20th century housing stock,


then on to post-war ranches,


then back to early 20th century


and then finally back to Victorian on reaching Waban.


It is hard to have a favorite among these if you like Victorian architecture.  One of my favorite areas runs from just west of Newton Centre, along Crystal Lake, over into Newton Highlands.  Here are some snaps from last weekend, at the close of summer.  As Paleo did just recently in writing about his walk through the Village and along the Hudson, I am posting a record of our short walk.  It’s a pretty dense lot of great buildings over the course of about a mile.


Check the pics out relative to Paleo’s recent plea for texture and color.

Continue reading

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