Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Tower Records

Tower Records is back! Sort of...

The music-selling giant began in California in 1960. From 1970-90 it grew into the largest music retailer in the country and became a cultural icon. Then, during the Nineties, the company evervated, heading south. By 2006 the company was finally bankrupt: all stores were closed, all assets sold.

Over the past winter, Tower Records resurrected as an online website where it now sells vinyl records and CDs. Broad collection, reasonably priced. The yellow/red colors are there, along with its "Pulse" magazine (online).

Do you have any Tower Records memories?

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Cassettes

In the odd history of music technology, some devices emerged that became inexplicably popular -- and are now set for nostalgic re-boot. No, I'm not talking about vinyl records; I'm talking about cassettes.

When I read recently that enthusiasts are returning to cassettes, I couldn't understand the news. Cassette tapes are, by everyone's admission, vastly inferior to vinyl, CDs and streaming. Why resurrect a bad technology?

Well, there are reasons. One is their connection to the automobile. In the Sixties-Eighties, if you wanted to listen to tunes in your car, you were limited to the radio or cassettes. You couldn't play records in a jostling vehicle.

Second, mix-tapes. With cassettes, you can create your own mix of songs from any artist/album. A custom mix-tape is wonderful, giving you music you like without stuff you don't.

Third, they're cheap. In record-stores today, cassettes are the unwanted step-children being practically given away. For decades nobody wanted them so their market value was zilch. Today you can build an entire collection for the price of one newly-minted LP.

Did you ever listen to cassettes?

Friday, July 16, 2021

Dueling Banjos

Fifty years ago I saw a good, award-winning movie ("Deliverance"). Despite its quality, the film terrified me. I'm glad I saw it but I never want to see it again.

The movie contains a song that became hugely popular at the time ("Dueling Banjos"). It's a musical duel between a banjo and a guitar. The result is impressive and amusing. 

I thought since I have fond memory of the song I'd look for it at my local record-store. I found it for $3. Three bucks! Not only does the song hold up but the rest of the album has lively banjo-music guaranteed to make you smile. Come on over and I'll put it on the turntable. :)

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Harry Chapin

It's hard to believe but it was exactly forty years ago (July 1981) that Harry Chapin died. In a tragic, fiery accident on the Long Island Expressway.

He was 38 but had packed a lifetime into those years. Harry not only wrote and sang popular songs, he found meaning in life. He worked hard to feed LI's hungry, donated most of his earnings to charity and gave more benefit concerts than anyone else. In fact, he was on his way to one when his VW got hit by a tractor-trailer.

Harry's songs, like "Taxi" and "Cat's in the Cradle," were in the air of my youth. They tell poignant, poetic stories that resonate to our common experience. A new documentary about Harry has just been released; it's called "Harry Chapin: When in Doubt, Do Something."

Harry lived in my hometown (Huntington) and is buried here. Last year I visited his grave in the cemetery on New York Avenue. Here are some pics of it, with proof that Harry's fans still adore him.









Saturday, July 10, 2021

Getting Around

I own four vehicles (BMW touring motorcycle; BMW sport-bike; Mazda Miata; Fiat Abarth). Each is essential and performs a necessary function in my life. I wouldn't want to cope with fewer. Each gets used regularly and washed/maintained with care.

In the future I plan to add two more vehicles but, honestly, those will be frivolous (McLaren super-car; Janus Halcyon 450 motorcycle). I don't need those toys; I just want to enjoy them as rewards from a long, hard career.

When I was young I had no interest in motor vehicles. I was widely known for driving old pieces of crap I got as gifts or bought for less than $500. I cared nothing about what those cars looked like; I just used them for basic transportation. Then in 1997 I got my first motorcycle and discovered the pleasures of nice bikes and cars.

What do you drive/ride?

Thursday, July 1, 2021

2021 Mazda Miata

A woman in my office, admiring my new car today, said "You have the best toys!"

Why, yes. Yes, I do. :)





Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Megan's Diorama

There's nothing better than friendship. My sweet pal Megan just sent me a diorama she made herself. It's dedicated to this concept. Isn't it nice?!





Sunday, June 27, 2021

Life

Take care of your cue ball and it will take care of you. 

Not just literally true but also a metaphor for life. What we shoot out to the world comes back at us in multiple ways. Ripples travel in all directions.





















Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Vintage Beauty


Back in the 1920s a British company named Brough Superior made beautiful vintage motorcycles. It's the bike T.E. Lawrence ("Lawrence of Arabia") rode and died on. The company went out-of-business in the 1930s. There are very few BR bikes still around; one was recently auctioned for half a million dollars. 

I find the style of these bikes very appealing. An authentic BR is more expensive than I want to pay; plus, a 100-year old motorcycle is going to be mechanically unreliable. Fortunately I just discovered a small American company in Indiana (Janus) is producing a limited number of hand-made motorcycles. They look like BRs but possess more modern technology. Their new model is called the Halcyon. The Halcyon has a relatively small engine (450cc) but the bike, at only 350 lbs., benefits from its weight/power ratio and can hit 90 mph. 

I don't NEED another motorcycle but there's something to be valued in romance. This bike tugs at my heart. Can you see its beauty?



Thursday, June 17, 2021

Self-Delusion

Last night I rode my motorcycle to dinner with friends, one of whom snapped a photo of me when I wasn't looking. I didn't see the picture until this morning. Honestly I'm shocked -- who's that old guy?!

It's sad to realize there's a wide gulf between our mental image of ourselves and empirical reality. The first picture is what I thought I look like (42 and hale). The second, taken yesterday, is reality (63 and creaky).

At least I don't ride any slower than I used to.  :)





Sunday, June 13, 2021

New Shoes!

The last time I bought clothing was in 2019. It seemed senseless to shop last year. When would I wear anything nice?

Well, those days are over. Now that we're out and about again, I want to look nice. 

So I fired up the old computer and headed to that haven of style: Fluevog.com. I found a chic pair of shoes in an unusual color I've never worn before. And the shoes are individually hand-painted by humans, not sprayed by a machine. 

What do you think?







Saturday, June 12, 2021

Sinéad O'Connor


I just read Sinéad O'Connor's new memoir ("Rememberings"). For those of you too young to know, Sinéad was an Irish singer-songwriter who sky-rocketed to fame in the late 1980s. She had a worldwide hit song in 1990, "Nothing Compares 2 U." The song was accompanied by an arresting music-video featuring Sinéad singing with a shaved head. Back then, baldness was a radical, almost unknown choice for women.

Sinéad is still alive (54 years old). Three years ago she converted to Islam and changed her name to Shuhada' Sadaqat.

Sinéad had a horrible childhood, full of abuse and neglect. She was sent to an asylum at age 15 and forced to live with tortured mentally ill patients ("I have never — and probably will never — experience such panic and terror and agony over anything"). 

Music was a salvation for her, but fame was a curse. Like Amy Winehouse and Britney Spears, Sinéad was simultaneously celebrated and tormented by a global public. People seemed as interested in destroying Sinéad as feting her.

In 1990, Sinéad was criticised for saying she would not perform if the U.S. national anthem was played before her concerts. In response, Frank Sinatra threatened to "kick her in the ass."

Sinéad's most famous act occurred in 1992; it's so well-known it was later parodied by Madonna (who considered Sinéad a competitor). Appearing as the musical guest on "Saturday Night Live," Sinéad sang Bob Marley's song "War" as a protest against the sexual abuse of children in the Catholic Church. She then presented a photograph of Pope John Paul II while singing the word "evil" and tore the photo into pieces, urging us to "fight the real enemy." This happened nine years before the Pope publicly acknowledged widespread sexual abuse in the Church.

In response, the world ripped Sinéad to shreds, declaring her unfit to be an entertainer. The damage to her career was immense and irrevocable. On SNL the following week, host Joe Pesci held up the photo and said he had taped it back together which got huge applause. Pesci also said that if he had been on the show when it happened, "I would have gave her such a smack." Back then, threatening to beat women for voicing unpopular opinions was culturally acceptable.

The best part of the new book is getting Sinéad's take on this. She believes the controversy had the opposite effect of what's commonly assumed: ""I feel that having a No. 1 record derailed my career and my tearing the photo put me on the right track." "Everyone wants a pop star, see? But I am a protest singer. I just had stuff to get off my chest. I had no desire for fame."

Sinéad is due for a cultural re-appraisal. Our society has evolved in the past 30 years and ought to take a new look at her history and music.

Monday, June 7, 2021

Sweet Tooth

I know it's still early but I just figured out who I'm gonna be for Halloween!


Sunday, June 6, 2021

Serendipity

I'm walking around my neighborhood today and spot a garage sale. Curious, I peer at the wares. As usual, 98% of it is crap. But I spy a little camera box tucked in the back. Inside, with original instructions and packaging, is an Imperial Satellite 127 in perfect condition. I doubt it's ever been used. The simple shutter mechanism works like new.

The camera takes 127-roll film which is very obscure today. Only one company in the world makes it (in Japan). Fortunately I already have several rolls of 127 film for my mid-century Kodak Brownie cameras. 

The Imperial Satellite 127 was made in the 1960s by Braun, a respected German company. The Satellite name and graphic design tapped into that era's fascination with space exploration.

Holding this historical treasure in my hands I approached the grandma in charge and asked how much she wants for the camera. She looks puzzled and replies, "Umm... How about five dollars?" 

DEAL! What a fun new toy to play with! For five dollars!



Saturday, June 5, 2021

Baba Ganoush

Baba Ganoush!

This dish with an exotic name is actually very simple. It's an eggplant spread using ingredients similar to hummus (e.g., tahini, lemon juice, garlic). I add smoked paprika and sea salt for seasoning.

Baba Ganoush is perfect for easy Summer dining. Make it early and break out pita or other bread. BG can be tailored to personal taste: I enjoy mine with a little caviar sprinkled on top!



Saturday, May 29, 2021

Glass Art

I visited the famous Corning Museum of Glass. In addition to teaching you about glass, the museum displays beautiful artwork made by contemporary artists using glass. 

Here are some of the amazing items on display.















Friday, May 28, 2021

Sonnenberg Gardens


150 years ago a wealthy woman, Mary Clark Thompson, built a summer home in Canandaigua. Situated on 150 acres of bucolic land the home has not only a 40-room mansion but 15 separate outdoor gardens. I visited the property yesterday (Sonnenberg Gardens & Mansion); it's overwhelmingly beautiful.

Mary, the daughter of a Governor of New York State, married the man who founded Citibank. The couple lived in NYC and had, in today's money, $300 million to play with. And no children. After their deaths, a relative sold the property to the government; it was later turned into a historic park. Now ordinary folk like me can wander and enjoy its delights.

The mansion is full of art from around the world. Unusual for the time Mary collected Japanese and Chinese art. While admiring what I thought was wallpaper depicting birds I realized, on closer examination, it is actually oil painting covering the entire wall. (Photo attached.) Similarly I saw what looks like a small castle in the garden and learned it was actually an aviary where Mary kept hundreds of expensive exotic birds. Receipts on display show Mary spent a million bucks buying rare birds.

Interesting side-note: Mary had a ticket for the ill-fated Titanic voyage but cancelled her trip at the last minute to attend a flower show. Lucky girl!