Recordings received

I’ve snagged these three albums from iTunes in the past couple of months, and it’s about time I told you about them.

The So Flows Sessions by Patrick O'HearnPatrick O’Hearn: The So Flows Sessions (2006)

In 2001, Patrick O’Hearn released an album called So Flows the Current. This was the first time O’Hearn had put out an album by himself, without a label backing him; it was quiet, meditative, and impeccably produced. At least seventeen tracks were recorded, nine of which made it to the album. Five years later, eight more tracks surfaced as The So Flows Sessions, and it deserves better, I think, than to be dismissed as just outtakes from its predecessor; it’s subtle without being boring, quiet without being mere background music. O’Hearn has been a fixture in so-called “new-age” radio ever since I discovered the existence of “new-age” radio, and it still amazes me that he got there by way of Frank Zappa and Missing Persons.


A Posteriori by EnigmaEnigma: A Posteriori (2006)

You remember Enigma. In 1990, Michael Cretu and a small band of collaborators released MCMXC a.D., which produced the mighty hit single “Sadeness (Part I),” a dance number overlaid with Gregorian chant destined for the middle of the Top Ten. A Posteriori — “After the fact” — is the sixth Enigma album; while echoes of the earlier work resound here and there, the tone is decidedly different: less thump, more techno, and references that suggest a galactic disaster in the making. Two singles were released: “Hello and Welcome,” which was remixed before the album appeared, and “Goodbye Milky Way,” which more or less gives away the game.


Dark Matter by SPC ECOSPC ECO: Dark Matter (2015)

SPC ECO — pronounced, I am told, “space echo” — really ought to be characterized as darkwave, this being their second album with “dark” in the title; but they’re a bit too downtempo, and there’s somehow enough murk in the mix to suggest both the flow of dreampop and the golden days of shoegaze. It helps that Dean Garcia plays every instrument in the book and a few only in the appendix, and Rose Berlin (Dean’s daughter) makes wonderfully ethereal vocal noises, though in the first couple of tracks she seems a bit overly processed. No singles have yet been released, though either “Playing Games” or “I Won’t Be Heard” would seem to have stand-alone potential. But to be honest, nothing here is quite so dreamy/sprightly as this track from their previous album.


Triumphantly so

In 1959, the US found itself awash in foreign cars. Volkswagen, which had set up shop in 1949, dominated the market with its Beetles, but France was selling a fair number of Renaults, Toyota had tentatively dipped a toe into the Stateside milieu with the Toyopet Crown, and the British seemed to be everywhere: my father, in fact, put up some presumably modest sum for a Ford Anglia from beautiful downtown Dagenham. In general, economy was the name of the game, and this Triumph advertisement from 1959 makes darn sure you know that:

Print ad for '59 Triumph

There were no real fuel-economy rules in those days, but 40 mpg doesn’t seem too far out of reach, providing you weren’t doing things like climbing hills in San Francisco. The engine was dinky by American standards: a 948-cc (58 cubic inches, wow!) overhead-valve inline four, pumping out 37 hp, competitive with the Beetle’s flat four. I was amused by this bit: “It will travel up to 60,000 miles without a major overhaul — often 100,000.” Today, needing an overhaul at 60k is the sign of Heavy Citrus, but back then, things wore out a whole lot faster.

Still, the funniest part, at least to me, is that it’s not really a Triumph. This is actually a ’59 Standard Ten sedan, given a Triumph badge because those Yanks know the name, having bought several Triumph TR-series sports cars in the decade. And if you saw “Triumph” and thought “sports-car engine,” who could blame you? The TR3A of that era had an engine twice as big with nearly three times the ponies.


The glucose is clear

I’m not quite sure I understand this promotion:

Actually, that’s only half a gallon, but it still sounds a bit strange.

(Via Dawn Summers.)

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Warm! What is it good for?

There’s a certain irony in writing this while a Heat Advisory is boiling away outside, but what the hell:

Look, warm is better than cold. Plants grow better. Food is more abundant. Plus being cold sucks, just ask anyone who has not yet moved south for the winter. I say we fire up those coal plants, drive the heck out of your SUVs, bring back Freon. Each of us should strive to have a carbon footprint the size of Bigfoot. We all know what happens if it gets too cold.

I figure carbon-based life forms with a morbid fear of carbon are sufficiently self-loathing to make themselves perfect candidates for Voluntary Human Extinction.

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How little things change

Just an historical note, or a point in the cycle we’re bound to repeat?

The Whigs collapsed in 1856, and the Democrats in 1860, because neither represented the views of the majority of Americans. American politics had been all about slavery since at least the 1830s, but both parties studiously avoided it. You could vote for the Whigs, who stood for nothing but not being Democrats, or you could vote for the Democrats, who were pro-slavery but wouldn’t admit it under torture. The Dems were better at coalition building — some things never change — and were able to cobble together the “Hard Shell,” “Soft Shell,” “Barnburner,” etc. factions together for one election longer than the Whigs were, but when faced with a legitimate protest party, they too collapsed. Their vote split several different ways, Lincoln won the White House, and I forget what happened next.

Today’s Republican leadership, in case you hadn’t noticed, stands for nothing but not being Democrats. And anyone paying attention knows the Democrats’ poster child: it’s a nonwhite female college student who will do anything to not get pregnant, but she won’t do that. (Or rather, she won’t not do that.) I can’t wait for the grownups to start running the playground again.

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Strange search-engine queries (494)

Admittedly, we only pull ten or twelve out of the logs for review here, but remember: #AllSearchesMatter.

stan and hilda can mow the lawn in 60 minutes if they work together. if hilda works three times as fast as stan:  It’s because Stan spent the first half of the weekend on the couch watching sports and has no energy left for actual work.

brain teaser: i am something:  Yeah, you just think you’re something.

whatever happened to quinn cummings:  She’s on Twitter as @quinncy, her lacerating wit intact.

youtubers who smoke cigarettes:  I suspect some of them have been smoking, um, something else.

what ford transmission do i have:  The one that’s broken.

tragedy should be utilized as a source of strength:  Too many people willing to cause too many tragedies.

jerking off made simple:  When, exactly, was it complicated?

the most lewd and vulgar video webcam jailbait girls:  Are still better behaved than Washington politicians.

funny paramecium cartoons:  Oh, they’re so ciliated.

did ariana grande have a baby:  Far as I know, she’s had only donuts.

girl with two heads:  You’d have better luck finding a girl with two faces.

trying to be less of an asshole than yesterday:  Well, thank you for that, Mr. Trump.


No advance fees, period

California says a talent agent can’t collect money from a client before representation actually begins, as explained here, and one such agent has now been convicted:

Debra Baum, 53, entered a plea of no contest to one count of operating an advance fee talent service. Judge Deborah Brazil sentenced Baum to 36 months summary probation and ordered her to serve 45 days in jail or perform 20 days of community labor. Baum also agreed to pay $91,252.75 in restitution to the parents of the victims…

The City Attorney’s office said that Baum solicited a 19-year old in 2012 who she heard singing in a hair salon and signed her to a $10,000 per month management contract to promote her vocal career. Before terminating the contract in September 2012, the victim’s family paid $70,000 in management fees to Baum as well as thousands of dollars in third party expenses for vocal training, stylists and recordings.

Said Baum on Twitter:

This doesn’t quite sound like someone who just entered a nolo plea.

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The last of the romantics

Just when I was starting to think that Taylor Swift was turning (and turning me) cynical in her old age, here comes Carly Rae Jepsen to sweep me back to hearts and flowers:

Dropped this past Friday, “Run Away With Me” is the lead track from E-MO-TION, already out in Japan and due here next month. If it outsells “I Really Like You,” which peaked at #39 in Billboard, we’re looking at a gold, maybe platinum album. Peanuts compared to Taylor; but then, Taylor’s already mapped out her road for the next twenty-five years. Carly is still feeling the tug of “What now?” And damn if she doesn’t make me feel it too.


Someone call the government

Shihka Dalmia writes at

[P]rivatizing marriage can’t sidestep the broader questions about who should get married to whom and under what circumstances.

Bill Quick took a shot at this notion, pointing out that people routinely make contracts that don’t have to have governmental approval, which led to this exchange in the comments. First, Bill, refuting an earlier comment:

Except for the fact that marrying close relatives has been a feature of marriage all through history (and we now have the technological means to determine potential harm in such marriages), polygamy may or may not be socially destructive, it is practiced in much of the world openly, and much of the rest sub rosa, and “socially destructive” is a flimsy and often ugly reason for banning something.

Many believe private ownership of guns is socially destructive. Private ownership of automobiles certainly delivers a mass slaughter every year. And we all know how fantastically successful the ban on some drugs has been — why, no social destruction issuing from that ban at all, eh?

Return volley by SteveF:

Private ownership of automobiles causes social destruction not by the endless, inevitable slaughter of innocents but by allowing people to travel easily, quickly, and privately. If people can go where they want, when they want, and are not limited by the schedule of buses and trains and don’t need to show ID to get from place to place, who knows what mischief they might get up to?

Besides that, I’ve heard tell that some young men drive their automobiles to meet young women from outside the village. Society is doomed if we don’t put an end to this!

It could be worse. Those young men could be dating female college students.


Did I call it, or what?

Back in January I ran a shot from a Tesla Model S P85D’s touchscreen, with two speed options selectable: “Sport” or “Insane.” Total tool of pop culture that I am, I titled that piece “Ludicrous speed.”

And now “Ludicrous” is being added as a legitimate option:

[O]wners and buyers can now upgrade to the new Ludicrous Mode on the Model S P85D. This upgrade is quite involved, requiring a new, advanced “smart fuse” and upgraded main pack contacter. Together, the upgrades result in a 2.8 second sprint to 60 mph — an improvement of 10 percent — and a quarter-mile time of 10.9 seconds, states [Elon] Musk. Car and Driver says the upgrade gives the Model S 762 horsepower.

If you are ordering a new P85D and want the Ludicrous Model update, prepare to shell out $10,000 plus another $3,000 for the required range update.

As usual, the upgrade will be offered to current P85D owners, though since it involves about $5000 worth of new hardware, it will require more than just the usual software download.

Dark Helmet, I assume, will be pleased.


PET reset

In 1977, Commodore produced its first PET (Personal Electronic Transactor) computer, a 6502-based box running at a startling 1 MHz. It sold well enough to justify follow-on products — surely you remember the legendary Commodore 64? — but Commodore was extinct by 1994, and ownership of the trademark has been floating around almost randomly ever since.

Now comes a new PET, but it’s a cell phone:

[W]hile there’s no real connection with the famous 8-bit home computer, Massimo Canigiani and Carlo Scattolini have designed the new Commodore PET with a focus on gaming. The handset will run Android 5.0 Lollipop and will ship with two built-in emulators (VICE C64 and Uae4All2-SDL Amiga, as noted by Wired).

And if you’re gonna run Commodore emulators, those are the ones to run.

It’s a pricey little handset, starting at $300, and one might reasonably question its potential marketplace longevity. Still, seeing the chickenhead on a phone is bound to jolt those of us of a Certain Age.

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Grexit sign

I happened to find these two pictures of model Anastasia Perraki, who turns 30 on Monday, and somehow they seem to bracket the ongoing financial crisis in her native Greece. The first is from a local Vogue pictorial, shot in and around a classic Cadillac, circa 2012. Note the invocation in the corner:

Anastasia Perraki in the back seat

More somberly, an official photo of Perraki from her modeling agency:

Anastasia Perraki is represented by Ace Models, Athens

You can almost read it: “Yeah, fine, austerity. Whatever.”

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PBR goes home, sort of

Until 1996, Pabst Blue Ribbon beer was brewed in Milwaukee; corporate headquarters were in a former school building on West Juneau Avenue, purchased by Captain Frederick Pabst himself. But Pabst closed down its Milwaukee operations and moved away, first to San Antonio, then to Los Angeles.

While they’re not actually reopening the brewery, the current incarnation of Pabst is going to be making some beer in the old complex:

The brewery behind Pabst Blue Ribbon intends to open a microbrewery and tasting room in their former complex, a mixed-use development located in downtown Milwaukee. The complex’s main building was constructed in 1871 as a German Methodist church and acquired by Pabst in 1898.

Pabst has previously used the building as a bar and restaurant for its employees, as well as a training and conference center. “The fact that Pabst is coming back to brew at the original site, but in such a unique spot, is thrilling for me,” said Milwaukee restaurateur Mike Eitel, who will operate a restaurant and tavern in the building, one floor above Pabst’s ground-floor microbrewery and tasting room.

As per Eugene Kashper, Pabst’s chairman and CEO, the company plans to use their new brewery to experiment with recipes for discontinued, pre-Prohibition beer brands, including Kloster Beer, Old Tankard Ale and others.

A Milwaukee ale house recently revived Old Tankard Ale on a limited basis.

To me, this seems a good sign, if only because Pabst, which owns a couple of dozen brand names from the past, hasn’t actually brewed any beer for some time now: production has been outsourced to various other brewers. PBR itself is brewed at a Miller facility.


Greater Exposure

What was the last great girl-group song? For my $3.98, it was “Seasons Change” by Exposé, their fifth single and their only Billboard Number One. Inevitably, there was a video, which was murky then, and even more so in the unofficial YouTubed versions that survive. But the version I played to death, and still spin, was the Extended Remix on the 12-inch, which runs nearly eight minutes — the album track less than five, the radio edit just over four — and which, to these ears anyway, contains not so much as a second of padding.

What I said the last time I mentioned it, a couple of years ago:

This is cut from the same cloth as other Lewis Martineé freestyle tracks, but this 12-inch mix goes on well past the 4:53 album cut, and the singers drop out to make room for an uncredited guitarist who for two minutes makes some of the purest rock and roll noises you’ve ever heard, right on top of that same hypnotic rhythm bed.

And I bring it back here because I never get tired of it.

Nor will I ever, I suspect.

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Quote of the week

Morgan Freeberg is old enough to remember when fun was actually earned:

You start off with this lengthy and expansive list of things you have to do today, and you make a big enough dent by 4 or 5 in the afternoon that you can take a breather. That’s why a house involved in some level of luxury would have a “wet bar,” but this led to an associated stigma of alcoholism. Now the wet bar is something you see in a really old movie, maybe a Twilight Zone episode from the first couple seasons, because we’ve gotten rid of alcoholism and replaced it with addiction to marijuana, crack, meth and illegally-acquired prescription drugs, along with the legal stuff to do something about our made-up “learning disabilities.” The casualty in all this is not the addictive lifestyle; what we’ve gotten rid of is the idea that you start with the work, and finish with the leisure which is predicated on the work actually getting done. That’s been consigned to the ash heap of history, at least within this romper room stately pleasure dome we’ve constructed for ourselves.

I suspect most “lifestyles,” to scare-quote a word I’ve always hated, have their addictive aspects; anyone’s who’s seen my standard Saturday cuisine — fried chicken and RC Cola — might suspect some sort of psychological dependency. But that $10 worth of grub was made possible by actual toil, and while I’d never say I’m addicted to work, I would hate like hell to give up any of the things it buys me.

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When the title says it all

I am considered at least reasonably competent at producing titles for the stuff I churn out, but I admit to being awed, and then some, at this Ace zinger: “Gawker Staff Smears Feces On Itself, Boards a Schoolbus Loaded With Gasoline and Napalm, Then Intentionally Drives That Schoolbus Into a Cargo Train Transporting Toxic Waste and Retarded Clowns”.

Apart from separating “school” from “bus,” there’s not a thing in the world I’d want to change about that.

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