I might write something here…
There’s a lot I want to say about this new track, but I’m inclined to just let it speak for itself.
I want to thank Dan Schreck for the excellent cover art. My rambling phone call to him a while back included all the things I wanted to say about the track, and that time I didn’t hold back. The artwork reflects this. It’s very deceptive — it appears very simple at first glance but keeps unfolding with more and more things to say.
If I would have meta-tagged our conversation, it would have looked like this: detroitsuburbs, hospitals, arrivals, departures, catholicgirls, springtime, marvingaye, doowop, etc…
Today I’m releasing a new song, Out of My System. I couldn’t have done it without a huge amount of help from my friends, as is usually the case. This time, it’s a little different though. This time it comes with a music video, and I have one specific friend to thank for that: James Vest.
I initially pitched a different kind of idea at James, something that would have clocked-in at around 30 seconds. He came back at me the next day and pitched a whole video concept. Once he said “NASA footage”, I said “done”.
James put an extraordinary amount of work into this video, and it shows. It’s so much damn fun to watch, repeatedly.
I also want to thank Paul Lynch, who laid down some fine guitar work for the song; Torrey Walker for instructing me on vocoder best-practices; and Hannes Breitschaedel for lending fresh ears and some solid feedback during the mix-down process.
Out of My System is now the second single release on schedule (roughly). Black El Camino was released in July of 2012, and I’ve been hard at work since then to release this new song to you today. I’d like to keep this up. We’ll see if the universe permits.
James Vest interviews yours truly about Black El Camino, Continu-Oh!, and the ongoing influence of Marvin Gaye.
Here’s a new song for your ears.
Black El Camino was recorded in May, 2012. Jim Brantley played acoustic guitar. The track was mastered at Bluefield Mastering.
It’s a dollar if you want to own it, or you can stream it via Bandcamp and Spotify. I have one request: listen to it twice.
Lee Bay, at WBEZ, finds evidence of an erased neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side which was demolished to make way for a public housing project in the 1930’s.
These photos of epic four-story gray-stone row houses are gorgeously haunting, but the thing I miss most are the wonderful Dutch Elm trees lining the park. You won’t see them in the US anytime soon. So beautiful.
If you put your ear to the rails, you can hear the money train coming. What a great deal for such a trouble-ridden town.
Someday, we’ll probably need to remove all the wide boulevards we planted throughout our cities. If not by need, then by obsolescence, wherein we’ll need to repurpose these spaces. Madrid did just that, with a park:
On my way from the park one day I came across Marisa Álvarez, a physical therapist, who told me that her commute from Móstoles, a sprawling, hard-hit suburb to the southwest of the city, took nearly an hour and a half each way before the new metro arrived. Now, it’s 45 minutes. The metro had changed her daily life, she said.
“This is like new lungs for us,” is how Pilar López described what the new park has changed in hers. At 73, she said she has lived for more than a half-century in an apartment in a housing project nearby, suffering the fumes and noise from the highway.
“When the highway was here, I sat on my sofa and watched television all day,” she told me. “Now I feel healthy again because I walk with my friends in the park for hours.”
Mother nature works in mysterious ways.
East Palo Alto, CA, a burb to the right of its more well-known and better-funded namesake city won’t install a stop sign at a busy intersection which killed a toddler a few months ago:
A review of the intersection by a traffic engineer hired by the city found that though there was also an accident six months earlier involving a young boy, there were not enough accidents at the intersection to warrant a stop sign. State guidelines require five collisions within a 12-moth [sic] period.
It’s a stop sign. Also, something makes me think this stop sign would have been installed ten years ago if ‘East’ wasn’t in their city name.
Just over a year after the most arts-concious mayor in the country left the helm, Rahm Emanuel allows the historic Wabash avenue bridge in Chicago to be adorned with cheapo Bank of America ads. Blair Kamin at the Tribune calls it eloquently:
“Mayors come and go. Architecture stays. And it affects each and every one of us.”
Each sign generates $4,500 worth of revenue for the city. That bridge is old, it’s going to need consistent care during its life. If Bank of America wanted to kill two birds it could specify that money for bridge upkeep, and put up some halfway-decent signage which doesn’t deface our public spaces.
It’s corporate graffiti.
This is a great, long read, pulled from Fortune’s archive. Jane Jacobs’ 1958 perspective is as unique as it gets: an on-the-ground report from post-war America, where the entire country was an architectural and urban-design sandbox, and Manhattan was the main project.
There are so many great take-aways from the article, but my favorite is her spot-on observation of the city block:
Believing their block maps instead of their eyes, developers think of downtown streets as dividers of areas, not as the unifiers they are. Weighty decisions about redevelopment are made on the basis of what is a “good” or “poor” block, and this leads to worse incongruities than the most unenlightened laissez faire.
Streets aren’t moats separating private islands, they’re fragile isthmuses connecting vital resources.
Blair Kamen at Chicago Tribune’s Cityscapes nicely details recent and historical attempts to hide interstate highways underneath retail or green space.
Columbus, Ohio’s recent attempt does fix the cityscape from street view, but it feels too much like an afterthought (which it is). It has all the confidence of Old London Bridge.
In contrast, the park covering Seattle’s Interstate 5 looks beautiful and natural. Why try anything else?
And with this, Richard Meier’s deconstructed government building becomes good architecture.
San Jose likes to think it’s a big city, and I suppose it is. But it’s got one big problem: driving through downtown will take just as long as driving through the downtown of any major US city, and this is by design. You’ll find yourself sitting at lights just as long as any other city, but there’s no traffic coming in the other direction, and there’s no pedestrians crossing the street.
There’s no one there. The traffic was engineered as if 50% of the population lived downtown, and they were out all day and up all night. But I don’t think even 10% of the population lives downtown.
It’s a strange phenomenon of civil engineering, and if you zoom out a bit, you’ll find many strange engineering choices. Some of these are brilliant, and some are head-scratching, but all are well-executed (a polar-opposite to our urban neighbors to the north, where spaghetti interchanges are de rigueur).
So, here’s a set of unique feats of engineering, all of which are interchanges in the South Bay:
Here’s a “Modified Cloverstack”. Not a big surprise, but see if you can find the outlier ramp.
Next, another semi-conventional but well-executed interchange, a “Directional T”.
For those of you who are easily-perplexed, here’s an epic “Three Level Turbine”.
Here’s a modern interchange, the “Single-Point Urban Interchange” (or “SPUI”).
Now we’re getting to my favorite, South Bay exclusive interchanges. There are no official names for these types of interchanges, so I’ve gone ahead and named them myself.
Here’s a “Holy Trinity” just northwest of the airport.
And last and maybe least, the oh-so special “No-verpass”, where in the immortal words of Sim City, ‘you can’t get there from here’. Yep, I bet there are few if any other places in the country where two major highways cross each other without an interchange.
I realize that there is some crazy stuff up in Oakland and San Francisco, and perhaps I’ll document that in the future.
The Guardian’s Joe Moran describes the modern, newly-evolving dilemma of specially-ordained “Quiet” spaces, such as Boston’s “Quiet Car” for their commuter lines. Specifically, the dilemma boils down to:
Maitland sees the interruption of silence as an artificial affliction of modernity, but I am not so sure. Certain environments have certainly become noisier: libraries now seem actively to encourage conversation and clatter. But many things are quieter than they used to be: you no longer hear the incessant hammering of the typing pool, and today’s warehouses and factories are places of cathedral-like calm compared to a generation ago.
I share Maitland’s love of silence, although not enough to challenge anyone disturbing me in a quiet zone. But I cannot decide if the desire for it is natural or unnatural in our herd-loving, compulsively communicative race. When I was a student, I happily wrote essays in crowded common rooms; now I cannot write if there is so much as a creaky floorboard in the room above me.
I don’t understand Maitland’s premise that the desire for silence could be manufactured. Ultimately, if silence has been sought by a community at large, the action would seem to be an organically occurring phenomenon.
Moran feels that same skepticism, but he also points further into the real issue:
It is amazing how much noise you can get used to, and then how much silence you can become accustomed to demanding.
There’s an invisible, but very audible line we cross when we move about the world, or the world moves about us. It’s a signal threshold, where the noise floor meets the remaining headroom. These lines are in visible, audible flux. Perhaps more than ever.
A McClatchy article from last April reports that the recently completed Bascom branch of the San Jose Public Library, designed by Glass Architects, sits literally fenced off.
It’s such an exciting building, not just for the neighborhood, but for all of San Jose.
It breaks my heart every time I drive past the beleaguered site.