Monthly Archives: October 2012

Top 10, right now

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  1. Herman’s Hermits
    Blaze (Herman's Hermits album)

    Blaze (Herman’s Hermits album) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    one of the ’60s British Invasion bands that really didn’t get its due. They had a couple of little inoffensive novelties (“Mrs. Brown You’ve Got A Lovely Daughter,” “I’m Henry VIII I Am”) that somehow overshadowed what was really a series of masterful pop songs, including the rocking “My Reservation’s Been Confirmed,” “No Milk Today,” and the plaintive, angry, proto-punk “Where Were You When I Needed You.” The album “Blaze” is just a wonder, beginning to end, and should have cemented them as a serious band that was in for the long haul, one that was graduating from covering the songs of others. It didn’t.I don’t know another British Invasion band that has so many songs people just don’t know and should. (The Stool Pigeons’ album of Herman’s Hermits covers is, by the way, fantastic.)

  2. Speaking of Herman’s Hermits covers: The Bangles covered “Where Were You When I Needed You,” which of course wasn’t by anyone in HH, but the songwriting duo of Sloan and Barri.
  3. English: Susanna Hoffs of the Bangles. Taken b...

    Speaking of The Bangles, where was I when they needed me? Not paying attention to their reunion album from last year, “Sweetheart of the Sun.” I should have been. Heard Susanna Hoffs on the Adam Carolla Show recently, promoting her new solo album. I’ve been a massive fan of her “Under The Covers” albums with Matthew Sweet — under her spell I’ve come to love songs that I have disliked nearly all my life. Turns out Mr. Sweet had a hand in this Bangles album, too, and it’s really quite wonderful. 

  4. Oh, are we just doing music for this Top 10? Okay. Check out Amanda Rogers, whom we’ve seen a couple of times at Troy Night Out. Like lovely, emotional piano and a sweet, strong voice? She’s seriously good. So is her band, The Pleasants.
  5. Another, more local discovery from Troy Night Out: Oobleck. Funky. Possibly non-Newtonian. Check they out.
  6. Speaking of Troy: Design It Together. These guys have turned a process into an art, and an art into a business. Their designs are excellent. I wouldn’t consider a special occasion card from anyone else — especially weddings, anniversaries, or people who need a wonderful image of the Green Island Bridge.
  7. Christopher Moore’s “Sacre Bleu: A Comedy d’Art.” If you hold the Impressionists and their world as sacred, this may not be for you. Or perhaps it is. It’s a romp, like all Christopher Moore books, but it’s an even more entertaining one than usual.
  8. “Canada” by Richard Ford. I’ve only just begun this one, but I was hooked by the end of the first page. For some reason Richard Ford speaks to me, even though he’s writing of people and places that have nothing to do with me. There’s something about the emotional state of his men that fascinates (or perhaps worries).
  9. Like highly embarrassing coming-of-age sort-of teen pregnancy class conflict comedies? Got Hulu? Then I highly recommend “Pramface.” It’s British, of course, because I really don’t think American producers could hit these notes right.
  10. Noise-cancelling headphones. Why have I denied myself this absurdly necessary travel luxury for so long? Thanks to a loving family that takes birthday hints/threats to buy it for myself seriously, I know have a pair and really don’t know how I got by for so long with earbuds gouging my aural canals. you might think they’re mostly good for drowning out the roar of the plane, the rumble of the train, and the screaming of children. And it’s all of those. But I’m especially thankful for their power to completely mask the sound of crashing golf bores detailing their last 37 boozy golf outings, complete with what they think are subtle descriptions of the attractiveness of the brew pub waitresses and hostesses.
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Quonset hut.pngThe war ended nearly, what, 70 years ago? I feel like I could browse through Google Street View safely without running into post-war quonset huts. But no. They are still out there.

They are still out there. And this one appears to be thriving. It may be the nest.

Rensselaer quonset hut.png

Map of the World, 1977

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Scotia Map 1977 detail.jpeg

I came across this 1977 map. It’s of Scotia, Schenectady, and Mechanicville. That third one seems a bit odd, but otherwise, as far as I was concerned, it was a map of the world. And most of the world, at least as far as I was concerned, was what is shown right here.

That whole section of the village below Mohawk Avenue down to the river,
I knew so intimately. I knew every house. I knew who lived in most of
them. From various sales activities, back in the days when kids went
door-to-door selling greeting cards, candles, and other tchochkes, I had
knocked on most of those doors. I knew where to go to find horse
chestnuts, which old lady would pay you to clean up all her acorns. I
knew every dog, in a day when almost no dog was leashed. When I go back
to Scotia today, I still remember the houses by who lived in them in the
’60s and ’70s. Every school I went to is on here (except the seventh grade building, the original Scotia HIgh School, closed and perhaps demolished by this time). I set foot in most of those churches at one time or another, too, though I never caught fire in any sense of the word as far as church went. This is truly a map of my world.

It wasn’t quite a case of “beyond here be monsters” — I was no stranger
to the wilds of Schenectady, or the hills of Glenville. But on most
days, most of the time, these little angled grids of streets, a couple
of square miles of homes pushed up against the Mohawk River, represented
everywhere I was likely to go.

The map is odd. It aggressively ignores the numbers of the state
routes that run through the village (5, 50, 147), while naming the
unreachable islands of the river. It announces “APTS” at the east end of
Sanders Avenue, as if apartments were such an odd feature they needed
to be pointed out; they weren’t a big feature in Scotia, but there were
others, and they would hardly rate special mention on a map that didn’t
name churches or most schools.

It would be hard not to note how primitive the cartography is. That wasn’t unusual for the time. It’s single-color printing (oddly, not black). I don’t know the technology used for creating these, but the type looks like some form of letterpress. No key to the symbols is given, but ‘F’ is firehouse, ‘C’ is church, ‘S’ is school and ‘P’ is post office. The ‘8’ was a bit of a mystery, but the index reminds me that it was the Glenville Town Hall, back when it was still in the village. The village’s sole public cemeteries are
marked with what looks more like a telephone pole than a cross, but
then using a cross to designate a cemetery is a bit presumptuous anyway.
Within a few years, much more colorful and better printed maps would start being printed, and the local map company would have to up its game.

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