architecture (25)
on location (19)
random thoughts (1,193)
staff (23)
the design life (272)
the writing life (392)
blog archive

Weekend Miscellany

“Japan has around 300 brands of short-grain japonica rice that go by names like Yume Shizuku (Dream Droplet), Seiten no Hekireki (Bolt from the Blue), Tsuyahime (Shiny Princess), and Mirukii Kuiin (Milky Queen),” writes Kenji Hall over at Taste. But there’s a clear favorite: Koshihikari, which accounts for a third of the rice that’s planted annually and has outsold every other brand for years. “If there is an ideal style of rice for oyakodon or matsutake gohan, or to eat plain with only a side of pickles, Koshihikari comes close. In surveys, consumers say they prefer its ultrawhite kernels, sticky-soft chewiness, and mild sweetness.”

Swearing is good for you. “No one can tell me that there’s a better word than the F-word for relieving pain after stubbing your bare toe on the leg of your bed. There just isn’t. I’ve tried using, ‘Blast!’ and, ‘Confound it all!’—but they just don’t cut it.” (While we’re at it, so is drinking.)

When art runs out of ways to shock: “The assumption had been that artists were entrusted with the sacred task of ‘pushing the envelope,’ as [Edward] Albee insouciantly put it, but they were finding that the culture had gotten way ahead of them. And at the same time—and this was really unnerving to a certain type of artist—the culture revealed itself to be shameless, tawdry, and grotesque in ways that were supposed to be reserved for the avant-garde.

“A…god who walked among us.”

Today’s the 15th anniversary of Michael Brecker’s death, and Ted Gioia has some thoughts:

Almost every saxophonist I met in the closing decades of the 20th century treated Brecker as a superstar at the pinnacle of the jazz craft. This was especially true of students at college jazz programs, where Brecker was a revered name, not far below John Coltrane in the hierarchy of jazz saxophony. And Coltrane, even back then, was a distant historical figure none of these jazz students had ever seen perform live. Brecker, in contrast, was a horn-playing god who walked among us.

I studied music at EWU back in the late 80s—and worked the occasional shift as a late-night DJ at the college jazz station—so I can confirm that Brecker definitely loomed large among my fellow band nerds and me. His 1988 album Don’t Try This at Home was a holy relic; when he and his rhythm section came to Spokane for a gig at Casa Blanca that year, we treated it more like a pilgrimage than a night out with drinks. He was, in a sense, our Coltrane.

Which makes this all the more interesting:

But, as Gioia suggests, the saxophonist’s appeal was far broader than any one genre. “Brecker had completely assimilated a populist attitude into his personal style,” he writes. “When he played over a rock or funk groove, he wasn’t trying to cross over, he was just being himself.” Take a gander yourself at this discography. (Keep scrolling—the list does eventually come to an end.)

Let’s close with a video played at Michael Brecker’s memorial service, held February 20, 2007 at Town Hall in Manhattan:

Quote of the Day

Words of wisdom from the 37th president of the United States, taken from his series of interviews with David Frost in 1977. (Nixon’s 109th birthday was Sunday.)

“They got a name for the winners in the world…”

So Georgia and Alabama are playing in the college football national championship tonight, I guess? (Sorry—I can’t even feign interest in the NFL, let alone its farm system. The fact that these half-wits get full-ride scholarships at elite universities to…play games…is, not to put too fine a point on it, insane.)


I only bring this up because it’s an excuse to mention one of my favorite bands—Steely Dan—and how they’ve been trolling Crimson Tide fans for 45 years. You know the line, right? It’s from “Deacon Blues”:

They got a name for the winners in the world 
I want a name when I lose 
They call Alabama the Crimson Tide 
Call me Deacon Blues

Only thing is, it’s not a compliment. In a 2006 interview with Rolling Stone, co-founder, lead singer, and keyboardist Donald Fagen comes clean:

Walter [Becker] and I had been working on that song at a house in Malibu. I played him that line, and he said. “You mean it’s like, ‘They call these cracker assholes this grandiose name like the Crimson Tide, and I’m this loser, so they call me this other grandiose name, Deacon Blues?”‘ And I said, “Yeah!” He said, “Cool! Let’s finish it!”

I suppose this is the part where I should make a joke about how you can’t expect an Alabama grad to get the sarcasm. But honestly, I didn’t either. And it makes me love Steely Dan even more.

Now let’s enjoy a live version of Deacon Blues from 1993:

10 for 2021

Did I manage to let 2021 slip by without my annual list of music recommendations? Somebody should probably fire me.

Without further ado, then, here are the 10 albums released last year that brought me the most pleasure (objectively ranked in order of awesomeness):

Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders, and the London Symphony Orchestra, Promises
Grateful Dead, Listen to the River: St. Louis ’71 ’72 ’73
Steven Wilson, The Future Bites
Lisa Bella Donna, Moogmentum
Nick Cave & Warren Ellis, Carnage
Alice Coltrane, Kirtan: Turiya Sings
Lee Morgan, The Complete Live at the Lighthouse
Dan Weiss and Miles Okazaki, Music for Drums and Guitar
Bass Communion, Sisters Oregon
The Grid/Fripp, Leviathan

The Capital of the Queen of Sheba

In its prime, from around 1200 to 1550, Great Zimbabwe was home to about 10,000 people. The state covered 1,779 acres, more than twice the area of New York’s Central Park. UNESCO, the UN’s cultural body, declared it a world heritage site in 1986. At independence in 1980 Robert Mugabe renamed Rhodesia Zimbabwe (roughly ‘house of stone’) after the site. Yet it is far less visited, or understood, than Machu Picchu, say, or Egypt’s pyramids.”

Click here for the cool interactive feature; stay for the fascinating article. And if you’re really interested in the subject of medieval African history, this is a delightful read.

You Don’t Say…

“Night owls are at increased risk for psychiatric disorders compared to early birds.”

That’s the headline over at PsyPost, anyway. But since they’re “only interested in accurately reporting research about how humans think and behave” rather than “over-generalizing or mischaracterizing research to get more clicks,” well…you’d better believe they know what they’re talking about.

Of course, a glimpse under the hood over at helveticka world headquarters is all the proof anyone really needs: CK, Linda, Carl, and Michelle are all self-confessed night owls, whereas Shirlee, Courtney, and I are the normal ones early birds.

Need I say more?


Happy 2022, everyone. What are the odds we’ll still be around to ring in 2023? I’m guessing somewhere around 11/10. So we might as well enjoy ourselves.

To that end, here’s a glimpse under the hood:

“If your only experience with a car engine’s inner workings is ‘How much is that going to cost to fix?’ this graphic is for you!”

Here’s a reminder of the wonders of nature:

“Like all salamanders, newts can re-grow a lost limb or amputated tail. This regenerative ability has long fascinated humans. It is a superpower we are eager to steal, a piece of real animal magic.…In 1994, Dr Goro Eguchi of the Shokei Educational Institution, Japan, and Panagiotis Tsonis at the University of Dayton, Ohio, decided to investigate this apparently magical ability for real. In the lab, they cut open the  eye of a live Japanese fire-bellied newt (Cynops pyrrhogaster) and removed the lento see if it would regenerate. It did, perfectly. And not from residual lens tissue but from epithelial cells in the iris. So they did it again. And again. Over the course of sixteen years, they cut out the newt’s eye no fewer than eighteen times. And each time, the poor newt grew it back, fresh, complete, in fully working order.”

And here’s a story of redemption:

“Maxie remembers the scene: teamsters, townies, sailors, loan sharks, and killers with callused hands all mixing together; the acrid smell of sweat and stale beer, the smoke hanging over everyone’s head like a storm cloud.”

Since 1946

Vic B. Linden and Sons Sign Advertising Inc.—among our very favorite collaborators—has long been one of the busiest sign shops in the region. But on December 31, 2021, Chris, Nick, and Steve will be wrapping up the business their father Vic started 75 years ago. The company’s work can be found on, and in, so many local buildings that I feel sorry for all the facilities managers who will no doubt be left wondering who to call when their directories need updating.

As for us, we’re going to miss Linden’s old-school approach to business. Their honesty, integrity, and commitment to do whatever it takes to keep clients happy are characteristics that were established early on by Vic and his wife Ruth, who worked as a bookkeeper in the family business. And they’re characteristics that are increasingly rare these days.

To our good friends, we say “Thank you” for your contributions to our region, our city, and our clients—and we wish each of you the very best.

The More You Know…

Ten percent of U.S. electricity is generated from old Russian nuclear warheads. It took two ad creatives all of 45 minutes to invent Baileys Irish Cream in 1973. For $64 an hour you can hire a Los Angeles photo studio that looks like the interior of a private jet—to impress people on Instagram.

Those are just three of Tom Witwell’s 52 Things I Learned in 2021, one of the few year-end lists that’s actually worth reading. BONUS: There are links for each year’s list, going back to 2014, at the end of the article.

Stop! Grammar Time!

Courtesy of the inestimable Shirlee Roberts-Downey (peace be upon her), we now have the answer to one of the most pressing issues of our time:

Or…do we?

Road Trip

Oof. The last time we posted anything here was October 21. I think that’s a record.

To be fair, I was gone for a couple of weeks, gallivanting about Nevada (and, incidentally, Oregon, Arizona, California, and Idaho) with the missus. So it’s not like I don’t have an excuse.

Can I just say how stunning the desert is? This was taken somewhere between Goodsprings and Pahrump, off a gravel road that was not nearly as forgiving as promised.

Then there’s Wheeler Peak, over on the other side of the state. Side note: You’ve never seen the Milky Way till you’ve seen it from Great Basin National Park.

There’s an awful lot of gunshot victims in the Goldfield Pioneer Cemetery. Alas, this isn’t one of them.

Camped a couple of nights in Valley of Fire State Park, where we were visited by bighorn sheep, kit foxes, and wannabe Instagram models.

Albert Szukalski’s Last Supper, Goldwell Open Air Museum, Beatty.

And despite the fact that we stayed in no fewer than three—three!—purportedly haunted hotels with precisely zero spooky encounters, we managed to get in plenty of hiking, kayaking, exploring, and Bloody Mary-drinking to make up for it.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled blog posting…


The overall COVID death rate for men is 1.6 times higher than that for women. (Fight the matriarchy!) Side note: Is it me, or is it weird that “middle age” is defined as those between the ages of 45 and 64? With U.S. life expectancy at 77.3 years, wouldn’t middle age be more like…38? 39?

Speaking of atrocities, here’s another example of how algorithms are ruining everything. And another.

We’ve known for some time that the Vikings were in North America long before Columbus. How long? At least 471 years earlier. And how can we be so sure? Cosmic rays, baby.

“The Curious Case of Norway’s Disturbing Demon Wall.” I mean, how can you not click on that?

The More You Know

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has some choice words for those of you who think flotsam and jetsam are just synonyms for odds and ends:

Flotsam and jetsam are terms that describe two types of marine debris associated with vessels. Flotsam is defined as debris in the water that was not deliberately thrown overboard, often as a result from a shipwreck or accident. Jetsam describes debris that was deliberately thrown overboard by a crew of a ship in distress, most often to lighten the ship’s load.

Does it really matter, though? Glad you asked.

Under maritime law the distinction is important. Flotsam may be claimed by the original owner, whereas jetsam may be claimed as property of whoever discovers it. If the jetsam is valuable, the discoverer may collect proceeds received though the sale of the salvaged objects.

Pays to be precise, I reckon.

I’m Smitten

Remember a while back when I admitted having a crush on Suzanne “Diva of the Diode” Ciani? (Sure, you’ve got to read between the lines, but it’s there—trust me.)

Anywho, the latest issue of Electronic Sound has a review of Moogmentum, the new “dynamic, elegant, and emotional synthesizer-based album from internationally acclaimed recording artist, composer, modular synthesist, sound designer, educator, and clinician Lisa Bella Donna.” And it’s amazing.

So as you can imagine I’m torn. On the one hand, Suzanne and her Buchla 200e are everything to me. But the siren song of Moogmentum‘s “strikingly interpretive and expressive craftsmanship” keeps calling to me.

Does that make Lisa my mid-life crisis?

back to top    |     1 2 3 124     |    archive >