Tuesday, February 3, 2009

food: HobNobs 1984 - present

I just learned that McVitiie's introduced the indescribably wonderful HobNobs biscuits in 1984, as if any more proof was needed that it was the high point of Western civilization.

Did I learn this from the McVitie's web site? No. Is there even a McVitie's site? No, all they have is an awful bland page within United Biscuits' site with no lore, no excitement, and an incomprehensible URL http://www.unitedbiscuits.com/our-brands.php?rnd=EbQhEkgzYcOl1w1pnvjdM7hfOvapCXl3reedTJwN5JTyfuLJw0jfd8CbAtDrSnZ1. Maybe that's why this page is far down the list of search results when you Google for McVities biscuits.

There is a seemingly fun Japanese-language McVitie's site, though the 12-second repeating jingle could drive you insane.

United Biscuits need to hire me to market McVitie's. They had one good idea with the slogan "One nibble and you're nobbled" (it's not a promise, it's a threat), and then nothing.

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Wednesday, July 2, 2008

cars: 1984 Civic 1500S with the Teddy Bear wheels

I saw this in my neighborhoodHonda Civic 1500S with Ronal Teddy Bear wheels
The 1984 Honda Civic 1500S in the beautiful gray two-tone. Almost as cherry as the one I owned.

Check out the wheels! I remember seeing these "teddy bear" wheels in car magazines, I thought they were by Koei, but these are by Ronal.Ronal 'Teddy Bear' wheel - classic!Note the wheel lock in the belly button.

I've been meaning to update my Civic page with more information about that incomparable design. Car Styling magazine was kind enough to photocopy the pages about the entire third-generation "Civic Renaissance" design program from issue 44 for me. It was a global tour de force, a single program delivered this fantastic hatchback, the Civic sedan, the CRX pocket-sized sport coupe, the innovative Civic "Space" Shuttle all-wheel drive (much better than a fat tall SUV), and the Ballade variants for the Japanese domestic market. Wow.

Douglas Halbert of Honda R&D Americas contacted me and commented
Tony Ikeda, Ed Watts, Truman Pollard and myself were the designers working on the project. All my designs were of the long-roof concept and we were in competition with Hiroshi Zaima and the HGW staff in Japan.

Hmm, the design came out in 1984. High point of Western civilization indeed!

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Saturday, July 7, 2007

music: big men sing of heartbreak

I'm a sucker for big man laid low by the power of love. You expect women to write of such things, but when a rocker does it, he's compelled to craft a solid, ultimately uplifting song so as not to come across as a tearful whiner. To me the original is Led Zeppelin's Going to California from 1971, where Robert Plant torturously emotes
Standing on a hill in my mountain of dreams,
Telling myself it's not as hard, hard, hard as it seems. ...
Going to California with an aching in my heart
(supposedly written about Joni Mitchell).

Steve Perry's Street Talk (another gem from 1984!) has some lovely aching ballads despite overly glossy production, including "Foolish Heart":
Foolish heart, heed my warning
You've been wrong before
Don't be wrong anymore

I'm feeling that feeling again
I'm playing a game I can't win
And this of course is reminiscent of "What a Fool Believes" by a master of the genre, Michael McDonald. From inside the underrated Doobie Brothers, he wrote a string of heartsick songs, climaxing in the desperate, great "Real Love":
Darlin, I know
I'm just another head on your pillow
If only just tonight, girl
Let me hear you lie just a little
Tell me I'm the only man
That you ever really loved
Well we've both lived long enough to know
We'd trade it all right now
For just one minute of real love
I have his first two solo albums, and he pens even deeper depths of misery, such as "That's Why":
Look back loneliness, you won't see me behind you
Hey now emptiness, no more leading the way
Go on desperateness, I don't need you beside me no more...
That's why, I won't be down very long
That's why, I'll be all right from now on
But he needs at least the memory of a hard-rocking band to make this bearable. It's easy for it to descend into "in the cabin of my BMW, I laid down and wept" sentimentality (that's my line, I'm saving it for my group). Or as Elvis Costello put it in a 1986 interview:
Two types of rock 'n' roll had become bankrupt to me. One was 'Look at me, I've got a big hairy chest and a big willy!' [obvious reference to Robert Plant] and the other was the 'Fuck me, I'm so sensitive' Jackson Browne school of seduction. They're both offensive and mawkish and neither has any real pride or confidence.
True, Elvis, true, but put them together and a hairy-chested big-willy man sings of love, and it can be magic.

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Saturday, February 10, 2007

Valentines: most amazing book of love ever

Come February 14th, you can't help thinking about the four kinds of love:
  1. "Philia"
    Friendship, brotherly love
  2. "Eros"
    The drive to create or procreate
  3. "Agape"
    The one who is devoted to the other
  4. "lust"
    The current favorite
or maybe all 57:Chapter II of 'Love is Hell': The 57 Varieties of LoveLove is Hell, far more than the Simpsons or Futurama, is Matt Groening's magnum opus. Every single panel is stuffed with jokes, ideas, and painfully true insights.

I just ordered five more copies. This and Anna Karenina say more about love than any other books I've read. From Amazon's Look Inside the Book, the cover, and Chapter I.

And, damn, I just realized he wrote the strips in 1984. Best music ever, LA Olympics, the festive federalism design movement that the Olympics introduced, Macintosh release (shortly after Lisa and VisiOn. The high point of Western civilization!

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Thursday, April 28, 2005

music: Scritti Politti, B-sides and other hidden gems

I post a lot about overlooked music from the 70's, but everybody knows music peaked in the 80's.

I found and joined the Scritti Politti group on Yahoo to try to track down a quote about Green and David Gamson having the microscopes turned to 100x for "Cupid & Psyche 85" and "Provision", but only to 10x for "Anomie and Bonhomie". Unfortunately no one came through, but it's interesting to follow the upswing in interest on the 20th (gulp!) anniversary of "Cupid & Psyche 85".

Another topic that came up was "World Come Back to Life", my favorite B side of all time. There's no experience finer than discovering a hidden gem. I always wonder what other songs got away, transcendant songs I'll never hear because I didn't buy the 12-inch import single or the rarities compilation or whatever. It's easy to get obsessive and track down obscure tracks just in case one turns out to be the one; in the case of Scritti Politti I bought Al Jarreau's distinctly average "L is for Lover" album just for the Green/Gamson track, and it's not that good despite Nile Rodgers production.

In no particular order, here's a list of killer B sides and rarities. These are why God and Roy Gandy created the Rega Planar 3 turntable, so you can flip the vinyl over and unearth buried treasure.
World Come Back to Life, Scritti Politti
B side of "Boom! There She Was". The nastiest kiss-off lyrics Green ever wrote, probably why it wasn't on "Provision".

(Don't) Turn Me Away, Rexy
I heard it twice on Radio One, I had to special order it. The saddest strangest song, ending with the chant "It's a fact. that I live. with" Their album has another great song, "So you wanna be alien too".

Love's Taboo, Cube
An Italian 12-inch. Amazingly atmospheric

The Yearning Loins, Prefab Sprout
I got this as an extra track on the USA CD of Two Wheels Good (aka Steve McQueen). Buy that record! for Paddy McAloon's songs and the masterful Thomas Dolby production, then keep listening for this insanely syncopated and energetic track. And it's from 1984, the high point of Western civilization.

Don't Throw My Love Around, Cooly's Hot Box
This is on a fine compilation of acid jazz tracks, "Giant Steps, Vol. 1". The funkiest percussion (timbales?) I've ever heard. I've bought several really average acid jazz compilations since, hoping for the same magic.

Radio Arabesque, Arabesque
Goofy, vaguely atmospheric song, I heard it once on the radio and it stuck in my mind. I think it's by Arabesque, but there's no clip available.

The sad thing is that no extant rating system can find these songs. By definition they're unpopular because of their rarity, meanwhile Amazon has degenerated into 90% 5-star ratings from rabid fans, 5% 4-star ratings from honest fans, and 5% 1-star ratings from people who never liked the artist or have a grudge.

The sweetest sounds you've never heard... sounds like a Green lyric.

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