Temples enshrine the psychedelic era…and more

Temples_-_Sun_Structures - wiki

“Sun Structures” – Source: en.wikipedia.org

I discovered Temples listening to Impact 89fm – Michigan State University’s student radio station when they played the richly 1960’esque “Shelter Song.” As the first track on their debut full-length album, Sun Structures, the song aptly introduces Temples and a whole new generation to the amazing guitar riffs and rhythms of great bands like The Byrds, The Beatles, Pink Floyd, early Led Zeppelin, the Moody Blues, and even in one song reminiscent of Heart. While this may sound like sincere flattery and a case of imitation, Sun Structures is also refreshing in its own right – for one it’s a hell of a lot better than most music being released today. It also exudes mesmerizing guitars.  Some may claim guitar rock is dying and/or dead – it sure isn’t when you listen to this album!

The great classic psychedelic rock sounds emanating from Sun Structures evoke memories of songs we Baby Boomers cut our teeth on and is far more enjoyable to listen to than the bass-thumping headaches of rap, the bubble gum schlock of modern pop, or the overtly corporatize and partisan blather of most modern country music.

For a band that formed just two years ago, Temples are a polished, poised, and immensely talented foursome from Kettering, England. So much so, that in 2014 they have already played SXSW, Coachella, and Glastonbury, with Lollapalooza next on their plate.

Sun Structures is my favorite new album to date in 2014 (Beck a close second). It contains 12 songs spread over 53 minutes – a welcome length compared to so many recorded sprint sessions. Of the dozen formidable tracks, my favorites include:

  • “Shelter Song”
  • “Keep in the Dark”
  • “Sun Structures”
  • “Mesmerise”
  • “A Question Isn’t Answered”
  • “Move with the Season” – a guitar riff eerily similar to “Love Alive” by Heart
  • “The Golden Throne”
  • “Sand Dance” – reminds me of Kashmir by Led Zeppelin
Who's Next - Source: en.wkipedia.org

“Who’s next” – Source: en.wkipedia.org

Lastly, I have got to say something about the album cover. Not only is it an uncanny reminder of Who’s next, but it is one of the coolest covers I have ever seen from an architectural and historical standpoint. According to the band’s interview on KEXP radio, Rushton’s Triangular Lodge, shown on the cover, is an historic structure built in 1593. Wow! – the building alone is worth a visit for architectural and historical junkies. Given its placement on this debut album, its place in British history has been secured for many centuries to come.

Beware of the weekend sign gremlins

Even notice how a plethora of yard signs suddenly pop-up like dandelions at street intersections on Friday evenings, only to disappear by Monday morning? Those are the result of gremlins putting up signs when they know full well that building or zoning enforcement offices are closed over weekends.

Source: everywheresignsusa.com

Source: everywheresignsusa.com

The same often holds true for portable signs, a-frame signs, banners, flags, streamers, and other sorts of gaudy advertising. Fortunately, when Monday morning rolls around these signs have slithered back into the dark recesses, only for the whole process to repeat itself the following Friday.

Unfortunately, while they are in place, these often illegal signs are quite unsightly and can be a danger to visibility at intersections if improper placed or over-sized.

Short of having enforcement officers working overtime on weekends, policing such activities isn’t an easy task. Perhaps a good civics lesson is one option, but it is doubtful that will have a major impact in the long haul. The legal process may have a far greater impact, if those injured in accidents as a result of visibility constraints from these illegal signs were to take the gremlins and/or the firms who advertise on the signs to court. Not the most efficient way to regulate bad behavior, when all it may lead to is the signs being moved away from street corners.

Any other ideas/suggestions on how to handle the weekend sign gremlins would be welcome.

“The Gentleman From Finland” gets derailed

Source: goodreads.com

Source: goodreads.com

I really wanted to enjoy this book. The image of riding the Trans-Siberian Express across the width of the Soviet Union is a fascinating concept. Given how much I enjoyed Robert Goldstein’s more recent book, Riding with Reindeer, I figured this one would be loads of literary fun. It starts out that way, but in the last quarter of the book, it loses steam quickly and he gets caught up in too many dream sequences. It was almost like the author was not sure how to conclude the book, so he derailed the project instead. Don’t get me wrong, there are some quite enjoyable parts to The Gentleman From Finland, but in the end it falls flat leaving the reader wanting a more complete and descriptive travelogue and less tangential side tracks into the abstract.

Utility infrastructure does not have to be ugly

This electrical substation in suburban Chicago (Elk Grove Village) is an excellent example of how, with a little effort, utility infrastructure can be designed to be aesthetically pleasing and blend well with its surroundings. Well done!

a3aef32a-d48a-11e3-ba92-22000a9ab58d-medium

 

DC’s stunning Chinatown friendship gate

0601140956One of my favorite activities while traveling is to make an effort to see the Chinatown friendship gates in cities that I visit. Among those I have personally observed are the friendship gates in Boston, Chicago, Sacramento, and San Francisco. From a human scale, Boston’s is hard to beat and San Francisco’s is certainly iconic, but the gate in Washington, DC’s Chinatown (just east of the intersection of H & 7th Streets) is simply stunning for its overall beauty, size, and artistic intricacy.

0601140958 (2)

Walking out of the Gallery Place/Chinatown Metro Station, the friendship gate immediately captures your attention and holds it tight. It is quite an impressive visual treat. Next time you happen to be visiting our Nation’s capital, hop on the Metro and stop to take a look at the city’s Chinatown friendship gate – it’s worth the trip! Cheers!

0601140954 (2)

 

What’s not to like???

A great editorial cartoon found on Facebook. It makes that obvious point that even if climate change is somehow an incorrect thesis, making the world a better place for all of us is still a great benefit to humanity, the environment, and Mother Earth. What’s not to like about that?

Source: facebook.com

Source: Joel Pett/USA Today via facebook.com

The dark side of bright lights

Fascinating and useful data on the effects of light pollution on the environment is provided in this poster. Is your city one of the top 10 brightest cities in the world? In this particular case, “brightest” is definitely NOT a synonym for “smart.”

Great seaports from space – Atlantic Coast

Baltimore, Maryland

Baltimore, Maryland – Source: tysc.com

Boston, Massachusetts - Source: en.wikipedia.org

Boston, Massachusetts – Source: en.wikipedia.org

Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada - Source:

Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada – Source: tours-tv.com

Hampton Roads, Virginia - Source:

Hampton Roads, Virginia – Source: en.wikipedia.org

Newark, New Jersey - Source:

Newark, New Jersey – Source: aerialarchives.com

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - Source:

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – Source: freerepublic.com

Leading “Tree Campus USA” states

Source: unl.edu

Source: unl.edu

In honour of Arbor Day 2014 (tomorrow, Friday, April 25th), I thought it would be interesting to highlight the Tree Campus USA program conducted by the Arbor Day Foundation. Started in 2008 and similar to Tree City USA, this program recognizes those collegiate campuses who protect, maintain, and grow their tree infrastructure. The University of Michigan was the first designated Tree Campus in the United States. Six years later, more than 190 schools participate in this worthwhile program.

There are five standards required for being designated a Tree Campus:

  1. Campus Tree Advisory Committee
  2. Campus Tree Care Plan
  3. Campus Tree Program with Dedicated Annual Expenditures
  4. Arbor Day Observance
  5. Service Learning Project

The list below shows the states with at least four college campuses participating in the program. Congratulations to Illinois, New York, Ohio for leading the pack. Sadly, while home to the first university to be designated as a Tree Campus, Michigan only has three participating schools – Calvin College, University of Michigan, and Western Michigan University.

  • Illinois = 14
  • New York = 13
  • Ohio =11
  • Georgia = 9
  • Pennsylvania = 9
  • Texas = 9
  • Florida = 8
  • Indiana = 8
  • California = 7
  • Nebraska = 7
  • Minnesota = 6
  • North Carolina = 6
  • Oklahoma = 6
  • South Carolina = 6
  • Iowa = 5
  • Kentucky =5
  • Louisiana = 5
  • Missouri = 5
  • Colorado = 4
  • Washington = 4
  • Wisconsin = 4

Source: www.arborday.org

Book review of “Pedaling Revolution”

en.wikipedia.org

en.wikipedia.org

I have just wrapped up reading the fine book, Pedaling Revolution, by author Jeff Mapes. The subtitle of How Cyclists are Changing American Cities best describes the premise of his book, as Mr. Mapes thoughtfully explores the promises and pitfalls cycling advocacy in America. As an avid cycling proponent myself, I can certainly relate to many of the issues he describes. Even though the book was published approximately five years ago, it is largely up to date on the state of affairs in cycling and presents an interesting history of cycling and the bike culture; cycling advocacy in Europe (Amsterdam, Copenhagen, and London); cycling advocacy efforts in the United States; as well as specific advocacy efforts in iconic cycling cities like Davis, Madison, Portland, New York City, Boulder, Eugene, and Chicago.

I greatly enjoyed reading Pedaling Revolution and it will certainly be an important part of my bicycling advocate library. Here are a few dandy quotes gleaned from the book for your enjoyment:

  • “…very little is said about the huge subsides received by motorists that far outweigh any freebies received by cyclists. The largest is free–or cheap—parking.” (page 19)
  • “For all the ire directed at urban cyclists, most people do have a fondness for bikes themselves.” (page 20)
  • “We were, it seems, the last generation of children who headed out into the neighborhood with no more guidance than to be home by dinner.” (page 31)
  • “…just as war is too important to be left to generals, so highways are too important to be left to highway engineers.” (page 48)
  • “…suburban sit-coms like ‘The Brady Bunch’ were replaced by shows like ‘Seinfeld’ and ‘Friends,’ which celebrated city living.” (page 50)
  • “If you’re the kind of cyclist used to riding in American cities, it doesn’t take long for Amsterdam’s bike magic to wash over you. Here you feel like part of the majority, not an oddball.” ( page 63)
  • “Amsterdam had to be the quietest big city I’d ever visited.” ( page 76)
  • “Critical Mass is kind of an anarchical ride for all.” (page 104)
  • “One of the spiels I give is about slowing down. We think we have to cram our lives full, 24-7, but there’s something about giving yourself some extra time. I realized that nobody would think it remarkable if he went to a gym for forty-five minutes every morning and then rushed downtown in a car. Yet doing an eighteen-mile commute through suburbia is weird.” (page 113)
  • “Somehow, in Portland at least, bicyclists have become part of that great American melting pot.” (page 168)
  • “Sometimes we have to use cars, but that does not mean they have to dominate our lives. Instead it should be dominated by human interactions…” (page 179)
  • In America, we spend more on dental research than traffic safety research.” (page 208)

The last quote is quite shocking and should stand as a clear wake-up call that our priorities are bass ackwards.

  • “Unfortunately, walking to the far end of a shopping center is about as much exercise as too many people are getting in modern America, which seems to be on an extended “Super Size Me” experiment.” (page 229)
  • “She has decidely moved from the sedentary majority to the active minority.” (page 241)
  • “…sometimes I feel like the hardest part about using my bike to get around town is the comments I get from people who think I’m just plain weird for doing so.” (page 244)

Amen to that last quote, brother.