Saturday, April 12, 2008

Odds and Ends

The always-nifty BLDGBLOG (or BLDG BLOG - I'm never really sure) had a great post yesterday that kind of obviously hit home for me. Hard to describe, but basically if you enjoy the posts about trying to figure out what used to be where in Atlanta you'll probably enjoy this, while if those make you wish I'd get back to hockey jerseys, you probably won't.

There's bits of Atlantan history wiped away (more or less than other cities, I can't say, though I suspect more) in various ways -- highway projects, fires, the renaming mania, the development craze. Some streets are just stubs of what they once were (Ralph McGill, written about before, starts and stops a couple times before plunging downtown; Fort and Cain are one-block stretches of streets that used to cross half the city), others remain mysteries to me (Belgrade and Kanuga, both of which seem like they should be longer, but I haven't found any evidence that was ever the case).

One desire the BB post sparks: I've got a lot of maps of Atlanta from about 1915 on, but I don't think I've ever looked in detail at any before that. Sometime, down the line, I'd like to see how the pre-vehicular Atlanta corresponds to what we see now.

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Music: for the longest time, I had no use for instrumental music that fell under the category of rock and its various subgenres; it may have been the less-fun punk rock people who touted the importance of lyrics (including one German hardcore band that put out an embarrassing song about the subject), it may have been an adolescence listening to Iron Maiden and Rush and thus learning that an instrumental was the cue for unrestrained wankery. Or maybe a word-oriented mind just needed lyrics as a touchstone. In any case, Don Caballero finally got me to stop being such a dork some years ago, and then not long ago Brushback posted about Souvenir's Young America. One or two of their releases have actually been put out on the label now run by Brendan from Groundwork, but I hadn't bothered to give them a listen, partly because the name kinda bugged me -- is it a typo? is it not? The post got me to check them out, and hey, they're really fantastic -- I've subsequently bought two albums. I've seen a few comparisons to Neurosis, which maybe indicates that I'd like Neurosis more without vocals, and the slide guitars and harmonicas give it a cool, low-key spooky feel. I suck at writing about music, as I've noted previously, so check out their MySpace page here.

A couple other things I've been listening to: Unwound, Supertouch "The Earth is Flat," the Pogues, Clutch, Miles Davis.

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Book: #10 -- "Sahara Unveiled" by William Langewiesche

I had a subscription to the Atlantic Monthly for a long time, but post-9/11 it gradually turned kind of bad. The editors seem to have gone for a "reluctant warrior" persona, lots of articles about steely-eyed men who favored intellectual pursuits but were willing to fight if they must. Combine that with a sense that all the articles would have been better off cut by a third, and Christopher Hitchens saving his least comprehensible writing for the mag, and by the time it expired I was just giving away my issues as soon as they arrived.

Probably the only articles I remember fondly from that era were by William Langewiesche -- one later became his book, "American Ground," the other was about the ease of getting nuclear weaponry. (actually, appears that has become a book as well.)

Before all that, he traveled through the Sahara, and wrote a book about that. And here it is. It can be seen as a kind of non-fiction companion to "The Sheltering Sky" -- the desert is not the romantic place of movies and imaginations, but a stark, brutal part of the world that will kill you if you take it lightly. Langewiesche's journey (from Algeria to Senegal) is often unpleasant, dirty and slow, and some of the scenes he describes (getting abandoned in a remote area while his guide goes off to smuggle migrants, the recounting of a family's slow death in southern Algeria) are pretty gripping. He writes the travelogue in the style I appreciate -- honest, understated. This makes four straight really fantastic books now -- I'm on a roll.


Brushback said...

Glad to be of service, however small.

gsdgsd13 said...

Hardly small -- I've been listening to whichever album it is (I don't think it has a title) repeatedly.

I need to check further on City of Ships, but I've been lazy.