• Flip out with book of retro record sleeves

    It was Record Store Day last weekend—a great occasion to support your local record store. Vinyl LPs are retro hi-fi audio fun, and the BIG 12" LP sleeve format is also a visual throwback to a different time. The book "Designed for Hi-Fi Living" [Amazon] is a cool collection of vintage record sleeves with detailed notes on the recording artists, cultural references, and guides to the Mid Century Modern furniture used in the photo shoots. The various travel, space age, and "gracious living" themes are a hoot.

  • "The Perfect Sound" is a perfect book for audio fans

    Poetry professor Garret Hongo's new book The Perfect Sound [amazon] is aptly named. It's the perfect book for any fan of all things audio. It combines a personal family memoir with midcentury Hawaiian and Southern Californian culture, pop music personalities, audio recording, technology, jazz, vacuum tubes vs. transistors, surf music, steel guitars, and so much more. You'll smell the smoke and hear the sizzling solder as Hongo recalls wiring up early hi-fi amps with his dad, just the first step in his life-long quest for the perfect sound.

  • Of course Chris Ware's "Monograph" is HUGE

    Fans of Chris Ware's comics ("Jimmy Corrigan," New Yorker covers, etc.)  will really enjoy this GIANT retrospective book of his work. I'm taken by the scope and variety of things presented. Sure, it includes all his amazing books but also early student work, personal projects (like color photos of his fantastic models of puppets, toys and automatons), museum displays, and class notes for a workshop he produced for art students.

    The level of detail and the amount of his work is astounding and this enormous book is just the same. The reproductions of his actual camera art are fascinating. See in-progress versions at nearly full size with blue line pencils, lettering and brush work, cut Zip-a-Tone, and corrections. Even at a whopping 18" x 26" double-spread size I still had to use a magnifying glass to see the details!

    Critics will complain it's too big, it's all too much, and it's too cold. Maybe true, but I think that kind of misses the point, like Emperor Joseph telling Amadeus "too many notes."

    Best of all are Ware's notes with remembrances, research, and personal history with his thoughts about comics, architecture, history, and life.

  • "Watch" this upcoming clockmaker docu

    A few years ago I saw historical horologist Brittany Nicole Cox at one of her fascinating lectures on automaton and mechanical curiosities here in Seattle where she has her workshop. I'm looking forward to seeing her again—this time in an upcoming live stream from NYC of a new documentary, "Keeper of Time."  It looks to be a visual treat of stunningly beautiful, fascinating mechanisms and their makers.

  • Free Frisco fresco 

    There are three amazing murals by Diego Rivera in San Francisco. "Allegory of California" is at the The City Club (tours closed for now), "The Making of a Fresco Showing the Building of a City" is at the Art Institute, and now on display after being in storage for years is "Pan American Unity" at the SFMOMA.

    It's awesome! 22 feet tall and 75 feet wide. It took me an hour just to look at it. It's masterfully populated with dozens of personalities important to Rivera as he hoped to influence American in joining the fight against fascism in WWII. Ancient Aztec goddesses are mirrored with Mussolini, Hitler and Stalin—and mocked by Charlie Chaplin.

    You can see it for free.

  • Remembering the Automat

    I have fond memories of a family tip in 1964 to NYC to see the World's Fair. It was exciting as a kid to see all the big city attractions, but some of the more memorable things were simple. I loved going to the Automat with my Dad for a piece of pie from behind the little door.

    At least there is still pie…and this new documentary about The Automat featuring Mel Brooks. It's screening now in several cities or on demand.

  • Watch this 1960's jazzy junkie flick

    1961's "The Connection" is director Shirley Clarke's film of a play about making a cinema verite film—got that? In a dingy flat, some junkies await their "connection" to score a fix. In the process of "shooting" their footage, the filmmakers themselves become the subject of their own docu. Fake reenactments become a flop house hall of mirrors as real jazz musicians fake their way through syncing their own actual recordings. Hey, man, it's all twisted up but you'll make your own connections. As a character addresses us in the final "It's all yours now."

    I watched it for free on Kanopy.

    Trailer here:

  • No tubes for you, komrad

    In addition to everything else that Putins's invasion of Ukraine has wrought, rock and roll guitarists may loose their tone. The owner of Electro-Harmonix, Mike Matthews, announced Russian-made audio vacuum tubes would not be available due to a ban of certain exports for the rest of the year. Look for a run on sales (and spiking prices?) of your favorite Tung-Sol, EH Gold, Genalex Gold Lion, Mullard, Svetlana and Sovtek tubes

  • A weird and wonderful father-daughter movie you may have missed

    It's hard to describe Toni Erdmann, a 2016 German movie from director Maren Ade. Imagine an aging father hoping to re-connect with his very busy adult daughter. Add in a set of comic false teeth, a wacky wig, a nude birthday party, a giant Wildermann costume, and a very touching father/daughter musical performance of Greatest Love of All. It shouldn't make any sense, but it does. Find it on Vimeo, Amazon, and YouTube.

  • Try this new vexing twist on the game of Go: TACTX.

    The Apple App Store has just released designer Stan Resnicoff's latest game: TACTX. I was a beta tester on this clever twist on Go, Pente, and other place-a-stone games. This one is played on grids with different patterns of black squares (like crossword puzzles, but there are no letters or words). Take turns placing marbles on the white spaces. Earn one points for each marble when you create overlapping rows, columns, and diagonals. The goal is to bank the most points by the time the grid is completely filled in. The most challenging level is the final, completely blank game board. Sure, you can easily beat the computer at the start, but look out–the unrelentingly clever algorithm will likely turn the tables on you by the end. Like the best games TACTX is easy to play but hard to win—and addictive. The sweet, hard-fought wins are the perfect intermittent positive reinforcement that keep you playing.

  • Fender and Mattel team up

    Fender and Mattel are teaming up on a line of custom, one-of-a-kind guitars themed around the Mattel Hot Wheels brand. Not for kids as these guitars are priced at over $10,000 each—but, hey, you get a Hot Wheels-themed strap, pick set, hardshell case and a free Hot Wheels car! The brands nicely share some pop culture DNA: Southern California, surf rock, go-go 1960's heydays, etc. Which is the bigger market: kids who want to buy Fender-themed Mattel Hot Wheels cars (if those are mass produced), or guitar-playing adults who are nostalgic enough about their childhood toys?

  • Happy Birthday, Ed "Big Daddy" Roth!

    Let's all remember Ed Roth, the creator of Ratfink, monster Tshirts, and endless custom cars on his birthday. Born Beverly Hills, March 4, 1932.

    When I was a little fink in the early 60's I drew a couple of my own "weird-ohs" riding in wild cars and mailed them to Roth at his California shop. He wrote back with some kind words of encouragement and in typical Roth-eese "hey, ain't ya' gonna buy a T-shirt, kid?" Years later I met him and he offered up some of his own advice to a fellow toy designer: "git a good lawyer!"

    Dig this homespun video from his sons who run a cool, metal flake paint business https://rothmetalflake.com/:

  • See amazing Northwest Coast Native artwork from Canada

    We're members at Seattle's Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture and visit often now that things are re-opening. During the shutdowns, the Burke has hosted many on-line talks and presentations. Here is a recent one featuring items from the collection of the Museum of Anthropology in Vancouver, BC, Canada. I'm always amazed at the fantastically imaginative carvings, especially the masks with moving parts like working jaws and rolling eyes. Take a rare look at these distant treasures from the past!

  • Southern culture magazine is a musical delight

    I always enjoy the special music issues of Oxford America and Volume 23 is no exception. It features special articles focusing on the musical creators from the South, with essays interviews and personal remembrances. This issue, "Up South," has profiles of artists who migrated to the northern states and so had a huge influence on popular music. In addition to learning more about old favorites like Buddy Guy and Little Feat's George Lowell, I dug the pieces introducing me to Carolyn Franklin (Aretha's sister) and R&B singer Johnny Bristol. It comes with a 20-track companion audio CD as well as Spotify play codes printed in the articles.

  • Great stories and details in new Hendrix book

    There are plenty of books about Jimi Hendrix so why did I like this new one? Rock journalists and brothers Harvey and Kenneth Kubernik  have assembled a wonderful timeline-in-a-box full of photos, artifacts, and interviews that outline the event-packed last four years of Hendrix's life and career.

    It's told directly through the voices of the people who knew and worked with him: fellow musicians, record producers, journalists, promoters, family members, and many fans, both famous and unknown. The trove of images includes performances and candid snapshots, ticket stubs, recording session logs, proof sheets, trade ads, studio blueprints—lots of cool details all along the way. (I loved the shot of Hendrix and drummer Mitch Mitchell "jamming" in a hotel room—with a copy of MAD magazine used as a practice pad.) Even if you already know his story, you'll enjoy this Hendrix collection.

    Jimmy Hendrix: Voodoo Child [Amazon]