Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Barrage of Books

Let's get this up to date:

#12 -- "The Sun Never Sets" by Simon Winchester

Pleasant travelogue as Winchester (more here) visits the remnants of the British colonial empire in the 1980s. Some entertaining adventures as a lot of these places are/were harder than hell to get to, and some moments where it becomes great (he was in the Falklands at the outbreak of war). Frequently funny, also sad -- the photos of people proudly displaying British artifacts far from home seem sort of desperately sad. Interesting look at a world that's mostly gone now.

#13 -- "Ironweed" by William Kennedy

Oh holy crap, this is about the most depressing book, oh, ever. Picked up some years back because Hunter S. Thompson (once, long ago, I was an eager would-be disciple) raved about it, I finally crashed through it, and it's a) brilliant and b) left me sitting there, staring straight ahead, wanting to call my Mom afterwards. It's part of a loosely-connected series set in Albany, NY in the first half of the 20th century -- "Ironweed" is the tale of Francis Phelan, ex-baseball player turned alcoholic hobo, returning to his home town and confronting his ghosts after decades away from the family he abandoned. It's absolutely spectacularly written, and I'd love to read the rest of the books in the series, but if they're as much of a downer as this one I'm gonna have to read a whole lotta "Chicken Soup for the Soul" before I can get to the point where I'm mentally ready.

#14 -- "Over Sea, Under Stone" by Susan Cooper

A bit of regression here -- in my young adult years, Cooper's "Dark is Rising" series (along with John Bellairs' books) were among my favorites. I have an idea for a young adult (or whatever the genre is called now) novel -- because I need more unfinished projects -- so I picked this up for the first time in 20 years or so to see how it held up/if I could figure out why this stood out. It did hold up -- it's surprisingly gripping, even to a 35-year-old who's well aware that the characters are gonna make it through ok. And I think the rather obvious secret to Cooper's success is that she didn't talk down to her readers -- sure, it's aimed at kids, but it's not patronizing or dumbed down. Good stuff, I got the lessons I needed from it -- now I worry that I'm gonna want to read the next four books rather than actually writing up my idea.

While we're at it, in the theme of regression -- in a bit of a sour mood the other day, I indulged myself and read a few old comic book trade paperbacks. (I'm just a social user.) Brief reviews:

"Batman: Gothic" by Grant Morrison and Klaus Janson -- I remember being disappointed when this first came out, but it reads a bit better now (partly because I have a bit more familiarity with the genre Morrison was tipping his hat to). Biggest complaint: while I always dug Janson's inking, as an artist I frequently can't tell his characters apart, nor what emotions they're supposed to be feeling. Verdict: PASS

"The Creeper: Welcome to Creepsville" by Steve Niles and Justiniano -- I always dug the Creeper as a kid, but no one's ever seemed to do much with him. Partly, I guess, because every five years or so someone feels compelled to just rewrite his origin with minimal new details. Len Kaminski's series a few years back remains the high-water mark. This is pretty ok, kinda entertaining. Verdict: OKAY

"Sandman Mystery Theatre: Sleep of Reason" by John Ney Rieber and Eric Nguyen -- I dug Matt Wagner's noirish "Sandman Mystery Theatre" series back when it came out, and I grabbed this thinking it was the same -- alas, it's an attempt to (very loosely) tie that series into the present day, with a world-weary war photographer taking up the mantle to battle some sort of plan to create worldwide war. It's good in parts but the plot ranges between incomprehensible and silly, and while the art is very stylistic and nifty, it's not really great for storytelling. Verdict: FAIL

"Shadowpact: the Pentacle Plot" by Bill Willingham and a bunch of artists -- I saw a girl reading this at Eclipse di Sol a year or so ago, and was a bit taken by it -- a bunch of supernatural characters teaming up for wacky adventures. It's pretty entertaining, and since Willingham was doing comics when I was a kid, I don't feel quite so old when I read something by him. Verdict: PASS

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Advances in Video Game Development

Dream the other night: I was playing a video game much like space invaders, except that instead of aliens, you had rows of storks advancing on you. Occasionally one of the storks would break away from the lines and fly down diagonally, Galaga-style -- at that point your task was to grab the stork by the legs, and WHACK it against the edge of the screen. This reveals something troubling about my feelings for storks, yes, but I also think it's a surefire winner.

* * *

Just because everyone else does: I now have a Flickr page, here. It's all ghost signs and old neon signs at this point, so if you've often thought I don't put enough of that stuff up -- you're in luck!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Taking the Replacements Too Literally

It's too bad I used the riff on "Beer for Breakfast" the other day. I woke up this morning with a horribly dry mouth, rolled over, got the half-filled glass of water from my nightstand, and took a big swig only to find out that it wasn't last night's water but the remnants of last night's beer. Ggggggggacccccck. I love beer but the last thing I wanted at 7:30 a.m. was stale Longhammer IPA. It took considerable work to get that taste out of my mouth.

The Avalanche are on to round two against the official team of evil, so it's time for another jersey. The Ales Pisa jersey brought good luck to the world once, so it goes back up, as does my newest acquisition:

There's only two jerseys in my collection that aren't from Czech or Slovak players -- the previously-mentioned Polish Olympic jersey and this one. I try to limit it to the Czechs and Slovaks to keep the hobby at a low level of insanity, but I've never seen a Ukrainian league jersey come available, and so when I saw this one I had to get it. Had to. It was only $29 off eBay, and I bet I could resell it for at least, say, $40 -- so it's a fantastic investment.

It's a Sokol Kiev jersey from (I think) the early '00s. It belongs to a player named Ramil Yuldashev, who had two stints with Sokol; the first from the mid-80s to 1991, the second from 2000-02. A few hints (the reference to Ukraine on the front, the advertising) tends to indicate that this was post-Soviet breakup.

Yuldashev seems to have had an interesting career, going (just by my count) from the USSR to Switzerland to Russia to France to Italy to Austria to Ukraine to Spain. For all I know he's still out there, playing in some even more obscure league in Australia or Moldova or Turkey.

A "Sokol" is a sports/athletic club term that pops up a lot around the Slavic world; it originated (I'm pretty sure) in Czech areas, so you could argue that makes it fit into my Czech category. It's a stretch, though. Oddly, I can't think of any Czech or Slovak teams that use the "Sokol" name.

I'm gonna trust that this says "Yuldashev" -- if it says "replica" or "Gretzky" or something I'll feel really stupid.

The team logo ("sokol" is Czech for falcon -- I wonder if they have differences over how you pronounce it), with one curiosity: the eye of the fahl-con looks a bit like a slightly altered hammer and sickle, making me wonder if it was changed from Communist days. But other versions of the logo I can find look less hammer and sickle-y, and a couple Soviet-era jerseys that I found didn't even use the falcon, so maybe I'm just imagining things.

More jerseys to come, maybe, if the Avalanche make it on to the third round! Or even if they don't. I've got a billion of these things.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Cool Signs of Atlanta, vol. 236⅞

Went for another downtown stroll the other day, and at some point I found myself thinking "hmm, I don't know where the hell I am." Then I came across a street I knew, mostly for its reputation as one of the seediest/most dangerous streets in Atlanta. So I headed vaguely eastward, eventually found myself back on the more familiar Marietta Street, and saw this beauty.

I've driven past it before, but it's always been at times when I didn't have a camera on me. This time I did, but also came to a sad conclusion: there's no public spot to get a good angle on this one.

Some actual history here: it looks like this sign probably dates to the late 1960s or early 1970s. The building is now lofts, natch. As far as I can tell, Pioneer Neon isn't in business any more.

Friday, April 18, 2008

All I Wanna Do is Have Wings For Breakfast

A little side trip from yesterday's journey. The "Pipe Corner of the South" sign is a downtown landmark, in part because its survival is so unlikely: it belonged to Royal Cigar, which was a downtown fixture for decades. It moved up to Buckhead in 1991 (later moving over by Emory, then going out of business in 2005), and somehow the sign was left behind (not sure why -- the one 1991 AJC article I found indicated that it would be removed). And no one's seen fit to remove it in the intervening years, which is very un-Atlanta behavior.

Some web research indicates that those holes aren't bullet holes -- there were neon bulbs depicting smoke rising from the pipe.

A little wings/Chinese food/burgers restaurant now occupies the space, at Forsyth and Walton. Judging by the sign in the window, they and I have the same idea of what constitutes a proper breakfast.

#11 -- "The Greatest Slump of All Time" by David Carkeet

A baseball novel that I don't often see mentioned in lists, and seems to have gone out of print even though there's a constitutional amendment keeping baseball books published, this is pretty funny stuff. An unnamed National League baseball team heads for the pennant, even as all the players spiral into various forms of depression. Lots of parody of '70s-style consciousness, I laughed out loud a lot and also found it fairly touching. A nice quick read (and the first fiction I've read in a while).

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Walking Down Main Street

This post has languished for about three weeks now -- I meant to do it right after I went on the walk it details, but something or other kept getting in the way. And now, here it is, much later and not quite as fresh.

A few things coming at about the same time spurred me to walk down Decatur Street -- fruitless hunting for the site of the old city jail (well, not totally fruitless, it was on one of the corners of Decatur and Piedmont, but not sure which one and in any case I don't think there's any traces); coming across the webpage for the book "The First Eight," which describes Decatur Street as a hub of old Atlanta African-American life; and the Atlanta Time Machine posting this 1950 map, which I actually printed out and used as a reference. Then, doing some hunting through the (metaphorical) stacks, I found a 1991 article by AJC writer Colin Campbell, taking a break from the NHL, describing a similar walk down Decatur.

Decatur Street passes all through Atlanta and beyond; you get downtown, you get industrial and/or desolate, you get suburban. To the east, it becomes Dekalb Avenue, then Howard Street, then ends in Decatur. To the northwest, it becomes Marietta, then Atlanta, then probably something else eventually.

The above statue is technically on the Marietta Street portion. It shows Henry Grady, one of those many guys whose names are all over Atlanta but I couldn't tell you what they did if my life depended on it. I should, though, since Grady was a journalist and thus I should feel some connection to him, right? I'm not exactly what the girl beneath him is doing, but it looks like she's having a cigarette. Presumably she's a copy editor.

This is "Five Points," like every "Five Points" in the world so named because you can go off in five directions. Atlanta also has a "Little Five Points" -- despite the mania for different names here, apparently that one was so good it had to be used twice. On the right, beneath the Coke sign, lies the Olympia building -- that's one of the few things from the 1950 map still showing up here.

Five Points from a different angle. Moving on...

The Dixie News was mentioned in Campbell's article. It's part of a row of small, run-down shops in the Kimball Building (I think it's called the Kimball Building, at least. Let's just call it that). Campbell describes Decatur Street as "seedy but rich with tales," and some of that comes through in his writing. You get a sense of a lot of people being fixtures on Decatur, but that's not the case now.

On the 1950s map, there's a LOT of parking lots downtown, so at least that part of the character has held true. This one's kinda sad, though. It used to be the Kimball House hotel, described (Campbell again) as "once glorious, later notorious and ... now gone." Here's a marker that shows what it once looked like.

Sign alert: I was puzzled why the big "TEXAS" sign was there, since this isn't Texas (I checked) and that's a small bookstore with another name. Turns out that was once a restaurant, but it's been (I believe) more than a decade since it disappeared. Glad the sign's still there. (perhaps I shouldn't have been surprised -- when I moved here in 1999 you could still see signs for abandoned 1996 Olympic souvenir booths) About the only reference I could find to the Texas restaurant was someone driving through the front window in the mid-1990s.

Walter's has been there since 1952, selling shoes -- it deserves kudos for lasting that long and for keeping up cool old signs. Here's another.

On the 1950 map, the opposite corner from where Walter's now stands (to my left as I take this picture), is marked "Strand Theatre - Colored." Jarring as hell to see that today. It's now, natch, a parking lot.

I gather that Georgia State University has expanded onto Decatur considerably in the past 30 years, and sterilized it considerably in the process. The buildings are generally of the type associated with modern universities; inoffensive but also sterile and less interesting.

Around this area, I started walking behind a rather large woman, carrying on a loud and animated conversation involving copious use of the word "motherfucker." Initially I figured "oh, she's crazy," then realized she was probably using one of those little ear-piece cell phones that confuse me and turn me into Andy Rooney. Then I stopped to take a photo, she passed, I surreptitiously checked -- no ear-piece.

Boring shot, yes, but kind of interesting for two reasons (to me, at least). One is that the darkened cavern down on ground level is actually Collins Street, and the viaduct moving above is Courtland -- I take Courtland to work every day and you get a completely different perspective on the scene. You don't even see Decatur Street. The second is that Decatur and Collins used to be, apparently, hooker central. It definitely isn't now. On one hand it's really hard to say that it was a better place when the street trade operated around here, but on the other, it was probably less sterile and I really doubt that any of the prostitutes relocated to better parts of town.

The 1950 map has petered out by now, so I don't know what the layout was like. I'm curious about when the viaduct was installed, but not enough to, say, look it up.

Atlanta's lovely highways, seen from above. The highway overpass marks an unofficial dividing line. After this, buildings are spread out, some forgotten, others being renovated into shops and condos. Campbell again: "Decatur Street changes as it crosses that smoking Euphrates. To the west lies Downtown, frayed but valued. To the east crouch lands now half-forgotten."

A remaining building on those half-forgotten lands. I shoulda taken better notes, but I didn't think I was going to wait three weeks to write this.

You see a lot of buildings like this to the east -- squat, dirty recovery centers with bars on the windows and lots of glass blocks set in.

Another shot of what used to be Grady (that name again) Homes, roughly where the 1917 fire started. I presume the low wall is part of the old housing complex, but who knows -- maybe it's the remnant of something earlier, one of the old streets that got wiped out. I can dream. According to a sign, they're constructing "Auburn Pointe" here -- if I recall correctly, part of it should be done in late 2008. Given that there's nothing here and no one seems to be working on it, I'd guess that's optimistic.

One of east Decatur Street's few functioning businesses.

No clue what this was -- they were demolishing it that day, now it's completely vanished. Something wrecked by the tornado? Something coming down regardless, to fill Atlanta's vacant lot needs? I've driven down this street a jillion times and I don't have a clue what used to be there, unfortunately.

Back into town now, on the way to my car. I think this is some old Dept. of Transportation logo; I've seen it on a few forgotten and beaten street signs. You can't really tell but I believe it's a peach shape. Forget what the building was now but it's nothing connected to this design.

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.

* * *

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.

* * *

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.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Playoff Hockey

I don't know what time of year it is where you live, but down here in Atlanta, it's NHL playoff time, when the city nearly grinds to a halt (not because of the playoffs, but because the roads suck). While I imagine Nanuk is rooting for some Communist team like the Canadiens or Senators or Sagueneens or something, in Casa PPA, you need only see me wearing my (2001) Cup champions t-shirt as I putter around the house, drinking coffee from my (1996) Cup champions coffee mug, eating a bagel off my commemorative china plate, etc. to realize that this is Avalanche Country, which if it hasn't been a stupid Colorado hockey marketing slogan yet, should be. If you're thinking "Good job, Greg, thinking that somehow the clothes you're wearing will impact a hockey game played by professionals 1,100 miles away. You unbelievable nerd." To which I tip my Avalanche baseball cap and say "cheerio!"

Those of you who have been reading this blog for a long time, and have really good memories for pointless trivia, may remember that in 2006 (aka "The Era of Regular Posts") I put my game-worn Ales Pisa Oilers jersey (estimated value: $36,000) up on the wall, single-handedly propelling the Oilers to a playoff victory over the Detroit Dicklickers. So in the spirit of those heady times, I've returned to what works, and ... well, put money down on the Avalanche. That's all I'm saying.

Of all the jerseys I have (approximate number: too many), I only have one Avalanche game-worn jersey. Avalanche jerseys tend to run a bit more expensive than most (because they're awesome) and I've basically quit buying NHL jerseys (unless I come across a Kloucek jersey I don't have). True to form, this one is an obscure Czech player.

Those of you who already established your bona fides by remembering the Ales Pisa thing doubtlessly also remember that I really like Josef Marha, thanks to his amazing contributions to hockey history. He was sort of a perpetual prospect for the Avs for their first couple years, before getting traded to Anaheim for a punching back, and then he bounced around the league's shitty teams for a few years before announcing, loudly, "screw this" and heading back to Europe.

I'm generally against pointless frippery in uniforms, but I dig some of the Avalanche's little touches -- the little whatzit on the zero, for instance. It just looks cool.

This jersey also has decent wear, lots of puck marks and stick marks, especially considering Marha wasn't quite a full-time player. Contrast that to more recent NHL jerseys I've purchased, which look as pristine as the ones you buy at a game.

I don't really have much to say about the jersey. I love it, but it's not like Avalanche jerseys are rarely seen (if you've never seen one, the "A" stands for "Avalanche"). So I'll just mention that Marha (like Petr Tenkrat) is one of those guys who became big back in Europe post-NHL career, and so his jerseys are hard-to-find and valued all out of proportion to his North American career. He's still a star with HC Davos (though there was a rumor he was gonna join the Bruins a year or two back). I don't have any of his European jerseys, so instead -- it's two-for-one day -- here's the only Swiss jersey I have.

Here you go: a Milan Kajkl EV Zug jersey. Zug zug zug. As far as I can tell, Kajkl only played one season ('83-'84) for Ev Zug, so I'm gonna go way out on a limb and guess that's when this jersey is from. The logo sure does look '83-'84, doesn't it? I'm pretty sure that font was lost to the world in the 1986 font implosion. If we have any font experts in the crowd, feel free to tell me the name of that font (we'll call it the "Zug" for now), and maybe also the technical name for the little doohickey on the Avalanche numerals.

One of the odd things about this jersey: the numbers and logos aren't just screened on like most European jerseys, but have a little bit of raised/felt texture to them. I'm sure there's some name for the process, but as you're undoubtedly gathering, I'm not much for technical names. Everything (even the ad at the bottom) is like this. I have one other jersey with that style, a 1980s Polish Olympic jersey (somehow, there's a joke there). That one was made by Tackla; not sure who made this one.

This is the only clue to the manufacturer: a rooster logo on the upper left chest. I'm really resisting making some puerile jokes right now.

Rather than do that, a few words about ol' Kajkl: he had a pretty long (and I presume storied, though English language references are few) career over in Europe, playing in the Plzen system for just about 20 years, before finishing off in Austria and Switzerland. In that time, he managed to play in the 1976 Canada Cup and Olympics, and win a few Czechoslovak titles during a brief sojourn with Dukla Jihlava (the hedgehog team). I don't know what he's doing now, but let's presume it's something really cool.

Each sleeve, in addition to the number, has three EV Zug logos. Just in case the players forgot which team they were on.

Anyway. Go Avalanche! Zug zug! Tapeleg and Meg are in town for a few weeks, raising the Avalanche-fandom presence to at least, uh, three. Tapeleg, of course, created the jersey biography post -- send him e-mails bugging him to do more!

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Cool Signs of Atlanta, vol. 18,365

When I first moved to Atlanta, I went barbecue-crazy -- I lived near a place called Dusty's and ate there at least once a week, often more. I toyed with the idea of writing a book about a BBQ roadtrip, from the Eastern seaboard to the Midwest, but ultimately rejected it because I don't get really worked up about whether you spell it "barbecue" or "barbeque," and couldn't remember which style was Carolina and which was Georgia and which was Texas and so on. Plus, I realized after a year or so that eating so much of it was making me a fatass, so I largely gave it up.

Thus, when I moved downtown and started driving by Daddy D'z a lot, I never went in. After having barbecue (que?) 67,000 times in the first two or so years here, I've probably had it less than 20 times in the subsequent six or seven years.

But eventually, any place that's got signs as cool as Daddy D'z is going to woo me in, so on Friday, the Ski Bum, Coco and I went for lunch. It was, as expected, fantastic, and left me unable to eat or move for about 18 hours afterwards.

The above is just one of the many cool handmade signs lurking around DD'z. It was the only one I took a picture of on Friday, though -- the pig's bloodshot eyes drew me in.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Regress No Way

So while I've never really had the urge to start buying comics again -- $2.50 for 23 pages of uncertain quality is a bit much -- every once in a while I do pick up a trade paperback collection, just to get a bit of the old fun back.

This past week, I was suddenly hit by a burning desire to read some old Avengers comics. This is weird in a few ways: a) I was a real DC Comics slut as a kid, and never had much time for most Marvel stuff, b) I don't think I'd read ten issues of Avengers in my life before this past week, and c) I'd definitely never read any of the stuff that came out in the '60s. But, hey, the urge was there, and some years back Marvel reissued the early stuff in cheap b&w bound editions, so it was cheap.

And, guess what: they're really damn fun. I really disliked the whole "Mighty Marvel" thing when I was a kid -- "Smilin' Stan" and "Rascally Roy" and so on made me puke -- but now it seems kind of charming. I've always sort of known that Marvel comics in the '60s were way ahead of their DC counterparts, but not to this extent. 1960s DCs played by sitcom rules -- by the end of each issue, everything was as it had been before. These comics have continuing plots, character development, subplots -- all basic now, but DC didn't get to this level 'til the late '70s/early '80s.

And, there's certainly a lot of energy. Reading these periodically over the space of a few days was good boisterous fun.

* * *

Also touching my nostalgic nerves (?) lately: similar to the inexplicable Avengers desire, I was really dying to hear the hardcore band Judge for the first time in a decade plus. For whatever reason, I decided I had to hear their cover of "When the Levee Breaks," which I had way back when but hasn't been in my collection in years.

For the uninitiated, Judge was a metallic straight-edge band in the late '80s/early '90s, famous for a sort of reluctant tough-guy image, a really hotly desired and absurdly limited semi-bootleg album, and an interview with Kent McClard in which KM described singer Mike Judge as "a hard man, but capable of crying," which still makes me laugh. I really dug them for a long time, but they haven't been on my radar in ages.

So one night a week or two back, I bought the whole "What It Meant" discography album off of iTunes -- I guess deciding that $9.99 on iTunes was better than $15 for a CD. (whether I needed the album is another story.) It's ... ok. It sounds much fuller than most hardcore albums of the time, and it brings back some of the same fist-pumping rush. But at my advanced age, it's better-suited for five- or six-song sets, rather than 28-song collections. The cover of "When the Levee Breaks," meanwhile, sounds about as you'd expect: a bit silly but not bad.

I also (I'd had a lot to drink) downloaded Mike Judge's solo album, "Sights" by Mike Judge and Old Smoke, which I'd purchased (and hated) back when it came out. I guess I thought that being older and more mature, I might appreciate it now, and I guess it's ok --it sounds like a bar band covering Neil Young's more downbeat offerings. But, you know, I have Neil Young albums, and if I'm going to listen to Neil Young-style music, I'll just listen to ol' Neil.

Sort of interesting fact: while in my Judge-nostalgia, I looked at the Revelation Records discography, and realized that at one time or another I've owned every one of the label's first 49 releases. (and most of them up to #75 or so.) Sobering.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

The Cursed Plaza

Ok, that's a little strong, but the Plaza Shopping Center at Highland and Ponce here in Atlanta has gone through a dizzying parade of businesses in recent years. It's too bad that it's (largely) so unstable -- the building is really cool (it's an art deco partner to the building housing the Majestic, next door) and has been here a really long time.

But businesses in this building (maybe in the Majestic building too -- I really don't know what's there, other than the 4 a.m. dining haven) don't survive long. I don't know why. High rents? Outside the Virginia-Highland walking area? Haunted?

That there's the west end of the building. The real estate office there has been there for a long time -- "Zac" is something of an Atlanta fixture, though you don't see his ads (with his cheery countenance) around so much as you used to. I really dig those colorful little fluorishes on each end.

The theater is pretty much the anchor to the building these days, though it almost vanished -- it was about to go under or be bought out or something when some local buyers saved it a few years back. That sign is one of the best in Atlanta, especially at night.

To its right (from our perspective), in the corner where it says "opening soon," we used to have the "Mirror of Korea" restaurant. It remains the best Korean food I've ever had -- also the only Korean food I've ever had, so I guess that's not much of an honor. It had held out since the late '70s (it was referenced in the Mitchell Ponce book), but went under a year or two ago. Sigh.

To its left is the Righteous Room, a pretty great bar with a pretty great jukebox and pretty good food. I don't go there as often as I should, partly because I'm getting less smoke-tolerant, partly because despite it being only a block away from me, there's at least six bars that are closer to me. (You may have just learned something about my real estate purchasing decisions.)

And then here, the really troubled corner store. For ages and ages, this was Plaza Drugs, Atlanta's first 24-hour pharmacy. I don't know when that vanished -- again, in the Mitchell book in the early '80s, it was still around -- but by the time I moved here, in 1999, it was gone... another symbol of "old Ponce."

That began the merry-go-round. When I got here, the space was "Harry's in a Hurry," a small local grocery. Then it became "Market One," same idea but a bit more upscale (chain? I know not). Then it became Storehouse Furniture, which upset a lot of people -- Virginia Highland and Poncey-Highland is pretty uncorporate, though I suspect that is really not going to be the case much longer. One drunken night at the Righteous Room I drunkenly told a group of other drunk people that I was going to go throw a chair through the Storehouse window. Dunno why -- I've bought stuff from other Storehouses before, and I'm not really that angry of a person. In any case, I didn't follow through. Storehouse, without my violent assistance, went away within less than a year anyhow.

Now, an Urban Outfitters has opened there. It seems like an odd choice -- though granted, all I know about Urban Outfitters is what I see through the windows. (Dr. Dre pint glasses?) I don't particularly like it there, though it's unobtrusive and it's better than the space sitting empty. I dunno why -- I'm not too anti-corporate, I shop at Target regularly. I just sort of fear it's a beachhead, and the neighborhood I enjoy will start seeing its character change more rapidly.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Sittin' Here in a Hired Tuxedo

Has it really been a year already since the first BaconFest at Dad's Garage? (Answer: yes) Unlike last year's, we weren't blessed with sunny skies, and DJ Prey has left town, but the Wall was there, the Elk stopped by, and there was bacon. And beer.

You know that you eat too much bacon when you're looking at it with a critic's eye, but the bacon this year seemed better. Not only better than last year's, but perhaps better than any I've ever had. It was supplied by the Vortex, which I don't go to a lot. I may have to see what sort of bacon-related products they have on offer, as this was really good bacon. Not too crispy, not too chewy.

The torrential rain drove us inside for a bit, and we got a free show of the improv comedy that Dad's Garage does more regularly than bacon-festing. Improv really isn't my thing but it was pretty hilarious, though I'll admit that I'd had a few beers by this point.

Later in the day, starting to feel logy from all the b&b, I won a DVD (three Edward G. Robinson films that I've never heard of) in a football-tossing competition, then departed, cheerfully sozzled. On the way out, two 20-something girls in "Crunk" t-shirts gave me a can of "Crunk" energy drink and then took a photo of me drinking it. I presume it's for an ad campaign, and rightly so -- if there's a word that describes my lifestyle, it's "crunk." Look for me on billboards soon. I strolled home through the Atlanta streets, ignoring the pounding rain -- just like that one Edward G. Robinson film where he eats lots of bacon, gets drunk, then walks through the rainy streets drinking "Crunk."