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Etcetera #19: Joni, Architecture, Coupland

Matthew Culnane
Matthew Culnane
Hello once again. Here are this week’s picks, in which we discuss a classic album, a classic building and a classic bit of transphobia.
See you next Friday.

Let’s start with Joni. Her wonderful album Blue turned 50 this week and there have been several good things published about it.
Joni Mitchell’s ‘Blue’ at 50
Joni Mitchell’s Blue: my favourite song – by James Taylor, Carole King, Graham Nash, David Crosby and more
Both of those are excellent articles and worth your time whether you’ve heard the album a hundred times or not at all. It feels to me like it’s a record that’s perhaps on the cusp of slipping out of generational awareness or fashion. Like a lot of the rootsy Laurel Canyon scene, this is no longer music that seems to be inspiring legions of young musicians the way it has done before. Like a lot of people my age, I listened to it when I found it in my parents’ collection, so the equivalent now would be from one’s grandparents, which seems like an unlikely occurrence. I doubt the likes of this or Déjà Vu or Tapestry et al are finding their way into influential Spotify playlists. I could be wrong! I often am about these things!
Andy Baio had a good idea:
Andy Baio
Joni Mitchell's Blue came out 50 years ago today, and id Software's Quake came out 25 years ago today. In honor of these two influential classics, I modded Quake to replace Trent Reznor's soundtrack with the entirety of Blue. Enjoy.
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s Lost Album, Human Highway
David Crosby Celebrates His Ornery Self in the Documentary “Remember My Name”
See also: if this period and music is of any interest to you, there are several good books to explore—as you might imagine, this period has been well-documented. Barney Hoskyns’s Hotel California is a great place to start.
Shopping Building, Milton Keynes – The Twentieth Century Society
Aside: The architect and planner David Lock has been involved with developing parts of Central Milton Keynes (the broader district where the Shopping Building sits). He considers the area as ‘an infrastructure installation of such a high quality, so simple and plain’; its success or failure had no reliance on the specific buildings within and around it. Of course, in the intervening 42 years many things have changed, subtly or otherwise—the iconic building (Grade II listed, a controversial decision which is more complicated than it first appears) has been extended and companioned, and some of the original planning principles have been done away with as the desire to include more shopping units and restaurants and bars has strangled the landscape somewhat.
Personally I feel that, at its purest, CMK takes the general design principles of the city and turns them all up to 11: the ‘lazy grid’ that undulates across the city becomes increasingly rigid, with strictly horizontal and vertical roads; the higher density provision of porte-cochères, large underpasses and mini-roundabouts allow traffic and pedestrians to move freely and without interacting with each other; the vast quantity of trees along the roads and boulevards create canopy and weather protection. A lot of what MK did well (and arguably still does) can be found at its architectural zenith in CMK.
Is this what ‘Open’ means?
  • Doug Coupland on Generation X at 30. He says some predictably stupid things (“I consider myself an app”), insightful things (“I think that kind of generational trashing is actually eternal human behaviour – we all just never collectively lived long enough before to see it repeatedly deployed”) and things which defy any rational thought (“I think they should start naming generations the way the Americans label hurricanes: start alphabetically and alternate boy/girl.”).
  • A wide-ranging look at the lost cities of ancient societies.
  • “Stupidity is saying two plus two equals five. Elevated Stupidity is doing the same thing, except you invoke Pythagoras, decry cancel culture when someone corrects you, then get a seven-figure book deal and a speaking tour out of it.”
  • “I probably modelled him on something I’d heard on The Wire”. On representation and casting in audiobook production.
  • The impact and influence of Kenji on Seattle’s food culture.
  • A look back at 1994’s Speed, the ‘unexpected summer action blockbuster masterpiece’.
  • A favourable look at Super Mario Sunshine.
  • The six degrees of separation of Ryu from the Street Fighter series.
  • The Euros (more specifically, the orbiting content of articles and podcasts) have monopolised my time over the past couple of weeks, but I’ve finally gotten around to reading Susan Orlean’s The Library Book, which I bought for a pound several years ago, and it’s as good as I hoped. It uses the devastating 1986 fire at the LA Central Library to look at the roles of libraries in society.
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Matthew Culnane
Matthew Culnane @coldbrain

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