Annnnd it’s zero again. The day was plus; the day had the usual compensations, including the satisfaction of finding a bug in the code of about 600 pages on this site. It’s nothing anyone would notice, but it goes back to a design decision I made a few years ago, and infected all sorts of subsites. I’m in the process of simplifying every page on the site as a means of future-proofing it, as best as I can.

Frankly, it terrifies me to think that the whole thing may be obsolete, but surely that’s inevitable.

I’m going to have to think about what that means and what I can do about it.

Anyway; work to do, so a desultory above-the-fold and the start of a super-extra-depressing Main Street.

Thursday Open Browser Tabs. Really needs a special graphic, doesn't it? No? Okay.

It’s time for another piece about how analog things are better than digital. Like records. Tradition!

Still, there is a palpable sense of ritual that comes with a tone arm and a groove-cleaning brush. “With vinyl, you’re on your knees,” Sax quotes the musician Jack White telling Billboard. “You’re at the mercy of the needle. You watch the record spin and it’s like you’re sitting around a campfire. It’s hypnotic.”

There is, for me, a palpable sense of weariness that comes with recalling the tone arm and the brush. As for the former, you weren’t supposed to touch the point of the needle. Everyone did, at some point. To get the dust off. But that’s why you used the brush, right? At first, when you got a new turntable, but then you ran out of fluid and you were in college with limited resources and the bottle went unfilled. You used the brush, but it didn’t get everything.

You scratched the records, ruining them FOREVER. When you listen to them, you have to get up and move the needle because the next two songs are lame. I digitize a lot of records these days. They’re a pain.

Next up in the parade of fetishizable physical objects: Moleskins. Everyone has them!

One analog exception might prove the digital rule, but Sax has a dozen. At Design Week in Milan, for instance, he notices something interesting: every person he meets is carrying the latest-model iPhone, but also a black Moleskine notebook. Once he starts looking, he finds them everywhere upscale types gather

Because they’re pretentious. I love notebooks, and Moleskins are great, but I don’t use them because they’re such a precious cliche at this point. People are suppose to know that Hemingway jotted down notes in one when he was in Paris, and that you’re aware of it, too. Shouldn’t that be bad, though? Hemingway was a macho drunk who shot things. I can’t even.

Magazines might be coming back, too:

Some of that, as with the Moleskine, may be mere status-seeking: “We assume younger people want The Economist as a social signifier,” says The Economist’s deputy editor. “You can’t show others you’re reading it with the digital edition. You can’t leave your iPad lying around to show how smart you are.”

This is so. Every time I call up the Economist on my iPad I get a little thrill of self-congratulation, because I am the sort of person who reads the Economist. I admit it. It’s better than US or People and it will make me think about Ghana for a minute, but only because I think I should think about Ghana, if only for a minute. There’s something comforting about its Englishness, as if you’re sitting in an old chair at the Club in a dead silent room and the butler is making the rounds while you read about Africa, thinking: damned bloody mess, as usual.

I like magazines in their physical form, though. For years I had a sheaf in my backpack, because I always carried around something to read. I loved the progress from the front of the book to the back, the shiny covers, the familiar layout, the experience of completion. But my backpack weighed a ton and it was full of stuff, and I prefer a thin glass slab. Because it has everything.

This is the stupidest thing I’ve read this year:

The virtues of digital turn out to be the vices as well. Having all the music on earth at your instant disposal turns out to be almost the same as having none

Let’s see. Having access to nearly every type of food on the planet by ordering it from your phone turns out to be almost the same thing as eating nothing at all.

Remember yesterday’s Bleat on the Andromeda Strain? Nowadays, life is like this:

“Electronic music in films was rare; here are two examples, one of which was abstract, the other pointing the way to the future of the genre. Click right here.”

In olden times::

“Well, yes, Karl Stockhausen made waves with musique concrete, but only within rarified circles. It took the movies to popularize the more difficult forms of this new music - say, would you like to listen to something to back up my point? Let’s walk ten blocks to my apartment, and I can turn on the stereo, and get out the record, and then you can listen."

I agree with the general idea that you shouldn’t spend your whole day auto-waterboarding yourself in a trough of incorporeal data. And there's nothing wrong with walking back to the apartment to listen to the record; gets you out in the world, and you might discuss things and change the subject.

Like, say, the guy who says he cracked the cryptographic Enigma code.

No, not the Nazi machine. The Elgar composition.


The Missing Persons feature of an oater mag.

Don't look for 1530 Swan Drive; it's a vacant lot today. I wonder if she ever found her brother. He may have wanted to stay lost.

On the other hand, Triple-Dub seemed to have said the magic words. S.A.G couldn't be happier. 407 Whigham comes back to . . . a vacant lot in the town of McKeesport, PA.

If everyone who wrote to this column was hunted down by temporal police and had all evidence of their existene extirpated, no one would know. This column would be the only common link, and no one would put it together. At least until the last 14 minutes of the movie.

Now, as for McKeesport . . . Well. After the break.






I didn’t know what to expect when I looked for McKeesport. Basic stats: "The population was 19,731 at the 2010 census. By population, it is Allegheny County's second-largest city, after Pittsburgh. Wikipedia:

"Settled in 1795 and named in honor of John McKee, its founder, McKeesport remained a village until 1830 when coal mining began in the region. Large deposits of bituminous coal existed."

Coal, eh.

The population was 55,355 m 1940. It’s under 20K now.

There was also a company called National Tube Works; they employed 10,000 men, once. It’s still called the Tube City. US Steel bought them a long, long time ago, and while the line still exists, I gather that they make Tubes elsewhere.

The result of these dislocations - well, it’ll take two weeks to work through this.

The sort of view that once would be bustling on six out of seven days. Masonic Temple in the background.

Now you can’t tell if the Google car came through on Tuesday or Sunday.

The People’s State Bank building.

Fifth avenue - on the slender side of the building - appears to have been the main shopping street. I've come across a few rueful recollections from residents who recalled its post-war heyday.

It loked like this, once.

Life! A citizen trudges home to the State Housing Block #12:

This fellow walks past a building that used to be a furniture store, I think. The aforementioned bank building also had a furniture store, Reuben's.

Folks liked to sit down after a day in the Tube Works.

Old and new, same fate:

It's like a 60s guy who lost his job sharing a booth with a WW1 vet.

Looks like the older building got a haircut, too. Probably was a bit more ornate, once.

Does the yellow line mean you can't park there? Is that even an issue?

The old sign said GILCHRIST storage. New owner, new brick around the door- but in the end, a busted sign and ttrash in the doorway.

Okay, this is getting depressing; let's see something big and intact.


Difficult to get a good picture of this one. Ornamentation on the cheap, with bricks placed at various angles to form patterns, but it's pleasing and handsome.

The ground floor suggests it once served a more prosperous clientele.

The scourge of the Buckaroo Revival reached everywhere -

- as the entire nation came down with a case of shingles. Of course that second-floor window had to be bricked up! God, LIGHT just POURING IN EVERYWHERE.

Getting the picture yet? No?


Top to bottom: the cornice fell off, revealing a different type of brick; the beige bricks aren't painted, I don't think. Something must have hung up there, and perhaps the red bricks were less expensive; they used them because they wouldn't be seen.

Tshose window frameson the second floor haven't been painted for decades, but it doesn't mean someone doesn't live there.

Fifties modernization; as usual, it divorce the first floor from the second. Not a bad job, though - you'd walk past, see the three chairs, note that one was open, and figure you might need a trim.

Polychrome stone, no doubt, can be found behind the paint. Romanesque windows suggests some Byzantine hues over the windows. The former purpose of the building - or the one adjacent - is announced by the absence of a sign. Can you tell what they used to sell?


Classic mid-century strip-mall style commercial structure, with that broad flat brick divider and the windows angled for modern selling.

There are some houses in the downtown area. Old houses.



You keep thinking: this doesn't have to be.

I'll end here, for this week:


Fifty thousand souls, once.

Believe me when I say: next week makes these pictures look like Zurich.

That'll do! See you around.


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