100 Greatest Guitarists

Rolling Stone has a new greatest guitarists list compiled by an impressive number of musicians. A few personal highlights:

Keith Richards at #4.
Enough said. Take that Scott Wilson.

Jonny Greenwood at #48.
Radiohead are the consummate 21st-century rock band, and in Jonny Greenwood, they have one of the 21st century’s defining guitarists: an effects-loving wizard whose endlessly mutable style has powered the band’s restless travels – from the interstellar pomp of “The Tourist” to the misty shimmer of “Reckoner.” Like the Edge, only farther out in the art-rock stratosphere, Greenwood is a guitar hero with little apparent connection to the blues and little interest in soloing. He’s been known to attack the strings with a violin bow, and plays so maniacally that at times he’s had to wear a brace on his arm. It was Greenwood’s gnashing noise blasts that marked Radiohead as more than just another mopey band on 1992’s “Creep” – an early indicator of his crucial role in pushing his band forward. “I’ve admired him for a long time,” says Rush‘s guitarist Alex Lifeson. “The way he weaves his parts through the melody of a song is really exceptional – just amazing.” ‘

Rory Gallagher at #57.
‘”It seems a waste to me to work and work for years,” Rory Gallagher told Rolling Stone in 1972, “and just turn into some sort of personality.” Instead, the Irish guitarist, then only 23, became legendary for his nonstop-touring ethic and fiery craft. Playing a weathered Strat, often wearing a flannel shirt, Gallagher electrified Chicago and Delta styles with scalding slide work and hard-boiled songwriting. His fans included the Edge and Bob Dylan, who was initially turned away backstage at a 1978 show because Gallagher didn’t recognize him.’

Nels Cline at #82.
‘A true guitar polymath, Nels Cline has tackled everything from gothic country rock with the Geraldine Fibbers to a full remake of John Coltrane’s late improvisational masterwork, Interstellar Space. He’s best known, of course, as Wilco’s gangly guitar hero, lurching into extended seizures (“Spiders [Kidsmoke]”) or spiraling into lyrical jam flights (“Impossible Germany”). “Nels can play anything,” Jeff Tweedy said. “We struggle with his spot in the band sometimes – but we always come to a place that’s unique and interesting because we did struggle.”‘

Why Does Evolution Allow Some People to Hear Colors?

National Geographic has a piece on the evolution of synesthesia, which is broadly defined as “a neurologically based condition in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway.” In the most extreme cases, this means that people can taste words or hear colors.

This article caught my eye because I realized a number of years ago that I have a mild case of grapheme color synesthsia. I basically associate a color with every letter and number. The colors don’t change, and there doesn’t seem to be a logical reason as to why each letter or number has its color. For example, 7 is green. M is red. I don’t see colors when I look at written text, but when I think about words or numbers (e.g., a phone number), each character has its respective color.

My case is so mild that I didn’t even realize this was unusual until about six years ago when I asked someone else whether the colors they associate with letters and numbers change over time and got a very confused response. I’ve since found a handful of people that have similar associations (if anyone from Sloan is reading this, Kanaka is one of them).

The article links synesthesia to creativity and artistic capability. Maybe that’s true for the types that can taste words, but I don’t think it helps me in any way. I suppose on occasion when I forget someone’s phone number I may remember that it starts out yellow. Unfortunately, both 4 and 8 are yellow.

Any readers out there have something similar going on?

How to Feed 400,000 People In One Location

scaledwm.IMG_3792I recently came across a TechCrunch post discussing the logistics of feeding 400,000 workers at one of Foxconn’s factories in China (Foxconn is one of the main manufacturers of Apple products). The post is interesting throughout, but I couldn’t stop thinking about how many people work there, at a single factory (albeit many buildings). To put that number in perspective:

  • 1 in 3,250 people in China work at this factory site
  • 1 in 17,500 people in the world work there
  • The workforce at this factory exceeds Iceland’s population of 318,000

What a huge number. Anyways, here are a few worthwhile excerpts from the post:

Driving from the Foxconn Factory, down the road from the main gate, we spotted a truck full of pigs in an open-sided container. They were huge, porcine pink, and surprisingly clean. They were still alive – but wouldn’t be for long – and they were, we could only presume, destined for the bellies of some of the company’s 400,000 workers.

As the truck trundled along the well-paved road, I flicked through the pictures I took of the Foxconn kitchen. It was something out of a delicious version of Hieronymus Bosch: huge cauldrons manned by men and women in white smocks, smoke and steam coming out of huge soup pots, the food flipped and tossed using shovels.

Raw materials enter at one end, are unloaded, and sorted. Rice go on one path while 40 metric tons of vegetables and legumes head a different way. Meats go into the main artery, into a walk-in freezer the size of a U.S.-style grocery store, and then into the main hall where meat is cut, marinated, and prepared.

Food goes in, food goes out. Silicon goes in, silicon goes out. It’s an endless flow, a river of revenue that keeps this factory in business. The poetic among us would see some parallel in the hapless pigs being led to slaughter and then stir-fry to the lives of workers “trapped” on the assembly lines, but I see little more than folks eating lunch and, as Foxconn changes, those people may not have to eat at the company cafe much longer.


Expanding Manhattan & Boston’s Landfill History

There was an interesting piece in yesterday’s NYT outlining a proposed expansion of lower Manhattan:

LoLo, which stands for Lower Lower Manhattan, is one of the first proposals from the Center for Urban Real Estate, a new research group at Columbia University. The neighborhood would be created by connecting Lower Manhattan and Governors Island with millions of cubic yards of landfill, similar to how Battery Park City was born in the 1970s. Over 20 to 30 years, the center estimates, LoLo would create 88 million square feet of development and generate $16.7 billion in revenue for the city.

Here’s what the proposed project would look like:

On a somewhat related note, this reminded me that a while back I picked up a great book of historical Boston maps, which shows that the majority of what we now know as Boston was in fact created by landfills. Back Bay didn’t used to be a high end neighborhood. And the South Bay shopping plaza on the border of South Boston and Dorchester wasn’t always filled with concrete and chain stores. They both quite literally used to bays where ships could dock. Here are a few similar maps I found online showing the landfill sequences: