First month driving report: 2012 VW GTI

Long time readers of the blog may be surprised to learn that, when it was time to purchase a new car, I got a new Volkswagen GTI. After all, I had a very poor experience with my 2003 Passat, which even before I drove it off the lot suffered from a broken windshield wiper and later experienced several ignition coil failures while I was driving.

But the company has come a long way in the last ten years, and I’ve been very pleased with the month (and about 1500 miles) I’ve spent behind the wheel of my new GTI. Specific notes:

  • I’m too grandfatherly a driver to really appreciate how fast this thing can get off the line, but it definitely comes in handy when you’re trying to merge.
  • I haven’t really tried “launch control” — the feature that lets you go from 0 – 60 in less than 7 seconds — but it looks like fun.
  • The car is pretty comfortable. I spent sixteen hours in it this past weekend and was less fatigued and sore than after shorter drives in my Passat.
  • Mileage is acceptable. I posted 30.9 MPG driving from DC to Boston in light Sunday traffic, and a lower 28.9 MPG in summer Saturday driving on the way down. In town I regularly get better than 25MPG between my house and my office.
  • I love the convenience of integrated Bluetooth in the audio stack. It’s perfect for phone. However…
  • …integrated Bluetooth for audio has some problems. Due either to a GTI bug or to my iPhone 4s, I usually only get one audio channel. So if I’m in the car for any length of time I plug it into the dock connector instead.
  • Cargo room is pretty good for my needs. I remember my 1996 Golf being more spacious, but that’s probably just because I drove that car before I drove the Passat with its more capacious trunk. As long as I’m not taking a family of four on a long trip it’s just fine.

So yeah, I’m kind of glad I gave Volkswagen another chance. So far it’s paying off well.

New mix: An attic space overgrown

I wasn’t expecting to do another mix so soon after the last one (the business), but this one was kicking around for a while. As always, I was throwing songs I liked to listen to into a temporary playlist called “next,” but couldn’t figure out how to link them all together. Then one day I heard a recording of Kenyan girls singing (like so much these days, it surfaced out of my library on shuffle), and I said “Hmm.” I threw a handful of short world music songs into the mix (from an album of Tuvan throat singing, an Internet-curated collection of African music, and a historic field recording of the Bera pygmies from the 1950s), shuffled them about until I got the right order, and before long I had something that seemed set to shuffle into the ear in the same way that the songs had wormed their way into my mind. An attic space overgrown (also on Art of the Mix) was the result.

The mix:

  1. Chemirocha [Kipsigis] w/Chemutoi Ketienya & GirlsKenyan Songs and Strings (Kenyan Songs and Strings)
  2. StrangeR.E.M. (Document)
  3. RollingSoul Coughing (El Oso)
  4. VesselZola Jesus (Conatus)
  5. Bodhisattva VowBeastie Boys (Ill Communication)
  6. Right OnThe Roots (How I Got Over)
  7. Yraazhy Kys (The Singing Girl)Shu-De (Voices From The Distant Steppe)
  8. The EraserChristian Scott (Yesterday You Said Tomorrow)
  9. Harrowdown HillThom Yorke (The Eraser)
  10. Jean-Baptiste à la fenêtreSonic Youth (Simon Werner a Disparu)
  11. Tshetlha Di KaeSchool Girls In Kayne (Tswana and Sotho Voices)
  12. Half Way To CrazyThe Jesus & Mary Chain (Automatic)
  13. Infinity GuitarsSleigh Bells (Treats)
  14. StaircaseRadiohead (The Daily Mail & Staircase)
  15. One Big HolidayMy Morning Jacket (It Still Moves)
  16. Skipping SongBera Pygmies (Music Of The Rainforest Pygmies)
  17. AntennaSonic Youth (The Eternal)
  18. HikikomoriZola Jesus (Conatus)
  19. Silver RiderRobert Plant (Band of Joy)
  20. You See EverythingLow (C’mon)
  21. MoorestownSun Kil Moon (April)

Track notes:

  • I finally heard the original version of “Strange” (on Wire’s Pink Flag) last year, and while I love it, it made me appreciate the R.E.M. version I heard in high school–bravura, loud, beery, and outré.
  • It’s a pity that Mike Doughty has disavowed the Soul Coughing discography, because tunes like “Rolling” were made for delicious cognitive dissonance–the luxury and assonance of the words and the thick beats…
  • Zola Jesus was a discovery for me about this time last year. “Vessel” is the strangest arrangement of the album, with Nika Roza Danilova’s voice hocketing into the echoing void at the opening over a sort of middle-period Dead Can Dance accompaniment. And that’s just the opening.
  • I miss Adam Yauch.
  • “Right On”: Who knew that Joanna Newsom made such a good chorus for hip-hop?
  • Christian Scott’s “The Eraser,” its strikingly original jazz arrangement of Thom Yorke’s original, has been in heavy repeat since I heard the album last year. The whole album is worth checking out.
  • “Harrowdown Hill” gives you an opportunity to hear Yorke’s original glitchy percussion against the jazz acoustic original. Not as starkly tense as some of Radiohead’s earlier (or later) works, it feels a little more personal but still despairing.
  • Sonic Youth’s final(?) recording, a soundtrack, carries enormous tension throughout it even if you don’t understand the cinematic context of the songs, which, um, I don’t. Still absorbing.
  • I dug out “Automatic” the other day–still a great album all these years later.
  • I found Sleigh Bells thanks to Molly Young‘s plug for the band (she plays the gum-chewing cheerleader in the video for this song). I like the second album better as an album but “Infinity Guitars” is still an astonishing kick to the head.
  • Someday Radiohead will make a full album that “Staircase” fits into and I’ll be a happy man.
  • My Morning Jacket’s It Still Moves was the last of the early albums and the one I love best, I think. This one reminds me of growing up in the South.
  • Robert Plant’s cover of “Silver Rider,” from the underappreciated Low album The Great Destroyer, is both hypnotic and wholly respectful of the original.
  • Low’s most recent album is the one I’ve liked best since The Great Destroyer. “You See Everything” is a great spotlight for Mimi Sparhawk’s voice.
  • Finally we get to “Moorestown.” After the psychedelic wonderland of Ghosts of the Great Highway, it took a long time for Sun Kil Moon’s acoustic albums to grow on me. But this one had been waiting to find me, and today I realized it was the closer.

Finally, a note on mixes: Seems to me that I put them together to digest the music I’m listening to and to claim it before it claims me.

1938 Virginia Football Songbook

Footballsongs 1938

Amidst disappointing news from the University of Virginia this week, I received an unexpected pleasure in the mail today: a 1938 University song book meant for football games and boxing matches.

As with the 1911 song book I posted about a few years ago, this one contains the lyrics (but no music) to commonly known songs for the student body to sing at sporting events. Unlike the previous edition, 27 years later the repertoire had shrunk to just four songs: “Virginia, Hail, All Hail,” “The Cavalier Song,” “Hike, Virginia” (with the Carolina lyrics), and of course “The Good Old Song”–first and second verse.

The advertisers list had shrunk too. The sponsoring businesses were just two: Bruton’s Barber Shop (Charlottesville’s Finest!) and Valley View Greenhouses, both near what is now the Downtown Mall.

For me, as with the previous version, it makes me happy to think about generations past of UVa students singing these song at sporting events. The full photo set is on Flickr: enjoy!