Giorgio Moroder’s “From Here to Eternity” (1977)

Giorgio Moroder is most famous these days for being “that guy from the Daft Punk song”, referring to his cameo on Random Access Memories. Prior to 2012 or so, he was known as the producer of Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love”. He had mostly faded into obscurity unless you were into ‘80s movie soundtracks (Scarface, American Gigolo, Midnight Express) or disco music.

On the strength of his newfound Daft Punk cred and “I Feel Love”, I had my eye on picking up one of his albums. This wasn’t one of those “must haves”, but it was on my mind as I sifted through several stacks of records at Giovanni’s Room thrift shop in Philly the weekend before last.

Lucky for me, Giovanni’s Room has a policy of marking down by half any records that sit for more than six months. This one slipped under the radar and was tagged $3. Best find of the weekend.

When you listen to this album, the first thing you notice is that it sounds a lot like you know who. The vintage drum machine and vocoder sound is what our generation associates with the robot duo or Kanye’s 808s and Heartbreak, but it’s clearly borrowed from Moroder and his contemporaries and reinvented for a new generation.

The nice bit about Moroder’s sound being so imitated today is that this album listens like a lost Daft Punk album. It doesn’t sound dated at all. It’s got a cohesive house music beat that goes well in the background while you’re doing other things, but you could easily turn up the volume and get a dance party started.

Finding weird and wonderful album covers

Since I just repaired our turntable I’ve been going to record stores to expand our collection. So far Princeton Record Exchange (PRX) in Princeton, NJ and Generation Records here in New York have been my favorites. PRX is well worth the trip if you’re starting a collection because they have so many classics for under $10 and Generation has a great budget jazz section and some unique stuff on the walls.

In some cases, I’ve taken a chance and bought great music and at other times just took photos of odd and interesting covers that I didn’t buy. Here are some photos from the last few weeks:

DIY: Super Nintendo nostalgia on your TV

I’m going to put this in Brewing, as in your own homebrew Super Nintendo, since it’s the best category I have for now.

When we were in Montreal, we stumbled on this cafe that had a Super Nintendo with Super Mario for customers. It was the coolest idea, video games while you enjoy your coffee. I suppose the area was for kids, given the low ceilings and bright colors. We enjoyed ourselves regardless, and I resolved to work up something similar.

Now, back in New York, I started looking into getting a SNES for our apartment. Turns out they can be had for $40-80 used on eBay, with an extra $20-25 or so per game. Watch out because some of these are remade hardware and not original. For $100 or so you can get yourself set up with some still functional nostalgia. However, given that you can get a Gamecube or other more modern system for even less, you’re paying for the nostalgia factor.

Materials

I found the low-budget route: OpenEmu, a free open source emulator for Mac, has support for SNES, Genesis, original Nintendo, and more. Just add a controller and connect to your TV.

Here’s the route I went:

Total cost: $32

Setup

OpenEmu runs from a folder without much of an installation process. You don’t actually need a controller or TV, a laptop monitor with keyboard controls will work to start. Here are the steps:

  1. Download OpenEmu
  2. Hold the control key and then double-click to override the security settings for unrecognized applications
  3. Google SNES ROMs and download. Watch out for popups and spam. Drag-and-drop the ROMs to load them into OpenEmu
  4. Plug in controller
  5. Go to Preferences > Contols to select the USB gamepad and map it to the proper keys. OpenEmu will lead you through this process
  6. Link your computer to TV using the HDMI cable (or preferred option)
  7. Play

Next steps

There’s a SNES mini console being re-released by Nintendo at the end of September 2017. It will come with two controllers and 20+ games for $80. It’s a good place to start if you’re looking for a list of must-try games for your new system.

Now that I have the SNES all set up with Mario, Kirby, and the rest, I’m going to head back to Google and find Sonic the Hedgehog. If you’d like to step even further back in time to play Pitfall! or Centipede, there is support for the Atari 2600 / 7800.

Volkswagen Beetles Live on in Mexico

Since I was a kid, I’ve always liked the VW Beetle: small, cartoon-like, and iconic of ’60s culture and music that I grew up with, thanks to my parents. I was further fascinated when, back in college, I found that the Beetle was produced in Mexico all the way up through the millenium, with production ending with the 2004 model year. In fact, a version of the original Beetle was exported to Europe after production ended in Germany!

The Beetle Sedán, known as the vocho in Mexico, was also produced in Brazil for the Brazilian market through the 1990s. This led me to write a class paper comparing industrial policy in Mexico and Brazil through the lens of the Beetle, which you might as well take a look at, since I still had it saved. It’s actually fairly fascinating, if you like history and Cold War-era politics, though you’ll have to trust me. Read it here.

There are thousands, if not millions, of these old Beetles still circulating in Mexico, thanks to skilled mechanics, cheap replacement parts, and the car’s practicality. When I first went to Mexico, I remember being told that you can get a reconditioned engine swapped out in your VW for the equivalent of $250 US.

Passing through the mountains on the way back to Mexico City from Tepoztlán, where many of these photos were taken, in some towns half the vehicles on the streets were vochos. It turns out the engines handle the hills better than other vehicles in their class, so they’ve clustered in towns with steep inclines.

When I first came to Mexico, in 2007, they were ubiquitous as taxis, though now are entirely phased out due to emissions restrictions and safety concerns. In the face of progress, it’s surprising to me to see the vocho‘s staying power. Nostalgia and usefulness mix as this workhorse of a vehicle powers on through another decade.

The photos included below are a collection from our last trip to Mexico City and surrounding towns.