At Least It’s Not…

Here’s a bit of good news to start the post. Today is Free Cone Day at Ben & Jerry’s. Swing by your local outlet this afternoon and have some ice cream. No local outlet? Temperatures still under 40F? Doesn’t matter. Have some ice cream anyway. Consider it a ritual invocation of better weather and a shield against thoughts of Tax Day tomorrow.

As it happens, I don’t have a convenient B&J, so I’ll be going to my local semi-independent ice cream store this evening. I’ll consume my cone as a sacrifice to the rain gods. Join me, won’t you?

Moving on to something less cheerful.

Ever hear of Mumford & Sons? They’ve been around since (quick Google search) 2007, and they have a unique sound. Imagine Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound crossed in an unholy hybrid with Martin Mull’s famous Fiddle and Banjo Crap. Now speed it up to 160 beats per minute. That’s M&S.

Did I say “have”? I should have said “had”. Their latest album totally abandons that sound, and I think it’s a major mistake.

Let me make one thing clear: I hate their original sound with a passion. There is nothing–NOTHING–that will make me turn off the radio faster than Little Lion Man. It’s become a family catchphrase. Stuck in traffic for an hour? Ice cream shop closed when we get there? “At least it’s not Mumford & Sons.”

But even so, I still think M&S’s change is a mistake. They’re calling it a “natural departure.” I’d never criticize any artist for trying something new. The problem is that that M&S isn’t trying something new. Based on what we’ve heard of the new sound, it’s just like every Alt Rock band you’ve never heard of.

I’m not suggesting they should go back to their original sound–Goddess forbid! But guys, if you’re tired of the banjos and the country/bluegrass, take your cue from the Beatles and David Bowie, and give us a new sound, something you can own and be proud of. Don’t insult us with a generic sound off the shelf, and don’t insult yourself by considering it growth.

Moving on again.

Remember those anchor rods on the Bay Bridge? The ones that were improperly weatherproofed and stressed by fixing the Leaning Tower of the East Bay? Caltrans has found evidence that one of those rods may be broken.

They’ve been doing ultrasound tests on the rods, and apparently one of them is six inches shorter than the rest. Six inches out of twenty-five feet doesn’t sound like much, and it is quite possible that it’s short because a minor flaw was trimmed off the end before the rod was installed. But it could also be a sign that the rod snapped at some point after it was installed.

The other 421 rods passed the ultrasound test, but if I understand the technology correctly, that only shows they haven’t broken, not whether they’ve been stressed almost to the point of breaking. And if the one rod broke, it casts doubt on the long-term durability of the rest.

So Caltrans is going to test that rod by pulling on the top end. If it moves, they’ll know it’s broken. Seems pretty straightforward. We should know shortly whether we need to add another worry to the list already attached to that shiny $6.4 billion bridge.

Either way though, we can console ourselves with one thought: at least the Bay Bridge isn’t Mumford & Sons.