Flashbacks, May 12, 2006

By EDITORIAL  |  May 11, 2006

BATHROOM READING | 25 years ago | May 12, 1981 | Gail Banks offered some thoughts on redecorating bathrooms.

“In most rooms, a window provides light while posing few drawbacks, but in a bathroom, even as simple a feature as that can be more of a nuisance than a blessing. Windows have to be shaded, and they shouldn’t face the tub or the toilet. Of course, if there’s no window, you have to provide ventilation in some other manner. There’s heat to consider, too — in these days of 60-degree houses, this usually means a separate thermostat. Then, every bathroom needs a mirror (and a small facility can seem enormous with a wall of mirrors), but do you want to be confronted with your natural self every time you bathe? Even the placement of the soap dish requires thought. If you put it within reach of the shower spray, pounding water will turn the soap to mush. In short, bathroom design is a matter of coordinating more details than many of us can remember, let alone think of.

“Fortunately, a book titled The Bathroom... by Alexander Kira covers every aspect of the problem. The jacket blurb boasts that Kira ‘did for bathrooms what Ralph Nader did for cars,’ and this is pretty much the case. Kira, a professor at Cornell, has studied the bathroom for 20 years and is entirely dissatisfied with it. For example, Kira would redesign toilets so that we squat instead of sit, for reasons of safety and well-being ... his book will inform you of everything you need to know when designing a bathroom — and a lot that you wouldn’t dare ask (e.g., Kira’s thoughts on the bidet)....

“It will suggest you consider having a ‘deeper, wider, higher’ sink. Kira also recommends deeper, wider, higher uses for the bathroom — ‘exercising, relaxing, love-making, watching television’ or simply for a ‘quiet retreat.’ With affordable apartments getting smaller all the time, the bathroom may soon be the only retreat available.”

COMMUNICATION BREAKDOWN | 30 years ago | May 11, 1976 | Gerrit Graham reviewed Led Zeppelin’s new album,Presence.

“As far as I’m concerned, there’s no question that Led Zeppelin is the best heavy-metal band ever; their earlier work provides the standard around which all other bone-crusher outfits have rallied. Their charm (in the sense, I guess, of a power to enchant) is the purest and strongest that heavy metal has to offer: the clarion fire of Jimmy Page’s guitar, Robert Plant’s Edge City wail and the bully-boy rhythms of Jones and Bonham beggar all imitations, from the insensate bashing of Black Sabbath to Queen’s studied gimcrackery. Presence, Led Zep’s latest, is good heavy metal; what it isn’t, unhappily, is very good Led Zep.

“Though it’s an improvement over the dull horrors of Physical Graffiti, it’s a rather dismal cry from both the quirky inventiveness of Houses of the Holy and the mad, galvanizing muscle of the early stuff.... It’s difficult to say what, exactly, the problem is: the songs are much the same sort of reiterative, blues-derived riffing they’ve always done; Page throttles burning, jagged rock ’n’ roll out of his guitar; and Bonham, a monster, drums with an incredible precision that somehow always avoids stolidity. But something’s come over our boy Robert: one keeps waiting for that snarling screech that sounds as though high-voltage electrodes were pinned to various susceptible parts of his person, but he never quite gets it off.”

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