Maybe Less, Not More is Needed

Ideas and Issues

    Pearl River     We got confirmation that the porch light is back on at our house in New Orleans.  Unfortunately, the router seems to have fried, so no internet, making the glass less than full.  Fair Grinds Coffeehouse reopened this morning, ready for business, but possibly more ready than the neighborhood, since people are still trickling back.  The office has juice and the web, for example, but we’ll be lucky to get everyone back before next week, though we’ll be open and running today.  With one thing after another, this will be only night I’ve slept at home in three weeks.  Not as bad as the 45-50 days of Katrina, but Ida got me almost half-way there.  We’re getting more from climate change, and we need to figure out a way to get less.

All of which reminds me in the before Ida times, I was visiting with University of Virginia Professor Leidy Klotz on Wade’s World about the less is more philosophy he expounded in Subtract:  The Untapped Science of Less.  Klotz’s background bridges engineering, psychology, and more, which gives him a somewhat unique perspective and leads him to these insights.  He and his team plumbed the science to argue that in too many things, large and small, the human default is to do more, add more, scale up, etc, etc, rather than even considering that, sometimes, maybe many times, we might do better by doing less.

He makes the case by plucking examples from various sources.  Fewer freeways in urban areas were a favorite of mine, because in many fights we have been there and done that, starting with the Mills Freeway fight in Little Rock almost fifty years ago.  His example is from the Bay Area, but it could be Memphis or New Orleans as easily, where great benefits have come by not adding more and living with less.

I was also fascinated by the examples he gave of Kate Orff’s work in Lexington, Kentucky, having lived not far from there for a bit as a boy.  Orff is having quite a moment these days with a recent profile in The New Yorker about her work in New York City and along the Gulf Coast, but in this case, she was opening up and revitalizing a neglected stream running under and through Lexington.  The argument here, and in much of Orff’s work, is that getting rid of concrete and restoring natural systems, aligning with climate change concerns and environmental practices, means subtracting some of the built infrastructure and creating something different and better with less.  It’s easy to see why Klotz trumpets this work in his book and is such a fan.

The bottom line, like it or not, is that we seem hardwired to go for more whether its words on a page, food on a plate, buildings on a street, or roads to get there.  Klotz is asking us to show some discipline and restraint and stop for a minute and think about whether or not less might work better, or even combining both more and less to make things might work, rather than creating the constant dogpile everywhere we turn.


Courtesy of KABT and AM/FM:

Buena Vista Social Club

September 20th, 2021

Format(s): Latin, Non-Commercial, NPR

Get It Now!



World Circuit Records / BMG celebrates the quarter-century anniversary of the landmark Buena Vista Social Club with a collection of 25th Anniversary Editions, out September 17. These special editions, timed to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the album’s recording, contain the original album as remastered by Grammy-winning engineer Bernie Grundman as well as previously unheard tracks from the original 1996 session tapes, including “Vicenta,” which is available now.


“Vicenta” is the first of the previously unheard tracks taken from the 1996 album sessions, which have been selected for these editions by producer Ry Cooder and executive producer Nick Gold. A vocal duet between Buena Vista stars Eliades Ochoa and Compay Segundo, the song is a classic composition by Segundo and follows the story of a well-known fire which, on April 1, 1909, destroyed almost all of the village of La Maya, close to Santiago de Cuba, where Eliades Ochoa was born and lived as a child amongst plantations of banana, coffee and cacao.


The new edition includes tracks that were recorded during that famous week in 1996 but never released; some intended as repertoire suggestions, some off-the-cuff improvisations and some fully formed gems that are the equal of anything on the original album. There are also alternate takes of some of the now famous and most well-loved songs from the album.


Producer and guitarist Ry Cooder says, “The Buena Vista boys fly high and never lose a feather. If you miss the boat this time, you’ll have the blues forever.”


Nick Gold notes, “Buena Vista Social Club is a once in a lifetime recording of Cuban music at its transcendental best. The magic created in that Havana studio sounds as vital and beautiful today as it did 25 years ago.”


25 years after the serendipitous days of recordings, and as legions of new fans continue to discover the album’s enduring and seductive appeal, these 25th Anniversary Editions give us the chance to get closer to the mystique and to relive the sessions from which a global phenomenon was born.