325 Lytton, $20m; their tenant you’ve never heard of, $1.3b

Random nobody’s pose in front of the building at 325 Lytton, built by Vance Brown, designed by Tony Carrasco, stones by Haussmann in 2009; the Biz Journal reports that a new tenant there Plume is now worth $1.3b aka a unicorn.

Smart-home technology provider Plume Design Inc. joined the Bay Area’s unicorns Tuesday with a $270 million funding round.

The Palo Alto company, which has largely flown under the radar despite its technology being used in some 22 millions homes, saw its valuation more than double to $1.35 billion as a result of the financing. The sole investor in the round — Plume’s Series E — was New York-based Insight Partners.


Plume plans to use the new funds to develop its technology and to invest in sales, marketing and partnerships, CEO Fahri Diner told the Business Journal in an interview this week. That will mean growing aggressively its workforce of 300, about half of which is based in the U.S. — mostly in Palo Alto. 

“We had about 180 people at this time last year, and I expect that we will be able to grow to around 600 by the end of this year,” Diner said.

“Before the pandemic, I spent about half my time here (in Switzerland) and half in Palo Alto,” he said. “Now it has been mostly here, but our global headquarters is back there, where we leased beautiful new offices on Lytton Avenue at the end of 2019 that most of us have never been to yet. We were supposed to move into them last spring, but the pandemic changed those plans.”


Apropos of the assertion, variations of which I’ve proferred since running for council (getting a mere 800 votes) 2009, that the flipside of our success is a challenge to our ability to self-govern as a Democracy: did we cede to special interests?

How do we run our $450m civic budget for 60,000 citizens while the billion per year ($50B on the tax rolls) real estate industry feeds its greed? And what is the effect of sharing the commons with the billionaires, those who ride or create in their labs Unicorns?

Valid questions — no one in leadership dares asking a follow up, let alone try to answer. 

Grand Jury Report?

Or, read Plastic Alto.


Maybe we need a Corton Beige or Moca Creme Counter Revolution. Is this stuff good for kitchens?

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With the new Palo alto Art commission temporary mural installation it’s a tossup on whether it’s better to seek them out through the handy map or be surprised when you stumble upon them, so to speak

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Lions With Wings endorsed by Chico

Speaking of guitar noise

I recently had that most wonderful of experiences of having my hair blown back by an exhilarating burst of fuzzed-out guitar licks. The furious cluster of notes came out of nowhere to punctuate the first verse in “Cantor’s Mind Was Rocking,” a new song by Barbara Manning. That’s right, a brand-new song by Chico’s favorite musical daughter—released free of charge on Valentine’s Day.

Barbara Manning

It’s one of three tracks recorded for the Lions With Wings Bandcamp page, part of an initiative by Earthwise Productions of Palo Alto that’s brought together sheltering-in-place artists who’ve agreed to create “covid-protocol, social-distance bubble projects” and share the fruits. Manning’s three cuts include covers of Elliott Smith’s “Twilight” and Edgar Winter’s “Dying to Live,” plus her rockin’ tribute to mathematician Georg Ferdinand Ludwig Philipp Cantor, featuring that amazing guitar lead (by Tony “Fingers” Naranjo—of L.A. punks Thee Undertakers fame) and my favorite lyrics of the year so far:

Cantor loved a good debate
 / His data did the talking / 
Ripping math almost in half
 / Cantor’s mind was rocking

Manning has also put out a few other tunes during the pandemic—three more covers released in December on her own Bandcamp page, including a gorgeous version of one of my all time favorite songs, “So Much Wine,” by The Handsome Family. It’s just the sort of sad story set in winter that makes for a great Christmas song:

Listen to me, Butterfly / There’s only so much wine you can drink in one life / And it will never be enough to save you from the bottom of your glass

In addition to all of that fun, the local music legend is returning Butte County this month to help wildfire victims. Manning will be performing a live-streamed show from Jen’s Place in Paradise, next Friday, Feb. 26, at 8 p.m., and will be seeking donations during the set for Concow residents impacted by fires. Visit Manning’s Facebook page to find out how to watch.

Jason Cassidy, Chico News and Record

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Ethan Iverson, Downbeat VS Megan Theestallion, Bazaar

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Maya Wiley endorsed by key union in NYC Mayoral race

Maya Wiley was in my advanced Spanish class freshman fall at Dartmouth, which for us was 19lkjdflkasjd, wljslkfjslkfas. Interestingly, she also achieved language proficiency in French as well. So to my mind, hearing of her work in politics I think this obscure fact indicates that she is the type who likes to think in diverse ways, and reach out to diverse groups of constituents. There are 50 or more languages spoken in New York, maybe Maya Wiley knows more than these first three*.

Similarly, Kirsten Gillibrand who we knew as Tina Rutnik in Hanover, did language study abroad in China. The Times had reported that she addressed some constituents – running either for President of the USA or for U.S. Senate — in Mandarin.

I was an English major and might have done foreign study in Salamanca, Spain but opted to take a leave term living in Hanover during winter, 19llskjfslk, wljlksdlkd as Literary Director of The Dartmouth, the independent student run newspaper — which was great training for founding of Plastic Alto, this blog.

Maya and Kirsten – -thank you for your service. Disclosure: I gave them both pin money. Pin money in the sense of a Claes Oldenburg installation.

I’m 57. Do the math. Vote Maya Wiley if you are reading this in the 212 the 917 or the 718.

I enjoyed watching the former St. Francis of Mountain View Lancer hoopster Tyler Johnson on tv as the Brooklyn Nets beat the Phoenix Suns. He scored a season high 17; I saw him in 2010 for St. Francis; he was Player of The Year for the Lancers by the Daily News even though he was the 6th man. 

*Personal to MW: I challenge you to say “I work hard for families and workers” in all 138 languages reported on their recent Census in Queens: 

While there is no precise count, some experts believe New York is home to as many as 800 languages — far more than the 176 spoken by students in the city’s public schools or the 138 that residents of Queens, New York’s most diverse borough, listed on their 2000 census forms.

Oldenburg bowling pins:

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Harbaugh hater monologue in 2012, the day I met Remi Wolf

I used to do a comedic monologue about balancing my interest in the 49ers or Stanford football with the fact that I was at Gunn high school when Jim Harbaugh was at Paly and never liked the guy. The difference between stand-up comedy and a comedic monologue is that with stand-up comedy you tell a joke and people laugh or not, you tell another joke and people laugh or not, and you tell a third joke and people laugh or not. With a comedic monologue you talk talk talk talk talk talk for 15 minutes and at the end they go “huh”. 

I think the one time it worked there was a woman named Shelley in the audience who shot this photo but she also shot a video of this amazing singer or duo. The singer, you can see here, is Remi Wolf who was just on the Tonight Show earlier this month and is signed to Island Records. 
Here is the press release Mrs. Wolf sent out a few months later:

Local Teenage Duo Getting Noticed on the Peninsula

Palo Alto High School Juniors, Remi Wolf and Chloe Day Zilliac — known onstage as Remi & Chloe — grabbed their guitars on a Sunday morning one year ago, headed for Castro Street in Mountain View. They had never done anything quite like this, and they were both scared. But they opened their guitar cases, grabbed their guitars, and launched into, appropriately, a cover of Sunday Morning by Maroon 5. To their delight, people responded enthusiastically, tossing money into their open guitar case. Quite a lot of money! Good crowds! The magic was there, and they were hooked.

Within a couple of months, they had written an original, “Carousel,” and had begun playing open mics around the area. After their first open mic performance at Red Rock Cafe in Mountain View, they were scheduled to perform as the featured act at a future Red Rock open mic. Immediately following that first feature performance, Brandon Walker invited them to sit in with his band at the Blue Rock Shoot in Los Gatos.

Afternoons at the Zilliac household in the Evergreen Park neighborhood of Palo Alto were now stuffed over-full with singing and guitar playing pushed in between the Trigonometry, Chemistry, and AP Spanish homework. Outside of school and music, the girls became inseparable.  

While they’ve only been performing as Remi & Chloe for one year, they go way back, first meeting as kindergartners in the Spanish Immersion program at Escondido. While students at Jordan, they had their first experience singing harmonies together as a trio with a mutual friend, eventually performing at the 8th grade graduation ceremony.   

Now Juniors at Palo Alto High School, they have written more original songs. Carousel is being featured in a short film, Washing Away, by Castilleja junior, Frances Hughes. The short by Hughes has been submitted for screening at the 2013 Sundance Film festival.

In September, they were selected to perform at Teens on the Green at Mitchell Park, which led to performances at campaign events for Palo Alto School Board Candidates Melissa Baten Caswell and Camille Townsend. State Senator Joe Simitian stopped to listen at Caswell’s campaign event and coined himself their new biggest fan. The girls have been performing at the Parents Nursery Benefit for several years.

Asked what was the most influential source for their development as musicians, Zilliac said “Working and taking lessons at the Riekes Center in Menlo Park has helped us expand and develop our skills as musicians. The Riekes center has also allowed us meet other talented musicians who we have collaborated with to create amazing music. Remi and I both volunteer our time at the Riekes Center because it is a great place to spend time and we believe in what they do.”

Remi and Chloe are now performing weekly at open mics around the Bay Area and never fail to be recognized for their creativity and complex harmonies. Remi’s soulful voice complemented by Chloe’s sweet harmonies create a unique sound that is all their own. Asked about her favorite performing experience, Remi said, “I love the energy when we are performing at the Riekes Center because of the enthusiasm of the crowd and the support we get.One of my most memorable experiences performing was when Chloe and I performed on Pacific Avenue in Santa Cruz, and a local beat boxer asked if he could join us. Being able to play a couple of songs with him gave us experience collaborating with other artists and was really fun.”

Coming up for the duo on Thursday November 8th is their first paid gig. They will be performing at Angelica’s Bell Theatre in Redwood city. In the first of their two forty-five minute sets, they will perform as a duo. In the second, they will invite several talented performers from the Riekes Center to join them, bringing together a full band.
With Remi Wolf she sings and people go “Wow” not “huh”.
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Remi Wolf lit on Tonite Shwa

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Ten in the Swear Jar or XITSJ

not sure what this is, something about research Xgau did in Egypt

Not to be confused with university of illinois at urbana champaign whatever.
I wrote this a year ago, before I was banned from PAW.
And thank you XGAU for the inspiration — he had something about Indestructible Beat of Soweto which I’ve never heard. Maybe Matt Nelson and Magid can do Soweto not Turkey.
To wit:
for the win:
There was briefly in Palo Alto a band named Ten in The Swear Jar — sometimes abbreviated to XITSJ — the leader of which later changed its or his name to Xiu-Xiu (but not XIUXIU). Before that they were called The Indestructible Beat of Palo Alto or IBOPA.
The bandleader’s name is or was Jamie Stewart. I do not know if he is related to the more famous James Stewart but his uncle John Stewart was a member of The Kingston Trio, had a hit for The Monkees and I believe worked for Bobby Kennedy. Jamie is a genius.
Jamie Stewart had an affiliation with KZSU the Stanford radio station but even after knowing him for 25 years I have no idea if he is or is not a Stanford alumnus*.
My point is: be yourself — that probably helps on college essays and apps as much as in the general case.
— my two cents worth
P.S. Do applicants check a box to signify they got coaching? And, how much do you charge?

*I do not believe Jamie Stewart of Xiu-Xiu has collaborated with Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, but he did collaborate with Eugene S. Robinson of Oxbow who looks like a thug but did indeed go to Stanford.

P.P.S. I recommend going to college even if you plan a career in the arts. Try to graduate by age 25 but don’t feel you have to graduate with your class. Don’t worry about career until about age 30.

and1: aren’t the posters correct in pointing out that UIUC is Urbana campus which is famous for computing, and not Champaign which no one calls it? I bought my best friend from Dartmouth Dr. Brian Moore a picture of Walt Frazier when Doc (who majored in drama for his a.b., then got a masters in education from Harvard, before his m.d. from UMass) took a job at Southern Illinois, only to find that he was in Springfield where they indeed rooted for The Illini and not Carbondale where they remember Clyde — who himself IMHO uses big words gratuitously. Actually I just looked it up: in my day — I’m a Gunn ’82 — the name changed officially to Illinois University of Urbana Champaigne even tho–according to Wiki — the common use for the region per se was the reverse, Champaign Urbana.

I was also taught that language evolves and the best dictionaries are descriptive not prescriptive. My pet peeve is when people with big dogs believe that leash laws do not apply to them.

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Mazel tov to musician Jacques Schwarz-Bart for his new set of world music and jazz

He is the son of a famous scholar and novelist, Andre Schwarz-Bart (1928-2006) who wrote the judaic classic “Last of The Just”.

I met Jacques about 1998 when James Hurt Band, with a Blue Note release, played The Cub. Scott Amendola featuring Todd Sickafoose and Jenny Scheinman were also on the bill.
I think of Jacques as Black or French, but he is also Caribbean and Jewish.
I will update with more notes on the music, which features unusual percussion.
Reminds of Don Cherry, thoth, Andy Palacio, bemsha swing.

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