Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The Taylor Hicks post

UPDATE and BUMP: With Idol on tonight, I wanted to bump this up as it takes on relevance again. I also want to link to Taylor Hick's pre-Idol songs again. You can find them here. Hell of a Day is my personal favorite.

Image hosting by PhotobucketWell, it seems that among my readers, friends both cyber and otherwise that are Idol watchers are all pretty big on Taylor Hicks.

So, given that we all believe he's going to make it, perhaps all the way, I pose this question: What song do you think he should sing?

My suggestion: Life Without You by Stevie Ray Vaughan.


The ongoing quest for better health

It was a rough week last week. Most folks in my household dealt with some varying degree of head and chest cold. Nothing as bad as WunderKraut, but enough the derail diet and exercise as we sought comfort food and could barely get ourselves to move. So when we needed to eat the best, we ate the worst.

But I have restarted with a vengeance. I hit the gym yesterday for the first time in years. I spent 45 minutes on the elliptical runner. Today, I'm scaling that time back a bit, probably 30 minutes and am going to do some strength training as well.

I haven't gained back any of my initial loss, and that's a good thing, but I really need to push myself in the gym for a while to see some more progress. Hope you are all doing well also.

Monday, February 27, 2006

The Great Reorganization

Not too much went on this weekend in my A/O. I spent all Saturday reorganizing my daughters' room.

They have a hard time keeping it clean. This is mainly my younger daughter's fault. She pulls out toys and clothes and stuff while daughter #1 is at school so #1 comes home to a mess and has to, unfairly, clean up her sibling's disaster. So, it slides. And slides. Until the mess is too much for them and almost too much for us. I finally got tired of it.

I flipped their bed around and reorganized their closets. I cleaned up their mess and moved their TV across the room. It's not perfect -- they just have too much stuff for it to ever be perfect -- but it gives them more space to play with the space being better distributed.

They have been given rules in the past. But I have given them three rules to follow every day: keep your beds clean (made up and no toys on them); anything you take out, you must put away before doing anything else; and they have a cabinet of games and crafts that they must ask permission before getting anything out of. Simple, yes? Well, they've had variations in the past that have always failed.

Failure is the issue I've been concerned with while devoting so much of my time to the task. My wife has spent countless hours reorganizing their room, only to have the mess take over. Part of the problem, I think, is that their only incentive to keep things clean was to not get in trouble. That is, if they kept their room clean, nothing positive happened, just maintaining status quo. But if it was dirty, they got in trouble. The other, obvious problem, is that they have too much stuff in too small a space.

As for the first problem, I have initiated an allowance for them. This way, they have a positive incentive if they keep things clean and organized and lose that incentive if not (and further punishment as necessary). Of course, to make this a habit for them, the wife and I have to become very active in helping them keep things clean. Which is the primary reason these things fail in the first place -- lack of our participation. We're hoping to add new chores every five weeks or so, giving the kids enough time to turn the new activities into habit before creating more tasks.

The second problem is a lot harder to deal with. Space is a premium. We already have a storage unit and are going to have to move yet more stuff to it. There are times I want to just get rid of so much stuff. But whenever I start trying to cut back my own crud, I hit a brick wall. We're pack rats. It's a hard habit to break.

So, if anyone wants to hire an editor for about twice what I'm making now so I can afford a bigger place, let me know.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

The ports

Jay Tea at Wizbang has the definitive post on the ports issue.

From the beginning, I've kind of wondered what the big deal with this is. Working with the military and being former active duty, I've seen contracts change hands often. Overseas, we have local national employees doing a lot of the work. In Afghanistan, Afghans perform a large part of the day-to-day labor that makes the bases their stronger. They also have a lot to do with the food service there.

So, after my initial schock that the UAE was going to run our ports security, I hunted down the real deal. Oh, they're only going to control the management of the ports. Oh, it's only six ports. Sheesh, this is a regular contract deal and the ports in question were already controlled by a foreign company.

To summarize, the UAE is an ally. The UAE has been a strong supporter of our War on Terror. The UAE will be a deciding factor in any offensive strategies we will have to take against Iran. This Arabophobia I'm seeing across the country is sickening and it's becoming more and more clear that much of it is being orchestrated by the Democratic party and dock-working teamsters. Want to ally yourself with them?

Friday, February 24, 2006

Because I'm All About the Guitar Pt. 18: A beautiful guitar

Image hosting by PhotobucketSometimes the muse strikes. Sometimes not. Sometimes it tells you to write. Sometimes it tells you to admire a beautiful guitar.

D'Angelico guitars are considered some of the very finest ever made and the teardrop New Yorker is their very best. From the D'Angelico website about the founder:

Master luthier John D’Angelico is universally regarded as the finest archtop guitar builder that ever lived. In his Kenmare Street workshop, on New York City’s Lower East Side, he created the first of what would become the standard to which all other guitars would be compared. D’Angelico adapted techniques that had been used for centuries, and then improved these delicate manual processes in order to build the modern instruments demanded by his musician clients. These guitarists often requested special size and structural variations, in the body depth or scale of the neck for example, and that additional features and stylish embellishments be incorporated in the finished design. The marvelous reputation of “D’Angelico-built” guitars quickly spread throughout the musical community, and soon John D’Angelico’s small New York workshop was attracting professional musicians from all over the United States.

While they are the cream of the crop of guitars, their semi-hollow bodies start at an approachable $1,700, their archtops at just about $200 more than that. But they cap out with their remarkable teardrop New Yorker model which would put you back a whopping $30,000.

Check out D'Angelico's website for more gorgeous guitars. Check out Ed Roman's teardrop New Yorker page.

Previous installments:
Part 17; Part 16; Part 15.25; Part 15; Part 14; Part 13; Part 12; Part 11; Part 10; Part 9; Part 8; Part 7; Part 6; Part 5; Part 4.01; Part 4; Part 3.5; Part 3; Part 2; Part 1

Thursday, February 23, 2006


You scored as Justice (Fairness). Your life is guided by the concept of Fair Justice: Everyone, yourself included, should be rewarded and punished according to the help or harm they cause.

"He who does not punish evil commands it to be done."
--Leonardo da Vinci

"Though force can protect in emergency, only justice, fairness, consideration and cooperation can finally lead men to the dawn of eternal peace."
--Dwight D. Eisenhower

More info at Arocoun's Wikipedia User Page...

Justice (Fairness)




Divine Command




Strong Egoism










What philosophy do you follow? (v1.03)
created with QuizFarm.com

h/t to slickdpdx

Idol murmurings

Last night's Idol was superior to Tuesdays.

Not that I don't like the female contestants. When it boils down to who's best, I think the women have the edge. But the reason last night's comp. was better was because the men have some real talent across the board. There is going to be some tough decisions later on, it will be interesting to see which six progress.

The three I know, and want to progress are Chris Daughtry, Taylor Hicks and Ace Young. They all gave great performances and all have the potential to be stars. Not just American Idol stars, but I think they could transcend the medium, if given the opportunity. But the only one out of that three who really made a good song choice last night was Chris.

Talor ... I want him to win. I like him the best out of any contestant. But I don't think, when it's down to him and Paris or Lisa or Katharine, he's going to make it. Man. I want to hear this guy sing with BB King or Eric Clapton. There is already a great future for him, I think, even if he doesn't progress past tonight.

That's my two cents anyway.

UPDATE: Dean's got a good post up also.

UPDATE the second: Tracy seconds the Hicks.

UPDATE the third: You can download some of Taylor Hicks' pre-Idol songs here. I revise my assessment. This guy rocks solid. I think he's gonna go all the way. (h/t Bill from INDC Journal commenting at Dean's).

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Linear vs. non-linear learning

I have no cases to back this up, just my own experience, but doesn't it seem like learning is enhanced when classes are presented in a logical progression?

I am in classes again. I am trying to finish my degree and move on to the Master's program. The class I am in is difficult. Not the subject matter, but the way it is being presented.

We're not progressing linearly. The professor is pulling information from all over the place to fit an idea he's presenting that has no apparent logical end. It wouldn't make much difference if was an easy flowing, assignment in a couple of weeks kind of thing, but the dude assigned a HEAVY workload and we have much due our next class session (Friday). Problem is, no one has much clue as to what to do or how to do it.

Sad thing is, the class is about developing courses for adult education.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The coffee pot

Image hosting by PhotobucketI have a theme going in my coffee-related accoutrements. I have been building my stock of brushed steel and black items and finally have nailed the final piece -- my coffee maker.

I have been wanting a certain Mr. Coffee model for quite some time. But, since I had a working coffee maker (no matter how cheap it was and how ugly that slightly off-white is) it was hard to justify dropping the $60 or $70 for one.

Then, I get a letter from Gevalia where I get a pound of coffee and this cool pot for a pittance of a fee. No further obligation. Pretty neat. So I got a coffee pot that is very similar to what I wanted, a pound of really good coffee and an easily cancellable contract with Gevalia.

Just thought I'd share.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Paid to be poor

I always have mixed emotions around tax time. I am not well off. Never have been. I am a former Army sergeant and am now a government employee at pay grade GS-09 step 1. You can find these salaries if you care to look. My wife is a stay-at-home mom and we have three children. I am not well off.

However, I make plenty of money to get by. If I don't buy into instant gratification, I make plenty to live comfortably. It's a matter of priorities and savings. It's taken us some time to figure that out, but lessons hard learned are the ones that stick best, I think.

Ever since I started filing taxes, I have worked it so I got a refund. When it was just the wife and I, we claimed as little deductions as possible to get that return. I understood it was an interest-free loan to the gov't, but I just didn't want to pay. But as we started having children, we started getting more and more money back from the government. To the point where every year I get back more than I pay in -- a lot more. This year it's nearly six times what we paid in, and I claim every dependent I have.

While you never want to complain when anyone gives you money, I have a problem reconciling it with my ethical mind. I didn't earn this money. The gov't basically gives me the greatest return on my loan to them that I'll ever see. I'm going to take it. I'm going to reinvest it in the economy like a good American. Some of it will see savings.

Every time I hear some liberal wacko talking about how taxes are unfair, I know they are. But not in the way they think.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Because I'm All About the Guitar Pt. 17: Getting all amped up over the sound

Getting the right sound is important to guitarists. Making your own guitar sound, your "unique" tone is the goal of all aspiring six-string slingers. However, how important are the minutiae? How important is that all-tube amp? How important are those super shielded, gold-plated-connector cables? How important is a separate head and cabinet vs. a combo unit?

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For many, Marshall stacks are the gold standard of rock guitar amplification. In many ways they are. Just about every band from Hendrix, The Stones and The Who to Iron Maiden and Slayer have used or do use Marshall amplification. They build solid products with dependable sound.
My answer to this -- again MY answer -- is not that freaking much. Honestly, I hear people talk all the time about tube amps vs. solid state. I hear all the arguments for and against using the best, most expensive equipment you can get your hands on. Well, you know why that shit sounds better? Because it's the best built, not necessarily the best technology.

The guitar world is famous for this creation of mojo. They construct a really good product, but to get people interested in forking out the extra bucks, they have to come up with some kind of gimmick to sell it the hungry masses. They add gold plated connectors to their high-end cables and get BIG NAME GUITARIST to endorse the product. Suddenly a rush of young wannabes all have to be playing Gold Plates: The 24-karat cable or some such.

Now, I am not saying that the Tube vs. Solid State argument is exactly like this, but it's similar. There is a difference in sound between tubes and solid state. You can hear tubes hum. You can tell the influence they have on sound. An old tube will negatively color your sound. Conversely, you can tell when a solid-state amp is playing. It's sharper and lacks the warmth that so many guitarists associate with tubes. But this is also a broad generalization.

Tube amps and heads are the Holy Grail of guitarists. And I will tell you without a doubt, almost every tube amp out there is better than every solid-state amp out there. I believe the reason has everything to do with quality of construction and very little to do with tube or solid-state technologies.

You look at almost any amplifier manufacturer's line of products and can see that their budget models are all solid state, while their high-end models are all tube. So, predictably, one of the upsides of tube amps is the quality of manufacture. There is a lot of history in tube amps and guitar playing, so musicians are always going to want to tap into that as much as possible. They are also going to emulate their idols, who are using tube products.

Of course, a great majority of these idols are getting their tube products for free because of endorsement deals, but that's part of the biz. A major drawback is that tube amps are power hungry. That is, a tube amp requires more power to produce its rated wattage. Another issue is that vacuum tubes break, blow out or lose vacuum. You have to replace them frequently and check them often. Which mean that if you gig a lot, you should have back up tubes on hand or you could be in trouble.

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Line 6 products vary from combo amplifiers, heads and cabinets, effects to synthesizer guitars. They make quality products and are always on the cutting edge of technology. Their POD guitar/computer interfaces is an innovative step to home recording or just playing around with computer effects.
Tubes can get expensive too. Prices range from $10 - $80 but there is a JJ/Tesla model out there I've seen running for over $200 (per tube!). Also, different tubes can effect sound quality and overall volume.

Solid state amps take guitar electronics out of the 1950s and puts them firmly in the next couple of decades. I am no electrical engineer, but I do know that solid-state electronics is a more reliable and economic way of routing power. Most guitarists had problems with the way solid-state amps sounded in comparison to tubes. They were dry, didn't have the depth of sound that tube amps have and the overdriven channels lacked the punch that tubes gave.

However, technology gets cheap. Technology gets better. Fast. Nowadays you have spring-reverb loaded, heavy-overdrive ready amps that rival tube amps in sound and size. They also usually deliver more power, cheaper. Solid states also have a good life-span.

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Fender has long made great guitars and great guitar products. They have always had an eye on engineering products for the working guitarist. The Cyber Twin combines tube and solid state technologies to produce great sound and high output.
Honestly, I have no idea why tube amps sell so much better. They simply aren't that much better sounding. And you can pick up a solid state that does more or is bigger, cheaper. But, they don't tend to be built as well as the tube amps are. So, some people are attracted to the quality in the tubes, which makes sense.

There is an exception to this rule. Line 6's amps are made of a comparable quality to Fender and Marshall's line of combos, heads and cabinets. They are a make completely solid-state based products that have TONS of effects and amp/cabinet models built in - which is another benefit to solid state tech: built in effects.

Of course, there is always a best of both world's out there and that is usually the tube/solid state combos. Fender has a popular line of amps called the Cyber Twin. They combine a tube pre-amp and a solid-state power amp producing a tube sound with the benefits of solid state power. They also include a lot of digital effects.

The end state of all of this is that mojo is really in you, the consumer. What do you like? What do you want? Are you going to let an aggressive marketing campaign decide what your sound is going to be?

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While Marshall may still be considered the gold standard Mesa Boogie products are hot its heels. Most who have played or heard Mesas swear by the sound. John Petrucci plays 'em, nuff said.

Get out there and play a lot of amps. Play the same songs. Play using the same effects. Play using no effects. Play using the same guitar, preferably your own so you have a base idea of sound and attack quality.

Having written all that, if I could afford a Mesa Triple Rectifier there would be on in my home right now.

See you next week.

Previous installments:
Part 16; Part 15.25; Part 15; Part 14; Part 13; Part 12; Part 11; Part 10; Part 9; Part 8; Part 7; Part 6; Part 5; Part 4.01; Part 4; Part 3.5; Part 3; Part 2; Part 1

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Top 10 All-time Best Rock and Roll Instrumentals

Man. This was harder than I thought it was going to be. I found it near impossible to limit this list to just 10 songs, but, somehow I did it.

To offer some explanation as to how I came about with my results, I followed a few different criteria. First, I asked myself, just how catchy is the song? How listenable and re-listenable is the song? Then I asked, how complex is the song? How much musical ability is evidenced in the tune? I then asked how influential is the song is. How many places have I heard this song? How many musicians do I know or have heard of that list this musician/song as an inspiration?

Last on my list of criteria is how much do I like the song? You know, there might have been some songs that should have been on my master list that weren't there, but it's my list. If you don't like it, make your own contest.

So, without further ado, here's the list (click on the title for a 20-40 second clip of the song):

10. Orion - Metallica
What can be said about this song that hasn't already? It's the definitive metal instrumental. It was played at their first bassist, Cliff Burton's funeral.

The album topped at #29 in The Billboard 200, but no songs from the album hit the charts.

9. Stream of Consciousness - Dream Theater
As big a fan as I am of Dream Theater, it should be no surprise that I chose one of their songs for the list. I do feel they deserve it though. As far as influence, every progressive band that has come out in the past 10 years lists DT as an influence. As far as musical ability, well, I am of the opinion that there are none better, as a band.

It was still a hard decision to narrow it down to one song. I love Overture 1928, but I felt that this song edged it out musically. I also almost chose Liquid Tension's When the Water Breaks for sheer musicality, but just wasn't well-known enough. At 11 minutes and 16 seconds SoC offers a tour de force trip though a variety of styles, sometimes whimsical, always very Dream Theater.

The album Train of Thought topped out at #53 on The Billboard 200.

8. Journey of the Sorcerer - The Eagles
I had to put this entry in here. While it is certainly a good song, the real reason it is on this list is because I'm a HUGE Douglas Adams geek and no instrumental Top 10 list is complete without this song, in my opinion. So, as stated earlier, it's my list, dammit!

The album One of These Nights topped the Pop Albums charts at #1 in 1975. Lying Eyes off the album won a Grammy that year.

7. Walk Don't Run - The Ventures
A great story from Wikipedia's entry on the Ventures:

The story behind their selection of Walk Don't Run provides some insight into the distinction between technical virtuousity, versus the essential elements of a wildly successful Pop-Music hit. Bob Bogle, original lead guitarist, cites Chet Atkins as one of his early influences. Bogle bought the Chet Atkins LP, Hi Fi Guitar which featured Atkins' fingerstyle rendition of a song originally written by the great jazz guitarist, Johnny Smith. Within Atkins' elaborate and laid-back delivery of "Walk Don't Run", Bogle found inspiration. He stated years later there was no way his "pedestrian" guitar skills would allow him to play it the same as Chet Atkins did, so he and Wilson worked out a highly energized, very much simplified arrangement, and a Rock & Roll Classic was born! Another Chet Atkins inspired guitarist covered "Walk Don't Run" on his album Quantum Guitar in 1998, none other than Yes guitarist Steve Howe.

6. Wipe Out - The Surfaris
Billboard.com's short bio on the Surfari's says this about Wipe Out:

...the number two 1963 hit that ranks as one of the great rock instrumentals, featuring a classic up-and-down guitar riff and a classic solo drum roll break, both of which were emulated by millions (the number is no exaggeration) of beginning rock & rollers.

It's that influential. What more can you really say, except to add a Jeff Spicoli influence, "Whoa!"

5.Classical Gas - Mason Williams
What a big sounding song! At first you almost think it's going to be some medieval throwback and then it just kicks it open. A huge song that is greatly composed.

The song won three Grammy awards in 1968 and was again a hit in 1987 when Williams re-recorded the song with Mannheim Steamroller.

4. Little Wing - Stevie Ray Vaughn
I can't say anything better about this song than Dean Esmay said in the comments section at his place:
"But I'd say that 'Little Wing' is his single greatest accomplishment instrumentally. It's amazing that they kept it in a vault and only released it posthumously. It's simply astounding from start to finish, and exceeds any cover of that song I've ever heard, including both the Derek &The Dominos version(which I love) or Jimi's own original.

And by the way, occasionally I hear some snotty punk say Stevie was 'just a hot dog.' All I can do is ask them to listen to "Little Wing" and then ask them to explain that."

The song charted at #26 on the Mainstream Rock Tracks Billboard in 1992. Two years after his death.

3. Green Onions - Booker T and the MGs
As the house band as Stax Records, Booker T and the MGs can be heard on some of the most influential soul and RB albums of the '60s. But what is perhaps more important is the instrumental work they did. Green Onions is one of the most listenable, catchy tunes ever written. This is due in large part to Steve Cropper's economical guitar work and Booker T. Jone's floating organ playing. A testament to taste and ability, this song is a vital part of our musical compendium.

The song topped out at #3 on the Pop Charts in 1962, but hit #1 on the Black Songs charts.

2. Sleep Walk - Santo and Johnny (performed by Joe Satriani)
How hauntingly beautiful is this song? Once you hear it, it sticks with you and remains infinitely listenable. A slow, jazzy, in the mood kind of song.

Released in 1959, the song reached #1 on the Billboard charts in August of that year and again in 1982 for Larry Carlton.

1. Frankenstein - Edgar Winters Group
How often do you hear this song on classic rock stations? Even if you don't know the name of this song, you've been inspired by it. Not only is this a very serious musical number, it's fun but not to the point of frolicking. To me, it is the very definition of the rock instrumental. It immediately sets the theme and there is some great interplay between the different instruments without getting tiring.

Released in 1973, this Billboard #1 song is as vital today as it ever was.


Thanks to all who played. Dean Esmay provided the closest list, though I didn't really expect anyone to get too close. He names six of the 10 I named and our numbers 3 and 6 were the same, so I'm pretty impressed how close someone came.

In a way, I’m kind of disappointed now that I’ve actually settled on a list. So, I will say that this is, at best, subject to change at any time. In fact, I believe I have decided to make this list a biannual event -- and I will be tweaking the master list a bit.

Everyone wants to be on this away team

How awesome is this thing? The Enterprise inspired Nissan Terranaut:

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To steal a line from FARK, "Set phasers on 'Awesome!'"

Not quite Tarzan

Holy crap! I completely missed this story 15 years ago, but this is awesome.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Missing MREs

Image hosting by PhotobucketIf you know anything about legal proceedings, investigations, etc. you know that people can't say anything about anything while an investigation is underway. With that caveat in mind, I proceed on eggshells.

Have any of you read this story? I love my military bretheren. I love the service. I love that I get to work with them. However, every so often, they do something dumb.

Point #1: Don't sell the government's property. Point #2: If you ignore Point #1, don't sell it on eBay.

Read the GAO's report in PDF.

Wooly Booly

Who knew Ken had stopped off in Michigan recently?

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Da butt?

A professor of psychology has postulated that the symbol we associate with the heart and Valentine's Day is actually a representation of the female behind.

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The, er, money quote:
"The Greek goddess of beauty, Aphrodite, was beautiful all over, but was unique
in that her buttocks were especially beautiful," he explained. "Her shapely
rounded hemispheres were so appreciated by the Greeks that they built a special
temple Aphrodite Kallipygos, which literally meant, 'Goddess with the Beautiful
Buttocks.' This was probably the only religious building in the world that was
dedicated to buttock worship."

How cool is that?

Just me and my crew

A great quiz.

You scored as Moya (Farscape). You are surrounded by muppets. But that is okay because they are your friends and have shown many times that they can be trusted. Now if only you could stop being bothered about wormholes.

Moya (Farscape)


Babylon 5 (Babylon 5)


SG-1 (Stargate)


Bebop (Cowboy Bebop)


Nebuchadnezzar (The Matrix)


Deep Space Nine (Star Trek)


Serenity (Firefly)


Andromeda Ascendant (Andromeda)


Millennium Falcon (Star Wars)


FBI's X-Files Division (The X-Files)


Galactica (Battlestar: Galactica)


Enterprise D (Star Trek)


Your Ultimate Sci-Fi Profile II: which sci-fi crew would you best fit in? (pics)
created with QuizFarm.com

Which is exactly the way I wanted it to turn out.

h/t Mary at Dean's.

Valentine's Day and all is well

Well, neither the wife nor I did much special for V-Day. This is not really anything new. I am king suck when it comes to romantic gestures. I married a very understanding woman. Thank God.

We did go out this weekend and do some shopping. I got a coffee press that you can see in the post below this one. She got some metal mixing bowls she's been wanting for some time and a day planner (she picked up for herself).

However, the past few days I have given more gifts to her than I have in some time. With our diet has come some new reserves of energy. So, I've been helping out around the house a lot more than normal. Now that's romance.

Being the father of two girls, I have been thinking a bit about future Valentine's Days. The wooing will begin sooner than I want it to, I'm sure. I guess the shotgun's gonna have to be readied.

What's got me thinking about my daughters' futures is a minor event this morning. My wife called me at work this morning to tell me what my four-year-old did. Do you know that new commercial where the girl is wearing braces and a boy walks by and says, "Braces. Cool." The theme of the commercial is, of course, to help image conscious girls feel better about getting braces.

What does my darling 4-year-old say when she sees the boy say, "Cool?" She asks my wife, "Mommy, can I get braces?"

I fear the future.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Food service Sunday

I don't want to steal my friend Mr. Bingley's schtick, but I was cooking today and decided to post my own version of his meal posts.

The wife and I are dieting South Beach-style. So we're always looking to try new things. We picked up some portabella mushrooms from Sams yesterday and I decided to do a baked stuffed mushroom with them.

Image hosting by PhotobucketHere I've got the mushrooms washed, de-stemmed and ready to go. That's a baking stone ... the wife does Pampered Chef. For baking, I have fallen in love with all things stone.

After getting the mushrooms out and prepared, I concentrated on what I was going to put on them.

Image hosting by PhotobucketI surfed the net looking for some recipes. I didn't really find anything I wanted so I decided that I was going to wing it, somewhat.

We're upping the veggies, so I went for a variety. I chopped some baby leaf spinach, some green onions, celery, and pressed out some garlic. I chopped up some Canadian bacon (which the SB Diet book says is actually a preferred meat over ham -- 'cause the sugars in most cooked hams, I imagine) and all was ready.

Image hosting by PhotobucketMy choice of beverage also differs from Bing's a bit. While he kicks up the notches with his various and assundry wines, I keep the coffee brewing.

I wasn't sure how well my grand experiment was going to work. I didn't want to throw a lot of spices in with everything finding that it's always easy to add spice, but impossible to take it away.

Image hosting by PhotobucketI sauteed everything in a little bit of olive oil. I wanted to add some red wine or balsamic vinegar, but, alas, all I had in the cupboard was rice vinegar. That was a no-go.

Image hosting by PhotobucketTo give it a little kick, after cooking the veggies and meat, I added some sharp cheddar cheese spread.

If you're at all familiar with this stuff, you know that a little goes a long way. I used about two tablespoons for the batch.

Image hosting by PhotobucketImage hosting by PhotobucketLeft: Ready to go in the oven. Right: 350 degree and 25 minutes later, all done.

Consensus opinion = A really good blend of flavors, but a tad bland. I added some more of the cheddar spread to mine and my wife added some cream cheese to hers. She made the better decision, I think.

So, we both thought I should have added a bit more spice (some vinegar and some cayenne pepper I think) and if I'd grilled the portabella's first this would have been an A+ meal. As it is, I give it a B- (but an A for effort).

However, on the diet front, things are going quite well. Regular readers know I started this diet stuff on Monday (Feb. 6). Since then I have already lost over 12 pounds!

So, here's to weight loss!

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Top 10 Contest!

UPDATE: Visitors, commenters, readers ... please leave whatever list you'd like. However, to be eligible for the contest I will only accept lists that use songs from list below.

Well I got the idea yesterday to do another top 10 list. I want to do my Top 10 All-time Best Rock and Roll Instrumentals. However, while compiling songs, I got another idea, why don't I up the ante a little bit this time? Why don't I involve my blog buds and readers?

So, here's the deal:

At the bottom of this post is the list of every song I'm considering for my top 10. Using this list, and only this list, compile your Top 10 All-time Best Rock and Roll Instrumentals. Post your list here. My list will be posted by Noon EST, Thursday, Feb. 16. The person whose list most closely matches mine will win a compilation CD of all 59 songs. If there are duplicate lists that win, the person who posted their list first will win.

I don't yet know what my list is going to be, I will be doing a critical listening session for the next few days to decide. So, don't try and get any hints out of me other than the ones I'm about to give: I have a soft spot for influential songs. I have a soft spot for rocking songs that grab you from the get go.

Don't send me e-mails or post messages saying I left any song off ... yadda, yadda. I know there are some that deserve to be here that aren't. Blah. There are some songs I wanted that I couldn't track down, and there are others that I left off because they weren't as strong as at least 20 of these. I will tell you this, those songs I couldn't track down wouldn't have made my top 10 anyway, so keep that in mind.

This post will remain at the top of my blog until I post my Top 10 Feb. 16. Post questions here, or email me.

Full list in no particular order
Happy Camper - Reverend Horton Heat
Bullet - Reverend Horton Heat
Overture (Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence, Disc 2) - Dream Theater
Larks' Tongues in Aspic, Part One - King Crimson
Red - King Crimson
Overture 1928 - Dream Theater
Beer 30 - Reverend Horton Heat
Stream of Consciousness - Dream Theater
Sleep Walk - Santo and Johnny (as performed by Joe Satriani, true to the original)
17th Century Chicken Pickin' - Impellitteri
Cliffs of Dover - Eric Johnson
Damage Control - John Petrucci
Searching - Joe Satriani
Wipe Out - The Surfaris
Honky Tonk Parts 1&2 - Bill Doggett
America The Beautiful - Black Label Society
Speedball - Black Label Society
Rat Salad - Black Sabbath
Time is Tight - Booker T & the MGs
Green Onions - Booker T & the MGs
Nottingham Lace - Buckethead
Speed Metal Symphony - Cacophony
Classical Gas - Mason Williams
The Horse - Cliff Nobles & Co.
Apache - Cliff Richards & The Shadows
Journey of the Sorcerer - The Eagles
Misirlou - Dick Dale
Erotomania - Dream Theater
Frankenstein - Edgar Winters Group
Fire on High - ELO
Albatross - Fleetwood Mac
Hocus Pocus - Focus
Maggot Brain - George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic
Beck's Bolero - Jeff Beck
Summer Song - Joe Satiani
Rumble - Link Wray
Orion - Metallica
The Call of Ktulu - Metallica
Rebel Rouser - Duane Eddy
Atom Heart Mother - Pink Floyd
YYZ - Rush
La Villa Strangiato - Rush
Satch Boogie - Joe Satriani
Spanish Fire - Impellitteri
Fire Garden Suite - Steve Vai
For the Love of God - Steve Vai
Little Wing - instrumentalized by Stevie Ray Vaughn
Scuttle Buttin' - Stevie Ray Vaughn
Surfing With the Alien - Joe Satriani
Tequila - The Champs
Pipeline - The Ventures
Walk Don't Run - The Ventures
Sparks - The Who
Tommy Overture - The Who
Triad - Tool
Eruption - Van Halen
When the Water Breaks - Liquid Tension Experiment
Evil Eye - Yngwie Malmsteen
Soul Sacrifice - Santana

Friday, February 10, 2006

Because I'm All About the Guitar Pt. 16: Not quite plug and play

Wow, this worked out to be longer than I thought.

You know a thing or two about selecting a guitar now, so you're ready to run out and emulate your favorite guitar icon now, right? Well, not so fast there Robert Johnson*.

There is so much more to getting "the sound." First, an amp. Second, effects. Sprinkle with liberal amounts of mojo and carry on. In this post and the next, I'm going to talk about amps and effects.

Today, I'm going to assume that clean signals are equal (which they in no way are) and talk about effects.

Starting with the recording of Rocket 88 -- considered by most to be the first rock and roll song-electric guitarists have been looking for ways to modify their sound. Some want a unique sound to define their sound, some want a sound to match the mood of the song. Eventually, as the guitar gained prominence as the main instrument, effects began to define the style of music. Country music has a distant, jangle and employs the unmistakable whine of the steel guitar. Disco used relatively clean guitars while getting the well-known "waka waka" sound by heavily using a wah pedal. Metal uses heavy amounts of distortion, using both overdriven amps and outboard pedals.

As time and technology has pressed on, so has the amount of gear a guitarist uses. As always, click on the images to get a full-size picture.

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Johnny Ramone's guitar rig image is from Guitar Geeks. For the image in the context of it's original page, click here.
Guitar Geeks says this rig is circa 1990. However, if you know anything about The Ramones, you know that their guitar sound never changed significantly over the decades they performed. You can see that he uses no effects. He uses a signal box to change between "clean" and "overdrive" channels on his Marshall stacks.

It was very common for early punk and hard rock artists to use the amp's distortion and then add outboard effects as necessary. This practice is not quite as common today among rock artists but many heavy metal guitarists enhance amp overdrive with external distortion.

Paul Gilbert, of Racer X and Mr. Big fame, is another effects minimalist, though he is of the school of old. His set-up is a great example of using the amp's natural overdrive and clean channels and modifying that sound with external effects. He uses a wah, phaser, chorus and delay to get all the sounds in his arsenal.

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Paul Gilbert's guitar rig image is from Guitar Geeks. For the image in the context of it's original page, click here.
If you are familiar with either Racer X or Mr. Big, you know what Gilbert plays. For those who aren't, he uses a chunky, thick, heavy rock sound for most songs. His clean tone is very acoustic (he uses acoustic guitars for this most of the time). His solos pierce the rhythm section with great tone and texture. He's a neo-classicist and one of the greatest guitar players that came out of the '80s and '90s.

This is by no means an inclusive list of effects, but I should probably run down a few of the more popular effects to give you an idea of what they do.

Distortion: Literally distorts a clean signal. It modifies the waveform of a signal by introducing odd harmonics. Some amplify the signal greatly (overdrive) or clip the peaks to impart a dirty, chunky sound. They vary in sound from the "fuzz" guitar of the '60s to the stomping thud of Pantera.

Interestingly, fuzzy guitar was first used in the song Rocket 88. As the story goes, the amp they were using broke and Sun Records producer Sam Phillips liked it and went ahead and recorded it. Since then, many guitarist have slashed speakers to get their distortion. Pete Townsend of The Who and Tony Iomi of Black Sabbath are probably the most famous examples of this practice.

Delay: A delay effects produces a copy of the signal going through and reproduces is either once (slap) or multiple times (echo). Most of these delay effect parameters can be set to either create a light echo effect similar to a reverb, a sharp, direct repeat of what is being played, a slow volume-decaying echo, or various other effects. Delay is one of the most essential effects of the modern guitarist.

Vocalists have also been known to rely on this effect. Remember this the next time you listen to Jane's Addiction.

Chorus: Also creates a copy of the signal being played, but the delay time is so short that you can't hear a separation in the sound. So, the signal comes out sounding thicker, as though more than one instrument is playing. A Flange effect is similar, but creates a more liquid sound.

Phaser/Phase Shifter: Creates a "whooshing" sound in the signal. It sounds like its lightly vamping in the signal you're playing. This effect can usually be modified from light to severe.

Wah Wah Pedal: This pedal modifies the amount of a signal's frequency coming through, by use of a foot operated pedal. As the guitarist rocks the expression pedal back and forth, a higher or lower amount of the frequency is allowed through. The most typical sound is a "wah." Think of Jimi Hendrix's intro to "Voodoo Chile" for an extreme example of wah-wah use.

Octavizer: An effect witch creates a synthetic tone for the incoming signal an octave higher or lower. Sometimes, some of these effects have parameters for you to create harmony tones as well, usually called, guess it ... a harmonizer. They allow you to texture and blend different tones and usually, like a chorus, add just enough delay to sound like multiple instruments are playing.

There are a wealth of effects out there, and these barely scratch the surface, but I could spend entire posts detailing individual effects. So, moving on, I want to talk briefly about the difference between stomp boxes, multi-effect pedals and rack effects.

Stomp Boxes
As you can see in the two pictured examples above, both Johnny Ramone and Paul Gilbert use foot switches to change which channel they're playing. Well, a stomp box is similar in that it turns its signal on and off. Usually a stomp box is a single effect that is activated by, well, stomping on it. You control the amount of the effect by the knobs and such on the pedal. The signal is added to your sound by plugging your guitar into the pedal and then running the signal out of the box to the amp. The more effects you have, the more you have to daisy chain plugs before you get to the amp.

Stomp box effects are usually considered superior to multi-effect set-ups. The prices of these pedals reflect this attitude. A well-made, popular pedal can cost from $80-$150. If you want to use a lot of effects, you can see the cost can be prohibitive. However, if you break a box, you only lose one effect, which brings me to...

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Joe Satriani is one of the pre-eminent guitarists of today. You can see that he uses a variety of stomp boxes and rack effects. Joe Satriani's guitar rig image is from Guitar Geeks. For the image in the context of it's original page, click here.
Multi-effects, floor
Partially to offer a budget solution guitarists, partially to clean up the clutter of all those boxes on the floor, companies began offering multi-effect pedals and systems. The most common multi-effect floor systems combine several effects, several different "amp sounds," the ability to dial in your own unique combinations of these effects, multiple pedals to change between effects and sometimes an expression pedal to modify the effect you're using.

The benefits to using a multi-effect system are varied. You don't have a bunch of pedals all over the place. You plug into one device and out to your amp (or other effects, if you want). The cost is almost always cheaper than buying stomp boxes to get all the same effects. And, now, the higher-end multi-effect systems offer digital recording options, computer hookups, drum machines and many other features.

The downside is that most of these systems are considered to have inferior sound in comparison to their stomp box cousins. They also don't tend to be as flexible as the individual effect pedals. However, a lot of this is changing. As technology progresses, the gap is steadily closing. I remember that in the late '80s, no one wanted multi-effect floor effects. Some of them might have been good, but they were looked upon with such disdain, that there were few models around. But today, Digitech's GNX3 and GNX4 are considered the "industry standard" effect systems for the amateur guitarist. The greatest downside is that if you break one of these, you lose EVERYTHING.

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Yngwie Malmsteen is considered by many to have created neo-classic metal. He is certainly one of the most pyrotechnic guitarists around today, even though he occasionally Unleashes the Fookin' Fury. Yngwie Malsteen's guitar rig image is from Guitar Geeks. For the image in the context of it's original page, click here.
Rack effects
Rack systems are, or were, considered the Holy Grail of effects. They generally have the best technology of their time, are the best built and, logically, cost the most. I say, "were," because now there are a lot of very high-end multi-effect floor systems and single effect pedals. Technology is becoming the great equalizer. The reason the rack effects were considered better, is that they are the ones that tended to contain vacuum tubes. Tube, analog, or A/D effect systems are considered superior by most. Many guitarists like the "warmth" of a tube tone. Personally I think that's bullshit. I think a solid state sounds every bit as good or better than tube amps/effects pre-amp these days. Technology is the great equalizer.

Basically, the rack effects are similar to a stereo component system mounted into a metal rack. These rack components do different things. One might be a multi-effects system that you can use a floor pedal board to change effects. One might just be a delay system. There are line conditioners. There are power conditioners. There are many, many different rack effects out there. And you are going to pay for them.

The upside to rack systems is that they tend to offer the greatest variety of combinations and effects. The downside is that they are generally very expensive, require a rack mount to be very portable, and sometimes require external items to operate well.

Okay, that was really long. I hope you all enjoyed it. Next week I'll tackle some real mojo - amps.

* If you don't know who this is you should be taken outside and be beaten with a brick. But since he's probably the topic of a future BIAAtG, here's a link to some information on this great guitarist.

Here's a consolidated list previous installments of BIAAtG:
Part 15.25; Part 15; Part 14; Part 13; Part 12; Part 11; Part 10; Part 9; Part 8; Part 7; Part 6; Part 5; Part 4.01; Part 4; Part 3.5; Part 3; Part 2; Part 1

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Can't think, must meme

Ugh. I wish I had more to write about. But all I could muster would be talking about how watch-able American Idol was or how after only three days I can already notice a difference in weight and how well I can "run" on my Gazelle.

So, I decided to steal this 20 questions "meme" from Lisa. I believe hers is more interesting than mine.

1. Best memory?
My absolute best memory, the absolute, most solid, "this is why I'm alive" moment came just hours after the birth of our first child. My wife has to deliver via C-section and Tori was a bit early. Shortly after being birthed, she was taken to the nursery and put under oxygen. If you have never been through this, I do not recommend it. I have had to go through it with all three of my children.

My wife wanted to breastfeed. Actually, she had really wanted to have a natural childbirth experience and had really been doing a lot of holistic-type research. Well, genetics robbed her of her ability to do that. Now, with our youngest being under oxygen, my wife's ability to breast feed was slowly ticking away (of course, we didn't know this at the time).

How is this a good memory? Well, I have never been a nurturer. Or, at least, I hadn't been up until this point. I was (and am still in many ways) too selfish. But after making sure my wife was okay, I walked down the hall to the nursery and the nurses let me hold my daughter. I got to feed her her first bottle.

So, it's a great memory. Me holding my tiny, tiny girl. Sitting in a rocking chair, slowing rocking. Feeding her. An oxygen tube running near her nose. Hoping that I'm not doing anything wrong.

2. Most terrible day?
Sorry, I am not willing to share this with blog land. However, one of my worst days I chronicled here.

3. Birth City?
Jonesboro, LA

4. Favorite thing to do?
This is a more difficult question than I thought it'd be. I mean, I'm really thinking about it as I type a little bit here and then pause to think. I guess I'd have to say watching a movie at home with my girls. Turning the lights down and having popcorn, "Just like at the movies," as my oldest says.

5. Hollywood Crush?
Scarlett Johansson; Rachel Weisz; Cate Blanchett

6. Favorite food?
Grilled Porterhouse Steak. Close second is New York Strip.

7. City you want to visit most and why?
I don't have the burning desire to see one place like I did when I was younger. I was a bit of an anglophile when I was a pre-teen/teen and I was dying to see London. I would still like to spend time there, but no more so than, say, Athens or Moscow.

8. Fantasy/dream that you want to come true?
Man, I could probably get into some serious Freud shit with this one. Being a long-time comic-book fan and having a vivid imagination, of course I had super-power fantasies when I was young. Young being, like, yesterday. Seriously though, every power or money fantasy goes to one source: I fantasize about not having to deal with the day-to-day doldrums of life. Either being financially above it or something of that nature would be nice.

Realistically, I hope my kids survive their childhood with me and grow up well adjusted. Since, you know, it's too late for me and all.

9. Favorite sport?
Couch potatoing.

10. How long have you been married?
11 years, 4 months.

11. Favorite song and why?
I don't have a favorite, but there was a little "Best Songs of 1987" retrospective on talk radio this morning. I know all the words to Bon Jovi's "Livin' on a Prayer," so I got that going for me.

12. Someone you most admire?
Ronald Reagan. For being one of the few (and last) politicians to actually take a stand for something he believed in and unflinchingly strive to achieve that goal.

13. Someone you hate and why?
I should say things like, "Ooh, hate is wrong and you really shouldn't hate," but I can't help myself hating Sean Penn.

14. Secret crush?
I'm with Lisa on this. I don't really have a "crush" outside the (light) Hollywood ones.

15. One (maybe 2) rule/s you live by?
Treat others as you'd like to be treated. Failing that, be funny.

16. Do you believe in God?

17. A dark secret (we won't tell):
Not on your life, brother.

18. Most treasured item and why?
My guitar. I love it. It could be better. But it's the one thing I own that I pined for years before I bought it. The one thing I didn't settle for a cheaper variation (although it's not like it's an expensive guitar or anything).

Oh, my burr grinder has been quite cherished lately.

19. If you could turn back time, what would you do and why?
EVERYBODY: "If I could turn back ti-uhm. If I could find
a way I'd take back those words that hurt you and you'd stay ..."

20. Last but certainly not least, what kind of "work" do you do and do you enjoy it?
I edit a military newspaper for the Marine Corps. I enjoy military Public Affairs and am very happy I was able to get a civilian position after getting out of the Army.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

So far, so good ... So what?

Day 3. Things are going pretty well. No real hunger pains or cravings. Keeping the water intake up is a big thing.

When I was active-duty, I battled weight issues for a long time. I entered the Army at 150 pounds. I am now nearly double that.

I had no problem keeping the weight off my first year or so in the Army. Then I had a bad knee injury. While recuperating from that, I put on a little chunk. No worries. But then, shortly after recovering, I have a back injury. Add more chunk. Then I injur my knee again. Chunk-o-rama! I reached a point where I really had to work hard to keep the weight off -- exercising twice a day most days. 'Course, my diet wasn't the best and I was drinking at the time also.

Quitting drinking didn't help though. I have always had a problem with food. I was raised by Southerners and food isn't just a fuel source to us -- it's a lifestyle. I worked at a seafood restaurant for a bit and the bacon for their sandwiches was deep fried. Deep-fried bacon, only in the South.

I was also raised with food as rewards. So, that's been difficult to overcome. Every time I made a weight goal, I'd celebrate by eating something nasty. That's probably one of the hardest things to overcome, for me, mentally.

A little over a year ago I quit smoking and that's when the weight really started getting packed on. I have an addictive personality. If I find something I like, I'm going to do it a lot, as long as it doesn't require a lot of effort on my part. Drinking, smoking, eating, and general sloth are things I have done or do all too well.

But I'm attempting to change. It's time to change my lifestyle. Not just a diet to lose some weight for a little bit, but change the way I think about food and eating and activity. And to be quite honest, none of this is for me. I could care less what I look like. I don't even care too much for my health. I'd rather live quality than quantity -- enjoying my life.

What I need to do is set an example for my children. I want them to be happy and healthy and I think it's important for me and my wife to set that example. And since they may need me down the road someday, I should probably make sure I'm here as long as God will allow. So, that's my motivation -- the sparkle in my chlidren's eyes.

On a related but different topic, if you've ever wondered about the nutritional value of certain foods, check out the Nutrition Data website. A great site that tells you the nutrition information for tons of foods and has a drop menu for each kind of food to change the serving size. Very cool.


Bleh. Blah.

Nothing much to talk about. Even last night's American Idol didn't produce much to talk about.

Former Pres. Carter being an ass again ... blah, what's new. Divisiveness at a huge event ... bleh, what's new.

Kiera Knightley and Scarlett Johansson are appearing nude on the cover of Vanity Fair. Now that's newsworthy!

Monday, February 06, 2006

Dear Mr. Summers


Always remember

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A cool meme, 'cause I'm such a non-reformed comic geek. From Jay at Wizbang.

Day 1

Okay. Rather than keep complaining and doing nothing, the wife and I have decided to diet. Today marks day 1 of our planned and scheduled South Beach Diet program.

So far, so good. I've upped my water consumption a good bit and that's a good thing for a variety of reasons. Anywho, I always find planning and setting a day works better than just trying to cut back. Never a good strategy, that.

Wish us luck.

Because I’m All About the Guitar Pt. 15.25

Don’t Let Gibson Buy Your Company

Okay, if you’re in the position to be bought, you really don’t have much say in the matter. But if you make or play popular, quality guitars, hope it’s not Gibson that buys them out.

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Epiphone guitars generally offer budget versions of Gibson Guitars popular models. Sometimes they have features the Gibson models don't such as the Floyd Rose trem seen here.
“Why’s that?” you may ask. Well, Gibson has a track record of buying out popular guitar brands and marketing it with cheap versions of their popular products and ruining the name. The greatest example of this is Epiphone guitars.

Epiphone Guitars have an American history that dates back to the early 1900s and even earlier than that in Europe, although the Epiphone brand name didn’t surface until 1923 when the owner started using it on -- shock, horror -- banjos.

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The Epiphone Riviera was one of John Lennon's choice guitars.
In the days when guitar gods included names like Jefferson Mumford, Lonnie Johnson, Eddie Lang, Charlie Christian, Django Reinhardt, and Freddie Green, Epiphone was a brand to be reckoned with. It’s jazz archtops were considered some of the best on the market alongside Gibson, Martin, and D'Angelico. But, by the ‘50s, Epiphone is hurting financially. In 1957 Gibson picks them up for $20,000.

Ever since Gibson purchased them, Epiphone has done nothing but carry bargain-priced versions of Gibson’s popular models. Or, sometimes, they’ll be more experimental than the Gibson versions. While some of these instruments rival Gibsons in sound quality and playability, Epiphone’s brand name has suffered from this “poorer cousin” image for decades.

One notable exception to this is the Epiphone Riviera that John Lennon often played. This hollow-body electric is in the same range of quality as Gibson’s ES-335s.

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Steinberger made headways in the mid-to-late ‘80s with their headless guitars and Transtrem tremolo systems. Eddie Van Halen played early models and you can see them in the movie Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure

More recently, Gibson bought out popular guitar brands and innovators Kramer and Steinberger. Both of these brands were known for high-quality instruments with great amounts of technical advances. Gibson offers these models in high-quality versions at great expense – greater than what the brands charged when they held their own purse strings.

The real problem is that Gibson has also created budget-priced versions of these instruments. What this does is put these cheap models into the hands of more guitarists and creates an unfair perception of Kramer and Steinberger’s quality. Over time, it kills respect for the brand name. While these brands continue to sell plenty of models, it’s usually because of their budget price. When a guitarist can afford a decent model, they’ll avoid these brands because of their perception. Which is what Gibson is banking on, I believe.

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It may look silly now, but Kramer’s such as this were the rage in the early ‘80s. It was the first guitar company Eddie Van Halen officially endorsed. This is a reproduction of Eddie’s famous taped up guitar. Originally, he had a red Charvel with two pickups yanked out and he decorated it with electrical tape. The Kramer emulated that with this paint job.

By comparison, look at Fender. They own both Jackson and Gretsch guitars. But, without being told that, you’d never know. The quality of instrument and brand independence has been well maintained.

The next time you’re out looking at guitars, think a little about that. Not that it should affect your purchasing, buy what you want. But if you’re looking for a quality instrument, don’t disregard these brands because there are still some good ones out there.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Because I’m All About the Guitar Pt. 15:

The Greatest Guitarist You’ve Never Heard Of

Who is responsible for making Stax Records a viable recording house? Booker T. Who is a founding member and driving force behind Booker T. and the MGs? Who has recorded for or produced albums by Poco, Jeff Beck, Jose Feliciano, Yvonne Elliman, John Prine, Dreams, Tower Of Power, Paul Simon, Ringo Starr, Buddy Guy, Johnny Lang, Elton John and Steppenwolf? Who was the original guitarist for the Blues Brothers?

Image hosting by PhotobucketSteve Freakin’ Cropper. That’s who.

There are so many songs and albums that Cropper has played on that you know but didn’t know that it was him. In 1996, England’s Mojo Magazine rated him the second-greatest guitarist behind Jimi Hendrix. He was also voted #36 in Rolling Stones 2003 top 100 guitarists of all time.

“The Colonel” has a signature line of guitars through Peavey. Very well thought of by many guitarists.

Take some time to learn a little more about the man at his website.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Divisive effects

I, like most of my readers and blog-friends, watched the State of the Union address Tuesday. I’m not going to talk about my impressions of his speech or what it could mean. It’s been well covered. Like it or hate it, you felt what you felt before you even heard what he had to say. The fact that you knew how you’d react is what I want to talk about.

When I saw the conservatives on the right jumping up to cheer on the president at every pause and the liberal left at best grudgingly standing to clap at the moments that were politically expedient, it drove home the issue of divisiveness between the two parties. While one side must show a unified front and cheer at every little word, the other must pout and give no quarter.

Maybe it’s been this way longer than I remember, but it seems to me that liberals and conservatives are more polarized and less civil than ever. It seems to me that there was a time that people could have ideological disagreements but still be friendly. Now it seems that if someone doesn’t share your political persuasion they are pariah. A leper. A walking disease.

When did this happen? When did we lose the ability, not only as politicians, but as a people, lose our ability to debate without being shrill? I understand that there was and will always be a segment of the population who will always be shrill, but when did they get the Nation’s ear? When did they become the spokespersons?

This isn’t just a liberal problem, as much of my conservative brethren like to claim. We are every bit as guilty of jumping on bashing-by-rhetoric bandwagons. It’s hard to read some of the comment sections at places like Wizbang! or Ace of Spades because for every intelligent, well thought post, there are two that do nothing but slam the author or another commenter. Is it that hard to argue the merits of something we believe? Why must you acknowledge the “Chimpy McHilterBush” crowd with responses at that level. Why acknowledge that kind of comment at all? Conversely, why must liberals respond to the “Sheehan speaks for the ENTIRE DEMOCRATIC PARTY” crowd? Really, come on. Any level-headed person knows that’s not true.

There is a lunatic fringe in each party. We righties have our Robertsons, lefties have their Sheehans. Is our focus on the theatrical extremisms some kind of escapism? Is the right so blind to think that the left have no politicians of merit? That is, that they have no one who can sway swing voters? It would be political suicide for us to really believe that.

Is the left so consumed with their hatred of the current administration that they cannot see the majority of Americans are very concerned with national security? Have they not yet learned that they will lose votes -- they will lose elections -- based on this issue alone?

I know we can’t all get along. But what happened to discourse? Theater of the absurd is a current M.O., and that’s a real shame.

But really, I want to know, what’s the cause? When did it happen? Discuss.