Calculate your chances...negative...negative...negative!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Review: Just For The Hell Of It/Blast Off Girls

Since the videogame thing went to crap today (see previous post,) I decided to actually watch one of the seemingly endless DVDs I've been acquiring. Imagine that, DVDs, they're not just for collecting anymore.

Anyway, here's a Herschell Gordon Lewis double feature from Something Weird/Image and it's a Drive-In disc to boot! Whoo hoo! Yeah, I got all the dirve-in intermission stuff when I bought all those "It's Intermission Time!" discs (and yes, I watched them all) but it's really cool seeing them stuck in between the movies in a nifty dirve-in package.

First up is Just For The Hell Of It. There's a story in there somewhere, but I'll be damned if I could find it. Something to do with a gang of hoodlums who like to drive around throwing buckets of water in people's faces and a bronzed all-American good boy who only seems to really get involved when they mess with his girl (and a bunch of kids playing baseball.)

Inbetween, there's tons of footage of the gang ineptly breaking up Salvation Army furniture and a small sailboat that was years past seaworthiness. And they stick a baby in a trashcan, very carefully. Such polite hoodlums. Ray Sager, Nancy Noble and the dikey blond from She-Devils On Wheels all appear.

Just For The Hell Of It raises some questions. Was HGL paying tribute to Wells with his one camera, one shot, one take scenes of destruction, or was he just being cheap? And why didn't someone tell him to wipe the lens off? It looks like Jackson Pollack painted it by the end of the film.

Moving on, The Blast Off Girls is pretty much a sleazier remake of Wild Guitar. Despite the title, it's about five guys (real life band The Faded Blue) taken in by a slick manager who exploits the boys and keeps them beholden. While Arch Hall solved his problems by beating up Ray Dennis Steckler, our boys fake drunk to blow a TV gig and resort to brute force to get the contract back. Again, Ray Sager appears.

Blast Off Girls is most famous for a jaw dropping cameo from Col. Harlan Sanders. Y'see, HGL loved fried chicken and always managed to work a hustle to get some free chicken on the set. In this case, he put Sanders in the movie, with prominent product placement, and catering for the day was taken care of. In this day and age, what image conscious corporation would allow the figurehead of the company to appear in a skangey B-movie like this? Simply awesome, stuff here.

Of the two, Blast Off Girls is actually fairly enjoyable. Though the Faded Blue are a bit too convincing in their ineptness and all in all the movie is much more threadbare than Wild Guitar, it's still quite fun. If you dig the AIP teen movies, but can tolerate something flimsier, you'll dig this one.

Just For The Hell Of It was enjoyable in a different way. All of HGL's other movies I've seen, you can look past the cheapness and enjoy them for what they are. For me, I never could look past the shoddiness of Hell and found it a bit like watching an Ed Wood film. I can tell what Lewis was going for (aside from turning a quick buck) but what he ended up with was pretty padded and pointless. Unless you're in the mood to laugh at, not with, or an HGL completest, you can pass on this one.

On the video front, Hell, doesn't look that bad and Blast Off is one step from being too rough for Image to have considered releasing it. It's entirely watchable, but it gets a bad around the reel changes.

As mentioned, the extras include the drive-in stuff. There's also a bunch of HGL trailers, and a great art gallery with some spiel from the projection booth from back in day. This audio is absolutely killer stuff, don't miss it.

All in all, this isn't a bad double feature. If you are a HGL fan, you're going to dig this a lot more but I wouldn't recommend this as your introduction to his work.

Obnoxious Day.

Man, I'm really starting to understand why people choose emulation over the real things when it comes to video games.

Longtime readers may recall that a few years ago I built a Supergun so I could play arcade games on the TV at home. Since moving, I hadn't had a chance to set anything up, but having a day off from work, today seemed like a good day to make it happen.

I get everything downstairs to my game room and set up. I plug in my Ibara board, and the sound crackles and goes out. At first I'm thinking I'd just blown the amp on a $300+ board. Great. So I plug in another one, same thing. No way I could have blown two boards.

Long story short, I'm under the hood now, pulling wires, switching speakers, doing everything I can think of. Nothing. No sound.

For some reason, I decide to try yet another board. Not only do I get no sound, the video is completely jacked. Switch back to one of the other boards and the video is fine. Well, just great.

In the end, I spent about two hours messing around. I never did play anything and discovered that something is wrong with my Supergun that I couldn't figure out and that I have a Taito F3 motherboard that is putting out bad video for a reason I can't determine. Everything was working perfectly last time and now everything is messed up.

Plus my Neo Geo is MIA. I know it's here somewhere, but since the move, I haven't the foggiest idea where.

The sad part is, all the while my computer was sitting right next to me. I could have just hopped on it, fired up MAME and played all afternoon. Maybe next time I shoudl do just that.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

The Vistas, again

Here's the current incarnation of the Vistalite kit. It's huge. This whole thing is quite a change from the smaller Gretsch drums I was playing. First off, you have the size issue. Bigger drums mean a less compact set up. Then there's more drums to tune and I'm going with lower tunings.

Still, it's fun. I'm going to tackle the cymbal set up next as I don't like the way the right hand ride is hanging up by itself. I think I'm also going to mothball that 22" Zildijan A and go back to my old 20" Paiste 602 for my ride. I think the 22" has a hairline crack somewhere and it's driving me nuts. Plus, I just want a different sound.

Weird coincidence that the same time I change up my kit from what I've been playing for about 10 years, everything with the band changes as well. Change is good, I guess.

Now playing: Hiromi - Brain
via FoxyTunes

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Someone gets it.

Or more ranting about Doug Morris, CEO of Universal.

This cNet article makes a bunch of points a little better than I did. Read it here.

In short, while Matt Rosoff won't call Morris a liar for claiming the industry was caught with their pants down on the downloading front and didn't know where to go, I will. As Rosoff points out, UMG had an early (failed) strategy and threw their lot in with Sony's Pressplay. When that didn't work out, they tried to sue the pants off everyone.

How fast they forget.

Now playing: Lionel Hampton - The Lamplighter
via FoxyTunes

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Apparently Abraham Simpson is running UMG.

Hat tip to reader Sean Coon for pointing me in the direction of the Doug Morris Wired interview. Though it just hit today, I feel like I'm about the last person on the fact of the earth to comment on it. Regardless, here's the link and, if you haven't already read it, I highly encourage you to check it out.

Yesterday after I hit post, I was kind of wondering how those excerpts would play out in context. I guess I was just having a hard time wrapping my mind around how anyone running the biggest (I think) of the big four could be so clueless and lacking basic curiosity about technology directly impacting his industry.

Yet the excerpts were a good indicator of the interview. Morris comes off as a cranky old fart who can't accept the fact that the world keeps moving forward and is rapidly leaving him behind. That's all fine and good when you're sitting at home writing letters to the editor complaining about how you can't get a good nickel candy bar anymore and how they should bring back Matlock, but Morris is the CEO of a major multi-national. This is someone who's job is to be on top of the new, not ignoring or cursing it.

Now I will say this for Morris. At least he is a music guy. He's been in the business since the 60s. But you'd think for someone with that many years under his belt, he'd have noticed how technology is intrinsically tied to the recording industry. He's seen the LP, cassette, 8-track, quadraphonic sound and a few others come and go. You'd think if some schmoo...err...schmo who has never worked in the industry and wasn't even born until 1975 can figure out that each advancement in technology has affected the way people purchase and listen to music, someone with decades of experience might be able to see it too.

Isn't that what they're paying this guy to do?

I'm not a business major, but I always though the CEO was supposed to be the man, the brains of the operation. According to the article Morris seems to think "his job should simply be finding and breaking new acts." I thought that was the responsibility of the A&R folks. You may remember them, these are the folks that UMG laid off in huge numbers over the past ten years.

Artist's rendition of UMG CEO Doug Morris

I know this is the head slappingly obvious thing to say here, but the the problem with the music industry isn't college students illegally downloading music. It's the fact that the industry is run by dinosaurs like Doug Morris. These people don't just "not get it", they have no interest in ever getting it. They don't seem to understand that while they could throw their weight around in the past and were successful in forcing their will on consumers, those days are long since past.

And this is what I think is the central thing here. It's ego, plain and simple. These people are used to being right. They're used to being important. When they talk, people listen.

But the "digital music revolution" changed all that. Consumers didn't have to accept the format, pricing or album structures anymore. Digital files made these things obsolete. And considering the industry killed the single, forced the CD on everyone and continued to bump the prices (and profit margins) upward, there was a budding consumer backlash just waiting for the moment to do an end run around the Doug Morrises of the world.

Because this was something that didn't need them, they tried to ignore it. Because this was something they couldn't control, they tried to legislate it. Because this was something that would fundamentally change the nature of their business, they wanted it to be gone. So now you have a situation where the industry is trying to play catch up, but I think it's already far too late.

And Morris, you think Steve Jobs is the enemy? Sorry man, Jobs should be your best friend as he's about the only person doing anything right at the moment. You could have had your own Steve Jobs, Mr. Morris. Tech guys were literally everywhere in the mid-90s. Lest we forget, Napster was cooked up in a dorm room. If you couldn't figure out what was real and what was bullshit, shouldn't you have found someone who could? Don't you have people under you who you can trust?

Instead, we get to watch UMG and anyone else wanting to topple the Apple juggernaut throw their lot in with Total Music or whatever ridiculousness they will throw at the wall next. Sure, the subscription based music rental thing was tired before and failed, but, gosh darn it, this time the technologically ignorant Doug Morris is behind it, so I just know it's going to be different. (Side note, Memo to Morris: if it doesn't work with an iPod, it's going to fail. Period.)

Really, I don't know what else to say except I hope the shareholders of UMG take a long look at this interview. The captain of your ship doesn't have a map, wouldn't know how to read one even if he could find one and wouldn't know where to look for one, if he cared to, which he doesn't. And he seems to think he should be in the ballroom coordinating the evening's entertainment instead of navigating through all these icebergs.

Good luck and good riddance Mr. Morris.

Now playing: Amsterdam Funk - Turn
via FoxyTunes

Monday, November 26, 2007

If you want an excellent example of why the major labels are tanking hard...

here's yet another reason why.

I really can't wait to read that whole Wired article. Those excerpts would almost be sad, if they weren't so infuriatingly hilarious.

You mean to tell me you're running a multi-million dollar multi-national company and you are so far out of touch with the outside world that you didn't even know where to start looking for someone who could explain current technology to you?!? Give me a break! If these are the people running the show, I say good riddance once and for all to the recording industry as it existed.

I like this line: "There's no one in the record industry that's a technologist." Horseshit! Who do you think invented the long playing microgroove record? The 45? Stereophonic sound? These were all things that came from RCA and CBS, two of the major labels. Granted, RCA was also a consumer electronics firm but ALL the major labels grew out of electronics firms. The entire recording industry developed because people needed records to play on their Victrolas and what have you and it only made sense for the hardware people to make the software.

Now, in this day only one of the big four is still directly tied to an electronics company. But it wasn't so long ago when the majors were divided in to two camps giving a (weak) push behind SACD and DVD-Audio. What was that?! Granted, no one really seemed to know what to do with it, but Sony and WMG were both big on one format or the other.

The difference between hi-res audio and the on-line MP3 thing is hi-res audio by definition would require people to buy their old recordings again. You can't rip your old CDs at a higher rate and get better sound (or 5.1 mixes.) From the get go, there were clear profits to be made.

With on-line stuff, the profits aren't so clear. And you can rip your current music collection to get it on an iPod. SACD and DVD-Audio were really more of the old way of doing things while the MP3 world would require a paradigm shift. Small wonder that during the time the labels should have been trying to figure out this newfangled iPod thing, they were trying to recreate the CD with those new formats.

Don't get me wrong. I like SACD and DVD-Audio. The stuff sounds great. But, it didn't take a genius to see even then that people were moving away from sitting at home and listening to music in a formal listening room type set up (which would be necessary for a 5.1 mix boasted by the hi-res formats) to MP3 players and that is where you should sink your time and resources.

Could it be any more apparent that the idiots running these companies just thought they could ignore this stuff and it would go away? I mean, how do you run one of the biggest record labels in the world and not at least have some understanding, some curiosity even, about this new technology that is threatening to eat your lunch?

The only sad thing about this is, when the industry collapses, it's going to fall on the backs of the artists. All of these suckers at the top who made the bonehead decisions will get their golden parachutes and will float straight into other companies they can ruin. When it comes to the actual musicians who make the music that these people have bungled selling, who car really say what's going to happen to them.

Still, I don't think the end of it all can come fast enough. Really, people this stupid don't deserve to be head burger flipper at McDonald's, let alone running huge corporations.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Yet another example of how the industry doesn't get it.

Jermaine Dupri on Jay-Z's decision not to sell his new album on iTunes because of their singles based business model:

Here's the money quote:

"...Back in the day when people were excited about a record coming out we'd put out a single to get the ball going and if we sold a lot of singles that was an indication we'd sell a lot of albums. But we'd cut the single off a few weeks before the album came out to get people to wait and let the excitement build. When I put out Kris Kross we did that. We sold two million singles, then we stopped. Eventually we sold eight million albums!"

And I would say that is an excellent example of the kind of industry crap that has led to the present situation. Honestly, would anyone (aside from Mr. Dupri) argue the Kriss Kross album needed to be heard in it's entirety? Most people probably wanted the single and I'd wager it was probably the only track worth hearing.

People bought the album because they single wasn't available. And guess what? That album clogged used bins for most of the 90s because people didn't really want it. Don't you think that maybe forcing consumers to shell out for a full priced mediocre album when all they wanted was the single might have something to do with the resentment people have towards the industry?

Dupri wants to accuse Steve Jobs of ruining "the artist's canvas" but give me a break. Jobs didn't invent the single. Hell, until the mid-50s the recording industry was nothing but singles. And, until everyone decided to kill them off and force albums on the consumers, the single was still a valid way of purchasing music into the 90s. (In the UK, one could argue it never really died as they still seem to love their singles.)

Furthermore, I'd say being part of the movement that took away singles in favor of flaccid full lengths, probably has more to do with the current situation than Apple. If I recall correctly, most people I knew who were trading music on Napster back in the day before the iPod, were trading radio singles because that's all people wanted and you couldn't just get the singles any other way.

Back to the article, I have to add it's completely appropriate that Dupri would mention Soulja Boi preceding that Kriss Kross quote above. The problem is, Dupri, the executive, doesn't see that he's comparing one hit wonders that people only want a single from. He thinks they should have forced the Soulja Boi album on people like they did with Kriss Kross. Does he really think, in this day and age, 4 million singles would have translated to 4 million albums?

Dupri, you can try to frame this as artists vs. business men, but the reality is you keep tipping your hand and showing this is really business men vs. the consumer. The 90s are over. They aren't coming back. Music fans aren't going to stand for being forced to buy a full priced album when all they need is a track or two and you have two choices. You can either make that happen legally or your customers will turn to other means to get what they want.

Oh and next time you want to make a point, any point, about "artists," you'll make a much better case if you keep names like Kriss Kross and Soulja Boi as far away from your thesis as possible.

Now playing: Brad Mehldau - Paranoid Android
via FoxyTunes

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Vistalites 2.0

Vistalites 2.0
Originally uploaded by CaptainWrong

Here's the latest variation on the red/amber Vistas. The Ludwig mount was nothing but garbage, so I went with DW hardware. Much more expensive, but rock solid. I'm not sure how I feel about the toms being off to the side.

Just got the 18" floor tom today and I'm a bit disappointed with it, as I feel the auction over sold the condition a bit. Such is eBay, I guess.

Considering adding a red 14" tom for purely aesthetic reasons. Yes, this kit is getting ridiculously big.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Thinking Inside the AudioLunchbox

OK, I promised I'd get back around to the mp3 sites, and here we are. I feel a little more confident talking about AudioLunchbox now as I'm into my fourth month with the service, but I have to admit, I don't know how much longer I'm going to stay there.

First off, like eMusic, AudioLunchbox (which I'm going to refer to as ALBX for the rest of this bit) offers DRM free mp3s files at about 192kbp VBR encoding. Once upon a time, I believe ALBX offered Ogg Vorbis files, but they no longer do. ALBX is also a subscription based service and the cost is a little cheaper than eMusic. You can also purchase music ala carte at 99 cents a track for most things, if you wish.

Now, they pricing gets a little weird here. One thing ALBX does that I really like is they don't charge more than 10 credits for an album. So, if you're downloading something like this Stravinsky album I downloaded and it has 23 some odd tracks, it only cost me 10. That's kind of nice.

On the flip side, ALBX has some labels on a variable price scheme whereas Matador releases (to name one) are four times the credits of everyone else! So a Guided By Voices album would run you 40 credits even if there were only a dozen tracks.

Interestingly enough, ALBX still has Epitaph releases (though there haven't been any updates in a while) and they are still at the one credit a song/ten and album rate. I'm kind of surprised by this, considering they just left eMusic over wanting a higher rate. It'll be interesting to see how much longer their catalog stays at ALBX or if they go to the higher rate.

This brings me to the biggest problem I have with ALBX. If you can't find anything to download at eMusic, don't even bother with ALBX as their catalog is even smaller and features even fewer large indies. Like I mentioned, there is Matador (at the higher rate) and Epitaph, but even then, the releases tend to be older and they haven't added anything new in a while.

Unlike eMusic which is constantly adding labels and albums, ALBX's catalog seems to be pretty stagnant. And it's kind of hard to put a finger on who I could recommend this site's selection too as it's kind of all over the map. Plus, most of what I've downloaded from ALBX, I could have gotten at eMusic.

The other problem I have with ALBX is their site is nearly a nightmare to use. The navigation is slow and awkward. Searching for an artist will sometimes reveal albums that might not show up the next time you look. Not to mention, I've had the unfortunate experience of trying to download an album that isn't actually available but hasn't been pruned from the catalog yet.

I will say, ALBX's customer service has been really responsive and quite generous with issuing credits for problems, but I've had to contact ALBX's customer service more times in my three or four months with them than I have eMusic's in my nearly two years using that service. They are good about setting things right, but too many of the issues shouldn't have happened in the first place.

I really don't feel I can recommend ALBX. It seems to be kind of direction less and just hanging on. In the end, that's really the impression I get from the site. It's like a store you go in and just can't understand how they're still keeping the lights on. With a better site and better selection, I'd be quite a fan, but as it stands, I'd suggest if you want to check it out, do a monthly subscription rather than buying an annual package.

Now playing: The Great Jazz Trio - My Funny Valentine
via FoxyTunes

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Amber Vistalites...again.

A wise man once said you can't polish a turd. While it's true, you sure can give it hell trying.

Let me back up a second. The 12" and 13" rack toms finally have heads as of a few days ago. Those drums sprang to life when they were finished. Though you can still see the spider webs and whatnot, they really look a million times better than they did when I brought them home. I still need to put badges on them, but I'm saving that for another time.

Now, the bass drum...ugh, what a mess. I'd already put in a few hours on it and frankly it wasn't looking much better. Tonight, I decided to give it a last go. Really, I don't feel like I had anything to lose except for the fact I'd bought all the extra parts I needed to finish it. I prefer to look at that more as incentive.

Three hours later and, well, I'm really shocked at the difference. Yes, there are still numerous problems with that drum. There's still a funky grime in the shell I don't think anything but sanding will take out. There are still numerous scratches and I've done the best I can with that.

The lugs aren't so hot either. No amount of Brasso in the world will replace pitted chrome plating. I also discovered my favorite what were they thinking thing about this kit. Someone cut the ends off some of the swivel nuts so they don't come out of the lug casing. Why? I couldn't begin to guess.

Anyway, while this bass isn't going to win any awards, the difference again is night and day. Once I got the hardware on, it really ended up looking like a drum I won't be embarrassed to be sitting behind. I'm actually quite proud of how good it came out.

Now I need heads and it's done. Very cool stuff.

So, I should mention I won an eBay auction tonight an soon I will have an 18" floor tom to match. It's almost sad in a way that the red Vistas are quickly being phased out. I really dig the red. It's a cool color and less common than the amber. But the ambers are something I've always wanted and it's all just kind of falling into my lap. I still need a 16" floor tom to really complete this kit.

Well, that's all for now.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Ronald McPuffnStuff

In other news, I recently screened the debut episode of the Krofft Superstar Hour from '78 featuring an on the way down (and barely speaking to each other) Bay City Rollers. It was a steaming turd on DVD. I know I may have seemed to pan the special with the Brady Bunch in it a while back, but at least that was humorously bad. This sucker just hurt.

Someone tell me why I subject myself to these things?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

A very short review of Gamera Supermonster as seen on Elvira's Movie Macabre

Strike one: unskippable commercial for Elvira's new reality TV show starts the disc.

Strike two: this disc doesn't appear to be properly licensed in any way, shape or form, as seems to be standard operating procedure for pre-1995 Gamera movies released in region one.

Strike three: The audio and video quality is very, very poor. Except for the fact that this is encoded decently, I'd think Mill Creek or East West put this out. Clearly, a commercial VHS was used as the master, but the English audio track (which given the Japanese credits was probably grafted onto this release) is worse than the bootlegs floating around. (Ironically, one of the host clips uses part of the movie and while it's pan and scan, the image quality is greatly improved over what we're actually seeing.)

Unless you are an Elvira fan, avoid this one. If your really want to see Gamera Supermonster, may I recommend the fine release from WTF-Films? Funny how a guy with a capture card and an eye for quality can put out a better release than a major company (Shout Factory.)

(Postscript, the other Shout Factory discs I own are very well done. Don't take my opinion on this disc as a blanket dismissal of the entire company. Also, if you read any other reviews of this disc and they claim no one would put the money into a decent release of this film, don't believe it. There's an excellent legit R2 version of this, and has been for years. This disc makes Retromedia's equally bogus Gamera discs look Criterion quality by comparison.)

Now playing: Jimmy McGriff & Groove Holmes - Out Of Nowhere
via FoxyTunes)

Monday, October 15, 2007

Dear Van Halen,

Hi. My name is Rob. You don't know me and I'm not going to pretend to be your biggest fan or anything like that. I'm pretty casual, in fact, but there was a time when I really dug your music. Hell, I'm pretty sure I still have my old 8-track of Women and Children First kicking around somewhere.

Anyway, I was at your concert last night. I have to admit, the 12 year old in me was pretty jazzed, as I never got to see you back in the day. Sure, it would have been nice to see the whole band, but to me VH was always Eddie and Diamond Dave. Glad you guys pulled it together, even if the cynic in me knows it was just a cash grab.

The reason I'm writing though is, well, I left the show more than a little disappointed. No, it's got nothing to do with Wolfie, or you didn't play my favorite song or what have you. In fact, I'm sure you played my favorite song, but the problem is I wouldn't even know if you did.

Confused? No, I wasn't on anything or drunk out of my mind. It's just that I was up in the nose bleed seats and from where I was not only was it impossible to see, but it was impossible to hear as well.

Yeah, I know. It's an arena show. Those things are always murder for the sound crew. But I've been to several other shows at this same arena and sat in the same seats and was able to hear pretty well. The show I was at Sunday night was a little like hearing Van Halen's greatest hits played from a booming car stereo about a block away. Maybe not even that good.

And while it looked like you had a great video screen going on, you shoved it in the back of the stage. All we up high could see was a corner and a bunch of rigging and wire. Again, other folks have made it so we could at least watch the action on the screen, though we were too high to really see the stage well.

It was so bad, we had to look up a set list on the cell phone to know what song was playing. It's not for lack of familiarity with your catalog, it's just everything was a blob of bass with some cymbal on top.

We decided to call it an early evening because it didn't seem like things were going to get any better and, I gotta tell ya, the difference just walking down the stairs to the exit was dramatic. Granted, I wouldn't confuse what I heard near the exit with high fidelity, but I could at least tell what song I was listening to. It wasn't great, but it was passable for an arena rock show.

Like I said, I know sports arenas are hardly ideal venues for rock concerts. They are big and boomy and acoustic nightmares. But I've heard it done a lot better in that same room, so I know it can be done. I'm really not expecting perfection, but I think the people in the $80 "cheap" seats deserve to at least see and hear a little of what's going on. Don't you?

Respectfully yours,

Rob Guernsey

Monday, October 08, 2007

To All the Drums I've Loved Before: The Blackhawks

I haven't forgotten about the legal download reviews I promised a while back. Honestly, I've been using the other services a little longer to try to be a bit more fair about reviewing them.

Anyway, working on the Vistalites has gotten me a bit nostalgic for all the drums I've played over the years, so I thought I'd start at the beginning with the first kit I owned.

Technically, before I got these drums, I had a hand-me-down snare from my Uncle's brief playing days in the 60s. The drum was nothing special. It didn't have a badge and, if I recall correctly, was a 5"x14" covered in White Marine Pearl. I'm guessing it was a Kent or something like that, but I really don't know.

Anyway, here's a picture of my first kit as it appeared in the 1986 Sears Wishbook from which it was ordered. Surprisingly enough, I don't have any pictures of me with these drums.

Originally uploaded by CaptainWrong

Dates owned: 1987-1989(?)
Price: $399
Fate: Traded in on next kit

So, yeah, I tipped my hand. My first kit came straight out of the Sears catalog. Not that there's anything wrong with that really. I certainly was glad to have them. Ironically, the other kids with their CB700 kits, used to clown me for these drums even though I'll bet they all came from the same factory in Taiwan.

Now these aren't exactly the same as the kit I had. Mine were black. At one point I covered them with stickers, which didn't exactly thrill my parents. Also, my drums didn't have the Gretsch name on them, not that Gretsch really had anything to do with these drums other than importing them.

The only thing I really remember about these drums is the hardware was horrible. The optional high-hat was without a doubt the worst I've ever seen. The boom stand was completely unstable. And the cymbals they came with dented under normal playing and were bendable with kid's hands.

The snare was also pretty rotten.

Other than that, they were pretty much your typical beginner's drums imported from China. I had these for a couple of years before I got my next kit and then the Blackhawks were gone.

Godzilla '85 on Monsters HD?

OK, I just found out Monsters HD has been running a remastered Godzilla '85. Can anyone out there hook a fella up with a DVD of said broadcast? (We don't get Monsters HD. Boo.)

Yeah, I know it's not a good movie, but it's the only 'Zilla I've seen in the theater and I have a certain amount of nostalgia for it. The old VHS looks like poo and the R2 disc is the Japanese cut without Raymond Burr and all the Dr. Pepper shilling.

Screen caps and thoughts here:

Sunday, October 07, 2007

More fun with the Vistalites.

Finally got to play the red Vistas with the band. They sound great, though I'm not sold on the single head mounted toms. I'm also thoroughly disgusted with the modern Ludwig tom holder I bought to replace the original. I couldn't get the toms set up in anyway that made sense to me.

Put in some more work on the ambers today. Had to Dremel the screws off those rusted lugs I showed you a while ago. I was able to save the lugs though, which is nice.

I worked on the bass shell a bit, but I'm really skeptical about how much good I'm going to be able to do with it. Like the toms, it's got it's share of scratches, but it's also got this grimy film like they 13" tom had but worse. Working it with the Novus didn't really produce a dramatic difference.

Still, I guess I'm optimistic enough to have worked on one of the bass drum hoops today. One had an incorrect silver sparkle inlay. The other has the correct gold sparkle inlay, but was really roughly painted over with black paint. I scraped all the black off with a screwdriver, which is not a technique I'd recommend using on a drum. Only reason I did it that way was, it worked and I figure the hoop is going to be mostly covered and no one is going to notice if the inlay is scratched.

I also threw a head on that Acrolite snare. If I haven't mentioned it before, those are amazing little snares. I really didn't even tension the head carefully (and I didn't touch the snare side at all) and it sounds just great. I read a rumor (supposedly from Bill Ludwig Jr.) that the only difference between the Acrolite and the SupraPhonic is two lugs and chrome finish. Don't know how much truth there is to that, but I'd bet most people couldn't tell the two drums apart in a blind listening test.

I turned the old head into spacers for the lugs on the bass drum since the kit was missing about 12 of them. Old heads work great for this, if you don't mind cutting the things out.

Well, that's about it. I need a badge grommet tool and a couple more badges and then I'm ready to put the toms together. I'll probably use those with the red kit if nothing else, even though they don't look nearly as nice as the red toms.

Now playing: Fiore - Proximity
via FoxyTunes

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Random Weekend Stuff.

Stopped in for a bit of thrifting this weekend for the first time in ages. Actually came out with some gems. (No pics, I'm lazy.)

First off, I got someone's old tape of a couple MST3K episodes. Beginning of the End and the MST3K Hour version of War of the Colossal Man. That was kinda cool. Also got the old Rush Through the Camera Lens video which is a collection of some cheesetastic old Rush videos. I find this stuff much more interesting than concert films.

The thing I'm most excited about is the laserdisc set of Happy Harmonies I scored. This is a set of early stuff from Hugh Harmon and Rudolf Ising who started at Disney and moved on to establish Warner's animation studio. These are all toons from the 30s and early 40s, which are some of my favorites, and this set is probably worth a little more than the $3 I paid for it. There doesn't seem to be any DVD plans for this stuff, so whoo-hoo.

I also put the finishing touch on my red Vistalites, with an early 70s Ludwig logo for the bass drum head. Using the old head as a template, I managed to place the sticker exactly as off center as the original. Hmm...didn't realize that until after the fact, of course.

Also, I bought a set of Protection Racket Nutcases for the Vistas. It was kind of a blind purchase, as I wasn't able to find much info about them, but the company seems to get good marks for their high end stuff. Bags at the budget level tend to be fairly dismal and these seem to be quite a bit better than any thing else in their price range. (I got the set for $130.)

What is different about them is they don't zip up. They have a drawstring at the top and a cover that buckles down over the top. What's nice about this is I can pull the strings tighter and they fit my standard depth drums nicely. (It's hard to find cases for standard depth drums as hardly anyone makes them in a non-custom line anymore.)

While I haven't gigged them out yet, I think these are going to work fine. I still wouldn't want to drop one, but I just need something to keep them from getting scuffed up in transport. Plus, I switch cars a lot and cases can be a little rough on seats.

I have two minor complaints. One, the bass is rather hard to get in the bag. This may just be a problem with any bag at this price point. I made it work, but I felt like I had to wrestle it a bit to get it in there. The other thing is that the bags are pretty ugly. There's a garish logo on the top that I'm not crazy about. Oh well.

Other than that, recording went well. We have one more track to record next weekend and then hopefully we're done. I gotta start building a new web site, so I suppose I should start thinking about that now.

Oh, I'm sitting in on the tomorrow night. So be looking out for that.

Saturday, September 29, 2007


Originally uploaded by CaptainWrong

More Svetlana recording today. Hopefully we're getting close to being
done so people will stop asking me when the album is coming out. More
recording next week, then mixing, mastering and that's it. Huzzah!

Sent from my iPhone

Friday, September 28, 2007

Never thought I'd see this...

Yongary, in correct aspect ratio, truly remastered! The only thing missing is the Korean language track, which is apparently lost for good, sadly enough.

Warching through this, my original review stands. (You can read it here: linkie.)

The weird thing is, in widescreen, the effects look even cheesier, the whole thing looks cheaper and the bleeding rectum death scene, even more disturbing. Still I think you can safely throw away your Alpha DVDs of this film.

(BTW, the flip side, Konga, is a British King Kong rip off that I still think sucks even if it does star Alfred from the Batman TV series as the heavy. This appears to be the exact same as the previously released DVD, even down to th non-anamorphic 1.66 transfer.)

Mikey Stipe tries out for the role of Glenn Manning in the War of the Colossal Beast remake...

Loose the eye, and I'd say you've got it man.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Day 2 With the Amber Vistas

No pictures this time, they wouldn't be too exciting anyway.

Tonight I polished all the tom lugs and rims with Brasso. Man, I hate that stuff. Works wonders but almost knocks me out every time even working in a very well ventilated area.

The lugs are slightly pitted, as you'd expect. Still, they cleaned up better than I expected. I'm becoming more and more convinced these drums were under water at some point. The amount of rust and the scummy film on all the chrome is a giveaway.

Right now, I need five of the gaskets that go beneath the lugs and heads. The 12" tom is ready to go. I have the suspension mount I'm going to use and I think I have tension rods that will work. It's the 13" that I'm waiting on. Of course, I still need badges (yes, I do need stinking badges) to finish the job correctly.

The bass drum is still a mess. The two screws I showed earlier still aren't budging. I have some Naval Jelly I'm going to try next, but if that doesn't work, it's the Dremel tool to those screw heads. The bad thing about that is, it will bring the number of large lugs I need up to five, but if that's the way it has to be, then so be it.

I still need the correct T-rods and claws as well. I have some that I could use, but the claws are way too wide and they're going to look really funky. Still, it'll do for right now, as I'm trying to to this as cheaply as possible, so I'm going to have to be patient for the parts I need.

My goal for now is getting those rack toms ready to roll so I can use them with the red kit. I've been playing the red drums and I don't know how I like the single headed toms yet. I'll have to hear them with the band, but they're different if nothing else. If I had a whole row of them, I could do the big fill from In the Air Tonight, but alas, I don't.

So that's my status. The before and after on this set are going to be dramatic. While the Fibes kit I used to own had more structural damage, these were the worst looking acrylics I've owned and they have cleaned up far better than I hoped. If only there was a market for this...

Now playing: Panda Bear - Bros (Album Version)
via FoxyTunes

Sunday, September 23, 2007

My newest drum set.

And they are real diamonds in the rough.

I'll spare you the long version of the story, but the short version goes like this: I'm in Sam Ash talking to Ivan, who has been helping me out with my e-drums. I mention that I'd just finished fixing up a Vistalite kit and he mentioned they had this kit in the back that was pretty beat up but the manager might let go cheap just to get them out of there.

So, he brings out this tom and it looks pretty sad. But my interest is piqued. He gets a manager and we go in back and all have a laugh at this disheveled heap of drums and the absurd price tag on it. (Apparently, someone in guitars bought this and gave the guy way too much money. Someone else seriously thought they could get $700 for what I'm about to show you.) A bit of haggling and a little time away to think about it, and I've got another drum kit for the princely sum of $75.

Anyway, let me show you what I got:

2 great iPhotos

Let's start with the positive. This kit, for whatever reason, had an Acrolite snare with it. Honestly, I'm surprised no one pulled this and put it out by itself. This was also my ace in the hole as this drum is in great shape and is easily worth $75 alone. Plus, I've always wanted one.

Moving on...

2 great iPhotos

Here's the mounted toms, a 12" and a 13". Obviously, both are without heads, but I did get the rims. The 12" has some spider cracks and both drums are scratched and filthy. There's a grimy film on both that I just can't place.

Close up of the 12":

2 great iPhotos

So, these two are a challenge, but here's the real problem child of the bunch:


Where should I begin with this one? It's missing three lugs, some of the others are missing swivel nuts. Half of the T-rods and claws are wrong. The tom mount on tom is probably stripped. It's missing a leg and there's a crack from one of the leg holes. One of the hoops is wrong and the other one is painted over. And inside...


Ugly stuff, but it gets worse...


Two lugs are rusted in place. Did someone scoop this drum up from White River?

There's also two huge Velcro stickers inside I have no idea how I'm going to remove. Moving on...

2 great iPhotos

Hello! Who's this? Are you lost, little Sonor Force 2001 floor tom? No. Some confused soul thought you belonged with this kit. I'm a little skeptical about this one, as 16" amber floor toms can go for some money on eBay. I have to wonder if someone inside the store didn't pull a switcheroo, as I don't even know how one would acquire a random Sonor floor tom. (Know anyone who needs one? I'll cut them a good deal.)

So, anyway, I played around with them a little today. Stripped the shells and did the Weld-On thing on the bass drum. I'm trying to soak those lugs in 3 in 1 oil, hoping the two stragglers will break loose.

I did get the toms cleaned up and to my surprise, they turned out pretty nice. Here's a comparison shot of the clean 12" and the dirty 13". It's kind of hard to see, but I think you can get the idea:


Not flawless, but the cleaned up 12" looks worlds better than the 13". I took a more radical approach to cleaning these up than I did my red kit. Since I figured I didn't have much to lose, I went straight from a cleaning swipe with Novus 1 to polishing with Novus 3. I really only used 2 when I'd buffed as much as I was going to and was getting ready to shine them up.

This approach worked pretty well. While I wasn't able to get every last scratch out, I wasn't expecting to either. I was more curious to see what I could get done than anything else. And I'm really pleased with the final results:


Right now, I'm focusing on the toms as it looks like they're going to turn out well. I've got RIMS mounts coming (again, not so much for sustain, but I hate the 70s Ludwig mounts and I won't drill the shells.) The internal mufflers and logo badges are missing. I'll probably try to score new badges, but I wouldn't use the mufflers anyway, so I'll just leave those be.

Ultimately, I'd like to find a matching floor tom and have another kit. I'm not prepared to pay eBay prices though. (The 16" amber tom is one of John Bonham's drums, so there's a premium on it.) If nothing else, I can use these with the red drums I already have and while they're a bit rougher, hopefully I can get them close to looking as nice as those red ones.

So, I've got a hot date with Brasso soon. (Brasso is my least favorite chemical I use. The stuff is just so noxious, I can't be in a big enough area to not feel like I'm huffing the stuff.) If nothing else, I'm going to have a couple of toms and a snare out of this deal. Starting a new job tomorrow, so I probably won't have time to play around with this for a little while though.

Now playing: Jimmy Woods Sextet - Pazmuerte
via FoxyTunes

We'll be right back after a few words from our sponsors.

Have I mentioned TV In Japan before? It's one of my favorite blogs of late. Really quality, laugh out loud clips this person finds. Check it out.

OK, now back to the regularly scheduled rants about the music industry and drum nerd-ery.

PS, check out the Cocaine Wolfs. Holly cow. Like Thin Lizzy? Like Motorhead? Like the Stooges? You love these guys. They tore it up at the Melody Inn last night with Bible of the Devil and Devil to Pay, both of whom were also excellent. A fun night was had by all.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

My new babies.

It's been a drum buying couple of weeks for me, much to my ever patient wife's bemusement. First, I got an electronic kit which I'll detail more when everything is working correctly (grr...) then I bought two more acoustic kits. Deals just seem to be dropping from the sky for me.

So it's the first acoustic kit I want to talk about right now.

I'd been thinking about changing up my sound for a while. See I play an old round badge Gretsch kit, which I love. I've had it about ten years and I honestly thought it was the last set of drums I was ever going to buy.

If you know anything about drums, you know those drums have a beautiful warm tone that just sings. The record beautifully and when you're playing them, they just sound great.

The problem is, I play in a loud guitar rock band (Svetlana) and while those drums sound fantastic on our recordings, they kind of get lost live. Part of the reason Gretsch never successfully made the transition to the rock era was that their drums just don't have the oomph to cut through loud amps.

Specifically, the 20" bass just isn't cutting it. Yeah, I could play around with different heads and tuning, but frankly that would rune the tone that was the whole reason I bought the kit in the first place.

After I bought the Gretsch kit, I bought a second kit to knock around. It was an old Fibes Crystalite acrylic kit. These drums were in pretty sad shape when I got them, but I fixed them up pretty nicely and, to my surprise, I really liked the way they sounded.

The big difference between those sets was the shells. Whereas the Gretsch are some magical mixture of maple and "other select hardwoods", the Fibes were acrylic. In addition to being transparent (which is a really cool look on stage) the drums were loud, cutting and very neutral sounding. Pretty much everything my Gretsch drums weren't.

I ended up selling the Fibes to my friend Jon because, at the time, I wasn't playing them and I had no where to store them. They were living at his studio anyway, so it only made sense that he owned them.

Fast forward 5 or 6 years and here I am. For some reason I've got acrylic drums on the mind again as I'd already owned a set and knew they'd solve my issues. Plus, they are really fun to play as they look so cool.

Specifically, I was thinking about Ludwig Vistalites. When I was growing up, these were the drums I wanted because John Bonham played a kit. Ever seen Song Remains the Same? Yeah, that's what I'm talking about.

Ludwig reissued those specific drums a few years ago, along with some smaller kits, but the fact of the matter is, I wasn't looking to spend that kind of money. And, as much as I'd love the Bonham kit, I really don't want to transport a 26" bass drum. (I once had a 24" prior to the Gretsch and when I sold my Chevy Malibu for a Camry I couldn't fit it in the car!)

Anyway, I'm up at Guitar Center looking for heads and what do I see back around by the used kits?

What a coincidence!

I check them out (not as well as I thought, more on that later) and sleep on it. $500 seems fair as they're not in bad shape. Even though I just bought an electronic kit, I didn't spring for the top of the line V-drums kit I was eying, so I'm still $3000 under my original budget.


2 great iPhotos

Now, I'd done a lot of work with the Fibes set I'd owned prior, so I know how to get these things looking great. See, the acrylics are notorious for scratching and cracking. Scratches aren't a terrible thing, unless they are gouges. Some Novus Plastic polish and elbow grease and you're good to go.

Cracks are a drag though. They don't affect the sound really, my Fibes kit with it's multiple cracks (and ham fisted repair jobs) was a testament to that. But, they can get worse and they do mar visuals of the drums a bit.

Well, I thought I was in the clear until I got home and checked the floor tom again.

2 great iPhotos

D'OH!!! How did I miss that?!?

Ok, it's not a deal breaker, but it is a disappointment. Still, a little time with Weld-On 3 and I fell pretty confident it's not going anywhere.

So, about a week later and here's what they look like:

My new babies.

Here's what I did to this kit:

Stripped the drums. Polished all the chrome with Brasso. Polished the shells with Novus 1,2,3 (three step process). RIMS mounted the toms and replaced the godawful 70s Ludwig mounts and holder with modern stuff. New heads.

One thing about this kit that's kind of odd, those mounted toms are single head. The floor tom is double. I can't find this configuration in any of the catalogs. At first I thought it was pieced together, but the serial numbers are all very close. Then I considered it could be a Quadra Plus kit missing two toms, but the toms have regular Ludwig tom mounts rather than the clip style they used on that kit. It's possible this could have been a custom order or who knows what the story is?

Now to get really drum geeky, I went with Evans heads on the drums. I used those on the old Fibes and they sounded great. All the toms have G2 two ply heads which gives just a little dampening but still sounds fairly open.

Can I tell you how much I miss the Gretsch die cast hoops though? Geez, I forgotten how hard tuning drums is with regular triple flanged hoops. Heh.

I also used a G2 on the resonant side of the bass, which seems weird, but works perfectly with th EQ4 I have on the batter. I don't feel I need any extra dampening on the bass because of this head combo.

Of course, I've only played this by myself in the basement, so we'll see what it sounds like on stage with the band. Still, I really like what I'm hearing so far. And if I decide I don't like the sound of those single head toms, well, let's just say I have options I'll discuss in a later blog post. (No, it's not drilling new lugs. I'm opposed to adding holes to drums.)

Now playing: Aghora - Transfiguration
via FoxyTunes

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Take a trip with me back to the 1970s. The record industry is big business thanks in large part to rock and roll and the buying power of teens who are now approaching their 20s. Rock and roll, which started out on independent labels for the most part, has totally been co-opted by the big companies who started signing everything with long hair and amplifiers in the 60s. There seemed to be a "throw it against the wall and see what sticks" mentality. But when things stuck...

In the 70s some bright soul made a discovery. Instead of spending time and money trying to promote dozens of records by dozens of acts, it would be easier to focus on a few huge releases every year that would be likely to sell in the millions. Thus, the blockbuster album was born.

Dark Side of the Moon. Hotel California. Rumors. Saturday Night Fever. All the way up to The Wall. These records were just a few of the decade's huge sellers. The Platinum album was born, which became multi-Platinum. Numbers like these weren't even thought of in the 60s.

Then something happened. Among other factors, disco went bust and popped the bubble the record industry was riding. Blockbusters weren't selling as they once did. Sure, the industry was still absolutely rancid with money, but the arrows on those projection charts kept point up while reality was leveling off and going down.

The problem wasn't that the industry was crumbling. Far from it. The problem was, everyone kept looking over their shoulders, back at the 70s. Back then it looked like the sky was the limit and no one was willing to believe they'd reached the top of the hill and were rolling back down.

So, they kept trying to rejigger the old formula. Sometimes it worked and they could cough up Thriller or Born in the USA. But even a mega-hit like Thriller wasn't enough to satiate the appetite of what was now the "big six" record labels.

They jumped on the compact disc bandwagon, coaxing consumers to re-buy all their old albums in "perfect sound forever" rather than looking forward and developing new artists. They killed off the single and forced people to buy entire albums.

By the end of the decade, the offerings from the major labels had become so stale that independent labels once again rose up and became dominant. This time around, the big companies weren't so slow to adapt to the new music, buying up pretty much every band or label that had an asking price.

But something was different this time around. The music had become more categorized and segmented. The audiences became smaller and more specialized. Someone into hip-hop probably wasn't going to buy the new Nirvana album. And though you did have your Jagged Little Pills and Cracked Rear Views, these were much fewer and farther between and acts tended not to sustain their marketability through follow up albums.

Meanwhile, rather than either accepting the 70s as an aberration or trying to discover new artists people would want to buy, the blame game started. First it was "home taping is killing the industry". Then it was the DAT will kill the industry. Then it was used CDs. Now it is mp3 and file sharing. It's always someone else's fault other than the companies putting out records no one wants to buy.

There's a phrase you usually hear in conjunction with "investment opportunities" advertised on talk radio. "Past performance is no guarantee of future results." in reality, the statement can apply to a lot of things in life. For if there's one thing I've learned in 32 years, there aren't too many sure bets, especially when it comes to the pocket book.

It seems this lesson was lost on the "big four" major labels.

Rather than looking at the 70s as a very good decade when a lot of factors came together and made a lot of people a lot of money, it seems the recording industry saw that time as the beginning of a period of endless growth. I'm no business major, but I don't see how this thinking is anywhere near realistic.

If you look at the 70s, it's easy to see that things were going to top out eventually. There's only a finite number of people who can buy your product, for one thing. For another, once the economy slows down, nonessentials like entertainment are some of the first things people cut out of their budget.

Above and beyond that, the music industry got infatuated with it's own success. Part of the reason disco caught the public's imagination was that it was something new. But the big labels seem to have forgotten how to create anything new. Because you burped out an Eagles record in 1974, doesn't mean you can keep trying to do things that way and see the same sales as you did.

Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Suing every file sharer from coast to coast isn't going to change the fact that the industry needs to get over it's sense of entitlement to huge profits and get back to trying to put out new and interesting music if it wants to survive.

Sidenote: I do believe mp3 sharing is hurting the industry, but I also believe it's their own fault. After forcing CDs on consumers, they killed off the single and turned albums into big singles (one or two good tracks and a dozen mediocre ones) while jacking up the price. The early days of Napster were, in my opinion, a direct response to this. By the time the industry decided to adopt the new technology for their own use rather than fight it, a generation of kids had grown up with illegal downloading and weren't going to pay 99 cents a track (with DRM restrictions) for music all too easy to acquire for free.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Epitaph, eMusic and one of my favorite logical fallacies.

Talk about irony. Right after I finish my eMusic post, on of the biger labels on the service announces they won't be renewing their contract when it expires next month. Though I'll admit, there's not a ton on Epitaph I'll really miss, the Anit- sub lable has a lot of gems and the label has a big catalog and some prestige that goes with it.

I won't sugar coat this. Losing a big label like Epitaph is a bad thing for eMusic. Not necessarly a "reconsider your subscription" thing, but it is unfortunate and the reason for the withdraw seems to be part of a bigger trend.

According to David Pakman, eMusic pres, Epitaph is leaving because they want eMusic to charge 99 cents a track like Apple. Now I'll leave the question of is the Epitaph catalog worth 99 cents a track up to you, but here's something that I see happening over and over with labels (and you could even throw the NBC/Universal standoff with Apple in this mix) that just flies in the face of what little I know about business and logic.

First off, if you have a product that is selling to a diminishing number of people, wouldn't it make more sense to lower the cost? Or, at the very least, keep the cost consistent, not raise it? Yet, here is this situation where they want more for their tracks when the industry as a whole is slowly going under. Hell, I read the other day FYE is raising their catalog CD prices to $19.99! It's almost like these people are trying to kill the industry themselves.

However, the big one that always gets me is kind of implied in this action by Epitaph. If X number of people are willing to pay Y for your music, then an equal number (or at least enough to prevent a loss) will be willing to pay Y plus Z for your music. I'm not genius, but I have a really hard time believing this is so.

With a service like eMusic, the cost is low enough that you don't have to be worried about taking a chance on new music. You could never collect statistics on such a thing, but I can tell you from my own experience, I'm much more willing to take a chance on something for 30 some odd cents a track than I would be at 99.

Sure, the people who are die hards will likely follow Epitaph to Apple and pay those prices, but in this environment, why would you be willing to bet on that number? To break it down another way, what is better, selling a lot of something at a lower cost, or selling fewer or something at a higher cost?

Now this is starting to get into the whole "long tail" thing and all the new economics stuff I don't claim to understand. I guess the bottom line for me is, I'm not a gambling man. If I was running the show, I'd probably stay with the lower price and current numbers rather than assuming a higher price would either keep a consistent number of customers or that the price increase would offset any loss of customers.

(Sidenote: Kudos to Epitaph for at least announcing they are leaving the service in October. Most labels just pack up shop with no warning leaving people who were planning on downloading tracks high and dry.)

UPDATE: and now they're gone. WTF? I thought it was nice they were giving people a heads up, but now it appears they've pulled everything already. Oh well, hope you got what you wanted subscribers.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

eMusic and me.

I'm going to start my series on legal download services by talking about the one I've used the most. eMusic is, according to their own statistics, the second largest download service behind iTunes. Like the other services I'm profiling, they offer DRM free MP3s from independent labels. Subscriptions start at $9.99 a month with the per track price coming in around 26-33 cents, depending on your subscription plan.

One thing I should menation about eMusic is your subscription plan gives you 30-75 downloads a month. What you don't use, doesn't roll over, which is kind of a drag. The interesting thing about their plan is, each track is one credit. this can make eMusic a great value if you're into jazz or classical where the tracks tend to be long but a bad deal if you're downloading punk or hip-hop with lots of short tracks.

You can either load tracks one at a time off the page or use the download manager and download an entire album at a time. On your profile page is a list of all the music you've downloaded and, providing the album is still available, you can download your music as many times as you want.

I find eMusic's catalog to be just about perfect for the kind of music I prefer. Nearly all the largest independent rock labels are on board, most of the best underground hip-hop labels are available and there's tons of jazz and avantgarde. Since the first of the year, they've also added Greensleeves records, which turned eMusic into a reggae powerhouse as well.

There have been some defections from the service as well. The biggest I can thing of was Ryko who left in the time I've been a member. There have been several smaller labels leaving this year, many complaining they were only receiving "peanuts" from eMusic. But it seems like for ever label leaving, at least one more quality label comes on board to replace them.

One of the things I really like about eMusic is they have attempted to set it up to give a sense of community. In addition to regular columns written by respected music writers, you can peruse the downloads of other users, read user reviews and check recommended listening lists. I've discovered a lot of great music this way and with the download cost being so low, I can afford to take a chance on something new.

The site itself is fairly accessible. Searching for music is pretty easy and you can even search by label, a feature I like a lot. However, it's a bit difficult to find another user on the site. A lot of people I know have joined, but even if I know their user name, it's difficult to find their profile page.

One more thing I like about eMusic is all the free tracks. There's a daily free track and then every so often label samplers pop up. Recently, I downloaded free samplers from Oneida and a modern funk comp with Sharon Jones and stuff like that. Granted, it's not always stuff I'm into, but there's been a lot of stuff I have really dug.

eMusic isn't for everyone. Just check their message boards to see all the people bemoaning the lack of Top 40/major label stuff. But if you'd rather buy your music at the hip independent record store, where the people running the place are pretty knowledgeable and can help you find some cool stuf to listen to, eMusic is probably a place you'll dig a lot. I've been a subscriber for several years and I really don't have much to complain about.

(And if you want a free trial subscription, message me and let me know. I get freebies for giving these things out. ;))

Now playing: Squirrel Bait - Too Close To The Fire
via FoxyTunes

Monday, September 10, 2007

Can someone explain this to me?

OK, I'll get to the music downloading stuff in a bit. I've been transferring videos to DVD for the wife and I'm in the middle of an American Bandstand marathon. Whoo hoo.

Now, AB is kind of fun to watch, at least when everyone is dancing. The "performances" are some of the most low budget lip syncs one could hope to see. (Side note: there was a great John Cougar bit from '80 where his band is clearly taking the piss on the lip syncing. The keyboard player has an accordion, the bassist is playing a doghouse like an electric and the drummer grabs a girl and starts dancing in the middle of a song.)

The thing I don't get about AB is how in the world did Dick Clark endure as a host/cultural icon? The guy really doesn't show much personality or excitement, his interview skills are kind of weak and he really seems to be suppressing bewilderment at a lot of the music featured on the show. (Though to be fair, how in the heck did Loverboy become huge? Seriously, inquiring minds want to know.)

Right now, I'm watching Clark in a cream leisure suit, collar to the shoulders, introducing John Travolta. He's sitting in the middle of a bunch of kids who look young enough to be his kids maybe. Even with the sound off, it just looks awkward, probably more so without the sound.

The only thing I can figure is young Dick Clark made some very smart financial decisions (and possibly some powerful friends, if one believes the theories as to why he never got nabbed in the payola scandals of the '50s.) His "world's oldest teenager" bit had much more to do with vertical integration from the companies Clark owns than it did any real "finger on the pulse" ability on his part.

Don't get me wrong. I totally understand the importance of Bandstand, at least up to the time MTV really started rolling. The concept behind the show may not have been original, but if the decision to take it national was Clark's, he's a genius for that alone. I'm not trying to deny AB as a show or whatever. It's just Dick Clark strikes me a lot more Pat Boone than Elvis Presley and after about six hours of non-stop AB action, you kind of realize, hey, Dick Clark is kind of bland.

PS- did Dick Clark own a piece of the Spinners? I swear, they are on EVERY episode of this show I have on tape, regardless of if they are even culturally relevant or not.

Now playing: The Assemble Head In Sunburst Sound - D Brown
via FoxyTunes

Friday, September 07, 2007

Rain sucks

Rain sucks
Originally uploaded by CaptainWrong

But the sale is back.

Sent from my iPhone

The creepy bunny sez...

The creepy bunny sez...
Originally uploaded by CaptainWrong


Sent from my iPhone

Garage Sale Blogging

Garage Sale Blogging
Originally uploaded by CaptainWrong

You know you want to come to our garage sale and buy all my CDs. You
know you want 'em.

1811 Fisher in Speedway. Literally on the corner or Crawfordsville &

Come get some! NOW!!!!!!!!

Sent from my iPhone

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Legal Download Services I Have Known and Loved

The big Apple press conference a-go-go today got me thinking about something I've been wanting to blog abut for a while now. That being alternatives to the iTunes Music Store. While I've spent a lot of money* at the iTMS, I've found a few other download services that meet my needs a little better.

Specifically, there are three places I've paid to download from: eMusic, Audio Lunchbox and Amie Street. Each has it's strengths and weaknesses. First off, all three offer DRM free downloads in the mp3 format. Though there is this movement to paint Steve Jobs as the patron saint of DRM free music, all these places were doing it before Apple and all three offer it across the board, not just from one label**.

All of these services use a web based interface and obviously the tracks you download will work with any mp3 player. For the most part, these tracks are encoded at a higher bit rate than the normal iTunes download as well. And, for the most part, they are considerably cheaper than buying music through Apple.

There are also several negatives all have in common. For instance, you won't find major label music at any of these services. None of these places offer video, if that matters to you. Also, all three use some sort of subscription or credit purchasing program rather than an ala cart, buy as you go set up (although Audio Lunchbox does allow you to buy tracks for 99 cents a pop if you wish.)

As I get time, I'll profile each of these services, starting with eMusic where I've been a subscriber the longest. My reason for writing this is twofold. First, I really like these services. eMusic especially got me over my distaste for legal downloads and has exposed me to a ton of music I'd otherwise never heard of. Secondly, I just want people to realize that there are alternatives to the iTunes Music Store and even BitTorrent and P2P that won't put a huge hurt on your wallet and might even introduce you to something you wouldn't have heard otherwise.

With that, I will mention one thing. If your listening tastes are pretty much exclusively top 40 mainstream, there isn't going to be much for you here. Although a lot of indie artists are breaking through, you're not going to find Justin, Fergie or Fiddy on these services. However, if your tastes run a bit left of mainstream, if you're ready to dive in to classic jazz or if you are just adventurous, you're going to find a lot to like.

Now playing: Elvin Jones - Love Supreme
via FoxyTunes

*actually I scammed a shameful amount of free downloads from an Army related promo. I've probably only spent $100 at the iTMS, but I'm sure I'm close to a grand in actual amount of music downloaded. Pure insanity and I should be ashamed of myself.

** Interestingly enough, I've read an interview with someone from Netwerk who said they have been trying to offer their music DRM free through Apple and were told the DRM was Apple's policy, even if the labels didn't want it. Apparently that's not the case anymore, at least if you are a major label as the indies still can't offer DRM free music through iTMS.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


Man, I love jazz organ. I've been on a major Jack McDuff kick as of late, but I discovered a new name to add to the collection, Rhoda Scott. She's a bit more obscure but from what I gather she was raised in the church (and it shows in her playing) and moved to France where she took off in the jazz circle.

The album I snagged was one with Kenny Clarke (another ex-pat) and her originals on it are really good.

Anyway, here's a cool clip of her doing Moanin' in 1972. Dig this noise:

Anyone falling in here with some more info about Ms. Scott, let me hear it, please!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

CD...dead or dying?

So I'm trying to clean house and lose a couple hundred CDs I really don't need anymore. In the past I've had pretty good luck selling stuff through Amazon and even after their high seller fees, I've still done alright for myself.

The key is, there's a certain dollar amount you really can't dip below because if you do, by the time Amazon takes their cut, you pay for postage and packaging and you factor in time and travel, you've made nothing. Unfortunately, the average CD price on Amazon and is just about at the point where it's not worth putting them up there.

For every five CDs I'd look at, one might average at about $7, which would be about $5 in pocket after all the expenses I listed above. The other four would be somewhere around $4 or less with multiple copies available. Many were hovering around $2 or less, at which point you're pretty much losing money and I don't understand how people see stuff that cheap at Amazon.

Selling on Amazon has always seemed like a race to the bottom with regards to seller's prices. It seemed like if I didn't sell something in the first week or two, someone would undercut me, and then be undercut, etc., etc. But at least you had a chance of selling your stuff at a decent price as the market wasn't totally glutted.

Now, it's really a buyer's market. Almost any album you can think of have multiple copies for sale for pretty much whatever you want to pay. In many instances, there are a dozen or more used copies for sale within a week of an album's release date. (Most of these are promo copies and god knows I've sold tons of these myself.)

So, what's my point with all this? Well, there's a lot of talk, on-line anyway, about how much longer the CD has left as a viable medium. It's really hard to say. There's still a lot of people who aren't into downloading music (legally or not) for various reasons. Until recently, I was among those people. However, the fact that I do so much of my listening on computers and mp3 players and the fact that I have more CDs than I know what to do with has caused me to try to stop worrying and learn to love the mp3.

I've heard stories of people ripping their CD collections and then disposing of them and that certainly seems to be what I'm seeing on Amazon and half. And, I have to admit, the temptation to do just that is starting to get to me too.

I think what we're seeing is, consumers are already abandoning the CD even if the recording industry is still putting them out. There is a glut of used CDs that just wasn't there a few years ago and though I don't have facts and figures to back it up, I can't see that being a product of anything other than people ripping and abandoning.

As a consumer, it's a great thing but as someone wanting to clear some stuff out I don't listen to anymore, it's a bit disheartening. I used to be able to at least get half what I paid for a disc back, but now it seems I'd be lucky to get a quarter. And with that in mind, I'm finding myself much more careful about what I'm buying.

And I hate to sound fatalist, but I just don't see this getting any better. There's already a huge difference on the secondhand market from just a year ago, it's almost unbelievable.

Though I'm not a fan of the recording industry, I do still like the option for having a physical copy of music in an uncompressed format. I still enjoy sleeve notes and cover art. I like having something to look at while I listen to the music.

One thing I am really happy about is, not only are more people putting out actual records, but more companies are offering free downloads of the album with a purchase. Beggar's Group, Sub Pop and even some major label stuff is doing this. To me, this is both ideal and a best of both worlds situation.

The other thing I'm noticing, and this is kind of ironic, is that is seems that I'm listening to more music than ever before. And I don't think I'm in the minority. Most people I know aren't buying as many CDs but always have music with them, on their computers, cell phones or iPods. Though the physical medium for delivery is becoming obsolete, the music itself is becoming more ubiquitous.

Well, I've done a lot of thinking out loud here, but the bottom line is, I'm still not sure if the CD is dead or dying or if that's even a bad thing. I do know if anyone wants to buy some cheap CDs, I'll be having a garage sale in a few weeks and I'm willing to cut some good deals.

Now playing: Russ Freeman - Bread And Wine
via FoxyTunes

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Not happy...

Sitting in the Denver airport...

our three hour layover keeps getting longer...

the flight has been delayed at least an hour...

number or crying/shrieking children: 2, so far...

I just want to get home.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Where I've been...

I've been sick for the past four or so days. Baah. So here I am convalescing in Hawaii.


Gigan makes sure I'm taking my meds.


In retrospect, having Hedorah the Smog Monster play nurse probably didn't help matters.


Mothra prepares to deliver the meds to the patient.

So, I don't have a whole lot to say right now, but here's the last three pictures I took in Tokyo. (Click for larger versions, you know, so you can actually read them.)




Saturday, July 21, 2007

Akihabara 2, Electric Town Boogaloo

Man, I'm exhausted. Today was the day where several months of wedding planning, a wedding, a 13 hour plane trip, being in a country where you speak very little of the language and being crowd phobic all caught up. Still, I'm hanging tough like New Kids and I still love Japan.

We returned to Akihabara today. If you'd like to read a more videogame-centric recap of day one, I'd encourage you to check out this post I made at 30 Lives. It's on the nerdy side, so approach with caution.

So, let's assume you didn't read that post and have no idea what Akihabara is about. Well, it's nicknamed Electric Town and for good reason. It's like the promised land for anyone into gadgets, toys, videogames or anime. For me the big attraction was looking for all the videogame goodies. And there were pleanty to be had.

Unfortunately, videogame shopping in Akihabara isn't exactly an ideal activity for a non-Japanese speaker. The stores are all so small and narrow that you really can't browse and with most shelves stocked titles out, you really can't tell what the heck you're looking at if you can't read the language. Not to say it's impossible, just saying being a big, sweaty American puts one at a huge dissadvantage.

Oh yeah. Akihabara has it's own weather system. It's humid. Very humid. You realize after a while you're almost swimming in the collected flop sweat of everyone you rub against trying to navigate the stores.

There were two stores in particular I was looking for, Mak Games and G-Front as those were two shops specalizing in arcade boards. Well, I never did find Mak, but I found G-Front. The problem was again, the language barrier. They had more arcade boards than I'd even seen in my life, but I had no clue what I was looking at. Aside from that, I've read their prices aren't so hot, so no harm, no foul.

Some of the stores I did shop in include Sofmap, Traders 2 and a few others I really don't know what the heck they were. It kind of got to be a blur after a while.

A lot of stores here sell used stuff, which is good. The problem for me is there was a ton of Nintendo stuff, and I'm much more of a Sega guy. Granted, I saw lots of Saturn games (no big bargains, sadly) but there was just so much Famicom and Super Famicom, I couldn't believe it. Mostly what I came away with was used PS2 games which were really easy to find.

So, let's have a look at some games, shall we?


Gunner's Heaven. I found this in a cheapie pile. Looks like a Metal Slug type thing. At least, I hope it is.


Psyvariar and Sonic Wings Special from the first trip to Akihabara.


Cheap Jogcon and Disney DDR for Kristen. (That sucker goes for stupid money in the US.)


Treasure Box Sega Ages collection and the bizarre button pushing game Switch (aka Panic on the Sega CD.) I'd only found out this existed for PS2 this week and lo and behold a cheap copy found it's way to me. Read more about this one here.


XII Stag and Trizeal.


Random picture of some cosplay girls handing out flyers.

We also bought soundtracks:


Some game soundtrack CDs. That's Atari Music 1 & 2, Shoting Game Sound Omnibus 1 & 2 and Space Invaders Anniversary.


Bunch of DDR soundtracks. (These are Kristen's.)

And Gamera?


Part 2 of the Gamera box set with yet another Gamera figure.

But the best thing I bought today was probably this:


It's a 1998(?) set of vinyl figures of all the critters from the classic Gamera films.


RARRRRRRHHHHHH!!!! Giant monsters attacking Tokyo!!!!

That was a bargain at about $28.

There's more, but I'm too tired to get into it.