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

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