Thursday, August 30, 2007

Yet Another New Amp - UPDATED 05Sept2007

I think I should work for Ashdown. I liked the combo amp I bought a couple of weeks ago so much, that I bought another, this time a mo' powerfuller model of the same amp - the Ashdown MAG600R.

In our last episode, I got a single-15" combo, the MAG 300-115. To review (there will be a test): At rehearsal, that combo itself more or less kept up with the very loud rock ensemble with whom I play. When I attached an additional cabinet (which lowered the ohmage load and doubled the output), the amp really came into its own. Not only is it loud and deep, but notes on the low B string are as clear as can be, growl like anything I've ever heard, while being very deep and well-defined . And this from a 34" scale 5-string.

That amp produces 307 watts into 4 ohms, and was just barely keeping up at full output; onstage, I think it would run out of steam. After all, it is just a combo (albeit a loud one!).

I'm a firm subscriber to More's First Axiom of Music: If more's good, then too much is just right. I went out and got the Ashdown MAG600R head.

This head has the same tone, same controls and same appearance of the combo, but packs 575 watts (1000 W peak) at 4 ohms. Basically, double the juice of the combo amp. It sounds just like the combo, only louder (and possibly cleaner, because it doesn't have to be driven as hard), and - whoohoo - only weighs about 26 pounds. I loaded it into a Gator Rack Bag and I'm stylin' as I'm boomin'.

Of course, I really like it. Light and loud. Ahhh...

Special thanks to Tod and Larry at Washington Music Center for their Great Big help.

UPDATE: Well, after doing a couple of gigs with the amp, I finally got around to running it with a 4ohm load. The volume went down, and the tone got thin. Not good, not right. Back to Washington Music, where another Mag 600R came out and was tested in both 8ohm and 4ohm configuration. This time, with a 4-ohm load, the amp got louder and thicker - just what's supposed to happen.

So, check the amp thoroughly before you leave the store. Not all vendors are as nice as mine.

On the plus side, doing the gigs were cool. This amp can really grind; it has a great rock sound, while not exactly dirty, when driven it has a "strained" sort of tone that's very interesting and I like a lot.

Whoowaa, back in the saddle.


iPhone explodes from unlock attempt (picture) – iPhone Atlas:

"I think my collegue (sic) must have touched something."

Well, do ya think?

Paul Fix:

"The only reason some people get lost in thought is because it's unfamiliar territory.

- Paul Fix"

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

What is wrong with these people?

A Dozen Pit Bulls Removed From DMX's Home In Raid - News Story | Music, Celebrity, Artist News | MTV News:

"A tipster notified police more than a week ago that dogs were being kept in inhumane conditions at the rapper's property, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio told MTV News. 'They weren't getting proper food, they weren't getting proper water, and they were tied outside in 115-degree heat,' Arpaio said. 'We are developing the investigation.'

He added that the department is seeking additional warrants to check the guns to determine if 'they're legal, if he's allowed to have weapons.'

According to Arpaio, the charred remains of at least one dog were recovered from DMX's backyard, and the sheriff's department will be investigating the rapper's possible involvement in illegal dogfighting.

Police continue to explore the grounds around DMX's home for more dog remains."

Wait to see if Arpaio gets his hands on DMX. That should be fun!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Yamaha RBX4 A2

I was in a music store today and this thing caught my eye. Very interesting appearance; the RBX4 A2 looked a little like 50's Jetson's-type Modern style, a little like fashion-forward postmodern industrial design. It's a real departure from the current trend of beautiful woods and finishes. So different, it's probably what interested me.

The industrial design look was all over it: Brushed steel hardware, white front with green/gray back and neck; silver/brushed steel line around the edge mimicking binding. There was even some contouring on the headstock and body. With such an interesting forward/retro look, it demanded to be played.

I picked it up and, for a bass, it's weight surprised me. Light as a feather, possibly off-balance by being neck-heavy, but overall very light in weight. Yamaha accomplishes this by using softwoods for the body center, sandwiched between hardwood face and back. There is a special bridge coupling the front and back (the strings go through the body, ala vintage Fender basses), intended to pull tone from throughout the instrument. The neck is hardwood (alder?) and bolt-on.

Plugging it in, the sound was particularly clear and in general delightful. Single-coil pickups give a really nice slap/pluck sound. Then I looked down: the knobs were glowing! Well, actually there were colored lighted rings around the 2 volume knobs that were apparently lit by internal LEDs. A little on the tacky side, I thought, but interesting.

Overall, I liked this bass a lot. I didn't get a chance to wring it out, but it left a good impression on me. It's worth a play, even if it looks like it came from Forbidden Planet. Call it "Robbie."

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Michael Vick and American Culture

Pardon my French here, but this one has me going...

Son of a bitch if I understand what's going on. It's clear from Vick's guilty plea on Aug 24 that he has committed many horrific things. Drowning dogs. Electrocuting dogs. Shooting dogs. Hanging dogs. Strangling dogs. All because they didn't fight well enough, and make Vick and his pals enough money. He's admitted it. And it's clear that someone with only brains enough to play football (very well, though it may be) has thrown away a fortune. What's not clear is the reaction of Vick apologists, particularly those from the black community such as Reverend Marcellus Harris and Minister Michael Muhammad and the NAACP.

By any measure, Vick has been ruthless and inhumane in his treatment of animals. Specifically, beasts recognized the world over and for centuries as being loving, loyal and smart companions and workmates. I refer to dogs, of course. That the black apologists would come forward and diminish the inhumanity Vick and his cohorts displayed tells volumes about their perspective, their fall, and now their irrelevance.

The NAACP should now be renamed the Non-white Association for the Avoidance of Criminal Prosecution. It seems all they do any more is to play race games with the American justice system, in favor of those born with dark skin who commit criminal acts. Note that I said "commit criminal acts." Meaning that individuals, and free-willed individuals at that, had every right and freedom to commit a good act, or a bad one. They chose the bad one. So, irrespective of skin color or anything else, they should be punished.

But in the Vick case, black apologists like the NAACP are likening Vick's behavior to the legal hunting of deer and other game by white people. Harris and Muhammad tried to liken Vick's media attention to Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan shenanigans, no doubt because the latter two idiots are white. Additionally, the NAACP seems incredibly concerned for Vick's career:

"As a society, we should aid in his rehabilitation and welcome a new Michael Vick back into the community without a permanent loss of his career in football," said White, president of the NAACP's Atlanta chapter. "We further ask the NFL, Falcons, and the sponsors not to permanently ban Mr. Vick from his ability to bring hours of enjoyment to fans all over this country."

Is the NAACP concerned for Vick, or are they courting a donation to cover their well-publicized financial incompetence?

In the end, what they are all trying to do is to make it hunkey-dorey for Vick to commit horrendously inhumane and criminal acts, implying it's a black cultural manifestation of the way white culture treats animals. Are you outraged yet? That apparently intelligent people would say this takes my breath away.

The NAACP and other leading blacks taking this stance shows a clear racist bias: under no circumstances should any "hero" such as Vick be allowed to be punished for the same thing that whites do, right? Vick killed animals the same as whites do, right? Of course, they don't discuss the manner nor the purpose. Their logic screams in the night...

This is what marks the NAACP's and black leadership's fall and makes them irrelevant. (Let's set aside for a moment that the organization only works in the interests of blacks, not other "colored people.")

Whereas in the past the organization made strides toward true racial equivalence, this flavor of NAACP bites at every case where blacks are caught doing something wrong, and makes desperate attempts to apply argument that justifies the criminal actions of these individuals. They have moved well beyond being an organization that "rights the wrongs" of a lopsided past, and are moving into territory where those they choose to represent are free to do anything they see fit - including criminal acts without fear of prosecution based on their skin color. The goal is no longer equality, but complete unaccountability. The word hypocrisy does not even begin to fit the NAACP agenda.

The first position of any organization which stands for the rights of others should be to recognize that all living creatures have the right to a decent life. This includes not only all races, but also all species. All living things have imbued in them the spirit of life, but we humans, being the highest order of life, have qualities which place us apart from the beasts. These qualities, however, give humans responsibilities which are not to be taken lightly. They involve decent and humane treatment for all, including our animal brethren. It involves the protection of lesser beings.

It is here that both Vick and the NAACP go awry of decency; NAACP's R.L. White, president of the NAACP's Atlanta chapter, said, "Michael Vick has received more negative press than if he had killed a human being... His crime is, it was a dog."

Yes, a dog, a being deserving of protection rather than the torturous, painful life and death at the hands of its human owner, all for the sake of greed and money.

I would have hoped that we have all learned and become more sophisticated about life, out of the crucible of slavery and the pursuit of civil rights, but apparently many have not.

Look into the eyes of your pet, or the smile on a dog, and tell me this is not right.


Thursday, August 16, 2007



Thought to be an extinct art form, a music video was seen on VH1 in the early morning hours of August 15, 2007. The song was lousy, the female singer ugly, but it was a music video nonetheless.


Intellectual Public Property

I've been thinking a lot about intellectual property rights. Under current law, copyright is assigned at the moment of creation, and extends for the life of the creator plus 70 years. Additionally, works for hire (such as those contracted by corporations) are copyright for either 95 or 120 years, depending on the circumstance, and whichever is less.

Some time ago, I read about prolific author Noam Chomsky's dodge concerning intellectual property. He assigned all rights to his works to his daughter, so that regardless of the law, after his death his works will remain a money-maker for the Chomskys. I assume they could do this ad-infinitum.

What a rotten, lousy, stinking thing for an anarchistic liberal to do, I say. Aren't libs supposed to be about public good and such? Speaking as an author myself, I'd think any writer would want their works in the public domain sooner rather than later, especially for socialist-minded people. Not so in this case.

The author in me (writer, composer, filmmaker) got to thinking about intellectual property as a whole: what's good policy to protect the author, and promote social literacy?

Certainly, someone who makes their living as an author should bear the fruits of their work. But also, shouldn't the society which created that author gain from it, too?

What I came to is that, of course, US laws on the matter are a mess - overly complicated, rife with loopholes, and favoring commerce over public good. Bear in mind, I'm no socialist by any measure, and even I see there there are limits to everything.

My view is that the law should certainly protect original works made by an individual for the life of that individual. However, that's where it should end. Upon the death of the author, the work should transfer to the public domain, period.

For rights held by corporations, I'm less generous; treatment such as that applied to US patents could be appropriate: Design patents are protected for 14 years. So, any work for hire or work owned by a corporation (this includes literary works and major motion pictures), remains the sole property of the corporation for 14 years, then into the public domain it goes.

I'm not really the socialist I seem to be - quite the contrary. However, I believe that money generated in the media has become obscene, and its time the public got a break.

And just as open source software has been a really good thing for the computer industry, so will this be to elevate the marketplace of ideas, which is the goal, after all.

What do you think?

Friday, August 10, 2007

Music: How filmmaking is like launching a start-up | Newsmakers | CNET

How filmmaking is like launching a start-up | Newsmakers | CNET

I found parts of this interesting, from an entrepreneurial perspective. All my life, I have been, in one form or another, starting a venture of some variety - be it a musical group or a film project. The author rightly outlines how making a film is like creating a startup business. This was a perspective I had never taken, but agree with it.

With musical groups, starting one of these is exactly like creating a startup - using personnel culled from kindergarten. Musicians - especially the better ones (with whom it has been my pleasure to work lo these past 30-some years) can be extremely trying. We all hate maintaining people, but sometimes to get a project off the ground, especially one of high caliber, one must bite the snake.

But then there are music agents. Agents need emotional massaging themselves. To conduct normal business arrangements with them will eventually find a musician in a position where he needs to get tough with them. But any time one gets tough with an agent, then ALL the work can dry up.

Musicians themselves are, well, not stupid, exactly, just not worldly. In life, we learn how to deal with conflict. If we learn it well, there is a win-win solution. Not so for musicians. The typical response from us: tell a lie, to completely avoid the situation. Which sweeps it under the rug for another day (or person).

And this is the reason why band leaders go gray early, or go bald, or become music agents.

So that's my music-related thought for the day. Feel free to comment.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

MUSIC: New Amp!

This is stupid but I'm excited about it. My 10" combo amp - used for quick and small casual dates - released the magic smoke for the last time, so I needed a new amp for those jobs. After lots of looking around and hand-wringing, I finally settled on an Ashdown MAG C115-300. 307 growling, snotty watts with a lone, bring-it-on 15, and NO tweeter nor horn. It's like actually playing bass again: no pseudo-PA with high frequency horns and such, just electricity in one end and lots of air pumping tone out the other. A nice, useless but fun touch is the analog VU meter. The fanning needle gives me something to try and bend while playing boring songs. (UPDATE: The Vu meter turns out to be actually useful - one can see what he's actually doing, and approaching areas of distortion, Much better than a simple LED on many amps.)

I really like this amp - punchy and deep and overbearing where you want it to be. And a good size for small dates. Very cool, even if it is frickin' made in China (I hate that... Will it poison my dog or give lead poisoning to the kid next door?).

Thanks to Tod Eliot from Washington Music Center for the help with this purchase!

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Like, DOOD! No wonder your kid can, like, barely be understood. SNAP!

Study: screen time bad for baby | Tech news blog - CNET

Debunking Baby Einstein | Tech news blog - CNET

"Well-intentioned, science-based efforts to promote the "first three years" of life as an important time for brain development created a market that was extremely receptive to "educational" toys and videos. The marketing legacy of "play" being replaced by a "curriculum" remains today. If you walk down any toy aisle in a major retailer, you'll find that toys right down to birth are sold with specific learning objectives. The irony of course, is that kids who receive loving human interaction and attention can learn in just about any situation. The specific objects don't really matter and, in the case of television in particular, can be worrisome."

Oh, my, what's a parent to do? Talk to the child themselves? Don't be silly.

Zebron and James