Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Posters and such...

Anyone who knows me knows that I have a soft spot for--and a growing collection of--classic 60s concert posters done by artists like Victor Moscoso, Rick Griffin, Stanley Mouse, Gary Grimshaw and the whole Berkeley Bonaparte crew, as well as Bob Masse and Steve Seymour who were the folks who did most of the Vancouver Retinal Circus and/or Afterthought show posters.

Well, this post is about a newer artist I found during my 'net wanderings, a fella named Stainboy. I found Stainboy's posters at his site, and also at Deisel Fuel Prints, along with works by a number of other newer pop artists.

Short story: I like Stainboy's stuff. Lots.

Here's a couple of examples:

My guess is that Stainboy's stuff's gonna command a pretty penny a few decades from now, just like Moscoso's and Griffin's work does today.

And the pride of my collection (by Moscoso)...a 60s item known by some as the "Oracle Double" and commonly referred to as NR-13b...

...which is a very rare Moscoso overprint of two classic images designed by Rick Griffin for the San Francisco Oracle newspaper back in the day.

Well, okay...one other favorite: a Frank Lewis design from a misspent Hallowe'en at the Retinal...

(naaaaaahhhh...I'm glad I spent it that way...)

Friday, January 26, 2007

There oughtta be a law...

Actually, there very seldom (if ever) oughtta be a law...

This article notes the efforts of Virginia state Sen. Ken Cuccinelli/republican to get a law written/passed to protect grieving families from reporters and others immediately following whatever trauma.

Now...the article writer, Marc Fisher, does a resonable job of addressing the specifics of why this particular law is a bad idea, but that's not my point.

My point is: every "should" doesn't need a law attached to it.

The article in question simply examines one of a million examples of folks hurrying to write laws in vain and foolish attempts to cover and prevent every possibility of harm, every possibility of upset, inconvenience, danger or disruption.

Can't be done.

More importantly: should not be done. "Let the folks most directly involved sort it out themselves" is most often the best thing to do.

So, the next time someone says "there oughtta be a law..." JUST SAY NO.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Starfire Lap Steel

This isn't my first lap steel (I've had a couple of others: a wonderful old 1950's 6-string Supro and a somewhat newer 6-string Magnatone which was OK but not great) and, since I'd let those go due to circumstances, I decided I wanted another and went searching.

Ebay was full of gems at decent prices ($250-$400--and sometimes less if you're lucky and patient--will get you a very nice vintage 6-string machine) but I wan't looking to spend quite that much and I'm not always patient.

I spent some time researching the Artisan models and they're well-regarded especially considering they're very inexpensive, but two objections were commonly noted: string spacing (too narrow for some tastes), and--worse--the output jack for the cable to the amplifier is in a brain-dead stupid location that requires a 90 degree angle plug for comfortable playing. (You can read more about the Artisans here, or just Google, or check Ebay) Neither of those Artisan design shortcomings is a total deal-breaker but I was looking for a longer scale and a better jack placement.

I came upon the Starfire at $169 USD in a Buy-It-Now deal.

The jack is in a smart, logical and out-of-the-way place. And it's long scale (about 24")...

...and it has decent tuners, a decent humbucker pickup (lotsa old laps have single coil "buzzers") and 3/8 inch string spacing, which is often preferred.

The Starfire lap steel has no vintage mojo at all (and it has no fret markers either, which is odd, but a few kids-type numbered stickers took care of that--and look cool).

Bottom line: this is a very serviceable, very playable lap steel. The tone and volume controls and 3-way switch (which seems to be a coil-splitter) all work just fine and I can get growly overdriven dirt or Hank Williams clean extremely easily through my playing rig. (Truth in advertising: the tone pots were a little loose on mine when it arrived; 2 minutes with a small wrench and small philips screw-driver fixed that right up).

Is it the best-made lap steel I've played? Nope--but it's much better than the Magnatone as far as I'm concerned and has none of the Artisan shortcomings. Gene Jones, a great steel player, played this little example on an Artisan, so y'don't require a top-flight machine to make good music; you just require practice and taste.

I do know I'll want another lap steel and the next will likely be an 8-string jobbie because 6 string laps have some inherent limitations, but I think this Starfire will do nicely and I don't have any hesitation suggesting that a beginner lap player take a serious look at a Starfire as a really decent starter.

If you're not familiar with lap steel, YouTube for "lap steel" and you'll see and hear a wide range of styles and sounds. Lap steels are very flexible, a natural second instrument for guitar players, and a fine addition to the usual guitar/bass/drums band line-up.

I heard a story that Ry Cooder was once asked how one learns to play electric slide [steel] guitar. He said words to the effect of: "get a guitar, get a slide, get an amp. Go into a small room and turn it up very loud. Then practice until you can stand it".

Which I'm gonna do.

When I can stand my own lap playing again, I'll probably post a sample.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Bell Curve...


Facts are facts. Although the article speaks to education, it also points to one reason (but only one of the many) that I'm not a democrat.

Just so's you know: most of the reasons I'm not a democrat have nothing to do with intelligence. So file this under the "and besides..." reasons.

Friday, January 12, 2007

New website...

Just a link to a website I recently built:

http://www.peacerivermedicalclinic.com The Associate Medical Clinic in scenic Peace River, Alberta.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Back in the fall (I think) of 1970 (I'm sure)...

...I was just beginning my lifetime love of playing harp outside. Which is to say: in front of real people. I had been practicing, yeah, but I was green to the processes, the manners, the culture, the whole life of being a publicly performing musician.

I don't know or remember why songwriter John Lyle asked me to record on his 1971 album "Bootleg Powerhead". I don't really even remember how we came into contact with each other. But I do vividly remember recording a tune "Livin' the blues (like a fricaseed chickadee)" I think is what it was...anyways that's more or less the lyric/title. (The 60's can be like that and they didn't end right at the stroke of Jan/70.) We did the recording up at Simon Fraser University. With good equipment for the day, too.

To the point: John was a really skilled songwriter--he wrote hooks that I've hummed at least a few times a year, for decades now. Back then I really wasn't used to being asked to play. At all. So it meant a lot to me that he asked me to do the recording, especially since he already knew many of the cream of Vancouver's serious young musicians. Well, he put the "Livin' the Blues..." tune out with the rest of the tunes on the album so I guess I didn't suck too bad. I hope.

Anyways, for decades we didn't have any contact with each other, but occasionally I would search the 'net for "Bootleg Powerhead" because I used to have a copy...two actually. Worn out and dead and gone to the rings of Saturn along with Bic lighters, missing airline luggage, socks from driers, and guitar picks. (Were you wondering where the lost stuff went? Now you know.) Today I find John.

And he's on CBC fer crissakes, and doing real well on the Roots charts. Which he solidly deserves. Check his new stuff out. I'm listening right now.

Nice to be back in touch, John. A good way to start the year.