Wednesday, November 30, 2005

This post is only a test. However, here is some random content. The picture is of my Aria Pro II TS-300 Thor Sound, this being from the eBay auction that I got the guitar through. I removed the pickguard a long while back, as these type of guitars look better to me without one. One of these days I'll have to post a proper digital camera shot of it and my Stratocaster for visiting guitar nuts to drool over.
Today there was an article in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix about the closing of HEL Music, which I mentioned on here last week. Unfortunately the article is only available online to website subscribers so I can't provide you with a link. (That seems to happen a lot with Star Phoenix articles I'd like to present here, much to my annoyance.) Owner/founder Ralph Johnstone states that his closing the store is simply for personal reasons and not market ones. In fact he says this year has been a great business year, with sales and profits up. The HEL building, which Johnstone owns and had built specifically for HEL, has been on the market since January, predating Long and McQuade's move into their new Saskatoon "big box" style home on 43rd Street. It has finally sold to the owners of Outter Limits , a Saskatoon outdoor clothing and camping equipment store also located on Broadway Avenue. Johnstone has simply decided he'd prefer the winters in British Columbia to those in Saskatoon. It must be nice to be in a situation where you can make such a decision when you feel the time is right. He also notes that although HEL Music was too big for a takeover by its employees some of them are considering starting their own musical instrument retailer sometime next year.

The HEL building has housed a number of other musical tenants over the years. Currently Ed's Musical Instrument Repair is next door to HEL Music on the street level of the building. Upstairs is the Vinyl Diner, a new and used record and CD store. The space they occupy had for a number of years housed Audio Art Recording, one of Saskatoon's recording studios. At one time HEL had their consignment room upstairs, and it was interesting to climb the rather steep stairs needed to get there. I always wondered how they got some of the heavier and bulkier stuff, like large keyboards and speaker cabinets, up those stairs.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

For those foreign visitors who've heard about the upcoming Canadian federal election and are curious about Canadian political parties here's a list. A big, long list. Frankly I'm amazed at the number of federal political parties there have been in Canada. Of course its not hard to get a few people together and call yourselves a political party. Actually running for office, let alone getting elected, is another matter.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Starting with his first recording sessions as a sideman in 1945 the recording career of Miles Davis would cover a span of nearly 50 years. During that time he would become the most influential trumpet player in post World War 2 jazz, and only overshadowed as most important jazz trumpet player period by Louis Armstrong. Not surprisingly a large number of books have been written about Davis, covering the entirety of his career. The most recent is The Last Miles: The Music of Miles Davis, 1980-1991 by George Cole. This is the only book to date to concentrate on the music Miles made in the last years of his life. His comeback at the beginning of the 1980s shocked many, as poor health and a renewed problem with drug addiction had forced him into retirement in 1975. As was often the case with Miles the music was controversial, as so much of it was more overtly commercial, for lack of a better term, than even his electric music of the '70s.

Cole provides an in depth look at this period from the perspective of someone who enjoys this period of Miles' work. He obviously couldn't discuss this music with the most important person in the story, Miles himself, but he interviewed the majority of those musicians involved with this period, as well as members of the road crew, employees of Columbia Records and Warner Brothers Records, and friends and family. Although this is primarily a book about the music we also get a look at elements of Miles' personal life of the period given that its impossible to separate a musician's work from the rest of his life, and the ups and downs of Davis' health played a considerable role in that last decade of work. Cole gives us a comprehensive look at the studio recordings, live performances, and Miles' guest appearances on the recordings of others. There are a few places where I found Cole's description of certain technical elements of the recording process slightly off, but these aren't likely to be noticed by the non musician. Overall this is an enjoyable book, recommended for anyone interested in the music of Miles Davis.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Today on CBC's Cross Country Checkup the discusssion is about the probable federal election that's expected to be called after tomorrow's non confidence vote in Parliament. As is often the case when elections are discussed a caller mentioned fixed election dates. This is a concept I'm no fan of. All one has to do is look at what happens in the US, where government business becomes sluggish for almost a year before each election. Canada's electoral system is of course far less complicated than the US system of primaries and electoral college votes, but its pretty obvious that even with our system fixed election dates will result in months before each election of blantant political antics by the political parties while the business of government gets shunted to the side. Of course there are worse electoral changes, like those who want judges to be elected. I would rather not have to face a judge who might make decisions on my case based on whether they'll get him reelected. Its ironic that people complain about politicised judges, and their suggestion to change this is to make judges another layer of politicians.
Hmm, my last post was number 666. So much for silly superstitions, nothing bad happened on Saturday to me.

I've just been watching the first Michael Keaton Batman film on TV. I don't know what it looked like in the theatre, but on TV too much of it is too dark. Its often hard to tell what's going on, especially in the final segment of the film. Sometimes TV just isn't the right medium for a film.

Friday, November 25, 2005

One more Paul Hellyer comment. I spent some time today looking at blog entries on his little speech, and only one or two of the dozens I checked out could be called even slightly sympathetic to his point of view. I would have thought there would be some pro UFO blogs on his side. Perhaps its because of some of the sources spreading the story, such as Matt Drudge's online tabloid. Maybe UFO nuts don't read them.
Trolling around blogs looking for Paul Hellyer stuff to laugh at I just found out that Pat Morita has died. He was 73. Morita was probably best known for his role as Mr. Miyagi in the movie The Karate Kid and its sequels, and for playing Arnold on the early seasons of Happy Days. He also had a starring role in the late '80s cop series Ohara.
Here's a headshaker. Former Liberal Defense Minister Paul Hellyer is supporting calls for the Senate to hold hearings on contact with aliens. Hellyer is apparently worried that the US might start a war with supposedly friendly aliens, and claims the US wants to build a military base on the Moon to fight aliens. Is he going senile? Beats me. I do know that I don't want the Senate wasting time and money on holding hearings like that.
Its goodbye to a long running Saskatoon business. HEL Music Supplies will be closing its doors at the beginning of 2006 after 30 years in business. They'll be reducing prices on all stock over the next month, and anything that doesn't sell by January 7th will be auctioned off January 8th. Its sad to see it go. Perhaps I should have bought more there, although I did recently purchase a Godlyke Powerall from them. I can't help but wonder if Long and McQuade's Saskatoon branch moving into a much larger building this year, allowing them to carry a lot more stock, had anything to do with it. Apparently their web business will continue on for a while yet. Buying and selling "vintage" items via a website from your home at your leisure must be a lot less hassle than running a general music store. It will be interesting to see whether another "mom and pop" type store will spring up to fill HEL's niche in the Saskatoon market. I suspect the answer is no. Besides L&M(there are 23 other stores in that chain) any potential music store will have to compete with the Saskatoon branches of Mothers Music(which also has stores in Edmonton, Calgary, and Winnipeg) and St. Johns Music(which has 7 other locations in Canada). Their multiple outlets allow them a purchasing advantage over a single independant store. Come to think of it the Saskatoon branch of St. Johns starting to sell guitars and basses again after a several year layoff may also have cut into the low end of HEL's business.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The most interesting hit on this blog so far this week, you ask? Well, actually you didn't, but here it is anyway. It was someone from Triple Canopy checking out blogs. Triple Canopy is a Virginia based firm that provides contract security services, including for branches of the US Government. They were mentioned on here a while back in regard to a former Saskatchewan resident, an employee of theirs, that was killed in Iraq. Its interesting to make a comment on a company and have one of their employees read what you've written about them. I guess I'll have to keep my eyes open and see if Boeing, Airbus, or Lockheed-Martin employees hit my blog after my previous post about the Canadian Armed Forces.
It was announced Monday that the Canadian Armed Forces intends to select a new tatical transport aircraft as soon as possible. The requirement is for some 16 aircraft and will run in the range of 4.5 billion dollars Canadian. My guess is that the most likely candidate for the contract is the Lockheed C130J Hercules. Others think so too, including those in the aviation biz who figure the requirements for the program are biased towards the C130J. Other proposed candidates include the Airbus A400 and the Boeing C17. But its not hard to see why the JHerc has the advantage. The C17 is generally believed to be too expensive, running around 200 million bucks American a plane, although there had been talk of leasing them instead of outright purchase. The A400 hasn't even flown yet, and military projects have a notorious habit of being delayed past their initial first flights and so on. The C130J is currently in production. More importantly its a modern version of the Hercules aircraft the Armed Forces already fly, which should help reduce training times and so forth. The big problem with the current Canadian examples is that too many of them are too old and nearing the end of their service lives. They need to be replaced. Indeed some of them probably should have been replaced years ago, just as the Chretien government shouldn't have played politics with the military search and rescue and maritime helicopter programs, resulting in aged CH124 Sea King maritime copters still being in use long after they should have gone.

As for the Hercules itself its amazing to think that the design first flew in 1954. Few if any aircraft have stayed in production as long as the dear old Herc. How much longer it will stay in production is unclear. The J may be the last model produced, as there is speculation that the US military may cease ordering the aircraft in the near future, leading to an eventual shutdown of the production line sometime around 2010. Perhaps we'll see some of the last units to come off the line end up in Canadian hands.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Another one from the "you're expecting a little too much" file: An auction for Simon Le Bon's guitar pick. For a mere 90 grand starting bid. A little bit out of my price range I'm afraid.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

A Danish newspaper has apparently reported that Link Wray has died at 76, although his website has yet to confirm this. Wray was best known for his 1958 instrumental hit "Rumble," probably the first hit pop recording that featured a deliberately distorted guitar. Interestingly, like his contemporary Chuck Berry, Wray was pushing thirty when he first found fame. Wray had been living in Copenhagen for years, hence his apparent death being reported by a Danish paper.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Any hobby can get expensive. But its easier for your hobby to get expensive if you're guillible and you fall for fantastic claims made by clever salesmen. ILikeJam presents some examples from the world of audiophiles. It seems there's big money to be made for ridiculously overpriced speaker cables and tweeters that are designed to reproduce frequencies the human ear can't hear and the stereo amplifier they're connected to can't produce. All this makes me think of when I was a kid and was utterly convinced that listening to LPs through headphones sounded better if I left the lid on the turntable up and had the TV turned on.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

My regular computer is going to be unaccessable for a while, so I'm using another system here. Its interesting to think how much this will alter some of my habits. For example I won't have access to what must be a couple of gig of audio and video files on it, mainly mp3s, so my music listening habits will be alterered. I won't be doing any experimenting with the music making software I've got installed. And the amount, and when I post, to various places may be altered. All this because I don't have access to a certain computer. Amazing isn't it how central a box with a bunch of electronics in it can become a major part of your life.

Monday, November 14, 2005

For the past few weeks posters have been up around Saskatoon for an album release party for local musician Carrie Catherine, which included the URL to her website. I finally got around to looking at it this afternoon, and found out that she's Carrie Horachek, who released an album locally in 2003. Its not surprising given the dropping of her last name and the rather glamourous picture on the posters(and her website) that I didn't recognise her. You can see a shot of the "old" Carrie here. Apparently she's made the same decision many artists with "odd" names have, to change her performing name to something easier for the casual punter to understand and pronounce. Doing something like this really isn't a surprise when the performer in question is trying to appeal to a broad audience, but it must result in some soul searching.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Reading a post on a forum I frequent prompted me to break out the cheesy little "walkman" I own and listen to some cassettes. Boy do I have a bunch of them! I really should listen to them more often instead of abusing the CD ROM drive on this poor thing.
I recently purchased a package of Pepcid AC tablets as an experiment. I occasionally suffer from acid reflux type heartburn while trying to sleep, say once every couple of months or so, and I wanted to see what effect these tablets might have compared to conventional antacids like Tums. I had an episode last night, probably from eating too much garlic bread for supper combined with a couple of large chocolate chip cookies later on. I took one when bad heartburn woke me up and it proved quite effective in stopping things, including helping with the horrible scratchy feeling in my throat that usually results. Besides taking Tums in the past I've also eaten some raw carrots, which tends to help relieve some of the symptoms for some reason.

I decided to take a quick look via Google to see what potential side effects these pills might have. I found none that directly effect me at the moment. What I did find interesting is that Pepcid AC is not only used to treat stomach acid problems in humans, but in dogs and cats as well. I do wonder about some potential use of the product though, which is in its preventative role. You can take a Pepcid AC prior to eating to prevent heart burn, and I'm a bit leery about people doing this. Self medicating like that may allow some people to ignore symptoms that might be signs of a major problem by forestalling them. The product information enclosed with the tablets warns against that kind of thing, but you know that some people will not read the product info before using the pills. The best way to prevent heart burn, unless you're advised by your physician to do so, is to be careful about what you eat and how you eat it. Drinking water with your meal for example is said to be one way to reduce the chance of later indigestion.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Oh dear. Its amazing some of the stupid names parents give their children these days. If you want a big heaping helping of them check out the blog Bad Baby Names! There are some real howlers on there. Of course you can look at the birth announcements in your own hometown and find some goodies as well. How about Eramus Maximus, whose older sister Misty's name is very tame by comparison. I'm sorry, but giving your kid a name that sounds like a Roman gladiator is just plain silly.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

A correction to my last post. The Madonna tune I heard was "Hang Up." "Hung Up" is a different tune.
Here's a 3 for 1 post.

First of all there's been a lot of talk lately in Saskatchewan about nuclear power. Some folks think we should build a nuclear power plant to provide energy for the Alberta tar sands oil project. Saskatchewan is a leading supplier of uranium, and the thought is that we should be using it right here at home instead of just selling it. But when some people make statements like this I'm not convinced they actually know how a nuclear reactor works. For those who don't, please realise that you don't just pick up a chunk of uranium, open a door on the reactor, throw it in, and sit back and watch it run. Uranium has to go through considerable processing before its usable in a reactor. More importantly I suspect a lot of these people haven't paid attention to the enormous long term costs to running a reactor. Just ask the folks at Ontario Hydro. There's also been comments from some who do support using nuclear power to aid in tar sands oil production that the reactors will need to be on or very near to the oil sites, not in Saskatchewan, given that steam generated by the reactors would be used, and such steam would be hard to move large distances. So the provincial government better do some very hard thinking even if it accepts the use of nuclear power here.

I was just driving home and listening to Rock 102Fm. The announcer stated he had some "sad news" to report at the next station break. The "sad news" turned out to be that the long range forecast for November says we'll be hitting -20 degrees mid month. And here I thought it was going to be that someone was sick or had died. Cold temperatures are just an inevitable part of a Saskatchewan winter.

I soon changed stations, and heard Madonna's new single, "Hung Up." Boy, has someone been listening to their old technopop records. The music sounds very 1981, especially the sequence that runs through much of the song. Perhaps Madonna herself is feeling nostalgic, as her music career began when bands like the Human League were at their most popular, and her early singles were quite synth heavy. And as i listened to the tune I realised that Madonna will be 50 in 3 short years. Its hard to imagine Madonna and 50 in the same sentence.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Here's a nice little present for would be electronic music makers, or those who want an extra tool in their arsenal. You can now download Propellerhead's Rebirth for free at the Rebirth Museum. It seems they've decided to stop offering the program new commercially but will give it away free to anyone who wants it. You'll need to register at the site to download Rebirth, and you'll need to be able to burn the resulting disc image file to a CD ROM. Of course this is bad news for anyone who bought the program in recent memory, or any stores that still may have copies sitting on their shelves.

Rebirth was one of the first commercially successful software emulations of real world hardware devices. The latest version comprises software emulations of Roland's TB303 Bass Line synth(two actually), TR808 drum machine, and TR909 drum machine. It duplicates both their sounds and their methods of imputing musical data, and includes a master sequencer that controls all 4 devices at once, along with effects and the ability to mix the levels of each. Although the TB303s are monophonic, that is they only play one note at a time, you can do a lot of music making with this setup, especially if you download some of the user created "mods" found on the Rebirth Museum site.

The TB303 can be called a successful flop. It, and its companion TR606 Drumatix drum machine, were introduced in 1982. Presumably they were intended to be used by home recording hobbyists who didn't play drums or bass to add those sounds to their music, and for people who wanted to make live music without needing a drummer or bassist onstage with them, such as lounge performers. Whatever their intended market the machines did not sell well and were discontinued after 18 months or so, although 20,000 TB303s may have been made. Possibly the appearance of MIDI in 1983 contributed to their demise, as neither instrument was compatible with the new interface. They were also probably too complicated to use for many hobbyists and non electronic oriented performers, while not being sophisticated enough for the pros. (Although Greg Hawkes of the Cars used them on his early '80s solo album.) But in the late '80s the TB303 found its calling when the electronic dance scene slowly began to catch on to them. The fact that the 303 didn't sound like a bass guitar or upright bass was no problem for these musicians, and the distinctive noises they made soon proved very popular. The 303 eventually became de riguer for many electronic pop styles, and instruments that in the mid '80s were all but impossible to sell suddenly came into high demand, boosting prices and encouraging the development of both software and hardware clones, although the hardware versions didn't copy the original TB303 sequencer, which many feel is central to the sound and feel of the instrument.

Monday, November 07, 2005

I went for a late night walk a bit ago, and its obvious winter is on its way. Its only -2 or -3 degrees Centigrade outside, but the character of the cold, for lack of a better term, just has that winter feel to it. I don't know if its the moisture content or what, but the air just feels wintery. There was only a slight wind, but it had that winter bite to it. To me wind is the real problem with winter. To me a temperature like -30 really isn't that bad once the wind goes away. But combine below zero temperatures with a typical Saskatchewan winter wind and you end up with a rather nasty experience.

We had snow this past week, but not enough to stick permanently to the streets. When it does the fun starts. You would think people would know better since they live here, but every year its the same. The snow comes and people drive like idiots for the first couple of days. They act like its summer and dry, driving too fast for conditions as a result and causing the inevitable accidents. And since I'm not the greatest driver in the first place I'm often quite paranoid for a while once winter driving conditions begin. Just another excuse to use the bus and not drive so much I suppose.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Lately I find I'm consulting Wikipedia more and more for general research purposes online. Its fascinating some of the things they have articles on, and often reading an article can lead to reading other Wikipedia articles, or material at external links. It seems to be fairly even handed in dealing with some of the more controversial issues, at least in the articles I've read.
Sometimes you have to wonder about why people use certain names. I heard an ad on the radio today for the Toyota Tundra TRD. You would think someone in the Toyota marketing department would have realised that TRD could be pronounced as turd. Another example is the finale for Disney's Kim Possible cartoon. It was an extended episode called "So the Drama," a play on Kim Possible's frequent use of the phrase "So not the drama." However the episode name is frequently being abbreviated to StD, which of course is also shorthand for sexually transmitted disease. Ooops.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Funny I missed this one. Canadian actor Lloyd Bochner died this week at 81. I hadn't realised he was that old. Like fellow Canadian John Vernon he often played baddies during his long career.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Wow, its amazing where your money can travel. I've always wanted to have a bill hit outside of Canada, but I never figured my first one would be in Brooklyn of all places. Someplace like Montana or North Dakota seemed far more likely.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Sorry to post this a bit late, but here's a link to Orac's Halloween costume weirdness pictures post. Please note that a couple of these may not be workplace safe, especially the bottom shot.
More traffic problems for Saskatoon. Inspectors have decided the Victoria Bridge, also known as the 19th St. Bridge, is no longer safe for vehicle traffic and should be closed. This comes after workers spent much of the summer and fall building a traffic roundabout on the street leading up to the bridge, a move many were questioning. Now it looks like the city spent a bunch of money on a traffic feature that won't see the use its intended for. You'd think the inspection would have been done before that project went ahead. Now the city has to decide exactly how they're going to repair or replace this bridge, and where the money is going to come from.
I spent some time this afternoon in the local Long and McQuade, and one of the guitars I played was a Gibson Sheryl Crowe Signature model. Very nice instrument, as it should be for 2800 bucks Canadian less tax. It had a very nice sound and a low action. You can tell how much guitar trivia I've acquired over the years that I guessed correctly that it was based on the Gibson Country Western, a lesser known Gibson model that has also been a favourite of the late Chet Atkins and Steve Howe of Yes. The Crowe model is currently made in Bozeman, Montana, so this guitar was born fairly close to me.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

If you're a fan of vintage synths you know what one of these is. Frankly even if I had the money I'd be scared to buy it. Shipping alone is probably something like a couple hundred bucks since it weighs 220 pounds or so. And I'd be worried about trying to tune the damn thing once it got here, especially given how cold it might get in shipping at this time of year. CS80s are notorious for being very susceptable to tuning instability.
Hmmm, I just ate a Quaker Oatmeal to Go bar I bought on Monday. It was Oats and Honey flavour. Not that there was much flavour to be found. Eating it was kind of what I imagine eating wood shavings would be like. It was a worthwhile experiment I suppose.