Friday, May 16, 2008

Me Thinks Thou Doest Protest Too Loudly...


It is, of course, well known that one of the chief cornerstones of the foreign policy of His Very Righteous Holiness, Mr. George W. Bush, is that, under no circumstances and in no way, shape, or form, would Himself ever deign to actually speak with, let alone negotiate of otherwise work with, a terrorist...

Y'all are well aware of that, right?


Well then, y'all just might find this little tale nteresting.

It seems the nut has fallen a fur piece from the ol' tree... While what I'm about to illuminate might be considered old hat, (Having been discussed by the co-called 'alternative media before the last election - Although not by the 'mainstream' media for some curious reason...), nonetheless:

Are you aware of the meanderings of The Shrub's fraternal grandfather, Prescott Bush? No? Read on, then! See, on the surface view, (AKA The Mainstream Media), ol' Prescott was a stand up dude and a Captain of Industry: U. S. Senator, Wall street banker, founding partner of Brown Brothers Harriman, (BBH). This Bush learned his chops from his daddy of course, Mr. Samuel Prescott Bush, a railroad and steel company executive, and during WW I, a government flack in charge of coordinating and aiding defense contractors.

Anyway, back to Prescott: While daddy was making sure we had the ordinance we needed, Prescott served as an artillery Captain and fought during the Great War. Now, before you start thinking to yourself, 'well , at least he served honorably; something his kid obviously didn't learn, know this: Prescott sent some letters to home outlining the medals he had won for various heroic deeds in battle, a 'fact' that was picked up by the hometown papers and spread relatively far and wide. Only problem was, well... Fact is, he didn't actually win any medals see, he, ahh... Kinda made that part up, it turns out... Ah well, let's just chalk that up to youthful enthusiasm run amok and move on! Ol' Prescott came home and waded into the big, wide world of business where he... generally failed miserably until his Father-in-Law, George Herbert Walker, (Hadda throw that in so you see where the name game comes from), bailed him out and made him a V. P. of BBH. via A. Harriman and Co., which had been a precursor to BBH that made their fortune in dry goods prior to getting into banking. In yet another sickening aside, it just so happens that Prescott was now surrounded by fellow Bonesmen, (AKA a buncha inbred Yalees...) So by this point, life was pretty durn good for ol' Prescott and his flock, indeed. Gosh, you think, The Shrub is a chip off the ol' block, ain't he?! Yes, yes he is, and like the current incarnation, just wait, 'cause it gets worse - A lot worse...

Now, over there at Harriman, there was this one client see, a German fellow named Fritz Thyssen. Ol' Fritz was a Captain of German Industry by virtue of the fact that his family had been big in mining and steel production for a couple of generations prior. Fritz was an early fan and financier of the Nazis, until he became disenchanted with and ran afoul of 'em around 1940. Fritz had himself some pretty hefty U. S. assets, and his good pals at Harriman, specifically including ol' Prescott, were looking out for his best interests on our shining shores. Trouble was, regardless of Fritz' protestations, when Hitler declared war on the U.S., there was trouble in paradise, and all his assets, along with pretty much every other German company with U.S. assets and interests, got seized by virtue of the Trading with the Enemy Act, signed in December 1941, just after the attack on Pearl Harbor occurred. And what fueled that Act's creation was that the public was made aware of the fact that American companies, (I don't want to name names, but a big one's initials were BBH), was happily and profitably doing business with German companies who were supporting the Nazi war machine. All these suspect company's assets were seized by the U. S. Government, including BBH, and one li'l outfit called Union Banking Corporation, (UBC), of which, strangely enough, ol' Prescott was not only a board member, but a genuine Director. Further poking around revealed that a whole bunch of Prescott's mucky muck BBH pals were also board members and directors, and that, in fact, UBC had pretty much been created by these yahoos solely to provide a nice vehicle for all Thyssen's U.S. held wealth; funny, ain't it? Hey! Why ain't you laughin'?

Well, the bottom line is that it seems Prescott didn't hold tyrants and dictators in such low esteem as his Grandson 'does'. There were, in fact, more companies that Prescott was involved with, such as the Hamburg-America Line, (Ever seen ships or containers marked HAPAG? That's the one...), which was investigated for spreading Nazi propaganda over here during the war.

One can't deny that the money Prescott earned from the Germans helped make him rich, and his wealth made more and more political connections possible, significantly furthering the Bush involvement in politics. As such, whether you like it or not, it's not unreasonable to posit that The Shrub owes his presidency partially to the fact that his grandfather helped fund Hitler.

Here's a smattering of references, just in case some ne'er do well wishes to try and call bullshit on me:

Nonetheless, there ain't a gonna be no talkin' to terrorists!

Unless, of course, there's money to be made...

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Ay Carumba!

What the hell is wrong with humans? Why is it that every time we coagulate in virtually any form of government, the main aim of said block becomes, almost immediately, their own well being and the complete disregard of everyone else’s?

Right now, I can’t decide who I disdain more, the U.S. Government, or Myanmar’s…

Oh, and by the way, yes, I’m American, born and raised; I love my country, but have absolutely no love lost for my government. If any of you flag huggers read this, before you bother telling me to love it or leave it, just please leave a comment confirming that you’ll fund my emigration to Canada or France and I’ll gladly get out of your hair, OK?

There are millions of people displaced, hundreds of thousands dying, and these fucking idiots want to block those who would help.

Good Lord…

Maybe I should be thankful that they are getting help – When I think of the millions who have died in Africa, where our government does next to nothing above lip service, it makes me ill. Ah, but who am I fooling? They have nothing we want or can get with reasonable ease, so why help them?

Then I read the newspaper or pull up NPR and what do I see and hear? Hillary sparring with Obama, and McCain trying to figure out just how broad a lie he can make of himself to get elected. It all makes me sick.

Meanwhile, excuse me? Did Antonin Scalia really say the Daily Show is “Childish?” Excuse me, Sir? Being Sicilian, are you familiar with the English colloquialism, the kettle calling the pot black? You fat, pompous bombastic asswipe! Please, please, please; for the love of God, get out of bed with Dick and Big Binness long enough to see the light of day, you moron…

One of my band mates, during a recent practice, heard someone describing something they’d heard along these lines recently. He stopped playing, and with a pained expression said, “God humans are such stupid, stupid creatures…”
Now that is true; and damn if ain’t one of ‘em…

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Screwin' with the Wrong Dude...

Let me tell a little true story then - If you want to know a Worst Possible Outcome in the real-life realm of ‘Screwing With The Wrong Guy,’ this would be it…

When I was in Narcotics, we would buy and sell dope all the time, of course. If you were on the crew, one or two select folk would do the actual undercover work, while the rest would be perimeter surveillance or counter-surveillance folk…

So, one day, we’re goin’ downtown to sell dope at this nasty downtown bar, that is basically there to serve heroin addicts, sellers, and their associated hangers on… Now, these folk are actually very gentle – They’re not mean, violent, dangerous, or anything even close to that kinda crap – They’re usually musicians, vets, and other assorted ne’er do wells like me, who just got hooked on some powerful shit, truth be told.

So, this is gonna be a quiet, peaceful, routine morning with no bad craziness expected; or so I thought…

Now, for this show, I am perimeter – About as lax and easy going a job in this mien as you can have; I park about 3 blocks away, keep an eye on one side of a row of buildings, and monitor who comes this way and that during the proceedings. As fate would have it, I’m not even on the side upon which any of our players are expected to walk, so I am about as vanilla as a fella can be, right? Wrong…

I am sitting there in my non-descript Nissan SUV, listening and minding my own business when this crappy little sub-contact car pulls into the space beside me. I see two guys step out who immediately set off my Cop Radar and proximity alarms. As they get out, they are like, 100% focused on me, sitting there, hiding my radio under my thigh, wondering why these two hoods are zeroed in on me, right?

I sit there, not looking at them not acknowledging their presence, but they are laser focused on me, so…

Dude Number One comes to my window and knocks on it… I have, by this time, fairly surreptitiously picked up a cell phone and am pretending to be in mid-conversation, but Mr. Butthead ain’t havin’ any of that… I look annoyed as he knocks again, and I wave him away – I don’t know you, go away… It doesn’t work.

I roll down the window, doing my best to look like Mr. Anonymous Citizen, and say, “What do you want?” Mr. Dude No. 1 says, “What are you hiding under your leg?” Fuck me, he’s seen my radio! I think – What to say? “Hey, screw you – I don’t know you, mind your own business!” I try. He’s not buying that either. “Bullshit, motherfucker, you’re hiding something!” He points out, true enough as it is… Meanwhile, his partner has just tried the door behind me, which thankfully is locked.

Dope deal or not, this has just officially become A Bad Place To Be. I’m confused and scared. I don’t know who these dudes are, or why they’ve appeared and focused on me, but they have and they have and this is not good: Time to go. I start up the rig, roll up my window, and bug out. End of story, problem solved, right? We’re The Police, we’re in charge, and we’re workin’ here and… They’re following me.

Oh shit, I think, this has just become truly a not good thing… So what to do? I pull to a light and they pull beside me. So, I blow the light, waiting until oncoming traffic is almost fatally there, and then blowing it bigger than shit, and… They do the same. OK, now this is serious, so I get on the radio. “Zebra three, Zebra One…” “Zebra One.” “Ah, Sarge, I got a little problem here…” I explain the deal, and he goes ballistic. “Where are you right now?” I tell him, and he says, “Stay in front of them until you hear sirens.” Roger that!

I do just that, until, thank the Good Lord above, I see and hear Tim Ferguson burning up the road in a patrol car, heading straight for us. I wait until he tucks in behind them, and I tear a big left turn, swing 180 so I’m out of Tim’s line of fire and we have them in what you would call, in military terms, an enfilading fire; now they’re in a bad place to be…

I jump out of the rig, cross behind to the side away from them, gun and badge drawn, (.45 Sig-Sauer – Nasty weapon….), as Tim starts giving them instructions. If you’ve never seen r been in this position, (I hope and trust you’ve not), it’s called a Classic Felony Stop, and the drill is this: You’re gonna be given clear, simple instructions, and after that’s explained, the nice Officer says, “If you don’t do exactly what I tell you do, you will be shot!” Clear enough for ya?

So what do these yahoos do? They turn on me and start advancing, ignoring the patrol car… I point straight at the lead guy and say, “Two more steps and you’re a dead man…” God’s truth, those were my words; you think I’d forget anything about this? Anyway, Mr. Dude, being bore sited by a .45, with a totally pissed off and jacked up patrol cop, (Ex Narc) behind him, says, “You ain’t no cop, you’re a perpetrator!” Say what?! I swear to God, as He is my witness, this was my response – Yes, I know where it comes from: “I’m a real cop, this is a real badge, and this is a real fucking gun – one more step and you’re a dead sunufabitch!”

He stopped. Tim smeared the second guy all over the trunk of their car, I introduced Dude No. 1 to the pavement and that, as they say, was that…

Oh, and remember, true story – I got witnesses and one of ‘em is in town this weekend – They had five guns in their trunk; two rifle3s and three pistols. Well experienced felons, they had gotten out of prison the week before. After things were explained to them, they allowed that I “looked loaded” and they intended to rob me, and do what they had to do to make that happen.

True story. Now do you think God has a sense of humor? I do.

Oh, by the way, yes; I did also get to say, “OK, now you’ve gone and brought a knife to a gunfight,” but that’s another story…

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Cats are Trout

Say whut; you ask? Trout are like cats? I know, now you think I’ve been eatin’ the Nepeta Cataria, but it’s true. I determined this by years of study and a sudden burst of inspiration, provided by my boy cat, Becky, (Never mind, it’s a long story), cruising around below me. He’s down below the chair now, doing the circular pattern around my ankles, trying to figure out if I will pet him, feed him, or let him out: Ever seen a trout patrolling a pool, waiting for bugs to come by? Just like that...

Just look at all the similarities;
They’re both predators.
They both live predominantly to eat and procreate.
When they’re not eatin’, they’re chillin’
They both have advanced degrees in aloofness.
They both cruise their turf with a minimum expenditure of energy.
They both eat first and ask questions later, including bees.
They both are expert tail artists; I mean, just a little flick can mean so much, can’t it?

It’s just that clear. OK, well, there are some differences, but not many...
Trout don’t have fur, but they do both really like their exterior appearances.
Trout don’t like people; well, cats don’t either, really, they just fake it better than trout do.

And last but not least, the biggest possible deterrent to my theory; cats don’t breath in water.

The answer to this one might surprise you; because actually, they can – Why do you think you’ve always been told that cats don’t like water? Is it because they “can’t swim?”

Maybe you just didn’t look deep enough…

Thursday, May 01, 2008

I Wanna Red Spruce Top!!

Are you a guitar player? If so, are you an acoustic player, aka steel string, flat top, gut fiddle? If so, do you harbor a secret desire to own a Legendary Pre War Martin, (Hereinafter, LPWM)?

If you said “yes” to the first two questions, but “no” to the second, you’re lyin’… All guitarists have GAS, (Guitar Acquisition Syndrome), and all GAS sufferers want a LPWM.

Everybody who plays steel strings wants one. Why? Because they are The Legendary Pre-War Martins! Because they’re considered the pinnacle of flat top sound and tone. Because all the pros have them. Because there were only so many and they don’t make ‘em anymore. Because at least in theory, you can have one!
Have you ever played one? Ever heard one played live? Again, if we’re answering truthfully, the number of “Yes” answers just decreased exponentially from those in response to the first three questions I asked.
So, with these truths held to be self-evident, let us go forth into the world of reality and myth, and see where it leads. Oh, by the way – I am an Administrator of an instrument making website, a working musician, and a builder, repairer, and modifier of guitars: Does this mean that I am the end all to be all and my word is Law? Not even remotely, but I’m also not talking out of my shirt, OK? Onward…

Myth: All LPWMs sound incredible.
Reality: Some do, some don’t – All axes are created unequally, and no two sound or feel the same. Go to your local Guitar MegaMart and pick something cheap, like an entry level Fender acoustic. If they have 100 of them on the wall, here’s the reality bite for you: Two or three will sound exceptional, “As good as the real thing.” Thirty will suck. The rest will be OK entry level guitars. Why? ‘Cause that’s the way nature and serendipity work! Every piece of wood is unique. Every combination of woods is unique. Some will have it and keep it. Some will grow into it: Some will never be more than a 2 x 4 with strings – That’s reality.

Myth: The sound of the LPWMs is due to the extreme care and higher level of craftsmanship Martin Luthiers had back then; it’s a dying art.
Fact: As the ol’ song says, it ain’t necessarily so! Have you ever looked inside a LPWM? Or an old Gibson for that matter? They’re a mess! They look like Mrs. Smith’s 5th grade class put ‘em together with Lincoln logs and paste! Ok, that’s exaggerating a smidge, but not much – If and when you do look, you usually find unsanded or refined braces, rough wood, pretty decent tolerances; it ain’t anything like the inside of a BMW, trust me. LPWMs were great shapes, great proportion, good wood, and good, solid craftsmanship; they’re not magic, and they’re not totally unique. Martin started X bracing guitars in the 1850s. Gibson, to my knowledge, began doing so in the early 1930s. Now, everybody does.

Myth: The LPWMs “forward shifted X Brace” is the secret to their sound.
Fact: If it was so great a design development, how come they stopped doing it after a few years? Answer; Martin got some axes back with bowed bellies in the lower bout and attributed that to their having shifted the primary top X brace legs closer to the soundhole, so they stopped, (Although they started again when producing their vintage series stuff). Does shifting the X brace as described change the tone of the axe? You bet your sweet bippy it does! Is that the secret? Nope, it’s just different – Go back to those 100 guitars hangin’ on the wall – Does shifting the X brace change the stats on those? Nope, not one bit…

Myth: The old growth Brazilian Rosewood, (BRW) and Honduran Mahogany is the key to the LPWMs sound.
Fact: Wrong again, campers! Sure, those woods have sound attributes, and sure they’re wonderful, but I gotta ask again – Show of hands now; how many of you have played a BRW or old growth Mahogany axe? I thought so… BRW rings like a bell, feels like glass, and is very, very sexy, period. Old Growth Honduran Mahogany is dripping with warm, deep, syrupy mids and is drool worthy; these things are true, but: Ever heard of Antonio de Torrez Jurado? You classical players hanging out this long have, right? Torrez was a player and builder from Spain in the 19th Century, and is basically the Stradivarius of the classical axe. He had always stated that guitar sound came from the soundboard, and in 1862, to prove his point, he made an axe with paper mâché back and sides, and asked prominent players and listeners to compare it to a wood sides guitar, (Also his, of course), blindfolded, and declare which was which: They flunked. Get the picture? Sure, back and sides color the sound of a guitar; heck, everything on, near around the guitar colors its sound! Your ear and what you like or don’t colors the sound as much or more than any other factor, capice?

I’d love to build with Old Growth BRW, but I can’t afford $5,000 for a prime back and side set, and truth be told, neither can most of you. And you do know that BRW and Honduran Mahogany are CITES listed, right? (If you don’t know that, or what CITES is, get up right now, go Google it, read a bunch, come back and know in your heart that we can’t afford to treat the planet this way anymore, we have to move on material wise, and that all this is OK. Besides, there are plenty of alternative tonewoods that can and will sound every bit as good as those legendary standards. Ever heard an axe made with quarter sawn Sycamore? How about Canarywood? Osage Orange? Myrtle? Mango? Claro Walnut? No, none of the above????!?! Me and my pals around this wonderful world make axes out of those every day, and they rock, believe me – If you don’t, hit up Ken for a listen to one of his, and you’ll get the picture. I was having a tonewood email exchange with one of America’s Legendary Luthiers not long ago. He wishes to remain unnamed in this attribution, but trust me when I say that, if you’ve got GAS, you’ve heard his name many times and in many places, and you’ve coveted his amazing instruments. I asked about Canarywood; he answered, “The best sounding guitar I ever made was Canarywood, but nobody cared because they hadn’t heard of it.” Now that, friends and neighbors, is just plain goofy…

Myth: OK, then, Mr. No Fun; The Old Growth Adirondack Spruce tops, those are the secret to LPWMs!
Fact: Ummmm, not, sorry. My formal education is in Forestry, BTW, so I am especially not talking out of my hind end herein… Let me start by asking you this; what exactly is Adirondack Spruce? Google that exact question, and see what you get. You get a whole bunch of discussion thread and guitar maker’s sites, all claiming to know exactly what Adirondack Spruce is: And you know what? 99% of them are wrong… Ok, I hear you already; “99% of them are wrong, but you’re right, uh huh, Mr. God’s gift to Dendrology…” Yes, I repeat, they are wrong, and I am right; know why? ‘Cause they’re lookin’ to sell you something and I’m looking to educate you; there’s the difference. Still don’t believe me? Ok, try this; here is a link to the U. S. Forest Service’s Center for Wood Anatomy. Go there, click on North American Softwoods, and show me the Genus and Species that comprises Adirondack Spruce. What’s that? You say you can’t find it on that page? Really? Must be a typo, huh? What’s with that?!

OK, let’s go back to the wood sellers, guitar makers and chat forums and take a closer look... Ok, OK, here’s something, they use terms like “AKA Picea Rubens, Red Spruce,” and stuff like that – Aha!! So, Adirondack Spruce is really Red Spruce, Picea Rubens!! And if you look under Red Spruce on the USFS page, you see an AKA of Adirondack Spruce too; mystery solved, right?! Umm, not so fast… See the fact is, Adirondack Spruce, is like German Spruce, is Like Italian Spruce, OK. Have you heard of them as well? Go to those guitar makers and wood sellers and you’ll see that most of them carry or offer these two and that they are also fabulously expensive tonewood. But there’s trouble in paradise here, gang, and it’s this; all this titling is a marketing ply and nothing else. Got that? Read it again, and say it with me now; all this titling is a marketing ply and nothing else. Good, now let’s get on to learnin’ why that statement is true. Do you know where ‘German Spruce’ tops come from nowadays? The Balkans, mostly. Italian Spruce? Some from Italy, but mostly from the Carpathian range between Transylvania and Hungary, truth be told:

Wait, wait, if this is all true, you ask, why do they get to call it German or Italian? Answer: Why does Sears get to re-label LP appliances as Kenmore? Marketing, nothing more than marketing – You think Carpathian Spruce has as sexy a ring as German Spruce? Want to know what top wood the LPWMs really had on ‘em? OK, here you go then, I’ll let you in on the secret known to all those folks trying to sell you up scale tops for your next custom axe: Some of the LPWMs did have Red Spruce Tops; some had White Spruce Tops, (Picea Glauca), and in the day, might even have had Black Spruce tops, (Picea Mariana). There are roughly 30 species in North America that go by the genus Picea. Back in pre-WW II America, there were a lot more trees in the Adirondacks than there are today: And they used any and all of them for tops that they could, and with which they felt their quality and tone needs were being met. Don’t believe me, email Chris Martin – I bet he answers and I know he’ll second what I just said; I’ve heard him speak about it, personally. Here’s the fact on those axes: Anybody, and I mean anybody, that tells you they can look at a top on a guitar of any age and discern Black Spruce from White Spruce from Red Spruce from Englemann Spruce from Sitka Spruce from any other Spruce without seeing the bark and needles of the live tree is thoroughly, completely, 100% full of it. Those old saws about German Spruce being ‘golden hued,’ Sitka being ‘white’, and Adirondack having ‘distinct grain and coloration’ is generalization at its finest.

I have maybe 60 or 70 tops in my shop right now, cut and separated and stacked. Most of them came from one source, but not all; in fact, I have genuine Italian Spruce from the valley that Stradivari got his stuff from, as well as Carpathian stuff, American stuff, Canadian Stuff, all kindsa stuff – Neither I nor you nor anybody else could identify them with certainty or accuracy by site of those cut tops alone, period, and that’s the truth. Short of detailed genetic analysis, nobody can. So don’t buy the Adirondack myth – Tops from everywhere are wonderful. The right top for the right back and sides is what makes the magic – Remember those two or three out of a hundred, OK?

OK, so now I’ve gone and shot holes in all your comfortable LPWM myths, what are you left to do? Easy. Are you a serious player? Do you need a LPWM or just want one for investment and bragging rights? If you had one, would you play it out and about? Think the pros take theirs on tour; think again… The LPWMs, in all honesty, represented the last Golden Age of guitar building, when great shapes came together with good people and nice wood to generate some fantastic axes. Thank God it happened, and that we have the wherewithal and presence of mind to save some of them. That said, I want to let you in on a little secret. Ready?
This is the next Golden Age of guitar making. Right now: We’re in it, although y’all might not know it. Don’t feel bad, mind you; these Golden ages are kinda like recessions; you usually don’t know you’re having one until its well over. Back in ’39, workers weren’t sitting around at lunch whacking each other on the back for being part of a Golden Age, OK?

Right now, the enlightened makers, guys like Chris Martin, Bob Taylor; the middle sized guys, like Dana Borgeois, and the small shops, like Bill Cumpiano and Mike Millard, all these folks and thousands of others are making fantastic guitars that folks 50 years from now will be swooning over, guaranteed. Back in the 30’s, there were not thousands of cottage industry instrument makers cranking out guitars. There are now. By my reckoning, the last time that happened was in the 19th Century when things first bloomed for what we generally know of today as an acoustic guitar. And now, friends and countrymen, it’s time for the plug.

If you’re a player, and you feel in your heart that it’s time for that next axe, for the axe, the right one, the legendary one, the one that you’ll go to your grave hoping and praying the right person picks up and plays on after you; here’s what you need to do. Go Google guitar makers in your area. Go find one and meet them and talk with them. Chances are, you’re gonna walk into a cramped little shop somewhere, with sunlight filtering through dusty windows, the smell of fresh cut exotic wood heavy in the air, clamps and chisels strewn across benches, and here and there, there will be wood you’ve never heard of, amazing eye candy and parts of amazing guitars… You’ll start talking about what you play now, and how you play, and what your guitar dreams are. And at some point, the maker will come out of that glazed eye, drooly look they get when their describing their passion to a new player, and they’ll say, “Hey, what was I thinkin;’ you wanna play one?”

And you will, and you’ll be hooked, and that is the way it is meant to be.