Friday, July 18, 2008

People people -- this is a poll

(I considered not making this so lame, but then I did it anyway.)

It's been a long time coming, but my dreams have come true: a Sloan show is just on the horizon. They're playing San Francisco on September 30. The show will be at the Independent, and tickets go on sale this Sunday for $16.

I saw Sloan last year at the Independent and it was a show I'll remember for the rest of my life. Their new album is pretty good, but even if it's left you underwhelmed, I'm sure they'll play all those songs you grew up listening to on the radio down in the basement.

I'll be there with bells on. C'mon c'mon: who will come take it in with me? Can I coax you, cajole you, into joining me? Anyone who's anyone will be there. Don't keep on thinkin' for too long: suppose they close the door Monday, then we'll have to get tickets on Craigslist.

Penpals.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Maximum strength GAS relief

Fortunately for me, my bout with GAS coincided with Guitar Center's 4th of July sale weekend. Now, I know I've previously said I hate Guitar Center, but I'm willing to shop there if they're not making much profit off me. Come to think of it, I never got that mandolin... I guess they decided it wasn't worth it to sell me a mandolin at 20% off sticker price, like they said they would, so they just never called me back. It's What Jowen Would Do.

Also fortunately for me, the Fender Classic Player Jazzmaster doesn't seem to be that well-regarded by those who love Jazzmasters. The Mexican-made Classic Player model has some changes that make it not so much a Jazzmaster as a real guitar that looks like a Jazzmaster. The Jazzmaster, as I understand it, isn't exactly a real guitar so much as it is a conflagration of eccentricities in the shape of a guitar, and to fix a number of its flaws risks robbing it of its real essence. Even more fortunately, the store didn't have one because the one they got shipped was defective and they sent it back. So a fool and his $800 are not so soon parted after all.

I did, however, turn my attention to a low-end acoustic 12-string, which I might actually get some good use out of in my increasingly theoretical singer-songwriter role. After trying a couple and a night's deliberation, I decided on a very nice Yamaha FG720S-12 which I got at $270, $60 lower than usual. Eat it, Guitar Center. I played it and played it until my fingers couldn't take any more, which wasn't very long because I hadn't played much in a while and 12-strings are a bitch to play. Then I played some more. I would have written this post sooner, but I was too lazy to take a picture of it, and then once I got around to it I found that I had no batteries new enough for my camera to turn on.

This is the first guitar I've ever bought entirely on my own. All of my previous guitars were either chosen for me by my dad, given to me by my dad when he got better ones, or bought after much consultation with my dad. Because of that, I feel like this is the opportunity to teach myself to do a little guitar maintenance. Adjust the truss rod, make a new saddle, file the nut. Maybe install a pickup someday. It might make it seem a little more personal.

I've always been a packrat. As I get a little older, I'm starting to look at all of the crap that I've hoarded over the years and evaluate each piece on how much I'd miss it if it were gone. In the past I've said that guitars become like your friends, and each one is a beautiful and unique snowflake, blah blah blah, but I'm feeling a little more pragmatic about it these days.

For example, my first proper guitar was a white Fender Strat. It was real sharp, but it had a duff neck and it wasn't getting any better no matter how much we tried to adjust it. We traded it in on an amp, and I don't miss it at all. On the other hand, we had another old beater acoustic that we thought sucked for a long time. One day, though, my dad made some adjustments and it transformed from an unplayable bastard to silky smooth. As the years have passed, this cheapo guitar -- which was already about 12 years old -- sounded, played, and held up better than at least three other more expensive acoustics. I'd be really choked if I lost it.

The one guitar that I miss the very most, though, wasn't even my guitar. When we first started the band, Graham didn't play guitar. He proved to be a quick study, though, and before long the time came for him to buy his first real guitar. He got it second-hand before the age of Craigslist, without someone with him to tell him if it was good or not. Fortunately, he got really lucky.

We dubbed it New Wings, as was our custom. (My guitars were Wings and Acoustic Wings.) New Wings was, on paper, an unremarkable stock Mexican Standard Stratocaster, but two things made it special. First, the previous owner was a smoker, and because of that there was a cigarette burn on the headstock and all of the plastic parts on the guitar had yellowed and given it a cool, aged look. Second, it had the single nicest neck I've ever seen. My better judgment tells me that it must have had the same shape as every other Mexican Strat out there, but in your hand it felt wider across the nut than usual. Because of that, the neck gave the impression of being thinner than usual, which made it really comfortable for leads, yet with a solid enough depth and heft to make chords easy to grip onto. It had absolutely perfect action: low enough to make playing anything a breeze, but with just enough fight in the strings to keep things from bending all over the place.

Graham played it most, of course, but I played it plenty and used it on at least a couple recordings. We both loved that guitar, and when it got stolen we were both really choked. Graham replaced it with guitars that are nicer on paper and, to be honest, better sounding, but they'll never be New Wings. If anyone sees a sunburst Stratocaster in a pawn shop somewhere covered with UBC/Riverside school paper/Radiohead stickers, buy it. We'll pay you back.

I think that every time I look at a guitar, I'm hoping to find another New Wings. I feel like I've got a few now -- Wings II, Wings III, and Wings IV -- that are really great and cover all my bases, so I think I've done pretty well. If I'm being really honest though, although I wouldn't trade any of them straight up for New Wings, none of them will ever be New Wings either.

So will this new 12-string be New New Wings? Probably not. But I can hope.

Current Music: Ron Sexsmith - Exit Strategy of the Soul

Attn: Mike Gillis

If you pull this off, I will personally buy you a Jam Session. I'll make it for you, Mike Gillis.

You choose the flavour.

Current Music: Sloan - Never Hear The End Of It

Sunday, July 06, 2008

The sexualization of our my nephew (or, That's my boy)

[Setting: at the daycare.]

Thomas' three girlfriends:
Thomas est beau!

Teachers at the daycare, wishing to spread the love around:
Mais [Thomas' best friend] Romain est beau aussi, non?

Thomas' three girlfriends:
Non. Romain n'est pas beau.

Thomas, somewhere else:
[points excitedly] C'est une balle! C'est une balle!


[Exeunt.]

Current Music: Sloan - Parallel Play

Thursday, July 03, 2008

I should hope so

For about the last six months I'd been concerned that I was losing my hearing because I kept having to turn my iPod up louder and louder to listen to music. This didn't seem likely because I'm not any kind of headbanger, so I did a little more testing and it turned out that my iPod earphones were probably just worn out. They had served me well, but alas, they had lost a tonne of volume, and the bass response was almost nonexistent. I kept telling myself I should get new ones, but earphones are exactly the kind of little hidden expense I absolutely hate, like guitar cables and light bulbs. I also didn't want to find out that no, I really am going deaf. Besides, I was very proud of those earphones because I kept them in good enough shape that they wore out before I broke them by sitting on them.

I finally did something about it before I left for Paris and ordered a cheap pair of Sony earphones on Amazon. I toyed with the idea of getting both a noise-blocking pair and a non-noise-blocking pair (for the bus/plane and for walking, respectively), but in the end I decided to go with just the non-noise-blocking pair. It seems like it's not too hard to find a decent-sounding pair of cheap earphones if you're willing to forego the noise-blocking aspect. Also, they'd lead me into a lot less traffic.

Unfortunately, the Amazon order was delayed and I really didn't want to get on a long flight with only my worn-out iPod earphones, so I went to Target and bought a simple pair of Sony noise-blocking earphones. Happily, they confirmed that I wasn't going deaf, and they really were great to have on the plane. The box they came in also proudly proclaimed in capital letters on the front that these earphones had "RICH SOUND", which I was happy to hear (literally) after months of my tinny old earbuds.

Sony make good earphones. One thing I noticed as I walked through Harrods in London is that all Sony earphones come in a box with a short description prominently displayed on the label. For example, each box might say things like "SURROUND SOUND", "CARRYING CASE", "FOR MP3 PLAYER", or "GREAT INSULATION". But they only say one such thing, so the marketing people and engineers must have to choose which one would be most flattering to say about their top of the line earphones, which I assume satisfy all of the above descriptions. I have no reason to doubt them: mine do sound rich.

Anyway, when I got back to Berkeley the Amazon package with my regular earbuds had arrived. I opened it up and the earphone box said "GOOD SOUND".

It's true, they do sound good.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

A post-Canada Day question

Mike Gillis became the general manager of the Canucks promising big changes and talking about making bold, smart moves.

So far as GM of the Canucks, his most visible changes have been picking up an overweight underachiever off the waiver wire in Kyle Wellwood and picking up a cheap enforcer in Darcy Hordichuk.

He passed over Kyle Beach in the draft in favour of a guy considered to be much more of a team player, but also way smaller. Not exactly bold, but perhaps smart.

He also got shot down on an RFA in David Backes and offered $10M/yr to Mats Sundin, which would make a slightly better than point-per-game 37-year-old player -- who doesn't seem to even be sure about wanting to play at all next year, let alone in Vancouver -- the highest paid player in the league. Bold? Sure. Smart? Um... maybe? Incidentally, Sundin is so blown away by this offer that he has announced that he's just not ready to make a decision on his playing future right now. Perhaps he has to wash his hair.

In addition, he's stocked the front office and coaching staff with inexperience in: Dave Gagner, the father of his former client; Scott Mellanby, who retired in 2007 and spent last season on TV; and Ryan Walter, hired based on his skills as a motivational speaker.

So, my question, and it's one that I may have to eat if all does really work out: is this really an improvement over Dave Nonis?