Friday, December 27, 2013

The Other Elvis

One of Elvis' biggest songs was Polk Salad Annie, but do you remember who wrote the song and had the first hit recording of it? I didn't think so. It was Tony Joe White, who also could have passed for Elvis brother back in the day.

This made me think of a yet to be fully developed genre of music I like to call Swamp Rock. Other Swamp Rock songs would be Amos Moses by Jerry Reed:

And of course there's a couple of well known Swamp Rockers by Creedence Clearwater Revival (still one of my favorite names for a band) like Green River and Born On The Bayou:

And one of my favorite guitar pickers, Roy Buchanan, had a great Swampy version of Haunted House:

Can you hear the funky Cajun string that ties all these songs together? These songs were born of the Swamp I tell ya.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Using Italics and Bolding In YouTube Comments

I just discovered today that the new YouTube comments design allows users to use some degree of markdown in their comments on videos. For instance, placing underscores around words and phrases makes them italicized:


Placing asterisks around words and phrases makes them bold:


Kind of nice I guess.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Cheating In Baseball (Hello St. Louis!)

I've written once before here about steroid use, but not cheating in general and what we can and should do about it in Major League Baseball.

Steroids themselves don't really bother me so much. It's the cheating aspect I find vexing. I honestly thought the Cardinals were above hiring a known drug cheat, but apparently General Manger, John Mozeliak, is not the man I thought he was. Peralta is on the team. It's a done deal. Can someone tell me what all this Christian Night at the Ballpark was about last summer? Apparently it was little more than a publicity stunt.

What kind of example does this set for our kids in town? If you cheat in baseball you get a fat contract worth tens of millions of dollars! That's what it teaches them. Mozeliak talks about giving second chances to ballplayers who make "mistakes." But this wasn't a mistake. Peralta took PEDs on purpose. He didn't accidentally shoot-up the wrong drug. It was a premeditated decision on his part.

Cheating in sports is not like breaking other laws. It's not like speeding or tossing a cigarette butt on the sidewalk. People pay a fine for those things and get a second or even third or fourth chance, and it brings a little revenue into the city in the process. Sports are different.

Second chances don't apply to cheaters in sports for a few different reasons. One, we fans enjoy baseball stats. We love talking about who had the best batting average,  the most home runs, the pitcher with the most no-hitters and so on. Cheating makes those statistics useless while lessening the enjoyment of the sport. Two, drugs that enhance a player's performance will also enhance his contract and entitle him to more money than he deserves. Third, players who did only marginally worse while not shooting drugs may lose a slot on the team to a cheater.

Cheaters only win if you let them. If you get caught cheating on a test at Harvard, Stanford, or just about any other Ivy League college you get booted from the school, and you don't graduate. You'll also have a hard time getting into any other Ivy League school, which means going to a lesser college and probably making less money in the real world.

If you really want to stop cheating in Baseball or sports in general, you can't give second chances to someone who has permanently tarnished the game. Boot the cheaters out of the Majors and maybe they can get a job playing for a lesser league like the Independent League or the Mexican Pacific etc. But get them out of the Majors.

Shame on the Cardinals and John Mozeliak in particular. I won't be attending any Cardinal games next year. I'd sooner drive up to Chicago and watch the White Sox lose every game, but lose them honestly.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Converted Trash Truck Decoliner!

This is from an episode of Jay Leno's Garage (one of the very best shows on YouTube). It's hard to believe this motorhome was built from a trash truck, but it's true.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Bicycle Memories

I found this on the interweb and it got me thinking about bikes when I was a kid. My first cool bike when I was about nine was a black Huffy Dragster III circa 1969 or so. Apparently everybody else thought it was cool too because it got stolen twice. I never got it back the second time. I was very sad about that for a long time. Mine had a 3-speed shift on the handgrip.

Here's a little better picture of one but with a different color. It also had the shift on the crossbar which is a little cooler when you're a kid. There's actually a Dragster forum on the interweb for these things. They refer to them as "muscle bikes" these days and they sell for as much as $450 on eBay.
 Going into the 70s, the trend with banana seats continued along with a high sissy bar. The next step in bicycle coolness was bikes with steering wheels.
A lot of guys rigged their own, but manufacturers soon started sending them out from the factory. I never had one of these, but I did have a chance to ride one that belonged to my cousin's boyfriend when I visited in Indianapolis once. I was very young at the time and found the bike hard to control. Of course now that I've been driving a car for almost four decades I imagine that steering wheel bikes would seem fairly normal.
After this in the mid 70s came the chopper look with the long front forks. 90% of these forks were homemade, but I do think a few were factory made somewhere.
Next up was something a little strange. These were called "high bikes." I'm pretty sure that no factory ever made any of these. They were pretty much all homemade designs that usually consisted of welding one frame atop another.
Of course some guys were bound to get carried away with things.
After this, the run-o-the-mill 10-speeds came in and took over for a couple of decades, followed by the mountain biking trend. However, cool bikes did make a brief return in the new century with kids customizing small bikes that had pegs welded here and there for trick riding.
Well that's it for this article. Next week we'll take a look at some very "dapper" vintage antique bikes.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Breaking Bad's Finale Left Me Under-Whelmed

I thought it was ridiculous actually. First off, Walt somehow managed to park his car beside the right building. How did he know which building the meeting would be in? What if they had been in the basement or upstairs? What were the chances that all these deadbeats would be standing up at the same time? There were plenty of chairs around. Why did all these people keep standing once the shots started? Shouldn't they all have hit the deck immediately instead of just standing there letting themselves get shot? How did Walt get shot when he was laying on top of Jesse under the line of fire? What would he have done if the guy he met in the parking lot wouldn't have gotten into the car with him and instead forced him to just leave it where it was and walk from there? I'm sorry sports fans, but that was about as contrived an ending as was ever concocted in the history of writing.

Now, back to your regularly scheduled programming.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Steve Winwood at 17?

Well 17 or 18 anyway, with The Spencer Davis Group of course. He started playing/singing with them at 14 in 1962. I believe this video is from 1966.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Cardinal Bob Gibson Playing With the Harlem Globetrotters?

Many people know that Cardinal pitching great, Bob Gibson, was also a great basketball player in college at Creighton during the mid to late 1950s. He also played with the Harlem Globetrotters during their 1957-58 season before turning to baseball fulltime. I've never been able to find any footage of him playing at Creighton, but I may have found some of him playing with the Globetrotters in 1958. At least 1958 is the date of this video. I know that Wilt Chamberlain played with them during the 1958-59 season, and he's obviously not in this video, so I'm guessing it's from the 57-58 season when Gibson should have been there. He was a 6'1" guard, but I have no idea what his jersey number was. I'm guessing, however, that if he's in this video at all he must be number 33.

Gibson averaged over 20 pts. per game at Creighton and was the only non-white player on the team. In fact, he was their first non-white player ever. He had great leaping ability, and even at only 6'1" he could stuff the ball backwards with both hands.

His roommate with the Trotters was actually Meadowlark Lemon who years later said, “I thought Bob was a better basketball player than a baseball player. I think Bob could have played with any NBA team. He was that good.”

Friday, September 6, 2013

Do You Know What A Fox Sounds Like?

I've heard this sound in the woods before and never knew what it was.

And here's another:

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Pokey Lafarge - "Central Time"

A St. Louis 30s French type dance band on David Letterman's show about a month ago. Good fun.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Orson's Rant

You must have heard by now about Orson Scot Card in the news comparing Obama to Hitler, but have you actually read his blog essay for yourself? He sounds like he's suddenly turned into Glen Beck:
I'm fairly conservative I guess, but I can't take these paranoid tea party types. They're everything that's wrong with conservatism. This essay is absolutely bizarre, and I say this as a fan of Card's books. I own several. But this is enough to make any conservative want to cut off all ties with republicans and libertarian knuckleheads. Enough already! Paranoia is not conservatism.

The Past Comes Walking Into The Present

Here's a photo I found in a news article today. It's one of several old photos that have been colorized. This is of course Mark Twain. People often think that old photos are bad photos shot with inferior cameras. Actually, camera technology has not really changed that much since 1900 or so. I've seen many photos from over a hundred years ago that have incredible quality, and this is one of them. However, once it's been properly colorized (using what are known period color schemes for the clothing, furniture etc. of the day), it becomes astounding! It's as though the past has just walked into the present. And the past doesn't seem so different after all. I feel like I could have been having a conversation with Twain yesterday.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Vatican Priest Accused of Money Smuggling-Laundering

Nunzio Scarano

Interesting article today from the Christian Science Monitor about a priest at the Vatican, Rev. Nunzio Scarano, who was caught along with two cohorts trying to smuggle 26 million dollars in cash on a plane going from Switzerland to Italy. The money was owned by a family that has a shipping company in Naples. He was apparently going to "privately" deposit the money into a Vatican bank either to help the family avoid paying taxes on it, or perhaps to launder it in the case that it might have been illegally gotten money.

What caught my attention more than anything was the fact that all three men met through their membership in the Constantine Order of St. George, a society of ecclesiastical knights who's history is sketchy at best. The article also mentions the last great Vatican banking scandal in the 1980s when the chairman of an Italian bank in which the Vatican was the primary shareholder was found hanging dead under the Blackfriars Bridge and five members of the Italian Mafia were tried for his murder, but all were acquitted for lack of evidence.

In short, I think it's great that Pope Francis is doing his best to straighten out the Vatican banking mess, but if big money and the Mafia are involved, he's going to have a very difficult undertaking ahead of him. We may start seeing dead priests hanging from bridges in the near future.

The article is here.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Remembering The Grit Newspaper

I don't know what made me think of this today, but for some reason the Grit Newspaper popped into my head. It was really geared toward kids and small town people. The stories were just fun trivia and human interest for the most part. No downer stuff at all. And it had some very fun word games that we always looked forward to playing.

The Grit was sold in the early 80s and changed considerably. It still has small town appeal but nothing the kids would care about. You can find it online now, but don't waste your time. It just isn't the same. Here's a photo of an old copy from the early 70s when I was reading it:

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Derek Trucks

Derek is, oddly enough, the son of Allman Brothers drummer Butch Trucks. I say "oddly' because he's a slide guitarist who plays like the second coming of Duane Allman rather than his drummer father. Here he is at only 13 years of age playing like a man of 50:

Derek is 34 now and married to singer/songwriter Susan Tedeschi. (A more perfect match I've never seen.) They perform together most of the time these days, but Derek still plays with the Allman Brothers Band quite a bit too. Here they both are with the ABB backing them on the old Bob Dylan song, Don't Think Twice. Derek's solo starts at 3:17. He gets better every year.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Letter from former Illinois public official

Posted at the Post Dispatch Forum: 26 May 2013 18:58 pm
Dear friends,
As we leave Illinois for good, I wanted to say goodbye and wish all of you well. I am a lifelong son of the heartland and proud of "The Land of Lincoln" state.
After 60 years, I leave Illinois with a heavy heart. But enough is enough. The leaders of Illinois refuse to see we can't continue going in the direction we are and expect people who have options to stay here.
I remember when Illinois had 25 congressmen. In 2012 we will have 18. Compared to the rest of the country we have lost 1/4th of our population. Don't blame the weather, because most of us love the 4 beautiful seasons of Illinois. Illinois just sold still more bonds, and our credit rating is so bad we pay higher interest rates than junk bonds. Junk Bonds!
Illinois is ranked:
• 50th for fiscal policy
• 47th in job creation
• 1st in unfunded pension liabilities
• 2nd largest budget deficit
• 1st in failing schools
• 1st in bonded indebtedness
• Highest sales tax in the nation
• Most judges indicted (Operations Greylord and Gambat)
Five of our last 9 elected governors have been indicted. That is more than the other 49 states added together! Then add 32 Chicago Aldermen and (according to the Chicago Tribune) over 1,000 state and municipal employees indicted.
The corruption tax is a real cost of doing business. We are the butt of jokes for stand-up comics. We live in the most corrupt big city, in the most corrupt big county, in the most corrupt state in America . I am sick and tired of subsidizing crooks. A day rarely passes without an article about the corruption and incompetence. Chicago even got caught rigging the tests to hire policemen and firemen!
Our Crook County corporate tax system is intentionally corrupt. The Democrat State Chairman, who is also the Speaker of the Illinois House (Speaker Mike Madigan), and the most senior alderman in Chicago, each make well over a million dollars a year putting the fix in for their clients’ tax assessments.
Cook County 's property tax system is a disaster: The assessed value of our Chicago home was 50% higher than the sale price. Our home value is down 40%, our property taxes are up 20%, and our local schools have still another referendum on the ballot to increase taxes more than 20% next year.
The Illinois system is unfair and incompetent. In the Hill Country of Texas (near Austin and San Antonio ) we bought a gracious home on almost 2 acres with a swimming pool. It is new, will cost us around 40% of what our home in Wilmette just sold for, and the property taxes are a third of what they are here.
We are moving to Texas where there is no income tax, while Illinois just went up 67%. Texas sales tax is half of ours, which is the highest in the nation. Southern states are supportive of job producers, taxpayers and folks who offer opportunities to their residents. Illinois shakes them down for every penny that can be extorted from them.
I could go on, but enough is enough. I feel as if we are standing on the deck of the Titanic and I can see the icebergs right in front of us.
I will miss our friends a great deal. I have called Illinois home for essentially my entire life. But it is time to go where there is honest, competent, and cost- effective government. We have chosen to vote with our feet and our wallets.
Our best wishes to all of you.
Roger and Tina Keats

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Goose Tatum

The clown prince of negro league baseball.

And ... the clown prince of basketball with the Harlem Globetrotters

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Numbers Stations

There was a movie out recently by this name. I haven’t seen it and hear it isn’t very good. However, I’ve always been interested in the phenomena itself if for no other reason than the fact that they’ve been around possibly since at WWII, and all anyone can guess about them is that they carry various kinds of coded messages used by various governments. These stations number in the hundreds.
Do you own a short wave radio? If so, you may have noticed that from time to time you can tune-in to a station that has no other on-air activity except to have a tape recording of someone repeating a pattern of numbers (sometimes with letters mixed in) over and over and over. You’re undoubtedly thinking, “Boy, that sounds just like the woman’s repeated broadcast from the island on the TV show Lost.” You’d be right. That tidbit in the show was based on numbers stations.
But are they secret coded messages? If so, are they really something that various countries use for espionage purposes? There are some very odd things about them if that is the case. One of the strangest things The Internet Archive has ever been associated with is collecting recordings from numbers stations and posting them at their website in something they call the Cornet Project. (In fairness I should also point out that they sell some CDs of the recordings too.) Here are some of the questions they pose:
One might think that these espionage activities should have wound down considerably since the official end of the cold war, but nothing could be further from the truth. Numbers Stations (and by inference, spies) are as busy as ever, with many new and bizarre stations appearing since the fall of the Berlin wall.
Why is it that in over 30 years, the phenomenon of Numbers Stations has gone almost totally unreported? What are the agencies behind the Numbers Stations, and why are the eastern European stations still on the air? Why does the Czech republic operate a Numbers Station 24 hours a day? How is it that Numbers Stations are allowed to interfere with essential radio services like air traffic control and shipping without having to answer to anybody? Why does the Swedish Rhapsody Numbers Station use a small girls voice?
These are just some of the questions that remain unanswered.
Here's a video from a news broadcast in 2006 on the subject and on the Cornet Project:

For more see The Internet Archive’s Cornet Project.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Don’t Be Still, This Heart of Mine

I’ve been going back and forth to the VA Hospital(s) for tests for several months now, and I still have at least three more to go. At least I finally know the source of most of my problems now. Turns out I have an enlarged heart chamber. (I don’t know which one.) It accounts for all my symptoms—extreme fatigue at odd times for no apparent reason, chronic cough, shortness of breath, swelling of lower extremities (but not the happy zone dang it!)
The treatment is as simple as taking blood pressure medicine and water pills to push out the excess fluid buildup. Unfortunately, the doctor put me on atenolol, a common blood pressure medicine. It normally works pretty well for most people, but it swelled me up even more and I put on 25 pounds in about 6 weeks. My feet looked like something floating over a Thanksgiving day parade. I was swollen all the way up through my thighs it was so bad.
So she took me off atenolol and put me on a water pill. I didn’t know this, but not only will a water pill help to eject the fluid build-up from edema, but they also make a pretty good blood pressure pill substitute. They take out excess fluid from around the heart too. I lost the 25 pounds (though not overnight), and my feet look like feet again. I still have some swelling in my legs which you can easily see when I take my socks off. There’s that telltale ring-around-the-ankles look. But overall I’ve been feeling much better.
I still get tired some days, but not like I used to. I think a lot of this may be tied into diet. I used to eat a ton of lunchmeat sandwiches and fast foods. I started eating more fresh meat, mostly pork steaks and chops along with baked potatoes, egg beater, oranges, apples, green beans, peas & carrots, and corn. Yes, there are leaner cuts than chops and pork steaks, but I like them, and pork cooks easily in the microwave. This past week I went back to my old lunchmeat and fast food ways and started feeling very tired right away. I mean REAL tired just like before. A lot of it may have to do with all the salt they put in lunchmeats. Well, no more of that.
Some of my tiredness may be the result of working too hard also. I can put in a hard day, but then I’m dead for the next two or three. The doctor says that I also cannot exercise strenuously. Absolutely no weight lifting or hard basketball playing until my heart gets back to normal—if it gets back to normal. Even if the enlarged chamber doesn’t shrink all the way down, I may still live to be ninety. However, I may never be able to play sports again. It’s true what the say—it’s hell getting old.
The good news is that my eBook formatting business is doing well. I’ve been able to cut down on my other job and sit at home one or two days per week working on books. I hope to do it full-time one day, or something like it. What I should really do is write the great American novel and never work again!
I'll leave you with my masterpiece (perhaps one day I'll say it and mean it!), Eleanor Rigby played on acoustic guitar with a Boomerang looper pedal. You can see I had already gained a lot of weight a couple of years ago in this video. My face is like a giant walnut. But I get more response from this video than any other I've ever upload. 229 thumbs up and counting! Perhaps I should don some fat man attire and take my act on the road....

Sunday, April 7, 2013

When Franco American Was the King of Gravies

I could take it no longer and recently wrote an email to Campbell’s (owners of Franco American)
Dear Sirs, I have enjoyed your many products since I was a little boy in the 1960s. You had one particular gravy back then that was head and shoulders above any other gravy I have ever had. You still carry the Franco American chicken gravy, but it is simply not the same. I talked with my older sister about this the other day and she concurred. It was just an extraordinary gravy you had in the 60s. In the early 70s it changed. I don’t know if something was left out or added or both, but it changed. It was still good, but not AS good as it had once been. And now, sadly, I can seldom find it at all. The few times I’ve run into it at a market, it’s usually the fat-free chicken gravy, and frankly, THAT is inedible it taste so bad. The chicken gravy you had in the 60s was so good we used to crumple up bread in it and eat it like soup! We poured it over mashed potatoes, steaks, even spinach and broccoli wasn’t terrible when it had Franco American chicken gravy on it! There have been a half dozen or so food products that I’ve missed over the years because they’re either no longer made, or not made the same. I have lamented the loss of none of them half so much as your gravy when it was still the king of gravies. Please consider tracking down the recipe from the 1960s and re-establishing this wonderful gravy. I don’t want my children (if I ever have any) to grow-up in a world without the gravy that ruined me for all others. Sincerely, ____(me)
This is coupon circa 1960 for an actual can of the best gravy ever made.

This is how it looks now on the rare occasion that you can find it, but it’s not nearly as good as it used to be.
While we’re on the subject, here are a couple of other items that just aren’t as good as they used to be. Anyone remember the original Doritos Nacho Cheese from the 1980s?

They were unbelievably good! Now I simply cannot eat them. The Cool Ranch actually taste a little closer to the original Nacho Cheese, but still aren’t as good.

And how about those Pillsbury Blueberry Turnovers are moms taught us to make when we were kids? Man those were delicious! Sadly, Pillsbury quit making the best product they ever had.

And something a little more recent, if you have a Rally’s in your area then you probably know that they had a big drawing card in their Double Mushroom & Swiss Burger.

It wasn’t about the mushrooms. Mushrooms don’t really have much taste. It was about the gravy! In fact, they would have probably sold more if they had left out the mushrooms and just called it a gravy burger! Then a couple of years ago they quit making the double and sold only singles. Somehow, they just weren’t the same. Then people quit buying them, so they dropped the Mushroom & Swiss altogether. I have no more reason to go to Rally’s. Yes, Hardees and a couple of others make Mushroom and Swiss burgers, but they don’t have nearly enough gravy to make them enticing. Life is all about the gravy!

Lastly we have good old Lucky Whip! The last, and only great, whip cream ever made! There will never be another whip cream that can hold a candle to Lucky Whip.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Billy Joel Gets a Piano Lesson From a Kid in the Audience

This was great. Joel was giving a concert at Vanderbilt University when some student asks to play a song with him. The kid tears it up on the piano!

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Microwave Pork Steaks et al

This is just a short post to say that, once again, you can't believe at least 50% of what people say in this world. I've heard for many years that meat cooked in a microwave would come out rubbery and taste terrible. Today I cooked two pork steaks and two hamburgers. I just laid them on the glass rotating tray with a paper towel over them. I cooked each pork steak for 5-minutes and then turned it over for another 5. (I didn't cook them both at once because they were each huge 1-pounders.) I think I cooked the hamburgers for a little less time. I left the microwave set on high the whole time. I was quite surprised to find that everything came out nice and tender and tasted just as good as if I had put them in the oven. So now you know. You can microwave just about anything. Raw meat is no problem. Don't listen to the naysayers. They probably never even tried it.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Junior Brown (The Jimi Hendrix of Country)

Doing "409" with the Beach Boys Backing Him

"Freeborn Man" (Live)

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Making Of A Classical Guitar

Here is a very nice video of a classical guitar being handmade in Yamaha's Custom Shop in Japan. Here they make guitars in the $9,000 price range. Absolute top-o-the-line in classical guitars in my opinion. I wish I could do this!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Setting Up Your Podcast or Project Studio

I started fooling around with home multitrack recording in 1983. The price had been out of my reach till the first 4-track cassette decks came out. Almost all of them had built-in mixing boards too, so with a mic and some headphones you could be making recordings right away. I had a couple of those cassette based units and they just happen to represent the worst and the best of what the industry had to offer.

The first was a tiny Fostex X15 unit that recorded at the standard 1 7/8 ips cassette speed and had Dolby-B NR built-in. The fidelity was pretty bad. It had a noise floor of less than 60db even with the Dolby on, and if memory serves the frequency response took a nosedive at 12-kHz. This was probably the worst 4-track cassette deck ever made. Recordings sounded small and boxy, but it wasn’t awful, and I sure had a lot of fun with it. I began to learn about routing signals too because it was also my first mixer. The X15 cost $500 new, and that was a lot of cash for a 24-year guy in 1983. I don’t have any recordings of it, but you can find one made by another guy at the following web page:

I soon moved up to not only a better multitrack cassette—the Audio Technica RMX64—but to the best one ever made. It ran at double the normal cassette speed, 3 3/4 ips, and had the much improved Dolby C NR built-in. The mixing section had 6-XLR inputs, direct outs and channel inserts plus a lot of routing capabilities. The recording deck had a frequency response that went as high as 15-kHz and the Dolby C gave it around a 72 db noise floor which was quite acceptable. In fact, I never saw another 4-track cassette with as high a frequency response. All the others from Tascam and the higher end Fostex units etc. topped out at 14-kHz at  0 VU. Consumer decks for stereos such as NAD and Nakamichi were measured at -20 db down instead of 0 VU, so they appeared to have better fidelity, but in reality they didn’t at all. This Audio Technica unit had actual VU meters on it along with two bands of parametric EQ instead of the self variety you usually saw. It cost around $1500. I do still have a few recordings made on this deck.

Audio Technica Sound Sample

Finally I moved up to a big TEAC A-3440S reel to reel 4-track which also came with an outboard DBX NR unit. It was a wonderful sounding deck that used 1/4" tape and ran at 15 ips, but that DBX NR pumped and breathed like crazy! (In certain ways I actually think the recordings made with the Audio Technica cassette deck were better.) The TEAC ran around $3,000 new, but I got mine secondhand for a real bargain (I think only$800) and the DBX unit I bought new for another $600. I couldn’t afford a great mixer for it, so I settled for a used 8-channel Peavey that was meant to be a live mixer, but with a patch-bay I was able to make it all work. Throw in some nice outboard reverb and compressors, and you had it made. Well, except for the fact that good quality microphones were nearly $2,000 in those days! Needless to say, most of us guys on a home recording budget were just using cheaper dynamic mics like the Shure SM-57 and 58. Here’s a short recording made with this set-up:

Teac A-3440S Sound Sample


Today, most recording studios are computer based. With a computer you can have unlimited tracks and virtual effects up the whazoo. There’s free multitrack software to be found that’s plenty good enough for a Podcaster, but if you want to do any serious music recording, you’ll need something like Sonar or Audition which will run you a few hundred bucks. Not only do they fulfill the requirement of multitrack recording, but they also double as darn good wave editors (especially Audition).

The following is about the cheapest you can get into semi-pro recording for. I picked out specific products that I know to be decent quality for the cheapest price. These are the bare essentials. By the time you include the price of software and a computer, you’re talking about somewhere in the neighborhood of $1,800 I believe. When you consider my first cheap reel to reel deck cost over $3,000 new back in the 1980s, and only had 4-tracks at that, it’s amazing what you get for your money today! The microphone technology is what’s really shocking. Those $2,000 mics of yesteryear can be found in knockoff versions today for just a couple of hundred bucks or less. So here we go:

Studio Projects B1 - $120 This mic is simply one of the best condenser mics I’ve ever heard at any price. It comes with a shock mount too. (Pictured here with a mic stand and a pop filter, but be aware that the mic does not come with these.)

KRK Rokit Powered 6 G2 6" Monitors - $340 (for a pair) I’m still using the older RED version of these. This one mid-sized set of monitors does the job so well that I no longer feel the need to have both a large and small set of monitors anymore.

Behringer XENYX X1622USB Mixer - $229 This is the best bang for your buck in the entire music world I think. I chose this model specifically because it was the only one in this price range that had channel inserts (important for compressors) and a sort of fold-back system that could be rigged using the two subs 1 & 2. So it’s not just a live mixer, but the subs make it good for recording too so that you can listen to the playback of previously recorded tracks in the headphones without them going to the main outputs. It’s really only good for recording 2-tracks at a time though which makes it fine for most hobbyists, but if you intend to record drums, you’ll need something with at least 8 direct outputs. This mixer also has some built-in effects. They’re 24-bit, but they sound more like 12-bit. Meaning, they’re okay, but not great. I have ancient 16-bit reverbs and delays that sound considerably better, but these effects can get you by. It also has separate compressors actually built into each XLR channel! For Podcasters this is all you need. The compression is plenty good enough for the spoken voice, and even for singers. If you're an acoustic guitar player, you’ll probably opt for a better outboard unit. Fortunately, with channel inserts, you can plug in any compressor you like. This mixer also has a built-in USB port for going directly into the computer and by-passing soundcards.

Echo MIA MIDI Digital Audio and MIDI Card - $250 (or less than $200 with a little searching) The soundcards that come built into computers have come a long way in recent years, but they’re still very amateurish with tiny 1/8" receptacles and the like. This Echo card has 1/4" ins/outs and has a very nice virtual mixer for the volume controls. It also has midi capabilities for synths. You may not need a high-end soundcard if you intend to use the above mixer’s USB port though, so bear that in mind.

RaXXess Stoppit Pop Filter with Goose Neck - $25 A pop-filter is absolutely essential for any vocal microphone. This is a decent one for not much money.

AKG K240 Studio Headphones - $100 The best studio headphones around.

That’s about it. You’ll also need some kind of mic stand and some cords etc. but those you won’t need any help finding. Welcome to the world of recording kids.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

What the Heck Is She Doing With That Stick?

Yahoo does some really cheesy ads, but this one takes the cake. Considering the caption, one cannot help but wonder just what this girl is doing with that stick!

Monday, January 14, 2013

IKE: Countdown to D-Day

I just got done watching IKE: Countdown to D-Day. Tom Selleck is of course much taller than Eisenhower was, but he played the role remarkably well. The whole cast was just great. This is a war film without war. It’s all about the strategies being put into place leading up to D-Day and the invasion of Normandy. Really well done. I can’t believe I waited nine years to watch this.

And since I'm talking about Ike, the greatest president of the 20th century, I thought I’d post this video clip of his farewell address as well. This is the one where he utters the well-worn phrase he invented: "military industrial complex." Remember, this was three days before Kennedy was to take office. Many people think it was a warning against a government with too much power over the military, but it was actually a warning against a military system with so much power, even the government couldn’t control it. Would the CIA be included as part of this "military" complex? So many people are convinced that members of the CIA along with VP Johnson were behind Kennedy’s death. Did Ike see it coming 3-years earlier? I really don’t have an opinion on the subject, but it’s interesting nonetheless.

Thursday, January 10, 2013



If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;
If you can dream---and not make dreams your master;
If you can think---and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:.
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build'em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings---nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And---which is more---you'll be a Man, my son!

Rudyard Kipling

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

CamStudio - Filming Your Computer Moves

I had used CamStudio for years back whenit first came out. It's a free program that records all your screen movements for people who want to make how-to movies (as in how to use this or that asepect of a program and so forth) and post them to their website or YouTube etc. I thought the program had died years ago, which it basically did, but a couple of years ago some fans of the program manged to hack it and keep it going while updating it along the way. It's still free, looks and works the same way it always did, but now it works with a few new codecs and will install nicely on Windows-7/64-bit. It can be downloaded here:


Also, for those looking to make tutorials that are more of a Flash action script where you have arrows to click on for going to the next scene etc. Wink is still going strong. It's a great program, however, it doesn't yet work on a 64-bit platform: