Tuesday, September 29, 2009

My Dream Came True!

Ever since I first heard an 8-string bass, I wanted one.
We're talking late '70s, and probably an aluminum necked Kramer that I played in a guitar store in New York back when it was a brand new idea.

Not much later Cheap Trick took the world by storm but I had already seen them live a few times by then as an opening act and knew all about the 8's and their bigger and sicker brother, the 12 string bass played by Tom Petersson.
He used custom-made instruments by Hamer, who've pretty much owned the market since then.
Years later I fell in love with Texas band King's X, and their bassist also used several left-handed 8's and 12's from Hamer. I clearly remember the time I supervised their sound at Rock Island on Wurzbach and nearly swooned when their bass tech played some of Doug Pinnick's basses during soundcheck.

The magic of their sound comes from the extra strings being closely paired with the normal bass note strings (played as a group for each note) but they are thinner and tuned an octave (or 2) higher.
Think of the difference between a 12-string acoustic guitar's sound compared to a regular one, only in the lower bass register. Same exact concept and results.
It really fills out the sound of 3-piece bands (like Loud Nine) so I have been dreaming about getting an eight someday a lot lately, but it always seemed like an impossible dream due to their high complexity and low sales.
When an instrument doesn't use off-the-shelf hardware and normal construction techniques MSRP goes through the roof because it's hard to recover an investment in tooling that's barely used.

On Sunday morning I was trolling Craig's List looking for steals on camera and band equipment while trying to get enough caffeine into my system and saw an ad that probably gave me the classic happy chimp face.

I have never bought anything from an individual on craigslist or eBay, and possibly never will, but this pretty 8-string was in a brand-new ad from a pawnshop that's not too far away.
The beauty of pawnshops is that you can make intimate hands-on inspections of any item for as long as you please, whenever it's convenient for you.
Much better than meeting some random dude in a parking lot on his schedule and feeling pressure to make a decision quickly.
I've already gotten a few sweet deals at pawnshops for items I really wanted, and this was no exception.

Rogue is a company that imports instruments from Korean factories that doesn't have a great reputation among professional musicians, but amateurs appreciate the quality received per dollar.

I gave it a lengthy fondle and noticed that she had barely been played (= pretty much new) and was functioning as promised electrically, but might need some professional adjustment of the steel truss-rod inside the neck, plus a few other minor tweaks.
The kind of TLC that might have lead the previous owner to keep her, had he been willing to pay for a pro set-up job.
Luckily I have been doing these adjustments for over 30 years and have always been able to make any instrument perform to it's maximum capabilities, so I confess to giggling like a schoolgirl when my inspection was finished.
The final deal was well-worth being late for home-cooked pot roast!

Another reason 8 and 12-string basses are rare is that you really need to be skilled at using a pick to make them work, but the majority of bassists prefer their fingers instead.
Not me.
I'm 86% pick and about to go higher.

My goal is to pay off the interest-free layaway plan's balance before Loud Nine's next show a few days after Thanksgiving.
The wait is killing me right now, but should ease with time.
Donations are already coming in, which is really cool.
Thank You Lisa and Aileen!!!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Friday Favorite--Rails Around The World

From April 16, 2005.
I was just one of several hundred photographers who participated in "Rails Around The World" on that date.
Everyone uploaded a train-related photo taken on 4/16/05 in their country, state, city--it was a lot of fun and kind of historic.

I remember shooting an event downtown for several hours (Accordian Festival?) and hoping all the while that I might catch a train before sunset so I could participate in RATW 2005.
To get a CPS coal train was pure good luck, as it was not only my first one but also gave me an educational post here at Views of Texas.

You might notice that the photo above wasn't in my original blog post.
That's because until now it was only shown on the website that sponsored RATW, despite being my most popular train photo up to that point in the strange online world of railfans.
The power of this coal train leaning into a curve really made an impact, and in later voting I received eight 9s and a 10, for a 9.11 on a 10 scale.

Within a year or so I grew tired of constantly driving around haunting the rails and trying to please such a small audience. Photo-blogging about many different subjects had become much more satisfying and helped me branch out into more advanced styles and techniques, although I learned a lot from the railfan photographers early in my career.
I'm still active on a limited basis at the same site where RATW happened, but only when I stumble upon something that might interest them.

In other news: Loud Nine will NOT be performing this Saturday, and I'm pissed-off about it.
The final version of The Hitmen will be winging-it at Oasis.
I'll be running sound for Bliss at Hooligan's.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The McNay Art Museum

My brother wanted to see the Edward Gorey exhibit at The McNay, but we made him wait until the last day.
Anything I might say about how much we enjoyed it is wasted breath, because it's over and you missed it.
Remember the animated credits on PBS's Mystery series?
My own description after seeing the travelling show at The McNay was "Whimsically Macabre".

There was lots of other great art, and an impressive collection of work by the famous impressionists like Picasso and Van Gogh and Cezanne, Matisse, Renoir, etc.
Strangely, even though I'm a photographer my preferences lean towards sculpture.

The map we were given had red areas where photography was not allowed.
Basic rule was if the McNay owns it, you can shoot it.
Still too complicated, so unlike our visits to SAMA I kept both cameras in my bags until we were booted out the door at 5 seconds past closing time.

I also took pictures in the courtyard, and from it's balconies.
LOVE the building.

Many local photographers pay a fee to use the grounds for bridal, quinceanera and graduation portraits. Others try to skip the fee by going ninja--I can always spot them at meetings by their crutches.

The previous post's turtles were in this pond.

The new wing has been open for quite a while and we always meant to check it out.
These little junipers are part of it's landscaping.

I'm glad we went, even though getting home turned the day sour.
Riding to our mechanic's shop in the cab of an old tow truck had enough moments of terror that it would make a good theme park ride.
The guy on SW Military who started asking me a lot of BS questions at knifepoint seemed about as dangerous as a drunk lemur after that, although he's lucky it didn't end up deep in his ass just on principle.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Turtle Time

Don't recall ever having a turtle here at Views.

It's about time!

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Margarita Sweet Potato Vine

I first noticed this vine as part of a three-plant potted arrangement we had purchased for a gift from Lowe's.
Subsequent visits revealed that the MSPV grew very fast--in fact it's capable of taking over half your porch if it gets enough water and light, even in a smallish pot of soil.
I was impressed and started shopping for my own but had no luck. (They are available now).
So I was back-gifted 2 cuttings from the ends of the original plant's many vines.
Took them home in a water bottle and started watching them.
Mine were about 12 inches long--the one above is a bit shorter.
All you do is strip 3 or four stems from the base of the cutting and keep it in water. I used a pint glass this time because after the roots grow you can damage them trying to remove it from a water bottle.
Oops--I ended up having to cut the bottle apart last time.
Set the cutting in a windowsill. Direct sunlight isn't necessary.

Within 12-24 hours roots will begin to grow from either side of where the leaf/stem was snapped off. You can see pores (for lack of the correct term) from which the roots emanate if you examine the vine of a mature plant.
The little projection in the stem's elbow sometimes grows into a branching vine--no idea what process stimulates this.
The above photo was taken after 5 days or so.
It's best to wait until at least 8-10 days before planting. By then you should see smaller roots branching off the main ones.

I planted mine in a mixture of Miracle Grow Garden Soil™ and local dirt with a moderate clay content that I had to dig up anyway to keep a fence gate swinging freely. Don't know if it helped or hurt--it's hard to tell with something that grows so explosively.
The plant above was just the two cuttings a couple of months ago.

The MSPV has a bright green color that provides a nice contrast to every other plant you might be growing.
Or you can go with the red/purple leafed non-margarita variety.
Can be used as ground cover or as a fence cover if you're willing to spend a lot of money on water, but I prefer to keep it potted and under control for now.
Likes it's soil damp all the time so I water it heavily every other day.
Martha's website says to wait until the surface of the dirt is dry before watering, and that's good advice.
The leaves will let you know, too.
Might be a good candidate for planting where your AC unit's condensation pipe drains.

Bonus: You get a free Central American sweet potato every Autumn, although I doubt I'll harvest mine.
My plan is to take several cuttings for next season's "crop" in a few months and grow them indoors (small pots) until Spring.
I've never played with vines before, so this has been a fun and educational experiment.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Pearl Brewery & RiverWalk

Went downtown last Tuesday to fetch the awesome framed print that the San Antonio Museum Of Art made of my photo for their show.
Now that it's no longer 102 degrees F every day I decided to cruise over to the nearby Pearl Brewery complex to take some pics.
Urban reclamation at it's best, the former beer factory now houses a culinary school, shops, etc.

This old electric engine used to carry beer from the brewery to shipping points and local customers on tracks laid down in the middle of the street.

Leaf & Coil Springs
They did a nice restoration but I've been into detail shots lately so there are no pics of the whole subject.

A cute bird hunting on the river.

I really like my cheap DT 55-200mm Sony lens.
A list price of $229 should trigger warning bells, and getting it for only a mere $100 kit upgrade made me suspect it was utter crap.
But results are all that matter, and except for it's tendency to completely miss focus when max-zoomed it has a certain image quality that I really enjoy.
Spends way more time mounted to my Alpha300 than the 18-70mm kit lens.
Way Way Way more time.
Curved aperture petals help smooth the out-of-focus areas in a nice way.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Something Strange At SAMA

Time for some New World art.

Ever meet someone who personifies the old saying "Couldn't find his own ass using both hands"?
Now you know what that looks like.

Another Robertson-inspired composition. This style is growing on me. Did I do it right?
BTW, the shadow behind the man's ear is actually a reflection of my ear.
So what?
Thought so.

It was in this next room, where I remarked "It looks like they looted a Mexican church", that the weirdness began.
Mexican folk art and religious art appeal to be in a big way, from the Day of the Dead to Catholicism to altars and even tourist junk. At first I was really enjoying myself.

Right around this part of the exhibit I started getting a feeling I know all too well. My heart started racing, my scalp tingled, my stomach dropped out my ass and ran away...
(BTW--while Photoshopping this photo the eye moved while I was looking right at it!)

It didn't take long to figure out (as I almost ran past it) that this big and complicated altar was the source of my discomfort.
In fact, I had to wait a few minutes before returning to get the picture, and I'll be damned if it didn't start all over again.

Say what you will about the supernatural, especially the concepts of ghosts and haunted places.
Can't be proven, agreed. (Yet! Never seen a radio wave but I have enough proof to admit they exist).
But why is it that a large percentage of people from every known civilization since the dawn of time believe?
Coincidence? Don't be foolish. Statistically impossible.
It's because they have experienced very strange things, as have I for most of my life.
Always associated with very specific locations.
Always seen/heard/felt by others.

The place I lived before moving here was haunted as hell, and I have plenty of witnesses. Impossible things happened late at night, and we could actually bring them on by talking about ghosts after 3am.
I would get smacked in the face while sleeping and awake to find my arms were under the covers, so it wasn't me thrashing around hitting myself. A quick run to the mirror would allow me to see the marks before blood started to flow.
As the paint on my walls faded I discovered bullet holes, and asked a neighbor about the deaths in my place. He confirmed.
I'm a rational and intelligent man who could have lived quite happily NOT believing in this stuff, but an open mind and careful examination of the evidence leaves no other explanation.
And like I said, I've got LOTS of witnesses.
(Some of whom would rather not talk about it while others think I should write a book).

So trust me when I tell you that there is a haunted room at the San Antonio Museum of Art. Whether it's connected to the objects displayed within or from something that happened in the building's previous life as a brewery I can't tell you.
I just know what side of which room I'm going to be careful about visiting.

And I fully intend to return, because it's also my favorite exhibit.
I'll just have to work quickly.