Friday, January 27, 2012

Fingerboards & oil.

About two years ago, I stumbled into a pawn shop looking for... I dunno.  Trouble?  Truth is, our town has several in close proximity, and I'd never darkened their door.  Since the advent of eBay, the fantastic deals of old are long gone - market price is set on the net, blue book be damned, and many of the items end up listed there as well.    As it happened, however, there was a very old, VERY battered Alvarez hanging on the wall with a $40 price tag, and I was feeling a little rebellious.

You see, since I settled down and grew preternaturally old, I played.  A lot.  Paid for college, among other things.  But law school has a habit of recruiting amazingly talented & diverse people and flattening them out into little robots - amazingly strong and focused on a but single thing.   And in the years since I went through that process, the guitars have largely stayed in their cases.

But the simple truth is, you want your kids to grow up around YOU.  Who you really are.  And I thought we needed a guitar around the house.  Nothing fancy, mind you.  The nice things stay in their cases.  I needed something I didn't care about.  Something that could get hurt, broken, or outright destroyed.

A $40 Alvarez fit the bill.  Perfectly.

Perfectly good guitar, once I adjusted the tension rod & worked on a few technical details.   Played about as well as I could expect for a $40 axe. 

But it looked like hell.   It had obviously been exposed to the elements.  The top end of the fretboard, along with the high end, were weathered as hell.  So was the bridge, which looked as if it had been left out in the sun for an entire summer.  After a while, I noticed the fretboard was affecting playability as well. 

I reached out to an old friend, who recommended ColorTone Fretboard Finishing oil, which I had seen online.  I took the strings off, wiped everything down, and used 00 grade steel wool and gently rubbed down the fingerboard & the frets.  This removes a thin layer of wood & metal from the guitar.  Made one pass over the fingerboard, came back, wiped it down, and... wow.  Plays like an entirely new guitar.  I had no idea how much this would affect the playability.  The change is remarkable.

Planning on doing the same thing to the Les Paul this weekend.  But of course, I tried it out on the beater first.

Anyone.... Bueller?

What on earth is this?

Talk about things that get your hopes up.  Ten will get you $20 he's the new Expedia guy.

UPDATE:  Apparently, it's the kick off for a new campaign by Honda.  Whole thing was lensed by the guy who did The Hangover,  Todd Phillips.  Must've cost a damned mint.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Hook, line & Dinner

One of the things I'm working on this year is television.  Specifically, watching every episode of GOOD EATS ever produced.  

In order.

I'll be following up with episode-by-episode synopsis as the year unfolds.  Yesterday, I watched the classic fish episode HOOK, LINE & DINNER.  Tonight, on  a whim, deicided to try out AB's simple yet succulent pan fried fish technique.  Recipe is very simple - it's all about the technique:

1 large or two small skin-on fish fillets, about 8 ounces (rainbow trout, small salmon, brown trout)Kosher salt
Ground black pepper
Flour for dredging
2 tablespoon Canola oil
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoons capers, drained
1 lemon, juiced

Heat a heavy pan over medium high heat.
Season fish on meat side with salt and pepper. Lightly dredge fish in flour and shake off excess. When pan is good and hot, add Canola oil followed immediately by 1 tablespoon butter. As soon as foaming subsides, place fish in pan with the skin side down. Jiggle pan for the first 10 seconds to keep the fish from sticking. Cook until golden crust forms on meat. Carefully turn fish away from you and again jiggle pan for the first few seconds. Cook until skin turns golden brown. Remove to a warm plate.
Pour out the cooking fat, add remaining butter and quickly fry the capers. Remove pan from the heat, add lemon juice to pan and swirl. Pour sauce over the fish and serve.

Started off with a trip to the local fish market, which I've driven by a thousand times but never frequented.    Given it's proximity to a MAJOR fish importer, I expected that it was an offshoot  of the mothership.  Not the case.  When the fish on ice is sold in vacuum-sealed packs, you're not really in the right place.  Had about five varieties of fish, only one of which was whole, and a  bunch of great looking shrimp, including some of the largest jumbo's I've ever seen.  Given the condition of the outfit, I decided to stick to the fare at the local mega-mart.

Dish is amazingly simple.  Fish cost $5.86 for four mid-sized Tilapia fillets.  $2 for the capers, and about $0.50 for a lemon.  Did have to spring for a block of actual butter, which is not traditionally kept in my fridge.  Given my recent health kick, and the fact that it's needed for flavor, I figure what the hell.

Fish turned out really well.  Only tip I would recommend is using a non-non-stick pan and keeping the heat down.  First two fillets got a little extra crispy, due to the TV-advertised time of 4 minutes per side (book says two minutes - use that instead.)

Threw some Haricot verts in the skillet when I was done with a little butter and cooked them right up.  Fed my family for about $7 tonight, and it was delicious.  Can't beat that.

Maybe someday I'll have the stones to attempt the Salt Dome.  As an avid IRON CHEF fan, always wanted to try that.... but not tonight.

No Pulse...

How in the hell have I managed to misplace my copy of Pulse?  That was my primary backing track for actually accomplishing things.  I suppose it says something about my productivity that's it's been missing at least since the first of the year and I'm only now starting to miss it.

Nevertheless, there are some things in this world you just can't go without...

UPDATE:  Thank God for YOUTUBE.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Things are getting complex

Things are getting complex.  I think I'm currently reading five books:

Good Eats: The Early Years  by Alton Brown
The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 2: Fredericksburg to Meridian By Shelby Foote
Lay the Favorite: A Memoir of Gambling by Beth Raymer
Ready Player One, by Ernie Cline
The Cold War: A New History  by John Gaddis

Sounds like I'm procrastinating.    You don't know the half of it.

You know it's bad if I'm blogging.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Zen & the art of guitar maintenance

Formerly the bane of my existence.  You're looking at the input jack on a 1984 Les Paul standard.  They don't really make these anymore.  Somewhere around 1986 Gibson figured out it was cheaper to ground the strings than it was to encase every component in a steel chassis.  Replacing it would mean grounding the strings, which would mean drilling a hole.  I'm rather emotionally attached to this particular guitar,  so that wasn't really an option.

Thankfully, when I opened it up it was nothing more than a 1/4" jack in a chrome box.  

Input was shorting out every time the cord jiggled.  As you might expect, playing a guitar like that isn't something you usually do sitting still.  You move around.  Typically while plugged into a very large amplifier.  This leads to loud noises of the non-musical variety.  I'm not Thurston Moore, so this doesn't exactly work for me.

Turns out, the non-tip wire (upper right) was touching the edge of the chrome cylinder.  A little electrical tape, and she sounds like a dream.  Somewhat.

Sliced the living hell out of my hand putting her back together.  After all that, I doubt I'll be able to play for a week.

Interesting day.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Van Halen. Acoustic. Live.

Van Halen actually has a fascinating mix of acoustic tunes in their repitoire.  Why they chose this to release, I'll never understand.

Starting the year off correctly

Just a few posts to start the year off correctly:

Principles of War, by Carl Von Clausewitz
The Long Telegram, by George Kennan
The Good Eats Fan Page

All knowledge, no matter how esoteric, eventually becomes relevant.