All posts by c

Exhausting the Local Options

Checked out the Ibanez Artcore at Guitar Center last night … I was dreading the corporate megastore experience, but my particular salesguy, Eric, was quite nice and not-pushy. Point to them. Nice bass, the Artcore, though the one in stock had a crack in the top. Oh, and while Ibanez insists that the Artcore line is full-hollow, that’s just the guitars. The basses are, in fact, semi-hollow, with a huge soundblock down the middle. It has just the one pickup, too, though I’m neophyte enough not to know whether I care. I could be OK with the Artcore, though at $399 and in dark walnut, it’s not quite what I had in mind.

Centaur Guitar LogoSo, on to Centaur Guitar, a friendly little shop that’s been open just over a year, whose existence I only learned of yesterday. Jason, one of the owners, was particularly helpful, and noting the absence of archtops in stock, he said he’d order-in an Italia Torino, since Centaur is an official dealer. They’re in the $500 range — really beyond what I want to spend on what may well turn out to be a passing fancy, considering the amp, case, etc. that I’ll be buying as well — but if I haven’t bought something else by the time he gets it, I suppose I could be tempted. Terribly user-unfriendly color chart they have, but Italia Green and Trans Orange are pretty sexxy :). Whatever I do, I think I’ll be making my string, setup and accessory purchases from Centaur, when possible. It struck me as a very good kind of place, and conveniently open ’til 7 every day.

Still Shopping

Ibanez Artcore AGB140TBRHuh. OK, so Portland Music Co. seems to have nothing in hollowbodied bases. Apple Music Row carries Epiphones, including the viol-bass, starting at $399, but I’m damned uncomfortable in there, being closely scrutinized by the salesdude as though I were gonna walk out with it under my coat. Too self-conscious, perhaps, but still, it harshes my novice shopping mellow. Trade Up Music (on Alberta) has the un-branded sunburst Höfner 500/1 knockoff (sadly, with failing varnish) for $299. Their Division location had no hollowbodies. Old Town Music has a Höfner 500/1 knockoff (a Johnson, I think it was) for $299. I called Guitar Center (both Beaverton and Clackamas) and they only stock the Ibanez Artcore, at $399.

JTB-3I emailed Jay Turser two days ago, to see if they could help me out by identifying a local dealer who has at least ordered a JTB-3 in the past, but haven’t heard back from them. Called them today, but somehow 4.30 EDT == not business hours, and I can but assume they’re closed on weekends. Pity, because their website is so outdated as to be no help at all — in its world, the JTB-3 isn’t even a product.

Aesthetically, I really want to get a fatty archtop like the JTB-3. At least, I think I do, but I’d want to play with it a bit first. The Höfner 500/1 viol-form basses are very comfortably small (shortnecked, yes, but I mean body width and depth)… of course, I’ve only played one sitting down, resting on a knee… might feel different strapped-up. But (and this is terrible) I really don’t want a sunburst paintjob, hate the switches on it, and even though I don’t associate the viol-form with Sir Paul, it seems that everyone else does, and I’d rather not ride that vibe and find myself perfecting the sub-hook to Day Tripper. Then again, I imagine that that’s the first task of every aspiring electric bassist, in the same way that the intro Jaws riff was de rigeur for upright bassists in the 7th grade. Meh.

Basser Thoughts

JTB-2BSo far the Höfner 500/1 knock-off is still the front-runner, but in part that’s because I’ve had a hell of a time finding any other comparably-priced hollow bodied basses to play with. $1,300 Gretsches aren’t under consideration. The Rogue VB100, ordered from Musician’s Friend, is still the best deal I’ve found, at $230, but if I’m going for a viol-shaped bass I’m tempted by the blonde spruce-topped, purfled Jay Turser version which seems to be about $80 more. I just find sunburst paintjobs kinda tacky.

I’d very much like to locate one of Turser’s JTB-3’s locally — it’s a double-cutout archtop clone of the Höfner 500/7 “Verithin” — but so far have only found it available online from Instrument Pro, about whose shipping and customer service I’ve not read nice things.

Second Bass

Bass ClefSome years ago — some many years ago — I played bass. Upright. Classical. That was in high school. My college, being rather small, didn’t have much of a music program, and I was inclined to other pursuits at the time, so it went no further. And yet, the bass has followed me. I wouldn’t liken it to an albatross, but there, in the corner of my living room, stands the dark, towering monstrosity that is my 7/8ths-sized American Standard bass (#343). It looks attractive, gathers dust, and occasionally emits strange resonances when a passing truck or a particularly gripping moment of 5.1 splendor sets it off. It deserves better.

Very occasionally — annually at best — I take a cloth to it, fiddle with the tuning (it stays surprisingly well tuned), and noodle through some dimly remembered licks. There’s a particular classical run that I must’ve once woodshedded fairly seriously, for while I’ve no recollection of the piece it belongs to, my fingers find it almost effortlessly. That, and the walking line to Miles’ “All Blues” are about all I can muster. The latter courtesy of a long-ago instructor who probably knew that if he didn’t try to get the kid playing something other than classical, he was likely to walk away from the old nagybögö for good (it’s Czech Hungarian for bass, I think… strange, the things one [almost] remembers). And so it came to pass.

Continue reading Second Bass

Expanding the yard

I assaulted the westerly laurel hedge today, trimming back a foot or more of growth that was eating into our living and growing space, overshadowing flowerbeds and effectively reducing the size of the patio. Shouldn’t have let it get so overgrown, but last year the folks on t’other side seriously pruned it back (to bare trunks), as it was impinging on their driveway. I left our side alone so that it would have a healthy surface to help photosynthesize the life back into it.

I’m never very satisfied with the appearance, post-trimming… laurels only put out growth on their exposed face, so once you chop through the shiny new leaves you’re into some nasty, shade-dwelling territory that’s seen much better days. Ach, such is life. The nice thing is that they’re evergreen and grow all year long, so by trimming it in early June, I trust it’ll make good use of the long summer daylight and bounce back that much quicker.

As to the fate of the hedge on the south side… I’ve pruned-back the parts I can reach, but we’re going to have to call in a tree service to finish the job. The damned thing must be approaching 20′ tall in places, and suffered some broken and split branches in a wind storm this winter. Topping the beast a good bit lower, and peeling about a yard off its depth is definitely indicated. We should get much more light into the garden after that operation is concluded, though I fear the additional traffic noise we might experience. Shedding so much bulk will reduce the sound barrier that shields us (somewhat) from the busy street.

Still, once it’s all done and the surfaces healed, it’ll be pleasing. A nice, dense rectilinear laurel hedge makes it feel very much like a medieval walled garden back there, and while I admire (and enjoy the lessened effort required of) somewhat wild, “country” landscaping, there’s something very æsthetic about neat rows of vegetables and straight-walled hedges. The organic, stream bed-inspired forms of the flowerbeds beneath the laurels make much more sense, too, when they contrast the sharp-sided backdrop of a well-trimmed hedge.

Russian Bananas

In addition to the beans and spinach, today also saw the planting of some Russian Banana fingerling potatoes. Buffalo Gardens had some wrinkly seed potatoes on sale when we were in to acquire jute twine for the stringing of the bean trellis. As the half barrel had previously been emptied of its Jerusalem artichokes, it seemed a likely spot.

I’ve only planted three — it’s not a large barrel — probably too many for the space, but given that it’s filled with the choicest compost, perhaps they’ll make out OK.

Kicking off Garden ‘06

Duly diligent, I amended half of the beds and planted some cooler weather veg yesterday. About 20 lettuce starts, a block of spinach, and an equally sizable block of Swiss chard. Chives and a lemon cucumber, too, though it may be a bit early for the cuke. I had a spur of the moment urge to grow Brussels sprouts, so I’ve planted six of them… perhaps this year the aphids will leave them alone, or we’ll have better luck dissuading them. Thing is, even the quick-maturing variety I’ve planted is ~76 days to fruition, by which time we’re well into the first week of July.

Q. What does one plant in July in Oregon?
A. As far as I know, nothing.

Feh, silly old me. Now I’ll have a bed just lying fallow during the hottest months. Too late to plant tomatoes or peppers or melons in it… I suppose it’s just conceivable that I could get a speedy winter squash going in there. Must investigate. Otherwise, it’s a fall salad bed, which does not excite.

The Hudson’s Golden Gem Goes Biennial

I’ve not been paying much attention to the apple trees recently, but have just come in from giving them the once-over and am saddened to report that the Hudson’s Golden Gem has dropped almost all of its fruit. I made a point of thinning it to a reasonable fruit density for a tree of its none-too-advanced age, but that seems not to have mattered. I think there may be three apples remaining on it now.

Fortunately, the Ashmead’s Kernel, which was off last year, is retaining its crop so far. I suppose if I have to have biennially-bearing apples — and I do, since these two are some of the most delicious — it’s preferable that at least one produces a crop in a given year, than to have years of feast and others of famine. Still, I will miss the Golden Gem this autumn. It’s really, really good. 🙁

Fasolds Ahoy!

All of the green beans appear to have germinated healthily, which is good. Still haven’t planted another row, however, nor have I gotten around to constructing a structure for them yet. Perhaps, since the Fasolds have proven themselves, I’ll try my luck with some other, older beans.

Digging through the box, it looks like we have some old packets of: Broad Windsors, Liana Yard-Longs, Scarlet Runners, French Bush, Yellow Bush, and Fortex Pole beans. The hell of it is that the reason none of these have been planted for a few years is that we just didn’t care for them. So, why bother replanting? Bush beans are much messier to tend, are subject to slugs, and the varieties I’ve tried are largely single-croppers requiring succession-planting. Runners didn’t much please my taste buds, and we’ve never had much luck with broad beans. Yard-longs just don’t seem to like our terroir, and underproduce to the point where it’s hardly worthwhile.

I’m thinking limas. Must find some pole limas.