Old school

In the mid-1990s, I played in a band called The Confabulators. I’ve been dubbing my old VHS tapes into my computer, and so here’s a YouTube video of the ‘Fabs playing three songs: James Harman’s “If the Shoe Fits” and Eddie Cochran’s “20-Flight Rock” at a blues festival in 1996, and good ol’ Elmore James’ “Dust My Broom” at one of our first-ever gigs at the old Emerald Isle club on Capitol Hill in 1993.

Another new toy

This is the Yamaha Magicstomp II, a programmable multi-effects floor pedal for guitar. It’s my new toy. Of course, I’m going to use it for harmonica, and I bought it because it was a closeout and on sale for dirt cheap (less than most delay-only pedals). The thing has excellent reverbs, delays and choruses (all very useful for harp) and a lot of other fun settings, along with a volume control that could help me get a hand on feedback in some of my rigs. It also makes a nice backup to an amp — the effects include several amp simulators, meaning I could run a line out of the Magicstomp and into a PA system. It has a headphone jack and thus makes a nice practice amp as well, giving it even more usefulness.

The thing is completely programmable and I’ll get into playing with that within a few days, but I’ve been fooling around with the pre-sets tonight. Most of the distortion effects sound a bit cheesy but the reverbs/delays are great, and once I dial in my own settings, I should be able to come up with some fun stuff.

Cats don’t know feng shui

This article supports what I believe to be a deeply annoying trend: The treatment of pets as little people. Now, these shelters do represent a genuine improvement for the animals in their care, but it’s also clear they are designed to make people feel better. I mean, feng shui?

I believe that cages for animals are not, by default, always bad. Certainly they can be, but in my experience, people are more disturbed by many crates and cages than are domesticated animals.

Example: I have a Jack Russell terrier and, although I do not crate him, I know folks who do … and the Jacks generally seem to like the safety and security provided by the crates, which serve as little caves. And if you’ve ever seen a pet freak out or get spooked when wandering around a big new house (or seen that selfsame pet urinate or defacate all over the place in an attempt to mark it), you know that wide open spaces aren’t always the best alternative.

You see this thinking in pet food, too, with “steak flavor,” “gourmet chunks” or dry pieces that are molded into little fire hydrants. Want a dog to like his food? Make it intestine-flavored and see what happens. Of course, people don’t want to buy that — but dogs, like most carnivorous animals, like organs.

Heart-flavored dog food won’t sell, so the closest you get is “beef” flavored with “byproducts.” You can buy liver-flavored dog food, which in my experience drives dogs into yips of delight, but you can do that because people eat cow livers. Again, it’s all about the people, not the pets.

I really, really like my dog, but my wife and I had some pretty serious discussions before we got him. We agreed that he was not a “family member,” or a child substitute, and that we wouldn’t make heroic efforts (i.e., chemotherapy and the like) to treat him if he became seriously ill. I think this has worked out well for everyone — including the dog, who acts like a dog and not some neurotic overstressed child.