Saturday, October 10, 2015

More Halloween Instros

Around this time last year, Mr. Fab (over at the MUSIC FOR MANIACS blog) re-upped my “double-disc” collection of classic Halloween-themed instrumentals (with my blasphemous blessing!)   My trick-or-treat offering for you this year is the followup compilation…more spooky instros, annoying novelties, and radio spot ads for vintage fright flicks, all entombed together in a convenient zip file.  Put THAT in your goodie-bag, kid!

Friday, October 9, 2015

So Long, Denny

I'm sad to report that my longtime friend and collaborator Dennis Eichhorn has passed on at age 70. His most recent collection of collaborative, autobiographical comic stories, EXTRA GOOD STUFF, was published earlier this year by Last Gasp.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Back To Stereo

I love my portable/Bluetooth speakers.  I use them a lot.  I love the convenience of mp3 players like my iPod Classic and my (Rockboxed) Sansa Clip+.  Having lived through the vinyl, tape, and CD eras it’s still sort of amazing to me to be able to carry so much music with me anywhere on such compact devices. Once I’d fully embraced the whole digital music thing I got rid of most of my full-sized, more “conventional” audio equipment because it seemed I wasn’t using it much any more.  It really has been something of a relief not to have a bunch of bulky electrical components cluttering up the place, not to mention the convenience of not having to lug them with me and set them up whenever I want to move from room to room, or change my place of residence.  Up until fairly recently I’ve been content to just listen to music on one or another of my various portable speakers.  I’ve discovered that I have a definite preference for close-up or “near field” listening, and small speakers make that kind of setup possible just about anywhere I happen to be.  At some point, however, I found myself occasionally wanting something more.  Portable speakers can be great for casual listening or background music.  But let’s face it—there aren’t any portable speakers on the market (none I’m aware of, anyway) that offer much in the way of stereo separation, soundstage, or imaging…the left and right channel speakers are simply built into the devices too close together.  And it’s difficult to have a really immersive listening experience when all you have on hand are little ol’ dinky speakers.  I knew I didn’t want to go back to a large, essentially immobile audio component system, but thought I could come up with some convenient but effective compromise to improve my active listening experience.  I started thinking, wouldn’t it be cool to have a small, relatively portable iPod dock one could use with decent, old-school wired speakers?  I mean, REAL stereo speakers, with bigger, better drivers and efficient, well-designed enclosures.  What if one could easily attach/detach different speakers and lengths of wire to the mp3 player/amp to create a variety of different, easily rearrangeable listening setups?  I don’t know enough about electronics to build something like that from scratch…so I started looking around for something I might be able to hack…   

Given my lack of technical expertise I knew I’d have to find something already well-suited to my specific purposes.  I needed a better than average iPod dock with good sound and enough amplification wattage to drive typical stereo speakers.  I also wanted a device that would be relatively easy to tear down, leaving all of the necessary controls and electrical connectors intact.  Plus, whatever I eventually purchased would have to fit my rather modest budget.  After a week or two of searching, here’s what I came up with:

I found a Mint 130 Digital Music Station (pictured above) at Goodwill for 13 bucks.  This isn't a battery powered came with a power brick cable/wall plug.  According to the product’s literature:

“The Mint 130 features Texas Instrument's PurePath Digital audio technology, which delivers custom-tailored amplification and equalization characteristics for great big sound in a tiny package. Enjoy 30 Watts of crystal-clear audio through two 3-inch, full-range speakers. Careful craftsmanship, acoustic engineering, and sealed enclosure design offer precise audio usually found only in much pricier systems.”

Well…after messing around with the device for a couple of days I came to some useful conclusions. I thought the amplification quality was pretty good, but the speaker drivers and enclosure design left much to be desired.  It seemed to have potential for producing good sound, but wasn't quite making it as-is.  In other words…this was perfect for hacking to pieces!  Below is what was left after teardown:

The wires sticking out of the top are for connecting the right and left channel speakers.  Fortunately for my plans all of the controls and connectors are conveniently housed in this compact unit.  30 Watts (or 15 Watts per channel, into 8 Ohms) isn’t a lot, but it’s certainly enough to drive lots of readily available speakers.

I installed some speaker wire clips and screwed them onto the unit (see above photos).  Then I went shopping for some decent stereo speakers to hook up…

Right off the bat I got lucky…only twenty bucks for this pair of Acoustic Research “Holographic Imaging” M1 speakers (circa early ‘90s).  Ya gotta love Goodwill!  Six-inch woofers is more than I bargained for.  Here’s another shot of the M1s, from the original brochure:

As much as I like owning and listening to these classic speakers, they’re a bit larger than what I originally had in mind.  I really wanted some smaller monitor-type speakers I could use for tighter near field desktop-type setups (with the addition of a subwoofer to extend low frequency response).  After a few more trips to Goodwill I scored again…

On the left are my new Definitive Technology ProMonitor 100s (in pristine condition, with stands—only 40 bucks for the pair!)  Probably the nicest small speakers I’ve ever owned.  They claim the woofers are 5-1/4 inches, but are really only 4.5 inches measured from the surround edges.  You do have to crank these up a bit to really make them sing.  On the right is a pair of Boston Acoustics “SubSatSix” speakers (part of a 2.1 speaker set…I’m not sure what happened to the subwoofer these originally came with).  These sound good at pretty much any volume, but are especially nice at lower levels.  Not bad for ten bucks.  Like the DefTechs, these are also 2-way speakers.  Woofers are around 3.75 inches.

So, to sum up, I’m definitely feeling as though my project has been a big success.  Altogether, everything sounds much better than I'd hoped.  I can run this whole setup with a portable 12 Volt battery pack, if I want to (not sure how long the battery would hold out, however!)—but I typically just plug it in.  My iPod charges while it’s docked.  I can play music from my computer or other mp3 players through the 3.5mm AUX input.  I can plug in a Bluetooth adaptor for wireless connectivity.  I have a couple of small subwoofers I often use along with the dock speakers to fill out the lower end.  Total cost for the Mint iPod dock and assorted speaker pairs: $83.00.  I still love my little portables, but it’s really great to be listening in true stereo again, sometimes.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Nowhere Town

I've endorsed the outstanding OFFICE NAPS blog numerous times in the past.  I've also plugged the blog's related web pages THE LONELY BEAT and EXOTICA PROJECT.  Now there's a new page in the series, NOWHERE TOWN: 100 vintage 45s - "comprised of lonesome and atmospheric country, rockabilly and teen pop 45s from the '50s and '60s, along with a set of period guitar instrumentals with Western-ish motifs."  Click the highlighted links above to visit and listen.

Friday, September 18, 2015

JRW Interview

Dang!  Another thing I keep forgetting to mention...R.W. Watkins interviewed me for his COMICS DECODER blog/site, and the interview has been up for a while now.  Check it out:

JRW INTERVIEW (click here)

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Extra Good Stuff

I keep forgetting to mention that EXTRA GOOD STUFF (the latest REAL STUFF collection by Dennis Eichhorn & various artists) is finally in print and available!  I illustrated a couple of pages.  More info about the book at the links below:



Saturday, July 25, 2015

It's A MAD World

A few potentially noteworthy items...

•It might not be news, but Facebook now supports animated GIFs.  Figuring out how to post them can be a bit tricky, but I'm here to testify that it does indeed work (finally!)

•The AROUSE YOUR PASSION blog keeps adding (or pointing out) all kinds of free & interesting stuff.  For example, the entire print run of the classic L.A. punk magazine SLASH is now available as downloadable PDFs.  Lawrence Lipton's early Beat Generation book THE HOLY BARBARIANS is also up for grabs (thanks to the amazing INTERNET ARCHIVE).

•Speaking of the INTERNET ARCHIVE...the site just got a very attractive facelift/makeover.  Check out their section of SCI FI & HORROR FILMS, for each individual entry has a nifty little thumbnail image!

•Thanks to SURFADELIC, my collection of SIN-SA-TION! comp LPs is finally complete!  I also recommend checking out the SLEAZERAMA! compilation.

•A very cool, printable "Cosmonauts-on-the-Moon" diorama/paper project is available to download via AGENCE EUREKA.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Portable BOOM!

My new favorite portable Bluetooth speaker isn't exactly "portable" and doesn't include Bluetooth...

Nowadays I'm always on the lookout for one-piece speaker sets with built-in subwoofers.  So when I spotted a used Altec Lansing Octiv 650 at my local Goodwill for only twenty bucks, I immediately grabbed it.

Generally speaking, the critics really liked this speaker dock...for example, check these reviews on CNET and GIZMODO.  This gadget has a down-firing 4" sub nested underneath, which makes for some substantial bass.  I couldn't find the output wattage listed anywhere, but I'm estimating it's around 40W total.

Up front there's a pair of 3" full-range drivers.  Here's a photo of my unit with the faceplate removed:

This speaker doesn't include a battery option, but if you have a 12 volt battery handy you're good to go.  Plug a Bluetooth receiver into the AUX input for wireless connectivity:

Kinda bulky, I know...but the sound tends to kick most of those little Bluetooth speakers to the curb...

Thursday, July 9, 2015

I, Play Boy

Looks like I'll have a piece of work reproduced in this here art book, to be published by Les Éditions Black-Out.  More info/pre-order: