Friday, August 21, 2020

Rick Sebak Documentaries

Forgive me for sounding a bit cheesy here but I love a good, nay, a feel-good documentary. As a kid we never had cable television so I would, quite often, watch PBS, as there was almost always something interesting to watch. This mentality stayed with me, even after I did have access to cable or satellite television. Among my favorite programs PBS has brought to my attention are: The Red Green Show, Across Indiana (which was probably only aired locally for obvious reasons), History Detectives, Antiques Roadshow, and of course any of the documentaries produced by Rick Sebak.

I can vividly remember having a viral illness in 2004, to the point I felt if I wasn't knocking on death's door it was only because I was too weak to knock. In my illness induced state I was looking for something to watch on television to help get my mind off all the aches and pains, between episodes of being violently ill. It wasn't until I landed on my local PBS that I found something that even remotely caught my interest: A Program About Unusual Buildings and Other Roadside Stuff. As I was still making trips back and forth to the bathroom I couldn't watch it all, but the parts I did catch were very interesting.

Years later I remembered that documentary and decided to try and find it in its entirety. Oddly enough PBS was going to be showing a re-airing of the program later in the week. I waited impatiently each and every day until I could finally watch it completely, without the being violently ill stuff. In its entirety the program kept me entertained, even the bits I had seen previously. At the end of the program I remember PBS doing their donate to get this program on DVD pitch, at least I think it was DVD, but I also believe they were offering more documentaries from Rick Sebak. This brought my my attention the hot dog documentary, the flea market documentary, the amusement park documentary and so many more.

What I believe sets Rick Sebak apart is the flow of the documentaries, his voice and the fun way things are presented and, well.. documented. There is always something to see, the shots never hang too long on something, but it doesn't flash by either. You get a chance to engage your eyes on the subject and study the whole scene while being informed of what's going on.

I've held a short-lived conversation with the man himself over twitter about my belief his documentaries are blu-ray and even Netflix worthy. I understand they are primarily made for his local PBS station, but I do enjoy his documentaries to the point I will occasionally drop a few titles randomly in a conversation. I couldn't do that with a History Channel documentary about storming the beaches at Normandy, but I can about amusement parks, hot dogs, oddly shaped buildings, flea markets, great pies, great bakeries, great breakfasts and tons of other feel-good subjects that are well documented by Rick Sebak.

I know these documentaries have helped me get through rough times in the past. They always feel like something to brighten your day, or put a little sunshine in your rain soaked afternoon. I wish I had access to all of his documentaries but it seems PBS has kept a tight lock on them. There are many others I haven't seen such as the cemetery special. Some can be found online, while others can't. I'm hoping soon to see them popping up, officially, online so that they are all available for everyone to enjoy his work.

The Mooer Black Truck

Ever since I repaired my Kalamazoo Model 1, my brother (who is responsible for my interest in guitars) has been debating buying a tube amp for himself. I'm guessing me having a tube amp is why I'm also his tech/demo guy when he makes a purchase. He first purchased a Carvin V3 mini and, when it actually worked, it sounded ok at best. Given Carvin's history I know they can create good amps, but this particular one just wasn't right at all. After returning that my brother wanted a Spider Valve, then a Marshall DSL, but seemingly out of nowhere be bought a Mooer Black Truck.

I'm familiar with Mooer pedals, but I somehow never heard of the black or red truck units. After my brother brought it to my attention I googled a few demo videos to see what they were all about and how they work. After my brother dropped his off for me to test I plugged it into my Kalamazoo Model 1 to see what this thing was all about. The Mooer black truck offers six effects, not to mention a bright and easy to read tuner, all in one sturdy unit. Reverb, delay, Modulation such as phaser, tremolo and flange, a five band EQ, high gain distortion with a mids scoop and noise gate switch as well as a compressor and overdrive. That's an impressive array of effects all stuffed into this little thing.

After playing around with it I fell in love with the overdrive, which I believe is based off their Green Mile pedal, with a little reverb. The only drawback I see is the lack of control you have over the reverb. The control of the delay is perfect for my style of delay, but I did find the control over the reverb to be quite lacking to achieve what I prefer, but that's just me. Stacking the overdrive and high gain pedals yielded some really interesting tones as well. I'm really impressed with how everything sounds, the ease of use and the fact they managed to put so many features in such a small little unit. You can use presets or make your own. If I wasn't building my own pedals I would probably find myself buying the Red Truck and using only that with my Kalamazoo Model 1 and being perfectly happy.


Back in 2011 I came across a Johnson J3 footswitch at a local Goodwill for $2. Since I don't own the amps or systems this footswitch works with I originally wanted to repurpose it into an A/B/Y pedal. My problem centered around the fact that the J3 has three switches, and while you could use three for an A/B/Y pedal, two will suffice. The switches that come stock inside the footswitch are momentary so that meant I had to order some 3PDT switches. After fewer switches than I had ordered arrived I decided to only use two. Once everything was said and done I stood back and looked at the project and realized just how horrible it all looked with a gaping hole in the center and packed it away in a box to be forgotten.

Now the year is 2020 and things have moved on quite a bit. Other than wiring the project was done, but I just simply can not get over that hole in the center. Yeah, I hate it too, believe me. I had high hopes for this one, but it's that damn hole in the center. Sure I could plug it up, but I just don't think it would ever look right. So what am I suppose to do now? Well I've already made an A/B pedal. It's not the A/B/Y I wanted, but it's something I built myself, it's functional and it will get me close enough to where I wanted to be, all in an extremely small form factor. Not only did I scrap the original project, this article right here has been in draft form for over three years. Don't believe me? Take a look.

And that's just the last modified date,
not when I originally started.

As I've stated in a previous post I decided 2020 was going to be the year I built my own guitar pedals, long before the world came to a stop all at once. I had ordered an exceedingly cheap 1590a style enclosure that was too small to house the fuzz pedal I originally planned to put in there. After some fiddling I decided to turn it into an A/B pedal. One DPDT footswitch, three jacks and a little wiring and this thing came together rather quickly. Although I'm not exactly happy that one of the outputs comes out the top, it's somehow far more pleasing to me than having an A/B/Y pedal with a hole in the center.

I guess since this post was originally about the A/B/Y pedal I may as well finish up by showing some of the progress photos before I decided to toss it in a box and forget it. Someday I might come up with an idea of what to do with it. Maybe an A/B/Y with a boost or volume control to fill up that center slot.. Hmmmm. Now that I mention it..