Saturday, December 30, 2023

Nostalgia Is a Hell of a Drug Part 7: My Terry Labonte Collection

As a kid I had my pudgy little Vienna sausage fingers in a lot of different hobbies. Obviously my longest lasting hobby is playing guitar, but just like most kids I was heavily into collecting things. Growing up in the 80s and 90s I collected sports cards, action figures, POGs, video games, a few Beanie Babies, Hot Wheels/Matchbox cars, and of course Micro Machines. I had a fairly large collection of 1:18 scale diecast model cars, as well as my normal 1:24/1:25 scale model car kits. I even collected comic books one summer; yeah one whole summer. I guess you could also say flea market hunting was one of my hobbies, but I was too young to be able to do it on any regular basis.

When it comes to my biggest collection, well that has to be my Terry Labonte collection. Growing up in Indiana I was beaten over the head with Indy 500 celebrations, the whole month of May. As an alternative to that, I started liking Nascar. The brightly colored Hendrick #5 caught my eye, and Terry Labonte quickly became the one I watched every Sunday. It wasn't just a Terry Labonte collection, Terry became my favorite Nascar driver of all time. Whether you call him Ice Man, or Iron Man, be sure to call him the 1984 and 1996 Nascar Champion as well.

What started off my Terry Labonte collection was a simple model kit. It was a Monogram Terry Labonte #5 Chevy Lumina. The kit was already yellow, so all I had to do was paint half of it red, and the decals did the rest of the paint scheme. Somewhere along the way I lost the hood, but I still have the body. From there anything I could find with that Hendrick's #5 on it, I collected. From scale diecast cars to almost anything in between. I have a full-size cardboard cutout of Terry. I have a handful of model kits that I've never touched, one of which I think is Terry's 97 Frankenstein car. An unopened pack of yellow pencils with metallic red "5 Terry Labonte" on them. I have a few Terry Labonte action figures, a small scale RC car, a little beanbag Hendrick's #5 Chevy and so much more. Sometimes I had to eat a lot of Kellogg's cereal and send away for stuff, but I've got it! I even have some of his #44 stuff from prior to his retirement. Sadly, I don't have any of his #44 Piedmont, nor his #11 stuff.

My bedroom walls were covered in 1:64 scale Terry Labonte cars still in their packaging, as if they were wallpaper. My shelves were adorned with the larger diecast cars. I even wore Terry Labonte t-shirts proudly, even though I was an alternative kid with long hair and knockoff JNCO style jeans. Remember those? When it came to playing Nascar video games, well I wouldn't use the #5. Nope, I would either use the #4 and pretend I was a team mate, or I would use an actual Hendrick car, mostly #25 when available. I spent so much time learning to bump draft with the AI, pretending I was trying to team up with Terry and finish first and second. The problem being the AI is setup in such a way that you can only bump draft them so much before they veer off wilding and crash. Sorry for all the times I accidentally crashed your virtual counterpart Terry!

For the past few years all my Terry Labonte stuff has been packed away, but I've still got it all. I just currently have nowhere to put it, or display it. Sometimes I'll pull out a box of my Terry Labonte stuff and look through it, for nostalgia's sake. Sometimes I think maybe I should sell it to finance another hobby, but there's just something deeply rooted to these things still. Even though they're not out on display, they still mean a lot to me. To most they're probably just metal, plastic and paint, but to me they're tangible pieces of my youth, and a small pieces of one of Nascar's greatest drivers. I mean, in 1996 he drove with a broken hand! A broken hand! If that doesn't say dedication and talent, I don't know what does.

Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Learning to Love The World's End

When it comes to Nick Frost and Simon Pegg, I'm almost always a fan. Spaced is an absolutely brilliant show, and it's sad it only lasted two seasons. Shaun of the Dead was where it all started for me though. I remember Comedy Central playing it over and over one year, so much so that I ended up getting it on DVD shortly thereafter. Such a great movie! Then came Hot Fuzz, which I wasn't originally sold on, but I learned to love it. I've even gone through and watched Big Train and Man Stroke Woman to see more of their talents when they're apart. The one exception to the Cornetto Trilogy has been The World's End. I love it for having familiar faces, but to me it didn't feel like it fit. Oh yeah, I even liked Paul, even though I find a lot of the American talent to be extremely annoying.

I get that all three films have their own themes, their own settings and their own characters, just with the main actors recurring as the leads, but still The World's End just felt off. What it was, I can't quite explain. Maybe it was the time between the release of the first two and The World's End? I've found myself being petty over smaller things than that, so maybe.

The reality is that our internet company can't figure their shit out, and we keep losing internet. In October our internet was out for three of the four weeks. Since then it's gone out numerous times, for brief periods of time, yet long enough to force me to dig through my digital movie collection for entertainment. In doing so, my go-to movie has become The World's End. Why? Because I don't want to burn out Shaun of the Dead or Hot Fuzz, but also in doing so I've picked up many details about The World's End that make me like it more, dare I say maybe even start to love it.

The brilliant writing of Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright is undeniable. The brilliant acting of Nick Frost and Simon Pegg is just as undeniable. So why did I not click with this movie before? I still honestly have no answer. It's not at all like most trilogies where the first movie is a smash hit, the second is kind of good and the third is a straight to DVD bin at Walmart release, just to earn the trilogy moniker. No, all three movies are great in their own rights. Oops, did I just say all three movies are great? Yeah, I did. It just took our internet company being a massive pile of shit to realize how great The World's End was. And in saying all this, I fully expect another massive outage of internet service. You wait and see!  

On a side note; I remember being at a Best Buy store in 2009, either buying Hot Fuzz or something to do with the Cornetto Trilogy. The man at the cash register asked me if I had heard a third film was coming out. I was shocked to find one of my own out in the wild, so we started talking about how good Shaun of the Dead was, how he preferred Hot Fuzz over Shaun of the Dead, and we even touched upon Spaced. I had read online that the final movie was coming soon, so I told him the final film wound be out the following year. We both rejoiced and said our goodbyes. Whoever you were, if you ever read this, I'm sorry I unintentionally lied to you.

Monday, December 25, 2023

Nostalgic Christmas Nightmare: The Time My Parents Stole My Bike

As a forty-year-old man, I have a lot of things in my life that I need a therapist to work through. One such case is when my parents stole my bike and gave it to another kid in the neighborhood, only to replace mine at Christmas with a shittier bike. At the time I was maybe thirteen or fourteen, and this was no ordinary bike. This was an awesome mountain bike that had, what I called, a lava paint job. The paint was a mixture of black and metallic red bubbles, and looked like a mistake in the factory that ended up working out really well. I loved that bike and it wasn't a bike I was ever going to outgrow, as it was a standard sized mountain bike.

The memory of the day I was accosted and my bike was stolen is burned into my brain. I was sitting on my bike, taking a short break from having been out riding, when my Dad walked up to me, followed closely by the stepdad of the kid who they ended up giving it to. My Dad repeatedly said "Get off the bike.", in a tone as if I had done something wrong. Feeling as if I was being cornered, as well as being a kid, I complied with his repeated demands. I was told that he and Mom decided to give my bike to the kid across the street. So my Dad teamed up with a man he still calls a worthless alcoholic to this day, to corner me and steal my bike to give to the kid across the street. The kid in question is currently serving a 200 plus year sentence in prison. YES! The kid who ended up with my bike is currently in prison for some seriously fucked up shit.

I still hold resentment for this moment, but sadly that bike is long gone now. I didn't have a bike for a few months, until I ended up getting the new one for Christmas. The bike that I ended up getting to replace it was a seriously shitty bike. The colors were grey and green, and it was truly fucking awful. I hated that bike. I often thought about dumping that bike in a creek or selling it off, but then I would be left without a bike again, so I decided a shitty bike is better than no bike at all. I don't think the kid across the street used my old bike that often either, but he claimed to love it, so I knew trying to trick him into trading for my new shitty bike wasn't going to happen. I don't blame the kid who ended up with my bike, at least not for this incident, he didn't have a bike at all. I blame my parents for scheming behind my back and not even asking me. That was one of the shittiest parenting moves in the history of parenting.

Saturday, December 23, 2023

Two for Two!

It was a bit fiddly, but the second December build is officially in the books! A Screaming Tree treble boost that works as well as can be expected. As with every single pedal circuit I build, I can't assure that it's anything like the real thing. I figure if it functions I can find a use for it. If you've been following my blog for a while (thank you) you'll know December 14 and 23 are extremely important days for me. You know who you are, and why they're special. I see you checking in through the views counter. Don't deny it! Anyway, I just wanted these dates to have another special meaning, as I can't celebrate those two dates the way I really want to. Plus, I'm not sure I'll be doing more winter month builds.

However, that leaves February, for which I've got an SHO clone planned. No special date for that one, just whichever comes along and feels right. Sure, I could be cheesy and do it on Valentine's Day, but that's not really necessary. I'll just wait and see which day feels the best to get it done. January 2020 was when I started and while I don't count every single Bazz Fuss I built back then, I do count the first one. I built a handful, so January is fine for builds even if I don't count them all.

In 2024, apart from February, I have a handful of circuits that I plan to build. The updated list is: the SHO for February, a Univox compressor clone, a Way Huge Overrated Special clone, Cornish SS2 and CC1 clones, a Menatone Blue Collar clone, and now a Timmy V1 clone. I've wanted to build a Timmy for a while, but which one and why was always the reason I decided against it. Instead I built a Greer Lightspeed clone, fucking loved it, and now I figure you can't have too much of a good thing. Por que no los dos!?

While testing the Screaming Tree clone I found the test box I've been using has an issue with the power input, and at first the circuit sounded like it was broken, and sputtery. I'm wondering if that's partially why the Em-Drive clone sounded a bit off. I'll have to investigate further in the future. All that really matters is they're done and in the books. So from myself here at Sam's Asylum, take care of yourselves! Enjoy your holiday(s), and I'll keep writing as long as you keep reading.

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Nostalgia Is a Hell of a Drug Part 5: The Snakeskin Siren SLO-100

When I was very young my brother either left the house of his own free will, or was kicked out. It depends on who you ask as to which version you'll end up getting. Regardless, this all happened long before he and I could form any type of sibling bond, or rivalry. As my teenage years started to set in I chose to hang out with him as often as I possibly could. At a certain point I decided to ask him to teach me guitar, which I knew was one of his favorite hobbies. I figured it would bring us closer together, give us more reason to hang out, more chances to bond and maybe I would learn a valuable skill to use at an older age. This skill, of course, still hasn't paid off all these years later. I am glad though that we both took those chances to hang out with each other, and all the times we went out scouring pawn stores and guitar stores looking for gear, although it rarely yielded much other than memories.

There is one time that still sticks out in my mind above all the rest. We made a visit to the local Guitard Center (No, I didn't misspell that), as we had many times before. The first thing we both noticed when we walked in was a snakeskin Soldano SLO-100 sitting right in the middle of the room. Neither of us knew if it was just coming in, or sold and just going out, but it stuck out like a beacon. My brother asked a sales man to demo the amp and let me tell you, even though almost 30 years have passed since then the impression that amp left on me has yet to tarnish. It was loud, raw, but articulate and sounded absolutely amazing. Sadly, it was also very, very expensive! So, what do we do when I can't afford something? No! We don't steal, you bunch of heathens! We create something similar to the best of our ability!

I chose to look for a pedal that emulates the Soldano SLO-100 so that I could build my own. I found a few pedals that claim to sound like an SLO-100, but most of them don't have layouts (as of the writing of this entry), so they're not an option. The closest thing I could find was tagboard effects' Modern SLO 100 which I did build. Currently it's been tested and functions, but it still needs a bit of tweaking. I chose the resistor method over the trim pot version, because I'm quite possibly an idiot. Also because I've not been a fan of trim pots since building my ROG Umble clone, The Humble. After using the resistor method I've learned no matter what my stances used to be on trim pots, they are very, very, very, very, very, very useful, compared to trying to nail down the correct resistor values. Too late now, but I'm sure I'll get that sound someday.

Sunday, December 17, 2023

Chasing Greeny

As a fan of Gary Moore you can't think of him without also thinking of at least one of his legendary '59 Gibson Les Pauls. Much like I did with my YJM strat on a budget, I've been chasing my own version of a Greeny Les Paul. I reluctantly admit it took me far too long to realize why it was called Greeny. I knew bits and pieces of how Gary acquired the guitar, and how the guitar came to sound the way it does, but for some reason it just never sunk into my thick head to research and appreciate Peter Green's role in the guitar's life. Selective learning, I guess. Now that I know the lineage of the guitar, I appreciate Peter Green much more, as well as the guitar itself. It's new owner, however? Meh. *slips on wah pedal and falls over crying*

If you're into burst era Gibson Les Pauls you know there are a ton of famous '59s out there. I would wager to say no other '59 Les Paul has been tributed/reissued more so than Greeny. Should money be no object, you have a lot of options to own your own Greeny. The first would have to be Gary Moore's Signature Les Paul. Albeit a simple Les Paul Studio, it still bore the signature of Gary Moore, and most certainly would have been inspired by Greeny to some degree. After that was a BFG version, with a P90 in the neck and looked like it was kicked around the Gibson factory floor for a few years. This one kind of hangs in the shadows, as it was probably inspired by Greeny. Then there is the Collector's Choice #1, which came in two versions. You could either get the realistic relic version just like Gary Moore played, or you could get the Melvyn Franks version, who bought Greeny from Gary, in an unworn condition. Unlike the previous two, the Collector's Choice #1 is a highly accurate Gibson built replica of Greeny, and thus costs quite a bit more.

The first of the most modern versions was a super expensive, limited edition Custom Shop version. Then came a collector's edition at a slightly less insane price, but still a bit too expensive for the average fan, and then the Gibson Greeny Standard, which for a Gibson signature model actually seems reasonably priced. However, I don't like the back being brown, as it's always been cherry on the real Greeny. If it was a cherry back I would probably start selling bodily fluids to buy one, but it just makes the guitar look cheap and unattractive. Finally we have the Epiphone Greeny, which at $1500 is fucking nuts. No. Just no. You can't tell me that guitar, even though it has the Gibson headstock and real MOP inlays, is any different to the regular Epiphone '59s that cost much less. No. Do they cost that much because Kirk broke Greeny again (seriously, he did!) and each Epiphone Greeny sold helps pay for the repairs?

If you're wanting a true Gibson, you have at least seven options, depending on your budget. If you want an inspired by Gibson, the Epiphone is also an option, unless you're like me and think the price is fucking insane. But what if you are like me? Firstly I would say seek therapy, and I'm so very sorry others like myself exist. Secondly I would say there are cheaper options. It really depends where your hang-ups are. Aria Pro makes the PE-350PG, which is clearly their own nod to Greeny. Sure, the body shape is Aria's own design and the burst isn't the same, but it doesn't cost anywhere near the other options. Vintage has the ICON V100MRPGM, again a clear nod to Greeny. The body is closer than the Aria, but still a bit different.

What if you're just wanting a lemon burst LP style guitar and you'll install your own GreenyBuckers? Gibson has made a wide variety of 50s and 60s inspired LP standards with that finish for decades. Those would be a great start. If you're a lot more budget conscious, or as I like to call myself "A cheap fuck", Epiphone too has offered lemon burst Les Pauls for decades that could benefit from a set of GreenyBuckers, or whichever PAF style pickups you prefer. Even cheaper still you have Harley Benton's SC-450, or SC-550. Cheaper still? Chibson. I've never played a Chibson, so I can't say whether the hype about them being good or crap is true, but they're cheap and they look the part. You choose whether or not you're comfortable with a guitar saying Gibson on the headstock that's not really a true Gibson. I'm not your father.

I myself have an inexpensive import Les Paul style guitar, who I've named Paola, with Gibson Burstbucker Pros installed. As soon as I got the guitar I immediately fell in love with it. The pickups were ok, but I knew I wanted BB Pros because that's what Gary Moore's signature Les Paul had from the factory. If they were good enough for Gary Moore, they're good enough for me. My BB Pros have four conductors, which made the out of phase mod super easy. I've read there is a difference between a magnet flip and four conductor out of phase tone, but I'm not sure there is. I would love to see someone like Dave Simpson on youtube test this theory. Sure my guitar is inexpensive with expensive pickups, but unless you lived through the 90s where people often put multi-thousand dollar stereo systems in their $300 cars, you wouldn't understand.

Ideally I would love a Gibson 50s or 60s inspired Les Paul Standard in lemon burst with GreenyBuckers, but I'm just not on that level. If I were doing gigs where I could put the guitar to work and earn the investment back, sure I would, but I don't. I'm a bedroom guitarist, and everything I have has been super budget conscious. I mean, I build my own effects pedals and play through an almost sixty-year-old tube combo amp that I picked up for less than $10. Is there any working musician out there that does that? There might be, I've just never had the benefit of meeting them. Maybe someday I'll get a windfall and invest in my dream Greeny. For now, I'll stick with my inexpensive version and enjoy it for what it is.

Thursday, December 14, 2023

First December Circuit Build = Done!

You take small parts success with huge piles of failure, and that is the meaning of life. Regardless, I took thirty minutes today to finish the first December build and put it into the books. I was really looking forward to this little circuit, but I skimped on parts and it bit me in the ass. As you can see below, it's a super simple layout that's supposed to yield a pretty neat little overdrive. Instead of a 2N5088 I used a C1740 (pinout adjusted correctly), and instead of a 2Meg resistor I used a 2.2Meg. The results I got were more of a Fuzz having an asthma emergency than an overdrive. My mistake!

Knowing my mistakes means I know what to fix in 2024. The main thing is the first December build is in the books. The circuit works, albeit not correctly, so I know there is hope for it to be rectified in the future. Trust me, I have quite a few circuits that still need some troubleshooting that are far worse than what I ended up from this little thing. No biggy. I'll just order the right parts when I can and when troubleshooting time comes along I'll get it working the way it's supposed to. Maybe I can still make the C1740 work, I just need to bias it correctly. We'll see what ends up happening.

Now I'm looking forward to the next build on the 23rd, which I hope turns out better than this one currently is. The Screaming Tree seems like a simple enough treble boost circuit. It's a tiny bit more complex than the Em-Drive, but it's still small enough that it should be easily accomplished. The main thing, at least in my mind, isn't so much the results of the builds, but rather having these dates down in the books. These dates truly mean a lot to me, so if I can't celebrate them the way I wish I could, building a circuit and having that as a permanent part of my life is the next best thing. Don't get me wrong, I want these circuits to work, but things can be adjusted later down the road to make them work better. And that's a metaphor for life kids!


I dug out my last 2N5088 and this circuit sounds better, still not perfect, but it does sound better. It's still sputtery, but so was its brother the Paramount Drive until I cranked the amp. I'm not currently able to do my Kali test, but I'm hoping to get the same results when I can. The only part that's not to spec is the 2.2Meg resistor. Looks like I'll be ordering a small amount of 2Meg resistors just to see what the results are. Even if it doesn't change anything, I'll know I used all the correct value parts and it is as good as it can be. I'm happier with this circuit now that it sounds better too.

Sunday, December 3, 2023

And Then There Was December!

December is here, and I'm just meh about it. It used to be my favorite month of the year, having a few more celebrations in it than just Christmas and New Years Eve. For the past few years it's become just another dark, lonely month. Nothing much to celebrate, including the aforementioned holidays. With temps dropping into the 40s, sometimes 20s, as a high I'm growing more and more discouraged about my ability to do my December 14th and 23rd builds. I did plan small enough builds that they could be done indoors, but again my quarters are cramped as it is. We'll just have to wait and see what the next few weeks have in store as to whether they're done or not.

That being said, the next thing I want to say is "Fuck Oblivion!". The game is so buggy and broken, even the Game of the Year Edition, that I've had to use console commands more times than I've ever had to in Skyrim. As a matter of fact, the only time(s) I can recall needing to use commands in Skyrim was the whole Vampires capturing my wife bug. Apart from that, Fuck Oblivion! What a shitty fucking waste of the Elder Scrolls name.

Moving into 2024 I have six builds already put together, and I'm pretty sure that's all I will be building next year - or ever. I had been using Microsoft Rewards as a way to help purchase the items I needed to build my pedals. Microsoft Rewards has been going down the toilet ass first for the past few months. I suppose I can count myself lucky, as before things got really bad they decided to suspend my account without explaining why. They also refuse to acknowledge my support tickets, thus rendering the whole program useless to me. Even if they were to reinstate my account, the points have been lowered so much that it would take five times longer to get a simple $5 Amazon gift card.

I can only guess the reason they suspended my account was because I was Grandfathered in from years ago, giving me a steep discount on certain gift cards, even including some that newer members couldn't even get. When they went global with the program they must not have expected such a positive response, and income was much lower than outgoing. Toward the end they continually redefined their TOS, I'm guessing so that even the slightest indiscretion eventually knocked all the older accounts out of the program.

The only other thing I can put together is how our ISP constantly changes where our internet is coming from. The targeted ads I see can come from locally, or anywhere over a hundred miles north, and it constantly changes. Microsoft Rewards, for some reason, is very strict about where you use the program from. With our internet being fucked throughout most of October, I came back and found my Microsoft Rewards account was suspended. Those are my only two working guesses.

With MS Rewards being gone, it's going to take a while to buy all fifty-two projects enclosures. I do have some plans to put two into a singular 1590BB, but even that will only go so far. That's not including the footswitches, input/output jacks and all the solder and wiring I'll need. Put into a bind to say the least, but we'll do as we always do and wait to see what happens. Maybe a Christmas miracle? I won't hold my breath for that one.