Monday, July 13, 2009

The T.O.E.C.F.U.E. Project

A new project has been borne.

It's dubbed the TOECFUE acronym standing for "Tricked Out Entertainment Center Featuring Used Equipment."

The idea came the other day as I was perusing through a second hand store in Idaho, and ran into a piece of stereo equipment that I would have paid $150 for 10 years ago...but now it's available for a mere $20!

Granted, it's a Sony dual cassette deck, and nobody uses cassette players anymore...but it fits into an idea of a grandiose entertainment center concept that I've had for quite some's the details.

The TOECFUE Project lends itself to both hi-fi and classic lo-fi equipment. Here's what's on the list:
  1. HDTV (min. 40")
  2. stereo receiver (acquired via donation)
  3. Blu-ray player
  4. DVD /DVD-A /SACD player
  5. CD carousel or bundle changer
  6. dual cassette deck (acquired via purchase...1990s Sony TC-W411...cost = $20)
  7. direct drive turntable
  8. 8-track player (acquired via donation...1976 Lloyd's)
  9. 5.1 surround sound system
  10. traditional front speaker system (acquired via donation...early 90s)
Total cost toward the budget so far: $20

In addition to the list, there's some criteria to this project that will make it both interesting, challenging, and requiring some patience:
  1. Work with a budget of $500.
  2. Gifts and donated hand-me-downs (fully operating...please?) are graciously accepted.
  3. Acquire all items on aforementioned equipment list.
  4. Find a way for the components to operate carbon-neutral.
  5. There are no time constraints.

It's assumed that most of the acquired components will be used equipment...and that being said, it's expected that some (hopefully a small percentage) of the equipment picked up at second-hand stores or yard sales will possibly need fixing, won't always work as expected, or operate at all.

In terms of the green element of trying to make the equipment operate carbon-neutral, I guess you can look at such a challenge along the lines of Neil Young's LincVolt Project, where he's trying to convert a 1959 Lincoln Continental into a vehicle from using less than 10 MPG to over 100 MPG...except, of course, this is stereo equipment.

So that's it...the million dollar question being whether or not I can attain the equipment under a $500 budget. Should be interesting to see!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Thoughts on Michael Jackson's memorial: You can't fake genuineness

Wow, what an emotional day.

You can't fake genuineness. That's what came to mind today as I was watching events unfold at pop icon Micheal Jackson's memorial service in the L.A. Staples Center.

More on that later in this post.

I have to admit that my R&B/Motown leanings fall on only a handful of artists; Jackson 5, Michael Jackson, Marvin Gaye, Bill Withers, Stevie Wonder (of whom I own no albums...yet), and...and...well, there you go...and of those artists, I've only experienced certain albums and shapshots of their careers at best. I have some Smokey Robinson and James Brown explorations in my sights.

I dropped in on the Michael Jackson thing in the early 80s right after Off the Wall came out (his first post-Jackson 5 solo album, a disco-influenced pop extravaganza that appeared under the tree Christmas 1979), and followed his career through the Thriller album along with everyone else at the time, as it's the greatest-selling music project of all time with over 100 million units sold...

...but then I took off through high school with completely different forms of music and immersed myself in bands like Rush, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, The Who, and the Rolling Stones.

In college and over time, I was exposed to many other forms of music...and eventually started circling around to Motown again in the late 90s...then I dove heavily into jazz in 2003, where I realized the reach of Quincy Jones' talent as a songwriter and producer.

Then, a couple years ago as I was passing through a magazine shop in an airport, and my eyes fell on a CD rack displaying the two Michael Jackson albums I was familiar with; this time in a reissued and remastered special edition CD, and I decided to pick them up...and I was beautifully reunited with my 10-year old music self. What a treat that was rediscovering that music again.

In these special issue CDs, Quincy Jones interviews were peppered throughout extra tracks on those projects...and having slightly more interest in CD liner notes in my late 30s than I did as a pre-teen, I learned some stories behind the recordings.

While the events of his personal life brought up questions, and while his changing appearance seemed like something along the likes of what's witnessed on Halloween, Michael Jackson's talent and influence can't be ignored.

As a child star with the Jackson 5, he had the voice, the dance moves, and the stage presence at an incredibly young age. He then morphed into an adult performer and blew everyone away as a creative innovator. He was a songwriter and performed his own material with incredible flair. He broke racial barriers. He set the world of MTV on its ear with the "Thriller" video. He invented the moonwalk. He co-wrote "We Are the World," the first philanthropic project of it's kind.

How he transformed pop culture as we know it cannot be denied.

While his personal life came across as slightly bizarre (politely speaking), the man didn't have to die on June 25. It's not like he was going downhill like Elvis...HE WAS REHEARSING FOR AN UPCOMING TOUR THE NIGHT BEFORE HIS DEATH. We'll learn more about those details in the coming weeks.

Today's memorial events were very emotional, and many performers gave their tearful tributes to him through words and song. Some of them barely kept it together, and some of them didn't.

Jackson's influence was cited and obvious in the memorial performances we saw today...his influence is all around us. Through it all, all these tributes were genuine and from the heart. Today helped to humanize the Michael Jackson mystery.

You can't fake that. You can't fake genuineness.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Bubba's Bar 'n' Grill...GRAND OPENING!

It's finally here! Get out your kitchen utensils!

Bubba's Bar 'n' Grill, from Neil Peart's personal website, will impress and astound you with a variety of menu items...along with some rather amusing anecdotes to go along with the culinary stuff.

For Rush fans, just make sure you give some attention to the ads on the perimeter of the menu when you first go to the may notice some colorful characters there from your readings and concert viewings of yore.