Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Fun With Plasti-Clay


One very easy tweak to perform on old turntables, especially the cheap-ass ones, is to pack the innards with molding putty. Plasti-Clay (hope I'm spelling that right) is a perfect example of this. As the era of vinyl records gave way to compact disc, the market was flooded with countless plastic turntables. These were nowhere near as well built as the monsters of the late '70s and early '80s, and they probably did as much to cement the death of LPs as anything from the digital side. Still, there are many great turntables to find for little to no money - $100 or less, I mean.

Plastic is a terrible material for turntables, because of their resonance and vibration problems. It's clearly the bottom of the totem pole, before fiberboard, hard wood, and other exotic materials like marble and metal. All these vibrations compromise your sound, and result in a poorer turntable. It doesn't help that most of these models are hollow and empty. But watch at how you can change that, only with a few pounds of molding clay.

See that?! That's insane. It also yields shocking results. When you want great music on the cheap, that is, without spending a grand on a Rega or Pro-Ject (or more!), you need every trick in the book.

You can probably try this on some cheap, old Technics that's always available in rummage sales and thrift stores. You'll likely pay only a few bucks for one, certainly never over $100. Perform this Plasti-Clay surgery and suddenly your table will sound much....much better. Then throw a decent phono cartridge - I always recommend the Audio Technica 440mla - and prepare to be amazed.

This trick should work on any turntable that has empty space inside the board, so feel free to experiement and see what that does for you.

Pioneer PL-70 II


I want this turntable! When's my next paycheck?

Ever since my week with the (Radio Shack) Realistic LAB-420, a 1970's Direct Drive turntable that just trounced my Belt Drive Pro-Ject Debut III, I've been educating myself on the classic Japanese DD turntables from a generation ago. Back in the peak days of vinyl lp's, Japanese engineers were creating some of the greatest audio gear known to man. With the arrival of CD in the early '80s, turntables were left by the wayside, and in many ways, the Japanese turntable classics have never been surpassed.

Today, you'll have to spend a couple thousand dollars to match the performance of these giants. Not to knock our modern BD designs, but they are horribly expensive, really playthings for the wealthy. You likely won't find a turntable that's worth your salt for under $1,000. And when dealing with the belts, you'll need some sort of speed-control device to keep 'em remotely stable.

Meanwhile, we can score the old DD classics for a song. The only caveat is that 30 years have passed, and maintainence may become an issue. The more careful music lovers too good care of their tables; far too many, sadly, foolishly dumped their turntables in a dusty basement somewhere. So finding one of these tables may involve a certain degree of restoration.

Fortunately, I've found a couple vintage shops online that cater to the vintage Japanese tables. Which leads us to this beauty...

This is Pioneer's PL-70 II, circa 1985. It's based upon their audio masterpiece, 1980's Exclusive P3. That table is remembered as Japan's most successful high-end turntable. An enormous box, the P3 sells for well over $3,000 today, and likely more if the bidding becomes fierce. Fortunately, Pioneer created a series of more affordable tables, for those of us who don't have money to burn. These include the PL-30, PL-50, and PL-70 series.

This table in question is available right now at Hi Fi Do, a Japanese import shop that's loaded with classic DD tables. The price? A mere $750 or so, depending on the currency rate. The smaller and more compact PL-30 II sells for around $250. The two tables appear to be roughly the same, although the PL-70 is much bigger (duh!) and the tonearm appears to be beefier. I have no doubts either one would be spectacular.

You would be amazed at how many fantastic DD tables can be found for under $300. It's enough to turn me into a collector. Today's audiophiles hold a very poor attitude towards DD, in favor of the BD's that dominate, but I think this is due to the flood of cheap, plastic toy turntables that swamped the audio market in the '80s. Ugh, those are terrible. No wonder everyone switched to CD. If everyone had a turntable like this...well, things would likely have been very different.

After my next payday, it's time to score a new turntable. I'm crossing my fingers and hoping this beauty is still available when the time comes. If not...ehh, there are a dozen other contenders that each look amazing. I'll score one of these monsters either way.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Denon DP-500M Direct Drive Turntable


Now this is an interesting candidate. I have no idea if it's any good or not, despite much searching on the internet. Denon is famous for their excellent phono cartridges, and they've made some classic turntables back in the '70s. But what about this modern unit? For $700, it does look nice. But how does it sound? How does it compete to Technics, or the belt-drive giants, Pro-Ject and Rega?

I honestly don't know. Perhaps this truly is a cheap table. And perhaps it's bias against direct drives. The audiophile community is heavily tilted to the side of the belt-drivers, so it's tough to say. My own experience shows that a direct drive can produce excellent sound. But they have also fairly earned a poor reputation, due to many cheap tables in the '80s.

So what about the Denon DP-500M? I don't know. But I'd like to at least hear this table in action once. If it's good, then we'll have another competitor in the sub-$1,000 market. If not, ehh. Whatever.

Update 12/30: Nope, avoid this one. Turns out the stats on this table are weak, really weak. It really does demonstrate how much smaller the turntable world is now, compared to 25 years ago. You can't get a fraction of the old performance with the same money today. A far wiser choice would be to find a vintage Denon table, one of the old masters. You'll find something truly brilliant for half the price of this simple box.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Denon DP60 Direct Drive Turntable



Wow! What an amazing turntable!

My experience with the Realistic LAB-420 this week has opened me up to the possibility of direct-drive turntables, as opposed to the belt-drive tables that are in vogue. Back in the '70s, it was a much fairer fight, with some of the best direct drives proving their worth.

This is the Denon DP60 direct drive from the '70s. It's considered one of the greatest turntables ever made. Happens to also be at Audiogon right now, which means someone else will likely get it before me. Too bad. My loss.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Technics SL-1200 Mk5


Every DJ in the world will sing the praises of this turntable. For almost everyone, the Technics SL-1200 direct drive table is club music. It's almost impossible to imagine a world of DJ's without it.

There's a vicious civil war in the world of turntables, almost like West Side Story. One gang is devoted to the belt-drive tables, Rega or Pro-Ject or any number of contenders. The second gang is devoted to the direct-drive tables, specifically the Technics SL-1200. There's really no love lost between the two sides. Each one hurls insults at the other, convinced that their table is the true audiophile standard.

My experiences with the Realistic's classic Lab-420 has forced me to rethink this battle. The argument from the belt-drivers is that motor vibration is the greatest problem to overcome. A proper turntable must achieve perfect isolation, and the higher up the food chain you go, the more elaborate the designs.

The argument from the Technics gang is that pitch stability is all that matters. By having the platter connected directly to the motor, the Technics will produce far more stable music than is possible on a belt-drive. This translates into stronger and deeper bass, a wider soundstage, and overall sharper sound.

Belt-drives can counter that problem with speed-control devices, like Pro-Ject's Speed Box and Rega's PSU. And those units really do work; in fact, I'm quite reluctant to consider any turntable that doesn't include one. The improvements made to my humble Debut III by the Speed Box II were stunning, shocking. I couldn't go back to the stock table if you held a gun to my head. And I strongly suspect this is the case with all belt-drivers.

So does that make the direct-drivers the superior standard? Hard to say. I do know that the Lab-420 beats the Debut III. The only thing keeping my Debut even close is the Denon DL-160 cart, and even then, the Lab stays in the lead. The implications are clear to me. A solid direct-driver may be able to defeat any belt-driver under $1,000.

But the belt-drivers are right about motor vibrations. They're also right to address the issue of isolation as best they can. It seems to me that the belt-drive tables will emerge victorious, but only at a certain price point. But how much? One thousand? Two thousand? Meanwhile, the Technics sells for $500 or less.

I ask all these questions because it's time to purchase a new turntable. I've got four weeks to make a decision and pick something. I've enjoyed the Debut III, but it's always been a love/hate affair at best. At the end of the day, it's a basic, entry-level turntable. I need something more hi-fi, something that will keep me happy in the long run.

But where do I go? The Lab has opened my ears to the direct-drivers as never before. I do expect the Technics to be an excellent table. But how does it compete against a Pro-Ject RM6.1? A Pro-Ject Xperience? A Rega P3-24 or P5? Which sounds better? Which will enable the most expensive carts? Will I need to pay for endless upgrades? Is that even something I want at this point? I just want to play my Miles Davis and Pearl Jam records!

We'll see how this plays out. My last couple of turntable purchases were rushed. This time, I intend to get everything right. No regrets.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Pro-Ject RM6.1 SB - A Few More Photos





Here's another attempt to post photos from Pro-Ject's $999 turntable, the RM6.1 SB. This looks like a good table. But how does it look in person? And how does this thing sound? Am I better off scoring a Technics SL1200? Or perhaps another cool vintage table? Exactly at what point to these modern belt-drive tables start kicking ass?

Preznit Stupid

Fucking idiot.

Realistic LAB-420 Turntable



It's another weekend of analog music fun over here at the apartment! A couple nights ago, I picked up a vintage turntable from the local record store, Roadrunner Records. I'm getting it for my Dad as a Christmas present. The table is a 1979 Realistic LAB-420, a fully automatic direct drive turntable. This table was made in the US and sold by Radio Shack, and is highly regarded as a classic. I paid $125 for the unit, which is a steal for anything in high-end audio, and thankfully everything works perfectly.

I took the table home and cleaned it out as best I could, even giving the wood a solid waxing. Then last night, the fine crew at Needle Doctor gave me a terrific deal on a new phono cartridge and headshell. For $150, I received a Technics headshell (in black), and the vaunted Audio Technica 440mla Moving Magnet cartridge.

I took everything home and started to play some albums. The sound, unfortunately, seems to be off. There was far too much bass, the sound was too muffled and heavy, and for the life of me I couldn't discover the cause. Was this just because the turntable is old? Is it because it's a direct drive? Is it because the cart needs time to break in?

After some time, I finally discovered what the problem with the sound is, and it's one of those stupid rookie mistakes: my Pro-Ject Tube Box II preamp was set to "MC" mode! D'oh! I had completely forgotten about that. The "MC" (Moving Coil) setting has a gain of 60db, while the "MM" (Moving Magnet) has a gain of 40 db. I clicked the button to the correct setting, and instantly everything was transformed.

Now I'm having the fun experience of having to completely rethink everything. I was never too keen on direct drive tables, but that's because the only one's I ever met were very cheap plastic tables, the kind you see at rummage sales for $10. Oh, and those uber-cheap turntables you see stocked at Best Buy for $150, all plastic parts. Ugh. Strangely enough, all of the local record stores have the flimsiest turntables. What's the deal with that? You'd think they'd use a decent model and help promote their product.

Anyway, the Realistic Lab-420 is my first immersion into direct drives, probably since those cheap '80s stereos (again with the plastic, oy). And I'm completely blown away. This really is a fantastic table, and it's going to be very hard for me to give it away on Christmas.

The 440mla is stunning, fantastic, clear, sharp, detailed, tracks perfectly...yadda yadda. Needle Doctor gave me a great deal. They had the cart already mounted onto a Technics headshell, and they sold the package to me for $150. Once again, the Needle Doctor crew delivers! Now if we could only get them into a bigger store....

Right now, I have my Pro-Ject Debut III alongside the Lab-420. This way I can spend a few days testing one against the other. It's here that I wish I had a preamp with more sockets (the Tube Box only has one pair). So far, it's been illuminating and a bit humbling.

The short, short version is that the Lab-420 kicks ***. The Debut III is pretty much even, maybe even very slightly ahead. But this is due to three crucial upgrades: 1) the Speed Box II, 2) the acrylic platter, and 3) the Denon DL-160 cart. With all these weapons, it's an equal race. I strongly suspect the only difference at this point is the difference between the carts. The DL-160 has more muscle and is super-smooth, while the 440mla has the clarity and crispness. Perhaps I should try switching carts for a full comparison, but I'm still inexperienced in changing carts.

And this is with a fully decked-out Debut III. The stock unit - no Speed Box, steel platter, Ortofon OM5E cart - would just get steamrolled. No contest. The Lab-420 would just kick its ***. That's the humbling part for me. I paid $125 for the Lab, the Debut much more so.

The Lab-420 still delivers the better bass, richer and fuller. My Debut performs brilliantly, but that's really the Denon doing all the work. The 440mla is a strong contender, though, and even if it's a dryer sound, everything is so detailed and sharp that pretty soon I'm singing along to Neil Young just the same.

Then there's style. On that front, no contest, Realistic wins hands down. It's a fantastic looking machine. I miss the days when stereo components were made of wood. The tonearm is sleek and shiny, the platter is unbelievably smooth, everything carries size, gravity, presence. The turntable just screams, "American Made." Remember when America actually made things? The good old days when we had a manufacturing base? Now everything has been sold off and shipped overseas, there's nothing left but strip malls and fast food joints, and - hey, lookit that! - the whole nation is crumbling into dust.

I wouldn't expect America to solve all her problems if we went back to making killer turntables like the Lab again. But it sure would help. Not to disrespect or put down the Pro-Ject guys. They make killer turntables. But it's a very European design. Realistics are very much American design.

Oh, well, forgive me for rambling. The best thing to come from this experience is that my mind is open to direct drive tables. If this is what the DJ scene raves about with their Technics, then I believe them. I don't know how the Lab-420, or the Technics 1200, would compare to a $1,000 belt drive. I would expect the more expensive machines to win out. But it's the fact that you have to spend so much more to win that contest - that's the thing that gets me.

I think if anyone is lucky enough to score one of these vintage tables, they'll have something to cherish for life. Heck, just get a couple more phono carts and headshells (a mono cart would be killer), and you're set for life.

Like I said, I'll have a hard time giving the Lab away for Christmas. But my dad will have a fantastic turntable that will keep him happy for life. And anytime I see another one of these tables, I'll snap them up without hesitation. Everyone should. You can always give them to friends and family, and they'll be able to experience the thrills of analog music.

Anyway...whew. That's my report. Enjoy.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

"Oversight"

This is what happens when you try to play nice with Mr. Burns, Smithers. And yet the response is always the same - thank you, sir, may I have another?

The Republicans are not interested in playing nice. It's in their interest to smash the wheels of government to rubble. They will dig in their heels and fight tooth and nail every day Obama is in the White House. There will be fights every day after school, whether Smithers wants 'em or not.

On the Other Hand....

....Obama might be playing smarter poker than anybody realizes. Just an observation.

It's hard to know just what Obama is planning. He famously plays his cards close to his chest. Is this an effort to make nice with the other side? A clever bit of divide-and-conquer? Are the Dems actively courting the Christian Right? When dealing with Waylon Smithers, it's never easy to tell. I don't think I could take four years of capitulation and selling out. And I'm the one who still says nice things about Ralph Nader.

Short Thought on the Rick Warren Matter

There's no point in my ranting or raving endlessly. I'll just get to the point. The Democratic Party takes its liberal/progressive wing for granted because it doesn't pay any price for betrayal. They know perfectly damn well that you are not about to sit the next election out to teach 'em a lesson.

The 2000 election remains the watershed moment in this little saga. The corporate, rightward tilt of the Dems led to a sizeable exodus from the left to Ralph Nader. This had the effect of bringing that election to a tie. It quickly became the established narrative that Nadar was the one responsible for getting George W. Bush elected - not the Supreme Court, not the media, certainly not Gore and the Dems - and this led to liberals becoming fierce defenders of what I'd call the Waylon Smithers Party.

And, yet, when you look at their record from a progressive point of view, the Democrats have been miserable failures throughout the Bush years. Heck, as nothing more than an opposition party, they've failed miserably. And, yet, the left continued to beat itself up in 2004 and 2006 and 2008, reminding one another of that damned Ralph Nader and his insistence that the Party of FDR actually be held into account. We couldn't do that. We couldn't risk another Republican term.

And so we find ourselves, once again, feeling helpless and slightly used. The Dems will continue to be the whipping boys of the GOP and the village, and will continue to play the role of Waylon Smithers. Nobody should be surprised that Obama would openly court fundamentalists like Rick Warren. Hillary Clinton would have done the same. Why shouldn't they? What price will they pay for defying you, dear liberal friends?

That's how this game works. The politicians need to respect you. You need to earn that respect, and that means making them pay for their poor performance. If that results in more Republican rule, so be it. I can't imagine the last two years being very different had the GOP retained the Congress. Bush got everything he wanted either way. So this bogeyman fear of "the lesser of two evils" is a sham.

Stand up for your damn selves. Take your licks if you must. But stand up for your principles. Politics is the roughest contact sport ever devised. It's high time you got used to that.

Hovercraft - Been Brained (1994)


One of my favorite pop-rock albums of the 1990's, the debut ep from Minneapolis locals Hovercraft. Been Brained is very short - five songs, seventeen minutes in length - but it's a perfect album from start to finish. Each song stakes its own terrain in the grunge landscape, each song stands on its own, and pretty soon you'll be switching the CD player to replay.

This was an album I could listen to for hours. That should really tell you something. Jay Hurley, the frontman, fell on hard times, and unfortunately, Hovercraft wasn't able to reach mainstream success. A tragedy, of course. Been Brained was hailed as a triumph, and this was especially helpful because the major record labels were still scooping up indie bands right and left, hoping for the next Saint Cobain to emerge. 1994 would prove to be the peak year for the grunge era, and Hovercraft were ready for their chance.

The band was signed to a major label, which then proceeded to put their next album on a boutique, "indie" label. Then two tragedies struck.

First, it was revealed that "Hovercraft" was also the name of an experimental Seattle noise band. This wouldn't normally be an issue....but the band leader happened to be the wife of Eddie Vedder. Eddie Vedder and Pearl Jam, at this time, are arguably the biggest rock band in America, so his wife won the battle of the band names. The Minneapolis Hovecraft was forced to change to Shatterproof.

Shatterproof made a couple lineup changes - a new drummer, and expansion from trio to quartet - and recorded their second CD for the Fort Apache label. "Slip it Under the Door" was a solid album, but oddly enough, it couldn't shake itself free from the mighty shadow of Been Brained. Good songs, solid songs, yes. But they mostly sounded the same, standard-issue '90s indie pop. Been Brained really was a perfect album, and I think much of that was because of its length. Perhaps if the Shatterproof CD was similarly shorter, it would have fared better. The classic sophomore slump.

Enter tragedy number two. MCA folded the Fort Apache label suddenly, almost shockingly so. Shatterproof became one of the many indie groups of the '90s to be caught in the corporate undertow. Their album became almost impossible to find. Even today, I'll wager that you could score that first, classic ep more easily among the CD shelves in the Twin Cities.

I saw Jay Hurly around Dinkytown (at the U of MN campus) for many years, working the Espresso Royale coffeeshop. Always humble, always taking my endless praises in stride. I even got his autograph for my CD once, just for kicks. He deserved it. He deserved to be one of the giants of that era. He's still making music and releasing albums.

With the age of the internet, I remain hopeful that he could finally receive his due. Somebody's going to have to work on that. But indie rock remains stubbornly cliquish, Minneapolis more so. Success is always treated with contempt, as something to apologize for. It's complete nonsense. Do you want Jay Hurley to be working coffee shops the rest of his life? Or do you want him to create music? You never see this self-richeous navel-gazing in the rap community. Success is a good thing, something to flaunt, something to celebrate.

That said, Hovercraft's Been Brained is one of the finest rock albums of the 1990's. It deserves to be in your music collection. Get it any way you can, by hook or by crook.

Here's the Amazon link.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Why is Karl Rove not in Prison?

Look, this is what happens when you let the bad guys walk away scot free. This strategy by the Democratic leadership to roll over, play dead, make nice, and cave in to the Republicans at every turn will have serious consequences for Obama's presidency.

I really wish I could laugh at the prospect of Karl Rove handing out ethics lessons, but we're playing high-stakes poker here. And why is Rove not sitting in a jail cell? Didn't he refuse a Congressional sopoena? Isn't that a crime? Shouldn't he be held in contempt?

Ah, but that would ruin our bi-partisan spirit of giving Bush and the GOP everything they want. And now it's going to bite them back in the butt. The Bush scandals, real factual events, will be magically transformed into the magical Obama scandals. Obama better learn how to fight back hard. If he doesn't turn out to be another Lincoln or FDR, we are all royally screwed.

Wisely-Paid Thought of the Day

Norm Coleman is a real drama queen. What's the deal with that?

Time Travel For Stupid People

Why do I have this dreadful feeling that we're going to be reliving the 1990's again? And not the "good" '90s, either. Nope, I mean the days of endless Republican Party witchhunts and endless fake scandals against the Clintons.

As always, Generation X Cynicism works best here. We always knew this was how the GOP and the villagers would roll. So we're going to relive the Elian Gonzales story? Sure, why not? Not like anything important happened during the Bush years.

For Republicans, it's crucial that the Bush/Cheney era becomes completely forgotten. The best way to do this is to endlessly distract the American public with trivial nonsense. The villagers will play along, just as they did in the '90s, because, well, they're trapped in some sort of warped high school mindset. It's what they live for. And the Congressional Dems will roll over and play nice, again and again. And they will be played for suckers every time. It's what they live for.

This would all be much funnier if, you know, everything on planet Earth wasn't completely melting down. Washington reminds me of those space humans from The Restaurant at the End of the Universe; you know, the ones who are herded into rockets and blasted off their home planet? They crash on Earth and become the ancestors of modern man. This would go a long way towards explaining things.

Whatever, count me in for Clinton Wars: The Sequel. $50 says Obama gets impeached for trivial, fabricated, or completely bullshit reasons.

Pro-Ject RM-6.1 SB


A few more shots of Pro-Ject's RM-6.1 SB turntable. These came from a Korean website and just looked super cool. It's hard to find photos of this table around the web, aside from the company photos. Most audiophiles, no doubt, would have more easily gravitated toward on of the high-end or entry-level tables instead. Being stuck in the middle often means being forgotten.

Hopefully, these posts of mine will help alleviate things somewhat. This is a terrific looking gadget. Thankfully, Needle Doctor is selling them, at $999. A bit pricey, but certainly within my budget come next month. RM-6 is certainly a contender for now. We'll see what happens in the next few weeks.

Hmmm...may have to do some editing on the photos. It's much larger when you click on it. I'll see what I can do later.

George W's Big Heist

One final haul before heading out into the sunset. No suprises, of course.

It's times like this that I imagine what having an opposition party would look like. You know, instead of the cowardly enablers we're currently stuck with. Impeachement is off the table! Yay!

Duck Duck Bush!

I should have expected this to happen sooner or later. Very funny stuff. But I need more things to throw! Couldn't I just roll up the Bush White House in a Katamari ball and hurl it into space?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Pro-Ject RM-6.1 SE



Even though I've told myself to save my money this holiday season (oh, no, I did it again - curse you, War on Christmas!) , I am keeping my eyes open for the next turntable upgrade, hopefully sometime during the new year. I've had my current table, a decked-out Pro-Ject Debut III, since March, and it's long been a love-hate affair. By all accounts, I should be more than happy with the table, and it's an excellent entry-level system that's perfect for converting anyone who's curious or nostalgic for vinyl lp's.

But I still want a better table, one more powerful. And preferrably one I won't have to upgrade endlessly. That's one concern you must address when choosing a turntable - do you like to tinker around? Or do you just want to play records? There are options for you either way.

Part of me is looking towards a Rega table; probably the tinkering side of me, since Rega's can be hacked around forever. For owners, it's something of a badge of honor. It's also painfully expensive, and I feel unnecessary as our nation is sliding to the edge of another Great Depression.

Another part of me wishes to stay with the Pro-Ject brand. I'm the loyal type, stubbornly so, and I already have a number of Pro-Ject upgrades (Speed Box 2, Tube Box 2) that can be used on a new table. Ideally, I'd like to pass my Debut on to someone else, but move up the food chain considerably. So therin lies our goals for the hunt.

I've already written about Pro-Ject's other mid-range tables, the Xperience and the RM-5. Today, let's look at the third table in the $999 arena, the RM-6.1 SE. This turntable is easily overlooked in favor of cooler-looking (Xperience) or cheaper (Xpression III, RM-5), and it's almost unheard of online, except for the British audio sites. All of the reviews have been glowing, but it's very difficult to find critical reviews among the audiophile press. Make of that what you will.

I admit that the look of the RM-6 didn't appeal to me earlier, but having scoured around for photos, it looks much better to me now. It's a very minimal design, really just a giant silver puck to play records on. This is actually the turntable's platter. Wow. The platter is MDF (medium-density fiberboard), with a layer of vinyl on top. I've noticed that the vinyl doesn't cover the entire platter, so there's that sore sight of your records hanging over slightly. This was a sore spot for me on my standard Debut III, until I upgraded to a 12" acrylic platter. Perhaps I'm just being picky here.

The sub-platter is made of acrylic and looks terrific. This is a notable upgrade from the cheaper Pro-Jects. Is this the only model to use this kind of sub-platter? Very impressive. I also like the skeletal design. We'd expect to see this turntable on The Jetsons. Very futuristic, very stylish.

The tonearm uses Pro-Ject's 9C carbon-fiber arm, which looks excellent and compares very closely to the company's top-model RM-9.1. The owner of Needles and Spins, a UK audio store, praises this setup highly. He argues that the improvements to the tonearm design make the RM-6.1 a better table than either Xperience or RM-5.

As you can see, there's a Speed Box attached to the table, and it's hard-wired, so there's no dealing with upgrades or tweaks. This would work for me, since every Pro-Ject (or Music Hall, since they use the same parts) table requires a Speed Box to perform its best. I could give mine away with the Debut.

My only beef - and, yes, this is a major one - is the lack of any dust cover. My apartment gets really dusty, and a cover is really needed. Otherwise...would I just use a towel? I'm not spending hundreds for some expensive box. Maybe I'd just have to learn to dust more often. Not a deal-breaker for me, but it is a real concern. In a perfect world, I'd get to test these tables out and compare them against one another.

In any case, there you go. Pro-Ject's RM-6.1 SE. Cartridge is not included, so you'll have to factor that into your costs. Tables at this price range usually don't include 'em. Looks great, lots of praise, all the features of the higher-end tables. And strangely unknown. So maybe it's an underdog table. Works fine for me; I always root for the underdogs.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Cars

No, seriously. What the bloody hell is going on? Are the Republicans really going to stop us from saving the Big 3 automakers? Are they really trying to kill GM, Chrystler and Ford? All just so they can screw over Obama and the Dems, and kill off the unions at the same time?

Why isn't anyone stopping this?!

Katamari Damacy

A couple YouTube videos of Katamari Damacy, one of the opening song-and-dance number, and another of the game in action.



We Love Katamari



Without question the goofiest, most openly psychedelic video game ever made is Katamari Damacy on the Playstation 2. We just picked it up here at the apartment this week, and it's a blast. Here is a gameplay video for the sequel, We Love Katamari.

While I'm sure this series will continue for many years - Namco will bleed Katamari to death - it's really the first two games that are the best, the most fun and the most honest. The original creator had his own brilliantly zany vision, and that will almost surely be lost by future developers that are keen to protect the franchise.

Anyway, here's the gameplay video for We Love Katamari. I'm looking around the local stores for a copy. Good luck on that.

Republicans Want Your Cars to Die

Let me get this right. The Detroit automakers are in imminent danger of bankruptcy, and the Republican Party is actively working....to kill them?

Doesn't that strike you as, well...strange? I don't think political parties are supposed to actively destroy the nation. It can't just be the urge to break the unions. There must be something more going on. No group of politicians could be that pathological.

Right?

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Poisons in the Baby Formula

This is the Republican idea of "pro life," I guess. Poison in the baby formula? Am I missing something here? I'm reminded of that great Mudhoney line: "I'm all for life, 'till the bastard's born - and after that he's on his own..."

One thing that has long infuriated and frustrated me has been the way the Bush administration has been able to get away with this sort of thing for eight years. You'd think the people would be outraged when they see the sheer scale of corruption and greed. Now we can't drink the water, we can't eat the fish, we can't touch the toys, we can't breathe the air, and we can't even use baby formula without poisoning our kids. But trust us, they say. Why, exactly?

Organized Crime Rocks

Give me $700 billion of taxpayer money, and I'll save the economy. Or somethin'. But you can't look at what I'm doing with my money, err, your money. And you can't ask any questions about who I'm giving it to. You'll just have to trust me to throw obscene amounts of money around, which will save us from the coming economic depression.

Besides, once Obama takes office on January 20, it all becomes his problem. So who cares if the economy collapses then - we can pin the blame on someone else! And we get to keep all our money! Yaaaay!!

Seventy Dollars An Hour

So auto workers are now making $70/hour? If you do the math, that comes out to over $145,000 a year. Yahoo! Blue collar workers are wealthy! Who'da guessed? What am I doing in an office job? What the heck am I painting and writing for? The real money is on the assembly line. Where do I sign up?

This is so obviously stupid. And yet, the zombie lies just keep piling on and on. It's a vicious monster that never stops, feeding on the brains of the weak and the stupid. And the ones most willing to believe these lies are the ones most directly affected by them. The message from our Republican friends is that American workers are paid too much. They should be poor.

But the CEOs can keep their massive bonuses. They're just struggling to get by. Unlike those workers at the GM plant.

EPA to Gut Mountaintop Mining Rule That Protects Streams

Now that's a headline to be proud of.

The funny thing is that much of this mountaintop destruction and river pollution occurs in Appalachia, the GOP stronghold. This was just about the only region in the shift more red in the 2008 election, as the rest of the nation turned blue. These are the people who's lives are most directly affected by Republican policies. And yet they remain the GOP's most fervent supporters.

Do these folks not drink water? Do they not breathe air? Do they not demand a better life for themselves and their children? Or have they been convinced that this chaos and devestation is normal and acceptable? It is no coincidence that America's poorest regions are those caught firmly in the grip of the conservative ideology. It is a gospel of the cruel.

Karl Rove Math

One of the more amusing things to emerge since the election has been the level of denial on the part of Republican conservatives. They're still squarely in the denial stage, telling themselves over and over that their defeat wasn't as bad as it appears. As usual, count on Fox News to help dispense with the medicine.

Still, you'd think that somebody would notice that Karl Rove Math, well, stinks. He's already done more damage to the Republican Party brand than just about anyone alive. Why are they still listening to him?

I suspect the GOP will have to lose a couple more elections before they begin to seriously deal with their problems. Which means, of course, the next four years are going to be...interesting.

Payback

In President-Elect Obama's first six press conferences, Fox News hasn't been tapped for a question once. Not once. Elections do have consequences, kids.

Saving the Big Three Autos

An interesting proposal.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

The Bush Depression

So has the Depression started yet?

Seeing as how we've finally decided that the Recession began last December, yadda yadda...

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Pro-Ject 2 Xperience


This weekend, I visited Hi Fi Sound in Minneapolis, which had moved some weeks ago to some secret location. Turns out, they're across the street from the new Twins stadium, which is seriously starting to take shape and looks poised to rock the baseball world in 2010. This upper side of downtown Minneapolis is a vast wasteland, strangely enough. Hopefully, the new stadium (right next door to Target Center, too) will shake things up. In that event, the folks at Hi Fi Sound will be very, very happy.

Anyway, I paid a visit to see what's new, and discovered to my joy that they had a Pro-Ject turntable on display. The 2 Xperience, in fact. I saw one before at Stereoland in Eden Prairie, a lost suburb that's impossible to traverse without a car - you're better off travelling by canoe than a city bus - where it was shyly tucked into a bottom shelf. I wasn't very impressed at all.

Saturday at Hi Fi, now, that's a different story. The 2 Xperience looked just fantastic.

You can see a photo of the Xperience above. It's a bit tough to find a good photo, since all I could find online were the company's stock photos. I don't think this was a big seller. Pro-Ject recently discontinued this model a few weeks ago. I didn't pay too much attention. I think that's because many of these tables are difficult to judge without seeing them in person. In online photos, the Xperience doesn't really look like much. In person, it's an entirely different game.

Pro-Ject's 2 Xperience retailed for $999, the same level where the RM5-SE now sits. Having seen both, I don't think there's really any competition. The Xperience is far and away the better looking turntable. The plinth (ugh, what a lousy name, just call it the board) is clear acrylic, as is the cover. The feet are shiny aluminum cones, and this gives the table an almost invisible presence. It also gives it a real "hi-fi" look. This fits in nicely with your big-screen HDTV and your state-of-the-art sound system. This baby just glows with style.

The tonearm is the very impressive carbon-fibre arm, and it's very big and beefy, moves nicely, carries itself nicely. Immediately, I knew this was a great leap from my humble Debut. You can see how Pro-Ject's tonearms become better designs the higher up the ladder you climb. At this point, between the entry-level Debut, and the high-end RM9, it's really starting to show its style.

The platter is a blackened mass of fiberboard (MDF) and vinyl on top. This is similar to what's used on the RM5, but it looks more polished, more coherent. This doesn't look like a slab of plywood; nothing about it looks cheap. It looks like a very solid, very stylish platter. I'm still greatly smitten by the acrylic platters, ever since I bought one for my Debut, so it's hard for me to move on to anything else. But I think this design works best for the Xperience.

The motor is located away from the platter and tonearm, on the back left corner. This is a feature for the higher-end turntables, when you know you've stepped into the next realm of hi-fi audio. The point is to reduce or eliminate the motor vibrations, and keep them away from that tonearm needle. This is the curse of all turntables, and most high-end models simply move the motor away from the rest of the board entirely. This mid-price range is where you begin to see this evolution. Music Hall's MMF5 and MMF7 tables also place their motors away in this fashion.

The Xperience just looks fantastic. I mean, it's really, really fantastic. This is the point in the story where I'm kicking myself for not getting one earlier, or saving up more money this year. Money has been a curse for me in 2008, mostly through my own incompent bungling. Living paycheck to paycheck is a highly risky game, like speeding your chopper down the highway withoug a helmet. One false move, one unexpected bump in the road, and you're finished. Once the swerving begins, you are officially digging yourself out of your own grave.

Hopefully, the new year will prove better. Hi Fi Sound was selling their 2 Xperience, alongside a pricey phono cart (I forget the brand), and a Speed Box SE, a giant, deluxe version of the Speed Box 2 that offers ten times the speed stability and comes with a digital readout. All in all, this is a $2,000 system, easily. Hi Fi is selling the package for just under half that. In layman's terms, this is a steal.

It will be gone long before I have the money saved. There's really no question to it. Ah, well. It's probably better this way. I have my mind set on a Rega turntable these days - one of the new P3-24's with the color boards, a vintage P25, a new P5 - so I really can't afford to suffer these dilemmas. Should I stick with the Pro-Ject brand, or jump to the other side? What happens if and when I get the tinkering bug again? Do I want to bother with upgrades? Who will best deliver to me the Led Zeppelin and Miles Davis I demand? Questions, questions.

Heaven help you if you find yourself in front of a Pro-Ject 2 Xperience.

Pro-Ject RM5



Since I've been posting about turntables this weekend, I thought I should continue the thread and feature a few more tables that have caught my eye.

This turntable is Pro-Ject's RM5. The basic table sold for $650 until it was discontinued earlier this year. Needle Doctor was selling their supply at the dangerously low price of $500, one of the great steals of hi-fi audio. Unfortunately, I was completely bankrupt at the time, so I was never able to take advantage of that chance. Instead, I've stubbornly stuck with my humble Pro-Ject Debut III table, adding a few necessary additions here and there.

RM5 is now being sold exclusively as a "Special Edition" model, with a $300 Sumiko Blue Point 2 phono cartridge attached. The platter, made from MDF (medium density fiberboard), is given an extra layer of vinyl on top, so you can place your records on directly without any mat. I've never been a fan of those stupid turntable mats, anyway.

Unfortunately, those additions place the RM5 at $999. That puts it into a whole new realm of hi-fi, and it's almost certainly too high. I've noticed that the prices for many of these tables have shot up in the past year, largely due to the collapse of the US Dollar. Yet another reason to be thankful for George W. Bush. There are new fewer options for turntables under a grand. You have the entry-level stage, where you can choose between the Debut, Music Hall's MMF2.2, or Rega's P1. Beyond that, you will find empty landscapes, except for a couple tables.

In any case, that's a shame. I think a table like RM5 could do very well in the $500-$700 range. It's a great improvement over the entry-level tables, but it's still a step down from the higher models. Corners still need to be cut, and the engineers must be inventive in creating great music for a low price. Besides, this doesn't really "look" like a pricey model. Really, where is the money on this thing? It's very stylish, yes, but very stripped down.

Sometimes I really enjoy the style of RM5. It's basically a giant circle, with just enough of a board to hold the tonearm. This design is based on Pro-Ject's high-end RM9, which retails for $1,800 without a cartridge. The motor lies within the encircled plinth (the board), unlike the external motor on the RM9. I'm sure it's much better than the cheap motor that's given me headaches on my Debut.

I think I would feel better if everything wasn't made out of wood. It does look fine, yes, and I do appreciate the piano finish. But it's still basically a slab of plywood. Most of the money on this turntable goes into the tonearm, a dazzling carbon-fibre arm that should handle just about anything. The carbon-fibre arms are a fixture of the Pro-Ject line (except, of course, the humble Debut), and they always look amazing. I've never heard them in action, but I have no doubt they are quite excellent? Are they as good as Rega's legendary tonearms? Ehh, I don't know. Probably not. But that's what being "legendary" means.

Every once in a while, I see an RM5 for sale at Audiogon, and I'm strongly tempted to buy one. Most audiophiles take very good care of their systems, so there's little worry about being sold a bill of goods. But there's still that possibility, so I remain hesitant. Perhaps I'll find one sitting in a storeroom one of these days.

I don't know where RM5 fits in the grand sphere of turntables. My own love/hate relationship with the Debut has made me a bit wary. Pro-Ject should be applauded for making quality products, that much is certain. But are they really competitive? Or are they always a step behind the big players? Always a step behind Rega? It remains, for me, a mystery. Even in Minneapolis/St. Paul, there are few places to walk in and visit, where you could just sit down and listen to the merchandise. Needle Doctor remains the dominant player, but they're basically a tiny storeroom in the heart of Dinkytown. They're packed in like rats.

Still...sigh, I have to wrap this up somehow...Pro-Ject's RM5 looks really good. My interest has waned somewhat in the past six months, but there's always a chance that one good listen would turn things around. As always, be sure to kick the tires and drive the car around the block before you commit. We're not talking chump change here. We're talking real money.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Rega P3-24 in Red


Just wanted to show the Rega P3-24 in red. The other colors include white, black, yellow, and, as we've seen, green. I do wish there was a blue, but red was always my first choice for a turntable color. Just imagine how cool that looks with a killer acrylic platter (I'm really sold on those things). But that green really does grab my eye.

The New Rega P3-24 Turntable

Now this just looks awesome.

Rega is one of the lions of the turntable world, and their long-running Planar 3 model runs neck and neck with Technics as the world's best-selling turntable. This latest model is the P3-24, and comes in a variety of attractive colors. This is a photo of the Rega in green.

My current turntable is a Pro-Ject Debut III, an entry level table ($350) that's perfect for anyone who is new to analog lp's. I've decked my table with all the upgrades - acrylic platter, Speed Box II, Denon DL-160 phono cart, Vibrapods for the feet. And, of course, I've steadily worked on vibration control and isolation for my entire stereo system.

The Debut now sounds quite excellent, especially when compared to when it was just out of the box. This is a turntable I really like, but don't love. This is one of those relationships you always need to "work on." All the while I'm keeping my eyes open for the next upgrade. This next time, I want a turntable that I can hold onto as a long-term investment.

The Rega P3-24 is one of my top candidates. The cool color finishes are a standout, and that's one of the things I've always missed about my Debut. I bought a basic black model, while a series of color finishes are available for $30 more. Style is very important to me. This is music, after all. We do it for love.

This latest Rega model is a special model. In addition to the new colors, an external power supply, called a PSU (Power Supply Unit) is included. It's very much like the Speed Box for my Pro-Ject table; that is an essential addition to any compatible turntable, and the PSU is just as important for the Rega models.

All of this comes at a steep price, though. How bad? $1,295.00. D'oh!!

This is one of the viscious little kicks of the hi-fi audio world. The prices are outrageous for most normal people. This has long been a playground for the rich, as analog turntables became a niche market while the rest of us moved to Compact Disc and iPod. Now analog lp's have become the latest music fad, and a new generation of kids are seeking out turntables. I don't know if that means prices would come down. It's pretty doubtful. But at least there's the "budget" market available, where you can get into the scene for about $500.

Even $500 seems costly, but that's roughly the price of a Pro-Ject Debut III turntable and a Speed Box II. With that investment, you'll begin to discover the fun of lp's. Then you can upgrade later, to that acrylic platter (the stock platter is a steel gong) and a better phono cartridge.

Anyway, I'm on to the next stage, where I'm solidly hooked and seeking out something in the mid-priced range. That brings me into the realm of Rega's P3-24, with shiny new colors and PSU. These are the kind of tables you hold onto for 20 years or more. It certainly would look great. I'll have to find a way to hear one before I commit with the money. Money, what's that? I thought we were headed into another Great Depression. We'll have to wait a couple more months before I decide to spend any great amount of money on this. Who knows? Maybe a used model will appear at Needle Doctor or Audiogon by then.

If these turntable manufacturers could just get their prices down, then we'd really be making progress.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving With the (Wingnut) Family

By "wingnuts," of course, I mean family. Who are all completely insane. Sometimes I marvel at how I turned out, at how my worldview evolved and my beliefs grew. They are completely at odds with every person remotely related to me. And that's no stretch. Every person in my family, on both parents' side, belongs to the 22% club of diehard Christian Fundamentalist Republicans.

You could imagine how holidays are. Oops! I said the word "holiday!" I'm part of the conspiracy to destroy Thanksgiving and Christmas! Oh, no!!!!1!!!!

Oh, haven't you heard? Now the absurd and nonsensical "War on Christmas" believed by the stupids has expanded to Thanksgiving. I'm not sure exactly where President Obama, the "fascist-mooslim preznit who wants to kill babies" fits into this. I could never muster the inner strength to resist punching anyone out. And that would be terrible, of course, because this is family. So I either keep my mouth shut, or wander off to play with the small children, who thankfully haven't been turned into bitter, stupid, paranoid wingnuts like their parents.

That's unfortunate, and it's my loss, really. I miss a great opportunity to learn from a group of people whose worldview is the polar opposite of mine. But, since I grew from those roots, I know all the secret code-words, and all the favorite rantings from the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glen Beck, Michael Savage, Ann Coulter, and Fox News. At this stage of my life, my patience has been burned away, worn down to the bone like old, rusted joints. I no longer have any tolerance for such impenetrable bullshit.

And that's what the wingnut worldview is, really. Nothing but collosal horseshit. A terrible thing to admit, I know. But you try spending your life with people who believe in such things as the Confederacy (they really should have won the Civil War, don'tcha know), the rantings of Limbaugh ("the magic Negro" who is a "halfrican American), or the repressed denials of organized religion (Protestant, meet Catholic...Catholic, meet Protestant).

Sooner or later, the subject will turn to whatever mental exercises are required to deny any responsibility for the state of the American economy, or its global reputation, to say nothing about the eight years of George W. Bush. Obama, you see, is really a fascist. I have no idea what that means, exactly. Does that mean Obama will start tapping my phone and reading my emails? Does that mean he'll start detaining American citizens in secret locations without trial or habeus corpus? Does that mean he'll start an illegal war against some nation that never attacked us? Does that mean he'll rack up trillions in debt, collapse the economy, or hand the keys of the Treasury to Wall Street execs?

Again, I never can put up with this horseshit long enough to ask. For that, I am sorry. I should be a better person. I should have thicker skin. I should have fun with this. After all, the reality-based community won this election. Obama is our President, the Dems control both houses of Congress, and the era of conservative rule in our nation has ended. We all know how foolish it is to make sweeping declarations about political power, but the changes that have brought about this sweep will not reverse. The GOP hard right will find themselves out of power for a very long time. I should have taught myself to let much of this go. But I cannot. My patience has worn away like dried tears.

Family members moaned and whined about how Obama and the Democrats will spend, spend, spend, and the deficit and debt will skyrocket. These are told without irony or awareness of any kind. Any unpleasant reality is simply wished away, la la la la. The collapse of the American economy is really the fault of the Democratic Congress, you see. They're the ones to blame. And just what exactly did they do to bring about the end of the great Bush Economic Boom? What legislation was passed to change this? And how was George W. Bush and the Republicans so masterfully sidelined for the past two years? It's almost as though they no longer existed. They're not to blame.

And besides, they weren't true conservatives, anyway. You see how this little game plays itself out. It's a form of mental jujitsu; it's really quite entertaining, like watching old kung-fu movies. The wingnut never accepts any blame, never accepts any responsibility. Nothing is ever their fault. Nothing bad ever happens on their watch for which they shall be held accountable. Everything is the fault of everyone else. If only we listened harder to the wisdom of Limbaugh (the Clintons secretly murdered people); Glenn Beck (Mexican immigrants should be thrown into ovens, and their ashes used for fuel); Sarah Palin (Obama palls around with terr'sts, ya yoo betcha); Jerry Falwell (read his segregationist beliefs if you have the stomach); Rod Parsely (America was founded to destroy Islam); Pat Robertson (ugh, where do you want to start?); John Hagee (Adolph Hitler was God's hunter against the Jews, oh, and the Catholic Church is the 'Whore of Babylon'). And on and on and on and on. I could make a career out of this. Many journalists and scholars do.

This is the world where I grew up. This is the world I must revisit every holiday season. Oh, no! I did it again! I'm part of the conspiracy to somehow destroy Christmas and Thanksgiving! I blame subliminal messages in my rock-n-roll albums.

Last year, I discovered that one of my sisters was collecting Confederate flags on her computer. Shocked and outraged, I confronted her, and heard a stream of horseshit that sent me reeling. I came within a hair's breath of slapping her across her jaw. But that would be a terrible action, a line I am not willing to cross. I am not willing to shatter family relationships for the rest of my life. My sister's horseshit notions about the Confederacy and slavery, you see, come from my father. My father taught this to his daughters. I have been aware for many, many years that he held certain views that were deeply troubling. But I could ignore them, or hope they stay buried away.

So, instead of losing my cool, I bought my sisters a $99 portable turntable and a pile of records. Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Elvis, Beatles, Dylan. Good stuff. We'll see if that has any positive effect. But I still burn with a deep hurt and anger. I am really not in a proper mood to deal with that right now.

Which reminds me. Michael Medved has a new book out. In it, he argues that American slavery was actually good for the nation's economy. He makes a lot of sympathatic claims about slavery. A year ago he wrote an online column in which he actually defended slavery (go ahead and read if you can stomach it).

So, on a brighter note, the food was excellent, and everyone was polite and nice. They had to be, since I almost removed myself entirely. Best not to speak to anyone, lest something happen. Happy Holidays.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Need Help

How hard is it to find something like this?

I'm searching that I can use for an isolation platform for my stereo system. It involves placing metal ball bearings into an aluminum cup, which is then placed underneath the stereo components - speakers, turntable, yadda yadda. This photo is an example of a custom-machined job, but I'm searching high and low for something similar that I can find at retail.

My best success so far has been with drawer knobs. Recessed drawer pulls, in fact. They work as a kind of bowl for the ball bearings. Unfortunately, these knobs are either nickel, bronze, brass, or chrome. These metals produce a "chatter" effect, which gives off a bright, hard sound. It doesn't work. Aluminum is the ideal material. Any luck out there?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

President Obama Delivers Weekly Address on YouTube

This is a terrific move, and it's something that I've been hoping for.  The internet age calls for an update of FDR's old Fireside Chats.  Why do we still have these radio addresses?  It seems like a relic of a bygone era.  The internet allows us to bring this tradition back to our time, and Obama is just the President to do it.

January 20 can't come fast enough.

American Family Association's Newest Christmas Item - Burning Crosses


This is a copy of the letter I fired off to the American Family Association when I discovered this monstrosity.  Feel free to send them your own comments.  It's the 21st Century.  Why is this even legal?

Excuse me, I don't mean to sound crass, but are you fucking insane?! Have you lost your minds? Are you really selling burning crosses?!

I can't fucking believe this. Please tell me some KKK member hacked into your website and planted that. You can't possibly be fucking stupid enough to pass something like that along as a legitimate product. And now, of all times, when we have elected our nation's first African-American President?! Is this some kind of statement?! Are you trying to send some sort of message?!

I should probably explain, at this point, that I am not the kind to write furiously angry letters that are peppered with swear words. This should probably demonstrate how stunned and shocked beyond belief I am. How could any reasonable person respond in this day and age?

Again, I must very politely ask you, in the name of all that is holy and decent: have you lost your fucking minds?! Who the hell is in charge of this operation?! Who the bloody hell is responsible?!

Daniel Thomas MacInnes
Videogames of the Damned (political blog)
www.damn-games.blogspot.com

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Word of Advice

A friendly word of advice, for all the left-of-center people in particular: Please don't start piling on President Obama before he's even sworn in.

Don't assume that Puritanical tyranny is the sole domain of the Republican right. The left has its own strain as well, and they eagerly piled on Bill Clinton all through the 1990's for being a pro-business moderate. And the rumblings are already there for Obama, barely days after winning his election, here and there on the blogosphere. Whether it's Joe Lieberman or possible cabinet picks or the swirling gossip surrounding Washington (the city where high school never ends).

In Minnesota, at least, the Comic Book Guy types tend to migrate to the third parties, leaving the DFL pretty much alone. That essentially left them powerless innefectual, but failure offers its own sense of freedom. It's easy to criticize everybody else when you aren't burdened by responsibility. Everyone else is a turncoat or a sellout; you alone remain pure.

Whatever. It's infantile and it's stupid. It needs to stop. Thankfully, most Americans are more than willing to give Obama a fair chance. He's smart and disciplined enough to handle things properly. And he won't become the President until January 20. So calm down and relax.

My apologies for not blogging enough these past few days, btw. I've been swamped at work, and much of my spare time has been devoted to my latest stereo/turntable tweaks. Free advice, kids: Vibrapods are your friends.

Show's Over, Stupid

Uh, can somebody tell Sarah Palin that the election is over? She lost. I don't think she got that message. So somebody in charge just send her an email. A simple, "Hey, dummy, the game's over" would suffice.

Are there really Republicans who want Palin to be their new standard-bearer? They can't be serious. God can't possibly like me enough to let that happen.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Change We Can Believe In

Thank God for President Obama!

Transition advisers to President-elect Barack Obama have compiled a list of about 200 Bush administration actions and executive orders that could be swiftly undone to reverse White House policies on climate change, stem cell research, reproductive rights and other issues, according to congressional Democrats, campaign aides and experts working with the transition team.

A team of four dozen advisers, working for months in virtual solitude, set out to identify regulatory and policy changes Obama could implement soon after his inauguration. The team is now consulting with liberal advocacy groups, Capitol Hill staffers and potential agency chiefs to prioritize those they regard as the most onerous or ideologically offensive, said a top transition official who was not permitted to speak on the record about the inner workings of the transition.

In some instances, Obama would be quickly delivering on promises he made during his two-year campaign, while in others he would be embracing Clinton-era policies upended by President Bush during his eight years in office.

"The kind of regulations they are looking at" are those imposed by Bush for "overtly political" reasons, in pursuit of what Democrats say was a partisan Republican agenda, said Dan Mendelson, a former associate administrator for health in the Clinton administration's Office of Management and Budget. The list of executive orders targeted by Obama's team could well get longer in the coming days, as Bush's appointees rush to enact a number of last-minute policies in an effort to extend his legacy.

The Legacy of Bush Conservatism

The legacy of George W. Bush and conservatism continues:

In the first of an expected avalanche of post-election regulations, the Bush administration on Friday narrowed the scope of services that can be provided to poor people under Medicaid’s outpatient hospital benefit.

Public hospitals and state officials immediately protested the action, saying it would reduce Medicaid payments to many hospitals at a time of growing need.

The new rule conflicts with efforts by Congressional leaders and governors to increase federal aid to the states for Medicaid as part of a new economic action plan.

George W. Bush never abandoned conservatism. This is exactly what conservatism looks like. This is the same ideology that gave us the Katrina scandal, the Iraq War, and a smashed economy. Theirs is a cult of cruelty. Never forget that.

Living in Denial

Conservative Republicans are going to find themselves on the sidelines of American life for a very long time. One key reason for this is simple denial. As long as conservatism ignores reality, wallowing in their alternate fantasy world, lost in their infantile security blanket, they will remain on the sidelines.

Johnathan Chait's opening line from his TNR article summarizes this perfectly: What part of "overwhelming electoral defeat" does the GOP not understand? The answer, of course, is very simple. The GOP does not want to understand. They've functioned in their strange alternate reality for so long, these people simply cannot function in the real world.

Better for the rest of us, I say. The tighter and tighter the hard right spins in on itself, the greater the damage to their party and the conservative brand. So go ahead. Live in denial. Make Sarah Palin the GOP standard-bearer. The longer the denial, the longer the exile. And America will simply move on.

Sunday Football Thread

Oops, my bad. Had to sleep in a bit. But look at the Vikings beat up on the Packers! Go Vikes! Truly, this is the best week ever!

Oh, and by the way.....Republicans are losers! Goodbye, losers!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

NC - Obama Finally Wins the State

North Carolina has finally been called for Obama today. It was one of the final two states whose outcome is still being determined.

Yay!! Time for another downtown block party!!

I was hoping that Obama would win North Carolina. It was going to be close, but he just barely eeked it out. This is really more symbolic than anything, since the race is already decided, but it remains a powerful symbol nontheless. The Republican hold on the South is being broken, as the racist politics of the Southern Strategy give way to 21st Century America. We're living in a radically different nation than the America of 40 years ago. We should all feel pride and satisfaction for all our hard work.

Obama's score now stands at 364. Missouri is now the final state to be determined. I picked that state for the win, so I'll cross my fingers and hope for the best.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Age of Stupid



Add in a lot of drunken belligerence, threats of fascism, and a couple wars, and this pretty much sums up the decade. I'm glad to see it finally end.

My Fair Lady - My Speech to the Class of 2099 (More or Less)



It's a remarkable event, one that will puzzle and amuse historians of future generations. What was John McCain thinking in choosing Sarah Palin to be his running mate? What originally appeared to be a reckless, hail-mary move born of desperation grew to a lightning rod for the nation. Palin became an instant hero to the Republican right, and a virtual laughingstock for the rest of us.

Even now, for those of us who kept track of her every move, who watched her two television interviews, it still feels almost surreal. Is Palin really that dumb? Did she really blank out on every question? Does she really not know what the Bush Doctrine is? Does she even read? I've seen some cynical politics in my day; George W. Bush was probably the apex of Republican cynicism, a spoiled lazy brat who couldn't be bothered to pick himself off the street if he wasn't born into wealth. I've never seen anything as shameless and brutally cynical as the pick of Sarah Palin.

This decision summarized our era, the whole period of conservative dominance, the era of the Wrecking Crew. They rule by propaganda and fear, selling the public on one absurd fantasy after another. And for a while it worked. No doubt they hoped they could sucker the masses one more time; just squeeze one more tank out of a broken-down car. It's stunning that McCain came so close to succeeding. This shall forever remain a blemish on the character of this nation.

Thank all that is holy that McCain and Palin were defeated. Had they won, the results could have been catastrophic. May God have mercy on your children if that woman ever gets into the White House and takes the reins of power. But the economic crisis snapped the masses out of their hypnotic daze, and they paid attention. They did the right thing.

I think this is why I'm not as eager to write Palin off. I am hopeful that the conservative era has finally closed, and that the Republican Party remains deeply divided and thoroughly defeated cannot be denied. But look at what they nearly achived. Look at what they almost did with this fool as a candidate. They offered up nothing more than a celebrity prop. If technology advances, the day will come when the Party will offer up a computer-generated character as a candidate, posing as a real person. Hell, 25% of this nation will swallow anything that's being sold by these criminals. Never discount the power of skillful magic tricks.

During the final weeks of the campaign, as the rift between McCain and Palin grew, we heard more and more rumblings from behind the scenes. Rumblings about Palin's sheer ignorance and incompetance, revelations about her lavish spending sprees, stories of an unknown who was primed to be a star, only to buy into the hype. Behold, the reality television candidate. The person you want to have a beer with.

Americans need to be smarter than this. Americans need to be more aware, more mindful, more skeptical. You need to turn off the teevee and learn to function on your own. You've been fed the fantasy from television for so long that you're beginning to believe the fantasy is real, and your own lives are illusion. Television isn't the truth. Television is a damned amusement park.

Sarah Palin, you could say, was the Television Candidate. An instant celebrity machine for the dumb proles; the biggest and brightest of all the reality competitions. Today, it's the singing contest. Tomorrow, the dancing contest. After that, the President! Being President is fun! Because, you know, you can, like, go places, and, like, do stuff. You know....umm, stuff.

Then the stock market crashes and the fantasy crashes hard into that unavoidable force called reality. The Soma of our age works its magic, but reality cannot be denied. The Republicans only hoped they could keep us drugged and dazed for just a little while longer. If you sobered up on November 5, to a Palin in the White House, so what? We win. We got our mandate.

Americans need to be smarter than this. Americans have proven that they will do the right thing, and choose to engage history when the crisis strikes. Thank goodness for that. Will you be smart and wise enough to learn? Will you be able to avoid this fate again? Even if Palin disappears completely, she will be replaced by another drone, another movie prop, another Barbie Doll which was programmed to recite talking points. Will you be smart enough to see through the illusion and reject the fantasy?

For your own sake, kids, you damn well better hope so. You will face this terrible machine at some point during your lives. It doesn't matter which generation I'm talking to. I'm talking to all of you. Yeah, you, the kid in the back row, class of 2099. Sit up and pay attention. This is going on your permenent record. I didn't risk my neck so you could beome another mindless tool. You're going to have to be smarter. Keep your wits about you and you'll be fine. Trust me on that. Good luck.

It All Seemed So Impossible

It's remarkable to reflect on the widespread belief, even among us dedicated supporters and fans, just how impossible this seemed even a few months ago.  That America would one day elect its first black President, there was never any doubt.  But now, in 2008?  I never would have believed it until I saw Barack Obama's keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention.  And all this way, it seemed so unlikely.  I was fully expecting to make my peace with the latest cynical-but-competent politician, like Hillary Clinton or John Edwards or John Kerry.  Obama is cut from a different cloth.  He radiates with the glow of history.  You know this is a remarkable moment, even while you doubt it.

It always seemed so impossible.  That this has happened in 2008, after the Age of Bush, is nothing less than a miracle.

TPM's Day in 100 Seconds

Norm Coleman is a Jerk



Sorry to sound cranky, considering our historic victory last night.  This is a great day for America.  But we still have a Senate race here in Minnesota, which is headed for a long and thorough recount.  But these remarks from Norm Coleman just roiled me.  There are times when I think the man is someone I can live with, a moderate Republican and not a hardcore ideologue.  And then he goes and does something incredibly arrogant and stupid.

This election is too important to have a recount?  Are you freaking kidding me?  Haven't we had enough of prima donna Republicans who think the world owes them something?  We already sent McCain and Palin packing, with Preznit Stupid to soon follow.  I say make room on the bus for Norm.

Words That Bring Tears to My Eyes

President Obama.

I still can't believe it.

Fun Thing to do Today

Look at the newspapers from around the world. The enthusiasm and love for America is wonderful and deeply humbling. Barack Obama's Presidency is a victory for all the people of the world.

MN-Senate - Extra Innings!

So it appears that we'll be headed into extra innings for the Minnesota Senate race. It seems every election, there's one race that never ends, and this year it just happens to be in Minnesota. It was very suspenseful watching the precincts come in late last night, numbers moving up and down every few minutes. 10,000 for Coleman, then a few hundred. Then a slight lead for Franken. Then back again.

Minnesota state law requires an automatic recount when any race is closer than 0.5%. The Franken-Coleman race is seperated by only a few hundred votes. It's about as close to a tie as you can get.

I woke up this morning, hearing the AP call the race for Coleman. I kind of expected that, so I tried to take it with grudging acceptance. Maybe Norm will reemerge as that moderate who was they mayor of St. Paul back in the '90s. Maybe this race will end smoothly.

Fat chance on all fronts. The state is preparing for the recount, which may take a month before completion (yes, that's right, kids - we won't have a winner until December). Then the AP took back its call. Then Norm held a press conference this morning, where he declared himself the victor and declared there shouldn't be any recount. Nice. So much for getting along nicely with that guy. Now all the bad blood from the campaign, and from the last eight years of Preznit Stupid, comes flooding back.

I can't say I'm happy with the way Al Franken's campaign has been run. It was just like a Vikings game - messy, sloppy, too many dumb mistakes. But he somehow managed to keep the race tight, even enjoying slight leads in the polls. And he shows no willingness to concede anything.

Coleman's margin of victory? 571 votes. Damn. This really is the perfect capstone to the Bush era, isn't it? We're right back where we started. No doubt the right will be pumping their "sore loser" propaganda at Franken. Ugh. Deja vu all over again.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

President Barack Obama


Words fail.

Why the Republicans Must Lose

Because this is what the Republican Party has become in our lifetime:

AUSTIN — State Board of Education member Cynthia Dunbar isn't backing down from her claim that Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is plotting with terrorists to attack the U.S.

The Texas Freedom Network, a watchdog group that monitors the board, released a public statement on Monday asking Dunbar to retract the statement.

"I don't have anything in there that would be retractable," said Dunbar, R-Richmond. "Those are my personal opinions and I don't think the language is questionable."

In a column posted on the Christian Worldview Network Web site, Dunbar wrote that a terrorist attack on America during the first six months of an Obama administration "will be a planned effort by those with whom Obama truly sympathizes to take down the America that is threat to tyranny."

She also suggests Obama would seek to expand his power by declaring martial law throughout the country.

Monday, November 03, 2008

My Prediction for 2008


I thought it over the past few days, and in the end, I decided to stick with my "best-case" map from a week ago. I think this is closer to becoming a reality than any time in the past. And if I'm wrong, I'll only be off by a state or two.

Obama should win the popular vote by, oh...10 points. Does 10 points sound good?

Obama's score in the Electoral Vote, by this map, is 406. It'll definitely be over 350.

On the Minnesota Congressional races, I'll be a good team player and say the Dems sweep. Franken in Senate, Tinklenberg in MN-06, Media in MN-03, Sarvi in MN-02.

Turnout, as always, is the key. Rachael Maddow says the final turnout might surpass 140 million. Good lord, that's almost unheard of in American politics. There's no way all these people are showing up to defend the status quo. Americans are pissed. They hate George W. Bush and they hate the Republicans. And here's another clue for you all: McCain and Palin aren't too popular, either.

The more people that show up to play ball, the higher our score. There will be a number of red states that McCain will carry in single digits. If we could boost the African-American vote by just 10%....wow. We are a nation of hope and possibility now. It's been a very long time.

TPM's Day in 100 Seconds - Election Eve



I seriously hate these Republicans.  Nothing more than an organized crime syndicate posing as a political party.  And Sarah Palin is dumber than a bag of rocks.  I'll be glad to see them and their sorry lot kicked out of power.  The party of torture, cronyism, and the Permanent War deserves banishment for the rest of our lives.

A pox on your houses if any of you are stupid enough to be taken in by these con artists again.

Obama's Grandmother Has Died

A very sad moment. We were all hoping that she could live just long enough to see her grandson become the next President. This will draw a somber shadow over tomorrow's election.

Now we really have to work extra hard. Let's give Obama the landslide victory he deserves.

We Have a Lot of Work to Do



We're very near the end of the campaign. Don't lower your guard. Don't coast to victory. Don't expect the entrenched power to concede without a fight. Our real work begins on November 5, and January 20. We have a generation of conservative rule to overcome and a nation to repair. Every person must do their part.

Get to the polls tomorrow! Text five of your friends, and tell each of them to text five more. Pass it on!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Jimmy Carl Black Has Died

Fans of Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention have this greeting burned into their collective memories:

"Hi, boys and girls! I'm Jimmy Carl Black, and I'm the Indian of the group."

Jimmy Carl Black passed away last night. He sends a final farewell on his website, and tells us not to be sad. I'll try, but I'm sad anyway. I'll miss him dearly.

Washington Post/ABC Poll - Obama 54, McCain 43

From the WaPo/ABC poll:

After nearly two years of ads, rallies, debates and barnstorming, Obama is up 54 to 43 percent among likely voters, in the new Washington Post-ABC News tracking poll. And the ranks of persuadable voters has dwindled to 7 percent heading into the final day. One part of McCain's steep challenge is that more than a quarter of the probable electorate has already voted - among these early birds, 59 percent said they voted for Obama, 40 percent for McCain.

Obama has firmly reestablished his advantage on handling the economy (back up to 15 points) and beaten back a challenge on taxes (he's +11 there). On handling an unexpected major crisis, what had been a double-digit McCain lead to start the fall campaign, is now a 6-point advantage for Obama.

And on the measure that most often correlates to turnout, enthusiasm, Obama holds a massive 26-point advantage in deeply enthusiastic support. In late October of 2004, George W. Bush held a nine-point edge over John F. Kerry on this metric.

CBS Poll - Obama 54, McCain 41

From CBS News:

With two days left until the presidential election, Barack Obama continues to lead John McCain by 13 points among likely voters, 54 percent to 41 percent, a new CBS News poll finds. The margin in the new poll, released Sunday, is identical to that in a CBS News poll released Saturday.

As the number of undecided voters has dwindled, so has the number that says their minds can still change. More than nine in 10 of each candidate’s voters now say they have made up their minds about who to vote for and are not likely to change. Just seven percent of Obama voters and 8 percent of McCain voters say they still might change their minds.