Jan 20, 2011

The Snark Guitar Tuner: No Disintegrations.

Wait...exactly what kind of "action" does this figure perform?
When I was a young boy, I had one simple dream: to collect enough Star Wars action figure proofs-of-purchase to get a free Boba Fett action figure. My friend down the street, Lamont, had all the cool Star Wars swag. Oh, how I longed for his Hoth playset and his AT-ST. But you know one thing Lamont didn't have? Boba Fett. And my dream was to get my hands on that smokin' hot, Mandalorian armor-clad, oddly homoerotic figurine and rub it in his face. "Hey Lamont, what's up? Me? Oh nothin'...I'm just chillin' here with my BOBA FETT ACTION FIGURE!". At this point in my dream Lamont would start to cry and I would mock him mercilessly. I was one classy young man.

Anyway, it was not to be. Turned out, Lamont's dad worked in construction and made decent money. Whereas the man I called 'dad' worked in a doomed Weyerhauser plant and was soon to be an unemployed, drunken, divorcee. In short, I needed a new dream. No problem I suppose. These days, the Fettsters' is not exactly as "edgy" as he once was. So, just to keep the story moving along, let's say I picked the guitar....

Here you see an Instrument (left), a Gaystrument (middle),
and the very rare Pepprument (right).
So, as of this month, I have been trying to teach myself to play the guitar for about four years. I am, ever so slowly, getting better over time. It's more of a passive hobby than some ethereal manifestation of my metaphysical dreamchild (or whatever). Also, at least for me, it seems to be a form of therapeutic exercise. I discovered a long time ago that I really like to sing. What's more, I am not terrible at it. I remember when the "big kids" (e.g. 6th graders) came to my elementary school to perform. It was so cool. I decided right then to join choir class as soon as I was a 6th grader. I told one of my classroom chums about how excited I was. He teased me and said the choir was "dumb" and that only "queers" took choir. But this did not deter me from chasing my dream of not being thought of as an unintelligent homosexual. Band class it was! Seriously, who takes choir class? I didn't even know what that was. Some kind of breakfast cereal? Probably just some stupid thing that only stupid people knew about. I didn't know because I was not a stupid person. Yep, band it was. But...what instrument to play? There were so many choices. There were drums and horns (known as "instruments"). There were also clarinets and flutes (or "gaystruments"). My life hung in the balance.

Being a moderate young man, I chose a somewhat androgynous instrument: the tenor saxophone. It was the perfect solution. It was heavy (proving my strength), made of shiny brass (showing I could appreciate beauty), and a total babe-magnet (proving it was a saxophone). But it was also a woodwind, and needed a slow, tender hand like that of a smoldering lover. I had listened to a lot of Pointer Sisters that previous summer and knew that girls liked that kind of thing. Turned out, that was a total lie. After a few years I dropped the sax and quit the band altogether. Reason? Overt deception by The Pointer Sisters.

After giving up the sax I decided to not do anything at all for about 3 years. Then, one fateful day in 1988, I decided to buy a guitar. But being only a high school student, I had not the means to do so. So I bided my time; waiting until after graduation. Then I got my first full time job! Finally I could afford to fulfill my dream! As soon as I could, I went out and got…married. But right after that, my wife and I got…a baby. But then, after only several decades, I bought a nice Yamaha acoustic guitar.

But it was hard so I gave it up in about a week. I gave the guitar to my Mom.

Eventually though I bought another guitar and, this time, I stuck with it. I am at a level now where having my guitar “pretty much” in tune is unacceptable. I need to keep it tuned as precisely as possible. I am still learning how to tune by ear, but for now that skill is beyond my ability. In the meantime, I require an electronic tuner. When I bought my original guitar (the one I gave away), there was a small tuner included. It did the job, more or less. But, it required almost complete silence to display an accurate reading.

The Snark tuner is
brought to you by the letter E
But now I have a great little electronic tuner that clips on the neck of the guitar. It's called a Snark Tuner and it's all the rage these days (or so the dude at the music store tells me). The Snark gives a very precise reading, even in the loudest environments. That's great for those of us who prefer playing non-amplified (i.e. campfire acoustic players). It can do this (apparently) due to its having been designed to detect the vibrations of the strings, as opposed to the sounds coming from said vibrations. Seriously, all I have to do is barely tap a string. Though I can hardly hear a sound, the Snark detects the vibration and displays an accurate reading. The Snark comes in several versions; I have the SN1 (pictured). It is clips to the end of the guitars neck. The SN1 is made specifically for tuning a guitar.

"But Mr. Blogonet, I don't play a manly instrument like the guitar!" I hear you cry. "I play a sissy instrument. Why can't they ever make something for me? You know, just because I play the piccolo doesn't mean I'm not worth it. WAAA!!!".

Well first of all, don't be such a big baby. Stop bawling. Honestly, have you no self respect? I will turn this post around! Okay...that's better. Here's a cookie and a juice box. Just calm down and listen. The Snark people also make an "all instrument" tuner (with extended frequencies), as well as tabletop versions of both. I really love mine. Unlike other tuners I have owned, it shows more than just what "letter" I am tuned to. It uses a virtual tuner "needle" to display changes, even very minute ones, in pitch. This allows for highly precise tuning. So much so, even a slight change in the guitars temperature will be shown on the Snark meter. This can happen after holding it against your body for a few minutes. Or for hours. Or spooning with your guitar after a steamy night of finger picking. It can happen...what?

Oh, and the best part of this nifty tuner? The price. The Snark (at least the one I bought) is less than $30. Like a great man/boy once said, "It is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.".

Jan 8, 2011

Starbucks Changes Logo. Uneducated Masses Rejoice!

Based on fictional events
It was only a few months ago that Starbucks simplified their "drive-thru" [sic] menu; removing all but the most common items. They did away with the previously precise and inclusive menu and opted for one that was seemingly designed for folks that would have to ask what state Kansas was in.

But it turns out, Starbucks was not finished yet. A few days ago I read a Bizjournal.com article revealing that Starbucks will be dumbing down their image even more. They will be removing all those annoying shapes and squiggly lines (called "words") from their logo; leaving only the image of the bizarre, two-tailed mermaid. At least, I think it's a mermaid. I mean, what does a mermaid have to do with some bobo coffee shop anyway? Then again, it does did posses a somewhat misshapen set of breasts; indicating it's female. And one could reasonably assume that having two tails (presumably one being vestigial) is some kind of horrid disfigurement. And that said disfigurement would have, almost certainly, precluded any possibility of mating with a "merman"; thereby qualifying the creature as a true "maid". So fine, whatever. A mermaid it is then. A creepy, lonely mermaid.

The more things change,
the more they appeal to the illiterate.
But back to this logo thing. This further simplification is solidifying my feeling that the film Idiocracy is less of a "movie" and more of a prophecy. I won't get into the gory details of how Starbucks is portrayed in that film, but here's a hint: "Starbucks Exotic Coffee for Men". So, yeah...

Howard Schultz, the Starbucks CEO, explains the rationale behind the logo change this way.

"What is really important here is an evolutionary refinement of the logo, which is a mirror image of the strategy."

I'm sorry Howard. You lost me at "evolutionary refinement". And does not referring to something as a "mirror image" of something else indicate, even define, an antithetical paradigm? Assuming Starbucks' "strategy" is to make their shareholders wealthy wealthier, is this logo change being implemented to oppose that strategy? Because that's what you have said Howie. Or maybe that's just what the marketing team wrote the index card you were instructed to read. Either way, this whole "picture book" bit is just another step toward a complete removal of, um, you know...that thing that makes us smart and junk.... oh, yeah litter. No wait. Licorice. No,no that doesn't sound right either. Here, let me draw you a quick picture.....