08.19.16

A MAD moment while out and about

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Phlogiston at 1:21 pm by George Smith

As far as Fenster was concerned, the year might as well have been over.

08.06.16

WWII Time Tourist Cat

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Phlogiston at 3:44 pm by George Smith

Travel Tips from WWII Time Tourist Cat:

“I really like the Wienerschnitzel at the Berghof!”

04.14.16

What’s Der Fuhrer About?

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Decline and Fall, Phlogiston at 12:25 pm by George Smith

Look Who’s Back is a rather on-the-money movie considering our fractured times. It’s based on a best-seller in which Hitler magically appears in modern Berlin with no idea about the intervening time between now and his last day in the bunker. He can’t get anyone to believe he really is himself. Instead, he’s taken as a fabulous method actor who never drops character, winding up sold as a comedian on a TV show called Whoa, Dude, hosted by another funny man made-up to look like Barack Obama.

In the movie, Hitler upstages everyone on the ridiculous show, ignores his joke lines about the “Salafists” and instead delivers Hitler-esque stem-winders drawn from his speeches and Mein Kampf. He tells the audience they’re fools for watching reality shows about cooks and that television has them looking into the abyss. Hitler will save them, Deutschland, from that abyss. It’s so successful he’s put on every show run by the network, generating an immense following.

Oliver Masucci, an Italo-German, plays the Fuhrer. And while you could comb the dialog at length for laughs, the most indelible parts are those in which Masucci is driven around Germany as Hitler. You will not be entirely surprised that, even when in the presence of the impersonator, it’s easy to get some people to let their real selves out. “We need labor camps,” says one, in open resentment over the refugees. Hitler agrees, he can do that. He asks another man, “Will you do whatever I ask of you when the time comes?” The man instructs the camera to be turned off, which it isn’t, and says he’s ready.

At the end we have Hitler riding through modern day Germany in full regalia. He’s in an open top limousine with his agent, a blonde woman who looks a little like Eva, juxtaposed with video from news clips on the rise of fascist parties in Europe and ongoing protests and violence against refugees and immigrants. It’s not exactly the kind of product placement Mercedes had been hoping for.

Of course, if you want slapstick, there’s that too. A segment in which Hitler is pepper-sprayed auf dem Platz in front of the Brandenberg Gate is hysterical.

Look Who’s Back is only a movie, bitingly amusing, but it would be lost on most Americans. First of all, we’d have to read the subtitles and get the jokes, which we can’t because of large gaps in the knowledge of that history. But, mostly,we’re just incapable of seeing bits of ourselves and what we can easily become reflected in parts of it.

I howled with laughter through most of it. However, if the YouTube videos of Hitler ranting in the bunker about being locked out of video games are your cup of tea, maybe not so much. Not accidentally, I’m sure, Constantin owns Downfall and Look Who’s Back, giving it something of a lock on the global Hitler market.

09.21.15

Does the Pope Smoke Dope?

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Phlogiston, WhiteManistan at 12:36 pm by George Smith

Although I gave up on Catholicism decades ago, a quick listen to David Peel seems appropriate in view of the visit and the fact that this pope has a lot of WhiteManistani panties in a twist because he believes we ought to do something about global warming, take from the rich to give to the poor rather than vice versa and drop the American ideology that a humanistic faith is compatible with our corporate business and capitalism. Jesus isn’t from America.

Semi-religious personal trivia: Before my first and only marriage, the priest who was going to perform it asked me if I was on drugs. I wasn’t impressed by his capacity for personalized assessments.

So about a half year later, noticing I hadn’t been to Sunday mass at all, he came around to the apartment for a visit.

Catholic priest, at intercom, outside: Hello, Mr. Smith. I’ve come by to see you. May I come in?

Me: No.

Catholic priest: You’re not going to let me in?

Me: That’s right.

Catholic priest: Could I come back some other time?

Me: No, that won’t make a difference.

Catholic: You’re really just going to let me stand out here, Mr. Smith?

Me: Yes. Goodbye.

01.05.15

This 1970 Black Finger might be older than you!

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Phlogiston, Rock 'n' Roll at 4:00 pm by George Smith

One of electric guitar effects maker Electro-Harmonix’s first consumer devices, this 1970 Black Finger, a “Distortion Free Guitar Sustainer,” has been with me for 45 years. The last thirteen of which had been spent in closets in a box because it didn’t work.

I made getting it going again a holiday project. A liberal application of De-Oxit and some fiddling with the tone potentiometer and power supply leads and it came back to life.

It’s a compressor and probably the first one ever made for electric guitarists. [1] The basic layout is the same as the company’s Big Muff Pi fuzz tone. From 1970, it shares an identical triangle knob layout, plus an on-off switch in addition to the usual stomp switch and a two-battery power harness, just as many of the 1970 Muffs.

In the early Seventies EH removed the on-off switch, put the knobs in a straight line and added an illustration of a, well, black finger.

The 1970 Black Finger contains a real pile of old transistors. In use, after twisting the knobs for the degree of compression wanted, I always left it on for the duration of a session.

It is not a light compression. You know it’s on and squeezing the signal from the guitar, from a lot to really a lot. At the lowest compression delivered, it makes country licks and jangle rock pop. On the extreme end the attack of the guitar virtually disappears.

Electro-Harmonix has a tube-driven Black Finger compressor in its stable but it’s not really anything close to the same pedal.

The 1970 Black Finger was not particularly common. I never met another person who used one. Today there are one or two videos of old models on YouTube. (I’m planning on putting up a demonstration of it when I have the time.)

Of course, it was made entirely in the US 45 years ago before the forty year slump and the installation of corporate dictatorship. And it turned out to be a bit more long-lasting than the American Middle Class.

I used it at swimming pool parties in Pine Grove in 1970 and dragged it almost everywhere through dive bars with the Highway Kings in the mid-Eighties.

The Black Finger had a disadvantage which made it unique, a noise factor, actually. It takes two 9-volt batteries and when they run low the unit begins to distort, hiss at you and pump audibly. That had its uses.

Here’s an old review I wrote of it thirteen years ago for a web music site.

I’m taking it back (edited):

I used [the Electro-Harmonix Black Finger] for thirty years with a Fender Vibrolux and a variety of Hiwatts. It worked well with both but was extremely useful with the Hiwatts when it was necessary to squeeze more sustain out of fairly clean but overdriven sound at a volume level somewhat less than what would kill everyone but the criminally rock and roll insane.

It helped produce an unmistakably brutish sound that used to be common in the Seventies but which is rarely heard today. Waxing heavy on the control knobs makes for a variety of really abusive tones.

The first time you stomp the Black Finger into “on” it hesitates before giving you anything. A nice feature! As if something were charging up or picking up a head of steam before getting rolling. After it’s been stomped “on” once in the session, the lag goes away.

Who knows why it’s that way?!

As for reliability? Utterly so.

If you had a metal box of circuitry that lasted thirty years, what would you think? You could throw it into a landfill and if it didn’t rust it would probably still work when you dug it up ten years later.

Of course, this may be just the case with mine. Not yours.

Seems to be made of old battleship steel. (Actually aluminum although it is a heavy pedal.)

Requires two nine-volt (that’s “two” as in an eye-popping T-W-O!) batteries and eats them at a moderate but not accelerated rate.

Opening the kit to replace them is reasonably but not overly trying.

The edges of the inside of the battleship steel case are sharp and I have occasionally non-fatally nicked a finger while replacing T-W-O, that’s “two,” nine volt batteries.


The Black Finger always did me good. And the name! Exquisite!

Colleagues marveled at the sheer stubborn durability of my Black Finger.

They even sometimes mocked and laughed in disrespect at the annoying glitchy tones coming from it when the batteries ran low and it started to eat itself. But they also admired the clear, thick sustain that educated use could wring from it.

Certainly, it is a tool of utility in making old school rock. While not indispensable, I have never heard anything quite like it since.

The Black Finger has mostly always sounded old although it sounded quite new in 1970 or so. Guaranteed to sound old now, always.

That’s good!

It’s a tough, brutish, potentially ugly-sounding compressor that works well with tough, brutish, potentially ugly-sounding big amplifiers and fuzz tones. (Really, you put a fuzz face circuit after it and the results are great.)

It is not for milchtoasts.

You should be an old, crabby guy with a beard and a large bald spot for best results with the Black Finger.


1. The only other electric guitar compressor on the market at around the same time was the Dan Armstrong Orange Squeezer.

The Orange Squeezer was a ca. mid-70’s very small box with a fixed setting. It was much less aggressive, smaller and simpler in design than the EH Black Finger.

It attained some popularity for its use by Steely Dan (obviously never credited on recordings), some country artists who loved what it did for their picking, and later, Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits.

Like the old Black Finger, who uses Orange Squeezers today?

Really, nobody. Maybe some older session aces who either have originals or who bought clone designs of the original, which exist, but which still aren’t popular in any real sense.

There’s not much to compare between the two designs although I’d argue that the Black Finger I have, when set right, works great for accentuating country licks, adding warmth (although the tone knob can make it really irritating, too) and with distortion (refer the fuzz face citation) furnishes the vintage A-to-Z with the twist of the guitar’s volume knob early-70’s hard rock sound.

The Orange Squeezer was deemed more successful. No one credits the Black Finger with anything. It was totally eclipsed, and then erased, by the rapid success and reputation of the Electro-Harmonix Big Muff Pi fuzz. (Dave Gilmour of Pink Floyd wanted the Muff fuzz after Dark Side of the Moon. What if he had heard a Black Finger in line before his Fuzz Face?)

The only other compressor I’ve used that’s equal or better (for my taste) is the one designed into the Scholz R&D Sustainor which came many years later. At a practical level, the Scholz R&D compression circuit of the mid-Eighties was/is somewhat easier to work with and a slight bit more naturally musical than the original 1970 Black Finger. Both supplied a lot of compression. There were no really mild settings to be had from either.

What’s the difference? The Black Finger was not set in its equalization. Maxing the compression only kills the attack from the guitar as it blooms the tail.

The compression in the Scholz circuit, along with the rest of the design never totally kills the attack but does add a lot of mid-range.

09.15.14

Heat wave

Posted in Phlogiston at 4:42 pm by George Smith

Since Saturday it’s been over 100 degrees every day in Pasadena. Today set a record, between 103-104 here with a bit of humidity making it seem like 107.

Unemployable I may be, but it’s suicidal to sit in front of a computer all day when it’s like this. A lot of a/c units, everywhere, aren’t up to the job.

07.22.13

And now for something completely different

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Phlogiston at 10:18 am by George Smith

Delicatessen M: Meet Sol and Debbi from Solomon Rabinowitz on Vimeo.

Featuring John Mendelssohn, more famously seen here a year ago, and Lynn Carey.

06.20.13

Did you notice?

Posted in Phlogiston, WhiteManistan at 8:30 am by George Smith

I renamed the place.

06.06.13

I already know I’m weird, thanks anyway

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Phlogiston, Rock 'n' Roll at 10:52 am by George Smith

From a web “health facts” story — left-handed people are so weird.

Left-handed people suffer more fright during the watching of horror movies, readers are informed. And there are more fibers connecting their left and right brain halves, a condition called “asymmetric,” which is said to make one more prone to schizophrenia and attention deficit disorder.

On the other hand, there’s people like me, who are lefties but also largely ambidextrous:

Left-handedness has its advantages, too! The same atypical brain tendencies associated with mental health challenges may also contribute to greater creativity and cognitive skills among some left-handed people.

For example, a study of professional orchestras uncovered a disproportionate number of left-handed musicians.

The GMA review article also notes that lefties are reportedly more likely to excel at music, as well as math and language fluency. Lefties are also reportedly more likely to score over 131 on IQ tests.

Lefties are more prevalent in one-on-one sports, too. Part of my college scholarship money came from wrestling. I wrestled right and left.

I do not play a left-handed guitar. But the dominance of my hands in playing standard guitar is the reverse of that of a right-handed player.

My strong hand is on the fret board. The strong hand of the righty player is in picking.

Does it make a difference? A subtle one, I suspect, having more to do with tonality, composition and choices in material that’s played over a lifetime.

Screw ya, righty. You are so normal.

04.15.13

She Devils On Wheels

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Phlogiston at 11:57 am by George Smith

Always been a fan of crap outlaw biker movies. Therefore it seemed right to pick the opening bit of the trailer from “She Devils on Wheels” by Herschel Gordon Lewis as beginning and end for “Letter to the Taxman.”

Reviewed in the East Bay Express:

Lewis’ She-Devils on Wheels (1968) was an attempt to cash in on that era’s biker-pic craze, with the gimmick that the eponymous motorcycle gang, a club called the Man-Eaters, was composed entirely of women who used men as sex objects. It has everything you look for in a drive-in movie: cheap production values, rotten acting, stupid writing, inept direction–the works. Think sub-Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! In fact, take practically any biker flick you have ever seen and turn it up a notch on the Dumb-O-Meter. This film defines the word “nadir.” And yet, somehow, abstract concepts appear much more clearly when glimpsed from the rock-bottom of human experience. Filmed in “Blinding Color” in South Florida with a cast of actual female bikers, She-Devils wastes quite a bit of time with long-held shots of bikes going down two-lane roads, but when the action heats up sufficiently it’s a model of compressed violence and paranoia.

Led by Queen (Betty Connell) astride her full-dress hog, the gals hold drag races on an abandoned airport runway, with the winners getting first pick of the “studs”–a group of nonbiker guys who seemingly exist to service the Man-Eaters–back at the clubhouse. (Enthuses one of the girls: “You treat men like slabs of meat!”) Two of the club members in particular draw Queen’s attention: the petite, scatterbrained club mascot, Honey-Pot (Nancy Lee Noble), who rides a pathetic little Honda scooter; and Karen (Christie Wagner, along with Noble the only professional actor in the bunch), who is under suspicion for the crime of becoming emotionally attached to stud Bill (David Harris). Both these plotlets resolve themselves in true biker-pic style, à la H.G. Lewis: Honey-Pot gets stripped, smeared with paint and motor oil, forced to pull train for the studs, and ends up battered to death, while Karen is compelled to drag her innamorato Bill to a pulp behind her bike. After which she finds another boyfriend.

Brutal as all this sounds, it should be pointed out that Lewis’ brand of splatter–outrageous in the ’60s–is pretty tame by today’s standards. That’s probably why it’s so much fun. Victims generally get daubed with stage blood; special effects are as primitive as the dialogue; and no one, even in the clubhouse orgy scene, so much as loses her bra.

“Angry feminists–not to mention fans of gigantic, dominant women–will no doubt thrill to scenes of the Man-Eaters hassling cops (“Dirty muther-fuzz!”), duking it out with a macho group of guys called the Joe Boys (the girls win, natch), and gaining climactic revenge on the leader of that club, Joe Boy himself (John Weymer), by stringing a wire across a road between two telephone poles, then taunting Joe Boy into chasing them on a bike,” adds the movie critic.

Of course, there is a theme song, “Get Off the Road.”

Josie Cotton (famous for “Johnny, Are You Queer?”) thought so highly of it, she did her own version and video here.

“This picture is not for children, this picture is not for the squeamish, this picture is not for those who think women sit by the fireplace knitting socks,” goes the voice-over.

“The Man-Eaters! Tougher than the men they hate.”

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