Planet Pimp Comment Thread

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In case you haven’t noticed, I maintain a little site that pays homage to Planet Pimp Records, the greatest record label ever. That site, unlike this one, is not built on a fancy content management system so visitors have no way to leave comments for others to read. In order to fix this, I’ve created this page as the official comment area for my unofficial Planet Pimp tribute site. So start commentating commentators!

CDUniverse: My Online Shopping Woes

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Recently, I took my first foray into ordering music from a major online retailer. Normally I avoid online music vendors. Unlike books, where you can find sites offering up to 40% of the cover price, there aren’t any good discounts on CDs at the major vendors like Amazon, CDNow, or CDUniverse. Sure, they always say you are geting a 10% discount, but that’s usually off the mall-markup price where CDs tend to go for seventeen-fifty bucks a pop. I pretty much refuse to pay more than $13.50 for music, and even that’s excessive.(a good rule of thumb: never pay more than a dollar a song)

Not following my own advice, during a dry spell at work, I decided to do some music shopping online. I figured the price of the markup would be equivalent to the cost of me getting to a record store here in the city. I found a couple of CD I wanted at CDUniverse and they were actually reasonably priced, sans-shipping that is.

The ordering process was simple enough. There was, however, a cryptic Hold for 3 Days dropdown bit that wasn’t explained very well. I chose first class shipping, which was supposed to arrive in 2 to 7 days. This, I soon found out, was not to be the case.

Having ordered on a Friday, I patiently waited over the weekend, expecting my CDs to arrive on the following Monday or Tuesday. Neither of the CDs was on backorder, yet they held my order for 3 days waiting for backordered items to arrive!?! I guess that explained the Wait 3 Days dropdown I had no choice but to select. It appeared my CDs were to be shipped, rather than receive my CDs on Monday.

The bit about the whole transaction that really ticked me off was the fact that it then took 2 full weeks for the CDs to arrive. The reply to my complaint was basically that their orders don’t take 2-7 days as advertised on their site, rather, I was to allow 7 to 14 business days. If I had known it would take half a month to complete my transaction, I would have just walked to the nearest mega-music store during my lunch break and just forgot about saving a couple of bucks.

The final blow in this ordeal was that when the CDs finally arrived, the jewel cases were smashed to hell due to poor packaging by CDUniverse’s shipping department. Sure, they’ll send new jewel cases if you request them, but wouldn’t be cheaper for them just to put an extra sheet of bubble wrap around the CDs? Or how about just shipping your stuff priority mail. $3.50 would cover half a dozen CDs, and it would only take 3 days to be shipped.

CDUniverse, you SUCK! I hope you and the rest of the lame-ass e-Commerce scam artists are destroyed in the great dot com crush! If you are looking for music, support to your closest independent record shop and give the finger to all eMusic vendors.

The Theremin Page

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What exactly is a Theremin? Well I’m glad you asked that question, because that will allow me to use the BLOCKQUOTE function in my HTML document. Here’s an excerpt from the Big Briar Information Bulletin No. 9201A:

The theremin is one of the very first electronic musical instruments, and yet it is one of the most novel and original. It is played without being touched. The instrument responds instantaneously and continuously to the motions of the player’s hands in the space surrounding it. The instrument’s tone at times resembles that of a violin, cello, or human voice, but has its own unique ethereal quality.

The theremin was developed in the 1920’s by the Russian physicist Lev Sergeivitch Termen (anglicized to Leon Theremin). The Radio Corporation of America produced a limited number of theremins during the late 1920’s under license from Professor Theremin. Then, during the 1930’s, Professor Theremin formed his own company in New York City to further develop the theremin, as well as to design and build other, more experimental electronic musical instruments. Theremin returned to his native Russia in 1938.

The theremin is played by standing at arms length from the instrument and moving one’s right hand towards the vertical antenna to increase the pitch. The player’s left hand is held about a foot above the curved volume antenna. As this hand is moved closer to the antenna the volume decreases. The size of the fields of both antennae can be altered as well as the waveshape of the sound. The distinct theremin sound is unmistakable and has been used for years as background music in various movies. The eerie sound lends itself to sci-fi and horror flicks, most notably The Day the Earth Stood Still. As well, it has appeared in many recorded songs. Perhaps the best example is that ghostly sound during the chorus of the Beach Boy’s Good Vibrations (I’ve been recently informed that the Theremin-like sound is not a traditional space-controlled theremin. It is actually a similar-sounding electronic instrument called an electro-theremin). To learn the almost complete story of Theremin and his electronic adventures rent Theremin: An Electronic Oddessy.

Where to Get a Theremin:

The company I ordered my theremin from was Big Briar. This is a company started by Bob Moog, inventor of the Moog Synthesizer. They sell high quality theremins (the now discontinued 91 Series A,B+C, were priced in a range from $2500-$3050 and they now have a MIDI capable theremin called the Ethervox MIDI Theremin and it goes for $3500). If your looking for a starter model, as I was, I highly recommend starting with the Etherwave Theremin Kit ($299). It also comes fully assembled for a price of $369. Although putting together something that you know you will be plugging into a wall may seem scary at first, I would suggest buying the unassembled kit to save money and its much cooler to say to your friends (who will already be impressed by the fact that you own a theremin) “Hey I built this all by myself!” I began to see Etherwave popping up all over. Most recently I saw Man or Astroman? in concert and it seems that Coco EMW has upgraded from his flimsy pitch-only theremin to a strapped-on, black Etherwave model! When you buy the kit it comes with an unassembled theremin, a video on how-to-play (hosted by Lydia Kavina), a Clara Rockmore CD, and a booklet on the history of the theremin. If you’d like more info or just want to order your theremin today write or call Big Briar at:Big Briar, Inc.
554-c Riverside Drive
Asheville, NC 28801

Having no real electrical engineering skills, I was a bit nervous about having to assemble the theremin. It was, however quite an easy process. Read on and relive my assembling experience in the next section…

Putting Together my Etherwave Theremin:

Well, it took about three month’s but I finally received my theremin from Big Briar. It was a Monday morning when I got a buzz from the delivery guy. As soon as I got the box up to my place I carefully knifed it open. At first glance it seemed as though putting it together was going to be a major task. The package contained two pre-assembled sections of the wood case, a bubble pack with a circuit board enclosed, two bags of miscellanies parts, and the two shining antennae. The first step in assembling the kit was to stain the wood case. It seems every other person who I’ve seen playing an Etherwave has gone for the shiny all-black look. Personally, I think this looks cheesy, like something Quiet Riot would use, and prefer the wood-grain look. The wood seems to evoke 1917 a bit more than Ibanez black! For my stain I just got some Minwax stain (with the poly-stuff pre-mixed in) and brushed it on. This is the only step where I goofed pretty noticeably. The key here is to apply the stain very thinly. Take the time to get gradually the darkness you need. I was impatient and applied the stuff heartily. When it came to steelwooling the surface to place my second coat on the areas that were too thick just chipped off. This whole process can take about 16-24 hours to allow all the coats to dry thoroughly.

The next step was fastening the two antennae to the cabinet. I needed to buy epoxy for this step. This whole process is simple enough. You just tighten a couple of bolts and there you have it. Make sure your pitch antenna is vertical before the epoxy dries. Mine is ever so slightly off (but it works just fine). Really once I got all the parts laid out it didn’t seem as complicated as I first thought. In fact, most of the steps are just putting in screws. At this point I also had to stick a provided piece of foil into the interior of the cabinet and (this was one of the most difficult parts) peel some self-adhesive felts to be placed on the feet of the unit.

The next major step was putting the front panel together. No big whoop, just screw a couple of nuts. You do need a very small flat-head screw driver to tighten the knobs on the front. I had to settle with the tweezers from my pocket knife.

Finally, I had to wire the unit and solder the connections. I made sure to buy a wire stripper so I wasn’t destroying my wires with my ineptness (’bout $5.00). The directions are pretty straight forward as to where to put what wire. The pieces are small so be sure and have a needle-nose pliers handy. Tinning the wires took the longest amount of time. The actual soldering was fairly easy compared to the tinning step. My only problem was when I was soldering the pitch wire to the circuit board the connection on the board got to hot and started to shift. Luckily I removed the heat before I raunched it. During the summer of 1997 I did some of my first recordings using my theremin. I am, admittedly, a really poor thereminist, and in 2 out of the 3 songs I used it on, the theremin is used mostly as a sound effect. I’m debating whether I should contaminate the net with my recordings.