Friday, May 29, 2009

Action Guitars

While I was at the last Clarke family wedding I learned my cousin Gerg was a guitar tech. In his words, "I'm a lousy player but a great tech."

He's been a real help as I've been changing all my gear. Now he sends over the website of his shop, Action Guitars in Virginia. Looks like they maintain the high standards that he does. There's an amazing selection of vintage instruments on the site.

What's the family discount on a Rickenbacker, Greg? ;)

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Ferris Beuller on Blu-Ray

I haven't written for in a while but they asked if I would want Ferris Bueller's Day Off on Blu-Ray. Who wouldn't? So I wrote them a review.

And here it is.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Star Trek on Blu-Ray AGAIN!

Man, Paramount, you just don't give in.

Just last week I was raving about their Star Trek: Season One Blu-Ray. I haven't even finished the damn thing and here comes the movie box set. Star Trek 1-6 came the day before my birthday (thanks, Dad!)so I had to put down the Star Trek for Star Trek.

They look terrific. Yes, I is still boring and V is still stupid but they look and sound about as good as they are ever going to get. I forgot how good Star Trek III: The Search for Spock was until I saw it again in high def.

And they added a ton of new extras. They included everything form the old 2 disc dvd sets and still created more stuff. The best are the new commentaries. In an inspired move, the second commentaries take one step to the side. Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci who wrote the new Trek film provide a commentary for IV. Ron Moore covers III and Ira Steven Behr covers VI. Manny Coto interviews Nick Meyer for II and the Okudas and Reeves-Stevens get the short end of the stick, handling both I and V. Each one of these commentaries handles the films as a fan and historian, which is precisely what I'm doing.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Birthday Present

One of the best birthday presents ever.

Here's the whole story.

My 2001 Les Paul standard is my no. 1 but I never liked the stock 490's in it. I couldn't decide what to change them for. I liked the PAF sound, I liked the modern high gain series sound, my guitar tech cousin recommended P90s.

Then I discovered P-Rails. I strongly hinted to my wife that I'd like them for Christmas. She got me a talk box.

So for my birthday, I demanded them. Then SD announced the Triple Shots. Perfect! By the time my birthday rolled around the switches would be out and I could do the work myself. I set up a covers gig on my birthday so I could unveil the guitar there.

As we all know the Triple shots got delayed. And delayed. With the deadline approaching I went to my tech. He promised to put two 500K push/pulls in the tone slots and install the P Rails. But a week became two became three. I got nervous.

In the meantime, I looked at my amp. My 50 Watt JCM900 head and 2X12 cabinet would be overkill for a bar gig. So I researched, researched and sold a bunch of stuff on ebay. I raised enough money to pick up a Vox AC15. I hadn't thought much about them over the years but I realize most of my heroes (Beatles, Radiohead, U2, Tom Petty, Elvis Costello) are using them.

Everything happened today. I went to GC and picked up the Vox on sale. Since it was single channel I threw in a Little Big Muff. It sounded fantastic with my strat. Matt came over and got mad at me. "Why didn't you buy this amp in 1994?" So that's why we were never signed.

My tech finally called and I went over late tonight. Basically, the P Rails were the best thing I could have possibly done to my guitar. Even in series, the sound has opened up. I can hear the wood and my pick in ways I never have before. The 500K pots brightened up the guitar too where I can finally hear classic 70's tones in here. With the 490s the best I could hear was Slash. Now I can hear Mick Ronson.

Parallel get a beautiful overtones. The rail and P90 sound like uneven windings and sing like Dickey Betts. I even got a great "Gimme Shelter" Stones crunch.

The P90s both bite and punch. My tech brought out every amp he was working on and when we ran it through a 1964 6 watt Fender it nailed the Neil Young tone. A few bars of "Everybody Knows This is Nowhere" perked us both up.

The rails were good but it just proved that a Les Paul will never sound like a strat (a lesson I already learned with the JB Jr. in my strat). The rail mostly sounds like a brighter P90. Good but not as different as the other three. Some people say there's a volume drop on the rails but we didn't hear it.

In the end I'm glad I sent it out. Without the P Rails it was just beyond my skills. My tech also took the time to polish my frets, clean my finger board and do a full setup. best of all, he bought my 490s off me so the work was almost free!

Here's a quick and dirty pic:

Played it at the Rail saturday. It sounded fantastic. There were moments where I thought, "Oh. THAT'S what a Les Paul is supposed to sound like."

Friday, May 22, 2009


Tomorrow's my birthday. You can start saying nice things now.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Alabama Leprechaun

Walker sends us this gem.

And this is the first news story I've ever seen with a dance remix.

Stories like this help no one.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Go See Star Trek

Renee HATES Star Trek. She HATES it. My love for Star Trek over the 36 years of my life is completely balanced by her hate. Sometimes it seems she suspects I like it only because she hates it.

She rolls her eyes at me and makes faces whenever it's on. We can't watch any of the six series or ten movies together on the couch. She'll leave. She won't even sleep on the couch.

But she loved the new movie. I took her to the IMAX last and she's still talking about it. She stopped me and said, "McCoy was really cool".

So everyone should see it.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Birthday bash!

Come celebrate my turning 37, by acting like I'm 19.

I'll be sitting in with Walker and the Brotherhood of the Grape all night. No jokes, just guitar. Which is all I ever wanted really.

Walker and The Brotherhood of the Grape
Saturday Night May 23rd
The Rail
2 Coleman Square
Howard Beach Queens
9 p.m.-?

Monday, May 18, 2009


This Saturday we went to the dress rehearsal of Saturday Night Live. It was a great show. Will Ferrel hosted. Green Day was the musical guest. Tons of guest appearances (Tom Hanks, Norm MacDonald, Amy Poehler). But you know that if you watched the broadcast.

I've been watching SNL since 1982 but that night I saw a very different show than I'd ever seen before. I'd expected quick costume changes and the house band to cover most of the commercial breaks. But I was stunned by how they use that space. Walls went up in one corner as others were being taken down. Every inch is used over and over again. Weekend Update uses the same space as the monologue. The crew there is the most well oiled machine I've ever seen.

The dress rehearsal is two hours. Although the sets and costumes are all equally polished they know that three or four of these sketches are going to disappear. Even in this economy, the budget has that much wiggle room. Comedy needs more than it needs. Because a lot of it isn't going to survive.

Drucker gave us a tour after the taping. The halls were tight and filled with people as famous as you get and as unknown as me. I almost ran into Sean Penn turning a corner. This is a place that 35 years later is still in the center of show business.

I don't know that I'll ever work there. I don't know that I'll ever be back. Yet, I understood it. In the end, it's all still comedy. The warm-up is the same as hosting a bringer at a club. The sketches are the same as an improv group at The P.I.T. Jokes bomb, tags save sinking punchlines. It's as good as you get and as professional as can be but it's not a different animal.

Here's possibly the best sketch from the night:

Friday, May 15, 2009

Ben Month 23

Ben isn't here. He's in Chicago with his mom while I'm at home with a filled ear. So let's see some pictures of him not facing the camera.

Thursday, May 14, 2009


It's been a week and I miss my Les Paul.

I can't hear out of my left ear but I want to hear my Les Paul.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

New Geek in the City Article!

I got a press pass to an interview with Chris Claremont about Wolverine a couple of weeks ago. The pass was under Not in My Book but I figured another site should have the rights. Dan Clark at Geek in the City agreed and ran it today.

Check it out!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


In the last six weeks, I had a stomach flu, a cold and allergies. So I've been coughing over a month. No one thought it sounded good.

Yesterday it got in my ear. Painfully. Trafton watched Ben and I went to the doctor. The trauma and congestion in my head had cause an ear infection and bronchitis. So I'm on antibiotics and missing thr trip to Chicago we had planned. On the upside with Renee and Ben away I'll finally get the rest my body has been begging for.

Time to finish that Odd Couple dvd box set.

Monday, May 11, 2009

New PlayCole Podcast!

Star Trek: the Next Generation blows out its franchise by sitting in a room and talking. And talking. And talking. Join Jon Clarke, Bill Monroe, Trafton Crandall and Jared Logan as director Stuart Baird shows them how to make a tired franchise look exhausted.

But check out those stairs!


Friday, May 08, 2009

Star Trek

It's hard to write a review when you're still blown away.

I never considered myself a Trekkie. Sure, I love Star Trek. And sure, I've seen every episode and film ever made. But I love other geek pursuits more. I can tell you when Spider-Man got his black costume but I'll watch an original series episode and forget how it ends. So I'm not going to rail about the details of this movie.

But I am going to gush about it. Finally, a Star Trek movie that doesn't look like a television episode. The later movies shared crews sets and budgets so readily the movies lost what made them special. They were just another episode you had to pay for. Paramount spent $150 million on this. Star Trek: the Motion Picture was considered big budget at the time and doesn't come close to this.

The franchise has grown up. Throughout the 90's it was content to ape the late 80's while newer shows like The X Files ate its audience. This movie has learned not only from the newer Star Wars effects, but from the reboots of Batman Begins and Battlestar Galactica. The pace is quick and the storytelling lean.

I easily accepted the new leads. Chris Pine's Kirk is still an asshole, but he's not a Shatner asshole. Better yet, this Kirk recieves the consequences of being an asshole. He has brusies on his face the entire movie. Zachary Quinto's Spock is not nearly the Nimoy impression I had anticipated. His Spock barely tolerates the humans in his crew. And he does NOT like Kirk. Then there's Karl Urban as McCoy. He made me smile the entire time he was on screen.

The rest of the cast is pitch perfect. And for once, everything is given something to do. Purest may have a problem with the changes to Uhura. But it's Uhura! What did mechelle Michols ever do but answer the phone? And sing all creepy? Sulu gets to fight. Chekov gets to come up with a plan in a ridiculous accent. And Scotty? They make you wait for Scotty. And they make it worth the wait.

The only one who gets the short shrift is Eric Bana as the villain Nero. He's the villain. With enough of a backstory to make him hate the characters. His personal vendetta is a bit oblique and the third act is such a spaceship fight I forgot what happened to him. Its obvious there was such focus on getting the original characters right the new ones suffered. No one will care.

Everything about this movie works. Everything. Sure, I could have used more character in the effects laden climax but that's almost a given for a modern blockbuster. As a movie, it's really good. As the hope for the franchise, it's beyond belief.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Star Trek on Blu-Ray

Oh, you did it again, CBS/Paramount. You bent me over and made me say, "Deeper, please."

I pre-ordered Star Trek Season One on Blu-Ray last month and happily, Amazon kept dropping the price. By the time I got mine, it was 50% off.

But I still bought a collection of episodes I already had on dvd. And taped off tv. Why?

Because you made them better. You remastered all the original elements. You added elegant cg effects of the Enterprise that actually clarified the storytelling. You rerecorded the original theme song. And by God, you put it in a box that wasn't 18 layers of cardboard crazy.

These are good. These are so good that I'm yelling with surprise during every episode. The picture is so clear that I notice details in the production I never noticed before. Like the layers of background computers on the Enterprise. contrasting shadows on the set that I've tried to eliminate in my own shorts. Or that weird pink eye light that only Shatner seems to get. Maybe I didn't need that.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Don't Forget Writer's Room!

It's tonight. I'm stopping by the PIT early to see Mike Lawrence and Ron Marz on Comic Book Club. I recommend that too.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Writer's Room Tomorrow!

For our Cinco de Mayo show, we've got six comics who don't speak a word of Spanish.


Mike Lawrence (New York Comicon)
Sean Crespo (Drink At Work, Shoot The Messenger)
Greg Barris (New Yorker)
John Wells
Mike Drucker (Saturday Night Live)

hosted by Jon Clarke (Paranoia Film Festival)

Tuesday, May 5, 2009
Time: 9:30pm - 10:30pm
Location: The PIT
Street: 154 W. 29th St
City/Town: New York, NY

Friday, May 01, 2009


How different is the Les Paul? Listen to Paul Riario from Guitar World demo an original 1959 against a modern high end LP.