Sunday, November 27, 2005

Vintage speed gadget o' the day

Meet the Turboniques drag axle. The concept is simple--hook a jet engine straight up to your car's rear diff, fire 'er up and hold on. They claim the slowest conversion they've got runs 8 second quarter-miles on turbine power alone. Wonder whatever happened to 'em?

Saturday, November 26, 2005

STOP! Godwin time!

Okay, Google, I understand the whole automated ad serving thing. And that keyword-to-webpage matches for Google AdWords can sometimes generate unintentional irony. But are you seriously trying to tell me nobody though this was in the slightest bad taste?

I mean, dude, I've seen footage of concentration camp rescuees, and "Sexy Jewish singles" ain't exactly the phrase that springs to mind.

(Actual Google ad from The Unofficial Borat Homepage. For those of you who don't know, Borat is a controversial fake Kazakhstani journalist character created by
British comic Sascha Baron Cohen to, among other things, bring out the hidden anti-Semite in his interview victims--in one memorable sketch, getting a bar full of Alabamans to sing the "traditional" folk song, "Throw The Jew Down The Well"--so the irony here's got more layers than a Dagwood sandwich.)

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Sunday, November 20, 2005

It came from the boot-shaped peninsula!

I dunno what it was about Italy in the '50s and '60s--something in the water? Some sorta lysergic Dali-worship thingy? Some subliminal vein of national design wierdness that couldn't find its expression in Pininfarina's car designs or Armani's suits? Whatever it was, they had some seriously trippy shiznit going on with guitar design back then. Fetish Guitars has the skinny. Hope ya read Italian, 'cause I'm pretty sure they ain't revealing nothin' to us Anglos. (Pictured: Roots rock genius and Emmylou Harris sideman Buddy Miller with his prize Wandre axe.) [via musicthing]

R.I.P, Link Wray

If there's one thing that's been a constant during the past hundred years of recorded music, it's the one-hit wonder. Fads come and go, and bands and singers fit in with the fickle public taste for one glorious summer, or more memorably, create that one novelty hit that crosses the line from ubiquitous to annoying. And usually, other than getting the odd karaoke patron to stumble their way through "99 Luftballons", or having a wedding DJ drop the "Macarena" or "Bird Dance" so the five- and eighty-five year olds can get their groove on, that's all there is to it.

Sometimes, though, a song comes along that, even though the artist responsible doesn't get to enjoy any measure of lasting success, the song itself is enough to resonate through rock and roll culture as something greater than itself. Think "Louie Louie"--Richard Berry had a minor R&B hit with it, but when it mutated into a garage rock standard in Seattle, and eventually the Kingsmen recorded it as a wild three-chord stompin' ball of energy that spoke not of the lonely sailor's lament that the lyrics portray, but a molten stream of teenage lust and aggression, it became the father of everything from "Wild Thing" to "Smells Like Teen Spirit."

Where'd they get that guitar sound, though? The guitar was once the gently strummed instrument of the troubadour, after all. Fingering a chord that's nothing more than root, fifth and octave, and punching it out in measured, percussive fury--a man named Link Wray invented that shit. Back in '58, he came out with a jam called "Rumble", based around nothing more than a two-chord riff moved around the blues progression, a spare, stomping drumbeat and the odd switchblade flick of pentatonic riffage for a turnaround. It hit Top 20 in the US even though it was widely banned, its gang-inspired title and air of slow, rumbling menace enough to frighten the powers that be in the Ike era.

For that, his style will be immortal. Sadly, the man himself ain't.

Link Wray, 1929-2005. Rest in Peace.

Friday, November 18, 2005

How fickle & fleeting is fame

It's the classic "Behind the Music". One minute you're young, famous, and beautiful, winning popularity contests and starring in reality TV. The next minute, you're being flogged on eBay for less than you ought to be worth, and what's worse, nobody's even bidding.

Seriously, wealthy bike nuts of America, whiskey tango foxtrot? Sure, I ain't got that kinda dough-re-mi, but for a bike as sweet-looking and well-crafted as anything by Hank Young, let alone a Biker Buildoff winner like the Lakewood Special, forty large ain't unreasonable, is it? Where's Jay Leno when you need 'im?

Tuesday, November 8, 2005

Just like Eddie Grant, only faster

Following up on yesterday's eco-hotrod post, here's a few more rides for those who rock down to Electric Avenue and then take it higher:

Monday, November 7, 2005

Like Hank Hill, only much faster

We (well, okay, I) hold these truths to be self-evident:

1. That hot rods are super bitchin'. Especially Ford-powered Model A's on Deuce rails.

2. That one day, if we keep suckin' back the gasolina like we were John Belushi in Animal House and it was Schlitz, one day we're gonna have a problem of some kind. Global warming, gas crises, billionaire Saudi terrorists, take yer pick.

Fortunately I'm not the only one who's noticed this dilemma. Behold, if you will, Wayne Greenwood's (under construction) '31 roadster on '32 rails, powered by a propane-fueled 289 Ford. Now, getting a big American V8 to burn C3H8 ain't a new trick by any means--taxis around these parts run propane as a rule, and they're mostly late-model Caprices, Impalas and Crown Vics--but propane has a reputation of being a poor choice, horsepower-wise. Greenwood figures it ain't necessarily so, though. In theory, propane should tolerate a much higher compression ratio than pump gas, and mix more easily with air, meaning power levels ought to be comparable to a gasoline engine if you build it right. Throw in the lower price and emissions from propane, and--ding ding ding! we have a winner!

And if that's not clean enough, or fast enough for you, James Heffel of the University of California, Riverside, has an even more impressive project--a 427 Cobra[*] that should make 400hp on hydrogen. The intent isn't just to look cool or anything, either, but to blow away the land speed record for hydrogen vehicles. So far it's run 135mph at El Mirage, but with gasoline power to test the chassis. If they've done a record run with hydrogen power, I haven't seen results, but I'd sure like to.

[*] Shelby CSX4000, to be exact, but if it's good enough for the Shelby American Auto Club, it's good enough for me.

Tuesday, November 1, 2005

Filters and VCOs and resonance, oh my!

Sonic Reclamation Industries has a fantastic compilation called Moog Break Beats up for free download right now. Funky fresh retro-futuristic psych-outs from the era of Day-Glo and shag carpets, featuring of course the future of musical expression, Mr. Robert Moog's ingenious "synthesizer".