Thursday, January 27, 2011

Donpachi (ARC) high score #4: 10,681,380 1-All, ended at 2-3

Yes! Got home tonight and did three runs of Donpachi and finally cleared the loop, setting a new high score at 10,681,380 and reaching stage 2-3, finally dying at the last blast of enemies before the end boss.

In two days, I added almost 5 mil to my score and moved myself from 69th on the Shmups scoreboard (one position away from the bottom) to 21st. Awesome. I have to say, I am really enjoying this game recently and the second loop is a good deal of fun. I hope that I can push this score up, get some good chains together (I already know a few places I think have 100+ chains hiding in them) and get into the top ten. I would have to beat stanski's score of 15,262,990 at 2-4 with a 103 chain. It would be quite an accomplishment and one that I think is within my grasp.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Donpachi (ARC) high score #3

Andi came by tonight and we dug into a few games on the new MAME box including ESPrade, and Strikers 1945 and played a few credits on Donpachi. I had my best game to date, getting to stage 5 with a life in reserve and 6 or 7 bombs. I died pretty fast, which sucked, especially since I wasted all those bombs, but I set a new high score for myself at 5,880,250. A big jump from my last high score and I feel very near the clear on this game. I'm pretty stoked to say the least!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Twin Cobra high score #4

Damn, its good to have the MAME box back! Been playing Twin Cobra again and set a new high score of 1,073,850 and just had a blast. Only problem is is that the game is crazy long - ten stages to be exact - and I tire pretty quickly of playing the first few. I really like stage 5 and beyond and may have to start utilizing save states to practice further without the major time penalty.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Donpachi (ARC) high score #2

A new Donpachi score means only one thing - got a new MAME box! Specifically an IBM Thinkpad running ShmupMAME and it runs it excellently. I set it up Friday and played a bit on Saturday, getting some time in on Twin Cobra and Donpachi. I actually really enjoyed Donpachi and credit fed the game a number of times working on the later stages and then set this score, not really destroying my old one, but more setting up my future progress. I was actually working on chains where I knew I could get 20 and 30 hit runs when timed right and it shows in this score.

I'm excited to have a MAME box back and I'm hoping to get some good progress on DP here in the near future.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

2010 Best of the Rest - ver 1.5

10.5) Seattle Seahawks def. New Orleans Saints, 41-36

Do you believe in miracles!!?!?! The Seattle Seahawks, 7-9 in the regular season to win their division, the worst record by a division winner in NFL history, beat the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints, 41-36! I grew up in Seattle and have been a Seahawks fan since the early 1980's (rabid fan in the last ten years) and this must be the biggest upset win in Seahawks history. I was going bananas last night watching the game with Linda, cheering the 'Hawks all the way, absolutely going crazy on Marshawn Lynch's 67-yard TD run where he broke 8 tackles to score what would be the winning touchdown, yelling at the TV at the top of my lungs when they stopped the Saints 2-point conversion which would have made it a 3-point game and cheering the final score, 41-36, delirious with excitement.

An unbelievable game, a fantastic victory for my 'Hawks and a stellar way to begin the Pete Carroll legacy.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

2010 Best of the Rest

It's that time of year again to espouse the things I love that aren't video games, though it seems that a few games always seem to make it in - but not this year! It's been a great year and I'm very happy, especially now that the #1 thing on my list has come to pass...

10) Patagonia Synchilla

I'm a big fan of technical clothing like North Face, Helly Hanson and Patagonia and the Synchilla is a pullover I practically live in in the winter months in Chicago. It's a thick and baggy microfiber fleece with a snap-up funnel-neck collar that couldn't be more comfortable. One chest snap pocket and no frills. Just warm, comfortable goodness.

9) ClementJ642, takarifreak - Youtube LP'ers

Over the last year, I have still been watching as many LP's and superplays as usual and have added two to my list of subscriptions on Youtube - ClementJ642, who plays tons of Mega Man games and takarifreak, who plays Lego Star Wars and old King's Quest games. Both are great commentators and a lot of fun to listen to. It also helps that takarifreak, Luchajin and NintendoCapriSun all kind of hang together on the net, so there is some cross over.

8) 601 Oscuro/Blue Havana

I'm a big cigar smoker and have been for quite sometime, a hobby that I started with my father just before the big cigar boom in the late 1990's. I tend to be a pretty chill person and love watching a movie, drinking an Americano and smoking a strong cigar at Blue Havana, my favorite smoking spot for the last few years, just off the corner of Belmont and Clark. The 601 Oscuro has become my go-to smoke - very full bodied, an excellent draw with flavors of cedar, leather, dark chocolate, black pepper and earth and for about $8, its a steal.

7) Budgie – Entire Recording Catalog

Budgie are one of the first very loud rock bands from the early 1970's that were at the forefront of what was later called Heavy Metal. Metallica names them as a primary influence and cover a number of their songs, including Breadfan and Crash Course in Brain Surgery. They have been a band I have liked for a long time but this year marks the year I have really absorbed their entire catalog and love just about every song. Like many early heavy bands, they have a blues-influenced rock thing going on, but unlike bands like Cream and Mountain, they have a suitably rough production which serves to amplify the power of their sound with psychedelic and prog leanings ala Rush. Pick up Bandolier or Squawk or their first s/t record to see what one of the best bands ever sound like.

6) Clarks x Stussy XXX collab Wallabees

My mother and sister live in Seattle, which was where I grew up and it's easily my favorite place on Earth. I try and get out there to visit a few times a year and this past November, I went over to do a joint birthday/thanksgiving trip. While I was there, I stopped by Goods, the Seattle streetwear shop, with my mom and spied these next door at the Stussy boutique. After trying them on, my mom insisted on picking them up for me and we even had a bit of a card battle at the counter with each of us trying to hand the cashier our cards as I didn't want her to foot the bill alone! She won - she always does - and I have an exceptional pair of Wally's - my favorite shoe by a long margin. They are a Japanese market Stussy X Clarks collab marking the 30th anniversary of Stussy as a brand and the quality is completely bananas. The leather is handbag quality - super soft and supple, the sides are made of cordura nylon and even the soles are of a different material than standard - stiffer and less sticky than the normal Clarks crepe sole. I have mad love for these kicks!

5) 1990 BMW E30 325is custom

My buddy Seth mentioned one day very casually that he was thinking of selling off his 1990 E30 which I didn't even know he had and I stopped dead - how much? He showed me pics and told me a bit of the story. It's a 1990 E30 325is that had been restored by its previous owner for $20g's and was custom painted Sepang bronze metallic with a two-tone black and cardinal red interior. The restoration included new suspension, new oil pan, skid plate, custom paint, a crazy loud stereo with a custom-boxed subwoofer in the trunk, smoked-out Hella taillights, M-Tech front and rear bumpers, smoked-out outside Hella headlights and an M-Tech spoiler - which was the first thing to go. Not a spoiler fan. There's no cracks on the dashboard, all the electrics work, including the sunroof and both windows. The engine was stock and in fantastic shape. We ended up working out a deal and I love this car. It's super fun to have a second car, especially one as iconic as the boxy and beautiful E30. It's small and chuckable and super fun to drive. It's closer to a Lotus Elan with its great handling than a modern car with its many electronic assists and the build quality is excellent, even for a 20-year-old car.

The first time I took it out of the garage and out for a ride, I pulled up to a stop sign and a group of guys turned and I got a wow- nice ride man - from them and smiled and took off with the distinctive burble of the tailpipes echoing down the block.

4) Kuma's Corner/Pike Street Fish Fry

In Chicago its Kuma's Corner and in Seattle, its Pike Street Fish Fry - my two favorite eateries. Kuma's - if you haven't been - is a metal burger bar that has won just about every award a burger resturant can get and has been on the Food Network and Travel channel multiple times. The burgers are ridiculously good and all named after hard rock/heavy metal bands like Black Sabbath, Clutch, Thin Lizzy, Mastodon and Sleep - the peirrenial monthly special in November, celebrating one of my favortie bands with a Thanksgiving dinner all on a turkey burger to die for.
Pike Street Fish Fry has to be the best fish and chips I have ever had - and that's saying alot as I love fish and chips! I discovered them last I was in Seattle, right down the block from Elliot Bay Bookstore and right next to Neumo's. I ate there like four days out of the ten I was there and the fried oysters, cod and shrimp were all amazing. The breading is crazy good. The fries are those twice fried hand cut joints and damn if I'm not getting hungry just writing about this place.

3) Green Matamp GT 120/Gibson Les Paul Standard/Gibson ES335/Gibson Firebrand SG ebony

Having played in bands in and around Chicago on and off for the last 20 years, I have had a suprisingly small amount of really good gear. For the most part, I played my 1968 Gibson Melody Maker SG, heavily modified and a killer guitar for punk rock - but not all the great for anything else. This year, my passion for playing music has been rekindled and like anything worth doing, its better to over do it.

First off, I needed a new guitar, so I tracked down a 1980 Gibson Firebrand SG on craisglist locally and pounced on it for $500. It's got a neck repair, but its well done and any luthier familiar with Gibson necks will tell you they are way stronger repaired than not. Its got really hot pickups, somewhere between P90's and Classic '57 humbuckers that absolutely smoke.

I then began to hunt down what would be my ultimate amp. I'm a big amp guy and have owned countless amps over the years, including a Sound City 120, numerous silver and blackfaced Fenders, an Ampeg V-4 and my last amp, a Vox Climax - a 1980 120 watt version of the AC30 with a five-band EQ.

Rather than get more of what I had had before, I decided to look for something different, something that would compliment the riff-based rock I was so interested in. I started to get interested in Orange amps, something I had never really looked at back when I was playing much more often. Now, back in the day, a good 10-15 years ago, Oranges sold for about half of what a comperable Marshall sold for used. Since then, the brand has been revitalized and there is a lot of love for the older Oranges, especially the early models favored by Jimmy Page and Peter Green. After doing a lot of research, I picked up an 2003 Orange AD30R, which I liked, but didn't really give me the deep, deep tone vintage Oranges were known for. Then I learned about the Green Matamp.

Matamp made the original Oranges, only stopping when Orange got too big for them to keep up and Orange went off on its own. In fact, early Orange amps were branded as 'Orange Matamp.' Matamp shut its doors in the 1980's as interest in tube amps waned and later was bought and reborn in the early 1990's. They started making Orange reissues for Gibson and their own line of amps - the Green Matamp, a nod to the "orange", but based off the Matamp GT120, a 1970's amp that utilized the same early Orange Matamp circuits. In fact, all of the 1990's Greens were built out of original 1970's Matamp GT120 parts they still had on the shelves! The amps were of varying quality, but undeniably amazing sounding. Sleep used a number of them on their recording of the seminal "Dopesmoker" album - one of my top ten favorite records of all time and you can even spy a few of them in the video for "Dragonaut". Needless to say, I had to find one. Problem was, they only ever brought 55 to this country and prices are amazingly insane - anywhere from $3-4,000.

Whether fate intervened or not, I will dare not say, but just after starting what I thought was going to be a long and expensive search, one happened to pop up on eBay, a super early, non-serialized GT120 Master Volume. It was in mint shape, kept in a road case and used sparringly by a recording musician since it was purchased new at Matamp in the 1990's. Reserve was set at about 2g's - well out of the range of what I had at the time, but I needed to get this amp!

I immediately set about selling off a ton of gear, including both Cinelli's that appreared on last years Best of the Rest list and contacted the seller, letting him know that I was very, very interested, but short of cash - thought I was working on it! He told me if it didn't sell at auction, we could talk about it, but I thought my chances of getting it were very low. I still hustled to get the cash he was asking for.

For whatever reason, it failed to go at auction. I couldn't believe it. I hit him up immediately after it ended and asked what cash price he was willing to settle on. he said, "$1,750 - and I'll throw in the A&S road case, if you can do cash in a week's time." I couldn't believe it. It was waaaaaay cheaper than I thought I would ever find one for and in my reach! I pulled the cash together and drove down from Chicago and him out from Kentucky and we met up in a gas station in the middle of nowhere and did the deal. It has to be the most amazing sounding amps I have ever owned. The clarity of the notes, the fuzzy overdrive and the tremendous low-end are undeniably amazing. You can set this thing to get mod-style The Jam AC30 brightness to super-deep, tone rich Dopesmoker. It's by far the most versitile amp I have ever owned and it will never, ever leave my possession.

Not content with just the SG, I wanted to find a Les Paul, such an iconic guitar and used by just about everyone, so the hunt began. I ended up finding a beautiful 2006 Gibson Les Paul Standard on Craigslist in Indianapolis and drove down and worked the deal on a trade for some bike parts. It's a killer sounding guitar that impresses me so, so much. It's a non-chambered beast and the tone with the Green is stupidly awesome. Zeppelin on the treble and Sleep/Budgie on the rhythm channels - it's all that and more.

Years ago my mom and girlfriend at the time bought me a 1970's Gretsch Country Gentleman - a beautiful guitar, but one I never bonded with - it just never felt comfortable and the tone was more country than rock for my tastes. So I decided to flip it and get a Gibson ES335 - the mother of all semi-hollow bodies, used from everyone from jazz/blues guitarists to Alex Lifeson of Rush, Creedance Clearwater Revival's John Fogerty and many more. I sold the CG on eBay to a collector from Spain and bought this super clean and barely played black 2002 Gibson ES335. The tones you can get with this thing are amazing and quite varied but tend to be deeper than the Les Paul and less punchy than the SG, more mellow, although with some tweaking you can get the treble channel to brighten up considerably. It's known more for its sustain and warmth and sliding low-E power chords on it is one of the great guitar sounds ever.

I play just about every night and have begun taking guitar lessons for the first time at Dr Fretgood here in Chicago and I'm learning everything I possibly can.

2) Sleep- Return of the Marajuanaut Tour 2010 - live at Logan Square Auditorium

It should come as no surprise to anyone who read through all the Sleep refrences in the last post that this is a show I would not miss for the world. Sleep, one of the first and certainly one of the best stoner-rock bands broke up in 1995 after London Records refused to put out Dopesmoker, which only surfaced years later through a friends label. They reformed in 2009 to play one show at the ATP festival in London and in 2010, decided to tour the US after much clammoring from fans and promoters. I bought two tickets as soon as they went on sale. The show was unbelieveable - a powerful and moving experience, a once-in-a-lifetime moment of power and sound that almost overwhelmed me. I took some video of the show with Linda's Flip camera, which is what's shown here. I bought the poster, two tour shirts, three patches and almost the amp that Al is using on stage at the show. I may still, but we'll see...

SLEEP: Marijuanaut’s Return US Tour 2010
9/03/2010 All Tomorrow’s Parties – Monticello, NY
9/04/2010 FYE Fest – Los Angeles, CA
9/05/2010 Gothic Theatre – Englewood, CO
9/06/2010 Brooklyn Masonic Temple – New York, NY w/ Doomriders, Unearthly Trance
9/07/2010 Starlight Ballroom – Philadelphia, PA w/ A Storm Of Light
9/08/2010 Brooklyn Masonic Temple – New York, NY w/ A Storm Of Light, Lichens
9/09/2010 Logan Square Auditorium – Chicago, IL w/ Lichens
9/10/2010 Mohawk – Austin, TX w/ Sub Oslo w/ Sub Oslo
9/11/2010 Roseland Theater/Music Fest NW – Portland, OR w/ Scott Kelly, YOB
9/12/2010 Regency Ballroom – San Francisco, CA w/ Thrones
9/13/2010 Regency Ballroom – San Francisco, CA

1) Linda - Engagement

Linda and I met about 18 years ago at a punk show when I was singing for a local punk band and she came to see us play. She wrote me a letter, I wrote back, she was 13, I was 16. She saw us play a bunch and I left the band a few years later. Fast forward to 2004 - I was a freelance writer and she was a personal trainer. I was walking up Milwaukee Ave to go to the now-defunct Filter coffee shop and she was heading south, doing some shopping on a rare afternoon off on a Friday. She recognized me and stopped me on the street, right outside where Filter use to be, on the corner of North, Damen and Milwaukee. She introduced herself, though I didn't remember her, we talked for a little bit and she gave me her card with her cell phone number and took off, looking amazingly good in tight workout clothes. There was definitely something there, though I didn't think it was much more than a chance to date a beautiful girl. I waited until Monday to call, we went out to a free jazz night on Monday, she took me to an African Dance recital on Wednesday and by Friday night, we were fully in love.

We designed the ring with my friend Slice, a renowned metalsmith here in Chicago and I told Linda it would be a while for the ring to get done and a while for me to be able to afford it - which were both little white lies. The next day, I met Slice, paid him in full and he told me three weeks until the ring was done.

I got the ring on a Saturday morning and met Linda in Wicker Park, where we walked up the street towards Milwaukee and North Ave where we first met with some story about waning to go shopping up the block a bit. I stopped her where we met and gave her a short, prepared but honest speech and got down on one knee on Milwaukee Ave, in the middle of the day, surrounded by passers-by and asked her to marry me. She said yes. I couldn't be happier.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Same! Same! Same! - (ARC) high score #1

Thanks to the amazing guys over at Southtown Homebrew, I have been able to convert gunbird18's Fire Shark pcb to the very rare 1-player Japanese version, Same! Same! Same! - with his blessing of course!

The US version, Fire Shark, has no side fields and makes for a tough and slightly boring game compared to Same! Same! Same!. While I do enjoy Fire Shark, Same! Same! Same! is much, much better.

There are now side fields and different firing patterns for some of the bosses. The game plays more maniacally and is a fast, rewarding shmup. None of the music changes, but the feel of the game is very, very different.

I have been at it for the last few days and set this high score at 443,450 at area 4-9. It's harder than Fire Shark, but more enjoyable. I can see why the original Japanese Same! Same! Same! 1-player boards command 5-60,000 Japanese Yen (roughly 650 USD).

For those of you with Fire Shark pcb's - hit up Southtown for the roms. They'll run you $20 a set.