The marionette is a daughter of Emperor Charles V or VI or one of those guys. She made it back to Massachusetts from Prague with only one point of her crown broken, but we glued it back on.
During the era of the Socialist Heroes, puppet theater was about the only allowed public political expression. You could complain about the Party, the Revolution, and the Government, but only if you complained through the mouths of Puppets.
There is also a huge body of surrealistic non-representational animated cartoons from the former Socialist satellites of Eastern Europe which (if you were a non-representational surrealist) clearly criticized the ruling regime. These were tolerated because only 4 people could understand they were criticizing the government. Everybody else just thought they were swirling patterns in pudding, or toenails slowly growing very long.
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The avalanche and flood of Today has finally been victorious over my beloved Machines of Yesterday.
These sublime machines for reproducing beautiful music -- and all kinds of crazy, weird noises -- first began showing up in my life about 37 years ago. I was fresh out of the Army, my hair hadn't even had time to fully grow back to hippie length yet. I was broke and going back to college on the pathetic pittance of the Vietnam-era G.I. Bill, studying electrical engineering.
By coincidence I lived with a bunch of young audio engineers, and they showed me how I could take my problem -- having No Money -- and still have the world's best stereo system. They showed me how to buy Dynaco kits and solder them together to get the best music reproduction available.
The Hafler power amp at the top is the design of David Hafler, the engineer behind Dynaco's classic kit designs. Today an original Dynaco vacuum tube (UK: valve) power amp is worth $$$$$$ on the whacko audiophile market. Japanese audiophiles are particularly wild about them.
Anyway, this week I sadly surrendered and agreed to say Farewell to these wonderful boxes and the jungle of wires and cables that connected them to each other.
The wonderful collection of discrete components has been replaced by one of those Everything-In-One-Box (including speakers) thingies. This one's a reasonably priced machine from Cambridge Soundworks, a knockoff of the overpriced Bose box they hype on endless TV ads. There's a dock for S.W.M.B.O.'s iPod, and it also plays DVDs as well as CDs. You run everything with a sofa remote, you never have to stand up again, except to pee.
I've held on to the Hafler, the oscilloscope, the magnificent SAE preamp, and of course the turntable. I got a lot of classic vinyl down in the basement. (Including the last 78 record ever made, R. Crumb's "Keep On Truckin'" b/w "Wisconsin Wiggle").
S.W.M.B.O. put about 5 of these machines in a cardboard box on the front lawn with a sign that said FREE. The next day she looked out the window and saw a man park his car, look around very nervously like he was committing a burglary, and throw all of them in his car and sped off. He was about my age. He knew what these things were. Wait till he gets home and discovers they all work.
S.W.M.B.O. said the guy looked like he suspected the woman of the house was mega-pissed-off at her boyfriend, and while the guy was out of town, she threw out all his stereo equipment.
The Audiophile Laws
If you are a German shepherd or a poodle or a Weimaraner or a basenji or a basset hound, you know that the following Laws are True.
1. Discrete Components reproduce music much better than All-In-One combination boxes. All-In-One boxes (like a receiver) contaminate the signal with radio crosstalk between the different components, and also are designed with design compromises. A box which does only one job doesn't require compromises.
2. Vacuum Tubes, in all stages of processing, at low and high voltages/wattages, reproduce music far better than transistors. Tubes pass all musical higher harmonics without interference. Solid-State chops off the higher harmonics. Harmonics give music its richness, color, flavor.
3. Analog sources (vinyl particularly) reproduce music far better than digital storage sources. Digital sources and playback systems are particularly brutal to high frequencies and dynamic range.
4. 1. 2. and 3. don't matter for rock n roll. You're going deaf from tinnitus anyway. One of the members of The Who is the celebrity spokesman for the Tinnitus Foundation.
5. $11,280 is a reasonable price to pay for a top-of-the-line stereo component from a manufacturer nobody ever heard of, especially if you are an unmarried guy.
6. Audiophile guys should never seek psychiatric help from female therapists.
6a. (converse) Women who own hundreds of pairs of shoes should never seek psychiatric help from male therapists.