Tuesday, November 4, 2014

“How to Handle a Defective Product” or “Big Fun at the Customer Support Desk”

“How to Handle a Defective Product” or “Big Fun at the Customer Support Desk”
By Chuck Hinton
Originally published in Home Toys Magazine, April, 2010 Issue

SO, you got some new do-dad for your stereo, once you hook it up, you find you have: Hum, buzz, distortion, no power, or some other issue. Here are the best ways to handle the situation and the order in which you should do them:

1. Blame the most expensive unit in the system (top quality gear should never break, like Ferraris, Harleys, or i-phones)
2. Make a judgment as to the cause of the failure (do not check your connections or read the manual, you have been hooking up stereos for years and you can tell what is the exact cause from across the room)
3. Write a scathing report of the product on one or several Audio Forums, let those irresponsible manufacturers who never test stuff before it leaves the factory know what scum they are. Be sure and call the unit a “Piece of S%*T” so readers can understand your level of disappointment.
4. Contact your lawyer
5. Write letter to the president of the company threatening to sue him.
6. Send an email to the general mailbox of the company, be sure and tell them you have already posted this all over the net and contacted your lawyer (those folks only respond to force, if you were to call them and ask nicely and reasonably for a solution to your problem, they will know you are a wimp, pass you around the company to voice mails of people who are on vacation and eventually send you to an extension that no longer exists).
7. Call the Main office of the company at 3AM on a Saturday, or any time you are reasonably sure the office is not open, leave a scathing voice mail with lots of colorful adjectives, exclaim you cannot believe you can’t get a human on the phone. (do not leave your name or contact number. )
8. Go to your dealer and demand a full refund, be sure and tell them you, nor anyone you know, will ever set foot in the store again.

9. If all this fails, check to see if the unit is plugged in.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

McIntosh labs and the Grateful Dead Wall of Sound, An Interview with Richard Pechner

Richard Pechner's site:
McIntosh Website
Home Toys Magazine

First published in HomeToys Magazine,
 this ended up being their most read article of 2009,
now finally on my blog, 10.16.14

April 2009
Wall Of Sound
Author: Chuck Hinton, McIntosh Tech Support and the Hi Fi Insider

We at McIntosh Labs were pretty impressed with ourselves when we realized the McIntosh 2K reference system weighed in at close to one full ton. It never even occurred to us to imagine what kind of McIntosh system might weigh 75 tons. As it turns out, our imagination was not required. Nearly 32 years earlier, Owsley ‘Bear’ Stanley, Dan Healy and Mark Raizene of the Grateful Dead sound crew and Ron Wickersham and Rick Turner of Alembic Sound dared to dream of such a system.

Shortly before the 35th anniversary of the official March 23, 1974 d├ębut of the legendary Grateful Dead Wall Of Sound P.A. system, I had the great luck and honor of spending some time with photographer Richard Pechner. From 1969 to 1974 Pechner worked on the Grateful Dead sound crew, helped build the wall and chronicled the adventure that was the Grateful Dead in photographs.

The McIntosh/Dead connection started with a PA system the then local San Francisco band had in their house at 710 Asbury St., which included several McIntosh MC240, 40 watt stereo tube amps bolted to a piece of heavy plywood, dubbed “The Lead Sled”. At that time, Richard was a student at San Francisco State and worked with a group called The Diggers that distributed free food and similar activities in Haight Ashbury. “I met Danny Rifkin, who was managing the Dead… the band wanted to play for free in the park (Golden Gate) so the deal was, we (the Diggers) would get the flatbed truck.” Richard drove the flatbed to the Dead house, picked up the gear and took part in the now infamous free concert.
As the band became more popular and started playing large venues, McIntosh MC2300, 300 watt per channel stereo amps were used. Mr. Pechner says “ When we started, they were just sitting there on floor, it was ones and twos, but as we got more, then we got into racking stuff, so we used to go down to Palo Alto to some surplus supply houses. Dan Healy used to pride himself on knowing where these places were, we would go down there with a van and there were these racks with wheels and we said, “This is what we need”.”
By the early 1970’s, the band had accumulated quite a bit of gear and, by combining 3 current and previous systems, plus a lot of acquisition and fabrication, created the wall of sound. Consisting of 11 separate mono systems, the Wall of Sound gave each instrument its own set of amplifiers and approximately 40 foot tall stack of speakers. With each system directly behind the performer playing through it, the band was able to hear what the audience heard, and, with only one source of sound per instrument, created a natural stereo image in the same way a group of un-amplified instruments, like an orchestra or string quartet is heard, with sound coming directly from the acoustic instruments. The obvious problem of feedback from speakers placed directly behind the microphones was solved by inventing a noise canceling mic system, consisting of 2 out of phase matched mics per vocalist and some sophisticated associated electronics.  

 The completed wall sound consisted of 586 JBL woofers and mids, 54 Electrovoice  tweeters driven by 48 McIntosh MC2300s and two McIntosh MC350 mono tube amplifiers for a total of  29,500 watts.

“We were told it was the most powerful touring PA system in the world at that time” said Pechner, “it occurred to us that we, well nobody, had really seen what it looked like (with the band on stage)  because, during shows, you couldn’t see any of that stuff, it was just too dark.” Richard convinced a fork-truck driver to lift him up to stage height and just keep backing up until the whole system fit in frame of the standard 50mm lens of his camera. Via 2-way radio, he instructed the light guy to bring the house lights up, much to the band’s chagrin, and took what is now the iconic image Dead Heads around the world associate with the Wall of Sound. “It was one of those opportunities that just come along and you go, “Oh, I know what to do”.”
Ironically, McIntosh was partly responsible for bringing Richard Pechner’s career as a roadie to an end, when an amp rack, thought to be empty, was slid to the back of a truck and He tried to take it off the truck. The rack turned out to be full of MC2300s, gravity and McIntosh jerked the rack and Pechner to the ground, injuring his back and effectively removing him from the equipment handling part of his job. “I stayed on for a couple of tours, mostly doing photography.” When the band took it’s hiatus in 1974; Richard and the wall of sound moved on after the Wall’s last show on Oct. 20th 1974.
Mr. Pechner continued work as a photographer, getting shots of rock bands and other related work. He now works freelance out of his home studio, doing commercial photography and shooting folks like Lance Armstrong and the San Francisco Giants. His work can be seen at his website: 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

21 things we would not have believed in the already Orwellian 1984, a grum rant.

In the dozen years that passed since a pop culture reference from Allan Parsons or someone had prompted my 10 year old self to imbibe the truths of Orwell, I noted each Calendar flip, acknowledged its advancement toward Winston Smith’s year. When 1984 arrived, it seemed dystopian enough, continuous military conflict and cold war kept the poor from questioning power, cocaine was socially acceptable for white people, the rich were getting much richer from the introduction of Regan’s  trickle up economics and, as a poor young adult, I was unemployed, had holes in my shoes and lived on government cheese.
I could not have guessed, 30 years ago, that vegetables would become carcinogenic, the water from the faucet could be lit a fire, and that the ice caps could melt. Would we have predicted a tsunami that killed a hundred thousand? A hurricane could flood New York City and destroy the Jersey shore?
Who knew worker real income would be down %30 and CEO pay up %300, that social security would be known to have numbered days and the poor of the first world would start to look like poor of the 3rd world. The late night streets peppered with shopping cart pushers, scuttling like crabs in competition for returnable, Iron green gold mines of nickels. One could not have imagined the Wall Street crime wave that, in a single year, cost 6% of the USA population their jobs, 9 million people out of work and over one million homes stolen by the mortgagers. That not a single criminal would be sent to jail, and banks broken by their own crimes were bailed out with taxpayer money, too big to fail. How we would have laughed if you told us the Supreme Court would rule corporations were people and money equaled speech. Or that the people could be duped into thinking Unions were bad for them, that teachers were to blame for small school budgets, and one family could trade all the manufacturing jobs away so they could sell the cheapest Chinese sneakers, but  Americans would still buy their lies and their sneakers.
The environment did look to be in danger in those days, but the great lakes had been cleaned, superfunds tried to heal the earth, CFC’s and DDT outlawed to heal the hole in the ozone layer and bring the American eagle back from the brink of destruction. So how could we have guessed that every conservative would vow to close Richard Nixon’s invention, the EPA. That the EPA could receive a half million letters including one from 60 Congressmen asking to not approve a pesticide but they do it anyway AND the conservatives still think the EPA impedes progress. In 1984, would you have believed ubiquitous, innumerable, uncountable entire Genus like Bats and Frogs could be in danger today?  That huge swathes of coastline would qualify for the moniker of ‘Ocean Dead Zones’?  Bees and other pollinators may well fail, potentially causing  a %30 drop in the worlds food supply and, as a coup de grace, nearly one half of all species alive in 1984 are now extinct.
The first of my Children were born  as Halley’s specter last rode the heavens. That phenom of such a period that nearly everyone will only see it once, but you, my first born, like Mr. Clemens, were supposed to mark its twain.   Now, in 2014, I fear the comets 2060 return may greet no living human eye.
The one thing that really surprises me is; no one seems surprised or alarmed by all this.

Chuck Hinton 10/08/14

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

"I Like the Name" A Political Sci Fi Vignette.

                                           "I Like the Name"  A Political Sci Fi Vignette.

I must admit, ladies and gentleman, I did not think it was possible. After all, there were only five of us; Jaybee, Emem, the two brothers and myself. We were sent to an alien planet, tasked with terraforming and readying it for habitation by our people.  Now, most things I can do with half my brain tied behind my back, but this place was totally unsuitable for life. It was too cold, had unbreathable air and was teeming with life-forms incompatible with our needs. Worst of all, a sentient life form had evolved and taken over the place! They were not primitive either, bristling with weapons, highly aggressive and maybe even capable of reaching and destroying our planet! Luckily, they were too divided, self-centered and violent to have even bothered to look around this part of the galaxy and were completely unaware of our overcrowded world and our need for new home.
Our imperfect but functional disguises worked pretty well. The Brothers’ roles kept them out of public view, so other than rare occasions, only head-shot photographs of them were seen. Jaybee and Emem had it the worst, with much in-person contact with the locals. Despite one having a bit of a coloring problem and the other’s look getting close to a lower order of amphibian around the face, they were never suspected. I managed to mostly keep my exposure to my voice, (and a lot of exposure it was) so my somewhat blobby costume rarely came under scrutiny.
Job one, finance, belonged to The Brothers. Not surprisingly, greed is the lever with which one can lift worlds. The Brothers found an enormously wealthy but terminally ill man, whose ailment was one that could be cured by our slightly more advanced technology, and struck a deal to become his heirs in exchange for extending his life by a few decades. Using his nest egg and significant leverage supplied by Jaybee and Emem, upon which I will expound shortly, they embarked on a campaign of strategic acquisition. 
The Brothers had a unique bargaining advantage, while all their competition maneuvered each transaction with the sole motivation of profit, the Brothers only long term goal was control. If you structure a business deal in such a way as the other side makes a lot of profit, you can have any other consideration you desire and the other side does not even notice. By the time our plans started to come to fruition, the brothers owned or controlled nearly every important industry on the planet.
We found a fuel source whose consumption would result in a slow, subtle warming of the hideously cold planet, and arranged for it to be the least expensive energy source. Once again, greed was our true friend.  When alternative energies were invented or touted, the Brothers bought them, let the companies run for a little while and then close them, proclaiming the methods to be impractical.
Many forms of vegetation existed that would be toxic to our people or exuded gasses and chemicals that made the air nearly unbreathable to us. A solution was needed,  guess who was our friend once again? That dear child named greed. Our companies bought food production facilities and farms. We manipulated the food plants to create more yield and so more profit for the farmers. Make the deal so they can have lots of profit and anything else you want is no problem. We made the plants in such a way that any seeds they produced were sterile, the farmers had to buy seeds every year and could not produce their own seed, but they made lots of profit so nary a peep of complaint was heard. Land had to be cleared and weeds removed to grow food, which was a lot of work, so we fixed that. The crops were designed so they were not effected by herbicides that killed all other plants, farmers soaked all the land with the very reasonably priced herbicides we sold them, so they could cover all the ground with crops and nothing else grew.  Profits increased even more, the farmers loved and praised Brothers and the companies they owned.
Eventually, some of the locals, (namely the ones that did not greatly benefit from inexpensive plants and energy or get rich off it) started to catch on. Governments  proposed laws that got in the way of our plans. We had anticipated this, so, using The Brothers money, Jaybee and Emem got to work insinuating themselves into powerful positions in the most powerful government around. Whenever laws were proposed  counter to our goals, those two arranged for the legislators to receive large sums of money from The Brothers. Not only did the legislators block any regulations that got in our way, but they jumped right on the band wagon and continually passed laws that facilitated our plans, and thease lawmakers were not even that expensive to buy!
Of course, It is impossible to have infinite growth in a finite system, so not everyone could be bribed with actual riches. That is where I came in. My compatriots will have to admit, they could have never pulled it off without yours truly. I seduced nearly all of the rest of the planet with the PROMISE of wealth. My conniving voice assured them that they would be the ones who would benefit from our movement. I convinced the people that our naysayers wanted to take away their toys and vices, and told them the toys and vices were their freedoms!
They Bought it! Hook, line and sinker, they manically repeated my supposed truisms, chanted my catch phrases, adopted my slanderous pet names for the brightest and most honest of their politicians and worshiped our toadies as well as Jaybe and Emem, exactly the way I told them to. While the masses starved, struggled and slaved, they simultaneously sympathized, shouted and supported every aspect of our plan. Each one wholeheartedly attending my voice, believing my words, embracing my assurances that they would reap the benefits, they would be the ones on the top of the pyramid and soon have the riches and luxury their greed told them they could not live without.
It really did not take long at all. Conspicuous consumption of the cheap energy sources filled the atmosphere with carbon and the temperature rose. The greedy farmers killed every plant except our patented, certified, modified crops. Oxygen levels dropped and air filled with delicious methane, nitrous oxide ozone and carbon dioxide. Since the government had been convinced there was no need to label or regulate the food crops, the inhabitants of this soon-to-be-our world had been eating poison filled food and burning dirty fuels for decades. Soon they all had, diabetes, COPD and cancer, but, the medicine was all owned by The Brothers corporations who told the world the medicines were no longer effective or available. Then the supply of seeds for food crops became suddenly unavailable too, and the current crops seeds were all sterile. Every one of those dangerous, parasitic humans died before their ( I mean our) planet  made one more trip around the sun.
And there you have it, perfect atmosphere, perfect temperature and climate and no competition, our race could move right in and enjoy the new Earth. We did it, The Brothers Charles and David, Senator Mich  (Emem), Speaker John (Jaybee) and my self. I still think my role was the most important, even though the others made fun of me because I could not come up with an Earth-normal sounding pseudonym for myself, but I disagree, I LIKE the name Rush!

Chuck Hinton, 09/17/14