Friday, July 16, 2010

Raising Sand, Archery, and Bass Notes

Hey there, folks. Here I am to update you on all my meaningless pursuits.

1) Raising Sand:

I'm happy to announce that I'm back in the sandbagging business. That is to say, I've been doing my sandbag/bucket/cinderblock workout. Strange implements? Yes. Results? Oh, you betcha!

I use the cinderblock for one-handed clean and jerks with a pinch grip, for curls, and for axe-motion swings, as well as for a footstool, and occasional stands for elevated push-ups.

The bucket (once containing ice melter, now with 50 pounds of sand) is used for lateral swings, high pulls "barrel lifts" and as the handy chair for catching my breath.

I have 50 and 100 pound bags. The fifty I use for a variety of one handed exercises, as well as one shoulder squats and so on. The hundred is primarily used for squats, carrying, and the ever popular overhead lift from the ground.

While you can put together a "gym" like mine for perhaps 20 or 30 bucks, it'll give you a heck of a "caveman" workout. When the new-school exercise folks talk about working their "core", this exercise delivers. Perhaps this wouldn't give you all your "showy" muscles, but with these humble and cheap implements, you could get yourself a serious level of real, applicable, strength. Did I mention that these workouts are brutal, spraying-sweat, hold-on-because-I'm dizzy cardio mongers? I think I just did. Highly recommended, should you become tired of the too-clean gym and all its half-hearted members who've never yelled with effort in their lives. A room with a tall ceiling (garage, barn, etc. is okay, but I say that outside on the lawn is best for these workouts. Especially if its really hot, really cold, or otherwise inclement. That just makes you feel more in touch with your inner "aminal".


I didn't even have a bow when I was a kid. Was I deprived? Possibly. Doubt it, though. I did have my own actual, sharp, real axe when I was about five. And I used it. I got my first .22 at ten. I did fine.

But no bows. I'd always been interested, though. As a fantasy geek, they're one of the staples. I'd just never taken any steps to get into the hobby.

Now, when I think of bows, I think of a bent stick, essentially. A long bow, or a recurve, like we always had on a mantle, but had never actually put a string on.

So...that's not the state of the art in bows any more. Not by a long, long, space age shot. The new bows are "compound" bows. They have pulleys or cams that attach to limbs made of carbon graphite or some other "unobtanium" material. The handle..."riser" in the parlance of the sport, is made of some hard metal, and doesn't bend at all. The bow has sights, one on the string (a "peep" sight...a ring of metal), and one on the riser deedelybopper. You sight it like a military rifle, centering the sight "pin" in the aperture and placing it over the target. You don't even have to draw it back with your fingers. For that, you've got a "release aid". These go around your wrist, and you attach them to a the string after you nock the arrow. When you have 'er pulled back and want to shoot, you just press a triggering mechanism of some sort and there goes the arrow.

Now, that's another thing. These new bows are quiet. Think of the sound a slingshot makes. That's about it. And the arrows...yeah, they're made of aluminum or carbon fiber/graphite/vapor spun turbonium as well.

Now, it's called "archery", but hey, these new ultra-bows propel an arrow at 300 or more feet per second (over 200 miles per hour!), and there's no arc involved unless you're more than 35 or 40 yards from your target.

How do I know all this stuff. Well, a kind benefactor (my cousin Bob) decided that I didn't have enough hobbies, and he brought me down a bow he'd built up a few years back, but wasn't really able to shoot anymore. The bow in question is a BowTech Black Knight II. Sounds wicked? Yes. It is. This is a hairy-chested monster of a bow. When I first tried to draw it, I was humbled, feeling like the suitors trying to marry Odysseus' wife, who were unable to string his mighty weapon.

The Black Knight bow is serious. I'm a fairly burly dude, okay, and I didn't expect that there'd be a bow that would give me any guff. I got guff. In my defense, I'd just had a crushing chest and back workout, and my muscles were fried. Still and all.

That was the try/fail cycle. Now, to the awesome. The Black Knight II OWNS! I had a dead-on x-ring hit on my eighth shot ever. In three sessions of shooting, I've only had one bad shot, and that was purely my fault. I wiggled, or something. The bow really takes exacting form, lots of force, and total concentration, but if you give it what it wants, it's more accurate than all but a few of my pistols.

It hits like a train, too. Shooting into a bag stuffed with cardboard, plastic, carpet, and other tough material, I've nearly gone all the way through more than once. I've actually busted up three arrows, two with their fletchings (feathers) ripped up, and one that actually lost its point in the bag. I'm really impressed. These new bows are accurate, quiet, comfortable to shoot (just watch the draw weight...I'd suggest 40 pounds for smaller folk, 50 to 60 for your average guy, and 70 only for experienced shooters or really strong dudes). The Black Knight was tuned up to 85 pounds draw weight, and has a really, really aggressive profile that holds that maximum weight through several inches of the draw. Hence, the sweating and straining. Bob tuned the bow down somewhat, probably in the 78-80 pound range, and that's comfy for me at this point. I think that, once I've acclimated to the motion, I could turn it back up to full starch, but I question whether it would be any benefit to me. The bow's shooting right on the money, and I think that it has enough pop to go through the skull of a zombie, should the need arise.

To sum up: Archery is sweet. I have a new hobby. Damn.

Bass Notes:

Now, on to old hobbies.

I got my first electric bass at 16, trading in an old alto sax I hadn't played for years. It was an Ibanez, and came home with a little Crate practice amp. That combo lasted me all the way through college, and played a lot of Iron Maiden and so on. Bass Guitars are great, because you can pick up a fun, recognizable riff your first day out (at least I could...Iron Man by Black Sabbath). That said, if you get ambitious and start trying stuff from Rush, Maiden, the Who, or any Jazz stuff, there's a lot of terrain to cover.

I picked up a big Peavey amp in the late 90's and it was great. The problem was, the pickups and electronics on my old Ibanez were starting to go south. I'd get a tremendous amount of hum if I didn't constantly blunt the strings with the heel of my hand, and if I moved at all, I'd get signal dropout from the old, punky patch plug.

Because, around that time, I had the opportunity (crazily!) to teach guitar classes at a high school, I began to really dig playing the acoustic six string. With the difficulties I was having with the bass, I sort of put it aside and focused on the classical style vinyl string acoustic.

Fast forward around twelve years, and I'm having the hard, evil jones to play bass again. Do I want to suffer the slings and arrows of trying to rehab my old bass? Maybe one day, but I want to frikkin' play, man. I don't want a months-long odyssey of installing new pickups and electronics, I want results. Lights, camera, revolution!

Thus, I went down to my local Guitar Center and started plunking and thunking on their selection of basses. I had been enamored of the acoustic body bass guitar for a while, but the selection had been sparse and pricey for a long time. I liked the Dean brand basses, and they were semi-reasonable, but they were never in stock. I respected the Breedloves, but man, 800 bucks? Ouch.

I started to feel dispair. I tried out some four strings (like my old bass), but felt like I wanted something that wouldn't be "supliferous" once I actually renovated my old machine. Six strings? Yeah, great, but their necks are huge, and they're heavy! Plus, you're tied to the amp, just like before.

I came back around to that old wish for the acoustic body. I like to be able to pick up the guitar and move around with it. To play it quietly so it doesn't terrify my parakeet or wake up the neighbors.

Finally, as I was starting to wonder if I'd ever find a match, there it was. A black-lacquer Ibanez AEB-10. She was beautiful. She was a tuneful. She could rock like a hurricane when plugged in. And she was a cheap date. Overwhelmed with concupiscence, I took her home.

Let me tell you folks, there's no buyer's remorse here. I haven't had this much fun playing the bass since I learned the bridge section of "Rime of the Ancient Mariner". I lament only that I don't have enough hours in the day to explore all my hobbies like I'd wish to.

To sum up again: Old hobby came back, with a vengeance. I like vengeance. Damn.

That's the news. Hope you're all well.


Julie said...

I do believe that this may be relevant to your interests. See you tomorrow, I hope. :)

Anonymous said...

In reading your work,it seems that you write about things you know of. Now you will be more intimately aquainted with the mechanics of archery. Is it possible that we might see more of that sort of weaponry incorporated into some of your writing? I thoroughly enjoy reading your work and always look forward to reading more of it.

Christopher said...

Damn you Sir! Now You(and Bob) have me thinking about Archery too! Glad you're having such a great time exploring.

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