Marshall Haze 40 JCM 800 Mod

Another music gear post. Adding a few of those in here and there.

So for the past 5-6 years, my main amp has been a Marshall Haze 40. These amps were designed in the UK with an old 70s JMP look but built by some shady contractor in India. They’re notorious for spontaneously dying and for having a really muddy tone on the OD channel. However, they’re also notorious for being very close to JCM 800s after a couple of mods and a speaker swap.


Since the JCM 800 is my definition of electric guitar tone, that’s what I wanted. Like a lot of people I was pretty disappointed in the Haze out of the box. And then it crapped out on me—twice! After two warranty repairs done by one of the best amp techs in the Midwest (and at no charge to me thanks to Marshall), I had a new Haze that’s been reliable ever since and was more or less rebuilt by hand here in the USA. So that’s kinda cool. Only thing was that the tech could only fix the amp to spec. As a warranty repair, he couldn’t really do any mods, etc.

I thought about paying him to implement all the JCM 800 mods I see floating around the net. I can mess with electrical circuits some, but rewiring a whole tube amp seems a little out of my scope.

Then I got a bright idea that worked perfectly. The clean channel is anything but muddy. In fact, the Haze 40 is also known for having a very bright, responsive clean channel. That makes it a perfect platform for a pedal! I picked up an MI Audio Crunch Box clone for about $35, I think, and stuck that in front of the clean channel. Boom! My Haze now has that classic Marshall tone in spades thanks to this JCM 800 clone pre-amp in a pedal and a real JCM 800-styled tube power amp section. So, if you’re not up for a whole mod due to budget or whatever, maybe just put the amp on clean and throw an MI Audio Crunch Box in front of it. Works like a charm :)


The Toys Unleashed

I’m glad to see this next wave of Star Wars toys will have plenty of Rey. Her exclusion from the original batch was pretty darn inexcusable.

Marketing departments—in my experience—do a LOT less actual market research than people think they do. We all imagine lots of test groups and scientific research go into creating marketing campaigns. But often it’s just a bunch of middle-aged or older white people sitting around guessing at public desire and opinion based on their own views. You can watch Adam Ruins Everything’s great webisode about video games to see exactly how wrong-minded that approach can be and how it can actually have a major effect on our society.

I was never a boy who had a problem with female protagonists. I loved Diane Duane’s Wizarding series when I was a kid, which featured a female protagonist. And many other books with female leads. And in my later teens through twenties, I watched Buffy religiously. Like pretty much literally religiously. I worshiped that show. And never had a problem with the fact that my hero was female.

So this idea that female heroes and protagonists are novelties or not worthy of inclusion in the toy line because boys wouldn’t buy a toy of a girl and only boys buy toys just doesn’t make sense to me on a gut level. I don’t get it. But at least the powers that be have decided they might have fracked up this go round and made some attempt to correct their colossal blunder.

Phasma Skywalker

I don’t post a lot of Star Wars fan theories because, well, the Internet’s already overflowing with them. But this one doesn’t really seem to be out there, and I think it’s kinda interesting and also maybe kind of obvious. That is unless I’m completely wrong!

Of course, there are Force Awakens spoilers ahead. So if you haven’t seen the movie. I guess go away or, you know, have it spoiled a little.

So one of the big mysteries is “Who are Rey’s parents?” The Kenobi and Skywalker families tend to top the suspect list—rightfully so. Just to keep it quick, we’re gonna side with the Skywalker theory here. Now we’ve got a choice between Luke and Leia. Again, for the sake of brevity, we’re gonna side with Luke.

So mystery solved, right? Well, no. We still don’t know who her mom is! Assuming Mara Jade met the ultimate nullifier of continuity when the books were made non-cannon, she’s off the list. Who does that leave?

Let’s assume that Rey’s mom IS guessable. Meaning it’s not some character we haven’t met yet. That narrows the list a lot. Now let’s review a few givens.

First, Kylo Ren can influence minds


Next we know that modern Storm Troopers receive some sort of brainwashing conditioning therapy at an early age to make them loyal to the First Order.


And we also feel we understand that Kylo attacked Luke and Luke’s student Jedi and slaughtered whatever passed for the New Jedi Order. (I’m not gonna post a picture for that.)

Now’s where I go off into conjecture land. We need a woman old enough to be Rey’s mom, but not too old to be plausible. For instance, you could speculate that Anakin or Obi Wan are her dad, except that the original movies are set 30 years earlier and Rey appears to be in her teens. So that rules out most women from the original trilogy.

Who does that leave us with? (Hint: Look up ↑ ). Why would the makers of the Force Awakens go to all the trouble of hiring a fairly well known star and even include her in a lot of the press tours and promotional events for a Storm Trooper role with just a few lines? Maybe because she’s going to continue to be important. Remember, Han and Finn don’t actually kill her. They just throw her down the garbage shoot.

So here’s the theory. Captain Phasma is a brainwashed version of Rey’s mom. As Kylo attacked the New Jedi temple, Luke sent his lover away with their love child, his daughter. Kylo knew Phasma as one of Luke’s closest students or followers, but didn’t know Luke and Phasma had a child. Maybe Luke feigned chastity for the good of the order. After finishing off with the Jedi temple, Kylo chased Phasma. He finally caught her, but not before she was able to drop her daughter, Rey, off on the remote planet Jakuu where no one would notice her.

Kylo then stripped Phasma’s mind down and handed her over to the First Order who reconditioned her into a trooper. They all kept her around in case Luke ever surfaced again to use as a weapon against him by holding him emotionally hostage and perhaps by reinstating some of her mind to get more information about him.

This then would make Rey’s family tree look something like what’s below. I’ve added Plagueis at the top even though he’s not a Skywalker because he’s the one who kicked the whole story off.

Skywalker Family Tree

Alright, let’s trace that all out again quickly. Darth Plagueis teaches his apprentice, Darth Sidious (the Emperor), how to create life with the Force. See Revenge of the Sith—the opera scene—for reference. Darth Sidious used this power to immaculately conceive a child in the slave Shmi Skywalker. Shmi’s son from that Force event grew up to be Anakin Skywalker who had two children with Padme Amidala—Luke and Leia. Luke then met a strong warrior woman who we would come to know as Captain Phasma. Luke’s nephew Ben Solo attacked Luke’s Jedi Order, slaughtering them and sending Luke’s lover, Phasma, and their daughter on the run. Phasma was captured and brainwashed into joining the First Order while her daughter, Rey, remained hidden on the planet Jakuu until the Force awoke in her and brought her back to the family.

Kama’s Height

So here’s a question that I’ve asked a couple readers and thought I’d throw out there. How tall do you imagine Kama to be—especially in comparison to Bodhi and the other characters?

In the books, I give her height as 140 centimeters. For we Americans, that’s about 4’7″. This is an average-ish height for a 12-year-old girl in America. I went this short because Kama’s a pixie and so I imagine like fairytale elves and other proto-typical fey creatures, she’s extra small. But I also describe her as being womanly. Her personality is much more of a woman 22 years old or so. And, I’ll admit, that affected my own imagination at times. When writing the book, though I knew that for world building purposes Kama’s supposed to be 4’7″, I imagined her to be more Kristen Bell’s size (OK, I just straight-up imagined her to be Kristen Bell) who is 5’1″ according to Google. Side-note: Googling a celebrity’s height seems kind of creepy…

Bodhi is meant to be about my own height. So somewhere in the 5’10” range. This would make the height difference between Kama and Bodhi pretty much exactly the same as Maddie Ziegler and Shia LaBeouf in Sia’s “Elastic Heart” video.


Is that the size difference you imagined between Kama and Bodhi? Or did you see them more as Veronica and Wallace from Veronica Mars?

Veronica 7632_original.jpg

While my full intent and all my descriptions clearly put her at Maddie Ziegler-size—I honestly found myself imagining her more as Veronica Mars size. So far, the readers I’ve asked have seen Veronica and Wallace sizes, too.

Should I have worked harder to establish how small Kama is in the text? Or did I get it right and my very small survey population is just off in their perception? Any ideas on what might have helped get the idea of Kama’s size across better if you did imagine it a little off?

Mako Guitar (Les Paul Traditional 56)

So a bit of an off-topic post for this site. But in addition to writing novels, I also play and record music. Recently while browsing in a locally owned guitar store, I came across a gorgeous Les Paul copy that looked to be from sometime around 1980.

My Les Paul II

The headstock, however, has been painted over with solid black to hide the brand name! And there’s no serial number info on the back or any useful info under the pickups or in the control cavity. So this guitar is a total mystery!

I turned to good old Google (and Bing…and Yahoo!) to try and find out what I’ve got. After tons and tons of digging, I figured out it’s a Mako “56” guitar. There are some details that give it away. The headstock design matches and the time period. But even more telling is the really unique bridge and white control knobs. Complicating things, the Mako “56” appears to have also been released under at least 3 other brand names during the time: the Hondo “Deluxe 748,” Marathon “Replay MG 120,” and Shafer (haven’t found a model name for that one). Those guitars all have the same weird bridge and often the odd white control knobs.

Les Paul Comparison

While the headstock shape definitely identifies my guitar as a Mako, there’s no info on where Makos were made. The prevailing theory floating around the Internet is that they were made by Matsumoku in Japan. However some claim they’re Korean guitars. A similar debate circles the Hondo “Deluxe” series, though the debate falls more toward the side of Korea on that one. Then the Schafer and Marathon also both have people saying they’re Korean guitars—specifically made by Samick. So which is it? Do i have a Japanese Matsumoku or a Korean Samick?

I kept digging. Again, the most identifying feature of my Mako and its cousins is the SUPER weird/unique bridge.

Hondo Bridge

Hunting, hunting, hunting, I find the bridge popping up as late as the mid-90s. And finally I find it on a guitar that has a maker identified: the Epiphone Sheraton guitars made in the mid-90s by <drumroll please> Samick in Korea. The Sheraton bridge is so weird that Epiphone owners often go hunting for replacements on the net and it’s even referred to as the “Samick bridge.” While not a smoking gun, I think this bridge being positively identified with the Korean Samick presents a pretty strong case for my Mako being Korean.

Or at least, that’s where I was leaning. Then I found a Mako Traditionals 56 on eBay with the serial number still on the back and a photo included. That serial number style is really weird. The sticker says “COAST F/A” followed by a 5-digit number. Stickers like this appear to have been how Memphis guitars (who also sold Les Paul copies in the 70s/80s) marked their higher-end, made in Japan guitars. And those were made by Matsumoku by most accounts.

The world may never know again who built these Makos (or its siblings under other brand names). But either way, I love my new Les Paul. It’s got a set-neck, mahogany body, binding over the frets, a nice medium tennon neck, and a lot of really “high end” features plus a gorgeous top. And I got it for next to nothing!

Back To The Future That Never Was

My contribution to BTTF day. So all of you are saying “Where are the flying cars and hoverboards? Why had the World Series already happened? Why can’t dogs walk themselves?” No one on the Internets that I have seen has pointed out that the 2015 in BTTF 2 never happens. That was a Future where Marty had broken his hand in 1985 during a drag race with Needles and been unable to play guitar well since. Because of that event, his life spiraled down the pits. However, when Jennifer and Marty find themselves in the race at the conclusion of the Trilogy, Marty intelligently (though he could have just staid still instead of backing up) ducks out of the race. His hand isn’t broken and the fax from the future erases. While hover conversion still clearly occurs at some point in the future—as evidenced by the train—we don’t know when hover conversion now becomes a reality. The butterfly effect of Marty remaining a musician and never losing his spirit to that crash could certainly spread far enough that most of the technology of the alternate 2015 would never come to be in the 2015 that then played out from that missed crash forward. Just look at how different the alternate 1985 was from the real 1985. Just saying :)

Jodorowsky’s Catharsis

Watched the documentary Jodorowsky’s Dune last night. Very interesting documentary.

I think that Frank Herbert’s influence on Catharsis is pretty clear. While I didn’t borrow much in the way of plot, quite a lot in phrasing and style come from Herbert. Dune is definitely a novel that’s had a profound affect on me over the years both as a writer and just as a person. It’s a true masterpiece.

Jodorowsky has been much less of an influence on me. But, I am aware of his work. Seeing how much of an influence he’s had on the film industry without ever actually making his most influential film is a bit inspirational.

Even more inspirational to me personally is Jodorowsky’s marriage of sci-fi with Western mysticism. Obviously, at the heart of the Bodhi Trilogy is an attempt to take concepts of Western mysticism (especially Theosophy) and build a sci-fi story from them. To know I’m not completely alone in that effort was a nice thing to see.