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Solarbird

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understanding something better now
[24 May 2016|08:34am]

For a long time, there was a… conceit, of sorts, in science fiction, of connecting simple large objects in such a way that produced inexplicable complexity. The sort of thing where the characters would put five or six pieces together, and suddenly have a walking, talking robot.

It never made the least bit of sense, either in reality or to me personally, but that latter is changing. As I’ve been playing around with this carbon microphone (here’s a new test recording from yesterday, using the improved circuit) and along the way reading about things like the early telephone system and early radio and most of all the telegraph – I really start to see how they get there.

Particularly early radio, and even more particularly the telegraph.

The telegraph, I mean, damn. They ran one wire. Not a pair of wires: one. They relied on local grounding at each station; the ‘return’ for the power supply was the planet.

So look at this from a not-really-that-naive point of view, right? You’re a farmer out in the middle of Saskatchewan or something, right? It’s weeks to anywhere. You go into town for your mail every couple of weeks, the nearest neighbour is a mile or two or three away, a big gathering in town is monthly market day. You’re not stupid; you deal with complex machinery pretty regularly as a farmer. You know how this works; you know clocks, you know how complex machines have to be to do even simple things well, you know how they work and now to fix them and how to adapt them to new tasks.

Now take this metal rope, attach it to a bit of wound-up metal thread and a lever and a spring, and suddenly you can talk to Vancouver. Sure, you need to learn a code, but that’s easy, and suddenly there’s impossible spooky action at a distance – a really big distance.

Then there’s radio. Even crazier. Take another metal rope, and another bit of wound-up metal thread, and a tiny bit of inexpensive crystal, and this thing you put in your ear that you ordered by post (which is not more than a magnet and some more metal thread and a piece of paper) and suddenly you have news from Toronto in your house.

To the observer at the time, it is intense complexity from small numbers of simple parts. Sure, most of the complexity comes from the humans at the far end of each connection, but it’d take a good bit of sorting out to get that really parsed, and in the meantime, the reaction is more along the lines of:

     What magical fuckery is this?!

Suddenly the whole “small numbers of simple objects producing combinations of intense complexity” makes a lot more sense. They’d seen it multiple times in their lives, so… let’s make a robot with eight vacuum tubes, a motor, and a bunch of metal tubes? SURE, WHO EVEN KNOWS – THAT OTHER SHIT WORKED, WHY NOT THIS? How is an empty metal tube supposed to do anything? I dunno, I didn’t expect this metal rope to do anything either, but now it’s 8pm and dark since 4pm and I’m snowed in on the cold cold plains in January, and before going to bed I’m listening to a jazz band playing right now in the Savoy Hotel in New York City.

Impossible madness, from small numbers of simple parts.

Really, if anything, it’s surprising those decades weren’t even goofier.

Mirrored from Crime and the Blog of Evil. Come check out our music at:
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anna won’t let me play this either
[23 May 2016|09:30am]

I have a song I call “Missing Home Row,” which is Great Big Sea’s “Goin’ Up” but all the chords – none of which are bar chords – played one fret too high.

The effect is remarkably similar to this:

mmmmmmmmmmmmmm musical supervillainy mmmmmmmmmmmmmm

Mirrored from Crime and the Blog of Evil. Come check out our music at:
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building the “can” – the carbon element mount
[23 May 2016|08:30am]

My carbon microphone is actually in a can now! I’m super happy with it, and yes, it works, even if most of the circuit is still in a test harness. The can itself does not contain anything important in the way of circuitry, though it does contain quite a bit of grounded shielding which is very important, and that shielding is carried forward out the cable, which is a TRS phone plug.

I made the decision to put the support circuitry in a separate box for a couple of reasons. First, the signal level is pretty high, so a decently-shielded cable should prevent most issues from being actual issues. Second, the support circuitry for these things tended to be external in the originals, so it’s period-accurate. Third, opening the can to replace a battery every 15 hours of use or so was going to be annoying; much easier to do it an an external experimenter’s cabinet.

And yeah, one of the downsides of this mic is the high power consumption. I thought about trying to tap phantom power, but from what I can tell reading up on it, the amount of power actually supplied – voltage aside – is dramatically lower than a battery’s supply and is not well defined, by which I mean is not defined, so… yeah. Batteries it is.

Anyway! I decided to make it look like a vintage carbon-element microphone of its era, only using elastic instead of springs. Springs look cool, but they’re also noisy as hell and create other issues, and it’s easy to tell that they would’ve used elastic if they’d had it just by how quickly they changed to using elastics as soon as they had elastics to use.

BUT SOLARBIRD, HOW DID YOU DO IT?

Well, first, let’s ask the eternal question: ah, junk shop, is there any build problem you can’t solve?


No. No, there is not.

If you’re wondering, that’s a vaguely-20s-looking kind of drink can holder in the middle, and I believe a hand towel holder designed to hang from the top of a door.

My only worry was whether the towel ring assembly was just screwed into the plate, or bolted to it; most excellently, it turned out to have been attached with a screw. So I just separated the ring from the existing base, sanded the attachment point down a bit to make it nice and flat, and attached it to a small metal L, using a rubber plumbing washer to make up the extra space.

Attaching to a standard microphone stand attachment is just as easy; unscrew one of those infinite number of cheap mic clips that are floating around every studio ever, toss the bit that holds the mic, drill out the hole in the L metal to be large enough, and pad with more plumbing washers.


Result!

Now the ring is ready to attach to any standard microphone stand.

Now, the can itself was a little more of a trick. This is all mechanical construction, not circuitry, since all that will be in an external box. But! There is some electrics, because given my particular… affinity… with RF (and radiating it, hi, it’s solarbird for a reason), I wanted a good heavily-shielded pickup enclosure.

Did you know you can buy adhesive tape made of copper? With conductive adhesive? It’s made exactly for this purpose. I love it. I started by lining the back, and peeling excess up the sides a bit intentionally. You want a good amount of overlap with this tape.

Lining the sides involves another ring of copper metal tape, with – again – overlapping tabs made of the excess height. Getting the height right is really simple – just put the tape in and cut inwards, using any common scissors – this may be metal tape, but it’s pretty thin, and no special tools are required.

After I took that photo, I realised I needed smaller tabs, so I went through and made another set of cuts, halfway between each existing cut.

Once you’ve fiddled around with it a bit, you’ll end up with something that looks like this:

Make sure the copper is well rubbed down against each other, so the conductive adhesive can really carry current without adding any resistance. Again, no special tools, a fingernail is fine – but make sure it’s well stuck down.

You might also notice in that photo, a small black line – I broke the tape, and fixed it with just a small piece to cover the gap. As long as you have well-connected metal throughout, you’ll be fine. We’re talking very low power with RF noise, in most circumstances, so you don’t have to worry about carrying power or anything like that.

Unless you have a tesla coil, maybe. That’s different.

Now, I also needed a grill for the microphone, and – importantly – it had to be a conductive grill, because I need that RF blocking all around the carbon element. I know, I know, some of you are going, “it’s a carbon element how are you doing anything to it?!” and all I can say is I have recordings and I have to ground myself with a wrist strap if I’m using AKG microphones, and again, supervillain.

Fortunately, a material that serves this purpose quite well is common and cheap: aluminium window screening! I’m kind of annoyed with myself, because I threw away a bunch two weeks ago – used but still clean and good – because I had no thoughts I’d need it. What was wrong with me? I can’t even tell you. Moods. So I had to stealbuy some. Fortunately, it’s pretty much dirt cheap.

I got a ring of heavy flexible rubberised foam to make a structural ring, and measured the right size just by pushing the screening into the bottom of the can until I had good edges. Since it is window screening, it has a lot of room to compress, and that helped. You want that excess screening material, for reasons which should be obvious momentarily.

In the above photo, I’ve sized the screening material, and am getting ready to make a ring of copper tape to surround both the inner and outer layers of the support ring. This is partly structural – you can see that my support ring is not a single loop, but a bent straight piece – and partly to help make sure of good, solid contact between the metal screening, through copper tape, to the interior copper shielding of the can. Make this part a little too large, if anything, and you end up with a solid pressure-contact connection.


Swaaaaank

Holding the carbon element in place is also a job for foam. In this case, I have some high-density impact-absorbing foam left over from my case making projects earlier, so I just used that. It can be a very rough cut, as long as it’s just a tad bigger than the ring it’s going into. It’ll compress, and that provides a little more outward pressure to make the grounding contact between the grille and the interior shielding better.

You’ll also note inside the can, against the back, I’ve placed a spacer ring. This keeps the grille’s support ring from going too far into the can; it’s just a physical element, since you want the carbon element nice and forward, and not sinking into the can where sound would get echoey.

What you can’t see is an important step I … didn’t remember to photograph. Sorry! And that’s drilling a hole for the cable. The cable is three-conductor; two signal leads (which connect to the two contact points of the carbon element) and one shield ground. The shield ground gets soldered directly to the copper tape, which is why you use copper metal tape instead of some other metal. This is a little tricker than you might expect, mechanically; I had to use higher temperature on the soldering iron. I think it mostly has to do with soldering wire (physically complex, wicks well) to a flat surface (physically simple, does not wick well). Just take that part as read.


[Win95TADA.wav]

Some of you might be looking at this picture and going, “…wait. The carbon element is right up against the grill. It’s touching, and metal, and isn’t that a problem?”

Well spotted, you! It would indeed be a problem! I solved it by cutting out a couple more layers of plastic window screening – also left from another project – to provide an insulation barrier between the metal screening and the actual pickup element. If you don’t have any of that, hosary would do fine – the same material used in pop filters. Acoustic transparency is important here, of course, but to be frank – less so than usual.

“That’s not like you.” Yes. But think about it, I mean, what’s a telephone use? Oh yeah, THICK PLASTIC WITH SOME HOLES IN. Does it hurt the sound? NOT VERY MUCH, because it’s a carbon element with a range of around 300hz to 3500hz, maybe. So you can afford some loss in the high end, because what you don’t lose, the mic will lose for you. And this screen material is plenty acoustically transparent for these circumstances. So would be hosary, or the right foam, or all sorts of other things. Just, you know, use good judgement.

Anyway, the build stuck on hold – ON HOLD! HA! – for a couple of days as I wait for the 600ohm isolation transformers to arrive. They aren’t essential, necessarily, but do reduce RF noise and hum in some circumstances, so I’m going to use one. I’ll post more when I’ve got more done. I’m really pleased with how it’s coming along; this is fun.

Bigger pictures on Flickr, as usual.

ps: People were asking for a sound sample. This is from the test harness, before I built the ‘can.’ New recording sample next time.

Mirrored from Crime and the Blog of Evil. Come check out our music at:
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this is awesome: river rockets of the soviet union
[21 May 2016|10:44am]

[ mood | impressed ]

The Soviet Union was really fond of hydrofoils. This is awesome.

There are some clickthroughs in this article, many are worth it.

http://www.messynessychic.com/2016/04/20/river-rockets-of-the-soviet-space-age/

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a waveform sung into a can
[20 May 2016|08:30am]

I have a waveform! I did a bunch of testing of various parts and such, discovering that the carbon transmitter (microphone) I had was indeed fully functional, and really, it came down to “not enough voltage.” 1.5v is pretty borderline for carbon microphone power, so that’s fine.

The waveform is kind of lopsided, but that’s because this test harness doesn’t have the balanced output yet; I’ve ordered the balanced transformer, and that should help. It’s also a bit noisy – here’s a sample – which is partly related to SHIELDING WHAT IS SHIELDING because it’s a test harness.

Talking of, here’s what version one looked like:

This is a direct implementation of the first half of the circuit described in this instructable, which runs off a 9V battery. Once the rest of the circuit is added, it’ll have balanced output, which is pretty snazzy.

This is a closer view, and also after I added an LED, because hey, LEDs!

After that, I tried a smaller capacitor, and that’s working fine – mostly, I’m just picking from what I’ve got, which goes along with what the circuit designer described.

I’m going to play more with the circuit a bit, pending getting the matching transformer. And some shielding.

And, of course, the can. 😀

ps: this harmonica “bullet mic” looks pretty cool too.

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a mic of constant sorrow
[19 May 2016|08:30am]

I’ve been trying to build a carbon microphone. Why? Well, partly, because I can, and partly, because if you want that “telephone” sort of sound, the best way to do it is to use a telephone element rather than fake it later (see also: BULLHORN), and partly because I want to be able to sing into a can, like them fellers at the radio station.


A Microphone of Constant Sorrow

And this should be – electrically, at least – very simple. Small power supply – battery is fine – resistor or two, capacitor. Done. Very simple circuit.

But it isn’t working, and I have absolutely no idea why, and I’m highly frustrated. I’m going to try a higher-voltage circuit, which I’ve been avoiding for no good reason other than it shouldn’t help, but I’m starting to think the carbon element I got new-old-stock off eBay isn’t up to snuff.

Anybody else built one of these monsters before? I have actually managed to get extremely-low-volume recordings out of it a couple of times – far too low level to be useful, I’m afraid – so I don’t think the element is actually dead. But honestly, I have no idea.

eta: GUESS WHO HAS A WAVEFORM 😀


A WAV of Constant Sorrow

Mirrored from Crime and the Blog of Evil. Come check out our music at:
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and we have our first physical attack
[18 May 2016|10:26pm]

[ mood | angry ]

And now we have our first physical attack by a Washroom Vigilante.

Security officer arrested for assault, accused of stopping transgender woman from using restroom
http://www.fox5dc.com/news/local-news/142683258-story

WASHINGTON - A security guard at a Northeast D.C. Giant Food grocery store was arrested for assault Wednesday... The incident happened as the customer, Eboni Belcher, was attempting to go inside the restroom. Once inside, the security guard reportedly followed the customer and used physical force to escort the customer out of the restroom...


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people getting the fuck out
[18 May 2016|09:09pm]

[ mood | sad ]

There are people getting the fuck out. She is by no means the only one.

http://money.cnn.com/2016/05/17/technology/tor-developer-fbi/index.html?1463536298809=1

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but remember, it's not about hating transgendered people
[18 May 2016|07:32pm]

[ mood | enraged ]

There are reports that Arkansas will attempt to win the race to the bottom, declaring transgendered people who use a washroom to be sex offenders.

http://www.arktimes.com/ArkansasBlog/archives/2016/05/18/report-missy-irvin-plans-to-make-it-a-sex-crime-to-use-wrong-restroom

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the new single has lyrics
[17 May 2016|10:12am]

I was asked to post the lyrics to the new single (Bandcamp, YouTube, Soundcloud), so sure, I can do that!

The copyright says Crime and the Forces of Evil, of course, but this is very much what I think of as a Mary Kaye and the Cosmetics song – my all-girl hardcore punk band that plays exclusively Hello Kitty-branded instruments. And I would love to play a MKatC gig, but so far, really, that’s mostly My Girlfriend, Sad Muppet, Get Out, and this. We almost have enough music for a 20-minute mini-set, though!

Anyway, enjoy:

Pee Police
2016 Crime and the Forces of Evil
ALL CAPS is CRUISE CONTROL for BULLHORN

What the fuck do you think you’re wearing
Why do you think you have the right
You fucking dykes better get with the programme
or there’s gonna be a fight because
we’re gonna bring the law down on you
like we always knew we should
And you’re gonna pay if you look at us funny
Oh it really gives us wood that’s right

‘CAUSE WE’RE THE PEE POLICE
PEE POLICE
GET DOWN ON YOUR FUCKING KNEES
‘CAUSE WE’RE THE PEE POLICE
PEE POLICE
UP AGAINST THE STALL

I don’t care what these bitches are saying
I don’t care if you’re a girl
I’m the cop in charge and I know what I’m doing
and your trousers make me burly now
I can finally strut ’round in here and I can
show you who’s in charge
You better sit your ass down and pay attention
while my lumber’s getting large that’s right

‘CAUSE WE’RE THE PEE POLICE
PEE POLICE
GET DOWN ON YOUR FUCKING KNEES
‘CAUSE WE’RE THE PEE POLICE
PEE POLICE
UP AGAINST THE STALL

No ID? Then you get no peeing
as I slam you to the wall
Jesus says it’s time now to give a beating
and I always give the best of all because
you faggots got to learn one thing and that’s
to bow to my command
If my staff of life doesn’t show you Jesus
My rod will show you god firsthand

‘CAUSE WE’RE THE PEE POLICE
PEE POLICE
GET DOWN ON YOUR FUCKING KNEES
‘CAUSE WE’RE THE PEE POLICE
PEE POLICE
FUCK YOUR NEW ID
WE’RE THE PEE POLICE
PEE POLICE
GET DOWN ON YOUR FUCKING KNEES
‘CAUSE WE’RE THE PEE POLICE
PEE POLICE
GET UP AGAINST THE STALL

ANYBODY ELSE FEELIN’ UPPITY?
I DIDN’T THINK SO

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RELEASE: Pee Police (explicit lyrics) (Song NSFW)
[16 May 2016|08:30am]

Last month, I saw a horrific video going around, that one of a cop slamming a butch lesbian into a wall and out of a washroom for not performing femininity to his satisfaction. And, after I was done shaking with rage, I wrote this song.

It’s very angry, very political music, with an eye towards bitter humour. Klopfenpop called it “Pete Seeger meets Pussy Riot,” and I have to say, I’m pretty happy with that reaction.

That video I mentioned above was the first of a flood of similar incidents being reported after North Carolina rushed through the anti-TLGB (and safety and child labour law repealing – didn’t know that part, did you?) HB2 in a several-hour-long special session.

Sure, these abuses happened before it became this year’s fundamentalist-button-pushing issue. But the people who get off on this have certainly felt emboldened ever since, to the point of this North Carolina school system voting to let people pepper-spray transgendered students. It’s that fucking bad.

Pee Police lyric video on YouTube

There are several such bills going around, in various permutations, all sourced from the same choose-your-own-oppression master bill by a fundamentalist/rightist organisation. The one offered here puts a $2500 bounty on the heads of transgendered children, targeting the most vulnerable in this particularly vicious hate campaign. The legislative version did not make it out of committee, so they are now gathering signatures to put it onto the ballot. They can’t win, but they can wage hate for months and crank up fundamentalist turnout – and, of course, hurt lots and lots of children.

Pee Police on Soundcloud

Hurting people – particularly very vulnerable people, like kids – is the point, of course. That’s how they get off, and just putting all that out there is the whole point of this new song. Well, okay, they also have the goal of boosting fundamentalist voter turnout. It’s always about that, and if people get hurt along the way – well, so much the better. As long as it’s the right people, like women who don’t know their place.

Din of Thieves will be a lot harder-edged than Bone Walker, and this is part of that aesthetic. I’m not making any guesses about the far end of its range – it won’t be a whole album of this kind of four-chord metal-influenced punk, but I feel like I have some things to prove, and that’ll show. How much, I don’t entirely know. It’s all written, and some of it is the most hopeful stuff I’ve ever written – ask anyone who has heard “Supervillain For I Love You” or – most of all – “We’re Not Friends.”

I guess what I’m saying is: this is a pretty emotional song – one I hope is cathartic – and Din of Thieves will be a pretty emotional album. Because it’s… it’s a pretty damn emotional time.

Pee Police on Bandcamp [Explicit lyrics]

Share it around. Particularly where you think it might do some good.

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almost ready
[14 May 2016|02:44pm]

Setting up Bandcamp and working on the a lyrics video for Monday’s release while we have a lovely cool, rainy day outside. <3

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single art
[12 May 2016|08:30am]

Art for the new single coming out on Monday. It’s kind of driving me crazy holding onto this one because there’s so much insanity over this right now, and when I saw that video of that cop slamming that butch lesbian against a wall and then out of a washroom for not performing femininity correctly – so angry – the song that popped into my head virtually wrote itself.

This is still “test” art – I’m not sure it’s there yet. It’s in the neighbourhood tho’. It just seems too… I dunno, bright? But I like it. So I’m torn.

Ah well, I’ll figure it out before Monday.

eta: New version:

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it's just open season now in north carolina
[11 May 2016|09:53am]

[ mood | enraged ]

"SALISBURY, N.C. -- A North Carolina school system has adopted a policy allowing high school students to carry pepper spray this fall, a policy one board member said may be useful for students who encounter transgender classmates in the bathroom."

http://www.newsobserver.com/news/nation-world/national/article76827092.html



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a difference which makes no difference is no difference
[10 May 2016|02:57pm]

[ mood | enraged ]

... not in politics, anyway.

Mr. Trump's revival of overt white supremacy as a viable campaign platform is, I repeat, unforgivable. He's just selected a white supremacist leader as one of his delegates in California, one most noted for calling for all non-whites to be forcibly expelled from the United States.

The white supremacists and neofascists, on the other hand, are thrilled. Klan leaders have been talking about how they're going to use this to leverage everything even further towards overt racism, with the idea being to make Mr. Trump's courting of the neofascist movement a 'moderate' position, with the hope of rehabilitating one of the world's worst mass-murderers, Adolf Hitler.

Mr. Trump seems to be encouraging it.

I have been told by several people that Mr. Trump is not actually a racist and doesn't actually care about these people. You know the difference between a sincere white supremacist and someone with power who merely acts like one, and courts them to get votes and gain power?

FUCKING NOTHING. THERE IS NO FUCKING DIFFERENCE. AT ALL.

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the new song
[10 May 2016|08:30am]

Playing the current mix of the new song around a little bit, privately.

“This is like Pete Seeger meets Pussy Riot” — Klopfenpop
 

You know, just in case Pussy Riot wasn’t already political enough. So I think I’m doin’ this right. Subtlety is not the idea here – I GOT A FEVER AND THE ONLY PRESCRIPTION IS MORE BULLHORN.

(It is also not getting any more worksafe. I think the cover art should maybe just be a big PARENTAL ADVISORY label. This is fun! 😀 )

Mirrored from Crime and the Blog of Evil. Come check out our music at:
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oh dear it’s another project
[09 May 2016|11:34am]

Or more correctly, a few other projects. Or hilarious things I found out.

ONE! I need a bullhorn for the chorus of this song. YES A BULLHORN. Yes, I can fake it with plugins but searching around for advice online, the most common answer by far was Just Get A Bullhorn, They’re Cheap. And they are, you can get a decent one for $9.

TWO! I’mma gonna build a carbon button microphone – think antique telephone, like those things from the 1930s-1960s – and nobody can stop me. Turns out the parts are cheap and you don’t have to spend $250 for that one from Gold or whoever.

THREE! As I posted on Facebook over the weekend, turns out those old Square credit-card readers for your phone or tablet that let you take credit cards at shows? They’re purely analogue devices, which is why Square upgraded everyone for free last year. Meaning they output sound. Meaning I just recorded the audio of my Costco card and this is hilarious.

I need some quarter-inch magnetic tape, stat. XD

Mirrored from Crime and the Blog of Evil. Come check out our music at:
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more pee police
[06 May 2016|06:43pm]

[ mood | angry ]

More PEE POLICE in action - or I guess I should say, Pee Vigilantes. This one also thinks cisgendered lesbians shouldn't be allowed to pee either. No word on bisexuals, tho' I doubt she knows we exist.

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interviewed on tumblr
[06 May 2016|08:30am]

Over on Tumblr, monsterquill interviewed me for a project, and I figured hey, let’s post it here too. Particularly since yep, still busy! monsterquill is in bold italic; I’m in regular text. Enjoy.

Why do you do fan music, what do you like about it?

Oh, well, mostly, because it’s fun. I mean, sure, I’m not going to lie; it gets attention, because you have a pre-existing audience to leverage, and all that. But I was coming up with fan music when there wasn’t a receptive audience for that kind of thing, I just wasn’t recording it – just because it’s a way to do fandom.

How did you get into it?

Same way as people get into fan fiction or fan art or anything else fannish (to use an older term) – THIS IS AWESOME I’M GONNA DO A THING! And then I did a thing. I also drew some fairly terrible (and some halfway decent) comic art and wrote fanfic. Music is just another aspect of that.

How are you involved in fan music community, & how would you describe it?

Well, I started nwcMUSIC, a geekmusic festival held as part of Norwescon, and ran that for six years – this immediate past year was the first one they ran after I handed it off, and I think they learned some things, and will continue to improve next year.

Describe it? Jeez, that’s a bit of a question. There are so many different such communities – the chiptunes crowd and the nerdcore crowd definitely overlap, and they talk to each other a lot across geographic regions. There’s an older folk tradition called “filk music” which was the first really organised geek or (”fannish,” in the old language) music community, and they started releasing audiocassettes in the 1980s. (Look up Off Centaur Publications and go from there if you want to dig into that part of the history.)

There are a fair number of differences in specifics, but it’s funny how the patterns repeat. Like, nerdcore people get together in the hiphop tradition and do improvised/freestyle rapping over beats, which tend to come from chiptunes, and it’s at homes and sometimes at events and everybody’s just getting together to do stuff, right? These are called cyphers. But filk started doing almost exactly the same thing a few decades before, but folk-music-y, and called them “housefilks.” Chiptunes people have a name for their improv/workshop/fun playing get togethers too, but I don’t remember what they’re called at the moment.

How do consuming a fannish thing and producing your own work relate for you?

Well… in both cases, I guess, I’m playing to the same audience, which is to say, me. And also people who like the same things as me, at least, within a certain range.

What genres of music do you tend toward, & what subjects, & do those affect each other, & do you use different ones?

There is very little geek metal out there, and while I’m playing acoustic instruments most of the time, what I’m really writing a lot of the time is metal. Early metal, rather than more modern metal, but still – that’s why the most common comparison by far that I hear is to Led Zeppelin. (Occasionally I’m thrown in as folkpunk, and get comparisons to The Pogues. But most of the time, it’s Led Zeppelin.)

My personal background is a mash of Newfoundland folk, metal, and electronica. In released material, I mostly hang out in the folk/metal arena, but I’ll drop a rock track once in a while. Pretty much always, I just go where the song says I need to go.

Like, when I did my first released fannish track – which was really an exercise in how to use a digital audio workstation – it was straight-up rock and roll, because the song required it. There’s a cult classic film called The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension, and it’s an odd, odd film, and I really like it. Part of the shtick is that Buckaroo Banzai is a brain surgeon, physicist, and! leader of a rock band called The Hong Kong Cavaliers, and successful at all three at the same time. (And also, he’s a pulp adventurer, but I digress.)

Given all that, it bugged me that they never got to do a whole song in the film. They start a couple, but plot happens, and they’re interrupted. Soooooo… a bunch of new lyrics, some additional instruments, and a zillion edits later, I’d scraped off every note out of the film and finished that song.

And it’s called The Diesel-Driven Eight Dimensional Jet Car Blues, and it’s on my fan-music page, http://crimeandtheforcesofevil.com/free to this day. 😀

What’s your songwriting process like? What inspires you to do a song?

The problem with a day job is that you have a day job. The advantage of a day job – at least, one that doesn’t eat your life, and I note that I didn’t do any music while I was a software developer in the industry – is that you can really pick and choose.

But even without that option – everybody writes for the same reasons, be it writing fiction or drawing artwork or making music. It’s all the same answer. I guess for musicians, it’s “I want to say a thing about a thing, but with a good beat.”

I heard a good analogy the other day – artwork is how we decorate our space, but music is how we decorate our time. I really like that. I also think – while not at all asserting there’s no overlap, because of course there is – that art is how we write down what we see, writing is how we write down what we think, and music is how we write down what we feel. Music is transcription of emotions, and lyrics add thoughts to give specific context.

Or that’s how I look at it, anyway.

Mirrored from Crime and the Blog of Evil. Come check out our music at:
Bandcamp (full album streaming) | Videos | iTunes | Amazon | CD Baby

Also posted to ソ-ラ-バ-ド-のおん; comment count unavailable comments at Dreamwidth.

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that “apple is stealing your music” blog post
[05 May 2016|10:22am]

There’s an “Apple is stealing your music” blog post going around on Facebook today, and people are freaking out in that “we’re freaking out about this” way that they do, and as someone who talked about this when Apple Music rolled out, I have to step in and say some things.

First: This is Apple Music, which is to say, Apple’s stream-everywhere service. Think of Pandora, but also streaming your ripped CDs and so on. This is not core iTunes functionality (tho’ it is delivered from within iTunes if you enable it), this is not your iPhone, or iPod, or whatever. You have to sign up for this and pay for it. It’s $10/month.

Second: Here’s the thing. I don’t like Apple Music and don’t use it, for several reasons, one of which being this one. I am not an Apple Music fangirl defending my platform here, I don’t like it or use it.

But.

The whole pitch of Apple Music, the whole point of it, is to make “your” music available to you everywhere, as well as give you access to Apple’s very large streaming library service.

I use quotes around “your” up there, for very good reason. You don’t own most of your music. You just don’t. See this four year old but still relevant commentary on so-called ownership of music for details. What you own are limited rights to music.

This means that Apple cannot legally upload your specific copies of licensed songs to their servers without paying the RIAA buttloads of money – far, far more than your monthly Apple Music membership fee. Cannot, as in, it’s illegal. The only way they can offer this service is to have a licensing scheme set up, which pretty much means the reference-library approach they’re taking.

Now, they can upload stuff that is actually yours, with your permission. And they’re doing that, according to this article. (And other sources, for that matter.) They have to do that, in order to share it around; that’s kind of implicit with the service.

But they’re probably not going to store uncompressed WAVs. They’re huge. Your phone’s data plan will be hammered if they stream WAV files. Everybody and their mother would rage about that, and for good reason, and the mobile market is most of the reason to have this at all. So, for these very good reasons, they’re going to compress.

(Now, they might upload a WAV and then stream you down AACs – disk space is cheap – and I don’t know what they do internally. But let’s assume they’re not. Given it’s Apple, I don’t know what format they’d use on their servers, but it’d probably be some very-low-loss AAC variant, which is very good. But that’s kind of a side question that I bring up only because the “Apple is stealing your music” post author brought it up, as well.)

Now, once they’ve set up the service, with your library’s use rights transferred to the cloud, they will treat all devices as peers, and make them all into echos of the central cloud copy. That’s the clean way to do it; it’s the elegant, least-hacky way. Their architecture is based around the idea that the “primary” machine is their set of servers, and all other devices are thin / empty / stream-on-demand clients. This lets them do really good backups, and provide all the similar cloud-centric services which really are the point of that whole system.

But that means setting all the client environments to be the same and reflect the server, and that’s why it’s set up as it is. (There also may be multiple-copy licensing issues? The RIAA would certainly insist that there are, and this avoids that fight.) All the (thin) clients are in the same state, so all the information is common across all of them, status is always synced, etc. Which means that the local library echos have to match what the server thinks they should be, and there’s no room for exceptions.

It doesn’t have to be that way. They could have – and, to my mind, should have set up exemption rules to avoid exactly this problem. (eta: and at some point after version one in fact did – see below!) And they chose not to (at initial release), because it makes the implementation a lot less elegant if you do that, and/or because the cases where that’s actually an issue are a tiny slice on the edge of their market, and/or because the support costs would’ve been higher, and that’s both inevitable and expensive.

Which of those factors was more important, I can’t begin to guess. I’ve known a lot of managers from Microsoft who would’ve made the same call, and I’d’ve been screaming at them, and probably would’ve lost that fight. Or who knows, maybe I wouldn’t’ve. I don’t know.

What I do know is that the edge-case argument is demonstrably valid. Apple Music has been around nine months. A bunch of us complained about the architecture when it came out; now silence, until this. That’s one new high-visibility blog post about it in three-quarters of a year, which averages out to 1.33 persons angry enough to get it attention about it again, per year.

That’s a pretty small number, particularly given it’s out of 13 million subscribers or so. I may be part of that edge case, but that doesn’t stop it from being an edge case.

Still, ignoring that edge case – and completely blowing up the “least surprise” principle of user experience management – that’s where this was a terrible, nearly Microsoftian design decision. Giving each device the possibility of having a list of first-copy/exempted/whatever songs is, as above, a real technical and support problem. But they could’ve solved it, should’ve solved it, and decided not to.

And that was terrible and leads directly here, and is why I don’t use Apple Music.

But they aren’t “stealing your music.” For the overwhelming majority of users, you already don’t “own” it, you just have transferrable rights. And if Apple wants to offer the service they’re offering, they’re kind of stuck under current copyright law. They just are.

(They could also just back up your old library. But since edge-case people in particular will still add new non-library songs to their personal library while subscribed that means you have to sync the backup as well – yay, more code to maintain! More support to do! – or otherwise, when they quit Apple Music, HEY SOME OF MY SONGS ARE GONE APPLE DESTROYED MY MUSIC!! and we’re right back here.)

The only place I see an even remotely-possible legal issue is that I think they should auto-download all your licensed and owned music without having to go through by hand (as the guy describes in his article as something he doesn’t want to do) when you drop Apple Music. That’s arduous enough that I think you can make a restraint case out of it – particularly for the non-library/actually-owned-by-the-user parts of the library, that edge case that he has and I have and so on.

But the rest of it – the licensed material, meaning all the ‘purchased’ music, none of which you are ever actually purchasing, even if you buy it in physical form – that’s most likely legally solid, and the ground rules are dictated pretty heavily by the RIAA.

Who are monsters. But that’s a whole ‘nother series of articles.
 
eta: Hey, turns out, Apple Music even tries to tell you what it’s about to do and lets you opt out will still using the service for the rest of your library, which means I’m wrong, they do in fact build the exemption list I described above now, which they didn’t in version one. Maybe that was in response to our round of complaints last year! But the wording – while correct – is confusing to many people, like this guy. (And to be fair, it really kinda is.)
 
eta2: From another source, the uploads of your local files are made as 256Kbps AAC.
 


This is a related entry in the Music in the Post Scarcity Environment series of articles about the music industry, and trying to make it as an indie musician in the modern environment.</p>

Mirrored from Crime and the Blog of Evil. Come check out our music at:
Bandcamp (full album streaming) | Videos | iTunes | Amazon | CD Baby

Also posted to ソ-ラ-バ-ド-のおん; comment count unavailable comments at Dreamwidth.

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