Handmade Synths from Junkyard Jammers!

I love, love, love(!!!) seeing and hearing the projects my readers build, and sharing them with folks thinking about how they want to tackle these same projects.  First up is Jason Jaknunas’s take on the Bleepbox 8-Step Analog Sequencer (Project 16 in Junkyard Jam Band)—which is easily the best version of this I’ve ever seen (it totally leaves mine in the dust, and I designed the damn thing!)

Everything is just so sweet and just-right here: the knobs, the brushed aluminum label, the wood cheeks, the grommets padding out the LEDs, the labels—but also the little things, the visual balance among the elements, the use of different sizes of knob on different functions.  Give it a look, then give it a listen.  So rad!

An absolutely lovely Bleepbox built by Jason Jaknunas
An absolutely lovely Bleepbox built by Jason Jaknunas

Arthur Lacomme in Brussels, who I’ve linked before, sent me a link to a rad lil Single-Chip Space Invader (Project 15 in Junkyard Jam Band) he built. Click thru to hear this bad boy; such chiptune joy!  Arthur and his pals have plans to hit an upcoming “wild carnival” with some noise-enhanced clothing.  I look forward to seeing and sharing video!

Single-Chip Space Invader by Arthur Lacomme
Single-Chip Space Invader by Arthur Lacomme

Keep seeking out the Good Noise!  Keep sharing what you find!

Plz take 5mins RIGHT NOW and call your reps about this presidential violation of common decency and religious liberty

If you haven’t settled on what you’re calling your reps about today, may I suggest the Second Place President’s Friday executive order banning Muslim immigrants from seven war-torn nations?

Mr. Trump also established a religious test for refugees from Muslim nations: He ordered that Christians and others from minority religions be granted priority over Muslims.

(Source: Trump Bars Refugees and Citizens of 7 Muslim Countries)

By Friday night that order was already being used to detain folks who had already been fully vetted, in addition to showing loyalty to the US for years in the global war in terror. We should be welcoming these guys as heros and ideal Americans, not sending them back to be tortured and murdered.

In any case, an executive order that “Christians be granted priority” should not rest easy with any American.

UPDATE: Was doing some research Sunday and found a phrase that might come in handy when you make those calls: “High Crimes and Misdemeanors” 

High crimes and misdemeanors

Clarification on Calling Your Reps, and Props to Senator Stabenow

Props to Senator Debbie Stabenow for Playing it Legit

First things first, I want to applaud my senator, Debbie Stabenow, for being hella legit. I just called her office for my daily check-in, and got a little insight on her process when it comes to the Second-Place President’s cabinet nominations:  Sen. Stabenow has been meeting with each nominee one-on-one, preferably face-to-face, to feel them out and attempt to get answers to the specific concerns being raised by her constituents.  None of the grand-standing or histrionics congressfolk are notorious for, just a straight-up, respectful Q&A.  This also means that when Stabenow announced that she would not support Jeff Sessions or Betsy DeVos, she had already told them this to their faces.  I respect the hell out of that, and knowing this bit about her process helps me feel less terrible.  Thank you, Sen. Stabenow!usa-american-flag-waving-animated-gif-26

Second, I want to clarify two things about calling your reps (which you should be doing daily.  Please!):

  1. Call your reps even if you know they already agree with you and are doing what you want done! Tell them “thank you!” If you feel even an iota safer knowing that they are going to bat for you, then say so.  This serves two purposes:
    1. It’s a numbers game.  They count calls, and those numbers mean something, not just in their office, but on the floor of the House and Senate. The Honorable Gentleman from BFE cares a helluva lot about 100 calls from folks in his district—at the very least, those people can fire him in a couple short years!—but he sure as hell doesn’t just ignore 10,000 calls in The Honorable Lady’s district over in Big City Metro Area, because he sure as hell doesn’t plan on representing BFE his whole damn life.  He wants to go places.  (This isn’t just my opinion; this is what Rep. Dingell’s office told me this morning:  The number one thing you can do as an individual citizen is keep calling.)
    2. Your reps have the worst job, and they need moral support.  They are going to get screamed at and threatened for sticking up for the things we want—that’s ludicrous, because you’d think all Americans should want well-funded schools, neighbors from all over the world, and safe drinking water, but here we are. Your reps have to get up every morning, put on uncomfortable shoes, and go get screamed at by weirdos.  It is a lot easier for them to hang tough if they can keep in mind how many hundreds of folks back home have their back.
  2. Making these calls is as much about your mental health as our nation’s stability.  Even when you’re on the losing end of an issue—and you will be, often—you are going to start feeling better if you take 10 minutes each day to talk to these staffers, to hear their confidence and enthusiasm and bravery and support of you, as a citizen and a fellow human.

So, go! Get out there!  Make your calls and then get on with your day!

Calling Your Reps: A Guide for the Timid (with “Quick Start” and “Power User” options!)

I am a for-real, diagnosed agoraphobe.  You may be “terrified” of calling usa-american-flag-waving-animated-gif-26folks on the phone, but I am legit terrified of calling strangers on the phone.  Like, panic attack terrified, sick-to-my stomach terrified, go to the doctor terrified, diagnosed with good ole “DSM-IV-TR 300.21: Panic Disorder With Agoraphobia” terrified.

If I can do this, you can do this.

Quick Start

This is so easy it should be a hoax:

  1. Goto the 5 Calls website.
  2. If it doesn’t auto-detect your location, then click “Change” in the big white “5 Calls” box on the top left and enter your zip code.
  3. Pick an issue from the menu that pops up and start calling.  They explain the issue, give you a script to use, and provide the phone number.  If you’re on your smartphone, then you can just tap the number to start the call.
  4. Repeat until you’ve made five calls; it’ll take you less than five minutes.

This is a great place to start: The folks at 5 Calls are highlighting important issues and their scripts look solid.  I really like that it goes beyond just calling Congress (for example, the first time I used the site it had me call the U.S. Army Core of Engineers about the Dakota Access pipeline; slick!)

But there are a couple things that I don’t like about this service:  1) it only gives your congressfolks’ D.C. phone numbers; 2) I don’t particularly like reading someone else’s script, because I worry that too many cookie-cutter calls lose impact; 3) I’m gonna level with you: I’ve started crying on these calls before, suddenly realizing how upset I am about these issues.  I don’t really like crying, I definitely don’t like crying on the phone with strangers, but I’ve got to believe that a grown man crying about Special Education and his kid’s school—that probably does indeed get relayed to your rep, and gets folks in that office fired up about the issue.

So, that brings us to …

Power User Mode

  1. Add your congressfolks’ numbers to your phone’s contact list.  Find out who your reps are and get both their D.C. numbers and their in-state numbers (most offices are easier to reach on one or the other; with my congressfolk I can always get through on their Michigan numbers, but rarely on the D.C. numbers). If you have no clue who your reps are, look it up by address or text your zip code to (520) 200-2223 and a robot will send you their numbers instantly (sadly, that service is mostly limited to D.C. contact info—but it’s so damn convenient, I can’t help but keep plugging it).
  2. Create a daily reminder in your calendar to call your reps.  Drive time is great for this, as is that dead zone just before or after lunch, or any time you know you’ll be sitting around waiting for your kid’s school bus or whatever.
  3. Take a glance at the front page of a reliable newspaper each day.  I like the New York Times and Washington Post.  The Wall Street Journal is fine for this, as are the Detroit News and Free Press (I’m a Michigander) or ugly-ass AP Wire homepage—even frikkin USA Today.  I’ve drawn away from Slate (their tone was too confident before the election, and is too panic-inducing now), but still think they get their facts right enough for these purposes.  The little NPR news-breaks are fine, too.  Avoid the op-ed pages of any of these papers, as well as polemical sites (e.g., HuffPo, Politico, etc.), Google News (which has proven too easily manipulated), and social media (where I’ve found—at least in my feed—items are frequently so compressed for character count and spun for impact that they come dangerously close to departing from fact).  The point here is that you want a pretty plain-vanilla factual account of what’s happened in the past day.
  4. Decide which thing on the front page bugs you most.  Today, for me, it’s this: “Sometime this week, Trump is expected to pause the flow of all refugees to the U.S. and indefinitely bar those fleeing war-torn Syria. The president’s upcoming order is also expected to suspend issuing visas for people from several predominantly Muslim countries – Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen”  This bugs me for several reasons, but I think the biggest is this: Five out of those seven Muslim countries are places that the U.S. bombed every 20 minutes, 24 hours per day, for all of 2016.  To my mind, if you drop 20,000 bombs on some people who are minding their own business, you owe them something—like maybe a non-bombed place to live.
  5. Call your reps about it and tell them how you feel.  You don’t have to tell them what to do—vote for this, against that, whatever—you don’t have to suggest how to fix anything.  Figuring that part out is their job.  You just call, identify yourself and the city where you live, and say “The president said this…” or “I read in the paper that…” or “This rich person is arguing that we should do this other stuff…” and it scares the shit out of me.  Please help us.

Political Quickie: Take 5mins to Call yr Senators about Betsy DeVos NOW! Thx!

Six astonishing things Betsy DeVos said — and refused to say — at her confirmation hearing

This article is just one example, but the gist of it is this: Betsy DeVos is not qualified to be the U.S.Secretary of Education. She is actively antagonistic to the project of public education, and has been for decades. Based on her performance in this hearing, she knows next to nothing about modern educational theory and practice, or the legal framework surrounding these.

I’m a lifelong Michigander – just like DeVos – and let me tell you, as far as we can tell her entire project is to shuffle public dollars out of public schools and into private religious (i.e., Christian) schools (which are not obliged to accept all comers, accommodate all students, respect religious or philosophical differences, or meet most accountability standards).

Skim the article, find whichever pobit is most offensive to you, then call your senators. Please.

Don’t have their numbers handy (or know their names even)?  Look it up by address or text your zip code to (520) 200-2223 and a robot will send you their numbers instantly.

My son is one of the 6.5 million U.S. school kids who receives special services from the public education system. That’s ~13% of all school kids. Please take 5 minutes, leave a couple messages, and make sure my boy can keep getting the very mild accommodations he needs.

A Grab Bag of Human Music Technologies

Girl totally rocks the original “Super Mario” medley (complete with coins and power-ups!) on a sheng, sounds like she totally belongs in the Mos Eisley Catina Band:

A robot plays a pop hit (I love the rhythmic element that the robot’s motors and gears bring to the song):

Props to Arthur Lacomme for pointing me to this one featuring “Mr. Curly” (which is the instrument, not the dude playing it).  I love that watering-can clarinet Pollack demos around 1:45! 

(Arthur also recommends the open-source Rakarrack software package, which he uses when he rocks his Mr. Curley.)

This one is pretty interesting if you stick with it; what you no doubt initially take to be a precursor to the 8-track is playing cartridges loaded with ribbon-based analog records(!!!).  The macro-lens bit at around 5:20 gives you an example of both the sound (pretty damn solid) and the mechanism (OMFG! Wünderbar!)  Hilarious remote control, too.

And then there’s this guy:

chordophone-lyre-plucked
My beautiful picture

(FYI, that caption was Wordpress’s suggested—and I love it!!!)

o_O  The thing that makes this one, for me, is how the strings are anchored in the eye sockets(!!!)  The Met has several of thesefrom different generous donors and almost certainly different artisans—and they all use the eye sockets and brow ridge as a saddle and bridge.  Humans, amiright?

N.B. that, according to current expert opinion, this thing—which is indeed from Central Africa, where it was crafted in the 19th C by a native artisan—was produced for no other purpose than to sell something fantastically “primitive” and “savage” to European tourists/anthropologists (and thus inform European opinions of these nations and, in all likelihood, form the foundation of the moral justifications for brutal colonialism).  I invite the reader to meditate on their own how this might mirror our current situation with imported polarizing/fake news, and who the greater savage might be: The supplier who makes the ersatz evidence, or the customer who furnishes the demand and shells out the cash?

How to Smash Fascism without Really Trying

Here’s the thing about dictatorial violations (be they as outrageous as genocide or as comparably mild as yelling at a barista for wishing a “Happy Holidays!”):

They rarely have the support of the majority of the population—and certainly never start with even half the population on board.  Atrocities don’t require the majority’s active participation; they just need the majority’s active acquiescence.  And the majority will acquiesce even to the most terrible crimes as long as those aren’t too far outside the norm.  The wider the margin between “normal” and “atrocity,” the safer we all are; a pot that’s not allowed to even simmer can never boil over. 

So here’s a game plan for keeping the Melting Pot lukewarm:

  1. Learn these three sentences:
    1. An honestly curious “I’m not sure I follow you?”  (Other options: “Hunh; why do you think that?”)
    2. A bemused: “You don’t really believe that, do you?”
    3. A stern: “Not OK, dude.”  Not angry—never angry, because anger energizes the mob—but stern, like scolding a dog or child.
  2. Practice saying your sentences in a mirror. Make sure you’re getting the emotion right for each, and not getting angry.
  3. Use these in person—over the phone or in conversation, your voice in their ear, your eyes on theirs.  This tactic doesn’t work online or in print; it’s a matter of emotional connection, and that connection is made one-on-one, person-to-person.

Use this tactic with family and friends and coworkers and guys who are sorta being dicks in the coffee shop.  Use it freely and often and in good humor. Connect and connect and connect and connect with your fellow humans, always keep them a little nervous about that “off-color joke” or that “innocent” cat call or “telling it like it is.”

Note that 1.1 and 1.2 are questions—because you always want to knock people off balance, and oblige them to question their beliefs and justify them (even if only internally).  1.3 is simple, obvious, disengaged dissaproval.  You wouldn’t argue with a child about running out in the street or a dog about whether or not your leg is for humping; you give a sharp “Nope!” and move on with your life.  The same here.  No one ever argued their way out of a genocide, but plenty of awfulness has been prevented by scolding grannies and scoffing naysayers.

Remember: If the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing, then the only thing needed for evil to falter is for good folks to do something—shit, almost anything, just as long as you aren’t sitting on your hands, biting your tongues, and looking the other way.  Looking the other way is exactly what the lynch mob wants you to do.

(see also: We’re heading into dark times. This is how to be your own light in the Age of Trump)