. . . the wizard . . .
Category Archives: do-it-yourself
I appreciate the thoughtfulness and strategic communication of the 1UP graffiti crew. The above videos are a pretty good representation of the trans-national cohort bent on leaving their shared name on any (un)available surface.
1UP have challenged the stereotypes before with their coral reef tag, and the #LEAVENOONEBEHIND campaigns. They are graffiti extenders – moving the practices of graffiti into new mediums and methods. The crew seem comfortable with a variety of new application strategies including the whole crew whole car strategy with the car in service, fire extinguisher painting, and of course repetition.
These two videos present some of the more interesting elements of 1UP practice. I’ll observe:
- Collaborative vacation. These videos document 2019-20 New Years Eve in Napoli. The crew pick a location and then paint up the town and socialize. They share a crew tag and a goal of making it beam from every surface in the city.
- interactions on the street. The 1UP crew zip around Napoli and paint on the walls with passersby interacting. These offer up some great moments like the memorial tag at 2:28. But the 1UP crew seem social, jolly, the paintings all seem pretty crisp and they seem to pass cans to people walking by if they express an interest.
- Include the failures. I really like the disruption of the standard graffiti video format. Including some high profile failures and semi-honest reflection about those tactics adds a lot to these two films.
- Strategic painting. Two giant cans of silver paint with fat caps allow a person to cover a lot of terrain. The use of teams (one person doing the fill and another to do the outline) and the multiplication of these roles if they are doing something larger was really impressive.
- Nostalgia. After a half a year of COVID-19 and stresses of the end of democracy in the United States, seeing a band of artists run through a European city on New Years eve seems like nostalgic hi-jinx.
- Vele. The Vele houses in the second video (10:45) offer up one of the best case studies of representation and voice. My concern is that it would be exploitative for the community members, so I appreciated that they foregrounded consent with the neighborhood and participation in the message-making.
- Art. I have some aesthetic preferences. Not sure what the face on the Vele houses was. Was not moved by the addition of the yellow streaks to most of the finished throwups. Really liked the rainbow drip piece. Appreciated the solid lines and old school letter styles used for 1UP across the project.
- Ethics. I’m sympathetic to anyone who was disrupted in their transportation to work. I bet quite a few people were terrified by the giant firework explosions. And I think that some of the crew shots of large gatherings of hooded men may seem menacing to some.
Overall these two videos are great examples of communicative strategy both in the video construction and the 1UP artwork.
The guy who founded the online forum Muffwiggler passed away. His vision of a forum to make modular synths accessible has been really meaningful to a lot of people and has corresponded with the rise in Eurorack. He had been an opaque figure for me – a mostly unknown founder with a basement full of rare synths. With his passing a number of interesting videos have emerged including this one which gives Mike a chance to talk about the origins of the forum and reflect on the often consumerist nature of modular synths.
This video by the guitar pedal manufacuters Earthquake devices is particularly good. Featuring Money Mark (artist and famed Beastie Boys collaborator) in a laboratory with some created tools to make music.
This is a very enjoyable trip to Bastl instruments in the Czech Republic. Host Cuckoo is a charming interviewer and Bastl instruments showcase a people-oriented business.
My anticipation is that we’ll meet a lonely Eastern European modular maker, but what unfolds is a robust community has grown dramatically. Includes the boss describing how to avoid “poop face,” a woman modulating with a baby strapped on, Bastl’s boutique coffee plans, and a business where everyone is a musician. No really, it seems like *everyone* is a musician at Bastl.
Best part of the video is a chance to get some perspective from Peter Edwards (Casper Electronics) a circuit-bending scientist whose website has inspired a lot of people, including myself.
I continue to learn about digital noise-making. I’ve been soldering and bread-boarding synthesizers and noise-boxes for the last year. Along the way I’ve found a few cool motivations and inspirations.
1. I found Peter Blasser and his musical wizardry through an essay he wrote about making electronic instruments for a small child for econtact. At first I thought he was mocking the reader, and then I realized that the essay was deeply creative, fluid and inspiring. I spent as much time exploring the links as reading the text. This led me to Peter’s astounding limited edition home-made instruments: Ciat.lonbarde.net
Here is Blasser with a workshop about his Shnth I found enjoyable.
Blasser offers some really interesting DIY projects at his website: Peter B. I’m collecting the parts to make some paper circuits. I find his approach, openness and creative inspirational work to be sublime.
2. Since I’ve been making my own instruments I often run into disappointment. I finish something and plug in a battery and it doesn’t work. Finding motivation to keep creating when projects flop takes a little intellectual inspiration. I often turn to look at the pictures and read the notes by Chris Beckstrom. As he puts it:
My admittedly lofty goal was to build a modular synthesizer, from scratch, using basic components (no kits), with zero electronics experience. Turns out, it’s possible! I’m sharing circuits, designs, pictures, and code to help other folks realize their dream of building a modular synthesizer for themselves.
I really like that uses bolts as cheap connections instead of the costly cables for most systems. I appreciate that he lists that some of his modules aren’t working at the moment. At points where I struggled to move forward it is really gratifying to see a home-made system that seems accessible. In fact seeing creative people who aren’t deterred by lack of money or parts is helpful as I put together my machines.
I’ve been making my own synthesizers for the last few months. It started with a challenge from my friend August. August pointed me to the $25 Sythrotek Atari Punk Console kit at makershed. Prior to this I had been messing with Arduino synthesizers (primarily using the under-respected Mozzi library). We ordered some noise box kits and when they arrived, started awkwardly soldering.
My favorite thing is that I’m learning an astounding amount every day. I think that is how it goes whenever you dive into something that you didn’t know much about!
Shout out to Synthrotek and Dr. Bleep. I started with some kits and am now building my own little noiseboxes inspired by the kits (and any number of fine internet peeps). Here are a few photos from the early builds including a my finished APC kit in the DIY wooden box.
Kyle Swenson has an excellent write up on Valerie Bozeman in the Broward Palm Beach New Times. Bozeman was convicted of drug charges and received federal mandatory minimum penalties. She was pardoned from her life sentence by President Obama after 23 years in prison. This is an excellent read complete with a sympathetic protagonist, grimy drug kingpins, incompetent defense attorneys and a guilty judge.
Swenson does a good job explaining how low-level offenders were getting astounding sentences.
But as anxiety over crack grew, the statute was hijacked. The use of “851 enhancements,” as they came to be called, became a huge prosecutorial hammer. The marching orders for federal prosecutors were for no mercy.
In 1989, then-Attorney General Richard Thornburgh ordered U.S. attorneys to “charge the most serious, readily provable offense.” Victory in the courtroom was “measured by the length of sentence you could get if you secured that prosecution,” explains Price. So 851 enhancements — which could trigger a life sentence if an individual had two prior felony convictions — became an easy way for the government to notch a heavy win.
“It was a time when we turned our backs on rehabilitation and support, and our criminal justice system and sentencing law became much more punitive,” Price says. “We were locking up people who we didn’t like and were afraid of. But we were also locking up a lot of people who really didn’t deserve the lengthy sentences we were doling out.”
Bozeman got a life sentence and learned about the 851 (mandatory minimum) penalties that sent her to prison only years later. Note that the ‘old timers’ — the prisoners who are sentenced to life became a legal research unit under the direction of Bozeman.
In between chores, Bozeman shot off urgent letters to court-appointed lawyers, like SOS messages stuffed in bottles and pitched into the ocean. Most were ignored. Eventually, she received a letter from Judge Ungaro patiently explaining that Bozeman had been sentenced to life because of a statute known at “851 enhancement.”
With that phrase in her mind, she began visiting the prison law library, where she finally began to unlock what exactly had happened to her.
Soon, Bozeman called together the old-timers. Bozeman had a one-question pop quiz. “Do you know why you got a life sentence?”
Blank looks bounced back at her. One by one, Bozeman sent the women to their cells for their sentencing paperwork. Together they bushwhacked through the legalese until they found it: 851. “The ladies didn’t understand why they were sitting there with a life sentence,” she says today. “They just didn’t know.”
The essay is also ripe with some terrifying statistics about the drug war and incarceration. In particular the use of the federal 851 statute (mandatory minimums) to coerce suspects to admit guilt.
Between 1980 and 2013, the number of drug defendants incarcerated in federal custody had exploded from 4,749 to 100,026 — a 2,006 percent uptick. Fifty percent of all federal inmates were serving time on drug charges.
Not only did mandatory minimums put small-time dealers in prison for long periods but 851 enhancements also had another harsh effect. Because the decision to file rested solely with the prosecution, it could be used as a threat: If you go to trial, we’ll file an enhancement.
A study by Human Rights Watch showed that in 2012, “the average sentence of federal drug offenders convicted after trial was three times higher (16 years) than that received after a guilty plea (5 years and 4 months).” When sentencing enhancements were in play for defendants with prior convictions, defendants “who went to trial were 8.4 times more likely to have the enhancement applied” than those who pleaded guilty.
New York Federal District Judge John Gleeson noted that use of 851s had gotten out of control. He wrote in an October 2013 decision that they brought on “the sentencing equivalent of a two-by-four to the forehead.” As a result, so many people chose to plead guilty rather than take chances at trial that a federal criminal trial was “on the endangered species list,” he said. “The government’s use of [851 enhancements] coerces guilty pleas and produces sentences so excessively severe they take your breath away.”
Proof was in the data: In 1980, only 69 percent of defendants in federal drug cases pleaded guilty and took plea deals; by 2010, 97 percent did.
This essay is a worthwhile read and a thoughtful reflection on the drug war. Thanks to Longreads for the suggestion.
Tavis Smiley invites Killer Mike for two sincere discussions on PBS. Killer Mike does not pull any punches and the topics are legit. Righteous, respectful and thoughtful. I can’t figure out how to embed, but these are both worth watching.