Categories
Music

Four on the Floor

Andy is a friend from work who also plays guitar. We were talking about a podcast where the host asks each guitarist guest a question: “What four pedals are on your board right now?” The idea, I think, is to find out what four effects pedals are most important to their sound.

Andy has sent me a few audio clips of him playing through four of his pedals. It’s super cool, and it gave me an idea.

I wrote a tiny JavaScript function that randomly chooses four of my pedals, and displays the list on a web page. Here’s an actual example:

I hooked up these four pedals and made some sound. While this combination works really well together, I’m not sure I’d have put this together without this program. I’m going to use it for a week or so, and see what happens. I predict I’ll discover a lot of useful combinations I wouldn’t have otherwise chosen.

The program itself is very simple, and only checks to see that it hasn’t chosen the same pedal twice. I get decide the order of the pedals in the signal chain. One pitfall is that it may suggest truly unusable combinations – perhaps four distortion pedals (I have four distortion pedals). Maybe that would be cool for a second, too.

Next, it occurred to me that I might want split the signal at at the top of the chain with a signal blender. I like to record stuff as I go, and lately I’ve become interested in the idea of re-amping the signal. To do that, I need to record the dry signal directly from the instrument (an instrument might be a guitar, bass, tape deck, my iPhone, drums, some keyboard, thoughts transmitted directly to the pedal board, etc.). I also sometimes transcribe guitar parts so that I can recreate it in MIDI, and having a clean signal makes it easier.

So, the signal blender sends one channel to the pedal board, and the other channel straight to the direct box. The direct box sends the pair of signals to my computer, and both are recorded into Ableton Live on their own tracks.

I can also envision adding a looper after the pedal board, on rare occasions. I use loopers extensively, and they can record/save loops. Making loops in this step of the chain could be helpful. But, it’s not actually part of Four on the Floor.

Future iterations might include a switch that modifies the number of pedals: Two, Three, Four. I think more than four will lead to endless noodling, which is what I often do. For now, four seems like an ideal number. I could pre-sort the pedals into categories, to avoid having four distortion pedals show up, or four reverbs, etc. I think this might crimp some happy accidents from happening, so I probably won’t. Finally, I can see adding a way for other people to use this function. My pedal inventory is contained in a hard coded array, so I’ll have to make an easy way for others to add their own inventories.

I think this is an interesting little device. I like the constraints. I’m going to spend the next few months kicking this around.

Categories
Opinion

Twitter, The Watcher, and the change you want to see

Please be advised, dear reader – I’m going to share my thoughts on the show made by Netflix called The Watcher below, and there is a potential spoiler. Don’t worry – that is several paragraphs away from here, and I’ve marked it with a subheading.

If we’ve ever talked for any length about social media, I’ve probably mentioned that all the big platforms will eventually go away. Ice melts, even the biggest bergs in the ocean (sadly, truer today then when I thought of the analogy). Remember when AOL was monolithic?

I joined Twitter in 2007. A lot of good came from my participation. I made a lot of good friends, I learned a lot that helped my career path, and it was a positive experience. Sitting in front of monitors all day in a closet of an office at Johns Hopkins Hospital, I felt a connection to peers in my field. One time, there was an active shooter in the building, and I knew about it 20 minutes before the administration alerted the building occupants because of Twitter. Once, there was an earthquake the shook my home. I had never experienced one before, and local folks on Twitter confirmed that’s what had happened. Etc.

For me, things changed when:

  1. Twitter switched from linear posts to algorithmic feeds, and
  2. When 45 was elected. The divisions in our country became more visible (to me, at least).

My feed on Twitter shifted to more news/politics, and every day seemed to bring some new disquiet. I quit Facebook a few years ago, and aside from some FB only events/posts, I haven’t missed it. As a visual artist, I feel the need to be on Instagram, and to smaller extent, TikTok. I use Snap Chat with my partner, my buddy Dusten, and kiddos. I have limited my Instagram use, and regularly remove it from my device.

So, Twitter is now under new management, and a lot of folks I like are leaving. Other’s have described the potential perils of the new management, and I particularly appreciate Dave Troy’s thoughts and ideas on this. It makes me a sad, even though I’ve been an extremely passive user these past few years. Change is inevitable, as I’ve been telling people for years.

About a decade ago, I had a very healthy LinkedIn account, with 500+ contacts. Someone on Twitter pointed out that LinkIn was allowing various people to appear in targeted ads without their consent. Everyone was opted in by default. I thought about it, and decided I hadn’t gotten any real opportunities from LinkedIn, and so decided to delete my account. I had mild regret over that decision a few times, because I wasn’t able to backup the contacts, and, years later, decided that maybe I did need to hang a shingle out on linkedIn and wouldn’t it be nice to have those old contacts? So, now I’m back on LinkedIn.

I said all that to say I am weighing the value of staying on Twitter. My pal Jenn says she’s staying. She’s my favorite technologist, and I respect her and her opinions more than most. I had been keeping my Twitter handle warm, thinking it might become useful in the future, when I want sell more of my work online.

And I have a nostalgia for when I was able to use Twitter effectively – to develop relationships and opportunities. I miss those days.

On the other hand, social media is tiresome, and I’ve come to resent platform algorithms, the influencers, and a lot of performative advice given copiously by strangers. Not to mention political hostility. There’s just so much bad noise.

I suppose these ruminations have reactivated my feels for… blogging! I’m grateful to still have this shingle, which I’ve maintained for longer than I’ve been on Twitter. I use it to document my art, and rarely, the occasional opinion. I think it’s time to share more of those, hence this long article. It also reminds me of another loss, of which I don’t think we ever fully recovered. Google retired Reader, which was the best RSS tool I’ve ever used. I’ve tried Digg reader and Feedly, but neither really measure up. Hey, Automattic! This seems like a no-brainer for folks the power ~60% of the CMS market! Why not make an RSS tool to go along with WordPress and your other fantastic tools?

A big part of blogging for me used to be connecting with people on this blog, and on their own blogs. I disabled comments back in 2013, when the gale of divorce kicked up. I wanted to close my shutters over the windows, and just be quiet for a while. If you’ve read this far, and want to comment, please email me jim.doran@gmail.com. Maybe it’s time to enable them again? But, I think the choice to disable comments and the loss of Reader changed blogging, at least for me.

I recently started reading The Haunted Looking Glass. It’s a collection of Edward Gorey’s favorite tales of ghosts, ghouls, and grisly goings-on (selected my him). It includes stories by Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, M. R. James, W. W. Jacobs, and L. P. Hartley, among other masters of the fine art of making the flesh creep, all accompanied by Gorey’s inimitable illustrations.

I picked this up to take to Yarmouth. Beverly and I read it to each other before sleep in bed. I can see why Gorey liked these stories. Oddly, some of them just stop abruptly. Imagine you are walking through a rambling Victorian house as a grandfather clock starts to chime at midnight in the distance, when your candle blows out, and you step off what you thought was a landing to find you are falling, falling, falling thought the darkness. That would be abrupt, yes?

The Watcher

Beverly and I just finished the Watcher. I hoped it might shape up to be a “Haunting of Hill House” type twister. Not so much. I recently finished The Devil in Ohio and Dahmer, both good October fare. But The Watcher left me feeling much like the incomplete stories in The Haunted Looking Glass. It claims to be based on true events, but imagine if you brought an Agatha Christie novel on vacation and you enjoyed tripping over red herrings and false leads, only to read that Hercule Poirot can’t solve the mystery. Or, can you picture yourself watching seven episodes of a season (when maybe two could have done the job) only to find you are falling, falling, falling through what should have been a satisfying conclusion? I feel conned by this show. On the other hand, I thought about the show for days, and it made enough of an impression to inspire me to record these thoughts. So, yay?

The Change I want to see

I’m looking into making my own RSS reader and I’ll share my work on this soon. I found some encouraging tools that I think I can use to cobble something together. I miss following folks. If Twitter really is borked, maybe this is at least a partial solution. More soon.

Categories
Animation

Sweaty Eyeballs 2022

The Lunatics entered the greater world at the 2022 edition of the Sweaty Eyeballs festival here in Baltimore. Always a big inspiration, this year’s festival did not disappoint! The Baltimore showcase was sold out, too.

Here on some pics from the night.

Looking up at the screen in the parkway theater before the show
My friends and family seated in the theater.
Beverly and Me
Myself and my old friend Jeff Zukor
Me, My daughter and close friends
Categories
Dioramas

One Day Sale

The Murder By Hand Society’s advertisement in your local circular. One Day Sale! And this one is in the shop…. on sale!

Metal tin box opened showing an advertisement of various hand tools
Metal tin box opened showing a drawing of an advertisement of various hand tools
Categories
Joie de Vivre

The Edward Gorey House

I love Edward Gorey. I’ve talked about him before today. I’m happy to report that we made the pilgrimage to his house, The Edward Gorey Museum. It was a thrill to stand in his former home, to marvel at his many drawings and works on view. We spent several hours there, and we even ate breakfast one day at Jack’s Outback, where Gorey frequently had both breakfast AND lunch.

New England is lovely this time of year. We explored Yarmouth, and Provincetown. Here is a partial account of the trip, in photos.