The EU can #fixcopyright, but they're not

The European Union's new Copyright Directive contains two hugely controversial, poorly drafted and dangerous clauses: Article 11, which limits who can link to news articles and under which circumstances (and also bans Creative Commons licenses); and Article 13, which mandates that all platforms for public communications surveil all user posts and censor anything that matches (or partially matches) a crowdsourced, unaccountable database of allegedly copyrighted works. (more…)

Challenge yourself by building this DIY wooden combination lock

Is a wooden lock as tough as one made out of metal? Nope. Is buying a lock easier than building one? Absolutely. Is a lock you made with your own two hands significantly more badass than anything you can purchase, ready-to-use? Without a shadow of a doubt.

If you're looking for an unusual woodworking project to undertake, Matthias Wandel has you covered. You can buy the plans for his wooden mechanical lock, here. Once you do, you'll also get access to the plans for a laser cut iteration of the project. While it might not provide the level of security that you'd want for keeping your valuables safe, the level of whimsy that this project could bring to a woodworker's life looks like it would be hard to beat.

Matt Whitaker and Daredevil's Kingpin, separated at birth?

It's been driving me crazy. I knew acting Attorney General slash Cult45 tool, Matthew Whitaker, reminded me of someone. Someone awful. My first thought was Lex Luthor. But yesterday, I figured it out. It's Wilson Fisk, aka Kingpin, from Daredevil. Played by Vincent D'Onofrio in the Netflix series, Kingpin is a scary, hot-headed, New York City crime lord. I did a search on Whitaker and Kingpin and found this pic on Imgur. Whitaker could be Kingpin's double.

Comcast forced to provide refunds to 20,000 customers in Massachusetts

If you were living in Massachusetts a few years back, you might remember that Comcast was offering what seemed to be a screaming deal: a $99 lock-in rate plan. I say "seemed to be," because Comcast's advertised $99 price didn't include the cost of renting equipment and the fact that, as we're talking about Comcast here, there were a number of additional fees that could (and often did) appear on a subscriber's bill at the end of the month, for reasons only Comcast understood.

Did I mention that escaping the rate plan set folks back $240 for killing their contract with the company early? No? Well, it totally did. The state's Attorney General, Maura Healey, felt that this was bullshit of the first order. Her office did something about it.

From Gizmodo:

Comcast will cancel the debts of more than 20,000 customers and pay back $700,000 in Massachusetts as part of a settlement with the state’s Attorney General over deceptive advertising. Back in 2015 and early 2016, the cable giant advertised a $99 lock-in rate for plans that didn’t include equipment costs and had additional fees that could be jacked up at any time.

As part of Comcast's settlement with the state, they'll be forced to fork over refunds to anyone who paid the $240 early termination fee. They'll also be forced to forgive all outstanding unpaid early termination fees and related late fees that Massachusetts consumers incurred between January 2015 and March 2016. Comcast fully cooperated with the AG’s investigation.

So, if any of this sounds like something you were submitted to, you can feel a little better about the world knowing that you've got some money coming your way.

Image by Mike Mozart from Funny YouTube, USA - Comcast, CC BY 2.0, Link

Roger Stone and Randy Credico talked about WikiLeaks plans, their leaked texts show

"Big news Wednesday... Hillary's campaign will die this week," Randy Credico texted Trump ally Roger Stone, just 6 days before the WikiLeaks email dump.

These text messages obtained by NBC News show that Donald Trump's longtime political “dirty trickster” consigliere Roger Stone was boasting of dirt to come from Wikileaks. Stone has previously denied any foreknowledge of the late-2016 Wikileaks dumps, as he attempts to squirm away from the Special Counsel investigation led by Robert Mueller. This latest news won't help him accomplish that.


UFOs invade Arctic, John the Baptist’s sandals, and worms from hell, in this week’s dubious tabloids

Coming back from the dead is a tabloid staple – just ask Elvis, Michael Jackson and Princess Diana, all still alive and well, hiding in plain sight, according to the rags. But this week sees the most exciting return from beyond the grave: tabloid title The Sun reappears on American newsstands with such sensational tales as UFOs invading the Arctic, a baby born with its grandfather’s forearm tattoo, and a brown bear that can read books “at third-grade level.”

Part of American Media Inc’s tabloid stable along with the National Enquirer and the Globe, The Sun, last published in 2012, shuttered as the public’s appetite for outrageously improbable “news" faded. Perhaps we can credit President Donald Trump’s passion for fake news with the revival of The Sun, which breathlessly tells us that John the Baptist’s sandals have been found, curing blindness – and baldness!

And of course, there’s the inevitable story that’s crazy-but-true: “Worms from Hell!” have been discovered two miles beneath the earth’s surface. Okay, so they were discovered by scientists in 2011 living in cracks between the earth’s crust (the worms living in the cracks, not the scientists), but for tabloids that often recount decades-old yarns, this counts as fresh news.

The Sun, which beneath its title carries the words “God Bless America,” devotes its cover to the exclusive: “U.S. Scientists Transplant Monkey Head – And It Can Be Done on Humans Now.” Yes, it’s another ancient story: American neurosurgeon Robert J. White transplanted heads on four monkeys back in 1970. Chinese researchers repeated the surgery more recently, and maverick Italian neurosurgeon Sergio Canavero has plans to transplant a human head. But it won’t be happening any time soon in America, where bioethical concerns now ban such experimentation.

Yet that story comes dangerously close to accuracy for The Sun, which currently has been revived as an insert in the National Examiner magazine, but hopefully will be propelled by public demand into a rejuvenated fully-independent magazine once again, so that we can look forward to tales of aliens visiting the White House and the Loch Ness Monster being caught by fishermen.

The venerable tabloids don’t disappoint this week, with a plethora of dubious fact-challenged stories, many of them old but dusted off and presented as new yet again. Lee Harvey Oswald’s widow “demands new JFK murder probe . . . Insists he was framed by CIA & Mob,” reports the Enquirer, quoting a JFK conspiracy expert who wrote exactly this in his 2008 book, so the story is only a decade old – positively fresh by Enquirer standards.

“I’m Marilyn Monroe’s Secret Daughter!” 72-year-old Florida woman Nancy Maniscalco Miracle tells the Enquirer. Miracle, who claims she was given up for adoption by Monroe and her lover Vincent Bruno, realized her true origins in 1985, and her claim has been publicly known at least since The New Yorker reported on her in November 1997 (resulting in a well-documented defamation lawsuit). So this story, which remains unverifiable and unsubstantiated, is a hefty 21 years old. Happy birthday!

"Prince Andrew rocked by new teen sex slave scandal!” tells the Enquirer. Actually, it’s the same old sex scandal exposed in 2015. What’s new? Former alleged sex slave Virginia Roberts is now allegedly writing “a sizzling tell-all.” But wait . . . Roberts claimed to be writing a tell-all back in February 2015. So what’s new here? Roberts now lives with her husband in Cairns, Australia, where a local bartender provides the one fresh quote of the piece: “They’re both really lovely, especially her.” Great reporting.

The Enquirer devotes a page and a half to Barbra Streisand’s “$400m Divorce” from James Brolin, which seems to be a regular filler when they are desperate for old stories to recycle. It’s an allegation they run repeatedly, though when they first floated this in November 2013, it was under the headline: “Barbra Streisand $390m Divorce Bombshell!” Glad to see that she’s earned an additional $10 million in the intervening five years.

The Globe gleefully reports that Michael Jackson buried a treasure trove of kiddie porn beneath the Peter Pan tree in his former home at California's Neverland Ranch. The gloved one supposedly “blabbed” to friends about incriminating material buried at Neverland. Despite identifying no source for this story, the Globe speculates that this must refer to “photos and video he may have made of him abusing kids,” and imagines that the entertainer kept a “hidden vault” somewhere on his sprawling estate. And where better to hide this cache than “beneath his favorite tree, which he loved to climb while acting out fantasies that he was Peter Pan.” If anyone bothers to dig up the earth beneath the tree, the Enquirer can at least claim to have reporting that is literally ground-breaking.

Fortunately we have the crack investigative team at Us magazine to tell us that Kendall Jenner wore it best (doesn’t she always?), that Atlanta actor Brian Tyree Henry admits: “I hate the idea of ironing” (presumably he hates ironing, as well as the idea of it), that actress Emma Kenney carries gift cards “that I pass out to homeless people” along with a Kabbalah red string and reading glasses in her Clove + Revel backpack, and that the stars are just like us: they carry groceries, get caught in the rain, and pump their own gas. Wonders never cease.

Onwards and downwards . . .

THE BUREAU: Part Three, "Assessing Others" — with a Metasonix D-2000 Vacuum Tube Drum Machine

Your Lunch by Ethan Persoff

Welcome back to The Bureau, a story told to you in real-time, through comics and electronic music. Each comics panel has a corresponding music track. If you press play on this week's soundtrack at 10:53am, you'll find music to follow your experience through 11:39am. Previous installments had you clocking in at 8:55am, and receiving an announcement at 10:03am.

Here's this week's playlist:

The music for this week is largely built on Metasonix modules, particularly the D-2000 drum machine. Additional moments are brought to you by their amazing RK5 low-pass gate, S2000 ribbon synthesizer, and other unique sound devices.

Metasonix modules used in The Bureau

A collection of installed Metasonix modules found near the announcer's desk, here at The Bureau, in our Thyratron Department of Tubing.

Metasonix, or Eric Barbour, is my favorite electronics designer. Presently, electronic music design is enjoying what many consider a Golden Age. Modern makers are innovating on previous generations' work, and many of the classic models are now even found in exact design clones.

This electronics revival is not just remakes of old designs, too. With digital possibilities that have never existed before, the focus is on Musique Concrète by DESIGN, tape manipulation as a product, and Random and Noise is embraced as much as Music - All leading to a good future for nice and aggressive experimental sound. In particular, analog design is having an amazing moment, with a focus on control voltage as a creative source, a configuration method previously marginalized to near extinction when largely replaced by midi through the 1980s-2000s.

All of this is to say that the options in electronic music have never been better, more creative, abundant, and more creatively competitive. When the cloud settles over this, I feel the Jack Kirby (impact wise) of this moment will be Eric Barbour of Metasonix. I also feel Barbour's work ethic is the most likable, at least in a sense that I find it familiar to my own preferences. Take for example this reference shot:

Eric Barbour's Metasonix factory. Inside this small structure a man works with vacuum tubes. Implied: Do not knock.

Metasonix makes vacuum tube based gear, with a professed goal to recreate the entire world of synthesis through 1950s methods. As a side effect of this goal, the equipment is lush, unpredictable, aggressive and very very lively.

I enjoyed this copy from metasonix's site describing their Lowpass Gate (LPGs create a kind of bongo percussion; the 'gate' is identifiable as a popping bop sound with a fizzy diffused fade out, found in a lot of west coast synthesis)

Ever wondered if someone had invented the lowpass gate before Don Buchla did in 1970, what it might have been like? Especially in the 1950s when there were no “integrated circuits” or such? No one had the nerve or the hallucinatory drugs to think such a thing up. But it would have been easy. A cathode follower using the right tube, plus two linear resistive optocouplers (in those days they existed but used incandescent lamps and responded very slowly), and a few capacitors and resistors. Simple, yet it was never done. It was a miracle they had limiters in the early days; and they weren’t very “good” limiters either. Tubes constrain your choices but give good sound effects along the way.
 IF they are applied properly.

The copy continues:

Since part of our remit is to explore an electronic-music history that didn’t actually happen, one inevitable product would have been a lowpass gate. Our version is a dual unit, dead simple Sallen-Key filter with just input, output and CV input for each channel. The tube used is a “high-perveance” dissimilar dual triode, the 17JK8. It was apparently intended for use as a “cascode” RF front-end amplifier in cheap consumer FM radios. It must have been moderately popular because although we’ve never seen an example of its actual use, it is a commonplace NOS leftover item. We found it was ideal for use directly on the +-12 volt rails in a Euro modular as the plate supply, thanks to its high perveance and low plate resistance. Each channel uses one triode and two Silonex LED-based linear optoresistors. Because of the dissimilar triodes and differences in the opto devices, the two channels will sound slightly different and won’t match or track perfectly. If such a device had existed before Buchla, it would have been like that. So it has “forgiving” distortion and a very slow decay time due to the high circuit impedances. This is exactly what you would have gotten in the 1950s--if it had existed in the 1950s.

Other top innovators: There's Jim Smith in Chicago, whose Space Case TE-1 Tape Echo is a dream in a box (currently he's working on the TE-2, which you can follow development here) - There's the work of Make Noise in Asheville or Mark Verbos in Berlin, who both deserve attention for their craft and art. And let's not forget last week's focus on Vlad Kreimer, whose Lyra-8 is a profound joy and upcoming Pulsar-23 drum machine looks to be brain bashing. And in terms of sheer programming, Sandrine Sims' Reflex Liveloop is crazy as a multi-use sampler that reminds one of what Steve Wozniak might have created had he opted to make samplers instead of Apple computers in that garage.

Metsonix's Barbour is known for his antagonistic charm (or derisive unlikability), and like most geniuses, I've gathered he could care less. I adore the guy. I first found out about Metasonix years ago through the classifieds listing at the end of V. Vale's RE/Search newsletter. I believe the original phrasing as a RE/Search sponsor in the email was:

METASONIX: Since 1999, the world's only maker of vacuum-tube music synthesizers.

An email to Metasonix at that time, asking about the use of tubes in one of their F1 pedals, which I was interested in buying, was quickly replied to with a kind of brawling hostility that I found immediately charming and refreshing (I bought the pedal.)

If you begin assembling a group of Metasonix modules you quickly do realize through communication that at the core of everything, Eric is a maker who greatly loves the work he produces and wants the devices to be well cared for and operated correctly. A perusal of the many service manuals will also teach you some other colorful words. (Scroll down through the page for the manuals)

It would be difficult to refer to the best instruments in the world by their proper names, but the Ass Blaster is probably the nicest effects unit a guitarist could ever find, which he would want to pair with a Fucking Fucker amp, while his friend in the band plays his synth through a Scrotum Smasher.

A Metasonix Scrotum Smasher, Smashing a Korg's Volcas.

The lead in the band could break the foundation of the venue with a Wretch, which Sound on Sound praised with delighted wonder in 2008.

(The $3,500 dollar Wretch was shipped from the maker in a garbage bag with a "Your Music Still Sucks" label on the instructions, incidentally)

The D-1000 and D-2000 are very organic sounding drum machines.

D-1000 or D-2000? What's the difference?

The first version of the Metasonix drum machine is named the D-1000. No longer in production (and thus more desirable due to reasons) it has a sequencer built in. Note the trigger switches. The circuit, or sound, with both versions is identical. The D-1000 is fixed tuning to each drum voice.

A typically euphoric Metasonix session

The D-2000 adds one additional drum voice, and improves on an inherent hum found in many D-1000's. Delightfully, the D-2000 includes resonance control of each voice. This can be challenging, however, as the D-1000 is tuned in factory and the D-2000 is up to you. The trigger sequencer is only found in the D-1000 but can be easily replaced with other sequencing gear.

Quite a beautiful sound.

The D-2000 loses the enclosed trigger sequencer but adds an end-stage distortion output, which you can bypass. Here, its distortion options are shown in full capacity.

In the Bureau this week, there is a lot of Metasonix on display. You can hear the D-2000 as the leading percussion, or sound of bouncing rubber feet and tapping fingers, in Your Supervisor Walks In:

Listen for the rubberized popping feet and wooden dowels and pegs

The D-2000 is also used for main theme for The Bureau: Wild Hare is completely Metasonix percussion, glued together with a droning S2000, RK3 and R55. (Those are all Metasonix models)

"Wild Hare", all Metasonix equipment. Drone by an S2000, R55 and RK3 for waveshaping, percussion by D-2000.

When listening, observe the single looping percussive trigger and notice how much sound is moving underneath with its own transient percussion. That's all dissipated tone from the devices and no external reverb. With appropriate tuning, the timbre of the machine changes almost every time you strike them. The D-2000 has five drum modules sharing a single circuit board and you can get a voice to echo off one another in a really ghostly wonderful way. It's like being able to tap into the sound of a light bulb. I absolutely love working with the stuff.

Metasonix is the sound of the asshole's mouth in The Bureau, as well as the sharp knives and teeth found in "Susan's Paperwork".

A few caveats that are positives to its unique tone: 1) If you leave a Metasonix machine running and playing a tune, it will change the sound on its own (usually every 30 mins or so) as the tubes themselves chew up the electricity going through them. This is different than going out of tune; the color of the sound changes. Barbour uses tubes originally designed for televisions or other equipment, most of them NOS stock tubes from the 1950s-1960s, produced by the likes of Sylvania, GE, or RCA - and 2) When you turn Metasonix devices off thinking you can retain a patch, you'll find it sounding completely different when you return to the same setting, or simply power it back on untouched. In a world of constant savable settings (or even predictable settings) the ephemera of each moment is part of the brilliance of it. You have to tune it like a string instrument. You have to wrestle with the equipment like it's machinery. You are beguiled and charmed by it. It's unlike any other kind of instrument, but it requires practice.

Working with other beautiful sounding equipment: I was suprised to find that the best pairing in the studio for Metasonix is actually Dave Smith/Tom Oberheim's wondrously gorgeous sounding DSI OB-6. Hear the OB-6 and Metasonix together in Todd Pours the Medicine Down the Drain, which has an OB-6 arpeggio and Metasonix D-2000 drum bouncing back and forth through a Fixed Filter Bank:

"Todd Pours the Medicine", OB-6 Arpeggio and Metasonix D-2000 Drums

Have another favorite electronics maker? Mention it in the comments.

Thank you for your time at The Bureau.

Set Your Bureau Clocks, Brave Worker!
Next week: Watch for an important text message from your supervisor.
Next Installment: Wednesday November 21, 11:39am, PST.

View all Bureau installments

Alex Jones blames "leftist stay-behind networks in US intelligence agencies" for malware on his site

Alex Jones, starved of attention since he was no-platformed by Big Tech, has launched a desperate bid for notoriety, releasing an unhinged (even by Jones's standards) statement blaming the credit-card skimming malware his online store was serving on "a zero-day hack probably carried out by leftist stay behind networks hiding inside US intelligence agencies" (he also blamed it on "big tech, the communist Chinese, and the Democratic party" "globalist forces, "the corporate press, Antifa and rogue intelligence operatives"). (more…)

Melania Trump publicly orders husband to fire administration official

Melania Trump publicly called for the firing of an official in her husband's administration late Tuesday, flexing her political muscle and giving the distinct impression that no-one is really in charge right now.

“It is the position of the Office of the First Lady that she no longer deserves the honor of serving in this White House,” Melania Trump’s spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said in a statement in response to a question about reports the first lady had sought [Mira] Ricardel’s removal.

Like a dollar store Isabella Peron, the First Lady is taking control in the absense of any discernible competence or authority in the men circling a moribund presidency.

Now, as Trump enters the back end of his first term in office, determined to shake up his team at the senior ranks and facing a Democratic-run House, Kelly’s grasp has been exposed as flimsier than ever. With the president mangling an overseas trip and infighting among White House staff nearing Civil War-like levels, the chief of staff appears to be more of a bystander to the chaos than a manager of it. No one, at this juncture, is particularly surprised.

America does everything better, even the political omnishambles. In Melania's defense, Richardel (a former Boeing executive and John Bolton crony) seems an inappropriate person to leave anywhere near power or policymaking.

Eat the figs, Donald.

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