Saturday, May 30, 2009

Pretty Cool

In the Mu section of a recent Wired:

Entertainment : Music
Robo-Voice's Greatest Hits, or How Advanced Spy Tech Topped Music Charts
By Brian Raftery 02.23.09
Photo: Joseph Maida
Previous: Alice's Adventures in Microscopic Wonderland
Next: Wizzywig Cartoonist Inks a Phreakin' Comic Book
From Lil Wayne's cyborg-slick singing on "Lollipop" to the Twiki-tweaked vocals of T-Pain, use of the voice-enhancing software Auto-Tune has reached a fever pitch. But it turns out that the irresistible robot sound was also a big hit with the allies way back in World War II, when a not-so-young MC named Winston Churchill dropped some knowledge over a voice-masking gizmo called the vocoder—and pretty much ended the war. (It's got a great beat, and you can plan D day with it!) Herewith, the surprising history of pop's favorite "new" sound.
1935 Bell Labs' scientist Homer Dudley files a patent for a "signal transmission" device. Bell would unveil a speech synthesizer, based on Dudley's vocoder tech, at the 1939 World's Fair in New York City.
1943 Vocoder amps and filters are incorporated into bulky, expensive terminals that encrypt conversations between FDR and Churchill during World War II. (Stalin, always kind of a Chatty Cathy, is left out of the loop.)
1961 The NSA develops the HY-2, which would pave the way for the first digital channel vocoder for a mainframe computer. With 16 channels, it could process secret messages at 2,400 bps.
1971 The vocoder makes its electronica debut when composer Wendy Carlos invokes the device's spooky tones on the soundtrack for Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange.
1972 Stevie Wonder's Music of My Mind album introduces the masses to the talk box, a gizmo that allows singers to "speak" through their instrument via a plastic tube, making them sound like one of Charlie Brown's teachers.
1974 An epochal time for robot voices: Kraftwerk releases "Autobahn," a 22-minute vocoder jam; a year later, Peter Frampton hitches his ax to a talk box—and his career comes alive!
1976 Using audio signals to map Earth's subsurface, oil-industry researcher Andy Hildebrand masters auto-correlation (tracking sound reflections to detect repeating patterns) and creates the tech behind Auto-Tune.
1978 A vocoder is used to voice Battlestar Galactica's evil Cylons. Meanwhile, on-set tensions run high after Lorne Greene uses the device to prank Dirk Benedict's bungalow.
1983 Dudley lives long enough to see his beloved invention employed in a rock opera about space prisons. Domo arigato, Dennis DeYoung!
1985 Zapp, fronted by talk-box maestro Roger Troutman, hits the charts with R&B slow jam "Computer Love." Troutman would later be tapped to "sing" the chorus on the Tupac/Dre hit "California Love."
1997 Exploiting his findings from the '70s, Hildebrand releases Auto-Tune, recording software that can detect pitch and automatically correct vocals in real time. It quickly becomes one of the best-selling plug-ins ever.
1998 Cher scores the best-selling single of her career with "Believe," thanks to her use of Auto-Tune; the blippy sound—which many mistook for a vocoder—is now known as the Cher Effect.
2007 T-Pain drowns his single "Buy U a Drank" in Auto-Tune effects, leading to a number-one hit. He later stars in a Funny or Die spoof called "T-Pain v. His Vocoder." The machine wins.
2008 Auto-Tune overload on albums by Lil Wayne and Kanye starts the robo backlash. Melodyne, another pitch-altering plug-in, generates buzz.
2009 Indie darlings Bon Iver bring Auto-Tune to alt-folk, layering and looping the a cappella vocals on "Woods" into one blissfully synthetic hymn. Hallelujah!

Friday, May 29, 2009

What is ordinary?

Back from Utah for a couple days. It rained every day, to some degree, but the trip was good nonetheless. I wonder how many people go to the canyons for a vacation and get a chance to see the blue sheen of the water running off the colored rock and reflecting the sky? It makes the whole scene quite different from the pictures we're shown.

Counting the Mad
by Donald Justice

This one was put in a jacket,
This one was sent home,
This one was given bread and meat
But would eat none,
And this one cried No No No No
All day long.

This one looked at the window
As though it were a wall,
This one saw things that were not there,
This one things that were,
And this one cried No No No No
All day long.

This one thought himself a bird,
This one a dog,
And this one thought himself a man,
An ordinary man,
And cried and cried No No No No
All day long.

from New and Selected Poems. © Alfred A. Knopf, 1995.

That's one of the Poems of the Day that the FFM sent while I was gone. He sends them to people sometimes, and some of them strike me more than others.

I did a lot of complaining on the trip about other people's unobservant actions, just being completely oblivious, or not giving a crap, to others around them. We are an ordinarily self-centered bunch anymore. And I couldn't help but feel bad for the people who sat in their RVs to eat breakfast, when it was perfectly gorgeous (the rain of course did not usually happen in the morning, and sometime after midnight a person could crawl out of a tent to see an amazing star show, and then rise to sunshine later on) outside, with a functional picnic table sitting empty just a few feet from the trailer. One couple from Texas parked their RV at least the night before we arrived at Petrified Forest State Park in Escalante, and until they left the morning after the afternoon we got there, we never saw them exit the vehicle. I'm not sure why people spend all that money on gas to go to a place like that and then not see it.

Anyway, I'm just another ordinary person; who am I to judge? I just think I have it better than people like I bitched about all weekend. But I don't know for sure.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Hiatus Number..?

K, I have a lot to do this morning before leaving at noon to pick up my bro at DIA for a trip into canyon country- another brief hiatus. So, here is something crazy that Fahad posted on his wall on Facebook. Yow.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

More disastrous than a rampant house fire

OK, people, so a few months ago I bought a new file box for all my important papers because the old, cool basic heavy brown paper one was finally falling apart. The new one I cannot stand. It is not very functional, and in fact is not functional at all now because I just ripped it to shreds in a fit of fury and threw it away.

Anyway, I am supposed to provide I-9 employment documentation for this little job I am set up to do this summer, before I leave town for canyon country tomorrow with my bro. So, I went into the crappy new file box to find my "Passpport" file folder, a manila folder containing passport, social security card and certified copy of birth certificate. I hunted the whole thing over, literally did tear it apart, and could not find the "Passport" folder. All I can think is that I threw it away, inadvertently, when I tossed out the nice old brown paper file box. So, I am really pissed at myself.

But further, I am completely annoyed to think that I may not be able to work this summer at this job because I made a dumb mistake that, knowing how bureaucratic institutions run, will take months, at least, and probably quite a bit of money- that I won't have if I don't work- to remedy. And as a person born and raised and working as a productive member of society in this country for many many years, I cannot help but feel somewhat cheated by a system that could easily put a single bureaucrat at a computer screen to look me up and say, "Oh, yeah, she won't blow us up and has been working legally for a long time and should be able to continue to do so." And then I wouldn't have to be out a job this summer.

So, I know it's my fault for throwing the folder away, which is so weird for me; normally, I would check and double check to be sure I had put things where they belong- and I could swear I did... But, it seems like a giant inequity for a person like myself to be hindered by a bloated, ineeficient system of insurance that the wrong people aren't getting the jobs.


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Terrifying Hundred Pound Rrrrrat!-- Rat!

Peeps, I just don't feel like ranting today about the stuff that's driving me crazy (like the news report Snehalata and I heard on the radio while driving out to the goat farm yesterday, about how people only want fuel efficient cars when gas prices are high... aaaarrggghhhh!) You know? I just feel like this beeyooteeful day should remain mellow.

So, here is something interesting:

This picture cracks me up. It reminds me of when I was two or three years old and walked up over the banking with one of these guys in my hands, telling Mom and Dad to "look at the mousie I found!"

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Better than Credit Card Reform

I have to think more about this bill that just passed the Senate- with guns in the National Parks attached- before spouting off about it; otherwise, I could rant forever and who needs that?

So, here:

Monday, May 18, 2009

Yay! Best news of the day!

U.S. to Issue Tougher Fuel Standards for Automobiles
from the NYT

I was just driving back from dropping laundry and feeding the girls, enjoying springtime- finally- in Laramie, when I heard on CNN radio that Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's Prime Minister, has said that if Barack Obama and the US do not support Israel against Iran, then Israel will strike on its own. Go ahead. How much longer are we going to back these punks? (My Israeli and my Jewish friends, it's not you that trouble me, it's this rabid complaining and warmongering bunch of politicos. Don't we all know by now that religious crusades don't work and that two wrongs don't make a right?

Sunday, May 17, 2009


I iz Ninja Kitteh...

Friday, May 15, 2009

MST3K - Keeping Clean and Neat

All you OCD MST3K lovers out there ought to appreciate this one.

Thanks today to Mr. Flesh.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Things that matter

Yesterday I was driving to Denver- the traffic was remarkably light and trouble-free, although I heard on the radio on the way home that I had just missed a rollover on Rte. 6- and I listened to AM 760 talk radio most of the way there and back. (KUNC was playing music- sweet sweet classical interspersed wi th annoying breathy ladies singing about inane subjects. Sorry, RobRohrTM, but you know it's a pet peeve of mine that will last and last. Congratulations, by the way, to you, on your graduation this coming weekend, from UVM. Hooray!)

Anyway, AM 760 is usually pretty interesting, especially when Mario Solis-Marich comes on at 4. And yesterday I got fired up by the Republicans- to be clear, the 16 Republicans who apparently still exist- who are planning to get together to rebrand the Democratic party with the name "Socialist Democrat." As the FFM so astutely observed, it's unlikely that in these times the American People will give two craps about that, since they are mostly feeling like they need a little help after being raped hard by the richy-rich banker guys who are "too big to fail." No, dudes, you failed.

Furthermore, what really got me was the gall these punk old fat men with their bulging wallets and big mouths (OK, so some of them are young, and even women- scary!) have to get together to rebrand the Democratic party, when it is the Republican party that needs some serious help here. But you know what? They don't know what they are any more, so they have to project elsewhere to deflect the fact that they are too lost to rebrand, even to define themselves. It's like saying, "Hey, lady that I don't know, you can't have an abortion because I say it's wrong to kill, but hey man over there, we are going to KILL YOU because I say it's wrong to make mistakes. Oh, and while I'm at it, you, guys over there, you cannot have the legal benefits that a man and a woman can have in marrying because you love each other and that's gross. Oh, excuse me; I'll be right back after I go call my same-sex lover and schedule a date. I don't want the wife to know."

Crap, I am all fired up about it again. And I haven't even got to gas mileage yet, another little aspect of our American life that makes me want to puke. I saw a billboard that advertised a BMW that has more power AND uses less gas: you get 28mpg! Wow! That is so comparable to the 40mpg I still get on the highway from my 1999 Saturn SL1. Think I'll run out and buy a BMW today. Or since I am currently scantily employed again, perhaps a new Chevrolet Aveo would be more in my price range. (It would, but the mileage numbers aren't much higher than the BMW's.) This is good? The flailing auto industry is still blowing smoke up our butts, helping us believe that 28mpg is supah sweet savings in the pocket at the pump, and to old Mother Earth. Let them burn. Ed Schultz on AM 760- gawd, it's a good thing I don't live in Denver; I'd be an addict- mentioned all the other people hurt by an auto manufacturer going bankrupt: window makers, steel workers, and so on. Look, Ed, that may be true, but what has been going on has not been working. We need a big fat reform here, and maybe it's time for people to take care of each other while things are hard, and we'll move on from there. A crapload of us are unemployed anyway, in case you haven't been reading, so we may as well all sink on the same ship and fire the goddam captain when we get back to shore.

But really, this is not at all my intention in writing this morning! Those are two subjects I intended to cover, and I have done so, despite my change of heart. What I really would like to say is, I got word this morning from my good girl friend Katie back in Massachusetts that her mom had gone missing and was found just down the drive from the retirement home where she had recently moved. Apparently she was not wearing a coat because Monday was balmy, but the nights Monday and Tuesday were very cold. These things make you remember what's really important. Katie and her mom were enjoying a nicely blossoming mother-daughter relationship over the past few months since her mother had moved from the family house in which she had lived with Katie's dad, who died a couple years ago. She liked where she was now living and socializing. I hope she went quickly and didn't suffer, although I know that Katie and her siblings are suffering now from the loss. There's nothing can be said, really, in a time like this, but just being there with someone. I wish I could be back east with Katie to hold her tight.

When these things happen, I know it's cliche to say we should be sure we are doing what we love, loving those around us and all that, and taking care, but it's true.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

How Not to Write About Africa - Binyavanga Wainaina

Thanks, Tim.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Oh, the stable things in life

I wanted to figure out some way to quickly, succinctly, but loudly express how happy I am that it is so much easier to distinguish when a US soldier murders US soldiers rather than Iraqi - or other- innocent civilians, but then I got down to the MegaVote e-mail I receive weekly and thought it far more important to demonstrate, once again, that Cynthia Lummis, our lone Wyoming Representative to the US House has absolutely no problem saying "NO."

Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act - Vote Passed (367-59, 1 Present, 6 Not Voting)
The House passed this fraud enforcement bill with an amendment to create a commission to investigate the causes of the financial crisis, sending the bill back to the Senate for its approval.
Rep. Cynthia Lummis voted NO......send e-mail or see bio

Mortgage Reform and Anti-Predatory Lending Act - Vote Passed (300-114, 19 Not Voting)
The House approved this bill to reform mortgage lending practices.
Rep. Cynthia Lummis voted NO......send e-mail or see bio

Monday, May 4, 2009

How Many Congresspeople and Corporate Executives

were first-gen college students or came from families that would qualify for Pell grants?

I don't know where I was when I missed this one; thanks, Charlie.

Plan to Change Student Lending Sets Up a Fight
Published: April 12, 2009

WASHINGTON — The private student lending industry and its allies in Congress are maneuvering to thwart a plan by President Obama to end a subsidized loan program and redirect billions of dollars in bank profits to scholarships for needy students.

The plan is the main money-saving component of Mr. Obama’s education agenda, which includes a sweeping overhaul of financial aid programs. The Congressional Budget Office says replacing subsidized loans made by private banks with direct government lending would save $94 billion over the next decade, money that Mr. Obama would use to expand Pell grants for the poorest students.

But the proposal has ignited one of the most fractious policy fights this year.
Because it would make spending on Pell grants mandatory, limiting Congressional control, powerful appropriators are balking at it. Republicans say the plan is proof that Mr. Obama is trying to vastly expand government. Democrats are divided, with lawmakers from districts where lenders are big employers already drawing battle lines.

At the same time, the private loan industry, which would have collapsed without a government rescue last year, has begun lobbying aggressively to save a program that has generated giant profits with very little risk.

“The administration has decided that it wants to capture the profits of federal student loans,” said Kevin Bruns, executive director of America’s Student Loan Providers, a trade group that is fighting Mr. Obama’s plan.

To press its case, the nation’s largest student lender, Sallie Mae, has hired two prominent lobbyists, Tony Podesta, whose brother, John, led the Obama transition, and Jamie S. Gorelick, a former deputy attorney general in the Clinton administration.

For lenders, the stakes are huge. Just last week, Sallie Mae reported that despite losing $213 million in 2008, it paid its chief executive more than $4.6 million in cash and stock and its vice chairman more than $13.2 million in cash and stock, including the use of a company plane. The company, which did not receive money under the $700 billion financial system bailout and is not subject to pay restrictions, also disbursed cash bonuses of up to $600,000 to other executives.

The rest at:

Friday, May 1, 2009


How long do you suppose it takes to create something like this?

Shadow graffiti on boat, from