conflikt 2016 and don’t talk to me about film

First, a surprise: the new single! I did it for this con, and it’s a cover of sorts that I turned into a Doctor Who song.

So, yesterday I talked about film. I have my answer, and the experiment with the fisheye lens film camera did not work out so well. 1600-speed film pushed two stops and, well, you’ll see below how dark and grainy the best of them were. I’ll give it one more try (pushing this film as far as it’ll go) and we’ll see. Fingers crossed.

Friday: Not as Fishy As Hoped

Anna and I got to Conflikt pretty early – we had a lot to haul, and the band had final run-through rehearsal at 2pm, a space for which the concom was kind enough to let us reserve in advance.

That went pretty well, so we also had time to get together with GoHs TJ and Mitchell Burnside-Clapp to do a runthrough of our very muppety opening ceremonies skit, which included one of those random semi-nonsensical songs of the sort they used to do on The Muppet Show back in Ye Daye. (It’s called “Magnetic Penguins.”)

So that was a revival of an older form. We knew very few people would get was that Mitchell Clapp here was reviving a character from a Long Fucking Time Ago in the spoken-skit parts of it, but our small test audiences laughed without knowing that, so we figured that’d be fine anyway. And TJ does a good Gonzo, so we knew people would read that part for sure.

Opening ceremonies had a few technical difficulties, which would presage the greater technical difficulties during the show. Still, I’m pretty good at stretching to fill time when needed, and people seemed to like Jeri Lynn’s and Shanti’s improv puppetry in front of the ice-cube background during the “Magnetic Penguins” song.

Then Betsy Tinney had her show, which was great as always, and I played an awfully-nwcMUSIC-like MC, followed by our concert!

Here’s a shot from the stage while I was walking on. This is the kind of thing I want to do with this dumb fisheye lens camera – but honestly, I’m pretty doubtful it’s going to work indoors. Which is a shame, it’s fun to play with, but wow, yeah, film. Film is terrible once you have better.

So Dark and Grainy

The tech issues from opening ceremonies got a lot worse during our show. (Screaming bursts of noise, some of which may’ve been related to RF interference in their gear; no vocals and missing instruments in the monitors, little or no electric guitar in the house mix apparently – really everything that could fall apart did.)

Still, we struggled through, and a lot of people made a point of coming to me and saying that despite the tech issues, our performance was good, and we sounded good in the room. (We didn’t sound so great on the livestream, though, which seemed to be mostly missing CD’s electric guitar, and had a lot of sync issues – I’m hoping to get the raw stems and remix them into a salvageable video.)

People told me they particularly liked “Supervillain For I Love You,” “Thirteen,” and “We’re Not Friends,” all of which are new, which is great.

“We’re Not Friends,” in particular…

I haven’t been talking about that one. I came up with the chorus months ago and had a few failed runs at writing it – those are lyrics which will never see the light of day – but it fell together over the last few weeks. So I took it to my band two weeks before the show and said, “This is brand new. We’re doing it. We are in fact closing with it.” Then I kept making changes to it as we went, because if you’re going to swing for the fences, you should just do that, right?

And the good news is, that worked. We got the crowd to sing along with a song they’d never heard, which was pretty neat to watch and hear, and a few people talked about it affecting them afterwards – ’cause, the thing is, this song is really important and personal to me, but, for a change, in ways other people really get. I’m not going to talk about why here, because it’s long, but – it resonated.


Judging the songwriting contest with TJ and Mitchell and Jackie Mitchell (the Interfilk guest; no relation) got the day off to a good start. All the entries were pretty strong, though three did elevate themselves a level up from the rest. And while we did have a consensus on the winner – a song about the “evil” twins in “good/evil” sibling pairs explaining they do things that need to be done – it was close. It came down, really, to the winning song being the one most transportable outside the stated theme of the contest.

After that – running the “Twofers” open mic, running The Dara Show version of Kitting Out Cheap, etc – it was kind of like being back running nwcMUSIC, only with less anxiety. MCing that was always one of the best parts, for me, so more of that? Can do, sport!

I met and talked for a while with a guy named Sean who came to the studio-building panel. He works at Microsoft and has access to one of those ultra-quiet rooms. I asked him if he could get me a tour! I don’t think it’ll happen, but I can hope.

Then, lots more concerts. This actually is the best of the concert photos – everything else came out even lower-contrast:

Later, I also ran into Murray Porath, which was very odd, and was another person I know of through other people rather than knowing directly, until now.

Apparently he’s moved out here, I guess we’ll be seeing more of him! I didn’t get a chance to find out entirely what that was about, but he has a bunch of funny lawyer stories, including a Kentucky county denying some sort of fortune-teller a business license on the basis that they decided she was a witch and casting spells on people. Yes, a fundamentalist revival preacher was involved.

Conflikt’s concert hall also has a big area in the back with tables and craft supplies, so I took a picture of that from overhead. Other than the window, it’s probably the best shot I actually got:

Open Filk ran quite late each night – I don’t know how late on Friday and Saturday, since I had duties the following mornings so didn’t burn too much oil. Sunday night’s smoked salmon ran until around 2am, and given that it’s usually the earliest of the lot to close down, we can probably assume the others ran later.


I never go to convention banquets, because the cliche about rubber chicken… well, frankly, it’s true. They’re cash-cows for hotels and that’s why hotels like cons to have them. But this time it was part of my job, so I did!

Sadly the best shot I got with Mitchell

It’s not just a lunch, in this case – you’re also writing a song, collaborating with your table, and using two words or concepts handed around at random. Ours were “awesomesauce” and “perspective,” and our table came up with two songs – one I just wrote, another that I helped with. That was a lot of fun.

Here’s mine, it’s very vaudeville – I was by the gods going to stay in theme throughout, if I could:

The Awesome Sauce Song

Apparently I also bellow like a drill sergeant, because my call for people to get their acts (literally) together for the Band Scramble got the attention of the whole crowd without a PA, because YEAH I CAN YELL PRETTY GOOD IF I WANT.

Oh, and the Sunday afternoon jam – I had an idea where I’d bring a whiteboard and a giant wet-erase marker to write out chords, so people could actually join in on an actual jam more easily, as opposed to it just being another filk circle. It seemed to help, we had really good participation – better than I’ve usually seen, I think.

So – yeah! I guess that’s pretty much it! Thanks to Jen and Beth and Jeri Lynn and Jeffrey and everybody on the concom who invited me. I hope everybody had a good time, and don’t forget the new single!

ps: And also, thanks go out to Tom of the Lundervillains – we traded certain device components on Saturday, and frankly, he was doing me a favour. Muah ha ha. 😀

New song! “Thirteen”

Hey, the new song is up! There are actually several new songs in the pipeline but this is the one that’s finished right now. It’s called “Thirteen,” and it’s a free download, though you can always hit the tip jar if you like it.

I made it for Conflikt, where I was MCing as Toastmuppet this past weekend. It’s a filk convention – geek music goes back a while, this is a geek folk music (“filk”) con – so of course I made them some geek folk metal, a semi-cover of the Vixy & Tony track “Thirteen.”

Their original isn’t about Doctor Who contemplating his own mortality after running out of regenerations, though. That’s just my version. I was all, “What’s the filkiest thing I can do for this con? Oh, I know, take a well-known filk track and make it even geekier by making it about the Doctor.”

Their original is here, if you want a listen. It’s quite different.

More on Conflikt tomorrow. I shot parts of the con with a fisheye-lens film camera. YEAH I SAID FILM IT IS HILARIOUS I HAD TO STEAL IT FROM THE PRESIDENT ORDER IT FROM JAPAN. I also said fisheye, because the camera was a gift and it has a fisheye lens and you can’t turn it off. FULL-THROTTLE FISHINESS BEGINS TOMORROW!

Assuming the film comes out. I don’t even know. I sure hope it does, I’m not joking about it being imported from the home islands. It’s the last place you can buy ISO 1600 colour film as far as I know.

Okay that’s enough words. LESS TALK MORE FILK!

back from british columbia; on to conflikt

Back from beautiful British Columbia, and on to Conflikt! We came back with cider and bagels, as is tradition, and a good time was had by all.

Here’s a pretty good shot of the three regular members of Le Vent du Nord – I didn’t get a great photo of the substitute fiddler (here’s the best of them), but he did a very nice job. And got fired four times in one night! That’s pretty good too.

Three out of four isn’t so bad

Busy loading gear at the moment so I can’t make a big post, but hopefully I’ll see some of you at Conflikt. Here’s the schedule; my show is at 8:30 tonight. Day memberships are available, and it’s a two-show bill with Betsy Tinney opening at 7:30. TOTALLY WORTH IT C’MON OUT.

to vancouver! also, a build follow-up

Off to Vancouver for a show! Not one of mine tho’, we’re seeing Le Vent du Nord tonight at the Rogue.

I mentioned that the instrument pickup I built last week sounded really good if I used my finger, but terrible using their standard attachment methods. I tried attaching it using a plastic clamp, but at first, that didn’t seem to help, so I rebuilt the piezo portion of the device, without the double-sided tape which had confused me the first time around.

That’s had an interesting effect. Held on by hand, the sound is definitely different – lots more low-end – but I think I like it less. But at the same time, using the clamp now works – it sounds the same with the plastic clamp as it does held on with finger, which is a huge improvement, and makes it usable on stage.

This is definitely something which requires more tinkering, but I’ve got it far enough along to try using during Friday’s show. Because SURE UNTESTED GEAR WHY NOT right? Well, you have to test it sometime. XD

Time to fly. See you at the Rogue?

debian: security updates broke milter-greylist?

We’ve had to disable greylisting on our mail server, because ever since the latest round of security updates we loaded over the weekend, every dkim-using host in the world fails key retrieval at milter-greylist, and we don’t get mail from google or twitter or yahoo or much of anybody large anymore.

And there’s no way to just disable dkim check in milter-greylist.

Anybody have any idea what the fuck might have happened? Searching online finds me exactly nothing. Here’s a sample – every transaction involving DKIM-signed mail fails, every time, and it started at the weekend round of security patches:

Jan 25 23:31:25 newmoon sm-mta[978]: u0Q7VOMi000978: from=<>, size=2334, class=0, nrcpts=1, msgid=<>, proto=ESMTP, daemon=MTA, []
Jan 25 23:31:25 newmoon milter-greylist: DKIM failed: Key retrieval failed
Jan 25 23:31:25 newmoon sm-mta[978]: u0Q7VOMi000978: Milter: data, reject=451 4.3.2 Please try again later
Jan 25 23:31:25 newmoon sm-mta[978]: u0Q7VOMi000978: to=<>, delay=00:00:00, pri=32334, stat=Please try again later

making a backdrop

I’m making a backdrop! Not for the big show Friday evening, but for Conflikt opening ceremonies a few hours beforehand. What it’s specifically for will have to wait until then, of course – but I can say it’s Vaudeville-style, for foreground-style action. Which is part of why it’s so painterly. Those backdrops tended towards that sort of treatement.

Oh, and here’s a short follow-up to that pickup build report from last week: I’m going to have to redo the piezo disc. I wasn’t able to make a clamping solution work, and I’m hoping that a clean disc will pickup the low-end frequencies without so much fiddling. Fingers crossed!

wow somebody knows their golden age musicals

Hey, weekenders! A present for you. Somebody knows their golden-age musicals inside and out – this is some great goddamn selection and editing.

on reviews, comma, bad, and engaging, comma, not

Seanan McGuire posted an article today on why you need to leave reviewers alone. Authors Behaving Badly is kind of a perennial lol-topic in reader circles, and a stunning percentage of those stem from authors reacting – badly – to negative reviews.

She has a bunch of good reasons why you don’t engage such reviews, even if they’re just being mean. And all that’s fine. But a couple of people have posted about how hard that is, and I realised there’s something Seanan didn’t say, to wit:

If you’re staring at a negative review and itching to say something, don’t, not just because of all the obvious reasons, but because being reviewed at all – no matter how negatively – is a kind of compliment in and of itself.

Remember that. Even vendetta reviews are compliments, really, because they mean the reviewer thought you were important enough to talk about, even if just to try to take you down.

And leaving aside vendetta reviews – like the Rabids attempt to game Goodreads – a sincere but negative review also means they thought you were worth the actual time they spent. Even if they don’t admit it, the facts on the ground are that you were worth the time they spent actually reading or listening to or watching your thing, and the time they spent writing a review about it.

Remember: no matter how much they may’ve hated whatever they’re hating – and let’s say they hated it a lot – they still cared enough to take the time to write and post a thing about your work. In a world flooded with opportunities to read/watch/listen to/react to material, they listened to yours, and wrote about yours, which means that you’re worth that much to them, at very least.

And it’s not symmetrical. They’ve handed you the big advantage. After all – you’re not writing about them, now, are you? No.

Good. Keep it that way.

build report: Zeppelin Labs Cortado

Since I’m starting to play Anna’s octave mandolin in concert occasionally, I want to get a pickup of some sort attached. Yeah, I can play into an instrument microphone, and I’ve been doing so, but wow I hate that. I hate being tied down into a single place on stage.

A couple of months ago I ordered a Zeppelin Labs “Cortado” pickup kit. I’d planned to try making it into a boundary microphone/PZM – and I probably will order another kit to do that – but since hey, I need a pickup, I have a kit, let’s see how this works when built as actually designed!

I started working on it during yesterday’s DIY Music Chat on Twitter, mostly because it seemed fitting. It’s a small kit, and one of the easier builds I’ve made. Here are all the parts except for a missing ground wire. I don’t know what happened to it, but I have lots of wire so it was no big deal:

Populating the circuit board was very trivial. They did warn you about the transistors, which is good – I have a grounding strap so I used it. But it really was just insert-into-holes-solder-on-backside work. The instructions do walk you through technique, so if you’re new to this, the detail they provide is nice.

The only surprise was that my serial number was in the series that needed a small mod to the circuit – instructions were in a service bulletin. This was only an issue with some of the units in my run, so this may’ve been optional, but I went ahead and did it. It just consists of adding a second resistor in parallel to the included one.

Assembling the piezo pickup is probably the closest part of any of this to being difficult. First – and I’m a little confused about this – you attach the double-sided tape to the back of the disc, and trim it. This doesn’t seem to have any function and I’m not 100% convinced this isn’t an error in the instructions.

Then the red wires which come already attached have to be removed, and replaced with leads from the shielded cable they provide with the kit. That involves stripping the end of the multi-lead cable, bundling the shield together into a connector, and stripping the ends of the other two wires.

The two central wires get attached to the piezo disc, exactly where these are attached:

Then you put a layer of electric tape on either side of the discs (for electrical isolation, which makes the double-sided tape redundant, which, again – instruction error?), then wrap the whole thing in the provided copper tape. It’s important to make sure the bottom side – which is how it attaches to instruments – stays very flat:

Then that aforementioned shield ground is soldered to the copper tape. Also, you should make sure the joins on the copper tape are nice and conductive, which means lots of weird-looking not-actually-random solder spots.

Shielding is pretty important in applications like this, because you’re dealing with small signals at the pickup, no matter what. So it’s important to get that right, and right throughout. Which is why the circuit board gets mounted inside the tin which is provided with the kit.

Drilling that tin was the biggest problem I had, honestly. You need a 3/8″ drill bit, and I didn’t have one of those, so I had to go buy one. And I bought a nice one that was supposed to be super-good at drilling smooth holes in metal. That did not go well, but since that’s not the kit’s fault, I’ll not dwell on it. Anyway, I managed to hide the damage.

The next step is connecting a ground connection on the board to the tin itself. Again, not difficult, but important – what you’re doing is grounding the entire circuit and pickup, to block radio frequency noise. That connection is in the upper right, here:

Once you’ve done that you bring in the wires from the XLR connector, to attach to the circuit board. Those wires are also shown in the picture above. Then on the other side of the board, you do the same thing with the leads from the piezo pickup, just like that:

…and screw the board down inside the tin. There’s a spacer to keep the board from touching the metal case, which is now a shield housing.

And that’s literally all there is to it. Throw in a couple of tight zip ties to keep cable stress off the circuit board, and you’re done with construction.

Now, use is another matter. For long-term attachments, they say to use the included double-side sticky tape – it’s permanent, though, so be sure you know where you want it before applying. But, as above, they already told us to use that sticky-tape. So… I’m not sure what’s up with that.

For temporary attachments, they suggest things like holding the pickup down with painter’s tape, or poster tack. I don’t have any poster tack, but I tried the painter’s tape, and that didn’t work very well at all. It collected sound, but it sounded really midrange-heavy, really tinny – it didn’t pick up any of the low end at all.

So then I tried poster-weight “command adhesive” strips, the removable ones 3M makes. I didn’t expect that to work well, and it didn’t – though I did pick up some more of the octave mandolin’s low end that way, so it was a step in the right direction.

I was starting to get worried that I’d done something wrong in the pickup at that point, so I tried just holding the pickup against the octave mandolin’s face. That worked just fine (10 second mp3, open strumming) so I think it’s just issues with making a good attachment.

Since the user instructions say that you can try plastic clamps to attach the pickup, and those are cheap, I’ll be buying one to try that. I’ll have to space the clamp off the pickup itself with a layer of foam or something, because of wires, fragile pickup disc, etc., but I hope it works – I really don’t want to be playing into an instrument mic even for one song at Conflikt. And held in place by hand, the pickup really sounds good.

Also, the noise level on this thing is hilariously low – they promise a low noise floor and they really overdeliver. VAST TRACTS OF SIGNALtiny noise floor! Well done there.

I am still wondering if the difficulty I’m having is caused in any way by the double-sided tape being inside the pickup bundle. I know I didn’t get that wrong – there are photos of how to do it in the instructions. But I’m wondering if you’re supposed to skip the electric tape on that side if you use the double-sided tape, and they forgot to mention that.

I’ll drop Zeppelin a support note it. If I was supposed to leave it out, well, I have more copper tape. I could re-do this pretty easily if that’d help. I’ll report on that, too.

Anyway, if the plastic clamp test goes well, this will definitely turn into a recommendation. I’ll try that this Friday, and report back. Given that this kit only costs like $25, it’d be a good addition for very little money, so I hope I can end up recommending it.


This post is part of The DIY Studio Buildout Series, on building out a home recording studio and other DIY audio projects.

a couple of maybes

I have a couple of possible people, but I’m looking for more (and people who are sure):

If you’re going to be at Conflikt on Friday evening, and are coming to my Toastmuppet concert, and want to be involved in something that is part of the show but does not require getting up on stage – talk to me.

I’m also looking for someone who can deliver one to two lines from off-stage during opening ceremonies.

The Muppet Show and/or Legend of Korra fandom helps, but is not required.

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