Archive for January, 2012

we didn't talk about indie film

We didn’t talk about indie film this past Monday, even on Livejournal, but Richard Pini over on Facebook pointed out that Ted Hope certainly is. It’s worth a look over, because some of the problems are quite different, as are some of his ideas about approaches, so the compare-and-contrast might generate some ideas.

But the big thing: today is SHOW DAY! I have a nice dark set between Leannan Sidhe’s subtlety – if you haven’t heard her, she’s kind of the opposite of me – and Kräken-Röhl’s frothy steampunk-sing-a-long goodness. Come! And bring a friend – you, too, can be a minion! And who doesn’t want that? B-Side Music, 214 Stewart, Seattle, across from the Bon Marché parking garage, next to where the late and lamented Night Kitchen used to be. Shows start 7pm.

See you there!

an awful lot of skyrim

SHOW SHOW SHOW! FRIDAY! ACROSS FROM THE BON MARCHE PARKING GARAGE! (and sadly next to where the Night Kitchen used to be). Leannan Sidhe, CRIME and the Forces of Evil, Kräken-Röhl! BE THE AUDIENCE!

Monday’s post on the future of creative economics generated a lot of discussion over on Livejournal, with a bunch of back-and-forth over that and SOPA/PIPA/ACTA and so on.

Also, there’s been a whole lot of Skyrim in the lair, lately? And this kind of happened. Really, there’s no excuse for this kind of behaviour, but:

“Open Mic Night at the Winking Skeever”
a.k.a. “Anybody Got a Banjo?”
2012 Solarbird, the Lightbringer (Dara Korra’ti), Minion Anna (Angela Korra’ti), Minion Paul (Paul M. Johnson)
Creative Commons 3.5 attribute/noncommercial/derivative works allowed

(to the tune of “O Susanna”)

I used to go adventuring
To see all I could see
I ran into a Draugr lord
Who took my leg from me

Fuck you Skyrim
Now I’m an amputee
I stand around this shithole town
With an arrow in my knee

This little kid just won’t shut up
About her mother’s job
I’m gonna cram this mammoth tusk
Right up her yapping gob

Fuck you Skyrim
Now I’m an amputee
I stand around this shithole town
With an arrow in my knee

I like to go down to the pub
The finest mead to drink
The bards, they only know two songs
And both songs really stink

Fuck you Skyrim
Now I’m an amputee
I stand around this shithole town
With an arrow in my knee

Adventurers come to this town
And lord it over me
They wander ’round and beat me down
‘Cause I’m an N.P.C.

Fuck you Skyrim
Yeah “Be all I can be”
I’d give my life to leave this town
and sail the northern sea!


please say they have to

—– 30 —–

I sometimes sing “I stand around this shithole town” as “And I stand around in this shithole town,” but the former is more like the O Suzanna syllabics and oh just kill me now. XD

After the show on Friday… okay, I won’t get out of there ’till 11:30 or so, so we’ll probably just load out, get some food, and head home. But Saturday and Sunday we’ll be at Conflikt! You goin’? Say hi!

Click to download PDF

indie musicians and indie writers; whose future?

nwcMUSIC is a geekmusic festival that I’m building at the Norwescon Science Fiction Convention. We have chiptunes, nerdcore, geek rock, elfmetal, filk, nightly concerts, daytime workshops, panel programming, late-night open mics, filkcircles, the whole deal.

Our programming includes “business of being an independent artist” panels. Going indie – not wanting a record deal – has become more and more common as the technology to record competently on your own has become more and more accessible. As my mastering engineer for Dick Tracy Must Die said, there used to be a time when you recorded your demo on a four track and recorded your studio album in a professional studio, and demos sounded like demos and label releases sounded like real albums – but now people like me walk in with recordings they made in studios they built at home, and sound real.

It kind of freaks him out.

So now, doing your own album is considered not just valid, but important. It’s a positive. It shows the ability to complete a project and the talent necessary to produce something listenable. Labels now tell bands who want labels to “bring tribe with you.” (And a lot of smarter bands are replying, “if we have our own tribe, why the fuck do we need you?” The RIAA are desperate for good reason.)

Writing isn’t like that, yet; just finish the damned manuscript. Self-pubbing through a vanity press? Folly, reserved for rampaging ego muppets with too much money.

But the technologies are changing, and the economics of book publishing are in flux.

Now, there are cheap eReaders. Companies sensing opportunity have jumped in with distribution models: CD Baby has BookBaby, Amazon has its Kindle-only programme, etc. These all let you not just produce your own eBooks, but make them widely accessible, in a variety of formats. And having done both, the technology of taking a manuscript and laying it out into eBook form is dramatically easier to grasp than that of recording.

So some midlist authors are starting to reissue their out-of-print backlists in eBook form. Some for free, but others are apparently making enough money at it that imprints are trying to claim eBook rights from contacts written before eReaders even existed. And with examples like Amanda Hocking out there, you’re seeing some re-evaluation of self-publication, as well.

So this year, I floated multidisciplinary versions of our business panels, specifically calling out artists and writers. I had one sign up, a well-respected writer/artist of graphic novels. I’m really pleased to have her! But I had no interest from any traditional-book authors.

In part, this shows how a lot of musicians know the recording industry exists substantially to screw you. It also implies that publishing houses do not currently have this reputation. From here, that difference looks legitimate; if you go through a major label and sell 20,000 copies of an album, you’re bankrupted and you won’t even own your recordings; if a writer goes through a major print publisher and sells 2,000 copies of a paperback book, they’re earning royalties.

It’s probably also relevant that record labels haven’t traditionally added much, artistically. They’d bring you people who could and often did, but you’re paying for it, not the label, in the form of advances against earnings. By contrast, book imprints – by which I mean a good editor under the employ of that imprint – historically could add a lot, and they paid that bill.

But cutbacks in publishing have had visible effects. Editors are hugely overworked and understaffed, and it absolutely shows. What if that added value continues to decline?

Do writers need to be looking at us indie musicians, for their own sakes? Do they need to take some notes?

I’m wondering about it both as a future necessity and as a future reasonable – at least, non-embarassing – option.

Hopefully it won’t become a necessity. Me, I’m in this for the music, and the recording part is fun because it gives me opportunities to work with other musicians and play with sound toys. I am not in it for the marketing, management, distribution, product design, advertising, packaging, shipping, and on and on and on. But as an indie musician, I have to do all of that too.

An indie writer would find themselves in the same boat.

I have writers in my audience; what do you think? Are we living in your future? And if so, does that sound cool, or do you look at this whole scene and want to run like hell?

PS: Happy birthday to my favourite writer, Angela Korra’ti. Smoochies! ^_^

just one more thing

While everyone is on SOPA/ProtectIP/PIPA and the just-as-much-fun international-treaty version known as ACTA: when you read this article on how the DMCA is already abusive enough, you might want to also keep this in mind: I’ve had three of my own videos flagged as DMCA violations.

That’s right, my own videos, me, doing my own music, or trad, live, flagged for DMCA, three times. Under SOPA, PIPA, or any variant thereof, I’d’ve had to sue to get back online.

Tell me this won’t be used to smash independent artists. Go ahead, tell me that, while I laugh in your face.

And yes, I had content go offline thanks to the Megauploads takedown, too. Fanac stuff, and of course I have copies, but nonetheless.

There’s talk of Black March: buy no music, books, movies, etc, download no music, books, movies, etc. Guys, I’m not the problem? People like me aren’t the problem? Please try to stay focused. Even with major publishers, I’m divided; I really do see the point, but you’re going to hurt starting authors and midlisters far more than you’re going to hurt any publishing house. At least, in books. (If they’re in music and on a label, they’re already screwed.) I know someone who has a series starting in March. The first book’s March sales will determine whether she gets Book 2.

To with: nngh.

But, of course, I gave my rather extensive opinion about what to do that will work on Wednesday. I know, I know, it’s TL;DR – I wish I’d been able to make it shorter, but I wasn’t.

Show with Leannan Sidhe and Kräken-Röhl next Friday! I’ve been rehearsing my set, looking forward to it. Please grab and print and post posters? Thanks!

Other than that, I’ll be one-daying Rustycon as soon as weather permits, which probably means Saturday. Given the TOTALLY AWESOME snowstorms we’ve had this week (photos at link), I admit I kind of do not envy their transportation department. Good luck, guys! And everyone else, too.

Have a good weekend! Say hi if you see me at Rusty. ^_^

How to Win

It’s Blackout Day. A lot of sites are dark, to protest SOPA and PIPA (a.k.a. PROTECT-IP), the two worst revisions to US copyright law since the original DMCA. They’re irreparably terrible, and should absolutely be discarded, and I say that as a copyright holder who has seen her music pirated in front of her very eyes. I support Blackout Day.

But I am not going dark. I am Solarbird, the Lightbringer, so instead, I will talk about where we are, where such a blatantly unconstituional corporate power grab can be so close to passage, and how we got here.

The US is an authoritarian police state. If you’re not of a sufficiently suspect class, and you keep out of unapproved politics, it’s not a particularly oppressive police state, but it is one nonetheless. No country with torture and extrajudicial imprisonment and execution can be called anything else.

SOPA and PIPA trigger reactions because they expand the suspect class pool. They bring the surveillance state Mr. Bush and Mr. Obama have created more obviously closer to home.

Unlike many, I have not been disappointed by Mr. Obama in this. He has lived down to my expectations, which is why I did not and will not vote for him. He is of his class – the American political class – and they are quite united on the need for a police state, with restricted speech, restricted political rights, omnipresent surveillance, and the ability to disappear a few hundred people if it’s necessary for national security, by which one of course means looking bad or having to admit a mistake.

They’re also quite united on doing whatever their corporate donors ask. Where there is disagreement within those donors, or where the donors don’t really care, the popular voice can matter; some of these areas of disagreement are very important to me personally. But where there isn’t disagreement, the popular voice doesn’t matter at all, except insofar as is necessary to keep up the pretence of representation.

There is some disagreement amongst those donors; this is why the SOPA/PIPA fight can be won.

This is where we are; exploiting frissions between corporate and polite-state blocs, trying to keep the last daylight visible. This, in turn, is because when push comes to shove, all that matters is power. This is true in any empire; other things matter only after matters of power have been settled.

This should be obvious, but most Americans pretend it’s not true. That pretence is part of the problem.

Sure, Democrats and Republicans compete for seats – there are matters of prestige, of money, and of individual allocation of power to be settled. All of these are important to any empire’s political class. And there are still elections – highly restricted ones, but elections nonetheless, constrained and limited via money, gatekeeping, and the endless repetition of critical memes such as, “the other side is worse,” “third parties can never win,” “a vote for a loser is a wasted vote,” and “this election is the Most Important Election Ever, you can’t let Them Win.”

All these memes are appeals to tribalism. They all shut down reason and rational thought in preference for the Tribe. They’re needed to keep you playing the game. They’re used to keep you from changing anything.

And as such, their active propagation illustrates the one critical weakness left in this system: that all-but-titular vote. It is exploitable, but not in the way you assume. I will illustrate, with a story from another empire.

Back in the bad old days of the Cold War, the USSR held elections on a regular schedule. The Communist Party always reported getting 98% or 99% of the vote, and everyone outside the Soviet sphere laughed – who else can you vote for? – but they didn’t understand how Soviet elections worked.

The Party would nominate candidates. The Proletariat would go vote “Yes” or “No” on their local candidate. It was very easy to vote “yes” – there was a queue, you got checked off, you got some vodka and snacks. It was more difficult to vote “no” – you had to get out of the queue, go to another table. It took more time. It was visible. I don’t know whether you got snacks.

And most elections, even before the late reforms, some local party unit somewhere would nominate some apparatchik so disliked, so repulsive, so unacceptable that the people would vote no, and that nominee would lose. It was a humiliation. The party would nominate someone else, someone less bad, who would win. And the local party would be shifted, and the loser’s career would be over.

Which brings us to the single most important lesson, and the only lever of influence you have over either major party:

Pick the party closer to you and cost them power and money by costing them elections.

Travesties such as SOPA and PIPA shouldn’t even be politically possible. Neither should most of the major changes in government of the US from the last decade. Any victory against these initiatives are temporary at best, as long as the current framework remains unchallenged.

And to that end, money and power are the only things that really count. Deprive someone you “should” support of either one or the other, in a meaningful and trackable way. Demonstrate your willingness and ability to do that, and you will get a response. It will be angry. But it will be a response.

Don’t do it by voting for the other major party; that’s idiotic, as well as futile. That’s staying in the political class’s game. Similarly, don’t do it by not voting at all; that allows you to be discounted as “apathetic.” And finally, don’t do it by expecting the small party or independent for which you vote to win; the system as it stands is far too rigged against such outliers. Taking that party to victory isn’t even the goal; your goal is to deny victory to your “own team,” and to make sure they know you did it.

If you lack substantial money, it’s the only lever you have. I will illustrate, again, by example:

Mr. Obama was going to let Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell float along until his expected second term. All of the groundwork had been laid; the apologies and excuses had been set up; absolutely no meaningful work on ending DADT had been done; party operatives were all about ‘the midterms are Too Important, we have to wait ’till it’s safe’ line. People were already touting the ‘let’s wait and win in 2012, then repeal’ line.

And queers said NO, FUCK YOU and shut off the money spigot, all at once, major donors included. The Democratic Party machine recoiled and went into full spin mode, trying all of the usual intimidations and arguments, and they, at long last, fell on deaf ears. Even with stooges like the Human Rights Campaign, which is no mean feat.

And when that happened, when the big-money GBLT people said, no, fuck you, we meant it – only then did the administration actually start planning the repeal. Only then.

They also cut back on the vicious fundamentalist-sourced rhetoric and arguments they’d been using in defences of DADT and DOMA in court. That was nice.

It still took losing a court case to make the DADT repeal happen. But the fight got a lot shorter, and the court cases a lot quicker, and also importantly, they were prepared.

This is winning. Cost them money, make not appeasing you risk them their power, and you get a response. It will first be rage, then it may just be accommodation.

A second example, even more relevant:

The American left had a tremendous opportunity in 2000. Mr. Nader won close to three percent of the vote, and absolutely cost Mr. Gore the election. The Democratic party establishment frothed with rage.

The American left could have taken this opportunity. It could have collectively said:

Fuck right we did. We fucking cost you the election. We have that power, and we used it. Now appease us, or we’ll do it again.

And mean it, because that is how you play power politics. The opportunity was right there. Appease us, or die.

But that’s not what happened. Instead, the American left ran screaming back home, flagellating themselves for their sins, piteously crying, ‘We’ll be good! We swear, we’ll never leave and never ever ever be bad ever again!’ It was pathetic. And they were scolded and contritely made their apologies and occasionally get reminded of the “Nader betrayal,” to help keep them in line, and nothing they want matters.

And why all that Party rage? Simple: because the left had created a window of opportunity, and that window had to be closed. They demonstrated power, costing the Democratic wing of the political class both power and money; and that shit had to be put the fuck down.

And it was. They threw it away.

This is called losing.

Variations of this cycle have been on wash-rinse-repeat since the 1980s, with the left somehow thinking it’ll be different this time. It never is.

That’s how we have Members of Congress talking about how the Internet is great, but there’s intellectual property to protect, and corporate IP rights holders need to be able to shut you down just like that – and the Great Firewall of China shows just how it can be done.

That’s how we already have people being extradited from other countries for linking to things, and other people going to jail for making YouTube videos.

That’s how we now we have a Democratic Chief Executive who can order anyone, anywhere, tried in various degrees of show trial with secret evidence to reach a prearranged verdict, or not tried at all.

That’s how the Executive can order anyone jailed forever, or just outright executed, in secret, without so much as a hearing.

That’s how members of the political class have become above the law, answerable to no one.

That’s how losing the right to a trial can have useful idiots of the left dismissing it as a “fringe issue,” as the neoconservative worshippers of power cheer on Mr. Obama’s embrace-and-extend of Mr. Bush’s “unitary executive.”

It’s all part of the same context. It’s all part of the same theme. It’s all how the window of acceptable politics has been shoved this far to the authoritarian right, and become this normalised, with everyone in the Democratic tribe spending another endless election year rationalising it all away, telling themselves – and anyone who dares disagree – that this election is just Too Critical, and It Can Wait, and Other Issues are Just More Important…

…all as the Republic burns.

It’s Blackout Day. Things are pretty damned dark. What’re you gonna do about it?


A couple of updates! First, I had some bad data, so I’ve revised the poster for the January 27th show at B-Side Music. Nothing critical has changed, but if you’re downloading/forwarding/posting, please re-download the latest. (Revised PDF here, big-ass JPEG here, more here, Facebook event here.)

Second: the Portland show has a Facebook event page! But only on Facebook. And it’s invitation-only, so please tell me if you’re on Facebook and you want invited!

Third: I still want more house concerts! If you’re willing to host one, please please contact me! I’ve also been applying to festivals and stuff; if you have a good venue, tell them you want me to play there. Then tell me and I’ll conveniently apply. It’ll be perfect!


it snowed a little

so instead of going out, I made


These aren’t merch; you can’t buy these. You have to host a show, or bring someone other than yourself to a show, or something like that. Then you can get one. BUT NOT BEFORE! It’s a plan, see. I planned it. Muah ha ha.

my latest obsession

I recently found It’s kind of a chat site except for playing music. Each room is a also DJ room; you can play music for everybody in your room, your own or from the site’s library. People can take turns playing DJ, and they make it easy to buy tracks you like, which is how they make their money and how they don’t get shut down. You need a US proxy server or a an IP in a block that is generally believed to be in the US because of DMCA bullshit, but if you have that, it’s pretty epic.

Here’s the thing; I live in range of KEXP and C89FM, two of the best independent music stations in North America. I listen to them! They’re locally programmed and that’s awesome, because they’re run by people who care about music.

But they each have their preferences. There’s a definite KEXP sound. Same for C89FM. Once upon a time, a decently-sized city would’ve had a few of these stations – if you were lucky, several – so you’d have non-generic options in the ways you don’t, generally, now. Most towns ended up with zero; we’re lucky even to have the two.

This brings some of that back. Different rooms, different DJs, taking turns, a lot of different styles. You guys, I have bought so much new music in the last couple of days it’s just stupid. And cool. Like a fez.

WE HAVE SHOW POSTERS! TAKE AND SHARE! Print some out for your bulletin board! You must have something, right? I know it’s the Friday of Conflikt, I take the gigs when I gets ’em. NOT ALL OF YOU ARE GOING TO CONFLIKT! So come here if you’re not, and bring a friend. Three bands, three sets, no cover! Show page here, poster:

Click image for the JPG; the PDF version is here.

Oh, I forgot; I’m DJ Solarbirdy on, and am usually in J-Pop-and-Anime or Indie While You Work. But I hang out in the K-pop room sometimes too and I will wander around. Wave if you see me. ^_^

i love it when things work the first time

I made a another little thing.

It’s another one of my little cable devices, a really simple one, but I’m pleased with it because as I’ve failed to find a match for my PA’s main speaker, I’m trying two smaller ones with similar sound on either side, at lower power, instead. The idea is the main will be primary output, and the small sides will fill in weak spots.

But since my amp doesn’t have discreet output controls, I had to haxx0r something, so I did some circuit math, and hey! It came out just right! Or as right as I can tell without field testing. Aheh. But I’m optimistic! The numbers are good and things sound fine.

This is actually an old pre-stereo HiFi trick. The only reason it didn’t stick around into the stereo era is because it required too many discreet amplifier components to avoid channel bleed, and so was a lot more expensive. The EICO ST-40 tube amp I found at a garage sale was wired to do this (L, R, CENTRE) but somebody modded it to pure L/R.

Also, the new speakers look like smaller versions of the main, so Rule of Cuteness nr. 7 is in effect!

Here, this needs more plays! Almost none of you have seen it yet, so play it:


Meg Davis reports we’re already halfway to her fundraiser target! This is awesome. If you didn’t read Monday’s post, the TL;DR is: Meg Davis was awesome, was hit by MS and forced to retire, wants to try to return to music on at least a small scale, is asking fans to help, go help already.

Well, what’re you waiting for? MOVE, SOLDIER! XD

not so long ago and not so far away

Once upon a time, not that long ago, there was a performer named Meg Davis. She was a folk musician, starting to break out in the late 70s, with songs such as “Captain Jack and the Mermaid,” “The Elf Glade,” and others.

I didn’t hear any of it until later. “The Elf Glade” was the first song I learned to play on flute, back when I finally did. I still play it. It’s notated as to be played “with nasty intent;” I like that.

I never got to see her live; a triple-whammy of multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, and arthritis ended her ability to play out by 1992.

But she still wants to be able to return to her music, it seems. With recent technological developments, she thinks this is possible, and she’s trying to put together a set of equipment she can use around her disabilities. She has some of it. She needs help buying an iPad2.

I was asked to spread the word. Below, please find a message I received, forwarded from Meg. I’ve edited it for length. I know it’s January, and you’re all spent out. But if this can happen – it’d be worthy.

My Dear Peeps,

I have a plan for all who wish to help me create using new technology. Although the main idea behind this fundraiser is for me to get a recording set-up to do new music, it may be that I end up creating art, poetry or fantastic stories. I could record some of my storytelling or video my animations… all kinds of neat things could happen. […] And, of course, when I have something ready to publish to the world you will get it free first.

[…] I have a friend from the Blind Association who provides guidance now when my vision goes wonky and has guided me to the computer stuff created for folks with ‘low vision.’ Consequently, I have lost my fear that I would not be able to use the iPad. Now that I know its capabilities I see nothing but promise.

My Paypal account will only be used for the iPad2 purchase and I’ve already had a contribution. I’ve been told to get the 64Gig iPad2 for maximum recording space. I can get a 5% discount through my Discover card so the cost from Apple will be around $665.

The other things I need, mic, speakers plus software will be managed with funds from Santa and my Birthday fairy (on Jan. 28).

Well, that’s plenty for now. Let me know how you feel about this. Now that I have figured out a way to ‘repay’ anyone who helps me I feel a lot better. How I will repay YOU will take a wee bit more effort 😉

My best to you this Hogmannay (New Year’s Eve),

🙂 Meg

If you want to help, here’s your contact link.

Separately, we have posters for our show with Kräken-Röhl and Leannan Sidhe in Seattle on the 27th! Please download and post: print resolution JPEG, 500 pixel JPEG, massive PDF. Thanks!

supposed to have been

First, some eye candy: check out these Russian rocket factory photos by Lana Sator, before they make her take them down. She’s gone vadding into a test facility outside Moscow, and it’s cool.

December poll! While the voting was spread across many candidates, you guys clearly hate fax machines with a particular purity. The fax didn’t gain the majority outright – it tied for largest plurality – but unlike CRTs, no one spoke in its defence. Similarly 8-track cassettes, but those received fewer votes; even pagers had people supportive, hither and yon.

Mostly, I’m bored. I made yet another special cable today, sorted stuff, and engaged in Boring Business Crapimportant meetings with people about business matters. I’ve been backed off of rehearsal on doctor’s orders, after I Did Something to my shoulder a couple of weeks ago. I don’t even know how. I have been practicing some, using a weird strap arrangement, but it’s weird and I don’t like it.

That didn’t stop me from rocking the Tony Bennett Wednesday night after Session, but it has kept a crimp in things. I get to test NORMALITY tomorrow, as I ramp back up for the first show of the year, on the 27th, with Leannan Sidhe and Kräken-Röhl:

…and there was something else I wanted to talk about today instead of all this, but can’t yet. It’s not actually my thing; it’s entirely about somebody else, another musician some of you know. Hopefully, I can talk about it soon.

I’m going to see Tin-Tin tonight. I’ve heard good things. Have a good weekend!

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