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If I had a Tattoo it Would Be

- On the knuckles of my left hand the letters H.A.T.E., on my right H.A.T.E.

- A whole tribe

- On my lower back: “waiting for marriage”

- barbed wire around my nipples

- A to scale tattoo of my baby’s face, on my face

- “GOD BLESS AMERICA” in kanji

- clues to the identity of my wife’s murderer

- the letters H.A.R.D. C.O.R.E. written across my toe knuckles

- 16th notes EVERYWHERE

- large eyes on my back, to ward off predators

 

A Green Box

This is a modified Tube Screamer that I built for a guitarist I did a recording project with earlier in 2010.

So what is it? This is a Tube Screamer 808 clone with a set of simple mod switches. The 3 knobs on the left and the circuit inside are the same as a Tube Screamer 808. The middle two switches flip between the “vintage” ts808 circuit and the more modern ts9. Since the difference was only two resistors, I was excited to hear the difference, and switch between them. Unfortunately it turns out the main difference between the two circuits is the opamp used and not the circuit design. I spent a long time switching between the two settings and there is a difference, but it is very subtle. The 808 setting smooths the highs slightly the 9 has a tighter low end than the 808.

The 3 right most switches, change the diodes in the Tube Screamer’s clipping section, essentially changing the distortion. The “S” setting on the right of all the switches is the stock tube screamer silicon 1N914 diode, common in many other guitar pedals. The “G” setting on the top two switches replaces the 1N914 with a germanium 1N34A diode. Flipping the first switch filters out some of the low end, and can clear up the tone a little bit depending on your amp. The second switch filters out the low frequencies similar to the first switch and some top end leaving a more midrangey sound. At the same time this switch also changes the distortion tone, giving it a little more bite, and the way the sound decays, creating a slightly more clipped, gritty sound. The final switch, changes between a symmetrical and an asymmetrical clipping by completely removing a diode and replacing it with bare wire. This mellows out the high end and the distortion a little. Because the way diodes work there will be a pop and a volume difference when you flip any of the right 3 switches so they are not really good for switching while playing but, choosing the tone you like for the particular song/set you are playing.

The knobs and switches are labeled using small pieces of paper that are taped on with scotch tape. Originally I planned to use some classy slide off decals, the kind that are used on fancy models, but it was a total pain in the ass and didn’t work at all. First the ink printed poorly and didn’t dry very well into the paper, then when I dipped it in water all the ink dissipated. Even after that the decal peeled right off the pedal when it dried. I know people have done this with great success and I have some ideas as to where I messed up, but it is not something I want to revisit anytime soon.

My Favorite Albums of 2010

Écailles De Lune – Alcest As with many albums that came out this year, this one shows Neige growing musically and really finding his sound. Where Souvenirs D’un Autre Monde seemed a little rough around the edges and Amesoeurs got it mostly right, Écailles De Lune really feels like it is a completion of the sound he was searching for accurately merging elements of shoegaze and black metal into one beautiful, dreamy medley. While mostly inseparably merged together, there will be occasional segments of blistering black metal that will break free from the songs, this may seem jarring but is necessary to break up the album where the dreamy effected wash can get tiresome.

The Monitor – Titus Andronicus My first play through of this album left me really unimpressed, however I kept coming back to this album for “No Future Part Three” and “A Pot in Which to Piss” where singer Patrick Stickles’ mournful crooning really shines. On second and third listens I found similarities to Neutral Milk Hotel in style, performance, and composition. Especially exciting was a guitar tone that I love from ITAOTS, sounding similar to grinding gravel across a speaker cone. Not to say that these guys really sound much like Neutral Milk Hotel, but I assume they know the works of the band well. They perform with an emotion and intelligence that you probably wouldn’t expect from a bunch of history nerds. You can check the music video for the first single off the record “A More Perfect Union” here.

Recitation – Envy I cannot believe that this album is the first I have heard of this band. Envy plays a very emotional hardcore where you can really feel the sentiment behind the song. They truly understand the power of dynamics and go from quiet subtle beauty to full on brutality and back again. I don’t know how much I can gush about this album before it starts to negate the effectiveness of my praise but I really can’t express how great this album is. Listen for yourself on the band’s website.

This Is Happening – LCD Soundsystem This album is so far from “Tribulations” and the much dancier self-titled album and yet actually very similar. James Murphy has grown so much since the first LCD release and this album really shows it. As you would expect from LCD lyrically the album is full of heartfelt lyrics expressed in a truthful and somewhat uncomfortably candid way. If you listen to one song from 2010 make it “Home”.

(II) – Toundra – just straight up awesome post-rock

Comadre/Glasses – Split EP – Comadre just keeps getting better and better, and Glasses is probably one of the best new hardcore bands of this year

Crystal Castles – Crystal Castles – bad-ass abrasive electronic destruction, I am one of the few that likes this album better than their first (I hated it)

A Determinism of Morality – Rosetta – an amazing emotional post-rock/hardcore hybrid

Failures – Millions of Them – brutal mathy hardcore with some great tones and grooves

Full of Hell – Howl – great metal, full of extra chunky riffs

Kvelertak – Kvelertak – at its base hard rock, but heavily influenced by hardcore and black metal

Push Pull – Punch – fast and brutal hardcore

Something For Everybody – Devo – Devo still has it, they never lost it! Devo tells us how stupid we all are and we love it

The Suburbs – Arcade Fire – Arcade Fire continues to impress everyone with their beautiful and frightening music

Maiestrit – Negură Bunget – great atmospheric black metal

Messy isn’t It? – Dangers – Dangers provides a fast paced chaotic hardcore, with mean spirited yet honest and concious lyrical content

To All My Friends – Atmosphere – Atmosphere continues to stay awesome with no signs of slowing

Sean Reads Civil War Part 5

Alright so as usual spoilers ahead, this post concerns the events between Civil War 6 and 7, but mostly just Civil War 7.

First off Speedball buys into the idea that he “caused” the explosion and not Nitro, and becomes Penance vowing to suffer for each and every person “he killed” when Nitro exploded. In the same issue there is a hinted solution of some reporters finding out who/what caused Civil War, or some hidden motive behind it. Hey could it be that little thing Wolverine discovered in Wolverine #46! 47 fucking comics ago! That is followed by some Spiderman and Punisher bullshit that doesn’t matter, even a Blade comic! Then we have Civil War The Return, which was somewhat interesting, but at this point that pretty much blew me away. It explains Captain Marvel‘s return to the future, given the knowledge of his own doom to cancer (his arch nemesis) in the past. There is also a Sentry comic that is basically just ten pages of telling me how powerful he is. Most interestingly though is that both of these characters are on Iron Man’s side, pretty exciting right! With Thor, Captain Marvel, and The Sentry, Captain America has his work cut out for him.

In Fantastic Four we discover that Reed Richards, getting the idea from an Asimov book, has developed some magical future predicting math. In truth Richards doesn’t like the registration act at all, but if it doesn’t happen the world will basically end. He claims to have tried countless scenarios, with only one enabling the survival of the human race. This seems like some pretty important information to me. I mean you could like tell everybody that. That would probably work a lot better. But I guess you could argue that would change the outcome, do you think he plugged in that scenario? But if telling everyone would be a bad idea, then why is he telling this all to the Mad Thinker, a super villain who apparently can nearly match his own intelligence!? That seems like a bad idea to me, actually he probably knows it’s OK cause he already math-predicted the outcome of telling him. Anyway Susan overhears, you would think being married to a person who can turn invisible you would learn, and gets all in his face, saying that they have beaten the odds before. Then he smacker her in the face and yelled “Bitch! I predicted the fucking future with math!” except then he didn’t do that and the comic ended.

Really most of the action happens in Civil War #7 where we finally get the big battle promised from the beginning. And it happens… we see a few punches, an energy beam or two, but really other than one really awesome face stomp it’s a pretty bland fight.

Oh man, just look at the Captain’s face! He isn’t just stomping Bishop’s face into the ground. He is destroying this man, he is no longer Bishop, he is nothing, he no longer exists, only Captain America, and his disappointment. (pretty sure this is Bishop, right?)

Anyway I am a little confused about this battle because I just finished reading Civil War The Return, in which I was repeatedly told how powerful Sentry is and how he could single-handedly win this battle. But where is he we barely even see him?

Yep that’s it Sentry getting double-handedly punched in the face by Hercules and Hulkling. I didn’t know before this comic but it turns out that Hercules is a total badass. Not only did he apparently beat The Sentry in one punch but he also smashes/kills (robot)Thor by himself.

Also where is Captain Marvel during all of this? I would think he would be someone to watch out for.

Oh! There he is, and he looks pissed. This should get pretty interesting. The fight is on now!

Actually no, I guess he just flies at them angrily and then… I don’t know, flies away? This is the only time you see him in the entire comic! Just flyin into battle.

Anyway the big fight ends when a group of New York civilians tackle Captain America. I cannot express how stupid that is. Some random New Yorkers just jump into the fray and tackle Captain fucking America from behind. Anyway this forces him to see all the destruction they caused while fighting. Captain America starts blubberin and turns himself in, stating how he was wrong. And I guess after that everything is just A-OK! Everyone is happy and its all a success. What about the S.H.I.E.L.D. squads hunting down renegades and KILLING THEM? Or Tony Stark employing known MURDERERS and PSYCHOPATHS? Or the concentration camp in the Negative Zone where there is a possibility of DYING INSTANTLY by just being there? Oh, and why is Captain America in regular old fashioned bars-on-the-walls prison and not the Negative Zone? I am assuming all of these things will be addressed in later issues, but seriously there is no unrest? No one cares?

Well anyway there should only be one more of these left to do, maybe a final thoughts one also.

An Orange Box

This is a clone of the Dan Armstrong Orange Squeezer compressor that I built a little while ago and just got around to putting in a case. Unfortunately I didn’t do much research before I built this pedal. What I had heard was that it is a little dirty, meaning not particularly transparent, and that people love it. As you can tell by the sticker I put on it, I was hoping for an all out “crush”ing compression. It is actually a pretty subtle pedal, at least compared to what I was looking for, it has a pretty quick attack that “squeezes” your transients, while not really doing much for the sustain. It just doesn’t create the gooey smashing style of compression that I was looking for, though it’s not meant to. What I did find was that it sounds awesome feeding distortion effects, I only tried it feeding the Blue Box I made previously,  Mimi’s Heliotrope (not really a distortion) and the overdrive on her practice amp. It greatly increased the overall sound of the distortion, removing a little mud and adding presence. I really liked it feeding my Blue Box and will probably use them together from now on.

Same as last time I used a tonepad board, however this time I was much smarter about buying parts and fitting them into the box. There is one knob controlling the level out, and an internal trimpot which is a bias control, something you only need to set once.

I also built the red cable connecting the two pedals. I used Canare, probably the best cable in existence, and Switchcraft right angle connectors, the cable was 85 cents a foot, and the connectors were 1.25 dollars each. Making this a deal even compared to bargain store bought cables. I considered getting Neutrik connectors to really make it the best cable it could be, but they are about 5 dollars each so whatever.

Sean Reads Civil War Part 4

So this little section of Civil War is kind of in some awkward in between stage, where things should be wrapping up but not yet. So everything between Civil War #5 and #6 is sort of filler, little extra stories meant to develop character rather than plot.

And boy is there some character development! Like we learn how Iron Man is kind of an asshole, and is pretty upset about the whole Civil War thing, but actually isn’t, but maybe a little, not really though just kidding. And one time one of his old friends gets killed and Tony is really sad, pshh no he hated that guy, he was dumb. Also he is suddenly really good friends with another guy we never met, and then that guy gets beat up by a badguy, and he is sad, but not actually!

Did I mention Tony's dead friend is a hacker!

Oh also did you know that every time Wolverine receives an injury that would normally kill a human being he goes to another plane of existence where he must fight Lazaer or he will die FOR REALSYS!

Ya it’s a good thing that I get to read a whole Fantastic 4 comic where The Thing has comedic adventures in France with other superheroes fighting other villains that has nothing to do with anything cause it would be really hard to care about the story, if I didn’t know all this.

I was a little excited for this section of Civil War series because it featured a few Punisher comics, a series I never got into. From what I know of the Punisher I was pretty excited for some badass hyper voilence, and some dark story telling. I was excited to see some of the grittier side of the Civil War conflict. And the comic did deliver, sort of. There was shooting, yelling, and fighting, but the whole thing was in this weird cartoony art style, with every color aside from black being some sort of chalky pastel. Skin was pretty much always pink, with exceptionally rosy cheeks for every character. It made everything look silly and childish even with the Punisher’s stupidly gigantic arms.

What has now become a much more interesting sub-plot for Civil War is the Nick Fury/Bucky story. Now I haven’t read all the comics leading up to Civil War, nor am I very up to date on my Captain America, Nick Fury, and especially Bucky. From what I know, in case you don’t, Bucky was Captain America’s young sidekick in Wolrd War II, and was killed in action. I am sure it was very tragic. Anyway, some how he was revived by magic/thawed from ice/was an evil twin/a clone/whatever. His past, the more recent one, is shrouded in mystery and he is doing some sort of covert operations for Nick Fury. As for Nick Fury, he is absent for some reason, probably explained before Civil War, which is why S.H.I.E.L.D. has become the “badguys.” However, android lookalikes of him have been popping up, supposedly being controlled by him, and various heroes from the resistance have been using his secret compounds as hideouts.

Then we have the Iron Man/Captain America Casualties of War issue. In which Iron Man and Captain America meet up, not to discuss current issue, but to reminisce about the good ol’ days, then fight for some reason?

The next section which I was not so excited for, was 4 consecutive issues of Moon Knight. Now, I know absolutely nothing about Moon Knight, but from the covers that I had seen I could tell it was not for me. Knowing nothing about Moon Knight the comics were pretty confusing to jump into. There was an internal monologue/narrator, another person inside his head which was sometimes visible and sometimes not just leaving random text bubbles in the panel, then the character’s dialog. Not only that, but the dialog was very clunky, weird, and always self referential. Knowing nothing about this character or the previous events in the series, it was all but impossible to follow the story. On top of that it was really difficult to tell who was talking, people who weren’t in the panel would have floating text bubbles, which doesn’t sound so bad unless you account for the sheer amount of text, and the guy inside Moon Knight’s head. There was one part that I really liked about a character who could read peoples minds, which added yet another voice into the comic. If you could imagine Psycho Mantis from Metal Gear Solid, but he sort of just embraces all the hate and horrible things in the world and just lets everything go and rolls with it. He is basically just an asshole, using his ability to manipulate people and their feelings. He was in the comic for about 2 pages, and I am sure my own imagined extrapolations made him way more interesting than he actually was. But the best part? This has absolutely nothing to do with Civil War! In one issue, some army guy tells him not to get involved, and then nothing comes of it, he just keeps doing his own thing, fighting his own villains. Civil War does not effect him, and he doesn’t effect the Civil War.

However once I got to Civil War 6, there he is, Moon Knight standing right behind Iron Man! Anyway the events of Civil War 6 basically boils down to 2 events. The Punisher is kicked out of the resistance for straight up killing 2 guys wanting to join, and the resistance sets up to break out all the prisoners in the extra dimensional prison. How are they gonna do it, they already did, that’s how! Then the comic ends with everybody about to fight.

More Pictures of A White Box

Tina took so many cool pictures, that I couldn’t not post some more

A White Box

After I finished the DI I couldn’t wait to start another project, building these things is really fun, its like sudoku, but at the same time relaxing like knitting. This is a clone of the MXR Blue Box that I built, a pretty nasty sounding guitar effects pedal.

After all the trouble I had with point to point soldering on the DI, I decided to go with a PCB from tonepad. It cost a little more but worth the time and effort saved.

Unfortunately I made a lot of mistakes on this project, I ended up making multiple purchases from different places which really hiked up the shipping costs. Also I was unable to fit this in a regular sized box, I attribute that to my inexperience, so I had to get another larger box later.

I drilled all the holes in this smaller box before I realized it wasn’t going to fit so I had to do all the drilling over again on the larger box.

After that I had to do all the off board wiring, which was the longest part of the process, other than waiting for paint dry.

Then I put it all together,

and painted it, with a couple passes of white spray paint and stuck on some blue knobs to finish it off.

Unfortunately this project ended up costing me more than it would to have bought a Blue Box reissue, mainly because I had to make multiple online purchases, and buy all the tools necessary. But I built it myself which means more to me than simply owning a guitar pedal.

Thanks again to Tina for these extra classy pictures!

Some Sound Design

Another school project, this time the assignment was to take a 3 minute video game trailer, remove all of the sound and replace it with your own.

I would recommend listening to this on a system that has a sub woofer. Generally you would mix audio to sound good on any system, or at least try, but I mixed this project with a particular set-up in mind, the one that I would be graded on! So it sounds awesome on that particular system, but on most set-ups without a sub, or particularly weak low end response, it gets pretty muddy and a lot of stuff gets lost in the mix.

A DI

This is an Active DI I built for a school project. If you don’t know what a DI is (stands for Direct Injection) it is a device meant to convert an unbalanced high impedance signal into a balanced mic level signal. Basically it allows you to plug a Hi-Z instrument (electric guitar, bass, synths, etc…) into a mic preamp, instead of having to use an amp. This of course gives you a very different tone than what you would be used to, which may be undesirable, however you can see that there are 2 instrument jacks on the left side of the box, these jacks are connected before they hit the circuit, allowing you to plug your instrument into instrument jack 1, send it to a preamp through the XLR jack, and send it to an amp using the second Hi-Z jack, which you can record using a microphone. What this allows you to do is combine your non-amp instrument tone with the amplified tone, and mix them together until you get the perfect balance. This is the industry standard for recording electric bass.

This was my first point to point soldering project (each component is soldered directly to the next) and I had a lot of trouble, I set up the IC backwards three times! Even so it was a pretty cool puzzle trying to figure out how things worked and fitting together, but I might be hesitant to do another project without a PCB.

All the parts except for the metal case were provided by the school, so it cost me about 10 bucks to build something that normally costs around 100 dollars.

Also thanks to Tina for the extremely classy photos above and below.