Rabbit Rabbit Radio

(Rabbit Rabbit Radio illustration by Mariko Ando.) 

Next Wednesday, February 1st, professional musicians/married couple/doting parents Carla Kihlstedt and Matthias Bossi –whose various other projects have been mentioned on Coilhouse many times— are launching a very interesting new multimedia musical subscription service called Rabbit Rabbit Radio.

“Saying ‘rabbit, rabbit’ on the first of the month is a tradition here in New England,” Kihlstedt explains. “It is said to bring good luck and a sense of renewed purpose. We’ve taken it to heart and are releasing a new song on the first [day] of each month along with photos, videos, and other implicating evidences of our creative process, all on rabbitrabbitradio.com

The Kihlstedt/Bossi family: Matthias, Tallulah, and Carla. Photo by Eurydice Galka.

Last year, not long before the Sleepytime Gorilla Museum (a legendary band they were members of) closed its doors, Kihlstedt and Bossi moved from Oakland to Cape Cod with their baby girl Tallulah. “Our lives have changed a lot since [she] was born and since we moved back East.” Kihlstedt and Bossi predict that their Rabbit Rabbit Radio project will help them to accomplish many things, warmly and comfortably, in ways that more traditionally grueling channels (constant low-budget touring is exhausting enough without kids!) could not:

“It keeps us in touch with you [our audience]. It conveys each song with much more depth and dimension than a simple iTunes download would. It holds us to an ongoing commitment to our own creativity. It allows us to be creatively independent from home, which in turn allows us to be good parents. In short, everyone wins. We have finally created our very own dream job.”

Fans who subscribe to Rabbit Rabbit Radio can choose to pay $1, $2, or $3 per month (but there’s no difference in content access; it’s just a chance to pay them a bit more for their efforts, if you can afford to). You can learn more –and get a taste of the quirky, sweet whimsy this lovely duo creates together– from the following YouTube pitch video:

RRR has its own Twitter account and a Facebook page as well.

Rabbit Rabbit Radio is a fascinating-yet-simple premise that feels very new, and fresh, and… cozy! Kihlstedt and Bossi both hope this kind of project takes off: “there are lots of artists whom we would gladly subscribe to ourselves!”  While there may very well be other musicians out there attempting similar transmedia subscription services (and please feel free to give them a shout-out in comments, because we’d love to know more about them, too) it’s certainly not status quo quite yet. Fingers crossed that it soon will be.

The modern quest for reasonable and sustainable alternatives to a more staid career path in the arts is always worth discussing on Coilhouse. We live in interesting- no, scratch that, fascinating times. It might feel daunting to watch the old regimes fall down around our ears, but there’s no doubt about it: we are lucky to be alive during a time period where there’s so much opportunity to build newer, better, kinder infrastructures. Let’s stay tuned in!

Why Coilhouse Is Going Dark

Effective immediately, we’ll be shutting down until midnight tomorrow to protest two pieces of blacklist legislation – PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) in the Senate, and Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House.

Over the weekend, we saw several victories against the bills.  The Obama administration came out against the DNS blocking in response to the anti-SOPA petition.  SOPA author and notorious copyright infringer Rep. Lamar Smith stated on Friday that DNS blocking would be struck from the bill.  The Internet may have won these battles, but the war is far from over. Despite earlier reports that SOPA was “shelved” (or, as some might say “indefinitely detained”) over the weekend, Lamar Smith announced today that SOPA markup would resume next month.

SOPA has not gone away. PIPA is still up for a vote on January 24th. It’s time to make our voices heard. Coilhouse will be standing with Wikipedia, the EFF, BoingBoing, Reddit, and sites all over the world.

Coilhouse (and countless other publishers, businesses, and activists) could never thrive in a world where SOPA and PIPA were considered reasonable. We oppose the concept of the MPAA (or any corporate sponsor, for that matter) actually writing legislation. We oppose a room full of politicians who don’t understand how the Internet works making vital judgements about its future.

Some relevant quotes:

“If the ████ SOPA [and PIPA] bill passes, ████████████ we’re all kind of ████ed.” – Marina Galperina

“I’m not by any means an enemy of intellectual property, and in fact keep a roof over my head because the conceptexists. But I think that SOPA as it stands now, or as it stood beforethey paused to think about it, is extremely ill thought out, and abasically crazily Draconian piece of legislation.” – William Gibson

“Our freedom is more important than your dying industry. Period.” – @mikeestee

“It doesn’t get much better than working from a war room dedicated to shutting down Wikipedia.” – overheard by @sfslim at the offices of Wikipedia

“These bills were written by the content industry without any input from the technology industry. And they are trying to fast track them through Congress and into law without any negotiation with the technology industry.” – Fred Wilson (Union Square Ventures)

“When ideas are blocked, information deleted, conversations stifled and people constrained in their choices, the Internet is diminished for all of us. There isn’t an economic Internet and a social Internet and a political Internet. There’s just the Internet.” – Hillary Clinton

“The potential for abuse of power through digital networks – upon which we as citizens now depend for nearly everything, including our politics – is one of the most insidious threats to democracy in the Internet age … This is no time for politicians and industry lobbyists in Washington to be devising new Internet censorship mechanisms, adding new opportunities for abuse of corporate and government power over online speech.” – Rebecca MacKinnon (New York Times)

“We’re furthering our corporate interest by taking down our website + ads, to stop a law that the MPAA says can’t harm us.” – Rob Beschizza in response to MPAA butthurt

When was the last time you saw “The Internet” agree about something? It’s beautiful. Thanks, #SOPA! – @raindrift

Intellectual property theft is a problem for artists, and additional safeguards may be needed. As avant-cellist Zoe Keating tweeted earlier today, “I’m against #SOPA, but meanwhile I’m issuing a 7th, ineffective & useless DMCA against @grooveshark. #devilinthedetails” (Grooveshark is notorious among music streaming sites for refusing to pay artists their fair share.) There are no easy solutions. Whether it’s collaboratively fine-tuning the OPEN Act (and it turns out that Rep. Zoe Lofgren, one of the act’s sponsors and SOPA’s biggest opponents, actually listens to feedback) or working out some other method of protest (perhaps a huge internet campaign to educate fans on which sites most fairly compensate the artists they love?), we can work together to construct an Internet where innovation can thrive and artists can fairly profit their work.

SOPA and PIPA cannot pass. The stats are scary: we currently have only 6 Senators opposing PIPA, and we need 40. Only 12 House Members oppose SOPA, and we need 214.

Get involved. Some tips from Congressman Jared Polis and the EFF:

  1. Show up at a town hall or talk to them in person, check their schedule with their office.
  2. Call your Senators and Representative and tell them to oppose Protect-IP and SOPA, respectively.  Click here for some suggested talking points. Then tell your friends about the call on social media sites.
  3. Contact Congress through EFF’s action center.  Customize your letter to explain who you are and why you are worried about this bill. If you’re outside the United States, try this petition from Fight for the Future instead.
  4. Are you an artist? Showcase the dangers of censorship through art and music, and use your art as a way of reaching people who might otherwise not know about this issue. You can make stickers, posters or patches, create a YouTube video, or hold an open-mic night around censorship.
  5. Write a blog post about the blacklist bills.  Whether it’s a candid explanation of why you oppose the legislation, a discussion of the effect on human rights, or a call to filmmakersto protest the blacklist, there are plenty of things to say about this scary legislation. Help us get the word out by writing articles on your own blog, your school blog, or on blogs that take guest contributors.
  6. If you work for a tech company, approach the leadership at your company and explain to them your concerns. Urge them to join you in speaking out. These companies (PDF) already took a stand.
  7. More tips available from The EFF.

Together, we will defeat this.

BTC: The Rock-afire Explosion

Good day, comrades. This mesmerizing WTFery has been on the YouToobz for a few years now, but DJ DeadBilly only alerted Coilhouse to its existence this morning. (2012 is off to an auspicious start!)

Who among our readers remembers The Rock-afire Explosion animatronic stage show from their pepperoni ‘n’ cheese-drenched childhood? It was the brainchild of one Mr. Aaron Fechter, who, in addition to creating and heading a company called Creative Engineering Incorporated, invented the Whac-a-Mole, and co-founded a venture called Showbiz Pizza Place in 1979, which eventually merged with –and became more commonly known as– Chuck E. Cheese (apparently under bitter circumstances).

In spite of a handful of painful business disappointments over the past thirty years, Fechter and his team have stayed the course, and C.E. Inc. remains “a leader in the Family Entertainment business”, designing and manufacturing “sophisticated animatronic stage shows for many amusement parks and entertainment centers around the world”.

Fechter’s company has additionally been involved in several somewhat less HappyHappyFuntimez™ projects of various sizes and technologies, ranging from development of robotic soldiers for the U.S. Army (“a great success, I might add”, says Fechter) to water removal systems for commericial roofing (“not one of my best”).

But through it all, Fechter’s heart has remained devoted to “developing high-tech equipment to entertain and amuse the public while developing the self-esteem of the participants”.

The Prodigy’s Music – Recreated “From Scratch”

If you remember the 90s, you probably remember Smack My Bitch Up and Voodoo People from The Prodigy. It’s generally known that both these tracks tracks use a lot of samples, but just how many samples – and to what effect – wasn’t clear until Ukranian music producer Jim Pavloff put together a masterful recreation of the two tracks using Ableton Live.

As part of the same phenomenon that allowed entire musical genres to crop up from a 6-second drum sample called the Ahmen break, The Prodigy was able to create these tracks at a time when copyright law had not yet caught up with sampling trends in the music world. Recreating The Prodigy’s process using more modern software, Pavloff copies, pastes, stretches, cleanses, folds and manipulates the samples until The Prodigy’s rave hits emerge. Secrets are revealed: SMBU samples Rage Against The Machine’s “Bulls On Parade”, while Voodoo People opens with  a riff inspired by Nirvana’s song “Very Ape.” Kool and the Gang, The Last Poets, Led Zepplin, Johnny Pate, Ultramagnetic MC and others make an appearance in the songs.

And now you know how The Prodigy hot dog is made. Does it alter your enjoyment/perception of the songs?

[via @nicoles / @sfslim]

Thomas Negovan’s TED Talk “By Popular Demand”

Our dear and charming and preternaturally intelligent friend Mister Thomas Negovan was recently invited to give a TED talk in the midwest United States wherein he shared, among more personal revelations, “how unearthing obsolete technologies teaches us about our future.” Here it is:

Thomas, in addition to making music and running the Century Guild art gallery, regularly lectures all over the world on subjects ranging from Art Nouveau to Weimar-era Berlin cabaret; his talk on the subject of populism and technology is both informative and self-assured.

As one who shares Thomas’ interest in archaic technology and antique musical instruments, and as a fellow wax cylinder experimenter, I found the live/real-time demonstration of the wax cylinder machine especially intriguing!

Thomas’ sexy wax cylinder player, playing to the crowd at our fundraising Ball last summer in NYC.

“The Bicycle Animation” by Katy Beveridge

Katy Beveridge is the mastermind behind this surprising and gorgeous animation piece “that explores whether it’s possible to film animation in realtime.” Beveridge did a ton of research on “proto animation” (which basically means super early, basic, rudimentary animation) in modern design, and cross-referenced work by other contemporary designers using similar techniques.

“I have interviewed animators such as Jim le Fevre and in my research referenced other people using this technique such as David Wilson and Tim Wheatley who did this before me. I developed this project based on what is being done in animation right now as well as a lot of primary research into the history of animation techniques.”

Her friend Stefan Neidermeyer created the piece’s perfect soundtrack by remixing random bike noies recorded during filming.

For a limited time, Beveridge is offering heavy, glossy paper stock laser cuts of the bicycle wheel paper cuts for sale in her Etsy shop. She also co-runs the informative Londoncentric graphics/art/design blog, Freda & Franck.

GAFFTA’s Galvanize

Tomorrow (Thursday) evening in San Francisco, non-profit arts organization Gray Area Foundation for the Arts – GAFFTA for short – is hosting Galvanize: a concert, dinner and art auction to raise funds for its many endeavors. GAFFTA is a Bay Area organization devoted to hacking, creative coding, and interactive art. The organization carries out its mission through education, art curation and research.

GAFFTA offers a host of classes with an emphasis in audio, visuals, web and physical interaction. Each of these concentrations is explored thoroughly. For example, the physical interaction classes highlight topics such as “various forms of 3D art, prototyping, multitouch interfaces, electronics, conductive fabrics and physical computing.” The current course catalogue offers classes on augmented reality, Arduino, visualizing and mapping data, and more.

GAFFTA for Ghostly International 10 Year Anniversary

In addition to its focus on education, GAFFTA also champions new-media artists worldwide. Recently, GAFFTA curated Future/Canvas², and exhibit on the emerging medium of iPad art. Previously, GAFFTA presented exhibits exploring urban futures and sound, data and mechanics. Artists whose works have appeared at GAFFTA include Robert Hodgin, Nicole AptekarAaron Koblin and Zimoun. Additionally, GAFFTA partnered with art group Ardent Heavy Industries to produce Syzygryd– a collaborative electronic musical instrument / interactive art installation with a 2.5 ton sculptural visualizer made of metal, fire, and a kilowatt of RGB LEDs.

GAFFTA’s research department exists to explore “the increasingly gray areas between art, technology, and society.” GAFFTA regularly hosts hackathons, offers collaborative research residencies, and has several large-scale initiatives and projects going on right now. And they even find time to host the occasional Cinema Speakeasy in their beautiful space below the historic Warfield building in mid-Market San Francisco. Last week, month, there was an Evil Dead double-feature with zombie dress-up!

A performance at GAFFTA.

All these things cost money. And that’s why GAFFTA is throwing an epic bash in order to raise money for the new year. For $60, guests to the event become members of GAFFTA. This includes the snazzy membership card designed by artist Nicole Aptekar and gains entrants a 10% discount on workshops and ticketed special events in the future. Performing at the event wil be artists ELEW, Electric Method and Garibaldi. See more at the event page for GAFFTA Galvanize.

Membership card designed by Nicole.

In honor of centaur week (previously and continuing on Coilhouse), and in keeping with the tech-art feeling of this post, I present you with this beautiful bionic centaur, titled “Barbie Strogg,” created by artist Mario Caicedo Langer. You can see a larger version of this sculpture here, and more of Langer’s work here. [via BoingBoing]


In Defense of H&M’s Fembots

Fashion retailer H&M recently got called out for using computer-generated bodies in their online catalogue.

The company has admitted that the bodies are “completely virtual,” with faces of real models pasted in. “This is a technique that is not new, it is available within the industry today,” said an H&M spokesperson. “The virtual mannequins are used in the same way as we use mannequins in our stores for ladies wear and menswear.”

Bloggers have responded with appropriate criticism. Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation spokesman Helle Vaagland said, “this illustrates very well the sky-high aesthetic demands placed on the female body.” Blogger T.M. Gaouette writes, “I’m confused! If the intention is to just show the items of clothing, then why put real heads on fake bodies? Why not just put a fake head on the fake body? Is the real head needed so that we can relate to the models as human beings? But how is that possible when we are faced with a perfect body to which no one can relate?”

On Facebook, a couple of friends expressed concern that this trend will decrease the number of jobs available to working models. Another issue is the creepiness factor: “Man,” writes Jenna Sauer at Jezebel, “isn’t looking at the four identical bodies with different heads so uncanny?”

With that in mind, there are a few beautiful and amazing things going on here. First of all, there’s the unintentional modern art: this catalogue has brought us the haunting, Ringu-esque Model Without a Face. Also, this foray into the uncanny valley brings us one step closer to the age of the idoru. With teenage pop idol Aimi Eguchi, whose face is a composite of six different singers, and vocaloids (singing synthesizers) such as pigtailed holographic superstar Hatsune Miku, we’re almost there. And even though H&M’s online catalogue conforms to the same beauty standard as any other big fashion retailer, this technology actually has the potential to subvert the paradigm altogether.

Imagine an online shop where your preferred weight/height/measurements are used to generate 3D models of the bodies that you want to see. Imagine if there was an API for this that could be used across all online clothing stores you visit, so that no matter what site you were looking at, the models appeared the way that you wanted them to. Standardized beauty ideals would become less relevant, because people would have greater control over their exposure to them.

In the short term, it may seem like computer-generated models reinforce a homogenous beauty standard. In the long term, this technology may pave the way towards greater body diversity and inclusiveness.

EDIT: After some wonderful discussion in the comments, I’m appending my responses to the post:

Some of you have pointed out that advertisers aren’t known for championing body diversity. It’s true. Perfume companies hire leggy, angular supermodels to to sell you a lifestyle. Some female-targeted TV commercials begrudgingly include the token African-American women (especially, for some reason, when selling yogurt, cleaning products and tampons), but it’s rare to see them go beyond that. If you read Sociological Images, you know how often advertisers and companies create ads that are super-racist, sexist or classicist even in this day and age.

The reason why I think this has a chance of succeeding is that the advertising and retail branches (or outsourced teams) of a company have totally different goals. The goal of advertising is to make you aware of the brand, and to associate that brand with glamour, mystique, etc. That’s why fashion and editorial models are very tall and have exotic, alien features – Andrej Pejic, Alek Wek, etc. On the other hand, catalog models tend to look “wholesome” and just slightly more attractive than average. Your mileage may vary – the Victoria’s Secret catalog models will look more glamorous than the ones from Gap, and these H&M girls are on the more glamorous side – but generally, catalog models are supposed to be a very standard type of “pretty” that’s not supposed to make people insecure, because they want you to feel happy when you make the purchasing decision. Here are a few models from the Macy’s catalog… I think they’re pretty, but I don’t think that they’re “impossibly” pretty. They look like women I see every day:

Advertising makes people feel insecure, like they’re lacking something, with the implicit message that buying this brand will make them somehow more attractive or fulfilled. But that’s not the goal of a product shot. The goal of the product shot is to make the average consumer feel like the item is right for them. Consider the difference between the Levi Jeans ad campaign and the completely neutral, non-threatening, disembodied product photo on their website:

Calvin Klein Ad:

Calvin Klein Product shot:

It’s true that almost all models presented in catalogs are still uniformly size small. That’s because they are often modeling samples, before the full line of clothing is produced. Samples are manufactured in size small because that’s always been the industry standard. Most of that is for practical reasons: size small clothing is faster and cheaper to produce, because it requires less fabric and time. But with advanced 3D modeling, that convention may go out the window as far as online catalog photos go. (I’m sure it’ll remain as a standard in the fashion world for a long time). There’s already a company called http://fits.me/ that’s working on this. It’s not as advanced as H&M’s one-size-fits-all fitting room interface, but hopefully it’ll evolve in that direction.

H&M doesn’t deserve TOO much praise because they didn’t really step outside the status quo with their use of digital models, but I don’t think they should be criticized, either. Their fake-bodied models were no skinnier than any real models that they would’ve used otherwise. I worry that if the blogosphere crucifies them, and so far that’s what has happened, then other fashion retailers will get discouraged from trying this type of technology in the future because they’ll think that people are just uncomfortable with it, and that it doesn’t test well. Ms. Magazine wrote in an op-ed about this, “Sign here to urge H&M to use real women to model its clothes.” If H&M does that, then it definitely won’t make any lasting change, because they’d just go back to using real Size 2 models. However with digital imaging, we can end up with a catalog that lets you change the size and shape of the clothing, looking something like this, only with more variations:

RIP Hans Reichel

Composer/inventor/sculptor/designer Hans Reichel, 1949 – 2011. Photo by Marc Eckardt.

East Village Radio (via Tiny Mix Tapes, via Rob Schwimmer) reports this sad news:

Hans Reichel—the criminally under-appreciated German experimental guitarist—passed away in his hometown of Wuppertal yesterday at the age of 62, according to a West German newspaper. Virtually unknown on this side of the Atlantic, Reichel was a self-taught guitarist who may be best remembered for his radical homemade guitars and his invented instrument, the Daxophone.

Picking up music at an early age by teaching himself violin, Reichel (like just about everybody else) became enamored with rock music in the ‘60s, picked up a guitar and played in various blues-based groups before all but abandoning music to study graphic design (Reichel would go on to be a fairly well known typesetter). Reichel returned to music in the early ‘70s with his folky and unpretentious improvisational approach to the guitar differentiating him from the field of European improvisers at the time. His idiosyncratic take on the guitar drew the attention of legendary German avant-garde label, FMP, who would go on to release the majority of his work—much of which has never seen proper North American distribution. Reichel collaborated with a wide range of like-minded players, including cellist Tom Cora and guitarist Fred Frith.

Though he will never be a household name, Reichel’s contributions to the avant-garde are considerable and will be sorely missed by fans of forward-thinking music. Fare thee well, Hans.

It’s a huge and unexpected loss.

Thank you, Hans Reichel, for bringing so much joy, beauty and oddness into the world.

Click here to read previous Coilhouse coverage on Reichel’s wonderfully strange creation, the Daxophone.

Siri Argument

College Humor knocks it out of the park with this mock advertisement for the new Siri-equipped iPhone 4S. Excruciatingly funny: