deus ex macchiato

Fabian Bazant-Hegemark's blog

sound and code


I spent the last couple of days working on some skills and projects that I feel should be given more attention to match their importance in my life;

One is audio recording, the other is web design.

While I know neither really well, I now almost finished a 4 day course at Radio Orange, a free and open terrestrial and internet radio station in Vienna. I skipped the last unit on live radio because I felt kinda sick, but what I learned in the first three days already makes me feel like that was time well spent, to some extent.

I never really cared much for radio or television, for that matter; they seem to me like relics or objects of nostalgia rather than important tools in my life; and “on demand” seems much more important an idea for what I try to create myself. Since moving into my own place I never owned a radio or tv set, mostly because I didn’t want to pay the fees that would have been mandatory when having a receiver device in Austria. I had Internet, what did I care about radio? Now, this is still accurate of course. At the same time I feel that it’s a great thing that there are free radio stations, especially in combination with their on demand download archives. While I’d never make time to literally tune in to a debate or feature, I’d totally download a podcast or recording or watch a debate a day later. I rely on other people who’ll upload content a lot, like my own little outsourced TiVo. I guess there’s many people doing that. That’s what I mean when I say that the Internet is the successor of libraries, or at least has that opportunity.

I still figured that even if I can’t really get excited about radio as a medium, the techniques you’d learn in such a course would prove valuable as journalistic but also as audiophile tools. And that’s exactly what I got, and more.

The stuff I learned about copyright and entertainment laws strengthened my resolution to cooperate with publishing houses anytime soon. Even if this means having to do stuff myself that I could totally outsource, none of that feels worth the cost. Maybe I’m too cowperson-ish, but I also feel that after a lifetime of growing up with so called media piracy and advocating the use of free software, it would sound horribly wrong to even have some person Indesign to create the cover to my novel that costs as much as an ebook as in print because it was produced by some underpaid factory worker in Eastern Europe and 90 per cent of the revenue go to some overblown cliché publisher everybody hates, instead of the, admittedly bobo approach of using Gimp, Libreoffice and printing in a shop.

Not only because of this I really loved the emphasis that Radio Orange puts on free software. While it is a pain at times and there are more streamlined options, we learned to cut and edit audio, at production level, in Audacity; we were given laptop computers running Debian, all of these things tingle my digital peg leg a bit, also they had a real espresso machine (just throw 50 cents into the box next to it) instead of some Nestlé bullshit waste creating heap of wasted resources for disgusting diarrhea Starbucks horse piss. I appreciate those things.

I had often cursed my great beginner’s audio equipment, now I finally understand what I did wrong. A couple of knobs twisted I can now record with much higher quality than before. But now I face a new problem: Having spent a couple of days focusing on radio, radio presenters, and sound in general, I have become much more aware of all my flaws and mistakes. It’s like when I learned playing the piano, there’s a new level of aspiration that I didn’t knew existed, but now that I’ve seen it, I don’t really feel comfortable where I still am. What to do other than to try and reach that new level, right? Well, but that means, yet again, to realize that I suck at certain things and that I have to work and improve on them to become better. This also allows my latent perfectionism to kick me in the b***s again, because I’m now vary of uploading the next audio book that I have almost finished recording. I want to record it all over, and when I try, I make all these mistakes again that I didn’t know existed.

Imagine that you’re writing something, anything, but with the goal to have no mistakes and errors in it. But then, half way through, you realize you totally forgot to follow one of the rules and that there are now many errors in the stuff that you wrote. Not because you put them there intentionally or didn’t care, but because you didn’t realize those were mistakes. But now you do realize, and you feel you should correct them. Well, that ain’t too hard, you just go through all the lines and edit the words or sentences to be correct. Then, when you’re done, you discover another set of errors you made unconsciously. God dammit. Well, again, all the lines, find all the mistakes, the letters start to blur at this point, but eventually you correct everything and now you have a finished, error-free document. Neat! Only, imagine that all of this happened with a typewriter. And you used correction fluid. And now the whole document looks like shit. Well, it’s not too hard, just write it again. Only with the pressure in your head that if there is one mistake, you’ll have to write it again, all over, after all you want this one page to be perfect, right? God dammit.

This is where I am at right now. And with audio recording you also have to consider other stuff. I turned of the heating in my flat because the clock from the thermostat kept ticking, then there was the garbage removal van that made me have to re-record a sentence, and all of that doesn’t account for me still sounding too much like a cliché German Bond-willain vhen speaking the double whos and wees some times. Like, I know I do it vrong, and I know how to do it correctly, but my tongue just sometimes doesn’t give a shit and fucks up the output. So I have to record that sentence again.

So while feeling at home at the place and being happy with the short curriculum, even if it means that I still have a lot to learn, I realized that there is a part where I my skills are even more inadequate, and that is my own website. While I somehow talked myself into being happy with tumblr hosting my blog, especially since I really don’t want to have anything with updates and security, considering that I no longer have regular internet access at home. (I will be able to tell my future hypothetical children that I had to walk a mile every day for my internet! How awesome is that? It wouldn’t need to be a mile, but the places that are closer are all smoking and I really don’t want to support or endure that any more). But with my own website, I almost take pride in having built it all but from scratch, by myself. I handwrote almost all of the code, and there’s nothing happening that I don’t understand or want to happen. There are no trackers, there are no weird pixel things, no share buttons, everything is static, hand coded and … well, not too pretty. But I feel like it has a certain charm to it, kind of like a digital shabby chic web design flair. I like it this way. But back since I started the site, a lot has happened concerning web design. The possibilities you have with HTML5 and CSS are insane, and I understand basically none of them. I just searched for solutions to problems I encountered and applied a bit of logic. I didn’t know you could do so many awesome things. Well, now I worked a bit more on them. Which is fun when you don’t have internet to try them.

What makes this more rewarding though, is that I can instantly correct mistakes. I don’t have outside influences f*cking with my code. And the other thing is that I can search for help and solutions online. I can’t really do that with recording, there’s no copy paste tutorial for a lazy tongue.

I work mostly on the site, since this is the one that’s supposed to get most attention when I post new content. This site needs to work, be fast, and collect as little information as possible. Until a couple of days ago that included paypal and flattr buttons that reported back home whenever you visited the site. I learned a lot about how these buttons work, what they do, and now I replaced them with static links and used a bit of CSS (pseudoclasses, if you’re interested) to make them prettier while not breaking the general style of the website as much. They are now text based with colors mimicking the Paypal and Flattr buttons, which I think looks great in the context of the site.

The next step is to apply the stuff I learned to the other subsites and possibly this blog as well, but I’m in no hurry about that.

The weather is an affront right now, black fading to gray and back to black, and even the gray periods get shorter and shorter. I know I have only a couple of weeks until, traditionally, winter depression kicks in and f***s me in the a**, which will probably end my productive year for 2015. I want to get a lot done until then, and I’m excited to apply the new stuff I learned.