Destination Star Trek 2018

So, last weekend was the long-awaited DST 2018. When I say long-awaited, I booked the hotel room over eighteen months ago. And then, finally, it was time! Like DST 2016, my bff Nat went with me. This is us: 

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This is the second time DST has been held in the NEC at Brum and it was much better organised than last time. We didn’t have to queue at all for registration and were soon in Hall 5 on Friday afternoon where we saw this: 

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WHAT A MASSIVE HALL! Have Showmasters gone mad? Well, no, Fridays are never busy for DST, it turns out that around 14,000 people were going to attend on Saturday. So, Friday evening was actually a chill day to walk around and grab impulse buys of maybe huge amounts of fudge. 

There are different tiers available for DST but I only ever book the base one; entry and that’s it. This is because although I do love seeing famous Trek actors, I’m not a collector type. I go to DST to hang out with other Trekkies and to make new friends. Or to meet people I’ve chatted with in the online groups IRL for the first time, like this feller: 

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For me, meeting people who UNDERSTAND and laugh when I wave my arms around and shout, “FISH! PROTEIN! FRESH FROM THE SEA!” is delightful. In a life of outsiderness, I feel I belong, just for a weekend.

I met so many lovely geeks, we couldn’t speak fast enough to get our geekness out! We discussed David Warner, James Cromwell, Servalan, Warehouse 13, SAMANTHA CARTER, whether Larry Niven should have got royalties from Microsoft for Halo or is that more of a Banks’ Orbital? 

And then, wandering around the con… LOOK AT ALL THE COSPLAYERS: 

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The feeling of camaraderie, the inclusivity and sheer IDGAFness of Trekkies at DST has to be experienced first-hand to believe. I don’t think I’ve ever been with a more mixed bunch of people. I say that after every DST but it both remains true and becomes truer, paradoxically. 

I believe that because Discovery has done so well, Trek is now undergoing a resurgence not seen since the 2009 Kelvin reboot. But, unlike then, DST is up and running, a huge convention that attracts fans from as far away as Australia. A huge number of the Discovery cast were at DST 2018 and judging from the number of Disco tees and full-on cosplays I saw, they can congratulate themselves that the baton has been securely passed to them, no fumbles. Their success has created whole new cadres of Trekkies who’ve gone online, wanting to meet other fans. And now they can do that IRL too. 

So many of the posts I saw were from people who’d never been to any kind of con before at all, like me in 2012 with the first DST. And the follow-up posts I’ve seen have been overwhelmingly positive: the new fans have found the family of Trek. They’ve found that we don’t care if you’ve loved Trek for five minutes or fifty years, if you’re a fan, you’re a fan. (As long as you interact civilly.)

Look at these faces: 

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These beautiful geeks are the reason I went to DST 2018 and will be going to DST 2019. They are my people and I love them! 

Live long and prosper! ??????

More Star Trek Politics

Not all Trek fans are lovely people. There have been a few dodgy types I’ve met online who turn out to be raging homophobes or sexists or one of those right-wing types who thinks calling someone an ‘SJW’ is an insult. Which is the equivalent of someone sneering at a campaigner for human rights.

When I encounter right-wing Trekkies, I always wonder what attracted them to Gene Roddenberry’s view of a moneyless future of free housing, education, food and healthcare? How do they process the cognitive dissonance of loving the first ever US TV show to feature an inter-racial kiss with moaning about the multi-ethnic cast of Discovery? While they’re complaining about female captains, have they forgotten about a little show called Voyager? How do they whinge about a separate LGBT group “splitting up Trek fans” at the same time as voting for Brexit and not see the irony? 

But I don’t engage with them online. In terms of Trek, their views are so non-sensical and illogical that trying to discuss with them is a zero-sum game. Infinite diversity in infinite combinations is a philosophy of accepting and exalting in difference, therefore it excludes philosophies that promote hatred of difference. (Argued more at length here.)

Here’s the thing: I don’t owe anyone my time. My time is precious and, on the cosmic scale, astoundingly fleeting. I want to use every second I have to meet positive, friendly people from whom I can learn and grow and be a better person. Arguing online with shrivelled nutsacks of pulsating hatred is not part of that plan.

So, think what you want, say what you want, I’m not censoring your proud and fundamentally anti-Trek idiocy. You go ahead, spew your hateful gibberish about ‘gays taking over’ or ‘straight white males are the minority now.’

But don’t expect even a femtosecond of interaction from rational Trekkies. 

We simply don’t have the time, we’re too busy building the future Gene wanted.

Roland MIDI Drivers Break MacOS High Sierra

I have one of the above interfaces. I plugged it in to my iMac Pro which is still on High Sierra still as I am a cautious type (usually) and not yet sure how well Mojave would behave with all my pro audio software. Anyway, I plugged in the interface, searched for it in Audio Midi and… 

Nothing there. All my other interfaces are there, no Roland. 

Hmm. Usually, MIDI thingies are class-compliant ~ they’re just plug and go. Why would Roland release one that isn’t? Oh well, no big deal. So, I head to the site and, sure enough, there’s a driver for Macs. 

I download it and install it, reboot and…

Well, that was around four hours ago. Since then, I’ve been trying to get my iMac to boot to desktop. It boots to the Apple and progress bar but that’s it. The bar fills up, at at about one-tenth its normal speed and then stays stuck at the end. I’ve even left it for an hour, thinking I was being impatient. No change. 

Sooo, okay, I can handle this. Just hold down shift and I can boot into safe mode. Then uninstall the stupid driver. 

Nope. 

I’ve been trying to boot into safe mode for a large part of the last few hours. Whatever Roland’s techs have done, they’ve fucked that ability. 

So, ten minutes ago, I realised this isn’t going anywhere and I booted into Recovery Mode (command-R). 

Now I’m doing a whole fresh install of High Sierra because Roland can’t design a MIDI driver. 

Thanks, Roland! 

KEYBOARDISTS – GET FUCKED!

I play keyboards. If I was in a band, I would be called ‘the keyboardist.’

But I am not a keyboardist, I am a motherfucking SYNTHESIST. 

The difference is this: 

If I was given the new Moog One polyphonic synthesiser to demo for a YouTube video, I would do two things. First, I would play it mainly polyphonically. Secondly, I would create patches to show off the power of the first Moog poly since the Memorymoog.

I would not take a hugely expensive polysynth and do endless monophonic blues widdling with a generic hard sync patch that’s older than my fucking balls. I wouldn’t just skip through presets without showing the actual power of the synthesis architecture. 

If a new, flagship piano was released , they wouldn’t give it to me to demo. You know why? BECAUSE I’M NOT A FUCKING PIANIST. I can fake piano, sure but I haven’t got the classical or jazz chops to give a full, informative demo of the timbres a new instrument of that type is capable of creating.

Imagine if I did a video with a new grand piano and proceeded to just play the bassline to Blue Monday for ten minutes. And then gave it a 3/10 cos there was no aftertouch. 

My stereotype of keyboardists is that they had piano lessons as a kid but then gave up. They have some chops but they’re neither pianists nor synthesists. They’re preset bashers with little to zero interest in sound design / patch creation. They can play every wedding reception favourite song ever but all with no feel. None of them can keep time. And they love doing generic blues soloing. Boy, do they love doing generic blues soloing. Give them a crappy “guitar solo” patch on a synth and you’ve got eight hours of predictable notes coming your way. Which, ironically, is something actual guitarists struggle their entire fucking lives to avoid.

This is what used to happen when I used to go to Turnkey in London to have a go on a new rompler. I’d get to the new synth I want to see aaaannddd…

…. some keyboardist would have beaten me to it. They call up an organ patch: blues solo. They call up a bassoon patch: blues solo. They call up a polyphonic orchestral patch: blues solo. They call up a drum kit: two seconds of intensely arrhythmic tapping and then off to find another patch to blues solo over.

Do you seem my rather laboured point? A keyboardist just plays the same licks on every bloody keyboard they encounter, on every patch. A synthesist would play a violin patch in a violin style, an acoustic guitar patch in the note/string order of an actual acoustic guitar, a haunting Sakamotoesque patch in that style. And, most importantly, a synthesist creates NEW sounds, NEW styles. Synthesists are not frustrated guitarists, we have our own thing. 

We dream of caressing a polysynth like the Moog One. Three oscillators per voice… mmmm… creamy. Classic Moog ladder and other filters? How can we fuck that up? Multiple arpeggiators that we can assign multitimbrally? Time to patch up my own drum kit and maybe throw in some Karplus-Strong via the multi-effects. 

I would love to see more synthesizer demos by synthesists. 

Please. 

HARD BREXIT – SCOTLAND TRIUMPHS!

I shall now put on my Dave Hutchinson SF hat and say:

Imagine Britain goes hard Brexit. The nations are in uproar! Scotland holds a snap referendum and votes for independence and to stay in the EU.

Now, every company that is based in London can have an English-speaking UK base if they just up sticks to 400 miles north.

SO THEY DO.

The reverse starts happening in Northern Ireland – companies scramble to move south and into EU Eire.

WALES SECEDES FROM THE UK and is welcomed into the EU as an independent nation.

England now stands alone. Toyota leave, Nissan leave, every major bank moves either to Scotland or France. Every EU-funded research project moves to Scottish universities.

There is a huge brain drain and money flume to Scotland, Wales and Ireland.

England becomes a backwater, surviving mainly on tourism and Cornish pasties until CORNWALL SECEDES as they never liked the English anyway.

Scotland experiences a 21st century re-birth and becomes a cultural, financial and academic hub of Europe.

The only fly in the ointment is the wash of illegal immigrants from England. The Scottish President, Adrian MacCormick proposes a wall to keep the desperate, impoverished English hordes out.

2028, work starts on Adrian’s Wall…

Synthfest UK 2018

This Saturday just gone, I went to Synthfest UK 2018

It’s an annual gathering both of makers of electronic gear and the end users – like a big trade show but with a way more personal touch.

Here’s a little vid I made:

As you can see from the vid, there’s a huge range of stuff to look at but, more importantly, you can twiddle with it all!

When I was a kid and when huge music shops like Turnkey still existed as bricks and mortar emporia, I used to go to London specifically to try out synths that you would never see up in Derby.

Going round Synthfest always reminds me of that feeling. Where the hell do I start? I just want to play and patch EVERYTHING but there simply isn’t enough time. It’s equal parts joy and frustration. 

And then there’s the makers. How wonderful it is to go up to the person who built something you own and give them  actual feedback. Every maker I met was as super-enthusiastic as the punters. They were all proud of their shiny metal babies and loved hearing how we used them. 

There’s only one criticism of Synthfest I can make ~ it’s a very white, middle-aged, male event. It’d be lovely to see more younger people, more female geeks wandering about and the same goes for black and Asian noisemakers. This lack of diversity isn’t specifically because Synthfest excludes groups; it’s more that it just replicates the existing biases within the music scene. What we have to do is actively combat those barriers to entry, to reach out to people who may not feel they’re invited or that it’s for them. After all, how much of contemporary music isn’t electronic? 5%? Less?

I think we could start to address this by tweaking the program to be more inclusive and more attractive to different groups of people.

Anyway, polemic over, here’s my gallery of pics from the day:

Synthfest UK 2018

If you’re an electro music geek, whether you’re a builder or a player or both, please do check out the next Synthfest. I think you’ll love it.