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Tuesday, December 8, 2020

In New 3D-Printed Sculpture, Otters Attack Middlebury's Town Hall Theater

Posted By on Tue, Dec 8, 2020 at 1:57 PM

"Mutant Otters Destroy Town Hall Theater" by Daniel Houghton - COURTESY OF DANIEL HOUGHTON
  • Courtesy of Daniel Houghton
  • "Mutant Otters Destroy Town Hall Theater" by Daniel Houghton
Shoppers, strollers and post office-goers in downtown Middlebury may notice a new artwork in the window of the National Bank of Middlebury: a miniature replica of the Town Hall Theater being attacked by giant, mutant otters.

The sculpture, dubbed "Mutant Otters Destroy Town Hall Theater," is by Daniel Houghton, the director of the Middlebury College Animation Studio. Houghton dreamed up the project in September, designed it using a computer program and produced it on a 3D printer, documenting his progress weekly in a series of videos posted to YouTube.

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Thursday, May 21, 2020

Missing Campus, Vermont Students Recreate Their Favorite Haunts — in Minecraft

Posted By on Thu, May 21, 2020 at 7:00 AM

The in-progress UVM Minecraft campus from above - COURTESY OF UVM CAMPUSCRAFT
  • Courtesy of UVM CampusCraft
  • The in-progress UVM Minecraft campus from above
The University of Vermont campus is a quiet place these days. With online learning in place, most students have returned home to 47 states and 67 countries. For students like Lauren Posklensky, it was lonely to be suddenly separated from campus and her friends there. Transitioning to online classes, she said, was “pretty rough.”

But Posklensky kept in touch with a group of friends from UVM and often played Minecraft with them. That's a video game in which players can build and manipulate a blocky, 3D world.

Posklensky heard about a school in Japan hosting a virtual graduation ceremony in Minecraft. She half jokingly suggested to her friends that they should try to recreate the UVM campus in the game.

And UVM Campus Craft was born. The students have built the Dudley H. Davis Center, complete with a cozy version of Henderson’s Café, and have made progress on the Old Mill and Waterman buildings. Their main goal is to finish the UVM Green, adjacent to Waterman, so graduating seniors can virtually walk across it like they would during a normal UVM graduation ceremony.

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Friday, May 15, 2020

Middlebury College Students Create Website for 3,000-Year-Old Assyrian Panels

Posted By on Fri, May 15, 2020 at 1:23 PM

  • Middlebury College digital methodologies class
  • Detail of the NW x NE website home page
On May 4, the 10 Middlebury College students in Sarah Laursen’s course on digital methodologies for art historians held their final class of the semester on Zoom. That wasn’t unusual, because Middlebury, like other colleges around the state and country, had sent their students home to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.

However, the guests Laursen invited to the Zoom call were notable: Sarah Graff, an associate curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City; and Sean Burrus, the Andrew W. Mellon postdoctoral curatorial fellow at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art.

While Seven Days listened in, Laursen’s students presented to the two art historians their semester-long project: a website examining one of Middlebury College’s first art acquisitions, which is a carved stone panel nearly 3,000 years old. The detailed relief, depicting a muscular, winged man with an impressive beard, is one of hundreds that once adorned the interior walls of the Northwest Palace, built by the Assyrian king Ashurnasirpal II (who reigned from 883 to 859 BC), in Nimrud (near present-day Mosul, Iraq).

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Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Burlington Resident's Zoom Meeting Meme Goes Viral

Posted By on Tue, Apr 7, 2020 at 3:32 PM

  • Sarah Woodard
Zoom is taking over our lives. For Americans stuck at home social distancing, the video platform has become ubiquitous as a tool for work, school, after-hours socializing and even health services. This new (virtual) reality means we’re all adjusting to the idea of existing as small, pixelated, likely double-chinned versions of ourselves. Even worse, Zoom coldly reflects that vision back at us, to haunt our every waking, or at least working, moment.

Sarah Woodard, the director of development for Spectrum Youth and Family Services in Burlington, encountered this strange new world when she recently started doing daily Zoom calls for work.

“One of the very first ones I logged into, I hadn’t taken a shower, and I was up in my bedroom hiding from my kids,” she recalled. “As soon as I logged in I was like, ‘Oh my god.’ I was just really distracted by everything.”

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Monday, October 29, 2018

Tech Heavyweight Tan Le to Discuss Brain-Computer Interfaces at UVM

Posted By on Mon, Oct 29, 2018 at 1:19 PM

  • Courtesy of Tan Le
  • Tan Le
Five years after Tan Le was recognized in 1998 as Young Australian of the Year, she found herself at a career crossroad. She had been trained as a lawyer, done a stint as an entrepreneur and was also a community advocate.

But she was seeking a lifelong endeavor. “I wanted to find something that wasn't just a short stint or exciting for a few years,” recalled Le. And she found her calling in studying the human brain.

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Thursday, February 22, 2018

Generator to Present Big Thinkers in 'Reckless Ideas' Series

Posted By on Thu, Feb 22, 2018 at 8:00 AM

  • Vermont Complex Systems Center
  • Josh Bongard
The Generator Maker Space in Burlington's South End is launching a new speaker series that follows the previous Big Maker Series.

"Reckless Ideas" is the brainchild of Generator director Chris Thompson and Juniper Lovato, outreach director for the Vermont Complex Systems Center. That part of the University of Vermont's College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences deals with trans-disciplinary ideas.

"I met Juniper a few months ago when she was just getting ready to move to Vermont with her husband, Laurent [Hébert-Dufresne]," Thompson writes in an email. "We were talking over coffee at Muddy Waters about all the incredible people doing intriguing, original work around Burlington who she had to meet. Within about half an hour, we had decided that we had to collaborate on a speaker series as an excuse to bring them together."

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Friday, November 10, 2017

Local Bookstores Take Aim at Amazon

Posted By on Fri, Nov 10, 2017 at 9:41 AM

Stacey Mitchell (left) and Olivia LaVecchia - INSTITUTE FOR LOCAL SELF-RELIANCE
  • Institute for Local Self-Reliance
  • Stacey Mitchell (left) and Olivia LaVecchia
It should come as no surprise that independent bookstores are more than a little miffed at online monolith Amazon. But mom-and-pop book shops aren't the only businesses affected by the retail giant's ever-expanding reach and dominance. The massive corporation captures one of every two American dollars spent online. That's according to a 2016 report published by Stacy Mitchell and Olivia LaVecchia of the nonprofit advocacy group Institute for Local Self-Reliance.

But two Vermont bookstores are fighting back — or at least, talking about fighting back. Phoenix Books, Northshire Bookstore and local news website VTDigger present a pair of public discussions this week with Mitchell as the featured speaker. The idea: Present listeners with enough info to arm them for the coming retail war — or, more likely (and less dramatically), the long, slow, uphill trudge.

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Monday, September 25, 2017

Talking Technology and Art With Amelia Marzec

Posted By on Mon, Sep 25, 2017 at 3:58 PM

Amelia Marzec performing in Weather Center for the Apocalypse - AMELIA MARZEC
  • Amelia Marzec
  • Amelia Marzec performing in Weather Center for the Apocalypse
After more than a yearlong break, Generator's Big Maker series is back. The events bring to Burlington innovators in fields as diverse as environmentally conscious burial, biometrics and game design to talk about their work and process.

Next in that lineup is 36-year-old Amelia Marzec, an artist, inventor and MFA graduate of Parsons School of Design who  lives and works in Brooklyn. Marzec's focus is on communications, the environment and "enabling activist communities through innovative uses of technology," according to the maker space publicity.

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Friday, September 22, 2017

Playtime: Freakshow Industries Makes 'Audio Effects for the End Times'

Posted By on Fri, Sep 22, 2017 at 11:17 AM

Screenshot of Freakshow Industries' landing page - FREAKSHOW INDUSTRIES
  • Freakshow Industries
  • Screenshot of Freakshow Industries' landing page
If one applied the Dungeons & Dragons Alignment System to audio startups, Freakshow Industries would definitely be plotted as Chaotic Good. The audio effects company allows users to steal its first plug-in, Backmask, which aligns with a general mission of good-natured disruption against order .

On its website, Freakshow states, "We believe that people who would buy software will buy software and we would rather give you our effects directly and unencumbered by archaic DRM." The company, which has a Burlington tie, adds that prefers not to send users "into the dark corners of the internet to grab questionable or altered versions of our work."  The theory is that offering freebies will encourage satisfied users to support the company by buying merch or other programs.  The statement concludes: "We believe that trust, generosity and goodwill are principles worth taking a chance on and so we put our continued existence into your very scary hands."
Freakshow's motto is "Audio Effects For The End Times,"  and they certainly dance on the grave of numerous conventions. The company's founders are audio industry veterans who formed Freakshow to "lovingly and repeatedly combat creative stagnation in the face, opening portals to new and unique sounds with exceedingly affordable audio product."

One of the founders, former Soundtoys employee Jasper Duba, is based in Burlington. Duba is the kind of modern renaissance man you'd expect to hide out in Vermont — he hunts mushrooms and throws pottery in his spare time.
Freakshow's first release, Backmask, is a chaotic reverse effect that appears to have been made by Rick Sanchez, the alcoholic scientist from the Adult Swim animated series "Rick and Morty." The interface is intuitive, with the emphasis on experimentation; basically half the fun is figuring what the controls actually do.

Backmask functions as a sample reverse with multiple effects options. But beyond that, describes it as "the most conceptual plug-in we've seen."

Don't let its eccentric design deter you from trying it: Backmask is actually super fun and fairly easy to create useable sounds with. The overall aesthetic is damn refreshing in an industry dominated by sterile design. Instead of technical explanations or comparisons to classic equipment, Freakshow's website offers mostly warped demo videos with a nihilistic sense of humor.

Check out Freakshow Industries haunted virtual laboratory at

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Thursday, August 3, 2017

Generator Names New Executive Director Chris Thompson

Posted By on Thu, Aug 3, 2017 at 1:22 PM

Chris Thompson - OLIVER PARINI
  • Oliver Parini
  • Chris Thompson
Updated at 11:09 a.m., Friday, August 4, 2017

On Thursday, Burlington's Generator announced that Chris Thompson will assume the role of executive director on August 24. The announcement comes on the heels of Lars Hasselblad Torres' departure from the nonprofit maker space in Burlington's South End.

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