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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, Audiopluginguy.com 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 freakshowindustries.com.

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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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Sunday, July 23, 2017

Generator Director Lars Hasselblad Torres Departs

Posted By on Sun, Jul 23, 2017 at 9:32 AM

Lars Hasselblad Torres - FILE: JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • File: Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • Lars Hasselblad Torres
Burlington's Generator has announced that executive director Lars Hasselblad Torres "has moved on to pursue other opportunities."

Torres has led the emerging maker space for two and a half years, during which time the facility moved from Memorial Auditorium to the South End. While the board looks for a new director, founding board member Michael Metz will serve as interim director.

"Throughout his tenure," a press release by board member Dan Harvey reads, "Lars oversaw some important growth in membership, programs and partnerships, and managed the move to our new home at 40 Sears Lane in Burlington. We thank him for his contributions and wish him well."

Torres was unable to comment for this post when reached on Friday afternoon. On his Facebook page, he wrote, "Friends, I have summarily become a freelancer," and asked if anyone had leads on potential jobs.

This post will be updated as information becomes available.

Clarification, July 23, 2017: This article previously indicated portions of the Generator website were taken down; that was due to a technical problem and unrelated to Hasselblad Torres' departure.

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Friday, June 9, 2017

Robot Bina48 Makes a Guest Appearance at 'Stitch and Bitch'

Posted By on Fri, Jun 9, 2017 at 5:48 PM

Lucy Leith and BINA48 - SADIE WILLIAMS
  • Sadie Williams
  • Lucy Leith and BINA48
This week, a special guest showed up to lead Generator's Stitch and Bitch session, which is organized and led by designer Lucy Leith. BINA48 is a "sentient robot," whose name stands for "Breakthrough Intelligence via Neural Architecture." While Bina doesn't have hands — right now all she has are a head and shoulders —  she can chat up a storm.

For the first hour of the Stitch and Bitch, her handler, Bruce Duncan, assisted the attendees in asking her questions about life, politics and her own "humanity." The results were more than a bit amusing — and sometimes frightening.

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Thursday, April 13, 2017

Signals Experimental Music Series Returns with Koen Holtkamp

Posted By on Thu, Apr 13, 2017 at 11:31 AM

Koen Holtkamp - KHO WONG
  • Kho Wong
  • Koen Holtkamp
Since October 2016, experimental and avant-garde musicians from all over North America have presented their work as part of the bimonthly music series Signals. Local sonic innovator Greg Davis curates and hosts the series in conjunction with local creative audio software company Soundtoys. Brooklyn-based composer Koen Holtkamp is next on the docket and performs this Saturday, April 15, at Soundtoys' Hood Plant location in Burlington.

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Monday, January 9, 2017

Generator Revs Up in New Burlington South End Quarters

Posted By on Mon, Jan 9, 2017 at 3:16 PM

Lars Hasselblad Torres at Generator on Sears Lane - SADIE WILLIAMS
  • Sadie Williams
  • Lars Hasselblad Torres at Generator on Sears Lane
Burlington's Generator has completed the move from its former home in Memorial Auditorium to new digs on Sears Lane in the city's South End. The move was financed by a $300,000 fundraising campaign. Leased from Champlain College, the new Generator includes some notable changes.

One of them, explained director Lars Hasselblad Torres, is a new key card system installed by John Yasaitis, a former Generator member and a cofounder of the Alternator lab on Pine Street.  The system allows studio members to access the studio any time of day or night.

Generator's educator-in-residence program is also new. The maker space is offering a Vermont educator two months of free studio time and a $500 monthly stipend. The goal, said Torres, is to provide the teacher with the time, and physical and intellectual resources, to develop a new curriculum.

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Saturday, January 7, 2017

James Kochalka Featured on Vermont PBS Innovate Series

Posted By on Sat, Jan 7, 2017 at 10:00 AM

James Kochalka
  • James Kochalka
Prolific comic artist James Kochalka was recently featured on the year-old Vermont PBS mini-series InnoVaTe, a show hosted by former reddit employee Victoria Taylor that highlights local innovators.

Kochalka is known for his adorable, emotive comics such as American Elf and Johnny Boo — and for being Vermont's first comic laureate. (His successor, Edward Koren, now holds that title.) He's also the front man for band James Kochalka Superstar, with fans around the world.

Generally, Taylor's episodes — which run about 10 minutes long — focus on tech-centric businesses such as Marguerite Dibble's Game Theory or Richmond-based robotics company Greensea Systems. For his segment, however, Kochalka focused less on the tools usually associated with innovation and more on its source.

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Thursday, November 17, 2016

Ideas Take Center Stage at ArtsRiot This Fall

Posted By on Thu, Nov 17, 2016 at 5:14 PM

Brian Murphy - SADIE WILIAMS
  • Sadie Wiliams
  • Brian Murphy
On Tuesday night, Champlain College professor and poet Brian Murphy took to the stage of ArtsRiot  to address about 15 attendees. The Pine Street venue is known for packing the house for touring musical performances, but the smaller turnout for Murphy suggests fewer people appreciate the club's other cultural offerings. They should.

Murphy was the first speaker in the fall season of the Vermont Humanities Council's Ideas on Tap series, which started in spring 2015. VHC collaborates with the Humanities Center at the University of Vermont to produce the events. The aim is to deepen conversations about the environment, society or history, pairing a scholarly lens with good food and beer. Not to mention, it's free.

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