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    • CommentTimeJan 19th 2012

    Hey-o. So I'd like to try my hand at making some of that thar digital music. Can anyone suggest a good (preferably free) program I can use with tutorials?
  1.  (10439.62)

    I'm relearning to draw (I was pretty good at it in college, so can surely get back to that level of skill, but I'm distressingly rusty), and have reason to teach myself to draw sci-fi scenes - outside and inside of spaceships, wondrous future tools, high tech hot pants space suits, that sort of thing. It's a completely new area for me; any advice on how to go forward?
  2.  (10439.63)

    Hey all, I'm doing some research for a writing project that involves the prison system and I need to know how it works, essentially. A couple quick questions about the prison system, please!

    1) Thanks to Wikipedia, I have a bottom-rung understanding of the different levels of prison (as opposed to jail) and their intended purpose; but are the levels (min, med, max, etc) about the gravity of the crime, or the poor behavior of the inmate, or both? For example, could someone convicted of manslaughter brought on by drunk driving be sent to a medium versus another level of prison? Is that state or federal?

    2) Movies can portray prisons in a variety of ways (most of them with little truth, I'm sure) and containing a lot of different types of crime. How true is that, especially in the notorious ones like Sing-Sing and Lompoc? What is Huntsville State like, and its level of security etc?

    I'm expecting governmentspy to answer most of these, of course, but anyone with knowledge of the prison system please chime in. I'm struggling to find enough information to hit a deadline.
  3.  (10439.64)

    As expected, here I am...

    1) Sadly, most of my experience is on the Federal level, with some in the private prison state-contracted facilities. Murders, manslaughter included are all state level crimes. It includes vehicular manslaughter, typically DUI level stuff, but basically manslaughter means murder you wouldn't commit if you were of your normal state of mind (i.e. sober, not under the influence, not possessed by rage from walking in on their spouse cheating, etc). Also, a man beating his wife, but not with the intent to kill, but accidentally kills her has been classified as "involuntary" manslaughter.

    How it pertains to sentencing depends on many factors, as each manslaughter is different (because they usually weren't trying to kill someone, but it happened anyway), depending on severity, judges impart greater sentencing per each case.

    In Texas, manslaughter sentencing can be anywhere from 2 to 20 years, including fines up to $10,000, compared to murder, which can be anywhere from 5 to 99 years, to life, and fines up to that magic $10,000 again.

    Violent crime in general will usually send you to medium to maximum facilities, and the level of the facility determines the type of security. A low minimum security facility might not even have a fence. A maximum facility will have a couple of perimeter fences, including razor wire, possibly electric, guard towers with armed guards, armed patrol vehicles, and possibly canine patrols as well. Low and Medium fall in the middle.

    As far as how different prisons are run, I've only worked at three different facilities, 2 Federal high rises, and one state contracted private compound. High rises usually have low levels of what we call Hard Contraband (drugs, cell phones, etc) and a lot of nuisance (stuff they can make inside like tattoo guns and hooch).

    Big compound facilities have greater risk to hard contraband because 1) they're so much bigger, with huge outdoor areas; 2) much more staff, some employed by government contract, and state employees are paid a lot less than Feds, and contract staff much less than State. The lower your salary, the higher probability you'll risk it all for the black market payoff; 3) much higher inmate population, mixed from several different gangs, all vying to run a drug trade on the inside so there's a huge profit to be made.

    2)I've never been to Huntsville or Lompoc, but I knew guys who did time at Sing Sing, Leavenworth (the oldest Federal Prison still in existence) and San Quentin. I might have to do a little research to comment on them, but in general prisons are not like the movies, and the general reasons why are:

    A)inmates want to do their time in peace. If given the chance, they'd rather not fight. Usually they separate themselves by gang and race (a lot of times that's the same thing) and if one inmate offends another, their group makes the other group handle it, so the gangs themselves don't have to fight.

    B)snitches don't get stitches. Because the Feds (and so many other agencies) have gotten so much sneakier, almost everyone is a snitch in one way or another. If every snitch got shanked, there'd be a lot smaller prison population.

    C)they're not raping everybody up in here. The only one's being somebody's bitch are usually there by choice. Homophobia is pretty rampant, and inmates don't put up with seeing young boys get victimized by old men. Child molesters are not hunted down like dogs, but they're also not accepted. If you're a white guy, and somewhat older, they're going to assume you're a molester, unless you have court documents proving you're in for fraud or embezzlement. Black child molesters exist, but somehow get overlooked.

    That's the main stuff, but my shift is almost up and I gotta run.
  4.  (10439.65)

    'spose it depends on what sort of music you're trying to make to some degree (ie are you planning to record, or purely make electronica?) but I know Computer Music magazine gives away a free suite of software on their cover discs - not sure if it's available in Canada.

    There's also Reaper, which a lot of people swear by and has a very reasonable licensing model - $40 if you're not a professional musician, I believe it functions as a VST host so can accommodate synth plugins. There's a fair few free VST synths around, some of which are pretty good.

    There are light versions of the major packages, usually have some sort of track limitation - usually if you buy a bit of hardware, you get one of these bundled, so if you pick up a keyboard or some such you'll get something. Might be good as a starting point.

    Sure others will have more suggestions - I started with Reason, which is pricey, but fun and intuitive, again there's a cut down version that's cheaper.

    There's always cracks, but given that I'm still smarting from someone killing my entire website probably down to a virus in a cracked VST, I'd stay well clear...
    • CommentTimeJan 19th 2012

    I'm dyin here. I'm doing dramaturgy for Jean Genet's play The Screens. What that means is I'm researching every possible conceivable detail and angle to help understand the play and support a production of it. This shit is deep, yo. While I've a handle on the theatre crit and my local libraries have a fair number of books on the Algerian war for independence, I'm coming up completely short on crucial information related to the native Arab culture of Algeria.

    In the play everyone calls them Arabs, including the locals themselves. But Genet is all about gumming things up and dirtying them and taking the romance and dignity out of everything (and this is from the late 50s, early 60s so it's before self-actualization and determination), so it's hard to get a bead on what, in the contemporary age, we would call the tribes or ethnic groups. They're just Arabs, as distinguished from Europeans or colonists and from the soldiers. (My research indicates Berbers, Turks and possibly some Taureg; however, they are definitely of the city - nary a camel or tent in sight.)

    It doesn't even give particular mention of the Arabs being Moslem. They certainly were, but they most likely would have had their own flavor to such a degree that just assuming they would have the same customs and practices as Sunnis or Shiites seems foolhardy.

    Genet knew a lot about their customs (but didn't annotate, the bastard) and, as an absurdist and cornerstone in Theatre of Cruelty, didn't tell a story of faithful Islamists, but of whoring, cursing, backstabbing, superstitious folks. In my liberal American every-belief-has-value, don't-denigrate-the-natives hippy dippy culture, it's nigh insulting. However, that doesn't get me out of having to look up what that culture was really like. And that's where my library & Teh Internet is failing me.

    My question(s), O Whitechapel, relate to death and the afterlife. How did these people bury their dead? How did they mourn them? What was their attitude on the afterlife? Did they hold any kind of view that the dead might linger and be aware of what the living did for a little while, and if so what did that look like? Did these Arabs have an idea of time particular to them (say as opposed to the Western view of time moving like an arrow until you study physics)? Did they view time as moving differently for the dead?

    Any info related to their culture is good, but I *especially* need to know about the rites and customs related to burial, any insights into contacting the dead (there's a scene where a living man becomes a "mouth" for someone who has passed on - almost like in voodoo, but for a dead person instead of a loa), and particularly any ideas on what the dead do right after or as they die. HALP! (Sources are good. Gooooood.)
    • CommentTimeJan 19th 2012
    #musicsoftware - Get ye a free/cheap version of Ableton Live. It's pretty much the most intuitive and versatile music suite I've come across thus far, and if you're not on a Mac, you can find an *cough* affordable version pretty easily on them interwebs. There's a an actual 30-day (IIRC) free demo available as well.

    Take the time to go through the tutorials, though. It's worth it.
    • CommentTimeJan 19th 2012 edited

    "I Love You Phillip Morris" had a scene that I found a bit odd. There's a character called the Screecher, who spends the entire night going "Eeeeeeeeh! Eeeeeeeeh!" every thirty seconds and keeping everyone in his cell block awake, until Jim Carey pays someone to beat the shit out of the Screecher to convince him to shut up. I get the impression that the authorities wouldn't permit anyone to cause this kind of disruption in an actual prison, and if they did, the other prisoners would be administering their own justice without needing to be paid.
    • CommentAuthorSteerpike
    • CommentTimeJan 19th 2012

    The ending's somewhat different from what you describe, but might the haunted typewriter one be "QWERTYUIOP" by Vivien Alcock?
    • CommentAuthorKosmopolit
    • CommentTimeJan 19th 2012 edited
    @Razrangel: if you aren't already familiar with it. watch a movie called Battle of Algiers.

    It doesn't have anythign on funeral rights but not only is it a great documentary movie it also explores a lot of the different gradiations of Arab/Algerian acculturization to the French colonial presence.
    • CommentTimeJan 20th 2012
    @Kosmopolit, yep I have it (checked out from the library!) and will be watching it tomorrow.

    But still desperately need death/afterlife stuff.
  5.  (10439.72)

    @greasemonkey You got it in one. Prison is a very communal environment. People don't quite share their personal property, but they sure as Hell share the same interests. One bad apple will screw things up for the rest of them, so one way or another, they will find a way to end that problem. Personally, unless I was working a unit with a high number of psychology case studies, and competency hearing inmates, I haven't encountered people causing that type of problem. Usually, they'll try to solve it using staff as a resource, because, well, it's our job, and also, they know if they handle it with violence, they'll end up paying for it. So if they can make the guards do their jobs, and not have to suffer negative consequences, that's the best first option. After that, they'll try to make that specific guy's gang or race handle it. If still no result, they'll smash him. No payment required.

    Oh, and back to different types of prisons, this is how I see it:

    County Jails are the worst thing ever. Unless you find one run by a private prison. Staff are paid the cheapest, trained the least. Private prisons in general are staffed by folks that generally couldn't get hired as cops, or as guards at government run facilities. A lot are either washouts, or were fired (or left under generally unpleasant circumstances but were allowed to quit before firing or prosecution). County jails have every type of inmate, from a murderer who just got picked up, loads of gang members, illegal aliens, guys in the drunk tank, you name it.

    Right next to counties on the low end of the spectrum are ICE facilities. To the best of my knowledge, every singe ICE facility is run by a private corp. like CCA and GEO. This is one of the biggest growing problems in the industry today, because GEO and CCA directly make campaign contributions to state and federal officials in order to influence immigration policy, with the goal of a higher immigration arrest & conviction rate, which increases a need for more ICE facilities. ICE doesn't have their own detention staff, so they always will contract out. (Sorry about the rant). Point is, you have a growing number of these immigration detention facilities, run by mercenaries, holding women & children and creating a concentration camp system.

    State prisons have the real convicts. These guys generally are sentenced, and for the most part don't give a fuck. If I were looking at serious state time, I'd hurry up and commit some federal crime to avoid the state. This is usually what you see in TV & movies, and what I have the least experience in. Because I'm smart & don't like being stabbed a lot. They are the facilities getting contracted out more & more these days.

    Feds are typically more laid back, and if you can end up at a camp, you can sneak out on a fairly regular basis, meet your significant other in the woods behind the jail and get laid, smoke and drink a little.
  6.  (10439.73)

    Does anyone have any recommendations on which Spanish language learning software is best? All I ever hear is Rosetta Stone, and man is the price steep. Unless I get a deal through the job, I need a cheaper alternative that still works.
  7.  (10439.74)
    Dude, thanks a lot. This is a real big help, and fascinating in its own right. You have no idea how useful that ICE info is going to be, and the economics of prisons in general--to be brief, the story is about America reverting to a slave economy where prisons are essentially converted to manufacturing plantations, but I needed to be able to differentiate between all of that and the old time of prison, which has rapists and murderers and basically is a slum version of that.
  8.  (10439.75)
    I saw a mini-Doc called Billions Behind Bars the other night, which reiterated so much of what I had been seeing.

    One thing that's interesting to look at is the development of prison labor as a competition against companies that send jobs overseas for smaller salaries. On one hand, it's keeping jobs in America, which is good, and of course I support the rehabilitation of criminals through learning a valuable trade, but on the other hand it's promoting a system where the average American still cannot compete against cheap labor. The concept that some prisons use is that they cannot produce a product that is marketed locally (i.e. within the same state), and if it's a product that is shipped out of state, then they are forced to pay their labor at least minimum wage.
    • CommentAuthorroadscum
    • CommentTimeJan 20th 2012

    Audacity is open source and free and it handles those VST plugin thingies.
    • CommentTimeJan 20th 2012
    #learningspanish Rosetta Stone IS the best. But yes also ridiculously costly. Berlitz is much more reasonable, famous and from what I've seen (in other languages), still pretty good to help a person get going on a basic level. Keep in mind, I learned Spanish from my parents. But I had a boyfriend go from "knew a couple words and phrases" to functional conversation in under two years with Rosetta Stone. I've learned a little bit of German from my Berlitz but I'm not nearly as dedicated as my ex was - and now I have no one to speak German with. (Ultimately, as I'm studying Japanese now, I recommend an academic route in order to work with a living, breathing expert.)
  9.  (10439.78)

    Mildly interesting factoid that may or may not be relevant to your project - a number of countries (including Australia) specifically forbid the importation of goods produced by inmates in prisons.
  10.  (10439.79)
    #musicsoftware -- Like RoadScum linked to, Audacity is a pretty great program. Easy to use, fairly wide spread so if there's something you can't figure out it's easy to find instructions online or someone that will know.
  11.  (10439.80)

    I know most creative people have slow periods occasionally, but my artistic ability seems to have deserted me completely. Everything I paint looks like shit, to the point where I'm considering chucking it in. Is it possible to lose the ability to create art?