• But if it wasn't for the Bronx...

    For our Applications class, we have to make an invitation for an unknown classmate to go on an adventure. This adventure can be a place, an activity, a person, whatever. Knowing that a significant percentage of our class moved here from somewhere else, I wanted the adventure to be especially "New York". But also knowing how easily we slip into our routines and radii, I wanted to make it a place that was beyond the easy epicenter of downtown.

    Of all NY's contributions to world history and culture, Hip Hop is one of its most significant. That's why I decided to make my invitation a Soundwalk of the South Bronx, narrated by DJ Jazzy Jay, one of the earliest pioneers of Hip Hop.

    As seems to be my way, my original concept for my invitation was a little overambitious. I had envisioned some sort of diorama with cut out 2D images of the people, places and cultural icons of the first era of Hip Hop. Beat Street, Wild Style, Krush Groove, Busy Bee, KRS-ONE, tagged trains, black top MC battles, tenement house parties, etc. And I also wanted to mod one of those audio greeting cards to blast some classic track when the invitation was read in class. Well, time and economy conspired against me. The diorama turned into a card. The card into a box. And the audio greeting cards are hackable, but not re-recordable.

    Finally, the day before the invite was due, Ithai suggested I seek out the 9V Recording Module from Radio Shack. Brilliant! Not sure if I had more than one shot, I gambled on KRS-ONE's Step Into A World. It was either that or South Bronx, by Boogie Down Productions. But in a 20 second burst, neither had the right punch. Tanya convinced me that even though they were dope songs, and important classics, they weren't perfect for the application.

    Then came the fabrication. I found a box with no lid. I found a solid picture of a boom box online and printed it out. The idea was to cut the center out of one speaker, and nest my module speaker there. And then cut out a hole near the cassette buttons and shimmy the module play button in there. All well and good. But the cardboard lid I used was too thick for the module button and kept triggering it on and off. And taping the whole module to the back of the lid didn't allow for enough pressure when I wanted it. ALSO, the rubber button wouldn't adhere to anything I was gluing it to. Then, with the help of Ryan Viglizzo, we made a bigger hole, and affixed a bigger button to the original button. I learned about This To That, one of the reasons the internet is great. And with some needle injected epoxy, we got it to stick.

    I was getting ready to run out the door and go to class (only a little late) when Manuela Lamas suggested I hot glue the module to the lid leaving just the right amount of space and being close and firm enough to push the play button consistently. This worked perfectly. And as I removed all the gaff tape from the extraneous tendrils (mic and record button) I thought, maybe I should remove those, so that they don't accidentally record over my song.

    Here's where it gets good. I snipped those pieces off, and in doing so, disconnected my closed circuit. The sound wouldn't come out, and was in fact, deleted. Sweet! But here's where Manuela proved to truly be a guardian angel. She helped me sort out which wires went back where, twisted them together and then glued them back to the board. This story retells quickly, but was stressful in the 11:45th hour.

    Eventually, I got my shit together, retested the final product, and though it lacked a certain polish, proudly walked out with the boom box boomin'. Here's what it looked like.

    But here's where it got good.