Acting Commissioner Burrell

faison1Earlier in his career, before he acted as Commissioner of the Baltimore Police, Ervin Burrell had a number of other jobs, including truck driver and apartment building superintendent. He also worked for the New Orleans PD. Here we see him in Cat People, the 1982 remake of the Jacques Tourneur classic of the same name.


The top picture makes him look like a saint while the lower one makes him look like Shaft. My wife questions my choice of movies. But Cat Videos approves!


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Busted on Wire106

Lamar: What happened to all them towers?
Brother Mouzone: Slow train comin’. Reform, Lamar. Reform.

(from The Wire Episode Scripts)

On Friday, Jim, Desa and I had a good conversation about episode 10 of season 3 of The Wire. We looked at the opening sequence (YT) and Colvin’s speech about the war on drugs (YT) and discussed reformation and militarization. We were struck by that metaphor of a “slow train coming.” I knew it from the Bob Dylan song (YT), but assumed it had older roots. However, a cursory Google search didn’t find any. After looking at the lyrics, I think it might be an interesting exercise to see how many connections we could find between the song and the series.

We listened to a bit of the song during the discussion. Shortly after we finished, Youtube sent me a content claim referencing the song, and later put one in for the clip as well. They muted the video, so it’s only of use to the three of us who were there.


It’s kinda sad that these algorithms inhibit our ability to discuss and learn from our culture. They muted the whole thing, not just the parts in dispute, making the video unuseable.

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Wire106 – ep08 Moral Midgetry


I see Fredericksburg is in on the action.


Colvin is getting ready to retire, to hang up the gloves. On the other hand, Cutty is getting ready to start a boxing gym. The Deacon, in the foreground, is connected to both. Considering what happens later on in the series, this feels like foreshadowing.


We’ve been seeing Greggs turn into McNulty. This shot is set up so she’s staring into the bottle – not a bright future


Omar when he was little


Clay Davis walks String through the golden doors. It looks impressive, but we all know it’s not real gold, just a front.

I like the layering of sounds here. You can hear the footsteps in the background as Devonne walks across the street, Chris up close readying his weapon, the changing point of view as the vehicle moves. The explosion of glass that coincides with the gunshot doesn’t sound quite right to me, like the shards are too big for auto glass. But then we hear the alarms, the dog barking, all the people shouting. They sound more angry than fearful.

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Ien Harris’ ds106 emergency alert

This was posted right around the beginning of the semester. It was an omen of things to come. I think it captures an intuitive understanding of the ds106 ethos.

Melinda Albrycht’s poem “The Wire”

Melinda’s poem is a great meditation on the themes of The Wire. While it is an example of excellent writing, what I found really inspiring was the reading of it, and the rhythm of it. That inspired me to remix it with the opening theme music.

dkernohan’s Daily Create: Text from the cover of a mid-price DVD re-issue of seasons 1-7 of “Jimmy McNulty and the Barksdale Gang”

I just love the idea of The Wire re-envisioned as a Saturday morning cartoon – Hong Kong Phooey meets Scooby Doo. I guess I’m not the only one, since this image is out there:


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Digital ID

This week in The Internet Course we will focus on digital identity. The panel of experts has pulled together an impressive array of research, some of which is below:

I’m interested to see where the discussion will go. There is overlap with last week’s topic of privacy and openness, especially where topics of hacking and identity theft are concerned.

I don’t want to rehash trodden ground, but I was intrigued by Alec Couros’ troubles with Facebook and identity misappropriation. He’s had problems with people borrowing his image or name or both for scammy purposes, but recently Facebook decided that he himself was not authentic, in spite of the volume of data he had provided them over the years. There are services that use things like Facebook, Twitter or Google+ for login identification. In essence, Facebook becomes a virtual ID card. What are the implications of outsourcing ID verification to commercial entities? Especially in light of the terms and conditions of our relationships with them? In real life we use government, which we supposedly control, for ID cards. What can happen when we turn to commercial providers for that?

As I was looking for an image to go with this post, I found this info graphic by Fred Cavazza on Flickr:


It might be a little outdated (2006), but maybe that says something about the shifting nature of digital identity. It’s an interesting way of breaking the topic down, and of showing its breadth.

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There’s never been a paper bag…

Inspired by the WaffleStomper, I thought I’d try remixing a song and some speech. Keeping with The Wire theme, I was also inspired by the speech that Major Colvin gave about the history of the paper bag. I decided to mix that with Blake Leyh’s closing theme, The Fall (YT). I used MPEG Streamclip to get the audio for both. When I put them together in Audacity, I saw that the speech was about twice as long as the music:


So I had to do some editing. I went at it on both fronts – shortening the speech and lengthening the music. If you look at the speech, you see a lot of flatline segments, the pauses between his words. Taking them out entirely would make it sound unnatural, but they can be edited aggressively. Every place I saw a length of silence, represented by the flat line in the waveform, I removed a large part of it.


This shortened the speech significantly, but it was still longer than the music. Editing that was trickier. I selected three passages and looped them by copying and pasting. The trick was to listen to the pattern in the music and figure out where it repeats. That way I could duplicate the sections without disturbing the flow of the music. I don’t think I did a really good job with getting the splices right – if you focus on the music you can hear where I edited it. On the positive side, it’s only jarring in a couple spots. I used the Amplify function to boost the voice and the mixer slider to bring down the volume of the music.

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Little Melvin

08deaconA minor character who makes his debut in this week’s episodes is the Deacon. I’m not sure if he has a name beyond that. He’s played by Melvin Williams, a former Baltimore drug kingpin who served as a partial template for Avon Barksdale. Simon wrote a series of articles about him for the Baltimore Sun. I couldn’t find them online, but did find a blog post discussing them. Many of the characters in The Wire are built from real people that Simon and his co-authors have encountered, or have been for that matter. The series takes that a step further by weaving real people into the story. Detective Ed Norris is played by Ed Norris, former Baltimore police chief. The character Omar was inspired by Donnie Andrews, who has a bit part in some episodes. Jay Landsman is based on Jay Landsman, who plays Colvin’s second-in-command. Felicia “Snoop” Pearson is portrayed by Felicia “Snoop” Pearson, who was a product of the environment seen in the series. Simon talks about the city of Baltimore as a character in the series, which we see in the photography and authentic settings, but I think the blurring of real and fictional characters also contributes to that.

UC Berkeley professor Linda Williams wrote (PDF) about these connections in studying the ethnography of The Wire. I’ll have to read that more closely.

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Set your poems to music

Melinda’s Wire poem is just awesome, both in the writing and the reading. The rhythm in the reading is so good that I thought I’d try to add a music track to it. Here’s what I came up with:

I recorded Melinda’s track using Audacity and Soundflower so I could have something to work with. I have the season 1 theme by The Blind Boys of Alabama(YT) in my iTunes (Spirit of the Century is a great album all the way through), so I imported that into Audacity. I edited out the verse sections, which was kind of tricky. When doing something like that, you want the beat to flow evenly through the edits. At first, I had a little stutter where the sections cam together, But I could see the spike in the waveform where the beat was, so I was able to trim it so the beats lined up. It was sheer luck that the instrumental sections that I kept more or less matched the length of the poem. There is a little overlap between the end of the poem and the part where the song’s vocals come back in, but I think that’s okay. It was also a happy coincidence that the rhythm of Melinda’s reading lined up with the beat of the music so well. I tweaked that in two or three places, either shortening or lengthening pauses to make the waveform spikes between the two tracks align.


I had to adjust the volume balance between the tracks too. I used the sliders on the left to boost the reading a little bit. It was okay over the intro music because there was not much instrumentation, but when the solos came in they started to compete. So I selected that portion, from the start of the lead break until the end of the reading, and used the Filter->Amplify function to reduce the volume of the music. I had to do it twice because the first attempt still left it too loud. You can see below where the waveform is squeezed.


It was important to adjust the music to her voice rather than the other way around, because i wanted to keep the quality of the reading.

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POSSE and openness

In Tuesday’s class we looked at a trailer for the film Terms and Conditions May Apply. The film looks at all those end-user license agreements that are designed so end-users don’t read them. People generally don’t know what they’re agreeing to when they click the “I Accept” button, and it wouldn’t really matter if they did know, because many companies reserve the right change the terms and conditions without warning or notice.

This is problematic because people don’t know what they signing away, part of what makes it a privacy issue. It’s also a problem because people may unwittingly violate the terms, which can lead to harsh consequences. The Department of Justice has asserted that ToS violations can be prosecuted as felonies, and although Congress has made moves to address this, they haven’t seen them through. This can not only stifle but criminalize innovation.

A lot of the privacy and terms of service issues seem to be tied to what I consider closed environments, like Facebook. Access and use of our data is the toll we pay to get in. We also have the open web, and our own spaces on it, where we have more control. We can make that social with the POSSE model, pushing information from our own spaces out to other services like Twitter or Facebook. We’re experimenting with that using a platform called Known in our ds106 section.

Just as a coincidence, Tim Berners-Lee talked about data ownership yesterday in London. It sounds like he’s calling for a web that treats our personal data, which all those sites collect, as our intellectual property.

Berners-Lee argued that the burden of tracking should be moved from the typical web user to the individuals and organisations with access to our data.

That sort of flips the current situation on its head. I don’t know if it’s doable, but it’s an interesting idea.

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Wire106 audio ideas

Looking through past posts on the wire106 site, I found a bunch of ideas that people had posted, including Travis, Jeremy, Desa, Imran, Nicholas, IenMelinda, Danielle, and La Kisha. Most of them are already in groups. If you’re looking for a group and you like someone’s ideas, maybe you could ask if they can use some help. If you have some ideas and you’re looking for collaborators, put your ideas out there with a call for help. But let’s get this done today so everyone can get started.

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