On Meatloaf, Mikey, and Life

Today’s Daily Create challenge was to create the “worst photoshopped photo ever.” But I’m still thinking of the tweet I saw yesterday:

I like the retro-ness, the improbable sponsorship, Eno and the cat. The attention to detail is impressive as well – the typography, the aged look, the body copy. It all combines to give it an aura of authenticity. I thought it would be fun to build on it.

So for today’s challenge, I had the idea to put Meatloaf on Mikey from the old Life cereal ads. I’m not sure why I thought of it. Maybe it’s because I was eating cereal as I was going through email and found something from Ruth and Martin’s Album Club, which featured Bat Out of Hell a few weeks ago. I could have made it cruder, in keeping with the bad photoshop aesthetic, but I kind of like the way it blends to give him an extruded skull look, sort of like Alien. If I really wanted it to be good I’d have to adjust the type to say Meatloaf instead of Mikey, and put his face on the cereal box as well.


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Hypertext in the ’70s

Zach Whalen tweeted some quotes from an ancient documentary on hypertext:

Hypertext: an Educational Experiment in English and Computer Science at Brown University is one of the many fascinating blasts from the past available through The Internet Archive. I am continually brought back to The Internet Course I taught with Jim Groom, where we looked at, among other things, how the Internet developed into what it is, and the visions that brought it about. In hindsight, this experiment looks significant and visionary, a proof of what the web could do. It also looks like something that would be dismissed, or even ridiculed as wasteful for investing time and resources in something like poetry. It also offers an early glimpse of tracking, analytics and surveillance:

One thing that caught my attention was the scene of physical cutting and pasting as the group was collaborating on course development. I remember all this from my graphic arts days, except we used X-Acto knives and straight edges rather than scissors because we were professionals.

hypertext in the 70s

So I made this little collage – physical manifestations of the virtual and digital – out of screenshots from the video and a typeface from Da Font. I liked the idea of hypertext living in a folder in a file cabinet. There’s something Pandora-esque about it to me.

I’ve been wondering about doing an internet-themed ds106, where we could use the web to tell stories of the web and about the web, and at the same time see something more about how the web works. It would be a bit of a departure from the past few semesters, but I think the students could still have fun with it. I’m still wondering about how to frame it out though.


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A tale of some timely help

timelytimesI started experimenting with Omeka, just to see what I could do with it. It’s a content management system designed for showcasing digital collections, such as libraries, museums and archives might have. I’ve had discussions with a professor about working on a class project with a local museum, and Omeka could be a tool for the job, so I want to learn the ins and outs.

It’s also one of the tools Reclaim Hosting makes available through Domain of One’s Own, so that makes it easy to set up with a one-click install. Storage space is a potential issue, so I wanted to offload that to S3. I wondered how to connect the two, so I googled it and what do you know? Jim wrote up a walk-through a few months ago. This was kind of a lifesaver because the process involves typing some arcane gibberish in both the S3 settings and the Omeka config.ini file. I ran into a problem with the Amazon endpoint. Apparently you (or I) do need to specify the endpoint, which means figuring out what it is. The nice people at Reclaim helped me out with that. My S3 account is in the US West region for some reason, so the endpoint is https://s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com.

And with that, I have an Omeka site. What I’m using for my collection is a bunch of hand-drawn newspapers that my father made when he was 10-12 years old. Some people put their kids’ drawings on the refrigerator. I put my father’s on the web. I still need to think about how I’m going to build out the site, but I’ve made a start.

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How-to from the #4life crew

As ds106 ends each semester, the class gives advice to future ds106ers. It’s a good reflective exercise, and it lets people have some idea of what they’re getting into. Everybody says it’s a lot of work, and most say it’s fun work. This time around, we actually had one insightful person say it’s not that bad in comparison to a regular MWF course, which is the flip side of “Don’t procrastinate!”

But this morning I was in awe of a totally unsolicited (by me) ds106 advice video:

This was the result of Nora Forknall’s planning and hard work, and input from eleven other ds106 veterans. She had this idea back in December, and put out a call for collaborators in February, so this represents some real sustained commitment. And that’s #4life.


It’s not me, it’s you…

Sometimes I get thanks and praise from students in these semester-ending blog posts. Being the self-deprecating paranoid type, I wonder if they’re trying to butter me up to boost their grades, not that they need it. But what makes the course great isn’t me. I’m just glad to be part of it. Jim and Alan and Martha built the playground, so they can claim some of the credit. Really it’s the enthusiasm and creativity that the students bring that makes the course what it is. They make the art. I just ask them to do it.

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The Black Hole

Today’s Daily Create builds on a Mashable story about Roy Stryker’s ruthless editing practices. During the Depression, he headed the Information Division of the Farm Security Administration, where he was in charge of documentary photography. If he didn’t like a photo, he punched a hole through the negative. One of the first photos has a big black hole looming in the sky, so I immediately thought of Soundgarden’s old MTV hit:

so I thought I’d make the black hole sun set. I used the magic wand tool to select the black hole and copied it on to a new layer. Then I copied a chunk of sky and covered up the hole on my base layer. I moved the hole up to the top of the image. Then I duplicated the layer, moved it down a bit and increased the size a little. I repeated this a few times until I had a big black ball sinking below the horizon. For the last one I selected around the tree line and made a cut-out so that it looked like the ball was behind the trees.

I also wanted the scene to get progressively darker, so I duplicated the base layer and reduced the Brightness and Contrast a bit. I repeated that a few times so I had one base layer for each black hole. I merged the holes with their respective base layers and saved it as a GIF:


I thought it came out pretty well. I wondered about removing the sky and having the video play in the background, but that seemed like it would take some work. Alan approved of it:

so I wondered about putting sound with it. There are online tools that let you combine an online GIF with the sound from a Youtube video. It’s not quite the GIF with sound tool that Kelsey was looking for, but it fakes it well enough. I made one with the original song, then looked for a smooth jazz version. I also found a Paul Anka version just for fun. I suppose for it to really be smooth Kenny Loggins would have to be involved, but I couldn’t a Loggins version.



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Gonna break my rusty Cage and run

I’ve seen this posted to Twitter a few times this past week:


It appears to come from a Tumblr posting of a Youtube video, and it’s a kind of commentary on crazy copyright regulations and overaggressive content policing. It also actually doesn’t make any sense, so I looked it up on Youtube:

which tells a different story. The video maker, Adam Lore, put four minutes and thirty-three seconds of the image of John Cage together with a song copyrighted by Warner Music in order to get a copyright reaction to what is allegedly silence. Which is a kinda cool idea.


Cage by Richard Corben

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I’ve been thinking about how we could use Gardner Campbell’s Apgar test in ds106. He uses it as a way of taking the class temperature at the beginning of a session, a quick gauge of their collective readiness. It also serves as a way of communicating expectations:

1. Did you read the material for today’s class meeting carefully? No=0, Yes, once=1, Yes, more than once=2

Thinking back to my days as a student, I wonder if I ever would have thought of reading something more than once. But this puts the idea out there, with a suggestion that it’s a good thing.

So what would we want to suggest in ds106? I think we should do more to build community and encourage interaction. We can always push for more creativity and more challenges. We want people to know that there is no one right way to do anything, and that they have a lot of leeway to do things their way. I brainstormed a few ideas:

How often did you check the class blog feed?
How frequently did you leave meaningful comments on classmates’ blogs?
Did you challenge yourself by using a new tool or program?
Did you find a creative way to re-imagine an assignment?
Did you make a new assignment?
Did you build on the work of other participants?
Did you collaborate on an assignment?
Did you promote your work on Twitter?
Did you interact with the #ds106 community on Twitter?

I’d have to think about a scale for the responses too. I want people to check the blog feed every day, and to leave a couple comments every day, so those are easy. Making new assignment should perhaps come off the list. When it comes to trying new things, maybe an  online tool would be worth one and experimenting with a new program could be two. How often should people remix the work of others or collaborate? I’m not sure that they fit in a weekly scale. But maybe they could. This will take some fine-tuning.

Then there’s the matter of delivery. Because ds106 never meets as a class, it would be more of an online weekly checkup. Maybe it could be sent out in an email as a Google form, or as an online survey. That’s a technical aspect I’ll have to investigate. Maybe the weekly average could show up on the website as a sidebar widget or something. Something to think about.

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Remix, quick-draw style

Earlier today, Jim tweeted some pictures of architecture around his ‘hood. One in particular caught my eye:

Medusa makes me think Harryhausen, so I had to try to animate it. It wasn’t all that difficult. I opened the image in Photoshop and duplicated the background layer. In my new layer, I needed to get rid of the tears so I would have a clean face for the tears to roll down. Doing that was a matter of copying and pasting some selections of areas adjacent to the tears, and then moving the selections on top of the tears. It’s crude, but close enough. A couple corners of my copy and paste selections were too noticeable, so I used the eraser tool to take them out. What I should have done was used a little feathering on the selections to soften the edges so they would blend better. I merged the bits and pieces on to my copied layer, so now I had two – with and without tears

The next thing I needed to do was to separate the tears out onto another layer. I used the polygon select tool, this time with feathering, and selected the tears from my original background layer and did a copy-paste to put them on a new layer, and moved that layer to the top of the pile. Then I made copies of my tears layer, each time moving them a little further down the face. I think I had seven layers of tears. I made an equal number of copies of the tearless face layer, and merged a layer of tears on to each one. Then it was View-Animation and Make Frames from Layers. It’s not perfect, but it doesn’t need to be. Since I had a pretty good idea of what needed to be done at the start, it really only took a few minutes to make.


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Canna Van Cleef

So this morning’s Metafiltering introduced me to Ostagram, which looked like an interesting tool for visual mashups. The question is, is this a tool normal people can use? There’s a link to Github, there’s a lot of what I think is Cyrillic text – not so helpful to me. There’s another link, and through that I could find some directions for installing it on Ubuntu, which might work. My Parallels expired a few years ago, but they offer a 14 day free trial, so I spent some time trying to make it work, but none of my password formulas were working for sudo, so I gave up on that. I think I could make it work using AWS, but I also think I’d be asking for more frustration. Then I found an online version. That was convenient. So to be all Western about it, I decided to look at Lee Van Cleef through a Georgia O’Keeffe lens, except I did it backwards and got something that looks like Predator’s acid trip:


It took a long time for the image to process – like fifteen minutes or so. But I saw my mistake and tried again and got this image:


It kinda makes me think of Picasso and Cubism, although it’s not either. I might play with the options – content weight, style weight, etc. – to see what they do. Can we use the style and content to take something Western into a different place? Could we find a visual style that says “Western” and apply it to something that is not? Might be fun.

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Beetles and bugs

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So I though I’d take another shot at randomizing a comic book story. This is part one of “The People Thieves” from Blue Beetle #53, as found on Destination Nightmare. I figured, “How can you go wrong with giant bugs?” And there’s a Hulk-green mad scientist, a driver ant getting busted for speeding, a mantis-man, cryogenics, … fun for the whole family. Watching it play through, I can pretty much understand what’s going on. I suppose that’s due to the short length of the story.

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