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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Fun with film

I like what people have done with their video essays this week. Many have commented that they are not used to looking at movies analytically, which is normal. We watch them for entertainment, not to think about how they are put together. But when we look at movies the way Tony Zhou does, I think we can get a deeper appreciation for them, and for the art of cinema. I found another video essay just the other day:

Here the Nerdwriter points out the advantage of watching something multiple times – once we know the story and where it’s going, we can turn our attention to how it gets there. He also diagrams the stage as he explains the scene. Maybe you have to be a hardcore nerd to think about doing such a thing, I don’t know. But our brains do this anyway, subconsciously. We’re aware of space and spatial relationships even if we don’t think about them. Kubrick’s The Shining is a perfect example of this. A close analysis shows the space to be impossible – something that can’t exist in our geonetry. It’s done so subtly that you don’t notice it if you aren’t looking for it, but in the back of your mind there’s a sense of unease, that something’s not right, because the space is disorienting.

For those who are interested in looking at movies more closely, director Sidney Lumet’s book, Making Movies, is worth reading. After reading it I watched all of his movies I could find, and then I wanted to read it again. That could have been the start of a vicious circle though.

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ds106 at its best

I think things like this are ds106 at its best. Kristopher took an existing assignment, put a #western106 twist on it and essentially made it a remix of the work the class has been doing this semester: Which DS106 Character Are You? It’s using the web, it’s doing something different, and it’s celebrating the class – it has everything. Try it.

So I tried it and it said I was Andy the Bank Robber, the character from The Rootin’est Tootin’est Blog. Kevin Hodgson, whose been riding along with our stampede, go the same thing:

so I think we’re being framed. Let’s hope the ds106 sheriff sees through the setup.

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“No, I’ve always been a bartender.”

Here is Jim and I talking about My Darling Clementine, John Ford’s classic Western. Jim brought up the noir connections, and there are many, but one we sort of missed was cinematographer Joseph MacDonald’s pedigree. The visual style of noir wasn’t just something he was emulating, it’s something he helped create. I brought up the true crime connections, in particular the questions about the truth in true crime that came up during our course on the topic. Stuart Lake’s biography of Wyatt Earp, which served as source material for the film, established Earp’s legend among the myths of the Old West, but both Lake and Earp did a lot of embellishing on the truth of his story. Ford was more interested in making a good movie than in any historical accuracy.

The OK Corral is a bit of history that I didn’t know much about. Anything I knew about it came from Star Trek, where Kirk and crew played the part of the Clanton gang:

so I was surprised to see Earp as the good guy. Apparently his career includes stints on both sides of the law though. So what we have in Clementine is a historical event, the shootout, which was made into legend by Earp and Lake, and the legend then loosely dramatized by Ford. In True Crime there were always about the truth of the stories – points of view, what’s left out, what’s emphasized – and here it’s taken to an extreme of making poetry out of myth. But the noir is strong in this one.

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Trouvé ou fabriqué

bath saltsI’ve been indulging my comic book fixation on and of for quite a while now. One of the things that interests me is the single panel, taken out of context. A fragment of a story. It can suggest all sorts of possibilities, or it can take or give new meaning in juxtaposition with other information. Intrapanel does an amazing job of taking close-up looks at pages and covers, finding new art in the details. What Intrapanel is doing is not really Found Art, more a remix in the vein of the Cut Up Method or the Pentametron.

Then the other day I came across this Manowar story in Pappy’s Golden Age Comics Blogzine. I don’t know anything about the character and I didn’t even read the story, but  I noticed the artist stuck to a 3×3 grid pretty consistently, which made most of the panels the same size. What would happen if I made a random slideshow out of them? It would probably turn it into gibberish, but maybe sequences would emerge that make some sort of sense.

I dissected the pages into their component panels, and left out the few that didn’t stick the the grid size. Then I found WOWslider, which can generate a random slide show and has a WordPress plugin. I played around with a few settings and came up with this.

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I don’t know if it makes anything worthwhile. The sequences rarely make any sense. But it’s an experiment, and maybe I will find a use for it.


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