V for Vignelli

I’m glad that people appreciate The Vignelli Canon. It was written for people with a design background, but it works for those who claim to have little:

the little booklet offered great insight to graphic design, with me someone who knows little about.

as well as those who don’t think about it:

pointed out many things that I have never really thought of when it came to design.

and it functions as an example of design:

I like how some of his design elements were placed on the pages themselves

In previous classes, people have come out against Vignelli’s criticism of the 8 ½ x 11 paper size. I think his point is valid. Using the Golden Ratio as a basis for the design of paper creates a natural harmony among printed works, whereas mismatched and haphazard design creates clutter and chaos. Unfortunately, in the tension between economics and aesthetics, economics tends to win.

PreviewThat happened with paper sizes, and it happened with Black Sabbath as well. Bava had structured the film in a particular way, so that the stories connected and flowed and built upon each other to a proper climax. I covered this ground before, during our Bavafest. But while the integrity of Bava’s designs was violated on multiple levels, some of it remains, particularly the set and lighting design. Comparing the two versions highlights the idea of “design is one” that people picked up from Vignelli. The whole film was designed so that everything worked together to achieve a certain vision, and the re-editing fractured that in a way, and made it less than it was.

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Recover the classics

The Creative Action Network is running a campaign for Recovering the Classics. I thought it would make a good assignment, so now it is. Supposedly you get a kickback if your cover sells. So I made this thing:


I probably should have gone more minimal and just used two red dots for bite marks, but instead I went overboard and tried to represent a neck. I googled neck to find an image (because I’m lazy), cropped it a bit and traced an outline. I didn’t think it looked neck-like enough, so I put a chin line in there. That was actually quite a pain because I did it in Illustrator and I suck at bezier curves. I used Baskerville for the typeface because it’s a classic. The Sherlock Holmes connection is completely coincidental. I wanted to use the Golden Rectangle for the proportions, but the site specifies 12×18, so I guess we can’t make Vignelli happy. In retrospect I still don’t think it looks neck-like enough, but I’m calling it done anyway.

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Hearing the Last Laugh

Jim wrote about this story before. When I read it, I thought about all the possibilities for sounds effects, and how those and the dialogue could carry the whole tale. I don’t know if I’ll have the time, but it would be cool to produce this for ds106radio. I like the various ideas the class came up with. Many people thought of using music to set the mood. It’s a great idea, but I think it would be tricky to find just the right open-source music, and if you needed more than one piece, then you would have to find pieces that worked together. So I would probably go minimal on the music. Here’s my two cents on imagining the tales for audio:

Just as a side note, there’s an interesting visual detail that reoccurs throughout the story. We see both the doctor’s and the patient’s faces lit so that they have that two-faced appearance, hinting at how that each of them has a monstrous side. It’s one of those nice little details that shows up in these stories.

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A ripping good time: ds106radio tweet-along part 4

journey into mystery 2016We had another good group for our fourth ds106radio listening and tweeting session. After some spooky sounds and a bumper we had the Mystery Playhouse rendition of “Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper” which was originally written by horror master Robert Bloch. We used this before in the noir class, but I thought it would also make a good fit here, with the horror and comic book theme. The show featured an excellent example of horror-hosting:

The show, like many of the others we’ve listened to, showed how simple sounds effects can establish a setting

nightrevealssixtimesdeath_4The second half featured “The Night Reveals” by Cornell Woolrich which was more thriller than horror, but it did have an edge of psychological terror in that the husband wasn’t quite sure if he knew who his wife really was. But it turned out they were a perfect match. This production, like the other episodes of Suspense we’ve listened to, comes from Blue Hours Productions who have been remaking ancient radio dramas with modern recording equipment. What you lose in old-time ambience you gain in clarity.


The background sounds were well done. Sometimes they identified the setting, like the traffic running through wet streets, but they also added to the drama – the tea kettle whistling louder and louder as he came to a realization, or the argument on the TV in the background as tensions rose between the two characters. All in all, two great audio productions.

Props go out to @BloodyFace106 for participating in all four broadcasts, and to @TheHeadReaper for multitasking

although I’ve heard you’re not really supposed to do that. Our participants for Thursday’s dramas were:


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Les choses sont contre nous – ds106radio

For our third night of ds106radio listening, we had two tales – “Who Goes There” originally a John Campbell short story (PDF) and later a few different movies and even a couple of comic books, and “Nightmare” which was originally a poem, Nightmare Number Three by Stephen Vincent Benét

They both did a great job with the sound effects. “Who Goes There” didn’t have a whole lot of them, but what was there made quite an impact

The music was also minimal yet impactful

Our second tale came from the Dimension X radio series, broadcast back in 1951. The recording was a little more primitive, but the sound production was excellent

and it was primitive in other ways as well

The radio feed that followed the Tales from ds106 broadcast had some weird skipping thing going on

but we had a pretty good crowd again

Our participants included:

and some of us are ready for the fourth and final of the week on Thursday

Who else dares to go there?

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Live tweeting pigeons vs. ravens

For our second night of ds106radio live tweeting, we had a pretty good crowd

Even Talky Tina joined us. She was in her element

The use of sound design was a quantum leap ahead of the previous night

It didn’t really take much though – some cricket noises, some footsteps, a motor running – but the sounds convey the setting and the action, clearly yet subtly. The story introduced us to a new member of the monster pantheon: the zuvembie

The term may have been invented for the story by the author, Robert E. Howard. They did a pretty good job of adapting the story for audio, but I think they put a few too many of the narrator’s words into the dialogue, making for some stilted speech.

I managed to get one of our spooky sounds assignments in the broadcast

and the show closed out with some classic Poe and Christopher Walken’s rendition of The Raven, which also had an atmospheric soundtrack of howling wind, reverbed raven, and a distorted guitar that sounded like a chainsaw

Tweeting along with Tuesday’s show were


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Your showcase of showcases


by Harry Clarke, from Faust http://www.gutenberg.org/files/14591/14591-h/14591-h.htm

We’ve had a few Weekly Showcases come in and I like the creativity and personality in them. One was a collaboration between Repsag, Mama Tavia and the Death Whisperer. It was good to see people working together. It makes the online class experience a little less isolated. Dennis hosted a showcase in his unique wordburst style. The week before we had a collage from La Noir and an interesting conversation  on the week’s work from Sally Slaughterhouse and Walter the Walker.

There is a great deal of variety among everyone’s choices for their top five. I don’t suppose that is surprising, but it is certainly welcome. This week’s showcases were a bit curious in that they were all text-only. Since it was a visual week, I would have expected to see embedded images as well as links. I gave everyone free rein to do it their own way, so I can’t really fault anyone, but if the point is to showcase and celebrate each others’ work, then I think it would make sense to let us see or hear it rather than hiding it behind hyperlinks. But beyond that quibble, I love the way people are taking to it. Keep on horror hosting!

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Tales from ds106 tweet-along, round one: Crawling hands and gripping snakes

For our first ds106radio listen-along, we heard a couple of ancient episodes of The Witch’s Tale: “Four Fingers and a Thumb” and “The Boa Goddess.” Both of these come from 1937, when people were a bit more primitive.

The primitiveness extended to the production, which featured very little in the way of sound effects – just some knocking, a drum, and horses clopping around. There was some transition music, but no soundtrack music. So the voices had to cary a lot of the story.

All the voices were heavy on the accents, sometimes to the point of being unintelligible, but maybe that’s because that was all they had to create characterization. Still, the stories were effective for their circumstances.

The hour was filled out with some of Disney’s Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House (Youtube), which actually made a nice contrast. The stories here, such as they were, were very light on words and heavy on sound effects.

I think that contrast was instructive, if unintentional. Sounds tell us so much more than descriptions of them. It also made me think of the EC tales, which were so word-heavy even though the pictures told the story. In both situations, they don’t quite have the verbiage/media balance right. in both situations, I imagine the authors were thinking in terms of the written form first and then translating into audio or imagery. EC borrowed tales from other sources sometimes, and then shoehorned them into a graphic format. Perhaps The Witch’s Tale did the same, which would explain why the language of sound was secondary to the spoken word.

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Thoughts on thoughts on cinematography

shiningI enjoyed reading people’s analyses of cinematography. A few people picked The Shining. The director, Stanley Kubrick, was a master photographer, so that movie bears repeated watching for the camerawork alone. The thing that jumped out at me the first time I saw it was the symmetry in the composition of so many shots. But there is so much complexity within that movie that every time I see it I find something new.

A lot of people picked The Bride of Frankenstein, which kind of surprised me, given that it’s ancient and in black and white. But everyone seemed to appreciate it and get something out of it, which didn’t really surprise me because it’s known for great photography.

ring-2I added The Ring to the list since it was suggested by Brittany and it’s also well-regarded for its photography. That’s the one I watched. I wasn’t sure whether I had seen it or the original way back when, but after a while I recognized it. The main thing I noticed about it was the color-cast. Every scene had a sickly green pallor. Not a green like grass or leaves, but something slightly off, not natural. It’s also a cold color, which subtly impacts the mood. The two scenes in the Mountain Inn were different. There red was the dominant color, as if it was saying, “You’re getting warmer…” There was a repetition of visual motifs throughout the movie which had an interesting effect of creating expectation, making us think something else will be coming back. It was interesting that even though they probably had the budget and the technology for special effects, they used quick cuts and off-camera action just like in “Amelia.” Maybe that’s the horror aspect that King talked about. Dwelling on some of the horrific imagery would have brought it to the level of revulsion, whereas the things left to the imagination raised the terror level.

One thing that really impressed me was right at the beginning, before the actual movie even started. There was a quick burst of static, like there was a bit of damage to the tape or a dirty VCR play head, even though I was watching it on DVD. I didn’t get it at first. I just thought, “Huh, haven’t seen anything like that in a long time,” but later on, after I knew what was going on in the film, I though it was kind of clever. It’s more of a design thing than photography though.

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Tales from ds106: Last Respects discussion

Here Jim and I have fun talking about Last Respects by Al Feldstein and Graham Ingels as we delve into issues of class, changing times and mores, and survival skills.

Hats off to Cherish for examining the mathematical side of the story. I would not have thought to look at it in that way. Nora brought up the issue of the heavy-handed typography as a way of conveying melodrama. I touched on how the word balloons and caption frames serve that purpose, but hadn’t thought to bring up the typography. I love what the class adds to the discussions. We want more!

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