Wired Book Room

Lauren brought up the Weird Book Room assignment and I thought it really ought to be called Wired Book Room. So here’s my entry: Accessorizing Your Waterfowl.

I had a few title ideas, like Duck Bling or Pimp My Duck, but I thought they were too slang for that classy necklace. I wanted to make the image more graphic or illustrative or whatever. I duplicated the background layer so I could mess around without messing it up. Then I went into Image->Adjustments->Levels and played around with the sliders to boost the contrast and brighten it up a bit. I duplicated the layer again and tried Filter->Stylize->Find Edges, which made this weird sort of tracing of the image. I didn’t know if I could use it or not, so I clicked the layer visibility button to hide it for now. I went back to my other copy of the layer and tried the Image->Adjustments->Posterize function and changed the levels to 3 or 4. I didn’t like the top of the bar in the picture so blacked it out. I turned on my weird tracing layer and changed the layer blending mode to Darken, and I kind of liked the effect. I needed a better image of the diamond necklace though, so I went back to my original layer, without all the distortions, and carefully selected around the necklace and copied and pasted it. I played with the levels to brighten it and put some sharpening on it, and thought I had a good image to work with.

Accessorizing your waterfowlWith waterfowl in the title, I figured it should be a Penguin Book. They’ve been acquired by Random House, so I used the Random Penguin name. I googled penguin books to find the logos.

I went with a condensed typeface due to the kind of space I had – more of a functional decision than an aesthetic one. I let Stephen L. Miles be the author, playing off that little inside joke from the episode. I thought the cover should have some more copy so I asked my wife what it should say. She was on to the bling thing too.

Accessorizing your waterfowl2

I thought about it some more, and that posterize effect was too busy. I went back and filled the duck outline with white, then I brought the eye back in. I think that’s a little more essence of duck.

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Read… it won’t kill you

I don’t know how you can watch Brother Mouzone and not want to make a READ poster. I know I’m not the first one to do it. But since I’m all about the GIFs, I had to animate it. I was going to use a different shot, but I thought that one was too obvious. Then I remembered that little hand-off with his helper Lamar, gun for books, and decided to work with that.

Vignelli mentioned the Golden Rectangle in his Canon. There’s something about the height/width ratio that’s naturally harmonious. So from the Wikipedia page about it, I found an image of a Fibonacci spiral for the proportions.

I felt like putting a border around the poster, so I did an image search for poster borders and found the Gwenzula Wanted Poster Supessoups Deviantart HD Wallpapers and downloaded it.

I put everything together in Photoshop. I rotated the spiral and the border 90 degrees and adjusted the pixel dimensions of both so they had the same height. I pasted the spiral on the border, and then scaled the border layer so it was the same width as the spiral. That gave me my Golden Rectangle. I changed the layer blending so you can sort of see some of the spiral. Then I put in my type. I used Garamond, a classic old style typeface known for its readability, and used the eyedropper tool to choose the type colors from the border. That gives a bit of color harmony to it.

The next trick was to get the GIF in there. I knew I wanted to paste the poster as the top layer of the GIF, but I had to get the pixel dimensions right first. I copied one of the frames from the GIF and pasted it on the poster, and it was way too small. The GIF was 640×480, so I made the width of the poster 700 pixels and pasted again, and that seemed okay. I went to the GIF and used the Image->Canvas Size function to make the size match the dimensions of the poster, then I pasted the poster as the top layer in the GIF. This covered up the GIF, so I changed the layer blending mode to Darken. Because the white of the poster background is lighter than the scene, the scene shows through. I tried to tweak it a little to bring the scene down just a little bit, but I couldn’t get that to work across all the frames of the animation, so I left it centered.

Was it worth it? I don’t know. It’s all in the game though.

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The Vignelli Canon

canon-1Another design resource that’s worth looking at is The Vignelli Canon. It’s a short booklet by Massimo Vignelli, who was a superstar in the world of graphic design. The booklet is light on text and heavy on space and imagery, so it’s a quick read. His purpose in writing it was to share his knowledge for the benefit of other designers. As he says, “Creativity needs the support of knowledge to be able to perform at its best.”

Vignelli did most of his work in the pre-Internet era, when graphic design meant ink on paper, so some of the information is not so relevant to our online environment, but the principles still stand. So take a look at it, and let us know what you think.

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Splash the Wire


A lot of people have been noticing color in The Wire, so it’s a natural for the Splash the Color assignment. Here, I took one of the shots inside the Can Office with the orange target on the floor. I wanted to keep the orange and make the rest black and white. I did this by selecting the orange parts of the floor with the Polygonal Select tool (which I seem to use for just about everything) in Photoshop. This was a little tedious and you can see I missed a spot towards the back. Then I used the Select->Inverse function to change my selection to the rest of the picture – the part I wanted to be gray scale. To make it gray scale, I use the Image->Adjustments->Desaturate function. Saturation refers to the color intensity. No saturation = gray.


The picture is really designed to be in color, and it shows in the grayscale version. Everything is dark and indistinct, because the color hues gave the picture its life, rather than the light and dark values. Draining the color also makes the scene much colder. The earth tones added warmth.

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IP, fair use, and the Internet Course

This week in The Internet Course we will be talking about intellectual property and fair use. There are tensions between the two which have always been there. The internet has exacerbated those tensions.

The US Copyright Office issued a circular on Copyright Basics (PDF) which discusses copyright law in detail. Fair Use is the term given to exemptions to copyright law. The Copyright Office explains these in some detail, but it’s not usually a black and white, cut and dried situation.

Our panel of Internauts this week, Desiree, Sheldon and Josiah, have collected several articles relating to our topic. Josiah’s map puts the Copyright Clause of the US Constitution at the center, which was a nice touch. I find it interesting that the law is there to promote progress, but the enforcement of it is usually to protect profits. The two are not always aligned.

Lawyer Lawrence Lessig gave a TED talk on that mis-alignment:

Lawrence Lessig: Laws that choke creativity

Choking creativity seems to be directly at odds with promoting progress. Lessig founded Creative Commons as a way of dealing with this.

The copyright issue the internet is best known for is probably piracy. GI Joe even addresses it at the top of our syllabus. I wonder how the general public’s view of piracy has changed over the last decade or so. I’d be interested to hear what the class thinks about that.

On a somewhat related note, an article in this weekend’s NY Times noted:

ABC in January started requiring people to verify that they had a cable subscription to watch its shows on Hulu. Users either didn’t have the necessary information or declined to go the extra step, it seems, because the rate of piracy for “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” a network drama, shot up 300 percent.

Does the fight against piracy, in some ways, end up encouraging it?

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Wanted: for DWI



I thought the idea of a Wanted Poster assignment was perfect for wire106. Hats off to Kris for making it. McNulty ought be get hauled in for his escapades in the last episode, so I thought he’d make a good subject. But I’m all about the animated GIFs, so I took it down that route. I used the same poster generator as Kris because I’m lazy, but it stopped my GIF from animating. So I made a new layer on top of my GIF and changed the Image Size to match the poster that the site made. I copied the poster, minus the part with the picture, and pasted it on the top layer of my GIF. I had to resize the poster layer a lot until it lined up right. Then I decided I didn’t like the color image on the sepia toned poster. I looked for an easy filter in Photoshop but didn’t see anything I liked. So I repasted the poster, this time without leaving out the image. Then I changed the layer blending mode to Screen, which sort of washed out the color of the GIF. Since the image is on the poster layer as a constant, it gives a double-vision effect during the animation, which suits his intoxicated look.

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Simonian LOLcat

I decided to try my hand at the Shakespearean LOLcat assignment, but since this is Wire106 and not Hamlet106, I made a Simonian LOLcat.


It’s a picture of my friend Coaltrain from across the street. I’m not sure why it was all green in my Flickr account. I brought it into Photoshop and went to The Wire – Wikiquote to find a line to go with it. It’s a quote that Herc said to Kima early on in season 2. I typed it in and used the eyedropper tool to pick up the dark color from the fur. I duplicated the type layer, then used the Layer->Rasterize function followed by the Filter->Gaussian Blur function to make the shadow. I used the arrow keys to shift the shadow so it was slightly offset.

Coaltrain is anything but a house cat. He’s always looking for something o kill, usually in my back yard. It’s more of a quiet chuckle than an LOL, but there you go.

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Taking shots at episode 6


adapted from http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/16/books/review/Kirn-t.html?pagewanted=all

The title of the episode was “All Prologue.” I think that relates to D’Angelo’s epigraph, which came in his response to the book discussion assertion that “there are no second acts in American lives.” The discussion leader was novelist/screenwriter Richard Price (pictured above in the NYT), who wrote some episodes of The Wire.
02omarI pulled out a few shots to look at. I like this close-up of Omar for the dark/light contrast.


04backgroundIn this one, they’re talking about the case and the target, who happens to be pinned to the bulletin board in the background. Even though it’s the background, it’s still pretty prominent because it’s right in the middle of the shot.


05carver reactionI mentioned in the tweet-along that so much of the acting is in the expressions and eyes. This is Carver’s reaction to a casually crude statement of Herc’s.


06background-floorThe floor to the meeting room is like a target, and now the whole union is in it. The shot has a tilt to it, like there’s some quiet turbulence going on.


07perspectiveHere’s another shot from a surveillance camera angle. The composition interests me too – something about the balance, and the light and dark. I’ll have to think about it.



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maddenGIFERATOR – The Wire version


I’ve been seeing these maddenGIFERATOR images in my Tumblr stream, so I thought I’d try one with a quote from The Wire. Apparently “I tell your wife, you tell mine” is an illegal use of words, so I had to censor it. Whatever. It’s all in the game.

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TV on the radio

One of the illustrious ds106 internauts came up with the idea of live tweeting an episode of The Wire. A very cool idea, especially for an online class, because it helps create a sense of community. So for Intro to Audio week, we’re playing episodes on ds106radio and live tweeting as we listen. It’s an interesting way to experience the show. So much of it is visual, and so much of the acting is in the eyes and expressions. All of that gets lost on the radio, but we get to focus purely on the sounds, and see (hear) just how much is going on in the audio track, and how much of the story it tells. Someone pointed out all the oldies in the soundtrack. That reminded me of the opening epigraph for the season, “Ain’t never gonna be what it was.” The nature of labor and its place in society has changed. In some of the characters, Frank Sobotka especially, I see a longing for the way things used to be. The oldies reinforce that. The epigraph has a certain fatalism to it though.

dock workers

from http://www.geh.org/ne/mismi2/m198304960001_ful.html

Maggie Stough’s brilliant analysis of episode 4 ended with a photograph that seemed to have some significance. I was curious about it too, but didn’t think to look into it until she brought it up. Now, how do find out about a picture when it doesn’t have any information attached? I ran the URL of Maggie’s image through Google Image Search and found an article about the photographer, A. Aubrey Bodine. The picture is of men unloading a ship on Pratt Street in 1935 – Baltimore dockworkers from days gone by.

Getting back to audio, several of our wire106ers talked about the revelations regarding the complexity and impact of sound that they got from the Jen Ralston interview. I hope people take to audio, because we’ve been given the keys to the Tu/W/Th 9pm slot on ds106radio. It’s there for us to use, so let’s take advantage of it.

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