“It beats pickin’ cotton”

Today’s Daily Create was to print out a Youtube video:

The first thing I thought of was what was perhaps the pinnacle of music video artistry, the video for The Replacements’ Bastards of Young

I was surprised to find that there was more going on the the video than I remembered. The output has a nice pattern to it, a kind of a gradation. I found that the bookmarklet doesn’t create one image, but rather a series of 5×5 screenshots stacked on top of each other. I saved the first, last and three in between, and put them together in Photoshop. I added a yellowish gradient to it to go with the gradation in the collage. I liked the sorta sepia effect. It reminds me of something old, and also of sunshine.


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Frame within the frame

The A.V. Club has been doing A History of Violence in cinema, where they look at “the most important action movie of every year” from 1968 on. They’ve got Dolemite on the list, and while I’m not sure I’d call it an action movie, the mere fact that they brought it up makes them OK in my book.

What really interests me in the series are the also-rans, which include some that I haven’t seen. Through looking into these, I somehow came across Targets, an early Peter Bogdanovich film from 1968. From a modern perspective, it doesn’t qualify as an action film, nor if it particularly violent, nor is it very good. But there were some interesting things about it.


Boris Karloff in The Criminal Code as seen in Targets

In the movie, aging horror film star Boris Karloff plays an aging horror film star, and writer/director Bodganovich plays a young writer/director, creating a weird film within a film situation, which is mirrored on screen as the two watch The Criminal Code, Karloff’s 1931 film, on TV, and again at the climax where The Terror, a Karloff/Corman collaboration from 1963 plays onscreen at a drive-in.

Boris Karloff in The Terror as seen in Targets

Boris Karloff in The Terror as seen in Targets

There’s a second storyline throughout the movie, of a clean-cut all-American boy who for no particular reason goes on a shooting spree. Boris slaps some sense into him at the drive-in. The point is that Karloff’s brand of horror pales before the real-world monsters.

bj hunnicuttOne thing I like about old movies is that you sometimes catch a glimpse of actors before they got famous. Close observers of Targets may notice Mike Farrell, AKA Capt. BJ Hunicutt of MASH fame, as the man in the phone booth. I suppose sharing the cross-hairs with Boris Karloff isn’t the wosrt way to start a career.

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After Effects roulette

I’ve been playing with Adobe After Effects lately. I had a kinetic typography idea that I never finished, so I started looking into animation tools. But then I got sidetracked with the idea of making something sort of 3D out of a 2D image. I was thinking of a different kind of take on the animated comic book cover assignment. What you can do is separate parts of an image into layers, then arrange those layers in space, and then move a virtual camera over the image. Moving the camera alters the perspective on the different layers, giving it a pseudo-dimensionality.

Aelayerviewsmall5531This is a bit time-consuming. As with the animated comic book covers, you have to fill in the background behind the layers, which can be a challenge. If we consider this image, the background behind Batman is mostly a shadow, so it’s tedious but not complicated to fill it in – you can use the clone stamp tool, or copy and paste parts of the visible shadow area. There’s also a content-aware fill function that sometimes works. All of this work is done in Photoshop, before going into After Effects. Where it gets to be a challenge is the area behind the note. Most of it is tabletop, which is easy, but part of it is Batman’s forearm, which might be easy for an artist, but it’s hard for the rest of us. Fortunately it doesn’t have to be perfect, because only part of it will be visible, and only for a short while, depending on how we move the camera around.

Once we have the Photoshop work done, we can import the image into After Effects. After Effects, I’ve found, has a lot of different tools, each with a lot of different settings and variables. This makes following any of the tutorials difficult, because they all assume quite a bit a prior knowledge on the part of the viewer. Like how I mentioned clone stamp and content-aware above, without saying how to find or use the tools and functions. I looked a a bunch of them, and found them all pretty annoying, but picked up clues along the way. There was one on Lynda which helped a bit: Motion Control 3D: Bringing Your Photos to Life in Three Dimensions with After Effects and Photoshop CS6. I also did a lot of trial and error, which I’m still working on. Basically, you import the Photoshop file into After Effects as a composition, move the layers to the stage area, make the layers 3D with that little cube icon, space the layers out (you have to resize them to compensate for perspective), then create a camera (Layer-New-Camera) and move it around on the timeline. Each of those steps was a learning experience for me, and I still don’t know what I’m doing. I managed to make something out if it though.

Detective Comics #426 cover by Michael Kaluta, via Diversions of the Groovy Kind.

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Open Education over the years

I’ve been fascinated by early articles on open education ever since Resnick’s 1972 article on open ed and technology came to my attention. The other day I looked at one of Barth’s articles, so today I thought I’d try to get an overview of what’s out there, a history of literature on open ed. I looked through ERIC to see what had been written over the years. The earliest articles I found were from 1970, so I took year by year counts from 1970 to 2016. At first I search “open education” as a phrase, but since that has the potential to inflate the count, I also looked it up as a subject heading. I did this using my library’s EBSCO interface, then did it again with http://eric.ed.gov/. I did this because I noticed on my initial look that EBSCO had fewer results. Apparently eric.ed.gov indexes articles more quickly, since the discrepancy is almost entirely in the past four years. What we see is a large bubble of activity in the 70s, and a smaller one in the current decade.

ERIC articles

There is some difference between what was meant by open education in the 70s and what we talk about today. Back then, from my reading of Barth, it was more of a label for various practices and characteristics of progressive education in British elementary schools, and now it refers more to accessibility in higher education. We might get a better sense of what was being discussed if we look at the other subject descriptors applied to the literature. Fortunately, ERIC makes this relatively easy. I collected the top five co-descriptors for each year, along with counts of how many documents had each descriptor. I put all this data in a spreadsheet, which I have uploaded to Google Drive if anyone is interested.

I haven’t thought of a good way to visualize the co-descriptors over time, but this would be a way of getting a sense of the change in the conversation over the years. We could look at the counts pretty easily though.
codescriptorsThis shows how many times a term has made the top five co-descriptor list since 1970. It does not take into consideration the number of documents that had each descriptor. Foreign Countries made the list in 36 of the years, Distance Education in 27 and Higher Education in 24. This might suggest that it’s something that happens outside of the US, enabled by technology in higher education, but that seems like a leap in logic. While Barth indicated that open ed was an elementary ed thing in the 60s and 70s, Higher Education also shows up on the list in the 70s, so perhaps there was more to it. The data might bear deeper analysis.

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In my library, we’ve been using the CRAAP test (PDF) when we cover evaluating information sources. Like anything else, it has its pros and cons – I like the simplicity of it, and that it’s memorable, but in reality it’s not that simple, and I worry that people take it as a checklist in place of real critique. A challenge we’ve had is that we never have time for anything more than a quick overview of it, so I went looking for a way to shift it outside of class time.

I made a Google presentation based on work done by the Rentschler Library at Miami University Hamilton (PPT), making it into a self-paced click through with some simple assessment and feedback. This is something that could be embedded in a LibGuide or other web document, like this one.

I had used Google forms to collect data in the past, and one faculty member suggested that I look into using Qualtrics. I had seen a tutorial built with Qualtrics before, so I thought I might try to do something similar with the CRAAP test. A Google form could accomplish the same thing, but Qualtrics has more reporting options.

Untitled-1This is just a simple thing that students could work through as homework before class. It would introduce them to the test and the concepts, and give them the opportunity to put the concepts into practice. There are example sites for currency, relevance, authority, accuracy and purpose, and the survey asks if each one passes the test. Students can respond yes, no, or not sure, and get immediate feedback.

Since the form collects data, we will be able to see if there is confusion on any of the five points. Class time could be spent on discussion based on the data, rather than overview or demonstration. I hope to be able to test this out with a class or two over the summer and see how it goes.

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A Bava design


I saw Jim’s post about his t-shirt daily create and decided to steal his idea, ’cause that’s what I do. Basically I wanted to get more Bava in the bava logo. I like the idea of bringing imagery into lettering, although it’s not so easy to bring it off well. One thing you need is very heavy lettering. I went to Da Font and looked for something groovy, and found Pincoya Black by Daniel Hernández. From there I typed Bava Tuesdays in the preview box and took a screen shot of the result. I brought that into Photoshop and stacked the words, then cropped the image to the lettering. Then I went looking for images from some of Bava’s films. I pasted them in and scaled them to fit, then changed the layer blending mode to lighten. Since the letters were black on a white background, anything lighter then black would show through. The rectangle in the upper right corner was accidental. That part of the lettering layer was empty, or transparent.  I liked the way it looked though, so I kept it. Since I had it in layers, I made it into a GIF just for the heck of it. I kinda like the result, but the images really overpower the letters, making it hard to read. The changing imagery makes it worse.  But I’m working on a Bava budget, so I’ll call it good enough and say it’s a wrap.

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Round and round

Round and round
What comes around goes around

Profound words of wisdom from 80’s hair-metal masters, Ratt. These came to mind as I was reading Roland Barth’s 1977 look back at open education. I was also reminded of my experience weeding the Education section of our library collection, when I found book after book from the 70s examining issues that are still being examined today. What goes around comes around, give it time.

Open education meant something different to Barth though. It was a term created by American education researchers to describe practices that were going on in British primary education in the 1960s. Their practices were not coordinated or based on any grand theory, but rather something that grew out of the conditions of the times.

This reminds me of film noir – a genre label applied after the fact to some early 40s cinema. French critics, looking at Hollywood’s WWII product en masse after the war, saw trends and commonalities among some films and called them noir. The filmmakers themselves were not consciously trying to create or be part of a movement. They were just making movies.

“In the act of analyzing the British primary school experience, we Americans created open education,” Barth says. It became a thing in retrospect, and once it became a thing it became a thing to be studied, praticed, embraced, marketed. It became a reform effort, a way to disrupt education, in the parlance of our times. It became a thing for publishers, furniture makers, architects, and any other vendors seeking to market to schools.

Of course, the act of defining open education closed it in a way, replacing the autonomy that the British teachers had with “prescribed and proscribed materials and equipment, codified and circumscribed teaching behavior.” Coming round and round to more recent years, this makes me think of MOOCs, which began as a fascinating experiment, full of possibilities, and quickly got defined down to broadcast lectures, guarded by log-ins. Footloose to danger zone.

The advent of a movement like open education brings with it examination and criticism of what has gone before, of what is going on contemporaneously, and, perhaps most important, an examination and criticism of itself. Perhaps the next stage in the cycle will be of one self-criticism and self-correction.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. It can be an evolutionary cycle rather than a hamster wheel though. We can learn from our experiments. We can learn from our history, if we acknowledge it. We can refocus on our values and philosophies, on the human element of education. Which leads to a cartoon which was adjacent to the article:


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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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