Talk of the Hook

Here Jim and I discuss “Tales of the Hook,” from Stephen King’s Danse Macabre, and the movie Creepshow. As you can see, I got tired of editing about 40 seconds into the discussion, so the green screen goes to black. Guess I’m not as hardcore as The HeadReaper.

These discussions are a lot of fun. Whether they’re fun to watch or not, I can’t say, but they fun to have. We need to bring ours ds106ers into the conversations. So who wants to talk about friendly dolls or slender man this week?

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Of tweets and tentacles

I saw this tweet from ds106 master Bill Genereux:

and this image on the linked page caught my eye:


so naturally I thought of the Slender Man, since it’s only a few letter off. I thought about trying to match the typeface, but that would have taken too much time so I picked something else that was sort of close. I felt like it needed some tentacles, and a Google search led me to Roys-Art page. Roy was nice enough to label his stuff “Free to use,” so everyone should give him a round of applause. and here’s my Daily Create:


I have a background in Photoshop, so I was able to do this quickly. It doesn’t really make any sense, but it doesn’t have to. The Daily Create is all about making art. With a small “a.”

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What is scary?

The-Wrong-Man-posterI remember my father told me that the scariest movie he ever saw was The Wrong Man, an old Alfred Hitchcock movie in which Henry Fonda is arrested and tried for a crime he didn’t commit. What my father found frightening was that the story was so plausible. In fact, it was a true story. The real world can be more frightening than imaginary monsters.

MothmanThe one that creeped me out the most in recent memory was The Mothman Prophecies. Someone recommended it, so I picked up the video and watched it one night. I had all the lights out, because I do that sometimes, and there was a storm going on outside, so I had the whole creepy atmosphere going on. But what really got me was this overpowering sense of deja vu. I had never seen this before, but I remembered the story. They showed someone’s drawing of the Mothman, and I just knew I had seen it before. I used to experience deja vu from time to time, finding myself in a situation or a conversation that I vaguely remembered from a long-ago dream, and it was always unsettling. It makes no sense. It can’t be right. But it was there. The Mothman Prophecies had creepy supernatural things going on anyway, and they were multiplied by that internal confusion that I had.

51VmmJWyaaL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_The next day I talked about it with my brother and found out the story came from a book, Strange Creatures from Time and Space by John Keel. He had borrowed a copy of it from someone when we were little. I was probably nine years old when I read it, and had forgotten all about it long ago. So it created a kind of Lovecraftian horror within me, a vague knowledge of something unknown. It probably dredged up some memory of childhood fears as well.

But you can always combat fear with a smile:


No one would find anything creepy about that.

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Shadow of Death discussion

In this video, Jim and I discuss the Tales from the Crypt tale “Shadow of Death” illustrated by Graham Ingles and written by Bill Gaines and Al Feldstein. We talk about horror and humor, visual storytelling, the 50s and EC comics.

We plan to continue these discussions throughout the semester, and we want the rest of the class involved in them. So we will have a sign-up form, and we want everyone to participate in at least one discussion, but you are welcome to do more, because it can be fun. Dates and times will be posted on the form. At this point we expect to do them on weekday evening or Friday during the day.

hirisersThe intro sequence was cobbled together from other discussions, a remixed comic book cover, and the song “Goin’ Mad” by The Hi Risers. I thought that little bit of diabolical laughter would fit the mood perfectly, so I found one of the members on Facebook and asked if I could use it. And because they’re awesome, they said okay. So you can all go and buy their records. You don’t have to, but you should want to.

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“How I Did It” – Tales from ds106

Mariana Funes (@mdvfunes) the ds106 shrink requested a “How I Did It” post on the Tales from ds106 week one video. The key to doing something like this is the green screen, which I found online for $17.99. I recorded the conversation with Jim using Google Hangouts On Air. Note that Google Hangouts doesn’t have a record function, so you have to use Hangouts on Air.


finding My Channel

After the recording was done, I went to my Youtube channel to download it. It seems like I always have to do some poking around to find a Hangout on Air recording, but I found it in the Video Manager section, and there is a Download MP4 under the Edit drop-down menu. The video we recorded has the two of us in front of our respective green screens. The background images in the final video came from a few different sources. Some are comic book covers, which came from either the Digital Comic Museum or Comic Book Plus, archives of public domain comic books. One of the video segments in the background is the opening sequence from Night Gallery, which I found on Youtube, and a couple other are from Creepshow, one of the topics of discussion. With all these element saved on my computer, I went into iMovie to assemble them. This part was a little tricky. As I found out, you have to put all the background elements in the video timeline first, and then bring the green screen recording in on top of them. That seemed backwards to me, but that’s the way it works. I no longer have the edit file of the movie, but here are some screen shots from another:

Untitled 2a

place background images in movie timeline first, then add green screen sequence

Untitled 3a

Use the Green/Blue Screen setting to replace the background with the selected images and clips

Untitled 4a

You can control how still images pan and zoom. Or you can turn off the Ken Burns effect.

That’s a quick look at how I did it. There are plenty of better and more detailed iMovie tutorials out there, I’m sure. I mostly figured things out by playing around. Not the most efficient way to learn, but it can be fun.

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The things you see when you’re tumblring around



Sarkos on Tumblr always posts interesting things, and today was no exception.  I suppose the idea of remixing Goosebumps is kinda obvious, unless you’re like me and never read R.L. Stine. I tracked the source of the images back to If It Were Stine, and project from Theodore Holmstead-Scott and Jude Deluca. The whole thing was just begging to made into a ds106 assignment, so now it is.

It’s the details that make these work – the titles, the cover blurbs, the teaser text on the back cover – and that makes it challenging. The fact that they’ve done so many already might be a challenge too, but we can put our own spin on anything that’s already been done.

BTW, nice Captcha on the assignment submission form:


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A Host of Horror Hosts

The Old Witch by Bernie Wrightson

The Old Witch by Bernie Wrightson from

The Crypt Keeper, The Vault Keeper, The Old Witch – these were hallmarks of the old EC horror comics. They’re part of a tradition of horror hosts that had a long-time presence on television. Elvira may be the most famous of the TV hosts, and Svengoolie, (lamely) continues the tradition. The TV hosts were pre-dated by the comic book versions, who took their inspiration from hosts of radio serials.

One of the things we’re doing in Tales from ds106 is adopting the host concept to make an ongoing anthology of the course. Every student will get the chance to play host for a week, providing commentary for curated compilations of the best work of the week. Given the ratio of students to weeks, there will be two or three hosts per week, and they will have the option of working together or going it alone, as well as generally having the option of which media they want to work in. I’m hoping this will really tie the class together.

Mr. Crime

Mr. Crime from

Since the students will be acting as hosts, we’re asking them to create host characters. It’s not a big challenge, since the hosts all tended to be simple, flat characters, but it is a creative opportunity and we expect to see a range of characters emerge. The EC gang, collectively known as the GhouLunatics were characterized by morbid humor full of puns and alliteration, but they were fairly indistinguishable from each other, except for appearance. The later DC Comics hosts, Cain and Abel, had distinctive characteristics, and a rivalry similar to the GhouLunatics. An earlier host, Mr. Crime from Crime Does Not Pay, was a ghost with fangs and a top hat labeled “Crime.” (Technically, crime and horror are separate genres, as is sci-fi, but there are overlaps, and we’re all about expansive views anyway.) Mr. Crime introduced stories and gave running commentary throughout, apparently enjoying both criminal activity and criminal justice. The Whistler hosted a 40s radio show of the same name, dealing with mystery and crime tales with twist endings. Like the Hitchhiker in the 80s, the Whistler played a wanderer who picked up tales during his travels. Some celebrity hosts, like Peter Lorre on the radio and Alfred Hitchcock and Boris Karloff on television, played public personae based on their work in cinema. And then there is the case of MST3K, where the hosts inhabited a whole backstory situation. There are many directions one could take with a host character, and it will be fun to see how the class develops its collective personality.

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Stella, dear…

A retweet from AK brought this article from McKelvey, Tiessen & Simcoe to my attention the other day:

SMwe-hear-the-sound-of-machinesThe abstract suggests that the internet, with social media, big data and analytics, “can together be understood as a vast simulation machine that mediates and modulates everyday life to refashion what was once the ‘real world’ in its own image.” It reminds me of Gibson’s idea of everting cyberspace, which I’ve touched on before – the idea that the distinction between the virtual and the real has disappeared. It’s an idea from science fiction, and the article invokes a book I’ve never read which eerily parallels our current situation of government and corporate surveillance. Of course, the internet wasn’t constructed to do this. It grew more organically, as a product of us into a product using us. Or maybe it’s even more – not just using us, but making us. As Quinn Norton put it:

Your internet experience isn’t the main result of algorithms built on surveillance data; you are.

SMtaken-for-a-rideMcKelvey & co. said the web is “designed to narrowly calibrate human desire and activity” and that it “decipher[s] and shape[s] knowledge and information.” It does this based on our inputs, so in a sense it is a web of our making, but the control lies with the gatekeeper, not the user. This is seen as a benevolent power. They quote the philosopher Mengue: “control implies a positive mechanism that aims to protect life, increase its dynamism.” I think we’ve heard this before:

This is from “I, Mudd,” an episode of Star Trek where the intrepid explorers find themselves held captive on a planet where androids will cater to their every need, except their need for freedom. And like Kirk and friends, McKelvey & co. suggest that we fall back on an insanity defense:

what is to be done to subvert the data-mining machines other than to stop making sense?

Stop Making Sense was the title of a Talking Heads album and concert film. It comes from the lyrics of their 1983 song “Girlfriend is Better,” which I don’t pretend to understand. It is interesting though to read the words in the context of the web/Simulacron/panopticon – “It’s always showtime,” “Evr’ything’s under control,” “everything’s free / I don’t care how impossible it seems” – they take on unintended meanings. And if we look at them in the context of Star Trek, can we say the Harry Mudd has a girlfriend that’s better than that?


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Making a MOOC-ery

Cogdog recorded a MOOC song, so I thought I’d try to play along. I probably didn’t do the song any favors. Maybe there’s a reason why The Doors didn’t have a bass player…

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Opening thoughts

Yesterday I managed to find time for the Webinar on Open Pedagogy with BCCampus. This was part of the Teaching with WordPress open course that I really should join officially.

The idea (or attitude) of Open fascinates me. OERs get a lot of attention, at least in some circles, which is a good thing, but there’s more to Open than that. Open courses have gotten a lot of press, good and bad, but there’s more to it than that. Open pedagogy, as far as I know, is much less discussed, but deserves the attention.

In the webinar chat someone suggested that Open Learning might be a better term than Open Pedagogy. Maybe pedagogy doesn’t seem learner-centric enough. Grant Potter brought up Open Learning Design, which is a term I like:

I remember being in a webinar on MOOCs and Instructional Design or something like that, where I questioned whether ID made sense in a MOOC. One of the IDers told me the principles still apply. Maybe that’s true, if one takes an instructivist approach, but by its very nature that seems less than Open to me. One of the #twp15 linked resources is Stephen Downes’ presentation on Design Elements in a Personal Learning Environment, which includes a slide on Design Principles:

open design principlesAutonomy, openness, diversity and interactivity are the four cornerstones of any good MOOC. Autonomy fundamentally changes pedagogy, I think, because it changes the goals from what the teacher (or institution) prescribes to what the learner wants to achieve. And that necessitates open activities, open assessment, and open outcomes in order to support the diverse goals of a community of learners. Having defined outcomes and objectives is a kind of closedness. When the closedness is taken away, I’m not sure instructional design can work. It’s no longer about getting certain content across. It’s about the knowledge that emerges from communication and cooperation among the community. So the design has to be not so much instructional as environmental, putting together a situation that facilitates diversity, interactivity, autonomy and openness. Those four principles demand a lot of learners though. That’s something I need to flesh out in more detail.

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