Jammin’ with Dave

For this week’s video, I wanted to show Audacity in action, to give people an idea of audio layering and combining tracks. I’ve also wanted to play with David Lee Roth’s isolated vocals from Van Halen’s Running with the Devil for a long time. (Someone has to be able to put that track to better use. Consider that a creative challenge.) For the background sounds, I used “Ambience, Night Wildlife, A.wav” by InspectorJ for the crickets and “running sounds” by zombiechaser3. I recorded my part with my laptop and iPhone headphones/mic. My voice is pretty soft, so I used Audacity’s Compressor effect to even it out and boost it a bit. Then I imported the sound effects I had downloaded from Freesound. I cut and pasted the sounds to where I wanted them, and applied fade in and fade out effects. Then I imported the Dave track and copied and pasted the parts I wanted to use to a new track and aligned the parts to my recorded part. That involved some copy and paste work. I didn’t pause long enough for Dave, so I copied some of the silence in my track and pasted it in the same place a few times, which made the pause longer. I used the volume control to bring Dave’s voice down in the mix a bit. When I felt it sounded good enough, I used the Quicktime Player to make a screen recording of the track playing through. I exported the Audacity file to an mp3. The export process automatically combined all the tracks into one recording. I brought the mp3 and the Quicktime movie into iMovie and more or less lined up the audio and video, and saved it to Youtube.

I mentioned in this week’s post that audio editing is time consuming. This piece is a little more than a minute and a half. It took me about an hour to put it together. Part of that was opening and working with iMovie, but most of it was getting the parts and editing them together in Audacity. And I’m not new to the program. So hopefully this will give you some ideas about what you can do, and some idea of the time it might take.

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“Reality of My Surroundings”

After looking at the photo reflections people have written, I thought I’d do a quick one of my own. I feel like photography isn’t really my medium, even though I have an extensive background in art and design, and did a lot of photo work way back in high school. But even then I was more on the production side, being in charge of the darkroom and doing much of the film and photo processing for the yearbook. Now most of my image work is in Photoshop, which I would call photo editing rather than photography. What I need to work on is selectivity and an eye for framing and composition. The pictures I take are of the snapshot variety, mostly as a form of visual note taking. In fact, I just scrolled through the photo library on my phone and deleted dozens of images because they were notes I no longer needed. As an example, here’s a picture of a 1980s telephone that I spotted the other day

The visual interest is in the object itself. It’s a documentary photograph without any artistic pretensions. If I had been thinking, I would have taken a side view as well, so I could make a kind of police mug shot out of the two. In comparison we could look at Hinoiri’s photo blitz which shows an artistic sensitivity throughout. That’s a nice thing about photography – not only can we capture the art around us, but we can create art out of our surroundings.

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The other stories

I watched Ridley Scott’s pseudo- true crime film All the Money in the World yesterday, after having had it sit by the TV for two weeks while I was too busy. It’s about the kidnapping and ransom of J Paul Getty’s grandson in the early 70s. Maybe I should have read Martin Weller’s review before I put it in my queue. Given that Scott made it, I expected it to be a well-made film, but to me the focus was on the wrong story. Weller mentions Getty’s “otherness,” the dehumanizing aspect of his massive wealth, which would have been worth exploring. The movie instead focuses on the family tensions. I’m sure people can relate to that, and it’s what studios want, but personally, I’m not really interested. I would be much more interested in the kidnappers’ story. Wikipedia tells me that they were ‘Ndrangheta, a mafia group I had not heard of. In the film, a motley group nabs young Getty out of the blue, has trouble negotiating the ransom, and basically sells the crime to a larger organization. That’s the story I want to know about. It reminds me of Jim’s take on The Iron Heel, where a story mentioned in passing seems more compelling than the story that’s primarily being told. While the elder Getty operates in a metaphorical cut-throat world, the ‘Ndrangheta inhabit a real one. I wonder about the inner workings of the business deals and decisions that go on there. How was that sale made? What goes in to it? Or the impending decision to cut their losses? What price does the original kidnapper pay when the job fails? Shifting the perspective might have made for a more interesting tale.

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Tagging UMW

Today’s Daily Create was Creative Graffiti. I tried a graffiti assignment a long time ago, so I liked the idea. I don’t have any recent pictures of graffiti, but I did photo some street art a while back. I could run that through some of the filters from the other day to see what happens.

But maybe I could do something more meaningful, like ds106 graffiti. I found a generator in the photofunia site, but it doesn’t accept numbers. So I went to dafont.com to look for something I might use. For whatever reason, a lot of graffiti fonts don’t have numbers. Not sure why that is. But I found one that could work. Then I had to think of what to put it on. I went to flickr looking for a Creative Commons licensed image and found something from former ds106er Stephanie Lefferts that seemed perfect for some Photoshoppery.

That was probably a bit more work than a Daily Create should entail, but is was fun

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Monkey Shines

One site/feed/whatever I like following is Behind the Grooves. Occasionally it brings up things I didn’t know about, more often things I forgot about. So today is the birthday of Peter Gabriel’s Security album:


I don’t even know if I have this one, and I’m too lazy right now to go to the other room and check. I remember “Shock the Monkey” being a big MTV hit. Most of my people thought he was too weird and didn’t like his work, but started to warm up to him through this song. I liked his work because it was weird and experimental. It seems influential, especially in the big drum sound of the 80s, although it may have been more precognitive than progenitive. Maybe I’m just saying that because I think it sounds smart, but changes in technology changed the way music sounded. Vox had a video about it:

So now we know.

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“ds106 is pure joy”

Here we have another discussion with ds106 godfather Jim Groom. I should do some editing, but I think it’s better to just get it out there without the delay. We talked about public access TV in the 80s as a precursor to Youtube, and the anyone-can-do-this punk aesthetic that carries through with the web.

Another topic related to that was digital writing and the freedom it offers. The Wesch video we’re looking at this week addresses issues of how digital writing is different, and also points to a number of issues that we’re currently struggling with as a society, which were also part of 80s sci-fi.

We also brought some work from the class this week, particularly The Steining and the Berlin wall image. I am fascinated by the way people connect with this theme and what they make of it. The possibilities are endless.

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The Hits Keep Coming…

One of our ds106 crew had the brilliant idea to put an 80s twist on the Name That Single assignment, so I thought I’d give it a shot. I wonder if we can make a trend out of this.

I didn’t know what to do, so I googled “1980s hit songs” and got a selection of links to videos. My first thought was to take the opportunity to do a rickroll, but I couldn’t think of a way to visualize “Never Gonna Give You Up.” But another song on the list gave me an idea, and it had GIF potential.

I tried to take the easy way out and find the GIF I was thinking of online, but I couldn’t, so it was DIY time. It’s a Blade Runner scene. I was able to find it on Youtube, and use a Firefox extension to download it. I know there are easier ways to make GIFs, but I use the old-school ds106 method, except I use Photoshop instead of the GIMP. I do it that way because it gives me more control and ability to manipulate the image and timing. I came up with this thing:

but it really doesn’t say “single,” does it? I needed to square it off and put a hole in the middle. I found an image of a 45 single sleeve and one of a 45 adapter, so I screened that over the GIF frames and cropped the image like so:

Design-wise, I think it’s weak. Maybe I should have added some graphic elements. I used a posterize effect to make it look more “designed,” but it’s really more decorative. I consider design to be a deliberate decision making process to achieve a desired end – to convey a message or solve a problem. If it’s done for the sake of appearance rather than meaning, it’s decoration. I like the idea of an animated image on a static object though. I don’t know if it really conveys a sense of the song or its title, but it was fun to do.

I’m also wondering to what extent “single” is an 80s concept. I see the 80s as the cassette era, and singles as more of a 60s-early 70s thing. Singles never really went away,  but I think they were esoteric at that point, more of an indie band thing.


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“…the Smurf, the Popeye, and the Jerry Lewis”

It is fascinating to read what everyone has to say about the 80s theme. (See why you were asked to tag your posts?) I see a lot of enthusiasm for it, which is something of a relief. It seems like it’s old enough to be ancient history, but not quite old enough to be the kind of history that’s studied, although I could be wrong about that. It is a foreign land to most of us. We have impressions, or not, but those impressions come through media and the memories of others, and may not align with the lived experience of natives. As I recall, even at the time the picture of contemporary society presented through the media did not match the lives anyone in my social circle led. To me, the 80s looked like Heavy Metal Parking Lot:

Except for Zebra Man – no one dressed like that.

But it doesn’t matter if we have different views, or no view of the 80s whatsoever. We get to make of this what we want. We make our own connections, and connect in our own ways. There is no wrong way to do it. Just go for creativity and don’t let any preconceived notions stand in your way.

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Scheming on a theme

Jim Groom, a guru of both ds106 and the 80s, took some time to talk about the course with me. I have an edited version above, and the full discussion is at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PQ53L-lecUU

I’m hoping it gives some ideas on different ways we can approach the theme. We all have our own interests. I don’t expect people to share mine, but I know we can find ways to connect to the theme and to each other. As heard in the video, “What you find interesting is what you should cultivate.” Words of wisdom, Jim, words of wisdom.

I mention Sterling and Shiner’s “Mozart in Mirrorshades” (saved in the Files section of Canvas, if anyone is interested) in the longer version. It is a basic time-travel sci-fi story at first glance, but it does tell us something about its time, and gives us a view of the future from that perspective. The issues of environmentalism, consumerism, colonialism and militarism are all prominent. We, the future we, burned through the earth’s resources so we’re then mining the past. We in the past were perfectly happy to sell out ourselves for consumer culture crack: “your cheap manufactured goods seducing the people of our great country,” as Jefferson put it.
And yet, the power of celebrity rules over all: “We’re talking Top of the Pop, here. Not some penny-ante refinery,” we are told as they bring Mozart back to the future and sacrifice the rest of the operation. We could interpret that as the power of celebrity. We could also see the timelessness of art in it.

Next week we will start looking at the Assignment Bank, but reading this story made me think of the classic Troll Quote assignment, so I made one for it, with an 80s twist.


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“Don’t know much about history…”

When we started talking about the idea of using an 80s theme, I thought about how it might seem like an alien and ancient land, and wondered about artifacts. What might be strange yet familiar? What might be inexplicable? What would be significant? A walkman would have been perfect, because it marks a real cultural shift from listening to music as a communal thing to a private experience. But I don’t know anyone who still has one. I found a Juice Newton (YT) cassette on the free giveaway table in my library, so I used that instead. 

To make further 80s connections, I used a Stranger Things logo generator for the opening logo, and did a CC search for some appropriate theme music that I could use without getting in trouble with the copyright police. After I said, “So now we know” to my colleague’s explanation of the cassette, he automatically responded, “And knowing is half the battle.” Those GI Joe PSAs were an 80s thing that I didn’t find out about until this decade, so I had to edit a bit of that in at the end.

It’s all pretty goofy, but maybe that’s not a bad tone to set.

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