…they hate that in Italy.

This week I watched Fernando di Leo’s 1972 film, The Italian Connection (YT). That’s the US title, no doubt intended to cash in on the success of The French Connection. The Italian title was La Mala Ordina, (The Bad Orders), but even better was di Leo’s original title, Orders from Another World. Most of the movie takes place in Milan, but it opens up in the office of a high-level mafia boss in the US. The interior design immediately caught my attention, so I thought I’d take a look at a few interiors, and some other design elements.

Look at that chrome pedestal desk, and the massive chrome lamp. It looks like it wouldn’t be out of place on a sci-fi set. The modern art on the walls and the sculpture in the corner likewise strike me as outside of a normal person’s experience, although the lights on the wall piece do have a game-show quality. It shows that the boss here, Corso, lives on a different level from the rest of the story. The “other world” idea is further emphasized in the instructions he gives the two hit men:

The Italians have a strange type of gangster in mind, they see him being exactly like you, and you have to dress and act like gangsters. Drink, leave big tips, put your feet on tables, they hate that in Italy. You have to act the part so that everyone knows who you are.

The mafia boss in Milan doesn’t have the high-rise view, but he’s also in a different world from the rest of us. He has a sci-fi table lamp too, and those jagged metal and wire sculptures again are not the common man’s art:

The movie ends in a shoot-out in an auto junkyard, so the twisted metal is a bit of foreshadowing.

Another interior worth looking at is the hippie-commie party people’s apartment:

It’s also modern art, but rather than just project wealth, it’s attempting to say something, meaningful or not. It also has a human quality that the other art lacks. I don’t know what to make of that foot in front of JFK, but I like it.

Something we talk about in ds106 (I talk about anyway) is how design tells a story. Set and costume design are prime examples of this. I don’t think I ever do a good job of really getting the message across. Most people don’t think about design in that way, whereas I do by decades of training.

There’s a telephone motif throughout the movie also. Maybe that’s to show how the orders get from one world to another. The Eurocrime documentary (YT) mentioned that product placement was a prominent feature of the genre. I’m not sure if the phone company would be part of that or not. I probably won’t beat my head against the wall trying to figure it out.



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Getting the band back together

We had a Bavafest reprise this week when Jim and I got to talk about The Evil Eye/The Girl Who Knew Too Much with Antonio Vantaggiato’s class on Cine y Cultura Italiana. I’m sure Jim will blog that better than I can. But he had an interesting proposition:

I think I only know about poliziotteschi because Jim has blogged about it. I watched a few Di Leo films, but I really know very little to nothing about the genre. All the more reason to do it. I like crime and cop movies, particularly where cops are criminals and corruption is involved, so this is entirely up my alley.

One challenge is finding films, especially with interlibrary loan being shutdown for the lockdown. I found a Youtube playlist of Euro Crime & Poliziotteschi which should help, and those films will probably lead to more. The Wikipedia page lists a number of films, so many that I suspect they may not have been selected with discretion. What is considered seminal and canonical, and what is considered schlock? I found another page, Poliziotteschi: Italian Crime Cinema, from The Grindhouse Cinema Database, which sounds like something I should take as authoritative. I was able to find a few of those films online, including these in English:

So that gives a starting point for films.

I also found a few books:

Google Books only gives a limited preview, so they may not be too helpful, but I should be able to glean some background. I’m particularly interested in the point quoted on the Grindhouse page

According to Bondarella, the “classic” poliziotteschi film reveals “almost universal suspicion of the very social institutions charged with protecting Italian society from criminal violence.”

because we have similar, and perhaps not unfounded, suspicions today.

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God Save the Screen

This showed up this morning:

I thought it was good ds106 bait as well. We know she’s a big ds106radio fan, of course.

But that’s not really using the green screen to its full effect is it? I suppose it’s kind of obvious what needed to be done. Figuring out how took some work. The way the green screen works in iMovie is you put in the background first, then add the screen segment on top. I also needed to make the video smaller, which can be done with the picture-in-picture effect. The problem, as I found out, is you can only do that effect on the top layer, which is where the screen has to be. So what I had to do was put in the Queen first, then add the video and do the picture-in-picture effect and size and place it, like so:

Then I had to save that as a video and bring the result back into iMovie and make it the base layer, and bring the Queen in on top and apply the screen effect. The first few seconds of the video had the Queen in it so I cropped that part off. As the song says, “We love our Queen.”

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The music and the damage done

Since it’s remix/mashup week, I thought I’d take another shot at putting words to music. I guess I got the idea from the OER20 conference. I listened to some of it with ds106radio playing in the background, and once I got the balance between the talk and the background right, it was pretty cool.
I’ve done these experiments before, but Soundcloud has objections. If I keep at it eventually I might come up with something worthwhile. This time I decided to go with Creative Commons and Public Domain work, to avoid the Soundcloud problem.
I went to Librivox to look for a Lovecraft poem, and found one in a collection. I don’t know the poem or the reader, so What the Moon Brings was a pretty random choice. I decided to do a sort of A/B experiment with it, and went to CC Search to find a horror soundtrack and a happy soundtrack from Soundcloud. Again, I wasn’t really selective in my choices. The reading is in the five minute range, so I looked for tracks that were close enough. The different backgrounds do have an effect:

I put these together in Audacity. With the reading, I clipped the opening and closing, so it was just the text of the work. I applied the Amplify effect and then the Compressor effect, both times using the default settings. The happy soundtrack was a little shorter than the reading, so I also used the Change Tempo effect to shorten it to 250 seconds. The background was very loud so I used the volume slider to bring it down. I adjusted the alignment of the tracks so that the music comes in after the opening sentence, but other than that let things fall where they would. The horror soundtrack ran a little longer than the reading, so I used a Fade Out and cut the end off.

So what do I do with this? What do I take from it? I think what I need to do is find something meaningful to work with, rather than random elements. This I will ponder. Here’s Black Grape to play us out:



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Raiders of the lost loo roll

At this point I’m pretty sick of toilet paper jokes. I much prefer Jim Luke’s explanation of the issue, as it makes me feel like I learned something. Today’s Daily Create was a simple challenge, so simple that the real challenge is to make it interesting. I decided to go for an 80s title, and bounced around a few until I settled on Raiders of the Lost Toilet Paper. But that’s not good enough so I looked to se what kind of photoshoppery I might be able to do. I did an image search for “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” and the one image looked perfect. I could slap a roll over the skull and drop in the title on the left side. I had to use the clone stamp tool to take out the top of the skull – a crude job but not really noticeable. I googled for the logo and found one I could use. I would have to eliminate the white background, but I could do that with the magic wand. The tricky part – the interesting part – was matching the typeface. I googled “raiders fo the lost ark font” and found a Reddit thread that identified it as SF Fedora. There was a download link for the font, but I was looking for an easier way. I googled “sf fedora” and saw a link to DaFont, which is my go-to page for weird type. The TDC prompt suggested “loo roll” as an alternative term. I used that because it flows better and it fits better. I used the eyedropper tool to pick up the color for the letters. It didn’t come out quite right, but it was good enough. When I put the logo on the image it lost the “of the” part of the title because it was black type on a black background. I went back to DaFont and recreated that part and made it white. And there you have it! another job down the drain.

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No action

The Daily Create of the day asks us to shuffle and share songs from our music libraries. This gives an interesting peek into people. We’re not asked to identify favorites or exercise any kind of decision making here, just show a random selection of music we have curated. Since it says “Share,” I decided to make a Spotify playlist. I quickly ran into a problem when I found Spotify doesn’t have A Little Taste of The Sweet Action, the album my third song, “On The 4th Of July,” came from. I don’t see it on Youtube either. So I added a sixth song – five out of six ain’t bad, to paraphrase Meatloaf.

So I wondered what else I could make of this. I could analyze how the songs work together, or maybe make a story out of them. I found the lyrics to the four that have lyrics:

Johnnybag the Superglue
Open Up Your Heart
Call That Gone
Trampled Rose

I still wasn’t sure what to do with them, so I copied them into a spreadsheet. Then I sorted them alphabetically and copied out every fifth line.

And now it’s just you and me
Bye-bye, baby, bye-bye (Bye-bye, baby, bye-bye)
Come on
Don’t try to fix a hole inthesole
Found it in the street, at first I could not see
I don’t carry anything
I’m not holding on to anything
Johnnybag the superglue
Living in a bubble that you blew back in school
Now you want to use the gum to fix a hole in your
Open up your heart for me
Out in the muddy streets, ‘neath the fireworks and leaves
So what happened to the trampled rose?
Some people carry grudges, you know
That’s just the way that it goes
The trees are gonna bend like skeletons
Unless you count this torch for you
When you gonna open up your heart for me?
Whoa I’m leavin’ this morning (Whoa I’m leavin’ this morning)
You can call that gone (You can call that gone)
You got two good minutes when the coffee kicks in

It’s an example of cut-up poetry, of sorts. It doesn’t really mean anything, but some, perhaps many, of the lines work together. How would you interpret it?

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Newest latest

I thought I’d do my own video analysis, using a scene from Spike Lee’s 80s classic, Do the Right Thing.

I guess I’m looking at it more as an artist than a film scholar, but that’s my background. An interesting thing about it is that actor Bill Nunn’s speech is lifted almost verbatim from Robert Mitchum in Night of the Hunter.

I don’t think I’d try to make any kind of connection between the two otherwise, but I could see it as Spike Lee staking a claim in film history.

To put this together, I grabbed the clip from Youtube using a Firefox extension. I opened it up in MPEG Streamclip, exported some frames and trimmed the clip. I scrolled through it a couple times and wrote up some thoughts, then recorded a voiceover in Audacity. I used Audacity to clean up my voice and amplify it a bit, then I imported all the parts into iMovie. I used my frame grabs and the Modify=>Freeze Frame function in iMovie in parts. It looks like iMovie brightens the image or MPEG Streamclip darkens it, so that bit about yin and yang isn’t really visible. I used Cmd-B to make some splits in the video and the voiceover so I could get the parts aligned right and adjust the volume of the video. I uploaded to Vimeo just in case Youtube was going to give me static. Took 22 minutes to upload a 3 minute video. I think it actually sort of came out okay. I’ve got a long way to go before I’m at the Tony Zhou level though

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Looking ahead

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash https://images.unsplash.com/photo-1570190353947-aca1c3450f08

We have a lot of great thoughts looking forward to final projects. I recommend that everyone look over each other’s thoughts. Maybe you’ll find ideas you can use. Maybe you’ll have ideas to share. Several people are on similar wavelengths. Maybe they can find ways to work together.

With everything going in the world I think having a space to post/share what they are doing would be interesting. … We have to stick together! 

I want to take as much good as I can from this

I honestly would prefer to work in a group. We should physical distance ourselves, but not socially distance ourselves. 

Physical distance + social cohesion. I suspect that we’ll find out in the days to come just how much we need connection. We can find ways to work together. It just means planning, being proactive and reaching out. I won’t mandate group work, but I do encourage it. There is a creative benefit to bouncing ideas off each other, and now there’s likely to be a mental health benefit as well. If I can do anything to help facilitate connections, let me know. ds106radio helps me. Sometimes it just rebroadcasts WFMU, but it also carries voices from ds106 past and present, and from the global ds106 community.

scientists/researchers, inventors, architects, political leaders, doctors, activists, etc. There’s so much that could be done with this! 

We’ve been looking at popular culture, but what’s popular varies across communities. If we look past the people everyone talks about I’m sure we can find hidden influencers who have had major (or minor) impact. Those are stories worth telling too.

an idea is to possibly put together clips of history especially what pandemics hit in the 1980s

I googled 1980s crises just to see what would come up. I had to go to the fifth page of results before I found anything other than financial crises, mostly in the US. That’s where AIDS showed up. Crack became a crisis in the 80s as well.

Create a new board game

I’m not at all a gamer, so I probably don’t have any worthwhile ideas here. But a board game is a way of interacting while having to shelter in place. There are ways to build stories into it, or out of it. There could be a digital component, although I’m not sure what that would look like. You could even play remotely by sending pictures of the board back and forth.

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Booger panic

So I left work Friday because I wasn’t feeling well. It ended up just being a common cold, but I played it safe and put myself under quarantine. It’s complicated by allergies, so I still get an occasional sneezing fit. Like now.

In communicating with people at work, I mentioned that I probably shouldn’t come in because I might cause a booger panic. I got an email in response:

It occurred to me that Booger Panic could be the name of my next band, so I went about making a logo. I went to Da Font and looked for something drippy and stuck a little trademark symbol on the end.

And since I had the logo, I thought I’d try a little branding

But this is why I’ll never be a star – I don’t think big enough:

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Show and tell with Nyarlathotep

There is a storytelling principle of “show, don’t tell.” So one might say:

On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair
Warm smell of colitas, rising up through the air

instead of “I was driving through the desert at night.” It paints a picture of a scene, drawing the listener in by activating the imagination. Similarly, the opening minutes of Fritz Lang’s M doesn’t tell us about the tension and fear due to a serial killer on the loose. The exposition embeds a wealth of information through editing and design.

This can be challenging in an audio production. In one of the episodes of Escape we heard some really awkward narration from Vincent Price when he described how his fellow adventurers met their demises in the jungle. It would have felt more natural for that information to come through dialogue and sound. I’ve been listening this week to BBC Radio’s The Whisperer in Darkness, which takes an interesting approach to the problem. The story is framed as two people putting together a podcast on the paranormal. That framing gives the characters a natural excuse to narrate events and describe scenes in a way that otherwise would seem very abnormal. The show does acknowledge the issue, as secondary characters ask, “Do people find that annoying? The way you narrate everything?” but it never seems forced or heavy-handed.

It’s something to think about as we plan our radio shows. How can we show our stories through sound? For example, in ESC Sonic Adventure in the Anthropocene, rather than tell about Rachel Carson, the author used sound clips of Carson making her points. If we were to do a show on NYC crime in the 80s, we could weave in clips from news broadcasts, and maybe even add in something from Escape from New York. I suppose it would be analogous to using quotes from primary sources in an academic paper, but with the added benefit of bringing sonic variety to the production.

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