like a moth to a flame…

One of my favorite Tumblrs was the Godzilla Haiku, which I haven’t seen in a long time. So when I saw this assignment, I had to try it. I decided to use the Mothman, a West Virginia legend and the namesake of a movie that creeped me out many years ago.

My haiku is pretty lame, especially by Godzilla standards, so I stuck it on an image to give it some character. I found the image through CC Search, which is a good way to find material that’s licensed for adaptation and reuse. The image credit is: By Tim Bertelink – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=46584699

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Old Blue Eyes

I was inspired to do this because Emily did one. I had forgotten all about this assignment. The cat lives up the street. I don’t know his name, so I call him Frank, after Sinatra, who was nicknamed “Old Blue Eyes.” He only acts friendly when my wife is with me, so I think he has trust issues. I googled for Shakespeare quotes about eyes, and found this one fitting. I put the type in Garamond, an old style typeface, and used Photoshop’s eyedropper tool to pick up the color from the cat’s fur. I probably should have done some cropping to make the photo look more composed and less like a snapshot. Maybe next time…

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Sledgehammers at ten paces

Since we’re looking at the idea of myth and legend this time around in ds106, I watched Walter Hill’s 1984 commercial flop Streets of Fire. The subtitle, “A Rock n Roll Fable,” is what caught my attention. It’s your typical psycho biker kidnaps rock star and her drifter ex saves the day story, which I guess isn’t that typical but has common elements with many a Western. One of the things that struck me in watching it is how it feels out of time and out of place. The music is very much 80s – the closing number was an MTV hit back then – but the cars are before my time, 50s I suppose. A couple of characters are back from the war, but we don’t know which war. The place is urban and gritty, with scenes that look like NYC and scenes that look like Chicago, but it’s never named. Places are only addressed by neighborhood names – the Battery, the Richmond – as if it could be any decaying big city. It all works because it’s all very intentional, by design and in the design.

As screenwriter Larry Gross said, “It’s not New York. It’s not Chicago.” It’s not the 80s. It’s not the 50s. It is its own mythical time and place. The cinematography and design create a heightened sense of reality, so it makes sense that motorcycles would explode when shot, that people would have a duel with sledgehammers, and that Bill Paxton’s hair would stand taller than Rick Moranis’s. It’s a fable with the archetypal hero, villain, and damsel in distress.  The movie serves as a good example of what can be done with myth and legend. You’re only limited by your imagination.

Not your typical damsel in distress

The hero being heroic

The villain being villainous

Rick Moranis did a bunch of movies in the 80s, but for some reason I always associate him with The Wild Life, where he had a hairdo similar to Bill Paxton in the picture above.

Stop. Hammer time.

The villain being expressive.

My GIFfing process comes from the ds106 Handbook, although I use Photoshop rather than the GIMP, which saves some steps. There are simpler tools for capturing clips, but this method gives more options for manipulation. Not that I exercised them much here.

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Words of week one

A lot of great thoughts came through in the first week’s posts. I will muse on some of them here.
so much weird stuff happens on social media that to me it seems more responsible to stay off of it!
This is not a bad policy. But we can leverage social media to our advantage. We can use it to make positive connections. I’m sure you’ve all seen Bill Genereux (@billgx on Twitter) who has a parallel ds106 crew in Kansas. There are others in our community, as you’ll see in the Daily Creates. I know it can be hard to avoid the social media cesspools out there, but we don’t need to step in them.

I loved Francesca’s intro video. There are all kinds of ways to do it. The important thing is to push yourself creatively and experiment. One really nice thing here was the thought that went into it, particularly in giving credit for the images – a good habit to develop.

Many people express discomfort with making media, especially in the introductions. There’s no one right way to do it (which holds true for just about everything in this course) – the point is to do it, and then you know how. And then you can do it again and try something more, and make it a little better. No one makes a masterpiece before they’ve done that about a thousand times.

Some people like the theme, others not so much. The important thing is that we’re free to make of it what we will.

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The legend of ds106

I had the idea to base this semester of ds106 around legend, myth and folklore. That’s probably too broad to be called a theme, but whatever. It connects to many previous themes from ds106 – westerns, superheroes,  horror, apocalypse. It gives a lot of options as to where we can take it – too many, I’m sure – but it will be interesting to see what kind of focus emerges from what the class does.

I am in no way an expert in the topic. But I’m interested in the way that the stories we tell shape our understanding of the world, ourselves, and our place within it. I’m interested in how stories stick and how they spread. The Slenderman came up in Tales from ds106 discussions a few years ago – someone made a couple images, other people were inspired to provide some backstory, and a story developed across media, and even generated some real-life tragedy. A simple creative challenge led to a new urban legend, of sorts.

I asked Twitter about legends of ds106 over the summer. I had thought of Talky Tina, who went from being a homicidal doll to a ds106 regular, and Dr. Oblivion, who disappeared but has not been forgotten. Sarah Honeychurch mentioned the ds106 socks, another good one. Todd Conaway brought up the ds107 rebellion. Jim added some ds106zone radio shows. I think the Daily Create qualifies as legendary. It is the ds106 community that made all of these what they are. People picking up threads and running with them. People continuing to talk about them. Can we choose to be legendary, making our own myth? I don’t know. But I hope we can inspire each other with our ideas, and build on each other’s ideas. And maybe we’ll come up with stories worth talking about.

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Week One: Bootcamp

8/27/18-8/31/18

All work is due by midnight on Friday, 8/31/18

Welcome to ds106! This first week is dedicated to getting set up: set up your domain and Web hosting; install your WordPress site; and create other social media accounts such as Twitter, SoundCloud, YouTube, etc. Complete introductions via posts, twitter, video, audio, etc. The sooner you get started, the better. If you run into trouble after looking through the supporting links, the Digital Knowledge Center in the Hurley Convergence Center is a great place to go for help.

Here is a detailed list of what to do this week:

  1.    Review the Syllabus

You should carefully read through the syllabus. This course is different from most. The syllabus will help you understand the work and activities of the course. If you have any questions on the content, send them to me via Twitter or email.

  1.    Set Up Your Accounts
    1. Domain Sign up for your own domain name and web site (free through UMW’s Domain of One’s Own project). Detailed instructions can be found here. Don’t skip the verification step! If you already have a domain through Domain of One’s Own, then you are one step ahead.
    2. Google / Youtube (video sharing) http://www.google.com/accounts/
      If you have a Gmail account, you are already set with this. If not create a Google account. This is what will allow you to join any synchronous video discussions we have (in Google Hangout) and gives you access to YouTube.
    3. Twitter http://twitter.comTwitter will be one of the main channels for communication in ds106. If you already have an account for personal purposes, you are welcome to use it or create a new account for communication related to this class. Make sure you customize your profile! Send your first message of greeting and be sure to use #ds106 hashtag in your tweets. Learn how to search on the #ds106 hashtag.
    4. Soundcloud (audio publishing) http://soundcloud.com/ This account is where you will share audio you create for the class.
    5. Instagram http://instagram.com for photo sharing
    6. Slack We will use Slack for some group communication, especially in the early weeks. Join ds106.slack.com

Note: All of the social media accounts (Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and SoundCloud) that you create for this class MUST be public so we can all see each other’s work. If you already have accounts on these services that you don’t want to make public, you’re welcome to set up separate ones just for this class.

  1.    Install WordPress

You’ll be using this install of WordPress to share your work every week, all semester. So you’ll want to get this installed and get comfortable with it ASAP. You should install it either at the root of your domain (www.yourdomain.com) or on a subdomain (ds106.yourdomain.com, for example). If you already have WordPress installed on your UMW Domain from another course, you can use your existing site (and just tag or categorize your ds106 work accordingly) or choose to create a new WordPress site in a separate subdomain.

We have a few online guides that I recommend you review as you tackle this task:

Brief Introduction to cPanel: This guide will help you learn to navigate cPanel (the control panel for Web hosting on Domain of One’s Own).

Creating Subdomains and Subdirectories (optional): If you want to install WordPress somewhere other than at the root of your domain, check out this guide.

Installing WordPress: Learn how to get WordPress installed on DoOO.

WordPress Basics: Orient yourself to the WordPress environment.

Find out what a subdomain is and how to set up a subdomain on our documentation site.

NOTE: Do not use wordpress.com. You have to set up your own domain, or use a domain you already have (see Step 2, above), and you have to install WordPress on it (this step).

  1.    Register Your Blog at the Main ds106 Web Site

Once your blog is available on the web (it should be almost immediate) register yourself and your new blog on the DS106 site. You MUST do this in order for everyone to see the posts you’ll be writing for the class. NOTE: As part of the registration process, you will need to use your Twitter user ID, so be sure to have one.

  1.    Make some Multimodal Introductions

Now that you have all your accounts and everything set up, it’s time to use them to introduce yourself to the class. Use Twitter, SoundCloud, YouTube, and Instagram to introduce yourself to the community, be creative, be legendary. Once you’ve done that you need to embed them all into a WordPress blog post. Here are some tips for embedding media in WordPress.

Are you exhausted yet? There a lot more still. If you wait until the weekend to do your all work you will be crushed!

  1.     The legendary ds106

We’re using a theme of legend, myth and folklore for this semester. The purpose of the theme is to give us some common ground for interaction. You will have ample opportunities to personalize the work you do. We can take this theme in any directions the class chooses.

Your second assignment, after set up and introductions, is to consider the theme. Some people say every story is the same. Personally I think that over-generalizes a bit, but I see where they’re coming from. What do you think about this theme? Wikipedia has rather extensive background information on the diverse aspects of it, such as Folklore, Legend, Fairy tale, Urban legend, and Myth. TV Tropes takes a more lightweight look at it, but you can find a lot of pop culture connections by poking around their site through the topics Urban Legends, Fairy Tales, Folklore, and related links on those pages.
Your assignment is to write a blog post about what you think of this theme and where we can go with it, individually and as a group. Review a few of the above links for background, but bring in your own thoughts and interests. Are there examples of media (text, image, audio, video, etc.) that you think are outstanding or important, which the class might be able to use for inspiration? If you have ideas, include them in your post. If you don’t, keep thinking about it because it might just be part of next week’s assignment. Another thing to be thinking about is a character or persona that you might use to interact with the course and the theme. Share your thoughts and ideas and tag the post ds106thoughts. Need to know about tags in WordPress? Here’s some help.

  1.    Write your Weekly Summary

You’ll be completing these summary posts on your blog every week. This week, write a post that shares your reflections on the first week. Tag this post WeeklySummary. These posts are REALLY important. We use them to grade you every week, so you need to link to other posts you’ve written, embed media you’ve created, and narrate the process of learning that you went through this week. What did you learn? What was harder than you thought it would be? What was easier? What drove you crazy? Why? What did you really enjoy? Why? NO EXCEPTIONS. NO LATE WORK ACCEPTED.

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Happy copyright

I saw Christina’s copyright overview the other day, and was inspired. She was responding to this assignment, part of the Creative Commons Certificate course:

Create a video, slide presentation, or infographic (or choose another medium) in which you describe the basics of copyright law as covered in Module 2. Make an effort to create something that would be useful and interesting to someone else.

At a minimum, include descriptions of:
the purpose of copyright,
what is copyrightable and what is not,
the relationship between copyright and other methods of protecting intellectual property,
how a person receives copyright protection for their work,
the public domain, and
exemptions to copyright like fair use.

I thought it would be an interesting challenge to do this as an audio recording. Would it be possible to be brief and compelling enough to hold a listener’s interest, while still meeting the requirements? How much information can be conveyed through sound rather than words?

My first thought was to use the Happy Birthday song. It should be instantly recognizable, so it could be used as a hook to draw people in. I found a guitar tutorial (YT) by Andy Crowley through CC Search and borrowed some of the audio for an intro and outro. I probably should have done more audio production and better recording. So it goes.

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New York 2140

A castle in the sky, one mile high
Built to shelter the rich and greedy
Rows of eyes, disguised as windows
Looking down on the poor and the needy
Miles of people, marching up the avenue
Doin’ what they gotta do, just to get by
I’m living in the land of plenty and many
But I’m damn sure poor and I don’t know why

New York New York, big city of dreams
And everything in New York ain’t always what it seems
You might get fooled if you come from out of town
But I’m down by law and I know my way around

Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five – New York New York

Even though I’ve lived in New York State most of my life, I’ve only been to NYC once, so it’s a place I know through media rather than experience. Like the Grandmaster Flash song above. The latest book for the Bryan Alexander Book Club adds some new dimensions to the big city of dreams.

New York 2140 envisions a New York that has become a kind of new Venice since the ocean level has risen a hundred feet. NYC being NYC, people are still hanging on, and still coming, even though the tides are now coming up to the middle of Manhattan. It’s still a finance center though, and the wealth and power inequalities are even more extreme, such that the rich and powerful can simply turn away police and defy warrants. Or commit acts of vandalism and abduction. There are still big dreams too – of sunken treasure and overturning the social order. Optimism in the face of disaster.

The characters seem rather stock, but I don’t think that’s a problem. They’re more important for what they represent rather than who they are. It contributes to the lightness and humor of the novel as well.

The storyline has multiple threads. Chapters are named for characters, and show the story from their perspective. The threads come together as the characters intersect and intertwine. NYC is a character as well, represented by The Citizen, also called A Citizen or That Citizen or The City Smartass Again. The chapter names repeat as the story rotates through the various characters’ perspectives.

The audiobook is especially well done. There are nine voices, one for the epigraphs that introduce each chapter, and eight for the different chapter designations. Mutt and Jeff have some fun banter

as they expose the situation of the novel and some of its philosophy. The reader’s vocal characterizations give a great sense of a conversation between two people. Speaking of vocal characterization, here’s The Citizen:

The accent, cadence and delivery are, to me, an aural image of NYC. It reminds me of actor John Spencer crossed with Ray Liotta from Goodfellas, and may be my favorite part of the audiobook. I think this title serves as a good example of how a good vocal performance can add something to a book. There’s a level of humor brought out by the readers that I don’t really get when I read the text. So far, so good.

Banksy https://www.instagram.com/p/e9zpaOq-_l/

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“I got nasty habits”

The first part of Four Moves and a Habit is the habit: Check yourself. That’s something worth remembering.

I saw a version of this in my Twitter feed yesterday:

I was impressed. The error is subtle until you see it, then it’s glaring. But there are problems with the key and the coloring coding too. The more I thought about the image, the more I wanted it to be a hoax. Because how is a mistake like that even possible?

So I did some detective work. You can find chapters of Glencoe Science: Biology online in PDF format. I didn’t find the image, and they don’t look like the image would come from there, but it’s possible that it’s from a different edition. I did find it on Reddit, which is a good place to get a hoax to spread. I did an image search in Chrome (which I could have done initially, but I wanted to see what else I could find first), and found the image on a lot of Pinterest pages and Reddit threads. You can filter Google search results by time, so I thought I’d play with that function. If I limit the search to the first week of July, there are no matching results. Same with the second week. On July 15, the image shows up in some Reddit threads and the Terrible Maps Facebook page. Signs point to “hoax.”

I can see why it spreads though. It’s so easy to be appalled and amused by it. It’s so easy to want to share the feeling. That’s why we need to check our emotions, as Caulfield’s book advises. Bad habits let falsehoods spread.

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Albert Brooks on America

This was my introduction to Albert Brooks. (Fun fact: His real surname is Einstein.) My parents had his LP, Comedy Minus One, and the part I remember best is the skit about the national anthem.

America seems to be a theme running throughout his work from the beginning, America from a showbiz perspective.  Some of his movies, like Real Life and Modern Romance, reflect this to varying degrees. They also show him to be rather whiny and self-obsessed.

I had pretty much forgotten about Brooks over the years. I didn’t even recognize him in Out of Sight. So when I saw his name on the list of potential titles for Bryan Alexander’s book club, my interest was piqued. His novel, 2030, was originally intended to be a screenplay, but they thought it would be too expensive to film. This seems a little silly to me. It’s a people story, not a special effects story. It’s unfortunate too, because it would have been interesting to see him take a Peter Sellers approach and play multiple roles – the president, the guy who loses his home in the earthquake, the guy who cured cancer, and perhaps even the Kevorkian character.

I’m getting ahead of myself. The story is set in the US in 2030. Medical science has cured cancer and arrested aging, so people are living into their 90s, essentially as 40 year olds. The younger generation is going broke footing the bill, and leading some to consider violent revolt and terrorism. A major earthquake flattens Los Angeles. Given the country’s financial state, rebuilding means borrowing, and China is the only country in a position to help. They refuse to make the loan, and instead offer to rebuild the city in exchange for a half ownership in it. Chinese entrepreneurs seize the opportunity to make even more inroads into the US. The book ends with one of them getting elected president.

There’s very little implausibility here. I can accept the medical advances as a sci-fi premise. I think the lives of the olds would be just as precarious as those of the younger generation, because I can’t imagine a political will to rebuild and maintain the social safety net. The idea that the Constitution could be changed that quickly, and that the public would accept an immigrant as a presidential candidate, is the part that strains the suspension of disbelief. Still, much of it sounds contemporary. I read it several months ago, and I’ve seen many of the issues reflected in headlines.

For example,  this USA Today article, Is Cruise ship living a cheaper option for seniors than assisted living? talks about a situation right out of the book, where people and families find it more economical to warehouse the elderly on massive boats than to keep them in homes. I might have put it alongside the implausible ideas before I saw the article, Betteridge’s Law aside.

I don’t see any movement against the older generation as a whole, but there are those who feel we could use fewer of them in public office:

The rise of China has been covered heavily, but this article names 2030 as as inflection point: “A new book by the famed historian Alfred McCoy predicts that China is set to surpass the influence of the U.S. globally, both militarily and economically, by the year 2030.”

I saw a whole thread on special economic zones. SEZs are analogous to what happens with LA in the novel, as it is shared with China and special privileges are granted to their people. As the thread points out, an SEZ is coming to Wisconsin. Both the thread and the book suggest Detroit as a good candidate for one. Once upon a time, the vision was that an American company could fix it. Now that isn’t even considered plausible enough for sci-fi. I wonder how Brooks might rewrite the anthem today?

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