The dance card

I’ve heard the expression, “My dance card is full,” and knew from context that it meant someone was busy. I never really thought about the etymology of the phrase though. But today I was listening to a Librivox recording of Richard Marsh’s 1897 horror novel The Beetle and I recognized the source of the expression.

In olden times, at formal parties, people would schedule dances with each other. A person would have a card or booklet listing all the tunes that were to be played, in order, with a space to write in the names of dance partners. The Wikipedia entry has images of some cards.

Programme du Bal, from

This fascinates me because it is so alien to my experience, yet the expression is something I have known for a long time.

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Rockwell had the idea…

Yesterday’s Daily Create involved using an online application to stylize an image. I had seen something like this before and thought it was pretty cool, so I gave it a shot.

I used an image from the Church of San Lorenzo which I first saw heading an article on The Twenty Days of Turin. No special reason – it just popped into my head. None of the apps default styles really grabbed me, but I thought the printed circuit board one had potential. I liked the output. It’s hard for me to tell how well the Dr. Doom-like visage comes through. I see it because I know it’s there, but it also seems buried in the circuitry. As I thought more about it this morning, it occurred to me that it makes an apt visual metaphor for the current interpretation of de Maria’s novel and the idea of surveillance capitalism. I wasn’t thinking of any of that intentionally when I did it. It was more of a subconscious inspiration, I suppose.

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A day in the life of a night prowler

Our Daily Create today was End Sounds. For whatever reason, the first thing I thought of was the voice at the end of AC/DC’s Highway to Hell album, saying “Shazbot! Nanu nanu.” Someone actually made a supercut of the endings of all the AC/DC songs, but if I recall correctly, they left that part out. There’s a little chord just after, so maybe that’s why.

I couldn’t just use that though. It would be too much like googling for an image rather than making one. I also thought of the iconic closing chord to A Day in a Life from the Sgt. Pepper album as an end sound, so I grafted the two together. Would that get past the copyright police? I wasn’t sure. But since that closing chord runs the better part of a minute, I figured it needed some manipulation. I used the Change Tempo function in Audacity to speed it up, and I stuck the AC/DC part in the middle of the long fadeout. I left AC/DC’s little chord in there, so I clipped the Beatles at that point. I don’t know. It’s something.

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Stanky Bean

Screen Shot 2017-12-23 at 8.38.33 AM

Today’s Daily Create says to “Colorize a Photo with a Silly Color.” Sounds like fun. First I needed a silly color. If I were creatively inclined, I’d probably make one up, but since I’m lazy, I googled “invent a color” and found this list of AI-generated colors. I happened to be listening to Mississippi Fred McDowell (Youtube playlist) as when I came across the TDC, and that color Ronching Blue seemed like a natural fit for Mississippi Fred. I grabbed the picture from Wikimedia Commons. You might’ve recognized that Ronching Blue was a bit too gray for colorizing, but I tried it anyway, with predictable results. But Stanky Bean had a silly name and some nice color to it, so I used that for my second try. Conveniently, the AI list gave the RGB values and the colorizing tool had a way to input the values. Inconveniently, the download function didn’t capture the color change. But the right-click, Save Image function worked so here you have it:

Mississippi Fred

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of comprehension, context and compassion

The great Jane Secker published a list of student views of information literacy earlier today:

Of course they’re not just any students. They’re library and information science students, and as such are developing an understanding of info lit at a different level from most, as something to teach, to advocate for, to guide their practice. So it’s interesting to see what they have to say.

I’ve long taken issue with the way info lit is framed. That’s something I’ve talked about at OpenEd. I think my profession has tended to define it down, oversimplify it, so we can do our one-shot instruction sessions and crudely assess them and pretend we’re successful. While that does help students complete their assignments successfully, and perhaps enhance their learning along the way, it doesn’t go so far in preparing them for life or lifelong learning.

I see that narrow view of info lit well represented in the list. It is encultured in us. But there are hints of something larger as well.

Comprehend information and its context.

It’s a deceptively simple phrase. Comprehension is not a yes/no thing. We can understand information at many different levels, deeply to superficially. And context is not a singular thing. Information derives meaning not just from its context within a document, but also from who delivers it, how, when and where, and a host of other social, cultural, political and economic considerations. This makes me think of those criticisms of the CRAAP test, where people assert or assume that context isn’t part of it.

Why need info. Why heed info

I like the poetry in this one. Again, it hides its depth, as it implies a critical examination of context, relevance and authority.

Empowering people with the skills to search for information / knowledge

Perhaps this illustrates the crux of the issue. The “skills to search” can be a relatively simple ability to use an interface. “information” likewise can be interpreted simply, as in something that fits the criteria specified for an undergrad research paper. What really matters is in the bookends – empowering people to build their knowledge. I see that as learning how to learn, to engage in informed learning.

It matters because information is necessary for knowledge and compassion and all the things.”

Yes, all the things that we need to be free and human in today’s world. This was the problem with the old ACRL standards. They envisioned info lit as what you need to get through a college research paper. That’s one thing, or maybe some things, but hardly all, and in no way related to compassion. I don’t think I’ve ever seen compassion listed as an info lit outcome. Is it written out because it’s like understanding – too hard to measure, and therefore not worth considering? Is it written out because we don’t value it? Or vice versa? But it is vital and necessary, especially in today’s world, if we are to live and grow as free people. Including it was a brilliant insight.

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“It’s the end of the world.”

I have been seeing information on Twitter that someone is plotting the end of the world, as well as the end of ds106. It occurred to me that this is just the type of thing that requires superhero involvement. Even supervillains should want to stop this from happening, because they need someplace to do their villainry.

But it also gave me an idea for a mashup of sorts. There are a few songs that talk about The End, or the End of the World. I thought of a few, and asked my better half for input as well. It was a straightforward process to find the songs. I imported each one into Audacity, then copied out the sample I wanted, then went to the next one. I tried to make the transitions work, with slight overlaps in some cases, aligning beats, and adjusting amplification, but it’s still a bit crude. I also stuck in a bit from ELP’s From the Beginning so that it could close on a hopeful note. I exported it as an mp3 anyway. Then I went to iMovie and imported it and the The End 106 video. The audio was twice as long as the video, so I found the speed adjustment in iMovie to slow it down. I used the title function to add in key parts of the lyrics, and got those more or less aligned. It needed something else, so I decided to add “The End” as text. I went to Da Font and found there’s actually a font called The End so naturally I had to use it.

So here’s what I made:

The audio samples are from:
The End, by the Doors
Waiting for the End of the World, by Elvis Costello
It’s the End of the World As We Know It, by REM
Skyfall, by Adele
We are the Champions, by Queen
The End, by the Beatles
From the Beginning, by Emerson, Lake and Palmer

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Ergot sum

The setting: 1960s Boston, the US capital of conservative Catholicism. The Catholic Church had made the decision to change the language of the Mass to the vernacular, so in America it was changing from Latin to English. This was rather controversial, so to pave the transition the first English mass was going to be said in Boston, and since the Pope was not well enough to travel, he personally blessed several thousand communion wafers for the event and Fr. George Sedgewick bring them to Boston. Sedgewick was murdered upon arrival at Logan Airport and the hosts were stolen. A plot was underway to dose the hosts with LSD and cause a major Sunday morning freak-out.

That’s part of the story of Bag Men, a crime novel by Mark Costello, originally published in 1997 under the pseudonym of John Flood. I thought that LSD caper was a crime worthy of the Joker. Unfortunately it’s only a minor part of the book, coming up in the final chapters. It’s still a good book in the genre of cops, corruption and criminals. I thought I should reread it before getting into Saint Peter’s Snow, which also deals with feeding hallucinogens to the masses, and is planned as a follow-up to our discussion of The Twenty Days of Turin.

This idea of town-wide tripping has some historical references: Some theorize that it was behind the Salem witch trials and a Dark Age death rave.

So that’s what I’m taking into the book. Let’s see what I get out of it.

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Adventures in translation

This morning I found this movie poster in my Tumblr feed. I wouldn’t exactly call it minimalism, but it is a close relative. I like the simplicity, the directness, the symmetry and the subtle use of texture in the cap. Intrigued, I looked into the movie. Roma a mano armata (Italian for Rome Armed to the Teeth) is an Italian poliziottesco from the mid 70s starring Maurizio Merli (Italian for Chuck Norris). I found a trailer on Youtube. While it’s not the kind of trailer where you really need to know the language, I thought I’d try to get translated subtitles anyway. I turned on the closed captioning and activated the auto-translate function. This may or may not be better than nothing. It listens to the sounds and tries to make it into words, but it can’t differentiate among speech, sounds effects, ambient noise and background music. And then it tries to translate those words from Italian into English, which adds to the potential for error. So you get these unintentionally humorous moments where gunshot sounds translate as “Welcome” and “Good morning.”

Since I thought that was kind of funny, I tried to capture it. I downloaded the video, but that didn’t bring the captions, which didn’t surprise me. I used Quicktime to capture a screen recording of the captioned video. This didn’t record the sound, but I could use Audacity to import the previously downloaded video and convert it to MP3, and then put that together with the screen recording in iMovie. That may sound like a lot, but actually the most time consuming part was waiting for iMovie to open.

If I had had the presence of mind to check IMBD in the first place, I would have found that it had a different title in the US. That trailer is on Youtube as well.  But then I would have missed all the fun.

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“They were watching, out there past men’s knowing…”

They were watching, out there past men’s knowing, where stars are drowning and whales ferry their vast souls through the black and seamless sea.
― Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West

I was testing out Youtube Live the other week, looking to see what had changed from the Hangouts on Air that we used to use to record video chats for ds106. I noticed something surprising in my video list: the Blood Meridian discussion Jim and I did had been viewed over 800 times.

This was shocking because almost all of my viewership is in the single digits, unless it’s something for ds106 where I might get two dozen views. Jim blogged about the discussion which certainly raised the visibility of it, but still, it seems a crazy number of views.

My guess is that people google for information on the book for lit classes, and our video comes up. It’s a top ten result when I look up “blood meridian discussion,” which I find hard to accept. Maybe students were trying to get around reading it, or maybe they wanted help in understanding it. Maybe they’re looking for ideas for essays and discussions of their own. Maybe, hopefully, my meager attempts as being open helped a few people out. I hope no one got an F because of us.

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Thoughts on copyright

So here’s a video in which I prattle on about copyright and fair use. I thought about opening with a mashup of No Expectations chords and Houses of the Holy lyrics, but I realized that a) I can’t sing and play at the same time, and b) I can’t sing. So much for that idea.

Coincidentally, I ran a copyright workshop for faculty Friday afternoon, using The Copyright Card Game. A few of us have been working on adapting the UK version, from Chris Morrison and Jane Secker of UK Copyright Literacy, for the US audience. We can do this because they were nice enough to release their game under a Creative Commons license. I’m interested in any input on the adaptation I can get. If anyone wants to help us work out how to incorporate the TEACH Act into it, I especially welcome the help. If anyone wants to make use of what we’ve done, that’s what it’s there for.


In @jennymackness post on Copyright, the Public Domain, and the Commons, she brings up issues of sharing and the so-called sharing economy. Some creative professionals are taken aback by sharing, not that anyone suggests that they have to share. The term sharing economy is often just a smiley face slapped on the exploitation of people in need. I am certainly not a great example of a sharer, certainly not as good as I ought to be. But I make things and write things in the course of doing my job, and maybe other people are able to make use of these things. I get paid to do my job, so it’s no loss to me to share things I’ve made in the course of my work. Maybe there is some way to monetize those things, but that would be more work, and more importantly, work I don’t want to do. There are many like me in education, who produce artifacts in the course of their paid work which may be useful to others. If we share our work, and others are able to make use of it, we gain recognition in our communities. We may gain a sense of satisfaction that we’ve done something important and valuable for our communities. For those intangibles to meaningful, however, we need to have stable jobs that pay living wages. It’s a sharing economy that rises not from desperation, but a lack thereof.

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