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

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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Mixed Up Mountain Jam

We had a Daily Create today for Mountain Day. The command for the Create is simply “Celebrate Mountain Day,” with no indication or suggestion as to how. I had seen Ted Gould’s tutorial (YT) on the bass line for Prince’s Mountains not too long ago, so I thought of mountains in song. There are a lot of them. I pulled snippets from a few:
Ain’t No Mountain High Enough by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell
Fire on the Mountain by the Grateful Dead
Mountain Song by Jane’s Addiction
Mississippi Queen by Mountain
Over the Mountain by Ozzy
Mountains by Prince
Mountain Jam by the Allman Brothers
and spliced them together. Most of the transitions are pretty bad, but there is some sort of flow to it. Being a Daily Create, I did it quickly, but if I put more time and thought into the selection and editing, I might be able to make something interesting. On the other hand, the content police will probably mute the piece anyway, so it may not be worth the investment. But until then, here’s the Mountain Mash:

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Important ds106 update!

CC2012 @markheybo

One of our tasks this week is to brainstorm ideas for what could be our final mission. We have a few early thoughts from our ace operatives:

Root out the mole(s). We know the Directorate has tried to woo some of our agents to their side. But apparently they also have agents among us. How do we address this issue without fracturing our ranks?

Bring in new recruits. Our training is almost done, but the ds106 mission goes on. What can we do to draw the right people? How do we find the new heroes of ds106? We need a vision for a multimodal recruitment campaign.

Take on the ultimate threat. One of our agents is on to a shadowy villain, and has a plan to draw him (or is it her?) out. I think we can make this happen. But then what? Once exposed, we need to neutralize the threat.

These are all good ideas. More will come up as the week progresses. We can also build upon ideas as they come in. ds106 management will collate and prioritize plans in preparation for our final mission.

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Agents on air, part 1

We’ve had two nights of ds106 radio broadcasts so far this week. Monday’s shows were Rogue Agents, a fun quiz type show, and Girl Power, an interesting discussion of women in the secret agent business. There is more to say about all of these shows, but it’s getting late and I need to get up early, so I’m just putting them out there.

Rogue Agents

Girl Power

Tuesday’s shows both had music themes. The Secret Agent Power Hour covered spy film theme songs through the years, and the Secret Agent Hip/Hop Hour compared rappers to secret agents.

Secret Agent Hip/Hop hour

Secret Agent Power Hour

They’re all very different takes on the genre, and all worth a listen. It’s great to hear what happens when people bring their creative powers together.

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So little time, so much to do

I never get to participate in Open Learning as much as I want to. Mostly it’s because I’m so slow to get my thoughts together in any coherent format, I think. But a simple activity came up today, So I’m dipping a toe in.

The suggestion was to annotate Barbara Fister’s article on the 30th anniversary of the Web. She’s in my pantheon, so I always watch for her work. I can’t really add anything meaningful to it, but I did throw in a couple annotations as a way of adding connections, which may inspire others to try the same.

Hypothesis lets you add your thoughts on a web page. That by itself is cool, but you can also add tags and hyperlinks in your annotations, building a web within the web. And each of those annotations has a web address, so they can become nodes. As an example of the latter, I annotated a Berners-Lee Wikiquote and hyperlinked that in my annotation of one of his quotes in the article. Another line in the article reminded me of an old saying, so I annotated it with a link to an article about the saying.

I don’t know my little associative trails will do much for anyone, but I thought it might be useful to provide the examples. Fister mentions Maria Popova and Brain Pickings as an example of trailblazing. Like cross-references in an encyclopedia, the links and connections we make on the Web give us and others way to expand our knowledge. Tools like blogs and Hypothesis give us ways to make the web our own. The way it was meant to be all along.

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For the birds

I love the idea of a Pet Film Poster Mashup, yesterday’s Daily Create. I wasn’t really sure what to do for it though. I don’t have a pet of favorite animal, unless the Guinea worm counts. So I started thinking about movies and movie posters, but quickly realized that there were too many of them. Then I googled “top films of 2018,” and one of the titles that came up was Widows, which was really good, and had a cool poster. As a bonus, the way the poster was designed would make it easy to swap in an animal. The next step was to figure out what animal to use. I remembered to pigeon picture from an old listicle, one that I liked enough to make my desktop wallpaper.

To make them work together, the pigeons would need to be grayscale. I went to the Hue & Saturation function under the Image->Adjustments menu, and slid the saturation all the way down. I also tweaked the contrast a bit (Ctrl-L) to make it a little darker to fit in with the poster. I went to the poster and made a duplicate layer, then cut out some of the characters. I copied the pigeons picture and pasted it in the poster, and moved it behind the duplicate layer, and lined up some pigeons in the openings. They didn’t just all fall into place so I had to do some duplication and trimming to get the pigeon faces where I wanted them. You will notice that all the faces have a kind of a spotlight on them, so it fades to black at the edges. I needed to simulate that effect to really make the birds fit. I changed the rectangular selection tool to elliptical and set the feathering at 20 pixels, and then selected around each pigeon head and filled the background with black. The feathering gave it the gradation to fade to black and the elliptical selection acted as a spotlight. I took it a step further and re-did the title. I used Arial Black to get the heavy letters, and made some adjustments to the letterspacing and horizontal scaling to get it to fit and look right. The I used the polygonal selection tool to copy the characters and paste them in front of the type. I used the magic wand to grab the “Widows” letters and fill them with black.

That’s probably a little overboard for a Daily Create. Because I have some experience with Photoshop, I knew how to do what I wanted to do, mostly, so I didn’t do much trial and error experimentation. In hindsight, I think changing the title was a step too far, and it cost the image a lot of subtlety. I could have made some sort of pigeon pun with the other text. I also notice that the poster isn’t really grayscale, but rather has a dark sepia cast, so I should have done something to make the pigeons fit better. Live and learn.

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Design another book

I’ve been thinking about my own questions – What makes a book cover look like a book cover? etc. – and thought I’d do an analysis of a design here. So here’s a mock book cover design from mock design master Cris Shapan:

Two things jump out at me immediately. One is the shape. Books commonly have a rectangular shape, usually something close to the Golden Rectangle that I believe Vignelli referenced. The other is the details we typically see on a book. Title and author are expected, but we also have some publisher details that would indicate “book” even if it didn’t literally spell it out. If we whited out the artwork, it would still look like a book.

The artwork does something as well. My guess is the image comes from another book.  (which I found through google image search) There’s a style to it that fits cheap paperbacks of a certain era. It looks like something my mom would have read. The iconography and typography are retro, harking back to the 50s & 60s.

Note how the yellow color contrasts nicely with the blue and black background. They are almost complementary colors, meaning that if you looked them up on a color wheel, they would be on opposite sides. The yellow color is also picked up from the woman’s hair, which brings a unity to the design. The black type at the bottom similarly ties to the black in the background, yet contrasts with the lighter color behind it. Subtle and effective.

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