Red Dawn Reimagined

I found Red Dawn on Netflix the other week. I had actually never seen it before, so, given our theme, I thought I’d check it out. The idea of Soviet proxy forces attacking a high school in the middle of nowhere, USA, is about as ludicrous as the thought that the couple from Dirty Dancing would lead the resistance, but that’s Cold War paranoia for you. I thought it might make a good sound effects story though. In my version, Godzilla shows up to save the day, after a fashion. He was hibernating through most of the 80s, but if WWIII woke him up, he’d be on our side.

Most of this came from Freesound:
School bell.wav
Chalk on chalkboard.wav
Kids in classroom
War sounds
Crowd in panic

I found the Godzilla screech on Youtube. I brought him into the story mainly because he has such an iconic sound. To put this together, I needed school sounds and combat sounds, hence the bell, voices, chalkboard, helicopter and gunfire. I thought I should have some sort of building collapsing sound to go with Godzilla. I couldn’t find one I liked so I settled on the earthquake. After downloading everything, I imported all of them into Audacity. I went through each track and renamed them so it would be easier for me to edit. Then I arranged them vertically, from first sound to last, again for ease of editing. The import left them all starting at the beginning, so I had to move sounds horizontally on the timeline. I changed the View to Zoom->Normal (ease of editing again), and to move a sound, I highlighted it, cut it and pasted it in later in the timelime. I clipped some sound effects shorter and added some fade in and fade out effects to others. Level-wise, they sounded balanced enough on playback. I noticed the chalkboard sounds lasted longer then the rest. They were drowned out by all the commotion, and up by the top of the stack so I didn’t see it. So I ended up with the copters and gunfire and screaming and screeching and when it all died down, there was still someone calmly writing on the chalkboard. It was good for a laugh, but not what I was going for so I cut it shorter. Here’s what my Audacity screen looked like:

From there I exported to mp3 and uploaded to Soundcloud. Audacity automatically mixed it down to two tracks.

It was fun to do and I think it came out well. As I wrote this up, I was quite aware that the reason it went so smoothly had a lot to do with familiarity with the program. All those little things I did for ease of editing saved time and frustration, but that came from previous struggles.

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“We’ve got fun and games…”

Some musings on this past week in ds106:

I’m glad someone did the timeline assignment.  There are many more assignments than I can keep track of. If I knew about this one ahead of time, I might have made it recommended or required, if I had thought of taking this approach to it. There are an infinite number of ways we could choose to connect to the 80s theme. We can see some themes emerging from the timeline: advancing technology, political tensions, environmental concerns. All of these are relevant to us today. It would have been interesting to see the similarities and contrasts between different people’s views.

I think this week I really challenged myself, and I have to say I’m proud of all the work that I’ve done.

This is pretty much the best thing I can hear in ds106. It’s not so much about what we make, or doing anything perfectly, but rather looking for ways to grow creatively and expressively, and recognizing the value in our accomplishments. That’s not likely to look the same for any two of us.

One thing that people find particularly challenging with writing assignments is blogging the process. It’s usually not meaningful to talk about the technical aspects of using a keyboard or a word processing program in the same way as we might discuss creating a GIF with Photoshop. But in both cases, there are decision-making processes taking place. This post gives a good example of reflecting on the writing process. It’s not the only way to do it of course. There are many ways to open a window upon our thoughts and efforts.

I didn’t really like the daily creates this week. I’m hoping next week there will be more that include photoshop and stuff like that

The Daily Create is really about developing a regular habit of creativity. There is no “right” way to do it. Friend of ds106 @dogtrax often uses a comic strip creator to respond to prompts.

And I used Photoshop last week for a poem prompt. We all have permission to creatively reinterpret prompts and assignments. But we need to beware of putting ourselves in a rut too, so we shouldn’t make everything a Photoshop project.

The CIA would like to formally declare that more dancing would be a huge positive to modern life, and would like to make a motion to require more dancing in daily human lives.

I am in no way a dancer, but I move to nominate Agent Burke for Director of the CIA.

I also wanted to muse on the banner for this blog. Of course ds106 wants to have fun. We’ve got fun and games. But the pairing of Cyndi Lauper’s hit with Guns n Roses also reflects two competing moods of 80s culture. On one hand, there was the upbeat, happy components, like Girls Just Want to Have Fun or Back to the Future or the numerous comedies of the decade. On the other hand, there was a dark side, represented by the horror of Stephen King and the numerous slasher films. And tech-noir, which along with cyberpunk came into its own in the 80s, looking at the way things were and forecasting dark times ahead. They Live, which has been mentioned elsewhere in ds106, was an example of the genre. I’ve thought about using tech-noir as a theme for ds106 in the past, but I felt it might be too specific and limited, not to mention a bit dark for some people’s tastes. Generalizing out to 80s pop culture as a whole gives more leeway for everyone to find their own angles on the theme, so we can all make of it what we will.

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Your fly is down

I thought I’d look at the 1986 version of The Fly and try a story shape analysis. Something that occurred to me when watching Vonnegut talk about the shapes of stories is that he’s talking about one character’s story. Cinderella’s story takes a different shape from that of the prince or the wicked stepmother.

The Fly makes a good example because there are basically only three characters of any consequence: the scientist, the journalist and the editor. I see all their stories as downhill slides. The editor starts off on the negative side because he’s been dumped by the journalist. He gets a boost when he thinks he can play the knight in shining armor and save the day, but then he gets crippled by the fly. So he starts down and it only gets worse. The journalist’s fortunes go up early as she finds a good story and a new relationship, but the relationship goes bad. You could say her story takes an upturn towards the end since she comes out alive. The scientist’s story follows a similar path, as he gets his experiments start to be successful and he finds himself in a new relationship. But he also is infected with the fly genome and loses himself to it. I suppose we could count the fly as a fourth character. If we don’t count its story as ending in the teleporter, then it goes up as its persona takes over the scientist, then takes a nosedive at the end. It’s a tragedy for all involved.

There is a lot of potential in looking at stories from the points of view of different characters – not exactly a Rashomon effect, but perhaps something analogous. What does the story of The Breakfast Club, for example, look like from the point of view of the janitor or the assistant principal? What is a significant event to the kids might be just another day to them, or a minor annoyance. But it shows that a story can have more than one shape, depending on your angle of view.

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Looking back at Week Two

What I learned this week: Many things are not what they seem. I can be a hero. It is easy to forget about what is ‘invisible’. And like the aliens in They Live, digital images and arts are all around me: I just can’t see them.

I love these insights. Talking to people today about media is almost like talking to fish about water. One of my hopes is that by producing and analyzing media, we will grow more conscious of its role in our lives and society. Grow is a key term here, because we are never done. They Live presents that consciousness as a binary – put on the glasses and you will see. The reality is that that awareness has complexity and many layers of depth.

Perfectionism isn’t always the answer.

Perfectionism is the enemy. Nothing is ever perfect and everything can always be improved. Our creative activities are done when we stop tinkering and say, Good enough, or, Good enough for now. At some point we need to stop and take stock of what we have learned. Even if we try something and it fails, we can still learn from it. If that happens with an assignment, it doesn’t need to be lost time. We could still write it up, say what we were trying to do, how we tried, where we think it went wrong, what we could have done differently, and evaluate what we learned for our efforts. And then it’s not a failure, but rather an investment of time and effort with a documented payoff. It could very well be worth an A.

This one was tricky for me to connect to the course theme because the rules of the assignment asked to include a gif of your favorite sports play of the year.

The assignments in this course are creative challenges, not tests. Being creative is important, following rules is not. So there’s never anything wrong with taking a novel approach or reinterpreting guidelines, as long as we exercise creativity, challenge ourselves, and show what we learned from it.

Also heard this week:
There was a comment about having to do 4 Daily Creates in 5 days. Since the weeks run Friday to Friday, there are technically 8 Daily Create opportunities each week, although one probably shouldn’t double-dip on Friday. The point of the Daily Create is to make something. Regularly. It doesn’t have to be good. It doesn’t have to feel like work. There is no way to get it wrong, other than to not do it.

Several people expressed interest in learning more about Photoshop. I learned a lot through books, and just trying stuff. The UMW Libraries have many ebooks on Photoshop, like these:
Teach yourself visually Photoshop CS6

Photoshop CS5 Bible

Or if you don’t have access to Photoshop, there’s the Gimp:
GIMP 2.6 cookbook over 50 recipes to produce amazing graphics with the GIMP

There will be differences in menus and functionality in different versions of Photoshop, but structurally and conceptually it’s pretty consistent. Some of the books are very thorough and extensive. My Photoshop Bible has over 800 pages. It is probably easier just to google for tutorials on whatever you want to do. You will usually have many options and various formats. One of the things people usually get out of this course is more confidence that they can find out how to figure anything out. It’s just  matter of taking advantage of the information available.

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on Black Flags and bar codes

Today’s Daily Create asked us to “Compose a cutup poem from the words that debuted in your birth year.” This was inspired by a tweet from Amy Burvall which I liked so much that I made it a ds106 assignment, which I eventually need to do. But the first thing that caught my eye when I looked at the list for 1963 was the juxtaposition of black flag and bar code. Black Flag was an 80s hardcore band. I never listened to them back then, but I was aware of them from their distinctive album covers and logo. The four black bars of the logo are distantly analogous to the black stripes of a barcode, a kind of visual rhyme, so putting the two together was rather obvious.

The process was fairly straightforward. An image search found the logo and a barcode, and I brought them both into Photoshop. I used the Image=>Canvas Size function to make the logo image a wide rectangle, then I pasted the barcode in as a new layer. The barcode was way too big so I used Edit=>Transform=>Scale to make it fit. I had it right next to the logo, then thought it would be better to have it overlap a little. I cropped out the Black Flag text and the numbers under the code.

The challenge in the Daily Create was to make a poem. Using it as an inspiration to make a visual is not wrong per se, but it is a bit of a cop-out because for me, working with images is far less challenging than working with words. But I have plans to do more with the list so it’s OK by me. I could have experimented with putting the images together differently, like in the GIF to the right, but I view the Daily Create as more of a quickie and less of a tinkering project. But the more I think about the first image, the more I like it. The logo was supposed to represent anarchy, and Black Flag is supposed to be the opposite of the white flag of surrender. I also see a vitality in the up-and-down rhythm of the black bars of the logo, which flatlines into the bar code. You could read something about the impact of commercialism on art in the image. Maybe it’s more poetic than I thought.

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Thoughts on thoughts

I enjoyed reading through everyone’s thoughts on the 80s theme. Some people are enthusiastic about it, others don’t know what to make of it but seem up to trying. Most of us only know it vicariously, through parents, re-runs and old movies.

“The 80’s is a decade I don’t give too much credit…but I should.” 

I think a lot of the way things are now was forged in the 80s, or foreseen in various ways. It interests me to look back with that perspective. But it also interests me to see other perspectives. Yesterday an article from Consequence of Sound came across my radar. It reads to me like a 40-something waxing nostalgic and wishing things could be like they were. Would people today want gatekeepers like that? Don’t they have their own filters? I think there is a value in having a common cultural vocabulary. Broadcast media used to give some stability to that, where individually curated media streams do not.

“why were the TV and movies produce the way that they were and was it because they were all just try to distract themselves from what was going on in the world.” 

“We couch all discussion in jokes about the horrible fashion and silly hairdos, not ever truly touching on the origins and issues that made the 80’s Like That.” 

These are questions worth exploring. In some ways culture provides distraction. But it can also focus attention, and reflect attitudes and realities, in both explicit and allegorical ways. I also wonder why certain images of the decade persist. If we look at what was popular on TV in the 80s, how much of it means anything today? People know about fashion and style. No one remembers Hill Street Blues. I forgot about it myself.

“I feel this class should teach us to step out of our comfort zones and try new and fun things we have been afraid or doubting to try, as these stars were known to break boundaries (and history).” 

This is a beautiful attitude. I think a lot of us have already stepped out of our comfort zones just in the first week. Can we break boundaries, in a good way, and make history, even if only in our small ways, with what we do in this class? I think it’s possible. I think it’s worth a try.

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80s recommendations

Below are the class’ recommendations for examples of good storytelling related to the 80s theme. They’re predominantly video, which is not surprising since that’s probably the dominant form of storytelling for the times, then and now. I’ve included the titles, hyperlinks if provided, and the descriptions:

While it was released in the early 90s, I believe this movie is a good representation of a major social issue in the 80s that college students of this era may not be aware of. The movie itself is an excellent example of storytelling and reaching out to the audience.

80s Anti-Drug Commercial – Your Brain On Drugs
This was very relevant in the 80s

The Goldbergs
I think it is a comedic way of showing how a typical American family lived in the 80’s but through a more family friendly side. It includes real footage from the 80’s as well as accurately portrays the day to day interactions and objects they would have used. It shows a family’s life in the 80’s but also you can get a glimpse of what things were like before the advanced technology but also what they were like while that technology was coming about. They also have children around the age of highschoolers/college students so many of us can relate and still have the same struggles today which shows how while society had changed and updated, teen struggles stay the same in some instances.

The History of Evolution of Pop Art
This source not only describes what 80’s pop art was like, but also shows lots of examples of pop art and how it evolved in this decade. 

Full House
I grew up watching Full House with my family and everyone loved it. I think it was a hit in the 80s and is still popular today. They also released Fuller House on Netflix with most of the same characters which is insetting to me because it has been a while since the original show had aired. 

The Breakfast Club
I chose The Breakfast Club because I think it is a great visual of the different types of people during the 80s. I also think it showcases the different fashion choices during the time along with the difference of high school and school in general then vs now. 

Pretty in Pink
It is a popular movie from the 80’s that shows teenage problems growing up. I think this movie is a good example of pop culture because it is from a teenage point of view and shows a lot of popular things in the 80’s. 

2001 Documentary on 80s Pop and Birth of MTV Music Videos
The 80s revolutionized the birth of music videos. We suddenly could both hear and see music. It symbolized an era of prosperity.  

Sixteen Candles
“What I wanted to focus on in this movie were the romantic and comedic tropes that were in the 80s that would be considered sensitive today. It showed some of the negative aspects of the 80s that we today would consider controversial whereas in those times it was the norm–or at least, not an issue. For example, the characterization of Long Duk Dong is that of a stereotypical Asian. At that time, playing off of those stereotypes was okay, but today people would consider it offensive from this name, to the way he talked, to the way others treated him. The other issue was its condoning of date rape where Jake Ryan and Ted talk about how they could “”violate”” Jake’s girlfriend Caroline all sorts of ways without her knowing it since she was passed out from a party. During those times, the concept of date rape had not surfaced yet, and so no one would think twice about this as opposed to now.
I recommend this movie for the lens it shines on 80s storytelling with regards to romance and comedy. There were aspects to it that would face much criticism today, but it sheds light on how much has changed between then and now, to see what was acceptable then versus now. Of course, that doesn’t change the fact that it’s a clever romantic-comedy and coming-of-age film with its own timeless charm.
Note: I sent the URL; unfortunately, it is not free to watch and requires some payment to rent/buy.”

the 80s
When the topic ‘the 80s’ come up, I automatically think of music from the 80s such as Micheal Jackson or Bon Jovi. 

its remake came out in december and the reaction to/connections between the original musical and the new movie musical could be interesting

we didn’t start the fire
It was released in 1989, and the nature of the song is very reflective of the decade as a whole which is interesting, but also on the previous few decades, providing a perspective straight out of the 80’s

Blade Runner
It is an excellent film from the 1980’s which creates a distopian world which may eventually occur

The Goonies
The goonies is a group of kids in the 80s, and it is still iconic today because it represents how carefree and fun being a kid was in this time period. Shows like Strange Things sort of try to replicate it. I think it is important because of how influential the movie is and I think it would be good for discussing!

Retrowaste Blog
I think this source of information is super organized. It has a post for many different aspects of the 80’s that I think would be helpful to look through these. 

Michael Jackson Moonwalking
I think that this gif of michael jackson doing the moonwalk is synonymous with the 80’s.

The point of this exercise was to try to get a group vision of good storytelling (in whatever form it might take) from or about the 80s. By putting all of our ideas together, it might help us get more ideas going forward. Other people may bring up things we missed, didn’t think of, or never knew about.

Literature tends not to come up, maybe because people don’t like to read anymore. I looked up 80s bestsellers, and see that Stephen King shows up repeatedly. It’s interesting to see Jason Bourne there as well. King shows up on the list of 1980s short stories frequently too. I have a personal interest in the graphic novel as a storytelling form. The canonical examples of the form come from the 80s. The Watchmen (available in the Simpson Library) was made into a film a decade ago or so, and inspired a recent HBO series. The Dark Knight Returns (which can be borrowed through the Internet Archive) had a lasting impact on the vision of Batman and superheroes in general. One thing that in particular that interests me about these two works is the use of design in storytelling, through illustration, through the construction of the page, and through the structure of the works. 

There are podcasts about the 80s for people who are into that sort of thing, but as far as I can tell it wasn’t a great era for audio drama. 

To add to thoughts on the theme, I have a couple of earlier posts, one with a goofy video about the past as archeology and one with a conversation about the times and the course. As I mentioned before, I’m interested in how the past informs the present. Blade Runner is an interesting example because the film was set in current times. It’s how the 80s saw today. I don’t expect anyone to share my interests though. Individually and as a group we will determine where we go with this theme.

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Elmer to the rescue

It’s not necessary to do write-ups for Daily Creates, but I do them sometimes just because. Yesterday’s Daily Create asked us to add a rescue vehicle to a piece of art. I liked the inspiration for the challenge, but I wanted to find a way to do it differently. I thought I might make it an audio piece, so I went to Freesound, my go-to source for sound effects, and looked for a fire truck. Now I had to think of what I could do with it. My first thought was the old Ohio Players song, but I thought that already had a siren. Thinking about other “Fire” songs, I remembered Robin Williams’ Elmer Fudd impersonation where he sang Springsteen’s song. I downloaded the Freesound clip and the video, and imported them both into Audacity. In hindsight, I realize I could have just exported to MP3 right away, since I know from prior experience that the program mixes tracks upon export. But I applied a fade-in effect to the video soundtrack and copied and pasted the sound effect as a outro first, then uploaded the output to Soundcloud

It’s hardly a masterpiece of creative inspiration, but it’s something. And that’s really the point – to make something, to get in a habit of regular creativity. If we wait for the brilliant ideas to come, it may never happen, but if we create for the sake of creating, we can generate ideas, and maybe find a way to make something brilliant out of the work we have cataloged.

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The sound of ds

Digital storytelling is a short form of digital media production that allows everyday people to share aspects of their story. Wikipedia

Digital storytelling at its most basic core is the practice of using computer-based tools to tell stories.” University of Houston

If you think about it, typing a story in a word processor or telling one over the phone is telling a story through digital means. From that perspective, just about anything could be a digital story. But what is a story? Generally we take it to mean a narration of events. There’s a linearity to it – beginning, middle, and end – and it has meaning. The digital environment changes that though. The key superpower of the digital is the hyperlink, IMHO. That means stories can be less linear and more immersive, with multiple trails to navigate through as readers/experiencers find their own ways. Digital stories can have very nontraditional structure. I think they can also be more fragmentary, like the way memes work as part of a larger cultural narrative

Digital can change the nature of the storyteller as well as the story. It can lower the skill barriers and the gatekeeping hurdles. We can all be artists. This was one of the ideas behind the Center for Digital Storytelling. It’s what we do in ds106.

One of the things I’m interested in these days is the way we can talk about music online. Adam Neely’s video, Scotch Snaps in Hip Hop

is not just a simple video. He’s used digital techniques to combine sound, image and video to tell a story of how the music people like connects to the language they use and the way they speak. It’s worth considering how the sound tells the story, and how the editing tells the story, and how it all works together.

Another example, non-video, is Ethan Hein’s post on Deconstructing the bassline in Herbie Hancock’s “Chameleon”. There’s a lot of theory in there that should theoretically be over my head, and a lot of it is, but the way it’s broken down and illustrated with interactive examples makes much of it comprehensible. Again, sound and image are edited together with text to convey meaning in a way that they couldn’t do separately. The Noteflight tool is particularly interesting

and the Groove Pizza for rhythm as well. I might actually be able to make something with the latter.

Maybe this is a bit of a ramble, but it serves as an example of using my blog to think out loud, so to type.

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test post

testing… 1, 2

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