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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Pondering project ideas

There will be more details on the final project forthcoming, but basically it is a major project, on par with the radio show, which has to have something to do with our theme, and has to incorporate multiple different media, which interconnect in some way. I am collecting here some of the ideas people came up with, and adding my thoughts to them. Hopefully this will help people get ideas and start to think about where they might go with them.


“A story of an 80s movie, told as if it’s a video diary. So Breakfast Club, we’d choose one character, and tell the story from just that one person’s point of view. With Back to the Future, instead of following Marty’s side of the story, we’d follow one of his parents.”

I like this idea because it has some constraints, which can help to focus your creativity. It gives a starting point too, and connects to familiar stories. I also think about Vonnegut’s shapes of stories, and how they are specific to characters. What is the Old Man’s story in Robocop? What shape might it take? 


“Maybe, a story about an 80s movie, and creating a different ending or beginning. Messing around with the climax or the movie message itself by recreating it, or adding to it.”

This reminds me of The Shining Recut, which takes Kubrick’s vision of King’s story and seemingly turns it into a sappy family movie. We could expand on that idea by coming up with marketing material like a poster and a radio commercial, and create a movie review to go with it. Could we make Sixteen Candles into a horror movie? I don’t know, but it would be fun to try.


“I kind of like the idea of taking iconic scenes from movies or TV during the 80’s and rewriting the dialogue to match how it would sound if it took place today, in 2019. I think the times, while being similar, are also extremely different when it comes to individual interactions between people that it could be really interesting. Or taking it even further, possibly take an entire plot and try to pass it through a 2019 filter and talk about how it would probably turn out in today’s cinema, what would be different and what could stay the same”

Seriously, would any of those movies be the same if people had cell phones? What if we took the Swede a Scene assignment and built it out to re-envision multiple scenes with modern technology and attitudes?


“Make an 80’s style music video set to some modern music.”

Some 80s videos were pretty primitive. With what’s available in the HCC Production Studio, you could easily do something just as good or better.


“I enjoyed recreating an 80’s teen who experience all the trends that we are examining in this class.”

Building stories around characters is something we have done often in ds106. I didn’t push it this time because I didn’t think it would fit with the theme, but there are ways to make it work and it opens up more narrative possibilities.


“This inspired me to maybe base my final project on being a news reporter in the ’80s (specifically in Hawkins??) and using the different types of media to report on all the strange things happening in town.”

This has many possibilities too. I wonder what a reporter from the 80s would say about our current times. The news angle would give the project a certain format and style. You might even use 80s news videos as models. 


“My first idea is to compare the daily lives of people in the 80’s to people today. Or to ask people who grew up in the 80’s to compare their lives now to what it was like in the 80’s.”


“One project idea I had for the 80s theme was a life in the day of the 80s where you do research and create a narrative of someone or multiple people living in the 80s for a day.”

I don’t know if I’ve ever seen someone do a research/interview project for ds106 before, so naturally I’m all for it. This would be great for a final project. You could use multiple media to bring in documentary evidence to complement the interview. You could play it straight and do a real interview, or you could do something fictional and dramatic, like Jason Voorhees reminiscing about the old days. 

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“And you may look the other way”

I saw this GIF on Twitter and just had to do it. Sorry. This idea is entirely lifted from @Pandamoanimum. I used Twitter Video Downloader to grab the GIF and the YouTube Video and Audio Downloader in Firefox to get Travolta and the Bee Gees. I imported them both into iMovie. The GIF downloaded as an mp4 video, which made it easy to combine. I brought the music video in and played it to the point where the title came in and stopped it there, then inserted the cat video at that point. The video is short so I pulled it in a second time right a the end of the first one. On playback I noticed the the shape of the videos didn’t match, so I used the Crop to Fill function on the cat video.

I uploaded it to Vimeo. See how long it stays there. It might have been better to just use the music and the cat and pig video, and get to the point without the intro part. Or maybe I could have added some opening credit text to it. If I adjusted the speed of the video so that the stepping fit the beat it might have been a subtle improvement, but it probably also would have gone unnoticed. So you get what you got. “And now it’s alright, it’s okay…”

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“Can you fly, Bobby?”

I recently watched Paul Verhoeven’s 80s tech noir classic Robocop and thought it might be interesting to do a little design analysis on the Omni Consumer Products logo. The first thing I notice is that OCP is an inversion of cop. While this is not a visual design aspect exactly, it does carry meaning. The underlying story in the film is policing turned inside-out by a profiteering corporation, hence the inversion.

Some of the more obvious points of the design:

  • the octagonal shape, like a STOP sign. That could be read as a message or warning. It also symbolizes control over the flow of traffic
  • The metallic chrome finish. This can signify strength, a shield, technology, modernity, hardness, and also reflection. It does all of these things at once, in our subconscious, mostly.
  • the design is reminiscent of a labyrinth. I don’t know if this was intentional, but it can make for an interesting read, connecting to the concept of the minotaur as a symbol of power.
  • On the other hand, we could also see it as a web and a spider, symbolizing trap and predation, danger.

And what does this mean to today? The name, Omni Consumer Products, suggests a company that sells everything, a company that’s everywhere. Which sounds familiar, like a company currently investing in surveillance and marketing to law enforcement. In the movie, the company describes itself as one that invests in traditionally unprofitable sectors – hospitals, prisons, law enforcement – and makes money out of it. That kind of privatization was happening in the 80s. It has accelerated since.

As I was working on this I found a site that does a much more detailed and in-depth analysis of the logo design, and several others from the movies, which may be worth a look.

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Chuck on the Clash

I listened to the Stay Free podcast a few months ago. It’s Chuck D of Public Enemy narrating the story of The Clash. It bleeds off the edges of our ds106 80s theme, as The Clash was late 70s-early 80s and PE was late 80’s into 90s and beyond, but it connects. I thought it would be interesting to analyze one minute of the production to see what went into it. I played the first minute of the show with Soundflower as my audio output, and recorded it into Audacity with Soundflower as the audio input. Then I exported the recording as an mp3 and uploaded it to SoundCloud. (Hopefully it stays there for a while.) One of the things you can do with SoundCloud is annotate audio. You can stop playback and add a comment at the point where you stopped.

I marked every time I heard an edit – where it sounds like different recordings were spliced together. I counted six, which isn’t a big number in itself, but it shows a lot of work that went into that one minute. Just the physical act of putting the parts together so that they flow smoothly and are evenly balanced would take time, even in the hands of an expert. On top of that is making, finding and indexing the recordings, and planning how to bring them together. Good planning makes the production easier though.

That work pays off in the way the piece holds the listener’s interest and attention. I especially like that little shift from where it sounds like Chuck D is on the other end of a phone call to where it sounds like he’s right there with us. That could be two recordings spliced together or one recording with some kind of phone filter applied to part of it. Either way, it activates our attention without being distracting.

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