Blog moved!

Howdy folks! I’ve merged my ds106 blog with my main blog, erstrong.wordpress.com, and all new ds106 posts will be going there. Because OMG maintaining two blogs can get to be so confusing, and a lot of my recent posts overlap between the two. There is a specific ds106 feed if you aren’t interested in reading my random thoughts about ed tech, LMSs, design, and whatever else strikes my fancy.

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Introducing the New Reality Show “Going to the Myth”! (okay this one is somewhat serious)

When I began the Really Reality TV assignment, it was just one I picked at semi-random that I thought would get my creative juices flowing for today. So I clicked on the Reality TV Show name generator, and the first couple options were boring or just didn’t capture my imagination. But then I got Going to the Myth, and I thought, “hey, I like mythology, this could be fun!” Boy was I in for a surprise.

When you do a Google search for “going to the myth”, the fifth option is a Cracked article on alcohol myths, and the tenth is on myths about introverts. At first this struck me as a truly random combination of results and I had no idea what to do with it (and frankly, the juxtaposition of the two passages is a little odd). And then it occurred to me that although I’ve known a few people with substance abuse problems or all-out alcoholism who meet the stereotypes of the emotionally troubled or self-destructive alcoholic or a “party hard” fan who partied a little too hard, the majority have been people who use alcohol to overcome social anxiety. Heck, I’ve drunk a little too much before in situations in which I was nervous or felt like it would help me click with a group.

One thing that I have learned in life after college (and trust me, it took me a while to learn this) is that the people I have to get drunk to feel comfortable socializing with are not the people I want to be friends with. And I don’t enjoy “house parties” or bars – I can’t hear the conversations most of the time, and when I can, they usually aren’t interesting. I’d much rather hand out at a coffee shop, or invite a friend over for tea, and for meeting new people and making new friends there are lots of other ways to do it. You have to put in some effort, but in the end you end up finding friends who are a much better fit than those you find when drunk.

So that’s my PSA to all the people who drink to overcome social anxiety or awkwardness. A very different prologue than I had expected to write for a reality show called Going to the Myth. And now on to the show…

GoingtotheMyth

Show Description:
Considering that booze is one of the pillars of human civilization, it’s kind of shocking how little we know about it. For instance, we pointed out a while back that some popular misconceptions about alcohol persist despite being goddamned fatal.*

It can be terribly destructive for an Introvert to deny themselves in order to get along in an Extrovert-Dominant World. Like other minorities, Introverts can end up hating themselves and others because of the differences. If you think you are an Introvert, I recommend you research the topic and seek out other Introverts to compare notes. The burden is not entirely on Introverts to try and become “normal.” Extroverts need to recognize and respect us, and we also need to respect ourselves.**

Elevator Pitch:
How many people do you know who drink because it “loosens them up” and helps them “come out of their shell” or even turn into that mythical “life of the party”? In Going to the Myth, we follow one man’s struggle to overcome his shyness at parties and in the process enter into a battle with alcoholism that will change his life forever.

Tag Line: Do you really need to party hard? Can’t you just join a book club?


Text Sources:
*The 5 Most Ridiculous Drinking Myths You Probably Believe

**Myths About Introverts

Image Sources: Just shy (not antisocial) by George Kelly (“allaboutgeorge”), Alcohol Poisoning PSA Video Shoot by Stop Alcohol Deaths, Inc., Drinking Skills by FunGI_

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Revenge of the 3 Day Old Cup

For the Daily Create of writing an ode to an underappreciated object, hansolo wrote an ode to a “3 day old cup” in which s/he fantasized about smashing a dirty old cup rather than washing it. I imagine the cup would not be okay with this treatment. Here is the cup’s response:

Dude, you’re going to smash me on the floor just because you’re too lazy to put me in the dishwasher? That’s messed up. How about the pieces of me that you leave shattered and alone hang out on that floor until you forget we’re there at 3 AM on your way to the bathroom? How many stitches do you think you’ll need, just because you couldn’t wash a cup?

Adapted from "Broken Cat Mug" by Aric McKeown: http://flic.kr/p/5z9d2G

Adapted from “Broken Cat Mug” by Aric McKeown: http://flic.kr/p/5z9d2G

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Raiders of the French Kitchen

I have to say, I think designing a poster for an action movie starring Julia Child is my favorite daily create to date. Julia Child was a hardcore badass who knew how to debone a duck. And she was a spy. So she would make an awesome star of an action movie. She already starred in her own TV show, how hard could a transition to film be?

So here it is, the Julia Child action vehicle… Raiders of the French Kitchen.

RaidersOftheFrenchKitchen

This is my favorite image I’ve created for DS106 thus far, and I think it reflects how much my image editing skills have improved (compare to Smoking Warhol or the first image in Lord of the Obama, though the second one is much better and took A LOT of effort).

I had to use various filters to add noise and make Julia Child look more cartoonish (though she still doesn’t look like a cartoon, sigh), and there were a number of tweaks to the curves to get the colors to match. Then there was the challenge of getting Indian Jones on his rope and Marion running away to appear in front of Julia. Layers, brushed on masks, and more layers. And some brushing at the pixel-level.  Yes, it looks photoshopped, but it is well balanced, and looks much cleaner than anything I could have produced six months ago. There aren’t weird fuzzy borders or bits and pieces of the layered images missing, things are well blended, and image sizes are well matched.

I suppose this is a testimony to how much DS106 can help with your design skills. The frequent practice, bordering on immersion, makes a tremendous difference, allowing you to better tell stories. Because I wasn’t getting flustered by techniques, I was able to focus on concept, integrating Julia Child Holding A Knife Like A Badass into an Indian Jones movie. Because she really was a badass.

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A Study in Gender

Slinky, poofy, tight, fun to spin around in – they vary quite a bit
Kids (mostly girls) go through phases of loving the symbol of their gender
I was a determined tomboy so I refused to wear them
Right up until I was twenty-four I was a pants-wearing girl
Then I joined a business casual workplace

This daily create was a lot of fun to write, and provided some interesting self-reflection. I think it was around age seven or eight that I suddenly began to refuse to wear dresses and skirts. Girls wore those, and they were hard to run in, awkward for climbing trees, and adults got mad at you if you sat cross-legged while wearing them. Skirts were lame.

I still occasionally wore them for formal occasions, but then I joined Model UN. I bought my first pants suit and never wanted to wear a damned skirt again. Until I joined a business casual workplace where slacks are a tad too formal, and khakis are easily wrinkled, so skirts it is.

And then I discovered that tights and a pair of shorts under a skirt is SO MUCH WARMER THAN PANTS. And I live in Boston. So I’m sold.

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Conducting a GIF

American Beauty, the greatest film of all time, is full of noise. Music. The sounds of life. The wind. Cars. Sex. Conversations. The shower. Ethereal songs from the soundtrack. And Lester Burnham is conducting this noise. Or at least, he aggressively takes over conducting it, after sleeping though his life for years. So here is a GIF to celebrate Lester Burnham taking charge of the soundtrack of his life:

 LesterConducting-11

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Hercules Attends GIFfest

I’ve been taking a break from my ds106 Hercules extravaganza most of this week (but you can see his Twitter feed! @herculeshimself), but I couldn’t resist the awesomeness of ds106 GIFfest. Not to mention I’ve been wanted to do something with this clip from Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, but couldn’t figure out how to integrate it into my media landscape (but I’m sure I’ll find a way).

The story goes that Kevin Sorbo misunderstood the note “disappointed” in his script, thinking it was a line rather than directions on how to deliver the previous line. And he put everything he had into the delivery. Can’t you feel his frustration deep in your soul?

The internet fails to tell me whether this mistake is from the blooper reel, or made it into the actual episode (Season 4, Episode 14 if you want to dig it up), but the clip itself is everywhere. So I made it into an animated gif:

Disappointed

(Note: I’ve noticed that sometimes WordPress doesn’t display the animation within a post, so if you’re having trouble viewing it, click on the GIF to open it in a separate window and it should then play.)

GIF was created using the magical combination of PwnYouTube, MPEG Streamclip, and Photoshop. And you can now find it as GIFfest Assignment #872!

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The 12 Digital Labors of Hercules

For my final project, I have decided to focus on Hercules. This is not the Disney Hercules of your childhood (although I love Rip Torn as Zeus), nor of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys fame. I’m talking about the REAL Hercules. That is Heracles, or Alcides if you will, son of Zeus and Alcmene via circumstances that were less than consensual, because when is consent ever given in Greek mythology?

Hercules was a badass. He strangled snakes as a baby that Hera sent to kill him.

That's right. A baby badass.

That’s right. A baby badass.

He killed his music teacher. He killed… okay he killed a lot of people. He was kind of a mass murderer, but for some reason was glorified in myth and has become a symbol of strength and virility.

We can guess that this was primarily due to the fact that when given a choice between a happy, easy life, or a difficult life that would lead to glory, guess which one he chose?

That’s right, he chose to not be happy.

So this choice to lead a difficult but glorious life resulted in a lot of misery. A lot of struggle. Most of it instigated by Hera. She really hated Hercules and created a lot of unpleasant situations for him.

The most famous of these struggles was Hercules’ 12 Labors (fyi the Perseus digital library version of the myth is a tad bowdlerized, but it’s more detailed than Encyclopedia Mythica or MythWeb; surprisingly the Wikipedia article is probably the most faithful to the source texts). The story goes that Hera drove Hercules temporarily insane, and in a fit of madness he killed his two/three/six children from his marriage with Megara, the first of four wives. Upon regaining his sanity he learned what he had done and gave Megara to his half-nephew/lover/charioteer Iolaus (they left that part out of the TV show). And then he sought purification and atonement.

The Oracle of Delphi commanded Hercules to serve King Eurystheus for twelve years to atone for the murders. Eurystheus was in collusion with Hera and set Hercules twelve impossible tasks. And Hercules completed each one. Because he was a badass. And because he was a demigod. But mostly the badass thing.

So, how am I going to translate the epic and glorious and miserable life story of Hercules into a DS 106 final? Simple:

  • Design: An “origin story” cartoon strip. There will be snakes involved.
  • Web: Hercules’ Twitter feed while completing the 12 Labors.
  • Web: An Amazon page for Hippolyta’s girdle.
  • Video: An Entertainment Tonight or possibly 20/20 special on the scandal of Hercules’ period of serving as Omphale’s slave during which she made him dress as a woman. Barbara Walters may be doing the interview. Maybe. We’ll see. Also, Matt Damon may have a cameo, because I really enjoyed working with that footage.
  • Visual: A Newsweek cover for a special issue on the death of Hercules.

These are tentative. Maybe I will get a brilliant idea for something completely different for one or more of these within the next week or so. But I really do want to play with the Matt Damon footage again…

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The Good-Looking Internet Committee

It’s remix time! For my first remix assignment, I’ve decided to Create My Own SuperPAC!

The handy-dandy SuperSuperPAC Name Generator mentioned in the assignment was very helpful, as I didn’t have any solid ideas for how to approach this. It generated the following gems:

  • Hype The Nanny State Foundation
  • Rock Free Pizza Horde
  • Resurrect Outdoor Grilling Collective
  • Enrich The Stars and Stripes Foundation
  • Super Chill Not Being Tread On Horde
  • Ebullient Not Listening Legion
  • Good-looking Internet Committee
  • Affirm The Purple Mountain Majesty

Each of these names was fabulous in its own way, but I decided to go with Good-Looking Internet Committee. It just seemed to have so many possibilities. The SuperPAC content follows, but first I wanted to discuss the sources.

It was very difficult to find usable material. The poster was easy, but creating a video remix is challenging. I’ve done it before (my favorite being Chewbacca Explains It All), and every time it takes significantly longer than I expect to find clips that I can use, and I usually have ideas for sources that I end up having to cut out entirely because they simply don’t fit.

In the case of the political ad, I wanted to use a number of clips of celebrities (after all, anyone associated with the cause should be good-looking). I might have eventually found clips from each celebrity I brainstormed, but it would have required watching *a lot* of footage. And even then, sometimes it seems like a good fit until you start editing your mash-up, and then suddenly everything falls apart. There was an interview with Leonardo DiCaprio that I thought was perfect for this, and I ended up not using a single soundbite. (And I’ve misplaced the details on it, so I can’t link to it. The clip is from an interview he did with The Early Show about The Departed, available on YouTube if you feel like doing some digging.) I ended up using Matt Damon’s rant on Sarah Palin and an hilarious Tim Gun video from his Liz Claiborne days. And that was it.

I’m happy with the result, but man, that was a lot of work.


The Good-Looking Internet Committee

A  SuperPAC For the Information Age

Platform: Who cares about “open access”, online piracy and copyright compliance, or freedom of information? We want the Internet to be good-looking! And we don’t mean attractive web design. We want the Internet to only feature good-looking people.

Candidates We Support: Those who are attractive, or have attractive spouses (let’s be real, Obama is not much of a looker, but Michelle is a fashion icon)

Candidates We Oppose: Those who only care about SOPA and whatever the ITU might be up to, and can’t be bothered to put some effort into their personal appearance. We’re looking at YOU Donald Trump.

War Chest: We invested all of our funds in Facebook stock. Oh well.

Principle Donors: The Internet. That’s right. Cuz the Internet cares about this. (To clarify, “the Internet” is Google, YouTube, Facebook, Huffington Post, Gawker, Perez Hilton, 4chan, Reddit, yada yada yada.)

Ad that you will see at least three times every time you watch anything on Hulu:

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Reading Movies… a long time ago

A bit of hindsight wisdom: If you ever decide to apply to grad school, do not postpone committing to the decision until 2 1/2 months before applications are due. Otherwise, you may find yourself with 1 1/2 months to prepare for both the regular GRE and your discipline’s subject test, and will have to put everything else in your life on hold, even favorite hobbies like participating in DS 106. Or learning to play classical guitar. (My fingers are going to be so sore the first time I build up the courage to pick up my guitar again.)

But now that the ordeal is done, I can finally pick up where I left off. Which is … Reading Movies from Week 10! Yes, as an open participant, I could easily skip this. But I enjoy film theory and visual analysis, and frankly the assignment sounded like fun.

I chose to analyze the scene from Ocean’s Twelve (2004) in which Rusty and Danny watch Oprah:

Often condemned as an unnecessary sequel that failed to capture the appeal of the first film (it even has a 56% critic rating and 67% audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes), the film still has many charms. This scene happens to be one of  them; it captures the same quick but often subtle humor and tendency to make fun of the characters.

In the scene, Rusty comes to talk to Danny in his hotel room about progress related to their heist and find that Danny is crying, though Danny denies this. He then hears the TV in the living room and goes in to find that Danny was watching Oprah. Danny asks about the progress, and Rusty answers, but soon changes subject to talk about the TV show, clearly affected by the emotion scene taking place. The scene then cuts to Terry Benedict being interviewed by Oprah, and zooms out to show that Linus, Danny, and Rusty are watching the show in an airport.

The scene has very interesting use of camera angles and placement of the actors: Throughout the scene, Rusty is on the right, Danny is on the left. While talking in the entryway and then watching Oprah, Danny is not fully focused on what Rusty is talking about in relation to their plans. His attention is focused on the present, not the future. And he is in focus, in the foreground, reacting to the TV show. Rusty, on the other hand, is on the right, talking about the future, slightly out of focus in the background. Until he begins to react to the TV show as well. The camera shifts so that Rusty is in the foreground and in focus, paralleling the change in his attention and emotional state.

Rusty is also the one with agency; he initiates their movement to the living room, walking in front of Danny to reflect that he has the power in the situation. He has something to learn, while Danny has something to hide (why he was crying).

During the cut to Oprah’s inteview of Terry Benedict, the TV shifts from horizontal to diagonal, pointing towards the bottom right. The skew parallels Terry’s dishonesty. It is clear that he is not speaking candidly, that he was not emotionally affected by the charity that he donated to.

The camera zooms out to show Linus, Danny, and Rusty sitting in an airport watching the show. Their expressions are partially masked the by the sunglasses that they are each wearing, but it is apparent that Linus and Danny don’t believe Terry is being genuine. Rusty looks bored. As always, the characters’ positioning reflects how they relate to each other and the heist; Linus is inexperienced, he lacks insight, and is on the far left, while Rusty, who plans, who sees problems, who everyone, except for Danny, thinks is the leader, is on the far right. They are all in focus, all watching and reacting to the TV.

Watching the clip in three stages – video only, audio only, and then finally the full scene – changed how I watched it. I doubt I would have noticed all of the camera angles if I had been distracted by the audio. I don’t know that I gained anything from just listening to the audio, but upon combining them, the meaning of each camera angle became apparent. I also found it very interesting that I completely missed the fact that Danny was crying until the two were synced. Somehow neither the video alone nor the audio alone gave the necessary cues to realize that was what happened. My notes on these viewings are below.

Categorizing the film is somewhat difficult. It fits action, comedy, crime, even thriller according to IMDB. TV Tropes’ categorization of it as a Caper seems like the best fit. However, Roger Ebert gave an apt assessment of its fit to this genre: “This isn’t a caper movie at all, it’s an improvisation on caper themes.”

Indeed, the film is driven by characters’ personalities rather than any real complexities in the plot. Each of their heists is an obvious MacGuffin, and though some such as Roger Ebert appreciate this aspect, others have labeled the film as one of the worst sequels ever made. I suppose you can’t expect much, though, out of a film originally intended for John Woo.

—–
Video Only:

  • peep hole
  • rusty looking in slightly right of center
  • rule of thirds
  • rusty appears taller, slightly in front
  • cuts in front moves left
  • back to rule of thirds
  • centered: oprah tv
  • danny left, in front, rusty right, background, slightly out of focus
  • then shift rusty in front, danny in back
  • cut to terry talking, skewed down right
  • zoom out, still on diagonal
  • talking to oprah
  • linus – danny  — rusty front left –> back right
  • all wearing sunglasses, watching the TV in an airport terminal

Audio Only:

  • knocking, footsteps and TV in background
  • Rusty starts talking, giving information
  • Danny sniffs – says he just bit into a pepper
  • Rusty takes agency, pushes/contradicts Danny, asks if he was watching Oprah
  • discuss show
  • Danny says happy for kids
  • asks about status in Mexico, tries to bring back to business
  • instead discuss Oprah more, more sniffs
  • Terry talking to Oprah about his charity
  • clearly lying – charitable donation not in character for him

Full Scene:

  • finally apparent that Danny was crying
  • At first tries to deny that he was watching, but then talks about the show, clearly affected by what was going on
  • camera shifts to rusty in focus as he is affected by the show as well
  • Terry is centered as he talks about donation face and tone don’t seem as affected by the inspiration for his donation as he claims
  • Linus looks skeptical, Danny looks amused, Rusty is difficult to read, all of them have partially occluded expressions because of the sunglasses
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