Headline Mashup Visual

ds106 dailycreate for December 5, 2013: “Create a visual that might accompany one of the mashed up headlines from @twoheadlines.”

The original tweet: https://twitter.com/TwoHeadlines/status/407970369447161856

So this is supposed to be Vader taking a selfie but it’s Jar Jar that appears as his own image instead of Vader, like Vader is actually Jar Jar. Now that I think about it later, though, it just looks like he’s watching Jar Jar on the ipad. D’oh. My idea was a little too complicated to come out well in a visual image. Oh well…it took me long enough to get this done at all I’m not going to go back and fix it now.

The process (in GIMP)

I got the Vader image from the GIF Fight tumblr from August 2013—I had remembered this image from last summer. You can see the cool gifs people made with this image on the GIF Fight tumblr arhive for Aug 2013.

I then got an image of an ipad from Flickr; it took awhile to find one that was in approximately the right angle. Here’s the one I used: “iPad car mount,” by Jan Hammershaug, licensed CC-BY.

Lastly I had to figure out what should be on the ipad screen. I tried to find a good Yoda image that was openly licensed, but no dice. So why not Jar Jar Binks? Here’s the image I used: “Jar Jar Binks at SGTTC2010,” by Parka, licensed CC-BY-SA.

I first put the ipad in Vader’s hand by scaling it to the right size and then selecting around it by going to Select->Float, then Layer->To New Layer to get the ipad onto a new layer. I then deleted the rest of that image with the ipad.

I got Vader’s finger in front of the ipad the same way: I selected around the finger, floated the selection, then put it on a new layer so I could put it in front of the ipad.

Then I selected around the original image that was inside the ipad frame, did Select->Float and then Layer->to new layer to get that image out of the ipad frame. I then deleted the new layer with the image that was originally inside the ipad frame.

Finally, I had to crop the Jar Jar image and scale it so it would be small enough to fit inside the ipad frame.

Now I had layers in this order:

1. finger

2. ipad frame

3. Jar jar

4. the rest of the vader image

But of course, the Jar Jar image wasn’t at the right angle to look like it was actually on the ipad. That’s when I discovered the “perspective” tool in GIMP, which lets you warp a layer so it takes on a new perspective. I played with this a bit, moving various corners various amounts to see what it looked like, until I got the perspective looking pretty good.

I also had to play around with scaling the Jar Jar layer so that it didn’t stick out the sides of the ipad frame but still fit within it. In the end I had to use the paintbrush tool to cover over some parts of the image that were a little too small for the frame and some of the background was showing through. But it works okay.

I’m amazed I got this to look pretty much like I pictured it when I thought of it.

This image is licensed CC-BY-SA: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/

#ds106 Design Safari

Week 6 of the Headless ds106 course is about design. When I did ds106 in May/June of 2013, for the “ds106zone” edition of the course, I ended up pretty much skipping design week. Well, I did one assignment during that week, which I really struggled with. I didn’t do many of the suggested readings or watch suggested videos. I just wasn’t that into it.

Why? I think I have some kind of mental block when it comes to design, and I believe it has mostly to do with lack of confidence. I feared, when I started ds106 earlier this year, that I just wasn’t very creative and thus would suck at doing this stuff. That turned out to be totally false (as I kinda guessed it would), but somehow I still have that sense with design. It’s even more deeply ingrained for some reason that I just don’t get it and maybe never will. Okay, that’s also complete bullshit and I need to get over it.

So this week I decided I would spend as much time as I could (which admittedly isn’t very much right now) doing readings on various design principles—here is the document I was working from. I decided also to do the “design safari” (see the above link for the week 6 announcement). The idea is to take photos of various objects that illustrate four of the design principles discussed for this week (either as examples of good design, or bad).

I found this activity really, really fun and informative. It helped me understand the design principles much better than I did just by reading about them. Here’s what I managed to do.


I have to admit this was the part of the design document linked above that I had the hardest time with. I kind of understand the idea of the colour wheel, and the differences between hue, saturation, value, chroma, but I found it difficult to determine just what might make for a good use of colour versus a bad one.

This post was helpful—it pointed out that colour can be used to group related things, such as how “repeating colors on elements like page headings gives an immediate visual cue that those headings are related.” The post also noted that “a small dose of color that contrasts with your main color will draw attention.” I’ve been doing this already, in my slides for lectures/presentations—drawing attention to the main points by using a contrasting/bold colour next to otherwise grey or black text.

So I challenged myself to try to find things that could exemplify a good (or bad) use of colour.

I found a new building on the University of British Columbia campus that had some fairly striking colour (well, at least, compared with most of the buildings on campus).



There’s a good deal of construction going on around this building, thus the mess in front of the building. I think this building really stands out in contrast to those next to it, which are shades of grey (as is the sky, which is unfortunately a common look to the sky here in Vancouver, BC).

Here’s a bright yellow staircase inside the same building.



As I was looking at this building, I was struck by how much I was thinking of such bright colours being connected to children. Maybe it’s because I have a 6-year-old, and most of his toys are really brightly coloured. Why are bright colours so prevalent amongst children’s toys and environments designed for children, but less so for other environments or objects? Or maybe it’s just the sorts of things I come across in my life that don’t have bright colours. And my own preference is for more muted colours, in my own wardrobe and indoor environment.

Perhaps unsurprisingly (?) This building is an “art centre” of some sort (not sure what exactly it is). But one of the new buildings of the Business school on campus also has some pretty bright colours, so maybe the fact that this building has to do with art makes little difference.

Is this a good use of colour? Honestly, I have no idea. Are the colours used complementary in some way? Should they be? Why are these particular colours used, and why are some colours on top of others—what guided that choice? No clue. All I can go by is what seems pleasing to me, and I do like this one. I think the contrast of the colour and the dark-ish glass is nice, and the colours are spaced in a way that seems balanced.

Here’s another example of colour, but one that also connects, to some extent, with the form/function relationship.



Sustainability is a big theme on the UBC campus, and this is one of the new bins one sees around campus, suggesting that we “sort” what we’re throwing away (in some buildings, and more and more as time goes by, there is also a place for compostable items).

I felt that the use of colour for this wasn’t terribly effective. The blue really stands out, which is fine—it’s for sorting paper in order for it to be recycled. The black is for trash, that which cannot be recycled or composted. Interestingly, there is no indication of that on the bin—it just says “stop: can’t you recycle that?” Okay, I guess most people can figure that out, and black does kind of fit the “not as good as the other stuff” category, or the “don’t put stuff here” category (consider whether it can be recycled).

But the grey I don’t think works. It is for “recyclable containers”—bottles, cans, plastic containers. But it just fades into the background. It seems like something I should ignore. I think it’s a poor choice for this “sort it out” campaign, as I don’t really pay attention to what’s in grey. Not a big deal, but I think another colour may have been more effective.

I spent last year in Melbourne, Australia, and I thought they had an effective way of using colour to distinguish rubbish bins from recycling bins. Rubbish bins in parks, building, even in our apartment, were green, while recycling bins in the same places were always yellow (or rather, had yellow lids). Okay, Australia has yellow and green as national colours, so it makes sense, but the continuity was really helpful too. One wouldn’t have to think too much when tossing stuff, because the colour signalled where to put things right away.


According to this article, “Balance is an equilibrium that results from looking at images and judging them against our ideas of physical structure (such as mass, gravity or the sides of a page). It is the arrangement of the objects in a given design as it relates to their visual weight within a composition.” The article was really helpful in explaining the idea of balance, both symmetrical and asymmetrical, with simple graphics.

According to the article, “Symmetrical balance occurs when the weight of a composition is evenly distributed around a central vertical or horizontal axis. Under normal circumstances it assumes identical forms on both sides of the axis. When symmetry occurs with similar, but not identical, forms it is called approximate symmetry.”

Here’s an example of “approximate” symmetrical balance. It has such balance on the horizontal axis, with the male and female figures, as well as on the vertical axis, with the “R” beginning both words.



There is also “radial symmetry,” in which elements are arranged equally around a central point, such as here, in the UBC Museum of Anthropology logo:


Of course, on their website (from which this screenshot was taken), they cut off two of the radially symmetrical forms in the middle, which is actually a kind of symmetry itself.

This poster may exemplify asymmetrical balance—it approximates radial symmetry, but departs from it at the top left. (Sorry—photo not in focus!)



I prefer this kind of asymmetry to one in which the circles would be perfectly symmetrically arranged around the middle blue one—that would be less interesting. Is it balanced, though? The article linked above states that “involves the arranging of objects of differing size in a composition such that they balance one another with their respective visual weights.” The two top circles are not balanced by anything else in the image. Somehow this doesn’t bother me in the design, though. Maybe balance doesn’t always need to be achieved?

Colour stands out here too, of course. Several of the colours are pretty close (red, orange, pinkish), which makes the green and blue stand out. I don’t think there is any particular reason for those icons to stand out in this poster, given what it’s for, but it does show how contrasting colours do draw attention.

Minimalist design

I’m not certain exactly what makes a design minimalist, except that it has very few elements and tries to distill meaning or a message down into a kind of small package (for lack of a better way of putting it at the moment). I had a hard time finding minimalism as I was walking around the city and the campus, but I think this would count.



You see these flags all around various cities these days, including Vancouver, marking particular neighbourhoods. This is the most minimalist set of such flags I’ve seen. They all had just one simple image on them, along with “Cambie Village” in a circle. 

The main problem I found with this is that I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why there’s a picture of a watermelon as being somehow connected to this neighbourhood. Is this a place to get fresh fruit? To spend a nice sunny day in the summer? I have no clue, and in that sense I think this design is not as good as it might be. I wish I could remember what some of the other images were, but alas.

Here’s another minimalist design.



Quite distilled down, definitely. Though I’m not sure why there are arrows going to the left. Maybe pointing to the copy at the bottom left? Maybe having to do with “Go” in the “GoWiFi” tagline? But the “it’s here” works well, I think: meaning, (1) it’s arrived, and (2) you can find it here, there, and lots of other places.


I got this one wrong when I was first walking around taking photos. I was thinking it was just design elements that indicated movement and flow. But according to this site, “Rhythm is the repetition or alternation of elements, often with defined intervals between them. Rhythm can create a sense of movement, and can establish pattern and texture.” Oops. Got the movement part right, but not the repetition part, when I took the following picture.



Not the best shot, because the “wave” on the glass of this bus shelter gets kind of lost with the street behind it. Still, I thought it gave a sense of movement, and maybe even rhythm, but I didn’t remember the idea of repetition.

But hang on, look at the bench from the side.



Rather a similar movement, I thought. I wasn’t taking this one because I was thinking of repetition, but because I noticed that the bench had a similar kind of wave form. But hey, it’s a type of repetition, right? Wall and bench of the same bush shelter?


My favourite suggested resource from design week was this page, which is about typography for lawyers, but really has lots of useful information about typography itself and various font examples, for anyone.

Still, while out walking around, I didn’t find many great typography examples (or even bad ones)…just ones that didn’t stand out much one way or another. Of course, I could have gone looking on the web, but I wanted to do this assignment outside mostly because I spend way too much time on my computer anyway.

There is a new Student Union Building being built on the UBC campus, and while that’s happening the old one is still open and (mostly) fully functional. There’s quite a campaign going on to let people know that, and it has retro feel, supposedly because it’s the “old” SUB (I’m guessing here). 

Here’s a sign that uses a font reminiscent of retro “we are open” signs, at least so far as I remember.



And the font for “Last Call” on this sign is suitably retro as well. It is very much familiar to me, but I can’t place it. I mean, it seems to have the right feel, but I’m not sure why, where I’ve seen it before.



A number of these signs, like this one, are posted on the barriers around the construction site. The new not yet here, the old still beckoning.

Well, that’s certainly plenty for one design safari. It took me over a week to finish this blog post, and probably it’s far too long for anyone to read through the whole thing. 

This was an excellent way to learn some design principles, and I’m so glad I took the time to do it this time around.

Rainy day photoblitz

Week five of the Headless ds106 course is about telling visual stories in photos. One of the assignments we could do is a “photoblitz,” in which we take as many photos as we can in 15 minutes, trying to adhere to several suggestions for them amongst a list of possibilities (see previous link for the photoblitz assignment).

Today, Saturday, was the first chance I had to take the time to do this, and, of course—it being Vancouver, BC, after all—it was raining. But actually, this ended up being pretty cool in terms of photos, I thought. Okay, no shadows to play with, but some nice effects nonetheless. The hardest part was holding an umbrella while taking pictures. I used my phone just to see what it could do, which made the one-handed photo-taking easier. Sure, I could have just worn a raincoat, but I was going out later and had a fancy wool coat on. So umbrella it was.

As usual, I’m not thrilled with my phone photos. The focus is not great, usually, especially with the somewhat low light there was today. But some of the images turned out okay.

We were to start and end with images of something that shows the time, so we could capture the 15 minutes that way. So here’s the first image:


We were asked to pick our best five to upload to Flickr with the “ds106photoblitz” tag, and I did five not counting the “time” images.

This one follows the suggestion to “take a photo dominated by a single color.”


I wrote this about this image when I posted it on Flickr:

“These planters are in a pool of water in front of a building, where the rest of the outside landscape seems very “natural,” with water, pebbles, plants, etc. They stand out, though they don’t look quite as bright as they do in the image. That’s one of the reasons I like this image. They seem to shout at me here.”

The red looks almost artificial, almost too much, really in-your-face. But I didn’t do anything to the photo after taking it—this is how it came out. And I like it this way.

Here is a photo that “represents the idea of “openness.”


I liked that there were two open circles in this image, as well as converging lines (another one of the suggestions—two in one!). I think the rain makes the lines stand out even more due to the reflections in the water.

Here’s where you can find this image on Flickr.

This photo “emphasizes mostly dark tones or mostly light ones”:


This one emphasizes both light and dark tones, though when I took it I was thinking of it in terms of dark ones. There were a lot of dark tones around me today, but as I wrote when I posted this one on Flickr:

“I was happy to find a place to take a photo where there was one thing that stood out as different from the rest. I love the colour of this tree as well as that of the greenery behind it, and especially how the two contrast.”

As I noted already, with the rain today there were no interesting shadows. Except I made some with the phone by taking pictures of the trees against the grey sky. So here’s my interpretation of “take a photo of an interesting shadow.”


I thought I might have to play around with the colour saturation on this one, but it looks pretty good on its own, like a b/w image even though it’s colour. I took several of these with different trees, and most did look like they were green trees against a grey sky. This one had both the most interesting tree “shadows” and almost looked like shadows.

Here is this image on Flickr.

The last image is one taken from “an unusal angle.” The iPhone makes this easy with the ability to take pictures with a forward-facing camera. held it under some flowers:image

This one I did adjust using some settings in iPhoto. I played with the exposure, saturation and tint, to get more of the effect of transparency in the petals, and to make the colour stand out more. I also like the placement of the flowers in the frame of the image, though I’m not sure why, exactly. I just think it looks good.

I don’t know if altering the photos is part of the photoblitz idea, but here’s the original for comparison:


I like the new one much better! (I also cropped it to cut out the line at the bottom.)

Here’s the enhanced version on Flickr.

I finished a little bit late, as you can see (didn’t watch my watch carefully enough!). But it was pretty close to 15 minutes.


I was also cold and wet by this time, and I spent the next hour or so in a coffee shop, watching the rain pour as I prepped a lecture on Epicurus!

Rapping, scratching and popping the Headless week 4 audio

Link to audio mp3 (be patient—it may take a little time to download!): http://rockylouproductions.com/FileUpload/DS106/DS106_Headless13_AudioWk4_Review.mp3

Rochelle Lockridge and I had a great time recording a podcast this past weekend, talking about some of the fantastic audio that had been made the past week by participants in the Headless ds106 course.

Rochelle has already done a great blog post explaining how we managed to do the podcast itself, recording both video and audio. We initially posted it on YouTube because neither one of us had an extra 50 minutes of space available on Soundcloud, and I can’t upload files that big onto either one of the blogs I have right now (dammit—yet another reason to get my act together and get my Word Press install from my domain from reclaim hosting up and running. Yep, on my thousand-mile-long to-do list). I had no idea, actually, that Rochelle was recording video as well as audio, and I spent the first few minutes not looking very excited—it’s that face you have when you are just listening to something and aren’t interacting visually with someone.

I love how Rochelle was able to put together chicken gifs made by John Johnston (see his posts with those gifs here and here) into the beginning and end of the video, moving along in time to the music, which was the Mel Blanc and Sound Effect Man- Chicken Farm Song.

I wanted to give a tribute in some way to John Johnston’s chicken podcasts that he’s been doing for the Headless ds106 lately, and this was a great way to do so! You can hear his chicken podcasts by looking at this category on his blog.

The audio we talked about

Rochelle has already given the links to each of the works we discussed, on her blog post about this podcast, but I’ll put them at the end here too, just so I have them for future reference!

To find the audio I just searched Twitter, Google+, and the ds106 Headless blog flow for audio assignments from last week, checked that they were licensed to reuse, and if they weren’t I asked if we could play them.

I also wanted to point to Mariana’s blog post in which she suggests the radio show she wants to do with Talky Tina, for which she made the ds106radio bumper we talked about in the podcast. You can find that post here.

And I said something false about the ds106 rap by Stefanie Jeske. Somehow I heard that she said “It’s about us” in the rap, which isn’t quite right, but hey…that’s what my brain made out of part of her rap, because, I guess, that’s what it’s about for me!

Some tips/suggestions

Licensing and downloading—Soundcloud

Many people had made their works CC-licensed in some way, but hadn’t made them downloadable from Soundcloud. One of the great things about ds106, in my experience, is having people take what I’ve made and make new things from it—it’s like the ultimate validation, and it’s also like having a conversation with the other person. So if you’re willing to have that happen, or to have your work showcased in an audio or visual presentation of some kind, please do make it available to download!

On Soundcloud, it just requires ticking a box when you’re uploading your audio (you can go back and edit and do it later, too). Same thing for adding a CC license to your work on Soundcloud—you have to do that on purpose, as the default is blank, which means all rights reserved. And if it’s all rights reserved, then we can’t use it for this sort of purpose without your permission.

Amplifying if the audio is too soft/low, in Audacity

At one point in the podcast we talked about ways to make your audio louder if it’s too quiet. Rochelle suggested just duplicating tracks so you have two of one of them if it’s not very loud (though you need to make sure they’re lined up perfectly!).

Rochelle posted on her blog post about our podcast the sound effects story she did where she had to double the mosquitos track, but I’ll add it in here too, just for future reference.

I talked about using the “Amplify” effect in Audacity, and I thought I’d clarify something about that here.

In Audacity, you can select a portion of or a whole a track, go to Effects->Amplify, and choose how much you want to amplify the sound. Here’s what it looks like in a screenshot:


I wasn’t sure if you could choose to make the new peak amplitude 0 or not, but yes, that’s what the default is—unless you change the numbers, it will make the new peak amplitude 0, which basically (if I understand it correctly) means that it will be as loud as possible without clipping—without having some of the audio cut out because it’s too loud. I usually go just a bit below that, but not because I know for a fact there’s any good reason to do so. There probably isn’t.

Of course, if you want to allow clipping, you can do that with the Amplify effect.

You can also put in a negative number in the top box in order to de-amplify (there must be a word for that)—to reduce the size of the waveforms and how loud it sounds.

Noise removal in Audacity

I also mentioned that it’s possible to do noise removal in Audacity, which is especially useful if you have a track that has a good deal of ambient noise (like a refrigerator, wind, computer fan), or if you have had to amplify a track to get it to be loud enough, but have also amplified the ambient noise too (Rochelle says doubling tracks can help avoid this problem).

How this works in Audacity is explained nicely in this Audacity wiki page: http://wiki.audacityteam.org/wiki/Noise_Removal

It’s a bit tricky because you have to first select the section with only the sound of the noise you want to remove, then go to Effects->Noise Removal and click “Get noise profile,” as in the screenshot below. This lets Audacity figure out what the sound is that you want to remove.


Then you select the whole track, go to Effect->Noise Removal again and then that time you can click “OK” (which, if you notice, is greyed out in the screenshot above, because I hadn’t gotten the noise profile first). You can play around with the settings in the bottom of the noise removal dialogue box if you know what you’re doing, but I don’t so I leave them as is.

Since you need a few seconds of just the noise you want to remove in order for this to work, it’s really helpful to make sure you wait a few seconds when doing a recording before you start speaking, playing music, what have you.

This is a good idea for other reasons too—if you need to insert some “silence” into another part of the track for some reason (as may need to happen if you have to edit some things out, change some things around), it’s useful to have the right “silence” to insert—that which fits with the rest of the recording. You can add in pure silence using Audacity (using Generate->silence), but it won’t sound like the empty bits in the rest of the track.

Sometimes you get a bit of a weird effect with this noise removal thing, as you’ll still get some of the noise during the “talking” part of the audio, but it will be more or less gone in the “silent” part, and you can kind of hear it go in and out. You can mask this if you want, and even perhaps remove the need for noise removal altogether if you add some nice background noise (like maybe a recording of being outside with birds, or a street scene), or use music behind dialogue.

Thank you!

Thank you to everyone who created audio this week! I’m so sorry if we missed any (we were aiming for just one from each person, so some people had more than one thing we didn’t include here), but we really tried to find it all.

And a big thank you to Rochelle for recording and editing this podcast during one of my busiest weekends ever. It wouldn’t have happened if it were just up to me!

Links to the audio we discussed

1. John Johnston: ds106 radio bumper dub number two:  http://johnjohnston.info/106/ds106-radio-bumper-dub-number-two/

2. Mariana Funes: “Audio Giffing”  http://theds106shrink.tumblr.com/post/61671781287/audio-giffing

3. Mikhail Gershovich,ds106 radio bumper: http://thisevilempire.com/blog/?p=931&cpage=1

4. Sally Wilson, “ds106 bumper” http://vibrantoutlook.wordpress.com/2013/09/17/first-foray-into-radio/

5. Cathleen Nardi, “Uncork at the cellar” ds106 radio bumper  https://soundcloud.com/cathleen-nardi/uncork-at-the-cellar-ds106

6. Ary Aranguiz: sound effects story, “Invasion”  http://alltheworldisamooc.blogspot.ca/2013/09/ds106-week-4-audacious-audio.html

7. Dave Barr, “The Banana Peel”–sound effects story  http://gr8kree8.wordpress.com/2013/09/19/the-banana-peel-assignment-ds106/

8. Mariana Funes, sound effects story: “happily ever after…maybe”  https://soundcloud.com/mariana-funes/happily-ever-after-may-be

9.  Kevin Hodgson, “Sound Effects Poem: A Life in Draft”  http://dogtrax.edublogs.org/2013/09/18/sound-effects-poem-a-life-in-draft/

10. Stefanie Jeske, “Stefanie’s ds106 rap”  http://stefaniejeskestory.blogspot.ca/2013/09/stefanies-ds106-rap.html

11. Hayfa Majdoub, “What is Philosophy? https://soundcloud.com/hayfam/audio-recording-on-wednesday#t=0:00

And bumpers at the beginning and end:

Rocky Lou’s ds106 radio bumper mashup: https://soundcloud.com/rochelle-lockridge/ds106-bumper-mashup

Ary Aranguiz, ds106 radio Bumper1: https://soundcloud.com/ary-aranguiz/ds106bumper1

Remembering and misremembering

Remembering and misremembering

The Story

This animated gif is for the second week of the Headless ds106 for Fall 2013, in which we were asked to do a gif of a scene from one of our favourite (or least favourite) movies.

I immediately thought of Memento, a film I really, really liked when it came out back in 2000. I had seen it a couple of times over the years, but decided to watch it again for this assignment. I found that I had forgotten much of the film, which is not unusual for me—I am not sure that I have a memory “problem” (and certainly nothing on the scale of Leonard Shelby, in the film), but I do have an uncanny knack of forgetting things quickly and easily and regularly. Not just the usual things, like where I put my keys, or what I had for breakfast (though, since I usually have the same thing every day, that’s pretty easy), but things like novels I’ve read, films I’ve watched, how stressed I was last time I taught courses in a certain way—a convenient one for when I’m planning new courses and have all these grand ideas about what to do and I forget how much time all that is going to take.

I do often find that I can re-watch a movie, or re-read a book after a couple of years and it’s almost like new again. Or at least, it has a tinge of the familiar, and a few things will really stand out as recognized, but for the most part it’s like having a new experience. Which is both troubling (what’s wrong with my brain?) and enjoyable (hey, I get to enjoy this story all over again!).

The main character in Memento, Leonard Shelby, is played by Australian Guy Pearce, whom I watched last year in two “tele-movies” filmed in my neighbourhood in Melbourne, where I was living at the time (here’s the trailer for one of them). He’s also pretty famous for his role in The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (trailer). When I first saw Memento, I didn’t make the connection to the Priscilla film, and didn’t realize Guy Pearce was Australian. Watching Memento this time around, I now have a sense of him as an Australian actor, so it was interesting listening to him speak with an American accent.

The main premise of Memento is that Leonard Shelby has a memory issue: after an attack that caused some neurological damage, he is unable to make new memories. Or rather, he can make some, but they disappear after a short time (it’s not clear in the film how long he can retain his memories, but something on the order of 15-20 minutes maximum, I think). After they disappear, he finds himself somewhere and doesn’t know where he is, why he’s there, or what he’s doing. He does, however, remember everything that happened before the attack.

To compensate for this problem, he often tattoos important things on his body, things he decides he must tell himself. He also tells himself things by writing notes to himself, but the really important ones are tattooed.

One of his memories from before the attack is of a man named Sammy Jenkins, who suffered the same problem that Leonard now does. Leonard was a claims investigator for an insurance company, and he denied Sammy’s wife’s insurance claim because tests indicated that physiologically, Sammy should be able to make new memories; the issue seemed to be psychological, and Sammy didn’t have insurance coverage for psychological issues (oh the joys of the U.S. medical and insurance system).

One of the great things about the film is that it is presented in nearly as disorienting a way as Leonard’s life must be—there are fairly short scenes that jump around in time, leaving the viewer disoriented and wondering what is going on. It starts at the end of the story, and while parts of it move backwards from there, other parts move forwards. It’s very difficult to get a handle on what is happening at any given time, until towards the end, when essentially you’re back at the beginning.

There is a lot more going on in the film, but that’s enough to explain this animated gif. I took parts of two different scenes: one where Leonard sees the tattoo on his hand telling him to remember Sammy Jenkins, and one that is a vignette of Sammy Jenkins in a psychological institution of some sort, watching someone go by.

Now, why does Leonard need to remember Sammy Jenkins? The idea given directly in the film is that Sammy couldn’t do well with his condition because he didn’t have a good system for writing notes and organizing them so that he could have a semblance of continuity in his life. But as the film progresses, and especially in the scene where Sammy is sitting in the institution watching someone go by, one begins to wonder if Leonard’s memory of Sammy is correct. Specifically, is Leonard mixing memories of his own life with those of Sammy? Sammy ended up inadvertently doing something very horrible; was it actually Leonard that did this?

“Remember Sammy Jenkins” is tattooed on Leonard’s hand, in a place where he’ll see it often (as opposed to under his shirt or pants, for example). It’s clearly important. But several times throughout the film Leonard is shown rubbing at this tattoo, as if trying to get it off. Trying to not remember. And perhaps he is trying to not remember what he himself has done by remembering it as Sammy Jenkins doing it instead.

At one point in the film, Leonard decides to consciously lie to himself, to write himself a note that he knows at the time is wrong, but he wants his later self to believe it and to act on the basis of it as if it’s true. Which, of course, throws all of Leonard’s notes to himself into question—how much of what he now believes as true may be his own fabrication? Not to mention a fabrication by others who are using him for their own purposes.

Beyond these interesting aspects of the film, it also raises larger issues about memory and our understanding of our lives and the world around us. Sure, Leonard’s memory is faulty, but so is all memory to some degree. And though he knows at one point he is lying to himself to make himself think differently in the future, later he won’t realize that’s the case.  And isn’t such a thing perfectly possible for those of us with “normal” memory, if even less consciously? How much do we alter our own memories without even realizing it?

I have fairly frequently been told I seem to selectively forget certain things, usually negative ones, and imagine the past was better than it really was. But I actually rather prefer it that way.

The process

I found several clips of the film on YouTube, and downloaded them using Clip Converter. I selected the parts of the two separate clips I wanted using MPEG Streamclip, and then imported them into GIMP (see this tutorial for how to make an animated gif with MPEG Streamclip and GIMP).

I had way too many layers/frames (they are both the same in GIMP) at this point…my animated gif needed to be 1MB or less to animate in Tumblr, and I knew I’d be way over that. So I just deleted every other layer, which is a nice way to save file size and still keep the animation pretty smooth. I also took out a few more layers at the beginning of each clip—anything that didn’t seem essential.

One thing I always run into with GIMP is that the animation works backwards—it starts from the bottom of the layer stack and goes up. So you have to rearrange the layers if you want it to go in the right order (sometimes this doesn’t matter, depending on the gif, but for this one it does). When I first started I moved layers one by one, but recently discovered that there’s an easier way to do it: go to “Layer” on the top menu, then “Stack,” then “Reverse layer order.” Voilà! Easy.

The file was still too big when I exported as a gif, so I had to make it even smaller by making the “canvas” even smaller (the dimensions of the whole gif). I just kept using the square selection tool and selecting smaller pieces, then going to “Image,” then “crop to selection,” then exporting as gif to see if it would be small enough. Even though the image was already b/w, I switched it to greyscale instead of RGB (“Image,” then “mode,” then “greyscale”). Not sure that made much of a difference, really.

Finally, while I wanted the tattoo clip to go a bit more slowly than normal, I wanted the Sammy in the institution scene to go quickly. The bit at the end of that clip goes by very, very quickly in the film—so much so that I had to watch it a few times to be sure what was going on. Can’t do that in a theatre! I didn’t want to slow it down too much, though it is slower than in the original film.

I managed these differences in speed two ways:
1. For the institution clip, I set the rate of each layer specifically: at the end of the name of each layer I put “(125ms)”, which tells GIMP to have that layer run for 125 milliseconds. I did that for all the layers in that clip.

2. For the rest, I just set a layer rate for the whole gif when exporting it; there’s an option to set the rate for all unspecified layers, which I set at 200 I think (maybe a bit more).

I had a lot of fun with this, and have been waiting several days to find the time to blog it. Glad I finally did!

601 backwards

DS106 Daily Create for Aug. 31, 2013 (yep, a couple of days late!): “This is TDC 601! That is 106 backwards! Draw something 106ish backwards.”

This one was challenging for me—I could make a video or a gif of something going backwards, but I was struggling with how to make a still image of something backwards. Okay, maybe draw the back of a kitchen monster that people created for TDC595.

But then I thought…what is something ds106ish? well, me! and you! So why not take an image of me backwards? Thus the mirror.
My original idea was to have my camera showing the ds106 logo on the camera itself, and then take a photo of that. Ha! In what universe did I think it would be possible for my phone to be using one application (to show the ds106 logo (on the web) and then also use the camera app at the same time? Not.

So I took the photo using the camera app (of course), and then did a screen shot of the ds106 logo from the ds106 page.

I opened both in GIMP as layers, and made a layer mask for the image of me so that the part inside the phone would be transparent and I could put the ds106 layer under that so it’d show through.
1. First, I drew a selection around the phone display with the “lasso,” or “free select” tool, so I could go around my finger on the camera button.

2. I then did Selection->invert, which makes everything around the camera display selected, which is needed for the next step.

3. Layer->create layer mask, which made the phone display transparent and everything around the phone display in the image show up.

4. Scale the size of, and position the ds106 layer so it’s in the right place, peeking out through the transparent hold in the layer of me above it.

5. Because the dividing line between the two images around the camera display was pretty sharp and harsh, I used the blur/sharpen tool to do a little blurring around the edge of the camera display. I think I did bit much of that, but no time to go back and fix it.

6. I also played a bit with the brightness and contrast and other settings under “color” for the ds106 layer—I wanted it to look a bit like it was glowing, shedding light on my finger and out beyond the display screen. That was a hard effect to get, and it’s not quite what I was hoping for, but upping the brightness did help.

P.S. tumblr sometimes bums me out. I don’t set my images to be as wide as this column, b/c that does weird things to them. But now it made this one have white lines a the vertical edges for some reason. Boo.

It’s not really a drawing, but I have yet to feel comfortable enough with drawing to do many of those. It’s one of the parts of ds106 I just need to force myself into to get more confident about it. Everything else I love doing; drawing, well, not so much.