Friday, December 19, 2014

Fundamentals of Digital Media - It's a Wrap!

What a long, stressful, fantastic semester it has been. I've learned a ton, gone through multiple rough patches, and worried like there's no tomorrow. The good news is, a break has arrived!

Fundamentals of Digital Media is the first online class I have ever taken. It was certainly a learning experience - not having to meet in a classroom, getting to know your classmates via discussion sessions (honestly, it almost feels like I know more about my classmates than any other class because of this feature!), and using all online resources for assignments. I have been introduced to many aspects of art I had never even heard of prior to this course. Generative and Text-based were words that I had never seen behind the word "art" before. In addition to this, I gained many skills that I never would have imagined I would be working with. 3D modeling was definitely the standout in this area. I was completely amazed viewing how it's done. Even though the program we used for the course was quite user friendly, watching the assigned videos to get an in-depth look at how these models are created was fascinating. I also gained skill in creating Generative Art using online drawing applications, making vector graphics, making my own text-based art, and creating a typology grid. I built upon some of the skills I already have as well, including photography framing, identifying proper resolution.

Still from This is Your Brain On Insomnia
The skeletal-looking image was created with
the Generative software, "Scribbler."
These hard skills that I have learned will certainly help me moving forward with making films in the future. Generative software can produce some stunning images. I have already taken two of my generative images, shot them on high-contrast negative film, and used them in a short that I just recently made (see photo on the right). Now that I have the basics of 3D modeling, I can learn more about that in the future and apply that to my work if I so choose. I can't think of a single thing that I learned in this course that would not apply to my future endeavors, and I am grateful for that.

My biggest obstacle this semester was time-management. It has been an ongoing problem, and is still a skill I need much improvement on. However, I did learn to try my absolute best to avoid procrastination with assignments, especially in online courses. Being occupied with my other classes, I often overlooked dedicating the right amount of time for assignments in this course. This resulted in a few being rushed, late, and sometimes I missed giving feedback on the discussions completely. I plan to make an effort to improve my time management issues next semester. After all, I am taking two film production courses!

All in all, it's been one rocky road this term. I'm glad it's over, but I'm also very grateful for what I've learned, the skills I've picked up, the ones I've improved on, and the realization of the ones that still need improvement.

Until Next Term, Peace & B Wild.

Five Reasons Why Six Feet Under is the Greatest Television Show of All Time

So, I just plowed through the entire five seasons of the critically acclaimed HBO TV show Six Feet Under... in about three weeks. Sure, there are probably other things I could have been doing, considering this has been one of the most demanding semesters I've had in college. But, sometimes things just got too heavy, so what do I do? Immerse myself in binge-watching a show that is pretty heavy itself to say the least. For those that don't know, Six Feet Under is a show that follows the times of a family of funeral directors. The father - Nathaniel, the mother - Ruth, son - David, son - Nathaniel Jr. (Nate), daughter - Claire. In honor of my insane, tear-filled, emotional breakdown-ridden marathon, I have decided to sum up 5 reasons why this is the greatest TV show I have ever seen in my life.


  1. "The Foot" - As fans of the show know, each episode begins with a death. In the third episode of season one, a man gets chopped up in a dough mixer after it accidentally turns on while he's inside. So, as you can imagine, there were several severed body parts.

    But wait, there's more!

    Claire sucked her boyfriend Gabe's toes in the back of the hearse she drives to school one day. She didn't really want to, but she was in love, you know? He decided it was a great idea to tell the whole school--resulting in Claire's car being graffiti-ed with phrases like "toe slut". So, what does Claire do to enact revenge? She steals one of the dead man's severed foots and stuffs it in his locker.
  2. Ruth's 'Fuck You' Outburst in "The Plan" - This was the episode when Ruth Fisher became one of my favorite characters. Although, I've gone through moments of loving and hating each and every one of the Fishers. In this episode, Ruth joins a cult-like seminar called "The Plan", which commands it's attendees to build their "metaphorical house" from the ground up (i.e. change their life around). By the end, Ruth finally decide's she's had enough and goes on a

    huge rant of "Fuck You's" to everyone in The Plan, and her family as well. Among them: "Fuck all your lousy parents! Fuck my lousy parents while we're at it!" "Fuck my selfish, Bohemian sister with her fucking bliss!", "Fuck my legless grandmother!", "Fuck my dead husband!", and, my all-time favorite, "Fuck you, Robbie for dragging me to this terrible place and not letting me have a Snickers bar!"
  3. "That's My Dog" - This is simultaneously one of the best and worst episodes of this entire series. It's the worst because of the subject matter. David and his boyfriend Kieth are in a phase of an open relationship. While delivering a body to the funeral home, David picks up a guy on the side of the road (who claims to be out of gas) in hopes of getting some action. However, things quickly turn sour when David realizes the guy doesn't even have a car, and he's a maniac that holds him at gunpoint for a long, crazed ride. This is far more than a simple carjacking. This guy holds David hostage just to have someone to be friends with. He's a maniac whom
    ends up making David smoke crack with him, leave the dead body on the side of the road because it keeps farting, among other insane occurrences. Things come to a head when the man makes David go catch a stray dog (which he says is his childhood dog), only to find out that it's indeed not his dog (which we get the sense he knew all along), blames David, drenches him in gasoline, and is almost to the point of killing him before he finally leaves. How in the world could this be also one of the best episodes? Because it accomplishes what it is supposed to--taking you on an emotionally draining journey into both David and the man's psyche that leaves you both puzzled and quivering at the end.
  4. The Death in "In Case of Rapture" - In one of the most disturbing deaths of the entire series, an extremely devout Christian with a bumper sticker that says "I Brake for the
    Rapture" does exactly as her sticker says when a truck that is transporting blow-up dolls has the strings come loose and send the dolls flying high into the air. The woman believes this is the rapture, stops her car, and runs into the middle of the road - only to be hit by a car.
  5. It's the Only TV Show to Successfully Kill Off a Main Character - Nate Fisher was essentially THE main character of the series. He was the son that made a life for himself apart from the family business, only to come back and take his father's place after he died in a car crash in the first episode of the series. The detail that was given to the trials and tribulations of Nate's life (and the fact that Peter Krause's name is first in the opening credits) made it obvious that he
    was the main character of the show. Finally, 3 episodes before the series finale, Nate loses his battle with his brain condition, AVM (arteriovenous malformation). The death came as a complete shock due to the fact that the doctors were saying he would be fine. I don't think I have ever cried so much as I did in the episode following this one--where the family mourns Nate's completely unexpected loss.

If you ask me in a couple of weeks, I might change a few of these moments. But as I am writing this, these are moments in this series that stuck out to me the most. One thing not mentioned that the show does very well is give insight into the human imagination. In this show, everybody daydreams. They play around with it so much that often you have to ask yourself "Is this real?" The emotional whirlwind, dark humor, social commentary, and wit of this show truly make it one of the best (if not the best) in the history of this thing we call television.

Until Next Time, Peace & B Wild.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Why the Black Community Needs to Come Together

A few weeks ago, I watched what is quite possibly the most enlightening film I have ever seen in all of my near-20 years of life. Black Is... Black Ain't was the last film of director Marlon Riggs - whom lost his long battle with AIDS just prior to the film's completion. 

The film has moved me to pose a few questions: What does it mean to be "black" to you? What would you prefer to be called (black, African American, etc.) and why? Is there anything from speech to attire to hair that would make you look at another black person and say, "They're not black enough" or "They're too black"? If so, why is that? How do you feel about the general nonacceptance of homosexuality in the black community? Do you think there's still a need to fight for equal justice? Why or why not?
I highly recommend everyone, that's right, E-V-E-R-Y-O-N-E to watch this film. No matter what social class you consider yourself to be apart of, what race/gender/sexuality you identify as, how involved and/or up to date you consider yourself to be with issues in the community, this will speak to all. It was quite bothersome for me to realize that nearly 20 years after Marlon Riggs made this documentary, ALL of the problems it deals with and questions it poses are still very relevant things that continue to divide the black community more and more everyday. It involves everything from the way we speak, walk, fix our hair and even stereotype ourselves. The system was set in place hundreds of years ago, this whole notion of who's really black and who isn't, that light-skinned people (both black and of other ethnicities) are somehow superior to those of darker complexion, that if you carry yourself in a certain way in which you talk "proper" and/or listen to different styles of music that you're acting "white" or "uppity". The problem is, these thoughts that were put into our heads back then, and these stereotypes that were placed upon us have never really left because we have not let them go. I'm sad to say that as a community, black people are still not truly united because so many of us are so quick to bring each other down for being different, want to kill each other for no reason, make each other feel that we don't belong IN OUR OWN COMMUNITY! We're already shaded and oppressed enough by the system. Why make it any worse than it already is? It's time for change, has been for hundreds of years, and probably always will be in this regard. As an individual, one can only do so much. These issues in our community have been staring us in the face for the longest time, but so many of us are focused on the wrong things and don't seem to care about what's important. It's time to wake up. Knowledge is key. Knowledge is power. Nothing's gonna change if as a collective we don't care to make changes. I hope this film sparks a fire in you. I hope you take the time to think. Think about what you can do to encourage commUNITY. Take 86 minutes out of your day and view Black Is... Black Ain't; gain some perspective. Now is as good a time as it ever was.

Until Next Time, Peace & B Wild.

Rain on an Exam Day in February

Last night, I read about the reforms of Solon in
Ancient Greece until 3 a.m., when the words
stopped making sense. I placed my head on my
hands as a pillow atop the squeaky springs
and listened to the waking thunderunable to lay still
until ten minutes before morning, when I had to rise,
even though the sun didn't.

Today, my body aches for stillness that it won’t get
until June. My hair does not give a fuck. The sky
is a spectrum of blacks and grays and my demons
absorb the darkness like Bounty on a milk spill.

I walk upon cracked and uneven roads, still seeing
smiles upon the faces of the neighbors. They hold
their mighty umbrellas high in protection. They are
strong, like storm shelters. They don't let the water damage in,
unlike myself, who sheds a tear with every drop of acid.

I trip into the four walls of this institution. Day after day,
the loop reeks like a rotting grave. I hate this place,
this subject that I’ll never need, these people, this notion
that success rides on a series of letters which translate
to numbers instead of words.

Still, on I go silently into the dull hue of this world,
drowning in God's piss on this mess of a thing I
call home. In this moment, the idea of happiness is none
but a bottomless pit—endlessly searching for shelter in
a cold communal shower.

Today is everyone else's day. More power to them
in their Cabbage Patch expressions centered among
this plethora of constant brain death. I am not alone.
The universe showers with me.

The Essence of Black Messiah - 14 Years in the Making

I'd been following the news of D'Angelo's recent re-appearance for quite some time. I knew he'd been touring quite a bit, and there was talk of a new album. The problem was, even after he resurfaced, there was still only talk. That is, until the night of December 14, 2014 - when a surprise announcement came of a new album, Black Messiah, to be released at midnight. I was ecstatic. I'd been a fan of D'Angelo for quite some time. Both Brown Sugar and Voodoo were fantastic albums. So, on my first listen of Black Messiah, I was expecting to be automatically amazed by every song on the record.

Yeah, that didn't happen.

The thing is, I don't know why I was expecting it to. After all, Brown Sugar was a solid, direct neo-soul record, and was probably the one album from D'Angelo's whopping THREE releases that appealed most to a commercial audience. Five years later, when Voodoo came around, people started calling him 'Prince' because of the sound that the album's most successful single, "Untitled (How Does It Feel)" embodied. It's more clear with every listen of that song that D had studied every Prince ballad in the book of Prince ballads before writing that song. You can hear it in the music, you can hear it in his voice. It can be argued that Prince's influence shows up at least a little in almost every song on the album, even down to the multiple-word titles smashed into one ("Greatdayndamornin/Booty", comparable to Prince's "Anotherloverholenyohead"). However, D'Angelo has a way of successfully utilizing his influences in such a way that he creates his own original sound. Listening to Voodoo, you absolutely cannot call it a straightforward R&B/neo-soul album. It's more than that. It's chatter, the occasional intentional off-beat drum, it's funk with a little "Chicken Grease" slapped on it. It took me a good 5 or 6 full listens of Voodoo to garner the appreciation for it that I currently have.

So, what exactly was I expecting with Black Messiah? It's been a full 14 years (mind you, I've only discovered D'Angelo within the past 6 or 7), so who would really have expectations. When I first heard that groove in "Ain't That Easy", I immediately noticed it had that D'Angelo touch to it - that jittery kind of funk. I thought, "Oh yeah, this is gonna be fantastic." But then, I was thrown into "1000 Days" - a serious clusterfuck of sound and voices that threw me COMPLETELY off for the rest of the album. I finished listening to it thinking, "What in the actual hell was on this dude's mind. 14 years, and this is what he's got?"

Yes, it certainly is.

And it's beautiful, tragic, fantastic, and everything you should expect from a D'Angelo record. Giving the album 3 or 4 more listens, I've reached the point of realizing what a masterpiece it truly is - especially with the current state of modern music. This is not music for the radio. Not at all. The Prince influence is still very clear. Half of the lyrics are barely understandable. We know it's intentional though, because lots of Voodoo lyrics had the same effect. It's something that goes back as far as Sly & the Family Stone's There's a Riot Goin' On.  The lyrics on Black Messiah (at least the ones you can understand) are current and socially conscious at times. Lest we forget the fact that he titled the album BLACK MESSIAH of all things. That only means he's aware that in these trying times, Jesus is our only Messiah because, in light of recent murders of our unarmed brothers and sisters (which is nothing new), it has become apparent that neither the oppressively-designed system, the media, nor the rest of world has our backs.

D'Angelo has made his triumphant return, and triumphant it truly is. Pick up Black Messiah at your local record store. It might take you a while to catch on, but the wait is well worth it.

Until Next Time, Peace & B Wild.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Stressful Lighthouse

I never thought I'd be using those two words as a phrase. In fact, though, it was not actually the lighthouse that caused all the stress, but glitchy computer applications and my being prone to bad luck all the time this past week. For this week's assignment in Digital Media, we had to create a 3D model from 40-70 original photos that we took of an object from various angles. The application then stitches the photos together all on its own to create the model you see above. It sounds like something that would be a lot of fun, and I'm sure it would be had things gone more smoothly. We used a program called 123D Catch, an off branch of Autodesk, which makes the application "Maya" that is the industry standard for 3D modeling. 123D Catch comes in various forms. First I tried their desktop application, which got stuck on the install screen every time I tried to install it. I don't know why my computer did not like the application, because everything else installs just fine. Next, I opted to upload my photos using the browser application. That failed to work, so today I tried installing the desktop app one more time and wa-lah! I was finally able to at least get my images uploaded. The next step was to use the tools within the online application (the desktop app does not have the same ones) to stitch out the background, make some other refinements and "repair" the mesh. Unfortunately, there is a plugin needed to be able to use the tools (who's idea was this?!) and the plugin failed to install after over 20 tries. So, what's left is here. A 3D model of a lighthouse on top of newspaper that I was unable to remove.

But, enough complaining about my bad luck syndrome. I don't want you to catch it!

I chose to use this lighthouse for this project because I deemed it would be a good fit. My grandfather gave this to me some time before he passed away in 2009, so it has some special meaning to me as well. I sat the lighthouse on top of newspaper right in the middle of the Center for Performing Arts hallway table and went around it in circles taking various photos from different angles (imagine the crazy looks if you will). The fluorescent lighting in the hallway was much more even than anything I could produce at home, so it was a nice place to take the shots. There were a total of 57 photos that I ended up using for the final piece. The object was placed on the newspaper per the suggestion of the instructor. I only wish I could remove it now. But, all in all, this is what I was able to come up with given the circumstances, and I think it looks quite cool nonetheless. I hope to work with 3D modeling further in the future, which is very likely with me taking Video I next term!

Until next time, Peace & B Wild.

Friday, November 7, 2014

D.I.Y. Logos! (It's Not a Peter Gabriel Reference, I Promise!)

This week for Fundamentals of Digital Media, we had to create two custom logos for our blogs using Chittram - an online program that deals with creating vector graphics, similar to Adobe Illustrator. Let me start off by saying, this program was EXTREMELY glitchy for me to use. I'm not sure if there are errors in the coding or what else it could be, but I had to start my work over more than three times after getting to a certain point. I would add a shape, then not be able to select, move, or edit said shape. This would happen after working with the graphic for quite some time. On top of all this, when I tried to embed the images, they would not even show up, causing me to have to take lower quality screenshots and post them here. That sort of defeats the purpose of vector graphics, but that's enough complaining for one blog post...

Now onto the process.

What's really cool about vector-based images is that they do not have a loss of quality when enlarged within the software you use. These logos could have been enlarged to 4 times their size (or more) and they would still be as crisp as they were at the start. With raster-based images, enlarging is a pain because the software has to generate additional pixels to fill in the info for the larger image, causing unintentional blur and/or mosaic effects that degrade the image quality. Using Chittram, I was able to create both these graphics using both regular and bezier shapes, manipulating the size, orientation, and look of each shape, and also add text to finalize the logos. Though the process was quite painful at times, Chittram does have a lot of neat features for one to utilize, including the ability to add in fonts from your computer! All in all, I find vector graphics to be very useful after learning about them this week (I knew nothing about them prior to this) and I quite possibly might be returning to them in the future.

Until next time, Peace & B Wild.