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. 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Art a la Text

This week, we had to create text-based imagery (using photos we've taken this term) from a variety of different online applications for my Digital Media course. It was quite an interesting experience to work with these programs because I've seen text-based images that use these same techniques on many different occasions.
Created with
The three (3) above images were created with
(click to enlarge all)
The first image you see is one that I took earlier this semester as part of the Urban Landscape project. is a website that takes images and turns them into ASCII generated art. ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange) is a type of encoding used by computers that represents the English alphabet. Different characters are rearranged in ASCII art to create a visual image. (for the latter 3 photos) is a website that can not only create ASCII images, but also letter-based (HTML), and matrix-style images. For this, I chose to use one photo from my Typology grid from earlier in the semester - this particular record being Purple Rain, and the text generated in the third image from a famous line in the opening song, "Let's Go Crazy".

The first image above is one that I took on my urban landscape adventure at the beginning of this term. I titled it "Color on the Walls" because of the way the black substance seems to really stand out on the background of the wall. Using the online application Tagxedo, I was able to create a Tag Cloud based on the initial image and using the title as for the words to make the image. I highly enjoyed the fact that this application allowed you to upload your own font from the computer. I used a computer font version of the text used during Prince's Sign "O" the Times era - mostly because it is a really cool looking font, but also because I deemed it a good fit for the words. I've seen images before that were tag clouds, but never thought to make one myself. It's pretty enjoyable, especially with all the features and creative freedom that the application offers.

For the third (and final) segment of this assignment, I returned to a photo from the Urban Landscape set, and then used two other photos that I've taken outside of this class that I really love. The first image is of the Fifth Third Bank glass building in downtown Toledo. Using Textorizer, I uploaded the image, typed words in the box that I thought were a good fit for the photo (Toledo, downtown, beautiful, clouds, etc.) and played around with the different options until I achieved the final product. The next image uses Textorizer 2, which has more options that you can manipulate, but keeps the text in somewhat of a straight line. This makes it more useful for writing poems or other sayings over your photo. The photo I used for this is of a few frames of a piece of black leader film strip that I removed emulsion from using an exacto knife, then colored in portions of it to spell a word (the entire film is of course much longer) and held up to the light to photograph. More about the process of creating cameraless animation with film can be found here. The words you see in the photo are a small poem I wrote for this assignment that reflects my feelings on creating scratch film. It is quite a freeing process. The film was created for Optical Printing and Animation, a class I'm taking this term. The final photo in this set is of my two lava lamps that sit atop my dresser in my room. For this, try moving toward the screen and then away from it. It may or may not appear to move! I thought this was a great effect for the lava lamps, so I played around with the effects in the application Excoffizer until I got to the point where this effect was achieved. It's a trippy sort of thing, and of course I'm all about images that play tricks on the eyes and mind.

Overall, this week's assignment was quite enjoyable for me. It was one of those assignments that didn't really feel like an assignment at all because I had so much fun with it. Second to the video/audio mashup assignment, this is one that I've had the most pleasurable time working with. Now, I'm off to rest my eyes. Sleep deprivation is making me see and hear things that I'm pretty sure are not there... pretty sure.

Until next time, Peace & B Wild.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Digital Scribbles?

This week in Fundamentals of Digital Media, we were instructed to use three different applications that deal with Generative Art, a type of media that has been created by a source other than humans. This can range from music to visual art to even software art. For this assignment, we went in the direction of software art.

Application 1: Scribbler
Scribbler is an online application that gives you a blank canvas to draw on, followed by computer automated scribbles to complement your drawing. For the first image, I opted to draw a profile of some sort of face with black lines. I then clicked the "scribble" button and randomly changed the colors as the computer scribbled all over the face. The end result became an abstract sort of skull. The computer's work even made the skull look like some sort of bug is crawling in the mouth. This was unintended, but added a nice effect to the work.

For the second photo, I went in the direction of creating a spider. Following the initial minimal drawing, the computer proceeded to fill in the body and add what looks like webs in between the legs. I occasionally went back and forth from purple to black as the machine was drawing. The end result was a bit creepy, which fit perfectly with my feelings on spiders. Quite frankly, I am terrified of them due to the various encounters I've had with them, including finding one in my shoe after walking around with it for hours thinking it was a rock. Needless to say, there were many swear words shouted in that moment, and it only enhanced how creeped out I am by these creatures!

Application 2: Scribbler Too

Scribbler Too is a continuation of the aforementioned application (you don't say?). It is a little more advanced in composition - allowing you to save your work as a high quality file (versus taking a screenshot like you have to do with the original). The application also allows you to upload photos as a guideline to trace or mimic. Being the music lover that I am, of course I had to choose one of my favorite albums of all time to recreate using fuzz. For anyone that lives under a rock, (kidding... maybe) the above scribbles trace the outline of the prism from Pink Floyd's classic The Dark Side of the Moon album art. The original cover was designed by the late Storm Thorgerson. I enjoyed putting this together because the fuzz adds a whole new element to the album art: The Fuzzy Side of the Moon.

This piece is called Electric Eye. I've had "Moonage Daydream" stuck in my head for quite some time; so, initially drawing an eye, I moved on to add color to the sclera (white part). I chose red as the background because it seems to really make the eye pop. I could see this being the album art of some sort of weird experimental album released in the future. Maybe I just dream big!

Application 3: Flame

Flame is an online software that allows you to draw elements with different colors and textures of flame. I created the first piece in reminiscence of a dance party with crazy lights. The possibilities of creating abstract art with this application are nearly endless. The neon color of the fire really sparks an emotion of happiness for me, and makes me want to boogie down on the floor!

This second photo reminds me of a storm. I used different shades of blues and reds with Flame's gradient feature to attempt to create some sort of solar wind storm effect. This section of the assignment was even harder than the rest because there are so many possibilities with what you can do. It was very hard to try to come up with original and unique ideas.

Overall, I have been taken far out of my comfort zone using these applications. I am definitely not as proficient with using generative software as I am with other forms of digital art (video editing, audio editing, etc.). Coming up with ideas and using a computer mouse to draw were the most difficult parts of completing this assignment. I am quite terrible at drawing with my hands already, and with a mouse it wasn't much better. However, I hope I was able to create some digital art that is appealing to the eye. I definitely want to experiment even further with these applications in the future to improve my abilities.

Until next time, Peace & B Wild.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Video Trip!

This week in Fundamentals of Digital Media, we were instructed to use the audio we mashed up a couple of weeks ago and edit various sources of video to go along with the music. This video mashup contains clips from a variety of different sources including experimental filmmakers, video artists, and some of my own work that I shot previously. The piece begins with a clip from a video art piece by Woody and Steina Vasulka entitled Noisefields. With the title of this mashup being Video Trip, I figured it’d be best to start it off with some flicker, which will certainly make the human eye see things that are not there. The films that follow include clips from the classic Fritz Lang film Metropolis, Stan Brakhage’s Mothlight, Maya Deren’s Meshes of the Afternoon, a superimposition of two Andy Warhol pieces – Outer and Inner Space and Blowjob, Robert Wiene’s The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, and finally some footage and outtakes from my first short film – Landing in Light. I selectively chose these clips because they are among my favorite experimental art pieces. I have recently learned that films do not have to necessarily “make sense” or have a conventional narrative structure to be both visually and aesthetically pleasing. Sometimes it’s best to surrender all expectations and just enjoy the view. Many of the films in this piece do not have a typical narrative. However, they still stand as strong works of art due to their unconventional and sometimes wild imagery coupled with carefully detailed mise-en-scene. The works of Andy Warhol certainly play with the capabilities of the camera and engage the viewer to the point where they’re waiting for something else to happen in the piece… and then it doesn't. The Vasulkas are very talented in using digital video resources to create work that stimulates the mind, and, to be frank, it’s just really freaking cool to watch.

With the edits in this film, I aimed to use a lot of layered video and superimpositions, kaleidoscope effects, ghost effects, and a little bit of solarizing - all within the Adobe Premiere application. These effects allowed me to create new images from these films in a way that the eye would not normally see. I made various edits to the initial audio clip that I mashed up previously to coincide with the theme of the overall video, once the decision was made to go this route. Adding flanger and chorus effects to audio can give it a very spacey sort of feel. There are also some fantastic and FREE virtual synthesizers out there that include some amazing sounds. For the window of time that I had to complete this project, I would say that the results are certainly fitting with the title. Of course, with video editing it sometimes seems like you’re never finished. There will always be that one more thing that you need to change which turns into 50 things, which makes it difficult to meet deadlines sometimes! If I could change anything about this piece, I would go even further with effects and filters for the video clips by making more cuts and editing only a few seconds of video at a time. This way, there will be a new image for almost every beat in the song, versus going by measure. When dealing with any type of video work, the hardest part for me is always coming up with ideas on the spot. There is an assignment and a deadline. I normally work by getting ideas out of the blue and working from there. Coming up with things in a short amount of time puts me out of my comfort zone. The most important thing I've learned from this project is that being out of the comfort zone is not a bad thing at all.

Until next time, Peace & B Wild

Friday, October 3, 2014

Welcome 2 Funktopia - Is This Original?

This week in my Fundamentals of Digital Media class, we had to create a mashup using the online Digital Audio Workstation, Soundation. The site, much like DAW software for computers, is built up of hundreds of loops for the user to click into the different audio tracks, add effects, and it even comes with a few virtual instruments for those of us that like working with them. Being a little knowledgeable on digital audio from previous classes and experimentation with writing my own music, (the best teacher) I opted to use a few loops from Soundation and import them into Acoustica Mixcraft 6 (which is installed on my system) to add a wider variety of loops and some virtual instruments. My intent was to only use one or two loops, and play the other instruments myself. However, this has been one of the most stressful weeks I've had this semester, so I didn't have time to go in the direction I wanted to. This mashup was arranged over the course of one night. The only instrument I played myself is 4 notes on a polysynth played via MIDI that is looped throughout various parts of the song. For the time that I had to complete it, I'd say it came out pretty well. Feel free to leave feedback and suggestions! I'll likely be working on this further in the future, since we will be using our songs in upcoming projects for the class.

Completing this project really opened my eyes to many different things. Generally, I do not consider mashups original music. Sampling a song and adding your own additional instrumentation and lyrics is a bit different. In that case, the artist is bringing something completely new and original to the work. However, using a computer to take various different songs, rearrange them, and mesh them together is not really original. In that case, the person did not compose an original song. They simply reconstructed other people's songs. This week, we also had to watch a documentary by Brett Gaylor titled RiP: A Remix Manifesto. In the film, the themes of copyright infringement, remixing, and creating mashups are discussed throughout. The film, in part, argues that mashups are in fact creative and original works. After all, the inspiration for a lot of modern music had to come from somewhere, right? The film also says that everything created today has been built from works of the past. This made me think a lot about my views on mashups. It's very true that in almost all aspects of art, we are building on prior art. This, in addition to arranging a mashup myself this week, has forced me to rethink how I look at mashup artists. Though it does not take as much time as composing and recording an original song does, the process itself is quite time consuming. There are decisions made. The person working on the song makes the choice of which sounds go where, even though they did not create the sounds themselves. In spite of all this, it remains difficult for me to see mashups as original pieces of work. After all, someone had to learn to play the sound that is being remixed and that same someone had to come up with the idea in their head, then transfer the sound to the instrument and record it. It takes a lot to do all of that. This week has given me lots to think about on this subject matter. I have a feeling I'll be doing a lot more research on it, and hopefully it will shape my views to be more open minded. It will be difficult, seeing as though my all of my favorite artists and bands are actual musicians that compose songs and play instruments. I look up to that. But if it's easier to click a mouse than to fret an F chord, (which it is) then maybe those that like to click shouldn't be totally left out of the overwhelming joy creating music entails.

What do you think? Can mashups really be considered original art? Why or why not? I'd love to have some feedback!

Until next time, Peace & B Wild.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Discos de Vinilo - A Typology

This week in my Fundamentals of Digital Media course, we learned about Typologies, inspired by the work of Hilla and Bernd Becher. As you can see, we were instructed to take 16 photos of the same thing, with each individual photo being unique. Being the vinyl head that I am, of course my first thought was to photograph records. I used my Nikon S6100 digital camera to take multiple photos of each record, chose the best of all of them, and then proceeded to adjust the levels and crop them into squares. I used the RGB Histogram within the online Pixlr application to adjust the levels for each photo. The photos were then to be put into a grid using the Pixlr editing application with a blank canvas and a 100x100 pixel spacer.

Overall, this was a very challenging and time-consuming assignment. One problem I ran into is not having the best camera. Nikon is a great brand, but I have been unable to invest in a DSLR camera. Handheld digital cameras can work a lot of the time, but this particular one could not produce satisfying images without using the flash, which, in turn, produced a glare across each record. However, with the resources that I had available to me, and being pressed on time, I think I was able to make it work out. After all, any opportunity to create is a great one.

Until next time, Peace & B Wild.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Toledo, OH - City of Dreams

This is a 30-second video comprised of the full set of Urban Landscape photos that I discussed in my last post. The video was created using the online application "Animoto". Prior to completing this assignment for my Digital Media course, I had never heard of Animoto. Whenever I compiled slideshows like this in the past, I always reverted to using a video-editing software such as Adobe Premiere or Magix Pro. Animoto is a nice application that is easy to use for people that don't know their way around other software. It's simple, all selections in terms of style are pre-determined and available as choices (in other words, there is little customization that you have to worry about), and it's also quite fast if you need to make a quick presentation. Seeing all of the photos compiled into one presentation really makes the ones that don't belong stand out. This entire project has certainly been a learning experience that I will take with me in future photography projects.

The song you hear in this video is Talking Heads' "City of Dreams". The song was one of only a few actual Talking Heads songs that appeared in the 1986 David Byrne film, True Stories. I would say the song fits with the theme of the project quite well. Toledo might not be the best place in the world for careers to take off, but it is definitely a city of dreams in lieu of all the art and inspiration that it has to offer.

Until next time, Peace & B Wild.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

For Toledo and all its Beauty

It's very easy to miss how much character your city has when you've lived there for 19 years, in the same apartment, since you were born. You don't always stop to look at things as you would in a city that is foreign to you. Realizing how much this concept applies to my own life, when I received a photography class assignment dealing with an Urban Landscape theme, I knew what I had to do. 

Not having a vehicle at the time, I took the local TARTA bus to downtown Toledo, walked around for a few hours, and tried to find beauty in the buildings and other sights that generally wouldn't be considered beautiful. Per the assignment guidelines, I took about 25 photos with my cell phone and edited twenty of them with an online application titled Pixlr Express. The LG Optimus F6 phone I used (when set at the highest resolution) has a total of 5 Megapixels on the back facing camera. The phone takes photos that are sized at 2560 x 1920 pixels, equaling a total of 4,915,200 pixels. The resolution is not the greatest in the world, but it worked for the context of the assignment. The photo above, aptly titled "Fire Escape", is my favorite of all the photos taken. The rest can be found here on my Flickr account. This building really stuck out to me in my walk downtown. The slight ruins of the building, coupled with apparent unsteadiness of the fire escape is what really moved me to take the photo. The editing process with Pixlr allowed me to tell a story with this photo that was initially unintended. The first move I made was to crop the photo, getting rid of the unnecessary cars and sky in the first image. Next, I enhanced saturation and contrast, which really brought warmth and great color to the image. Then I decreased the exposure just a bit, giving a darker tone to the photo. The last thing I did was an effect called "Splash". This made the entire photo black and white, and gave me a brush to highlight any area I wanted color in. Discovering this, I highlighted the fire escape itself, which almost gives it a look as if it's actually on fire, when normally the building would be. I ultimately loved the irony of the end result, making this my favorite image among all of them that I took.

I'm really happy that I received this assignment because it allowed me to see how beautiful Toledo really is. Of course there are some amazing artists that create amazing art in this city, and I know many of them personally. Sometimes, however, you just have to stop and look at the city itself to understand how there can be so much elegance in the inelegance.

Until next time, Peace & B Wild.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

If you think Purple Rain is the Preeminent Prince Album, Here are 7 More You Need to Hear

Purple Rain (1984)

But first, let's talk about how important Purple Rain is.

30 years ago, one of the most culturally significant albums in popular culture was released. Prince & the Revolution's legendary Purple Rain, the soundtrack to the film of the same name, hit shelves on June 25th, 1984. It was preceded by the equally revolutionary lead single "When Doves Cry," the final song recorded for the album. In constructing the now classic tune, Prince made a radical decision that had all of his personnel scratching their heads.

He removed the bass line from the track.

This, in turn, gave the song a minimalist funk kind of sound, which was panned by the people around him. They just knew it wouldn't be a success. However, when the song was finally released in the middle of May in 1984, it was a worldwide smash-becoming Prince's first American number one single and the biggest selling single of the whole year. And that was just the beginning. The album went on to yield another number one with the infectious "Let's Go Crazy" and two top ten singles with "I Would Die 4 U" and the title track. The film, released a month after the soundtrack, was also released to much critical acclaim and grossed over $80 Million at the box office from a $7.2 Million budget. Prince went on to win two Grammy awards for the album and an Oscar for best original score. During the year of 1984, Prince had the number one single, album, and movie all at the same time-a feat that was only ever achieved by The Beatles previously, and has not been achieved by anyone since.

Okay, now that we've got those facts and achievements out of the way and blah blah blah, let's talk about the real importance of this whole era.

Purple Rain was raw. It was nasty. It was Prince. This was nothing new if one takes a look at the 5 albums that preceded it. However, with the huge commercial success that the whole project held, this was the project that catapulted Prince into super stardom. It was also the first time the world got to hear Prince & the Revolution live on a record. The basics for "I Would Die 4 U", "Baby I'm a Star", and "Purple Rain" were recorded live at a Minnesota benefit concert in 1983 (which marked the first appearance of Wendy Melvoin), and later edited and overdubbed in the studio. "Purple Rain" was initially a 16-minute song with extra verses and guitar solos, but it was edited down to 8 minutes for the final configuration of the album. However, if you talk to Prince, I have not seen this unreleased concert, I don't know you, and I was never here.

Though the lyrical content was nothing surprising considering Prince's nature, the fact that the album and film became so popular and commercially successful certainly impacted popular culture in huge ways. Prince became the prime example of being young, wild, and free. He represented being who you are, going all the way to the edge, and even going completely off the edge. No one else was writing songs about a sex fiend named Nikki who somehow thought it was okay to masturbate in a hotel lobby. Or fusing rock, new wave, pop, and funk with jams like "Let's Go Crazy" and "Computer Blue." It was cool. It was different. Oh, and not to mention using letters and numbers in the place of words (I Would Die 4 U). With the age of texting and tweeting with this language on a rise, it had to come from somewhere, right?

But as wildly important that Purple Rain is both culturally and aesthetically, most people whom are not huge Prince fans don't realize that he jumped into the music business with the same "rude boy" attitude, and continued with it 30+ albums later into today. Don't believe me? Go to your local record store or eBay account and pick up a copy of For You, Prince's debut album released in 1978. You'll hear elements of funk, disco, acoustic rock, soft, tender soul ballads, and blaring hard rock. Yet, somehow, he was always able to bring it all together into one collective force.

So, if you're reading this, and the only thing you know about Prince is that "Hey, wasn't he in that one purple movie?" or "Wasn't his only hit that 'When Doves Cry' song?", here are 7 Prince albums you must hear, coming from an expert. This is not to say that these albums are superior to Purple Rain, because comparing two Prince albums is like comparing David Bowie to Barry Manilow. It's just not possible.

  1. 1999 (1982) - In 1982, if you were worried about the predicted apocalypse in 17 years, Prince was there to party with you. This is the ultimate party album that had everyone dancing their life away. Guaranteed. Not only this, but it's the point where Prince had perfected the art of genre-blending. The sound complexity of songs like "Delirious", "Automatic", and "Lady Cab Driver" were absolutely unheard of. Not to mention the extended funk workout of "D.M.S.R."  The music video for one of the most well-known tunes from this classic, "Little Red Corvette" also helped to break the color barrier on MTV alongside Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean".

  2. Around the World in a Day (1985) - This album truly lives up to it's title. It will take you on a journey, beginning with a song that makes you want to call a local belly dancer. You then get a bubblegum pop, hippie-infused song about a park that is paisley and in your heart, a six minute complex ballad with piano work and vocals that will blow your mind, the classic hit about when Prince lost his virginity to a girl in a beret that was raspberry, a song about how funky life can be with a killer bass line, a gospel song about finding salvation, and more. Funny thing about this is, this album was already completed during the middle of the purple success. And it sounds nothing like it. Nothing.

  3. Parade (1986) - Scrambled eggs might be boring to Prince, but this album happens to be far from that. Parade stands as the last album to be credited to Prince and the Revolution, written as the soundtrack to Prince's second motion picture, Under the Cherry Moon, which fared significantly less than it's predecessor. The film aside, the album stands quite well on its own. Not only did it possess one of the biggest hits in his career with "Kiss", but it is also filled with sparse, demo-like recordings that are also filled with life. It sounds unfinished, like these were the humble beginnings of the record, rather than the finished record. Nonetheless, it's filled with offbeat funk, intense orchestration, and a large absence of the rock elements that defined his earlier work. It is the album that explicitly presented the musical dichotomy of Prince.

  4. Sign "☮" the Times (1987) - We shouldn't be talking about this album as part of a collective post. We really shouldn't. It's my favorite Prince album of all time, and I know more about this era than any other. Despite this, we'll try to keep it short(ish). Released exactly one year to the date after Parade, this album is two LPs of sheer craziness. It opens with the bluesy, socially-conscious title track. From there, it spirals off into hardcore funk, a spacey ballad about the Dorothy Parker in Prince's dreams (not the poet), pushes you to consider "Starfish and Coffee" as a new breakfast entree, takes you into a world that defies sex where Prince imagines what it would be like to be your girlfriend (platonically, of course). Then there's "The Cross", which goes from strictly acoustic to blaring hard rock in a split second, the booty-shakin', 9-minute "It's Gonna Be a Beautiful Night" (recorded live with The Revolution in '86), and the album closes with what has to be one of the greatest love songs of all time. Have I said enough? Not nearly.

  5. The Black Album (1987)/Lovesexy (1988) - Okay, so I'm cheating a bit here, but these two albums certainly go hand in hand because of the stories behind them, which we've outlined previously. In case you don't feel like reading the whole thing, here's a shorthand version. Essentially, these two albums represent where the darkness and the light meet. Late 1987-88 is rumored to be a highly conflicting and crazy time for Prince. Only he knows what is true, but what can be said is that the dark funk and rap parodies on The Black Album coupled with the highly spiritual and pop complexity of Lovesexy make this era one of the most ground-breaking in Prince's 35+ year career.

  6. O(+> (The Love Symbol Album) (1992) - Welcome to the pilot episode of "Prince Writes an Opera Like No Other". That essentially sums up this fantastic work of musically diverse tunes that tie into a loose plot line. It's the second album credited to 'Prince & the New Power Generation', following Diamonds and Pearls the year before. In terms of content, the album is all over the place. We see Prince rapping in "My Name is Prince" and "Sexy M.F.", throwing in some crazy new jack swing with "The Continental", and even experimenting with reggae sounds in "Blue Light". The climax of the story comes in the second to last track on the album, "3 Chains O' Gold", which, to put into perspective, is like "Bohemian Rhapsody", Prince style. This era also marks the first appearance of 'the love symbol', which has no pronunciation, and is the character that became Prince's name the following year.

  7. The Gold Experience (1995) - The first album to be credited to 'O(+>' (see album art), this interlude-packed experience is filled with all the magic of Prince and the new directions of The Artist Formerly Known as Prince. Each interlude contains an 'NPG Operator' that directs you to the irony of "Pussy Control", the ballad "Shhh"—which contrasts hard rocking drums and guitar with smooth R&B, the blaring rock n' roll of "Endorphinmachine", and the spacey aura of "Shy". The lead (and most well fared) single, "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World" was the first of it's kind being that 'The Artist' released the song independently, while still under contract with Warner Bros. This joint has a little bit of everything, which is very true to Prince's nature.
If I made this list again in a year or so, it might be completely different. So, I guess you could say you can't trust me all that much. What you can trust is that Prince is much bigger than Purple Rain. He has contributed tremendous innovations to both music and pop culture over the years, and is unarguably one of the most prolific and musically diverse artists in the history of music. So, the next time you see that 5'2" genius in the diamond-studded purple trench coat, white frilly shirt, and high-heeled boots sitting on a motorcycle, just know that 30 years later, his legacy has engulfed a plethora of additional sounds that defy all that is popular music.

Until next time, Peace & B Wild.