A funny fake and a blog that explains how they did it

I thought this was a lot of fun to read/learn about (while I should have been doing other things):  First, there’s this amazing water slide video:

This is fake, and I guess that’s kind of common sense, really. But what I liked as much and/or better was this from Juice The Blog:  Unbelievable Waterslide Compositing Walkthrough.  Yet another reason to learn more about video….

David Lynch’s “Interview Project”

This looks pretty cool: via boing-boing, I found David Lynch’s INTERVIEW PROJECT, which is going to be/is a year-long project where David Lynch’s people (I don’t think it is the director himself) goes on a road-trip and interviews everyday people. If the first one and the promo are any indication, the “real people” in question are more or less drifters, which is pretty fitting for David Lynch’s style.

It looks like it might end up being pretty interesting, and it also very much looks like the kind of thing that might work well for something like English 121, especially as I’m doing these student documentary video projects this term. I have no idea how they’ll turn out yet, of course….

Some thoughts on Jeff Smith, Bone, Indie Comics, and Columbus

The fam took a mini road-trip to Columbus, Ohio Friday and Saturday mainly to see The Cartoonist: Jeff Smith, Bone, and the Changing Face of Comics. I personally am not a particularly big fan of Bone and/or Jeff Smith, but the complete Bone is one of Will’s favorite books, Annette is teaching it this spring in a class, and I generally like comics, though I think I like them more in theory– that is, what they mean in terms of visual rhetoric, teaching with images and words, etc.– than I do as a fan. Though the movie made me think that Bone might be something I ought to give another chance.

One of the highlights for all us was Will getting his complete Bone signed:

Jeff Smith signing Will's copy of "Bone"

Smith was super-duper nice to everyone waiting to get stuff signed, and he chatted a bit with Will, noting that his copy of the 1300+ page well-worn book had obviously been read.

The movie itself was pretty good/kind of so-so, mainly because it was essentially a Jeff Smith love-fest/puff-piece. But I thought it was interesting in a lot of different ways. Smith had an extensive background in making animated television commercials, and that definitely had a major influence on his approach to comics and Bone in particular. Bone began as a self-published comic, and I suppose it still is self-published in the sense that Smith and his wife (and his wife seemed to be the real business brains behind the scenes) still run what appears to be a pretty lucrative operation.

What I didn’t realize before this movie was that lots of the independent/underground comics sold in places like Vault of Midnight in Ann Arbor are self-published, though obviously not on the scale of Bone. Which made me wonder why this hasn’t worked in conventional “words in a row” publishing; I mean, self-publishing a novel or a collection of short stories or poems is pretty much a good way to not be taken seriously, and while I know that’s changing a bit with some web sites, you’re still not likely to see a lot of self-published books even in locally-owned and independent book stores.

I suppose the same is true with academic writing and publishing.

Some of the difference seems to be in the materiality of the comic and the collecting fetish. There were many geeky 30 to 50 year old men waiting in line with Will to get signatures from Jeff Smith, only they were holding stacks of the individual issues of Bone or other Smith comics. In the movie, Smith and some of the other featured comic writers (including Scott McCloud, BTW) spoke a couple times about the physicality and “object-ness” of comics in a way that just isn’t the same with words-in-a-row books, IMO. Interestingly though, one of the ways that Bone caught on and one of the main ways comics continue to be promoted was/is the Internet.

As for Columbus proper: we didn’t get to see much, unfortunately. We had so-so Ohio “Mexican” food in a place in the Short North area, which looked like it would have been a fun place to hang out but which probably involved more “adult” entertainment (e.g., bars and stuff) than might have been fitting for Will. He did have fun in the hotel room though:


And now it’s back to a “working holiday:” stuff around the house today, commenting/grading on papers tomorrow.

Two very cool movie making links

First off, there is Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Online Video from the American University School of Communication Center for Social Media. How’s that for a mouthful? Anyway, the site includes a very handy video and lots of other resources to help academics/students/etc. navigate a bit through the world of social media. This will probably be must reading for 516 next year, maybe for 444 too.

Then there’s xtranormal “Text-to-Movie,” which is a site that allows you to make very simple animations quite, well, simply. Here’s my first effort:

I don’t know if this is a teachable moment or not; it probably is, actually. But beyond that, it’s a fun little site to play around with. This might even find its way into my 121 this spring.

JJ Abrams and “The mystery box”

If you are into Lost or looking forward to the new Star Trek, this TED talk by J.J. Abrams will have a certain kind of value for you. But what I thought was most interesting and spot-on about it are his comments about technology and its relationship to creativity, writing, and film making. Especially film making. As he says, nowadays, if someone wants to go out and make a movie, they can pretty much just go out and do it with fairly accessible equipment because that’s how much more accessible and easy the technology has become. Interesting and entertaining stuff, and maybe something to squeeze into 328 or 516, especially if my desires for students to actually make “good” movies increases.

Taskbarn and online collaboration

See Taskbarn, a free project management/collaboration tool.

I don’t know if this would help or not (and I haven’t played with it yet), but one of the challenges my online students in English 328 had this term was collaborating on the movie projects. I knew this might be tricky. I’ll post more about this later, but the short version is that it all “worked out,” but not without some challenges along the way.

In the end, the groups in both of my online sections mostly did face-to-face collaboration, which makes sense since at least 80% of the students in these online classes are currently taking class on campus. In fact, I think there were only two students in total who were really “distance learners,” one in another state a couple time zones away, and another in the military and stationed in the Middle East. Without getting into details now, people coped as best they could and it basically worked out about as well as the collaboration did in the fall term in the “normal” face to face class.

Still, I think that students really could/should be able to do the whole thing online by exchanging text, audio, and video. In theory, they could use emuonline for this, but it has some kind of clunky features in terms of uploading large files and such. So maybe something like this would work better.

ReReRe:CCCC-ing, part 1 (Rip: A Remix Manifesto)

The call for proposals for the 2010 CCCCs in Louisville is titled “The Remix: Revisit, Rethink, Revise, Renew.” First off, proposal readers better get ready for a whole bunch of “Re:”s which is likely to be included in just about every single proposal. I didn’t look too closely at the CCCCs program for San Francisco, but I will bet you there were enough waves to make a reader seasick.

Second, I suspect the CCCCs ought to be careful what it asks for. Is this an organization that is really ready to rethink, revise, and renew? I dunno.

Third– and maybe this is just me– but that “The” bothers me, as in “The Remix,” which suggests singularity which obviously not only doesn’t exist but which is defied by remixing in the first place. Plus every time I read the phrase “The Remix,” I misread and/or hear “The Reflex” by Duran Duran.

I’ve got a couple of vague ideas for proposals, but one thing I’m kind of thinking about is something along the lines of Rip: A Remix Manifesto, only in the form of an essay/word-driven project. Here’s a preview:

The Ann Arbor film festival is going to screen this on Saturday night, but not until 9 pm. And given that I am a flying solo this weekend while Annette is off at a conference, I’m not sure I’ll be able to make it or not. But the point of the movie, as I understand it, is it is the first “open source” documentary, where the filmmaker invited folks to remix/mashup the video. So the two things I wonder about:

Could this work in a “conventional” first year writing project, where one of the research writing “essay” projects was replaced with a “mashup” essay?

And is the CCCCs and/or comp/rhet world actually ready for something like that?