Monthly Archives: December 2009

Fifth Day of Sharing: Dark Matter

Artist's rendition of Dark Matter

A computer simulation shows how invisible dark matter coalesces in halos (shown in yellow). Photograph: Science Photo Library, via guardian.co.uk

For my fifth day of sharing, I’ll share an image and story from The Guardian about scientists who may have found two (two!) particles of dark matter. I like this story for two reasons:

1) The way they found the dark matter sounds like something straight out of Quantum Leap or Star Trek: Deep Space 9:

In a series of coordinated announcements at several US laboratories, researchers said they believed they had captured dark matter in a defunct iron ore mine half a mile underground.

Wait, huh? There really are creepy dark things going on in defunct iron ore mines? I knew it!

2) I also love the story because of the phrase “dark matter”–it’s so evocative that it practically demands to have people write stories and poems and draw pictures about it. Love it.

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Fourth Day of Sharing: MLA Update Video

As I continue sharing every day, I’m increasingly trying to think of how this different and similar to other forms of sharing I regularly do through Facebook (primarily photos and comments on friends’ things) and Delicious (usually links to awesome things others have shared with me) and Twitter (often brief comments on those links).

Surely the idea of sharing something every day–and purposefully using the word sharing–implies something beyond those tasks that I already do. I’m trying to go out of my way to share a part of me that might not show up in any of those other arenas.

I don’t have the answer to this yet, but one answer is for me to share something that I’ve had a creative hand in. Since it’s the first thing that comes to mind, I’ll share a video I made for students at my university about the changes in the 7th edition of the MLA Handbook–silly stuff, I know, but quite interesting to me, when I consider how changing practices affect standards in all areas of life. Enjoy! (Maybe?)

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Third Day of Sharing: Choose Your Own Adventure

Graphic of Choose Your Own Adventure booksI can’t remember where I heard about this remarkable site: cyoa. It’s an in-depth, visual-heavy analysis of Choose Your Own Adventure books, which I grew up reading.

Be sure to check out the animations, which left me joyfully gawking. This site comes to me at a time in my life when I’m first starting to realize my love of good design. It inspires me to make all analyses beautiful.

(Why is this the “third day of sharing”? See Day 1.)

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Second Day of Sharing: Scrooge

I just finished rCover of A Christmas Carol bookeading A Christmas Carol for the first time. It was worth it–especially because I enjoyed the skinny 1988 Aerie Books paperback that my buddy gave me a few months ago, with a teensy foreward and afterword by Jane Yolen and a scream-tastic cover (right; artist not credited).

Continuing the “share something every day until Christmas” challenge, today I want to share a film adaptation of A Christmas Carol that I started watching yesterday during lunch: Scrooge (1935), directed by Henry Edwards and starring Seymour Hicks, who also starred in the silent 1913 version.

The whole film is available for free at Archive.org, which points out that “This British import is notable for being the only adaptation of this story with an invisible Marley’s Ghost and its Expressionistic cinematography.” Beautiful and moody stuff–and especially fun when you’ve just breezed through the book, because so much of the dialogue is reproduced verbatim. I especially like the purposefully horrible trio of instrumentalists in the first scene who try admirably to get through “The First Noel” without hitting a wrong note. Edwards lets their screeching go on for long enough that I went from annoyed to charmed–exactly as I was supposed to.

Besides the fact that it’s cool, I’m sharing this film because I like film adaptations so much. I haven’t read much in the English sub-field of adaptations, though USF has a graduate class on them every once in a while. It seems like one more area of creating from found material, which I’m increasingly convinced is the way we create practically everything.

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First Day of Sharing

The folks over at Share This Course have challenged participants to share something every day from now until Christmas Eve. I accept. Here’s the big picture:

The goal of ‘Assignment: Share’ is to become more conscious of all the ways we use digital media to share our experiences. We share links, we share documents, we share photos, we share videos, we share music, we share movies, we share just about anything that can be digitized, stuck on a server somewhere, and presented via the Web. . . . This sharing of culture is the foundation of Share This Book, so we must grasp it ourselves before we can explain it to others. Don’t be afraid, don’t be shy.  Everything is interesting.  Everything deserves to be shared. (Via)

I’ll be cross-posting my sharing on this blog and on the Share This Course site. I see this as a helpful kick in the pants to keep up my blogging and as an interesting experiment in pushing the content of this blog a bit more beyond the academic. I mean, I talk about all kinds of stuff on here, but almost always with the thought in the back of my mind that it’s stuff I might want to think about in an academic context. On and off I’ve wondered how much I want to push that boundary, and this challenge should help me think that through by practicing. Sweet!

Today I’m going to share by celebrating (belatedly) the 10th anniversary of Overclocked Remix, the benchmark site for videogame music remixes and rearrangements. Their press release from December 11, the actual birthday, describes the site thusly:

Founded in 1999, OverClocked ReMix is an organization dedicated to the appreciation, preservation, and interpretation of video game music. Its primary focus is www.ocremix.org, a website featuring hundreds of free fan arrangements, information on game music and composers, resources for aspiring artists, and a thriving community of video game music fans.

My favorite mix on the site is SGX‘s “Save Me,” a remix of a tune from the Playstation 2 game Ico (which I’ve never played but long to). Part of my love for this piece is the way it shows the serendipitous nature of sharing: I came across OCRemix years ago and randomly played this song, which led me to learn more about the game Ico, which led me to buy Shadow of the Colossus, a game made by the same folks, which led me to get the soundtracks to both games, which are now a regular part of my background music while working at home. So cool!

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What Did He Just Say?

Via @cshirky‘s Twitter feed, I recently learned about the BBC’s Digital Revolution Short Film Competition. Here’s how they describe it:

For the first time ever, uncut video for a BBC documentary series, is online NOW for YOU to download and re-edit. Cut it, clip it, mash it, animate it, make fun of it if you like. It’s free to use.

Awesome stuff–especially because remix contests that I’ve seen often ask contestants to remix music or video that is largely valued for its artistry (or its “poetics”). (Total Recut’s video remix challenge is an exciting exception.) That’s supercool, and I love those remixes to pieces. But I’m especially interested in the challenges involved with remixing something that didn’t have a primarily artistic purpose to begin with–in this case, documentary footage of smart people talking about digital culture. Yes, the shots are “artistic” in that they were carefully composed, well produced, etc.–but they weren’t designed with the same kind of purpose and aesthetics as a Radiohead song or a Weezer video, which I think makes the remix process different too.

Here’s the video that Shirky tweeted (in which he shows up for a couple seconds!):

This kind of playful misrepresenting reminds me of a favorite practice of some friends of mine in 8th and 9th grade: we would take an old karaoke machine (two tape decks and two mic inputs), hand a mic to a friend, and hit record. Then we’d interview the friend (including, at one point, @RachelleLacroix), trying to get him/her to say as many awkward, sexually perverse (8th grade, remember?), and rude things as possible.  Then I would sit down by myself with the tape, listening carefully for anything I could twist to make it sound like the interviewee was saying something s/he wasn’t. Typical fare was the interviewee saying something like, “My dog, my mom, my dad, all my friends,” which I would reedit as the answer to something like, “Who do you [sleep with] every day?” (8th grade! Remember that!)

What I’d really like to do is go back and ask 8th-grade Kyle what he was listening for in that moment of reediting, scouring the raw recording for something that would seem funny. Without using these words, I must have been attuned to my audience (knowing what they would find funny, and thus score me cool points), running quickly through many possible narratives in my head (wondering which answers would most profit from the funniest questions), all the while striving for a humorous organization and pace (so it would feel right in terms of both individual jokes and larger context, as a “bit”). How would Cassetteboy, who made the video above, answer those questions differently, I wonder?

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Remix or Cover?

The Wizard (1989) was made for me. It’s a movie about an emotionally disturbed boy who turns out to be stellar at playing video games. I had just turned 9 when it came out, when my waking moments were mostly soaked with Nintendo games–and luckily for me, the movie was, in the words of its Wikipedia page, “little more than a 90-minute commercial for Nintendo games.” Sweet!

Part of the reason the film still holds up for me (despite a 31% on Rotten Tomatoes) is because of some beautiful, evocative montage scenes of the 3 kids hitchhiking from Utah to California with Real Life’s “Send me an Angel” pounding in the background. (Somehow, this feels similar to the important scene in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure when they accidentally warp to the future, and everything slows down and the audience soaks in the music and the reverence and it’s beautiful. Is that just me?) Here’s the scene from The Wizard:

I was singing along to this song last night in the car, and it made me think about Denison Marrs’ cover. (I can’t find one to stream, but the version on their 7″ far exceeds the deadened recording on their third LP.)

And that made me think about cover songs in general, and the question of what ways remixes and covers are similar and different. I could give technical answers about the differences, but I’m not sure they’re very satisfying: my impression is that cover songs are usually completely rerecorded, with no original sound information used in the new recording (which is why awesome folks at OverClocked ReMix say that the pieces over there are “more re-arrangements than remixes“), while remixes actually take parts of the original recording and mix their sound levels again, often with new musical information added. Rearrange it and record it from scratch: it’s a cover. Add a techno beat: it’s a remix.

But is that too tidy? Both practices involve composing from existing material; both put the remixer/cover-er in a similarly creative spot, imagining how best to adapt existing material for a new artistic or rhetorical purpose. Maybe all we need is the bigger category of “music from existing material.”

That feels dangerous, though; we really like our boundaries. And it implies that the remix is less creative than the so-called “original” works, even if the original piece was just a collection of existing chord progressions, drum beats, melodies, etc. If we start broadening categories, everything starts to sound like a remix. . . .

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