GIF’in out in the New Year

Over the holidays and between trips to visit friends in New York City and Rhode Island, I continued discovering how much fun it is to explore the creative power of generating animated gifs in the little free time I have on my hands. This is my take on the DS106 assignment, “Summarize a movie with Animated GIFs to tell the story of a movie.” I’ve taken a slight deviation from the directions using three movie trailers that feature protagonists finding their way forward in times of great challenges. These examples hail from quasi cult films that take place in the NYC metro area. I was headed to Manhattan the next day so must have been in a New York state of mind.

Working with mainstay DIY tools like YouTube, MPEG streamclip and GIMP, I’ve gotten the process down to the point where it comes naturally without referencing the tutorial. Downloading the video clips can be accomplished in a number of ways. I opened them in MPEG streamclip and extracted the relevant morsels. Exporting as image sequences, I opened the jpeg files as layers in GIMP, scaled and exported as looping animated gifs. Voilà, c’est tout! 2012 has been dubbed the year of the gif. For many, it’s also been a year filled with great odds, great misfortune yet hope and dignity shine through. Man versus man, man versus the machine, humans outsmarting algorithms.

On the Waterfront - Trailer [1954] [27th Oscar Best Picture] 28

So during the height of McCarthy’s witch-hunts, Elia Kazan struggled with a wave and shadow of reproach following a near career-ending and humiliating inquisition. In On the Waterfront, Marlon Brando takes the high road and highlights one who will not sell out, no matter what. Could 2012 be the year of selling out as MOOCx’s spin-off and the steady stream of anti-education venture capital flows out of Silicon Valley?

Escape From New York Original 1981 Trailer 25Next up, in Escape from New York (1981), Kurt Russell, in the slithering role of Snake receives a bone-chilling 24-hour deadline to rescue the US President and a double-secret encrypted recording (on a cassette tape no less!) from the hands of the Duke and his army of thugs. One of my favorite character actors, Ernest Borgine, shepherds Snake to the other side moments before the jugglar time-bomb detonates. Snake lives, the President lives, and the Duke perishes. Only I could spin it this way, but is the battle between Snake and the Duke emblematic of the intensifying conflict between proponents of open educational resources and the digital publishing industry?

Lastly, Tony Manero (John Travolta) steals the floor and busts out some well-honed disco moves in Saturday Night Fever. In the wise words of Casey Kasem, this gif is a reminder to “keep your eyes on the stars and your feet on the ground.”
StayAlive 067

Happy New Year and keep on dancing in 2013.

My GIFest continues with some animated moments with Charlton Heston

My first attempt at an animated gif was laughable. But this was also in part by design as my motto (see tagline at the top of my blog) is “revise and you will learn something new every day.” As an open online student in DS106, a course on Digital Storytelling, my professor and colleague, Jim Groom,  encouraged me with a link to a tutorial to help me master the process and inject some real animation magic into my homework assignment. I used MPEG streamclip and GIMP, both free and freely available on the open web. I am continuing on the same theme of my previous post which features Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry in Sudden Impact. Grooms’ Gun Crazy Gifs post really got me thinking and upset about where the US stands in regards to gun reform. In light of the Newtown massacre, it’s time for Americans to say, “enough is enough,” by outlawing AK-47s, Glock 27-pack clip magazines at $27 each, armor-piercing bullets and the like. Charlton Heston, a brilliant actor and orator whom we all know and respect for performances in Ben Hur and many other films that span decades, was also an active supporter of the Civil Rights Movement.

Growing up with WTBS and TNT on the tube on most Sunday afternoons, around the holidays I remember catching his awesome performance in the role of Judah BenHur, a Jewish prince and merchant in Jerusalem in the 1st century. Ben-Hur is one of my all-time favorite films and is right up there with Casablanca. When I lived in London, England in 1987-88, I was fortunate to see him in a play at the Savoy Theatre in the role of Sir Thomas More in Robert Bolt’s, A Man for All Seasons. Fifteen minutes into the first act, a towering figure emerges in darkness from the back of the theater. Voice first, then a ghostly figure glided down the left side aisle of the theater about three feet from where I was sitting. It was Charlton and we had great seats. I instantly recognized his fierce yet gentle voice and was simply amazed at his towering stature. He was in fact 6’3″. Later in life, when he became the spokesman for the NRA, my opinion of Heston plummeted. Back in May of 2000, during a recorded press conference, he exclaimed and brandished a rifle over his head: “I’ll give you my gun when you pry (or take) it from my cold, dead hands.” Maybe he thought he was on a set? Either way, how could Ben-Hur and George Taylor (Planet of the Apes) disappoint millions of fans in one simple act after such a fabulous career? This was his last well-known public performance and I think it’s safe to say that he went out with a bang. Here are few animated gifs that speak volumes to Charlton Heston acting expertise, both good and not so good, but clearly focused on giving a stellar performance on and off-stage.

PlantOfApes 01

Charlton Heston; From My Cold Dead Hands. Long Version 01

My first animated GIF

After seeing a call by Alan Levine on Twitter about a certain animated GIF festival under way, I began to see more of the familiar DS106 animated gif on different sites I follow. I’ve never made an animated gif before, and to be honest, I’ve never understood the cult-like fascination with them in DS106: “What do those guys do in DS106? Well, they make animated gifs. Word.” And so much more! What this means is I’ll start making many more animated gifs to keep the DS106 energy going over winter break. It wasn’t until I saw one by Andy Forgrave, Zack Dowell, Brian Lamb, and then the great Reverend himself, that I finally decided to give it a shot. I’m not one who’s inclined to follow tutorials in general. I end up learning much more about my own process while stumbling along the way toward the light. Having the community chime in via comments is especially helpful. Still rather new at the blogging scene compared to folks out there who model best practices and who’ve been at this since the beginning, I’ll follow their lead and leave comments enabled on my site. I’ve never understood why some well known and established bloggers disable comments on their sites. So, back to the lecture at hand, I’ve revise and improve thanks to you kind folks out there giving advice. While I know there’s a more acceptable way to do this with all due DIY artistic merit and pride in mind, here’s how I did it. I did a quick web search for animated gif generator and found Image Flip. Jim Groom’s Gun Crazy Gifs post is inspirational and right on the mark about the bigger picture context of American civilization in the wake of the Newtown tragedy. It really got me thinking about the obsession American culture, for good and bad, mostly worse, has for guns, violence and rugged-individualist machissimo. I chose Clint Eastwood in the unforgettable role of Dirty Harryin the most memorable scene from Sudden Impact. Harry soberly mutters early in the morning and before his first cup of coffee: “Go ahead, make my day.”

Using Image Flips’ markers, I isolated the segment and executed its automagical workflow to produce the animation. Only thing is, when it came time to embed it in a post, there wasn’t a share html embed code to use. I poked around a bit trying different code samples but to no avail. How does one get it disappear? Pretty lame. So I ended up downloading a trial copy of Screenflow and recorded about 2:30 minutes of my desktop playing the file. Then I used the cropping tool to isolate the clip alone and exported and uploaded to YouTube as an mp4. Voila! The Demo Copy watermark is there but hey, I’m now giffin’ it… sort of… not. My make-believe creation would be far more subtle and devious had I managed to conceal the video player controls at the bottom, set loop=true, etc. Almost fooled you, eh? Not too shabby for winging it and having a blast.

Stellar views of Wäscälly Wäbbits’ Bunk 2 at Camp Magic MacGuffin

Yes, these are the Wäscälly Wäbbits you’re looking for! Check out Bunk 2 where there is plenty of room to dig and explore. As we get settled into camp, I’m looking forward to exploring the petroglyphs up on the cliffs.

Breaking Camp



Hatchet Jack told us the other day that the hills and lake in the Camp MacGuffin vicinity are inhabited by Big Wäscäl Wäbbit, a huge seldom-seen critter that leaves a gigantic paw print similar to Sasquatch. If you see a paw print please take a picture and tweet about it.

Breaking out the camping gear for Camp Magic MacGuffin

Dear Family: Well, blame it on ds106, but it’s about time I get my act in gear if I’m going to Camp MacGuffin this summer. Hey Bunk House #2: please save me a spot by the fire, my gear and my bones are on their way! So here is my camping gear I picked up back in 1990. Good quality materials and of course I take care of my stuff. It has served me well all over the world. And still shines on. My Lowe Specialist Cloudwalker II has carried many different objects all over North America, Europe, North Africa, South Pacific, the Caribbean, Central and South America… The Marmot sleeping bag has kept me cuddly snug and protected in the high backcountry of the Sierras, Rockies, Pyrenees, Alps, and still has decent loft on standby in my dry basement. I’m ready to go camping! Do not worry, dear family and friends, I’m in very good company at Camp Magic MacGuffin. I promise to keep in touch this summer. I’ll be creating and sharing art with you over the Internets!

Camp gear from 1990 still kicking


Left to my own devices

I’ve owned several record players over the years. I remember thinking from way back that I should probably squirrel one away in storage just in case. I’m pretty sure the last player I owned was accidentally thrown away while I was living overseas in the 1990s. It was stored in my folks’ basement. I did manage to take my Yamaha amplifer and a 5 disc Sony CD player with me to France. And all my CDs! But I left the record player at home. Why would you take a record player to France in 1994 anyway? A few years ago, a family friend retired and downsized her house in the Bryn Mawr area outside Philadelphia. She kindly gave my parents a number of vintage LPs, some of which are now in my possession. I would love to listen to them but am now tasked with finding a record player. My friend Dr Garcia kindly recommended one. Here’s another: the Crosley CR40 Mini-Turntable from Sears. But I’m keeping my eye out at garage sales for a real bargain. In the 70s, we had one of those all-in-one humongous furniture type devices. I think it had a built-in radio. It looked very similar to this one for sale now on Craigslist. It was a great hand-me-down from someone! I wonder where it is now? Is it still spinning vinyl in somebody’s living room or perhaps it’s stored in a basement or storage locker? I’ve got some albums I’m eager to listen to and share with others. Here is a future ds106radio show in the works… Oh, be sure to hold onto a VCR. I’ve got two. In another post, I’ll share how a friend and I rigged up a transformer to convert the 220V to 110V so I could hear my tunes in France. This setup worked great for a few years until it failed one day and gave both devices too much juice. Its last song ended with a bang and a puff of smoke.


Sharing art every day on the DS106 Daily Creative

In addition to the DS106 MOOC I’m taking as an open online student this semester, I am going to make a very concerted effort to contribute to its Daily Creative. I think it provides a great opportunity to be socially-engaged with like-minded colleagues all over who enjoy taking pictures, recording audio and video clips, and sharing/providing feedback on each other’s work. I have to say I’m delighted to have found the DS106 community. Or, perhaps it found me… on Twitter! So, I’m sharing an example of yesterday’s assignment as communicated to its followers on Twitter.

I took this image using my Droid 2 phone. Then, I uploaded it to my flickr account ( and tagged it with  #tdc02. 02 is the second assignment of the semester.

Mac and cheese on the lady plate

Here is a bit more information about how it works. From the Daily Creative website,

The Daily Creative is an exercise in the continual practice of spontaneous creativity through short exercises. Each “assignment” should take no more than 15-20 minutes. There are no registrations, no prizes, just a community of people producing art daily.

What a very cool way to build community on the Internets!  Here’s what Day 3 is shaping up to as of this evening.

If you’d like to join us, here’s how to get started:

  1. Follow @DS106TDC on Twitter. Each day at 10AM EST a new assignment will be posted. The assignments will vary in discipline with everything from photography and drawing to audio and video.
  2. Once you’ve completed your assignment, follow the directions on the homepage to upload it to the appropriate service and tag it correctly.
  3. That’s it! You may wish to tweet out a link to it to let your followers know what you’re up to but this is not a requirement of the site.

I’m a student in DS 106 this semester!

I am excited to be an open online student in Jim Groom’s Digital Storytelling MOOC better known as DS106 at the University of Mary Washington. In fact, I created my own site on and have already uploaded several pre-assignments. The class will start in earnest in the next week or so.