Mental break: tdc650

After a couple of weeks of intensely intellectually challenging PLN’ing with #xplrpln, I thought I might take a mental break with DS106 tdc650:

Take a photo that shows a reflection.

I look at TDCs daily but never really know whether I’ll do it or not until I ‘find’ inspiration. Weekends are pretty good because I’m usually out with my 3 year old and open to being inspired. We were going to the beach which I thought would be rife with opportunity for photos with reflections. And it was. Except that once I found some awesome rockpool reflections my phone battery was almost dead and the camera refused to play.

When I got home, I still had it at the back of my mind and the idea of doing something with the reflection of the setting sun seemed promising. But in the mad rush that tends to happen at that time, I missed it.

I was still thinking about it as I was cleaning the pots and the reflection of light in the kitchen sink caught my eye:

Kitchen Sink

This was OK, but a bit boring, and cold.

I headed out to the lounge room but no inspiration there. I remembered I’d always liked the warmth of the light in the hallway. And after I decided this would be the site for my TDC pic, my boy decided to run up and down the hallway like a maniac (as 3 year olds do). Seeing he’d been involved in every other TDC I’d done, I guess it was only appropriate that this be the submission:


Another tdc: #613

Second TDC in a week! It feels good to be doing them again, making time in my brain to look and think about how I might approach a creative challenge.  The two things I always keep in mind when doing them are:

  • Come up with an idea, then dismiss it and think beyond it. I’ve always taken to heart the TDC suggestion that often your first instinct may not be your best work. And I’ve found it to be true time and time again.
  • Remember they’re only supposed to take 15-20 mins, and involve minimal editing. I find this liberating, because it means you can let go of the pressure of creating perfection, and just create. Just make art, dammit. Not high art, just art. And art is simply a form of expression. It ain’t a competition.

So…today’s daily create:

Take a photo that represents the TDC idea of regular exercises of creativity

The photo that the brief refers to is so brilliant that it takes away the temptation to even try and match it. But it did get me visualising scenes of tai-chi at dawn in a beautiful green park. I thought about taking a photo of that. But, although we do have quite a lovely park nearby, no-one does tai chi there. Actually thinking about it now, there may be a couple of people who do, but it was already past dawn. And I wasn’t about to head over there in my PJs.

I was up with my just-turned-3-year-old, and watching him, realised I had the perfect subject. He has been my muse for these daily creates, and I often involve him in doing them with me. Just cos it’s fun. I thought about how I could integrate him into the themes of exercise and creativity. I thought about taking a pic of him doing a ‘stunt jump’ (the jumps does when he ‘practices’ doing skateboard stunts….p.s. there’s a skate ramp at our local park: enough said!).

But then, he started playing with lego. And I started taking some snaps of him doing that. And then I made the connection: for kids, playing is often, creating. And, they play, daily.  So, here ’tis:

Daily creating_sm

Daily creating

After I took this one (above) and looked at it, I noticed a couple of other things that, purely accidentally, fit quite nicely with the theme: the train ticket (for my daily journey to work), and the bag on the chair in the background, with a slogan which reads: “because even the little things can make a difference” (cf. tdc: a little thing that can make a difference to your creativity). The serentipidous connections are always the best.

Daily play_sm

Daily playing

On the down side, I still haven’t written up my MA research proposal. Yikes. I really am using tdc as a form of procrastination…

Well, at least it’s artistic procrastination. And it’s gotta be a helluva lot more fun than cleaning the bathroom to procrastinate, right?

‘Procrastinating’…with DS106 tdc611

I have many many half started, half finished blog posts – possibly close to 10. I think it’s because I have a lot of ideas about what I’d like to write about, start, then never finish. Posts always seem so clear in my head, but when I get down to writing them it takes a lot longer than I anticipate to construct them into a complete and coherent structure.

But perhaps I’m trying too hard. The original intent of this blog was a space for reflection, which means semi-coherent-stream-of-consciousness-thoughts-in-progress are acceptable. So, inspired by Julian Stodd’s post on the reason for reflection I’m abandoning / ‘procrastinating’ my intended post for something fun and lighthearted: a DS106 daily create (tdc611):

Create an interesting high contrast black and white image of an easily overlooked object.

Oft Overlooked Car

One of the dozens of small cars that may be found in every nook and cranny of the house. The one he wants is, of course, the one that can never be found.

Looking at the example from the original brief, I know mine isn’t *quite* right; it’s not high contrast enough – those cars should be less grey and more black or white. Probably because they weren’t sufficiently monotone in the original pic. It’s possibly something I could fix with more editing but I didn’t really want to spend all night on it (tdcs are supposed to be 15 minute challenges after all…!). Regardless, it’s good to get back into daily creates after not having looked at one for a few weeks. I’ll be trying to get back to at least 1 or 2 a week. The challenge is making space and time for everything I’d like to do, without total chaos descending. That’s still a work in progress.

DS106 Daily Create 544

I wasn’t planning to write about this (it’s not on the list!), but ah well, I wasn’t actually planning to do this Daily Create assignment either!

I’ve just submitted it, so thought I might as well narrate it. This is the assignment:

Write about something ugly — war, fear, hate, cruelty — but find the beauty (silver lining) in it.

I wasn’t going to do it mainly because I’d seen it quite late in the afternoon and didn’t think I’d have brain space to invest in thinking of an idea. Also, I’d read Alan Levine’s (one of the lead DS106 instructors) blog posting saying it was hard. But then later, I was sitting at the table doodling some drawings while my kid was finishing dinner, and some words just came into my head that were compelling me to write them down. These were they:

She threw the potato peeler violently on the kitchen floor, angry

(I know, right? “Potato peeler”?! Anyway – those were The Words)

I knew this was going to be the start of my TDC (The Daily Create) submission. I continued writing The Words that compelled me to write them, not (consciously) knowing where they were taking me:

Furious. She considered saw the glint of the kitchen knife shining, beckoning and gripped the handle tightly.

At that point, I actually did consciously start thinking about where this storyline might go. I recalled reading an article years ago about Jessica Rowe’s post natal depression and her admission that she’d felt like crushing her baby’s skull once when it started crying (or something along those lines. It was a long time ago). I remember being pretty shocked that post natal depression could get that bad to completely wipe out all primal instincts to protect your own child. But then (whether they want to admit it or not) – most parents will have been in a position where (due to exhaustion, stress, lack of sustenence or, usually: all of the above), a screaming baby has pushed them to hurt or want to hurt their child. But this is always fleeting, and your own children have the touching ability to say or do things that make you instantly forgive and just want to love the hell out of them. This is what this bit of writing is about.

The knife

She threw the potato peeler violently on the kitchen floor, angry. Fuming. She saw the glint of the kitchen knife on the bench and grabbed it, gripping the handle tightly.

She heard a pitter patter of tiny footsteps, and felt something tug at her shirt. A small voice floated up at her: “Mamma. Bubby’s woken up! She wants us to give her a BIIIIGGGG Kissss!”

Suddenly the baby’s cries, before so painfully piercing, incessant, and screeching, were now small, and fragile. A sense of yearning engulfed her, and she released her grip on the knife.

TV Guide Remix: tutorial (GIMP)

This is a GIMP tutorial on how I created this graphic for the DS106 TV Guide Remix writing assignment: DS106 WritingAssign772 TV Guide Remix

This post will focus on the creation of the visual. You can read more about the writing process here. Although I have been creating eLearning visual designs and some graphics over the last 18 months or so, I am NOT by any means, a graphic or visual designer, and would never describe myself as such. However, I have developed some basic skills and it’s always handy to develop more. Everything I know about using GIMP has pretty much been from online tutorials, so I know the value of them, no matter how basic. This is my attempt to give back.

Image source

As the assignments previously submitted both used old school paper tv guides, I decided to do it differently – to depict as an on screen tv guide – the way I generally get my program info from. I did a quick search for images I could use as a basis for the design, but couldn’t really find anything suitable. So I just decided to take a photo of my own tv screen. This way, I could also select Bananas in the program guide > less editing, bonus.

Although I wasn’t sure if the image would be high res enough to be usable, it wasn’t too bad:(I’ve scaled it down for this post) OriginalImg_scaled. It was a little crooked, so the first thing I did was to rotate it a bit so it was horizontally level (using rotate tool in Toolbox).

1. Getting rid of existing text

To change the synopsis text, I first had to cover up the existing text. I used the Selection tool (Toolbox) to copy part of the synopsis window background… Use selection tool to copy part of BG

then paste as a new layer and move over the existing text:

Paste as new layer and move to position

As the portion I copied wasn’t large enough to cover all of the text, I duplicated the first copied layer (so I had two portions of the background) and laid it over to cover all.

Duplicate background copy and position over text

2. Adding new text

Next: I used the Text tool to add my own synopsis text. I had to play around with the font style and font colour to get it to match as closely to the existing image as possible.

Type new text

The text was still a little to ‘clean’ looking, so I used played with the filters to add some noise to make it a bit ‘dirtier’, to match the screenshot (via Filters > Noise > RGB Noise & HSV Noise; and also Blur)


Title text – I initially attempted to add the same noise to the title text, but found it didn’t do much to the white text. So looked around for some other filters and found Newsprint (Filters > Distorts > Newsprint) and added some RGB noise, which worked pretty well.

Add filter to title text

3. Finding a suitable image

Finally just needed to replace image with one from the episode. Unfortunately, when I went to find the episode on the ABC2 website, it seems they no longer had “The Cushion” for online viewing any longer. Which was a little annoying as I wanted to use the image of the stained cushion (which I was hoping could possibly be construed as splattered with dirty blood, in the context of the reworked synopsis…). There was also a scene where the bananas escaped through Bernard’s window to which would also have worked nicely with the synopsis. But alas…after a 20 minute search of the internet, I concluded it was not to be. So I had to settle for a frame from the opening credits, showing the bananas coming down from a room at the top of the stairs. I screenshot it just as they opened the door to make them look a bit secretive and sneaky.

4. Editing the image

I cropped and scaled it down to the correct size, then added some pixelation (Blur > Pixelise at 5.0) and a slight fisheye distort to match the original screenshot (Yes – we have an old CRT tv! No flatscreen…) (Distorts > Lens distortion > increased Edge to 7.834). I used this tutorial as a guide. (Thanks ‘Like Reading’ and internet!)

Fisheye distort

Finished image

This is what I ended up with at the end of this process (I also just rounded off the corners by doing select rectangle with rounded edge 30, invert select, clear) to depict the tv frame. However, once I scaled it down to a reasonable size, it was a bit unreadable and busy.

Finished image

So ended up undoing the scale-down, cropping to focus on the synopsis, then scaling it down 30% so it fit nicely at full size in a blog post. The final result is the image you see at the top of this post.

The end.

Hope this helps!

TV Guide Remix: Bananas gone bad

When I first browsed the DS106 bank of writing assignments, the TV Guide Remix appealed immediately:

Take an existing movie or television show and change the writing of the synopsis in a way where it’s still factually correct, yet the storyline feels drastically different.

I think the appeal had a lot to do with the  brilliantly executed example displayed by the submitter, Tim Owens:

TVGuideRemix_Ozexample< go on, click it. you won’t regret it.

I immediately decided I’d remix one of my 2 yr old’s fave shows: Octonauts / Bananas in Pyjamas / Fireman Sam. I was tossing up between Octonauts and Bananas when, last week I sat down with him to watch an epi of Bananas – “The Cushion”. As the episode unfolded, I thought it would be a good candidate for the Remix. Here is the original synopsis from the ABC website:

Episode 13 – The Cushion

The Bananas spill some juice on one of Bernard’s cushions and everything they do to try and clean it only makes things worse.

Sounds innocent enough, right? What this synopsis doesn’t tell you is that the Bananas, on realising they’d stained the cushion, actually escape out Bernard’s lounge room window (while he’s busy making their lunch), and enlist the help of the teddies in an attempt to clean and return it without Bernard noticing. Pretty sneaky: pretty much collusion to cover up property damage, if you ask me!

So this is the angle I played on. And here is my remixed synopsis (executed as an on-screen tv program guide):

DS106 WritingAssign772 TV Guide Remix

The writing process: decisions, decisions

Once I’d decided on the angle, I needed to determine style and tone. I started thinking of genres as far removed from children’s tv as possible. Horror? Crime? Drama? Thriller? I decided serious adult drama with a dark and sinister subplot. Think Dexter, or thereabouts.

Now, for the writing. The biggest challenge was how to refer to the protagonists – two giant bananas – in the context of this genre. Giant fruit references were out. As was using their ‘real’ names ‘B1’ and ‘B2’.

Finally, I remembered reading character descriptions on the ABC2 website with aforementioned 2 yr old, which referred to the Bananas as twins. “The twins”: perfect. Everyone knows that twins are freaky and slightly occultish. (For all the outraged twins out there reading this: don’t fret, I’m one of You. Yes, I’m a twin. So, naturally I’m allowed to say these things without fear of retribution).

After that, it was pretty easy – just a matter of dressing up the plot in the language of collusion & cover up.  Had to include the phrase “web of lies and deception” (natch), and “spilling juice on one of Bernard’s cushions” became “a reckless act of destruction”. Then: voila – done!

If you’re interested in how I created the graphic, see this post for a tutorial.

So…this was my first DS106 asssignment. And a helluva lot of fun it was too.

Becoming a DS106 #4lifer

I first discovered DS106  open online digital storytelling course when researching ‘cMoocs’. I’d recently completed the Gamification (x)Mooc from Coursera and had a heightened interest in Moocs in general. I think I may have come across the term cMooc in a blog (can’t recall which one) and became curious about them. I’ve always been fascinated by constructivist and connectivist theories of learning. So the opportunity to experience it just opened up a whole new world of possibility.

I didn’t have to spend long exploring the DS106 site (it ain’t no Mooc!) before deciding it was something I’d definitely be participating in. The things that really appealed to me about DS106 were:

  • it’s not just a course you complete then forget about (or attempt to apply in your ‘real’ life) – it’s something you integrate INTO your real life (DS106 is 4life!)
  • it’s a real, creative community dedicated to creating awesome art
  • it’s entirely open – everyone and anyone can participate, at any level they want, for as little or as long as they want. No apologies for not being able to participate, no concept of ‘dropping out’
  • projects span all media and type (visual, web, audio, video, writing, design, fanfic, mashup…)
  • participation involves utilising social media platforms (twitter, soundcloud, flickr…) and tools (image manipulation, audio and video editing…) I wanted to learn more about.

Ultimately, I guess I just really want an outlet to do creative work that’s different to, and unburdened by the constraints of my real (paid) work.  A side project: a place to experiment, learn and have fun – unconstrained by deadlines or obligations. And the opportunity to interact and collaborate with a community of people who aren’t necessarily just involved in L&D, education or training. So DS106 = perfect.

I’m just going to start by tackling some of the assignments in the Assignment Bank and comment on others’ assignments. I’ll start with writing assignments, but also plan to attempt an audio, visual and possibly video assign to extend my skills in these areas. The Daily Creates also seem like an awesome idea – I’d really like to get into the habit of thinking creatively. Creating regularly -and narrating your creations-  definitely seems to be a great (the best? the only?) way to do this.

So there’s the rationale. Now…let’s start making some art, dammit!

[Check out my first DS106 assignment here]

[Want to know more about DS106? Take a look at this Educause article]