rhizo14: stole that poem

Something that caught my eye last week as I was dipping in and out of rhizo14 was Kevin Hodgson’s (@dogtrax) slam-style poem challenging people to “steal this poem” – to take the words he’d written and recorded, and remix them. This was a riff on the theme of plagiarism, ownership/copyright & remix culture that emerged from the week 1 rhizo14 topic “cheating as learning”. I love his response on so many levels – it’s an awesomely creative and thought provoking exploration of whether taking and remixing someone’s work constitutes as ‘stealing’, beautifully executed. I love the style and I was incredibly intrigued by the questions raised by the poem and his post (which I wrote some initial thoughts on in his blog). I love that he’s inviting (or challenging) people to take his work, explore it, and remix it into something new – it’s a challenge to think and respond more creatively – and, (in DS106 tradition) to create art (dammit!). I love this, and found it very inspiring – and knew I had to do it as soon as I saw it. 

I was interested in the question of whether remixing constitutes stealing – and saw a lot of parallels between use of the terms ‘stealing’ and ‘cheating’, debated in areas of the rhizo14 community. So this is what I explored in my poem. I was also interested in the idea of executing a literal interpretation of Kevin’s challenge: literally ‘taking the words’, reusing, & remixing them to create a new poem. So I’ve tried to use as many of Kevin’s words as I can in mine. The slam style that Kevin’s adopted is also reminiscent of rap, with a strong internal beat, rhyme, rhythm & flow. It’s a style I love and that I’ve also incorporated in mine. A bit like battle-rapping, on paper.

I also wanted to make Kevin’s text visible in my remix, for 2 reasons: to see the crossover between his words and mine; and to explore the question of whether taking and remixing a work without attributing its source constitutes as ‘stealing’ . I’ve copied the full text of his poem into my remix without attributing it. Does this constitute ‘stealing’? You could probably argue that, in principle, it does. But if Kevin’s invited me to ‘steal his poem’, and I’ve stated in my work that it’s a ‘stolen’ work, does this change things?

There’s a bit of a story behind the picture I’ve used as the background too. A story of serendipity: the morning after reading Kevin’s poem, as I was tinkering with my remix, Maureen Crawford sent me this tweet:

MC_tweet_visualpoetry Evan Roth’s work was, I thought,  like a modern riff on finger painting…and I loved Maureen’s description of it as ‘visual poetry’. My 3 year old was sitting next to me playing a game on the tablet and it clicked: I should get my kid to make some art as part of the remix –> ‘visual poetry’. I often get him involved in DS106 daily creates, it’s fun to do together. But what…? I had the rhizo learning P2Pu page open in one of my tabs. The image for the course was kinda like…finger painting. Click. I downloaded a kid’s drawing app onto the tablet then gave it to my 3 year old. The background image for my stolen poem is his drawing – a digital (Maureen Crawford-Evan Roth-P2Pu rhizo learning-inspired) ‘finger painting’ (I’ve just put a layer of white at 30% opacity over it to make the text legible). Combined with the poem, it’s another remix on the concept of ‘visual poetry’.

Another form of  ‘visual poetry’ that I’ve played with in my remix is the use of spacing, keyboard symbols & highlights of colour in the body text. This was something I experimented with a fair bit when I was a lot younger (like, 15) and it was fun to revisit this idea again here. I rarely write poems now and have always been an erratic poetry writer in any case but I do love the form, and experimenting with it.

I went visual with this remix partly because I’m naturally drawn to visuals, but also because I don’t *actually* have the confidence to post an audio version (re my reference: ‘Not spoken’…). However, since hearing Cathleen Nardi’s audio remix (great hip hop interpretation!), I’ve been thinking about audio a bit more. I’ve got an idea to do an audio remix of my poem using cuts from Kevin and Cathleen’s audio. I’m not sure if it would work or how it would sound but really intrigued to do the experiment. It could take a while though, so I’m just posting the visual version for now. And of course, I’m putting it out with an invitation (or challenge – interpret it as you like) to: >>> STEAL THIS POEM!


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.