Over and Under and Under and Over

Turn a GIF into a FIG- Create a GIF and then throw it into reverse.

The Story Behind the Story-

When a moment unfolds in the exact right order, each progression is stitched together, thrown into a fluid singularity. Any falters or missteps are obvious and predictable. But when in reverse, these moments do not fall apart as smoothly as they came together. They crumble and flake apart, scenes push on each other, bunching up like a imperfectly coiled rope. There is some discomfort in viewing this process, we don’t want to see what we’ve done become undone yet again. But there is definitely beauty in the reverse.
Here I go with my GIFs and memories again. I’ve discussed how much I treasure my memories and that I think GIFs are the perfect outlet for the my desire for moments to reach infinity here. The reverse GIF is the ultimate representation of endlessness for me. Now if I’m being honest, this isn’t a true reverse GIF, this is a “Ping Pong” GIF, in which the video proceeds in the normal forward direction but is then reverts after the final frame, playing the whole clip over again in reverse. This concept was almost certainly designed with me in mind. I can live for the moment, in the moment and then relive it all over again. I can see my moments from new angles, see them build themselves up and then undo them over again.

The Tutorial

I initially created my GIF using GIPHY but when I attempted to use the special effects option on the site, I was unable to download my reversed GIF:

So I took my unedited GIF to EZGIF, a site that performs many of the same basic functions as GIPHY. I was able to apply the pingpong effect on the GIF and then download the video. Unfortunately, EZGIF does not seem to provide a link to embed the GIFs you create, so I had to insert the GIF as a media file from my computer to this page, so it appears still until you select it at which point the GIF will open in a separate window.

Some People are like Bad Sushi


Favorite Musician GIF- Make a GIF from a music video created by one of your favorite artists

The Story Behind the Story-

When we eat something that leaves a sour taste in our mouth or leaves us feeling ill, we develop an aversion. A strong dislike or disinclination. This can be true of many of the things we are exposed to in life. Tastes, smells, sounds and sights. Even people and their names that we associate with less than satisfactory experiences. I’ll never really like a Xander or an Alexis, they wont even know why. I’ll just keep feeling that reminiscent sense of having been slighted. Many of the names I have developed a disliking towards occurred through very insignificant events in my life, others more significant. I don’t know what the real life Trevor did to the members of Tame Impala, but it was enough to inspire this song and its music video:

This video, while uniquely artistic with intriguing visuals, is quite the cliche. It tries to tell the story of breaking the status quo, leaving the school’s top jock in a painful state of unrequited love while the school mascot (appropriately given the simple and somewhat nerdy name, Trevor) gets the girl. I think this is a bit of a tired plot. The first time anyone was brave enough to let the nerd get the girl, I’m sure it made for a great and heartwarming story. But this has been repeated so many times over that the breaking of the status quo is creating a new banality. Tame Impala at least has the integrity to make the video a match for their neo-psychedelic music, even though it tells a tired story it gives the viewers a burst of sensually colorful scenes complete with animations. I chose my favorite portion of this trippy video to make the GIF above.

The Tutorial-

To create this GIF, I copied the URL for the original music video from YouTube and pasted it into the GIF maker from GIPHY, a GIF-making site that also has a stockpile of GIFs, free to download.

I then altered the start and end time to customize the clip to the duration of my choosing, and then clicked Create GIF and then Share>Embed to get the link that I copied to this post to embed the animation.

L’Air de Panache

One Story/Four Icons-Tell the story of a movie using only four minimalist icons.

The Story Behind the Story-

The Air of Panache, the air of confidence and flamboyance. This is the essence of my favorite film of all time, as well as the overused perfume of the concierge of The Grand Budapest Hotel. Like most of Wes Anderson’s work, it is an R-rated picture book come to life. With all the wondrous imagination of a slightly mischievous child and the comedic caliber of a well-seasoned cynic, this film is a masterpiece. Even without commentary or plot this film would be like watching a beautiful painting come to life, the colors are brilliant, inundating every corner of the screen. The music is original, big band soundtrack is the perfect complement to the beautiful imagery. To attempt to give a minimalist summary of a Wes Anderson film is foolish. He has created entire films that are far more dependent on their color schemes and small visual details than they are on their plots.

The icons I chose are still quite detailed for minimalist designs, all of these images came from The Noun Project. The first icon is a lobby boy, created by Vladmir Belochkin. It represents the beginning of the film when the main character Zero becomes and fulfills his role as the Lobby Boy. The lovable character of great integrity and romanticism is usually found in his archetypal bright purple uniform decorated with small, bright gold buttons and a structured round cap with “Lobby Boy” stamped glaringly across the front.

The second icon is a bottle of poison representing the murder of Madame D. which M. Gustave is then accused of. I chose the most detailed and vintage bottle of poison,  created by Chris Homan, that could be found on The Noun Project. With this murder, the arrest of M. Gustave initiates the great adventure of the film. The next two icons are both creations of Lea Lafleur.   The first is representative of the small cake from Mendl’s; in which a small tool was embedded to aid M. Gustave and his band of thugs escape from prison to begin his quest for vindication. The next icon is the Grand Budapest Hotel itself, showing the return to the Hotel where Zero and M. Gustave find the evidence they need to clear their names and which also eventually results in Zero becoming the proprietor of the wonderful hotel.
I was compelled to choose this project mostly because I love film and minimalism, and I knew that attempting to describe a Wes Anderson film through minimalist design would be quite a challenge. Ultimately I think the design is successful, it remained simple without losing the intricacy that is so typical of Anderson. I might even keep this design for myself.

The Tutorial-

This was a very simple project to create, although it was quite challenging to decide upon the four icons that I would use to describe the entirety of the film. I used The Noun Project, downloaded my selected images and then pasted them into a PowerPoint, arranging them in sequence on a light blue background. When I had the icons arranged the way I liked, I simply took a screenshot of the image and cropped it to get my final product.

Sometimes a Fart Joke Makes You Cry

Truthful Movie Poster-Create a more honest version of a movie poster

The Story Behind the Story

The human existence is sorrowful and futile, we are alone or we are insincerely together. We are traversing along a path that seems too passable. What is thrown at us we do not conquer, we simply absorb. But we have the power to see it all a little differently. Delusion is something of a gift in this world. There is a soundtrack to your adventure that you can play in your head, beautifully haunting harmonies, an acapella humming that buzzes so loudly in your ears you lose track of where you are. Your ribs are rattled by the deep baritones and your eyes squint as tears form at their corners with the pierce of the sopranos. It does not matter if what you see is beautiful with this music in your ears.

The Original Poster

In nearly every way, Swiss Army Man is the complete antithesis of my preference. I hate all things crude and crass, rarely will I laugh at a stooping slapstick joke. But sometimes a fart joke will make you cry. This film is an exquisitely strange experience, it leaves you feeling awkward and uncomfortable, ashamed and disheartened. It recreates what it means and feel like to be human. I cannot watch this movie in the presence of another person, I think it was a film created specifically to be watch in solitude. The plot follows a man who appears to be stranded on a desert island, on the verge of killing himself when he discovers the body of a man who supposedly died at sea. Soon he discovers that the partially reanimated corpse is his best chance at finding his way home, and he embarks on a great odyssey, teaching his discovered friend how to be human along the way.

The innocence and confusion of the discovered man as he learns how to become human draws the main character out of his stupor, inspiring him to change his life as soon as he returns to it. They conquer the simplest insecurities that make us all so plainly human, every moment of this unlikely tail is extremely relatable and matched with the incredible soundtrack developed by Andy Hull of Manchester Orchestra. I chose this project not because I want to make fun of this movie (which I think is really the intention of the assignment) but because I love it so dearly and yet it is so unlike me or my usual film tastes. I wanted to outline the simplicity of the plot: there are a lot of fart jokes, you’re going to feel extremely strange. But that is what it is to be human.
This poster is a great test of design skills as it very abstractly demonstrates symmetry. Symmetry does not require mirror images reflecting off of each other. Symmetry can also come in the form of contrast. Paul Dano (on the left in the poster) represents humanity and the living, whereas Daniel Radcliffe represents the inhuman and the dead. Despite the imbalance of my poster which weighs heavily on the right side, there is an abstract symmetry displayed within the context of this design. This video is what awakened me to all the ways in which symmetry can be demonstrated:

The Tutorial-

To make this movie poster, I first downloaded the original movie poster and opened it in GIMP. Once in GIMP, I then used the free select tool to cut out the Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe. Once I had completed the selection process, outlining the portion of the photo I wanted to remove, I clicked Edit>Cut.

From there, I opened another photo in a new GIMP page. With the new background open, I clicked Edit>Paste and the picture I had recently cut appeared over this background photo, but GIMP was still an elusive tool to use and I could not get the image to appear the way I wanted so I just pasted my baackground photo to a PowerPoint page and worked from there. I positioned the image the way I wanted, and added the text I wanted to. It was challenging to find a font that resembled the original movies poster but I selected “Mistral” which seems relatively similar. I recreated the Sundance Film Festival logo using an image from The Noun Project  created by Lesley Hunt.

A Mutually Exclusive Intersection

An intersection of religion and education, while common perhaps shouldn’t be. Are they not mutually exclusive? To have faith in something that can neither be seen nor understood, as is the expectation in religion, seems abominable in education. But then again, consider the following:

Close your eyes. Listen three or four times, make a decision as to what sound you’re hearing. Now open your eyes and listen again, this time focusing on the lips as the man speaks.

This sensation of changing perceptions is known as the McGurk effect, it represents the illusion that perception is in itself. In response to a singularly auditory stimuli (the syllables spoken by the man) your brain inputs electrical signals through rudimentary portions of your brain, and then rapidly computes the information, analyzing it for content. You think you heard “ba.” In combining visual stimuli with the unchanging audio stimuli, you create an issue for your more advanced neuronal structures, suddenly your cerebral cortex is occupied by a classic “Black Box” problem.
A problem of this nature is present in all realms of science, but it is absolutely pervasive in neuroscience. Understanding cognition and higher levels of processing requires analysis of the chemistry, physiology and evolutionary processes that amount to the very human act that is “thinking.” We can, often easily, identify the input (stimuli) and the output (sensorimotor responses) involved in these processes. But a dark shadow is cast over the intermediate step of information integration, processing and response. Almost literally, there is a void in our understanding that leaves us guessing as to what kind of cogs and gears are turning in that space we call the black box.
As a scientist, these problems are frustrating, they lead to non-answers. But they are also compelling and riddled with potential, the kind of testable potential that we are trained to investigate. Every act in science is an attempt to bring us closer to infallible theories, things we can neither truly prove nor disprove. There is not an attainable absolute, universal truth in science. There is simply a better answer we have yet to find. All we have are solutions to problems built on empirical data that we must trust faithfully.
The McGurk effect is one of the simplest representation of this aspect of science. It would not take a scientist to determine the significance of this phenomenon. The McGurk effect is not impressive because it represents the unknown processing that occurs within the human mind, but because it represents the error of perception. Your perception as you listen with eyes closed, is altered as soon as you integrate your senses, listening with eyes open. Even more interesting, you might find that other people hear “ga” rather than “da” when they open their eyes. The enchanting feature of this simple marvel is that it shows us that perception is, in fact, an illusion. Your perception can never achieve full accuracy. To the dismay of the scientific community, one hundred percent accuracy is impossible. Through scientific investigation, our understanding is imperfect and perforated with error. There is no universal truth that we can identify, so we accept what we can empirically prove but we remain skeptical knowing that a truer truth may be possible.
Maybe, then, this is why so many of us live under the impression that religion and science refute each other. If a core imperative of science is that we can only take steps toward less-imperfect answers, then isn’t that in conflict with the concept in Christianity that a universal truth exists? Maybe. But then again, the idea that there is an absolute truth does not necessitate our understanding of it. “Universal” does not mean explicit or accessible. Rather, it means pervasive and inescapable. There may very well be a universal truth, but it is so righteous that the simple human mind can’t even attain it, let alone conceptualize it. We can only hope to follow closely behind our imperfect understanding of it in a constant effort to approach this truth, living every moment in search and devotion. So while a “truth” may exist in utter perfection, our approach to it will always be imperfect, our understanding of it will always be imperfect. Just the same as the scientist’s investigative skepticism is a devoted approach to a yet imperfect answer.
Remaining skeptical to our own findings is in many ways like developing faith in a God you can never hope to understand or comprehend. To say that faith and skepticism have anything in common at all is of course paradoxical, but what they share is an acceptance of the unknown. With scientific skepticism, we know that our answer is never complete. We must continue to work towards a better answer. With faith, we know that as simple, mortal humans, we can never hope to understand God. We are guided, but it would be foolish to say that we fully comprehend what we are following. But we will follow despite that uncertainty, growing simply because we are trying. Uncertainty is welcomed and encouraged in both religion and science. Your faith is enriched with every instant it is challenged. Your hypotheses and theories grow stronger and more plausible with every question you ask. It is with uncertainty that empirical science and spiritual religion not only coexist, but harmoniously intertwine themselves in grand appreciation for tenuous being.

The Story Behind the Story-

When I first saw this assignment (http://assignments.ds106.us/assignments/unlikely-intersections/) in the ds106 handbook, I brushed it off thinking it was far too simple. However, earlier today after a hike along Donner Pass, I drove through Truckee and happened to pass the intersection of “School” and “Church.” The assignment did not immediately come to mind although I automatically thought the two streets were interestingly contrasting. I soon recalled the assignment that I had looked at earlier this week and insisted that my driver pull over in time for me to snag this photo. I have for so long assumed that religion and (particularly scientific) education must be mutually exclusive. But as I’ve grown as a scientist and simultaneously increased my exposure to religious practice, I’ve found that this is a flawed notion. Although not required in the assignment itself, the piece that I’ve written to go along with this photograph is simply a projection of some thoughts I’ve had recently since completing my Cognitive Neuroscience course and beginning to attend weekly mass at a nearby church.

The Tutorial-

This was an incredibly simple process of snapping and later uploading and embedding a photo. The difficult part of this process was that it required notice of my surroundings. This is not an edited photo, rather a real intersection in Truckee, California. In order to honestly complete this assignment, one must pay close attention to the natural contrasts in the world.

“Fear is stupid. So are regrets.”

The many faces of a timeless and iconic beauty, now available in four styles. The original “Unedited” option shows this star’s natural allure. Her supple skin radiates in the beautiful California sunshine, if there were a flaw to be found it could not be hidden in these photos. With this style in your possession, it’s as if she is right alongside of you in the room.

For a more striking option, the consumer may prefer to indulge in “Sauna.” Nevertheless beautiful, our star now glows under a slight tint reminiscent of a warm setting sun. Every feature of our famed actress seems to be enhanced in the light, she is almost luminescent herself.

If classic is what you seek, the “Vanilla” option is for you. Unsurprisingly, the iconic model is no less striking when stripped of her color. As the name implies, this black and white version is sweetly simple like vanilla ice cream. Cool, refreshing, uncomplicated.

If the aforementioned selections lack passion and spice, perhaps the “Rouge” option will be more to your liking. This crimson hue shows the fiery nature of the star, giving her a taunting beauty. The actress appears playfully dangerous, her mischievous grin will bring out your own tenacious personality.

The Story Behind the Story-

This project was inspierd by the assignment “Not Quite Norma Jeane” (http://assignments.ds106.us/assignments/not-quite-norma-jeane/) and took a slightly different angle than the prompt indicated. The assignment was to recreate the classic Marilyn Monroe “Expressions Sheet” poster:

I enlisted the help of my new friend, Tasha. With her short pixie cut and classic features, I figured that Tasha would be perfect as a stand in for Marilyn. We took the photos in a field full of wildflowers a few hours before sunset, the lighting was ideal for head shots. In fact, the lighting was so good that I felt that it would be a shame to cover up the natural beauty of the unedited photos with a black and white filter that would match the original. So to maintain the integrity of the original photos while still achieving the “look alike” effect, I decided to make several copies of the collage, each with a different tint. I then decided to write a short advertisement promoting each of the four different posters, highlighting the best qualities of the varieties. I was compelled to choose this project, not because I like Marilyn Monroe, but because I’ve always had a bit of disdain for recreation of classic works. I can understand why the emulation of such an iconic work may be compelling to create, but I’ve always felt that the adaptation fails in its goal and I thought it may be interesting to try something I’ve criticized so ardently. I found that, though my final product is reminiscent of the original poster, it does not do it justice. I do feel that my model was a good fit, but despite all of my attempts to recreate particular shadows across her face, the small details of the original photos did not prevail in my version. Decidedly, it is the process of creating the art that is most noteworthy. In generating these photos, I regained an appreciation for the classic and simple, something which is difficult to feign let alone recreate. The title of this blog post is a quote from Marilyn herself.

The Tutorial-

To complete this assignment, I first examined each individual photo of Marilyn in the original poster. I tried to take notice of the angles of her face and the subtlety of her expressions as well as to determine where light fell across her face. I then recruited my friend Tasha and we ventured off in search of adequate lighting. I captured at least five photos for each pose and later sifted through the images, selecting the best nine images. I then used the online photo editing tool “BeFunky” (https://www.befunky.com/create/collage/) to create the collage. After downloading the final image, I added the desired filters using the Windows Photo App, and embedded the final products in this blog post.

What a Hike

The Story Behind the Story-

In my attempt at My Very Own Spubble (http://assignments.ds106.us/assignments/your-very-own-spubble/), I used a photo taken of my twin sister and me atop Old Rag Mountain in Madison County, Virginia. I’ve always loved this photo, the scenery of the Blue Ridge Mountains is beyond picturesque, and the pose we struck gives the sense that we’re experiencing a truly beautiful moment of sisterly love. My sister (on the right) and I have always been extremely close and our relationship is built on jokes. We have rarely ever been serious with each other, and this project perfectly depicts the sarcastic, joking nature the two of us share. My sister Katie and I are so dissimilar that it always has been a running joke that one of us must be adopted.

If you’ve never visited the Blue Ridge mountains, this video may entice you:

The Tutorial-

To create my spubble, I downloaded the photo editing app “GIMP.” The app has several tools that allow you to edit photos. For this project, I used the ellipse tool to create oval outlines which I then filled in with the paint tool using the opaque, white option. To add the stems of the speech bubbles, I had to export the now edited photo from GIMP and uploaded it to an online photo editing tool called Aviary (https://aviary.com/). GIMP prevented me from using the drawing tool due to the active layer pixels of the photo being locked, an issue I was unable to resolve. Using the drawing tool on Aviary, I drew thick lines from the bubbles to indicate which person was speaking each line. The thinnest line option from Aviary was too thick so I used the eraser tool to trim the lines into thin, pointed lines. Finally, I downloaded the finished product to my computer and embedded the media file in this post.

A Truly Endless Summer

My take on “GIF Animate your day like Ben.” The following GIFs cover a single, typical day for me at Lake Tahoe!

Approximately 7:45 am, June 28, 2017: Coffee tastes better when poured in the soft sunlight that undulates between the upper branches of the Ponderosa Pine trees peaking over the balcony of my temporary home. Today is a field trip day at camp, we’ll head to Donner Lake to enjoy a balmy day at a beach named for the pioneers who mostly perished in a cold winter almost 200 years ago, resorting to cannibalism to survive. My campers will smile blissfully with their sticky grins as they bite into ice cream sandwiches from the snack bar.


8:45 am: The camper who talks to himself and aspires to one day be a Taxidermist circles the great White Fir listing off the members of his dead bug collection. It’s 68 degrees Fahrenheit but the sun is already intense. He could spin in his tiny circle indefinitely, but we have to move on from this moment to greet our other campers, the bus will be here soon.


10:40 am: The initial shock from ice cold water is fleeting like all of these summer moments. It’s best to take a running start. The water fight that ensues is a frigid battle that will leave me drenched in the clear water of the lake. Despite the purity of the water, my eyes sting and my vision is blurred. I hate swimming and getting water in my eyes, but I can’t help but smile listening to the shrieks of campers as they splash and douse without mercy. Within minutes the war is over, drenched campers are littered along the sand like casualties, shivering and drying in the sun.


11:15 am:
We hunt dragons to pass the time before lunch. We decide that we’re cougars racing through the jungle to conquer our mystical pray. The girls decide that I’m the mommy cougar and they’re my cubs, they spend the rest of the day referring to me as “Mommy.” The imagined life of the dragon lasts only moments before we’re distracted by reality again.


11:45 am: It’s almost time for lunch, we swing up and down on a modified version of the see saw. The repetitive up and down is abrupt, we think maybe this is what it feels like to be in a rocket ship. We decide that we could stay on the playground forever and ever.


12:40 pm: We pretend that the ground has been engulfed in a sea of lava that licks at our heels, the heat of the smokey magma blinds us even from our perch atop the highest point of the playground. We’re granted temporary immunity by a gracious lava monster, so we take our quickest escape down the slide.


7:50 pm: The mountains calmly come into focus as the sun sets around me on my evening ride down to the Northshore beach. When I put both hands back on the handlebars, I allow myself to pick up speed. This switch-backed hill pulls me forward at greater and greater speeds, the wind flies by me, deafening me until I glance to my right. I can now hear water gently trickling. The air is extremely crisp, unhindered by any moisture it allows me to pierce it and fly on down my hill. The sunlight has become mercifully soft and shimmers as if I’m riding through a world of reflective crystals, almost apologetic for its earlier harshness that has left the backs of my thighs a crisp pink shade.


8:15 pm: A swarm of gnats dance over a small creek, moving with each other and the slight breeze. They would be more beautiful had I not swallowed several of them seconds earlier as I rode through their tiny cloud.


8:30 pm: Every moment of my days here feels like this one. A moment that I could live in endlessly but is tortuously, gorgeously impermanent. I fear losing the memory of these moments, I often find that I cant look away from these. I’m worried that if I do I’ll soon forget the smooth lapping of water on weathered rocks, the slight glance of the gentle breeze on my skin, or the modest radiance of the sun as it settles among the snow-capped mountains. If only I could have these moments, this summer, on an endless loop.


12:15 am: We wrap up each day with a late night cocktail hour after Ian gets home from his second job. We recap our day, listen to new songs debating whether they would be suitable to play at a funeral, if they carry enough sense of nostalgia. We’re all about memories, even in the moment.


The Story Behind the Story-

The concept of a GIF is particularly compelling to me. I always fear that I will forget the most beautiful moments I experience. Some might say that these are meant to be fleeting moments, that they would cease to be so wondrous if I could have them forever. But I am selfish with my memories, I like to hoard them whether they are tremendous or diminutive. I want to forever capture the beautiful minutiae of those evenings when slowly dimming light seeps through tree branches and soft breezes lift single strands of hair to dance across your cheek. I wish I could put those little memories in a mason jar and watch them bounce around like fireflies. I feel this way with a particular desperation in the summer. Time graciously slows for us in the best of summer moments, it sometimes even feels like the “endless summer” we’ve yearned for all our lives could possibly be a reality. But the pace slows only momentarily, a gift to remind us of how special this season is. Before we know it, the heat reaches its apex and leaves begin to brown. But with this project, I can cling to my mason jar of memories, looping on endlessly.

The Tut

In creating this project(http://assignments.ds106.us/assignments/gif-animate-your-day-like-ben/), I attempted to employ some tips from the “Becoming a Better Photographer” post. The object of the assignment is to catalog a typical day, but I made an effort to ensure that I captured moments that were reflective of my “endless summer theme.” I also took steps to position my camera for optimum lighting and contrast, I also attempted to avoid directing the GIFs so that they would be uncontrived, true moments of my day. As I took the videos throughout the day, I made notes in my journal to remind me of the time each video was taken and also gave a brief description that would later aid in producing the narrative above. All GIFs were created by filming short video clips using the Camera App on my iPhone 5s. These videos were then imported to my PC where the Photos App was used to trim all clips so that they met the size limit for the GIF-creating website “GIPHY”
(https://giphy.com/create/gifmaker). On this website I used the page “GIF Maker,” which has the option to upload files for conversion into GIFS. Once I selected the proper file, the site allowed me to adjust the start and end time of the video. Selecting the start point of the loop was a little challenging because I wanted the transition from the end of the clip back to the beginning of the clip to be as smooth as possible, but this is a particularly difficult effect to achieve when a handheld recording device is used. The movement of the camera will prevent the restarting of the loop from appearing smooth and succinct. However, the tools on this site were very easy to manipulate and the creating of each GIF took only minutes. The clips were then embedded into this post.