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Monday, December 5, 2011

Final Blog: It was the best of the internet, it was the worst of the internet.

bad. by Nicholas James Santiago through CC Licensing

THE BEST STORE IN TOWN by Robert Huffstetter through CC Licensing

   How do you define the best and the worst? After all, the best thing in the world is the worst thing in the world to someone else (i.e. how there are people on this planet who can actually somehow stomach the taste of pickles). A traitor to one country is a hero to another. So, I'd like to take a look at some things that have different perspectives, any incongruities involved and which side I think may have a better argument.


This Is A Political Cartoon from Penny Arcade © Copyright 1998-2011 Penny Arcade, Inc.

  Copyright infringement has been a mess on the internet for well over a decade now. It flew under the radar for a while until Napster caught too much attention from the wrong people. It is true that the recording industries did lose a large amount of money since then, but many people believe that they were earning more than enough money as it was. CD copy protection, forced commercials on YouTube, legitimate pay to download sites (such as iTunes) and various things evolved to come up with ways around the lost revenue. Its easy to get caught up in the shock of what one has lost, but with a little ingenuity, things can recover. In light of what happened, there's been several lawsuits but are they really fair? Why are the penalties for song downloads MORE harsh than shoplifting the CD from a retailer? Consider the case of Jammie Thomas-Rasset from Minnesota. Why should she have to pay $1.9 million to make up for what would have only set her back $24 on iTunes? In fact, its been said that the musicians whose songs she is in trouble for downloading don't support the lawsuits against her and agree that paying the worth of the songs plus a court filing fee is more than enough. Now, consider what would have happened if she had shoplifted the physical CDs from a store instead. According to , if the value of the stolen goods is less than $500 it is only a misdemeanor. The punishments cap out at 90 days in jail or fines up to $1,000. Other sources say community service can be an option. Another response on Yahoo! Answers says he got off with only probation for shoplifting. That's a huge difference. This difference is caused by the gap in moderate laws created by law enforcement and greed induced lawsuits that happen when an industry gets to pretend that it is a policy agency. Why does this happen? The obvious answer we all get is that the people who have money have a huge influence on the people who make laws. Ironically, they seem to have a stronger hold over them than the people who actually voted to put them in office. If people start to refuse to vote for politicians that take money from lobbyists, the values in the government could drastically shift to the point where politicians actually represent the people they claim to. Another problem is that the internet is international. America in particular loves to go nuts creating these new laws for the internet but they don't seem to understand that their laws cannot be enforced on foreign sites. It seems that they're finally getting the idea, but the method to fighting it is a bit radical. In fact, it is exactly what China received international criticism for a couple years back. Wherever America makes a law, another country won't have one and I don't think that cutting the global internet into a domestic intranet is the right idea. Plus, where there's a will, there's a way and people will always find their loopholes or just break on through the old fashioned illegal way.

   On the flip side, what are the good points to free media? First of all, many believe certain artists would never would have been successful without it. Bands such as Linkin Park and The Mr. T Experience often have their success accredited to the fact that their early songs spread online creating a demand for their music. I don't believe that either band has made an official statement (which would be quite controversial) but I haven't seen any argument against downloading from either. Many bands have stepped up what the included content on their CDs is to make the albums seem more appealing than just downloading the songs. Behind the scenes DVDs, art booklets, and so on are a side-effect of the downloading phenomenon. I, for one, enjoy getting all the extra stuff when I purchase CDs now. Think back to the 80s and 90s. None of the VHS, cassette tapes, or early CDs I bought ever came with anything special. Hell, you were lucky if the cassettes even came with the words to the songs. Now, everything is all "special edition" and I actually feel like I do get a bit of my money's worth. The lead singer of Disturbed, David Draiman, made a comment in an interview with Metal Edge Magazine. He said,

"...when KISS was putting out records, their 'Alive' record sold so well because it made you feel like you were part of the concert experience. There was also an actual program in the thing, all these pictures, the KISS Army stuff… There's so much stuff that added to the value of that package. There wasn't a KISS fan out there who didn't want the whole thing, because everything that came along with the music was so worthwhile to them. It's not rocket-science, this stuff." 

Furthermore, it helped create a sense of international awareness of artistic expressions. Growing up in the US, we were effectively shut out from foreign music. If it wasn't in English, we didn't hear it. Part of this is due to American's negative attitude towards other languages, but it was always an uphill battle. Artists wanting to break into the US market almost always had to rewrite their songs in English which caused problems with timing the words and being forced to use the English language rules of rhyming lyrics that many other languages don't have. A few musicians slipped through the cracks but it was rarely more than once a decade. What ended up happening when Napster opened the doors is that an interest in foreign music skyrocketed. All of a sudden I was listening to bands I never would have had a chance to hear. Also, access to this music was crucial to me for studying Japanese. I even imported a handful of albums from musicians I learned to love. Some foreign groups also ended up getting domestic labels when their demand got high enough. Without downloading, none of them would ever have gotten their feet in the door.

 Free Anonymous Speech
Free Speech for the Dumb
Free Speech for the Dumb by Walt Jabsco through CC Licensing

  Back in the 90s we had guys like Howard Stern and Eminem. They were known for their shock value. Granted, there were several types of "tell it like it is" personalities over the years, but these are the big two I remember growing up. Once upon a time, it meant something to be able to speak your mind without fearing repercussions. In his song, The Real Slim Shady, Eminem acknowledges that part of his fame was built around the fact that he's "like a head trip to listen to, cause I'm only givin' you things you joke about with your friends inside your living room. The only difference is I got the balls to say it
in front of y'all and I don't gotta be false or sugarcoated at all." Those were much different times. Granted, at that time LiveJournal was available, but not widely known. Forums were steadily growing and various messengers were popping up faster than we could sign up for them. What happened was that everyone could be their own little Slim Shady. We could say whatever we wanted and it would be attributed to a screen name. All of a sudden, repressed human nature exploded and it looked something like this:

Green Blackboards (And Other Anomalies) from Penny Arcade © Copyright 1998-2011 Penny Arcade, Inc.

The next thing you know, you're getting links to disgusting pictures taken at hospitals, porn, freaky porn, and whatever you can think of (or would have been better off never thinking of) in your chat window or e-mail inbox. All kinds of movements were made to stop this stuff from getting in to the hands of children (which didn't work due to the international nature of the internet and that merely asking what your birthday is won't stop a kid from entering a porn site [they're smart enough to lie about their least I was back then]). It was getting so bad that I actually started to hate playing video games online because it was beyond irritating to hear some stupid kid shouting, screaming, and just using the most abusive and often randomly racist things I've heard right into the headset I'm using. Once Halo 2 launched, I reached a point where I decided to quit playing the game because I was spending more time blocking obnoxious people I had the misfortune of playing with than actually playing the game. Though while most people attribute anonymity of the speaker to the problem, the anonymity of the listener is also an attribute to this behavior. For example, I tend to hedge my words and clean up my language on facebook because I don't want my adorable 9 year old nephew to ask my sister what things like "chlasyphilgonnohrealherpanaidalwarted lice" are. If I didn't have my real name and real people I know on it, every 5 to 9 posts would probably either say "penis" or "vaginal discharge." Where I'm going with this is because Steven Q. Dangerfist is an alias, I am not inclined to hold back like I would on facebook or at a family reunion (on a side note someone actually did think my name was Steven Q. Dangerfist for real recently and I got a kick out of that) and I won't know the people who randomly stop by this blog and read it. If anyone is offended by it, their lack of identity would prevent me from feeling any regret over it.  Eventually, all of this miscreant behavior had to go somewhere, and that place is 4chan (the link is to the Wikipedia page on 4chan, not the actual board itself so its safe to click). 4chan has caught a lot of heat over the years for some very controversial content on its /b/ board that has almost no rules (just certain international crimes are not allowed as well as flooding posts). Although it is a controversial place, it is also interesting to see how it is self-policed. Every time someone goes too far, the members of the board have been very cooperative in ensuring that perpetrators are caught. The power to say and do whatever you want is great, but remember what good old Uncle Ben Parker has been reminding us of since the 1960's: "With great power comes great responsibility."

   On the flip-side, open communication has been hugely helpful. Many people are able to make new friends much easier than they used to be. More importantly, it has let those of us who were always treated as unnecessary by those around us have some sort of connection to others. In recent years, Japan has had this issue with people called hikikomori. In English, we have words like agoraphobia (though I guess that's more Greek than English...) and to some extent shut-in. Although it has been deemed a recent phenomenon, I think it has been around across most cultures and across all time. It's only become a public issue because these people suddenly have voices heard. When I read about what a hikikomori is, it hit me because it was exactly the way I was back in the 80s and 90s. One of the hardest things about being like that is this extreme sensation that you're the only one. With the dawn of open communication on the internet, it was like we all suddenly found out about each other. It's quite therapeutic. We didn't have to worry about being rejected anymore because it's a lot less terrifying when your name and face aren't involved. Over time, I wasn't pushing my bed or dresser against my door to keep the world out, I was sitting at my computer finally getting a chance to communicate with others. It was awkward at first and took a lot of practice, but by the time I got to high school I was actually involved in sports for crying out loud. Another thing that helped is that the line between being a geek and being a normal person got thinner and thinner and has even started fading out. As I slowly started feeling like a human, people also slowly started treating me like one.

The Ending
   For anyone who took the time to read all of this, I hope you got something out of it. My lifelong campaign against tunnel vision by use of perspective doesn't end here. It just does for the sake of this class. There was a lot more I wanted to write, but I decided to cut it where it stands. Perhaps some day I'll do some upkeep posts on flip-side perspectives here to keep the ball rolling. I'll try to put more humor in the following's finals week...cut me some slack.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Google Translate Fail

Original text would translate to "I also love Mexican food" or more literally "I also love Mexican cooking." Her weird use of a comma is probably what threw the translator off. Either way, the word "cooking" was completely dropped which in turned threw off the nationality of my friend here.

I'm submitting this as an assignment in the web category to ds106.

I guess I'm just trying to raise awareness of how bad these automatic translators are. In the office where I work, there were these sort of "slogan" posters that all had English "translations" under them. They were completely senseless and I could tell in an instant that they were Google Translate. The one that set it off said "Reservation is to be blamed." I asked my boss what it was to be blamed for and he had no idea. What ended up happening was that because I opened my big mouth that I got all of the original posters and had to make sensible translations for them.

"Reservation is to be blamed" now says "Don't hold back!"

The main reason I want to create awareness is because people actually trust this crap. Anyone who has been to...well...pretty much anywhere in Asia has seen the English language take some serious abuse (though, given the abuse English has given all other languages on the planet it only seems fair). I think that pictures of "Engrish" may very well be one of the original internet memes. Sometimes its good for a giggle, but I feel sorry for the people who used an internet translator program and got something senseless without knowing.

Triple Troll Attack

There are some common threads between the three characters (afterall, its the links between them that make a good triple troll to me). All three are from Shonen Jump. All three are excruciatingly long, yet entertaining series. All three pretty much have the same fan base as well. If you like one of them, you'll probably enjoy them all. Probably. It was actually a tough call for me to make the quote attributed to either Luffy or Kurosaki Ichigo.

I guess if you're not into anime, you might not get it. The character is Goku from Dragon Ball. The quote is Naruto from...Naruto. Finally, the quote is attributed to the main character of One Piece. The aforementioned Kurosaki Ichigo is from Bleach.

The idea came to me because the series are all so similar in so many ways. They just fit together perfectly.

Making the troll was easy. I found a picture of Goku on Google Images and was lucky enough to find one with a white background. I opened it in MS Paint and widened the image. This is why the background being white was a lucky break. Then, using the text feature, I wrote on it. I used orange for the quote because its the color Naruto wears. Likewise, I used red for Luffy's name since he wears a red shirt.

Lazy Man's Haiku

Original Photo Before Haiku: LAZY DOG by paddynapper through CC Licensing


English translation:
Haiku Written by a Lazy Person

The haiku actually came to me a few days before this assignment was posted to DS106. I have a really long train ride to school/work. Sometimes, when I'm on that long sleepy train ride, I get these silly ideas. I was thinking about how haiku are a little more easy in Japanese since the language is built around speaking in clearly defined syllables (as in one character in katakana or hiragana will always be one syllable). 

I thought about how easy it could be because the basic Japanese alphabets are effectively made of lines of five syllable combinations. That would net me 15 out of the necessary 17 syllables, but what could I choose for the remaining two? That answer was solved pretty quickly because the "w" line only has "wa" and "wo." Once upon a time, there were "wi, wu, we" syllables, but they are as long gone as "yi" and "ye." Actually, Yebisu Beer still uses the "ye" syllable on their logo, but people pronounce it as just "Ebisu." Also, the "Yen" as we know it is pronounced "En" for probably this same reason. Its like how "going to" became "gunna" and "catsup" became "ketchup." Actually, spell check thinks that "catsup" is wrong but accepts "ketchup." Irony. 

In the original draft of the haiku, I used the "t" line instead of the "s" line. I never actually learned the alphabet in order (because there actually isn't any need to since its completely phonetic). The original format is the one that's still the desktop to my computer at work. My co-workers have gotten a good laugh at it. Some say there is beauty in simplicity.

I also came up with the English version on the same train ride. The truth is, any time you say or write something in Japanese, Japanese people ask you how you say it in English. I had to come up with something clever to say. It works out since "W" is the only letter in the English alphabet that is more than one syllable in length. 

Admit it, you just ran through the whole alphabet in your head and checked. No worries, I did right before I typed this out.

The original assignment does say to use a dailyshoot picture, but I used a flickr CC License search for the word "lazy" instead. I stand by my decision. The words were simple just typed over top of the picture using MS Paint. 

It turns out that Japanese people are surprised that we know what a haiku is. They really are great tools for learning pronunciation and syllables in general. That's why we learned them in elementary school. They're also great tools for creative thinking. Its a tough fight to be able to say something meaningful within such a confined and structured space (its far worse than twitter). 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Definition of Art: Perspective

Big Heart of Art - 1000 Visual Mashups
Big Heart of Art - 1000 Visual Mashups by qthomasbower through CC Licensing 

A girl tells me she isn't an artist...
...but she coordinates her outfits each day.
...but she paints her nails.
...but she has legible handwriting.
...but she puts on make-up.
...but she spends an hour on her hair in the morning.
...but she makes her own lunch.
...but as far as I'm concerned she is art.

The introduction pretty much sums up my whole point: perspective. Timmmmyboy was a  guest speaker for ds106 where he gave a sort of editorial on creativity. While listening to his editorial, I took some notes and took in my reactions. Instead of a normal blog post, I'm going to give these quips and reactions to things that were suggested.

Hungry therefore creative.  Skinny therefore creative. What happens after someone gains weight? Do they lose their creativity. Also, skinny people aren't always hungry. Us fat guys are. So, the claim doesn't quite seem logical.

I was a night shift worker for five years and I did tend to be more creative at work than at home. In fact, the main reason I made a twitter years ago was so that I could save song lyrics. I would often think up lines while I was working and not be able to keep them. After getting twitter, I could quickly tweet them and they'd be there when I got home to put into whole songs.

I tend to be creative when I'm emotional. It could be very common. I think that's why there's so many songs about love and heartbreak.

We tend to define it as drawing, painting and sculpting, but there's also culinary arts, martial arts, make up, singing, dancing, music, writing, and even thinking.

As soon as you generate a thought, you are creative. Even if you don't know how to express it, you've made art. If you can't express it, you can still enjoy it.

When I was 12, I used to fake how long the sound of my voice was. I thought girls would be more attracted to me if they thought I was going through puberty (I'm not joking, that was completely logical to me 16 years ago). Now, Justin Bieber shrieks like a banshee and middle school girls love him for it. The difference? Perspective. If only I had a YouTube channel back then I could have not screwed up my voice.

My personal art styles: martial arts, 3-d painting (as in painting miniatures, statuettes and so on), singing, clarinet, saxophone, a little piano, I own a guitar and bass but I suck, dancing, writing, lyrics, culinary arts, and unfortunately a whole lot of thinking.

I think one thing that is important to do is to make a link in your brain between creativity and problem solving. Sometimes I feel like we're in the great age of giving up. I don't know how often I have seen someone get stumped by something and then just give up and leave things unfinished. I know people who have left blank answers on multiple choice tests. A little creativity is quite useful for finding solutions, even if on total accident or by chance. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


Train Sleeper

I decided to do the Your very own Spubble assignment from ds106 in the visual category. Although I've already done a visual post, I decided to make another because this sounded like fun.

First, I had to select a picture. I was originally thinking of using a picture of me playing bass guitar but couldn't come up with a caption. I looked through other pictures of me and decided to go with this one. I knew I had to use it and make a joke about playing Angry Birds. This picture is of me riding the train home from school. I was playing Angry Birds on my iPhone when all of a sudden I felt this person on my shoulder. I actually was so surprised by it that I shot a bird backwards out of the slingshot. I thought it was really funny so I snapped a picture. The look on my face is due to the fact that I'm trying not to bust out laughing about the whole situation. Although this sort of thing happens a lot in Japan, this was the first time it had happened to me. She slept on my shoulder for close to 30 minutes. I was hoping she had not missed her train station but she woke up in time it seems. I've noticed that after taking the trains for a while you kind of develop a "station sense."

So, given the situation, I thought it would make a funny Spubble. I downloaded the picture to my desktop and then loaded it to Picnik. Picnik has some fun photo editing options. The only problem I ran into is I couldn't get layers to go on top of each other unless I did them in order. Basically, I first typed the text and then tried to put the speech bubble under it. If there is a way to do it, I was too derp to find it. So, I deleted the text and rewrote it and put it over the speech bubble.

After it was finished I saved it to my desktop and uploaded it to my flickr. Then I typed this junk out and now you're reading it. Fin.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Digital Storytelling Assignments

We have to do 6 total digital storytelling assignments.  There are 8 different categories.
  • Visual
  • Design
  • Audio
  • Web
  • Writing
  • Video
  • Mashup
  • Fanfic
Try to put them in different categories but it is ok to put two of them in the same category.

The due date is the end of the semester, Wednesday, November 30th (but if you do it now you can just float through the rest of the time <(^_^)>).

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Midterm: Audio (How Times Have Changed)

Napster logo

A lot can change in just a short amount of time. For years we were all paying for music outright. Sure, we didn't think about not paying for the music on the TV or radio, but you had to buy a TV or a radio and most places don't have local music channels (meaning one would have to pay for cable TV). Then, around the turn of the century, something beautiful happened. We were given free access to audio. It was a big shock to record companies at the time as they all scrambled to say it was illegal when it was, in fact, completely legal.  It would have only been illegal if Napster made money off of our downloading. Think of it this way, when you buy a CD as a present for your friend, your friend doesn't have to pay anything. Napster just turned us all into gift givers.  Unfortunately, since the people who have money are the ones who make the laws that force us into giving them more money, it wasn't long before Napster went away. It came back as a pay to download site similar in function to iTunes. Napster's blog recently mentioned that it is merging with Rhapsody which I believe is the Real Player equivalent to iTunes. Unfortunately, it is more accurate to say that Napster is being absorbed and will be completely gone after a 12 year history. Another blog article on the subject can be found here.

On a fun side note, my high school firewalled, but they didn't do a very good job because we just typed and completely circumvented it.

Even though Napster didn't stay a free download service for long, it caused a series of similar programs to come into fold. The next few years gave us Kazaa, WinMX, Limewire, Frostwire, Morpheus and so on (many of which have been shut down as well). As internet connections got faster, people started sharing larger and larger files. Although music is pretty much at the core of internet downloading. 

As I said, the recording industry launched a full attack to the best of its ability against p2p file sharing, but it was not without deep criticism. Artists who were against downloading got a very heavy negative image. Case in point, Metallica. One of the most beloved bands of the last 30 years lost a lot of fans and suffered serious damage to their image over their opposition of Napster. This is how fans reacted to it:

Warning: Strong Language

Not all recording artists responded in this way. Although very few publicly condoned p2p file sharing, many were indifferent. The few who were open were some small-time artists who used these programs to spread their work and gain notoriety that way. Disturbed apparently said they don't care if we download their songs, they just want people to show up to their concerts. "Weird Al" Yankovic made a very good satire on one of his albums:

This song was available as a free download on Weird Al's website.
The song was popular enough to get placed on his greatest hits CD.

Even though the direct p2p sharing programs are always under fire and usually end up gone before too long, the spirit of the downloader lives on. File hosting and file streaming sites are the key ways to get songs now. Most artists have no problem with their songs being on YouTube, but there are sites that can extract the audio from a YouTube video and convert it into an mp3 file. There are also sites that just have a huge amount of storage for downloaders. The key is where the site is made or hosted. Different countries have different copyright laws (or in some cases, none at all). Most surviving streaming or hosting sites exist in these countries for that very purpose. Sometimes you have to dig your way through some Chinese text, but you can always find what you're looking for.

So, where does this all lead to?  You can kill Napster. You can kill all the other programs.  What you cannot kill is the idea. Ideas are infectious. Ideas are immortal. In this way, downloading audio on the internet has become another hydra whose heads sprout more with each one that's cut off. 

In closing, I'll tell an ironic story. Two years ago I heard a girl say that she had never used any free download program for music. We all gave her that "yeah, right" reaction but she responded with "I have iTunes and my father's credit card."

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Mr. Dangerfist's Four Icon Challenge

We're trying to learn how to use this ds106 thing and its a bit murky. I've decided to start with the four icon assignment. I scribbled these out in MS Paint because I don't make enough money to so much as look at photoshop or buy a Mac. Also, I did this in class quickly to see if I could simply "learn by doing."

It basically works like dailyshoot, but instead of taking a picture you make a piece of artwork.

Anyway, can you guess what the movie is?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

How To Do the Stuff We're Supposed to Do (CC licensed photo)

How to add the photo from flickr using CC licensing.
  • Go to
  • Use the Search box to look for the type of photos you're interested in.
  • photo
  • Then, click Advanced Search.
  • photo
  • Scroll down and click the box for   then click Search.
  • photo
  • Select any photo.
  • photo
  • Click Share and then select Grab the HTML/BBCode.
  • photo
  • Copy all the stuff written in the box.
  • photo
  • From your blog update screen, click the box that says HTML above the area where you are typing.
  • photo
  • Find where you want the picture to appear and then paste the HTML code.
  • photo
  • When you go back to Compose the image will appear.
  • photo
  • Type the following: Image: (photo's name) by (photographer's name) through CC licensing.
    (Like I've shown at the bottom of this blog post)
  • Make (photo's name) a link to the flickr page of the image.
  • photo
  • Make (photographer's name) a link to their flickr photostream.
  • photo
  • From the photo's page, click Some rights reserved in the lower right.
  • photo
  • Copy the address of the page that comes up, use that for the link where your blog says CC licensing. 
  • photo
  • One problem with embedding the photo in the html is that sometimes it won't let you go past it in Compose mode.  The way to get around this is to add <br/> in the HTML mode after where the embedded portion is.
  • photo

The end result will look like this.
Image: Puppies by niallkenedy through CC licensing

Stay tuned for my How to Embed Videos step by step post.

Embedding Stuff Testing

Not embedded video.

Toyota Motor Triathlon Race Car Concept

Embedded video
Image: Toyota Motor Triathlon Race Car Concept by Ian Muttoo using CC licensing 

Monday, October 3, 2011

Profiles of Artists on Social Media

Facebook, Twitter, and Deviantart are three of the biggest ways for artists to spread their work on the internet.  I would like to discuss two particular artists who use these services to reach their fans and customers.

First is Felicia Day.

  • Author and star of webseries: The Guild
  • Cameos, bit parts, and recurring roles on television such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, House M.D., and Eureka
  • Co-star of original web miniseries Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog
  • Voice acting for games such as Fallout: New Vegas and Dragon Age II
  • Vocalist for the songs (Do You Wanna Date My) Avatar and Game On
  • Is absolutely adorable at any and all times
Felicia, the Queen of the Internet, uses pretty much every form of social media there is. Her web series, The Guild originally ran on YouTube where it gained enough popularity that she was able to get sponsorship for the series from its second season on. Felicia has a facebook profile, but she treats it more like a fan page. This was the same way she treated her old myspace page. She is, however, a very active user of twitter. As seen in this video, maybe a little too active on twitter. She uses her tweets to announce projects she's working on and the release dates of those projects. She also does occasionally respond to tweets from fans (I personally got one a couple weeks ago). Another way to reach her fans is through the game, World of Warcraft. On The Guild's main site there is information on how to find the server and guild that the cast of the show plays on. Many people have joined that guild just to interact with the actors from the show and I can tell you from first hand experience that they are a total laugh riot (and she is a total potty-mouth).

Next up is Wen Yu Li
  • Lead art designer for Anima Studios
  • Does commission work on request
  • All around super cool guy who actually let me interview him for this project
Wen, or Wen-m as he's known on deviantart and the Anima forums, is an American artist who works for a Spanish company as well as does commission work for people from pretty much anywhere on the planet.  The key to Wen's current success is deviantart (which I often read as "devian tart" which makes me hungry for pastry). The head of Anima Studios saw Wen's work on deviantart and asked him to be an artist for his RPG project and ultimately Wen also became the lead artist for the miniatures line based on the RPG (some of you might remember two miniatures I posted a couple weeks ago for the dailyshoot about the color yellow, the one with the sniper rifle was his original design). 

The process of making the art is pretty simple. Wen and Carlos, the head of Anima Studios, chat on MSN messenger (morning in Wen's time, night for Carlos) and discuss what the character is like and any specific features he or she will have. Sometimes Wen is given free reign on what to design. Wen spends about 4 to 5 days making the image and then sends it to Carlos via ftp (file transfer protocol). The final approved artwork is given a release date usually intended to build up expectations for the final book and/or miniature associated with that artwork. Wen's commission work runs pretty much the same way. People drop him a note on deviantart and they discuss what should be in the image, a deadline, and a price. 

I feel that the main reason deviantart is superior to a lot of other art sites is because it lets people interact with each other whereas other sites seem to just be bland photo galleries with no personality at all. I have friends on my deviantart (shameless self-promotion) that I don't even have on facebook. Deviantart allows artists and art enthusiasts to find each other, share work, buy prints, and just talk to each other all built seamlessly together.

While most of the interview was weaved into the above paragraphs, I'd like to keep these last two parts in his own words.

In an alternate reality without the internet, how do you think your life would be? Would you still be a professional artist?
i think i would, like how artists tried to get jobs before, going to companies and showing artwork to them in person. 

Anything else you'd like to say on the use of the internet to spread your art or any social media you use in your career?
It makes some part of my work much easier, and enables some parts that would have been impossible other wise. like working remotely for an oversea company, or being able to send them an image in minutes, as opposed to a week in postal mail. 

To finish it off, I'll give you some samples that show the sheer variety of Wen's work and talent (taken from his previously linked to deviantart).

I always loved this dress. I asked Wen years ago if I could use this design for a wedding dress for whomever I end up marrying to wear. He probably thought I was joking.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Social Media Snippets

Although places like facebook, mixi, twitter, and the soon to be forgotten myspace are probably what people around here might think of when the subject of online social media comes up, there's actually some things that could also be considered as part of this concept. My first interactions with this were IRC (internet relay chat) back in the '90s. I also had something that used voice chat but you pretty much talked to someone random and if you weren't lucky you didn't speak the same language.

I think a common misconception is that the word "media" means "press." It actually means "a way of communication" ( So, any social way of communication falls into this category. The current concept pretty much came as a replacement for good old fashioned water cooler gossip and expanded into people sharing their lives with each other. Although early e-mail and chat rooms are the roots of the current social media concept, I believe that it was gaming that really made it explode. The first real social online game was Ultima Online. This opened the way for Everquest, the first explosively large MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game). What made these games stand out was that they were effectively the combination of a game and a chat room. Now, sitting at your computer playing games didn't mean a lack of human interaction. In fact, this human interaction was a key selling point of the game. What ended up happening is that people ended up completely hooked on these games. At pretty much any time, you can always have someone to talk to. For people who are shy, agoraphobic, or lonely it lets them meet others without all of that seeing each other's faces that always gets in the way.

more notes to come later...maybe some jokes as well

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Small assignment directions.

Blog Assignment: Write about pop culture and then make some connections to social media.
Drop some links.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Blog Assignment 1 - Do You Ever Wonder Why We're Here?

Unless you've been hiding under a rock that's in a cave on another planet, you've used the internet. Don't lie. You're reading this right now. Its proof.

Yet, have you ever stopped and asked yourself "How did I get here?" I don't mean "I clicked on some stuff and this popped up but it looks boring so I'm going to read some demotivators for lols." I mean it in more of a "15 years ago this page would have taken several minutes to load (especially the pictures)" sort of way. Yet, here we are in a time where people actually start to complain if the page isn't completely loaded within two seconds of clicking the link that sent us there. Let me put this in perspective.  When I was a senior in high school (2001 school year...yeah, I'm old), my father yelled at me for uploading a song to my crappy little website (the long gone SSJRigsby's Internet Roadhouse).  He wasn't worried about copyright infringement, he was just pissed that a 3 meg song took over two hours to upload which tied up the phone line so he couldn't make any calls. I neglected to mention the fact that I had already uploaded two songs prior to that which had tied up the phone line for nearly 5 hours by the time I was caught >_>.

So, how did we reach this point? Why is it that I can stream long videos on YouTube in seconds when back in the day a 10 second clip meant sitting in my chair salivating for a good 20 minutes over the treat I was about to see (I was often looking up scenes from the Godzilla movies that weren't released in America at the time...y'know, that stuff that one does in their teenage years to distract themselves from their lack of a girlfriend)? Well, its because we've been bootstrapped.

Bootstrapping, not to be confused with good ol' Bill here.
Human form used since it looks less icky.
Bootstrapping was an idea that came from Doug Engelbart. Although not the easiest thing to comprehend, its basically the idea of using technology for the sake of advancing technology. It may sound paradoxical, but just think about it. As I'm writing this blog and making all the links on it, all I have to do is highlight some text and then copy/paste a URL in and the link appears.  Once upon a time I would have had to have known how to type in good old html to do that. Yet, someone had the idea to make a little button that does all of that junk for you. Nothing was wrong with it when you had to type in the html (unless you had carpal tunnel syndrome or something) but someone took the step to advance the advancement and now the way to make links is so easy that anyone can do it. Engelbart talks a lot about this "Collective IQ."

I don't think this is what he meant, though.

To me, that means that something is common knowledge, or more accurate, something anyone can do.  By switching from having to type in html to just pressing a button, creating links progressed from being something a segment of people can do to something damn near anyone can do.

Here's a video of Engelbart talking on the subject.

On a side note, he's credited with inventing the mouse.  Have you ever tried using a computer without a mouse? I have and it sucks.

One thing that is interesting to consider is how technology changes and is replaced over the years. Using any timeline of internet history, one can see how things occasionally got replaced. Think about it. We had silent film, then film with sound, then color, then tv, then color tv, then hdtv and so on. I actually had a black and white tv as a kid.

"How do you think they got the color out of it?" -Zaboo (fast-forward to the 3:10 mark)

We also didn't have remote controls for our tvs.  In fact, my lazy ass father used to call me to the living room to change the channel for him because he didn't want to get up and walk a few steps to the tv. He denies this but he did it for years and it was quite often that I was actually in bed at the time and was woken up by his shouting. I was so happy when that damned tv broke and we got a new one that came with a remote. I actually got to sleep on a nightly basis.

Oops, way off track. Anyway, the point is that stuff gets replaced every few years. Face it, every two years you get excited that you can now get a new phone that does so much stuff your crappy old phone couldn't.  Anyway, back in the '90s we used to joke that some day we'll tell our grandkids that we used something called "the internet" and they'll think it was so archaic. We knew that as awesome as it was to play the first Macromedia Shockwave (the origin of the current Adobe Flash) games that were actually all just effectively clones and skins of Space Invaders that there would come a day when all of that gets replaced. So, what would replace the internet as a whole? Well, some people have been trying to do that since the 1960's. Ted Nelson is a guy who never seemed happy with the way the internet was being built from its very groundwork decades ago. He'd much rather we all hop on board with Xanadu.

Although this one came 20 years later I guarantee you it's on his iPod.

 Truth be told, I don't know much about Xanadu (hence I had to really stretch to make the previous lame joke). The information available is sketchy and just seems to say "We're better because we are" like a hipster who can't give a legitimate reason for being a vegetarian. The biggest problem with trying to replace the internet is that the replacement would have to do everything that the internet currently does and more. Since the internet is accelerating so fast, its replacement would have to accelerate much faster to overtake it. This, however, could be seen as a negative side effect of bootstrapping. If we launch forward and blaze ahead from an inferior starting point, we get stuck on that track.  If Xanadu actually is a better base, the internet (or whatever it would have ended up being called) could theoretically be more advanced than it currently is. Some day Ted Nelson may appear through an opening he created in the multiverse just to give us other realities a big "I told you so." 

So, that's what brought us to where we are now, but what brought those guys to where they were then? Sure, telecommunications could be traced back to the first time a caveman realized that if he raised his voice that cavemen farther away could actually hear him, but let's consider the roots of information acceleration.

Vannevar Bush, a man with a first name so ancient it sets off my spell check, is pretty much seen as the root of it all. He had the idea of taking all of the technologies available at the time and putting them together into a single machine that could do everything. Well, more specifically it was technologies that could be related to information. He even thought far enough ahead that it would have the shape of a desk so that it would take its volume into its consideration for efficiency's sake. The "memex" was proposed by him. It would contain data in its most efficient form (at the time would have been microfilm) so that massive amounts of data could be stored. Since everything takes up space, making things smaller naturally means more data can be stored in a given space. He also took into mind the idea of compatibility. One could easily take something from their memex and view it on someone else's. He didn't want us to have to be annoyed with the fact that Flash doesn't work on our damned iPhones. One of the biggest things about the memex was this idea of "trails" which would bring up similar ideas given a code written in a card catalog. Its basically like going to Google Images and typing "Kittens," but I doubt he thought we'd spend countless hours in front of our screens exclaiming how adorable kittens are. This is probably why Professor Lockman dismissed my suggestion of "kittens" the other day when looking for a picture because it could have completely derailed the rest of class.

Anyway, it all boiled down to this: Engelbart said "I'm going to take his idea and run with it......THAT'S GENIUS! We should all just keep running with each other's ideas!" Every time you get a broken link or a page that doesn't load, Nelson gets a little more smug. Basically, this is how we got here. This is how we got our tweets, status updates, videos of AKB48 on YouTube, and adorable, adorable little kittens at your fingertips...oh, and porn.

Key Sources:
Vannevar BushAs We May Think
Cameron Chapman - The History of the Internet in a Nutshell (Though I can't help but think he overlooked the inclusions of Ultima Online and Everquest as huge benchmarks in internet growth. Especially considering that MUD was on the list)
The Guild A comedy webseries about what I call "antisocial networking."

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

To do list

Things to do:
Blog a lot, but only one big one every other week counts and link it in the google doc.
Take dailyshoots and make sure to give them titles and stuff. Drop their dates in the google doc.
Comment on other people's blogs/flickr/tweets.

In addition ASAP: some info on Ted Nelson and Doug Engelbart

First blog assignment: Write about those guys and about the MEMEX thing. Its freeform so just blah blah blah a bit.