Just fun between assignments

There seems to be a disruption in the ether. The new new new new Number 2 hasn’t posted any Week Five assignments yet, so I just relaxed in the bungalow with an Independent Study student and a contract consulting gig I’ve got this week.

But, GIFs!

Artist and His Art

Artist and His Art

This first one shows the creative spirit at work in The Village. Our Number Six had sat for a portrait, and when the work was revealed, it really was quite an abstraction of INFORMATION. I’ve desaturated the artwork to remove color, and allowed it to cycle through the options of lightness, luminosity, and average. I’m doing better on file size by selecting just the painting so I don’t have all the frames showing all the image.

Laughing at Number Six

Laughing at Number Six

Here’s another easy one. All I had to do was import episode 15 into MPEGStreamclip, select the in and out points, clip, export, and import into GIMP. Then trim a few frames and export as a GIF. This episode has so many GIFfable scenes, especially at the carnival.

Dem bones

Dem bones

And, finally for tonight, a snippet from the final episode. I won’t comment in case you haven’t seen it yet. Make sure you have seen all the others first!

Be Seeing You

Be Seeing You

Week four summary

What's the buzz? Tell me what's happenin'

What’s the buzz? Tell me what’s happenin’

First, the summary of what I did this week:

Four Daily Creates
An “I Can Read” Prisoner-themed book
A few animated GIFs
An animated comic book cover
An investigation into how The Tally Ho is made
Plus, comments on the work of others. Tweets and Twitter interactions.
And dredged up a little html knowledge to repost a Patrick McGoohan interview whose original page was broken.

During this week, we were considering Design with a capital D. I read the assignments. Nothing really new for me, but good reminder to go beyond the basics. Little known personal fact: I started college as an art major. I did well in the first two design courses, but not-so-well in drawing. I dropped out and joined the Navy to learn electronics. I later considered leaving the Navy and to study design at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, but reenlisted instead. I am no expert, so it was good to revisit the principles.

Some details:
In creating the animated cover of Jack Kirby’s The Prisoner, I was brought into the world of comics and sequential storytelling. I’ve been here before. I grew up on comic books, still enjoy the daily comic strips, and have dug a bit into the literary theory of comics. My next step is to acquire Nick Sousanis’ Unflattening, a book of his doctoral thesis in comic-book format. I expect it will give me insight into new ways to investigate other literary and artistic forms, and even life itself.

Comics are Literature

Comics are Literature

Speaking of investigating, I enjoyed my pseudo-scientific but real-learning looks at The Tally Ho and the design of Number 2’s Seal of Office. This brings up an underlying theme of the show and of art in general: what we see is a representation. It was created, and there may be artifacts of the creative process to observe. At a minimum, this could be bad art (such as microphones showing up in a movie); but, at a higher level, it points to a reality behind what we perceive.

Making an animated maze was almost trivial with an online generator. But there was a comment about having never seen an animated puzzle before. I thought about it, and wonder how an animated maze could be a challenge but actually workable, if it was slow enough, and the paths were clearly seen. Pursue this if you dare!

Prisoner106 in a Maze

Prisoner106 in a Maze

I was glad to see the book creations of our prisoner106 colleagues. I’ve been a book-lover since childhood, and have been known to buy a book for its cover. Designing and creating one is a different task. One must think of the design elements, but also marketing and legal items. Will this cover design attract a buyer? Do we have proper identification and pricing information? How about copyright notices and permissions? There is more to it that we might think.

The Village Story Book

The Village Story Book as seen on The Prisoner

For the Daily Creates, I completed two written creations and two images. The writing is something I approach light-heartedly, letting the words flow (if they start). Keeping it themed to The Prisoner made it interesting. The two images this time turned out to be collages made with public domain sources found at the Internet Archive Book Images on Flickr.

Seven Tone Pump Organ

Seven Tone Pump Organ

Why the Chicken Crossed the Road

Why the Chicken Crossed the Road

One additional experiment I performed this week was to try to merge the creative worlds of prisoner106 and the We’re Here! Flickr group. This had mixed results, with some confusion about what was going on. However, I think that it was useful as an experience to stretch the minds of those who participated.

A philosophical aside:
Today’s sermon was presented by a guest speaker, a Navy Chaplain whose D.Min. thesis is related to serving the needs of a pluralistic society. A major theme of today’s talk was related to a major theme of The Prisoner: how valid are our experiences as representing objective reality? The one statement he made that stands in my mind (paraphrased) is: “Experience is important, but experience needs to be linked to the content, the INFORMATION, the truth.”

When we see Number 6 experience hallucinations, even living out a full life under the delusion of drugs (think of episode 14 Living in Harmony), he usually doesn’t recognize the truth of his experience until he wakes up back in the Village. One exception is episode 3 A. B. and C., where he learns the truth, then is able to maintain his identity and control the next hallucinatory sequence.

How should we think about and apply these concepts to ourselves, to our everyday life? Maybe one way is to realize that (in any sphere of life) our experiences are our own, and may be similar to the experiences of others, but we shouldn’t equate them with others. We should seek to understand the underlying reality, the objective truth, that caused or mediated the experience, rather than thinking of the experience as the truth itself. I know that there is a tendency to shy away from thoughts of objective truth, of objective reality. Yet, if we make our own experience and perception the only “truth”, then we must admit to billions of “truths” all in some degree of conflict.

Be Seeing You

Be Seeing You

ROOK GIF, because

What's he up to?

What’s he up to?

Well, I just thought another GIF would be good to finish the day. I’ve already commented on the chess puzzle in The Tally Ho, so I thought that puzzle could be animated. All frames taken from the Checkmate episode of The Prisoner.

It turns out that the entire sequence of writing the word ROOK takes 10 seconds. Using MPEGStreamclip, even saving at 8 frames per second gives 80 images. I actually gave up after the program seemed to time out. So I actually had to reset the in and out points a couple of extra times to get the frames I wanted. Anyway, I have some extras to mess around with some other day.

Importing selected images into GIMP as layers made it trivial to export as a GIF. The first try had too much of a blue cast, so I went back and desaturated all layers. Then I needed to adjust the timing, settling on 180ms for all but the final frame, which is 800ms. Since this sequence doesn’t smoothly wrap back to the beginning, I thought it best that the checkmark would have a bit of a lag before repeating the action.

I like the slight movement of the paper as Number Six writes the letters. The shadowing makes the sequence more realistic.

Be seeing you, tomorrow!

Many Happy Returns: The Book

Many Happy Returns

Many Happy Returns

I made the basic image for this book in GIMP a few days ago, using a clip from the “Many Happy Returns” episode of The Prisoner (near the end). Most of the text I created in Word, converted to pdf, and opened as layers, positioned and sized, and anchored (or merged). I do this because I still haven’t figured out why GIMP doesn’t correctly display the Village font. The quote under the title refers to the ease of reading the text, as well as the lack of dialogue in the episode.

Once I made the book cover, I realized how flat it looked. It needed work to look more realistic. To get a more three-dimensional look, I took a photo of a handy book with mostly plain white cover (it was The Millennium Whole Earth Catalog) sitting on my desk. The angle allows a slight view of page edges, but I needed to adjust my image to fit on the book. It was easy enough with the Perspective tool, grabbing and moving the corners to match the corners of the underlying book. I then used the Smudge tool to rough up the edges just a little bit.

First try, too flat!

First try, too flat!

After all this, I thought the cover still looked too fresh and unused. So, I used the free select tool to isolate the book, and found under Effects->Distorts->Video the ability to make a surface of small dots, simulating a paperback cover printing process.

Overall, this was a good exercise in learning. Not only did I try some tools in GIMP, but I had to think about design. Of course, I used the Village font, but how about placement of the wording, cropping of the picture, etc? I had accidently left a blue line near the bottom (from my media player), but I took advantage of that to put a publisher’s name in the same color just above.

If I were to start over, I would not use a photo cover, but would go for a more minimalist look. But, if I remember right, TV shows and movies often had spin-off novelizations, and they often used photos from the original productions for the covers. It is a good marketing design (if not artistic) so the interested consumer identifies the tie-in.

By the way, no author is credited on the cover. It was probably written by a team of hack writers working from the original script, piece work, no royalties.

A Design Analysis of the Number Two Great Seal of Office

Number 2 Great Seal of Office

Number 2 Great Seal of Office

In the episode “It’s Your Funeral”, Number 2 is honored during ceremonial occasions to wear the golden Great Seal of Office. In the scene in the watchmaker’s shop we see a rare glimpse into the design process. Left laying around for all to see is the original designer’s sketch of this seal!

Original Design Sketch

Original Design Sketch

As is common when analyzing ancient manuscript documents, I found it useful to record my experiments with various lighting conditions from various angles. For simplicity in this presentation, and in presenting the evidence of my conclusions, I show only the results for light from the four cardinal directions, and I do so in rotating images.

First, the sketch in natural light:

Natural lighting

Natural lighting

As you see, in natural light, no particular artifacts of creation are evident. One sees the inscription in the normal Village font, and the central icon of the Village pennyfarthing.

Exposed in near-ultraviolet light, we see some additional information developing on the surface. There are areas of differing colors showing variations in the surface texture. The spectrum from red through violet shows increased surface height. One would think that a piece of drafting paper would be smooth, but here there is apparent evidence of unevenness.

In Near-Ultraviolet Light

In Near-Ultraviolet Light

Finally, I found the need to slow the rotation to better see the square areas that appear from some angles. In slow motion, you can observe this “pixelization” of the surface. Normal paper does not behave in such a manner. Note that you can see the effect better if you click on the image to view it larger in your browser.

Slow Motion to Observe Squares

Slow Motion to Observe Squares

“What does this mean?” to quote Dr. Martin Luther. Apparently, the technology of The Village included elements more advanced than most of the world knew in the 1960s. This paper is actually synthetic paper made of nano-liquid-crystal. To our knowledge, this nLCD type of display is just now coming to market in advanced technical centers, such as Tokyo and Singapore. To find it in The Village is evidence beyond what we were looking for. The nLCD paper the watchmaker is using to draft the seal of office is nothing less than an artifact from the future!

The next stage of research must now shift from design, to source. Where and when could this nLCD paper originate? And how and by whom was it delivered to The Village? Unfortunately, these questions cannot be answered at the present, but must wait for time to progress.

Investigating The Tally Ho – What’s It Got to Say?

The Tally Ho

While watching the various episodes of The Prisoner, I’ve noticed that the Village newspaper, “The Tally Ho”, usually has nice clear headlines, but it is difficult to read the stories. Since it would not be reasonable to read while the video is running, I have clipped several examples from individual frames.

First, one must realize that the papers are made up for one-time use in the show, not to be actually read. As such, they are filled with filler text. A close look shows that the vast majority of the text is English, possibly taken from other newspapers, but each line is out of context with the next, paragraphing and word-splitting is off, and there is really no sense. As seen in Figure 1, the job was done quite nicely. It was not a quick cut-and-paste (in the original sense of scissors and glue), but possibly typeset pages were used.

Figure 1

Figure 1

An exception to the nice typesetting is the actual cut-and-paste of a chess puzzle (Figure 2). Taken from the “Checkmate” episode, we see Number Six making annotations on the chess puzzle in his effort to confuse Number Two with a possible conspiracy. When you look at the page, though, the puzzle, its description, and its title are pasted onto a page that is similar to other editions. And it’s not a really good pasting job, either. You can see the edges, and even text extending a bit beyond, since the clipping wasn’t quite the right size.

Figure 2

Figure 2

I was interested in the source of this chess puzzle. It turns out others have been interested, and I found the answer at Chess and The Prisoner. I include their image (Figure 3) of the original puzzle as it appeared in Evening Standard of 9 January 1967. In passing, I wonder if the producers of The Prisoner obtained copyright clearance, or if they thought of the fair use doctrine, or just did their thing without worrying too much.

Figure 3

Figure 3

Many times, television and movie producers will make sure that even such trivial details as newspaper text will look authentic. Too many times sharp viewers have found such discrepancies that are an artifact of creation that take the viewer into the interstices between the fictional work and the methods used to create it.

Prisoner Number 6 in a Maze

Thanks to my True Friend Talky Tina, I’ve been prompted to make a maze. I would really rather make a labyrinth, and may do so later. But for now, I made a GIFfy Maze.

Prisoner106 in a Maze

Prisoner106 in a Maze

As you can see, Number 6 is at the center of this maze. If this was a real labyrinth, the Minotaur would be there. Can you find the secret entrance? (hint: it’s near the top) Can you trace the path through the Giffy Maze to have a secret meet-up with Number 6?

I made this maze by using an online maze generator at www.mazegenerator.net. I selected options for a round maze of suitable size, and saved each of the six I made as a png. Note: you could save these as pdf files to print out and solve; plus, you can choose A4 or A3 sizes if you are European or letter or legal sizes if you are American. It was a simple matter to open these mazes as layers in GIMP. But I had to put Number 6 in the middle. I opened a previous picture of mine (the one where he looks like Chairman Mao (which I think means “Number One” in Mandarin)), but had to crop it to a circle and make extra stuff transparent so it didn’t show up. Then I had to duplicate that five times and merge all the pictures into the center of the six mazes. And export as a GIF.

Really quite simple, but that’s because I already knew stuff about making GIFs with GIMPs.

This also reminds me of how life is in The Prisoner. Number 2 always goes about trying to find the way to Number 6 and the INFORMATION he has hidden away in the maze of his amazing brain. And he is always right there in the center of things.

Race to the Mansion for a Bowl of Sugar

Today’s Daily Create had us pick three cards, each with a word, and write a story based on the words. This is a great writing prompt, largely because it is random enough to stimulate one’s thinking into unexpected areas. Here is my story.

Race Map, ID, and Sugar

Race Map, ID, and Sugar

Race to the Mansion for a Bowl of Sugar
another episode of The Prisoner

One day Number 6 woke to the sounds of whistles and cheers. No, he wasn’t under arrest (again). It was Race Day in The Village!

Casually, Number 6 walked to the Park where he noticed several Residents in sporting attire lined up at a start line. Nonchalantly, he asked Number 72 where they were racing to. 72 said, “Oh, it’s a marathon! They are racing from here to there and back again. It will be quite wonderful. And such splendid weather!”

Not getting the answer he was looking for, Number 6 wandered until he found the Tally Ho news stand, bought a copy, and saw the headline: RACE TO TWO’S MANSION. The story stated that the goal of the race was to run to Number 2’s Residence, enter, find a bowl of sugar, and return to the start. Points were awarded for running time, bowl-searching time, the number of sugar cubes gathered in the bowl, and the number of sugar cubes still in the bowl at the finish.

Always plotting an escape, Number 6 instantly donned sporting gear, and stood in line with the other contestants. Being in top physical condition, he easily made it to Number 2’s mansion first. In the kitchen were just as many bowls as there were contestants, each identical but for the number painted on the side. Quickly, he found the bowl labeled “6”, reached into the bag of sugar cubes, and filled the bowl. Since he hadn’t had breakfast, he popped several sugar cubes into his mouth to replenish his energy.

On the path back to the finish, Number 6 almost immediately started meandering, spinning, gazing at nothing, and otherwise acting erratic. It was as if some drug had entered his system, probably from the sugar cubes, and he was hallucinating. Next thing he knew, he was waking up in the hospital with the trophy for the race. The trophy featured a large sugar cube!

The doctor, standing nearby, noticed that Number 6 was awake, and told him, “Ah, welcome back Number 6! Thank you for all the information you shared when you were wandering around out of your mind. It will be quite useful to Number 2, and of course even more useful when he reports to Number 1.”

Number 6 immediately began to panic, but only showed a bit of sweat on his forehead. “What could I possibly have said that would be of interest? All I could think of and see were marmalade skies, newspaper taxis, and cellophane flowers. I must have been hallucinating, so whatever I said was not based in reality.”

“Ah” said the doctor, “we each make our own reality here in The Village. And your reality is special to us. Our computers will extract the truth from your hallucinations, and soon we will know whose side you are on!”

Number 6 fell back asleep, confident that his reality would never be probed by this doctor. He knew the computer was programmed badly and would likely self-destruct when his hallucinations were input. And, he had won the race!

In writing this, I tried to keep in mind the times (1960s) and the themes of The Prisoner. Number 6 is often drugged. The other authorities are always trying to get information from Number 6. He is likely to participate in Village functions, but has his ultimate escape motive in mind always. The sugar cube, of course, was used in that decade as a dispenser of LSD, so we also have reference (in his hallucinations) to The Beatle’s song “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.”

Overall, I had fun writing this little story. I did proofread, and made a few grammar edits. Most interestingly, I found that I had subconsciously used the number “2” to identify Number 6 in several occurrences. Is this a sign? In the next episode will Number 6 be promoted to Number 2? Will he be seeking answers from himself, digging deep into his own psyche? Stay tuned to this channel, the only one that matters.

Be seeing you.

Animated The Prisoner Comic Book Cover

For my first project in Design Week, I chose to animate the comic book cover of Jack Kirby’s draft of The Prisoner. It is a Design Assignment (number 306) and worth an unbelievable four credit units.

Prisoner

My main method was to create duplicate layers, erase the text in the speech bubble, and add text. I also selected the head with the free select tool, flipped it, and anchored it back. I touched up a little bit with the pencil to close gaps created by rotating.

If I were to do it over (and I might), I would just have a background layer, with the speech cloud blank, and a right-facing head. Then I could use smaller layers for the wording and the flipped head. This would save file size.

Also, if this were to be a draft of a real cover, color would need to be added.

Week three wrap-up

Tally Ho

This has been visual week. Most of us have visual capabilities; that is, we see with our eyes, we are not blind, we have vision. There are those who lack this capability, so we must not forget that visual is just one aspect of digital storytelling. I am glad we learned and continue to experiment with audio, and will combine with video.

The interested reader can find the posts I made during the week. Since beginning my #4life with ds106 in the spring of 2013, I have learned some of the technical details of making animated GIFs. What I have learned now is a matter of style that I like; namely, to make the loop as seamless as possible. GIFs that abruptly end and replay are fine. GIFs that play then stop are fine. But I’m liking the never-ending action. The repetition can be made to appear natural, or it can be mere repetition. For the observer, the repetition can bring out additional shades of meaning to the story the GIF is telling. Every repetition is different because the observer is different with every repetition. During this week, GIFs were important to all of us. Those who made GIFs out of the hyperbolic tiling generator had really fine results. I did not pursue the GIFs of this due to time constraints.

I watched four episodes of The Prisoner. In addition to those on the archives, I found episode 14 “Living in Harmony” to be very interesting (especially considering its history of initially being banned in the USA). For being trapped in The Village, Number 6 manages to leave often enough, in physical reality or in his mental reality.

I completed four Daily Creates this week, all photographic in nature. And, since I am playing along in the We’re Here! group on Flickr, I made one of them (with the missing rabbit) to fit their assignment also. I enjoy mixing up the two realms of my photographic efforts. I have invited them to add photos to my prisoner106 group on Flickr Friday, so keep your eyes open and make some friendly comments when you see something interesting.

I think I’ve earned over eleven credit units this week. It would be more but I did not include some of the creations into assignments in the assignment bank. Plus, there aren’t points assigned to the Daily Creates. I am wondering about some Village residents on the tax rolls who don’t seem to be participating. Has their electricity been cut off? Are they trapped in their bungalows? Or have they escaped?

By the way, being trapped in your bungalow is a very real possibility. The other day, when I wanted to go on a photo safari, my automatic door wouldn’t open (you know how it opens too many times, letting people in without warning or invitation?) and I was stuck inside. I saw this happen to Number 6 once, and he managed to exit through his window, but I’m not so spry anymore. This is why my photo safari was of pictures taken from the television instead of really outside with my own Canon Dial 35 camera (available in The Village Store).

Coming up: design and then video and then making a radio show and then a multimedia project. I bet I slow down with the video and then not do the radio show and then maybe have a project. Maybe I’ll do my own radio show. I warn of my history of petering out (wait, what’s Peter got to do with this?). Plus, more importantly, I have a real-life business trip to attend to and also a real-life family wedding-event to attend to. These events will take up a bit of time and energy, as well as detract from time in The Village. I’ll do what I can, but remember: #4Life!