Thursday, December 31, 2009

Immune system, why have you failed me?

Apparently I just can't keep a schedule with this blog. Sorry folks, I'm going to delay my review of Sherlock Holmes because I got sick really fast. My throat is killing me and I just lost my voice. I'm debating whether or not to attend the New Years Rally at camp. Hopefully I'll be feeling better by tommorow, or maybe even tonight.

Have a happy New Year everyone!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Rocketboom

Hello and good Tuesday December twenty-ninth.

So I lied, this post was supposed to be yesterday, but I felt the need to post about the Teach@15 contest because we could win. Unfortunately it is extremely difficult to galvanize the teen populace into doing anything, especially during vacation, so I don't think Winthrop has a chance, despite being so close.

I have always assumed that the purpose of a rocket is to fly and then explode. Yesterday I was proved wrong. Apparently the purpose of a rocket is to bring you the internet in an explosively humorous manner. A couple of days ago I came across a web site called Rocketboom when I was surfing Youtube. At first I thought it was just good for a quick laugh, but I was intrigued by the fast paced, quick, snide viewpoint on current news and events. Primarily, Rocketboom is a news parody site, with humorous outlooks on what's up in the world and the internet. Despite being a parody, Rocketboom has a surprising amount of useful information. After watching the nightly news on TV it isn't a bad idea to watch Rocketboom to pick your spirits up. It doesn't take much time either. No video is more than ten minutes long and most average between two and four.

The best thing about Rocketboom, aside from the humor and information, is the format in which it is presented. Everything is video, with just some video tags and no story write-ups. This is a nice change of pace from the thousands upon thousands of text-based newspapers and blogs.

Rocketboom has several different departments, including Technology, the Daily News, Casual Fridays, the Rocketboom Institute for Internet Studies, and Humanwire. All the departments are worth a look, however be warned, if you aren't very in tune with internet culture you may not have a full understanding of everything that is discussed in all the departments.

A good representation of the daily news can be found here from July 23. The daily news isn't always daily, but Rocketboom has experienced several upheavals as their primary news anchor moves on. It's happened three or four times throughout their history and is often the cause of breaks between updates. Look around the site for yourself and see if it is something you might use.

Rocketboom isn't a "professional" news source, so it won't replace the evening news, but for independent, funny, informative briefs there is nowhere else I'd rather go.

I'm going to postpone those links I said I'd give you and save them for a rainy day. Instead tomorrow look forward to my review of Sherlock Holmes. 

Monday, December 28, 2009

Teach@15 contest

I don't know if you are aware, but Winthrop has been participating in the Teach@15 contest by Best Buy in an attempt to win $1,500 for the video production program. We haven't been doing very well, coming in tenth and eleventh usually with around 140 votes. The winners have anywhere between 1500 votes and 3000 votes. Since it's vacation everyone, including Winthrop, has pretty much stopped voting. I just checked the voting poll and we are in fifth place with only 30 votes. There are four days left in the voting period and the first place school has only 139 votes. So we have a REALLY good chance to place if people will go vote. We are the underdog and we shall prevail. GO FORTH AND VOTE!

Link to the contest (remember to log in)
Link to Rambler Productions post for more info

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Avatar Review

I went down to Bangor yesterday with my mother and sister to see Avatar in 3D at Bangor Mall Cinemas. The line for the ticket booth was all the way out the front door when we arrived. Hoping that the 11:50 showing of Avatar was not already full we waited in the cold till the line shortened enough to get inside. Once at the booth and after paying the premium price for 3D tickets we received our 3D glasses and proceeded to theater eight. Modern 3D is still pretty new on the block, especially up here in Maine so there are very few theaters with 3D equipped projectors.

We found a decent seat near the front and popped on the bulky plastic glasses (which by the way are much more comfortable than the pathetic red/blue paper ones). From the previews before the film to the credit roll afterward, everything was in 3D. It took some getting used to but after a few minutes it lost the disorienting effect for the most part. In the trailer for the new Alice in Wonderland film the Cheshire cat face came out of the screen and floated towards me (50 seconds in). To paraphrase my sister (who apparently doesn't like being quoted) the old Disney pink and purple cat was creepy enough. The new cat is downright scary.

Anyway, enough about the previews, the actual film was very impressive though it was obvious that James Cameron (director) doesn't like cutting scenes from his films. I suppose he can do whatever he wants though, he helped design the camera used to film Avatar. The technique he used to capture the footage is fascinating. Read more on that here or watch a short clip. The nearly three hour long sortie in a theater chair, which normally would get uncomfortable, was nearly unnoticeable. Cameron successfully pulled me into his world. I give the film a 9 out of 10.

The plot line was as I expected from the previews; Paraplegic progresses to planet Pandora and proceeds to preserve the primary populace's place of prayer. Okay, I was going to do that for the whole plot overview but just that sentence almost killed me. Anyway, the plot was very believable in terms of characters. Jake Sulley, the star, had a personality that was easily related to. He reacted in realistic ways rather than being entirely the typical bravado-filled Hollywood hero. His personality developed realistically. I immediately became attached to his character emotionally because he was unable to walk on his own but when he is in his Avatar he was able to run through the canopy. There is a very uplifting scene when he is able to walk for the first time.

The dialogue was very witty at crucial points when I didn't even realize I was tense. For example there is a scene where Jake has to approach a flying beast and try to tame it. One of the Na'vi (the native blue people) tells him that the beast must choose him. "How will I know if he chooses me?" Jake asks. "He will try to kill you." the Na'vi responds. "Outstanding." The simple fact that Cameron chose the word "outstanding" rather than the typical "great" or "wonderful" lent a realistic dimension to Jake's character that wouldn't have otherwise been there. This is just an example of course. I know it may seem small, but it's the little things that get me.

The science was beyond ridiculous, but hey, that's where the fiction in science fiction comes in. Mainly the floating mountains (never explained) and the long distance consciousness-transfer. Everything else had at least a pseudo-scientific explanation. Oh, and the mineral the humans are trying to mine is dubbed "unobtainium." Really? I suppose it gets the point across, but I would've called it Pandorium, considering the pandemonium it causes and that it presumably can only be found on Pandora.

The story paralleled some of the challenges faced by the Native American culture as European countries invaded the New World. I don't want to give anything away to you poor souls who haven't had the opportunity to see this masterpiece yet but I will say that the ending, while fulfilling and most uplifting, did not have the impact it could have. If I were Cameron, I would've gone for the shock value of an opposite outcome. The resulting discussion from such an outcome would've been much more poignant and, again paraphrasing my sister, maybe made people go out and do something about the state of the world.

One final note about the film. If you are going to see it, either see it in regular 2D in theaters or see it in full IMAX 3D (the only IMAX in Maine is in Saco). While the 3D I saw in Bangor Cinemas was good whenever an object moved offscreen that had been "close" to your face it seemed to disappear from view. This was mildly disorienting  In IMAX, since your field of vision is almost entirely covered by the screen this problem would be negligible. No matter how you see it, you NEED to see this movie. With a great story, great character, phenomenal special effects, and an important message, this movie is near perfection.

For more on Avatar and James Cameron, watch this interview (part 1) and (part 2) from 60 minutes. At one point Cameron says something that is very important to me.
"I think the moment you're making a film, no matter how crude, no matter how small or cheap the film is, you're a filmmaker."
This may seem rather redundant, but the message behind it is clear. If you are making movies, you've got a shot at the big time. 

I could go on and on about this film and how it was made and all that jazz but you are going to see the film anyway and be infected with the same fervor to know more about it so I don't have to tell you do I?

I have been entertained and it is good.

I actually have a schedule as to what I'm going to be blogging about the next couple of days in addition to my daily activites. Amazing I know! Tomorrow I will introduce you to rockets that go BOOM.....and bring me the latest internet news.

The day after that I will be serving up a nice big platter of interesting links for you to explore.

And the day after that (I know, crazy prepared) I'll be listing a whole ton of movies that I've seen and want to see and that you should see and how trailers are amazing and and and and.

GOODNIGHT!

Friday, December 25, 2009

It's the 25th of December

The date for Christmas is actually kind of arbitrary because if I recall the best estimates put Jesus' birth in September. The pagan holiday of Festivus and the solstice was simply replaced by Christians with the birth of Jesus. But you probably didn't pull up my blog on Christmas to read a history lesson.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

One thing that's always bugged me is the fact that people always say "Merry Christmas" and "Happy Easter." Rarely do you see a "Happy Christmas" or a "Merry Easter." I want to know why these specific variations of well-wishing stuck to their respective holidays. I think they should be changed to "Awesome Christmas" and "Super Easter." Just saying.
  
Have a wonderful day everyone!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

CHRISTMAS EVE!

I owe my fancy new blog header (EDIT: to see the blog header that was up, click on the link) to my sister. I commissioned her to do some swirly calligraphy using her new Wacom Bamboo tablet my dad and I got her. Pretty cool eh? It is CHRISTMAS EVE! I have a correction to make with the last blog post, my sister has informed me that the stellated dodecahedron on top of the tree is actually a great stellated dodecahedron. Apparently that makes a difference. I call it a pointy star.

Before Bailey and I came up to Greenville we each opened one gift. Bailey opened her Bamboo tablet and I opened my new mini HD camcorder. It's really cool but I definitely need to get a nice big SD card to go with it because all I have is an ancient 64 MB card which stores about one minute of video. The joystick to control the menus is a little clunky, but so far I have few complaints. I think I might spring for a Gorrilapod to go with it cause it is so light it's hard to hold completely steady.

I hope everyone is enjoying their day and staying warm! I'll blog again tomorrow!

Winter Rainbow

Have you ever seen a rainbow in the winter? Didn't think so. As I was driving up to Greenville on Tuesday my sister pointed out something that appeared to be a faint, blurry rainbow. She promptly dubbed it a snowbow. It really did appear to be a rainbow, just kind of...diluted. There wasn't nearly as much snow as I anticipated on the drive and there is still relatively little up here by Moosehead Lake. The fluffy stuff that is on the ground is blowing about like crazy though.

I just watched Terminator Salvation and enjoyed it though I don't think it had the same kind of impact the earlier films did. I didn't come to empathize with the characters as much as in the first and second films. But still, it was a very good film. I especially liked the lighting they did, what with there being a lot of fire and explosions the light played a key role in the mood. Overall I'd give the film seven out of ten. I would recommend seeing it, even if you aren't a big Terminator fan.

My sister created a stellated dodecahedron for the tree-topper here at my mother's house, it looks pretty darned awesome.

Anyway, its midnight so I should post while it's still today.

Monday, December 21, 2009

All the little things...

They add up, whether they be good or bad. Today had a lot of little good things and a lot of little bad things happen. Whether or not they balance I am unsure, I don't think they make a scientific scale for that yet. I did manage to "fix" the problem with Compressor, by simply bypassing it entirely. I transferred the files to trusty 'ole James Cameron and compressed them there. Tomorrow I'll transfer the compressed files back and put them in the DVD file. The DVD menu is going to be awesome. Between screen-captures of Belle and the Beast a rose will grow, then drop a few petals. The petals will become the buttons you then press to play the full movie, Act I, or Act II. All on a shimmery purple/gold background. Gonna be pretty cool.

Allen called and informed us that the back end credits for the Putt Putt Syndrome still need some work, so he'll be coming in tomorrow to talk with us about that. I haven't finished my poster for him yet so I hope he is not expecting it.

In other news someone took my laptop case containing my charger. I still have my laptop, but without my charger it will soon simply be a hunk of plastic and circuits. Hopefully they will realize they have the wrong case and return it tomorrow. Otherwise I am laptopless for the duration of vacation.

Calculus was spawned by the agents of evil. Just saying.

I bid you all good night!

It isn't a project till something goes wrong.

So says Shaw. And gone wrong it has. More troubles with the school's Mac, Speilburg again. No kernel panic this time but something has gone awry with the Compressor program. Without it, I'm stuck with a roughly 32 gig file that needs to fit on a 4 gig DVD. Whenever I try to compress I get the message "unable to connect to background process" and the compress fails. Reinstallation did nothing. I'm currently poring through forums and help sites trying to find a fix. Beauty and the Beast needs to be on DVD tomorrow and I have very few free periods tomorrow. I was hoping to polish everything up today and just churn out DVD's tomorrow. At this rate I'll be lucky to even create the DVD Studio Pro file before vacation, let alone start burning.

Alright, just started a new attempt at compression using a different format (PNG), hopefully this will clear up my problems. I will report back later with an update.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Inglourious Movie Review

I just watched Inglorious Basterds with my father and decided I would review the movie on my blog. I give it a two star rating....out of ten. This movie is awful. The trailers made it out to be a bang-bang shoot-em-up with a fast-paced story and gritty characters. The reality is much different. It was a slow film with short bursts of excessively violent action. The director seemed as if he couldn't just pick a style and go with it (the director, by the way, is Quentin Tarantino). Also, as a spelling fanatic, the title just ticks me off.

I had no feelings either way for any of the characters whatsoever. I didn't hate the bad guys and I didn't like the good guys, even the honorable good guys. The only character I had any feeling for was some random farmer in the beginning who had to choose between keeping the Jews he was hiding secret or keeping his family alive.

There was no purpose to the film. I didn't come away with any sort of message. If the film was intended to be pure entertainment then it failed miserably.

The entire film was segmented into "chapters" and each chapter was filmed almost entirely in one setting. Which wouldn't be so bad I suppose except there are only five chapters in a two and a half hour film. Which is half an hour per chapter. Essentially five scenes in one movie. Did I mention it was slow? Chapter one was at the aforementioned farmer's house. This was my favorite chapter because it had a lot of potential. The setting was established and there was a lot of tension. It was slow, like the rest of the movie, and involved a lot of dialouge but that was to be expected in an intro. Chapter one also ended with a good kick-off point for the rest of the movie.

Then the movie dropped like a bunch of pebbles to the bottom of a well (2 points if you get that reference). The others scenes played out as follows.

Chapter Two: Inglourious Basterds
This chapter introduces the Inglourious Basterds themselves. A mostly nameless bunch of Jews who have escaped the Germans and decided to fight back. Oh, and Brad Pitt, who plays his role with an unconvincing accent and only average acting. The only thing that happens in this chapter is the aftermath of an ambush on a German patrol. Lots of talking, "suspense" that grows boring because it drags on too long, and strangest of all, a cutaway scene to the explanation of one of the Basterds who never really becomes important but is the only one to recieve this attention. This cutaway starts with random electric guitar music and a giant overlay title with a 60's style font. It made little sense. I don't mind the dialouge but I assumed the movie was building to some sort of climax that never occurred.


I would continue but I've decided that this rant would get too long if I explained all the flaws in this film. So instead I'll end on a positive note. The artistic shots were very well done. There were some angles and moving shots that were extremely impressive and accented the mood well. But the camerawork is the ONLY thing in this movie that was any good. Basically, don't bother watching this unless you like movies with absolutely no purpose.

I really hope Avatar will be good and will wash the bad movie taste out of my eyes. I have extreme envy of my sister who will likely get to see it before me.

Goodnight all!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

New Codak Comic!

So I was going through my daily list of comics just now and I accidentally clicked on my link to the Dresden Codak comic. I usually skip over it because it only updates every few months. Lo and behold, a new comic! Not my favorite by him, but still pretty good. I like the premise, "The dead only see what the living forget." I also really like his drawing style, it is very emotional and active. Tomorrow I will have a movie review for you! Really! I already wrote it believe it or not. Talk about being prepared, right?

Anyway, have a good night everyone!

Shameless plug!

Guess what?

You should buy a copy of Beauty and the Beast, performed by Winthrop High School and Monmouth Academy students and filmed by Rambler Productions. Read a review (by me) here. I'll even give you these exclusive still frames to get you interested. The DVD is going to be pretty sweet. Spread the word around, the more sales made the more money comes in to support Winthrop theatre, film, and music programs. Oh, and Monmouth, they get money too.





Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Cause everyone's your friend...

...In New York City
and everything looks beautiful
when you're young and pretty
the streets are paved with diamonds
and theres just so much to see
-New York City
by They Might Be Giants
Okay, so I can tell you my big news now. I've been invited to attend the red-carpet premiere of The Putt Putt Syndrome in New York City this coming February. Myself, Anna, and Ms. Shaw were contacted by Allen and asked to film the premiere for the documentary. We haven't worked out all the logistics yet and I don't even know the exact date but it will hopefully fall during February vacation. I have never been to New York before. In fact, the farthest I've ever been in my entire life is the far side of Boston. I don't travel very much.

There is now extreme competition for Steven Spielberg (the computer) at school. Pat wants to use it to mess around with AfterEffects and hone his FX skills. He is currently working on a no texting while driving PSA where Mr. Morin gets hit by a car. Grace wants the computer because it is the only one with Photoshop and she is designing the cover for Beauty and the Beast. (She refuses to use GIMP, calling it "unprofessional"). Bah. To top it off I am using it to edit together Beauty and the Beast.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Council of Birds

Remember how I talked about some birds that were spying on me and making a racket in the trees by my house? And how they were working for the aliens/mad scientists that live down the street? Well, they are still there. At least a hundred dark little birds. Normally I phase out noise like birdsong as background and I don't even notice it. But when I'm shoveling heavy wet snow halfway through December excessive birdsong kind of stands out as odd. After watching this large flock converse loudly in the treetops I have decided they are not spies, but some sort of council of birds meeting in order to discuss.....well....things that concern birds.... like Windex and the scientific advancements of crows. I have never seen such a large flock of anything except ducks this late into winter. I have a picture of those ducks somewhere. There were a lot.

I have super-amazing-awesome news. But I can't tell you what it is yet. Sorry. Now you are curious aren't you? I'll post once I can tell you all.

My Christmas tree is approximately nine feet wide and eleven feet tall. This year our tree is looking nice and healthy cause my father went out and cut it ourselves. Last year we picked a pre-cut one but it dried up fairly quickly. The year before that we were possessed by evil spirits and picked out a Blue Spruce. Tip: Don't ever bring a piece of a Blue Spruce into your home, let alone the whole tree. They smell like stale urine. The year before THAT we had a very nice tree that actually grew while it was in our living room. It also started budding on the side that faced the window. Christmas trees are awesome.

I went to the Mechuwana rally this past weekend and had a great time with friends. Despite what many of my friends think. A rally at camp does not involve standing in the middle of a field around a flag yelling "GO JESUS!" Although that would be amusing. Instead, rallies at Mechuwana are a time for people to get together and have a great time while forgetting all their troubles. Its a place where you can be yourself without worrying about what other people think about you.

I left the rally during the dance to go and film Beauty and the Beast at the school. I was using my homebuilt steadycam while Shaw and Grace manned the two stationary cameras. We recorded straight to the school laptops for the two static cameras while I went with tape. This production has been all about saving time while getting better quality. By bypassing tapes on two cameras we saved not only money but also all the logging time. In another effort to increase quality while still whipping a DVD out by Christmas vacation Pat Flynn has introduced me to the Multiclip function of Final Cut Pro. Basically what it allows me to do is sync up multiple angles and then click on my desired angle while the timeline is playing, automatically creating the nescessary cuts. This way it only takes as long to edit it as it does to watch. Which is awesome.

Finally, I am extremely excited to see Avatar and jealous that my sister will get to see it first. I plan to see it in IMAX if I get to see it in theatres. This is the kind of movie you want to see in its full glory.

Hope everyone is staying warm.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Graphic Design in ten steps

Look to your left.

No, your other left.

Good.

There is a high probability that you can see something right now that was conceived by a graphic design artist. Maybe it is a neato poster you have on your wall like this one I have. Maybe it is a coaster for a drink with a family crest on it, maybe it is your mousepad. Even if you are a nihilist and everything around you is gray and boring I guarantee that you can see at least one piece of graphic design right now. The logo for your computer. Even just the word "MacBook" counts as graphic design. Some Apple employee put a lot of thought into deciding the font for that logo. My point is, pretty much everything you see has a graphic design artist's mark on it.

The term "graphic design artist" is basically a cool way of designating somebody who creates images to communicate visually, which is pretty generalized. Straight from the source of all human knowledge (AKA Wikipedia) "From road signs to technical schematics, from interoffice memorandums to reference manuals, graphic design enhances transfer of knowledge."

In anticipation of this post I did a small redesign of my blog banner at the top. Expect it to change periodically as my whim shifts.

I consider myself to be an amateur graphic artist and I've been working with graphic design in one form or another since middle school. If you've been keeping up with my blog you've already seen  One of my favorite things to do is to create patterns of of small geometric shapes like this one using a nice deep black pen. Then I scan them into my computer and digitally enhance them. This is the more basic type of graphic design I do. In this particular case I altered the original design to look like Serenity from Firefly. When I first start my doodles I never really have anything in mind, but most people tell me that they either end up looking like a castle, bug, or spaceship. I just put down the shapes that make sense to me.

My first real foray into the world of digital graphic design was a few years ago when I decided to make backgrounds for some poems I had written for my creative writing class. While I make no claims to my prose-prowess I am quite happy with the way the backgrounds came out. I'll walk you through the process I followed in order to create the background for my poem "The Imperial Order." Bonus points if you get that reference without using Google. My method for creating the backgrounds was as follows. (click on images for larger versions)


1. Come up with an idea for the design. 
This involves planning around the content of the poem itself. The design can't be too busy or the poem will become lost in the background. Typography is a big part of the design. I decided upon a dim, misty army approaching a castle wall with big, looming mountains in the background.


2. Get component images.
Due to my inability at the time to produce the images I wanted myself, I then proceeded to search the internet for photos and pictures that I could use to create the different elements of my image. I knew I wanted the viewpoint to be from atop a crenelated wall so I spent about an hour searching for the perfect image. If I were a professional I would probably call up my photography buddies and have whichever one was nearest a castle get exactly the shot I wanted. Lacking that, I found this shot of some battlements at Culzean Castle in Scotland, which fit the bill of what I wanted. The next step was removing the ocean view and replacing it with my other images. Those other images included the army, the mountains and the sky.


For the army I spent a long time searching for something that might work. In the end I decided that this scene from The Lord of the Rings was my best bet. The army was indistinguishable as individual troops but you could still tell it was an army. The army was also far away enough to sell the illusion of being high atop a castle wall.

The mountains were even trickier. I had to find something that would work in the background, fit in the confines of the image, and portray the looming eerieness that I was looking for. If it had been possible I would have definitely made the elements myself as it would save time in the end. Finally I came across an image I thought I could alter sufficently well enough to work. The mountains didn't really look evil in the original picture, and I nicknamed them the "Happy Gnome Mountains" cause I thought the village in the valley looked like a place you'd find gnomes. Don't ask, I really don't know. Once I'd found these three major elements I set about to creating the composition. What about the sky, you ask? Well, the sky didn't actually occur to me until later. Graphic Design (at least in my experience) involves just as much (if not more) on-the-fly alterations as planning.

3. Choose your editing program.
You are probably familiar with at least the name of the program Photoshop, or Adobe Photoshop. As the industry standard it is used by professionals across the world and by many amateurs looking to give their products the extra edge in quality. Unfortunately Photoshop can cost up to $800. There are many student discounts and such but even with these it can be expensive for those just starting out. Alternatively, you can look for a free product. There are many options out there including Picasa, Photoscape, Picnik, and Paint.net. These all allow the user to perform basic to moderate alterations to their images. I haven't used them all but I do use Picasa for organizing photos. None of these programs give the editing capability of Photoshop, but they are very nice for being free.

The best free image-editing software you can get, in my opinion, is GIMP, formerly known as The GIMP. GIMP allows you to manipulate images in much the same way as Photoshop minus a few of the high-end features. Which, unless you are an uber-pro, you don't need anyways. I discovered GIMP in my Freshman year and I've been using it exclusively ever since. I've tried out Photoshop but GIMP is easier to use and completes all of the functions I want it to. I highly recommend it to anybody interested in spicing up thier images. I'd put a picture of the GIMP workspace up but these school laptops are incapable of having GIMP (or anything else) installed.


4. Start composing your image.
Start resizing, rotating, and cropping your component images until you have the basics meshed together. Here is an image of the Imperial Order background in the early stages. I've actually done quite a bit of editing at this point. You can see that I've cropped out the ocean from the wall and messed around a bit with the walkway, blurred the village into fog, and expanded the army to fill the space. I've also added a fire element to make the scene feel more night-like. It was at this point I realized I needed a sky.

5. Remember to save a separate copy before making major changes.
A lot of the time you'll find that some alteration you've made is horribly wrong for the overall composition. If you're lucky you can just hit ctrl-z a couple times and fix it. But sometimes you have to backtrack beyond the last time you opened your file. It is always a good idea to save the image every couple of steps under a new filename. Not only does this allow you to go back if you find something wrong, it lets you put together a blog post like this where you can see progress over time. :-)

6. Blend your images into one. 
This image was a bit easier to mesh together than some others I've done because it was set at night so I could just blur and darken everything then add a similar hue to the whole image. The clone, blur, smudge, and cut tools are your best friends during this step. Make sure if you are planning to have text that you try some different fonts and colors here to see what works best. If you want to see the composition a little further along than the last picture, click here.

7. Add any minor tweaks you want and start focusing on the little details.
This is the home stretch. It can be the easiest part or the hardest part depending on how OCD you've been earlier on. If you have any typography, now is the time to finalize it as part of the image instead of just another layer.

8. Save your image in a high-quality format.
Nobody likes a blocky image. Unless you are afraid your work is shoddy and you don't want anyone looking closely at it save the image at the highest quality settings you can.

9. Sit back and enjoy your work.
Look at it closely, make sure nothing is amiss, and you're done.

Here is the final result for my project both with and without the poem itself. (click for larger image)

You'll notice I had to lighten the image for the text version. Although I'm not entirely happy with the result (if you look you'll see I never removed a tree from the left side of the image sticking out over the mountain) the image blends well enough that it could be assumed it was designed as one piece.

As this is the longest blog post I've ever written I think it deserves something special. A contest!


Now you can go make your own! If you submit your own graphically designed image to me at sirobproductions@gmail.com I'll pick out the best one and you could win FABULOUS PRIZES! Well, maybe not fabulous, but I'll come up with something. Since graphic design can mean almost anything I'll accept almost anything as an entry. If you use images from the web, please include their sources. I don't expect to have more than maybe 3 entries, so you have a good chance to win if you enter.

I hope you all have enjoyed this post as much as I have. Please feel free to comment!




DISCLAIMER: All images on my blog, especially in this post, are the sole properties of their respective owners. I sincerely apologize for not giving proper credit in all cases but copyright infringement wasn't on my mind when I designed the poems years ago so I didn't write down the sources. I never thought I'd put these out in public. If you are the owner of one of these images and would like your image removed, please let me know.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Button

I told myself I wouldn't post this until I got lazy, hadn't posted in a while, and didn't feel like posting. I told myself this last night.

And now I'm lazy. Enjoy. 

So my friend Chris, whose blog you can read here, sent me a message in Facebook chat about a week back. We bantered back and forth for a while and then continued the discussion via email. I think you'll enjoy this despite its length. Yes, I know I already used that image but I'm too lazy to find a new one.

Chris
A button appears next to you. Attached is a note that says, "This button does anything. From the worst thing you can think of to the best thing you can think of, this button will do SOMETHING to you. It will not disappear, and will not run out of pushes. Anybody may use it." What do you do?

9:28pmSpencer
Stop taking any medications I'm on

9:29pmChris
You still have several hours before the effects of the current pills wear off. What do you do in that time period?

9:29pmSpencer
touche
I would assume the note is false and begin to methodically disassemble said button.

9:30pmChris
There are no screw-holes of any kind, and the box seems to be indestructable. The button seems to be gleaming.

9:31pmSpencer
Do I have access to any sort of x-ray/laser imaging device?
or Geiger counter?

9:32pmChris
There's no radiation, and you have both at your feet.

9:32pmSpencer
wait, both what?

9:32pmChris
Both an x-ray and laser imaging device.

9:33pmSpencer
ah, thank you. I would attempt to x-ray the button to discern its contents. What do I see?

9:34pmChris
A spring beneath the button, which assumably keeps the button upright. Nothing more.

9:34pmSpencer
Having spent much time examining said button have the narcotics worn off?

9:35pmChris
No.

(End of Facebook chat, his computer died)
(beginning of emailed convo)

Spencer
In that case I would advance to animal testing. I will entice a small koala to press the button.

Chris
The koala quickly morphs into a panda bear. Thoroughly confused, it simply sits there, torn between searching for eucalyptus leaves and bamboo shoots.

Spencer
Now that I have ascertained that the button only affects the person/animal who pushes it I would proceed to test the probability of positive vs. negative effects upon the button-pusher. If this next question is permissible, out of ten pushes by ten (lets say dogs) how many dogs had positive effects vs. negative effects?

Chris
First a few general questions, so as to ascertain what you perceive as "negative". Simply return a series of numbers with either + or - next to them, indicating the obvious.

1. Switching gender
2. Changing species
3. Targeted memory loss (choosing a memory to forget)
4. A console (activated by the "~" key) for R.L.
5. Knowledge of any one truth
6. Super sex appeal (girls beg for you in public)
7. President of The United States of America
8. One wish granted (ANYTHING EXCEPT MORE GODDAMNED WISHES and if you try to weasel your way around that one, your head asplode).
9. Performing an heroic act and being recognized by the world as such.
10. (Insert something that you would mark as "extremely positive".)
11. (Insert something that you would mark as "extremely negative".)
12. (Insert something that you would mark as "neutral".) 

Spencer
Damn you good sir. I have an essay to write, I will complete your questionnaire tomorrow.

Chris
Cody said he was going to "beat the shit out of it". I bid you good luck.

Spencer
1. -
2. -, loss of ability to think abstractly
3. +
4. I do not understand. A "real life" console? Like the dude in Fallout? Or what?
5. +
6. Could get irritating (after 60 years). Likely get killed by angry gents. Therefore -
7. Super -
8. +
9. +
10. Instant "pocket dimension" ++
11. Slow and painful death - -
12. absolutely nothing (this would be both heartening and extremely depressing. Therefore, neutral)

Also, what color is the button?

Chris
Explanation for console, you push the tilde key on any keyboard, and type in something such as "god" or "give all" and it happens to you in RL. Anyway, as to the dogs...

1. Seems to have been cloned.
2. Is running off after a French poodle. (insert dog sex joke here)
3. Gone, no trace of him.
4. Two-headed.
5. Asleep.
6. Seems to be reciting Shakespeare, although paraphrased.
7. Nothing.
8. Another panda. The hell?
9. Dead where it stands.
10. Seems to be changed into a steampunk version of a dog. Currently running on coal power. 


Spencer
Break-down
2 out of 11 chance to become panda (interesting)
30% chance of deadly/extremely bad outcome
50% chance of neutral outcome
10% chance of mildly positive outcome.

Conclusion- not a smart bet for personal use. Possibly useful for restoring the panda population.

Solution- create game show hosted in own version of Sealand (named Beardland) where contestants pay a fee to try their hand at pressing the button. I collect cash while various people die/transmorgrify/orate or turn into Pandas. (Created in own country in order to avoid legal issues. All Pandas released into wild.)

And THAT, good sir, is what I would do with the button.

(Again, what color is it?)

Chris
I am somewhat bemused by your attempts to quantify the unknown. Probably what will kill you one day.

CONCLUSION- You live to the prosperous age of sixty-five, having accumulated millions in button-pressing-fees and failed lawsuits against you in which you enacted inordinate counter-sues. Sadly, one day a tourist-recently-turned panda loses its temper, and mauls you. In your old age, your beardjitsu has atrophied somewhat, and you are unable to prevent it from tearing out most of your internal organs, and severely damaging your external organs. However, you see that it soon regains its senses, and returns to the wild. Which does not do you much good.

It's red. The button, I mean. And your organs.

Spencer
I have enjoyed this exercise. Perhaps we shall do it again sometime. Also, I'm blogging this.
 ____________________________________________________________________
And indeed I have.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Northerly I be.

Just below the Great North Woods of Maine I sit.

So I'm up at my mother's house in Greenville and I'd like to share with you a few things I learned today.

First, when someone hits a medium-sized mammal while going 70 mph on the highway it paints nearly 200 feet of pavement bright red with gore. I did not witness this event, but there was some guy on the side of the road who was taking off his shirt in preparation to do something to the animal. What, I cannot say.

Second, many pre-adolescent girls are voracious, bloodthirsty carnivores. Both of my stepsisters prefer to eat rare steak. When I say rare, I mean raw. "Let it look at the oven in terror, then bring it out to me!" kind of raw. I wouldn't be surprised if the man on the side of the highway was preparing to slice up the roadkill and serve it to his children. At first I thought this phenomenon was confined to my two stepsisters but today I met one of their friends, who immediately suggested ribs when asked what she would like for dinner. Ribs, with BBQ sauce, closely simulate the gory reality of uncooked ribs. The steak (which was prepared for one of my stepsisters) was bright pink, nevertheless, she complained of it being overcooked. Therefore, little girls are bloodthirsty carnivores. I can't decide if that is a good thing or not.

Third, and perhaps most important, you can buy this on the internet. And I thought coffee couldn't get any worse. Although I will admit that the counterpart product, Monkey Picked Tea, is pretty darned awesome.

I'm going to go watch the last episode of Flash Forward for this season. I'll update tomorrow with info on what's going on with my projects.

Have a good weekend everyone!

-SIR