I started messing around with web video in 2004, shortly after Jonah was born. For a while, I shot a bunch of short videos of him and posted them to this site. It was a way for me to document his babyhood and learn the ins and outs of web video. And it was fun. As often happens though, I slowed down. The last video I posted was this one in 2009. But I’ve held on to just about every second of footage I shot as well as the several video projects I started editing and never finished. So I think it’s high time to go back to the vaults and, at least, finish the 2 or 3 videos I started but left alone for whatever reason.

go here So here is one from circa Dec. 2004 when Jonah was just a few months old and when our uncle Ivan gave us a behind the scenes tour of the New York Aquarium at Coney Island, Brooklyn where he volunteers to this day. My father-in-law, Jeremiah, who was visiting us at the time, makes an appearance as well. It’s one of the few times I got Jerry on video before he passed away about a year after this was shot.

Last week I finally rescued this short film from outdated format oblivion thanks to my friend Alan Levine who helped me salvage the editing I did years ago and inspired me to stop obsessing over minutiae that no one but me would care about and finally finish the video. Back in 2004, Antonella, a friend and fellow former Brooklynite, encouraged me to publish this video and waited and waited but I didn’t feel that it was ready and we both eventually forgot about it. Now here it is, Anto. Enjoy.

A Visit to the Aquarium from KINOBROOKLYN on Vimeo.

This was a long time coming. Finally, here is a recording of a DS106 Radio broadcast from May (while I was visiting my parents in Southern California) which is now the stuff of legend. This was pure, unadulterated international free-form radio mayhem featuring me, my wife Jennie, my inimitable mother, Zack aka Noiseprofessor in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, Olga Belikov and her mother in Vancouver, and Nigel Robertson in Hamilton, New Zealand. The conversation ranged from political scandal to spelunking to dirty words to sexy accents and all manner of unexpected madness, especially as the evening wore on. Zack called this convergence of disparate radio variables “DS106Radio Madlibs” and discusses the whole thing here. Olga describes this broadcast as “the best Internet experience ever”. It was a blast. Enjoy.

PST Radio Mayhem, Part 1
in which my mother, Jennie, and the Twitterverse discuss political scandal and other grave matters.

PST Radio Mayhem, Part 2
in which international, multi-lingual mayhem ensues.

[Image credit: Michael Branson Smith]

My parents returned to California today after a three week visit on the East Coast. Early on during their visit we sat and talked about about their lives in the USSR for about an and broadcast our conversation on DS106Radio. We had a good number (in DS106Radio terms) of listeners in the US and Canada, many of whom tweeted questions and comments to my parents and myself and helped drive the conversation along. This is oral history gone social. (Giulia Forsythe made this great Storify story with some of the images and tweets from that session.) Listening to this again now makes me regret not doing more of these broadcasts while my parents were here. Needless to say, however, there will be more when I’m back in California in December. Enjoy. Feel free to leave comments on the timeline at Soundcloud, which will appear below. And if you haven’t already, take a listen to the first broadcast we did, which focused on our experience immigrating to the US in 1979.

[A special thank you to both Giulia and JohnnyonthespotTim Owens, who graciously recorded the broadcast. Image credit: the great Noise Professor]

A new semester of DS106 means another crack at the animated GIF. This is the infamous eye cutting sequence from Luis Buñuel’s surrealist classic, Un Chien Andalou (1929). I’ll move that this short sequence remains among the most shocking and disturbing images in cinema. But now you can watch it again and again to the point that it loses its power to unnerve and is just a razor across an eye. Take that, cinephiles! Here’s the whole 16 minute film:

YouTube Preview Image

On June 9, 2011, students in the music program at Gleneagle Secondary School, a high school in Vancouver suburb Coquitam, BC, played its spring concert to a packed house in a 450 seat auditorium. A first in Gleneagle history, the performance was broadcast live over Internet radio to listeners all over the world. And while  that might sound like a huge undertaking requiring serious AV and IT infrastructure, it was not. Not at all. In a brilliant feat of do-it-yourself EdTech (or what some folks might have once called edupunk), the concert was streamed live by Bryan Jackson, a Music and English teacher in the school’s TALONS program, and graduating senior Olga Belikov, with a Macbook, some free software and a USB microphone. That’s it. That’s all it took to broadcast the spring concert to anyone anywhere who wanted to hear it. And it sounded great.

Gleneagle’s Principal was aware of what was going on but wasn’t entirely clear on the details. During one point in the concert, he  walked backstage where Bryan explained all the moving parts: the unremarkable laptop and microphone, the free software, the web radio station (DS106Radio — read about it in my last post and herehere, here, herehereherehere, and here), how he and Olga used Twitter to build a live audience of listeners from from all over the US and Canada, and  that the broadcast was being recorded and would be posted for posterity to Soundcloud, a free audio sharing site, so that anyone in the Gleneagle community or anyone else anywhere could listen to and respond to any part of the performance. Bryan also explained how he had been using various other social media tools at Gleneagle including YouTube, Flickr, Twitter, blogs, and web radio to enhance lessons, to share performances, and to communicate with students and colleagues. His Principal was duly impressed. The administration had been aware of and supported Bryan’s and other teachers’ use of social media but had never up to this point fully engaged their potential to increase engagement, promote programs, and share and interact with parents, teachers, students, and district administrators or anyone else. While they had an inkling of what teachers were doing with free web tools, this broadcast, its recording, and the new interest at the school in webcasting were, according to Bryan, probably the first tangible outcomes of Gleneagle teachers’ experiments with creating and sharing on the web. Here is a one minute audio clip of Bryan describing the Principal’s visit backstage:

Bryan Jackson on Broadcasting the Spring Concert

I love the irony here: Bryan tells us that he was able to experiment with various social media and web publishing tools and explore how their use might benefit his program and school only because one of the school’s IT people gave him his computer’s administrative password, which he really wasn’t supposed to have. It’s fairly common practice for IT departments in companies and educational institutions to withhold admin access to computers from end users for fear that they will go messing where they shouldn’t and damage the computer, contract a virus, install unauthorized software, or do things on their machines of which the IT department or the institution does not approve. This also ensures that end users have to rely upon IT personnel to perform simple maintenance tasks, modify configurations, and to update or install software. This is the traditional model where IT is in control of who has access and who does not while the end users are disempowered and must rely upon IT to make any changes to their machines. Here’s a wonderful example of a teacher who was trusted with full access to his computer and was able to use it to break new ground without hinderances imposed from above. When creative teachers have the latitude to experiment with the technology that’s readily available to them, wonderful things can happen. If there was ever an argument in favor of rethinking the model of how and to whom administrative access is granted at educational institutions, this is it.

I don’t know much about the general feeling toward the use of social media at Gleneagle or toward the privacy and security implications of web publishing and social media in instruction and for promotional purposes so I can’t speak to that. But it seems to me that, generally, there’s still quite a bit of trepidation about such things among educators. That trepidation, I’ll argue, tends to grow out of 20th Century notions of public exposure and our relationship with mass media and their roles in our lives. Privacy and security are certainly real concerns (FERPA exists for a reason), but it does appear that the discourse around them is often animated by outdated ideas about the production and consumption of media. It used to be that if you appeared on TV or radio, or in print, you had done or were involved in something a small group of editors and producers felt it was their imperative to broadcast. It had to be fairly remarkable, for good or for ill, to make the papers. Having your image or story broadcast to the world via a mass medium like radio or television, was special — something fairly unusual in the “look, Mom, I’m on TV!” sort of a way, unless you were among the relatively few who made a living in front of a camera or microphone.

Now, when anyone can shoot a video on a mobile phone and upload it immediately to YouTube, where it can potentially be seen by thousands, if not millions of people within just a few days, there’s a real banality to this sort of exposure. Most of our students share their lives on the internet in some way  every day. More and more of them live their lives in both physical and virtual space — this is something that those of us in their 30s and 40s who teach and administer programs are just now getting our heads around. Whats more, the means of media production, it has been said again and again by new media thinkers like Jay Rosen, Clay Shirky and a host of others, are now in the hands of everyday people, no longer just media professionals. With relatively little effort and technical expertise, anyone can publish to the web. Anyone can broadcast audio or video to the internet on a mobile phone and an application that costs almost nothing. Heck, a bunch of us edtechhers built an open community radio station out of nothing more than a $25/mo server and a desire to play radio DJ.

Bryan Jackson and his colleagues at Gleneagle understand this well and are making amazing use of it. Thanks to a leadership that seems to appreciate the possibility the new media order offers educators, they have been empowered to use a combination of social media to do on their own what once was the province of AV professionals and marketing departments and required substantial infrastructure. While we’re by now used to seeing inklings of this sort of thing on the post-secondary level, it is encouraging and inspiring to see it happen in K-12. Bravo, Gleneagle Music! Bravo!

[This post is cross posted at my professional blog, cac.ophony.org]

Some of you, our ever so loyal readers, may know that we here at thisevilempire have been involved with a remarkable project, an open digital storytelling course (DS106) taught (better, led, curated, stewarded, &c.) by our old friend Jim Groom at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia. DS106 is both a traditional and an online course that UMW students can take it for credit and is also (this is the truly remarkable part) a MOOC, or Massive Open Online Course, in which anyone out there in wilds of the internet can participate, given the desire and motivation. DS106 has attracted participants from all over the world — from Canada, Japan, Indonesia, the UK, Australia, and from all parts of the US, even from a place called Strawberry, Arizona. I don’t know the exact number of people taking part, but it is somewhere around 275, if not more.

There are many inspiring and fascinating aspects of DS106 that I’ll likely get into in future posts, but my favorite at the moment is DS106 radio (listen here), a communal web radio station that was the brainchild of Jim and Grant Potter, who graciously takes care of the hosting and provides sagacious guidance to those of us who wish to rule the airwaves. DS106 students use the radio station to showcase their audio assignments but anyone interested is welcome to upload audio files that will stream on ds106radio. An ever-growing number of us have also been experimenting with live broadcasts, which are easy to do from a computer or a mobile device and, I must say, are a complete and total blast to do. Live programming on DS106 radio ranges from brief field reports (including, most notably, Scott Lo’s compelling status reports after the massive earthquake in Japan) to multi-participant networked guitar jam sessions to conference presentations to themed sets of songs interspersed with commentary to free-form radio mayhem. I can’t articulate right now why going live on the radio is so much fun, but it is and I am completely hooked. And so are my parents, and I am getting to that part.

While visiting my parents in Southern California this week, I decided to try a live broadcast with them after dinner. I’ve been meaning to start compiling an informal oral history  of my family’s experience of immigrating to the US from the former USSR for some time and this seemed a perfect occasion to start and a perfect medium to start in. Most of what I’ve done on DS106Radio has, one way or another been an occasion to go back to roots and an oral history seemed the next logical step. Following Alan’s amazing example, my parents and I went on the air live to talk about moving to Ventura, CA from Soviet Riga, Latvia in October of 1979. We ended up doing about 40 minutes of a trip back to the year of our arriving in the US replete with appropriate music and a lot of laughing. The sound quality is somewhat janky (I’m trying to figure out why — gets better in the second segment) but all in all it sounds pretty good. Take a listen. I’ll likely post more of these when I go back to CA in May. My mother and father, who have now caught the live radio bug, are eagerly looking forward to getting back on the air. Can’t blame them. Enjoy.

Live Broadcast 3-12-2011 with Mama and Papa

Frozen lake near Riga, Latvia, c. 1977

Shortly after immigrating to the U.S. in October, 1979.

Last night, a few of us DS106 Radio maniacs messed around live on the air. Jim ran the stream and several of us called in via Skype. We had a blast talking about all kinds of stuff, from The Twilight Zone, to collectible action figures, to I am Legend, to Charleton Heston. It was great, eclectic radio. Too much fun.

The one thing we all wished we could do that was not possible with the way the broadcast was set up, was to play audio clips through Skype so that they would play on air. When the “Talking Tina” episode of the Twilight Zone came up, for example, it would have been great if those of us calling in on Skype could have played a clip or two from the episode. (Jim could have played a clip, but that would mean he would have to switch audio sources from Skype, to iTunes and then back again to get us all on the air after the clip was done. That’s another problem altogether though — one that I hope to solve in the future if I can’t get Audiohijack works as it should.)

System audio does normally not register in Skype and there is no way to route specific applications, like iTunes, through it without expensive software. Wiretap Anywhere, for the Mac is one way to do this, but a single license is $129 and that just won’t do. So I started poking around, looking for solutions. The best I found so far is to route system audio through Skype with Soundflower and LineIn, both free apps. This is a bit messy (albeit fairly straightforward) and not an optimal solution as all audio goes in to Skype so that every email or IM alert or even volume adjustment is audible in the Skype call. You also hear your own voice through your audio output, which can be somewhat annoying. Regardless, it works. Callers can play audio clips that are broadcast over the stream and that can make for some fun radio.

I’m going to look for a better solution, but here, in the meantime, are step-by-step instructions for sending system audio to Skype in Mac OSX. These are based on pretty good instructions I found in the Skype forums, but I hope these are somewhat clearer. Rock on!

1. Download and install Soundflower and LineIn. Both are free.

2. After you install Line In and add it your Applications folder, find it in Finder, right click on it and select “Duplicate.” You’ll now have “LineIn” and “LineIn copy.”

(Feel free to rename the 2nd one to “LineIn 2″ or something along those lines.)

3. Now we are ready to feed all audio output to Skype through Soundflower. LineIn will help us get the job done. Begin by firing up System Preferences, selecting Audio and set input to your headset and output to Soundflower (2ch). Like so:

And so:

Masters Degree Creative Writing 4. Now fire up LineIn and LineIn2. In the first instance set “Input from” to the headset, and “Output to” to Soundflower (2ch). In the second one, set “Input from” to Soundflower (2ch), and “Output to” to the headset. System audio now plays through the headset, rather than speakers. (You can change this, if you wish, by setting “Output to” in the second instance to appropriate source.) Click “Pass Thru” on in both. Like so:

follow site 5. In Skype, select the Audio tab in Preferences and set output to Soundflower (2ch):

You are now in business. You may notice that audio played through, say iTunes, sounds a bit low, but my experience has been that it sounds just fine to the people on the other end. Enjoy. It will take a little while to get used to operating this way (you may need to shut off your mic at times, for example, when playing music or not speaking) but I think being able to do this is worth the quirks of this set-up. If I find something better, I will be sure to post it.

Here’s a first stab at an animated gif for DS106. I used to Mac The Ripper to extract the first chapter of Chinatown and then used MPEG Streamclip to select my clip and export it as an .mp4. I then used gifninja.com to create the gif. Since it was tiny, I resized it using the advanced resize tool resizeimage.org. There’s a handy link right on the gifninja homepage.

The problem is that the end result was a HUGE file — about 4.2MBs — whose quality isn’t all that great and which doesn’t seem to work all that well. I’m going to have to explore other possibilities when I have more time, including extracting several frames from the gifninja output file as Jabiz did, but this is fine for now. Here’s the original as well as two other tries, which I output at 100% quality in MPEG Streamclip.

In keeping with the music theme of late . . .

And what are they rocking? Well, none other than Babyland’s classic “Worst Case Scenario,” naturally.

Just kidding. (Much love to the bava.)