The Malted Falcon

As one of our class assignments, I created a Twitter Bot, The Malted Falcon.  I initially got the idea about taking a famous movie quote and replacing a word with something else.  I consulted AFI’s “100 Years…100 Movie Quotes” and decided to use the famous quote from The Maltese Falcon, “The stuff that dreams are made of.” Last year, I read the book for class, and although I haven’t seen the movie all the way through, this quote is definitely representative of the theme of the book. I started thinking that if I changed “dreams” to a different word, it would change the quote, but still make it recognizable enough. My first thought was that it’d be funny to change it to names of recipes. I tried to find a list of recipes on Food Network’s website, but was unsuccessful. After some Internet searching, I came across a PDF of all the recipes from Alton Brown’s show Good Eats.  I fiddled with the formatting and eventually was able to put the first 52 or so recipes into my bot’s vocabulary so that it would replace “dreams.”  From there, I needed to change the name of my Twitter Bot. The first thing that came to mind was “The Malted Falcon” – part food, part movie. I’m pretty happy with what my bot has tweeted so far. I might add more to its vocabulary in the future, but so far I think it’s doing pretty well!




Reflection: Jane McGonigal

We recently watched a talk by Jane McGonigal at the Ted Talks entitled “Gaming can make a better world.”  In this talk, McGonigal discussed how she believes that gaming creates better people who are better equipped to fix the problems in the world.  Overall, I think that McGonigal’s talk had some valid points that she backed up with solid facts.  She initially talks about the biggest problem with gamers: they don’t believe they can do in the real world what they can do in games.  Even if gamers can change the world in a game and solve all the problems affecting people, they don’t believe they can do the same in the real world.  This is one of McGonigal’s overarching points, and is one of the things she wants to try to fix.  I especially like how she ties back into this point by describing how people use games now to avoid their everyday problems as a means of escapism.  It’s these actions, McGonigal argues, that limit the ability of games and gamers to change the world.  If there were games that helped solve problems in the real world, then by playing these games, gamers could change the world.  Games do not have to be means of escaping; rather they can be problem-solving.  Moreover, the fact that there are so many virtuosos in gaming now, McGonigal argues, is another reason that we as a society should be looking at games as a way to solve problems.  Because so many people are so good at playing games, utilizing this resource would not only help us solve problems, but would also help us solve problems faster.  McGonigal’s talk raised some good points about the future of gaming in problem-solving solutions.  Her talk was well-researched and had a strong argument.  Overall, I really enjoyed McGonigal’s talk and I believe she has a keen insight into the future of gaming.

How to Make a GIF on a Mac

We learned in class how to make GIFs – but those computers were Windows computers and I have a Mac. I wanted to learn how to make GIFs without downloading all the crazy programs and files we needed on Windows. I also wanted to know how to make GIFs without having to download videos off of YouTube through weird websites (which I feel very wary about using). I figured there must be a way to do all of this on a Mac with the programs that are already installed on it (and there are a lot of speciality programs on Macs, I think). And I did. And now I’m going to share it with you. These are the programs you will need to make a GIF:

-Gimp (this is a free picture manipulation tool that you download from their website. This is the only thing you will probably need to download!)



That’s it! So to start, find a video clip that you want to make into a GIF. (It could be on YouTube or anywhere, really). And here are the rest of the steps:

1. Open QuickTime and go to File > New Screen Recording. Queue up your video to the moment you want to make into a GIF and start recording. Once your clip finishes, stop the recording.

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2. This will create a .mov file most likely named “Screen Recording.” Open iMovie. From there go to File > New Project and then File > Import > Movies. Find your movie file (it will most likely be in the Movies folder).

3. Select the portion of the clip (adjusting the size of the yellow box on the video) you want to be your GIF (don’t worry too much about the ends of the clip – you can always edit it once you have it in Gimp)

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4. Copy and paste this section into the project section of iMovie.

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5. Go to Share > Export Using QuickTime Choose where you want to save your file. Make sure you select Export:Movie to Image Sequence (this breaks the clip up into image files of each frame).

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6. Open Gimp. Go to File > Open as Layers. Find where you saved the image files of your clip. Select them all and click open.

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7. At any time, if you want to preview what your GIF will look like, go to Filters > Animation > Playback (Make sure you select 12 fps as this is what your GIF will eventually be exported as)

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8. If you decide you want to shorten your GIF, you can delete layers on the right panel. Select the layers (or frames) you don’t like and click the trash can icon.

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9. You can also resize your GIF by going to Image > Scale Image This will allow you to change the size of the picture.

10. If you would like to crop your images, click on the scalpel tool (hover over each tool if you can’t find it) on the left panel. It will allow you to crop your image with a rectangle tool and it will crop every layer.

11. After you decide you’re finished editing your GIF, go to File > Export

Give your GIF a name followed by .gif

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12. When exporting, make sure to check the “As Animation” box and to change the delay between frames to 80 milliseconds (this is roughly equivalent to the 12 fps I discussed earlier – it’s the best rate for easy viewing).

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13. Your GIF is finished! Now all you need to do is publish it on Tumblr or another Internet site and it’s ready for the world to see!


Pride & Prejudice Word Clouds

As you’ve probably gathered from my previous post about my final project, I have finished my Pride & Prejudice project! There’s a tab at the top of the page that will take you right to it. I hope you read over it because I’m really proud of it. Making the word clouds wasn’t that challenging – that was kind of the fun part. I eventually found the Tagxedo website I told you about before and from there it was simply making the letters in Word and uploading them as pictures. Sometimes it was kind of tricky to get the right words to show up – for example, there was a particular chapter where Darcy was the fifth most used word, but it wouldn’t show up in the letter. I eventually discovered this was because the shape constricted the places words could go. I had to fiddle with the emphasis on most used words and reject some lesser used words that got a place so that the more important words like Darcy (which, really, is a VERY important word), would show up. In order to choose the colors I took a very scientific poll (read: I texted two of my friends) and asked which colors they associated with Darcy and Elizabeth. Interestingly, both said blue for Darcy, which was my first choice. One said yellow for Elizabeth (which I kind of agreed with, but it would have been too light), and one said green. I started thinking about green for Elizabeth and it made perfect sense to me – Elizabeth is very in tune with nature and she’s not crazy like her sister Lydia (who I definitely think would be pink) or soft-spoken like her sister Jane (I’m thinking probably purple). It’s interesting to think about what colors we associate with characters.

It kind of reminds me of this disorder called synesthesia that we talked about in one of my Psychology classes. One of the side effects of this is that people will see letters of the alphabet as having color. It’s actually pretty fascinating how the brain sort of rearranges its’ sensory pathways. I know there was book written about this called “A Mango Shaped Space”  that I’ve always wanted to read.

But back to my project: I’m really, really, super, amazingly proud of what I’ve done (the coding alone was sometimes super-challenging), so I hope you’ll check it out!

Final Project

I’ve started work on my final project! Here’s the proposal I wrote up for it:

For my final project, I have decided to make Twitter accounts for the characters in the 1985 movie Clue.  The tentative title for this project is “Character Clues.”  This movie is based on the popular board game and is a murder mystery.  The plot of the film takes place over a period of a few hours one night during a dinner party.  There are fourteen characters in all.  I will create accounts for each character and then proceed to tweet as them in the course of the movie.  This will create the effect of the characters “live-tweeting” during the events of the evening.  I intend to use these accounts to enhance the viewing experience of this movie by giving viewers a closer look at the personalities of the characters.  I will collate the accounts either through a public list on my own Twitter account or through the use of Storify which I will then post on my website.  After the project is over, I will write up an essay that reflects on my experience in creating the accounts.

I started making the accounts tonight…until Twitter discovered me. I’ve made 11 accounts so far, and I still need to make accounts for The Motorist, The Cook, and the Chief. These are more minor characters, but they definitely have significance in the overall plot. I’m pretty excited about this project, as it will give me ample opportunity to watch “Clue,” one of my favorite movies, multiple times. But first, I must finish making all the Twitter accounts! And figure out how to work TweetDeck…anyone know anything about it?

Fangirling About Fan Art

A while back I made a post about Words as Art.  That post and the pictures in it were partially my inspiration for a project I’m doing in Digital Studies.  We have to take something (Anything – a book, a video game, etc.) and use some sort of computer tool to interpret that text.  I decided to do something with Pride & Prejudice, not only because it is one of my favorite books, but also because it is one I know really well, and because it is in the public domain.  What I decided to do was make various word clouds from chapters of the book.  I’ve already finished all the word clouds, and I will be making a separate page about the project. So for now, I’ll just give you a glimpse:

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I think it’s turning out really well, and I’m excited to post the final product.

At any rate, I recently came upon another piece of words as art and thought I’d share it.  I mentioned before that I watched The Lizzie Bennet Diaries and I follow most of the actors from that show on Twitter.  While I’m a huge fan of the LBD, I haven’t quite morphed into the fan who makes fan art.  That isn’t to say I have anything against fan art – in a lot of instances, I think it is the coolest thing.  Myself, I have never really wanted to make fan art, but I really appreciate the effort fans put into making something beautiful and creative.  And in all honesty, what is my Digital Studies project if not fan art of Jane Austen’s classic novel?

Anyways, Ashley Clem, who played Lizzie Bennet, recently retweeted a piece of fan art someone (@FearFlannery) had created and tweeted at her.

(Click on the picture to see the original Tweet)

This picture is inspired by Episode 87: “An Understanding.” I won’t go into the details, but it is truly one of the best instances of acting I have ever seen.  The other inspiration for this picture is the song “No One is Alone” from the musical Into the Woods.

The marriage between these two shows is perfectly exemplified in this picture.  The lyrics from the song make up the tree, and in the foreground is Lizzie comforting her younger sister, Lydia, telling her that she is not alone.  This song and this episode both have the same underlying message; no one is alone.  To see them united so perfectly in this interpretation, really illustrates how fan art can add so much to the reading of any text.


I wanted to title this post “Ahoy!” but since I have no sailing experience, that could be a bit of a misnomer.  Although I am not a sailor, I am an English major, which hopefully means this blog will be somewhat prolific. Anyways, here’s me, saying hello and if you’re at all interested in my thoughts in a more instantaneous sense, my Twitter is @colleenumw 

As they say in French, c’est tout!