Thursday, 24 January 2019

Humanities Install for David Opdyke January 2019

First, some links to David's work and conversations & articles.

David does really interesting work.  He mostly starts with old US postcards, and then creates a wall mural where he repaints many of them, or uses them as bits and pieces for animations.  But he also uses multiple photographs to create made-up - but highly believable - futurescapes of industrial degradation.

About David Opdyke:

David Opdyke is a draughtsman, sculptor, and animator known for his trenchant political send-ups of American culture. Born in Schenectady, NY in 1969, he graduated from the University of Cincinnati with a degree in painting and sculpture. His work is informed by the massive industrial and corporate restructuring he witnessed growing up, namely the abandonment of the city center by manufacturing giants General Electric and ALCO. As GE shifted resources to neighboring Niskayuna, the disparities became hard for Opdyke to ignore. Massive, decaying factories, an empty interstate loop, and unemployment were downtown; new streets, expensive homes, sushi and shopping malls were in the suburbs.
For twenty years Opdyke worked as a scenic painter and architectural model-maker. Ranging from intricate miniature constructions to room-sized installations, his artwork explores globalization, consumerism, and civilization’s abusive relationship with the environment.

About this show:

In keeping with artist David Opdyke’s previous work, this site specific installation, Paved with Good Intentions, serves as a critique of U.S. culture and politics. In an era of fake news, and daily hyperbole, Opdyke literally changes the picture by hand drawing on hundreds of vintage postcards of well-known American landmarks and destinations. Satirical and slightly sinister, the work upends any preconceived notions we have of spacious skies, amber waves, or reaching the American Dream. Despite our best of intentions, we aren’t there yet. 

The Duderstadt Center provided the computer and I  got it up and running for the 2 gallery screens. It is running a program David wrote using CSS for a web browser.  I also set up the 2 screens with media players in the Osterman Common Room.  thanks to Jeff Collins and Paul Stewart from the DC for their help.

Here are some photos of the setup.  I highly encourage everyone to go see this show.  It is on the first floor gallery at the Humanities Institute at the corner of Thayer and Washington, across from the MLB and North Quad.

The opening is Friday Jan. 25. there is a panel discussion from 4-5 and the opening starts at 5 pm.

The postcard wall in the Gallery.
The 2 screens running David's program in a web browser.  The PC has not been hidden yet.

The 2 old Windows tablets running some of David's postcard animations.
The 2 screens in the Osterman Common Room running postcard animations.

One of the custom wall boxes I had built for the media players.
A close up of the box with the cover slid up for access.
The TV and media player are both plugged in and cables hidden here.

Tuesday, 18 December 2018

Spain & Alfonso X

Me in the middle of Plaza Mayor in Madrid.  Took it with my Insta360 One on my iPhone.

The last 2 weeks of September 2018 found me in Spain - Seville, Madrid, Toledo, and El Escorial. I went there with Rob DeMilner of the LRC and Ryan Szpiech, Associate Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures and Associate Professor of Judaic Studies in LSA. We went to Spain to shoot a video for Ryan. This was a much ‘leaner’ version of the same kind of shoot we had done in Athens in May 2017.

The topic was Alfonso X, the King of Castille in the 13 century. Also known as Alfonso the Wise, he inherited a large and prosperous kingdom from his Dad.  Since he did not have to fight any wars he was able to direct his significant resources to other work.

At the time, the Arabic world was the height of fashion and knowledge. Their works were being translated into Latin, which at the time was the language of scholars. But Alfonso thought they should also be translated into Spanish, in particular, Castilian Spanish, which was the dialect that was used in Alfonso's kingdom. Alfonso also hired many astronomers, chart makers, and other scholars to expand current knowledge and create new areas of learning.

This is why the language that we know today as simply Spanish came from Castilian Spanish. That Spanish became another language of scholars (and conquest) and was spread throughout the globe.

With just Rob and myself as the crew, I had familiar and expanded duties. I copied the data and charged the batteries every night, but also did most of the sound tech work and a fair amount of video shooting.

I used the rolling setup shown below to cart both cameras, 2 tripods, the GoPro Omni rig, and all the audio gear around on foot. You can see the tripods in the front, and the gray bag in back held most of the audio gear. The Omni is in front, in its bag, hanging from the handle. worked great and had the added bonus of providing us with a wheeled cart for the airports.


And I took a lot of 360 stills. Here is one of our 3 person US crew and our Spanish "fixer" at the Plaza Espana. It can be viewed with the GoPro VR Player 360. The link will let you download a Mac or Windows version of it.

Rob shooting with Ryan in the Plaza de Espana in Seville.

Me (Tom) shooting a 360 from the tippy-top of the Toro del Oro in Seville.

Rachelli, our Israeli producer and 3rd camera, shooting with Ryan in the National Library.

Rob shooting Ryan looking at actual books from Alfonso's time.

Monday, 10 September 2018


Zafos at UMMA 9/2018

I helped plan and set up an installation designed by the recent Witt Visiting Artist at Stamps, Zafos Xagoraris.  It was a one-day-only event, during the first home game of the season.  That would be on a Saturday.

His plan was to recreate, somewhat, the fell of early 60's free speech rallies on campus.  He found a 1967 Thunderbird to set up out front of UMMA, and I worked with the UMMA staff and Chrisstina Hamilton from Stamps to arrange the tech.

The whole point of this was to have people inside the gallery stand in front of the green screen so I could mix the3m into the other camera that was shooting the car out front.  They would be watching a monitor that showed them standing on the car, and their real voice would come out the speakers I put together.

Here is what the setup looked like out in front.

Here is what it looked like inside.

Here is the speaker stand I built.  Please note the sandbag for stability and the safely covered speaker wire.

 I got a large flat panel from UMMA and set it up just inside the window so passers-by could see the composited image.  Zafos had not originally planned this, but without it the only person who would see the complete image would be the person talking inside.

 We had to put up the black 'screen' in front of the window to block out the reflections from outside, so that the screen could actually be seen from outside.

Below is Ryan being composited onto the car, seen in the monitor pictured above.

I left for Spain the next day, so Ryan was kind enough to tear it all down at the end of the day.

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

2018: The new WCBN Transmitter Antenna site

NEW UPDATE:  WCBN is broadcasting at 1.6 KW as of July 20th!  

We have been getting great reports about the improved coverage.


UPDATE:  Successful testing completed on Friday July 13th.  Yeah!  

Jim Campbell said:

"Last Friday night, working with Manos in the Studio, I sat at the new transmitter and ran it over the air for about an hour at half power.

Results were very good with the reflected power so low it barely budged the SWR meter on the FM2000 (1:1.04 at 350 Watts).  We are now awaiting the final license from the FCC to commence full power operation.  This could take several more months."

So now we wait...again...


The new transmitter and antenna for WCBN are finally installed on the UM's North Campus microwave tower.  It only many years?

The tower is located off Dean Rd., between Hubbard and Baxter, and between Green Rd. and Huron Parkway.  Our new transmitter rack here, too.  It holds the entire chain of electronics that make our FM transmission possible.  It s in located in the small hut at the base of the microwave tower there.
there is also another antenna on that tower, and it is because of that antenna that we need to locate our antenna array a low on the tower as it is.  That height does not affect our transmission footprint, so don't worry!

The audio from the studio in the SAB first hits a signal processor that makes sure it is at  good level and keeps it from over-modulating our transmitter.
It then goes into the low power exciter that takes our audio signal and modulates a low power FM carrier at 88.3 MHz.
This is about the same power as our current transmitter, and can be used as out transmitter in an emergency, or if we need to do maintenance or repair on the main transmitter.  We are also going to keep our current transmitter system located at the top of the Weiser Building on central campus in case we need it to fill in when we have to take the whole new transmitter system off the air for any reason.
Then it goes into the 3000 watt transmitter that actually feeds the new antenna array. While we are allowed to broadcast at up to 3000 watts, the optimal pattern to reach our allowed area ends up having us transmit at 1600 watts.

Location of the new antenna and transmitter

We have 2 parts to the new antenna, and they are designed to be placed just so in order to shape our transmitter "footprint" to accommodate other radio stations around us.  And then they are put into protective plastic covers to keep them safe from the elements.  The covers have no effect on the RF transmission.

Here is what the antennas look like before they are enclosed.
Half of one of the covers is in the background.

Here is a close-ish view of what they look like on the antenna tower, with the workers on the tower:

Below are 2 sets of before and after shots of the tower. from far away and closer  Our new antennas are the lowest objects you see in the second set of photos.  They are enclosed in weather proof covers and so look like big black objects.

BEFORE, from the UMTRI building.
BEFORE, from the tower parking lot.

AFTER, from the UMTRI building.

AFTER, from the tower parking lot.
This one is annotated to show what's what.  The existing antennas are for other uses, and also determined where ours could be located on the antenna tower.  That's why ours are the lowest.  But they are just fine for our need.

Here are some photos of the new rack in the tower hut at the base of the microwave tower.


And a movie of going in to the shed:

Note how big the new line is compared to our temporary line.
The old RF cable is at the top of this photo.

The big hole in the middle is the
connection for the transmission line.
Here are some photos of how we have to keep the new transmission line (it's no longer just a cable) dry, using nitrogen gas under pressure in the line.


That's all for now.  Happy listening!


Tuesday, 8 May 2018

2018: CRLT China Event Tour of the DMC

Erping Zhu of CRLT, the Center for Reserach on Learning and Teaching at the University of Michigan, brought a group of 8 (6 Chinese visitors and 2 UM students, just graduated) for a short tour of the Duderstadt Center.  They are attending the CRLT program dealing with innovative pedagogy and so were very interested to learn about the very open access to our facilities.

At the end, after I showed them the Personal Studio and told them about all the Nursing students that go through there with their practice patient presentations, they wanted a group photo with me before they left.  Here it is.


Thursday, 3 May 2018

2018: A2RU Workshop on Promotion & Tenure

This is what the website said about the workshop:

I thought it sounded interesting, so I asked Deb Mexicotte (Managing Director of ArtsEngine) if I could sit in a corner and watch. She replied: "That's definitely not an option for *this* workshop - but I think you would be a great addition, so just sign up!"

I did.  Laurie Baefsky (Executive Director) later told Linda Kendall Knox that she should also attend, so we both went.  And what a time we had!

Gabe (A2RU, right) explains what to expect. 
Nina, our amazing facilitator, is to his left.
Missy Bay (U Minn.) & Linda Knox (UM) work on our first task.

The kinds of supplies we had.  We were asked to use screens only for quick lookups.
Linda's team at work.
Valerie Stanich (UM), Deb Mexicotte (UM), Keisha Love (UC), Stephen Beck (LSU).
My team. 

Add Joe Geigel (RIT, left) and Stephanie Vasko (MSU, right).

The names of the 4 games we produced.  I explain each one (badly!) with a photo.

Policy Mosaic

A card based game that helps you change policy to better support your institutional/school/unit values, and verify that they align with and support core values.

Triple the Ripple

This is a role playing approach to understanding the impact of Tenure policy on the institutional ecosystem, including Admins, Faculty, and Students.


Mentoring Portal

A web based set of tools to help groups of 1, 3, 5 and tenured faculty help each other, organized at the A2RU annual meetings.  This is meant to group faculty from different institutions with the idea that discussion would be more open.  But it would also work within a single institution.  The favorite game piece of any game is from this game:  The Discussion Spinner!  Like the spinner in a game of Twister, but it has general areas, each of which has pile of Topic Cards.

What's Next

This is a tool to help you forge a *real* plan for your research based on your Passions & Skills, the Artifacts created, and the Needs you have.  the idea is that when yo actaully see all these things laid out in front of you, it makes more sense.

At the End

All 4 of the games were really good, but at the end we all had to vote for our favorite.  Nina, our facilitator, said that usually one of the games wins by a clear margin, but our group didn't do that.  the votes were 4, 4, 5, and 5 (see photo).  Nina said that was unusual, but given the high engagement factors for each of our games she was not surprised.