Steal this Riff #3

Garage Band Riff

Here’s a very rough track. I’m recording using the laptop’s built-in mic and an acoustic guitar, then processing it with Garage Band effects. It’s quick and easy, but not exactly pretty. I added some drums to fill it out a bit, which points out my wandering rhythm. You can grab the full mix, guitars, effects, or rhythm track to use as you will.

This work by Nathan Gibbs is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.

Cascarones – Confetti Eggs

Rosario surprises her nephews with a few cascarones, hollowed out eggs full of confetti (luckily these weren’t full of flour!). This is a great example of the innocent play and spontaneous laughter that fills our time in Tijuana.

Hiking Tijuana’s Cerro Colorado

Looking East Over Tijuana

The rolling hills above Tijuana’s sprawling suburbs define the physical landscape of a city not often thought of for its geology. The highest peak, Cerro Colorado (Red Hill), stands about 500 meters (1,640 ft) above sea level. The western edge of the summit is marked in white with the phrase “Jesucristo es el Señor” (Jesus Christ is Lord). Local radio and television stations broadcast from antennas on top of hill. A dirt trail carved out by maintenance trucks runs up from the eastern edge of its base in the neighborhood El Florido. People use the trail to hike to the top. In addition to the panoramic view, there are a couple small caves along the sides of the peak.

Cerro Colorado Map

Here are a few photos and a video from a recent trip up Cerro Colorado:

Cerro Colorado: La Subida

Cerro Colorado: Rest Stop

Tijuana Panorama Desde el Cerro Colorado

Walking Across the top of Cerro Colorado

Graffitied Cross

Cueva del Cerro Colorado

Nathan Above Tijuana

Cerro Colorado: North West View

Art Education Lesson on Identity Using Color Swatches

Students glue squares of color on paper to represent faces

Justine Bursoni is a graduate student in art education at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and an editor for the online magazine Smile Politely. She came across my Self-Portrait art piece online and wanted to include it in a lesson plan for a group of fifth and sixth grade students. She asked how I created my piece, and after giving her some tips, she had her students create their own paint swatch portraits.

“During the lesson,” Justine wrote in email, “the students were quick to note how identity comes in different forms, parts of identity can be shared… but mostly, one’s identity is unique and multi-faceted and how all should be recognized and tolerated.” It’s humbling to have my work aid that learning process, and even more humbling to be included in the list of self-portraits she used in her lesson plan:

I also want to thank Justine for allowing me to post her PowerPoint presentation and lesson plan. The PowerPoint notes include her comments on the students’ reactions:

In the vein of open collaboration and online sharing, I put together some notes from our email conversation to provide a list of steps to help others create their own pixelated portraits.

How to Build a Portrait Out of Square Blocks of Color

In my case, I used Photoshop to create a reference image first. For best results, choose an image where the face has a solid color background. You’ll want to follow these steps in Photoshop to get the right result. These steps assume you’re printing the reference image on a standard 8.5×11 inch sheet of paper.

Photoshop Instructions

  • Open and Crop: Open your image in Photoshop. Using the Crop Tool, crop it down to just the face. For this exercise, hold the Shift key while using the Crop Tool to make the crop a perfect square.
  • Reduce to Pixels: Go to Image Size (on the top menu, Image > Image Size). Under Pixel Dimensions, change the units to “pixels” and adjust the width and height to 8 for both. This will end up giving you an 8×8 grid of one-inch squares. Important: Make sure the check boxes for both Resample Image and Constrain Proportions are checked. Select OK.
  • Set Document Size: Your image is now 8×8 pixels. But you still need to make a second adjustment to the image settings before it can be printed correctly. Go to Image Size once more. Important: Uncheck the Resample Image check box. Under Document Size, set the units to “inches,” type in 8 for width and 8 for height. Select OK.
  • Print: Everything is done and you’re ready to print. From the File menu, select Print :)

The final step in creating your pixelated portrait depends on your eye to match the colors. One tip I can offer is that the “value” or black and white levels of each color are more important to recognizing the final image than the “hue” of the color itself. For people to recognize the original image, it’s more important that it have the right amount of contrast than perfectly matching the nuances of each color.

If you do use this process to make your own, I’d love to see your project. If you have a place to upload images, post a link and describe your project here in the comments. Otherwise, send me a note and I can help you post it online.

Special thanks again to Justine for allowing me to publish her class materials and for sending the photo. Seeing that image of them working on their self-portraits puts a huge smile on my face. It’s truly rewarding to see an idea I had almost seven years ago come back to life in the hands of these young minds.

Racial History in the Making

Although it’s been said many times before, I can’t help dwelling on how definitive this moment is in the cultural history of the United States. A black family now lives in the White House. The multiracial face of a nation truly represents the diversity of its people.

No, this moment won’t solve racial inequality or erase a history of injustice. But it is a blossom of hope, a testament for future generations not to give up. The final chapters in the rulebook of race and power are undone with the image of a brown-skinned president.

Official Portrait of President Barack Obama

Guide to Shooting Video or Taking Photos at the Polls

I’ve taken my camera with me to vote for the last several elections resulting in both good and bad experiences. When San Diego used touch-screen machines for the first time, I was able to get a shot using my digital SLR. On another election day, I was stopped and aggressively questioned by a poll worker for trying to take a cellphone photo.

Here’s the problem. The legality of cameras inside polling places isn’t black and white; the laws vary state by state. Plus, some poll workers have only received basic training and will apply their own judgement. The Citizen Media Law Project suggests four things to avoid getting yourself into trouble: follow the rules, be discreet, don’t interfere with voters or the process, respect the buffer zone.

In California, election codes aren’t particularly clear. They prohibit recording within 100 feet of anyone entering or exiting the polling place with the intent to dissuade others from voting. This is where the above guidelines come in; stay low-key and they’ll likely leave you alone. I spoke with the San Diego County Registrar of Voters and they said photography and video will be allowed up to 25 feet away.

While inside the polling area, California Elections Code says you must be in the process of voting (i.e. not using a camera), are limited to 10 minutes, and can’t show your vote to others (i.e. not documenting your vote). While it doesn’t specifically state “no cameras allowed,” legal precedent hasn’t cleared up the specifics. Government officials err on the side of caution. The California Secretary of State’s office says it has “historically taken the position that use of cameras or video equipment at polling places is prohibited, though there may be circumstances where election officials could permit such use.” When I spoke to the San Diego County Registrar of Voters, they said they won’t allow cameras inside the polling place except for credentialed journalists.

From a certain angle, this all seems very oppressive. This is a free country and I should have the right to video my vote, right? Yes, but other voters should also have the right not to be surveilled while voting. Poll workers are commissioned to protect the vote and can kick you out, even calling the police if you cause enough of a disturbance. This can all be avoided by sticking to the suggestions mentioned above. Pay attention and be careful not to record other people unwillingly.

Publish Your Photos and Videos on Election Day

  • YouTube and PBS have partnered with Video Your Vote to gather first-hand accounts on election day. They’ve arranged the videos on a map to note voter intimidation and other problems at the polls.
  • The New York Times’ Polling Place Photo Project collects images to create “an archive of photographs that captures the richness and complexity of voting in America.”
  • Video The Vote is a watchdog group organizing people to document voter suppression and other problems.