The Work Continues

I am still working on my final assignment. As of right now, it is not a finished product, but I have made several changes to the website.

First, I removed the wood panels from the sidebar and footer, and changed the website’s color scheme in the process. Silver and white not only calls to Mad Men’s Sterling-Cooper-Draper but also gives, I think, a sophisticated air to the project. Moreover, I scaled back on the orange. The orange is a softer shade, but I have limited the color to select portions of the logo and to the sidebar’s hover.

My rationale for this is two-fold. First, I limited the use of orange as a means of adding subtlety to the design. It still connects to my topic on the Orioles, but it is not as in-your-face as previous iterations of the project. Second, with the logo, I only used orange for select portions of the title. The decision had its impetus behind Mad Men, but I also wanted to convey certain psychological emotions as well. In March 2011, Jason Beaird blogged about “The Psychology of Color.” Beaird maintained that orange not only conveyed energy, but also conveyed emotions of happiness. Thus, I used orange for the words “Happy” and “Orioles.” Happy is an obvious choice, but, with the Orioles, I did it because it provided symmetry and highlighted the exhilaration the team instilled in a divided city. The rest of the title is in black, which provoked darkness, elegance, and thought. Lastly, I used drop shadows and outside glow on the logo’s text.

With the logo in mind, I removed the original color scheme and photo layout. I instead used a photo of the Baltimore skyline from the mid-1960s. Through Photoshop, I blended different portions of the picture together and used a neon glow to give the overall image a psychedelic-mid-1960s feel. In a way, the image looks like a triple-exposure, which characterized some of the films of the 1960s (i.e. Jack Nicholson-penned “Head”).

The one problem I am currently encountering is the background image I am using. I placed an image of the same Baltimore-skyline as the page’s background image. In places, I feel it works well. My concern, however, is that the image stretches based on the size of the page. If the page is too long, then the background image stretches and looks off. I am still working on looking for a way of freezing the image so it does not stretch on the long pages. Other than that, I am becoming increasingly pleased with how my page is shaping up.

Good luck on finishing your projects!

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Filed under Baltimore Orioles, Baseball, Web Design

Frank Robinson Statue and Memory

Last night, the Orioles unveiled a bronze statue of Frank Robinson as part of the Orioles Legends Series designed to help commemorate Camden Yards’ twentieth anniversary. Robinson’s statue represents the first of six, as the Orioles will unveil statues to the five remaining Hall of Famers during the course of the 2012 season.

In a way, I found it fitting the Orioles unveiled Robinson’s statue as I worked on my final assignment. The statue, and the ceremony itself, highlighted the unique nature of memory, and how people shape it. Forty-six years ago, as Robinson led the Orioles to their first world title, this kind of ceremony seemed implausible in Baltimore. Mayor Theodore R. McKeldin tried to name a city playground in northwest Baltimore after Robinson in October 1966, an attempt to facilitate racial healing in the city. Yet, McKeldin failed. The Board of Recreation and Parks did not believe a park should be named after a living figure, but, in giving the rationale, Board President Samuel Hopkins noted that they did not have parks named after Babe Ruth or Johnny Unitas. Somehow, the seemingly race-free rationale had racial undertones.

Yet, last night, the Orioles honored Robinson with a life-size bronze statue in the left-center field courtyard. The ceremonies focused on Robinson’s baseball career and his major impact on the Orioles. During Robinson’s playing career in Baltimore from 1966 to 1971, the Orioles appeared in four World Series contests, and won two. The Orioles traded Robinson after the 1971 season, and the team would not appear in another Fall Classic until 1979. Robinson’s statue thus harkened to a highly successful period in the team’s history, thus providing warm memories for fans of a team who has not had a winning season since 1997. Even as today’s Orioles find themselves on top of the American League East, people are waiting for them to cool off and fall back to Earth, while also waiting for the Yankees and Red Sox to get hot and claim their positions at the top. Robinson’s statue, in this regard, crystallized a time when the Orioles stood securely at the top.

Memory allows people an opportunity to use the past as a means of confronting the problems of the present. Even though the Angelos-led organization approved the Orioles Legends Series, they did so after years of criticism from fans over how the organization poorly treated players from the team’s past. Still, Robinson’s statue, and the ones that follow, will allow fans to look back fondly at the team’s golden era. Many will use the golden era as a means of highlighting everything that is wrong with the present era, ranging from poor players to poor ownership. As a result, the Orioles Legends Series will used as a means of providing solutions to the problems that currently plague the team.

Yet, memory can usually be selective, as people tend to pick and choose what they want to remember. The Robinson commemoration expectedly remained silent on the discrimination the star outfielder endured during his playing days in Baltimore. In this way, people want to remember a past that never was. Robinson’s statue not only recalls a golden age in Orioles history, but the statute also calls to what many view as a simpler time. Baltimore has not completely shaken off the doomed and corrupt image it gained from The Wire. Even though the show ended in 2008, the city’s police commissioner, Frederick H. Bealefeld, III, continued a war of words with the show as recently as yesterday. For many Baltimoreans and Marylanders, The Wire represents an accurate reflection of the city, its crime, and its corruption. Robinson’s statue, in this context, enables people to look back fondly at an innocent time in the city’s past.

Most, though, fail to realize that most of the problems the city confronts today have been long-standing problems. Deindustrialization not only facilitated a loss of business for Baltimore, but also a loss of population for the city. Moreover, the inward migration of African Americans into Baltimore also facilitated outward migration of whites to the suburbs. Discrimination prevailed throughout the city, whether through employment, housing, and public accommodations. As a result, black frustration grew, and eventually sparked a riot in April 1968 – nineteen months after Robinson and the Orioles won the World Series.

Robinson’s ceremony last night touched on the positive feelings people hold towards the Orioles and Baltimore, whether through the glory of championships or of images of Baltimoreans cleaning the white marble steps to their row homes. Yet, as a tool for use in the present, memory has a selective feature that allows people to remember what they want, when they want, and how they want. Robinson’s ceremony rightfully recalls a positive period in Orioles history, but that only tells part of the story. Looking back, Robinson revealed the discrimination that African Americans confronted, not to mention the growing racial animosity that existed. Baltimore appeared ready to burn at a time when the Orioles ruled the baseball world.

Addendum:

I commented on John’s “Preliminary Project Up!

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Filed under Baltimore Orioles, Baseball, Civil Rights, Urban History, Urban Unrest, White Backlash

Updated Design Page

I want to start off by thanking both Stephanie and Geoff for their wonderful comments on my design page. I am grateful for their kind words and their helpful suggestions!

With their comments in mind, I updated my design page. The first thing was to switch fonts on both the sidebar and footer. Instead of using Alternate Gothic No. 1D, I am now using Proxima Nova. Unlike Alternate Gothic, Proxima Nova does not require large font-sizes in order to improve visibility. I can use a 1.1 em font here, whereas Alternate Gothic required a 1.7em. With the fonts changed, I reversed the order of the text in the body of my page. I provided information about my site first, and then briefly described how the 1966 Orioles interacted with the story of racial tension in Baltimore.

The changes I made with the font and text enabled me to remove some of the white space at the bottom of my initial page. While the process of removing the white space is not difficult in and of itself, the difficulty comes from having to gauge the size of other parts of the page. For example, I had to account for the size of my embedded fonts, which was difficult because I could not see them until I uploaded the page online. The process was trial and error, but I ultimately got everything to work out.

Lastly, I re-worked the wood pattern image in my footer in an effort to remove any disconnect with the sidebar image. Because my sidebar image operates on the “repeat-y” command, the size of the overall page determines the image’s endpoint. Thus, I had to incorporate my other changes first. The changes established the endpoint for the sidebar image, and, with that endpoint, I went into Photoshop, saved a new version of the wood pattern, and cropped the image so the footer would pick up where the sidebar left out. Like with removing the white space, this was a process of trial and error. It took me several attempts to get it right. Looking at the new design page, I really like how the sidebar blends with the footer.

Addendum:

I commented on David’s Preliminary Final Project.

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Filed under Digital History, Web Design

Design Assignment Critique

With the Design Assignment due, our task for this week was to critique the design page of one of our classmates. I had the pleasure of critiquing Sheri’s “The 1857 Journeys of Richard Beach.” As Sheri pointed out, “Richard Beach escorted slaves convicted of crimes from county jails located throughout Virginia to the state penitentiary in Richmond.” His journeys offered valuable insights into the overlooked interior transport of convicted slaves. Equally important, Sheri’s page also seeks to focus on the memories of slaves as they carried out their sentences.

Strengths

  • Overall, Sheri did an excellent job in designing her page. I like the way she used brown and a shade of antique white as a means of conveying a nineteenth century feel. Moreover, Sheri’s fonts add to the nineteenth century atmosphere.
  • I enjoyed how Sheri was able to use the map of the Virginia Central Railroad as her header, using it as an important connection to Beach’s journeys.
  • Sheri’s fonts also convey a sense of tension that can be felt in her topic. The 1871 Dreamer Script and the UglyQua fonts have a rough, gritty quality, contrasting significantly with the smooth, even quality of Goudy Bookletter 1911. Given that the page focuses on the journeys of an individual transporting convicted slaves from local jails to the state penitentiary, this contrast can help visitors feel the tension in the story.
  • Sheri did an excellent job in establishing a repetition in fonts, using the UglyQua font for the headers, and then using the Goudy Bookletter 1911 font for paragraph text. In my view, the repetition creates a nice, easy rhythm throughout the page.
  • The font-size is nice, making the text easily readable. Moreover, there is plenty of space separating the text from the left-and-right-margins.
  • The photographs are nicely aligned, as the top of each image aligns evenly with the top of the corresponding paragraph.

Suggestions

  • I think enlarging the photos would provide a nice balance between pictures and text. Currently, in my view, the photos look like they are engulfed within the text. I also believe that the photos, at current size, may be difficult for some visitors to see.
  • Another suggestion I have is floating the Culpeper Railroad Depot photo to the right of the page, as several people appear to be looking from right to left. By floating the image to the right, the photo will guide the visitor back to the text.
  • I believe that a little more space is needed to separate the text from the photos. For example, I believe the Culpeper Railroad Depot image seems a bit close to the text, and could use a little more padding.
  • I recommend that there should be a little more space separating the paragraphs. To me, the space that separates paragraphs is closer than the space between lines.
  • The header “Who Was Richard Beach?” could be aligned with the top of the “About” icon. Currently, the space that separates the logo from the navigation bar and header appears uneven.

In all, I thoroughly enjoyed viewing Sheri’s design page, as she, in my opinion, did an excellent job of conveying both the atmosphere of the mid-nineteenth-century and the tension of her topic. I look forward to viewing her finished product.

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Design Assignment

Here is my Design Assignment.

In developing my design page, I wanted to strike a balance when setting the mood of the mid-1960s. People tend to view the 1960s from the perspective of peace, love, flower power, and lava lamps, though the popularity of shows like Mad Men is changing that. Still, I wanted to strike a balance between the clean, smooth, symmetrical shapes of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce and the tension that defined the time period. It proved to be a daunting challenge, but one that I feel turned out quite well.

First, I wanted to develop a certain contrast in the fonts I selected. Jason Santa Maria noted that “[v]ery different typefaces can play off of each other in complementary ways or resist each other to create a bit of tension, while typefaces that appear too similar can weaken the message and confuse a design’s visual language.” For the design assignment, I selected Proxima Nova and Alternate Gothic No. 1D as my fonts. Both fonts have a certain 1960s aura to them, but they also contrast against each other. Proxima Nova, for instance, served as one of the fonts that made up the design for the 1962 Atlantis World Fair design. Meanwhile, Alternate Gothic No. 1D characterizes some of the fonts that appeared on 1960s movie posters. The robust quality of the font as well as the slightly unaligned letters match the style (though not the degree) of The Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night. This contrasts from the thin, smooth, and even qualities of Proxima Nova.

At the same time, I also wanted to establish a design element that connected my page to baseball. I therefore used a wood pattern for the sidebar, navigation, and footer. Of course, the wood pattern symbolizes the markings of a baseball bat. The bat, in turn, symbolizes the offensive prowess which defined Frank Robinson’s Triple Crown season in 1966, as he led the American League in batting average, home runs, and runs batted in (R.B.I.). In installing a wood pattern on my page, I used CSS to repeat the pattern along the page’s x-axis and y-axis. The repeating of the wood pattern offered a subtle replication of a lava lamp in motion, further promoting the 1960s feel of the page.

Lastly, I made a conscious choice to use only black-and-white photographs for the page. Color photos certainly exist of 1966 Baltimore and the Orioles. However, I feel that black-and-white images offer a subtle, sophisticated look at the topic. One of my long-standing concerns is that people will not seriously look at how baseball can influence or symbolize major shifts in America’s social climate. While Jules Tygiel in Baseball’s Great Experiment connected Jackie Robinson to the civil rights movement of the 1950s, Frank Robinson represented a shift in how white and black Americans approached civil rights in the mid-1960s. This shift represents an important turn, and, by using black-and-white images, I feel that I am conveying to my visitors that this topic should be taken seriously.

Moreover, the pictures I used further connected the three important themes outlined in my research on the 1966 Orioles. Robinson, obviously, represented the central figure in the narrative. Through Robinson, the Orioles became champions. The image of Robinson holding his awards highlighted his importance to the team. Because one of the awards was the American League Triple Crown, the picture also symbolizes his offensive skill, connecting him to the wood pattern displayed in other parts of the page. Meanwhile, the photo of Mayor Theodore R. McKeldin highlights the intersection between baseball, civil rights, and white backlash. McKeldin had long been an advocate for civil rights, and, in the fall of 1966, he worked to promote Robinson as a means of achieving social gains and racial harmony in Baltimore. Yet, McKeldin did not succeed, highlighting the limits of sports and the strength of white backlash as a social force in the mid-1960s. McKeldin would leave office a year later.

I am looking forward to your comments on how I can improve my design page!

Addendum:

I commented on Sheri’s Design Assignment.

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Filed under Baltimore Orioles, C.O.R.E., Civil Rights, Sports History, Urban History, Web Design, White Backlash

Hook, Line, and Sinker

History does not simply serve as a litany of names, dates, and places, but instead serves to tell the story of men and women acting in time and circumstance. Personally speaking, my experience in learning history differed dramatically as I advanced from high school to college. The rote memorization of names, dates, and places mattered in high school, but not so much in college. Though still important, names, dates, and places served a secondary function behind the important questions of how, why, and so what. I loved history in high school, and I still do now. However, by answering questions of how, why, and so what, I found myself invested in the process of learning history, interacting with the past through my interpretation.

Everyone does not share the same love of history. In fact, many still recoil in horror at the thought of having to remember that, in 1492, Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue. The apathy and, in some cases, disdain for history serves as an important obstacle to overcome, especially if scholars seek to reach an audience beyond traditional academic circles. To do that, scholarship has to have a hook that not only attracts people, but can also symbolize or alter a topic’s traditional narrative. The idea of having a hook does not rest solely on traditional scholarship, but also on digital history.

New media already has the power of making history more accessible to people, allowing them to see for themselves that history is more than just a litany of names, dates, and places. Equally, if not more, important, new media projects have the ability to facilitate interactivity among its target audiences. The New York Public Library, for example, uses crowdsourcing as a means to foster an interactive environment, inviting users to transcribe some of the 40,000 menus in the library’s collection. Titled “What’s on the Menu?,” the project attracts historians, chefs, and food enthusiasts. Food served as the hook that drew people to the project, but, through crowdsourcing, audience members have invested themselves in the project by examining what the menus reveal about the history of food and culture.

With that said, I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to “The Lost Museum.” The website did not use crowdsourcing as a means to develop audience participation. Instead, the website uses a good, old-fashion mystery. Visitors have the opportunity to determine who burned down P. T. Barnum’s American Museum in July 1865. In recreating the three-floor layout, “The Lost Museum” encourages visitors to examine each floor, picking up clues on who possibly started the fire. Was it the Copperheads? Or was it the abolitionists? The mystery allows participating visitors to invest themselves in each exhibit, thereby using the clues to develop their own conclusions while simultaneously learning about the various forces at work in the Civil War-era North.

To be certain, interactivity comes with a variety of concerns. The accessibility that comes with new media also can facilitate inaccuracy, whether in the form of a doctored letter from Martin Van Buren or a doctored photo of Lee Harvey Oswald (singing instead of being shot). By allowing oral histories for my project, I have concerns surrounding accuracy. Not specifically that someone would knowingly lie about their experiences, but that memories have faded or changed over time. For this reason, oral histories do not stand on its own.  Oral histories, however, work well when used in conjunction with primary source material. Together, oral histories can augment issues present in the primary sources, or they can provide an angle not explored.

Oral histories, like any form of interactivity, come with concerns. However, as scholars reach out to diverse audiences in an era of new media, interactivity becomes increasingly important. Interactivity provides a hook that enables scholars to attract visitors to their subject matter, allowing them to invest themselves in the material. Here, new media serves as a persuasive tool, using interactivity that allows people to care about a certain topic. People no longer have to recoil at the notion of remembering names, dates, and places. Instead, people care because they have invested themselves in knowing how and why something happened.

I commented on David’s Interactivity: Best Friend and Worst Foe.

I also commented on John’s Digital Failure.

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“They’ve said it all, haven’t they?”

Before winning two Tony Awards and a Grammy Award for the Broadway hit Spring Awakening, Duncan Sheik gained notoriety for his hit song “Barely Breathing,” which spent a record fifty-five weeks on the Billboard Top 100. The song represented Sheik’s only major commercial hit, although his full repertoire of songs highlight more depth and diversity of musical content. For instance, known initially for songs of love, lust, and loss, Sheik responded with songs that represented a commentary of the society around him. “That Says it All,” from 1998’s Humming, examined how people showed a willingness to settle, thereby sacrificing their overall happiness. Moreover, by settling, Sheik believed people showed a willingness to accept the status quo.

Sheik railed against such thinking. Yet, to prove his point, he looked back, singing about the contributions of his musical heroes. John Lennon, Brian Wilson, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, and, before the 1999 VW Cabrio commercial, a then-relatively unknown Nick Drake all appeared in “That Says it All.” For Sheik, his heroes refused to compromise on their artistic visions, pushing the envelope to create music that expanded the boundaries of rock and popular music. Sheik connected the happiness of his heroes to their musical visions. They searched for and implemented new techniques and musical ideals, refusing to remain compromise on their musical visions by producing traditional, but commercially-appealing, records. In the process, they created music that defined a generation, but also music that laid the foundation for other musicians to expand upon.

Sheik maintains that new ideals remain out there for those eager and willing to search for them, rhetorically asking, “They’ve said it all, haven’t they?” Obviously, Sheik’s musical heroes have not said it all. More ideals remain, waiting for conception and development. However, as I hear Sheik sing, I cannot help but think that his heroes lived in an era more conducive to musical exploration. That seems a far cry from today, even though our society has made tremendous technological advances. In that sense, I cannot help but to also think about Lawrence Lessig’s lecture on “How Creativity is Being Strangled by the Law.” Today’s technology has provided our society with new and democratic ways of communicating, whether through music or even comedic skits.

Yet, as Lessig noted, the law has yet to catch up with the new rules established by the new technologies. The law, generally speaking, operates under the concept that ideals represent a form of intellectual property that warrants compensation in exchange for use. For instance, through the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, Congress extended the copyright term from the life of the author plus fifty years to the life of the author plus seventy years. In terms of corporate authorship, the term was extended from seventy-five years to 120 years. The Bono Act did not account for the new technologies that would emerge in the fourteen years after its passing, nor did it account for the new questions that arose. According to Lessig, fair use has been connected to piracy, though a big difference exists between both concepts. YouTube shows this blurring of boundaries through the number of videos taken down because WMG submitted a copyright claim.

Where do we go from here?

Lessig believes that the solution stems not only by having creators embrace free, non-commercial use of their material, but also through businesses encouraging and enabling the freer use of material. In the process, as Lessig maintains, competition will develop between this new system and the current system in place, much like the competition that developed between ASCAP and BMI. I am intrigued by Lessig’s idea. To be sure, there are high-profile creators that would be unwilling submit their material for free, non-commercial use. There are, however, high-profile creators that would express an interest and willingness to submit their material to this platform, not to mention lesser-known creators trying to establish themselves. Plus, with businesses promoting and enabling the platform (i.e. YouTube), you have the competition that Lessig talks about.

The technology of new ideals exists, accessible and useable to a growing number of people of all ages. Yet, in an age where technology offers a vehicle to push the envelope through the presentation of new ideas, the law in its current form is holding technology down, muting the potential of new ideas that Sheik talked about all those years ago.

Addendum: I commented on David’s Starting to Bring it Together.

I also commented on John’s John’s The Fate of Creativity and Statistics.

Some of My Favorite Songs That Pushed the Envelope

The Beach Boys: “Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow (Fire)”

The Beatles: “Rain”

Jimi Hendrix: “All Along the Watchtower”

Nick Drake: “Pink Moon”

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