Archive for March, 2015

Dan Zen – Memories of a Performer, Patron, Participator, Practitioner, Planter, Pollinator and Partier

March 8, 2015

WARNING – LOCAL CONTENT! Hamilton is experiencing a cultural growth led by an organic happening called the Art Crawl.  With organics, we have seeds.  I would like to honor the seeds I have seen and sewn in the growth of our culture. Education is often at the root of culture and that in-part was my introduction into the arts – through the scene at McMaster University.  Despite being an Engineer, I hung out in the Art’s cafeteria so partied with artists, hung out with musicians, etc.  I made art, made music, put on shows, etc. during the 80s.  Hey, and did the same during the 90s – oh… and the 2000s and here we are in the 10s and we are still going.  Before me… I am sure there were scenes. I like scenes – I nurture scenes and do my utmost to promote and welcome people.  Perhaps, that is my lot in life.  I have always liked a good game, a good party, a social happening – unabashedly meeting people and introducing people – breaking down inhibitions.  So, let’s check out some of these events.  As much as possible, I will relate these to the James Street area and in each case, we should remember these as seeds and their organizers as planters, their attendees as pollinators, etc. I hosted some dances in the 80s during my Goth phase – then called Bat Caver.  There was a guy called AD who also hosted an event called Nekropolis and that happened on King William, where later in 1994, Thee Gnostics were the house act at Hep Mondays at the X-Club run by Darren (but I have skipped ahead).  After university, in 1986, I went to Europe for 9 months – another way to grow is to travel, and then we spread culture.  I came back and brought back with me a mod / psychedelic outlook and started doing dances called Op Hops.  One of these was at Patsy’s Banquet Hall on James in 1988. ophop2 Somewhen around that time, there was a band called All Together Morris whose lead singer Glen Marshall had a studio space on James along side Denise Lisson’s gallery studio across from Jackson Square – so the first scene I recall on James St.   However, one of my earliest Hamilton cool memories from the seventies was of the record shop on the corner of James and King upstairs – might have to ask Bob Bryden about that.  There was also Susan George over in the warehouses by Beasley and various cool warehouse art parties. The Hamilton Artists Inc was located on James Street the seventies across from where Mixed Media is now and then on James by the Wild Orchid where RoseAnne worked and then on Vine and then over above Gallery on the Bay and then on Colbourne near where the Art Bar is currently just off of James and now in its fantastic new location at James and Cannon. We solute the board members and volunteers of this scene – Paul, Judy, RoseAnne, Ian, Donna, Michael, Philip, Tor, Ivan, Douglas, and many more. We were in at the Vine location before the Artists Inc. with a really cool art beatnik hang-out with Gaven, Stavros, Lorraine, RoseAnne and the Chessmen played there at my Stag.  Earlier, Tomas, Lorraine, Walter and Zena had the Synagog on Cannon with their band, Sublimatus.  Gaven and I put on the Figmentalisticanarianismist show there in 1991. fig_s Around the same time, I had a piece in a large group show at the Liuna Station on James – kind of.  Many artists around. During Thee Gnostics time, the cool kids were hanging around Hess Village and we played the village a number of times.  But the cooler kids were starting to think elsewhere and look for a new music / art scene.  We went to Barton and Thee Gnostics had a great flat above an old post office as head quarters.  Tomas, Gaven and Lorraine lived there and I hung out there almost daily and of course, there was James and Cosmic Ray.  We connected with Elis and Dennis – who hung out with Francis.  They started the Gallery 435 speak easy hang out and it is still going waiting for the artists to finally come to Barton when the rent gets too high on James.  We were looking for a place for a scene and visited the Westinghouse building in hopes for it to become the new Rochdale. As Thee Gnostics we also played on James at Bauka‘s studio – can’t remember quite where that was – it was on a South East corner maybe James and Rebecca possibly York or Cannon.  As well as excellent warehouses – Johny Angel on John for the Egypt Vishnurama.  John and Jesse had a cool little place on Hughson I think and King William. The Double Feature Creatures were hanging around – Christine Leakey, RoseMary, Julia.  Art parties at the greenpeace houses – Chris – the old Jewelry place on York, etc.  And as mentioned, the Hep Mondays at the X-Club on King William right on the pre edge of the happening alternative club scene with Home Grown, Absinth and Baltimore House.  That building will be amazing if it ever opens again.  There was Psonic Unyon too on York and we did dances in that building with the mods – Samantha, Andrea, Valerie, Erin, Andre, Gaven, Sandy and shows at this amazing Chinese Playhouse upstairs on James around Rebecca – amazing place that and totally underutilized in our current environment.  Oh, and how could I forget – the Tivoli – before the front was taken down – the auditorium is still there.  Thee Gnostics played there watched by Chris, Lilly, Lisa – and others. When Barton took too long we actively were establishing a scene on John StreetJohn and Andrea Deal started the GAG Gallery in the space where previously, Mark Byk, Peter and Kristine lived and where we beatnik-partied like crazy!  Later at the GAG we held the first Interactive Interactive show in 2003.  We also held the No Escape Artathon where we locked artists up in the gallery for 48 hours.  I MC’d that event to live web casting.  I met Steve Mazza, Laura Hollick, Len Jessome, all who have gone on to great artistic heights in Hamilton.  Many others too – Martin, Matt, etc.  Bob has some pictures from around that time – would be great to see them.  I planned to stage an Art theft to get people in the Suburbs to pay attention to arts in the city. ii I ran Interactive Interactive shows with Sheridan and McMaster Interactive Media at the Artist Inc for the next four years 2004, 2005, 2006 with the last one in 2007.  It was just too hard to get media and people from the suburbs to come plus we started doing open houses in Toronto and packing everything twice at the end of the year was too hard.  Here is a shot of James Street in 2007 with Mixed Media and the Factory at their old locations and Dane’s Loose Cannon where I usually purchased something each visit.  I was at the first meet to discuss the Factory – it was held in the Artists Inc above Gallery on the Bay.  And I certainly remember Mixed Media in their old place with Dave and Teresa – I donated a cool 50s boomerang chair and Ottoman.  During the mid 2000’s I also MC’d a number of Artists Inc events with Sky Gilbert and Matt Jelly like the Sin Circus at Worker’s Heritage building where Brian Kelly works and prior to that there were the Fetish Fashion Shows with Sue Phipps and Ian James the last of which took place somewhere on James – was it the Chinese Playhouse (not really called a playhouse – would love to find that again!). james Well… that’s enough name and place dropping for now – doubt anyone gets this far but good memories and really would like to honor all the folks that have made Hamilton so much fun.  Keep at it – would like to tell the story of early Art Crawls but will leave that for another post.  I am just glad a self sustaining art scene has finally arrived so we don’t have to work as hard!  Our garden is growing – Gardener Russ would be happy – hi Russ! — 15 — PP – Please forgive me if I left anyone out – or even give me a comment!  This was all from the top of my head so I may have mixed some details.  Again, it is how I remember the past as it relates to James Street N and Art – there was certainly much more going on all over – art on James S,  Kevin McKay‘s early SkyDragon scene, music scene at the Corktown, Dundas art scenes, etc.  but I tried to focus on perhaps some forgotten seeds leading to our current wonderful scene on James.

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The Canvas is your World – HTML 5 Canvas

March 7, 2015

I have been making interactive media for twenty years and now I hope to convince you to try.  If you already code then I hope to convince you to try a new system.  ZIM.

ZIM Interactive Media JavaScript Modules

In 1995, I worked in Director to make CD Roms.  In 2000, I moved to Flash to make Web games and apps.  In 2015, I moved fully to HTML 5 and in particular the canvas and JavaScript to make anything.  http://danzen.com/museum/tour.html

The HTML canvas tag allows you to dynamically manipulate pixels to draw and animate shapes.  It was the early 2000s that we got this ability in Flash and it was very exciting.  It is now very exciting in HTML where we can use free tools and publish just about everywhere.  We can also bring our experience to a very large creative community.

HTML HISTORICALLY

HTML was initially conceived as a tagging language for showing people information in a Browser.  You could also provide information through forms with text fields, etc.  DHTML (dynamic HTML) came along in the 2000s and used iFrames and layers to show new information without reloading the page (as could JavaScript through AJAX).  Simple animation of page elements with JavaScript were introduced and continue on with libraries like jQuery.  CSS (cascading style sheets) came along to allow us to style the page more efficiently and completely.

INTERACTIVE MEDIA

While making Web pages for browsing does fall under the realm of interactive media, it can be more specifically called Web design.  Interactive media is much more – see the Interactivity Scale.  Interactive media allows us to create, communicate and play – not just consume.  To make interactive media takes more than just tagging or animating – you have to code (program).  This means capturing events and using logic to determine and create what comes next.  It means providing a variety of interfaces so people can create things (applications).  It means dragging, dropping, rotating and hit tests so people can re-enact the world but in a virtual space.  These are things that were not done in traditional Web design and development (aside from maybe dragging items into a shopping cart).

Dan Zen - Interactivity Scale

ZIM

Short for Zen Interactive Modules, ZIM is a free JavaScript framework specifically for making Interactive Media. http://zimjs.com

Much of the ground work is found in a library called CreateJS written by Grant Skinner and crew.  Grant has transported years of interactive media knowledge with Flash to the HTML canvas / JavaScript world.

Remember, the Flash community (and the Director community before hand) has spent over twenty years honing the commands needed to accomplish interactive media.  There are dozens and dozens of commands that go beyond traditional HTML and JavaScript.  These have been shifted and tweaked to perfection.  Without any one of these commands, we could not easily make what we make.  I know, I have created hundreds of applications with millions of lines of award winning code – trust me.  We all owe a HUGE debt to Grant and his team for the phenomenal job they have done preserving our heritage. – Dan Zen

In a sense, CreateJS lets us code in JavaScript as we did in Flash and has even added or simplified nicely in places.  The backbone of CreateJS is EaselJS which provides us with proper object oriented display hierarchy – we can nest objects within objects (containers, shapes, bitmaps, text) and manipulate properties such as position, rotation, alpha, scale and these properties are transferred to their children.  So CreateJS takes us roughly to ground zero of Flash.

Enter ZIM.  When I was coding in Flash, I made over one hundred helper classes (a class is a bunch of code that does something and we can use it over and over).  These were created over ten years and put into packages but otherwise were a touch hodgepodge.  This time, I got to start fresh and planned from the start to let others use and understand these classes.  Half of them are now in ZIM version 1.  The other half, which are for advanced interfaces like gesture and multiuser will be launched as ZIM version 2.  Certainly, there is a lot that can be done with ZIM version 1.

zim1.2

USING ZIM

You can code with any text editor but it is best if you have syntax coloring so you can see the different parts of the code.  Sublime, TextPad, NotePad++, DreamWeaver, etc.

Start with a ZIM Template – perhaps the basic template.  Copy the source code into a file and name it sample.html.  Now drop the file onto a Web browser – Firefox, Chrome, IE, Safari.  You should see a big button and if you click it, it will go to ZIMjs.  Look at the code and see if you can make sense of it.

On ZIMjs, there is information about the functions and classes that are available.  There is example code and you can try out the examples.  There is also a Docs section that tells you what is available, what parameters you can provide, and what properties, methods and events are available.

ZIMjs Documentation

You can start cutting and pasting bits of the examples at a time into your sample.html and see if you can make things work.

You will also need to know how CreateJS works so you can draw circles, rectangles, lines, and use bitmaps (images), sound and animation.  You can use tutorials, etc.

You will also need to know JavaScript for the programming logic parts such as variables, functions, conditionals, loops, arrays and objects.  Also basic number and string manipulations.  Eventually, you will want to make your own classes as well.

Read about coding here: Dan Zen Museum Coding Tour.

tour

Please try out ZIM and if you need a hand, there is the CreateJS Facebook Group where we answer questions about CreateJS and ZIM.

I can tell you now, you are as close as you have ever come to making being able to make interactive media.  You need no huge application, no instals, etc.  And you can package your code up into a mobile app in less than an hour once you know what you are doing – all free (aside from the $100 dev cost on Apple, the $25 dev cost on Android and $20 for Windows – free for BB).  Just copy that template file and start poking around.

If you want formal training, I teach at Sheridan College in the one-year post grad diploma program http://imm.sheridanc.on.ca – we have a great learning environment.  Here are some open house photos.

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